Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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).
What 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.
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
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.
Life in Presidents
February 20, 2017
Today is the Presidents
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
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
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.
February 16, 2017
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
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
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.
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.
has a story to tell!
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