Thursday, May 30, 2013

Discover the Value of Writing for Healing and Hope

One of the beautiful things about living this life without is how we have the freedom to help others without. What a sad world it would be if we kept all knowledge to ourselves---all nuggets of wisdom, all beads of hope, all glimpses of truth. The beauty is that in our despair we seek and do find life-giving morsels along the way to share with others. Writing through pain has been my respite. When my son Daniel first died I looked forward to dates with my journal each evening. In the pages of my journal, I penned my pain and sorrow.

Like Alice Walker said, "Writing saved me."

It saved me from harboring bitterness, relentless anger and fear. As I wrote, I gained wisdom. Wisdom about loss, sorrow, and even ways to cope. I was asked to speak at conferences and instruct writing workshops. I watched as tentative writers—writers who thought that they could not write—wipe tears from their eyes after reading aloud a poem or letter.

I love hearing how others have found the gift of writing to be a healing method to deal with the rocky path of bereavement. I challenge you to use your journal as a place where you can discover the healing and health that comes with putting pen to paper.

26 Steps to Effectively Writing the Heartache

1. Buy a journal.
2. Find a secluded place to write where you can think clearly without distractions.
3. Candles and/or soft music may create a soothing mood for you as you write.
4. Write freely.
5. Write honestly.
6. Don’t worry about grammar or penmanship.
7. Write, at first, for your eyes only. This doesn’t have to be shared with anyone.
8. Write daily, if you can.
9. Write to remember your child. Your thoughts and reflections of him or her are a keepsake or a legacy.
10. Write to gain insight into this bereavement journey.
11. Write to chart progress for you to read years down the road.
12. Write with the feeling: I will survive this.
13. Write to identify your emotions and feelings.
14. Write to help solve some of the new situations you must now face.
15. Write to understand the new you (self-awareness).
16. Carry your journal and /or paper with you at all times in case you have the need to write. Even place your journal by your bedside to record in the mornings dreams you find significant.
17. Think of your journal as a friend who never judges and who can never hurt you.
18. Write your spiritual struggles.
19. Write a letter to your child about what has happened since he died.
20. Write a food-related memory you have of your child.
21. Write of hope even if it may only seem too far to grasp during the early season of loss. People who have had a child die many years before you, now speak of hope. One day you will be able to tell newly bereaved parents hope can be gained.
22. Write your own Psalm of agony or of gratitude.
23. Take the memory of your child with you on an outing and write about the day through his eyes.
24. Use your journal as a punching bag in the sense you can spout off through your pen at someone who has been insensitive towards you without having to literally punch him or her.
25. Write to rebuild your self-esteem and self-confidence.
26. Write a poem of love to your child.

(From Down the Cereal Aisle: A Basket or Recipes and Remembrances, 2003, by Alice J. Wisler)

Check out my workshops in June and July at my website!
June 3: Writing the Heartache Online Workshop (runs for five weeks)
June 15: Write to Create for all aspiring writers, held all day in Raleigh, NC
June 22: Writing to a Healthier You, held all day in Norcross, GA
July 27: Journey through Life's Losses, held all day in Raleigh, NC

Friday, May 24, 2013

All Things Southern: Cheese Straws!

Cheese straws! I've always liked them and thought of them as a delicacy. Even in Japan, where I grew up, my missionary neighbor from North Carolina, would have a tin of cheese straws as a special treat, shipped over from the U.S.

Recently, I went to Williams-Sonoma at The Streets of Southpoint (a.k.a. Southpoint Mall to most of us in Durham, North Carolina) and met someone who knows a lot more about cheese straws than I do. Ashley Sellars, who resides in the state's coastal town of Beaufort, actually makes cheese straws, using her mother's recipe.

So what is the origin of these thin cheddar cheesy delights that have a hint of spice? Well, first off, most would agree that cheese straws are Southern. (However, if you want to debate that, you are not alone; there's a website that has a whole lot of discussion, basically wondering if the origin of cheese straws involves the British.)

The story told in the South is that a thrifty cook mixed leftover biscuit dough with some cheese, formed it into pencil-shaped strips and baked these strips along with the biscuits. (More on this at The Nibble.) The new items were enjoyed as a snack instead of at meals. Soon the cheese straw was known throughout the U.S. Yes, it became very popular! The most basic recipe for the dough is made with grated cheddar cheese, flour, salt and baking powder, and cut with a pastry wheel into long, narrow strips, hence the form of "straws".

For many Southern hostesses, cheese straws are part of the appetizer tray. Served with coffee, hot tea, lemonade or iced tea on a breezy porch under a magnolia tree creates an ideal scene. Lately, the cheese straw has been served with drinks that have a bit more of a kick. In fact, cheese straws apparently go well with cocktails and are sophisticated enough for even the fanciest party. (They get invited out often!)

There are even a wide-range of varieties these days, some straws are shorter and robust, taking on the shape of a rectangle; others are twisted and made from puff pastry. Some are coin-sized.

Haven't tasted a cheese straw yet? Check out 350 Cheese Straws, Ashley Sellars' website. Tell her I sent ya!

Guest Author: Jo Huddleston

Welcome to my blog, Jo!

I am excited about your recent novel, Beyond the Past (book #2 of the Caney Creek Series). I see you are ready to conduct an interview with one of your characters. Let's listen in.

JO: This interview by me of Jim Callaway takes place in January 1, 1951, in Newton, Tennessee. Jim is the oldest of five Callaway siblings and they turn to him to help and advice. Jim owns and runs a hosiery mill in Newton.

JO: Hello, Mr. Callaway, thank you for meeting with me during your office hours.

JIM: You’re welcome. Please call me Jim.

JO: Happy New Year. Jim, a lot has happened to you since your left the Callaway farm when you were 17.
JIM: Yes, ma’am, it sure has. Some good, some bad.

JO: Please tell me about them.

JIM: I did leave the farm. Poppa treated all us kids unfair and being the oldest, I decided I wouldn’t take it any longer. I hated to leave my brothers and sisters there with my poppa being so mean. And I really hated to leave Momma, but she wouldn’t leave with me. I told myself that the other kids would leave when they got old enough, like I was doing.

JO: Then what happened?

JIM: I did what I set out to do. I got myself to a nearby town, Newton. I got a job at the hosiery mill, had a room all to myself in a widow lady’s house, money in my pocket, and girlfriends. One girlfriend was even the mill owner’s daughter.

JO: Sounds like things really were good for you.

JIM: Yes, ma’am, I thought so but I let everything go to my head. I got arrogant, hard to get along with, didn’t manage my money right. And, mainly, I thought I could do everything on my own, without help from anybody. That’s when I started straying away from God. I was really messed up.

JO: You seem to be a good guy now. How did you get out of your mess?

JIM: My family, my friends, and especially my landlady tried to tell me what all I was doing wrong and how to turn it around. But I wouldn’t listen to them. Till the day one of my girlfriends, Louisa, said I had to pick one of them, that she wasn’t going to share me with Caroline, the mill owner’s daughter. Along about then the Lord started working on me. My conscience wouldn’t let me rest. So I prayed my way back to God and he accepted me. He’d never stopped loving him. It was me that had walked away from Him.

JO: I’m sure glad you got all the bad stuff straightened out.

JIM: That’s not all the bad stuff. At Christmas, Caroline just vanished out of town. She was in college near Atlanta. All my letters to her came back. I didn’t know where she was or why she left. That was about the time Louisa said I had to choose between Caroline and her. Caroline being gone without an explanation and not letting me know where she was, helped me to make up my mind. Louisa and I married.

JO: Were you and Louisa happy together?

JIM: Oh, yes. Yes, we were happy! We had a baby girl. We named her Lynn. That was Louisa’s middle name. Then when Momma and Poppa died with pneumonia that came down from the Carolinas, my baby sister, Emmajean, wouldn’t let anybody else hold her except me. Louisa and I brought her home with us. My other sister, Shirley Ann, married Henry Frank Stevens and they took my two brothers to live with them on Henry Frank’s folks’ farm.

JO: Jim, I’m sorry you lost your parents. After that though it seems things were looking up.

JIM: Maybe it looks that way. But when Lynn was two years old Louisa died of pneumonia . . . . I’m telling you, that was the worst time of my whole life. I wanted God to take me on with Louisa but I knew I had to raise Lynn. I couldn’t have done that without the help of Louisa’s sister, Callie, my sister, and my landlady, Mrs. Hall. My little sister, my baby, and I lived on at Mrs. Hall’s. She put us up in two rooms, side by side.

JO: As you said, that was the worst of your times. Can you please tell me about the good times you’ve had?

JIM: Okay. When the mill owner and his wife were killed in a car accident, their wills left me the mill and their home. You see, for some reason, when Caroline left, her parents disowned her. She never returned. They left everything to me. I own the mill now.

JO: Is that about it for the good things that have happened to you?

JIM: One more thing—I found Caroline and my son.

JO: Are you looking forward to 1951?

JIM: I really was because I wanted to work things out with Caroline and our children, James and Lynn. But on January 1, Emmajean, my baby sister, telephoned me from Atlanta, in some legal trouble.

JO: Why did she telephone you? Did she think you could help her way down in Atlanta?

JIM: Well, to answer your first question, she and I were very close growing up. When our parents died I was the only one she wanted to comfort her. She came to live with my wife and me when she was just a young teenager. As for your second question, she left Newton as soon as she graduated from high school. We haven’t seen much of her for the last 12 years. I’m thinking she must not have any friends down there and when she got into trouble, she naturally called me to help her.

JO: What kind of trouble is she in?

JIM: Well, it’s some kind of trouble with drugs and a friend of hers. I had a lawyer in Atlanta get to her as soon as he could and then I left for Atlanta myself. I’m going back down there tomorrow for her arraignment and I’ll probably know more.

JO: So, as soon as you get Emmajean’s problem taken care of, you can devote your time to Caroline and your children?

JIM: Well, no, not really. My best friend, Arthur, has a son who’s a senior in high school and he’s giving his dad a lot of trouble. Arthur needs my help too even if it is just moral support. So I’m staying close for him and going back and forth to Atlanta to see Emmajean.

JO: That doesn’t leave you much time for your personal plans, does it?

JIM: No, it certainly doesn’t. I’m torn among here and Atlanta and Knoxville, where Caroline lives and the children go to school.

JO: How long do you think it will be before Emmajean and Arthur won’t need your help?

JIM: I really don’t know.

JO: Can’t you put your own personal wishes first for a while?

JIM: I won’t turn my back on my baby sister and my best friend!

JO: Please excuse me, I didn’t mean to offend you.

JIM: I apologize for speaking harsh to you. It’s just that I’m going in so many directions. When I’m in Atlanta, I need to be here for Arthur. Then when I’m here for Arthur and running my mill, I need to be in Knoxville for my children and Caroline. I want to be with Caroline and my children.

JO: I hope Caroline understands the quandary you’re in.

JIM: I think sometimes she does but the situation I’m in also tries her patience.

JO: Is Caroline a patient person?

JIM: I’ll probably be finding out how patient she is before too long.


About Jo . . .

Jo Huddleston's debut novel, That Summer, released in December 2012 as the first book in The Caney Creek Series. Huddleston holds a B.A. degree with honors from Lincoln Memorial University (TN), and is a member of their Literary Hall of Fame. She earned a M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Professional membership: American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

About Beyond the Past

Emmajean Callaway’s life in Atlanta plummets from bad to worse. Can big brother, Jim, lead her back to the family who loves her and also hold the imploding Callaway family together? Jim Callaway looks forward to 1951 and the chance to forge a relationship with Caroline after twenty years apart. He’s sidetracked when his sister and his best friend need his help. His baby sister, Emmajean, skids into jail on drug charges in Atlanta. The ordeal of incarceration and trial diminishes her and she needs rescuing, not only physically but spiritually. She struggles toward recovery and restoration with her lawyer’s help as he champions her inside and outside the courtroom. Jim’s nephew Art is one step ahead of the truant officer, wrecks his car, and officials suspect alcohol is involved. Art awaits his fate at the hands of the juvenile court judge. Jim and Caroline continue their bumpy journey as they seek realization of their dreams, wondering if they really can overcome obstacles to their being together after so many years.

Order a copy

You can order a copy of Beyond the Past by going to this link. You can also enter to win a signed print copy below because Jo has offered to give a copy to one winner!

Here are the rules to enter the giveaway:

1) You must follow this blog (If you are already a follower, great. If not, scroll up and follow at the FOLLOW THIS BLOG section on the right of this post.)
2) You must leave a comment with your email included
3) You must have a U.S.A. mailing address

Answer this question: What is your favorite cake? (There is a wedding cake in this novel, so going with the cake theme, leave a comment telling about your favorite cake.)

Contest ends June 4th!

Thanks for joining in to play!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Where Memories Live: Memories Around the Table: Treasured Recipes

"Recall as often as you wish, a happy memory never wears out." ~ Libbie Fudim

I am putting the finishing touches on my third cookbook of memories, Memories Around the Table. This is an exciting time!

Many have submitted recipes and memories for my book and I am beyond grateful. This cookbook, like my others, will hold the wonderful memories of those we can no longer share a meal with. But the memories make us smile and when we remember, we are grateful that each person who is no longer with us, is still part of our heartfelt memories. As Thomas Campbell said, "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die."

I must admit that I do get hungry as I read about cakes, cookies, breads and meats. I keep a tissue nearby; these remembrances connected with the recipes grab at my bereaved mother's heart.

I will continue to post updates here about my cookbook as it goes through the production stages. It heads to the printer on Friday.

Thanks to all who have made donations in memory of their loved ones for the project. You are much appreciated!

Stay tuned!