Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products,
...and whatever else catches the fancy of personal historian Tom Gilbert
Too Old to Dance, Especially for the President
February 24, 2016
This is Black History Month, a time to recognize accomplishments of
African-Americans. Surely a significant event in the history of
African-Americans was the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
"I have nothing to do but be happy", says Virginia McLaurin, a 106-year
old woman who met and danced with the President this past Sunday. That
quote isn't from her meeting at the White House (Washington Post story).
That's how she has described her very long life that has witnessed a
lot of "black and white" and segregation over the years. She has
remained positive through it all, something I find both remarkable and
People like Virginia McLaurin are living time capsules. Think of all
she's witnessed in a life spanning more than a century. And now she can
add the experience of dancing with joy (it's become a viral video) for President Obama. She has wanted to meet him for a
long time (see her message requesting this).
Shooter's Mom Relates Her Pain and Love
February 17, 2016
I can't begin to imagine the pain of being a parent of a child who
commits horrendous violence and murder. That's something Sue Klebold
has carried for 17 years, ever since her son Dylan, along with his
friend Eric Harris, went on a killing spree at Columbine High School on
April 20, 1999.
In an interview on NPR (National Public Radio)
she speaks about her early denial that her son could have committed
such acts, and then later how she came to grips with the truth of his
mental illness and her struggle over whether she could have done
anything to prevent the crime. It's a heavy cross to bear, but what
courage that she can write about this and perhaps get people to see
more than the terrible crimes and the troubled boys. That fateful day
in Colorado affected a lot of lives and we still struggle to understand
why mass shootings, especially in schools, continue to happen.
Sue Klebold's new memoir in which she describes her guilt, despair,
shame and confusion. Her intent is not to exonerate any wrongdoing, but
to honor the memories of those killed and maybe help other parents
whose children might have mental health issues. Go online to read/hear the interview.
Life and Love
February 14, 2016
The focus of Valentine's Day is typically romantic love. And that is
good. But I would like to broaden the scope to include the love of life.
We all want to love and be loved. It seems we are wired this way. And
when you find someone to share your love of life with it is a beautiful
thing. The love of a friend or spouse and the love of life can go
My wife is my love and also my best friend. We can confide in each
other and we can talk to each other about the things that matter to us.
That also means that we can give each other an earful at times about
the things that bother or annoy us. Such is life in a relationship.
What I find necessary for me is to keep coming back to the truth that
there is a great goodness in living. Life so often seems to be about
problems and struggles. I am one proned to worry, anxiety and
complaining. At the same time, I can be passionate and enthused. And I
can be content when I remember that all that we go through has a
purpose and the most important time is the right now that we
are experiencing. There really is no other time than now, even though
we often dwell on the past and the future.
Today remember to love. Don't let life's problems get you down.
Encourage those who are struggling or suffering. We are in this thing
called life together. Growth is the outcome of our life problems. And
your life problems are not your life, just your life situation.
Spread your wings and live a little. Share a kind thought and a smile.
Share your story, what has mattered to you in life and the lessons you
have learned. Others are waiting to hear it.
February 10, 2016
Many personal history projects are stories about families. Combining
the history of a family when they also have a longtime family business
can be wonderful on a few levels.
There is the camaraderie that is created when family members are able
to join together to relate the triumphs and challenges of running a
business. As Arielle Nobile writes in her Storytelling as a way
to foster a sense of belonging in family businesses (published
January 20 in Smart Business),
the family members often end up feeling more connected. They are able
to step out of some of the roles that they've seen themselves in and
appreciate the bigger picture of what the family has accomplished
Documentaries about businesses are not just a preservation of valuable
history. Then can also be effective marketing pieces. Think of the
power of a well told story about how a business began and developed
versus just a glossy brochure.
Arielle Nobile has developed her documentary business, Legacy Connections Films, over the past ten years and I've been
watching it grow. Surely she and her partners are creating a
story of their own!
February 8, 2016
When we've been wronged it is common to want to get back at whoever or
whatever hurt us. "Veangance is mine!" we want to shout. But revenge
writing can be a dangerous thing.
If your motivation in a memoir or life story is to get back at someone
you run the risk of alienating readers. Rarely do others feel the sting
of betrayal or harm like you do. This doesn't mean it is pointless to
write about wrongs. But we must be careful not to use a poison pen to
avenge a wrong. You may just end up poisoning yourself.
Aside from the self damage that resentments can bring you might also
open yourself up to legal liability. Proceed cautiously when writing
and including names of people and places. If you must accuse or set the
record straight it is advisable to have some legal consultation.
I am often uncomfortable working with people who have an axe to grind
in their story. However, if the situation needs to be rectified and I
believe there is credibility to the story I will consider being a
writer or consultant. Just remember there is a difference between a
whistleblower and getting revenge.
Memoirs continue to be highly popular as a genre. Being able to tell
your side of a story and trying to right some wrongs can be cathartic
and if your story is told with some redeeming qualities you are more
likely to connect with readers. Help for completing your first draft of
a memoir is available from Denis Ledoux and The Memoir Network
with a new, intensive several weeks class starting March 17. Get more information here.
Beware the Digital Black Hole
February 4, 2016
Our current technology makes it so easy to save and post things to
social media sites, to hard drives, and to other digital sources. We
have digital pictures, audio, video and writing.
But some day the devices that we use may become obsolete. We need to be
cautious about how we are preserving our history in pictures, audio and
print. There is something called bit
It is what happens as old programs used to view digital documentes
became obsolete. Think about past video formats like 8-tracks or for
audio such as cassettes. The DVD's we use now may not always play on
future technology. If you have prized photos don't risk losing them by
just scanning them and posting to Facebook.
A good article that discussed this subject and how you can go about
finding various, even multiple, ways to preserve your photos and other
digital documents is Every
picture tells your story: How to organize photos, online at the Detroit Free Press.