Friday, April 28, 2017

Memory-Keeping Mythbusting: Myth 4

Today we'll bust the last of the four memory-keeping myths I often hear.  (If you hear others, post them in the comments below because I'd love to BUST them!)  Today's myth is a less-common one, but an important one to bust.  This one is about writing!

Myth #4
When I encourage people to preserve their photos and memories, I sometimes hear this myth:  "I'm not good at writing.  I can't write out my memories and stories because I don't know what to say."

Sometimes people even tell me they prefer just having albums with photos but no words.  Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way.

And by "it doesn't work," I mean:  IT DOESN'T WORK.

Let me tell you what I mean. 

If you don't write anything to go along with your photos, they're (quite honestly) meaningless.  A photo without some sort of notation--the reason you took the photo, the names and places and dates and memories--loses its value, especially over time.

Here's why this myth has to be busted!

My mother knew who these sweet folks are.  One of them died before I was born, and I met the other one once when I was maybe 2 years old.  If she hadn't put names and dates on this photo, I would be looking at this photo the way YOU are right now:  I'd be looking at strangers.  The fact that my mom wrote down some of her memories about these people makes this a very meaningful photo to me.

Writing something is vital.

I have a lot more pictures about people I DO know--grandparents, siblings, parents, children, and even friends.  I have pictures of first days of school and birthday parties and vacations and lost teeth.  However, if I don't write what I know about those pictures, what I remember of the details will not only become lost to my children but will eventually become lost to me over time, simply because--as human beings--we forget.
“A life that is not documented is a life that within a generation or two will largely be lost to memory.  What a tragedy this can be in the history of a family. Knowledge of our ancestors shapes us and instills within us values that give direction and meaning to our lives. ... Bridges built between generations are not built by accident. If I want my children and grandchildren to know those who still live in my memory, then I must build the bridge between them. I alone am the link to the generations that stand on either side of me.” ~{Dennis B. Neuenschwander}
And, to do this, you have to write.

The older I get, the more adamant I become about gifts, talents, and individuality.  God put you on this earth to be yourself.  If you are gifted at writing, that's fantastic, but the memories of people who are not as gifted at writing are equally as valuable as the memories of people who are.  EVERY person needs to record his/her story.  Every one.  No one else can be you.

Writing down your experiences, stories, and memories does not require a special degree or training.  Your memories are yours.  End of story.

If you struggle with writing, here are two ways to overcome the idea that you "can't" write:
  1. I'd like you to think of an exciting or happy or wonderful thing that happened recently.  Think about what you would say if a friend called you and said, "So, how did it go?  What did you do?  Who were you with?  What was the thing you liked the most?  What made it memorable?"  What you would SAY is what you would WRITE next to those photos in an album.  You don't have to fill a page.  You don't have to fill a paragraph.  In some cases, writing the story of your photos isn't very long.  "Bob's second time on the biggest roller coaster at Hershey Park, 7/7/2014.  He would have gone more if we had time," is all that's needed.
  2. Write to the future.  If your grandchild were looking through this album, would he/she know what happened, what makes these photos meaningful, and what links him/her to you?  He or she will be looking for things that he/she has in common with you.  So write!  Show yourself in this record you're creating.
I always write to the future.  I know my kids won't remember a lot of the details of the pictures they're in unless I tell them about them.  I wrote down my youngest son's reaction to going to the beach for the first time, his reaction to eating his first birthday cake with his hands, and what he did on his first field trip.  Those are things he may not necessarily remember in years to come, but my writing them down gives him a trigger so that he can remember more than he otherwise would, and it also helps him fill in the blanks with things he doesn't remember  It also gives him the (true!) message that I care about what he does, thinks, feels, and experiences.

Tell your story your way!  Memory-keeping doesn't require anything fancy, anything hard, or anything complicated.  But it does require your story.  Tell your story using your own words.  That's what people who see your memory albums want!  They want your story in your voice.  If you would say, "It was super cool," then write "It was super cool."  Be true to yourself.  

Don't over-analyze what you write.  Even grammatical errors and misspellings are actually true to you.  (This, by the way, is coming from a Type A English Literature major who is the daughter of two English majors and writers.  So trust me on this.)  Long paragraphs or short details are true to you.  Use your voice.  Show who you are.  Wit, wisdom, and favorite quotes show the readers YOU.

And that's exactly what they're looking for.

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This post was first published on April 28, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.
More #familyhistoryfriday posts can be found by clicking the hashtag in the Labels below.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

creative labels for weddings, save-the-date, favors, and more

One of my favorite things about Heritage Makers products is that they are fully customizable--COMPLETELY customizable!  So you can get very clever and creative with the products, and you can easily create something unique, special, and fun.

Heritage Makers offers two sizes of address labels, and the larger sizes can be trimmed a little to fit nicely around lip balm, of all things!  Believe it or not, they make memorable and adorable favors, gifts, and save-the-date items.

I love that you can put photos on them, and there's so much darling digital art (flowers, backgrounds, swirlies, word art) available to use right within the Heritage Makers program.  You can match wedding colors or school colors or whatever you want.  It makes these fun and PERSONAL!

  1.  Click the "how to get started" tab in red (along the top of this page) to open your free Heritage Makers account.  You'll learn all about uploading photos to your account, using Heritage Makers, etc.
  2. Once logged in, click "template gallery" and search "wedding labels" to find the large address labels that are already measured to fit around lip balm.  Even templates are fully customizable, so you can change anything you want within the template.  One "Save the Date" shown here is at:  You can certainly choose whichever style you want, just be sure the product is called Large Address Label and has two designs per label with dotted lines so you know they're intended to wrap around lip balms.
  3. Customize your label as desired.  Contact me if you have any questions.  If you need help using a template, {this video} is for you. 
  4. Submit the labels for printing.  These are nice, sticky labels, too!  They'll arrive at your door in 7-10 business days.
  5. Cut the labels on the dotted lines and wrap around the lip balms.
This is what my printed labels looked like--you can see that I did two different styles on each label.

UPDATE 2022:  Heritage Makers is currently being updated to a new software platform that doesn't require Adobe Flash to run (which Adobe has discontinued).  For the time being, it's easier for you to order these items from me--meaning I make them for you--than it will be for you to make them in your own Heritage Makers account.  Just contact me with questions and/or to order these fun favors!

I made some other lip balm labels as a gift that just had a simple quote.  You can really do anything with these!
Who knew lip balm could be so exciting?!  ;)

Have fun with this clever idea!  These are so unique for any special occasion!

Monday, April 24, 2017

make a record of your heirlooms

Do you have any heirlooms in your home?  I don't mean a Stradivarius or anything fancy or expensive--I mean your grandmother's handkerchief or a tablecloth that belonged to your great-grandparents.  Is there anything that you now own that was previously owned by an ancestor?  Have you made a record of it yet?
I'm so glad I did!!  It's so important to make sure you know what makes those heirlooms special while you still have access to the people who know their stories.

You can read about my experience with this wonderful book here:

You can definitely tell your own stories in a photo-storybook, but you can tell the stories of anything!  Like The Stories of Our Heirlooms.  Get started here by choosing your favorite option.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Memory-Keeping Mythbusting: Myth #3

I'm busy.  I bet you are, too.  Do you say the things I say:  "things are crazy," "my schedule is packed," or "I'm trying to keep my head above water!"?  Are you too busy to preserve your photos and memories?  Well, the next memory-keeping myth we're going to bust has to do with TIME.  (For more tips on time management and even creating time for yourself, visit the {don't have time?} tab!

Myth #3
"I don't have time to preserve my photos."

Honestly, there are so many things to address with this myth that it's hard for me to know where to start.  But I think I can bust this myth in two parts.

First, at its core, this myth pre-supposes that memory-keeping takes a lot of time.  This is not necessarily true.  It can take a lot of time, of course, but it doesn't have to.  There are memory-keeping methods that don't involve much time, like this one:

Memory-keeping is just preserving memories and photos.  That's it.  It doesn't have to be complicated.  

In fact, memories and photos are so precious and important that it should be something EVERYONE can do, no matter how busy they are!

Second, you just might {have more time than you think}.  The average American has 37 discretionary hours each week.  The average American spends {5-6 hours per week on Facebook}, and {30 hours per week watching TV}.  

Now, I'm not saying that Facebook or TV are bad, but what I am saying is that you might have more time than you think.

One of my favorite activities when I'm stressed or tired is watching TV.  It's because I can turn my brain off and escape to another world.  I put my life and my problems on hold for an hour and go somewhere else.

But guess what!  That's what memory-keeping does, too. 

Memory-keeping can remove you from the everything-went-wrong-today and actually transport you somewhere else.  You can escape to that beach in Cancun where the water was a stunning turquoise and the seagulls stood at the water's edge like little soldiers.  

You can see your grandparents again!  You can see your 20-year-old back when his huge grin was all cheeks.  You can go back to the birthday party, the wedding, the family reunion.  You can go back to first dates and college and first days at home with a new baby.  You can even go back to when you fell in love.

You can take a break from today by visiting yesterday.

{Recalling happy memories has been shown to increase happiness in the present!}  So why not take some of your leisure time to record memories and preserve photos?

The act of sorting through photos and recording memories is grounding and therapeutic.  So it's good for you while you do it, and then it's good for you again when you go back to those albums or books and enjoy them.

I know some people really are busy.  Some of us care for aging parents or disabled children.  Some of us work two jobs.  But for most people, it can be wise to take a look at what "busy" really means.  I recently read {this article}, "Selective is the New Smart," which I highly recommend because it gave some excellent perspective on how we look at "busy."  Is it really an accurate measure of our value, our progress, our accomplishments?  Or is filling our time just a habit?  With the 24 hours we're each given in a day, wouldn't it be smarter to prioritize and be selective in the things we choose to use our time for?

If you need to start finding time to preserve your experiences, photos, and stories, one of the biggest things to remember is that we don't find time.  We make it.  Here are a few ideas for making time for memory-keeping:
  • Work with someone*.  You can preserve photos and memories with a friend, sibling, parent, or child.  If you're an extravert and gain energy from others, this is especially helpful.  If you're likely to keep an appointment with someone else more than you're likely to keep one with yourself, working with someone else should do the trick.
  • Create a habit.  Working on memory-keeping every Friday night or every Sunday afternoon for an hour or two will give you the time you need.
  • Find a group, or create one*.  Some people work best in a social setting.  Putting something on your calendar helps you make it a priority.  It's generally not very hard to find within your group of friends a few people who also need time for memory-keeping and would enjoy doing it with you.
  • Set aside time.  If you're an introvert, like me, set aside quiet time to preserve memories and photos.  For me, memory-keeping is almost like meditation.  It's calming, centering, and gives me a sense of peace and well-being.  If you're not an introvert, though, you might not do memory-keeping as well alone as you would with other people, so see what works best for you.
  • Take a good look at how you spend your time.  Where do your 37 discretionary hours go each week?  Where could you cut back?  Where could you be more intentional?  Could you use some of your leisure time for the vital work of preserving photos and memories and stories?

Don't just take my word for it.  

If you don't know yet how beneficial memory-keeping can be, give it a try.  The centering, grounding effect I mentioned before is the real deal.  Memory-keeping raises self-esteem, is a stress reliever, and gives perspective and a sense of purpose.  Time is fleeting, memories fade, and things change, so memory-keeping isn't a good thing to postpone.  We somehow always find time for important things.  Maybe realizing the importance of memory-keeping is the key.

When I hear someone say, "I don't have time to preserve my photos," my gut reaction is, "You don't have time NOT to!"

*I host online events so people can get together for memory-keeping.  Check out the latest at "Our Community and Events."

We're all busy, so save this post to social media and share!

This post was originally published on April 21, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag in the Labels below.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

iPhone Photo Tips

Our home office creates some great tutorial videos, and I love the new series coming out this year!! These are 5 minute tips, and this first one is about how to take better photos with your iPhone. I learned quite a few good ones here! Enjoy!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Memory-Keeping Mythbusting: myth #2

The memory-keeping myth we're going to bust this week is similar to the one we busted last week:  {"I'm not creative, so I'm not into memory-keeping."}  Although they're related, myth #2 focuses specifically on the s-word, "SCRAPBOOKING".  Say that word, and you definitely get a reaction.  Love it or hate it.  

And it has created what I feel is probably the biggest myth in memory-keeping.

Myth #2
I really wish I didn't hear this myth as often as I do:  "I don't preserve my photos because I'm not a scrapbooker."

Pish posh.  I truly hate hearing this because it's not only untrue, it's nonsense.

Busting this myth doesn't take much.  I have only three things to say about this one.

FACT.  Scrapbooking is about 25-30 years old.

FACT.  Photography is about 200 years old.

FACT.  People obviously found something to do with their photos before scrapbooking.

Now I will be the first to admit that I like making things pretty and I like creativity and creating.  I admit that my memory-keeping style could be referred to as "scrapbooking" (though I do it digitally so it goes faster and I can easily do multiple copies for multiple kiddos), but I also know that scrapbooking is an optional way to preserve photos and memories.

To be honest with you, I feel like there is something sacred about thumbing through old photo albums.  My grandma recorded everything.  I know who everyone is, where the photo was taken, the date, and sometimes some additional random facts.  There isn't anything fancy or cute or pretty about those albums--in fact, everything is monochrome--but when I look at them, my heart swells because those are my people.  I get to see them just living their lives 50 or 100 years ago, and I'm right there with them.

Being a non-scrapbooker is a non-issue!  Photos and memories don't need to be scrapbooked in the modern sense of the word.  They just need to be preserved in a high-quality way that you can hold in your hands and heart.  I often recommend what I call {unscrapbooking, complete with templates} to people who aren't scrapbookers but need to preserve their photos and stories.

Whatever your chosen method, all you really need to do is:
  1. Choose something high-quality.  This is important!  You don't want this falling apart!
  2. Choose something you love because that makes it easier to DO.
  3. Be sure you don't just preserve photos; preserve memories, stories, and details, too.  That's half the value of a photo!
Whatever you choose, just get rid of the idea that you can't preserve your memories and the photos that belong to them if you're not a scrapbooker.  Pish posh.

Or, in 2017-terms:  BUSTED!

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This post was first published on April 14, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.
Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag next to Labels below.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

the benefits of memory-keeping or scrapbooking

Did you know some therapists use memory-keeping or scrapbooking in their practices?  There are actual, therapeutic, scientifically-proven benefits to preserving your photos and memories.  Here are a few:

Every time I think about this list, I think, "Sign me up!"  Who doesn't want this?  Who doesn't want this for their kids?  Right??  Who wouldn't benefit from the grounding, centering effect memory-keeping has?  Who doesn't need perspective and a sense of purpose and belonging?

My husband has been doing a kind of big home project around our house recently.  He told me that my oldest son's room took him longer than expected because when he went to move a bookshelf, he took all the scrapbooks I'd made off the shelf to make the bookshelf easier to move.  He opened one of the scrapbooks and got stuck.  :)  He sat there looking through scrapbooks, reminiscing, and having a really enjoyable time.  He said it was a really great experience.

And that's what memory-keeping does.  It brings back good memories, warms the heart, and makes life happy.

And, in fact, it can make all the difference to a child!  The first part of {this article} refers to studies that have been done on the enormous impact knowing family stories (we might call them "memories") has on kids.  And {this article} explains why preserving your own story is good for YOU, too!

Haven't started yet?  The "how to get started" tab above is for you!  #icanhelp

Monday, April 10, 2017

Three BEST-EVER Mother's Day gift ideas

Need a fantastic gift ideas for Mother's Day??  I've been working on a treat for you because here are three fantastic gift ideas!  Plus, I've made you video tutorials showing you how to create each one!  

Check them out and see which one sounds the best for YOUR mom, grandma, or the special woman in your life.


I think this is one of the most heartfelt, meaningful gifts you can give!  I've just made a video tutorial that walks you through making one of these sweet books, from seeing all the pages in each one so you can decide which one you want to personalizing and ordering.  Heritage Makers is a drag-n-drop system, so if you already have the hang of it, you might be able to fast-forward through the middle.  :)  But if you need all the helps, they're there!

These are so much fun!  Playing card decks are one of my favorite gifts to give.  

You're seeing the BACKS of the decks of playing cards here.  They come together a little faster than the books because you are really just changing 1-4 photos and a few words.

 I've created a video tutorial to show you how to make any of one these sets right here:

Chocolates are a pretty good go-to gift, but these are especially sweet.

These chocolates are made beautiful using Heritage Makers address labels.

These Mother's Day labels are template 107148.  This video tutorial shows you step-by-step how to make labels for chocolates.  You can create your own message on the labels, or even add a picture!

Note:  Playing cards and labels are published by Heritage Makers' specialty printer, so they take about 3 weeks to get back in the mail.  The book takes about 10 days.

UPDATE 2022:  All these items shown were made with Heritage Makers.  However, Heritage Makers is currently being updated to a new software platform that doesn't require Adobe Flash to run (which Adobe has discontinued).  For the time being, it's easier for you to order these items from me--meaning I make them for you--than it will be for you to make them in your own Heritage Makers account.  Just contact me with questions and/or to order these fun gifts!

What would YOUR mom or grandma love?  Tell me in the comments below.  
Know someone who would love this post?  Share it on social media!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Memory-Keeping Mythbusting: Myth #1

Did you know there are MYTHS about memory-keeping?  It's true!  There are things people believe about preserving photos and memories that are just plain false.  This month during #familyhistoryfriday, we'll look at four memory-keeping myths and BUST them wide open!

The myth we're going to focus on today is one I hear quite a bit:  "I'm not creative, so I'm not into memory-keeping."

First and foremost, YOU ARE CREATIVE.  If you don't believe me, these two posts are a must-read:
Now that we've gotten that out of the way and you realize that you actually ARE creative, let's talk about creativity in terms of memory-keeping, or preserving pictures and memories.

This may surprise you, but memory-keeping really only requires memories.  If you're preserving photos and memories, you only need two things:  photos and memories.

The first photograph was taken in 1827.  It took until about 1839 to perfect the photography process and make cameras commercially available.  Believe it or not, when cameras were first sold, they were not sold only to creative people.  They were sold to people who wanted to make a physical record of something through a picture.  People didn't have to show a valid Creative License to buy a camera.

Nothing has changed!  Taking photos of things you want to remember doesn't require creativity.  Neither does making those photos into something tangible so you can appreciate and remember them.

Memory-keeping doesn't have to be as hard as we sometimes make it.  
  1. Take the picture.  
  2. {Preserve it in print} so that you can see and enjoy it.  
  3. Record the details and memories associated with that photo.  
That's it.  Creativity is NOT a requirement for memory-keeping!

This myth is BUSTED.  Nowhere is it written that you must be crafty or creative to have or preserve photos and memories.  If you have photos and memories, you qualify as a memory-keeper.  

I will go so far as to say it's both your right and your responsibility as owner of the memories and of the photos to preserve them.  Creativity is not a requirement.

And there's more. 

Creativity might just surprise you.  By definition, a person who creates something is creative.  So if you take pictures, you have created something.  Have you ever thought of that?

Unfortunately, these days, photos often remain a digital creation.  Going a step further to make your digital creation into something tangible is important because the digital version doesn't have any details or memories.  And people don't usually sit down and pull out a digital file to look at.  Having something physical on a shelf or coffee table gets much more attention and makes REAL the {benefits of memory-keeping that I mentioned last month}.

The "I'm not a memory-keeper because I'm not creative" myth has come about because of trends and varied ways to preserve photos and memories.  A style like this shown below seems to be accepted as the norm.  People tend to think this is how you have to do it.

But it isn't.  You can preserve memories and photos in a style like below.  It skips the step of printing your pictures.  But your style or preference or "creativity" level doesn't matter!

I've delved more into the {specifics of creativity, particularly as it relates to memory-keeping, in this post}, so if you need some additional proof that this myth is BUSTED, you can find a little more insight there.

Whatever you do, don't let the idea that you have to be "creative" in order to preserve your photos and memories keep you from doing it.  It's far too critical for that.

We'll bust some more memory-keeping myths over the next few weeks on #familyhistoryfriday to help you get to the important business of telling family stories and making connections.  Just remember:  "I'm not creative so I can't preserve my photos" isn't true!  It's a myth that's BUSTED.

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This post was first published on April 7, 2017, at by Jennifer Wise.
More #familyhistoryfriday posts can be found by clicking the hashtag next to Labels below.

catch up on your photos: step 10

Step TEN of the Ten-Step Escape Plan:

Now you're ready to BE a memory-keeper!  

(Did you miss the other Escape Plan Steps?  Click the "how to catch up on your photos" tab above.)

UPDATE 2021:  Photo and Story Treasures recommends both Heritage Makers and Forever, so be sure to head over to "how to get started" so you can see which option(s) fit your needs best!

Monday, April 3, 2017

What is family history, and why does it matter?

When my father-in-law was in his 20s, he felt an irresistable urge to learn more about his family history.  He's 70+ now and has made some amazing progress and wonderful discoveries into where his family comes from.

He's not alone.  Interest in family history or genealogy has surged in the last century, and we have helps like never before.  My grandmother, whose grandparents are in that sweet photo above, did genealogy research the old-fashioned way--through books in the library, discovering a third-cousin somewhere in Missouri, and exchanging handwritten letters.  Microfilm changed her life, but today there are websites such as and that make research and connections much easier.  There are even {family history centers} scattered throughout the country.  Search "genealogy blogs" in Google and there are a plethora!

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to be asked to be a regular contributor on a brand new website called Evolve: live.grow.give.  This uplifting blog focuses on inspiration, developing talents, and learning something new.  The blog owner asked me to write each week about family history--not just family history in the past, but family history (you could call them family stories) in the present.

I really like to delve in deep into what "family history" means TO US today!  It's more than just walking around a cemetery looking for names and dates.  I write more about the WHY.  Why does knowing your family history make a difference?  What can you do if you can't find out more about family history than you already know?  How does knowing family history affect children?  What difference does it make?  How does it benefit you personally?

And I want to show more ways to preserve your family stories than pedigree charts alone.  There are so many ways to make connections and so many possibilities for your story, so WHY NOT find something that fits your needs and works for you.  So that's another major focus I have on Evolve.

UPDATE:  All posts originally found on Evolve, which retired in 2019, can be found right here at this blog, LifeTales Books, on Fridays from March 3, 2017, through October 26, 2018.  Find them in the Blog Archive at the right sidebar (near the bottom) or search the hashtag #familyhistoryfriday

If you haven't started creating your family stories yet, whether from generations past or from your own life today, here's an article to get you started:  {Creating Family Stories}.

And if you're not sure what family history has to do with your everyday life, this article can help:  {What Does My Everyday Life Have to do with Family History?}

Make connections!