I grew up in a home rich with family heritage. My mom loved genealogy and knew how to breathe life into dusty documents and color to faded black and white photos - my mom told me stories.
As a grown woman with five children of my own, I've tried to do the same. For years I did it through scrapbooking. But it didn't take long to realize that it wasn't my artistic skills my children really cared about. They never stopped on a page and said, "Mom, you matched that paper to my shirt - perfectly!" Nope. What they did say as they leaned across my lap, pointing at photos is, "Tell me the story!" "Tell me mom about the day I was born... Tell me mom about the day I cried when everyone sang me happy birthday... Tell me mom about my grandma and her garden..."
Don't worry if you haven't done it forever, just start today. The consistency and cumulative effect of one good question - just sharing one story a day, adds up.
(Photo credit: Anne Metcalf)
A few weeks before RootsTech, I was talking with my sisters about the RootsTech conference and once again, inviting them to attend with me. Going on seven years now, one has, two haven’t. But this time, one of the two surprised me - accepting the invitation, she said, “I’d really like to come and see what all the fuss is about.”
So what is all the fuss about? How does a GENEALOGY conference in Salt Lake City, Utah become a top five trending topic on Twitter? Because…. it’s about so much MORE than GENEALOGY!
As a mom, don’t you always wonder if they’re listening? “Son, look at me. Are you listening?” The birth of my first grandbaby gave me a moment when I heard whispered back, “Mom, I am. I always have.”
November 18th began as a normal enough day – but even before noon – it would prove to be anything but routine.
Haters are gonna hate, and there I was, unbeknownst to me, smack dab in the middle of “them.”
When I took the single seat a few rows back from the rope and just to the right of the camera/sound booth, I had no idea who I was sitting with. The day's opening session was about to begin, the theme: “The Natural Family.” I was looking forward to hearing the latest legal issues, research, social science and commentary on an incredibly important topic.
Grandma said goodbye too young. Through my 12-year old eyes, she'd lived a long life when I said goodbye to her. But old and young are relative. Now that I'm, well, not 12 anymore, I realize 67 was too young. Grandma was vigilant about taking care of her diabetes. I remember purses and pockets full of sugar free candies that tasted just as sweet to me as any candy I'd ever had. Probably because it was slipped to me by her soft hands. Occasionally, she would let me sip from her favorite sugar-free drink – Tab. I remember several times a day she would go to the refrigerator and take out her small bottle of insulin. She would roll it in her hands to warm it up. The little glass bottle would make a clicking noise as it rolled past the rings on her fingers. I loved that sound. It was the sound of Grandma taking care of herself. I still think of her when I roll something in my hands and hear that same clicking noise. Even though the disease made us say goodbye when grandma was much too young, my 12 years with her have provided me a lifetime of beautiful memories. I've lived knowing that young and old are relative, and in honor of my grandma, have tried to make the most of whatever years I have.
It seems fitting that if we have a celebration called Mother's Day, and one called Father's Day that we would have a special day for the ones who really started it all – Grandparent's Day.
This September 13th, to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa, how about finding out some of their stories.
Recently, my daughter was asked to do some public speaking. She wanted to share some thoughts of her grandma. It's interesting how answering a simple question like, “describe how grandma dressed,” brought up a host of other memories for her. She did a great job with her talk, but just as important, as a result, she took time to write and share her memories. Here's some of the story she shared:
“Picture with me my grandma’s closet. It was not like a normal closet, it was more like a room. Because it was in the top of the house, the ceiling slanted with the pitch of the roof and there were pockets and cubbies you could hide in as a little seven year old girl. However, this day it wasn’t the cubbies that attracted my cousin Chelsea and I. It was that this closet was full of my grandma’s beautiful things - she was feminine and beautiful; the kind of woman that wore pearls with jeans. In the back of the closet was a jewelry chest that was about as tall as our seven and nine year old selves. It had little drawers and in one of the drawers was tiny, differently shaped bottles of colored liquids, perfume samples. We were looking at them, touching them, trying to be so careful when we heard our grandma walk in. We placed them back in the drawer, not because we were so much scared that she was going to see us, because she never seemed to get mad at us, but more because we were embarrassed we’d been caught.
She smiled when she saw us and walked into the closet. She knelt down and took out two little perfumes, she told me “Oh Brookie, you have olive skin and a wise personality, this perfume will smell perfect on you”, and “Chelsea, you have a kind heart, and beautiful eyes, this smell will fit you.” She taught us to dab two spots on our wrist, and one on our neck and rub it together. I felt beautiful, like my grandma. Fast forward with me two years, I was now nine, and my grandma, only 58, had fought a hard and valiant fight with cancer. Her thick full blonde hair was gone, her beautiful feminine figure now frail and thin. It was time for all of us cousins to come into her hospital room and say goodbye. We sang to her Families Can Be Together Forever. I had been taught the words in primary and I knew them to be true. I had been taught by my parents how the Spirit felt, and I knew it was there. That moment, and my love for my grandma, has stayed with me and will linger forever - just like the sweet smell of her perfume.”
Anyone that story is shared with, friends, cousins, siblings, future children and grandchildren, will be able to know, just a little bit more, about Brooke's grandma because she told this story.
A name, photo, piece of memorabilia, or any heirloom item - will always be more meaningful when a story accompanies it. The best way to preserve memories of your grandparents - tell it to those you love.
Here's a few prompts to help get some of your own memories and stories started this Grandparent's Day:
1. Describe your grandparents home and memories of visiting/traveling to it.
2. Describe how your grandparents looked, what they wore, smells you remember, how they moved. Did they talk fast/loud, or quiet/slow?
3. What names of endearment did your grandparents use with you, each other, your parents?
4. Did you ever learn an important lesson with/from your grandma/grandpa? Tell about the circumstances.
This last Spring, I had a life-changing opportunity to visit the United Nations in New York City. The delegation of women I attended the Commission on the Status of Women conference with, were there to promote support for the traditional family. I experienced so many wonderful moments the week that I was there. But mostly, I seemed to constantly be asking myself, “what's a girl like me doing here?” It was big. It was overwhelming. In some ways, it was scary. But in every way, it was educational and enlightening. And I'm convinced, more than ever, that standing for the family is vital for a sustainable society.
Lately, I've had some opportunities to share some of those New York moments; and some of those presentations have been recorded. Following are links you are welcome to listen/download. Because of the nature of the subject, much of the time I have spoken in religious settings. So if you decide to listen to these recordings, it helps to understand my audience in these situations. I haven't turned down a single opportunity to talk about my experiences – and I won't. I will come share at a cottage meeting in a home, or speak to thousands, anything to help spread the word. So, if you hear something you appreciate in these recordings, you're welcome to share them as well.
Either way, I hope where ever you are, you find a way to stand up for the family in your corner of the world. For ideas on ways to do that, here's some groups I've really appreciated getting to know:
United Families International have been at the forefront of defending the family for over 15 years, soldiers on the front lines!
Big Ocean Women is a group of Maternal Feminists that inspire, stand and support the role of women and the families they love!
Some UPLIFTING News
Whose feeling the need for some good news? I am! After a few weeks filled with news about Ashley Madison, abortion videos, horrific live shots, and campaign season starting – I'm ready to spend some time immersed in something UPLIFTING! If you're with me – come with me!
Jeanette Herbert, Utah's First Lady, is holding a conference here in Utah, in just a few weeks – and YOU are invited. (although there is limited seating, so as soon as you read all the info, get registered ASAP). A conference called, UpLift Families Parenting Conference will be a fabulous night out for anyone interested in strengthening their family. Imagine sitting with your friends/spouse/new friends and enjoying a yummy dinner, watching a host of presenters talk about all things parenting and family. Short, uplifting snippets of presentations (think TedTalks) will play across the stage for a couple of hours while you enjoy a meal in a beautiful setting like Thanksgiving Point. You can see it, right.
And guess what... all of this for ONLY $25/per couple. Not per person. PER COUPLE. Ok, like hamburgers at Crown Burger will cost you that much, right. But even better, I've got a coupon code for you that will save you $5.00 (and when you use this code it will let the organizers know you're with me so we can be seated close to each other – AH!) Let's do it guys!
We love our families, we love date nights, we love inspiring messages! Let's go!
Here's all the details:
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Thanksgiving Point Show Barn, Lehi, Utah
Use Coupon Code: Storytelling2015
For more information about Uplift Families, click here
Little House on the Prairie... you know you cried, and couldn't stand Nellie, you adored Pa, wanted to make Ma proud and eventually fell in love with Almanzo. And mostly, you wanted to run through a flowery, hill-side field when your chores were done, just like Laura. No? Well, I did. Growing up, I was convinced I was a long-lost member of the Ingall's family. I really wanted to be a pioneer. Compound that desire with the fact that I grew up in Utah, where pioneers are pretty much king – and have a whole day to themselves to annually celebrate their achievements. July 24th is Pioneer Day in Utah – it's as big as the 4th of July. For some, it's bigger!
What's not to love of a people that accomplished this:
“The Mormons were one of the principal forces in the settlement of the West. Their main body opened southern Iowa, the Missouri frontier, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah. Samuel Brannan’s group of eastern Saints who sailed around the Horn in the ship Brooklyn, and the Mormon Battalion that marched 2,000 miles overland from Fort Leavenworth to San Diego, were secondary prongs of the Mormon movement; between them, they contributed to the opening of the Southwest and of California. Battalion members were at Coloma when gold gleamed up from the bedrock of Sutter’s millrace. ... Brigham Young’s colonizing Mormons, taking to wheels again after the briefest stay, radiated outward from the Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber Valleys and planted settlements that reached from Northern Arizona to the Lemhi River in Idaho, and from Fort Bridger in Wyoming to Genoa in Carson Valley ... , and in the Southwest down through St. George and Las Vegas to San Bernardino.”
But the feeling that I had missed out on something (by a century or more), changed for me when one day I heard the following:
“It is not enough to study or reenact the accomplishments of our pioneers. We need to identify the great, eternal principles they applied to achieve all they achieved for our benefit and then apply those principles to the challenges of our day. In that way we honor their pioneering efforts, and we also reaffirm our heritage and strengthen its capacity to bless our own posterity... We are all pioneers in doing so.”
I didn't miss out on anything! I. Am. A. Pioneer! And so are you!
Over the next week or so, I'll post some questions, that explore those principles of being a pioneer. Follow me on Instagram, use and explore the hashtag #IamAPioneer and join in sharing YOUR Pioneering stories. Use the questions to interview family members, and start some fun dinner-time chats with the ones you love. And if you don't have plans for the 24th of July – come to Utah and join the party!
Tamu Smith, from Sistas In Zion is used to taking a humorous approach to most things - she even tackles the very serious side of Genealogy in my interview with her.
At RootsTech 2015, FamilySearch's CEO, Dennis Brimhall and I had a chance to visit about family storytelling. Here's my interview with him.