Helpful Tips to Preserve Gratitude & Family Stories this Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday celebrated in the U.S. is almost upon us. It’s one of the few times of the year loved ones make the greatest of efforts to make the pilgrimage home. We gather around our dining tables to enjoy the company of family and friends, as well as a carefully planned and executed feast. It is also a deliberate time for reflection, where we pause to express our gratitude for many things that life has to offer.

Reflecting on what we are grateful for should not be saved for one day a year. Just as being in the company of loved-ones is beneficial for both the heart and soul, starting a gratitude journal and writing in it several times a week has proven to have tangible benefits.

normanrockwell_thanksgivingA study lead by Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California at Davis and world leader in the science of gratitude, has revealed that those who keep a gratitude journal felt better about their lives overall, are more optimistic about the future, and report fewer health problems than the other participants. Interestingly, those who keep such journals reported getting more sleep, spending less time awake before falling asleep and feeling more refreshed in the morning.* The reason this practice works, above and beyond simply taking time out to think about the positive things in our lives, is that translating thoughts into language, spoken or written, makes us more aware of them, deepening their emotional impact.

We are all deeply grateful for are our relationships with our families and loved-ones. Because time passes so quickly, the importance of documenting the stories of our parents and grandparents greatly increases as they age. Thanksgiving, when everyone is together, is a perfect opportunity to capture the stories right from the source. In fact, technology has become so simplified that it is as easy as strategically placing a smartphone on the dinner table and powering on the voice memo feature to record the stories told by family members. Likewise, using a video camera (or smartphone camera!) to record all the details is so easy, even children can help out. And the results become special keepsakes.

After you have your smartphone or video camera ready, here are 5 tips to keep in mind for the day:

  1.  Jump start the conversation: Do you know of a specific story that your Grandfather loves to tell or want to know more about his experience in the war? Ask him about it.

  2. Keep the conversation going: Ask questions about the people involved in the story, what else was going on at that point in time?

  3. Ask elders about their specific memories of those who have already passed away: What did they like to eat, what was the craziest thing they ever did. Get to know family members you never got the opportunity to meet.

  4. Be prepared with a photo or memento and ask for specifics: Where was this taken, what year, why were you there, who else is in the photo? Write it down.

  5. And most importantly, be a good audience. Sit back, listen and enjoy. Also, make sure all batteries are well charged!

Having loving family and friends is definitely at the top of most people’s gratitude lists on Thanksgiving. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish you wonderful times with yours. Happy Thanksgiving. We’re really grateful you stopped by!



Lest We Forget … Reflections on Veterans (Remembrance) Day

Harry Knobovitch 1923-1944

Harry Knobovitch

Every veteran who remembers serving in a 20th century war, whether it is with pride for defending freedom and honor or with horror for the atrocities seen, deals with their experiences and memories differently. Although some choose to willingly share their stories, others internalize and live their memories in silence. As the number of WWII veterans diminishes every year, it is becoming increasingly important to record these accounts. “Lest we forget” is not merely a Veterans Day slogan, it is a call to action: to remember the sacrifices made by individuals and to honor their efforts with the respect they so deeply deserve.

Memoirs Productions has had the privilege of capturing many veterans’ experiences on camera. Initially some were reticent to reflect on their wartime experiences and memories. Most of them had never even shared these memories with their wives or their children – they had chosen to keep that whole section of their lives private from their families. Although the exercise can be very emotional, even painful for some, once they started telling their story, they usually told it all and typically they remembered every vivid detail.


Harry's telegramAs Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day in Canada) approaches, we encourage you to start the conversation with any veterans in your life – to find out their experiences, stories, memories and write or record the details before it is too late. Ask them to pull out old photographs and treasures they may have kept locked away all this time. Ask them to identify anyone you might not know in the photos and make sure to record that information.

The legacy veterans left should be heard and recorded. Learning about their heroic roles is invaluable for your family’s history. It may be difficult, but worth every moment. And perhaps you’ll even be thanked for it!

P.S. My Dad is a Royal Canadian Air Force vet and he regales us with stories every chance he gets. Now that we filmed him they certainly are cherished by our family!

In memory of my uncle Harry Knobovitch (whom I never met) as he died way too young in 1944 flying for the RCAF in Europe.