Older Women & Friends

A Search For Deep Connections with Martie McNabb

June 19, 2024 Jane Leder Episode 44
A Search For Deep Connections with Martie McNabb
Older Women & Friends
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Older Women & Friends
A Search For Deep Connections with Martie McNabb
Jun 19, 2024 Episode 44
Jane Leder

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Are some or most of your precious memories stuffed in a box (boxes) and stuck in a closet? 

Have you sworn you’ll organize the photos, keepsakes, and letters from an old boyfriend but just haven’t found the time? It’s understandable. You’ve been crazy busy.  But you’re not getting any younger, and in those boxes are stories you want to share with your children and other relatives and friends. 

Martie McNabb is a believer in objects and the stories they tell. She is a "legacy artist" whose nomadic childhood shaped her constant search for deep connections. Martie was born on a military base in Okinawa, returned to the States with her parents when she was not yet two and moved nine times before high school. 

“I don’t have long-term friends or a sense of belonging to a place,” Martie says.  "When people ask me where I'm from, I'm never sure what to answer."

Martie's search for a "home" and extended family has taken her from a graduate in soil science (Who knew?), a housekeeper (She likes to clean!), a sign language interpreter, and a middle and high school teacher. She loved the students but got burned out by the administration. So, she moved on to found Memories Out of the Box, a one-woman business to help people put their "stuff" in order. It has been wildly successful . . . if success is determined by her love for the deep legacy work she does.

Ten years ago, she developed the "Show & Tales" series. (Think "Show and Tell," the game played in elementary school.)  Participants at these gatherings share personal objects and the stories attached to them. An item as simple as a bracelet made of rubber bands or a carton of eggs will suffice.  "It is the power of stories," Martie says. "It's amazing how what seems like a simple activity can tell us so much about others and ourselves."

This episode takes listeners on a "ride" in Martie's 21-foot Winnebago named Brooklyn as she travels from New Mexico to Vermont. She is still on a journey but a journey that has led to new friendships, new experiences, and an ever-growing understanding of how the sharing of stories of the Things that matter can build deeper connections, community, and legacy.

https://www.showandtales.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/martiemcnabb/

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/things-that-matter-with-martie-mcnabb/id1643973318



Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.


Are some or most of your precious memories stuffed in a box (boxes) and stuck in a closet? 

Have you sworn you’ll organize the photos, keepsakes, and letters from an old boyfriend but just haven’t found the time? It’s understandable. You’ve been crazy busy.  But you’re not getting any younger, and in those boxes are stories you want to share with your children and other relatives and friends. 

Martie McNabb is a believer in objects and the stories they tell. She is a "legacy artist" whose nomadic childhood shaped her constant search for deep connections. Martie was born on a military base in Okinawa, returned to the States with her parents when she was not yet two and moved nine times before high school. 

“I don’t have long-term friends or a sense of belonging to a place,” Martie says.  "When people ask me where I'm from, I'm never sure what to answer."

Martie's search for a "home" and extended family has taken her from a graduate in soil science (Who knew?), a housekeeper (She likes to clean!), a sign language interpreter, and a middle and high school teacher. She loved the students but got burned out by the administration. So, she moved on to found Memories Out of the Box, a one-woman business to help people put their "stuff" in order. It has been wildly successful . . . if success is determined by her love for the deep legacy work she does.

Ten years ago, she developed the "Show & Tales" series. (Think "Show and Tell," the game played in elementary school.)  Participants at these gatherings share personal objects and the stories attached to them. An item as simple as a bracelet made of rubber bands or a carton of eggs will suffice.  "It is the power of stories," Martie says. "It's amazing how what seems like a simple activity can tell us so much about others and ourselves."

This episode takes listeners on a "ride" in Martie's 21-foot Winnebago named Brooklyn as she travels from New Mexico to Vermont. She is still on a journey but a journey that has led to new friendships, new experiences, and an ever-growing understanding of how the sharing of stories of the Things that matter can build deeper connections, community, and legacy.

https://www.showandtales.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/martiemcnabb/

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/things-that-matter-with-martie-mcnabb/id1643973318



Speaker 1:

Hi, I'm Jane Leder, host of Older Women and Friends. You know, when it comes right down to it, I find aging to be a complex affair Highs, lows and everything in between but as I see it, the one constant is change, and the key is how we adjust, how we transition. Do we start a new career, write that book we've had rolling around in our heads for years, move to warmer climes to be near our grandchildren, continue teaching or researching or coaching other women, or do we just hang out, travel and have a good time? The guests on Older Women and Friends have many stories to tell, to share, about what they've been up to and what they've learned along the way. So turn up the volume and join me on Older Women and Friends.

Speaker 1:

Marty McNabb is one of the several thousand connections on my LinkedIn page and occasionally I'd read one of her posts or see a comment she's made on someone else's. That was until a few weeks ago, when we met in person at Quest 2024, a gathering and celebration of women 50 plus. We never had time to say much more than hey, good morning, or how you doing, but there was something about her smile, her enthusiasm and her comfort level that appealed to me I needed to find out about what's up with Marty. So when I first contacted her about being a guest on my podcast, she said almost apologetically well, I don't have a book to promote. And well, I said I don't either. So I laughed and simply said we're just two older women with interesting, evolving lives. The short version of Marty's current story and I underline current, it can always change is that she is a legacy artist who uses other people's stuff as her medium. She's a lover of stories that get attached to these things. Sounds intriguing, right? Marty McNabb, welcome to Older Women and Friends.

Speaker 2:

Oh, it's a delight, Jane. Thank you so much for this invitation.

Speaker 1:

I look forward to our conversation Me too, so let's rock and roll. I know that you had an interesting childhood. Can you talk about that please?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So the interesting question I've gotten my entire life is where are you from? Like, we all get that over and over again and that's always been a bit difficult for me to answer. And that's because I was born in Okinawa on a US Army base hospital, and because my father was a fighter pilot and I moved nine times before high school. So all I can say is it's mainly in New England, or the Northeast is primarily where I grew up, so to speak, but I have been, needless to say, moving ever since.

Speaker 1:

Well, my question is, you hear, would we then refer to you as a military brat, refer to you as a military?

Speaker 2:

brat. Well, my mother was not equipped to be a mom, let's say not raised in an environment where she learned those maternal instincts or came by it, and so she, as a young mom in the service, was so anxious and worried all the time that basically she convinced my father to get out of the armed forces when I was about one and a half. So he ended up leaving that world and entering General Electric and was in the finance department there and the typical you know, you move where they need you. The nuclear family idea came around. So I've never been referred to as a military brat, mainly because you know I was only a year and a half when I got out of the service so to speak.

Speaker 1:

So officially, the military had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you moved nine zillion times until the age of 16. Okay, so, whether it's moving because of the military or because of your father's job, yes. How did that experience affect you? How do you think it molded you?

Speaker 2:

I think a deep desire of mine which we, you know, going to Quest was fulfilling some of that desire was my constant search for connections. So I think the good part of the whole experience of moving so many times is because is that I'm very resilient. I'm, I can strike up a conversation with almost anyone, and I do when I'm in my kind of extrovert phase, as opposed to I'm an omnivert. I kind of I need my introvert time, but when I'm in a good space I can connect with just about anybody and everyone and talk about anything. So I love that part. But the kind of difficult part is that I don't have a lot of these long term, lifelong friends and connections to a neighborhood or a town or a city or something like that, like my friends do.

Speaker 1:

Makes perfect sense. Can you give us just a quick rundown of your professional journey? So what did you start to do as a younger woman, and where are you right now? And what happened in between?

Speaker 2:

Okay. So just like my childhood was kind of all over the place, I would say the same for my professional career, so to speak. So I started, I got my undergraduate degree in plant and soil science, so at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, so they have a great agriculture program there. But this was plant and soil science and I had realized I couldn't, I didn't see a route for me that wasn't either going into a laboratory which would bore the shit out of me. I hope that's okay to say on the show.

Speaker 1:

Hey, it's okay with me.

Speaker 2:

But I knew my you know my basic being wouldn't be good about like just measuring and measuring and waiting you know decades to discover something and you know all of that. Or be a professor. And then you had to do the lecture, the teaching I would love, but then the publishing and the research and all that I just was like, ok, what am I going to do next? And so I graduated and I decided to invest. I basically became a housekeeper for a while. I did that for a couple of years because it gave me great pleasure in the fact that I could go in and I could do a job, and half the time, like I love cleaning. So I did that. Well, knew it wasn't going to be a full time thing, but I was in that process. I came across American Sign Language through a neighbor, a friend of a friend, kind of thing, and fell in love with ASL and then ended up following a road with sign language interpreting. But then I wanted to. That wasn't enough, because if you're really good at being a sign language interpreter, I might get some flack on this, but if you're really good, you basically should be like a telephone, so that you don't exist. You are just a mechanism of two people communicating directly with one another, which is perfect and exactly what it's supposed to be. But that's kind of hard position as a profession to live in is to be a conduit. So I knew that wasn't quite there and curriculum development and decided to try my hand at teaching, not at a college level but at middle school or high school. And so I pursued that and I ended an 11-year relationship and decided to move to New York City and became a science teacher in the New York City public schools and did that for eight and a half years, loved my students, adored them. I actually have a few things that I got from them that I keep because it reminds me of them. So I love teaching, but the administration and the politics of it just I didn't burn out, but I say I got crispy around the edges. So I promised myself I would leave before I burnt out and so I went back to interpreting for a while because I just didn't know what I wanted to do.

Speaker 2:

And then I decided to start a business called Memories Out of the Box, which is what you referred to in your intro, that I realized that we take a lot of photos. Most people take a lot of photos and collect a lot of objects and documents and cards, letters, thank you notes, things that we surround ourselves with, and unfortunately, so often they get put in a box. So this, this company, was called Memories Out of the Box, because I don't think we do all of that and we inherit stuff too. Obviously, like a lot of us right now, right In our life the older women and friends we inherit things from people who've passed away and then we're kind of stuck with what do you do with all of this? And yet this is the souvenirs of our lives. You know, these things tell stories, but if they're stuck in a box, those stories get lost with them. So that's what I wanted to do with Memories Out of the Box. And did you go to?

Speaker 1:

clients' homes, and then they basically pulled out all their stuff.

Speaker 2:

It was a combination pulled out all their stuff. It was a combination. So I, of course, was silly enough because there I imagine you have not heard of somebody doing the work like I do all those there are a few more people doing it now than there were, but I was. I was silly and decided that I would start, I would get a store, I would have a storefront in Prospect Heights, brooklyn, of course, around the corner from my apartment, and you know, because we didn't have a stationary store, we didn't have a place to get, you know, beautiful photo albums or scrapbooks or frames. I knew I wanted to offer classes, sort of the do-it-yourselfers you know, teach them my method, which, of course, there is no school for it yet. So I just learned as I did it and so, but I teach that and then I also coach people. I wanted to coach people and then I knew that I was going to do the do-it-for-you service as well. I knew that was going to be a part of it. But ultimately I realized I hated retail.

Speaker 2:

Everybody loved the store. It was gorgeous, it had gorgeous things. I got such great feedback but nobody shopped in it because people had finally gotten to a stage. Jane, I don't know your listeners. People finally got to a stage where they ended up realizing well, of course the digital thing came in, but that's a box, it just has more images in it. But people got to a stage where they were just so overwhelmed with their collection that they stopped printing them, they stopped looking at them, they couldn't even fathom picking the ones that they would put in their photo album or their scrapbook, or their frames, the digital frames, oh wow, they were supposed to solve all the problems. So by the time I got my clients, mostly they would bring in boxes, or I'd go to their house and I'd see digital frames inside the boxes of all the printed photos, and some beautiful albums too were in there that were empty because people are so overwhelmed.

Speaker 2:

That old saying you either have the time or the money Not true in New York City, I don't know if it's anywhere but if you don't have the time, you don't have the time period, so you're not doing it yourself because you don't have the time Exactly.

Speaker 2:

Or if you have the money, then you can hire me. And so basically, I realized the only thing I could offer was the do it for you service, where I go to people's homes, but a lot of times people would just bring their, have somebody deliver their boxes and, jane, I've had somebody bring like eight boxes and I'm like I start going through them, and one was all old Christmas ornaments and anyway. So this is what happens we get so overwhelmed with all of these things. They're precious to us, but we get so overwhelmed, and so that was what I was hopeful to do with Memories Out of the Box, and I did quite a bit and was quite successful. I've had to put that on hold because, as you know, I live a digital nomadic life now, where I live part time in New Mexico with my wife and mother-in-law and part time in Vermont with my mom and part time on the in a little 21-foot Winnebago Travato that I call Brooklyn.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I've seen Brooklyn. I've seen Brooklyn. She is pretty sharp, very sharp. Yeah, I mean, marty drove that sucker all the way from Albuquerque to where? To Bristol, new Hampshire, not New Hampshire what a Rhode Island to go to this celebration festival and it was something like 2,200 miles and I'm very impressed. So we've got memories in a box Out of the box Out of the box, and some of them are in the garbage. I don't know where they are. Some of them just came back to the original owners and they're going to have to start all over again. Yes, but can you talk about Show and Tales, which is just such a fabulous name and I can't believe that anyone didn't get the connection. But oh, so what is Show and?

Speaker 2:

Tales. So I started. A lot of people were doing storytelling events, which I love, but I started. I went to one and they were like you have to do this, you have to do that, you can't do this, you can't do that and you can't have props. And I'm like why the heck can't you have props? The props are the best thing there is, like Civil War diaries and you know all the stuff that I'd come across in all these boxes. I'm like this is a great stuff, stuff Like I love this.

Speaker 2:

So I started a thing called Show and Tell in the back room of Branded Saloon in Prospect Heights, brooklyn, and as a way to get to be known and liked and remembered and thought of.

Speaker 2:

So that started over 10 years ago and it's actually, you know, kind of taken a its own route. I wasn't sure what I was building. It seemed like it was just to make market my other business. But what I found is that people are, you know, there's such a high level of loneliness and isolation in this country and there's so little opportunities to build, really build deeper connections. And so I've hosted over 250 of these events, both in person and virtually, and I've got hundreds of testimonials telling me. You know that they've known people for a really long time like they, in a church or a synagogue or in they've worked with them, they're their co-workers and that after that hour and a half they spent with me and where everybody had to bring in an object that had a significance to them, had a story they felt the ability to, they understood this person so much better. It gave them a glimpse into their life that like nothing else does, and so I was like, wow, this is something else that I want to do so there she goes.

Speaker 1:

This is one of the advantages of being an older person and being able to just run the gamut. You know what did they say in pool? I don't know, shoot the something or other, but you know when you get all the balls in, except for the, what is it? The black one?

Speaker 1:

The white one, the white one? Yeah, I was just gonna say sorry folks, my pool playing days are long gone and clearly I don't remember a damn thing. But that's okay, that's fine. Can you tell me? Okay, so let's say, I decide to attend either virtually or in person, and are we going to call it a show and tell what's the exact? What am I?

Speaker 2:

going to. So you're going to a show and tales, so the individual ones. Now I am shifting and we've spoke about it before too in offering a series, offering this in a series, because the goal of Thing Tied Show and Tales the full name of my company is to build deeper connections, community and legacy. So I realize that one-offs, like one event at a time, even though I have people show up at multiple ones, that one at a time, doesn't allow for the deeper connections and community to be built. So I am working on that and that series is called Things that Matter.

Speaker 2:

But the show and tales are individual ones that I have put on hold a little bit. But I did a little preview at Quest 2024 for a few people. But I have 25 different themes for the show and tales because people are, like you mentioned, like I can't believe. People didn't understand it. But people kept on saying, well, what do I bring? Or what happens at a show and tale? And I'm like you bring an object, you tell a story, it's not, you know like. But we humans have a way of constantly thinking how that can't be the right thing, it can't be that easy, or I can't fit in there, I don't belong there. We have this instant connection. But anyway, this is not what I've noticed. So the show and tales I ended up realizing I had that people leave behind that we hold on to. That reminds us of them. So I have 25 different themes, but it is based on show and tell from elementary school. Jane.

Speaker 1:

Plain and simple. Plain and simple. Find something you want to talk about and get up in front of everybody and discuss it. I get it.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

So I know that you've been asked, I'm sure, a gazillion times, which you know what was the most moving object? Perhaps that someone talked about just off the top?

Speaker 2:

of your head. So this was in a branded saloon in the back room in there where they usually have music, and I went in early before the music shows and it was a small group. At that point we hadn't really started and these two women come in, young women come in and somebody else because it's hard to promote yourself, right? So somebody who was in the group ended up saying, oh, are you here for the show and tell? I think it was called show and tell back then and they were they're like, uh, what is this? And so the other person explained it and they're like, oh, like elementary school. They're like we're elementary school teachers because there's a school right down the road. And so they ended up showing up and they were like, sure, we'll stay. And when it was their time to share their stories, they ended up one of them had a bracelet that was made out of rubber bands, that she had done a little crafting thing with her students and they had made their different you know different bands for themselves and everything. And one of her students ended up at the end of class just kind of coming up to her and handing her this little bracelet saying you know, miss, so-and-so, I made one in your favorite colors, and so this is what I'm saying is, these don't have to be precious, they don't have to be heirlooms, they're just these things that we hold on to that tell a story of our life.

Speaker 2:

One of the things I do want to say is that I call my events story sharing events instead of storytelling events, and it's important. I make an important distinction based on the fact that I find storytelling events fascinating and wonderful, but they are performative. It's about building a fourth wall. It's about having that start and middle and close up. It's practicing it. The whole point of my events are that it take down that wall. The whole point is for people to feel comfortable to go up to someone and to say I loved hearing that story about such and such. My aunt had something just like that right. So it's about building connections. So I have on YouTube, on Show and Tales. I have a YouTube channel called Things that Matter and there's information there so people can get a sense of what happens, what goes on. It's on my website and you certainly can sign up for my email on my website, showandtalescom, and when I start doing some more often, I will let you know and I'm definitely planning on bringing it to the 333 community on a regular basis.

Speaker 1:

All right and yeah for listeners. We can talk about 333 at another time.

Speaker 1:

And just as a quick. You know, I've been thinking ever since we met okay, so what is the object I would bring? And I'm having one hell of a time. However, I just wanted to share that there was an article I want to say, maybe three years ago, either in the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune, where people were asked to take a photograph of the most important thing object from a mother or father or other dear relative who had passed away. And everything was pretty, you know. Okay, fine, here's the ring and here's the teacup, and I'm not demeaning any of those, but it was like I'm reading.

Speaker 1:

And then I come to this one little blurb that says it is my mother's wedding gown and I thought, well, wow, that's pretty interesting. And apparently she had passed away trying on that gown. She was a much, much older woman, and that's it. You can't see Marty right now, but her mouth just opened and went what? So what I did do was write a short story, just based on that little premise that an older woman decided to try on her wedding gown. I didn't know how old she was, I didn't know where she lived, I didn't know anything about her family, about her husband. So that's the way that I've been able to deal with it.

Speaker 1:

But oh man, I promise I mean, you know, if you re-up I will, I'll find something. But I've already gone through the house multiple times and I go Jane, you can't choose that beautiful art piece. I mean, what about all the others? It's endless. Which just leads me to the fact that I think I better start. What are we calling it? Debriefing? What do you do? Decluttering? I think I need to go into the decluttering phase and because you love to clean, you never know I may ask you to jump into that little chug chug of yours and come on over my way.

Speaker 2:

When you're talking about downsizing or decluttering, it's like, yeah, we don't have to hold on to everything, but we could tell, like the things that matter, that maybe our kids don't want the actual thing. A lot of times they might want it if they know the story, or they at least can keep the story. They can at least know the story of it and maybe take a photograph of it. But they're not going to keep the wedding dress because it's going to be. You know, it's falling apart or whatever. It's too much to keep it clean or they don't have room for it. But they can have the story, it can be connected to the image and that helps, I think, in decluttering. Well, you have to come on my podcast and bring something that matters.

Speaker 1:

Uh-oh, uh-oh, I was afraid you were going to say that I was trying to end this before we got there. Uh-oh, uh-oh, I was afraid you were going to say that I was trying to end this before we got there. Uh-oh, okay, I'm in trouble. Oh no, marty, thank you again. So much Delightful. Had a great time.

Speaker 2:

Me too, me too, jane, thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for joining me on this episode of Older Women and Friends. And, speaking of friends, please tell yours about this podcast and if you have any suggestions for future episodes or guests or anything else you'd like to share, go to speakpipecom. That's S-P-E-A-K-P-I-P-E dot com. Forward slash older women and friends. You can send me an audio message or respond to one of mine, because it is your feedback that drives this podcast Until next time.

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