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© Tom  Gilbert

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The First Woman to Run in the Boston Marathon Runs Again

April 18, 2017

Yesterday was the 121st running of the Boston Marathon. This is the granddaddy of marathons with a lot of history in a city with a lot of history. For those who have followed my blog and writing for some time you know that I am a huge Boston Red Sox fan as well as a long distance runner. I've never run in the Boston Marathon (it's on my bucket list), but I have run marathons and half marathons. It would be cool to do this race and run past Fenway Park!

Four years ago the world was shocked and angered when two terrorists set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 2013 became the year of "Boston Strong" with rallying cries that included David "Big Papi" Ortiz of the Red Sox. The baseball team fittingly won the World Series that year and it was probably a cathartic thing for all those who were sadly affected by the bombings. I happened to watch the movie about those events of 2013, Patriots Day, on Sunday night. The movie is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

One of the great stories from this year's Boston Marathon was Katherine Switzer at the age of 70 running the marathon 50 years after being the first female to run in the race. It's sad to think that at one time the race didn't allow women runners and in 1967 she had to "sneak" in by using initials in her entry. During the race there was an attempt by the race director to stop her, but other runners intervened and she finished in 4 hours 20 minutes.  Running it again this year was a triumph for her and other women runners, all 14,000 of them.

To me this is a great story. So many people have interesting lives and experiences. I have a special fondness for runners because I know the difficulty of the training and long miles of marathons. Perhaps you are a runner - consider documenting your story and experiences. It could provide inspiration to others.


Find a Team that Works

April 12, 2017

Teamwork is a common theme at our workplaces, schools and homes. If people don't work well together it can create a lot of friction and headaches. If you are part of a team striving to reach a goal it takes all the team members collaborating to achieve the goal.

This is obvious to me as an elementary school teacher. The students work together in teams on a lot of projects. Tomorrow, in fact, we "go to Mars" to join with students from other schools in our Mission to Mars project. It's a highlight of the 5th grade year. All the students have had individual assignments during the year in learning about colonizing Mars, but they also have had many group (team) assignments.

Teamwork applies as well to a personal history project. You can try to do it all yourself. But that is really hard and can be more time consuming and frustrating that it's worth. If you hire a professional to help you preserve your life story you create a team. You are part of the team along with the professionals you hire. 

I do lots of consulting, coaching and writing with individuals, but I've also worked with organizations. I also collaborate and network with other personal history professionals. I've found I don't have all the skills or desire to do every part of a book project. This is particularly true when it comes to the book layout, binding and printing. I'd rather use people who specialize in this work. I'm much better at the interviewing and the writing process.

If you are looking for memoir or life story assistance I invite you to explore this website further, especially for life story services and the many free articles I have written over the years. Additionally, as a member of the Association of Personal Historians (APH), I am in contact with other professionals who may be able to assist you in your life story needs.


Why a Personal Historian is a Good Investment

March 27, 2017

It' s time again to adress the issue of why using a personal historians is a good investment and what it costs.

Most people think it is a good idea to preserve the story of your life or family members. It is especially true when you think about those family members who are no longer with us. How many of you would go to great lengths to know what your great grandparents or other ancestors thought about life? What was it really like 100 years ago? Did they have dreams and values that were realized? What about the hardships and tragedies?

In another hundred years will there be people in your family that wish they could pick up the story of your life? Do you have lessons, experiences and values to share?

The answers to these questions can be achieved by preserving personal and family history. You can do it yourself, of course, but how many people have the time, motivation or expertise to create and finish such a project?

Personal historians are dedicated to helping you achieve the end goal of a preserved life story. We have the know how and desire to do this kind of work. And make no mistake, it is work. If you decided to use a personal historian, a professional in the field of life story work, be prepared to make an investment equivalent to a nice vacation or a car. The amount varies depending on what you want for your end result, the amount of work involved, the quality of the finished product, and your budget. This is not a $50 or $100 job. It typically runs a few thousand dollars to create a manuscript that is well written and runs 100-200 pages.

I found another article recently that makes the case for investing in a personal historian or memoir professional. Ruth Anne Uhl gives plenty of good reasons and explains the process from her perspective in How much should you pay for help writing your memoir?. The article it is right in line with the discussions I typically have and it is also similar to what I've seen other professionals give as guidelines to the process and cost.

By all means, shop around and have conversations. If you are serious about your life story, or that of a family member, circle back to the beginning of this post and remind yourself of the value of creating a memoir. It's value typically outstrips that financial investment. These stories become heirlooms and legacies. It is indeed a good investment.


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

Chuck Berry, Founding Father of Rock n' Roll has diedAnother 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 extraterrestrials.

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 the news."


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 valued.

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 story.

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

Pi Day March 14

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 endless.

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 Memoir

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).

Bryan Cranston Memoir, A Life in PartsWhat 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.

 Everybody has a story to tell!
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