Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
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Obama's Grandparents Oral History
August 27, 2013
Stanley and Madelyn Dundham. Maybe you've never heard of them. They
grew up high school classmates in Augusta, Kansas. They married on the
night of her senior prom and when Pearl Harbor was bombed not long
after that, Stanley joined the Army. Madelyn did her part for the war
effort, too, working at Boeing. This couple gave birth to Stanley Ann
in Wichita, Kansas on November 20, 1942. She grew up and had a son who
is now the President of the United States.
The Kansas roots of President Barack Obama's grandparents have been preserved as part of a nonpartisan committee working on an oral history project
since 2009. Jackie Vietti of Butler Community College commented,
“Individually and collectively, if we do not capture, honor and
celebrate our roots, we will never be as good as we can be in the
future. We did not intend to write the history, but we did intend to
capture it, to honor and remember to celebrate a Kansas
president’s heritage that ties directly to Butler County. We want
to educate and inspire our children so they can learn from a
president’s heritage as well as their own that they can do and be
anything when they grow up. It is important for us to tell the world
our Kansas roots matter and we are very proud of them.”
Now a video celebrating those family roots has been put out (story here).
If not for projects like this much personal and family history might be
lost. It's readily apparent why attempts are made to preserve the
family history of US Presidents. But there is every bit of need to do
so for those living lives of less celebrity status. Every person has a
story and every family matters.
is just around the corner (September 8). Grandparents are special
people. I know this from experience. I had good grandparents who shared
about their lives with me. I've also witnessed my parents and my wife's
parents interact with our children. And now my wife and are
grandparents twice over. Wouldn't it be a nice gift to help preserve
the family history of grandparents? Do it for the future generations.
School Clerk Tells Gunman Her Life Story and He Lays Down Weapons
August 21, 2013
It could have been another tragic chapter in school violence. Brandon
Hill, 20, was armed with an assault rifle and other weapons when he
entered a Decatur, Georgia elementary school. Fortunately the courage
of a school clerk and the power of her life story ended up persuading
the gunman to surrender without anyone getting hurt. I like to tell
people that preserving your personal history saves a life, but that is
meant metaphorically. What Antoinette Tuff did is a dramatic example of
a life story saving many lives.
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VoiceFlame Empowering the Women of Malawi
August 19, 2013
For the voice that asks to be heard.
The self that asks to be known.
The story that asks to be shared.
The legacy that asks to be lived.
We come together under the same sky
That's what you see posted at the top right corner of the VoiceFlame website.
The organization is dedicated to to the empowerment of the girls and
women of Malawi. Much of their work is centered on getting them to
write about themselves. Our lives are the source of many stories and
any teacher will tell you that writing about yourself helps you grow.
You look inward and share your thoughts, feelings and experiences. It
can be very powerful and a way to discover much about your life.
I am not connected to VoiceFlame in anyway, but several years ago I did help Good New Ministries with
some webwork regarding their mission efforts in Malawi. This African
country may be small with many struggles, but it is full of life. So
when I came across a story about VoiceFlame and the work they were
doing encouraging the sharing of life stories I was impressed. Read some of the women's words and you will discover some gut-level honesty. There are hardships and triumphs.
The Surprise Factor
August 15, 2013
I am almost through my first week of teaching. My new 5th graders are
learning about math, science, social studies and language arts. But
they are also learning about their teacher. I think I am probably
catching them by surprise sometimes. In fact - I hope so!
Surprises can be fun. They can also throw you off balance. In our lives
we often get surprised. Sometimes it is the unexpected visit of a
friend we haven't seen in a while. Or it could be a taste sensation you
really like but didn't expect from the food item. At other times it is
the awe when you view an amazing sunrise or watch a baby's first steps.
There are also surprises we don't like so much. A bad health diagnosis.
News that you are being laid off from work. Your car needs repairs you
How are you using the surprise factor in your life story? Good memoir
writing should borrow from creative writing techniques. The element of
surprise, such as a plot twist can be an effective way to up the
appeal of an experience you want to share.
One of the techniques I use with my students is to have them reflect on
what surprised them in a given day. The first week of school is a ripe
occasion. Today I asked them what they've been surprised about
this week. Responses varied from "math is easy" (it won't stay that
way) to "the cafeteria was really loud" (they get to eat with the
middle school 6,7, & 8th graders this year) to "I didn't know we
needed to be so organized". I found it interesting feedback and
there are some potential writing prompts in these replies.
How about you - any surprises that you should be including in your
story? It's another way to think about your life story. Do some
brainstorming, then some journaling and finally...write about it. Go
ahead, surprise us.
Breaking Bad End Is Near
August 11, 2013
I admit it. I am a "Breaking Bad"
junkie. And it's not just because I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Fans of the show know that is the location where the story takes place,
and it is very interesting to me and other 'Burque locals to see
Albuquerque and New Mexico sights in each episode. However, I was
hooked into the show long before that became common knowledge. This was
when the second season was airing. I have to give credit to my son for
turning me onto to the show. He was a fan of the exploits of Walter
White and the rest of the unusual cast of characters back during the
"Breaking Bad" is a television show that has quite
a following. I think it is because of the great story line. Watching a
former high school chemistry teacher with cancer go to the dark side by
cooking meth and selling it to pay his medical costs is an interesting
motive. We have watched as Walter White has gone increasingly "bad"
over the life of the story. It has a lot of people wondering how their
moral compass might hold up if faced with similar circumstances. And we
are captivated by how the lives of Walt's family and associates on both
sides of the law deal with the plot twists and turns. It is great drama
and a very well written show.
What it has to do with life story writing was chronicled by me on this blog a year ago.
And it still holds true. How do we face our demons, our secrets and the
skeletons in our closet? How do the choices we make in life affect us
It has been a long wait for the show's final episodes and we get the first one tonight. I most certainly will be watching.
The Inspirational Story of Zach Sobiech Will Be Told by His Mother
August 8, 2013
When faced with the news of a terminal illness it takes great courage
and perseverance to choose to consciously leave a positive message. The
perspective Zach Sobiech shared with the world with his song, Clouds, and his approach to life following the diagnosis of cancer that took his life at age 18 is full of inspiration.
Now his mother, Laura Sobiech, has a book deal with Thomas Nelson to
write an inspirational story about her son. "After Zach died, I started
writing," Laura Sobiech said. "I've been thinking about writing for a
long time because I think there is a story underneath what everybody
has heard that should be told, too. I've always been more interested in
the spiritual side of things and that thread of what God did for us and
for Zach, so that was the story that I wanted to tell."
Beyond monetary gain or notoriety and fame, this is a powerful driving
force for a life story. Sharing how we face great challenges without
giving in to a totally negative end story is something we all should
do. Read the article and watch a brief video of Zach online at TwinCities.com.
When We Cheat
August 6, 2013
news story of baseball players caught cheating because of their use of
performance enhancement substances has once again grabbed sporting
headlines. A dozen players have been handed suspensions, most of them
given a 50 game penalty for their involvment in the Biogenesis Clinic
When athletes use illegal doping means to get an edge in their
performance it taints their sport. But on top op that it raises some
issues about ethics, integrity and telling the truth. Alex Rodriguez,
the New York Yankees third baseman, has over the years collected a lot
of hits, including 647 home runs, the 5th highest all time. He's also
baseball's highest paid player ever. So his motivation for fighting the
211 game ban
handed down by Major League Baseball is undoubtedly money driven.
Interestingly, the other suspended players are accepting their
punishment without appeal.
Why do people (not just athletes) cheat? From politicians, corporate
CEO's and celebrities to everyday Joes and Janes, people get caught
cheating. People cheat on tests, on taxes and on their significant
others. The motivations vary. Some people fess up, admit their wrongs
and try to make amends. Others try to rationalize or wiggle out of any
wrongdoing. It's all very interesting, particularly in light of the
life stories we tell ourselves and others.
I write this post to have you consider the subject. Have you ever
cheated? If so, why and how? Did you get caught? Have you changed your
ways? How do you feel about it now? These are not easy questions. But
when it comes to writing honestly abour your life, they need to be
asked. Perhaps a cheating situation is a story you will never share in
writing. However, tales of human failing, and especially the path to
redemption, are rich lessons for all of us. Nobody is perfect. We all
have feet of clay. If you've ever faced a turning point brought about
by your cheating in some fashion you might have a significant lesson to
share that can be both a warning and and apology.
The Rise of Centenarians
August 1, 2013
I have no idea how long I will live. But according to U.S. Census
Bureau predictions, by 2050 there will be over a million centenarians.
That's people living to the magnificent age of 100.
100 years. A full century. Those who've lived that long have seen
amazing changes in our world. Who knows what it will be like at the end
of 2055? That's the year, if I live that long, I would become a
The number of people living to be 100 years old or older is on the rise. The Generation Above Me
blog posted about it a couple of days ago and mentioned the birthday
celebration for Gladys Bever of Kansas, now 103 and still going strong.
From what the post said about her she's lived a fascinating life; I
can't imagine that not being true for any centenarian.
The National Centenarian Awareness Project, founded in 1989 by Lynn Peters Adler. There is a wealth of information on their website, along with their Live to 100 and Beyond blog.
Obviously centenarians are rich sources of historical information and
we need to get their stories. Give this consideration for any hundred
year old relatives or friends. While you are at it, you might consider
your own story, especially if you think you might be part of the rise
of centenarians in the next thirty years.