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The "Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives

© Tom Gilbert

Read about quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products, links, services

                     ...and whatever else catches our fancy of personal historian  

January, 2020

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 Life Lessons from Your Story

January 24, 2020

One of the powerful reasons for people to write about their life experiences and share their stories is that everyone learns lessons from certain situations they have been in. I call them valuable life lessons.

Teaching elementary kids about the power of story can be really fun. Each year I typically guide my fifth grade class through a project that teaches them about their family. I get them to consider who they are and what they are like in the context of their parents, grandparents and other family members. In order for them to fully appreciate this I ask them to pick a family elder and interview them.

This year I asked my students to get the elder to tell them a story about a particular time and experience in their life that taught them a valuable lesson. Then I have the students summarize this in a personal history essay.

Some do this writing better than others. I want them all to try to have a well written essay and I give them lots of feedback. But even if the end result is not that well written they still learn from the process. It is really important that young people learn from elders. They need to learn how to respectfully ask questions and then listen carefully.

Hopefully when they finish their essay they have thought about the life lesson passed on to them by their family elder. Surely this can be one way to encourage these future adults and help them understand that we all learn from our life.

Someone I think is really good at this is Rolland Love. He's an author of a few books about life experiences growing up in the Ozarks. Just about every year I read The Blue Hole aloud to my class and they get a kick out of the two main characters, brothers Tommy and Dub, and what they go through in the woods in an engaging and fun mystery novel. Rollad will admit it is based on things he learned from his elders actual life experiences.

Rolland Love is also active in promoting capturing life stories. His approach is to have school children interview their grandparents. I just love how this enriches the special bond that grandparents have with their grandchildren. There is even a site that Love helped develop where people can upload their stories. It's called I'm a Story and you can visit it at

I met Rolland several years ago in Kansas City where he resides. We've stayed in touch over the years and I just marvel at what he is doing in his golden years. He is a quality elder who stays very active and involved with others. Plus, he's got a great sense of humor and writes in the style similar to Mark Twain.  Check out his Amazon page to see more of his books.

Two Words of Advice for Parents and Grandparents

January 19, 2020

I was reading the Winter issue of Grand, a magazine dedicated to grandparents living the ageless life. There are always lots of interesting interviews and articles. One caught my eye by Karen L. Rancourt (aka dr. gramma karen - not sure why she doesn't capitalize her column name, but maybe to show some humility while advising) titled, The key to successful parent-grandparent relationships in two words. Okay, I'll bite.

She suggests that dealing with the sometimes delicate interactions between parents and grandparents over the children means respecting each other's boundaries, being good influences, modeling behavior that you want those children to learn and understanding our roles. Since I have lived as a child, grandchild, parent and grandparent I think she's on to something.

Her two words of advice are different for the grandparents than they are for the parents. Grands need to learn when they should "zip-it!"  Our role as a grandparent is to be supportive and helpful, but we have to respect the parents' responsibility for raising their children, as long as they are safe and being properly nurtured.

The parents two-word zinger is "lighten up!"  For sure. Remember that parenting is hard, but it is the most important "job" in the world. Things aren't always going to go the way you plan. And parenting is a lifelong learning experience. So give the grandparents some leeway and remember that they've been there, done that and typically want the best for their children and grandchildren.

I thought it was a good read with some great insight and you can view it online here.

Your Circle of Influence 

January 17, 2020

Your Circle of InfluenceYou may think there are not many people you influence, but upon careful examination you could be surprised.

All of us move in circles of family members, friends, acquaintances and strangers. Our level of influence on any of them can vary. And sometimes we are unaware of the influence. It certainly can be different depending on whether they are friends or just aquaintances.

We are not very far into the year 2020, but already a lot has happened in my circles. I have learned  about some family changes and those have fort
unately been positive. At the same time, a couple of people in my work circles are suffering from the sudden loss of young family members.  And we all know how stressful some of the news happening in our world is right now and how that affects us and the people in our circles.

I believe that many of us have positive impact on others that we are unaware of. Maybe sometime down the road you might find out that you helped a person through something in life. This happens with teachers who discover years later that a student's life was changed because of their experience with that teacher, maybe because of just one school year. I can also think of the many musicians and writers who have influenced me in my lifetime. Most of them I have never had any personal contact with and it was their contributions in their art that somehow connected and resonated with me.

Your circle of influence is important. Never take it for granted. Remember what Maya Angelou said about this: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Everybody has a story to tell!
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