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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