Years ago, well before ancestry.com appeared, I created a family history for my mother. She had a book, a very old book that had been in her mother’s possession (passed down through her father from her father’s mother), and that book contained over 1,800 names of descendants of one person – a Hugh Stone, born around 1638, who emigrated from England around 1658. A descendant named Richard C. Stone had traced the various lines of Hugh Stone and published the book in 1866. I only had glimpses of the book’s interior – even 30 years ago, the pages were fragile.
The book had a circuitous journey but finally made its way back to the family, and rests now with my cousin, for future generations. But because the actual book is in such fragile condition, I undertook the task of copying its entire contents – and adding footnotes! – so that it’s available to anyone who might have an interest.
I’m not selling it. But I’d like to offer the document to anyone who might want to do some genealogical research. It’s got a couple hundred biographical notes about some of the people, and if you think you have any ancestors who originated in Rhode Island, you might find them here! Besides the surname Stone, it’s got Arnold, Whitman, Greene, Westcott, Gorton, Randall, and many, many more. Some of the descendants migrated west, to Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, and California.
If you would like a .pdf copy, just drop a comment and I’ll use your email address to send it to you. And if you find an ancestor in its contents, please let me know. We’d be related!
So far this winter, there hasn’t been much snow. I’m fine with that – the cold is okay but I’m just as happy to not have a foot of snow on the ground. We’re more than halfway through January, and winter’s just gearing up here in southern New England, but the days are lengthening and each day brings us closer to spring..
I’ve begun a new book. It’s in its earliest stages, and I’m thinking about my characters. They keep me up at night, but I’d rather think about Franklin and Emma and Bethie and Chuck than all the misery in this world. writing is such an escape for me – I hope reading is for you!
I found a poem by Robert Frost, another reminder of why he’s a national treasure. This one is called “Brown’s Descent” – and is a testament to the New England spirit!
Brown lived at such a lofty farm That everyone for miles could see His lantern when he did his chores In winter after half-past three.
And many must have seen him make His wild descent from there one night, ’Cross lots, ’cross walls, ’cross everything, Describing rings of lantern light.
Between the house and barn the gale Got him by something he had on And blew him out on the icy crust That cased the world, and he was gone!
Walls were all buried, trees were few: He saw no stay unless he stove A hole in somewhere with his heel. But though repeatedly he strove
And stamped and said things to himself, And sometimes something seemed to yield, He gained no foothold, but pursued His journey down from field to field.
Sometimes he came with arms outspread Like wings, revolving in the scene Upon his longer axis, and With no small dignity of mien.
Faster or slower as he chanced, Sitting or standing as he chose, According as he feared to risk His neck, or thought to spare his clothes,
He never let the lantern drop. And some exclaimed who saw afar The figures he described with it, ”I wonder what those signals are
Brown makes at such an hour of night! He’s celebrating something strange. I wonder if he’s sold his farm, Or been made Master of the Grange.”
He reeled, he lurched, he bobbed, he checked; He fell and made the lantern rattle (But saved the light from going out.) So half-way down he fought the battle
Incredulous of his own bad luck. And then becoming reconciled To everything, he gave it up And came down like a coasting child.
“Well—I—be—” that was all he said, As standing in the river road, He looked back up the slippery slope (Two miles it was) to his abode.
Sometimes as an authority On motor-cars, I’m asked if I Should say our stock was petered out, And this is my sincere reply:
Yankees are what they always were. Don’t think Brown ever gave up hope Of getting home again because He couldn’t climb that slippery slope;
Or even thought of standing there Until the January thaw Should take the polish off the crust. He bowed with grace to natural law,
And then went round it on his feet, After the manner of our stock; Not much concerned for those to whom, At that particular time o’clock,
It must have looked as if the course He steered was really straight away From that which he was headed for— Not much concerned for them, I say:
No more so than became a man— And politician at odd seasons. I’ve kept Brown standing in the cold While I invested him with reasons;
But now he snapped his eyes three times; Then shook his lantern, saying, “Ile’s ’Bout out!” and took the long way home By road, a matter of several miles.
There are days I feel as though I’m 80. Other days, I’m 19 again. Most days I’m Martha, 64, married, poor eyesight, always struggling with my weight, trying to do better. Writing books, telling stories.
At this time of year, however, my mind is flooded with memories of sophomore year at Providence College. Of early snow and Christmas anticipation. And of a tragedy whose roots took hold 45 years ago. Yes, we’ve grown, thrived, loved, and laughed – because that’s what you do. Life is for the living, my mother used to say, even as she was transformed by widowhood at age 50.
I found this short passage and wanted to share it today. We remember. Katie, Debbie, Jackie, Barbara, Donna, Sallyann, Gretchen, Cathy, Laura, and Dottie.
As far as I can see, grief will never truly end. It may become softer over time, more gentle, and some days will feel sharp. But grief will last as long as love does – forever. It’s simply the way the absence of your loved one manifests in your heart. A deep longing, accompanied by the deepest love. Some days, the heavy fog may return, and the next day, it may recede, once again. It’s all an ebb and flow, a constant dance of sorrow and joy, pain and sweet love. -Lexi Behrndt
My apologies for not being a better blogger. I have some friends who are so steady with their posts, and I am not that person.
My book reviews and blog posts have all been put on hold as I devote my computer time to my new novel. The good news is that my husband, always my first reader, said this could be my best book yet, which means the world to me. He is always kind but will critique me when necessary. I still have work to do (don’t even have a title yet), but I’m motivated to push on (as soon as this blog post is published!).
I took on a couple of editing projects this summer, too, which put me behind my writing schedule. But I do enjoy helping writers polish their manuscripts. Every writer can use an editor, and it’s best to go outside the circle of family and friends if you want objective feedback.
We underwent some needed renovations in the house this summer, too. Disruption! Plaster dust! Noise! Not too conducive to getting writing done, and my library’s computers were mostly out of commission, too, so that set me back. But the updates are finished, the workers have left the house, and the air is cooler.
So enough with the excuses. It’s early September and I am determined to get back on track.
Meanwhile – the Rhode Island Authors Showcase will return in November. If you’re a loyal reader of these blog posts (thank you!), you’ll know that for the past several years, I’ve devoted the month of November to showcasing local authors, and each day, each post features a giveaway, plus some pretty awesome grand prizes (last year we gave away a $250 Amazon gift card, a $100 Amazon gift card, and a $50 Amazon gift card with a special prize of getting your name in a novel!). So stay tuned here, because it’s a fun event that helps you discover a new author.
Okay, I’m done. Thanks for not abandoning me, as I would never abandon you, dear subscriber. I hope you had a good summer, and I promise to post more frequently. And based on the title of this post, I’m including one of my favorite YouTube clips, of the legend Elaine Stritch singing “I’m Still Here.” Enjoy!
Reprinted from an article in the Providence College alumni magazine, May 18, 2021.
The family tradition that is Providence College has been manifested over the decades in many and various ways. Generations of Friars have attended PC. (In my case: my dad John M. Reynolds ‘40, my cousin Kathy ’73, my sisters Ann ’78 and Mary Beth ’84, and me ’80. My husband James ‘79 – even though we didn’t know each other then, and his father Ray, also ‘79.) it’s a family tradition! Many of my classmates have sent their children to PC. For those of us who were students in the late 1970s, there is one event that has, and always will, define us.
To write about the Aquinas Hall dormitory fire of December 13, 1977, a tragedy that ultimately claimed the lives of 10 young women, prompts sharp and difficult memories. Memories of youth and innocence, of traveling back through time to golden days full of promise and hope. And in one night, much of our innocence and sense of invincibility was lost.
In 1977, there were no cell phones, no internet, no texts or Skype or Zoom. There was no Netflix or Hulu, no TSA at the airports, no ATMs, no AIDS. The Berlin Wall still stood, and Jimmy Carter was the president. There was great (and not-so-great) music, and if you were dining in Raymond Cafeteria, you might have heard Donna Summer singing about leaving a cake out in the rain at “MacArthur Park” over the intercom system. We wore clogs and Fair Isle sweaters, and we sported Dorothy Hamill haircuts.
For many young women in the mid-1970s, going away to college was an important part of the rite-of-passage experience. A different state perhaps, a new dormitory adventure, and roommates! For some of us, the entire experience was unfamiliar. And daunting. But that’s how bonds begin. Everyone is starting out and going through the same unfamiliar rituals, to varying degrees. Few of us had cars, so our entertainment consisted of basketball or hockey games at Alumni Hall or Schneider Arena, tipping a few pitchers at the Rat, the occasional concert or lecture at ’64 Hall, or just hanging out in each other’s dorm rooms or in Mural Lounge, where the hot ham and cheese grinder was $1 and an ice cream cone was just a quarter.
There were three dorms for girls (which is what we were in those days): Meagher, McVinney, and Aquinas. Each dorm had its own personality, and all three buildings faced what is known as the Quad — a quadrangle of green space flanked by the three women’s dorms, plus McDermott Hall for boys. There were girls who met each other as roommates freshman year and stayed friends forever. And there were attachments forged through tragedy.
I’ve written about that December day, listing all 10 of the young women, even though I only knew two of them well enough to greet by name. But because we’re so connected, because we’re family, all of us, our Friar community is linked by the tragic Aquinas fire.
When people die young, at the very beginning of their adult lives, one can’t help but imagine what they would have become, how their lives might have turned out. The 10 girls who died in the fire that snowy night will remain youthful in our memories.
Every year in December we stop to remember, because we can’t ever forget. When I return to the Providence College campus, I pause to look up at the fourth-floor windows of Aquinas and offer a prayer for the girls who perished, and for their family members. But I also pray for the girls who survived. One of those survivors told me that for many years, she tried to figure out why she was saved, what was her purpose. Was it her marriage? The birth of her child? She said it took decades to realize she was saved for many reasons, and she tries, even now, to understand. It’s a question that is beyond comprehension, she said. So she focuses on what matters in her life: kindness, expressing to loved ones how much they mean, letting go of anger, cherishing friends.
All these years later and the memories can be as sharp as yesterday. That’s the thing about memory, even as we grow older. Now in our 60s, we often joke about forgetting the most meaningless things, yet none of us can forget the fire. I can remember a conversation with Katie, or the last time I saw Debbie.
Life is filled with moments — some so happy you’ll swear you must be dreaming, and some so tragic you wonder, for years, why they occurred. But if I can learn a lesson from my friend Kim, it is to find joy in small moments, to express kindness, and forgiveness, whenever possible, and to give thanks to the tightly knit community that is Providence College.
Martha Reynolds McVeigh ’80 ended an accomplished career as a fraud investigator and in the past 10 years has written ten novels. Her novel, Villa del Sol, was awarded the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England.
Welcome to the Rhode Island Authors Showcase! Each day in November, this blog will feature a different Rhode Island author. Read the post and leave a comment and you are eligible to win this day’s giveaway!
Leave a comment every day this month for over 30 chances to win either our Grand Prize (a $250 Amazon gift card), our Bonus Prize (a $100 Amazon gift card), or a Cheer-Up Prize (amount to be determined), just in time for holiday shopping!
A winner will be randomly selected one week after the publication of the blog post, and the Grand Prize and Bonus Prize winners will be randomly selected on December 7, 2021. For the daily giveaways, the author will contact you directly to coordinate delivery.Print books for delivery within the US only, please.
So, as this is the first, day, I thought I’d kick it off.
I am Martha Reynolds and I write mostly women’s fiction. Born and raised in Rhode Island, I spent a year of college in Switzerland, the memories of which inspired my debut novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, and its sequels, Chocolate Fondue and Bittersweet Chocolate (find the series here: https://tinyurl.com/fchwkhzp). I have traveled back to Switzerland numerous times, and continue to be inspired.
I have written ten novels, including the Amazon #1 bestsellers Chocolate for Breakfast and Bits of Broken Glass. My novel Villa del Sol was awarded the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction by the Independent Publishers of New England. My writing has appeared in Magnificat magazine and my very short poem was read by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz during National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” poetry challenge.
My latest novel is titled The Summer of Princess Diana and is based on true events. And I’m presently working on a thriller – something different!
The Summer of Princess Diana follows the story of Diana Driscoll, who manipulates her wealthy father into funding a trip to London to attend the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in the summer of 1981. There’s no way she’d miss the wedding of the century, and the thought of bagging her own prince along the way has crossed her mind once or twice. She stops off in Switzerland to visit her best friend, who’s attending school there.
But when her father is arrested and his assets are seized, Diana’s credit card is rendered useless and she’s stuck in Switzerland. What she once thought of as an idyllic area has now turned into her nightmare. Without funds and options, she takes a job as a nanny to a dysfunctional family. To make matters worse, she has to live with them. In this coming-of-age story, Diana learns that fairytales only exist in books, and life’s lessons don’t come easy.
While it’s not necessary to win, I would greatly appreciate your follows! You can follow this blog, if you’re not already doing so. Here is a link to my Amazon page: https://tinyurl.com/wssy6fje
For today, I’m giving away a $25 Amazon gift card. And I’ll toss in a copy of The Summer of Princess Diana, too (print copy for US only, please). All you have to do to be eligible is answer this question: What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Meanwhile, be sure to comment on each day’s blog post for additional entries into our Grand Prize and Bonus Prize drawings!
Join us on SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the CROWNE PLAZA in Warwick for the 9th Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo!
For mumble-mumble years, I’ve been addicted to sugar. All my life. From the first taste of my mother’s brownies/cookies/pies/cake, I was hooked. I cleaned a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and even the dreaded peas because I wouldn’t get dessert unless I ate all my dinner.
An early memory: somehow eating everything in my Easter basket during a visit to my grandparents’ house, and throwing up in the back seat on the way home. Halloween candy gone in days. Sneaking Hershey’s Kisses from the candy dish. Sneaking candy all the time.
Then older: eating M&Ms for dinner, or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, always washed down with Diet Coke. Sugar sugar. Oh, honey honey. And maple syrup. It felt so good – well, of course. Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. And the sugar rush (yes, it’s a thing), pushing glucose into my blood. Too much.
As I learned more and more about the dangers of elevated blood sugar levels and Type II diabetes, I understood how damaging sugar is. And believe me, I’ve tried quitting many times. Those cravings are real.
Finally, it was enough. We all reach a breaking point. I’ve quit you, sugar, hopefully forever. And I am quickly becoming a fan of intermittent fasting. I’ve started slow and easy – 8 hour window to eat (for me, that’s 8:00 am to 4:00 pm) and a 16-hour fast, during which much of that time I’m asleep, anyway. I’m hoping to add in a 24-hour or up to a 36-hour fast once or twice a month.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It will help you lose weight, and it will lower blood sugar levels. There’s plenty of research available online, if you’re interested. Check out Dr. Jason Fung.
A few weeks ago, I had my blood work done. My doctor was very pleased – blood sugar normal (A1c at 5.7). I’m determined to keep it that way. Meanwhile, my clothes are loose. My rings were loose – had them all resized. Unfortunately, my skin is loose, too! But I’m working on that, and would still take the looser skin over any of the other health issues.
This Swiss Chocolate trilogy author no longer wants Toblerone or Cailler bars. Give me Gruyère and Emmanthaler cheese instead!
I actually started this blog, MarthaReynoldsWrites, on my birthday in 2012. Now, here I am, nine years later and nine years older. Yikes – how the years pass so quickly. Is it that way for you, too? If you’re young, pay attention! Next time you think about it, you’ll be my age, wondering what the heck happened.
Ah, well. Nothing to do about that except enjoy the days, and for me, the writing. I do still enjoy it, even if editing sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out. But my new novel is now with my publisher, so I will relax…and read. And work a little bit on the next book. And think about the one after that. And next year’s A to Z theme. Yeah, it never ends. And that’s a good thing. As long as I can keep writing, I will.
Meanwhile, I wanted to make this book free for five days (Saturday, July 10 through Wednesday, July 14). If you haven’t yet read Villa del Sol, here’s a chance to download a digital copy for free! It’s a good book (if I do say so myself), and it won the 2018 Book Prize in Literary Fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England. That was a big honor, and I’m proud and humbled that the judges liked it enough to award it the prize. And how about that cover? I think it’s the favorite cover of all of my books, and it was hand-drawn by my dear friend Lottie Nevin, who lives in Galicia, Spain with her equally-talented husband Pete. Jim and I dream about visiting them one day.
So, I hope you’re enjoying summer. Some of us have had to endure miserable heat (in the US) and much-lower-than-normal temperatures – that’s because climate change is real, y’all. The world can be a scary place these days – don’t I know it – but that’s why books are necessary. The right book can take you away from your worries and anxieties and transport you to another place. That’s what I try to do. If you like this book (or any of my others), please consider leaving a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads. I don’t like to ask, but it does help me gain some visibility. You know, it’s all about algorithms, apparently. Either way, I’ll have a new novel for you by the end of this year! It’s called The Summer of Princess Diana and I hope you’ll like it.
And if you celebrate a birthday this month, Happy Birthday!
I have had five passports. Whether I’ll need another is unknown, but many of us are hoping – dreaming – of being able to travel freely again.
Oh my. I was 20 years old and just months away from the adventure of my life. I flew (for the first time) from Boston to Zürich and spent my junior year of college in Fribourg, Switzerland. My passport has stamps from Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Belgium, and The Netherlands.
My first passport was soon to expire (it was good for just five years back then), so I renewed it, in anticipation of a trip to Morocco. A few years later, I returned to Switzerland, then again, then again. I brought my passport with me on a long weekend to Montréal, but I don’t think I needed it. There was also a vacation to The Netherlands.
HAHAHA! I was just a few months away from getting married, but I wasn’t as scared as I look in this photo. We were going to St. Lucia for our honeymoon, so I needed to renew my passport. We traveled to London on this passport, too.
Next up was the new passport I needed for our trip together to Switzerland. I’d been to ‘la belle Suisse’ many, many times since that first journey in 1978, but I was looking forward to showing my husband. Born to an Austrian mother, he’d done plenty of traveling before we met – to Salzburg and England and countless times to scuba-dive in the Caribbean. We took a couple of trips to Switzerland, in 2007 and again in 2009, and drove to Montréal in 2010.
This is my current passport photo – who IS that old woman, anyway? I wasn’t allowed to wear the thick black-framed eyeglasses that are as much a part of me as my blue eyes. And I probably should have worn more makeup. It’s my deer-in-the-headlights look. But I’ve got this passport until 2026. I’ve traveled back to Switzerland twice on this passport, both times alone, both times with the intention of getting a book out of the trip. That did happen in early 2017 – my novel Villa del Sol was a result. But the last trip, in March 2020, was ill-fated, and COVID-19 had me returning home just three days later.
So we wait. For mass vaccinations, for immunity, for the chance to travel again, under circumstances more normal. Until then, I dream.
About four years ago, I wrote a book and called it Best Seller. It enjoyed some success and more than a few kind reviews. It was one of the nine novels I’ve written, and one of my favorites.
Last November, I received word from Amazon (where most of my books are sold) that they had a problem with the book’s title. They deemed it ‘misleading,’ and advised me that unless I changed it in a few days, they would remove the book from their selling platform.
Wait, what? What??? The book was up for sale for years, and now Amazon decides it’s got a misleading title? And by the way, it wasn’t misleading at all. The words ‘a novel’ were right beneath the title. And, in one of many telephone calls I had with staff at Amazon, I assured them that the novel had never achieved its optimistically titled status.
Didn’t matter. We emailed back and forth numerous times, and I spoke with as many as six different service agents, but the answer always came back the same. And a week later, poof! Best Seller, and all of its reviews, were gone.
Now, I’ve re-released the book. It’s got a different name – The Way to Remember is the name of the book the main character, Robin, is working on – and a new cover. The book’s contents are the same, with just some minor tweaking to, I hope, make it better.
For many of you who read this blog, you probably already purchased and read the book years ago, so I don’t want to trick you into thinking it’s new. It’s not, and the novel I’m working on these days won’t be ready until the end of this year (if I can finish it).
However, if I can find your old review (I was able to take some screenshots before it disappeared), I will be reaching out to you, asking you to post that review again. Because reviews are so, so important to authors. I’m hoping you’ll be willing.
Anyway, that’s my news for the middle of 2020. What a year, right? I hope you’re doing okay – physically, mentally, emotionally. It has been challenging, certainly for me on all of those fronts. Be well, stay safe, wear your face covering.