Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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MemoryWell Helping Sufferers of Alzheimer's Preserve Their Stories
September 18, 2017
Here's some good news and a worthy effort to help those afflicted with
Alzheimer's. A startup company, MemoryWell, is using the power of
storytelling to improve their longterm care. A news story on Forbes.com gives you insight into this and you can also visit the MemoryWell site to learn more about how they are "preserving care one story at a time."
Remembering Grandparents and 9-11
September 11, 2017
Today is another anniversary of 9-11,
the terrible day of terrorist attacks on the United States on September
11, 2001. Rightly so, we should never forget and always honor the
memories of those who died that day. So many heartbreaks, but also so
Yesterday was the annual Grandparents Day
holiday. I find myself reflecting on both grandparents and 9-11. There
are some commonalities. For instance, we want to always remember and
honor the memories of the victims of 9-11. So, too, do we honor and
treasure the memories of our grandparents. Mine have all passed on and
a few years ago I became a
grandparent. It is truly one of the greatest things in my life. As the
saying goes, "If I knew grandchildren would be so wonderful I would
have had them first!"
I vividly remember that fateful day in September, 2001. I can recall
the raw emotions, the fear, concern, worry and anger. I did not yet
have any grandchildren, in fact, my children were still living at
home and just 8 and 13.
Today I taught my fifth graders some history about 9-11. We also paid
tribute to our grandparents as part of a school-wide Grandparents Day
celebration. I am sure it fed my ideas for this post.
Amidst heartbreak and tragedy there is often the silver lining. So it
was with 9-11. No one can completely erase the loss of a loved one, and
erasing it is not even the point. Remembering and memoralizing those
who've died is the point. How do you do that? There are various ways,
through pictures, writing, and sharing their lives.
Grandparents are often able to pass on the wisdom and family history we need to honor and remember.
I've seen many a good memoir or family history that speaks about a
person's grandparents. I have also seen my share of 9-11 tributes.
Let's keep the memories in our hearts and together work to forge a
world where there is peace through multiple generations.
The Five W's of Work
September 5, 2017
The Labor Day holiday was yesterday. I find myself reflecting on work - the who, what, where, when and why of it.
Most of us work. We labor at a job and we hope our paycheck will cover our expenses.
But I've found that it really is important to work to live, rather than
the other way around - live to work. If you are not sure what that
means, I am repeating some age old wisdom that we need to have a full
and meaningful life and if we have to work, hopefully whatever we do
contributes to that life. You don't want to work in a dead-end job that
you hate and that doesn't fulfill you. Even if it fills your bank
With that in mind, let's consider what meaningful work entails. I like using the 5 W's as a guide.
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Helpers of Hurricane Harvey
August 28, 2017
Natural disasters like the massive storm, Hurricane
Harvey, hitting Texas are bigger than life events. The storms of
life can be tough to weather; living through a disaster like this can
change one's life.
The amount of flooding in Houston and other surrounding areas has been
catastrophic. I can't begin to imagine what it is like to get over
three feet of rain in just a couple of days. And the rains and flooding
are not done.
What are the lessons to learn from such events? Being prepared is one
of them. We don't always know when disasters will strike. It is wise to
put together a "Go" bag on the most important valuables, records and
supplies. It's a topic I've seen discussed among personal historians
and it is a good suggestion. What documents, pictures and personal
belongings could you not live without? Have a strongbox, luggage or
some type of sturdy container for these most important items.
Your greatest treasure is your life and the lives of loved ones.
Prioritize by having a plan to keep your family together and safe if at
all possible. After that you have to become selective. Certain
documents like birth certificates, wedding licenses and passports are
critical. But what about your personal will, old family photos are
other items that cannot be replaced. I would also include any memoirs
or family histories.
You can't save everything, but you can do some preparation.
Thoughts and prayers to all going through the devastation of Hurricane
Harvey. It's a tough situation. Despite the troubles it is wonderful to
see the many heroes, be they first responders or everyday common folks,
stepping up to help in need. The great story of humanity is how many
will help no matter how bad things get. You can read about some of
those accounts with this New York Times article, Moments of Hope and Inspiration Rise Above the Chaos of Harvey.
The Day the Sun Goes Dark
August 21, 2017
Today is the Great Eclipse of 2017,
so labeled here in America to note a solar eclipse which will pass
through the middle of the United States. Solar eclipses are
awe-inspiring events when the moon comes between the earth and the sun
and when the alignment is just right blocks the sunlight. The sun goes
dark and for a few minutes day becomes night.
It can be confusing for animals. It struck terror in early
civilizations who didn't know what was happening and feared the world
was coming to an end.
Today is an opportunity for great studying of the event and a learning
experience for young people. My fifth graders and I will be engaged in
observing the event online. In New Mexico we get a little over seventy
percent of the sun covered, a partial eclipse, and the forecast is
calling for cloud cover, so better to check out a webcast. But north of
us and across a 70 mile wide path from Oregon to South Carolina there will be totality. It is going to be amazing.
It is very important to be safe in viewing during the solar eclipse as
eye damage happens without the proper protection. Many vendors sold
eclipse glasses and not all of them were up to the correct standards.
That's unfortunate, but with our technology it is possible to use the
Internet and sites that are providing webcast viewing to safely see
what takes place.
Many people want to be outside in an area of totality to experience this event. Some people travel the world for solar eclipses and claim it is akin to a spiritual experience.
How will you record your thoughts and observations today? Big events like the Great Eclipse of 2017
are touchstones for life stories. People are excited, media hype is off
the scale, and you are going to have thoughts and emotions about this.
I plan to do some writing in my journal and perhaps it will make it in
to a recollection, essay or memoir sometime down the road.
Your Kind or You're Kind
August 16, 2017
It is disturbing to see the continued ugly expressions of racism in the
United States. The weekend protests against the removal of a
Confederate statue honoring Robert E. Lee by emboldened neo-Nazis and
white supremacists shows that our people and country are still very
divided. Violence, a woman killed, others injured, counter protests and
a president who seems to be unwilling to clearly and convincingly
condemn the worst of those protesting has a lot of people complaining.
Regardless of whether there is blame on "both sides", any group who is
calling for hate is wrong. So when we look at protesters, are they
expressing hate or standing up against injustice and racist behavior?
What I see is some people want to be separatists and proclaim themselves racially superior (your
kind) and then there are those who want peace, equality, dignity and if
I would consider their actions morally right. I would tell them you're kind.
If history has taught us anything, there has been far too many wars and
conflicts groups of people who consider themselves "better", "superior"
and "right". When will we see that we have to live together and
celebrate our diversity while maintaining the dignity entitled to every
Sam Shepard and Santa Fe
August 9, 2017
You may have heard that the playwright and actor Sam Shepard died last
week. He seemed to me someone who remained true to his need to write
about life, exploring various themes in his plays and searching for
depth in relationships with people and places.
At the same time, he appeared enigmatic. He liked living in out of the
way places, like Santa Fe, New Mexico where he resided from 1983-86 and
again from 2010-2015. He likely left the second time because of the
advancing stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) to return to home and
family in Kentucky.
According to an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican,
Shepard first visited Santa Fe as a child, arriving by train. His
father was an Air Force bomber pilot stationed at one of New Mexico's
military bases. That sounds a bit like my story. My dad was also an Air
Force bomber pilot and when I was about nine we took a trip to
California by train and stopped in Santa Fe.
The article also refers to a good creative period for Sam Shepard in
2010-11 when he was chosen as a Miller Scholar and got a year to write
at the Santa Fe Institute. Shepard enjoyed the time away from the
limelight and since most of the community there were scientific
researchers and thinkers it led to intellectually stimulating
I enjoyed watching Sam Shepard in his various movie roles. Movie roles afforded him the opportunity to take time off to write. He was an interesting and gifted person and fit right in with New Mexico.
Exploring Your Inner Life
August 6, 2017
When I speak of your life being your story I am referring to more than
your day to day existence and all the things that happen to you.
I am speaking about life. What does that make you think about?
Life is more than your life circumstances.
Life is each breath, each heartbeat, and, most importantly, what you are doing with your life.
I have found that life is not about me...I am about life! The more I
get involved in living life with a focus on others (rather than my
small and often self-centered false self) the better my life is.
We are made to live in community. Does that mean we don't ever get time for ourselves, for some solitude, peace and quiet?
Of course not! We need those quiet times to reflect, recharge and
refocus. So that we can go back out among others and have something to
give. You can't giveaway what you don't have.
A lot of inner life exploration (some call it your spiritual and
contemplative side) results from things that happen and what we then do
about it. This is particularly true with the harsh and tragic
circumstances we all eventually encounter. If you don't have an inner
life to pull strength from things will soon become overwhelming.
I know for my own journey it took being confronted with some difficult
truths about myself and the realization that I can't control or fix
many things. Nor should I.
Letting go is not the same as giving up.
Yesterday I read a guest blog post on The Memoir Network
site. The writer, Marilea Rabasa, spoke from her heart about exploring
her inner life and how her regular habit of writing about her life has
helped her deal with the difficult road of recovery. Addiction is a
problem confronting many of us. Her addiction and the disease of
addiction in her family shook her to the core. Like most addicts, it
takes reaching the end of a rope (some call it hitting bottom) before
the likelihood of any real change can take place.
Read her piece, Spelunking,
and see if there isn't some truth in there for you to unwrap. Even if
you don't deal with anyone who has an addiction you can still find some
powerful words in her essay. She is exploring her inner life. I like
how she addresses the need to find clarification (which she finds in
her writing) and the process of change.
has a story to tell!
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