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January 2011

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Father of Fitness - Jumping Jack Lalanne

January 26, 2011

Three days ago the "Father of Fitness", Jack Lalanne died. He was 96 years old and lived a long life of incredible health and fitness. He was ahead of his time. Back in the 1930's to 1950's he was developing a reputation as a great advocate of health and working out. This was long before such a thing was fashionable. His morning TV show aired for over thirty years, targeting children and housewives. Along with his dog, Happy, he stirred many to exercise.

Lalanne started out as a kid hooked on sweets. "I was a sugarholic and a junk food junkie! It made me weak and it made me mean," he said (see But his life was turned around when he made a commitment to quit eating sweets, in fact, to eat healthy and workout. At the age of 15 his mother dragged him to a lecture on healthy living given by nutritionist Paul Bragg and he became inspired to change his ways. He became very disciplined about it and for many years would workout two hours a day - both strength conditioning and swimming. He became known for some incredible feats that he continued well into his later years. At an age when many elderly are just trying to "get around"
he was still doing great swimming and strength feats, such as towing 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, a distance of 1 ½ miles, when he was 70 years old!

His legacy is a good one - he set out to live his dream and left his mark. I found the Los Angeles Times article by Claudia Luther to be fascinating. "Jumping Jack" Lalanne is an inspiration for anyone who wonders how they can turn their life around.

A Golden Anniversary for a "Golden" Speech

January 20, 2011

50 Years ago to the day (January 20, 1961) U.S. President John F. Kennedy gave his memorable and remarkable inauguration speech (text and audio here, courtesy of It was filled with some great quotes, most notable being, "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Another great line was, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But never let us fear to negotiate.” But perhaps the key line was, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."

How good was this speech? That's the subject of an article on the Christian Science Monitor. Great rhetoric has the power to challenge, motivate and inspire us. It has staying power. Great speeches are
recorded into history, etched in our memory and chiseled in time. They become hallmarks of the orator's legacy.

Google JFK inaugural 50th anniversary logoGoogle's home-page logo doodle (cleverly composed with words from the speech) commemorated this historic event and included a link to search results about the speech. Consider how many people
became exposed to the information this way, a result of our Internet Age.

I was just four years old when JFK was inaugurated. Older citizens may remember the day and speech. How did it impact you? Have you considered recording your thoughts in the context of your life? It was an important time, a new decade launching under the shadow of the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear missiles in Cuba. It was the start of a tumultuous time leading to great social unrest and incredible change. Here, now, in our own time, the past few days have included the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and the death of Sargent Shriver, two icons of that time.

As a personal historian and life story advocate I can't help but consider how our lives matter and what part each of us has in the colorful tapestry of daily events large and small. In light of this we might consider a variation on JFK's famous quote and "ask not what history can do for you, but what you can do for our history."

On Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

January 17, 2011

Today is the 25th anniversary of officially celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in the United States. This is a day to remember a hero, a great American, a civil rights activist and a model of non-violence.

MLK has a street named after him in a lot of cities, including here in Albuquerque, NM. I discovered an interesting article today at The Washington Post about a project that several Washington D.C. High School students embarked on - traveling across the country to visit some of these Martin Luther King streets. I think they learned a lot and so can we. Visit the story and even view a photo gallery. You can also see more pictures, including parts of the Albuquerque MLK Blvd at the N'Jeri Eaton website.

Christina's Message

January 13, 2011

The first funeral for one of the victims of the tragic shooting spree in Tuscon, Arizona took place today (NY Times article). It was for the youngest person killed. Christina Taylor Green was just 9 years old. But from what we've discovered about her, she was very full of life and lived in a way that should be an inspiration to us all.

Born on September 11, 2001, she was apparently inspired by the 9-11 tragedies on her birthdate to be informed about and involved in politics and American democracy. I find that pretty impressive for such a young citizen. She had a desire to be at the event where she ended up being shot because she wanted to learn to contribute in some way. Now it appears her message in an all too short life is that contribution. She was enthusiastic, determined (she was apparently quite that as a member of her little league baseball team), and encouraging. Her funeral service was packed and those in attendance heard her father, John Green, mention in his eulogy that if Christina could speak to them she would say, “Everybody’s going to be O.K.,”. “She would want that.” he said.

Dying - A Book of Comfort by Pat McNeesI'm not sure we can ever make any sense of such tragedies, but we can draw strength and inspiration from each other. We can rally around the ones that are grieving. We can live our lives to the fullest. We can try to change our families, communities and world by doing what we can to be more sensitive and loving. Today I was paging through a book by writer and personal historian, Pat McNees. Dying - A Book of Comfort (available from Amazon) is full of contributions and reflections from a number of people about death, including when sudden death strikes. In one entry, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", Rabbi Harold Kushner writes, "Let me suggest that the bad things that happen to us in our lives do not have a meaning when they happen to us. They do not happen for any good reason which would cause us to accept them willingly. But we can give them a meaning. We can redeem these tragedies from senselessness by imposing meaning on them."

In other words, when tragedy strikes harden not your heart. Instead, be a light in a world too often struggling in darkness. We so need the light.

What's Your Big "But"?

January 11, 2011

I really needed a laugh today. You might have noticed that today's date is 1-11-11 and some people were speculating that meant good luck. But not so for me. My car broke down (again) and to repair it cost me another $500. I've had a series of repairs recently for this 1999 car I bought 7 months ago to replace a car that had been totaled in an accident. At the time I thought I got a good bargain for $1,500, but over the months I've had to spend more than twice that and it has been frustrating.

But - back to today and this blog post for "What's Your Big 'But'?".  I was reading personal historian Sarah White's new blog - True Stories Well Told - and she referenced Pee-Wee Herman's movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure. In the film one of Pee-Wee's friends reveals her yearning to do something adventurous, yet she hesitates, using the word but (as in, "but I can't do that"). Pee-Wee tells her everyone has a big but and that she should talk about hers. A cute pun, but with plenty to consider. All of us have situations, feelings, concerns and obstacles that are holding us back from doing or accomplishing our dreams. I can't let my car problems and financial challenges stop me. You shouldn't let anything stop you either. But (sorry!) sometimes you have to talk about it.

Sarah White is inviting you to think - and write - about your "Big but" and submit it to her blog. Go here for more information. (And don't say, "But I've nothing to write about).

Sparking Creativity

January 8, 2011

How do you spark your creativity? I think it can happen in many ways. But mostly for me it comes as a result of doing something. I have to take action. I can't just sit still and suddenly be creative, although sitting still and being quiet and contemplative can give me creative ideas.

The action for writers is to (surprise) - write! It does have to be brilliant or an incredible amount at a time. Just write. Journaling is a great for regular writing, especially to unleash your inner thoughts, emotions, impressions, concerns and ideas. You don't have to share it with anyone. Then again, if you need an audience, you can try blogging. A lot of people are doing it. But it is a commitment to regularly write and you need to consider your audience and your topics carefully. Most blogs have some type of theme or focus.

Another way to enhance creativity is to be around creative things and people. Read poetry, explore nature, view theater, movies and art. It tends to rub off on you.

I was grateful this evening to see these two ideas expressed as part of 11 Tips to Enhance Creativity in 2011, writtin by Linda Joy Myers. She's the current NAMW President (National Association of Memoir Writers). Her article was included in the January 2011 newsletter I subscribe to by email (it's free). I couldn't locate the article on their website, but there is a lot of great information available online, including their blog.

So, go do something creative. And then share it with someone else. We need to be "the spark" in the lives of others.

Remarkable Photos from an Previously Unknown Photographer Vivian Maier

January 6, 2011

I recently came across a story about a Chicago woman who had for years worked in relative anonymity, as a nanny and with a passion for photography. Unfortunately, during her lifetime Vivian Maier did not receive recognition for her incredible talent for capturing amazing pictures with her street photography. This was due in part by her choice to strictly guard her private life.

Fortunately, her pictures are now coming to light thanks to the discovery of them by a real estate agent John Maloof who was searching for historical photographs to include in a book he was cowriting about Portage Park. At a local auction house he bought some stuff that included a box with more than 30,000 negatives. He put it away in a closet, but later went back to the box. Although he knew almost nothing about photography he scanned some of the negatives into his computer and began viewing them. He discovered wonderful shots, became intrigued and even started experimenting with photography himself. He quickly gained a greater appreciation for Maier's keen eye and artistic sensibility. He realized this type of photography was much harder than it seemed.

You should certainly go to this story, The Life and Work of Street Photographer Vivian Maier by Nora O'Donnell. Read the article and view the photo gallery. It is stunning work and a reminder that so many people indeed have an interesting and special gift that should be shared with the world. Although Vivian Maier didn't seem to crave attention, her photos show us much about Chicago at that time and is a legacy of her passion as well as wonderful snapshots in time.

William Zinsser on Writing Personal History

January 3, 2011

I've been re-reading some helpful books on writing, especially those that deal with memoir, autobiography and personal history. William Zinsser in his classic On Writing Well has a chapter, Writing About Yourself, in which he mentions some memoirs, including one by Alfred Kazin (A Walker in the City). The esteemed literary critic, according to Zinnser, preferred the literary genre he termed "personal history" more than others because of the honesty and the willingness of the author to place themselves into the landscape of American literature through such personal writing.

I like that. Where does your life...and your into the landscape of "literature"? The genre of personal history may be non-fiction, but a well written personal narrative can often be outstanding literature.

Happy 1-1-11

January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the new year, and it reads numerically as 1-1-11, which is kind of neat. Every day holds promise and it is key to live in the present. This is something we all hear, but it took me a long time to really begin to practice it.

As we embark on 2011 I continue to work towards my certification to teach school as well as working on various life story projects. Some are my own or family, others are clients. Each project has its intriguing aspects, challenges and rewards.

In the coming months I'm hoping to develop more resources for you to explore and more encouragement for those of you who are attempting to preserve your legacy in some fashion. If you have not investigated the various Life Story Services featured at Your Life Is Your Story I hope you will soon do so. I also think the article, Writing My Life Story may enlighten you to some thought processes and action steps for writing about your life.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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