Everyone has a story. For many years I have encouraged people to write down some of their stories. It is a wonderful way to reflect on what has been important in life, and to share with friends and family.

I recently received two memoirs from friends and acquaintances who have done just that. The first is GRANDPA DARRELL ROCKS AND RUNS by the Reverend Darrell Mitchell. Now 85 years old, he served the Sidney Methodist Church from 1961 to 1964.

The introduction describes the book as “A memoir about Rev. Darrell Mitchell and stories he wishes to share about his family and his spiritual journey concerning his life. One must never give up in our pursuit of peace and justice.  We must not give up in our spiritual journey either. God can help us.”

Darrell tells many interesting stories about his time in Sidney. It was during the height of the civil rights movement, and he felt strongly about equality and fairness. He went to the South several times to be part of marches and to work for social justice and peace. Those are passions he continues to speak about to this day.

Darrell also writes of his active ministry after leaving Sidney. Among his postings was work at a juvenile home in Toledo, Iowa, and chaplain at the Woodward State Hospital School. Since his retirement 16 years ago, he has been a visitation pastor at Hope United Methodist Church, in Marshalltown.        

      

I have long admired Darrell’s love for running. His memoirs tell of that passion, and of his many achievements in organized races. Even at the age of 85, he continues to lace up his athletic shoes and see the world through the eyes of a runner.

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Dr. Carol Drake of Omaha is the ophthalmologist who for many years has kept my vision as healthy as possible. She and I have had many discussions of my reading and writing, because my eyesight is important for those to continue. She thought of me when her mother, Mary Lou Drake, completed her memoir, and I was happy to look through the manuscript entitled THE PAPER GIRL’S NEWS.

She tells about her life during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and an experience of serious illness before antibiotics were discovered. She concludes the memoir at the end of World War Two and the return of family members from military service.

I believe that Mary Lou Drake has another book to write about her role as a mother to five daughters who each became a professional in the medical field.  

Dr. Drake wanted my thoughts on how her mother’s book might be published. I contacted my good friend Holly Carver, who was my editor at the University of Iowa Press, for her suggestions. I thought perhaps the University of Nebraska Press might be interested since Mary Lou’s story is based in that state.

“All I can recommend is the usual,” Holly replied. “Check the website for contact info for the appropriate editor and then send a short query letter. Unfortunately the memoir market is totally swamped so the chances of even getting a personal response are slim.”

On the other hand, there are ways to lay out and publish a small numbers of books through the internet and local presses. Digital versions of memoirs can be distributed to selected readers, or posted online for anyone to access.

Paper companies that do copying can put together neat copies to use in any way an author wishes as well.

In whatever ways memoirs are preserved, I believe it is important for them to be made available, both for today’s readers and as resources for generations to come. Writing one’s life story can be a great journey of self-discovery and a wonderful gift for future.

-o00o-

BEGGARS STEW  

This is a stew that seems to include a little bit of everything.

The story behind its name is that a beggar would sit with an empty pot by the side of the road in hopes passersby would drop in a few coins so he could buy something to eat. Sometimes they would put in ingredients, too, and that became the basis of this stew.

6 teaspoons coooking oil

3 large cloves garlic, crushed (optional)

4 ounces boneless chuck roast, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups water

1 can red kidney beans, undrained

3 Tablespoons rice

1/4 cup chopped spinach leaves

Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until golden. Transfer to small plate. Add the remaining oil, add the meat and the onion.

Cook for several minutes stirring several times, to brown lightly. Add the garlic and onion, seasonings, water, kidney beans and rice.

Cover and cook for about an hour, stirring two or three times.  Finally, add spinach and cook until wilted and tender.

Just like the beggar, you can add other ingredients you might have on hand. This is a recipe with which to have fun. It can also be prepared in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker.

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