Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great Holiday Gifts for Seniors

The gift of memories
Even if a senior has never been interested in writing, the LifeBio Memory Journal is a clever way to jog memories and pass along stories and wisdom to younger family members. After each question is sufficient space to capture handwritten answers.

The journal asks more than 250 questions, such as "How would you describe your mother to someone who never met her?" and "What skills did you inherit from your parents?" It includes questions that ask writers to recall a favorite birthday party from childhood or to describe the neighborhood they grew up in. The answers can also be transferred to an online LifeBio e-journal and merged with scanned photos to become a hardbound LifeBio Book, which can be printed (at additional cost) once or in multiple copies.

To order: LifeBio

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

5 tips for writing your life story

Writing an autobiography really doesn't have to be rocket science. Here are 5 great tips to help you get started.

1. Think. Think about the people who shaped you, your childhood memories, the real world of adulthood, and the values and lessons you have learned through the years.
2. Ask. Ask questions of your relatives when you are together or by phone. After all, their lives are a big part of your life. Change your conversations from the same-old, same-old to something new. You've probably never asked a parent or grandparent to describe their childhood neighborhood to you.
3. Write. Answering questions is a great way to get started ( You've just got to put pen to paper and not be afraid of grammar or spelling ( Some of the most amazing stories are just raw, honest, and from YOUR point of view. Nothing fancy.
4. Edit. Your family and friends really don't want every detail of your life recorded. This is not a is your life story! Some of the deep questions of life mean more than knowing just the facts or just the funny family stories. Give your family and friends a little bit of everything in your story.
5. Preserve. Your story could be on your hard drive, saved on a website, or sitting on a CD somewhere. Create a book from your story--and make sure key people get a copy of your autobiography. Ensure your family can easily locate this along with your other important papers. You've made the effort so it's important that your stories live on--long after you're gone. Genealogists and your great-great-great grandchildren will thank you! Your story is a gift.

Beth Sanders
Founder & CEO

Monday, May 05, 2008

M is for the Memories She Gave Me….

Mother’s Day reminds me of the memories my mom gave me.
It was a cold and snowy winter in 1978 in Erie, Pennsylvania and mom and I were working on my decorations for my first big birthday party. We made a paper mache snowman and set him on a tinfoil ice rink surrounded by cottonball snow. It was beautiful. Then mom made her delicious homemade bread dough which became pizza dough for my 9th birthday. I was particularly proud to have eaten 9 pieces of pizza on my 9th birthday!
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1978 and my little sister and I were looking for something to do. Mom put on her South Pacific musical record and she began to dance across the green shag carpeting with us. We were doing mom’s version of the hula dance, and we even took it one step further by figuring out how to write our names with our hips—like the cursive handwriting we were learning in school. We laughed and laughed and danced and danced.
It was a sunny summer afternoon in 1979 and mom took us to Lake City, Pennsylvania to meet my dad, a mailman, for lunch. We went up and down the streets of Lake City looking for him and we were so happy to finally find him and eat our submarine sandwiches together at a local park. We probably sang in the car on the way home—mom always had a million good songs to sing in the car.
It was a brisk fall morning in 1983 and mom was up early with me to help me deliver the Erie Morning News. We had to hurry to get the papers delivered before I had to get to school. She folded the papers in the car while I delivered them or she delivered her side of the street while I did my side. I knew she didn’t have to be out there in the wind and cold with me, but she was always ready and willing to help.
None of these memories required my mother to spend any money, but they are the first to pop into my mind. Why is that? How can we create memories that stick with our children and grandchildren?
1) Use your creativity and all the senses – Could you make a paper mache snowman? Could you turn a boring, rainy afternoon into an afternoon of Hawaiian hula dancing? Could you go on a picnic TODAY? Could you distract those little eyes away from a computer game to make their own computer or TV out of a cardboard box? Could you transform making dinner into a cooking show with your kids or grandkids being the stars? Of course you can!
2) Be spontaneous and a little crazy – Break into a song in the car. Don’t worry that your kids or grandkids might not like it. You might be surprised at how quickly they join in and then request that song again and again. Stop what you’re doing and go play “Hide and Seek” or chase them around with a “Tickle Monster” game. Loosen up, forget the pressures of life for a while, and act like a kid again. They’ll remember that.
3) Be consistent and strong. Kids and grandkids will remember that you never gave up on them. You helped them with homework. You helped them run that lemonade stand each summer. You helped them deliver their newspapers. You made them clean the bathroom even when they didn’t want to do it. You helped them clean their room once in a while. They won’t forget that you were there for them. You were and are supportive and ready to help.
I am blessed that my mother is still creating more memories with me and my children. I will do my best to follow in her footsteps. Thanks for the memories, Mom.
Beth Sanders is the founder of and author of the Memory Journal. In 1993, she interviewed her grandmother and realized that she never knew her as well as she could have until that day. Her passion for family history and stories has helped thousands enhance relationships and create a lasting legacy. For more information visit

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Three Little Words in Life Stories

Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches and lots of LOVE belongs in our life stories too. Love stories and how people met are a BIG part of people’s life stories. Mary met her husband on the street in Chicago during World War II. Audrey and her husband were high school sweethearts. Bill met his wife at church and Ray met his wife at work. Where did you meet your lover? How did you get engaged? What was your wedding day like? These are all things that will be fun for you to remember and your family will love to read and remember some of the details.
It’s hard to believe, but my husband and I have been married for over 16 years! In my own LifeBio, I went into great detail to describe how I met Jeff when I was a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver. Let me tell you the story.

Back in 1989, I was a poor college student delivering pizzas in my red Volkswagen Rabbit and Jeff ordered pizza every Friday night. He says that he hoped I would be the one to deliver it each week after I came the first time. I liked his address because it seemed like I always got a $2 tip when I went there versus the standard $1 tip most people gave us. So I would actually trade other drivers for his address. I hadn’t paid much attention to WHO was receiving the pizza because I was typically distracted by the fact that I had 30 minutes or less to get the next pizza to the next address. I probably went to Jeff’s house at least three or four times before we had a conversation and it went something like this.

Jeff: Do you like being a Domino’s Pizza driver?

Beth: Oh yes. It’s a great job. Freedom of the road, great pay, great fun. I really love it. I kept going on and on about the job because I was hoping to convince him to become a driver too. (You see, we got $25 if we recruited a new driver.)

Jeff (interrupting): I don’t need a job. I just wanted to know if you’d like to go out for lunch sometime.

I stood there, in my orange hat and blue shirt, flabbergasted. He seemed like a nice guy and he was good looking too. I wasn’t planning on being asked out. I said, Sure, I’ll go out to lunch. and handed him my phone number.

We went out for lunch a few days later (no, we didn’t have pizza) and the rest is history. I’m glad Jeff asked! So meeting stories and love stories are a big part of life stories. It’s interesting how love is expressed because sometimes, as people are answering autobiography questions provided by LifeBio, it doesn’t seem like they are talking about love at all. Sometimes they are sharing their secrets to living a good life OR they are describing their grandparents to their grandchildren. They may be giving advice to the next generation. They are reminding their children to never forget to take care of the earth or get a good education or follow their faith. All those things count as LOVE too. It is showing that you care so much that you’ll take the time to say what really matters most and that’s a very thoughtful expression of love.

But people also say Those Three Little Words that everyone wants to hear and read in a book for all time. As time marches on, it is important to have the words I love you recorded for your family to know and cherish forever. This isn’t the kind of love you read about in greeting cards. This is the love that YOU express in your own way. It could sound like....

Always know that I love you very much.
I love you and your brothers and sisters more than you’ll ever understand.
I don’t know how to say it in a better way just know I love you.
My grandparents and parents loved me and that love is being passed on to you.
I didn’t always say it. In fact, I really never said it, but I love you so much. It’s time to tell your story. It’s time to share your love story.

It’s time to share those three little words , deep from your heart, for all time. You can’t imagine how much they will love and appreciate that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Are Life Stories Really a Priceless Gift? (2)

Why do people do it? Why are thousands of people capturing their life stories right now? Why are they recording it for all time so it won’t be lost or forgotten?Are they thinking they are famous so they deserve it? Are they thinking that they’d like to have their name remembered for all time? What’s really going on here in the personal history trend that is exploding across America and around the world?
I would say that it’s definitely not about the fame. It’s not about being remembered for all time. For the wonderful people I know using LifeBio and the Memory Journal to share memories and experiences, it’s really about wanting to be sure that children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren know what really matters most.

So what does matter most? And how do we say it?

It’s about the people in one’s life. Many people are savoring the opportunity to capture what they remember about the generations who came before them. They want to not just tell their own story, but the story of people who never had the chance to tell their own. Their parents or grandparents lived through tough times and persevered nonetheless. One LifeBio writer said that the process reminded her of all the love she had experienced in her life from her parents and grandparents.

It’s about saying, "If I did it, so can you." We all know people in our families who have lived through very difficult and complicated times. They have been affected by the Depression, wars, the civil rights movement, and just the everyday trials of daily life. It’s helpful and inspiring to know that, despite difficulties, they persevered and made it through. With their strength and inspiration, we can make it too.

It’s also about giving advice and passing on values. People recording their life stories have a chance to answer challenging questions that help them share things like get a good education, follow your faith, work hard, and keep your commitments. Plus, people’s words of love to their families practically jump off the page.

It’s about a journey of self discovery. Where have you come from? What have you learned? What’s next in your life? We see the "big picture" when we look back and reflect. This helps clarify where we’re going next and helps to direct our path.

Are life stories a priceless gift? Certainly they are. They teach younger generations to walk in our shoes and have empathy plus they get some inspiration and advice along the way. People who write their stories can see What’s next? in life’s journey by examining their past and present story in clear view.

So there is probably someone in your family or another loved one that needs to tell their story. There’s no time like the present and no better, more priceless gift to the future.