Stepping Stones Blog

Sunday Salon: August 24, 2014

After taking an unintentional blogging break, I think I am ready to try this again – slowly and more balanced this time around.

Without realizing it, I jumped from a teaching career to a blogging “job”, which was not the reason why I retired.  I retired because I was burned out and needed to rediscover joy in life.  I retired because I identify myself solely by what I do rather than who I am… and I know this needs to change.

But apparently old habits die hard; I still focus too much on productivity – putting emphasis on self-imposed deadlines and setting up unrealistic expectations.   This kind of life transformation is a process, and I am still on the journey.  Thank you for your patience as I continue to follow the path.

then againReading:  I am still reading books that I think will help me achieve my writing goals (see… old habits really are difficult to change) … but I am trying to vary the subject matter.  I am currently reading:

  • The Memoir Project by Marion Roach.  This is actually a re-read for me as suggested by my writing coach.  I have done some preliminary work on my memoir, and I feel the content from this fabulous little volume will show me the next steps to take.
  • Then Again by Diane Keaton.  This celebrity memoir is often recommended, and I wanted to read a book in the genre that was not too depressing.  She weaves the memoir of her mother throughout her own story and I enjoy the easy-going narrative voice – reminiscent of Annie Hall.
  • A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time and Kids in Hard Times (Mary Pope Osborne).  My children never read the Magic Tree House books, but when I summarized my NaNoWriMo piece to a fellow teacher, she immediately recommended this series.  The time travel/historical fiction content of these books is quite similar to my story, although my intended audience is a bit older.  I intend to read several of these books to learn how to tell a good story as well as how to write at an appropriate grade level.
  • The Digital Photography Book series (Scott Kelby).  I adore this guy.  He has a wonderful, quirky sense of humor and even though he is quite knowledgeable about the subject, he seems down-to-earth.  He is coming to Kansas City this week for a full-day seminar, but I have decided to read this series of books rather than attend the conference.  I have also put a subscription to his photography tutorial site, KelbyOne on my Christmas wish list.

magic tree houseWriting:  While I took a break from blogging, my desire to write has not diminished.  I have used these past few weeks to think about what I truly want to write, and I have identified three primary interests.

  • Memoir:  interestingly, every time I try to begin my memoir, I am overcome with the need to begin with my parents’ story.  I have finally decided to stop fighting this lead and give into it.  So I am going to start with my parents and then segue into my own.
  • Middle Grade Historical Fiction:  the NaNoWriMo piece will not disappear.  I thought once I wrote the draft that would be the end.  But there continues to be a drive to revise it and (dare I say it….) develop a series.  I have this overwhelming desire to introduce these young students to “classical” art, music and literature in a fun way so when they must study these subjects in high school they are not intimidated. I may not be the writer to accomplish this lofty goal, but I am going to try.
  • Travel articles:  I enjoy writing about travel, even though my travel blog is not often read.  Other writers  have encouraged me to refine the Kansas City piece I wrote for the summer writing class and submit it to local magazines and newspapers as a feature article.  This is WAY outside my comfort zone, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

In an attempt to keep expectations reasonable and yet move forward on these projects, my writing goal is to work on one of these a bit each day.  I always find time to write my morning pages, so I can certainly find time to devote to these projects IF they are important enough to me.  Perhaps I will research a bit, or brainstorm, or journal, or even…. draft a portion of a chapter.  I will keep you posted.

memoir projectBlogging:  As some of you have realized… I took a complete blogging break for about a month.  Prior to that, I was writing on a weekly basis for four different blogs:

I am still walking 10,000 steps a day (although I have given myself a break during the extreme Kansas heat this week) and I still glean valuable insights on my morning walk.  I have a large list of potential travel articles, but not sure this is the time to develop them into weekly posts .  I continue to enjoy photography and desire to learn more about the hobby, but I think writing about it every week creates more stress than joy.

For now, I will focus on this blog … my writing and personal blog.  I will strive to write one post a week (on Wednesdays) and then of course, Sunday Salon.  I can always revisit this schedule again in the future.

Scott KelbyA new interest:  I recently took a basic genealogy class at the local library.  I have always enjoyed family scrapbooks as a way to preserve traditions and memories, but I never really understood the interest in this subject until I began to work on my parents’ memoirs.  There is SO much I do not know about their past, and while I cannot recover the stories, genealogy allows me to recover the facts.

I adore research and therefore it can easily become a distraction, so I must be careful to guard my time.  I use the Ancestry.com library edition, which means I can only access this information on a library computer (which also provides the fringe benefit of getting me out of the house).  For now my goal is to discover my ethnicity – the year my ancestors came to America – and from which country.  So far, I am southern through and through … with great-grandparents on both sides born in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Have you conducted genealogy research?  Do you have any tips for a novice who hits a roadblock?

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6 Comments

  1. readerbuzz

    Oh my! You remind me of me, with your new passion. Does your love of so many things make you feel distracted at times? That’s what happens to me. I’m trying to focus and listen. For example, this summer, instead of setting a hundred goals, I set two: Spanish and 1001 Children’s Books. I worked on these every day until I felt, inside, that I was done, that the fire was burning down. Then I stopped.

    • YES, Deb…. I have WAY too many interests and I always feel distracted 🙂

      I have also discovered that I have a “scarcity” mentality – which means that I never think I have enough. This is particularly distressing when it comes to all these interests because I feel I will “never have enough time” to do it all. I am trying to learn to take it one day at a time, and like you said, focus and listen.

      Although I must admit after reading your passion of 1001 Children’s Books (which I own)… I would also like to work through the list with my granddaughter. 🙂

  2. joyweesemoll

    I’ve explored genealogy a bit, but I’m afraid of it sucking up my whole life. That’s a good idea to only access ancestry.com at the library.

    My upcoming trip is distracting me from my writing. I realized, recently, that planning an itinerary is very much the same energy as writing. I’m creating a future something, structuring it by theme, and hoping that it turns out half as good as what I imagine in my head.

    • Joy … I am very aware of the potential of genealogy “sucking up my whole life” I am really trying to safeguard that.

      I LOVE planning trip itineraries! I adore researching possible places to visit, photography opportunities, local activities that are off the typical tourist path. I think that this kind of preparation, however, and anticipation… helps me to fully engage and enjoy the trip. I know you will find the same when you visit Britain. I look forward to reading all future posts!

  3. I liked the Diane Keaton memoir too. As for genealogy, I have done research a couple of times and it is one of the most addicting rabbit holes I’ve ever jumped into. I would start looking up something and that would lead to something else, and I’d have charts and excel spreadsheets and word documents with notes, and ten hours later I’d realize that I’d ignored everything and everyone for an entire day.

    The research I did to find my mom’s birth family was helped immensely by contacting the historical records people (I can’t remember the name of the department right now) of the local town where her mom was born. I had to pay a fee, but they sent me copies of all documents pertaining to the family, and as a result I was able to get a middle initial and that was all I needed to find her mom on ancestry.com. From there I was able to find obituaries online. It was amazing.

    As for tracing things further back, I usually hit a few bumps in the road. One is the lack of 1890 census because it burned in a fire. The second is that prior to a certain time (pre-1800?) the censuses didn’t list children’s names. At that point you hope to find an existing family tree where someone else has done the work, or you’re stuck once again calling the city (I recommend contacting the specific city’s local library and they can point you to the right local historic resource) in order to get records.

    Thankfully, so much has been put online in recent years that it’s easier than it used to be. I managed to find a photograph of my great-great-grandfather’s grave, and text from a scanned book listing my 3x great grandfather’s service records from the civil war. From there I found a family tree on ancestry that was already constructed and I was able to verify the tree all the way back to the 1600s, which was so very cool.

    I really didn’t mean to write so much, I just love genealogy! I wish you luck in your search!

    • OH Alyce — this is SO cool!! I thank you for taking the time to write.

      I have had some luck with my mom’s side of the family, but my dad’s side is elusive. His father (whom he had basically no contact since high school) has only appeared on a 1910 census (he was born in 1909) and a 1920 census (his father died and his mom moved to san antonio). Other than that, I have a death certificate in 1964. There is no marriage certificate to my dad’s mom … no divorce certificate… no remarriage certificate to his second wife … and no other census data. I was able to locate the birth certificate of my father’s step-brother, but other than that… nothing.

      I am fascinated by the holes in data and how to fill them.

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