Category Archives: saving family stories

Recipes for a Whole Story Lifestyle

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Consciously choosing to live a balanced and rich life requires us to choose to listen, read, and tell a rich variety of stories. In this final article in this Junk Story series we will explore the elements necessary to build and maintain a Whole Story Lifestyle.

Let’s go back one more time to our food analogy to understand what is needed in each healthy story we consume as well as our overall story diet. Although there are tens of thousands of recipes for any given food type, each recipe will share basic elements. So, let’s say you want to bake bread. The recipe will require a leavening agent such as yeast, sour dough starter, baking powder, etc. You’ll also need one or more grains like wheat flour, rye, cornmeal, millet, and so on.  We can’t forget a liquid; it can be as basic as water or we could add milk, orange juice, beer, or something else. Include seasoning and/or flavor and the bread is ready to be made, baked, and eaten.   The types of ingredients will vary for different types of foods, so basic ingredients for a soup or a salad will be different than the ingredients for a bread.   Obvious, right?

Same applies to the stories we consume.  Ask yourself, are you enjoying stories from different groups and do they have the basic elements.

Each type of story requires basic elements. Stories need a beginning, middle, and end. Stories that jump to the middle are confusing. Endless stories are unsettling and can lurk in your memory without resolution. Historic stories need accuracy not only in general facts but also in details. News stories and stories with philosophical concepts need balance. Folklore and mythic tales need to honor their core.

Remember to consume a variety of stories.  If you are stuck in one area, consciously add different types of stories and media forms. Limit the amount of junk stories you take in every week.

Share stories by becoming a listener, talking about the shows, books, movies, and tales you enjoy.  Become part of the chain of stories by telling and passing down family traditions, experiences, and ideas through oral stories.

As a story coach I not only help you find and create your stories, but I also make suggestions and guide you in your exploration of stories in all forms.

Finally, become aware of toxic stories and avoid them.  Since stories are the stickiest form of communication, when we take in toxic content, it lingers in our brain and causes harm.

Living a whole story lifestyle has a dynamic impact on all aspects of your life. Opportunities and awareness will increase as well as your general feeling of well-being when you actively vary and choose the stories you consume.

 

New Series: Toxic Tales

 

Remembering Mrs. Konningsberg

broken-glassWhen I first moved to New Jersey, I met an elderly woman named Mrs. Konningsberg. She lived in Perth Amboy and every Shabbos (Saturday) afternoon young men from the Yeshiva (Jewish religious college) would come by to visit. She’d put out cookies and drinks in disposable plastic cups and after they left she’d collect all the cookies, saving them for next week and wash out all the plastic cups.  The cookies were very stale and the cups became brittle.  Mrs. Konningsberg was frugal.

Sometimes I’d also come by with my kids for a visit. We’d chat, avoid the cookies, and sometimes she’d tell us about her life.  Mrs. Konningsberg died many years ago, but her story is extraordinary and I’m passing it along.

Anna was born, grew up, and got married in Germany. She and her husband lived a comfortable life, and although the rise of Nazism caused some concerns, their loyal service to the Kaiser during WWI gave them a sense of security.

Then Anna had a dream. Her father, who had died years ago, appeared in the dream and told her to leave.  That was it.  No fireworks or special effect, none the less, the dream disturbed her enough to wake her up.  She woke her husband and told him her dream.  He dismissed it.

The next night she had a similar dream, only this time her dad was angry.  He asked her why they hadn’t left and insisted on them leaving. She again woke her husband.  This time he took her seriously.  After all, things were getting worse, and so he agreed to begin the process of selling the business and home.

On the third day Anna became tired before her husband returned from work.  She fell asleep in her wooden rocking chair.  Her father must have been waiting; shortly after she dozed off he appeared in her dream and began yelling.  “I told you to leave,” he said.  Then he picked up a leather belt and struck her across the face.

Her rocking chair tumbled over causing her to wake up. Just then her husband arrived home.  He picked her up off the floor and discovered a throbbing red welt across her cheek.  Anna made her decision. “You can do what you want, but I’m leaving now, with or without you. Both husband and wife quickly gathered up their valuables and a few personal possessions then boarded the next train out of Germany.

The last train out of Germany.

The last train out of Germany before Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, November 9, 1938,

Mrs. Konningsberg ended her story with a short silence, and then she said “I don’t know exactly what would have happened if we didn’t follow my dream, but I am sure, my father saved us both.

 

Natural Tellers

George is the one with the white hair.

George is the one with the white hair.

Everybody is filled with stories, and just about every has at least one or two good stories they enjoy telling, however there are a few folks who I like to call natural tellers. They might tell tales as they sit on the front porch or at the kitchen table, or they spin them as they do surgery or sell products. They love to tell and they seem to have an endless supply spellbinding stories, and most natural tellers seem to be very successful in one or more aspects of their lives.

Qualities of a natural teller:

• They have interesting/exciting lives and/or they come from interesting and exciting families.
• They use their stories as a way to communicate
• They willingly share their stories and allow others to pass them on.
• They are good listeners.

Now let’s meet a natural teller: George W. Appenzeller
George runs a llama farm in Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. He’s in his seventies, has a head of pure white hair, and a smile that conveys a bushel load of encouragement. He takes small groups of kids on treks through the mountains and allows them to discover their inner strength. Challenge Adventures is a non-profit that focuses on kids who have faced trauma, abuse, poverty, and other challenges. He also does a few programs with scouts and other youth groups. I spent a week at the llama farm and in the mountains with a group of girls from Camp CADI, an arts and adventure camp for survivors of sexual abuse.

Caring for llamas and leading wilderness adventures seems to fit the first quality of natural tellers–interesting lives, but for George that’s just the tip of his story iceberg. He served in the military, worked in theater, got a degree in Russian history, then a master’s in social work. He and his wife have traveled the world doing environmental studies and they have a business evaluating the effectiveness of programs. Plus he has a llama farm. OK, he’s interesting.

On the second day of our llama walk in the mountains we all went on a 6 mile hike to a waterfall. After an hour or so, we took a break near a stream. George began to talk about the llamas, plants, and terrain for a couple minutes then rolled right into a story. Once he took a group of scouts with their parents hiking and they set up camp just where we were sitting. George and the other guides suggested moving the tents to higher ground, away from the river. The parents preferred the lower, flatter ground. That night it rained; George and the guides stayed dry, the scouts and their dads got soaked. George told the story with a sparkle in his eye and in a simple matter of fact style. It got a laugh and successfully demonstrated the wisdom of listening to guides (and the people in our lives that have experience and knowledge). No lecture, just a simple story. George uses his stories to communicate.

I got into North Carolina ahead of my group, so I had time to meet and chat with his staff. Natural storytellers are usually very generous with their stories and will tell for hours with no end in sight. I asked permission to tell a couple of George’s stories and he said yes right away. He’s willing to share his stories and pass them on.

Now most of the mountain paths are narrow and we each led a llama, so we walked single file. Mountain paths are rocky and I spent the majority of my time looking at my llama or the uneven path, but every now and again I’d look up and see George walking next to one of the girls, just listening. He didn’t rush people, he listened at their pace. Yep, George is a good listener.

People remember natural tellers because they tend to nourish a place in our consciousness that excites both our hearts and our minds. If you find a natural teller, clear some time in your calendar so you can just sit together and talk.

If you are a natural teller (or you know one), please take note. Natural Tellers tend to tell and not save their stories. A story coach, unlike a writing coach, will honor the spoken word process but still find a way to save these precious stories. Often told stories already have their form, but they are a bit like Jello, they wiggle a bit when you want to save them. Creating a structured time and setting goals is the best way to save stories so they can be passed on.

If you’d like to learn more about George and Challege Adventures check out his website at http://www.challengeadventures.com. I’ll be writing more about Camp CADI in my next blog. Check out this amazing program http://www.safegirlsstronggirls.org/ Both groups do amazing work and rely on donations so if you can, please donate.

 

Learn more about story coaching or schedule a session with me at Rivka@SimplyExtraordinaryTales.com.  

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