Sunday, January 29, 2012

Following Seventeenth Century Rules

We started last week to look at some of the individual women who I am profiling in my book, “Tracing the Invisible Women Who Helped Birth Connecticut.” As I promised here is what happened to Hannah Spencer when she changed her mind about marrying Simon Lobell.

The Lawsuit

According to the records of the Quarter Court for Connecticut, March 7 1660/61, Simon Lobell sued Jared and Hannah Spencer “in an action of ye case shee for refuseing to marry with him according to promise.”

What was decided?

The magistrates and jury “doe returne this as a special verdict. That ye find not any possitiue engagemt broken by her respecting coniugal relation or absolutely binding her to consummate such a relation…we find vpon Evidenc that Simon hath sustained much damadge by their occasion and therefore doe find it just and meet that all expenses that he hath bin at in reference to these proceeding Jared shal repay.”

What it Cost

I don’t want to burden you with the whole proceedings but the first judgment charged Jared with 150 pounds. That was a lot of money. Later in the proceedings all they mention is 10 pounds and 15 pounds, which the court said Jared could pay in “pease and wheat.”

Of course, the bigger price for such an offense, the gossip and avoidance of her neighbors, challenged Hannah. It is obvious that Jared Spencer must have been a loving father because in most of these situations, the fathers forced their daughters to marry.

What do you think? Would you want to live by these rules?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let’s Meet the Brave Women

Over the next few weeks, I am starting a series that will introduce some of the women I profile in “Tracing the Invisible Women Who Helped Birth Connecticut.”

Hannah (Spencer) Brainerd

Hannah Spencer was born 15 Apr 1640 in Lynn, MA to Jared and Hannah (Hills) Spencer. The family moved to Hartford, CT and in 1663/4 Hannah married Daniel Brainerd, Sr.

Factually Based Faux Quote

“I have lived a busy life and seen a lot of our new country. I remember how excited we were to leave Lynn and go to, Hartford, a new place in the wilderness where we could worship God in our way. The trip was long, tiring and sometimes frightening. I had to help Mother with the little ones. In Hartford, I married my fine husband Daniel who lives by God’s word and we moved again. We have eight healthy children. As this sickness wears me down, the older children manage the house and the younger children. May it be God’s will that I get well and take that burden from them.”

Hannah (Spencer) Brainerd died in 1691 when her youngest child was ten.

Next Week

Next week we find out what happens when, at the age of 20, Hannah broke an engagement.

Please comment if you’ve ever known a Spencer or a Brainerd.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Embracing Change Makes it easier to Accept

Gail Sheehy, the feel-better guru who wrote a number of self-help books that assist women in navigating the many changes life throws at us, said, “Changes are not predictable; but to deny them is to be an accomplice to one’s own unnecessary vegetation.” We all know people caught in this trap. But, we live from life that attitude makes all the difference. If we dread something, we are apt to put it off and not make the changes in our lives that we should.

Always Changing but Always the Same

Some changes are more predictable than other changes, such as winter is coming whether I like it or not. My remedy for being concerned about the cold weather I dislike (that I thought was peeking over the seasonal horizon but instead cascaded right in ahead of time as a noreaster), is to go to the ocean and soak up the sun and atmosphere.

I did that some weeks ago to consider some major changes coming in my life even bigger than winter coming, most of which I welcome with open arms. The universe served me well and dished out some perfect weather if a little cool. There is something mysterious about the pull of the ocean, that has always spoken to my spirit. I find the routine of the waves and the tides so reassuring. Always changing but always the same.

Storing Inspiring Scenes for Later Viewing

I walked the surf and filled my mind’s eye with clusters of scenes that I can recall later when I need them. I have always believed in the connection between body and mind. I have done this in the past. If in the middle of winter when I could allow myself to become depressed, I would rather close my eyes, pay attention to my breathing and let the vision of sun and sand and warmth warm my body. This reminded me of a trip to the Rhode Island beaches earlier in the year. This too was a great beach day with a warm sun and a constant soft breeze and not too many people. The seagulls were aggressive and didn’t want to leave after they finished my leftover lunch. This trip being earlier in the year provided some different scenes. One toddler, wearing only sunglasses, was running back and forth teasing the surf and squealing with delight.

A fashion statement was very noticeable – the two-piece swimsuit for women is back. Unfortunately, it is not a very pleasing sight on some women!

Dealing with Inevitability

I watched as a group of children desperately tried to save their sandcastle from the changing tide. They, of course, were not successful. Some things in life we cannot keep from changing; we grow older, our children grow up, the tides keep changing and the seasons revolve.

Helping others is a Good Life Focus

I talked to an elderly man scanning the beach with his little metal detector, who said he had found $600 so far this year. More important to him was that he helps people find valuables. He recently helped a young couple who had just become engaged that morning find the engagement right that had been lost in the sand. (Was that an omen?) He was happy he could help and refused their offer of a reward. 

We cannot hold back time, the seasons or the end of a day at the beach. Nor can be avoid the many changes life forces on us. We can, however, approach them with an open mind focused on the positive. In the meantime, the sights, sounds and impression I recorded in my journal that day are memories that will keep me warm this winter. And here we are in the middle of January and the first really cold weather is here but SPRING IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Three Ways to Get Back to Your Writing Routine

Well, the holidays are over. I always feel a bit of a letdown in January. Of course, some of that is because of my hatred of winter weather. 

Structured Schedule

Another reason I feel out of sorts is that I’m happiest and most productive with a structured schedule. I like to write at certain things on certain days at a certain time. The holidays interfered with that routine.

During the holidays, it became impossible to write as many blogs, do as much research or write for my book. This gives me a feeling that I am behind schedule and that is rather paralyzing if I don’t get back into a routine. I find myself having this feeling of “Okay, what am I supposed to be doing now.”

I know many writers don’t structure their writing. With other commitments such as family, exercise, keeping up with social media and just plain life, I feel that if my writing isn’t scheduled, it will take a back seat to the other activities.

If you are like me, here are three ways to get back into the harness of a writing schedule:

1)      Make a list of all responsibilities. Yes, I believe if you want to be a productive writer you have to see your writing as a responsibility. I don’t mean in a burden kind of way but rather a response to an inner need. I have to be accountable to my spirit that calls for me to write.

2)      Set deadlines, especially for your writing. Of course, I don’t always have a choice on my deadline because my editors give me deadlines. I always schedule my personal deadline a couple of days earlier than my editor’s to be sure I’m completely confident with the completeness and quality of my piece.

3)      Put this list and the deadlines on a scheduling calendar. I have one on my iPad that is very useful. I put everything in it. That way, when I’m making appointments, I won’t schedule another event during my writing time. If a conflict comes up it is easy to move times and dates around on the calendar.
Don't Let Writer's Block Set In

Not having a routine that calls their muse into action is why some people have writers’ block. I really think that writers’ block is just the lack of writing. One of those vicious circles in life. If you schedule time to write and sit down and write anything, your inner spiritual muse will wake up and say, “Hey, we can do better than that.” Then you’ll be off writing what you need to write.

If you have a schedule or if you can’t abide having a schedule, please comment so we can compare how writers live their writing lives.