Straight from the Diary of Candi Partridge

Dear Diary,

Why does everyone like that Cosby show so much? I think it’s bogus. Last night there was a rerun of the one where Vanessa tries to sneak away from home to see her boyfriend. He’s all sticky sweet with her and then he tells her that they need to spend every moment they can with each other. Please. Get me a hose with some strong water pressure to spray them both off my tv. Teenagers just don’t date like that. I know. I’ve been dating my boyfriend Patrick for 4 whole months.

First of all, boyfriends don’t say all that lovey crap–all those beautifuls and need yous. We don’t need them to. It’s almost the 90s, people. (!!!) Women have evolved. Geraldine Ferraro was this close to being Vice President of the United States! My mom always says that when there are other adults in the room that aren’t my dad, but it’s true.

My boyfriend Patrick and I don’t need to talk. He shows that he loves me by picking me up after I’m done babysitting and walking me to the arcade. That’s what we do on Friday nights. He’ll buy me a pack of strawberry watermelon Hubba Bubba and I’ll give him the money Mrs. Davis gave me for watching Jennifer. Then he’ll play Galaga for hours. We’ll be together all night without ever needing to say a word because our love transcends using voice boxes!

What do I do while he plays games? Well, I mostly sit on the floor and lean against the side of the game and chew my gum. Sometimes I’ll trace the circles of acid marks in my jeans. Sometimes I’ll watch the arcade owner stomp around trying to catch people tipping the pinball machines. When he does he screams “TILT! TILT! You brats!” and two or three kids will start running to the front door. It’s pretty funny. Patrick just keeps feeding the machine more quarters and staring at the electronic insects that are swooping down on his battleship. Galaga screen shotHe’s not much of a talker. He started buying me gum at the arcade so I wouldn’t try to talk to him and break his concentration. That’s how I show him my love. I don’t break his concentration.  .  . and I let him pay for gum.

Second of all, a healthy adult relationship means we’re fine doing stuff apart. Vanessa Huxtable needs Jeremy to feel special. She’s completely dependent on him. Grown up relationships are about sharing lives, not living the same life. Friday night is the only time Patrick and I spend time together. He likes to hang out with his friend on the football team– Brian. And Brian has his games on Friday nights. I think Patrick’s spending every day with Brian because he feels bad about the screamfest they had in the cafeteria a while back. It was bad. They fought until Patrick finally punched Brian in the jaw and Brian stormed off with his teammates.* I tried to get Patrick to talk about it, but he just said it was no big deal and clammed up. I tried to get him to go see Rain Man with me. I said it doesn’t require conversation to sit and watch a movie together, but he just started to cry. So then I tried to show I understood about fighting with friends by telling him about the fight I’m in with Whisky.

Whisky’s my best friend. Or was. She bought this new jean jacket that looks like an old dress my grandma has in the back of her closet. The jacket and the dress are the same shade of blue and have this freakazoid fringe all over them. Mom called the dress a flapper or something when I pulled it out of the closet and asked her about it.

Anyway, after I said that about Whisky’s jacket she called me Sarcastro, which is our way of telling each other we’re being mean, and she told me to leave her room in that voice that’s all flat and cold-like. I don’t care. Her jacket did look like that dress. Denial is such a strong force in some people.

But I do miss talking to her. She and I love each other, but not like Patrick and I do, thank God, because Whisky and I talk ALL THE TIME when we’re together. And when we’re not together we’re talking on the phone. We’ll talk until Mom trips on the phone cord and yells at me to get off the line. It’s not my fault that I have to pull it so tight so it will reach into my bedroom. That’s the only way I can get any privacy in my stupid house.

Usually I’d be at Whisky’s house right now. I like it there because her mom is always baking something. Last week, it was peach cobbler. My favorite. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Patrick.

I think he looks like a taller, buffer Doogie Howser. (Future self: he’s a dorky doctor on a tv show.) But, Whisky says he looks more like that superhunk from Growing Pains. She says Pat couldn’t be Doogie because Doogie is totally innocent. I think she’s right. Like, last Friday, Patrick had Brian meet him at the arcade so they could play Mario and Luigi together. For some reason, Brian didn’t have a ball game. I’m not sure why Patrick and I have never thought to play a video game together like that. Anyway, when I told him I had to go, he just told me I knew my way back home. So I had to walk all by myself like in that weird song where the guy sings about a girl having different colored eyes. (Future self: it’s the one that goes “Tonight I think I’ll walk alone, I’ll find myself as I go home. Woo! Oo-oo-oo-oo-oo!”)

That’s what I was singing to myself all the way home. I can’t believe he made me do that. There I was walking down the street alone like a hooker. As if. So maybe I should break up with him. Seems a waste to throw away such a long relationship! But I’ve been thinking I miss Mickey, my first love. He wasn’t so into his friends like Pat is. And Mickey’s mom always made us chicken alfredo dinners and this really mature dessert with Italian cookies and whipped cream. I know it’s weird to call a food mature, but it has fancy coffee in it– not the powdered kind– so how else would you describe it? Besides, Mickey is really fun. We have a lot more in common. And he showed me how to hide the creases under my eyes using some concealer. Maybe he can help me figure out how to make up with Whisky, too.

Anyway, that’s what’s up with me. Oh, Cosby show’s on! Gotta go.


Candi signature



*taken from Stephen Chbosky fantastic novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, that very much influenced Candi’s character

The Lovely Exceptions

I recently realized while reading a few insightful blog articles that I’ve seen the changes in attitude toward social politics unfold before me just by logging onto my genealogy website.

When I first started researching on, there was no way for me to enter my spouse as a man and there was no way to enter my father and his siblings into the database without falsely implying that my grandparents were married.

I get it; the family tree is all about procreation. And for a very long time that meant filling out generation after generation of pink and blue boxes. As humans, it’s natural for us to want (need?) that kind of order. For genealogists it’s especially true. There are to-date 2,679 people residing in my family tree. If I’m going to make any headway learning about all of them I need to have some systematized way to organize and research them. I admit in order to jimmy people into my family tree I’ve had to pigeonhole them.

But I realize the danger in that. Genealogists must stay open minded because they “encounter” a huge variety of people. It’s impossible to plug every person into your tree– let alone in the world– into the same set of 10 categories and expect them all to fit perfectly. The genealogy databases must have realized the error in that as well. Most databases have since widened their nets, so to speak, on their categories.

Plus, complying to those given categories cuts off the good stories for which we genealogists are searching. For instance, in the case of omitting my partner from my family tree due to a lack of options, I would be slicing off a loving and enduring relationship to future generations. They also wouldn’t see that they had a gay relative (which I can tell you is important, especially for younger gay relatives). In the case of my grandparents, if I left the “Married” box checked I would be leaving out a whole rich (and long) story to tell of why they never married. Which is a story for another time.

Here’s an every-day example: I had to fill out insurance forms recently. When I got to the marital status part I was at a loss. My marital status was not listed as an option. But filling in the circle next to ‘Single’ felt like an insult to my partner of 13 years. And filling out ‘Married’ felt wrong too. I was an exception.

Let’s face it, sometimes the answers to those form questions are complicated. Race, occupation, religion? And the exceptions we take when answering them are some of what makes us interesting and defines who we are. These personal, lovely exceptions should not be disqualified or marginalized simply because they’re not listed as someone else’s set of options.

This point was reinforced to me when I read Kat’s tender piece Tips for Dealing with My Child (and Me). Obviously, I knew transgendered and intersex folks had parents and siblings and grandparents who loved them and wanted to include them on their family trees. But Kat’s piece drove home the fact that there is no option in most family tree databases for people who do not consider themselves either male or female . The data field requires a check in either box Male or Female.

Not long after I read Kat’s post, another Kat posted a narrative of the day she changed her name: What’s In A Name? I can imagine it’s possible that, for whatever reason, she is entered into her family’s tree with her dead name. But she gives a thoughtful and incisive argument as to why she shouldn’t be. (Note: Some transgendered people prefer she or he. Some opt for the pronoun see, or they. When in doubt, politely ask.)

Having volunteered for years at a GLBTQ Youth Group in the past, I had thought myself well informed on the subject. But after reading these pieces, I realized that I really didn’t know much about the Transgender and Intersex issues of today, such as the vocabulary I’d never heard: cisgendered, cissexism, genderqueer, transphobia.  But these posts made me want to dig deeper into the topic. I watched this informative movie at’s blog to get me up to speed: Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She.

I’m very grateful to all of the bloggers for the reminder that categorizing comes at a cost, and that our exceptions add beauty and truth to our lives.

Putting Yourself Out There

American Idol is a depressing show and that is a depressing opening statement, but stay with me here. I know what I’m doing.

Oh, I was on board at the beginning– the deluded singers, the occasional star performer, the fun of figuring out which judge was the most drunk. But after a few seasons, seeing literally thousands of people get their dreams systematically annihilated for something as fleeting as the inability to generate a zazz moment on one’s very first time being on national television, I grew sour. I was bothered by the fact that the people who very obviously knew how to work a crowd never won. I was bothered by the product placement in every judges’ hands. But what bothered me most were the singers that walked out onto that stage and gave it all they got for three people who had been sitting there for way too long to respect the preciousness of that singer’s moment in front of them. (One could argue that the singers did it of their own volition; but for a homeless teenager living in a car, that audition is pretty much the ONLY way they’d get in front of a powerful music representative.)

How could anyone be expected to create a genuine special moment in such a sterile, manufactured environment? And if you do manage your moment, you are immediately shoved into a world of bright lights and expectations. As most of the past AI winners have demonstrated, stardom just doesn’t work like that. Most people’s success comes to a boil like a pot of pasta– after a few years, a bubble rises to the surface. After a decade, if you’re lucky, you achieve a rolling boil, and, from there it all happens so quickly: your pot’s boiling over and you’re hoping the world will at least keep you on its burner.

A week before my poem recitation. I would drop some major cash to be able to go back to this dude and tell him a few things. (I'm the dude on the left. Doing my best Chandler Bing Impression.)
A week before my poem recitation. Funny what we remember. (I’m the dude on the left, doing my best Chandler Bing impression.)

It all reminded me of the time back in college that I’d won a second-place award for a poem I wrote. I was a standard creative writing major. The guy that won first place was a sort of nemesis of mine. He’d entered the contest on a whim; he was an engineering major. He was part of the Honors College at the university and lorded it over people. As part of the “reward,” I got to recite my poem to a room full of people, including the snobbish guy who had won. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life. My rib cage was shaking. My stomach was roiling. The cankers of being emotionally naked in front of my nemesis, not to mention the other strangers in the room. No one booed; no one hissed. The guy even complimented my reading. But I was wrecked. I couldn’t just be happy with the award I’d received; I had to compare what I had done with my nemesis’s accomplishment. I couldn’t see past the fact that he was a dabbler of writing and he beat me. And it’s taken me 18 years to want to risk the comparisons again.

Now what roils is my frustration from all of that time I wasted. Like any of that matters anymore. Or that guy whose name I can’t even remember is sitting in an office somewhere evil-laughing at thwarting me. Another case of “Needless Obstacle Courses We Put Ourselves Through In Our Heads.”

A few days ago, I read an article in a genealogy magazine that said 63 million blogs pertaining to genealogy exist just on this site alone and I immediately felt myself deflate. So much discouragement. 63 million people on just one site.  I was not Mary Benn riding up into the mountains to kill myself a bear. I was just another sidewalk vendor on a city street. I wallowed in that feeling for a few days.

Then I remembered some of the rejected American Idol hopefuls who came out of their auditions, looked right into the camera, and said, “It doesn’t matter. This is what I want to do. I’ll keep trying till I get a chance.”

So, it doesn’t matter if I’m any good at this. My moments of insecurity about what I’m doing here are normal and show that I care. My effing numbers on this blog site’s statistics page do not matter. It’s just a blog. Many people have them and don’t make it a source of angst. I post things all the time on Facebook without fussing over who’s reading, who’s judging, or the quality of my output. Why would this blog be any different?

What matters is that I showed up for the audition. I got out of my own way. What matters is I’m not hiding from any drunk, jaded judges, real or imaginary. What matters is the asshole voice in my head has stopped nagging me constantly about not writing. Why aren’t you writing? Why are you avoiding it? Chickenshit. The voice has stopped nagging me about letting my fear of failure stop me. It’s fine you’re not writing anyway, because it’s all been said before. There’s nothing new under the sun. The inanity of not even trying to do what I love and have always loved doing.

Instead, I’m walking through my city’s streets mapping out in my head, like a star chart of constellations, the things I want to tell you. I’m waking up excited to research my story and find my voice in telling it. To introduce you to the cast of characters whose names I didn’t even know until a few years ago. I’m back to doing what I love. Researching my family motivates me to write. I’m finding answers to my questions. I’m creating.

And only good things can come from that.

So, fear or not, the stories are coming. I have the title of this blog to reassure me of my power, because the name of that guy’s first place poem all those years ago was The Cartographer. And now I have this note to myself to read when I get discouraged. And I will get discouraged again. I will change course or fall down. It all doesn’t matter.

At least I’m on stage.

Mapping People

Growing up, my Pop rarely told stories about his childhood, but when he did I was riveted. I think his stories caught my attention because his childhood was so different from mine. You see, he was taken from his parents and raised by various foster families. He and his siblings grew up in three separate houses around town.

I couldn’t conceive of a childhood like my Pop’s: without siblings and parents. I marvel at the strength and independence necessary for him to reach adulthood. Because of his childhood, he never knew the basic facts of his family most people take for granted: the names of his grandparents, where they came from, and what kind of people they were. About ten years ago, I started asking him about his tumultuous (my word, not his) past. It wasn’t until his illness a while back (He’s fine.) that he told me the first clue I needed to find his relatives: his mother’s name.

So I set myself the task of finding out about her and her family. Suddenly, towns I’d never thought twice about before became important places: Council Bluffs, Iowa; Hensall, Ontario; Portsmouth, Ohio. These were the communities my family was a part of for generations. These towns were springboards for where my family is today.

“When a man’s stories are remembered, then he is immortal.” ~ Daniel Wallace, Big Fish

In my research, I’ve discovered mysterious and intriguing characters on both sides of my family. So, recently, I found myself telling a friend about a spinster great-grandaunt who left her small Iowa town in the 1910s to marry a cigar manufacturer in Oregon. A half hour later, my mouth was dry from talking and my friend was volunteering to help me research.

That made me think it was time to get these stories ‘on paper.’ This blog will be my funnel for the people I encounter in my research and a recommitment to my love of writing. Hopefully, this internet thing isn’t just a craze and my words will be available to future family members who share my curiosity. I will also include some of the history involved, as well. For instance, I found myself researching exactly what a 1910 cigar manufacturer did for a living. But, more on that later.

This is how I see this blog working:

Does anyone else think it's weird that her ranch manager is mentioned more than her father, and her husband wasn't mentioned at all?
Does anyone else think it’s weird that her ranch manager is mentioned more than her father, and her husband wasn’t mentioned at all?

Nothing will be posted about living relatives, except an occasional reference to my parents. Some of the posts will be my thoughts on actual documentation: census records, random certificates, photographs, and articles. Other posts will be fictional stories with names changed, if necessary. The stories will be edited for dramatic effect, but they will all fall somewhere on the ‘truthy-ness’ spectrum between the plain facts of a Civil War pension document and the outlandish tales of the book/movie Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. They will be cobbled together as my imagination interprets the information I have at the time. As I gather more information, the stories may change, but that’s the beauty of history.

My ancestors were mostly Midwestern farmers— not the most exciting bunch on paper, but their stories and relations often surprise me. If I find such interesting people in my humble family, I’m sure everyone else’s families are just as interesting. So I hope my stories and research will inspire others to look into their own pasts and share the stories they find.

Among other things, I’m working on telling what I know of the man who lost his government job because of Roosevelt’s New Deal and the significant ripple effects of that case of unemployment across my family tree. And the story of my sweet grandfather’s dahlias. And, of course, that great- grandaunt who found her cigar-smoking love, Hank Ruffe. The article at right is a hint at what’s to come. It is the obituary of Hank’s employer and sister-in-law, who seems to merit her own post based on her big-game hunting skills alone.

And with that, I’m off to write, Lord help me.