Life writing

And We’re Back!

A couple of weeks ago, my laptop decided it was time to go to the IT department in the sky. The fans had stopped functioning, and it damaged the hard drive, wireless card, and probably some other hardware as well. Sadly, thanks to inflation, we’ve been having trouble making ends meet, so a new computer was out of the question.

Fortunately, I have awesome friends. I set up a GoFundMe with a modest goal, and my friends were able to help me meet it. I then used the funds to purchase a refurbished Dell Precision from eBay. I went with a refurbished computer because I could get a business-class laptop that was restored to its full potential for a little more than what I would pay for a decent-quality Chromebook.

My previous computer was a Lenovo Legion that I named David Haller after the son of Professor Xavier. As soon as I booted up this computer and discovered how wonderfully it runs, I was inspired to name it Endeavour after the first shuttle that restarted NASA’s space missions after the Challenger disaster. I chose not to name it Endeavor for the top hero from My Hero Academia, as I’m trying to avoid running hot on this computer, and only Dabi runs hotter than Endeavor.

Anyway, now that I’ve thoroughly nerded up this entry, I’m back to work on my book. My website’s copy of WordPress also saved the draft of the blog I was working on when my previous computer died, so I’ll be finishing that up for next week’s blog.

Life Lore writing

Recovery and Discovery

My faithful readers (all five or so of you), I’m sorry I haven’t updated lately. It took me a long time to recover from being sick, and I’ve been up to my hipwaders in research.

And by golly, I’ve learned a lot.

Thanks to the amazing St. Louis County Library’s generous resources that I can access from home with my library account, I’ve been able to uncover a lot about my maternal grandmother’s past. Given that I can’t drive and don’t feel comfortable taking my daughter on a walk all the way to the nearest library due to my very limited eyesight, it’s been a huge help.

In addition to doing research and recovering from a bad illness, I’ve been seeking out funding to help me be able to help support my family and fund trips to the places where my grandmother used to live and work so that I get an even better feel for what her life was life through her eyes. So far, I haven’t found much for individual authors, but I haven’t given up yet.

Lore writing

A Dig In The Past

As many of my readers know, I’m working on a piece of historical fiction based on the life of my maternal grandmother. What started out as a simple plan to solve a few family mysteries on my mother’s side of the family turned into a full-blown project.

My grandmother, Cora, was someone I didn’t really like. The more I learned about what she put my mom and her siblings through, the more I disliked her. I loved her, because she was family, but I disliked her because of the choices she made. The only thing I really liked about her were the animals she took in to save from harm. I also liked reading the trashy magazines she picked up at the grocery store. She thought the Moon landing was faked, and she was greatly offended if someone even joked that professional wrestling was scripted.

Grandma Cora lied a lot, too. She was forever making up stuff about her heritage, Mom’s biological father, and her own life. I took a DNA test years ago to try and figure out how much of my alleged heritage was real, and how much was pure crap.

Genetically, my heritage proved Grandma Cora was making stuff up, but it also revealed some unexpected ancestry. It also put me in touch with my mother’s one and only biological sister, who was given up for a closed adoption about a year before my own mother was born. That made it worth the sadness at learning that Grandma Cora was making stuff up.

After a woman named Destiny contacted me to try and find out how we were related, I started doing a deep dive to piece together what I could about my family, especially because it looked like Destiny was a relative through my mother’s family.

What I found didn’t make me like Grandma Cora more than I had previously, but it gave me a greater understanding of why she made up so many things.

The truth of her life was a hell of a lot stranger and sadder than fiction.

She was orphaned when she was three years old. Her father died a few months after an industrial accident, right before her third birthday, and her mother died a few months later of cancer. Her siblings were placed with her father’s much older sister and her husband, and her aunt seemed to have an irrational hatred of her.

That hatred drove her to leave their farm at age 14 to live and work in Mexico Missouri. She was 19 when she had her first child, and custody of that baby was ripped from her by the court on the grounds that she, as a single working woman, was an unfit mother, and given to her married cousin. She had another child at 20 and gave her up for adoption. When she had my mother at age 21, she chose to keep her, come hell or high water. For reasons unknown to even my mother, she named my mother after the cousin who got custody of her son.

It wasn’t too long after my mother was born that my grandmother met and married her first husband, a mechanic. Their first child together died when the doctor delivering the child crushed her skull with the forceps. Their second child was delivered with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and had cerebral palsy as a result. My grandmother suffered at least two miscarriages before she had her two youngest children. Just before her youngest child was born, the cousin who got custody of her oldest son died in a car accident while driving home from work late at night.

My grandmother’s marriage was not a happy or peaceful one. She made some choices that traumatized all of her children. I still don’t understand why, but I’m trying to. I loathe her so much for what she allowed to be done to my mother as a child. I’m a mother myself, and I love my husband with all of my heart. If he did even half of what was done to my mother to one of my children, he would be GONE. The part of me that fiercely protects my children cannot comprehend WHY she would put anything above the well-being of a child she chose to keep.

Anyway, I doubt anyone was too sad when her first husband died at age 45 of a heart attack after suffering a coronary the previous year. Grandma Cora got married to husband number two a little over three weeks after her first husband died. He was a decent enough guy. My mother ended up marrying his brother 2 years later, and they were married for 20 years.

As for my grandma, she stayed married to her second husband, my future uncle, until she died at age 66 of a heart attack.

Anyway, there’s a lot there. The more I dig, the more I learn, and the more I learn, the more I understand. I probably won’t ever like her for the choices she made, but at least I’ll have a greater understanding of why she made them.


New Year, Interrupted

I had every intention of starting the new year off right by making regular weekly blog posts, starting with one to celebrate the new year and the best gift I’ve received in a long time (and no, it wasn’t physical).

Unfortunately, life got in the way, and I got stricken with a very unpleasant virus that left me downing dayquil like a hydro homie downs water just to be able to barely take care of my home and family.

And if that wasn’t enough, while my body was fighting that virus with everything I had, a bacterial infection settled in my sinuses and ears. I ended up forcing myself to go to an urgent care even though I was exhausted after my left eardrum ruptured.

I completed a course of antibiotics (and the fun that goes along with taking them), but I’m still exhausted. At least I can hear with my right ear now. My left ear is still healing, and anyone who tries to talk to me on my left side is out of luck, because I definitely won’t hear them.

Anyway, I intend to get back on track with both my blog and my current manuscript. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but I’m pretty sure I uncovered some really uncomfortable truth in my search to flesh out the fiction.

Reflection writing

Reflections Upon a Gift of 42 Years

I turned 43 last week, so today’s blog is devoted to reflecting on 42.

According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, 42 is the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. It is The Answer. Nobody bothered to ask Deep Thought what The Answer was supposed to mean. It’s left to the reader to laugh at the absurdity, assign a personal meaning to The Answer, or something in between.

While I never assigned a personal meaning to The Answer in the series when I initially read it, I did hope that I would have things figured out by the time I turned 42.

Do I have things figured out?

No, not entirely.

I have, however, learned a lot this past year.

  1. I have lived my life by the seat of my pants. I went through elementary school, middle school, and high school with the plan in mind that I would go to college, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. After I did everything but the successfully have children and live happily ever after, things went wrong.

    I ended up married too young to someone who was even more young and unready than I was, experienced miscarriage, and went into freefall after things fell apart. The only constant in my life was my job, and even that didn’t last. I ended up on a train to Chicago to meet my oldest daughter’s father and experience life in the suburb of a very huge city.
  2. I discovered that I was living my life in survivor mode after a guy I followed on Twitter offered me the opportunity to beta test an online academy he was building to help people duplicate the success he had. He’s eccentric, and I respect him for being able to go from being a homeless veteran to being the wealthy owner of several businesses.

    The first week was super-hard, but it helped me realize that I was trapped in the scarcity thinking that had allowed me and my oldest child to survive by luck alone until I met and married my second husband. I was still reacting instead of being proactive, and I was completely unaware that I was doing that.

    I’m in therapy, so I may have eventually realized my flawed thinking in session with my therapist, but the opportunity, being in the right place at the right time to be a part of this, it helped me realize this sooner and start taking steps to change my thinking and my life.
  3. I’ve discovered the previously unknown stories of some members of my family. I developed an interest in researching my family story after a cousin I hadn’t previously known contacted me on 23andMe, and I started digging so I could find out how we were related so we could build our respective family trees correctly.

    Learning about the horrors and hardships my relatives endured made it easier to understand why they made the choices they made, and I was able to forgive them. I am not excusing the choices they made, because quite a few of those choices were terrible, but I can understand why they made them.

    I was even able to cry on behalf of my maternal grandmother, who is probably one of the people I’ve hated the most in my life. She died in 1999, but I still have to live with the impact of the choices she made in my relationships with my mother and her siblings. Her cruelty, lies, and neglect were instrumental in making my mother and her siblings the people they are.

    And like a rock thrown in a still lake, the ripples of what was done to my mother and her siblings affected me and my siblings and our children.
  4. Other than our family’s current income and my own health issues, I really love the life I have. I’m legally blind, in constant pain, and am constantly exhausted, and I love being the person who makes the food we eat, takes care of the children, and keeps the house running. My love of writing and making art doesn’t have a set schedule, so I can do it when I’m not busy with my children or household duties. I have great friends who want me to succeed at whatever makes me happy.

In discovering these things about myself, I have made a lot of progress. I have also started seeing new opportunities presented to me, and I am using those opportunities to help me meet my goals for myself and the goals I share with my husband and/or my children.

Additionally, I have set a goal to update this blog once a week. Once I have been able to do that for a while, I may choose to update it more often. In the meantime, I am also working on the manuscript for a piece of historical fiction based loosely on the short life of a relative. It may never be published, but I think it’s key to helping me heal and provide closure to a lot of things I’ve discovered. I love finding information, and I hope to give people a greater understanding of what life was like for a woman born into poverty in the first half of the twentieth century.


The Bittersweet Diaries

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I got inspired to take what I learned while trying to find how a cousin and I were related to tell a story. As the world seems to be inching closer to yet another world war, I saw what my children were thinking and feeling and what my neighbors were doing in their day-to-day lives. We are all doing our best to survive, just as they did before the other world wars.

My maternal grandmother, Cora, was three years old when she was orphaned. Her father died after a fall at the brick factory where he was working, and her mother died of cancer a few months later. She and her siblings ended up being taken in by their aunt and her husband. She was six years old when the war started in Europe, and she was eight when the United States joined the war.

Unfortunately, I can’t ask her about her life during that turbulent time, because she died in 1999. She was only 66. She had led a very hard life and had made both good and bad choices throughout her life, as one does.

The truth of it is, I hated her. I was sad because my mother was sad, but my mother had not kept secrets about what had been done to her and her half-siblings as she grew up. When I became a mother myself, I hated Grandma Cora even more for the choices she had made.

It was only when I began trying to figure out how I was related to my cousin Destinie that I began to really piece together the tragedy that was Cora’s life. She was born into poverty and spent her entire life trying to survive as best she could. According to my mother, Cora’s aunt treated her and her children like they were demon spawn, so I can only imagine how cruel her life with that woman must have been. I figure that Rose only took her and her siblings in out of a sense of duty to her dead brother rather any sense of love or compassion for the orphaned children.

Her husband John was different, though. According to my mother, John was a kind person who enjoyed spending time with Cora and my mom and her younger half-siblings. She also told me that Cora spent a lot of time with John, even dressing like a boy and using the nickname that John had given her, Toby. That’s probably how she got her own mechanical knowhow, and it may have been what drew her to her first husband, a mechanic named John. (That John was not a good man, but that’s a another story for another time.)

As I learned more about Grandma Cora, I began to hate her less, until I didn’t hate her at all. I still hated the bad choices she had made, choices that had hurt her children and herself, but I understood why she made those choices. She was born into poverty, orphaned as a toddler, and basically stuck in survival mode her entire life.

So, her life inspired a story. There isn’t a lot about people growing up in poverty in rural northeastern Missouri in the 20th century (or in any century, for that matter), but my research and my knowledge of the choices Cora made as she grew up and became a mother and a grandmother have inspired me to write a fictional account using elements of her own life and her own choices.

Will it be complete by the end of November? Nope. Will it ever be published? Maybe. We’ll see what kind of story emerges from my mind and if it’s worth sharing with the world. The voices of the poor have been unheard for a very long time, but that’s starting to change as access to communication media continues to grow. Stories are starting to be told, and voices are starting to be heard. It is my hope that we can all build a better, more compassionate world from the telling of the stories of those the world once chose to ignore.

We are here.

We have always been here.

alphabet meme writing

F is for Failure

I meant to finish this exercise, but life had other plans. I participated in a social media movie called 5ecrets, I looked for work, I had tons of meetings to get stuff done for my daughter…and I learned that I really hated this writing prompt and found nothing inspiring about it whatsoever.

Just the same, I’ll probably finish it out.

Failure happens all of the time. The trick is to not give up and to learn from the failure.