Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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The Pope, Our Common Home and the American Visit
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
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 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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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.
| continue reading |
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
has a story to tell!
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