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A Father's Legacy Letter to His 5-Year Old Daughter
November 17, 2014
I doubt anyone would blame Tom Attwater if he didn't spend much time
thinking about the future of other people, considering he has a brain
tumor and his lifetime is limited. But don't tell him that. Yes, he has
a brain tumor and, yes, it will probably take his life. But his five
year-old daughter, Kelli also has cancer and he has been doing all he
can to raise funds for her treatment.
He has also done something more, something there is no price tag you
can attach to it. He has given his daughter his love and his attention
and a voice to come to her for the years ahead. He has written a
thoughtful and heartfelt legacy letter
laying out his hopes, dreams, thoughts, wisdom and wishes for her in a
variety of future life endeavors. He knows he won't be there in person,
but his legacy letter is truly wonderful. As a dad he wants the best
for his daughter and he dispenses great advice for her (and anybody
else, for that matter) about various topics. He shares his dreams about
school, a career, boys, marriage and how he'd like to be remembered.
It's good stuff and shows yet another way an ethical will/legacy letter
can be a priceless gift.
6 Brothers Documentary - a Story inspired by WWII letters
November 11, 2014
On this Veterans Day we remember the many who have served in the United
States Armed Forces. That included my dad, a career Air Force pilot and
decorated Vietnam War Vet (see The Pilot Who Soared on Eagles Wings).
One of the things I found of interest recently is a family history
inspired by the letters written during WWII by the grandfather of
Daniel Stenberg of Bismark, North Dakota. Daniel is a Personal
Historian and those letters got him started on what became a family
history documentary, 6 Brothers: A Story of Hope, Loss, and Perseverance on the Northern Plains.
I have not seen the documentary, but it sounds fascinating. You can visit the website, 6brothersfilm.com to find out more.
I also think it is important that people continue to be aware of Veterans History Project. It is a place where stories of veterans can be archived with the Library of Congress. See more here.
25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
November 9, 2014
There are too many walls built up in life. Too much separation.
Humanity grows by uniting in love and life. However, history is fraught
with conflict. That's why today is a day for celebration. Twenty-five
years ago on November 9, 1985 the Berlin Wall came down (more).
For many years Berlin was a divided city. The wall was constructed by
the German Democratic Republic and that wall not only divided a city,
but a country. It was a symbol of the Cold War and when it came down it
became a recognition that people should be free.
Have you wondered what became of parts of the concrete wall? Many of
the slabs are works of art, concrete canvasses on display in many
countries and cities. Google, the search engine, has a video on its home page
today that shows some of these wall portions. From Madrid to Kiev,
Sofia to Washington D.C., Brussels to New York City, the graffiti and
artwork display some of the passion for life and freedom shared by
people of many lands, language and culture. It's a good day to let
Santana Bringing His Story to Light
November 5, 2014
I heard an interview with Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana.
The extraordinary guitarist has an amazing story he is sharing with his
just released memoir, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light.
In the interview on NPR,
Santana speaks of his humble beginnings in Mexico. He dedicates his
book to his mother. "I think she probably prayed for me more than
anyone to keep me from getting lost", he said. And he also spoke about
his father, his first teacher, a strict musician who had trouble
showing gentleness, but helped instill an appreciation for music. It
was in the small and often unsavory clubs of Tijuana that he really
learned his craft.
Santana was always drawn to music, but he is also a very spiritual
person. And he survived some sexual abuse as a child, something not
easy to reveal or discuss. Additionally, Santana dealt with struggles
in the United States before he found fame after Woodstock. The memoir
is available now, including at Amazon.com, and should be a riveting read.
The Ancient Concept of Ethical Will is Getting New Life
November 3, 2014
I've mentioned the value and importance of Ethical Wills
on more than one occasion. It is an ancient concept, this leaving in
writing the values that matter most to you. It is an extremely valuable
document treasured by loved ones. It dates back to at least Old
Testament times for the Hebrew people.
Another article mentioning the importance and growing interest in ethical wills has appeared in the New York Times. In The Ethical Will, an Ancient Concept, is Revamped for the Tech Age
by Constance Gustke, we again learn of personal historians
encouraging people to create the ethical will. This is especially
important for those facing terminal illness. Using more modern
techniques, such as a PowerPoint slide show, shows there are various
ways to create your ethical will.
November 1, 2014
Here's something that might spark childhood memories. Remember how you
used to make shadows on the wall? Perhaps it was with a flashlight in
the bedroom and somebody showed you the way to make animal heads with
your hand and fingers, such as a rabbit or dog.
Maybe you marveled on a sunny day at your shadow walking before you.
Peter Pan thought it was sowed to the soles of his feet. That's
probably a metaphor. Our shadow self is certainly part of our soul.
Eventually we learn to deal with it, at least we do if we want to
reconcile the dark and light within us all. It's not easy to face
our shadow self. But we need to do some shadowdancing to grow as
people. And when you are writing your life story you inevitably must
look in the shadows. What we often resist writing about can hold some
of the best story gold.
I was taking my dog, Shadow (that's his name), on a walk this
afternoon. The sun was getting low on the horizon and that created a
good shadow effect. I took this picture and uploaded it to Instagram
because there is a #WHPshadowplay encouraging some shadow photos this
The Magic of a Seventh Game
October 29, 2014
Tonight the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants will decide
this year's baseball championship. It is the World Series and the
ultimate treat for baseball fans - a seventh game!
The World Series is Major League Baseball's premiere event. The Fall
Classic has a ton of history and the first team to win 4 games is the
champ. Some best-of-seven series are over after four games. Known as a
sweep, the winner takes out the other team in four straight games. The
other possibilities depend on how many games are won by each team. When
it comes down to this, both teams having won 3 games, it is the
ultimate drama. A winner-takes-all event.
Although both Kansas City and San Francisco made the playoffs as their
respective wild card game winners, the Royals are the surprise team
this year. After all, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012
and are trying to keep that every other year pattern going with their
third championship in five years. Both teams got hot at the right time,
in October with playoff baseball.
The game this evening is in Kansas City and the fans are rabid for a
win. The last time KC was in the World Series was 1985 and they won the
championship that year. It's been a long dry spell since. I wrote a few
days ago in my latest newsletter
about connections with Kansas City, baseball and weddings. Just another
peak inside my personal history. It's going to be interesting to watch
the game and see how it all plays out. There is a certain magic in a
seventh game and I'm looking forward to it!
October 20, 2014
Do you ever get up to go into another room intent on doing
something...and once you are in that room you've completely forgotten
why you went in there? Me, too! It happens more than I care to admit.
Well, before you get too upset at your fading short-term memory, you
might want to read this blog post by APH member Jean Sheppard. She's
had this problem and thought maybe it was just getting older and
forgetting things when she discovered that science has been researching
this and that there is actually a name for the memory lapses. It's
called "the Doorway Effect" and it has something to do with how our
brains process information when we go through doors into another room.
I kid you not. Personally, I'm kind of glad I have something to blame
it on, instead of just being forgetful.
Bill Cosby used to call it "butt memory", as in you have to go back to
where you had the thought, sit down, and voila! Your idea returns to
your brain's resident area memory (a little computer humor - RAM). Ori if you prefer, butt memory.
Read Arch Support
by Jean Sheppard. It's clever while passing on this useful information.
Jean is another personal historian doing valuable work, and if her
blog writing style is any indication she probably could help you add
clever and interesting wording to your story. Her website is www.sayingitforward.ca
(and no, I'm not getting anything for mentioning her site except for
perhaps satisfaction that more people will discover the benefits of
life story preservation).
The Cockpit Camera Shots of World War I Pilots
October 18, 2014
Some terrific photos of pilots-in-training for World War One, snapped
in the cockpits of their biplanes, gives an interesting look back in
time. A popular small camera from Kodak, the VPK (Vest Pocket Kodak)
was used for many of the shots. I love the smiles and shining eyes of
these young men clearly enjoying the flights. See more at mashable, courtesy of Retronaut.
Halfway Through Family History Month
October 15, 2014
Did you know that October is Family History Month? Yes, it is true - and if you are now just getting clued in to this you still have half of the month to do something about it.
Genealogists are more responsible for designating October Family
History Month in the US than Personal Historians (who like to point to
May as Personal History Awareness Month). But it is all basically the
same thing. Find some way to research and preserve family history.
There are many options, from a family tree to a photobook, write a
memoir, record a video or interview an elder. Check out some of these
tips and more at the FamilySearch Blog (more here).
Focus on Small Things and Build Your Story Around It
October 14, 2014
One of the challenges of many memoir writers is the "I" trap. Too much
"me" in your narrative can make readers tune out. We don't want to
sound too self-absorbed, even if the story is our story and mainly about us!
Sarah White, a Personal Historian and current President of the Association of Personal Historians (APH),
gives a good tip to avoid this potential trap. She suggests you focus
on certain objects and build around it. Find an heirloom or meaningful
possession. Take the time to really examine it. Use your senses to
describe it, the shape, texture, color, purpose and, most importantly,
its significance to you and your story. It is a good writer's tip.
Sarah shares her personal insight and experience with this technique in
a post for the APH blog, Go Small...in a Big Way.
has a story to tell!
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