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Who is Nancy and How Did She Get on Butterfly Drive?

I am a lover of words, phrases, quotations and especially stories. My favorite genres are memoir and history, but I also read a lot of mysteries. History has always interested me, particularly how ordinary people provide key pieces in the puzzle of history. Over my lifetime, I have sought and absorbed stories from my family, but also other life stories of many famous and ordinary people. I now have a part-time job in a bookstore to support my reading habit. My purpose in life has become leading various writing groups and encouraging others to share their stories. My motto is, “Everyone has a story to tell — and they should.”

My passion for sharing stories led me to leave the corporate world after 25+ years as a computer programmer to help my father-in-law get his memoir published in 2009 — Patton’s Lucky Scout. He also liked to share what he called “butterflies” — random thoughts that fluttered through his mind. From the first time I met him, I kept saying, “You should write a book.” Together we did, eventually.

The writing work I did with my father-in-law led me to become what I call a “senior storyteller” – by that I mean helping others, primarily seniors, tell their stories. I now lead several different writing groups and have also helped several people write their own mini-biographies. I have acted as coach and cheerleader on several other published projects. People will amaze you, if you only take the time to ask them about their life and listen to their stories.

I was born and raised with an older brother in a small town named Versailles, Kentucky — in the heart of Bluegrass Country. Mom taught second grade at a small country school named Millville. Dad was a master electrician, who could fix anything. My parents built our home and moved in when I was one year old and they never moved again. But from that home base - we traveled, nearly every summer – I have been in forty-eight states and seven provinces of Canada. Daddy marked our trips on a big National Geographic map mounted on our family room wall. I’m still missing Alaska and Nebraska.

I grew up in middle-class surroundings, not wanting for much, but knowing I couldn’t have everything. Our bluegrass community ranged from dirt poor “tenant farmers” all the way up to millionaires who maintain a home in “horse country” for drop-in visits. Most of the locals are just regular hard-working folks. My family and the world I grew up in was a world of storytellers, and I soaked in as much as I could.

In 2014, I was selected as a member of the Milwaukee Listen to Your Mother cast. Several members of that cast are talented bloggers and participating in that show exposed me for the first time to blogs, and I started to think about trying a blog of my own. For that LTYM show, I shared an open letter I wrote to my mom, years after she passed away in 2010. My piece reflected on some of our shared experiences, not all happy. In fact, my piece was the one that made everyone cry – I hope in a good way. I still miss my Mom, but writing that letter and sharing it helped release some of the pain. So, I know writing can be therapeutic.

This blog will flutter among the stories I’ve collected from others or written myself over the years. Topics will vary from my life, my extended family, my senior-storytellers from various groups – sprinkled with occasional quotations and book recommendations related to memoir writing. I plan to alternate between sharing stories and sharing writing tips to help you write your stories. I write to share the legacy of those I write about, especially my grandmother, Gertrude Mae Patterson Brown – my beloved Mama Brown. Writing about Mama Brown (and others) is my way of letting her live on for me and for those who read her stories.

“They are not dead who live on in lives they leave behind —

In those whom they have blessed, they live again.”

Maya Angelou

“The day you stop learning, is the day you start dying.”[i]

Gertie Brown

I try to live by the Golden Rule as my Mama Brown told me to do – “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” However, I also believe that “what goes around – comes around” (you just may not be there for the payoff). I am, like everyone else, a product of where I’ve been, people I’ve known and what has happened to me and my loved ones. I hope the stories I share with you inspire you to write and share your own tales. Come join me on Butterfly Drive.


[i] Note: Very similar quotes have been attributed to Albert Einstein and Isaac Asimov, but I like my grandmother’s version best.

  • "Once you stop learning, you start dying." — Albert Einstein

  • "The day you stop learning is the day you begin decaying." — Isaac Asimov

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