A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Foul-mouthed Friends

Fred is second from left, posing with some friends with much more respectable vocabularies.

         A recent Monday series about swearing on my Tossing It Out blog got me to thinking about the profanity in my own life.  Some experts say that swearing is not used any more now that it has been in the past.  I'm guessing that a lot of these so-called experts were born after the 1960's.  I would disagree with the hypothesis they suggest.   After I became of college age I noticed more swearing in society, but prior to that time whatever swearing I heard was very mild by current standards.  I was a kid in the 50's and early 60's.

        When I was a kid I would be amused on the rare occasions when my father would swear.  The epithets that I remember were "Hell's bells!" or "Oh, balls!".   We were taught to never repeat the word "hell" but the rhyming pair of words uttered by my father would always bring a snicker from me and my sister as long as he wasn't directly mad at us.  And since my father was a juggler, "balls" was something we always associated with juggling.  Again, I found it funny when my father would say the word, but I was reprimanded the time I used the word while trying to be funny.

        My mother on the other hand used the much more arcane expression "Shite!" if she was really angry.  We understood this to be worse than anything my father said, but still the word incited giggles from me and my sister.  We were partly amused because she seemed funny when she was angry, which was rare.  She never spoke like this around my father since he was against swearing for the most part.  Especially if it came from a woman's mouth.

         It was the fifties after all.  It was a time when you could go someplace and most men would be dressed in suits and women in dresses.  Decorum was the order of the day and kids were to be polite in all situations.  I don't recall ever hearing anybody using bad language.  My parents hung around with a lot of show people and all of them spoke very cleanly when the kids were around.  Things were not as they are now.

         From about sixth grade on I began picking up on various vulgar words, that is hearing them, but never uttering them.  I was raised to use clean language and that has essentially stuck with me for the most part to this day. That is not to say that a good many of my friends were not relatively foul-mouthed.

          Most of my friends had been raised like I was and kept the conversations clean for the most part.  We didn't discuss things too crudely most of the time and we had a respect for women.  But there were those few who could make me cringe with their language.  Why did I hang around with them?  Because some of them were fine men other than the language, while others were just friends in my circle that I tolerated because they were friends of some of my close friends.

         One example that stands out most is my dear friend Fred.  I've written about him on my blogs on other occasions.  He was one of the closest, dearest friends I've ever had.  He also had one of the foulest mouths I've ever heard.  Sometimes I'd try to register my complaints about it and he'd just laugh it off.  Fortunately he kept the language respectful when he was around my parents.

         Fred had grown up in challenging circumstances from what I'd heard.  His father was a soft-spoken man around me, but I could see where he might have an extreme temper if you were not on his good side.  From the stories Fred told me, his dad was a mean fellow who gave Fred a rough time.  Fred did not seem to have any great love for either of his parents, but he had more friends than just about anyone I've ever known.

         There was that dichotomy of the offensive blasphemer and the golden-hearted guy who would do anything for a friend.   I'd known him from early high school long into adulthood.  He never changed much. I tolerated his bad language habits and enjoyed his company when he was around.

         My friend Fred died at a relatively young age.  He was in his early forties when he passed.  As I think about it, most of my friends who had the foulest mouths are now dead.  I'm not sure what that says.  Maybe they were just wound up so tight they were doomed to go earlier than the rest of us.  Or maybe a wild lifestyle that went hand in hand with their language led to their early demises.  I think it's a good bet that both are true.

        Have you had foul-mouthed friends whose language you tolerated because of who they were?   Did you ever try to encourage someone to clean up their language?   Do you know anyone past the age of 70 or 80 who is extremely foul mouthed?  

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Thelma Zirkelbach on Writing Memoir

        In this installment of Wrote By Rote I'm pleased to welcome visiting memoir author Thelma Zirkelbach. You may have met Thelma during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in which she participated with her blog Windowsphere: A Circle of Hope.  She's here today to talk about her memoir that was released earlier this year.

      Stumbling Through the Dark is my memoir of my husband’s and my final year together.  In October 2004 he complained of a sore throat.  A month later he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and our world was never the same.

     This disease was not supposed to happen.  I was a romance writer then, and I expected to live happily ever after.  Women usually outlive their spouses, but I had good reason to believe I would be the first to go.  I was five years older than Ralph so I was certain he, who was much better at coping, would outlive me.  But that was not to be.

      Because I’m a writer, soon after his diagnosis, I decided to write a how-to book:  How to help your partner survive cancer.  It would be upbeat and optimistic and I would call it Leukemia Wife.  As he got sicker and medical mishaps began occurring, I ditched that idea and planned an angry expose of the medical system.  But writing about anger isn’t productive, and by the time he died, I knew I wanted to write a memoir about our final year and my early widowhood.

      How do you write a memoir when your heart is breaking?  The answer is, you write a memoir because your heart is breaking.  Trouble was, I had no idea how to write one.  So I went online and by great good luck found Gotham Writers Workshop.  I enrolled in an on-line class in memoir writing, then another and another.  Stumbling Through the Dark is the result.

Here are some things I learned about writing memoir:
1.      The cardinal rule for fiction applies:  Show, don’t tell.
2.      Write in scenes with dialogue and description.  Again, just like fiction.
3.      In your story, reflect on what’s happening and on your feelings.
4.      Add back story.  How did you get to this place in your life?  Don’t tell the back story all at once; let readers learn about you and the others in your story gradually.
5.      Be honest.  Don’t be afraid to let readers see your fear or guilt or pain but don’t forget to add lighter moments as well.

      Writing this book has been both heartbreaking and joyful.  I hope you’ll look it up on Amazon at Stumbling Through the Dark: A Husband and Wife's Final Year of Life Together or at Barnes and Noble.  It’s available in both paperback and e-format.  And if you read it, please leave a review.  I love knowing what readers think.  

         Have you had a painful life experience that you've written a memoir about?  Have you considered writing a memoir of this nature?    Have you read Thelma's book yet?

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Born in the Shadow of the Computer (Part 4)

English: Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 4P
English: Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 4P (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
       Prior to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge I had started a series about the influence of computers on my life.  The series begin with my own frustration about computer problems I was having at that time.  My computer woes were addressed in time for me to be able to make it through the April Challenge, but the story now continues as I arrive into the 1990's as a true computer novice.  If you'd like to start the story from the beginning you can go to my post of March 9th and then proceed through the two posts after that one.  

        The used computer that my father purchased in the late 1980's was probably an IBM model that had been outdated by newer computers with the earliest versions of Microsoft Windows technology.  The computer worked very well for someone who knew the language of the computer.  My father took courses and had learned the basics and a bit more. 

        I knew nothing but how to bring up Tetris and a few other games my father had showed me.  If my father wasn't at home or not working on his machine, he allowed me to use the computer.  I scheduled my life as much as I could to be able to play on his computer while he was not using it.  The arrangement worked just fine though I was learning nothing of real value about computers.  My dad offered to teach me a few things, but I had no patience for that and didn't see much value in it.

        Then something rather ironic happened.  After running through a couple of unsatisfactory jobs that I'd taken after having stopped traveling with the theater company job that had kept me on the road for many years, I found a job that seemed a bit more reputable--I went to work in a Radio Shack store in Alcoa, Tennessee.

         A big product push at Radio Shack at that time was with their line of computers.  I was walking into a job where I didn't know much about any of the products and probably least of all the computers.  New store personnel were given special training classes about operating the computers, but I didn't understand any of it.  I'm not sure if my mind was stubbornly resistant to new technology or if I was just dumb when it came to things like computers.   I was probably one of the worst computer sales people they'd ever had in their store.

        Fortunately I had back-up from a couple of other employees who seemed to know more than I did--or at least acted like they did.  Also, there was no huge amount of interest in computers in our store so that mostly kept me off the hook.   Primarily we were selling electronic parts, toys, and sound devices.  I didn't know all that much about those either.  I was not thrilled about my performance as a Radio Shack salesperson, but at least I had a job.   And the upper echelon had their eyes on me as a candidate to be a store manager due to my management experience and a demeanor that suited me for such a position.    Things for me were okay on the job front.

       Sadly, at about the same time as I started my job at Radio Shack, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  He was in latter stages when the doctors discovered the problem and he began deteriorating rapidly.  It was not long before he had no interest in his computer.   Since the computer was in the bedroom where my father was most of the time, it stayed idle on the work desk where he had spent so much time.  There was now a sadness connected to computers for me.

         My time was now divided among Radio Shack, my wife and kids, and as much time as I could devote to my parents.   My father was withering away.  If he managed to make it out of bed, he was like a specter sitting in his favorite living room chair.  He would try to eat, but there was no joy in that for him and eating seemed rather useless at that point.  Then he was no longer home.  They moved my father to the hospital and we were prepared for him to die.

         After my father passed on September 9, 1990, his computer sat covered and unused in his bedroom.  I still had to think about the computers at work, but I no longer played on my father's computer.  Somehow it seemed to have died with him.

         Did you ever own or consider owning a computer from Radio Shack?   Have you ever worked at a job that you never really grasped very well?   How old were you when you lost your father or are you fortunate enough to still have him around?

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

A to Z Challenge Reflections for 2013: Words of Love

          My decision to have all four of my blogs in the A to Z Challenge of 2013 might have been a bit foolhardy considering the computer problems I was having prior to April.  With the addition of some health issues and other life annoyances, I was relatively unprepared for April aside from having most of my post topics planned out.  No posts written ahead of time meant a lot of work writing throughout the month and much less time allowed for visiting other blogs.

          Blogging experience helped out as I was able to crank out the necessary posts--104 total--in order to keep all blogs running without having to drop any.  As I said, my networking was woefully inadequate so that blog visits were down on all posts and I did not add a significant number of followers to any of my blogs.  But the mission for April was accomplished in the barest sense so for that at least I can be proud.

         "Words of Love" was my theme on Wrote By Rote.  During the month I explored different words that were synonymous or related to the word "love".   My thanks to my A to Z co-host Nicole Ayers for providing me the idea for this theme.

          Most of all I'd like to thank all of my visitors during the month of April, especially those of you who left comments.   If you are new to this blog, I write about topics related to writing memoir and I normally post every Saturday.   I welcome guest posts related to the topic.  If you are a writer of memoir or merely like to dabble and would like to submit something to this blog, please contact me in the comment section and I will get back to you.

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