Milwaukie resident to hold book signing
For 20 years, Lindy Barr Batdorf looked at the world through the same window in a restaurant on the corner of Jackson and Main Streets in downtown Milwaukie. Then, what started out as a simple observational writing exercise turned into so much more, as she realized she was staring at a microcosm of life, love and the human spirit.
Ultimately, Barr Batdorf's writings turned into a book, aptly named "Jackson & Main: Meditations and Everyday Miracles." She will share excerpts from the book at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, at Libbie's Restaurant, 11056 S.E. Main St., prior to heading over to the waterfront for the Christmas boats gathering.
Barr Batdorf witnessed significant changes in downtown Milwaukie as she recorded her observations from the window seat at Chopsticks Express, overlooking the intersection of Jackson and Main streets, notably the closure of that restaurant.
But one thing stayed the same, and that was that "each time I came in to write, something thought-provoking, strange or touching occurred that eventually changed my life," Barr Batdorf said.
"I was compelled to come back," she added.
From the window seat, Barr Batdorf had a view of a TriMet bus stop, Milwaukie City Hall and the edge of the Waldorf School.
That view changed when she saw the grassy area near City Hall torn out and a row of cherry trees ripped out.
"They exchanged art for Mother Nature — it was heartbreaking," Barr Batdorf said.
But the biggest change occurred in the behavior of people out on the sidewalk, who, instead of engaging with others around them, were staring down at their phones.
That is one reason Barr Batdorf included blank pages in her book after each chapter, so that readers could write their own feelings about what they had just read.
Readers "can sit down and be part of it; the book belongs to the people who walked by," she added.
An early chapter in the book, titled "Late Spring," represents the first time Barr Batdorf put her pen down and realized that "something different happened outside the window and inside of me."
In that chapter, an elderly woman shuffles slowly past the window, so close that Barr Batdorf could have reached out and touched her.
"I just looked at her as she walked by and focused on her life. She reminded me of my own mother and grandmother," Barr Batdorf said.
"I wanted to honor those people who walk by before they are gone. They are treasure chests" of memories and stories, she added.
At the end of the chapter, Barr Batdorf wonders if we all are to be consigned to invisibility as we age; she hopes not.
She concludes the chapter by saying: "All it takes — whether words are ever exchanged or not — is for just one human being to look up with the intention to truly see another."
In 2013, at the urging of her family, Barr Batdorf started to organize the book and get it ready for submission. But she became ill with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and was mostly bedridden for the next six years.
"I wasn't able to work; I had horrific brain fog and stroke-like symptoms," Barr Batdorf said.
But she discovered that she could edit the black and white photos she had taken to illustrate the book, so she felt like she was still making progress.
"I was feeling like I was wasting away, but I was not giving up," she said.
Then Barr Batdorf's son Joseph found out about red light spectrum therapy and last May she began that therapy for 20 minutes every other day.
"I began getting my energy and life back and was able to slowly resume completion of the book or it wouldn't exist today," Barr Batdorf said.
"I believe I am in remission because of this therapy," she added.
Barr Batdorf experienced a setback in October, when she was injured in a car accident as she and her husband were on the way to the beach.
"In part, the things I experienced while writing 'Jackson & Main' helped me focus on the positive aspects of simply being alive after the accident, instead of focusing on the pain and difficulty afterwards," she said.
Writing the book was a therapeutic experience for Barr Batdorf, but she said she tried not to bring her own personal life into "Jackson & Main."
When she was sitting in the window seat, observing the world, "darkness faded. I became part of something bigger," she said.
The illness "was the best worst thing that happened to me; I am a different human being because of writing the book and because of my illness," Barr Batdorf said.
'Eyes to see'
Her window seat at Jackson and Main streets gave her a "Norman Rockwell view of an intersection that was very alive," she said.
"Going to that place, I had the eyes to see and a heart to focus on the profound; it changed how I looked at everything," Barr Batdorf said.
"It helped me focus on what connects us; what makes us alike. We have far more similarities than differences."
Barr Batdorf added, "Going there helped me take the focus off the negative. I just took the time to pay attention. I didn't have an agenda; it was the intersection of the universe."
What: Lindy Barr Batdorf will read from her book "Jackson & Main: Meditations and Everyday Miracles"
When: Order food and drinks at 2:30 p.m., the reading begins at 3 p.m.
Where: Libbie's Restaurant, 11056 S.E. Main St., Milwaukie
Book clubs: Barr Batdorf welcomes the opportunity to speak to book groups that read her book; contact her at
More: Barr Batdorf is also the author of "Stop and Smell the Asphalt: Laughter and Love Along the Highway of Parenthood" and the play "Not Anymore." She is currently working on "Heartsongs: A Journey of Hope and Healing."
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