I’ve always envied people who have traced their roots back several generations. Hell, I’m often envious of people who know their great-grandparents. Because I don’t know mine and I never have. I never even knew their names. Though I’ve heard the nickname “Candy Grandma” a lot because my mother’s grandmother used to give them candy when they visited or something like that.
Family has always been elusive to me and over the years, it’s gotten to be more so. When I tell my kids about the number of aunts and uncles I have and list off the names of my cousins, they’re impressed. There are a lot of them. But it’s been years since I’ve seen very many of them or talked to them. Communication is not our forte.
So, when my daughter asked me about our rumored Native American heritage, I gave her my standard answer. “That’s what I’ve been told, but I don’t have any proof.”
She’s a lot like me, my daughter. But a lot better at math. And when she gets an idea in her head, she holds on to it like a pit bull. When she asked if she could “look it up” I nodded. The thought of her not getting very far broke my heart. It’s not like I’m the product of a closed adoption who doesn’t know anything about her past. My parents are alive, all but one uncle is still living, and my grandmothers are both still kicking. It’s just that no one talks. Or there is some kind of horrid past they’re all keeping from me....hmmmm...you never know.
My daughter though is not easily deterred. She got on this website and started digging. When she got stuck, she convinced me to hand her my credit card so that she could get the “free” fourteen days. She’s persuasive and I’m easily convinced.
Within a few hours she’d located several family photos posted there by my mother’s sister. She found two other people closely connected with my maternal grandfather’s family tree and asked me to help her compose messages to them asking for help. Every few minutes she checked to see if they’d responded. She wasn’t giving up.
The following day I encountered another reason to get more information and contacted my mother’s sister to learn more. And my daughter texted to say there were new messages on her account. She was so excited; I didn’t say anything about the fact that she was checking her email at school. This was history she wasn’t going to get anywhere else. Believe me, I’d tried.
When I learned we might hail from either the Blackfeet or Crow tribes, I texted my daughter. And when I learned my great, great grandmother was a princess, I texted my daughter again. It was worth the risk of her getting scolded at school. Who’s going to mess with royalty?
A few desperate texts later, I learned some interesting information about my father’s side of the family. Something about Aztec Indian status from South America. My maiden name stems from Spain. And something about how we have a brand of ketchup over there too.
That night, we spent hours scouring what we’d learned in the family tree and adding more to the tree she’d created on the website. We hit pay dirt when we googled a long lost family member and came across pages of documentation going back seven generations. That’s right, seven.
All of a sudden, I could put a name to family members I didn’t know existed. I knew their birthdates and death dates. I knew where they lived and could follow their geographical progression to “de Region.”
It turns out, I don’t come from some mysterious nowhere. I may have to look up my family members names to make sure I get them right, but I know their names now. And that’s how I found out some other interesting information.
Although we have yet to pinpoint the American Indian status and nail down that rumor (which had been our initial goal in this endeavor), it just so happens, I stem from the Irish. How cool is that? All my life when people ask me “What are you, exactly?” because they don’t know how to phrase it differently (or just don’t care to), I’ve always identified as Mexican (on my father’s side). It’s the more obvious answer. My mother’s side of the family has always just been “white” to me.
I don’t mean to be rude or dismissive about it, I just don’t really identify with that part of my history. My skin color is too…in between…and my hair is too…non-white (read: not blonde, not brown, not tame) to be anything other than Mexican. It’s the easier answer.
Now that I know the roots of the maternal side of my family, I think it’ll still be difficult to really identify with the Irish side of me. It’s just not apparent when I look in the mirror. I think I will work on digging a little bit deeper though and try to come to terms with who I really am.
Isn’t that what it’s really all about? Knowing who you are, appreciating where you come from, and accepting yourself as a whole person? I think it is.
My daughter is reminding me how rewarding it is to grab on to something and not let go. I remember being like that when I was younger and had the energy to fight for what I wanted in life. Maybe my age is catching up to me or I’ve become settled in what little I know without fanning the flame of desire. Regardless, I’m going to make some changes in that department. I’ll start by saying: “Kiss me. I’m Irish.”
I'm excited to have Martha Conway, author of Thieving Forest guest posting on my blog today! She's joining me courtesy of the WOW! Women on Writing Blog tour. Here's her take on breaking up with your novel...
Finishing a novel is a little like breaking up with someone you’re still living with. You think it’s finished, and then something happens and it’s not over, and then it’s over again, and then it’s not.
It took me over a year to break up with my novel, Thieving Forest. I’d been living with Thieving Forest for so long it just felt comfortable to stay with it. And I’m a tinker at heart; I can mess around with sentences, finding the right word and the right rhythm, trying this and trying that, for as long as I can sit in a chair.
Of course, by breaking up I don’t mean throwing away. I mean letting go. I mean sending the book to an agent, an editor, a copy-editor, a formatter, or whatever you do to start the process of book production and end the process of story creation. I sent my book to my agent, and then a few months later decided to re-write the whole story in the present tense. That’s how hard it was for me to let go.
This time around, I’ve compiled a few guidelines for myself. I don’t want to deprive myself of one of the joys of writing—my tinkering—but at the same time, I know that I can actually make things worse by tinkering too much. I’ve re-written paragraphs so many times they sound overworked even to my ears, meanwhile new story ideas are calling to me. If you ignore story ideas for too long they fade and then disappear. No one wants that.
So here are some rules I’ve made for myself:
1. After finishing a draft, let the manuscript sit for at least two weeks without peeking at it. This is advice I’ve heard all my life, but until now I’ve been too impatient to follow it. And yet, this year when I did just that with my new novel, I was amazed at how fresh my read was when I did come back to it. I was more willingly to delete whole sections or ideas that really didn’t work, without trying to fool myself that they would work if I tried this or that. Some things just don’t work and that’s okay. Get rid of them.
2. Create milestones for yourself. For example: after the second draft, give the manuscript to a beta reader; after the beta reader has read it, start on your second draft; after the second draft is done, hire a professional editor to take a pass at it. These milestones will vary from writer to writer, and they can change mid-process, But in truth it almost doesn’t matter what those milestones are (some people have several rounds of readers, for example), as long as they give you a sense of movement, of forward progress.
3. Listen to your creative mind. Are you having ideas about a new novel? Is another story is creeping into your consciousness? When you go about your day, do you find yourself noticing details you might use for a different set of characters entirely? This is your limbic mind at work. It’s finished its session with your previous story and is now becoming involved in the next. Buy a new notebook and begin taking notes.
4. When you find yourself winding down, set a date in the future for a celebration. Tell a friend and go out to lunch with her. Throw yourself a party. Sometimes we just don’t know how to say good-bye. Writing a book is a huge, wonderful thing; congratulate yourself! And feel confident that you’ve done your best. The next one will be even better.
ALL OF ME BY JOHN LEGEND
I love this song. I first heard it a couple months ago when we were driving around the Orlando area looking for a place to eat dinner. The lyrics, the music, all of it…spoke to me. As in, when this song comes on, I can’t hear anyone else talking to me until it’s over.
So today I spent some time reading the lyrics when the song came on Magic 107.7 –Orlando (amazing radio station BTW).
What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You’ve got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind
I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright
Usually when I hear this song, I think of two things. First I imagine a man singing this to the woman he loves. I’m a sucker for romance. The strong silent type; a rugged man looking into the eyes of the woman of his dreams, wiping away a tear, kissing her tenderly. Swoon. Oh my goodness. It’s a love song, right?
When I’m not aroused by this song (it happens), I think about God and how much He loves his children. I think of the song as a love song from me to God. He loves all of me. He knows I’m not perfect but He loves me anyway. Thinking of the song this way, leaves me in awe. He knows I’m not perfect but He loves me anyway. The idea of His never ending love for me makes me stand still and think about how blessed I really am.
Today, my response to this song was different though. As the song played, I googled the lyrics and started reading through them.
How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing, in my head for you
Those are deep words. You’re beautiful even when you’re crying. The world is beating you down, [but] I’m around through every mood. And that’s when it occurred to me. This could be a love song to self.
We all have that internal critic talking in circles in our heads. And if you’ve been abused or neglected, there’s the likelihood that you have the voices of your abuser(s) in your head too. And when those voices start talking, it’s hard to do anything but listen. Then the listening turns to negative self-talk and it’s this endless, vicious cycle that doesn’t end until you’re a crying heap of self-doubt and self-loathing.
Think about it; a love song to self. Don’t we need that from time to time? What if the voice in your head, your voice, was so busy singing this love song to you that it drowned out all those negative voices trying to mess with your head?
‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you
What's your take on this song? Have you sung a love song to yourself lately? Do you love your curves and all your edges? All your perfect imperfections?
When Laney Camden gets into a car accident, she changes more than just her own life. Her actions affect her parents, her husband, her kids, and even the lives of her dearest friends. She struggles with the impact on her own life while learning to love God again. It’s a heart wrenching tale that inspired me to think about my own faith and question how I would handle myself if I went through something like that.
In this book, the author tells a tale of love, commitment, and endurance from the primary view point of Laney’s mother, Molly Tipton. Molly learns to lean on her husband, trust her daughter’s independence, and examines her true feelings for the God that orchestrates her life.
I found Breathing On Her Own to capture my attention from page one. I learned to like most of the characters (Beverly was inspiring!) and the plot held my interest. The story was heavy on narrative and I would have liked a little more dialogue to be able to “see” the action taking place, but that’s just me.
I give Breathing on Her Own 4 stars. It’s a clean, thought provoking book that gives readers something to think about in regard to their own faith. As I read it, I was reminded of Janet Oke's Loves Comes Softly series. Although her story takes place in the present, Rebecca Waters takes her readers to a quiet place where they learn about faith through the lives of her characters while giving them a chance to question their own.
When I was growing up, we weren’t allowed to cry. I take that back, where I grew up, I wasn’t allowed to cry. It was a serious breach of policy. Crying for any reason meant risking being called a name, threatened to be given a “reason” to cry, or all out ridicule. This lesson was instilled in me by the time I was 7 years old.
So, as an adult, I still don’t cry. I’ve leaked a tear here or there, but even that is done in private and never talked about. As any adult in recovery though, I’m re-learning that it’s okay to cry; healthy even. Let it out, already! All those negative emotions or even tears of joy do a person no good all locked up inside of oneself.
Might I suggest that if you too are in the process of re-learning how to cry that you pick up the book An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. Not only will trying to say Alex’s name out loud bring about some tears, but this book is stock full of opportunities to cry.
First, you have the story. A heartfelt chronicle of how two unlikely friends (a business woman and an 11 year old panhandler) meet and the deep connection that grows between them until they are like mother and son. When Laura and Maurice meet it’s as if the stars align in the skies knowing that something magical is going to happen.
Of course, we already know that because the cover of the book gives it away in the description “an unlikely meeting with destiny.” Isn’t that poetic? Even though you know from reading the cover that destiny is involved, it’s important to start turning this 231 page book. You’ll meet Laura and Maurice and get to know them, as individuals and as friends.
The second way this book gives opportunity to learn how to cry is through the sheer desperation of the character’s experiences. Have you ever been poor? Was one or both of your parents’ addicts or drug dealers? Did you live a life of fear? If so, be aware that this book might trigger some of the emotions that come with growing up like this. Although the reader gets an indication this might cause triggers (e.g. the boy is a panhandler), be sure you are prepared to face those demons with young Maurice. The authors give the reader an up close and personal look at what it’s like to grow up in destitution.
Finally, An Invisible Thread gives readers a chance to practice crying through the flawlessness with which it was written. I have read many books in my lifetime and been caught frustrated by the typos and mistakes in them. Granted, I know that no one is perfect and these things happen, but it can still be annoying. But, this book…flawless. The transition scenes are spot on. The dialogue is beautifully written. The pace of the story is brilliant. It is worth the read for that alone.
I read An Invisible Thread on a flight from Portland to Orlando. Never have I been less aware that people were around me as I read. This book hooked me from the cover, allowed me to practice crying (in front of people!), and will remain a staple on my bookshelf for years to come. It’s a 5 star read and if you haven’t read it, I challenge you to pick it up, clear your calendar for the day, and sink into the true story of Laura and Maurice.