Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Enjoy December Card Party

December is a lot more enjoyable if you don't try to cram Everything Christmas into 24 days.  That's why every year at the beginning of November, I host an online card party called Enjoy December.

What's an online card party?!

It's a time to set aside on your calendar to create cards, letters, return address labels, etc., digitally using Forever.  The Enjoy December Card Party lasts all day.  You choose an hour or two --whatever fits into your schedule-- to create your greetings.  

How do I attend?

There are a few things you need to do BEFORE the Card Party.  They are listed here, but please know that if you are reading this post after the Card Party happens, you can do all this on your own at a convenient time for you!

UPDATE 2021:  All the information for attending the Card Party can be found at the "You're Invited to the annual *online* Enjoy December Card Party," so please visit it at that link.

What do I do AT the Card Party?

(Find details at the "You're Invited" link above.)

It's SO GREAT to get cards behind you right at the beginning of November so that you can ENJOY DECEMBER! 

I love the Card Party and hope you'll join me!

Friday, October 27, 2017

How Knowing Family Stories Helps Kids Cope

Family stories (the building blocks of a family history) are beneficial to kids for many reasons.  In addition to helping their self-esteem, providing a sense of belonging, and {keeping entitlement in check}family stories help kids cope.  The world around us is a wonderful place that can be difficult at the same time.  Kids have to cope with stresses that just didn’t exist 20 years ago.  Researchers have found that one of the best sources of strength and resilience for kids is knowing their family history.

At {Emory University, two psychologists} developed a “Do You Know” scale to measure how much kids knew about their family.  {Questions} included such things as “Do you know how your parents met?” and “Do you know where your parents went to school?”

The study concluded that teenagers who knew their family stories showed “higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement.”  The research showed that family stories provide a sense of identity and help kids understand who they are and where they belong.  This leads to greater coping skills when kids are faced with problems, upsets, and disappointments.

Other research backs up these findings.  {Bruce Feiler’s} concludes:
"The most important thing you can do may be the easiest of all. Tell your children the story of their family. Children who know more about their parents, grandparents, and other relatives – both their ups and their downs – have higher self-esteem and greater confidence to confront their own challenges. Researchers have found that knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child’s emotional well-being."
I have had some experience with this myself.

When my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, her doctors gave her 3-5 years.  Even with aggressive chemotherapy treatments, she passed away seven months later, having just begun the second round of chemo.  My little niece was a few months away from her second birthday at the time.  My brother and sister-in-law (her parents) mourned not only the loss of my mom but the loss of their little girl’s grandma.  They were saddened that my niece would never really get to know her grandma.

Based mostly on my brother and sister-in-law’s concerns, I decided to create a {board book} for my niece about my mom.  The book, I thought, would give her a way to get to know her grandma.  I have to say, it was pretty hard to try to write about my mom’s life in toddler language.  I didn’t know how exactly to summarize such a full and productive life.  

Finally, the thought came to me that I could write the book with a “what Grandma loved” theme.

I wrote about the things that my mom loved doing, things she was passionate about, and things she adored.  Of course, one of the things she loved the very most was her grandchildren.  On that page, I added photos of my niece with my mom as well as photos of my niece with her other cousins–people she DOES remember.  My mom still loves my niece from heaven, and that’s so important for my niece to remember.

It’s been over a year now since I gave my niece the “Grandma Loves Me” book.  You may remember me sharing this book on a #familyhistoryfriday in June at the {HealingFrom Grief Through Family Stories} post.  I recently found out firsthand the impact this little book had.

A few months ago, I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law.  My niece gave me the grand tour of her house.  As I stood at the doorway to her bedroom, she ran in front of me to grab the book she had spotted on her bed.  She yelled excitedly, “That’s my grommaw in heaven!!”  She was so thrilled to be able to introduce me to her Grandma in heaven!  I sat on her bed while she climbed into my lap so we could read “Grandma Loves Me.”  She’s three years old and doesn’t realize that I made the book, or that she was telling me about my own mother.  I was completely overcome.  This little girl knows her grommaw in heaven, and she knows she is loved from heaven.

Although my niece was too young to have to really cope with the loss of her grandma like the rest of our family, family stories help us all.  Connecting with our history, our family, and our stories provides strength and coping skills because we know we belong.  Some day, my niece will wish she remembered my mom.  She will wish she had more time with her grandma.  But she knows her grandma, and they are connected, because she knows stories about her grandma.

Take some time to tell family stories, and then take some time to {record them} so they’re accessible and not forgotten.  The stresses kids go through every day make them need their family connections more than ever.  Tell family stories is one of the simplest, yet most powerful, things we can do for our kids.  

If you’re like me, you might not feel like you get much right as a parent, but trust me:  If you’re {telling family stories, you can be certain you’re doing at least one thing right.}

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This post was originally published at www.livegrowgive.org on October 27, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  Read more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

digital DIY wedding: table cards, favors, and bridesmaid gifts (part 2)

(This is part 2 of digital DIY wedding ideas.  See {last week's post} for information as well as ideas for save the date, invitations, and programs.)

Between last week's post and today's, I'm honestly just scratching the surface of what Heritage Makers can bring to your wedding, reception, dinner, or open house!

See the sign-in book, the wedding album, the cupcake wraps, and the "carry-out" sticker?


Today I want to show you three.  So let's get started.

Also called "table tents," these can be made from a 12x12 scrap page.  Obviously, these can match your wedding colors and your whole theme.  I know someone who had a burlap and lace theme and found the most darling burlap and lace digital art in the Heritage Makers Studio program.  It was perfect.  (If you missed last week's post, be sure you read it.  I mention using Studio and how it includes tons of digital art.)

I suggest starting with a template in the Template Gallery, just because it's already measured for you.  Then just replace the artwork, names, etc.  (Check out the "how to get started" tab at the top of this blog for instructions on using Studio.)

There's one design idea.  Here's another. 

When you submit it for printing, be sure you get the LITE option.  It's cheaper than the regular, thick scrapbook pages, yes, but it just folds a lot easier.

After you get the pages in the mail, cut the squares apart.

Then fold in half.  Done!

The lite version of the 12x12 scrap page is around $3.  Done this way, you get 16 place cards.  They stand 3" wide and 1 1/2" tall when folded.

FAVORS (and regular address labels)
This is one of my favorite things to do with Heritage Makers!!  The regular address labels from Heritage Makers are obviously fantastic to use as address labels.  You could even put a photo on them instead of the monogram.

But truth be told, the coolest, most impressive thing you can do with these labels is make chocolate favors out of them!

They wrap perfectly around Hershey Nuggets!  Get ready for your jaw to drop.

Address labels come in a set of 54 for about $3.  Create them however you like in your Heritage Makers account, then head off to Target and buy Hershey Nuggets!

Here are both styles (one with the monogram, one with the photo) together.  How perfect is this?

If you'd like, I have made a video tutorial on exactly how to make these little chocolate favors that you can watch.  It's a step-by-step guide, from making them in Heritage Makers Studio to actually peeling the labels off and wrapping them around the chocolates.

UPDATE 2022:  All 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!

There are honestly too many ideas to list them all here, but I'll give you a couple.

First, you could create a sweet Bridesmaid Book.  This is an 8x8 softbound book.

These are obviously very personal, and not your run-of-the-mill online photo book.  

Another idea is a keepsake mug.

 It's a very special way to make your Special Day just that much more special!

Save and share these unique ideas by Pinning, Tweeting, or Facebook Sharing.  Or email this post to yourself!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Recording Your Kids' Stories

Everyone has a story.  Old or young, everyone’s life story is worth preserving and sharing.  We learn from our own stories.  Story is a common theme here on #familyhistoryfriday — {the benefits}of family stories, what your {family’s history has to do with your everyday life}, using {keepsakes} to tell family stories, {healing from grief} through family stories, {building self-esteem} through family stories, and more.  

But have you ever thought about recording your kids’ stories?  Their stories as kids are the foundation of their life stories.  Plus, kids' own stories are validating.  Remember as a kid when you wanted to be famous?  Telling a child’s story makes him or her feel famous.  Putting her own picture on the front of a {storybook} or keeping a journal or history that he can go back and read is a true and lasting gift.

To tell your kids' stories, just start with what you know.  When my kids were babies, I had a little page in their baby books where I would keep track of their “firsts”.  It was pretty easy to make a note of growth and monumental achievements when I was with them all the time.  I made another page so I could write their “personal history”–it was like writing in their journal for them.  I had a new personal history page for each year.  I wrote things such as the funny way they pronounced words and bits of their personalities I could easily see (like being helpful or organized).  I tried to write a few sentences every month.

If you are past the baby stage, you can still start with what you know.  It’s important to have a written record of what you know about them.  Especially in teenage years, people often lose sight of their own selves.  Tell your child {in a letter or book}:  “This is what I know about you.”

When I was 15 years old, my best friend’s mom died.  She left behind 7 children, ages 1-17.  It was as devastating as it sounds.  But my best friend’s mother also left behind letters she had written for each of her children.  They had something from her to keep with them.  

This is something all of us can do for our children.  Start with what you know about them–things they may not see or remember or appreciate.  You never know how meaningful it can be right now on a hard day or how much they may depend on it in the future.

Get started with your own heirloom-quality personalized books here.

After you write what you know, write what they know.

I was a natural journal-writer (literally from the time I could write), but a lot of people I know aren’t.  If your children keep journals, they are not only preserving their own story but they are also giving themselves something to look back at and learn from.  That’s honestly half the value of a written record.  Yes, someone in the future may read it, but most of all {you will be able to learn from it}Children benefit from looking back at their own experiences, seeing their growth, being grateful, and learning from what they’ve done.

When my kids were younger, I encouraged them to pull out their journals on Sunday afternoons and just write a little something each week.  If your kids don’t enjoy writing or are too young, there are some great ideas out there for journaling prompts.  I personally loved the resource from Nina over at Sleeping Should Be Easy.  She has put together 18 fantastic questions to ask instead of the usual “How was school?” since it’s most often answered with “good.”  You can find her {18 questions at this link}.  In addition to being useful every day, they would be a great start to writing your child’s story.

Here are a couple of prompts that can help you tell your child’s story, too.
As kids get older, it can be harder to get much out of “How was your day?”-type questions.  I find I am a pretty good conversationalist as long as someone else starts the conversation.  That doesn’t work particularly well with teenagers.  For me, having some go-to conversation starters really helps.  The friendly but probing questions are intended to create thoughtful responses.  I like {these questions to get your kid talking}.

A few years ago at a church women’s meeting, I was given a jar of journaling prompts.  Not long after that, I decided they would make great conversation starters!  So I made this deck of playing cards with all those questions on it.  

The *deck of cards actually stays on our kitchen table with the salt and pepper and napkins!  When the conversation isn’t flowing so well at the dinner table, I open the box and read a question.  We just go around the table with our answers.  Sometimes these lead to longer conversations, and sometimes they don’t, but we talk.  We interact and get to know each other a little better.  Conversation starters are another good way to tell your child’s story. 

When kids connect with their own selves and their own stories, they own their history and learn about themselves.  This creates a stronger sense of self.  It’s empowering.  Kids need to be encouraged, told what they’re good at, and develop a sense of worth.  Recording their own stories, thoughts, experiences, and feelings is a simple way to do this that can have lasting impact.

Giving your children their own stories sets them on their way to preserving their own stories in the future.  They can connect with their own selves and their family and the world around them in ways they don’t get from electronics or peers.  Real family connections make all the difference.

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This post was originally published at www.livegrowgive.org on October 20, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  You'll find more #familyhistoryfriday posts in this series by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

digital DIY wedding: save the date, invitations, and programs (part 1)

Many people are looking for ways to keep costs down as they plan a wedding.  If you haven't yet seen the creative options for digital DIY wedding items you can get from Heritage Makers, you are in for a treat! 

Sometimes, DIY means cheaper materials, but I love how Heritage Makers products are always high in quality without being expensive.

I have a bridal fair coming up, so I've ordered a few products from the Heritage Makers Template Gallery.  I haven't changed anything in the templates like you normally would when making something like this, so these photos are straight from the gallery.
Today I want to share with you some creative ideas for wedding invitations, programs, and save-the-dates.  There are plenty of traditional options, but I'll show a few "think outside the box" ones, too. 

I love this clever idea to save the date.  These are Heritage Makers Large Address Labels.  Each label makes two stickers to wrap around lip balm!

Can you stand how cute this is?  One set includes 12 labels, but for the lip balms you actually make 2 per label so you'll get 24.  A set of 12 labels is about $4.

A traditional save the date card looks extra professional from Heritage Makers, I think.  This size is called a Photo Card.  It's 4x8 (and can be portrait or landscape orientation), and comes with an envelope.  They're nice, thick paper (feels more like a card than just a big photo). 

Photo Cards are around $1 each but are {discounted} when you order more than 25, with the discount increasing the more cards you order. (Check that link for specifics.)

Another really fun idea for save the date "cards" is this one.  The cards are actually made from a deck of playing cards!  So these little guys are the size of a standard playing card.  You could send them as-is in the mail, or punch a hole in the corner and tie with ribbon to some sort of gift or treat.

The picture of the couple is on one side of the card and the "forever and always" is the other side of the card.  You can see them here in the plastic case that the playing card decks come in.  Playing card decks come in a set of 54 for about $17, but you can also add individual cards if you like for around 35 cents each.

UPDATE 2022:  All items shown below 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!

Regular invitations are double-sided.  They come with envelopes.  The 4x6 version is about $1.80 and the 5x7 version is about $2, but the {volume discounts} I mentioned previously save you 20-40%.

Your invitations can be landscape or portrait orientation.

You can also get creative with Heritage Makers Invitations.  Use them for an RSVP!

This particular template has two RSVPs on each Invitation, so you just cut them in half and mail them out with your regular wedding invitation.

(And you can delete that red dotted line before printing, if you want.)

The 4x8 Photo Cards I introduced you to at the beginning make lovely programs as well.

You could certainly add a photo to the program if you like.

I'll have more ideas--including unforgettable favors, table decor, and bridesmaid gift ideas-- for you next week!

Update:  They're {right here}.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

“Know Thyself” through Your Own Story

A life story or memoir seems to be something commonly written during retirement years.  The power in life stories, however, doesn’t have time restrictions.  It may surprise you, but the best time to write your life story is now.  Sure, you may update it later, but learning to know yourself through your own story has tremendous potential to increase your own happiness, sense of belonging, self-esteem, and sense of purpose.  Here’s why this is true. 

In her excellent article, {“Define Your Dash,”} author Angie Lucas refers to a poem by Linda Ellis about the dash between the birth date and death date on headstones.  That little symbol represents an entire lifetime.  That little symbol is worth a lot.  So Lucas suggests that you define your dash by making a record of it.

Of course, we always think we have all the time in the world to record our life’s experiences, our life story.  We don’t really stop to think that events and experiences from our life may not be remembered by others.  Actually making a record of the things we know, feel, learn, and experience is the only way to ensure that our life is remembered and our life’s lessons are shared.
"You can make yourself live forever through writing. Do not pass through life without leaving something behind for others to learn from your experience–even if no one but your children read it. You may discover a you you’ve never known.” ~Antwone Fisher
You probably don’t think your life is a very big deal.  You’re wrong.  It’s a very big deal to everyone who knows and loves you.  Think about the way you look at your grandma, brother, mom, or someone you admire.  Someone is looking at you that way.  Someone is going to want to remember your life’s story and share it with someone they love.

Did you know it only takes about two generations before a life is essentially forgotten?  If I don’t take the time to tell my children about my grandparents, their life stories and life lessons are lost.  Some of my grandparents kept journals, so that helps me keep their legacy alive with more details than I would otherwise have, but I always have my memories.  I just can’t keep them inside my own head all the time.  Otherwise, they’ll be lost in time, too.

When we give the gift of family stories to our children, they have greater strength and courage because they know they belong to something greater.

Life is one great big learning experience divided up into many smaller ones.  Sometimes knowing and understanding yourself is one of the biggest lessons of all. 

In addition to the benefits a recorded life story gives our children and grandchildren, it does something for us right now, today.

Know yourself through writing your story.  As you develop a greater understanding of yourself, you will have a greater sense of peace.  Writing your own story can even be a stress-reducer!  You might even begin to {see your perceived weaknesses as strengths}.

"Personally, you’ll benefit from the practice of reflecting over your life, collecting your thoughts, and making sense of your experiences. The very act of writing things down is therapeutic; it can provide a sense of purpose and control. It may also reveal patterns in your life, increase your gratitude, foster a stronger sense of self, and even make you happier and more successful in your daily life."  ~Angie Lucas
How Do I Start?

I’ve seen several great resources with simple suggestions on how to write your own life story.  Here are a few I think will be helpful:
Each of these has memory-triggering questions for you to answer.  What was your first job?  What was your favorite (or least favorite) subject in school?  And don’t worry about fitting everything in or creating one big all-inclusive personal history.  You can always write additional volumes.  

I called the first volume of my life story “The First Forty Years.”  I wrote it in a hardbound book (similar to the one in the video tutorial above) because I wanted to include some pictures (and I wanted to make sure I had a high-quality book, too).  I have a good chunk of my life story recorded now, before my memories fade.  And now I can start volume two.

While your story doesn't necessarily have to be printed in a book like mine, don't make the mistake of writing it up in a document and saving it to your computer and leaving it there.  Keep in mind that many computers are password-protected--will someone be able to get into your computer besides you?  If so, will they know where to find your story?  Will they even know you wrote one?  (Besides, {technology is a fickle friend}.  Computer crashes are more common than we like to think.)  Be sure you print and share your story!

Start writing your own life story now.  It will be a gift to everyone who loves you, but it will also be an uplifting, strength-building way to know thyself.

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This post was originally published at www.livegrowgive.org on October 13, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.