Launching of CIRCE

This is the 18th episode of a travel memoir that is unfolding, one chapter each month, here on True Stories Well Told. Stay tuned for more of the adventure as teenage Suzy’s family moves to Europe, builds a sailboat, and takes up life on the high seas circa 1961. Click here to read the earlier episodes.

Dad and Hank on launching day


Excerpts taken from Mom’s letter to her sister Margaret on January 10, 1963

Dear Marg:

Very quiet around here now—girls very reluctantly back in school, little boys in school, Tom, Tommy and Henry have gone on a two- day cruise over to another island, Minorca, to try out a friend’s boat. Everything being OK, they expect to come back tomorrow, and then take a trip up to France. I could go on any of these trips if I want to. But, when I get seasick, I want it to be my own boat I mess up … and that will come plenty soon for me! Our boat is coming along quite nicely now but will not really be ready to go before about the first of May, so we will probably be here till the first of June. Wish I could get the beautiful carpentry work in a house that is being done on the boat. The fellow who is doing the finishing work inside is a furniture maker, and the work is really exquisite. Everyone who sees the boat tells me how lucky we are, but stupid me—all I can think of is nine of us living in an area somewhere around 32 feet long and about 6 to 8 feet wide,. The boat is 58 feet long overall, but engine room, etc, make up the difference. Well, we shall see. Won’t be too bad during the summer when we’re on the move all the time, then when winter comes, we can always find a house if it gets too bad. At this point we are planning to be up on the south coast of France next winter so that the children can learn French and go to school there…better plan to make us a visit.

It seems to me that somewhere along the line I suggested that you might enjoy a Siamese cat. At this time I’m about to take back every word of it, in fact, I wouldn’t give a plugged nickel for ours. She has reached the age of consent. And OH HOW SHE WANTS A MAN! We’ve been trying to protect her maidenhood because they say that she’s too young to have a family so have kept her in. In fact, she’s always been kept in because there are some cat-hating dogs in the neighborhood. Anyway, during these periods of frustrated desires her yowling and indecent advances to Rusty become so disgusting that we banish her to an outside room. This only aggravates the situation, because. With her other problem is added the misery of loneliness—and does she let us know! Would think that she would perish from sheer exhaustion from howling steady all night long—but not Anitra. It’s a good thing we have no close neighbors, or we’d be chased from the neighborhood. And now rusty is having some same problems, but she’s much more of a lady, except that every five minutes she whines to get out. Never knowing if it might not be a sincere desire to answer a call of nature, one of us is constantly having to jump up and take her out on her leash—only to watch her ecstatically run from tree sniffing the wondrous odors. Oh me. Sat here last night reading and suddenly a huge black dog made a lunge at our terrace window trying to get in.

Certainly can’t complain about the weather at the moment—beautifully warm and sunshiny. I hear the little ones approaching, so no more now.

Lots of love to all of you and a real good New Year.


Excerpts taken from Suzy’s diary of 1963

February 6 – Today I bought this Diary in Casa Roger when Mom, Frank and I walked up town to do the shopping. I saw Juan for a minute at the school, but not for long. Ever since last Friday we have been out of school because it’s so cold out. There is snow in the mountains and ice in the roads. Later I went with Juanita & Tom to the Club where I met Juan and we watched Bonanza on television. He gave me the picture from New Year’s Eve Dance.

February 13 – This bright, beautiful day was my sister’s birthday. Mom and Dad came and got us here at school to take us out to lunch. We had a wonderful time, but it just didn’t last long enough. I sent a card to Juan with Mommy so I’m sure he will receive it. I didn’t have any classes today at all. Well, I guess that’s all except I never laughed so much as tonight with Angeles in study hall!

Feb. 14 As far as excitement goes there was none. We all sent Valentines cards to each other. At noon we wanted to go out to the bakery, so the girls said that Suzanne and I were celebrating “El Dia de los Enamorados” and the Mother gave us permission to go. During Spanish class we laughed all the time with the Senorita who is mad with her “novio” (boyfriend) !Es la Vida! Nothing else happened so I will close for today. Happy Valentines Day!

Feb. 16 This morning Henry came to pick us up at school and we traveled to Palma with him. We had lunch there and then caught the train home. When I got home, I had my hair fixed and Juan & Jose and Mrs. F all came up for drinks. After that we all walked to the movies, but Juan could only talk about other girls so it wasn’t very pleasant.

Feb. 24 Back home in Puerto. Tonight is the big night of the year. “The Dance of Carnival.” We all were to wear costumes, so I made one up of a French Sailor Girl. Tom and Hank also had ones which were stupendo. At the last minute Juan came up on his moto (motorcycle) and said that no one was wearing costumes so I took mine off. We had a wonderful time and besides it marked one year for Juan and I going together.

On the weekends in Puerto I spent most of my time with Juan, but he had to report for military duty, so I didn’t get to see him very often even though he was stationed in Puerto. We went to the movies whenever he got time off. One night we watched an American movie called Peyton Place, a movie I’d never seen before. Everyone wanted to know if that was the way we lived in Oregon.

Jan and I were plotting the end of our school days. We suggested to Mom as the boat was closer and closer to being launched, she might need us to help get things ready to move on board. There were pillows to make and covers for the life preservers. Dad wanted the linens embroidered with Circe. It worked! On March 12th we returned to Pont d’Inca to tell the nuns and our friends we were quitting school so we could help prepare for the launching of our boat.

Now that we were back home in Puerto I started teaching classes to Conrad and Frank. We did geography of Europe, studying the countries’ flags, and some basic translation in Spanish and French. We also did math, reading, and writing in English. Until now they had only had classes in Spanish. Jan and I both worked with mom getting the supplies ready for the boat. We also helped Mom eliminate things that wouldn’t go with us on the boat because of lack of space.

Circe on the move to the launching pad

Launching Day May 17, 1963 –  It took about twenty men pushing and pulling Circe by hand to get to the launching site at the military base, a distance of about a half mile. They put large straps around her and lifted her off the trailer and set her in the water with the crane they used to launch the sea-planes. Mom cracked a bottle of champagne on her bow just before they put her in the water. We’d seen Mom do this before many times, as Dad had built several boats before this one, although none as large as Circe.

It was a big day for us, but I cried, because I knew it meant we would soon move on board and leave Puerto, and Juan, behind. I didn’t want that time to come.

On June 23 we had an “Open House” for the boat. Dad moored Circe at the quay and we invited all our friends to come aboard and see where we would be living.

Hank, Jan, Suzy, and Juan

© 2020 Suzy Beal

Suzy Beal, an occasional contributor to True Stories Well Told, has been writing her life story and personal essays for years. In 2016 Suzy began studying with Sheila Bender at  Watch for the final chapter of her travel memoir to be posted next month! Please leave comments for Suzy on this post.

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It’s that time again: “Throw me somethin’, Mister!”

Mardi Gras may be more than a month away (it arrives February 25, 2020) but according to my blog content queue, it’s time to “Throw me somethin’, Mister,” as they say in the Big Easy.


It’s not plastic trinket “throws” I want, but your stories, true and well told.

That’s a writing technique called “borrowed interest” and I’m not ashamed to stoop to it to fill the digital pages of this blog. I publish writing prompts, book reviews, and stories from my own life, but my favorite content is YOUR stories.

Here are the guidelines. Now throw me somethin’, Mr.,  Ms., whoever you are! Send your stories to

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My Big MFA Adventure complete, finding a publisher comes next

“We’ve got your book,” said the title on the brochure that fell into my hands one fateful morning in Oxford, England, July, 2016.  “Whether you are a mid-career writer, a journalist, or an aspiring author, King’s MFA is designed for you. Bring us your idea for a narrative nonfiction book, a collection of essays, or a biography or memoir and we can help you turn it into a manuscript that’s on the road to publication.”  I did. If you have been following my Big MFA Adventure, you know that I now have a manuscript “that’s on the road to publication.” Or at least, on the on-ramp to that road. 

In the program, we learned to write a book, a book proposal, and a query letter. We learned about the importance of attending conferences, networking, and how to research agents and publishers so that instead of cold-calling, we approach people who will be interested to hear from us. Check, check, and check–I’ve written a book, a proposal, and a query letter, which I am currently sending out, personalized with any first sentence or two I can imagine to gin up the recipient’s interest in what I have to say. Here, without further preamble, is that pitch. Suggestions welcome! Introductions even more welcome! – Sarah White



[subject line] Authors of “Love In a Can–The Soulful History of Glory Foods” are looking for representation

Dear [Publisher or Agent’s name here]

Dan Charna and I have written Love in a Can: The Soulful History of Glory Foods,a 90,000-word first draft that tells the bittersweet story of the unlikely partners who started Glory Foods to bring soul food lovers back to the family dinner table.

Book Summary:

In December 1988, three unlikely friends conceived the idea for Glory Foods, the first food company to put soul food in a can and make it available outside the south. Their first product, a humble can of collard greens seasoned the way Momma used to make them, holds the complicated story of the South—the redemptive act of transforming, through labor and love, food unfit for the master’s table into nourishment for the soul.

Over two decades, despite a wildly successful launch, failure loomed many times as the company met unexpected disruptions—even the death of two of the founding partners. Love in a Canis a dramatic tale of friendship and trial by fire that ranges across the American landscape from Columbus, Ohio, where the founding partners came together, to the fields and canneries of the Deep South and the corporate offices of major food brands in the Midwest. Throughout, the founders fought to achieve profit and prosperity for the people and companies Glory Foods touched.

In 2010, to combat a predatory competitor, the Glory Foods brand was acquired by its longtime vendor-partner, McCall Farms. Today, Glory Foods has 200,000+ social media followers and a faithful customer base, giving this book a built-in market.

Comp titles:

The strength of a memoir about business and history is the timeless appeal of these themes for a certain kind of reader. Books like  Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town and Catfish Dream: Ed Scott’s Fight for His Family Farm and Racial Justice in the Mississippi Delta are among comparable titles.

About the authors:

Dan Charna, as the sole surviving partner among the original founders of Glory Foods, is the leading authority on the history of the business. Dan is a tenured professor teaching entrepreneurship, economics, and finance at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. In addition to teaching, Dan consults with startup ventures in food and consumer products. He serves on the Advisory Board of McCall Farms.

Sarah White is a professional freelance writer residing in Madison, Wisconsin who writes on business development, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Sarah holds an MFA-Creative Nonfiction from University of King’s College-Halifax. Her passion for Love in a Can: The Soulful History of Glory Foods comes from her deep interest in founders’ stories and recognition of a gap in the American historical narrative where black entrepreneurship belongs.

The authors have the full support of the brand’s former and current executives in writing this book.

A detailed proposal including marketing plan, book outline, table of contents and a sample chapter is available for your review.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sarah White

Does your nephew work in publishing? Did your ex-husband marry an ex-agent whose rolodex is still plump with contacts? Do you bicycle in France every summer with a couple who work for the University of Georgia press? I’m working my connections any which way but loose–let me tap yours! 

© 2019 Sarah White


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The Yellow House–new memoir by Sarah Broom

Review by Sarah White

I don’t recall, nor does it matter, what brought Sarah Broom’s memoir The Yellow House to my attention. Maybe a “best new memoirs” list (it won the National Book Awards 2019 first place for Nonfiction), or maybe that its subject matter is New Orleans, especially New Orleans East, even more devastated by Hurricane Katrina than the rest of that city. I spent a strange, very moving day (which I blogged about) in Broom’s neighborhood with a crew of community consultants nine months after Katrina. Maybe the mention of “Gentilly” is what drew me to Broom’s book.

The Yellow House is structured as the autobiography of a house, the family it sheltered, the community it stood in and with, intentionally omitted from the touristic narrative of New Orleans itself.

The book consists of four Movements, preceded by a prologue and followed by an epilogue. From the first page, author Sarah Broom clearly maps her life onto the geography of her home place.

The first Movement, “The World Before Me,” (approximately 100 pages of the 384-page book), tells the story of the blended family of Broom’s mother, twice married, and the eleven children she bore. Then Sarah is born, the 12th child and the only one fathered by the second husband, who died six months after her birth.

This launches Movement II, “The Grief House,” wherein Broom explores the missing father and his connection to the Yellow House, which he was continually tinkering on, adding to, rearranging, until his death in its bathroom. This section reads like many a coming-of-age story, as Broom absorbs her mother’s values–attention to place-making, self-respect, education. Those eleven older siblings provide examples of where life might take Broom; we see the shifting nature of a big family, how the oldest move up and out before the youngest get to know them, how the olders shift in and out of the youngers’ lives, teaching by their examples about choices both good and bad.

In Movement III, “Water,” Broom completes a journalism degree and begins a career in New York City. Then Katrina hits in August 2005. Everything after that is a story of displacement and the struggle to find the meaning of “home.” The Yellow House was razed by the city after a single notice delivered to the mailbox in front of an empty house on an abandoned street. What had first been Broom’s mother’s sanctuary, then her place of grief, refuses to die–the empty lot remains an anchor for the family in the largely vacant, post-apocalyptic New Orleans East.

In Movement IV, “Do You Know What It Means,” Broom constantly shifts jobs in an attempt to find her place, doing everything from working for Oprah’s magazine to running an NGO in Burundi. In the end, she returns to New Orleans and rents an apartment in the French Quarter for a full year, determined to research and write a book that, as the National Book Award’s review put it, “expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure.”

Broom largely tells her story through straight chronology, occasionally making visible the act of writing. She mentions her early instinct to write down family conversations verbatim, and later, the red tape recorder she carries–left running untended in the final scene as she learns to mow the lawn where the Yellow House once stood. Her brother and his friends still gather there, now caught on tape commenting on her performance with the riding mower.

Broom does not mention the fellowship that allowed her to take that year to live and write in New Orleans, or how she funded the many trips to interview family members flung far across the U.S. post-Katrina, never to return. Certain parts of the act of writing are, apparently, unmentionable. Googling tells me that Broom has attended numerous writing workshops, been awarded fellowships and residencies. Clearly, she’s worked at building her writing craft.

Broom skillfully manages shifting viewpoints, from the 3rd person point of view as she writes about the family backstory, to 1st person as the story becomes her own. She decided on this structure, she told Rumpus in an interview, because “I wanted to make a point about the ways in which we as humans are catapulted into preexisting stories—that we aren’t born and the story begins.” In that interview, she discusses the perspective shift required to write about her mother and grandmother as women: “It’s hard not to think of your grandmother as ‘grandmother,’ as opposed to ‘woman,’ a woman who made choices, who had decisions to make.”

Broom’s research took her deep into archives in New Orleans. She conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with family members, resulting in thousands of pages of transcripts. Themes in the book–what houses really mean, what family really is, the journeys of coming of age, of becoming a writer/artist, of finding home after displacement–emerged slowly, she told the Rumpus interviewer. The house as a way to understand her father only in the 3rd or 4th draft. “Around draft seven I read only for arc.” As a writer myself, I find this view into Broom’s process very helpful. (And daunting. I have a lot of rewrites ahead for Glory Foods, apparently.)

Broom’s The Yellow House is relevant far beyond its story of a family’s survival after catastrophe. There is displacement everywhere–wildfires in California and Australia, war and climate change in developing countries. Any of us may suddenly be on the move, asking ourselves the questions about place that Broom explores.

© 2019 Sarah White




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This is the 17th episode of a travel memoir that is unfolding, one chapter each month, here on True Stories Well Told. Stay tuned for more of the adventure as teenage Suzy’s family moves to Europe, builds a sailboat, and takes up life on the high seas circa 1961. Click here to read the earlier episodes.


Notes taken from Mom’s letter of October 15, 1962 to her sister Margaret.

Put my two little boys in the local school yesterday.  Little one room school–one teacher for 38 boys ranging in age from 5 to 12.  Don’t know how much they will learn, but it’s enlightening for them.  Frankie came home quite horrified with the sanitary facilities–just a hole in a plank! Doesn’t know how he can potty–no toilet paper even.  Probably end up a mixed-up little guy-learning to read and write Spanish before he can read English.  They start them in writing without practice in printing, and their letters are formed enough differently from ours that I don’t know how to help him.  School hours 9 to 12 and 3 to 5. They do seem enthusiastic about it, which is more than I can say for the girls.  Every Monday I take them down to the bus with Jan in tears. If nothing else after six days in the convent, they certainly do appreciate their home and family.  Did I tell you what it costs to send them? $30.00 a month apiece, room, board, tuition, everything.  Cheaper than if they were home.  Course I’m not counting all the hoard of fruit, cookies, candy they stock up on to take back with them.

Carl, too, is going to a local school and finding it a bit of a challenge.  Math, Spanish grammar, French, geography, technical drawing. With all the textbooks in Spanish, he will at least be able to read the stuff before he’s through.  Sue’s boyfriend is one of his teachers.  It’s too bad there can’t be a happy medium between our system of education in the States and the European systems.  No time wasted over here in all the malarkey of social adjustment, etc., they take it for granted that a child is born with brains and should use them.  If only they had just a small portion of the money we spend in the States for education.

Henry appears to be going to end up with correspondence courses from the States.  Tommy has just been classified 1-A, so I don’t know where he will end up. 


 The tall, ornate ceilings and tile of the Catholic convent boarding school where my sister and I attended school all week seemed to absorb and hold the frigid weather from outside.  The school had no central heating.

 My heels were now at the bleeding stage, but I refused to go to the school infirmary.  The two pair of socks under my nylons didn’t keep my feet from freezing.  We weren’t allowed to put anything over our uniforms including socks.  The clunky, ugly, brown saddle shoes rubbed my heels raw, but the nuns wouldn’t let me put on my slippers.

Most of the girls in my class had the fingers of their gloves cut off so they could hold on to their pens and still keep their fingers warm.  My scabbed knuckles hurt from the cold because I didn’t have any gloves or mittens. Mom didn’t realize just how cold we would be at school.  Playing the guitar for my lessons became so painful I wanted to cry, but I remembered Mom’s “Pequeñas cosas” and held my tears.

I imagined the nuns had on more clothes under their habits than they allowed us to wear.  The only warm place was in bed. Once I pretended to be sick just to stay in bed, but the nuns sent for the doctor.  He prescribed some medication that one nun administered.  A suppository, I never complained of the cold again.

 When mom told Jan and I that we would have to attend a boarding school for girls on the outskirts of Palma, the capital of Mallorca, it devastated us.  We didn’t want to leave Puerto.  Mom had matriculated my younger brothers in the local school, but Jan and I were too old for that school.  It was a Catholic convent school where the nuns lived and taught classes.  We boarded there all week, but got to go home to Puerto most weekends.  I didn’t realize until then just how cold it could get in Spain.  We missed our friends in Puerto and the warmth of our house.

Suzy and Jan in school uniforms

Our Spanish speaking and comprehension was still basic when my sister Jan and I started boarding school.  On our first day at theColegioa nun took us to meet La Madre Superior.  I told her I was embarazadabecause my Spanish was so bad.  A look of shock flashed across her face, then she laughed. The words for embarrassed and pregnant are almost the same in Spanish.

We studied Spanish and French grammar, along with courses in math, art, typing, shorthand, poetry and history.  One of our teachers, we called her “Senorita,” was not a nun. She was a day teacher and came in each morning and left early afternoon.  Two other American girls, who were sisters, and one English girl, also attended the Colegio. The nuns put the five of us in a separate bedroom from the other girls.

There was a French African girl, Simone, from Algeria who attended classes and boarded for several months. It surprised me to learn that all Africans weren’t black.   It was during this time that the Algerians were rising up against the French occupation and Simone’s family sent her to Mallorca for safety.  One day, we found out that her parents had had to leave Algiers overnight.  They left their home, friends and family.  Simone soon joined them in France, but she cried all night, knowing she would never to go back to her home in Africa.  That summer, many of the French Algerians fled to Mallorca for safety.

The Senorita kept asking me questions about President Kennedy.  Would he declare war?  Was the nuclear threat real?  I didn’t understand what she was talking about.  My sister and I became worried that something serious was happening in the US. Senorita was our only link to the outside world, as the nuns didn’t allow televisions or radios at school. We struggled enough with our understanding of Spanish and it was difficult to grasp world events.  When we arrived home for the weekend, we learned about the Cuban missile crisis.  Kennedy had averted a war with Russia and the Spaniards revered him as a hero.    I realized for the first time what it meant to be located geographically between the US and Russia.

After several months the nuns moved us to the regular sleeping room with the other girls and our lives took on the same routine they had.  I think the nuns found out that Susanna, the English girl, had been opening our window at night and conversing with her boyfriend who waited outside below our window.  The nuns wouldn’t tolerate misbehavior, thus our removal from the separate bedroom.

In the mornings we got up and took turns at the sinks in the bathroom.  We washed our faces in ice-cold water, brushed our teeth and combed our hair. Showers were only for special occasions. We had to make arrangements in advance so the nuns could heat the water in the gas water heaters.  This also cost more, so we showered at home on the weekends. Our breakfasts of bread provided by the school, peanut butter and fruit we brought from home, started our days.

Around 10:00AM we had a break from classes for a snack and our paseo outdoors.  The frigid weather cut to the bone, and our teeth chattered as we ran around trying to keep warm while munching our morning snack, which consisted of a thick slice of bread and a chunk of sweet, Spanish chocolate. The afternoon snack was horrible. Another slice of bread, but this came with a thick slice of raw bacon.  Jan and I refused to swallow the fatty bacon and feared throwing it up. “Pequeñas cosas.”

The nuns patrolled the dining room with a stick. Jan and I kept getting our arms slapped because the nuns thought when we put our left hand in our laps, that we were hoarding food in our pockets.  The soups at lunch were the only meals that arrived warm.  Everything seemed colorless and plain.  No spices or aromas to whet our appetites.

At bedtime, we had to undress letting no one see us naked.  This required some antics and the need to be almost double jointed.  First, we put on our nightgown over ALL our clothes.  We then took off our shoes, socks and nylons laying them neatly on the chair by our bed.  The space between our beds was only enough for two chairs, so we had to undress while sitting on our beds.  Next we had to reach behind our back to unbutton our smocks.  Off it came, next the uniform itself, and the blouse followed. Everything had buttons, including our sweater, so nothing had to go over our heads.  By the time we undressed our bodies warmed up to where the cold sheets didn’t bother us.

I hated being away from home all week, missing my friends in Puerto, especially Juan.  I missed the warmth, good food and the relaxing atmosphere where we could speak English all the time.   Pont d’Inca was 60 miles from home.  It seemed like 500.  Most of my friends went to the military school on the base in Puerto, so they didn’t have to board away from Puerto.

© 2019 Suzy Beal

Suzy Beal, an occasional contributor to True Stories Well Told, has been writing her life story and personal essays for years. In 2016 Suzy began studying with Sheila Bender at  Watch for new chapters of her travel memoir to be posted! Please leave comments for Suzy on this post.

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AnnaLeah’s Too-True Story

By Marianne Karth

AnnaLeah was a particularly avid reader with a colorful imagination. She had a myriad ideas written down on random pieces of paper tucked into drawers, filling notebooks, or emailed to herself. She had, in fact, already created in her own mind numerous literary worlds peopled by characters with names and personalities.

AnnaLeah, writing

One Saturday morning, AnnaLeah, who was just two weeks short of her 18th birthday, got on the road with her younger sister and brother — headed from North Carolina back to their former home in Texas. With their mom driving, the three were excited to be joining up with their dad and six older siblings to celebrate four college graduations and their oldest sister’s wedding.

All of their hopes and dreams came to a screeching halt when a truck failed to slow down, hit their car, and sent them backwards into the rear of a tractor trailer. The rear underride guard came off the truck and the car slid underneath. AnnaLeah, in the back seat had the breath of life knocked out of her — killed by blunt force trauma and mechanical asphyxia. Her thirteen year-old sister Mary suffered life-threatening injuries and died a few days later in a hospital.

Any road fatality is tragic. This was all the more so. The girls’ mother and brother in the front seat were spared such catastrophic injuries because their part of the car did not go under the truck. This wretched circumstance gets played out over and over on our roads — some live, some die all depending on where they’re sitting in the car. It’s called truck underride.

How could this be? Well, the basic problem is that there is a geometric mismatch between trucks and cars. The bottom of a truck floor is generally around 41 inches. In contrast, the bumper of a passenger vehicle is closer to 36 inches. When there is a collision between the two, the smaller vehicle easily slides under the truck and the first point of impact is at the windshield, which, of course, is not built to stop a truck.

What occurs next is too horrible to even imagine ever happening to someone you love. The truck enters the car and there is NOTHING to protect the occupants. None of the car’s crashworthy features — crumple zone, airbags, seat belt tensioners — are triggered. The people inside the car are left vulnerable. Who could survive such a thing?

It could all be prevented if the federal government would tell the trucking industry: You must install equipment on all of your trucks to prevent underride. In fact, Congress can make this happen by passing the STOP Underrides! Bill. Truck crashes will then become more survivable. Families will no longer face unimaginable grief due to this preventable problem.

But that hasn’t come about yet. What happened to Mary and AnnaLeah will be the reality for too many others. Grief will fill countless hearts with love that has no place to go. 

AnnaLeah’s stories will never be written for us to read. Her laughter will never be heard again. Who she was and what was in store for her has ceased to be. It is more than I can fathom.

Her mom, Marianne Karth
October 22, 2019

© 2019 Marianne Karth

Mother of nine children — each with their own unique set of gifts and passions. Problem-solver. Vision-caster. Wordsmith. Unexpected advocate for underride victims. Lover of nature, beauty, song, belly laughs, simple creative efforts, shadows & reflections, and Abba Father, God Almighty, Son of God, Blessed Comforter.


Marianne’s ever-creative daughter loved ideas and stories. She especially wanted to encourage others, like her niece and nephew, to be well-read. Books were her passion. What books might AnnaLeah have added to her booklist if she had had the chance? 

Posted in Call for action, Guest writer | 2 Comments

Family Holiday Recipe Blog Share

This week I’m happy to participate in a blog share with Catherine Lanser. I met Catherine this summer in a Remember to Write! memoir workshop I taught in summer 2019. We agreed on the topic of Family Holiday Recipe, inspired by Dawn Roode’s post on her blog at Modern Heirloom Books.

My post about my first exposure to true “foodies” at an epic holiday dinner appears on her blog. Enjoy Catherine’s post below. It was fun to work on this writing challenge in tandem. If you are moved to write about it on your own blog, let me know in the comments, and I’ll share with Catherine. And if you’d like to submit a holiday family recipe to True Stories Well Told, please do! Guidelines here.

Instructions to the Past

by Catherine Lanser

My heritage lives in my stomach. It is the taste on my tongue when I close my eyes and picture the oval table where my mom and dad fed my eight siblings and me. My legacy is the weight of a heavy foam plate balanced on my lap while I sit cross-legged on the basement floor surrounded by more than 30 cousins. And while I am of big pots and doubled batches, the story of my familial food is told in two remarkably slim volumes.

My mom has given me two collections of family recipes. They mingle with the rest of my cookbooks and my own recipe clippings so that when I need, I can pull them off the shelf and taste my original palette. Though what I crave may change, I always have a place for these recipes, pulling them down when only a sample of the tried and true will do.

Recipes from Mom
I believe I received the spiral-bound issue first. It pictures a simple blue and white place setting on the front with the words, “Recipes from Mom,” printed on the plate. Each page holds a list of typed recipes starting with one page of appetizers and then eight pages of desserts. Following that there is a mixed page that includes my mom’s famous Butter Horns, Instant Potato Casserole, Egg Dressing for Potato Salad, Barbecue Sauce for Chicken or Spareribs, and Goulash.

The next page has four dinner recipes, followed by a page saucy flavors I would not recommend eating together including Best In The World Pickles, Rhubarb Jam, Spam Sandwiches, Barbecue, and Thousand Island Dressing. The final page has a recipe for Pizza Burgers which again calls for Spam.

I do not remember eating Spam. Since I was at the baby of the nine children, I am told I had it much better than my older siblings. They would say I never had to eat Spam as they did, but I don’t think that’s true.

Lanser Recipes
This volume is packaged in a slim blue binder. It must have come after the first book as the desktop publishing skills are quite advanced, with scrapbook designs that became popular as home computing advanced. There are two pictures on the cover, one of my dad pinning a corsage on my mom and another of my brothers and sisters and me at our parents’ 45thwedding anniversary mass.

This book takes a more archival approach to our food lineage. Recipes appear alongside photos of our family. There are scans of the original recipes written in both my mom and dad’s handwriting, which in many cases is faded or hard to read, next to a typed version of the recipe.

We learned the importance of keeping family recipes as many families do, after my dad suffered a stroke and became severely disabled, later dying. Some of my dad’s recipes, like his pickles, made it to the book on scraps of paper. Others, like his famous apple flat, were recreated by memory.

Like the other book, this book goes heavy on the desserts, starting with Poppy Seed Torte, a recipe that was served at family gatherings and funerals long before I was born. Alongside the recipe are pictures of relatives I never met and my parents welcoming people through the receiving line at their wedding.

Page two features what has become my mom’s featured dish: butter horns. This recipe starts with a yellowed Refrigerator Dough recipe from our church cookbook, and then continues on with instructions written of scraps of paper, finishing with this handwritten note from my mom: “Here’s the times of the year that I make butterhorns, Easter, Bake Sales, First Communion, All Family Celebrations, Christmas.”

As you can see, as her signature dish, butter horns are wrapped around our history as well. This pastry, which is rolled into horn shapes and filled with walnuts, cinnamon and sugar, and frosted with icing, is one I have never seen anywhere else. It is uniquely ours as are the stories and the table we eat it around. Protecting the recipe, along with the others in the book is imperative. Without it, it seems all that would be lost.

But whatever the recipe, the book is not good enough for the treasures it holds. It should be printed on fine paper and bound in leather. It tells the story of a family. And any family is made up of what they eat. Any family deserves a record of what they were made of. It’s part of family lore and instructions to recreating the moments that have shaped us.

© 2019 Catherine Lanser

Catherine Lanser writes about growing up as the baby of a family of nine. She is looking for a home for her memoir about how she found her place in her family, told through the lens of her brain tumor and her father’s stroke. She has published numerous essays. Learn more at 


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