Morning with Mom

Happy to Announce Original Voices! All profits go to Mary's Place.

Happy to Announce Original Voices! All profits go to Mary’s Place.

My writing time, in recent months, has been working towards the publication of Original Voices, a book of writings by The Women of Mary’s Place, a day center in Seattle where I facilitate a weekly writing group. I hope you get a chance to read it and follow Original Voices on Facebook and Twitter.  My daughter, Elie, produced a beautiful video, where you can see the beautiful women reading some of their pieces.

Today I went to Seattle’s Listen to Your Mother. A dozen people read their funny and touching stories. What a treat. It inspired me to share a story I wrote about my mother and me. To mom with love.


Mornings with Mom

I’m not a morning person. My mom was an early riser, 5 AM. She claimed it was the only quiet time of her day. With nine kids, I’m sure it was. After two hours of peace and a pot of coffee, by 7 AM, Mom was raring to go. I, on the other hand, was always trying to get just a few more minutes of sleep, especially during those cruel trick-of-nature years when menopausal mothers and pubescent daughters shouldn’t be allowed to live together.

So the scene goes like this: The door opens. I wake to my mother’s sweet voice, “Julie.”

I put a pillow over my head. A few minutes later, Mom sings her “Oh what a beautiful morning…” song.

“All-right. All-right. I’m getting up.”

I hear her opening my lime-green, orange and hot pink flower power curtains. Through squinted eyes, I see her dinner plate eyes. She sits at the foot of my bed. I roll over, reach for the cassette player on my nightstand to turn on some music.

Even then, the words to Carole King’s Smackwater Jack weren’t lost on me; he wanted a shotgun, was in the mood for a little confrontation. If Mom left my room as soon as I put my feet on the floor, things went well. As I dressed, I even seemed like my mother’s daughter, though I wouldn’t have admitted it back then, singing along with Carole, “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face / And show the world all the love in your heart.”

But if my mother stayed and, well, talked, especially if she gave me a “to do” list, I wanted a shotgun. Not really. I loved my mother, knew she loved me, but we never said, “I love you.” And, I could be explosive.

No one talks to me during my first waking hour. No one. If Mom did, I covered my ears, yelled, “Mom, you don’t understand,” dressed quickly, ran down the stairs, slammed the front door, and sat on the front stoop until my ride to school came.

Years later, married with children, I put the cereal boxes out before I went to bed. When the kids woke they had to fend for themselves or talk to their dad. Most mornings, about all my kids ever heard from me was my hollering, “I love you,” as they ran to catch the school bus.

During my parenting years, Mom lived 750 miles away. She called me about once a week. Guess what time? 7 AM. Seriously. Maybe it was the best time for her. Maybe I never told her that my husband and I, after many morning fights, figured out my need for quiet time after waking. Certainly, I wasn’t the best phone chatter, but I never hung up. Always, we ended the call with an awkward “I love you.” At the time, saying those words to each other was new; neither of us grew up hearing them. A Bible banging stepmother raised my mom, and her father, a sea captain, was often out to sea.

During the last four-and-a-half years of Mom’s life she coped with a terminal illness. In between hospitalizations she tried to live fully, traveling and visiting all of her nine kids. One summer she asked me to take her to Daytona Beach. At our seaside timeshare, in the mornings before 7 AM, while Mom slept, I tiptoed out for a walk before the heat of the day. When I returned, I prepared coffee, breakfast and then pushed Mom to the beach in a plastic wheel chair; it looked like a Little Tikes riding toy. We soaked up the sun and the days together. Though neither of us said it that week, I imagine she, like me, thought: This could be our last time together. It was.

Months later, Mom was in the hospital. Again. Seven-hundred-and-fifty miles away. On my way to work I called her. Yep, around 7 AM. She was hooked up to all sorts of machines, couldn’t talk. I described what I was seeing: the vivid red, orange and yellow sunrise and sang her beautiful morning song. She died later that day.

A few months after Mom died, the phone rang at 7 AM. I was afraid to answer. After I don’t know how many rings, I picked up the receiver to hear, “Hello, is this Julie?”


“I’m Sister Mary Jo, your mother’s spiritual advisor.”

I remembered meeting her at the funeral. “Yes, hi Sister.”

“Your mother asked me to check in on you. She said, ‘Make sure you call at 7 AM.’ I hope it’s not too early.”

“No, sister. It’s good to hear from you.”

“Your mom wanted you to know how much she loved and appreciated you, especially the way you accepted and loved her, even when she wasn’t so lovable.”

Through the tears, I told Sister Mary Jo I was doing fine, how I wasn’t a morning person, how my mother never figured that out.

She laughed, “You think she didn’t know?”






For #ManInTree

For #ManinTree

By Julie Gardner

After Barton Sutter’s The Snowman


This is a poem for #Man.

This is a poem for #ManInTree.

This is a poem for him,

For all of us out on a limb,

Wondering what we’re doing here.

This is a poem for us,

For all of us about to go up a tree.


The place of the poem is downtown Seattle.

The time of the poem is Tuesday through Wednesday morning,

Holy Week.

The year of the poem is two thousand and sixteen.



Perched high in the sequoia tree,

Nearly eighty feet up in the air.

Once Seattle’s Christmas tree,

In ‘73, ’twas transplanted smack dab in the middle of an intersection,

4th Avenue, Stewart Street and Olive Way to be precise.

Now, this poem is for #ManInTree, not for the tree

But think about it: Transplanted,

With bound up roots

In insufficient soil, it struggles to live with cement and car exhaust.


#ManInTree made the news, section B below the fold line.

Front page: “Terror attack in Brussels, Nightmare Comes True, MANHUNT IN BELGIUM AFTER ISLAMIC STATE GROUP’S BOMBINGS KILL DOZENS, HURT HUNDREDS; Clinton slams ‘leaders who incite more fear.’”

Now, this poem is for #ManInTree, not for terrorists or politicians

But think about it: FEAR SHOUTS,

While love waits

Whimpering in the wind between boughs.


#ManInTree donned a red stocking cap

Tossed apples, seed cones, small branches and swear words,

Refused to talk to rescuers,

Only asked for a Camel Crush.

He waved his middle finger

As birds flew by.

Now, this poem is for #ManInTree, not for the birds

But think about it: Flipping the bird, refusing to talk,

Up in the air with bombs bursting and politicians cursing

Who’s listening?


#ManInTree dressed in warm clothes, took snacks,

Didn’t need to cross the Aegean Sea

In a crowded deflating dinghy.

Now, this poem is for #ManInTree, not for Syrian refugees

But think about it: He had a beard,

Traveled to a place he’d never been before

Law enforcement and gawkers all around.


After about twenty-five hours the man was no longer


He descended

Became a man sitting in the grass looking up.

Police took him to Harborview for a medical evaluation.

Now, this poem is for #ManInTree, not for police

But think about it: Police didn’t shoot him.

No one (sic) was hurt (save the tree).


Now, this poem isn’t about #ManInTree.

It is for #ManInTree.

This poem is for him,

For all of us out on a limb,

Wondering what we’re doing here.

This is a poem for us,

For all of us about to go up a tree.

This is a poem for all of us,

Who, during this god awful Holy Week,

Find it hard to believe Easter is days away.


After this poem was written, the The Seattle Times reported that the man, named Cody Lee Miller, was charged with third degree assault (an officer received an injury from a thrown seed cone) and first degree malicious mischief.  Q13 Fox News says his mother, Lisa Gossett, wants the public to know that her son is much more than a hashtag. He is a reflection of our country’s failed mental health system. Her son suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She, like me, would like to see him and others who are mentally ill get the help they need to live better lives.  








Drift Wood

Anyone else besides me been known to write on napkins, java jackets, paper bags or other?

Paper Bag Writers features Drift Wood by Julie Rae Gardner


Recently Paper Bag Writers featured Drift Wood, a piece I wrote. Find the brown paper bag version at Paper Bag Writers.


Drift Wood

Look east from Lummi Island.

The seldom seen side of

Mount Baker winks white.

Look down.

Two feet cluthch the rocky shore.

Look to the pile of wood

cast beside you.


Find yourself

In the driftwood

torn from the land

you once called home.

For some time you rode and teased

the incoming, outgoing, high

low tides.

Standing upright on the earth

You, securely planted,

defied the waves



The Great Water of Life

took you

against your will.

swept you

tossed you

washed you

onto shores you




Cold and alone

you shivered.


Mother Water pulled you

into her arms

softened your protective bark,

washed away your rough shell,

caressed your smooth skin,

tossed you onto Lummi Island,

left you

without a net

in a pile

with others.
You are driftwood

no longer floating on salty waters

drowning in salty tears.

You have been cast ashore.

Bare, naked

You will begin anew.


Forget all that has come before.

Your loveliness is in your unpretentious



Some will want to take you home

place you on a shelf, in a box, on a mantel.

It will not matter.


All eight inches


to have landed

in unknown foreign









Broken and Blended

The Three Angels My Dad, Mom and Barb or Frother

The Three Angels
My Dad, Mom and Barb or Frother

I was thrilled to be published today on the Tell Us a Story blog. Hope you enjoy.


“I Simply, Smile” Cry and Smile Again

The blog has been dead since fall. Some of what has kept me from posting includes: two surgeries, the loss of my mother-in-law, the joys of shared time with family and friends, working in my volunteer roles, and leading writing groups. And, to be honest, when I’m not living in Presence, I don’t share my writing with others because I wonder if my words matter. I’ve been writing poems, prayers, working on the memoir and even experimented with a humorous piece about the surgeries, but when I’m not living in Light and Love, I share less.

It’s the resurrection season, and thanks to Kellie Day, it’s time to resurrect the blog. She reminded me of how writing and sharing stories touches lives, how it brings light and love into my own life and the lives of others.  If you haven’t read Ollie Horne’s “I Simply, Smile” which I posted in the fall, please do before reading the rest of this post.

Kellie knew Ollie personally. She wrote, “Hello, I found your blog by accident, while looking for something very specific regarding Ollie Horne. Your blog posts reflects Ollie’s life principle perfectly, it’s how he really lived…..I know, because I know Ollie personally. I thought that you would want to know that Ollie left our earthly home yesterday morning, to be with the One who was the source of his light. That was why I was searching Ollie’s name….I was looking for his obituary. I am happy to have stumbled upon your post; I plan to share it with his family and friends. Thank you! Ollie will be deeply missed by his family, all of those who call him friend and even by those who were touched by his incredible LIFE.”

Today I send prayers to Ollie’s family and friends. Ollie lived full beyond containment. He will live on in the stories, memories and in all he planted. Today “I Simply, Smile” through the tears.   I am stepping back into the purpose of my life which was Ollie’s too, “My purpose in life is to show love to everyone and to encourage everyone to live a full life.” Writing is one way I do that. Ollie will be missed but his Spirit will live on!