Live Daily with Visual Reminders

WP_20140626_16_52_31_Pro20140904_174623Family memories aren’t all to be stored away, only to be taken out and enjoyed once in a while. Keep some in your home and live with them every day.

Did your mother or grandmother sew, knit, or crochet? Why not put her tools (scissors, thimble, crochet hook) in a collage, or attach them to a mat and frame them? Is there a place in your home where Grandpa’s fishing tackle would be the right touch, either in his tackle box or in a collage? I have two framed pieces of needlework on my walls. One was a small piece embroidered by my mother. The other is the end from a worn-out dresser scarf that belonged to my grandmother. I’ve attached notes to both telling whose they were.

My sister-in-law has a bucket of canes in a corner of her home. Members of her family used those canes years ago, and the display might come in handy if someone needs a cane today.

My dad kept his match box on the wall by the kitchen door. It is a little green metal box advertising a business in the small town where he grew up. After Dad’s death, my daughter asked for the box. It hangs near her kitchen sink, where she sees it daily as a reminder of her grandpa.

Our daughter-in-law’s grandfather worked jigsaw puzzles and hung the finished pieces on the walls in their stairwell. Now every time any of the family goes down the basement stairs they see his puzzles.

A cherished treasure in my living room is my mother’s old piano stool. I don’t have the piano, but my son-in-law refinished the broken stool.

My husband’s hobby was woodworking, and all our family have pieces of his fine craftsmanship in our homes. He no longer does the work, but his tools aren’t going on the auction block. Our children and grandchildren are taking them. We decided to start distributing the tools while my husband could still see where they were going. I made a list of the saws, sanders, and the other bigger pieces and wrote down what each of the kids said they would like. Most listed three or four choices, so we’ve been able to make sure everyone got something they wanted. Some don’t have use for the larger equipment but can still take smaller pieces (everybody needs a hammer or screwdriver sometimes).

One grandson has tools from both his grandfathers, and he has labeled them so he will remember which grandpa used each tool. Another grandson used scraps of wood, both from his dad’s shop and from my husband’s shop, and made a beautiful coffee table.

Even the workbenches from my husband’s shop are finding new homes with our family. The grandson who is labeling his tools had a place in his shop the exact size of one of the workbenches—it fit right in next to a cabinet from his other grandparents. He has also taken some of my husband’s unused lumber and made shelves.

One of our daughters wanted a workbench, too. Her original plan was to use it in her basement. Her plan changed, though, and after she has put a nice coat of finish on the bench it will go into her living room, with her dad’s vice still hanging on one end. A workbench wouldn’t be right in everyone’s living room, but hers has a rustic appearance and the bench will work.

What memory-makers do you have stored away in a closet, an old trunk, or in the garage waiting to be brought out into the open and enjoyed every day?

Next month: Our family’s memory boxes






Sharing the Memories

Bud and LeAnn in Connecticut June 2014 (2)Sharing Family Memories


After you have made the effort to save those special memories, be sure to share them with your family—not only children and grandchildren, but remember the nieces and nephews, too.

For me, the tedious task comes after getting family stories recorded on my tape recorder. That’s when I sit down to transcribe the notes into written form. I start by typing in the date and location. It’s best to do this soon after making the recording while you’re still sure who all the speakers are.

I transcribe the recorded notes exactly. Later I can edit them to take out the hmm’s and ah’s or anything else that’s irrelevant. I’ve even written up stories as nonfiction articles and submitted them for publication, such as the one about my grandfather and his brother who were separated a small boys. It took them 65 years to find each other again. They were from Kansas. After a Kansas paper used that story I gave published copies to the family.

In this day of electronics, many people prefer to get away from paper copies. Several options are possible. If you have transcribed the notes from a tape and saved them on your computer, you can also save them to a CD or other external drive. Then anyone with a computer can have a copy. Another way is to send them as e-mail attachments to all e-mail users in your family.

This past Christmas I wanted to give our children and grandchildren the recordings of their deceased grandparents—I wanted them to be able to hear those voices rather than just reading the words. But alas, few people now have tape recorders/players. I went online and found a wonderful little device to convert my audio tapes to audio CD or MP3. I put my audio tape in the converter, plugged it into the USB port on my computer, and recorded on my computer. Once they were on my computer, I put an ordinary blank CD in the drive and completed the transfer. The conversion isn’t difficult, but I am not technically inclined and the company answered my questions by e-mail. They even scheduled a time to call and talk me through the process.

The device is available at for $59.95 (free shipping). I felt it was worth the price for the number of CDs I wanted to make, both now and in the future. The company also has converters for film, photos, vinyl records, and others—all useful for sharing the memories.

Next month: Other types of memories to share

Where to Find the Memories



No other family is exactly like yours. Search out those memories that are unique to you and yours and preserve them. As I’ve said before, my favorite method is to use the tape recorder. I find that much easier than trying to write down all that’s said, and I can refer back to the tape later to be sure I have it right. Also, it’s great to have your loved one’s voices preserved.

Here are four tips for where—and how—to get good recordings:

  1. Always start by speaking the date into the recorder. Also, identify who is speaking. Afterwards, label the tape so you can tell at a glance who you’ve recorded.
  2. Carry a tape recorder in the car and share tidbits of your life as you travel. My husband and I have done that and told little details of our childhood and school days. The only drawback is the road noise the recorder picks up. However, some programs can filter out at least part of the unwanted noise later.
  3. Family reunions or any family get-togethers are good for story-telling. Be straightforward and ask for stories. That works better than trying to be sneaky with a hidden tape recorder. One story brings back memories of another, and we can usually get several good ones. At one reunion, my cousin asked our uncle to tell how he broke his leg when he was young. His voice was no longer strong, and he wasn’t sure it would hold up well enough for him to tell of that childhood accident. But he did, and we have the story as only he could have told it.
  4. For several years we have had annual campouts with my husband’s siblings. We sit around the campfire, I turn on the tape recorder, and the stories begin. Honestly, I don’t know how my in-laws survived the escapades of those five kids! Sometimes the siblings don’t agree on how the incidents occurred, and that just adds to the interest. They manage to work in some good stories about their parents, too—like the time my mother-in-law threw the dishwater out the door. That dirty water went straight up and came down on her head.
  5. Interviews are good sources, too. When my daughter-in-law had to interview senior citizens for a college class, she asked my dad to tell about life in the 1930s.

Next month: Ideas for sharing the memories you’ve collected.

Keep Family Memories Alive–Record Them

Bud and LeAnn 5-10-14 at Tucker's college graduation


My favorite way to preserve family memories is to tape them on the tape recorder. Then you’ll not only have intriguing bits of history preserved, but you’ll have voice recordings of your family members. Here are a few suggestions gleaned from my experience

Put a blank tape in the recorder. Basic, of course, and you wouldn’t think it possible to forget such an elementary first step. And just as important—be sure to press the record button before you start. (Ask me how I know that—I told you I learned these things from experience). The first time I did an interview as a writer, I got home with a blank tape because the record button hadn’t been fully depressed.

After turning on the machine, record the date and the names of those whose voices will be heard on the tape. Include your own name, because sometime in the future others may listen to the tape and not recognize the voices. With the recorder running, ask if it’s all right to tape this conversation.

Get started by asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer. For example, one Sunday evening I sat in my dad’s living room, turned on my tape recorder, and said, “Tell me about the tractors you’ve had.” My farmer dad started with the first tractor he’d used as a boy and gave a history of the ones he’d used throughout his lifetime. Later, I typed up that conversation and gave copies to his grandchildren for Christmas. His grandsons didn’t wait until they got home to read about Grandpa’s tractors—they started reading immediately.n

Even if your relative’s memory is failing and you aren’t sure you’ll get any good stories, don’t be afraid to try. We asked my mother-in-law to tell us about traveling by covered wagon when she was a small child. We recorded her stories, even though we felt they probably weren’t very accurate. A few years later we talked to her brother (with the tape recorder turned on), and he verified what Mom had told us.


Next time I’ll offer some ideas about where to find stories unique to your family.


What I Write Blog Tour

I was invited to join this writing blog tour by a good friend, Shirley Corder. Shirley writes from South Africa, where she lives with her retired-minister husband. She writes and blogs about her cancer experience to help others going through the same thing. Her current work-in-progress is a study of many of the not-so-well-known women of the Bible. Follow Shirley at

LeAnn with Old Shack Mystery and Secret Passage Mystery

What am I working on?
I have just started working on book #6 in my Century Farm juvenile mystery series. OakTara has published the first four books in the series: Old Shack Mystery, Secret Passage Mystery, Hidden Gold Mystery, and Secret Code Mystery. Book #5, Secret Wall Mystery, will come out soon with OakTara. My new work-in-progress is Abandoned Schoolhouse Mystery, which has been requested by students in the schools I have visited. It will feature an old country schoolhouse from the mid-1800s. Clues in the abandoned school and adjoining cemetery will send 12 year-old sleuths Jo and Maggie Martin on an adventure tha

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The main characters in my stories are 12 year-old girls, which doesn’t deter boys from reading the mysteries. The characters are Christians, and prayer and discussion of scripture is woven into the plot in such a natural way that the books are acceptable in public schools.


Why do I write what I do?

As a mother, grandmother, and a retired teacher, I have spent practically my entire life teaching children at home, in school, and in church. I especially enjoy going into classrooms now to talk to children about writing. Many of the ideas in my books are child-generated. When I visit the schools and talk about the book I am currently writing, the students bubble over with ideas. I takes notes, and later when I return to that classroom with a published book I can show the students how I’ve used suggestions from their class. It isn’t unusual to hear one say, “That’s my idea!” Maybe it was, but more likely I have combined the contributions of several.


When one class of fifth-graders received an assignment to write a letter to their favorite author, I was the happy recipient of many letters. I answered each student a personal reply. One of my favorites asked, “How many studios do you have?” She may have been let down to learn I sit in in my recliner in our living room and balance my laptop on my lap. Not very glamorous to a child who was expecting multiple studios!


How does my writing process work?

I start with a basic idea and begin jotting down things that might fit. The plot might come from a newspaper clipping or a suggestion from students (or in some cases, from their teachers). With a few plot scenes in mind, I begin searching the Internet for information. The clues in my mysteries all lead to discoveries about the Civil War and slavery, so my information must be accurate for the 1800s. After I finish each chapter, I sent it to my online (KCW mentoring critique group. I save all the critiques and after completing the book, I rewrite and send the chapters to KCW again before doing my final rewrite.

t focuses on a slave bill-of-sale, a small size Confederate uniform, and the tombstones of two 13 year-olds.


Continue this writing tour by following two of my friends on their blogs May 26.

purple door Barbara Hartzler

Barbara Hartzler is the debut author of The Nexis Secret, a paranormal teen novel about a girl with a supernatural power to see the unseen world of angels, coming soon from OakTara. A 2012 Genesis Semi Finalist in the Young Adult category, Barbara earned her Bachelor’s degree in Church Communication Arts from Central Bible College (now Evangel University) with an emphasis on drama and media. In college she won a National Religious Broadcasters/Focus on the Family essay scholarship and wrote and directed a successful one act play. She’s a born and raised Missouri native, an active member of ACFW, and blogs at barbarahartzler

Kathy Gronau for book

Kathy Manning Gronau is the Author of Eat Ice Cream for Supper—a story of my life with cancer, a guide for your journey.  In 2007 she lost her husband of forty-two years to colorectal cancer, and within a month was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now a survivor, she shares her experiences as a caregiver and patient.  Her many insights from a nursing and counseling background will help you navigate the medical world and learn how to communicate with others, whether it be the patient or caregiver
Kathy lives in the Midwest. She is an RN/Counselor and Hospice Nurse. She blogs on her website about the many issues related to cancer and caregiving and on a blog she shares with four other writers who share experiences on a variety of topics.
Kathy is also an experienced speaker and does workshops and presentations for cancer support groups, ladies groups and professionals in her field.  Kathy would love to hear from you.  Contact her at