About AngelaLTodd

I am queen of the helicopter parents. But there are enough of us that we are becoming a social problem. Here’s my story. Thing 1 was coming, they couldn’t stop him, it was only 24 weeks and 3 days. Someone asked: should we try to save him? Well, yes. Yes! Ten days later, a team of doctors closed the door behind us to explain brain bleeds, sepsis, meningitis. Shall we pull the plug? Well, no. No! Babydaddy laid hands on him every day, massaged him when he was ready. For the three months he was in intensive care, and the three weeks at an intermediate hospital, I would get up in the night and pump breast milk, thinking about my baby across town. Babydaddy delivered it every morning, earning the name “milkman.” It was funny. We had every therapy going for as long as possible: early intervention, the intermediate unit, private therapies. Terms multiplied: sensory processing dysfunction, sensory integration problems, orally defensive, auditory sensitivities, comprehensive developmental delay, cognitive function impairment, retinopathy of prematurity. He did occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, play therapy; we consulted with a neurologist, school psychologist, wraparound service provider, developmental specialist. He worked with an occupational therapist for a year and a half to tolerate teeth and hair brushing. Not surprisingly, parenting didn’t feel natural. I learned to read to my baby watching Phyllis, our physical therapist. Voices, commentary, labeling colors, counting… she was very good! Merging professional research skills with my genetic propensity for silliness (mom was class clown, dad’s distantly related to Lucille Ball), my mothering style came together. Eventually. But I still channel Phyllis on occasion. Thing 2 was full term. They are complete opposites; she is a sensory seeker with a wild sense of adventure and an inventive sense of fashion. Keeping them both busy and happy is an exasperating and sweet challenge. I still believe that every day can be fun and educational while reinforcing kids' boundaries. I’m on a mission to save us helicopter parents from ourselves. No more bubble wrapped kids and guilty parents. Let’s teach them coping skills. Let’s get fun.

“We don’t have family traditions…

…like we would if we were religious.”

One early client reached out to not just trace, but to establish her family’s path to the present. Some unique markers on that West Coast path came to light.

An important job of family traditions is to transport the story of your family. What is a family tradition?

You know the big ones:  Gatherings, rituals, and events that mark spiritual or cultural journeys (communion, bat mitzvah) or times of year (Kwanzaa, Easter, Solstice, Seder).

Repetition of seasonal or annual community holidays and their foods, songs, and rituals (Bastille Day, Thanksgiving, or my favorite: April Fools Day).

But a family tradition can also be daily practice that everyone can expect and count on: asking “what made you laugh today” as they come home from

Or a place. I related when this client talked about her grandmother’s west coast home. Going to grandma’s house meant:

  • anticipation
  • turning down the drive to those familiar sights, signaling the start of a warm visit
  • walking in to that smell: giant chocolate chip cookies with only three chips apiece, haha
  • roaming the house
  • feeding the birds
  • skirting sea roses to get to the beach.

Maybe Gram wasn’t on a regular schedule the way national and religious holidays are, but Grandma counts! The latest news about grandmas gives them credit for evolution itself, and says that while men hunted, “grandmothers and babies were building the foundation of our species’ success – sharing food, cooperating on more and more complex levels and developing new social relationships.”

If you would like to record all your stories and memories about grandma, I have a Family Narrative Coaching plan for that. If you’d like to hear Nana’s memories (and some surprising facts!) we can do the whole project with her.

Get started on getting the story from your mom or grandma on your own with these five FREE prompts.

#TellYourStory

#SaveYourStory

 

 

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Any kid will do: Be sure to ask youngsters what THEY remember!

Phone Pictures 1390.jpgIf you give a kid a camera, you’re going to be surprised!

I was delighted to find this gem on my camera a few summers ago.  My dad’s living room, shot from the sleeping loft.

Dad saves the Sunday comics all year — on the shelf under that coffee table, and that’s the hub around which my kids gravitate when we visit in the summer — like moths to a flame.  They remember the card games we play, the cloud shapes at the beach — really, they have a completely different set of touch points.

Likewise, when you include kids in your remembering and your storytelling, you will be thrilled by the little details they see and remember that have passed you by!  They don’t have to be your kids, either. Any kid that was there will have something great to share. Their path to the present has its own details!

My adult nephews and nieces have lots to add to family stories.  Including youngsters in remembering will teach them the importance of memory, contribution, viewpoints, and sharing.  Try it, and be amazed!  If you’d like some talking points, sign up for 5 free prompts to start talking to your elders, or telling your youngsters, on my website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Love What Is Ugly: Family stories

We giggled onscreen together when she told me about the ring her grandmother had left her. ”It is so ugly! And I so love it.”

My pink-haired tattooed client also knew her great grandmother, which is a little unusual.

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Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Indeed, we picked a path through five generations of what turns out that be a kind of matriarchy: great grandma, granny, mom, herself, and her kids.  We were interrupted oh so briefly by her own handsome son. We had tea together, and we got a little choked up together at one point.

Her grandmother was an antiques dealer, and had an eye for all things glimmering, glitzy, and gold.  She’d melted down some other jewelry pieces and designed this “ugly” ring and had it made for herself.  What a badass, we agreed. Creative self-care before it was all the rage. And recycling, too!

We passed our planned hourlong interview as the stories unfolded, and finally broke session — with another interview planned for the future — when the tea took it’s inevitable course.

If you’d like to jump on a video call and hit record as we talk through YOUR generations, reach out to me at Angela@AngelaLTodd.com, or start with a great photo and bring someone else in on the call with One Special Photo.  I’d love to hear in the comments below if you have inherited an unusual item that you love. ❤

 

Happy Galentines Day!

Happy V/Galentines Day!

In this Facebook live, I talk about Galentines Day — a new holiday on the scene.  What it is, how to celebrate it…

I share some pictures of my cousins, of my grad school “girldinner” crew, and talk about the ways that we can honor each other (and ourselves) on this new holiday.

I would love to facilitate YOUR photo-based storytelling, and have a fun and easy way to get started detailed HERE.

Three-pack purchases are now available for both the One Special Photo package (organized around a great photo of yours) and the Capturing Family Voices package (includes customized interviews aimed at your specific interests).  These make amazing gifts, and they are great, manageable, ways to begin saving YOUR family stories — inside or outside of blood lines. 🙂

PS! Did you hear my podcast interview on The Sparkle Hour about how important it is to “take control of your story” and TELL IT yourself? YOU can still listen here!

On honoring a mentor who set me on my path…

They say we die twice — once when our bodies give out, and again the last time our name is spoken aloud.

My high school English teacher was the first womakimberly-farmer-287677.jpgn I had ever heard go by the title “Ms.”  I was a high school freshman in 1979, in a small mill town in southern Maine.  Ms. Sullivan was tall, angular, smart, independent, kind of cranky, and gave no f$&ks — I loved her.

I think we all giggled about the term “Ms.” when we were arrived from Junior High.  And here I am, all these years later, remembering and writing about her.  And yes, I said her name aloud as I wrote.

Several months ago I went searching for her contact information so I could thank her for being a thought leader to me. I’ve been a marching activist for 30 years, with her to thank.  I learned that she was active in the state teachers’ union, and that she did some community service related to her love of literature. I also learned another thing.

I was too late.

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I would love to have asked her the back story about her early adoption of “Ms.”

Who do you hold in high esteem?

A mentor? Grandparent? Chill and steady Uncle Bill, who taught you to parallel park? A moms night out “colleague” who has been listening, laughing, and struggling along beside you for the last 8 years?

Want a gift of honor to commemorate a loved one and their impact on you? I have just the thing!  Gather some folks to discuss a great photo that captures your feelings.  It might be the person, the school, that old Plymouth that . Uncle Bill taught you to park.  We’ll meet online to discuss it, and I’ll add your comments to a glossy keepsake photo print. Examples and details are HERE. 

Or spend time getting to know your elders with this FREE list of 5 prompts to help the conversation flow.  It’s a great way to bond, re-bond, or hold space for someone as they remember.  If you use the questions, I’d love to know how it goes!

My grandparents’ shocking first date.

24281661_10157035223238916_2063691728_o.jpg“Once upon a time there was a farm girl — the youngest of six kids.  She was shy and thought she was ugly.  She had some very glamorous older sisters and some very rowdy older brothers. They all lived in Aroostook County, Maine.

Imagine rural Northern Maine farm country in the 1920s — all hands on deck to harvest potatoes for 6 weeks in the fall — schools closed, housewives left their homes.  Every man, woman, and child headed to the fields.

Long days were spent bent over, digging potatoes out of the earth by hand.

Generation after generation.

Paid by the barrel.

The girl did, too. For those 4 to 8 weeks, she traded her smart dresses for a black-and-red wool plaid coat, heavy pants, work boots, and gloves. Up to fourteen hours a day.  Most workers ate hearty picnic lunches in the dirt fields.  Some farms fed their workers huge hot lunches at midday.

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One day a tall dark stranger (okay, there were no strangers in the small farm town) — a tall dark older boy noticed her and asked her on a date — and she said yes!

For their first date, Percy flew her over those potato fields in a post office airplane!  According to the Smithsonian Institution web site, the US Postal Service took over air mail services from the Army in 1918. The promise of the mail drove decisions to light landing strips, push for electric beacons, and floodlight tall buildings.  If the planes couldn’t fly at night, the mail didn’t actually move any faster than by land. The airmail pilots were considered a “suicide club” and we can only imagine what Sybil might have thought of all of this!

 

PostalAirplane.jpgNobody really remembers how soon after that first date it was that they married.  They did not “live happily ever after” — nobody does!  Haha.  But they had a family of their own and a farm of their own — where Sybil fed the farmhands enormous 4-course meals at noon — and they did good works in their community. ”

This is a bedtime story I told my kids, and after its first telling, they were shocked that the story was about their own family! Thirty years ago I gave my beloved grandparents one of those “grandparent books.” They filled it out and I thanked them.  I looked it over and was delighted, then put it on a shelf.  They were both gone by the time I read the four lines about their first date, and I have so many questions!

Family history gives kids a foothold in history.  Kids see their role within a larger context, and learn the value of their actions and contributions. It humanizes the players, too, to trace the path to the present.  The gruff terse one, and the doting, perhaps nervous one.  Our kids won’t know about any of that, its importance to us, or what their elders were like as people — unless we tell them.

Pass your stories along with FREE prompts to talk about over dinner.  And consider capturing your family history.  It is SO MUCH FUN to get together to discuss a photo like the potato-picking one above! Once the conversation starts, everyone remembers more.  It’s all here:  http://bit.ly/2h3aYmX

Not Your Grandma’s Family History

Family history makes your family stronger.  But what’s IN family histories these days might not be what you’re thinking…

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Dane Deaner Photo

I’m talking to moms about family history, and uncovering with some regularity moms’ desires for their kids to know who they were before becoming parents!

Many of us are starting families in our 30s and beyond — an age at which we’ve had full lives before becoming parents. And we want our kids to know about those parts of our lives.

While talking to a mom about what to capture in her upcoming oral history, we got on to mosh pits — you know, like you do. Later, I mentioned to my kids that I’d been in a mosh pit once at a Fugazi show while in grad school, and my kids (10 and 14) knew nothing about mosh pits, early alternative rock, or Fugazi.  Why would they?

And I realized (again) that the 90s were a full generation ago, that alternative rock ain’t what it used to be, and that our kids won’t know about any of that, its importance to us, or what we are like as people — unless we tell them. That’s often the way with music history.  Much like swing, punk, and disco, that early alternative rock marked a historical moment for a very specific group of young-ish people.

I’m learning that kids aren’t the only ones who feel stronger when they know their family history.  Moms do, too!  I’ve written before about The Path to the Present, and while one path may be a century old, there’s also lot to be said about the last several decades!  It’s a lot to think about, but the most important part is to start… and you can do that tonight!

Dinnertime Family History gives you five prompts to talk for 5 nights about your generation and your parents’.  Get your free guide OVER HERE and start tonight!

I build family history projects — to memorialize and pay tribute to a loved one, to trace a path from sharecropping to the ivy leagues, to understand the family rascal — or whatever you’d like.  To learn more about Capturing Family Oral History take a lookie over here.

Path to the Present: what’s your story?

I worked in academic archives for almost 20 years, and I know how the documents of history are collected. Mostly, “those four guys over there” decide that their work is important and they put it in boxes and give it to someone.

And those documents are how we write history.

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What historical stories are YOU keeping under wraps?   Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

If I sat down with you, and you told me about your history, and we talked about what the women in your family did, and you told me about how your mom made it through domestic violence, how your family came to this country via a different route than Ellis Island, what happened when there were no heirs to carry on the family name, or what the transition from farm to city was like in your family, that story would be unique. And it should be saved.

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Each of my kids came to work with me a couple of days a week in the archives. Yes, that is a typewriter in the background…

There are lots of paths to the present.  And the only stories we can tell about our present and how we got here are the stories that “those four guys over there” decided that they wanted to save.  You can certainly find musicians, or women, or even lefties that collaborate on growing a collection of papers. But the documents of history are only collected by, and saved at, large institutions — when someone does make an effort.  Until now.

What I think is important is this: telling the stories of the real history, and what’s really happening on the ground — for two reasons. First, because it helps families feel grounded and kids feel confident to know their family narrative (stories of hardships, and the coping skills that got everyone through, are particularly strengthening). Second, because the story of history will never be thick enough.

To get started passing your family history to your own kids, I have a handy guide to get you started.  Dinnertime Family History gives you five prompts to talk your way through the school week about your generation and your parents’.  Get your free guide OVER HERE and start tonight!

If you’d like to do more, I can walk you through it, researching and sculpting the perfect interview questions, conducting the online meeting/s with up to four attendees from anywhere with online access, and ensuring that you have multiple, accessible copies of your results.  You’ll know more about your family and yourself, and you’ll have another tool in your parenting toolbox, too!  Read more about it here.  Reach out to have a conversation about Capturing Oral Family History: Angela@AngelaLTodd.com

My dad’s handwriting, and his laugh: why interviewing family matters.

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My dad’s upper-and-lower-case handwriting takes me back to long summers in Maine every time I see it.

Do your parents text you? They do? Then I was jealous of you: I imagine little notes, daily check-ins, a joke, sending them cute pictures of the kids all of the time…. Plus, no long calls, squeezing that flat cel phone between your shoulder and ear, getting your brain irradiated to greater or lesser degrees… My 14-year-old son joked that it’s like sending telegrams, morse code — or even smoke signals!

Anyway, neither of my parents have smart phones, and we don’t do any of that. I used to be jealous of you.

Then, I took a good look at this: my name, in my dad’s handwriting. Very distinctive. Every time I look at it, I remember: living with my Dad all summer — shopping lists on the fridge, notes to remind us what time the yellow school bus left for swimming lessons at the lake, things to do at work the next day (he was town manager of our wee Maine town), notes to himself about house projects he always had going — or about the businesses in development or currently underway.

I went everywhere with him: the dump, grocery store, (he taught me to jump up and click my heels in the air by practicing on a grocery cart!).  We went to the hardware store with wooden floors and to the Red Barn antique shop, where we would stock up on puzzles to get through the winter.  In winter we’d assemble puzzles and play cribbage, as he did growing up in northern Maine farm country.

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Pa’s boots.

And every summer when I visit, we spend at least ONE night sitting at the kitchen table remembering together and reminding each other: when we had a concession stand at the local stock car racing track, when we got pulled over TWICE in a borrowed Cadillac on the way to my grandmother’s house.  That time my car broke down in the Shaker Village (luckily they had a phone!); that time my car broke down and the store-owner wouldn’t let me make a toll call; that time when my car spun into a snowbank and I was closing my eyes to calm my nerves and didn’t see the skiers coming to bail me out — so when they knocked on my window we all screamed and scared each other to death!

Pa has a distinctive laugh, a low throaty chortle. Even if I felt confident that I could remember all the stories, I would only remember my side — not that he’d left a party HE was hosting to pick me up in that broken down car. Or that he’d had words with the shopkeeper. Or that he’d overheard skiers telling friends about stopping to help and getting scared out of their ski pants… And then there’s his laugh.

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Big Nanny

Recording is the answer.

My mother has a recording of HER mother from the early 1980s, and hearing Big Nanny’s voice, her tisk-tisk sound, her laugh… it’s soothing and exciting.  I’m a cultural historian, and her voice is as important to me as hearing her words, hearing about her early childhood, and how far we’ve come as a family — and a nation — that nobody lives within FEET of the railroad tracks any more.  The sound of her voice says as much as her words.

A preservation technology firm will preserve and make available my grandmother’s voice.  And I suggest that we get to work on capturing YOUR Family Oral History while you can.  I will walk you through the whole process, researching and sculpting the perfect interview questions, conducting the online meeting/s with up to four attendees from anywhere with online access, and ensuring that you have multiple, accessible copies of your results.  You’ll know more about your family and yourself, and you’ll have another tool in your parenting toolbox, too!  Read more about it here.  Reach out to have a conversation about Capturing Oral Family History: Angela@AngelaLTodd.com

And to get started passing your family history to your own kids, I have a handy guide to get you started.  Dinnertime Family History gives you five prompts to talk your way through the school week about your generation and your parents’.  Get your free guide OVER HERE and start tonight!

And follow along on Facebook, where I’ll be posting a family history prompt every #ThrowbackThursday !

xoxox

Angela

 

 

What will you do with your white privilege?

Wrinkly finger, toes.  We are on vacation in Maine, spending our afternoons on the pond and our evenings playing cards.  It is idyllic.

But Charlottesville has erupted with white nationalists.  I do NOT want to talk about it; I don’t even want it to be true.  But we must.  We three gather on the sandbar and take a break from Marco Polo. “Do you know what white nationalists are?”

No.

I try to explain what is happening..pond…who they are, what they are doing, who their targets are. I try to explain hate.

“Are you scared or worried?”

No.

“That’s good, but that is also white privilege.”

We’ve talked before about sticking with your black friends when the authorities show up. Let’s talk about that again.  It’s more urgent than ever. Your Puerto Rican friend, your black and biracial friends, Jewish kids, historically, Nazis hated Catholics too …almost everyone.

They see me cry a lot during these discussions, and they grow more somber.  White privilege isn’t something to deny, feel guilty about, or ashamed of, I’m learning — in my 50s.  Rather, let’s acknowledge it, talk about it, and use it for good.  Stick with your friends, and stick up for your friends.  What are you going to do with your white privilege to make the world better?

They are 10 and 14… They are wide-eyed. They shrug.

You’re going to stick with your friends. You’re going to look people in the eye and smile as you pass.  You’ll greet and laugh and make small talk at the bus stop.  You’ll stick with them, stick up for them — even in a kid-only situation.

I’m sure there’s  more and we’ll cover it as I figure it out.  If you don’t know where to start to talk to your kids, I recommend starting with books, and I have a short list HERE.  With love, Angela.