New Year’s Day is the WRITE TIME: A Legacy Letter to Our Children and Grandchildren

The end of a year and beginning of a New Year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future. While we generally focus on planning for our personal and professional goals, we must not forget to think about how our children and grandchildren fit into “the big picture” of our lives.

Writing a legacy letter to (grand)children is an exercise that appears easy enough: write a few stories, some values and beliefs, lessons learned, and most importantly communicate how much you love them. It’s so surprising that most people tend to put it off…Someday we’ll find the time and in the meantime our (grand)kids can rest assured that we love them!

© insEyedout

© insEyedout

Life is unpredictable. Our memories of the big and small events can and will fade. A simple way to preserve and share these stories is by writing them down in a letter or journal at this special time of year—and sharing it with loved ones.

There is no better time than the present. Once the letter is drafted, make sure to keep it safe, copied, or with technology so prevalent–back it up digitally by snapping a photo of it on a smartphone.

The value of these letters is immeasurable. When opened in the future, (grand)children will get to know more about themselves and you – as a (grand)parent and as a person.

Life can change in an instant. I invite you now to take the time to write your own legacy letter to your loved ones. For those among us who are not parents, these letters are also precious gifts for our nieces, nephews and Godchildren. Remember: your letter is like a permanent hug.

Grab a pen, paper or keyboard – get it in writing and share it soon!

Happy New Year to you and yours! Be well, go safely.

To view Iris Wagner’s full-length article Finding the Words: A Legacy Letter to our (Grand) Children, which appeared December 30, 2014 Love Your, kindly click here.


Personal History Coach’s Corner – Thanksgiving Edition

Laura Mclure of posted this online recently for discussion at the Thanksgiving table. We at Memoirs challenge you to record the answers of your elders this holiday season.

Photo: Martin Cathrae

Photo: Martin Cathrae

  1. What are you grateful for?

  2. What are you proudest of?

  3. What’s been the happiest moment of your life so far?

  4. What’s been the hardest moment of your life, and how did you get through it?

  5. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

  6. How would you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?

  7. Who has been kindest to you?

  8. How do you want to be remembered?

  9. If your great great grandchildren could listen to this years from now: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?

  10. If you could honor one person in your life — living or dead — by listening to their story, who would that be, what would you ask them and why?

Happy Hallowe’en!


It’s that time of year again! Ghosts, goblins and princesses are set to roam the streets tonight in search of candy loot.

A special time for both family and community, Halloween is a one-of-a-kind holiday when it comes to memory making. Children have the opportunity to dress in costume, stay up late, be outside in the dark, and counting, sorting and indulging in fistfuls of candy. Yum!

Halloween is a time when costumed kids (and some adults!) are captured in photos to preserve the special memory of that ritual. These precious pictures will bring us right back to where we were at that moment in time. The sounds, smells, sights and frights, everything will makes us smile at the fun of it all.

For all the sweet tooths out there and for the sweet memories in the making, Happy Halloween!

Be well, go safely (and don’t forget your flashlights!)

Robert DeNiro Jr and Sr - Remembering the Artist

Robert De Niro: Preserving His Father’s Legacy

The Metropolitan Museum in New York City indexes four entries under the name Robert De Niro. The information recorded is not about the Oscar-winning actor and director, but rather about his father, the artist. Thanks to a recently released HBO documentary  “Remembering the Artist, Robert De Niro Sr.” we now know a lot more about his fascinating life.

Robert (Jr.) had a desire to preserve and rectify the truth about his father’s legacy as an artist, as well as his struggles as a gay man, and as such, produced this highly evocative documentary film. I believe we are privileged as a public viewing audience to see such a personal tribute.

De Niro had a complex relationship with his father. After his parents separated when he was two and finally divorced when he was nine or ten, he rarely saw him. “I was not aware, much, of it [his father being gay]. I wish we had spoken about it much more. My mother didn’t want to talk about things in general, and you’re not interested when you’re a certain age,” De Niro said during an interview in Out Magazine[1].

During his teens he would listen to his father rant about the injustices of the art world and the difficulty artists had in selling their work. “Artists are always recognized after they’re long gone,” says De Niro in the film’s trailer.

However brief his fame as an artist in the 1940’s and 50’s might have been, De Niro, Sr. was exhibited alongside Jackson Pollock by Peggy Guggenheim, and as a result, the impact his life and his artwork left on his son was powerful. Consequently, De Niro Jr. preserved his father’s SoHo studio much as it was, with paintings on the wall, books, and exhibition posters, as a personal tribute to his descendants.

Preserving his father’s legacy

“When he passed away I thought, well, I should keep it,” De Niro says in an interview with “because it’s a very special place, and also for my grandchildren and for my young kids, who never knew him. I wanted them to see what their grandfather did, what their great-grandfather did. And this is the best way.”

To get to know his father better and further immortalize the truth of his father’s life and its’ meaning, De Niro Jr. created Remembering the Artist – Robert De Niro Sr. His life and struggles are explored through old journal entries and photographs, as well as interviews of those close to him.

Robert DeNiro Jr and Sr - Remembering the Artist

Robert De Niro Jr. made the documentary film “Remembering the Artist – Robert De Niro Sr.” to explore and preserve the life and struggles of his father.

It was something De Niro Jr. always felt should be done. “I should have done this ten years earlier, but I’m glad I did it now.” In fact ten years ago he was interviewed in Esquire Magazine, and was quoted as saying that one of his biggest regrets in life was not getting enough of his parent’s stories recorded for his children and grandchildren. Now he can be proud of this accomplishment.

As we see in the De Niro family, many personal journeys are sometimes difficult. That is why recording the triumphs and challenges of life experiences, and the wisdom gained, is so vital to a family’s history. Through journal entries and video recordings gathered to preserve it, we can get to know family members more intimately. The result will be lifestories and wisdom to cherish leading us to a better understanding of our own heritage.

Kudos to Robert De Niro Jr. for getting it done!






James Cameron and The Value of Life Storytelling

Welcome back! We’ve been busy! After lots of filming days over the past few months we’re glad to play catch-up on the blog.

Earlier this summer Iris attended C2MTL a creativity and commerce conference featuring Academy Award Winning director and producer James Cameron as a Keynote Speaker. Famous for his Hollywood blockbusters, which include the top two grossing movies of all time Titanic and Avatar, Cameron has spent the past five years “off the set” exploring and filming in the deep-sea.

If you don't record your life history, who will? James Cameron speaks to C2MTL attendees in May 2014 about the importance of telling and sharing your stories in order to preserve wisdom from your adventures so that future generations may benefit. ​Photo: (c) David Sidaway

If you don’t record your life history, who will? James Cameron speaks to C2MTL attendees in May 2014 about the importance of telling and sharing your stories in order to preserve wisdom from your adventures so that future generations may benefit.
Photo: © David Sidaway

With passion fueled by twelve submersible dives to the Titanic during filming, Cameron formed Earthship Productions to further pursue ocean exploration, conservation, and documentary filmmaking. On March 26, 2012 he made a record-breaking 35,787-foot solo dive to the deepest known place on Earth, the Mariana Trench off the coast of Guam. During his keynote speech at C2MTL Cameron recounted how on this particular submersible dive, he had a revelation. It became very clear to him that in undertaking such a risky endeavor it would be of paramount importance to take time to reflect and record the life-changing event as part of one’s life’s stories to preserve for posterity.

Recording your life story is a precious gift to your family and friends and yet the benefits go beyond preserving your legacy for the generations to come. Reflecting on and recording life to date is also of tremendous value to the storyteller. By doing so you bestow upon yourself the gift of retrospect, allowing better clarity and perspective for your own future. A life story is the sum of many experiences and recording important ones while the memory is still bright can add a level of detail that may be lost as time passes and memory fades.

 You don’t need to dive down as deep as 35,787 feet to understand just how valuable it is to record your own life’s experiences. James Cameron highlights the importance of storytelling with his message that the life you live is unique to you and deserves to be recorded so that others may benefit from your efforts, personal history, and wisdom. 

Get your feet wet, start storytelling…

We’ve been nominated

We’ve just received news that Memoirs Productions has been shortlisted for the Family Office Review’s Excellence in Specialty Services Award

For the complete list of nominees and all ticket order information for this prestigious event, being held at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago June 5th, 2014, please click here.

We hope to see you there!


UPDATE: JUNE 6th, 2014

Congratulations to all the winners of the Third Annual Family Office Review Awards! To view the complete list of winners, please click here.

Suzanne Shier, SVP-- Northern Trust and Iris Wagner

Suzanne Shier, SVP– Northern Trust and Iris Wagner

Steffi Claiden, Editor-In-Chief, Family Office Review with Iris Wagner

Steffi Claiden, Editor-In-Chief, Family Office Review with Iris Wagner


It's more than moneyMemoirs Productions and Iris E. Wagner have been featured in Patricia Annino’s latest book “It’s More Than Money, Protect Your Legacy”. In her book Patricia examines how to:

* Focus on what your values are.
* Align those values with your goals.
* Work with your team of advisors to put in place the legal documents and financial framework that will
* Protect you, your family, your charities and your legacy.


“As Iris points out, an ethical will benefits both the narrator and the recipient. It benefits the narrator because it is a celebration of life by which the narrator focuses on meaning, perspective and purpose. It is an open communication with important people…”

This is both a how to do it blueprint and a handbook designed to provoke family discussion, understanding and unity.

The book is now available on Amazon. We highly recommend adding it to your summer reading list!

Living LegaciesIn other noteworthy news

Iris Wagner wrote the Prologue for the recently published Living Legacies – Volume IV, A Collection of Writing by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women, PK Press 2014


Another Trip Around the Sun

While families get together to observe holidays throughout the year, there is nothing quite as special as the celebration of one’s birthday. A day especially for us, when we are honored by friends and loved ones.  Today is a special day on the blog as we are acknowledging Memoirs’ CEO Iris Wagner’s birthday!

From the joyful childhood rituals of birthday bumps, to blowing out candles and singing the birthday song, these dates of celebration tend to take on greater significance as the years pass. With wisdom comes gratitude for the precious gifts of time and experience.

As part of the very personal celebration, birthdays are an opportune time of year to pause, reflect, and set goals we wish to accomplish before our next birthday rolls around. Even better: write them out and put the list in a place where it can easily be referenced. Imagine the treasures you will accumulate if, year after year, you collect these lists: a veritable portal into the evolution of priorities and accomplishments across your lifetime.

Sharing a birthday is also fun! We seem to pay extra attention to the celebrity birthdays, and horoscope predictions when our special day comes around; it’s also great for forging connections. An interesting anecdote: during an icebreaker at a conference networking event, participants were asked to find others who shared their same birth year, followed by month, then day, all the way down to the time of birth. If you can believe it, Iris met someone who had been born at the exact same year, day and minute as she– except he was born in England!

Above all, birthdays should be a yearly celebration of life. A day to indulge in special treats, small (or big) luxuries, and rituals we might forgo the rest of the year. A special day to celebrate and be feted– a day that is just for us!

Happy Birthday Iris! Many happy and healthy returns!

To all who read this we wish you and your families a Happy Passover and Joyous Easter for 2014!

We’ve been featured

kirby-rosplockDecember 2014 Update:

An interview with Iris Wagner is featured in Kirby Rosplock’s December blog post, ‘Preserving Family Legacy’. To read the whole article kindly click here.

“Reflecting on the stories that have shaped these individuals’ lives is powerful. Often stories are revealed that even their children have never heard.” – Iris E. Wagner.

We are pleased to highlight that Iris E. Wagner is featured in Kirby Rosplock’s recently released book “The Complete Family Office Handbook” as an expert on preserving family legacy.

The book, now available on Amazon, has already received high praise. “The Complete Family Office Handbook captures the essence of today’s family office and paves the way to best practice for every family and advisor entrusted with sustaining generational wealth. Kirby has written what is sure to be an industry classic.” —Sara Hamilton, Founder and CEO, Family Office Exchange

To find out more about capturing the history and legacy for Family Offices, please contact Iris at Memoirs Productions at  866.481.9303 or