Megan recommended that I reach out to Francie. And I am so glad she did! Francie invited me to her home, where I got to briefly meet her husband and two sons. They split to go play soccer and Francie and I chatted at the kitchen table over cold-brewed coffee and got to know each other. Francie speaks genuinely and offers little room for doubting her sincerity. I appreciated her candor and thoroughly enjoyed my time with her. In addition to the full-time job that is motherhood, Francie is an artist. Take a look at some of her work here and here.
Who are you?
My name is Francie Towne. I am a mom. I'm an adoptive mom. I'm a cancer survivor, I'm a teacher, artist. And I really love my husband (laughs). I feel grateful for my family. I love to live a life of gratitude because I think that gratitude is like as necessary as medicine. (Laughs) Or water, maybe water. What do I add to that?
Where do you come from?
I was born in Dallas, Texas, but I grew up in Big Fork, Montana. I met my husband in Montana and then we moved here for his work. He teaches chemistry at COCC, the community college. So, yeah, we came from Montana to here and we love it here. We came five years ago. Forrest got a job, so we moved. It's been good. We don't really want to move. It's been a healthy move for our family.
What does community mean to you?
Community is really important because it can be your town but it can also be who you hang out with and the people that you are friends with. I guess we learned a lot about that when I went through cancer. I had breast cancer in 2011. My older boy was 10 months old when I was diagnosed. That was a really awesome experience in the sense of community because you learn who your real friends are. People who are not afraid of hardship will come running to your aid and people who are haven't experienced it yet might be a little afraid to, which I understand now. You can't be angry at somebody who hasn't experienced something yet. But I'm glad I went through that because I can have compassion. So I think that community for us was just being blown away by people who are willing to come help you and I guess also not being afraid to show who they truly are. We all have this front - we'll wear like certain clothes or we'll make ourselves look a certain way and we talk a certain way - but when it really boils down it's like, Are you who you say you are? People find that out. People are smart. (Laughs). But I guess I love to be a part of community that's honest and that's a really hard place because people don't want to be completely honest about that.
I also, to say something about community, I love Jesus. I'm a Christian, I guess I could say, but I don't know if there's like a stereotype that comes to your head when you hear that. I love Jesus' model in how he set up the church at the very beginning. After he had died on the cross and rose again and ascended to heaven and he left the disciples to continue his work by spreading the news about Jesus and God, the church was basically a safe place to go. Like if you had financial need, if you had a health need, if you needed prayer, if you needed encouragement - that's what the church was for. It wasn't a place of judgment. It wasn't a place of like, Oh, you're not following all the rules! That's what the Pharisees were doing - that's not what Jesus was doing. The church should be this safe place, so community should be that. I feel like the church is part of that community and it should be responsible for helping people and not judging people. Does that make sense? So, I love that model and I love the idea of feeling safe and not being judged and not judging people and not assuming things about people.
What do you appreciate most about this community?
People are really kind here. And I feel attached to this place 'cause I feel a lot of people here love the same things about life. You know, they love the outdoors and they love being together and they love beer and they love community and they love, you know, enjoying those things together. And I think that is a good recipe for a healthy community. I also appreciate the community here because I see people reaching out to homeless people. And that's not the community that you hear about or think about when you think about Bend, but there's a lot of homeless people. There's people whose full-time job is to reach out. Like people at the Shepherd's House, they're all about getting them off the streets and teaching them about truth and getting themselves out of that rut and sending them on in a healthier life. I see that kind of lifestyle - just being willing to get down on your knees and help people and not be like, Oh, I'm so amazing - it's like you're in the dirt and you're not expecting to have anybody give you anything for it. And I think I admire it a lot. And that's part of the community - is being willing to get your hands dirty and being okay with it. I admire that a lot. I want to see more of it. And I want to get my children serving at the soup kitchen and comfortable in that environment because once you start helping people, you can't stop.
Do you have thoughts regarding Bend's growth?
I don't think anyone has a right to make people feel like they aren't invited. Have any of us not been new to something? Have they been treated badly before? That makes me wonder if they've been treated that way before. When I first started teaching, I had to do my student teaching and the principal of that school was so unkind to me. I fortunately realized that that's the way she was treated when she started teaching, so she felt like she needed to be unkind to kind of initiate the next generation of teachers coming in to see if they were real. And I just don't think that's the way to go about it. I think that showing people kindness is like a way of inviting people and identifying with people because, I mean think about Megan - she brought so much beauty to Bend, you know? She paints murals and she's decorating our coffee shops and she's making the world a more beautiful place and she's doing it while inspiring other artists and she's doing it while she's, you know, encouraging people on in any journey, whether they're artists or not. And then there's like the whole, Oh, they're from California. Californians can't come here. Well, I have friends from California who just come to Bend and they make it better. And they make it why we love it here. You can't throw stones at people. If you've never been new, then you can throw a stone. That story, going back to Jesus again - I love him. There was a prostitute and she was about to be stoned in the middle of the square. Do you know this story? And he was like, If you don't have any wrong, if you've never done anyone wrong, then go ahead and throw it. And everybody put their stones down and walked away. And it's like that's the same thing here. You can't treat people like that. We are all capable of wrongdoing and we have to be forgiving and invite people in. That's why we're a community (laughs). I don't know if that was a mean thing to say. I think it's true, though. I love people from other places. And we need more diversity here, too. Bring 'em on.
What do you wish for the future?
I want to be able to see people really care about each other in a way that you're not hiding behind your closed doors all the time. When you come home from work, do you open your garage door and pull your car in and close your garage door while your neighbor is out watering the lawn or do you go visit? I feel like we're still in this place - at least my neighborhood - we can't get to know people here. I try to look people in the eye and they will not look at me. Like when I go to get my mail. During the solar eclipse - we stayed home - there were people out in the yards and I tried to have conversation and everybody just kind of wanted to stay in their own little safe place. There are other places in Bend where the whole community would come together in their neighborhoods and enjoy it. I would love to see that everywhere. I don't know if that's because of how I grew up or where I grew up. I'm sure it is, it's all part of who raised you and how you're raised. But I would love for more people to reach out. I don't really feel like I could ask anyone around here for a cup of sugar. Well, our neighbor right here I could. But anybody else, I would feel like I would be a bother to them. And I would totally want them to knock on my door for such a small thing. I mean, it's hard to ask for help. But to be needed, we all love to be able to give. But to ask is a different... the short answer is I would love to see people be willing to ask for help more and let their guard down and let their pride down and just ask. I would love to see that. Sorry that was long-winded (laughs).
I think something that brings me the most joy in the world - and I'm not that old, but I have seen how much encouragement really pushes people forward - and I just want to keep doing that. And I've just decided lately, like, I want my art to be able to encourage people. If they look at it they know that they can push through whatever they're going through. I don't know how that's gonna look, but I would love to be able to... like kind of what you're doing - it gives people hope. It gives people a purpose. Or they see something good in the world and they want to go towards that. That's what I would love for my art to do and that's what I think you're doing. That's my goal, I guess.
Do you have anything else you'd like to put on the record?
My favorite food is ice cream (laughs). That's it.