When A Blog Goes Silent…

…it doesn’t mean I’m not mulling over in my heart and mind what to post next. It just means life has gotten the best of me, which is a good thing.

A silent blog means:

  • I have a life outside of writing about it.
  • There are friends I need to call
  • There are funerals I must attend
  • There are church meetings to help grow my faith
  • There are floors to clean
  • There is laundry to wash
  • There are quiet times to enjoy
  • There are grandchildren to play with
  • There are vacations to plan
  • And walking routes to pursue
  • And most of all–a husband to spend time with

I love writing. It isn’t an effort to do so. But I can easily get caught up with my blogging life to the neglect of my highest priorities. And family is high on my list.

Since I last posted on May 21st this is what has happened:

  • My youngest daughter turned 27
  • We bought and renovated a cabin in Banner Elk, NC. See Barefoot Cabin.
  • We had our first family vacation there
  • Three dear friends passed from this life to their eternal home
  • One friend got married to the love of her life
  • Attended the baby shower for my niece who is expecting her third child, first boy.
  • Went with my daughter-in-love to her 4D sonogram appt. where I got to see my 6th grandchild’s little face for the first time. He is due in September.
  • Had appointments with our attorney to help with my late-mother’s property.

My list could go on and on, and I’m sure you have a similar one. Life is full. Life is good. And everyday stories are being written that would help others know us better if we could but record them somehow. This is my passion. I love hearing stories that teach a lesson. Do you have one you could share? Or maybe a story you want to make sure your children and grandchildren know? I would love to hear it! This is why I began the tab at the top titled, Share Your Story. Won’t you consider taking some time to write it out. Then once it’s published you can share the link with your family and friends who may not have heard it yet. I hope you’ll consider it.

My next post will be such a story inspired by the questionnaire found at the back of my book.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ve missed you.

♥ Debi

A Simple Way To Discover Your Passion

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As most of you know, I entered both of my blogs (The Romantic Vineyard) in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I was crazy to think I could keep up with it, especially since we were away for two weeks smack in the middle of April. But I did manage 22 posts on this blog! 22!!! That’s quite a feat when you consider I’ve only had a total of 45 posts since August of last year. I’ve doubled in a month what has taken me 7 months to write previously. I also posted 26 on TRV for a total of 48 posts in one month. So I’m extremely happy. 🙂

But what I’m happiest about is those who have joined my author blog as a result. I feel as though I’ve received an Oscar and I have a list of thank you’s:

  • Thank you for stopping by.
  • Thank you for signing up to receive my posts via e-mail.
  • Thank you for buying and reading my book.
  • Thank you for caring to learn more about your own family history.
  • And thank you for helping me find my author blog voice and direction, a new experience for me.

Through it all I’ve discovered a new passion I didn’t realize had been born in my heart. It’s to help others discover the stories in their family history and to share what they’ve learned with me and their extended family.

I’ve heard it said that if you want to know what you’re passionate about, ask your children.

Would what they perceive match your answer? One dad I know said his children answered, “You’re cholesterol.” Ha! He didn’t realize how often he read the labels on everything he ate, and how much he talked about how high his levels were. I don’t think he would have ever said he was passionate about it, but he was. Anything that receives our daily attention is most likely an indicator of a passion. Simply put…we do the things we want to do and tend to put off the things we don’t.

This leads me to my next question for you to ask an older member of your family–or to answer and share with your own grandchildren.

Question #22

What are you most passionate about now? How about when you were younger? Has it changed? If so, why?

Whole Latta Fun

latta plantation

We spent the day today touring an old southern plantation in Charlotte, N.C. — The Latta Plantation, to be specific. It wasn’t all that impressive by today’s standards, but in the early 1800’s it was quite the spread. We saw an old covered wagon, a chicken coop, a few horses, a mule and donkey, a couple of pigs, the kitchen and well-house and of course, the main house. I loved walking through imagining what life was like for them then. Probably the worst part for me would have been wearing those long skirts and long-sleeves with no air-conditioning. Yeah, I’m spoiled.

So much of what they did on a farm was to sustain life. They had to grow their own food or they would die. They had to care for their animals or they wouldn’t have milk, eggs or fresh meat. It was a hard life without the many conveniences we take for granted. You would think with all the extra time we have that our quality of life would be so much better. But it isn’t. Somehow I think we are more distracted which prevents us from focusing on the things of most importance.

Question #12 – Do you know what your grandparent’s did for a living? Did they farm their own land? Or did they live in the city?

My grandfather was a citrus farmer. He had 32 acres of groves here in Florida, and they were still a part of our family until the freezes of the early 80’s wiped them out. That was a sad time in our family. My parents replanted one grove, but even that one only lasted a couple of decades. The land became too valuable to keep as farm land. My Mom sold it to a developer in the family. 😦 Sadly, there aren’t any groves left for us to go tour like we did today. I can’t take my grandchildren to the family homestead in order for them to see what life was like for their great-great-grandparents. All they can have is the stories I share, which is why knowing it and telling it often is so important.

How are you doing with the questions each day? Are you making the time to ask someone in your family? What things have you discovered? I would love to hear…

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This is post #13 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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What Weddings, Funerals and Reunions Have In Common

Photo Credit: qcveterans.com

Photo Credit: qcveterans.com

A reader posted yesterday about how she discovered more about her family’s history at her uncle’s recent funeral than she ever had before. It’s sad in a way to think we don’t talk about such things until there’s a death. In fact, this is the opening scene of my book, Through The Eyes Of Grace. At my grandmother’s funeral I am given a beautifully wrapped gift. I want to put off opening it until later, but my Mom insists on me opening it now. Here’s a portion of it:

As I plopped into the black leather seat I felt something crunch underneath me.  It was the gift I had seen on the table!  This was all I needed to deal with now.  I tossed it aside no longer 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.  It may be the giver will 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 have learned it’s best to do what she says.  Picking up the gift I slowly rip the paper away revealing a stained wooden box that smelled much like the old church we had just left.  Lifting the lid I discovered the source of the scent – 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 only to discover it was in Big Mama’s handwriting.  The brief excitement drained from my fingertips as if the dead were calling my name.

“M-Mama, you read it.”

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 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.

Older family members tend to talk more at reunions and weddings as well. So it’s not just during the saddest of times, it’s more at the pivotal times when family is elevated and given the prominence it deserves. Many young people roll their eyes when they think of going to a family gathering, especially if there’s going to be old people there who only remember them when they were knee high.
We had our first family reunion of distant cousins a few years ago here in Orlando. People traveled from all over the country, but the majority flew in from Oklahoma. My Mom had the time of her life. At 87 she was the oldest living family member there, and everyone had questions to ask her. We made a huge family tree on the wall of our meeting room and asked those attending to bring pictures in order to tape it next to their name. This helped us realize how far reaching our roots have spread in the past century. I also happened upon a conversation starter called Table Topics for Family Gatherings. This ended up being my favorite part of the entire weekend, because people told stories we had never heard before–and we laughed. We laughed until we thought our sides would split.
May I encourage you, if you have the privilege of being invited to a family reunion this year, instead of being the one to roll the eyes, why not look at it as a great adventure where you’re setting out to discover things you don’t know about your family. And then, come back  here and let us know what you’ve learned. A story become more permanently fixed in your mind when you’ve repeated it to someone else.
We all have a story, we just might not know it yet!

Questions #11 – Have you ever been to a family reunion? What was it like, who was there, and what stories did you learn?

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This is post #11 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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A Slice Of [Mom’s] Life

Photo Credit: www.bbc.co.uk

Photo Credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk

Today I want to share with you an article I wrote for our neighborhood newsletter in August of 2004 about a very special day. 

My Mom and I love going out to lunch together. We have done this almost every week since I got married over 25 years ago. One particular week she picked where we were to go, but first she wanted us to stop by an old friend’s house. Her name was Mary. She explained that Mary was a writer and knowing my desire to one day write a book about the life of my grandmother, she wanted us to meet. I was happy to go, but not sure about meeting her friend. Sometimes arranged meetings such as this don’t go over the way intended. I had no idea what was about to happen.

My Mom grew up in Clermont, a bedroom community to the west of Orlando, where everyone knows everyone else. Even though this town is changing rapidly, somehow Mary’s house had avoided any change. As we pulled into her dirt driveway, I felt as though I was leaving the year 2004 behind. Suddenly, I found myself entering a strange new, but old world–my mother’s childhood. Mary met us at her squeaky screen door, which led us from her clapboard porch to a dimly lit paneled living room. There her husband stood, cane in hand, with a smile large enough to make any stranger feel like family. His handshake indicated confidence. I liked them both immediately.

Mary quickly led us up the wooden stairs to her office. As we sat among her treasures, books from every subject, age and size, I felt as if I was sitting inside her personal journal. In this room was Mary’s life, and she had gladly opened up her volumes to share with me her love for writing. I was deeply affected.

As I listened to two old friends reminisce, I realized that I was privileged to see my mom from a completely different perspective. Here sat, not my mom, but a little girl and her best friend talking of how they used to play in this very room. Mom mentioned how she would always run to this room first, because she loved the packed toy chest that used to sit below the window where Mary’s computer was now located. Her face revealed the joy this moment was bringing to her. Hearing them talk, I could actually see them in their childhood finding pleasure in the simple things of life. I was reminded of how quickly time passes. As they spoke of their lives 75 years ago, it was as if only days had passed, not decades.

I’m so glad I had this moment to glimpse into the past, for this is the stuff of which books are made. Mary helped me in my quest for capturing my grandmother’s story more than she’ll ever know; she introduced me to her youngest daughter, my mom.

Moments like these are rarely planned. They usually happen upon us when we least expect them, and we fail to remember all we heard because we weren’t giving the moment our full attention. I can remember this day with my mom as if it were yesterday. I never saw Mary and her husband again, so I am all the more grateful to God for giving me this time for Mom to show me a very special slice of her life.

This leads to our next question to ask an older member of your family:

Question #8 – Who was your closest childhood friend and what did you enjoy doing together?

Note: My mom’s friend is a famous writer of children’s books. Her name is Mary Rose Pearson, and you can check out her books HERE.

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This is post #8 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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Children Are A Gift From God

Photo Credit: Denise Janz Photography

Do you believe this truth from the Bible?

I certainly do. And I know my family has had a rich heritage of welcoming babies into this world. Some babies left this world way too soon dying from infant illnesses back in the early 1900’s. But many more lived long and fruitful lives.

This brings us to today’s Question #7:

How many brothers and sisters did your grandparents and/or parents have?

I have wonderful news! Our family is growing…we found out on Friday that our son and his wife, who are expecting in September, are having a son! Our son is having a son, and the Walter name will live on! We are doing the happy dance around here, and thank God for this unexpected gift. You see they have two beautiful daughters, and we expected a third for some reason. But after a sonogram where the little guy was showing off his stuff, there is no doubt that Bristol and Willow will soon have a baby brother to love and hold. 🙂

When was the last time you received an unexpected blessing?

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This is post #7 in the challenge to post everyday in April.

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Tell It To Your Children and Your Children’s Children

Photo Credit: Pam, The Nomad blog

Photo Credit: Pam, The Nomad blog

A hundred years ago, before radio or television was invented, families sat around after dinner telling stories from their experiences. My Mom knew much of her family history simply by listening to the stories over and over again as told by her parents and grandparents. What a great way to tell their children and grand-children about life and what they had learned along the way.

But families don’t do this so much anymore. Of course, there are those who are intentional and do this on a regular basis (click the picture above to hear about one family who is intentional). But to those who are more comfortable clicking the “on” button on the remote than you are waiting in the silence while someone thinks how to answer a question, please give this month’s challenge a try. You never know what treasures of history are waiting to be discovered and how it might affect you. And most likely you will laugh when you hear the stories told in a way that makes it unforgettable.

Why is it that when we look back to when we were younger the days seemed better and life seemed easier? But was it really? Or are we simply choosing to remember the parts we liked or the parts we can make sense of? One thing is certain, we can learn from our past as well as the past of those who have gone before us. Most are willing to talk about it because the time and distance has made the story easier to discuss. This brings us to our next question that I would like to hear how you would answer this question, as well as encourage you to ask someone in your family whom you don’t already know the answer they would give.

Question #5

What did you love most about where you grew up? 

 

“Generations pass like leaves fall from our family tree. Each season new life blossoms and grows benefiting from the strength and experience of those who went before.”

Author: Heidi Swapp

 

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I am taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.
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What Makes A Family Heirloom Special?

Photo Credit: Star Shine Chic blog

Photo Credit: Star Shine Chic blog

I believe the answer to this question is simple–What makes a family heirloom special is the story that goes with it. Now some may say it’s the value of the piece, and that’s true, I suppose. But I’ve found that the items I’ve been given are much more meaningful to me if I know the story behind them.

Question #2

What is the oldest family heirloom you own, and what is the story behind it?

My Mom passed away in December, and we have spent most of this year cleaning out her home and sorting through her stuff. We found things we didn’t know she had, special things, beautiful things, but without a story behind them–they are just things. However, a few of her older items had little notes attached to them letting us know a bit of where it came from and to whom it belonged.

The oldest item also happens to be my favorite.

Cup 2

It’s a little  porcelain tea cup that has a red stamp on the bottom stating it was made in Germany. I know it went through the fire at my grandparents home back in the early sixties because the outside is speckled as if the smoke was glazed into the cup. But what makes this cup so special is the information written on the label my Mom placed on the inside.

It says, ” Sarah Kirwin gave to daughter, Grace Oswalt, when 12 years old.”

Cup 1

That means this cup was made around 1900, which means it is the oldest thing I own. Grace Stella turned twelve in March of 1901. I found one like it on an Antique Appraisers website. They’re selling one without the smoke marks for only $7.50, but this tea cup is priceless to me!

“The measure of a woman’s character is not what she gets from her ancestors,

but what she leaves her descendants.”

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We are taking part in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.
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We’ve Always Done It That Way

I was visiting my mom today. 🙂 We were talking about strange traditions, and I remembered a story I once heard. It went something like this:

One day a Mother was showing her daughter how to make roast beef. As she prepared the meat she cut it in half and placed it in the roasting pan. The daughter asked her why she cut the roast in half, to which she replied, “I don’t know. This is how my Mama did it.”

The next day the daughter asked her grandmother why she cut her roasts in half before cooking them, to which she replied, “I don’t know. This is how my Mama did it.”

The following day the daughter visited her great-grandmother who was living in a nursing home. She curiously asked why she used to cut her roasts in half before cooking it, to which her great-grandmother replied, “Oh, land sakes, it was because my wood stove was too small for the roast to fit whole. I had to cut it in half to have have enough to feed the family.”

My Mom laughed out loud when I told her this story. How many times are traditions created out of necessity? What starts out as a need quickly becomes a preference handed down from generation to generation.

Do you have any traditions that seem strange to you? Have you ever asked how they originated? You may be surprised to hear the story. You never know until you A.S.K.

Mimeograph Memories

I am so close to publishing my book I can smell the ink on the page. I remember as a child loving the smell of mimeograph work sheets at my elementary school. It’s sad to think children today will never know what I’m talking about. This leads me to the reason I’ve written my grandmother’s story. For as long as I can remember, my mom has shared much of it with me, with all of our family. By God’s grace I’ve finally captured it in written form and will soon be able to share it with you.

My mom is a great historian. She has worked tirelessly for years on our family genealogy.  In fact, she’s currently working on the timeline for the sequel to Through The Eyes Of Grace. She is an amazing inspiration to me, and one of the main reasons I’ve been compelled to share this story with you. If it weren’t for her I would have nothing to share. Like the forgotten smell of ink on white paper.

What stories are in your family of which you’ve yet to hear? It is your story and deserves to be handed down to the next generation. Do you have someone in your family like my mom? Someone who is documenting your amazing history? If not, let my book help you become your family’s historian. I’ve provided a Family Questionnaire at the back of the book to help you ask good questions of your elders before it’s too late.

Here are a few of the over 50 questions provided:

  • What is your earliest memory?
  • Where did you grow up? Did you have a house? An Apartment?
  • What kinds of toys did you like to play with?
  • What do you remember most about your family’s traditions?
  • How did your parents meet?