Welcome. This isn’t the kind of place I am used to hanging out. I prefer my living room where windows offer a view into the forest, my Post-it filled writing table, art shed and gardens. But my favorite place of all is holding hands with children pausing to share one discovery after another on the cushioned trails near my home here in Bonny Doon, California. But since online is a real place in our world, I’ve surrendered to the digital world and I regularly post stories, videos and recently published articles and stories. I’ve made my digital home a creative space, presenting a sampling of what I think about, what matters, a spacious park where you are welcome to sit for a while, or stroll and browse blog posts, essays, photos, drawings and stories.
While writing the draft of my memoir, Fallen from the Nest, I joined a critique group, found my voice, and became a writer. I wrote to understand what had happened to our family, how it happened, and to share what I discovered. In our sixties, like millions of other Americans, my husband Glen and I are raising two of our grandchildren. At first I felt resentful, frustrated and unable to pull myself out of a pit of misery of my own making. “This wasn’t how things were supposed to be.” I’d spent my career as an early childhood educator supporting children, educating teachers of young children, talking about addressing children’s needs, and meeting families where they are. Yet despite all my professional expertise and decades helping other people’s families, my own son and his children were in crisis. At first I wanted to deny it. Later, I felt ashamed. But ultimately, it was in setting aside my own needs and expectations about what my retirement should be, I found my heart. That’s the story I explored, a mess that evolved into a love story, me forgiving my son and loving our shared children.
Because of the support I have gotten from Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, I offer a special welcome to all relatives raising children. My memoir Fallen from the Nest and blog, Letters to Montana may resonate with you in ways you understand better than anyone. Though your particulars may differ, we know that raising children again, a second time around is nothing like the first time. Everything is different. It’s a different era, the children have experienced trauma (or we wouldn’t be raising them in the first place), they may have been harmed, and may require special education and care. Whatever the case, they are all in need of a warm hearth and open heart. These two require and deserve my full attention. Taking children in was not in our plans at age sixty. I’d worked forty years, retired and my partner was still working. But, like others, we held our breath and stepped up. What was the alternative? Foster care? We are family. Today, ten years later, the children are eleven and fourteen and homeschooling during the pandemic adding to both the challenges and the rewards of parenting all over again. All of us are looking forward to the new school year, enrolling in high school and middle school this coming fall. Looking at forging paths to engagement in what interests them and weaving in generosity, resilience as they walk toward independence.
A World for Jess
More recently in my writing life, I discovered Jess, a character who has been bubbling in the pool of my imagination for some time now. I love Jess, my fictional eleven-year old, inspired by my grandchildren, their father with a big helping of my own real and imagined life. Jess is the main character in my middle grade fictional series, A World for Jess about an atypical eleven year old. Jess will delight you delight as she trips stumbles and hops over what life tosses her way. I hope you enjoy her way of seeing the world, which always includes adventure, a little magic, and a few lessons.
As Jess struggles to find her place in the world, she grapples with feelings often too big to manage. She twirls, walks circles and flaps her hands to discharge her angst. A keen observer, she uses what the natural world teaches her in her effort to understand others. She digs deep holes and discovers a magic in the underground and in true Jess form, jumps in feet first. Ground-dwelling animals become Jess’ first friends.
On my blog, A World for Jess I post stories for Jess, some magical, and real-life inspiration. I explore ways to open the world for her, an atypical child, for my grandchildren, for magic and wonder of the natural world in opening doors for the Jess in all of us. Jess’ stories are written for all ages and in particular, for a middle-grade audience, the current ages of my live-in grandchildren. Poke around and make comments about what you see, feel free to share with others and check back because Jess and I have more coming!