All in the Family

Scientists say that genetics can influence anything from eye color to talents.  Well, if that’s true then the majority of my family can thank both sides of my extended family for what they passed down to us.  My nana’s side, the O’Kanes, had the arts and the voice and my papa’s side, the Brownings, had the writing and dramatic flair.  Without these gene flowing through my veins I would not be where I am today and I love my grandparents for everything they gave me.  (As a side note I’m hearing my nana saying, “I may not have a lot of money, but I have a lot of love,” as I wrote that last sentence.)  If she were here, I’d say, “Nana, who cares about money when the talents you gave us are worth far more than any amount of money in the world.”I love you and miss you every day! Kathleen O’Kane Browning was born on June 10, 1923, and died on October 28, 2008.  That’s right, today is the anniversary of her voyage to Heaven.

Nana 1942

Nana was such a strong woman.  I come from a family of strong and beautiful women.  Emotionally, we might be sensitive and soft hearted, but we are ferocious when and where it counts.  That is definitely one trait that I am so glad that I got from her.  At a young age, Nana lost both of her parents before she was twelve years old, watched some of her brothers leave too, and was raised by her older sisters.  She went on to have three daughters: Susan (my wonderful aunt who helped me with a lot of the information and photographs for this blog); my mother, Marie; and my other aunt, Ann.  From there Nana went on to battle lung cancer, losing part of her lung; breast cancer, which she beat; and a stroke, leaving her left side weakened; and finally she endured the death of a husband and all of her siblings before her.  Nana was the lone survivor of the O’Kane family.  I like to think that not only do I carry her family’s talents with me–several great uncles and aunts were artists, singers, and writers–but also her strength to fight and survive through some of life’s worst challenges.

As for my Papa, Robert Browning, he was born on November 4, 1919.  No, he was not thatRobert Browning (19th century poet), but he was a poet in his own rite as well as a journal author, literature writer, mediator, husband, father, World War II hero, and POW survivor.  Papa, to me though, was a funny grandfather always full of stories and quirky idiosyncrasies.  As a grandfather, he played the organ — with his reading glasses upside down.  I don’t know why, but he did.  He’d take my cousins, sisters and me to Rocky Woods in Medfield, Massachusetts, leading us on the same path every time, telling us the stories of the Native Americans who would pick wild blueberries and sarsaparilla and pointing out the markings in the large boulders that he told us were the notches the Revolutionary War soldiers gouged so they could steady their rifles when they shot.  I found out a long time afterwards that those notches were from the quarry where the stones were cut.  They were the blast marks that blew the giant boulders apart, but the illusion Papa created for us in his stories made the woods come alive, heck made history come alive.  He also had some purposely fictional stories too, like the Mama Bear who lived in a stone pit and we had to ring the “doorbell” to see if she was home.  She was never there, but that didn’t stop us from believing that she really might be there somewhere in the ground below.  I have no idea how long that path was, but we didn’t go all that far and only ever ventured to the Gorilla rock, which did actually look like a gorilla.

We never went past that rock and that was always okay with us.  We’d turn around and head back to the car where Papa would share his canteen of ice cold water with us and if we were really good he would take us to the Bubbling Brook, a homemade ice cream shop, for a scoop.  Papa always tried to get a bite from each of our cones and my cousin Ricky would freak out and cry whenever he did that.  A lot of times Ricky would go so far as to throw out his ice cream after that, so indignant that his grandfather took a bite.

As I grew older and Papa left us for the Golden Kingdom, I realized how much he influenced my life.  Before we even knew him, he flew in World War II in a P~51 aircraft and was shot down in Germany.  He was captured that day by the Nazis and imprisoned in the Stalag Luft III camp for over a year.  He came home in 1945 after being set free from the camp by General Patton. After Papa’s passing we found that he had written a journal about his time in the camp.  He had drawn diagrams of the rooms and the barracks and written chilling recollections of sleeping coffins, but never once did we hear what had exactly happened to him during that time….

Ever since I learned about Papa’s past, a lot of my writing, especially Beneath the Wall, has been an homage to my grandfather and what he went through.  I even named my main character Roberts, after him.  I am so grateful for his talents too, his strength, his patriotism, and his ability to create a story both during the best of times and the worst of times.

I love you Nana and Papa!  I miss you both every day!


To read further:

Rocky Woods

Stalag Luft III

What Dreams May Come

I feel the need to write a blog about dreams, but what about… I don’t know.  We all have them right?  Some are small – meeting a favorite celebrity and some are grand – Becoming a celebrity all on your own.  (I should mention, some are more heart-felt than those, but for today let’s just stick to these.)  It’s so easy to have a dream and to just let it be that… a dream, but for some of us that dream is so close and so deep in our veins that we can taste it! 

I feel that way every day.  All of my life, I have had both heart-felt dream such as finding my soulmate, getting married, having a baby; and now that I have accomplished those I am back to my more superficial but very real goals of wanting to have the limelight shine on me.  I was always the little girl who performed for everyone and anyone.  At age five I hopped on the stage at church and sang in front of the whole congregation, beaming as I did.  I loved every play, every musical, every competition I was in, but still was never one of the “cool kids”.  

Then came my passion for writing and my love for history.  I remember being in Washington D.C. or the Lexington/Concord battlefields in Massachusetts and feeling the essence of what was once happening on the grass beneath me.  Who walked these grounds?  What history was made here?  The earth was electric with historic significance and my spirit was alive with yearning.  I connected with history then and by the time college came around I had no idea what to do with it, but I knew I had to be apart of it.  Once I started using my history background, writing about it was the next step.  I never wanted to write nonfiction material, mainly because I am very imaginative and want to be in history as a character myself.  When I am writing a historical fiction I can be anyone anywhere in the world and in any time in history. 

Back to the subject at hand though, dreams.  Yes, it may be superficial to want to see my name in print on a book shelf, but it’s something I’ve always wanted.  I’m not the person who could be happy with just keeping my writing in a drawer somewhere.  No way!  I want to share my craft with other history lovers out there and I want them to like me.  I want to be  just like Sally Field when she won her second Oscar screaming, “You like me, You really really like me!” from the podium. 

So we all have dreams and I wish we could all have the passion to bring these dreams to fruition.  The human brain and drive is a very powerful things and if a dream is something you really want, you can do it.  I’m not going to give up my dreams for anything!  And God-willing they will come true.

Monkey See Monkey Do…

I wasn’t going to use my blog to brag, tell stories about, or gush about my son (even though he is the cutest thing ever), but this story deserved a blog.  Yesterday, my four-year old son, Cameron, took my iPad into his room to, what I assumed, was to play games while I showered.  I found him instead using the Notepad randomly typing.

“What are you doing Buddy?” I asked.

Without looking up from the pad he said, “I’m writing a story, Mom.”

Feeling happy and proud that he was following (somewhat) in my footsteps I smiled and asked, “What’s your story about?”

I got a sigh and a glower followed by, “Mom, you’re bothering me.  I need to write my story. I’ll talk to you later.”

I had to laugh, he sounded completely like me when I’m in “the zone”.  You know the place, when you are on roll, the words are flowing like milk and honey, and even the threat of flood or fire isn’t enough to pull you away from your computer screen…  Anyways, part of me wanted to laugh at him for being so cute, but the other part cringed as I realized those words don’t sound very good coming back to me.  I will have to work on that during my next writing session.  But I let the boy be and after about ten minutes, he came to me with gibberish words on the Notepad saying, “Wanna read my story now?”

Considering, it really said nothing, I didn’t want to ruin his creativity, because he obviously was “writing” something.  So I said, “How about you read it to me.”

With a clear of his throat and a nestle of his tushy against the bed and pillows he began.

“The Purple Ranger is there to save Jayden from the Nighlok that came to get him.  She fought the Nighlok but couldn’t get Jayden away.  Then Jayden died and Purple Ranger was sad.”  I gasped and Cameron smiled. “Wait Mom, there’s more,” he said and then continued. “Purple Ranger defeated the Nighlok and Jayden wasn’t died, (that’s not a typo, Cameron says died instead of killed as in *he died him* instead of *he killed him*…back to Jayden) he came back alive and the Purple Ranger was so happy she kissed Jayden.”

At this I squealed.  Cameron gave me a flat look and a, “Stop it Mom.” He hates when I get gushy about romance.

Now to explain, the rangers are the Power Rangers, which there is not a Purple Ranger but there is a Jayden, and he’s the leader of the Rangers.  Nighloks are the bad creatures from someplace I don’t know.  As I have seen m a n y  of the episodes, unfortunately, I can tell you that this story was not one of the shows.  So my boy created some original fan fiction … awww :).

My point of blog being, little ones watch us like hawks.  But maybe, just maybe what they pick up is a talent that they find within themselves and who knows where that new skill will lead them.  I’m so proud of my boy, not only that but I don’t feel as guilty for being a bit quick when I’m in the zone. Cameron repeating my actions told me that he understands the seriousness of what writing is and that he’s not harboring any hard feelings towards what I do during the day.