How Do You Describe “Where You’re From?”

Ever since I read Sharla Lovelace’s nostalgic post, “Where I’m From,” I haven’t been able to erase it from my mind. As I read her amazing debut novel, The Reason Is You, I really can’t get it off my mind. Sharla’s voice is both pure and unique. Her writing is haunting and, in my humble opinion, well worth your time.

Y’all know from my Sunday post that I’ve been working through some grief and my trip down memory lane below was a fantastic exercise for this. Like Sharla, I was surprised at the results.

On this fine Thoughty Thursday, I invite you to try it and see what this exercise brings out in you. You can find the WHERE I’M FROM template at the bottom of Sharla’s post. Enjoy!

Where I’m From

I am from backyard picnics, Slip N’ Slides on the lawn and long summer days where the air is thick with the smell of the earth. From baseball games and ocean swimming. And from holding my big brother’s hand to still my quaking knees so I could jump off the high dive at the officer’s club pool in Mira Mar.

Santa Monica by Wolfgang Sauber (Wikimedia Commons)

From reading in the backseat on cross-country drives and mountain camping where you fish all day and sleep under an acre of stars at night.

I am from the crumbled foundation of a failed and ominous marriage, from fears of gang wars and economic disaster…from the continual upheaval of a life lived between two domiciles. Most of all, I’m from the safe playful haven of a home filled with female love and healing laughter.

I’m from the gentle rhythm of Pacific waves and the lazy gurgle of Missouri waterways, the vivid orange of Birds of Paradise and the sunny blooms of Forsythia in the spring.

Forsythia on Wikimedia Commons

I am from Christmas baking that begins on Black Friday and people who use humor as both their compass and shield. I’m from Jo Anne and a long line of men who share each other’s name. From Anita with her artisan baked goods and Elba with her palette of paints. From the heroic sacrifice of life-long soldiers and the stoic patient souls of teachers and ranchers.

I am from the day-school of showing up and doing your best and the night-school of fearing your best is never enough.

From a United Methodist church that valued kindness over judgment, Thursday night spaghetti dinners, and long discussions about the meaning of life. From singing in the choir and seeing God’s light illuminated through childrens’ eyes and panes of colored glass.

I’m from military bases that stretch from coast to coast, with the soul of mid-America cushioned between. From oncology wards and college campuses, from latch-key days that ended by a working mom’s desk.

From baseball games with Jack Buck rumbling in your ear to living inside the books of Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m from Flashdance, Madonna and Bananarama…from AC/DC and Bad Company and “Who Shot J.R.”

CBS Archives – Larry Hagman

I’m a child of Falls Church and San Diego, Columbia and Los Angeles and, finally, from smaller towns like Rolla and Laredo. By spreading her ashes in beach havens like Big Sur and Sanibel, I’m reminded of the eternity of my mother’s love.

And I wonder…forty years from now, where will my daughter say she’s from?

The floor is all yours… Where are YOU from? Share a sentence or two with us in the comments section. Enquiring minds always  want to know your stories here at More Cowbell!



About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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84 Responses to How Do You Describe “Where You’re From?”

  1. Wow! I love this! What a fantastic idea… I felt all these places as I read them. 😀 I usually do a flash fiction piece on Friday, but I am going to do a “Where I’m From” piece this week. Thanks for sharing, Jenny!


  2. So glad you did this, Jenny!! I love seeing other people’s story with this tool. Awesome and beautiful. And it pulls up things you think you’ve forgotten about yourself…love it. Thanks so much for the shout out, lady!! You are super sweet!


  3. OMG (in the traditional sense), Jenny. I just returned from Martinsburg, PA — from what I call The Tap Root of my Wonky Tree. Where there are way more cows than people. Where 4H (Head, Heart, Hand, Health) and FFA (Future Farmers of America) shows are a big deal. Where cars make way for Mennonite buggies. Where my extended family gets together at the drop of a whim for family dinners and chats and watching lightning bugs. I, too, plan a nostalgia and humor riddled post. Because I felt so grounded when I was there. Thanks for unleashing your lyrical nostalgia, Jenny. What a smile-from-the-inside-out read.


  4. Lottie Nevin says:

    Jenny, what a beautiful post. I greedily devoured every word and still wanted more! What a great piece of writing and a wonderful idea. Thank you, Lottie.


  5. zkullis says:

    This is a good method to share a personal story in a slightly abstract and fun way that doesn’t remotely sound like a blurb for a dating site. Thanks Jenny!

    I am from Eucalyptus lined streets of Milbrae, the vibrant metropolitan Mexico City, the sensual and diverse Brazil, and the beautiful islands of Cape Verde. I am from a tree with deep roots, colorful trunk, and lofty branches that quietly reach for something higher. I am from a family of scholars, travelers, and heroic war veterans, who left shoes I will always try to fill, and whose shadows I will forever chase.
    I am from sorrow and from joy. I am from success and failure.
    I am from all these things – yet more than their sum.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It’s fabulous to see how differently we all grew up! Fun, Zack…thanks for sharing. I hope you do a longer version. 🙂


      • zkullis says:

        Jenny, here is my longer version:

        I am from Eucalyptus lined streets of Milbrae, smells of cooking fish and rice, voices saying Mālō e lelei, and trips to see the fog in the bay.

        I am from the vibrant and intensely metropolitan Mexico City, under the watchful gaze of Popocatepetl, visits to the Zócalo, art with copper and obsidian, mango on a stick in Chapultepec Park, and a love of people and crowds.

        I am from Brazil, as diverse as it is big, full of people I love, loved by many of those people, swaying suggestively with Samba, drinking chimarrão at the lake where meat tastes like it should, kissing, being kissed, affection given as freely as acceptance, soccer with friends, balcony overlooking downtown, and an intoxicatingly rhythmic life.

        I am from the beautiful islands of Cape Verde, African beauty, Creole food and music, salty breeze, old boats bringing in fish, sitting on the beach chewing sugar cane, enchanted by the amazing Santiago.

        For much of my time on this blue sphere, I have been a blond island in a fantastic sea of warm colors. I am fond of diversity, drawn by new cultures and different points of view, and long for the next horizon. I am from hard work, an honest living, and sacrifice. I fight a good fight with strong arms, steady legs and straight back, iron will and hard fists, but prefer to hug, embrace, love and protect.

        I am from a tree with deep roots, colorful trunk, and lofty branches that quietly reach for something higher. I am from a family of scholars, travelers, and heroic war veterans, who left shoes I will always try to fill, and whose shadows I will forever chase.
        I am from sorrow and from joy. I am from success and failure.
        I am from all these things – yet am more than their sum.


        • Jenny Hansen says:

          I love it, Zack! And it occurs to me…you are from much more exotic places than I am. 🙂


          • zkullis says:

            Thanks Jenny! I don’t know about more exotic, but I did get lucky with my experiences. Your “from” is very powerful and well written. It’s not surprising that such a strong woman was the result of those combinations. Thanks for sharing this with us!


  6. Laura Drake says:

    Beautiful! I can’t wait to read everyone’s! Mine? Going to take a few days, and a walk down those old roads…

    Thanks to Sharla, for a brilliant idea!!
    People, if you haven’t read her book – do yourself a favor. The best book I’ve read all year – and I’ve read a bunch.


  7. What a beautifully written post, Jenny. And I admit, I was too sissy to read your post about grief when you first posted it. I read it this morning, in spite of struggling to stuff my own pangs of residual infertility pain. I’m sorry for your losses; you have a right to own your grief and don’t owe anyone explanations. Yes, you’re thankful and blessed for what you have, but you lost happiness during pregnancy and the choice of having another child. That’s significant.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

    As for where I’m from, here’s my opening thought (very rough draft, of course!): I’m from a rolling valley, where the pine tree wilds of the Adirondacks meet the crystal blue waters of Lake Champlain. Where summer ferns lined my shady hiking trails. Where a winter pond waited patiently for my little brother and I to skate its silent, frozen beauty.

    I’m off to read Sharla’s post now. Thanks for the inspiration, ladies! 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      That’s a beautiful first paragraph, Jolyse! And seeing you write it in words on a page, I think you’ve defined the crux of my grief more simply than I could. Thank you! I’ve already called the counselor to talk it out. If he can’t break it open and help move it along, no one can!


      • We’re here for you, Jenny. Know you aren’t alone. I often felt alone (and guilty, because I had a beautiful, healthy little girl before losing my fertility). People assumed because time had passed that my grief had too. It hadn’t. The day I held our son (adopted) in my arms was the first time in seven years that I felt whole again. I was no longer infertile.

        I realize adoption isn’t the panacea for your feelings, but if what you want is to be a mom to more than one child, it may be a consideration. We took a long time to come to terms with our losses, individually and as a couple, before we made a step in that direction. We decided we wanted to help a child who needed us. We prayed for God to send us our child.

        When people ask me if we knew our son had special needs, we explain that we adopted him at birth with his birthmother’s blessings, and that he was the child meant to be with us. Whether he had special needs or not. He’s our son.

        What I didn’t understand then, or perhaps because I was meant to be parent to our son, was that “It’s okay to parent one child” even if that wasn’t your original plan. God knows us better than we know ourselves.

        Hang in there. Much love!


  8. Mike Paulson says:

    This was a beautiful post! Thank you so much for the touching picture you painted of yourself. Also, thanks so much for connecting me with Sharla, who I will continue to follow, as I am so inspired by this idea.

    I hope to write my own “Where I’m From” piece over the next week or so, but I must dig deep into buried ruins and knock down walls long since cobbled together. I’m almost afraid to see what I might recall during this process, but hard memories are worth revisiting, especially for a writer.

    Thanks again, so much, for this inspirational post!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Mike. I appreciate your words and am delighted that you’ve discovered Sharla. Her writing is just lovely.

      As far as doing this exercise yourself, I noticed that it was easier for me to concentrate on a tiny little bit, rather than going full bore into the “buried ruins” so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with clearing a path slowly, especially if you think you run the risk of an avalanche. 🙂


  9. extension128 says:

    Creative way of sharing one’s life path and experiences by answering a simple question: Where are you from? Great stuff, Jenny!


  10. I am the shining thing that came from a little gray ranch that has always been gray and always will be. The place where the carpets were always dingy and have never been changed. I am from beneath the weeping willow tree and the fieldstone rock wall where I found treasure in the cracks.

    It hurts to poke those places, Jenny.

    I will check out the writing rules — and the book. This exercise might help the brokenness of my book.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Renee, you MUST DO THIS!! Yep, I’m shouting cuz you got me all excited with that little snippet and with seeing you do something constructive for your baby. I’m a big defender of “your baby” right now after seeing you (and it) get a bit maligned…


  11. Amber West says:

    I am from green-leaved forts, from plastic pools that bore water in the short summer, raced down brown hills in the fall, and flew down white ones in the winter. I am from showtunes and bongos, from books and countless issues of Rangefinder.

    And then things changed. I moved to the land of sun, sand, bathing suits, Mickey Mouse, boy bands and Britney. From a land of “ya’ll”. A foreign land I refused to accept.

    But at home, it was still from showtunes and bongos, books and cameras. Except now there was a real pool that stayed full all year long. Even if it was eventually filled with algae, tadpoles, and fish.


    I may have to go do this for real. Big hugs to you, Jenny! Thanks for sharing this with all of us.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Amber! I’ll take that hug and raise you one. I love yours and I hope you write the full one out. Your “Where I’m From” puts me into all the places of your childhood and I want to see more. 🙂


  12. emmaburcart says:

    Oh, I love Where I’m From poems! I do it with the kids every September as way to get to know them, and so they can get to know each other, too. Then we make collages out of magazine pictures and put them in a siloutte of their faces. Way more fun than What I Did Last Summer! Yours is very beautiful. But, it’s also amazing to see how non-writers can come up with some beautiful lines this way. Now that I’m in the middle of moving and don’t know for sure where I’m going, maybe it would be a good time to sit down and write another Where I’m From.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Really? It seems like a lot of the teachers do this and I wish someone had done it back in my classes. Of course, if they had, it might not have hit my like such a ton of bricks. I love the whole concept.

      Happy moving… 🙂


  13. This is gorgeous. I’ll have to go get the template and write my story just for my own enjoyment.


  14. Julie Glover says:

    How beautiful, Jenny. I get such a feel for you and your history from this. Where am I from?

    I am from Lone Star pride and bluebonnets, fields of picked cotton and stretches of seaweed-covered beaches, and suburban neighborhoods spotted by kids riding bikes and neighbors tending tall grass yards. I am from the pages of Little House and Nancy Drew, from the wit of my father and his family, and from the grace of my mother and her family. I am from visits to a lakehouse where I caught a fish and cried for it, trips to church camp where I flew off a rope swing into a swirling river, and family vacations to Astroworld where I relished every roller coaster ride. I am from the Father, who knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139) and whose praise I sang at church, in living rooms, and by campfire with songs like Jesus Loves Me and How Great Thou Art. I am from a loving family filled with the tears, joy, forgetfulness, laughter, and hugs.


  15. I’m from the land before time. When Hitler was spewing hatred across Europe. When parents spent time at home with kids and everyone was expected to be responsible for his own actions. If you want to know more, you’ll just have to follow my blog, “Where the Heart Is.”


  16. Jann says:

    Jenny, this was simply beautiful.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Jann, I read your comment when I was at work and thought, “is that MY Jann?!” And it was! Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment. You made me smile all morning. 🙂


  17. Lovely post Jenny


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  19. Karen McFarland says:

    You are in a very reflective mood this week Jenny. I hope that this post raises you up out of a blue mood. This was a prolific commentary indeed. Sharla captures the many highlights of our life mixed with a sprinkle of nostalgia. And beautifully done! I’ve been thinking about you since your post on Sunday. Do you think that perhaps what you’re feeling is a delayed reaction to baby girl’s departure into pre-school? Our babies grow up way too fast Jenny. Surround yourself with her presence. You are developing a relationship with someone who will inevitably become one of the closest friends in your universe. How cool is that? 🙂

    Btw, I hope you received the answer to your question you left me on my blog through email. If not, please let me know. I want to make sure that my widget is working. Yet, my answer is important to your health. Thanks Jenny!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I AM in a reflective mood this week! And my posse is helping my reflective process – it’s really been a beautiful thing. Thanks for the compliments and for the strong shoulder you lend. I got the email and I hear you – NO dryer sheets. 🙂

      As far as why the grief is coming now, I don’t really know. I’m just kind of rolling with the whole thing right now and trying to keep writing, even if it’s only a blog post or a few pages on the memoir.


  20. Emma says:

    Beautiful post, Jenny.


  21. What a beautiful, peaceful post. I felt like transformed into a different place while reading this. Thank you, Jenny. You gave me a much needed moment of reflection.


  22. Sharla Rae says:

    Oh, I’m jumping on the band wagon here because this is great exercise. Thanks to both Jen and Sharla.


  23. Catherine Johnson says:

    Beautiful post! And now I want to watch Flashdance and Dallas.


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  25. Jane Sadek says:

    I’m so jealous. Reading in the backseat always made me carsick!


  26. tonyarice says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. We are indeed from not just a place, but our experiences and those who’ve shaped us – whether they know it or not. Superb reminder! Thank you.


  27. Kay Cunningham says:

    Beautiful, Jen, beautiful.


  28. Beautiful! Made a note to try this on my blog!


  29. Jennifer says:

    This was lovely, as was Sharla’s. The images, the language – you both took me to real places and real times. I’m going to do my own, but it’s sure not an off-the-cuff blog post, is it? Need some walking and thinking time.

    I went back and read you grief post, too. One of the things that I”ve learned is that beyond the loss of a child, or a relationship, or whatever, the loss of expectations is a huge thing. And grief comes in waves. So nurture yourself, write it out (as I’m sure you’re doing), and know you’re not alone. Virtual hugs coming your way, Jen


  30. Jenny Hansen, you are a bad influence. Instead of doing the editing I was supposed to be doing, I spent this evening writing my own “Where Am I From?”

    Sharla’s was poetic and yours was equally so, and by modeling them I had a rather profound experience with this exercise. I can’t decide which part I like best, so I guess I’ll just give you the first part. Will post the whole thing on my blog soon.

    I am from black and white TV, Cracker Jacks and eating white bread and butter as a snack. I am from the white frame bungalow with the new bedroom under the eaves that was all my own, and the long narrow backyard that was the stage for my fantasies. I’m from the ugly green walls of that room, painted with Army surplus paint, and the cute ruffled skirt my mother made for my ‘vanity.’

    Take care and God bless, Jenny!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I am a GREAT influence if it made you produce wondrous sentences like this:

      “I am from black and white TV, Cracker Jacks and eating white bread and butter as a snack. ”

      Woo-hooo! I can’t wait to see the real live final. 🙂


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  32. Marcia says:

    Beautiful, Jenny. I may try this, too.


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  34. I’m from a mother who lost her wedding suitcase over the side of the canoe as she and her intended were heading to an island in mid-Rainbow Lake, Maine, that was to be their honeymoon haven; from that mother who stayed with him till the early Sixties, when she realized there were too many lost suitcases to bear and he was breathing lies into the air near his children. I’m from the soft breath of my Arab Jay Jay that says “I trust you and you can trust me,” and in the rides up chaff-gold hills in San Diego, he was winded and I was patient till he got his breath, and then he took me to places I had only dreamed when I wrote poetry and read Walter Farley and played horses among the granite bolders of New England. I’m from the panic of single motherhood for the precocious girl who feels too deeply and wants too much and will strive and strive and strive, like me. I’m from the grandmother who loved Daniel–who lost his mind and breathed his last when I was but a wee thing–and kept loving him another forty years. I’m from the grandmother who wrote poetry like Emily Bronte, from the mother who painted and wrote some lines and baked the family’s turkey in a wood-stove, from the father who painted and ran a trap-line and flew a Piper Cub and wrote poetry and told lies as easily as breathing, and I mothered a child who is fiercely writing her life right now.


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