Capturing the Memories of a Lifetime

A place to store and share our stories

By Sue Baldani

We all have stories, but many of us don’t know how to capture and share them with family and friends. Many of us also wish that we knew more about our ancestors who have passed away.

“My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and I said to him, ‘I want to ask you questions about your life so your grandkids and great grandkids will have this information about their Grandpa Jack,’” says Elaine Schwartz. “We often don’t ask those questions while our relatives are alive, and then we have to depend on other people’s memories, and they’re not always right. They remember things with their own filters.”

Elaine, who came to know many interesting people in her work with the state, wanted to find a way for them and others to record and preserve their stories in a way that was sharable. “I was the community outreach director for the State of Kansas and the Department on Aging, and that’s when I realized that we didn’t have something available where people could write and share their life stories.”

In 2005, Elaine collaborated with her husband, Howard Schwartz, to develop Lasting Legacy Online, a totally free site. From her exhaustive research on how to write an autobiography, she was able to formulate 75 questions for people to answer.

“The one question I think is the most interesting is, ‘What is your earliest memory?’ Don’t think of pictures you’ve seen with you as a small child, but focus on what you actually remember. If you read my story, my first memory was of lightning when I was 3 years old and sleeping with my sister and being afraid.” She found that answering these questions in detail was very therapeutic.

“When I had to answer about the greatest accomplishment in my life, even though I had been a legislator and knew the governors and the high and mighty in the state, I answered that it was truly my family that was my most significant accomplishment,” she says.

Elaine also had the honor of interviewing her good friend, the late Chief Justice Kay McFarland. “Working with the chief on her story is really what made Lasting Legacy Online happen. She named me trustee of her estate, and one of the things I did was promote her story.” Since Elaine made the chief’s Lasting Legacy public, others are able to read about her fascinating life. Elaine and her husband have also made their stories public.

All the other stories are private, and the site utilizes the latest technology to protect this information. “We don’t even see the answers to their questions, because we want them to be private stories,” says Elaine. “Once they’re finished, they get a link, and they can then share that however they want.” The site also generates a QR code to use and share.

“Lasting Legacy Online is not only for people to write their own stories, but a way for them to capture those memories of the people they love before they die. It’s a beautiful thing. And if somebody has already written their life story, that document can be uploaded rather than going through the questions.”

Some of its users bestow their stories as gifts, while others, she says, are making them part of their trusts. “We have several financial institutions in Topeka that are using it with their clientele.”

Links can also be used for school reunions and/or any event where people would like to share their stories. “Whatever your age, it’s a great tool,” says Elaine.

To record your and your loved ones’ stories, sign up at

Written for Topeka Lifestyle magazine in Kansas.

Winter Skin Care

As we age, our daily regimen often needs to adjust

By Sue Baldani

While it’s important to take care of our skin all year round, there are certain issues that can arise or get worse when the weather turns cold. Some can be allayed with high quality over-the-counter products, whereas others may necessitate a visit with a dermatologist.

“In winter months, we tend to see more issues with dry and itchy skin,” says Dr. David Balle, a board-certified dermatologist with Grosse Pointe Dermatology & Cosmetic Center in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. “It’s a time of year when some things, like eczema and psoriasis, tend to act up.”

Fortunately, there are quite a few things we can do at home to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. Here, he gives us some helpful tips and product recommendations.

“When showering or bathing, use a mild, gentle cleanser,” he says. “Using harsher soaps may dry or strip the skin of its natural oils.” He recommends Dove®  for Sensitive Skin as well as CeraVe®  brand cleansers. “Secondly, when taking a shower or a bath, don’t linger, because the longer we’re exposed to water, the drier our skin becomes in the winter.”

It is also critical to use a moisturizer after each bath and shower. “What I usually recommend and what I use myself are CeraVe moisturizers,” says Dr. Balle.

As we age, he explains, adhering to a skin regimen becomes even more important. “Studies have shown that we produce less moisture in our skin than we did at a younger age, so moisturize daily for preventative maintenance.”

Grosse Pointe Dermatology offers its own moisturizing cream. “We make a super-rich moisturizing formula that’s often very helpful for areas that have thicker, drier skin with thicker scales, like hands and feet,” he says. “That’s something unique we offer our patients, and they absolutely love it.”

For the older population, Dr. Balle also recommends cutting down on the amount of showers and baths we take. Instead of every day, every other day may suffice, and he says to only use cleansers on necessary areas. Using our hands to clean ourselves is also gentler than using a wash cloth or loofah.

“When we’re younger, I think using a washcloth is a great idea, especially for the facial area where we produce more oil,” he says. “But, we tend to produce less oil and have less moisture in our skin naturally as we get on in age.”

He says using a hyaluronic acid serum is also helpful. “By 45 to 50 years of age, it’s thought that we’ve probably lost almost 50% of the hyaluronic acids that we naturally have in our skin,” says Dr. Balle. “Hyaluronic acids are molecules and agents that hold onto moisture and water in our skin. So as time goes on, not only do we produce less moisture, but we hold onto it less effectively.”

If you follow all the tips above, but you’re still itchy, it might be time to see a dermatologist. “A lot of times when people have itchy skin, they may need more help,” he says. “Chronic dry skin may eventually turn into a mild form of eczema, and they may need prescription level medication or cream to manage that.”

Severely dry, itchy skin, says Dr. Balle, can also be an sign of something more serious such as a thyroid or autoimmune disorder, or sometimes even cancer, which is another reason to visit a dermatologist. “Dr. Google never went to medical school,” he jokes. “When we see things online, we don’t really know where that information is coming from. Anybody can call themselves a skin care specialist and many do, but only board-certified dermatologists have spent four years in college, four years in medical school and have had four years of residency training, as well as continued medical education classes. We know how to properly evaluate, study, and determine what is safe, effective, and advisable.”

As a dermatologist, he also has the knowledge and expertise on ways to help us look our best by using a number of anti-aging and cosmetic treatments, like Botox, fillers and microdermabrasion.

As a Grosse Pointe Farms resident, Dr. Balle enjoys being involved in the community. “I’m on the city of Grosse Pointe Farms Foundation Board, and work as part of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce,” he says. “I’m also on the advisory board of the Helm.”

Dr. Balle also loves spending time with his dog Stella, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. “She’s a sweetie and a joy in my life. I’m just very blessed.”

To find out more, go to

Written for Grosse Pointe Lifestyle magazine in Michigan.