Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Amongst the treasures, a weaver had recreated my snowy owl perched on a twig. It had attracted my sister's eye at the Ottawa Weavers and Knitters show. It told me she remembered I had regular visits from an owl very much like it at my hobby farm in Pense Sasktachewan in 1975. I still feel the cold of the prairie, I still hear the deafening quiet, still see the glaring white snow and the sight of this great white owl sitting majestically on the same pole everyday just outside my farm house.
Art galleries have been my favorite sources for inspiration. But it is the gift shop that provides the item or image you can take home. My sister includes every year a wall calendar. It always depicts some master painter, it could be impressionists, or modern, it might even be medieval tapestries. Whatever the theme it conveys my true passions as wide as they are. And only a sister would know. This year it was Gustave Klimpt. Along the same idea were cards, portraits by Klimpt and another set of cards portraying the same medieval tapestry from my calendar of 2007. Hidden deep in the box were humbugs by Robertson, and chocolates from Stubbe's. All my favorites, all precious, all defining a memory and bringing it to light to be shared again.
I wish you and yours the opportunity of sharing your stories over the next few weeks. Make giftgiving one that creates stories in your Familylore.
Be the teller,
Sunday, December 7, 2008
What are stories but remembrances of events. One important element to being a collector of Familylore is to recognize that there are stories that may be painful to remember.
Living so close to Quebec I cannot help thinking about those who lost their daughter, sister, colleague, friend on December 6th at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique. In 1989 a man gunned down 14 women Montreal's Ecole polytechnique. He had left a letter that explained his reasons, they were women.
It is important to help others keep these stories from becoming invisible. A scan of newspapers and sites brought little to bear regarding this historical and horrible part of our history. I was especially disappointed with the Status of Women Canada site that had a few paragraphs and little else. There was a time when this site had everything a community needed to mark this "National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women In Canada".
Take a moment and visit these sites,
remember to Be the teller,
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Gift giving at this time of year is always a challenge. What do we give those who have what they need or want. How can you make yours and their Festive Season even more unique? Is it possible to give a gift so special that it can enhance the holidays for your family? My answer is YES!
Consider giving Familore. It is the quintessential treasure of your family's story. When they began, where you have been and where you all are today. The Holiday Season is fast approaching and without speaking a word members of your family are remembering. It may be the weather, the sights, the sounds, the buzz in the Mall, what ever it is we all have thoughts of earlier Christmases or Festive Seasons.
Your aunt could be remembring her first Christmas as a parent. Little brother is reminded of the first pair of skates he was given. Grandmother still remembers the smell the cookies and pies spread throughout the house. Dad worried over finding the right tree and Mom was making sure the presents were under the tree before the children got up.
Encourage the recounting of your family's stories. They all have their images, their memories and these pulled together and shared become your Familore.
Begin this year. Start with a few stories, a few remembrances and soon you will discover the treasure that is Familore. Call a member of your family and begin to collect their stories. You can record these in many ways. Audio, video, even typed up in Word with a seasonal image watermark will help you capture the story. You can later add these to a CD and distribute copies to family members. Every year you can add to it. Old photos, maps, charts, children's drawings and cards can now be collected as never before.
Be the teller,
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Collecting Familore can be an adventure. Every family has its own way of doing things. The way they share their memories, the times at which they tell these memories. Styles may vary but the sharing most often takes place in a time of celebration, a time when members of the family, friends come together.
If you were to select a time for collecting, the Festive Season would be a wonderful choice. It has a unifying thread running through it. Family members and friends make a special effort to be together. Time itself becomes more fluid and we give ourselves permission to relish in each others company.
Remembrances, memories, shared experiences become the reason for being together. The cost is minimal and it may enhance your holidays in ways you cannot imagine.
Whether you invite family and friends to your place or you go to theirs, you can be the collector. There is a magical atmosphere attached to the holiday season. We feel a connection to our past that often is forgotten the rest of the year. The coming ofthe New Year looms heavy on our conciousness. Hopes, dreams, fears and joys remain closer to the surface. Make space in your activities to encourage the telling. Remember to value the stories shared, they are pieces of the puzzle that is your Familore.
Be the teller,
Sunday, November 16, 2008
You know who you are! The one in a family gathering that asks all the questions. The person most likely to wonder when our family first cut a tree for the holidays. There is one in every family. Is is curiosity, concern or just being inquisitive, inquiring minds want to know. But remember this is, it is all up to you.
Familylore is like that. We all have it, we all use it and no one tells about it. That is where the family teller comes in. The Festive Season is one of the most popular times of the year to record such stories. Are they interviews? Will they bring up bad memories? You never know, you can only be sure that you are asking in order to preserve, encourage and share your Familylore.
The next time you are in the kitchen helping to stuff a bird, bake a pie or sugar cookies pull out your recorder, and ask open questions to your mom, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, nephew,niece or other.
- Mom Dad : What did you do on your first Christmas together?
- Sis: How did you decide to become _____________?
- Neighbour: Remember Grandad, and his gardening, what was his favorite flower?
These and other open ended questions will help get the story started.
Be the teller,
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Stories will never run out. Those who have experienced war in any way realise that the experience stays with them. It is in the way that we remember that makes it human. The loss lives with us all. As long as we Remember.
The Last Post sets the tone for Remembrance Day, November 11th. This instrumental tells stories through sound. Notes and cadence breaths life into the story.
Other forms of storytelling are found in poems.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
There are not just words they are images of stories told and shared between colleagues, commarades, wives, daughters, fathers, sons and mothers. Encapsulated in the flower that embues the feeling of loss, its red colour rises to set a pulse for the ryhtym of these stories.
Lest We Forget encompases a multitude of generations, of yesterdays and tomorrows.
The following stories are shared in images and words to help us meet this responsibility,
- 3 Veterans from the SunnyBrook in Toronto recite these immortal words.
- British Armed Forces in Afghan Remembered
Sunday, November 2, 2008
November 11th, a day to remember. Freedom was the call. Men, women and children took part in one way or another in the great battles that make up WWI, WWII and the Korean War. Together they forged an alliance, "For freedom, For love of country, the reasons were different depending on your situation, background, heritage.... How to make their sacrifice meaningful today, that's the question asked by many educators, parents and families who believe in the saying "Never Again".
Veterans Affairs Canada has developed an unique approach to sharing the stories of these brave men and women, families all. A non-sports card collection has been created to include 112 stories on 112 cards depicting a special moment in the history of these world wars. Each one telling a story from the perspective of those who were there, who witnessed the event and told of the experience. Stories shared of intimate moments such as these continue to declare the courage and valiant nature of the human spirit.
Visit Lest We Forget and share their stories, they belong to us all,
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Samhain, All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, even the names sound ancient. Traditions stem from stories shared, feats reported through tales and legends, extraordinary records stored in time. The oral tradition is ripe at this time of year. Families prepare to Trick or Treat their neighbours children. What has become a candy feast was once a time to gather legumes, slaughter the beasts so that food would be aplenty over the winter months. Giving thanks was the central theme.
Festivals and Celebrations bring us together, whether in belief or tradition community gathers to mark these special dates in the calendar. Halloween evokes memories of our youth, some among us remember the glee of anticipation for going door to door. We would rehearse tricks in case we were called upon to perform. A song, a skit even a short play,all these and more live in us today. Halloween, with the leaves turning, the cold seeping in the windows and doors and the rains transport us back to that time when we were the performers.
Tell these stories to those close to you. All unique, all your own, only you know how you experienced that period in the way you did. Begin remembering the sounds of the laughter, the colour of the street lighting, the sound the apples made when they dropped into your bag of treats.
Be the teller,
Sunday, October 19, 2008
"Our lives are stories,... and the stories we have to give each other are the most important. None of us have a story too small and all are of equal stature. We each tell them in different ways, through different mediums-and if we care about each other, we'll take the time to listen." Foreword by Terri Windling to Waifs and Strays by Charles de Lint.
Everyday of our lives are filled with happenings, great and sorrowful, small and gentle, ephemeral and minute. But these our all parts of our story. Yours and mine. While searching for a teller to share with you today I was reminded of one such person, a writer, dwelling in Ottawa. Charles de Lint unfolds spaces within spaces to create that which cannot be seen, cannot be touched unless you venture forth.
Be the teller of your story,
Monday, October 13, 2008
Colours bursting everyhwhere and no place is more popular for stories than your library. October is Canadian Library Month and it is a one stopshopping for activities, sites of interest and opportunities for all.
Discover the wealth of resources at your finger tips at your library. And don't forget to listen for the stories. You could begin collecting sooner than you think.
Visit the official site and discover the stories !
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The leaves are changing colours all around us. The Appalachins stand majestic amidst this time honoured change. And what of stories amid this throng. Is it the orange and yellow in the leaves, the copper shades in the forests. One story shouts out all the others this year.
Elections are a time of change, change in conciousness, change in attitude, change in expectation. Election is a time when these stories are shared. You are hearing some of the most often told stories in families and groups of all kinds. Who should lead, who should follow, who has the strength to carry out the task on the hard road ahead. Change demands of us all a commitment to something, someone, at sometime. You are the change that needs to happen.
The best stories are those shared for the best reasons. Love, understanding, generosity, inclusivness, inclusion and these never leave anyone behind.
Vote, vote for who you think tells the strongest story, but vote!!! Be the teller!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Computer systems, the name still elicits excitement. An analyst at
This is what caught his eye, “
The moral of this story, never judge an article while on board an aircraft flying 25 thousand feet!
The computer analyst loves this story and the telling of it.
All you need is an interested party.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
closer to that special place and time.
Working as a team they requested time off giving very little notice to the Department. Somewhat dismayed with the lack of professionalism
on the part of these TAs, Bob felt he had no choice but to give them the time requested. This was after all a humanistic environment and although they had not given any reason for the urgency, the time was granted. It was several days later then Professor Bob received a telephone call informing him that his team had just had a baby.
Asked if he had not noticed anything, Bob smiled and walked away still amused by the incident with York's humanistic center intact.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
"YorkLore" includes 26 stories from staff, faculty and students at York University. The stories were all shared in the fall and winter of 1986; the tellers were recounting a moment in time that impacted on them in some way.
This next story reminds those of us who have stood in the registration line up in September waiting to get your classes selected.
This was the setting for an onslaught
of profane language directed towards the staff.
A student speaking in an aggressive tone
used foul four letter words bellowed out clear and loud.
The Administrative Assistant took it upon herself
to call out the Registrar for aid in the disturbance.
Now our Registrar was known to possess a thorough
knowledge of slurs, insults and
four letter words held no mystery for her.
With steely confidence she approached the counter
and addressed the perpetrator,
"Young man, I don't use that kind of language.
The ladies in this office are members of my staff
and they will not be subjected to this ugly discourse.
You will now leave !"
Our highly indignant intruder was no match for this
valiant College Registrar and left.
The staff in Registration still today appreciate
the irony of the story as well as the support
rendered them by their Registrar.
It is often said that "No good deed goes unpunished". But respect in the workplace is forever, pass it on,
Sunday, August 31, 2008
If ever there was time to collect stories and record shared memories, back to school is just such a time! No matter our age, no matter where we were, the feeling that something was going to happen haunts us still.
In the fall of 1986 I was studying at York University. In a first brush with the study of folklore I had the opportunity to collect "Yorklore". This was the title I gave to my collection of stories shared by faculty, staff and students about something they had experienced while at York. They were short or longer, they ranged between beliefs stories and anecdotes, humorous or mysterious. I still feel privileged by the tellers generosity in sharing these with me. Here is one such story;
Three of us were support staff and we spotted
a body outside lying on the snow.
Watching for a few moments
and observing the body was motionless
security was called in to investigate.
Having taken CPR training the staff
still felt ill equipped to deal with an emergency.
Upon arriving the Security guards
quickly assessed the situation while the staff looked
on "safely" from the window.
All were relieved when it was obvious our victim,
whom the staff thought
might be dead, was only drunk.
from assault to suicide.
Being dead drunk hadn't entered
the repertoire of victim.
Strictly a sober set !
What do Realtors say about selling? Location, Location, Location! Collecting stories can take place anywhere; an intimate corner at a Christmas gathering, on the porch while taking in the breeze, during a pancake breakfast with colleagues, an anniversary celebration. The place and time is determined by You and the Teller. You choose when and just record. Take it down in notes, a tape recorder, whatever fashion works best for you. Respect the act of sharing and stay true to the story.
It could be your returning to University or College, or perhaps your child's first day, record the moment, and share the telling,
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Stories abound following an extended break from blogging. Never far from my thoughts, familore and how these stories come about have multiplied as they will do.
My nephew got married yesterday at Columbia University in N.Y. A few days earlier his mother, my sister was leaving to participate at this special event. I reminded her that it was because of her son we had shared a concert. It was "Foreigner" at the National Art Center. The audience, middle age+, a wave of white and gray haired. At the finale everyone on their feet singing along with the band. Rocking to the music, we laughed at the passage of time, the ability of lyrics to bring back memories and at ourselves for having the power to enjoy it.
My publishing schedule for this fall will be every Sunday.
Now sit back, relax and remember Foreigner
Sunday, April 6, 2008
It began with the grandfather clock chiming noon, and Mom and Dad sitting on the sofa while I explained my assignment. This was the setting for one of the most powerful telling sessions I ever took part in.
As an undergraduate at York University I was studying with Dr. Carol Carpenter. She had given her students the task of asking our parents how they met. No closed or leading questions and no feeding answers. They were to tell their story. and you as the recorder collect them.
I began by setting them down in the living room in their condo. Tea and chocolates were placed on the coffee table and the sun streamed into the room making it feel more than a little surreal. As one of eight children I had been the first to make the request. Mom and Dad just were. They met, fell in love, and got married. That was our version.
Mom giggled and Dad laughed at the serious way I was approaching this but soon we were in it. Dad started sharing his experience as a soldier in New Brunwick stationed in Moncton.
"She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Sitting with her friends in a restaurant I was across the room having lunch with another soldier. He laughed at me when I said "I'm going to marry that girl". Dad got back to base and requested a transfer. It took a year but he did get back, spotted who would become my Mom on the street with a group of friends. He introduced himself and within 6 weeks they were married.
That's the magic of familore. It never gets old. And everytime you tell it it gets newer still.
Gail DeVos, Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta. Her courses include storytelling and literature for children and YA (young adults). Having recently read Gail's first book Storytelling for Young Adults: Techniques and Treasury I appreciated how this teller made the reader feel the power in themselves to share their stories. More important still , she provides ideas and techniques for new tellers to help others bring forward their stories.
Your family has its own stories. Learn to tell them.
Friday, March 21, 2008
It's Easter 1961, and my sister and I receive our new patten leather shoes to go with our new dresses. Our dresses are in the same colours as always, purple for her and green for me. Asked why we had these colours Mom replied, "Green for your eyes and purple for your sister's bold nature."
How and why these determinations were made were not explored.
Holidays can give us more time to reflect. Reflect about a time, a place, a moment when you were entrenched into a story. Take a moment and think back. Think back to a time when you sat quietly listening to someone telling you a story.
Step into that moment. Now look into the eyes of the teller. It may have been your mother or perhaps grandmother answering a question you posed or explaining a particular event about the family and its origins. Try and visualize where you were and what was going on around you. Can you hear the words spoken?
The imagary playing before you are scenes from a life, a life that belongs to your history, your family, they are your familore. These scenes might describe how you came to be part of this family, who you take after and what caracteristics you have that connect you to that member.
Other scenes may tell of moving to a new town, starting a new job and even resettling back home and what it meant to the family.
These and other stories make up familore. Through the telling of these stories we gain invaluable insights into our history, our past and in a way our future.
So the story goes,
Monday, March 10, 2008
March continues to mark women's contribution around the world and in all facets and disciplines. International Women's Day March 8th is simply a launching pad to women's contribution.
As a librarian, I am surrounded by the efforts, triumphs and successes of women authors everyday. Who tells the best stories? That depends on your preferences. Who writes the best stories? That depends on your perspective.
Women authors are tellers of their stories.
Two women stand out in the past twelve months for their storytelling abilities. I finished reading "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory. The journey led me to an enjoyable tryst into the lives of a handful of people who became entrenched in the history of England and the monarchy. It was well told, reasonably researched with a touch of spicy and titillating scenes. Gregory takes you where she wants you to go.
J.K. Rowling astounded us with the culmination of her adventures. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" will remain,for some time to come, a right of passage for young readers interested in venturing out on a quest. Making new friends and being there for each other. Becoming in the end what you were meant to be.
Bring your stories to bear on your experiences. Tell them and share them,
Become the voice of your life,
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Listen to your grandmother talk about when she came to this country and you will hear stories that are unique. Entertain your mother with questions about how she met and fell in love and you will hear tellings of love, passion and youthfulness. Take the time to spend an evening with your sister. Share with her an initimate moment in your life and soon you will be taking your place in the sea that is womanlore.
The stories that keep families together remain the most powerful and the least known of all the stories. As women we are expected even requested to keep these stories that are uniquely our families' alive for the next generation and the next after that and so on. Why are these life affirming experiences important?
Every family has a voice of its own, the way in which it interprets the world around it. The very ebb and flow of a family and its stories require a recorder, a person to keep these stories vibrant and remembered. The women in your family know this, just ask.
International Women's Day March 8th reminds us of the tradition and the power given to women in keeping our histories, our stories and sharing these with our families. Consider your family stories and celebrate
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Heritage Day! What comes to mind when we hear it? Some of us envision the past, horse drawn carriages, a pristine forest, a one room school house. There is so much more.
Its the stories.
"Friends, Romans, countryman lend me your ears". Old, but good stuff. Everyone is from somewhere, everyone has connections that are not easy to locate, not handy maybe not even still present. But the stories survive.
No matter where your family is, no matter when you last spoke with them, there are stories of the distant past, stories from last year's Thankgiving diner, stories that will continue if you share them with yourself and others.
I worked on a project entitled "The Being Here Project". It was meant to identify the families that had emmigrated to Ontario between 1900 - 1987. These threads in time told of escape from war, flight to freedom, dreams of futures not yet imagined.
You and I are made of these stories. Begin by writing them down, short notes that jog the memory then start to speak to those who can expand on your recollection. Through this process you will begin a journey through life that is done from where you are right now.
Heritage Day 2008! Make this year your start!
Friday, February 8, 2008
A scream unleashes joy, fear or confusion.
Storytelling defines us, exlains our reality and breaths into our very essence a connection to our past, present and future. Have you ever asked yourself who are we, what are we and what will we become. These questions have been asked by cynics, poets, philosophers, lovers, dreamers, artists and most people I know.
The storyteller shares with their audience their energies. One hundred years or ten years and the life experiences remain similar, united, repeating mistakes and remembering triumphs. What they convey is articulated in the voice.
February is Black History Month. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), folklorist and storyteller par excellence appreciated sound and breath. In her book "Their Eyes were watching God" you not only hear the words but feel the sounds.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Viola Desmond, ever hear about her? Chances are the stories about this successful Halifax beautician and businesswoman never made it to your newspaper, school texts or storytelling session.
Living in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946, Viola had gone out to the movies. She got a ticket in the balcony. Since there was a "no-Blacks" rule, she was not allowed a downstairs seat.
Many people know the story of Rosa Parks, another woman who on December 1st 1955 refused to give up her seat to a white customer. This story is told in schools, shared amongst activitists and held up as an important moment in time.
This year tell the story of a woman who brought the plight for social justice to the public eye in Canada. You can be part of this history by sharing the story with your friends, students or people who just like to be part of stories. It's all in the telling!
To learn more visit
Sunday, January 27, 2008
There was a time when the oral tradition of storytelling was the only way in which stories, be they factual or made up were transmitted throughout the generations by the small pieces of information shared. One major reason for this oral tradition was the inability to read and write. If a picture is worth a thousand words then it would be fair to say that the ability to write those words give you the power to express any picture you can imagine.
Over the past several centuries stories that remain powerful often speak to heros, fairytales, fables, and tales of the weak overcoming oppression. These stories remain to a great extend because they were written down and read out loud to generations of children who then shared them with their children and so on and so on.... This tradition in the form of oral stories often originated from letters, diaries, journals, even songs...
Family stories have this power when shared and cherished. Such a treasure trove of family stories makes it possible to create your own familylore, those stories that define your family's history, your family's experiences. Be your family's storyteller, the chronicler who recognises and expounds on the uniqueness of your family. Begin or expand your familylore.
Share in the Family Literacy legacy, visit
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
February is Black History Month. This year marks the 175 anniversary of the Act to Abolish Slavery in the British Empire (1833-2008). Now right off you begin to wonder about the connection with stories and storytelling. One way we learn about storytelling as with so many other things we do is by watching, listening and appreciating others. To get an ear full of what storytelling can do you could listen to James Earl Jones and his partner Virginia Hamilton. Together they have brought history to thousands of students and adults. I am one of those adults.
Northwestern Ontario in 1991 was the setting for embracing the power of stories. Cold, snow and below zero temperatures encouraged sitting comfortably curled up in a winged chair or floor cushion and reading.
I read the book The People Could Fly for the first time. Soon I found myself listening to this story on CD and quickly after that giving high school children the opportunity to witness, as a future observer, past events.
No, we can't know what it was like, and no we cannot ignore the experience. But by sharing the telling, we can gain insights into another space and another time.
Check out Canadian Heritage on Black History Month
Sunday, January 20, 2008
In this season of snow, cold, winds and ice northern New Brunswick is bombarded by the sights and sounds of activities such as tobogganing, snowmobiling, skating. Winter sports are key conversations in coffee shops, hockey being the most talked about. Ah! hockey.
A storyteller shares events in his life and helps you experience them. Roch Carrier, renown Canadian author and formerly the National Librarian of Canada is the quintessential storyteller.
Picture it, rural Quebec, early 1950s. You are a young hockey player and your hero is Maurice Richard. So the story begins;
“The winter’s of my childhood were long long seasons. We lived in three places, the school, the church and the skating rink. But our real life was on the skating rink. Real battles were won on the skating rink, real strength appeared on the skating rink, the real leaders showed themselves on the skating rink.” (Roch Carrier, The Hockey Sweater)
In 'The Hockey Sweater' the reader is witness to the stress of youth, to the limitations that come with being a child. You sense the helplessness the boy feels when his mother insists he wear a Toronto Maple Leaf sweater rather than #9 Montreal Canadiens. How does this young boy explain to his friends that his sweater is now white and blue rather than the red, white and blue.
The teller seeps his reader in the atmosphere of the setting. In the distance you see the ice rink, you can hear the school bells and feel the closed quiet space of the church. The denouement brings a resolution with humour and dignity. How? That's another story.
Enjoy listening to storyteller Roch Carrier share his story with you, visit
Thursday, January 17, 2008
What is always new, always old and always yours?
Your stories. Whether they begin with "I started out as a child" or "One dark stormy night" stories unveil a moment of truth. For one instant, one infinitesimal space in time it was yours.
Storytime is a time of contemplation, a time to sit with your thoughts, a time that begins and ends with you. No matter where you grew up and no matter how you grew up you were surrounded by stories and these became, at times, and in part, your stories.