Writing your own stories

 


How do you record your stories, ideas, thoughts, and experiences for future generations? If you are famous (or infamous) enough, somebody does it for you. A book, a Wikipedia entry, or a magazine article or two might survive you. Plenty of people write in journals, but my guess is that these journals soon are relegated to the trash heap after you pass. I mean, who wants your daily whining, wishing, and wondering?

There are some exceptions. One of my favorite little books was finalized right before Ed Abbey's death, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from a Secret Journal. This slim book contains snippets taken from his books as well as his many journals.

• "From the point of view of a tapeworm, man was created by God to serve the appetite of the tapeworm."
• "The highest treason, the meanest treason, is to deny the holiness of this little blue planet on which we journey through the cold void of space."

In our current digital world, we might feel we have achieved a type of immortality by posting on Facebook or Instagram (or a similar social media site). Some of us use blogs (like this one) to broadcast our thoughts and lives. But it is the rare person who discloses dark secrets, hidden passions, and potentially embarrassing tales to the whole world.

Then, I discovered Storyworth.com.  Well, actually I didn't discover it. In June, 2021, I received this email:

Hi Robert,

Katelin Shugart-Schmidt wants to hear your stories, and has given you a one year subscription to StoryWorth.

You’ll get weekly prompts with an easy way to share your memories, and at the end of the year you’ll receive a beautifully bound memoir of your stories.

Here’s how it works.

    • Every Monday, we’ll email you a question that Katelin has chosen for you, for example “How did you get your first job?” or “What were your friends like in high school?”
    • All you have to do is respond with a story. You’re welcome to attach photos as well.
    • Katelin gets emailed each story you record. You can add more recipients if you’d like other loved ones to receive your stories.
    • All of your stories are saved privately, and will be printed in a beautiful keepsake book.

Along with this gift email, you should receive a secure log in email that will let you access your StoryWorth account.

We hope you enjoy sharing your stories!

 

StoryWorth? Never heard of it. I looked up the site, groaned about having to respond to weekly prompts, and put it aside. Except, I still received those weekly prompts. And one day, six months later, I wrote my first chapter. And then another. And another. And I kept at it. I responded to some of Katelin's prompts, but I developed most of the topics by myself. And after the year was up, Katelin renewed it for another year. And last week, I received the two volume set, all 99 chapters with 800+ colorful pages. We opened the box in St. Mark's Coffeehouse, and relished the memories.


Here's one sample chapter, titled "My house is me and I am it":

Unless you are living in a hotel room, your walls are decorated with items you find of esthetic value. You surround yourself with pictures, photographs, maps, and items that speak to you or have sentimental value. They may be inexpensive (I remember putting posters on my dorm wall) or expensive (show the wealth!). And once they are placed, these items are probably there for the long-term (or until you move).


Our house is full of items on the wall. Some day, we may move. And it is at the time of moving that we will ask, “Do we want this picture at our new place?”


I thought I’d walk through our house in Logan, and show my votes on decorative items that could survive the move. If Caroline agrees, great! If not, well, we will compromise. After all, Caroline will have her favorites as well.

Above is a painting of Caroline’s Aunt Bea. Bea had already passed when this was completed. It’s a large painting, and I remember seeing it once at Cousin Karen’s house. I was blogging about Beatrice, and asked Karen about this painting. It was in storage, and there was some mold and cockroach stains on it. We brought it to Logan, cleaned it up, had it professionally stretched and framed, and the result is this painting. I love it both for the memories and for the composition. Bea’s face is as contoured as the Ko’olau Mountains up Manoa Valley.

This stained glass is a depiction of (I think) “The Lone Cypress,” a Monterey cypress tree located in Pebble Beach, California. The artist was… ta-da! Caroline! She hints that she may return to stained glasswork. We will just need a work space for her.

I collected this large Aboriginal painting on a solo trip to Australia (I went there to attend an international conference on wildlife fertility management). I had stopped by a number of galleries in Sydney in The Rocks area. They were all wickedly expensive. Some galleries had a “bargain” section, but these paintings all missed the exquisite detail noted above. Then, at one gallery, I saw this painting, in the bargain area. I asked a salesperson about it, certain it was a mistake. No mistake, I was told. There was no artist signature, so it couldn’t be sold at premium prices. “I’ll take it!” But I had to get it home, so the salesperson removed the staples from the frame so I could roll it up. And wouldn’t you know it… there was the artist’s signature, hidden under the frame. The sale went through, regardless, and I got it home, matted and framed. Both Caroline and I enjoy it. Since we have this, we don’t need a donk.

Our family has spent many hours enjoying and volunteering at Hanauma Bay on Oahu. This is a print of a painting commissioned by seascape artist Wyland, to commemorate the new visitor center. I’ve posted some detail of the painting as well. It’s another large piece. I wonder how much wall space we will have…?

We’ve got framed cross-stitch projects throughout the house. This one, by Caroline’s mother Lisa, will probably make the trek. I suspect a few others will come as well!

We probably have 6 Hale’iwa Arts Festival prints framed, most signed by the artist. Now, they are scattered throughout the house, although these 3 are in the exercise room. They are a nice size for a future bathroom decor.

I don’t know the history of this piece, except that it came with Caroline when we married. It’s an original piece of tapa cloth, or a cloth made of worked bark and then decorated with block printing. I suspect it came from Aunt Bea, but I’ll have to ask. It sits inside a frame, but here I’m just showing the print.

These large pieces (the biggest is about 6 foot long) come from an artist that Caroline discovered. We have 3 pieces, and I love the geometry. Luckily, if we end up with a small place, these can be used outdoors as well as indoors.

If I’m good, Caroline will probably let me bring one of these pieces. The Salt Lake Tribune used to have a “caption contest,” where artist Pat Bagley would draw something, and people could submit potential captions. The winning caption would be affixed to drawing and published, and the winner would get the original artwork. I received honorable mention many times, and I won 5 times. My kids have first pick!

More small pieces that Caroline picked up in Australia. She didn’t know if I’d approve, so she hid them from me until we got home. Ha! As if she can’t get whatever she wants! You know, we might have an “Australia room” in our new place!

Given the influence of Legos in our lives, it seems fitting that we would bring at least one piece. This is an All Terrain Armored Transport, or AT-AT walker, a four-legged transport and combat vehicle used by the Imperial ground forces. Guess which movie?


There are many other possibilities. Sea turtle prints. Pictures of kids and grandkids. Items from our travels. Luckily, if we decide not to keep things, Caroline will certainly take a photo. We will cherish all these memories as we celebrate our 100th birthdays!

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