Don’t Piss Off a Cowgirl!

Jan Morrill:

Have any of your characters ever written you a letter? Take a peek at what R.H. Burkett’s character had to say to her!

Originally posted on Truths by Ruth:

cowgirl

A lot of you know that I’ve been writing the Adventures of Dixie Dandelion for years now. Dixie came to me while I was penning my first novel, Soldiers From the Mist. She came in so forceful that I had to write her words. However, because I broke one of the “rules” of writing and pitched Soldiers to a New York agent before I was finished with the book, I panicked and dropped Dixie until Soldiers was done. Before I could get back with her, a fantastic opportunity came my way to write a paranormal romance for the Wild Rose Press. Alas, Dixie, again got put on the back-burner so that I could write The Rook and the Raven. After this I fully intended to get back with the fiery Dixie, but Bethany Ann from Daughter of the Howling Moon dropped on me like a spring tornado. Once again, Dixie…

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Oghmaniac Blog-a-Thon Post on Writing by Staci Troilo

Jan Morrill:

“Telling deep, resonating stories requires you to leave your comfort zone and tap into the pool of emotions you’re used to suppressing.” — Staci Troilo

Originally posted on oghmacreative:

Today’s post is by Staci Troilo. Visit her website or click the link to visit her blog: How Embracing Family History Can Result in Poignant Stories (reproduced below).

How Embracing Family History Can Result in Poignant Stories

italian american
Click image to be directed to PBS:
The Italian-Americans.

There’s a lot of buzz in Pittsburgh right now about a PBS special called The Italian Americans. It’s not just running in Pittsburgh; I was able to watch the series here. I just don’t think people are talking about it here like they are at home. (Probably because my family and I are the only Italians in Arkansas. Hyperbole, anyone?)

My husband and I watch the History Channel a lot, so watching a documentary on PBS isn’t much different from our usual viewing. What was different, however, was my visceral response to the program. I was…

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It Hurts to Be Beautiful

BOAW

Death and a generation can change a perspective in an instant.

When I first signed up to participate in August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest IV , I flip-flopped between a couple of different topics I might write about. Little did I know that in the days to follow, I would experience the most major paradigm shift of my life–the loss of my mother.

In my mom’s last week and the days following her death, my family has reminisced about all the things she used to tell us. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Good morning, Glory!
  2. You’ll catch your death of cold!
  3. Be sure to text me when you get home.

But the one saying at the top of everyone’s list was, “It hurts to be beautiful.”

My mother said that to me so many times throughout my life, and I must admit, I grew tired of it, even angry at times, as she’d pull my hair into a ponytail, spray hairspray that stung my eyes in her feeble attempt to hold my fine hair in place, make me wear itchy slips or scratchy wool sweaters, all the while, giving stern warnings that scratching would be most un-ladylike. I often thought to myself, “This is ridiculous. It should NOT hurt to be beautiful. Leave my hair flyaway and unruly! Let me wear jeans and my old, comfy sweatshirt.”

I saw beauty as superficial, and there were times I resented the importance my mother placed on it.

Then came my daughter, Andrea. Her relationship with my mom was so different from my own with my mother. The generational distance seems to soften grandparent-grandchild relationships.

My mother recited those same words to Andrea throughout her life: “It hurts to be beautiful.”

But as I learned during Andrea’s eulogy at my mother’s funeral on Thursday, somehow, one generation can make a huge difference in how words are interpreted.

Here’s an excerpt of Andrea’s eulogy:

One of Grandma’s earliest lessons was, “It has to hurt to be beautiful.” This was not so fun when I was a little girl, when beautiful meant hair pulling, itchy foofy clothes, and patent leather shoes that were too tight. But as I got older, I began to understand the true meaning behind this saying, and I believe what Grandma really meant was how important it is to always try to present your best face to the world—to be kind even to people you may not really like, to hold your head high, and to smile when you don’t feel like it. Given how much pain Grandma experienced so often throughout her life, and how many people’s lives she still managed to touch, I believe this concept is something she understood better than just about anyone else.

The deep sobs I cried upon hearing Andrea’s interpretation of my mother’s words were not tears of sadness, but joy and pride, maybe even a little shame that I had not seen it on my own.

How proud I was that Andrea took words that had often irritated me and turned them into something beautiful to remember my mother by. Though I’d learned the same lessons about “presenting your best face to the world,” I had not related it to “It hurts to be beautiful.”

It’s true that sometimes it hurts to be nice when you don’t want to be nice. To smile when you don’t want to smile. To hold your tongue when you want to lash out. To give when you feel you have nothing left to give.

All this time, I’ve grumbled that it shouldn’t hurt to be beautiful–on the outside. But real beauty radiates from inside, and it’s true that sometimes maintaining inner beauty might hurt just a little.

I smile when I remember the times my mom pulled my hair to make it look just right. I know very well that usually, when she told me “It hurts to be beautiful,” she was talking about outer beauty. But, in so many ways, she also taught me the importance of inner beauty.

I’ll always be grateful for what my mom taught me about beauty, both inside and out. And I’ll always be grateful for what Andrea taught me about my mom.

My mom, Andrea and me.

My mom, Andrea and me.

 

 

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Forever Under My Skin

For six mornings, I’ve woken to the thought that my mother is no longer with us. It’s something I’ve had to fathom with deep breaths. This morning, I woke with the thought that this is the day we’ll lay my mother to rest, and though I know it makes no sense at all, I told myself I never thought I’d see this day.

In honor of my mom, we tuned in to the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora. She loved to listen to Frank Sinatra, especially when he sang accompanied by Carlos Jobim.

jobim

I smiled when the first song began to play: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

There were many times throughout my life that my mother and I got under each other’s skin. In fact, the last time I saw my mom in a conscious state, only a few weeks before her death, we argued about something stupid–everything is stupid after you’ve lost someone.

Frustrated that I couldn’t convince my mom of my side of the “argument,” I told her it was time for me to leave for Dallas, and I walked out of her room. I’m so grateful that something made me turn around and go back. I told her I didn’t want her to worry about anything, that I’d take care of it, and I’d even do as she requested, even though inside, I disagreed with her. But, something told me it wasn’t important.

I told her I loved her.

So this morning, when I heard the words to “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” I smiled, believing it was my mother’s way of telling me she’d always be with me.

I’ve got you under my skin
I’ve got you deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart that you’re really a part of me
I’ve got you under my skin

 

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Metamorphosis of Grief

I haven’t experienced grief very many times in my life, and for that I’m grateful. But now, as my family gathers around my mother in these last days of her life, I am experiencing my own grief, as well as others’. And I’ve learned that everyone deals with the pain of loss differently.

One of my siblings openly grieves, cries freely, shares the stages of my mother’s passing on social media, asks others for prayers. Another takes care of others, wants only family around and cries in moments, but mostly in private. One of my siblings said goodbye to my mother a few days ago, unable to bear her passing. And another of my siblings spends time with my mother, leaves for a bit to gather thoughts and reflect, then returns to her again, all the while, also taking care of others.

I’m kind of a combination of all of them. As the oldest, I don’t feel comfortable crying in front of others, though I’ve done my share. I’ve found I deal with my grief by planning, organizing and doing. I’ve taken most of the calls from friends and family and have headed planning my mother’s funeral. Most of all, I feel the need to write about my grief and what I’ve learned. But I’m conflicted about it, because I also feel it’s a very private process.

Still, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned.

We all deal with it differently. As you can see in what I described about how my siblings deal with grief, it can be ripe for judgment from any of us about how the other deals with it. Some of us may not agree with sharing on social media. Some of us may not agree with one of our siblings not being here. And some may not agree that I write about it.

In the end, we’re all entitled to process this pain the way we need to process it, and we shouldn’t fear judgment for it, certainly not from our loved ones. We’ve talked about this in the last few days, and I feel so fortunate to have sisters and a brother with whom I can talk about such things.

Finally, I’ve learned that even with all of its pain, grief holds a kind of magic. With all of the reflecting on my mother’s life, her time with us, and the time I’ve spent with family in the last week, my grief has turned to gratitude. This metamorphosis was helped along by a video my daughter put together of my mother’s life.

For five days, Andi gathered photos from dozens of my mother’s albums. From over 600 photos initially collected, she filtered down to 450 to create a 25 minute video filled with pictures from when my mother was about three years old to a photo of her holding Tommy, her first great grandchild.

Twice now, my mother’s bedroom has been filled with her children and many of her grandchildren as we’ve watched the video and passed around the tissue. I’m not sure my mother was able to see the stream of memories flowing past on her television, but I’m sure she heard the music and our commentary as we watched.

What a life my mother has had. What a life she gave to us.

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