5 Ways Sharing Your Story Will Inspire You

1—Everyone loves a celebration. What better event to celebrate than the basic fact of being alive? Whether you’ve had 70 years on the planet or want to celebrate the life of your 5-year-old, it’s a great time to break out the cake and surprise your loved one with a story all their own. Celebrate the events and people that have made your life experience uniquely your own. Looking back over your life will help remind you of the victories, the accomplishments, the overcoming, the kindnesses great and small that have come together in your unique heart and soul to knit together your life. Your story matters and you are important!

2—Experience personal growth and insight. You may have had years to contemplate the why’s and wherefores’ of your life story. Now is the perfect time to consider what you’ve learned, process it, maybe even re-frame your responses in memory to help you heal and move forward in a healthy way.

Where have you struggled? How did you overcome? What would you want your children and grandchildren to know from your hard-won experience? You have a responsibility to pass it on.

The Rev. Berndt of the Good Samaritan Society says: 

“It is an incredible gift to be the recipient of someone’s legacy. It can be life transforming. However, I have also learned that the opportunity to leave a legacy isn’t something that only other people do. As I grow older, I am more and more convinced of the importance of asking myself, “What legacy from the wisdom of lifelong experience am I …sharing with others?” You see, this is the two-way blessing of legacies. Our lives can be shaped by the legacies that others share with us, but in turn, we have a responsibility and a challenge to share the wisdom …“and experience we have gathered over the years.”

Perhaps other forces shaped your life? Do you have an immigrant story or a war-time experience, poverty or wealth, a disability or just making something precious out of the ordinary?

Science has shown that the health benefits of journaling and sharing your story are enormous

In her blog  ”Heart and Craft of Lifewriting” writer Sharon Lippincott comments on a memoir entitled Growing Old, by Swiss psychoanalyst Danielle Quinodoz:  “The book focuses on the enormous value elderly people derive from reviewing their memories and attaining an integrated overview of their lives, …People who are able to view their lives in this meaningful way experience more joy in living…They tend to approach aging more actively, retaining curiosity and involvement with life and the people around them….”

3—Pass along a lifetime of learned wisdom and life skills. Whether it’s your approach to living on a budget, handling life events, recovering from tragedy, the importance of your faith or simply your best tips for leading the good life, your family needs to know this. Think of the many articles (share link) where elders have been interviewed about what they’ve learned over their life, those in your circle of influence crave this same information.

Think of the inspiration others have poured into your life and how you’ve been able to pay it forward to future generations. Connect the past and the present and be inspired to do good!

4—Share your family’s origin story. Where did you come from? How did you get to where you are now? What traditions, customs, food and wisdom were Handed down by your ancestors? Mentoring, life skills, carpentry, music, jewelry making, craftsmanship, farming and ranching, your life experience and family history is uniquely your own.

5—We are inspired by photographs of people place and events. Dig out those boxes of family pics and put provenance with them. Just the process of asking questions from family members about events and people depicted will unearth a great number of stories you probably haven’t even heard yet. Or will add details to those long familiar events.

Preserve your family’s memories of important family stories. Each photo can be used to prompt the story behind it, what was going on in the world, the people’s lives in the picture. What happened before and after? The stories behind the faces in the photos are precious. It might even illuminate world events, think of collections of pioneer letters that let us know what life was like on a wagon train or collections of WWII letters. Take a look at this example, Dear Sis…WWII Letters:

“…letters were written by ordinary young men who answered the call to duty and honor to protect their country and their families. Compiled into a narrative, the letters give a snapshot of life and events both on the war front and at home.” 

Your life story is a gift from you to the future, from your generation to the next one. It may be one of the most important things you share with those who come after you. Leave a legacy, a life legacy.

Remember, not only is your story a gift, each day of life is also, unwrap daily!

Let me know if you need help sharing your story, I’d love to visit with you!

Karen

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Creative Journaling Tips for Your Remarkable Life

Relationships are top of mind right now, emphasized even due to the social distancing we’re experiencing in the pandemic. This is foreign ground for most of us but will become one for the history books. In the scarcity of human contact we long to connect and are finding creative ways to do it. The silver lining may be an increase in family connectedness and deeper friendships. This is one of the good things to come out of this season of pausing, reflection and in some cases deep loss.

So relationships and how they’ve impacted our lives is the theme for this journaling exercise. Think of it as a creative tool to use in developing your memoir, short or long. It all starts with a few words on a page or spoken into a recorder.

Let’s give it a shot! Review the many relationships in your life; most of us are sons and daughters, parents, friends, spouses, employees, aunts or uncles. Think of the connections you’ve had with others over the years, both personal and professional.

Don’t get stuck, just pick two or three that stand out in your memory.

You can always try this technique with others later.

How have these relationships impacted, molded, changed and directed  the course of your life over the years?

Pick one relationship from childhood, one from youth and one from adulthood. Your choice of how close the relationship was; don’t force it or get stuck with expectations, go with what rises to the top of your thoughts. They don’t even have to all be human.

Many people count a dog or horse among their best friends.

It’s perfectly ok to write about these dear friends too.

Now, for each one I want you to try two approaches:

1—How has this relationship affected your life? Did it inspire you, coach in in a positive way, maybe it deflected you down another path? You can go as deep as you like here. Sometimes even fleeting relationships impact us deeply and change the course of our lives. Other times it may be the long faithfulness of a dear family member or friend.

2—How would your life have been different if you hadn’t known that person? Don’t edit, just write down your thoughts and speculate, follow the rabbit trails, this is just for your own use. A well-known example of this, and one that’s been used in many book and movie plots, is the storyline behind It’s a Wonderful Life when George Bailey’s angel gives him the opportunity to see what life in Bedford Falls would have been like without him. As Clarence says, “You’ve been given a gift.”

Bonus Tip:

Another tool to use is to take a sheet of paper for each person you want to write about. Now do a mind map or a bubble outline. Write their name in the middle of the page and then, using a timer set for about three minutes, write down everything you can think of that’s associated with this person. Don’t second guess yourself, get it all down. Write each item or phrase on the page radiating out from the central person.  When the timer dings, stop. You can always add more later but these are the top of mind and semi-conscious ideas that come out when you brainstorm like this.

When you’ve finished this exercise you may realize some interesting side notes or even have a great light bulb moment (epiphany for you fellow word nerds). Jot these reflections down too. You now have the makings of a fine chapter or two for your memoir. In fact, you may have even discovered the theme of your lifestory. See where it goes.

All the best to you in your memory journey!

Karen

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If You Give a Wild Thing a Taco

I’ve made a discovery! Many people interested in writing their memoirs also have wonderful children’s stories they’ve shared with their kids over the years. They talk about these with a grin, a gleam in their eyes and laughter as they recall the fun of creating these special stories for their children. They confess that their kids have always told them they should make a book with those favorite tales. My family and I have our own collection of made-up stories but I’ll save those for another day.

To learn more about the art and process of children’s book creation, I’ve been watching a few of Lisa Michael’s Skillshare classes. Michaels is an award winning professional freelance illustrator and author as well as a skilled teacher. You can take a look at her profile here:

 www.skillshare.com/r/profile/Lisa-Michaels/4511946

After sharing my observations about memoir clients and their children’s stories with Lisa she responded with additional insight into the “why” of this phenomenon. You can find out more about her at Lisa Michaels  www.theartofpicturebooks.com. She graciously agreed to share her thoughts so here you go:

It makes complete sense. A large percentage of children’s books are based on the author’s childhood experiences. You know the old saying…”Write what you know!”…it’s so true.

As I’m sure you know, personal experience adds authenticity to the work, and gives a good writer the ability to make you (the reader) feel that you are a participant in the story, rather than an onlooker. Not to mention, most memories have strong emotions attached to them, which also enriches the story.

I find that stories written from childhood memories (even if they are outlandishly embellished) make for the best children’s books because the author usually isn’t looking to “teach a lesson”. They are simply hoping to share a wonderful or touching experience that they believe still has value for today’s kids. That’s one of the very BEST reason to write a children’s book!

Below are links you can follow to Lisa’s classes on Skillshare. They’ll enable you to learn from her and many others for two free months with a trial Premium Membership. You have nothing to lose and much great professional, fun guidance in store. I highly recommend it! (disclosure – although I will receive a small commission if you sign up, I only recommend classes I’ve taken myself and found exceptionally useful).

Writing a Picture Book/Part One – Creating Characters Kids Love

Writing a Picture Book/Part Two – Gathering Story ideas

Writing a Picture Book/Part Three – Building Blocks

These courses are excellent resources in developing further ideas for my own children’s book concepts as well as helpful when I visit with clients who have their own fun, fabulous tales to share.

Try your hand at jotting down some of your kids’ favorite bed-time stories. Then, visit with them about the characters and sketch out a few ideas for the artwork. You’ll have loads of fun together and create new memories from the old ones.

May you find joy in life today!

Karen

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Quick Start a Memoir

So—it’s summer, it’s hot and… it’s the perfect time to take action — do something different and good for your soul! A little bit of life history will reap dividends in mental and emotional health as well as pay what you’ve learned forward to the future.

I found this quote from Peter Drucker a few days ago. He’s a business management consultant but his words are applicable to many things in life.

 “There is the risk you cannot afford to take,

and there is the risk you cannot afford not to take”

What about finally saving the stories of someone you love? Or your own? I’ve made it easy for you by creating a Quick Start a Memoir class. And—you can even take it for free using this link that will take you to the class on Skillshare and a free 2 month membership:

https://skl.sh/2YUDbkf

Here’s the class description:

Do you have a parent, grandparent or other relative who has been telling great family stories for decades, but is overwhelmed by the thought of writing them down? Maybe you have been longing to tell your own story. It’s time! Creating a life legacy memoir is a meaningful way to celebrate life. You don’t have to be a “writer” to share your story in a meaningful way. This class will give you a quick start to clarify the 5 W’s of your story, the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. You’ll create a fun, actionable mind map project that will inspire you to start, give you the framework you need and keep you on track. Start today– let’s begin saving those important family memories and connecting the generations with your story.

Five fabulous reasons why it’s important to share your story:

* Celebrate your life and share your experiences with others

* Preserve important family stories and memories

* Put names and stories with family photos

* Share your wisdom and the life lessons you’ve learned

* Bear witness to the history you’ve lived

The wise Dr. Seuss has this to say:

“Sometimes you will never know the value

of a moment until it becomes a memory”

Have lots of  ideas and memories  but don’t know how to start? Try the class for an instant boost. Or give me a call/fire off an email for a free consult. I’d be delighted to point you in the right direction and give you a couple resources.

Karen

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Marvelous Manicures by Dad



Just have to share this gorgeous photo of Andrew Wong and his daughter. His daddy tenderness is perfectly summed up with one beautiful photo by Marina Anaya (Captured by Marina Photography). So impressed—I can’t even do my own nails and he has the technique down pat with a toddler. While she may not remember this exact event, this little sweetie will grow up knowing without a doubt that she is loved and adored.

There is no charm equal to

tenderness of heart—

Jane Austen

Do you remember a time when you blessed someone with tenderness like this? Maybe you were the receiver of such a wonderful gift. Half a penny’s worth of nail polish and some time—priceless! Tenderness can profoundly impact the course of a person’s life, be they wee or wrinkled.

Write about one tender memory. Put in all the who, what, where, when and why. But more importantly, put in the feeling. How did this impact you? Inspire you? Why do you treasure this memory?

Ordinary things done with tenderness

are extraordinary.

Thanks to Captured by Marina Photography and Charissa Wong of Life in Tandem Photography for your willingness to share!

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Un-Stick Your Memoir Part 2: What if You Hate Writing?

“I hate to write, how can I do this?” As I mentioned last week, this is a sticking point for some folks. They’re great oral storytellers but the thought of writing those stories and memories down gives them “test anxiety” at the least and “the screaming mimi’s” at the worst. Never fear-there are a few different ways to handle this, don’t let it stop you!

 

Solution 1—Talk out your story into a voice recorder

 

With the help of a handy little voice recorder you can just tell your story. Carry it with you, turn it on, record, pause or turn off till you’re ready to tell your next story, or continue with your thoughts. You can collect memories in a stretch of reminiscing over photos or with family. Or maybe just relate brief thoughts or impressions as they come to you throughout the day. Don’t worry that they’re not in order. That is the beauty of digital recording and computers. While it will save you some time and help you focus if you have a plan and go through your life story memories somewhat chronologically, it isn’t critical. Thanks to the beauty of downloading and cut and paste, your lovely, moving or humorous stories can be rearranged into whatever order you choose later.

 

Here’s how it works:

Purchase an inexpensive digital voice recorder. I have used an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder very similar to this one for years (some links on this site are affiliate links–I only recommend items that I either use myself or strongly believe to be helpful):

 

 

I show this tiny workhorse at workshops and folks repeatedly ask what model it is and where they can get one. There are many different brands out there in a range of prices. The Olympus model has been a great fit for my work and has had excellent reviews on quality, clarity and ease of use. It also lets me record in different files to keep projects separate. This makes downloading to separate computer folders even easier. The recorder runs on a two AAA batteries and has great battery life. I have found that Procell by Duracell batteries have excellent performance and reliability and have switched to using them exclusively in my work.

 

Another top rated recorder option is this one:  SONY ICD PX333 Digital Voice Recorder

 

Both are high quality items that will do the job and serve you well. Whichever one you choose, based on features or price, they all work pretty much the same and will make telling your story easy and fun.

 

Keep the recorder with you, it will serve as your ever-ready personal assistant. Starting with the technique in the last blog post, go ahead and brainstorm your memories and story ideas into the recorder. Then, when thoughts come to you or you want to expand on some stories or reminiscence over visual prompts such as photographs, you’ll just talk your story out into the recorder. A recorder such as the Olympus holds about 24 hours worth of audio recording. I use mine regularly for interviewing and as an extra note-taker when I’m at meetings and need to be able to go back and fact check or review content. It will help you focus on the story and not on trying to write your notes legibly, a challenge for me, that’s for sure!

 

Later, when you’re ready to download your stories, just plug the recorder into your computer, transfer the files and you now have your oral history recording in a format that can be easily transcribed into written form. Voila, “test anxiety” gone!

 

Solution 2 – Team up with a friend to record each other’s stories.

 

Again, this taps into the power of oral story telling. It also adds in the fun of having a buddy to tackle the project together. Find a friend who is either interested in also telling their own story or is intrigued with you and yours. Remember, this is not a never ending time commitment nor a long term project. Getting these stories down will take a focused-10-12 hours of recording time, spread out over a handful of sessions. I’d recommend setting aside time once or twice a week for about a month. Of course, the beauty of this is that you can work around your own schedules.

 

Then, either use the voice recorder (I do recommend this as it helps you go back at your leisure and capture the full nuance of the story. For family members and friends, having a recording of your voice is a priceless addition to your story—why not do it?) Or, you can take turns with your friend, interviewing each other and taking notes on each other’s stories. This takes away your fear of a blank piece of paper, you just tell the other person’s story.

 

The fun of the buddy system will keep you both on track and accountable. A multi- strand cord is stronger, tag-teaming with a friend or another family member will help you both to succeed.

Thanks and Happy Story Telling!

Karen

 

(Karen Ray is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)

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Life Advice from a Centenarian: Marry a Younger Man!

Betty Somppi, photo courtesy of her friend Karen Wood

This advice was characteristic of Betty Somppi’s lively take on life. Although she  passed away this spring just days after witnessing the dedication of the Women Veterans Monument in Las Cruces, her words and lifelong enthusiasm continue to make the media rounds. Her life impact hasn’t stopped. Take a look at the video interview on the City of Las Cruces FaceBook page and notice her lifestory book, the photos and her enjoyment in talking about her life. Below is a profile I wrote about her after a fascinating conversation back in 2016. I’m so glad she took the time to share a bit of her life’s history while she was living. You don’t have to wait till someone is writing your obituary to do the same. (Photo–Betty Somppi, courtesy of her friend, Karen Wood)

 

You can save your family stories too!

 

A few days ago I had the privilege of giving a workshop to the Las Cruces Association of Educational Retirees, providing some practical inspiration for sharing their stories. Who should I meet later in the audience but one of my favorite teachers, Hannah Monsimer. Seventh grade English teacher extraordinaire! If that’s not a tough job I don’t know what is. Of course, I gave her a big hug and told the group she was responsible encouraging my love of writing. She was kind, tough and an excellent teacher; qualities I am grateful for to this day. Thank you Mrs. Monsimer!

 

Betty Somppi

 

Betty Somppi was enjoying a new career as a lab technician at a Cincinnati hospital “when the war came along…Most women wanted to do something and there weren’t that many choices for women. We were very interested and we wanted to be involved more than just going around the community. So I applied when we first heard about the Women’s Army Corps, which was WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) at that time. She recalls that the bill passed in March and by July the first class of officers were in training. “That shows how quickly Congress can work when they want to,” she laughs.

 

She served in the WAAC for about a year before it became the WAC (the women’s branch of the United States Army). “We had to apply all over again and had to have our physicals all over again and we didn’t know until the word came back from Washington, whether we had been accepted or not. That was very traumatic for some of the women who had been there for a year. Somppi remembers Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby of Killeen, Texas served as the first director of both the WAAC and then the WAC. “Mrs. Hobby” as she was called built the Corps to over 100,000 in under a year.

 

Somppi explains that this new organization had no officers or enlisted people. “They picked 1400 women from those who applied throughout the United States,” she says, “We went into officers training with the idea that if we did not complete OC (Officer Candidate) we would be enlisted. They were recruiting enlisted people at the same time…These 1400 women were put into the first nine officers classes.” She was in her early twenties when she entered the fifth OC class.

 

She arrived at Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School in July, 1942 the day the first class graduated and heard Colonel Hobby speak. “I think if anybody thought this was going to be some sort of a glamour deal, they got a good shock. We got off the train and had our suitcases in hand and got piled into the back of a six by truck and taken to the base. Once we got to the base we were assigned to our quarters. We had all male officers for those nine classes because there were no WAC officers trained yet.”

 

After graduation she was assigned to the base. “I was in the training section doing the basic training. After they finished that they went either into motor transport or clerks or cooks and bakers. Those were the three fields that they were training for and had schools at Fort Des Moines.” Within a year the army had women in 274 fields in the military. Somppi says,

 

“I really did love that and so I spent

the whole war training  women to do things

that I would have loved to have gone and done.”

 

In December of ’42 she was one of the first to be sent to Chemical Warfare School for six weeks along with five other women at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. “My job was to go back and teach chemical warfare to the people at Fort Des Moines.”She’s kept newspaper clippings from that time and says, “It (the school) was very very good. There were I think something like 180 army and a few marines and air force, all men and then us six women. We were all single and we had a great time. Everybody was curious about us, we were still pretty new and there were only a few out in the field. We were the equivalent of second lieutenants and wore gold bars. The general down there invited all six of us to all the fancy Christmas parties, he would send his car over to our quarters for us…they always had the general’s star on the car and the people on the ground always had to salute when it went by…it was interesting.”

 

Somppi says, “The old fort (Des Moines) looked a great deal like Ft. Bliss, big parade ground, big enough to play two horse polo teams. I walked to work every morning. My office was in Boomtown. The trainees came to us as a class, as a unit of a company and we trained them in military customs and courtesies and the history of the army; all those things that they still do today. Boomtown was just being finished, there were not streets yet and those companies waded to our classrooms through the mud. In fact, they used to come in with a shovel to get the mud off the floor before they swept it. It was a lot of fun.” She says the best food the army ever had was in those mess halls.

 

From there Somppi was stationed at Fort Oglethorpe as Director of Training, later helping close that base down. She says, “I remember the day that they announced that the war ended, the colonel at Ft. Oglethorpe’s son was killed that very day.” She returned to Fort Des Moines and served as Operations Officer at the separations center, processing returning military personnel. During that time the war in the Pacific ended and her husband was sent back from China.

 

The Somppis were married during the war, “We always said those wartime marriages never ended. Ours ended last March at 72 years. We were very fortunate.” They had difficulty meeting up to marry, “Jimmy was about three days later than the date we had set because at that time troop trains were pushed aside to get the freight through…He was a corporal when we were going to get married and by the time he got up there he had his third stripe on. I had just got my captain’s bars a couple of months before.” The couple met seven years before while she was teaching first grade in Pennsylvania. He was a senior in high school at that time. When asked her secret to a long life and sharp brain she laughs, “I always tell people

 

‘Marry a younger man!’

 

Jimmy was six years younger than me which at that time was something pretty shocking…that long marriage is a great comfort to me now.” This trip will be in Jimmy’s honor. She lives in independent living at White Acres and celebrated her 101st birthday the day after this interview. She says,

 

“I’ve been very lucky.”

 

Although the couple was stationed in Washington, DC, they had never seen the memorial. After Jimmy passed away, Betty’s close friend Karen Woods asked her if she would consider going on Honor Flight of Southern New Mexico’s (also serving El Paso) Mission 9 this fall. She says, “I said yes, I think now I should. I felt like this was something I could look forward to, I needed that right at that moment. I’m ready; I’m very excited about it.” The couple had three daughters; their eldest, Sharon, will be going along on the Honor Flight late this September as her mother’s guardian.

 

What stands out from her service days are she says, “The wonderful people that came through Fort Des Moines. Everybody wanted to come and see what happened… We had Mrs. Roosevelt and many many outstanding people all came and talked to us as an officers group; I’m sure they did to a lot of the enlisted too. We met them and felt personally greeted. Mrs. Roosevelt managed in the receiving line to say something personal to everybody and you felt like you had met her, you know?”

 

Somppi sounds a bit wistful, “Every person that worked with me or for me is gone, my secretary in my office just died last year and that was the last one of the friends that I had kept in touch with for many years.” She is a charter member of the Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC. If you visit there you can view her biography and photo as part of the data base. She’s proud of her groundbreaking service, “We were right there at the beginning. We got a lot of kidding about it. People around Des Moines were used to us and were very welcoming and very nice to us. It was fun…I became a friend of the general (Major General Gwendolyn Bingham) when she was at White Sands. I was so proud that we had anything to do with that, they recognized us and said ‘Well you got it started you know.’ They talked about how far women in the military have come, they fill every field now and they’ve held every rank and it’s wonderful to see.”

 

Thanks for taking the time to read about Betty’s life. This next week I’ll be bringing you some tips for capturing life stories of folks a bit younger, the graduates in your life. Stay tuned!

Karen

 

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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: 2877 Willow Creek Lane, Las Cruces, NM, 88007

Phone: 575-323-1048


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