Stepping Stones Blog

Sunday Salon: December 14, 2014

We took advantage of the unseasonable warm temperatures today (65 degrees!) and went to the Plaza for lunch.  We decided to celebrate my birthday a day early (not that I really keep track of the years anymore) and went to The Melting Pot.  It was our first time to visit, but it will definitely not be our last.  The classic cheese fondue was exactly as I remembered when I was in high school, and the chocolate toffee crunch was a decadent ending to a fabulous meal.

While it was nice to walk around in shirt sleeves, I must admit that I am looking forward to colder temperatures and possible snow by the end of the week.

home sweet anywhereReading:  While I have maintained my daily reading of advent devotionals, I must admit that other outside reading has taken a backseat to holiday preparations.  We had a baking day on Friday (which meant a prep day on Thursday), and I am trying to catch up on knitting projects and Christmas cards.

My husband, however, recently finished Home Sweet Anyway on audio and LOVED it.  While I am the one who recommended the book to him, he is now chomping at the bit for me to finish so we can begin planning our retirement get-aways.  So, that is the book on my nightstand to read next.

Blogging:  I began to detail the process of creating a Milestone Memoir by focusing on the first step, Brainstorming a Theme… and I continue to enjoy writing about the 31 Days of Christmas Joy.

One-Word Update:  Last week I shared some possibilities for my 2015 word of the year.  At that time, I thought perhaps REST would be the winner.

But then Deb commented that she was considering PLAY as her word of the year, and that really resonated with me.  Not wanting to appear totally unoriginal, I decided to conduct a word association session using “play” as my starting point.  Through a series of bunny trails (discovering synonyms such as amusement, recreation, fun…) I discovered the word DELIGHT.

I love the richness of this word.  The fact that “light” can relate to illumination (dispelling the darkness) as well as weight (releasing a heavy burden).  DELIGHT has connotations of extreme joy as well as relaxed and carefree days.  We can DELIGHT in an activity (such as play), but we can also take delight in another person.

I still have a couple of weeks before I need to make the final decision, but for now, DELIGHT is in the lead, with a strong desire to add more PLAY in life.

Milestone Memoir: Step 1

Step 1:  Brainstorm a Theme

As I mentioned in the Introductory Post, Milestone Memoir is my vision of marrying one picture (worth 1,000 words) with one personal essay (500-1,500 words) to create a meaningful narrative for future generations.  

This method varies from traditional scrapbooking in that it places more emphasis on the written word, and less attention on decorative elements.  While journaling is always encouraged, many scrapbookers treat writing as an after-thought.  We try to ensure that the 5Ws are addressed (who, what, where, when, and why), but we tend to focus more on the layout’s visual appeal.

Please note that I do not see Milestone Memoir as a replacement for current scrapbook techniques.  Instead, I see it as coming along-side your other photo preservation methods.  It is more of a hybrid of scrapbooking and storytelling – YOUR story that needs to be shared with others.

Over the next several weeks, I will outline the nine-step process.  Today we will start at the beginning:  brainstorming a theme.

* * * * *

Those who currently scrapbook tend to organize albums chronologically, documenting various family events throughout the year.  Sometimes we may create a specialty scrapbook that focuses on a single subject, like Baby’s First Year or an exciting vacation, but for the most part we don’t consider “theme” when we scrapbook.

Since Milestone Memoir is the telling of our story, it would follow that the elements of any narrative would be contained within this album:  setting – characters – plot – conflict/resolution – and theme.  While one possible theme could be “autobiography” – and thus follow the chronology of your life, don’t limit yourself to this only way of thinking.

In literary circles, Memoir is considered to be one particular aspect of your life rather than a comprehensive overview.  For example, one idea I have for a future project would be to recount my mother’s life from my perspective.  A possible could be: I Learned How to Live by Watching My Mother Die.  My first project, however, is going to focus on the significant Stepping Stones in my life.  The working title is:  In Search of Significance, Acceptance, and the Perfect Shade of Pink.

See, we all have more than one story to tell, and some of us may have enough material for several memoirs.  That is the beauty of this method; it allows us to slow down, become introspective, review our life and share lessons learned.  This is not a project to be completed overnight.  Rather, it is one that benefits from a certain degree of distance, which allows for developed perspective.

I think Memoir albums can include documentation of global events as well as personal milestones.  This helps put our life in context.  World events that I might consider include the Tearing Down of the Berlin Wall, the Twin Towers tragedy of 9-11, and Obama’s historic Presidential victory.

While the story behind the photo is of utmost importance, Memoir albums can also include lists of favorite books, movies, music, and scripture verses.  Consider adding quotes or lyrics, but don’t forget to also include WHY these are your favorites; it is that kind of personal insight that will be a treasure to your descendants.

Just in case you might need them, here are a few suggestions for possible memoir themes, but I am confident that you will develop many on your own – as they relate to your life and your story.

  • Heritage album of your ancestors and their stories
  • My Favorite Things – include photographs of favorite objects as well as activities
  • School Days – perhaps one album through high school; another album for higher education
  • Wedding album – but don’t forget to tell all the stories that led up to the wedding
  • Travel or vacation album – include the preparations, memorabilia, the purpose for the trip and why that particular destination
  • Hobbies or Pastimes – include the reasons why you enjoy doing this; who introduced you; who are your mentors; what are your dreams; what successes (and failures) did you encounter
  • My ABCs – a creative perspective on your personal life
  • Core Values/Beliefs – this could not only be a living legacy but also a creative endeavor.  Values tend to be abstract – try to photograph something that symbolically represents that value.
  • Stepping Stones or Milestones (such as I outlined above)
  • OR… if you feel so inclined, think in terms of literary genres:  can you write a fantasy story of your life – perhaps an adventure, a mystery or a fairy tale?

As I am still fleshing out this concept, I am curious to hear your initial thoughts on this method of memoir documentation and/or possible themes you would consider for a memoir album such as this.

Next week I will discuss Step 2:  Brainstorming Memoir “chapters”

Sunday Salon: December 7, 2014

I find it hard to believe that the first week of December has passed already.  Even when I try to slow down and live intentionally, this time of year zooms at lightning speed!

Reading:  Most of my reading this month is focused on Advent.  I have found a few daily devotionals at YouVersion, and I am enjoying the books of Ace Collins:  Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas (volume 1 and volume 2), and Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas.  At some point I will create a Milestone Memoir that focuses on our family holiday traditions, and using these books as journaling prompts helps me prepare for that project.

one perfect wordAs I begin to look forward to the New Year, I read another Debbie Macomber non-fiction book, One Perfect Word.

I have participated in the “one word” movement for a couple of years.  In 2012 I adopted the word balance … knowing that my workaholic life was definitely lopsided.  By the end of the year I realized that balance was only one component of what I truly desired in life.  So in 2013 I adopted the word peace and I must admit, I am more relaxed now than I was two years ago.

I like the idea of focusing on one specific word for the year, and Ms. Macomber believes that God will give us our word if we are diligent in asking.  I have begun a list of possibilities for 2015.  Those in the running include:  acceptance – obedience – rest – joy – obligation – and simply be.  I am still brainstorming while seeking the Lord’s guidance, but I am confident I will be ready to share my special word by year’s end.

Writing:  Milestone Memoirs continues to be my primary writing focus.

At this point, I have identified several personal projects that I can hardly wait to begin:  Holiday Traditions; My Parents’ stories; and My Personal Memoir – although this might be further segmented into life before and after motherhood.

I have spent the better part of this week sorting through decades of photographs:  those passed down from my parents, as well as those I took prior to digital imaging.  While I have begun the scanning process, I will only focus on those taken prior to 1982 for the time being.

I am determined to have fun with this project, so it is essential I divide my time between the tedious scanning and the creative writing.  Once I have scanned all the pre-1982 photos, I will make prints and construct an outline for the first Project.  Hopefully this can be accomplished by the end of this week.  I am MORE than excited.

Blogging:  I started a series of blog posts that focus on the Milestone Memoirs process.  This week I introduced the concept and over the next two months I plan to develop each of the nine-steps. While it may sound detailed, in reality, this is a doable project for anyone interested in preserving a legacy for future generations.

In addition, I have continued my gratitude project with a twist.  I am currently counting down the 31 days of Christmas Joy.  Most of these posts will center around decorations, food, and entertainment (music and movies), but in the Totoro household, that pretty much sums up the month of December.

As of now, I am not overly committed this week: a Christmas concert this evening, a board meeting on Monday, and a girls’ baking day on Friday afternoon.  This leaves plenty of time to work on photos, as well as relax and enjoy these precious moments of Advent.

Milestone Memoir: an Introduction

Two weeks ago I shared my vision for a new writing project.

I have dreamed of marrying photography with writing for years, and Milestone Memoir is that reality.  The concept is simple:  accompany one photo (which we know is worth a thousand words) with a personal essay (typically 500-1,500 words) to create a comprehensive narrative to share with friends, family, and generations to come.

Now that both my parents have passed, as well as my in-laws, I realize the importance of documenting our personal history.  While I know their basic facts – birthdays, anniversary dates, immediate family connections – I do not know the stories.  This is due, in part, to the fact that my parents were reserved and stoic.  But it is also because I did not take the time to ask pertinent questions – to show a personal interest.  I do not want to make that same mistake with my own children.

Milestone Memoir may use scrapbooks as the medium, but it is the written story that takes center stage.  Decorative elements are used only to add visual appeal; photographs are limited to one or two per page.  The heart of the project is the narrative, combined with a personal perspective and emotional detail that only the author can provide.  Everyone has a story to tell … and this system will ensure the story is preserved for the next generation.

Over the next several weeks I will detail the process to complete this type of memoir, and I can assure you, anyone can do it.  Here is the basic outline:

Step 1:  Brainstorm a memoir theme

Step 2:  Brainstorm a list of possible “chapters”

Step 3:  Find Photos to correspond with chapters

Step 4:  Select only ONE photo per chapter

Step 5: Decide on the page layout and color scheme

Step 6: “Assemble” the page – leaving room for the final written story

Step 7: Draft a personal essay (500-1,500 words)

Step 8:  Revise the story

Step 9:  Add the narrative to the page layout

For those who are long-time scrapbookers… this system is not meant to replace your current method.  Rather, it is another way to document the significant events of life.

For those who have avoided the scrapbooking craze … this system is not about the craft, but rather the legacy we have the privilege to leave behind.

This is my passion:  to help others share their stories.  I hope you will consider sharing yours with those who want and need to hear it.

Sunday Salon: November 30, 2014

It is cloudy, cold, and dreary this morning… seems as though the weather is giving me permission to stop, relax, and enjoy the peace of today before the official December frenzy of tomorrow.

martina cookbookReading:  Not a lot of traditional reading this week, but my husband did treat the girls of the family to a Martina McBride book signing on Friday at our local Rainy Day Books.

While none of us are country music lovers, per se, my son has worked as Martina’s videographer off-and-on over the past couple of years, and we thought this might be a way for us to connect to his work.  I also enjoy cooking, baking, and entertaining, so the book is a natural fit to my collection.

While I have not thoroughly read the book (although today’s indoor weather may lend itself to that activity), I have glanced through it.  Each chapter focuses on a different holiday gathering, and there are several recipes that I would like to try.  The Table of Contents reads:

  • Fall Supper with Friends
  • Bountiful Tuscan Feast
  • Family Pizza Night
  • Mistletoe and Martinis
  • Retro Valentine’s Day Supper Club
  • Spring Brunch Outdoors
  • Red, White, and Blue Cookout
  • Bruschetta Bash
  • Red Wine and Vinyl
  • Taco Fiesta

Each chapter not only provides tasty recipes and beautiful photographs of the singer, her family, and her food … but she also offers a Game Plan to help break down the tasks into bite-sized portions, a Sanity Saver (clever tips to help you relax and enjoy the celebration), as well as her personal Top Ten Playlist to coordinate with the party’s theme.

I think the book will not only provide several tasty new recipes, but will be entertaining to read as well.

scrapbook pageWriting:  I managed to find a bit of time to work on my Milestone Memoirs idea, although this week I focused on page layout designs rather than the written word.

My idea is to make this project uncomplicated so anyone who has an interest in preserving his/her family stories can do so without fear of not being “creative”  I developed fifteen 2-page spreads, using only four different paper colors:  teal, brown, salmon, and mauve.  This ensures a unified theme throughout the book, as well as simplifying the decorating process.

Today I hope to go through old pictures and find a few that I can use as models for the project.  This week I will work on writing the coordinating essays, with the hopes of perhaps sharing a few completed pages with you next week.

Blogging:  I was a bad blogger this week – not a single post.

Besides preparing for the Thanksgiving feast and the annual tree decorating menu, I had to ensure that all roommate assignments for the upcoming trip to Europe were finalized by 4:30pm Tuesday afternoon.  On the surface that does not sound like a big deal, but in reality, it involved hours of work.  With seventeen rooms to assign, and trying to please all travelers (an impossible task), I was stressed.  I decided to give myself permission to “let go” of blogging for the week.

While I did not post daily gratitudes, however, I did continue to give thanks for special blessings.  I thoroughly enjoyed this project and have decided to continue the practice in December… this time documenting daily Joys I experience during the Christmas Season.  I hope you will continue to join me in this exploration.

As we all prepare for the frenetic pace of the holidays, I hope you each find a few moments of peace and tranquility as well.   Stay warm, perhaps with a cup of hot cocoa, and experience a few visions of sugarplums along the way.