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.   

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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”.

 

 

 

 

Summer Vacations Create Family Memories

concept

Whether your family goes camping, hits the beaches, visits historical sites or just remains local for a “staycation,” summer vacations are a great time to create and to capture family memories.

A Brief History of Summer Vacations

The concept of “taking a vacation” for most of us means getting away from the office and our usual routine for one or two weeks. No emails, no meetings, no cares, right? Prior to World War II, only the well-to-do had the means to just up and travel when they wanted to and take what most of us know as a vacation. My immigrant ancestors from Germany and Ireland didn’t have the luxury of a vacation – summer or other seasons; basically, if you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid! Since the mid-20th century, most companies provide vacation time as a benefit to employees and most of us look forward to our vacations!

But why summer? The common belief has been that the practice is rooted in America’s early history as a rural, agrarian economy and the public education system. During the summer, children were expected to work in the fields and help with the harvest. But recent thinking holds that it was in fact urban America with its hot steamy cities and public health issues that pushed for a summer break when children could head out to the country.

Do You Remember Summer Vacations From the Past?

For me, summer vacations were not very frequent but I remember two as a child: Niagara Falls, New York and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I grew up in New York which is filled with history and whenever we went on vacation, my mother always made sure there was some element of “learning” about our country’s past. For Niagara it meant the War of 1812 since many of the key battles took place along the Great Lakes. And with the Gettysburg trip, we visited the historic battlefield as well as all the monuments as we learned about the Civil War.

While some of us only have memories, did you realize that you may actually be sitting on a treasure trove of family mementos from past vacations? I recently went through a box of items from my family and guess what I found? Old 8mm home movies from those two vacations from my youth as well as flyers and brochures from the sites we visited. And then, of course, there are the photos taken of me, my brother and my mother as we enjoyed our getaways in the mid-1970s.

Best Ways to Capture Vacation Memories

Here are some ideas on capturing memories of summer vacation, both those from your youth and those you may be planning for this summer or in the future:

  • Record Your Memories: Even if you don’t have any tangible mementos of your past vacations, write down your memories or better yet, record them as stories using Saving Memories Forever.
  • Preserve Paper and Photos: Don’t forget that over time flyers and brochures will fade and break down if not preserved using archival envelopes and folders. Also, make sure your photos are also preserved for posterity using sound archival methods.
  • Scan Items for Safekeeping: Besides preserving items, make sure you scan the important ones and create digital images. If the originals are lost, you’ll always have these files as a backup.
  • Convert Home Movies and Slides: If you are sitting on slides and movies from vacation, make sure you convert them to DVD or digital files. And don’t wait until the film or slides break down! You can find converters that will let you perform the conversion yourself but many use an outside service. Why? They are the experts at converting these items and they are conveniently located at local superstores (Walmart and Costco) or drug stores (Walgreen’s and CVS).
  • Create a Scrapbook: A fun project – even one saved for cold Winter days – is to create a scrapbook of old summer vacation memories. Choose whether to use the traditional book format or digital scrapbooking and include photos, stories and more.
  • Share with Your Family: The best part about discovering items related to past family vacations is sharing them with your loved ones. Amazing stories are sure to pop up as you all look at the photos, movies and other items. Also remember to use Saving Memories Forever to interview those other family members who were on vacation with you and capture their stories!

 

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Game Time at Family Reunions!

Games.  They’ve certainly changed over the years. Way back when, it used to be that a game of horseshoes or croquet in the backyard was the pinnacle of excitement. Then, maybe a rousing game of “Go Fish” or Parcheesee.  Then, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Uno. Card and tile games such as Bridge, Pinnocole, and Mah Johng still hold sway among the 60+ group. I understand that Poker’s also still a strong contender, but even Poker’s popularity stats fall far behind today’s leaders: video games.

I’ll admit it right up front:  I’m not a video game fan.  Even the Super Mario games that came out a good 20 years ago made me nervous, and they’re nothing compared to today’s games.

My objection to these games isn’t primarily focused on the violence and sex. My focus is on what those games take away. They take away contact. They diminish engagement. For me, even the convenient on-line games fall short of the mark.  In my book, players should be face-to-face. Otherwise, it’s simply not as much fun.

Games for Your Family Reuinion

Fast forward to a family reunion, and the key role that activities, including games, play in making family reunions successful.

“I think it’s fair to say that the activities pretty much are the glue that holds it all together.” comments Janet who has attended her family’s reunion of 200 people for “about a zillion years.” She adds with a laugh, “Well, the food’s mighty important too.”

Let’s Play

The trick to planning activities is coming up with activities that appeal to the wide age span and that provide something for everyone.  Below are three tried and true activity suggestions followed by a new suggestion:

  • What’s Special About You?
    Have each family member write something interesting about themselves on a slip of paper and put it in a bucket. Draw out a slip, read it, and have everyone guess who wrote it. An example is, “I can put both of my feet behind my head.” They can write anything that distinguishes them.
  • It’s All About Teams
    Organize a softball game. Pitting the older players against the younger players is always popular.
  • Calling Julia Childs
    Well, no one in your family may cook a fantastique boeuf bourginon, but I bet there are lots of relatives interested in a fun cooking competition. It 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 chili, and invite an all-age panel of family members to judge the competition.  Remember to take snapshots of the submitted dishes as well as snapshots of the recipes. (You can upload these as pictures and text files to your family reunions stories on Saving Memories Forever.)

New Activity Idea: Pass the Phone

Pass-the-Phone is a new activity idea.  It uses smartphone apps and storytelling so it appeals to the folks who like “high-tech” as well as others who value oral history.

It requires only a committed game leader (who does some advance preparation BEFORE the reunion) and family members who are willing to answer a question or two. Ideally, the game leader has a smartphone and is comfortable with using the Saving Memories Forever website.

The activity can be played by “going around the circle” or picking names from a hat. The game involves asking a question, recording the answer, and saving those recorded answers on the Saving Memories Forever website. The Saving Memories Forever apps provide some question prompts, but players can always ask their own questions. The game goes quickly and is flexible.  Interviews last only 5 minutes apiece with each question and response; the leader decides when to end the game.

Family reunions invite this Pass-the-Phone activity to be a group experience. You can be sure that family members will interject their comments and those unedited comments will also be fun to listen to down the road.  For more details about how to play Pass-the Phone, check our website.

Meanwhile, let the games begin!