DNA test results are in!!

A few surprises, but overall as expected:

DNA

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Writing a memoir is a journey

Yes! Thank you Vanessa. Just what I need to read in this moment.

Vanessa Martir's Blog

“Much of writing a memoir is about the act of remembering. When the memories started to come back to me, they were so vivid and visceral that I could not manage them easily. I cried a lot. This is something that is overlooked quite often in the teaching of memoir. It’s deeply emotional work and getting a handle on your emotions is part of that work…Most people who are writing memoirs these days are writing stories that someone told them never to tell, they’re writing back to themselves. If this is you, remember that on some days the emotions can be overwhelming, they can lead you to believe that you will never be able to do this. No one is required to keep going if it gets too hard, but if you do decide to keep going, remember that dredging up memories and emotions is harrowing work. I spent a…

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A Perfect Ordinary Day: An Act of Self-Love

BROKEN SHACKLE PUBLISHING

A Perfect Ordinary Day:  An Act of Self-Love 

Preface

While writing “Beauty Revealed—Bringing Out the Best in Others,” the final essay in Midnight Peaches, Two O’clock Patience, I began jotting down notes focused on how to avoid stagnancy in order to stay motivated in life. Upon completing “Beauty Revealed,” I realized I needed to flesh out the meaning of taking care of oneself. After introducing the concept of “choosing to live” in that article, the possibility of having a separate piece that married the concepts of self-care, “choosing to live,” and avoiding stagnancy emerged.    Consequently, “A Perfect Ordinary Day” was born.[1]

“A Perfect Ordinary Day” is based on my personal experience of taking care of myself for my own sake, as well as for the sake of those I love. A combination of philosophies and activities that are integral to my daily routine are shared in this essay. Activities…

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Water Under the Bridge

“My back is not your bridge” she said
however, I would gladly offer
my whole self to you as a bridge
if it would bring about positive change
not for your sake OR for mine
but for OUR children.
The problem is I CANNOT be your bridge
because that would mean I have to
stay still
rooted to one spot
to allow you to cross
from where we both stand now together
to somewhere beyond
with the option for you to come back again if you choose
coming and going as you please
while I am kept immobile, stagnant…standing still…
and you see… I want to move forward too
You may dream of unbuilt bridges somewhere in the distance
but I dream of dynamic actions…
FIREWORKS! sparking movements in this moment
DYNAMITE! breaking bridges no longer needed
As you and I move freely
effortlessly flowing together like a smooth stream
no longer in the shadow of any man-made construct

Memoir Excerpt #1: The Segregated South

ALBERT, 1946 (age 7)

Rural Arkansas

Albert was proud to be wearing his “city clothes”. As the youngest of seven children, he rarely wore anything other than hand‑me‑down clothing. Thanks to his sisters’ sewing, every stitch he wore today was brand new.

He was especially proud of his shoes, even if they had belonged to his older brother. Back home on the farm they didn’t wear shoes much. Most of Albert’s time was spent out in the cotton fields helping the older kids and his Papa. Sharecropping didn’t pay much, and everyone had to help as best they could. Today was a special occasion to Albert, as they were all dressed up to go to the town market with Ma Dear to help her carry back supplies for the winter.

Albert had spent 45 minutes spit shining his shoes to as close to perfect as they could be. As he walked down the sidewalk, he felt proud at how the black leather lace-up shoes shone in the bright sunlight. If he held his foot a certain way he could almost blind himself with the sun’s reflection, or so he imagined. Albert was so caught up in admiring his shoes that he did not hear an old colored man on the corner mumble, “White folks comin’”.

Albert vaguely heard footsteps falling on the sidewalk behind him, but made no move to step into the dusty street. He was lost in a world of sun and shine. Just two seconds before the footsteps were upon him, his brother Elbert reached out a skinny arm and yanked Albert from the sidewalk to the bare ground that served as the town’s main street. In his surprise, Albert lost balance and landed on his hands and knees. He glared at his brother who was standing with his sisters and mother, eyes downcast as two white women in expensive dresses and a boy of Albert’s age hurried past. Slowly, Albert’s family moved back onto the sidewalk.

“Boy! You tryin’ to get us all lynched?!” his brother whispered ferociously in Albert’s ear. “You know better than to pull some mess like that!”

At his age, Albert did not understand this strange rule about moving off the sidewalk to let white folks pass. He thought it should be everyone’s sidewalk to use as they needed. But he knew enough to know that there were harsh penalties for breaking the rules. He didn’t know what lynching was, but it sounded plenty worse than Papa’s switch, and the switch was bad enough.

Albert stood up and dusted himself off. He looked down at his shoes, now dust-streaked, and slowly, like a drop of dew releasing from the edge of a leaf, a single tear fell on the once-shiny leather.

How My Parents Met

If my father was alive today and you asked how he identified racially, he would say “Black”.

He was born in 1939 to a family of sharecroppers in rural Arkansas. Just a few years before the summer of the Mississippi Freedom Riders, my father joined the US Marines and asked to be sent as far away as possible from the atrocities he faced as a young Black man in the segregated South. It was the late 1950s and de-segregation meant different things to different people.

Thanks to high school typing classes and a natural ability to pick up languages quickly, he received an administrative specialty, was taught to speak Russian and Mandarin fluently, and was assigned to US embassy duty in Rangoon, Burma.

My mother was born in 1937 in Rangoon. If you ask her today what her race is, she might say something like “Well, you know… they used to call us Eurasians, but now they would call us “Anglo”. I am still working to understand who “they” are, and the implications around it.

The term “Anglo” is short for “Anglo-Burmese”. It’s a convenient yet limiting abbreviation, and in my mother’s case it concisely encompasses the lengthy European-based specifics of her cultural, ethnic, and racial heritage, which is more accurately described as Irish-Scotch-French-Portuguese, and Catholic. Some of her European roots came from missionaries who traveled to Burma to open schools and create converts, and then stayed and settled with Burmese wives. Some of her ancestors were soldiers with loyalties to the British Army who took foreign assignments in Burma.

Having been born and raised in Rangoon (except for a brief exodus to India during WWII) my mother grew up in an environment of British colonialism. During my mother’s young adult years in post-war, post-colonial Burma, “Anglo” became synonymous with “unwelcome”.

Similar to my father, she also had a talent for typing and languages, and took a job as a bilingual secretary working for the US Department of Defense at the US embassy in Rangoon, where she met my father in early 1961.

ImageMarine Corps Ball, Rangoon, Burma 1962

How did YOUR parents meet?

Leave your reply at the bottom of this page…looking forward to reading your origin story!

Movement, Migration, Dispersal…

I had dinner the other night with a professor of political science. She talked about her current research on how war causes movement of populations. Some may lose everything, or be exiled, or become refugees. Transition of power from one ruling class to another can turn people’s lives upside down.

This led me to think about why my ancestors left their homelands. Some were missionaries who settled in the countries they sought to convert. Some were military officials who took foreign assignments. Some were displaced off their land when power shifted from colonial rule to local government.

Why did your people leave their land of origin? When?