The Gift that Keeps on Giving

In our target budget, our family’s net income is allocated as follows:

  • 70% housing expenses and other necessities
  • 10% cash expenses (food, clothing and miscellaneous)
  • 10% saving
  • 10% charitable and non-charitable giving

Unfortunately, this is the goal and we’re not quite there yet. In fact, our giving allocation is a far cry from 10% right now. That means that when birthdays and anniversaries roll around, it can be challenging to come up with gift ideas on a budget.

My Grandma

In May of this year, my beautiful grandmother turned 90 years young. In the weeks and months leading up to the big day I racked my brain for the perfect gift. Finally, I remembered an old notebook that she had given me many years back where she said she had recorded her life story. I dug it out and typed her memoirs. It was one heck of a story. However, it didn’t seem to tell the whole story of who she was and from whence she came. I pondered this and remembered all of the times that she confided in me that she wanted to know who she was and who “her people” were. The idea for the perfect gift hit me. I would research my grandmother’s family history and write a book about what I uncovered.

The Process

Some years back I had put together a family tree for a reunion event, so I used that as a starting point. Then, I just began to dig. I opened an account on and was amazed by all that I found there. However, even as the data started pouring in, I had no idea how to organize my thoughts and turn it into a book. I kept thinking about one of my favorite historical novels, Cane River. It’s an amazing story of four generations of African-American women in Louisiana. I think what drew me to the story was that the author, Lalita Tademy, was a corporate person who left industry to pursue her passion – writing. I couldn’t help but to reach out to Lalita when I began my writing project. I didn’t expect that my end result would be anything like hers, but I needed some words of encouragement to help me write something that would properly honor a woman whom I love so much. I can’t begin to express my sheer joy and amazement when Lalita responded to my note. Here is what she wrote:

I have less advice than you would think. I was in exactly the same frame of mind in which you find yourself for a
majority of the time I was writing both Cane River and Red River (3 years for each). During those years, I had many
false starts, and many flags of discouragement that I was capable of honoring the stories in a way they deserved to be

Not to be flippant, but you must begin wherever you can, and push hard for as far as you can go. Although I had
several outlines for each of my books (plot, character, setting), many of the narrative organizing principles didn’t
come to me until I was in the thick of writing. My foundation was a chronological timeline of events and the main
characters’ reactions to them, and trying to see the world through their eyes.

Good luck on your project. If you don’t start, you can’t finish;-)

It was that last line that got me going. I started that day and yesterday, I finished. On her birthday, I presented my grandmother with a scrapbook – a special edition of the book. I printed off all of the text in a large font to make it easy for her to read and enclosed each page in plastic and added page after page of family pictures. It was incredible. I didn’t stop there. To make it a gift that ‘kept on giving’, yesterday I made another ‘edition’ of Sadie and Heron:  History and Legacy and made it available for sale to family members and anyone else who might be interested through an company called CreateSpace. I priced the book at $19.95 so that the royalties come to $8 per book. Every month that books are sold, my grandmother will now get her very own ROYALTY CHECK.
How’s that for gift-giving on a budget?!

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