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!
How about a family Thanksgiving book that you add to every year? A book wherein you record everyone's blessings and photos of the feast?
We do it in our family with "Our Book of Thanksgiving" scrapbook. I was inspired by Gray and Wales book, "Grandmother, Another Name for Love." The authors describe giving each grandchild a small scrapbook, and each grandchild does their own Thanksgiving book with an essay of what they are grateful for as well as photos of the event. I opted for ONE book that stays at my house, and that we add to year after year.
We place it on the table at the Thanksgiving meal, and Poppa reads everyone's blessings from the previous year. Then we go around the table and everyone names their recent acknowledgements of gratitude, and someone records responses for our big book.
An added plus~
An additional benefit is the book stays out the month of November. On the day of the feast, oftentimes my grandkids peruse the book while we're getting dinner on the table. You can hear the laughs and giggles from the kitchen as the kids look at the pictures from when they were younger.
My thoughts on scrapbooking~
I love going to the craft store and perusing the scrapbook aisle. I love the pretty papers, stickers and season-themed decals. I've always wanted to do scrapbooks, but I know enough about my personality that my interest would wane. Besides, where would one store all those scrapbooks?!! I've opted to do just this ONE BOOK. It satisfies my need to create, and I'm able to keep up with it every year--"Our Book of Thanksgiving."
Let's stir the pot!
If you do scrapbooks about family times, please share. If you decide to do that suggestion about every kid keeping their own book, I would love to see pictures of that. If you try something like this for the first time, please write me. We all love new ideas, and finding out what works and what doesn't! Just go to my contact page and write me. As I said, I would love to hear.
Happy Thanksgiving Season to you and yours!
"Forever on Thanksgiving Day the heart will find the pathway home." Wilbur D. Nesbit
Be sure to put your grand in an apron--that's half the fun. Then get out all ingredients and equipment. I did let my granddaughter measure the ingredients. I even let her chop the apples. First I peeled and cut the apple in big chunks. Then she did the rest of the cutting herself with a plastic nice. Very safe.
You can plan an activity around just about any book your grand enjoys. Simply read the book and see what extended activity the book suggests in your mind. The possibilities are endless. Favorite books for 4-5 age groups are many. Reading "Be Nice to Spiders"? Make a spider--and a 3-dimensional one is really fun. Dr. Seuss' "One Fish, Two Fish"? Make a fish on a line! Another favorite that's still available for this age group is "George and Martha." Instead of making Martha's split pea soup, make her chocolate chip cookies! A never-ending array of choices when enriching the book experience with your grand! Always fun for both generations!
I know my readers have extended various reading activities with your grands--whether it was writing your own books based on a favorite book, cooking or doing some art activity. Please write me and share. I would love to hear.
Books mentioned today that are a favorite of preschoolers:
"George and Martha" by James Marshall
"Be Nice to Spiders" by Margaret Bloy Graham
"Swimmy" by Leo Lionni
"One Fish, Two Fish" by Dr. Seuss
"The Very Busy Spider" by Eric Carle
Great blog for children's art ideas~ artbarblog.com
Retired school teacher and now full time grandmother sharing ideas and looking for new ones about grandparenting!