Is it Time to Write a Testimony to your Faith?

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel windows

The beautiful stained glass windows of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Osprey, FL

There are many reasons why you might write and publish an autobiography or your memoirs. Some write to set the record straight, others to capture and preserve precious family memories and still others want to leave behind the proof and some measure of the meaning of their existence, for generations to come.

For those of you who have a strong faith in God, and either belong to a particular organized religion or practice your faith privately, as a personal relationship with God, creating a lifetime book can be a lasting testament to your Faith.

Most of us grew up practicing some form of religion because our parents went to Church, Synagogue or other place of worship. You may have attended religious services with your extended family, celebrating milestones, as in a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, and for Catholics, receiving sacraments like First Holy Communion or Confirmation.  Then as we gained our independence in college or in our new careers or vocations, many of us drifted away from organized religion. Some began to question the beliefs taught by our parents and religious leaders and we wondered, sometimes scientifically, about the meaning of life and the existence of God and we questioned His relevance to our lives.

Then without warning, there comes a day when we are struck by tragedy –a loved one is critically ill, a spouse or close friend dies from an illness or accident, a neighbor suffers from an addiction. To cope, some of us come back to God, not always because of any new revelation or understanding, but because we need Him desperately to help us find some way to bear this burden. We may turn to God because He is the only one left to petition.

This is what happened to me: After high school, I had what some might call a crisis of faith.  After a failed marriage and teaching career, I absorbed all the revolutionary thought and rejection of the “establishment” during the turbulent 1960’s. I questioned everything, including my faith. I stopped going to Church and when I met my second husband, Gene, my heart returned to God, but in a very personal way.  To be honest, Christ was not an active presence in my life, but rather Jesus’ life and teaching was the basis for my return to traditional values and beliefs.

Then tragedy struck. My husband, Gene, was diagnosed with cancer and died a year and half later. I was devastated.

I moved out of our home in New Jersey and took up residence on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I was reeling from the emotional turmoil that remained after all the time I witnessed my husband’s struggle against cancer and cared for him. I suffered deeply from the loss of his love and our relationship.

I craved the warmth of a “community,” and I sought solace in the local Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Osprey.  I joined this community and met a pastor and a congregation who welcomed me with open arms.  Their Grief Support Group helped me weather my personal storm, and I am so grateful. I found peace of mind in the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation and I took solace in a new relationship with God and my religion, as I practice my faith once again.

The ebb and flow of religious fervor that I believe occurs not in the mind, but in the heart, is something that merits testimony. It is a story that begs to be told! Every one of us has a personal journey that may or may not include the recognition of a God who is involved in our destiny. Every story is different. We each have a different starting point and an equally unique destination. We have our reasons for maintaining or abandoning our faith or returning to it, but there is one thing that binds us together in our humanity and cannot be denied – the certainty and inevitability of death.

We are mortal beings and someday all that is in our minds and hearts will be left to those who hold our legacy in their memories. As a resource, they will have our photos and videos and leftover texts, online posts and voice mail messages.  But someday we will no longer be around to explain these, to recount our struggles with faith, or to pass on the lessons we may have learned through the years.

So, if you have learned something important about your relationship with Christ, maybe it’s time to put your story down on paper, if for no other reason, as a testimony to your Faith.



Honoring our Veterans

John Poklemba

John J. Poklemba

Growing up in the 1960’s in Jersey City, New Jersey, I had no clear understanding of what it was like to serve in the United States military.  I graduated high school in 1969, a year scarred by Vietnam War protests and youth’s rage against the “Military Industrial Complex.”  I knew so little then about any of the issues involved, and often went with the flow of popular opinion because I just didn’t know any better and my husband at the time, Warren, was influencing my political point of view.

Later in life, as I matured in age and attitude, my heart broke to see how poorly our military men and women were treated when they came home from what so many called an “unjust war.”  My heart still breaks today to learn that even now, the wounded and families of those returning from war do not get the treatment they need or are kept waiting for months and sometimes years to receive urgently needed services from the U.S. Veterans Administration.

My dad served in Japan during or after the Guadalcanal Campaign in the 1940’s and that’s all I know and I’m ashamed to say how little I know.  My dad didn’t talk about his military service, and although I don’t believe he was involved in actual fighting, I wish he told me about his experiences overseas.  All I have now are a few pictures and a one page summary of his military service record. Mom didn’t talk much about dad’s experience either and to be fair to them, I didn’t ask.

John J. Poklemba, Sr.

My Dad, John Poklemba

So, I urge those who have served or are serving in the armed services today to tell your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews and your grandchildren, as much as you can, and as much as they will absorb.  It’s important because there are valuable lessons that our service men and women have learned that those of us who don’t serve will never have the opportunity to know. The next generation shouldn’t have to wonder or guess at their relatives’ military experience. They shouldn’t have to wonder why they served or how they felt when they returned home. They shouldn’t have to repeat the mistakes of those who have no clue and who may have false impressions or naive beliefs about the importance of a strong military.

That’s why I am offering a FREE Lifetime Book to a Veteran who will spend the time with me to tell his or her story in as little or as much detail as they want.  I will offer this service and one printed book free to any Vet, active or retired, for as long as I am able to write. The first U.S. armed services Veteran to request a book will be selected as my first project.  I can only write and publish one book at a time, so right now, I am looking for one person to work with me on my first Lifetime Book for someone who served proudly in our military.  If you are a Veteran of any war, please contact me by email or phone if you are interested in a free Lifetime Book. I am searching for my first “pro bono” project and I am anxious to begin. | 908-883-1296 (mobile)

Thank you.

Career Choices

Writing about a career that spans over forty years is challenging at best.  My “career” or better put in the plural, “careers,” started after college in 1973 when I began what I thought would be a lifelong stretch teaching high school English.  Turns out that vocation was derailed by a divorce and the rude awakening that came with being on my own at 25 and having to support myself.  After we sold our house as part of the divorce settlement, I began life as an apartment dweller and I hated it. So I vowed to save enough money to afford a home of my own.  My dad worked for Bell Laboratories in Whippany at the time, and he was worried about me and thought I would be more financially secure if I had a job in the Bell System.  “Ma Bell” took care of her people.  My teaching job at the time paid $12,000 a year.   Dad told me about an opening in the Anti-Trust Department.  The Labs’ corporate legal team was involved in the Litton Anti-Trust litigation and they were hiring those with degrees in English who could summarize depositions and assist with witness interviews.  So in 1978, I left teaching to begin my career in the Bell System and this entry level job paid an annual salary of $17,000; so I thought at least I was moving up, financially, that is.  I still mourned the loss of my primary career, but it looked like there would be many “teaching” opportunities within AT&T, at many levels.

After spending a year or two at Bell Labs, I transferred to AT&T’s training department and in a Bell System career that lasted about 15 years, I worked my way over to sales and marketing and eventually became a product manager. Today, sifting through the photos that I will feature in my LifeTime Book, I came across this AT&T Sales Graduationgraduation photo taken at the beginning of a new position as an enterprise phone system sales executive for AT&T Business Communications Systems, sometime in the 1980’s.  I can still remember my first sale to a bank in Fairfield, NJ—a “state-of-the-art” voice and data PBX system.  The bank president was thrilled and the commission was generous! The Training “Academy” in Denver, Colorado was affectionately referred to as “Darth Vader University.” Funny I don’t remember the names of even one of the guys in this photo, but maybe some of them will read my post and send me an email.

I have collected quite a few photos now, and I’m beginning the process of selecting the dozen or so that will punctuate the text in my book.

All My Children

petsIt was difficult for me to write the Chapter I call “All My Children,” because I always wanted to have children, and I thought I would, but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve always had a great affinity with animals and so I wrote all about my pets as my kids. I sure do hope this is the last chapter so that I can finally complete my writing and go on to final edits and adding the photos so that I can publish my own LifeTime Book.

In my final edit, I want to be sure I include a paragraph about my jury duty in the murder trial of State of NJ vs. John Reese who was accused of brutally killing a woman with the claw end of a hammer after having bound and raped her. We jurors found the defendant guilty on all counts and then were charged with the task of deliberating on the Death Penalty.  It was a life-changing experience.  I wrote the first Chapter of a book dedicated to that experience so I don’t intend to go into it in depth in my LifeTime Book, but I want to include at least a paragraph.  So I will be editing for this next. Wish me luck.

My Lifetime Book, my Progress

Hello all.  Just checking in to let you know how I’m doing on my own Lifetime Book.  I finally finished a draft that I could give to my husband to read.  What a great experience.  As he finished one chapter at a time, I was flush with anticipation as I waited for his “review.” Would he be upset about any of the details I included in the book?  Would he be okay with any references to him and our life together?  Would I have to do any major editing after hearing his comments?

But I had nothing to worry about. Gene was most generous.  He praised my writing and even said he was moved to some emotion from time to time.  There were things I thought for sure we shared, but it was not until he read it in black and white that he realized what my life before we met was all about. I was most pleased that I was able to build some suspense that kept him reading on and left him wanting more details.  I think I discovered a great way to get couples talking about their lives, family, and experiences….just write a book!

My childhood was spent in Jersey City, an environment so foreign to me now.  It’s really quite a contradiction when your soul feels firmly rooted in the country despite a city upbringing.  The twists and turns of life are difficult to chronicle in a book, but I’m getting the hang of it.

Skier Cartoon

The Skiers

After a bit more editing (I left out a few important things, like my gardening and our adventures in real estate and home renovations), my next step is to collect the photos and create captions for each of them.  I want to choose photos that represent not only the key events in my life, but also those that show some of the personality traits I developed along my life’s journey.  From the dutiful Catholic child in my early school days to the rebellious teenager in hippie jeans, to the non-conformist young adult who rode a motorcycle to her conventional corporate job and the smart alleky skier (like in the photo we took at the Fair)–I want to include the images that reflect the clothes, the expressions, the environment—so I can look back and see how and why I am who I am today!

How are you doing on your Lifetime Book?

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