Bring It On

early fall leaves and pond“To everything there is a season… turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under Heaven.” I don’t know if it made the Top 10 on the Boomers’ Favorites Playlist, but I love this song, especially the Byrds’ version. And this fall, I’m taking the song’s advice seriously. I’m exploring new things and planning some fun adventure.

Let’s start with exploring. Come fall and I get the urge to travel. Up and down country roads: along the river road, out to the barn, or up to Chicago. I like to see things as they change. The leaves, of course, are their own source of wonderment. But it’s also the land and the skies. The brown earth is looking well groomed now, like she just got a haircut and cooler breezes push wisps of clouds across the crisp blue skies. I anticipate having lunch on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and a night time trip out to the barn, hot cocoa in hand, to watch the full moon. Both great ways to celebrate Birthday #63.

Trying new things. I’ve just joined three new groups: a writing group and two singing groups. The writing group has me a little concerned. Writing isn’t the problem so much as figuring out how to deal with the scope of the project. You see my general plan is to write the great American novel. Right? What has me bamboozled are these elements that must come together to create this novel: character development and plot lines, for example, and a theme of some sort would probably be a good idea too. I’m already hedging my bets by writing a companion blog about my writing experience. Seems to me that this backup approach would help my wounded ego if the master plan falls flat on its face.

folk singalong groupAnd, yes, the singing groups! When we were in the mountains of North Carolina, we discovered the world of Shape Note singing. The general idea is that you follow these sheets of shaped notes to run through a song and then sing the words. Full blast! Singing LOUDLY so that the combined voices bounce off the ceiling and wooden floor. It’s an incredible sound! I can hardly wait for the folk singing class that I also signed us up for.

I’ve always loved the stories that folk songs tell.

Now for the biggie: new directions. I quit my job last week. This makes me both happy and nervous. Happy because I really didn’t like the job. In fact, I actively disliked it. Suffice it to say that both the nagging boss and the computer-oriented job were both total mismatches with my personality and my strengths. Ever have a job like that? It’s a lousy position to be in. So, freedom acquired, I’m now dealing with the nervous part. How do I fill my day? How can I be productive? How can I contribute? How can I grow? And that nagging question: how do I use all this new-found time without spending money?

To a large extent, I’m going back to my old roots. Back to my old interest in teaching but without the obligations of teaching. Back to the conversational walks with my snail-paced walking group. Back to working in a local non-profit where I can partner with a friend as we help coordinate volunteer activities. Back to my Mother Nature personality as I muck out a stall or two at the barn (let’s not get too carried away…this is hard work).

So off I go on a cool fall morning, turning this way and that. Playing with the yellow leaves as they fall. Enjoying the sheer pleasure of the season. Somehow, I think that this fall will really be something to remember.

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.  

Celebrating a Wedding Anniversary

1235160_647766325236352_992224140_nI love being married. As one of my favorite quotes reads, “Being married means you’ve found someone who you can annoy for a lifetime.”

While I assume that happily married couples don’t make it their mission in life to annoy each other, I do think that there’s some wisdom in this humor.

Perhaps it reflects the freedom to be who you are. Or it reflects the understanding that it’s not always going to be an easy relationship. Or maybe it’s just an good excuse to laugh.

Come August 26th, we will celebrate our 37th anniversary.

Normally, we don’t make a big deal out of it.  We usually celebrate by just going out to dinner.  But this year, we’re traveling down to the Smoky Mountains for a few days of mountain air and Appalachian music. 

We’re going on this mini adventure for several reasons.

One, because we can.  We’re no longer constricted with school schedules. With that in mind, we’re happily anticipating that most of the summer crowds will have gone home. 

Two: we’ve picked a place that won’t bankrupt us.  We’re renting a cabin where we can cook our own meals (at least most of the time).

Three: because it’s time.  It’s time to slow down and mark this point in our lives. It’s also time to celebrate the fact that we still enjoy each other’s company and quirks.

We’ll post some pictures of our trip on Saving Memories Forever Facebook

Come along for the ride. 

SMF-Jane2

Jane 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.  

 

 

Summer Doldrums Invite Mini Celebrations

hot summer day woman with fanYou know what I’m talking about: the part of summer when the vegetable garden is in full swing and lazy afternoons include refreshing trips to a local swimming pool. Nights are filled with watching the kids chase fireflies and gazing at the stars. You’re enjoying the more leisurely pace and ice-filled glasses of iced tea.

Then there’s the flip side. You’re beginning to get a tad crabby at the endless baseball games and you could really live without the swarms of gnats and the itch of bug bites. You’re even beginning to consider trading in some of the sticky swelter of summer heat for the cooler breezes of Fall. This is when you know you’ve reached Deep Summer. Better known as the Summer Doldrums.

Making Your Own Fun

It’s definitely time to mix things up and create some new fun. Good news is that you don’t have to look far.

It turns out that summer offers you dozens of holidays that are just begging for a mini celebration. Here’s a short list of five July holidays that give you a great excuse to invite some friends or family over. For a more complete list, click here for Next Avenue writer John Stark’s full “Summer’s 20 Most Unusual Holidays” article.

July 12: Pecan Pie Day: Since I love pecan pie, this mini holiday was an especially welcome discovery. Now I no longer have to wait until Thanksgiving to break out my favorite pecan pie recipe. There are actually quite a few food holidays during July: To name a few, there’s Macaroni Day (July 14) and Peach Ice Cream Day (July 17). They all give you a great excuse for getting hold of your favorite recipes and making them with your children or grandchildren. You might even want to consider recording the remarks of the participants as they cook and be sure to save and share that recipe. You can do it all by using Saving Memories Forever. By the way, this linked pecan pie recipe suggested by Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman blogger) is to die for.

July 14: Pandemonium Day: This day gives you permission to go with the flow. Laugh at all the things that go wrong….you know, the things that typically rattle you. Instead, today let the challenges amuse you. You might even want to take the time to record the story of your Terrible, Horrible, No Good,Very Bad Day (edited title borrowed from Judith Viorst). On the other hand, if life has become too calm and predictable, create some excitement to recharge your batteries. To really get your heart racing, John Stark suggests that you dig out Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and throw a last-minute dinner party for 10. Brioche anyone?

picture of hammock man readingJuly 22: Hammock Day: There’s no sight more inviting on a hot summer day than a hammock, especially one that’s shaded by a leafy tree. Climb aboard. Leave your phone behind and bring out a book (Kindles and Nooks are OK too) and start reading. Let Mother Nature rock you with her warm, calming breezes: zzzzzz.

July 26: Aunts and Uncles Day:When you think about it, our parents’ brothers and sisters were often our favorite relatives growing up. They let us stay up late, took us to fun places, and gave us impractical holiday presents. Treasure your aunts and uncles who are still living. Why not repay some favors? Take them to a fun event. At the very least, call them!

July 31: Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day: This day was originally created to bring attention to musical instruments like the Appalachian dulcimer, the auto-harp, and the sousaphone. This is a great day to broaden your musical horizons. Free concerts in the park are all over the place in St. Louis and most likely, they’re in your area too.

August Holidays

The fun excuses for a celebration don’t just come to a screeching halt at the end of July. Among others, August features the following special days:

August 3:   National Watermelon Day

August 5:   National Night Out

August 9:   Book Lovers’ Day

August 12: Vinyl Record Day

August 19: Photography Day

The month of August ends with one of my favorites, Just Because Day (August 27), a holiday that has no rhyme or reason. On this fine day, do whatever you want. It’s a perfect way to cap off the lazy, hazy days of summer. Make the day into what you want it to be. Just because.

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. 

Game Time at Family Reunions!

family reunionSummer is THE time for family reunions! That’s no surprise.But what is something of a surprise are the new, emerging activities that are available.

Oh, some activities remain the same: certainly the family baseball game is still alive and well. As are card games and the wonderful smokey smell of BBQs.

 

But there is a also new range of activities that is now available to family reunion planners. Even better, many of these activities build ongoing relationships between the participants. The truth is that while these new activities are introduced at the family reunion, they can easily continue year-round.

Three New Activity Ideas

1.  Ask each family member what’s special about them. Record the telling of their special trait and share it with the family. As family members develop new talents, have each person give quick updates throughout the year. That includes your child’s first words and your 8-year old granddaughter’s new-found talent for putting both her feet behind her head!

2. Plan a fun cooking competition! This activity gives talented cooks a chance to show off and the hungry masses something to smile about. Pick a popular theme such as baked goods or BBQ, and invite an all-age panel of family members to judge the competition. Record some cooking-in-process conversation! Remember to take pictures of the submitted dishes as well as the recipes. Be sure to upload these recordings, pictures and text files to a place where you can share them.

3. Make a game out of collecting family stories! Saving Memories Forever allows you to create a Pass-the-Phone activity. Preparing for this activity uses the “high-tech” skills that the younger set has and the experiences of everyone else. (Actually, both groups share many of these skills so it’s a little unfair to group them as I have.)

The game is played by “going around the circle” and asking relatives a question. (If there’s a large group, you might want to select just a few relatives to ask questions now and return later to ask other relatives questions.) The responses are then recorded under each person’s name and then uploaded to the Saving Memories Forever website where they can be shared.

All the planner has to do is find someone who’s comfortable with easy “high-tech”. With a little preparation, the tech guru in the family can easily become the family story recorder. A  Premium Subscription provides unlimited storytellers. Additional recordings can be added and shared throughout the year.  

 

Helpful Tips For Playing Pass-the-Phone

Since we anticipate that you might have a some follow-up questions, we’ve listed a few questions (along with responding suggestions) below.

How do I get started? First, the Saving Memories Forever app provides story prompts.(Of course, you can also ask your own question.)  Beyond that, storyteller Kim Weitkamp suggests that you start with the eldest relatives first (but watch out that you don’t just focus on older relatives or you’ll likely send the wrong message).

How can I encourage relatives who are reluctant to talk to participate? In some cases, it’s a simple matter of having a favorite relative –maybe a grandchild—ask the question. Or it maybe it’s a matter of style. So, be flexible. For example, perhaps the “interviewee” prefers to write. If that’s the case, simply ask him or her to write down a memory. Then record him/her as they read that story. The written memory may well serve as a good starting point.

How else can I use Saving Memories Forever? Family reunions planners might want to consider two other key ways in which they can use Saving Memories Forever.  First, planners can simply use it as a vehicle to capture everyone’s  comments about this year’s reunion. Just use the Celebrations category on the iPhone or Android  smartphone app.Click here to learn more about our Celebrations feature.

Secondly, family reunion planners can also encourage family members to tell stories about deceased relatives. We call this our Virtual Relative feature as it allows a family to almost re-create a person’s life through the perspectives and stories of family members. Click here for more details about the Virtual Relative feature.

Have fun at your family reunion. Let the games begin!   SMF-Jane2

 

Jane 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.   

My Dad

Bill WebsterIt’s a little strange to write about my Dad when I don’t even have a picture of him. At least one that’s readily available. You see, we are in the midst of moving (yes, again) and all the pictures are packed. But write about my Dad I will. It is, after all, close to  Father’s Day.

(For those of you who MUST have a visual aide to go along with this blog, I’ve gone so far as to borrow a picture of someone who looks a bit like him at least in terms of having an elder statesman like appearance.)

All things told, my Dad was a quiet, soft-spoken man. He was a genuinely nice guy. King of the one-liners, he also knew how to deliver a joke. And (lucky for me) he also understood what being a good  father entailed.

The only child of German immigrants, he was born in western Pennsylvania in 1915. The small family moved to Clifton, New Jersey when his father got a job as a city accountant. His mother taught school. His no-nonsense upbringing reflected both the times ( the Depression and World War I) and his parents’ ambition: to give their son the best education possible and send their son to college. They succeeded in both. Dad went to Newark Academy and then Princeton University. A well-liked man, he served as the class secretary for many years.

During World War II, Dad served on a naval supply ship in the Pacific Ocean. A capable, efficient man, he earned two Bronze medals. From pictures and stories that he used to tell, some of his best friends were from those days. I remember pouring over a black and white picture of my Dad and some buddies smiling and smoking pipes.

When he returned from war, he dated and then married my mother. The couple was a good match: a tall, attractive pair, they both had exceedingly smart minds. Plus their  different personalities balanced out each other.

Like my Dad’s parents, both of my parents worked as well: he as a business executive for a chemical company; my mother as a lawyer with her own private practice. My Dad provided for his family well and my brother, Tom, and I had alot of material advantages. But most importantly, we grew up in a family that loved us. I especially valued the way my father and I would communicate. Alot of it was non-verbal.  For example, as children when Tom and I rode in the back seat of the car, Dad would give me quick look in the rear view mirror just to say “hello”. And we’d both chuckle over one of his one-liners for days, reliving the punch line as we passed each other around the house.

Perhaps the greatest gift my Dad gave me was his trust. He trusted my judgement. (That doesn’t mean, however, he applauded every decision I made!). But that basic faith in me eased over many of the growing pains that typically occur between parents and their children, especially those who grew up in the Age of Aquarius and all that this time period implied. Plus my father understood the importance of cheering from the sidelines. No matter what. He also understood the importance of community and served on the Library Board for many years.

Time went on. I got older, married, and had a family of my own. There are years (sad to admit it, even decades) when I grew apart from my Dad.  However, much to my infinite relief, my Dad and I got a few years at the end of his life to reconnect. I was able to say goodbye to him, telling him that his life had indeed been a blessing as I read and re-read a particular passage in our prayer book. Although it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago, he died at peace only eight years ago in June 2006.

Do I miss him? You betcha. I especially wish I could hear his voice. Nonetheless, I still feel his spirit and his smile. In meaningful ways, he still lives on. Today, in our own ways, my brother and I try to pass his many good lessons on to our respective families. I am always mindful and grateful for the grace and example of his life well lived.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

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. 

 

 

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.