Have your children given you a list of questions they want you to answer about your life? Or have you recently felt the need to tell your story for the generations to come? This has come up for me and many of my contemporaries. And I think it's a good thing--we should tell our stories. It's important for our kids and grandkids to hear.
This all started for me a few years ago. I got a birthday gift from my son and daughter-in-law. It was a book about how to write your personal memoir. Besides a grand list of questions and numerous writing tips, it included a workbook as well so that I could write my answers.
Then a couple of years ago, a friend got a similar book and on her visits to her elderly mother, would ask her mother questions and record her answers. Another friend got a list of 52 questions from her daughter--one question about her life for her to answer each week for a year.
The importance of doing this~
I have often said in this blog, and quoted research, that telling our stories and our own parents' stories give children a solid sense of family with all the rewards that go with that--good self-esteem, and better emotional health. Studies have shown that kids who have been told their family history with all the ups and downs experienced by family members, have better coping skills, a sense of empathy for others, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. And it helps them feel connected to something bigger than themselves. It seems to be that important.
For my readers who are grandparents like me, we need to realize we are the connection between the generation before us and the two that come after us. We are the ones to do this, so let's get busy.
Let's tell our story!
Now here's the kicker. While I enjoy writing my quick and easy little blog, I wasn't enjoying writing my life story. It seemed boring to me, and I wondered who was really going to take the time to read it. Then I realized....I'm a visual learner. I like pictures! Who wants to read about the ice man coming into our kitchen delivering ice for our ice box, when they could see a picture! Much more interesting and the reader would be able to see with their own eyes how an ice man with those huge blades for lifting blocks of ice would be frightening to a little 4-5 year old. Doing a scrapbook seemed the way to go--the way to answer those questions in a visual way.
But I'm not able to draw those pictures from my memory, and I certainly don't have very many photos from my childhood, at least not ones that would illustrate my answers to questions. But friends, you can find pictures of practically anything from your past by just using Google Images or other websites. I'm not able to share with you a picture of an ice man from the 1950's because of copyright laws, but you can certainly google that image for yourself. You can even print it out and put in your personal scrapbook.
Which brings me to the next point--I didn't want to do a scrapbook either, I'm not one for all that tedious cutting, pasting, and the precision and neatness involved. But I discovered the most glorious way to share my memories. It's called a SMASH BOOK! It's great. I'll include links below for you to see some for yourself.
You can do a smash book on a holiday, a trip, a concert, a new grandchild, a year in your life, or as I'm doing, my life story. What makes them fun to me is their haphazard construction. You can put actual objects, receipts, pressed flowers, trinkets, recipes, tickets stubs. The list goes on and on. And you just smash them in the book. You'll see as you check out the links below that many items are practically falling out of the book. They can be pasted in, attached with ribbons, and included with envelopes.
I'll let you peek inside at some of the pages I've done so far. Oh, I can't leave out--I even made a trip to the craft store so that I could embellish the pages of my book. For example, I got great stickers for my information about my First Grade year. My dad was in the navy during World War II. I found wonderful Navy stickers. Here, I'll let you see:
Bottom line? Just tell your story~
There are at least a couple of things available to you that make it easier to tell your story. You can find a website with questions for you to answer about your life--I've added a link below for a good one. Or you can peruse your library or bookstore looking for a book with the same type of questions. And you can certainly answer them with paper and pencil, and then add whatever old photos you have on hand to include as you go. A smash book just appealed to me--it's so visual and tactile. So if you're hesitating about answering questions about yourself for your children, try a scrapbook or SMASH BOOK. I'm having a whole lot of fun.
I've told you before that I took a three-week writing workshop. They had a saying in that workshop, "We're writing, won't you join us." So I say to you, I'm creating a smash book about my life; won't you join me?
Legacy, A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Personal History by Linda Spence
One more writing tip from that long ago writing workshop: We would often do what are called "trigger words" wherein the writing instructor says a word or phrase and you have to write as much as you can on the subject. Oftentimes students would balk and say they couldn't think of anything. The teachers always explained that you have to write, and just write about "whatever pierces your brain," even if it doesn't match the trigger word exactly. Let's say the trigger word is popcorn, and what pierces your brain is a date to the movies from long ago. They always explained it was perfectly okay to write about that. You weren't actually writing about "popcorn," but a date from the past. I did that with my smash book. One of the questions was, "Tell about your childhood." What pierced my brain was the image of the ice man in our kitchen or the milkman delivering milk to our backdoor step. I actually think that this makes for a much more interesting book. And if and when my children or grandchildren read it, they will have a much better picture of 1950's America and their grandmother's life then.
Finally, please remember--we are the link between the generations. Tell your story. And tell it now.
"Just as pieces stitched together in a quilt warm our bodies, smash books bind together memories to warm our hearts." Unknown
As I "went to press," I saw one more thing on Facebook that might tickle your memory and prod you to write or at least have a fun conversation with your grandkids or great grandchildren. If you're my age, you'll remember most of these. How fun to have a grand sit in your lap while you discuss these items.
Tell that story as only you can do! Until next week!
Do you carve jack o'lanterns with your grandkids? I never have, but I know two sweet grandmothers who do, and it looks like a world of fun!
My niece Tracy and my nephew's wife Romina are the fun grandmas of which I speak. In past years I've seen Tracy's Facebook postings and this year I saw Romina's. I have to share the fun with my readers.
Tracy's story first: Her grandkids are very young--all under the age of five. So the carving is mostly left to their parents of course. My niece is fortunate to have her three kids and all her grandkids in town. They get together one night before Halloween to carve pumpkins. She buys the pumpkins and everyone meets at her house to do the deed. I can imagine that there is some good food involved as well, and special treats for the little guys. She says they always roast the pumpkin seeds--of course! It's just a wonderful family get-together.
And now Romina's story. . . Her grandchildren are older, so she provides an opportunity for them to do their own carving. I noticed on her Facebook posting that she had other autumn activities for them to do as well. They just made a fun day of it. Here, I'll let her tell you:
"Holidays are very special to me! They are a time to share with my family and make long-lasting memories.
When my children were young, I used to do things with them to prepare for the holidays just like I do now with my grandchildren. These times are priceless to me. They are an opportunity to strengthen my relationship with them and to show them how much I love and cherish them. We enjoy every minute together, and they show their individualism and creativity in all that they do. I hope this becomes a tradition in our family that will last for years to come."
Added bonus! Romina is from Peru, and she wanted to also tell her experience in Spanish. I love it--I now have a bilingual blog! More from Romina:
"¡Las festividades son muy especiales para mi! Es tiempo para compartir con mi familia y crear recuerdos inolvidables.
Cuando mis hijas eran pequeñas hacíamos cosas juntas en anticipación de las fiestas así como lo hago ahora con mis nietos. Estos son momentos invalorables. Es una de las oportunidades que tengo de fortalecer mi relación con ellos y mostrarles lo mucho que los quiero y valoro. Nosotros disfrutamos de cada minuto juntos y ellos muestran su creatividad e individualismo en cada cosa que hacen. Es mi deseo que ésto se convierta en una tradición familiar que perdure por años."
All this in preparation for the night itself! And what fun! Tracy's family has the custom of dragging their fire pit out to the street on Halloween. Then she and her family sit out there by the warm fire and pass out goodies and treats. She says there are others in her neighborhood who do this as well. Her neighborhood even has a hayride through the streets. Early in the evening, her family reports to her house for the customary Halloween dinner--Frito pie and apple cider. Then they go on the hayride, go trick-or-treating, and come back to the house to sit by the fire pit and pass out treats. What a fun time is had by all!
You won't have your grands for Halloween, but you still want in on the fun? Invite them over early and plan activities around a Halloween book. That's exactly what I did this weekend. My grandson from Dallas was visiting. I knew he would be doing all the traditional things at home--carving a pumpkin, eating candy, trick-or-treating. I decided to do something different with him. We planned our fun around some books.
Planning an art activity around a book. That's easy. It's Halloween so we had to make paper jack o' lanterns. We made them out of orange paper just like you would make a Japanese paper lantern. All you have to do is add pumpkin details. I've included a website for this activity at the bottom of my blog. We also added an LED tea light in case you want to showcase it in the dark.
Extending the books with COOKING fun--my personal favorite! Both books included mummy characters, so for dinner one night we had mummy hotdogs. I'm sure you've done this with your kids and grandkids. Just roll out canned biscuits, cut them in strips, and use them to wrap a hotdog and bake in the oven. You can easily find the recipe/how-to's online.
We can't forget dessert! We took a lesson from Erica Silverman's book, "Big Pumpkin." The witch in the story plants a pumpkin because she loves to eat pumpkin pie on Halloween. Alas, the pumpkin is too big for her to pick, so friends come to help her. In the end, she shares her pumpkin pie with them. So my grandson helped me make little pumpkin pies, and we shared with his daddy and Poppa. Delicious!
So there you have it! Other Halloween activities to do with your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. And I'm ever the school teacher--plan the activities around a fun Halloween book. Let the parents do the messy one--carving jack o'lanterns. or the cold one-- going from door to door on a brisk All Hallows' Eve. Grandparents get to stay in and stay warm. Plan one of these activities on a day or evening before Halloween.
"There's no greater music than the sound of my grandchildren laughing." Sylvia Earle
Happy Halloween, everyone! Be safe!
Books we read:
"Big Pumpkin" by Erica Silverman
"The Spooky Express Texas, A Halloween Thrill Ride" by Eric James
Website for making Japanese paper lanterns:
Let's join in with John Muir's thinking--let's not hike; let's SAUNTER!
My husband and I were recently able to travel to New Mexico. Whenever we're in that great state, we always schedule some time for hiking. This time was no exception, but I have to say, I have trouble with that word hiking also; I don't consider myself a hiker, but I love a walk through the cool woods. My friend (who is also a Facebook friend), must have sensed my discomfort with the concept, so sent me this posting from the Facebook page, "Historical Snapshots." It's a good one and it's from that page that I got Muir's wonderful quote:
"Hiking--I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains--not hike! Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It is a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them." John Muir
I shared the message from my friend Shirley with my husband. I explained to him that on our next stop to enjoy the fall foliage, I would be sauntering! Actually he did as well! With hiking, you're focused on a destination--to the waterfall, to the lookout point, to the mountaintop. But when you saunter, you take time to enjoy the scene and really just immerse yourself in the forest! I loved it!
Which brings me to another concept I've heard about: Forest Bathing! Now before you go stripping off your clothes and head to your local park, let me explain. It's a Japanese concept and it's been around since the 1980's. As I understand it, it's just strolling through a forest or other natural area and perhaps sitting or relaxing awhile taking in all of nature. One tries to put themselves in a reflexive mood and slow your heart rate and breathing. It's a peaceful state that can reduce stress and bring you calm. I've put some websites about it at the end of my blog. And even though it's called "forest bathing," it doesn't have to be done in a forest--just any natural area away from the crowds and noise. I'm a Texas Panhandle girl, and love the canyon up that way, Palo Duro Canyon. It's a great place to walk on a cool fall or spring day, It would work great for "forest bathing." Really!
So there you have it, grandparents! Two great concepts for your health and long-life: sauntering and forest-bathing. It doesn't require a picturesque canyon or a pine forest. Just walk through your neighborhood or a local park. As they have told us for years--STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES! Actually use all your senses--smells, sights, sounds, and touch. Absorb and immerse yourself in nature. To your health! And thank you, Shirley, for your message about sauntering. You planted the seed for this blog!
Looking for something to do as the days get shorter? I would like to appeal to you again to try painting kindness rocks. Besides planting it on your daily walk, leaving it for someone to find, and therefore bringing a smile to someone's day--it's a great craft and diversion for YOU!
I've written about kindness rocks before. I even had a guest blogger write about her experience. I have to say I'm really taken with the whole "kindness rocks" experience. It really has come home to me again. I've been on a vacation to New Mexico. Wonder of wonders, when my husband and I visited the Taos pueblo, we were invited into a pueblo inhabitant's home. I was delighted to see some kindness rocks on a table in his house. Kindness rocks are everywhere. My son and daughter-in-law and grandkids are off to a cabin in Oklahoma for a Columbus Day respite. Imagine my surprise when my daughter-in-law sent me pictures of kindness rocks that surround their cabin. Lisa explained that there was a note from the owners in the cabin that said their kindness rocks tell a story about their family. And they provided paints and supplies for their guests to paint a rock and add it to their kindness rock garden. I love that!
Such a nice escape from the tribulations of this old world! I would encourage all my readers to give it a try! I like to collect quotations. This one caught my eye recently and it really is true:
It's therapeutic! Honest! It transports you to another place. When you're painting on a small rock, you really aren't thinking about the recent news events or your own problems. It consumes all your attention and focus.
I think I've made my point, so let's get started! I am in no way an artist. You might call me crafty, but certainly not an artist. I just google and search in Pinterest for ideas. You can even search online for all the "how-to's" on rock painting. I'll share what I do, but some rock painters have even more steps and techniques, so look on Pinterest for even more suggestions and ideas.
I actually buy a bag of rocks from a home-improvement store. They have all sizes of river and beach rocks. I usually wash them, but I'm not even sure that that's necessary. I don't put a base coat, but I've read that some people do. I just start right in painting after they've dried. I buy acrylic paint for outdoors. I also buy paint pens. I've included pictures of all my supplies. I copy, copy, copy. None of these ideas are my own. I mostly copy what others have shared. When I'm finished and the paint has dried, I spray with an acrylic spray and let that dry. Then I'm ready to pass them out throughout my neighborhood! I think it's really that easy.
It's fall, y'all and a great time to hide some KINDNESS ROCKS with an autumn theme. Most of my rocks previously have included some kind of inspiration for the finder. But how fun to wish all my friends and neighbors a merry fall, happy Halloween or good thoughts for Thanksgiving! I've already started.
I recently saw an online article about the advantages of adult coloring books, and I think some of the points made in that article apply to painting kindness rocks as well. Besides the points I've already made, think about these:
Give it a try! Hiding rocks with an autumn holiday theme is just guaranteed to bring a smile to young kids and old folks alike. Spread some good cheer around your neighborhood or town. It's just plain fun!
And please send any photos of rocks! I'm always looking for new ideas.
My other blog posts about kindness rocks:
And the online article about adult coloring books:
Retired school teacher and now full time grandmother sharing ideas and looking for new ones about grandparenting!