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December, 2015

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Inspect, Reflect and Project

December 31, 2015

It is not unusual at the end of the calendar year for people to reflect over the past months and think about the events and experiences. I find it important to do this so that I get the all important perspective needed to do what is most important: to live fully each day.

Our lives are made up of many moments. But the only real time is now. It is something of a paradox to realized that time moves forward and we always have a past that keeps growing, but the true essentials of living are timeless. The Big Picture is outside of time. It always just is.

As a teacher and writer it is inevitable that I do a lot of thinking about our life journeys. I am tasked with passing along knowledge coupled with inspiration which hopefully translates to awakening curiosity in others. When that happens the result is motivation. Quite often the hardest thing with life writing (memoir, autobiography, personal hisory) is getting started and keeping at it. Inertia is powerful.

But I have discovered what others have told you and I over and over and over again. Just start. The act of doing creates momentum. Sometimes when we sit down to write we don't know what words should come first. Don't worry about that too much. To quote a famous Star Wars character (Yoda), "You must but learn what you have learned. Do or do not. There is no try." 

I invite you to spend time in preparing to write. The pre-writing process is very important and it typically happens without doing any actual writing. Much of my prewriting is done walking the dog or driving in my car. But you can also use word mapping, sketching, doodling, outlining and memory lists.

I think it is important to inspect your past year. It helps if you keep a journal. Then reflect on the significant events. I have many articles that speak to what I consider are the key things for life writing. After reflection move on to project. Both the project work of your story and to pro-ject out your plans for your story. Don't live in the future on this - stay in the now. But healthy projecting of your thoughts for your worthy life story project can keep you motivated.

Best to all, thank you for reading and visiting throughout the year. Peace, joy and blessings to you in 2016.

End of the Year Elder Wisdom

December 30 2015

Here we are on the cusp of a new year. With the old year about to end it is always a time to reflect on living. What can the elderly teach us? A huge question, for sure. More people are living longer now than ever before. The New York Times followed six people age 85 or older through this past year to discover some of the Wisdom of the Aged. There is a lot to reflect and consider from these six New Yorkers.

Many of them are dealing with the afflictions of old age, but for the most part they are quite optimistic and grateful. They are certainly not naive and they realize they are in the twilight years. I found the article insightful and another confirmation of the need for us to honor the elders in our society. More importantly, to pay attention to the lessons and values they share. 

Life story preservation includes writing about our past experiences, but I think it also should value our present day lives. What use is it to look back if we aren't living in today with an appreciation of what our lives have taught and brought?

A Caring We Will Go

December 24, 2015

To care for others is a great gift. The caretakers of the world do a great service. Anyone can show they care, and do it in many different ways. I think about how much we appreciate a visit from a family member or friend. You can read together, laugh and sing, or just sit quietly. The latter is especially important when someone is grieving or dying.

One of the most important things is to show that you care by giving of yourself, sharing your life experiences, your strength and your hope.

At Christmas time it is traditional to sing songs of the season. People enjoy Christmas caroling and visit friends with songs and good cheer. Taking a cue from “a-caroling we will go”, consider how “a carrying we will go” expresses the importance of showing our love and care for others.

| read more from the December Newsletter |

Little Gifts Bring Big Joy

December 15, 2015

The holidays can be a frenzy of shopping and gift giving and I don't like it when it feels like you have to buy, buy and buy. We are a consumer oriented society, but gift giving doesn't need a big price tag.

Now that I have been teaching five years in this "second life" career, I find that the little gifts often pack the biggest pleasure. It is hard to put a price on a home-made card from a student. Kids usually live for the moment. 10 and 11 year olds can be a handful, but they also are a lot of fun. I enjoy it when they give me a candybar or other fun snacks as a present.

Our school also has a tradition of playing Secret Santa with the teachers and staff. We draw names and we fill out surveys of our likes and dislikes. Then for a week we give little gifts each day. The fun is in just getting something and if you like simple pleasures such as peppermint patties, goldfish crackers, coffee, a good book and so forth, then it's a pleasure each day to see what the little gift will be. Even more fun is giving the presents to the person whose name we've drawn. We get to play Santa and at the end of the week during our staff Christmas party we reveal who the Secret Santas are.

These little holiday traditions help us have fun and also enjoy the holiday season. What similar traditions do you participate in? Write about it in your journal. Go one step further and think about a particular giving situation that pulls on the heartstrings and write a holiday story.

Steve Pender of Family Legacies on the Radio About Video Life Stories

December 10, 2015

I've often suggested Steve Pender of Family Legacies Videos for video life story work. He is based in Tucson and does really good work. He's friendly, knowledgeable and as you can hear from a radio interview he just did with a Tucson radio station, a fun fellow!

I spent many years in radio and I know a good interview when I hear one. This short piece (about 8 minutes) has some good information, especially if you are thinking of doing something with family stories/personal history over the holidays.

Life Reflections

December 7, 2015

Reflecting on life and circumstances, our feelings and experiences, can be an important thing to do. To me reflecting means looking closely and thinking in a way that processes your feelings and experiences.

I've used reflection writing in my teaching. I often give my 5th graders an essential question to consider for a week and then they write a reflection in their journals about what the question means to them. Of course we have discussion and I give them guidance as they are still developing the type of critical thinking that leads to insights. Currently we are doing a project where they are interviewing an adult in their family, preferably an elder like a grandparent, to find out what life was life for them when they were growing up. Where did they live, what was school like, what did they do for work and why did they choose their occupation? These were a few of the interview questions each student asked their family elder. A connected essential question for writing reflection is "What can we learn from the struggles of others?" Hopefully that leads to them learning from family members the importance of not giving up when life gets challenging and difficult.

On a related note, I find myself reflecting on my age as I will turn 60 in about a week. I certainly don't think of myself as that chronological age. Being around 10-11 year olds as a teacher probably helps keep me feeling young (or is that immature?). When I look in the mirror I see me, but it isn't the picture of myself in my head. Has that happened to you? An interesting photo series by Tom Hussey (Reflections of The Past) has elderly people looking in mirrors and seeing their younger reflections. It's definitely worth viewing - here. I think it is a nice counterpoint to the self-absorbed "selfie" craze in our culture.

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