Laura Hedgecock

Aug 312015
 
What would my ancestor think of me? At Losely Park in Surrey UK

As I visited the former home of Sir George More, the question came to mind. I do wonder “What would my ancestors think of me?”

What would my ancestors think of me?

I had my doubts recently, as I traipsed around the UK, seeking out locations where my ancestors lived and died. As I visited Loseley Park in Surrey in England, the manor home where my ancestors enjoyed an aristocratic life-style in the 17th century. Family members not only hob-nobbed with royalty, but also acted as treasurer for Henry Frederick, the then Prince of Wales and served in Parliament under King James.

As I embarked on our trip, I planned to visit “ancestral sites” more in an effort to “feel the dust of my ancestors’ shoes,” rather than to research. (I was traveling with a son who is not into genealogy.) As we drove up the long winding road to the estate, I realize they my ancestors probably seldom felt the dust of their own shoes. They would have had staff to prevent most dust-ups, and were their footwear to acquire undesirable soil, said staff would have removed the dust or other offending matter.

I wondered as I roamed the grounds, what would these titled ancestors think of my son and me. If we were able to time travel and present ourselves as cousins, I doubt they’d be impressed. Would they receive us graciously as members of the extended family? Or, would they be more like the character Hyacinth in Keeping Up Appearances, quickly ushering us behind closed doors before true aristocrats saw us?

Or am I being unfair? Perhaps they understood the inherent risks for putting their nest eggs in the royal basket. Those were turbulent times. Perhaps they were only doing whatever was necessary to provide for their progeny. I should be, and am, grateful for that.

Tomb in Lincoln Cathedral

What would Katherine de Roet Swynford and Joan Beaufort think of their 21st century progeny?

Likewise, at the Lincoln Cathedral, as I looked down at the tomb of my ancestor, Katherine Swynford on the south side of the cathedral’s choir, I wondered. What would my ancestor think of me if we had a chance to sit down and chat? She died at the turn of the 15th century. What would she have thought about the sheer number of descendants that she had created? Would she feel any differently about me than the royal family members? Would she feel honored that her descendants come looking for her tomb?

Your Turn:

You don’t have to visit ancient sites or plan a trip overseas to ponder this question. Do you ever wonder “What would my ancestor’s think of me?” What insight have you gained?

What would they think of your station in life and your achievements?

What would they think of your faith (or lack of following a faith)?

What would they think of the time and culture you live it?

What would they think of family alliances made after their time?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Aug 112015
 
resolution - book with the end

In stories, as in life, it’s the need for resolution that keeps us turning pages

I’m tickled to present a guest post from my long-time (not old) friend Lori Schweers about resolution.

Recently I found myself in the middle of an all-out Grey’s Anatomy binge-fest. I blame the Texas summer heat which forces me to seek refuge indoors in the comfort of air conditioning and ceiling fans on high. I blame the fact that I had painters in my house that needed supervision. I blame my dogs because they needed company while the painters were painting. I blame the recently cut cable service which left Netflix as a viable option for entertainment during the heat. I blame raising young children in the 2000’s when the show started for never watching a single episode.

But really I should blame my love of resolution.

Each 42 minute episode of Grey’s ends with a dilemma in the storyline. Hence my need to seek the resolution of said dilemma in another episode. Which ends 42 minutes later with…another dilemma. I’m embarrassed to admit how many episodes I’ve binged on despite the completion of the painting project.

A podcast called, “Undisclosed” has an astounding 20 million listens (yes, MILLION according to the Facebook page). The podcast is a follow-up to NPR’s podcast, “Serial” that tracked the case of Adnan Syed who was sentenced to life without parole 15 years ago. “Undisclosed” follows the finer points of the case in hopes of discovering critical information that could prove Syed’s innocence. Once again, those of us who are hopelessly addicted to the story are searching for resolution.

Our lives are multi-layered stories with tension and dissonance and a yearning for resolution. We live in the tension of waiting for a medical diagnosis, children to grow up and fly away, employment to begin, vacations to commence, a loved one to come visit, a wayward child to find their way home and even the simple resolution of a dissonant chord played in a musical piece. Our heart’s desire is to know the rest of the story and have life’s mysteries solved and answered. It reminds me of my favorite movie, “When Harry Met Sally” and watching Harry (Billy Crystal) always read the end of the book first to decide if he even wants to read the story.

Since being married, my husband and I have endured three (a couple lengthy) rounds of unemployment. My comment each time was that it would be so much easier to bear the wait if we knew how long it would be until the unemployment would end. I want to be like Harry and read the end while stuck in the middle or at the beginning. Hanging out in life’s waiting room is uncomfortable and tense. But yet, it is a part of everyone’s story in big and small ways.

Last week I finished A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Miller likens our lives to a story narrative. It made me wonder what kind of story I was telling with my life and I can’t help but ask, how can I live a better story? How do I live well in the tension of dissonance, problems, and unanswered questions until resolution comes (if it ever comes)? That’s a tricky question.

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer. I probably have more questions than answers most of the time. I have always appreciated others who are authentic in their struggles. There’s hope in walking alongside those who are living in the tension of the unknown, but living good stories by loving others well during difficulties. I can say that my faith helps during times of waiting. I have a deep belief that there is a purpose to difficult times and waiting for resolution. When I look back at those crazy hard days when answers seemed out of reach, I can see how my character was being forged into something better and tougher. Writer Philip Yancey says, “I have learned faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Wise and true words.

I am sure that all the hours I’ve wasted invested binging on Grey’s Anatomy will never bring resolution to Meredith and Dr. McDreamy’s story. But I do have faith that living a good story – even in the middle of dissonance and tension – will eventually bring a satisfying resolution.

Lori is the wife of Craig, mom of two grown sons and mom to two spoiled fur-kids of the canine variety. She is a coffee snob and chocoholic who enjoys writing about her observations of life from an empty nest in Texas suburbia. You can find her most current blog musings at https://blackbirdsandwildflowers.wordpress.com.

 

 

Aug 042015
 
Anticipation marked on a calender

Anticipation of the big event can make a great story.

In the aftermath of major events, anticipation is often overlooked. If we get around to preserving the story, we capture the event itself. Seldom do we go into the preparation, the excitement, and the looking forward to—or dreading—of the event.

Anticipation is part of the story too

Because anticipation–or dread–affects our memories, it’s often a part of the story—a part that will help readers understand us better (or the family member or ancestor we write about).

For instance, Gretchen Rubin points out in Psychology Today that anticipation is a major component of the happiness generated by an event. We anticipate, savor, express our gratitude, and look back and reflect. Likewise, in an aptly titled article, Anticipation Plays A Powerful Role In Human Memory, Brain Study Finds, Science Daily reports, “the simple act of anticipation may play a surprisingly important role in how fresh the memory of a tough experience remains.”

I’ve seen both sides of anticipation this summer. On the happy side, anticipation of meeting my son in Europe has carried me through the 90 days of missing him (not that I’m counting). Because his internship in the Netherlands is unpaid, he’ll need a loan to get him through his senior year of college. A condition—well the only condition we’ve actually discussed—of that loan is that he’ll travel with his mommy for two weeks at the end of his internship.

It’s probably not the most fiscally sound decision I’ve ever made, but as the flight day approaches, I’m giddy with excitement. I’ve obsessively planned our itinerary, taking over 700 ancestral events (births, baptisms, residence, deaths, and burials) into account in deciding what to see. I’ve booked cozy-looking affordable B&Bs, and calculated travel distances. I corresponded with friends I haven’t seen in 20 years and planned visits. I’m so excited that sometimes my feet don’t actually touch the ground.

Some anticipation is dread.

Stories of dread can matter as well.

As I helped my dear friend set up our church’s fellowship hall for her mother’s funeral reception, I saw that dread first-hand.

The event had, in one sense already transpired, but the final goodbyes were yet ahead. That dread expressed itself in the siblings’ painstaking efforts to make the goodbye meaningful. They bought orchids for each table and carefully re-potted each one. Mementos, collectibles, and photos were lovingly placed on the display table. Each item highlighted their mother’s personality and the importance of relationships and family to her.

Perhaps focusing on the smaller details gave them a respite from contemplating the big, heartbreakingly final, picture. But those of days drawing together, planning, and seeing to is a part of their family history. They matter because they illustrate the family dynamic.

Write about moments of anticipation.

These moments of anticipation are stories—stories often lost. They’re stories of how we cope and what makes our hearts sing. They’re stories of how our emotions are mixed, not just internally, but with family members.

Try writing about anticipation in your family’s life. These might include:

  • A child going away to college
  • A move
  • A trip
  • A wedding
  • A new baby on the way
  • Waiting for a diagnosis
  • Waiting for a doctor’s appointment after receiving lab results
  • Throwing a party
  • Waiting for a visitor to come
  • Frantically cleaning and cooking for family coming to visit

Your Turn

When has anticipation colored days, weeks, or months of your life?

Jul 292015
 
Selective reading of history -- words crossed out

Is there a selective reading of history in your family? How do you deal with it?

As southerners have debated whether the Confederate flag represents hate or heritage, several articles have addressed the idea of a “selective reading of history.” Which is, when you think about it, something families are really good at doing.

A selective reading of history isn’t quite a revision of what happened. It’s an intentional focus on some facts and a brushing-under-the-rug of other events. As storytellers, we play a role in selecting what’s told and what’s kept mum. Admittedly, sometimes the selective reading of history is appropriate. There’s a “truth” of the story that needs to come through loud and clear, unobscured by complicating details and the noise of side stories

However, other times, those of us recounting the family’s history slowly become aware of the crumbs lurking under the carpet. We feel uncomfortable as we sense them crunching under the family footfalls. Continue reading »

Jul 222015
 

pIRATE-lAURAOfficially, Talk Like a Pirate Day won’t come until September 19, but I’ve been saying “Arrrggghhhhh!” a lot this week.

Channel Changing

It’s bad enough that if I leave the room for more than two minutes, my husband finds an Iron Man or Transformers movie to watch for the eighty-fifth time this month. However, the real problem is the channels changing in my brain without my permission. Continue reading »

Jul 162015
 
A couple trying to remember somethings and not others

Understanding why we remember some things and not others might help facilitate recall.

Have you ever wondered why you remember some things but not others ? Have you ever wondered why some things come back to you seemingly out of the blue? You think to yourself, “That’s funny, I haven’t thought about that in years.”

Actually, it’s better than funny. The science behind how memory works is fascinating and cool.

Obviously, “How Memory Works” is a topic far beyond the scope of a single blog post. But it is fun to take a look at what scientists call episodic or autobiographical memories—the events of our pasts.

The memories we have and are able to recall are critical to how we think of ourselves. Researchers Martin A. Conway and Christophe Pleydell-Pearce explain, “autobiographical memory is of fundamental significance for the self, for emotions, and for the experience of personhood, that is the experience of enduring as an individual, in a culture, over time.” Continue reading »

Jul 092015
 
Cousin once removed by way of staple remover on family tree.

A cousin once removed isn’t what (or who) it sounds like it is.

Why was my cousin once removed? Maybe that’s why my family dispensed with the first cousin, second cousin, and once removed nomenclature when referring to cousins: They knew I’d ask a bunch of questions, most of which would begin with “Why…” Cousins were just “cousins.”

“Once removed” doesn’t sound anything like it means. Unlike its general use in the English vernacular, when it’s used to describe family relationships, removed simply means from a different generation. I now think of it as “more distant in age.” A first cousin once removed might be a first cousin of my parents’ generation or my children’s generation. (See Genealogy.com’s primer.) Continue reading »

Jul 022015
 
Hometown context - a graphic of houses along a river

Adding hometown context can help your stories come to life

Your hometown comes to represent much more than the place you grew up. It’s your version of your state and country.

When we write about family members, ancestors, or ourselves, it’s important to give readers a glimpse of that hometown context. It helps explain worldview, values, and traditions. It helps them understand the personalities involved in our stories.

For instance, my hometown still colors my perception and understanding of events, even though I’ve now lived away from South Carolina as long as I lived there. It’s part of me. Though I’ve lived in the mid-west for over twenty years, I still consider myself a southerner. Continue reading »

Jun 232015
 
Train track represents get back on track

Read how to get back on track if you’ve gotten side-tracked from your writing or storytelling project.

Read how to get back on track if you’ve allowed yourself to get sidetracked

Procrastination and distraction are two of my best talents. In fact, I’ve been exercising them quite a bit lately! Which makes it seem like a great time to write about how to get back on track.

Re-examine your motives, not just your goals.

Once you’ve let your discipline slip a little, getting back on track can seem like drudgery. Chances are that when you got behind, you were busy with other things. And those other things don’t just disappear when you decide to get back on track.

When it comes to writing and storytelling, passion is a key element of discipline. Looking only at your goals is only good for giving yourself a kick in the hind-quarters. It doesn’t invigorate the creative urge that got you started in the first place.

Look again at the things that made you want to write about your memories and share your family stories. Think of your audience. The things you want to preserve. They way that you want to preserve them.

Now look at your goals.

Were your goals unrealistic? Has life changed? Or, do you simply need a jump-start as well as a lot more chocolate to reward yourself?

Make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure. If your goals seem realistic, do you have a plan on how you’re going to achieve them? For instance, if you’ve determined that you want to write about two memories or stories a week, have you figured out how that works into your week? Believe it or not, I’ve tried the “it will just happen” approach. It doesn’t work.

When you’re done beating yourself up, move on.

Sometimes we get so caught up in berating ourselves and regretting the time we’ve lost, we have trouble moving on. At least I do. You may be a lot less neurotic than that. Figure out how you got off track, if you must, but only to learn from it and take evasive action next time you see that particular perfect storm on the horizon.

Break up the writers’ block.

Nothing weakens resolve like writer’s block. It’s a pain in the brain, as well as other places. Some of the most common “cures” are using prompts (Hmmm…. Who has a good book with prompts, and a blog to boot?), writing exercises, and reading others’ stories.

Trick your imagination.

Drew Chial, a blogger I really enjoy reading, has a new idea on how to trick your imagination into focusing on the things you want it to focus on. I won’t steal his imaginary thunder. Read his How to Keep Intrusive Thoughts from Ruining Your Writing and see if his magic works for you.

Banish your inner perfectionist.

If you wait for the perfect inspiration to come at the perfect time, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities. Everything doesn’t have to be inspired. Neither does it need to be worthy of literary accolades.

Write. You can edit later, but get the words flowing on to the page. Lock that perfectionist urge way in a box and just let words find their way to the page. (Yes, you can get it out and play with it later, but not now.)

Break a rule or two

We learn rules so that we can better understand when and why to break them. Give yourself permission to do the opposite of what all the advice columnists say. Perhaps you need to forget about your audience and get in touch with your emotions to get back on track. Perhaps you need a break. Try something different and see if there was a rule that was holding you back.

Read How Writers Get Back on Track

Chuck Wendig’s 25 Ways To Get Your Creative Groove Back As A Writer is meant for professional writers, but makes a lot of good points that almost anyone can benefit from. Plus, just reading his style will make you want to dive for the keyboard and start pounding away.

Brainstorm

It’s my favorite, so it was a given that I’d round out the list with it. Brainstorming stimulates creativity an helps develop ideas. If you haven’t tried it, you should. If you have, get back on track by brainstorming your way there.

Your Turn:

What’s your best tip for getting back on track? What works best for you?

Jun 182015
 
crest share surname history

A crest isn’t the only way to share surname history. Share stories too!

Aside from the “cock” part and the inherent playground emotional trauma that comes with bearing it, the Hedgecock name has a lot to be proud of.

Since I only adopted that name after my marriage, I confess to letting a giggle of two escape at some of the Hedgecock name jokes. “Bush-chicken,” for instance. My husband and sons fail to see the humor. Continue reading »