What is Nostalgia Good For?

A few weeks ago, a friend posted this picture of a toy telephone on Facebook. “Remember this?” she asked. Indeed I did. It brought back all sorts of memories, including a host of other beloved toys: my all-time favorites being my stuffed dog pal (Marty) and a herd of plastic horses.

Old toys certainly bring with them a sentimental walk down memory lane.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone. Many commented on my friend’s toy phone photo. I was especially intrigued by those friends who connected the memory of this childhood toy with other senses that I hadn’t even considered—sound, taste and smell.

Just an idle walk down memory lane?

So what does all this amount to? Just an idle walk down memory lane? Far from it. In fact, in a recent New York Times article called “What is Nostalgia Good For?”, the author, John Tierney, focuses on the benefits of nostalgizing. Yes, actual benefits. This is a refreshing change from older views of nostalgia, a word that by definition isn’t upbeat, coming from the Greek nostos (homecoming) and algo (pain or ache).

“Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety,” Tierney writes, citing research. “It makes people more generous towards strangers…Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories.” A study shows that thinking nostalgic thoughts makes our bodies feel warmer. Songs with lyrics about loss of love also made the subjects feel warmer. I recommend playing the Beatles song, Norwegian Woods; you’ll be putting on your bathing suit in no time.

Recent Research

For the last 15 years or so, there’s been a lot of research done on the topic of nostalgia. The late psychiatrist and gerontologist Gene D. Cohen spoke of the natural proclivity for people between 40 and 60 to draw on the experiences from the past in an effort to create a meaningful future. In addition, geriatric social workers sometimes use narrative therapy in their work with elderly patients. Narrative therapy uses storytelling to find positive meaning in past experiences. Nostalgizing, says Dr. Constantine Sedikides, a pioneer in the field. “makes us bit more human.”

Today Sedikides and dozens of researchers studying nostalgia have discovered that nostalgia is a global experience and on that can be used intentionally to enrich the present moment. Used as a therapy, reminiscing can help focus on the one positive point that a client mentions; focusing on that positive memory can lead to a place of strength and hope. Dr. Sedikides makes it a point to create memories in his own life that will be memorable. He draws upon his own nostalgic repository when he needs a psychological lift.

Benefits of Nostalgia

Nostalgia, the researchers conclude, is universal. The topics reminiscence about friends and family members, holidays, weddings, songs, sunsets, and lakes. The stories told tend to feature the self as the protagonist surrounded by close friends. The researchers contend that nostalgia has a positive effect on how people feel about themselves, reporting feelings of being fortunate, full and grateful.

Of course, memories can also be depressing, causing a sense of loss and dislocation. Memories that focus on comparisons (then and now) can be especially detrimental. But recent studies show that comparison-free nostalgizing serves a crucial function, bringing to mind cherished experiences and potentially helping people in difficult situations.

Who should try this approach and how often? The experts say unless you’re neurotic (in which case you’ll undoubtedly overdo it), nostalgizing should be a regular exercise…even two or three times a week. So my advice—based solely on many conversations with Saving Memories Forever clients—is to give it a try. Admire that orange sunset. Serve up that new mango sauce. Join your children and grandchildren as they play with the toys that they love.

It’s likely that those cherished toys will become part of their future walks down memory lane and you’ll be right there with them.

 

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village. 

 

 

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Family Values Win the Jackpot

goodwin-games17The Goodwin Games, a short-lived Fox TV comedy starring Beau Bridges, was a little wacky. On the other hand, it made a vital personal point between laughs: it’s important to pass on family values.

How are you doing on that score?

An intriguing article by Richard Eisenberg, senior Web editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue, caught our eye. Click here to read his original article. We’ve condensed his article below (and added in some of our own comments).

Instilling Values
Eisenberg based his article on a recent survey of people over 45. What he found was that when asked “What’s most important to pass on to the next generation?” the No. 1 answer was: “Values and life lessons.”

By the way: the answer “financial assets or real estate” came in last.

What the Wisest Say
Similarly, Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer, who interviewed more than 1,200 Americans for the Legacy Project told Eisenberg: “We found that many of the elders see transmitting their values and core principles as their most important legacy.”

One lesson for parents, Pillemer said, is to “be sure to communicate your values to your children and to bring them up to appreciate having very clear principles for living.”

How ‘The Goodwin Games’ Dad Did It
In the Goodwin Games, Beau Bridges’ character – patriarch Benjamin Goodwin – is trying to do just that, albeit a little late.

At the reading of his will, his three estranged grown children watch the first of a series of videos that Goodwin has made. The message? His children will inherit his $23 million estate only if they “demonstrate good judgment, live up to their potential and be the people they still can be.”

In short, Goodwin’s goal is to parent his children from beyond the grave.

A post-mortem video may not be the best way to pass on values. On the other hand, passing on values can be tough and the video approach is better than none. There are, however, many other options that can be much better, particularly if they’re done with your children while you’re still living.

For most of us, face-to-face, two-way conversations work best. These conversations can be formal or informal.

The Formal Approach
Some families prefer to have these formal meetings during a Thanksgiving gathering (just not during the meal). In this meeting, the matriarch or patriarch might say something like: “Let me share with you what’s important to me in the culture of our family.” Then ask your grown children: “Does this make sense to you?”

Then take some action.  For example, if being charitable is a high priority to you and you want your kids to help the needy, too – you might all pool together some money and make a donation as a family. You might want to create a special fund that continues after you’re gone.

Another formal approach would be to hold a family meeting outside the home and bring in a life planner professional to help run it. There are numerous directories of professional life planners available on the internet. (However, an obvious word of caution: don’t just choose one blindly;do your research carefully)

Going the Informal Route
Alternatively, you could do what many other have done with their grown children: look for ways to subtly drop hints about your values. When talking with your grown kids, act as a role model, so they can pick up your values by watching what you do. Also, be willing to talk about how and why you handle things the way you do.

For example, if you think managing your money wisely is important, explain to your grown children how you do it – that you make an annual retirement plan contribution, that you’ve just found a way to slice expenses without a huge sacrifice, and so on. There’s no need to cite actual numbers. You’re trying to instill habits and values; the dollar amounts are irrelevant.

Instilling A Sense of Family History
According to the surveys that Eisenberg evaluated, the second most important legacy that people can leave their families is a sense of family history. This includes saving and sharing  family stories as well as explaining family  mementos and heirlooms.

The stories part is easy. That’s what Saving Memories Forever is all about. Visit the SavingMemoriesForever.com website and learn more about this easy way to record, share, and save family stories.

Probably the most difficult item on this list (from a dividing it up standpoint) are the mementos and heirlooms. Grandma’s favorite teacup may only be worth $2, but it’s sentimental value makes it priceless. On top of that, there’s only one teacup and how many ways can you split it up? .

If this sounds familiar, you might want to click here for 4 smart ideas on how to leave a legacy.

Whichever approach you take, start giving some serious thought about your values. Start passing on the elements that make your family unique. Meanwhile, focus on the life you’re living now.  Embrace the wonder of opportunities that lie before you..

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village. 

 

Unlikely Sisters: Anne Frank and Bridget Jones

anne frank diary picture Bridget Jones diaryAt first blush Anne Frank and the Bridget Jones would appear to have little in common. But indeed they do: they both wrote diaries…albeit with strong contrast in style and content.

Anne Frank wrote her poignant diary, The Diary of a Young Girl, while in hiding during the Nazi German occupation of Amsterdam in the 1940s. In her diary, she records the challenges, fears, and daily life of living in hiding. Her father, Otto Frank, edited his daughter’s diary and arranged for its publication after World War 2.

On the other hand, Bridget Jones,  the fictional thirtysomething, wrote her 2001 diary while living in London. In her diary, Bridget records her everyday struggles with a focus on her dating both the despicable Daniel Cleaver and the worthy (but uptight) barrister, Mark Darcy. Even as a lighthearted film, the diary itself does a good job of reflecting the social pressures that single Western women face.

What’s It All About?

In the first place: what is a diary? According to reliable sources, a diary is a record (originally in handwritten format) with separate entries arranged by date. Diaries report on what has happened over the course of a day. Diaries come in all sizes: one of the longest is 40-volumes long! And, yes, the word “journal” is often used for diary, but generally a diary has daily entries whereas journal writing can be less frequent.

Diaries play a role in documenting many aspects of human civilization, including government and military records , business ledgers, and travel diaries. Today’s diaries come in many different forms, including sleep and diet diaries that are used to track sleep patterns and calorie consumption. By extension, the term diary includes electronic formats such as blogs.

The content of diaries can provide information for other forms of writing, including memoirs and autobiographies or biographies.Once written solely for private consumption, today many diaries are written with publication (and even profit) in mind.

Dear “Kitty”–Then and Now

Anne Frank’s diary entries to “Dear Kitty” were hardly the first diary entries. In fact, the oldest diaries (that are still existing) date back to the 10th century from the Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures in the form of travel diaries. Often these diaries recorded business transactions.

Beginning with the Renaissance, some people began to put down their own opinions, hopes and fears. The diaries of Samuel Pepys stand out as examples of this trend. His diaries consist of eyewitness accounts of several historic events, including the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.

Jumping over centuries, another trend worth note is the practice of posthumous publication of diaries. This trend began in the 19th century and has become commonplace – notably among politicians seeking justification.

Today: Other Options for Keeping a Diary

In the late 20th century, as the Internet became commonly available, many people adopted it as another medium in which to chronicle their lives. The first online diary is thought to be Claudio Pinhanez’s “Open Diary,” published at the MIT Media Lab website. Web-based services such as Open Diary and Live Journal appeared soon after.

Widespread growth in personal storytelling came with the emergence of blogs. The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincides with the advance of web publishing tools that made it easy for non-technical users to post their entries. It’s estimated today that two of the popular blogging services (WordPress and Tumblr) host about 250 million blogs! Lots of opportunity for people who like to write and read!

There are also options for people who prefer to talk and listen. Saving Memories Forever recently developed an audio diary that allows people to talk about their daily thoughts. This is done by simply using the Saving Memories Forever smartphone app and uploading the daily recording. It’s easy to use: just click on the new Audio Diary category on the Saving Memories Forever app and then press Recordings for the Day. After you’ve recorded a few entries, you might be inspired to record a slightly bigger story from another time in your life.

Online Diaries Offer Great Insight

The Internet has also made it possible for many users to access diaries online. These sources can be useful in researching family history.

Kimberly Powell, a professional genealogist, and frequent contributor to About.com, cites a number of online historical diaries and journals by writers from all walks of life.  While the diaries are tremendous finds for direct descendants, they are also helpful to non-relatives because the personal narratives give a good understanding of the time in which a person lived.  Some of the diaries she recommends are described below. Click here to read her entire list.

Ella’s 1874 Pocket Diary
An 1874 pocket diary from an antique store in Fort Ann, New York, didn’t include the name of the author, but is rich with other names and stories from her life as a schoolteacher in Vermont. You can also learn more about the author, Ella Burnham, and her family in this genealogical exploration.

First-Person Narratives of the American South
Focused primarily on the words and voices of women, African Americans, laborers, and Native Americans, this site from the University of North Carolina offers a variety of narrative documents, including personal accounts, letters, travelogues, and diaries, relating to the culture of the American South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Prairie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs and Family Letters
Approximately 3,000 pages of family letters, from collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society, describe the trials of establishing a homestead in Nebraska and everyday life on the Great Plains as they follow the Uriah Oblinger family’s sojourns in Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri. Part of the Library of Congress American Memory Project.

3 Ideas for Capturing Graduation Moments

graduationTransitions happen at all ages and stages of childhood and adulthood. When we think of “rites of passage”, many think of getting the keys to the car or getting married. These things may happen at different times in our lives (or not at all). But one thing that we all experience is a graduation!

Traditionally, high school and college graduations receive the lion’s share of attention. While that’s still true, nowadays, graduations from elementary and middle school also receive a good amount of attention. No matter what type of graduation you’re attending, it’s a big deal and marks a milestone in your child’s (or grandchild’s) life. Or your life!

May is pretty much graduation month across the country. So how  have have you been doing with recording (and sharing) the graduations in your family? Are you capturing the graduation stories that go along with the ceremonies? Our advice: grab those stories while they are fresh in your mind.

Here are some ideas of how to go about it.

1. Make a scrapbook. Scrapbooks are a wonderful way to record the event. They can incorporate memorabilia from the event such as graduation programs and notes from friends and relatives. Scrapbooks are also great way to store photographs. Keep in mind that actual photographs in a scrapbook will deteriorate over time (hint: go digital). Also, remember to save the best of your digital photographs to your computer.  Whether you choose to print your photos or create a digital scrapbook, transforming the walk to adulthood will be a memory that you’ll want to keep.

2. Create a graduation keepsake book. Create a book that highlights all of the graduate’s  thoughts, hopes, dreams (and even fears) about heading into the next phase of his or her life, be it college or the working world.  Much like a time capsule, this book will allow the graduate to look back on the day with a different perspective later on in his or her life. Don’t forget to include your words of wisdom for them. These books will become keepsakes that will not only mark the occasion, but something the graduate will hold dear for years to come.

3. Record audio stories about the graduation. Another way that you can remember the excitement of a graduation is to record the spoken stories.  The Saving Memories Forever system is a fun and easy way to record all of your family’s graduation stories. Using the smartphone app, you can record the graduation stories anytime and anywhere, either at the graduation itself, the family celebration party or a few days later when things have calmed down. Using this approach, you’ll be able to capture the  excited “There she is!” as your graduate walks by in the procession line. To record graduation stories on the Saving Memories Forever app,  just use the Celebrations category and then select the Graduations story prompt/question.  While you’re at it, you can even record the graduation stories of others in your family and listen to them all later on. It might be interesting to see how graduation traditions have changed (or not) over time.

After you upload those stories to the website, the stories will be safe, and both you and the graduate will  be able to re-listen to a conversation between the two of you for years to come. Keep in mind that Premium Subscribers can also include graduation photos.

However you choose to remember graduation day, the important principle is this: Don’t lose your stories.Record the stories as they are fresh in our hearts. The details will be richer and the moment of celebration closer.

 

Recipes, Trouble, and Triumph: Two Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Beautiful Lilac FlowersIt’s Spring and all of the April showers have resulted in beautiful May flowers. A perfect backdrop for this month in which we honor the mothers in our lives.

My mother is a wee bit of a woman. She is small and petite, but has the moral strength of an ox and a love that runs steady and deep. I have always admired her and feel that she is one of the best human beings that I know. This article celebrates her and focuses on some ideas that I plan to use this Mother’s Day and throughout the year.

Gather Recipes (And the Stories Behind Them)
Every mom has recipes that she is known for. So find (or ask her) for recipes that she keeps tucked away in a special book.

Whether it is a hotdog casserole or homemade chicken pot pie with a hand rolled crust…it is her recipe and everyone loves it. Then grab your smartphone with the downloaded Saving Memories Forever app and have her tell you about each recipe. Have her explain where she got it, when she has made it, what people say about it.

Then, after you have recorded several of her recipe stories, export the files and make a CD with the stories and photo copy the recipes.To extend the fun, share the recipes with your siblings and have your siblings each pick one recipe to bring to your Mother’s Day dinner.

You can also have the kids in the family make one recipe at a time and then listen to the story as you sit at the table and enjoy the dish.

Trouble and Triumph
If you are fortunate enough to have grandparents and parents living, give thanks.

Then, grab your phone and head over to your grandparents and gather some fun stories about times that your mom got into trouble as a kid. Then gather some of the triumphant stories about her and things she accomplished. Not only will you have fun interviewing your grandparents about your mom, but you are recording family history.

Upload these stories to the SavingMemoriesForever.com website and add some pictures to embellish them. Then play the recording for your mom on Mother’s Day. The look on your mom’s face when she listens to those stories will be priceless!

If you have family that cannot be home for Mother’s Day, remember, once you share the stories with them (through the Saving Memories Forever website), they can log into the Saving Memories Forever website for free and listen online!

Have a lovely Spring and a Happy Mother’s Day!

Kim PictureKim Weitkamp has been featured on NPR (National Public radio), SiriusXM, and other radio stations throughout the states. Kim is passionate about the power of story and story coupled with genealogy/family history. She regularly keynotes on those topics and can be reached through her website, www.kimweitkamp.com.

 

Mother’s Day Celebration Ideas

It’s Spring and all of the April showers have resulted in beautiful May flowers. A perfect backdrop for this month in which we honor the mothers in our lives.

My mother is a wee bit of a woman. She is small and petite, but has the moral strength of an ox and a love that runs steady and deep. I have always admired her and feel that she is one of the best human beings that I know. This article celebrates her and focuses on some ideas that I plan to use this Mother’s Day and throughout the year.

Gather Recipes (And the Stories Behind Them)
Every mom has recipes that she is known for. So find (or ask her) for recipes that she keeps tucked away in a special book.

Whether it is a hotdog casserole or homemade chicken pot pie with a hand rolled crust…it is her recipe and everyone loves it. Then grab your smartphone with the downloaded Saving Memories Forever app and have her tell you about each recipe. Have her explain where she got it, when she has made it, what people say about it.

Then, after you have recorded several of her recipe stories, export the files and make a CD with the stories and photo copy the recipes.To extend the fun, share the recipes with your siblings and have your siblings each pick one recipe to bring to your Mother’s Day dinner.

You can also have the kids in the family make one recipe at a time and then listen to the story as you sit at the table and enjoy the dish.

Trouble and Triumph
If you are fortunate enough to have grandparents and parents living, give thanks.

Then, grab your phone and head over to your grandparents and gather some fun stories about times that your mom got into trouble as a kid. Then gather some of the triumphant stories about her and things she accomplished. Not only will you have fun interviewing your grandparents about your mom, but you are recording family history.

Upload these stories to the SavingMemoriesForever.com website and add some pictures to embellish them. Then play the recording for your mom on Mother’s Day. The look on your mom’s face when she listens to those stories will be priceless!

If you have family that cannot be home for Mother’s Day, remember, once you share the stories with them (through the Saving Memories Forever website), they can log into the Saving Memories Forever website for free and listen online!

Have a lovely Spring and a Happy Mother’s Day!

Kim PictureKim Weitkamp has been featured on NPR (National Public radio), SiriusXM, and other radio stations throughout the states. Kim is passionate about the power of story and story coupled with genealogy/family history. She regularly keynotes on those topics and can be reached through her website, www.kimweitkamp.com.

 

Focus on Passing Down Your Values, Not Money

goodwin-games17The Goodwin Games, a short-lived Fox TV comedy starring Beau Bridges, was a little wacky. On the other hand, it made a vital personal point between laughs: it’s important to pass on family values.

How are you doing on that score?

An intriguing article by Richard Eisenberg, senior Web editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue, caught our eye. Click here to read his original article. We’ve condensed his article below (and added in some of our own comments).

Instilling Values
Eisenberg based his article on a recent survey of people over 45. What he found was that when asked “What’s most important to pass on to the next generation?” the No. 1 answer was: “Values and life lessons.”

By the way: the answer “financial assets or real estate” came in last.

What the Wisest Say
Similarly, Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer, who interviewed more than 1,200 Americans for the Legacy Project told Eisenberg: “We found that many of the elders see transmitting their values and core principles as their most important legacy.”

One lesson for parents, Pillemer said, is to “be sure to communicate your values to your children and to bring them up to appreciate having very clear principles for living.”

How ‘The Goodwin Games’ Dad Did It
In the Goodwin Games, Beau Bridges’ character – patriarch Benjamin Goodwin – is trying to do just that, albeit a little late.

At the reading of his will, his three estranged grown children watch the first of a series of videos that Goodwin has made. The message? His children will inherit his $23 million estate only if they “demonstrate good judgment, live up to their potential and be the people they still can be.”

In short, Goodwin’s goal is to parent his children from beyond the grave.

A post-mortem video may not be the best way to pass on values. On the other hand, passing on values can be tough and the video approach is better than none. There are, however, many other options that can be much better, particularly if they’re done with your children while you’re still living.

For most of us, face-to-face, two-way conversations work best. These conversations can be formal or informal.

The Formal Approach
Some families prefer to have these formal meetings during a Thanksgiving gathering (just not during the meal). In this meeting, the matriarch or patriarch might say something like: “Let me share with you what’s important to me in the culture of our family.” Then ask your grown children: “Does this make sense to you?”

Then take some action.  For example, if being charitable is a high priority to you and you want your kids to help the needy, too – you might all pool together some money and make a donation as a family. You might want to create a special fund that continues after you’re gone.

Another formal approach would be to hold a family meeting outside the home and bring in a life planner professional to help run it. There are numerous directories of professional life planners available on the internet. (However, an obvious word of caution: don’t just choose one blindly;do your research carefully)

Going the Informal Route
Alternatively, you could do what many other have done with their grown children: look for ways to subtly drop hints about your values. When talking with your grown kids, act as a role model, so they can pick up your values by watching what you do. Also, be willing to talk about how and why you handle things the way you do.

For example, if you think managing your money wisely is important, explain to your grown children how you do it – that you make an annual retirement plan contribution, that you’ve just found a way to slice expenses without a huge sacrifice, and so on. There’s no need to cite actual numbers. You’re trying to instill habits and values; the dollar amounts are irrelevant.

Instilling A Sense of Family History
According to the surveys that Eisenberg evaluated, the second most important legacy that people can leave their families is a sense of family history. This includes saving and sharing  family stories as well as explaining family  mementos and heirlooms.

The stories part is easy. That’s what Saving Memories Forever is all about. Visit the SavingMemoriesForever.com website and learn more about this easy way to record, share, and save family stories.

Probably the most difficult item on this list (from a dividing it up standpoint) are the mementos and heirlooms. Grandma’s favorite teacup may only be worth $2, but it’s sentimental value makes it priceless. On top of that, there’s only one teacup and how many ways can you split it up? .

If this sounds familiar, you might want to click here for 4 smart ideas on how to leave a legacy.

Whichever approach you take, start giving some serious thought about your values. Start passing on the elements that make your family unique. Meanwhile, focus on the life you’re living now.  Embrace the wonder of opportunities that lie before you..

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village.