heroes

More than a Game

Lynette M Burrows, spooky apple orchard,When I was a child, about eight- or nine-years-old, my mother went to the hospital to have her third child. My brother and I were packed off to an aunt and uncle’s house. Now, this aunt and uncle had five children. The two oldest were off to college. The two youngest were about the same age as my brother and I. The middle child was a teenager, uninterested and uninvolved in the lives of children.

My aunt and uncle lived in an old farmhouse that had been updated. There was an attic with two bedroom spaces, each holding a pair of bunk beds. The second-floor held four more bedrooms. A living room, kitchen, dining room, and den made up the first floor. And there was a basement, the realm of the children. The basement had several rooms of bookcases and cabinets and a door to the outside.

Outside was a wonder. A  grape arbor and an orchard gave us plenty of room to be rowdy kids running around.

The three boys and I invented an adventure game. Being the only girl, I was the heroine or the damsel in distress, depending upon the turn of the play. The boys were the heroes and occasional victims. The evil villain was invisible, an unknown who left threatening notes. We dashed in and out of the basement, zig-zagged through the spooky fruit trees and grabby grape vines, uncovered clues and threatening notes, did heroic deeds, and wore ourselves out with fun.

Lynette M Burrows, grabby grape vines, Heather Hopkins

I’m certain we had quieter activities after a filling evening meal, but I don’t remember those. I do remember climbing upstairs to the attic bedroom, into the lower bunk, and falling fast asleep.

I woke gasping for air. Ice cold hands were around my throat, choking me! I couldn’t see who the cloaked villain was but screamed for help. The three boys rushed to the room and pounded the villain with their fists. Lights came on, the villain disappeared. I sobbed my tale of fear to my aunt and uncle.

The boy heroes identified the dastardly villain as my teen-aged cousin. He was punished. I was soothed. The visit was short (probably not to my aunt and uncle). My brother and I went home and welcomed our new baby sister.

Today, I feel bad for my teenaged cousin. He took the game a little too far, perhaps, yet, the choking was minimal and momentary, or I wouldn’t have been able to scream.  Looking back, I was frightened, but the fright was temporary.  I have a fun-to-tell memory, my brother and cousins got to be real heroes, and I got a story, two blog posts, and a novel out of the adventure!

What do you recall fondly? Childhood memories? Adventures as a Teen? Trials and Tribulations of being an adult? Any lessons you learned from these? Please share your story below in the comments below.

 

Images: “Vines at Dusk” via  Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Heather Hopkins.

“Spooky Apple Orchard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of R. L. Rose

Remembering: Veterans History Project

Veterans Tribute picture by DVIDSHUB

by DVIDSHUB, Flickr Creative Commons, www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/6309549518/

It’s Veteran’s Day in the United States. Other countries also honor their veterans. Whether it’s called Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, it’s a day dedicated to thank and remember the men and women who have served in one of their country’s armed services.

In the U.S., we have national and regional observances. There are banquets, parades, free meal offers, special discounts, and hundreds of charities through which we try to say thank you to our veterans. As a country we have become more aware and more grateful to the soldiers who have served in the military since September 11, 2001. But we have other veterans, some of them feel forgotten and under appreciated. We can thank them and make certain they are not forgotten. We need to remember all of our veterans.

In October 2000, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to create the Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. It is program that collects and preserves the first-hand stories of America’s wartime veterans, primarily oral histories. VHP collects personal narratives, letters, and visual materials from veterans of: World War I (1914-1920); World War II (1939-1946); the Korean War (1950-1955); the Vietnam War (1961-1975); the Persian Gulf War (1990-1995), and the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present). It will also accept the first-hand stories of citizens who were actively involved in supporting the war (USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.). (Please be aware that there are other websites that use the name Veterans History Project, but are not part of the Library of Congress.)

The VHP collection is available to the public at the Library of Congress. There is no charge. Of the 60,000 collections available more than 5,000 are fully digitized and may be accessed through the website. If you need a specific collection or specific subject researched, there is an Ask the Librarian feature you can use.

About now you’re asking yourself, how does this help me thank veterans? You can help make certain veterans stories are collected. Record an interview an American veteran one you know, or one you get to know for the purpose of participating in this project. Their experiences are an important part of American history. Recording their stories assures that they won’t be forgotten, that they are honored, remembered, and respected. Go, print off the VHP Field Kit to get the specifics on how to record the interview and submit it to VHP.

Not an American? I was able to find oral history collections available for my Canadian friends, at the Military Oral History collections of the University of Victoria Libraries and for my Australian friends there is the Through My Eyes collection at the Australians At War website.

US Army soldier on duty

by Mateus_27:24&25
creative commons license
www.flickr.com/photos/mateus27_24-25/3118326650/

Have you thanked a veteran today? Have you asked to hear his or her story? If you have his or her permission, I’d love for you to share with us in the comments below.

Are you a veteran? Thank you so much for your service. Your service, and your story, is important, to me and to my readers. Will you share a bit of your story here?

The Hero of Your Story

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet.
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.    –W.B. Yeats

A few years back, I decided I would make my living as a writer and would teach a ‘How to Write Fiction’ class at a local community center.

I prepared an introduction to myself and the course, a syllabus, ten lessons, in-class and at home exercises for each lesson, and reading assignments.  I rehearsed and rehearsed.  I was ready!

Finally, the day arrived.  Eight students, ranging from a high schooler to a gray-haired woman of undetermined age, waited for me.  I took a deep breath and stepped in front of the class.  I welcomed them to the class, introduced myself by name and declared “I am a professional writer.” A hand raised.  A question already?

“When did you start calling yourself a professional writer?” the student asked.  Intellectually, I had prepared an answer to that question, but emotionally prepared?  Not so much.  I couldn’t even admit to myself that I had just said it for the first time.  Instead I answered with the information I’d prepared, that I had been a professional writer since I began writing with the intent to sell what I wrote.  I think I even quoted the definition of professional to the class.

I was being truthful. My answer fit the definition of professional and my approach to writing fiction.  But, as truthful as that answer was, I had never believed it enough to say it aloud until that night.  Still, the answer seemed to satisfy the questioner.  And despite my anxiety, I got through the rest of that evening.

Fact is, I had nearly 100% attendance for all ten classes.  I ended up teaching in that community center for a couple of years.  My classes grew in size and I taught my students skills they could use to improve their writing.  I know I learned a lot.

Life happened.  I made other things a priority while my writing took a backseat to the traumas and banalities of life.

I’ve had to relearn the most important lesson I learned when teaching at that community center course: how to stand up and be who I am.

Watching the Olympics this week I am awed by the dreams we are watching. The athletes proclaim their dream with every trial, every race, every practice. Many of them are fortunate enough to have the support of their loved ones.  But most of all, they NEVER let go of their dreams.  To my mind, each Olympic athlete is a hero of his or her story.

Everyone has a dream  Maybe your dream is to be an Olympic athlete, a writer, a chef, or a plumber.  No matter what the dream is, sometimes it is hard to hang onto your dream.  You may have a hard time believing in yourself.  Your parents or your partner may be the person who belittles your dream.   It could be they call your dream cute, or a hobby, or  your ‘little’ stories.  You excuse them because it’s not really _bad_ stuff they’re saying.  Yes. It.  Is.  Stop the negative energy.

Believe in yourself.  Believe in your dream. Make it a mantra:  Mine is “I am a writer.”  Repeat it as many times a day as you need it. Declare it.  Own it.  Be your own champion. Be the hero of your own story.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.          —  Henry David Thoreau

Won’t you take a moment to share your story with me and my readers? Who or what challenges your belief in yourself? Tell us about your dream. Shout it out. We’ll cheer you onward.