Saturday, February 27, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Overcoming Button Paralysis

Friday was turning out to be a frustrating day. 

First, my physical therapy appointment was changed. So I missed Taralyn's Watch Party for "Finding Your Cousins on IG" at RootsTech, the world's largest celebration of family.

I joined the Twitter Party late. And realized once again that Twitter is a medium that challenges me. 

I went to Desktop Diner, only to press the wrong button when I was switching rooms to exit the entire diner. I couldn't figure out how to get back in until all the breakout rooms were closed and there were just a few folks left in the main room. But, silver lining here, my conversation with Richard Bernard in the journal breakout room (chosen because I was looking for a taste of chocolate to start my menu) resulted in an email from him sharing two apps that he recommended. Thanks, Richard, for the prompt reply! 

And so you might understand that it was with a bit of trepidation that I decided to try another watch party. With so much to choose from, why did I keep trying these events? Because they bring a bit more connection to this virtual conference. I like knowing that I can interact with the presenter and other attendees in real time. And while I had no idea who Sarah Day was, I did "know" Camille Meacham from previous ConnectionsExperience events. 

Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the button for this session to find a very young Sarah Day enthusiastically encouraging us to "Press the Button! Nothing Terrible Will Happen"  It was a rapid-fire walk though FamilySearch and Ancestry with quick explorations of buttons. Here's the note I posted on our congregation's FB page:

"Do you have 'Press the button' fear? Sarah says, 'Do it anyway and make some awesome discoveries.' She walks us through the buttons on Family Search and Ancestry. I'm looking forward to trying out some new-to-me buttons."

And so before going to bed last night, I opened FamilySearch and pressed some new-to-me buttons. And here are my favorite discoveries:

  • You can follow people on FamilySearch! (I've been using Recents to find people again quickly.) Now I can just follow them.
  • Clicking on the Descendancy View lets you see more than just parents and grandparents. It's the best way to see how cousins, aunts, and uncles fit into your family tree. 
  • When you're in Timeline (one of my favorite tools), you can click on Map and then Show Route to see the movement of ancestors.

I still need to explore Ancestry. I'm not familiar with it, but I won't be afraid to press buttons when I visit. With a little help from Sarah, my frustrating Friday turned into fun Friday. Who knew someone so young could guide me from button paralysis to pressing buttons with glee? 

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

SOL: Anticipating RootsTech Connect

 It's hard to believe that just one year ago I was preparing to attend my first RootsTech Connect conference. And today I'm gearing up to attend a virtual RootsTech conference. My interest in family history (and the fact that my son and his family had recently moved to Salt Lake City - so no hotel costs!) propelled me to attend last year's conference. Little did I know at the time, that this trip would be my last trip for more than a year.

One of the things I'll miss most about this year's conference will be the casual conversations that I engaged in with other attendees. I wrote about some of those encounters in this March Slice of Life, A Fortuitous Conversation. I won't miss the lines that snake down the hall for the restroom, the challenge of finding the right room in a huge convention center, or the long lines to purchase food. But the best part about a virtual conference is that I won't have to decide which session to attend when three sessions I want are offered at the same time! All sessions are available throughout the conference and will be rebroadcast and available on demand after the conference. 

Please consider this your personal invitation to participate in RootsTech 2021, February 25 - 27. For the first time ever, the world’s largest family celebration event will be entirely virtual and completely free. Don’t think of this as a genealogy conference because it is so much more than that. Get ready to celebrate and connect with family at this worldwide gathering. Here's the link so you can sign up now!

So why do I love this conference so much? I'm not an avid genealogist (yet), but I am interested in journals and stories and photos. And this conference has many sessions (from the more than 600 offered) to feed this personal interest. Here are a few from my "want to attend" list:

How to Do a Digital Journal


Write Away: Why Journaling Matters

Your Family History Starts Today – Journaling in the Digital Age


Heidi Swapp : Photos Are Doorways

Managing Scanned and Digital Photos

Restoring Your Family Photos



Ali Edwards: Value Your Story

Bradley Pierson: Family Stories

Brian Corrales: Honoring Ancestors through Memories

Capture Family Stories with Oral History

Celebrating Milestone Moments

Creative Storytelling Techniques Borrowed from Photography

Family Memories

Memories Connect Us

Preserve, Contribute, and Share Your Story

Save Your Precious Family Story

Sensitive Subjects: Writing About the Hard Stuff

Sharing Family Stories: A Powerful Way to Build Connections

Strengthening Families Through Generational Stories

The Basics of Telling Your Family Stories

The Healing Power of Storytelling – Even Difficult Stories

Writing Your Ancestor's Story

Why Family Historians Need to Tell Family Stories


21st Century Tools for Connecting with Family

5 Reasons Mobile Apps are Essential to your Family History Research

Discovering Distant Cousins Finding Your Cousins on IG

Fix photos and documents w/1-click and easy controls – 9 min. class

How to digitize home archives?

Laughter & Love: Using Virtual Reunions to Reconnect Your Family

Power of the Post: Making Connections through Social Media

Stories and Photos: FamilySearch Memories App

Using Cloud Photo Apps to Easily Organize Your Best Family Memories


I'm hoping that some of you will join me for this celebration of family, RootsTech Connect 2021, February 25-27. Go ahead and register because even if you can't attend this week, sessions will be available on demand after the conference.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Sharing Our Stories & Poetry Friday: Writing Fast about An Abundance of Berries

"Just write. Fast." But what do I write about? Elsie mentioned that there might be a poem hiding in the pics I posted from a walk this week. And here's the fast version of that poem. Thanks, Ruth, for this invitation to write fast.

An Abundance of Berries

 Red berries call to me as I drive down the hill

and I know that I'll be back,

phone in hand to capture 

the berries strutting their stuff.

A careful trek up the hill reveals

tiny white flowers beside a remnant 

of weekend snow promising that spring is coming. 

Bountiful red berries sparkle against

waxy green leaves and patches of snow.

Velvety green ferns wave 

from drab tree trunks and a dreary winter landscape.

And blue sky peeks through cottony clouds

and the sun shines down upon us.

I take a deep breath and inhale gladness.

- Ramona Behnke 

I have debated over whether to include this paragraph of prose that I wrote before composing my poem. But in the interest of sharing my complete process, here it is:

On Tuesday, I noticed an abundance of red berries on a bush as I drove down the hill on an infrequent outing, this time to physical therapy.  I made note that I wanted to walk there and snap some pics of those berries. And so I did. Enough of the snow had melted that it was possible to walk mostly on wet pavement. I walked very carefully when I had to tread on snowy patches, no need to extend my current PT sessions! But when I got there, I was rewarded. And on the way up the hill, there were tiny white flowers blooming beside the snow and then the green ferns on the tree trunk, and blue sky peeking through the clouds and gladness for this world filled my heart.

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

 for this week's roundup of poetic goodness.
Thanks, Ruth, for hosting this week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Slice of Life: Pandemic Skills

Some folks have used this time during the pandemic to study a language, learn to play a musical instrument, bake sourdough bread, or reorganize their homes. I have spent hours with my daughter sorting photos to select ones we want to digitize, ones to trash (yes, I've actually thrown hundreds of photos away), and the ones I want to keep (but don't feel the need to digitize). That's a lot of decision making for someone who is indecisive. But thanks to my daughter, we are almost finished with this process. We really thought we were finished two weeks ago. But then I discovered three more boxes of photos! We've set a goal to ship the final box off to be digitized by the end of February. 

But my favorite newly acquired skill (during the pandemic) is taking photos during Facetime calls. I only do it with the grands, but it's my favorite way to relive our quick conversations. 

Here's our latest call with Ruthie and Teddy: 

Grandma usually gets a big smile of recognition . . .

which gets even bigger when Grandpa shows up.

You have to be quick if you want to capture speedy Teddy on camera.

Even Ruthie wonders, "Now, where is he going in such a hurry?"

It's time for Ruthie to show us her favorite trick (with a little help from Dad)!

And then, it's story time. Tonight Ruthie reads her favorite book to Grandma and Grandpa.

Here's the lion's nose!

And here's the lion's tail!

Night, night!

That's all folks . . . end of call! And now you know why I look forward to these FT calls and why I love snapping pics while we chat.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Writing Love

Ruth posed this question for us this week: "What do you love about writing?"

And the first thing that popped into my head was, "I love the feeling when I finish writing." It's a bit like exercising for me, I like the way I feel when I finish my walk or complete my move and exercise rings.

Even after all these years of blogging, the best part for me is when I hit post. Then I allow myself to do the fun stuff which is read what others have written. Sometimes I do that before I post (especially if I'm struggling to crank out a post), but frequently I save it as the dangling carrot that motivates me to write. 

So what is my motivation to write? It's connection and community. I love the way that I feel connected to my writer friends as we share our lives by crafting these posts. My community of writer friends matter to me. It's a joy that I've met some of you in person, but it's not necessary. The things that we share connect us to one another and that's what motivates me to put words on the page. 

I'm not one of those people who has filled years of notebooks. But I am so grateful for the years of writing that I have captured on my blog. Without a community of writers, I fear that I my writing life would dwindle away, so thank you for being here for me!

That said, I have two things on my heart today (snow and books):

The softness of snow 

sprinkles a much needed 

cozy blanket over 

difficult days and times. 

I've indulged in my favorite kind of snow day, stayed in my pjs all day, drank hot chocolate, and finished my latest book club read. Now because my next book club read has yet to arrive on my library hold shelf, I get to choose between these three books: Everthing Sad is Untrue, A Wish in the Dark, or Blackbird Girls. I welcome your recommendations.

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Spiritual Journey First Thursday & Sharing Our Stories: Take Heart

Fran at Lit Bits and Pieces is hosting our 
"Take Heart" gathering for February.

When Fran sent out our theme for February, I have to admit that I was a bit puzzled. I googled the phrase "take heart" and the first thing that popped up was the song "Take Heart" by Matthew West. Give it a listen.

So many words from this song spoke to my heart. And as I thought about this new-to-me phrase, "take heart," I knew that one way to take heart in my life was to take comfort. Comfort is my OLW for 2020. And then I recalled a quote from a podcast I listened to recently that spoke comfort to my heart and that I entered into my devotional journal: 

"I hope you will take time to sit for a few quiet moments and let the Savior's spirit warm you and reassure you.  . . .  Let that moment be one of rest and refreshing and reassurance and renewal."

Those words from D. Todd Christofferson's 2015 Christmas address  "Be At Peace" remind me to spend some of my devotional time just sitting in order to feel the warmth and reassurance of the Savior's spirit. 

In this same address, there is a reference to a radio interview with Desmond Tutu:

"During the interview the host asked a perceptive, inspired question of Bishop Tutu: 'Have you found that your relationship to God has changed as you’ve grown older?'

Bishop Tutu paused and then said, 'Yes. I am learning to shut up more in the presence of God.'"

As I'm striving to improve my devotional time, I'm trying to remember "to shut up more in the presence of God." 

And then last night, I received Fran's note that her post was available. And in reading her post, I discovered the origin of her phrase "take heart" in these words from the book of John,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

Those bolded words, "take heart" are rendered "be of good cheer" in my King James version of the Bible. But I like this new-to-me phrase, "take heart." And so in the margins of my Bible, I've added the words "Take heart, SJT Feb. 2021." 

As we continue to face difficult days, may we take heart and be of good cheer as we seek His peace. 

To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Slice of Life: Photo Stories

I've been busy organizing the pictures that my sister-in-law, Kathy, has sent me. I decided to organize them by family names: Scifres, Duff, Martin, and Aaron. I just created a new family Facebook group for the descendants of my great-great-grandparents, George Washington Aaron and Mary Elizabeth Harrison. I look forward to sharing photos and stories with my many cousins. 

As I organize the pictures, I think about where the photos were taken. Here are a few of the recent ones that have piqued my interest and made me think about locations.

I love this pic of my grandmother, Ella Martin Duff, and her sister, Rebecca Lillian Martin Sampson. When I shared it with my sister Kay, we tried to figure out whose house this was. We knew it wasn't ours since we did not have roses in front of a window. So we decided it was either Granny's house or Aunt Becky's house. I'm on the lookout for other pics taken in Granny's front yard to see if there are roses in front of the window. If it's Granny's house, the hedge would be between her house and the England's house. If it's Aunt Becky's house, the hedge would be between her house and Granny's house. Aunt Becky lived next door to Granny. We lived across the street and down two houses. I sure wish I could ask Dad or Karl about this. They would be sure to know which house had a hedge because they probably trimmed it.

When we first saw this black and white picture, we thought it was the same house, but then we realized the trellis isn't in front of a window and the window is in a different place. This one was developed in August, 1956. I love it when photos have the date on them. 

Front row: Karl Ellis Scifres, Ramona Ella Scifres, and unidentified little girl 

Second row: Ella Martin Duff, Martha Kay Scifres, Lillian Estell Duff Scifres, Ruby Dee Duff Mills, Bill Mills, Billy Wayne Mills (Where was Kenny Joe? Helping Uncle Jim take the picture?)

Back row: Natalie Oneta Duff Maze



When I looked at this third photo and saw the wagon wheel in the front yard, I knew immediately that this was Aunt Nan and Uncle Jim's house in Tulsa. Funny how little details like that stick in one's memory from 50+ years ago. This photo had names on the back and is also dated August 1956. Rose Ann, Shirley, and Mona are William Woodrow (Ella Martin's youngest brother) and Maxine Martin's girls. And when I looked at this picture, I realized that perhaps the unknown little girl between Aunt Ruby Dee and Uncle Bill in the previous picture might be one of Uncle Woodrow and Aunt Maxine's girls. Perhaps we were all there at the same time.

It's amazing to see what I can recall as I look at old pictures. And the satisfaction I felt when I recognized the wagon wheel from Aunt Nan and Uncle Jim's yard still makes me smile! Maybe my stroll down memory lane will send you looking at old photos. I hope so! There's no time like the present to document the people and the memories.  

   It’s Slice of Life Tuesday! You can read more slices at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sharing Our Stories: Writing Space

What kinds of topics take space in your writing? Ruth answered this with such certainty. It took me awhile, but as I looked back over the past year, I found these significant topics taking space on the page and in my heart.

  • books (and reading and libraries and bookstores and book clubs)
  • family stories & photos - 2020 was the year that I challenged myself to write #52stories.
  • grandchildren - A subset of family stories,  but they deserve a space of their own!
  • seasonal splendor - Being outside and snapping pictures feeds my soul.
  • connections - I love the way that writing connects me to my writing friends. It's been an especially important source of support during the pandemic. I will be forever grateful for writing friends who nurture my writing life.
    To savor the magic of story, link your post at Sharing Our Stories.