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Archive for March, 2012

Jack Schiffer|dreamstime.com

While foraging in the social media forest I ventured into the Writer’s subgroup of Creative Designers and Writers on LinkedIn. I posted a link to Home, a Magical Place and asked a simple question. What is your memory of your childhood home? This simple question touched hearts around the world.

From the UK Gail Jones feels the discomfort of the tin bath in front of the living room fireplace. “If you touched the side facing the fire you burnt your arm. If you touched the other side you froze.”

From Singapore  JSawlm Teh sees the colorful the throngs in Malaysia who passed through the row of terrace houses and shops on MacClister Road. Some balanced platters of sweets on their heads to sell to the nonyas and babas. (more…)

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Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear cactus in the Sonora Desert

New growth comes from what prickles us most. If you’re stuck for a story, consider the people in your past who haunt you still. Go far enough back and you may discover an ancestor whose character traits show up down through the generations…and they needle you!

Kim Edwards book The Lake of Dreams revolves around an ancestor lost from the family view even though her struggles still inform family behavior patterns.  Something to think about when you spot puzzling behavior in yourself and ask, where did that come from?

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Where is home? Is it a place, a memory, a fantasy, an inheritance? If I designed a perfume to spritz me back to halcyon childhood it would boast the scent of fresh cut lumber, sweet and slightly acidic. It would be lush with undertones of Italian plums grounded and softening in the sun.

Growing up in the Valley of the Heart’s Delight, our playgrounds were old orchards and new housing sites. My sister and I scuffed our feet to make sawdust piles on the rough floorboards. We examined the wall frames, collected bent nails and pounded together blocks of wood with a contraband hammer to form chairs and tables. We idled in our plein-air fantasy and dreamed of what we would do when we had houses of our own.  It was the 1950s.

I chose to set The Sheepwalker in the fifties. It was a hopeful time, when the men who returned from WWII were lavished with appreciation, free educations and cheap home loans.  It was also a time when women had sampled independence and some liked the taste. The sleepy world of Santa Clara Valley in California was on the cusp of change.

Poet Robert Southey wrote:

There is magic in the little world, home. It is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits.

Perhaps home is where you find your comforts and virtues.

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Public art in Mesa AZ

I had quotations for each chapter in my first draft of The Sheepwalker. They helped me focus on the central theme of the chapter. Some early readers found them distracting so I cut them when I revised the draft. I’ll share them here.  They make nice pins!

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by spokesphoto at dreamstime.com

Much is being written about the social media time sink. How do I know? I visit the websites of the @newfriends popping up on my TweetDeck. That’s how I found Waste Time on This, not That by Kristin Tennant. Kristin suggests ways to add actual face-to-face to the mix of pinning, tweeting and posting. I have enough trouble managing this bourgeoning daily workout without meet ups for coffee or game night, but I take her point.

I’m in learning mode. I hope this will get easier. Like every new venture there are upsides and downsides. I choose carefully which media to follow. One happy choice is Relevant Magazine. I want to know what young Christian people are thinking. A forum post put me in touch with John Tibbs, a 21-year-old music and worship pastor with opinions about the form and content of modern church worship.  I’m heartened that young people are wrestling with these issues from inside the church walls. (more…)

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The TV show Blue Bloods (on hiatus now) shows the rare family that functions well. Each episode ends with the many generations of Ryans gathered for Sunday supper, discussing the week’s events. They laugh and tease and share stories of family members absent from the table but present in memory.  For the many people who live with huge gaps in generational memory, the fictional Ryans are a figment of romantic imagination.

Losing the family archivist often heightens curiosity about the secrets that died with the record keeper. What was gained, we wonder, by altering the family history or simply refusing to tell it—ever? Adult orphans sometimes struggle with shadow worlds: the woman who feels she grew up in a family she didn’t really belong to; the shameful secrets one generation keeps from another. These stories make good plots for novels but often it’s the stuff of real life.

How will you tell your family story?

 

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The turbulence we experience when we lose our last parent caught Lise Funderburg’s attention. In The Last Goodbye (Time 11/13/00) she dug under the rocky soil of pain and sadness to reach a bedrock issue: you’ve lost the last person who provided the family structure and purveyed the family history.

This new stage of life brings challenges for which adult orphans are not prepared. Now we stand on this earth blinking directly into the fierce light of our mortality. Highly emotional decisions about how to move forward paralyze us.  We may be surprised when we find that an anticipated inheritance produces more anxiety than delight. What is an heirloom to be treasured? What is trash to be sorted, gifted, donated or tossed? What if you make a mistake? (more…)

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