Writing Family Keepsakes

My mother and her twin brother will turn 94 in about three weeks. With the way people live have changed so much in those 94 years, it is a wonder their heads aren’t spinning. Children today know so little about what life used to be like. They are so caught up with today’s gadgets and latest toys that it is probably harder for them to imagine what it was like 94 years ago than it is for my mom and uncle to understand today’s fast-moving culture.

I believe it is important to preserve the memory of what it was like for our ancestors. People have always found ways to preserve memories of days gone by. My mother kept wonderful scrapbooks in her younger days that were made on heavy black paper pages. Using white ink, she took great care to write in information to identify the people in the pictures. But over time some of the pictures fell out, and her enthusiasm waned for keeping up the ritual.

I too kept picture albums with great care. The pictures were all dated and numbered. We had a separate three ring binder that held notebook paper with little comments to go with each of the pictures. Most of the albums were made with cardboard pages that had a rubber-cement-like glue to hold the pictures in place and a plastic sheet that covered them all. But the glue eventually became weak and the pictures fell out. All of the time spent organizing the pictures went for nothing.

I haven’t gotten into the fancy scrapbook making craze that has been so popular in more recent years. I think that these scrapbooks are nice, but there is a lot of work and expense to create a single copy.

Many have taken advantage of new ways to make picture book albums using digital pictures and computer software in photo printing machines in stores. These are nice, quick, and easy, but there is little room, if any, for writing comments to go with the pictures.

Thanks to modern day technology plus some special websites available to us today, I have found a much better approach to keeping up with family memories. I like to make memory books that can hold both pictures and stories.

I started making memory books with a little book I made for a two-year-old granddaughter. The book was called Meet Jessica. This book was made on my computer using MS Publisher software. I put a picture on every page with a simple sentence telling about the picture. It included pictures of Jessica’s parents, grandparents, her extra set of grafted-in grandparents (my husband and me), her house, bedroom, yard, and cat. Jessica would soon be able to read this book herself.

I made a more serious memory book for my father shortly after his 90th birthday entitled This Is Your Life: Paul E. Ducker. Later with the help of my cousins we made another book for my mother and her twin brother and presented them with their first nearly-complete copies for their 90th birthday celebration. These books are chock full of little slice of life stories, memories, and pictures. Many of our relatives ordered copies of this book as keepsakes. You may see these books at this link on Lulu.com.

There are many kinds of memory books that can be written. They may feature a person at any age, a day’s outing or a family vacation or trip. This past week I started writing a four-generation book about playtime featuring the females from each generation. In this book are my mother, myself, my daughter, and my granddaughter. A rough draft of this book can be seen here on a free website. I still don’t have as many pictures in it as I want, but I can still add them as I find them. I hope to complete this book before Mom’s birthday in early June. I have avoided using full names and birth dates because I am posting it here in a public place. If you make a similar book for your family, keep your link private and include more complete information. (Note: This link appears to work better using Google Chrome for your browser. The book should look like a book on your screen with pages that turn.)

I hope this blog post and my new Playtime book will inspire families to create their own family memory books. There are several online websites that will produce print-on-demand books like these. My paperback books have all been created on www.Lulu.com, but there are newer websites that have sprung up more recently. I will try to add more links to this blog post in comments later. Perhaps some of my readers can share a few as well. My time is running out and I’m way over my preferred word count for this blog post.

An Unlikely Playground

Bernard on bamboo stilts

Earlier this year I had the privilege of being in Ghana and staying at an orphanage called House of Hope for three and a half weeks. I’ve been on quite a few mission trips in my life, but this one was unique for a number of reasons. First of all, I was there on my own without any traveling companions or people from my culture to share the experience with. Second of all, on this trip, more so than on others, I was living like the local people live – eating the same foods they would eat (which meant stew and banku every night for dinner and rice with oily tomato sauce for lunch). And while many aspects of the trip were eye-opening, I never stopped being fascinated by the different types of things the children came up to play with – many of them from nature.

Daniel and David with their toy "car"

A leaf with a thorn or a small branch poked through quickly turned into an airplane when running into the wind. Stalks of bamboo became stilts. Disposed-of wheels with long sticks inside became “a car.” And an old tire was perfect for rolling along. These simple “toys” brought great joy to the children and provided hours of enjoyment. In fact, I don’t ever remember one of the children telling me they were bored. Of course, with their regular chores (which included everything from hand-washing and ironing their school uniforms to helping in the kitchen), there wasn’t too much time for getting bored.

We’ve all heard the story of (or perhaps have been!) the child who is much more fascinated with the box that his/her toy came in than the actual toy itself, and sometimes I wonder if by giving our children all sorts of fancy toys to play with, we aren’t actually hampering their creativity and imagination. There are all sorts of wonderful things one would never come up with as play-things given other options. But if those options aren’t available and a child is forced to do so, the possibilities for play-things around the house or outside are endless. (I should mention here that I also saw a man using some palm fronds to hold up his pants when his button broke. The same man quickly constructed a fire to cook a snake caught on the compound and used a palm leaf as a “lid” for his cooking pot. Such ingenuity from people of all ages!)

Roland with his "airplane"

Perhaps for fun make a point of putting all the toys away one day and seeing what else you can play with! Before  throwing out a plastic bottle (which were akin to gold to the children I met in Ghana!) or anything else for that matter, see what fun things you might be able to do with it. Take a walk around the house and see what “toys” are waiting to be discovered in your own backyard. And of course, when you do want to buy something for your child, think about play-things that encourage imagination — like puppets and art easels/drawing pads. These types of “toys” are not only great for the creativity, but also allow the child to express themselves. I’ll never forget the little girl who I met in South Africa. She didn’t have a ton of toys cluttering up her room, but when she went to show me her drawing pad, it was full, and her eyes lit up with the turn of each page.

The children in Africa taught me a great deal about resourcefulness and imagination. They also taught me about the joy that comes with new discoveries and from making something out of what seems like nothing. We could learn so much from them.

To learn more about House of Hope, visit: http://www.houseofhopeghana.org

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day

If you haven’t yet seen this video brought to you by P&G and other sponsors of this summer’s Olympic Games, grab a tissue, enjoy, and then think with me.

I spent a lot of hours getting my daughters back and forth to lessons and rehearsals of various kinds and watching those lessons, rehearsals, and the performances they led to. I don’t regret one minute.

I’m glad I could help my girls develop their talents and skills. I actually wish I’d done a better job of it. But as important as that is, I’ve decided over the years that a mother’s most important job is connecting with her children’s hearts and helping her children connect their hearts to God’s.

It’s not easy. We make mistakes. Our own issues get in the way, or we don’t understand the goal until our children are grown, with lives of their own.

Just like we sometimes have to extend grace to our own mothers and like we hope for our children to extend grace to us, sometimes we have to extend grace to ourselves as well.

But I don’t think it’s ever too late to communicate love and a desire for relationship, to apologize, to live out faith and point the way.

So whatever else we do this Mother’s Day, whatever our situations and the ages of our children, whether we feel pampered and praised when the day is done or not, I hope we’ll take a few minutes to think about the mothers we’ve been, the mothers we are, and the mothers we want to be.

Because being mom really is the hardest job in the world, just like the video says.

It’s also the best.

DIANE

Visit Diane at www.abibleplace.com
© 2012, Diane Stortz

When a Child Changes You

As parents, we influence our children from the moment they are born. But oftentimes the tables turn and our kids affect us in meaningful, yet unexpected ways.

This week I was reminded of how my sons influenced the direction of my writing career in a surprising way. During an interview for a NASCAR blog this week, the host asked how I got interested in racing. I shared this story:

Like many preschoolers, my boys loved toy Matchbox® cars, especially ones with NASCAR paint schemes. Our kitchen floor and living room rug morphed into race tracks as the boys scooted around on hands and knees driving the little cars. Vroom, vroom!

When the boys discovered pictures of stock cars, they glued them onto corrugated cardboard and cut them out, creating sturdy “racecars.” They drew and colored their own original cars, too, writing sponsor names on the hoods. The boys spent hours racing the cars down the hallway carpeting, giving each car a single shove. The car that slid the farthest distance before stopping was the winner.

Soon the boys wanted to see real racecars, so we started watching NASCAR races on television. And do you know what happened? The boys’ mom got hooked on racing. Yep. I started watching racing as a way to bond with my sons, but became so passionate that I began writing about the sport.

My devotional book for female race fans released this year: Race Fans’ Devotions to Go.  This little book exists because my little boys passed on their love of racecars to me. What a blessing!

If you have children in your life, chances are that one of them has influenced you in a significant way. Like me, you may not realize the full impact until someone prompts you to think about it.

So … how has a child blessed and transformed your life? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

Blessings,

Beth Bence Reinke

 

In Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, Beth shares observations about drivers and racing as well as stories about her experiences at the track. Each of the 31 devotions illustrates the similarities between motorsports and life and ends with a “pit stop” – an idea to make your life more fulfilling.

 

 

 

Rosie and Scamper – Middle Grade Book Review

  • Title: Rosie and Scamper
  • Author: Vicki Watson
  • Illustrated by Becky Raber
  • ISBN: 978-0-9847242-0-8
  • Genre: Fiction                                        
  • Page count 147
  • Ages 9-12 
  • SRP: $7.95
  • http://www.sonrisestable.com/

  Rating:  :) :) :) :)

Rosie and Scamper is the first book in the Sonrise Stable series. Eight-year-old Rosie loves visiting her grandma who lives on a horse ranch. When a new foal is born, they name him Scamper and Rosie gets the job of training him. Grandma’s neighbors have a new addition to their family–a foster child named Carrie who is Rosie’s age. The two become fast friends and both enjoy learning to ride and care for the horses, eventually riding them in a horse show. 

Watson does a good job of tying in spiritual truths with the things the girls learn about horses. I also liked that Rosie is a Christian and Carrie is not. Rosie uses opportunities to show God’s love to Carrie and to share her faith, giving readers a chance to see how it can be done in a natural way.

Watson gives good information about horses and the equestrian life that obviously comes from her own life experience. Kids will learn a lot about horses as they read. At the end of the book she has a page about horse safety, and an interview with a horse trainer. These special features are fascinating reads, especially for kids who may be interested in horse training as a future career. The final page is about making your own horsehair jewelry, just as Grandma did in the story.

Rosie and Scamper is a great book though I would have liked the girls to figure out more of the spiritual lessons through their own experiences rather than through stories the adults told..I would highly recommend this book to girls who love horses and want to grow in their faith..Kids will love the beautiful pencil drawings of illustrator Becky Raber. The second book in the Sonrise Stables series, Carrie and Bandit, is also available. Both books can be bought at http://www.sonrisestable.com/horse-books-purchase.php or on Amazon at
http://www.amazon.com/Sonrise-Stable-Scamper-Vicki-Watson/dp/0984724206/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332044542&sr=1-4.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.