Gramma’s Gift

Hungarian Ancient Symbol My Mom's Wedding Day

Yesterday, I was challenged to write a 50 word story about a box found in my deceased grandmother’s attic. The box had my name on it. What was inside?

Being a third generation Hungarian on both sides of my family, I have often wondered about my ancestral line. I was too young and busy in my life to care before my great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents died with all their stories and information. Tracing my ancestry is made more difficult by the fact that my grandparents surname was changed to a more Anglicized version that was easier for English tongues to say. Who knows what the original version is and how would I get that information?

My birth father died of cancer when I was just seven years old and mom remarried when I was nine. My life took a new direction and we began to see my original birth family on my father’s side less and less. It was a large family, nine brothers and sisters who married, had children and produced a large number of cousins for me and my brother and sister. I have seen them on occasion, but it was usually at a public or social function and as the years passed it was infrequent.

This past year I took a therapeutic touch workshop at my local YMCA/YWCA. I arrived early and sat down next to a man, the only other participant there. As the teacher was giving us our handouts, I turned to say something to him. My mouth dropped open!

“Uncle Frank!”

He looked confused until I said, “It’s Barbie, your niece.”

A big smile creased his face and after that we enjoyed reminiscing and spoke of old times until the class began. We decided that we would get together for a coffee some day and he agreed to help me fill in some of the holes in my memories and knowledge of my family.

Well, of course, some day never came until Glynis Belec’s online challenge to write the short 50 word story. I began researching my pet name ‘Boriska’ that I was called from birth by my mother’s Hungarian side of the family and was confused by what I found. I also wanted to find a Hungarian symbol that would be suitable as a potential gift to me from my grandmother. Neither searches were easy to do what with spelling and other nationalities mixed in with the results.

I decided to call Uncle Frank. He lives here in my own town. He answered a few of my questions but I wanted more information. We agreed that we would get together for coffee and a chat about our families in a couple of weeks. The date is set and written on my calendar and I am looking forward to it.

How much do you know about your ancestral line? I have learned that the sooner you get that information from your family, the better. Time has a habit of slipping away and all that information goes with it as family pass on.

Here’s my little 50 word story. It’s fictional but it reflects my Hungarian heritage.

Dad handed me the small velvet box. On it was a small tag with one word, ‘Boriska.’ Gramma’s pet name for me since I was a baby.

“I found it in her attic.”

Inside was a silver pendant of twisted leaves and a heart, an ancient Hungarian symbol of love.

Glynis, my author friend, gave us a great little writing prompt. It encouraged me to think deeper about my cultural background. Why don’t you try it? What would be in your box?

Choose to Live

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At a recent writer’s retreat I attended, I was sharing my published books with another new writer friend. An author has to be able to say what his or her book is about in under 30 seconds, one or two sentences at the most. My keynote for my first book is “10 – A Story of Love, Life, and Loss, is an inspiring cancer story. It may uplift and encourage you to live your best life.” I often say “It’s an inspiring memoir/cancer journey/love story.”

Then, my friend asked me a simple question, one I had never been asked before so succinctly.

“So, how do you continue to live a quality life when you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis with no hope of a cure?”

Her succinct question demanded a succinct answer. She wanted to know in a few sentences how my husband and I did it.

I answered her this way, in list form: change your focus to ‘living’ rather than ‘dying,’ live in the moment, live with gratitude, and focus on your abilities, not your losses.

  1. Focus on ‘living’ every day, rather than ‘dying.’ You try to fill your day with as many life-fulfilling activities and people as you can, and you focus on those positive messages and feelings, rather than negative people, circumstances and thoughts.
  2. Live in the moment, with mindfulness, tapping into all your senses. Taste that juicy apple, smell that scented rose, look up at the sky and the clouds floating by, feel the softness of your child’s cheek, listen to the sounds of nature all around you. Often, the simplest things are the most meaningful.
  3. Live with gratitude. Say thank you. When you awake, be grateful for another day given, and when you go to sleep, say thank you for all you received.
  4. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t do. In spite of impending losses, you still are capable of many things. Use your time to enjoy doing those things you can still do.

“10 – A Story of Love, Life, and Loss’ is a story of struggle, pain and loss, but at the heart of it, it is a story of love, hope, and strength. It is a story that may help others who have been given a life-debilitating diagnosis, as well as helping their caretakers and loved ones who journey with them.

My book can be purchased at The Bookshelf, Guelph; BookLore, Orangeville; Hannelore Headely Old & Fine Books, St. Catharines and Tamara’s Esthetics & Reflexology, Guelph. It can also be purchased directly from me by messaging me. Buy it online at amazon.ca.

 

A Path to Creativity

Creativity

Back in the mid 90’s I was teaching a Gr. 1 class at a small country school. One of my student’s parents offered to write our Christmas play and so began a new friendship based on our mutual enjoyment of writing. Jane introduced me to a book called The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by the author Julia Cameron.

It was a book on the link between creativity and spirituality and included a 12 week program of basic principles and activities that rekindled one’s latent creativity and helped one to overcome problems such as self-esteem, self-criticism, jealousy, guilt and other factors such as worry over time, money or support, all blocks to our creative energies. Cameron believed that we all are creative beings, that there is not one non-creative person alive. She also believed that the universe is naturally creative and creative expression is the natural direction of life. This resonated so deeply within me as, decades before, in my university years in the early ‘70’s I had studied fine arts, modern dance and drama and experienced a new-found confidence in my own creativity abilities. I, too, believed vehemently that we all are creative beings.

During the ‘80’s, my child bearing years, my life had become very busy with family obligations and yet, during this time, I did manage to work professionally with a dance company in Toronto and returned to university in 1988 to earn a Bachelor of Education. Working full-time, raising a family and working through a difficult marriage didn’t leave much time for dance activities any longer. In the early 90’s my husband and I separated and a new life began. I was longing for a new outlet for my creative energies.

Cameron’s book provided me with that. For 12 weeks, I worked through her book, chapter by chapter, every day writing what she called “morning papers.” Each day I sat down with three blank sheets of paper and in a stream-of-consciousness format, I filled those pages. She said to fill them up from beginning to end, even if all I could write was “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.” She said, if you kept writing, pretty soon something of value was going to come out on that page. I wrote a lot of garbage back then but there were also many true gems of wisdom. I found by writing this way, it released my creative energies and I often found my soul revealed on the page, answering problems that I had fretted over for weeks.

She also told you to take an “artist date” once a week. It could be anything: go visit a fabric store, walk along a quiet river, visit a museum or go watch a parade. You were allowed to do anything at all that helped to rejuvenate, replenish or inspire you. It was to be done solo, was to be fun and festive and was to be filled with play. She said that we work so hard at being artists that we need to give back to ourselves and find the play in our creative process once again.

At the end of the 12 weeks of exploration, Cameron challenged you to set a creative focus for yourself that would work in your life. You were to set a basic goal, the steps you would go through to achieve that goal, and the time frame it would take you. You were to find a mentor that would encourage, guide and prod you along and you must meet with your mentor once a week until the goal was achieved. I chose to focus on writing, to have something published, even if it was only in a small way and I met with my friend Jane in her home, once a week. I continued to write morning papers and we had a lot of fun giving each other small prompts for creative, spontaneous writing and sharing these with each other. At the end of my weeks with her I did achieve my goal and an article on creativity was published in a provincial drama educator’s newsletter.

Cameron’s book opened up a new world of writing to me. I had always enjoyed writing but she inspired me to explore my writing further and she gave me a means of goal-setting and finding success with my chosen creative field. I would recommend this book for anyone who feels blocked in their creative field. If you are willing to work through her program from beginning to end, you will achieve success – and have a lot of fun doing it. Get those creative juices brewing. Go play.