The Miracle Museum

Written By: Chapters of Life - Aug• 04•14

Twenty years ago, Lee Grimes awoke in the middle of the night to hear God speak clearly in his mind, “No, don’t let them forget. Go out and get their stories.”Lee feathered

That’s the condensed version of how Lewis County became home to a renowned museum showcasing stories of men and women who have sacrificed in service to their nation.Heeding that still small voice, Grimes purchased a video recorder and began gathering the stories of military veterans. As he did, many gave him uniforms, photos and memorabilia, and the Veterans Memorial Museum was born.

Now a book called “The Miracle Museum” tells the longer version and how veterans who have visited the museum in the past 15 years have received a warm welcome and hope and healing of wounded hearts. All proceeds from sale of the book benefit the museum.

When I met Grimes a decade ago and he told me how the museum started, the story lifted my heart and resonated in my spirit. How many of us hear that still small voice and fail to heed it? I need a sledgehammer from God to know what he wants me to do.

Then, in early 2010, while organizing a Northwest meeting of the Association of Personal Historians, I wanted people to see the museum so I emailed Grimes about renting the upstairs room. During our back-and-forth email correspondence, I wrote that someday I’d love to help him share the story of how the museum began. But then I erased that line, feeling that I was being rather presumptuous to suggest such a thing. Grimes responded by email and again thanked me for my efforts to promote the museum … and then said he hoped I would help him tell the story of “The Miracle Museum.” The sledgehammer!

I met with Grimes eight times that year, tapping furiously on my laptop as he shared fabulous stories about the people who helped start the museum and veterans who gave generously of time and talent to remodel the rental building in Centralia and construct the existing building in Chehalis. I often found myself swiping tears from my eyes as he told how God has worked in the lives of so many people, healing decades-old wounds and bringing peace to war-ravaged hearts.

Now, four years later, the book is at the printer’s and should be ready to sell in time for the July 31 through Aug. 3 visit by the Vietnam Traveling Wall, which will be open for public viewing 24 hours a day. The Brothers in Arms Motorcycle Club will escort the wall through Centralia and Chehalis to the museum July 30.


Why Me, Lord?

Written By: Chapters of Life - Aug• 04•14



Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Peter Slempa, Slempa, a member of the first Navy SEAL teams, signed copies of Why Me, Lord? last weekend at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis.

Pete served aboard the USS Worcester CL-144 before qualifying for an underwater demolition team. He became the first master chief of SEAL Team One, served six tours in Vietnam as a provincial recon unit advisor, and achieved the rank of master chief petty officer.

In his book, Slempa shares harrowing stories of life in the elite Sea, Air, Land squad formed January 1, 1962—plunging two stories from a cruiser during a typhoon, hurtling four yards after being hit by a semi traveling seventy miles an hour, and rupturing both eardrums when his two-man open cockpit submarine lost control and dove to 200 feet.

Reading his stories, I am amazed this man is alive today. His book can be purchased through the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis.

Hayseed Bicentennial

Written By: Chapters of Life - Jun• 29•14

Sally feathered copy

Chapters of Life has published the fourth book written by S.T. Sweeney, a talented artist and prolific author in her eighties. Hayseed Bicentennial shares stories of growing up during the 1930s and 1940s in the  rural New York communities of Lee Center, Lee, Stokes, Delta, West Lee,  Point Rock, and West Branch.

Her first book, Hayseed, describes her childhood stories of growing up in New York and Hayseed II shares additional recollections of life in the first half of the 20th century.

Her book Tunnel Stiffs talks about the transient lifestyle and friendships formed among those people who built tunnels and dams throughout the United States during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

This terrific lady has a demeanor that exudes sunshine and happiness. What a treasure!


Memoir Shares the Funnier Side of Banking

Written By: Chapters of Life - Mar• 20•14

Arvon Agren with his memoir,
The Other Side of Banking

A Seattle man who worked as a bank manager at Capitol Hill and Magnolia before launching a career in real estate highlights the side of banking few people ever see in his entertaining memoir called The Other Side of Banking.

Most people imagine the life of a banker as rather stolid, but in this book, Arvon Agren, a former bank manager, shares stories of the lighter side of banking, such as walking down a  city street alone carrying more than $200,000 when he was a 17-year-old teller. He watched buildings crumble around him during the 1949 earthquake.

Agren, the youngest of three sons who grew up in Chehalis, Washington, recounts delivering newspapers, picking hops and berries, and doing what he could to help the family survive during the trying times of the Great Depression and the home front during World War II.

While attending the University of Washington on the GI bill, he worked at the University branch of the National Bank of Commerce and later as manager at the Capitol Hill branch, where he faced a Monday morning with all of the bank’s money locked in a safe until Wednesday. Another time, an employee found a glass eye rolling around the bottom of what should have been an empty safe deposit box.

Prepare to abandon any preconceptions about the sober life of a banker as you turn the pages of this memoir by the man who managed the Magnolia branch of the National Bank of Commerce in Seattle. He moved to Magnolia in 1966 and participated in the Chamber of Commerce and Magnolia Community Club.

Agren, 84, who lives in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, began working in the banking industry at the age of seventeen and retired after more than a quarter of a century. He also devoted much of his spare time to buying and selling property, making a career of real estate after leaving banking.

He worked with writer Julie McDonald Zander of Toledo in creating his memoir, which features colorful photos and costs $16.95. It is available at Magnolia’s Bookstore, 3206 W. McGraw St., Seattle; in Chehalis at Book ‘N’ Brush, 518 N Market Blvd, and the Lewis County Historical Museum, 599 NW Front St, or at


My client, Arvon Agren, received great publicity for his book from The Chronicle in Centralia and The Queen Anne and Magnolia News.


Happy Holidays to All

Written By: Chapters of Life - Dec• 20•13

What a treat to meet so many people when I presented four workshops at the Kitsap Regional Libraries in October as part of the One Book, One Community program. I presented two workshops on Preserving Family Stories and two on Creating Photo Books using,, and other online programs.

In the middle of October I joined my husband’s cousin, Peggy Hart, for a 10-day trip to Israel. What a whirlwind! We saw so many fabulous historic sites and many others of religious significance to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. I snapped 2,500 photos and trimmed those down to 1,800, which I posted on Facebook to share with anyone who was interested. I’d love to return to Israel someday and spend more time meditating at some of these places.

My husband and I have been busy the last several weeks selling Christmas trees in both Centralia and Toledo. It’s always a fun time because my brother-in-law from Bellingham visits to help us.

I love hearing from family and friends who send cards. Treasure this time making memories with your family and friends.

Best wishes for a fabulous 2014!


2013 Christmas letter2013 Christmas letter photos copy

Shine the Light

Written By: Chapters of Life - Aug• 27•13

Project Patch, a Vancouver, Washington-based organization dedicated to restoring troubled youth and building stronger families, is hosting a one-day seminar for nonprofits to teach how they can Shine the Light on the good work they do.

The FREE seminar, at the Project Patch Family Life & Conference Center in Goldendale, Washington, is designed to help ministry directors and communicators raise awareness about their outreach and work within a limited budget.

Shine the Light

When: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013; 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Where: Project Patch Family Life & Conference Center (Goldendale, Wash.)

What: Inspiration, Networking, Lunch, Relaxation, Fun

Note: Lunch will be prepared by Project Patch’s staff chef, professionally trained at Le Cordon Bleu.

Register Now

(Though the event is FREE, we’d like to know you’re coming!)

 If you are interested in free coordinated group transportation from a central location in Portland, please indicate “Yes” when asked on the registration form.  If there is enough interest/need we will contact you to let you know how and where to meet us.



John Fortmeyer


Christian News Northwest


David Sanford

Director of Institutional Marketing

Corban University



Matt Payne


Social Bridge Media



Julie McDonald Zander


Chapters of Life

Personal History and Memoir Writing Workshop

Written By: Chapters of Life - Mar• 07•13

I’ll be teaching a workshop on Personal History and Memoir Writing at the Oregon Christian Writers Winter Conference March 16 in Salem. I’ll share specific techniques used for interviewing others and writing your own memoir.

The keynote speaker at the conference is Davis Bunn, author of more than 58 book and three-time winner of the Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction. He has also written under the pen name Thomas Locke. He has written historical books, contemporary thrillers, and inspirational gift books.

To attend the conference, register at Oregon Christian Writers.

Association of Personal Historians Portland chapter

Written By: Chapters of Life - Mar• 07•13

Veronika Noize, the Marketing Coach, will be speaking at the Portland chapter meeting of the Association of Personal Historians Monday, March 11,which takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ronnie will discuss a topic many personal historians face … sometimes with dread.


The Secrets of Soft Selling
Do you hate to sell? Sales skills are not optional when you work for yourself–they are absolutely necessary to your success! If you’ve got a mission to share, but struggle with sales and marketing, Soft Selling skills will help bring your gifts to the world. Takeaways include:
• Why we “hate” selling–and how to turn that around
• Why prospects don’t buy–and what to do about that
• How to double your sales immediately with one simple technique
• The greatest mistake in selling that is costing you clients and hurting your reputation

The meeting takes place at the Forest Creek Park Lodge, 21065 S. Mossy Rock Court, Oregon City, OR 97045.

Here are the directions:

Take I-205

Take OR-213 S exit, EXIT 10, toward OREGON CITY/MOLALLA.

Keep RIGHT at the fork to go on OR-213 S/CASCADE HWY S.  Drive about 5 1/2 miles
Turn LEFT onto S MOSSY ROCK CT.  Drive down this little alley and past 2 homes then arrive at the parking lot and the lodge.

Anyone is welcome to attend a meeting to find out more about personal history.

Association of Personal Historians Seattle chapter

Written By: Chapters of Life - Mar• 07•13

The Seattle chapter of the Association of Personal Historians will meet Saturday, March 9, at the Shoreline Public Library, 345 N.E. 175th Street in Shoreline, just north of Seattle. Directions are simple: Coming from the south on I-5, take exit #176 onto N.E. 175th Street. Head east on 175th, and the library will appear almost immediately on your right. The official meeting will take place from 11:00 to 2:30.



Small Projects Bring Steady Income

Written By: Chapters of Life - Jan• 31•13

When I first joined the Association of Personal Historians in 1999, I read this sage advice on the listserv: Don’t give up your day job.

As I developed my personal history business, I understood why. Creating a steady income from personal history projects takes time, especially when large projects yield lucrative but sporadic paydays.

To alleviate this problem, I examined other income-earning options, a review that began with assessing my skills and experience. After working 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I knew how to interview, write, edit, and design pages. All personal historians possess specialized skills they can market to provide income between big projects.

No project is too small to generate income, and the small projects can create a more steady flow of cash. Options for generating extra income include doing freelance transcription, writing, and editing, work that brings in money without requiring a huge investment of time. Freelancers can market their services to other personal historians, or work part time for local newspapers, magazines, newsletters, or online publications.

Skilled interviewers can offer basic recordings on  audio or video, charging an hourly price while helping families preserve the most precious part of their histories—the stories. Interviewers with writing skills can market their services to help people preserve their ethical wills or spiritual legacies.

People with Photoshop, design, and computer skills can help clients organize photos and create short photo memoirs or digital stories for graduations, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, or other milestones. Quick typists can transcribe tapes, diaries, and letters. Graphic designers can create beautiful custom book covers, historical timelines, and detailed genealogical charts, or even coach novice designers. People with public speaking skills can teach memoir writing or other classes such as heirloom art.

Small history projects can include booklets or videos about historic homes and commercial buildings, family reunions or special vacations, favorite family recipes and heirlooms. Personal historians can create small booklets recounting a birth parent’s life story for a baby who will be adopted, or work with prospective parents to create profiles for adoption agencies.

My smallest personal history book, a 13-page booklet for a 90th birthday, took only three or four hours to complete and earned me $120. The six children of the honoree emailed me recollections of their mother, which I edited into a narrative. I scanned a few photos and designed a little booklet, which I printed and bound at home. A newspaper column I write pays me a bit each week. A set of audio interviews I conducted yielded $1,300.

It all adds up, creating a steady flow of income to help pay bills between the larger paychecks from bigger projects.

Julie McDonald Zander of Chapters of Life worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years before launching her personal history business in 1999. Her personal history projects range from the small 13-page 90th anniversary booklet to the 500-page company history. She also does freelance writing, editing, and design. She presented a workshop on small projects at the APH annual conferences in Victoria, British Columbia, and in St. Louis.