Sunday, June 22, 2014

paper dolls for an anniversary

alma and mort
My parents just celebrated their 70th anniversary!  That's quite an accomplishment.  In trying to come up with a gift idea that would be fun, meaningful, and not add to their mission to downsize, I was stumped.  Then shortly before the actual date I hit on an idea.  My aunt Verlee is a paper doll collector.  I used to love paper dolls when I was young, made them all the time.  They don't take a lot of room, but can show a lot of history.  I decided to make a set of paper dolls for mom and dad that included clothes from the 8 decades that their relationship has existed.

I spent hours going through photo albums and boxes of images trying to find pictures that could piece together a story.  I sent my parents a card (a little lame)  to congratulate them with the promise of a gift to come.  And then I have spent the last three weeks figuring out how to do this and painting.  The dolls were the hardest part and I'm not totally happy with them, but they'll have to do.  I'm not great with the computer and took the faces from old photos, resizing them as best I could. I decided to use a younger set for the first 30 years and an older set after that.  If I were to do this again for anyone, I'd figure out a good standard body and make a few more ages so I could capture more of the hairstyles.

drum majorette and army air corps uniforms
I painted the clothes on watercolor paper, and then printed them out on thinner paper so they could actually be used if someone wanted to do that.  I'll get a folder to put it all in - and send it off this week.  It's been a great project.  I've had a lot of time to contemplate their lives and our relationship.  I hope this gift will stimulate conversation between them, help them to reflect on what this marriage has meant to them.  And I think it will give them some laughs as they share it with their friends and get to hear their stories that were being created at the same time.  As we get older, we come to treasure the stories most of all.

1970's casual cocktail clothes

1990's ski clothes

2014 anniversary celebration

Monday, March 3, 2014


Today was cold and still too much hard icy snow to get out with Ethan so we planned a make believe birdwatching expedition.  We made binoculars of toilet paper tubes glued together and decorated them, adding yarn to put them around our necks.

 Then we made up a bunch of birds that we taped around the house - in the "lamp" bush, on the fridge, taped to a closet door.

 He immediately recognized hummingbirds, owl, and robin.  Others we loosely interpreted, but he loved looking through Roger Tory Peterson's guide book to find things that kind of looked like our pictures.  I was delighted with how enthusiastic he was with the activity - we did this off and on all day.

 And later he drew his own birds.  There is nothing quite so wondrous as watching a child's imagination take over.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Birthday Celebration

It's been over 6 months since I last posted anything.  Family things happened.  Illnesses and accidents  happened. There has been sadness and there has been joy.  I'd like to spend some time on some of the joy.

daddy at 90
My dad's 90th birthday was Christmas eve.  Since he lives in Seattle, we don't often get to celebrate his birthday with him, not wanting to leave our grandchildren.  But a 90th birthday seemed to be a pretty special deal and one we couldn't miss.

What do you get someone turning 90 who has everything he needs or wants?  I decided to make a book for him about his life.  I have boxes and folders filled with old newspaper articles, letters, photos, and family history.  They're not organized very well, so it took a lot of digging.  My house was turned over to this project for a couple of months in the fall. 

Trying to figure out how to approach telling his story gave me a new appreciation for people who write biographies!  So many decisions have to be made. And I had to be realistic about the time frame I had to work with - I should have begun this  a year ago when I first thought about doing this.

I bought a spiral bound sketch book, about 8 1/2 by 11".  I decided to hand write the story, beginning with a title that would give me some lea way:  "An Incomplete, Significantly Biased Chronicle of the Remarkable Life of Morten Thornton Beck Joslin".  That way, I couldn't be accused of leaving things out, reporting my own point of view, etc.  I realize that everyone who knows him could have experienced the same event and come up with a different take on it.

His grandparents had come from various parts of this country and other countries - so the question began to take shape - how did they all arrive in such a place as to make it possible for him to be born?  And then there was all the moving around that he did over his lifetime, between the military service, college, job.  I learned so much about the family in doing this. 

It became apparent that I couldn't keep it a secret since I wanted to include as much accurate information as I could and much of that was only known to him.  What a memory he has! He gave me so many details that at times I couldn't write fast enough. 

I left empty pages throughout the book so that he, mom, my brother or sister could add stories that I had not put in.  And I copied lots of photos, as many as the book would hold, to accompany the narratives throughout.

He was thrilled.  I was so excited to have been able to do this for him.  And we will copy it for our kids and grandchildren so they will have a better sense of this man whom many of them will not have a chance to know as well as he or they would like. 

My mom's 90th is coming up in another year - I should start working on that soon!

Have you thought of writing down your own stories?  Or those of family members?