Musings From Missouri~Moments Memoirs Are Made Of

Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler

” Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” – Thomas Merton

I just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Trenton, Missouri- my home away from home between 1986-1989. A story in itself. As a matter of fact, as of this writing, my work-in-progress memoir opens up in Trenton.


Trenton hardware store on Main Street.

Trenton is a small town in the heartland of America; a collection of  dear friends, colorful characters and fond memories. I stayed with John and Mary Sue who told me ” you’re not company” and I blended in with the rhythm of the place like I had never left it twenty-three years ago.


Stories are everywhere and this year was no exception. Besides reconnecting with dear friends around kitchen tables, walking trails and a quick trip to Jamesport to pick up pies from an Amish bakery, here are a few “memoir moments” that stand out:


Senior Moment:

I don’t really think of myself as the senior center type but I did qualify age-wise to put my $3.00 in the donation box and sit down to a home-cooked meal with a roomful of seniors. Mary Sue and I were on a mission to see our friend Nancy and we knew we’d find her there. Sure enough, we spotted her at a table with a lovely couple, Richard and Mary. Richard was a Korean War Veteran. After getting our hearty meatloaf and mashed potato meal, we settled in at the table and struck up a lively conversation about the “Greatest Generation” which  immediately prompted me to think about  two things- my own dear WWII Naval Veteran-Dad and Karen Fisher-Alaniz’s beautiful memoir, Breaking the Code: A Father’s Secret, A Daughter’s Journey and the Question That Changed Everything. Their eyes lit up when I told them about Karen’s book. I gave them the information but made a mental note to order it for them and mail it to them as a surprise. I was reminded that sharing our stories really does matter. Later in the week we ran into them at the small movie theater in town  for “Last Ounce of Courage”, an independent film depicting patriotism and freedom.


Richard & Mary Greatest Generation

Richard,Korean War Veteran and his wife, Mary who have owned and repaired 55 small airplanes over their lifetime together.



Smalltown Bookstore (reminiscent of Jan Karon’s, The Mitford Series):

Sitting at Hardee’s for some morning coffee with my friend Denise, I heard about Maggie Bush.  She and her husband Jim own and operate the local bookstore, Maggie’s Mess of Books and the small movie theater in town. I  decided since I love bookstores, I must meet Maggie and experience her bookstore. I daydreamed about doing my own book signing someday. The store used to be a doctor’s office and was a maze of small rooms packed with new and used books. I browsed the musty stacks, bought “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw and nestled into an upholstered corner chair to start reading it.


Maggie's Mess



I had to wait for Maggie as she had gone to get a permanent. When she returned  with a  pink streak in her white curls, she told me it would make her day if someone would refer to her as “that crazy lady with the pink hair who hands out free popcorn at the movie theater keeps me going to the movies.” Maggie and Jim also own the movie theater. She believes “it’s not just the movie, it’s the experience.” She vowed to hand out tissues at the week’s showing of “Last Ounce of Courage.” Maggie told me her story of  being a  newspaper editor in New Jersey for 28 years and a Marine Combat Correspondent in the Vietnam War.  She loves books and started by buying 200 books in North Carolina. Now she has 300-400 books shipped at a time. Currently, she has 26,000+ books and has a loyal assistant, Rene to help her.  She is working on her own memoir of prejudice in the South from her childhood point of view. Every Friday at 9:35 AM she is interviewed about the bookstore and movie theater on KTTN, the local radio station. You go, Maggie!


Maggie Bush

Meeting  with Maggie Bush in her bookstore, Maggie’s Mess of Books


The Magic of Online Connections:

After several years of following Linda K Thomas’ blog,Spiritual Memoirs 101 and reading her memoir,Grandma’s Letters From Africa, I had to pinch myself.  We were able to arrange a meeting in the tiny, quaint town of Carrollton , Missouri. Pure joy! When we met at the Main Street Restaurant for lunch, I felt like I was reconnecting with a dear, longtime friend not meeting someone for the first time. Real people do exist behind the blogs, Facebook messages and tweets and they are every bit as  warm and wonderful as they seem online. It really was magical, Linda and so wonderful to meet you in person!


Linda Thomas & Kathy Pooler

Linda and Kathy meet in Carrollton,MO


There’s No Such Thing As A Stranger:

After Linda left, Mary Sue and I walked around the town square and ended up in Julia Goetting’s Antique Shop.

Julia was on her cell phone but as soon as she saw us, she told her caller,

“Gotta’ run. These two ladies got their check books out, ready to buy me out.”


Julia Goetting

Julia Goetting, Antique Shop Owner and Painter


Before we left, we knew Julia’s religious and political persuasions, how far she had walked to school as a child, how many children and grandchildren she had and that she was The Cornhusking Queen of Missouri in 2011. She never stopped smiling. Julia’s lovely paintings were displayed on every wall of the shop. I bought the musical score to “Mother’s Rosary of Love “by Leonard Wood and Eddie Dorr, 1919 which I will frame. The Rosary shows up in my memoir,too. I left feeling richer for all the connections.


Honoring  the Roses-

Rose and I met at church many years ago and had maintained a close friendship through our faith and Italian heritage. Over the past several years, Mary Sue and I had started a tradition of cooking a traditional Italian meal of spaghetti and meatballs and inviting Rose for dinner.  Rose died  in February, two months before my Aunt Rose died, bringing a bittersweet tone to my annual visit. I miss both my Roses very much. This year we upheld the tradition and toasted the Roses, clinking our glasses of Cabernet and telling Rose stories.


Fall 2011

Mary Sue and I with Rose in the middle during our last visit, September 2011



Chillicothe, The Home of Sliced Bread and The Arts-


Passing through Chillicothe, another small town south of Trenton, I stopped to  take a picture one of the murals -one of many-a local artist had painted in exquisite detail on a building on our way to the  fantastic Grammy-nominated Dailey & Vincent Blue Grass Show at the Dickinson Fine Arts Center.



Chillicothe,MO Mural “Home of Sliced Bread”


As a last hoorah, on Saturday morning I attended the North Central Missouri Writer’s Guild at the BoJo Cafe. I met several very interesting people, one of whom was a multi-talented Episcopal Pastor, William Bellais, an author of several novels, a poetry book and an artist of watercolor paintings. He brought his current work-in-progress manuscript for us to review. I could tell he was a professional writer by his use of dialogue and sensory detail. I asked him to critique one of my vignettes which I read from my iPad. He told me to add one more sense to the scene and it would be fine. It was wonderful to sit among a group of strangers and feel an immediate bond through our writing.

These are just a few highlights. There’s not enough time or space to  include all the friends I reconnected with, shared memories with, laughed with. Precious moments.


Thanks for the moments and memories of good times and good people, Trenton. You are truly the “heartland” of America!



How about you? Do you have special memories of times and places that tug at your heartstrings?  If you are  a memoir writer, will these moments and memories end up in your memoir?



I’d love to hear from you. Please comments below~




Announcement: Congratulations to Clar Bowman-Jahn and Heather Marsten!  Clar’s name was drawn to receive Again in a Heartbeat and Heather’s name was drawn to receive Morning at Wellington Square.



Next Week:  Memoir Author and Coach Linda Wisniewski will discuss “The Pen is Mighty: How to Be Brave While Writing Your Memoir.” Linda will give away a free copy of her memoir, Off Kilter to a commenter whose name will be selected in a random drawing.



  1. Rebecca says

    Kathy, what a touching and personal recounting of your visit “home.” I look forward to reading more about this place and the special people in your life there when your own memoir comes out. Keep writing!

    • says

      Hi Rebecca, I should have included the Skype call Mary Sue and I had with you as we tried to plan our Italy trip- still a work-in-progress. You gave us lots of great information. Just following your blog, Tales from Tavanti is a treat! I appreciate your kind feedback. It’s funny how the story kind of writes itself after a while. As you know so well, stories are everywhere, sometimes where you least expect them to be. I will keep writing! Thanks for stopping by.

      • says

        Dear Kathy:
        I enjoyed your homecoming. I, too, will be on a homecoming journey come Monday, to my home town where I grew up. Our town is so small that we have thirty high school reunions every two years – all under one roof. My memoirs will be up for grabs at the meet n’ greet Saturday night just before the combined reunions’ banquet. “Defection at 60, I left dinner on the stove and ran away from home” is the story of my life and times growing up in Sebring, Florida, told from a little girl’s point of view. I write of a young woman’s struggle for freedom from female marginalization and the idiocy of male chauvinism. Many of my readers comment they can relate to the story from their own experiences.
        Alrine Chase was my first teacher when I was drafting my first book, “Wagons South!” The sequel is described above.
        Adora Mitchell Bayles

        • says

          It’s so nice to see you here, Adora! Thank you for sharing your story. Your summary sounds very intriguing-it has a universal appeal with your own twist. Small towns certainly do have own special charm and adventures.

          Arline was my first writing teacher as well. It’s exciting to think we had the same start and to see how much you have accomplished- a sequel already. I look forward to hearing more about your memoirs. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

          Best wishes,

  2. says

    Kathy, you are definitely a catalyst for connecting people! I would love to visit Maggie’s Mess of Books. Hopefully one day just like Linda, I will pop up in some town over there or you’ll appear in a village over here and we’ll meet in person .

    • says

      Pat, You would have loved meeting Maggie and visiting her book store! It would be wonderful to meet either here or there someday-that’s a great item for my Bucket List. Let’s make it happen. :-)

  3. says

    Loved your description of coming “home” and the people you were re-meeting or newly meeting. Some wonderful stories there. Is there a way to “like” your posts, not just share them? I’d love to “like” you. *G*

  4. says

    Kathy, such a beautiful compilation of some of the stories you heard/lived during your visit. You are truly a “connector” of people and stories. You’re very inspiring to me!

    • says


      I’m so touched by your heartfelt comments.I’m glad you got to experience my sentimental journey with me! I never dreamed that meeting so many wonderful people-online and off- would all be part of the writing experience. Your support and encouragement is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      Best wishes,


  5. smita jagdale says

    kathy, after reading the descriptive memories you have had, it reminded me of my next door(not so near–in Africa) neighbor–Bill Ross and his wife–Vera, who took me to their home to nurture me after I returned home a week later from the children’s hospital five hundred miles away. My three weeks old baby was airlifted one early morning. Me and my late husband accompanied our baby. I threw the keys to Vera, and ran to the nearby airstrip to catch the airlift. she took my two year old daughter to her place. We were ransacked just ten days prior to the illness of my baby. Everybody has stories and we learn a lot from their stories and how they deal with the experience.

    Living with those memories and meeting those friends is a pleasure. I wish I could see that couple some day. By the way,you look the same–you haven’t changed a bit since I saw you last time.

    • says

      Smita, Wow, that is quite a story you share- one of many compelling ones I know you have experienced. I hope you are continuing to write them all down so we can share in your memoir some day. I know I have more gray hairs than I did when we last saw each other but I’m happy you didn’t notice :-) Always so good to hear from you, Smita and have you share your thoughts and stories with us. Happy Writing! Kathy

  6. says

    Yes, Kathy, going to Dickinson, ND in summer 2008 was a bittersweet couple of weeks for me. I captured it in my novel, Dakota Blues, and it seems even more poignant now since oil has turned a sleepy hometown into a gold-rush environment. Loved your write-up.

    • says

      Thanks! Yes, indeed, you did capture Dickinson,ND so vividly in Dakota Blues because you wrote from your heart about the memories of the people and place. I’ll never forget scrappy Frieda and all her shenanigans! It is very genuine and believable. The people and the place seem to become a part of the fabric of who we are. So happy to hear that Dickinson is rising and taking you right along with them :-) As always, I appreciate your perspective and am so glad you stopped by.

  7. Christina says

    Missouri is such a part of your life that I never realized you had lived there for such a short time. What a wonderful place! So many interesting people. But I guess that is the point for a writer or a lover of life. Extraordinary people are everywhere! We just have to be open to new experiences and to meeting those strangers who become friends.

    As usual, very well written.

    Christina p.s. I miss you, friend. Will get in contact when my world stops spinning so fast.

    • says

      If anyone is “open to new experiences and meeting those strangers who become friends”, it’s you, Christina. Thanks for showing me the way! Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to being in touch. Kathy

  8. says

    Kathy, what a delightful summary you’ve written of your visit to the heartland! I’d say you’ve managed to capture many memories for your memoir. You certainly made me feel like I was a part of your visit! How fascinating that you got to meet a blogging friend — who’d have thought we’d find such deep connections online?! I like to think I, too, will one day have a chance to visit one-on-one with the people I’ve met across the country through blogging!

    • says

      I’m happy you enjoyed my visit, Debbie. We are some of the lucky ones who have already met before we launched into cyberspace. I would love to see you in person again-a reunion! I do hope you’ll get the chance to meet some of your blogging friends. It really is magical because you’ll feel like you already know each other. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  9. says

    I think you should do a book signing at Maggie’s Mess bookstore. Love her half-pink hair. I also want to learn more about Linda’s memoir, “Grandma’s letters from Africa.” This reminds me of the Danish woman who moved to Kenya, Karen Blixen. I’ve always admired her courage.
    I mentioned your blog today at a last-minute speaking engagement I had at my local library. It was a writers’ group and many are writing memoirs. I gave them your website link, and one man said, “How can you write about memoirs every Monday.” My response, well Kathy can, she interviews many memoir writers and helps all of us.

    • says

      Yes, Sonia, I’m already doing a positive visualization about that book signing at Maggie’s! You will love Linda’s memoir, especially having lived in Africa. She makes you feel like you are right there with her. Thanks so much for your shout out for my blog. It’s amazing how much there is to say about memoir writing- the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I need to know- like peeling an onion. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. says

    Oh, Kathy, what a fun read! I enjoyed every detail and story about your recent trip to Missouri. I have re-lived–so often–the 90 minutes or so that you and I spent together at that little restaurant in Carroltonm and taking pictures across the street. Yes, I felt like I already knew you as a special friend before even meeting you in person, and I thank God for the chance to give you an in-person hug. You are so dear. (My only regret is that I was a bit foggy due to an antihistamine— forgive me!)

    Hugs and smiles,

    • says

      Thank you, Linda! It was such a memorable and magical visit. There’s nothing quite like an “in-person hug” :-) I especially enjoyed your story of finding Elizabeth ( a key character in your memoir Grandma’s Letters From Africa), just another one of God’s miracles as was our visit. Your “fogginess” was not the least bit apparent to me.
      Blessings and Hugs,

  11. says

    Great blog post, Kathy. This is one we can savor for a long time to come. I really enjoyed meeting your friends and experiencing Trention through your photos. For me, the mural is the icing on the cake. You look great!

    • says

      It’s so great to see you here, Sue! I miss our connections. I’m so happy you enjoyed my visit. There were many more murals of old-time scenes on buildings throughout the downtown section of Chillicothe (about 20 miles south of Trenton). They were exquisite. It was definitely a “step back in time.” Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Hope all is going well with you and your writing and painting.

  12. says

    Kathy, I felt as though I were there with you on every step of your journey home. Your descriptions of the people and places you visited are magical. People can enrich our lives deeply, no matter how long we’ve known them!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Libbye! You’ve paid me the highest compliment by telling me you felt like you were there with me. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. And you are so right about people enriching our lives, no matter how long we’ve known them.

  13. says

    What a challenge we all face to narrow Story down to just a few pieces for a story. I also sometimes feel almost overwhelmed by the sea of story we live in. Everywhere, everything. Story, story, story. Nicely done. Glad you had a great trip and returned safely to write again.

    • says

      Thanks,Sharon. Yes, sometimes it seems like both a blessing and a curse to see the stories in everything. I felt like a roving reporter- overwhelmed by the stories everywhere- and yet it was so much fun to capture the moments.

  14. says

    Oh, Kathy, memories of the south popped into my mind as I read this post. Just before moving to Oregon, Bob, our son and i traveled to a nearby small town, Cowan. There we found the most marvelous cafe which sold the best burgers and onion rings, and we’ve never found one to compare since. Better yet, the proprietor was this storytelling woman who bounced from table to table making everyone feel like they’d been there before.

    A few miles down the road was the campus of the University of the South at Sewanee, where some day I hope to attend a writing workshop (dreams still dance in my head). The beauty and grace if its buildings and campus filtered through my mind like a movie speeding passed on a reel.

    Last year on a yearly pilgrimage (I love Shirley Showalter’s bringing this word to mind) Bob and I found another of those tiny towns with the cafe that’s been there since the beginning, and I caught my breath. The proprietor looked so much like my own mother. My mother who loved to cook and dreamed of her own restaurant for years.

    OK,you asked for stories and memories and I’ve wpttten a chapter! Must go and work on my book or an essay, but thanks for triggering these memories.

    You are a blessing to all of us!

    • says

      I love your stories, Sherrey! Delightful. I can taste those onion rings and visualize the storytelling woman bouncing from table to table. Small towns in the south and anywhere certainly do hold a lot of charm. Thank you so much for sharing them with us. Sharing our stories really does matter!

  15. says

    Thanks so much for hosting your interview last week where I won’ the memoir by Susan Weidener “Again in a Heartbeat” I have started it and it is hard to put down. Yes, it is that good! :) Thanks again.

    And thanks for sharing your writing journey as you connect with old and new friends along the way. Maybe one day I’ll be able to say I knew you when… :)


  1. […] The most mundane circumstances can be rich with story. Just stand in line at a grocery store and observe the dynamics of the people. On a recent vacation to Missouri to visit friends, I ended up doing a blog post about my trip because, everywhere I looked, I saw a story that needed to be told. I was like a roving reporter, notebook in hand jotting down notes and taking pictures. I had a great time. Here’s my post. […]

  2. […] The most mundane circumstances can be rich with story. Just stand in line at a grocery store and observe the dynamics of the people. On a recent vacation to Missouri to visit friends, I ended up doing a blog post about my trip because, everywhere I looked, I saw a story that needed to be told. I was like a roving reporter, notebook in hand jotting down notes and taking pictures. I had a great time. Here’s my post. […]

  3. […] The most mundane circumstances can be rich with story. Just stand in line at a grocery store and observe the dynamics of the people. On a recent vacation to Missouri to visit friends, I ended up doing a blog post about my trip because, everywhere I looked, I saw a story that needed to be told. I was like a roving reporter, notebook in hand jotting down notes and taking pictures. I had a great time. Here’s my post. […]

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