Friday, November 26, 2010

The Gift of Life Stories - catch them while you can

Being surrounded by family the past few days reminds me of the fact that every life is amazingly unique. There is no one else like my Aunt Jane, my mother, or my father. No one like my sister or my brothers either. Their lives are a collection of the many people, places and adventures experienced.

During the last few days together over Thanksgiving, we've reminisced about our neighborhood, the paper route, and childhood friends. We've heard stories from dad's time in Vietnam, and chatted around my mother's latest puzzle (I haven't found a piece that fits yet). We sat by the wood stove and remembered all the wood we've carried and chopped over the years. We've looked through an old treasure box from Japan (where Aunt Jane was once a missionary). We remembered Grandma Stitzinger's yummy pumpkin pie while eating my sister's perfect duplication of the recipe.

My sister and I washed and dried a bunch of pots and pans--just like old times again. We got a phone call from Florida and it was Aunt Wilma, Uncle Buddy, and Aunt Ruth on three different phones. I listened in as they tried to remember (with a lot of laughs) exactly when their new high school was built and if it was 1954 when the whole school district changed it's something funny about someone putting an old metal stovepipe over their heads back when they were kids.

Meanwhile, the girls were busy doing makeovers in the spare bedroom (you should have seen my eye shadow and mom's teal nail polish). There was a house full of happy boys running circles around the house with C.C. the dog in hot pursuit. Later they all played Monopoly and doubt making their own memories that will last a lifetime. Sweet memories.

As the holiday season continues, remember that life stories form a bridge between people of all ages. Watch as you and your loved ones experience more genuine connection and new conversations as life stories are shared. You may think that some of the things you have to share aren’t all that important or relevant. However, you may be surprised at how much other people will really appreciate this new information. Capture life’s experiences without delay (so they aren't lost or forgotten) and watch the stories and the love flow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Teaching Children How to Work: 3 Tips for Parents

It has always concerned me that I ensure my children are hard workers and that they have ample experience doing hard work. In fact, yesterday I was looking at a tree that had been cut down and the wood was left behind near our house. I thought, "Fantastic! My son will now have the excellent opportunity to chop that wood with an ax and carry it a long way. Now that's hard work and good exercise too!"

My daughter has done multiple work projects with the youth group at church. She knows all about shingles and roofing in general as a result. She knows about doing something as a volunteer and feeling good about helping someone else too.

My own work experience began in earnest when I was very young. At aroung age 7, my dad and I pulled 2 x 6 boards out of an old factory, Erie Plating Company, in Erie, PA. That took days and weeks to accomplish. Then all those boards end up stacked next to our garage. So the following summer, I was told that my job was to hammer out all the nails in those boards so we could reuse them. That took weeks and Dad expected results when he got home from work. After the wood was ready to be re-used, Dad and I and mom and my other siblings all built a new deck out of the old boards. It was a long process, but I was able to see the fruits of my labor and, boy, was I proud of that deck when it was finished!

Around the same time, I was also cleaning Asbury Elementary School with my dad in the evenings a couple of days a week. I was in charge of emptying the trash cans and filling up the toilet paper. That was hours of work and some late nights.

At age 9, Dad decided it was time for me to get a paper route. So for the next nine years I delivered the Erie Morning News with the help of my mom and my siblings. It was tough getting up every morning at 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. Even some Christmas mornings, on a Sunday, we had to deliver those darn papers and they were heavy. I suppose I learned that work had to happen no matter what and that laziness in our family was NOT an option. I could go on......there was work at the family farm, gathering wood for our heat, the chicken coop, oil changes, roofing projects, cutting down trees, building picnic tables, etc.

So I've had experienced hard work in my own life and I've had the privilege to teach my own children hard work. Here are 3 tips for parents on how to teach your children to work:

1) Start looking for more difficult work around the house. It's great that they are cleaning their rooms, washing the kitchen floor with a sponge, or vacuuming the living room, but that is not enough. Take it to another level that requires not only work but problem solving and creativity. Ask them to clean out a couple of junk drawers or a messy closet. Ask them to organize the craft cabinet, cupboards with pans, or the shelves in the basement. Ask them to remove everything from the garage and reorganize it. They can at least start doing these tasks on their own. Be there to jump in and answer questions or let them work alone for awhile and then be there to assist them to ensure they complete the goal. They must complete what they start. Failure is NOT an option.

2) Identify opportunities for them to have "hard work experiences". You are looking for big jobs. Jobs that take time and lots of energy. Jobs that seem like they will be impossible to complete, but then they are accomplished after working HARD. By the way, it's even better when you can have that hard work experience side by side with your kids (they will remember that day).  Help someone pack and move their house all day. Look for mission projects in your local area or week-long projects which require heavy lifting, uncomfortable conditions (roofing in TN in the heat of the summer for example), and LONG days. You see, if they don't spend ALL DAY doing hard work then they aren't going to feel the rewards of that experience. Once your kids get "hooked" on hard work, they are going to actually want to do it again. I'm telling you there's nothing like a delicious ice cream cone after a WHOLE DAY of work--truly that was the highlight of my day after working with dad. You'll swap stories and joke about all that was accomplished when the day is over.

3) Keep it real and make it happen. You can't make this stuff up. Be sure that the jobs you are doing are necessary and important. If you don't have enough stuff that needs to be done around the house, you are going to have to look elsewhere. You have got to be intentional or your kids are just going to play a lot of video games and sit around watching TV. I know you are busy with your own work, but I'm saying that you MUST invest in helping your children experience hard work through volunteer experiences, through a local charity/church, or by helping family members or neighbors. You don't want these kids living at home depending on you forever, right? You've got to make sure they learn to take initiative, they get hooked on hard work, and they SEE opportunities to make money, help people, and get a hard job done.

Now that I have my own company,, I see how that hard work ingrained in me as a child is essential as a business owner. There are long hours, problems to solve, and a tenacity and personal satisfaction that only comes from working hard. That's what your children need right now. Teach them THAT and they will go far.

Beth Sanders

Ethical Will: A letter from the heart to your loved ones

Ethical wills are a way to share your love with family and close friends. Think of an ethical will as a heartfelt letter describing what truly matters most in your life. An ethical will passes on life lessons, values, advice, joys, prayers, hopes, and dreams for present and future generations.

Unlike a Last Will and Testament or a Living Will, an ethical will is NOT a legal document. An ethical will describes your treasures of the heart, not your treasures.

Why should you write your ethical will?

Quite simply, there is no one else like YOU! You have incredible wisdom and experience to share—no matter what your age or background. Your ethical will has the potential to affect multiple generations perhaps even hundreds of years from now. Therefore, an ethical will is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children and grandchildren.


Ethical Will Kit from

Ethical will: Chuck Jaffe is going to say what matters most

Chuck Jaffe explains how life's priorities changed after a recent health scare. Among other things.... he is going to write an ethical will.

Other resources....

Free Ethical Will

Write My Life Story

Friday, November 12, 2010

Why capture life stories?

YOU are unique. Every life is a collection of the many people, places and adventures experienced.

Only you can preserve priceless memories. No one else can share your autobiography but YOU. You grew up on a street somewhere. You had a favorite tree or hiding place perhaps. You can remember your parents, your grandparents, a special aunt or uncle. How did you celebrate holidays when you were a child or teenager? What was school like when you were young? Recall some of those priceless memories for yourself and for the people you love. You’ve got some good stories to tell and some of the simplest memories mean a lot.

Only you can share a lifetime of practical wisdom. Life is a good teacher, isn’t it? Every day of life has joys and challenges. We learn and grow along the way. Life isn’t always easy, but we all keep learning things as we go down that road. Other people have much to learn from your life story—good advice, beliefs, values. We’re all getting older (and hopefully wiser) every day. You can help your loved ones, family, and friends prepare for the future with your perspective on life so far.

Only you can provide your own personal glimpse into history. There is nothing better than learning history from an actual personal account instead of a history book. Do you remember a big event in the news, a new invention that revolutionized the world, a new household item that made life easier, a famous person who changed the course of history? It is fascinating to hear what YOU think is interesting from history. It’s amazing to have a chance to walk in your shoes and see the world from your unique perspective.

Only you can create a lasting record for generations to come. If things aren’t recorded, unfortunately they will be lost or forgotten. Some of you may wish you had a book with the life story of your grandparents or great-great grandparents to read. Maybe you’ve got some family genealogy records but who were these people? What made them tick? What was their essence? What was their story? Writing down some portions of your life story in a journal or recording your story via the web or via video will prevent those stories from being lost or forgotten. This process may also open the door for you to share your story with a younger person in your family (maybe one of your children, grandchildren, a niece or nephew perhaps).

As life stories form a bridge between people of all ages. Watch as you and your loved ones experience more genuine connection and new conversations as life stories are shared. You may think that some of the things you have to share aren’t all that important or relevant. However, you may be surprised at how much other people will really appreciate this new information. Capture life’s experiences without delay and watch the stories and the love flow.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Why retirement communities want to implement life story programming

Here are 18 great reasons retirement communities shared for wanting the award-winning reminiscence program from LifeBio.

1. Great opportunity for staff to connect with residents. It will assist our team in getting to know the resident they are caring for on a much more personal level.

2. So many life stories are being lost when people die. We learn many new things at memorial services unfortunately...when it is too late.

3. The families of the residents will one day wish they had the history of their loved one.

4. We have the most amazing residents who all have a story to tell. What a special way for them to share their legacies with their families and friends.

5. Just great stories that beg to be told and preserved! It will be exciting for our residents and staff!

6. So much great knowledge and wonderful life history to pass on to generations to come.

7. Expand the reminiscing we have done in the past and be more consistent and intentional.

8. Build the memory care program.

9. My community is family to each other and this enhances communication.

10. We are beginning to see the relevance of stories.

11. Improve our residents’ quality of life and enable our residents to pass along information from generation to generation that would otherwise be lost forever.

12. Every resident has a story and we want them to know it’s special.

13. LifeBio will dovetail beautifully with our goals as well as the mission of our organization to care for the whole person and give them a place of honor at life’s table.

14. Interested because of the cognitive status this program enhances.

15. It’s an amazing way to help our residents LIVE!

16. Unleash the power of connection and pass down wisdom.

17. Great way to learn about our residents---moving toward person-centered care. A wonderful tool.

18. Can better assist in their care/service plan, better quality of life, determine validation