Memorial Day Musings

Our family just got back from spending Memorial Day in my hometown of Millersburg, PA. It was a wonderful day, reminiscent of childhood Memorial Days, when there was always some kind of ceremony on the town square, followed by a parade. Those celebrations were never “fun” for me as a child, and I can recall being “bored,” just as my younger son was today. However, even as a child, I always understood that there was a deeper purpose to those ceremonies than mere entertainment, something that I appreciate more now than I did when I was younger.

Today’s celebration was even more meaningful than usual for me. Today, the town commemorated the holiday by officially presenting banners honoring Millersburg veterans. These banners will be displayed throughout the town and along the riverfront. One of those banners features my father, SMSgt Glenn Daniels, who served in the Air Force from 1951-1972, including time in Korea during the Korean Conflict. I know very little about his duties and accomplishments during his time in the military; most of what I heard about was family life during those years, how my mother coped with small children while he was gone, and everyday life in the places he was stationed. I still remember after he died, finding a collection of medals he earned during his time in the Air Force. While we were able to research online the names of the awards, none of his children or grandchildren know what he actually did to earn each particular decoration.

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One other part of the ceremony that I found especially meaningful was the winner of the Voice of Democracy Essay Contest reading his essay. He talked about the importance of asking veterans about their experiences and listening to their stories, so that those stories could be passed down to future generations so that those things are not forgotten. He challenged not only his generation, but all of us, to do our part in keeping these stories alive. It made me think of my own father, who shared so little of his days in the service, and it made my wonder if I’d pressed him, showed a little more interest in his story, would he have opened up?

One last thing that weighs heavy on my mind this Memorial Day is something my younger son said to me at church yesterday. At one point during the service, he leaned over to me out of the blue and said, “You know, Mom, I kind of feel like I want to join the Army when I grow up.”

Outwardly, I believe I gave a good, supportive response. I told him that’s something he needs to pray about and decide for himself when the time comes. Inwardly, as a mother, I screamed, “Nooooooo!!!!!” The thought of my son, my baby, enlisting in the military and being sent overseas to fight in wars or conflicts and possibly not coming home was just too much for me to bear at that moment. My heart cried over the possibility, and I wondered how other mothers dealt with that inward turmoil.

Still, a part of me knows that military service is in his blood. My father, uncles, an aunt, and at least one cousin have also served our country, some during wartime, and others during various skirmishes. My struggle with my son’s potential future choice is not unique; I’ve had loved ones who have likely asked those same questions. I know that when the time comes, if he chooses to follow that path in life, I’ll let him go, sending him off with the same love, support, and prayers that my grandparents, aunts, and uncles have sent their own dear ones off with.

And if he does indeed choose a life of service to his country, then one day he, too, will have a story to tell, to pass down for future generations to remember.

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Research

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You’d think by now my husband would stop asking when something a little out of the ordinary appears in our search history.

I’m waist-deep in writing Book 4 of my paranormal mystery series, and there are more twists and turns in this plot than there are on the mountain road where the last half of the story is set. Some of those twists and turns–and even some of the more mundane parts of the plot–have required a bit of research.

Just for fun, I decided to list some of the things I have researched so far in writing this novel.

  1. Inheritance laws. Obviously, there is an inheritance involved in An Uneasy Inheritance. Since I’ve never been the executor of an estate, nor have I ever inherited an entire estate, I had to look up some of the in’s and out’s of the process.
  2. Renovo, PA. This will become Kyr’s new home in the second half of the book. I went to college in Lock Haven (Willow Lake in the books), which is about half an hour south of there. I may have visited the outskirts of Renovo once during that time, but I really didn’t know anything about its history, the mindset of its residents, or anything like that. Fortuitously, I discovered that a friend actually grew up there, so I have some personal testimony to add to my internet research.
  3. Funeral services. I’ve been to funerals. Many funerals. By and large, the majority of the services I’ve been to have been religious–specifically Christian–in nature. The memorial service Kyr has to plan is decidedly…not Christian. It’s kind of a mish-mash of spiritual, pagan, and a touch Native American, so I had to do a little digging to find a suitable template for a service. Of course, a moment of chaos kind of throws all the planning out the window…
  4. Cremation urns. Something else I’m a bit unfamiliar with. I knew that Celeste wouldn’t want the typical vase-shaped urn, but I wasn’t sure what else was out there. The ghosts in the above photo are actually cremation urns, and I also found one resembling Barack Obama (still trying to wrap my head around that one). It took some searching, but I did find one that suited Celeste’s unique personality and reverence for nature.
  5. Symbolism of crows. I keep seeing crows as I write this scene or that. One showed up in an old photo of Kyr’s great-aunt, and on the day of the memorial service, Kyr notices one sitting outside the funeral home, watching her. And the creepy neighbor lady Helen has a red-eyed crow carved on the top of her walking stick.  default-1464354436-173-crow-brains-reveal-secrets-of-their-intelligence
  6. Brocken spectre. This is a weather phenomenon I saw on the Weather Channel once, and I decided to research it further, thinking it might play into some of the spookiness of the property Kyr now owns. Basically, it’s a shadow cast on a fog bank, and it looks like a ghost or an angel. I haven’t decided where, how, or if this will even come into play, but it’s certainly an interesting motif.  Brocken spectre
  7. Cargo vans vs. moving vans. Even with moving the vast majority of her furniture into storage until a later date, there was no way Kyr would get all her belongings into her small car to take to her new house, and since she was moving three hours away, multiple trips were not an option. Because of the remote nature of her new digs, I wasn’t sure a moving van would be wise, or even feasible, but just how much can you fit into a cargo van?
  8. Disassembling a bed frame. I’ve never had to move a bed to another house, so I wasn’t sure if the actual bed frame came apart or not. I was fairly certain it did, but had no idea how far it disassembled, so off to Google I went. Luckily, there’s just enough disassembly and reassembly involved so that Kyr’s brother Luther could have an interesting experience in the attic.

I know there are other things I have researched over the past few months, but these are the ones I could recall off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ll be doing more research before this book is done, and I’m sure my husband will ask many more times, “Is there a reason you’ve bookmarked a page about _________?”

Whether you’re a writer or not, what is the strangest thing you’ve found yourself researching on the internet? Let me know in the comments!