If you follow me on social media (especially Instagram) then you may already know that I am preparing to present at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah next week. I'll be sharing much more about this conference in the coming days, but for now I thought I could give you a sneak peek into some of the ideas I'll be sharing. My goal is to help busy/distracted people realize how easy it can be to use everyday objects to create family connections, with our immediate families, our extended families and within our ancestral family tree. I've titled my presentation, "Small and Simple Things."
So, I have this friend Nancy, who has an absolutely beautiful home—not because it's big or fancy or full of designer/expensive items—but because it is full of happy memories and meaningful collections. Nancy is incredibly talented with visual arts. You always want Nancy on your committee if something needs to be advertised or decorated. Nancy has an eye for balance and beauty and can transform the drabbest of spaces into pure magic. Anyway, she is just super good at surrounding herself with cool arrangements of personal stuff, so I headed over the other day and filmed her talking to me about her sugar cubes, her pretzel jar and her cake plates.
Before you watch, please know I am NOT a professional videographer. I needed to keep my clip to about 3 minutes, so I had to do some chopping, but add some music and it's not half bad!
I love how Nancy's sugar cubes remind her of her father and how when she shared the purpose behind her pretzel jar with her friend, who was mourning the loss of her mother, she essentially gave her and other friends a specific way to honor and feel connected to someone who was loved and would be missed. Because of who you are, there's a good chance you have simple things similar to this that you do or display in your own home. Sometimes you don't even realize the WHY behind a would-be heirloom or everyday observance, until you stop and think about it. I'd love for you to leave a comment and tell me about a small and simple thing that you do or perhaps a small and simple thing that you would like to do.
Now, if it is easy to create a personal connection like this (and I believe it is), how can we then do this for family members that we don't personally know? This is one of the questions I've wanted to answer for myself. My great-grandmother Minnie McDougal is someone that I admire greatly because she gave birth to 10 sons and raised 9 of them to adulthood. As a mother of 4 sons, I would really like to know more of the details of her life. Not so much the names, dates and places, but the everyday stuff. Of course, my day to day routine couldn't be more different from Minnie's, but at the same time, I'm certain that she and I are very similar in our hopes and dreams and perhaps even in our parenting (she raised my grandfather, who raised my mother, who raised me!) Not long ago I was reading a biographical sketch of Minnie's life—some memories written down by her daughter-in-law and I found this ...
Minnie always had cookies on hand--ice box cookies, sugar cookies, spice cookies, raisin cookies, and oatmeal cookies. They were usually 4" or 5" in diameter or cut and diced in many shapes for special occasions. For Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, she began her baking at least a month or so before. She had five or six, 5 gallon honey cans with large lids which were her cookie cans. She had a can for each kind of cookie and would put them up stairs in the store room where it was cooler to keep them fresh and ready to serve.
Aha! Now that is something I can visualize and connect with. I love the holidays and certainly enjoy baking. I immediately went to Google images and typed in "honey tin" to better understand exactly what Minnie used for storing her cookies. Since that moment, I've been on a mission to find a large or small honey tin that is specifically from Wisconsin (where the McDougals lived.) I did purchase a small honey tin for the purpose of teaching my class, so that I can better illustrate HOW this small and simple thing will play out in my life ...
I am going to use a honey tin as my cookie jar. And as silly as that sounds, it makes me over-the-moon happy. I like this idea so much because it gives me a tangible way to make my connection to Minnie more visible. It helps me remember her, so that I will continue to learn about her and share what I learn with my children. I'm so enamored with this notion of small and simple things—connection points if you will that I want to discover and assign an object of some kind to as many ancestral family members as I can.
Just think, when my children meet Minnie someday, they'll be able to embrace her and say, "Hey, you're the honey tin Grandma with all those boys!"
What do you think?