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Posts tagged ‘40 Days of Writing’


It’s two days before Thanksgiving so I’m going to write about my daughter-in-law, Amanda. I am beyond grateful that she is the wife of my only son, Jarrod, and the mother of my grandson.

As the mother of a boy, the only child I have, I often wondered who he would fall in love with, and whether he would marry or have children. When your kids are little, you have no way of knowing if any of these things will happen, but I saw these things in his future.

When Jarrod was growing up and old enough to understand the ways of the heart, I felt it was my job to talk ad nauseam about what a healthy a relationship looks like. I failed him by not living the example. I suffered abuse at the hands of his father, which was a short first marriage, and though I consider my second marriage to be a good one, Jarrod often witnessed the slow unraveling of it. I feel sad and guilty about that, but we do the best we can do.

I mostly felt like a single parent. His stepfather was there of course, but he worked long hours, often worked away from home, and during Jarrod’s high school years, we lived apart because of my refusal to move away from the community where I had raised him since grade 3. I know this wasn’t the best thing for my marriage, but that’s an entirely different story.

So there were things I wanted to pound into that “boy” brain. The “no means no” conversation and “always wear condoms,” came early on, but there is so much more than that. Keep in mind that this was coming from the perspective of a “girl” who didn’t choose wisely the first time around. I wanted him to choose well, but I also didn’t want him to ever be a poor choice. I wanted to raise a good man. Perhaps in this day and age the things I talked with him about should be a given, but awful headlines in the news, and websites such as The Good Men Project are enough to tell you they aren’t. Simplified, here are a few things I remember:

You are equals.
You don’t “belong” to one another. You don’t “own” each other. You aren’t the others “property”.
It’s good to have things in common, but have your own interests and encourage each other in those interests.
Encourage time away from each other to do things with friends.
You will learn to cook, clean, and do laundry. There is no such thing as “woman’s work”.
It’s fine to argue, but be kind and always listen. There are two sides and nobody is always right.
She should probably be an animal lover, like you.

I wonder what Jarrod remembers of these conversations. Perhaps I should have asked him before I wrote this so I could have added an anecdote about it, like him saying, “I don’t remember those conversations,” to which I’d say, “Well, something must have stuck!”

I’m coming down off a high of a three day visit with these guys, including my two-month old grandson, Larkin. The last time I saw him was the week he was born, when I traveled to Oregon for his birth and stayed a few days to help. I had no doubt that Amanda would be a good mother, but she was in a fog of sleeplessness and new motherhood while I was taking care of the house, the cooking, and walking the dog so that she and Jarrod could become acquainted with this new little creature whose arrival had changed their lives forever.

It was this most recent visit that has made me appreciate how very fortunate we all are to have this girl in our lives. Larkin is a calm and happy baby, and perhaps that’s just his nature, but I suspect it has something to do with his mommy, whose confident and easygoing demeanor coupled with pure, sweet love for her baby boy made this first-time grandmother feel immeasurable joy.

I realize I didn’t write all that much about Amanda, but in a way, I actually did. Sometimes, it’s all in the subtext.


Untitled – Day 4


You stand at the bottom of two roads.

A triangle of hell.

A fork.

Choose one.

Choose right, or choose left,

or choose right, or choose wrong.

You are sleepless and restless and dazed and jumpy and wired and crazy,

because neither road seems bad or good or bad or good or good or bad.

Days turn into nights turn into days turn into nights.

Different people, different places, different animals, different loves, and different losses to experience.

And different climates.

Sunshine or storms or moonbeams or rainbows.

Indecision is a loud buzzing in your ears.

Mystery is swirling around your head.

Your life has become blurry.

There is no sign, no epiphany, no wise old owl.

There are only lists of pros and cons and pros and cons,

written on receipts and napkins and post-it notes.

Your life, on a post-it note.

You close your eyes, put your arm straight out in front of you, point your finger, spin around and around, stop, open your eyes,

And stay.





Purple Mountains

We left the train station very early in the morning for an across the country adventure. Me, mom, dad, and my brother. I was five. I never felt like we were poor when I was growing up. In fact, I’m sure we weren’t, but we certainly weren’t rich. I say this because we apparently couldn’t afford sleeping cars. As a parent, I can’t imagine traveling coach with a five and nine-year old on a train for four nights and five days, but that’s exactly what my parents did and the memory of that trip has never left me.

We were bound for Wisconsin to see my mother’s side of the family. It’s interesting that this was the only time we made the trip by train, though we visited almost every year thereafter by car from California. Perhaps the memory of the train trip isn’t quite the same for them as for me. Perhaps they wondered what they were thinking.

I’m pretty sure I was an angel on that train trip because the only time I remember crying was when my dad and brother got off at one of the many stops and they weren’t back in their seats when the train departed. I remember screaming, “Daddy!” No amount of reassuring from my mother that they were on the train would convince me otherwise until I saw my dad walk through the door of our car. I was a nervous kid to begin with. I remember not wanting them to get off. I remember being afraid the train would leave without them.

We once lost my father and brother in San Francisco. It was just one of those misunderstandings, I guess. My mom and I would look in this store while my dad and brother looked in that store and we would meet somewhere after. An hour or so later that seemed like an eternity, holding the hand of my very pissed off mother and running to keep up with her, we rounded a corner and found them sitting at a picnic table eating hamburgers outside of a food truck.

But back to the train. I remember moving around the car a lot because not every seat was taken and shyly sitting next to a girl we called Oriental back then. She was probably almost a teenager. She seemed so grown up to me and so pretty with her long black hair. She had a large selection of paint-by-numbers sets and she shared a few with me. We sat for hours painting. I asked her why her mountains were purple and she said, “For purple mountains majesties.”

The restaurant cars were the best. I couldn’t figure out how they kept changing. One day the benches would have blue checked fabric, the next they would be red, and then they would go back to blue. I loved the French dip sandwiches the best. I learned how to say “au jus” on that trip.

It was winter and it was dark when we arrived in Wisconsin. We were there for Christmas and the ground was covered in snow. Oh! That’s the reason we took a train. It was the only time we visited in winter.



Another Round

Today marks another Day 1 of 40 Days of Writing, which is a good thing because I need a jumpstart to turn what’s in my head into something readable. It’s been a struggle for quite some time now.

An old friend died the other day. And before that I received sad news from another dear friend. And before that a very young man in town known and loved by so many died in a tragic accident. And before that a baby was born to a young couple in town with a rare heart condition that has kept him hospitalized to this day. And now terrorists.

I don’t have any words of wisdom about any of this. There are things that I can’t comprehend. Life is full of bad news and none of us are immune to very sad or even horrific things happening to us or to the people very close to us.

It’s all so very precarious.

This blog feels like a jumble. It is.

With tears holding steady on the brim of my lower lid, my thoughts were sad as I sang Finn to sleep last night. For some reason, the sound of my terrible voice singing a mostly made-up rendition of “Hush Little Baby” puts him in a trance and when you combine that with hair petting, he’s usually out in less than five minutes. Last night it took a little longer. Perhaps he sensed my sadness. He kept opening his eyes back up and looking at me and when I would gently brush my fingertip against his eyelid with a closing gesture, he would giggle.

Bedtime can be a battle with Finn. Liam never resists, but Finn will often get out of bed over and over before finally giving in to slumber, which is why the bad singing has become a routine when the boys are with us. Mike will say, “Are you ready for the dulcet sounds of Jodee?” That’s my cue. It was discovered by accident one night when I just started singing the song to him and he fell asleep in seconds. I kind of like it because Mike is their favorite, but this is my thing with them, or at least with Finn. Liam is on the bottom bunk while I stand singing to Finn on the top, but he doesn’t object to it like my own son used to. “Mommy, don’t sing,” Jarrod would say, which always amused me.

Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird won’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
It that diamond ring won’t shine,
Mama’s gonna buy you a glass of wine.
If that glass of wine is yuck
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new truck.
If that truck won’t go very far,
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new bar.
If that bar burns down to the ground,
Mama’s gonna pick you up and twirl you around….

You get the idea. I change it up sometimes too…

I don’t really have a point to this jumbly blog. I’m just grateful that my bad singing can lull a precious 4-year old to sleep.







If you haven’t read my previous blog, you should read that first.

Jojo is a boy.

Mike went to Open House at Liam’s school last night and I received this text:

I guess I’m not used to seeing little boys with high ponytails. I know guys where high ponytails these days. They also wear eyeliner and barrettes. It’s a free-for-all and I like it that way. Maybe that’s why I thought he was a girl. I pictured her with four older brothers and wearing their hand-me-downs and not caring about looking girlie. I liked her that way. But now I like him that way too. He’s probably the only five-year old boy at school with a high ponytail. Go Jojo!

I’ll close with a photo of David Beckham.


Mondays with Liam and the other Jojo

I’ve written in the past about Thursdays being my morning with both boys, but I haven’t written about Mondays with Liam. I actually have both boys with me on Monday mornings, but their grandmother comes to take care of Finn at our house so it doesn’t matter if he wakes up or not. I don’t have to get him up, dressed, fed and ready to go anywhere. I only have to get Liam up, fed and ready for school. The difference between getting only one boy ready as opposed to two is like the difference between getting one boy ready and twenty.

I like Mondays with Liam. He usually wakes happy and on the rare occasion he’s grumpy, it never lasts. He eats the same breakfast every Monday morning; a fried egg sandwich with mayo, and he loves it. I’ve tried to switch things up on him, but then he says, “egg sandwich.” He’s easygoing and we never feel rushed.

I like my time with the boys better when Mike isn’t around. It’s totally fine when he is there, too, but they like me better when he’s not there. Perhaps it’s because of shared custody and him not being in their lives 100% of the time, but when they are with us, they can’t get enough of him. It’s only when he isn’t around that they take more notice of me. It’s not that they ignore me when we are all at home together, but they are much more affectionate with me when he’s not there. I don’t think he believes half the stuff I tell him that they do with me because he’s never there to witness it, except the time Liam said, “I love you,” to me and Mike burst into tears.

After our typical morning at home today we piled ourselves, his backpack, and my two bags full of all the stuff I schlep to work everyday and began the 7.4 mile drive to his school. I usually talk to Liam throughout the drive. With his limitations in communication, he doesn’t always talk back, but that doesn’t stop me from babbling to him.


I park my car behind the school which means we have to walk a little bit of a distance where the path winds around a baseball field and then across the big playground to the Number 20 square where his special ed class meets before the bell rings. Teachers come out to their designated class squares when the first bell rings and the children follow him/her in a line to their classroom. I always wait for the teacher or her aid to come and get the kids. When he’s in my care, there needs to be a hand off.

Since about the second week of school, Liam has insisted that I carry him from the car to the square. He’s gained a few pounds since September and this task is becoming more and more difficult for me. I try to encourage him to walk, but he insists I “carry you.” I always say, “you want to carry me?” He lets me put him down when the big black cat is in the path so he can pet it, but then I have to pick him right back up. Despite the 40+ pounds of him and his backpack putting a strain on my back, I love the way he moves my hair from my shoulder so he can rest his head there. As soon as we are within 10 feet of the square, I put him down and he’s fine.


Over the course of the school year, I’ve seen him blossom. He used to tuck himself right next to me until the teacher showed up. Now he ventures out to either go get a drink at the germ drinking fountain, or he goes to the wheelbarrow full of jump ropes and grabs one to play with. This morning was something different. He started walking through a bunch of other kids from different classes and walked straight up to a little girl in a bright green Ninja Turtles sweatshirt. If she hadn’t had a high ponytail, I might have thought she was a boy because there was nothing girlie about her. She took off running and Liam began to chase her. This happened over and over with some other little boys joining the chase, too.


While I stood on the square watching Liam, one of his classmates (I should know his name) walked up and stood close to me with his back to me. This little boy has Down Syndrome. I put my hand on his shoulder and said “Hi.” He turned around to face me and put his arms around me so I put my arms around him. We stood like that for a few moments. Then he looked up and said, “Is Liam your little boy?” I said, “He’s kind of like my little boy. I live with Liam’s daddy and his daddy is my boyfriend.” He said, “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

Just then the bell rang and Angie, Liam’s teacher’s aid, walked up. When Liam ran up, Angie said, “Liam, are you playing with Jojo?” He just grinned. I said to Angie, “Her name is Jojo?” Angie nodded. I squatted down to get eye level with Liam to say goodbye and said, “Of course her name is Jojo.” He looked right into my eyes and laughed.


The Jesus Part

Another excerpt from the book with a working title of Cocaine or Jesus.

I walked into the apartment after a long commute from San Francisco during rush hour traffic. I was weary after spending the day working on the cold city streets pretending I was having a good time and not freezing to death. I had returned from modeling in Japan just a few weeks prior and the bookings back at home were coming in droves. This always happened when a local model returned from abroad. Your agent works hard for you. So and so is back in town.

My husband was stretched out on the couch in front of the television. He said, “Guess who I ran into today? Remember Gary?” before I could ask.
“From the band?” I asked. He nodded his head. I always liked Gary. He was a really nice guy during that brief time that he and Joe played together.
“How is he?” I asked, while walking toward the bedroom.
“He’s great. We talked for a long time,” he said. He paused briefly, then louder so I could hear him, “He invited me to church tomorrow.”
Puzzled, I called out from the bedroom, “Tomorrow is Wednesday.”

He went to church that next night. And then he went again on Friday night. And by Saturday he convinced this Catholic girl to go with him on Sunday morning. And then we went again on Sunday night, and by Monday morning I was fully indoctrinated into the cult known as the United Pentecostal Church.

Before Cult

Before Cult


During Cult

Crossing Paths

I like unexpected surprises. Good surprises, of course, but those little things that happen in your life that make you take notice. I also like to think about how our paths cross with one another. Coincidences? I like to think not. I had an unexpected surprise two Saturdays ago while working a wine club event at the winery where I normally work a regular 9-5er, Monday through Friday.

I’ve worked many weekend events in my almost five years of employment there and they are mostly enjoyable. I say mostly because you are working with the public and not everyone is nice, but really, most people are nice. The perk of working on a Saturday or Sunday is a comp day during the week so I always volunteer if I don’t have anything going on.

Anyway, my unexpected surprise came by way of the young man I was paired to work with at the Rosé of Pinot Noir station. He poured the wine and I served up a tart of salmon, goat cheese and leeks. Alex was also an employee at the winery, but he worked in the Tasting Room and we had only met a couple of times and really didn’t know each other. This may sound strange because we work at the same address, but those of us that work away from the part of the winery that the public visits might as well be in another town. Weeks will sometimes go by before I venture up to the other side of the property for one reason or another.

I said Alex “was” an employee of the the winery because within five minutes of our polite hellos and a discussion of who would do what at our station he told me that the following Thursday was his last day because he and his girlfriend, Ashley, are quitting their jobs and traveling the world for six years. WHAT?!!

In between our polite greetings and small talk to the attendees of the event, I had a million questions. And Alex was more than happy to tell me the story. I was thrilled to hear that they have a blog and Facebook page so I could follow their many adventures. Who doesn’t dream of being able to do something like this? And good for them for figuring out how to go for it!

What Alex doesn’t know is that the night before the event I was hanging out with Sarah who would also be working at a station. She was paired with a different employee. I said, “maybe one of us could trade and you and I could work together.” She agreed, but on the day of the event neither of us took the initiative, and I’m so glad we didn’t! I hang out with Sarah all the time. I think I know pretty much everything about her. But I knew nothing of Alex and would have missed that opportunity of getting to know him, even for just those few hours.

Here is a link to Alex and Ashley’s travel blog. And to their Facebook page. Check it out! Follow! Like!

No good deed…

I am not a fan of people “walking” their dogs while they are on a bicycle. I realize there are certain breeds that need a ton of exercise who might benefit from running alongside a bike and that there are safe ways to do it, but mostly what I see are dogs panting and struggling to keep up. They aren’t happy with this form of exercise. They can’t pee, sniff flowers, or look up at you for reassurance in any unforeseen situation that might arise. Also, it’s dangerous.

Yesterday brought me almost face to face with a culprit. I was making a left turn at a very busy intersection on my way to the gym when I noticed a woman on a bike with TWO dogs on a leash. One was a good sized pitbull mix and the other was a puppy that looked just like the bigger one. She wasn’t riding. She was on the sidewalk straddling her bike with her feet on the ground trying to get them to move forward. Both dogs looked very confused. What the fuck?

While I sat there at the stoplight watching her struggle to control both dogs, my thoughts immediately went south. Idiot. What the hell is wrong with that woman? But right after those thoughts I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she bit off more than she could chew. Maybe there’s a reason she needs to get somewhere with those dogs and she has no car. Maybe she needs help.

Given that I had 20 minutes before my spin class, I decided to see if she needed help. I have a bike rack on my car and I could drive them all home. Or wherever. I made the left turn and parked my car on the side of the road and waited to see if she was coming in my direction. She managed to cross the street and started toward me on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. It took her at least five minutes to get close enough to me. While I sat there waiting on this busy stretch of road, I watched a runner go by them, which prompted the big dog to lunge at the runner. It seemed more out of curiosity than an aggressive move, but it was further evidence that she had no control of the dog. The puppy seemed to be limping and walking in circles completely clueless as to what it was supposed to be doing.

When she was almost up to my car, I got out, crossed the street and started walking toward her. There were about two car lengths between us, but I saw the big dog alert to me so I stopped.

“Do you need help?” I called.
Her tone and body language were immediately defensive, “What?!” I asked again if she needed help.
She yelled, “No, I’m not hurt!” We were competing with noisy traffic.
I said, “No, do you need help with your dogs? Do you need a ride?” I gestured toward my car.
“I don’t need any help. I’m training the puppy to walk with me on the bike.”

I held my tongue, which was hard, but there was a big dog staring at me and I wasn’t confident that she could or would hold onto it after I pissed her off with my rant. I walked across the street to my car mumbling all those initial thoughts I had.

April 7, 1955

My first husband would have turned 60 today if he were still alive. I thought of this on my drive to work this morning. 60. Wow. Joe and I would have been married 35 years this year if I hadn’t gotten the hell out of Dodge. I thought I would write about him on his birthday. On my lunch hour today I wrote four sad paragraphs and with the cursor at the end of the fourth paragraph, I put my finger on the backspace key and watched the letters disappear one by one.

That was easy to do. But I can’t delete that part of my life, nor would I want to. That union gave me the greatest gift of my life. My son. And though we were never meant to stay long in the journey that was Joe’s life, we were meant to pass through it. We were meant to step up onto the stage and have staring roles. We were in the second act, but by the third we were gone. We were meant to leave and find our own path, or journey, or a stage that only had room for two. It starred a young mother and her son.

There has been and will continue to be a lot of living between then and now, but that was our beginning. It was the beginning of life for me as an adult and it was the beginning of life itself for a baby boy. And so I honor that part today with this small mention, and a happy birthday, and a hope for continued restful peace.




Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

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