Author Archives: Lin

This Year, Store Your Memories in a Jar

 

2013 has just begun and undoubtedly will be a year full of grand events and stories.

But how will you remember them all?

We’re here to tell you about a fun and easy way to preserve the year’s most pleasurable and meaningful memories. This idea is one that could be particularly sweet for families with school age children.

As memorable events occur throughout the year, take a few moments to write about the highlights of that event on a piece of paper. Then place the note in a jar.  Keep scrap paper, pen and a glass jar in a prominent place—ideally your living room or kitchen— for easy access.

This effort can be a wonderful activity for a family to do together. By June, you might even need to get a larger jar!

At the end of the year, set aside a special time, perhaps during the holiday season, to read and share with each other the year’s memories.

Here are just some of the possible results of this effort:

  • Family bonding throughout the year and especially over the holidays
  • Memories recalled and cherished for years to come
  • Validation of children’s favorite stories and recollections
  • Memories preserved for future generations

Think how cool it would be if you had a jar full of memories from when you were 10, growing up in a very different time from today.

It’s never to late to start this activity. What sorts of memories do you think you might be sharing by the end of the year?

Get your jar ready and find out. Happy 2013!

Why should I keep a journal, or make a film about my life?

Many years ago I began keeping a daily journal about my life’s activities.  Over the years I have found it interesting to go back and see what I was doing, feeling, and thinking years ago. Recently, while reading an old journal entry, I read about a heated disagreement I had with a friend. With hindsight I realize now I had acted petty and immature.  It made me appreciate that I’ve done some growing up since then!

A few days ago it dawned on me that many of the reasons for journaling could also be applied to the value of making a personal history film or video biography.

As in journaling, a personal history film provides you with the opportunity to:

  1. Document the stories of your life – the good, the bad and the ugly!
  2. Record the great things that have happened to you and to your family over the years.
  3. Record how you have felt about the world around you.
  4. Record your personal and professional achievements (and disappointments).
  5. Record hopes, dreams and beliefs – for yourself and for your family.  Learned life lessons and wisdom become clearer with age.
  6. Record meaningful personal and family events to pass down to future generations – even those yet unborn!
  7. Provide an opportunity to express gratitude for the opportunities and things you have.
  8. Record significant events in the world around you and how they have affected you personally (such as WWII, social and global financial changes, etc.)
  9. Provide an opportunity to reflect on and evaluate the experiences of your life.
  10. Share relevant stories of the past for the benefit of future generations.

Everyone has a life to celebrate.  Lessons learned, problems solved, tragedies survived, observations made, creativity expressed and maturity gained.

For whatever stories about your life you’d like to share, consider a journal or a personal history film in 2013.

The annual letter: A cherished family tradition

Twenty-four years ago I decided to enclose a one-page personal letter with each one of our Christmas cards.

My goal: to share with our family and friends the highlights of the year’s activities.  Fifty or so people have received our letters and the response from them was positive. We, in turn, received many interesting and creative Christmas letters.

Fortunately, I had the good sense to keep a copy of each year’s Christmas letter.  Every year I place the newest letter in a Christmas green binder for safekeeping. This year as I read those letters once again I realized that the letters give a pretty good history of the highlights of our family’s activities over the last twenty-four years. Little did I know just how precious these letters would become as the years have passed by.

In 1988, the letters recall our being stationed in Nicosia, Cyprus and living a cautious and careful life of an American Embassy family. On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 departing Heathrow Airport was bombed while flying over Lockerbie, Scotland.  One of our own security officers was on board the flight.  Several days later, my husband and I attended the memorial service to honor this young man at the US Embassy in Nicosia.  After this tragic event our ambassador ordered that Americans should not meet in large groups for fear of additional attacks.  As a result my two daughters’ school Christmas parties were canceled and Americans did not gather that year for their traditional Christmas party at the Marine House.

In 1990, we were living outside of London and my young daughters attended a British school for two years. Before leaving England, my friends gave a party in my honor.  The party took the form of British High Tea – a dressy afternoon event where fancy finger foods and punch were served.  Within a week’s time, we were back in Virginia and attending the Prince William County Fair.  By the end of that day we had seen pigs, sheep and cows and even watched a truck pull.  I thought to myself, what a change of lifestyle! In the next years our two daughters grew from being little girls with pronounced British accents to young and independent American women. From learning to ride their bicycles, to working on Algebra and French homework, to taking drivers ed and scaring the daylights out of their parents, and then going off to college— it is all there on the pages of our family’s Christmas letters.

Thirty-eight years ago, it was just my husband and me. Today, our family has grown to eight people.  The lives of all eight of us are recounted on the pages of those Christmas letters.

As I read these letters I realized how many things had slipped from my memory. And what a shame it would have been if those family memories had been lost forever.

And that reminds me…I’d better get writing this year’s letter.  Our friends and family are waiting and my Christmas green binder has an empty page protector marked “2012”.

How about you?  Do you write a yearly letter? How do you record the history of your family?  If you don’t, perhaps 2012 is the time to start. Enjoy! 

Making Memories, One Christmas Cookie at a Time

As a personal historian, I strongly believe in preserving memories from the past, one story at a time. But I also believe in the value of deliberately creating new family memories.

I have a little five-year-old granddaughter named Emily. Yesterday afternoon we made and decorated Christmas cookies together – just the two of us.   Christmas music played softly in the background and the kitchen smelled wonderful with the aroma of sugar cookies baking in the oven.  You should have seen us.  There was flour, cookie sprinkles and bits of cookie dough everywhere.  Emily was covered in ingredients—it was a miracle that any of it made it to the oven.  We laughed, giggled, oohed and ahhed over our creative efforts.

By the end of our time together we had decorated thirty cookies. Some looked better than others. But all were beautiful examples of the fruits of our labor, two sets of hands working lovingly together. Undoubtedly, this sweet memory will not be forgotten anytime soon!

In case you’d like to do some Christmas baking with your children or grandchildren, the following is a delicious sugar cookie recipe that I have used for years:

Ingredients:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup white granulated sugar

¾ cup unsalted butter

1 large egg

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Soften butter.  In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add egg, lemon zest and vanilla extract and beat until blended.  In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients.  On low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and mix together. If mixture seems dry, add a little water, a few drops at a time, only until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

With a spatula scrape the dough out of the bowl and on to a piece of plastic wrap.  Using the plastic wrap press the dough into a thick flat disc.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out cookie dough to a 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut shapes with cookie cutters.  Use a metal spatula to transfer cookies on to a cookie tray. Be sure not to crowd cookies on tray.

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown around the edges.

Cool cookies on wire racks before decorating.  Hint: visit your local grocery store’s baking aisle for colored icings, sprinkles and edible glitter.

What memories will you create with your family this holiday season?

 

December 7, 1941 – A Day Never to Be Forgotten

Today is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Seventy one years ago 2,400 Americans were killed and many injured when Japanese fighter pilots bombed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaii. A day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, bringing America into WWII.

Remember to fly your flag at half staff until sunset today in honor of those who fought and those who died at Pearl Harbor.