May 272016
 
What else have you lost quote by Havelock Ellis

What else have you lost? How did that loss teach the fine art of living?

Grief often rears its dark, draining head, not just when someone dies.  The onset of many life crises is the loss of something. A relationship, a value, a sense of purpose.  We’ve all experienced a loss of a pet or cherished object (See Writing Your Lost and Found Story.) But what else have you lost during your lifetime?

Loss of a Relationship, Sense of Identity

A loss of a relationship can also entail a loss of an identity. Our worldview changes when life chooses to make an illegal U-turn.

Recently, a friend of mine when through a time of anguish that makes me feel neurotic grieving over my perfectly normal empty nest. Her 20-year-old daughter disappeared from a rehab facility in a major city many hours away from home. For two eternally long months, there was no sign of her child.

Finally, by chance, driving along a major thoroughfare in her own city, she spotted her daughter. The reunion was also a moment of heartbreak. My friend has a hard time talking about it. Though she temporarily located her daughter, my friend’s world had shifted on its axis. In addition to missing her daughter’s physical presence in her home—in her life, the shroud of adulthood that her daughter now possesses limits her ability to help her child who suffers from mental illness and addiction.

When have you had to make peace with a new version of “normal”? A divorce, job loss, or career change can also spark feeling of a loss of identity. How did you right yourself? How did you regain your sense of self? These make great stories, stories with the power to connect across generations.

Innocence Lost

Another friend tells of her pre-teen loss of innocence. The Oakland County child killer and the panic he instilled in the entire Detroit metro area robbed her and her friends of carefree afternoons, riding bikes to each other’s houses. Of going out to play out from under the anxious, watchful eyes of their parents. The bubble of invincibility that buffets children against the horrors of the adult world popped. In its place came an imagination that ran rampant. It colored not only her own development, but the eventual choices she would make as a parent.

Loss of Physical Ability, Memory

There are things that our mortal, frailer-than-we’d-like-to-admit bodies cheat us out of as well. They betray our still active minds by refusing to work, or at least work as well as we’d like. They force us to fight disease instead of those life battles we want to mount.

Perhaps you’ve had to bear helpless witness as a particularly cruel disease causes a family member to misplace memories, even their sanity. Past moments, even the recognition of loved ones, fade into oblivion. Consider writing about these moments of heartache; they tell stories of love and devotion.

What else have you lost?

Along the road, whether by virtue of physical maladies or of the life sh** that happens, we lose things. Intangible things. Confidence. Independence. Hope. Faith. Courage. Our groove.

Don’t you think these moments are important to share? What would you want your loved ones, especially those of future generations, to take away from your story? Of course, they’ll be touched by your loss, but they can also learn from your healing or your renewed perspective. Perhaps they’ll even discover that resilience isn’t inborn, but something that can be gathered along the way, even on the roughest, dirtiest roads.

Havelock Ellis is quoted as saying, “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Let your loved ones know how you did that.

Apr 142016
 

Bumper sticker covered car

Do you have something to say about yourself? Image by RHoch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

How do you tell people who you are? How would you give them a bumper sticker synopsis of yourself? (Of course, you could ask why you’d want to do that as well. As Rob Walker argues, “…bumper stickers are about declaration, not dialogue.” But let’s put that aside and indulge in the exercise. Consider it a brainstorming activity.)

What Would your Bumper Sticker say?

If you could tell the world who you are in just a few words, what would you say? If you were forced to have a bumper sticker—even if you’re anti-bumper sticker like me– what would you put on it? Continue reading »

Jul 152014
 
A typical day in your life

Describing a typical day can deepen connections.

Your story does not have to be extraordinary to be worthy of the written word. In fact, memorializing a typical day can be the key to connecting with loved ones.

I remember my younger son’s fourth grade teacher pulling me aside to describe my son’s “spacy” behavior. “Welcome to my world,” I told her. Although I sympathized with her, a part of me was grateful for someone who understood—viscerally understood—life with my son.

We hear “Walk a mile in my shoes!” with good reason. Experiencing the dust around another’s feet and the rhythms of their daily life promotes understanding and empathy. Continue reading »

Jul 082014
 
Anti-bucket list

What items are on your anti-bucket list? More importantly, why are they there?

Without question, our hopes and dreams tell a lot about us. Shouldn’t an anti-bucket list do the same thing?

On the other hand, why write about the negatives when you can focus on the positives?

An anti-bucket list isn’t just a litany of things you don’t like or dreams you’ve given up on. It’s a chance to explain what makes you tick, to write about the lesser-known side(s) of yourself. Writing about your dreams is important. But, life’s realities matter too. As wonderful as rainbows and ponies are, sometimes the deepest connections result from knowing understanding the negatives. Continue reading »

Oct 082013
 

Aftermath Memories In the immediate aftermath of a big event (or even a small one), we seldom have the time, energy or presence of mind to record our memories. Generally, we somehow get around to documenting the event itself, but we forget about telling the story of the aftermath. However, when you revisit the moments and days after something happened, poignant memory stories can result.

The Aftermath of Birth

For me these moments are like the old filmstrips—badly spliced and played on a jerky projector. Nevertheless, they are precious. I remember looking down at my son, marveling that the universe had allowed me to join the ranks of parents. The fear of messing it up. The fear of someone else messing it up. Rushes of love like I’d never known. Of course, there was also the absolute exhaustion and the closeness I felt with my husband. Continue reading »

Aug 012013
 

your hobbies include gardening Share your memories by showcasing your passions and your hobbies.

Your hobbies and interests can tell a lot about you. However, some hobbies lend themselves to showing-off better than others. If you’re a gardener and have neighbors, everyone around knows the extent of your green thumb. (Unless deer come through and eat all your perennials, but that’s another topic.) The key words there are everyone around. All your neighbors might be aware of your garden prowess, but your loved ones ten states away might not be. The same goes for quilting, photography, woodworking, and the like. Continue reading »

May 062013
 

 

Rainy outdor wedding

Seating with umbrellas

In her post today, Staci Troilio points out that unseasonal weather makes an intriguing backdrop for fiction stories. Since life is so frequently stranger than fiction, that goes double to those of us writing about and collecting family memories.

Though not quite meeting the bar of “wild weather,” last weekend we attended an outdoor wedding in Sumter, SC, where it was unseasonably cold. (For South Carolina, mid-sixities in May is cold!) The weather didn’t quite steal the show, but it earned a prominent position on the day’s credits. Continue reading »

Apr 082013
 

Writing about kids is a “must” for most memory collectors.

Writing about kids show their devilish side

They weren’t smiling for the camera. They were up to something.

How many times have you recounted a story about your kids and received the response:

“You’ve got to write that one down!”

Well, go ahead and do it! Whether your journalling, scrapbooking, or writing your memories, write down some of your kids’ more memorable moments. Don’t forget to note the date and add photos when you can. Continue reading »

Mar 292013
 
WRite about your fiath whatever your background

Four ways to write about your faith without preaching.
Image credit: Religionnerd.com

It can feel awkward to write about your faith. No one wants to create controversy. For that reason, many of us have qualms when it comes to writing about faith and the role it plays in our lives.

The flip side, however, is that writing our stories without including our beliefs or religious upbringing (or even lack thereof) leaves an incomplete picture. There’s good news, however.  There are many ways to write about your faith and share your spiritual side without the reader feeling like you’re hoping to convert them. Continue reading »

Mar 202013
 

by Staci Troilo

Food traditions bring four generations into the kitchen.

Food traditions bring four generations into the kitchen.

Yes, the stereotypes are true. Italians turn to food for everything… we celebrate with it, commiserate with it, mourn with it. It should be no surprise that holidays in an Italian household are marked by the aroma of simmering tomato sauce, baking bread, and roasting meats. Tables will be laden with steaming soups, sautéed vegetables, trays of antipasti, and dozens of cookies and cakes. The most amazing part is that the meals are prepared by memory, the recipes passed down not on stained cards but at the elbows of mothers and grandmothers in crowded kitchens. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Food traditions include Italian Egg bread

The finished loaf is beautiful and festive

Easter is no exception. Every year since my first memory, my mother would take out her largest bowl on Good Friday and make Easter bread—a sweet dough, rich with egg. She taught me and my sister how to feed the yeast with the sugar, how to knead the mixture until it was smooth, how to bless the dough in Latin so it would rise. She had learned from my grandmother, and we learned from her. Once the dough had risen, we punched it down and let it rise again. And then we punched it down and let it rise again. Three times—for the three days between Christ’s death and resurrection. Then she taught us how to make cloverleaf rolls and braided loafs of bread, some of which we put eggs in. These eggs we’d color with food coloring, not dye, and we wouldn’t boil them first… the baking would cook them. They made the prettiest loaves. We’d refrigerate the rest of the dough for the next day.

Easter pizza Easter food traditions

Easter pizza: An Easter weekend tradition.

The following day, when we could eat meat, we’d take the leftover dough and make Easter pizza. We’d roll out a piece of dough and put it in the bottom of a pan like we were making pie. Then we’d fill the pizza with pepperoni, salami, ham, two kinds of capicola, hard boiled eggs, mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese and put another piece of rolled dough on top. We’d put slits in the dough and brush it with an egg wash and bake it until it was golden brown and the cheese inside had melted. This was my favorite part of Easter… working with my family in the kitchen. We’d make an assembly line to complete the pizzas faster and then we’d distribute them to family and friends around town, saving a few for ourselves to eat during the holiday, and one or two to freeze and eat in the summer (what a treat!).

Making pizza dough

Rolling out the dough

I don’t live near my family any longer. But I’m teaching my kids to make the pizzas. We make the dough and bless the bread; we make an assembly line for the pizzas. But mostly, we talk about family tradition and how things used to be. I loved working alongside my mother—and sometimes even my grandmother—when I was young. That was how I learned the recipes, but that was also how I learned about my family and my culture. That was how I grew so close with my family. And that’s why, even though I live a thousand miles from home, I still talk to my mother every day. I still talk to my grandmother (who’s almost ninety-five) and my sister all the time.

Italians use food as a way to bring families together. I don’t live near my family any more, but every time I eat one of their recipes or share one with my children, it’s like we’re still together, like my ancestors are still with us. And isn’t that really what it’s all about?

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Staci Troilo grew up in Western Pennsylvania writing stories in poetry in her free time, so it was no surprise that she studied writing in college.  After receiving creative and professional writing degrees from Carnegie Melon University, she went on to get her Master’s Degree in Professional Writing, and she worked in corporate communications until she had children.  She went on to become a writing professor, and now she is a freelance writer living in Arkansas with her husband, son, daughter and two dogs.

Her fiction combines dark, dangerous heroes and strong, capable heroines woven together into a contemporary tapestry of tantalizing romance. Compelling villains and gripping mysteries engage the reader from page one of her novels and her short stories feature ordinary characters conquering the odds in extraordinary situations.

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