Tag Archives: Memoir

Creative Juice #254

Creative Juice #254

These articles fascinated me this week, and I wanted to share:

Creative Juice #89

Creative Juice #89

Just in time for weekend reading:

Creative Juice #75

Creative Juice #75

First dose of Creative Juice for the New Year!

Guest Post: Family Singing at Christmas by Betty Mason Arthurs

Guest Post: Family Singing at Christmas by Betty Mason Arthurs

Thank you to Betty Mason Arthurs for this caroling story.

Doing Life Together

Photo by Jeff Weese Photo by Jeff Weese

Family Singing at Christmas


Betty Mason Arthurs

Memories of my family and our love of music and singing together, now that my parents and one brother are gone, help to overcome my sorrow of missing them at Christmastime and bring me joy. I share a memory from Christmas Eve long ago.

My family stomped their boots on the porch of the old, two-story nursing home. Soft-colored lights and garland adorned the porch railing and reflected off the powdery snow in the early evening. Through the front windows I caught a glimpse of red and green crepe paper streamers draped over the staircase railing and the small Christmas tree in the foyer. It was Christmas Eve.

Giggling with excitement, I pushed open the heavy oak door. “Come on. The nurses are expecting us.” I urged my family forward and shut out the frigid air in Albion…

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65 Things I Know Now That I’m 65

65 Things I Know Now That I’m 65

This month I have a milestone birthday. I’ve renewed my driver’s license, enrolled in Medicare (though I’m deferring my Social Security for as long as I can), and I’m beginning to collect my teacher’s pension.

I’ve been around the block a few times in my sixty-five years on earth. I’ve learned a lot of stuff–the hard way, through trial and error. Let me share my accumulated wisdom with you. Indulge me; I’m old. Maybe you’ll learn from me and avoid making the same mistakes I made.


Photograph by Dark Dwarf


  1. I don’t know as much as I used to. I’ve forgotten a lot.
  2. Your life will never be trouble-free.
  3. Be happy for other people’s good fortune. Don’t know how to do that? Smile. Say, “I’m so happy for you!”
  4. No matter how hard circumstances get, they become more bearable with time.
  5. When you screw up, apologize. Without making excuses.
  6. If you make $32,400 per year, you are among the top 1% of wage earners in the world. So stop whining.
  7. If you can’t sleep, get up and clean the house.
  8. After your shower, rub the skin around your fingernails with your towel, and push back your cuticles. If you do this every day while your skin is soft and soggy, you’ll never get hangnails, and those little slivers of loose skin next to your nails will just rub right off without bleeding or hurting.
  9. A couple of drops of argan oil in your hair after washing will make it shine and make your brush glide right through it.
  10. Water is the best thing you can drink. Squeeze some lemon juice into it.
  11. Tell your friends and family that you love them. Every day.
  12. Acknowledge excellence.
  13. Shop the clearance rack.
  14. Donate things you don’t use to charity.
  15. When you bring in the mail, stop at the recycling bin and toss away all the junk.
  16. Before you buy something, ask yourself, “Where am I going to keep this?”
  17. Don’t make a joke at someone else’s expense.
  18. Be polite to everyone, even (especially) when you’re angry.
  19. If you’re learning to play an instrument, practice every day.
  20. Read for enjoyment every day.Boo boo
  21. Borrow books for free from the library.
  22. Read to your kids from the time they’re babies.
  23. Dance regularly. And step it up as you age. Dancing is great exercise for the brain.
  24. Don’t ever use a “recreational” drug. Just don’t.
  25. Never do something you know you shouldn’t.
  26. Wealth comes with complications. Freedom comes with having just enough to share.
  27. Find a cause you believe in and support it as generously as you can.
  28. Who cares if what you have is “dated”? If you like it, it’s perfect.
  29. Most of what’s on television is garbage. (Do I sound like a geezer yet?)
  30. Walking is excellent exercise. Bring your device so you can listen to music or take photos.
  31. Buy a couple of pieces of good-quality, classic clothing every year. Consider it an investment you can wear for a long time.
  32. Save money. Contribute to a 401K or invest in mutual funds or ETFs. Be smart about your future.
  33. Attending college in Europe is less expensive than attending college in the United States.
  34. Be a life-long learner. Pursue topics that interest you.
  35. Cultivate friends who are older than you and ones who are younger than you.
  36. Don’t buy a bigger house than you need.
  37. Don’t buy a lot of stuff. Possessions are overrated.
  38. Learn a second language. It will broaden you, and raise your IQ.
  39. Support public education. Free quality education for every child is the mark of a great nation.
  40. Obey police officers.Favorite mug
  41. When you see car washes put on by kids to raise money for organizations and charities, let them wash your car and donate generously.
  42. Pray every day. Start by thanking God for all His blessings to you. Pray for our president and our country. Pray for people who are suffering.
  43. Check your gas tank every time you get in the car. Fill it as soon as it gets down to the last quarter.
  44. Once a month see that your tires are properly inflated, your oil is clean and topped off, your coolant (or antifreeze) reserve is full, and your windshield washer is topped off.
  45. Call your parents.
  46. Surprise a friend with a card. The kind you mail with a stamp.
  47. Save your receipts until you use what you bought or the return/exchange date has passed (longer if it has a warranty).
  48. When your kid is tall enough to touch the bottom of the inside of the washing machine, he’s old enough to be responsible for his own laundry.
  49. You don’t do your children any favors when you do all the cooking and cleaning. Part of your job is to train your kids in the skills they need for everyday life. Give them chores.
  50. Take care of your health. Do it for yourself. Do it for the people who love you. Or at least do it so you won’t be a burden on society.
  51. If you give raisins to a baby, be sure to cut them first. (I have a not-so-happy story about my first baby and raisins…remind me to tell you about it someday…)
  52. On the back of photographs, be sure to write the names of the people who appear in the pictures. (If you save your photos online, tag the people, or caption the photo.) I don’t care how sure you are that you’ll always remember the significant people in your life; I guarantee when you’re as old as I am, you’ll forget some names. My mother told me to write down names on the back of baby pictures. I was positive I’d remember which one was which. (Mom was right.)
  53. You can’t do every good thing. Be selective about what you commit to.
  54. When you have a long-term project, break it down into manageable steps and schedule a completion date for each step.IMG_0157
  55. Children aren’t born knowing right from wrong. You have to be deliberate about teaching them. Encourage them to consider how their actions affect others. It’s sad when you meet adults who never learned to do this.
  56. New cars are expensive. Preowned cars can often be relative bargains. I’ve had good results buying fairly new cars with low mileage from reputable dealers. Often these are cars that were repossessed because someone couldn’t make payments. It’s ironic that I benefit from someone else living beyond their means.
  57. When someone is grieving, say, “I’m so sorry.” Don’t try to cheer them up–sometimes well-intentioned words just make the hurt deeper. Be present. Listen. Hug. Cry. Send a card. Send flowers or a donation to a charity. Don’t say, “Call me if you need anything”–people don’t like to impose on their friends. Instead, follow up in a few days with a specific offer of help–run an errand, cook a meal, babysit–or ask what you can do.
  58. Don’t use electronic devices after dinner. Either you’ll spend too many hours online and go to bed later than you should, or the light emitted from the screen will interfere with your body’s sleep cues. Either way, you’ll be tired the next day.
  59. Tell your (or your children’s) teachers, pastor, and boss what they’ve done that you especially admire or appreciate.
  60. You can do nearly anything you set your mind on, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
  61. Set high standards for yourself, but make them reasonable. Determine a code of ethics. Become a person of integrity.
  62. What will people remember about you when you’re gone? Work toward what you’d like your legacy to be.
  63. Learn the names of the employees at the retail stores you frequent. Greet workers by name, and commend them for good customer service. You’ll make their day, and you’ll be rewarded with continued good service.
  64. Whenever you think of a perfect gift for someone (or for yourself–sometimes people ask what you would like), write it down. It’s good to have a little notebook for this purpose. Flip through it from time to time so you remember–maybe the item will go on sale.
  65. It doesn’t matter how long you live, just how well you live. Work hard, but eliminate unnecessary stress. Find ways to add fun to your life. Smile. Laugh. Use the good china sometimes, even when you’re not having company. Stop and admire beautiful things. Love someone. Learn something new.

Remembering 9/11


A year ago I shared a journal entry I wrote a few days after the 9/11 attacks.

Today, in honor of the sixteenth anniversary of the tragedy, I’d like to share a few more unedited entries from the following days. Please excuse the ramblings and any inacuracies. And let us never forget.National_Park_Service_9-11_Statue_of_Liberty_and_WTC_fire

Sunday, 09/16/01:

Bill [my brother] says the WTC was designed to withstand the impact of a 727.

He also said that a lot of cars that parked near his house to catch the ferry Tues. morning are still there. [His condo was located in Highlands, NJ, closer to Manhattan over the water than by land.]

I heard a story about a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Apparently, you can see the WTC [World Trade Center] from there, and her husband worked in WTC. After the first plane hit, he emailed her (the person on TV said email, but I think it could have been IM) to let her know he was okay. They emailed back and forth–she’d go about her duties and come back and check her email, and answer him back, and go do her next thing. They emailed back and forth for almost an hour, and then the emails [from the husband] stopped. She looked out the window and the tower was gone.

Pastor Todd preached out of Luke 13:1-9 which told about two disasters and whether the victims deserved what happened to them.


Photo by Robert on Flickr 522px-North_face_south_tower_after_plane_strike_9-11

Photo by Robert on Flickr


Friday, 09/21/01:

Donna [a co-worker from New York City] said some of her friends’ bodies have been found. Three ladies were found holding hands. They identified them because they had their handbags. Another woman was identified by her handbag and cell phone, but her head was severed.

Saturday, 10/06/01

My main emotion lately is fear–fear of the future, fear of not knowing, fear of uncertainty. I’m afraid because I can’t look at someone and tell whether they are a hijacker/terrorist. The Arizona Republic published pictures of all the hijackers, and except for a couple (who looked crazy), they all looked like people I pass in my neighborhood. Some people talk about “dead” eyes, but I don’t see anything about them that would tip me off that they would be violent. So I’m afraid of everybody.

People are back to “business as usual”–our duty as Americans.

Here I am at Katie’s first AYS softball game at KMS. There are hundreds of people here. Don’t they know we’re in a state of war? Don’t they know 3 1/2 weeks ago 6,000 people died?


I don’t know how to make decisions anymore. Should I tell Erin to go to the most prestigious school she can? Or do I tell her to go to ASU? Should we put down hardwood floors in the halls? New wall-to-wall carpeting? Or is that a silly way to spend money when our house might not even be here six months from now?

President [Bush] wants to propose additional tax breaks to stimulate the economy. How is he going to finance the war if he doesn’t raise taxes?

West Wing [TV drama series] made a point to show how far the Islamic radicals are from Islam. Josh asked the Congressional Classroom (group of high-achieving high school juniors and senior who were selected to participate in a special educational trip to Washington, D.C.) to make a correct association: Islamic radicals are to Islam as _____ is to Christianity. Christian fundamentalists? No. Religious right? No. No one could come up with an additional choice. Neither could I. Josh inserted KKK. The KKK twists the Bible to show that God favors their agenda. Yet nearly all Christians would say they are wrong and disassociate themselves from it.

Yet, I am afraid that even if they are a small faction, they are still widespread. When I see footage of anti-US demonstrations on TV, it looks like hundreds or maybe even thousands of people are involved. If there are two billion Muslims in the world and only 1/2 of 1% are radicals, that would be ten million. That’s a lot of enemies.


How I Learned to Love Geometry

How I Learned to Love Geometry

This article appeared on Doing Life Together on May 26, 2017.

I met Deedee in Girl Scouts.

She went to public school, I attended parochial school. Our paths would never have crossed in elementary school were it not for Scouts.

What I remember most about Deedee from those early years is that she loved ballet, and often spent “down” time moving through her positions or practicing her arabesque.

Deedee’s family valued education. Her mom taught high school history; her dad was a Ph.D. who taught at a nearby college.

Her first name was really Cornelia. Her father affectionately called her Corn Doodle. (Back in the day, Corn Doodles were a snack something like Cheetos®.) From there, the nickname morphed into Doodle Deedle, Deedle, and, finally, Deedee. (One of her sisters was named Priscilla, nicknamed Lolly–but that’s another story).

We didn’t become good friends until high school, where we were in chorus together.

I hated math, mostly because I found it tedious and difficult. I had to repeat freshman algebra during the summer.


But the first day of sophomore year, I discovered Deedee was in my geometry class. We also had lunch together the next period. We chose a table, sat down with our food, and after the first bite, Deedee opened her geometry book to the homework assignment and said, “How will we solve the first problem?”

My reaction was Can’t it wait? Like maybe seven hours or so?

But I didn’t understand something elemental about Deedee. She loved math. To her, problems were puzzles. She couldn’t wait to take them apart and conquer them.

That day set the tone for the whole year. Frequently, we started our homework during lunch. We didn’t necessarily finish it, but talking through the first few examples with Deedee helped me learn strategies for analyzing the problems. When I was stuck, she gently helped me draw figures, or reminded me of applicable theorems.

I did very well in geometry that year. And I actually enjoyed it.

I wish I could say the same for my junior and senior year math courses. Deedee was not in my classes then.

But I still use what I learned in geometry. Sometimes you have to calculate the area of something. Geometry comes in handy for figuring out how much fabric I need to sew curtains or piece a quilt.

Deedee Holt

The last time I saw Deedee was in 2002. My daughter and I were visiting my parents in my childhood home before I took her off to college. Deedee and her son, John, happened to be visiting town at the same time. We met at the Fireman’s Fair in an adjoining town.

Sadly, Deedee passed away ten years ago this month. She’d recently completed her course work toward a certificate to teach music, and was serving as a substitute teacher as she searched for a permanent job. I wanted her to move from Washington state to Arizona so she could teach in my district, but her son had just one more year of high school to go, and she didn’t want to uproot him.

The world is a bleaker place without Deedee. I’ll never forget her.


Guest Post: Writing a Memoir of Restoration, Renewal, and Rediscovery by Marilyn L. Davis

Guest Post: Writing a Memoir of Restoration, Renewal, and Rediscovery by Marilyn L. Davis

Thanks to Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog and to Marilyn L. Davis for this insightful article.

Fear of Driving

Fear of Driving

This article was first published on Doing Life Together.

Doing Life Together

I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 19.

I got my first learner’s permit when I was a senior in high school. My dad took me out driving several times in his huge Buick LeSabre. Our sessions usually ended with him red-faced and shouting at me, and me crying. At the time, I didn’t understand why Dad was so frustrated.

The day of my scheduled road test was also the day of the first blizzard of 1970. I had no experience driving in snow. Even though Dad promised the test course would be plowed by the time we got there, this was not the way I’d imagined it. I pictured myself driving us to the Motor Vehicles office on non-scary, dry roads. I didn’t want a last-minute lesson on driving on snow-covered roads. So I refused to go. Dad said I could call and reschedule, but I just…

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The Day Milo Went AWOL . . . by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

The Day Milo Went AWOL . . . by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

An oldy, but a goody. Un-smiley face graphic by Kaz Vorpal.

Doing Life Together

California King Snake California King Snake

As I was readying to leave for work one day fifteen years ago, my daughter Erin, then fifteen years old and the last of our children to leave for school in the morning, breathlessly announced, “There’s a snake in my pants!”

Now, in some homes, a statement like that might be alarming. However, in our house, it was pretty typical.

Firstly, my kids tended to keep their clothes on the floor. Secondly, although we live in Arizona, we are surrounded on all sides by the greater Phoenix metropolitan area—unlikely a wild reptile wriggled in from the desert. It would probably be one of our resident serpents.

You see, my husband, Greg, an elementary school teacher, collected critters.

So my very logical response to Erin was “Who is it?”

“One of the black and white ones.”

Boy, was I ticked. I had recently flown to New Jersey to…

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