My mother had given me the old photographs of my father's side of the family. I knew who they were because my Mom had loving wrote all of the names on the back of the photos. but I really don't. The only stories I have about them are the ones my Mom remembers vaguely. I don't know what their childhoods were like, what they thought about their marriages. What made them successful. What their lives were like living on a farm in Texas. I have photographs that show me what they looked like and where Shelby gets her thick curly hair from. Most all of them are gone now and their stories left untold.
The Journaling Jar was a term I heard, about four or five years ago now. When I was told the purpose and the overall process of gifting a journaling jar, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. It was PERFECT for getting the stories I wanted from those I love. My family members could answer the questions on their own time and I would have the answers in their handwriting. They would be telling me and the future generations of our family their life stories.
To get started you will need to choose a container or jar for the questions. I chose containers that could be apart of their home decor. This way they could display it out in the open, instead of in a closet where it would be forgotten or lost.
Then you create questions, or journaling prompts that you type into a word processing document. You print them out and cut them into strips. Fold the strips in half, or thirds, whichever works for the container you are using. You can then add a few more things to the gift if you like. Such as giving a journal and a set of pens with the questions. You can make a basket of sorts, etc. If you are giving this as a gift you might need to verbally explain what the gift is all about, the purpose of the questions, etc.
Here is a more recent example of a Journal "Jar" gift set I created.
I created this set to give to my Mother In Law. She lives in California and I would love to know more about her and my husband's side of the family. So, I sent this Journal Jar set to her so she can get started documenting herself and the memories she has of the family. The "jars" is a set of the Making Memories Embellishment Center Drawers. The left "jar" drawer holds the pens I created using the Prima flower vines. The right "jar" drawer holds around 100 questions that she will pull out, at her convenience, to start recording her stories. The notebook in the center will hold all of the valuable stories of my husband's family. I wanted to make sure she had everything she needed to get started!
The first "Journal" Jar set I gave as a gift was about four years ago, when I started making the first of many altered books. After I gave my first journal jar set to my Mom, I thought, I should do one myself. These were my stories, our family stories, that could be passed down to my girls and future generations.
I wanted to put a little spin on the journal I would use. So, this is when I decided to create an altered book. Would I be able to fit the answers to all of the questions inside, especially since I was also including photographs with the story. No. but that is Ok. I plan to create more then just this one altered book. I will make a set, versions, if you will of books.
Here is the "Me" altered book which is featured in the Altered Books Tutorial Noell and I put together. Noell and I show different styles of altered books and take you step-by-step through various techniques, from covering your old book with paper, to adding interactive elements inside your pages. You purchase the a downloadable version by clicking in the side bar.
Each page is based around a journaling question I pulled out of my container and attached to the page in my altered book. These questions can take some time to compile. So, to get you started here are the questions I used in the Altered Book class I taught originally back in 2005. This is a really long list, I did not use them all and over the years these have also been inspiration for layouts I created as well. Go through and see if there are questions you don't want to use and please, add your own.
Your life story is ever-changing and your altered books and or journals should document them.
Where did you live as a child – town, country, suburb, etc.
What is your greatest joy? Your greatest sorrow?
What do you feel has been the most significant world events that have taken place in your lifetime and why?
Describe your yard as a child.
Describe your wedding dress.
Tell about your teenage social life – your friends, dances, dating, outings, etc.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Tell about exciting experiences as a young woman.
Tell about handed down talents, foods, pottery, quilting, etc.
What lessons did you learn as a child? Did you carry any over to into adulthood?
What were your favorite places to go with your family when you were young?
Tell about any ancestors that you know about – names, dates, etc. and any stories about them.
What were your fears, expectations, anticipations about getting married?
What is your mother’s best trait? The traits you share?
What is your father’s best trait? The traits you share?
Give one word on how to live successfully.
Describe a favorite childhood friend and something you did with her or him.
Tell about your grandchildren – how many – how do you feel about being a grandparent?
What is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to you? The worst?
What is your child-rearing philosophy?
What can frighten you the most and why?
What is the most exciting place you have ever been and why?
What was your worst, most embarrassing moment?
What games did you play as a child – inside and outside?
Where did your favorite grandparents live? What was their home like? Did it have a certain smell or look?
Did you have a close relationship with your grandparents? Tell about it.
Did you have a bicycle? Explain.
Tell how, when and where you learned to drive and any memorable experiences.
How did you like being the oldest, youngest, middle or only child?
Describe a childhood Christmas.
What did you do when you were a child that got you in the most trouble and how did your parents handle it?
Tell about your first crush.
How did you feel about school?
Tell about your mother – her personality, characteristics, talent, family stories, etc.
What is the most important lesson, message, or advice that you have learned that you might pass onto others?
Tell about your own family traditions – Christmas, birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.
Describe a childhood birthday.
What personality trait do you admire and why?
What is your secret for good health?
Write about some places you went with your father.
Tell about some places you went with your mother.
If you could be an animal, which one would you choose and why?
What kind of extra-curricular activities did you participate in at school?
What do you think brings good or bad luck?
What are your most deeply held values?
What is your favorite smell and what does it remind you of?
What is your favorite song and why does it touch your heart?
What is your favorite book?
What dreams have come true in your life?
What unrealized dreams do you have?
If you could have three wishes what would they be? Why?
What secrets do you keep? Start a page with the phrase “I can’t believe I’m writing this but….”
How do you answer the question “Who am I?”
What makes you laugh until you cry?
Time helps us process events. What would you change about the events of your life?
What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?
Quick, list half a dozen values that are important to you. Why?
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Got a pet peeve? What is it?
Who is your hero and why?
What’s on your mind today? Go ahead write it down.
Remember a time you had tears in your eyes. Were they tears of happiness or sadness? Share the story.
So, who are you when no one is looking?
What are the best things about your marriage?
What do you love most about your spouse?
How do you keep your marriage happy? Any advice to pass on?
What was your first job?
List the blessings you have found in being a parent.
List the challenges you have found in being a parent.
Talk about your relationship with your child/ren.
Tell about home cures or old wives tales: hiccups, toothaches, earaches, etc.
Tell something about each of your children – their personalities, talents and traits that make them different and special.
What did your father do for an occupation?
Where were you when you heard about
Pearl Harbor? Were you old enough to remember?
Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? What did you feel?
Where were you on September 11, 2001? How did the events of that day impact your life?
What was a typical Sunday like when you were growing up?
What did your family do for vacations when you were growing up?
What was your favorite subject in school?
Where did you go to college? What years?
What did you do after school?
Is there a Christmas or birthday present that really sticks out in your mind?
Where were you when man first walked on the moon? How did you feel?
Who were you named for?
What was your favorite age or time period in your life?
What was the hardest thing you ever had to do?
What fads have you seen come and go? Did you participate?
Is there something you wished you had done, but didn't?
Have you ever experienced a natural disaster? How were you affected?
What person affected your life the most?
When and where were you married? Did you have a honeymoon?
How many aunts, unless and cousins do you have? Were they a part of your childhood years?
Was there a family member you were especially close to?
What is your proudest accomplishment?
How did you meet your spouse?
What places have you seen in the world?
Is there anywhere you would still like to visit?
Did you know your grandparents?
Did you have pets?
When did you get your first TV? What shows did you watch?
What was your favorite candy? Favorite meal?
Did you go to the movie theater? The drive-in? What types of movies did you like?
What was the first movie you saw? Is there a movie you would watch over and over again?
Was there a job or career you wanted at one time then didn't pursue?
Do you remember any special stories you grandparents told you?
Did you attend church regularly? What faith?
Were your parents very social? Did they dress up everyday or to entertain?
How did the Great Depression affect your family?
How did WW 2 affect your family? What do you remember most about that time?
Did your mother and father have favorite sayings?
What did the home you grew up in look like?
What was the first home you purchased like?
Did you like growing up in a small town? Did you dream of moving away or did you want to be there forever?
Did your family eat in the kitchen or dining room? What did the table settings look like?
Was there much music in your home? If so, what kind do you remember?
Did you have a garden? Flower or vegetable?
Did you have a nickname? Do you have any nicknames now?
Did you collect anything as a child? Do you now?
Did you have chores as a child?
How did you and your siblings entertain yourselves as children?
Did you go to camp? What was it like?
What was your neighborhood like when you were a child?
Did you eat lunch at school? If so, what was it typically?
What did you do in the summer when there was no school?
What did you do the day you turned 21? 40?
What was the fanciest New Year's Eve party you ever attended?
Did you have family picnics?
What was your favorite song in high school?
Did you go to your high school prom or other dances?
What were the clothing trends/fashions when you were in high school? Did you wear them?
Did you do well in school? Did you ever skip school?
Where did you live while in college?
Were you in clubs or a fraternity/sorority in college?
What degree did you get in college? Did you use what you learned in the rest of your career?
Did you change significantly while you were in college?
Did you ever see a favorite performer in concert or at a show?
Did you have a favorite radio show? How did your family listen to radio shows?
How did you feel about Elvis? The Beatles?
What type of art do you enjoy? Have you purchased? Have you created?
Were you friends with your co-workers? Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Do you have any bad habits?
What can be found on your refrigerator door? In your pantry?
Is there anything you must do every day?
What is your favorite season? What about it do you love?
Do you like time alone, or do you need to be with people?
Which President did you admire most in your lifetime?
Did you ever wish to live in a different time or era?
What have been some of the biggest changes in your lifetime?
Did you ever have an accident?
Do you think you grew to be like your parents? In personality? In appearance?
Who have you lost in your life that you miss the most?
What advice would you pass on to grandchildren?
Did you ever travel by train? By ship?
I have also put this list of journaling questions in the tab at the top of the page. If you have any questions just let me know.