I Think I Can . . . I Think I Can

By Erika Hoffman

About ten years ago, I decided to write with the goal of publication. Why did I, a newbie, dare believe I’d succeed in acquiring a byline in a magazine or anthology? Wasn’t that aim as lofty as winning a needle-in-a-haystack writing contest? Yet, I had confidence that if I pursued this dream, I’d accomplish it. What gave me that perseverance, courage, and conviction?

Well, it all started a year before that: when my old college buddy took me to a DAR meeting in Raleigh. She knew I liked history and would enjoy the speaker’s talk, and she assured me the women were smart and welcoming. At the completion of the luncheon and presentation, she turned to me and asked if I’d like to join.

“Sally, on my dad’s side, I’m only 3rd generation born American. All those Germans came in the 1870s.”

“Your mom’s side?” she inquired.

“Mom’s dad’s folks were from Bavaria.”

“That still leaves your mom’s maternal ancestors.”

“My grandma’s mom’s dad – Swiss.”

“And her dad’s dad’s folks?


I remembered Ama telling me that we were Old American on her dad’s side and that her folks’ people once owned all West Orange, New Jersey. “Hmm,” was usually my lame response as Ama didn’t appear as if she had come from any important Jersey scion. She had letters though, from the 1700s, and some were from ancestors who spent time in Demerara, British Guyana, and one was from her grandpa who went to boarding school in England, and later became an accountant for the West Indies Company.

I journeyed from total ignorance about my roots to becoming an expert on family trees. I unearthed Quaker kin in Philadelphia at the time of the Revolution. Yet, I worried if their religion was a deal breaker since Quakers were peaceniks. Then, I found one had signed up to be in a battalion before The Battle of Philadelphia. I mailed this info to the DAR Headquarters in DC, and they researched it and wrote back, “Yes. But he didn’t show up to fight.”

“Sounds like your mother’s kin,” commented my old dad, whose grandpa was a Prussian soldier. Yet, upon further delving I discovered my Hopkins ancestors supported the cause by paying military taxes and by feeding the troops biscuits made at their bakery. I also found another ancestor, a hatter, Robert Tuckniss, whose signature is on Continental currency; upon more digging I learned that his father-in-law’s farmhouse was the headquarters for George Washington after the Battle of Germantown. That Quaker contributor to the Revolution was Abraham Dawes. So, due to my ancestors’ commitment to the American Revolution, a couple of hundred years later I could lunch and chat with a lot of nice ladies while listening to programs about American history.

My adventure in genealogy took a year of research and a huge dollop of persistence, but I reached my goal. I am a Daughter of the American Revolution.

While hunting my roots, I became an empty nester as the last of my four kids left for college, and I also became a caregiver when my elderly dad moved in. Confined, I took up my pen, dusted off my computer keys, and emptied the shelves at Sam’s with writerly accoutrements. Stories have surged through my brain and escaped from my mouth for years!  Now, without taking off my slippers, I smacked words on paper, gleaned some savoir-faire from networking and assailed the world with my voice!

Finding my eight generations-back grandpa in American history caused me to be more alert to the history of this nation; likewise writing has made me understand myself and empathize more with others. Keying words in, while seeing the black marks on the stark white screen, helps me sort errant thoughts, analyze reflections and categorize emotions. Writing is work. Yet, it’s akin to the job pro basketball players have; they love the game.  Rejection slips smart like a missed shot. After one, I focus more, aim better and try again to hit the mark.

Having accomplished something that appeared impossibly daunting at the onset, like discovering who my colonial ancestors were and whose side they were on, made me realize I could do the impossible—again!  Success breeds success!

After a gal reaches the apex of one destination, she takes out her prognosticating binoculars to scan the landscape of her next dream!  Unlocking the secrets of my heritage unleashed a confidence and a determination that has propelled me onward in my quest for a byline. Genealogy opened the door and let loose my writing genie!

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman is a wife to one, a best friend to about six or seven, a past teacher to hundreds, a mother to four, a mother-in-law to three, a grandma to four under four, and a writer to thousands – hopefully!

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10 Responses to “I Think I Can . . . I Think I Can”

  1. Lisa Tomey says:

    What an amazing story! It helps one realize that there is so much beyond one’s scope if we open up the realm of possibility! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Cherie Ann Vick says:

    Thanks for inviting me to read. Really upbeat and fun story. Loved the basketball analogy.

  3. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your tenacity and fortitude has paid off. What a success story.

  4. Lois Bartholomew says:

    Love this article, Erika. I’ve recently written a couple of articles about some of my ancestors which have been accepted for publication. They lived amazing lives and I’ve benefited from their sacrifices. My stories are a way to honor them.

    Thanks for sharing your journey as a writer.

  5. Cora Brown says:

    Amazing how far a little determination can take you! Way to go, Erika!

  6. Rose Ann says:

    You’ve definitely hit the mark, Erika! Writing is hard work and you always elicit a laugh, a cry or a sense of relatability. Keep on doing what you’re doing. We love it!

  7. Ann Goebel says:

    So glad you pursued writing, Erika. Your essays always make me think in new directions and provide boundless bits of knowledge. Thank you.

  8. Lindsey says:

    What a great lesson in persistency! Often times our side ventures (like researching your family tree) can teach us so much about how to tackle big things in other areas of our life.

  9. Jane W says:

    Great writing again! Always enjoy your writings!

  10. Carol Trejo says:

    Great inspiration. Just retired after 37 years in the same job and started a new one. You encourage me that I can do it! Truly enjoyed the fact you are a DAR! Very interesting.

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