Aug 252016

Culture Clashes and generation gaps through photos Culture Clashes. They happen among nations, ethnic groups, and generations. Sadly, culture clashes also occur among families. Heritages or upbringings collide. Differing values splinter relationships.

Personal memory collectors, memoirists, and family storytellers all struggle with whether or not to tell the unhappy, unflattering, or  embarrassing tales. (See “Making your stories public: How Much to Share” for more about this. Or for an example read Dee Burris’ “The toughest entry I’ve ever tried to write.” )

However, determining if you’re going to write about such family episodes isn’t the only decision. How are you going to write them? How are you going to tell these stories in such a way that others gain perspective from them? That the stories are accurate and compelling?

Collisions within the Family

Go back to the beginning, if you can, and explain how the conflict started. For instance, many family culture clashes come by way of marriage. The bride or groom came from a different background or culture, practiced a different faith, or, God forbid, held a different political affiliation.

As you tell the story, make sure you highlight the social context of all sides of the story as well as the personalities involved.  Who in the family knows the whole story? (Yes, this is part of citing your sources.) How big of a mark did it leave on family story? Was it limited to a few family members, or did it cause a split? How did it resolve—or did it? What did the family learn? Do they now openly debate differences, or is civility valued much more than free discourse?

Vignettes Representative of a Larger Story

Sometimes small vignettes illustrate a generational conflict that simmered under the surface. For example, The Great Depression left a permanent mark on many people, one that affects (or affected) their thinking into their old age. I know of a few instances where a child of the Depression’s view of material things or about spending money impacted family dynamics.

Decade and Life-long Stories of Culture Clashes

More than a few stories of family strife rooted in a culture clash have germinated into complete memoirs. Misunderstandings grow into decades of hurt and dysfunction.

Ugly as these stories might be, they are important in understanding the generations that went before. Often, they’re also helpful in understanding current family dynamics. For example, to tell of my mother’s entrance into the Wilkinson family without highlighting the uneasy relationship she enjoyed (don’t take that verb literally) with my grandma would be elevating rose-colored glasses to a blind fold.

In my mother and grandmother’s case, there shouldn’t have been much of a culture clash. She and Daddy came from similar backgrounds. But my paternal grandma strongly disliked any woman who vied for her son’s heart.

I’m sure there are stories like that in your family too.

Tips for writing about Culture Clashes

  1. Try on all the shoes. After digesting the social and historical contexts involved, imagine what it would have felt like to be in each person’s place. What emotions would you have felt? Do you think things would have been different in another generation?
  2. Were there barriers to communication, such as language or knowledge of the other culture?
  3. Remember, bad buys have good sides too. If someone was bull-headed or seemed outright mean, how’d they end up that way? What made them tick?
  4. Look for products of a time period. When we see a foreparent in terms of their environment and upbringing, it’s easier to write about them without judgement. In fact, it might even be unfair to apply modern-day standards to their actions.
  5. Step back. Particularly if you’re emotionally connected to one person in the story (It might be you!), assess their side of the story as if you were an unrelated reporter. Does it change the way you look at the story? Does it affect the way you want to write about it?
  6. It’s the sugar that helps the medicine go down. It also makes for entertaining writing.
Aug 112016
Things I never wanted to know

What are some of the things you never wanted to know? How did you learn them? How would you write about them for loved ones?

We all have lessons that we want to pass on. However, we have also learned things that we never wanted to know. In the midst of a family tragedy, a friend texted me today with details on why some autopsies are done in the state capital rather than in her city. It’s a fact she never wanted to know. A heart-rending reminder of the surreal quality of shock and grief.

How poignant a method of storytelling to let loved ones and future generations know the things you hope they’ll never have to know.


If you search for “Things I never wanted to know,” Google will give you tons of listicle articles. Warning: Some of the results are eww. Others spark some great ideas.

Fertility for example: Those of us who never encountered fertility problems will never have to know a myriad of facts. What a woman’s body has to go through. What fertility testing entails. The expense of treatment, compounded with the pain of Mother’s day.

Many of those “Things I never wanted to know” moments come as we realize we’re the adult now. There’s no one ahead of us that are going to help “take care” of things. To advise.

Things I Never Wanted to Know

For instance, with the death of my parents, I never wanted to know:

  • The state of Alaska takes six weeks to issue a death certificate in the case of accidental death. A certain credit card’s rental car insurance says they won’t pay a claim unless they receive a death certificate inside of 30 days.
  • Funeral homes have a sort of casket showroom, with quite a selection of caskets.
  • Even death won’t stop those “you’re prequalified for our new credit card” mailings, even if the bank closed out an account two-weeks prior due to the account-holder’s passing.
  • “I’m sorry, he can’t come to the phone; he’s dead,” generally stops telemarketers in their tracks.
  • The names of all the nice people at the Coroner’s office.
  • Women over 65 can’t donate bone tissue. OK, while we’re on that topic, include all things related to the actual procedures of organ and tissue collection.
  • If you’re plight is sympathetic enough, someone will know someone who will know someone to call a state senator to help you out. (File that one away. It might help you out one day.)
  • Contrary to what CSI shows would lead you to believe, even with great pathologists and accident reconstructionist, a lot is unknowable.
  • The routes and timing of oil tankers going up to the town of Hope, Alaska.
  • Dying simultaneously with your spouse screws up a great deal of clever estate planning, particularly 401K secondary and tertiary beneficiaries.

Feelings You Never Wanted to Know

Your creativity is just as good as mine. Heartbreak, that call in the middle of night, persecution…. The list goes on. Writing about these things not only gives you an opportunity to right about your life journey, but also about your hopes and dreams for others.

Take care that you’re not writing an invitation to a pity party. Think as you edit (I recommend writing your first draft without self-censoring, even if it’s total crap):  what message does your journey have for future generations? Has society made a baby-step forward?  Are things dramatically different today? Did you make mistakes that could have been avoided? Is there a family history or dysfunction that needs to be addressed?  How did you develop resilience? How did you resign yourself to a new normal?

Jul 292016
Fears our Ancestors faced in the Dance of Death

The “Dance of Death” stained glass windows in the Bern, Switzerland Munster give a graphic illustration of the fears our ancestors faced.

Understanding the fears our ancestors faced can help us understand their lives. That, in turn, can help us tell their stories. Although it’s hard to know from the meager records we unearth whether an ancestor was an introvert or adventurer, we can form some theories based on historical context. We can also get a better grasp on their everyday lives.

Dangers of their Times

Reading BBC Magazine’s10 Dangers of the Medieval Period” made me want to crawl in a hole on behalf of my ancestors.  Dr. Katharine Olson’s description of the plague alone is stomach turning. Our ancestors didn’t simply fear getting sick and dying within a week, leaving their offspring to fend for themselves. The plague was a disgusting, oozing, disfiguring way to go.

Other dangers lingered for centuries—until the arrival of better medicine and social services. Even in established communities, famine, child birth, infant and child mortality, and violence from other humans were among the fears our ancestors faced on a regular basis.

As you write about your ancestors, contemplate how they would have dealt with those fears. Which ones would have kept them awake at night? Which ones did they face simply because they had no other options? For instance, when pioneer women had ten or more children, they must have worried about who would raise their existing children if they died in childbirth with number 11 or 12?

Pre-20th century travel was laborious at a minimum. Most of the time it was fraught with danger. I wonder what my immigrant ancestors would think of our modern transportation, safety devices, and roadside lodgings. They crossed oceans with babes in arms; I put my dog in a seatbelt device to drive two miles to the vet.

Fears our Ancestors Faced Due to Religion or Heritage

Fears our ancestors faced weren’t just related to the times in which they lived. Their own heritage or faith could make life dangerous.

Jewish ancestors would have faced brutal antisemitism throughout history, not just in the 20th century. How do you think they coped with that, generation after generation?

In many countries, including colonial America, bucking the established church would not only endanger one’s immortal soul. Practicing your faith could put you in mortal danger.

Researching your ancestors’ allegiance (or lack thereof) to the religious authorities of their times can be truly enlightening.  For instance, in’s “America’s True History of Religious Tolerance,” Kenneth C. Davis reports that the idea of America as a “welcome melting pot in which everyone was free to practice his or her own faith” is a myth. On the contrary, he says that “the real story of religion in America’s past is . . . often awkward, frequently embarrassing and occasionally bloody.”

Sometimes, putting food on the table meant denying your heritage. For instance, I have a friend whose Polish ancestors in Minnesota changed their last name to “Cullen” in order to find work. The only other option was to move elsewhere.

Comparing your Ancestors to their Compatriots

Fears Our Ancestors Faced - Crossing the Mississippi River

How did your ancestor compare with his or her compatriots.

Were they early on the curve of people to immigrate to a different land? Were they holdouts? Were they a part of high-society or did they live hand-to-mouth? The answers to questions like these will help you figure out whether your ancestors decisions were acts of courage or desperation. Or both.

Sue Cromwell, a genealogist here in Farmington, Michigan, points out that estate inventories list possessions and give clues to an individual’s standing in the community. Likewise, census reports will reveal their education levels, whether they took on boarders or had servants in the household, and the size and value of their real property.

Your Turn:

What fears did your ancestors face? How did you research the particulars? How did you write about it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jul 212016
Reunions are stories of family

Relatives, In-laws, or friends, reunions are a great place to restore relationships and recover faded memories.

Until last weekend, I had forgotten how poignant reunions can be. Whether it’s family, school, or something else, reunions allow you to reconnect with the past. Not only are they great places to re-color some of those faded memories, they refresh the soul.

Reunions, Time, and Relationships

It’s hard to grasp the effect that time has—and doesn’t have—on relationships. Harder still to express. I wish I had the words to articulate the restorativeness (I know, that’s not really a word.) of last weekend. My graduate program, USC- International MBA, celebrated a 30-year reunion. This is the first one that I attended, though there was a 25-year event.

Some people looked more or less the same. Good genes or “work,” they were instantly recognizable. Others, looked markedly different at first glance—gray hair, less hair, or glasses.

But once conversations began, the years peeled away.

Friendships picked up exactly where they had left off in 1986, even though we had to catch up on 30 years or so of life.

Some people have had tragic experiences. Lost a husband. Have children with severe emotional issues. Divorced. Many had lived in other countries, held impressive positions, or earned additional degrees.

In other words, a lot had changed.

Reunions reveal good friends are like stars

Conversations peeled the years away.

Then again, very little changed—even for those who had “redefined” themselves by switching careers or vocation. Which was reassuring. We’d matured and aged, but not changed.

There was a lot of laughter, eating, and drinking.  A lot of memories were reviewed.  New ones were made. The days flew by.

As Mariah Hetherington said about a different reunion, “For me, the reunion’s biggest draw is the potential to reconnect face-to-face with people I truly regret losing touch with.”

Catching Up Before Hand

We cheated a little when it came to catching up.  All 57 of us were encouraged to write “30 years in 300 words.”  Eighteen of us did, in documents ranging from 25 to 700 words.  That helped start conversations.  I’d recommend that. It helps the folks that don’t want to explain the same things over and over.

Rebuilding the Memories

We shared the same experiences, but not the same memories. Sometimes it took several of us to rebuild the memory in terms that made sense. One would remember we were in Charleston, but not how we got there. Another would remember a bus trip. A third would remember the details of the tour we did of the container port. (I can’t remember the trip at all.)

And because we all speak foreign languages, the languages themselves held memories. I didn’t remember one classmate very clearly, until I heard him speaking German. Then the memories came flooding back.

Writing about Reunions

What reunions have you attended?  How did they affect you? What did you learn about yourself? Did they make you feel reminiscent for the times gone by or relieved you’d strayed from the path you were expected to take.

Did you worry beforehand? Buy new clothes? Lose weight? Try to lose weight and fail (I’m raising my hand here)? Think about what stories you wanted to tell? Think about what you would keep silent about?

What memories did you most enjoy reminiscing about? Why? What had you forgotten? Who did you enjoy reconnecting with? Why do you think you’d lost touch?  Do you think you’ll stay in touch now?

If you attended a school reunion, think back. Was it a high or low time in your life? Did you gain some perspective by going back?

If it was a family reunion, what did you learn about family and family relationships? How do they compare to friendships?

Your Turn

Have you written about a class or family reunion? How did you approach it? What advice would you give others?

Jul 082016
Invisible illnesses and daily pills

Chronic and invisible illnesses can separate from family members that need to hear our stories

If you’re like me, chronic and invisible illnesses come towards the bottom of the list of things you’d like to write about yourself. It’s not just immersing yourself in the negativity. Although the term “invisible illness” applies “to any medical condition that is not outwardly visible to others,” according to Social Work Today, some illnesses (heart disease, cancer) seem to generate support from loved ones, while others leave sufferers socially isolated.

Many with invisible illnesses frequently encounter people who, although they’ve never had a license to practice medicine feel beholden to second guess other people’s health status or dispense dismissive medical advice.

I wish Scary Mommy (Christine Organ) would write a post to put a stop to the shaming that people with chronic and invisible illnesses face, like she did with Put Down Your Pitchforks and Cut Moms Some Slack.
I’m happy to see courageous stories starting to pepper the blogosphere, in spite of society’s wont to Monday morning quarterback. Sites like are giving voices to those who feel isolated.

Why Stories of Invisible Illnesses Are Important to Tell.

Stories of struggles and resilience inspire and promote understanding. Unfortunately, those stories don’t always end with a change of fortune. A Job-esque restoration of wealth and family wholeness, or some other version of happily-ever-after. Or a cure.

Neither is that necessarily the message that loved ones need to hear.

Resilience isn’t about waiting for the tide to turn. It’s about learning to swim in turbulent water, or reconciling yourself to staying on the shore. A 15-year-old in my life recently advised a friend who is struggling with depression. “I don’t think this is something you can make go away. But, I think it is something you can learn to live with.” That’s what our stories can illustrate.

Explain your illness.

Writing about invisible illnesses

Writing about invisible illnesses, though hard, can promote understanding.

If you’re thinking, “I shouldn’t have to,” I’m with you. At least partly. On the other hand, , you may also want to promote understanding. Write from the heart or try one of these strategies:

  1. Quote from reputable sources. The medical community’s debates over a disease’s diagnosis and treatment can  undermine patient support. Have there been new studies? Protocols? Perhaps you can borrow a quote from National Institutes of Health or John Hopkins—an institution that even Aunt Betty will believe in.
  2. Get help from an advocacy group. Most people aren’t trying to be complete jerks. If there is literature that explains how family members can be supportive, share it. (If you quote an excerpt, reference back to the original so people can read the complete article.)
  3. Write a third person account and provide an outside perspective. Especially if you feel family members have made up their minds without facts, someone else’s situation may open their eyes.
  4. Rather than educate loved ones on invisible illnesses, help them understand the symptoms you experience. What no-see-ums do you face daily, such as joint pain, shortness of breath, lack of energy?

Explain what’s so hurtful about the folks that don’t get it.

Back when I was at my worst with chronic Lyme disease, I wanted to wear my positive Western Blot like a crest on a soccer uniform, and my doctors’ resumes around my neck.

The questions people would ask would just increase my emotional distress.

“Are you sure it’s not something simple, like lack of sleep?”  Are you sure you’re not suffering from something simple like NO tact and NO brains?

“Maybe if you went out more, you’d get your mind off of it. . .” Let’s see, if I could walk 100 yards or string five words together in a sentence I might be able to go out for an evening. Obviously, I’m just staying in ‘cause I love single person pity-parties..

“A PICC line seems a little drastic. . .”   Thank you. I graduated summa cum laude with a triple major, but I’m incapable of processing my doctor’s advice. Good thing that you, almost total stranger, are here to help me through.

Of course, I never said those italicized things. Most of the time, I’d mumble something inane. It wasn’t simply that brain fog made me too inarticulate to debate. I didn’t see the reason I needed to.

It’s a pity’s handy dandy email-able 15 Things Not to Say to Someone with a Chronic or Invisible Illness wasn’t around back then. Every one of those things hits the nail on the head, and they explain why those questions are things are counter-productive, if not down-right insulting, while putting the snarkiness on hold.  Aside: Personally, I’d add a #16.  If you’re tempted to begin a sentence with “I don’t mean any offense, but…” don’t say that sentence.

Let loved ones know how they can be supportive and helpful.  What do you need? What makes it harder for you?

Tell the story of how you coped.

Stories are more powerful than facts. Anyone can debate the facts of an invisible illness, but no one can deny your story.

  1. What kind of onset did your illness have?
  2. How did your life change as you became symptomatic?
  3. How hard was the process of having your illness diagnosed?
  4. Was your case stereotypical or not? How did that impact the diagnosis and treatment?
  5. Did you have problems finding qualified medical advice?
  6. Who supported you during that time?
  7. Who helped with the kids?
  8. How did you explain changes to your spouse, kids, and other loved ones?
  9. Is this something that other family members will likely inherit?

Explain your new normal

When the rheumatologist I saw, diagnosed Fibromyalgia, he handed me a little tri-fold brochure on ‘Coping.’ A little bullet point recommended changing vocation or career path.  Simple huh? Not.  Explain why as you tell your story.

  1. What is your “normal” day?
  2. What limitations do you face?
  3. What limitations are you unable to accept?
  4. Have you had to change your vocation?
  5. Have you had to change your lifestyle, home, or family routines?
  6. How have you made your peace with your invisible illness or disability?
  7. Has the illness progressed to visible, i.e., do you sometimes use a cane or wheel chair?
  8. Have you turned to advocacy?
  9. What helps you get through?

Your Turn:

Have you told your story of coping with chronic or invisible illness? How did it go over? What would you recommend?

Jun 272016
Silver linings behind broken hearts

Are there silver linings behind the heart-break in your family stories?

Last week, however, a friend showed me how to look for silver linings.

The news is often disturbing, but in the last couple of weeks the horrors that some people will inflict on others makes me want to run and hide. Only I don’t know where I’d go.

The Brandon Vandenburg and Brock Turner rape rob me of sleep. Is our culture is no further along than when I was a teenager? I seethe not only over the injustice of the sentence handed down to Brock Turner. I shudder that it would even occur to a young person—drunk out of his mind or not—to do those things to a woman. That it would occur to their friends to let it happen.  That it would occur to friends to defend their actions.

Then Orlando happened. Horrific enough to be an entire iceberg, but sadly not. Just a tip. The bullets were not the only vehicles of hate. Tragedy brings out the best and the worst in people. Unfortunately, the media likes to give voice to the worst. It sells and gets re-shared.

People (other terms come to mind, but I’ll stick with people) used the Orlando attack as an opportunity for hate-mongering, pontificating, and demagoguery. The reasonable and logical Laura that hides lives somewhere inside my emotional ADHD brain knows that these voices belong to the outliers. But that brought me very little comfort, because I’d see heart-broken posts from LGBT friends and family members cross my social media feeds. The hate cut them, increasing their grief. Particularly that espoused from so-called Christian pulpits. Words sharpened by hate and fear took palatable form, severing—or at least trying to sever—tenuous faith.

Silver Linings in Social Media

As the days went by, voices of support and the spirit of love gained traction, sometimes from unexpected places. Utah’s Lt. Governor Spencer Cox’s moving speech. Fr. James Martin words of comfort, and the way he encouraged us to love.

Through his postings, one of my friends was able to teach me—and probably many others—something about silver linings.  They’re not always easy to see. He made an intentional decision to look away from the hurt and look for the good. He went out looking for silver linings. Literally. He took a stroll through Traverse City, Michigan, looking for signs of comfort and solidarity.

Rainbow flag as a sliver lining

Silver linings in vibrant colors fly throughout Traverse City, Michigan. Photo credit Guy Molnar

He came home that afternoon and posted 25 photos of rainbow flags hung in front of houses and in shop windows. Now he’s up to 42. And in response, his friends have posted the ones they’ve seen.

Silver Linings in our Stories

I wonder how many times I’ve missed the silver linings in stories.

I think of my family history as a tapestry woven by different people in contrasting hues during divergent times. Good times in bright, vibrant colors and sturdy strands. Anxious periods in timid tones embroidered with delicate threads. Huge swaths of grays and blacks mark times of fear and heart-break with knots and tangles.  Together those colors and textures make a beautiful story. And every once in a while, silver linings shine through.

My friend’s silver lining walk reminded me of something important. Seeing silver linings isn’t about drying your eyes, keeping your head up, or even keeping calm and carrying on. You can see them through your tears and in the darkest moments, but sometimes you have to look hard.

As you write your own and family stories, don’t overlook the silver lining that often lurk unseen. Maybe you can make some of those pieces of tapestry into an ongoing bedtime story: a vibrant coverlet lined with silver.


Jun 162016
Truth and Accuracy scrabble tiles

How do you deal with the elusiveness of truth and accuracy in memories and family stories?

The fallibility of memory can make truth and accuracy hard to come by. Competing versions of the same stories—the same memories—dance and whorl around family tables every get together. One person remembers it was a Sunday in July. A sibling insists it was in October and a Sunday.

How do you decide which version is true? What details are accurate? Perhaps a better question is how do you decide if the details of the story are worth fighting about.

Often the answer lies in understanding the difference between truth and accuracy as well as your own role as storyteller.

Truth versus Accuracy Continue reading »

Jun 042016
Daddy with childhood dog

Animal stories reveal character. Think about your family members and which animal stories you could tell.

My neighbor Frank likes to say that the way people act around dogs shows what type of person they really are. He’s right. Animal stories reveal character. Frank has never gone so far as to say that if someone doesn’t like dogs, they have questionable friendship potential, but I suspect that thought has crossed his mind.

How Animal Stories Reveal Character

John Grogan’s memoir, Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog is a great example of how animal stories reveal character. In Your Life is a Book: How to Craft & Publish Your Memoir, Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann explain the popularity of the yellow lab as a character. “One of the reasons Marley is such a beloved character … is because Grogan reveals his dog’s flaws as well as his joys.” The same holds true for the author. We don’t just love Marley. Continue reading »

May 272016
What else have you lost quote by Havelock Ellis

What else have you lost? How did that loss teach the fine art of living?

Grief often rears its dark, draining head, not just when someone dies.  The onset of many life crises is the loss of something. A relationship, a value, a sense of purpose.  We’ve all experienced a loss of a pet or cherished object (See Writing Your Lost and Found Story.) But what else have you lost during your lifetime?

Loss of a Relationship, Sense of Identity

A loss of a relationship can also entail a loss of an identity. Our worldview changes when life chooses to make an illegal U-turn.

Recently, a friend of mine when through a time of anguish that makes me feel neurotic grieving over my perfectly normal empty nest. Her 20-year-old daughter disappeared from a rehab facility in a major city many hours away from home. For two eternally long months, there was no sign of her child.

Finally, by chance, driving along a major thoroughfare in her own city, she spotted her daughter. The reunion was also a moment of heartbreak. My friend has a hard time talking about it. Though she temporarily located her daughter, my friend’s world had shifted on its axis. In addition to missing her daughter’s physical presence in her home—in her life, the shroud of adulthood that her daughter now possesses limits her ability to help her child who suffers from mental illness and addiction.

When have you had to make peace with a new version of “normal”? A divorce, job loss, or career change can also spark feeling of a loss of identity. How did you right yourself? How did you regain your sense of self? These make great stories, stories with the power to connect across generations.

Innocence Lost

Another friend tells of her pre-teen loss of innocence. The Oakland County child killer and the panic he instilled in the entire Detroit metro area robbed her and her friends of carefree afternoons, riding bikes to each other’s houses. Of going out to play out from under the anxious, watchful eyes of their parents. The bubble of invincibility that buffets children against the horrors of the adult world popped. In its place came an imagination that ran rampant. It colored not only her own development, but the eventual choices she would make as a parent.

Loss of Physical Ability, Memory

There are things that our mortal, frailer-than-we’d-like-to-admit bodies cheat us out of as well. They betray our still active minds by refusing to work, or at least work as well as we’d like. They force us to fight disease instead of those life battles we want to mount.

Perhaps you’ve had to bear helpless witness as a particularly cruel disease causes a family member to misplace memories, even their sanity. Past moments, even the recognition of loved ones, fade into oblivion. Consider writing about these moments of heartache; they tell stories of love and devotion.

What else have you lost?

Along the road, whether by virtue of physical maladies or of the life sh** that happens, we lose things. Intangible things. Confidence. Independence. Hope. Faith. Courage. Our groove.

Don’t you think these moments are important to share? What would you want your loved ones, especially those of future generations, to take away from your story? Of course, they’ll be touched by your loss, but they can also learn from your healing or your renewed perspective. Perhaps they’ll even discover that resilience isn’t inborn, but something that can be gathered along the way, even on the roughest, dirtiest roads.

Havelock Ellis is quoted as saying, “All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Let your loved ones know how you did that.

May 192016
 Fathers' Day Ideas illustrated by my husband

Since this guy is notoriously hard to buy for, I’m always searching for more meaningful Fathers’ Day Ideas.

Is it just me, or are fathers more difficult to buy for than mothers?  I’m always short of fathers’ day ideas. My husband has a box in the bedroom with yet-to-be-used gifts he’s received.  He claims he appreciates all of them, but I’m always searching for more meaningful gifts, particularly those that will bring precious memories alive.

Spending Time with Dad

Making memories trump recalling memories.  First and foremost, focus on those gifts and ideas that you can look back on with fondness in years to come.  Bonus points if you can do something that will evoke memories of the father in question’s own childhood adventures with his dad.  Going fishing or hiking. Building something in the workshop. Perhaps instead of making a craft for dad, the kids can make a craft with dad on Fathers’ Day.

Memory Gifts

Fathers' Day Handprint In addition to those mentioned in 4 Ways to Share Memories with Dad, I’ve marked some great memory related Fathers’ Day ideas on my Fathers’ Day Ideas Pinterest Board. One that really struck a chord with me was’s idea of “Our Little Book of Experiences,” a creative take on the ubiquitous coupon book. You can fill this one with memories of great moments spent with dad or promises of future quality time together.

In many offices, desk space is at a premium. I particularly like Shutterfly’s customized smart-phone case, which doesn’t require Dad to give up precious desk-top real estate.  Photobooks are also always well-received. Consider filling one with photos of Dad’s success at his hobby, such as finished wood-working projects, his garden in full-bloom, or photos of him coaching little league.

Preserve Your History with Dad

Topping my list of Fathers’ Day Ideas is preserving your history with your father, and Story Corps presents a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Founded to increase understanding through audio interviews, their mobile booth travels around the country recording moving conversations. They’ve also launched a Story Corps smartphone app. The app features the same meaningful question prompts and, like the official booths, uploads interviews to the Library of Congress.

Grandpa Fathers’ Day Ideas

You don’t want to get me started about how hard it is to find a present for my father-in-law. He doesn’t want for much. If he does want something, he goes out and buys it.  Now that he and my mother-in-law have down-sized, they don’t want “clutter.”  So, gift card it is….

Give your difficult-to-buy-for dad or granddad a piece of their family history. You can use or your library’s edition of to make him a starter pedigree chart. And, rude as it sounds, you can give your dad a DNA test.  Not to confirm paternity, mind you, but to give him an insight into his heritage.

Want More Fathers’ Day Ideas?

Your Turn

What was your favorite Fathers’ Day gift? Have any other memory-related or memorable Fathers’ Day Ideas?  Please leave your thoughts.