Using a simple method for keeping a journal of family memories will allow you to capture all of those moments, big and small, before they fade from memory.
It’s funny how so many details of our everyday life seem so insignificant that we don’t even think to take note of them. Routines and habits that only serve to help us get through the day. Like weeknight dinners that we throw together just to get a meal on the table; or a tv show that we watch together to take our mind off another whirlwind of a day.
All of these things feel like nothing more than a means to an end at the time. Until one day we look back and realize that many of those times actually provided some of the most memorable moments.
One of our easy weeknight meals is a butterflied whole chicken surrounded by crispy quartered new potatoes roasted all together on a sheet pan. We always start the meal using our manners (i.e. a fork and a knife), but by the end we are in such a race against each other to pull off the last little bits of chicken and pick up the few remaining potatoes that we begin using our fingers and momentarily forget the need for a napkin. This happened so frequently with this meal that we began referring to it as “barbarian chicken” after laughing at our barbaric tendencies when we had it for dinner.
Our daily routine on a school day is that the 3 kids split up between mine and my husband’s car to be dropped off. We had no rhyme or reason for how we split up and almost daily someone would ask whose car they should get in. I began telling them they should pick the parent they like best and get into their car. My older two pretty much ignore my antics, but one particular morning the question was not asked and therefore I was not prompted to make this comment. My eight year old decided to ride with her dad but before she got in his car she quickly ran over and whispered to me as serious as could be “but I still like you more.” The intent of it was so sweet and thinking about how funny her dad would find the slight when I told him later made me laugh.
It’s these types of memories that aren’t significant enough to last forever. I know eventually they’ll fade from memory, but I don’t ever want to forget them. They play such a role in shaping our family without us even realizing it.
And as I’ve mentioned before, although photos capture special moments in time, they don’t tell the whole story. Keeping a journal is great way to fill in the gaps, adding stories and details that go beyond the still moments of a picture.
Years ago, I used to keep a spiral bound journal and every time one of these types of moments occurred I would pull it out and write it all down. I’m happy for all of the memories that exist in those handwritten journals but eventually that faded away. It takes a lot of time to hand write a story….never mind the hand cramps!
For a period, I gave up journaling all together. I would think about it periodically when something occurred that I wanted to add to the journal, but then I would stop when I thought about the time it would take to write it out. Eventually realized I was missing so much. That’s when I decided I needed to come up with a method that was fast, easy, and always in reach. I knew that answer was switching to a digital method.
Although I loved the idea of passing the handwritten journals onto my kids someday, the reality is that it just wasn’t working anymore. So even if converting my journaling to digital wasn’t my first pick, it worked. Choosing a method that you will keep up with is much more important than trying to stick with an old idea that isn’t working anymore.
There are many apps and programs that allow you to keep a digital journal, but I wanted a no frills method that did nothing more than allow me to quickly jot down a story that I didn’t want to forget.
Following is my simple method for keeping a journal of family memories:
- Use any word processing software or app that you have easy access to– I have the Google Docs app on my phone and tablet. Since I usually have one of these devices nearby or in hand at all times, I can quickly open it and add a new entry at any time.
- Create only one document- I have only one document, named “Family Memories”. Each time I want to make an entry, I open the document and start at the top. I add the current date in bold and then type journal entry right below it.
- Print the journal periodically– Although keeping our family memory journal digitally allows me to do so quickly and easily, I still want a hard copy that can be shared and passed around. Therefore, I periodically print the contents of the Google doc and add it to a 3 ring binder. The binder can be decorated and personalized in your own style.
- Use a bluetooth keyboard- Since I am usually making an entry on my phone or tablet, I use a bluetooth keyboard to make the process even quicker. I have a mini keyboard that I keep in the drawer of a side table in our living room since that’s generally where I am when I make entries.
- Use custom fonts when printing your journal- Using custom fonts allows you to add your own style to your “writing”. If you don’t already have custom fonts on your computer, you can get them from sites such as fontbundles.net (this is not an affiliate link, I just really like Font Bundles). Be sure to check their free fonts tab for no cost options. When I am ready to print, I cut and paste my entries into a Word document and then change the font to one of my custom fonts before printing.
No matter the method, find one that works for you and begin capturing memories big (like that family vacation to Niagara Falls) and small (the time we went to the Children’s Museum 2 hours from home and dad broke his leg running and jumping on the ramps!).