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Your LifeStory Episode 4

Cat Harper

"This is wonderful, Marcia."

Karen C.

"Thanks for so many nice comments. What great publicity for my books."

Elizabeth C.

"Wow, Thanks Marcia, Inspires me."

Gary S.

This Blog* and My Memoir Workbook are meant to encourage, inspire and motivate you to write your unique story. Don’t keep your memories hidden or secret any longer.

Marcia Rosen, Author of 11 books, including My Memoir Workbook, has presented Memoir Writing Programs and Encouraging the Writer Within You Presentations for over 16 years, from New York to California and New Mexico!

A LifeStory Memory

Each Blog shares a portion of someone else’s LifeStory that we hope will entertain and inspire you to write and share your own.

Submit yours with your name and email to:

June 17, 2023

Change of Direction

Let’s start off with the fact that I am not a writer…but I am a storyteller. Since I was 15 years old, I’ve been telling stories with my camera as a Still Photographer. Capturing the life around me, big and small, and then sharing it with my world. I’ve had my work in galleries all over the U.S., been featured in magazines, had my own card line, and my prints hang in homes all over the world. But family has always come first in my life, so photography has always been a sideline. From time to time, I’ve taken jobs to “pay the rent” and help make ends meet. It is why I have my very interesting and divided life right now.

We moved to the Central Coast for family and photo work, but I fell into the museum world due to necessity. With a kid in college and an aging parent to care for, we were suddenly aware that a full-time job was needed in this very expensive part of the world. It’s a job I love.

The pandemic shut us down for 18 months. With health issues, our family had to be extra careful, so we pretty much didn’t see anyone else for months. That doesn’t mean we didn’t go anywhere. Long drives out into nature, away from people, so I could photograph and share it with the world became even more important, especially to those who couldn’t leave their homes at all. And then I discovered YouTube. I looked up travel films since I couldn’t really go too far afield and found wonderful short films by other photographers who were documenting their road trips or how they were quarantining in an RV, traveling with their families, and working from the road.

A switch flipped in my head. I realized the camera I’d used for many years for still photography takes videos too. I also realized how much more I could have been sharing if I combined both video with still photography. Lastly, I realized how much this “video travel” had meant to me when I couldn’t go anywhere near people and was stuck at home much of the time. In early 2021, Traveling Cat Photos was born on YouTube, and I discovered not just the last phase of my career but, unexpectantly, a new career for my husband as well.

We launched the channel as a long-term project. We had always wanted to travel full-time in an RV, but we knew that had to wait till we can retire, which is still 5 years away. The channel was started with the idea that IF it ever made any money, then it would help with that long-term RV dream. And if it never made any money, then at least it would be travel and experiences preserved for our family. What didn’t occur to us is how much people who can’t travel or who don’t live in the U.S. would love it. And that is the real payoff. If we never make a dime, we still know we made a difference.

We’ve had two wonderful years of making films for the Channel. We have just over 100 regular followers, which I’m told is pretty good for such a small channel that has less than 75 films on it. There’s a feeling of accomplishment there. Working full-time and traveling part-time to make our films has a big payoff. We are meeting some wonderful people on the road, making a community, loving the travel, and making these fit together to share with everyone else.

Cat Harper, Steinbeck Center, Assistant to the Director

Bits and Pieces of Your Life

Write 100 words or less about a funny situation, a strange or unique happening, or a “meet cute” story you experienced.

My desire with my art career has always been just to share the “Beautiful” that I see in this world with everyone. Now, in this final stage of my life, I get to share it with my husband of 36 years who has come to love the process as much as I do. Finding joy and purpose this late in life, finding where I fit completely, finding something that unites the two of us even more, well, that feels like success to me; and that’s a challenge to do in a world that only considers money as a measure of success. This is the change of direction in my life, in our lives, that brings us real happiness. What greater success could you ever wish to achieve?

Cat Harper, Traveling Cat Photos

Writing Your LifeStory Hints, Tips, and Advice


How to write one’s LifeStory? Writing a memoir can be a daunting and, at times, emotional experience. It is also exciting, fulfilling and rewarding. A memoir is a true story you tell about specific events, experiences or times in your life. You can write about the whole span of your life or one specific episode.

Why Are You Writing Your Life Story?

To Remember You…To Think About You…To Give Voice to Your Life

To Leave a Legacy for Your Loved Ones, Friends and Others

To Inspire, Motivate and Encourage

To Grieve…To Heal…To Release Yourself From Hurts, Pains and Sorrows

To Tell Your Truths…To Make Others Accountable to Their Truths

To Search for Answers…To Understand Them

To Find Comfort

To Find Joy and Celebration in All You Are and All You Have Done

To Honor Your Accomplishments

Keep in mind who you are writing for: your family and friends, the reading public?

What do you want them to know about you and your life?

Reminder: Keep a notebook with your LifeStory ideas.

More hints, tips, advice, and my story in each blog.

Following is part of my LifeStory:

My Gangster Father and Me (Excerpt )


“That’s Vic Barr’s Daughter.”

It was a little like being the gangster’s daughter you see in movies.

I was given the courtesy and respect that came with being Vic Barr’s daughter. It meant when I was out for dinner with a date and one of my dad’s cronies was there, they picked up the bill. They nodded ever so gently in my direction when I looked up to thank them. Sometimes the men were with their wives, sometimes not.

The waiter would come over to our table and say, “The bill has been paid. That man over there said he would take care of it, that you’re Vic Barr’s daughter.” It happened quite often throughout my teenage dating years. I never expected it. I just accepted that was the way they showed the respect they believed due my father.

Funny, in recent years I began to think about what it really meant, that I was Vic Barr’s daughter. In fact, I’ve thought quite a lot about it in recent years. Yes, there were those who showed a certain respect, a certain caution, a certain awareness of who he was, and therefore, who I was in their world. It meant my father was known by a group of people who knew him from his card room, his pool hall, and his bookie days. It also meant he did “favors” and “took care” of his friends. There were all sorts of implications that I never asked about, legal and not so legal.

In all those years, my mother and father would go out to dinner every other Sunday. They would go to one of several restaurants where they met their friends, couples much like them. The men were blustery and made lots of money. The women were mostly bored, stay-at-home housewives, who perhaps at one time had loved the men, but now only found them self-centered and arrogant. There would also be some New Year’s Eve parties together at one or another’s home. But mostly it was dinner out, every other Sunday. The alternate Sunday my father worked nights at his business, or whatever else it was he did behind closed doors, keeping his secrets.

From the money they made from the pool hall and card room and from being bookies, he and his partner bought an Italian Restaurant in the heart of downtown Buffalo, New York. It was very successful…until it wasn’t, due to the loss of their liquor license. It had been in the name of one of my father’s sisters husband and he refused to continue with that arrangementeven though he had been well paid. It was a mean and nasty thing to do. But jealousy rears its head in many ways, and it had often been the case with my dad and his family. They resented his success, as they themselves struggled for whatever reasons. I have no idea and care not.

My dad and his partner took money made from the sale of the business and invested it in a typical Buffalo hotdog stand in south Buffalo. I have no idea whatever possessed them to buy such a business. Maybe hope, maybe desperation. It was so not his style. It was so not right for him in any way, and one day after a couple years gratefully a fire destroyed the building and the business.

Yes, I still have questions about his businesses. Plus, who was my father, truly? What were his other business dealings about? What about my father and mother’s relationship? There were many secrets. Don’t we all have them?

We keep secrets about who we are and what we do. There are secrets that can destroy relationships, maybe some that can save them. I probably learned to keep secrets about myself, about my business and money, from my dad. He was quite a role model…in many ways.

For more stories about me and my gangster father, check out the book The Gourmet Gangster.

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