From Reflection to Action: Many ideas in how to honor Veterans

Examining our past and learning from it means seeing not only our achievements, but our failings. Observing our country’s current issues demands action from each of us, as we come together to make our society a better place for us and for future generations. Accountability to our communities involves not only creating a society which makes us proud, but also recognizing and then changing dark impulses which have marred or are currently marring our country.

Dear Veteran-Friends,

The dedication that you—our men and women fighting for our country—is indelible. Your fight on the front-lines and commitment to public service enables us to learn compassion and grow intellectually. Freedom isn’t free. Those who are willing to pay the price, the time away from their families, and the endless dangers of the battleground are our true heroes. Our hearts and minds are changed forever, and we are grateful for your service of yesterday and today and going forward.

Dear Friends, here are some ways to remember our Veterans:

REFLECTION

  • Read something a Veteran wrote about their experience.
  • Write in your journal how thankful you are for the service of Veterans.
  • Take a private moment to be proud of your country.
  • Observe a moment of silence with family and friends.
  • Take a moment to reflect on what it means to live in America.
  • Hang an American flag in your yard or at your apartment entryway.

    SAY THANKS
  • Write and send a letter to someone who’s currently serving in the military.
  • Thank a Veteran co-worker for their service.
  • Video chat with a Veteran who is servicing oversees.
  • Use Social Media to #THANKAVET!
    GIVE THANKS
  • Donate time or money or supplies to local Veterans Day drives.
  • Volunteer to help a Veteran’s service organization.
    ACTION
  • Shake a Veteran’s hand.
  • Teach a child what it means to be a Veteran.
  • Send an email to the people on your contact list that tells a Veteran’s story.
  • Attend a Veterans’ Day event.
  • Go to a Veterans’ Day parade.
    HONOR A VETERAN
  • Add their photo and your personal thank you to the DAV Thank A Vet Mosaic.
  • Make and share an interview video through the StoryCorps app.

 BE IN THE MOMENT WITH A VETERAN

  • Ask a Veteran about their time in the military, and really listen to the answer.
  • Visit a home-bound Veteran in their home.
  • Visit a homeless Veteran under a bridge.
  • Take a Veteran out to dinner.
  • Take dinner in to a Veteran.
  • Buy a homeless Veteran a cup of coffee.
  • Mark on your calendar a day each month to do one of the above listed—even though Veteran’s Day will have passed.

Please share with us how you have made a difference today in the life of a Veteran. Below are some resources for you.

If you like what I post, and haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, please do! Link here.

Resources

DAV Thank a Vet. Here, you can add a picture to their mosaic. (Link here).

DAV Website/Home Page: https://www.dav.org/

StoryCorps App (Link here).

StoryCorps Website/Home Page:  https://storycorps.org/

Operation Gratitude. Here, you can sign up to volunteer or make a donation. https://www.operationgratitude.com/

This post is in memory of my father, who I came to know and love only after he died. Dedicated poem and more are on my Dedications Page.
(Link here.)

-Elle-

 

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Volunteering to Help Schoolchildren

More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

Schoolchildren who qualify for free or reduced lunches get those lunches only on school days. On Friday afternoons, these kids are each given a Power Pack—a sack which looks like a lunch sack yet is filled to the rim with power food. These Power Packs are provided by Freestore Foodbank and dependent on volunteers to bag the power food for them.

Yesterday, Saturday, I joined other volunteers at the Freestore warehouse and together we bagged nearly 1,500 Power Packs! Fifteen hundred may sound like a lot, but in reality, it barely scratches the surface to keep Cincinnati area kids from going hungry over the weekend.

According to the Freestore Foodbank, these are the stats and how our volunteer work impacts the community:

  1. More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

 

  1. Donated food items are provided by area grocery stores, local partnerships, and community members and stored at the warehouse for distribution.

 

  1. Volunteers—there were about forty of us in the ware house yesterday—we unloaded pallets of donated food and packed sacks—“Power Packs.”

 

  1. Our warehouse serves 105 sites across the greater metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, distributing these Power Packs to schools.

 

  1. These Power Packs are given to school children on Fridays so they can go home with power food to carry them over until the next school day, Monday.

 

Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks, which includes Freestore Foodbank. It is also the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state of America.

Feeding America and Freestore Foodbank are dependent on volunteers. Another way to reach out with your volunteering support is to contact any soup kitchen, food bank or shelter local to you to find out what they need and how you can help.

Resources

Feeding America
Find your local food bank and who to contact for volunteering, based on your zip code.

The direct link to sign up for volunteering through Feeding America is at  feedingamerica.org.

I hope you will join in the efforts to make our communities a better place for our children. Please share in the comments about your volunteer experience. Together, we can ensure a better tomorrow—Children are our future.

If you like what I post, and haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, please do! Link here.

-Elle-

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Dinner at a Soup Kitchen

Community means joy, laughter, and rejuvenation.
Community enables a reconnection to the world and  human spirits.

(Quote as narrated in video,
Security Dignity Community in
a Place Called Home at Tender Mercies
.)

Schools, churches, and community groups volunteer hundreds of meals and thousands of hours to the residents of Tender Mercies. It is a supportive and transitional housing environment, located in Over-the-Rhine on 12th Street, here in inner city Cincinnati.

Last Thursday, I joined friends to share dinner with these folks. A few of my friends got together ahead of time, cooking lasagna and preparing other dinner items. I left work early that day (using “vacation time”) to meet my friends in the kitchen at Tender Mercies.

We served dinner to about sixty folks. I recognized some folks who came through our dinner line, as folks who hang out at the public library where I work.

One gentleman resident, Cleo, was already a familiar and friendly face for me. On Wednesdays, I pass through “his” street corner, where he sells the Street Vibes, a bi-monthly informative newspaper about the homelessness plight in our community.

Each Wednesday, I buy a paper from him and in return he tells me a joke.

And each Wednesday, Cleo and I exchange a big friendly hug. Thursday evening, I got another hug out of him (smile).

 

 

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 ”Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.” (Tender Mercies mission statement.)

Resources

Tender Mercies: If you are in our Cincinnati community and would like to know more; perhaps volunteer, visit Tender Mercies’ website.

Volunteer Needy: If you are in other parts of America and need a resource to point you where help is needed, this website is user friendly. It opens with a map of the United States—click on your state and from there, find out where to go and who to contact.
Link here for their directory. 

Please share in the comments your community experience. What is it like for you to share a meal with those in need?

If you like what I post, and haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, please do. Link here.

-Elle-

 

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Sharing is Caring: Coat Drive how-to and more….

Cold weather is on the horizon. It’s time to pull our scarves and hat out of the closet. And it’s time to think of those struggling in the moment who need a scarf or hat—or especially, a warm coat.

Autumn and winter months are a terrible struggle for many people. Low income families with growing children often need help when it comes to sending their child off to school—coats, mittens, and rain or snow boots are a must have. Yet, many parents who already struggle with increasing bills in the winter months (heating bills, for one), can only wonder how to keep their kids safe and warm.

Those experiencing homelessness also have it rough. Sure, there are overnight shelters. Yet, there are not enough shelters and some turn people away for lack of identification or other problems. And some homeless people, who perhaps out of mental illness, are unwilling to turn to these shelters for help. And many over night shelters are just that—overnight—not letting people in until after dark, and then shut their doors early next morning. Outdoor temperatures are still frigid at seven or eight in the morning.

That’s their reality.

We can lift their burdens. Getting a warm coat and other winter gear to those in need can be naturally easy.

Some ways to help are:

  • When you buy yourself a new hat or pair of gloves, grab a second one and donate. Often, stores have sales of “buy one, get one half-price” or of a like-wise bargain—perfect for helping someone.
  • When Christmas shopping (or other holiday shopping), include a coat on your shopping list; a coat for someone in need.
  • As your child(ren) grow out of their coats, donate the old.
  • Keep extra gloves and hats in your everyday bag, or an extra coat or two in your car. When out and about, if you see someone, perhaps someone homeless, who is begging for assistance, offer them one of these extras.
  • Donate to coat drives. These drives are sometimes found through employers, local stores, clubs, schools, churches and synagogues.

Years ago, when living in New Mexico, and starting when the winter months hit, a child’s red wagon was parked in the sanctuary of my church. Coats and toys were collected by putting them in this red wagon. As we congregated for worship services every Sabbath, we’d see the wagon was fuller than the week before.

 

Or, you can run a coat drive yourself. This can be as simple or as involved as you’d like.

Earlier this month, through a community organization I belong to, I helped run a coat drive; a simple one.

Starting a month before our October monthly membership meeting, I put the word out that we would collect coats. I then followed up with messages on Facebook and other online places that our members hang out in. On our meeting night, I designated a table for collections. At the meeting’s conclusion, we bagged up the coats. These will be given to a community agency for disbursement. It was a “one-night” collection and went well.

For a more involved coat drive, visit the website for One Warm Coat. It is a resourceful tool to help you plan and promote your coat drive. They even have a map to click on to find out which agencies or places in your community to donate those coats.

Together, we can make positive change in our communities. We can help those in need. I hope you will join me in the efforts to ease the burden that cold weather brings to low income families, to those experiencing homelessness, and to others who simply need a helping hand.

Resource:
One Warm Coat
https://www.onewarmcoat.org/

Please share in the comments how you plan to get involved, knowing that someone doesn’t have to face the cold season alone.

-Elle-

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Writers Conferences–nuts and bolts….

Writers Conferences—the nuts and bolts—and what you can get out of going to one.

•You’ll connect with new writer friends. Those connections are valuable especially since you’re all going through the process.

•Your newly met friends may become your allies and accountability partners.

•You’ll clarify your book concept. Every time you practice talking about your book (not just writing it), you’ll get clearer about the direction you want to take.

•You’ll learn things you didn’t expect to learn. Sessions, lunch gatherings, and happy-hour mingling will present opportunities, which you didn’t expect.

Attending a conference:

Here in my greater Cincinnati area, I’ve been to several writer’s conferences, workshops, and the like, each of which garnered from our community. Last weekend, September 29 & 30, I stepped it up a notch by attending a conference which invited writers from all-around. Although, still here in Cincinnati, people came from as far away as California, New York, and Canada.

Given by Writer’s Digest, it was at the Renaissance Hotel downtown, with a friendly hotel ambiance that was comfortable, and plush. Before even hitting the check-in table, I met up with an online friend, Amy for breakfast, to meet in person for the first time—she lives in the New York area. Amy is an industry leader when it comes to teaching new authors how to promote our book(s) and I’ve been one of her groupies for more than a year.

When my book was hitting publication, I retained her marketing services for her know-how and action that I see she puts in to her passion. You see, an author is always responsible for carrying some, if not all the burden in marketing efforts. A publisher; most any publisher won’t do it all, nor could they even if they tried. My publisher is involved in the social media end of things, but they can’t walk with me in my daily commute to promote my book.

My breakfast time with Amy was not to talk business, but for us to get to know one another on a more personal level. I already knew we are the same age (by two months, I’m the older one)—we were in a group video conference on the day of her last birthday. Come to find out over breakfast, we have much more than age in common. It was an invaluable connection.

∼∼   ∼∼    ∼∼

With about 75 writers and authors in attendance, we mingled in the conference room, anxious for the 9:00 hour to start it off. At the front of the room was the podium. We took our seats, with many seats to choose from and four chairs to each table, all facing the front. Each table came with a carafe of water and a place to put our complimentary coffee. Through small talk, we encouraged each other to be proud of our published books. This could be seen as many of us pulled our book out of our tote bag (or attaché case or backpack) and laid it prominently on our table.

The conference opened with a presentation by another well-respected industry leader, Jane Friedman. She gave us her experience in publishing options and then how to proceed once published (the latter of which I tuned in to).

The weekend continued, all day Saturday and much of Sunday, with break-out sessions, guest speakers, and networking with fellow writers through lunch. Our break-out sessions spanned the gamut from readership connection to social media use to audio book consideration, and oh, so much more.  Even Amy had her share of leading workshops during these break-outs.

Key-note speakers were Zetta Elliott (children’s author) and Tobias Buckell (sci-fi author). With the conference focused on diversity, Zetta shared her journey with us, as an African American woman who writes stories which give a voice to the diverse reality of children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aside from the structure in these sessions and listening to speakers, it proved to be an awesome opportunity to meet others. I learned from other authors who are a step or more ahead of me, and I shared my experience with those who are where I was a year or so ago.

Overall, it was great to see a big picture of opportunities and choices available to authors in our writing careers. This big picture will carry me forward as I continue to learn and make informed decisions, which ultimately will benefit readers.

A writing conference comes with nuggets:

•The craft and business of your writing life is enhanced when joining forces with others.

•It keeps you abreast of the rapidly changing shifts in the industry so that you can make informed decisions for the best-fit path in your journey.

•Its uplifting and motivational to be surrounded by other writers. The writing process can be solitary. Being surrounded by other writers who are also going through the process is motivating.

Conferences gives us the venue to invest in our dreams….

Like the protagonists in the books we read or write, we too have turning points in our journeys. A conference is our way of accepting the challenge and rising to the call. It means we are willing to invest in our dreams, learn all we can, teach others through our experience, and do the action.

If you are a writer, what are your thoughts? Have you ever attended a conference? Did your first conference change your outlook and attitude? What were some changes you saw in yourself after going to a conference?

If you are a reader, curious about my writing life, what are your thoughts? Have you ever attended a conference for your craft or profession? Did your first conference change your outlook and attitude? What were some changes you had after going to a conference? And if you knew your favorite author attended conferences, would this influence your opinion of that author?

Please join in the replying comments below. As writers and readers, we come together; it’s a “we thing.” -Elle-

 

 

 

 

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“What’s that book you’re reading?”

Have you ever wondered if you should pick up a certain book?

If so, you’re not alone. People turn to others to ask, Is that book any good?”

Have you ever wondered why (or otherwise, been frustrated that) your favorite bookstore or neighborhood library doesn’t carry the book you want?

Many factors go into book buying decisions for these places. And it’s the reviews that count! Every single review, even the critical review stacked next to the 5-star reviews is a powerful and positive influence in the book buying industry. Ultimately, these reviews keep the author writing based on readers’ needs and gets books out into the world.

Have you ever read a book and then thought, “That was great!” or “Gee, I want to tell the author what I think.” (??)

There is a way. It’s called Posting a Review.”

Writing a review for a book is not rocket science. (Trust me, it’s not.)

Tip 1: Say something about the story line without revealing spoilers.

For example, Author Richard DeVall says in his full-length review “Elle Mott is like Marilyn Monroe, men want to rescue her, and women want to be her friend.” (How is she like Marilyn? Rescue—how, why? Women? Who? Tell me more.)

Tip 2: Add your feelings. Could you resonate with the story, even if the details are different? If so, say how and why. Or did you experience that too? If so, say so.  A library worker put this in her review:  “Elle Mott’s chaotic journey makes one appreciate who we have in life and how we get through both trials and victories.”

Tip 3: Keep in mind that stories and memoirs are subjective, and just because it didn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to someone else. If it didn’t grab you, explain in your review why you didn’t like the story. That’s what reviews are for. (But) remember that the author put their heart and soul into this piece of work and a lot of time. If you did not like something in the book, be constructive.

An example from my reviews: “Difficult to read at times, but like a train wreck, just couldn’t walk away for long. I found myself back in the pages, rooting for this woman. As the title suggests, she really does make it out of chaos.”

Tip 4: Keep it sweet and simple. A paragraph—your definition of a paragraph—is great. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. More so, think of it as sharing your input with someone. “Elle Mott doesn’t sugarcoat. Instead, she gives us an intimate, unflinching look….” (Emily Hitchcock).

Tip 5:  An author-to-author comparison or the like can be a fun and easy way to give that review. When at my recent author presentation, one reader came up to me and said “It’s like the Ocean 11 movie, only it’s the Ocean 8 movie.” More than once I’ve heard it’s like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

In the replying comments found below this post,  a comparison is made with Down And Out In Paris And London by George Orwell.

You may ask, “Where do I post my review?”

Amazon is the leader when it comes to answering that question. However, it is not the only place to shout out your review. Goodreads, which is a community of readers, is another great place. And more simply, where you purchased your book (Barnes & Noble.com or Walmart.com for Kobo and more) is like-wise perfect. If you got it at the library, tell your librarian.

You may say, “Is there another way?”

Comment: “I don’t want to open an account on Goodreads or anywhere else.”

Message me your review and I’ll handle it from there.

Comment: “I don’t want to give my name.”

No problem. If where you post your review lets you do so anonymously, go for it. Another option is to message me your review and let me know not to include your name. I’ll take it from there, respecting your privacy.  It’s the review which counts.

Comment: “Amazon won’t let me.”

It’s true, our industry giant has rules and regulations and restrictions and oh my! If Amazon is a no-go, jump to Barnes and Noble.com or any of the other places mentioned.

Comment: “I’m really not that good at computer stuff.”

No worries—skip the logistics and shoot me a message. I’ll take it from there.

All-in-all, I hope I’ve shared well with you that reviews are ever so important and how to offer a review. For me, as an author, it will help leverage my current debut book and will help me as I write my next book.

Please review “Out of Chaos.”

I write to share not only my story but to hopefully touch you, making a difference in your life; a kindly one. As reviews filter in, you help me, and I help you. It’s a community thing. And I am so glad you are in my community.

Conclusion:

With any book you read, please know that your review is paramount.

In the comments, as a reader, please let me know how have any of the above questions affected you and have any of my answers helped you? If so or if not, share with us, as a community of writers and readers who hope to change our world for the better.

Helpful Links:

Post your review on Amazon. (Link here.)

Post your review on Goodreads. (Link here.)

Post your review on Barnes and Noble. (Link here.)

Message me.

See reviews for my debut book, a memoir, “Out of Chaos.”

-Elle-

*This post was revised on October 2, 2018.

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No longer in Chaos (Author Presentation)

Thank you to Tri-State Freethinkers (TSF) for asking me to share my journey at the September meeting.  TSF is a community involved, social, educational, and activist group. Speakers include local experts and organizations about the science of our world, experience of those from different backgrounds & causes that could use our help.  I was the first of four speakers on this night.

I discussed my debut book, a memoir: “Out of Chaos”.

Yes, my book is published and available for your reading. What is my book about? Well, that’s why I stepped up to the podium on this night at the TSF meeting. Through this group, I have had ample opportunities for volunteering. These volunteering commitments have given me a way to show my gratitude for life today, a life out of chaos.

A recent volunteer commitment took me to the Freestore Foodbank in downtown Cincinnati, near me, here on Liberty Street. It’s a choice pantry, laid out much like a grocery store. Volunteers are needed for keeping shelves stocked, bagging food, and helping customers. On that day, I was a runner. My job was to help load groceries into people’s cars or to help them gather their bags for their walk home. As we’d walk out together—me pushing their shopping cart to their car, it was easy to chat. One woman kept saying she was sorry for being so needy and for almost forgetting to get diapers.

I let her know there was no need to explain or be sorry. I’ve been there before, on the edge, wondering if I’d survive. I know what it is like—that raw empty feeling inside our gut, breaking down our mental and emotional cognition when having to depend on others for our very basics.

Yes, sometimes, I feel as though it’s an effort to choose to volunteer rather than hang out at home. But, I know that all I have to do is show up. From there, any inconvenience is uplifted as my happiness to get out of myself and be a real part of the community shows its face.

When we step up to volunteer, we make a difference in people’s lives. I know this. During the times I needed help, help was at times tough to find.  When I did get help; that help helped me help myself.

No matter what hardships we endure—or what mistakes we made—no matter where we go wrong or where society fails us, we can survive. And more than survive—by doing the action, we can make a life which gives us inner peace, a sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning.

 

A recap of my volunteering thus far with Tri-State Freethinkers:

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How about you? What difficulty have you faced and what has helped you to overcome such a troubling situation? Please share in the comments. Community is a “we thing.”

Together, we can and will make a difference; a positive difference!  -Elle-

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Rubber Ducks Help the Community

Rubber duck races are used in family-fun fundraising events by organizations worldwide.

HOW IT WORKS:  People donate money to the organization by sponsoring a rubber duck. Behind the scenes, before the event, volunteers put a bar code sticker on the bottom of each rubber duck. These bar codes tell who paid for the duck to race.

ON EVENT DAY:  These rubber ducks are then dumped into a waterway. The first rubber duck to float past the finish line wins a prize. These prizes are paid for and sponsored by area businesses.

Proceeds benefit a charity in need.

AFTER THE EVENT:   Rubber ducks are pulled out of the waterway or river with fishing nets. Each rubber duck has a buoy to keep it afloat.

Of interest, the same rubber ducks are used worldwide. When one community is done racing the ducks, the ducks are shipped or trucked to the next location for their next race. (Wow! These rubber ducks sure swim a lot, working hard in their fundraising efforts.)

 

Here, in the Cincinnati area, the 24th annual Rubber Duck Regatta will happen on Sunday, September 2 on the Ohio River off the Purple People Bridge. People will watch the race from both Kentucky and Ohio. Those on the Kentucky side of the river will gather at Newport on the Levee; and those on the Ohio side of the river, at Sawyer Point Park. Rubber ducks will race toward the Serpentine Wall.

Each year, twenty-four years strong, The Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati has sponsored this event. It is their largest fundraiser, raising money for children at risk of hunger. Every duck purchased (at $5) provides 15 meals for a child or family in need. (Wow! $5 goes a long way.) Partnering with area grocery stores, farmers, and others, The Freestore Foodbank has resources to stretch their budget.

PREPARING FOR EVENT DAY:  Yesterday, Saturday, I was behind the scenes in this effort. Me and many other volunteers showed up at their warehouse, putting those bar code stickers on the bottom of the ducks. Sadly, we’d sometimes come across a duck that just can’t make another race—their head is torn or the buoy in their bottom is no longer any good. These went into a box labeled, “Dead Ducks” (how sad).

In the morning shift, volunteers got 2,500 rubber ducks ready to race. In my afternoon shift, we did another 3,900. More volunteer shifts are available. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 rubber ducks will race next weekend!

Yesterday, I learned that this fundraiser is a huge help to the Freestore Foodbank when it comes to providing Power Pack Lunches for school kids throughout the year. 

 

These power packs are given to those children who are on the Free Lunch Program.  I’ve had my hands in these Power Packs, having volunteered to help put these together. Link here for that post.

 

 

Cincinnati’s Rubber Duck Regatta is the largest race in America, yet by far, not the only race which is impactful in the community. With hundreds of races held internationally, here are a few recent past rubber duck races:

The Incredible Duck Race in Tampa, Florida was on August 16, raising funds for their Kiwanis Club.

Reno, Nevada had their Duck Race and Festival on August 9 at Wingfield Park to benefit the Humane Society.

Chicago Ducky Derby was August 8, in support of Special Olympics.

In Columbus, Ohio, there was the Zoom Duck Derby on August 3, which benefited the Alpha Group in financial support for services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

And yesterday, August 25 was the Duck Race in East Peoria, Illinois. Proceeds from their event benefited The Center for Prevention of Abuse.

Szentendre, Hungary also had their charity event yesterday, August 25. (Pictured at right.)

 

 

 

 

Of the many-many upcoming races, these here are but a few:

The Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash to help Special Olympics is September 2. It will be at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.

On October 13 at the Bridgeport Park in Santa Clarita, California, their Rubber Ducky Festival will raise funding for under insured persons needing healthcare.

And the Incredible Duck Splash happens November 3 in Glendale, California, in support of their Kiwanis Club.

We can be a real part of our community.  I hope you will consider supporting the Rubber Duck Race in your area. It is a family-fun way to think of others and to help those in need, ultimately helping the whole community.

Please share about the Rubber Duck event in your community. You can drop your comments below, in reply to this post.

RESOURCES:

Cincinnati area: http://rubberduckregatta.org/

To find out more about Rubber Duck events in other communities– in your local area, visit the website for Game Fundraising or call 1-800-779-RACE.

-Elle-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Memory Lists by Denis Ledoux & the Memoir Network Team

This guest post comes to you from Mr. Denis Ledoux.

I first met Denis in a teleconference when I was learning to write my own memoir. I’ve since stayed tuned to his invaluable tips. I’ve also personally referred him to two of you—one, a friend, Brad, who as an older gentleman is writing his life story for his grandson. My other friend, who has seen hard times in losing loved ones wants help in writing her story—here too, I suggested Denis.

It is for you if you like to:

  • Write about your personal experiences
  • Write about your family history
  • Would like to leave a written legacy to your family
  • Enjoy exploring who you are through the creative art of writing.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Please note: The following post, MEMORY LISTS was developed by Denis Ledoux and the Memoir Network team at www.thememoirnetwork.com

It is being used with their kind permission. 

Memory Lists

People who attend Turning Memories Into Memoirs® workshops will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back?”

I spent a whole week making lists! Was that lifestory writing?
—Turning Memories Into Memoirs® workshop attendee.

There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of lifewriting successful. That tool is the Memory List. No other exercise opens up the process of lifewriting as quickly and as surely as the thoughtful and thorough compilation of the Memory List. It’s simple, and as a first step, it’s crucial.

Memory Lists Are the Backbone of Writing Memoir

In this lesson, I will talk about the Memory List (a general term for your list of memories), the Extended Memory List (its widest, most all-inclusive version) and the Core Memory List (the list refined to the ten most important memories).

Your Memory List is always a work in process because the more you remember and jot down, the more you’ll recall. You will return to and rework your Memory List again and again as you write your lifestories.

The Extended Memory List 

The Extended Memory List consists of short memory notes (three to five words is sufficient) of people, events, relationships, thoughts, feelings, things–anything–from your past. The list is usually random and always uncensored. Each line lists a different memory. When you write a different memory, start a new line. Do not feel compelled to write in full sentences. (In fact, I urge you not to write in full sentences!)

I’ve never been a very observant person. Things just happened around me, and I didn’t really notice them. So, what do I write about?
—Workshop writer

  • Let the logic of creating a Memory List be internal. Do not force yourself to be chronological (“everything I did when I was sixteen”) or thematic (“my father”), and do not strive for
    cause-and-effect relationships (“because this happened, that followed…”) unless the memories come that way spontaneously.
  • Do not censor your memories. As soon as you find yourself thinking something like “Is this
    really important enough?” you are censoring your memory and compromising your Memory List. Censoring can result in a list that is less comprehensive—and therefore, less useful to you as a lifewriter–than it would be if you allowed yourself to be free-flowing and uncensored. Let yourself go where your imagination takes you.
  • A Memory List includes both big items and small ones. Any of the following are “on target” for a Memory List:
    • brother Stan died
    • green wallpaper
    • stage coaches and buttes
    • Sister Marie Gertrude fell on stairs
    • my parents divorced
    • blue Schwinn bicycle
  • The list is for you, and you’re the only one for whom it needs to have meaning. No one else will see it unless you share it. Include enough data to make the notes understandable to you at some future time. Don’t fall into the trap of writing something cryptic like “cap.” In a month’s time, you may not remember which “cap,” or whose, you were remembering. But, if you wrote “Bob’s Red Sox cap/1970,” it is likely you will have enough of a cue to recall what you meant.

Your stories are waiting to be told. Your task is to let them emerge from the depths of your memory.

  • The Extended Memory List ought to be fairly long. It is not unusual for a writer to spend two or three weeks or even months compiling it. You will find yourself adding to it regularly in the months ahead as more and more memories come to you. This Extended Memory List will go in your three-ring binder. It will serve as your source of writing inspiration and be a tremendous time saver. Whenever you sit down to write, you won’t need to spend time coming up with a topic. All you have to do is pick an item on the list and write about it. (Write everything you remember about the “blue Schwinn bicycle” you mentioned on your list.) With your Memory List, you need never again have writer’s block. With an extensive list of memories to pick from, you will always have a ready prompt.

We offer much in the Memoir Education area, but if you want even more, check out the our Learning Memoir Writing programs: Write Your First Memoir Draft and Writer’s Time: Management That Works.
[Denis Ledoux offers this, found on his website at  www.thememoirnetwork.com.]

The Core Memory List

The Core Memory List is a list of the crucial relationships and events which have shaped your life. It contains just ten or fewer items.

 

This is because Core Memory Lists are about the relationships and events which, had they not occurred, your life (or your mother’s or father’s, etc.) would have taken a different turn, and you would absolutely have become a different person from the one you are.

If life teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t have inexhaustible energy and time. It is perfectly possible to run out of both before we get all our stories written. With this in mind, because you have compiled the Core Memory List, you can identify your most important lifestories—the ones about the prime relationships and events of your life—and concentrate on writing these first. These few core memories serve well as the backbone of your longer lifewriting project. The peripheral stories can be dealt with later–as time and energy permit.

What kind of items will appear on the Core Memory List? The answer is: only big items. Here are a few Core Memory List possibilities:

  • a major illness or a death in the family
  • the arrival of a sibling
  • the community
  • the town or neighborhood, the ethnic, religious or social
    group you grew up in
  • a significant fire, flood, car accident or historic event
  • a formative relationship with an older person or a peer
  • a failure or success at school
  • scholarships, sports or arts awards, a decision to go or not go
    to the university
  • conflict with a teacher, having to leave school for work
  • boyfriends/girlfriends, deciding to marry or to not marry
  • marriage and relationships
  • children and family life
  • career choices and changes, successes, failures
  • religious and spiritual quests and experiences

Limit your Core Memory List to ten items. Limiting yourself to ten—admittedly an arbitrary number—forces you to evaluate and select the most significant material to start writing about.

The items on your Core Memory List are almost never splashy events: not the time when you met someone famous briefly and superficially (e.g. Elvis Presley kissed you goodbye on the cheek when you both happened to be at the same airport in 1965!) but something essential like deciding (or deciding not) to move away or marry, or like winning a scholarship and going to the university instead of going to work at the mill (or vice versa).

One way to create a Core Memory List is to analyze the Extended Memory List you have already compiled. You may notice that a number of seemingly separate items are really part of a single category and might be grouped together into one story.

Instead of scattering, or listing separately, the names of the men (or women) you dated from your eighteenth to your twenty-fourth year, you might cluster these relationships under a Core Memory List heading like “Getting ready to meet my husband/wife.”

In this category, you might make a sub-list of the more significant relationships you had. This would create a natural occasion for you to write about how your understanding of what you needed in a mate matured over those years as you dated each of these people until you were finally ready to marry. By grouping extended Memory List items, you can discover core stories and make it easier for the reader to understand or evaluate your experience.

Compiling a Core Memory List will make it easier for you to organize your material early in the writing process and assure that you write your most important stories first.

By identifying core influences in your life, you can focus on them quickly in your lifewriting. In this way, you will develop a body of stories that depict the person you are and have been. If your time and energy is limited, you will not squander either one on writing about secondary events in your life. Perhaps you and your friends were impressed, at the time, that Elvis kissed you at the airport, but how has this influenced your development as a person?

If you have the interest and the time, later on, you can write about the secondary events in your life. Otherwise, you may find yourself having “run out of wind” on the unessential stories before you commit your core stories to paper.

Action Steps 

Start Your Memory List Now!

Write down at least twenty memories to start off your Memory List (fifty would be better, and a hundred preferable).

  • Place these pages in your three-ring binder.
  • Every day, continue to add memories to your list. Do not stop until you have five hundred items. (Yes, five hundred!)
  • Take your time to mull over your Memory List. Add or delete, combine or expand until you have a list that represents your life.

In conclusion…

Whatever you do today, write a bit on your memoir.
Denis Ledoux and the Memoir Network Team.

A NOTE FROM ELLE:

Thank you, Denis. As you taught me, I like to remember, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s hard.”

 

Friends, please share in the comments below of your writing journey with memories. If this post has helped, please share how.   And I believe Denis would enjoy it if you’d visit his website.  -Elle-

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Helping out in the Community

The Freestore Foodbank in downtown Cincinnati gave an urgent shout-out last Friday for volunteer help, come Saturday morning. They were low in their count of registered volunteers. While I could have felt my Saturday was already filled up, I figured where there’s a will, there’s a way. I split a shift with someone else.

Following an early morning visit with a friend, I then joined my local writers group. Before doing my weekly shopping on my drive home, I stopped by to offer a helping hand with this food bank.

Helping is my way of showing gratitude. As my recently published memoir shows, I was once on the receiving end—and I’ve also been on the taking end, not proud of my choices when a young woman. Today, my living amends for yesteryear are found in my volunteerism.

I’m so glad I showed up to help—it gave me connection to those in need; a heart-felt connection. My job was to be with folks as they left the food bank. Often I helped load their food into their car. Sometimes it was to help them gather their sacks to carry in their walk home.

Chatting, it was easy for me to relate to what they were going through. One woman— (paraphrasing, here)—tried apologizing to me for her neediness and forgetfulness—“Diapers, oh I need diapers, too.” I let her know there was no need to explain her forgetfulness—I’ve been there before, on the edge, wondering if I’d survive—our mental and emotional cognition is so broken down when leaning on others. “I understand.”

Picture retrieved from Freestore Foodbank website.

According to the Freestore’s website, this food bank serves up to 300 families daily and more than 88,000 individuals annually.

From what I saw, these numbers are a gross understatement. Only so many people could shop at one time. This left a long line of people waiting their turn. The line never grew short. People in need kept showing up.

The Freestore Foodbank operates under Feeding America, a national association of affiliated food banks. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state in America.

While my reasons for being a part of my community is my way of giving back for what I have received, other reasons are abundant when it comes to volunteering. Some people volunteer to fill their free hours, some for something worthy to do during retirement, and for some, it is to show their concern for those less well-off. No matter our reasons, it is our opportunity to come together to make our community a better place for everyone.   

To join the volunteering efforts, you can find out who to contact in your local area and how by visiting the Feeding America website. On this page is a search bar for your zip code.

We can make a difference!

RESOURCES

Link to Freestore Foodbank.

Feeding America. Find your local calling to volunteer by linking here.

-Elle-

 

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