Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#221 Effie Alean (Groves) Gross: He Never Left Her

Effie Gross was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1944—the baby of the family (3 brothers, 1 sister). The family never had much money and Effie wore hand-me-down clothes or things her mother sewed by hand out of flour sacks or other cheap material. Her mother didn’t allow alcohol in the house, but her father was an alcoholic. Sometimes her parents would argue and her father would hit her mother. That’s when Effie’s sister would hold her and comfort her. Some of her happiest memories are going to the Grand Ole Opry with her mother and sister. In school, Effie always got good grades and she went to the library every week for more books. Every Sunday, Effie’s mother sent her to a Baptist church on a Sunday school bus. When she was 13, Effie realized she was a sinner and went forward in the church service and Jesus saved her. He has never left her. Effie got married at 16. She didn't have to get married, but Roland Gross was in the US Army at White Sands Missile Range and the only way they could be together was to get married, so they did. The first thing that drew Effie to Roland was his gentleness and she thrived with his love for her and their family. Over the years, Effie worked for the IRS, her husband's electrical contracting business, and was a freelance writer. Effie loved working in the family business—doing everything from accounting to pulling wire—and the family got to have a lot of lunches together, which was nice. Effie and Roland had two biological children (Mynita, an accountant; Kendahl, a pilot and then a photographer) and also adopted a son (Jonathan, who now runs the family business)—and, eventually, their three children gave them eight grandchildren. It was during this time that Effie decided to get her formal education—a BA in English and Education and then an MA in English from Drake University—but by the time she had her degrees, there weren’t any full-time jobs in high schools, so she taught as an adjunct at a community college (she loved the students—adults with a life outside of college), and has since taught English at many colleges and universities. Besides English, Effie has also taught Israeli folk dance. Plus, she has written, acted in, and produced plays. She loves the theater. Effie also loves the ocean, but she’s not much of a swimmer. And she loves Catalina Island, the RMS Queen Mary, and horses. Mostly, she loves the Lord and the Bible is her favorite book. It is prophetic and we have been told so many marvelous things. In 2004, Roland died suddenly of a heart attack. They had been married 43 years and he had never been sick. It was unbelievable. Effie prayed and read the Bible. She knew that she had to go on without Roland. The loneliness is the hardest part. Nothing is the same anymore. Right now, she’s writing a WWII novel called, Foxtrots and Foxholes. Writing is her passion and she’s started a new writing venture, Life Lines Legacy, where she teaches people how to write their own life story, one memory at a time. Someday, Effie will see her dear husband again in heaven. That is a comfort.

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#184 The Art That Is Stephanie Barber

Stephanie Barber was born on Long Island and her childhood was complicated, chaotic. She didn’t enjoy that. She moved more than a dozen times as a child and chunks of time were lived in Florida and Pennsylvania. There were times when she swam in the ocean and there were often a lot of musicians around. When she was 6, Stephanie knew that she wanted to be a writer and started typing out her poems because she thought published poems were typed. When she was 8, Stephanie had a ballet recital that went particularly well, and, after the show, as she was driven home in her father’s convertible, she stood up in her seat and pumped her bouquet-filled fist into the sky in triumph. Sometimes, Stephanie thinks of that moment and how she never feels that unadulterated pride and joy after a performance or a screening. Stephanie regrets not having become a child star. Growing up, Stephanie was bizarrely serious and very religious (even though nobody in her family really was). She decided she was Catholic and walked by herself to church on Sunday mornings. She even talked her way onto a cheerleading squad at the Catholic school, which she did not attend. Stephanie thought that she was cheering for God or Jesus. Eventually, the Catholics realized that she was not one of them and wouldn’t let her cheer anymore. When Stephanie was 12, she fell out of the church and today she is a sort of lazy spiritualist. In high school, Stephanie studied playwriting and ballet at a performing arts school. In college, she studied film and anthropology and poetry. In graduate school, she studied film and poetry. Stephanie became interested in making films because the more experimental films she had seen seemed rooted in poetics. Stephanie reads a lot. She is an artist, a filmmaker, a videomaker, a performer, a writer, and, sometimes, a musician. The way that Stephanie believes in art has a religious fervor. There is a purposefulness that sometimes assuages the angry muddled tenor of her existence. As an adult, Stephanie has lived in 9 different cities. Whenever you see her anywhere, she is almost always smiling or laughing. To get by, she always gets different funny jobs for money—shoveling gravel, selling snakes, teaching water aerobics to senior citizens, college professor, street performer, freelance editor, adoption counselor at an SPCA, phone psychic. Other than where she is living and what job she has and who she is romantically involved with, Stephanie is pretty consistent. She doesn't have too many decisions to make. When she moved to Baltimore, she bought a house that used to be a corner grocery and leaks. It was full of groceries when she moved in, but the groceries are all gone now. Soon, she will move again. She will get her first professional job and win a large grant. She will write a novel and fall in large love.

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Photo Credit: Joe Milutis
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