| Written by Ronnie |
'Framework' probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of memory keeping. However, having an overall framework - or system - is undeniably important. It’s the big picture. The overall vision that helps determine how all the individual parts come together.
If you are newish to memory keeping and you're feeling overwhelmed or confused about where to start, consider spending some time thinking about what you want your overall framework to look like. In other words - what do you want to end up with? Once you are clear on this, then starting becomes a lot easier.
It took me quite a long time to work out my very first memory keeping system. Actually, it took me a long time to work out I needed a system. But by the time Pete came along and I was drowning under a multitude of memorabilia and photos, it became pretty clear to me I needed some sort of framework – especially if we were going to keep having more children (as this would only mean more photos and more memorabilia, and I knew I would be wanting to do something consistent for each child). I remember mulling over it for ages. I kept a notebook with me for over a month, writing down all my thoughts and ideas. When I eventually worked out what I believed to be a reasonable ‘blueprint,’, I typed it up and saved it in Evernote as a way of ‘sealing the deal’ (and so that I could reference it on the go).
That was five years ago. Since then, my framework has evolved as I've discovered new products and developed new ideas. Two milestones are worth noting. The first took place when I discovered Project Life through Elise Blaha Cripe's blog. Learning about Project Life opened up my eyes to the world of pocket page scrapbooking, which eventually led me to start creating my own life albums. The second milestone took place when I discovered Artifact Uprising and their soft cover photo books. Immediately, I could see the potential of creating beautiful story books for us - books that would allow me to focus on a particular theme or occasion that was particularly meaningful for our family and that could showcase larger bodies of text.
Today I'm sharing with you the first part of my framework, which relates to the memory keeping that I do for our family. In subsequent posts, I will write about the memory keeping that I do for our children, for us as a couple, and for myself.
a) Documenting our family rituals
My idea for documenting our family rituals came upon me about two years ago when Bear was just a newborn. I woke up one day and was suddenly struck by how much I'd forgotten about our daily and weekly rituals as a family before we moved to our present home. What did our week look like back in Angus’ first year when we lived on campus at college? What did our days look like when Pete was first born and I was struggling to cope with two children? What did the mornings look like? What did the afternoons look like? And how on earth did we ever get through dinnertime, bath time and bedtime after Jamie was born and we had three little boys under two and a half? The things I never even thought were worth documenting suddenly became things that I wanted to remember.
In many ways, these rituals are more meaningful and precious to me than all the 'momentous' events and occasions that take place every year because, to me, these family rituals are what define us as a family. However, they are less 'tangible' than events, which means they end up flying under the radar and falling by the wayside when it comes to memory keeping.
In an effort to preserve these rituals of ours, I set about creating my first family rituals story book back almost two years ago. With Rick's help, I wrote down our daily rituals and our weekly rituals with as much detail as I could muster. I selected my favourite photos from that particular season (Autumn 2013), and I combined my words and imagery into a magazine-style story book using Adobe InDesign. It was a real labour of love, but after months of hard work, I finished the project and ended up with a beautiful book - printed by Artifact Uprising and titled Our Story Right Now - that perfectly captures our everyday family life looked like at that point in time, based on the things that we did day after day and week after week.
Whilst my original plan was to create a rituals story book every season, I've ended up making these twice a year instead - one in Autumn and one in Spring. You can read more about this story book concept here.
b) Documenting our weekly events and everyday moments
As I've written about in the past, our family's life albums remain the staple of my memory keeping endeavours. Our family's life albums cover every single aspect of our family: important milestones, big events (e.g. birthdays, holidays), the 'smaller' events (e.g. lunch at a cafe, a day at the beach, dinner with the grandparents, etc.), candid portraits, little moments, corners of our house, etc. In other words, our family life albums are the reference point for everything – this is why I see them as the building blocks for my memory-keeping. For sure, I also like creating photo books, story books, journals, and scrapbooks: these are projects that allow me to ‘zoom in’ and focus on a particular story or a particular period in time. However, at the end of the day, it’s our family’s life albums that tie everything together.
Every week, I spend about two hours at most on our family's life album. I do this every week of the year, and at the end of the year, I have a complete life album filled with memories for our family. (Whilst Our Story Right Now books capture what our family rituals look like at a particular point in time. Our family's life albums preserve the specifics of what actually takes place from week to week.)
You can read more about our life albums here.
c) Documenting December
Inspired by Ali Edwards, I started this project at the end of 2013 because I wanted to document and showcase the month of December in greater detail and with greater 'oomph.' December is always such a crazy, hectic month for us (as I'm sure it is for most families) that the entire month just becomes a blur. I wanted something more tangible to remember the month by. A keepsake that not only celebrated all the important milestones and events like preschool concerts, the last day of school, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's eve, but also all the tiny, ordinary moments in between. Together, Rick and I both pitched in to write up a detailed narrative of each day in December. By the end of the month, we had pages and pages of text. I selected my favourite photos from the month, making sure that there was at least one for each of the thirty-one days, and created a story book in Adobe InDesign using both our words and the images that I'd chosen. I printed a soft cover book through Artifact Uprising and I was so happy with it that I decided to do it again last year and I fully intend to keep doing this every year from hereon.
You can read more about my first Remember December story book here.
d) Documenting our family holidays
Every year in July, Rick takes about three weeks off work and we get to spend precious family time together. However, the three weeks always fly by and often in the past I would get to the end of our time off and not be able to remember the specifics of what we actually did. Inevitably, this would make me feel rather down, thus exacerbating my post-holiday blues. Two years ago, I decided to do something about this. Rather than just taking photos whenever I felt inclined to, I made a point of capturing at least a few frames each day and at the end of the day, I sat down to write up what we had done. Even if we had simply stayed at home on a particular day, I would record the things that we did and the conversations that we had. When I didn't feel up to writing, Rick stepped in for me, and at the end of our time off, we ended up with a decent 'holiday log'.
Again, I created a story book using our words and my favourite photos from our holiday and printed a soft cover book through Artifact Uprising. There was so much content that we ended up with two separate volumes, but I was okay with that because I didn't want to skimp on preserving the story of our most precious time of the year. In July last year, we again recorded every day of our winter holiday with the same textual detail and we plan to do it this year and every year going forward. I can't wait to have a library full of these books to read back on when I'm old.
You can see more photos from my first winter holiday story book here.
e) Documenting their brotherhood
Whilst I do separate memory keeping for each of our four boys, last year I created a story book that celebrated their brotherhood. I used the photos from my Brotherhood portrait series along with the text that I wrote to go with each portrait. I combined these into a landscape soft cover book, and printed it through Artifact Uprising. The result was a stunning coffee table style book that was both meaningful and beautiful to flip through. Since I already have a template set up for this story book, it would be easy for me to create a book like this every year - a book which I feel tells a heartfelt story of the bond amongst the four boys....
You can read more about this story book here.
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In addition to the above, I also plan to print a hard-bound photo book for our family filled with my most favourite photos from each year. As yet, I have not quite decided which printer to go with, but I'll share my thoughts in this space once I've done a bit more research.
I truly hope that this post has been of some help or inspiration for building your own memory keeping framework. I will write more about this down the track, but my big tip would be to not rush into anything. Take time to consider your budget, your stage of life, your other commitments, what you can see yourself doing on an on-going basis, and what stories you want to read back on ten years from now.
If you have any questions or thoughts to share, I'd love to hear from you.
(This post is part of our new series that's all about getting organised with memory keeping.)