Sunday, August 19, 2012

Time for Retrospect

Could you tell someone your life story? 

What were the main turning points?   Do you remember?  Here are some ways to collect those memories.  Retrospect means looking back.
 
Images (photos, video)

Visuals excite our brain as we try to identify what we see and match the image to personal memories.  Have you looked at old family photographs and wondered who those people were?  It takes a minute or two to identify who, when, where and what (event) on all visuals before we file them away.  Identify online with a caption or tag and group items together (the maternal or paternal side of the family, distant relatives, family or school reunions, family trips).


Vancouver, Burrard Inlet seals sunning, by DG Hudson

To get started, sort photos and gather paper collectibles in a storage container.  Discard or repack what you can't use, but retain a sample of concert programs, tickets, posters, sports books, travel maps, special cards or letters.  A flat-bed scanner is useful for enlarging the images taken with small format or older cameras.

Record Known Facts

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Where the family name originates (both sides)
-Newspaper clipping of an event which helps establish time period
-Family tree known connections (use a template or record free hand)
-Heirlooms or special family treasures; include history, if available


Collect Memorabilia

Family get-togethers or summer visits with relatives are the ideal time to collect those memories by using your camera or getting someone else to do it for you.  Include a beloved t-shirt of your fave band, autographs, old school records or class photos.  Don't forget, this will be a cumulative project and you're the curator.


Mother-in-law c.1940s - DG Hudson Collection



Break the task into smaller chunks

Transcribing family stories can be done in small bits; determine main ideas and what you want to include.  Match photos to event.  Be creative in your display.  Make collages.  The final format can be print or digital, but consider whether you need multiple copies for any interested siblings or only one for your family. 


No gender specific skills required
 
Men and women can do this.  Quality of presentation is subjective.  I made a birthday photo album for BIL (brother-in-law) of his childhood and teen photos.  BIL was surprised and pleased seeing photos he had forgotten about.  Keeping track of memorabilia isn't always high on men's 'what to do' lists, but at least make a minimal effort.  You may be glad you did.  Blogger Arlee Bird recently wrote a post on storing some of these memory collectibles


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Memory quilts (sewing skills required)

The design of a memory quilt should reflect the style of the person who will receive it.  What does that person like? Do they have a hobby or interest that suggests a theme?    You can design-your-own or purchase a pre-cut pattern at sewing stores.  I design my own layout and mix and match patterns with a related colour or theme.  To personalize, add applique to some squares and use needlework for the reverse of the quilt.  A very basic outline of steps for crafting a memory quilt follows.

Crafting a Memory Quilt

  • Make a list of elements to be included on memory side of quilt, calculate size required and purchase amount of fabric needed.  Play with design of front and back on paper first.  Use fabric and colour to enhance design.
  • Cut squares.  I used a pattern for 11in x 11in, (metric=28cm x 28cm).  The size of the squares will determine how many are needed for a finished quilt.  Photograph design layout after basic squares cut, this can be used as a reference. One side consists of 11 x 11 squares; the reverse side is a solid piece providing a background for personalization.
     
  • Stitch vertical rows of squares, then join the rows together to complete the large inner square section of the front.  Applique and machine stitching detail are added at this stage.
  • Design the needlework needed for the back memory part of the quilt. (freehand or stencils). Complete needlework stitching.  Tiny sew-on charms, heritage lace, buttons or antique doilies can be used as embellishment. 
  • Sandwich the front and back together, overlapping back to front to form the edge binding.  Add basic stitches by machine or hand to secure the front, back and fiberfill layer.  Voila!  (That's the short story.)
  • Handwashing the quilt is recommended particularly if some items are vintage. 
  
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Destroyed or overused Baby books or albums

They can be salvaged.  Take apart at the binding, carefully cutting the pages along the spine with a sharp knife.  Each page can be inserted into the top opening clear pocket pages of a scrapbook.   Other small collectibles can be kept in these as well ( a lock of baby hair, a baby bracelet, etc.)

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Additional References:

It's Your Life - Prove it!  Ideas and Information to get you started from an earlier post of mine.

Check out Arlee Bird's blog, Wrote by Rote for more ideas about memoirs and taking care of family history.

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23 comments:

  1. Hmmm yeah it can easily be done, but I tend not to keep track of much, I store it all in my head and that is that for me.

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    1. At least your poetic writings will survive, Pat. Why not create a history for your cat(s) of their life with you?

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  2. All my photos are on the hard drive now. I do have photos on my desk. One of the last family gathering before we lost my brother-in-law. Makes me happy to see his smiling face again.

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    1. I know what you mean, MPax. I have several family shots that we took when visiting which I'm grateful for. It's one of those things you can't put off til tomorrow.

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  3. Very nice post. I am in th process of writing my mothers story. I think it is important to get it all down while she is still here to tell it. My recording devise comes in very handy for that!

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    1. Recording the information is a good way to capture the story. I gave my mother a book to write her story in, but she only got a bit into doing that herself before she became ill. Now I'll have to record the details while I remember them for our kids.
      BTW - Loved your Norway tour!

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  4. Great ideas! I started a yearbook/scrapbook with my girls a few years back. We did two of them but then I got hopelessly behind. Now I'm inspired to start up again :)

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    1. Try doing the memory books in small bits. (e.g., one box, or five pages at a time)

      I'm glad if I inspired you, and thanks for the follow and the comment.

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  5. Those are great ideas. My mom is writing my 90 year old grandpa's story. I'll have to give her some of these tips.

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  6. Thanks for the ideas/tips. I have considered, off and on, trying to put together some family memoirs. There are so many interesting stories that get passed along verbally these days, but I wonder how many have been lost.

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  7. Kmc - That's great that your mom is trying to capture your grandpa's story. I hope some of the tips will help. A 90 year old has seen a lot of changes.

    Shannon - Pretend you're packing a time capsule to prove you roamed the earth. I had to convince hubs to write his family stories, too, as our kids requested it.

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  8. What a surprise to see your post. Thank you! Maybe you should consider doing a guest spot on Wrote By Rote.

    My mother and her family have always saved mementos of family history. As a child I cultivated a love for family lore and artifacts and preserving the history. The time to start is ASAP before things get forgotten, lost, or thrown away.

    Loved this post!


    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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    1. I will consider it, Lee. My mother did the same, she kept the family photo albums and instilled in me a love of photography.

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  9. Hi there! Thanks for your questions on my blog about the Homeric Writers' Retreat. Are you interested in guest blogging for me one Wednesday? Contact me on jessica.carmen.bell@gmail.com and we can chat. ;)

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    1. You're welcome, and I would be interested (depending on the subject). I will email you to discuss. I'm honoured to be asked,Jessica.

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  10. I'm with Lee, I loved this. I'm bookmarking it. I used to scrapbook - you know, all the creative memories tools, my own circle cutter, accessories galore. Then I had kids. Jake, 15, has a baby book up to age 6 months. YellowBoy, almost 13, has a baby book, with a bunch of memorabilia and pictures tucked into it. It makes him sad. I try to explain that I WILL make him a baby book, but right now I'm busy being his MOM so that I'll know him so well that WHEN I make the baby book, it will be much better. He of course does not buy this flimsy excuse. The day I got my digital camera I rejoiced. I have literally three medium packing boxes with pictures, waiting to be put in albums. I'm an avid amateur photographer, but I'm realizing this is also a handicap. My iPhoto pictures are just as much of a mess as the prints. But at least they're in chronological order...well, except for the year I had my camera set to the wrong date...
    We are blessed to have an historian on my husband's side of the family who is doing a remarkable job going way back to their Dutch roots and is far enough along that she frequently requests updated pictures of my kids!
    On my Dad's side, the Swedish side, we have an historian, too, but he (who was my grandfather's identical twin) is now hanging out with Jesus and I don't know if anyone has taken over.
    I'll add to Lee's offer. If you decide to guest at his blog, would you consider guesting at the A-Z? You could use the exact same post. We'd love to have you, and this is a hot topic in blogland...and I schedule the guests (with MUCH help from Lee and Damyanti) and there's plenty of room in the fall schedule...
    Ok, I'll quit begging. And writing post-length comments. Sigh.
    Tina @ Life is Good

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    1. I love your heartfelt comment, and the idea of guesting on one post for both appeals to me, in case I can't come up with two. I do have an idea in mind, since Arlee asked. I'll work on it.

      If I can help others capture their memories, I'll be glad to help. I learned because my mother was our historian. We had a great uncle who traced us back to Scotland on the one side of the family.

      I'll reply separately to you both. Thanks for asking, I'm honoured.

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  11. Nice to meet you yesterday on Alex's blog.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. Hanging around Alex's blog is a great way to find other interesting bloggers, isn't it? I'll drop by your place, and thanks for the follow.

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  12. excellent post with some great ideas. I particularly like the idea of a memory quilt. May have to get on that. Thanks.

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    1. Just ask if you have any questions. I do most of my work on the machine, with some hand stitching.

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  13. What a great post! My mom and sisters were into scrapbooking and put together a very cool photo album for me dating back to th 1800s with pics (copies actually) and all. What a great way to tell a story!

    And this is difinetly worth a Tweet.

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    1. Thanks Stephen!

      I'm impressed if they went back to 1800s with your album. This is exactly the sort of documenting that I referred to. Smart women in your family.

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