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December 2010

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The End...of the Near

December 29, 2010

Inevitable at this time of year I become reflective. I can't help it, it's in my nature. I introspective and I can only let words rattle around in my head for so long before I must type them out. Some I even share (lucky you!).

2010 has rushed by in the way that years seem to the older you get. Mid fifties are upon me, although I don't think of myself as that age. Some of the tension of introspection comes from the inner age calculator versus the reality of an actual chronological record as stated on a legal document. Or just looking in the mirror.

The year has had its ups and downs, good and bad, boredom and excitement, frustrations and regrets, and elation at meeting new challenges and the allure of future goals glittering bright on the horizon of next year. Through it all I've attempted to find some things to share with you via this blog. It's been fun for me and perhaps occasionally worthwhile for you.

If you aren't yet journaling maybe you'll give it a try. A nice blank, bound book will do - write, doodle, and express yourself! You can also go the software route and record it on your computer. I continue to get wonderful results from my use of David Michael's The Journal. Check it out. You can test drive it free for 45 days. It's way more than "diary" software and highly useful if you are preserving family history or your life story.

Thanks for visiting Your Life Is Your Story and I hope you come back often in 2011. Steve Miller sings in "Fly Like An Eagle", Time keeps on slipping...into the future, and there's plenty of truth in that. There's more ahead in our lives, but much to be learned by looking back and processing "in the now".

Canadian Personal Historians in the News

December 27, 2010

A couple of Canadian personal historians, one specializing in books, the other in video work, have received some nice press.

The Vancouver Sun writes about the work of Pattie Whitehouse, a veteran personal historian who has been capturing life stories since 1992 (pretty significant as this type of work is still considered a fairly new field). Capturing the stories of our lives by columnist Katherine Dedyna gives insight into Whitehouse's efforts to capture stories primarily of everyday people, those she refers to as "Salt of the Earth".

Also featured in an article by this paper is Dan Curtis, someone I've mentioned a few times here in my blog. Dan is a prolific and insightful blogger who often finds great resources, tips and stories. But you may not be familiar with his work with hospice patients. He's been instrumental in a program that matches volunteers trained in interview techniques with patients so they can tell their stories. You can read the article, A gift that lasts beyond a lifetime.

The work of personal historians like Pattie Whitehouse, Dan Curtis and others reinforces what I strongly believe. Everyone has a story to tell and it is beneficial to do so on so many levels.

Christmas Memories Decorate Our Minds

December 24, 2010

Christmas time can be wonderful. I hope it is for you. Sometimes it can be depressing, depending on your circumstances, but I think it is still possible for you to encounter the "Christmas Spirit" if you are open to it.

Christmas memories with son and daughterSeventeen years ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan, we had a white Christmas and a newborn son (literally - he was born four days prior!). It was a wonderful time. My daughter enjoyed holding her new baby brother and we have fond memories of that time.

Now my daughter has her own new son, born in February. Our grandson is just under a year and it will be a fun Christmas with him. Already we've had to break out a few gifts. It is more fun to watch him play with toys than anything anyone might give me. His joy is my Christmas gift.

I hope you have some Christmas memories. Maybe you'll be inspired to write about them. I've done that. Wishing you holiday greetings on this Christmas Eve. Even if you don't observe Christmas I hope it is a special time for you this year.

Peace and joy from Your Life Is Your Story - Tom Gilbert

Legacies of Love and Ethical Wills

December 21, 2010

It is so important to share your life lessons and values with others, especially your family and loved ones. It is an act of love to write an ethical will or prepare a letter or document detailing your wishes upon death and your care and concern for others.

An article from December 16, 2010 in the Orange County Register shares how Al Blake celebrated his 91st birthday by sharing an ethical will he wrote with his two sons and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I think the author of the article, Teryl Zarnow, clearly articulates the importance of this and I like that Mr. Blake shared this with his family prior to death. She found out about this man from personal historian Jane Shafron (Your Story Here) who had previously created a video biography of Mr. Blake that included an ethical will section. You can read Want to live forever? Bequeath wisdom online here.

Another fine resource I've recently discovered is the book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, written by Gemini Adams (published by liveconsciously). Ms. Adams stresses the importance of "Realizing the Gift in Goodbye". My review of the book is posted here.

Winter Solstice 2010 Offers Rare Treat of Total Lunar Eclipse
total lunar eclipse
December 20, 2010

How can you not gaze at the night skies when something unusual happens and not be moved? I enjoy seeing shooting stars and brilliant constellations. And the full moon rising over the Sandia Mountain in Albuquerue is always beautiful.
Tonight, however, is an extra special event - a full lunar eclipse.
photo courtesy of

It's a rare treat and one worth staying up late for. The eclipse takes hours to happen and will reach its full totality in the middle of the night (3:17 a.m. EST/12:17 a.m. PST). So I'll bundle up at be watching after midnight until perhaps 2 a.m., longer if I can keep my eyes open. You can find out more about the 12 stages of the eclipse courtesy of and NPR also has a brief story on the event.

The color of the moon during the eclipse likely will turn drak orange or blood red, although in some eclipses it turns dark gray. Regardless, it should be something to see as we move officially into Winter here (the solstice is 12/21) in the Northern Hemisphere. I'll be writing about it in my journal - a life marker to go along with celebrating my son's 17th birthday. How are you going to preserve the memory?

Gift Suggestions - Helpful Books on Life Story Writing

December 18, 2010

Your Legacy of Love by Gemini AdamsAs we close in on Christmas you might be looking for gift ideas for the holiday. Helpful books on life story writing abound and I have a few suggestions for you (here). The latest addition to the list is
Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye by Gemini Adams. It's a very good book for preparing others before you die. Tips to create lasting gifts of your thoughts, values, life lessons and meaning, but also to help you if you are dealing with the loss of a loved one. It's thought-provoking and practical. I'll be writing more about it in this month's newsletter that I'm putting out this weekend.

Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono: DNA Memory

December 12, 2010

In looking back over the week and scanning various sites I came across information on Dan Curtis' blog about Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He's a grown man with his own career, but interested in family history and we naturally would assume he'd be researching his famous father's life. I'm sure he has done that, but this article at NPR tells us about Sean's interest in his mother's life and how he chose Yoko as the subject for his National Day of Listening interview. You can read more and listen to the link here.

Remembering John Lennon 

December 8, 2010

The evening of December 8, 1980 I was working the night shift at a rock radio station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I'd only been in radio broadcasting for a couple of years at that point and the station I worked for didn't even have a news wire machine or a television in the studio. So when all the phone lines lit up at once and people started anxiously asking if it was true that John Lennon had been shot it was quite a shock. I had to call a close friend to get confirmation.

John LennonIt is a strange feeling to be in media when something of such a magnitude happens. Being a child of the 60's I am quite a Beatles fan and rock music lover. That night I had to open the microphone and tell the audience that a music icon was dead, gunned down by an obsessed fanatic. It was an odd sensation.

It wasn't until after my show ended at midnight that I was able to let the news really sink in. I played Beatles and Lennon records late into the night. The next morning I went into the production room at the radio station and started working on a tribute special. Somehow it was cathartic.

John Lennon was human and he had his faults. Just like any of us. Heroes have clay feet. Nevertheless, he also made a huge impact on our culture. As he said in his song Imagine, "you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one". So very true. His music and his message continue on in his sons, wife, friends and fans. Another line from one of his songs, a favorite of mine from Watching the Wheels (From the album Double Fantasy, the record he'd just put out shortly before his tragic death) speaks volumes to me as a personal historian.

Ah, people asking questions lost in confusion
Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind
I tell them there's no hurry
I'm just sitting here doing time

The Natural Way of Storytelling by the Earth & Spirit Council

December 7, 2010

Many people are good storytellers, but the best can tell us about life that is more than what humans do. Our Earth is sacred ground, from the rivers to the mountains, the valleys to the plains, the deserts to the swamps and forests.

The Natural Way of Storytelling is the work of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest who are preserving the stories, the history of the Natural Way, through interviews with various elders (more here). This type of work is profound and special and helps us to recognize the great spiritual value of stories that are passed from one generation to another. You can sample some of the talks, such as Calvin Hecocta speaking about his experiences in dealing with our environment and the importance of preserving the value of our land, our people and our cultures.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Life

December 3, 2010

Many people struggle over how to begin their memoir, autobiography or life story. Honestly, we all do. That's part of being a good writer - the struggle to find the right words. But it doesn't have to be so intimidating.

Play with words and sentences. Create a mind map and brainstorm. Think about a particular time in your life that has great significance. This can be your starting point. Writing about that and then going back to earlier times (or later) can be effective. There's no rule that says you have to start at the beginning of your life. Go for a hook that will reel your reader in.

Sometimes simplicity is effective. Call me Ishmael is the opening sentence of the classic novel, Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Of course, what follows your opening sentence is crucial. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.  Okay, Melville, now you've got my attention.

Here's a writing exercise. Try writing ten different opening lines to your story. Let them sit for a day or two. Go back and look at them again. Try combining a couple of sentences or rearrange them. Perhaps it will inspire you to write some more. You don't (can't) write all of your story in one sitting. So don't fret. Do a bit at a time. And remember, good writing comes from revision.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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