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Greathall Productions, Inc. - Intelligent listening for the thinking family.

Tuesday August 6, 2013

Welcome to Our August E-Magazine

Inside This Issue:

It's August! The glorious last month of summer which makes it ever so precious. Back-to-school advertisements are already present in commercials and stores. We say, "Ignore them, and embrace the present. Swim, barbecue, camp, float and sail. Dress lightly, hum a song, and be thankful for warm, lazy summer days."

*Exclusive E-Mag Special: No Charge for Domestic Shipping

* From the Storyteller, Jim Weiss: "Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind"

* Reflections from Randy Weiss: "Fact Versus Fiction"

* Where in the World is Jim Weiss? Jim's Travel Schedule

*Jim's Photo Album and Jim's Video Library

*Digital Download Spotlight: "The Queen's Pirate"

*Greathall CD GiveAways

* Greathall's New Presence on Pinterest

* Please Join our Facebook Hall

* A Final Note: E-Magazine Blog Archives

Photo: Jim and Randy Weiss wear their summer smiles

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Exclusive E-Mag Special: No Charge for Domestic Shipping

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Exclusive E-Mag Special: No Charge for Domestic Shipping

That's right! Order as many Greathall recordings as you like, and we'll pay the shipping.

To order by e-mail, place your order as normal but be sure to write "August E-Mag Special" in the "Notes" Box. The discount will not be reflected on your confirmation. We'll take care of that on the billing and shipping end from our office.

Offer Expires August 30, 2013

Photo: Summer fun with Greathall recordings with no charge for domestic postage for your August, 2013 order

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From the Storyteller, Jim Weiss: "Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind"

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Sometimes when I write to our daughter, Danna, or she writes to me, we sign off with “I love you even more than sweet pickled watermelon rind.”  There is a story to that, of course.

When my father was just a boy, his family moved from Chicago to Arkansas for a few years because of my grandfather’s business.  This was a huge adjustment for the family, and also for the community in Arkansas, which suddenly included a bunch of urban Yankees.  It all worked out eventually, but shortly afterward, the family moved back to Chicago.

My grandmother, who was a wonderful cook, took back north with her Southern recipes. One was for sweet pickled watermelon rind.  She would cut the rind up into chunks, pickle it in a sweet syrup and store it in mason jars. The key was the many varied recipes for the syrup.  Grandma knew that my dad and my uncle loved this food, and she was always experimenting to find which recipe they liked best.  I have boyhood memories of Dad and Uncle Julian at our dinner table eating this delicacy that Grandma had brought out from Chicago to our suburban home. Even then, I was keeping pace with them, for I had come to love it, too.

Years later, after Dad had passed away and my uncle was living in California, Grandma would still bring those mason jars to our house, now just for me.  (My brother never really liked pickled watermelon rind.  As you may imagine, this did not disturb me.)  My poor grandfather must have had watermelon coming out of his ears just so Grandma would have enough rind to pickle for me each year.  One summer weekend, she arrived with a carton divided by cardboard dividers into twelve sections, each of which held a mason jar.  She proudly announced, “Here are a dozen jars.  Each one has a different recipe.  I made these just for you.”  (Note: I hope when I die, I go to heaven.  If I do, I think Grandma will meet me inside the Pearly Gates with those exact words.  That’s when I’ll know I’ve really arrived.)

For months after Grandma brought this bounty, I feasted from those dozen jars.  No bear eating salmon snatched from the stream, no Parisian epicure dining at a Five-Star restaurant ever ate with greater satisfaction than I did.  Whenever I talked to Grandma on the phone, or saw her, she would ask, “Are you enjoying the watermelon rind?” and I always answered with an enthusiastic “Yes!”.

At last, however, even the twelfth jar sat empty.  Grandma asked, “Which one did you like the best?”  However, she hadn’t  labeled the jars with their specific recipes, nor told me to choose my favorite.  I didn’t know which one I had liked the best. I loved them all!  I told her honestly, “I loved every single one!” but I could see that she had wanted to do for me what she had done for my father and uncle: find that special, most favored recipe.  After that summer, she never again brought me an assortment of those jars, though there would still be an occasional jar.

Years later, my grandmother passed away while Randy was pregnant with Danna, whom we named after Grandma (Anna). I eventually introduced Danna to sweet pickled watermelon rind, albeit commercial versions.  To my great joy, Danna loved this specialty item as much as I did. Now, when Danna comes home from overseas, I always have the house well stocked, and I always send her home with additional jars.  Sitting in her kitchen in faraway Dubai, she eats them and thinks of me.  So for four generations now, this has been a special bond for members of our family, a way of saying, “I love you”.  That is why Danna and I, both knowing the full history, feel it’s the ultimate pledge to tell one another, “I love you even more than sweet pickled watermelon rind!”

Photo: Jim enjoys pickled watermelon rind straight out of the's not Grandma's but the precious memories add to the taste

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Reflections from Randy Weiss: "Fact Versus Fiction"

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Reflections from Randy Weiss: "Fact Versus Fiction"

Recently my friend Teresa introduced me to an intriguing book called "Radical Forgiveness" by Colin Tipping. In this self-help book the author works from the premise that when facing life’s challenges, one should examine the situation for what is “fact” and what is “fiction.” Tipping explains that people tend to create fictitious stories to justify or clarify a given situation and that these stories cause turmoil and grief and add drama and distraction to actually solving the problem at hand. While I don’t resonate with all of Tipping’s conclusions, I totally resonate with this “deciphering tool”.

I find that the story vs. fact syndrome is prevalent in my own thought process. I am truly a master at creating horrible scenarios based on fear. If only I could transform these intriguing scenes into books of fiction!  For the record, I am capable of dreaming up positive scenarios, but more often than not, these become undervalued as happy daydreams instead of realistic possibilities. Fear is a powerful tool that needs to be reckoned with.

Recently I was unable to reach Jim on his cell phone. I knew he was out running errands and so clearly there was absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t be answering his phone. I rang him numerous times and could reach only his voice mail.  By the end of an hour, I had conjured up a scenario that I am way too embarrassed to describe here.
Suffice it to say, it was dramatic, tragic and heartbreaking.

Let’s consider the fact: Jim was not answering his cell phone.

There was no drama except what my imagination conjured up. The actual, not-so-interesting “story” was that he was in a store, lowered the sound on the phone and then forgot to raise it. Nothing at all horrible happened to him between his trip to Staples and then to Lowes, and back home! In fact, he ran into friends at Lowes; found all he needed at Staples, and had quite the pleasant time one should have on a sunny Saturday in August!

Teresa’s personal encounter with the fact vs. fiction scenario is even more poignant than my own.

One day Teresa was the last person to leave her office for the day and systematically attempted to lock the door. She realized that her key didn't work and eventually determined that the lock must have been fooled with.  She convinced herself that during the day, somebody with ill intent found an opportunity to jimmie the lock in order to break into the office after the last person had gone. She looked around…the street was dark and empty. The bushes suddenly appeared as a great hiding place for a thief. Teresa then called her office mate who deemed the entire hyposthesis as silly, reminded Teresa that the neighborhood is totally safe and advised her to just go home. Not convinced, Teresa called a friend who lived nearby who and immediately came over bringing yet another friend who used to be a soldier. This woman was now ready to take on the intruder with full brute force!

Well, as you might be imagining, there was no intruder. Truth be told, Teresa’s husband had borrowed her office key and accidentally replaced it with the wrong key; hence, it didn’t fit the lock.

Now, Teresa is one of the most trusting, wise, present individuals whom I have ever met. This scenario was so out of character that I was hysterically laughing as she related it to me.

Teresa was the first one to realize that she had taken a simple fact (e.g. the key doesn’t work) and turned it into a dramatic, fascinating story. She said the most amazing thing was that everyone (except for her office mate) was more than willing to believe her story and even to defend her against the intruder. She was amazed at her own power.

I marvel at how much power we all have to create and re-create stories whose purpose is none other than to infuse the organically healthy hours of our lives with synthetic, “man”-u-factured elements of fear, trauma and dissatisfaction.  Long ago, someone at the end of his long life told me that the one thing he regretted was how much time he had spent worrying about things that never happened.  Wiser words may never have been spoken.

Ironically, the thought comes to mind that I live with a storyteller and work in the storytelling business.  At Greathall, every one of our stories intentionally showcases life lessons, discerning values and rich problem-solving. The best stories become classics because they take one from point A-Z and focus on purposeful, intentional, grounded living.  I want the stories in my mind to take me from point A-Z, not to some desolate, ugly, scary place.  Clearly, I need to pay attention to the rich, healthy product that we produce.

Photo: One morning, this rainbow appeared on our family room wall, a reminder of beautiful possibilities, miracles and the best things in life. 

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Where in the World is Jim Weiss? Jim's Travel Schedule

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Each year Jim travels near and far to present live storytelling performances; storytelling/writing workshops, and more. We are currently working on Jim's 2013-14 calendar and we'd love to include your school, homeschool, library or organization. Please contact us for a Performance Packet as soon as you can.

Current dates and places include but are not limited to:

August:                                                                                             In the studio...two new Greathall recordings are being created...titles to be announced in September and available in late October

14-28 Southern and Northern California Bookings                    

Open to the Public:                                                                                                       *Monday, September 23: Pleasanton Library 7:00 PM                                       *Wednesday, September 25: Sonoma County Library                                                     Jim is available for additional bookings in BOTH Northern and Southern CA as well as other locations. Please inquire.

October:                                                                                                                                   2-4  Greensboro, North Carolina                                                                                        Open to the Public:                                                                                              *Wednesday, October 2: Greensboro Historical Museum 7:00                                         9-16 Ohio/Kentucky Bookings (more to come)                                                             Jim is available for additional bookings in BOTH Ohio and Kentucky as well as other locations. Please inquire.            

November:                                                                                                                      12  Tri-State Home School Organization, Delaware                                                            14-16  Naples, Florida                                                                                               Open to the Public:                                                                                                 *Saturday, November 16: Naples Zoo                                                                                 *Monday, November 18: Orlando, Florida Event (more info to follow)                              Jim is available for additional bookings throughout Florida as well as other locations.

December:                                                                                                                        Open to the Public:                                                                                             *Thursday, December 5: REACH Event, Fredericksburg Library, Fredericksburg, Virginia 7:00 PM                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Please contact us for further information for January-May, 2014. Specific appearances will be posted soon.

Photo: jim Weiss live presentations are always a delight

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Jim's Photo Album and Jim's Video Library

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Did you know that the greathall website has many engaging features besides the Greathall Audio Library? Here are two that are well worth checking out:

Jim's Photo Album: Here you will find photos taken of Jim as he has traveled all over the world researching and performing. All the photos included in the album are pertinent to Greathall recordings and will enhance your enjoyment of the stories.

Jim's Video Library: See Jim live, telling stories of "Abraham Lincoln", "The Tortoise and the Hare" (his signature story) and more. You can also hear Jim interviewed on subjects such as teaching history and/or character education, and much more.

Photo: Jim Weiss appears in a vimeo telling a story about Abraham Lincoln 

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Digital Download Spotlight:"The Queen's Pirate"

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This month we spotlight one recording containing two astounding stories, centered on two of history's most astonishing individuals. The Queen's Pirate begins with the thrilling, life-and-death story of one of history's greatest women and noblest monarchs, Queen Elizabeth I of England.  You'll experience all the pageantry of Tudor England, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, narrow escapes from execution in the Tower of London, the struggle to keep England free from the invading Spanish Armada, the genius of William Shakespeare -- and that's only the first half of the recording! 

The second half recounts the greatest, true swashbuckling adventure ever lived: the life of Sir Francis Drake.  World explorer, dashing pirate, veteran of battles at sea, England's national hero, and eventually friend of Elizabeth I, Drake burned like a comet through the Elizabethan Age, and his and the queen's stories merged into one grand spectacle.  If you want to turn someone on to history, here's your chance.  Set sail with The Queen's Pirate.

Download The Queen's Pirate today.

Photo: The Queen's Pirate, as written and  told by Jim Weiss

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Greathall GiveAways

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Greathall has recently participated in several FaceBook/Blog GiveAways.

This month be sure to see (August, 2013 Newsletter) for some exciting Jim Weiss Recording GiveAways.

Diana and her husband, Bill recently visited us in Charlottesville. We toured Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home, together. What a great day, delightful company and quality time spent with good friends.

Photo: Jim and Bill and Diana Waring explore Thomas Jefferson's gardens at Monticello, his historic home.  Be sure to visit Jim's Photo Album for more photos of this wonderful place (and many others too).

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Greathall's New Presence on Pinterest

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Pinterest Boards have never been more plentiful and exciting.

Please check out all of the Greathall boards at You will love them. Have ideas? We are open to your suggestions for our next boards.

Photo: Oh, who amongst us cannot relate to this picture? See Pinterest-Jim Weiss for more endearing ideas

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Please Join our Facebook Hall

We invite you to join our Facebook Hall and connect with Jim on a regular basis. It is a place where thinking families like you come together to share stories and stay up-to-date on Greathall happenings. We are so proud of the organic growth of our Facebook Hall.

Jim writes updates on Facebook almost daily and his contributions often include storytelling tips and other ideas for family entertainment and education.

If you enjoy this E-Magazine, we know you'll love our Facebook Hall. Please join us today and become part of the conversation.

Photo: Jim Weiss is always on the lookout for Facebook fans

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A Final Note: E-Magazine Blog Archives

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All of Jim and Randy's E-Magazine blogs are archived and available for you to read. Just visit  our website at for titles that may be of interest.

Photo: Our recording, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer illustrating, Jim's  August 30, 2010 blog titled, "Tom and Huck-Summer-Forever"

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* Visit our web site for more information about Greathall storytelling audio recordings and performances by Jim Weiss.

* View back-issues of our newsletter in the Greathall archives.