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June 2010

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June 28, 2010

NY Times Follows Deployed US Troops for a Year

The stories of the men and woman of First Battalion, 87th Infantry, US Army, in Afghanistan are being recorded as part of a "Year at War" special feature of the New York Times (story here). This is not just tales of battle. The soldiers share heartfelt concerns about their buddies and families. They talk about their mission, their fears, what motivates them and much more. 

Some quotes: "When you throw all of the politics out the window and you're's for your brother." "My main concern is whether or not I'll still be me when I get back." "The best things in life are not supposed to be easy...I guess."

Nobody is going to say war is a good thing. Those who experience combat often face many great personal challenges and make huge sacrifices of time and often "life and limb". The insight shared is honest, raw and reminds us that the lives and stories of each person are special.

June 24, 2010

Try Writing a Life Story Essay

There are many ways to approach life story writing and preservation. Throughout my site I discuss this, the what story and why, how to tell your story, resources and research options. I've also written a variety of articles to spur interest and get your motivated.

Today I came across an article on relating some basic and helpful steps for writing a short (1-4 pages) life story essay. I recommend you read it. If you take the time to do this relatively short assignment it might spur you into more fully developing an autobiography or memoir. Furthermore, having a life story essay can assist in job hunting or publicizing your skills, interests, values and achievements.

Some people can do this type of writing successfully, but others might need assistance in polishing it or even to hire a writer for this process. This is something I enjoy doing, so if you are looking for a short life story essay or short professional bio read more here.

June 23, 2010

100 Years of Scouting Commemorated with Special Merit Badges

Growing up in an Air Force family we naturally moved around a lot. Sometimes this made it difficult, especially when I reached my adolescent years. But one thing that could help make a transition from one state to another and one Air base to another, was being in Boy Scouts.

Boy Scouts of America Commemorative Merit BadgeI never made it to Eagle Scout like my younger brother (way to go, Doug!), but I did make it to the rank of Life. As a result, I earned a number of merit badges. My Mom should have got a medal for all the badges she sewed on the sashes for Doug and I. Come to think of it, she did get some kind of official pen.

The BSA (Boy Scouts of America) are one hundred years old this year and one way they are commemorating their centennial is with an Historical Merit Badge Program. Scouts get taught lifelong lessons and the merit badge process is part of this instruction in areas like citizenship, personal fitness, signaling, pathfinding, camping, survival skills and so forth. Special edition badges, differing only from the original by a gold border, can be earned this year by Scouts. Four merit badge pamphlets preserving the original requirements give perspective to scouting over the past century. See more here.

June 19, 2010

Father's Day in America now a 100 Year Old Tradition

Perhaps you've wondered about the history of Father's Day. In America it is a tradition that this year celebrates it's 100th anniversary. Obviously, honoring dear old Dad goes back much further. In fact, one of the ten commandments in the Old Testament of the Bible calls for honoring your mother and father. But thanks to the efforts of Sonora Louise Smart Dodd we have an annual celebration here in the United States.

Dodd was inspired by a Mother's Day sermon in 1909 and she lobbied for support of a Father's Day celebration in her town of Spokane, Washington. She got help from the Spokane Ministerial Association and the local Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and as a result Spokane celebrated its first Father's Day on June 19, 1910.

It took a little while longer to catch on around the country. But by 1966 President Lyndon Johnson had signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring the Third Sunday of June as Father's Day. Then in 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the third Sunday of June.

Make sure to remember and honor your father on Father's Day. This year the official day is Sunday, June 20th. I discovered a web site with a lot of interesting history and thoughtful messages, gift ideas and other resources. It's For those of you who have the privilige of also being a dad (or, like me, now a Grand Dad), give thanks for your children and continue to support them. It's not easy for many men to express their emotions, but consider this a "fist bump" to all you stoic dads. Happy Father's Day!

June 17, 2010

I've mentioned before about the growing trend of online tribute sites (many in conjunction with funeral service providers). Today I came across another good example. The link was to the Life Story Network hosted by Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes based in the Midwest. I used to live in Grand Rapids, so this was an interesting coincidence to come across the tribute was to Margaret DeWitt, a longtime resident of that Michigan city. She passed away on June 4th. There is a very thoughtful and heartfelt tribute posted with pictures and a short lifestory. You can read it here.

Preparing in advance for a loved one's passing should include recording thoughts and recollections, photos and more. This can be done by family members as well as by the person who is preparing for their end of life journey. Don't think of it as morbid. Rather, it is a way to reflect and have an opportunity to offer up your opinion on a life well lived.

June 16, 2010

Book Publishing with a (shouldn't be a secret) Agent

It's not unusual for me to be contacted at times by people who believe they have a story so compelling that their book would be a commercial success. I never like to throw cold water on people's dreams, but it is always such a tremendous task to get a contract offer from a major publisher. Still, it happens.

I've never personally been published in this way so I must rely on the suggestions of others. An agent seems to be key. Where do you find one? A couple of possibilities would be through Agent Query (Writer's Digest recognizes them as one of the best websites for writers) and (they use the clever acronym H.A.P.P.Y.) Also the site (a very rich resource!) has a page dedicated to information about agents and book proposals.

It's helpful to investigate this information if you truly want to pursue the traditional path of publishing. Regardless, if you have a story to tell (and I think you do!) the important thing is to start. Your options are to do it yourself or find help.

June 15, 2010

The Things That Give You Pause

What makes you pause? What stops you dead in your tracks, brings you up short, or steals your breath away?

Sometimes it is the still of the morning. A beautiful sunset. Or walking out to the backyard patio on a summer night and seeing a full moon rise over the mountain. Othertimes it can be a sudden shock, like getting an unexpected promotion - or a sudden job layoff. 

Maybe it is at the end of a good workout. I had a terrific 4-mile run this morning.

It can be the death of a parent (my mom passed away four years ago to the day). Or a baby's happy face (I have a four month old grandson).

The ending of a good book or movie. A great spiritual insight. Lying in bed next to your lover.

Many things can give you pause. Reflect on those golden moments. Write about them. Store them with your memory list. These are rich topics for your personal life story.

June 10, 2010

75 Years of "One Day At a Time"

It's considered by many to be one of the greatest spiritual movements of the 20th century. Today marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. June 10th, 1935 was the day widely known as Dr. Bob's last drink. He'd already been introduced to Bill Wilson, and the two are considered the founders of the recovery movement that has helped millions of alcoholics around the world.

Much has been made of this 12 step program - and for good reason. But at the heart of AA is humility, honesty, willingness and openmindedness. Members help each other - it is a we program. A belief in a Higher Power is embraced by most in AA, but it is not a religion or dogmatic. Even atheists and agnostics find recovery, often using their AA group as a higher power. So while many have a relationship with God as their understand him, some think of God as G.O.D. - a "group of drunks" or "good orderly direction". 

One of the most interesting components of the AA program is the importance of a personal moral inventory and then finding someone they can honestly talk to about it. It helps members discover their character defects and nature of their wrongs so that they can go about making amends and changing their lives for the better. I often think that preserving your life story through a book, interview or video can be a way to get in touch with the true meaning of your life, your values and how you might want to make things right before you die.

Keep in mind that one of the traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous is that they don't have a promotions policy. It's attraction instead of promotion, so don't misconstrue my tribute to their 75th anniversary as trying to "toot their horn". But I think an appreciation for Alcoholics Anonymous is certainly in order on this particular "Founder's Day". You can view an interesting timeline of AA on their website.

June 7, 2010

Father's Day is June 19th. Just as I encouraged you to remember Mom in May, it is important to consider the role of Dad in your family and your life story. And even more so if you've been blessed with the personal experience of fatherhood.

Parenting is hard work, but it can also be very rewarding. Are you looking for a way to truly thank your dad? Creating a tribute book or video goes much further than a card. It's a present that's lasting. It would be pretty hard to turn something around in time for this year. But you could certainly give the gift on Father's Day - make the investment for willing Dad's, or plan on putting something together that will be a surprise.

In her May newsletter Arielle Nóbile of Family Legacy Productions made some other great suggestions. Her company specializes in video legacy, but she encouraged going on an adventure trip with your dad or just spending quality time with him. You could write a long letter expressing your gratitude and what he's meant to you as a father. Or show your creative side and paint him a picture, write him a poem or put together a photo album. 

Documenting our lives through photos, scrapbooks, memoirs and video biographies are all ways to do this. As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

June 3, 2010

Visionary Richard Nash and his Social Community Digital Publishing Idea

Richard Nash is widely known as a visionary and someone who's ideas are shaking up the publishing world. Printing books is changing with technology, not the least to impact it being digital content. When people can download books and reading material for nothing - or next to nothing, that has Publishing companies rightly concerned. And writers, too!

At the same time there is excellent opportunity for those who want to more affordably preserve their life stories. We're certainly dealing with some real growing pains!

Nash has an idea for publishing and he calls his new start up, Cursor. He offers an excerpt from his Publishers Weekly story here. It's interesting and thought-provoking. As a reader I want to know more about ways to get published. You, the one with a life story to tell, also must be curious. And how we, the community of readers, will consume the written word in the future is evolving. Nash seems to want to help writers, vendors, consumers - the entire publishing ecosystem - to thrive in the new digital/Internet age. It's certainly a challenging futuristic vision. You can also link here to a video of a talk he gave about the digital publishing. Chris Anderson of Wired says it's the best he's ever seen on book publishing.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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