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, March 26, 2016

Easter Traditions

Easter egg
Easter egg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       Easter is the holiest of Christian holidays.  Dressing up in fancy clothes and going to church has long been the tradition of many American families.  After church, families will often settle down to a special dinner which often includes ham and an assortment of tasty side dishes.

        In the recollections of my youth I don't remember the going to church part of the day.  I know we went some years, but for the most part, though we attended most Sundays during the year, Easter was a day when we might not attend.  Maybe it was a matter of the festivities of the day that might have precluded our attending church service or maybe I'm just not remembering the church part of Easter Day.

         My mother always did Easter up almost, but not quite, like Christmas.  Many families must do the same considering all of the Easter goodies and decorations that are sold at this time of year.   My siblings and I would wake on Easter morning to big festive baskets filled with toys and candy.

       It seemed like Easter morning was always a beautiful sunny spring day.  After I had entered my teen years and my younger brothers and sister were still young children, I'd go outside and hide plastic candy filled eggs all over the yard.  Then the kids would be unleashed scrambling about filling their baskets with the hidden eggs that they had found.  I would watch over the proceedings providing them with hints when there were hidden eggs they weren't quite seeing.

        The variety of Easter candies was splendid as far as I was concerned.  For one thing it was candy and rarely has there been candy that I didn't like.  My mother would buy a lot of candy--sugary eggs, marshmallow Peeps, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies.  Since she was well aware of my sweet cravings she even bought me candy in my teen years.

         The traditions carried on with my own children.   Like my mother had done, I would set up lavish displays of candy-laden baskets, boxed chocolate rabbits, and stuffed animals and other toys.  As my kids grew older, I would add books and movies on video to their Easter gifts.  In fact, I think there were some years when I did things up even bigger than my mother did.  I guess I wanted to provide my own children with the same special memories that I had from growing up.

           Now I imagine my daughters are passing on similar traditions to their children.  Since I'm not around them at Easter time I don't know exactly how their holiday is celebrated, but I think it's something like what they experienced as children.

          As for me now, my wife and I will go to church and then probably eat fast food since restaurants might be crowded and we don't like having to wait.  There won't be any candy on Easter morning.   The candy will come later.   My tradition in the years since my kids moved from home is to go after Easter and buy candy that's on sale the following week.   There is usually candy on sale, but I've been noticing that the grocery stores don't have the amounts that they used to have prior to the holiday and the after Easter stocks are sparse. Actually I don't need that candy, but traditions are traditions.   I cling to what traditions I can and forget them when they fade away.

          Do you carry on any special Easter traditions?   What is your favorite Easter candy?   How has Easter changed during your lifetime?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

#atozchallenge Theme Reveal 2016

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal 3-21-2016

26 Things About Me

       For the sake of brevity I'll keep this post to the point.   Though I had initially decided not to participate in this year's Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote, a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub made me reconsider.  She 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.  How easy is that?

          In April I'll be keeping 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.  I should have a good time putting these posts together and hopefully readers will be at least somewhat entertained.

          And that's about it for me in this post.  I'll use this as a model for things to come in April.

           You'all come back now!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Library of my Life

A shelf in my home office.

        When I walk around my house I can see books in nearly every room.  In fact there are books hidden away that I can't even see.  There are books in my writing office, every bedroom, the hallway, the living room, dining room, garage, and even the kitchen where a number of cookbooks as well as other miscellaneous books sit in a top shelf of one of the cabinets.  Most of the books sit neatly on shelves while some are in stacks since my shelf spaces long ago became filled.  And I have no more room for more book shelves.  I suppose I could almost say that my house has nearly reached saturation point as far as books go.

         Gazing over all of my books I can see the story of my life told by this library.  The book that I've owned longest is a King James Version of the Holy Bible given to me by Reverend Frank Van Valen from the Penn Hills Free Methodist Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1958 when I was seven years old.  I also still have a book of religious artwork given to me at about the same time.  Both of these are books that I've referred to many times in my life.

         Those are not the first books I ever owned.  The first books were several Little Golden Books that I can still picture in my mind.  It's too bad that I don't still have those books, but those disappeared long ago, probably when I felt that I had outgrown them.  They were treasures to me when I was small.

Many of  these books on this shelf in my late
mother's home are now in my own home.

         Starting at about age ten I began to amass a library of Tom Swift and Hardy Boys books.  Those were my favorite books in my pre-adolescent years.  Most of that collection was given away to some younger neighbor kid perhaps or maybe sold at a yard sale.  However I still do have a few of these left, now residing in book stacks in my home office. I've actually reread some of these in recent years. Such memories of wonderful reading experiences relived over fifty years later.

         In my early teen years I began to buy books through the Doubleday One Dollar Book Club.  The introductory offer of twelve books for ninety-nine cents was a boon to expanding my library. The obligatory later purchases assured a steady growth in my book collection to the point that my parents bought me book shelves for my bedroom.  I read a lot during junior high and never lacked reading material in my ever growing personal library.

      Soon I was joining other Doubleday Book Clubs such as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Club and the Mystery Book Club.  I had become obsessed with reading and building my own personal library of books.  Many of these have since been dispersed in the same way as my earlier books, but I also still have many of these fine books still on my shelves today. I was relatively discriminating about which books I got rid of and now consider the remaining books worth keeping.

      College brought about a new onslaught of books--both textbooks and books that I bought because I was interested in them.   Throughout my adult years I have continued to buy books.  When I was on the road, bookstores were regular stops for me as I continually kept up with newer books that I had heard about or classics that I wanted to read.  Each year at the end of the tour, more books would go into storage.  I still have many of those books in my collection.

       All through my life I have bought books. Buying books became not only a habit for me, but a necessary passion.  If I had money, I would buy books.  Often I would not get around to reading the books which now means I have a lot of books still to read.  

       Now I can peruse my collection of books and remember how I came upon almost every one of them.  My books are like a gallery of the history of my life.  The physicality of these books are points in my past, eras of my interests, and memories of my reading pleasures.  My personal library says as much or more about who I am as anything else that I own.   These books are a big part of me.

        Have you amassed a personal library?    Do you think of your books as a part of your history?  Are there any special books that particularly define who you are or who you were at some past time?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Soundtrack of my Life)

        If life were a theatrical film, there would likely be a soundtrack with meaningful songs played during key scenes.   Do certain songs evoke special moments or eras in your past? This is what I've been doing with my "Soundtrack of My Life" series of posts: Looking back and putting my life to music.
       Robin has been doing the Soundtrack of my Life posts on her blog Your Daily Dose. I had done a few of my own "life soundtracks" on my Tossing It Out blog as well as the song series (starting at this post) I did for my 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge on Wrote By Rote. Be sure to visit and follow Your Daily Dose for more Life Soundtrack info. 

Here's the song to accompany this post:

       One of the biggest summers of music for me was 1966.  My family was staying in Maryville, Tennessee while my father was working at a new project location for the industrial contracting company he'd been working at for a number of years.  It seemed like a vacation for me and my brothers and sisters since we were staying in our 17 foot travel trailer at a mobile home park that had a number of spaces set aside for vacationers to the Great Smokey Mountains.

         While my father worked during the day, my mother took us kids on a number of sightseeing excursions throughout the area.  As one of the primary vacationing spots in the United States, there was plenty to see around the area where we were staying.  There was always plenty to do away from that trailer park, but I also found plenty to do on those lazy summer days when we just stayed "home" which is how I thought of that trailer since we were living there for a couple months.

        Having just finished middle school in Northern Indiana where we had been living, I was interested in many of the same things that others my age enjoyed--one of the main things being the pop music scene.  For the previous three years I had developed a keen interest in the chart hit artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and so many others.  Music had become a primary focus for me.  Soon after arriving at that Tennessee trailer park I discovered the local top forty station WNOX.  That radio station became the soundtrack for my summer of 1966.

          There are so many hits that stand out for me from that magical summer.  With the radio playing almost continually throughout the day, those songs became cemented in my mind.  My little transistor radio--the first I'd ever owned--became like an attachment implanted as a part of me.   Daily the radio was always playing those hits that were cycled throughout the day in regular rotation.

           One of the stand out songs that I remember hearing was B.J. Thomas's version of the great Hank Williams classic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".  Thomas was new to the top forty scene and this song was his first big hit nationally.  Judging by the frequency I heard the song on the Knoxville station I'd call it a monster hit in East Tennessee.   To me the song was a new one.  If I'd ever heard the original prior to hearing the Thomas cover, it didn't resonate with me.  I was no fan of country music at the time--or at least I didn't think I was even though I had bought or enjoyed records by artists like Johnny Cash, the Statler Brothers, Buck Owens, and others.   Country was something I ridiculed unless a song of that genre happened to cross over onto the top forty charts and in those cases I figured the songs weren't country.

          The mournful sound of B.J. Thomas singing "I'm So Lonesome..." perked my ears whenever it came on the radio.  The words could actually be easily understood unlike some of the songs that were played.  They were lovely poetic words that tapped into a melancholy place within me.  It would be a down time of contemplation for a few minutes sandwiched between the more frantic hits of the daily playlist.

          With seven of us crammed into the small space of a travel trailer there wasn't much of a chance of being alone--at least not for long.  Neither was I lonely during that summer.  Not only did I have my family, I made some good friends who became an integral part of my years to come.   In fact as I reflect over my life I cannot recall feeling lonesome for any extended period of time.  Though I might have had periods when I felt somewhat alienated, aloof, or in a situation where being with others wasn't easy for me at some particular moment, deep rooted loneliness has been something I haven't felt too strongly in all of my years.

         Loss has haunted me on occasion, such as the periods when my marriages fell apart and I felt the pain of longing for a relationship that previously filled my life.   Sometimes desire might have filled me with a sense of desperation of wanting another person to share my life with, but that was a feeling that mostly impacted me in the years prior to my first marriage.  They were the times when doubts about my life and the insecurities of not being in a relationship filled me with some sense of emotional fear.  But I didn't have a problem about being alone.

          Lonesomeness as an ongoing state of mind has not especially been a concern of mine.  I've always enjoyed having time alone.  My pursuits such as stamp collecting, music, and reading are primarily activities that thrive best in solitude.  Even now, while I enjoy the company of my family and friends, I have to have times when I can be alone.

           I certainly get what Hank Williams was saying in his mournful song.  For a brief span of time I feel the pain and pathos expressed in the song while I'm listening to it.  Memories might linger for a little while in my mind as I fall into a reflective state of mind thinking about my life and my world.  Crying about being lonesome seems almost alien to me now.

         When have you felt so lonesome that you could cry?   Do you enjoy being alone?   Have you been in close situations when you had to spend a lot of time with other people?