In April 2010, a dying Mom named Heather created a farewell gift for her children. Heather recorded messages for each of her two young children and arranged to have them shipped in VoiceQuilt Keepsake Boxes after her death. Each keepsake had a unique set of “Messages from Mommy”.
These farewell gifts are heartbreaking and inspiring. To me, they represent a triumph of the human spirit: a mother’s dedication to being there – in voice – for her children. According to studies cited by the Wall Street Journal, one in nine Americans loses a parent before the age of 20. In short, being a child who has lost a parent is much more common than most people realize.
At VoiceQuilt, we’ve seen many variations on these farewell gifts. Last month, a group of church congregants collected favorite memories of their pastor, who is struggling with ALS. The organizers of this VoiceQuilt added a special twist: the voice message toasts and memories were created not for their pastor — but for the pastor’s daughters instead:
“We are making a special gift for Julie’s daughters, Rachel and Emma. It’s a VoiceQuilt, a collection of special stories and happy memories about their mother. When Rachel and Emma listen to their VoiceQuilt, a wonderfully rich, affectionate and lasting picture of their mother will emerge.”
At VoiceQuilt, we believe that the sound of a person’s voice – their accent, tone and laughter – conveys more than images or text. Since audio is processed by the limbic brain, a loved one’s voice can trigger a visceral reaction – literally bringing that person into the room.
Farewell gifts will never ease the pain of losing a parent. I hope, however, that VoiceQuilts like these will provide some comfort…some day.
The end of the academic year triggers a flurry of activities: teacher appreciation, retirements, sports banquets and graduations. As a result, you might need to send a few email reminders about your VoiceQuilt. Don’t take it personally! Families are running fast and hard – particularly this time of year.
Thankfully, it’s very easy to remind friends and family to call into your VoiceQuilt – especially if you used VoiceQuilt’s email invites – the templates you access when clicking on the “Manage Invitations and Reminders” button.
Simply toggle the “To” button in your email invitation.
Then, add some reminder text to the top of your original email invite. We recommend creating urgency with a phrase like “Only 5 days left!”.
If your family is on Facebook, try sharing a voice message from a child – along with a gentle (or not so gentle) nudge to record a message. Many gift givers also post reminders on twitter and on personal web sites. Some even do a countdown, reminding callers multiple times (“Only 3 days left”, “Only 1 day left”, “Only 1 hour left”) as the deadline approaches.
As life speeds up at the end of the school year, it’s easy to remind family and friends to call in and record a voice message toast – and it’s well worth the effort. The more the merrier. You and everyone who participates will be delighted by the final result.
Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6-10 and one way we can express our appreciation for the lasting impact teachers make in our lives is by giving them meaningful teacher gifts. As we all know, most teachers are underpaid and overworked. That’s a great reason for expressing thanks with a thoughtful teacher appreciation gift.
In days gone by, a shiny apple might have been a good teacher gift, but things have changed. A special, unexpected teacher gift is a great way to express gratitude. However, gift cards for anything from coffee to dinner to a massage or movie tickets will probably be appreciated more than an apple!
In addition to Teacher Appreciation Week, there are many other occasions warranting a thoughtful teacher gift. Retirement is a big milestone in anyone’s life and a teacher will always appreciate a memorable retirement sentiment.
The simple act of expressing appreciation for a teacher goes a long way. One way to do this is with Thanking of You, a great online gratitude site whose tagline is “Gratitude affirms life.” Gratitude is powerful, both for the giver and the receiver. That said, we’re hopelessly biased. We hope you’ll consider thanking a teacher the same way this group of graduating seniors thanked their coach. By creating a teacher appreciation gift, you could win $150 for your school.
Regardless of approach, we hope you’ll affirm the life of a special teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week!
Our guest blogger today shares ideas for great gifts for mothers. As a freelance blogger for Caregivers.com and creator of The Long and Winding Road: A Journey Through Alzheimer’s and Beyond, Ann Napoletan combines a great passion for eldercare with her love of the written word. Having been caregiver to her mother during an almost decade long struggle with Alzheimer’s, she has a special place in her heart for family caregivers.
With Mother’s Day coming up, the search is on for great gifts for mothers and grandmothers! The good news is we have a couple of fun ideas that allow you to incorporate your own special touch.
Many sites are offering photo books these days, but Shutterfly is my personal favorite. Even as her Alzheimer’s progressed, my mom absolutely loved looking at photographs, so these books were perfect for her. They truly make great gifts for mothers and grandmothers, and whether you want to customize the layout or prefer a simpler approach, Shutterfly has an option for you. Photographs have a unique way of touching hearts, and a book full of precious images is a keepsake mom or grandma will cherish forever.
Homespun creations also make great gifts for mothers and grandmothers. If you’re working with a limited budget, here’s an idea that will allow you to unleash your inner artist without breaking the bank. It’s as simple as purchasing an inexpensive solid colored (light colors or white work best) coffee mug and grabbing a Sharpie.
Write a message or draw a design on the mug, bake it in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, and you have a gift for grandma or mom that they are sure to treasure.
This is a fantastic project for small children! Be sure to write the date on the bottom for future reference and bear in mind that these pieces should be hand washed. If you want to go a step further, an even safer bet for preserving the design is to pick up a Pebeo marker. Although the cost is a few dollars more, this will ensure that the design isn’t going anywhere.
Many of us will agree that the most memorable and cherished gifts we’ve received were often the simplest. There’s something special about knowing thought and creativity went into the gift rather than it being plucked from a store shelf. So this Mother’s Day, remember that nothing is more precious than a gift you’ve created yourself or even a simple, heartfelt voice message telling mom just how much she is loved.
The end of the academic year is in sight. As a result, many of us are scrounging for teacher gifts that will express appreciation for a favorite coach or teacher.
Of course, we’re hopelessly biased. We love it when parents and students record thank you messages for teachers and coaches. Next week, a VoiceQuilt gift giver named Cristina will be part of a week long celebration of teachers in Colorado.
On the first day of Teacher Appreciation Week, the children at Cristina’s school will deliver thank you notes to the staff and teachers. On the second day, the school principal will make a thank you presentation to the staff and teachers. On the third day, there will be a teacher appreciation lunch. During the meal, Christine and the other parent volunteers will play sample thank you messages recorded by the children for their teachers. After the meal, Christine will email 60 electronic VoiceQuilts – each one containing over 30 voice message thank you’s – to each of the school’s faculty and staff.
Interested in celebrating a special teacher at your school? Check out VoiceQuilt’s “Thank A Teacher” contest. Start a VoiceQuilt between now and June 15, 2013 for a favorite teacher or coach. Enter “Teacher Appreciation” as your occasion and we’ll automatically enter you in a drawing to win $150 for your school.