July 13, 2013

Appreciating Successes—at Writing and Hostessing

Yesterday, I fell into a Southern novel. I passed the July midday with bottomless glasses of iced tea, dressed salad greens, and fruit too ripe to need sweetening. Temps were already sweltering when I walked up the driveway, but inside, settled into deep chairs with a view of a shaded deck, we were coolly removed from Texas’s sizzling heat.
Instead of this writing group meeting at the usual restaurant, Lolisa offered her home for lunch. When she invited me, she asked me to bring the newly printed memoir that I edited for my father. They wanted to see someone else’s stories, collected, titled, and hardcover bound, proof that regular people can “publish” their ordinary family histories. Something I’ve pushed them to do since hearing their first efforts in our Memoir Writing class. Collected scraps and sheets of anecdotes become important enough to share with family when assembled into a real book.
Our hostess announced lunch but said she needed to read her piece before we moved to the dining room. Sharing our writings, what the group is all about, usually follows lunch. Her reason for her reading became apparent early in her story:

Uncle Burton, a Lt. Colonial in General Patton’s Tank Corp and … with Patton in the final push into Germany near the end of the war [was] stationed in Selb, one of the towns where Rosenthal china was made.  My uncle was able to buy two complete sets of dishes.  One set for his wife and one set for his sister, my mother.  We eagerly waited for Mother’s set to come.  They were off-white with a gold etched band, and I thought they were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

In my small West Texas hometown located ten miles from the corner with New Mexico, I don’t remember anyone having a grand set of dishes.*
She continued with how her mother used the dozen place settings, her “good” dishes, for special occasions Eventually, Lolisa, promoted to dishwasher for the demitasse cups and saucers because, she wrote, it was in pre-automatic dishwasher days. That set of china from German has now passed down to Lolisa. Her dishwasher stands ready, but she still hand washes them.
Even without knowing the story, we would have oohed and aahed over her table. Wide gold-banded dinner plates, teacups so delicate as to feel weightless set on a flowered cloth that seemed part of the garden centerpiece. From where I sat, my eyes kept going to decorative plates hung among watercolor paintings over the buffet. Also gold banded, centered with flowers, they looked custom coordinated to the china. I asked but Lolisa said, “No,” she had the decorative plates long before inheriting Mother’s china.
Perhaps she will add a page to her story, telling where and how she acquired the wall hangings. Someday another generation will have that to tell when hosting a summer luncheon.
Besides my show and tell with The Book, as Lolisa called my dad’s memoir, we had reason to celebrate. The newest member is a finalist at the upcoming Mayborn Nonfiction Literary Conference. Her first conference, her first entry, and she hit a home run.
We’re sure we all heard Mona’s shout when she received the congratulatory email at 10:47 Tuesday evening. She phoned me Wednesday morning still gasping and giggling between near tears. That’s what hearing you’ve written something that is judged a success does to a writer. At least neophyte ones. I wonder how many times Nicholas Sparks, or Hemingway for that matter, heard, “We want to publish it,” before either treated the announcement like another day at the office. Family matters prevented Mona’s joining the lunch group, so we toasted her success in her absence, each of us recalling portions of the story she submitted.
Adding to the glee over Mona’s success, Pat announcedthat her Beghtel Berries tales is at the publisher. Good news can be shared anywhere, but it seems even more special in a setting of fine china with tinkling crystal accompanying the chatter of friends who support and encourage one another’s efforts. And perhaps, that storybook setting sent us all home inspired to further writing efforts.
* Laenger, Lolisa, “The Good Dishes.”

July 12, 2013

More to Add in Fewer Years-a Repeated Guest Blog

I posted this on an earlier site and decided to repost here since I mention this guest author in "Appreciating Successes—at Writing and Hostessing," July 12, 2013.

When a writer in my Memoir Writing class at CollinCollege invited me to her 70th birthday party, I decided I like the way 70 looks.  Afterwards, she wrote her thoughts about stepping into a new decade, thoughts so profound that I asked if I could share them on this blog.  Perhaps we each should look at our decades to find where we stand and if, like Pat Mahle, we are looking forward to the abundance that lies ahead. Thank you, Pat, for showing us a way to reflect on the decades of our lives.


70 is a number of great magnitude and consequence.
It can only be divided by 1 or 10. 
70 in the periodic table is a rare element, ytterbium, used in atomic clocks.

The law says the copyright lasts 70 years then belongs to the public.

Astronomy used the number 70 for the first important eclipse. 

The followers of Yahweh used the number 70 to pass on life-giving myths:
70 nations and 70 world languages form the core of Jewish tradition.
70 men make up the Great Sanhedrin.
70 elders were assembled by Moses at God’s command.
LXX, the Roman numeral, is the symbol for Septuagint.
Jesus appointed 70 disciples and sent them to preach liberation and justice for all.
Jesus said, “Forgive 70 times seven.”

70 years is 7 decades and in that time I’ve had at least 7 bodies of good work:
The discovery of walking, talking, living and learning in community.
The work of finding myself in the mist of the tribe.
The creation of a life-giving covenant with Jerry; together unearthing the awareness that our covenant is as crucial as either of us.
The wonder of new creation and the task of helping children find their own wings. 
The dreamlike role of giving unconditional love to grandchildren.
The opportunity to share the mystery of love and grace and the task of blessing others because God loves us.
The work of mentoring, guiding, and becoming a wise woman. 

Along the way I have receive at least 7 gifts:
Six siblings who gave me love, belonging, encouragement, and laughter that made me want my own wings.
My rock, Jerry who encourages and challenges me to become true to myself.
Those I call friends who have changed me, loved me, and make life worth living.
The enjoyment of nature’s beauty with its sunrises and sets, its new growth pushing through the earth and giving up its harvest, its night sky that puts all of life in perspective and makes me ask the question, “Who am I in the vastness of the universe?”
The discovery of new places to explore, new residences to call home, and new people to encounter.
Communities that push me beyond the claim of my origin and do so with love and grace. 
The gift of knowing I am not alone, that I live in God’s world.

The gift of 70 is so rare the French don’t have a word for it.
The eastern cultures of China, Japan, and Korea call 70 the Rare Age of the Golden Times.

70 is significant to me; I have fewer years ahead than are behind. 

But with the gifts discovered, and bodies of work accomplished, even more lies ahead to add to the abundance of love and grace I have received.

Mix a bit of research with reflection and tell us what your current decade means to you.  What accomplishments stand out in your mind?  What are you looking forward to in your next decade?