Monday, April 27, 2009

Everyone has a story to tell

Why do people do it? Why are thousands of people capturing their life stories right now? What’s really going on here in the personal history trend that is exploding across America and around the world? What are people hoping to accomplish as they create an autobiography?

It’s about remembering 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.

There’s no time like the present and no better, more priceless gift to the future.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What You Might Learn from Your Parents and Grandparents

Back in 1993, I interviewed my grandma. I had the advantage of actually having a degree in English and journalism so I felt compelled to use what I learned to capture the life story of this very special lady. I grew up with her living across the street--so I really thought I already knew her well so the interview was just a good way to get it all recorded.

What was strange was that I felt a bit afraid as I prepared for the interview. I wasn't sure what I should ask. I wasn't sure what I wanted to know. I just jotted down a few of the stories my mother told me that grandma liked to tell.

I spent about 90 minutes with grandma that day, and I was surprised at how much she said that I had never heard before. Here are a few things that my "Grandma Interview" taught me.

1. Grandma wanted to tell me about people I would never know otherwise.
I learned about her parents and grandparents. She could recall conversations that had happened 80 years ago! It was remarkable to feel a new connection with the past and to see what has made our family tick and some of the personalities (not just dates on a family tree) that made our family who we are.

2. Grandma liked talking about her childhood and how history had impacted her life.
Her memory of seeing her first airplane, her side-center basketball days (I never dreamed she played basketball), and the family's first car. She could recall the Flu Epidemic of 1918 and how all the church bells rang when World War I ended. Without setting aside time for recording her life story, I know I would never have heard about these memories.

3. Grandma told me about becoming an adult.
Dating, marriage, children, and her teaching career were all things I knew little about. I was particularly impressed when she told me about the strict schedule she kept for all her housework. It was interesting to see grandma not in one-dimension anymore, but in multi-dimensions. She had once been a little girl (I knew that but it became more real when I heard her stories), then a young woman, then a mom, and now a grandma! She wasn't just grandma anymore.

4. Grandma shared her feelings, beliefs, and values.
She wanted me to know how proud she was of her children and grandchildren. She wanted to record how important her faith was. She wanted to say "I love you" to her whole family so we would always know what was always understood. Her story was a beautiful thing.

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5 Reasons Life Stories are Lost + 10 Sample LifeBio Questions

1. You may not think anyone wants to know your life story. You might think, “Who wants to hear about me?” Family and friends really do want this type of information recorded, but they may not have the time to help you do it. To your family and close friends, YOU are who they care about—more so than movie stars, sports heroes, or politicians. They would like to read your book. Too few people actually decide to move forward with their autobiographies. Only an estimated 6% of Americans capture their life stories. So many life stories are lost.

2. You may think you’ll do it someday—procrastination is not a good idea. Life is busy and you’re going to have to carve out time to create a lasting legacy if it’s ever going to get done. You may have taken the time to write a Last Will and Testament, but have you written even one heartfelt letter to present and future generations? Better yet, have you decided to create a more detailed autobiography?

3. You may think you have nothing to say. This is not true. You DO have something to say. With a little structure and prompting questions, you CAN create your own life story. You may need to spend a bit of time focusing on what your wisdom is and what you’d like to pass along, but it will come to you. You can shed light on your advice for work, parenthood, and grandparenthood. You can tell about historical events from your unique perspective. You can share your love and hopes for the future. Just get the creative juices pumping and you’ll be surprised at how much you have to say.

4. You may think your family already knows you. They don’t know you as well as they could or should. Do your children or grandchildren only see you in one way? Do they know anything about your childhood or what it was like when you were growing up? Do they know how history touched your life? Maybe they know a little bit but the details are not something they know. Also, through your life story you have the opportunity to introduce the readers to people, times, and places that they will never know otherwise. They may know you well, but do they know about YOUR grandmother? Or maybe they live in the same city as you, but they don’t know what it was like 40 or 50 years ago. You can transport the readers to a different time and place.

5. You may think that you’re not a good writer. It doesn’t matter. Do the best you can. Just say it! If you can answer a question, you can write your life story. Your family and friends will appreciate the natural “voice” that comes through when you write your own memories and experiences for yourself. You can always run a spell check or ask a friend to help you proofread your do-it-yourself autobiography when you’re ready. LifeBio does our best to make the process easy and enjoyable for you.

10 Sample LifeBio Questions

Section I: The People who Shaped You
- How would you describe your mother to someone who had never met her?
- What is a key lesson you learned from your father?
Section II: Your Memories
- Describe your childhood home, inside and outside.
- If you had money to spend as a child, what did you buy? Were you a
better saver than spender?
- What were your most memorable experiences from high school?
(Think about your first date, school dances, first time you drove a
car to school, band, chorus, clubs, projects, school plays, talent
shows, sports, etc.)
Section III: The Real World
-What is your favorite work? What is your least favorite work?
-Have you found true love? Describe what true love means to you.
-What is the hardest part of being a parent?
Section IV: Bringing it all Together
-What does it take to succeed in life?
-What was the best time of your life? Why?

Buy a LifeBio membership for $39.95 – - Access 250+ autobiographical questions online. Answer just what you want to answer. Generates a ready-to-print autobiography.

Buy a Memory Journal for $19.95 – contains the same 250+ autobiographical questions as Comes in a beautiful hardcover book format. This book also makes a great gift for a parent or grandparent or other loved one.

Call 1-866-543-3246 or 937-303-4576 or Email us at

Monday, April 06, 2009

What my paper route taught me about building community

Back when I was a kid, I delivered the Erie Morning News to about 35 customers in Erie, Pennsylvania each day. I walked or rode my bike around the block every morning through all kinds of weather. It was dark and stormy many mornings. The streets were sometimes covered with worms. Mom or dad would drive me in the winter time thankfully--especially with the big Sunday papers. In the summer, the weather was great but the ink would come off on my hands as the temperature rose.

My customer, Mr. Kirclich, wanted the paper safe and dry inside his door. I just had to be sure to not slam the door (no matter how hard the wind was blowing) or endure his wrath. Mrs. Reuben wanted her paper nice and early--she would call if it seemed too late. Mrs. Hayes didn't care when it came, just as long as the paper arrived eventually.

I dreaded "collecting" the paper route. I had to go around the block, usually on a Saturday afternoon, to ask my customers for money. Actually, I didn't dread it after I got started because my neighbors looked forward to my visits. We would sit at the kitchen table together. They shared cookies; we chatted about my school and my friends. We traded stories about the neighborhood and what was happening in the world. By the time I would finally come home after three hours or so, I would have had a marvelous time. My dinner was usually spoiled by eating my way around the block. It turned out that my paper route was a good thing after all.

I look back on that paper route on Loveland Ave. in Erie, Pennsylvania and I think about what made it special. It was getting to know my neighbors and understanding what made them who they are. They told me about their joys and challenges of life. We were connected through our stories.

Stories help us relate to one another; they build community. Storytelling is an often underestimated technique proven to bridge social distance between families, friends, corporations, government and generations. Both the giver and receiver of stories benefit in a big way.

“Personal narratives are uniquely powerful medium for expressing needs and building bonds. People like to tell their own stories; most like to listen to others’ as well. The pleasures of narrative are addictive,”coauthors Robert D. Putnam and Lewis M. Feldman write in Better Together: Restoring the American Community. Putnam and Feldman encourage people to build "social capital"--there IS value in our social relationships.

If you are looking for innovative ways to build community--helping neighbors to become friends, look to LifeBio's reminiscence programming. If you're ready to take the next step forward with person-centered care, LifeBio can help with a variety of tried and tested ideas for recording life stories. Group programming is available as well as do-it-yourself options.

See the entire 2009 LifeBio Catalog--programming for groups!

Call 1-866-543-3246 or visit to access our online store. Email us at if we can help with any questions.

Autobiographically Yours,

Beth Sanders
Founder & CEO

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Family Gatherings are a Great Time for Capturing Life Stories

When you gather this Spring with family and friends, treasure those stories shared around the dinner table.

You may also want to consider interviewing your parents or grandparents. Ask them to share a key lesson they learned from their father or mother. Invite them to describe their town, neighborhood or their childhood home environment. What is the best part of their day? Do they have a bucket list--unfulfilled dreams they would like to pursue without delay?

If you don't ask, no one may ever know. If you don't take the time to record the answers, their life's adventures and amazing experiences may be lost to everyone.

Many times families are just left with a blank memory book because no one took the time to ask the questions. Taking the time to capture and record life stories enriches the giver and the receiver, as well as future generations.

There's still time to order a Memory Journal or a gift certificate for your use during an upcoming family gathering.