Thursday, May 7, 2015

Welcome to my blog! "Connected in Love"

Hello, and welcome to my blog about my novel "Connected in Love."
The setting is picturesque Southeastern Pennsylvania in autumn. 


The fictitious LDS Knecht Branch in the novel
is named for the Knecht Covered Bridge
situated on Knecht Bridge Road.
The real bridge is the Knechts Covered Bridge.
Do you know why the early settlers built covered bridges?
And it wasn't so they could steal a kiss in private. Well, okay, some did.

The author standing inside the Knechts Covered Bridge in Bucks County, PA,
the setting for "Connected in Love"

One of the narrow roads found in Mary Donohue's rural Southeastern Pennsylvania realm.
I know you want to go there. Who wouldn't?

A grass-covered lane near the Knecht Covered Bridge.
The Knecht Branch Primary children all want to know where it leads,
but it's private property, so the leaders won't let them explore it.
Don't you just want to know what's down that path?
This is  Joyce Fretz's leaf-strewn lane.
That's her mailbox on the right there.
Mary visits her in Chapter 8.
Poor Joyce broke her ankle.
This is Mary and Dave Donohue's wooden bridge, over the little creek at the end of their property.
Notice Mary's nice touch hanging from the bridge, just before the first frost--and the flu hits the branch.
Another view of the Donohue's wooden bridge,
built by the Donohue Brothers Construction Company.
Their house is on the other side of the stand of poplar trees.
Mary and Dave have lived here almost twenty years.
The mailbox, mentioned in Chapter 27, is just out of camera shot on the left.

The Donohue's live down the lane from the local high school.
Their seminary students walk this way to school weekday mornings,
unless one of the teenagers drives to school and gives everyone a ride.

A well-manicured Pennsylvania farm, not far from Mary's house.
The home of Eleanor Black, an elderly widow in the branch.

A brownstone barn, just up the street from the Knecht Covered Bridge.
Keep going up this road and you'll come to the Knecht Branch.
This is the road the township uses for the Autumn Hayride, mentioned in the last few chapters.

This is the lawn just beyond the Knecht Branch building.
Keep walking through the woods and you'll come to the Knecht Covered Bridge.
The Branch members have picnics, games, and Cub Scouts out on the lawn during nice weather.
You'll read about this in Chapter 5.

I invite you to read the first two chapters of "Connected in Love." 
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Thanks for visiting rural Pennsylvania in autumn.
Now back to your regularly scheduled season, time, and place.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Dread Mother's Curse

Get to know Mary and Dave Donohue and their families by reading their Back Story, or what authors like to call "Info Dump." 
When they were younger, the Donohue children complained one day that they didn't like sitting in the front of the chapel during church. Echoing what her own mother used to say about sitting up front, Mary said,  "I can hear better in the front."  Mary knew the children could pay attention better there, too.
Then, as the old saying goes, "history repeats itself," her daughter, Becky, when she was thirteen, complained she hated sitting up front because all the people would stare at the back of her head during sacrament meeting.
"Yeah...that's what they're doing. They're staring at your head," Mary retorted. Becky rolled her eyes at Mary. Mary smiled to herself. The Mother's Curse. She's my mother's curse.
Mary woke up on her thirteenth birthday and had mysteriously turned into her parallel universe self overnight. She came down for breakfast with a churlish smirk on her face and grumpy retort for everything said at the breakfast table.
Then, she did the unthinkable: she talked back to her mother.
There was a pall over the kitchen.  It became silent at once as all eight children looked at Mary with mouths dropped open. They slowly looked at their mother, wondering what would happen next.  Mary’s mouth would not stop until her mother interrupted—
"Mary, I'm going to do something I promised myself I would never do," she began, lifting her chin in the air, and pointing her wooden spoon at her that was, until that moment, mixing the batter for Mary’s own birthday cake.
They all knew where this was going.
"No, ma, no!" they all begged her in a chaotic wave. 
They had all been threatened from earliest memory with “The Mother's Curse.” Their mother would yell, "Don't make me call down T'he Mother's Curse' on you!" The children didn't know what it was, but, knowing the wrath of their mother on a daily basis, they didn't want to find out.
As her mother began prounouncing "the curse," Mary stared back at her defiantly, her own chin lifted, as if goading her mother to dare to do it.
"I hope. . ." her mother started slowly, articulating every word, waving the spoon up and down at Mary like a magic wand in fairy tales. . .
"No! Ma! Think about what you're doing!" eleven-year-old Patrick pleaded.
". . .that when you grow up. . ." Ma continued, arms folded now, still wielding the wooden spoon . . .
“Don’t do it, Ma!” Mary Beth, nine at the time, shouted, her voice cracking.
Mary's chin jutted out and the other children could plainly hear her mutter, "Hrmph," through her nose.
"Ma! You said you would never do this!" Denny, seven, wailed in disbelief as he held his head in his hands and shook his head.
"...you will have a daughter . . ." Mrs. O'Brien continued, squinting her eyes at Mary.
"Ahh! No-o-o-o!" they all wailed and contorted their faces in various twisted poses.
Mary furrowed her brown and squinted back, cocking her head.
Five-year-old Mary Anne put down her spoon and abruptly sobbed, big tears spitting out of her eyes. Little Michael, just three, ran to his mother and pulled on her leg to make her stop, not really knowing what was happening, but channeling the others’ angst in the situation. His mouth contorted into a wail, followed by tears.
Baby Rory, in the high chair, started to cry along with Michael, though, like the three-year-old, he didn’t know why, except everyone seemed to be agitated and scared. He looked back and forth from one sibling to another, mouth open, tears mingling with oatmeal-dotted saliva all over his face.
"Ma! There's still time to stop!" Martin, the oldest at fifteen, finally chimed in, adding to the drama, though he said it with a smirk, more amused than upset.
". . .just . . .like. . .you!" She completed the curse.
Everyone, at the same time, stopped crying and yelling, leaving the room in complete and utter silence, except for Mary Anne's sniffing and hiccupping breaths.
They watched their mother stare at Mary, then watched Mary stare back at their mother.
Mary sarcastically broke the silence. “Happy.Birthday.To.Me.” 
The clan held their collective breath, looking from Mary to their mother and back again.
The staring match took painfully long.
Mary, with one eyebrow raised, and still not taking her eyes from her mother’s glaring eyes, picked up her spoon and shoveled some oatmeal into her mouth. She chewed. She swallowed. She took another bite. 
Her mother did not move one muscle. She did not blink.
Keeping her eyes on her mother, Mary took a drink of milk, then slowly looked away and finished her breakfast in silence—along with everyone else—except for some whimpering from Michael, who ended up lying on the floor beside his mother’s feet, exhausted but grateful the noise had abated.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Back Story: O'Brien and Donohue Naming Traditions

Get to know Mary and Dave Donohue and their families by reading their Back Story. 
Or what authors like to call: Info Dump.

As Mary worked on making her oatmeal bread that fateful Friday during flu season, she remembered, when she was a kid, her mother gave her milk toast when she was sick. What an awful thing to give someone who’s sick! You should never have milk when you’re sick. And all the butter ma put on the toast
Still, she had to admit, it tasted really good, at least in her childhood memory. I have never given my children milk toast. They don’t even know what it is. Ma sure did some quirky things. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Don’t even get me started on the names, Fluffy," she said to the dog. Too late. Her thoughts drifted.

Mary was the oldest girl of eight children: three sisters—all named Mary:  Mary Margaret, Mary Elizabeth, and Mary Anne—and five brothers. Her sisters were called by their first and middle names, Mary Beth and Mary Anne, but Mary used just plain Mary. Confusing to most, but not to her mother.
Her mother had affected a small Irish lilt in her voice while telling her daughters one day, "First and foremost, you were named after the Blessed Virgin," which, in her upbringing, was the greatest of women who ever lived. 
"Mary Elizabeth, after the cousin of Mary who had an idea in her own heart and womb that Mary, our Blessed Mother, was carrying Our Lord." She touched her middle as if  remembering carrying her own children. She continued, "Mary Anne was named for Mary and Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. Saintly names, all," she said and sighed as she ironed the boys' Sunday shirts all those years ago.
She, Mary Margaret, was named Mary (after the Blessed Virgin) and Margaret, after her mother’s mother, Margaret Mary. Elizabeth was her father’s mother's name, and Anne was her own mother's name, Anne Marie, to be exact, consistent with traditional Irish naming patterns. 
My mother's family has been in America for four generations, but old habits die hard, I guess. She swiped her forehead with her left forearm. Why is it your nose always itches or your hair gets in your eyes when your hands are full of dough?
Her older brother, Martin, then Patrick and Dennis, were named consistent with her grandfathers' names and her father, Denny O'Brien. The other two boys were named after her father's cousins, Michael and Rory. Martin, and Mary, two years younger, set the precedent for gender and age span, their parents bringing eight wee ones into the world every two years: boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy--until they got to Rory at the end who broke the pattern by being born male, to the girls' chagrin.
The girls rebelled when they got to high school. Mary Beth creatively changed her name to M'Eliz and Mary Anne introduced herself strictly as Anne. The family still followed tradition during get-togethers, calling them by both names. Old habits die hard.
Now that she was researching her family's genealogy, Mary could see the wisdom in naming children after family members, but at the time she named her Donohue children, she just wanted them to have their own names. 
She and Dave had been totally original, that is, totally not Irish.  There were no Seans or Brians, Erins or Bridgets in her family. Hannah, Rebecca, Joshua and Zachary; good Old Testament names, hardly heard of in a Catholic household of earlier times. 

Her mother had been distraught at the names Mary and Dave chose.
"Ma, Hannah is the Hebrew name for Anna," she tried to explain to Anne Marie O'Brien one day.
"Ach! Hebrew? That's not Catholic!" 
Mary sighed. No use telling her Joshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. She would just deny it.
Having married a Donohue, from an equally large Irish Catholic family, Mary and Dave decided they would break from all those saints' names and traditions and give their children names they liked. And certainly not names that began with 'D', as his parents had done. 
In addition to David, his siblings were Daniel, Dylan, Diane, Douglas, Debbie and Delia Gallagher.  Dave, smack dab in the middle--number four out of seven--behaved just like a middle child. He was the go-to guy, even tempered, mediator of the family, even now. It was one of the reasons why Mary fell in love with him.  
As the oldest girl, Mary had the oldest child place in the family. Bossy, she gave advice freely, even, and maybe especially, when unwanted. Take charge and Type A, she sometimes stressed herself out by striving to be the best, do the best and expect the best. She needed Dave's evenness to keep her—and their family—calm and on target. 
My north star. Mary sighed as she thought of her leprechaun of a husband, with his now graying orange hair. "Just like an orange creamsicle," she was known to say to him in a tease. 

Look for more back story coming soon.