Saturday, August 20, 2011

Writing a Memoir

In 2009 I wrote a memoir I titled FootprintsIt seems that the idea of creating something that says "I was here" and "my life mattered" is something that appeals to many people these days.  This is not to say that a memoir signals the imminent approach of life's end, but it is something the writer wants those close to him to have when that day comes.  Accordingly, my memoir contains a lot of personal recollections.  I am going to share the inspiration for the title which is three excerpts from stories/poems that resonated with me followed by the introduction which explains why I wrote the memoir.  I will include the table of contents to provide a sense of how I chose to organize the memoir.  Next I will share a story from the Early Years chapter that relates to the Carson book about my first and only dog before Little Fox, Nikki.  From the Falling in Love chapter (about how I met the lady who has been my wife for forty-two years and our life before the kids came along) is an excerpt from a story about our experience with off-base "housing" at Ft. Benning, GA.  Finally, I will share a list of guidelines for living that I wrote to help me focus on what is important in my life.


Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (excerpt from “A Psalm of Life”)
Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some move our souls to dance.
They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom.
Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon.
They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach
with my Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one set of footprints.
The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson (excerpt from “Footprints in the Sand”)


This is a collection of stories and thoughts that I have written for my sons. The idea behind this is that I would like them to have a chance to read some interesting and, possibly, entertaining anecdotes from my life before and after meeting their mother. I may also subject them to some important things I have observed and learned along the way. They are the intended audience for these writings, though they may find parts of it to be something they would like to share with their children in years to come. I would love to know more about my ancestors, so if any of this material gets passed down to future generations, I think that would be great.
My parents started this idea by videotaping my mom’s father in his elder years telling stories from years gone by. I have a copy of this tape. I did some videotaping with my mom a few years ago and have preserved that on DVDs. My sisters and I all have copies. I am choosing this format because I enjoy writing.
    This memoir, which was written between January and October 2009, is not for commercial publication and may not be reproduced without the expressed, written permission of the Hall family.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1:  The Early Years

Chapter 2:  Passions
Chapter 3:  Falling in Love
Chapter 4:  Love and Life Through the Years
Chapter 5:  Career
Chapter 6:  Perspectives
Chapter 7:  Health
Chapter 8:  Faith
Chapter 9:  Guidelines
Chapter 10: My Boys and Me
Chapter 11: Finish the Race Well

The Early Years


Nikki was my family’s dog when I was three years old and we were living in Mentor (a suburb of Cleveland, OH). He was a typical collie in that he was very watchful (based on their sheep herding breeding), loyal, and intelligent.
My mom had put me to bed while it was still light outside late one summer evening. When she looked out the front window she was surprised to see me across the street in the neighbor’s driveway pedaling a toy vehicle. (I must have gotten out of bed on my own and sneaked out of the house to go for a nighttime drive.) Nikki was with me. My mom could only watch in horror as the truck that had been parked in the driveway started to back up with me directly behind it (out of the driver’s sight). Nikki grabbed me by the back of the neck and pulled me to the side of the driveway as the truck backed up and crushed the toy vehicle. I would have died that day if not for Nikki!
We have a picture of Nikki on our refrigerator. I never owned a dog of my own until about seven years ago when Linda and I decided to get one. I very quickly determined that I would like to have a dog like Nikki, but decided to look for a sheltie (Shetland sheepdog) as they are smaller and less prone to disease. We adopted Little Fox and have appreciated the same loyalty and intelligence that I experienced with Nikki.  When we moved from Mentor to Cuyahoga Falls (a more heavily populated area), we had to give Nikki to a farmer because he chased cars. My family never saw Nikki again, but we never forgot him.

Falling in love

Fort Benning

We could have stayed in an apartment on base, but for reasons that escape me (it was probably cheaper), we rented a very small mobile home a few miles off the base. It was furnished in “early poverty” and had a kitchen, bathroom, one small bedroom the size of the bed and one tiny bedroom where we stored our stuff. It had an oil-burning furnace in a closet in the hallway. For those of you who have not spent time in the winter in southern Georgia, it can get “right cold.” The furnace turned out to be temperamental and occasionally opted to go on strike unannounced. I was determined to put my Yankee ingenuity to work and tackled the problem head-on. I opened the door to the furnace, exposing its inner workings. I was able to determine that I could re-light the furnace and noted that the oil flow was adjustable. With little regard for life and limb, I proceeded to light a Kleenex and throw it into the receptacle where the oil collected. When this didn’t work, I turned up the oil flow a hair and tried another Kleenex. After a couple more attempts, I gave the oil flow a more aggressive adjustment and threw in another lit Kleenex. I guess what followed could be called an explosion. Certainly the outcome was consistent with that description. Black smoke blew out, covering both me and the hallway. My hair was singed in a variety of places. When we went outside, we noted with interest that the aluminum pipe coming out of the furnace on the roof had blown off and was lying in the yard. Though I was slightly shaken, my pride was intact as the furnace was again functioning. It was with smug satisfaction that I approached the end of my training at Ft. Benning. My skills and fortitude had been put to the test in my war against that furnace and I had prevailed. Or so I thought.
The night before active duty was to end, Linda and I went out to a movie. When we returned to our “home away from home” and entered, we noticed that we could see our breath (never a good sign). We knew the oil tank had been running low, but we had not had it filled as we were leaving so soon. It was empty. My field training came in handy now as my military instincts kicked into high gear and I developed a cunning plan (OK, yes, I borrowed that one from King Julian in Madagascar). I turned on the gas stove and opened the door to heat up the place. This helped some, but we weren’t prepared to leave it on and go to bed. Besides that, it was still freezing in the bedroom. A precedent for our marriage was established at this point as Linda came up with the idea that solved the problem. She had a portable hair dryer that had an extendable hose, which hooked up to a plastic bonnet for drying her hair. We climbed into bed fully dressed, turned on the hair dryer, and stuck the hose under the covers. The warmth was wonderful and we quickly fell asleep. Sometime later, however, we both woke up sweating bullets. So we turned the hair dryer off. We fell asleep again and woke up a while later freezing. We turned the hair dryer back on. This cycle continued through the night until we woke up, fully rested and refreshed (not). The hair dryer had gotten us through night, but it would never operate the same after that. The furnace had gotten the last laugh.


Based on my experiences, there are some fundamental “guidelines for living” that I would pay more attention to if I could go back in time. Since that is not possible, I will be mindful of them now and in the future. I would recommend development of personal priorities for anyone. These are mine.  They are listed in the order of what came to mind, and do not necessarily reflect the importance of each.

·         Be happy.
·         Live in and appreciate the moment more.
·         Live my faith more completely.
o        Depend on God.
o        Do more for others.
o        Give thanks for all the blessings in my life.
o        Seek guidance.
·         Express love and appreciation openly and consistently.
·         Work on being more optimistic.
·         Be more committed to wellness.
·         Stay engaged mentally.
·         Continue to learn.
·         Maintain goal orientation.
·         Make space for the passions in my life.
·         Seek and live my “personal truth” without trying to force it on others.
·         Make informed choices and decisions with the help of God.
·         Be mindful of the impact of my words and actions on others.
·         Be respectful.
·         Be patient.
·         Be a good husband, father, son, brother, relative, and friend.
·         Seek ways to contribute to the greater good.
·         Understand and accept that I am imperfect as I attempt to live a life that is pleasing to God.

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