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From friends and family, we’ve often heard the following:

“My mother doesn’t want to be filmed. She is worried about how she will look. And she says she doesn’t have anything interesting to say.”

Then don’t film her, just record her voice. And don’t say you want her to talk about her whole life. Remember, every journey begins with a single step. Sit down with her and say you just want to ask about a few things — for now. You could either use the video camera with the lens cap on, or pointed away from her, or use a recorder. In the past, you’d probably use a cassette or microcassette recorder, but the sound quality is not great, and then what do you do with the tape?

Try a digital voice recorder
If a cassette is what you have access to for now, use it, but a fairly low-cost option is a digital voice recorder. It runs on batteries and is about the size of a cell phone, which makes it pretty low key for camera- or technology-shy subjects. We recommend one that can be plugged into a USB port on your PC or Mac.

We have (and like) the Olympus VN-4100PC, which takes two AAA batteries (included) and comes with the USB connecting cable and transfer software for about $48. The Sony ICD-P520 digital voice recorder (around $55) is a similar product. (Both are only available for PCs, though, not Macs). For the Mac, the lower end of pricing begins around $90, with an Olympus DS-20.

Additionally, consider using an external microphone that plugs into your recorder (clip-on, lapel-type, around $20). For a small investment, it can greatly improve the sound quality. You can find digital recorders and microphones at most electronics outlets, such as Staples, Circuit City, and Amazon.

Because your files are saved digitally, now you can do what you want with them — leave the stories alone and burn them to a CD; edit them and use as the audio track behind a photo slide show for a birthday or anniversary; or just save them in a “Mom” folder until you have more time. The point is, now you’ve preserved that story of Mom telling how it was actually the jelly donuts that got her interested in your father.

You could record one or two stories each time you see her. And soon she may be listing stories she wants to tell you the next time. If you have a video camera and a tripod, bring them just in case, because her aversion to being filmed may have disappeared. If she’s feeling good and looking good, you want to be able to say, “Hey, let me do this one on camera, because it’s such a good story.” And when you get down to it, they are all good stories. And they only get more precious as time goes on.

You will find a few more tips for recording stories yourself on our website [http://www.wordspicturesstories.com/Consultation.html].

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