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.

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. 

 

Dealing with Stories that Change Midstream!

dog lickingYou had it all set in your mind.

You asked your76-year old Dad a question about the time when he was a young kid and was teaching his favorite childhood dog, Buckie, some tricks. (While he was a great dog, Buckie didn’t exactly get high marks for brains.)

 

Your Dad’s story started out recounting the time when he was teaching Buckie how to jump an obstacle course of branches up the in the woods. (It seems that Buckie preferred crawling under the jumps rather than jumping over them.)

That reminded Dad about how his clever current dog, Classy, hid his wallet the other day. He found it under her dog mat in the kitchen. Lovingly covered with drool. And that reminded him about how the dog he had during his college years, Ding, who jumped off the deck in her excitement to see him. (Turns out the deck was 12 feet up in the air.)

We think the way that one story leads to another is sorta wonderful. In fact, your Dad’s stream of consciousness storytelling happens all the time.

Dealing with Stories that Change Direction

We’ve come up with a new feature that makes it easy to accommodate stream-of-consciousness storytelling. It boils down to a new COPY feature.Here’s how it works.
Go back to your Dad’s childhood story about Buckie. This story fits well under your Dad’s Childhood (0-12) Category and under the prompt “Tell me about your pets.” Obviously the story about his current dog, Classy, doesn’t fit in the same Childhood category.

The  story about Classy fits under the Adult (56+) Category and, since there isn’t a prompt specifically about pets, you’ll want to place another copy of the recorded story under the Other Memories from 56 Onward prompt.The same goes for the story about Ding, only this copy of the recording will go under the the Adult (20-25) Category. The point is: all three stories deserve equal attention and you certainly want to capture them because they say a lot about your Dad’s lifelong affection for dogs.

In cases like this, you’ll want to copy the original recording and then place a duplicate copy in the other relevant categories. Click here for specific instructions on how to copy recorded stories.

 
The Story that Morphs Completely

In the “dog story sequel” example above, the general topic of dogs doesn’t change. That’s not always the case. In fact, sometimes you start out on one topic, but spend most of the time talking about something else entirely. The original topic is barely mentioned!

For example, a story about learning to cook gingerbread cookies with your Grandmother for some unknown reason quickly changes into a story about the vacation road trips you used to take with your young  kids through the Smokey Mountains on the way to the beaches of North Carolina. You were somewhere in your 30s. Let’s say that the cooking gingerbread cookies part of the story took about 30 seconds and that the story didn’t really illicit any feelings nor contain any details. The most interesting part of the recording by far is the road trip.
The best way to deal with this situation is to MOVE the story to a new category. In the example above, the story that you originally set up  for the Childhood (0-12) Category best fits in the Adult (26-40) Category, probably under the Other Memories from 26-40 prompt.

Remember, always add key tag words and phrases that were mentioned in the story so that you can easily find the story. In the road trip story, those key tag words would probably include “Smokey Mountains” and “road trip”, to name a few.

Click here for instructions on how to move recorded stories.

 

Celebrations Module

Even with these new COPY and MOVE features, there are still some stories thatl seem a bit lost. Often, these other stories fit perfectly in what we call our Celebration Module. We call it that simply because there are many different types of celebrations.

For example,  think about the family birthday parties that you’ve attended over the years. You can either record what relatives remember about some of those parties or you can record while you’re at the party. Go to the Celebrations Module, click on the Birthday heading, and record the remarks of family members who were there, and then save and share those stories long after the event.

You can also go with the “live” approach (after all, it’s pretty neat to listen to your 5 year old’s enthusiasm as he first opens the big box from his grandparents). Of course, birthday parties aren’t always quiet so it might be better to capture the time after the party when grandpa and grandson are talking about some adventures that the new jumbo tRex might take.

Then there are stories from the family reunions. Saving Memories Forever even makes it easy to share these family stories with people who couldn’t attend the reunion.

For retirement parties and anniversaries, you might want to ask co-workers to comment about ways in which the retiree contributed to the organization. Or about an amusing incident at work. After all,  25 years of work created strong bonds that are worth preserving. Click here for specific instructions on how to use the Celebrations Module.

So enjoy the world in all its complexity. Take advantage of the new Saving Memories Forever features that make it even more manageable.

How to Use the Copy and Move Features

SMF logo with linkSometimes stories change topics as they are being told. Big time. Follow the steps below to copy and/or move these stories from one Category and question/prompt to another.
1. Go to the SavingMemoriesForever.com website.
2. Sign in and go to the My Memories screen.
3. Press Manager and then select your storyteller. Stories will arrange by category and question.
4. Click on the red “down arrow” by the story you want to move. The first menu option under the green bar pop up menu is “Change Question”.
5. Click on Change Question and a new screen will pop up. The current category/question for the story is listed at the top.
6. To move the story to a new Category, select a new category. (If you are not changing category, select the current category.)
7. Select a question. If the story does not fit in a category, select “Other”.
8. If you want to duplicate the current story in another category/question, check the “Create Copy” button. If you just want to move the story, leave the “Create Copy” button blank and hit Save. Mission accomplished. If you move a story all pictures and text files associated with the story will move. If you duplicate a story, the pictures and text files stay with the original story.
9. If you make a mistake, don’t worry you can do this as many times as you need to.

 

The US Civil War Begins–April 1861

US Civil War - ChickamaugaOn April 12, 1861, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard fired shots on Fort Sumter, at Charleston, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the US Civil War. Ending four years later, the war left behind over 600,000 dead who fought in the war. For many families, the Civil War would have a lasting impact for generations to come.

Handling Sensitive Topics Related to the Civil War
The events leading up to the War are well document in history, but what about your own ancestors and their involvement? Many researchers shy away from Civil War research since many of the topics such as slavery and its history still have an impact on today’s society.
Genealogists and family historians should not embellish the facts that they find nor distort or change such facts. Accept the facts for what they are and document them as best as possible. Here are areas to explore in your search:
Slavery: What were your ancestors’ beliefs about slavery? Were they abolitionists? Were they slave owners? Also, think about sharing original documentation of enslaved ancestors, especially since it could help other researchers break down brick walls.
• Economic impact: How did your family fare during the War? Did they prosper through their own businesses which supplied the war effort? Or did they lose land and property during the War?
• Military service: Which ancestors served in the War? Can you determine why they served? Due to beliefs about slavery or did they serve simply for economic purposes?
• Border states: Pay special attention to border states since family loyalties to the Union or the Confederacy were not always clear cut. It is likely some family members favored or even fought for one side, while others took the opposite side.

Capturing Civil War Memories
While there are no living veterans of the US Civil War (although there are still two pensions being paid to children of Civil War veterans), there are many ways that you can capture and catalogue your family’s Civil War memories. If you are willing to do the research, you may find that even information involving these sensitive topics help present a more accurate picture of the lives of your ancestors.

• Determine Civil War Ancestors: Research family members alive during the Civil War and note those who served on either side of the war. Find out as much as possible about their lives and the impact of the War.
• Highlight Civil War Veterans: Once you’ve located the make ancestors who served, locate pension files, photos, newspaper article and anything you can. Consider creating a memorial page at fold 3 (free).
• Create a Virtual Relative: A great feature of Saving Memories Forever, is the ability to create a Virtual Relative and preserve their stories. If you are sitting on a collection of Civil War letters or a diary, consider narrating stories and excerpts from these items with the free app at Saving Memories Forever.
• Trace Post-War Activities: The War was a monumental event that impacted families for many years. Did your family migrate to a new location after the War? Did your family lose land or property during the War? Research the aftermath of the Civil War and document your family’s activities.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a frequent guest blogger for Saving Memories Forever. He is also a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.