Saturday, March 14, 2009

Find meaning in memories: Learn how to capture your own life story

I was recently in Tallahassee, Florida for a special event at Westcott Lakes. Great fun! Here is the link to the article...

Friday, March 13, 2009

5 Tips for Interviewing Grandma and Grandpa

1. Don't delay and don't talk yourself out of it. It's time to capture grandma and grandpa in print, on video, via audio, or writing via the web. Grandma's life story or grandpa's life story is far more interesting than you can ever imagine. Really and truly, your own grandparents can tell you things that no one else can share.

2. Find the story behind their pictures. A great place to start is to review an old photo album together. Record what they say about a few of their favorite pictures. You aren't going to have time to get the story behind every picture, but you can get a few of grandma's favorite memories or grandpa's favorite memories through pictures. Pick the ones that are really funny or the ones where their eyes light up as they tell the tale. A picture is worth 1,000 words.

3. Structure is good. You will probably be glad you did your homework and you know what you want to ask when you meet with your grandma or grandpa. You can always ask questions over the phone or email that tech-savvy grandparent with your questions. LifeBio's structure for example would have you ask about people in their lives, childhood memories and historical events, the real world of adulthood, and end with values, beliefs, life lessons, and more.

4. Pick a quiet place for an interview. If your planning to use a video camera, you'll want to pick a quiet spot free of distractions for interviewing grandma. If you are interviewing grandpa and the phone rings or someone walks in the room, it just takes away from the video. Post a sign on the door--do not disturb. Test your equipment and test the spot where you are recording. You want the video to show up well with the lighting in the room. LifeBio's Video Recording Kit may be something you want to consider because it includes our Guide to Interviewing and Recording and all the equipment you'll need.

5. Smile a lot and speak up. Grandpa and grandma want to know that you are glad to be recording their stories. Also, be sure you are speaking loudly and clearly so you don't have to repeat questions. Mumbling is not a good idea when you are the interviewer. Have confidence in yourself and make sure they know how much you want these life stories told. You can help them do something important by capturing grandma's life stories or grandpa's life stories for all time. This is a priceless gift to both of you--and it just might change your life!

LifeBio 101 Autobiography Classes are Forming Now

LifeBio classes are forming across the United States and recently Canada too. We're excited to see these classes start in local retirement communities, schools, libraries, and community centers. Typically, LifeBio 101 classes are eight weeks in length, with the last week being a time for celebration. The course is provided in a booklet with group exercises and individual homework, with each participant using the Memory Journal as their guide in writing an autobiography. Although the curriculum was designed to appeal to older adults, we also found that intergenerational groups work out great. Sometimes it's a mother and daughter or father and son taking LifeBio 101 together. Sometimes it is two friends deciding to take the class. It's been amazing to see 96-year-old Vi Gura teaching these classes in Florida. She has taught over 70 people (in seven classes so far) to tell and share their life stories at her senior living community using this curriculum. It's our hope that many more cities will have the LifeBio 101 classes since they are affordable ($399.00 for up to 10 students with all materials plus S&H) and so much fun. We have received tremendous feedback as participants move from being strangers to close friends. Amazing class....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Gift of Memories. It's Priceless.

For the person who's hard to buy for, for the person who has everything, there is always a priceless gift ready to be given. The gift of memories, life stories, traditions, and beliefs is truly priceless. It's a gift that many of us fail to give. It's a gift that many of us long to receive. Whether it's online at ( or through the Memory Journal memory book (, or both packaged as a gift, you'll have the perfect gift that will encourage new conversation and connection in your family or among good friends.

Don't think that YOU can't help record those memories too. Sometimes families miss out on great talks by phone, via email, or face-to-face when they aren't involved in the memory recording process. It's not just about memories...this is also a chance to build or start a new relationship, even with your own family.

With Easter family get-togethers, Mother's Day, and Father's Day approaching, keep the priceless gift of memories and autobiography in mind. There's no time like the present and no better gift to the future.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Saving Your Family's Stories: Why It's Important to Keep Your Family's History Alive

"Why should I tell my life story?" It's a good question, one I hear frequently. I can easily rattle off several reasons:

Sharing stories encourages a closer, more meaningful relationship with your children and grandchildren.

Family's stories are worth telling because you may be able to describe people, times and places that no one else in the family knows about.

Lastly, you can help the next generation—inspiring, teaching and modeling strength and courage for them.

Although these are three very good reasons to tell your life story, you should also consider what happens if you don't tell your story. What is lost?

Here are three very important things that evaporate when family stories are not shared.

1. Relationships
Do you really know your parents and grandparents? One woman I worked with, Donna, didn't even know her mother's real first name until she interviewed her. She also felt a new connection to her grandfather—someone she had never known—as her mother recounted stories of him.

Genuine family communication has had some setbacks recently. Movies, TV, computers, video games, iPods and the radio have made family time more difficult to eke out and made it less likely that children will have opportunities to talk with older relatives.

Additionally, family gatherings may seem more and more rushed due to relatives living farther and farther apart.

We have to be intentional about connecting, via the phone or in person, if we can, to be sure the stories and the relationships are not lost. Whether you're a parent or a grandparent, godfather or godmother, uncle or aunt, take the time to tell other family members, particularly the children, who you are, what your family stands for, and how much you care about them.

2. Storytelling Opportunities
When stories aren't recorded, some great storytelling material is lost. It's easy to read our children or grandchildren storybooks, but think about closing the Dr. Seuss book so you can tell them one of our own.

I was away on a trip recently and I decided that I wouldn't miss story time with my children that night. So I shared a piece of my story over the phone. They laughed as I recounted my family's Chicago trip to an exciting international stamp convention (14-year-olds love these kinds of events). All six of us slept in the family station wagon at the most convenient truck stop parking lot and ate Lucky Charms on the tailgate in the morning. Family stories can make for great bedtime or story time material. Reminiscences can contain all the material you need.

3. Values and Beliefs
Stories communicate life experiences and teach the next generation right from wrong. Without family stories, kids miss out on a foundation that could impact them the rest of their lives. Your family could have a long commitment to education or public service or faith. The knowledge of your family's values and beliefs is a foundation for their lives.

As M. Scott Peck pointed out, "Life is difficult." Stories can convey the need for courage when trials and difficulties are encountered. Through stories of war, financial hardships, losses of one kind or another and the larger societal battles over civil and women's rights, our children can see that family members faced and overcame challenges—even death.

Stories can teach how hard work, discipline and strength are needed to accomplish goals.

Real life stories, from your own life and the life of your grandparents and parents, could have a huge impact on the lives of your children and grandchildren as well as future generations. It's time to close the generation gap. Don't lose or forget your stories.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The future of the past

This is a unique time in history. Every man and woman has a voice. Their thoughts and opinions can be expressed for the world to read like never before. Everyone can easily have at least 15 minutes of fame. Now here's a revolutionary thought. What if everyone had an autobiography? What if you didn't have to be rich, famous, or unnaturally brillant to have your own 50-page or 100-page book of stories, memories, life lessons, and values? (Not a photo book with captions--I mean a complete book of your stories and memories and pictures.) Imagine the impact that each person's life story could have on the life of his or her family or friends. Imagine that loved ones aren't just left with a short obituary and a tombstone---they actually know who you are, what you believed, and what you did in your lifetime. Only about 6% of Americans have written an autobiography. Genealogists would certainly love more autobiographies, as they spend countless hours in libraries trying to figure out who their relatives are. Families would be able to open the book for each person in the family and learn something new or gain a unique perspective on life or gain strength and inspiration from someone who took the time to share.

Easy do-it-yourself autobiography creation tools and encouraging family members to reminisce and record stories more. That's the future of the past.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Your Personal Trainer for Personal History

Today I was thinking about the ways that LifeBio helps our clients say what matters most to the people they love. I thought about how our questions and online template motivates people to actually create an autobiography...and that anyone can write a book with the help of LifeBio's structure and questions. So I thought to myself, "We're the personal trainer for personal history!" In fact, where LifeBio 101 classes are offered around the country, it's just like knowing you have an appointment with your coach. You have to keep coming back to class with more information in your LifeBio ready to share. We help you stay motivated. Here's to helping millions of people tell and share their life stories. Seemingly ordinary people have extraordinary things to share. --Beth Sanders

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Great Story & Your Story: Connecting the Bible to Everyday Lives

If your small group or church is seeking an intergenerational Bible study or Bible study for older adult ministry, look no further than The Great Story and Your Story: Connecting the Bible to Everyday Lives. The authors, Dr. Richard Morgan and Beth Sanders, relate scripture to their own personal life stories and then invite the participants to do the same. This new 12-week study covers the following topics:

CHAPTER 1: The Branches of the Family Tree - Theme: family history
CHAPTER 2: The Prodigal Son and Prodigal Father? - Theme: Unbounded love
CHAPTER 3: The Prayer of a Mother - Theme: Prayer
CHAPTER 4: The Blessing of a Grandfather - Theme: Blessings
CHAPTER 5: The Influence of a Grandmother - Theme: Favorite Bible story
CHAPTER 6: The Memories of Childhood - Theme: Accepting the kingdom as a child
CHAPTER 7: The Challenge of Love and Marriage - Theme: Love is patient and kind....
CHAPTER 8: The Gifts of Home and Work - Theme: Home & Work
CHAPTER 9: The Need of a Neighbor - Theme: Good neighbors
CHAPTER 10: The Turning Points of Life - Theme: Turning points
CHAPTER 11: The Presence of Suffering - Theme: Suffering
CHAPTER 12: The Future–Your Journey and Legacy - Theme: Legacy
Writing Your Faith Story
Faith Story Template
Writing Your Heartfelt Letter/Ethical Will
Heartfelt Letter/Ethical Will Template
Leader’s Guide
Order of Worship for the Small Group
Order of Worship for the Church

Here's what others are saying....

People often approach Bible study as an opportunity to learn
facts about ancient people in ancient times, but they struggle to
connect those facts with their own lives in the 21st Century.
Through these twelve Bible studies, plus additional exercises and
a leader’s guide, Morgan and Sanders have provided an engaging,
accessible, and much-needed resource that draws participants into a
lively, welcoming, and personal encounter with sacred scripture.
–Dr. David M. Seymour
Senior Pastor, Mount Zion Lutheran Church

This book is a treasure and a must-have for anyone working in
small group settings. The simple format, with a clear and appropriate
progression, leads the reader from the story in the scriptures
directly to the reader’s own story. This makes the book easily usable
and exciting. As I read through the book, my own memories rose to
the forefront--memories long forgotten, but renewed by the reading
of this book.
–Dr. Miriam Dunson
Presbyterian Minister (retired) & Author

I appreciated not only the richness of the scriptural texts chosen
for use in the book, but also the depth of your storytelling…
I believe you have written a valuable resource for people at midlife
and older adulthood.
– Dr. Rick Gentzler (Richard H. Gentzler)
Director, Center on Aging & Older Adult Ministries
United Methodist Church

In this unique study guide, Dr. Richard Morgan and Beth Sanders
provide a template for recording your story as you reflect on God’s
story. Each lesson opens with a study of scripture and the real-life
stories of some of the Bible’s most notable characters. This is a
dynamic tool that I heartily recommend for churches to use in small
groups, adult education classes, and fellowship circles.
– Leona Bergstrom
Director, LIFETIME, a Ministry of ChurchHealth