Aunt Betty Deeny: Our Very Own Valentine

My paternal Great-Aunt Betty would have turned 104 years old today, and she would have been none too pleased to have reached such a milestone!

Elizabeth “Betty” Deeny was a woman strong in mind, spirit, and heart – fitting given her birth occurred on Valentine’s Day. Aunt Betty never married or had children, but she adored her siblings’ offspring – and they reciprocated her affection. My memories of her are plentiful in number and meaningful in their lasting effect on my life. We’d travel from the Philly suburbs to Cape May Courthouse, NJ at least once a year to visit with my dad’s beloved aunt. This was a house where Aunt Betty lived with and cared for her mother until my great-grandmother’s passing in 1987. She remained in that quaint, but treasured home, for more than a decade until she relocated to be closer to her nieces and nephews in Pennsylvania.

I don’t have many role models in my life, because I firmly believe that we should strive to be a reflection of our best self and not of another. However, there are people I’ve known along my life’s journey whose choices, personality, and experience inspire me; Aunt Betty was one of those individuals. She was well-read, intelligent, deeply spiritual, and unafraid to voice her political opinion.  Aunt Betty proudly talked about being one of the few women surrounded by men in the workforce when she worked for the Department of Agriculture in the 1950s. Later in her career, she worked for the Small Business Administration.  

Aunt Betty in her element

I didn’t know Aunt Betty well, and that was my doing. For though I loved and respected my elders, I also felt uncomfortable and inferior. They were like the antique furniture in the home, revered from afar but too precious for me to venture close enough to. I sat back and let my parents ask the questions and discuss current events whenever we visited Aunt Betty. I look back now and recognize the moment I opened my eyes to all the magnificence of my grandfather’s sister. She sat next to my father at own dining room table, this keeper of the family stories, and paged through the ancestral photos my dad had scanned for her – reliving the past and gracing us with the gift of our history.

As Aunt Betty’s mind tired, after decades of extensive and thorough use, she no longer recognized the majority of her family – save for her darling niece Mary whose unwavering love and diligent care remained constant throughout Betty’s failing health. When we were notified that Betty’s time on earth was soon to end, we rushed to her side. I shan’t forget that day for though her body displayed a woman exhausted and frail, I knew that her spirit was just as fiery as it always was. I sat next to her (her eyes never opening) and read from a collection of Irish poems. I closed my eyes, reached my hand to my mother who sat by my side and prayed. In that moment I smiled, because I felt that we were not alone; Aunt Betty’s brothers and sisters who’d passed on before her now stood at the foot of her bed, silhouettes of mist there to accompany Betty to the next adventure.

In the decade since her passing, I’ve frequently paged through Betty’s photo albums – the spark that lit my genealogical flame. I’ve made connections with the distant Deeny relations still in Ireland, thanks to the correspondence she had with them decades prior. Aunt Betty may have been a Valentine’s Day gift, but the love she bestowed upon us is the beating heart of our family. If I never marry or have children, I can only hope that my role as Aunt Kelly is as treasured and beloved as it was for Aunt Betty. One day, I will write her story. I just wish I’d ask the questions long ago. Wherever she is and whatever she’s doing, maybe she’ll spare some time to assist this writer.

We love you, our beautiful Valentine!



Leaving footprints only

The soul’s eye can see

We live in and out

Of your concept of time

Living many lives

In the course of one

We glisten like light dancing

Across the river’s surface

Beauty in color, light and darkness

Sound, music, rhythm

Art painting the spirit

Soaring, floating, existing in between your consciousness

We traverse many planes and cultures

Languages blending into a universal one

Kissed by love eternal

We are magnificent in all our flaws,

Scars revealed to the wind

And healing the soul in time’s pace

We are not perfect, but perfection indeed.


Authorship – A Love Story

Not everyone will love my debut novel – such a statement is not a self-defeating one; it’s one based in realism. THE SPIRIT PROJECTOR is a love story in its subplot, yes, but more so a romance of the author and the words I chose.

I did not set out to win a race or compete against others. I wrote the story inside me calling to the artist within. I crafted visuals I could stand to envision, settings I could imagine living in, and characters whose presence would be welcome. The journey towards publication was a personal one – full of stumbles, doubts, and rewrites. Through all of the “will anyone love it as I do?” wonderings, I came up with all the possible critiques future reviewers might draft. The people pleaser part of my personality caused me to worry so intensely of being judged as a failure that I held on tight to a project I loved.

Rejection in love keeps me from opening my heart – my writing is a reflection of who I am and what I love. TSP is me opening my heart to the world, hopeful that others will embrace it, and thus me, as it is; flaws intact. Letting go and trusting others with the very essence of me remains one of the scariest moments of my life. I could’ve continued to assume all of the negative responses possible or trust that someone, somewhere, would understand what I was trying to achieve – and thus, understand the core of who I am.

Self-love and pride carried me through the initial excitement of debut publication. I felt beautiful, worthy, and loved. And then, slowly but surely, the rose-colored glasses faded to clear and reality set in; not everyone will love THE SPIRIT PROJECTOR. They will find faults, lose interest, and move on to another. My debut creation contains errors, reveals a tangential mind, and a fantastical ideal of love. I’m okay with that. In accepting TSP with all its flaws and beauty, I discovered my own. Not everyone will understand nor love me – especially if I keep my heart closed; to expect any different is irrational. However, the ones who do – they are the keepers; the friends, family, and romantic mates meant to walk alongside as we navigate this life.

I am proud of what I created, typos and simplicity included. I embrace once again the artistic spirit within and the beautiful woman inside and out.  I look forward to meeting the man who loves both the book and the author.


Aunt Reba and Me: Kindred Spirits 53 Years Apart

Due to a variety of circumstances, I knew very little about my paternal grandmother’s family growing up. All I knew was that it was rooted deep in our family lore that we were of Native American lineage. It’s only within the last 15 years, since I started genealogy research, that I discovered that the family lore was just a tale (thanks a lot, AncestryDNA 😉) and that so many factual stories were there for the telling. When I discovered that my paternal great-grandmother had a half-sister born on the same month and day as me, well, I’ve been fascinated with Aunt Reba ever since.

Reba – pre teen

In May of 1924, my aunt Rebecca “Reba” DeYoung entered the world and made a positive impact on those around her. You only need read the comments from her sister’s son (who lived with Aunt Reba and his grandparents) to confirm.

“At the age of 25, Reba bought us our first car and took driving lessons and learned how to drive…Reba had also bought a house and we would now have a home of our own for the first time and I would have my own bedroom.”

From writings of George E. Chapman, 2008

My Aunt Reba never married, resided with her parents, and was close with her family – a path I see myself walking five decades later.

I had no image to match with her name, because I’d never met (to my knowledge) my grandmother’s mother or aunts and uncles. Plus, there are limited family photos of that side of my family tree. Aunt Reba was a mystery to me, until this past year when a distant cousin reached out to me via a genealogical site. He found a whole collection of family photos of my direct branch of the tree and generously sent them to me. I finally, finally, met my great-grandmother, her siblings, and the woman who stills intrigues me – Aunt Reba.

Aunt Reba

According to her nephew, George Chapman, Reba was an important part of his life – as he recorded a decade ago in writings for his children and grandchildren; a copy of which his daughter-in-law shared with me a few years back. George’s grandma Nina and Aunt Reba were close according to his writings – and the family photos I recently received include many pictures of them together. George recollected with his Aunt Reba before her death about their time growing up as they were but nine years apart in age.

I see her smiling face in the treasured photos and feel a kindred spirit looking back. Perhaps next year, once we’ve slowly found our new normal, I’ll travel to Michigan and visit the places important to Aunt Reba. To pay my respects and honor a woman much like myself. Learning about the women who came before me reaffirms my confidence in the woman I have become. I am honored to share their roots and will continue to tell their stories. Happy birth day, Aunt Reba, and may your spirit be full of love wherever it now calls home.

[Sidenote: I named one of the characters in my debut novel, THE SPIRIT PROJECTOR, Rebekah before I knew about Aunt Reba. The fact that the real person was also a beloved family member, maternal figure to the next generation, and full of joy fits in perfectly with the character who became my favorite (shh, authors do have favorite characters).]


United We Stand Back Up

We are all navigating through the current global health crisis the best way we know how – for ourselves, our loved ones, and the greater community. Our concerns vary according to the immediate needs before us. Some are scared and don’t know when they’ll next be paid (how will they put food on the table or provide for their family), others feel their rights are being infringed upon and want to take their life in their hands – certain their choices won’t impact others.

We’re dealing with the issues facing us in individual ways and yet what may benefit us in the short term may cause serious ramifications in the not-too-distant future. We are the United States of America, trying to form a more perfect union.

Photo credit: Kelly Deeny / Flag from Flags of Valor

In the most challenging of times, when we’re at our most vulnerable, our country becomes stronger when we unite as one; when we acknowledge our differences and unite under a common goal. We won’t all agree about how much government should be involved in our choices or who should receive tax breaks, but we can come together to save the lives of our countrymen and women.

Glimpses of our best selves are all around us: Teachers sitting on a student’s driveway to read to them, groups of community members making/donating masks and other PPE for medical professionals, business oweners coming up with innovative ways to safely provide their services, and everyday Americans following the advice of leaders in the medical/scientific/infectious disease fields.

From South Dakota to Pennsylvania, California’s coast to the Great Lakes, we will overcome what ails us if we agree to disagree and find common ground. If we cannot, I worry the foundation built over 240 years ago will crumble beheath us.

Stay strong. Stay alert. Stay home. Stay the United States of America!


Debut Novel Coming Jan 2020!

I did it, friends! My debut novel is in the self-publishing process – with a tentative release date of January 2020.

TSP blog announcement image

Those of you who’ve followed along on this journey likely recall my many claims of “finishing” my book; draft after draft after draft. I held it tight, afraid no one could love it as much as I did. What if no one likes it? What if no one reads it? Will critics tear it to pieces? Do any of those questions warrant answers?

To quote one of my characters, “I chose to control that which I could.” I love the story, the tone, the mystical feel of what I created. The characters came to life and will live with me until my spirit and body part – probably even longer.

This novel is a tribute to that which inspires me: genealogy, fairy tales, magic, and love. It’s a story focused on internal conflict, on obligations and expectations, and finding strength through love of self.

I am currently awaiting the proofs for the text, e-book, and book cover. If all goes smoothly, the novel will be published within a month’s time.

I’ll update soon once I have a concrete timeline for publication and pre-sale!!!

OPINION: Rebuilding America’s Foundation With Words and Actions

The words we choose matter; our choices and actions create lasting ramifications for future generations. As a genealogy enthusiast, author, and spiritual seeker, I select my words with care for they will outlive me. With all of the above in mind, I state resolutely:

The current resident of the White House is the most dangerous president in my lifetime. The natural disaster that is the DJT administration has severely damaged the foundation of which we stand, flooding our streets and destroying bridges with his divisiveness.

Such a declaration is one I make with the awareness that some friends and family will vehemently disagree. I cannot change the thoughts, values, or actions of others as much as I wish I could at times. If after four years of DJT’s weaponized words, fear-mongering, and openly-prejudiced policies, fellow Americans still champion such a man in the role of US President there is nothing more I could possibly say. For if his words do not sway them, then what makes me think mine would have any impact?

My words may not matter to all, but I continue to write for doing so provides clarity and spiritual reflection in the midst of a chaotic world. When intentional ignorance and bigotry spins us off our global axis, I get overwhelmed by helplessness. “How can this be? How can people I know to be decent, thoughtful, and kind knowingly defend a man so ill of mind and soul? How do they explain away his heinous acts? Do they not care? How can this be and will anything I do or say make a difference?”


After the electoral victor was awarded the US presidency in 2016, I didn’t just lose faith in American politics; I lost hope in the American people. How do they hear him say, “grab ‘em by the [bleep]” and deem him worthy of not only the respected role of United States President but view him as a decent human being? He did not have my respect in 2015 – and he has yet to earn it five years later. He calls neo-Nazis and white nationalists “very fine people”, creates policies that target Muslims, and cages immigrant children. He seeks unflinching loyalty from federal employees while showing none. He publicly invites a foreign government to “find the emails” of his political rival (a former Secretary of State, First Lady, and above all a US citizen) – an action which was worthy of immediate disqualification for the position he sought. His history of weaponizing words and spreading misinformation led to one of the most devastating attacks on America’s institutions this past January 6th.


The American people who defend him and excuse away his words/actions, and Republican governors; senators; and representatives who choose potential job security over that of their constituents, have left him unaccountable and thus endangered us all. They propped him up like an upside-down bible all to calm the waves they hope will ultimately guide them to shore unharmed. They may not have caused the storm of He-Who-Plays-King, but they certainly increased its destructiveness. As the flood waters crashed against America’s foundation, they watched aloof – casually tossing out life preservers with no care of reaching their targets.

When they had the chance to hold him to account, they chose cowardice in the face of blatant truth. The number of mass casualties continues to rise daily and they’ve proved themselves unwilling, though capable, of aiding in the rescue efforts.

It will take a joining of hands (gloved, if necessary, and reflective of our diverse country), wading in the water to rebuild the bridge intentionally destroyed with hate, anger, fear, and violence. Piece by piece, stone by stone, hand by hand we will repair the foundation of our nation; one which was built with the tears, blood, and spirit of ALL Americans. Will you join me in the reconstruction?

May these words matter!

Motivational Monday Poem: Mourning Glory

Stolen, lost, ripped away

Taken far too soon

Hearts bleed for the ones

No longer present in time or space

Souls journey on to a place unknown

Resting at home in both peace and power

As the ones who mourn

Struggle to move forward

While time stands still

We remain, our lives forever changed

Scars of abandonment and indescribable pain

Slowing our steps but not our progress

Spirits moving forward

Carrying our grief to its place of rest

Until the time comes when we meet once more.

Motivational Monday Poem: The Distant Present

Yearning for a time unknown

Behind, ahead, in the distant present

No strings holding you where you are

A house that is not a home

Photo taken at Grounds For Sculpture (Hamilton, NJ)

Family connections fractured yet strong

Friendships built on love and acceptance

Relationships – the foundation cementing you in place

Though neither they nor you intend it so

Continuously searching in a vast space

Shaded by fear and uncertainty

Determination and a call for belonging

Keeps you moving forward into the clear

A time unknown yet familiar.

Book Review on Goodreads: THE KINGDOM OF BACK by Marie Lu

I read the following Young Adult novel within less than two weeks; the last 176 pages in one morning! I was so enthralled by the story that I rushed to Goodreads to post my review. I will write a more in-depth review soon, but for now here’s the one I just posted to Goodreads.

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like a composition of soaring melodies and grounding harmonies, Marie Lu’s THE KINGDOM OF BACK is a novel I’ll never forget!

I borrowed this novel from my local library and knew within the first twenty pages that I’ll end up buying a copy to read again and again. Marie Lu’s exceptional skill crafts chapters you can’t wait to start, paragraphs that keep you reading on, and lines that resonate long after you turn the page.

This memorable read blends that which I adore: magic (real and faery-like), historical fiction, and a heroine’s journey that you don’t just understand but feel in the deepest parts of the soul.

Thank you, Marie, for taking us on “Nannerl’s” journey and inspiring generations to come!

View all my reviews