5 Memoir Lessons Learned from a Special Birthday Cake

Earlier in January I baked an apple cake for my husband Cliff’s birthday celebration. All agreed it was scrumptious. However, it was my second attempt at the same recipe for reasons to be divulged in my next blog post. As they say, practice makes perfect! Matilda Butler, who earlier followed a similar plan on her website, would agree.

AppleCakeSuccess

Step 1: Make a plan. Even if you are an accomplished chef or fabulous cook (I’m neither), read the recipe carefully and anticipate how you will proceed. I didn’t have a tube-shaped bundt pan, so even before I began, I had to make a trip to the grocery store for the proper pan.

BundtPan

Memoir Lesson 1 – Don’t fool yourself into imagining writing will be easy. Writing is certainly rewarding, but learning a new skill can be hard. I had done plenty of writing as an academic, but switching to a new genre like memoir required a totally different mindset.

Even if you end up changing your plan, you have something (like starter dough!) to begin with.

 

Step 2: Assemble what you need. Anticipate the ingredients and tools necessary. Pull out the mixer, bowls, wooden spatula, measuring cups and spoons. Take the eggs out of the refrigerator to bring to room temperature if necessary.

Memoir Lesson 2 – A memoir is a slice of your life, not a biography. Ask yourself some serious questions: What part of your life will you depict – your childhood, a traumatic experience, a thrilling adventure like sailing around the world? Can you sketch out this “slice of life” in a series of memorable moments? Scribble random thoughts on colored sticky notes? Draw it as a timeline? Write an outline?

What is your theme? If it’s success after a failed first marriage, that controlling idea will be the filter through which you tell your story. Flashbacks can add dimension to writing, but only if these stories connect to your theme.

 

Step 3: Be aware that you may need to make adjustments. Even though I knew where I was headed before I began (a perfectly baked cake, I hoped!) I had to make a few changes. I ran out of clean measuring cups, so I had to wash one. A phone call interrupted the process, so I had to quickly drizzle some lemon juice onto the apples so they wouldn’t turn brown.

Memoir Lesson 3   I didn’t open up the spice cabinet or pull everything down from my dry ingredients’ shelves and dump them into the batter. I had to be selective. Just so, you can’t tell every story that happened in your life. Stories have to fit your theme.

 

Step 4: Keep at it until it’s done. I was not done with the cake until it had been iced. Preceding this was planning –> mixing –> baking –> cooling –> de-panning–> icing.

 

Memoir Lesson 4   Memoir writing requires a series of steps to name a few: writing multiple drafts, revising, revising (Did I say revising?), writing a book proposal, finding various types of editors and an agent, planning for publication. You can find a more complete list of steps on Laurie Buchanan’s website here. 

 

Step 5: Celebrate! Light the candles and let the birthday boy blow them out. Serve everyone else a slice.

Cliff and birthday cake ablaze with candles
Cliff and birthday cake ablaze with candles

Memoir Lesson 5  Cake bakers hope the eaters will find their slice delicious. What delicious morsels of truth do you want your reader to get out of your book? That’s the memoir’s takeaway. Brooke Warner says it’s “ a gift to the reader, something heartfelt, universal, and true.” Figure out what that something special is in your memoir.


 

As a reader and/or writer, what writing tips would you add to this list?

Any cake-baking advice? Have you ever tried a baking project that turned out to be too elaborate?

 

(Watch next post for full apple cake recipe.) Coming next: Hoorah, My 300th Blog Post with an Oops and an Aah!

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Ian and Jenna’s A-Mazing Mystery Trip with Nana’s Twisty Turns

Dr. Seuss explores the maze of life in his famous book Oh, the Places You’ll Go! On the first page he assures readers:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

And that’s just what Jenna and Ian did when they visited Conner’s A-Maizing Acres this past October near Hilliard, Florida guiding their grand-parents from one station to the next. (Yes, they did learn “maize” is a type of corn.)

During the one-hour trip in the car, Ian read poems from The Random House Book of Poetry for Children to his cousin Jenna. He didn’t read from Dr. Seuss’ book, though whose wise words weave a web throughout this travelogue.

IanJennaBackseat

Then, a snapshot at the entrance . . .

JennaCutout

The Conner Barn offers much to keep little hands busy . . .

BuildScarecrowBuildLOGcabin

After a hayride to the field, we tackle the maze . . .

Hayride

There were Rules and a Life-Guard at the entrance to make sure we didn’t get hopelessly lost or ejected!

The staff were exceptionally friendly. We imagine the rules were a response to previous infractions.
The staff were exceptionally friendly. We imagine the rules were a response to previous infractions.

LifeGuardMaze

Jenna and Ian steered us away from blind alleys, saving us false steps and loss of sanity. No danger of losing our way with these two at the lead!

WalkingMaze

Like Dr. Seuss explains, it’s easy to take missteps and get lost.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

But we had such good guides, not a chance this would happen to us fortunately!

Next, while Jenna and I shopped for pumpkins, Ian bounced around on the spider web . . .

IanWalkWeb

We also visited the Micro Farm with an aquaponic system:

WelcomeAquaFarm

AquaponicsJenna

Aquaponics: Growing plants in water and gravel, clay pebbles or lava rock.

We learned King Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon with an aquaponic system as a tribute to his wife.

One of their favorite pauses: The horse farm . . .

WhiteHorse2Kids

Dr. Seuss continues . . . I’m sorry to say so / but, sadly, it’s true / that Bang-ups and Hang-ups / happen to you.

No, the Hang-up didn’t happen to either Jenna or Ian. It happened to their NaNa. The Cylinder-on-Rollers looked exciting and easy . . . until I got into one and right from the start, felt disoriented and dizzy and not very smart. Still, Jenna and I persisted through to the end – with less than wonderful results.

I’m physically fit and strong for my age (so I’m told),

but when I exited the roller I felt much less bold!

I had to wonder the truth of the Seuss line “You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Yet, I suppose these closing lines below from Dr. Seuss still would apply to us. We made it to the end of the course, more or less . . .

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Seuss’ shouts optimism and assurance on his last page:

Today is your day!

So . . . get on your way!


Have you done something lately to get out of your comfort zone, maybe even made a fool of yourself? Any memories of antics in times past?

Coming next: Quiet Lives Matter, My Brother Mark

Through a Glass Darkly: Anniversary # 48

This week Cliff and I celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary. We are not experts on marriage by any means, but we have learned a thing or two about

  • navigating its mysteries and
  • negotiating the best for both

 

  • PragueCubeSidePragueCube

We sometimes see through a glass darkly

Image captured in a 3-D hologram cube created via laser – visit to Prague, Czech Republic 2006

(Nothing dramatic happened in Prague except black light shows with marionettes. If you want wild and crazy drama, you’ll have to click here!)

I Corinthians 13, American Standard Version
I Corinthians 13, American Standard Version

For now we see in a mirror, darkly . . . But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three: and the greatest of these is LOVE.

* * *

Poet James Dillet Freeman expressed his view of the mystery of marriage In “Blessing for a Marriage” in at least 8 ways:

  1. May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
  2. May you want one another, but not out of lack.
  3. May you entice one another, but not compel one another.
  4. May you embrace one another, but not encircle one another.
  5. May you succeed in all important ways with one another / And not fail in the little graces.
  6. May you look for things to praise, often say, “I love you!”
  7. And take no notice of small faults.
  8. If you have quarrels that push you apart / May both of you hope to have / Good sense enough to take the first step back.

In the last last stanza he concludes:

May you enter into the mystery which is

The awareness of one another’s

Presence — no more physical than spiritual,

Warm and near when you are

Side by side, and warm and near when

You are in separate rooms

Or even distant cities.

May you have happiness,

And may you find it making one another happy.

May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.

Cliff & Marian_Wedding Day_96dpi

Here’s where you can share your own tips or observations.

Moments of Extreme Emotion: A Lunatic in London

I knew we were in trouble when the rotary path took us around Buckingham Palace and not directly to the Comfort Inn, Hyde Park, where we were aiming to roost for our stay. Never mind that the steering wheel on our dark blue Vauxhall was set to the right, opposite the American style. Or that Cliff drove on the left side of the road in order to turn right. Or that I as volunteer navigator was gripping the fine print of a touring map of London, my head bobbing up and down trying to match street signs with landmarks, occasionally screaming.

Our kids were through college, we had celebrated Joel’s wedding just days earlier, so as empty nesters off to London we flew in early August. We were not exactly neophytes to travel out of the country. After all, we’d been to Montreal, Banff, and Jasper in Canada. Why England should be a snap. They speak English there too, and I love the British accent.

We got some rest that evening and were up the next morning eager to explore London. The concierge at the hotel recommended a nice place to get some lunch. We finally found a car park (aka parking lot) close to our hotel before having lunch at the Swan Pub.

BigEyesPub

Now we had to figure out whether there was a parking time limit on the spot we had chosen. Okay, it looked like we were in a 2-hour time limit parking zone, plenty of time. So we got a sticker for one hour from the kiosk and affixed it to the windshield as directed. Mind you, we paid in British pounds sterling (clinky-clanky coins – not paper) so we heard the payment registering in the kiosk like in a slot machine.

Lunch was taking longer than we expected, so I leaped over to the car park to buy another windshield sticker to extend our parking time. Of course, we wouldn’t want to get ticketed on our first full day in London.

On our return, we were relieved to see that there was no parking violation displayed on the windshield. But we looked again, and “Oh, no,” we groaned, “there IS a suspicious piece of paper hidden under one of the windshield wipers!” I sprung into action and yelled to Cliff, “This must have just happened. I’m going to track down the policeman who gave us the ticket!”

Galloping down the sidewalk with citation in hand, I spied a London bobby who looked as though he could be on our parking patrol.

“Sir, (trying to hold my emotions in check) you gave us this parking violation ticket, but we have paid for two hours of parking, sufficient for the time used.” I urged him to check our windshield and he complied, walking back to the car with me.

LondonParkingTicket

With careful scrutiny, he replied, “I realize, Ma’m, that you paid the full amount, but the total parking time has to be reflected on one sticker, not two, even though the amount you paid was sufficient.”

“Well, that makes no sense at all,” I retorted. “We have paid the City of Westminster/London the full amount, why should it matter how many stickers are displayed on the car?”

Unruffled, the gentle bobby restated his case, emphasizing once again the city’s policy.

Now I have shifted into a higher gear of ire. “Well, I am shocked that you do not recognize that you have received payment in full. This is not right. I want to speak to your supervisor,” I insisted.

Reasonable, the patrolman made an effort to accommodate me. “I can call him, but you’ll have to wait. He is not available right now.”

“Fine! I’ll wait for as long as it takes,” I retorted, now more determined than ever. With this assurance, Cliff and I drove back to the street by our hotel, awaiting justice.

Soon I saw two bobbies both in black jackets, official hats, and shiny badges heading toward me.

BobbieMeLondon

By now, husband Cliff, usually the confrontational one, had ambled slowly toward our room in the hotel. Oh, so I see he’s not getting involved in this brouhaha. In fact, the next time I saw my husband was out of the corner of my eye as he was filming the spectacle from the second floor of our hotel while I was shouting at the bobby and his supervisor on the street below.

CliffLondonHotelWindow

Determined, I stated my case again to both, and I was going to make sure that Mr. Bobby Supervisor saw my point of view. “I want you to rescind this ticket. The City has gotten more than enough pounds for the time our car was parked. It is unjust to give us this citation when we have done nothing wrong.”

And so it went on:

They: But you . . .

Me: But we . . .

At one point I was aware of being out of control but felt powerless to stop myself. So, like a crazy woman, I dug myself in deeper.

Apparently the officers had met deranged travelers before and to be conciliatory, they concluded that “By the time your case comes up in court, you will be gone.” Were they going to shoot us?

Moral of the story: When jet lag and culture shock collide, watch out for an explosion!

Can you relate to this experience? Do you have a tale of your own to tell? Add your story to my confessional . . .

 

Clear skies and smiles on both sides of the law
Another day, clear skies and smiles on both sides of the law

 

Coming next: Finding Silver

Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Do you lose things? Misplace your glasses, keys, cellphone, or worse?

A few weeks ago I saw advertised a bit of wizardry called TrackR bravo, a coin-sized, wireless device that attaches to anything you want to track. The two wholesome-looking, geeky guys who invented it claim it can find lost items in seconds. However, it is still in production and won’t be available just yet.

Here is a bit of verse contributed by husband Cliff on the occasion of his un-earthing treasures long forgotten in drawers, filing cabinets, and notebooks. These lines dated January 2004 were inspired by his discovering a plastic container of leftover artichoke dip, with mold growing on top, tucked inside an enclosed green sandwich cooler bag, hanging quietly for a day or two on the back of a kitchen chair.

Button3

Button, Button. Who’s got the button?

Glasses, Glasses. Oh, where did I put those glasses?

Keys, keys. Why did some Martian leave them in my van door overnight?

Windows, windows. Why would windows be partway open, when I know I closed them tightly the night before?

Names, names. Why do people always change their names, when their faces remain the same?

Pens, pens. Why do they secretly skip to someplace else, when no one is watching?

Book, book. Why did that book hide itself beneath the bed again?

Folder, folder. Would someone please tell me how my folder mysteriously appeared somewhere else?

Cell phone, cell phone. Why isn’t that cell phone with me now when I know I just saw it a moment ago?

Date, date. Who changed my appointment for Wednesday on the calendar that I knew for certain was on Friday?

Remote, remote. Who snuck in while I was in the kitchen and hid my remote?

List, list. How can I get along without my “To Do” list? I’d swear I left it on the dresser, a window ledge, my hat box or . . .

Wander, wander. Why do I always have to go back to where I came from, to find out what I had forgotten?

Zipper, zipper. Who is it who, ghost-like, unzips the very pants I parade to work in?

Artichoke dip, artichoke dip. Now where did I leave that nice little dip? Why would it be inside the green cooler bag hanging on a kitchen chair, sporting a fuzzy growth of mold on top?

Brain, brain. Am I losing my mind? “Ding, Dong.” Is Alzheimer’s at my front door?

Remember, remember. Oh dear, what else have I forgotten to remember?

Oh well, I’ll now put on my shirt . . .  “Pop!” Button, button. Who’s got the button?

KeysGlasses

A side note:

The day after reading the poem to Marian at dinnertime she asked, “Have you seen the poem?”

I told her the last time I had seen it was on the kitchen table after reading it. “Did you put it in your hat box under the wicker coffee table?” I quizzed.

“Oh dear me, Button, Button Poem, Button, Button Poem. Who’s got the Button, Button Poem?”

You have stories of loss, recovery, and perhaps loss – again. Your anecdote fits right here!

Coming next: “What’s Your Name Again?”

Two Boys: One Moment in Time

Recently Grandpa Cliff and NaNa Marian took the Beaman boys to the Odditorium (not a misspelling!) of Ripley’s Believe It or Not in St. Augustine Florida.

The Saturday excursion was billed as a Mystery Trip, so the boys didn’t know exactly where they were going, but they did know it would be fun. After a 40-minute drive south from Jacksonville, the Mystery Bus with windshield wipers chugging away pulled into the very last parking space at Ripley’s.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not is a franchise with various locations nation-wide, dealing in “bizarre events and items so strange and unusual, that readers might question the claims.” Some of the 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artifacts, and more than 100,000 cartoon panels in the collection are displayed here at The Oldest City location.

Some of the jaw-dropping oddities we saw:

  • Lord’s Prayer etched onto the head of a pin
  • This prayer also etched onto a grain of rice
  • Erector set parts made into the World’s Largest Ferris Wheel model
  • Arabian camel nose plugs
  • Replica of the Notre Dame Cathedral constructed with over 160,000 match sticks
  • Voodoo doll in an ancient basket
  • Mannequin of man weighing over a half ton

ErectorRipley

Camel Nose Plugs

 CLiffRipley
Model of Notre Dame Cathedral constructed of 160,000 match sticks
Model of Notre Dame Cathedral constructed of 160,000 match sticks
And this one took me back in time, Curtis and Ian looking at the Lord’s Prayer etched on a grain of rice through a microscope . . .
CurtIANripleys

Seeing the back of Curtis’ head (on left) reminded me of our son Joel’s image at a similar age. So I flashed back in time, and then I was struck piercingly into flash forward motion with the thought that grandson Curtis will be in middle school in the fall. With poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, I lament “O World! O Life! O TIme! (Where has all the time gone? Not long ago he was just entering first grade!)

A few weeks ago, Shirley Hershey Showalter, who publishes weekly Magical Memoir Moments, posed an engaging prompt for writers. In the March 3, 2015 edition she took her readers on a visit to the Wheel of Time. Looking at a photo of her grandson Owen staring out the window watching his mother leave for work, Showalter imagines what his thoughts might be. She remembered a similar moment years ago when her own son, perhaps wistfully, watched her leave the house for her job. Then she poses two questions for her readers:

When was the last time something pierced your heart?

Did it ignite the Wheel of Time in you?

Contemplating the second question as I gazed at Curtis and Ian, I realized a ping of joy along as three thoughts came to mind all at once: We are blessed to have them, their whole life is ahead of them, and as the photo seems to suggest, they are facing forward to meet the future . . .

Photographer Angela Strassheim, in a recent exhibition at Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art, specializes in framing the lives of her nieces and nephews as they pass through early stages of their lives. Her collection illustrates the precious, fleeting nature of childhood and adolescence. One photograph that caught my eye was the “Girl in Blue Dress” which depicts a pixie princess frozen in a childhood phase that evaporates all too quickly. This large photo of Strassheim’s niece with dimensions of 75 x 60 inches, probably foreshadows the young girl becoming a married woman, draped as she is now in a canopy over her bed that seems to mimic a bridal veil.

MOCA_Angela Strassheim_Girl Bride photo

Robert Ripley is right. Life is full of mystery and awe. Sometimes it’s un-unbelievable too!

Your thoughts are always welcome here. Do join the conversation . . .

Signs and Wonders: Chincoteague Island

Once upon a time, there were five memoirists who met online through their writing websites. One of them, Janet Givens, who had a rustic log house on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, invited four blogging friends to join her for a writers’ retreat: Kathy Pooler, Joan Rough, Shirley Showalter and me.

According to Janet, “It was grand.” At the end of the week, we all agreed. Now, you ask, what made the week so special?

First of all, the spacious log house was charming: LogHouseChico.VA

And there is an enclosed porch where we ate breakfast overlooking a canal and the shimmering Oyster Bay facing east.

ChairsLogPorch

All around the house were clever or catty sayings on wooden plaques: GrumpySignSmokingFireSmokingMan

No one was voted off the Island. We all stayed!
No one was voted off the Island. We all stayed.

That’s right:  Everyone behaved!

As we began, we did have a plan to include the clichéd 3 F’s and a W: food, fun, fellowship – and writing, of course. In a joint effort, Shirley recorded on paper how our days might unfold.

ScheduleSHS

Every day, we enjoyed breakfast together, one day with French toast oven-baked by our host Janet with Joan beaming her blessing:  FrenchBread

Then we had writing time and do-it-yourself lunches with afternoons for more writing or walks.

Some days it was cold!   MarianKathyJoan

One fairly warm day, we all took a hike into the Assateague Preserve to see the world-renowned ponies, made famous by Marguerite Henry’s Misty Books. According to one friend’s pedometer, we logged about 3 miles walking the beach and side trails.

And we enjoyed the exhibit at the Visitors’ Center:PonySignExhibit

Other Days, we wandered along the main road in Chincoteague. As we explored, we found some interesting sights.PianoWrapped

And a mailbox replicating the house of the owner in the distance:

Mailbox replica of house behind
Mailbox replica of house behind

Every evening, we had healthy meals: Chicken chili, frittata, stuffed sweet potatoes, pasta fagioli. This night, Joan is helping Shirley serve broccoli soup with Waldorf salad.     KitchenCooks

After dinner from Tuesday – Saturday, we gathered on the comfy sofa and chairs close to the wood stove. From 7 – 9:30 one of us had the spotlight with an opportunity to get feedback on our writing or blogging. As a beginning memoirist, on Tuesday night, I got clarity about the focus for my story. Distributing a preliminary outline, I asked, “Where in all this muddle is my true story?” Happily, I got wise words from three women who’ve already published memoirs (Kathy, Janet, and Shirley) and one (Joan) with a book poised for publication.

MeComputer

After struggling through revisions, my room-mate Kathy, gestures her approval of my story blurb and synopsis:

ThumbsUpKathy

On Sunday, our last full day together, we joined Janet at the Sundial Book store for her author talk/book signing.

SundialBooksChincoVA

JanetBookSign

Afterwards we bought books and other gifts for our loved ones. Leaving the store, we spotted the theatre marquee across the street . . .

IslandTheatreMarquee

. . . and behind the store, outsized LOVE chairs by the bridge. (Think Lily Tomlin dwarfed in a big chair here.)

LOVEchiars

Finally, we gathered again to celebrate the productive week and our deepened friendships as we watched back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey. As the week ended, we all wrote off into the sunset.

*  *  *

Our story, like Downton Abbey, proceeded in chronological time but with some flashbacks, like many good stories.

My version of The Week at Chincoteague is based on a variation of the story model by PIXAR, the moviemaker who tells perfect stories like Toy Story I and II. Since 1995, their storytelling wisdom has spawned many a tall/true tale. Yes, Shirley shared this link with me last week, which I pass on as a template for your own story. Here is the PIXAR prompt page.

AuthorLifeStory

My husband Cliff designed the cover for our photo albums of the week:

Alternate Title:  Cinco Chinco Chiques
Alternate Title: Cinco Chinco Chiques

 

In today’s post title, I promised you a Wonder, and here it is: 

Standing:  Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman    Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough
Standing: Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman
Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough

 Five writers, none of whom had met all the others, retreat to a magical island for a WONDERful time, honing their writing skills and deepening friendships.


Click HERE for more information on how to reserve Janet’s log house for a writers’ retreat or your own family vacation!

WhenGetThere

 

We love words! Share some of your thoughts here . . .  

 

Coming next: Purple Passages and a Weather Forecast

Moments of Extreme Emotion: Meet Me Under the Bougainvillea

I have had many moments of extreme emotion. Some you may know about like flunking my driver’s test, an explosion in the curio cabinet, and a broken piano leg — and some you may not.

According to my journal, this particular moment lasted almost an hour and happened in Positano, Italy, a terraced town poised on a peninsula along the Amalfi coast by a vertiginous slope to the sea.

Positano_6x4_300

Quaint Positano rises up, up, up to houses crouched in cozy rows and leans down, down, down to the snug little village below. We leave the charming hotel, Villa Rosa, to spy out the sights and shopping. Positano itself is dripping with bellissimo scenes: lemons the size of grapefruit, grapes a million, shiny red peppers, elegant shoppes, delikatessens. Cliff wants to check out the sights first and I prefer the shopping, so we decide to meet at a certain time and place “under the bougainvillea” before we go our separate ways for awhile.

Now a host of pergolas of bougainvillea adorn the village, each pergola with blooms that cascade like crimson waterfalls. Of course, I think he must mean the one on the way down the steep street leading into the village.

Upper bougainvillea - where I thought we'd meet
Upper bougainvillea – where I thought we’d meet

In one of the shops, plates of lemon yellow and Mediterranean blue catch my eye with painting on the back “dipinto a mano per alimenti Positano” – hand-painted dish. They come bubble-wrapped so I can snuggle them against breakage between layers of clothing in my suitcase, I think. I can’t decide between the blue and the yellow, so I get two of each, complementary.

Soon it’s noon, the time we agree to meet before lunch. So I meander back up to the brilliant bougainvillea to people-watch and wait for my prince. I wait and wait and wait. No Cliff in sight! That’s just like him – losing track of time when he’s snapping photos. The minutes pass and I’m starting to get mad. The temperature on my “mad” gauge rises even higher as the sun beats down furiously on my head. Why didn’t I wear a straw hat and then I think “Where is that man?”

Mad turns slowly to sad as I realize he must have fallen over from heat exhaustion and now is lying at the foot of the Duomo, his camera case splayed out beside his prostrate body. Oh, my goodness, do they have ambulances in such a small town? I haven’t heard sirens here unlike Rome where horns hee-haw all hours like electronic donkeys. Finally, I convince myself Cliff’s not dead and probably still wandering around. My emotions cycle between mad and sad a few more times until I see a tall, blond man approaching me looking very mad himself, certainly not glad to see me again.

C.   “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you by the bougainvillea for almost an hour now!

M.   “Well, I could ask the same thing. I have been waiting ages under this pergola for you. I thought you might have keeled over from the heat. Where in the world were you?”

C.   “Don’t you remember?  The last thing we talked about was the bougainvillea by the Duomo, so I thought that was the place we were supposed to meet!”

Where Cliff thought we'd meet - by the Duomo
Where Cliff thought we’d meet – by the Duomo

We rehearse the scenario far too long and try to resolve the mix-up by arguing our own points of view, an exercise in futility. What we do agree on finally is a cool place for lunch which for us is a tomato-drenched pasta (larvae-shaped noodles) entré and an omelet. I exchange a pile of eggplant “aubergine” for an “ensalada mista,” garden salad.

Bellissimo!

 

I’ll bet you have a story similar to this one but with a different setting or a comment about this one.

Don’t be shy. Leave a reply!

PlatesPositano

Moments of Extreme Emotion: A Broken Leg & Ecstasy Expressed

Moment of Exasperation

One of the mysteries of life is how things happen at our house. Specifically, how did the leg on this piano bench break? We still haven’t figured out the answer for sure though we have speculated on some possible explanations.

BrokenPianoBenLeg

How did this happen? Vote in this short quiz:

a. Piano bench overloaded with music books

b. Over-weight pianist

c. Kids had wild party while parents were gone

d. All of the above

e. None of the above

(Answer on next blog post.)

Mystery Moment

3PatCurtis

Completely befuddled, Patrick and Curtis react to the Mystery Trip announcement sponsored by Grandpa and NaNa:

Patrick: What’s a mystery trip?

Curtis: Is it safe to drive with Grandpa?

Moment of Extreme Ecstasy

Patrick and Curtis about 6 years ago at O'Charley's Restaurant
Patrick and Curtis about 6 years ago at O’Charley’s

Grandpa’s paying!

Have you had a moment or two of extreme emotion lately? Or long ago?

Thank you for adding your story to mine!

Mennonite Flashback III: Rabbits and Rings

This is a sequel to a previous blog post: Flying the Coop: Leaving Mennonite Land with a link to my original story on Mary Gottschalk’s website.

His Story:

I proposed to Marian my Mennonite girl friend one snowy evening, my car stuck in a snow-bank. When she accepted my proposal, I also asked her, “Would you be willing to wear a ring?” This is the plain girl I have fallen in love with: no make-up, no jewelry, especially no ring on her finger, ever.

Now it’s close to Easter and Marian is flying down from Charlotte to spend the weekend with me in Jacksonville. Technically, she’ll be with me most of the time though she will spend the night at Mom and Pop Rea’s house, members of Fellowship Bible Church where I am youth pastor. No sleeping together before marriage.

I’ve been wracking my brain to find a way to make the ring presentation unforgettable—and a surprise too. So this is what I’ll do. I’ll make a ham dinner for her finishing it off with dessert, a cake with her engagement ring baked inside. No, wait! A cake is too big; the ring may get lost in it. I’d better make cupcakes or muffins. That’s it. A blueberry muffin. She’ll find that ring for sure if I wrap it four or five times with tin foil.

And I’ll make some rabbit cutouts with toothpicks, blue for me and red for her, so I know which muffin the ring has been baked in.

Scanned from the original bunny sticks, 1967
Scanned from the original bunny sticks, 1967

Her Story:

Charlotte is my home this year, but with every stitch of my wedding gown, I dream of my life with soon-to-be-husband Cliff in Florida. Easter weekend I take an Eastern Airlines flight to Jacksonville. The carefree, goofy guy I have fallen in love with has hit real life, teaching sixth-graders in an inner city school. He has also exchanged a college dorm for a $ 50.00 per month, second-story garage apartment with a turquoise-teal kitchen, where I will live after our honeymoon. But his humble abode has not killed romance and his wish to entertain.

We sit down to a home-made ham dinner.

The Discovery:

Dessert is served. Oh, little bunny muffins, I think. How cute even if they’re from a mix. I take 2-3 bites and my teeth strike something hard and metallic. Uh-oh. I don’t want to embarrass Cliff by exposing his lack of baking expertise, so I try to hide the wad of foil under my plate. Eying what I think is a faux pas, he urges, “Why don’t you see what’s inside?” Cautious but obliging, I unwrap the layers and layers of foil, and my eyes pop with pleasure – a glittering diamond solitaire, my first ring ever.

Postscript: Years later when I am a young mother, I remove the ring to apply lotion to my hands, placing it on a top of the bedroom dresser. What happens later occurs out of sight and only in our reconstructed memory: Three-year-old daughter Crista finds the ring and puts it on. Wearing it to go potty, she flushes my diamond down drain. Screams ensue. Cliff digs frantically into the lawn hoping the ring has gotten lodged somehow in the trap of the drain pipe before flowing into the Neverland of the city sewer .  .  .  to no avail.

Stand-in for the Original
Stand-in for the Original

What story can you share about receiving a special piece of jewelry?

 

Have you ever lost something precious? A family heirloom?

 

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