We are going to veer away from legal tech today. That is the beauty of a blog–it can be anything the owner wants, and today, I want to tell a story!

A few weeks ago, I went to my parents’ house for a visit. It was a visit that was long overdue so it was good to see them. Besides needing to visit them, the trip allowed me to help them finalize a project they have been working on for more than a year. You see, for Christmas 2017, I had gifted them with a StoryWorth subscription. StoryWorth is a company that sends weekly e-mails to the recipients with a question to prompt memories. The recipient can then submit their stories via the website or phone. At the end of the year, the stories are printed in a book.

One nice feature of the service is that the gifter can write personal questions or choose questions from the extensive list available on the website. The recipient has the option to answer the question that is sent, select a different question, or write about any topic they desire.

When the recipient submits a story, family members get to read it and comment on it. This provides positive feedback which encourages the recipient to write even more. Sometimes, comments prompt additions to the stories or even different stories. To make the stories even better, photos can be added. My parents had old photos that they wanted to include in the book, but they did not feel savvy enough to digitize them and upload them to the stories. Thus, the need for my visit.

In our case, some of the photos were over a hundred years old so there were no handy digital files. For the few pictures that we needed, we chose to go to the local drugstore and scan the photos using a photo kiosk. (Some CVS stores have Kodak Kiosks; Walgreen’s stores have a similar system). If you have a large number of photos, it probably is more cost effective to use a mail service such as Legacybox–even Wal-Mart has a photo digitizing service now.

This morning on Twitter, I mentioned Houdini, the piano playing squirrel. This tweet was met with requests for more information, so I am going to use my Dad’s story from their book to tell the tale:

Our Piano Playing Squirrel by DeWitt Steele

Do you remember Ray Stevens, the humorous country singer, singing about a squirrel that got loose in Pascagoula, Mississippi and caused quite a stir in a church? We had a squirrel that ran up and down our piano’s keyboard, and he caused almost as much trouble one day as that Mississippi squirrel.

We got our squirrel after a rainstorm that washed him out of his cozy nest in our backyard.MygirlsprotestedwhenIsaidI was going to put him back out in the yard. This was several months after that rainstorm; I prevailed. But the squirrel would not leave; he came right up to me, climbed up to my shoulder, and “demanded” his food and water inside; he even insisted that his nice cage was where he would sleep. I should have known this squirrel was going to be a problem.

About a year later, he met a nice little female squirrel and decided it was time to leave us. He did but came back and brought her with him. He came down to be petted– but our dog would not let his female partner come down. Smart dog! I did not need two freeloading squirrels.

I have gotten a bit ahead of myself, so I’ll shift gears and tell you about our squirrel’s ability to play the piano. He seemed to enjoy running up and down the keyboard. He got a reputation for “playing” our piano. All the kids heard about the musical squirrel; all the kids came to see him.

Then one day a teacher and photographer from the school asked if she could come over and take a photograph of our piano playing squirrel. I agreed, and she came over one Saturday morning.

We gave the squirrel a little time to get used to her. Then we set him on the piano keyboard. He ran up the keyboard and ran down the keyboard. The photographer was impressed. She got prepared to take pictures. As the squirrel ran up the keyboard, she snapped a picture. When the camera flashed, as it was supposed to, when taking a picture, the squirrel leaped for the photographer.

He landed on her waist and headed for the floor, but, when he got to her knees, he reversed his direction and headed up her skirt on the inside. When he reached her waist, he circled it three or four times. She was shrieking, my family was laughing like a pack of hyenas, and so was I. Our hilarious mirth was matched by the squirrel’s running up and down the poor lady’s legs. And then the squirrel did something in keeping with his previous panicky actions, he jumped to the floor and ran under the piano. It was dark down under the piano, and he stayed there.

I don’t think Ray Stevens has anything on the Steele family or the poor photographer, who was slightly scratched, by the piano playing squirrel.

My dad taught biology before changing to writing science books. Over the years, we had many unusual pets that were rescued from certain death. Maybe someday I will share the story from his childhood of the “ugly baby that scared the waitress”–the baby was his mom’s pet monkey–or the day dad played with rattlesnakes.

The squirrel story is just one of the many stories that dad wrote for the book. It was such fun to relive the stories that I remember, but even better to hear things from my parents’ childhood that I never knew. I encourage everyone to gather the stories before it is too late. That is one of my biggest regrets–that I never followed through with recording my grandparents’ stories.


Just to be clear, I paid for the StoryWorth subscriptions and this is a review of a happy customer. I am not being paid for this post. StoryWorth is such a great service that I want everyone to have a chance to preserve their family memories before it is too late. However, if you click through with any of the links from this page, you will receive $10 off a subscription, and I can earn additional free copies of my parents’ book. If you are interested, use the following link to receive $10 off a subscription: https://www.storyworth.com/friend/shellie8

I am so glad that I was already working on an externship with a legal aid organization near my home for this semester. After the events of September, I still need to be at home for a while. The externship allows me to get back on track and make progress toward my degree while being at home. I feel so lucky that Michigan State has this program!

I can’t believe that the first two weeks of the semester are in the bag already. I am completely exhausted and feel that I have miscalculated the demands on my time and my ability to meet those demands. (Of course, this is law school so I think I am supposed to feel this way as prep for a legal career). So let’s review my weekly schedule:

  1. Work 30 hours each week at the externship
  2. Complete Advanced Legal Research course work
  3. Meet deadlines for Delta Competency Model research as we enter phase two
  4. Research and write a monthly article for Frontier of the Law
  5. Write a weekly blog post
  6. Keep up social media presence

What did I do this week?

  • Researched garnishments, foreclosures, landlord-tenant law, negotiable instruments, contract law, and more
  • Went to court twice
  • Assisted at intake office in the courthouse
  • Began long term research project on social security benefits
  • Attended attorney training with sessions on dementia, inclusion, and acting for lawyers
  • Used my tech skills to retrieve data from a phone
  • Dazzled ’em with my Microsoft Office skills (ok, it was just putting a Table of Contents in my research, but hey, if they think I am a magician, I am not going to correct them).

What did I learn about myself?

  1. I really like legal research.
  2. I like helping with technical prep for trials even more than doing research.
  3. I am still a work-a-holic. I have exceeded my time both weeks and have eaten lunch while pecking away on research every day instead of taking a break and going for a walk as planned.
  4. I was reminded that working in a busy office with constant noise is very draining to me.

Plan for the upcoming week:

  1. Ask about working Tuesday through Friday only. (Since I have to be in DC on Monday afternoons for class anyway, this would allow me to go to some of the Hubsters medical appointments or work on school work on Monday mornings).
  2. Figure out my plan for the school’s social media contest.
  3. Carve out some “me” time in my studio so that I can recharge with a little bit of quiet and solitude.