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"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
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Students Dealing with the Pandemic
April 30, 2020
Everyone is dealing with the global pandemic of COVID-19. It affects us
all. But imagine what it is like if you are still a young person
dealing with a world of virtual school.
It has its own set of challenges. As a teacher I know it well. It is
hard to make the same connections we did when we were meeting in
This time of year is typically when high school and college seniors are
getting ready to graduate. My heart goes out to them as they are not
able to partake in the usual celebrations, at least not in the social
Although the article was posted over a month ago on The New York Times, you can find out more about teenagers dealing with the pandemic. Many of them have shared their comments on What Students Are Saying About Living Through a Pandemic.
The Human Touch
April 25, 2020
You might need somethin' to hold on to
When all the answers they don't amount to much
Somebody that you can just talk to
And a little of that human touch
- Bruce Springsteen "Human Touch"
For most of us we are now seven weeks into our stay at home/shelter in
place existence. The COVID-19 virus is still out there, still infecting
others, and even though precautions are being taken we are a long ways
until we are out of the woods. This is our new reality.
If you are fortunate to have a loved one, a partner or family member
with whom you can be around and even touch, perhaps you are gaining a
new appreciation for that very real human need. We need it.
Human touch doesn't have to be physical, although we mostly experience
it that way. But as Bruce Springsteen's lyrics above demonstrate, it
can also be "Somebody that you can just talk to."
"Human Touch" is the name of a new writing endeavor by popular author Mitch Albom.
He is writing it now and it is in progress and he admits he
doesn't know how it is going to end. This realistic fiction is
a story of hope full of vivid, real life-like characters of four
families in a small Michigan town dealing with the coronavirus.
Mitch Albom is writing a chapter a week and sharing it online
for all of us. I've read the first three chapters and it is riveting. I
am anxious for more. It shows how hungry I (and maybe you) are for the
sharing of our experiences during this global pandemic.
The power of story - both fiction and from our real life - is
universal and undeniable. We need that sharing of our stories,
our personal history. It is one way that we share our unique and yet
similar life experiences. We all need that human touch.
Be Still and Know It's Good For Your Brain
50th Earth Day Reflection
April 22, 2020
What should be the message we take in today, April 22, 2020, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day?
Scientists speculate our planet has been around for 4.5 billion years.
Humans have been a part of that for a tiny blip in the cosmic timeline.
And it has only been relatively recent that people have called in
earnest for paying greater attention to how we treat our home planet.
It is not disposable, but we often live as if it is.
One of the insights I gained today that helps me better appreciate
Mother Earth is an article that doesn't even directly reference the
Earth, nature, climate change or planting trees. Yet it makes a
wonderful pathway for me to walk. I need to walk this path in a
leisurely fashion, taking in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and
sensations that comes with just...being.
The article, Why 'stillness' is crucial for your brain during this pandemic,
written by Steph Yin, informs and reminds us that sometimes we need to
do nothing. It is not a crime or a sin and apparently there is even
evidence that our brains and mental wellness actually require some time
to do nothing, even be bored. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our
brain where we can develop more awareness and reflection about who we
are and what we do. And it is stimulated in the absence of other
stimulation. Do you realize what this means? That it is actually good
to be bored at times! It allows our brains to fire neurons and make new
connections simply because we are not distracted by other thoughts and
This is why daydreaming is powerful. And, contrary to the accepted
axiom that we must always be productive, we need resting moments. We
are actually more productive when we allow ourselves to stop and do
nothing once in a while. And don't get trapped in the belief that the
point of those breaks is to be more productive. That's not the end
goal. What we really should be living for is a more worthwhile and
fulfilling life, one that is done in community and in service of
I realize that community is a greater challenge during this pandemic
when social distancing, staying at home and sheltering in place are the
safe things to do for the benefit of our health and the health of
others. Maybe we can use this time as an opportunity to redefine what
"community" means for us. You know, we can be alone and still together.
So how does all this tie into Earth Day. Let's take a cue from how
plants live. Do they grow best in environments where they are stressed
and denied rest and nurturing? Of course not. They thrive in soil
steeped in the nutrients they need combined with sufficient sunshine. I
think there is an analogy to our lives.
A deeply spiritual prayer is "Be still and know that I am God." Some contemplatives break that prayer into parts: Be still and know. Be still. Be. Happy Earth Day everyone. I think I will spend some time today just soaking it in.
The Journal and the Journey
April 17, 2020
Every day is a little slice of life. And it is a slice of your personal history.
How we reflect on each day, remember it, honor it, document it and
treasure it is up to each of us. For me it is important to do some
writing. If I can't get my thoughts down in writing on a regular basis
I feel incomplete.
Many people keep a journal of some type. I have for years. Keeping it
on my computer works well for me. I do believe in the value of
handwriting and illustrating that many paper journals allow you to do.
But the efficiency of a "digital diary", a stored record of my ideas,
thoughts and feelings helps me. It helps because I can easily document
my life journey and I have access to a lot of material from which I can
pull for life writing such as a memoir.
The software of choice for me and many others is The Journal.
It is far more than a diary. It is powerful and can be used for
multiple purposes, like a digital scrapbook (you can easily insert
pictures and images), a planner, and as a word processor to store your
It's valuable for students and instructors alike. It can be a great
tool for self-improvement. You can make it your daily devotional and
store your spiritual insights.
I love The Journal
and have used it for years. I proudly promote it and, full disclosure,
I do get a percentage of sales as an affiliate. But I tell you about it
because is likely to help you, especially at this historic time
when we all should be recording our thoughts and observations during
the global coronavirus pandemic.
is easy to use. It is also secure and you can make it password
protected and frequently back up your contents. You can try it free for
a 45 day trial. The product as been around for 20 years and is
regularly updated. It's just a terrific product.
Here's a picture of an entry from my own copy, complete with a picture
I took with my phone, saved to my computer and then inserted right into
Check out more about The Journal here with an upclose look.
Trust the Process and Rise Up
April 13, 2020
It's the day after Easter. A holiday that celebrates resurrection.
Death is not the end - the pattern of life, some call it the circle of
life, is that there are many "deaths" that happen. We see it in the
cycle of the seasons. So many of us experience it through various
changes in our lives. There is often loss. But there is also renewal.
We live, we die. And many people, myself included, believe there
is something else after this life.
I was reading in my journal from a year ago. It was the day after
Easter and I wrote, "Trust the process. Process is how we do things and
the continuation of doing. We don't do it to be patted on our head for
a good job. We do the process to grow."
There it is - ongoing growth resulting from us trusting the process. My
thoughts today are that trusting the process and living a day at a time
needs to be combined with the hope of renewal. People are incredibly
resilient and we can rise up and meet the challenges of life. This is
an essential message for us at this time in history.
Perhaps you are familiar with the powerful song, "Rise Up", by Andra Day. Don't give up - rise up!
John Prine and Life in
April 9, 2020
John Prine was a master storyteller. If everybody has a story Prine had
a special talent for honing in on the stories of lives full of loss,
love and humor. He combined pathos with the sometimes absurdity of the
He could make you laugh and cry in a single song. Humble and hilarious,
those who knew him would be quick to tell you how he was just a regular
guy, albeit a genius songwriter.
I fell in love with John Prine's songs as a young man at college. The
first time I heard "Hello in There" I was stunned. I laughed out loud
at "Dear Abby". I cried at the sad ending to "Sam Stone". I marveled at
his description of a hard working, blue collar man in "Grandpa Was a
These weren't just catchy or clever songs. They were evoking something
deep inside us, helping us see the human condition, warts and all.
Most of Prine's songs were simple three chord constructions. That meant
there were easy to learn. And that has been good for me, a guitar
strummer of rudimentary skill. Prine remarked that he liked that the
songs were easy for people to learn and play and that it was part of
his joy that his listeners could do that.
Although John Prine didn't score hit records on the pop charts he is
widely recognized by fans, musicians and critics as one of the greatest
songwriters of our time. Bob Dylan remarked that, "Prine's stuff is
pure Proustian existentialism." Bonnie Raitt (who recorded the
brilliant and signatory version of Prine's "Angel From Montgomery") put
it more directly. "He's a true folk singer in the best folk tradition,
cutting right to the heart of things, as pure and simple as rain."
John Prine was born on October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois, not far
from Chicago. After a short stint in the Army (drafted in 1966 and
fortutiously stationed in Germany, instead of Vietnam where many of his
buddies were sent), he returned to the Chicago area and had various
jobs, including working as a mailman. His acerbic attack on
over-zealous patriotism at that time comes through in typical Prine
style with "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore". It was
written in response to the flag decals that came free with Reader's Digest during
that time. But your
flag decal won't get you into Heaven anymore. They're already
overcrowed with your dirty little war. Now Jesus don't like killin',
no matter what the reasons for. And your flag decal won't get you into
Yet another composition with an easy-to-play
three chords. John Prine could tell many a tale of a life in three
chords. Sadly he passed away from Covid-19, the coronavirus, on
Tuesday, April 7, at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, his
beloved wife Fiona at his side. She shared a beautiful statement on
social media: “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the
outpouring of love we have received from family, friends and fans all
over the world. John will be so missed but he will continue to comfort
us with his words and music and the gifts of kindness, humor and love
he left for all of us to share.”
There are many wonderful tributes to John Prine online. A New York Times obituary by William Grimes contains a good insight into the man and his life. Rolling Stone posted John Prine: 25 Essential Songs which will introduce or remind you of his songwriting talent.
Prine may have lost a battle to the coronavirus, but he never lost his sense of humor. Check out his "When I Get to Heaven" on YouTube. I like to think there's a good hoedown happening there right about now.
the Memoir Moment
April 6, 2020
"The memoirs of today’s young just might reflect a unique
togetherness where love dominated the home and precious time was
shared." This quote comes from an article by Helene Shalotsky
& The Pandemic.
What a powerfully hopeful statement! Yes, we are all dealing with a lot
of stress, fear, anxiety and uncertainty about our situations and the
future. Many people are out of work. Many are sick, or dealing with ill
loved ones. But despite all of this brought on by the corona virus
pandemic we are also in an historically opportunistic time.
As a longtime
of life story writing I fully recognize that for some of us we
currently have the opportunity to get some real work done with our
stories. I think a memoir can be a fantastic thing. Have I written one?
Uh, no. I've written bits and pieces. But here I am now, homebound for
the most part, still with obligations to do remote/online teaching to
my elementary students. Yet also with time to do more writing.
Who knows what amazing creative outbursts might result from people
quarantined and left with "time on their hands". I was curious about
this from an historical perspective and with some online searching I
discovered an interesting article, Top
10 Great Accomplishments Made During Quarantine.
In case you are not familiar with history, there have been
epic plagues and pandemics in the past that put people in some kind of
social distancing lockdown. And some of these people turned at this
time to creative pursuits.
Reportedly, Isaac Newton made some of his most significant discoveries
while home from Cambridge in 1665 due to the Great Plague of London.
And William Shakespeare had some of his greatest productive output from
1605-1606 when another major plague hit England, penning King Lear, Macbeth
This is not to guilt anyone into creating your masterpiece. Rather,
this could be the time of a personal great awakening and your
contribution might have great value for future generations. What we are
all experiencing is history in the making and our personal viewpoints
can be primary sources for the historical record. Our writing about what is happening in our
lives at this time provide an interesting insight. We are quite
literally living the
Another line from Helene Shalotsky's article is, "Our current times are
a reminder to try to live our daily life as honorably as we can,
everyday, and always: to live with others as kindly, empathically,
compassionately, and lovingly as we possibly can." I can hardly
envision a greater legacy.
April 2, 2020
So many people are turning to ways to document their experiences during
this historic time. Rarely has there been such a global event that
affects us all, at least not in my lifetime. I suppose you have to go
back to the world wars or a pandemic like the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920
to find something of this magnitude.
One way is to write about what is
happening in your life. What are your observations and
feelings? This can be part of a your personal history documentation and
it will prove valuable to read it in the future. I am a regular journal
writer and I have really been stepping up my entries the last few weeks.
Others find it cathartic and helpful to draw. Doodles to more elaborate
paintings - it's all good. I loved some examples found in this article,
Quarantine Diaries, by Amelia Nierenberg and
posted to the New York
Times (note: it may require a subscription to
read, although you can get a few free articles a month without
No matter how you chose to record your experiences during this time be
sure to include your truth. It is okay to express your anxiety and
fears. But even better is to share your strength and hope. We are all
in this together and sharing the journey, whether by diaries or
drawings, is vital.