In life, there are those who look at becoming a grandmother as a sign of getting old and there are those who embrace their new role with gusto. GramaBarb is most definitely among the latter. Not only does she strive to be the best grandmother she can be for her four grandkids, she is taking the idea of grandmothering to a whole new level—in cyberspace!
Barbara Vance’s identity changed in 1982 with the birth of her first grandson. In that moment, Barbara became “GramaBarb.” And, she’s never looked back! Drawing upon both her childhood bond with her grandmothers and the supportive, loving grandmother relationship her own mother had with her kids, GramaBarb easily melted into her new role as grandmother. Her first grandson quickly became her whole life, equaled only by the later additions of another grandson and two granddaughters a few years down the road.
“I am sure that a Grandparents love is in a special category all its own. (Being a grandmother) quickly became the main focus of my life. I had to be careful that I did not interfere with the parents and develop a clear definition of my role as a Grandmother. My mother was a terrific grandmother to my kids and my grandmothers were wonderful grandmothers to me. So I had grandmother role models that were superb.”
For GramaBarb, being a grandmother means spending quality time with her grandchildren and listening to them as their unique personalities develop. But, like many seniors, GramaBarb has multiple health issues that place physical restrictions on what she can and cannot do in life. So, when her grandkids were young she started turning to the computer to help bridge the gaps and fill in the blanks between her life and theirs. “Computers and the Internet have been wonderful tools for me. I am constantly looking for new things to do on my computer that keep me active and current with today’s technology so I can communicate with my children and grandchildren on their level.”
“Grandma, you are old and you know everything. I want you to teach me what you know.”
Buying her first computer in 1991, GramaBarb hit the ground running and never looked back! Genealogy had been a favorite pastime of hers since the 1970s, but with her new computer GramaBarb now finally had a tool that could create the kind of family album she had always envisioned. She set to work compiling the years upon years of family data she’d accumulated with just one thought in mind—“I do it for my grandchildren.” Armed with this thought, GramaBarb first learned how to use Family Tree Maker to put together a family book chronicling the history of her entire family for all members to see. Later on, she eventually learned Photoshop and other programs and got to work on a family calendar, complete with thumbnail photographs and noted birthdates for family members who lived in the 1700s on through to the very latest baby! The calendar was finally finished in September 2008, to the delight of GramaBarb’s relatives. Once again, the newly tech-savvy grandmother had tackled a daunting labor of love with the help of her emerging computer skills.
Soon, GramaBarb found herself creating her own Web page (http://www.squidoo-lensmaster.com/gramabarb/) where she now blogs about activities to do with the family, the importance of grandparents, and some of her own personal passions like nature, music, art, and especially genealogy. Her passion for genealogy generated an online article entitled “How to Help Your Children or Grandchildren on a Journey That Will Last a Lifetime,” in which GramaBarb talks about how the genealogical treasure hunt can bring generations closer together. As GramaBarb says, “Children can have so much fun playing detective, that they won't even realize that they are learning along the way. Ask your grandchildren to help you unravel the mystery of your family history, and you will be starting them on the journey of a lifetime.“
Taking her new knowledge to yet another level, GramaBarb also began creating Web groups for grandparents and sharing words of encouragement that would bring families closer together. And, as if that weren’t enough, she started collecting her grandmotherly words of wisdom and inspired artwork to create online stores (http://www.cafepress.com/gramabarb and http://www.zazzle.com/gramabarb) where she could share these thoughts and trinkets with other grandparents and grandchildren.
Although she initially began learning how to navigate the computer to keep up with her kids and grandkids, GramaBarb soon saw that this new technology provided so much more. Through all of her Web sites, GramaBarb realized that the computer had given her grandkids a way to interact with her, too! “They learn what I love to do through my multiple web sites and that I still love to learn and create. They know that I love nature and as a result they also have a special interest in natural science. I often take a photo that they have taken and turn it into a greeting card, t-shirt, or magnet on café press or zazzle.”
In looking at what computers have done for her in her relationships with her grandchildren, GramaBarb believes that all grandparents should be encouraged to learn some computer skills. “It helps so much in maintaining a healthy relationship with your busy children and grandchildren. It is part of everyone’s method of communication and must be adapted to, much like when the telephone was first introduced.”
For GramaBarb, plunging headfirst into 21st century technology has helped create a strong bond of love that knows no generation gap. She views herself as “a real person using whatever technology available to communicate my life and passions.” By sharing her passions in cyberspace, she hopes to continue to be a role model for her grandchildren and their future families for years to come. As an added bonus, she can also inspire others to be the best grandparents they can be. As her youngest granddaughter told her when she was just four-years-old, “Grandma, you are old and you know everything. I want you to teach me what you know.” And that is just what GramaBarb intends to do, one blog at a time!
Thank you GramaBarb, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Tamar Burris Story of My Life®