Alvyra Povilaitienė ir Gytis Vazalinskas, du lietuviai menininkai iš Montrealio muziejuj dovanojo savo meno kūrinius.

Alvyra Povilaitis “Summertime”

Gytis Vazalinskas “Les formes de ma ville”

How Inspiring!

Photo books are cool!

The old saw is that nothing that is worthwhile in life is easy… everything requires an effort. Sadly, this is also true of what we leave behind. In the area of family legacies (this word sounds so much better than “stuff we leave behind”), we can all agree that a tidy book of photos with appropriate notes is much nicer to inherit that a bursting box of disintegrating albums and stacks of sticky photos (for example, that first box I posted in this blog).

There is a fascinating story in every family, even a book, especially with the emigration of our parents and grandparents from Lithuania. But not everyone has the time or inclination to write that story. However, we are all probably capable of tidying up a collection of family pictures with as many notes as we can muster, as Peg did with the self-produced binder. This requires some knowledge of computers and desktop publishing.

Through conversations at a coffee club, I found a new friend from Hamilton who has also already done what we are all merely talking about…

This is Audre Sakalas, with the beautiful volume she prepared through Shutterfly. Audre spent countless hours scanning many many photos of her Mom and (separately) of her Dad, and will be working on a third photobook about their family life together. The result is really very impressive.

Making a book like this is possible through many online photo companies as well (look for “photo books”), and also through COSTCO. Groupon also has occasional specials on them. It will, of course, cost more than a self-published photobook on your own computer. Do you have time for this? Well…that depends. Are you working? Do you have a hobby? Can you set aside a bit of time each day or each week? As in anything else, it requires prioritizing and organizing. You can jump into it with both feet and proceed willy-nilly, or start by listing your tasks and setting up a timeline. You could possibly farm out or share the scanning work with another interested family member (or pay your teenager). If there is no one to leave the book for, the Lithuanian Museum-Archives is the perfect place for your story, because that is its purpose.

Am I doing it? I have actually begun. I labelled a collection of file folders by family member. Admittedly, that was last year, and I am… snoozing on my laurels. Audre has given those laurels a shake! Thanks for showing us the book!

To keep or not to keep?

What to do with those old letters and diaries! Short answer: burn them!

A few weeks ago, an interesting question arose in a discussion about family documents. Some of us are “of a certain age“, as the French say, and that means we were actually taught penmanship in our youth and are adept at writing longhand. Many of us are nobly trying to keep up with technology and think that tapping reminders into our cell phones is quite a feat.

Not only writing longhand, but writing letters seems to have gone the way of the quill for most people, in this age of email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These phenomena have undermined letter-writing almost to the point of extinction, largely due to the instant gratification they provide. A life is now described in a series of selfies and cryptic comments punctuated with phonic (not to say moronic) abbreviations that have the personality of a licence plate.

Also, we grew up in an era of keeping diaries, which is another now-quaint habit on the endangered species list. It is said that journaling is coming back into vogue, but mostly as a meditative exercise in the never-ending desire for “self help“.

Baby-boomers are likely the last generation to have practiced the art of letter-writing. I remember studying abroad and staying connected to family and friends by writing and receiving letters. The thin, bluish airmail  sheets and envelopes were an important tool at a time when the only other communication device was a telephone, and long distance calling was expensive. The plot thickens. When I went away I also left behind a serious boyfriend, and we corresponded for months at a time… for a total of 3 years. We ended up getting married, had children, and the bundles of love letters rested in manila envelopes hidden from prying eyes for a few decades. What to do with them? We finally committed to burning them. It was not so much that the letters were improper, but they were special, and held unique memories that we felt were ours alone. In the end, just as our  children have their private lives, of which we cannot, probably should not, know the details, divulging everything about ourselves is simply neither possible nor appropriate. They already know we‘re only human.

In my opinion, the same is true for diaries. Unless they are of literary value, i.e., written in good prose in an interesting or informative way and without repetitive whining, self-pity, self-deprecation or vitriol, I can‘t image someone would enjoy reading them. In this vein, I think we can also blithely burn photos of old boyfriends/girlfriends, because no  one will know who they were or what they meant to us. Do you have silly photos of yourself at high-school parties? Are they really so cute that you‘d want your grandchildren to see them? I prefer to err on the side of caution. In fact, sad but true, few children are very interested in our fond old memories of youth. Usually, memories are like many anecdotes about comical situations…“you had to be there“!




The sentence you never want to hear:

… Mom’s high school diary really cracked everyone up at “Show and Tell” today!


a.a. Vidos Paškienės prisiminimui, Vytas Paškus, Toronto, Ontario dovanojo 8 meno kūrinius menininkų A. Goštauto, V. Kasiulio, K. Manglico, L. Urbono ir T. Valiaus.

Vytautas Kasiulis, Be pavadinimo, menininko išbandymas “Anicetai Aperavičienei su padėka, Vytautas” XI-25-72

Ancient Stories

 Far-fetched? Of course. But old perspectives may hold some wisdom…

An interesting article came over my horizon recently regarding family trees and ancestors. It was written in Lithuanian by Algirdas Urbanavičius, who has evidently delved into this field. He writes that not very long ago, people were more in tune with their origins than we are today. According to the author, people were familiar with their ancestry up to seven generations back, because it was important to know what you might inherit. Citizens of yesteryear realized that nothing is random, relatives are not just a bloodline, but various characteristics passed down from generation to generation. Thus before marrying, they would want to discover as much as possible about the family they were joining, so they could foresee the family‘s destiny and what their children were likely to bring into the world.

Apparently, old Sanskrit teachings, the Vedas, tell us that we are the first generation; our parents are the second generation. They influence us most strongly through their personal example. They provide the model of family relationships; a daughter will model after her mother, a son after his father. Even subconsciously they mimic their parents‘ behaviour. Parents also influence their children‘s world view. Children inherit habits, lifestyle, manner of speaking, emotional expression and physical attributes. According to this theory, the most dominant characteristics are passed down, thus each generation is ever more intelligent, skilled and able to improve. Children do not necessarily inherit their parents‘ actual talents, but the parents can create a beneficial environment for them to flourish.

The third generation is two grandfathers and two grandmothers. This theory postulates that we inherit creativity, intellect, initiative, interpersonal skills and outlook from them; most often grandfathers pass these on to granddaughters, grandmothers to grandsons. Illnesses may also be inherited from grandparents, but parents are also responsible for providing a healthy environment and good habits. These teachings also parse the types of qualities that are passed down from paternal and maternal grandparents, for example the paternal grandfather passes down creativity and energy; paternal grandmother – worldview and material values; the maternal grandfather – interaction and relationship skills. Arguably the star of the foursome is the maternal grandmother – she is the keeper of motherhood and family relationships, passes on intuition, emotions and feelings, our connection to home, homeland and homestead (namai, tėvynė and tėviškė).

This is the scary part: it is very important for grandparents to be virtuous, to pass on virtuous values to their grandchildren. If the grandparents are “complicated“ people having negative traits, it is likely that their grandchildren will take on that negativity.

The fourth generation – great-grandparents – are eight ancestors. From them we inherit feelings of harmony with the world, appreciation of beauty, morality and the ability to love. The fifth generation is the keystone of the family. From it proceed the highest virtues or the darkest sins. The generations become more nebulous the further we go back: the sixth generations consists of 32 ancestors – from them we get genetic harmony or disharmony, balance or imbalance, lightness or darkness of spirit. The Vedas say that symbolically these ancestors are like our 32 teeth – the upper jaw representing the father‘s family, the lower – the mother‘s ancestors, reflecting their strength, purity, or early decay. The seventh generation consists of 64 ancestors. Misfortune and violence in this generation can influence the destiny of its descendants, despite their best efforts to avoid them.

What can we do with this information besides relegating it to the realm of mythology or astrology? Urbanavicius says that although we have no influence whatsoever on the behaviour of our ancestors, it is simply important to know this and not blame ourselves, for example, for our children being good or bad, for difficulties in creating harmonious relationships or achieving spiritual growth. Sounds like a wonderful excuse. However there is merit to tracking genetic health tendencies, because as we know, there are some diseases that can be avoided or at least mitigated by practicing or rejecting certain habits.

It would be fascinating to find out about our earlier ancestors, but as children of immigrants, many of us do not have at hand the means to gather the threads of our connections without on-site research. The lesson: interrogate your elders while you can!