Bring It On

early fall leaves and pond“To everything there is a season… turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose under Heaven.” I don’t know if it made the Top 10 on the Boomers’ Favorites Playlist, but I love this song, especially the Byrds’ version. And this fall, I’m taking the song’s advice seriously. I’m exploring new things and planning some fun adventure.

Let’s start with exploring. Come fall and I get the urge to travel. Up and down country roads: along the river road, out to the barn, or up to Chicago. I like to see things as they change. The leaves, of course, are their own source of wonderment. But it’s also the land and the skies. The brown earth is looking well groomed now, like she just got a haircut and cooler breezes push wisps of clouds across the crisp blue skies. I anticipate having lunch on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and a night time trip out to the barn, hot cocoa in hand, to watch the full moon. Both great ways to celebrate Birthday #63.

Trying new things. I’ve just joined three new groups: a writing group and two singing groups. The writing group has me a little concerned. Writing isn’t the problem so much as figuring out how to deal with the scope of the project. You see my general plan is to write the great American novel. Right? What has me bamboozled are these elements that must come together to create this novel: character development and plot lines, for example, and a theme of some sort would probably be a good idea too. I’m already hedging my bets by writing a companion blog about my writing experience. Seems to me that this backup approach would help my wounded ego if the master plan falls flat on its face.

folk singalong groupAnd, yes, the singing groups! When we were in the mountains of North Carolina, we discovered the world of Shape Note singing. The general idea is that you follow these sheets of shaped notes to run through a song and then sing the words. Full blast! Singing LOUDLY so that the combined voices bounce off the ceiling and wooden floor. It’s an incredible sound! I can hardly wait for the folk singing class that I also signed us up for.

I’ve always loved the stories that folk songs tell.

Now for the biggie: new directions. I quit my job last week. This makes me both happy and nervous. Happy because I really didn’t like the job. In fact, I actively disliked it. Suffice it to say that both the nagging boss and the computer-oriented job were both total mismatches with my personality and my strengths. Ever have a job like that? It’s a lousy position to be in. So, freedom acquired, I’m now dealing with the nervous part. How do I fill my day? How can I be productive? How can I contribute? How can I grow? And that nagging question: how do I use all this new-found time without spending money?

To a large extent, I’m going back to my old roots. Back to my old interest in teaching but without the obligations of teaching. Back to the conversational walks with my snail-paced walking group. Back to working in a local non-profit where I can partner with a friend as we help coordinate volunteer activities. Back to my Mother Nature personality as I muck out a stall or two at the barn (let’s not get too carried away…this is hard work).

So off I go on a cool fall morning, turning this way and that. Playing with the yellow leaves as they fall. Enjoying the sheer pleasure of the season. Somehow, I think that this fall will really be something to remember.

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.  

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Summer Doldrums Invite Mini Celebrations

hot summer day woman with fanYou know what I’m talking about: the part of summer when the vegetable garden is in full swing and lazy afternoons include refreshing trips to a local swimming pool. Nights are filled with watching the kids chase fireflies and gazing at the stars. You’re enjoying the more leisurely pace and ice-filled glasses of iced tea.

Then there’s the flip side. You’re beginning to get a tad crabby at the endless baseball games and you could really live without the swarms of gnats and the itch of bug bites. You’re even beginning to consider trading in some of the sticky swelter of summer heat for the cooler breezes of Fall. This is when you know you’ve reached Deep Summer. Better known as the Summer Doldrums.

Making Your Own Fun

It’s definitely time to mix things up and create some new fun. Good news is that you don’t have to look far.

It turns out that summer offers you dozens of holidays that are just begging for a mini celebration. Here’s a short list of five July holidays that give you a great excuse to invite some friends or family over. For a more complete list, click here for Next Avenue writer John Stark’s full “Summer’s 20 Most Unusual Holidays” article.

July 12: Pecan Pie Day: Since I love pecan pie, this mini holiday was an especially welcome discovery. Now I no longer have to wait until Thanksgiving to break out my favorite pecan pie recipe. There are actually quite a few food holidays during July: To name a few, there’s Macaroni Day (July 14) and Peach Ice Cream Day (July 17). They all give you a great excuse for getting hold of your favorite recipes and making them with your children or grandchildren. You might even want to consider recording the remarks of the participants as they cook and be sure to save and share that recipe. You can do it all by using Saving Memories Forever. By the way, this linked pecan pie recipe suggested by Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman blogger) is to die for.

July 14: Pandemonium Day: This day gives you permission to go with the flow. Laugh at all the things that go wrong….you know, the things that typically rattle you. Instead, today let the challenges amuse you. You might even want to take the time to record the story of your Terrible, Horrible, No Good,Very Bad Day (edited title borrowed from Judith Viorst). On the other hand, if life has become too calm and predictable, create some excitement to recharge your batteries. To really get your heart racing, John Stark suggests that you dig out Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and throw a last-minute dinner party for 10. Brioche anyone?

picture of hammock man readingJuly 22: Hammock Day: There’s no sight more inviting on a hot summer day than a hammock, especially one that’s shaded by a leafy tree. Climb aboard. Leave your phone behind and bring out a book (Kindles and Nooks are OK too) and start reading. Let Mother Nature rock you with her warm, calming breezes: zzzzzz.

July 26: Aunts and Uncles Day:When you think about it, our parents’ brothers and sisters were often our favorite relatives growing up. They let us stay up late, took us to fun places, and gave us impractical holiday presents. Treasure your aunts and uncles who are still living. Why not repay some favors? Take them to a fun event. At the very least, call them!

July 31: Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day: This day was originally created to bring attention to musical instruments like the Appalachian dulcimer, the auto-harp, and the sousaphone. This is a great day to broaden your musical horizons. Free concerts in the park are all over the place in St. Louis and most likely, they’re in your area too.

August Holidays

The fun excuses for a celebration don’t just come to a screeching halt at the end of July. Among others, August features the following special days:

August 3:   National Watermelon Day

August 5:   National Night Out

August 9:   Book Lovers’ Day

August 12: Vinyl Record Day

August 19: Photography Day

The month of August ends with one of my favorites, Just Because Day (August 27), a holiday that has no rhyme or reason. On this fine day, do whatever you want. It’s a perfect way to cap off the lazy, hazy days of summer. Make the day into what you want it to be. Just because.

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. 

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.   

My Dad

Bill WebsterIt’s a little strange to write about my Dad when I don’t even have a picture of him. At least one that’s readily available. You see, we are in the midst of moving (yes, again) and all the pictures are packed. But write about my Dad I will. It is, after all, close to  Father’s Day.

(For those of you who MUST have a visual aide to go along with this blog, I’ve gone so far as to borrow a picture of someone who looks a bit like him at least in terms of having an elder statesman like appearance.)

All things told, my Dad was a quiet, soft-spoken man. He was a genuinely nice guy. King of the one-liners, he also knew how to deliver a joke. And (lucky for me) he also understood what being a good  father entailed.

The only child of German immigrants, he was born in western Pennsylvania in 1915. The small family moved to Clifton, New Jersey when his father got a job as a city accountant. His mother taught school. His no-nonsense upbringing reflected both the times ( the Depression and World War I) and his parents’ ambition: to give their son the best education possible and send their son to college. They succeeded in both. Dad went to Newark Academy and then Princeton University. A well-liked man, he served as the class secretary for many years.

During World War II, Dad served on a naval supply ship in the Pacific Ocean. A capable, efficient man, he earned two Bronze medals. From pictures and stories that he used to tell, some of his best friends were from those days. I remember pouring over a black and white picture of my Dad and some buddies smiling and smoking pipes.

When he returned from war, he dated and then married my mother. The couple was a good match: a tall, attractive pair, they both had exceedingly smart minds. Plus their  different personalities balanced out each other.

Like my Dad’s parents, both of my parents worked as well: he as a business executive for a chemical company; my mother as a lawyer with her own private practice. My Dad provided for his family well and my brother, Tom, and I had alot of material advantages. But most importantly, we grew up in a family that loved us. I especially valued the way my father and I would communicate. Alot of it was non-verbal.  For example, as children when Tom and I rode in the back seat of the car, Dad would give me quick look in the rear view mirror just to say “hello”. And we’d both chuckle over one of his one-liners for days, reliving the punch line as we passed each other around the house.

Perhaps the greatest gift my Dad gave me was his trust. He trusted my judgement. (That doesn’t mean, however, he applauded every decision I made!). But that basic faith in me eased over many of the growing pains that typically occur between parents and their children, especially those who grew up in the Age of Aquarius and all that this time period implied. Plus my father understood the importance of cheering from the sidelines. No matter what. He also understood the importance of community and served on the Library Board for many years.

Time went on. I got older, married, and had a family of my own. There are years (sad to admit it, even decades) when I grew apart from my Dad.  However, much to my infinite relief, my Dad and I got a few years at the end of his life to reconnect. I was able to say goodbye to him, telling him that his life had indeed been a blessing as I read and re-read a particular passage in our prayer book. Although it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago, he died at peace only eight years ago in June 2006.

Do I miss him? You betcha. I especially wish I could hear his voice. Nonetheless, I still feel his spirit and his smile. In meaningful ways, he still lives on. Today, in our own ways, my brother and I try to pass his many good lessons on to our respective families. I am always mindful and grateful for the grace and example of his life well lived.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

Family Values Win the Jackpot

goodwin-games17The Goodwin Games, a short-lived Fox TV comedy starring Beau Bridges, was a little wacky. On the other hand, it made a vital personal point between laughs: it’s important to pass on family values.

How are you doing on that score?

An intriguing article by Richard Eisenberg, senior Web editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue, caught our eye. Click here to read his original article. We’ve condensed his article below (and added in some of our own comments).

Instilling Values
Eisenberg based his article on a recent survey of people over 45. What he found was that when asked “What’s most important to pass on to the next generation?” the No. 1 answer was: “Values and life lessons.”

By the way: the answer “financial assets or real estate” came in last.

What the Wisest Say
Similarly, Cornell University gerontologist Karl Pillemer, who interviewed more than 1,200 Americans for the Legacy Project told Eisenberg: “We found that many of the elders see transmitting their values and core principles as their most important legacy.”

One lesson for parents, Pillemer said, is to “be sure to communicate your values to your children and to bring them up to appreciate having very clear principles for living.”

How ‘The Goodwin Games’ Dad Did It
In the Goodwin Games, Beau Bridges’ character – patriarch Benjamin Goodwin – is trying to do just that, albeit a little late.

At the reading of his will, his three estranged grown children watch the first of a series of videos that Goodwin has made. The message? His children will inherit his $23 million estate only if they “demonstrate good judgment, live up to their potential and be the people they still can be.”

In short, Goodwin’s goal is to parent his children from beyond the grave.

A post-mortem video may not be the best way to pass on values. On the other hand, passing on values can be tough and the video approach is better than none. There are, however, many other options that can be much better, particularly if they’re done with your children while you’re still living.

For most of us, face-to-face, two-way conversations work best. These conversations can be formal or informal.

The Formal Approach
Some families prefer to have these formal meetings during a Thanksgiving gathering (just not during the meal). In this meeting, the matriarch or patriarch might say something like: “Let me share with you what’s important to me in the culture of our family.” Then ask your grown children: “Does this make sense to you?”

Then take some action.  For example, if being charitable is a high priority to you and you want your kids to help the needy, too – you might all pool together some money and make a donation as a family. You might want to create a special fund that continues after you’re gone.

Another formal approach would be to hold a family meeting outside the home and bring in a life planner professional to help run it. There are numerous directories of professional life planners available on the internet. (However, an obvious word of caution: don’t just choose one blindly;do your research carefully)

Going the Informal Route
Alternatively, you could do what many other have done with their grown children: look for ways to subtly drop hints about your values. When talking with your grown kids, act as a role model, so they can pick up your values by watching what you do. Also, be willing to talk about how and why you handle things the way you do.

For example, if you think managing your money wisely is important, explain to your grown children how you do it – that you make an annual retirement plan contribution, that you’ve just found a way to slice expenses without a huge sacrifice, and so on. There’s no need to cite actual numbers. You’re trying to instill habits and values; the dollar amounts are irrelevant.

Instilling A Sense of Family History
According to the surveys that Eisenberg evaluated, the second most important legacy that people can leave their families is a sense of family history. This includes saving and sharing  family stories as well as explaining family  mementos and heirlooms.

The stories part is easy. That’s what Saving Memories Forever is all about. Visit the SavingMemoriesForever.com website and learn more about this easy way to record, share, and save family stories.

Probably the most difficult item on this list (from a dividing it up standpoint) are the mementos and heirlooms. Grandma’s favorite teacup may only be worth $2, but it’s sentimental value makes it priceless. On top of that, there’s only one teacup and how many ways can you split it up? .

If this sounds familiar, you might want to click here for 4 smart ideas on how to leave a legacy.

Whichever approach you take, start giving some serious thought about your values. Start passing on the elements that make your family unique. Meanwhile, focus on the life you’re living now.  Embrace the wonder of opportunities that lie before you..

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. 

 

Recipes, Trouble, and Triumph: Two Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Beautiful Lilac FlowersIt’s Spring and all of the April showers have resulted in beautiful May flowers. A perfect backdrop for this month in which we honor the mothers in our lives.

My mother is a wee bit of a woman. She is small and petite, but has the moral strength of an ox and a love that runs steady and deep. I have always admired her and feel that she is one of the best human beings that I know. This article celebrates her and focuses on some ideas that I plan to use this Mother’s Day and throughout the year.

Gather Recipes (And the Stories Behind Them)
Every mom has recipes that she is known for. So find (or ask her) for recipes that she keeps tucked away in a special book.

Whether it is a hotdog casserole or homemade chicken pot pie with a hand rolled crust…it is her recipe and everyone loves it. Then grab your smartphone with the downloaded Saving Memories Forever app and have her tell you about each recipe. Have her explain where she got it, when she has made it, what people say about it.

Then, after you have recorded several of her recipe stories, export the files and make a CD with the stories and photo copy the recipes.To extend the fun, share the recipes with your siblings and have your siblings each pick one recipe to bring to your Mother’s Day dinner.

You can also have the kids in the family make one recipe at a time and then listen to the story as you sit at the table and enjoy the dish.

Trouble and Triumph
If you are fortunate enough to have grandparents and parents living, give thanks.

Then, grab your phone and head over to your grandparents and gather some fun stories about times that your mom got into trouble as a kid. Then gather some of the triumphant stories about her and things she accomplished. Not only will you have fun interviewing your grandparents about your mom, but you are recording family history.

Upload these stories to the SavingMemoriesForever.com website and add some pictures to embellish them. Then play the recording for your mom on Mother’s Day. The look on your mom’s face when she listens to those stories will be priceless!

If you have family that cannot be home for Mother’s Day, remember, once you share the stories with them (through the Saving Memories Forever website), they can log into the Saving Memories Forever website for free and listen online!

Have a lovely Spring and a Happy Mother’s Day!

Kim PictureKim Weitkamp has been featured on NPR (National Public radio), SiriusXM, and other radio stations throughout the states. Kim is passionate about the power of story and story coupled with genealogy/family history. She regularly keynotes on those topics and can be reached through her website, www.kimweitkamp.com.

 

Mother’s Day Celebration Ideas

It’s Spring and all of the April showers have resulted in beautiful May flowers. A perfect backdrop for this month in which we honor the mothers in our lives.

My mother is a wee bit of a woman. She is small and petite, but has the moral strength of an ox and a love that runs steady and deep. I have always admired her and feel that she is one of the best human beings that I know. This article celebrates her and focuses on some ideas that I plan to use this Mother’s Day and throughout the year.

Gather Recipes (And the Stories Behind Them)
Every mom has recipes that she is known for. So find (or ask her) for recipes that she keeps tucked away in a special book.

Whether it is a hotdog casserole or homemade chicken pot pie with a hand rolled crust…it is her recipe and everyone loves it. Then grab your smartphone with the downloaded Saving Memories Forever app and have her tell you about each recipe. Have her explain where she got it, when she has made it, what people say about it.

Then, after you have recorded several of her recipe stories, export the files and make a CD with the stories and photo copy the recipes.To extend the fun, share the recipes with your siblings and have your siblings each pick one recipe to bring to your Mother’s Day dinner.

You can also have the kids in the family make one recipe at a time and then listen to the story as you sit at the table and enjoy the dish.

Trouble and Triumph
If you are fortunate enough to have grandparents and parents living, give thanks.

Then, grab your phone and head over to your grandparents and gather some fun stories about times that your mom got into trouble as a kid. Then gather some of the triumphant stories about her and things she accomplished. Not only will you have fun interviewing your grandparents about your mom, but you are recording family history.

Upload these stories to the SavingMemoriesForever.com website and add some pictures to embellish them. Then play the recording for your mom on Mother’s Day. The look on your mom’s face when she listens to those stories will be priceless!

If you have family that cannot be home for Mother’s Day, remember, once you share the stories with them (through the Saving Memories Forever website), they can log into the Saving Memories Forever website for free and listen online!

Have a lovely Spring and a Happy Mother’s Day!

Kim PictureKim Weitkamp has been featured on NPR (National Public radio), SiriusXM, and other radio stations throughout the states. Kim is passionate about the power of story and story coupled with genealogy/family history. She regularly keynotes on those topics and can be reached through her website, www.kimweitkamp.com.