General Writing · Journeys · storytelling · Time management · writing · Writing and Family

Writing, But Not What I Expected

I did not expect to fall in love with ancestral writing.  This type of prose differs from memoir but has many of the same elements- a snapshot of the ancestor’s life with an inciting event that leads to a conclusion. The beginning and ending are linked with a unique phrase or concept. However, whereas memoirs are generally book-length, ancestral pieces are generally shorter. 

Ancestral stories are intentionally void of non-fiction. You can certainly add impressions of what could have happened or elements of your own introspection, but it must be clear what is fact and what is not. 

So far, I have written about my paternal second great-grandmother who helped establish Cordell, Oklahoma, a paternal second great-grandfather who was a prominent farmer in Oklahoma, and great-grandmothers on both sides of the family who died young from disease and forever changed the lives of their infant sons. I continue writing these family stories and sharing them with my ancestral writing group created by our local genealogical society.  I have some exciting characters in my blood family!

That said, I have not accomplished much lately with writing fiction.  Now, being on a two-week staycation from my paralegal work, my goal is to redistribute my schedule so that I can do some serious writing each day.  I will not be picking up old unfinished work, some of which might not ever see the light of day.

I have decided a new beginning is what I need now.    

Today, I started working on a new novel using an idea that I have been chewing on over the last few days. 

A novel with a catchy title and twists and turns in the prose.  Unusual elements become characters in least expected ways.

A thriller with elements of my life of living at a lake—real life events slathered with embellishment to push readers to the edge of wherever they happen to be.    

Like I said, I love ancestral writing, but I have also missed writing fiction. 

Carry on, keep writing.    


The Mystery of My Great-Grandfather

For years I have been delving into genealogy, especially after my maternal Grandmother, Hazel, died and I was gifted with a box of her research that none of the family wanted or understood. The box was large and heavy with binders, notes, photographs, and treasures that made my heart sing and set me on my journey toward researching my maternal family lines. Sometime later, I was also gifted with two volumes of rich well-written stories of my grandparents’ lives during the early 1900s, as told to one of my aunts. The truth is, I always knew more about my maternal side than my paternal, but I had a mystery to solve.

Grandma Hazel was the family historian for many years but she was never able to find information regarding Grandpa Marty’s mother who died when he was three years old. In those days, before the internet made family research commonplace, it was difficult to get your hands on essential documents unless you made a trip to the building where the information was stored, or you wrote letters and waited for weeks for a response. In the quest to find my great-grandmother, I easily picked up where Grandma left off.

Grandpa’s mother’s name was Johanna “Hannah” Buetow Bauman. For hours each weekend, I worked on Ancestry dot com looking for information to piece Hannah’s young life together. After digging, I found a census record showing that she lived in Minnesota in the late 1800s until her death. After I pinned down a city and details about her father. I finally found some online newspapers that led me to both her and her father’s obituary! However, I was not able to access the information due to a paywall that I could not afford. As I was about to give up, I contacted the appropriate newspaper to see how I could get the two obituaries for less than a subscription price. By providing details that I already knew from family stories and from my own research, I was offered the obituaries via email at no charge!

So, here is the story of my great-grandmother Hannah Buetow who passed away in 1919 at 27 years years young, leaving behind four children ranging in age from six down to two years old. Grandpa Marty was three years old when Hannah died, and his heart never forgot her.

The headline in the newspaper reads in big bold capital letters: MOTHER OF FOUR DEAD.

The subtitle reads: Sad Death of Mrs. Hannah Buetow Bauman in Itasca County – HERE FOR BURIAL – Two Weeks Earlier she Accompanied Family to New Home.

The obituary tells the story of a young mother with hour children who followed her husband to a small claim he held in the wilderness of Itasca County, 20 or so miles from Deer River. He had gone ahead to get the house everything ready for the family, and two weeks after Johanna and the children- Alvin, Harold, Martin, and Elise- arrived she was dead with Diphtheria. With the plethora of obituary details, I was able to strengthen Hannah’s branch to my family tree, and I was able to see what type of person she was- kind, caring, and very loving.

This type of experience is what I love most about genealogy; searching for detailed information about ancestors so that I may get an idea of what type of person they were, what they cared about, and how they went about their daily lives. I

Next time, I hope to share the story of my paternal great-grandfather who died very young. In the meantime, fruitful searching and happy writing!


Pandemic- What Happened?

It’s been two years since I’ve written on my blog, simply because I did not make myself sit down and write. Oh, I tried, I swear I did!  I occasionally put my butt in the chair, but I could not make the words come. I thought about writing but could not make the words come because they chose to stay in some dark place, stagnant, without a journey.  Instead, I chose art as a mode of expression.  I took art classes and learned how to channel whatever was going on inside of me onto paper and canvas.  

That was before fact-based science and ridiculous conspiracy theories splintered the world, then shattered it, while a pandemic pushed us into a state of emergency.  Some of us—yes, me too—listened to the science and sheltered in place.  I delved more into my art.  I became depressed and worried.  I participated in National Novel Writing Month and got about 15,000 words of a story written.  I created more art but my well of words seemed to run dry more often than not.

The truth is, I can’t figure out what happened during this whole pandemic. I am lucky to have been  working from home since mid-2017, so the pandemic did not change my physical life much, except I could not longer go to the gym or sit at the local coffee shop and chat with friends on my lunch break.  I was also blessed to have my husband during the pandemic, not to be alone like so many other people were.

The pandemic also showed me a whole viewpoint that I was not aware of before. I found myself intolerant of people who touted conspiracy theories about the pandemic, or politicized or religicized (yes, I know this is not a real word) Covid, or simply chose not to follow health guidelines.  Now, in my own community, I have no interest in those businesses that did not respect others during the pandemic by wearing masks and following health guidelines.  I felt like I was ultra-focused on what was going on in the world instead of the stuff that I wanted to get done in my own life.

Now that things are starting to return to normal, I’m feeling more motivated to write. I recently continued working on a short story and I have been researching magazines to send my already completed stories to. I have opened a “shelved” novel and considered the ways that I can revise it or utilized parts that can go into another story.  I have actually starting put in the work required to be a writer.

The pandemic has brought to light that my belief has been that motivation is a motivator when it’s really just an excuse not to sit down and write. For me, motivation is another word for procrastination or laziness, or not taking the time to work on my stories but adding hours of guilt for making that choice. 

So, this is it—to be a writer I must write. I must take action  It might just be working on this blog today, but tomorrow it can be working on my current short story.  And the next day I might not write anything at all, or I might revise my novel. 

Words on paper equal writing. 

Writing is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent sitting down and writing.  Like I have done now. 


So Far, So Good

In September 2017 I moved from my condominium in the city (Santa Rosa is, at least to me, a city, since the county I now live in is smaller than Santa Rosa) to the rural community of Lake County, California. I moved to Clear Lake Park, a tiny community about a ten-minute walk to the actual lake of Clear Lake, the only natural lake (not made made) in California. As I settled in with the love of my life, I prepared my condominium for rent. The people came and applied, but background checks proved that I would not be renting to any of them.

Then, the devastating Tubbs fire happened, then the Sulphur Fire that was back door to where I had moved. We were evacuated from our house for about five days, and the area where condo is was evacuated for almost two weeks. Finally, when I was able to get back in to have an open house, desperate people came in droves looking for a rental. After all was said and done, I rented to a wonderful family who had lost their home in Coffey Park, Santa Rosa. It took them a year and a half to rebuild, and now they are safely back home, and my condo is up for rental again with the imprint of the good memories they left behind.

So, having advertised an open house, I waited for those potential renters to come running up the stairs. I advertised enough so that people from far and wide would know that my darling place I had lived in for 12 years was available. I emailed all the prospective tenants who had contacted me and let them know about the open house. I had been at the condo for over an hour when only one family showed up. Then another lady came with her smile, questions, and measuring tape. She took notes and filled out an application.

To be honest, I had anticipated the lull because the market is not as in demand anymore. After the fires, people relocated elsewhere, or they are still renting, waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.

So, I think today’s experience might be the Universe’s way of telling me it’s time for change- to release my 12-year past in my charming condo and move on. To let go this part of me, this house with good energy and history embedded in its’ fabric, to allow others to come and fill the rooms with their own joyous memories.

So far, so good. I am a true believer that my past has brought me to the place I am today. My past does not dictate who I am, but it has helped shape me into the self-sufficient and confident woman that my mother raised me to be.

Mom told me to get an education, find a career, and learn how to support myself. I did.

She told me to create my own life outside of a man. I did.

She told me not to marry the first man who came along. I did not, but I had a short union with the second man out of desperation and feeling like I was a late bloomer beside women my age.

I asked my mother why she wanted those things for me, and she said it was because she did not want me to be like her.

My mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had a heart of gold and loved my brothers and me fiercely and was always there for us to the best of her ability. But, she was also raised in a time when she could not experience the things she wanted for me- so, I have been sharing this journey with her.

My mother passed away from cancer long before seeing the mistakes I made along the way and the life I have today, but I am sure she is smiling down on me now- no, she is beaming as I embark on this journey, with four months closer to marrying my best friend, the love of my life.

In fact, she would love him.

She would say… far, so good.




Years end is about reflection and the New Year about welcoming. There is no more self-scolding about what I could have done, and no more resolutions about what I will do. There are only possibilities arising from what has been and what can be, life-enriching snippets that bring me into the present.

The Ghost of Should’ve Done Past

I have always beat myself up for not writing more, especially as December progresses toward the first day of January. I tell myself nasty lies that elicit guilt for not doing.  I would be a successful author today if I had finished writing that novel instead of allowing 365 days of dust to gather on my hard drive, or invited those characters invading my head-space to a robust life on the pages of a short story.  Oh, if only I had queried that article on world views in a small community, I would now be a big-name journalist.

If only, if only is such a self-debilitating disease, along with should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.

Yes, I scold myself for neglecting the things that I was not ready to do and create more excuses for me to wallow in self-pity and guilt.  After all, if I had been ready to finish that novel or write that short story, they would be done by now. 

This ghost wants me to show me all my failures in a light where nothing outside of what I should’ve done looks good.

The Ghost of Resolutions Future

Each year I make resolutions to get stuff done. I make a pact with myself to finish that novel this year that I did not complete last year, to write more short stories, to start being this and stop being that, to start doing this and stop doing that, and to become an all-around better person.

Yes, I resolve in the New Year to become a different person, so much so that not even I might recognize myself!

Well, the truth is that resolutions are just mumbo-jumbo derived from the guilt of letting another year go by without working on the projects that burn in my soul but somehow never get done. Resolutions are a by-product of disappointment over my character traits that lead me down roads that are not healthy for me, so I tell myself that it’s time to start taking a different road. To make a long story short, the ghost of resolutions future wants to lead me into the land of unrealistic expectations.  

The Angel of Perfect Present

Now that I am in present-day 2019, I can clearly see how I have set myself up for failure by allowing the Ghost of Should’ve Done Past and the Ghost of Resolutions Future to rule my life.  There is no power in beating myself for what I have not done or in making that wicked list of resolutions.

The Angel of Perfect Present has clearly shown me that resolutions have no solid foundations, therefore making them pre-meditated disappointments.

The Angel of Perfect Present teaches me that everything I do must be in the moment, in the here and now.  If I am truly serious about picking up old projects or starting new ones, I must take the first step, and followed by a second step, and continue taking those steps down that winding path with plenty of forks in the road until I arrive at my desired destination.

Now, destination does not always mean a completed project, but perhaps the building of smaller parts of a puzzle until the picture is complete.  This can take an hour, a week, sometimes a year or more.  In fact, it takes however long it takes! 

In the past I have limited resolutions to fiction writing, all the while beating myself up for not getting those words on paper.  Berating myself for not realizing how my characters and what they want.  It’s all this negativity that I have allowed to stand in my way of realizing my accomplishments.

In fact, if I take a good hard look at my life’s panorama, I write just about every single day in my work as a paralegal.  A big part of that life is taking facts of cases and putting them into…what?  A factual story, which in the writing world is called non-fiction. While I love to write about cases, I admit I am motivated by that paycheck twice a month, and the accolades I receive when I do a good job. 

So, now I’m back to the fact that I would love to complete my novel as well as write more short stories.  Well, this requires me to come up with a plan, or a commitment to write so many words or spend a half-hour or an hour working on my novel. I even have the option to commit myself to writing two or three times a week, or every other day, whatever works for me. The point being, until I take that first action step (which I have not), this wanting, if you will, is nothing but a resolution either being tossed around or waiting to be executed into a solid plan.

Maybe instead of ending this article by saying, “Yep, that’s it, the plan is in place,” perhaps I will make a commitment to write on my blog next Saturday.  If I put something on my calendar, I am committed.   So, there……I have entered my next blog to be written on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at 8 a.m. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be. 

Remember, no more resolutions, just commitments.