Merry Christmas: Tell Me a Story

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This post is sponsored by StoryWorth.

There’s only six more days until Christmas. That means shipping deadlines for ordering photo books are over. It’s too late to get something framed. Adding personalization to a gift? Forget about it. Before you run out to buy a “filler” gift (toaster/candle/gift certificate) because you never could find that meaningful thing you were hoping to find for your parents or your grandparents, let me tell you my secret for the world’s most meaningful gift: Tell them you want to know their stories. Tell them you will help them record them. Tell them you value their past, their thoughts, the things they’ve experienced, and that you want your kids to know them too. Commit to preserving them…for everyone. Let me tell you more about StoryWorth.

This is my only surviving grandparent, my 87-year-old grandma, Loverna. She is a force of nature, a treasure of stories–hundreds of them–of joy and heartache and love and humor that have made her who she is. She is part of me. When she sends me an e-mail, it reads like a book–funny, well-worded, thought-provoking, a tiny scratch off the surface of what lies beneath…more stories. I want to know more. She laughs and says “I’m not a writer,” but oh, she is.

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I started an ambitious project with her last year. I wanted to record her stories–who she’s loved, what she’s learned, how she’s changed, what inspires her–I want to know it all. I don’t want to lose another grandparent someday, thinking “I never knew…”. I want to know who her best friend was growing up, the things her mother cooked, the most meaningful thing her father ever did for her, what teachers impacted who she is. I want to know how hard raising six kids in the 50s was, how her faith has changed over the years, what her favorite Christmas memories are. So we set up a time for me to call once a week. I would ask her questions about her life, and she would answer while I typed. I loved how it started, every Monday night at 7:00. With every word she spoke, I felt like I was unburying more treasure. But life got in the way, kids demanded me during the hour we set aside, I was postponing our chats, and soon our project fizzled. I felt awful about it because it was important to me. It is important to me.

And then I remembered the gift we gave my father-in-law for Father’s Day this year…a subscription to StoryWorth. Each week, StoryWorth sends your chosen storyteller a question. They answer the question with a story (they can write it back in the e-mail or call a number and record it), and their story is shared with the family members that you choose to receive it. At the end of one year of storytelling, their stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book and sent to you.

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This year, I’ve learned so much more about Brett’s family through his father’s StoryWorth stories. Sometimes his replies are succinct, and sometimes (my favorite), a question triggers a lot more, and beautiful writing and detailed memories pour out (“What was your mom like as a child?” was one I recall) from descriptions of the meals she used to cook to the time heater that looked like a “monstrous octopus” in the dirty basement of the old house they lived in. Storytellers can easily add corresponding photos to their stories as well that will be saved and printed in the book. It’s like writing a memoir, one story at a time, with a built-in editor who reminds you weekly to keep writing.

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StoryWorth offers customization as well. You can let them choose the questions that will be sent, or you can pop in at any time and see upcoming questions, rearrange the order or pick and choose what will be asked from their incredible selection of hundreds of meaningful questions.

The company was started by a new father who realized the importance of passing on his dad’s stories, and wanted to help others do the same. StoryWorth is wonderful to work with and committed to family and story preservation.

I sent my grandma her invite this week and added e-mails of aunts and uncles and cousins, so we can all be recipients of the gifts I know are in store. I hand-picked the first ten weeks’ questions, and I cannot wait for that first e-mail, alerting me “Loverna has shared a story.”

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So that’s my secret. You don’t have to go to a store, you don’t have to wrap it, but StoryWorth might possibly be the greatest gift you’ll give this year. The stories are there, hidden in your parents and grandparents–things you didn’t even know. They just need the invitation to share them and a little help doing so. “I want to hear your stories” is another way of saying “I love you,” you know.

To learn more about StoryWorth, you can also follow them on their social media channels:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram
Google+

“It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” -Khalil Gibran

(We are back from Chicago, and I am editing a lot of Christmas wonderland to share tomorrow. Stay tuned!)

Enjoying: December Love

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A wee bit of holiday love, wedged in this crazy week. We completed our round of holiday programs and performances for each kid, I did the final Christmas card family photo shoot for my friends this week, and I finally mailed out the last installment of our own cards, with a nice bulge of a writing bump on my right ring finger to show for all those addresses. We have just a few more “big fun” holiday things to enjoy before we slow down and huddle as a family for some quiet holiday love at home next week. I can’t wait. In the meantime, we are enjoying…

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Nella’s Winter Ballet Recital
She danced to “Marshmallow World” in a bun shellacked with three coats of glitter spray, and I totally felt like a dance mom passing bobby pins and cheek shimmer I brought to other moms backstage. But then I realized “Do you want to borrow my glitter spray?” is absolutely something I would say in the real world too, so no, not a dance mom.

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The pointed toe tap. Slays me every time.

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I loved this part of the recital…when all the little girls were supposed to join hands and walk around in a circle. Ivy and Nella grasped hands and then just got lost for a moment, frozen, hands intertwined in friendship and not a care in the world. Bye, girls! Ima just stand here another minute.

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Poppa gave her flowers after her performance, and sister was proud, proud, proud.

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A Real Tree
I had to have one this year because it “makes my apartment smell mossy.” But our big tree is artificial, so we hit the–what I call–“tree farm” because I like the way it sounds, but really just a tree tent on the side of the road, for an itty bitty Charlie Brown tree for our bedroom.

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But if you squint your eyes, you can totally imagine that these are fresh trees planted in a big field up north, and it’s ’bout to snow.

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Speaking of snow, I surprised the kids this morning. We’re skipping school today. And hopping on an airplane. A weekend of Christmas magic awaits…
Gotta go pack some mittens.

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Keep It Clean: A Love Story (and a Giveaway)

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This little love story post is sponsored by simplehuman.

Confession: I thought Brett wasn’t that in to me after our first date–which is, I guess, fine, but surprising considering I sensed so much chemistry. Whatever. There were more fish in the sea. It’s just that it took him two weeks to ask me out again even though we were talking on the phone and laughing at each other’s stories and asking questions about each other’s families. What I didn’t know at the time, though, was that Brett heard a bit of a “productive cough” on our phone conversation after our first date, and that two weeks is what he considered an appropriate amount of time for the cold germs he imagined I had to die off–lest he, GOD FORBID, be exposed to them. That’s right: Brett’s a Class 1 Germaphobe. 

“Oh yeah,” my friend who set us up finally informed me, “I forgot to tell you. He’s, like, super freaked out by germs.”

The rest of the story is no secret. We overcame that little hiccup, and he braved another date with Formerly Contaminated, and have been married 10 years now, a union that is astounding given his opposition to germs and my God-made-dirt-and-dirt-don’t-hurt approach to everything.  As I’ve revealed, I’m a wolf. Wolves eat Skittles they found on the floor and lick dropped pacifiers before putting them back in babies’ mouths. Wolves are immune to germs. Wolves are so loud and clumsy, germs run at the mere thought of us in their path.

A union of a germaphobe and pacifier-licker does, of course, come with its challenges. Like, say, he governs my comings and goings with repeated “Did you wash your hands?” requests. I, of course–despite the fact that he has trained me to religiously wash my hands after outings–like to taunt him with: “These hands just caressed the handle of a very dirty grocery cart, and if you ask me again if I washed my hands, I will rub them all over you.”

That’s the fun part, of course. His aversion to germs presents many opportunities for teasing, and our entire family has jumped aboard. When Brett hops in on my phone conversations with my sister to tease us about how long we’ve been talking, my sister always snaps back, “Hey Brett, why don’t you go wash your hands.” He laughs, of course, because humor is what fills the personality gaps between Wolf and—hmmm, what’s his animal representation? Paw-Licking Cat? Bacteria-Fighting Sucker Fish?

Here’s the other fun part.  I KNOW WHAT TO GET HIM FOR CHRISTMAS. Soap. And not any soap, but soap that comes in a beautiful dispenser that apportions cleansing foam without ever needing to be touched by hands that have patted raw chicken or felt up a grocery cart handle or cleaned the toilet after a little boy misjudged his potty aim.

I don’t need lingerie. This picture, my friends, is a tantalizing display of modern cleanliness and my husband’s dreams come true. I give you simplehuman’s new foam cartridge sensor pump–sleek design and touch-free so no germs or smudges are left behind. That’s hawt.

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For real though, he is all about this bass.

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And so are the kids. “It’s magic,” Brett told them.

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Refilling the pump is easy–just eject the old cartridge and click in a new one–no messy pouring. The pump is rechargeable–one charge lasts up to 3 months.  And there’s a wide range of soaps and scents from simplehuman hand and dish soap, to hand soap from other great brands like EO and ARIA by Antica Farmacista.

For the extra clean-conscious, I imagine choosing these scents is a bit like picking out what donuts go in our dozen for the rest of us.

Lookie there. A box of Krispy Kremes.

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(By the way, the Peppermint & Tea Tree is amazing.)

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This little love story ends well. Because Love Conquers All. Especially if you keep your hands clean.

To make love easier (and cleaner), simplehuman is giving away a foam cartridge sensor pump (and accompanying soaps) to a lucky follower. Check it out.

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Don’t think Brett hasn’t warned me numerous times that cold season is upon us. My hands are washed to rawness, folks. Because I try to speak his love language as best as I can. Don’t worry, though. I’m still a wolf.

*Note: This post was typed with clean hands on a sanitized keyboard.