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© Tom  Gilbert

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The Pope, Our Common Home and the American Visit
Pope Francis embraces a teenager
September 26, 2015

You cannot turn on any news without seeing and hearing about Pope Francis and his historic visit to America. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has created a great hub that will link you to many important parts of this visit.

First to Cuba, and now in the United States, a leader of one of the largest religions in the world (Catholicism), has much to say to everyone. He is not just speaking to Roman Catholics. He's not only bringing a message to Christians. He's speaking to us about our world, our lives, our Common Home (as he calls the Earth and our responsibility towards it in his encyclical, Laudato Si').

I could say a lot about all of this. I have certainly been reflecting on this significant moment in history. But what I am finding most important is a message of love, kindness, caring for those in need, acceptance, peace and mercy. These are profound concepts. As I spend time working in the field of personal history and people's life stories I find these are universal themes and important for all of us. All of us!

These are indeed exciting times and we are all witness to it.

Your Legacy Clock is Ticking

September 22, 2015

Do you know the saying, "If not now, when?" Yeah, you've probably heard it before. It is the battle cry against procrastination.

When it comes to your life story and the legacy of your life, time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...into the future (as goes the Steve Miller Band song Fly Like an Eagle). Robb Lucy, author of Legacies Aren't Just For Dead People, a book I've read and posted about, encourages you to do something about your legacy with his post (he's now a regular contributor to The Huffington Post), Don't Wait to Preserve Your Legacy. It's a quick read with a weighty message.

International Day of PeaceInternational Day of Peace

September 21, 20015

I found out today is International Day of Peace (official site here). It was established in 1981 by the United Nations who declared it a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. 34 years later we need it more than ever.

How does the topic of peace fit into the stories of our lives? I think anyone could write about what peace means to them. There is plenty of turmoil and hardship in our lives. There is far too much injustice, war, poverty, hunger and meanness, all of which challenge the concept of peace. Yes, peace is a topic that touches us all, hopefully down to your core.

In my 5th grade class I am again teaching a project on Becoming a Peacemaker. We learn about significant peacemakers throughout history, we study the idea of peace, we find ways to practice peace in our class, school, family, community and in our hearts. It's not always easy to teach this most important idea. As soons as we are threatened we want to defend ourselves and that often leads to conflict, violence and the absence of peace.

I prefer the path of peace, but I know I still have times where I need to grow, to become more peaceful and to be a true peacemaker in the world. It's important to stick with it. As someone once said, "All we are saying is give peace a chance."


Throwback Thursday - Paying Attention to the Signs

September 17, 2015

This past  Sunday I ran my tenth half-marathon. It was also my 21 year old son's first. So it was a good experience for both of us. The race was the annual Chips & Salsa event that winds its way through the North Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a beautiful day and a good run.

Four years ago I ran this race and I missed the sign for part of the route, confusing it with the 10K runners. I wrote about that and how it ties into paying attention to the signs in life. You can see that Throwback Thursday entry here.

Grandparents, Carriers of Family History

Your family history is important, to you and to others. We all need to preserve important stories and events from the lives of our family ancestors. You don't have to go back very far either. Start with your grandparents.

Thanks to Marian McQuade, a housewife in Virginia, and former President Jimmy Carter, we celebrate National Grandparents Day every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. It is good to honor grandparents and the roles they play in our families. A really wonderful way to do that is to get them talking about life when they were growing up. How has the world changed? What lessons do they have to pass on? What did they learn from their grandparents?

At the school where I teach we had a gathering Monday morning, the day after Grandparents Day, to honor them and to have the students make presentations. My fifth grade class sang a song I wrote for One Day on Earth in November 11, 2011 (11/11/11). The grands enjoyed it.

I know that being a grandfather has blessed me many times over. I dearly love Jacob (5) and Sophia (2, but turning 3 next month). They get a kick out of their Pawkin, too. That's what they call me - Pawkin. I could never have come up with a name as cool as that!

The Marathon of Memoir Writing

September 10, 2015

In three days I will run another half-marathon. The Chips & Salsa Half Marathon in Albuquerque, New Mexico is in my hometown and starts close to my house. That makes it pretty convenient. I've run this race three times before, but this time my 21 year old son will be running with me. It is his first half marathon and I'm impressed that he's tackling the 13.1 mile run.

Running is something I took up at age 50. Yes, I did some cross-country running in High School, but not since until about ten years ago. Now as I close in on 60 I've got a couple of full marathons under my belt and I think this will be my 10th half marathon. I've found that there is something special about distance running. There are many benefits that come from the long miles. It's not easy, but I enjoy the outdoors, the health benefits, listening to music and the spiritual high (for lack of a better term).

Write Your First Memoir CourseA memoir I am currently working on is about a ten year period in my life, 2003 to 2013, when a number of important life events converged together. Part of that story is taking up the distance running and completing half and full marathons. And it occurs to me that writing a memoir is similar to running a long distance event. It's not a sprint! It's a long run to the finish line.

To help me with my writing I've decided to sign up for the Write Your First Memoir Draft course being offered by Denis Ledoux of The Memoir Network. I excitedly logged into the member's area for participants this evening after I received my email with details about the course. There are already a number of interesting resources for me to tap into. These include an interview with Kathy Pooler (The Memoir Writer's Journey), the Should I Write My Memoir e-book and a previously recorded tele-class about how to get started and keep going in memoir writing. I'm confident I'll get good tips right away.

There is still time for you to sign up. If you do you will be part of a select group of writers anxious to get their memoirs written. We will be supporting and encouraging each other and also giving each other feedback. Yes, of course, we will also be getting excellent instruction. Want to join me on this journey? The registration deadline is upon us - tomorrow, Friday, September 11.

Writing About Work

September 6, 2015

Labor Day is observed tomorrow (September 7) in the United States. I find myself reflecting on the eve of this holiday about work, careers and how it has impacted my life.

Writing about your work, the personal history of your career or careers, can be fertile material for a memoir. Many of us spend a huge amount of our lifetime at work, doing various jobs and building a career.

A lot of our effort goes into finding meaningful work. Doing something satisfying, that stimulates us and challenges us, and ideally helps make our world a better place.

As I close in on my 60th birthday and reflect back on various jobs I've held I find there are many life lessons. Like others, I've had to learn the meaning of responsibility, punctuality and doing my best. I've also suffered through some tough work challenges.

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Finding a Personal Historian

September 2, 2015

Welcome to September. If you are considering a personal history project that you want to complete in the near future you should certainly consider working with a qualified Personal Historian.

You can find one, quite possibly in the town or area you live, but searching the Find a Personal Historian section of the Association of Personal Historians website. There are a number of fantastic people available for you to contact and discuss your project. From video to scrapbooking, photo books to well crafted memoir (and a whole lot more!), this organization has the people you should seek out.

Personal Historian is a profession that has been growing a lot in the past ten years. The APH has been around for 20 years and the annual conference will be October 21-25 in Sacramento, California. This year's theme is Cultivate & Thrive. Lots of great workshops, presenters, networking and social events. There will even be a special event for the public, An Evening with Mr. Chin Lin Sou, labor contractor for Chinese railroad workers. This creative historical and theatrical presentation by renowned storyteller Charlie Chin is bound to be both educational and entertaining.
Member of the Association of Personal Historians
I've been a member of the APH since 2003 and I am constantly inspired with ideas and supported by networking. If you are perhaps considering doing work in the field of personal history I highly recommend you investigate the Association for Personal Historians. If you join, mention my name. The reference is appreciated and also gains me an additional month in my annual membership.

Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Later

August 29, 2015
Hurricane Katrina
Ten years ago today, August 29, 2005, one of the most devastating hurricanes ever hit the Gulf Coast of the United States. Hurricane Katrina washed over New Orleans and surrounding areas. It was bad. The levees surrounding "The Big Easy" broke. Homes, cars and roads swept away by huge waves.

We remember significant anniversaries for various reasons. Obviously there is joy and celebration for lifetime milestones like birthdays, marriage and careers. But why tragedy? I think it is because we need to mark historical events. It is not to dredge up sadness. Rather to look back, see where we are now, learn from the past and put perspective to our lives.

There is another reason. That is to honor those who rise above the floodwaters of life and become the type of heroes who rightly are remembered for their selfless service. During, but especially in the days after Hurricane Katrina, there were a number of stories about such heroes. The New Orleans Advocate has a special section on Katrina. 

Kenny Bellau was on a bike tour in South America when Katrina hit New Orleans. But the city native returned after the hurricane to rescue his cat and ended up over a two week period helping to save the lives of 400 people!

Ex-marine John Keller had a kayak. He says he wasn't trying to be a hero but the big New Orleans native (six foot four, 260 pounds) repeatedly fended off thugs and the elements to help save more than 200 people.

There are many such stories. Let us give thanks for those who rise about the difficulties in life and sacrifice their safety to help those in need.

The Big Why for Your Story

August 27, 2015

I just finished listening in on the Right Focus/ Write Memoir tele-class offered by Denix Ledoux of The Memoir Network. The key focus of this free tele-class was figuring our why you are writing memoir. The BIG WHY is your theme. This is likely the life lesson you want to impart to your readers. An analogy Denis used is that your theme is your hero's journey and the holy grail you bring back from your journey is the story you finish and publish for your readers. I like that.

This tele-class was a valuable stand-alone freebie offered by the excellent memoir teacher, Denis Ledoux. Of course, there is the hope that those who attended will want to sign up for an upcoming course, the Write Your First Memoir Draft. This course will be intensive work and very helpful for anyone intent on getting their memoir written. It's a lot of work, sure, but so is creating the story of your memoir. Do you want help? Or would you rather go it alone, perhaps getting lost or sidetracked and wasting valuable time?

If you act right away you can save $100 on the fee for this 7 month course. After Friday the discount ends. If you are interested in learning more you can follow my affiliate link to the course info (I get paid an affiliate commision on any signups for this course and I only recommend services I believe have good value). I hope you investigate it.

The Right Focus for Your Memoir
Write Your First Memoir Course
August 24, 2015

Knowing how to write a memoir is helpful. There is a lot more to it than good writing technique. What is the focus of your story? Is it about a particular time in your life? What story are you trying to tell in your memoir?

Denis Ledoux of The Memoir Network is about to launch his new class that will get you to Write Your First Memoir Draft. The course is bound to be helpful to memoir writers at any stage in their writing journey. 

I am an affiliate of The Memoir Network. That means I believe in the services and products they offer and I also get a commission on any purchases you make when you go there from my site. I am picky about who I endorse, so take it from me that this course is a valuable investment in your writing efforts. Denis has a lot of information on his site to help you and I wanted to share this blog post with you. | continue reading |

The Strangers Project

August 17, 2015

So a few days ago I wrote about The Forgiveness Project (see below) and today I am telling you about The Strangers Project.  This is an ongoing collection of 15,000 stories, and growing.

Lots of people are writing their life stories. So what's so special about The Strangers Project? For one thing, all the stories are anonymous. Another interesting twist is that they are handwritten right on the spot. So they are spontaneous. No doubt many people have carried around their story for years, but to be asked to write it right there, right then is interesting. No dwelling, dawdling or revision. See some of the stories here.

Have you ever been sitting in a cafe, coffee shop or in a public place and while you "people watched" you wondered about their story? This was the impetus for this project started in 2009 by Brandon Doman of Brooklyn, NY. He's been busy collecting these stories and a book is coming out next Spring.

The Forgiveness Project

August 14, 2015

Sometimes the pain and suffering of life inflicted on us by others can feel like more than we can bear. Many people understandably struggle with feelings of anger, resentment, revenge and downright hate.

It's not healthy. But how do you deal with it? Many people who go travel this hard road learn that it is better to forgive. Not easy. Hearing the stories of others who've been able to forgive in situations that are difficult (to say the least) can shine a light on how it can lead to recovery and a better way of living.

Reading some of the stories on The Forgiveness Project has been quite moving. Former convicts, parents of terrorist bombing victims or murdered children, other victims of violence or abuse - these stories of redemption are incredible. The purpose of The Forgiveness Project is to explore the possibilities of forgiveness through real stories. You can check it out yourself.

The Narrative Arc of Your Life Story

August 12, 2015

Does your life story have a narrative arc with multiple plot points?

Why, yes, I think that is pretty common. At least, how we interpret our life experiences takes the shape of story. That's a good thing and here is a very interesting article from The Atlantic about this that states it is a fundamental part of being human.

As the article states, we all have a lot of things happen during our lifetimes and not all of it is interesting or important enought to preserve in a memoir. But we commonly view our story as a narrative with multiple plot points, such as rising action, climax and resolution. These are all valuable parts of the typical storyline.

If you believe you have a good story in you with something meaningful to share with the world then you probably should take a stab at a memoir. One of the nice things about memoir is that it can be a part of your life, not the whole enchilada. You can have a theme or a particular message that you feel the need to write about, both for helping you gather meaning from your life journey and for readers who may resonate with your story. Learning from others can be helpful, especially with guided instruction. The first draft can be a challenge, so seek assistance.


 Everybody has a story to tell!
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