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Juggling Projects and Tracking Your Life Events

April 22, 2014

If you are a busy person with lots of projects to keep track of, then you need to find a way to stay on top of them. There are all kinds of time management systems with sophisticated day planners. Many of them are excellent.

Other people are good with just keeping a daily to-do list.

For me, a good system is essential. It's not that I am what of those guys who has every little thing planned out. If anything, I have to fight against the tendency to fly by the seat of my pants. But I've had far too many jobs where I've needed to keep track of things. This is very true with personal history projects.

I have mentioned some of the fine techniques I've learned, like making a memory list. Having a list of significant events in your life that you continually update can be extremely valuable when you are writing about your life. A good list will make it possible to always have something to write about. Essentially, you will never have writer's block!

The system that has worked for me now for several years is The Journal Software by DavidRM Software. It is such an excellent tool for journaling, but on top of that I can create endless categories and sub entries for projects. It really helps me keep track of various clients and potential clients. Additionally, I can easily review past days, months or years of journal entries. It is a powerful and searchable software system.

If you haven't investigated The Journal, take a look at more information I provide here. I avidly recommend this system and DavidRM allows you to even try it for free for 45 days. Take it for a test drive!

Tough Family Stories That Redeem

April 17, 2014

Sometimes we have stories in our families that are really hard to talk about. Therefore, they are hard to write. People want to keep those skeletons in the closet. But as another personal historian loves to say, bring those skeletons out of the closet and make them dance!

A recent NY Times story is a great example of a tough family story that ultimately redeems. An alcoholic sculptor abandons his wife and daughter and then dies under mysterious circumstances. The daughter was quite young at the time, but as she grew up she had questions and she went searching for answer. Her father had loved her deeply and she needed to know for herself what his life story meant to her; not her mother's version, but hers. What the Sea Took Away, a Daughter Restores is beautifully written. A poignant tale.

Boston Strong Marathon Runner Shalane Flanagan

April 14, 2015

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the tragic bombing that shook Boston at their iconic Marathon Race finish line. Knowing what it is like to complete a marathon (I've done two) and seeing the news footage, it all put me in a sad and fowl mood at the time. I wrote about it on this very blog. But as the stories of heroism and strength unfolded, I once again fell in love with the beautiful souls of true heroes. Some people are not out looking for attention. These silent heroes respond by jumping into action when horrible events happen. At the bombings some helped rescue or comfort the wounded; others housed displaced runners and family members. The accounts that came out of Boston resonate with the strength of the human spirit.

A year later and there is a hometown favorite who has a real chance of winning the women's division of this year's Boston Marathon (set for Monday, April 21). Shalane Flanagan has running in her genes. Both her parents were world class marathon runners. Although Shalane has only been running marathons since 2010, she has demonstrated her ability. And this year it is personal. Although she now lives in Portland, Oregon, she has returned frequently to Boston to run the course as part of her training for this year's race. As she put it in her interview with Anderson Cooper which aired on CBS' 60 Minutes, "I am all-in with this training. It's my ultimate dream and goal to win the Boston Marathon". You can watch her inspiring interview here.

Modern Day North Pole Adventure

April 7, 2014

My buddy, Rolland Love, writer in the vein of Mark Twain, expert fisherman, and cofounder of Imastory, tipped me to something his business partner in the personal history project is currently doing. Apparently Mark Andresen isn't just a tech wizard; he's a real life adventurer!

North Pole adventure with Imastory creator

Currently Mark is teemed with his explorer friend, Mike Ketchmark, on a trip to the North Pole. They are doing it with dog sleds, their wits and blogging their journey via Imastory. So far they've encountered bitter cold (no surprise), a large group of polar bears, uncooperative dogs, some treacherous ice and a lifetime of memories. As Rolland puts it, "Two men, a dozen sled dogs, a couple of tents, no bath for 30 days and K-rations". Follow their journey at

Life Stories From Down Under

March 26, 2014

There is a website in Australia where they are gathering stories and promoting life review and reminiscence. Life Stories Australia has the motto, "Where Memories Matter". Indeed they do and it is good to see that this is a global truth. I promote life story preservation in America. So do many other fine personal historians and story tellers. The same is true in Canada, Europe and elsewhere.

In Australia one of the leading personal historians and banner wavers for saving life stories is Annie Payne. She is instrumental in Life Story Circles and runs a terrific personal history business at History from the Heart. She is also a board member for the Association of Personal Historians and the founder of Life Stories Australia. She receives my free monthly newsletter and was struck by the feature article in the latest issue about nostalgia and reminiscence. In fact, she was very kind in posting it to the Life Stories Australia site (here). I am honored.

Personal History Awareness Month is coming in May. I will be doing things to help promote this awareness in my community, just as I know Annie will do the same with others in Australia. Other APH members are also doing their part. Maybe you  will have an opportunity to encourage people to save and share their life stories. Doing so is helping humankind carry on their legacies - a very valuable contribution.

Circling Back to Your Childhood

March 24, 2014

Apparently you "can go back home". The famous quote, "you can't go home again" is actually the title of a novel by Thomas Wolfe.  The plot revolves around the character, George Webber, who has written a novel about his family and hometown. When he goes back home he's shaken by an outpouring of hate from the family and friends. Thus the message that you can't go back home with the interpretation that you won't be appreciated. However, when it comes to your personal history, going back home and revisiting your childhoood can have great value.

The gist of an article by David Brooks, Going Home Again (NY Times, March 20, 2014), reinforces the value of reminiscence about our growing up. For Sting - yes, the musician and songwriter, Sting - it inspired a creative breakthrough. He'd been in a dry spell with his music when he started thinking about the town he grew up in Northern England. This town had been home to a busy shipyard that built large ocean-going vessels. As Sting circled back to his childhood and recalled this place of his youth he suddenly discovered a resurgence in creativity. It resulted in a musical, "The Last Ship" which has been performed in theaters and could be headed to Broadway.

Could it be that conscious reminiscing about the places of your childhood might spark your own creativity? I think it is highly likely. At the very least, it will cause you to reflect on your life journey and that can lead to an appreciation of your experiences, which is typically a very good thing.

Age to Wisdom Studies

March 20, 2014

It has been a long held belief by many that as we age we get wiser. I like to believe there is some truth in this. But wisdom can be allusive. Surely as we age we pick up more knowledge. But that doesn't always equate to wisdom. Being wise has a lot to do, I think, with how we apply what we learn to life, and how we learn from our experiences. Our values and beliefs are certainly affected but those experiences. Living well and living with kindness, truth, justice, compassion and integrity are the byproducts of wisdom

A recent New York Times article, The Science of Older and Wiser, is a good read about the subject of aging and how personal wisdom develops. One of the takeaways I had from the article was Professor Staudinger's five elements of true personal wisdom. He lists them as self-insight; the ability to demonstrate personal growth; self-awareness in terms of your historical era and your family history; understanding that priorities and values, including your own, are not absolute; and an awareness of life’s ambiguities. I purposely emphasized the third element because of its importance to life story review and preservation.

The article also states that an impediment to wisdom can be thinking! When people dwell to much on their short-comings or their problems that often come with age they can become depressed, angry or bitter. But not if they accept reality as it is and look at life as a wonderful journey full of incredible experiences, both good and bad.

Searching Your Irish Roots

March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! As the saying goes, on March 17th everybody's a little bit Irish.
Saint Patricks Day Google
Genealogy is one of the favorite (or most popular) pasttimes on the Internet. As a personal historian I find it more interesting to discover the stories behind of the people hanging out in the branches of the family tree. But if you are looking for some good online resources to search out your Irish roots, I can make a few suggestions.

There are a number of subscription and fee-based sites. One of the biggest is There is an large Irish database section. You might also try FindMyPast or EmeraldAncestors (featuring Northern Ireland & Ulster Ancestry).

I would suggest you also check out some of the large free sites, such as FamilySearch and the National Archives of Ireland.

May the sun be on your face and the wind be at your back as you journey forth on the discovery of your Irish roots. And check out the section or Google's St. Patrick section for more.

 Everybody has a story to tell!
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