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.  

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.   

A Girl Scout in the Family

girl scouts at the white house

On March 12, 1912, the first Girl Scout meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia when Juliette Gordon Low brought 18 young women together to form a troop. Low’s focus was to provide opportunities to young women and ensure their physical, mental and spiritual development.

The vision that Low had, starting with that first meeting, was an organization that was “girl-centered.” What started with just 18 girls has grown to an organization with over 3.2 million girls and adults. According to the Girl Scouts of America, there are over 59 million women in the United States today who can be claimed as Girls Scouts alumnae.

The Girl Scouts of America was patterned after the popular Girl Guides organization in Britain, but by 1920 had developed its own distinct uniform, handbook and organizational structure. By then, there were 70,000 girl scouts across the country.

During the Great Depression, many troops focused on community service including food drives and providing meals to those in need. Also in the 1930s, with a focus on age appropriate activities, Girl Scouts were split into divisions including the Brownies. And did you know that ithe first Girl Scout cookies were commercially baked in the 1930s?

With the arrival of World War II, community service included scrap metal drives, learning how to grow Victory Gardens as well as how to handle blackouts and air raid drills.

The 1950s and 1960s is when the organization saw its largest growth, thanks to the post-war Baby Boom. As the Girl Scouts continued to grow towards the end of the 20th century, activities included computers and developing technology skills for young women. And now in the 21st century, new badges such as Global Awareness and Environmental Health reflect the challenges women, and all of us, will face in the coming decades.

Did the Girl Scouts Play a Role in Your Family?

For many families, the Girl Scouts were a big part of “growing up” in the United States. More and more family historians are discovering that memories of being a Girl Scout and participating in activities make for great family stories.

Here are some interview questions, writing/journaling prompts and project ideas:

  • Which of your ancestors were members of the Girl Scouts? What is the earliest instance you can find of a family member participating in Girl Scouts?
  • Do you have a current family member who was or is involved in the Girl Scouts? Consider interviewing your older relatives (using Saving Memories Forever, of course) and ask them what it was like to be a Girl Scout as they grew up. Discuss the skills they developed.
  • Have you inherited a box of Girl Scout items such as sashes, uniforms, handbooks and more? Contact your local troop and ask if they would be interested in the items for their archives. If not, create a video or slide show describing the items and who in your family owned them.
  • Were you a Girl Scout? Record your own memories in a variety of formats including audio, digital images and in writing.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEntee is 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. He is a frequent guest blogger for SavingMemoriesForever.com. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

Road Trip to Grand Teton National Park

In September 2012 my mother and I took a road trip to visit her aunt Dottie and some of her first cousins in Idaho Falls. We had planned to do a half week of genealogy research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and then rent a car to drive to Idaho Falls since it was less than three hours away.

Mom had not seen her aunt since the 1990s and the cousins since she was about age 15. I had only a foggy memory of my great aunt from the 1980s when she and my great uncle visited my childhood home on a brief stop through town; I had never even met my first cousins, once removed—only knowing their names from my genealogy database. We thought the visit would be the perfect opportunity to give information about the research we were conducting on our shared Anderson line, as well as to scan some of the photos of our common ancestors and collateral lines.

One of the highlights of the three-day visit was getting to spend an extended amount of time in the car visiting with my then 88-year old great aunt as we drove to see the Grand Tetons. We departed Idaho Falls to drive the two hours to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, located just south of Grand Teton National Park. The view was spectacular! The whole region, including areas outside the park along Palisades Reservoir, had trees adorned with beautiful fall colors.

Grand Teton National Park plaque

Because we came and went two different ways, I was able to get different views of the Grand Tetons. We even stopped at a few scenic pull-outs where I was able to take various photos. I learned that the Grand Teton National Park was originally established on 26 February 1929—in fact, 85 years ago from today—before it was later expanded on 14 September 1950 to 310,000 acres, including Jackson Hole, the Snake River, and other resources.

Although we did not do any hiking since my great aunt was confined to a wheelchair, the view alone was worth the drive. But the best part about the drive was hearing Dottie’s stories.

Landscape near Jackson Hole, Wyoming    View of Grand Tetons

I learned how Dottie felt as a young bride to receive news that her husband had been wounded and taken prisoner of war somewhere near Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and about the long wait she endured before he was finally returned home with a permanent disability.  I heard a tale for the first time about Dottie’s father-in-law (my great-grandfather) riding a stagecoach across Yellowstone to Montana as a young man in the early 1910s and purchasing land there before moving to North Dakota—who knew?  I also learned that my great-grandparents raised a foster daughter in the 1930s—a fact that had gone completely undocumented in my version of the family history until that moment.

As Dottie told her stories during the 4+ hour car ride, I was able to record them with a digital voice recorder that captured the audio recording in MP3 format.  The conversation flowed naturally and at times strayed to present-day commentary, such as explaining to me what a “spud hall” or potato cellar was.  I was able to capture Dottie’s personality as her stories unfolded, and although the recordings were not professional quality, they were perfect for the moment.Now in February 2014, reflecting back on those memories only several weeks after my sweet great aunt Dottie passed away, I am so glad that I was able to have extended time with her to record her memories.

I’m in the process of editing some of the longer audio clips into MP3 files of individual stories so I can upload them to my account on the Saving Memories Forever website. After uploading these MP3 files, I can easily announce that I have added new stories and share them with my family and Dottie’s children.  It is priceless to have Dottie’s voice recorded now that she is gone.

Every time I think of the Grand Tetons, I will remember my great aunt Dottie and how her eyes lit up when she told her stories.  I hope to return to the national park in the future so I can explore more of the landscape that Dottie had grown to love while living in the region. Although Dottie is no longer with us, her stories and memories will endure.

Deena Coutant headshotDeena Coutant is a professional genealogist specializing in the use of technology to facilitate successful search, storage and sharing strategies for family historians in the digital age. For more information visit DigiDeena Consulting www.digideena.com.

Storytelling Theme Prevails at RootsTech

RootsTech-Logo blue The RootsTech 2014 conference was held in Salt Lake City February 5-8, 2014.  The theme of this year’s conference was, “Connecting Our Families:  Past, Present and Future.”  The Friday keynote address was by Judy G. Russell, a certified genealogist and lecturer who also has a law degree.  Author of the popular blog, The Legal Genealogist, Judy enjoys helping others understand a wide variety of genealogical issues, including DNA and the interplay between genealogy and the law.

Backstage in the dimly lit “greenroom,” Judy explained to Harvey and Jane Baker from Saving Memories Forever that since DNA expert Dr. Spencer Wells from National Geographic’s Genographic Project was speaking right after her, she decided to focus on how easily family history can be lost.

Judy based part of her keynote presentation on a December 18, 2013 article on Examiner.com, written by Judy Everett Ramos and titled “Oral History Can Be Lost in 3 Generations.”  The full article can be read here.   The basic message of her speech was the importance of preserving family information accurately and intentionally.

To reinforce this point, Judy started her presentation by asking the audience to stand for a little quiz where they had to sit down if they didn’t know the answer to the questions. The quiz covered six questions related to only 3 generations (parents, grandparents and great-grandparents).

  1. What was the first illness your mother had as a child?
  2. What was the first funeral your father ever attended?
  3. What was your maternal grandmother’s favorite book as a child?
  4. What was your maternal grandfather’s favorite class in elementary school?
  5. What was your paternal great-grandmother’s toy as a child?
  6. Did your paternal great-grandfather know how to swim, and if he did, where did he learn and what was his favorite swimming hole?

Not surprisingly, in an auditorium that held thousands, only a handful were left standing at the end of this simple exercise. And they were laughingly told to stop showing off.

Judy then explained that since we are not repeating our family stories, those stories are being lost.  In fact, whole lives can be lost.  Judy told several stories to illustrate the importance of storytelling.

Judy Russell headshot

Judy Russell, CG, CLG, JD

The first story was about Judy’s 4th great-grandfather David Baker whose brother, Richard Baker, was killed in the battle of Trenton in the Revolutionary War.  One would think that if a family lost a son, they would pass that information down—but of the 5 surviving sons (Richard’s brothers), only one of them named a son after Richard, and none named grandsons Richard, so even his name was gone in just 3 generations.  Had Judy not found the pension affidavit where David mentioned his brother Richard, she’d not even have known that Richard even existed.

Judy recounted another family history where she was proudly told she had ancestors in the House of Burgesses, on the Mayflower, and possibly even homeowners who hosted George Washington overnight.  As it turned out, none of this was true!  It’s not enough for family stories to just be purposely passed down, but they must be accurately passed down.  Judy recommended the Genealogical Proof Standard as the measuring stick by which we evaluate the family stories we wish to pass down.

Judy’s final story was about her Scots-Irish Cottrell ancestors in Texas.  As a child growing up, she heard many diverse stories about her great-grandfather, including that he rode with the Texas Rangers, and held jobs such as cowboy, rancher, farmer, lawman, traveling salesman, and circuit-riding Baptist preacher! The stories seemed to be in conflict, but after Judy researched the facts and constructed a timeline, they all turned out to be true!

The moral of the story is that when relatives before us lovingly pass stories to us, we must verify and document these stories, and then pass them on to the generations that come after us.  We also should not neglect to tell our own stories as we capture the stories of the past.  We each have our own voice and can connect our own family’s history: past, present and future.

When Judy came off the stage after her speech, Harvey and Jane applauded her presentation—for its content as well as the delivery.  In many ways, Judy’s message was music to their ears because it ties in so well with the Saving Memories Forever mission. In fact, just minutes later Saving Memories Forever was announced as the Grand Prize winner of the Developer’s Challenge in part for the way in which their system facilitates family storytelling.

Capturing our stories can be as simple as using the award-winning Saving Memories Forever system to record stories whenever and wherever they begin to roll.  By uploading these recorded stories to the private website, they will be backed up and can be easily shared with other family members who will cherish the stories.  When connecting photos and documents to these stories, we make them richer and add depth and evidence that enhances the accuracy of the stories.  For those of us who take the time to record our stories and share them, we can break the dreaded cycle of losing of our family history 3 generations from now.

Every family has a story.  What’s yours?  (And…where did you learn to swim?)

Deena Coutant headshot

Deena Coutant is a professional genealogist specializing in the use of technology to facilitate successful search, storage and sharing strategies for family historians in the digital age. For more information visit DigiDeena Consulting at www.digideena.com.

Just Ask

Love.

The definition of love in the Webster dictionary is as follows:a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.

How many people in your life do you feel a strong sense of affection for? I am sure it is a long, long list. What a perfect month for recording stories of love.

One of the things that my children have always enjoyed is hearing the stories of how the couples in our family met. They giggle with delight to this day listening to my mom and dad tell their love story.

I can remember as a little girl, lying on the floor looking up at my mother as she would do the ironing. That time with her was so precious and I would ask all kinds of questions, but one of my favorites was to ask her (over and over again) to tell me the story of how she and my dad met.

Even though I have heard this story numerous times and could repeat it by heart, I still ask.

About a year ago I was at my parents’ home and we were eating dinner. I opened my Saving Memories Forever app on my smartphone, laid it to the side and asked the very same question that I asked when I was a little girl watching my mother iron, “Tell me how you and dad fell in love.”

Now, a year later, my father has had a heart attack and my mother’s hearing has gotten worse. As time wears on I am so, so grateful to have captured that wonderful love story complete with all of their humor, giggles and very serious words towards each other as they shared the story that day.

That recording is the best Valentine’s gift I’ve ever asked for.

kim-weitkampKim 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.