Six Ideas for Writing Your own Life Story

1. Conversation prompts us
 A life story or memoir is what most people would like to leave for their families. Sometimes it is best done after conversing with an interested younger family member or a family friend. A memoir can focus on special parts of your life rather than the whole life. There may be one part of a long life which was particularly interesting because of the times in which the person lived. It is like opening a window into another world; it shows how a person has changed during other times.

2.Collect Family Photographs                                                                                                             Look at an old family album- seeing a younger version of someone you love. Old photos can be a great starting point for thinking about one’s own life or that of a relative. Today we have more of our lives documented by photographs; it is a good way to begin that way and verify dates.  Have a few photos important to you, ready.

3. Organize questions you should answer  Preparing questions helps before recording. Who were my grandparents?How do I remember them? When did I start school? Where did we first live? Sit down somewhere quiet, and jot down events that come to mind. See where your memory takes you; list some ‘special moments’ in your life. If You’ve lived through interesting times such as a pandemic or a war or just changing jobs, you’ll see how you adapted.

4. Recording on Tape                                                                                                                                             The process of taping an interview with another helps one think about life. It gives you ideas of how to start the story. Once you have done this, the writing will come easier to produce. You will be excited by the details you have so writing will be a joy. You will also have the recorded your voice forever on tape and on a CD.                              

5. Writing                                                                                                                                                         A lifestory can be sequential or can look-back on an interesting life in flashbacks. It can show how circumstances in the world affected you. If you have kept good notes and ensured that your interview with a relative is full enough, you will find the writing just needs organizing. A funny story can lead you into a life story. I used the biography of a singer who was as a member of the caste of ‘Phantom of the Opera to start his story.’ It seemed a unique way to show his ability and interests.

6. Evaluate the Worth of Your Record                                                                                                                                   Thinking through your life is great therapy; it contributes to family history in the best way. It is not easy to face some difficult times but reliving them, may help too. I once wrote a story for a lady with terminal cancer who succeeded in sharing how hard she worked to escape her early poverty. She died peacefully a week later.
Taking some time to produce a clear memoir of life story is worth it. Your family will treasure it.

Think CORE:- Collect photos aand evidence you need before recording, Organize it well either chronologically or as a memoir of special times Record on tape or in writing a treasure any family member would love. Edit and Evaluate it. The care you gave to it will reveal your joy in your own life January 2021 or that of a special person.

 Jane Buttery                                                                 .                                                              

A visit to Uganda gave me a better understanding of the needs there

In October I had the opportunity to visit a new friend in Uganda. Although I landed at Entebbe International Airport in the dark, I received a warm joyous welcome. My friend, Hope Nankunda and her cousin hugged me and soon took me towards the capital city, Kampala. The very next day I learned why she had such a passion to help girls. Hope is a Christian and her faith is very important to her.

Hope’s mother had to struggle because her father died early. She longed to learn and her mother did her best to keep her in school. But she had another daughter who could not stay at school. Hope saw how fortunate she was to go onto university and change her whole life. She loved her sister who has become a dressmaker, and she wanted to do something that would keep all girls in school. She saw the pitfalls of early marriage and babies at too young an age. I heartily agreed with her.

I was pleased when she took me to many schools. She visits them regularly in her capacity as a counselor to girls through the charitable organization, she founded, called Raising Teens Uganda  (RTU). As a mother of three girls, Hope’s vision is strong and very practical. I know that Hope believes that ‘if you empower one girl, she will empower twenty more.’

My own mother had come from a big family and had no choice but to leave school at 15. With her wisdom, she went into business and kept us in school and university. I wanted the girls to know I was a first generation student to fulfill my education because I had a caring parent who believed that ‘if you educate a girl, you educate a family.’ They were interested and asked questions. It was rewarding to have such an attentive audience.

I also saw Christian and Muslim girls learning together; they appear to respect the Sikh faith, a Roman Catholic and an Anglican give students short talks and pray for them. That was another lesson in interfaith harmony.

In the first three days, I learned so much I attended St Luke’s Anglican Church, where Hope’s family went. At the 9.30 am service about 1,000 people were present and of them, over 120 children came up to be blessed before going to Sunday school. The joy of singing happy praise songs with the church choir was contagious. The emphasis afterwards was on the Scriptures and on prayer with hymns in between. Outside I found another welcome in tea and samosa which was delicious. I discovered that the total parish membership was closer to 3,000 as there were 3 well attended services each Sunday and cell groups met for Bible study and prayer in the week as well as visiting sick. And I sensed their joy at being involved in helping each other.  It was not surprising that my dear friend Hope had such a love for the Lord that she wanted to help young people and those less fortunate.

There is so much to tell that I will continue my blog on another day. I felt fortunate to see keen students and some of the poorest people I have ever met, anxious to improve themselves for their children too.



A Time of Hope

On this first day of a new year, I am hopeful and send off many wishes starting ‘I hope’. During Advent, the beginning of the Church year, on the first Sunday, we light the candle for Hope. We remember that Jesus is our hope and, if we follow Him, we can be more positively hopeful people.

One of my favourite passages in Romans sends a greeting that is rich in meaning for us at the turning of a new year. St. Paul wrote,”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). Note what follows hope; it is joy and peace (as the next two candles are named) and then love, and Jesus. What a wonderful world we would have if we could abound in hope with God’s Holy Spirit to help us!

Today I also read the message of our new UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres who wants to put PEACE first. I hope he and the UN can succeed; it has been a terrible 5 years for people in Syria. I am glad that our Prime Minister chose to bring so many refugees here and give them hope for the future.My heart goes out to those who are still waiting. I recently taught a lady from Iraq, English and found her interesting and most thankful.It is a privilege to help newcomers.I have also been teaching a lady from Brazil and learning as I go along what a hard life, some people have had. As a retired teacher, I am happy to encourage people to learn a new language.

Working as a volunteer gives me hope. I meet wonderful giving people through work in the hospitals and Hospice locally. They give hundreds of hours so that sick people can be given some cheer, fed nice homemade meals and treated with respect.For 4 years, women and a couple of men at our Church, St. Andrew’s in Harrow, have helped make mats for people in Haiti to sleep on or children to use in make-shift schools. We make them out of colourful milk bags and now our work has extended because we have linked up with another organisation,Canadian Food for Children  at their Chatham branch in Ontario. It started in Mississauga with Dr. Andrew Simone  who had a mission to help the poorest of the poor. Now the mats, clothes we collect and food, we give, can  be shared in Canada and around the world.Please look at the video here  about Dr. Simone and volunteers on Youtube :

Organisations like this are world wide and give me much hope for future cooperation. We need to be positive within ourselves, then we can full of hope future. In a world where we hear so much about violence, it is good to be part of a group that believes in cooperation. I hope to spread that spirit of hopefulness amongst those I meet and those I help in 2017. But I know it is only through becoming closer to Jesus and knowing God’s will that we will succeed.

10 Reasons I Am Thankful In 2016

Recently a past pupil of mine said that he and friends were challenged to discover  ten things they were thankful for in 2016.It made me think of how fortunate we are to have the freedom to live where we chose, to go where we can and to worship God in our own way.  Below are some ways I am thankful at the end of my eightieth year.

  1. First,I have a safe home in Canada, a beautiful peaceful country when so many from Syria or Iraq are still refugees and suffering in make-shift tents or facing violence in their countries.
  2. Secondly, I am most thankful for a kind loving husband who has always helped bring up our children and sown constant love for two grandsons and a great grand-daughter.He often cooks,cleans and chauffeurs us to to concerts. We share the same interest in classical music and enjoy reading. How fortunate I am to be living with such a kind man.
  3. Strong family contacts and thoughtful friends have enriched my life. Good friends at Church and nearby share so much with me. I am grateful for the love of, and constant contact with, my cousins around the world because we share so much.
  4. In Canada , we have good medical care and physiotherapy when we need it. We have skilled specialists and , if the need is urgent, care is there for us.
  5. Classical music is a major part of our lives; we have continued to enjoy the wonderful concerts by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. The smaller ensembles play in a more intimate concert s, near our home and in December, we will hear the glorious Messiah by Handel again.
  6. The CBC radio is an important part of our daily life. We are avid news listeners seeking information about politics, science, books and ideas. We also enjoy good dramas and documentaries on TVO and PBS too.
  7. Reading opens so much of the world to us as well as being a great source of entertainment. Having needed cataract operations, I value my eyesight, not only to read, but also to see faces of people I love and marvel at the wonderful skies as the sun sets.
  8. In fact, having our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell as one ages, is an asset. Enjoying good food, holding a new baby and stroking a beloved pet delights us.Through all our faculties, God has enriched daily life in so many ways.
  9. I am thank ful for a good education and the chance to keep on learning through travelling, by reading and recently,through the internet.Travelling has been a big part of our lives for over 56 years. We have experienced life in Malaysia, in Australia and Germany as well as in Canada.It has enriched our children’s lives as well as ours and kept us in touch with family around the world.
  10. I value most of all, the freedom to worship and opportunities to volunteer in my church and for Hospice. As a Christian, I can witness for Jesus without fear; I can pray for others when I visit the hospital, I can choose the books I read and what I write about in my books.When I considered how blessed my life has been, there are easily ten reasons I’m grateful for living in 2016.
Early Pioneer Family

Summer is a Great time to Discover Family Stories.

Summer is often the time for family reunions; it’s when we may catch up on news and old stories someone else knew in our family and they often make us laugh. Our  grand-daughter is going to a reunion of the other side of her family tomorrow and I’ve already asked her to get some answers to questions, I’m interested in. A family reunion is an easy time to ask a relative about some past events or people you feel you should know better. You may also find out more when you stay  a little longer with a relative. Speaking to an older relative in particular is often rewarding. I learned of an old story about my grandfather at a Christmas reunion.

So, I’m suggesting to you– ask your older relatives while they are still around. I found out so much later from censuses and wish I’d known to ask about the people shown there. For instance, I thought my father was one of two children and then I discovered that his father had first been married to another woman who had given him four children and died in childbirth in 1884. It took my grandfather 6 years to find another wife, my grandmother, to care for his young children. His oldest may have been about 16 when my father was born so maybe they did not know each other. I wish we’d had a family reunion at which I could have met these four older siblings when I was much younger.

When I was on holiday in Wales 3 years ago, I met two second cousins and discovered loads of information about my grandmother’s sister. I saw that pictures of her children revealed likenesses to my mother’s sisters. It was an exciting find. The stories I was told too confirmed how hard life was in the early 20th century for miners’ families. Both my grandmother and great-aunt had huge families of eleven and ten.

Through my interest in genealogy, I met a third cousin in USA. We corresponded for a while and I was given pictures of her grandfather, my paternal grandmother’s brother. It could have been my own father as he had the same shape face and just small strays of hair left. I not only discovered how adventurous my great-uncle was in coming to America with two other brothers, I also met my new cousin.  That same cousin is only ten days younger than me and we have similar shaped faces.Later I had a holiday with her and her husband in Florida. That correspondence has been a source of joy then and now. You never know what might happen if you follow through an interest in your family.

Another cousin of my husband’s came from a Welsh background and, on looking at the early 19th century censuses, we discovered that her Vivian family lived just one street over from my Francis great-great grandparents and, added to that, both men were in the plumbing and boiler industries. They probably knew each other. We were both delighted at this possibility of having ancestors living in Llanelli at the same time.

A friend came from Manitoba to live in Leamington. Through an old story that his relatives had travelled from Ontario, we discovered that they were real pioneers, using a ferry boat and stage-coach first to cross to Michigan, then a train to Minnesota and braving at least 10 weeks in long canoes to reach the Canadian border where they had to spend one winter in a sod house! What a great story that became once we traced the route and the time it all took.

It is well worth discovering your family’s roots and enjoying their achievements.  I wrote a story about our local town,  Amherstburg* and found names of black immigrants who came to Canada to be free after 1833 and who obtained land for their part in the local militia back in 1838. Their descendants still live on the land they won over 180 years ago. I love that story.

Have fun discovering more family stories this summer. Summer get-togethers are certainly times to cement family bonds and learn facts and stories that can add more interest to your own life story writing. I’d love to hear how you make out.

  • An Unexpected Friendship: Amherstburg 1846

Reviving with change on holiday

For about 20 days, I have been travelling from Canada to England, onto Wales and France and now back to the Midlands on UK. Although it has been a busy time, it has been so delightful that I am freshed by the change. I even feel more revived in spirit to get back to writing.

Most of my joy has come from seeing people I love and spending time with them in places, they know well and share with me. I have seen some wonderful places of interest in England and Wales; in particular, Witley Manor in Worcestershire that burned down in the 1920’s but it’s basic shell and lovely baroque church remain. My friend and I had a picnic there and visited the gardens as well as seeing a bride arrive for her wedding! Another memorable place is Tredegar House in Glamorgan, South Wales which was the first red brick house built in Wales in 1660; for 320 years it was owned by the Morgan family who had a fascinating family history taking in succesful business men, spendthrifts, rich women they married and money they made out of coal and iron transportation fees. They had to sell in about 1950 because family debts and cost of upkeep made it necessary. My cousin and I found their history absorbing that we could see it as a good television series.

In Hertfordshire, other cousins took me to Bernard Shaw’s lovely home where we spent a delightful couple of hours in the beautiful garden and house, seeing how he lived there for over 30 years. We also saw his garden writing shed which he could turn to catch the sunlight

Another delightful afternoon was spent walking in a bluebell wood which brought back memories of my childhood when my parents’ home was once surrounded by bluebells but, by 1950’s, new houses brought an end to the much loved fields and spring flowers. In France I walked through colourful parts of Provence, saw many medieval churches, an ancient bridge over a river and sadly a walk through a wood called Chemin des Resistants which commemorated the deaths of three brothers,who helped with the resistance and who were discovered by the Germans in July 1944 and shot them; they and a brother in law(also shot) were all very young.

On a happier note, we enjoyed the lovely French Riviera coast line and the interesting Estrelles area where odd shaped rocks edge the coast before Cannes.

When I was in Staffordshire, I enjoyed time with another lovely cousin who is also a wonderful organist and piano teacher. We even tried a duet together one night and it was fun.We had a visit to Calke Abbey which has been deliberately kept unrestored in parts to show how  stately homes have suffered from financial stress. My holiday is now over and I have to thank my friend in Bournville and dear cousins in Cardiff, London and Provence as well as Staffordshire. spending time reminiscing with them has been a real joy. We have so much in common.

Since I wrote the paragraph above, I have been to Kent where I grew  up. I spent my last four days seeing my brother’s family. John and his wife had three children and now there are five grandchildren to enjoy too. I had a lovely time seeing them and noting how they had changed. My brother has died but I have a lovely sister in law who treated me so well. A real highlight of my holiday was a musical review of the Beatles life together called Let It Be. It happened at the the new Marlowe theatre in Canterbury, where I once went to school and where I once enjoyed the old Marlowe ‘s repertory plays.

My reluctance to write has gone and my ideas are flowing again especially with Wales in mind. I have been lifted up by different Church visits, organ concerts and lovely singing. Truly, I feel fortunate and thank God for such welcoming relatives and dear friends.


Do You have Small Children to Read to?

Recently, my personal interest in writing has led me to two wonderful sites for writers. I first joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Challenge. This was set up to challenge us to write one book each month for a year. It has been a wonderful inspiration the last three months as I sought to meet the challenge. Trying to improve my own writing, I discovered Carrie Charley Brown’s site Read for Research Month in March and took that in too. Wow!! Now I’m trying to follow RhyPIBOMO in April.

Parents who have small children must be delighted at the variety of beautiful picture books one can find these days. With advice from Carrie and friends, I have discovered a whole new range of colourful and sometimes wordless picture books for children.

I’d like to share a few that I have looked at. Of those that are wordless, I have found two wonderful storybooks by Molly Idle about her heroine Flora. At first I read Flora and the Flamingo which is all pink and white and depicts Flora as she copies the flamingo’s movements, wearing her pink swimsuit and flippers. Then, as she moves, he does and they relate to each other throughout the book this way. Sometimes there are flaps to open for surprises and sometimes, just beautiful pictures to look at for the story on the big page until Flora and the flamingo finish dancing together. I was so entranced I got Flora and the Penguin out, finding a story in muted blues with Flora dressed for skating. Molly Idle is certainly a fine artist.
Another book, almost wordless was a way of looking at things. We are shown what might be a duck’s beak or a rabbit’s ears and there is just a banter of viewpoints back and fore until close to the end. I don’t want to spoil the fun of what Amy K.Rosenthal and Ted Lichtenheld have done with it but it’s fun too. The Way Back Home was mainly told through the pictures and shows a small boy’s imaginative travel out into space and how he gets back home. It also reveals how new friends can help each other. Oliver Jeffreys is an Irish writer and father of two small boys who reveals the plot through words and simple childlike drawings.
Finally Mo Willems writes many books for young children and one is called That is NOT a good Idea! This depicts a hungry fox and a plump goose, building a relationship during a walk in the city, then in the woods and each change of place (and the goose’s choice) is punctuated by ‘that is not a good idea!’ But it has a surprise ending which will make children laugh. Other prolific authors are Peter Brown who wrote Mr. Tiger goes Wild and Jean Reagan who wrote How to babysit a Grandma ( and later a Grandpa.) I could go on forever Enough to say that books like those I mention here, are a joy for adults to read and for children who are beginning to take an interest in books with a good story.

What have I learned? I have discovered how important good illustrations are and how words need to be carefully chosen.  I have learned that stories can be told just through illustrations, through one conversation, with different kinds of presentations and should try to be amusing for young children. Informative books can also be a story as Linda Ashman showed in her book Rain! illustrated by Christian Robinson or Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali, a story about the life of an African boy who was taken to England in the 18th century.

Matty’s Angel Picture

Recently, I have been to quite a few funerals and saw the dazed sad faces of the close family as they mourned. Then I saw a competition to write a Valentine story where someone is changed. That’s when this story about a little girl and her neighbour came to me. It had to be no more than 214 words.  I call it

Matty’s Angel Picture

“Where have you been Matty?”said my mother as I came in, late for supper. “Oh, I was just over at Mr. Grantwell’s house.”

“Why go there?”

“Mommy, he was outside and looked sad. I tried to talk to him but he was so grumpy that I left. I decided to make him a pretty picture. Then I went across our lawn and knocked on his door.

“When he saw me, he said, ‘What do you want pestering me again?’

“I said, ‘I just want to give you this picture.’ And I handed it to him. As he looked at it, his face changed. He asked me in.”

“Well, go on .What happened next?”

“After wiping his eyes, he said, ‘ I’ll get you a drink.’ He gave me a glass of juice.

“I said, ‘Thank you. I am sorry my picture made you sad.’

“‘No. It’s just that your angel drawing reminded me of my own little girl. She died about your age. She loved angels. Now my wife’s gone, I’ve no one.’

“I put the glass down and said, ‘ I’m here.’ Then I climbed onto his lap, gave him a hug and cried with him. He hugged me back. That’s all I did this afternoon. He needed someone to love him.”


WINTER VISIT to Point Pelee


On a beautiful crisp Sunday afternoon, we were able to drive to a favourite national park, just 26 km away from our home.It is Point Pelee National Park which offers pleasure to so many families all year round. It made me realize how fortunate we are to live close to the Great  Lakes and near natural beauty like Pelee’s sandy tip where migrating birds come in May and in the autumn. My featured picture shows our neighbour’s children looking over the vast marsh lands and pond from the lookout tower. We met there quite by chance.


Young children love the sounds our feet make on the boardwalk. In early spring they enjoy hunting for new life, tadpoles, turtles and muskrats. Here is a picture of a child running around the boardwalk which sounds like clanging boards.  In the Fall, people take canoes out on the pond to spend a quiet hour perusing the sights of the marsh and sharing the experience with family or friends. Last year, it was so cold that children enjoyed skating on this same pond but our temperatures this winter are not so cold.

We headed off  to look at the woodland trail and see if we could spot any tracks. It’s a good time to visit when there are no bugs to bother us. In the woods, nearer the tip is an old cabin once owned by the de Laurier  family. Passing by it or going in during summer hours, shows us how remote life must have been here for a family but also so close to nature. Again Mayia is peering in the door before we joined her one summer.

Going closer to the tip one passes empty beaches where ice and snow how piled up, revealing the weather changes recently and then we go on down to Pelee’s 42nd parallel sign. the park is as far south as Rome and California so it’s a great place for a photograph as a momento, especially because it is painted red and white , the colours of our maple leaf flag.  As we turned round. we saw a family in their bright warm winter jackets head down on the trail right to the point. What a wonderful way to have some healthy exercise on a bright winter day!