Tomorrow observes, among other things, National Write Down Your Story Day and Sunday is National Let’s Laugh Day! For many years, before Mom began her Secret RecipesTM business, she wrote satirical columns for various papers. Mom’s stories about how she delt with various situations, in our family and at work, always make me laugh.
Mom wrote down her story, often, in all of her self-published books and newsletters. Most notably, she wrote her (and our family’s) story in her self-published book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989), from which I often reference her anecdotes (aka: “MOM’S MEMORIES”).
Mom’s stories, about her dealings with our family’s humorous life-happenings, often blended facts with a little fabrication – just enough to entice a laugh. She was a talented writer. As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, she was greatly inspired, throughout her life, by many talented and funny women like Carol Burnette and Erma Bombeck, just to name a couple.
March is also National Craft Month. Writing a story/book can be considered a craft (an activity involving skill in making things by hand). Like Mom, since I was a young girl, I’ve always loved writing, drawing, and crafting things. Creativity was always encouraged and nurtured by our parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles – whenever I or my siblings crafted anything. I’ve written enough poetry to produce a book or two but I’ve yet to try to publish them.
In my blog posts, I’ve often written about how Mom inspired me – as a writer, artist, crafter, homemaker, cook, mother… The list goes on. A variety of artistic and creative skills seem to run in my family. If there is such a thing as an “artistic gene”, I feel lucky and grateful that my family and I seem fortunate to have it.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 25-28)
THE LITTLE STEPS [cont’d]
WHEN I WROTE THAT very first poem that the Detroit News published when I was in the fourth or fifth grade at the US Grant School in Royal Oak, I was headed toward this livelihood and didn’t even know it.
When I wrote “The Young Pioneer” that same year with the girls who lived on the block, after we saw the movie about the life of the Brontë sisters, I was being directed towards this livelihood… Each was a little step in the right direction, in the direction toward which our entire family would come, and gratefully so.
The beginning of my interest in writing seriously began with the poem – a class assignment – and no one could’ve been more surprised than me to find it published in the newspaper… I remember that it was [after] the war ended… World War II. Every Saturday, the kids on the block would walk up town to the main theater where, for 11-cents, we could see a double feature, cartoons and a cliffhanger serial.
The movie that made the biggest impression on me and really started my emotional batteries to move me into writing, was the story of the Brontë sisters [Devotion (Warner Bros. Pictures, 1946)] – Anne, Charlotte and Emily Jane. One of them [Charlotte] wrote ‘Jane Eyre’ and [Emily] wrote the classic novel, ‘Wuthering Heights’.
They wrote without the benefit of a typewriter, which made an impression on me then. So, on the way home from the movie, I coaxed my friends into stopping with me at the dime store so I could buy a pack of notebook paper and a pair of long, heavy shoelaces.
I was going to fashion these into a manuscript like the Brontë sisters used in the movie. Ordinarily, we would’ve gone to the Royal Oak Sweet Shop on Main Street near Fourth for a soda or some Divinity or fudge to nibble on, but I was saving my quarter for writing paper.
It is good, sometimes, in looking back at how far we have come from the first steps that were to lead us into a bright direction… In our office, I have a file drawer that is full of newspaper clippings that have been written about us and our recipes. These go back to 1974…
Before I ever wrote the ‘Secret Recipes Book’ [in 1976], I [had] assembled a small volume of American dishes to celebrate the bicentennial. Several copies of that little book, ‘The American Cookery Cookbook’, were purchased by the Henry Ford Museum at Greenfield Village in Dearborn [Michigan].
A curious young reporter, who was going through the Museum’s collection of new books, came across mine. He tried to purchase a copy, he later told me, by contacting every bookstore in the area. No one had even heard of me. I was not even listed in the ‘books in print’ directory.
So he returned to the museum and copy down the address from the cover of my book, looked us up in the phone directory and gave us a call. Once Dan Martin of Newsday Wire Service Features saw what the production of our monthly newsletter was like, he lost interest in that little bicentennial cookbook.
When he knocked on the door, that day, it was like inviting him into a Jean Kerr production of ‘Please Don’t Eat the Daisies’. There were a dozen baskets of ironing here and there in the large dining room, each [one] tagged with the name, phone number and date promise to the customer who left [it] with me to be ironed.
Two long tables under the windows were covered with freshly mimeographed 4” x 6” cards of recipes, spread out for the ink to dry. Several times a week, I printed up to 200 recipes and about 50 copies of each. At that time, we sold these through our newsletter for five-for-a-dollar or $.25 apiece. We did very well with them too!
In the living room, Debbie’s friends had gathered with their drivers’ training manuals to quiz each other for the big day coming up when those six teenagers would be taking their driving tests. In the kitchen, Cheryl and Lorie were working on Girl Scout badge projects with some of their friends. It was a madhouse!
Mr. Pipersack was shuffling in and out of the side porch door, trying to unplug the bathroom pipes and clean out the septic tank for us. In the back room, where the prehistoric furnace was located that heated our 80-year-old house.
A man from the gas company was arguing with a man from the Edison company about what was wrong with our furnace and why it wouldn’t work. They finally asked me if my husband owned a screwdriver. I told them, ‘of course!’ They looked at each other and then looked at me, then one of them said, ‘hide it!’
Our oldest son, Bill, was hunting through the kitchen drawers for some tools at that moment, so that he could get under the hood of his mustang out in the driveway and then let Mr. Pipersack pull his truck into the yard. Mike, our next oldest, was on the phone trying to convince a girl that the things she had heard about him weren’t true and if he could get his dad’s car on Saturday, would she go to the movies with them.
The cat was having a litter of kittens under the sewing table and our police dog, Susie, was about to have a litter of pups and was moping about, looking for comfort. I now wonder how any serious writer could have found inspiration in that kind of environment.
I almost wish we had given the impression that we were like the Brady Bunch so that the article the reporter was going to write, would have reflected better on our being normal and average; but frankly, I think I like the Brady Bunch because we could all learn so much from their faultless fantasies about family life.
One of my earliest memories of me & my mom is when she taught me how to write the alphabet and my name, from how to hold the pencil and draw the letters, to putting those wonderful letters together into words. I grew to love writing and crafting, mostly because of Mom. English and art were two of my most favorite subjects throughout school.
I was always amazed and inspired by how Mom managed to work at the newspaper and start her own business, doing what she loved most (writing), while juggling all of her other responsibilities; with a husband, 5 kids, and a dog for which to care. We were a dysfunctional, “real life” version of the Brady family.
There’s no better time than now to write your story down. Leave your legacy in a memoir. Capture the essence of who you are. Include your traditions, life-lessons, values, special moments, accomplishments, beliefs and hopes. Share your favorite pictures, too. It’s your story, run with it!
Turn it into a printed book – size doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of options online for “print on demand” companies. Your local printer can probably do it, too. Believe it or not, your story can be a great, personalized gift for family (and close friends) on any holiday or special occasion.
In honor of Saturday, being National Sloppy Joe Day, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for a Slow Cooker version of “Manwich [Style] Sloppy Joe Mix”; as seen in her self-published cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; June 1997, p. 33).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
March celebrates, among other things… Irish-American Heritage Month, National Caffeine Awareness Month, National Celery Month, National Flour Month, National Sauce Month, and National Women’s History Month!
March is unofficially Maple Sugaring Month in Michigan! It’s not a national holiday but making maple syrup is a big event around here! There’s a really great article about sugaring [which is the process of gathering maple sap and making it into sugar and/or syrup – NOT the hair-removal process by the same name] at the Michigan State University’s Extension’s website, called March is Maple Syrup Season in Michigan.
[NOTE: Lent began on Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, and will run throughout March, until Thursday, April 6th (for 2023).]
This week is also celebrating… National Girl Scout Week.
Today is additionally… National Good Samaritan Day, National Coconut Torte Day, and National Open an Umbrella Indoors Day! Plus, as the day after Daylight Savings Time Day (for 2023), it’s also… National Napping Day!
Tomorrow is… National Children’s Craft Day (plus, it’s National Craft Month), National Learn About Butterflies Day, and National Potato Chip Day! In honor of the first aforementioned, here’s Mom’s secret recipe for Homemade Finger Paints, from her self-published cookbook, The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; June 1997, p. 44).
March 18th is… National Awkward Moments Day and National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day! Additionally, as the third Saturday in March (for 2023), it’s also… National Quilting Day! Plus, as the first Saturday of “March Madness” (March 12th-April 3rd for 2023), it’s also… National Corn Dog Day!
Sunday March 19th is… National Chocolate Caramel Day and National Poultry Day! [NOTE: Mar. 19, 1991, is also the anniversary of Mom’s second appearance on The Home Show (Los Angeles; ABC-TV), with Carol Duvall.]
…11 down and 41 to go!