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Heat Waves and Surprise Houseguests

How did our ancestors deal with summer in the days before AC? One of the craziest inventions I’ve seen is a kerosene powered fan—that turned out to be not such a winner of an idea. Go figure! Soaked burlap sacks hung in front of windows was another trick. Need some trivia for the office water cooler? Check out this fascinating look at the history of AC from author Amanda Green in Popular Mechanics:

Of course here in the high desert we’re blessed with cool nights so opening every window in the house at night helps hold the heat hounds at bay the next day. This backfired on us once when we also opened the doors to speed up the process. One word.



                                                            The House Bat

“Did you hear about the bat?” began a recent conversation with my daughter, who was overseas at the time.  Since my grown kids often communicate through FaceBook I’m never sure what family news they’ve already heard.  The conversation proceeded something like this:  “Uh, no— What bat???”   “Our house bat, Silly!“


One summer night we opened all the house doors to cool things down because the air conditioning wasn’t hooked up yet.  About 10 in the evening my college age son and I were sitting on the couch goofing around online.  My husband had gone to bed after working hard out in the field all day.  Observant Son glanced up and exclaimed, “Hey, there’s a bird in the house!”  I took one look and yelped, “No, that’s a bat!”  The airborne rodent flew, really well I might add, all over the house and we could not get it out.  I consider myself a fairly unflappable person but the bat was becoming more frenzied by the minute.


Finally, I sat down with my back against the wall as the bat was doing aerial loops and flybys,   sharing much the same space as me.  My husband must have heard me squeal; he stumbled sleepily out and tried to help us herd it outside.  He stood there with the bat zooming around his head, asking, “Where is it?”  We were laughing too hard to tell him and just kept pointing.  Eventually, we thought we saw it fly out, calmed down and went back to bed.


Not the end of the story.  About four in the morning I heard our cat rummaging around the room.  I got up, shuffled over to the corner and all the noise stopped.  Couldn’t find her in the dark so after growling at her to “Git!” I went back to bed.  This went on about every 15 minutes until five in the morning.


Finally, about 5:30 she began leaping and scrambling around next to my side of the bed.  I grabbed a pillow to fling at her and opened my eyes.  It was not the cat.  The missing bat was flopping around on the floor, its sharp little claws stuck in the rug, confused.  I sat bolt upright and started shouting orders to my husband, who had been sleeping soundly.  The bat managed to disentangle its claws and went airborne causing my husband to duck frantically and me to start laughing. I’m afraid I don’t always laugh at the most appropriate times.


The bat disappeared again and we finally gave up looking for it.  Later that night we returned from dinner out and walked through the house trying to startle it out of hiding by clapping and calling “Here bat, here bat!” Felt ridiculous.  Finally, we just went to bed, exhausted after the disrupted sleep of the night before.    We never saw our houseguest again, I assume he let himself out.


Stay cool out there friends! And turn your funny family memories into some written or recorded stories to tell down the generations. Share this with your friends and inspire them to do the same.

Dad’s Life Lessons

Teaching, talking, sharing

Our imperfect fathers do the best they can and shape who we become, our potential to develop as individuals. They challenge us, love us, and impact our souls forever.


There’s great truth in this statement by Margaret Truman:

“It’s only when you grow up and step back from him—or leave him for your own home—it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it.”


Most families have a list of “Dad-isms” that cause a lot of laughter, groaning and shaking of heads. My favorite its “Leave things better than you found them.” Applies to pretty much every area of life. What famous dad quotes live on in your family?


Memory List for my Dad

Adventurous—shared love for travel

Taught me to see beauty in nature –and took me places to find it

Said, “You can do it” at crucial times

Discussed good books, new ideas

Lifelong learner

Battered Hats and scuffed boots

Singing “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie” at the top of our lungs together

Backpacking and fishing trips

Teaching me how to catch a trout—and get it ready to eat

Fried potatoes in a cast iron skillet—elk camp in the mountains

Riding out of the mountains by moonlight on horseback. Seeing my dad’s battered cowboy hat and lanky frame ahead of me on the trail. Knowing I just had to follow him and I’d be okay.(this I will never forget)

Teaching me to drive the truck picking up hay in the field

The way his eyes crinkle up at a good joke

Trying to teach me to back up a vehicle—still not too good at this Popper Tops

Teaching me to ride the motorcycle—all good till I popped a wheelie (still one of my best memories)


Share a memory list with your dad tomorrow. If he’s no longer here, make it anyway and share it with your own kids. And if you’re a dad—count yourself blessed and make a memory with your kids—whether they’re babies or adults. It will stay with you both a lifetime.

Food as Life-Story

June is National Country Cooking Month. This is a really fun one to celebrate as many of our life memories revolve around food. You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the connection with family—Grandma’s favorite recipe, the special dessert Mom would make for your birthday that made you feel loved, Dad’s camping creations. At a local school Ag day here in southern New Mexico one little boy responded to the question “What is in tamales?” with a loud and enthusiastic “Love!” He gets it!


Smells can evoke tremendous emotion and the smell of food– good, bad or just yuck—often spark intense memories. There is a unique Asian spice that when I smell it takes me straight back to the apartment building my husband and I lived in during college. I was expecting our first child and had to climb the stairwell gauntlet through that strange and permeating odor during months of morning sickness.  The unsuspecting and very nice international students living there never knew. I’m sure they were wonderful cooks but Oi–that smell!


There is an entire range of FOOD FOR THOUGHT stemming from food memories. Mine them for nuggets of delicious stories and dig further back. Particularly if you have some unique ethnic foods that your family enjoys—we probably all do. Where did Grandma’s carne adovada recipe come from, did she learn it from her mother? Maybe its Uncle Tony’s lasagna or that favorite chocolate or buttermilk pie that shows up at every family gathering. What are that dish’s roots and the family events it’s starred at?

Tip—when talking with a relative ask them the story of their favorite food. Why is that dish important? Whom is it associated with? When is a specific time they remember eating it? Who made it? Does this person still prepare this food and if so, is it in the same way? Is there a family cookbook or even a collection of family recipes?


I can remember poring over my mother in law’s extensive recipe collection as a newlywed. Her southern recipes and tastes are what my husband had grown up with and I hadn’t learned to cook those types of dishes. I still use a few of those recipes today and yes, I have learned to make a rockin’ southern gravy! My brother married into a Louisiana family with Cajun roots and he’s passed on the technique for creating a mouth-watering roux.


One of my memoir clients still has her great grandmother’s hand carved rolling pin. This simple food preparation tool has made piecrust for generations of the same family. Their holiday memories are tied to the special treats lovingly created with it. They talk about the many hands that have used it over the years and it is a cherished connection to their history.


Whether working with a children’s memoir class or adults I always ask food questions and encourage students to have fun writing down the memories brought to the surface. You can do the same in your story gathering!

Got Memories?

Junk Drawer Memoirs–What Does Your Collected Stuff Say about You?

National Geographic magazine printed a story a few years ago that popped up again recently. A French man named Mantin died in 1905 and decreed in his will that his house was to be left untouched for 100 years. The article states that the 54-year-old childless bachelor was afraid of being forgotten. Wow, shades of Miss Havisham in Dickens’s 1861 novel, Great Expectations. I wonder of Mantin had read it.


All of us want to feel as if we’ve made a difference, we want to be remembered. There are a myriad of wonderful ways to do this besides enshrining yourself or your home for over 100 years. That is just sad and a bit creepily fascinating.


Years ago I read about someone who did an experiment like this with people on the streets of a large city. It was fascinating what people carried around and why. Folks used to say that a good woman could survive for a week on the contents of her purse. This idea usually brings a laugh, then a sheepish admission that this evaluation is not too far off the mark.


However, what would happen if someone took your purse, your backpack, or one drawer in your house, and tried to learn about you just from the contents?

What story would your accumulated objects tell about you?


I tried this experiment a few years ago on myself with my “treasure box” drawer. Here’s what I found, described as an observer:

The Keepsake Drawer—-a box of gaudy plastic beads strung on a thick cord, gifts from her children.  Precious! The antique ring, elegant gold setting with just a piece of amethyst colored glass set in.  Given to her husband by the eccentric elderly lady whose lawn he mowed as a boy.  He had worked while she entertained the old man who was her gardener with iced tea and conversation.  But– when he found the chunk of purple glass she had it set in an elaborate vintage gold ring and returned it to him as a keepsake.  He had kept it for years then gave it to the girl he married.

Silk scarf woven in  gold and ivory that once belonged to her grandmother, a Swarovski crystal necklace and earring set left over from that same grandmother’s dinner party days; cheap tourist scarves collected from around the world, from places other people went.  A tiny swimsuit, an antique lace collar and three yards of handmade white lace, an enameled antique gold-rimmed plate, and a rustic looking pottery goblet and cup set that somehow made her think of the Holy Grail.  Assorted Mother’s Day cards and a blood pressure cuff.

A silver plated art deco tea set she’d kept through one husband, four moves and three children.  It was the first antique she’d ever bought at a garage sale when she was thirteen.  Somehow, it symbolized the elegance and travel she dreamed of.  Tarnished and pitted in a couple places but her dream nonetheless.  She couldn’t part with it, even all these years later.  Inspiring, maybe.


Look for symbols in the things around you.  Why does she/he keep that?  What is in your jewelry box, kitchen cabinets, closet, fishing tackle box, desk drawer?


Life Legacy Guided Memoir Workshop

Winston Churchill once said, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” No, you don’t need to be on the Who’s Who list to write your memoir. Each life is unique and there are stories in the amazing ordinary that can be drawn out to give insight not only to the writer but future readers as well.

Imagine doing something most people only wish and dream about. In six weeks you can make it happen and experience the joy of an intensely meaningful accomplishment that you can share with family and friends.

I will be conducting a 6-week Life Legacy Guided Memoir Workshop that will provide a practical, creative framework for gathering material and building a memoir for yourself or someone else. Participants will set weekly writing goals, share their progress and receive constructive feedback. By the end of this focused six-week class you will have made significant progress on your story and have a body of work that you can explore further options for developing.

The Workshop will be held from 2:00 – 3:00 pm on Thursdays, June 8th, 15th, 22nd & 29th and July 13th & 20th in the Community Room at the Mountain View Market Coop. The cost is $160, with a 20% discount for members of the Doña Ana County Genealogical Society and the Mountain View Market Coop ($128). Class size is limited to 15 people. Sign-ups for additional classes at a later date/time are being accepted.


Contact Karen Ray at 575-323-1048 or at for more information.

Registration and Class fees are payable to Remembering the Time by check or money order due by June 5th     

Mail to Remembering the Time at 2877 Willow Creek Ln., Las Cruces, NM 88007.

Mom Advice from a Master Humorist

Happy Mothers Day, enjoy your family time this weekend. I’m keeping this short and sweet as I’m celebrating too. Thankful for  my own amazing and wonderful grown children —I’m delighted to call you “friends” –love you and my own great mom!

Share the humor and forward this post to someone you love.