Did I Ever Tell You About The Time…

Think of the many stories you have bouncing around in your head that your family has told over and over. You know them so well, you most likely roll your eyes whenever it’s being told for umpteenth time. But do you realize these stories only last for two, maybe three generations? Then, they’re lost forever. Unless someone takes the time to write them down.

How could you preserve your family stories? Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Write them in a family Bible or journal made for this purpose.

2.  Video your family telling the story.

3.  Make a photo journal using Snapfish or the like including pictures of family gatherings where these stories were always told. Be sure to include the names of all present as well as the date.

It isn’t hard to do this, it just takes planning. What stories come to mind that are worth preserving in your family?

The Eyes Have It

hobbies

Question #9 – What is your hobby and how did you learn to do it?

Hobbies are a great way to spend free time doing something you really love. Some people are even able to make a living with their hobby full-time. I know I would love to! Alas, the pay for me has always been more about the reward I get doing it than from any money I might receive. But hey, I’d never refuse the offer!
I love to write so I spend the majority of my day doing so. And when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about what I’ll write next. 🙂 Even now I’m at the hair salon and instead of reading the latest magazine, I’m writing this post because I can! 🙂

You can learn a lot about someone just by discovering their hobbies.

My grandmother loved to sew, and she was good at it. She taught herself when she was a young girl. Amazingly, she never needed a pattern which proves it was truly a gift. But she didn’t think it was such a big deal because it came so easily to her. Hobbies are like that. We tend to excel at those things we love doing. Or maybe it’s because we love doing it, so we practice and develop a skill for it quicker. At any rate, hobbies are a great question to ask your older relatives. And I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll see a sparkle come to their eyes as they answer you!

“Golf isn’t just my business, it’s my hobby.” – Lee Trevino 

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This is post #9 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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Have You Heard of Goodreads?

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Have you heard of Goodreads? It’s a site dedicated to helping those who love to read connect with others who love to read. You can keep a running library of books you’ve read, books you want to read, and books you’re currently reading. It’s basically a social network for the literary-minded, and I love it!

When my book was published I added it to my library of books read. Imagine my delight when people started posting their thoughts on Through The Eyes Of Grace? Following is the first review I received from someone I don’t know. Her words are a huge encouragement to me, and I pray that more will come to find my book as a result of her review:

This is a novel based on the life of the author’s grandmother, Grace Kirwin. In 1904, Grace, Age 15, lived in Oklahoma Territory with her parents and siblings. The action begins almost immediately with a traumatic experience for Grace in chapter 1. Written in first-person point of view, we travel with Grace through her parents attempts to do what they think is best for her, her reactions to their choices, and her move to Indian Territory to live with a cousin and begin a new life. Nightmares and memories follow Grace, sometimes causing her to pull away from people. With the love of family and a special gentlemen, Grace successfully begins her new life.

This is an uplifing story and does not dwell on negative aspects of the events. Historical facts are plentiful and expertly woven into the context.

The book contains old family photos of the people in the story. Coupled with the excellent writing, this story comes to life on the page.

If you are already on Goodreads, won’t you share with us your thoughts about the site? What do you love about it? How has it helped you meet your reading goals?

I Promise…

Promoting a book can feel a lot like campaigning for political office. You have to talk about why you did what you did, why you want others to listen to you tell about it and hopefully, get your listeners to buy your product. It is awkward at times as self-promotion should be! Politicians, if they’re honest and have integrity, don’t want you to vote for them because you like them, they want you to vote for them because they truly believe their plan will be best for the office they’re seeking.

In the same way, I want people to buy my book not so the numbers will grow and I’ll be more popular. No, I want you to read my book because I believe my grandmother’s story is worth knowing. She was an amazing woman, and her life offers lessons for us all. If you’ve already purchased a copy of Through The Eyes Of Grace and read it, I want to say a huge Thank You!  Words cannot adequately express how grateful I am. Would you do a couple of things for me? First, tell your friends and family about it and share it on your Facebook page and/or Twitter account? Second, would you consider writing a review on Amazon for me? Reviews help other readers who know nothing of me or my book decide whether or not it is something they are interested in reading.

I’m grateful we no longer have to listen to the constant campaigning of the politicians promising us things they may or may not be able to accomplish. I pray my posts never feel like an empty campaign promise. Thanks for stopping by.

Prologue Part Two

Photo Credit: http://www.ehow.com

Today I’m sharing the last part of my book’s Prologue. I pray it will draw you to want to read more. In case you missed the first half you can read it here.

I was trapped.  As I plopped into the black leather seat, something crunched beneath me.  It was the gift I had seen on the table! I couldn’t deal with it, so I tossed it aside, not interested in the who or the why questions that had incensed me before the service.

Mama picked up the gift, “Gracelyn, this is for you.  Don’t you want to open it?”

“Um, no! Not now.”

“Why on earth not?”

“Oh, Mama! It’s just not right.”

“Gracelyn, I insist.  The giver may be at the dinner.  You’ll want to be sure to thank them.  I really think it best to open it now.”

Mama usually had the last word, and this time was no exception.  I had learned it was best to do as she said.  Picking up the gift I slowly ripped the paper away, revealing a stained wooden box smelling much like the old church we had just left.  Lifting the lid I discovered a worn out leather journal.

“What’s this?” I asked casually, hoping my excitement didn’t show.

“I’ve seen this before; why, it belonged to Mama.  See the engraving – Grace Stella Oswalt?”

As I opened the cover a note fell on the floor.  I picked it up to find Big Mama’s handwriting addressed to me.  The brief excitement drained from my fingertips as if the dead were calling my name.

“M-Mama, you read it.”  She took the slip of paper from my hand.

Dear Gracelyn,

I am an old woman now, and time is running out for me to share with you my story.  I’ve waited for you to ask, but now the waiting ends.  You are my youngest granddaughter, and one who reminds me so much of myself.  It is my prayer that as you read this journal you will grow in your understanding of who you are and to whom you belong.  Your life is not your own to live as you want.  I learned this the hard way, and I pray this journal will help you after I am long gone.  Read it well and remember although life is brief, love is forever.

Affectionately,

Big Mama

I sat there in disbelief as the limo came to a stop.  I wasn’t sure if I was happy to have this gift or angry she singled me out as needing special help.  Maybe it was a little of both, but as hard as it was to admit, I was comforted.

As we filed out of the limo and gathered around Big Mama’s grave, the familiar hymn began to play once more.  This time my voice sang through the tears to the grandmother I loved.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found

Was blind but now I see.

My grandmother had offered me her hand with this gift, allowing me to see and learn about life through her eyes.  That night, alone in my room I opened the musty journal and began to read.

Teasing Comes Naturally, I’m Afraid

Uncle Billy teasing Norah

Yes, I’m prone to teasing, ask my family. I get it naturally from my brother who is the master! But I’ve learned my brother is a lot like my grandfather who died when I was only 4. I don’t remember much about him, except that he loved his eggs scrambled in a pan with hot sausage served over a bed of grits. And you know what? This is how I like breakfast as well. He also smoked a pipe and would let me help him light it whenever I was around. I still love the scent of pipe tobacco, I guess because it brings back fond childhood memories.

So what does teasing have to do with today’s post? I want to “tease” you with the first half of the Prologue to my soon-to-be published book. I’m hoping it will entice you to want to read more. All good stories have a strong hook–read the following and let me know if I’ve managed to tease you for more! If so, you’ll have to wait another week to read the rest.

Prologue

June 1979

With a nervous exhale I opened the heavy door.  The clock tower struck one, two…fading away as the door closed behind me.  The foyer was dark and smelled of centuries-old stories, never to be told.  A hush followed each group of well-meaning guests as they entered the sanctuary.  I was next.  My hands were clammy; I felt nauseous.  I wasn’t ready to see…her, not in this way.  My eyes were darting back and forth, desperately searching for something when I saw it; right in the middle of the large oak table was a gift wrapped in lavender and lace.  As my eyes adjusted, I noticed my name scribbled on the card; who on earth? I couldn’t believe…

“Miss?” The usher interrupted my questions with his extended arm.  I supposed it was his job to escort me to where the rest of the family were seated.

My knees threatened to buckle under me as we started down the aisle.  How often I had come to this church with Big Mama.  She was a founding member and loved it dearly.  And if she had anything to say about it, I would love it too.

As I passed one pew I expected to see Mr. Pemberton stand and greet me with a butterscotch candy from his white suit pocket.  He always sat in the back, but not today; Mr. Pemberton was long gone, and now Big Mama was too–nothing would be the same.

“Greetings, friends! On behalf of the family of Grace Stella Oswalt, I would like to say thank you for coming to show your respects to such a God-fearing woman.”

I made it to the family pew just in time.  Sniffles sounded in unison as I held my breath trying not to join in.  I knew if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop.  Mama knowingly slipped a handkerchief in my hand as the preacher continued.

“Grace, wife of the late William Marion Oswalt, was the mother of six but is survived only by her daughter, Claire; nine grandchildren and many, many great-grandchildren…”

Six children? I didn’t know Big Mama had six children.  I knew my Uncle Vic and Aunt Ruby.  What happened to the others?

“Please stand as we sing Grace’s favorite hymn on page 56 of your hymnals.”

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound…

What else didn’t I know? For a moment I felt a deep sadness for the stories that would be buried with her.

…I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.

It was true.  Big Mama loved this hymn.  When I was little she would often play it on her piano as I sat next to her on the bench.  Her voice would crack, and I would sing off key, but the words never lost their meaning for her.  When we got to the third verse, she always seemed caught up in another world.

…through many dangers toils and snares.  I have already come.  Twas grace hath brought me safe thus far.  And grace twill lead me home.

Glancing at my watch, I hoped it was almost over.

“The family would like to invite you to join them graveside following this service, and then for dinner in the church social hall,” the pastor announced.

What? Another service and dinner, too? I hadn’t been to many funerals in my nineteen years, and this was the first in our family.  It was as painful as I feared it would be.

My Mom knew what I was thinking without a word.  Heaviness pressed against me; the back door offered my first chance to escape.  I jumped to my feet ready to be the first one out the back, but a tall, sliver of a man appeared.  I was unaware of the tradition–family is always escorted out separately.  He said nothing, only pointed with his opened palm towards the side door.  I had missed my chance and silently followed Mama to a waiting limousine.

 

Officially Yours

It has been mine for the past 25 years. Ten  years ago I began the process of making it yours, and in the Fall of 2012 it will be official – officially yours that is.

I have prayed, cried, and labored over this project. I have gone from being a novice writer to a full-time writer of a blog, our neighborhood newsletter, and my own journals. The project of which I speak is my first novel titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace, and is based on the life of my grandmother. The story takes place in Oklahoma just after the turn of the 20th century. Oklahoma was called Indian Territory then, and is still home to hundreds of Native Americans today. I didn’t know her story until after she died when I was 19. I was her youngest grandchild, and how I wished I could have heard these stories from her first-hand. What lessons I could have learned from her, but at 19 I was too young to appreciate the value of asking good questions.

My Mom was her youngest daughter. Of my grandmother’s six children she outlived all of them except for her. My hope is that her story will compel you to ask good questions of your own parents and/or grandparents. My Mom says that every time someone dies a library of information is buried with them. Sadly, this is true. Unless we ask and remember their stories will be gone in one or two generations. What a gift to know those stories and pass them onto your children and grandchildren.

I’ve provided at the back of the book a list of great questions to help you get started in discovering your own family history. We all have a story, but we may not know all the details. My prayer is that you will not only enjoy reading my book, but that you will find yourself drawn to talk to loved ones about it.

Through The Eyes Of Grace is my gift to you.

If you are interested in reserving a copy of my book, simply sign up to receive my blog posts by e-mail (see right column). This will guarantee you’ll be one of the firsts to hear of it’s release. 

Blessings to you and yours,

Debi