Who was Alice Rowan?


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I recently sent away for a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. I was curious, although I figured I was 75% Scottish, with a smattering of English, Irish, German, Dutch, and French. Imagine my surprise when my results came back 39% Irish. That got me wondering where all that Irish DNA came from, so I started researching one of my known links back to Ireland, the Rowan family. Through a lot of painstaking searching, this is what I’ve come up with. If anyone out there knows more about the Rowan family, or has photographs, I would appreciate your input.

My great-great-grandparents were Patrick Rowan and Bridget McInulty (spellings differ depending on which record you look at), both born in Ireland, possibly County Mayo. Patrick was the son of John Rowan and Catherine Violent (Giolent? — the handwriting on the old records is a bear.)  Bridget was the daughter of John Joyce and Bridget McAnulty.  Their first daughter (that we know of), Bridget Rowan, was born in 1845 in County Mayo, Ireland. I don’t know for sure why they moved to Scotland, but I am assuming it had to do with the Great Famine (1845-1852) when potato blight destroyed Ireland’s main food staple. A million people died of starvation and disease, and another million people fled their homeland. I can only imagine how hard life was for them. They may have lost other children during this time too.

The Rowan family emigrated to Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where their daughter Mary Rowan (1849) and son John Rowan (1851) were born in Closeburn. Sometime after that, they moved to Dumfries, where my great grandfather, Patrick Rowan Jr. was born on April 3, 1856. Later, the family moved to Maxwelltown, Troqueer parish, Kirkcudbrightshire, and their youngest daughter Catherine Rowan was born on November 13, 1858. They lived on Broatsch’s Close for the rest of their lives, where Patrick and Bridget ran a lodgings house, and Patrick was a general laborer (or labourer if you’re Canadian or British). Maxwelltown was a small town on the west bank of the river Nith, which was the boundary between Dumfriesshire and Kirkcudbrightshire. Just across the river was Dumfries. (Maxwelltown merged with Dumfries in 1929.)

The 1861 census gives a glimpse into their lives: Patrick was 40, Bridget 34, daughter Bridget is 16 and working in the fields as an agricultural labourer, Mary is 12, attending school, John is 10, also going to school, Patrick is 5, and Catherine is 2 years old. (Keep in mind that census ages can be off a few years, especially with adults.)

On October 10, 1865, their oldest daughter, Bridget was married (Catholic church) to David Nicholson, the son of Alexander Nicholson and Sarah Cummings, who lived at Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire and then Dumfries, Dumfriesshire. David was a farm worker residing at Chapel Hill, Carlarverah, Dumfriesshire.  He and Bridget went on to have 11 children (John, Margaret, Alexander, Mary Jane, Sarah Jane, David, Janet, Mary, James, Catherine, and Francis, all born in Troqueer parish except for the last child, Francis, a son born in Galashiels, on the Scottish Borders. Bridget died in Selkirk, Selkirkshire at age 73.

On October 28, 1869, their second daughter, Mary, was married (Church of Scotland) to Robert Welsh, a mill worker from Dumfries (son of James Welsh and Jane McQueen), at Dumfries, Dumfriesshire. They had 11 children (Jane Robson, William Kirkpatrick (died young), Robert (died age 4), John, Robert, Douglas (died age 4), Mary, William, Catherine, Francis, and Douglas.) The Welsh family lived in Dumfries until 1881 when they moved to Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. Robert became a railway traffic inspector. Mary died at age 70 from diabetes at Glasgow.

The 1871 census shows us that Patrick is 53, Bridget is 50, John is 19, working as a plasterer, Patrick is 15, a piecer in a factory, and Catharine is 12, going to school. Sometime in this year, Patrick Sr. went blind, and had to deal with this struggle.

The 1881 census shows Patrick Rowan 60, unemployed and blind, Bridget is 56, Patrick Jr. is 24, working in a woolen mill, and Catherine is 22, a sewer in a woolen mill. They have 6 lodgers staying with them at this time. John Rowan, their son is in Ayr, Ayrshire, age 30, a plasterer, boarding with the Conton family.

On March 16, 1885, John Rowan (age 33) now a mason’s labourer, is married to Janet McCulloch (age 35), a cotton winder, both living in Glasgow.  She is the daughter of William McCulloch (a stone quarrier, deceased) and Elizabeth Weir, both from Ireland, who settled in Maybole, Ayrshire and had 8 children.  (I couldn’t find any children for John and Janet, except for the 1891 census in Glasgow, Goven parish, Lanarkshire, where it lists a son William age 17, born 1874 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, a plasterer’s apprentice (Perhaps step-son to John?).  In 1901, John (50) and Janet (56) are living at Glasgow, Goven parish, Lanarkshire. And an E. McCulloch, daughter, was the informant on Janet’s death record.)

There are different nefarious stories for John Rowan, but I think he is mistaken for another John Rowan, for when Janet died on September 24, 1920 (age 82) at Glasgow, she was married to John Rowan, plasterer. When John died on four months later on January 15, 1921 (heart) at Glasgow (at the same address), he is listed as the widower of Janet McCulloch. More research is needed here.

On October 9, 1888, Catherine Rowan died from gangrene in the foot, complications of diabetes.  She was single, working as a darner in a tweed factory, living in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire near or with her sister Mary. Her family must have mourned her deeply.

On January 30, 1891, at the Troqueer church, Patrick Rowan Jr. (age 33, general labourer) married Alice Heron/Simpson, age 22, a field worker living at Broatch’s close, Maxwelltown, the daughter of Henry Heron and Alice Simpson.  I’ll tell more about them later.

In the 1891 Census, Patrick Rowan is 75 and Bridget is 65, lodgings housekeepers with many people lodging with them.

On June 8, 1892, Patrick Rowan Sr. died at Maxwelltown, at age 72 of heart disease, bronchitis, and dropsy. His daughter in law, Alice, was present at his death. On September 24, 1892, Bridget followed her husband, at age 65. Her son Patrick Rowan was present.

Patrick Rowan Jr.

My great-grandfather, Patrick Rowan Jr., was a general labourer and a Corporation Employments lamplighter. The marriage certificate says Alice was a spinster, but further research showed she wasn’t.

Alice Simpson/Heron has a great deal of mystery surrounding her. When she married, she was a field worker age staying at Broatch’s Close, but I haven’t been able to find her birth record or birthplace. In the 1891 census, she is 21, but there is no birthplace recorded. Her father was Henry Heron, and her mother Alice Simpson. None of the census records prior to 1891 match the few details I have for them. On the birth records for the children, when Patrick was the informant, he said her maiden name was Heron, but when Alice gave the information, she said her maiden name was Simpson. I concluded that her parents weren’t married.

Alice Simpson was born in 1869. At age 16 she married Baptiste Alfonso Caroen in 1885 at Berwick-on-Tweed, a town on the Scottish/English border of Northumberland. As she was underage, I am guessing that they eloped. Baptiste was a French polisher, or a person who prepares and finishes fine furniture.

(Baptiste was born in France about 1860, and emigrated to England and eventually to Scotland. He shows up at age 12 on January 1, 1872 in Herefordshire, England before a judge for stealing 2 cloth leggings from a Theodosia Delahey living at Staunton-on-Wye on Dec 26, 1871. (He was probably hungry and cold.) He is sentenced to one month hard labour and 4 years in reformatory school. (Just the sound of it makes me shudder.) In the 1881 census, a Baptist-Allfounsi Curon age 24, born France Paris, confectioner, is in Whitehaven parish, Cumberland Co, England, with Ann McGowin or Curon, age 23, peddler, born at Montrose, Scotland.

After marrying Alice in 1885 at Berwick-on-Tweed, Baptiste and Alice went to Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, where two daughters were born.

Josephine Caroen was born October 20, 1887 in Dumfries to Baptiste Alfonso Caroen and Alice Simpson. She married 1st Edward Graham, milliner, in 1908, and 2nd,  in 1910 married James McGuire, labourer, of Dundee. She died June 10, 1929 at the Royal Infirmary, Dundee, Scotland age 42, and her parents are listed as John Caroen, French polisher, deceased, and Alice Caroen MS Simpson, deceased. Informant was her husband James.

Isabella Caroen was born September 22, 1889 at Dumfries to Baptiste Alfonso Caroen, French Polisher, and Alice Simpson.  She married Albert Rivers in 1912 in Wantage, Berkshire, England, and then Frederick Rivers. They had a son Thomas Rivers born in 1921 and a daughter Winnifred Ann Rivers, born in 1925. Isabella died in 1973 in East Hendred, Berkshire, England.

Shortly after 1889, Baptiste and Isabella split up, and Josephine disappears from the census.

On January 30, 1891, at the Troqueer church, Patrick Rowan Jr. (age 33, general labourer) married Alice Heron/Simpson, age 22, a field worker living at Broatch’s close, Maxwelltown, the daughter of Henry Heron and Alice Simpson.

In 1891 census, Patrick Rowan Jr, is 33, married, a lamplighter working for Corporation Employments, with Alice his wife, age 21, and Isabella Rowan, daughter, age 1. Patrick might have adopted Isabella. But where is Josephine?

In 1891 census, Alphonso Caroen is a lodger, age 26, French polisher, living at New Wynd house, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. No birthplace given. (Jean Baptist Caroen, labourer, died 14 July 1922 at New Buildings, Springfield, at age 63. (Not sure if this is the right man, but on Josephine’s death record, she lists her father as John Caroen, French polisher.)

Patrick and Alice Rowan had three children, all born at Maxwelltown:

Patrick Rowan III was born March 17,1892. John Rowan was born September 22, 1893, and died on February 5, 1895 at Maxwelltown. Alice Rowan was born July 21, 1895.

Sometime in the next five years, Alice Simpson Caroen Rowan died. I have not been able to find a record of her death. With all the deaths in the family in these few years, it must have been a very hard time for them, especially the children.

In the 1901 Census, Patrick Rowan Jr. is 41, living at Old Bridge Road, a lamplighter and labourer, widower, and has Bella C. daughter age 10, and Patrick, a son age 8. The big question is, where is his daughter, Alice, who would have been only 6 years old, and his step daughter Josephine, who would have been 14?

In 1911 Census, Patrick Rowan is an inmate (of where it doesn’t say), age 57, widower, lamplighter, born Dumfries, listed as having 3 children.

Patrick’s son, Patrick Rowan III married Mary Ann McKeen (b. 1895 in Belfast, Ireland) on 13 February 1920 at Blythswood, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. She was the daughter of John McKeen and Catherine Gough, both from Ireland. They had 7 children – Alice, Patrick J., Samuel, Frederick, Catherine, Joyce, and Patrick. (Patrick J, Samuel and Frederick died as children.) They lived in Lochwinnoch and Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, and Oxford, Oxfordshire, and East Hanney, Berkshire, in England. Patrick III died in 1953 in Carlisle, Cumberland, England, and Mary Ann died in 1972 in Nr. Stroud, Gloustershire, England.

On December 7, 1923, Patrick Rowan Jr. died at Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, age 67 yrs. He was a general labourer, the widower of Isabel Heron. Patrick Rowan, his son was present. (We are left to wonder if Patrick married a second time, or if he meant Alice Heron, and Alice’s middle name was Isabel.)

Alice Rowan

Alice Rowan, my grandmother, was born July 21, 1895 to Patrick Rowan Jr. and Alice Heron/Simpson. She is missing from the census until 1911, when she shows up in Colvend, Kirkcudbrightshire, age 18, a general domestic servant to Joseph and Margaret Bigham and their three children.

In 1912, at age 20, Alice Rowan emigrated to Canada. Why did she leave? Perhaps she felt as if she had no one left. She sailed aboard the Pretorian, departing from Glasgow, Scotland, and arrived in Montreal, Quebec on 27 June 1912. She was single, intended to live permanently in Canada, could read and write, and intended to go to Seaforth, Ontario. (Now Huron East, Huron County, Ontario) She was a confectioner in Scotland, and intended to be a Domestic servant. She lists her religion as Catholic.

The photo at the top was sent from Alice to her half-sister Isabel.

On 11 October 1913, Alice May Rowan (age 21, residing in Saskatoon) married Arthur Mayne Rafuse (Rayfuse) age 20, chauffeur residing in Saskatoon (born 10 December 1892 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia to Ephraim Rafuse and Charity Pentz) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She lists her mother’s maiden name as Alice Simpson. They are married at Mrs. Ovenden’s residence, 334 Ave, D Smith (South), Saskatoon, by Rev. John G. Gurchy of the Church of England. Witnesses were Mrs. L. Ovenden, and C. Robilland of Saskatoon. We are left to wonder how Alice and Arthur met. Was she a “mail order bride” or did she come to the Saskatoon area to meet relatives? What brought them together?

They moved to a homestead near Alsask (near Morengo) Saskatchewan, (NW ¼ of 17-28-17 West 3rd) where Arthur farmed for a time. They might have lived in a sod house, for this was flat prairie land. On the land next to them was Arthur’s brother, Joseph Parker Rayfuse.

Their children were all born at the homestead, and JP Rafuse was the informant on the birth records:

Gladys May Rayfuse, born 19 October 1915, Parker Joseph Rayfuse (my father), born 24 October 1916, (A Miss Rayfuse was in attendance, possibly Arthur’s sister Florence?), Alice Isabella Rayfuse (later named Mary Esther), born in 26 April 1918.

In the 1916 Census, at 28-27-W3, near Milton P.O., Saskatchewan, Arthur Rayfuse is 23, farmer, b. NS, Alice wife is 21, b. Scotland, Gladys, daughter is 8 months old, born Sask, and Joseph P. Rayfuse, brother to Arthur, is 30, b. NS., farmer.

Alice and Arthur divorced, 9 July 1920.  Arthur was 27 and she was 24. We may never know what happened, but I can imagine that life in a sod house in the middle of the prairie, with poor land, little water, no other women to talk to, and three small children, must have been very difficult. I don’t know why she didn’t take her children with her when she ran, but the tragedy affected them all. For some reason Arthur didn’t keep the children.

Alice went to Calgary, Alberta, and the children were fostered or adopted to various families in the area. They grew up not knowing about each other or their family, and it was only as adults that some of them were able to reconnect with each other. Joseph Parker (age 4) was adopted by the Kidd family and known as Richard Kidd. When the Kidd family went back to Scotland, they left him behind and sent him back to his father, who put him on a train to British Columbia to live with his uncle, Thomas Rayfuse. He changed his name back to Parker Joseph Rayfuse. He served in the army as a mechanic during WWII, married Margaret Maclean in Winnipeg in 1956, and had 4 girls, all born in Red Deer, Alberta. He later divorced, remarried Olga Workun, and lived in Camrose, Alberta. He died August 11, 2004 and is buried in Calmar, Alberta. Gladys May (age 4) became Gladys Phyllis, and ended up in Los Angeles, where she married Dan Mendez and had 6 children. She died on July 8, 1979.  Alice Isabella (age 2) became Mary Esther. She lived with the O’Connor family for a time, and then was in foster homes until age 21. She joined the navy, and eventually ended up in Vernon, British Columbia, where she married Ray Neilsen. She had 4 sons and 1 daughter, and they lived at Silver River, Chilliwack, Harrison, and Langley. Mary Rayfuse Neilson died on 25 November 1957 at Langley, BC age 39.

Arthur Rayfuse had one other child that I know of. Walter Gordon Rayfuse was born December 9, 1922 to Nellie Dorothea Lutz, who later married James Charles Wilson. James adopted Walter, who was an adult when he learned about his birth father. Walter married Ethel Beatrice Digby in Vancouver, BC, had 4 children, and died in 2001 in Reno, Nevada.

In Calgary, Alice changed her last name to Rowan. She lived at 1614 – 20 Ave NW Calgary. In 1927, Arthur’s brother, Joseph P. Rafuse, also lived in Calgary at 117 – 11 Ave. W., and I wonder if he made contact with her. Alice died on 30 January 1934 in Calgary, Alberta, age 38. She was buried by the welfare at Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary, as no relatives were known at the time. My father said once that at one point he was in Calgary. If he’d known she was there, he would have gone to see her and got to know her.

Arthur Rayfuse later married Margaret Berndston (b. 1903) on 14 Feb. 1927 at Los Angeles, California. Arthur was a carpenter/building contractor and travelled frequently between Los Angeles, California and Saskatoon. I have found 11 records of his border crossings while traveling to California, from 1926 to 1956.  Arthur Rayfuse died September 1, 1966 (stomach cancer) in Monterey Park, Los Angeles, California. His will states that he was a widower, with three living children: Gladys Rafuse, Joseph Parker Rafuse and Walter Gordon Rafuse, and one deceased child, Mary Isabelle Rafuse. He gave his estate to his friends, Florence Odell Hyndman and Mary E. Shafer. He is buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California.

This is what I know about the Rowan family. If anyone has any other information about them, please contact me.


League of Utah Writers Conference


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Thank you to all those who worked so hard to put the writers’ conference together and make it a success. I enjoyed it very much, learned a lot, and made some new friends. Thanks to all the presenters and teachers, and for the keynote speaker, Mette Ivie Harrison, whose address was very inspiring. Thank you also to my fellow members of the Bountiful Chapter. It was great to hang out with you, and I appreciate your friendship. The food was delicious. My favorite class was Maxwell Alexander Drake’s — what a great teacher! I always come away from the conferences with a renewed desire to write and write well. Congratulations, Johnny Worthen, President-Elect! This next year is sure to be very entertaining.



David: The Unseen


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Book Review: David (Book 3 in the Unseen series), by Johnny Worthen: I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this series.  Eleanor was amazing, and Celeste was a heart-wrenching, action-packed cliffhanger (Ahhh!), so I have waited impatiently for David to come out.  This third and final book did not disappoint me.

After assuming the shape of a cat and being held captive for months, Eleanor thinks she is beginning to forget what it means to be a human, to be Eleanor.  She misses her true love, David, and she worries about the good people she left behind. So, she changes back to human and returns to Jamesford, the small Wyoming town where she first came to know love and all its opposites — prejudice, bullying, and hatred — that turned her life into a battlefield.  There she finds that some mourn her “death”, some use the event as a cheap tourist attraction, and some still hope that she’ll return. Eleanor learns more about her skin-walker heritage, which makes her wonder if death and misery are all that is in store for her and those who befriend her.  Eleanor also learns that she has more friends than she thought as they reach out and help her.  David is an amazing person who sees into her heart and loves her no matter what she looks like on the outside.  But there are others who still mean to harm her, and as evil forces gather, bent on her capture, Eleanor is once again in danger.  As she struggles to survive, Eleanor tries to do everything she can to make things right.

I loved this story, from the beginning of Eleanor to the end of David.  She became real, and I mourned and rejoiced with her in all her experiences, which dealt with issues that far too many regular humans face every day. Eleanor may be a skin-walker, but she is good, and she cares about people. Johnny has created a fascinating, complex character whom I will miss very much. Five Stars.

Stone and Spark


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cover Stone and Spark

Book Review: Stone and Spark – by Sibella Giorello:
Sibella Giorello goes back in time and gives us a new mystery/suspense series featuring Raleigh Harmon as a teenager.
When her best friend, Drew, goes missing, Raleigh is sure that something terrible has happened. However, no one will believe her — not even the police. Her only ally is a gruff but good-hearted teacher who encourages her to observe, learn, and keep on seeking answers. Raleigh uses her budding interest in geology to help her uncover the clues and soon finds herself in danger.
I loved this book. I’d already read the adult series, and I was so impressed with it. This book reveals the home life that Raleigh struggles with – an insane mother, a desperate sister, and a father who refuses to see the truth about their lives. Raleigh suffers so much angst, yet she refuses to give up, even in the face of overwhelming odds. She meets DeMott Fielding, who has good manners, a stable home, a kind heart and a willingness to help. You understand why she is so drawn to him. Stone and Spark is well written, with incredible attention to detail that makes the story rich and full. The suspense never stops. I could not put it down. Five Stars.

Told You Twice


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Told you Twice – Book Review – by Kristen Heitzmann:  Alexis (Exie) Murphy is engaged to the ‘perfect’ man and looks forward to a Grace Evangeline wedding and a happily-ever-after life. She’s willing to give up her talents and the essence of who she is in order to have the stability she craves and to make Jeffrey happy.  Then she meets Bo.
Bo Corrigan is a talented New York stage actor and model. No woman can resist him, and his playboy lifestyle and gambling are the stuff of legends. But all that is the persona he wants others to see. When he meets Exie, he is shaken to the core, for she sees the real man beneath the role, and she senses the tragedy, sorrow, and guilt that drive him in his brilliant performances. Bo convinces Exie that they need to explore the connection between them, and so Exie puts her engagement on hold and starts to get to know this complicated man. Unlike Jeffrey, Bo encourages her to pursue her many talents, and Exie’s extraordinary ability as an artist and musician begin to unfold. Then Bo’s past catches up with him, and dangerous forces threaten to destroy their fragile beginning.
I loved this book! I’ve read all of Kristen Heitzmann’s books, and it is an understatement to say she has a gift for character development. The people in this story are deep and complicated, with good qualities opposing their faults, weaknesses, and messy lives. They are searching for happiness and love, but they don’t know how to achieve it. I loved Exie’s goodness and her positive outlook on life, and I ached for her. She doesn’t see that Jeffrey will snuff out the creative flame within her, and that eventually she will be an empty shell. As an artist, I enjoyed her exploration of art and the overwhelming need to create what is within one’s soul. As Bo’s story unfolded, I mourned for his troubles and the tortured person within who needs to be loved and to find a purpose in life. I also really enjoyed the continued story of Grace Evangeline and Devin Bressard, who are now married and raising their little girl. Devin is over protective of his cousin, Exie – and who can blame him? Grace worries about everything, and their amazing verbal sparring from Told You So continues. In the background is Eileen, their wealthy friend who plays parent to them — matchmaking, protecting, and loving, even when her own health is in jeopardy.
This book also takes a compassionate look at those who are homeless and struggle with mental illness and drug addiction, and the heroes who reach out to them. Kristen Heitzmann proves that a story can be gritty, real and superbly moving without including a lot of swearing and graphic sex. She has written a beautiful, complicated book that touched me deeply. I recommend it to everyone. Five Stars!

I Eat Books


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I eat books. For breakfast, along with my cereal, fruit, and milk, I eat the bread of life found in the scriptures. For lunch, along with a peanut butter and jam sandwich, I’ll add a chapter or so of Harry Potter, or perhaps a chunk of the Dead Sea Scrolls (in English). Afternoons, I need a snack. Fruit, chips, or chocolate? I might read a little of Saffy’s Angel, by Hilary McKay, or maybe start a mystery, like Truth Stained Lies, by Terri Blackstone. Or how about a romantic suspense like Moon Dancing, by Anna Zogg? Usually though, I spend the afternoon writing, because if I let myself get caught in a story, I won’t get anything else done that day. For supper, along with the meat and vegetables, (if my husband isn’t there to talk to), I’ll add a generous helping of Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law, or Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss. Sometimes I’ll enjoy a couple of pages from my Greek textbook. I keep these reading meals short because there’s a lot to do every day, and my dog wants to walk. But when I’m in bed, and it’s quiet, with only my lamp shining in the dark, then I begin the true banquet at my fingertips. Books are stacked on my nightstand, and in my Nook and Kindle are hundreds more. Sometimes I feel like a lemon meringue romance, like Working It Out, by Rachael Anderson. At times I’ll have a cozy cup of mystery like Woof at the Door, by Laura Morrigan. Other times I want a sweet chunk of paranormal fantasy, like Silver, by Cheree Alsop. Then there are the books which touch my heart deeply, stir my imagination, and keep me up late, like Greensleeves, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, or Moon-Flash, by Patricia A. McKillip, or Where the River Ends, by Charles Martin. These are the true meals, the books that inspire me to be a better writer and a better human being. I love books.

Happy Father’s Day


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Gardiner's Book

Happy Father’s Day to my foster father, Gardiner Smith.
Gardiner and Fay were a young couple with two small children when they felt inspired to move to a village in central Alberta, where he began to teach science at the local school.  One day the teachers had a staff meeting, and a social worker told them that two teenage girls needed a new foster home. Gardiner went home and talked to his wife about it. They felt strongly that they should take us, and after Christmas they welcomed me and my sister into their family.
For the first time, we had a normal, stable home with parents who loved each other and were committed to each other. They taught us through word and example what the gospel meant. Gardiner was a humble person who had seen his own trials in life.  He observed the world around him and thought deeply about things.  We helped him in the garden, watched as he crafted furniture from wood in his workshop, and listened to his stories that illustrated the things he was trying to teach us.  I appreciated his efforts, his dry humor, and his insight.  Listening to his stories was like sitting at the feet of a wise master teacher.  Through the years, they added seven more children, and we so enjoyed interacting with them.  In this loving environment, I grew and flourished.  A light had turned on in my life, and I was thirsty for knowledge.  Gardiner gave me the confidence to apply to college and pursue a teaching degree.  Because of their example, I had the courage to marry and have children.  When I left home for college, he and Fay continued to write, call, and provide a summer home.  It wasn’t until Sam and I had two small children of our own that I understood the sacrifice they had made and the great love they had for us. Because of them, I knew how to parent my own children.  The great blessings I enjoy today are because of their wisdom, guidance, and love.  I am who I am because of him and Fay.  I will never be able to repay this debt, and my heart is full of gratitude.  Happy Father’s day to a wonderful man.

Tea with the Black Dragon


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cover Tea with the Black Dragon

Book Review:  Tea With The Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy:  Martha Macnamara flies out to San Francisco to meet her estranged daughter, Liz, who is in some kind of trouble.  When Liz doesn’t show up for their meeting, Martha is left not knowing where to turn.  Then the bartender in the luxurious hotel where she is staying introduces Martha to the mysterious Mayland Long, a wealthy Chinese man who lives in the hotel.  The bartender tells Martha that she and Long have a lot in common: they both have unique ways of looking at life, and they both love to read.  He laughs when he whispers that Mr. Long once told him that he used to be a Chinese black dragon who drank tea and loved to read.  Martha and Mr. Long become friends, and she asks him to help her find her daughter.  Then Martha disappears, and Mayland Long must rely on his intelligence, enormous strength, and his ability to understand people to sort through the clues and find both women before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed this mystery.  The magic of the dragon is there, but it’s subtle.  Mayland Long, or Oolong, is stuck in human form.  He deals with fatigue, gunshot wounds, and hunger just like any other human, yet he has the determination to keep going.  Plus, he has some special skills that help him just when he needs them.  Mostly, he is a curious, gentle soul who has searched for centuries for truth, and when he finds Martha, he knows he has found his truth.

Martha is delightful — a talented violinist who sacrificed her career to raise her daughter (which Liz resents) after her husband abandoned her.  Now she tours with a Celtic band, earning just enough to get by.  She has the ability to see the real person beneath the surface, and she is not afraid to say what she thinks.

The story takes place when computer technology was in its infancy and cassette tapes were used instead of CDs, but this only makes the book more interesting and does not distract from the story or the charm of the two main characters.

A Study in Mystery


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question markFor six weeks, my husband and I have been taking a writing class.  A Study in Mystery, taught by the entertaining and highly knowledgeable Johnny Worthen, has taken us from the history of the mystery genre to inventing our characters, to outlining scenes and figuring out where to put the clues, and on to actually writing the mystery novel.  I have enjoyed every minute of it.  It’s forced me dig deep to create solid characters and understand their back stories and motives.  I’ve always been a pantser, so it’s been very good for me to outline and study the flow of my story and see whether everything all fits together.  I have enjoyed hearing all the ideas from the other members of the class.  My husband has an exciting novel in the works as well.  My book in progress, The Sea Child, has seen some major improvements. (The Sea Child is a YA fantasy murder mystery involving Selkies, a mythological people who live as seals in the sea, but shed their skin to become human on land.) Thanks to Johnny Worthen for a great class.

Here’s an excerpt from The Sea Child.  Enjoy!

A body lay on the beach.

For a few moments I didn’t recognize it as a person. A storm had raged last night, and a lot of flotsam had washed up on our part of the California shore – seaweed, driftwood, a dead seagull — and it might have been my eyes playing tricks on me, kind of like what happens when you’ve had so little sleep that you start seeing things out of the corners of your eyes. But then my eyes adjusted, and I saw that it was indeed a body. Human.

“Jack, Barney, stay here. There’s a body on the beach.” I left the breakfast dishes, dried my hands with a towel, and started for the back door.

If I’d been thinking, I wouldn’t have said anything. My brothers had had enough tragedy in their lives, and they didn’t need any more. Of course, being boys, they raced to the back door, clattered down the wooden stairs that led down the cliff to the beach, and were almost to the body before I’d got out the door.

Cursing myself, I chased after them. Tad, our Airdale, loped down the steps, and Biggie, our Jack Russell Terrier, bounced behind him. They both outran me, barking and wagging their tails. They circled the body and sniffed, but didn’t growl. With growing dread, I approached. I should have just called the police. I should have called… who? There wasn’t anyone I could trust, and I knew it.

I stared at the body. It was a girl, maybe about fifteen, with black hair reaching to her waist and tangled in seaweed. Her skin was the color of pearl, as if it had never seen sunlight. There was something exotic about the shape of her face, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. She wore a full-length, green dress with gold embroidery around the neckline and armbands — something you’d wear to a wedding or a high society party. The green would have been emerald if it hadn’t been saturated with sea water.

“She’s beautiful,” Jack said.

I caught his expression and sucked in a breath. My brother was fifteen, and as far as I knew, he hadn’t fallen for a girl yet. The past six months had been too traumatic, and he’d been too busy with sports before that. But now he had that look on his face. Sort of dreamy, as if he’d found his one true love. I didn’t like that at all. Not one little bit. I had enough to do taking care of my brothers without having to fend off potential girlfriends.

Barney’s reaction, being only nine years old, was more of fascination, as if the girl was a new kind of bug he was examining under his magnifying glass. “Is she dead?”

I gazed at her and felt an overwhelming sadness. If I’d known about her last night, I could have come and helped her. But then, maybe she’d been dead a long time. How was I supposed to know? We hadn’t been allowed to see our parents’ bodies. Too much damage from the car accident, they’d told us. For us, it had been as if they’d gone away for the weekend but had decided to extend their vacation. But they weren’t ever coming back.

I crouched beside the girl, wondering if I should try CPR or rescue breathing or something. She didn’t look or smell rotten. Should I feel for a pulse? I took her wrist. Her skin was so cold.

“Should we call 9-1-1?” Barney asked.

I was about to say, yes of course, and why hadn’t I thought of that before? But then she opened her eyes.