The O’Brien Clan Celebrates One Thousand Years!

O'Brien Clan CrestWeeva is honored to work with the O’Brien Clan to help commemorate one thousand years of Clan History! As an American, it’s almost unfathomable that any group could possibly exist for such a long time… and yet, here they are, celebrating an entire  Millennium. in Ireland, this week! There must me some fantastic stories in this mix, right?

Sponsored by the O’Brien Foundation, the O’Briens are using Weeva to harness collective memory to document all things O’Brien. If you are an O’Brien, related to one, or simply curious about any group hardy enough to have a millennial celebration, check out out the O’Brien Project. You can read, and ADD your stories on any of these topics!
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Eight Wise Things Your Parents Taught You

It’s funny how we pretty much all rebel against our parents as teenagers. That feeling of mortification and embarrassment as mom pulls up to give us a ride home after high school is near instinctual as our want for independence rears its head. Even still, the older we get, the more we realize how much our parents have taught us about life, love, and figuring out where our feet stop and the ground starts. Sometimes this comes alongside that momentary and startling realization that we’re just like our parents. But, most times, it’s a more subtle, simple understanding that we wouldn’t stand where we do without those who reared us and we certainly wouldn’t be who we are without them.

So, in the spirit of the upcoming holidays, here’s a tribute to those kind souls who raised and nurtured us. I present you with eight wise things from Mom and Dad that I didn’t appreciate when I was young but rely on now.

1. Character is forged through how you handle the hard things, not the easy things.

 

Let’s be honest — Mom and Dad were right when they said this one. Easy things are, well, easy. And life isn’t actually all that easy, certainly not all the time.  Growth happens in the challenge not in the coasting.  I’ve found that this lesson has more to it than Mom and Dad let on to me in childhood. It is during the truly difficult times that we learn who we are and what we stand for. So, keep at it.

2. The Wise Person is Never Bored.

boredom

http://i.imgur.com/qh14c.gif

My pops used to say (and still does) that the truly wise individual can sit in a waiting room with nothing but his, or her, thoughts and imagination and be content. As a high strung kid, this was the most annoying thing to hear (‘Who cares? I’m bored’). But, the more years that go by, the more I realize how wise this sentiment is.

3. Always Reach for the Stars.

Not only did this piece of wisdom let my parents tell me to always try my best but it also doubled as a childhood lesson on metaphors (“You can’t actually reach the stars, it’s a metaphor”). This wonderful if cheesy saying also translates into: “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.”

4. Perseverance is Key.

Leaving alone the fact that the first time good ol’ dad told me this I had to ask what ‘perseverance’ was (I was five), it was probably the most irritating thing to hear when I was suffering under homework in high school and then again in college. But, in the end, it was true. Even if I hoped my work would magically do itself or go away, perseverance really was the key, especially as the challenges got bigger and harder.

5. Take Chances.

Perserverance

 

According to mom and dad, a willingness to take chances is a maxim to live by because playing it safe is a sure fire path to mediocrity and stagnation. Just recently, I followed this advice to a tee by moving to a completely new city (Austin, TX, where else) with no job, a one way plane ticket, a checked bag, and a guitar. There’s no guarantee of success, but hey, mom and dad wouldn’t have it any other way!  Yay me, I’m going for it.

6. Always Remember that Tomorrow Is Another Day.

thesunwillcomeout

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A catch all favorite saying of my mother that seemed silly to me when I was young (‘Of course tomorrow’s another day, Mom’) but couldn’t be more true now. Have a bad day? Sleep it off and focus on tomorrow. Even if the weather’s bad like it is above for Annie, it’s about changing your attitude by waking up with a fresh perspective and eye to the future. At least, that’s what mom would say and it seems to work pretty well.

7. Attitude + Effort + Talent = Brilliance.

 

When I was little, I wanted to be excellent at things without ever trying. I’d even give up at the first sign that things were going to take work to get through. It took a while to really understand that talent alone was not enough, but now I get it. “Talent plus no effort and a poor attitude equals shoulda, woulda, coulda.”  I’m lucky to have learned this in my 20’s.

 

8. Always Obey the Golden Rule. Especially When No One is Looking.

Or any other variant of “treat others as you want to be treated” has been said by parents ever since it was written on some stone tablets (or even before), this one is so basic it is basically a cliche. And yet I can now observe for myself that when people DO follow it, the world looks and feels a little better. I’m now grateful that my parents drilled this one in… I catch myself thinking about how I want to be treated  And funny enough, the older we get, the more we appreciate it (especially when we catch ourselves saying it to our own kids).

 

 

Everyone’s Story Deserves to be Told

At Weeva, we believe everyone’s story deserves to be told.

Weeva’s story began when my father became seriously ill, and I realized that one day we would lose not only him, but the wonderful stories that only he can tell. While I held his hand in hospital, it became so clear that we would one day lose his wisdom and his experience forever, unless we could find a fun and engaging way to capture them now. And that’s when Weeva was born.

We are a small but passionate team based in Austin, TX building something we wish we had – an online home for our stories, a place to share, keep and tell them together with the loved ones who are part of them. And best of all, once you’ve collected your stories, you can choose to turn them into a beautiful art quality keepsake book that you can have forever.

We announced the beginning of our adventure at this year’s SXSW in our home town, Austin TX. Here is the video of that presentation.

How Family Storytelling Benefits Your Children

Unpacking the Science Behind Family Storytelling

“Tell me again how you and Mommy met,” my little cousin, Matthew, asks, half asleep and eyes drooping as he sits by his father. “Just one more story,” he mumbles. Whether being asked for ‘one more story’ as a parent or asking your own parents for ‘one more story’ as a child, the childhood want for stories is seemingly universal. And research within the last two decades has shown that children benefit hugely from knowing their own personal history.

The benefits include heightened adolescent self-esteem, emotional intelligence, a stronger self-identity, and lessened risks of depression and anxiety later in life. When you think about it, this is hardly surprising — telling children stories about who they are and where they come from grounds them in history and tradition. It shows them “the stuff they are made of” and gives them access to a storyline that is much stronger and deeper than their own individual story.

What is surprising, however, is one study that came out of Emory University in 2006, which showed a strong correlation between children exposed to collaborative family storytelling and their development into healthy adolescents. The study basically finds that it is helpful for children to see that stories are often incomplete or inaccurate without the input of others. It turns out to be helpful when family members — like a grandparent, mother, or father — correct for mistakes in another’s stories. The interplay between family members helps to build a bigger view of “truth” and leads to a  stronger, more connected and cohesive family unit.

As we’re fast approaching the time of year when many families gather together, the stories will very likely flow naturally. Whether it means taking the kids away from Minecraft or the movie screen, be sure to pull them into the conversation, too. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.

If you’re stuck on how to start telling families stories together, here are a few tips from everyone at Weeva to help move things along.

Bringing Up Past Memories, Together

Whether it’s talking with your children about how you and your significant other met, how they were born, or reaching out to your parents and parent-in-laws about their own stories, there’s a wealth of material to go through. Stories about the past hold a special significance to us and, even more so, for our children. Was there a song that was special in your early years (please don’t say it was Toto’s song Africa)? A place that you used to go? What was your wedding like? Did you like each other when you first met? Stories like these help teach children about how their families came to be.

Always remember that photo books are a great way to prompt discussions (and sentimentality). Bringing one out after dinner can be a fun and constructive way to prompt family conversations.

Sharing Your Proudest Moments… 

We’re all proud of something  and sharing those moments is a great way to connect with your loved ones and children. Perhaps it was the day your child was born, or the day you graduated college, or when you won the second grade spelling bee. Stories concerning your proudest moments are apt to go above and beyond simply giving your children a glimpse into your life — they give your children benchmarks to aspire as they themselves grow. If your children are school-aged, you can always go back to your own childhood school memories. What subjects were your favorite, which ones your disliked, or what sports you used to play are things that may seem trivial to you but will mean the world to your children.

And your blunders, too.

While it might not be as much fun to share, sharing mistakes and blunders with children is hugely helpful to them. It shows that other people in their family are human too, and that to err is human. It makes it much easier for them to accept their own faults, and shows them that while mistakes happen, most are just a small obstacle on a bigger journey. Children learn resilience by seeing and hearing how people just like them have overcome challenges and gone on to thrive. These are incredibly important stories to share.

Preserving What You Find

Talking through family stories with your children, significant other, parents, and in-laws, is fantastic for your children but, as with most things, can be forgotten over time. A great way to preserve favorite stories  from the past is to record them in some way. Whether through a video of an older family member talking about their past, writing each snippet down, or getting everyone to record their favorite story in their own voice on Weeva, the benefits are numerous. One day you’ll be very glad you did.

So as you carve the turkey and talk over the past, remember

that Weeva wishes you the warmest times over the coming holidays! And, should you already be mulling over gifts to get, don’t be afraid to check out our blog on thoughtful gifts.

 

 

christmas, white christmas, snow, snow hut, christmas night, snowy night,

Merry Christmas from the Weeva Team!

 As the Christmas lights glisten,

last minute shoppers careen through store fronts, and our houses smell more and more like fresh pine, everyone here at Weeva has been gripped by excitement for the day to come and nostalgia for the Christmas times past. That’s what we think of when we think about Christmas. But more than that, we think of the memories and love we’ve shared over the years and with our own.

And seeing as we truly love sharing our memories with those around us, we thought we’d share a few of our own memories with you. Considering how much fun we had reminiscing on times past together, we’re also inviting you to add a few of your own.

So, in no particular order:


Kim Gorsuch, our lovely CEO and founder, had this to say:

When I was little, we used to visit with my father’s grandmother on Christmas Eve. We called her “Grandma Christine” and she was born on Christmas day. A big-hearted German immigrant, she was a wonderful cook and as jolly as they come — a veritable female version of Santa Claus. She would always prepare huge and delicious meals regardless of the size of the expected crowd — you could never, ever eat enough food for her! She would just keep piling the food on the plate until you literally could not eat another bite. Her greatest joy seemed to be feeding others — anyone at all who needed to eat was welcome in her home. And if they didn’t come to her, she would take the food to them in the streets. To this day, she is one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever known.

Kendra, our amazing Community Manager, had this to share:

I often find my mom asleep in the living room by the Christmas tree during the month of December. At night she turns off all the lights but leaves the tree on and quietly sits in its room by its light until peacefully she finds herself asleep. She looks so childlike by that light, so enchanted by the warmth of a lifetime of Decembers with family and friends and coffee being made late into the night.

As for me, your humble Editor and Writer, I got hung up on my childhood memories of spending Christmas with my grandparents in Scotland.

In my grandparent’s cozy home just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, the kitchen would explode into chaos with all manner of smells in the air as my seven aunts and uncles laughed over drinks.

My grandparents, regally perched in their armchairs, would sip from their tumblers and take on the ‘hardest job:’ watching the grandchildren. Of course, with sixteen grandchildren, there was always at least one who would sneak out of sight.

“Aye, dinnae dae that!” my auntie Kathleen would yell as the escapee cut loose from the heard, nearly knocking a bulb from the tree. “Ach, I tell ye, I feel a wee bit older every fortnight,” she’d mutter to my ‘mum’ (which she always insisted I call her after we crossed the ocean).

For those of us who stayed put before my grandparents, we’d be lauded with all manner of stories from their childhoods. Whether it was about ‘poor uncle Willy’ and his penchant for a pint, or the fact that Auntie Tessa always insisted that Santa loved a ‘wee bitta whiskey’ for his reindeer, stories would pour forth, quicker and quicker as their tumblers drained. There would always come a point when, as my cousins and I sat around the fire, my own father would come in and my grandfather would try to come to terms with two otherworldly attributes about him: one, that he was an American (‘God bless America!’ my grandfather would say, red in the cheeks); and two, that he was Jewish (‘What was the prayer for the candles again, Jimmy boy?’).

But when dinner came, everyone would stop. With the fireplace crackling and the Christmas tree shining bright beside it, plates would be ceremoniously laid, overflowing food. With sixteen grandchildren and their own eight children before them, my grandparents, both slightly red in the cheeks from their “wee bit” of whiskey, would sit as if conducting an orchestra. Prayers would be said, laughs would be had, and thirds would be served just before dessert came.

So from everyone here at the Weeva team, 

we wish you the warmest of Christmas Eves and the best of Christmas days. And don’t be shy! Share your favorite Christmas memories with us in the comments below — we’d love to hear them!

 

“True” Family History: Garbage Deluxe

Introducing “True” Family History

Every family knows that “truth” is often up for interpretation, especially when it involves two different people relying on their very own personal memory.  Our new blog series, ‘“True” Family History’ examines how a shared experience or memory can turn out a different tale depending on who tells it. We want to pay tribute to all those moments when we share an experience with someone else, and then recall it completely differently. You know exactly what we mean when we say it makes for some spirited debate! For our first story, a pair of grandparents “discuss” exactly how they “misplaced” their luggage.

Garbage Deluxe: His View

Well, we had been in Florida for the winter as was our practice. Evelyn spent the week prior to our departure packing up our belongings for the trip home. For some reason, she decided not to use our perfectly good, if old, suitcases, and instead opted to use large black plastic garbage bags. We had some extra that we hadn’t used for actual garbage, and you know what they say about “waste not, want not.” Anyway, she wanted to use the trash bags. She even thought they’d be better as they’d be easier to push and shove around in the back of the station wagon. Read More

Creating a 90th birthday storybook – 2003 vs. today

In 2003 my great-grandmother, affectionately called Nenny by all who loved her, was turning 90. Nenny was an incredible woman, having grown up with 9 siblings during the Great Depression, she had a garden in her small suburban back yard that would have impressed Babylon (and probably could have kept them fed). Nenny was loved by everyone she met, and her house was always full of family and friends.

Hunter and Nenny
Hunter and Nenny

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christmas, christmas dinner, recipes,

How to Make Christmas Dinner Unforgettable

“Everybody Knows a Turkey and Some Mistletoe…” – Nat King Cole

There are certain things that trigger our memories — a familiar smell, an old song, a conversation — and, as our eyes close for a moment, we travel back in time.

With my apartment smelling more and more like a German Christmas market, I’ve been catching myself slipping down the rabbit hole of my childhood memories of Christmas. Strangely enough, it’s not the notes from Santa or presents — I’ve been having some serious nostalgia for my family Christmas dinners. Between the meals themselves, everyone gathered and laughing around the table, and the characteristic glass of brandy perpetually stuck in my Uncle David’s hand, there was something unforgettable about seeing everyone happy and everyone together.

And for good reason, too. With my mother’s family living across the Atlantic Ocean, Christmas was one of the only times when we would all come together. Tucked away at my grandparent’s house just outside Edinburgh, Scotland utter chaos would reign as my mother would take over the kitchen and her seven brother and sisters would laugh over drinks. My grandparents, regally perched themselves in their chintz armchairs, would sip from their tumblers and take on the ‘hardest job:’ watching the grandchildren.

When dinner came, everyone would stop, a wave of calm coming over the dining room. With the fireplace crackling and the Christmas tree beside it shining bright, plates would be ceremoniously laid, piled high with food, in their designated spots on the table. As a veritable legion of sixteen grandchildren and their own eight children sat before them, my grandparents, both slightly red in the cheeks from their “wee bit” of whiskey, would sit at the head of the table as if they were about to conduct an orchestra.

Family Recipes are the Secret to an Unforgettable Christmas Dinner 

The fact that I won’t be celebrating Christmas with my family in Scotland this year probably explains my nostalgic (and slightly cheesy) description. And while I certainly wish I could be there, I managed to weasel next best thing from my mom and grandmother: our family recipes. Family recipes carry with them their own stories and memories and we all have them. Whether it brings you back to how amazing mom’s lasagna was or how peculiar grandma’s affinity for salt in her porridge always seemed, following a family recipe does more than just turn out a tested and tried dish. The way it smells, looks, and tastes awakens memories, connecting us to the past in meaningful ways.

So, as I sit down to Christmas dinner this year, I’ll be eating two dishes my family eats every year: Shepherd’s Pie and Apple Crumble. And, in the spirit of the season (and off the pages of my family cookbook courtesy of Weeva), I give you our super secret recipes for Shepherd’s Pie and Apple Crumble.

The Wood Family’s Shepherd’s Pie

shepherd's pie

For when you’re dealing with those cold Christmas nights, here’s a tried and true dish that’ll “stick to your ribs.” Or at least that’s what my grandfather would say with a smirk as he asked if you wanted thirds.

Did I mention I had a big family? If you find yourself with an army of friends and family to feed this year, I strongly recommend Shepherd’s Pie. I remember my grandmother flurrying about the kitchen, pulling out an old recipe from her mother. “Oh dear,” she would say as an egg timer went off. “That’ll be the tatties ready to be oot,” she’d say to herself as she hummed along to Bing Crosby.

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe ‘oot’ on paper, just for you.

Ingredients

  1. Potatoes
  2. Ground Beef
  3. Butter
  4. Milk
  5. Salt and Pepper
  6. Onions
  7. Mushrooms
  8. Peppers
  9. Zucchini
  10. Tomato Sauce

Recipe

  1. Boil potatoes – when soft, mix with butter and milk, salt and pepper and mash.
  2. Sautee onions, add ground beef and keep turning until brown.
  3. Add mushrooms, peppers, zucchini or whatever you have plus pasta sauce and stir.
  4. Pour mince once cooked into an oven dish and spoon the mashed tatties on top.
  5. Pop in oven for 30 minutes at 350 until a wee bit brown on top

The Wood Family’s Apple Crumble

apple crumble

After the appetisers and main course were done, my mum and gran would run into the kitchen for desert. And, by far my favorite plate, every year Apple Crumble would come through the door. As my aunts and uncles would pour themselves another drink. my cousins and I would face the terribly difficult question from grandpa: “Do you want ice cream or scootie cream on your crumble?” (For those who don’t know, scootie cream is actually whipped cream. Or at least according to my grandfather).

So when you’re setting Apple Crumble on your table, remember that ice cream and/or whipped cream go great with it.

Filling

  1. Four big apples
  2. ¼ cup of sugar
  3. Lemon juice
  4. Two tablespoons of flour
  5. One Teaspoon of Cinnamon

Topping

  1. One cup of flour
  2. 1¼ cup of oats
  3. ½ cup of brown sugar
  4. Pinch of salt
  5. One stick of butter

 Directions

  1. Prepare apples by slicing and peeling (if you want to, peeling is not necessary).
  2. Put apples in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and flour.
  3. Lay apples on a greased baking dish in a layer.
  4. Mix flour, oats, cinnamon, salt, and sugar for the topping. Mix in cold butter and stop when lumps form.
  5. Put topping on apples and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Whatever Christmas Dinner you sit down to this year,

we (that’s us here at Weeva) wish you the warmest holiday greetings!

 

A Grandfather’s Legacy: Patience and Perseverance

Guest blog post by Andrei Duta

When I think about the people who have shaped my character, I immediately think of my late grandfather, Constantin Marinescu…

IMG_1203…from whom I learned the powerful virtues of “patience” and “perseverance.” My grandfather waited for 50 years for the Americans to come to Romania. A young man during World War II, my grandfather prayed with millions of Romanians that the Americans would come and bring freedom and democracy in Romania. His dreams and hopes were dashed when Roosevelt and Churchill conceded Eastern Europe to Stalin as a result of the Yalta Conference at the beginning of 1944.

Instead of the Americans, the Russians came and brought with them Communism. For five decades, my grandfather continued to pray and hope that the Americans would someday come. My grandfather persevered against much hardship. Much of his land and property were confiscated. My grandfather waited patiently year after year, decade after decade.

Finally, in 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe. The winds of change swept the country of Romania and brought with them the first American missionaries. Some of them had the chance to meet my grandfather who welcomed them with tears of joy and gratitude. Fifty years later, my grandfather’s perseverant and patient prayers were finally answered. The Americans did come. Constantin Marinescu’s dreams came true.
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How to Make Your Weeva Book Successful

Whether you’re looking for a unique gift for a family member or friend or a beautiful keepsake for your family to have for years to come, you’re ready to fill a book with your friends and family full of beautiful memories, photos, and touching stories. And we’re just as excited as you are to see your vision become a reality. Based on our experiences writing our own Weeva books and helping others craft theirs, here are four tips to help turn your project into a successful Weeva book.

Tip #1

Tell ‘Em What The Party’s All About

weevadescription

When setting up your tapestry, your description and subtitle are key. Think of these as a roadmap – without them, those who you invite will be lost. The more specific you are in describing the topic and goal of your tapestry, the more likely you and everyone you invite are to succeed. If you’ve already set up your tapestry and have not taken the time to create a winning subtitle and description, fear not! All you have to do is click the button ‘Manage Tapestry’ seen here:

manage tapestry

From here, you’re good to go!

Tip #2

You’ve Been Invited to…

The next step is to craft an excellent invitation. We recommend that your invite include a full explanation of what your Weeva book is for (gift, keepsake, memorial tribute), what type of stories you are looking for, and a call for photographs to assist in recalling memories. If you want, you can even throw in some questions to help prod people along. Basically, your invitations should explain what you want so that when all your friends and family receive them, everyone’s on the same page. A good invitation might look like this:

Mary is turning 55 this year and, in celebration, we’re trying to put together a book full of great stories that celebrate her role in our lives. Whether as daughter, sister, wife, mother, or friend, Mary has, and continues to be, a force in all our lives. You can write your own story and submit your pictures by starting a thread, which stands for a new subject, or responding to a thread that’s already established. As we’re trying to give this to her as a birthday present, we request that you get all your great stories and pictures in before March 20, 2014. And, shhhh, keep it a secret! This is a gift she’ll cherish for years to come.

Making your invites is really quite simple. At the top right of your tapestry, you’ll see a set of buttons:

sendinvite

After you click through, you’re ready to go!

Tip #3

Model the Way

We’ve found that when you set up a project with a story or two before inviting everyone to join in, they do best. If you want, you can also ask a small group, say two or three people, to help. Think of it this way: if you’re throwing a cocktail party, you’re going to want to provide the cocktails (and hor d’oeuvres are great, too). And, just like a cocktail or two, model stories help your friends and family find their way, start talking (hopefully not like Aunt Marge at that last party), and set the stage for our favorite part, telling your stories, together. In a way, it’s just like starting a garden: you have to lay some seeds to get your fruits and veggies going.

 

Tip #4

And It’s a Date.

due date, deadline

 

Say you’re crafting a surprise group gift for Aunt Peg’s birthday — you’re probably going to want your Weeva book by her birthday. And this is the final, not so secret tip towards making a successful Weeva book: telling everyone when the party’s over. As we take great pride in turning your content into beautiful art books, we recommend finishing your tapestry about three weeks before you need your finished book to give us time to design and print your finished product (although if worst comes to worst, we can do rush deliveries). While Weeva sends reminders to people in your invite pool to contribute their memories and photos, we encourage you to talk to the participants in your project as well. By giving them a firm due date, you’re well on your way to making your Weeva book a success.

Tip #5

You Don’t Have to be Shakespeare.

A roadblock people sometimes run into when contributing to a Weeva project breaks down in one of two ways: “But I don’t have anything interesting to say;” or, “I’m not a great writer.” We’re here to tell you that no, you don’t have to be Shakespeare to make a truly meaningful Weeva book (although if you are, we do enjoy your work).

Actually,  from what we’ve seen, the best Weeva stories feature what may seem like run-of-the-mill memories. And that’s because these are the most interesting memories to preserve in a Weeva book. Think about it like you’re writing a letter — it doesn’t have to the length of a novel and, whatever memory you write about, it’ll be in your voice.

This is the beauty of a Weeva book: it’s mosaic of voices speaking together. So, no, you don’t have to be Shakespeare.

And Don’t Be Afraid to…

Let Us Help You. Whether it’s for help with prompts, questions about what kind of book design options you have, or anything else, don’t hesitate to ask! We’re here for you, always.