Saturday, April 23, 2011

Notebook for Grandma

A few years ago I was thinking about my grandmother, who passed away when I was 15, and I was wishing that I had known her when I was an adult. I was very close to her, and she taught me a lot, but she died before I had the chance to really ask her questions about her life. What was it like to fly bomber planes in World War II as a member of the WASPS? How did you feel teaching in a one-room school house to boys older and taller than you? Why do you always carry a roll of 100 stamps in your pocket?

As a child, all you know is that your grandmother is kind, or quirky, or makes good cookies (or weird mac'n'cheese, as the case may be). As an adult, I would have known what questions to ask, and I would have cared about the answers.  

It made me sad.

It also inspired me to give one of the most presumptuous gifts of my life.



I bought a simple composition book, decorated it with some scrap paper, filled it with questions, and gave it to Jarrod's grandmother for Christmas. 



On the inside, I included these simple instructions and then a question on each page. 



When she opened the gift on Christmas, she smiled and thanked me and that was that.

Time went on, and I sort of forgot about the notebook, although when I did think of it I was a little embarrassed because I worried she might have thought it was silly. There were an awful lot of questions in that book.

Years passed, and I definitely thought the idea had bombed.

Then yesterday I received a treasure in the mail.


My little time capsule was back, and it was filled with riches.


She hand-wrote pages and pages of family history: stories about her childhood, her parents, growing up in the depression, stories about Jarrod's father... even stories about my husband from his childhood.

I sat down and read every word and was just thunderstruck at how much it meant to me that she took the time to answer every question I asked.



Creative Memories (the company that originally sucked me into scrapping) has a motto that is a bit cliche, but really sums up what scrapbooking has always been about for me:


Experiencing the past, enriching the present, and inspiring hope for the future.

This notebook accomplished all three in one shot, and I'm excited to send several more out to my mother, my aunts, other grandparents etc.

If you feel inspired to do something similar, here is a list of the questions I included in the notebook:
  1. When and where were you born?
  2. Who were your parents and what were they like?
  3. How was your relationship with your parents?
  4. How would you describe yourself as a child?
  5. Did you ever get in trouble as a child? What was the worst thing you ever did?
  6. What is your best memory from childhood? What is your worst childhood memory?
  7. Did you have a nickname, and if so how did you get it?
  8. Do you have any favorite stories from your childhood?
  9. What is your ethnic background?
  10. Who were your favorite relatives?
  11. Do you remember any stories your relatives used to tell you?
  12. Did you enjoy school? What kind of student were you?
  13. How did you meet your spouse?
  14. How did he propose?
  15. Do you have any favorite stories from your marriage or about your spouse?
  16. What jobs have you had in your life?
  17. Which job was your favorite, and which was the worst?
  18. If you could have had any job, which would it be and why?
  19. When did you first find out you'd be a parent and how did you feel?
  20. Do you have any favorite stories about your kids?
  21. Do you have any favorite stories about your grandkids?
  22. Have you experienced any miracles?
  23. What was the most profound spiritual moment of your life?
  24. What is your earliest memory?
  25. What are you most proud of in your life?
  26. Who was the most important person in your life?
  27. What are your favorite hobbies?
  28. What is your favorite food?
  29. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  30. What is the best vacation you've taken?
  31. What traditions have been passed down in your family?
  32. If you were to give advice to our family, and future generations, what would it be?
  33. Is there anything you would like to share with us that hasn't been covered?

See, tons of questions, which I think I originally found somewhere online.

I couldn't believe she answered every single one with such candor and sincerity, and it just reminded me again that if we never ask the questions, if we never listen to the answers, then the wisdom of previous generations leaves with them. 

I'm so glad I asked, because this is one gift that I accidentally gave to myself. 


46 comments:

  1. Absolutely Wonderful, I am going to do this with my grandma! When I saw how much your grandma wrote, I had a tear in my eye...something to cherish for ever, thanks for the idea!

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  2. What a wonderful idea! My grandma is in the final stages of Alzheimer's and I really wish I had something like this from her. I will definitely make something like this for my husband's mother and grandmother. Also makes me want to keep something like this for my daughter to have when she gets married or something...

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  3. OK Seriously, my eyes are all teared up. That is so sweet and I LOVE that you now have all that history from her life. It's a blessing to you and a blessing to her.

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  4. It makes me feel better to read that I was not the only one who had tears in her eyes reading this post. This is really beautiful Kira, I am so inspired. Although my grandmothers are not able to do this, I think I may make one for my mom and or mother in law.

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  5. that is amazing! It is so sad when the older generations of our families pass on and we never had the chance to learn and listen from them. This was a great idea, and something for your family and those generations still to come to treasure always.

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  6. Kira, I always look forward to reading your blog. Many of your posts make me laugh out load and/or get teary eyed. This one is such a special gift. I would have loved to have something like this from my grandparents. Since they are no longer with us, I will give notebooks to my daughter's grandparents in the hope that they will create a treasure for her. Thank you, thank you!

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  7. Sorry, that should say "...laugh out loud..." Couldn't help but correct myself. Happy Monday!

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  8. How sweet! That is really cool! And how wonderful of Grandma to do that for you, it's so special!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

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  9. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments everyone! I'm happy that it might have inspired some of you to create your own notebooks.

    Trish~ thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and thank you for reading. That really means a lot to me :)

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  10. that is so great!

    i've thought of doing something similar with/for my grandmother. she recently moved into an independant living apartment complex associated with a nursing home in her area. it's been a hard transition living the single life since my grandfather has passed several years ago...a project like this would not only give her something to do, but help her to feel as though she's leaving some type of legacy.

    she's been busy typing up loads and loads of journals that her own mother kept over her lifetime...can't wait to see those as well. :)

    ~h

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  11. I love this idea! I'm definitely going to be making these for my grandparents, & my husband's grandparents (& probably his parents since we don't live near each other). Thanks for taking the time to share such an awesome idea & letting us know that it make take quite some time before we get the journals back.

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  12. I am going to do these for Mother's day! Thanks so much for the idea!

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  13. Wow, I'm definitely going to do this for both my Grandma and my Great Grandma who is 90 right now, and I need to cherish the time I have with her. A question about the book, how far apart did you space the questions? Did you put one on each page or did you space them out more than that?

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  14. I did one question on each right-side page, which gave the front and back of the page for her to write on. For some of the questions this was plenty of space, but for others I could tell that she was squeezing to fit it all. If I do another one I will probably evaluate each question and leave more room for some of them, such as the ones that ask for stories.

    Thanks for the question!

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  15. Wow! I've wanted to interview my grandmother for some time but she doesn't care for tape recorders or cameras much. She's also very hard to find a gift for. This is a perfect idea, she has kept a daily journal for years and years but I'd like to have her write down some of her early memories and fun stories that might not have made it into her journals. Thank you for such a wonderful idea! Now I know why I bought those composition books...

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  16. Oh my gosh, I have tears in my eyes! I really do! That is the sweetest idea!

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  17. What a BRILLIANT idea! How awesome & the gifts that it will continue to bring! SMART thinking!

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  18. This is seriously the most beautiful idea! Thank you for sharing this. In fact my mom and I were just talking about my grandpa the other night. We piece together stories because that's all we have now. I wish I had done something like this with him....thank you for sharing such a beautiful idea! Truley inspiring!

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  19. This is absolutely wonderful! I love the idea! What a great way to preserve memories and learn so much about loved ones that we never knew =)

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  20. Kira - I totally love this beautiful idea! Such a special momento for years to come. I only wish I would have done this with both of my grandparents - fabulous idea! Thanks so much for linking to the Sunday Showcase - I greatly appreciate it. I have featured this today. Hope you are enjoying your week ~ Stephanie Lynn
    www.bystephanielynn.com

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  21. Great job Kira. I think you'd LOVE Between Me And You Journals at http://www.sanddunebooks.com

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  22. I totally love this idea!!! I work with the elderly every day and to see how much a person's life can change in such a short period of time is kind of scary.....I will be doing this with both of my Grandmothers. Quick question though, did you put one question per page or several pages per question?? Just not sure how much space to leave between each one....Thanks again for this wonderful idea!!!

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  23. I totally love this idea!!! I work with the elderly every day and to see how much a person's life can change in such a short period of time is kind of scary.....I will be doing this with both of my Grandmothers. Quick question though, did you put one question per page or several pages per question?? Just not sure how much space to leave between each one....Thanks again for this wonderful idea!!!

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    1. Hello Colette! Thanks for stopping by. To answer your question, I put one question at the top of the page, which left that page and the backside of the page for her answer. Some of the answers were stories so she used up all the room I gave her. I would not put more than one question on a page.

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  24. I love this idea and have been thinking about doing it to extend my life experiences (I am a grandmother) I filled out a nice bound book that one of my sons gave me in 1997. I just recently finished it. ( had not done the last 35 pages for some reason) It has a page for every day of the year. You could use a bound journal book. I plan to do that with extra questions that are not in the original book. It is called "Reflections From a Mother's Heart" by Word Publishing. They will jump start my life story. Nothing warms a grandmother's heart more than to know that her grandchildren really care about her and want to know her story. I wish I knew more about my Paternal grandmother too. The other one left a valuable bound book with the story of her life. She had copies printed for her family. A grandmother could even save it on a DVD and insert pictures there at almost no cost. Then each family could print their own if they wanted to.

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  25. I love this idea so much! I have family in Romania and I do not want their history and legacy to be forgotten. I'm going to make some of these books.

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  26. Wow, what a great idea! This is awesome. Thanks for sharing. I don't have any kids (yet! one day :), but I shared with my sister who has a baby and I know she will love the idea and maybe use it. Thanks, again.

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  27. I didnt read all the comments so i may be repeating i apologize in advance. I was thinking about the comment for spacing the questions. Maybe just put it in front as a table of co tents so space is only limited to the pages of the book. Just a thought wanted to share. Thank you for sharing this i am starting this as a new family tradition to pass down.

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  28. I didnt read all the comments so i may be repeating i apologize in advance. I was thinking about the comment for spacing the questions. Maybe just put it in front as a table of co tents so space is only limited to the pages of the book. Just a thought wanted to share. Thank you for sharing this i am starting this as a new family tradition to pass down.

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    1. Echo this is a GREAT idea-- I love it! Honestly, I don't know why I never thought of that haha. Having the questions at the beginning of the book would really make it easy for them to answer as they wish and not be limited by the page length. Love it, thanks for sharing!

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  29. I have just come across this. It is a wonderful idea. My dad passed away this month 2 days after my birthday, I feel I need to do this for my kids, There is so much they need to know and telling them is not as important as it would be to write it down... as it is their history I am creating. Thankyou it is exactly what I needed to help with the closure of my dad's death.

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  30. Just made this for my Nana to give to her today! This is an incredible idea and I plan on making them for my parents and my boyfriend's Nana as well! Thank you for the inspiration!!

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  31. A beautiful, inspiring, WONDERFUL, idea. I got chills and almost cried - and that does not happen often. Thank you so much for this lovely gift of something that can never have a second chance at.

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  32. I want to do this for my Nana so bad, but she doesn't even like to write out the address portion on envelopes anymore because it hurts her hands. Maybe I could use a tape recorder or a video camera, but i dont think she would allow it. *sighh*

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  33. I don't know if they will do it, but I'm doing this for my husband's mom and dad, as well as for my parents. My husband's parents and my mom are in their mid-seventies and my dad just turned 80. I wouldn't hurt for my husband and me to do the same. Thanks for posting this wonderful idea!!!

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  34. I hope it works for you Kathy, and I really love the idea of making one for yourself! Thanks for commenting!

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  35. Kira, did you use only the questions listed? I'm tring to hunt down a good list, and haven't found a longer one yet

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    1. Stormi, yes, I only used the questions listed here, but you could off course add to it anything you wanted to know that wasn't on the list. If I had to do it again, I might just make the first page or two the list of questions and then they would have the entire book to write as much or as little as they chose for each one. Thanks for the question!

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  36. My words are summed up in all prior posts, especially...BRILLIANT!!! This is the perfect gift for people that you don't know how to buy for!!!

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  37. I fell in love with this the moment I first saw it. And with Christmas just around the corner, it immediately made me think to do something like this for my Great Grandmother. I hace a question though, about how many pages did you put between each question? Especially if I want my great Grandfather to put his input as well. This is beautiful and I'm glad that you have this wonderful treasure that it sure is going to be for me... that is, if mine like it as well and answer them as amazingly as yours did.

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    1. When I made this particular notebook I just wrote the question at the top and left that page (and the backside of it) blank. So one full page, front and back, for each question. If I was going to do it again now, I would either leave a couple of pages for each one, OR what I think would be even better, is to include either a table of contents with all the questions listed at the front of the book (so they could answer them in whatever order they like and use as many pages as they like) Or put the questions on a separate book mark with check boxes so they could use it to keep their place in the book mark and mark them off as they finish them. Those are just suggestions, you could do it however you like. My grandma is a writer and very "wordy" (which I love!) but she still had enough room to write what she wanted to with one full blank page.

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  38. Thanks for sharing , such a good idea ! I will have to make one for my Grandma. Love what you said about, when they leave they take their wisdom with them but with this book it gets passed down the next generations, so true. :)

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  39. did you use a certain paper pack for the book or was it just some paper you had laying around because I really like the way yours looks and I would like to make one for my grandmother for Christmas

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    1. Unfortunately, it was so long ago that I don't remember which company made the supplies I used on this. I'm pretty sure it was a lot of miscellaneous stuff from my scrapbook stash. The main background was all one sheet of paper and I just lightly distressed the edges with some green chalk ink. You could really use any paper you have. Sorry I can't be more help on that!

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  40. Wow I can't believe I'm crying so much after reading that. I really wish I could have asked my grandfathers all of these questions. Thank you so much for this beautiful idea.

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