Goober Peas and Cold Mountain Air

1-photo 2It seems like ages ago. But when I look at the calendar, I’m reminded that it really was only two weeks. Yes, that’s how quickly vacation memories can escape.

As you may recall, my husband and I went down to the Smoky Mountains. We like road trips, although I’d have to admit that I like them more than he does. He likes to get there, pedal to the metal approach, while I like to soak in the changing landscape. It’s no surprise to report that between here in St. Louis and the Smokies, there are some significant changes. Flat, then rolling, then MOUNTAINS! Any guess as to which one I like the most? At least at this time of year.

We got off to an edgy start: the car broke down when we hit Paducah, Kentucky. Turns out it wasn’t just the battery. It was the alternator as well. Lucky for us that Paducah has a car rental place, so we left our car in the hands of the repair shop and continued on three hours later. By the way have you ever been to a car repair shop where they serve cappuccino and muffins? Yes, I got nervous about the bill. (Good news: it turned out just fine.)

1-log cabinArmed with the rental car, we continued our southeast journey, arriving in North Carolina in the early evening. Did I mention that we rented a log cabin? The cabin was originally built elsewhere, then disassembled and then reassembled and expanded in its new home in Waynesville. When you consider its original size (14’ by 20’), you begin to understand what growing up in these mountains might have involved. In fact, by the time we left we were pretty much amazed at what those mountain families had accomplished.

So the days started with coffee out on the deck and typically ended with a grilled dinner. During the day, we explored. Much to our delight we found that the Blue Ridge Parkway was uncrowded. (Apparently the timing of our vacation in late August was both wise and fortunate.) Up and down the parkway, the waves of mountains left us speechless. And appreciative. We stopped often at the overlooks to soak in the beauty and to try to capture it in pictures. A specific shout out to the inn at Mount Pisgah where you can enjoy a meal and rock in the creaky chairs out on the porch.

photo 3We also stopped along the country roads that led up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to sample goober beans (boiled peanuts) and rum jam. Here’s a handy link to the famous Goober Peas folk song. I remember growing up listening to Burl Ives sing that funny little song. In addition, we visited the Museum of the Cherokee Indians and the Carl Sandburg Home (and its 17,000 books and functional arrangement). Perhaps my favorite side trip was to see the elk in the Cataloochee Valley…although I’d be less than forthright if I didn’t mention that the steep drop-offs along the twisting gravel road scared me a tad. Talk about blind curves! At any rate, we were well rewarded. A 12-point buck let us admire him at a leisurely pace. Should I mention that when he looked over my way, I got back in the car?

On our last day, we drove over to Chimney Rock State Park that featured a hammered dulcimer musician by the name of John Mason. There’s nothing like mountain music played in its natural surroundings. By the way, old photographs show ladies in full dress and hats having a picnic in a nook in the rock that’s been nicknamed the Opera House. I can hardly imagine scaling the rocks to get there with modern gear and I’m flabbergasted by the idea that these women climbed up in full regalia. (We took the elevator.) We spent our last night at a folk festival held along the edges of Lake Junaluska. Between the cloggers, fiddlers, and family bands, we learned to appreciate the ties of tradition.

A week later, refreshed by the break and invigorated by the mountain air, we began our journey home. The only two stops this way were a visit at the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville (well worth it) and then a quick stop in Paducah to pick up our car.

Gone in a moment. At least it feels like that. But as I re-tell our vacation story, I get pleasure out of reliving the time. It gives me an opportunity to sort out what was most important to us. Plus it gives us a chance to share our memories with our family. Like last night when we shared our pictures and vacation stories with our daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. What a lovely ending: consider it a modern day story time around the campfire.

 

SMF-Jane1Jane 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.  

 

 

Love That Dirt

55_why_gardenHere’s a surprising factoid: a whopping 75% of American households garden. Say what? Why would so many people endure the discomfort of heat and the likelihood of itchy bug bites?

Depending upon how you look at it, the answer to the question, “Why garden?” is both elusive and complex. Ask any gardener why they garden and you’ll get a variety of reasons.

I’ll start with myself.  I garden mostly because I like the creativity it offers and the huge feeling of success when I actually eat something from it.  I also garden because the garden is pretty and because it gets me outdoors.  I need that connection with nature. In addition, I garden because it ties in with my husband’s cooking talent. Plus, gardening gives us a fun new joint project: composting.

Why do you garden?

Here’s a list of possible reasons from the National Garden Bureau. I bet you’ll see that your interest in gardening is rooted (pun intended) in several core reasons.  For the complete article by Janis Kief, click here.

Six Reasons

1. Garden for safe, healthy food. Reports of food-borne contamination appear regularly in the press. With your own garden, you know what you’ve treated.  Or maybe you skipped pesticides entirely. Beyond that, you know veges are healthy. As the vegetables ripen, (and they all seem to be ready to harvest about the same time), the more immediate question becomes: how do you cook all of them?  We recommend the website AllRecipes.com. Just type in the vegetable that you want to use (example: basil) and a bunch of recipes will pop up. Very handy.

2. Garden for exercise. Give me a garden over a gym routine any day of the week. Get a good workout even thinking about it. An hour of gardening involves stretching, bending, and weightlifting.  On top of this, you’ll see the immediate results (no weeds!) in your garden.

3. Garden to add beauty and to be creative. Yes! This doesn’t have to be elaborate:  it can be as simple as adding a container of colorful flowers near the front door.  Think of your garden area as another room to be enjoyed.  A garden’s design also reflects a personal creativity and sense of style. And there are so many styles to choose from ranging from the romantic cottage garden, the peace of a Japanese garden, or the rather random approach (like mine) where I plan with color, height, prime blooming time, and plant “companions” in mind.

4. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connection. To me, gardens serve as a tranquil retreat from everyday life.  The beauty of flowers lifts my spirit.  Not to mention that pulling weeds can be a great release from stress! The sight of colorful flowers or a passing Monarch butterfly delights me. On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It’s a miracle to take a tiny seed, plant and nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food.

5. Garden to learn and to meet people. Gardeners love to talk about their gardens.  They also like to share their knowledge and learn even more.  There’s a variety of ways to increase your gardening know-how such as seminars or Master Gardener programs.  Or (if you’re like me), just look online for YouTube gardening instruction. We found several great YouTube videos about composting that we used to get us started. Click here for one of my favorites. Gardening is also a great excuse to talk with your neighbors. Surplus tomatoes? Bet you can find a neighbor who would love them.  Bug problem? A neighbor might have a good solution.  You can also meet neighbors through community gardens.

6. Garden for lasting memories. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren.  Gardens also provide a beautiful way to remember a special person. My memories of my grandmother are inextricably connected to her beautiful rose garden in her back yard.

Discover your own reasons for being a gardener and share them with someone in your family. Enjoy the satisfying fun that gardening provides. Capture and preserve some of your family’s gardening stories…like our fearless Uncle Sam who battled the squirrels with his antique BB gun.

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.  

‘Tis the Season…for Moving

moving feet and boxesWhen I was growing up in Connecticut, I just assumed that I would always live in the Northeast. I’ve now moved 16 times with my latest move being just two weeks ago.

Among our friends, we have moved the most often—and by a large margin. In fact, many of our friends still live in the same house where they raised their children. None of them are talking about moving. At least not yet. I think that will change in the next 10-15 years when maybe a 1-level house simply makes more sense.

Of course, there’s an abundance of reasons for moving. Over the years we’ve moved for many reasons, the most common one being a job relocation. But there have also been moves to neighborhoods that better matched our family size and lifestyle. We made this last move for a cluster of reasons: the appeal of downsizing, the power of economics and the desire to live in a more urban environment and still have a small backyard.

Are you considering a move?

Moving Facts

If you’re considering a move (or even if you aren’t), here are some of interesting facts.

• You are not alone. About 40 million Americans move every year. That’s more people than the entire population of California! The average American moves about 12 times in a lifetime. That’s every six years for the average American.

• 50% all US relocations occur during one-third of the year – between the beginning of May and Labor Day (the first Monday of September). That’s no surprise.

• Around 40% of all moves in US are job-related; 42% are personal moves; 18% are military or government relocations.

• Moving is the third most stressful event in life, following death of a loved one and divorce. You won’t have any problem convincing me that this is correct.

• One of the stunning moving facts is that about 62 percent of the people in US currently live in the very state they were born. Growing up in the Northeast, this is something that I assumed for myself. Boy, was I wrong.

 

Major Stress Factor

moving men lifting chair into truckWe’ve now lived in six different states. Indeed, one of our family stories is that each of our three kids was born in a different state. All things considered, I’m glad we’ve made those moves. We’ve had a good opportunity to experience the pace of life and character of several regions around the United States, including the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest.

But even with all these pluses, moving is not an endeavor to be undertaken lightly. Because it is never a ride in the park. Each move has its own quirks, excitement, and frustration. With an emphasis on frustration.

Perhaps the most aggravating experience this last time around has been with the local bureaucracy. Permits are required for the moving truck (even smallish moving trucks). It turns out that getting a permit requires two stops: first at the Street Department, then the Police Department. Sounds easy enough. However, the Street Department is not easy to find (how silly of me to think that the website would have the correct address) and how incredibly naïve I was to think that I could pick up the required paperwork from Police Headquarters.

Hearing about my moving woes, a friend pointed out that my searching for permits reminded him of a Jerry Seinfeld episode where the car rental company claimed that they had his reservation; they just didn’t have a car for him. Seinfeld jokingly focused on the overall concept: that the car rental company should have both the reservation AND the car. It now makes an amusing story. Similarly, it would be clever to have all of the moving permits handled in one easy-to-find location.

Moving Tips

Have I learned anything in all of our moves? Yes, I think so. Here are some tips.

• Go into “moving mode”. View every item as a potential throwaway. Keep in mind that this no-nonsense approach probably doesn’t include photos. There will come a day when you want to tackle the photo project–even if it’s just going through the box and talking about the stories behind the photos. Use the Saving Memories Forever app and website when you’re going through that box and accomplish sorting and sharing the photos and recording the stories at the same time!

• Get quotes from several movers. This last time (even though we only moved all of ½ mile) we got three quotes. We selected potential movers from Angie’s List and found this read-the-multiple reviews approach quite helpful.

• Pick the moving strategy that works best for your age and level of endurance. With some minor help from us, our 25-year daughter packed and unpacked her stuff and enlisted a bunch of friends to help with her move. Our 26-year old son and daughter-in-law pretty much moved themselves with one important proviso: they hired movers through the truck rental company to load and unload the rented truck. Brilliant idea. In contrast, we packed and unpacked our stuff and hired a mover to lug and place the boxes and furniture.

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

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.