Thursday, May 17, 2012

Remember when...?

My fourteen-year-old son was born into a comfortable world of modern conveniences. 

His parents have always driven their own cars, carried their own telephones, and possessed their own personal computers. His home is an ambient 74˚F year-round, thanks to central heat and air. There has always been a television in his playroom, where over the years Sesame Street and Barney tapes and Disney DVDs have been replaced with Wii and PlayStation consoles and games. Twenty-four-hour grocery stores ensure he'll never go hungry; gardening has just been a hobby his parents enjoy, when there's time and seasonal conditions are good. My son has enjoyed these things, without ever thinking about them. 

Until, that is, a recent school project for his Georgia Studies class asked him to.

The assignment was laid-back in structure, as the school year has nearly wound down and teachers and students alike are pining for the upcoming summer break. My son was asked to come up with a short list of questions on specific historical events of his choice, from the past seventy years. The questions would guide him during an informal interview he was to conduct with someone who is at least sixty years old and who has lived in our state the majority of his or her life. My son chose to interview a seventy-three-year-old family friend we affectionately call Granddaddy.

The first question my son asked was about the Civil Rights era. Granddaddy began by telling him about the all-white school he attended, and about the all-black school in town. His memory flood gates flew open. It was wonderful to see the light in Granddaddy's eyes as he reminisced for the next two hours, describing life in rural Georgia during his childhood. He talked about the small house he grew up in, heated only by the wood-burning stove his grandmother cooked on. Quilts kept him warm on winter nights, and during brutal Georgia summer nights, they dragged their mattresses out to the porch where it was cooler. And every morning, the cow was milked and the eggs collected from the hen house before his grandmother could prepare breakfast. 

My son's eyes grew large when Granddaddy explained that as the youngest in the house, it was his job to empty the "slop jar," used during the night when the grown-ups didn't want to go to the outhouse.

From describing the route he drove in his grandfather's truck, selling their farm produce door-to-door, to buying twenty-five cents worth of ice from the traveling ice man, to assisting the grown-ups when a snake fell into the well, my son learned secondhand how different life was just two generations ago. 

For me, the story ideas swirled in my mind as I listened.

A wealth of knowledge and information about a bygone era resides in our elder generation. I encourage everyone to spend an hour or two with grandparents, older neighbors, or friends with the intention of asking them about their lives. Stories from their childhoods, memories of what life was like during wartimes, and their recollections of important milestones achieved during their lives (scholastic accomplishments, marriages, pregnancies, first jobs, etc.) will enlighten and inspire you, while bringing you closer to the friend or relative who's doing the sharing.

After Granddaddy left, my son and I talked about the differences in our daily lives compared to what Granddaddy described from his past. And what modern conveniences from my son's lifetime, we wondered, will he describe years from now to wide-eyed, disbelieving children? Fun to think about.

And, oh the stories that continue to come to mind... 

Have you asked your grandmother or grandfather about their childhoods? What was the most surprising thing they shared with you?

Thanks for reading!

[I originally published this article in the May 16, 2012 Drama Newsletter at]


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Fabric" by Jessica Bell -- Check It Out!!


Today I'm celebrating the release of Jessica Bell's new poetry collection, Fabric ... Wait! Please don't close the tab at the the mention of poetry! Trust me, just watch the trailer and then read a little note from the author herself before deciding to disappear ...

Jessica says:
My poetry will not baffle you with phrasing that scholars award for academic genius and that can only be understood by those who wrote it. My poetry is for the everyday reader. In fact, it is even for those who don’t like to read poetry at all. Because it is real, stark and simple.

The poems in Fabric are no different. They explore specific moments in different people’s lives that are significant to whom they have become, the choices they’ve made. It’s about how they perceive the world around them, and how each and every one of their thoughts and actions contributes to the fabric of society. Perhaps you will even learn something new about yourself.

So, even if you do not usually read poetry, I urge you to give this one a go. Not because I want sales (though, they are fun!), but because I want more people to understand that not all poetry is scary and complex. Not all poetry is going to take you back to high school English, and not all poetry is going make you feel “stupid”.

You can still say to people that you don’t read poetry … I really don’t mind. Because if you read Fabric, you’re not reading poetry, you’re reading about people. And that’s what reading is about, yes? Living the lives of others? 
Are you still here? I hope so!

Please support the life of poetry today by spreading the news about Fabric. Hey, perhaps you might even like to purchase a copy for yourself? The e-book is only $1.99 and the paperback $5.50.

Here are the links:

Let's keep poetry alive! Because not all poetry is "dead" boring ...

About Jessica Bell:

If Jessica Bell could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. And not because she currently lives in Greece, either. The Australian-native author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist has her roots firmly planted in music, and admits inspiration often stems from lyrics she’s written.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit:



Monday, May 7, 2012

Weekend in the Water

A great weekend is one when you chip away at your bucket list, coming one step closer to checking off a life goal. I had one of those weekends. And it was fab-U-lous.

With my husband, I participated in two training-intensive days of scuba classes. The course we're taking is called Open Water Diver and is Scuba Schools International's (SSI) basic certification curriculum. 

The classroom segment of each day covered what happens to your body as you descend and are subjected to the increasing atmospheric pressure of deep water. We learned in theory how to avoid disastrous underwater scenarios and how to deal with potential emergency situations. Each three-and-a half-hour-long classroom session was followed by three-and-a-half more hours in the pool, practicing the skills in which we must be proficient to become certified divers.

Photo Source
Skills I practiced included: controlling my descents and assents; equalizing the pressure in my ears; achieving neutral buoyancy; removing the regulator from my mouth and replacing it; recovering the regulator (in the event it should be knocked free and floating behind me, out of view); clearing water from my mask; sharing air, in the event I or my buddy runs out of air; and underwater hand signals. 

The skill that freaked me out the most, at first, was removing my mask underwater. To demonstrate the skill, I had to take the mask completely off, put it back on, and clear it of water. The trick is to stay calm and keep breathing through the regulator. It's hard to trust that you won't accidentally take water up your nose. (You don't :D)

To complete our certification, hubs and I will do four open water dives in Florida this June. I have no apprehension whatsoever about exhibiting the skills I performed in the pool, on the floor of Gulf of Mexico. Actually, I'm super excited to get that gear on and get back in the water. I'm hooked on diving already!

What's the next item on your bucket list you'll go after?