Gloria Vandemmeltraadt helps hospice residents write memoirs

I just interviewed a wonderfully delightful and talented woman, Gloria Vandemmeltraadt. We talked about her life, it’s ups and downs and how those things let to a very unique book, Musing and Munching. Gloria shares what she knows about making memoirs in her volunteer work at local hospice centers, helping some hospice residents write their life stories. To listen to the audio interview at BlogTalkRadio, follow this link: http://tinyurl.com/2bbk5ap. A written interview with Gloria follows:

NG Intro: I’m happy to have here with me today, Gloria Vandemmeltraadt, author of Musing and Munching, a memoir and cookbook. Musing and Munching is a fusion of memories and menus that the author has put together to share stories of her life. She overlaps these stories with a wide variety of foods and recipes that have followed her diverse life path. Through these stories, readers will experience genuine feeling flow through them as they learn more about VanDemmeltraadt’s memories. Gloria will be talking with us today about her life, and how her book came together. Welcome Gloria!

Gloria:  Thank you Nadia, I’m so happy to be here.

NG: Gloria, one of the first things I want to ask you is what inspired or prompted you to write this book?

Gloria: I’ve had a rather unusual life compared to my peers. I’ve been married 3 times; I was abandoned and divorced once and widowed once. I’ve had some really good times and some really not so good times.

When I was 25 and pregnant with our third child, my husband decided that he didn’t want to be married anymore and left us. I was alone for several years and then married a widower with two teenagers. We adopted each others’ children and had one more. My second husband, Gene, died of prostate bone cancer in 2002. Now I have six children, four born to me and two adopted, plus two new step-children, and 20 grandchildren. I married Onno VanDemmeltraadt in 2004.

My family has long been asking me to document some of the stories they remembered hearing and some they experienced as they were growing up.

NG: Why did you write it in the unusual form of a memoir and a cookbook?

Gloria: As I started to write some of the stories about my life, I began thinking of how my diet and tastes in food have drastically changed thru the years. In my early years food was not important at all, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve really started to be aware of food. How it tastes and how it works on my body as well.

My mother was not a good cook. She could bake great breads and pies, but vegetables were unknown commodities. She was a fry cook in a restaurant and to her a can of peas boiled for 10 minutes was a vegetable. I didn’t learn to cook from my mother!

Cooking for me was trial and error. I had six children and I had to fill them up; I learned to make lots of casseroles and Minnesota hot dishes. I baked tons of bars and cookies. Some were really bad but they ate them anyway.

When I married my husband Onno in 2004, I really became aware of food. He is Indonesian Dutch and food is very important to him. I’ve learned a lot about cooking and about foods since we’ve been together. We spent a month in Indonesia in 2005 and I tried every kind of food they gave me. I discovered vegetables and fruits that I never heard of before, and they were wonderful. When we came home I began to experiment in the kitchen and have learned to make some really good Indonesian foods. We also went to Holland and I learned to make some great Dutch dishes.

So, when I started thinking about going from one extreme to the other with foods and cooking, the stories just flowed out of my fingers. I dug through my ragged recipe box and splattered cookbooks, and the book began to write itself.

NG: What has happened to your life as a result of writing the book?

Gloria: A new world has opened up for me. I’ve met many interesting and talented people. I’ve had some book signings and some speaking engagements that have been wonderfully fun. The best part is that it has prompted me to start helping others write their life stories.

My husband and I are Hospice volunteers. Thru Hospice I went to a training session by a couple of people who were working with patients to document their life stories for their loved ones. This appealed to me very much and I thought, I can do this! I bought some recording and transcribing equipment, designed a process and a series of questions, and got some assignments. Of course my process changes with each story, but the result is that patients at the end of their lives are able to leave something for their families that might not be done otherwise. It is a priceless gift.

Recently, I starting doing some life stories for other people, too, and I can’t describe how exciting it is for me to bring these people’s memories to life. To document their recollections and get their stories on paper for their loved ones to have forever is an amazing thing. I am thrilled to be part of it.

When I was in high school I lived with my parents for three years in an old people’s home in Northfield, Minnesota, where my dad was the manager. It was a terrific learning experience and mainly I learned to really appreciate and enjoy elderly people. I love being able now to capture their memories for their families.

I hope to continue doing short life stories for people. In addition, one of my next ventures will be to document my husband Onno’s story of growing up in the Dutch East Indies and being a child during the Japanese occupation of the country.

NG:  What is the message you want people to take away from reading your book or hearing you speak?

Gloria: Everyone has a story. Very very few of us have had what you’d call a perfect life. I had a pretty awful childhood, but so did lots of others. My mother used to say, “If we could all throw our troubles into a basket and choose the ones we wanted, we’d all take back our own.”

My message is that no matter what happens throughout our lives, we can grow from our troubles. We can take personal responsibility for how we deal with our predicaments. Things happen to us that we can’t control, but we can control how we personally deal with the results of those predicaments.

Attitude is everything. We can become mired in misery by big troubles or small ones. Or we can rise above the misery and take control of our own outlook and mind-set. Sometimes all we can do is pray–or laugh. I believe that laughter in the face of hard times is a form of prayer.

There’s a story in my book about a time when I was alone with three tiny kids and food was hard to come by. I was living with my younger brother for a while and he worked in a bar. At 2 in the morning he would bring home the left over cherries and pieces of lemon from the bar and for more times than I care to remember, that was dinner for both of us. We ate the cherries and laughed till the tears came and then giggled some more.

Faith is very important to me, and I know that God has carried me through some really tough times. Today I am strong, but that strength didn’t come from my own efforts. I prayed for it, and God gave it to me.

NG: So true, and good words. Gloria, from my heart, I want to thank you for being my guest today.  Again, the book is Musing and Munching by Gloria Vandemmeltraadt, available on Amazon.com.  You can also go to the website at www.gloriavandemmeltradt.com. The website link is also listed here at the BlogTalkRadio page.

Gloria: Nadia, thank you so much for having me on your show, I enjoyed this.

Nadia sign-off: My pleasure, Gloria. This has been delightful. Bye everyone, until next time, this is Nadia Giordana, reminding you to “Embody your vision, it’s easier than you THINK!”

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