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.  

 

 

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Summer’s End

cowsAs a child, my brother and I competed for who could collect the most empty cicada shells. It was a clear-cut contest: whoever collected the most shells won. As an adult, spotting an abandoned locust shell inspires a split second of alarm followed by recognition and realignment. First, I remember what it is. Then I recall what it represents: an unofficial message from Mother Nature saying that summer is coming to an end.

Mother Nature tells me about the summer’s end in other ways too: the banks of the rivers and lakes are cracked and dry, the grass is a scorched brown, and the sun sets at least an hour earlier than it did at the summer’s apex. In contrast, my vegetable garden suddenly offers abundant crops that challenge me to keep up. Yes, it’s time to offer tomatoes to neighbors….maybe even complete strangers if it means that it they won’t just rot on the vine. But Mother Nature isn’t the only one handing out the notice.

About a month ago, department stores started promoting back-to-school-sales. Those sales have now reached a fever pitch. Trumpeting huge discounts and large supplies.
About a week ago, school buses started rumbling through the neighborhood on their trial runs. Now parents wait with their young children at the bus stop. The children are often uncertain, even teary-eyed, and wail their reluctance to leave.

And even though it’s still hot and muggy around here, local pools have posted closing dates. Events on weekday nights have become harder to find.

With one huge exception: the state fair. Here the barnyards are busy with determined cowgirls flying around barrels. The stalls are filled to full-capacity. The squeals of pigs and bleats of sheep. Screams of delight from the ride enthusiasts. Muttered complaints from tired adults. Carnival music. Blaring sound from main stage acts all mingled with the sweet smell of cotton candy and fried corn dogs. If you live in the Midwest, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Time now to give a once-over to your summer bucket list. Catch a summer flick. Pack a picnic lunch. Top off a round of Mini Golf with an ice cream cone. And, if you haven’t been to one, go to a state fair.

‘Cause there’s no such thing as an endless summer.

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.  

 

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.  

 

 

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.   

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. 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mother’s Day Celebration Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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