Of Christmas Past

As we head into the Christmas season I want to share the first of several guest posts that will continue throughout 2022. My goal is to give you an outlet for sharing some of your family memories and encouraging others in their memoir and family history writing journeys. In my home, we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus and the wonderful gift he’s given us by having a weeks-long party with music, food, fun, and gift giving. We’ve cultivated our own traditions, blending memories from our own childhoods with the “new” ones we created with our own now-grown children over the years. We’ve also renewed our focus on the holy reason for this celebration. I love reading about others’ traditions and sharing the good memories that have drawn them together as families. Hope the following guest post from author Roslind Miles helps you remember joyful times in your own families. She is working on her Grandmother’s memoir. Thank you Roslind!:

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. The food, family visits, and eggnog are intoxicating. As a girl, my mother did everything she could to get us at least one thing from our lists. On most Christmases, she got us the number one thing on our lists plus new underclothes and pajamas. So it’s no surprise that when I had children I did the same thing, but even better.

My husband was amazed at how important it was to me to get everything on their lists. The children were allowed a list of five things in order of what they wanted the most. But our finances allowed me to get it all. And I filled their stockings with knick-knacks, as well as replenished their underclothes and pajamas! Needless to say, our Christmas tree was swamped with gifts! I gave my children the kind of Christmases I saw in movies. Or as close as possible. I mean, there were no gas-powered cars with bows in the driveway. But there were plenty of Hot Wheels!

On Christmas Eve we gathered around the tree with hot chocolate or eggnog and everyone would open one present. I always had to be sure that no one opened their main gift, the number one item from their list. My mom always spent the night on Christmas Eve too.

After the children were asleep, usually accomplished with a teaspoon of brandy in their eggnog, my husband, mom, and I would put out the best gifts without wrapping paper on them. No wrapping paper meant Santa himself visited our house! My children absolutely loved it!

I started cooking on Christmas Eve and made all the holiday favorites; ham, pot roast, candied yams, mac and cheese, greens. I baked peach cobbler and made icebox pie. I usually bought a couple of other pies like sweet potato and pecan pie. Dinner was always ready by Christmas morning! Plates were served all day!

And while the children are adults now, and have children of their own, the gifting has been scaled way down. My children are more frugal than I was. Thankfully. I smile as I say this because my grandchildren are much less materialistic and don’t expect much for Christmas. They really enjoy seeing me on the holiday. My children have made the holidays the best time for combining all sides of their families together for food, conversation, and hugs. Now we focus less on commercialism and more on love.
You can find Roslind’s book Mommy Are We Rich? celebrating the importance of family on Amazon and connect with her via FaceBook at @RosNubianSunflowerMiles.

Ready to start sharing your family’s story? Connect with me today and let’s talk, I’d love to hear from you.


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Timely Transitions

Talk about transitions! And I don’t mean from your summer shorts to your long johns. No, I’m talking about real, life-changing ones. This is the state of the family email thread running with the transition theme back and forth across town and country between my three adult kids and us: new jobs, house selling, house hunting, more new jobs, navigating new cities, traveling, and connecting with far-away family.

Interspersed with all this are: crazy memes, cat pictures (we have 12 and 1 dog between all of us), requests for prayer, good book alerts, invites to watercolor or play games virtually,  “How do you do…?” questions, and just simple “I love you’s”. We love to rejoice in each other’s small and big successes, laugh over dumb stuff, grieve together when we’re sad, and support each other in all life’s changes. This is the stuff my family communications are made of! How about yours?

Our 21st-century families may communicate a little differently than our ancestors, but the same emotions and family concerns that our grandparents experienced remain. Letters and journals make terrific material for family histories.

Their pages somehow carry the voices of their writers in remarkably tangible ways.

Have you ever read a letter from a parent when they were young, or maybe a grandparent? You can almost hear them whisper down through the years. You can feel their presence and personality coming through to touch your heart and mind. It’s powerful stuff!

Even though my communication life is pretty digital, I’ve been making it a point to send more handwritten notes this year. It’s just something I want to do personally because it delights both me and the recipients. Sometimes these notes include everyday details, sometimes it’s thoughts about world happenings or an encouraging quote.

Try it: share a recipe, a memory of a good time spent with friends, something goofy the dog did, be a little transparent.

I even have a small booklet of floral postcards that can be colored (a gift from my daughter-in-law) that I color with a gorgeous set of artist’s pencils gifted by another daughter, then send snail mail to friends and family. I know- it’s my version of refrigerator art! But honestly, don’t you still love to get “real” mail? Me too, so I send some as well.

The same “feel good” moments that we get when reading a note from a friend or rereading old family letters can be shared with others in our family to strengthen, to give a sense of belonging and place.

I’ve worked with many people over the years and one constant is the letters. Without fail, both memoir and family history authors speak of the impact of letters, both on themselves and the family members who then read their work. They often include meaningful copies of several in their books. Some books are primarily letter-based and help to bring the voices of those who went before into the warm firelight of the family circle.

During these upcoming colder winter months consider spending a relaxing evening or two pulling together your collection of family journals, letters, even notes on paper scraps and napkins. I’ll bet you have a story there, hiding in those pages, silently calling to be shared.

Will you listen? Who might need to hear these voices?

Family history and memoir projects begin with simply gathering what you have. It doesn’t have to take long and is just a place to begin. Looking for creative ideas and direction? I’d love to visit with you and talk about your story. You can reach me at
Wishing you the best!

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Tips for Creating a Relaxing Place to Journal

(Thanks to Alexandra Fuller on Unsplash for the perfect photo)

Journaling is often the first step in writing your memoir. Before you know it you’ll have much of your content written, especially if you write daily. If you want to start journaling every day, finding a relaxing place to do it will help you build this positive habit. While you don’t need to have an entire room dedicated to journaling, you do want to have a peaceful space you can retreat to. Here’s some great tips on how to create a relaxing place to journal.

Choose a quiet space.

The first thing to focus on when looking for the perfect journaling space, is whether it is quiet. You are going to need a quiet area to write to get your thoughts and feelings clearly down onto the paper. Have a lively household where quiet is at a premium? Don’t give up!

If you have kids, you can do it when they are in bed or you could create a cozy space in your bedroom where you won’t be disturbed. You can journal anywhere that is comfortable and quiet. It could even be an outdoor space in warmer weather.

Eliminate any clutter.

Wherever you choose to base your journaling space, it’s important to eliminate any clutter. Cluttered spaces can cause our mind to become cluttered too and distract from our focus. You know the self talk “Oh, I just need to fold those clothes, it will just take a minute” or “I’ll just throw the dishes in the dishwasher, then I’ll write.” So, choose an area out of sight of routine chores, clean up the surrounding space and make sure it is tidy.

The more organized your journaling space, the easier you will find it to write. You’re crafting your own personal history, make the space your own.

Add a plant to the space.

You will want to make your journaling space as pleasant as you can. It should be visually appealing as well as comfortable. Adding a plant to the space can help to give you a sense of calm and tranquility. Artificial plants have the same effect, so if you don’t have a green thumb, don’t despair. Choose one, live or silk, that delights your senses.  

Utilize the power of scent.

When you are preparing to write, remember you can positively affect how you feel with the power of scent. You can create a relaxing, calming space by using a Lavender scent for example. Or you can improve your focus and concentration with a citrus scent or peppermint. Think about a scent that helps you to feel calmer and more focused. Whatever scent you love, if you add it to your journaling routine, you’ll look forward to doing it.

Try diffusing your favorite essential oil in your space, the increased humidity and the fragrance will both give you a well-being boost as you journal.

Have comfortable seating available.

Another thing you’ll want to focus on is comfortable seating. You aren’t going to want to write, or at least write for long, if you don’t have a comfortable seat. You could write on your bed, or in an ergonomic office chair. Some people prefer to write on a large, oversized beanbag. The more comfortable your writing space, the more you’ll view this as a cherished time, and the longer you are likely to stick to your journaling habit.

It isn’t hard to create a relaxing space for journaling. Whether you choose to do it at a desk in your office, or while sitting on your bed, the above tips will help you to create the best space.

You’re going to reap great health benefits by taking up journaling, enjoy!

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What Road Will You Take?

My storytelling friend Barbara Tien over at (more about that soon) asked an excellent question recently,

What’s your road?

This thought keeps swimming around in my head like a bowl-bound goldfish! Yes, there’s lots of thoughts up there, but space to move around too. Although I responded briefly in the moment, her question deserves more time. It’s actually an ideal prompt to write a chapter in your family history or memoir and hone your storytelling skills all at the same time.  
As I prepare to launch the Fast Track Your Memoir group coaching program in just a few days I’ve been thinking a lot about our journeys to share our stories. We all have roads in our lives. 

  • Some traipse through the woods
  • Some are high speed interstates speeding us to our destination
  • Some are rocky and rutted dirt paths
  • Others…aren’t roads at all

My road isn’t paved, it is a narrow, winding rock trail leading up into the Organ Mountains a few miles above the high desert in southern New Mexico. My father first traveled this path with me on horseback almost 50 years ago. He rode a mellow tempered dun mare, me trotting double time right behind him on a choppy little black pony named Thunder.

Dad adored the outdoors and loved sharing it with others, introducing them to the glory of creation and teaching them to see better, to fish, to really observe the world around them. He was a skilled photographer and passed along this love for visual storytelling. My siblings and I were the recipients of this life wisdom and it shaped us all in a myriad of positive ways.

We are resilient.
We are observant.
We appreciate the beauty of shape and form.
We listen well.
We’ve been taught to look deeper.
We are strong.

Dad passed away a couple years ago but I hear his voice and see that encouraging lop-sided grin whenever I walk these trails. My heart hears the sharp ring of horses’ hooves on the granite trail behind me as I gaze out over the valley, sharp peaks soaring into the cool morning at my back. Dad loved a good story and passed this passion along to me.

We’ve all said it. “I wish I’d have done or said ‘X’” We wish we’d talked to our families, we wish we’d said “yes” to that opportunity to spend more time together. We wish we’d asked about their stories or their memories. We wish we’d flipped through those family photos one more time and truly listened.

I for one don’t want to live with regrets. Now is the time, listen, look at the photos, pay attention to the stories, ask for the memories and cherish the stories.

Are you ready to make a shift and stop struggling to write your memoir yourself? It’s far easier to do this with the support and guidance of others. I’m counting down the days until launching the pilot program I mentioned in an earlier email. If you missed it, shoot me an email at karen@rememberingthetime and I’ll fill you in on the details. The Fast Track Your Memoir group coaching program is filling up fast. There are just a few spots left, once they’re gone you’ll have missed your chance to get in on the ground floor and make serious, guided progress with your story.

I’d love to help you, don’t stay stuck. Join with a friend and take advantage of a buddy discount, ask me how! Hope to see you on the inside!


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If Prince Harry Can Do It So Can You!

It’s all over the news, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, is writing his memoir. There might be many reasons you’ll be inclined to pick up a copy; fascination with royal lives, curiosity about the real story, wondering if his writing is any good, or dying to know what myths he’ll dispel. Whatever your reason for reading, His Royal Highness, Prince of England is doing something well within reach of anyone. However, it’s a dream most folks push off to that elusive “someday”.

The Prince’s publisher, Penguin Random House, has said the book “will share, for the very first time, the definitive account of the experiences, adventures, losses and life lessons that have helped shape him.”

Harry’s upcoming book will cover his entire life. This is fitting, for of course if he left anything out there would be an outcry, “but what about…?”. You, however, have complete latitude to choose how you want to focus your memoir. Like Harry and many others, you could choose to cover the experiences and memories of a lifetime. Or you could choose a theme or even a single event that transformed you. 

Many memoirs have been written with a narrow subject focus or time frame.

Question – Have you had experiences? What about adventures? I’m sure you have lived through losses, successes, and a myriad of life lessons that have shaped you into the unique human being you are today. In your circle  of family and friends, you are of immeasurably more interest than royalty, as charming as you may find this particular prince.

There will be those who will be kind in their opinion of Prince Harry’s writing; there are those who will be brutal. But  remember that Harry is a fellow human with a story to tell from his own perspective. He is the one who lived it. So too, with your memoir or family history, this is what you experienced from your own point of view. A family member may remember things differently, but they can write their own book, this one is yours.

Like Harry, your “intimate and heartfelt” memoir can be cherished by your family and friends. You can bet both you and they will appreciate this much more now instead of waiting till your funeral when all the good stories are shared. You won’t even be there to enjoy it! 

Do you dream about turning those stories hiding in your heart and mind into a book? Let’s get your words out of fairytale status and into the real world where they can be enjoyed. Are you ready?

Here’s a fun challenge: Prince Harry’s memoir is expected to be published in  late 2022. Get the jump on his big release by writing your own!

You can have your story written and published, holding your own copies ready to be signed, before

the royal buzz hits the castle.

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In Praise of Small Beginnings

You’ve heard some people say, “Go big or go home”. Many other times I’ve watched the opposite thought arc like a shot across the bow of a project, acting as an impetus to action. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, ““Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin….” (Zech. 4:10a NLT). I love the concept of small beginnings! They’re full of potential, they are the “starter“ if you’re a baker, the seed if you’re a farmer, the empty canvas for an artist, the tiny embryo if you’re longing for a child, the single journal entry if you’re a family historian or that idea jotted down on a napkin for songwriters, scientists, and writers.

Before you can celebrate a milestone you just need to start!

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated

day-in and day-out.” ~Robert Collier

You have everything you need to begin, whether you’re blessed with loads of family mementos and archived photos, or you’re beginning with your own memories.

Start with one small thing, a memory, journal entry, letter, recipe, photograph. What is that that just grabs your imagination by the shoulders and demands, “Tell me more!”? Take a macro look at it, write a thorough, sensory filled description of that object close up. Ask it questions? I know this sounds a little weird, but trust me, it’s just a method for helping your brain to unlock different ways to see that thing with new eyes.

This object is your starting block, it will propel you, just like a relay racer, down the track to the next prompt, the next memory, the next clue. Before you know it you’ll be gathering the pieces and noting how they fit together to drive your story.

I have a news alert set to anything family history or memoir related. It is astounding to see the variety of ways this topic can be addressed and the common interest worldwide in understanding ourselves and our families, remembering and sharing what makes us tick with the future. Connecting with the generations that came before and those that will come after is a human drive, it’s how we learn.

In case you missed seeing this free offer on our FaceBook page, let me give you the link here. I’ve been hard at work creatively bringing a few of my best tools and helps together in one place.  This amazing package will give you the resources you need to share your life legacy with those you love. Just click this link to get your FREE gifts today:

Remembering the Time is all about helping you and your family save the unique stories and memories that make you who you are.  Reach out and take that small step of starting your story, you have nothing to lose and great things to gain by this small beginning.


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Family Photo Challenge Begins!

Challenge: Take 5 favorite photos from your family’s collection. Collect them all in one day but just do the exercise with one per day. Write a 6-word memoir about each.

What’s a 6 word memoir? These short memoirs are the brainchild of writer Larry Smith, editor of the online SMITH Magazine. The idea was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who was asked to tell a story in just 6 words. He came up with this: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

Here’s how to use the technique with this challenge:

Start with an extensive list of words that describe your photo. Include anything you remember about it, the people, place, time, objects, feelings. Don’t cross anything out and don’t worry punctuation or spelling, just write! It helps to set a timer for 5 minutes and write as much as you can in that time.

Then circle three or four words that describe the photo and what you want to say about it. Now, write a phrase, sentence or list that is your 6 word memoir.

When you’re done with the Family Photo Challenge you’ll have 5 prompts for your memoir or family history. These can make great chapter titles too. Develop each of your five 6 word memoirs further and you’ll have a chapter before you know it.

Fun tip: Make this a family activity and you’ll have even more material for your story.

I’d love to read your 6 word mini memoirs and see your photo prompts, feel free to share on the Remembering the Time FaceBook page at, or join our private FaceBook group at and share it there. You can also just drop me a note at #familyhistory #familyhistorymatters #memoirwriting #genealogy #familyphotos

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Contact Me

Please contact me for more information or to to schedule a free consultation. I look forward to visiting with you.

    Karen Ray Photo

    Karen Ray

    Address: 331 Bristol Avenue, Las Cruces, NM, 88001

    Phone: 575-323-1048