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December, 2007

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December 30, 2007

If you are like me this is the time of year you start looking through your journal entries over the past twelve months.  I really love to write in my journal. It is where I can be real and get some clarity by expressing thoughts--everything from superficial to very intimate.

A journal often is a private affair. Most of what I write is not intended for others to read. But from my journal I often glean insights and get material that does work its way into writing projects.  Obviously, what I post here is meant for the world to see and I hope there is something that encourages, inspires or interests you.

If you want to explore the value of journaling there is an article I wrote some time ago. Read the Journey of Journaling here. Also, you might want to visit the Journal Writing Ideas page.

December 28, 2007

Life must have purpose to have meaning. Writing about your life helps clarify this, to see where you've been and where you are. Now, at the end of another year and on the cusp of a new one, is as good a time as any to spend time on that process.

The Power of Story by Jim Loehr is a new book that delves into this subject. I have not read it, but according to the review posted on the blog Charlotte's Babblings, Loehr explains that our minds are hard-wired to think in terms of stories, our personal narratives. Sometimes we tell ourselves "false" stories - negative, not realistic, analyses that hold us back from achieving joy, success and the love we all crave from life. That has a ring of truth to it.  Sure, we can also romanticize our past.  Accurate self appraisal is hard to come by without honesty. This process can be encouraged and helped by working with a professional writer/personal historian.

December 26, 2007

Linda Bryant Smith is a columnist for the Herald in Everett, Washington.  She's been spinning stories about various people for quite a number of years.  It is what she considers the best present. She has been given the gift of storytelling. The circumstances of how she discoverd this "gift", and how she gets to use it, are the subject of a wonderful Christmas Day column she wrote.

In her column she reveals, "there is a gift I received as a child that has changed the course of my life more than once."

Read this wonderful column online at

December 23, 2007

I am reflecting this morning on the writing life.  It is something I do on a regular basis.  Being a writer is first and foremost writing. I’m compelled to do the often arduous process of stringing words together in some sort of coherent fashion.  Without this action writing is merely theoretical.

Why I, or anyone for that matter, write is an ongoing discussion.  For me writing is akin to breathing.  If I don’t write I don’t fully live.  It is something I must do. Yet I struggle with the process. It is, after all, work, and one of my chief character defects is the aversion to labor. I’m not saying I’m lazy. More likely it is that work is hard.  It is challenging and frequently difficult. The self-centered call to the comfort of doing things that are not so strenuous is strong in me.  But without our labor we simply do not survive.  And we miss out on a lot of beneficial growth.

Gratefully, I still write. And I’m grateful to anyone who reads what I choose to share. Much of my writing may never be read. This writing is primarily in journals and it is cathartic and helps me to sort out my thoughts, ideas, values and beliefs. But a writer without readers is not whole.

I realize that many people are not going to be writers. Lots of you enjoy reading and there is certainly nothing wrong with that and a great deal that is good about it. But we all have a story to tell. Finding a way to get that story told is the purpose of Your Life is Your Story and I’m constantly encouraging others to get that done in whatever fashion appeals to you the most.

This Christmas as you spend time with family I hope you seriously consider how important our stories are and what sharing them can mean to those who don’t know those stories.  Your story, and the life stories of your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, your own children, friends and even complete strangers, means something. It is part of the fabric of our world.

December 20, 2007

Santa Bear, James Bond Bear, Biker Bear, Lawyer Bear and Bubble Bear.  What have we here? A new line of chic teddy bears?

Not exactly. Those are some of the character names given to stuffed animal bears by children with learning difficulties at Charles Armstrong School in the Bay area of California.  The school is specifically for youth with language-based disabilities such as dyslexia.  The assignment was to take a typical teddy bear and create a character and story.  The students did that and included hand-illustrated drawings and made booklets with help from the teachers. The stories were shared during a school assembly.

"My story was about Santa Bear running out of toys and needing to get a job", according to one seventh-grader. "He found a recycling job and earned enough money to buy toys to save Christmas."

I like this idea for the fun application it gave the students as well as how it might give you an idea to help you with your life story project.  If you are struggling with how your reminiscences can be more interesting, try letting your imagination loose.  Think of fanciful stories you imagined, or wrote, when you were a child.  How did that impact your view of life?

Read the story Youths bring stuffed animals to life with books by Neil Gonzales posted online at

December 16, 2007

I received a second phone call from my brother yesterday. The first in the morning was to wish my a happy birthday. The second call in the afternoon was to tell me that a friend of the family had passed away.

My brother, Doug, was close to Monsignor Joseph Ariano for many years. Doug lives with his wife Susan and young son Joshua near Washington D.C.  So he was able to stay in touch with Fr. Joe in recent years.  This good priest and man was active in Boys Town of Washington D.C. right up till the end.  He was apparently part of a Christmas celebration for the children on December 4 of this year, despite his failing health and advanced years (story here).

Father Joe was a delightful and caring man. He was a marvelous cook. He took over our kitchen a few times and I recall the seeming chaos of his numerous pots and pans steaming and boiling all at the same time.  It was hard to resist trying to "save" the situation, but as my mother once found out, Father Joe didn't want any help. He had the situation under control and he'd kick you out of the kitchen if you tried to interfere with the process. "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen" had a literal meaning at these times!

Father Joe was an alumnus of the original Boys Town founded by Father Edward Flanagan (link here).  Countless wayward boys and girls found refuge, a home and a new start there and at the other Boys Towns founded since. Maybe you've seen the classic film starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Over the years Father Joe would take in young troubled boys and give them a home and mentoring.  He was just passing on what had freely been given to him.

The good monsignor Ariano was a friend and spiritual advisor to my parents and family.  My mom shared with me his counsel when I was a rebellious teenage college student home one summer and staying out all hours of the night partying and carrying on. I caused no small amount of anxiety for my mother by my actions. She'd be up pacing the floors worrying about me. Father Joe comforted her in his wry drawl. "Jeanne", he told her, "Did you lay awake at night while Tom was away at school wondering when he would get back to his dorm room each night?" My mother conceded she did not. "Well then, just let it be and trust in God."  The fact that I survived those times and have discovered my own spiritual path is a testament to his sage advice. I comfort myself with his words to my mother now that I have teenage children of my own.

The lesson here is how the helping hand of someone reaching out to another in need causes ripples. We often don't see what shores those ripples wash up on. How many lives would be different - lessened - had not Monsignor Ariano been taken in as a young boy at Boys Town?

December 15, 2007

Sometimes we see such beautiful and wonderful sites in our world that it nearly takes our breath away.  Wonders of the world like the Grand Canyon certainly qualify, but it can also be the way the sun's rays shine through the clouds at sunrise or sunset. Or like today in Albuquerque how the sun reflects off the new snow on the Sandia Mountains, sparkling like jewels.

I'm grateful today to celebrate another birthday, but more because of simple pleasures like seeing that site, being with family and friends and having a birthday this year that falls on a Saturday.  I passed the "50" year mark a couple of years ago so there's not the anxiety of psychologically dealing with the half-century mark.  Actually, I'm feeling pretty good so far about my fifties.  Yes, it is the second half of life. Hopefully the years of experience and growth will continue to prepare me for the years ahead.  It takes time to awaken to our true selves and often what's most important in life becomes clearer the older we get.

That doesn't mean we should postpone discovering our life's purpose and living it.  Just that we should take it a day at a time, enjoy the ride and prepare to be surprised!

December 12, 2007

Do you have to go to college to take a life writing class? Not necessarily. Check out your local library. Often classes are offered through library programs or by colleges and universities through a library.  

The recently concluded life story writing class at the Iberia Parish Library offered by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette drew rave reviews from the participants (story here at The Daily Iberian). It impressed the instructor, too.  

“That’s one thing I notice when I listen to everybody’s story — all of you are telling my story,” said class instructor Nancy Colby. “We’ve all changed diapers. We’ve all had new and interesting jobs. We’ve all had crazy things happen, and we’ve all had dear friends, so it’s a joy to share those stories.”

Your writing experience is not as important as your life experiences. Consider taking a class or attending a workshop.

December 9, 2007

Here's some more news about family histories intertwined with cooking and family recipes.  When Recipes Tell a Story is a feature in the new PARADE magazine insert that is included in numerous Sunday newspapers in the United States. Sara Brzowsky's article is about preserving family history through a a personal cookbook. This is definitely a growing trend. And it's not surpising given the popularity of cooking shows as well as how those special family recipes spark reminiscences brought on by the powerful memory-inducing senses of taste and smell.

Frequently there are stories to go along with the recipes. To discover these try scheduling times to cook with your relatives, observe how the meals and special dishes are prepared and ask the cook about the origin of the recipe.

Check out A Plateful of Memories ( for a DVD coaching guide to help you create a family cookbook. Hella Buchheim is a personal historian and her motivation for the creation of this product was to help others preserve family recipes, something she regrets she didn't do, in part because her grandmother never learned English and because many of the recipes were never written down.

There are stories behind those valued and traditional recipes and the Holidays are a good time to discover them.

December 8, 2007

Does the time ever get away from you? I've been so busy with projects this past week that I have not updated here. I feel so guilty! But, hey, life is about living and sometimes these things happen.  I missed posting, though...and I've seen a number of things I've wanted to comment about. However, I will not overload you. I'll find time to post what seems relevant at the time.

I did see an interesting item recently that is timely with the Holiday season and people looking for creative gift ideas.  It's something called MY CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE and the gist of it is you can insert a child's photo into an animated, 30-minute holiday adventure on DVD.  This was created and produced by Sentimental Journeys and is distributed online by Sharewell Group.

From their press release: "When Jack Frost sets out to ruin Christmas, Santa asks for the child’s help to save the day!  The 30-minute fun-filled and action-packed DVD features the child’s face in full color over 30 times throughout the holiday special, as he or she becomes one of Santa’s favorite elves.  In this magical winter wonderland, the child star will snowboard, dance, pilot an airplane, fly with Santa and ultimately foil Jack Frost’s diabolical plot to ruin Christmas!"

You can order online at and receive a completed DVD in less than two weeks for about $30. Now's the time to get it done to receive by Christmas. This sounds different and fun.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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