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Giving Tuesday Matters
November 29, 2016
Each year at this time people get caught up in shopping. The Holidays
create a buzz of buying and gift giving. That's not necessarily a bad
thing - it is just that it can create a hyped up atmosphere of
consumerism. Buy, buy and buy again can provide momentary satisfaction,
but it often delivers a hangover. After buying the latest fashion,
gadget or gift you might find yourself feeling hollow, or worse, in
Giving is a good thing. And purchases are important for businesses to
survive. However, there are things that matter more than buying. So a
few years ago a movement emerged to accompany Black Friday and Cyber
Monday. Giving Tuesday
is designed as a global day of giving to worthwhile causes. Various
non-profits and charities benefit from this one day of giving and with
the power of social media (#GivingTuesday) it has become a great way to support your community and contribute to things that can make a real difference in our world.
I am sure you can think of many causes worth your time, attention and
money. If there is one thing I have come to appreciate, it is that we
have lives of purpose. Giving, whether it is giving back or paying forward is part of this purposeful living.
Two causes I believe in that could benefit from some "Giving Tuesday Love" are WingsforLifeInternational (helping transform lives to break the generational cycle of incarceration) and Good Radio Shows, Inc
(producers of the excellent PEACE TALKS RADIO SHOWS). Both are
non-profits who work very hard, stretching every dollar to deliver
positive help to others. I invite you to visit their links to find out
more. I also recommend that you consider some charitable organzation to
support today in whatever way (small or large) you can. It's all about
making our world a better place.
Fidel Castro, Revolutionary Hero to Some; Oppressive Dictator to Others
news this weekend of the passing of Fidel Castro, the revolutionary
dictator of Cuba for well over half a century, brings about discussion
of his legacy. Was he a hero for the masses? A cruel and brutal
dictator? The answer is not as clear cut as many want to make it. Cuba
is a communist country that has dealt with oppression and the lack of
certain freedoms cherished in other democratic countries. At the same
time there are some positives, such as the nearly 100% literacy rate
and the amount of quality doctors delivering healthcare to the
Castro came to power in 1959, already emerging as a nearly mythic and
romantic revoluionary. His predecessor, General Fulgencio Batista, was
considered corrupt. When he fled the country Castro and a new regime
took over. At first the world wondered if it was a sign of victory for
the people. But as time went on it became clear that Castro was a
strongman and would put down any opposition with force. A lot of Cubans
over the years fled the island if they were able. The large expatriate
population of Cubans in Miami has been strongly anti-Castro for years.
As a babyboomer what I most remember from my youth was that Fidel
Castro was considered the enemy. A communist leader bent on defying the
United States from just 90 miles away, propped up by the Soviet Union,
and the embodiment of the evil we felt we were fighting against during
the Cold War.
It got particularly scary in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev were at
odds over the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. For a couple
of weeks there was a real concern that the world might suffer a nuclear
war. Eventually Khruschev backed down and removed the missiles. But the
animosity between Castro and the United States continued. There have
been many reports of how the CIA tried various ways to assissinate him.
None of the attempts were successful, obviously, and Castro stayed in
power until about 2008 when his poor health had him turning things over
to his younger brother, Raul.
The United States has softened its stance on Cuba and President Obama
has initiated diplomatic relations with the island. Perhaps we will
become friendly neighbors. A lot of Americans would gladly join in the
tourism to Cuba enjoyed by many other countries.
How history will judge Fidel Castro is one thing. What I am wondering
as one who encourages people to preserve their life stories and share
their life values and lessons with others is whether Castro ever had
any heartfelt talks with his family and loved ones about his life and
legacy. Did he reflect on his long life? How did he view it? You can
see much about his life and impact as viewed by American journalism
from the CBS Sunday Morning coverage.
We all are living our lives and they are each filled with experiences.
Sometimes there are big adventures. Other times they are more mundane
and quiet. But all lives matter and history is the preservation of our
stories. How are you going about preserving yours?
November is Memoir Writing Month
November 17, 2016
I realize we are more than halfway through the month of November, but
if you haven't yet discovered the many free tips about memoir writing
from The Memoir Network
then don't delay. Denis Ledoux offers a cornucopia (to use a fall
harvest style word) of inspirational and practical writing tips
for anyone working on a memoir, or making plans to do so.
When you write you need to ask questions - ask yourself about how you
relate to your memories. Ask others in your circle of friends. Use your
five senses. Probe and reflect. I thought today's tip (Gather Details for a Memoir)
had some particularly good suggestions. All month long I've been
getting the free tips delivered to my email account. You can, too!
If you haven't started a memory list, your really need to do that. It will make it possible for you to always have something to write about.
Leon, Leonard and John
November 15, 2016
Leon Russell, The Master of Space and Time,
passed away on Sunday. He was 74 and a giant of music and
songwriting. He was one of those guys who did his own thing, recording
the type of music he wanted to play and not following the typical path
of many who get into the business. He established his own record label
early on (Shelter Records), he was a session player on records with
just about everybody, from Frank Sinatra to the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan,
Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, The Ventures, the Monkees, Herb
Alpert, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound Orchestra and countless others.
He was in the houseband for the 1960's TV show, Shindig. They were called the Shindogs. Leon was a striking figure by the time he played a raucous set as part of the Concert for Bangladesh,
with his long hair, beard and top hat. That was the first major benefit
concert, one organized by George Harrison that brought together an all
star lineup. Leon wailing away on "Youngblood" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
brought the house down! Leon Russell also was the music director for
the barrell house band of "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" for Joe
Cocker's historic 1970 tour.
Russell kept recording and playing live and he defied categorization.
Blues, gospel, country, island music, jazz, R&B and rock n' roll -
he played it all with aplomb.
He had a wide range of admirers. Elton John was heavily influenced in
his early days by Russell and late in life they collaborated on an
album, The Union. Leon finally got inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame after that. Check out the NY Times tribute by Jon Pareles for more indepth coverage of Leon's life and music.
Leonard Cohen, the incredible singer/songwriter from Canada died a few
days before Leon. His resume is impressive and he also continued to
record and play throughout his life, although he also spent time in a
Buddhist monastery. The man had a big soul and was very profound in his
songs, such as "Anthem" with the chorus, Ring the bells that still can ring; forget your perfect offering; there is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in. Yeah, man.
Tying all this together was a conversation I had with my longtime
friend, John. He and I went to college together in the 70's and we also
worked together in radio. John still broadcasts; he is the morning man
for KRCL in Salt Lake
City. I called John today. We hadn't talked in a while and a lot
has happened lately that I needed to connect with someone that I have
shared many memories with. We've been to concerts, partied together,
traveled the sober path, too, and all through it there is the music and
our lives. John is from Oklahoma and grew up with the music and the
legacy of Leon Russell. He was the right guy to call - I just needed to
talk to an Okie.
Our lives are full of experiences, shared or not, and each of us has a
purpose and a reason to do what we do. Leon, Leonard and John show that
Veterans Day 2016
November 11, 2016
"All gave some; some gave all." This is the famous saying about
our Veterans. Certainly it is a great sacrifice to give of your time
for your country, to serve in the military, especially in the extremely
challenging and dangerous situation of war and combat. The highest
sacrifice is to give your life for your country. Today, November
11, is Veterans Day, the day and national holiday we officially remember all those people.
One of the great personal history projects are the many interviews and stories preserved through the Veterans History Project.
This is one way the United States collects and preserves the
extraordinary wartime stories of ordinary people. It is overseen by the
American Folklore Center. I have information about the Veterans History Project on this site here.
Stories, parades and memories shared are chronicled by Bill Chappell for National Public Radio and featured here. Lots of good stuff. Thank you to all the veterans for your service.
Hey, Hey, My, My, Post Election Sigh
November 10, 2016
It has only been two days since the election in the United States, but
it seems like a month. This was an historic election on a number of
levels and the outcome was surprising to many.
I avoid discussing politics on this website as the purpose is to
encourage you to reflect about your life and ideally preserve your
story for others. But the U.S. Presidential race was hotly contested
and it appears that it was more than just divisive. Most people found
themselves choosing between two candidates that they couldn't get
excited about. It is an indication of what many people feel about the
current state of government and political leadership. So many are
unhappy with lack of progress, economic gain, and real equality for
Donald Trump is President-Elect, winning enough electoral college
votes, although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. It was a close
election and that shows that there is a real need to find some way for
America to work together, to find common ground and build a better
future. There are a lot of questions and concerns about what will
As a personal historian I encourage you to live your life to the
fullest, to find ways to help others and share your talents and life
lessons. Politics, religion, work, education, art, music, sports,
philosophy and food are just a few of the important things that we all
deal with and likely have strong opinions about.
May we all find our way and remember that we are not alone and should
not be isolated. Life is not a straight line from birth to death. It is
more like a meandering stream or a winding labyrinth. We are all on a
path and our journey will have twists and turns. Don't let fear or
worry or pride, greed or ego get in the way. Peace and joy are your
Dog Almost Gone, But Grateful He Is Not
November 7, 2016
I thought my dog, Shadow, was going to die this past Friday.
I came home from school and got the leash to take him on his daily
walk. Usually he is wagging his tail like mad, barking and anxious to
go. This time I had to call him to the backyard gate. I got the leash
on and headed out to the floodplain that we usually walk around that is
conveniently located by my house.
When we got out to the start of the walk I noticed that Shadow seemed
to be dragging. I looked over at him and was immediately alarmed at his
foaming at the mouth and his wheezing. Oh my! I thought. He's eaten something toxic.
But that wasn't the problem. I rushed him to an animal hospital and
they diagnosed a spontaneous pneumothorax. Collapsed lung in plain
english. That was quite troubling. We still don't know what caused it,
but after some expensive treatment including pulling air out of his
sides, he was breathling mostly normally.
Shadow, a Chow-Labrador mix, has been a faithful dog for 12 years. This
chowbrador accompanies me on walks and I've become attached, just like
most pet owners would. To realize he could suddenly die was a sobering
I don't want him in pain, suffering or being miserable. If his time has
come I will do the humane thing. I thought maybe we'd reached that
decision when I took him to the vet on Sunday. But he's been improving
and a blood test showed things pretty normal. So he has some pain pills
and a reprieve. He was wagging his tail more enthusiastically at the
vet visit, maybe to let me know that he wants to stay alive and
kicking. I am keeping an eye on him and wary about his condition. But I
am grateful he is still with me.
Four years ago I wrote about Shadow and how he is Doggone Grateful and I thought you might want to read it.
Cubs Win and Chicago Goes Wild
November 4, 2016
It's been a couple of days since the Chicago Cubs won a classic seventh
game over the Cleveland Indians in the baseball championship known as
the World Series. The matchup between the teams was terrific and the
drama of a seven game series made every baseball fan's heart beat fast.
The Cubs broke a 108 year drought. The last time they won the World
Series was in 1908, a very different time than today. It is a long time
for a city and a franchise to wait for a championship. The big W is
waving wildly now and the Windy City was pretty ecstatic today with a
downtown parade and an estimated 5 million crowding the streets to
celebrate their team. It was like Ferris Bueller's Day Off times ten. No longer are the Cubbies the "lovable losers".
As someone who is both a big baseball fan and an avid history buff this kind of moment really made my day. The Cubs are not my
team. I am a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. But I can relate to how the
long suffering Cubs fans feel now that they are enjoying the sweet
taste of victory. It wasn't that long ago (2004) when the Red Sox ended
the "curse of the Bambino" and won a World Series after many
excruciating near misses at a title. For Chicago it was an even longer
wait; they hadn't been in a World Series since 1945.
You also have to pay homage to the Indians. They played great and
deserve kudos despite coming up short. Both the Cubs and Indians are
poised to be good for the next few years. With the Series over it will
be time for thoughts to turn to Winter, but for every baseball fan
Spring will bring the promise of a new season with hope and excitement.
For now, Chicago, it is your turn in the spotlight. Savor the moment.