Traditions Worth Trying

On New Year’s Eve some people blow horns and throw confetti. Others make resolutions or at the year’s last minute watch a ball fall in Times Square. But this year why not create some additional New Year traditions for your own family? Here are four ideas:

  1. 1.

    Family Top Ten. As a family, gather together to discuss the major family events of the past year. Include all types of events in your reminiscing—from the spiritual to the humorous. This can be a most enjoyable activity. For example, memories could range from when a son or daughter left to go on a mission to last summer’s family vacation when the car broke down. Some of the best memories are things that happen right at home.

    At the end of your reminiscing, make a list of the events you discuss, and then give a piece of paper to everyone in the family. Have each family member rank what he or she feels are the top ten events, starting with the most memorable event as number one. Tally the results. Descriptions of the winning events can be a great addition to a family journal or album.

  2. 2.

    Famous Quotes. At the beginning of the year, place a canister with a slit in the top in a conspicuous place in the house. Throughout the year, when someone in the family says something endearing, humorous, or profound, write the saying on a piece of paper and slip it into the canister.

    On New Year’s Eve, open the canister and read aloud the notes as a family activity. You might even guess who said what. Save the quotes in a family journal or album.

  3. 3.

    Spiritual Traditions. Review the family journal or suggested entries from individual journals in order to recall and then reverently share instances during the past year when family members felt they were guided by the Spirit.

  4. 4.

    Plan Ahead. Take the time on New Year’s Day to mark for the whole calendar year the days your family will attend the temple. Setting aside the time to attend the temple will help ensure regular attendance throughout the coming year.Lois Decker, Provo, Utah

Managing Memories

Those boxes of memories filled with pictures, letters, certificates, and souvenirs—what will you ever do with them? And what about the personal history you’ve been intending to write? Here is a simple way to combine your efforts and accomplish both tasks at the same time.

  1. 1.

    Gather all of your mementoes together. Sort through closets and drawers and put everything pertinent to your life into one set of well-labeled boxes. You could also sort materials into boxes for other family members at the same time.

  2. 2.

    Separate the items into two categories: those that can be placed in a book (programs, pictures, important letters, certificates, ribbons, and so on) and those that cannot.

  3. 3.

    Place the items that fit in a book in chronological order by using a large accordion file. Label each pocket for one or two years of your life, and begin inserting items accordingly. This eliminates placing stacks here and there that inevitably get disturbed, get in the way, or get all thrown back together after a while. If you use an accordion file placed in a large filing box, you can also put unfiled items at the back of the box to keep them together. Using this method, you can start and stop filing instantly, which is helpful if you have only small snatches of time.

  4. 4.

    Assemble your memories into books. Beginning with the first pocket of your file, put the items in order in a large three-ring notebook using acid-free plastic sheet protectors, photo mounting corners, or photo pocket pages. Continue through the accordion file until all items are in order in one or more notebooks.

  5. 5.

    Now “fill in” your life. The items in the notebooks will prompt memory upon memory. Write each remembered experience on a sheet of paper and place it before the corresponding picture page in your memory book. After all, who doesn’t prefer to read a book with pictures? Now the book of your life is illustrated with memorable, interesting items. Whenever other experiences come to mind, you can write them and insert them as well. This portion of the project can also be done in small segments of time until completed.

    Another option is to record your experiences onto a cassette tape. They can then be transcribed into the book at a future time—and as an added bonus, your voice is preserved for your posterity.

  6. 6.

    Remember to label or tag with a date and description the items that don’t fit in your personal history books. If appropriate, simply make reference on the label to a portion of your personal history or vice versa. Keep these items in some safe “treasure box.”

    The fun and success of the project should be enough to keep you going until completion. But on those occasions when discouragement does set in, just remember it’s worth it—for both you and your posterity.Nancy Beazel, Lancaster, California

We the Builders

A young, shy boy with a speech impediment was happy about the yarn octopus he had just made. He kept telling his teacher how much fun he was having. “I’ve never braided before. This is fun!” he exclaimed.

Shortly before the art class was to end, the boy’s mother entered the room just in time to guide her son as he glued on the face parts. “Think before you act!” she reprimanded him when he did a less-than-perfect job of gluing the features on the face. He began to look unhappy as his mother continued to criticize his work. Then while the boy was cleaning up his scraps and washing his hands, his mother very carefully rebraided each of the octopus’s eight legs.

No doubt this mother had good intentions. She wanted her son to learn to do a task correctly. But instead, her stern, critical approach crushed her son’s enthusiasm and caused him to feel inadequate and inept. People need to be built up. Our children need to know that they were created in the image of God, by One who loves them more than earthly minds can comprehend.

If we truly want to be builders, we need to use the tools of praise, honesty, and encouragement. We can learn to build others up, but it takes effort, time, and prayer to change our behavior patterns. It may be necessary to actually chart and monitor our progress. If you are a list maker, you could make a note to praise your spouse, your children, and others each day.

Pointing out praiseworthy character traits, accomplishments, and efforts can do much to help boost another’s self-esteem. As we learn to see and express appreciation for others’ commendable characteristics, we may be guided by the Holy Ghost to recognize and mention other admirable but less noticeable qualities.

We can be builders when we help lift others’ self-esteem through love, effort, and the guidance of the Spirit.Dondi McSpadden Murdock, Bountiful, Utah

[photos] Photography by Maren Younce; photo props by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki

My Treasury of Letters

In a drawer I have a big file folder full of letters. Some are letters I have received and treasured over the years, while others are carbon copies and photocopies of letters I’ve written to my parents, in-laws, children, and special friends. These letters have become a supplement to my life history.

My children enjoy poring over pages of old letters I wrote when our family was still young. The letters give a detailed record of events the children may have forgotten or were too young to remember.

Some of my most priceless letters are copies of notes my oldest son sent to my brother when my brother was on a mission. The first-grade spelling errors make one letter appear to be written in a secret code. But careful deciphering reveals: “hurryup on yowr mission b cause ikant rember you.”

One of my favorite letters was written to my parents just before Mother’s Day in 1976. In it I reminisce about the fun we had together as a family, and I tell my parents some of the things they did that had the biggest influence on my life. I tell them what my children’s favorite activities are: the telephone, peek-a-boo, and family home evening. Now that our youngest child has graduated from high school, it’s nice to remember those early days of parenting.

Another nice thing about keeping copies of letters is that the idea spreads through the family. My mother has all the newsy letters I’ve sent to her, and my daughter keeps copies of the letters she writes. We also save all of our missionaries’ letters in their own special books.

I treasure my letter collection not only because it records the happy, newsy events of daily life, but also because I can read about and renew my feelings of love for the people to whom I wrote. I have found that the letters we write and receive can become a source of enjoyment and happy remembrance for ourselves, for our family, and for generations to come.Vicki H. Budge, Bend, Oregon