Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zing

Today is the last day of the A to Z Challenge. This year's challenge was really laced with ZING! Zing means a lively, zestful quality; zest, vigor, animation, force, vitality, etc.  Every blogsite I visited had zing.

When I read the definition, I wondered about other things in my life that have ZING so I made a list and thought I'd share with you.

My marriage, my daughter and--believe it or not, after delving into my so-called memoirs, my family.

Sometimes, my cooking--even when it falls flat!

My driving--especially when I'm thinking about writing--just ask my husband.

My pastor, my SS teacher ... wait, my entire church!

My dreams have zing. Just ask my husband!

When we went home this past weekend, I noticed my cactus flower was blooming. Definitely some Zing!

I conclude ... I'm surrounded by ZING!

Now that A to Z Challenge is over, I hope to concentrate on putting more ZING into my writing. More description, visual setting, stronger conflict and characterization ... and ACTIVE verbs.

What have you learned from A to Z -- as a participant or as a reader? Share. How can we put more ZING in our writing and in our lives?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yukon

Last year for the A to Z Challenge, Y stood for Yukon, Oklahoma. I blogged about the little town and I'll take the opportunity to blog about it again. After all, we've lived here a year now.

Yukon has been a great place for us. It's small. We can be anywhere in five or ten minutes. We can see Oklahoma City from our apartment complex. I posted last year that Dale Robertson lived here when in fact, he didn't. He did once. Maybe his family still owns land here--I don't know. Our senior citizen center is named after him and his picture is in our library. A few weeks ago, Dale passed away in California. I've spent a year hoping to spot him in grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries when all the time he's been in California.

 I remember watching Wells Fargo with my dad. Rest in peace, Dale.

I drive up and down Garth Brooks Blvd to shop at Hastings, Target and WalMart and go to Jimmy's Egg. On Tuesdays, I drive into Mustang (about five minutes away) and meet a friend at the library. We write from 9 am to 2 pm. We take our lunch and sit in the foyer at a table to eat and visit. I wrote my novella at the Mustang Library. I just received the galleys to proof; you can see my cover at the right. The Mustang Library has great writing vibes.

We attend a wonderful church in Yukon. Discovery Church is the friendliest I've ever attended. Love and laughter oozes from its members. We visited two other churches before we settled there. Sad that one has to shop around for a church--a good fit. Discovery is the only church I've ever attended that I felt people truly liked and cared about us--and not just on Sunday. If I ended up in the hospital, I know without a doubt, people would be praying for me and coming to see me. I've never had the comfort of that thought.

Yukon will be a sweet memory when we move back to Louisiana in June. While we're looking forward to being near our daughter again, being in our home instead of an apartment, Louisiana will be like starting over--searching for a church, getting used to the oppressive weather, settling in ... trying to fit in--once again.

We've moved a number of times in our married life. Yukon became home fast, and we'll miss it.

How often have you moved in your life? Any place you'd like to go back to or regret leaving? How do places you've lived play into your writing?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xerophilous

While browsing through the dictionary trying to figure out what to write about, I came across the word xerophilous which means capable of thriving in a hot, dry climate. Xerophilous pertains to plants and animals, but it reminded me of my mother. She was always hot. We didn't have central air in our little four room house (2 bedrooms, a living room and a small kitchen. Do we count the bathroom as a real room?) We had window units and they were powerful. I stayed bundled up while Mom sat in a sleeveless house dress.

Of course, by the time I started getting hot, she had the heat blasting during the summer because she was cold.

Funny how we daughters swap places with our mothers. Or become more like them. The other day I told Mom that every time I looked in the mirror, she stared back at me. She thought that was hilarious! She always liked to laugh ... still does.

Did your family play practical jokes? Get tickled in church or the library? Share something super-funny that you remember about your family.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Writing

When I signed up for A to Z Challenge this year, I had no idea what I wanted to write about. I planned to wing it—the way I did last year. But as soon as I sat down to write that first post, my theme became apparent: I'd write about my childhood and my family. I’ve had fun blogging about my loved ones, but I’m ready to move on and talk about writing again. Family Time is growing old and boring for me. And I’m beginning to repeat myself. I don’t like repetition!

So W is for Writing. This is what I’ve been doing alongside A to Z.
I wrote a short story specifically for Woman’s World. This time I got off my ‘duff’ and put it in the mail. I’m waiting … waiting … waiting … just like in the old days. Complete with SASE.  Woman’s World doesn’t take email submissions.
I’m also working on a pitch to a Harlequin editor on May 8th. This will be sort of like speed dating: I pitch in 100 words or less and they tell me immediately whether they want to see a synopsis, a proposal or the complete novel. I really like this idea. This is the instant gratification thingie working. I’m pretty nervous about it, even though I have the pitch ready. I've been working on the first three chapters of the manuscript just in case the editor requests it. It’s a straight inspirational romance—no mystery or suspense. And I still have to write the synopsis. Arrghh!

My mind is working constantly on other things—revising, re-plotting, wondering if anything is any good. There’s so much I want to revamp. I don’t want to give up on any of my stories—even when I know I should move on to something fresh.
My novella came to me so easily. I wish all my stories came that fast—that complete. They don’t. I struggle.

Tell me about your writing. Do you have anything with an agent or editor? Or do you plan to ePub? Do you like today’s publishing world and how things have changed? Tell us about it.
Here's a market for you just in case you don't have anything to do:

Family Circle Magazine is now accepting submissions for their 2013 Fiction Contest. Submit your previously unpublished short story of no more than 2,500 words by September 16, 2013. There is no fee to enter and you could win the grand prize of $1,000 and publication in the magazine, plus other prizes. For all the details go here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Victory, Victorious

V is Victory, Victorious.  Normally when I hear the word Victory I burst into song. Really! Just ask my husband and daughter.
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood.

I love the old hymns—we rarely sing them anymore and I miss them.

We had a victorious trip yesterday. I drove the entire ten hours. I normally do. Hubby can read and nap in a moving vehicle; I can’t because I’ll get car sick, so I drive…and plot. At one point, I heard him talking. I replied, “Say that again, I wasn’t listening—I was blogging.” He gets nervous when I’m lost in writing thoughts while driving.
After six hours on the road, we stopped off to visit my mom. I’m always filled with dread at how she might respond, how she’ll look. Where her mind might be. Another victory! She was alert, smiling and had quick come-backs to our teasing. She enjoyed talking about the past since that’s all she can remember, but even the past is a little hazy. She commented that she sewed a lot for me when I was a kid, made all my clothes. She did. I had “Mom Originals” with shoes to match. Remember, she was a perfectionist. I was often written up in our school newspaper because of what I wore: “Jessica looked like the breath of spring in  her yellow dress with the tiny blue and pink flowers. The yellow t-strap sandals were the perfect accessory.” Or something of the sort.

I asked Mom if she remembered making a bird costume for me, sewing feathers to material. I was glad I had a picture on my iPhone to jog her memory. When I went through her home, I was able to snap pics of other pics so I could email them to myself. I'm second from the right.
Mom also talked about how she used to sit in the car waiting for me to get finished with my piano lessons. Her memory is a little distorted there. Mom never waited on much of anything. She was the original multi-tasker and always wanted to accomplish several things at once. While I struggled with chords and Mrs. Brown the piano teacher, Mom was at the grocery store, or drug store, or running errands for a friend--or all three! I was the one who sat at the curb waiting when my lesson was over.

When we got to Louisiana, we were blessed by a visit from our daughter bearing a mother’s day gift, and we stayed up late talking. I slept until 8:00 a.m. this morning! Sure felt good. We’ll head back to see Mom on Saturday for another walk down memory lane.

What did you do when you were a kid? Take dancing or piano lessons? Play basketball, football or baseball? Write poems or your first novel? How were your parents involved in your young life and activities?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unsolicited

A quick post today since hubby and I are taking our monthly 10-hour drive to Louisiana. We’ll leave at 6 a.m., stop off for a couple of hours to see my mom, and on our return trip spend the night for a longer visit with her. So forgive me if this post isn’t quite up to par. U stumped me.

But, two incidences came to mind so I thought I’d write about them.

What do you think of when you hear the word unsolicited? If you’re a writer, you probably think of unsolicited manuscripts and how many agents and editors don’t allow them. Or you might think of unsolicited advice.  I’m sure we all receive some now and then. I remember some unsolicited advice that made me proud.

Years ago, my dad had an old red truck. I have no idea what make or model, I just remember it was old and on its last spark plug, so to speak.  Dad put an ad in the classifieds; he wanted to sell it. My hometown is the home of LeTourneau College, now known as LeTourneau University. LETU is a private, interdenominational Christian university with flagship programs in engineering, aeronautical science, education and business. If anyone is interested, check it out. 

Anyway, LeTourneau boys usually didn’t have vehicles. They didn’t have much money either and they always craved home-cooked meals. They came from all over the country, even outside the country to get their degrees, and they came in droves to our churches. The girls went wild over them. I remember looking at the back of our church and cute LeTourneau boys took up two or three pews. (I was too young for a college boy.)
One day, one of them came to our house to look at my dad’s old truck. They did the usual thing—drove it, kicked the tires, looked under the hood, then stood around and talked awhile. Then my dad asked, “Why do you want this old thing?” The young man answered that he wanted to drive it home—to Ohio.   

“Son, this old truck won’t get you to Ohio. You probably won’t make it out of Texas.”  My dad refused to sell him the truck. (Back then you could get away with those things; probably not today. You'd get sued.)
A similar thing happened a few years ago when my husband and I were selling a Dodge Caravan. A man came to the door with cash for the vehicle and hubby explained about transferring the title and advised the man about getting insurance. Our potential buyer said, “I’m not getting insurance.” Guess what—hubby refused to sell him the vehicle.

I was proud of my dad because he looked out for another family’s son. Dad was a good man and he followed The Golden Rule. I was proud of my husband for refusing to sell to an uninsured driver.  Hubby's a good man too. Sometimes those giving unsolicited advice really are looking out for our best interest. 

Can you remember a time when someone gave you unsolicited advice but you didn’t take it and regretted it? Boy, I can!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Time

Time passes so quickly. Sometimes all we’re left with are our memories. I’ve enjoyed this A to Z Challenge because I’ve gone back in time to take another look. While looking back, I’ve wanted to ask my parents, my grandparents specific questions. Too late now. Sure makes me wish I’d kept a journal all my life. I always tried but had no follow-through when it came to journaling. Tape recorders were another matter.

When I was younger, early teens, I think, my most prized possession was a reel to reel tape recorder. I took phrases from records and created advertisements, skits and interviews. I spent hours in my bedroom, creating.  That huge, heavy green tape recorder was the most wonderful Christmas present I’d ever received. And it cost a hundred dollars. At least that’s what my parents told me. I was amazed they would spend that much money on me. I wish I could remember if I asked for it or if they saw it and knew I’d love it. At any rate, eventually, I wore it out and we gave it to ‘the twins’ because they “worked” on things and said they could fix it. Remember the twins from I is for Iva? I never saw that tape recorder again. Today, I have several: three small digital and a couple of cassette ones so yeah, I still have a thing for tape recorders.
Once I recorded my Arkansas grandfather telling his “life” story. He loved to talk and didn’t mind speaking into the microphone. Oddly, I have no pictures of me with my grandparents. That makes me sad—to have pictures of them but not with them.

When I was small, we didn’t travel to grandparent’s homes to celebrate Christmas. My dad’s family lived right across the pasture from us; my mother’s parent’s lived in Arkansas. We visited them once a year—twice at the very most. When my husband and I moved to Louisiana, we made certain our kids saw their grandparents no less than once a month and all holidays. We wanted them to know their grandparents well, have relationships with them, and have their own memories.  

Do you have fond memories of grandparents or did time and distance keep you away from them? If they’re still alive, take the time to talk with them, record their stories, and take pictures.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Scripture

I come from a long line of preachers. I didn't realize how long until I joined ancestry.com.

My mother's dad was a Baptist preacher. That's probably why she's such a scrapper. They say there's no one more rebellious than a preacher's kid. Here's a picture of my grandfather when he was ordained. See how he's looking upward? He was very dramatic--guess that's where I get my drama. I wonder what my grandma was thinking.

My parents were very moral, hard-working people. I don't know that I'd call them godly people--to me, godly, means Christ-like, and I've never known anyone who was Christ-like. As I said in a previous post, my dad was ridiculed for being quiet and shy. My mother was bullied because she had bright red hair and a lot of freckles. She told me because her eyebrows and lashes were very light, kids called her pig-eyes. My mother was tough--she could take it, but the words did their damage. She never forgot them. She was in her late 60s when she went to an esthetician for permanent make-up, her eyes lined and her lips more defined.

Sad how we can never let go of those things that wound us.
Wouldn't life be simple if we could all live by the Golden Rule and treat others the way we want to be treated.

Matthew 7:12

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (NIV)

Do you know The Ten Commandments? Can you list each commandment? Living them would certainly simplify life on this earth.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.”

Do you have a favorite scripture? Can you quote your mom or dad's favorite scripture? Or do you have one you quote when you're happy, sad, afraid or before you sit down to write? Share.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Rude Awakening

I’ve learned a lot during this A to Z Challenge—and believe me, it has been a challenge. Writing about my family has taught me how to pick through memory clutter and mold experiences (sometimes unpleasant ones) into entertaining, colorful stories. As a result, I’ve realized my childhood memories weren’t as unpleasant as I’d originally thought; they were just a little distorted. Or am I distorting them now?

 I’ve sat in Sunday school classes and listened to other women rave about their Betty Crocker moms and their Father Knows Best dads, and I’ve wondered if they were telling the truth. One shouldn’t sit in church and wonder if their friends are lying, should they? But everyone’s parents seemed very different from mine.

My mother never gave me cooking lessons, or turned the kitchen over to me. When I took Home Economics and tried to make a dress, we often came to blows over her sewing machine.  Our home became a war zone each night when I tackled homework. I couldn’t learn under Mom because she didn’t have the patience to teach. My passive dad wasn’t forceful enough to instruct.
My parents were strict way beyond fairness—at least Mom was, and Dad always backed her up. They were quick to dole out punishment, and very lacking when it came to encouragement. I was never told “You can do and be anything you set your mind to.” Were you? I know it depends on when you were born. Anyone born after the 60s probably had it sweet.

My parents didn’t know how to give encouragement because they’d never received it themselves. Mom was the oldest of ten kids. She didn’t have time for dreams, unless it was when she climbed that tree to read her books. Her family thought she was odd, persnickety, and wondered where she got the “perfection gene.” My dad was somewhere in the middle of thirteen kids. He was quiet, incredibly shy and his family made fun of him because he didn’t talk much—if at all.  He didn’t talk when I knew him either. If I had to choose a parent’s head to live in for a week, I’d choose my dad’s. He was a mystery.
My previous post was about family quotes, but I left out the most important one: You’re in for a rude awakening. I heard that a lot, and can't tell you how often it flashes through my mind. Anytime I failed a test, got in trouble at school, asked for something outlandish … I heard, “You’re in for a rude awakening” with a long spiel about how life isn’t anything like we think it’s going to be.
And it isn’t.  Sometimes it's better; sometimes it's worse, but it's never like we think it's going to be. That's a given.
When I visit my mom in the nursing home, I marvel at the “child” she has become—a small white-haired woman waiting for someone to tell her what to do, how to do it, and when. Well, actually, we can't tell her when to do something because she won't remember. She lives in the very immediate now. We often explain how to turn on the TV for the hundredth time during a day . Her faded blue eyes are like question marks—so unlike the confident, sometimes hard and angry ones I remember; the ones that sent silent messages to me and my brother when we were growing up. Her eyes could strike fear in us and make promises of what awaited us when we got home. Patience has been forced on her—along with a lot more.
You’re in for a rude awakening, she’d tell me. And when I visit her in the nursing home, realize I miss the woman she was, I know Mom was right. My rude awakening has finally come.

Share something that breaks your heart.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Quotes (and family tales)

As you know, I love quotes and post them on my blog often. What you don’t know—and might think a little odd—is that I collect quotes and funny stories from the lips of my family. I wish I had my little notebook of family quotes but since my dad’s death and my mom going into a nursing home, I’ve been a little lax with organized recording. Now I jot things down on slips of paper that float around my purse and eventually get lost.

But I have some favorite tales I want to share:
Once my entire family went to the cemetery to put Christmas flowers on my grandparent’s graves. My mother was always very dedicated about doing that and she’d shop for hours to find just the right ornament. On this occasion, she’d selected white crosses. Because the earth was so hard, she’d brought a hammer to pound each cross into the ground. Now, you’d have to know my mom: she’s a perfectionist—a fine-tuner. Once she gets something ‘finished’ she inspects everything around it—regardless of what it is—then fine-tunes her own project one last time. This time when she finished arranging flowers and cleaning up other gravesites, she came back to the white cross, hit it with the hammer and broke it.

“You just had to hit it one more time, didn’t you?” said my dad.

All of us broke into uncontrollable laughter because he’d nailed it with his comment. She was and always had been the hit it one more time mama. She used to go over my homework papers—crossing my Ts and closing the circles of my Os, Bs, Ps and making my periods a little darker. Hitting my paper one more time.
Yes, it drove me crazy.

The quote, “Just had to hit it one more time,” is a favorite and we use it often when one of us tries to over-do.
Of course, my mom has several quotes she uses consistently: She’s fond of saying, Ignorance gone to seed, Nuts gone to seed, There’s nothing crazier than people, and Can’t get away from those genes.

She loved telling everyone that if my brother said, “Let’s hang Mama,” my dad would go get a rope.

My young nephews were always fun to listen to. Once, a young Russell (the one in the red cap)climbed into the car after a grocery shopping trip. He was so glad to be going home after spending an hour in the food store that he was jumping up and down, and running across the back seat while the young sacker helped my mother with groceries. The sacker asked Russell, “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” to which my nephew responded, “No, why, do you smell something?”
A hilarious exchange and I think of it often, especially when someone asks if we need a bathroom. I suspect the young sacker called himself reprimanding Russell, but I love Russell’s quick, naïve reply.

One summer day, while the cable TV man was adjusting my dad’s television, my nephew Kyle (white cap) charged through the front door yelling, “We found a dead skunk back in the woods. You want to go smell him?” Needless to say, the cable guy declined.

My daughter (purple sweatshirt) was sitting in the back seat while I drove one day. Daughter was always a chatty little girl—asking questions and often supplying her own answers. On this day, I was telling her how her dad and I had prayed for a healthy little girl and that God had blessed us with her.
She replied, “Good. I always wondered who my family would be.” Yikes!


I’m sure you have favorite quotes and quirky sayings and stories from your family too. Want to share some of them?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Periodicals

“Hi my name is ___ and I’m working toward a thousand dollar scholarship for nurses training. You do like nurses, don’t you? ‘Cause I sure need your help. If I get enough points, I’m eligible for the scholarship. You see … if you order this periodical, I’ll get ten points, and this one is twenty … No not magazines! Periodicals.”

Have you ever seen the advertisement in the newspaper that states: Make money. Travel southern states, Drive late model car. No experience necessary. Parents welcome at interview.
Don’t answer that ad.

In the late 60s, having graduated from high school and dropped out of college after a couple of semesters, I moved to Little Rock, Arkansas to live with an aunt. I couldn’t find a job anywhere. No experience, no work. You’ve probably heard that line.
So when I saw the ad in the paper that touted No Experience Necessary, I was determined to get that job—even though the ad didn’t say what the job was all about.

I met a woman at a motel for the interview—maybe that should have been the first red flag. She was blonde, very attractive and said they were pulling out of Little Rock immediately. If I wanted the job, I had thirty minutes to pack and leave with them. Second red flag—the rush job.

What would I be doing? Working in periodicals. In my mind working in periodicals translated to working in publishing. Naïve me.

I accepted the job and for the next several months, I travelled from state to state with a magazine crew, spouted the spiel above about scholarships and nursing school, and verbally tackled any moving object that looked like he had a wallet of money.

Basically, I was a liar for hire.

Working for a magazine crew was an interesting (and scary) experience. There were young people from all over the country who signed on—for one reason or another. Many of the guys were handicapped in some way: one was in a brace from the waist down, and another had an artificial leg. One was running from the law. He was with us for a short while until he made off with some of the funds. They caught him in New Orleans with our car—no money.

We picked up another girl in Little Rock right after I signed on. She cried day and night. Her mom had attended the interview, talked with Fran who was in charge of the girl’s crew, and she still sent her daughter with us. Eileen said her military father thought the job might help her grow up. I always thought there was more to it than that. But, we couldn’t handle Eileen’s constant crying to go home so after awhile, Fran put her on a bus back to Little Rock. Normally, once a young person signs on with a crew, they aren't allowed to leave.

I hung in there and tried to make the best of it. Every morning we’d hop in the car with our driver and head out. Every evening we’d meet at a designated motel, turn our money over to Fran and Alex (in charge of the guys), have a business meeting and then retreat to our room.

We had a quota. We had to sell a certain amount of periodicals each day. The first time I didn’t make my quota, they left me out until after dark, walking the streets until I did. After that, I’d buy a magazine myself and send it to my dad if I came up short. I wasn’t above begging a customer to buy one so I wouldn’t have to stay out on the streets. The crew of guys usually hit downtown businesses. The girls hit anything that breathed, from one town to the next.

There were rules we had to follow. Mainly, we were forbidden to be negative. No phone calls home because talking with family would make us homesick and that’s negative. And we had to make our quota. I can’t remember what our quota was but if we consistently didn’t make it, we had to practice our sales spiel (the one above) with the entire group and get a critique. We requested money for food daily, and Fran kept talley of what we spent.
We ate in small cafés and truck stops. I lived on chicken fried steak.

When Christmas came around, the crew was expected to go home with Fran to spend the holidays together. That would insure that we all made it back on the road. Not me. I had a plan. They dropped me off in Longview with instructions that they would swing back by and pick me up on January 2nd. I let them believe it. When Fran called to arrange our meeting place, I told her I wouldn’t be returning. She wasn’t happy with me.

Magazine crews are still around today. If you'd like to learn more about them, or know someone who needs help because of a magazine crew, check out this site. I’ve researched and some of them sound a lot rougher than the one I worked for out of Jackson, Mississippi. Just the other day, a young man knocked on our apartment door and told us he was working for points. I always feel a little sad for these kids—even though, the new crews don’t seem to use ‘kids’ to sell their periodicals. I’ve spotted all ages.

When Fran and Alex came back through Longview one year, a friend called me and I met her at the motel where they stayed. I was able to visit for just a brief time until Fran got wind of me and asked me to leave. After all, a visit with me—a former crew member—could be a very negative thing.

I’ve been plotting a YA mystery series about a young woman who works for a magazine crew. What do you think? Have you had any experience with magazine crews or their sales people? Share.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Oklahoma

A year ago we moved to Oklahoma. Sure doesn’t feel like we’ve been here that long—until we make the 10-hour trek to Louisiana... or have to huddle in a closet because the tornado alert is squealing. Today, we’re expecting horrific storms. Yeah, I’m scared!

Other than that, Oklahoma is an interesting place to live. Lots of history and writers are plentiful. Sometimes I regret not being a better history student so I can enjoy (and retain) everything I see and read in the museums.  I tend to get overwhelmed. To me, history is a lot like math. The dots have to be connected. There are so many pieces … how can one ever have the whole story?

I have a great-great grandmother buried in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Here’s the only picture I have of her. She's the older woman. I figure the younger is a granddaughter but I'm just guessing. Would you say gr-gr-grandma is Native American from this picture? According to records, she was born in Tennessee in 1842.
Supposedly, Hannah Minerva Guinn married my gr-gr grandfather John McGinty in 1872 in Conway, Arkansas. Their son, Robert Jefferson McGinty, my gr-grandfather, lived in North Louisiana until his murder. My grandfather (at left) was five-years-old when his dad was killed by a man named Joe Mathews. My grandfather told me he could remember seeing his dad’s body stretched out on Mathews’ porch. That’s something for a child to remember all his life.
There were two stories about the death of R.J.  One was that he was playing around with the man’s wife. That seems unlikely because two of R.J.’s sons were with him and witnessed his death. I have the court transcript with their statements. The second story is that he was stealing chickens. Actually, Mr. Mathews owed my gr-grandfather money and since the guy couldn’t or wouldn’t pay, he told R.J. to take the chickens as payment. R.J. and his boys were there to collect.

During all this, Hannah Minerva Guinn lived in Arkansas and was married to a man named Watkins by then.  She was 63 and he was 59. Two grandsons lived with them. Mr. Watkins died at age 70 and Hannah ended up in Guthrie, Oklahoma where she is buried.
I suspect Hannah Minerva Guinn McGinty Watkins moved to Oklahoma to live with a daughter or granddaughter, but see what I mean about the many pieces that make her story whole. Oh, how I wish I could know the details! What kind of life did Hannah have? Why can’t I find her grave or any record of her in Oklahoma? Do I have other family members roaming around this state? Of course, I do! Even on my dad’s side of the family. Above is a diagram of Native American migration. You can click on it to make it larger. Fascinating, isn’t it? And sad.

Do you write history? How do you approach it? Any desire to set a novel in Oklahoma or research the state? I encourage you to spend time here if you have the opportunity. It’s a wonderful place to explore.

Oh yeah… if you’re looking for a great writer’s conference we have one going on next month. Check it out at Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Negative

Note: The A to Z Challenge is really a challenge for me this year and I'm behind reading your posts and leaving comments. I have a lot on my plate but that's no excuse. I'm sure you all do too. I hope to catch up in the next day or two. For readers not participating in the A to Z Challenge and don't understand it, you can learn more here and explore everything from A to Z. There are 1,758 bloggers participating in the A to Z Challenge. You may want to try it next year.
Today, I'm taking a look at being negative.
My dad was a quiet, shy, pessimistic/negative person. Look at his picture at the right--you can tell by the way he's sitting that he's shy and uncomfortable being the center of attention.
I’ve been accused of being more negative than positive. I used to be more shy than I am now, and of course, since I love blogging, I must thrive on attention. Right?
As for the negative trait? I’m not sure I totally agree but we often see ourselves the way we want to be—not the way we really are.
I admit I’m guilty of looking at what could happen if I did such ‘n such. I not only look at today but I look at tomorrow, the next day and a week from now. Unfortunately that affects my actions when I want to send my work to publishers or agents. I over-analyze and try to visualize the outcome: If I submit ABC story to 123 Magazine, I might be making a mistake. Would 456 Magazine be better? We’re supposed to choose the best publisher, but I usually stall and send to no one. Is second-guessing akin to being negative? Yeah, somewhat.  Especially when we let imagined consequences keep us from doing anything.

Negative means: bad: unhappy, discouraging, angry, or otherwise detracting from a happy situation; pessimistic: or tending to have a pessimistic outlook.

 Mmmm, is that really me? I've been told I'm a great encourager to others. I sure hope I'm not a drain on anyone's goals and dreams.
Honestly, I don’t think I’m negative, but if I am ... I got it from my dad. And he inherited from his mom who ... well, that's as far as my personal experience goes when it comes to pinpointing.

I’m posting a few quotes from Brainy Quote about negativity. They really speak to me. I'm terrible about letting others influence me. If you read my work or hear my pitch and raise an eyebrow in my direction, you're watering my doubt and insecurity. It grows. Are you the same? I hope not. It's a miserable way to be.

If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.~Michael Jordan

Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power. ~Shirley MacLaine

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results. ~Willie Nelson

 Which one speaks to you? Do you battle negativity? How? Looking back at family members, do you think your negativity was inherited or something you learned from a parent? Talk to me... and don't be negative!

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Marriage

I’ve always loved reading letters. Two of my favorite books are the letters of poets Sylvia Plath and  Anne Sexton, so it wasn’t unusual for me to read any letter I came across in our house whether it was addressed to me or not. Okay, call me a snoop, I don’t care. It was fun. And I learned a lot!
Oddly, my father kept all the letters written to him when he was in the Navy.  A few from his sisters, but most were from girls who liked him. I read them all, over and over again. They were silly—not really mushy, just silly. I think girls acted more like ladies back then so maybe the correct word is … boring.
Loving letters, why wouldn’t I read a letter addressed to my mom and postmarked from some small town in Arkansas?  It was from her BFF, from her childhood, telling her a guy named Bob had burned up in a fire. He’d been drinking and smoking. Reading on, I learned that BFF was Mom’s former sister-in-law and that Bob had been her first husband. What? My mother had a former life?  I never dreamed the woman who popped my face when I poked my chin at her would have anything before my dad.

Of course my imagination went wild. Was I really my dad’s daughter? After all, when Mom got mad at me she’d say, “You’re just like your father!” Maybe that guy Bob was the father she meant. You know how kids are. (In later years, I wrote to the BFF and asked if she had any pictures of my mom and of course, I'd like to see a pic of Bob too. She sent me some. How's that for a BFF?) Above you see mom and BFF in later years--still friends.

I asked my mother about Bob and she gave me a little history but what I found interesting was how she rode the bus from Arkansas to Texas, lived with an Aunt and Uncle, registered for nursing school and recreated herself. And then my father showed up—the handsome navy man. To hear her tell it, he wouldn’t leave her alone; he was totally enamored and in love. Well, of course he was! Just look at that nursing picture (center girl) —who wouldn’t be? Wasn’t she a beauty?

In Longview, Texas back in the 40s, lives crisscrossed like crazy. Dad dated and went to school with girls who later had kids in my classes. Odd to look at a girl I didn't especially like and know that her mom dated my dad. Yuk!
When Mom lived in the nursing school dorms downtown, she used to walk across the street to a little fruit stand to buy fresh fruit from a couple of very cute brothers. Guess who those brothers were? My husband’s father and uncle.  I can see how our lives could have been easily changed—and I might not be me. Crazy, isn’t it, how things happen?
I think marriage is a miracle. It’s a challenge for the best of couples. It’s difficult. A lot of people still quip that ‘marriage is a state of mind.’  So if you're in the right frame of mind you can be/stay married? How's that work exactly?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines marriage this way:
a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2): the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage marriage

Marriage is a lot more than a cold-fact definition, or a state of mind, but I guess it’s up to each of us to determine what it is and means to us. Scary, isn’t it, to think how we ‘live’ our marriage determines how our kids view and live theirs.

Years ago, while still in high school, my daughter made a funny observation. She said, “I think it’s weird that parents spend so much time telling their kids to beware of strangers, and then we meet a stranger, marry him, and live with him for the rest of our life--and they're okay with that.”
True, isn’t it? And frightening, in a way. Because we never get to know our spouses until we live with them--and sometimes it's too late.
When it comes right down to it—every day with our spouse should be a great adventure—learning, discovering, loving and respecting, practicing the Golden Rule with them, and having fun. Shouldn’t it?
What do you think the most difficult part of marriage is?

Friday, April 12, 2013

L is for Lemon Supreme

Cooking is a complete mystery to me--not unlike writing.  I don’t know any of the tricks. Sure I can cook a few things really well, but I can’t say they always taste the same.  I know I’m not the only one with that problem. Years ago, I gave my mother-in-law a cake recipe; she made the cake and accused me of leaving out a special ingredient because hers didn’t taste like mine. Mine never tastes like my mom’s did either. No, it’s not psychological.

After taking some of my mother’s cake pans and a pancake griddle—ones Mom always used Crisco and flour on/in, I learned the hard way that they don’t respond well to my spray Pam. What’s up with that?
Mom baked wonderful desserts. A family favorite was the Lemon Supreme Apricot Nectar cake. Don’t be turned off. You can NOT taste the apricot nectar.  The glaze was to die for—sweet and tart. The first time she baked it, she told us she used a toothpick to jab holes in the cake so the glaze would seep through the holes. Before long, we noticed she’d graduated from toothpick to the end of the wooden spoon—with a double batch of glaze. Yum!

So my L word is for my favorite cake, and I’m sharing Mom’s recipe with you.
1 Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
1 cup of Apricot Nectar
¾ cup of Crisco oil
½ cup sugar
4 eggs
Combine the cake mix, nectar, oil and sugar together and mix well. Then add the four eggs. Mix again, thoroughly. Bake in a tube pan or a Bundt pan at 325 degrees for one hour. Or test with toothpick.

Glaze: Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar and juice from one lemon. Stick holes in cake with toothpick (or the end of a wooden spoon) and spread over cake while cake is hot.  You can control the tartness/sweetness of the glaze –more lemon or more powdered sugar.
Baking a cake really is a lot like writing, isn’t it? Sometimes my novels crumble.
Have a good weekend!  I’ll post again on Monday with the letter M.