Bring It On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

smf-jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

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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.  

3 Ideas for Capturing Graduation Moments

graduationTransitions happen at all ages and stages of childhood and adulthood. When we think of “rites of passage”, many think of getting the keys to the car or getting married. These things may happen at different times in our lives (or not at all). But one thing that we all experience is a graduation!

Traditionally, high school and college graduations receive the lion’s share of attention. While that’s still true, nowadays, graduations from elementary and middle school also receive a good amount of attention. No matter what type of graduation you’re attending, it’s a big deal and marks a milestone in your child’s (or grandchild’s) life. Or your life!

May is pretty much graduation month across the country. So how  have have you been doing with recording (and sharing) the graduations in your family? Are you capturing the graduation stories that go along with the ceremonies? Our advice: grab those stories while they are fresh in your mind.

Here are some ideas of how to go about it.

1. Make a scrapbook. Scrapbooks are a wonderful way to record the event. They can incorporate memorabilia from the event such as graduation programs and notes from friends and relatives. Scrapbooks are also great way to store photographs. Keep in mind that actual photographs in a scrapbook will deteriorate over time (hint: go digital). Also, remember to save the best of your digital photographs to your computer.  Whether you choose to print your photos or create a digital scrapbook, transforming the walk to adulthood will be a memory that you’ll want to keep.

2. Create a graduation keepsake book. Create a book that highlights all of the graduate’s  thoughts, hopes, dreams (and even fears) about heading into the next phase of his or her life, be it college or the working world.  Much like a time capsule, this book will allow the graduate to look back on the day with a different perspective later on in his or her life. Don’t forget to include your words of wisdom for them. These books will become keepsakes that will not only mark the occasion, but something the graduate will hold dear for years to come.

3. Record audio stories about the graduation. Another way that you can remember the excitement of a graduation is to record the spoken stories.  The Saving Memories Forever system is a fun and easy way to record all of your family’s graduation stories. Using the smartphone app, you can record the graduation stories anytime and anywhere, either at the graduation itself, the family celebration party or a few days later when things have calmed down. Using this approach, you’ll be able to capture the  excited “There she is!” as your graduate walks by in the procession line. To record graduation stories on the Saving Memories Forever app,  just use the Celebrations category and then select the Graduations story prompt/question.  While you’re at it, you can even record the graduation stories of others in your family and listen to them all later on. It might be interesting to see how graduation traditions have changed (or not) over time.

After you upload those stories to the website, the stories will be safe, and both you and the graduate will  be able to re-listen to a conversation between the two of you for years to come. Keep in mind that Premium Subscribers can also include graduation photos.

However you choose to remember graduation day, the important principle is this: Don’t lose your stories.Record the stories as they are fresh in our hearts. The details will be richer and the moment of celebration closer.

 

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.

 

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.

Blogging: Another Way to Tell Your Family Stories

Ree Drummond

Two well known mommy bloggers (Ree Drummond and Stephanie Nielson) were Keynote Speakers at the recent RootsTech 2014 Conference. Their speeches adeptly  reinforced the general theme of the conference: connecting families–past, present, and future. Also, by being there, they serve as examples of how many people today are just stumbling into genealogy, each looking for an approach that resonates with their personality. For them, blogging fit the bill. Blogging on consistent basis has brought them both joy, satisfaction and a deep sense of fulfillment.

Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond (pictured above) is a down-to-earth woman who lives on a working cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma with her husband and four children. When she was first married, her mother-in-law gave her the Drummond family history book which she poured over for hours. Perhaps that family history book triggered a small spark.  Years later, on a whim, Ree began to blog about her family’s everyday country life, including the mountain-size loads of grass-stained laundry, the beauty of orange sunsets, the adventures of the animals on the ranch and –always– her kids.

Over the years, she got good at it, both the writing and the photography that went along with it. Today, she is an award-winning blogger and #1 New York Times bestselling author.  Her website, The Pioneer Woman, showcases her cooking and photography. The food looks good enough to make you drool.

“I love the fact that I’ve documented my family’s life,” she comments. “I’m so glad I’ve got the stories down. I didn’t start out to do this; it just happened. Writing just sorta ignited something in me. I like to look at the day in the life of our family and record it.”

Writing, she realizes, is not for everyone. Still, she contends, blogging is easy to do and you don’t have to be good at it, especially when you’re first getting started. She backs up that claim with an example of an early food photo where the fried onions in a sandwich looked more like worms than tasty onions.

Her takeaway message? “Start now. Don’t wait until you’re really good at whatever medium you choose. Just start now to document your life and the lives of those you love.”

Stephanie Nielson                                          Stephanie Nielson

Stephanie Nielson is the author of the popular NieNie Dialogues blog. In 2008, Stephanie and her husband were in a serious plane crash. Over 80 percent of her body was burned. Her story of survival and recovery are documented on her blog and have been recounted in interviews with Oprah Winfrey and on the TODAY show. She is a strong woman with a deep and abiding faith.

She actually started to blog when she moved far away from her relatives. While she was living her “dream job” of being a mother, writing her blogs gave her distant relatives and friends a good sense of what was going on in her life. Writing gave her simple pleasure. Back home, her relatives enjoyed reading about the neighbor’s cement duck that got new outfits for each holiday. Writing was simply Stephanie’s way of keeping in touch.

Blogging took on a whole new meaning after her horrific plane accident: it became part of her recovery. Just writing her first entries was difficult. A line was all she could manage. Today, she writes daily and with vigor. Today, she is grateful for the stories that her family has given her; she is grateful too that she has dedicated time each day through the thick and the thin, and the joy and pain to write down her life stories.  “Document your life,” she stresses. “No matter how you do it.”

The folks at Saving Memories Forever applaud the choice of these two women bloggers as keynote speakers. We join both Ree and Stephanie in their enthusiasm for recording everyday stories. Whether you record your life stories through writing or by recording your  stories through voice, we urge you to tell your stories no matter what they are and what form they’re in. Time flies.

This blog was written by Jane Baker at Saving Memories Forever. Saving Memories Forever is the Grand Prize Winner of the Developer’s Challenge Award at this year’s RootsTech Conference hosted by FamilySearch and sponsored by ancestry.com, Find My Past, and My Heritage.   RootsTech Developer Challenge Winner emblem orange box

SMF-Jane2

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.