Fifty-two Moves

March 25, 2016

IM004540 I’ve moved 52 times in my life, that’s right, 52, packed up all my stuff and have moved 52 times.  Grand Marais, Minnesota, then five moves in a year when back in Whitefish. 

Mom and Dad were divorced in the mid-fifties, Mother married Roy and we left Bay Point on Whitefish Lake, moved with him to Grand Marais on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  Lived on the famous Gunflint Trail.  Shocking, that first move, very different people, somewhat hostile country.

Mom and Roy divorced after a couple years, and we moved back to Whitefish, never settling for long in one spot.  My folks remarried and Dad turned the old Bay Point Drive-In Theatre concession stand into our home, perched on gravel with open fields all around.

RJ Garrett and I were married in 1959, and we began moving—19 times in five-and-one-half years, mostly in Iowa.  RJ worked for an appraisal company that would contract with a city or county to re-appraise their homes, businesses, everything actually. The jobs usually took about 4-6 months or less. Fort Dodge, Webster City, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, Decorah, Mason City, Clear Lake, Boone, Niles, St. Joseph, last two in Michigan, and the list goes on.

While living in tornado-riddled Olathe, Kansas, yes, we went right through the middle of one, I insisted that we stop moving, so RJ found a job working for the city in Fargo, North Dakota.  The people are nice, funny, kind, but the weather is not fit for humans, and they shouldn’t try to live there.  Moorhead, Minnesota, twin city to Fargo.

One wicked March day in Fargo, snow almost to the top of our six-foot high living room windows, and a blizzard whipping by with even more snow, RJ found me in our closet throwing stuff onto the bedroom floor, digging out our suitcases.  He said, “What are you doing?”

“I’m going home!  I will not live here one more minute!”  He calmed me down, found a job in Helena, he got the call the day before we moved, and we traveled cross country.  Bought an enormous 90-year old house in Helena and I lived there for another eleven years before we divorced.

Divorce can also cause you to move a lot.  Helena, five places, Wolf Creek, back to Whitefish. 

Whitefish, four places, Bigfork, back to Whitefish.  Stayed in one house in Columbia Falls after moving all my plunder in for just one night.  Four cats owned by the previous tenant had used the basement for their litter box for years, which wasn’t evident until the weather heated up.  Moved out the next day.  Columbia Falls, Whitefish again, always going home. 

In 2003, I bought my present house in Columbia Falls.  I had wanted to build a house in Whitefish yet couldn’t afford the land cost, but kept drawing house plans.  When my present house in Columbia Falls came to me, it just had the studs up inside, nothing more, and instantly, I knew it was my house, was the favorite house plan, drawn over and over.

It’s still my house, my sanctuary, and they will probably have to carry me out feet first.  (Please don’t ask me to help you move.)

By: Author Nan McKenzie


The Family Tree

Ann Minnett MWW photoBy Ann Minnett

I just returned from a visit with family to celebrate my mother’s 89th birthday and spend a week with my kids and two grandsons. One of Mom’s interests is internet sleuthing. She mentioned a Civil War great great grandfather on my father’s side named Miles, coincidentally the name of my older grandson. She showed me some of her research, handwritten names and significant dates scrawled in the margins of her address book. Some of the names were new to me.

I’ve been home two days now and can’t pull away from the computer as each new generation of ancestors is revealed. So far the information consists of simple birth, death, marriage, and location records. My lines show migration from Europe to points along the east coast—mostly southern—and all  converge in Oklahoma about the time of the land rushes in Indian Territory and later in No Man’s Land at the end of the 19th century. I’m fascinated by my ancestors’ migration, their expansive stories of movingsample census report toward new lives or fleeing old ones.

More compelling to the psychologist and writer in me are the details, which I’ve barely uncovered. Of course, I will write about him, her, or them.

For example, my fifth great grandmother had 17 children. Seventeen. The first died in infancy, and the last was born when she was 46 years old, if the dates are correct. I cannot imagine her life as a Georgia farm wife—back-breaking work, constant pregnancy, and (I’m guessing) poverty. No surprise that the 1830 census lists a couple of teenaged sons as “farm laborers.”

Laima Alexander PowellWith my bare bones family tree in hand, the migrations and generations overwhelm me. I have no interest in writing a saga. No, I must zoom in and write a small story about small moments. Which reminds me of the week with my grandsons–Keaton is two years younger than Miles. They have their own language of dinosaur growls, revving engines and physically hurtling through space. I watched them share, steal, hoard, and throw toys as they learned how to negotiate their worlds. They vied for attention. Both Three Minnett guys - 2dug in their heels when not getting their way. The dance of their intimate relationship shapes who they are and who they will become.

My grandsons appear on our family tree as mere names and birth dates, yet they are so much more. Just as each ancestor was so much more.

Nancy Rose visited Our Meeting

Poet Nancy Rose visited the February meeting of Montana Women Writers and read three of her poems to our gathering. I enjoyed her haunting cadence and choice of words so much I asked Nancy if I could share one of her poems on  our blog.  She kindly agreed. but then I had a terrible dilemma. Oh my, which one do I choose? I opened her book and began  reading.  This is the one I finally chose after a nice time in a comfy chair dwelling on her words.

Night Music
Hey, firelight music
Your playful beat says get up and dance
Move my body so freely
Every creak and groan is gone
Drum vibrations moving through me
Taking me out of my body
Into a wide night sky.

I’ve been wanting all summer
To climb into the Big Dipper
And swim all night in the star pool
Backstroking with the northern lights
Dancing overhead

I would come back
Resplendent in moonlight
Breathing deeply
Trailing stars
Oh, yes


This is the start of her author blurb on the back cover. Nancy Rose is a rare flower of the Kentucky hills.

Nancy now makes Montana her home. Her website is www.NancyRoseMT.com

Nancy in Tilley hat11872163_10207508544181210_8684247256154328239_o (2)






At our meeting we also had Constance See give us a talk about how to pose for pictures.  This is some of Montana Women Writers outside practicing.

Montana women Writers


Don’t Leave Out the Music!


By Karen Wills

Break the News to Mother JPEGJust as each historic period has had its particular art, wars, politics, and fashions, each has had its music. As a writer, I must remember that. References to music can so enrich novels. Think of Ann Patchett’s wonderful Bel Canto in which captives and captors develop a human connection through a shared love of opera.

Popular song lyrics provide a sense of the average listener’s attitudes at the time they heard them. Think of Jerome Kern’s wistful, yearning, and determined “The Last Time I saw Paris.” He wrote it during the Nazi’s occupation of the City of Light in WWII.

I’ve been doing research for a novel set in the years just before and after WWI. Music, especially out of New York’s Tin Pan Alley, first reflected America’s reluctance to be involved in the war in such songs as “I Didn’t Raise my Boy to be a Soldier.” Once we were in it, we sang a different tune entirely. Al Jolson’s “Over There” and “Johnny Get Your Gun” were direct and optimistic. We would save France and show the Kaiser the error of his ways. No doubt about it. After our soldiers lived through the horror of the trenches and mass slaughters came “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” and “Break the News to Mother,” the last a dying soldiers words.

But young men also kept a sense of humor. Many pursued French girls when on leave, and that gave rise to the satirical “That’s not the Way to Tickle Marie” sung to the tune of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”

Any of these may find their way into my WWI novel. What people hum and listen to, the songs that surround us, show emotional states and reactions and help define the times our characters inhabit.

Thanks to Richard Rubin for his fascinating book, The Last of the Doughboys. It reminded and taught me of the songs of WWI.


March Book News

“In like a lion, out like a lamb”? You never know whether the old saying about March applies up here in the NW region of this big, glorious state. We could be skiing over a foot of new snow, or crossing our fingers that the tender buds on the apple trees survive to true spring. But you can count on us to be reading and writing!

deathaldentOn March 17, Leslie Budewitz will join the Flathead Valley Community College Book Club for a discussion of DEATH AL DENTE, the first in her Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries set in fictional Jewel Bay, Montana, winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The book club meets at 6:30 pm in the arts & Technology Building, Room 208. All are welcome!