Thursday, March 22, 2018

8 Ways to Preserve Your Family Memories

Credit: Adobe Stock 

How to save precious images so future generations can enjoy them
By Claire Zulkey for Next Avenue 

Does that box of unsorted family photos in your closet give you a gnawing feeling? Always wonder what you’re supposed to do with your old slides? Make it a winter project to organize and annotate your family images and records, not just for your current family but for future generations.

After all, said genealogy consultant Maureen “The Photo Detective” Taylor, “It’s your identity. It’s who you are. And you can’t see where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.”

These eight tips from genealogists will guide your journey and give you some shortcuts:

1. The most urgent memories to preserve are old home movies. “These are deteriorating every day — you lose the colors on them,” said Scott Fisher, who hosts the radio show Extreme Genes. Services like LegacyBox make it a snap. An added bonus of digitizing old films is that they can be turned into frameable stills, which is how Fisher came away with a cherished photo of himself with his grandfather, brother and father, the latter of whom died young.

2. If you have an old photo album, don’t give into temptation to remove photos for framing or distributing. “If you take that album apart you’ve lost the context of the photos,” said Taylor. Instead, to preserve the album, take a piece of unbleached muslin — that hasn’t been treated with fabric softeners — wrap the album up to keep all the loose pieces together and store it in an acid-free box, easily found at places like the Container Store. If you have old loose photos, Taylor prefers storing them in individual polypropylene sleeves, including a piece of acid-free paper to include any known information about the image.

3. Back up your images to at least two cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Documents such as church or hospital records or old letters can be shared with services such as FamilySearch, MyHeritage, or Ancestry. “If something did happen to your house and these things went up in flames, they’re not lost forever,” said Fisher.

You don’t need a fancy scanner to upload your old photos and records: Google PhotoScan is a free app that works on your smartphone. If you have lots of photos, you can take them into a FamilySearch center to access one of its automatic feed scanners. Fisher also suggests hosting a family reunion and renting a high-speed scanner for a weekend — a great opportunity for generations to share their stories (and split the scanner cost). “Everybody walks away with copies of everybody’s digitized pictures without giving up possession of them,” Fisher said.

4. Recruit younger relatives to interview the older ones so you can gain greater family context on video or audio. “They have amazing stories that will be lost forever if we don’t get them on tape,” said A.J. Jacobs, author of It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree, who adds that asking “What kind of trouble did you get into as a kid?” often yields great answers.

“If you can afford it or have time yourself, it’s great to transcribe these interviews for easy searching and reference later,” Jacobs suggested.

5. Store your hard copies carefully. Make sure photos and documents are off the floor (in case of floods), and if possible, out of basements or attics and away from vents and rooms that share an outside wall where temperature or moisture fluctuations can cause damage.

6. Tie in contemporary photos on social media to your family archives. Taylor recommends the iPhone app MemoryWeb which syncs with various social media and cloud applications and lets you tag subject headings, names and locations. “It’s really handy,” she said. “When I sync my photos, it prompts me to tag faces and locations it recognizes from my feed.”

Since it’s so easy to drag and drop hundreds of digital photos to the cloud, leave a simple trail for family who may discover them one day. “In each folder devoted to a trip or occasion, I have a simple Word document that lists a bunch of facts to help contextualize,” said Jacobs, including details like “These photos are from our trip to Hawaii in 2016. We stayed at X Hotel. We got to meet Goofy.”

7. Leave a record behind telling your family heirloom’s stories. After discovering an old nickel-plated coffee pot, Fisher was tempted to throw it away until he found some notes his grandmother jotted down in the 1950s. “It was a wedding gift to her parents in Sweden in 1883. It’s the oldest heirloom from that side of the family. Suddenly that’s pretty interesting,” said Fisher. To keep the history paired with his belongings, Fisher created an album with snapshots of family heirlooms and a few sentences explaining their origins.

While Taylor cautions against throwing away photos taken before 1925 or so — “People didn’t take click-a-minute photographs they way they do today,” — she is totally pro-weeding. Taylor doesn’t see the point in holding onto old landscape photos and asks: “Do you really need all your parents’ vacation photos?”

You can also offload your archives and share the wealth with your family members. “Give them their childhood back,” Taylor said. A service like Snapfish, Shutterfly or Chatbooks can easily autopopulate books of uploaded images for you to order to give as gifts.

8. If these options aren’t appealing, contact your local historical society to see if it would be interested in your family trove. But don’t feel compelled to keep things just to keep things. In the spirit of Marie Kondo (author of the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), Fisher said, “If something doesn’t give you joy anymore, it’s time to move it on.”

© Next Avenue - 2018. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Veteran Voices: James Downing from Vista de Monte Retirement Community


By James Downing, resident at Vista del Monte Retirement Community

My name is James, and my highest rank was First Lieutenant. I served in this position at Ft. Lewis, Washington, in the Ninth Infantry. I enlisted because the Korean War was being fought and my preference was to go into the Army. I believed this was my duty, since we were at war.

At the time that I enlisted, I was married to my wife, Marguerite, and I was working as a sixth-grade teacher in the Torrance Unified School District, in Los Angeles County. I left my wife and traveled by train to Fort Ord, California, for Basic Training. What I remember the most is that I was very lonely for Marguerite, and any leave time that I had, I spent with her.

After six months of Basic Training, I was selected to be the outstanding soldier of my training company. My first assignment was as an instructor at leadership school. After two months in that role, I was ordered to the Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and I trained for six months there.

I served the remainder of my service as Assistant Adjutant Officer assigned to the Ninth Infantry Regiment at Ft. Lewis in Washington. My duties included Courts & Boards, Safety, and Personnel. Although I did not see any combat, half the men in my training company went to Korea, and 50% of these did not return alive. I still feel guilty that so many of the men I knew became casualties, but I served elsewhere.

My commanding officer, a Colonel, was outstanding and a wonderful officer; however, my immediate superior, a Major, was the worst. Upon leaving the military, I resumed teaching and was assigned to the ninth grade at Torrance High. I did graduate work at UCLA, where I received my Master of Arts, and I went on to teach at Lincoln Junior High School in Santa Monica, California.”


LifeBio is an engagement program that captures cherished memories and lasting legacies through storytelling. Since launching in 2000, LifeBio has helped 20,000 people tell their life stories through autobiographical tools and services for all levels of care. LifeBio uses technologies as mediums to help individual document their stories in an easy and unique way such as tablets, web cams, and audio and video equipment. LifeBio has been a partner with Front Porch since 2009. For more details, check out LifeBio’s Impact Story on the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing (FPCIW) website.

How and Why to Teach Your Grandchildren About Gratitude


Credit: Adobe Stock 
The way that you live your life can offer the best lesson
By Lisa Fields for Next Avenue

One of the best gifts you can give your grandchild isn’t something physical to wrap up and offer as a birthday present. Rather, you can help to instill a strong sense of gratitude in your grandchild with your words and actions, which can help the child see how much good is in his or her life.

“Gratitude is our positive connection to the past,” said Nansook Park, professor of psychology at Michigan State University, who studies the effects of gratitude on children. “It gives us the sense that there are good things around us, and those good things in our life are the result of contributions by others.”

Feelings of gratitude can alter a child’s perception of the world, his or her family and himself or herself. Research has shown that children who feel grateful are more satisfied with life, more compassionate, more likely to perform well academically, more likely to have close relationships with their family members and less likely to be susceptible to stress, depression and early sexual encounters with peers.

Children need to be taught about gratitude to glean its benefits; it’s a learned skill. But it’s easier to teach than you might think. Grandparents can help cultivate a strong sense of gratitude in grandchildren of all ages, from toddlers to teens. Here’s how:
Be a Role Model

From a young age, children observe adults to learn important life lessons. If you demonstrate that you feel grateful and express your gratitude consistently, your grandchildren are likely to follow suit.

“Research shows clearly that young people learn by observing, not by listening,” Park said. “Young people who grow up watching adults around them practicing gratitude in daily life are most likely to internalize those concepts and adopt that kind of practice.”

Grandchildren whose parents or grandparents don’t demonstrate gratitude are less likely to cultivate gratitude themselves, even if the adults in their lives tell them to.

“If you don’t model it yourself, it will have no impact,” said psychologist Eric Dlugokinski, professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma.
Going Beyond ‘Thank You’

From a young age, children are taught to say “thank you” for gifts or kindnesses. But saying the words reflexively doesn’t mean that they’re grateful.

“They are often doing that because they have been prompted and they know it’s a social convention,” said Katelyn Poelker, assistant professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Mich., who studies the effects of gratitude on children. “It’s maybe more of a ritual than, ‘Wow, I totally understand all the trouble this person went through to get this toy I really wanted.’”

You can help your grandchildren understand gratitude by teaching them why to say “thank you,” not just when.

“It’s important to explain the rationale behind those automatic thank yous,” Poelker said. “You can only feel gratitude when you understand what the other person had to do to make it a reality for you. A younger child can’t think it through the same way as an older child. Explain it: ‘Grandma called Mommy to see what you wanted, and then she drove all the way to the store and picked it out.’”
Uncovering Silver Linings

Naturally, you want to protect your grandchildren from disappointment. You can’t stop upsetting events from unfolding, but instilling them with a strong sense of gratitude can help.

“It’s part of life to win some and lose some,” Dlugokinski said. “It’s not whether you are defeated at something, it’s whether you bounce back. Resilience is the capacity to bounce back from losses.”

If your grandchild is accustomed to thinking about things that he or she is grateful for, it will be easier to find silver linings in upsetting situations and bounce back.

“Gratitude is encouraging young people to shift the focus away from what went wrong,” Poelker said. “It’s framing disappointments and losses in terms of what you still have. Even if you lose the soccer tournament, you still got to spend 16 weeks with the soccer team: The great friendships, the lessons learned and maybe next year, we’ll be better.”
Giving Praise

Complimenting your grandchild is an excellent way to express gratitude in an accessible way.

“It’s good to recognize success,” Dlugokinski said. “It’s especially good to recognize effort. If somebody has tried as hard as they can and did not achieve, recognize that. They can come back and use that same effort and make it work next time.”

Don’t just tell your grandchild that you’re grateful for his or her actions; explain why.

“It doesn’t have to be a long conversation,” Poelker said. “Explain that actions have consequences. If you take the time to explain things on occasion, that’s where the power of those interactions really lie.”
Offering Perspective

Although teens may seem focused on themselves, they haven’t necessarily forgotten about gratitude.

“People often think that young people are entitled and ungrateful, but that is not always true,” Park said. “Adolescence is for young people to focus more on themselves and try to build a sense of identity. Thinking about how others contribute to their life is not exactly what they are interested in doing. This does not mean that they are not grateful.”

You may help teens embrace gratitude by pointing out sacrifices that others have made for them.

“Encourage them to see things from multiple vantage points,” Poelker said. “It sets them up to better appreciate all the kind things that have been done for them when you understand what it took for the other person to make that happen.”
Expressions of Gratitude

When your grandchild receives a gift, you can encourage him or her to write a thank-you card. If you start early on, card-writing can become a positive habit.

“If adults make it fun with young people and truly explain the meaning of activity, [writing thank-you notes] can be a part of family ritual,” Park said. “However, if adults demand or preach young people to do it as an obligation while they are not doing it, it is not only less effective but it creates resentment and resistance.”

Younger children can get into the habit by drawing thank-you pictures. Older children can dig deep within themselves.

“I would recommend that the note explain why the child is grateful, rather than, ‘Thanks for the gift,’” Poelker said. “You strengthen that bond, acknowledging something deeper than, ‘Hey, you got me something.’ It’s beneficial both for the benefactor and the beneficiary.”

© Next Avenue - 2018. All rights reserved.

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