Thursday, December 8, 2011

Help Save the Gorillas


Take action on 5 December and double your impact!


Ape Action Africa is excited to be part of this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge - join us and your donation will be doubled!

Donate here: The Big Give

The Christmas Challenge is a fantastic initiative created by The Big Give and supported by a range of sponsors. It is a unique opportunity for our supporters to be rewarded for their generosity by having their donations doubled, allowing us to make twice the impact through our work.

The Challenge starts at 10.00am (GMT) on 5th December and runs for just 5 days. To make sure your donations are doubled and help us make the most of this fantastic opportunity, save the 5th December in your diaries. Don’t worry if you forget though - we’ll be counting down to donation day on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

The donations you make as part of the Christmas Challenge will go directly towards the care of our sanctuary’s youngest orphans, including our newest arrivals - gorillas Luci and Chickaboo. It costs £20 a week to feed one baby gorilla – if you can help us to reach our challenge target, we’ll be able to support five babies for a whole year!


Donate here: The Big Give


How will YOU help charitable organizations this year?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why Wait? Save Your Family Stories NOW

This was a guest post today on Simple Marriage.


Four years ago, I took some creative writing and memoir writing classes, joined the Association of Personal Historians (APH) and became a Personal Historian. As I started to get more clients, I noticed a disturbing trend: my subjects had a tendency to die.

Most of the life stories I’ve written have been about elderly people. I learned very quickly to determine the most important topics to be covered before staring any interviews, and then address them first. Obviously, none of us know just how long we’ll live, but older people most likely have less time remaining. However, we can lose anyone at any age.

By the end of my first year in business, I was becoming discouraged—not because I didn’t have enough clients, but because the majority of them had passed away. To be honest, I almost felt like the Grim Reaper. For a while, I contemplated whether this was the right field. During the interviewing and writing processes, it was easy for me to get involved with my subjects, through the good and the bad in their lives. When they died, it was heartbreakingly sad.

One of my clients died very suddenly, but peacefully, while watching her favorite television program. I had just completed the interviews and written her story; all that remained was to finish pulling in the scanned photographs. After talking to the daughter who had commissioned me, we decided to complete her mother’s story in a booklet and give it to the family members, which I did two days later.

At the wake the next day, the family made me feel that my efforts were not only worthwhile, they were greatly appreciated. Without the stories I had preserved, the children and grandchildren would never have known some of the details from the woman’s life.

I continue to write life stories for people and encourage them to write their own. The important thing is to preserve those precious family stories before they are lost forever. None of us know exactly how much time we have. Here are some suggestions to help you start saving your own family stories now, while you still can.

Record Them
When you start working on your own family stories, I do strongly recommend getting a digital recorder, which is small, unobtrusive & fairly inexpensive. Mine is a Sony ICD-P520, which is less than $50 on Amazon.com. Another nice feature is that you can use the USB to load it to your computer and create CDs. Once you have a recording, you can also transcribe it into a Word document.

Prioritize Subjects

If you want to capture stories and folklore from the elderly, I urge you to start right away. You never know when they (or perhaps just their minds) may be suddenly taken away. Whenever you get a group of people together, encourage them to talk about their experiences. If possible, record them talking, but if not, then take notes to expand later.

Writing Journal
Keep a writing journal to remind yourself of stories you want them to talk about, or events you recall yourself. Use photos & memorabilia to help them reminisce. That often has a starburst effect - one memory leads to three others and each of them to several more. It is a wonderful way to keep expanding their legacy.

Helpful Websites
Here are some of my favorite websites to help you get started. And of course, my book has some excellent ideas on how to capture your family stories.

About.com: Genealogy website has a list of 50 questions to help on interviews.
www.genealogy.about.com/cs/oralhistory/a/interview.htm

Ancestry.com: This website says, “Feel free to print and distribute” a Script for Video or Audio Interviews with Family Members. www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lineage/famhist.htm

Bethlamie.com: My website, where you can sign up for a free monthly newsletter (via email) with tips on writing family history.
www.bethlamie.com

One Story at a Time.blogspot.com: My blog with writing suggestions and examples of family stories.
www.onestoryatatime.blogspot.com

Association of Personal Historians (APH)
, which offers an anthology of personal stories.
www.personalhistorians.org/

Cyndi’s List.com: More than 200,000 website links to help with genealogy and family history.
www.cyndislist.com/

Grandparents TLC.com: This site offers “Technology to Help Loving Grandparents Connect with Grandchildren!”
www.grandparentstlc.com/blog/

Smithsonian Institute
: This booklet in PDF format explains how to get started with interviews, sample questions and additional resources.
www.Folklife.SI.edu/Resources/pdf/InterviewingGuide.pdf

Story of My Life.com: Free private website to easily gather all your family stories from friends and family and invite participation from around the world.
www.storyofmylife.com

However you decide to start your own family stories, please start sooner rather than later. When something happens to one of your loved ones, you’ll be glad to have a keepsake of them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Double Your Donation Dec 5


Take action on 5 December and double your impact!


Ape Action Africa is excited to be part of this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge - join us and your donation will be doubled!

Donate here: The Big Give

The Christmas Challenge is a fantastic initiative created by The Big Give and supported by a range of sponsors. It is a unique opportunity for our supporters to be rewarded for their generosity by having their donations doubled, allowing us to make twice the impact through our work.

The Challenge starts at 10.00am (GMT) on 5th December and runs for just 5 days. To make sure your donations are doubled and help us make the most of this fantastic opportunity, save the 5th December in your diaries. Don’t worry if you forget though - we’ll be counting down to donation day on our website, Facebook and Twitter.

The donations you make as part of the Christmas Challenge will go directly towards the care of our sanctuary’s youngest orphans, including our newest arrivals - gorillas Luci and Chickaboo. It costs £20 a week to feed one baby gorilla – if you can help us to reach our challenge target, we’ll be able to support five babies for a whole year!


Donate here: The Big Give


How will YOU help charitable organizations this year?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories - Keepsake for Kids

This is an encore presentation. Enjoy!

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? As you consider the food, table settings, decorations and the dozens of other arrangements to be made, here's a suggestion for keeping the children busy and happy. It's also a great way to help them record their experiences and memories.

Use this link to download a free ebook for the kids:
Thanksgiving Keepsake for Kids

The ebook has activities that combine personal stories, family history, writing, drawing, and interviewing family members and friends.

Here are some of the questions that children can consider during the Thanksgiving holiday:
Who celebrates Thanksgiving with you?
Where will everyone travel from?
Were there any travel problems?
What did you like best about Thanksgiving?
What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?
What foods will be fixed for Thanksgiving?
What will/did you give thanks for on Thanksgiving?
What will/did you do on Thanksgiving morning?
What was Thanksgiving dinner like?
What did you do on Thanksgiving night?
What stories did you hear on Thanksgiving?

What will your kids remember about Thanksgiving?
I'd love to hear about your experiences using this ebook.

If you are interested in receiving an ebook on other holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, etcetera, please leave a comment below. All suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why I Teach About Ethical Wills

Many instructors can teach students the mechanics of writing a cohesive story. Some can help writers ferret out individual stories from their lives. However, my forte is combining both of these aspects of personal storytelling to create a compelling ethical will.

My goal is to educate people about ethical wills and how writing one creates an enduring legacy. Many of them are looking for ways to ensure their lives have been worth living and of importance to future generations—they want to be remembered.

During my writing workshops, students learn how to evoke powerful memories by drawing from their life experiences, how to examine their thoughts and select a subject, and how to write a cohesive story. The final step is to create a compelling tale that resonates with their loved ones, who are recipients of the ethical will.

Feedback from my ethical wills workshops has been positive. When participants complete a workshop and walk out with their first ethical will in their hands, I know I’ve made a difference in their lives.

Ready to start your own ethical will? Consider joining my free teleclass on Thursday:

CALL-IN INFORMATION:

Dial-In: 712 - 432 - 0900
Access: 197851#

Thursday 11/17/11 8 PM Eastern / 7 PM Central / 6 PM Mountain / 5 PM Pacific
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will vs a Last Will?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspirational Quotes from Darren LaCroix


Last week, I met Darren LaCroix, who is a World Champion of Public Speaking. He gave an inspirational presentation to the NSA-IL (National Speakers Association – Illinois). I loved that he was so willing to share his knowledge with everyone, which was impressive.

One of Darren’s free offerings is 365 days of inspirational quotations, which are available to everyone.

Just go to www.365InspirationalQuotes.com to sign up.

I’m looking forward to reading a new quote every morning. How about you?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Simple Ethical Will


An Ethical Will is a wonderful way to pass your personal values on to your loved ones. It also tells the world what you consider important, as an individual or as a responsible corporation.

Here is a simple yet lovely example, expressed as a Code of Conduct by the J. M. Smucker Company.

J. M. Smucker’s Code of Conduct:

• Listen with your full attention

• Look for the good in others

• Have a sense of humor

• Say thank you for a job well done

What values will you include in your Ethical Will?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day 11-11-11

Happy Veteran's Day to all our current and retired military personnel.

Thank you for all you have given for our country.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Too Early for Snow


We live in the Midwest, where the weather can be unpredictable and unseasonably warm or cold, wet or dry, or any combination of all of them in one peculiar season. I realize that. However, I somehow missed the weather forecast for today to include snow flurries.

So when we started getting some pretty heavy snow showers, I was amazed . . . and unprepared. I happen to love winter, but usually we work up to snow season more gradually.

Fortunately for us, the huge snowflakes melted as soon as they landed on the brick pavers in the back yard.

Seeing that, and realizing I had nowhere special to go tonight, I relaxed and watched the beautiful flakes swirl around.

I also realized today was yet another day for which I am grateful. Thank you, Lord!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Apples in the Fall


This is an encore presentation from 11/13/2008. I think of this topic every year at this time. Enjoy!

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons with the start of the new school year, foliage beginning to change and the onset of cooler days and nights. One of our memorable pastimes was to pick apples in a local orchard.

We brought our own containers - a variety of boxes, bushel baskets and tubs. For consistency in measuring how much we picked, the orchard provided their own bushel baskets to use during the picking process, then the apples were gently transferred to our own. It was lucky for us that they could not measure how many apples we managed to eat while picking.

There was an especially bountiful harvest one autumn when my son Jason was six years old. He and I had recently moved back to my hometown after living in the "City", that is, anywhere north of Interstate 80, as far as my Dad was concerned. It was a beautiful cool, crisp day with the sun shining as we drove to the orchard with Mom & Dad.

The trees were just covered with a terrific selection of big juicy apples that year: Jonathans, Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and McIntosh. Naturally, we had to grab the biggest shiniest ones to taste test before we could begin picking.

As we moved from tree to tree, Jason delighted in running ahead to survey the next target and cry, "Wow, look at all the big ones on THIS tree!" It was so easy to get caught up in the moment of fun & discovery that the four of us ended up picking seven full bushels of apples.

That was a huge amount of apples for us or for anyone. Fortunately, I had an old spare refrigerator in my garage, so we were able to pack it full with the apples that didn't fit into our main refrigerators. With all that food stockpiled, we stuffed ourselves (as well as family, friends and neighbors) with all manner of scrumptious apple delicacies.

The delicious aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg filled our house almost every day. We had apple pie, apple crisp, apple cake, apple coffeecake and apple pudding. And still we had more apples.

We had fried apples, caramel apples, taffy apples, apple butter, apple salads, apple muffins and apple dumplings. And still we had more apples.

Jason took brightly polished red and yellow apples to school for his birthday treat, and for his teacher, too. For Christmas, we even hung shiny red apples by ribbons onto our tree. And still we had more apples.

We had enough apples to last us all through that Fall and Winter and into Spring. By the time we had finally finished eating all those apples, I realized two things: 1) an apple a day really does keep the doctor away because we didn’t get sick all winter long, and 2) I never EVER got tired of apples!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ethical Wills Insights

A myth about Ethical Wills . . . and other end-of-life documents

Some people are afraid of anything that makes them think of their own death. That could be a Last Will, a Living Will, or even an Ethical Will.

Logically, such a view is not realistic. Unfortunately, a great many older Americans feel that by ignoring what will happen after their demise, they can somehow prolong the inevitable.

Of course, no one can cheat the Grim Reaper. How much better it would be for the remaining family if someone's personal matters are all in order.

Whether you are past your prime or just starting out, I hope you consider writing your Ethical Will. Your loved ones will appreciate it, too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ethical Wills - What Are They Really?


An ethical will, also called a legacy letter, is usually a written document created to share significant thoughts with loved ones, such as experiences, values, wisdom, and blessings. It can be shared with family members or friends either at the time it is written, or be preserved and read after the author’s death.

Ethical wills began as a Jewish tradition over 3,000 years ago. Originally, the practice was used to orally pass down values to future generations. Topics usually included the family’s lineage since earliest times. Modern audiences find an updated approach appeals to their current needs to leave a similar legacy.

Definition

An ethical will is a document that shares significant thoughts with loved ones. It is also known as a legacy letter.

Whether an ethical will or legacy letter is as brief as a few paragraphs, or as long as a complete memoir, it is a heartfelt communication that becomes an enduring reminder of a person’s love and caring. The majority of ethical wills are written, but other alternatives will be considered later in this chapter. When written by hand, the document becomes a lovely keepsake of an individual’s handwriting.

Example:
My grandmother passed away some forty years ago, but recently I found an old recipe card in her beautiful cursive script. For an instant, it felt like she was sitting beside me again. That simple card is a priceless heirloom to me, but I wish she had known about ethical wills.

November Teleclass Schedule
CALL-IN INFORMATION:
Dial-In: 712 - 432 - 0900
Access: 197851#
Please join us on any of our calls!

Tuesday 11/08/11 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT / 5 PM PT
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will?

Thursday 11/17/11 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT / 5 PM PT
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will vs a Last Will?

Tuesday 11/22/11 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT / 5 PM PT
TOPIC: Why Write an Ethical Will?

Wednesday 11/30/11 3 PM ET / 2 PM CT / NOON PT
TOPIC: Why Write an Ethical Will?

More details about Ethical Wills available at www.bethlamie.com.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Family Stories - Will You Wait Too Long?


Four years ago, I became a Personal Historian, after taking some creative writing and memoir writing classes and joining the Association of Personal Historians (APH). As I started to get more clients, I noticed a disturbing trend: my subjects had a tendency to die.

Most of the life stories I’ve written have been about elderly people. I learned very quickly to determine the most important topics to be covered before staring any interviews, then address them first. Obviously, none of us know just how long we’ll live, but older people most likely have less time remaining. However, we can lose anyone at any age.

By the end of my first year in business, I was becoming discouraged—not because I didn’t have enough clients, but because the majority of them had passed away. To be honest, I almost felt like the Grim Reaper. For a while, I contemplated whether I was in the right field. During the interviewing and writing processes, it was easy for me to get involved with my subjects, through the good and the bad in their lives. When they died, I was terribly saddened.

One of my clients died very suddenly, but peacefully. I had just completed the interviews and written her story; all that remained was to finish pulling in the photographs I had scanned. After talking to the daughter who had commissioned me, we decided to complete her mother’s story in a booklet for the family, which I did two days later.

At the wake the next day, the family made me feel that my efforts were not only worthwhile, they were greatly appreciated. Without the stories I had preserved, the children and grandchildren would never have known some of the details from the woman’s life.

I continue to write life stories for people and encourage them to write their own. The important thing is to preserve those precious family stories before they are lost forever. None of us know exactly how much time we have. Make an effort to start saving your own family stories now, while you still can.

Are you ready to start now? Please consider coming to some of our weekly teleclasses, where we can talk about easy ways to find your own stories.

November Teleclass Schedule for Ethical Wills

CALL-IN INFORMATION:
Dial-In: 712 - 432 - 0900
Access: 197851#
Please join us on any of our calls!

Tuesday 11/08/11 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT / 5 PM PT
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shedd Aquarium Visit


Today was another delightful afternoon to remember along with my other family stories. My son, Jason, and his two kids, Alex and Nicholas, ages 6 and 7 respectively, met me at Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago. I hadn’t been there for some eighteen years or so, and it was nice to see how many new exhibits had been created.

Everyone’s favorite was the Caribbean Reef, which is an award-winning 90,000-gallon circular habitat open on all sides to allow patrons to walk around and view the huge variety of fish, including gigantic tarpons, Moray eels, parrotfish, sting rays, manta rays, and many more I don’t know the names of.


At the appointed hour, a docent named Lee arrived and asked the surrounding crowd to step back “five giant steps” to outside the blue circle marked on the floor so everyone could see clearly. Amazingly, everyone complied, which was a pleasant surprise, and we had ideal seats for the entire show.

A diver named Brooks entered the water to feed the sea creatures and interact with them. He stroked the manta rays and turtles as they calmly approached to feed from his hand. Another pleasant surprise was that Lee fielded questions from the crowd and relayed them to Brooks for a response.


Alex, my granddaughter, asked if they remove the stingers from the sting rays. The answer is no, they don’t. However, Brooks said the one ray swimming around without a tail was due to a fish that liked to nibble on its tail, until the tail was finally gone.

Brooks talked about the big green sea turtle named Nickel. He was injured by the motor on a boat and brought to special veterinarians for repair. Severely damaged hind flippers meant he’ll never be released back into the wild, but he’ll always have a good home at Shedd. How did he come by his name? When the doctors took x-rays, they found something stuck in his throat: they removed an old 1975 nickel, so that’s what they called him.

Nicholas liked a huge old lungfish called Granddad. He had black spots all over his long body. According to the Shedd website, “Granddad has lived longer than any fish in any aquarium in the world.” He came from Australia as a mature adult to Shedd for the World’s Fair in 1933!


Some of the other animals we saw were fogs, jellyfish or “jellies”, dolphins, sea otters, penguins, and small turtles.


We all had fun while we learned something new about the sea life all around us. This is one place we’ll need to visit again. There was too much to see in one day, plus the exhibits change on a regular basis.

Have you been to an aquarium recently? If so, what did you like best?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Temptation of Tulips


Today was a lovely afternoon – one of those perfect autumn days when the sun is shining, the air is crisp, and it just feels good to be alive. Beautiful!

Taking advantage of the weather’s cooperation and some unexpected free time in my schedule, Hubby and I decided to work in the flower bed in front of our house. Well, okay, to be brutally honest, I decided and he reluctantly agreed to help.

Actually, I had to play my trump card to convince him: yesterday was my birthday and Hubby sort of offered to plant tulip bulbs, and three mums. Although I’m not much of a gardener, I do enjoy perennials that come back every year, at least in theory. In particular, my chrysanthemums never seem to survive our Midwest winters very well. But I keep trying!

While planting the mixed-color tulip bulbs, I couldn’t help but think about my mother. She absolutely loved tulips, especially red ones. One fall, she planted some 150 bulbs, half red and half yellow. Mom happened to have a bevy of squirrels in her neighborhood, but they always kept her entertained.

However, the next spring, she was thoroughly disgusted with those squirrels. They managed to dig up and consume every single red tulip bulb. None of the yellow ones, mind you, just the red!

Undaunted, Mom again planted red and yellow bulbs that fall. This time, however, she generously coated each and every one with hot Tobasco sauce. She waited for spring that year in anticipation of a bounty of glorious tulips in both colors.

Every day, she marched outside to watch the tender young tulip leaves poke through the dirt and begin to grow.

Every day, she watched the tiny buds develop.

Every day, she waited with bated breath to see a miniscule hint of color.

Finally, one day she trekked outside to see the tulips had burst into bloom. All yellow!

Philosophically, Mom shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, I guess the squirrels need some help getting through the winter, too.” After that, every year she continued to plant red and yellow tulips. And every year, the squirrels continued to eat the red ones . . . and frolicked in her yard to say thank you.

So that’s where my thoughts carried me during our afternoon of digging, planting, and watering. It felt as if my mother was working right beside me, even though she’s been gone ten years. As she taught me, I’ll wait in anticipation for spring, when we’ll find out if my mums come back and if our pesky squirrels found the tulip bulbs.

Who knows if they’ll have a preference for our red bulbs, too?

What memories do you have about fall chores? Do they ever make you reminisce about your loved ones?

I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keepsake for Kids - Thanksgiving Memories


What are your plans for Thanksgiving? As you consider the food, table settings, decorations and the dozens of other arrangements to be made, here's a suggestion for keeping the children busy and happy. It's also a great way to help them record their experiences and memories.

Use this link to download a free ebook for the kids:
Thanksgiving Keepsake for Kids

The ebook has activities that combine personal stories, family history, writing, drawing, and interviewing family members and friends.

Here are some of the questions that children can consider during the Thanksgiving holiday:
Who celebrates Thanksgiving with you?
Where will everyone travel from?
Were there any travel problems?
What did you like best about Thanksgiving?
What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?
What foods will be fixed for Thanksgiving?
What will/did you give thanks for on Thanksgiving?
What will/did you do on Thanksgiving morning?
What was Thanksgiving dinner like?
What did you do on Thanksgiving night?
What stories did you hear on Thanksgiving?

What will your kids remember about Thanksgiving?
I'd love to hear about your experiences using this ebook.

If you are interested in receiving an ebook on other holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, etcetera, please leave a comment below. All suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gorilla Love – a Perfect Christmas Gift


Today we have a guest post by Robin Huffman, animal-lover extraordinaire! She is living her lifelong dream to work closely as a volunteer with exotic wildlife. Currently, she is on her way from Dakar to Johannesburg, South Africa, to volunteer for four months at the Vervet Monkey Foundation. Her website with amazing artwork and photos is listed at the end of this post. - Beth

Kudos to Robin for all the excellent work she does for animals!


TWO baby gorillas have just arrived at Ape Action Africa in Cameroon, Africa! That is so rare, because there aren't many gorillas left in the wild, and because they are so fragile that they rarely survive without their mothers. But Ape Action Africa is specialized in saving these innocent orphans. Also, three baby chimps have come in this year. It costs a lot to keep the babes in milk and the 24/7 care they require! And as I've probably told you, the sanctuary lost their director & major funder, Avi Sivan, less than one year ago in a helicopter crash. The sanctuary has just sent out a special plea for financial help.

During the week of December 5 - 11, donations to the charity through Big Give will be matched. What a great Christmas gift to give someone - a gift of philanthropy! AND knowing that you are helping save these magnificent gentle creatures! I promise it will feel GREAT!!!! I will forward the link and more info as soon as I get it.

If you CAN'T WAIT and want to give NOW, you can do so through the website: Ape Action Adopt
....OR plan on making your contribution the week of Dec. 5 - 11 so it can be doubled.

Spread the word - Either way: PHILANTHROPOMANIA ROCKS!

Here's a link to the story of the two gorillas, Luci and Chickaboo: Gorilla News Story


Robin Huffman
www.peacefulportraits.com

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Teleclass Schedule For Ethical Wills



CALL-IN INFORMATION:
Dial-In: 712 - 432 - 0900
Access: 197851#
Please join us on any of our calls!

Tuesday 11/08/11 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT / 5 PM PT
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will?

Thursday 11/17/11 3 PM ET / 2 PM CT / NOON PT
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will vs a Last Will?

Tuesday 11/22/11 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT / 5 PM PT
TOPIC: Why Write an Ethical Will?

Wednesday 11/30/11 3 PM ET / 2 PM CT / NOON PT
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will?

More details about Ethical Wills at www.bethlamie.com

Monday, October 31, 2011

Las Vegas Conference for APH


The 17th annual conference of the Association of Personal Historians (APH) was held October 16-20, 2011 at Harrah’s Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. I was excited to attend my first conference and to be elected to the APH Board of Directors.

Conference keynote speakers included Nikki Silva from NPR’s Kitchen Sisters, Oksana Marafioti, author of the forthcoming memoir, American Gypsy, and documentary filmmaker Ben Patton. The packed program offered five days of workshops, seminars and impromptu sessions on an array of topics ranging from interviewing methods to book indexing to video storytelling techniques.

I was among the almost 200 personal historians from around the world who gathered to sharpen business and technical skills, learn more about their profession and network with their colleagues. Personal historians preserve histories, life stories and memories for individuals, families, organizations and businesses. Personal history formats range from books containing family stories, photos and documents to audio or video documentaries.

How to get the most out of a conference? Here are some suggestions: 1) always wear a name badge, 2) ask questions to start a conversation with anyone nearby, 3) look over the program agenda to decide on the most useful sessions, 4) if a session isn’t as valuable as hoped, slip out to find another one, 5) offer to lend a hand when needed, 6) share whatever insights you can offer to others, 7) if you start to burn out, take a break or even a nap to get refreshed, and 8) smile at everyone and call them by name when possible (Hint: Check their name badge).

For me, one of the greatest things about the conference was meeting in person the group of virtual colleagues she had met over the years. Although this was the first APH conference I was able to attend, meeting other personal historians face-to-face was an inspiration. People are drawn to the profession from a variety of backgrounds: journalism, counseling, education, graphic design, film, radio, book publishing and many other occupations. All share a dedication to preserving personal stories and documenting lives for the benefit of generations to come.

Attending this conference was an amazing way to network with people. It has rejuvenated my passion for preserving family stories. I discovered additional ways to help my clients preserve their stories in a variety of print formats from vignettes and tributes to full life stories. My newest offerings include Ethical Wills, which can be thought of as legacy letters to a family.

Attending the conference at a Las Vegas casino hotel begs the question: Did I have any luck gambling? Although good for a laugh, I’d have to say no, I’m not a gambler. In fact, with all the smoke, noise and sensory overload in the casino, during my one foray into it I spent about 3 minutes to lose a $5 credit in a slot machine.

Additional information about APH may be found at Personal Historians.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Writing Your Ethical Will – Part 3: Life Lessons Learned

An ethical will, also called a legacy letter, is a document written to pass on important considerations, such as experiences, values, wisdom, and blessings, to loved ones. An ethical will can be shared with family members or friends either at the time it is written, or preserved to be read after the author’s death. Read more at my Ethical Wills.

This series of posts will show you how to write your own ethical will in six easy steps. Today’s post is the third topic - Life Lessons Learned.

Parts of an Ethical Will

1. Opening
2. Your History - Past & Present
3. Life Lessons Learned
4. Personal Values & Beliefs
5. Hopes for the Future
6. Closure

Each person’s life experiences shape them into the person they become. This third step in creating your ethical will examines some of the most significant factors in your life, such as: life lessons, losses and failures, achievements and accomplishments, gratitude, service, and advice.

A - Life Lessons
Your life lessons often shape who you are and who you become. Everyone experiences and responds differently to life lessons. That is why they are such an important element of your ethical will.
In this section, you can share the details of your significant experiences. What have you learned during your life, when, and from whom? Which ones have been pivotal influences in your life?

Examples:
I learned this from my father: find something you love to do, work hard, and be proud of yourself; only later did other people say girls aren’t “supposed” to compete with boys. I proved they were wrong.
My mother provided the inspiration to be the best I could be and to never give up on my dreams.
Playing chess taught me to plan ahead, be patient, and anticipate the desired outcome.
My grandmother showed me how to be a lady and still get what I wanted; behind every successful man is a strong woman.


B – Growth from Losses and Failures
No one has a perfect life. There are trials and tribulations, heartbreaks, disappointments, tragedies, losses, and failures. Ideally, they become opportunities for reflection and growth.
Think about your challenges and the impact they have had on your development. Did you go under at first? Did you eventually overcome? Did you gain compassion, patience, or greater understanding? Maybe even wisdom? Were you bitter? Were you able to forgive others? Yourself?
This may be difficult material to visit but worthwhile in your development and for the relevance of your ethical will. While your ethical will is a legacy letter for your loved ones, you don’t want it to become a vapid valentine without substance and depth.

Examples:
When I lost my job (scholarship, love of my life, etc.), I discovered that…
My illness (or losing my breast) taught me the importance of…
My divorce(s) proved to me…
Losing my parent (spouse, child) showed me…
The tragedy of my childhood enabled me to…
I regret that I didn’t learn sooner to…


C - Achievements & Accomplishments
Each person has their own goals, hopes, and dreams. Fulfilling any or all of them is in large measure dependent upon the person’s abilities, resources, circumstances, and even luck. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I find the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Think about all the factors that have contributed to working toward your goals.
What have been your proudest accomplishments and why? What can your descendants learn from your successes and missteps? Which achievements by your family have made you proud? How does having confidence in yourself lead you to more successes?

Examples:
My greatest achievement has been….(e.g. publishing a book that helps people communicate better, going back to school, becoming a certified Scuba Diver, sacrificing for my children’s education, overcoming certain challenges, working with troubled teens, etc.)
I am proud of the way my family (son, daughter, grandchildren, etc.) has…
In spite of a troubled youth, my son (daughter, uncle, friend, etc.) was able to…


D - Gratitude
Everyone has something to be grateful for every day. Even during times of duress or hardship, it is good to appreciate what we have in life. Rather than being thankful only once a year on Thanksgiving, for example, consider how different your life would be under different circumstances.
Focus on the good in your life, even in the midst of challenges. What are you grateful for and why? Have you witnessed the benefits of gratitude?

Examples:
I am grateful for … a warm bed … a loving, supportive family … and great friends.
I am grateful for beauty in nature.
I am grateful for opportunities to grow and learn.
I am blessed to live in a country that allows freedom of speech and religion.
I am fortunate to have been born with a few innate talents that led me to …


E - Advice
What advice do you want your friends and family to remember? How can you help them in some way? Think about the wisdom you can bequeath to them. Flesh out your advice with stories and examples. Share some of the joys you have experienced. What are your favorite poems, quotes, books, and why?

Examples:
Always treat others as you want to be treated.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Look for the good in people.
Don’t do anything you want to hide from your mother (father, grandchildren, etc.).
Follow your dreams.
Do something good for people, every day, whenever possible.


Ready to start writing your own Ethical Will? Use this template as an easy way to begin. Free Ethical Wills Template available now.

Have you started your Ethical Will? I'd love to hear how it's going.

New book coming soon:
The Essence of Ethical Wills: How to Write Legacy Letters to Your Family

Monday, October 3, 2011

33 Ways for Fun with Grandchildren

This post was written for Simple Marriage by Home and Family columnist Beth LaMie.


Spending time with grandchildren is among the best things in life. In fact, it is priceless.

Although it’s always a pleasure to visit my son and his family, I thoroughly enjoy having the two grandkids all to myself. It seems the dynamics of how we relate to each other is totally different when their parents are elsewhere. That’s why I encourage them to go out on a date, or run some errands, or just go off by themselves for several hours.

That gives me a chance to spoil the six- and seven-year-old grandchildren just a bit while we have some fun. Of course, I keep them safe and secure the entire time, but a few of the minor rules may happen to fall by the wayside. Nothing serious, though.

By the way, one rule I try to enforce is that we play nothing that requires batteries. It seems to me that children have much more energy that grownups do, so it makes sense to let them use up some of that vigor while they play.

Regardless of a child’s age, there are endless ways to have fun with them. Every age offers its own challenge as well as opportunity. Keep an open mind and look for various resources for suggested activities to accommodate your young ones.

The trick is to figure out several options to offer them and to have any necessary items prepared in advance. For example, on my last visit with them, I brought along pages to color, a craft project, new books to read, a few snacks, some word games and puzzles, and the expectation that we’d have a wonderful time together.

In addition, my fallback plan was to investigate their roomful of toys, games, books, balls, etcetera, that they love to share. At least usually.

Here are some ideas on things to do with your grandchildren. Use it as a thought-generator to come up with your own activities. Some of these will appeal more than others, so don’t be afraid to experiment, either.

COOK SOMETHING YUMMY
1. Pancakes with mouse ears or rolled up with cinnamon and butter
2. Cookies from scratch or prepared mixes
3. Cupcakes frosted in fun ways
4. Make-your-own pizza
5. Dip pretzel sticks in chocolate or icing, then sprinkles
6. Build a gingerbread house (Hint: Use graham crackers for easy structures) XXX

GET CREATIVE
1. Dress-up or make-believe
2. Modeling clay, crayons, pipe cleaners
3. Scrapbook album or a single page
4. Art projects
5. Make hand or sock puppets

PLAY GAMES
1. Card games, word games, dominoes
2. Tic-tac-toe, connect-the-dots
3. Board games – checkers, Candyland, Sorry, Bingo
4. Hide-and-seek, blind man’s bluff, follow-the-leader
5. Simon says, Mother may I?

GET OUTDOORS
1. Walk, bike, go to a playground
2. Pick apples, pears, or other seasonal fruit
3. Draw with chalk on the driveway or sidewalk
4. Play tag, hop-scotch, or statue
5. Toss a ball, balloon (water?), or frisbee
6. Explore your yard – flowers, trees, birds, animals
7. Build a snowman

GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER
1. Play 20 questions
2. Talk about what you remember from your childhood
3. Ask about the child’s friends, toys, dreams, and share your own
4. Interview – Getting to Know You: A How-To Story for Kids on How to Interview Family Members (pdf) The Mini Page, Dec. 25-31, 2010) (c) 2010 Universal Uclick (2.0MB)

MORE IDEAS ON Grandparents.com
1. Instructions on how to play simple games
2. Great newsletter
3. Activities by age group, including seasonal pages to color
4. Easy recipes that kids enjoy
5. Suggestions on books, games, toys
6. Groups to join, such as “Grandparenting From Afar”

What are your favorite pastimes with your grandchildren? What activities can you plan for the upcoming holidays?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Free Ethical Wills Template

Ready to start writing your own Ethical Will?

NEW: a free Ethical Wills Template available now.

Use this template as an easy way to begin your Ethical Will.

New book coming soon:
The Essence of Ethical Wills: How to Write Legacy Letters to Your Family


Have you started your Ethical Will? I'd love to hear how it's going.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Home Downsizing and Saving Memories


When the time comes to downsize a home, the dilemma is to decide what to do with all your belongings. Whether you need a smaller home because of an empty nest, less maintenance, or for daily assistance, the problem is the same: how do you part with many of your cherished possessions and still retain the precious memories associated with them?

Here are some simple ways to preserve your recollections as you disburse your collections:

Saving memories
• Photographs
Before you start to disassemble your home, take photographs of how each room is arranged, taking care to highlight your most cherished possessions. Ask someone else to take a few pictures with you and favorite pieces, whether they are jewelry, paintings, furniture, or some of the delightful treasures you may have found over the years. Make a few notes about the items, such as how and when you got it, where it came from, who was involved, and anything else you recall.

• Scrapbooks
Scrapbooks can be a wonderful way to house your favorite pictures, notes, and mementos. Keep in mind they don’t need to be elaborate or complicated to serve a purpose. Think of them as memory keepers. Solicit help from family members and friends to create a few scrapbook pages. You might even enjoy throwing a scrapping party with your favorite snacks and beverages.

• Vignettes
Another idea to consider is creating a scrapbook page vignette to tell a particular story. Use photos and some notes or journaling, then frame the single page to hang on the wall. Craft stores, such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby www.hobbylobby.com, have shadowboxes or scrapbook frames available in various sizes, as well as custom framing.

Gifts to share
• Early inheritance
If you plan to bequeath some of your favorite possessions to family members or friends, consider gifting them now. You’ll have the pleasure of seeing them use it and pass on the respect that it deserves. You may also decide to allow your loved ones to select their favorite reminders of you. A few years ago, a friend of mine was terminally ill. She threw a jewelry party at her home so each of her loved ones could try on her beloved trinkets and keep their preferences. What a great way to help each of them remember her on a positive note.

• Gifts to children and grandchildren
Another way to start downsizing is to give your children or grandchildren gifts. Check with your financial advisor or tax accountant about gifts up to $13,000 per year per child. After that, you’ll need to file IRS Form 709 for a federal gift tax return. This can be an especially thoughtful way to share some of your assets while you can enjoy the pleasure they provide to others.

• Heirlooms
If you have cherished heirlooms from your ancestors, you may want to have them appraised. That will help the recipient understand the monetary value for insurance purposes. Make sure you tell them the story behind the object to give them a better appreciation of why they are so important to you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Protect Our Children


Yesterday during the Author’s Fair at the Bourbonnais Public Library, I met Nancy Flowers, who is the author of a children’s book I highly recommend. It is called Tell Somebody It Happened to Me and is designed to prevent child abuse. The book is easy to read, with lively illustrations and a nice flip format for boys and girls. More details are available at www.tellsomebodybooks.com

Unfortunately, where child abuse is concerned, we seem to concentrate more on dealing with the aftermath than preventing the occurrence. This book provides an ideal way to broach the subject with children from four to ten. In fact, reading it annually with young boys and girls will help to reinforce its message in a non-threatening way.

I was delighted to learn Bravehearts Australia purchased 5000 copies of the book to distribute in their schools. They are dedicated to preventing childhood sexual abuse, which is commendable. Lord willing, schools in the United States will be enlightened some day as well.

In the meantime, I snagged a copy to read with my grandson and granddaughter. At ages seven and six respectively, I want to help make sure their innocence remains throughout their childhood. The reality is that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.

What are you doing to prevent the abuse before it happens?

Friday, September 16, 2011

AUTHOR FAIR Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011

If you happen to be in the Kankakee, Illinois, area, please stop by:

AUTHOR FAIR Saturday 9/17/11 1-3 PM CT
Bourbonnais Public Library

I'd love to meet you in person!

P.S. Ask for your Friend's Discount

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grandparents Day 2011 - Building Memories


Yesterday was Grandparents Day in the United States and I had the pleasure of spending the previous day with my two grandkids. At ages 6 and 7, they are young enough to enjoy being with Grandma and old enough to carry on some lovely conversations. I love that we are building memories together.

In preparation for my visit, I packed up my usual Bag of Tricks to keep things lively. Anything not used for one trip is saved for the next one, so nothing ever goes to waste.

Here are some of the items in the bag:
BOOKS
Books are some of my favorite diversions. Whether I read to the kids, they read to me, or we take turns reading, it’s always fun. Sometimes, the hardest part now is finding books for a girl and a boy to both enjoy. The selection this time happened to be a children’s version of the Roman Catholic Mass. As both their Godmother and Grandmother, the dual role can sometimes be a little tricky. Fortunately, these little books were a hit with both of them.

Having given the grandchildren many books over the years, they now have a lovely collection of them. Invariably, we’ll also read through several of their (and my) favorites, whether it’s Yertle the Turtle or The Velveteen Rabbit.

GAMES
I always try to bring a couple of age-appropriate games or activities. The kids love to color, so I printed off some Grandparents Day pages from www.grandparents.com: a greeting card to color and fold, as well as a word search puzzle. It turned out my granddaughter really liked the card and my grandson favored the puzzle. So they were each happy with my choices.

Usually, we play a few of their games, too. Each of the kids gets to choose a game and we complete at least one round before we move to the next one. Of course, whoever gets the game out has to pick up all the pieces and put the box away.

EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS
Educational toys are also among my favorites. I shop the local garage sales to find something they might like. If the seller’s kids happen to be around, they are usually brutally honest about whether the toys they offer were fun or not. The other tell-tell clue is the condition of the toy: if it is still in pristine condition, then likely no one found it fun. For this trip, I had two sets of age-appropriate flash cards held together by a pin on one corner. They look like fun, but we ran out of time this trip, so back they go into my Bag of Tricks until next time.

Now that both of the grandkids are in grade school, I expect we might have some homework to do from time to time as well. And that’s just fine. I love to know what they are doing and what they are studying.

FOOD
What Grandma doesn’t bring something good to eat? I always toss in some small snacks, such as cookies, cheese crackers, or candy. In addition, I bring along fruits and vegetables they may not be familiar with. This time, it was Honey Crisp apples, miniature sweet peppers in red, yellow and orange, and fresh raisin-pecan baguettes from our local farmer’s market. Surprisingly, the six-year-old loves fruits and vegetables; the seven-year-old, not so much.

If we will be eating together during our visit, I generally try to ensure we have something nutritious but fun. In this case, we had smoked sausage, which I cut into thin coin-shaped pieces and browned in a skillet. Not knowing how much they’d eat, I prepared about half the package and wrapped the rest to refrigerate for another meal.

At dinner, each of the kids wanted seven (not six, not eight, but seven) 'pennies,' so that’s what they got, along with their choice of rice or macaroni and cheese, with various vegetables. Thank Goodness for leftovers! For whatever reason, they thought the food was really yummy and asked for seconds. Sure, no problem! I gave each of them four more pieces while I started heating up the rest of the package. The new batch was barely warmed up before they were clamoring for more. Perfect timing!

Maybe that meal doesn’t sound very special for you, but it was for us. At times, dinner can be rather contentious, with each of the kids wanting something different that isn’t readily available. So it was a real treat that they both ate well and liked what Grandma fixed for them. Of course, it was a huge help that Mommy & Daddy had the kitchen nicely stocked, too. Good planning, good prep, and good execution. Now that’s the way it should be!

Here’s your challenge: How are YOU building memories with your grandchildren?

Before you know it, they’ll be grown and gone, so start now and have fun WITH them!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ethical Wills – The Perfect Gift to Your Family


When you write an Ethical Will, you create not one, but several priceless gifts.

First Gift:
One gift you’ll be giving to current and future generations is a piece of your heritage, consisting of all your family stories, customs, and traditions. The more your descendents known about their roots, the better they will understand themselves and you.

Second Gift:
Another gift is a piece of yourself, by taking the time and making the effort to keep precious stories from being lost. Your heritage is a priceless heirloom to leave for your family and friends. Besides being informative, and perhaps entertaining, you are preserving the essence of your accumulated history.

Third Gift:
A third gift is for yourself. Learning more information about your family gives you a better opportunity to know and appreciate who you are. The accumulation of that knowledge may be the most precious gift of all.

As we consider what information to include in your ethical will, keep the following items in mind:
• Thoughts from the past
o Personal history
o Family stories
o Lessons learned
o Regrets

• Thoughts from the present
o Personal values and beliefs
o Expressions of love
o Gratitude
o Giving and receiving forgiveness

• Thoughts for the future
o Hopes for you and your loved ones
o Philanthropy and service
o Requests
o Advice

Monday, August 29, 2011

Scan and Digitize Your Books for $1 Each


Sometimes we find something from another website or blog that is just too good to not share with everyone. Here is an article that applies precisely. This could be a major benefit for anyone who is planning to downsize books, photos, etc. My thanks to Dick Eastman for allowing me to pass his article on to you.

The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at http://www.eogn.com.

1DollarScan Newsletter reader "Stony" Stonebraker wrote to tell of a new scanning service that is available. I read about the new service and became enthused. I write about a lot of services and products in this newsletter, but this is one I think I will use frequently!

I have been scanning genealogy books in preparation for "downsizing" someday. As I move closer to retirement, I realize that I will someday move to smaller living quarters without room for all the books and magazines I have accumulated. I won't have room for the required bookshelves. The answer seems obvious: digitize them! Thousands of books can be stored in a very small computer or in a tablet computer or even a flash drive.

The problem is that my progress to date has been slow. Scanning a book is a tedious process, and I haven't completed the scanning of very many books. Now a new online service promises to do the job for me at a modest price: one dollar per 100-page book. The same service will also scan documents, photographs, business cards, and even the old greeting cards from relatives I have been saving all these years.

1DollarScan is the U.S. division of a company called Bookscan that has been in business for a few years and now does several million dollars of business per year in Japan.

Anyone can use 1DollarScan by filling out an online order form and then shipping the books or other materials to 1DollarScan's offices in San Jose, California. The company scans them and converts them into PDF files and also performs OCR (optical character recognition) to create a text layer behind the images to make the text searchable and selectable. The PDF files and text files can be sent to the customer by download or on DVD disks. The PDF files can be read on:

Any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer
Apple iPad, iPad2, iPhone3G, iPhone3GS, iPhone4, iPod touch
HTC Desire, HTC DesireHD, Xperia
GALAXY S, GALAXY Tab
Amazon Kindle3 (coming soon)
SONY Reader PRS-650 (coming soon)
Barnes & Noble Nook (coming soon)
All Android phones, All Android Tabs
And probably all future computers and ebook readers as well

PDF is a standard that probably will be around for many years. When a better format becomes widely available, conversion programs undoubtedly will be available to easily convert the PDF files to whatever format becomes popular in the future.

After the materials are scanned and the electronic images are returned to the customer, the original paper documents may either be returned (the customer pays the shipping charges) or sent to a recycling service to be shredded and reborn as recycled paper. Obviously, none of us will be sending family heirloom photos to be recycled! However, this is a great method of recycling all the less-valuable books and magazines I have accumulated over the years. I bet I have 200 pounds of them and I certainly can't keep them all when I "downsize my living space."

Once the materials have been scanned and the electronic files sent, the customer manages all future storage as he or she sees fit. In my case, I will make multiple backups and will make sure the backups are stored in several different locations for safe keeping. I will use the L.O.C.K.S.S. method (Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe.) Luckily, this is easy to do and the online storage expenses are far cheaper than paying for a larger home to store all the physical books.

Prices for the scanning service seem reasonable:

Books: $1 for 100 pages (so scanning a 300-page book will cost $3)
Documents: $1 for 10 pages
Business cards: $1 for 10 cards
Photographs: $1 for 10 photos
Greeting cards: $1 per card

1DollarScan promises that future services will include saving all scanned materials directly to a shared Dropbox folder with no CD or DVD disks required. 1DollarScan will scan the books, perform the OCR text conversion, and the customer will receive electronic copies within minutes.

The company is also promising a future service of shipments directly from Amazon.com. You will be able to buy a book on Amazon.com and specify it be shipped directly to 1DollarScan. The company will then scan the book, send the electronic version to you, and dispose of the paper copy as you specify.

I'd suggest this is a great service for genealogists and for many others as well. I won't use it for scanning everything I plan to digitize, but I do hope to send most of the "tedious" scanning to 1DollarScan. I still plan to scan my fragile materials and valuable items myself.

You can learn more about 1DollarScan's services at http://1dollarscan.com.

My thanks to newsletter reader "Stony" Stonebraker for telling me about 1DollarScan.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Never Too Old to Learn

This is my guest post on 08/10/11 from www.simplemarriage.net. Check them out for more great ideas.



School is for everyone!

Kids are starting to gear up for a new school year. Stores have special sales on school supplies, book bags, clothing, shoes, and everything else students need.

This is also the time of year to start planning your own education. Regardless of your age, learning something new keeps your mind active, which goes a long way to keep you from growing old. Never subscribe to that old adage – you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

Easier to Learn
In fact, getting older makes it easier in some ways to discover new activities. For example, retirees have several advantages over younger students. They have more time available, more interest in learning for the sake of learning, and have less pressure to get good grades. They can actually learn just for the fun of it. Have you always had an interest in geology or astronomy? Then this may be your chance to finally study it.

Financial Breaks
Another benefit older students may find is financial. Senior citizens can often audit classes for free, or qualify for reduced fees and tuition, at some four-year universities and community colleges. More than twenty states offer senior discounts, so check out the opportunities in your state at www.fastweb.com.

Government Assistance
Students of any age may be able to claim one of these three benefits: 1) the Lifetime Learning tax credit for up to $2,000 a year, 2) the American Opportunity credit for up to $2,500 a year, or 3) deductions for up to $4,000 a year. Make sure you check out the requirements first. You can learn more at www.TaxBenefitsForEducation.info, which is the IRS’s Tax Benefits for Education Information Center.

Scholarships
For anyone needing more assistance with tuition, there are scholarships aimed at returning adults and non-traditional students. In addition to the Fastweb site above, check your local institutions, as well as www.scholarships.com.

Are you interested in whale watching, archeology, or the Galapagos Islands? Two organizations support some 500 Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLI) nationwide for short-term intensive study. Check out Elderhostel (renamed as www.roadscholar.org) and Osher (www.osher.net). They offer something for almost everyone.

Those Who Can, Teach
Another possibility to study economically is to trade your expertise for what you want to learn. For example, if you excelled in the trades, such as electrical wiring, investigate teaching a class on it in exchange for a class in photography. Many schools have limited budgets to hire instructors, but may be more than willing to work out an arrangement. Be creative in your suggestions and you just might find the ideal arrangement.

Conferences
Many organizations open their conferences to the public, in addition to their members. For example, the Association of Personal Historians (APH) is holding their annual conference in Las Vegas in October, details at www.personalhistorians.org. It is a wonderful way for anyone to learn more about preserving their family stories. Check out other offerings on the internet, at your local library, or in trade magazines.

Ask Others
When you notice someone doing something out of the ordinary, either in person or in the newspaper, ask them how they learned it or discovered it. People enjoy talking about their hobbies and you may find both a new activity and a new friend with whom to share it. You can also find information at your library, bookstore, craft or hobby stores, and on the internet. There is a wealth of knowledge available when you start researching an area.

Other Opportunities to Learn
Many Senior Centers schedule group events for people to play cards, games, chess, crafts, book clubs, etc. Find one or two you like and participate. If you don’t find a group that shares your passion for cribbage, start your own. You can post a notice on a bulletin board, local newspaper, or community calendar.

Watch for the new catalogs arriving from your community college, continuing education provider, park district, and neighborhood associations. If you don’t find anything of interest, call them to ask for future classes on topics of your choice. You’ll never know how they’ll respond if you don’t ask.

What have you always wanted to learn, but never tackled? Discover a whole new world of exciting things to learn, both in school and out. But the important thing is to start today!

Never Too Old to Learn is a post from: Simple Marriage

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Writing Guidelines for Family Stories & Ethical Wills

Whether you are writing your family stories or your ethical will, sometimes it is hard to get started. Here's something that might help when you are stuck.

Do you remember when you made a toy house with wooden building blocks? If so, then you know you start with the floor, then the walls and then the roof. Building a biography or autobiography is kind of the same. You just start with a few simple writing guidelines and paragraph structure to create the story.

Every writer uses roughly the same steps. Sometimes you may be able to combine steps together. But stories will make more sense if you generally follow these basic writing guidelines.

1. Brainstorming – write down a bunch of ideas.
• Don’t judge if ideas are good or bad, just write them.
• Get more ideas by talking to other people.
• One idea leads to another until you get an idea you like.
2. Rough Draft – get your ideas down on paper.
• Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation.
• Write down your ideas as fast as you can.
• If one thought takes you in another direction, go with it.
3. Revisions – make the story flow.
• Make sure each paragraph has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
• Does the first paragraph make a nice lead into the rest of the story?
• Are the paragraphs in sequence?
• Is it interesting? Does it make sense to the reader?
4. Editing – fine-tune the story.
• Clean up any grammar, spelling and punctuation problems.
• Add some pictures or your own drawings, if you like.
• Read the story to someone else to get more ideas.
5. Publishing – print a copy of your story.
• Print by computer or write it neatly by hand.
• Read it to yourself or to a few people.
• Listen to any feedback.

Repeat any or all of the above steps until you like the story.

When you first start writing your family stories, using the above steps in order will help you stay on track. If you find one of the steps too difficult, then think about going back a step to revise what you have done so far.

At some point when you write a story, you may be able to start with brainstorming and move right through each of the first four steps. Almost all writers need to revise their work until they get it just right. It takes some hard work to make your story as good as you can, but having a story people want to read makes it all worthwhile.

The important thing is that you can revise, edit, modify and perfect anything you write. After some time, you may want to pick up the thread of a given story and use it in other ways and other places. As the writer, you always have those options. The story belongs to you to discard or resurrect as you see fit.

Have fun writing all your wonderful stories! Which are your favorites?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Teleclass Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Teleclass Wednesday, July 6 at 8 PM ET.

TOPIC: Why Write an Ethical Will?

Dial-In: 712-432-0900
Access: 197851#

Find PEACE OF MIND -
leave a PIECE OF YOUR MIND in a Legacy Letter!


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Find Peace – Leave a Piece of Your Mind in a Legacy Letter

Practical Ethical Wills


An Ethical Will, or a Legacy Letter, is a simple way to share what is important to you with your family and friends. It can also help you find peace of mind by leaving behind a piece of your mind. In fact, it can be a lovely spiritual gift for your loved ones to remember you now and years from now.

If you knew ahead of time when your life was going to end, what words of wisdom and comfort would you want to leave for your family? You may have a Last Will and Testament for the legal allocation of your possessions, as well as a Living Will with instructions for handling medical concerns, but an Ethical Will gives your family a better understanding of who you are, what is important to you, and what you hope to pass on to them.

Although your Ethical Will is non-legal and non-financial, its value is priceless!

Think about what you wish you knew about your parents, grandparents, and other ancestors. For example, why did your family uproot their lives to emigrate from one area of the country to another, like the pioneers who endured hardships to settle the West? You can share their experiences, and your own, with your descendants and friends.

Many people think about writing an Ethical Will when they are nearing the end of their life. In reality, such wills should ideally be an ongoing practice. If there are any unresolved issues in your life, or situations where you need to forgive or be forgiven, a legacy letter is the perfect opportunity to reach a resolution.

Consider starting an Ethical Will as soon as possible, regardless of your age. Update it regularly prior to or after major milestones, such as graduations, marriage and divorce, births and deaths, personal achievements, and world events. Reviewing each version can show how much you have changed and grown over the years.

Life is too short and too precious to miss the opportunity to leave a legacy letter to your family. Start now!

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Become a Writer


From time to time, people ask how I got started writing, especially if they also want to write. Let me give you some background on myself. I got laid off from IBM several years ago and decided to take an early retirement rather than another job in Corporate America. I've always done a lot of writing, both for work (documentation, manuals, user guides) & personal (journals, letters, stories, family stories), so it seemed like a good time to see if I could actually BE a writer.

I took some classes at the University of Chicago in Creative Writing & Memoir Writing, then a Success Team from Barbara Sher. I also joined the Association of Personal Historians (APH), which I recommend highly. For the last four years, I’ve been writing life stories for clients, in addition to my own family stories and my book, and giving writing workshops at schools and organizations.

It took me over a year to write my book in conjunction with the year-long WriteSpeak program with Barbara Sher. I self-published my book, Granny’s Guide to Fun & Fabulous Family Stories, so I could use it for my workshops. With traditional publishers, it can take two years or more from the time you sign a contract until you have the book in your hands. I couldn’t wait that long for my purposes.

It may help to take some writing classes to get started, but it’s not absolutely necessary. The important thing is to start writing. Here are some suggestions:
• Get yourself a notebook to use as a writing journal and jot down ideas, like something vivid that you remember from your 14th birthday, for example. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling or anything, just write a little every day.

• Read writing magazines, such as Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers or The Writer. HINT: When you subscribe to any of them, you’ll start to FEEL like a writer.

• Read all the books you can get your hands on, especially the ones related to your own field of interest. Pay attention to how the author develops the story, regardless of whether it is fiction or non-fiction. What do you like or not like about the writing?

• Read blogs (web logs) related to your interests and consider starting your own blog at a free site like www.blogspot.com, or on your website, such as mine at www.bethlamie.com/blog. Write about what you know and what you’d like to know.

• Write something every day. Get into the habit of making notes about topics that interest you and plan future articles, blogs, stories, etc.

Most of all, just write!

What do YOU want to write about? I’d love to hear about it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Is an Ethical Will?

Teleclass today at 2 PM ET.

Dial-In: 712-432-0900
Access: 197851#


Tuesday, June 21, 2 PM ET
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will?


An Ethical Will IS:
- A legacy of love and a spiritual gift
- A chance for your family (and YOU) to understand who you are
- A way to share what is important to you
- A means to pass on your hopes & dreams

An Ethical Will IS NOT:
- A legal document
- A financial document
- A binding document


Ready to start writing an Ethical Will?

What are your thoughts and concerns about them?

We love to get your input and feedback!

Comment here or contact Beth@bethlamie.com

Monday, June 20, 2011

Revised Teleclass Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Welcome! Join us for a teleclass on Ethical Wills
WHY? Two great reasons:
1) You can learn about FREE and easy ways to leave a legacy letter or Ethical Will for your loved ones.
2) Your input will help me fine-tune material for my new book, Ethical Wills the Easy Way.

Dial-In: 712-432-0900
Access: 197851#


Tuesday, June 21, 2 PM ET
TOPIC: What Is an Ethical Will?

Calls last 45 minutes, with time for questions at the end.
Your participation is welcome.

If you cannot attend the live call, a recording will be available later.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Teleclass Tuesday, June 21, 2011



Welcome! Join us for a teleclass on Ethical Wills

Dial-In: 712-432-0900
Access: 197851#


Tuesday, June 21, 2 PM ET
TOPIC: Ethical Will vs. Last Will vs. Living Will

Calls last 45 to 60 minutes & your participation is welcome.

If you cannot attend the live call, a recording will be available later.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ethical Wills - Will It or Won’t It?

An Ethical Will is like a love letter to your family. You may already have a Last Will and a Living Will, so why on earth do you need an Ethical Will?

There are two excellent reasons for creating an Ethical Will: 1) it makes a priceless keepsake for your loved ones and 2) it is an excellent opportunity for you to consider the life you have led and have yet to lead.

A Last Will addresses your assets and how you want them to be distributed to your family, friends, or favorite charities. If you don’t happen to have a will at your death, the state where you reside will determine who inherits your worldly goods. I can’t speak for others, but I have no desire to let the government dole out my hard-earned money and property.

TIP: If you don’t have a Last Will, it’s not too late to create one. See an attorney at your earliest convenience.

A Living Will contains your health care directives. If you cannot make the decisions for your own care, such as after an accident, a heart attack, or a stroke, this document explains who can make those decisions for you. No one likes to think about becoming incapacitated, but worse yet would be for others to not know your wishes about using extraordinary measures to keep you alive.

TIP: If you don’t have a Living Will, it’s time to create one. See an attorney at your earliest convenience. An alternative: use the standard forms available at many hospitals and health care providers. In fact, it has become common practice for hospitals to encourage patients to create a Living Will before operations or certain procedures. Good advice!

An Ethical Will enables you to share personal information with your loved ones. It includes some of your history, such as where your ancestors came from, how they ended up in this city or even this country, what you remember best about them, and what you want future generations to understand about their heritage.

Your present-day history can also be an important part of your Ethical Will. Where did you come from, where have you been, and where do you intend to go from here? All these questions help you consider what has led to the development of you as a person. This is such a great opportunity to share that information with your loved ones.

Ethical Wills also contain information about the life lessons you have learned, your growth from any losses or failures, and your accomplishments. By describing your life in these terms, your heirs can benefit from the precious advice you can bequeath to them.

My favorite part of an Ethical Will happens to be the personal values and beliefs that we each have. Looking at them in depth allows you to figure out not only who you are, but who you want to become. That discovery is significant for both you and your loved ones.

The last portion of an Ethical Will contains your hopes and dreams for yourself, your family and friends, and even for the world at large. When you examine those hopes, you can extend your universe beyond yourself to benefit others. For example, you may rediscover an early ambition as a young adult to save the world; now is the time to examine ways to continue that dream, perhaps by charitable works or contributions to worthwhile causes.

However you create your own Ethical Will, be assured that your family, friends, and other loved ones will appreciate your sharing your life with them. Having such a personal keepsake from you is a priceless gift.

When are you going to start your own Ethical Will? It’s never too late, you know!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Values Over Valuables - What Is Your Legacy?

This is my guest post today from www.simplemarriage.net.

Which do you think people value more: a financial or non-financial inheritance? Or, to put it another way, if you lost a loved one, what legacy would you want to have from them?

The statistics may surprise you. A few years ago, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America conducted a survey of over 2600 baby boomers and elders.

According to the survey, participants felt a non-financial legacy was 10 times more important than money and other assets. Think about that; the response overwhelmingly favored a personal heritage over worldly goods, values over valuables.

77% of boomers and elders personally felt values and life experiences were very important parts of an inheritance. How exciting to realize that virtually every single person has the ability to leave a meaningful heritage for their loved ones!

Which types of values are the most important to leave as your legacy? They include your personal values, ethics, religion, memories, heritage, and family stories. Not coincidentally, these values are all elements of an Ethical Will.

While an Ethical Will is non-legal and non-financial, to your family it is priceless.

Leaving a legacy your family will treasure can be as simple as writing them a love letter or capturing your words in an audio or video recording. Whatever you decide to do, here are some of the topics you can include:

• Your History – Past and Present
Remember all the great stories you used to hear when you were a kid? Some of them might have been fantasies, like bedtime stories, but many of them were probably true. For me, the best stories came from favorite family members and friends. I recall everyone sitting around the kitchen table while Grandpa talked about farming, or Uncle Morris told a tall tale about raising pigs. I was fascinated, hanging on their every word. Those are among the stories I want to pass down to my young grandchildren and even to future generations.


Have you started a genealogy or family tree? I love to visualize a bare oak tree with the roots exposed as in this diagram. That forms the heritage and structure of a family, which includes all the dates, places, and names. Now consider all your family stories – those are what flesh out the tree, including the leaves and blossoms that make it interesting. If your family is like mine, those stories flesh out all the fruits and nuts of a family, too. They are the quirky, personal stories that everyone loves to hear.

• Life Lessons and Achievements
Think about your own life. Everyone experiences and responds differently to life lessons. That is why they are such an important element of your Ethical Will. What have you learned during your life, when, and from whom? Your life lessons often shape who you are and who you become.

What have been your proudest accomplishments and why? What can your descendants learn from your successes and missteps? Which achievements by your family have made you proud? How does having confidence in yourself lead you to more successes?

Think about the wisdom you can bequeath to your family. Flesh out your advice with stories and examples. What advice do you want your friends and family to remember? How can you help them in some way?

• Personal Values and Beliefs
Your personal values are unique to you, and they may vary from time to time. Every person responds differently to the influences in their lives and what life dishes out to them. Examining your own personal values allows you to figure out not only who you are, but who you want to become.

Your values are determined by your heart, your family, your friends, your religion, and your community. They may be as ingrained in you as DNA. Consider which personal values and beliefs you want to include in your Ethical Will.

• Hopes for the Future
Voice your hopes for the future, for you, your family, your community, and your world. Which hopes and dreams are most important to you for your vision of the future? What do you look forward to sharing with those you love?

As you start working on your Legacy of Love, relish the thought that your values are more important than any valuables you may leave behind.

To whom do you plan to write your first Ethical Will?