April, 2013:


The Scottish Morehead family blended with the Motleys when John Morehead met Obedience Motley. Born in 1760 in Fauquier County (the northwestern area of Virginia), John Morehead came south to Amelia County, not far from Richmond, to teach school. As fate would have it, Obedience was John’s pupil, at least in dancing. The reading, writing and ‘rithmetic wasn’t mentioned.

According to the family history, Morehead was very attracted, or as it states in an old-fashioned way, he was “so worried by Obedience that he laid his hand on her shoulder and remonstrated with her—and made her his wife.” I think he was looking for an excuse for an interchange and perhaps showed her the right dancing step…It almost sounded like the wedding happened right away, but I drew my own conclusions! There’s more to the description as the author says the couple was “a great contrast.” Morehead was “versatile and many-sided; could officiate as a squire and marry people, pray with the sick and dying, preach a sermon of good Presbyterian doctrine, was a poet, a soldier, a planter, fond of the chase and social life.”

John Morehead “hated slavery and tried to take measures against it, and has been described as a man far ahead of his times.” Bravo for him. Obedience, the history says, was “more disciplined and practical.” As many women of her time, she knew how to spin and to weave clothes and the household cotton and linen. When they married in 1790, she was 22 and he was 30. They moved south, closer to the North Carolina line—not far from Danville, which became a hometown in the 20th century for many of the Motley clan and where I was born.


18th cent woman painted by John Singleton Copley--Was Obedience ever this fancy?

18th cent woman painted by John Singleton Copley–Was Obedience ever this fancy?

Obedience and John had daughters: five of them, but a son was the real achievement, especially in those times, and on July 4, 1796, their first son, John Motley Morehead was born. How could he help but go into public office with such a birth date! Three more sons were born, all but one of them became lawyers.

According to the history, Obedience was the inspiring force in the family, determined to educate oldest son, John Motley Morehead, and, through him the other sons. She sold produce from the family farm, which was in North Carolina’s Rockingham County, to pay for her son’s education, which started with Latin, when he was 14.

Working at her loom, Obedience created her own songs, like:

I raise my own ham,

My beef and my lamb,

I weave my own cloth,

And I wear it.

John Motley Morehead. He even looks like a governor!

John Motley Morehead. He even looks like a governor!


John Motley Morehead became Governor of North Carolina in 1841, but that’s another story for another blog.



The original Joseph Motley must have been enterprising and good with money because records show he bought 400 acres of land in Amelia County, Virginia (in the southeastern part of the state near present-day Richmond).  He died in 1767, and my records show he had a son named Joseph, and no other children, surely a first in this fertile family! I could also be mistaken since family histories can be confusing. Joseph junior, who married Martha Ellington, made up for his father’s lack of children; he became the father of eleven. Obedience, my favorite, was born in 1768, the year after her grandfather died.

Joseph, junior, though I’m sure he wasn’t called that, was patriotic to the American cause and he became Captain of the county militia in 1770. The Revolutionary War was too long and complicated to explain in a few sentences. It officially lasted from 1775 to 1783, but the Boston Tea Party, disputes over taxes, and other skirmishes occurred a few years before the “war.” And Joseph was concerned about liberty for the colonies, especially Virginia, five years before future Americans took matters into their own hands.


Revolutionary War battle

Revolutionary War battle

Before the actual war, when Joseph the second was away from home, his absence created a tragedy for daughter Obedience and the whole family. Martha, the mother, was sick and lying in bed with one of her very young children  (I don’t know which one) when their home was invaded by a Tory (a British sympathizer) neighbor, who had been leading local guerilla action against American patriots.  No one was at home to defend the family, so the man deliberately cut an artery on the bedridden Martha’s arm. Obedience witnessed her mother bleed to death before anyone could help.

Obedience had her revenge a few years later when the murdering neighbor was very ill and mistakenly brought to the Motley home for help. She grabbed a container of hot coals by the fireplace and poured them on his head. There was no report of what the result was, alas! Hellish, no doubt.

It was said that, despite her coal-dumping incident, Obedience (Biddy, for short) always had an open door for strangers and orphans. When Biddy’s mother died, a slave named Rachel raised the Motley children. According to my geneaology report, obviously written by someone who was sensitive to the ills of slavery, at least on the surface, Rachel had been an African princess. Obedience shared the story of her beloved nurse with others.  Apparently, Rachel had been enslaved one day when she had been sent to drive away the birds from the rice fields somewhere in Africa. A bag was thrown over her head, and she was captured to be sold as a slave in America. To me, it sounds similar to the fate of Kunta Kinte from the book Roots, written by Alex Haley. My family history, however, was mailed to me years before that TV series was aired.


President George Washington, Father of our Country. My Motley relative fought with him.

President George Washington, Father of our Country. My Motley relative fought with him.

I’ve always enjoyed history, and before I knew of all this family history, I chose to obtain my college degree from the College of William and Mary in Colonial Williamsburg, which was founded in 1693, just before my Motley family arrived in the colonies.




You don’t get to choose your ancestors, so it’s fun when they turn out to be interesting or successful or even both. Depending on fate perhaps, we may be related to a horse thief, a governor or even a president. I once interviewed a geneaology expert who told me most US citizens are related to a US President!

I’m from old Virginia/North Carolina stock: Motley, Seago, Morehead and Hobson essentially. The most famous relative I’ve discovered was  North Carolina Governor John Motley Morehead, who ran the state from 1841-1845. He had an accomplished life, (he’s been named the Father of Modern North Carolina) but his mother, Obedience Motley, was even more fascinating. Her positive influence on him made a great difference from what I’ve read. I can just imagine as I remember my mother was a Motley with six vivacious sisters and an outspoken brother.

Before ancestry became such a popular hobby, thanks to the Internet, a lot of women were interested in researching their history so they could join the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). A Motley family cousin was curious enough about our prolific family that she discovered many of the relevant facts and put together a family history with names, dates, and some true stories from the past. She mailed these 20+ page documents to family members in the 1970s. Luckily, I’m a saver and still have mine in the original, now well-worn brown envelope, which only cost 50 cents to mail then from Danville, Virginia to Agoura, California.


Obedience Motley Morehead

Obedience Motley Morehead–probably elderly then but it had no date.

The John Motley Morehead and Obedience Motley Morehead information apparently came primarily from a biography of the governor, but my document isn’t clear about the source. Too bad I didn’t ask more questions before so many relatives from my mother and grandfather’s generation died. Some of the pages tell where the information was located: family bibles that listed births, marriages and deaths, the state of Virginia archives, and the DAR library. These days, enthusiasts can join Ancestry.com, Archives.com, or one called Find A Grave!

The Motleys must have had good genes: living past 90 wasn’t that unusual, at least for some of the women. Obedience Motley Morehead was born in 1768 and died in 1863, having lived 92 years—from before the Revolutionary War to the middle of the Civil War! Her grandmother, Elizabeth, had been born in 1700 and died in 1792 (also living through two wars). Obedience’s father, Joseph Motley, served with George Washington (only a colonel then) during the French and Indian War and then the Revolutionary War. Obedience, nicknamed “Biddy” had six brothers who all fought in the Revolutionary War.


Obedience gravestone in Greensboro, N.C.

Obedience gravestone in Greensboro, N.C. – the spelling is different and the photo isn’t very clear. I discovered it  on Find a Grave!

The fellow who started the Motley family journey in America was born in Wales and reportedly this first James Motley arrived in 1696. Obedience’s grandfather settled in Gloucester County, (home of historical Jamestown) Virginia by 1720 and married Elizabeth Forrest. The family moved west near Richmond and settled in Amelia Court House in 1737—another historical area. Its claim to fame hadn’t happened yet: it was a few wars later when General Robert E. Lee ended the Civil War by surrendering in 1865 to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in that area. Virginia is full of old history!


There’s more to tell about these 18th century Americans, but I’ll save it for future blogs. A little history can go a long way…




For years I lived a Santa Monica Mountains’ canyon’s length away from Malibu, about a twenty-minute drive. Mountains and the resulting canyons run along the length of California, which gives us our unusual variety of weather—degrees of warmth and moisture can be vastly different if you’re at the beach, winding through the canyons, or living in the hotter valleys, which are mostly flat. Los Angeles is the only city with a mountain range running through it.

Malibu’s name derives from the Chumash Indian language since they were the original inhabitants of the ocean-side community a few hundred years ago.  The curving canyon roads that lead to the ocean are bordered with expensive homes and typical California greenery, which means anything money can buy and the availability of water. All of the beauty and luxury  is highly susceptible to the wildfires that occur every few years. Beauty comes at a price.

Having lots of disposable money is a requirement for living in Malibu, but those of us on budgets can at least visit for the day. Besides restaurants, shops, beaches and the famed Malibu Colony (a gated residential area that borders the ocean), there are the perks, if you’re not blind or oblivious, of seeing favorite actors or TV personalities.

Crosscreek Shopping Center, my preference for meandering and sometimes shopping, is probably the ideal place for sightings. Ali McGraw once designed the interior of a popular restaurant, which is currently Taverna Tony’s, a Greek spot. Not too long ago Mel Gibson was frequenting the bar there, and the tabloids reported the results.

I’ve been visiting that area since the 1970s when one of the shopping center’s main Spanish-style buildings was opened. My husband at the time was the LA County Engineer for the area, so we were asked to the opening night festivities featuring music, food and dancing. I enjoyed talking to actor Charlie Martin Smith, whose wife was opening a dance studio there. I had seen his recent movies “Never Cry Wolf,” and “Middle Age Crazy.”

Almost every time I went there in the ensuing years to browse bookstores, art galleries and to eat lunch, I spotted someone of movie or television fame. A girlfriend and I talked to Helen Hunt in the 1990s, complimenting her on the TV series, “Mad About You.” I recalled my experience recently after I watched her in an excellent 2012 movie, “The Sessions.”

Sitting outside an ice cream shop, I noticed a very welcoming and smiling Dick Van Dyke. I’ve regretted not saying hi ever since, especially since I knew his son Barry, who was active in my community of Agoura Hills.

A popular Italian restaurant attracts many celebrities. One afternoon Geena Davis, in a baseball cap and sweats, and leading her large poodle, sat with some of her friends at an adjacent table. She was a vivacious conversationalist from what I overheard, and the dog was well-behaved.

Geena Davis dressed up

Near that restaurant is a large grassy area with swings for children. I’ve seen TV host and comic Howie Mandell swing his kids, and Director Ron Howard, in his trademark baseball cap, walk by with a child on his shoulders.

My most exciting close encounter was with Shirley MacLaine on a late Sunday afternoon. My friend Carolyn and I were having lunch in an essentially empty restaurant when Shirley walked in with a young stocky blond man and took a table fairly close-by. She had on sunglasses and gave off an air of not wanting to be bothered. I surmised her companion was probably a personal assistant.

Since I was a fan of Shirley’s film work, not to mention all her books, I was yearning to go up and say something like, “I come from Virginia too!” Much more conservative than me, Carolyn strongly discouraged any action, so I had to content myself stealing a few glances. Shirley and the young man left the restaurant before we paid.

As we walked out, we decided to visit a favorite eclectic women’s boutique, Indiana Joan’s, which was right next door. There was Shirley again, this time buying some costume jewelry. I resisted my urges. Some time later, after browsing several more shops, Carolyn and I headed for the car. As we were walking through the small parking lot, here came Shirley and her fellow again. He was carrying her dry cleaning and their car wasn’t far from ours.

Shirley MacLaine


Fire season in California can start at any time, season or not. There was a fairly large one not long ago in Riverside and another one even more recently. Men aren’t the only ones who fight the blazes. I discovered some out-of-the-ordinary firefighters when I wrote a story about  Malibu Conservation Camp 13 some years ago. A film director friend thought the story was so interesting that it would make an exciting movie.


Nestled within the Santa Monica Mountains off a lightly trafficked road in Encinal Canyon is the camp, which housed at that time about 100 women, who were convicted felons serving time for embezzlement, drug use and drug sales. To serve their time there, they are classified as trustworthy; as a minimum security facility, the camp is run on the honor system. It’s not meant to be a vacation; these gals, in their 20s, have to stay in top physical shape to fight the fires they are called out on. Who needs a gym when you have to climb up hilly terrain daily, from 1.2 miles to 2.6 miles, and do it in 25 to 58 minutes? Crews of 14 women inmates stay “on call” 24 hours a day, and they have to respond within five minutes after a fire call is received. This is serious business.

At the time I interviewed the camp commander, and he pointed out the difference between male and female prisoners: “We don’t have the gang affiliation problems. Women get along better; they’re inclined to do a good job with the least amount of problems.” It’s intriguing for me to look back at this story at a time when women are becoming more powerful in the workplace and actually running huge companies. When these female firefighters have served their time, their excellent training qualified them to eventually work with the California Department of Forestry.

For a woman who has to serve time, getting sent to a camp in the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains is a great alternative. It seemed a bit like a summer camp, and all was not work. They had a library, TVs, a hobby-craft program and a lot of support for recovering drug users. Visitors are allowed on holidays and weekends, and those who come to visit enjoy a scenic drive, and good mountain air mixed with moisture from the nearby Pacific Ocean.

On my way back from my interview, I still vividly remember a very large owl in the middle of the empty two-lane road. He was in the midst of devouring something—perhaps a rat or other small animal. I slowed down to appreciate him. He was not intimidated by me in my small car. Moments later he spread his amazingly large wings and flew away into the trees.




Since Father’s Day isn’t too far away, I have a preview excerpt from one of my Ebook stories offered on Amazon and  on Barnes & Noble Ebooks for Nook. Discovering the Victor in Victoria is the true tale of my search for my birth father. I was only a toddler when he went off to fight WWII in Italy. My parents divorced a few years later and both remarried. My mother liked Army officers, hence I had two career military men as fathers. They’d both gone to military colleges: my father was a West Point graduate; my stepfather graduated from the Citadel in South Carolina. At the end of their careers, my stepfather was a full Colonel and my natural father was a Brigadier General. Their lives weren’t easy and full of joy, but it was never boring.

Baby Viki when her daddy went off to war.

To check out my books on Amazon, go to:              http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

I was 21 when I discovered my birth father was stationed at the Pentagon. On a trip to Northern Virginia right before my last semester of college, I decided to look him up. In those days access to the Pentagon was easy; finding your way around, however, was challenging.  (Book Cover created by Hans Giraud, my son)

Was this white-haired slender man truly my father, I wondered? Did I even resemble him? Wasn’t he too old? My step-dad was scarcely gray. But this man’s hair was thick and wavy, similar to mine, and his slightly pug nose looked like mine. He looked at me inquisitively as I stood by his desk, my heart racing in my chest.

“Col. Hobson, I’m Viki Williams,” I introduced myself as he stood up with a smile. I noted he was taller than my dad. He maintained his outward composure, though I could detect the astonishment in his eyes. He knew who I was immediately. Calmly and politely, he told the adjutant to leave and close the door behind him. He then directed me to sit in the chair in front of his desk.

“Now, what can I do for you?” he asked hesitantly, still smiling at me, the bomb who had dropped into his life.

What thoughts were rushing through his mind? I wondered as I kept my cool, though I was quaking underneath. Tension and unease hung in the air.  I quickly told him I was in my senior year of college and looking for careers, and I needed information for my CIA personnel form, such as where exactly was he born. As he gave me the information about his Alabama birth, we both relaxed a bit.

“I guess you think I’m about the worst man alive,” he offered with a hint of regret in his voice after we had finished the required questions.

“No, I don’t,” I replied evenly, too shy and uncertain to explain feelings I wasn’t even sure of. Even though Army officers weren’t known as “Disney” fathers, I had harbored no resentments through the years that I knew of. I was simply curious and reaching out for clues to my origins.

“I’ve thought about you a great deal all these years,” he added softly. “You look very much like your mother, except taller.”




I love chronicling my real life adventures on my bi-weekly blog, but I also like to publicize the books and stories I’ve written. All of them are based on my life, even though I’ve changed the character names for the most part. Being single provides lots of dating experiences.  It’s such a popular topic that the Los Angeles Times is publishing a true story every week in their special Saturday section.

Below are two excerpts from my Kindle Single book on Amazon: Weird Dates and Strange Fates

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noticed a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.

The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.


When I saw my first Stanley Kubrick film, 2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY, in 1968, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be seeing an exhibit of Kubrick’s own film odyssey at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) years later.

2001, A Space Odyssey

2001, A Space Odyssey

Born in the Bronx in 1928, Kubrick showed his visual talent early and was taking photos for Look magazine by the age of 17. At 23 he was already making documentaries and it went on from there. If you’re a movie fan like I am, you’ve probably seen the most prominent films: A Clockwork Orange, Spartacus, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, or his last film, Eyes Wide Shut. There were 16 films before he died in March 1999 at his home outside London, 4 days after a private screening of Eyes Wide Shut, and before that film was released to the public.

What an amazingly talented man he was and totally involved in his wide variety of films as director of all of them, and the producer and writer for almost all of them. Each film stood on its own, presenting subject matter than filmgoers could interpret in many ways.


Keir Dullea, actor

Keir Dullea, actor

The exhibit, which I will describe briefly, was extensive:  movie posters, costumes, props,  scripts and notes, and a framed sheet of paper that listed the many, many scenes to be shot for Napoleon, a film he had to abandon in 1969 because the funding was cut. Of course there were clips of his films in various areas. I found one room showing film clips that identified the music he used in various movies. I hadn’t realized he used so much classical music—perhaps the most famous was the Richard Strauss tone poem, Thus Spoke Zarathustra for 2001, A Space Odyssey. It was such a fitting piece of music, I bet many fans thought it was specially composed for the film.

I have my own memories of each film. I saw 2001 shortly after it was released in 1969 with my husband and godparents. We drove to a special theater in Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard to see it.  It was such an unusual and very visual science fiction film that its theme was open to interpretation.  The exhibit shows the scene in the film of actor Keir Dullea communicating with HAL, the computer that speaks with a male voice (reminds me of iPhones with voices).

Peter Sellars as Dr. Strangelove

Peter Sellars as Dr. Strangelove


Dr. Strangelove, the hilarious satire of the Cold War (1964), has always been one of my favorite films. The exhibit didn’t show my favorite scene from the end of the movie: Slim Pickens in a cowboy hat, as Major King Kong, riding a bomb through the air like it’s a bucking bronco.

Ryan O’Neal, playing Barry Lyndon (1975) in the 18th century story of an Irish playboy, is shown in a scene comforting his dying son. It reminded me of what he might have thought about when Farrah Fawcett was dying.

The Shining (1980) was a very scary Stephen King ghost story starring a young Jack Nicholson. On display  along with some film clips are the hatchets Nicholson used to break into his wife’s room, and the knife Shelley Duvall uses to protect herself. The film’s location was a mountain hotel, but the hotel lobby was modeled after the famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. When I visited the Ahwahnee in 1984, a few years after the movie, I kept wondering why the lobby looked so much like Kubrick’s horror movie but didn’t discover the reason until this past Sunday!

Shortly after it came out in 1999, I saw Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s last movie that starred Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, while they were still married. There are clips in the exhibit of this very sexual film about marriage and sexual fantasies. When doing a little research, I discovered where the unique title came from American patriot Benjamin Franklin,who wisely said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half-shut afterwards.”




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