Mamaw and a New Book

I remember sitting in the metal chair with a bowl of beans in my lap in the backyard.  It was hot and humid in North Carolina, even in the shade.  Papaw had picked the beans at his farm that morning.  It was up to me and Mamaw to shell them so she could cook them for dinner.  The metal chair had a small rock to it with it’s u-shaped design that held it up.  Mamaw’s had a cushion.  My feet didn’t reach the ground, but I could make it rock with my body; a fine balance between rocking and not dumping my bowl of beans on the ground.  We shelled the beans, the shells going into a compost bucket, the beans into a metal bowl.  The sound of the beans pinging against the metal.  There was no plastic.  These sounds are nostalgic.  When was the last time I heard beans pinging against a metal bowl?   Sometimes we’d mix up the bean bowl and the compost bowl and throw the item in the wrong bowl.  We’d know it as soon as we released the bean or shell.  The other one would stop, look; we’d both grin and laugh. 

Mamaw was faster than me.  Refilling her bowl of beans;  two to my every one.  She could sit upright in the metal chair; nap and still shell more beans than me.  She wore what she called her house dress, her hair had been done on Friday, a standing Friday appointment.  Her hose, nylons, stockings; I’m not sure what you call them. I always called them pantyhose; whether they were knee highs, thigh highs, footies or actually went all the way up to your waist.  I never put the name together with their actual function.  To me they were all pantyhose.  Kind of like when I used to call my younger sister “dick breath”.  I had never contemplated how one would come to be that name.  Mamaw would roll her knee high panty hose down to her ankles.  They were too hot.  She always had on hose.  Whatever beauty the hose were meant to bring is detrimentally lost when rolled down to your ankles. 

Mamaw would try to make conversation.  But I was shy, didn’t talk much to anyone.  Just observed.  From day one; just observed.  She would ask me if I had any playmates.  I said no.  I said no for two reasons. One, I didn’t know what playmates were and two I was hoping that she would get me some for my birthday.  She never got me any playmates; just gowns and robes.  A set.  Always pale light colors of pink or green or yellow.  Always a sticky itchy, probably flammable material that would drive my highly sensitive senses crazy.  Wrapped in a box from the department store where Mamaw’s friend worked, folded in tissue paper.  I hated them.  Almost as much as I hated the beans we shelled.   Mamaw was of a different time.  A time where your hair was “done” and you wore hose while you shelled beans with your granddaughter.

Mamaw and Papaw’s bathroom smelled like old people. What was it that could make a nine year old label something as smelling like old people? Noxzema? Aqua Net? Dove?  What would a nine year old say about my bathroom.  “Hippies”? The smell of patchouli.  Maybe that’s the new old people smell.  Patchouli.

Mamaw and Papaw had puzzle books everywhere.  Mostly crossword puzzles; word puzzles.  There was usually a jigsaw puzzle in the works on the card table.  Unless it was bridge night, then the card table was needed for its intended use and the puzzle went back into the box.  People don’t have card tables anymore.  Where do they play cards?

Me and my sister got to have snacks in the living room.  Bugles and Fresca while we watched Lawrence Welk or Hee Haw.  Things that we never did at home with our mom and dad, where the beans came in cans and we slept in old cotton t-shirts and watched Laugh In.

Family saga is a great genre to read.  Especially when it’s in another era.  The book selection  is “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” by Luis Alberto Urrea.  A family saga in Mexico in the late 1800’s during the Mexican Civil War.  This is a great story. It follows a well to do ranching family with a hint of ghostly spirits and shamanic healers; grandmothers and granddaughters and panty hose.  (Or, I believe it was actually petticoats).  Don’t let the over abundance of characters scare you off.  Just keep reading and using the chart to refer to who is whom.  It will all fall into place.  Great book.  I highly recommend.  Pantyhose and butterbeans I do not recommend.

More great book selections and a few fun adventures can be found at Wild About Books.

Working Vacation and A New Book Selection

If you’ve been reading my blog on a regular basis you will notice that there are a lot of adventures.  Probably more than your average person.

It occurred to me recently that I am on a permanent working vacation.  Having this epiphany has changed my attitude about my job; in a good way.

Who doesn’t mind going to work when you know that in just a few hours you will be on your mountain bike in the forest on a single track trail system that is both challenging and thrilling and usually empty.  A trail system that is only minutes from the office.

Who can’t go into the office in the morning when they just walked a forest service trail IMG_1681 (1)accessed from their back door.  A trail whose wildness evolves over time from trillium to glacier lilies, to shooting stars, to paint brush and lupine to beargrass.  All of this happening in sequence while watching the huckleberries grow and ripen for the grand finale.  Huckleberries for breakfast.  Picking on the fly.

And the weekends are for floating the rivers which are full of water fowl, herons, osprey, eagles or climbing mountain peaks where the paint brush are bright red lipstick red.  Where the views are three hundred and sixty degrees, where there are patches of snow in July.

Saturday mornings are saved for the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, so much local food.  So many beautiful vegetables.  The longest line isn’t for the lattes, it’s for the strawberries.  Strawberries that are red, red to the center; with so much flavor you feel guilty of treason if you do anything with the strawberries besides eating them just as they are.  But my favorite thing about the farmer’s market has nothing to do with the produce.  It’s the community.  The energy. IMG_1817 Having to walk around groups of visiting neighbors to make your way to the vendor’s stand.  Makes me smile.  Then I’m in a group.  Taking up space in the street as the group grows exponentially.  If you time your shopping right, you can make it to one of the local breweries for a ginger wheat beer and more locally produced food for lunch.

Last week we took a quick two day road trip.  We were never more than three hours from home, but found new places we’d never been.  Pony Montana.  Kind of a half ghost town at the foot of the Tobacco Root Mountains.  We drove into the forest found a campground and set up our tent.  After dinner we hiked a trail for about a mile looking for an undeveloped hot springs that we’d researched.  It was bigger than a puddle, but not big enough to be called a pond.  Maybe a little bigger than our pick up truck.  Let’s call it a pool.  We found a pool of water in the middle of a meadow with a log post fence around it to keep out the cows.  It was 8:00 at night and no one else was there.  We climbed in.  The warm water bubbling up from the earth and then trickling over the rocks into the meadow. potosiThe rocks were slimy with life that thrived year round with the help of the continuous source of warm water.  An oasis.  All to ourselves.  A before bed soak.  Magical.

And that brings us to our book selection.  Thanks to my friend Carol for not letting me not read this book.  She’s been raving about it for some time now and even plans on reading it again.  I started reading this on my kindle as a sample and thought this is not for me.  But what I needed was the book, the actual physical book in my hands.  I needed the social act of going into my local bookstore, seeing the book on the shelf, appreciating the cover, the title. Feeling the texture of the cover.  As much as I love my kindle especially when traveling or backpacking; owning and holding an actual book is far superior.  You see the cover every time you pick it up.  You remember the title because it makes an impression on you.  You can see where the bookmark is placed, how much you’ve read, how much is left.  It’s like eating corn on the cob instead of out of a can.   The book we are reading is “Braiding Sweetgrass; Braiding SweetgrassIndigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  This is a book about weaving our lives and the natural world into one.  Living in a culture of gratitude and creating a reciprocal relationship with the nature that surrounds us.  As soon as I finish this post I will continue reading “Braiding Sweetgrass”.  I’m sitting on my deck in the forest as a thunderstorm settles in, a cool breeze sending the summer bugs on their way for a while.  The echo-y deep sound of thunder reverberating in the Tin Cup drainage.  The sounds of rain hitting the ground  and the metal roof.  A working vacation.  This is the life I’ve created.  I’ll take it.

More great books and epic adventures can be found at Wild About Books.

Owyhee River and a New Book

I just went on my first river trip.  My first camping trip.  My first road trip.  I’m only nine months old so there are a lot of “firsts” happening.

I had no idea where we were going.  All I knew was that the bags were packed, the truck bed was so full you couldn’t see out the back window and Lisa kept looking at the giant book of maps telling Brett where to turn.  I could only assume they’d never been where we were going either.

The road trip was uneventful.  Lots of sleeping, listening to podcast.  Our longest stop was in Salmon, Idaho at the bakery.  If you haven’t been to Odd Fellows Bakery  you need to make that a destination.  Located in an historic building; just park your car and follow your nose.  That’s what I did; but then they wouldn’t take me in, tied me up to the bench outside while they enjoyed croissants, ordered sandwiches, coffees, teas and loafs of bread for the five days of camping.  I kept busy meeting people on the street as they passed by.  Not too many people can resist stopping to pet a friendly, energetic, yellow lab tied up outside of a bakery.

It took all day but we finally arrived at the boat ramp in Rome, Oregon on the Owyhee River.  I didn’t know it until I got out of the truck, but Brett and Lisa had just delivered me to the best place on earth (that I’ve experienced in nine months anyway).  There was a wide, slow moving river for swimming, people to greet and other dogs with whom to play.  I never got tied up; free to roam and swim and run.  And then, to top it all off, Lisa and Brett slept on the ground with me.  I was so excited at the end of the night that I went for a quick swim.  I was soaking wet for the tent so Brett took me for a walk under the stars before bed.  We came back towards the tent and I went for another swim.  Then Brett seemed mad and we went for another walk.  Dog heaven.  I didn’t sleep all night.  I sat up and watched.  There was so much to watch.  Sometimes I’d have to bark, unsure of what was moving in the darkness.  IMG_1574

The next morning was warm and sunny.  I spent the whole morning chasing other dogs and swimming.  But this time I got to try out my new personal floatation device, all the other dogs were wearing theirs too.  There were people all over the boat ramp putting their boats together, blowing up their rafts,  loading coolers, dry boxes, fire pans, groovers and dry bags.  By the time we were ready to go all of the other dogs and most of the people had already left.  I had dug a hole in the dirt and laid down in the cool earth for a much needed nap.   Brett finally called me to load up.  What!?  Do you mean get on that boat?  No.  I’m not too sure about that.  Using the handle on the back of my life jacket he lifted me onto the boat, shoved us off while jumping in too.  Yeah.  This was a bit too unstable for me.  I jumped out.  Once again Brett hauled me back into the boat.  I paced back and forth as much as one can on a 6 1/2 foot wide raft.  Then I saw the birds.  So many birds.  Geese, ducks, hawks, sparrows; constant movement.  And the smells, my nose never stopped twitching taking in all the smells.  It was sensory overload.  I finally had to lay down and take another nap.  I was exhausted.  IMG_1592 (1)

We floated and camped for five days.  Sleeping under the blanket of stars, eating by the fire.  The camps were full of fun things to do.  I chased butterflies, chewed on great sticks, napped.  The first night out the wind blew and blew pushing our tent to a constant unnatural angle while whipping it loudly about.  That was my second night in a tent in which I didn’t sleep.  The wind brought in a cold front leaving a chill in the air for the rest of the trip.  Luckily we had sun every day and I have a thick coat of hair.  Lisa wore all of her clothes on the boat unable to stay dry as we paddled through the white water.  The four people in our group huddled around the fire every morning and evening.  After those first two nights I was able to sleep soundly in the tent and by the last day I was so comfortable on the raft that I climbed onto it and napped on Lisa’s river princess seat as Brett loaded the boat with all of our stuff.  IMG_1606

As usual, Lisa read a lot.  She read in the morning after getting the fire and hot water going while everyone else slept, she read before going to sleep, even though her bare hands were freezing and when there was calm water she read on the raft while we floated down the river.  She was reading a suspense novel on the trip.  I’d never seen her read a suspense novel, full of blood and gory details.  “Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store” by Matthew Sullivan. Not her kind of book, why was she reading it?  Turns out she is reading the Chapter One Book Club book in which the book club will Skype the author on Saturday May 25 at 11:00 in Hamilton.  Lisa likes hearing authors talk about their work and how they got there, so….she’s reading a suspense novel.  I probably won’t be able to go.  She’s having to rush through it since it’s a 14 day loaner from the Darby Community Library, her favorite library.

Lisa’s book recommendation is not the suspense novel.  She’s recommending  “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”  I don’t know what it’s about but she sure seemed to enjoy it.  And it came recommended by her daughter Hannah and her reading soul sister Carol.

More great book recommendations and outdoor adventures can be found at Wild About Books.

Rainy Days and Stacks of Books

I just listened to a podcast on writing in which the podcaster said that she reads 50 to 100 books per year.  This got me wondering how many books do I read per year.  I’ve never recorded my book reading.  I just make sure that once I finish a book there are others waiting to be read.  Or; safer yet, always have a stack you are reading and you’ll never run out.  In this blog; Wild About Books, I recommend 10 or 12 books a year.  But I probably read three times that many or more.  It is my commitment to you to share only the very best of the books I have read.  Here’s my research going on right now.IMG_1560

My stack today consist of:

  1. River Teeth by David James Duncan;  a collection of short stories.  Short stories is one of my least favorite things to read in a book, but David James Duncan is my favorite author and I had not read this book yet. I’m enjoying his writing but I should just re-read “The Brother’s K”; the best book ever written.
  2. Five Year Journal:  This is my night journal for jotting down items of the day such as; it rained all day and saw the first glacier lilies of the season.  The cool thing about this journal is that you go through the year and then go back to the beginning of the journal for a new year, for five years.  You can see five April 20’s all lined up on one page.  I’m only on my second year so I can only see two April 20’s.  I can see important information from last year like when I planted the garden or that I played some office pickleball with Loyd.  (Office pickleball is played in the office, you are allowed to play off the furniture, filing cabinets, copiers, etc.  There aren’t any rules and you’ll know when you earned a point).  No office pickleball this year. Sad. But a fun memory to read about in my five year journal.IMG_1558
  3. Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann:  I’m taking “young” writer to mean novice or emerging writer.  This book has quick chapters with writing advice that I can read in a couple of minutes.
  4. The Sun Magazine, May 2019 issue.  The first section is always the interview.  This month they interviewed Ralph Nader.  It’s very long but I’m enjoying it and read a couple of pages each night.  Ralph Nader is almost as ragingly upset as my mom over our current political situation.
  5. Composition Notebook Journal:  This is my morning journal to ensure that I get 15 minutes of writing a day.  It’s just a normal journal where I talk myself through things, bitch about things, or feel grateful for other things.  It’s not just any composition notebook.  It’s’ a 2 subject college ruled 9 1/2 x 6 inch 100% recycled, heavy weight paper composition notebook.  This is also the same style of notebook I used to hand write my novel.  I write with a 9mm mechanical pencil.  All of these details are very important to the writing process.  I could never write on loose leaf, wide ruled paper using one of those ass wipe pens they leave out for customers at Farmer’s State Bank.
  6. Enlightenment Now by Stephen Pinker:  I’m really enjoying this book.  The front cover says it is “The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress”.  Basically it is an optimistic view of the world and its progress through a variety of subjects from heath to the environment to democracy.  Through the use of scientific data, statistics and charts he makes an argument for things such as GMO’s and for immunizations as well as many other subjects.
  7. Sense of Style by Stephen Pinker.  Yep, two by Stephen Pinker.  This one is on the kindle.  This is a writing style book.  It’s not easy to read.  But the information I’m able to grab every once and a while makes me keep reading.  Slowly but surely.
  8. diy MFA; Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build your Community by Gabriela Pereira.  This is another writing book. Also on the kindle. I believe I do write with focus and read with purpose but I am lacking in build my community.  So, this past week I’ve reached out to two different resources, unknown people, about what the next steps are with my novel.  I’m emailing the first chapter to one of them next week.  Some things happen in life to propel other things in life.  It all works out in a timely manner.
  9. This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel:  A novel.  Yay.  Reading for fun.  It’s all fun for me, but a novel is a great get away.  Novels are my favorite.  This is an interesting novel about a family whose youngest son’s transgender personality is quite obvious at a very early age and how the family deals with it.  This is a heart warming story, funny, sad and well done describing the trials of how society accepts or doesn’t accept this girl with a penis.

And to further confess my obsessions;  I got on the library website on this rainy Saturday afternoon and put four books on hold.  Is it a sickness?  Is it a personality trait?  Well, actually, I read a book once about personalities and my INFJ personality’s desire to learn is insatiable.  And the more I read the better I’ll write.  The more I write the more chance I’ll write myself into a new career; a career that fits this INFJ.


I love lists.

More great books and a few adventures can be found on Wild About Books.

The Grand Canyon 2019


“Education is an admirable thing but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.”  Oscar Wilde

I woke up this morning in a warm bed with sheets; surrounded by walls. I  dressed and went downstairs to the lobby where breakfast was available.  This was where we would all meet before loading the bus for our last leg home.  The lobby had the TV on. Some random show that no one was watching, just background noise, along with the beeping waffle maker, the beeping microwave. The Monday morning traffic picking up outside the window.  Everyone in the lobby looking down at their phones.  I sat in a chair thinking about my previous morning.54799455_1927024640757313_2707050640365846528_n

I woke up the morning before in my REI quarter dome backpacking tent on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  I was tucked in my down sleeping bag and covered in another sleeping bag and covered in my big down coat.  It was below freezing but I was cozy, only my face was cold.  The moon was shining in my tent as if someone were standing outside with a headlamp. There were no noises.  It was 4:30 a.m., which sounds early, but I’d gone to bed at 7:30 p.m.  I felt around in the moonlight for my glasses, found them, put them on, but they were frosted over and I was better off without them.  I laid there hoping that the seven students I’d brought on this trip to the Grand Canyon were warm enough in their tents.  I could feel the stretch receptors in my bladder signaling to my brain that it was full.  (This is what I learned while overhearing the students ask questions to their science teacher; the other adult chaperone.)  I  put on my boots, laced them up, put on my stocking hat and gloves and headed to the bathrooms.  But first, I had to get up off the ground.  I spent the last three days backpacking the Grand Canyon.  Most of my body is stiff and uncooperative.  I went for the all fours method, standing to a walking position, trying not to take my small tent up with me. It was a feat as my calfs screamed and retaliated for having to be put back to work.  The moonlight was enough to see my way on the short walk to the bathrooms.  It was too early to get the kids up, so I came back and crawled slowly into my sleeping bag.  Not long after, I hear Nate, the science teacher, whose stretch receptors were talking to his brain too, I hear his foot steps head to the bathrooms. That was my signal to get up for real.  I found my Jet Boil, tea and tea cup and joined him in the red bus for some warm beverages and quiet time before waking up the kids.  Nathan is like a human muti-tool.  He repairs, fixes, bandages, encourages, listens, teaches, drives, and occasionally disciplines.  Once daylight hit we woke the kids and packed the bus.  Charging phones being their number one priority.  I sat in the front seat thinking about the morning before.54256426_1927025274090583_4567345072416227328_n

The morning before, we woke up in Indian Gardens Campground, half way between the Colorado River and the Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I’ve camped here twice now and it is one of my favorite spots.  It is tucked in a tree covered oasis with views of the upper rim on the south side yet tucked into a tight canyon.  It’s very quiet. Some of the trees are already budding out into leaves.  I woke up twice.  Once at 11:00, having gone to bed at 7:30, got up to take a migraine pill.  The moon was shining on the cliffs to the west.  The entire wall was lit up like a drive in movie theater.  It wasn’t cold, but it wasn’t warm.  I read for a bit and then went back to sleep.  I woke up again when I heard Nate stirring.  Then it was quiet.  I got up, walked to the bathroom.  It was 5:00 and the moon was just setting over the rim of the Canyon wall, the wall it had been lighting up earlier.  Nathan was sitting on a bench near the composting pit toilets, bandaging his blistered feet and having some breakfast.  He didn’t want to wake us in the camp.  I sat next to him while he dry shaved his face. We talked as the moon disappeared.  I quickly got cold and went back to my sleeping bag to wait for daylight.  The kids were up with the sun and pumped for their last day of backpacking.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them this would be the hardest day.  We averaged just over one mile per hour on our final climb out of the canyon.  I took the lead, Nate the rear.  Every time I saw him, his pack was bigger as he took on more weight from one of the student’s backpacks. The two boys on the trip were not happy about having to stay behind me, but they had proven to us that was far better for their safety to stay  sandwiched between Nate and me. Their sense of self preservation having not yet fully developed.  Although, mostly, the boys were breathing down my neck with the anticipation of being done instead of the appreciation of the trip.  It was a hard day. We were climbing and resting at every switchback and I was thinking about the morning before.55594223_1927024527423991_5870964622818803712_n

The morning before I woke to the sound of Bright Angel Creek as it flowed by the campground of the same name.  The Colorado River flowed nearby as well.  The creek noise was loud enough to drown out even your neighbors sleeping noises and most of the talk from next door camp sites.  Nate was still asleep.  He had hiked the seven miles with us from the rim to the bottom.  Then after some snacks and water he started up the trail towards the North Rim.  He hiked in six more miles and came back after dark, after the rest of us had eaten our dehydrated backpacking meals.  He’d hiked 19 miles that day and slept in a little the next morning.  We all ate breakfast sampling each others rehydrated eggs or biscuits and gravy, packed up and walked the trail out along the Colorado River before heading up the next canyon to Indian Garden Campground.  It was a good climb and we were feeling it. I was so happy to not be going down which is tough on the legs too.  The highlight of the day was our picnic dinner out on a point.  We walked another mile and a half out to a three hundred and sixty degree view to have dinner and watch the sunset.  We carried the Jet Boils, the backpacking dinners, water and our titanium sporks. As we ate, one of the kids asked me why I had chosen to become vegan.  I told them I read a lot of books about the benefits of eating a whole foods plant based diet and it was a way of eating that worked for me.  Another student said that I was the nicest vegan she knew.  I asked her how many other vegans she knew.  “Well, none.  But I read the comments about vegans on social media.”  We took lots of photos, talked to the few other people and watched a California Condor perched just below us on a rock until he soared off to join his buddy when he flew overhead.  After the sun set we walked back to camp, turning to take more pictures as the setting sun lit up the canyon into a surreal picturesque panorama that has to be experienced in real time as photos don’t do it justice.  This was my favorite day and a much warmer morning to wake up to than the morning before.54523781_2202851346444014_2392399669813575680_n (1)

The morning before we had camped on the rim before the start of our backpacking trip.  I knew there was a chance of rain or snow for the morning, so the night before we’d set up the Big Agnes tarp over the table that was the kitchen.  We made sure the kids had their tents secured and rain flys fully zipped.  I woke up to the sound of the wind whipping through the trees.  The sound of grapple snow hitting my tent.  I tried to go back to sleep as I listened to the tarp flapping about, the metal pole falling from its spot that was holding up the center.  Nate woke up too, but I didn’t hear him as he pulled the tarp over the table tying the ropes lower on the trees.  The two person tent that held three girls had three pairs of boots sitting outside of their tent in the snow.  He found a trash bag and put them all in the bag.  I don’t know what time it was.  I slept off and on.  When I finally woke up for good I could see from the inside of my tent that it was covered in snow.  Nate and I always manage to add extra adventure to our Adventure Club trips and this one was no exception.  I got up to start some breakfast and get out the lunches and snacks for the kids to pack for our three day hike.  I had to untie the tarp, lift it up to get all of the snow off and find the kitchen.  The tarp was done.  I packed it up wet.  Just as I got everything swept off and ready for packing, another storm came through and covered everything with an additional layer of wet heavy snow.  It was a tough cold start.  But there was nothing to do but carry on with our plans. It is what it is. We managed to pack everything, get backpacks ready to go, load the bus and head to the back country office to park the bus and catch the shuttle bus to the trailhead.  The trail was icy and muddy.  The rim was snow covered.  We headed down and down and down.  We watched the rain storms come across the canyon.  We’d get rained on and as soon as we put on our rain gear the sun would come out.  We hiked through this weather cycle the whole day, capturing outstanding photos with each passing system.

Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up early.  I’m a week behind at work.  I’ll sit at my desk pumping out tasks on my computer as fast as I can so I can leave, get outside and go for a walk in the forest.

More great adventures can be found at Wild About Books, where you can also find some really good books to read.

Dear Michelle and A New Book Selection

Dear Michelle,

I read your book, I’m pen pals with Barack and I miss you.  I would love to have you over for dinner.  I feel like I know you, like you are a good friend, a kindred spirit.  I’m so proud of you.

But who I’m I?

Some kind of backwoods stalker?


Well, maybe.

But in a good way.

I loved your book.  What a wonderful story and so transparent, no filters.  Oh sure; I caught the quick reference to a little pot smoking in the car with a boyfriend.  Or sleeping at your boyfriend’s place since you lived in an upstairs apartment in your parents house.  I appreciate the full disclosure.  It makes you even more real and authentic.  Qualities I admire most.   I received your book as a Christmas present from my daughter, she bought two, one for me and one for her boyfriend’s mother.  My mom was reading it at the same time.  My best friend was reading it as the same time.  My other friend, who I promised to give my copy to, couldn’t wait and downloaded it on her kindle.  I may donate my copy to our local library.  I live in a  conservative county located in a red state that is slowly turning purplish;  I believe; or hope.  It will be nice to see you displayed on the “new” bookshelf right when you walk in the door of the library.

Yes,  it’s true.  Not sure if Barack has told you, but we have corresponded by mail.  He can come to dinner too.  I wrote a letter to him as one of my blog posts and decided I might as well print it and mail it to him.  Several months later, my work phone rang, I answered, and it was someone from the office of the President of the United States.

“Hi, is this the Lisa Poe who wrote a letter to President Obama?”

“Um, well, yes….I did write a letter to the President.”

“Great.  The President receives thousand of letters a day and selects ten to read each night.  He hand writes replies to some of them and has written to you; we need  an address to send it to.”

Who writes to the President of the United States and doesn’t include contact information?

Me! Apparently.  I gave my information to the person on the other end of the line.  She emailed me a copy as well.

I was so excited.  I shared the email with my family, my co-workers and even included it in my next blog post.POTUS Response-01

Clearly, I’m the one to drop the ball as I have not written back to him.

And yes,  I miss you.  I miss you so much and Barack.  I so enjoyed the part in the book where you tried to be as gracious and eloquent in your transition with the new first family as George and Laura Bush had been to you.  I’m not sure how you pulled that off.  I’m not sure how you didn’t call in sick that day.  Is someone still looking after the garden?  Or was that turned back into a fertilized green lawn?

I work in a school and was part of the optimistic drive to see the new school foods policies you implemented enforced in an atmosphere full of fear in the changes.  Lunch ladies across the state fighting to give our kids more chicken nuggets and white bread so  they would be full.  Our school  received a Farm to School Grant and hired someone to over see the program.  The lunch ladies were happy that we hired a local graduate from our school.  A neighbor. As they told this new young hire; “We were afraid they’d hire one of Lisa’s flower smelling hippie friends”.  I don’t believe they meant this as a complement.

Thank you for sharing your life with us.  Your thoughts.  Your past.  Even intimate details. I made your book one of my book picks in my blog “Wild About Books”.  Which is a great resource for book lovers in case you find yourself without a book.  If you’re like me, that is one of my biggest fears.

In conclusion, we need to pick a book for this post.  This past year Montana Public Radio participated in the Great Montana Read in search of Montana’s best-loved novel.  Thirty-one books were potentials and the winner is our new book selection.  “Perma Red” by Debra Magpie Earling takes place in the 1940’s on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  The author’s writing makes the reader feel as if they are in a dream or in a spirit world.  Guided by something bigger or a belief in something bigger to get through the suppression; shame; “Wash the Indian out of you”.  Why do we do this to people?IMG_1390

This book will be part of my live book club.  Where people actually get together after having read a great book and share a pot luck meal while discussing how the book affected them.  Friday April 5th at 6:00 at my house.  Dinner theme to be determined.  So far in the book, there is a lot of fry bread and beer, we can start with that.   Please let me know if you will be coming.  If Michelle comes, we might have to rent the clubhouse, no worries.  Oh, and Michelle I’ll have my daughter pick you up at the airport on her way.  Hope you don’t mind being labeled as one of my flower smelling hippie friends.

See you soon.



A Lazy Winter Saturday and a New Book Selection

It is noon on a Saturday in the middle of January.  I’ve already driven to Anderson Mountain and back to cross country ski in a blizzard with my puppy.  Now it’s time to relax on the couch.  There is a warm fire simmering in the wood stove.  I’m wearing my new socks  and reading my new book. img_1370.jpg Both Christmas presents, socks from my assistant daughter Shelby, and the book from my daughter Hannah.  I’ve got a new batch of kombucha brewing on the stove.  I’m enjoying a hot cup of herbal dandelion blend beverage with nut pods creamer.  My kittens Ruth and Bader are running around the house like wild banshies and my 5 month old lab is outside chewing on some fresh deer bones from a recent butchering and meat grinding session in the garage. Later I plan on making lintel soup for tomorrow to take snowboarding and then rip out the sweater I knitted and write my own pattern for a pussy hat.  After listening to NPR this morning about all of the marches and people trying to repel Roe vs Wade, I have this burning desire to knit a pussy hat out of my wrecked sweater. Yep.  Just your average Saturday afternoon.

When I received my new book at Christmas, I had to quickly finish the other three I was in the middle of.  I read three at a time quite often and sometimes have to laugh at the randomness of the three books I’m reading.  It’s like when you go to the grocery store and buy three seemingly random items like a bottle of wine, a frozen pizza and a box of tampons.



That’s not a good example.  Those actually go together.

The books I was reading were;

“Mindfullness for Beginners” (recommend, if you’re into that kind of thing),

“Dark Horse; Achieving Success Through the Pursuit of Fulfillment” (also recommend, if you’re into that kind of thing)

“Pussy; A Reclamation” (don’t really recommend unless you are my friend Christina the Magical Doula).  None of these actually made the cut for Wild About Books.

Which brings us to the new book selection.  A memoir;  by a person I would love join for a glass of wine and talk about books; talk about anything.  A strong woman, certainly not a whiner, but an eloquent, well spoken, articulate,  beautiful human being with a heart of gold and a sense of humor; with a “get shit done” work ethic.  Our book selection is “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.

There is a good chance that my followers are reading or have already read “Becoming”.  and if you haven’t I highly recommend it.  From growing up on the south side of Chicago, to going to Princeton and Harvard, to becoming the First Lady, this is a tale worth reading.

It’s a tale of goodness and kindness and how a positive attitude will carry you far.  It’s what I hope I taught my own children.  To expect the best, jump some hurdles, and keep heading to the best outcome.  And let’s treat every person we meet as if they may some day become first lady or president.

I’m excited when Ivana Trump writes her memoir.  I can’t imagine what her life must be like.  And how did I end up with a blog that has ‘pussy” in it twice? Now, thrice.

For more great book selections and a few good adventures go to Wild About Books

Holiday Reading and/or Last Minute Gifts

I’ve been reading instead of blog writing this fall and I have several books for you to add to your list.  All of these would make great gifts as well.

First, Ken Follett’s book “A Column of Fire”  I almost didn’t read this.  I had my friend Carol’s copy for almost a year. Started it.  Then stopped.  When my friend Deborah told me she was reading it and couldn’t put it down, I tried again.  And I couldn’t put it down.  This is the third in a trilogy.  The first being “Pillars of the Earth”  which you should read too.  I read “Pillars of the Earth” while nursing my daughter.  She is now 28.  That was one of the best books I’ve ever read and I should read it again.  Both “A Column of Fire” and “Pillars of the Earth” are historical fiction.  Each taking place in different centuries.  “A Column of Fire” is in the 16th Century.  It takes place mostly  in Europe.  There are wars, spies, romance, intrigue, and rape. Not like “stranger in the alley rape”, more like in your home rape.  This is a great book.  I love all of the real historical characters and events peppered with fiction in a “Downton Abby” kind of soap opera retelling of the 1500’s.  This book also shows how much history repeats itself and that the human race never seems to learn or come to an agreed upon solution while destroying itself and the world around it with greed and power winning over compassion  and tolerance.

Next up, “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.  This book was our Thanksgiving family book club book.  This book takes place on the Outer Banks of North Caroline in the 1940’s to 1960’s.  At times you’ll think this book is nothing but a teenaged romance triangle.  But, it is much more than that.  This book does a good job of portraying the “Jim Crow” south, southern poverty, empathy as well as prejudice, and rape.  Not “stranger in the alley rape”, more like rape in your own home. Subtle.  A contest to be won.  I liked the writing and the story of this book.  A survivor book.

Lastly, “My Notorious Life” by Kate Manning is a wonderful book.  Recommended to me by my friend Deborah.  This was a great story based on some true events.  This book takes place in the late 1800’s in New York City.  The protagonist, Axie, becomes an orphan at a young age.  She is taken in by a family of doctors, the women being a midwife.  Axie becomes a maid for the business and ends up being an assistant.  Her midwife mentor, not only delivers babies, but will abort them too.  Axie ends up using this knowledge and her compassion for women to make a successful, though illegal, career.  This is a fascinating book full of female suppression, male domination and rape.  Not “stranger in the alley rape”, more like rape in your own home.

Tis the season to wonder, if Jesus’ mother had not used that lame excuse “Virgin Mary” and instead had actually started the “Me Too” movement,  that women would be on a whole different  level at this stage of the game.

I don’t want you to leave this blog thinking that I’m on a man rampage.  All three of these books have compassionate men who are wonderful, loving, generous, kind and supporting, as the majority of men are.  I just want you to  be aware that the rape culture has been so prevalent in our history that I have read three books in a row  which have this theme thread through them.  And just the fact I feel the need to add this disclaimer paragraph because I don’t want to be mistaken for an angry, biased women says a lot too.  A lot that I can’t put it into words.

It’s time for compassion and tolerance to win.  Merry Everything and Happy Always.  Happy reading.

More great book selections can be found at Wild About Books.

Guest and New Book Selection; sort of

The new book selection is not a book this time.  It’s a magazine.  I subscribe to the monthly magazine “The Sun“.  My first introduction to The Sun was many years ago when my good friend Deborah gave it to me as a Christmas present.  I read each issue cover to cover until the subscription ran out.  After that I would occasionally buy an issue usually when I was traveling to read on the plane.  Now with so much of my time spent reading and writing I have subscribed to the magazine once again.  Every year I think about not re-subscribing as I struggle to find the time to read them each month.  But my husband started reading them too and asked that I continue the subscription.  So I do.

This magazine has no ads.  No ads at all.  It is a non-profit magazine based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is full of many styles of writing.  Every issue has an interview, non-fiction writing, fiction writing, short stories, essays, poems, black and white photography and my favorite section; “Readers Write”.  Each issue has somewhat of a theme that sews it together.  For example, the September issue that I’m reading now has a racism, justice, prejudice theme.  Each issue is thought provoking, educational, and gives the reader an intense feeling of empathy towards all human beings.

The interview for September is with American philosopher, political activist, social critic and author Cornel West who says in his interview; “……because nowadays it is rare to see a right-wing person and a left-wing person who live and respect each other and engage in dialogue.  We live in a society where it’s all about the will to power, the will to dominate, the will to conquer.  The change in the culture has a lot to do with the eclipse of integrity and honesty and decency, and the normalization of corruption, deceit and mendacity.  It’s all about manipulating your political opponents to diminish them and show that they have nothing to say or contribute.  People no longer have dialogue.  It’s all monologue.”

I’ve always wanted to contribute to the Readers Write section.  They list a theme and deadline each issue.  “Equality” is due October 1 and “Beyond Belief” is due November 1.  I never get one written or submitted.  I clearly needed a challenge to get me on task.

So.  I challenged my son and fellow writer to submit to the Readers Write section of The Sun every month and whomever gets published first has to take the other one out to dinner where ever they want to go.  I’m choosing to go back to the all vegan restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan if I win.

Last month I submitted my story for the topic “Weight”  in which I wrote about the weight of my backpack.  This month’s topic is “Guest” and is due September 1.  I’m going to write my submission now for my blog readers, starting in this next paragraph.  I highly recommend “The Sun” magazine.  You can find it online or at “The Good Food Store” in Missoula, Montana. To find more great reading recommendations check out my blog at Wild About Books.


She was a guest.  Although, we didn’t know it at the time.  She immersed herself into our lives full throttle.  Her sad, yellow lab, puppy dog eyes melted our hearts and  pretty much allowed her to get away with anything.  Next thing we knew, she was not only allowed on the couch, but on the bed as well.

She would wear herself out chasing balls, chewing toys, chasing her tail and then fall asleep in our laps.  Recharging to do it all again.  We took her on small walks that got progressively longer every week.  We took her swimming in the irrigation ditch. Camping. Floating the Bitterroot river in the raft. She spent most of her time exploring the property, free to come and go, in and out of the house through the dog door as she pleased.  She brought in pinecones, sticks, deer bones, elk bones and one skull.  She was high maintenance.   She ate our underwear and socks, chewed our shoes, destroyed the plants on the deck as if we’d planted and cared for them for her exclusive enjoyment. She ate the pillowcases, ripped a hole in her dog bed, took the dish towels off the handles of the refrigerator and stove. If we had neighbors they would have heard the constant “No Ali…….NO Ali……..  ALI NO!”

She greeted us when we came home with so much unconfined puppy excitement, I thought she would explode.  She was in love with us and we were in love with her.  Her small walks turned into trail walks and those were her favorites.  Running the trail, climbing up on rocks.  Stopping ahead and looking back to see if I was coming. So much energy.  So much fun.

I felt bad leaving her when I went to work.  I would go in late.  Take long lunches at home. Leave early.  Sneak in on weekends when she napped to catch up.  Juggling puppy and work left little room for anything else.  But it was worth it.  She was a beautiful puppy and I didn’t want to do anything else.  I turned down day long trips on the Salmon river with friends who told me to bring her.  But I was too worried.  Too worried for my free spirited, high maintenance energetic puppy, to be in a dangerous situation of trucks and trailers and boat ramps.  So we would stay home and torment the cat and laze on the deck. Nap and play and walk and swim.  The life of a puppy.

It was the epitome of irony that I was the one to run over her.  In her driveway.  One hundred feet from her front door.  The place she was safe.  For almost two months she was our guest.  Now she is gone.



Wedding Week and a New Book Selection

I’ve read a lot of books since the last blog post but none have been Wild About Books worthy.  Last night I started a new book and within the first few paragraphs I knew that this would be the next book recommendation.  I can tell.  In just a few short paragraphs I can feel the rhythm, the flow, the connection between reader and writer.  I embrace the words. I embrace the story. It is right.

This instant connection also describes the relationship between my son Zach and my daughter-in-law Taylor.  I think the excitement and joy of their recent wedding week were not because of the wedding hoopla, but because we all knew from the very first paragraphs of their life together that this was right.  This couple has a rhythm, a flow, a connection that everyone delights in seeing.  This connection has extended itself into the two families.   We embrace each other.  We embrace the stories.  It is right.IMG_5674

The wedding day started with morning yoga.  The ceremony started with guided meditation.  Maybe not your typical wedding, but by far the best wedding I’ve ever attended.

It was a family wedding.  Immediate family.  There were twenty of us including the photographer Dave, who became family almost as soon as he walked in the door.  Five grandparents, five parents, three sisters, two boyfriends of sisters, one aunt, one uncle, one groom, one bride and Dave.

The Aunt was the yoga teacher and officiant and unofficial photographer.  The mother of the groom (that was me) did a reading, which included a wedding joke (appropriate joke for those of you that know me and my tendencies).  The father of the bride did a reading.  The bride and groom wrote and read their own vows.  One kiss and done.

The day was fairy tale perfect.  The wedding was held at a five bedroom house IMG_5810located on the Bitterroot River, isolated from any other houses, with views of the snow capped Bitterroot Mountain Range.  The rainy days of June let up on the wedding day allowing us to set up outside by the river.  The sun beamed on us in the morning as we did yoga in the lawn.  Soon after yoga the hair and makeup women showed up at the front door with bags of supplies to make us “pop” for the photos.  The men went to lunch at the local brewery while the women spent their day taking turns with hair and makeup. A makeup pause for  a champagne toast and gift opening as Louisiana grandma was heard saying while nodding her head “Uh uh….. Mawmaw knows what a man likes….” ,


Mawmaw knows what a man likes

as the bride held up her new lingerie.  Mawmaw also commented after having her hair and makeup done, “Where’s Pawpaw? He’s not going to believe how beautiful I am.” as she strutted out of the room to find him.  The hair and makeup professionals had no idea that this was the women from both families in the room getting made up.  The atmosphere leaning to being just one close family.  The fairy tale wedding.

The men came back from the brewery; the groom secluded to the downstairs, the bride to the upstairs.  The rest of us shuttling items as needed.  There was no stress, the day was as relaxing as the morning yoga.  The bride, mother of the bride and sisters lounging on the bed in the make up room.  The groom, mother of the groom, and sister played pool downstairs.  The doorbell rang and the cake and cake decorator arrived.  A three tiered cake with the top tier being gluten and dairy free.  The door bell rang again as the caterer and her helper arrived to prepare dinner. The stealth like photographer quietly capturing the day for eternity.  Although it was just family, there was a wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, a best sister dress, suits, super high heels (flip flops for me in case your were having a hard time picturing this).  You could feel a little anxiousness in the air as the time arrived for the wedding ceremony.  The officiant took charge, reading off the next person on the list to the groom as he escorted us to our seats.  Everyone in their place and the officiant welcomed us all, invited us to close our eyes and whether we knew it our not, guided us through some mindfulness meditation.  She melted the small amount of tension, eased everyone back to a safe and comfortable place.  Fluffing of the dress, presentation of the rings. The wedding ceremony proceeded as planned with the


Where are my tissues?  Kevin!!!

river rushing by, everyone beaming with pride and joy as boxes of tissues surrounded the mother of the bride.  Tears of pride and joy could not be contained and flowed as steadily and predictably as the river.

Pictures, pictures, pictures.  Photographer Dave’s turn to take charge as he grouped us into appropriate or requested groups.  Once the photos were done we sat down at the outside patio for dinner.  Buffalo steaks, potatoes with garlic scapes, risotto with morel mushrooms and a huckleberry wedding cake.  A very Montana dinner was enjoyed by all; Montanans, Louisianans, North Carolinians.  A few toasts by the siblings and Mawmaw, who actually toasted the officiant for such a beautifully executed and heart felt ceremony.

Dinner was cleared and the dancing ensued with the bride and groom dancing to”QuestionIMG_5891by The Old 97’s,  followed by the bride, father of the bride dancing to “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton and then the groom, mother of the groom dance.  My son Zach and I got up to dance.  At this moment we still had not picked out a song.  I put my hand on his shoulder.  He put his hand on my waist.  Our other hands clasped as we waited for whomever to pick out and start our song.  It started slow, but quickly we realized that this was a county song, a fast country song. “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” by Trace Atkins.  Zach’s always said that one of the best college classes he ever took was social dancing.  We dropped our formal dancing stance as he took both of my hands and the impromptu IMG_5927swing dance began.  We danced as if we had choreographed and practiced our groom, mother of the groom dance; right down to the end when Zach flipped me. The dance floor was wide open after that.  The party began.

Some of my favorite highlights of the week included;

Louisiana grandfather, Pawpaw packing tomatoes and cucumbers in his checked bag. “Not going to eat any of those store bought tomatoes”.

Photographer Dave calling Aunt Meg and Uncle Dean the cutest old couple he’d ever met (50 and 54 respectively).

Moving our living room rocking chair out to the fire pit for Mawmaw to sit in while we


Mawmaw in the living room furniture

all made s’mores.

North Carolina Grandmother, Gennie Poe asking the father of the bride, Kevin if he could dance and them dancing on the deck to “Harper Valley PTA“, as Mawmaw and Pawpaw moved to the beat of one of their favorites.  Pawpaw telling everyone, “be sure and listen to the words, listen, listen to the words”.

Watching the Duhe’ sisters sing “Watermelon Wine” with MawMaw and Pawpaw.

The words of wisdom from Pawpaw, including “You’ll never get a corporate job if your name is VaGina”.

After the first time meeting; Pawpaw saying to Brett; “..who knew I could come all the way to Montana and meet a coon ass”.  As Father of the Bride, Kevin looks at me and quietly says, “..that’s a complement”.

This blog is for the Georgia Grandparents who were unable to attend.  I hope that my words and Meg’s pictures help to recreate the event for you. I’ve linked all of the songs so that you can click on them and listen.  We missed you.


Pawpaw and the bride

Wait.  What about the book?  This is a blog that recommends great books.

The book selection is my favorite genre; memoir.  “Educated” by Tara Westover is a book that I just started and feel good about the start.  Take my word for it.  Call it reader’s intuition.  I’m not even going officially start it until I’m done reading a first draft manuscript from an up and coming New York City author, who just got married.


For more great book suggestions and other memorable adventures check out Wild About Books.