Mar 312015
Going back in a Holodeck

Going back a la a mental Holodeck

We all know that going back home isn’t an option. But a girl can dream.

Last week, as the plane approached Greenville-Spartanburg (South Carolina) International Airport, the sight of red clay gave me a twinge. Home beckoned like a taunt. “Come back… Oh yeah. I forgot… You can’t.”

In my defense, I’m not trying to go back. I’m here to live in the present. To spend time with the people I love now. But, however much my intellect knows that going back isn’t possible, it can’t control my heart. The past, unbidden, beckons in my psyche.

With the events of the last week, time travel does seem attractive. I’d happily agree to Star Trek’s Temporal Prime Directive. I wouldn’t want to change anything. Just a short sojourn in the happy days of childhood.

I’d be perfectly content with a Holodeck rerun of my past. Just another sunny South Carolina day. No planes purposefully crashed into the sides of mountains. No friend’s sons committing suicide. A day when the adults took care of the adult stuff. I’d do the kid stuff—climbing trees, playing with friends, and complaining when I had absolutely nothing to complain about.

Looking it up, I’m surprised to find that it’s a Holodeck, not a Holideck. I always assumed the latter, as if they were taking a holiday from their current life in space.

A “holiday” Holodeck script unfolds in my brain. After hours of bike riding, playing tennis in the street, and “exploring” places our parents would ground us for exploring if they had known, the little girl across the street would be called home for dinner.

We always ate dinner later than the Olds, but knowing that Linda was sitting down to eat would flip a Pavlov’s dog switch in me. I’d trot dirty and barefoot into the kitchen.

“Mama, when’s dinner?”

“In about 45 minutes.”

“I can’t wait that long! I’m starvingly hungry!” I’d mean it too. Hunger always descended on me as a force to be reckoned with.

“You can eat an apple.” I knew she’d say that. I mean even without the benefit of hindsight and the Holodeck automated screenwriting, I’d know in advance she’d say that. My “starvingly hungry” was like a lob that she’d return over the net without even looking. The drama would escalate as I tried to convince her that a mere apple wasn’t capable of dealing the walloping blow needed to put down the hunger pains that threatened to consume me. I needed substance! Bread. Meat. Chocolate.

Here the dialogue peters out. Mom would probably put me to work setting the table or unloading the dishwasher to “distract” me from my abject misery of going several hours without eating.

Playing the Holodeck game in my brain quiets my wistfulness. I enjoy being in the south, hearing Ma’am and Sir, drinking sweet tea, and the friendly familiarity with which everyone greets each other.

Your Turn: Going Back

Try your own rendition of the Holodeck game. If going back to a typical day were possible, to what time period would you program it? What memories would stand out? How would that memory reflect the daily rhythms of your household? You friendships?

Mar 122015
Writing with you heart on your sleeve

Writing with your heart on your sleeve helps your readers to connect with you. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

One of the most rewarding parts of sharing your memories and stories is those moments when the big picture comes alive. When you see in someone’s reaction that you connected. Writing with your heart on your sleeve increases the likelihood of that happening.

The memory collector has a different role than the average narrator. You’re part of the story. You add context. When you expose your more vulnerable side, you allow readers to see the world through your glasses.

It comes down to building trust with your readers—your loved ones. The better they know you, the more they will trust your vision—your filter—of the stories you’re telling. More importantly, writing with your heart on your sleeve helps form that palpable the connection with your readers. Continue reading »

Feb 052015

Old cousins welcome new ones A new cousin discovered me recently–through  We share the same great-great-grandfather. “Sounds like we’re cousins,” he wrote. “How cool is that?”

Very cool, in fact. Finding new cousins through family history research is an undeniable rush.

His contact once again brought home the value of a family “treasure chest.” Once again, the beauty of my grandmother’s “Treasure Chest of Memories” washed over me and amazed me. Continue reading »

Jan 192015
The rest of the story is missing

Stories are not meant to start or end in the middle.

Readers complain when they finish a book and the author hasn’t provided them with a series. They want to know how life continues for the characters. But that’s not the only time we’re missing the rest of the story. We miss it every time a stranger waltzes into our lives and touches us in some way, then quickly exits.

I used to love listening to Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story radio vignettes. His ability to take a fact that we all knew—took for granted even—and present it with renewed and fresh meaning captured my imagination. It even altered my teenage know-it-all Weltanschau a little too. Continue reading »

Jan 062015

rootstech 2015 meet me there  This February I’ll finally be attending the RootsTech and FGS conferences in Salt Lake City. Better yet, I’m a presenter. My session is Blogging Your Research, Memories, and Family History. But more about that later.

Here’s why you should meet me there if you can. Continue reading »

Dec 042014
Wendy Parmley Shares Hope after Suicide

Author Wendy Parmley shares her story of finding Hope after Suicide — here in this post as well as in her recently released book.

I’m excited to have author Wendy Parmley share her insight with Treasure Chest of Memories readers. Wendy is an advocate for suicide prevention as well as for the support of loved ones left behind after a suicide. In this post, along with sharing her story of finding hope after suicide, she also opens up about the roles of her faith and sharing her story had in her physical and emotional healing.

I began writing my book nearly three years ago following a bicycle accident which left me unable to return to my nursing career because of the continued effects of a traumatic brain injury. During those dark days when I couldn’t get my brain to work, God spoke to my heart. I knew what my new work would be. My new work would be to tell the story of my angel mom – the story of her life, the story of her death, and the story of my healing journey. Continue reading »

Nov 172014
Conversations that matter

Family gatherings aren’t just great opportunities for bonding. It’s also a great time to have conversations that matter.

Family gatherings are the perfect time to start conversations that matter —and to collect stories. After the bird or ham has been carved and the casserole dishes scraped empty, we loosen our belts. And, often, we loosen our tongues.

This holiday, as Aunt Ida and Grandpa start to exchange familiar stories, make the most of the time with your loved ones. Jump (calmly and unobtrusively) into action.

Draw out New Information

Instead of simply laughing, nodding, and adding stories of your own, draw out new information by asking questions and listening carefully. Continue reading »

Nov 112014
Telling your family story

How do you tell your family story?

What is your family story? As much as we talk about the importance of  passing down family history, we seldom define what that a family story is. Is your family story a compilation of all the individuals’ on your family tree? Is a story that takes place under one roof? Alternatively, is it a story that took place over generations?

Your family story can be any or all of the above, or it could be something else entirely. Continue reading »

Nov 072014

band-aids Exploring the concept of retouching the past brought an odd memory of my paternal grandmother to mind. At the time, it seemed like a little thing. In retrospect, however, it was the spark that started conversations and led to the telling of less than flattering stories.

My sister and I were sitting on grandma’s front porch, helping her snap beans. Like most little kids, the big topic of conversation on my mind was my most recent boo-boo. I brought it up to her, showing her my finger with the flesh-colored latex badge of courage wrapped around it.

Grandma was nonplused by what she called my “boxed band-aid.” She thought using band-aids was wasteful. “In fact,” she told me “Jane [name has been changed because I can’t remember it] across the street is such a clever, ingenious child. Rather than using store-bought band-aids, when she has a cut, Jane uses a little piece of tissue and some scotch tape. That’s all you need.” Continue reading »

Nov 042014
Retouching the past

Retouching the past: Is it helping you tell your story or is it changing your story?

We’re in an age of retouched photos. We remove blemishes and correct lighting and exposure. We can even remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, and eliminate extra chins. We can… But should we?

Retouching the Past or Telling Who We Are?

When we write our memories and stories, retouching the past is tempting—maybe even necessary. Retouching stories, just like re-touching photos, can be a way of drawing attention to what really matters and eliminating extraneous details. Unless it’s integral to the story, maybe we can leave out that Miss May had three hairs growing out of the mole at the side of her nose and that each hair grew in a different direction. Continue reading »