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January 2010

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January 30, 2010

The Passing of Salinger and Zinn

A couple of prominent Americans died this past week. The one getting the greatest press coverage was J. D. Salinger (check out Scott Ditzler's piece in the Kansas City Star), the reclusive novelist best know for the Catcher in the Rye. That book has been very influential and a favorite for youth ever since its publication in 1951. Many a rebellious teenager has related to the angst of the book's featured character and narrator, Holden Caulfield. The novel is still a frequently encouraged read in literature classes.

Howard Zinn has left a lasting legacy through his books and teaching, especially with his People's History of the United States. He was a lifelong activist dedicated to social justice. His critical insight of American society and history are important to anyone who wants to dig deeper into the story of America. He was controversial and also willing to stand up for his principles in the face of opposition. He encouraged others in this approach, mentioning it in his 1994 autobiography, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train. I found the peice written by Randy Shaw about Zinn's passing to be of interest (posted at

With the passing of these two notable figures I am again struck by how lives, and particularly those who write about life, can impact and influence us. Your story is also important and the impact it will have on others is relative, depending on who you write the story for.

January 26, 2010

Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico

Despite the amount of historic coverage of the horrific genocidal treatment of millions of Jews by the Nazis in World War Two it is surptising how many people don't know how such a thing came about or much of the background. Not knowing about the causes of such racial profiling and the harm and hatred that results from it means the pattern can easily continue. That's the lesson of history repeating itself.

In Albuquerque there is a museum whose purpose is to educate people about the Holocaust as well as to teach them about other genocides and forms of bullying that have affected people around the world. The
Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico is joining with other museums, theaters and cultural centers around the world to present a free screening of The Colours of the Holocaust.  The Albuquerque screening will take place January 27 at 7 PM. This is a film by Finnish photographer Rax Rinnekangas about the least-known reasons for the world's longest hatred: antisemitism, the birth of Aryanism in Europe in the 19th century, the subsequent shift to Nazism in the first half of the 20th century, and the impact of its consequences on the spiritual climate after the war.

Educating ourselves about historic events, even ones that are painful to study, is important so that we can combat hate and intolerance in our world and promote understanding through education. This is the mission of the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico (more at their site). The Colours of the Holocaust film will be shown in many other locations on January 27, so check your community events calendar.

January 22, 2010

Investing in your company's history

As people still struggle through the realities of the economic downturn and less  revenue many businesses are wondering how to survive, turn the corner and grow. These are not easy questions to grapple with.

One of the investments I believe can be helpful for a company is to preserve their history, their story, by archiving it with a corporate history. This process can be helpful on a number of levels. It allows your company to show your community, your customers, your prospects and the world what you are all about. What your key services are. The history of your contributions. It's a nice "show and tell".

The process can also help you by being reflective about values and benefits and help you see where you need to go and grow.

Stefani Twyford (noted personal historian, member of APH, and specialist in video histories for individuals, families and companies) was recently featured in a business roundtable discussion in Houston. Her company, Legacy Multimedia, has been dealing with the challenging economy. You can read the  Houston Chronicle article here. And I recommend her excellent blog.

January 18, 2010

Shaken and Stirred by Haitian Earthquake Relief

Over the past few days the news has been dominated by the major earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12. The amount of casualties, destruction and suffering is staggering. Haiti is a country that has been mired in poverty for many years. It is difficult to imagine what life is like there, especially in the aftermath of the earthquake. As a personal historian, what I am most impressed by is how people are willing to help when major tragedies strike. Like  Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami disasters of a few years ago, relief agencies have sprung into action. People are donating, often in innovative ways because of relatively new technologies like texting and social medi. Churches and schools are taking up collections and fundraising. The disaster reminds us once again that we are all part of a global family and when such tragedy strikes it demands a compassionate response.

However you might be moved to help, go for it. Additionally, record your thoughts about this historic disaster. What has been going through your mind? What do your friends and family have to say about it? How are you talking with your children about the Haiti earthquake. These are probing questions that go to the heart of character and compassion - important elements of anyone's life.

If you would like to see a list of organizations and ways to help Haiti you can visit this resource and information page on

January 15, 2010

Priceless Legacy Company to Hibernate

Priceless Legacy Company
I got an email from Priceless Legacy Company Founder & CEO Peter Gudmundsson. It was one he was hoping to never have to write. It appears that after a two and a half year run he's putting his operations into what he calls "hibernation". Essentially they will cease offering their excellent life story preservation options. It appears that the attempt to mass market (for lack of a better term) personal histories was not successful, at least not in this time, this economic climate and with their business model.

I have advocated Priceless Legacy Company for a while and pitched it to many people. I think they had a good product, but I understand the financial challenges of doing this as a large scale option. Their advantage was offering a better price point than solo-preneurs can, but even at their base price options they did not attract a large enough client base. They will keep their website up for the time being as they phase out operations.

What Peter Gudmundsson has in common with me and many other personal historians is the absolute and utter belief in the importance of preserving your family history. Lifes are being lived out - but people do pass on, and often they take their stories (and your family history) to the grave. There are so many reasons for why you should tell your story. And many ways to do that. I encourage you to keep exploring options (you must be on this site reading this posting because you have some interest in the subject!). I will continue to point the way to various life story preservation options, working with me or with other providers. So keep coming back to visit...and here's to your story!

January 11, 2009

New Grandma "Growping" for Answers

The newest edition of  GRAND magazine (all things about grandparenting) has an article with new grandmother Carol Orsborn. She has some interesting insight about her new grandchild, her responsibilities, spending time, learning from previous generations and a bit of "Boomer" perspective (she is senior strategist at And her preferable term for reinvention is "growping". Groping and growing - yeah,
I like that.

This is timely stuff for my wife and I. Our daughter is just one month away from birthing our first grandchild. Excited? You betcha!

January 8, 2010

Happiness is Keeping Your New Year's Resolution...Focus

Syncronity is at work this morning. I happened to catch a bit of NBC's Today Show and a guest, Gretchen Rubin, was on talking about her new book, the Happiness Project. Ok, I thought - interesting.

Then when I got online and was searching for something to post about I visited Dan Curtis' site as he always has interesting stuff. He had a link to suggestions on how to stick to your New Year's resolutions. I clicked and ended up on a page and excellent article from Gretchen Rubin!

As I mentioned a few days ago, keeping resolutions works best when they are in the contest of meaning and purpose for your life. Ms. Rubin's encouragement and points (think big, write it down, review it contantly, be specific) are all "spot on". You can read her article here.

January 4, 2010

Narrative Medicine - health care from the perspective of a life story

There's an interesting new development in health care, but it has nothing to do with Obama's plan for health care reform (although maybe it should). Narrative medicine is the term being applied to discovering a person's health history from the perspective of their life story. In other words, letting a patient tell their health history in a broader frame of their life experiences, occupation, interests, and so on.  This is a way to put someone's health into context and I'm intrigued by it.

An article in the New York Times on this subject is titled, Learning to Listen. And quality listening is essential when it comes to better understanding patients. The article states how this allows people to describe their syptoms as part of the larger story of their life. 

As this is a still a somewhat new approach for practitioners of medicine it will be interesting to watch it develop. Dr. Rita Chacon, featured in the article and a proponent of narrative medicine, proposed a Masters program in the area to Columbia. And a number of students have pursued it. Courses focus on such subjects as philosophy, literary theory and autobiography.

Many people who face life threatening illness know the value of documenting their struggles and leaving a testimony to their life. I see this new approach by physicians as another way to help promote the importance of capturing a life story.

January 3, 2010

Your New Year's Life Story Resolution

We are into the year 2010 and already I've caught myself a couple of times writing 2009. Does that happen to you? Nevertheless, a new decade has dawned. I don't know whether or not you make resolutions, but I do hope that you consider the importance of moving towards important life goals. One of these should be preserving your story.

I came across the blog for writer Don Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)and I was struck by his posting, Living a Good Story, an Alternative to New Years Resolutions. In it he makes the excellent comparison of good story development and the elements it contains to proper motivation for resolutions. Instead of getting fit he makes the resolution to climb Mt. Hood. He knows that achieving this goal will require training, endurance, planning, safety and a number of exciting challenges - all of which can make up a great story of accomplishment. He encourages us to place our resolutions in the context of a story. Identify what you want, envision a climatic scene and create an inciting incident. I think Don is on to something here. You can read his post at his website,

Everybody has a story to tell!
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