Author of ten books, Joyce Fields joined me today to talk parenting, patience, and why she stopped reading fiction. I also got her to share her family favorite recipes. This episode is guaranteed to make you starving.
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Hello, Bookworms welcome to the Best Book Ever, the podcast where I get to know interesting people by asking them about their favorite books. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and today I’m talking to Joyce Fields who is a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and also the author of ten books that she wrote to inspire people on their journey to make the world a better place. Joyce joined me today to talk about why she thinks Jump by Steve Harvey is the best book ever. And then she stuck around to talk family recipes. I promise you 30 minutes from now, you’re going to be inspired and starving.
Julie Strauss: Good evening, Joyce. Welcome to the Best Book Ever Podcast.
Joyce Fields: Thank you, Julie. It is really great to be here.
JS: Joyce, can you tell me about the role of reading in your life? How did you become a reader?
JF: That’s an interesting story. I can remember – now I’m 77 years old – I can remember at five years old sitting at the breakfast table with the cereal box in front of me and a bowl of cereal, you know, milk and all that stuff. And I would read. I had just learned how to read. I was five or six and I would read every word on that cereal box. Front, back, sides, top. Every single word. I even used to read match book covers. I remember that too. Anything with words, I was reading it by the time I was 12. My mother lovingly used to say to me, she’s gone now, she used to say to me – now I have long nails, I’ve had long nails since I was 12 years old – and so she used to me, Joycie girl, if you ain’t reading a book, you’re doing your nails; if you ain’t doing your nails, you’re reading a book. That’s what she would lovingly say. She was really pleased that I love to read.
JS: Were they big readers, your parents?
JF: No, they were not. My mother had seven children, so I don’t think she had too much time to read.
JS: Did your other siblings become big readers?
JF: Not really. I’m the only big reader. My sister, Anita, she wrote a book about her dogs. She always had dogs, so she wrote a book about her dogs. But that was it. As far as I know I never saw them reading; they always saw me reading.
JS: What did you like to read when you were a child?
JF: Fairytales and fiction. I liked fiction. Now I do not care for fiction at all. I like truth.
JS: So tell me, did something turn you off of fiction? Was there something that you disliked that made you want to stop reading fiction?
JF: Yeah, because it wasn’t true. It was just based on somebody’s imagination. I wanted to read facts and truth.
JS: So now you only read memoirs and nonfiction.
JF: Yes. Philosophical stuff, inspirational stuff.
JS: Really? And you’re never tempted, when you see the newest, the best sellers of the fiction list, nothing ever tempts you? Do you watch movies or TV?
JF: I love movies. I love good movies, but that’s only like two hours. And then, I’m in a world of fiction, but I can use my own imagination.
JS: I know that you are also a writer yourself. You’ve written, I believe, 10 books?
JF: Ten books.
JS: So at what point did you decide, or did you know, that you wanted to write as well?
JF: I was about 11 or 12. I think I was in sixth grade, and I wrote this paper. The gist of it was if our ancestors could come back and see all the modern appliances – at that time, they were modern appliances. The wringer washer was a modern appliance. The pop-up toaster was a modern appliance. So I thought that if they could come back and see all these modern appliances that we have, it would just absolutely blow their minds. And that was the paper I wrote. I got an A on it. I remember that.
JS: Do you still have it?
JF: No, I don’t. I didn’t attach any value to that kind of stuff back when I was a lot younger. Now I keep everything.
JS: And so was it since that paper that you knew that you had a talent for words?
JF: No, that was, let’s see, that was probably let’s say I was about 12. I was born in ‘44, fifty that’s about 1956. So, in 1982, I was the supervisor of the word processing center at Detroit Edison. And they had a subscription to the office magazine that’s defunct now. It’s no longer in existence. The office magazine was promoting a writing contest. So, I entered the writing contest. Then the paper was titled “Word Processing: Teach Concept, Not Operation.” The schools were teaching operation of word processing, but then when the students got to the word processing center, got the job as word processing operator, they had to unlearn everything that was being taught to them in the schools. So I wrote that paper. It wasn’t chosen as a winner, but they paid me $100 and then they published it anyway. And they published it verbatim, exactly the way that I wrote it. That’s the way they published it. So then I thought to myself, well, I can write well enough to be published. So in 1997, I wrote my first book and it’s called Line of Serenity. And it’s all about the way that my parents raised their seven kids and a Doberman pincher puppy.
JS: You told me in our initial emails that’s is that your favorite of the ones that you’ve of the books that you’ve written? Why?
JF: Because I wrote it for future generations. So that book will have a life long after I’m gone, to tell the story of how our parents raised us. I finished the manuscript and, my husband and I have been together for 64 years, since we were 13 years old. He just turned 78 last week. We’ve been married for 54 years. He adored my parents. My oldest brother – he died in 2013, he had lung cancer. That was his best friend. He and my husband were best friends. He met my husband before I met him, but he was 12 years old. And so, I had finished the manuscript and I didn’t know what to call it. So my husband said, all y’all have that line of serenity running through you. So I went, whoa. Okay. That’s what I’ll call it. So in Line of Serenity, the first 23 pages, my husband – Pap is his name. His nickname is Pap Pap. So Pap is describing what he sees as this line of serenity in each one of us, starting with my parents. And then he goes all the way through to my youngest sister, Ava. He’s known her since she was three, I think.
JS: Were you able to parent the same way your parents did? Do you feel like your children have that same sense of serenity?
JF: I most certainly do. I wrote a book about that as well. My son, I admire my own child. He’s 51 years old.
JS: What do you admire about him?
JF: He’s just a wonderful human being. Would you like to hear what I said about him?
JS: Yes ma’am.
JF: Okay. Now, in Mother’s Dozen: An Easy Recipe for Raising Great Kids, this is what I say about him: He is always mannerable. He is very polite and respectful, especially with his elders. He loves to learn and experiments with new approaches in order to learn more. He is a responsible person and does not expect others to pay for his mistakes or wrong choices. He suffers negative consequences with dignity. He consciously lives his life with rules, order, and organization, thereby minimizing tension, stress, anger, conflict, and confusion. He is independent and seldom borrows or asks for assistance. He is exceedingly spiritual with a powerful belief in God. He regularly vocalizes his awareness of and thankfulness for his many blessings. He enjoys giving and receiving hugs and kisses. He puts needs before wants and business before pleasure. He demonstrates that he can effectively follow rules and instructions when appropriate. He is patient seldom loses his temper and uses time wisely. And the last one: he has a truckload of family members and friends who love, admire, and respect him and often seek his opinion or point of view. And that includes me.
JS: I can’t imagine what it would feel like for him to see those words in writing from his own mother. I just think that must have been an incredible moment for him to have those words.
JF: Yes. And I say that regularly in podcasts because it comes up. I admire my own child and I wrote the book to tell others how to do it so that you can admire your own. Would you like to hear the foreword for this book? It was written by a minister.
JS: Yes, ma’am, I would.
JF: “Mothers Dozen is a handbook of excellence and raising children. It systematizes the rules passed from generation to generation regarding preparing children for the world to come. It involves tough love. It encompasses touchy, feely. It establishes fences that keep the wolf out and the sheep in. It is common sense, the most uncommon thing in the world, particularly in this present age of negative imaging and self-raised. The quest is not for something new, but for something substantial. Every line brings an aha experience. The head nods yes. The will prods action. Well done. Well done. Reverend Cecil L Chip, First AME Church, Los Angeles, retired.” That’s what he said. When I sent the manuscript off to the reputable publishing houses and they all rejected it saying that they only published books about raising children if they were written by a celebrity. And I thought to myself who wants to raise their children the way celebrities raised their child? Or a psychologist. So I did the next best thing. I sent the manuscript by email to the minister of the AME church. My cousin attended there and I asked him if he would read the manuscript. He agreed and he emailed me back this. Girl, if I hadn’t been sitting down, I’d have passed out. I couldn’t believe that he got that out of my book. He said, I systematized. And that’s what I tried to do. Make it simple and easy. For instance, how do you teach a child patience? By making the child wait. They’ll learn patience. If you teach them to wait, or make them wait. They want to cookie? Wait five minutes. Then you extend that time. Wait 10 minutes. Then the next week you might make them wait a little bit longer. All the time, you’re teaching them patience. My daddy, when we used to ask for a nickel or dime – that was a lot of money back then, you know – we didn’t know that he was teaching us patience because he would make us stand in front of him and wait until he decided to go in his pocket. We couldn’t grimace, we couldn’t moan. We couldn’t do anything. We had to stand there patiently. That’s how he taught us patience. And every last one of us is patient.
JS: Do you think that your children have the same parenting techniques that you do? That, that you’ve managed to pass it down?
JF: You know what? I just said that to my son last night. I made strawberry pineapple cream cheese pie. I’ve been making those pies for 40, or maybe 46, years. I make one about two times a year or so because they’re very, very fattening. I had made one for his family and one for Pap, that’s his favorite pie that I make. And so I made it last week for his birthday. My son’s name is Encanto, and he was saying that the kids really loved the pie. So, I said that to him last night, what you just said to me, I said, and that’s a wonderful thing, but have them call and tell me. Don’t you speak for them. If you allow others to speak for them, starting with you, then they will allow other people to speak outside of this house. Don’t do that to them. So I’m still a mother. A mother is always in teach mode, is my philosophy.
JS: Are you, are you a spoiling grandma or a great grandma? No? You’re tough with the grandkids too?
JF: Yes. Cause life is going to be tough with them. I don’t believe in that. You suffer the consequences for what you do.
JS: Joyce, tell me how you came across this book by Steve Harvey. I know you read nonfiction. How did you find this one called Jump?
JF: I tape “Family Feud” and he’s the master of ceremonies on Family Feud. And I think he was talking about the book, and then I heard about it on social media. So I wanted to get it because it’s a philosophy that I ascribe to. “Jump” just means take a leap of faith.
JS: Can you tell my listeners what the book is about?
JF: It’s extremely inspirational. I went through and listed tthe chapter headings for your listeners. The first chapter is “Ain’t No Lesson Like a Bought Lesson.” That just means if you had to pay money out of your pocket for some kind of lesson, something that you messed up, then you have a better chance of not ever doing that again, because it cost you some money. There’s no lesson like a bought lesson. Number two, “There Are No Straight Lines in Nature.” I never thought about that, but there aren’t. So you can’t get from here to there with a straight line; you’re going to take curves and detours and all of that in your life. So don’t make any plans. You know, have goals, but don’t have your plans set in concrete. Like, you got to get married by the time you’re 30 or all of those kinds of things. There they’re too strict, too set in concrete. Life is not like that. Number three, “If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going.” I love that one because people have problems. So you don’t allow your problems to stop you from moving. That’s what will keep you going. It’s like a rolling stone gathers no moss, that kind of stuff. I believe in all of those old sayings. Number four: “Life is a Four-Letter Word.” That tickles me. That’s along with all the other four letter words. Number five: “A Man Without a Vision or Dream Shall Perish.” I wanted to amend that statement to a man or a woman. Sometimes they forget about that it is humankind not mankind. You know, I have a book of quotes as well. And one of the quotes was chosen out of over 5,000 entries as a one of 12 quotes for a 2013 calendar. And that quote I post on social media regularly to encourage people, the quote states, it’s better to die chasing a dream than to die, never having chased a dream. And I put that on social media because there are so many dream squashers out there. You know, you’ll tell them, oh, I’m going to do this and that. And they say you can’t do that. That’s going to be too hard. They’ll do everything and say everything to squash your dream. Don’t allow them to do that. If you land on your death bed, don’t be in a position where you have to say, I wish I had done whatever. do it now while you live. And the last one: “Stop Existing and Start Living.” I just said that. Living. So that’s what I love about his book. Life lessons.
JS: Is this a book that you pass on to people or a lot, or do you reread it frequently?
JF: No, I very seldom reread books. I just enjoy them, you know. It’s like movies. I never watch a movie twice. Except Forest Gump. I watched that about five times. That was an exception. That was a wonderful movie.
JS: Was it that this book aligned with your philosophies? Or did you feel like you learned something new with this book, or was it because it expressed what you already sort of innately knew?
JF: It expressed what are already feel and think, but it expressed it in different ways, in different words. And that’s why I love listening to people who I respect and or admire. It gives me another way of looking at something, whatever it is. I love sharing points of view.
JS: I feel like I missed something with this book and I would love to hear more about why it means so much to you. As I was reading it, particularly when he was describing being homeless to chase his dream, every now and then there would be an aside that his wife and his children were at home while he was living in his car. And I found that really upsetting because I’m all for chasing dreams. I love watching people swing for the bleachers. I think it’s the most exciting thing in the world, but I also think everything changes when you have a kid. And if my husband said I’m going to go be a comedian, I’m taking off to do this and live out of my car, I would say, The hell you are! We have four children here that you need to take care of. So, as I was reading it, I was thinking I’m, I’m missing something here because I couldn’t find any admiration for him. Could you tell me where you found it? Because I would really love to know.
JF: You were talking about his wife allowing him to do that. So she was set in her philosophical ways of being, she only wanted, I think, for him to do whatever he needed to do or whatever he thought he needed to do to reach his goals. She was a willing partner in that. That’s the way I saw it. And some people, you know, they’re willing to sacrifice everything for the happiness of their mate.
JS: Yeah. But do you think the kids were okay with it?
JF: The whole thing is you have to teach your kids that this is life. This is the way it goes. For some people you cannot allow it to break. You have to separate and compartmentalize everything. Does that answer your question?
JS: Yeah. I’m just always very protective of children and I kept thinking, I bet those babies wanted their dad at home.
JF: You have to allow children to experience life on their own as well. You cannot protect them from life itself, kids have to know that there are arguments in life, disagreements, differences of opinion. They have to know that everybody’s not going to agree with what you said or think or whatever, and what you do all of that, but they have to know that. You have to make them as fully round a human being as you possibly can. You have to expose them to everything, not necessarily the ugliness, but you’ve got to expose them to people arguing and making up, to not pursuing your dream or missing your dream. And then you’d have to show them, get up, dust yourself off, start over again. You get it? That’s what children learn when they live. I was determined to allow my son to learn, you know, about life in all the sports.
JS: What are your grandkids think of your books? They must be proud.
JF: Oh, yeah, they are. Yeah. They brag about their grandmas books.
JS: Oh, I’m sure. And the recipes! Oh my gosh.
JF: Food is, was, and still is a big part of our lives.
JS: What’s your favorite thing to cook for your family?
JF: My favorite meal is, I made this recipe up, skillet chicken and rice. You like chicken? You like onions? You like rice? Okay. All it is: You put a bed of chopped onions in a cast iron pan. Season your chicken. I use drumettes. Season those, and then put them on top of the bed of onions. Put a cup of chicken broth, little bit more than that, in there and season that. Salt of the onions. I season onions too, a little bit just. And then, the chicken broth and cover it, cook it for about 30 minutes. And then on the side, you have your chicken broth cooking your rice and chicken broth. When that gets almost done put that the rice into the chicken mixture and let that simmer for about five or six minutes. Let me tell you when I’m cooking that I can’t wait to bite into it.
JS: Oh, I bet that’s so good. Cause all of the chicken fat that came off, the drumettes gets into the rice.
JF: I’m telling you.
JS: Okay. So you said your husband’s favorite dessert is the strawberry pineapple pie. What’s yours?
JF: My favorite I think is I make what I call coconut maple brownies. They have coconut oil in them. I use maple sugar. I don’t use white sugar anymore. I’m a breast cancer survivor and a stroke survivor. I had stage two breast cancer. And pecans and I don’t even know, I can’t guess, but I got it written down cause I don’t make them too often. I just lose my mind. I can eat the whole pan.
JS: Joyce, Thank you for joining me today. It’s really been lovely talking to you.
JF: I have enjoyed it too. Thank you for the opportunity.
Thanks for listening, Bookworms. For more information on Joyce Fields, go to her website, where you can find links to all of the books she’s written. Don’t forget, you can also follow this podcast on Instagram. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and you can find me on Instagram, too.
If you loved this episode as much as I loved making it, please leave a review wherever you are listening to this broadcast. Every review helps new listeners find my work, and I’m so grateful for your help. Thanks for joining me today. And I’ll see you at the library.