The Story of Grandma’s Heart

My story started with this…

A poem called “Grandma’s Heart.”

These words penned nearly 20 years ago have shaped my life and led me on the path I have walked since then. And who would have known.

I was a newly-married wife, preparing for a family. My mom was a new Grandma, thanks to my sister, and was ready to enjoy the fruits of her labors. (4 labors to be exact!). A Grandma’s gushing, turned into a suggestion to start a business- a business that would be all things “Grandma”.

But what would those “things” be?

T-shirts, mugs, toys?

Not really what I had in mind. What I had in mind was capturing the “heart” of Grandma. What I had in mind had to do with the sweet memories I had of my Grandma. The little love pats, the candy dish, the Christmas’ and summers spent at her house. How do you bottle that?

My best bottle came in the form of words and eventually things that captured and held those words. Words which over the years have resonated with many who share the same thoughts about grandmas, moms, babies and family.

I initially wanted to do a children’s book with Grandma’s Heart, but in those early days, lack of experience and resources forced me to think of other alternatives. The first product was a matted print we sold to a few children’s stores. The feedback and reorders allowed us to eventually offer frames and greeting cards and a entire collection of “Heart” poems.

Grandma’s were crying and buying!

In addition to the poem, we added other features to the mats and frames, like sweet organdy ribbons and our special envelope to hold a letter from Grandma stored on the frame back.    (20 years ago, this ribbon thing was really new!)

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The envelope on the back of the poems was a sentimental touch that allowed each Grandma to really make this gift to her grandbaby her own. The envelope had a little poem and Grandma would write a letter from her heart and store it on the back of the frame. Those first Grandma’s who wrote these letters, now have grown grandchildren with handwritten words they will treasure. Customers have shared stories with me about how special this part of the gift has become. One young mother lost her mother several years after her first child was born. She was so thankful to have that letter written to her child from her mother- a memory beyond words.

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 As the years passed, the market and product demands changed. As saving and displaying ultrasound images became popular, we added Grandma’s Heart ultrasound cards and frames. We also found many Grandma’s buying Grandma’s Heart for themselves and their grandma friends, so we added a home decor styled frame. We also coupled Grandma’s Heart and Grandpa’s Heart poems for a single frame for baby’s room.

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The latest introduction has been framed prints with a more current nursery theme and ones that can also be personalized with Grandma’s own unique name…Mimi, Gigi, Gran. We can customize the name, as we address the gift needs of today’s Grandmas.

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As we near the 20th anniversay of Grandma’s Heart. I am reflecting on the journey.

So much has come from Grandma’s Heart. Much has changed in the world, and in my world yet in some ways… nothing has changed. Changing design trends, marketing, competition, the internet, these things have changed. I’ve changed too. Over two decades, I have gone from that newly married young woman to an experienced mother of 4 growing children. Ironically, I am still not a Grandma much to people’s surprise! (oh, we thought you were a grandma to write all these things!)

There is one thing that hasn’t changed.

Grandma’s Heart

The sentiment written nearly 20 years ago still captures the heart of grandmas. How fortunate for all the grandbabies and the grandbabies to come that they will still enter a world with grandmas. To celebrate the past, present and future, this year I am working on my dream of a children’s book and a few other special products to share with grandmas everywhere.

Another chapter being written…

Teri

Do you have any ideas for Grandma’s Heart gifts you would like me to create? Do you have a story of Grandma’s Heart to share? Share with me on Facebook, in comments or email info@grandparentgiftco.com.

Give us some feedback and enter to win!

Give us your input in our Grandma’s Heart Giveaway, March 10-31 by following this link here

From Concept to Product: The Story of a New Sentimental Family Gift

How do gift lines make their way from concept to products? Many times, the process is more like a journey and the final product ends up with a story all its own.

Creating “Letters from the Nest” was definately a journey and yes, a story…

In the 20 years that I have been creating gifts and sentiments, sometimes there is an idea that gets stuck in my head and my heart. It starts as a little seed of inspiration and it can take months or even years to reveal itself. So it was with my newest gift line, “Letters from the Nest”.

It started as a love for images of mother birds, babies and the nest. As a mother, I have always felt a bond with mama birds. From the tattered pages of one of my favorite beloved childrens books, “Are you my Mother?”, to watching a mother hummingbird lovingly build a nest outside our first home in California, I have felt human mommies and bird mommies understand each other. I certainly feathered my nest when I was expecting each of my 4 children. That burst of energy between the nauseous months and the “are we there yet?” months, that had me planning, painting, cleaning and readying my home to welcome each new baby.

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As my children have grown, when trying to “teach” instead of “do” for them, I would explain that I was the mother bird and my job was to help them fly. If they left my nest and plummeted to the ground because I hadn’t allowed, or taught them how to spread their wings, then I would not have done my job. They don’t always love my mama bird analogy, as I teach them by having them DO their own dishes, make their beds, clean their rooms, make their lunches and the list goes on…

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 Hang on baby bird!

I wanted to take my love for birds, home, nests and mothering and put it into a special gift with a message that would be used, appreciated and admired. I considered so many gift items… bracelets, vases, trinkets, pens, soaps…you name it. My list grew to fill a page. Of course when making a product, there is much more than the idea to consider, there is sourcing, pricing, marketing competition and much more.

I didn’t want to lose my message in the business end, but sometimes the best ideas sit on the shelf because of business, and my nest idea sat on the shelf for a couple of years, as I considered the ideal gift to go with my message.

I looked at the things I saved because they meant something. I looked at what my mother and my grandmother saved.

I save letters and pictures. I have a Valentines’ Day card from my grandmother who passed away when I was 7. I have birthday cards from friends in elementary school, letters from girlfriends secretly passed in high school, and adorable and hilarious handmade cards from my kids. My mother has these kind of things tucked away too. Do you?

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When I want to say something meaningful to someone, I send a card or a letter. I think in today’s fast-paced email, text and tweet world, a letter speaks volumes. Don’t you get a little thrill when you see a hand addressed envelope amongst the pile of ads, bills and endless credit card offers?

So I had a nest for home, and a letter for heart…now what?

Well… you write letters and you open letters., so the idea of a beautiful pen or letter opener came to mind. I discarded the idea of a pen because eventually the ink would run out and the pen would be set aside or thrown out. The idea of a letter opener was intriquing. A letter opener is something my grandma had on her desk as long as I could remember. I love letter openers because they are a bit old school (it’s that modern world thing again) and they are lasting.

I think letter openers bring us back a bit…in a good way. Do you have a letter opener? Is there a letter opener of a family member that brings back memories? 

For me, it all fit- the nest, the heart and now something to keep in the home. I penned some sentiments for occasions and people that were centered around the nest, and I scribbled my letter opener designs on pieces of scrap paper. I wanted the image to be of birds, a nest and love. Here is what I envisioned.

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and here is where I arrived with the help of a talented artist!

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Now on to the artwork, packaging and presentation. Again with the help of my talented artist, I was thrilled with the marriage of all the elements I was looking for- combining a feeling for nature, vintage, love and beauty. Sometimes in product development, the final product doesn’t match your vision. Finding an artist who understands what you are trying to create is one of the keys to success, as well as good communication and visuals from me. I also think the story helps. Knowing the why, the journey and the story behind a product helps it come to life for someone trying to understand my vision.

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I hope the letter openers find their place in homes, on desks and in offices, where they are used and admired. I hope the sentiment stays with them each time they use it. I hope that mother’s, daughters, grandmas, and couples smile when they think of their “nest” because isn’t our”home”…where are heart is?

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To see all the Letters from the Nest designs, visit www.grandparentgiftco.com.

Birth Stories : Moms Never Forget

Birth Stories are enduring, amazing stories remembered, treasured and retold by mom’s across the world and over centuries. When I was a young mother I had a neighbor who showed me my future through a conversation we had on a sunny Southern California sidewalk one day, some 15 years ago.

That neighborly conversation stuck with me and helped me understand the impact bringing children into the world would truly have on the rest of my life.

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Dot was 85 years old and I began to see her less frequently over the past year. She and her husband Bob, now gone, used to walk the neighborhood each evening. She would often stop to talk, always seeming to ask questions that gave away she was watching our family’s comings and goings from her kitchen window.

On day talked turned to babies, and with unusual clarity, Dot recalled the birth of each of her three children, now grandparents themselves. As a new mom, my firstborn’s birth story was fresh in my mind, all the little details and emotions of that day.

I had yet to experience the journey of motherhood, not truly understanding the magnitude of each child’s story and the lasting imprint it would leave on my heart and mind.

Now, with a few more years of motherhood under my belt, I still can tell the story of each child’s entry into the word with clarity and I can see at 86 the story will still be engraved on my heart.

In today’s modern world, there are so many more means to help us remember our stories…

…like ultrasound pictures we save and treasure from our doctor’s appointments, selfies of our pregnant selves and time lapse videos created to show 9 months of miracle in mere seconds. Our baby books may be  online or stored on our phone or computer for generations to come.

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What the pictures and videos’ can’t capture is the picture of how your heart changes from that day forward.

That change is shown whenever we recount the day we brought our children into the world, and our heart still swells with a mother’s love, even after all those years.

What is your birth story or stories? What will you always remember?

Check out our story of life frame

Birth Stories

Mom Blog: The Broken Seashell

On a recent beach trip, a day spent combing  the beach for seashells with my daughter got me thinking about how I was showing her the world.

Taking my first steps into the hot sand of summer vacation, I do what I LOVE to do at the beach- collect seashells. It is a fascination I have held since childhood. For me, a beach isn’t a beach, if it doesn’t have shells.

I walk along the water line, scanning the sand, waiting for something to catch my eye. I pick up my find and inspect it carefully. If it is a perfect shell, I deposit in my pocket. Many times I’m disappointed to discover a shell I first thought was beautiful, was really, upon closer inspection, flawed. These shells I let fall back to the sand.

Trailing me down the beach, my 10-year old daughter is also enthralled with collecting seashells, but when she picks up a shell because it catches her eye, she keeps it. It may be broken or chipped, but if there is a part she loves, it’s a keeper.

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On this day, as she had done many times before, she excitedly holds her latest find out in her sandy wet palm for me to inspect. “Isn’t this one perfect?!” she gushes. She awaits my approval. My instinct is to point out all the imperfections she’s missed. Doesn’t she see it isn’t perfect?

But this time, my heart stops my tongue. “Yes Sweet, it is beautiful.”

And off she runs, elated with her newest souvenir from the sea , and I am left wondering.

Why should I question or judge what she sees as beauty? Why should I point out the negative, when she is celebrating the positive? For the one part of her shell that glistens in the sun with wonderful colors or perhaps a delightful design, can I not look past the broken corner? Is this the way I view the world? Is this the way I am teaching her to see the world…herself… others?

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The need for perfection, not accepting or loving things that are imperfect. ..perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect grades, perfect house? Easily tossing aside things or people we see as flawed?

How about the drawing crumpled in frustration because it wasn’t perfect? Or the self loathing because her nose…her hair… her thighs… her weight…on any given day, aren’t perfect?

Hiding imperfections from others, creating a façade we only wish were real? Spending time and energy concealing or condemning our shortcomings instead of celebrating what makes us great?

What happened to applauding the things about us that “glisten in the sun?” For my daughter it is her beautiful butterfly stroke, her kindness to friends, her ability to sweep a kitchen floor like no other 10-year old I’ve ever met…Are they not worthy of celebrating because she isn’t the skilled artist she yearns to be, or she wishes for curls in her hair?

Is beauty irrelevant once flaws are uncovered?

Do you strive for perfection?

Do you like things perfect?

I don’t know that I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I would answer that question…but I probably spend too much time trying to make things “perfect. “ Perhaps my lens on the world, like my declining eyesight, has clouded over the years.

Maybe it is well-intentioned, yet misguided parenting, or perhaps it is a reflection of my own shortcomings.

Perfection is a funny thing. We strive for perfection, but when asked what qualities we think are important in ourselves and others, perfection isn’t on the list.

It is almost the contrary.

Perfection is a double-edged sword. We strive for it for ourselves, yet we distain it in others. We certainly don’t look for perfect friends. I contend we are drawn to people who seem “flawed”.

Why?

Do they make us feel better because our own shortcomings pale in comparison? Do they make us feel more accepted, less judged? Are they more relaxed, giving us the permission to show our true selves and admit we too are flawed? Or perhaps these friends have learned to appreciate the glow of their own light, rendering flaws unimportant and inconsequential?

These are all questions that will take some time to answer honestly.

For now, I have a big glass jar of our shells on my desk, ALL of them-hers and mine. It is a daily reminder from a young daughter to her mother.

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It is a reminder to look for beauty in all things, and to practice acceptance of self and others, and to be content with and celebrate a less-than-perfect, yet wonderfully flawed life.

 

Teri

UPDATE

The Broken Seashell, now in print! Thank you Northside Women magazine for this beautiful spread.

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The First Born Child: A Happy Birthday Message

I am compelled to write today because it is my “Birth Day.” No it’s not my birthday. It is my first born child’s birthday, but 16 years ago today, he entered the world and made me a mother and my world… my heart …they changed forever.

Really. Forever.

The First Born Child. Orange Slice: The Grandparent Gift Co.

 

I never want to take anything away from any of my four children. They are all truly deeply loved- each one of them as much as the first and their birthdays are memorable. I often write about the heart’s amazing ability to grow.

Your heart may actually be the only thing your kids don’t have to share. Sure, they share your time, your energy, your money, but not your heart.

Having said that, there is something that comes with the first baby that can only belong to the first.

They were the life changer.

And whether it be a first kiss, a first car or a first kid- you always hold a candle for the first. And with the first, came all those other firsts. The first time to hold your own, to dress, to feed, to bath. You are totally responsible and totally in love. Scared, excited, overwhelmed, exhausted and elated.

Each year on his birthday I get a little melancholy and introspective. I reflect on my years as a mother.

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Gosh darn after sixteen years, you’d think I would have this thing down! But each year reminds me I have much more to learn. Their wants, needs and desires are still moving targets, and my mothering skills are being stretched and challenged every day.

The years have flown and sometimes what I wouldn’t give to hold my little boy and hear his little voice just ONE more time.  (I KNOW there is money in bottling little boys.)

I have a birthday tradition I started years ago. I hang a sign and balloon on each child’s door the night before their birthday. They awake birthday morning to a “Happy Birthday” and occasionally a crepe paper filled room.

First Born Child. Orange Slice: The Grandparent Gift Co.

This year it is going on 11 pm on a school night and I can’t wait up any longer for that little boy to go to bed. I can’t wade through the dirty clothes, school books, lacrosse gear and such to hang the crepe paper, so I am going to tape his sign and balloon and call it a night.

Tomorrow I will wake up and remember that amazing day 16 years ago and give him a big hug. He may be 16, but he’ll always be my baby.

Happy Birthday Corey-
Love Mom

www.grandparentgiftco.com- The First Child Frame

The First Born Child. The Orange Slice: The Grandparent Gift Co.

The First Born Child

Check out our site, where you will find our Children Series prints for the First Born Child, Second, Third and Youngest. You will also find the First Grandchild and Great-Grandchild too.

What are your thoughts on your firstborn child or grandchild? How do you feel on their birthday?

A New Mom’s Ah-ha Moment: A Mom’s Love

I still remember a telephone conversation I had years ago with one of my sales reps. We were talking work and the conversation turned to babies. She shared with me a conversation she had with her daughter, a recent new mom.  A conversation she will never forget.

It impacted me deeply, so I chose to write about it.

New Mom. Orange Slice. The Grandparent Gift Co.

This is her story…

One day her daughter called her out of the blue…sobbing. Not a little choked up, but bawling. You know the sniffling, stuttering, impaired type of crying.

Of course, her Mama Bear instincts took hold and in a brief second, her mind filled with terrible things. The new grandbaby was terribly sick. Her husband was in a car accident. She was calling with a devastating health diagnosis.

Is it only me, or does your Mommy brain work this way too?

Well, happily for her, none of her fears were realized. When her daughter gathered herself enough to speak, she told her Mom, she finally “got” it.

Yes she finally GOT IT.

She got the depth of how much her Mom loved her. It dawned on her that the indescribable love she felt for her baby, her mother felt for her. It was a moment of total clarity and understanding.

She got all the sacrifices, all the worry, ALL of it. To her core she was honored, humbled, amazed and profoundly changed.

I wrote, Mom, Now That I’m a Mother because I thought what seemed at first, to be a very personal revelation, was actually quite universal for those blessed with a loving mother.

I share it with you here and hope you can find a way to tell your mother you GET IT.

AND YOU LOVE HER!

 

Mom, Now That I’m a Mother…

Until I became a Mother,

I did not understand,

The profound sense of love,

in a Mother’s heart and hands.

As I whisper, “Mommy loves you”,

I rock my precious child to sleep.

Small perfection in my arms,

sweet breaths, slow & deep.

I now see me as a baby,

you’re rocking me to sleep.

You whisper, “Mommy loves you,

my heart is yours to keep.

At last I recognize your love,

as a Mother I now see.

As I hold and love my child,

you feel that love for me.

I will always be your baby,

despite the years that pass.

You have given me my life,

and a mother’s heart to last.

The greatest thanks I can offer,

more than words could ever say

is to give my child the love,

you have given me everyday.

copyright Teri Harrison

FIND THIS POEM in a card and frame on my website www.grandparentgiftcompany.com

What has been a profound realization for you when your baby was born? How has your relationship with your mom changed as you became a mother?

 

What’s Your Dish? Teri Harrison

My grandmother kept a silver candy dish on her living room coffee table as long as I can remember. I also remember me and my two brothers and sister making a bee-line to the dish upon our arrival. Lifting the lid off we would find one of many beloved favorites..would it be bridge mix? jelly beans? butter mints? or jelly candies? Whatever the treat, my mom would be guaranteed to hear our shouts.

“Can we have one?! Can we have two!?”

There is no doubt the sweets were a draw for 4 young grandchildren, but as an adult, the sweets are a symbol of all the goodness of my grandparents’ home. The basement with the narrow wooden stairs that led to a world of treasures, a closet full of games and puzzles, a kitchen that never left us wanting, and a yard perfect for summertime lemonade stands, those were the real treats inside the “candy jar”.

And so, this is how my blog begins. Sharing and celebrating life’s sweetness with our family and friends. I would love to hear your “candy dish” stories. Email me with yours and we will post and share. Click on Candy Dish above to read the beginnings of our collection of stories. Please join me!

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Teri

Pet Loss Poem: Pawprints Left by You

I wrote Pawprints Left by You, a pet loss poem, after my husband and I lost our first “baby”.  Kip, a German shepherd was our first parenting experience. You know what I mean. He lived until our first two boys were 3 and 4 years old. They don’t have too many memories from that time, but we certainly do.

His distaste for the UPS man, but his love of ripping open the boxes he delivered. His obsession with frisbees, his fear of the hose and loud noises, and the way he turned his head when you were talking to him. Like he understood everything you were saying- as pictured below!

Pet Loss Poem: The Orange Slice

 

What struck me the most after Kip was gone, was the silence.

I understood the contradiction of “deafening silence”.

When coping with the loss of a pet, I think the lines, “I still listen for you, and miss you everyday.” ring so true with pet owners and address the loneliness when the pets sounds and warmth no longer fill a home.

No human will ever greet you at the door like a pet. On your worst day, they love you the same.

I  have found my words of sympathy have struck a cord with  so many grieving the loss of a pet, whether dealing with the death of a dog or a cat. For National Pet Month, I share my words and hope they will bring comfort to those remembering a beloved pet this month.

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Visit our website to see all our Pawprints Left by You gifts.

Do you a pet loss story to share? Please comment on our post.

What’s Your Dish? Katie VanBrackle

What’s Your Dish Story -Contributed by Katie VanBrackle

It’s funny the things a child remembers about their grandparents’ home, but my grandmother’s candy dish always help a particular fascination for me as well. It was a pretty, crystal dish full of unwrapped hard candies—like peppermints, only instead of only red stripes, some had yellow, some had green, etc. I don’t remember any blue ones, but purple was definitely in there somewhere. The yellows were my favorites.

The problem with unwrapped candies, especially in hot and humid South Georgia, is they tend to clump together, so when my brother and I tried to select one, the whole bunch came up with it. Then we had to bang the lump on the side of the dish until we managed to chisel out the color we liked best. It was a bit of a challenge and rather noisy. Come to think of it, perhaps my grandmother intentionally used unwrapped candies in order to make it more difficult for the grandkids to sneak a piece unobserved. She needn’t have bothered. If we really wanted candy, all we had to do was find Granddaddy. He was a banker and always kept his suit pockets full of those little thin “bank suckers” that the tellers hand out to children. He would wink and slip us one behind his back.

Today, that crystal candy dish is still in use in my own home. It sits in our living room just as it once did in my grandparents’ home—-on top of the piano where my mother and her sisters took music lessons in the 1950’s, where I took lessons in the 1980’s, and now in 2013, where my youngest son is learning to tinker away on the keys.
Through the generations, it has been filled with various treats, has suffered through many poorly played piano concertos, and has been lovingly handled by many sticky-fingered children seeking a bit of sugar. How it has survived through the years unbroken is a minor miracle.

Today, I keep shiny, golden toffee candies in it——firmly wrapped and easy to sneak. I smile when I see it, imagining how many more generations of our family will seek its treasures in years to come.

Katie

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A Tribute to a Beloved Grandma- My Source of Spring

Written by Hannah Henthorne…amazing daughter, accomplished student, avid runner, food nut, and blogger extraordinaire…

It is in those first few days of Spring that I think about her most. I’ve never given much thought to this seemingly strange occurrence; for there is no tangible reason I should think of her during this time. My grandmother was of a rare kind, increasingly difficult to come by these days. As most grandmas are, she loved her grandchildren and family endlessly. That love evident in the genuine smile and words she emitted when around us. She radiated warmth.

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As the years progressed, her health deteriorated, but her spirit for the simplicity of life around her blossomed. I looked forward to sleepovers at Grandma’s, but not because she spoiled me with gifts or took me to dinner at a restaurant that mom and dad never did. Instead, we stayed in. Comforted not by television, but by board games and laughter around grandma’s four person oak table. Standing in her retro orange-carpeted kitchen as she diligently taught my young and wandering mind the kitchen basics. Using windowsill herbs and garden fresh vegetables to teach me the best stuff comes from a bit of patience and a genetic green thumb.

One instance in particular stands out in my mind when I reach to recall a memory of her. It was the end of the night at one of those sleepovers; time for bed. We trekked up the stairs together, and began performing my pre sleep rituals. Grandma never left my side. I jumped in bed with as much energy as I could feign, telling grandma I wasn’t tired yet. She sat by my side a few minutes, tucking the blanket in on either side of my body, securing me in a sleep cocoon. Thinking back to that moment now, I felt as secure in that bed, warm and worry-free, as I do with the memory of her today. For it was that mere gesture of protection and love that defined her whole being.

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But that is not the memory I conjure up. It is what happened immediately after, as she was leaving my room. Just before she closed the door, I remembered to call out the words, “I love you.” I wasn’t sure if she heard, but I wanted to say it anyway, as a way to seal this perfect night. My answer was received as I heard the door quietly creak back open and the comforting sound of grandma’s voice reply, “I’ve been waiting all day to hear those words, I love you too.”

It is that simple yet slam-packed sentimental statement that has stayed with me all these years. Not only the memory of this moment but the moral as well. I learned the power of words, the power and rarity of pure love. This sentiment, something I thought Grandma knew, was enough to make her day as well as mine.

I’d like to think this moment we shared resonated with her as it did with me, for I lacked the courage to bring it up in person to her, out of fear it was a dream.

This memory gives me promise. It gives me hope during moments of doubt. Promise that souls like Grandma’s do exist in this increasingly insensitive world, and hope that I can one day grow to be the gentle, graceful woman she was.

It is the culmination of Grandma’s most gracious traits—her warmth, her ability to make a flower sprout from the smallest of seeds, and most importantly, the promise and hope she emitted—that have helped me conclude that she is my Spring. Her attributes are synonymous, if not identical, to the characteristics of springtime.

My winter can be warm if I so desire. All I have to do is think back to that night at Grandma’s, her smile, her hands, and the snow brightens to fresh grass; the crisp air no longer burns but warms my cheeks. All from the comfort of knowing Spring—and Grandma—is never too far away.

Written by Hannah Henthorne…amazing daughter, accomplished student, avid runner, food nut, and blogger extraordinaire…