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Amy Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.Tom Bissell author of The Father of All Things 

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Featured Author,  Lynn Ruth Miller

Lynn Ruth Millerís stories and feature articles have been published in over fifty publications throughout the country. Her current column "Thoughts While Walking the Dog" is a regular holiday feature in the Pacifica Tribune. She has compiled several of these essays into books Thoughts While Walking the Dog, published in January 2001, More Thoughts While Walking the Dog  published in June, 2003 and Thoughts & More Thoughts While Walking the Dog, an audio CD released in July, 2003. Her autobiographical novel, Starving Hearts  was published in May 2001. She has a double Masterís Degree: Creative Arts for Children, University of Toledo, and MA in Communications from Stanford University. She does writing & art workshops at several community colleges in the bay area, Sedona Arizona and Ashland, Oregon. Her stories have been included in three volumes in the Adams Publication series, Cup of Comfort   and 2 volumes of The Rocking Chair Reader. She is the host on two Television programs on public access television, Channel 26 in Pacifica:

WHATíS HOT BETWEEN THE COVERS (book reviews and interviews in the arts) and PAINT WITH LYNN (a hands on creative arts series)

Her awards include:


 Enjoy Lynn Ruth Miller's essay



By, Lynn Ruth Miller



Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.


My mother and I battled each other every day we lived together and in every fight, my mother was the winner. She never stopped reminding me of the burden I was to her from the day I was born and the guilt I bore was almost too much to bear. I was convinced that my mother knew nothing and cared less about my frustrated dreams or the wrenching ache in my heart.

Now that I am older, I realize that she did indeed realize my pain. She showed it each time she bought me a gift.

I have always loved music. . .all kinds of music. In its wordless rhythms, I found solace for tears always ready to spill from my eyes. I will never forget the Christmas I came downstairs and there at the fireplace, was a portable phonograph that I could take to my room to play all the records I bought with every penny of my allowance. There, I could pretend I was the paper dolly someone loved and lost. I could believe I was the Juliet Romeo died for.

My mother, whose words whipped me into submission, whose very glance reminded me of how useless I was, that woman I thought so cruel and unfeeling, realized that every little girl needs something that sweeps her out of herself into a lovely melody. She knew.

That year, gave her a small stuffed bear I had made in Home Economics. It was white felt and I had stitched it with red thread in painstaking, even stitches. I sewed in tiny brown eyes and the smile I never dared to offer my angry mother. She opened this gift that had taken me hours and hours to create and pushed it aside. I was crushed and even the joy of having my own source of music, was soured by the way she disposed of the gift I had labored so long to create.

The next year was even harder for both of us. I hated coming home after school and I despised being me, because she had convinced me that I was worthless. That year I was pretty sure I would get nothing at all because I hadnít hidden my fury at the prison she had made for me. She was my enemy and I told her so every time she refused to let me sleep at my friendís house or go to a party. I screamed at her as shrilly as she did at me when she made me come home early from a party or insisted that I didnít deserve a new dress.

That holiday, I trudged downstairs with a gift I had made, in spite of myself. Deep in my heart, I could not believe that in reality my mother cared for me and even deeper in my own heart, there was a love for her that was smothered by the protective armor I needed to survive her attacks. I handed her a black pincushion with a lace edge to it. I had not spent the time I spent on the little bear. Why bother? She wouldnít notice anyway.

She thrust my gift aside and pointed to the present she had for me. I barely hid my disappointment. I was sixteen years old and my mother gave me a life-sized doll. I was too old for such foolish playthings and I was devastated. I dragged the doll upstairs and when I put her on my bed, she looked so real I felt she could actually speak to me. I realized then why my mother had given me so juvenile a gift. I had very few friends because she would not allow me to invite anyone over to our house after school. She and I never had a conversation. We only fought. My father ignored me and my sister took great pleasure in baiting me against my mother. There was no one to listen to the immense inner turmoil that almost choked me; no one to care that I dreamed of becoming a great writer; No one I could tell about my loneliness, my aching need to become a valuable person.

My mother sensed my desperate need and she filled it. She gave me a doll that would listen. I named it Penny and I ran up to my room after every quarrel, every success and every failure and I told that doll my secrets. I look back on my high school years and I am convinced that it was the release I felt after confiding in my silent little friend that kept me from turning to liquor or drugs to ease the terrible pain of those teen age years.

My mother and I gradually came to tolerate one another. It was only after she died that I realized how very many other gifts she had given this child she could not love. It was because of my mother that I got my college education. My father believed educating girls was a waste of time. My mother stood by me through my divorce because she knew how killing it is to live in a relationship that doesnít work. It was my mother who insisted my father help me get the house I live in now. I never knew any of this until after she died.

Once I was an adult, I accepted that I had no bond with the woman who bore me. I was certain that she didnít consider my moving to the other side of the country a loss to her. For me, that move to California began my life.

When she died, my sister sent me a box of the things my mother had kept as mementos of her life. I rifled though little cards I sent to my father and pictures of me as a child. As I fingered the fragments of my Motherís treasures, I paused. There, wrapped in tissue so it wouldnít soil, was the tiny felt bear I had made for her, the small token of a love I wanted so much to feel. Right under it, was the black little cushion I made my sixteenth year.

My mother seemed hard as steel to me, but she was very human after all. Yet, no one bought her a phonograph so she could escape into music she loved even more than I. No one gave her a doll to listen and accept the troubles she buried deep inside her. She recognized my need because it was hers. She tried to make up for what she couldnít give me in the gifts she bought for me. I will never forget that doll or the tremendous joy I felt when I played my phonograph. I took those gifts with me wherever I went and always they consoled me. I never suspected that my mother treasured my gifts to her as much as I did those she had given to me. I like to think that perhaps they were her consolation.

Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember



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