Faith, Family, Writing

“So, what does D.M. mean?” A tribute to the woman I never met.

It’s a question I get a lot when someone notices my “pen name.” And I always give the short answer: “I have two middle names and since I have a very common last name, I figured ‘D.M.’ was a good way to make it stand out.”

_So, what does D.M. mean__

But there is more to the story. Yes, I do have two middle names: Dolores Mae. But my parents didn’t randomly pick those names when I was born. Like many people, my middle names were inspired by a grandparent. Dolores Mae was my grandmother on my mother’s side. Unfortunately, I never got to meet her. About three years before I was born, she died of leukemia. This coming December 23rd will be 34 years since her death.

This woman has intrigued me my entire life. I’ve always loved hearing stories about her. On the surface, she was a simple wife of a farmer down in Iowa, raising four kids who were all given names with the letter C. But if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find a woman with a heart for Jesus, loved her kids and grandbabies and had the gift of hospitality like no other. She was ready for company at all times, with the coffee pot always on, and sweets in the freezer to pull out whenever someone came through the door.

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Her and my grandpa had a special kind of love that people dream about for themselves. They were separated by WWII when Grandpa had to fight in Europe, keeping in touch with just letters. Grandma kept a scrapbook of their time apart. She was like any young lady in love, writing down song lyrics that reminded her of her man. Kind of like young girls would do today, but only on Instagram. There was one song in the scrapbook called “Carolina Moon.” I found a 1929 recording of the song on YouTube and the lyrics are super sweet. (Give it a listen: https://bit.ly/2Cp8Cuq ) This scrapbook probably kept her sane through all the years they were separated by war. It’s no surprise that they were married less than a month after he was discharged.

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Even though I’ve never met Dolores Mae, she’s everywhere in my life. Most recipes I grew up eating and now feed to my family are hers. (Her chocolate chip cookies are legendary. And then there’s Klinkers, you know what I’m talking about McCarty family) The lullaby that my mom sang to me and that I now sing to my kids was hers (It goes to the music of the hymn “Love Lifted Me). The two most precious ornaments on my Christmas tree right now were hand painted by her and have her name on them. I have a crocheted blanket in my living room that she started but never got to finish. My aunt had to finish it. A milk can that once belonged to her and Grandpa on their farm now sits in my living room. I plan on keeping that around even after the farmhouse chic style goes outdated.

If someone were to ask me “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” No surprise that I’d choose my grandma. But I don’t want to just have dinner with her, I want to help and watch her make the dinner of her most loved recipes. Maybe even see how she makes her cinnamon rolls so I can show my mom how to finally make them. I want to watch her gift of hospitality because it’s an area I struggle in. I want to tell her that her and Grandpa’s love for Jesus still carries on. That her kids and grandkids have carried that love across oceans and to their local communities, through musical talents, through writing, to special needs children, one of whom is her great-grandson.

So, that’s Dolores Mae. A simple but extrordinary farmer’s wife who loved Jesus, and that love carried over to everyone around her.

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Conferences, Writing

Unexpected Surprises at Writers’ Conferences

It’s now spring and many writers are anticipating all the conferences coming up in the next several months. A writers’ conference is a great way to to connect with other writers, learn more about the craft, and meet with publishing professionals. I have been to two conferences in my life (ACFW in 2016 and Northwestern Christian Writers Conference in 2017) and I’m hoping to make it to my third this coming fall. Thankfully, I went to both conferences with some writer buddies that have plenty of conference experience, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. But even though I was semi-prepared, there were still some things that took me completely by surprise…

Unexpected Surprises at Writers' Conferences


Getting Recognized

This was probably the biggest shocker for me. I’m a nobody 99% of the time and I usually prefer to keep it that way. So you can imagine my surprise when fellow conference attendees would say they’ve heard of me or recognized me after I introduced myself. But as we writers strive to build our platform on social media, the chances are pretty good that quite a few people at the conference have seen your name floating around Twitter or Facebook.

The Emotions
Almost every emotion can be experienced at a writers’ conference. There’s the excitement about seeing your writer buddies. Exhaustion from all the walking (seriously, it’s insane). Nervousness before you pitch. Rejection when the editor/agent isn’t interested in your story or exhilaration when they are. I was very nervous going into my first conference because it was all very new to me. For my second conference, I was still a bit nervous but more excited and eager to learn.

The Fellowship
You know going into a conference that you’ll be around other writers. But holy cow, it really hits you when you’re there. All these people understand this weird and crazy writing life with the writer’s block, deadlines, the ups and downs, and platform building. They get it. They understand ALL of it. A conference is where introverts like me can easily make conversation because we all, at least, have one thing in common. If you enter a writers’ conference not knowing a soul, I guarantee you’ll leave the conference with a handful of business cards and an arm-load of new friends.

 
The After-Conference Burn-Out
I applaud any writer that comes home after a conference and jumps straight back into writing. I’ll admit that it took me about a week or so to recover after the ACFW conference. All those emotions, the walking, the socializing, and the travel came crashing down when I got home. My introvert-meter (as I call it) was completely busted. I don’t think I moved much that first day back. So don’t feel bad if you don’t jump back on the writing train when you get home, there are plenty of us in a post-conference stupor.


Your turn! What surprises did you encounter at a writers’ conference?