Here are links to some earlier posts about events, people, reactions, and other information you might wish to document as you age so that you (or a caregiver or younger family member) will have the information later. Each of these posts illustrates combining text and images. These examples are ones that can be done by you before you have any cognitive problems as a self history as well as with a caregiver after problems occur. Any whether you ever need to use to help you if there is a cognitive decline, these are great ways of passing down information from generation. I wish I knew much of this information about my parents and other family members. Click on links to see examples.
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A few posts ago, I mentioned a new web, PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad app called Workflowy that lets you develop a semi-free-form outline of anything. I have been creating an outline of my life and today I added about 1000 lines (where I had lived, where I had worked, the family tree and their health issues, my favorite movies by type, where my parents had taken me on summer vacations, where I had taken my family on vacations, where I visited on business, and a few other things). Since this is a free-structure outline database, I can easily reorganize items later (drag-and-drop).
I am getting all of these “facts” down both for myself to understand how the many things I did in 62 years fit together into a coherent whole view of my life. I also want to leave a “Manual of the Life of George Huba” behind for my children and grandchildren about what health problems their father and his side of the family had so that they can screen for such issues later in their lives, the family tree of folks we never talked about, events in my life they know about such as family vacations, and events they know very little about like starting a business or prior life events. A whole life in outline form (with notes).
What sold me on using Workflowy (I have tried alternative programs in the past; this one works much better) for the data collection/assembly is the fact that portions of the outline are easily captured, output as OPML files, and then can be imported into iMindMap, creating very useful mind maps almost magically. A couple of minutes of adding a few creative touches (I am too obsessive-compulsive to resist the temptation to customize) and there are useful visual displays of portions of my life.
Do yourself a favor, and capture such information as your life unfolds. Look at how the different themes go together and know yourself better. Look at the data visually in a mind map and other visualizations. And leave hard copy and data files behind for your family. This will be a huge gift.
a HubaMap™ by g j huba phd
Click on the image to enlarge it.
Symbols bring back a lot of memories. 1951 and being born (literally) in that tiny corner of the Bronx where Yankee Stadium faced the Polo Grounds (home of the New York, now San Francisco, Giants). My Dad told a story of studying for his college classes while caring for me as an infant and listening to the sounds coming from the two ball parks on the same summer evening. 1957 was the start of a life and elementary school in Massachusetts where my grandfather was the world’s longest suffering Boston Red Sox fan. In 1968 I left high school after 11th grade without graduating with the intention of being a physicist, discovered psychology soon thereafter, and graduated from Fordham College in 1972. In 1976 I left Yale after completing my PhD program. The Yale hat is the most important one of my life. 77 saw me at the University of Minnesota freezing my butt off and the next year I was in Los Angeles at UCLA warming it up. In 1980 I received my psychologist license and then went through the 1980s and 1990s as a committed, harried, stressed out Los Angeleno. In 1988 I started my own company and promptly appointed myself president. The 2000s were a time for becoming a committed North Carolinian, relaxing, and learning to say y’all. 9/11, of course, was the day most Americans started rethinking many issues in their lives.
The important part of this timeline is that these simple symbols mean a lot to ME and each evokes hundreds of direct memories and thousands of extended associations.
There is a lot to be said about trying techniques like this timeline to bring back cherished memories that you haven’t thought about in a while. Maybe the right symbols for you are concerts or movies or births or vacations or stages in the lives of your family members. Consider using symbols; a lot of our memories are encoded around images and not around words.
The University of Minnesota hat evokes some really funny stories like buying an ice cream cone in 20 degree weather (probably in October or April) from an outside vendor and walking down the street not having to worry about drips. Or playing marathon games of pinball or the first video games (pong, pacman) with a fellow assistant professor. That California Angels hat makes me think of standing in line from 2am on to purchase tickets for the American League (baseball) championships and then two or threes weeks later standing in line all night to get opening Saturday tickets for the Empire Strikes Back and becoming one of the first to know Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. Little things, big things, all stringing together in my memory from various symbols.
You might want to try this yourself. Works for me; may work for you too.
Aside 1: My grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease. Any time you put a Red Sox symbol in front of him you heard about Ted Williams, and the damn NY Yankees, and the Green Monster, and the times he took me to minor league baseball games as a kid, and how good (really bad) I was at baseball, etc. My baseball memories of him are those of the years before the dementia when he multi-tasked (in the 1960s) by having TWO different baseball games going on the radio at once (cacophony in that house) and a baseball game on TV. At times he was reading the then new magazine Sports Illustrated at the same time or the local sports section. If you asked him what had happened recently in any of the three games, he would tell you the last 10 plays or so or what Carl Yastremski had done in his at bats that day. And yes, he took me to at least 50 minor league (AA; Springfield Giants) baseball games every spring and summer. And I’m pretty sure he purchased a hot dog and popcorn for me at every game where we always sat in the same seats behind home plate.
Aside 2: If you look around my office or other living space, you will see that it is filled with small symbols that evoke memories (in my case baseball hats, pens, coffee mugs from meetings and vacations and schools, old office equipment in a big stack). If you look around most homes, you will see something parallel to my office. Why did you think we all patronize the souvenir shops at the national parks and airports and sports stadiums and try to keep our kids out but only half-heartedly? Symbols to organize and elicit memories.
One of the things that has frustrated me in the past six months is that as I look back over 60 years, I would like to be able to organize much of the information I accumulated in mind maps into something that looks like a time line. I did learn a while ago about the absolutely fantastic time line mind maps developed by Hans Buskes (@hansbuskes on Twitter; http://mastermindmaps.wordpress.com/) and Philippe Packu (@IPhilVeryGood on Twitter; http://www.drawmeanidea.com/). These guys have some incredible examples. Far beyond my artistic ability.
So I kept using regular mind maps with a first branch being a year or range of years. The example below shows my reactions to the presidencies of the individuals who served as POTUS during my lifetime. But, notice a little trick I introduced. Instead of the year branch coming directly out of the central idea, I have a “blank” or filler branch and then the time period branch comes out of that. No big deal. Just like a regular mind map with a little piece of formatting.
What I discovered is that my adding the extra (padded) branches in the mind maps like those above, it then takes just about 10 minutes (I need more practice) to go from the mind map above to the one below.
All you have to do is turn off the automatic routine for changing the positions of the branches and drag them around a little. You get the the nice straight line by pinning each of the extra padded branches along a straight line and then letting little time-cluster mind maps grow at the various temporal nodes. Takes almost no time. (Ok, so I did stop and do a little font and picture formatting but it is no big deal). All of these good things happen because the program I used (iMindMap) has a feature that permits you to pin some or all of the branches into specific places. In this case you just have to pin the one padded branch for each of the time nodes.
Want a 3D timeline? Hit the button in iMindMap and you can have one like that below. Note that you also can treat the timeline as a “regular” iMindMap in terms of changing fonts, colors, styles, and adding clip art and images. Kind of cool. I was heavily influenced by the work of Hans and Philippe: this is my attempt to simplify it.
Want a timeline presentation? Yup. There’s a button for that too.