The Grandma Who Loved Me, for Me.

There are relationships that left me feeling slighted,  throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten.  She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.

Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else.  I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello.  She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.

Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me.  Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs.  I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch.  Sometimes we would sew..  Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk.  She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini.  When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans.  I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top.  She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place.  It was an anchor.  She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.

In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours.  When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts.  There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table.  We had conversation.

The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding.  It was an outrage; our small community was aghast.  I ran for the protection of my grandma.  I told her what I had done and we talked about love.  I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be.  Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

In other words, love was my grandma.

Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals.  The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay.  She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian.  I have googled it.)  I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad.   Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.


Facing Fears

It is obvious that society runs on fear.  We rightly or wrongly elected a president, because of fear and continue to let fear define us as a population.  Afraid of new ideas, of old ideas, of each other and sadly we are afraid of ourselves.  We are a country of fear…  I can’t fix the country, you can’t either, we can only control i.e..fix ourselves, and that alone is a challenge few of us dare to try..

Most of my life I have slept facing the door at night.  I don’t know why; no-one ever came into my room at night, while I slept.  There was no abuse in the dark, no surprises in the night, but for some reason I had this unreasonable fear that I had to sleep facing the door, so I would see whoever, whatever coming through the door.  It determined which side of the bed I slept in at a motel, my bedroom, and even which direction I slept on a couch.  I never told anyone; I became so used to it, that the pattern was almost subconscious, unless I was asked to sleep differently.  The anxiety would rise up in me, and I would have to consciously calm myself; self-talk my way to reason, there is no one, the door is locked…… I am doing better with it, I’m less afraid of what could happen, more rational, more mature, less afraid.

My other great fear is the loss of a child.  My youngest son ran errands for companies, (it’s called hot-shotting), he would often be out working at night, all night long, on roads with conditions, that were sometimes dangerous.  I would call him before I went to bed, and when I woke in the middle of the night, I would wonder where he was, if he was safe, should I call…..  I started to feel neurotic; my fear keeping me awake for hours; my mind imagining the worst.  He and his older brother would go snowmobiling during avalanche season in the Rockies; I would check weather sites and worry…  My fear wasn’t good for me and it wasn’t good for them.  They both stopped telling me when they were dong things, so I wouldn’t worry.  I didn’t want to be shut out, by their protection of me so I started to turn it over to God.  Now I know there are those of you who don’t believe in God, but God is real to me.  He/she is who I can turn my fears over too.. I can’t control my fears; I can’t control, but I have to believe that God can.  Where does that put people who lose family they love…I don’t know.  I can’t say God had a different purpose, or there are lessons….I just don’t know.  I do know, that for me turning it over to God, whether the belief is my prayers matter, or it’s an acknowledgment of my lack of control, works for me.

Acknowledging that we have control, only over ourselves, is an essential part of healing, of surviving.  We can only take responsibility for the decisions and actions that we make and take.  Don’t be afraid…allow yourself to be a survivor and not a victim; relinquish your fear and things you can not control, to God, to Buddha, to Mother Earth….


My body is getting older, my mind is fighting it….

Turning 58 was a celebration, because of the bike ride I had accomplished, but more so because of the awareness of so many, who never get to be 58.  When I was working at Williston State College, in my 40’s, we had the habit of celebrating birthdays.  One of the instructors turned 50 and did not want a celebration; she wasn’t happy about getting older.  Another instructor stopped in my office to visit about our lack of a birthday lunch for the psychology instructor.  Jackie had Lupus and worked with her disease most days.  Her comment is one I have never forgotten,  “I am thrilled to gain every year, because I don’t know how many I will get.”

Do any of us know how many years we will get?  I always had a smug satisfaction, because both of my grandmothers were in the 90 range, give or take a year, that I had familial longevity on my side; the death of my mother at 75 changed that feeling.

Granted Mom was a life-long smoker, a type-A, who lived a life filled with stress, much not of her own doing. While I am not a life long smoker, maybe two cigarettes in my life and parts of a couple of joints, I have the weight issue that my mother never had.  I’m more diligent about my health care, get more exercise, and work fairly hard at being a type-b, but I have her genetics as well.  Her father died of lung issues, while no autopsy was held, pneumonia was the official cause, but many of us suspected cancer.  Mom also had a minor heart attack, that was undiagnosed for years, my paternal grandfather died of a heart attack, and my Dad has been saved from one by modern medicine a couple of times.  My husband says, when I voice my worries, “We all have to die of something.”  He is nothing if not pragmatic.  🙂

I am 58, if I’m allowed to survive for twenty more years, I will have three more than Mom.  Thirty three more years, will give me the same time as her mother, I of course am hoping that along with the other traits of my maternal grandmother, that longevity will survive in me as well!

Do I fear death; of course I do, but not for the reasons I would have imagined at twenty.  I want to see my grandchildren marry and have children of their own; I want to see my children to retirement, know they are all happy and successful in their life choices.. I want more time.  I feel my body aches, even when I’ve done little. I try to remember the words of Elizabeth Taylor.  She said she jumped out of bed every morning, ignoring the stiffness, and soreness and went on about her day.

Today I will enjoy today; hopefully next year, I will enjoy 59!  Looking forward to longevity, praying for it, and counting on it.  Live long and prosper.  🙂


Reflecting Takes Time (CANDISC)

I completed this bike ride of mine, the CANDISC (cycling across North Dakota in Sakakawea country).  There were many gratifying parts of the adventure; one of them was doing my live feeds, before and after, one feel had over 650 views!  I felt fueled by the interest and the support of many of the viewers, who took the time to comment.

I came home to a normal life, mail that needed to be sorted, a fridge that needed to be cleaned and errands that needed to be run.  I came home to normal.

On the 416 miles of the ride a weird thing happens; at first your brain runs like usual.  For me, that means hundreds of thoughts float through, as I pick which ones to dwell on and which ones to let go.  Eventually, I hashed over everything and my focus became paying attention to my surroundings; are there cars or riders behind me, is the shoulder wide enough to ride on, is that a rumble strip?  I can hear the other riders come up behind me, many of them riding in groups, visiting about whatever topic they are on that day. (Politics are rare, we are keeping our minds focused on fresher things, the sound of the wind, the smell of the roadkill.)  The sound of a semi-truck becomes distinct, deep, rumbling and menacing.  Will I hear the sound of the rumble strip as he-she moves over, to straddle the center line, or is there a steady sound, because I notice a car coming in the oncoming traffic lane, so I again survey the shoulder, the white line, the ditch……. I crest the top of a hill, to see another hill coming, and another…I didn’t know central ND had so many hills….how fast do I dare go down this hill, in order to gain enough speed to help me go up the next.  This was my ride, the steady drum of the wind, like white noise out of a machine, if I am riding against it; the fabulous quiet, when I am riding with the wind.

Many people asked me if I were riding alone, when I answered yes, there was surprise, “Really, will you be ok?, will you get lonely?”  Many people who know me would think that I have to have someone around all the time, and while it’s true, I love people, conversation, and most of what that entails, my alone time is important too.  Imagine a week of only speaking when you choose too, seeking out company when you want it, and avoiding people when you don’t.  I rode alone most of the 416 miles, I relished the time. If someone pulled up to join me, we would visit for a while, but if they lingered too long, I found myself giving a reason to stop, to slow down, or to speed up, to enjoy my solitude, but also to be able to focus on what was around me.   I would ride, stop and check mileage, give my bottom, hands, shoulders etc. a rest and then move on, at my own pace, on my own time.  I set up my chair in Ft. Totten, opened a book and read it.  I wandered off to do my live feeds, but joined in and enjoyed conversation at the rest stops and meals.  When you are riding alone, you have the chance to meet others in bits and fits of conversations, giving you more time to reflect on them and the conversations.  I always had my cell phone with me, fully charged, so I could update my family on my safety and where-abouts.  Their sporadic responses reminded me they were only a phone call away.

I always felt safe in the campgrounds.  My bike was always right next to my tent; my gear was always stowed safely inside the tent next to me.  I was self-contained in my little tent.  The soft snoring, that came from some of the tents around me, helped me to sleep; It sounded like my husband was always close by.  When you are in your tent, you have an invisibility; life goes on around outside, conversations, body sounds, trains, rustling in the grass.. it’s a peek into the world.

I am so glad I rode in the CANDISC; I have proven to myself that I have the determination and dedication to still achieve.  Stepping outside the box is so important for all of us; stretch out of our routines; let us see ourselves a little differently; allow others to see us differently.


Blessings of friendship…

When you get to a certain age, if your are lucky, you have had many friends and learned many things about being a friend and what you expect from friendship.  You have watched friends walk into your life and watched them walk out.  You understand that as our lives change, our needs change, and our expectations of all relationships may change, including friendships.

When I was writing about depression, I touched on friendship and it got my mind to whirling, remembering some of the stand out times.  When I went through my second divorce, I felt uneasy in my home for a while.  One friend offered me a safe haven if I ever needed it, in the middle of the night; another couple offered me their lake cabin, which I took advantage of.  None of these folks had ever needed a similar safety net, that I’m aware of, but they offered up their homes willingly to me.  I’m very grateful to both of them.  They trusted me and believed me, two incredibly powerful facets of friendship.  I have a friend in Denver, that if I showed up on her doorstep, would invite me in, offer me a room and make some of the best hot chocolate/brandy drinks that not only warm the stomach, but do something nice to the soul.  A girl friend came to my divorce proceedings so I wouldn’t have to be alone, and I have a couple more who are great listeners, but aren’t afraid to challenge me as well.

I have lost friends, who in hindsight weren’t friends, I fit a purpose for them at the time and maybe it is true that they fit my purpose as well.  I still feel a sense of loss from their leaving, whether it’s from the loss  of time spent, or sadness that we can believe so strongly, at the time, that something was so good, only to see later that it wasn’t.  Divorces are similar.

It’s hard to find any one who will love you for who you are, but first it’s important for you to know who you are..  That can take a long time, so it’s only natural that friendships change until then, but if you are lucky to pick up a few really good ones, who love you through your changes, who accept you through those changes, then hang on to them tight.  They are the angels who will lift you to your feet..

To my wonderful friends; I hope you always fly!



Zen, the opposite of what I feel…..

Watching the news the other day, I saw a story on Bill Cosby.  The prosecutor used, as one of his arguments, that the Bill Cosby story couldn’t possibly be true, because the woman continued to have a working relationship with him.   Apparently the prosecutor has never heard of the Stockholm Syndrome: feelings of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.

Was the victim (although I like to refer to her as the survivor, because she is dealing with her incident) kidnapped? a hostage?  Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship knows that is exactly how it feels; powerless, under someone else’s control, feeling unable to escape…..  A young (30), black, gay woman would have felt kidnapped…trapped in her own mind and body, with her memories.  When, as a society are we going to get it?  She is crazy strong and brave.  I don’t know her, but I sure respect her.  Many of the relationships around her, working and otherwise, challenging her flashbacks…

Are there exceptions when someone lies about abuse, yes there are, but they are far less than what we could ever imagine.  Women and men are far more likely to be disbelieved, when they are telling the truth.  We don’t want to believe the truth, this is obvious in the Cosby case…but we have to look at the ugly.. We have to, in able to solve it..

I need to clarify:  looking at the ugly is when there are facts to support; looking at the ugly is not believing every bit of gossip that runs through the grapevine.  I have been the subject of those grapevines and the only ugly there is the people spreading the unsubstantiated gossip.  I challenge you to know the difference

ZEN: adjective
The definition of zen is slang for feeling peaceful and relaxed.

I am riding the CANDISC this week, hopefully feeling Zen and not like flat squirrel.  Please keep my safety in your prayers.



Would the dolphins be my friends?

“I looked down, at the blue green of the water, the dolphins sleek backs popping out of the water, so quickly disappearing in the wake of the boat.  The sun is shining, but I don’t feel it; I feel cold and lost.  If I slipped off the back of the boat, would the dolphins be my friends? and what would that mean?  Would they bounce me back to the top, or stay by my side as I drifted to the bottom.”

The second time, and hopefully last time, darkness was all encompassing…  oh Luanna, why would you write about this?  Because I’m similar to survivors of loss, of abuse, of all encompassing disease.  Our survival is different, our situations may be different, but we are surviving non-the-less.  We are members of the same club.  🙂  If you haven’t dealt with depression, haven’t had it pop up on you and try to steal your soul, then you truly are blessed; embrace your blessing!

My mom had died, I was put in the position of taking care of my abuser, we had some issues on our property, my only nephew was killed and there were additional family issues…you know, nothing that couldn’t be handled one at a time, two at a time…but all of them together just became too much..  I felt like I needed to be the glue but just couldn’t hold it together anymore.  How did I find the courage… I told my children, I told my husband, I insinuated it to a few friends, and then I flipped the switch.. Flipping the switch is my tongue in cheek way of saying I made a decision…  I don’t take that for granted..  I know decision is different for everyone and I won’t judge people who can’t or don’t.

What is my purpose?  I wasn’t a perfect parent, but my children turned out wonderful, they are everything I wanted them to be, caring, hard working, good friends and independent thinkers.  While I love them beyond belief, they alone cannot be my sole purpose; it wouldn’t be fair to them, they need to have their own lives and find their own purpose.  I can guide but they cannot be my sole purpose.  The grandchildren would be next in line and I have to tell you that they are even more perfect than their parents!  They are part of my purpose, but I can’t and won’t try to take any of their parent’s authority away…. My husband, whom I adore 99.9% of the time, is part of my purpose, but can’t be all… Friends, society, etc..  Where am I going with all of this?  I have discovered that I have many purposes, when one fails, there are others to focus on; we add them, change them, and discard them when needed.  This is survival…

I’m sure the dolphins would have taken the woman in my story, into an embrace, and carried her to the top.  They would have known she was a survivor.