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, December 29, 2012

The End of the Year Blog Awards Ceremony

          End of the year means tying up some loose ends which includes acknowledging some awards that I've received for this blog and my other blogs over the past several months.   I won't be playing by all the rules and won't be passing on any of these, but I do feel it's a nice gesture to thank the kind bloggers who recognized my blogs in one way or another.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

            This award comes from Sherry Ellis at Mama Diaries.   One of the rules is to list seven things about myself.   I've said so much about myself between this blog and my other blogs that it's getting difficult to come up with new things.  So how about some facts about my education:

  1. I attended three different elementary schools.
  2. I attended two different junior high school.
  3. I graduated from high school in Tennessee in 1969.
  4. Nearly becoming a career college student, I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for 5 years without graduating.
  5. Initially I majored in psychology, then switched to English and was working on a teaching certification when I dropped out to "experience life".
  6. I finally got a B.S. Degree in Business Management at the University of Phoenix in La Mirada, California in 2007.
  7. I consider myself a lifelong learner as I've taken a variety of courses in varying formats throughout the years.  I enjoy reading and watching videos on an assortment of topics.  If I could afford it I probably would become that career college student that I threatened to become so many years ago.  I love the educational environment.
       Thank you, Sherry, for including me among your picks for "Very Inspiring Blogger".

Kreativ Blogger Award

Kreativ Blogger Award
Kreativ Blogger Award (Photo credit: jiihaa)

       Gossip Girl presented me with a Kreativ Blogger Award at her Just You Wait! One Day I Will. blog.  I'm not sure if this is the same Gossip Girl that I thought it was as the link doesn't work anymore.  But here's what whoever-it-is kindly said:   "You have several blogs that you keep up to, and not sure how you do it but they are all great. If anyone deserves the Kreative Bloggers Award it would be you so, stopping thru to let ya know that I am sharing the blogging love of a blog award to you."

      She offered this award on my A Few Words blog but since I do not do awards and such there I decided that it would be better to acknowledge it here.  Sorry that this got so confused and I thank the blogger who bestowed this one upon me.

So, this is what I need to do, Answer the 10 questions and list 10 random facts about me.
Questions Are:
 1. What is your fave song?    Now that's a tough one because there are too many with no one favorite--it would have to be a list.  A long, long list.  I love music.
 2. Favorite dessert?    Oh come on, I love them all.  One that pops into mind is the Molten Lava Chocolate Cake from Chili's.
3.  What ticks you off?   People getting ticked off.  Anger can be contagious and very unproductive.
4.  When you're upset what do you do?   Get real quiet and withdrawn.
5. Which is / was you favorite pet?   My dog, Blackie, from back in my college days.  Actually I had two dogs named Blackie and I liked both of them.
6. Which do you prefer, black or white?  It all depends.  I prefer to wear black, but a snowy white day is a beauty to behold.
7.  What is your biggest fear?   Chenille bedspreads.
8.  What is your attitude mostly?   Contented.
9.  What is perfection?    God 
10.  What is your guilty pleasure?    Old movie musicals. 

Ten Random Things About Me:

  1. I like to work crossword puzzles.
  2. I very rarely wear a suit and tie.
  3. My first songwriter hero was Stephen Foster.
  4. I had a short stint operating the spotlight at a carnival girlie show.
  5. Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines.
  6. I like to drive, especially on long distance trips.
  7. I have a bad habit of saving newspapers.
  8. I didn't learn how to swim until I was in college
  9. I used to swear I would never own a computer.
  10. Now I spend too much time on the computer.
Versatile Blogger Award
      I also received another Versatile Blogger award, this time from Lori at Habitual Rhymer.  Thank you, Lori.   I think I fulfilled the requirements above.

Sunshine Award

Diane Kratz at Profiles of Murder gave me this Sunshine Award for my Tossing It Out blog.  I see a certain irony in that, but I thank Diane for the Sunshine. Once again I will forego the questions on this and defer to the ones I've already answered.

Another Versatile Blogger Award!

        Gossip Girl also gave me a Versatile Blogger Award for my Faraway View blog.  This time I know which Gossip Girl this is--Thank you!  Again, I'm done with the questions and facts.

         I'm also done with the awards.   Have a Happy New Years everyone!

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Time Made for Memories

Nativity scene at Sacred Heart Catholic Church...
Nativity scene at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, in the historic Barelas neighborhood, Albuquerque, NM, Jan 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
          Of all the times that hold memories for us, Christmas probably ranks very high for most of us.  We remember the childhood wishes and dreams of years gone by, those of our own as well as our children, grandchildren, and others.   The holidays are usually happy times that are filled with shared experiences with family and friends.  Sometimes we travel.   Sometimes we stay at home to enjoy the seasonal decorations and festive events.  There is so much happening at this time of year that it's hard not to come away without at least a few great memories.

        The Christmas holiday season is a time for taking pictures and making videos.  The parties and gatherings are ideal for capturing the goings on for posterity.   If you're like my family, you probably have many photos in your albums with happy holiday fare.   And anyone with kids undoubtedly has at least a few years worth of pictures with Santa.

        But let us not forget the other remembrance that is the reason for this joyous season.  Remembering the birth of Jesus Christ is how this holiday came about.  It probably isn't even the actual time of the birth of Christ, but somewhere along the line this was the time that was designated.   The fun parts are nice things to remember, but the Jesus part is why we do it.

        Have a happy time during Christmas and New Years.   Take lots of pictures and make lots of memories.  Trade stories with one another.  And if you're working on a memoir or planning to do so eventually, this might be an ideal time to do some research.

         I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and big load of good memories.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

School Days: Building Who We Are

           In this post we continue to consider The Stages of Life for the Purpose of  Memoir.   My previous post, Memories of Baby Life:  Do We Have Accurate Recall?, looked at the formative years that shape the basis of how we see ourselves and how we perceive that others see us.  I think it would be accurate to say that the preschool years form the foundation of who we are.

Building a Person

         If those baby years are the foundation, the educational years are the time when we build upon that foundation. Our education consists of honing our mental faculties and learning social skills.   Prior to school, most of us probably experienced relatively sheltered lives where we felt like the center of a universe that primarily consisted of our families, relatives, and other people with similar background.   After our first day of school our world becomes radically changed.

         Now we are thrust into a social environment that forces us to interact with teachers and other children.  It becomes more difficult to run to the security of home and parents.  We learn to cope and become more independent.  Most of us adapt pretty readily--it's either swim with the flow or try to cling to whatever it is we hope will save us.  Adaptation may vary depending on the foundation that was established in early life.  Some kids have a tougher time than others, but they're all in it together.

         These school years are where the memories start becoming clearer and more organized.  Since we are older and have more experience with life, we understand things better and can put what is happening in life in better perspective.  We usually will develop friendship relationships that can last for many years and in some cases into later life.  The basics of getting along with others and dealing with conflict on our own begin developing early on and grow as the educational years continue.   Some will fall short in these endeavors, but most of us manage.

         The daily educational curriculum forces us to learn new skills and gain new knowledge that will assist our intellectual development.   Our aspirations of what we want to be after we graduate and become adults may come into clearer focus.   We are aware of our abilities and interests.

          The school years are rich in activities and milestones that stand out in our minds.  Stories about the events become ingrained within us to be told years later.  Much of our memory will hopefully be happy or interesting, however some may be hurtful and even traumatic.  The events all become the narrative of the years of education.

Mining for the Memories

         I can recall a great deal of my student years, but I have probably forgotten more than I can remember. This is a time of life when I can't always ask a family member about what happened because often they weren't there.  But that is always a good place to start.  Some of the memories will be shared experiences while other memories may be second hand or something they can relate to their personal memories.

         One of the best prompts for each school year are my class pictures.  When I was younger I wrote down names of students who I remembered on the pictures.  Those names can be easy to forget over the years and having written the names can revive memories when I look at those pictures.  My high school yearbooks are especially valuable to stimulate the nerve endings of my recall.

         Another help is that I have saved many old school papers and documents.  Report cards and official school records can be very useful.   Copies of the high school newspaper have reminded me of things that I had totally forgotten.   It would be impractical to try to save everything from those years and I have culled out much that did not seem would ever be useful.  However, I have kept many school papers, tests, and drawings that can take me back to that time long ago.

           Unfortunately, other than school pictures, I don't have many other photos of the school years.  My mother may have some, but I have not seen those for many, many years.  I'll have to check one day to see what she still has.   Old photos are by far one of the best helps in remembering years gone by.

           Some things I do have are souvenirs, mementos, and collections.  A post card collection that I started when I was young recounts family vacations and other milestones.  My stamp collection is something I spent many hours organizing when I was in my years before high school.  It's been many years since I've looked at it in depth, but I can guarantee that if I were to break it out and comb through it many memories would be stirred.

           What are some things that you still have from your school years?   Did you keep a diary that you still have?   Do you have mostly good or bad memories of the school years?   Or do you remember much at all?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Memories of Baby Life: Do We Have Accurate Recall?

The first stage (the developmental years) intrigues me because I wonder how much I REALLY remember. My parents and grandparents were great about repeating stories of all the cute and funny things I did as a kid. As a result I have pictures in my head of where events took place, but I wonder if the memories are mine or if I created them. 

In a comment from Wendy from Jollett etc. (memoir blog)

This is one of my mother's favorite baby photos of me.  I don't remember doing this, but my mother says that I loved getting up on this table and pretending to use the phone.  I do recall seeing this photo often when I was very young.  Looking at family photographs with my mother was a favorite childhood activity.

Baby Life:
The developmental years of infancy to preschool age childhood. (from birth to about age 5)

        A while back I presented the post Stages of Life for the Purpose of Memoir which promised a series of posts addressing each of those stages.  In this first of the series we will discuss the earliest years from birth until the time when we begin school.  

        Some might even make an argument that the memories that help shape who we are could begin before birth while we are still in the womb.  It is known that fetuses respond to various stimuli and that brain waves can be detected in the very early stages of fetal development.   There are even those who suggest that we are conceived with collective genetic memories or instincts.  Since both of these stances are highly debatable we will only mention these possibilities for consideration.  

        A greater case can be made for the influence of events experienced starting at the moment that we enter the world at birth.   The emergent child with normal sensory faculties now becomes aware of the world around them.   The infant is rapidly absorbing experiences and learning at what will probably be a faster pace of any time in life.  

       The bombarding assault of knowledge may be a hindrance to memory for most of us, yet there are some who have claimed to have memories starting at birth.  This seems unlikely as does the claim of memories in the earliest weeks and months of babyhood.  But still, the subtle influences of our environment and those who enter our lives can have an affect on who we will become and what we will believe as we grow into adulthood.

I can't remember my first birthday, but I do seem to remember sitting in this wooden highchair.  Perhaps  the chair was used by my younger sister and I actually remember seeing her sitting in it and project myself into that memory of her.  Or it might merely be that I looked at this photo so often that being actually in the chair seems to be a tangible recollection.  I seem to remember the feel of the wood and the way the tabletop surrounded me.   An actual memory?    I can't say for sure.
           There is little doubt that the stories we hear from our parents and others settle into our psyches to become the basis of our memories of very early life.  We absorb conversations around us attaching our own interpretations to them even when we don't understand what is being discussed.  Connections that we make with our personal objects, the places we live, and experiences we have teach us lessons about the world and provide information for future applications.  

            How accurate are the memories of babyhood?   If those memories can be corroborated by people who were there, most notably our parents, then the memories are quite possibly real memories if presented independently of stories we have heard previously.  Most likely though we have at sometime in the past heard the stories and don't realize it.

             Memories might be also confirmed by finding documentation that back up those memories.   Photos or other recorded mediums that we discover later in life could be a good source.  Old newspaper clippings or even historical documentaries that we view may revive memories that we have.  Comparing when something happened to the memory we have can also be helpful.

             I have many distinct memories that go back to when I was three years old and hazy recollections that may go back to my second year of life.  I have dated these according to places I lived as a child, cars that my parents owned, and specific events that happened.  

            For example, I distinctly remember my sister and I playing in an old Hudson automobile.   My parents got rid of that car prior to 1955--I turned four years old in January of 1955.  I can recall going to Michigan for my aunt's funeral in 1955.  I have several memories of a carnival tour my parents worked with their juggling act in 1955.  The memories are not contiguous as a historical progression of time, but rather highlighted moments that stand out in my mind.   As a child we have little concept of the flow of time so it makes sense that I cannot put the early memories the context of a linear progression of time.  Even in later life this is sometimes the case.

           There are many things that played a big role in shaping me to be who I am now.  One that stands out was that my mother used to say, "You have a memory like an elephant."   I liked hearing my mother say this and I believe this played a big role in reinforcing my ability to remember things.  Later, this ability became a big help to me in school.   Even now, though my memory isn't always the best, I do tend to remember a lot of details about certain things.

          Also the constant exposure to show business instilled me with a desire to be in the entertainment business and led me to be interested in all things cultural.  This interest influenced my play time in childhood and the types of jobs I pursued in adulthood.   My dream aspirations in life as well as my dreams of sleep are often related to the entertainment profession. 

          Clearly, the words my parents reinforced me with and the things that impressed me in childhood made me who I am.  Most of my memories seem to be related to these life-shaping influences.   In a way, I am much the same now as I was when I was four years old.  The biggest difference between then and now is that I know and remember more.

          What do you remember from early childhood?    Do you see any connection to what you became as an adult to how you were influenced as a baby?    What do you see as being your biggest influences in your earliest stages of development?   Can you remember or have you ever known anyone who remembers actually experiencing their own birth?

More of my baby photos can be found at the Baby Faces BlogFest on Tossing It Out.

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Working a High Rise Scam

knoxville tennessee_8679

knoxville tennessee_8679 (Photo credit: mondays child)

            When Bob told me about the opening at International Investments I was mildly interested.   Also I was in dire need of a job.  He'd been working there but had decided to quit because he wasn't making any money in his commission position.  The opening was for a non-commission position--no sales, guaranteed weekly salary.

             Telephone work was never my favorite thing to do, but I'd had a lot of experience with it.  I decided to give this job a shot.  I went in to apply and was immediately hired.  I was to start the following Monday.

             The operation looked high class.  The plush office suite was on the ninth floor of one of Knoxville's finest bank buildings.  The view looked out toward the Smoky Mountains and the Civic Auditorium complex.  Three private offices were for the two principles of the company and, Bill, the star salesman--a seasoned pro who came across with a disdainful attitude toward the rest of us.  The rest of the staff consisted of a receptionist at a front desk and seven others in cubicles in the hallways and the front reception area.

            I was one of four qualifiers who made cold calls to find potential investors in the product we were selling and set up appointments for the "investment advisers".  The leads we were getting must have been many years old.  The index cards with the contact information were worn and marked up.  There seemed to be a high death ratio among those we called on.  Many others were pissed because they'd lost a lot of money on previous investment schemes.   These weren't polished investors, but people who apparently had once in the past expressed some kind of interest in investing.  The ones I was calling obviously weren't rolling in the green stuff.

           At first I had hit the phones with enthusiasm.  There was a tidy bonus promised for each qualified referral that I passed on to a salesperson who cinched an investment deal with them.  More referrals sent to the sales people increased my odds of reaping bonuses.  I was seeing dollar signs and hoped to grab some of that cash for my bank account.

         It didn't take too long for that enthusiasm to wane.  Into the third week I started to get discouraged. For a company as small as this it seemed like there was a lot of employee turnover at the lower level.  I apparently had more patience and persistence than the rest.  I wasn't seeing any bonuses, but I was now getting a weekly paycheck.  And the guys in charge didn't seem overly concerned that I wasn't producing much in the way of solid sales referrals.   But I'm sure they knew what kind of leads I was working with.  At least I showed up everyday and did the work they were paying me to do.

         By the third month I was well settled in to my work environment, but still making nothing beyond my weekly salary.   Now there were only one or two other qualifiers besides myself and one sales rep other than Bill.  That sales rep, Doug, was a short fat Jewish guy from New York who had very bad hygiene.  Once I gave him a ride home in my Hyundai and the smell nearly made me nauseous.  But Doug was a nice guy who could tell some crazy stories.   He was a boiler room veteran and knew the game.  But he wasn't winning the sales game at International Investments.   He had some bad feelings about this one.

         Soon the owners of the company started becoming more scarce.  Some days they wouldn't even show up at the office, or if they did, it might be for only a few hours.  Bill became more surly and often reeked of alcohol.  He began keeping his office door closed throughout the day and would sometimes leave for a couple of hours.  When he'd return we could tell he'd been out drinking.

         Something strange was going on with the company.  I was spending less time making cold calls and more time talking with the other employees.  Putting together all the information I was getting from my cohorts, I began to sense that the company was not only having some financial problems, but there might be something more sinister at hand.  These were only suspicions.   I did learn that company checks were bouncing.  On Fridays I began taking my checks to the bank immediately after receiving them and cashing them.   I always got my pay.  Some of the others weren't so fortunate.

        Eventually there were only four of us left in the office.  Bill and the two owners stopped coming in.  Those of us who were still there kept coming.  We had households to support and the labor market was in a bad way at that time.  None of us wanted to have to be looking for work.  As long as the pay was there we would stay.  The receptionist became concerned about the nature of some of the phone calls that she was answering. Something was about to happen.  There was a rumor that the company was being investigated by the FBI or some such legal body.  We were apprehensive about what might be coming next.

         Finally, one Friday one of the owners stopped in to hand us our paychecks.  He informed us that the company was shutting down and our jobs were officially over.  He optimistically told us that he and his partner were starting a new company and wanted us to go to work for them.  He gave us the new address and told us to report to work the following Tuesday.

          Despite my reservations about International Investments, I showed up on Tuesday to a much lower rent district in a seedier side of town.  Maybe the rumors about the old company had been false.  The guys that ran the company seemed like nice enough guys and they were very slick and professional for the most part.   And I still needed a paycheck.

          I listened to the new business plan.  It had something to do with credit cards.  We'd be contacting lower income people who would normally have problems getting a credit card and give them promise for a better financial future.  It would only cost them $125 to get started.   As we read through the sales pitch script I began to get very uncomfortable.  This had "SCAM" written all over it.  We would still be appealing to the greed of those we called, but this time we would be digging into the pocketbooks of those who could least afford it.   When lunch time came, I went to my car and took a long lunch.   A very long lunch.  I never went back to the office.

         Months later, after I'd moved to Los Angeles to accept an attractive job offer, I called my friend Bob. He told me that he had been questioned by the FBI about International Investments.  Since he had sold nary an investor, he was not in any trouble.  He gave them what information he could, which wasn't much.   We never heard what happened to the company owners or Bill, the surly salesman.

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Breakfast for Dinner

          It seems this blog has focused on the topic of food  for most of the month of November.  Considering that the Thanksgiving holiday falls in this month,  food is a very appropriate topic.  Today is no exception as Jennifer Johnston Crow returns with the final post of her series of three guest spots.  Jennifer writes a helpful blog called Pivot.   She also writes memoir.  Please visit her blog to say hello.  If you missed her previous posts be sure to visit Memories of Mighty Mouse and The PB & J Massacre.   My thanks to Jennifer for her contributions to Wrote By Rote.

Breakfast for Dinner

I don’t know for sure how old I was when I first saw The Wizard of Oz, but I know those flying monkeys shot shivers of fear through my body. Each year I’d sit transfixed, gnawed by worry, each time the intrepid group ventured through the gloomy forest and into the castle, Toto in tow.
I grew up with Dorothy and the gang (well, I grew up, they stayed eternally young), and by the time I was 13, the movie had been an annual televised event – and an eagerly anticipated one – for some 11 years.
I was a newly minted teenager then, and our sparkling color television was the focal point of our living room. It was a Sunday night and time again to visit Oz. The familiar movie took shape: the tornado (surely an F-5) still swept the house off its foundation, carrying Dorothy and Toto toward a wildly different world. Thunk! The house dropped, the wind died away, an expectant silence fell. As they had so many years before, Dorothy and Toto crept to the door, opened it, and stepped out into Oz.
Except this was no Oz I’d ever seen. It was bright! It was bold! It was fantastic. It was in color!
My jaw dropped. When had that happened? Had the color on our TV been off? Was our brand new TV going bad? What? What?
Spellbound, I sat raptly through the movie – literally a new movie to me. I never knew The Wizard of Oz was in color. I soaked up the sights – even the sound seemed somehow brighter. And those ruby slippers! Dorothy clicked them once, twice. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”
And just as quickly as color had come, it was gone. We were back to black and white.
Many years later I realized the significance of how The Wizard of Oz was filmed. Real life is often black and white, a little dull, filled with routine. Pastures are greener somewhere else … but they carry their own set of troubles. It’s when we return to our black and white lives that we discover a new appreciation for all that’s good about familiar things.
It’s amazing what a change of perspective can do, but what’s even more amazing is that, when you tap into memories, there’s no telling where they’ll take you.
I was telling my friend Susan about my Oz epiphany, which managed to send her way back into the crevices of her life, rekindling the memory of the marching minions around the witch’s castle, which tripped her on down the lane to recalling how her mother always made her a milkshake during the annual Oz broadcast.
That’s a pretty special memory, and I have one, too.
For me and my sister and brother, it was breakfast for dinner (and not just during the Wizard of Oz, but nearly every Sunday).
Sunday at our house had its own kind of rhythm. Sometimes it centered around church and sometimes it centered around a Sunday drive. Whatever it was, we’d never eat lunch. We would, instead, have dinner in the middle of the afternoon. It’s a country thing, I think, that’s being replaced by quick lunches after church so we can run off to do this errand or that obligation. I miss them.
There we’d be, gathered around the dining room table, resplendent with mom’s good china and the Fostoria water glasses we hated because they were so heavy. It would be the middle of a lazy afternoon, time for our traditional Sunday dinner, which cut seriously into crucial kid activities. And those activities were usually, although not always, outdoors. Sometimes they involved a swing or a lounge chair with our noses stuck deep into a book (well, me and my sister, anyway. My brother definitely was outside, probably gathering up garter snakes. His only books were of the Rick Brant or Hardy Boys variety, and then only when he had a book report due the next day).
Even the luscious smell of roast chicken or maybe a pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, some of mom’s canned green beans (half runners only), and applesauce (because every kid likes applesauce) — even that beckoning, welcoming scent wasn’t enough to stir us.  Nope. We were waiting for night to fall and supper to arrive, because that meant breakfast.
Pancakes. Eggs. Cereal. Waffles from mom’s ancient, well-worn waffle iron. Not the kind with lights that turn green when the waffles are done, but the kind you had to have the nose for to know when they were perfectly toasted, golden and crispy. Butter and syrup and sausage or bacon. What wasn’t to like? We even got juice!
Some nights it might be eggs — scrambled, fried, frequently poached. Pancakes — buckwheat or buttermilk, we didn’t care. Or Coco-Wheats® cereal in all its chocolaty wholesomeness! And best of all, we could take them all into the living room and carefully arrange our ’60s-era tray tables for the best television viewing angle.
THIS was what we waited for. This, and the Wonderful World of Disney with its weekly family friendly feature, augmented once a year with a romp to the Emerald City with Dorothy and the gang. We never knew if we’d be in for a comedy, a cartoon, a heartwarming tale, a swashbuckling adventure, or a romp through the wild, wild West. What we did know was that breakfast for dinner was the highlight of our Sundays.

         Did you grow up with any unique meal traditions?  Are there any interesting meal traditions that have now?    Do you ever eat breakfast foods at dinnertime?   Or how about hamburgers for breakfast?

Jennifer Johnston Crow is a personal coach and a writer/editor with the federal government. She offers insights and commentary for living through her blog (pivot-coaching.com) and through individual and group coaching events. This year Jennifer captured second place in the West Virginia Writers Spring Writing Contest for her memoir, “Fear.” She’s passionate about storytelling, especially when it’s real, honest, and personal. A little humor doesn’t hurt,either!

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Are We Talking About Food Again?

A delicious-looking meal
A delicious-looking meal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         So I was talking on the phone to my mother and she was telling me about what they'd had for lunch and about how my sister was going to buy pizza that evening and invite my brother and his family over.  I was kind of envious because I really liked the pizza at Giovanni's when I ordered it during my visit there last month.  That's in Maryville, Tennessee where most of my family lives and it's welcome to see a darn good Italian restaurant opened up in that area.

          When I was there at Giovanni's I ordered a New York style pizza with anchovies, onions, and pepperoncinis.  Not many takers on this one which was okay by me since it's my favorite kind of pizza and taking some leftovers home wasn't all that bad.  My brother and youngest sister both tried some and they liked it.  That surprised me since I usually don't find many others who like anchovies.   Maybe it's kind of a family thing.

            After talking about the topic of their meals with my mother, I told her about the meal I had fixed the previous evening for my wife and I and how much my wife had enjoyed it.  Then I went on to describe the big breakfast I was planning for Saturday morning--a feast that would include scrambled eggs, patty sausage,  potatoes O'Brian, biscuits, and gravy.   We do enjoy our Saturday morning breakfasts.

         At this point my mother interjected, "All you do is talk about food."

         Initially I protested that this was not so because food is not the only thing I talk about, but then conceded that I do talk about food a lot.  When the family is together we often go off on the topic of food.  I've found this to be true in many scenarios with other people as well.  After all we all have to eat, eating can be very enjoyable, and what better thing to talk about since we all probably have some interesting food stories to tell.

           Especially when the family is all together for the holidays we'll talk about what we're going to have for dinner that night, go off on a food buying mission for ingredients, spend time preparing the meal, and then talk about food while we're eating and after the meal.   Eating is inevitable and the meals together can be significant events.

            Now don't get me wrong, we talk about plenty of other things, but the meals are the catalysts for getting together and having conversations.   When I think about the pot lucks, the restaurant outings, ceremonial meals for things like weddings and birthdays, and all of the other ritualistic gatherings in which food is consumed, I realize the importance of breaking bread together.  

            As many of us gather together for Thanksgiving and other holiday meals in the coming weeks, conversations will be flowing.  The meals can be excellent prompts to delve into memories of the past.  People who have passed on will be remembered.   Stories of days gone by will be told.   Favorite recipes will be shared.  There's nothing like a happy meal together and the conversation that goes with it.

            What's for dinner?

             Do you find that food is a common topic of discussion when you are with others?   At gatherings with family or friends is meal preparation and consumption an important part of the day?   Have you found meal times to be useful for gathering information and enjoying entertaining stories?

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

My School Lunch Box

Lunch boxes
Lunch boxes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         I sure wish I still had my lunch box from back when I was in second grade.  That was over fifty years ago so that thing might be worth a few bucks.

         I can't even remember what kind of lunchbox it was.  It may have been one depicting Hopalong Cassidy since I was a big fan as a child.  Looking back, I'm not sure what Hoppy's appeal was to boys back then.  It was an innocent time when television was still new and we were the benefactors of the heroes of our fathers.  Hopalong could never reach hero status in today's world.  In the fifties I don't know that "cutting edge" was used in the sense of something that was trendy.  Cutting edge would not be a phrase that would be used to describe Hopalong Cassidy.   Hopalong was an intergenerational  fad in his day--something not often seen in today's pop culture.

          If Hopalong wasn't the icon on the lunchbox then it was probably some other Western hero such as Roy Rogers or Davy Crockett.  But whoever it might have been was not the biggest item of interest for me.  The metal lunch box was pretty nifty and all, but the Thermos inside was the feature attraction as far as I was concerned.  

         What sold me on the Thermos was that I could carry hot soup to school.  That was pretty amazing to me.  On a cold day during lunch I could open my Thermos and pour hot soup into the little plastic cup that fit onto the top of the bottle.  It was a marvel of marvels as far as I was concerned.  Inside that tin box depicting cowboys was a contraption of science fiction proportions--a wonder of the modern age.

           Hot soup was probably not the only liquid I carried in my Thermos.  I undoubtedly carried cold beverages as well, but I can't remember exactly what they might have been.  What I did know--and something that was part of the Thermos advertising campaign--was that this magic bottle kept liquids hot or cold until needed.

           This was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the school year of 1958.  We'd moved to the Penn Hills neighborhood from Cleveland, Ohio.   We moved to Penn Hills during the summer of 1958 and stayed until almost the end of the school year leaving at the beginning of June 1959 when we were uprooted to San Diego, California.   That year at the Penn Hills school would be the only time I would ever carry a lunchbox to school.

           Seeing as how the lunchbox didn't get that much use, it was probably in pretty good condition after we left Pittsburgh.  I'm sure I found a way to trash it though.  I distinctly remember breaking the inside of the Thermos at some point.  I probably wanted to see how the darn thing worked.  I had a habit of doing that sort of thing when I was younger.

           The tin box is another story.  Maybe I used it to keep things in for a while.  Can't rightly say that I remember.  Somehow the box faded out of my life like so many things I'd had as a child.   If I had known better, I would have kept it and preserved it.   But why would I think of such a thing.  It was just a tin box to carry sandwiches and cupcakes in and it once had a Thermos bottle in it that I broke to see how it worked.

           I guess I probably should have taken better care of a lot of things and kept them.  My parents would have loved that.  Our house would have looked like one of those houses you see in those television shows about hoarders.   I'd bet you a Thermos bottle full of hot soup that some of those hoarders you see on television have old lunch boxes kind of like the one I had.  Their lunch boxes might even still have old sandwiches in them and soup in the Thermos bottles.

         Maybe it's a good thing that I don't have that lunch box anymore.  But still I wonder.

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

How to Avoid Committing a Libel in Writing a Family Memoir

        Agnes Embile Jimenez is standing in for me today with an important topic for memoir writers.   She can be regularly be found at her own blog Empress Of Drac, A Cebuana Blogger.

Libel toe ring
Libel toe ring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How to Avoid Committing a 
Libel in Writing a Family Memoir

Even when writing a family memoir, you run the risk of committing libel and getting sued. Memoirs are written about real people. In most cases, a memoir worth writing and reading includes bad things about people that they may not want shared with the public. They just may retaliate with a libel lawsuit. In general, books are protected by the freedom of speech rights laid out in the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. But, there is the right way and many wrong ways to write family memoirs. By not following the rules of the right way, you open yourself up to having to prove in court that you didn't commit a libel. 

What Is Libel?

The simplest way to explain the working definition for the word libel is: a false statement made in writing, which damages a living person's reputation or the reputation of an entity that's been read or published by anyone other than the person whose character was defamed. In the case of a defamatory statement that's made verbally instead of in writing, this is called slander. Once again, the statement must be false to be libel. That's why the number one things to keep in mind when writing a family memoir is that everything declared in the content must be the absolute truth. Truth is an unquestionable defense to a libel suit.

Types of Libel

There are two different types of libel. A family memoir writer needs to be careful to avoid both to win any libel suit. They are: Libel per se and Libel per quod.
·         Libel per se – This is a written statement that may or may not be true. But, taken at face value, it constitutes libel because it defames the subject's or entity's character in ways that the courts find to be unnecessary and unethical. For example: “My uncle Larry Moore, who lives in St. George, Utah and works at the Main Street University is a drug addict and a thief. He will rob anyone, including his job, to get his fix.” Even though you may be able to prove this, it's a defamatory statement that will be considered libel in court.
·        Libel per quod – This is committing libel through implication. These statements implies untruths, rather than coming right out and stating them. For example, you publish a wedding announcement in your family memoir stating: “My Uncle Larry Moore married Helena Smith”, knowing that he never married Helena and is actually married to a completely different woman. Taken at face value, this doesn't seem to be a libel statement. However, the statement implies that your uncle is a bigamist, married to two women at the same time.

The Elements of Libel

In a libel suit, you are the defendant. It's the plaintiff's duty to prove that you committed libel in order to win their case. This is done by proving that these four elements of libel were met in your memoir:
1.      A statement you made is untrue.
2.      The statement is defamatory in its meaning.
3.      The party who was allegedly defamed can is clearly identifiable in the statement.
4.    The statement is within a memoir that's been published.

Four Simple Tips for Avoiding Libel

When you publish your family memoir, it should be a time of reflection and celebration. The last thing you want is to be sitting in court being sued for libel by a family member. Here are four simple tips to help you write your family memoir without committing libel.
  1. Write the Truth – Even the smaller white lie published in your memoir can having you in court fighting a libel suit. The person this tiny white lie was written about can suffer from a defamation of their character. If everything written in the memoir is absolutely true, you lower your chances of being sued. And, if someone does attempt to sue you anyway, the truth will be your best defense for winning your case.
  2. Change the Names – Changing names of the people, places and entities in your memoir will help to protect you. This may seem as if it's a untruth. Maybe it is. But, the way this works is quite simple. Everything that you write in the memoir must be the truth, except the places and the names. If done properly, this will protect the people you've written about from being recognized by other family members, co-workers, acquaintances, employers, neighbors and anyone else they wouldn't ordinarily share personal information with about their life. You can keep the places the same, if they're integral parts of the family memoir. However, if you can, this will help to conceal the identities of those you've written about even more.
  3. Obtain Legal Advice – If you can, you should show your finished manuscript to an attorney. They will be able to give you better insight as to whether you've written something that may be considered libel. If you prefer not to use an attorney, there are other libel experts that can assist you.
  4. Get Release Forms – Either have your attorney write up a release form for you, or you can do it yourself. Have every person mentioned in the family memoir sign one of your release forms. Signing the form gives you their written permission to use their information, life history and name in the memoir. Then, if it ends up having negative consequences on them, they can't sue you for it. If they insist on reading it before signing the release form, go ahead and let them. You never know. They may decide to add some extra details to their part of the story that will make the book even more exciting and juicy.


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