Celebrating a Wedding Anniversary

1235160_647766325236352_992224140_nI love being married. As one of my favorite quotes reads, “Being married means you’ve found someone who you can annoy for a lifetime.”

While I assume that happily married couples don’t make it their mission in life to annoy each other, I do think that there’s some wisdom in this humor.

Perhaps it reflects the freedom to be who you are. Or it reflects the understanding that it’s not always going to be an easy relationship. Or maybe it’s just an good excuse to laugh.

Come August 26th, we will celebrate our 37th anniversary.

Normally, we don’t make a big deal out of it.  We usually celebrate by just going out to dinner.  But this year, we’re traveling down to the Smoky Mountains for a few days of mountain air and Appalachian music. 

We’re going on this mini adventure for several reasons.

One, because we can.  We’re no longer constricted with school schedules. With that in mind, we’re happily anticipating that most of the summer crowds will have gone home. 

Two: we’ve picked a place that won’t bankrupt us.  We’re renting a cabin where we can cook our own meals (at least most of the time).

Three: because it’s time.  It’s time to slow down and mark this point in our lives. It’s also time to celebrate the fact that we still enjoy each other’s company and quirks.

We’ll post some pictures of our trip on Saving Memories Forever Facebook

Come along for the ride. 

SMF-Jane2

Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

 

 

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Game Time at Family Reunions!

family reunionSummer is THE time for family reunions! That’s no surprise.But what is something of a surprise are the new, emerging activities that are available.

Oh, some activities remain the same: certainly the family baseball game is still alive and well. As are card games and the wonderful smokey smell of BBQs.

 

But there is a also new range of activities that is now available to family reunion planners. Even better, many of these activities build ongoing relationships between the participants. The truth is that while these new activities are introduced at the family reunion, they can easily continue year-round.

Three New Activity Ideas

1.  Ask each family member what’s special about them. Record the telling of their special trait and share it with the family. As family members develop new talents, have each person give quick updates throughout the year. That includes your child’s first words and your 8-year old granddaughter’s new-found talent for putting both her feet behind her head!

2. Plan a fun cooking competition! This activity gives talented cooks a chance to show off and the hungry masses something to smile about. Pick a popular theme such as baked goods or BBQ, and invite an all-age panel of family members to judge the competition. Record some cooking-in-process conversation! Remember to take pictures of the submitted dishes as well as the recipes. Be sure to upload these recordings, pictures and text files to a place where you can share them.

3. Make a game out of collecting family stories! Saving Memories Forever allows you to create a Pass-the-Phone activity. Preparing for this activity uses the “high-tech” skills that the younger set has and the experiences of everyone else. (Actually, both groups share many of these skills so it’s a little unfair to group them as I have.)

The game is played by “going around the circle” and asking relatives a question. (If there’s a large group, you might want to select just a few relatives to ask questions now and return later to ask other relatives questions.) The responses are then recorded under each person’s name and then uploaded to the Saving Memories Forever website where they can be shared.

All the planner has to do is find someone who’s comfortable with easy “high-tech”. With a little preparation, the tech guru in the family can easily become the family story recorder. A  Premium Subscription provides unlimited storytellers. Additional recordings can be added and shared throughout the year.  

 

Helpful Tips For Playing Pass-the-Phone

Since we anticipate that you might have a some follow-up questions, we’ve listed a few questions (along with responding suggestions) below.

How do I get started? First, the Saving Memories Forever app provides story prompts.(Of course, you can also ask your own question.)  Beyond that, storyteller Kim Weitkamp suggests that you start with the eldest relatives first (but watch out that you don’t just focus on older relatives or you’ll likely send the wrong message).

How can I encourage relatives who are reluctant to talk to participate? In some cases, it’s a simple matter of having a favorite relative –maybe a grandchild—ask the question. Or it maybe it’s a matter of style. So, be flexible. For example, perhaps the “interviewee” prefers to write. If that’s the case, simply ask him or her to write down a memory. Then record him/her as they read that story. The written memory may well serve as a good starting point.

How else can I use Saving Memories Forever? Family reunions planners might want to consider two other key ways in which they can use Saving Memories Forever.  First, planners can simply use it as a vehicle to capture everyone’s  comments about this year’s reunion. Just use the Celebrations category on the iPhone or Android  smartphone app.Click here to learn more about our Celebrations feature.

Secondly, family reunion planners can also encourage family members to tell stories about deceased relatives. We call this our Virtual Relative feature as it allows a family to almost re-create a person’s life through the perspectives and stories of family members. Click here for more details about the Virtual Relative feature.

Have fun at your family reunion. Let the games begin!   SMF-Jane2

 

Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village.   

What is Nostalgia Good For?

A few weeks ago, a friend posted this picture of a toy telephone on Facebook. “Remember this?” she asked. Indeed I did. It brought back all sorts of memories, including a host of other beloved toys: my all-time favorites being my stuffed dog pal (Marty) and a herd of plastic horses.

Old toys certainly bring with them a sentimental walk down memory lane.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone. Many commented on my friend’s toy phone photo. I was especially intrigued by those friends who connected the memory of this childhood toy with other senses that I hadn’t even considered—sound, taste and smell.

Just an idle walk down memory lane?

So what does all this amount to? Just an idle walk down memory lane? Far from it. In fact, in a recent New York Times article called “What is Nostalgia Good For?”, the author, John Tierney, focuses on the benefits of nostalgizing. Yes, actual benefits. This is a refreshing change from older views of nostalgia, a word that by definition isn’t upbeat, coming from the Greek nostos (homecoming) and algo (pain or ache).

“Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety,” Tierney writes, citing research. “It makes people more generous towards strangers…Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories.” A study shows that thinking nostalgic thoughts makes our bodies feel warmer. Songs with lyrics about loss of love also made the subjects feel warmer. I recommend playing the Beatles song, Norwegian Woods; you’ll be putting on your bathing suit in no time.

Recent Research

For the last 15 years or so, there’s been a lot of research done on the topic of nostalgia. The late psychiatrist and gerontologist Gene D. Cohen spoke of the natural proclivity for people between 40 and 60 to draw on the experiences from the past in an effort to create a meaningful future. In addition, geriatric social workers sometimes use narrative therapy in their work with elderly patients. Narrative therapy uses storytelling to find positive meaning in past experiences. Nostalgizing, says Dr. Constantine Sedikides, a pioneer in the field. “makes us bit more human.”

Today Sedikides and dozens of researchers studying nostalgia have discovered that nostalgia is a global experience and on that can be used intentionally to enrich the present moment. Used as a therapy, reminiscing can help focus on the one positive point that a client mentions; focusing on that positive memory can lead to a place of strength and hope. Dr. Sedikides makes it a point to create memories in his own life that will be memorable. He draws upon his own nostalgic repository when he needs a psychological lift.

Benefits of Nostalgia

Nostalgia, the researchers conclude, is universal. The topics reminiscence about friends and family members, holidays, weddings, songs, sunsets, and lakes. The stories told tend to feature the self as the protagonist surrounded by close friends. The researchers contend that nostalgia has a positive effect on how people feel about themselves, reporting feelings of being fortunate, full and grateful.

Of course, memories can also be depressing, causing a sense of loss and dislocation. Memories that focus on comparisons (then and now) can be especially detrimental. But recent studies show that comparison-free nostalgizing serves a crucial function, bringing to mind cherished experiences and potentially helping people in difficult situations.

Who should try this approach and how often? The experts say unless you’re neurotic (in which case you’ll undoubtedly overdo it), nostalgizing should be a regular exercise…even two or three times a week. So my advice—based solely on many conversations with Saving Memories Forever clients—is to give it a try. Admire that orange sunset. Serve up that new mango sauce. Join your children and grandchildren as they play with the toys that they love.

It’s likely that those cherished toys will become part of their future walks down memory lane and you’ll be right there with them.

 

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village. 

 

 

Dealing with Stories that Change Midstream!

dog lickingYou had it all set in your mind.

You asked your76-year old Dad a question about the time when he was a young kid and was teaching his favorite childhood dog, Buckie, some tricks. (While he was a great dog, Buckie didn’t exactly get high marks for brains.)

 

Your Dad’s story started out recounting the time when he was teaching Buckie how to jump an obstacle course of branches up the in the woods. (It seems that Buckie preferred crawling under the jumps rather than jumping over them.)

That reminded Dad about how his clever current dog, Classy, hid his wallet the other day. He found it under her dog mat in the kitchen. Lovingly covered with drool. And that reminded him about how the dog he had during his college years, Ding, who jumped off the deck in her excitement to see him. (Turns out the deck was 12 feet up in the air.)

We think the way that one story leads to another is sorta wonderful. In fact, your Dad’s stream of consciousness storytelling happens all the time.

Dealing with Stories that Change Direction

We’ve come up with a new feature that makes it easy to accommodate stream-of-consciousness storytelling. It boils down to a new COPY feature.Here’s how it works.
Go back to your Dad’s childhood story about Buckie. This story fits well under your Dad’s Childhood (0-12) Category and under the prompt “Tell me about your pets.” Obviously the story about his current dog, Classy, doesn’t fit in the same Childhood category.

The  story about Classy fits under the Adult (56+) Category and, since there isn’t a prompt specifically about pets, you’ll want to place another copy of the recorded story under the Other Memories from 56 Onward prompt.The same goes for the story about Ding, only this copy of the recording will go under the the Adult (20-25) Category. The point is: all three stories deserve equal attention and you certainly want to capture them because they say a lot about your Dad’s lifelong affection for dogs.

In cases like this, you’ll want to copy the original recording and then place a duplicate copy in the other relevant categories. Click here for specific instructions on how to copy recorded stories.

 
The Story that Morphs Completely

In the “dog story sequel” example above, the general topic of dogs doesn’t change. That’s not always the case. In fact, sometimes you start out on one topic, but spend most of the time talking about something else entirely. The original topic is barely mentioned!

For example, a story about learning to cook gingerbread cookies with your Grandmother for some unknown reason quickly changes into a story about the vacation road trips you used to take with your young  kids through the Smokey Mountains on the way to the beaches of North Carolina. You were somewhere in your 30s. Let’s say that the cooking gingerbread cookies part of the story took about 30 seconds and that the story didn’t really illicit any feelings nor contain any details. The most interesting part of the recording by far is the road trip.
The best way to deal with this situation is to MOVE the story to a new category. In the example above, the story that you originally set up  for the Childhood (0-12) Category best fits in the Adult (26-40) Category, probably under the Other Memories from 26-40 prompt.

Remember, always add key tag words and phrases that were mentioned in the story so that you can easily find the story. In the road trip story, those key tag words would probably include “Smokey Mountains” and “road trip”, to name a few.

Click here for instructions on how to move recorded stories.

 

Celebrations Module

Even with these new COPY and MOVE features, there are still some stories thatl seem a bit lost. Often, these other stories fit perfectly in what we call our Celebration Module. We call it that simply because there are many different types of celebrations.

For example,  think about the family birthday parties that you’ve attended over the years. You can either record what relatives remember about some of those parties or you can record while you’re at the party. Go to the Celebrations Module, click on the Birthday heading, and record the remarks of family members who were there, and then save and share those stories long after the event.

You can also go with the “live” approach (after all, it’s pretty neat to listen to your 5 year old’s enthusiasm as he first opens the big box from his grandparents). Of course, birthday parties aren’t always quiet so it might be better to capture the time after the party when grandpa and grandson are talking about some adventures that the new jumbo tRex might take.

Then there are stories from the family reunions. Saving Memories Forever even makes it easy to share these family stories with people who couldn’t attend the reunion.

For retirement parties and anniversaries, you might want to ask co-workers to comment about ways in which the retiree contributed to the organization. Or about an amusing incident at work. After all,  25 years of work created strong bonds that are worth preserving. Click here for specific instructions on how to use the Celebrations Module.

So enjoy the world in all its complexity. Take advantage of the new Saving Memories Forever features that make it even more manageable.

How to Use the Celebration Module

SMF logo with linkThe Celebration Module is a great way to record stories from relatives, friends and acquaintances for a special occasion. While most of the recording will probably be done before the event, you can also record stories during the event. This is a special way to use the Saving Memories Forever system.

Using a 50th wedding anniversary as an example, here’s how to set up an account and how to use the Celebration Module. Let’s assume that Becky Johnson, the daughter and anniversary organizer, wants everyone who’s invited to the anniversary celebration to record a story or some comments about her parents, Al and Ruth Johnson..

1. Becky first signs up for a new account on either the smartphone app or the website. Use an easy to remember user name in the form of an e-mail address. i.e., 50thAnniversay@johnson.net (The username should not be a real e-mail address but needs to be in the form of an e-mail address). Use an easy to remember password like “celebrate”.

2. Becky then sends a note to all the people she would like to record stories. She gives them the sign in information and asks them to download the Saving Memories Forever app from the iTunes App store or the Google Play store.

3. Becky asks everyone who’s invited to sign into the app, pick Celebrations, then Anniversary and then record a story and upload. Since they are using an account that she has paid for, their recordings are free. Stories can be recorded anywhere, including Uncle Frank is in South America and Aunt Mary is in a nursing home in New Jersey. Frank can record on his own; Aunt Mary can record with the help of a cousin who lives nearby.

4. After they have uploaded their story, Becky asks them to announce that they have recorded a story on their Facebook page. The functionality is built into the app. After the story is uploaded the app asks, “Would you like to share this on Facebook/” They select share and sign into Facebook. Their announcement should say something like, “I have just recorded a story for the Johnson’s 50th wedding anniversary. Do you know any stories about them you would like to share?”

5. Becky is the gate keeper. Any new storytellers should be referred to him or her for approval and instructions.

6.  Do the people have pictures or text files that go with the story they tell?Becky asks people recording the stories and comments to attach these picture or text files to their stories.

7. When all the stories are recorded, Becky changes the password and no further stories can be recorded.

8. Now Becky can download all the recorded stories to her computer using the export function, >My Memories> My Account >Export Files.

9. Once the stories are downloaded to the computer, Becky can burn the stories to a CD, using CD burning software that was supplied with her computer. She can give this CD to her parents (and the guests too, if she wants).

10. Are there stories Becky wants to record during the celebration? Maybe from people who do not have a smartphone? Stories can be recorded at the event by anyone who has a smartphone and login. So Sam, a 30-year old nephew of the Johnsons, can record stories from Great Uncle John who is 90 and does not have a smartphone.

11. Last but not least.  Using the My Profile screen, Becky can change the screen name to her parents’ real e-mail address. (My Memories>My Account>Change E-Mail) All she needs to do is tell her parents what the username and password are and ask them to record the stories of their lives for the rest of the family. Becky (and everyone invited) have given them a Saving Memories Forever account. Truly a “Gift of a Lifetime”.