Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Life-Changing Power in Family Stories

Many parents are looking for ways to bring their families closer, to connect, and to create strengthening bonds.  One simple but powerful way to do this is through family stories.

There is life-changing power in family stories!  Telling and recording your family's stories allows you (and especially your children) to develop a stronger sense of self, purpose, and belonging.  Family stories have been shown to raise self-esteem in kids, too!

I have written about four ways to create connections using family stories, and one idea for finding family stories.  See which ones can benefit your family:


Friday, February 23, 2018

My Favorite Products for Meaningful Gift-Giving

Yesterday I was talking to a mom who told me that she specifically adds “No Gifts Please” to all her sons’ birthday party invitations.  They are 9 and 7.  Invariably, she said, someone will call or text saying, “Are you sure?  Can’t I bring a little something?”  Her response is always, “No.  We have too many things.”

I am always on the lookout for meaningful gifts for this very reason.  Many people have too many things.  Gifts that are memorable, meaningful, and heartfelt are the very best kind, but they can sometimes be hard to come by.  For the last My Favorite Things post this month for #familyhistoryfriday, I want to provide some fantastic gift options for you all in one place.  You can Bookmark or Pin this post to come back to for holidays, birthdays, graduations, milestones, anniversaries, thank-yous and other special occasions!

Family-Related Gifts to Encourage Connections
As I mentioned {last week}, sometimes connections between family members happen naturally, and sometimes they need a little orchestration.  Each of these links below has many suggestions for specific age groups that involve (or are related to) the whole family, so enjoy exploring them.  The gift ideas here foster connections.

Remember that {family stories} are a gift!  They {help kids cope}, they {help heal from grief}, and they {especially empower kids}.

One of the best family-related gifts I’ve ever given was a personalized deck of playing cards.  My only regret is that I did not take a picture of them before I sent them off!  But this gift was a huge hit, and continues to be to this day.  On my husband’s side of the family, a favorite family game involves many suits of cards.  While this game is easily purchased in stores, I decided to actually create my own deck of cards, replacing the suits with family members’ names and faces.  So instead of a suit of stars, for example, I made a suit of Grandmas with the word “Grandma” along the top and a picture of her.  I made a little suit (9 cards each) for each family member.  There are names and pictures for each of the family members.  I can’t say it enough:  it was a huge hit!

This is a picture of a different playing card deck I made, so you’ll have to use your imagination.  (I made this deck, obviously, to be conversation starters around the table at Thanksgiving instead of a card game.)  By the way, you can learn how to make your own playing card deck at this tutorial.  (Update to the video:  playing cards now take about 3 weeks to get back in the mail because of a change in printer.)

Whether for a close friend or a spouse, for a birthday or anniversary, it’s especially nice to give a meaningful gift from the heart to someone special.  Most of these links have several suggestions:
I will be so bold as to say that everyone needs to be appreciated!  Having some great resources like this when a special day comes along is pretty fantastic.

A video tutorial for how to make a book like this is {right here}.
One of my favorite “special someone” gifts is a Reasons I Love You book.  I made this one (with my kids) for my husband's 40th birthday.  We wrote out 40 reasons we love him, and I included pictures of us all over the years.  It is a precious book.  (Read {this post} to find out his reaction!)

Any little thing that’s heartfelt can make a wonderful gift.  For over 20 years, I had a piece of real mistletoe hanging up at Christmastime.  (I literally hung it until it fell to pieces.)  My husband volunteered as a Boy Scout leader the year after we got married.  Hiking in the woods in California, he happened upon some mistletoe, growing right there in the wild!  He picked it, and I suppose put it in his backpack, and brought it home as a little gift for me.  Now mistletoe isn’t anything wonderful, but the fact that it has the idea of romance attached to it and went to some trouble to do it made it a sweet little gift.

The gifts in all these links I’ve provided will give you a lot of ideas to choose from as birthdays, thank yous, anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions come along.
"We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it."  ~John Lennon
Great gift ideas for meaningful gifts for all ages.  Tweet, Pin, or Share on Facebook or LinkedIn.
This post was originally published at www.livegrowgive.org on February 23, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  You can find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How Creativity and Hobbies Make a Healthier You

"Health" trends and crazes today seem to focus on things like clean eating, keto, and paleo, or kettlebells, marathons, and spin class.  Health goes beyond the physical, however, and it's easy to overlook the health and wellness of the heart and soul.  Today we'll look at two ways to improve your health--hobbies and creativity--and a great way to incorporate both in a meaningful, lasting way.

You've probably been hit with a sickness during a stressful time.  According to {Dr. Chris Gilbert}, this is--as you may have already guessed--no coincidence.  She says a full 80% of visits to a primary care physician can be traced to emotional issues.  Aside from stress, this is due in large part to keeping emotions contained instead of expressing them or cognitively working through them (which, by the way, I'm the queen of).

Dr. Gilbert takes emotional expression even further!  She says, "When internal emotions are externalized as art, ... inner conflicts that suppressed these emotions are lessened, and physiological stress responses —such as chronic over-secretion of cortisol and adrenaline — are greatly reduced.” 

Think about that!  Creativity contributes to health and well-being in very real ways.  You can find a great list of ways to creatively express your emotions at BayArt's lovely article, {"How Creativity Can Help You Be Healthier."}

My friend Lori at Choosing Wisdom wrote recently about why {picking up new hobbies} is so good for you.  She explained that there are two kinds of stress:  bad stress (we all know what that is) and good stress called eustress which is the rush of excitement and joy when we're engaged in something new.  As Lori says, "Hobbies provide a break with a purpose.  ...When we get complacent in our routines, we are neglecting to challenge our brains."  She refers to research on the mental benefits of having hobbies, including lower depression, and the physical benefits, including lower blood pressure and cortisol.  So hobbies help with the bad stress, and with the good stress, too!

Many people have the mistaken belief that they are not creative.  In reality, though, {trying something new stimulates the brain}, so creativity is increased!  And literally, by definition, if you create something, you are creative.  If you have an idea, create a plan, make a cake, build a fence, take a photo, you are creating something.  As {Dina Tibbs} said, "As humans, we are, by our very nature, creative.  Our entire lives are nothing but creations."

Let me encourage you to start a creative hobby that will contribute to your physical health and the health of your heart and soul WHILE AT THE SAME TIME providing {lasting benefits to your loved ones}, such as an increased ability to cope, a decrease in stress and depression, and a greater sense of gratitude, purpose, and belonging.  Start memory-keeping.  Start preserving your photos and the stories that go with them in a tactile way--a book or page that can be seen, held, and loved.

Preserving photos in print and writing down your memories and experiences is cathartic and grounding, but it also gives you the benefits of creativity (creating something) and a hobby that I just mentioned.  In addition, recording your own stories and the stories of your family has been {shown to influence children in profound ways}.

The best way I know to preserve photos and memories and stories is in digital storybooks and scrap pages by Heritage Makers.  There are lots of available templates (which are still completely editable--nothing is locked in place).  To me, creating a quality product is the most important thing, followed closely by the Heirloom Assurance guarantee (if anything happens to my books/scrap pages, I can get a replacement copy at half price).  You can get started at the {"How to Get Started"} tab at the top of this page in red.

Physical health is important, but don't forget how much your heart and soul contribute to your physical well-being, too.  Start your new creative hobby, memory-keeping, today, and find out just how good for you it is!


Friday, February 16, 2018

My Favorite Products for Family Connections

Quality time, conversations, recreational activities, family dinners, and parent-child “dates” all contribute to family connections, but there are other subtle but meaningful ways to strengthen family ties.  The activities I mentioned need to be repeated– as well they should –to develop family connections, but it’s also helpful to scatter opportunities around your home and among family members that can be gone back to again and again.  There is a whole wealth of products just waiting to be used to increase family connections!  

 A lot of research has been done on {the effects of family stories on kids}.  Kids who know their family’s history and heritage have better coping skills, higher self-esteem, lower rates of depression and anxiety, greater empathy, and more resilience.  Interestingly, the family stories don’t even need to be about a big event to make a difference.  Stories about perseverance, overcoming hardship, learning to laugh, and working toward a goal make a big difference to children.  Finding avenues, then, to tell your family’s stories, is well worth the search.

You might remember when I shared {Four Creative Ideas for Sharing Family Stories} last year.  I suggested storybooks, playing card decks, family cookbooks, and everyday reminders like wall canvases that can be seen every day.  These remain some of my favorite products for creating family connections.  Items that family members can see, pick up, or play with help form connections while educating them about their family on the sly.  To see those fun products again, just click the link.

Most people don’t think their own story is a very big deal.  Writing your life experience, though, has tremendous potential– it can not only help you {“know thyself,”} it can make you more real and more approachable and accessible to other family members, especially kids.  When kids know that grandma and grandpa went on dates, or that mom got a scholarship or struggled in school, or that dad had a super crazy hair style when he was 15, those kids connect.  They see the adults in their lives as real people.  They can recognize things they have in common with those adults, or things they can appreciate.

Some of my favorite products for this purpose are “Before I Was” storybooks.  There are storybooks for dads and grandpas and grandmas in addition to this {Before I Was Your Mom book}.  It shows kids that mom was a baby and a teenager and had hobbies and summer jobs and first dates, all before the kids knew her.  It brings mom to life, so to speak.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to start writing your story.  There are lots and lots of resources, including this article, {“Questions to Help Write a Life Story.”}  I really love the experience of Grandpa Wozney there because it shows that every story is worth telling because every story is precious to someone.

Because this book is a template, you can really just follow the outline as your own guide if you like, making changes as needed.  And because this is a {HeritageMakers} book, anything in the template can be changed, from fonts to colors and how many pictures on each page.  You can even add pages if needed, and add embellishments like butterflies or flowers or buttons (included) if you want a different style.

{Personal messages} are also a great method for creating family connections.  Telling someone what you love about him/her and what qualities you enjoy or admire in him/her go a very long way, for both adults and kids.  Making a simple list in a card or notebook is lovely, and so is {publishing it in a little book like this one}.

While the books, canvases, family games, and things that are for everyone in the family that I have mentioned so far help really create connections among family members, something uniquely personal packs an extra punch.  Not only have you encouraged and lifted another person in the family but you have also clearly gone to some effort to make sure he/she knows.  It’s more than just, “Great job, buddy.”  It’s thoughtful and is obviously something that you intend to have great meaning for that person.  And it will show.

Sometimes creating connections happens without us even noticing.  Sometimes creating connections requires a little creative orchestration.  These family connection-creating products can be gifted for special occasions, of course, but they can be created and shared just because your family needs it. 

And what better reason can there be?

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This post was originally published at www.livegrowgive.org on February 16, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Read more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Friday, February 9, 2018

My Favorite Story Products (with storytelling resources, too!)

There’s an old African saying that when a person dies it’s as if an entire library burned to the ground.  I actually think about that a lot when I encourage people to tell their stories and the stories of their loved ones.  Nobody thinks his or her story is all that important or special–but if you don’t take the time to tell it, you’re lost to the world {within a couple of generations}.  Your “library” of knowledge, experience, love, and lessons has essentially burned to the ground.

Sometimes when we talk about recording a life, writing a story, I think it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or think that you can’t write a life story if you’re not “a writer.”  It’s just not true.  If you need help kicking that idea out of your head, jump back to {Mythbusting: Memory-Keeping Myth #4} to find out why “I can’t write” is a myth–and learn two ways to overcome it.
"Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way."  ~Ray Bradbury
So let me give you some resources for writing a story--yours or a loved one's--and then I'll show you my favorite products to bring them to life.

These {Interview Questions to Help You Write a Life Story} I collected have quite a few questions (from three sources) so you can pick and choose the questions you like. I think they are great to use as-is, but they might spark ideas for other questions and topics you'd like to cover.

Here's another great resource.  Over the past several months, I’ve been enjoying articles by Rhonda Lauritzen and Rachel Trotter about life stories and family stories at their blog at {evalogue.life}.  Late last year, they published My Life Story:  Thoughtful questions to tell your story or interview someone you love.  It’s a lovely little booklet with about 70 or 80 thought-provoking questions to help you write your story or the story of a loved one.  

Rhonda asked me to review it for amazon.com (and as thanks sent me this little printed copy shown here, along with a nice thank you note, shown behind).  The My Life Story booklet is available on Kindle for a few dollars, or you can get a physical copy for a few more, both {here (on amazon.com)}.

Another great resource is printable Story Maps (PDF documents) from Heritage Makers.  They are available in the following topics, and I'm including links to each one individually:
As promised, I’ll share with you my favorite products for publishing your story.  Writing it down somewhere is great, but if you’d like to preserve it in a sturdier way, publishing it in a book is ideal.  

(Plus, a book is more likely to be seen than a computer document, and you don't have to worry about computer crashes or unreadable files that way.)

An 8x8 life storybook from Heritage Makers.
Template 120449 at https://heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise
I love the possibilities and the quality you get with {Heritage Makers books}, so they're always my go-to favorite story products–especially because you can add full-color photos.  The books can really become unique treasures if you want to add digital art, background pages, etc.  I made {my mom’s life storybook} this way after she passed, and it is an absolute gem.   {Heirloom Assurance} is another big reason I use and recommend Heritage Makers books, and they come in lots of sizes and binding styles.  You can get started using Heritage Makers {at this link}.

An 8x8 life storybook from Heritage Makers: "How I Became Your Grandma."
Template 52532 at https://heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise  "Grandpa" also available.
Here are two other companies I recommend for simple book publishing:
  • {Snap2Finish} will soon have the ability to print books from PDFs.  Books there are printed on the same high-quality products as Heritage Makers (including the library binding and the metal stitching [not glue!] in hardbound books).  This is a great option if you have photos to print with the story--the best way to tell a life story, in my opinion!
  • Another of my favorite story products are books from {BYU Print & Mail}.  I think this is a great option if you don’t have photos to include in your life storybook (although I honestly hope you do because they really bring a life story to life, so to speak).  My sister used them to publish a couple of books (a family history and a novel) that didn’t have photos, and we were very happy with the result. She had one printed with a soft cover, another with a hard cover.  They were both really nice!
Whose life story needs to be told first?  A parent’s?  A grandparent’s?  Your own?  Start with {who lives in your memory}.  The hard truth is:  we never really know how much time we have with those we love.  Make sure their stories are preserved and not lost.  This is a gift like no other.

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This post was originally published at www.livegrowgive.org on February 9, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dear Burned-Out Scrapbooker,

Dear Burned-Out Scrapbooker,

I know.  You're just so busy now.  You know how important your photos are.  You want your kids to have their memories.  You know how good it is for your own heart and soul to take the time to sit down with your life experiences and make something beautiful out of them.  But things have changed and you just don't have the time any more.

To make matters worse, you feel guilty that those pictures are just sitting there.  Waiting.

SOME DAY.  Some day you are going to get back to it, get caught up.  Why can't they come up with something simple and quick?  Why can't there be a faster way to make sweet records of photos and memories?  It's so important!

Welcome to the day your dreams come true.  

Are you a die-hard paper scrapbooker, or do you think you'd like to transition to being a digital scrapbooker?  Either way, I can help!   

Have you seen the paper scrapbooking kits from Anthology DIY by Lisa Bearnson?  The 2-page spreads are almost already done for you!  Just put the layouts together (everything is included!) and then add pictures and journaling.

There are several different kits to choose from.  

Find more at {this link} by clicking "products" at the upper right, then "Anthology DIY."  Scroll down to see "Kits."

While you're there, you might see {Pocket Pages}, too.  Those are even simpler and will be the fastest paper method for preserving your photos!  

They store so beautifully, too!  You don't need more space in your paper totes--everything goes inside the magnetic-closure case that looks like a book.  Just put it on a bookshelf!

If you're trying to phase out of paper and make the switch to digital, you need to see the Digital Scrap Pages from Heritage Makers.

This video shows just how quickly Heritage Makers Digital Scrap Pages come together--from someone who has been doing it for 10 years and is always caught up on digital scrapbooking!  Digital Scrap Pages come together quickly because Heritage Makers has a "copy page" feature so you can copy entire pages with the click of a button, then just change out photos and text without having to re-build each page!

This also means you can make multiple pages for multiple kids with just the click of a button!

Your multi-media scrapbooks will alternate as you use up papers, stickers, etc.--some will be digital pages and some will be traditional pages.  It's a great way to use up what you already have as you make the transition to digital. 

If you'd prefer leaving paper behind altogether and begin scrapbooking and memory-keeping just digitally, a Family Yearbook from Heritage Makers will make catching up a snap!

This article, {One Solution to Too Many Photos:  A Family Yearbook} explains the organization of Yearbooks, why Heritage Makers' Yearbooks are head-and-shoulders above the rest, and even gives a detailed plan for how to catch up preserving photos if you're behind!


Oh, burned-out scrapbooker, you're one of my favorite people.  You know the value of what you're creating for your family.  I especially love helping YOU find easier ways to do it because you already know it's one of the best things you can do.  

With Love and Well-Wishes,


Friday, February 2, 2018

February #friyay!

Welcome to our second #friyay, where we find out from actual users why Heritage Makers is fantastic.  Today's #friyay comes from a dear friend, Casey, who was one of my first Heritage Makers clients back in 2005.  She has created some beautiful gifts for her family using Heritage Makers hardbound books over the years.  She has a knack for focusing on what's meaningful and lasting, and she shares it generously.

My Favorite Photo Products

This month on #familyhistoryfriday I’d like to share A Few Of My Favorite Things–some of my favorite products that make life more meaningful!  As you might guess, these will be photo-, story-, and family-related.  Today I’m excited to show you some neat things you can do with your photos.  Here's what I love:

The Yearbook:  All Your Favorite Photos from One Year in One Place

I’ve {mentioned it before}, but this remains one of my all-time favorite photo products.  I think it’s especially helpful (since it’s already organized by month) to help people catch up preserving their photos because you already know where every photo goes.  (Halloween photos  from 2013 go on the October pages of the 2013 book.)

These yearbooks by Heritage Makers allow you to add extra pages (and even duplicate them, so you don’t have to re-build them element by element).  That means if you have more photos from August than the August pages allow, you can add more August pages.

But there’s an extra “bonus,” so to speak, in having just two pages for each month:  you have to narrow down.  So often we feel like if we took 100 pictures, then we need to put 100 pictures in our books.  Where’s that rule?!  With the abundance of photos most of us have, it can be wise to have to pick your favorites.

These Heritage Makers books also allow you to move, delete, or add ANYTHING to a template.  So if there are spots for 12 pictures on the August pages and you only have 4, you can delete some of the photo place holders and enlarge the 4 you have to fit the page.  The flexibility is {one of the many reasons} I’m a Heritage Makers user–especially because you can {use a fully-editable templateOR create your own using the (included) Heritage Makers art elements.

I love this idea so much I made a video tutorial so anyone can create a Yearbook!  The video will get you going in the Heritage Makers software program, of course, but first goes over what I call the Yearbook Method which can help if you're a bit overwhelmed with your pictures.
(fast forward through the technical difficulties from 27:11-34:05)

Digital Scrap Pages (loose leaf) 

Since I started as a traditional/paper scrapbooker years ago– before digital existed –I like the loose leaf version of preserving my photos and stories.  I like being able to add in kids’ artwork or class photos as well as movie stubs and plane tickets and other 3-D items.  It's just how I roll.  And I love how much faster digital scrap pages are to make than paper ones since there’s the lovely little “duplicate page” button in Heritage Makers’ Studio program.  (That alone is an ENORMOUS TIME SAVER for me!!)

{Digital scrap pages} require a few extra things that the hardbound storybooks (family yearbooks) don’t.  You need to have some sort of album to house the pages and page protectors for the pages to go in.  But I really love the looseleaf aspect so much that it’s still the perfect fit for me.

I know quite a few people who are trying to make the transition from hands-on memory-keeping (scrapbooking) to digital.  I think digital scrap pages are the perfect way!  They allow you to have multiple types of pages in one album–some hand-scrapped, some digital.  They allow you to swap back and forth as you use up papers and stickers and other embellishments.

And I love THIS photo product so much I made a video tutorial of it, too!  You can quite literally look over my shoulder as I create digital scrap pages from Heritage Makers.  


Another fantastic way to preserve your photos and make sure they’re seen and loved is making a calendar.  A family calendar at Christmastime has been a STAPLE in my family for about 10 years.  Each month has pictures of the family members with birthdays that month.  It’s especially meaningful to us now that my mom has passed away.  Every January, her birthday month, we get to see pictures of her–as a little girl, in her 70s, as a college student, holding grandbabies, etc.  It’s a gift.

However, {the Now and Later Calendar} is pretty great as a two-for-one!   The Now and Later Calendar is perforated so you can tear the 12×12 section off the top and keep it in an album.  You can preserve a whole year’s worth of photos on a calendar– one month’s photos at a time –and look at them all year long before tearing them off and putting them in an album to enjoy again in the future.  Take your favorite photos from January of the previous year and make one January page, then February, etc.  In fact, calendars make AMAZING Christmas gifts all ready to give!

Home Decor with Your Own Photos

I think one of the simplest ways to enjoy and share a precious photo is hanging it on a wall.  From metal prints and posters to canvases and wood prints, there’s no better way to capture a moment in time and share it with the world.

I love using Heritage Makers canvases (and other home decor) since I can put text on it– special quotes are my favorite.  I found one once that said, “A grandparents’ house is where cousins go to become best friends.”  It fit my in-laws so perfectly and made a wonderful gift.  (And, yes, I should have taken a picture of it before I gave it away!)

{Home decor with your own photos} can be a beautiful way to keep someone close who has passed on.  It’s a meaningful way to remember a loved one.

All of these products are from Heritage Makers, and there are 10 HUGE reasons I choose Heritage Makers above any other digital publishing company.  I've listed them {here}, but I'll say that heirloom quality, free digital art and embellishments, complete flexibility/personalization, and Heirloom Assurance are my favorites.  Directions on how to get started creating yours can be found {here}.

These favorite photo products of mine have been created, used, enjoyed, loved, and shared for years and years.  They bring meaningful connections to my home for everyone to see as well as to my family members in their own special moments.  

Never underestimate the power of a photo.

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This post was originally published at www.livegrowgive.org on February 2, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.