Thanks for the memories.

Dear Fellow Journalers,

As a blog writer, I am always looking for articles and/or videos that will help me bring a story to light. Every so often, after I have wrapped up the month’s posts about a certain type journal, a surprise article will pop up and I must decide whether to incorporate it into the month or save it for another time. The ideas in this article are really timely and so I have decided to give you a bonus post this week. It’s from an article that was published on 9/1/95 in Woman’s Day Magazine.

Making a family memory is a precious thing and often doesn’t cost a thing. The women who shared these ideas were mothers and grandparents from all different backgrounds and places. There are 24 memory builders in all.

  1. Annual Date. There was a movie that came out a number of years ago that starred Alan Alda (MASH) that was called Same time next year. It was about a couple that met once a year at the same time. The viewer got to see them age and the topics of conversation change over time. This tip actually centers around your child and a once-a-year event that is special and specific to them. When I was growing up, my Grandmother would take me on a train trip to New York City every year on a day near my birthday. We would go to the circus or to see a play. Afterwards we would go to a restaurant called Schrafts for ice cream sundaes. I really cherished those memories and hoped that when I was a grandmother I could do something similar with my grandchildren.

  2. Storytime. Turn this nightly ritual into something special. Have your child pick the book and then take turns reading the chapters aloud, complete with sound effects!

  3. Memory quilt. A woman in California asked her relatives to write their names and a special message to her children on two squares of fabric which she gave them. Once she had enough squares, she made a quilt for her son and daughter.

  4. Good sports. Although we are busy parents, try to view the games your children are in. One father goes one step further. He takes his son to watch season games of his favorite team.

  5. Make mealtime special. Share one night with your family with no cell phones.

  6. Dinner on them. Once a week have the children plan and cook a family meal.

  7. Take up a collection. Remember when Mary Beth and her family collected items for their time capsule?

  8. Take a child to work day. Pick a slow day and assign them a task like copying or filing. Don’t forget that special lunch.

  9. Take a special trip to your hometown or have their grandparents tell stories about you when you were their age.

  10. Family cookbook. Pick out recipes that your family loves and write them down.One mother did this and gave it to her daughter when she was married.

  11. P.J. Day. Pick a day when everyone stays in their sleepwear all day and you enjoy family games. We used to turn off the lights and pretend that there was a power outage. We would sit in the dark and play “flash light tag” and tell ghost stories.

  12. Find a goofy raffle stuffed animal and display it in all parts of your house. First person to spot it, gets to watch a tv show of their choice.

  13. Make a special cakes for your family member. Write a letter to them each year.

  14. Christmas tree ornaments. Buy a special ornament each year for your children. One parent kept them separate and gave the whole box to her son when he was married.

  15. Postcards. Instead of taking pictures, this one family bought postcards from everywhere their family went on vacation. They would date them and keep them in a family scrapbook.

  16. Baby Box. One mother keeps the dress her daughter wore on her first trip home from the hospital.

  17. Keep a diary. One family took a trip to a distant state for a family vacation. Each child kept a diary of the event.

  18. Keep the school pictures!

  19. Video-Go-Round – start a family video with the latest “news” then send it on to another family member with instructions to keep sending it on until it arrives back with you.

  20. Collect some pictures or stories from the children that were written in school. Shared memories are the best.

  21. Take lots of pictures of the children during the year. Be sure to label how old they were and the event.

  22. Find a cause you believe in and give back. One family has a Christmas jar which they use to deposit their change in during the year. They pick a charity in January and contribute all year-long.

  23. Plan a home improvement project and have everyone participate.

  24. Enjoy the little things a walk in the park, a trip to get ice cream etc.

So these are only 24 tips. I bet you’ve come up with a few more!

~Sallie

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Memory Journal

Dear Fellow Journalers,

This is a ‘re-post but one worth reading again:

Memories, “they say”, can never be taken from you, but the intricacies of the memory itself can fade. Do you really remember all the important details people’s names, the little things that happened or even the big experiences, the way you felt? The only way to remember is to write things down.

A Life worth living is worth recording.

     Now you may think that crafting a memory journal will be tedious and you see a giant headache in your future. But think of it this way, you’ll re-live and reevaluate events, relationships and turning points in your life. With perspectives that can only be gained by living forward, reflecting backwards you’ll re-examine your life and view the challenges and the discovery of who you are now. You are an important part of your friends and family lives and the portrait of you gives these important people a greater understanding and appreciation of the what’s and why’s and how’s of you.

   If you’re of a particular age, you might also be one of the last people alive with memories of your grandparents and perhaps even your parents. How many times have you heard someone say “I wish I knew more about my Dad” or ” I came from an estranged family. I wish I knew more about my Grandparents – did I look like them? Where did they come from?”

  You also are an eyewitness to historical events. Your memories, experiences and perspective about events that happened all around you add to the collective knowledge of our past. I always like viewing TV shows about historical events in which the narrator or the scene portrays little known events. You know the ones I mean – the events not recorded in history books. The story about a man who missed the train because he drove his child to school because his son missed the bus and the man was NOT at the World Trade Center when it was attacked or the people in the crowd who were cheering the marathon runners in Boston MA – there are hundreds of stories like that memories locked up in people’s minds and hearts.  On a personal note, I remember watching the moon space landing and the day Kennedy was shot. ( I know I am dating myself!)  I remember my wedding day, the day our son was born, holding my newborn granddaughter for the first time, the first time I rode a horse, went on a train trip, saw Peter Pan with Mary Martin in NYC, swam in the ocean – big and small things that make up my life.

     These and more reasons propelled me to write a memory journal if not for me than for the generations of family members who come after.

‘Til then,

~Sallie

 

10 Tips for writing about your memories

Dear Fellow Journalers,

Memory journaling can be tough. Retrieving a memory is not like opening a document stored on a hard drive or pulling a file folder out of a cabinet. We all “file” our memories but sometimes we embellish the truth of them. We think we’ll remember the depth of feeling we’ve experienced or the way the event unfolded but we don’t – not even close. As we age our memories fade. That’s why memory journaling is important not only for us but for our families. So here are 10 useful tips on writing about your life:

  1. Use memory triggers. Flip through photo albums, greeting cards you’ve received, yearbooks, home movies.

  2. Thoughts and memories match moods. So, if you’re trying to remember your wedding, Don’t write about it when you are sick or upset.

  3. Sometimes if you visit the site of your memory more of the events you are trying to remember will be easier to recall. More often than not, this is not possible. When it is, take advantage. I have tried over the years to revisit my hometown and have discovered many happy memories I’d forgotten. Oh yes, many of the stores on Main Street are different but have you noticed – street names remain the same.

  4. Have you heard of the term “autobiographical memory?” This comprises both memory and general knowledge pertinent only to the individual. If you were to make timelines for each of your “spheres” of your life and list important events such as weddings, graduations, awards, births and deaths etc. your life would be unfolded in front of you.

  5. Pay attention to what’s distinct. Some of our memories are hazy, fragmented or seemingly trivial. Each one, however, make up YOUR life. Even if the memory seems difficult to understand, work with it.

One of my memories concerns the writing of this blog. I had a lot of technical questions and sought help from a new friend. I remember how I was hesitant to admit that my concepts were not completely formed. After contemplating that memory I realized that her gentle guidance helped me form the basis of all my blog writing since then. Now, every time I post an article I think of her and her advice.

  1. Don’t try to remember events from your early childhood. Few of us remember first grade jitters!

  2. Describe events as you remember them. Do the facts match up to how you lived, where you lived and your day to day life as it was then?

  3. Remembering is not like looking at a picture or even watching a video. These are triggers. (See #1). Relieving the memory is a sensory thing. You feel and “see”  and react to the memory. I grew up in a small New England town. I was a “tom boy” and spent my youth climbing trees, riding horses and reading a lot! I also grew up watching western tv shows. I  ‘re-watched an episode of Laramie ( a tv western produced in the early 1960’s) the other day. In the scene, the character’s horse started galloping down a hill. Suddenly I was “transported” back to a dusty corral in New York state. The afternoon Sun was hot on my face and I could feel the perspiration sliding down my shirt. The feel of my horse’s muscles were beneath me, my feet were firmly planted in the stirrups and my instructor ( a crusty old gent) said loudly, “use your legs” and “I don’t want to see daylight between you and that saddle!” I learned how to canter that day and it was a feeling I remember now so vividly.  I was glad I remembered it and could share it.

  4. It’s not to late to start your journal of memories. Your future self will thank you.

  5. Be as honest as you can when writing about your memories. Names of birthday clowns are trivial but dates and names are not.

Final note: This is YOUR life – what are you waiting for?

~Sallie

What happened to my life?

Dear Fellow Journalers,

A perspective post from G.

~Sallie

WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LIFE ? Subtitle: How did it go by so fast ?

FAIR WARNING: I really don’t know if this piece is inspired by my recent illness, but writing and reading it, it’s a pretty good piece for anyone, regardless of age or health, to read. If not, hit delete. Also, like my life, it’s a little long. **************************************************************** It’s amazing to me. It REALLY is amazing. It feels like I’m 18, but my recent birthday a few weeks ago, firmly cements my place as an “official old man.” Now I don’t know if it’s common to all “old timers”, but in the last year or so I’ve had a flood, no, make that deluge, or tidal wave, of memories. Whether inspired by a simple, unexpected, “trigger” or a subconscious dream, they charge me like the Light Brigade at Sevastopol. And like it or not, I must deal with them. Another thing about these memories, some from 70 years ago, or seven years ago, or seven days ago, is that I really and truly don’t know if it’s Gods’ way of having me prepare to say goodbye to life, or preparing me for things yet to come ahead. Frankly, either way, I can’t wait to find out which. Another thing: all these things sometimes make no sense. I may have some sparked memory from say, 60 years ago, that was such a minor thing I can’t believe I remembered it. Other memories, I have absolute certainty why I remember it. Oh well, what the hell. The most positive thing about these memories is that they force you to look back at your life with either happiness, or unhappiness. For me, there’s no in between. Frankly, I’m glad about that. Makes thinking clearer. Some of these memories are JOYOUS !

Do you remember the first time you were really in love? I do— I was seventeen, and a junior in high school. She was smart, personable, pretty, and perfect. I was gonzo ! It was doomed to failure of course. She was off to college in New York, me off to college in Indiana, then the Marines, then Vietnam. But THANK YOU my wonderful first love. You gave me memories and taught me things about life I can never, ever forget. God Bless and keep you, where ever you are.

Then there are the memories that are HORRENDOUS ! I fought in the battle of Khe Shan in Vietnam. It was truly hell on earth. Death and destruction were EVERYWHERE. Funny thing— it was bad enough while it happened, but the other night I had a very detailed dream about it. (over 50 years later) It was like a childhood dream where you are being chased by monsters, aliens, and all things bad. I woke up in a cold, raw sweat, drenched from head to foot, and shaking. But this horrible experience WAS a part of my life, and helped shape it just like all the good memories.

All of us have memories at any age. Like me, some are good, some bad. But it seems to me that as you pass the “golden mark” (What the hell is golden about it? You get old, you get sick, and then you die) that memories become increasingly more significant. You get to question the content, character, purpose, and value of the life you’ve lived. Sometimes, you’re happy with the result, other times, not so much. Intelligent people call this “LIFE.” My favorite aunt (long since departed) had a favorite saying: Life is life, UNTIL life becomes what YOU make it. A good saying, even after so, so many years. God Bless and keep you Lady, wherever you are. Remember the old Barbara Streisand song ‘Memories?” “Memories, like the corners of our mind, misty watercolor memories of the way we were.” Reminds me of another saying of a favored teacher, and later mentor: What you WERE is ne’er as important as what you are NOW.

I’m also a very lucky man. I confess to having a “man cave”, plus the Jerry Goodwin study, filled with the mementoes of my life. Pics of family and friends, especially Carla, Laur-Laur, and K-K are everywhere. These never fail to bring a huge smile to my face. Momentos of Marine days, and of civilian job are there too. Two of my favorites are from my years at the printing company when I had to fire a particularly bad employee everybody hated. When I told him he was fired, he took a swing at me. I was forced to put him down. The employees gave me a photoshopped picture of Godzilla wearing boxing gloves, with the inscription: “In memory of the stupid son of a bitch who took on Godzilla”. My other favorite is a simple frame with a red felt background, upon which are nine black Marine emblems. It symbolizes the nine Marines who died under my command. I NEVER want to forget them, because the sacrifice of their lives means I HAVE TO make the most of mine. In order to get from my bedroom to the bathroom each morning, I have to pass the Goodwin study. As I do, I touch the door jamb and pat it. After so many years, it has a slight indentation from this practice. God bless, love and keep you my cherished friend, wherever you are. You taught me what true friendship is. Also throughout the house are momentos, citations, awards, medals etc. Some of them were presented to me by some of you reading this. THANK YOU ! They mean a lot, and when on days the world seems cold and dark, they remind me that at least on some days my life had meaning and purpose. That somehow I accomplished some good for my fellow-man. Believe me, an old man (or woman) really needs that. My personal religious beliefs are that someday I will be brought before God for a “final judgment.” God will say “Account for your life !” I hope, I really really hope, that the first words out of my mouth are : THANK YOU GOD FOR GIVING ME SUCH A FABULOUS LIFE ! If I can do that, I’ll take my chances from there. So as I began this over long piece, “What happened to my life?” Answer is Life happened to my Life ! The good, the bad, the ugly, the heartfelt and the heartbreak, the tried, the true, the false and the bullshit. And one morning, wearing the disguise of an old man, I saw it all for what it was / is— MY LIFE.

I close (finally !) with a request for a favor: When you have time, grab your favorite beverage, find your favorite spot, put your feet up, and regardless of your age, cherish the memories of YOUR LIFE ! Until next time, and more ramblings of an old man———

 

Ordinary, every day memories

Dear Fellow Journalers,

A memory can be as simple as an outing in the park with a grandparent or as complicated as a trip to London, England. Why write down and keep a record of ordinary events or conversations? People will argue that the memory of extraordinary events such as first steps or graduations are way to important. Could the memory of a movie night at home with family be pleasurable to remember  some two months after the fact?

It’s interesting to contemplate the reasons why some people choose ordinary events to write about and ‘re-read months later. Memories are part of our identity whether the memories are “good” or “bad”.  The interesting thing is, is the fact that our brains are wired to help us remember certain events that later take on great significance.

The moments that tend to be the most meaningful are rarely the ones we expect. I recently read a review about a newly published book about general stores. The title is “New England General Stores”. All at once, I remembered the general store in the town I grew up in. I could “see” the shelves that reached to the ceiling packed with every shape box imaginable. There were stuffed animals bookended between hard covered cookbooks and candy in mason jars. Baskets hung from the ceiling and comic books were in neat trays near the wood counter. Upon later reflection, I could remember the friendly store manager who let me wait for the school bus just inside the front door. He always had a steaming cup of cocoa ready for me on frosty mornings.

So what are you waiting for? What day-to-day memories should you be writing about?

~Sallie

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