The Stories Behind the Pictures


Don’t let your family photos end up in a second-hand shop or antique store! I was in an antique store when I ran across this collectible suitcase holding priceless unidentified and undated pictures. I sifted through them wondering who were these people, what were the stories behind them, and what kind of life did they experience.

Many people take the time to dress up, pose for the pictures and pay the cost for them and too soon those pictures get set aside, forgotten and thrown in a drawer, box, or suitcase. Time goes by and a family member comes across the pictures and no one knows who is in them or the story behind them. The pictures often are tossed or sold in an estate sale.

To avoid losing priceless family history, I repeatedly advise people to organize and name their photos so generations from now family members are able to identify the people and the occasion in the photo. It is best to use a soft graphite pencil and to write on the back of the photo along the top or bottom edge adding names, date and location of photo and the event of the photo.

Keeping Your Memories of family photos preserved makes for great presents too. Keep that in mind for the coming year to compile a book with pictures and stories. When that book is thrown in a drawer and pulled out 25 years later, the identities and life of those in the pictures will be preserved. Feel free to contact me at if you don’t have the time to do this on your own, I will be more than happy to give you a consultation.


When I Grow Up, I Want to Be…

 Teaching was ingrained in Joanna

Teaching was ingrained in Joanna

 This weekend we are celebrating my daughter’s birthday. She will turn 28 on Monday and those years have flown by quickly. The memories that we have been blessed with are infinite.

It has been a blessing to watch my baby girl grow from an infant who needed me completely to a teenager who completely did not want me and then to an adult who no longer needed me but wisely still asked for advice.

Joanna has been a first grade teacher for six years. Every year when I visit her classroom I stand back and am awed when I see how the children love her dearly and she the same.

It is evident in the pictures of Joanna flipping through baby books, decorating a bulletin board in her bedroom, experiencing hands-on creativity, reading to and playing school with her brothers that teaching was ingrained in her. It is her natural gift. From childhood she always dreamed of being a teacher. I’m proud of her for accomplishing her dream and hope she continues to reach for more.

If we think back upon our childhood, haven’t we all had dreams of what we wanted to be when we grew up? How many of us followed our dreams and reached them despite any obstacles that came our way?

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of what your dream was and how you reached that goal or how you failed to make it and settled for less. This is a great way to share with your children and/or grandchildren how important it is to make wise decisions because in the end you must live with what you settled for.

• What was your childhood dream?
• How were you able to carry out that dream?
• What obstacles stopped you from reaching that dream?
• What career did you settle on?
• What would you have done to change the route of your life?

Treasure Chest of Memories


My antique cedar chest that I have had for over thirty years sits in front of my bedroom window. It works every day as a catch-all for clothes, books, and magazines as well as a place to sit every morning when getting ready for work.

This morning I cleared everything off of the chest because inside of it is stored keepsakes that I have collected since I was a child. Today I intended to pull out the old Valentine’s Day cards that Dad gave to me all through the years until he died. We had his wake eight years ago today, and I wanted to reminisce and write about them.

However, when I lifted the lid to the chest, hundreds of memories (well maybe not hundreds but close) came pouring out of this chest. A few of my Dad’s Valentine cards were on top; I reached in and pulled them out.  Then I started searching for more and ran across an envelope that contained five letters from my sixth grade friend, Suzie. I instantaneously sat on my wooden floor and unfolded the letters that she had written to me in 1971. I was amused as I read those letters that detailed the frustration of love and boys.

Immediately I thought that I needed to write the stories behind those letters and scan them before they one day deteriorate. She explained she was writing to me instead of calling because her mother was sitting by the phone. In that era there were no cordless phones, cell phones, texting, or social media. And I am glad there wasn’t because I would not have had those letters today to read. There is much more to write about what was said, however, she did reiterate in every letter, “Please do not let anyone read this letter” so to this day will have to keep it confidential!

I have looked at many of my keepsakes before, but today when I opened the chest, I found a treasure of memories and the instant desire to write the stories behind them for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In this chest are priceless items:

Great Aunt Jessie’s shawl; scrapbooks; greeting cards from my parents, husband and children; my baby blanket; hair locks from 1961 and 1967; my Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls; autograph book signed by friends in 1972; 1976 medical receipt for an EEG costing $60 with my dad’s signature as responsible party; January 8, 1976 health insurance estimate of benefits for my emergency room charges at the cost of $182 with my dad responsible for $1.20; 1982 dental x-rays; my wedding veil; my sons’ Cub Scout ribbons and pins; my children’s creative writing and hand-drawn pictures; my mother-in-law’s embroidery; numerous address books and years of day minder calendar books; postcards from my grandfather and a brother; and many other items to write the stories behind them.

If you have a treasure chest of memories, whether in shoe boxes or in a cedar chest, open them up and start Keeping Your Memories of the story behind them and why you saved them. Start by taking a picture of one of your items and grab paper and pen or pull out your laptop and tell your story. Your descendants will cherish that memory of you even more.

It Was a Wonderful Life…


On February 6, 2007 we had a blustery snowstorm. And that evening Dad, not knowing this would be his last time, routinely prepared himself to clear the sidewalks.  For the last time he put on his shoes and galoshes, donned his winter coat and gloves, flipped on the back porch light and opened the back door to take his last walk down the sidewalk to the garage.

He then unlocked the garage door for the last time.  Inside he pulled out the snow blower from his excessively organized garage units and then suddenly and unexpectedly had a stroke collapsing on top of the snow blower.

If this walk had been a clip from a movie, he would have been portrayed walking in slow motion down the sidewalk with a replay of his life while the song “And Now My Lifesong Sings” by Casting Crowns would play. Clips would be shown in the background of a black-haired, young 38-year-old man and his wife and young children moving into their home in 1964.

Next would be shown a hard-working man, in his blue work pants and white t-shirt with a blue railroad handkerchief tucked in his back pocket with sweat dripping down his face while mowing the lawn with his muscle-powered lawn mower.

As he walks further down the sidewalk, clips of an understanding father patiently listening to his now teenage children handing him back his car keys and explaining how his car was unavoidably involved in an accident.

At the end of the walk you would see clips of a now, gray-haired loving middle-aged man and his wife with his adult children and their spouses sitting under the shady trees in the backyard while his young grandchildren are either running, playing or helping their Papa with yard work.

The last clip would be when he unlocks the garage door for the last time. You see an honored, elderly, white-haired, 80-year-old man surrounded by his wife of almost 60 years, his five grown children and their spouses and his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren showing love and respect for what he unselfishly did for them.

In his lifetime this highly esteemed man had taken care of and provided for his wife and family. He quietly taught his children a strong work ethic, by example rather than talk, and prioritized his love for God, family and friends in that order.

Dad never recovered from the stroke and died February 12 at 12:26 a.m.  I will never forget that moment, and I find preserving the many cherished memories of my dad important for my descendants so he will forever be remembered.  If you are fortunate to be able to interview your father, grab an audio recorder, pull out your laptop or pen and paper and begin with the questions below to start Keeping Your Memories of your father recorded:

  • What’s something you know now about happiness that you did not know when you were 18 years old?
  • What has brought you the greatest sense of meaning and purpose in life?
  • Share a few of the major “crossroads” moments in your life, times when you went in one direction or another and it made a large difference in terms of how your life turned out?
  • If you could go back to when you were a young adult and have a conversation with yourself, and you knew you would listen, what would you tell that younger person about life?
  • Now that you have lived most of your life, what are you certain or almost certain matters a great deal if a person wants to find happiness and live a fulfilling life?