Former Riskies,  Research,  Writing

Link-A-Palooza With Bonus Stories

Do I have links for you!  And stories.


Here’s the strange thing. This first link goes to the blog of my good friend SonomaLass. (Not her IRL name!). Her partner is British and they go to the family farm in Scotland or to Britain proper once a year. This year (and last, actually) they did a canal boat trip and her pictures are wonderful. You will love them. By the way, she brought me back the most beautiful coffee cup:

I LOVE that coffee cup. She says considered getting me the Blue Tit, but decided Swallow was better for a romance author. She is very wise.

Go look at her Canal Trip Pictures, think about Regency folk floating along, but also read about her trip. When you come back, I’ll tell you how we got to be friends.

Fun, eh? Yes, I want to go, too!!

How I met my Good Friend

Two or three years ago now, I kept seeing someone in the comments at Dear Author saying funny, smart stuff and given her handle of “SonomaLass” I finally replied to one of her comments and asked if, by any chance, she lived in Sonoma County. The answer was yes! So, short story even shorter, she lives about 20 minutes from me and works in my town. We’ve been meeting up for conversation and European Sipping Chocolate ever since. And, also as it turns out, someone else turned out to live very close by and now we all three meet regularly and talk about romance novels and all kinds of stuff. I love the internet.

All About Lace

My next link is to A Most Beguiling Accomplishment for a post about lace. I love her blog. Don’t forget to check out the side bar (left and right) for more great links.

When I was 16, our Italian-born neighbor took my sister and I with her when she went to Italy to visit relatives. Some of her relatives lived in VERY small villages in the Alps. It was like sitting in the middle of someone’s ridiculous fantasy about quaint Italian villages. We sat outside their stone house at a table shaded by enormous grape vines and I watched a plump old woman hand make this lace:

Hand tatted Italian Lace. Photo by Moi.

She was unbelievably fast at the lace making (done with bobbins). Like an expert knitter, she didn’t even have to look. She sat with us, chatting with her relative and her American visitors and her hands were constantly moving. My sister also got a lovely hand made lace doily.


From lace to maps: The David Rumsey Map Collection. Connected to Google maps, too.

Oh, my goodness. I have a thing for maps. It’s almost worse than my thing for looking at vacation photos.

Extraordinary People

My next link is outside our period but it’s an article well worth reading about an American woman physician who also did some early sex research beginning in 1892. Celia Mosher was an extraordinary woman, and this Stanford Magazine article makes me wish I’d know her or that she’d lived miraculously long enough to know that other women came after her and they did not have to make the sacrifices she did. Because of women like her, other women got to have bigger dreams and to see them come true.

What strikes me about this article about Dr. Mosher is the sense of how isolated she felt. How many extraordinary women of the past also felt isolated by their ambition and brilliance? It’s a tragedy.

Which leads me to my last post, which is totally outside our period because it’s from just a few days ago (August 2012). An Unexpected Ass Kicking. A touching and inspiring article. I hope you take the time to read it.


When I was young, my grandmother came to live with us for a few years. She got homesick and eventually went back to Oregon where, a couple weeks after locking herself out of the house and climbing through a window to get in, she passed away of a heart attack at age 87.  She was a woman who talked a lot. And I mean a lot. It could be very tedious, to be honest.  As a young woman, my grandmother, not that it matters, was heart-stoppingly beautiful. She certainly is in her wedding picture.

But over several evenings, I sat with my grandmother (who was in many ways an extraordinary woman) and listened to her talk. I didn’t have to say much, but I learned an awful lot about her her family that no one else knew. In fact, I was the first one to hear the story of the family ax murderer, later confirmed by my sister who found the article about his trial. But I LOVE listening to stories.

In fact, I once went to a party where I sat next to a man I figured was probably approaching 80, and he started telling me all about his life growing up in Poland. His family tried to rescue me, but I didn’t want to be rescued. I’m sure they’d all heard the stories before, but they were new to me. It turns out he was 104. Which is why all his stories had no cars or electricity.

I hope to make it to a doddering old age without doddering, and I hope there’s someone around to listen to my stories.

Got any stories about extraordinary people? I would love to hear them!

Super Secret Surprise for people who read this far:

I’m giving away a copy of my September historical Not Proper Enough here.

Rules: Void where prohibited. Must be 18 or older to enter. No purchase necessary. Post a comment to this post by Midnight Pacific on Friday August 17, 2012. International OK.


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10 years ago

Those canal photos are lovely!

I wish I had been able to get my very private grandmother to talk about her life. You’re lucky to have heard her grandmother’s stories.

10 years ago

That should be “your”, not “her”. Too early in the day.

Cathy P
10 years ago

Hi Carolyn! What an interesting and very informative blog leading to other blogs. Both of my grandmothers and my mother were extraordinary women. One of my grandmothers was a teacher and the other one was a markswoman. My mother was the first every Nurse of the Year. All 3 of them taught me never to say anything bad about anyone since it comes home to roost.

Elena Greene
10 years ago

Awesome post, Carolyn. It makes me want to a) return to England for a visit b) crochet some lace (but I already have an embroidery project going at a snail’s pace) c) be the friend Celia Mosher didn’t have in real life d) have another dream about my deceased grandmother.

She was warm-hearted, humble but strong woman. I enjoyed all her stories about life back on the farm in Lithuania. Since her death family members often dream of her and the dreams are always lovely. My aunt saw them lying in bed and picking cherries from an overhanging tree. My dream was walking together through a rolling landscape that was how I imagined the old farm.

10 years ago

I love a good story. For my birthday I always ask for everyone to, “tell me a good story.” Some are poignant and some are good for a belly laugh but all stay with me. It’s a great gift.

Barbara E.
10 years ago

Great post! I’ve met a lot of extraordinary people, including the lovely neighbor who used to cat sit for me while I went on vacation and loved to talk quilts with me, the ladies I worked with for many years who have suffered such terrible losses (one lost her husband, the other her son to suicide), and the wonderful couple that I met when we all volunteered at an animal shelter and worked lots of fund raisers together. I had so much fun when I went home on vacation last month and I was able to get together with some of these great friends for visits.

Carolyn Jewel
10 years ago

Thank you so much for the stories. They’re really lovely.

::tearing up::

10 years ago

I’m glad you like your Swallow cup. I got the Blue Tit for myself, tee hee. I am also very glad that we are friends! I hope folks enjoy the canal photos.

My grandmother didn’t talk a lot, but luckily for me, she took a writing class through her local senior center, all about writing your life stories. I learned more from those about her childhood and life before becoming a mother than she every shared orally, although once I had read them, she was willing to answer questions, so we did end up in conversations about her life. She passed away 15 years ago; I miss her.

One summer in high school, I attended the Academy of Achievement — that’s an organization that honors high achievers and brings them together for a weekend to meet with high-achieving young people, whom they are meant to inspire. I spent the whole weekend listening to success stories, from people like Jim Nabors, Harlan Sanders, Isaac Asimov, and the guy who invented the automobile retractable sun roof. But the best stories came from a woman (whose name I can’t recall) whose achievement was painting birds on porcelain plates — like your swallow! She loved to talk, and she was VERY frank about her life with us. At 16, I still had a lot to learn about the world, and she was extremely informative and entertaining.

10 years ago

What an interesting post. There are some wonderful links I will pursue, later, it is almost 1 AM.
It would have been fascinating to visit with your grandmother or the 104 year old gentleman. My grandparents didn’t talk much about their pasts. It was only when there were reunions and the older generation got together that we heard much. Too bad I was too young to appreciate it and no one recorded it.
My brother has been working on our family history and printed a few books on it. He has discovered that on my mother’s side, one of the grandmothers came over to Canada (New France) as a Filles a Marier in 1657. 40 days after she arrived she married the first of several husbands. This was Canada at the beginning of settlement. Conditions were difficult and life often short. Her first marriage lasted 15 months, her second 5 years, and her third about 10 years. There were 5 children from those marriages. Her fourth husband died 6 years into the marriage. Their deaths were caused by the indians or accidents.
There is another grand+ who arrived as a Filles a Marier in 1657. It seems another grandmother arrived even earlier in 1636.
My grandfather on that side of the family was a rum runner during Prohibition. I had heard he ran a car with a full load of booze into Lake Champlain when the police chased him. My brother has found out more about him. It seems a cousin had a house on the canadian border. They would bring the booze in the back door into the kitchen which was in Canada and take it out the front door which was in New York and load the cars for their run to NYC. I haven’t read this part yet, but there is something about him being exiled or returning from exile. More to find out.

My dad’s family is more tame. The irish side came over to Canada during the potato famine. However they did marry french canadians, so there are probably early settlers there too.

We missed so much by not having this oral history passed down.

Sorry this is was long. It is a shame we don’t know more about those who came before us.

10 years ago

Wow, those pictures are fantastic! Several years ago, before my grandfather passed away, my mom & I went up to visit him in Cleveland when he was pretty sick. While we were there, he’d talk about what it was like to grow up in the great depression and he adored talking about his friends, called RIOTT- (Romanian Irish Italian Old Timers lol). I remember him being pretty jazzed that Cleveland was the first city to have an electric traffic light installed. I’ve seen it myself as my grandparents lived just down the street from it. He was a quiet man, but very smart with a wonderful work ethic and a rather dry sense of humor. Seeing how much my mom resembled him in some ways was rather fascinating..

Karen H in NC
10 years ago

Fascinating post today.

The ‘tell me a story’ is a wonderful way to open dialog about family history. I loved listening to stories my parents told about their lives as children. I hope my children enjoy listening to my stories about my childhood. A few years ago, I found a box of family photos that go back about 100 years (as of today). My kids and I sat around the dining table looking at them. In the box was a small journal that my mother wrote about a trip our family took in 1953 through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My Son-in-law found it and amused us all reading aloud her words and details of the trip. My mom died in 1993 and this was in 2008…it was like we were listening to her tell us about the trip. It was great!

10 years ago

Thanks for the giveaway. I am looking forward to reading your new book. My father’s mother wasn’t one to talk to us much when we were little but when I was a teenager she would start telling me stories about her life and some entertaining stories about how she dealt with raising her family when her husband died at a young age.

Rosie Hong
10 years ago

My mom is the most extraordinary person I know. Widowed when her children were still young, she immigrated with us from Vietnam and managed to make a whole new life for us in the US by passing her licensing exam in medicine and doing a residency to re-establish her career. She did all of this while being shaky in English and muddling along in a culture she did not wholly understand. She succeeded against all expectations, when others thought she was too old to be starting over, and my brothers and I are all the better for it.

Eli Yanti
10 years ago

Great post, Carolyn 🙂

my grandmother always love to tell me about past story from many country, their tradition and etc

Louisa Cornell
10 years ago

What a wonderful post! Those photos are incredible! And I have a soft spot in my heart for anything about lace making.

I learned to tat lace from my Great Aunt Icie. She was an amazing woman who worked as a seamstress and a drapes maker almost all of her life. She had customers who sent her window measurements from all over the country anytime they moved into a new house. They sent measurements and photos of the rooms and a few instructions and she created the most amazing window treatments all from her imagination. I inherited a large tatted bedspread she made because I was the only person in the family who knew how to repair the tears in it. She taught me to quilt, to cross-stitch and how to be singularly stubborn in living life the way I choose. She gave me instructions to make certain the funeral home dressed her properly for her burial. Which meant, in the tradition of all Southern ladies she had to be wearing her underthings, her slip, her stockings and shoes. I did as she asked because frankly I had no doubt she would haunt me if I didn’t!

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