Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Ireland…home of fairies and long lost birth-ancestors!

January 10th, 2014

I can’t say why I’ve always been drawn to the country of Ireland. I chose it as the setting for my second novel, Chasing Eternity, without really knowing why. Often in my writing, things like plot lines, character traits, and settings choose themselves, regardless of my best intentions. I usually just roll with it, knowing that my subconscious is where my true intellect resides. Those islands off the western coast of Ireland seemed the perfect spot for my very, very, very elderly characters: remote, entrenched in the old, Gaelic culture, removed from the whims and niceties of modern society. I did a ton of research on those islands…the Aran Islands, Inishbofin, the Blasket Islands.

I never traveled there, although I really wanted to, mostly because I believed that an author needs to truly know an area if she’s chosen it as a setting. But alas, life with a family has a way of rendering international travel a Santa-list wish, so I contented myself with the internet and books…besides, those islands had become almost fictional in my mind. Craggy, foggy, lonely, magical, pure of soul. Actually setting foot on one of those islands seemed outlandish, like stepping back in time or into the pages of a book.

If you’ve been following my adoption journey, you’ll know that I’ve recently connected with my birth mother, Lori. It has been a life-altering, heart-warming experience for me. Since our face-to-face visit (with her awesome sister Darla!) last March, I’ve been toeing into the waters of a family and heritage I didn’t know I had. I’ve been exchanging letters and photos with my birth grandmother, Winona, a stunningly pretty almost-90-year-old living in Indiana! Lori also helped me to connect with my birth father’s sister, but unfortunately their family hasn’t communicated with him a very long time and no one knows where he is. He is a Vietnam veteran, and it sounds like the war did a number on him, post-combat. This is in fact a primary reason he and Lori chose to put me up for adoption, and soon afterward, divorce.

But I am now a Facebook friend to his sister, another lovely birth-aunt. She has given me some much-appreciated information about their family’s heritage and medical background. For instance, (drum roll please) my ancestors were very much IRISH! I just knew it. You only have to look at my blue-eyed, red-haired, freckly son Dorsey to see that there must be some luck-of-the-Irish in the blood, and now we know. In fact, my birth great-great-grandmother was from County Clare, Ireland, on the west coast, and married a fellow Irishman, a man whose last name (the same last name I would have had had I not been adopted) now adorns many spots in his Ireland hometown, not the least of which is a book shop. Now my husband and I are in the process of planning a trip to Ireland with the kids for the summer, completing a large and stretchy circle that began back in the 19th century. Isn’t it amazing how life really can be as magical as an Irish fairy tale?

Happy Thanksgiving: An Ode to my Brain

November 23rd, 2011

Lately, I’ve begun to question my very own brain. It’s always been a mystery, all body-guarded up in skull and fluids and pulsing with its own dark, Frankensteinian life. I don’t usually give my brain too much thought (ba-dum-dum)…but lately it seems that my brain is using its hidden, protected qualities to its advantage, misbehaving and causing conflicts, knowing that there is no one around to tell it what to do. I deal with this kind of boundary-testing behavior all the time with my children, but with my brain?? Come on.

My son told me that his science teacher has a term that he applies to the student behavior of talking too much during class: “diarrhea of the mouth.” This is a common enough term, but I kind of questioned it being used so flippantly in school, and by a teacher no less. Diarrhea is an ugly word, no doubt about it.

But it got me to thinking: I believe I  have “diarrhea of the brain.” (Bear with me here.)  Picture my brain, randomly crapping bits of information here, other bits there, with no regard for symmetry and solidity of thought. It’s noisy and smelly and turns even my husband off. But I can’t help it. I’m afflicted, and the only known cure is at a yoga/mediatation retreat in the mountains, all by myself, preferably on a lake or a river.

As a writer and wife and daughter and sister and friend and border collie-owner and mother of three (ranging in age from 11 to 1), I constantly feel like I’m firing (or rather misfiring) off thoughts, all disconnected and random. I feel like the hub in the center of a bouncing and crashing mountain bike tire, the spokes my many duties and obligations, barely holding onto the dirty tire of my life.

My chaotic mode of thinking intensifies around the holidays, I’ve found. In addition to the normal day-to-day thinking I have to do, I also have to think about special food preparation, gift-buying, decorating, wrapping.  And not to mention the fact that my immediate family has THREE birthdays in the month of December. No wonder my brain can’t keep up. It’s insanity, but I call it reality. Brains really do have a lot to do. So I started feeling sorry for my brain a little, with all of the demands I put on it. It’s trying its best, and these are hard times after all.

My father suffers from a Parkinson’s-like affliction called Lewy Body Dementia. Symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s, but are heavier on the dementia. He can’t speak coherently, and he has gotten to the point that he doesn’t recognize me or my sister any more, a very painful conclusion to a long, drawn-out loss of memory and body function. I try to visit him once a week, but it’s difficult for  me and hard on my children and husband. His brain was once firing on all cylinders–he owned a company, raised a family with my mother, worked in the yard and on the house all the time. He was part of the “greatest generation.” He has lived a successful life. But his brain failed him in the end, greatness be damned. 

Brains are actually fragile, I’ve come to see. They are our own biological computers, and we all know how much we love and adore our computers! We must be thankful for our brains, for all that they do. I mean, just a few primitive invertebrates don’t have them– sponges, jellyfish, and starfish are cool, but pathetically brainless. This Thanksgiving, I plan to appreciate my brain by writing something that’s never been written before, by taking mental pictures of all of my loved ones and storing them in my mind for future use, by telling my loved ones how much I love them and appreciate them for all that they bring to my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, brain! I’d kiss you, if you weren’t so hard to get to.