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© Tom  Gilbert

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World Storytelling Day

March 20, 2017

Today is World Storytelling Day and is dedicated to the art of oral storytelling. That fits right in with with life story work. Oral storytelling has a rich tradition dating back thousands of years.

Are you a storyteller? Just about anyone can be. You need to have some confidence in speaking to others and it helps to have a flare for dramatic expression. But you don't have to be a great entertainer to share stories aloud. You just need a willingness to speak to others about life, traditions, values and what you find important.

Every March 20, right around the equinox (spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern) is the day when globally as many people as possible tell and listen to stories. These stories are told in many languages and locales and it celebrates the importance of sharing inspiration, entertainment and lessons through oral storytelling. What a great thing!

More information is available at this website.




Chuck Berry Duck Walks into Rock n' Roll Heaven

March 19, 2017

Chuck Berry, Founding Father of Rock n' Roll has diedAnother of rock n' roll's pioneers has passed away. The great Chuck Berry, guitarist and a true founding father of rock n' roll, died Saturday at the age of 90.

Chuck Berry influenced countless other rock guitarists, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen among them. His brash self-confidence, songs about teenage rebellion, joyful dance parties and fast cars embodied the spirit of rock. His live performances were exuberant and his characteristic way of squatting low and dancing around the stage with one leg stuck out in front of him became his iconic duck walk.

There are so many Chuck Berry songs that showcase his talent and I played them all at some point in my thirty-plus year as a radio DJ. I favor Maybelline, Promised Land and Rock and Roll Music, but School Days, Roll Over Beethoven and Johnny B. Goode are anthemic, too. Johnn B. Goode was even included on a specially pressed golden record  for the Voyager I and II spacecrafts, so someday his music may impact extraterrestrials.

There are plenty of articles to check out online (I like Jon Pareles' tribute for the New York Times) and you might also be interested in Chuck Berry's autobiography.

Rock n' Roll Heaven has a great lineup and they just added another stellar member to the band. "Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news."


Listening Equals Learning

March 16, 2017

Listening equals learning. What's that?, you say. The statement has a lot to do with how we communicate and learn.

When we have a talk (maybe "The Talk of a Lifetime") about our experiences, strengths and hopes our desire is that those who hear us are truly listening. When we actively listen to others - leaning in, making eye contact, nodding and giving other non-verbal cues that show we are interested - it helps the speaker. They feel validated and valued.

In education it is crtical that there is good listening. Learning how to listen well is a skill we can all develop. And it is a skill that will serve you well all your life.

Often when I am interviewing someone about their life story we both discover some delightful and surprising things. Telling your story requires reminiscing. Listening carefully and respectfully helps to create a safe space and that can result in a deeper and more meaningful story.

So the next time you are in a conversation, especially one where you are engaged in the subject matter of your life experiences, try to listen with all of your attention. I think you might enjoy what you learn from this active listening.


Math Nerds Get Pi in Their Face

Pi Day March 14

March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day! Today, 3/14, is known to all math nerds as Pi Day, a holiday of sorts for those who enjoy mathematical formulas. 3.14 is the shortened version of an irregular number. The place value of pi has been calculated out to the trillions and you could keep calculating forever. It is literally endless.

What is pi? If you answered a round baked treat, I would agree, but you would have spelled it wrong. Pi is both a Greek letter and the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter - approximately 3.14159.

I was never a math nerd growing up. In fact, I disliked math. But there are people who love the purity of mathematics and who take to it like a duck to water. Now that I have been teaching 5th grade for five years I am kind of fond of math. At least, 5th grade math, which is more my speed. I get it and I enjoy teaching it. Yes, we had a lesson on pi today. Oh, and I gave everyone a slice of either cherry or apple pie.

You can find out more about pi and Pi Day at the piday.org website (I kid you not!).  And if you like fascinating stories about incredible life experiences (real or imagined) you should certainly see the film that came out a few years ago, Life of Pi.


Life in Parts - Bryan Cranston Memoir

March 7, 2017

Happy birthday to actor and writer, Bryan Cranston.  Probably best known for his Emmy-winning role as Walter White in the acclaimed television program, Breaking Bad, is 61 today. He and I have that age in common. Some people also think I look like his Walter White alter ego, Heisenberg (bald, glasses, goatee - no stretch there).

Bryan Cranston Memoir, A Life in PartsWhat I think is best that we have in common is the love of a good story. Cranston wrote and published his memoir, A Life in Parts, last year. I've almost finished reading it. I love how he put it together with short vignettes about the various "parts" of his life. His book title is a play on the fact that he's a hard working actor, but also that he has had many different experiences that he shares with humor and insight throughout his book.

Writing a good memoir begins with living a life of awareness for all the various experiences you have over the years you've lived. It takes some hard work, but when you finish a good life story there is great value in what you will have learned about yourself. Plus, if you share it with others we gain from your unique take on life.

Thanks to Bryan Cranston for sharing his life story.


Exhume the Stories - Viola Davis and Personal History

February 28, 2017

On this final day of February I am thinking about the acceptance speech made by Viola Davis after she won the Oscar (Academy Award) for Actress in a Supporting Role.

Viola Davis accepts Oscar for "Fences"Davis is a fiery, passionate and powerful actress and her performance in Fences was great. She can be strong or vulnerable, depending on what the role requires. What she showed us in her acceptance speech was her love of both acting and the storytelling that movies can bring us. She says it is the only profession telling the stories - not quite true in my opinion, but I get where she's coming from.

One of her signature lines in her speech was the urge to exhume the stories. She means dig the up, unearth the rich tales of humanity and bring it to us in the drama of film. Personal Historians do the same thing, whether working in video, audio or the written word.

Exhume the stories. Yes! Telling the world about the lives of people is a vital part of our need to hear what makes us all human. The good, bad and the ugly. We need to share our humanity through stories and life story work is a vital part of this process.


Your Life in Presidents

February 20, 2017

Today is the Presidents Day holiday in the United States. Many people consider the President of the United States to be the most powerful leader in the world. That likely is because the United States is considered by many to be the most powerful country in the world.

Whether it is true or not that the USA is the most powerful country in the world, thereis a great responsibility that comes with the power of being president. The POTUS, as the president is sometimes referred to, is viewed as an important figure. Although the history of the United States is not as lengthy as some countries, this great experiment in democracy has lasted nearly 250 years. Every four years there is an election held to determine the leader.

I've been thinking about the perspective that comes with living long enough to note a number of individuals who have held this office. I was born in 1955, so that means Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama and now Trump. Viewing my life through that particular lens of history reveals more than the daily drama we are currently experiencing.

There has been a great divisiveness in the "land of the free and home of the brave" the past few years. But it is not the first time. 150 years ago our country was nearly ripped apart by a civil war. The president at that time was not as widely respected then as he is now. His burden was very great and when the war between the states ended he felt it important to begin a healing process. History has judged Abraham Lincoln to be one of the greatest presidents.

Presidents come and go and the legacy they leave is there for the viewing. The best ones, in my opinion, are those who tried to do the right thing, especially in times of moral dilemma, and who recognized that as leaders their responsibility was to lead and not to rule. Perhaps there is a lesson in that for us all.


Day Without Immigrants

February 16, 2017

Immigrants protest, photo from bostonglobe.comThe topic of immigration has been widely discussed over the past year, and then some. The United States is a nation built by immigrants, yet the issue of more immigrants coming into the country sparks an often heated debate.

President Donald Trump and his administration want to crack down on immigrants and refugees coming into the country. There has been a court battle over his executive order to ban immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries (link to story). Surely you've followed the news.

What I find fascinating from all this is how from a personal history perspective the diversity of people from various countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities makes for a rich story.

Here in New Mexico there are a lot of people who are of immigrant stock. Many of them live here and are not at this time United States citizens. Nevertheless, they contributre to the economy and most of them are hard working and caring people who want the best for their families. 

Today's Day Without Immigrants protest has put a spotlight on many businesses that are run by immigrants. A lot of them shut down for the day as part of the protest, or had workers who took the day off. A CNN story spotlights some of the stories of these people. It is interesting to read about how some of them worked hard yesterday to prepare for taking the day off, such as restaurant workers who did extra prep work so as not to leave their bosses in the lerch since they would be operating with a smaller staff today. 

Wherever you are on the issue of immigration it is important to consider the humanity of those who travel to other lands in search of a better life. Those stories are often rich tales of overcoming adversity, the kind of personal history that is important as part of the history of our land.


Adolphus Busch's Immigration Story a Budweiser Super Bowl Hit

February 8, 2017

I saw the excellent Budweiser commercial about Adolphus Busch's journey to America online when it was released a few days before the Super Bowl. Budweiser has spent a lot of money over the years advertising during the Super Bowl and usually the commercials are either comedic or aimed at sentimental stories about dogs and Clydesdales. 

This commercial was different. In a well made and edited minute we get the story of immigrant Adolphus Busch and his journey to America in 1857. His dream - to brew beer.

He faces hostility and adversity before eventually meeting and having a drink and handshake with his future business partner, Ebert Anheuser.

The commercial reminds us that it is not easy to leave a homeland for a new country and opportunity. Today there are people who don't want anyone coming into our country. But there are also those who welcome those seeking a better life and following there dream.

Apparently this commercial struck a chord with a lot of viewers during this past Sunday's Super Bowl. You can view it online here.

 Everybody has a story to tell!
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