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!

Are We There Yet: Making Family Vacation Travel Easier

In the minds of most Americans, Memorial Day trumpets the beginning of summer. What better way to kick off the summer than with picnics and parades?

Just behind the parades and picnics come the family vacation! A lot of the vacation planning started awhile ago. Dates have been set; hotel and plane reservations have been made. The GPS system has been updated. But that doesn’t cover everything.  Not by a long shot.

are-we-there-yet

 

Consider, for example, the plaintive “Are we there yet?” from the 10-year old in the back seat of the car.  You’ve prepared for an 8-hour car ride, but it’s disheartening that your son is asking this question only 30 minutes into the ride. Then there’s the wondering. Did you re-confirm picking up the newspaper with the neighbor?  Will your daughter’s lousy cough develop into something worse?

 

There are actually travel apps that can help you with all of this.

An app called Viber allows you to text and call without those roaming fees. Then  there’s Wi-Finder that finds Wi-Fi in 114 countries. Still another app, mPassport, helps you locate certified medical help globally.

 

The Saving Memories Forever app provides help of a different kind.

Remember the 10-year old in the back of the car?  Instead of having him count car licenses from 50 states or playing endless hours of Nintendo, show him how the Saving Memories Forever app works and have him act as the family news reporter for the family trip, recording funny incidents as they occur. Yes, it’s easy enough for a 10-year old to operate.

Perhaps “downtime” is another aspect of vacationing that you haven’t fully considered. Don’t misunderstand. There is a clear benefit to doing nothing other than listen to the sound of ocean waves. In fact, be sure to do that.

But vacations also give you an opportunity to talk, to reinforce the bonds of what it means to be a couple and a family. Dedicate some vacation time to tell your children more about your family. You might want to focus on relatives who often get overlooked—the relatives who are no longer living. These may include people your children will never meet in person. But they don’t have to be unknown.

At Saving Memories Forever, we’ve come up with a process that helps you bring these relatives back to life. We call these re-creations Virtual Relatives. Click here for a blog that further introduces Virtual Relatives or click here for the How-To blog that provides step-by-step instructions.  It only takes minutes at a time to create a meaningful legacy.

 

Three step to consider:

1) Register on our website for the free version of our service by using the “Sign Up” link in the upper right hand corner of our home page. Try it out to make sure that your iPhone or Android is compatible with our system. This also gives you an opportunity to practice your family’s storytelling skills.

2) Practice before you show up at the family reunion or focus on creating your own Virtual Relatives.  We suggest you practice by recording a story or two about yourself. Let the kids listen to you as you record your story. It will be fun to listen to your children’s laughter as part of your recording.

3) Compare the free service to our Premium Subscription. Click here for the link that provides a chart comparing the two.

 

Where are you planning to go on your family vacation?  How will you gather and save those memories?

Virtual Relatives: 6 steps to creating a family project

Our first blog in this series provided a general description of the Virtual Relative project available through Saving Memories Forever. Put briefly, Saving Memories Forever offers an easy approach that allows families to re-create the life of a deceased relative—through stories. When combined, these stories give a rich sense of the life of a family member. They do this through photos, selected word documents (such as recipes) and the power of voice.

While it seems detailed, It’s really simple once you get started. Here’s how you’ll remember your relative in six easy steps.

Take the lead on your family stories project!

Step One: Take the lead.
Offer to be the project leader on this one, especially if you have an iPhone or Android device. If you have one of these smartphones, the story recording process is easy. Saving the stories involves uploading the story recordings to our website, SavingMemoriesForever.com. And that’s just a matter of pressing a “button” on the app. On the other hand, if you don’t have a smartphone and you know of someone else in the family who does, discuss the project with them and take measure of their level of enthusiasm. If they’re excited about it, ask them to take the lead.

Whether it’s you or some other relative, your second step is to go to our website and try out our system. Sign up for the free subscription, and then play around with both the app and the website. You’ll want to know how to use both. Also, this is your opportunity to make sure that your smartphone is compatible with our system.  (See the FAQs on our website for more information about compatibility.)  If the “worst” happens and there’s no smartphone available, you can still use our website to save and share the stories. You will also have to use an MP3 recorder to record face-to-face interviews or Skype for long distance phone call storytelling. You can upload these recorded stories directly to the site from your PC.

Step Two: Set up the Virtual Relative account.
Setting up a Virtual Relative is easy.  Establish a Paid account for the Virtual Relative by using the Sign Up button in the upper right corner of the SavingMemoriesForever.com Home Page and enter an e-mail and a password that will be used just for this account. Check the Paid button and choose either the monthly or yearly Premium Subscription.  (The Paid account allows you to add pictures and text files to each story and share it with all of your relatives.) Use the name of the Virtual Relative@somesite.com as the e-mail address. For example if the Virtual relative’s name is Jane Smith, use an e-mail address like JaneSmith@gmail.com. The e-mail doesn’t have to be Jane’s actual email. In fact, it can be made up.

Step Three: Invite others to record and listen to stories about the deceased Virtual Relative. 
You start this by sharing your first story. Be sure you are in the Manager Mode and then press the Share button. An e-mail form will pop up. Provide the e-mail addresses for all the relatives involved in the project. Don’t forget to include your own e-mail address.  Write a brief note explaining what you are doing and maybe give them idea of what your first story describes. Ask for their help and give them the e-mail and password for the Virtual Relative’s account. Ask them to suggest other family members who might be interested in either listening to or recording stories about the Virtual Relative.

Step Four: Connect and share.
Your relatives will receive your notification in their e-mail. This notification alerts them that your story exists and that they have your permission to add and access the stories about this Virtual Relative. To respond to your notification email, the relatives should click on the link at the bottom of the your e-mail. Then they should register on the system. Each participant has to register.  Registration is free and will allow them to listen to the Virtual Relative’s stories.  To record stories about the Virtual Relative, relatives should use the Virtual Relative e-mail address and the password that you sent them in your notification email. To share their newly recorded stories, they should repeat the same process with other family members.

Famiily photos add enriching stories to your project.

Step Five: Add and enrich.
Once people get going and have uploaded some stories,  encourage contributors to upload any pictures they might have.  These could be pictures that fit the story they recorded or just pictures of the Virtual Relative. Either way, snapshots will undoubtedly enrich both the stories and the overall collection.

Step Six: Establish a timeframe for the stories to be submitted.
We suggest giving a month for people to submit their stories. After the stories are recorded to the account, change the password of the Virtual Relative account and the audio story and picture collection is done. (This is to avoid any accidental deletions. Accidents happen!) If there are more stories to be added at a later date, just re-share the new password through e-mail and repeat the process.

Think of relatives in your family who you remember. Then tap another relative’s shoulder and ask what they remember.  Chances are, they remember a lot. Consider your role. Be the bridge between family members who knew the deceased well and those who never even met them.

Take advantage of this opportunity.

Virtual Relatives: Keeping the stories alive

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

While you probably don’t know Mary Walker personally, she may be a lot like you.   She’s a wife, mother, and grandmother.  She’s also a sister and aunt. She lives in Florida, deals with some health issues, loves to travel, and makes sure she spends her money wisely.

She also likes to write and she wrote a review on our behalf.  The part of her review that struck me the most was how she remembers her sister and Dad.

“Yesterday was my sister’s birthday and the day after tomorrow is my Dad’s birthday,” she wrote. “They are not with us anymore and although I have memories of them, you can never have enough.”

She is not alone. We’ve received a lot of comments about the importance of remembering deceased relatives.

Saving Memories Forever offers an easy approach that allows families to re-create the life of a deceased relative—through stories. We refer to this person as a Virtual Relative. Virtual Relative projects involve two general steps: recording and then managing.  The recording part involves recording the stories of relatives and friends who remember the deceased. The managing part involves saving and then sharing those stories in one central spot. By using our app and website, the project is both easy and rewarding.

“The Virtual Relative project is just another example of how flexible the system is,” notes Harvey Baker, Saving Memories Forever Co-Founder. “ But it’s especially nice to know that this particular use makes it possible for families to create rich life stories of people even years after their loved one’s death.”

Nancy Sutker, who just attended her family reunion in Texas, agrees. “A lot of family members who were there at our reunion remember my brother, Ben,” she recalls. “ He died 15 years ago, but they still remember him and can recall different parts of his life. For example, I remember the long games of Monopoly that Ben and I played on rainy summer days when we were growing up. Our cousins remember Ben for his outlandish pranks as a young teenager.  His wife remembers his kindness towards strangers and his laughter as he played with their kids.”

“If you think about it,” she concludes, “a person’s life is a collection of stories. It’s pretty amazing that by combining our stories, we are creating such a 3-dimensional picture of Ben’s life. ”

Nancy Sutker has never met Mary Walker. It’s unlikely that they ever will meet.  Even so, there is much common ground.

It’s likely that you, too, have a relative whose life you remember. The same goes for others in your family.  Maybe the time has come to act and to put together this life picture for your loved ones.The stories that you remember, after all,  aren’t going to write themselves. It ‘s your job—and your honor—to communicate the life stories of someone who no longer can.

Tomorrow’s blog will feature step-by-step instructions on how to create a Virtual Relative.