"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Lifetime to be Treasured

Here is young Lucille Marker:

Here she is as a young woman:

Here is Lucille Marker Jones with me on tour for Farm Girl, two years ago:

Here she is one month ago, at her granddaughter's wedding:

And lest you think she's confined to a wheelchair (heaven forbid!), here she is with the bride & groom and the bride's parents:

93 years young and still going strong--truly a lifetime to be treasured!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sharing in the History of a Dress

Approximately 30 years ago this fall my sister and her husband were married. She wore an elegant wedding dress, of a simple design with a lace overlay & long sleeves, also of lace. She called me today to report on her daughter's wedding last week which I unfortunately couldn't attend.

"She wore my wedding dress," my sister said. "And Maggie wants to wear it, too, when she gets married."  So both of her daughters will wear the dress! That is just so cool.

What a lovely thing to wear your mother's wedding dress! Or even a grandmother's vintage one-- which reminds me of that scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Meg Ryan is trying on her grandmother's wedding dress, her mom zips it up and it rips. (haha, Meg Ryan, you're fat)

Anyway, here it is with sleeves shortened, and isn't the bride stunning? What an adorable couple! Congratulations to newlyweds Kari & Kelly!

A simple gesture full of meaning-- sharing the family history through marriage vows and a vintage wedding gown.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Family Ties

I opened my email the other day and found this treat sent to me by a JWalstad. I read it with great interest since Walstad is a name in my family history:

"I've been reconstructing some of the family history as homesteaders in the Nebraska prairie.  During the course of my research, I encountered a novel by Willa Cather titled, My Antonia.  It turns out that it's a classic of American literature.  So I ordered it from Amazon.com. and promptly read it from cover to cover.  It was a great read!  Soon after it arrived, Amazon flagged several other books around that pioneering theme that they thought I might be interested in, and Farm Girl was listed among them.  I skimmed the description and discovered that you had a chapter in it on the Walstads.  So I promptly ordered it, and it's one of the best books I've ever purchased because of its relevance to my heritage.  I've since passed it along to my wife and my father to read.  They've been equally captivated.  Now I've got to order your second book, Uncut Diamonds

This afternoon I had another pleasant surprise:  a phone call from your 93 year-old mother, Lucille!  You had sent her my earlier email, and she decided to contact me directly.  Turns out that she knew my grandfather (Julius Oscar Walstad) as well as my uncles Joe, Paul, and aunt Ruth.  What a small world!  She's a wealth of information, and I'm so glad you captured much of her fascinating history.  Although she's still accumulating it, so you may have to write a sequel!  In any event, we had a wonderful conversation.  She's an amazing person!"

So here's a guy who came across Farm Girl on Amazon, found out he was related to the Norwegians mentioned in the first chapter-- Hans Walstad homesteading in Nebraska, and his parents Jakob and Karen Walstad across the river. Turns out that Jakob and Karen were his great-great grandparents as well as mine!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Report from Capetown

This is from an email I got this morning from my son Travis who is serving a mission in Capetown:

Good morning. It is freezing cold here, raining and I can’t feel my feet. Winter in Cape Town is nice.

Well, the world cup has begun. It makes missionary work exciting. People started blowing their vuvuzelas Thursday night till late, and started blowing them again at about 6 on Friday morning and they went all day long. If you watched the opening match you probably heard that trumpet horn noise throughout the game. (That must be the buzzing sound so many commented on in their twitters!) Thats a vuvuzela. We were on our way to a teaching appointment when South Africa scored their goal and the whole township exploded (figuratively speaking). Everybody ran into the streets cheering and shouting. Old mamas and tatas were dancing, cars were hooting their horns. I’ve never seen such madness. It was fun. I keep telling people that USA is going to win and they always laugh at me. It is a good way to start a conversation. The work hasn’t slowed down because we haven’t let it. Those that are willing to turn their TV’s off really show a lot of commitment. Everybody thinks that we are a couple of tourists exploring the township to see what it is like.

Happy birthday Mum! I hope it was nice. I still don’t know your age. You stopped ageing for me around your 40’s so that is what you’ll always be.

Picture of this young missionary before he left for Africa nearly two years ago, with his "mum" who is clearly over 40:

Okay, besides the fact that I thought this was an interesting email considering the big match going on there, I am reminded of how many stories lurk just under the surface of everyone's daily events, wherever and whatever. An observant person who wants to write can find the stories everywhere.

In Travis's email, there's the story of these tall white Americans on the streets desiring to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and people thinking they're tourists there for the World Cup. There's the story of the people in the townships, and the food they eat, the homes they live in, the sports they follow, and that horn they blow that sounds like buzzing over the TV. There's the story of this tall young man with a name badge (who is he? why is he going to Africa? why is his mom so short? what's with that smile? why does he look so happy?)

Anyway, you get the point. I love writing from life. There's no end of material to choose from. In fact, no one writer can live long enough to get out all the compelling stories. If the path you have chosen is to write stories, then time is of the essence. Write, write, write on!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lazy Summer Day

Our 18 year old son twisted an ankle yesterday while playing basketball. After the usual ice pack, elevation and ibuprofen treatment we figured he was ok. Then at midnight he woke us up in terrible pain. My husband took him to the emergency room. No broken bones, but he was fitted with a brace from foot to knee for proper healing.

Illness and accidents (not to mention hospitals) stress me out so bad. I stayed in bed awake while the two of them went off to the hospital. Two hours later they came back and I was able to sleep.

So today as I sit in front of an open window, doing not much beside blogging and checking emails, listening to the birds, the lawnmowers, the wind in the trees I suddenly realize why I'm too tired to do anything else. Being awake from midnight to 2 a.m. will do that to you. I was feeling guilty about wasting time, when really why not just enjoy this beautiful summer day and be grateful for the opportunity to catch up on posting and commenting?

Do I ever love summer! As a child it was all about sleeping late then reading until afternoon when we'd go swimming at the pool. After swimming my sister and I would play Canasta until dinner in a darkened living room (cooler that way). After dinner would be playing baseball, kickball, badminton or croquet with the neighbor kids. Then staying up late reading in bed with a fan blowing on me. (I still do that!)

There was always the long vacation with the family, going camping and visiting my grandma in Nebraska (see Farm Girl for more Nebraska lol!) And see above photo for a scene from one of our campground visits.

Happy summer, everyone! I hope you can all spend some time just doing nothing!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Deleting Posts

This blog is about writing from life. And occasionally I write too much, then I get embarrassed. Or maybe the event or persons I wrote about might get embarrassed, if they happen to stumble across my blog and recognize themselves.

So I woke up this morning deciding to delete my last post. I don't think this individual reads my blogs, but is she does I wouldn't want her to have pain from reading about herself here.

That said, I must admit that I exaggerate everything. It's part of my writing style. I do it for humor and to make my stories/characters more interesting.

When I wrote Uncut Diamonds, I exaggerated Shawn McGill's parents, making them worse than the very lovely people, sort of nice people, than who they are based on in real life-- (my in-laws). I did this because nice people aren't interesting. Moderate, balanced, well-adjusted people don't make interesting characters in fiction. Or in blog posts.

Uncut Diamonds is a novel about family. Based on real people and real events, yes, but still a novel. I took a lot of liberties, although those involved with the time and the characters can fairly easily recognize themselves and others.

It may be why one of my sister-in-laws hates my novel and refuses to speak to me seems less than enthusiastic about my novel, since she sees her parents portrayed as not very nice people. They aren't villains, they just don't come off real well in the story.

Big deal, it's what writers do. We take stuff and mix it up to make a story. That's what I did with my blog post about the neighbor lady. I took a real incident, real dialogue, and I exaggerated my conclusion/summary to make it into a little story to post here.

Let's see, I have three different blogs, and so far I've deleted a post on each one that I felt might be embarrassing to someone. It's the price you pay when you write from life. Sometimes life can be embarrassing. Too bad we can't delete our bad days, our most embarrassing moments, our painful experiences. Just press the delete button and poof! it's gone! Never happened!

Have you ever gotten in trouble for writing too truthfully? Offending people? Embarrassing yourself and others? Getting fired from your job? Called on the carpet? Let's hope not, but hey it's bound to happen when we write from life!