One of the pillars of my podcast has always been around storytelling and being able to share our journey and stories. I thought it would be a good idea for this episode to share my documenting journey over the last 20 or so years and how it’s evolved from then until now.
My documenting journey started somewhere I really didn’t expect it to start. And that was in The Bay, which is a store here in Canada. I was actually looking for winter coats. And right next to that section was this box. And it was from a company called Heritage Makers.
It was a set that could help you document someone important in your life. An example they gave on the box was to document your grandparents. My Grandma Hardy was still alive at the time, my only grandparent still alive. So I thought I am going to buy this and maybe see if I could write a story about my Grandma.
So I bought it and I don’t know what happened….I was immediately intrigued with doing this and helping her tell her story. So I phoned her a few days later and I said “Hey Gram, I really want to interview you. I want to sit down and interview you and put your story together in a book with some photos. What do you think, do you want to do this with me?”
Well, my Grandma was a very, very funny lady and she definitely gave me a run for my money and tried saying no. But I convinced her that it would be a really good thing for me and her to do together. And so I sat down with her in her home. I asked her a bunch of questions and actually recorded it as well. I now have her voice to go back and listen to, which is so priceless.
I took all the tapes home and got to work putting a book together for her. I wanted to include a whole bunch of pictures from her life. So that meant I needed to get some photos from her kids. And did I mention my Grandma had 9 KIDS…..nine. I am exhausted thinking about that. Her kids provided me with many great photos!
I also asked them to provide me with one of their favourite memories of their Mom to include in the book. It was definitely a challenge for them to limit it to one because she was an amazing Mom and an amazing Grandma. But they did all give me one, with the exception of Rusty (Shirley) as she had passed away. But Rusty had written an amazing poem to Grandma and Grandpa which I included.
So why did I want to do this? Why did I want to write this book about my Grandma? Well, I wanted to do it for a few reasons, but the main reason was I wanted her kids and grandkids to know some of the things about her that they would never think to ask. Some of these were things she had never told anybody and were a surprise to even her own kids.
I wanted to know from her while I had the opportunity, what her life was like. And some of the things that I found out were absolutely amazing. And I really want to share a few of those with your right now.
“Oh beautiful! It was nice and it was fun.”
“We had to walk to the Harty School, which was a mile and a half away. In the winter, our feet would get really cold and to keep them from freezing we would bang our feet against telephone poles. We also would go out in the grass pasture and go around with our gunny sacks and pick up all the cow chips….dried up ones, not the soft ones. We would put them in our sacks and take them home for burning in our stove. And then we’d make toast over top…..just kidding! They were used to heat the house, which is what everybody did in that time.”
“I’ve got a broken head from a horse kicking me. I was coming up across the pasture from school. I think I was just starting to school and I stopped at Uncle Tom’s about a half mile from our place. I went up and patted one of Pa’s horses on the back end and it hauled off and sent me flying. Kathleen drug me the rest of the way home and sat me up on a chair. And I didn’t know nothing….I couldn’t remember nothing. I was OUT. Then I had to go to the doctor in Shaunavon. And I still have a hole in the head”.
So this story…..I knew nothing about it. Nothing. Her hair covered a pretty big dent in her scalp. And if I wouldn’t have written this book, I never would have known that she got kicked in the head, by a HORSE!
“Oh sure! Lots of funny mischief, but I will never tell ya!”
“Oh it was good! It wasn’t hard if you didn’t take it too serious.”
“Yes they had too. They helped me with lots of things around the house.”
“Lots of stuff….having coffee, big turkey dinners, going to church, planting flowers, travelling….all of those things I enjoy.”
“Well, I used to draw pictures. Also after the kids were born, I used to make a lot of their clothes and some of them were made out of plaid flower sacks. I used to rip clothes apart and remake new outfits as well….sometimes using an old sewing machine, but mostly by hand.”
“I have one drawing hanging up in my house that I did years ago. It’s of two girls skating. Then I did one of deer standing in a field. You should look the next time you come over to visit!”
You can bet the next time that I went over to visit her, I grabbed her picture and put a copy of it in her book!! I absolutely cherish this picture – a piece of my Grandma’s art. At the very end of the book I included some pictures of her and I together and I wrote something special just from me to her. I won’t read all of it but one part I will share is the following:
“I was a lucky kid. I grew up in Shaunavon, where both sets of my grandparents lived so I got to spend a lot of time with them. I have many fond memories of Grandma Hardy. I remember staying overnight at her house and she would lay upstairs with us and tell us all kinds of stories about her life. If only I had a tape recorder then! I also love when Grandma says at least 5 of her children or grandchildren’s names until she gets to the right person that she is talking to. But do you BLAME her! But my most cherished memory of my Grams would be writing this book. It is the details of someone’s life that make up who they are, and I learned that Grandma has many….I have only scratched the surface”.
“To my Grams, you’re an incredible, beautiful person and you give meaning to the words, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. I have been blessed to be a part of your life. I love you very much, Tiff”.
And then the most special thing happened. I was able to present her book to her in person because she was still around to do it. So at her house in Medicine Hat, I sat with her in her kitchen with all of her children (except 2) and read her book to her. How special……
It was after doing this project that I really got the bug for documenting. I could really see the importance of capturing our stories and being able to know where you came from – knowing who your Mom and Dad are before it’s too late. And so that got me started into the scrapbooking world. Let’s just say that scrapbooking in the traditional sense, with embellishments and all the tools, did not go well with personality and OCD tendencies. Not at all.
It quite literally would take me two weeks to get ONE page done. Because it never was right. That little flower could NOT be up in that corner. I really think it needs to be down in the left corner. And some nights I would lay in bed thinking about how wrong that scrapbook page was.
I even started reading scrapbooking magazines, quite religiously. One of them was called Creating Keepsakes and I had a subscription for sure! I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t do my pages quickly that I just started copying other people’s pages. That seemed to work better!
And then I found this women’s article in the magazine that showed sketches of scrapbook pages. She provided sketches of what a page layout could look like. What!? She was my saviour. And so anytime she was in that magazine, I was ALL OVER IT. This person’s name was Becky Higgins! Well, let’s just say, she became my new favourite person because I really did want to document what was going on in our life, I knew the importance of it, but I was struggling with how to do it with the very little time that I had.
And then one day, Becky Higgins comes out with this idea called PROJECT LIFE. And let me tell you, it was like the angels were singing…..it was the simplest way of documenting I had ever seen. So yes, I started using her Project Life products IMMEDIATELY! It was page protectors with different pockets that you can slide photos into and also journaling cards (see below for an example). This was WAY easier and faster than what I was doing with all the embellishments and tools, that is FOR SURE.
I used this method of documenting for about a year or so….but I was still finding it to be too much. I just did. And then Becky came out with an APP….an app called Project Life. It was like she was speaking directly to my very techy heart! I am not exaggerating when I say that I have completed our entire Family Yearbooks (some over 200 pages) right in the palm of my hand. It’s amazing and sooooo easy to use. See below for how simple it really is!
I am all about ease, quick and get it done. And for sure the Project Life app is a game changer. I would definitely check it out! If you are interested at all in creating family yearbooks, or documenting anything, there are a variety of templates available and it is super straightforward to use. You can find all of this goodness at her website HERE. Currently, I have 10 years worth of yearbooks created with three more years in the works, for a total of 13.
I have an end goal in mind. When I first started doing these when Avery was born, I made it a goal to have a set of 18 years of yearbooks to give them when they graduate. I want to be able to give each of my kids a set of family yearbooks as part of their grad gift. And I KNOW they won’t want to haul 18 years worth of books with them to college, so I will hold onto them for them :). But I know that they will absolutely cherish having all those memories documented for them (in books).
I also have a copy of these family yearbooks sitting in our living room so that if anybody wanted to pick one up and take a look at them, they are always there to look at. And flipping through those is so good, for us to remember how fast time does go and how quickly our kids are growing up. I also have a digital version of every book stored on my phone or iPad so that I can look at them wherever I go.
I also found another method of documenting that is proving to be very therapeutic and creative for me. I have been documenting our stories through videos. There is something about putting music, photos and video clips together into a story that just makes me feel all the feels. I love doing it for my family. I love making them for other people, because I can see how important those memories are to the people that are in the movies and/or watching the movies. Seeing how they react to them is what brings me so much joy.
Documenting the small things in life….the big things in life…….the hard things……the happy things……..all of the things, it is so important to document it ALL.
One of my absolute favourite quotes about the importance of storytelling and documenting your story is:
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.Maya Angelou
Every single one of us has a story, every single one of us. It is so important that you realize your story is so important for others to hear. You may not think it is, but I can guarantee that your story might be a lifeline for somebody else. It might help somebody else know that they aren’t alone and that they weren’t the only ones going through it. So please consider telling your story.
I have some very exciting things coming up in the next couple of months that will absolutely help you in your journey to tell your story. I can’t wait to share more! It is still too early, but do know that there will be an opportunity for you to learn how to tell your story in a variety of ways.
I want to thank you again for being here for another episode of Hard Beautiful Journey. I know how busy life is, I really do. So it means the world to me that you are taking the time out of your day to listen to my podcast. And I hope that you are finding value from it. If there is anything you would like to hear or know about, please do feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, be kind and stay well.
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