Family Connections: Keeping in Touch Across the Miles

Family Connections: Keeping in Touch Across the Miles

[Editor’s note: Saving Memories Forever blogger Stephanie Pitcher Fishman shares her tips on keeping in touch with family and friends in a digital age.]

Because of the digital age in which we live, communicating with family and friends seems easier than ever before. Gone are the days of waiting until the party line has been cleared before you can say Happy Birthday to Aunt Edna. However, because of the busy-ness of our home and business lives, are we actually reaching out as often as we should? As part of our continued series on positive change and inspiration in 2013, Saving Memories Forever encourages you to find ways to keep in touch with loved ones more often.

Choose Low-Tech

Gone are the days of ladies having their own writing desk specifically for the purpose of updating the family on the latest news of the household. Yet, letter writing can still be a fun way to keep in touch with others. Whether you are writing to young or old family members, everyone still enjoys receiving surprises in the mail. Writing letters is a lost art. But it can result in a wonderful piece of ephemera for later generations. Unless, of course, you request that your letters be burned as Abigail Adams did; luckily her husband John Adams ignored her request!

In this time of smartphones and Bluetooth it is easy to slip in a quick phone call to a loved one while you are running errands or otherwise multitasking. Phone calls are still the most common way to keep in touch, and the power of voice is undeniable. The excitement over a recent event can be felt just as palpably as if you were in the same room. Hearing emotion in a family member’s voice makes the miles between you fall away.

Going High-Tech

Do you wish you could see your relative’s face while you chat and catch up? Now you can with on-line communication tools such as Skype! An easy method of video chat, Skype is free to download and once you register you are ready to connect with friends and family. Look to the premium version of Skype if you want access to features including group calling or dialing directly to a land line or cell phone. As a bonus, Saving Memories Forever can be used alongside Skype to capture all of your special family stories! Easy-to-follow instructions on recording your stories via Skype can be found in the Saving Memories Forever User Manual linked in the “How It Works” section of our website.

Tips for Staying in Touch

  • Determine what type of connection speaks to you: high-tech or low-tech. If you tend to gravitate towards digital options, check out smartphone apps that make it easier to keep in touch with loved ones. These include apps related to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and communication tools such as Skype. If you are more of a low-tech person, purchase some new stationary and a pen that just feels nice to hold. If you are surrounded by tools to connect with others, then time available to do so will present itself more often.
  • Determine who you want to connect with in your circle: teens or adults. If you are reaching out to the younger generation in your family focus on contact that is short and frequent. Ask them singular questions to help you identify their interests. Instead of asking what styles of music they like, ask them what band they listen to most often. They will mention their favorite which will open up the conversation to discuss something more specific.If you are reaching out to adult friends and family, make sure you connect with them on topics of current interest as well. College-aged relatives are likely thinking of the next stage of life; Adults are probably juggling multiple projects and schedules. A weekly email may be more welcome than a weekly phone call if they are balancing work, kids, and families of their own.

    For corresponding with an elderly family member, share stories of your life and ask them to share their stories as well. Building bridges between the generations is an easy way to continue the conversation and encourage them to share their wisdom and memories. Don’t forget to record these stories using an app such as Saving Memories Forever!

  • Determine a time that works for your schedule: weekday or weekend? If you make connecting with others a priority, make sure that you are setting yourself up for success rather than failure. If your family has a busy week-day schedule choose a time during the weekend that can dedicated to reaching out to others. If you are a planner, make a list of who you’d like to connect with and put it on the calendar. Make it an appointment you intend to keep!

Whatever the method, enjoy your time with family and friends. Reach out along the branches of your family tree to create and strengthen the relationships that keep you rooted!

Living Life to the Fullest: A new kind of resolution

Living Life to the Fullest

[Editor’s note: Saving Memories Forever blogger Stephanie Pitcher Fishman shares her thoughts on living life to the fullest in 2013.]

The beginning of a new year is usually met with excitement. It’s the same feeling we had as children when we opened up a new coloring book. We could turn the pages into anything that we wanted. As adults, we still have the ability to make our year into anything that we’d like. Rather than facing it with resolutions of what you won’t do, try identifying a few things that you will do. Be intentional. Be adventurous. Be family-oriented. This year resolve to live life to the fullest – and then use Saving Memories Forever to record those experiences!

Family: Building a Legacy

For many of us, our family life is the foundation upon which all other pieces of the puzzle lay. It’s up to us to decide how our foundation is formed. Being intentional in your family activities doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours planning the perfect vacation or birthday party. Instead, focus on creating lasting memories through day-to-day involvement in the lives of your loved ones. Invite grown children and grandchildren over for a regular family game night. Connect with a cousin over a dinner made with your grandmother’s family recipes. Reminisce about childhood events with a friend over lunch at your favorite pizza joint. Along with creating memories, by recording these stories using a iPhone or Android App like Saving Memories Forever you are creating a legacy of family stories.

Work: Trying Something New

You don’t have to find new employment or receive a promotion to try something new at work! You are probably surrounded by more opportunities in this area than you might realize. Companies today have a higher turn-over rate than the businesses of our parents. “Company men” (and woman) are a rarity in today’s world. Have you noticed a new employee within your area of expertise? Perhaps you can reach out to them and act as a mentor. Or, do you notice a co-worker who traditionally eats lunch alone? Pull up a chair and have lunch together. Our work consumes a large part of our week. Creating positive relationships will help that week run more smoothly, make it more enjoyable, and will reduce work-related stress. Resolve to step outside your normal routine at work and try something new. Be sure to share your experiences with your children and family to inspire them to try something new in their own life. By doing so you will create a ripple of change!

Community: Giving Back Through Volunteering

I am blessed to have a legacy of community service on both sides of my family. It has broadened my horizons, increased my awareness of others, and changed the way I view my place in the world. By reaching out to your community you are not only making the lives of others better, but you are changing your life and the lives of your family through your experiences. Do you have a heart for families? Reach out to your local Ronald McDonald House. They are always welcoming volunteers to help prepare meals, provide housekeeping, or even donate children’s books or board games. Does your area have a homeless population? Put those knitting skills to use by knitting gloves and hats.

Becoming active in volunteering can be as big or small a commitment as you would like. Even the smallest action will have a large impact on the lives of others. Be sure to include these stories when you record your memories. Leave a legacy for others as my grandparents and parents left for me.

Experience: Seeking Adventure in the Ordinary

We live our lives in a routine. School, work, and errands fill many of our calendar days. How about adding in a little adventure? Adventure is simply defined as seeking an exciting experience. It doesn’t mean that we have to experience something as grand as climbing Mount Everest. It can be as simple as taking up a new hobby or stepping out of your comfort zone to join your kids on the basketball court at the gym. Looking for more? Plan an exciting weekend getaway to explore an area within your state that you’ve never visited.

If you need inspiration, access the Saving Memories Forever App to find a question that you’d love to answer. Rather than using the app to simply record memories of past events allow it to also help you plan events that you’d like to add to your list of accomplishments!

There’s No Time like the Present

How do you plan on experiencing 2013? However you choose to explore the blank page in front of you, make sure that you share those experiences with others. After all, a lifetime is created one story at a time, and stories need to be remembered. Saving Memories Forever is here to help you save those stories simply, safely, and securely.

Easy Resolutions to Preserve Family Memories in 2013

2013 Family Memories Resolutions

[Editor’s note: Saving Memories Forever blogger Thomas MacEntee shares some tips and tricks on setting family history resolutions for 2013 and sticking to them! ]

Besides trying to stick to the usual New Year’s resolutions (losing weight, getting organized . . . I’m sure there are others!), have you pondered the state of your family’s stories and memories?

The start of a new year is a great way to make plans for preserving your family’s history through photos, documents and most importantly, the oral history and stories that get passed down from generation to generation.

Resolution #1: Get Organized and Make a Family History Plan

That’s right Stan, a plan.  All projects big and small require some planning and some efforts at organization.  If you want to start a photo scanning project, start by sorting the photos into groups. Prepare your materials. Set up folders on your computer for storing the digital images.

The same works for saving family stories.  Make a list of the stories that are most important to you. Then list all the family members and friends who might have more information about the story or their own perspective to add.  Finally, list the format you want to use to preserve the story (handwritten, typed on the computer, or recorded using an app like Saving Memories Forever).

Resolution #2: Preserve Photos the Fun and Easy Way

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is an easy-to-use tool for scanning photos and documents of almost any size. Check out our recent review of the Flip-Pal here and you’ll realize one added bonus: scanning photos with family members will get them talking about family stories!

One trick that successful “family photo scanners” use: place a large box of photos along with your Flip-Pal next to your favorite spot near the television. Each evening, resolve to scan 10, 20 or even 100 photos while watching your favorite programs. In no time, you’ll be ready to move on to the next box of family photos!

Resolution #3: Home Movies and Slides Matter Too

Are you still sitting on a box or two of 8mm home movies? What about video tapes? You need to act quickly to preserve these materials and ideally, convert them to a digital format.  The reason: many materials degrade over time and most of us haven’t taken the time to store these items using archival materials and practices.

The easiest way to convert home movies and slides is to take them to a superstore like Walmart or Costco or a drugstore such as CVS or Walgreens. Drop them off and in a matter of days you’ll have a CD or DVD of the movies and images to be added to your family history projects.

Resolution #4: Don’t Forget The Family Stories

Unfortunately, many of us neglect the family stories when it comes to preserving family history. Perhaps because oral history is not tactile, you can’t reach out and touch it or hold it. This doesn’t lessen its importance; in fact, family stories are often the starting point for genealogy or researching family history.

Rather than trying to remember these stories, which becomes difficult as the years go by, commit to making sure they are kept in a format that can be passed on to future generations. Don’t just write down the story, take it one step further: record the story in your own voice. Or better yet, interview family and friends who were involved in the story!

While digital recording tools abound, Saving Memories Forever is not only easy to use, but you can also add your photos and images to help round out the story.

Resolution #5: Create a “How Am I Doing?” Check In System

Most of us are all gung-ho about resolutions in January, but what about May or November? Set up a reminder system using a wall calendar or a digital calendar (or even a program like Evernote) that forces you to take inventory of you progress.

Like hopping on a scale, try to be honest when checking in. Have you accomplished 10% or 25% of the goal on a family history project? Do you need help, and if so, who in the family can help?

Periodic touchstones help make the journey not only quicker, but they also make sure we are on course to our destination.

So What Are You Waiting For?

It’s all up to you right now. Start today. Don’t wait. Preserve those precious family memories and make sure they get passed on down to the future generations.