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What Real Life is All About

What Real Life is All About

 “The Old Dodge Truck” and “A Bed’s Storied Life”
—two short stories that may prompt
sweet memories of your growing-up years.

May 9, 2022 Brabec Bulletin

This story collection begins with a beautiful piece of writing by my nephew, Jeffrey, son of my sister, Mollie. He didn’t intend for this to be published; it was simply a nostalgic email he sent to his mother, which she in turn shared with me. I couldn’t resist publishing it because it’s both an example of fine writing and a sweet remembrance of my father’s old Dodge truck, which I gave little thought to growing up. To me, it was simply the truck Daddy loved.

“Daddy” was William (Bill) Schaumburg, a farmer who never got to complete his grade school education. He and mother married in 1936 and farmed near Buckley, Illinois until 1946 when he decided to move into town and build a home and garage. A self-taught mechanic, he never met a car, truck, or tractor he couldn’t fix, and he advanced his hand-on education by devouring books and magazines to improve his many skills. My two sisters and I followed our parents’ entrepreneurial lead by starting businesses of our own and became voracious readers too.

After Daddy died in 1992, Mollie, then living in California, flew to Buckley with her sons, Jeffrey and Matthew, to get his truck, which he wanted her to have. They drove the truck to California with several pieces of furniture that are still in the family today. This story below was prompted years later when Jeffrey found a photo of that truck online and sent it to Mollie with his nostalgic remembrances.

The Old Dodge Truck
by Jeffrey Wakeman

“The Dodge had mud+snow rear tires. It towed a U-Haul into which several pieces of Buckley furniture were stuffed, at least one of which went to Aunt Mary. My cast-iron-rolled steel bed was in there.

“The cab had rubber mats over the steel floor, which is probably why the Dodge smelled a bit like the back of the Datsun—but the Dodge smelled more than a bit like Buckley. Not like any particular place in Buckley, though—not the particular mustiness of the basement with its exotic rounded latch-handle refrigerator, nor the thousand neat Louis L'Amour paperbacks of the steep narrow staircase, nor the Roman Meal wheat bread of the kitchen, nor the particular grass and grain elevator and mild steel of the side screen door with its eyehook latch, and especially not the unvarnished wood and rust and old gear oil and mysterious car hulk and overhead chain pulley engine lift of the Buckley garage. The Dodge just smelled like Buckley because that's where it came from.

“I remember there wasn't a vent up on the passenger side dash, because it was all glove box door. Instead there was a big black plastic fresh air box under the dash above your feet, with a sliding plastic door on the right. But that wasn't nearly as interesting as the aftermarket saddle tanks.

“Did you know the Club Cab design was a Dodge innovation in 1972? Ford answered with the Super Cab in 1974; Chevy didn't make anything like it until the 80s. ­

“It seemed like we kept the Dodge for years just to haul away poplar tree trimmings. The Union City smell of poplar seemed at odds with the Buckley Dodge.”

A Bed’s Storied Life

Mollie kept this old family bed in storage for several years until Jeffrey wanted a bigger bed. He liked the look of the old iron bed, so she took it out of storage and cleaned it up.

“The first thing I had to do to get the bed ready for Jeff,” she told me with sisterly sarcasm, “was scrape off countless old dried-up wads of chewing gum you’d stuck there before you went to bed, which reminded me of that old recording by Homer & Jethro, ‘Does the Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?’ After cleaning and preparing the metal, I painted it black to go with Jeff’s bedroom décor. A few years later, he returned the bed when he got married and I removed all the black paint and repainted it beige with gold trim, where it is now the highlight of my guest room.”

A sign on that room’s door says “The Buckley Room,” and it includes many family antiques. You can imagine how sweet it is for me to sleep in my childhood bed on one of my rare trips to California. (Mollie’s glad I no longer chew gum.)

antique wrought iron bed

Life is All about Stories

In my biographical memoir,  Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories, I’ve written about both the “storied bed” and Mother’s love of Western novels, which she so artfully shelved on and above the stair steps. Hundreds of little “life stories” in my book make the truth come alive, illustrating that real life is first and foremost all about FAMILY, and then about: 

• Living day by day and dealing to the best of your ability with whatever life delivers;

•  Giving of yourself when family, friends, or strangers are in need of help, encouragement, or comfort;

•  Being thankful for all the blessings in your life;

•  Looking for the humor in your daily life and using laughter as a stress reliever;

•  Grabbing joy by the tail whenever and wherever you can find it:

•  Letting God help you find peace, even in the most difficult times of life;

•  Reaping the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galations 5: 22-23, NLT).

REMEMBER: You have stories only you can tell. And I encourage you to write them—not only for yourself, but for family members and friends who will surely see your writing as a great legacy of love.

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Technology and the Importance of Lifelong Learning

and the Importance of Lifelong Learning

If you want to keep your job,
or survive in your own business,
or simply enrich your personal life,
the learning can never stop.

April 20, 2022 Brabec Bulletin

I’ve finally accepted the fact that changing technology will forever rule the way we all live and work. But being older and “set in my ways,” I’m finding it hard to hold my ground, let alone incorporate the latest technology into my life.

I thrived as a writer and home-business owner long before the internet dramatically changed my life at the turn of the century. I was literally forced online and into my own website when I was offered a $50,000/year writing job as a “personality” on IdeaForest/ in 2000. Gifted with a new laptop, I had to learn a lot in a short period of time, including how to manage and build my first website. (After hiring a webmaster to set it up for me, she suddenly vanished and I had to learn how to finish the job and manage it thereafter, using part of my new income to pay for the telephone training I got at that time.)

Ironically, this “dream job” lasted little more than a year because Idea Forest was one of many new investment-backed ventures that failed when the dot-com bubble imploded. (This article explains how this impacted the internet in 2000 and shaped our lives today.) From that point on, I realized I’d never be able to stop learning if I wanted to survive as a self-employed writer, publisher, and speaker.

The Need for Lifelong Learning

In 2007, I clipped the following comment in an article quoting technology forecaster Paul Saffo, who was discussing where we’d be five years from then:

“Lifelong learning will be the key to unlocking the future,” Saffo said.  “People should expect to change careers six or seven times in their lifetime. This is a brain race. It’s no longer warm and fuzzy. Lifelong learning will be a forced march. If you stop learning, you will become unemployed and unemployable very quickly.”

Although Saffo was addressing the corporate world and its employees, I found his prediction equally applicable to me and everyone in the home-business and crafts industries in which I was then deeply entrenched. I never had to get a job or change my career, but as the years passed, changing technology forced me to make many adjustments to the way I was working and, eventually, it changed the kind of writing I would do—which led me back into self-publishing again.

Every self-employed individual and small business owner has been forced to make similar adjustments to survive in business. And it wasn’t easy for any of us.

It’s a “Brain Thing”

In 2020, Covid-19 proved it was indeed “a brain thing” as thousands of both large and small businesses had to rethink everything they’d been doing successfully for years. Suddenly, they not only had to figure out new ways of advertising, selling, and delivering their products and services, but often had to create new products or services that could be sold online or for pickup just to generate some kind of income to hold their lives together. For sure, no one in business could survive without a website and the ability (and willingness) to learn how to use the latest technology, plus do all they had to do with little or no paid help.

I think it’s essential today for employees, business owners, and would-be entrepreneurs to sharpen every skill they have and add some new ones to the mix since none of us can predict what our high-tech society will look like even a year from now. If you have little or no money, I urge you to read and study relentlessly to become self-taught in everything you need to do (or can learn how to do) to make a living. You’ll never find a better investment than yourself.

Learning how to do something else to make a living today has become critical to the financial survival of many American families, and the older one is, the harder this will be to do. I’ve often joked that old writers never die; they just change their subjects, but it’s still is a “brain thing” for me as I struggle to keep up with constantly changing phone, computer, website, and internet-related technology and try to adjust to changes I have to make in order to keep doing what I love to do.

Since I've always been a stubborn achiever and do-it-yourselfer, I’m now forcing myself to change my attitude about technology by looking at it differently, as suggested below:

“Reframe the way you think about technology as a challenge, not as a threat. When you view technology as a challenge, the thinking part of your brain is accessible for learning and regulation. On the other hand, when you see technology as threatening or anxiety-provoking, your thinking brain is hijacked by fear and the survival part of your brain is activated instead.” Susan Bauerfeld 

Wish me luck!author's signature

Resources to Help You Learn Something New
and Stay Up on Changing Technology

Top Ten IT Skills to Learn in 2022

8+ Great Websites to Learn New Tech Skills

 Strategies for Managing Digital Devices (Parents helping children)

The Kim Komando Show and Website. A wealth of practical help here!

Technology In Our Life Today And How It Has Changed  (especially for seniors) (Also available on newsstands.) (Shareware and product reviews.)

• Mac Tech Tips/Tricks

P. S.  Visit HOME page to find links to featured articles of the month. And thanks for linking others to this blog. New readers, click here to join my mailing list.

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Copyright © 2022 by Barbara Brabec.
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