Answers and more Questions

Back on Feb 1st, I posted a quickie history quiz on this blog. In case you couldn't sleep at night wondering what the right answers were, here they are — plus a few questions that may spark some stories …

1. A: In 1933, Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve in the President's cabinet — a huge step for women, since they were only allowed to vote 13 years before. Now a woman is running for President herself. Q: What changes to women's rights or opportunities have you seen in your lifetime?

2. A: John F. Kennedy appeared on national TV on Meet the Press. Yeah, it's been on TV that long, amazing.  Q: Do you remember JFK, or do your parents? What impression did he make on you, or on them?

3. A: In 1952 a rebellion against the British in Kenya was referred to as the Mau Mau Rebellion. Q: What changes in the "mother continent", Africa, have occurred in your lifetime? Have you been to Africa?

4. A: Louise Brown, born in 1978, was the world's first test tube baby.  Q: What technological "wonders" have you seen in your lifetime? How have they affected you?

5. A: In 1968, North Korea seized the ship USS Pueblo as she sailed in international waters.  Q: What is the first potentially dangerous world event that you remember? Were you afraid war was coming?

6. In 1940s slang, your "hinges" meant your elbows. Q: What slang did you use when you were younger that sounds pretty funny today?

Share your stories! In a few days, I'll post a new mini-history quiz, again offering a drawing for a free copy of my book Making History.

Compost: A Bee’s Life

Let me come in, let me come in. I am a bee living a bee’s life, buzzing against the windowpane, beeing in a loud sonorous boring drone. I have dived deep into the sticky sweet heart of the petunia, banded pink tapering into a pool of nectar. I sucked in petunia syrup and bloated with petunia gas. Nectar coats my inside and my outside, sticking to my heart and my wings. I am honey in the making; let me come in.


No one wants me to come in, because people are afraid of me. How silly. People are huge and lumpy and can squash me with a folded newspaper with no mercy for my  bee heart and bee brain buzzing together in rhythm. People are bee deaf. I have a little stinger, some protection ha ha. It’s not much use against a folded newspaper. All the advantages are on their side, and yet they see me on their windowsill and scream “a bee a bee!” They send me to premature and violent death just because my beeness offends them.


Let me come in, let me come in. I am a bee who wishes to come in and rest in the warm kitchen, panting my wings. I want to bee into the kitchen and eat the sweet rotting fruit left on the counter. I want to bee into the heart of the dying flowers vased on the table. I want to bee against the windowpane, and die peacefully against the glass. Let me come in and bee with you.


Let me come in. I am just a poor bee with a pretty begging song.

Sharing my Stories: Fishing With Grandpa

I remember fishing with my grandfather when I was four and he was sixty-two. Or thereabouts. It wasn’t his choice to take me fishing, and he was grumpy because he liked to fish alone and besides he thought a little girl’s place was in the kitchen with grandma. But he began to thaw when I took the worm off the hook and ate it. He gleefully told my mother what I had done when we got home, laughing his high-pitched laugh that whistled through his nose, something like a tea kettle.  

I wasn’t scared of him even when he was grumpy. He smelled of wood smoke and some kind of astringent soap. His eyes were brown with thick black lashes, like a doe’s eyes. When he took a nap after we got back from fishing, sitting in his ratty armchair with his slippers half-falling off his feet, his lashes fluttered against his cheeks, beating time in harmony with his snoring. 

Writing Tip: Stuck? Here’s Some More Things to Write About

Never forget that you can always write about your past.  Just ask yourself some questions.  Try these:

If you live in America, are you or your parents or grandparents from a different country? Which country or countries are your ancestors from? When did you or your parents/grandparents come to America, and why? What was the assimilation experience like? What was hardest for you or your forebears to adjust to? What aspects of your native culture did you or they retain, and which changed? Did you or they experience prejudice or suspicion? What beliefs did Americans hold about your culture, and were those beliefs right or wrong? How do you think your native culture benefits America? Do you think your relationship to another country gives you a different viewpoint from other Americans?


Compost: Hiding

The other day I was thinking about my childhood. (The older I get the more I enjoy this.) I was a hider.  I liked to be by myself, thinking my own private thoughts and dreaming my own private dreams. Inside my head I was not hampered by the outward reality of a gawky too-tall girl who thought she was smarter than most of the other kids but not smart enough to keep this to herself.

I had many hiding places. One of my favorites was a large grey rock that was hidden from the house and prying adult eyes by the blackberry vines in the back yard. I made a tunnel through the vines, a secret thorny tunnel impassable by adults, which led to the back of the rock.  The rock stood higher than my head and the back was wide and smooth and more massive than my father. It had a large shelf halfway up just long and wide enough for me to lie full length upon. Here I was completely hidden by blackberry vines, surrounded by thrumming bees, protected by thorns.
I pressed my stomach down on the cool surface, and flung my arms above my head. I spread my fingers and pushed my hands down, flat and hard, to feel the tickling of tiny grit on my palms. I pushed my nose down, I squashed it flat, and sniffed deep of that dusty, rocky smell. The blackberry vines gently brushed the backs of my bare sunburnt legs. 

I was hidden, safe. I was silent. I laid my ear against the face of the rock shelf, sealing out all outside noise. I listened to the rock's voice. It sang like the hollow boom of a large drum beat very softly. It hissed and burbled as it breathed. I was soothed to find a rhythm so like mine.


Writing Tip & Compost: I touch

Ah, those sensory details … it's often difficult to remember that we have five (or maybe more) senses. Our default is sight, our strongest sense as humans, but it's good to practice writing about experiences through another sense.  Here's a piece I wrote using the phrase "I touch" to begin most sentences. Try it yourself … (maybe even share)

I touch my leg that has a big bad owie on it, because some time ago I fell through rotten wood and got a difficult infection which mangled the skin on my leg so now it looks like corrugated tin, knobby and ridged, radiating old pain and ugliness. I touch my leg anyway because I am trying to love it again – after all, it wasn’t my leg’s fault it got infected by that rotten flesh-eating bug. I picture that bug as a hairy little ugly with an evil leering grin, my masticated flesh drooling and dripping from his jaws. But that was years ago so that bug is long gone now and what is left is my left leg crying for love, so I touch it soft and tender and sing an old hymn, Amazing Grace, because my leg informs me it especially likes that song.

Another blog

See my blogroll off to the right?  That link leads to my "other" blog, which I am now doing for the Seattle PI. It's called a "reader blog" and it's a way of reaching more people.  This blog is only about writing one's life story — the whys and the hows.  I'll  be posting there a couple of times a week. My first post is now up; you can read it by clicking the link. Make a comment if you'd like — I do so love comments.