Cubs Win!!!

In case you’ve been under a rock somewhere and haven’t yet heard the news, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series. This is big news everywhere. The loveable losers have become loveable winners. Honest—there are tee shirts that laud the “Loveable Winners.” Only in Chicago.

cubs-winI grew up on the north side of Chicago, so I’ve always been a Cubs fan. My husband grew up in northern Illinois. His father was a die-hard Cubs fan. Raised in rural Illinois, my father-in-law followed the Cubs first in the newspaper and on the radio and later on television. When he had his own family, each year they made a trip to the big city to see a Cubs’ game. I bought him one of those page-a-day calendars when he was in the hospital and I wrote the time of each day’s Cubs’ game on it. We just got a Cubs’ World Series flag for his grave.

So, it is no surprise that my daughter is a Cubs fan. She follows them from her home in California. This year, she went to more Cubs’ games than the average Chicago-based fan. As a girl, she remembers Grandpa watching games and says she was raised to believe the Cubs would never win. They were “loveable losers.”

During the ninth inning of Game 7, she booked a flight to Chicago for the hometown celebration. Friday, she went downtown with friends to see the parade. She watched as the Chicago River was dyed Cubby Blue. Later, they made their way to Wrigleyville to party with other fans. It was a special day for her and Grandpa was on her mind. She wore his class ring on a chain around her neck so he would be with her to celebrate the World Champion Chicago Cubs.

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Saving Your Own Story – Step 6

In recent posts, I’ve written that creating lists, identifying a theme, preparing timelines and doing research are good steps toward creating your own personal history. In my last post, I provided a list of questions to ask to help explore your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

As you go through the questions, you may struggle with those that bring to mind difficult times. What about those uncomfortable parts of your story? How will you feel sharing those? What will people think?

Well, everyone I’ve ever talked to has experienced difficult times or at least ups and downs in life. Do you want to share yours? Maybe. Maybe not.

The decision belongs to the person whose story you are telling, so if even if you’re working on someone else’s story, encourage them to consider these suggestions. If it’s your life, it’s your call. Either way, it’s not a decision to be made hastily, or even early in the process.

AnxietyBegin by writing everything. Pour out your experiences. Get everything on paper. Document what happened. At this point, you don’t have to worry about what others will think. You’re not sharing anything at this point. Don’t worry about telling all sides of the story. This is your story and your experience is your truth.

When you are finished with that section, let it set for a while; maybe a week or two. Move on to another part of your story. When you come back, you can review what you wrote with fresh eyes. You can decide then. Maybe you want to leave it in. Maybe you want to take it out. Maybe you’ll tweak it a little. If you still can’t decide, move on again and revisit that part again later.

Even if you decide to leave your struggles out, you may come away with a fresh perspective. Some experiences are better understood through the filter of time or in the context of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ll develop a better appreciation of the struggles and accomplishments that have made you who you are. Maybe you’ll just be grateful you survived.

Hopefully, though, you will decide to share your struggles. If you do, the people who read your story will hear what you learned and what you survived. Your story will demonstrate to others that struggle is a part of life and there can be light on the other side of dark times.

In my next post, I’ll share suggestions for possible formats for your story.


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Saving Your Story – Step 5


QuestionsIn recent posts, I wrote that creating lists, identifying a theme, preparing timelines and doing research are good steps toward creating your own personal history. Next, I was going to share information about picking out a format for your story.

Instead, I decided to share a list of important questions to think about for your story first. If you are working on someone else’s story, using these questions during an interview would be sure to elicit interesting and vital information to telling the story.

  • What have been the key turning points in your life? In what way?
  • Who are the people in your life who have helped make you who you are and in what way? Think about parents, mentors, teachers, even bullies.
  • What have been your greatest accomplishments and why? What did you do to achieve them?
  • What have been the great disappointments in your life? How did you deal with them?
  • What would you do differently if you had the chance? Why?
  • What lessons have you learned in life?
  • What values do you want to share?
  • What do you want your family to know about your life?

Be sure to dig deep when answering these questions. Gently push for more information, either from yourself or from your subject. Include thoughts like ‘How did that make you feel?’ or ‘Then what?’

These questions will draw information much more fulfilling than questions such as ‘Where were you born?’ Those questions are important, too. They’re just unlikely to be the heart of your story. Incorporating both will create a multi-faceted life story, doing justice to your subject.

Next time, I’m going to talk about how to address hard times or difficult questions. SPOILER ALERT: I’m not going suggest ignoring them. Stay tuned!

Remember, if at any point in the process you get stuck or overwhelmed, you can always turn to a professional for assistance or to take over the whole project. For a list of personal historians in your area, visit the website of the Association of Personal Historians at

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Saving Your Story – Step 4

In recent posts, I wrote about how creating lists, identifying a theme and preparing timelines were good steps toward creating your own personal history. The next step should be research.

You may want to start by reviewing family photo albums. We document important events with photos. Photo albums can provide a good start for a timeline of your life.

JournalsAre you a journal keeper or did you write in your diary as a kid? Do you still have a stack of love letters from your courtship or a long distance relationships? Re-reading these will bring back all sorts of memories and feelings to explore.

Interview family members and friends to learn what they remember. If someone else is the subject, you may want to schedule several interviews. Prepare a list of questions in advance, but be open to following unexpected threads. And always record interviews. You won’t even need special equipment. There are inexpensive recording apps for smart phones.

Senior coupleIf you have prepared a timeline, be sure to add historical context to it. This way you can consider the impact of important events in your (or your subject’s) life. How were you affected by World War II or the Cold War? Did you have drills where you went into bomb shelters? How did you feel after September 11, 2001? Did your life change?

The internet and your local librarian are your friends. Can’t remember the exact year something happened? Maybe you need to check how to spell the name of the town where you were stationed in the war. Research can be especially worthwhile when you’re working on someone else’s story and they’ve forgotten some details. It can also give you more interview questions.

The next step is choosing a format to tell your story. Stay tuned!
And remember, if at any point in the process you get stuck or overwhelmed, you can turn to a professional. For a list of personal historians in your area, visit the website of the Association of Personal Historians at


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Sharing Your Own Story – Step 3

In recent posts, I wrote about how creating lists and identifying a theme were good steps toward creating your own personal history. A next step should be preparing a timeline.

timelineStart at the beginning of whatever time period you are documenting. Add key events from the lists you prepared. Doing this will help you identify missing information. Are there whole decades that are blank? Are there periods that are so crowded you can’t imagine how so much could have happened in a short time? What does this tell you?

Sometimes, once the information is laid out on the timeline, themes and topics you hadn’t thought of pop out. Are they worth exploring?

Be sure to use a method for your timeline that enables you to add information between other entries. I’ve used Excel before and now I use Aeon Timeline, an inexpensive software program designed especially for timelines. A word processor or paper and pencil would work, too. Just be sure to leave lots of room for additions. Do what’s comfortable for you.

The next step is Research. Stay tuned!

Remember, if at any point in the process you get stuck or overwhelmed, you can turn to a professional. For a list of personal historians in your area, visit the website of the Association of Personal Historians at


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Sharing Your Own Story – Step 2

I wrote earlier about how creating lists is a good way to start saving your story. The next step is to consider a theme. How will you tell your story or the story of your loved one?

  • Do you want to tell in it chronological order?Theme
  • Maybe you want to collect the top ten stories you want to save.
  • You could focus on a specific period of time, such as a specific event, a “day in the life” or a decade.
  • You might want to share an important experience such as military service, parenthood or infertility.
  • Perhaps you want to document a meaningful accomplishment such as overcoming an obstacle, achieving a goal or starting a business.
  • Some people choose to focus on a relationship such as marriage, a special friend or mentor/mentee.
  • Do you want to preserve the story of your career or business?
  • You might share your lifelong hobby of flying, cooking, or whatever you love.
  • Sometimes, people recognize an overall theme to their life such as a love of travel, service to others or being lucky.

Many people consider the project of sharing a life as overwhelming. Maybe following one of these suggestions would be more approachable. The important thing is to start somewhere, anywhere. Whether it’s your own life or someone else’s, don’t wait to preserve those stories for friends, loved ones and future generations. In my next blog, I’ll share different formats to preserve those stories.

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The Spirit Still Lives

I remember Grammy. Grammy was my great-grandmother. In our family, she’s the one who took care of us.  She cooked, she cleaned, she made our lunch and she was there every day when we came home from school.

As a child, I lived with my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and my aunt, who was the same age I was. My mother and my grandmother both worked. It took the two of them to put a roof over heads and food on the table, because back then, women didn’t make much money.

Grammy was born in 1900, which I thought was pretty neat. She had curly gray hair from the time I remember her. Of course, that might have been from the pincurls she always seemed to have in her hair. Unless she was going out, her normal attire was a housecoat with maybe a cardigan sweater in the winter.. She had several and they had to have pockets so she could pick up out-of-place items as she went. There were always a couple safety pins pinned to the front placket. In a day before pantyhose, she wore her stockings rolled down to her ankles most of the time to protect them from runs.

GrammyShe hated to have her picture taken, as you can clearly see in this picture. It is the only picture I could find of the Grammy I remember. She’s the one on the left! In this era of digital pictures, this one would have been deleted.

Grammy catered to my aunt and me. She was the one who hugged us when we fell and nursed us when we were sick. My mother and grandmother used to get upset when she would make a couple different meals because one of us didn’t like what was on the main menu. She used her social security checks to buy special gifts for us.

I hear that when she was young, Grammy was quite a rebel! She was a flapper, she smoked and drank and she didn’t marry until the ripe old age of 22. The Grammy I knew was, well, grandmotherly. I always did have a hard time reconciling those different images.

When Grammy got sick, she didn’t tell anyone for a long time. She didn’t want to bother anyone, she was needed at home and there wasn’t much money. By the time she did get medical attention, her cancer was well advanced. She died within six months.

Grammy was one of eight children. When she died, relatives came from far away. Everyone loved “Aunt Alice”.

My mother still remembers Grammy. My aunt and I do, too. That’s it. When we’re gone, no one else will remember her. No one else will be able to tell her stories. No one will recognize her in old photographs.

The spirit lives as long as someone who lives, remembers you. – Navaho saying


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Saving Your Own Story – Step 1

Have you ever thought about trying to tell your own story? Or that of a loved one? Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some tips to help you get started.

Lists. The first step is to make lists. Why?

Lists help you organize your life story. Don’t worry about the sequence or even the contents of your lists. Just brainstorm. You can edit down the road, way down the road. Just get your thoughts down on paper, or in the computer.

ListsLists will help you get your facts and dates straight. When did we move into the new house? Oh, I was in sixth grade and I had Mrs. McNamara for my teacher. Who was there when we moved? Mary, Jane, and Sue? No, not Sue. She wasn’t born yet.

Lists will help resurrect old memories. Oh, yeah, I remember in Mrs. McNamara’s class when we . . .

Making lists may help you identify a theme or focus for your project. Perhaps as you make a list of all the schools you went to, you’ll realize that you were often the new kid in school. Maybe that’s why you like to usher at church. And you’re the first one in the neighborhood to greet newcomers. People say for you, there are no strangers, just friends you haven’t met yet.

Lists can be key in preparing a timeline for your experiences. What kind of lists will you want to make? Here are a few ideas: Stories you want to tell

  • Stories you grew up hearing
  • Family members, Friends,   Schools
  • Romantic relationships
  • Jobs, Places you lived
  • Important events
  • Travels, Pets,   Hobbies,   Cars
  • and more

So, if you’ve ever thought about telling your stories or helping someone else tell theirs, start with lists. They will motivate you to keep going. And if you get stuck, remember you can always engage the help of a professional personal historian.

A personal historian can help you from the beginning of your journey or pick it up when your story is coming along but you need assistance. Or if you have stories written but need help putting them together. Or maybe you need someone to edit what you’ve done. Or to assemble your story into a keepsake book.

However you decide to proceed, be sure to capture those treasured stories while you can. There is a Native American proverb: the spirit lives as long as someone who lives, remembers you. How long do you want your loved ones to be remembered?


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Back to School

The children are heading back to school in my area. I see them waiting at the bus stop. The little ones are accompanied (mostly) by mothers with coffee cups. The middle schoolers work hard to look cool, while the high schoolers who are too young to drive work hard to look bored.

Back to school time is bittersweet to me. Even though I’m long removed from school or even sending my kids off to school, I still think of September as the beginning of the new year. January 1 is just an excuse for a good party and a signal we need new calendars. Back to school also signals a poignant (to me) end, the end of summer.

Back to SchoolWe moved a lot when I was young. Most moves were to nearby towns, just far enough for a school change and too far to maintain a childhood friendship. Each year we started over. Going back to school was an opportunity to meet the kids at my new school. When I was young, I thought it was exciting making new friends. As I grew older, I longed to be with the friends at my old school.

Being the new kid was an advantage. Everyone wanted to get to know me. Eventually, I’d settle in to a comfortable of group friends. The hard part was leaving those friends at the end of each year.

I can still remember so many experiences from my school years, some as seemingly ordinary as the dress I wore my first day of first grade. I loved that dress. It was a smock dress of a fabric that looked like a gray chalkboard covered with white writing. It had a portrait collar with a big red bow at the neck. I wore my new red and white saddle shoes that day. Actually, I think in first grade those shoes were my only school shoes and I wore them with everything.

When I attended the same high school for a few years, I remember those first days each fall. We moved through the hallways connecting with the friends we hadn’t seen during the summer. Entering each classroom, we scanned for the room for old friends keeping an eye out for new boys we hadn’t met.


What are some of your back to school memories? Were they happy memories or were they struggles?


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This post is a salute to the 20th anniversary of the Association of Personal Historians. Today, personal historians everywhere are blogging about our own lives when we were twenty. For more stories from the “Me@20” series, visit my colleagues Kathleen Shaputis and Sarah White and visit the APH Me@20 blog.


The year I turned twenty, I dropped out of college. It was intended to be a short term break, designed to earn funds to help pay for college tuition.  Money for my education was an ongoing source of friction between my mother and my stepfather and when my mother suggested I leave school, I willingly agreed.

In a short time, I found a job. Following in my mother’s footsteps, I began work as a rental agent at Avis Rent A Car at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. After a short time, I became quite good at my job and I enjoyed the sense of mastery. This was 1976, and we were the only agency using computers at the time. When I visited world headquarters, I learned the “Wizard” filled a room larger than a gymnasium. I could never have dreamed that one day the computer on my desk would be more powerful than the mighty Avis “Wizard”.

me_at_20Many of the other agents were my age and, often, we went out as a group after our evening shift. The agents I worked with were almost exclusively women, but the airport was filled with available young men. I dated baggage handlers, ticket agents, police officers, and customers. Since we didn’t start our evening until 11:30 or so, we closed several late night venues and, if we ended with breakfast, I often met my stepfather on my way into the house as he was leaving for work.

I enjoyed my new life. For the first time ever, I had enough money to do what I wanted. Borrowing the family car had always been an ordeal, but I needed a car to get to work. Buying my own gave me a sense of freedom I had never before enjoyed.

When I returned to campus to visit, I was overwhelmed by the difference between my life there and my new life at home. With my paycheck and my car, I controlled my life. I always enjoyed schoolwork, but the prospect of being poor again was unappealing. I also had no clear educational goal. When it came time to register for the next semester, I decided not to go back. At least yet, I told myself.

1976 was the bi-centennial. Maybe my only regret that summer was I worked the evening of July 4. It was a Sunday and I worked Sundays. I was a union member and had enough seniority to get the holiday off, but the legal holiday was Monday. I missed all the great celebrations. I perked up a little when another worker came into the terminal with a lit sparkler, but that was the extent of my celebration of our country’s 200th birthday!

In August, I started dating my husband. After that, it was assured I would not return to college, at least for a long time. Having been voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school, not finishing college nagged at me. Over the years, I took classes at the community college, but it wasn’t until my own children were in college that I seriously went back. Even though I had succeeded professionally, I wanted to graduate from college. In 2008, I did!

What were YOU like at 20? Create your own Me@20 blog post today or share the Me@20 questionnaire in your social networks. #APH20

  1. Where I lived @20:
  2. What I did @20:
  3. What I dreamt @20:
  4. My favorite song @20:
  5. What I wore @20:
  6. Who I loved @20:
  7. What made headlines when I was @20:

 About Me@20 Day:

Me@20 Day celebrates personal history and the 20th anniversary of the Personal Historians on May 20, 2015. APH supports its members in recording, preserving, and sharing life stories of people, families, communities, and organizations around the world.



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