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© Tom Gilbert

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December, 2017

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

December 31, 2017

The end of the year is a time to reminisce. We can recollect our experiences, ponder our thoughts, reflect on our journeys and sort out our feelings.

This can be a healthy process. It can also be very time consuming, but I find it a worthwhile use of my time. You should approach it with the right frame of mind. If not done in a positive way it can drag you down, sometimes generating feelings that can result in anger or resentment. Some people even become depressed.

So you have to be cautious. Consider using a four part process I call: looking back, looking in, looking out, and looking forward. 

I expand on this in an article from the December free newsletter. Subscribe here or read it online.

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O Holy Morn

December 25, 2017


For many who observe the Christmas holiday, the eve of Christmas is a special time, a Holy Night. It can be very festive and beautiful.

For me, however, nothing beats the peace and serenity of early Christmas morning.

When I was a child the anticipation of Christmas, envisioning the presents under the tree and what Santa had brought, made it nearly impossible to contain my excitement. My sister and brother were also anxious to rise. My parents, of course, would like us to stay in bed with some semblance of quiet until at least six. We were usually awake by five!

But now I am in that second part of life. My kids are grown. My wife and I are the sole inhabitants of our home. She is not an early riser, but I like to be up at dawn to enjoy the start of the day with quiet and contemplation.

This Christmas morning in New Mexico was wonderful. I went to an early morning mass and as I was driving to the church the sunrise was a spectacular red and gold. Creation was proclaiming the birth of the new day and all that Christmas signifies. O Holy Morn!

My wish this Christmas is the same as the past few years. In a world that greatly needs a message of love I am hoping that peace and joy will spread in our hearts, our families, our communities and our world. It is not in divisiveness or selfishness that we find this peace, joy and love. The real message is that we are meant to share our lives. We are all connected and it is the unity and relational living that we will ultimately find and express our gifted humanity.

Merry Christmas everyone, and happy celebrations to all and for all in all the ways this festive season brings.

Your Historical Life-Line

December 22, 2017

Ellen Cole Landreth has a passion for life stories, including her own, and put together a very helpful and practical book to guide you through putting together your story using historical time-line events combined with your own life markers. She calls it Your Historical “Life-Line” – The Times of Your Life Remembered. It’s available online at I have been looking through my copy and seeing some great tips. She has done a lot of research to list some key information from each year, starting with 1900 and continuing through 2016. And she includes some future pages that are blank. She encourages you to use the historical information to create your “Life-Line”. I’ve enjoyed finding out more about the year I was born (1955) along with the years my children came into being (1988 and 1993). This book helps make the sometimes overwhelming process of life writing more fun and manageable.

The Funky Christmas History of Madrid, New Mexico

December 18, 2017

'Tis the season to be jolly and this story gives me a chuckle. There is a small town on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, on Highway 14, not far from my city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, that has a quirky history, especially when it comes to Christmas time.

Madrid (pronounced "Mad - rid", not Muh-drid) was once a booming coal mining town with as many as 2,000 residents. That was some time ago. After the mining boom ended it became something of a ghost town.

Nowadays this funky old mining town is home to an eclectic group of artists and free spirits (some might even say hippies) - see this link for more. They started moving there in the 1970's, seeking cheap housing a place to enjoy their creative spirit. The town was even the site for a bizzare movie featuring rocker David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth, about an alien who lands on Earth in this "out of the way destination". And not too long ago a comedy, Wild Hogs, featuring Tim Allen and John Travolta, was filmed with the town as the story's backdrop.

Madrid once was a place of historic Christmas celebrating in the American Southwest. And today the town still celebrates Christmas in its own unusual way with a colorful parade led by the town yak (that's right, a yak). There was a feature that aired yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning. The television piece told about how Madrid used to light up the Holidays and how it now celebrates the season. It's a fun and funky Christmas history story.

The Right Way to Pre-Write

December 12, 2017

Before you record a single word with pen, word processor or tablet you first need to do something very important. It is indeed part of the writing process and it is known as pre-writing.

Pre-writing is important for a number of reasons. As Denis LeDoux of The Memoir Network lays out in his excellent article, Three Tips for Effective Memoir Pre-Writing,  you can do all sorts of things that prime the pump for your writing, including making memory lists, reading your journals, letters, newspaper clippings, and talking to people that are part of your reminiscing.

By the way, a great free coaching offer from Mr. LeDoux and The Memoir Network takes place on December 20. Take advantage of the offer and see how working with a memoir coach can help you move your story forward.

No Longer an Unknown Sailor Hero at Pearl Harbor

December 6, 2017

Most people are familiar with the "Day of Infamy" on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese surprise attack on the United States Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii caused massive casualties and brought America into World War II.

It was a Sunday morning and one sailor, Boatswain's Mate Joe George, had been ordered to stay on his ship, the Vestal, because he'd been brought back after a night of drinking and some fighting. It was not unusual for this sailor; he had a history of such behavior. But it was fortuitous that he was on his ship when the attack came. Because he helped save the lives of some sailors on the Arizona which had been heavily hit in the attack and was aflame and about to sink.

Joe George heaved a line from the Vestal to the Arizona and some men escaped being roasted alive by going hand-over-hand on the line to safety on the Vestal. Donald Stratton and Lauren Bruner were two men who made it to safety. But for many years, until this past summer, the sailor who saved them was unknown.

As a result of a life story book and an oral history interview the facts eventually came together and Joe George was finally recognized and awarded a Bronze Star medal of valor. Unfortunately he didn't live to receive it this year, but his daughter, Joe Ann Taylor was able to attend a ceremony at the White House where the previously unknown sailor got his due. He is unknown no more. I encourage you to read and see the moving story about this that aired this past weekend on CBS Sunday Morning. It is a nice way to commemorate this year's 76 anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

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