Story and Why
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If you are like me this is the time of year you start looking through
your journal entries over the past twelve months. I really
love to write in my journal. It is where I can be real and get some
clarity by expressing thoughts--everything from superficial to very
A journal often is a private affair. Most of what I write is not
intended for others to read. But from my journal I often glean insights
and get material that does work its way into writing projects.
Obviously, what I post here is meant for the world to see and
I hope there is something that encourages, inspires or interests you.
If you want to explore the value of journaling there is an article I
wrote some time ago. Read the Journey of
Also, you might want to visit the Journal Writing Ideas
Life must have purpose to have meaning. Writing about your life helps
clarify this, to see where you've been and where you are. Now, at the
end of another year and on the cusp of a new one, is as good a time as
any to spend time on that process.
Power of Story by Jim Loehr is a new book that delves into
this subject. I have not read it, but according to the review posted on
the blog Charlotte's Babblings, Loehr explains that our minds are
hard-wired to think in terms of stories, our personal narratives.
Sometimes we tell ourselves "false" stories - negative, not realistic,
analyses that hold us back from achieving joy, success and the love we
all crave from life. That has a ring of truth to it. Sure, we
can also romanticize our past. Accurate self appraisal is
hard to come by without honesty. This process can be encouraged and
helped by working with a professional writer/personal historian.
Bryant Smith is a columnist for the Herald
Washington. She's been spinning stories about various people
for quite a number of years. It is what she considers the
best present. She has been given the gift of storytelling. The
circumstances of how she discoverd this "gift", and how she gets to use
it, are the subject of a wonderful Christmas Day column she wrote.
In her column she reveals, "there is a gift I received as a child that
has changed the course of my life more than once."
Read this wonderful column online at HeraldNet.com.
I am reflecting this morning on the writing life. It is
something I do on a regular basis. Being a writer is first
writing. I’m compelled to do the often arduous process of
stringing words together in some sort of coherent fashion.
Without this action writing is merely theoretical.
Why I, or anyone for that matter, write is an ongoing
discussion. For me writing is akin to breathing. If
write I don’t fully live. It is something I must
do. Yet I
the process. It is, after all, work, and one of my chief character
defects is the aversion to labor. I’m not saying
I’m lazy. More likely it is that work is hard. It
frequently difficult. The self-centered call to the comfort of doing
things that are not so strenuous is strong in me. But without
labor we simply do not survive. And we miss out on a lot of
Gratefully, I still write. And I’m grateful to anyone who
reads what I choose to share. Much of my writing may never be read.
writing is primarily in journals and it is cathartic and helps me to
sort out my thoughts, ideas, values and beliefs. But a writer without
readers is not whole.
I realize that many people are not going to be writers. Lots of you
enjoy reading and there is certainly nothing wrong with that and a
great deal that is good about it. But we all have a story to tell.
Finding a way to get that story told is the purpose
of Your Life is
Your Story and I’m constantly encouraging others
to get that
done in whatever fashion appeals to you the most.
This Christmas as you spend time with family I hope you seriously
consider how important our stories are and what sharing them can mean
to those who don’t know those stories. Your
story, and the life stories of your parents, grandparents, aunts,
uncles, cousins, your own children, friends and even complete
strangers, means something. It is part of the fabric of our world.
Santa Bear, James Bond Bear, Biker Bear, Lawyer Bear and Bubble Bear.
What have we here? A new line of chic teddy bears?
Not exactly. Those are some of the character names given to stuffed
animal bears by children with learning difficulties at Charles
Armstrong School in the Bay area of California. The school is
specifically for youth with language-based disabilities such as
dyslexia. The assignment was to take a typical teddy bear and
create a character and story. The students did that and
included hand-illustrated drawings and made booklets with help from the
teachers. The stories were shared during a school assembly.
"My story was about Santa Bear running out of toys and needing to get a
job", according to one seventh-grader. "He found a recycling job and
earned enough money to buy toys to save Christmas."
I like this idea for the fun application it gave the students as well
as how it might give you an idea to help you with your life story
project. If you are struggling with how your reminiscences
can be more interesting, try letting your imagination loose.
Think of fanciful stories you imagined, or wrote, when you
were a child. How did that impact your view of life?
Read the story Youths bring stuffed animals to life with books by Neil
Gonzales posted online at InsideBayArea.com
I received a second phone call from my brother yesterday. The first in
the morning was to wish my a happy birthday. The second call in the
afternoon was to tell me that a friend of the family had passed away.
My brother, Doug, was close to Monsignor
Joseph Ariano for many years. Doug lives with his wife
Susan and young son Joshua near Washington D.C. So he was
able to stay in touch with Fr. Joe in recent years. This good
priest and man was active in Boys Town of Washington D.C. right
up till the end. He was apparently part of a Christmas
celebration for the children on December 4 of this year, despite his
failing health and advanced years (story here).
Father Joe was a delightful and caring man. He was a marvelous cook. He
took over our kitchen a few times and I recall the seeming chaos of his
numerous pots and pans steaming and boiling all at the same time.
It was hard to resist trying to "save" the situation, but as
my mother once found out, Father Joe didn't want any help. He had the
situation under control and he'd kick you out of the kitchen if you
tried to interfere with the process. "If you can't stand the heat get
out of the kitchen" had a literal meaning at these times!
Father Joe was an alumnus of the original Boys Town
founded by Father Edward Flanagan (link here). Countless wayward boys and girls found
refuge, a home and a new start there and at the other Boys Towns
founded since. Maybe you've seen the classic film
Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Over the years Father Joe would take in young
troubled boys and give them a home and mentoring. He was just
passing on what had freely been given to him.
The good monsignor Ariano was a friend and spiritual advisor to my
parents and family. My mom shared with me his counsel when I
was a rebellious teenage college student home one summer and staying
out all hours of the night partying and carrying on. I caused no small
amount of anxiety for my mother by my actions. She'd be up pacing the
floors worrying about me. Father Joe comforted her in his wry drawl.
"Jeanne", he told her, "Did you lay awake at night while Tom was away
at school wondering when he would get back to his dorm room each
night?" My mother conceded she did not. "Well then, just let it be and
trust in God." The fact that I survived those times and have
discovered my own spiritual path is a testament to his sage advice. I
comfort myself with his words to my mother now that I have teenage
children of my own.
The lesson here is how the helping hand of someone reaching out to
another in need causes ripples. We often don't see what shores those
ripples wash up on. How many lives would be different - lessened - had
not Monsignor Ariano been taken in as a young boy at Boys Town?
Sometimes we see such beautiful and wonderful sites in our world that
it nearly takes our breath away. Wonders of the world like
the Grand Canyon certainly qualify, but it can also be the way the
sun's rays shine through the clouds at sunrise or sunset. Or like today
in Albuquerque how the sun reflects off the new snow on the Sandia
Mountains, sparkling like jewels.
I'm grateful today to celebrate another birthday, but more because of
simple pleasures like seeing that site, being with family and friends
and having a birthday this year that falls on a Saturday. I
passed the "50" year mark a couple of years ago so there's not the
anxiety of psychologically dealing with the half-century mark.
Actually, I'm feeling pretty good so far about my fifties.
Yes, it is the second half of life. Hopefully the years of
experience and growth will continue to prepare me for the years ahead.
It takes time to awaken to our true selves and often what's
most important in life becomes clearer the older we get.
That doesn't mean we should postpone discovering our life's purpose and
living it. Just that we should take it a day at a time, enjoy
the ride and prepare to be surprised!
Do you have to go to college to take a life writing class? Not
necessarily. Check out your local library. Often classes are offered
through library programs or by colleges and universities through a
The recently concluded life story writing class at the Iberia Parish
Library offered by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette drew rave
reviews from the participants (story here at The Daily Iberian).
It impressed the instructor, too.
“That’s one thing I notice when I listen to
everybody’s story — all of you are telling my
story,” said class instructor Nancy Colby.
“We’ve all changed diapers. We’ve all had
new and interesting jobs. We’ve all had crazy things happen,
and we’ve all had dear friends, so it’s a joy to
share those stories.”
Your writing experience is not as important as your life experiences.
Consider taking a class or attending a workshop.
Here's some more news about family histories intertwined with cooking
and family recipes. When Recipes Tell a Story is a feature in the new PARADE magazine
insert that is included in numerous Sunday newspapers in the United
States. Sara Brzowsky's article is about preserving family history
through a a personal cookbook. This is definitely a growing trend. And
it's not surpising given the popularity of cooking shows as well as how
those special family recipes spark reminiscences brought on by the
powerful memory-inducing senses of taste and smell.
Frequently there are stories to go along with the recipes. To discover
these try scheduling times to cook with your relatives, observe how the
meals and special dishes are prepared and ask the cook about the origin
of the recipe.
Check out A Plateful of
Memories (www.platefullofmemories.com) for a
DVD coaching guide to help you create a family cookbook. Hella Buchheim
is a personal historian and her motivation for the creation of this
product was to help others preserve family recipes, something she
regrets she didn't do, in part because her grandmother never learned
English and because many of the recipes were never written down.
There are stories behind those valued and traditional recipes and
the Holidays are a good time to discover them.
Does the time ever get away from you? I've been so busy with projects
this past week that I have not updated here. I feel so guilty! But, hey,
life is about living and sometimes these things happen. I
missed posting, though...and I've seen a number of things I've wanted
to comment about. However, I will not overload you. I'll find time to
post what seems relevant at the time.
I did see an interesting item recently that is timely with the Holiday
season and people looking for creative gift ideas. It's
something called MY
CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE and the gist of it is you can
insert a child's photo into an animated, 30-minute holiday adventure on
DVD. This was created and produced by Sentimental Journeys
and is distributed online by Sharewell Group.
From their press release: "When Jack Frost sets out to ruin Christmas,
Santa asks for the child’s help to save the day!
The 30-minute fun-filled and action-packed DVD features the
child’s face in full color over 30 times throughout the
holiday special, as he or she becomes one of Santa’s favorite
elves. In this magical winter wonderland, the child star will
snowboard, dance, pilot an airplane, fly with Santa and ultimately foil
Jack Frost’s diabolical plot to ruin Christmas!"
You can order online at www.yourkidsdvd.com
and receive a completed DVD in less than two weeks
for about $30. Now's the time to get it done to receive by Christmas.
This sounds different and fun.