Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
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When people are approaching the end of their life - and they know it -
there can be real therapeutic benefits to recalling their life
and preserving it in some fashion. I call this life story capture.
It is so important to be spiritually ready to pass from this life to
the next. I was glad to see an article by fellow personal historian Dan
Curtis about How Life Stories Can Benefit the Dying. He's been
involved for over 15 years in helping people through their end of life
experience, in hospice work, making documentaries and recording
personal history. He notes that affirmation, legacy, purpose, pattern
and support are some of the benefits to preserving life stories for the
terminally ill. See his post here.
The TODAY Show
had a feature on this morning - Family
Tree: Tracing Your Roots
(video here). Hosts Hoda
Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford had previously submitted some information
about their lineage and the guest from Ancestry.com
revealed a few
tidbits about their family history neither knew about. According to
Ancestry.com 78% of Americans are interested in learning more about
their family tree.
Take it one step further. If you do dig into your roots, see if you can
get stories about your family members. It's nice to know your great
uncle was a prominent publisher or your grandmother was a Rosie the Riveter, but what's more interesting are the
stories about them and their experiences.
To preserve those stories is key. What are you doing to pass on your
life story so that your children and future descendants will know who
you are and the path you traveled on your life journey? It begins by
story and why.
Peter Gudmundsson, Founder and CEO of the Priceless Legacy Company
is doing a lot to make professional and affordable lifestory capture
possible. He's going to be interviewed today on the Passions and Possibilities Project
(blogtalkradio). The show airs at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific time. I know
I'll be listening in.
And another interesting note. Today is National Senior Health &
Fitness Day. It is
the 16th annual observance and an
estimated 100,000 older adults will participate in local fitness
activities across the country. We all want to stay healthy, so get out
and play some tennis, swim, walk, jog, hike or just stretch! Find out
more with this article on Examiner.com.
I hope you had a good Memorial Day Weekend and remembered those who
died in service of our country.
I didn't realize it until
today, but yesterday marked the 32nd
anniversary of the release of Star Wars.
Perhaps you recall that it became a quick box office hit mainly due to
word-of-mouth buzz. It didn't have the huge
prerelease buildup we
see these days with summer movie releases. I was in college
at the time and I remember that throughout the summer my friends and I
kept going back to see the film, usually to bring along someone new to
the experience (including my Dad, who came to visit me that summer in
According to a Moviefone poll Star
Wars has been named best
sci-fi film ever (see story at boxwish.com). I
film, but it wouldn't get my vote for best sci-fi film ever.
But it certainly elevated director George Lucas' profile as well as
Harrison Ford's sarcastic wit and charm. As for my fave, I think I'd
probably lean more to Bladerunner
(which incidentally also starred Harrison
Ford, and was based on a book by my favorite sci-fi writer, Philip K.
It's a cloudy and drizzly day here in Albuquerque and it is kind of
nice, as we don't get much rain here in the desert. Also, a
major part to my "swamp cooler" broke yesterday and it's going to take
some money I don't have right now to fix it. So a bonus that the clouds
and rain are keeping it cooler today.
Despite little annoyances like a broken evaporative cooler (the way we
air condition around here) my life is ok - blessed even. Especially
when, as a personal historian, I come across amazing stories. This one
is courtesy of NPR about a Vietnam Vet whose son died in
January of 2005, an infantry officer for the Army killed in Iraq. The
father traveled to Washington D.C. to visit the "Wall" war memorial on
Memorial Day and met the trauma nurse who tended to his son's body. See
the Memorial Day Miracle At 'The Wall'
Amy Oaks Long is a personal historian based in Utah (Old Willow
Personal History, LLC). For years she was a family history instructor
at Brigham Young University. She's on the team for Family Learn (here) and I've communicated with
her before about the MemoryPress.
She's very knowledgeable and helpful.
In the Spring newsletter from the Association of Personal Historians
she lists many websites that can help with family research and personal
history. You may already be familiar with Ancestry.com
bases family history research site) and FamilySearch.org (largest free
collection of family history records). But you might not have
discovered WorldVitalRecords.com (much is
free, but also a fee based
service for searching databases of records - death, military, census,
parish and newspapers). And I thought Findagrave.com
over 17,000 names from cemeteries throughout the U.S.). Happy web
Monday is Memorial Day and it is so much more than the "unofficial"
kickoff for summer.
At the official web site of the U.S. Air Force they state that "More
than 1.3 million Americans have fought and died on behalf of our
country during the past 233 years." Check out the article, Recall the real story behind
Memorial Day, posted online there.
You should also consider taking part in
the National Moment of
Remembrance on Monday at 3 PM (your time) - it's a nice
way to pay silent tribute (more here).
But more importantly, if you know someone who served in a military
conflict for our Armed Services you should thank them - and even ask
them some questions. At the Priceless
Legacy blog they've posted Nine Questions Everyone Should Ask a Veteran on Memorial Day.
They are insightful questions and include asking those vets how they
feel each year at Memorial Day and what lessons they learned through
Remember what Memorial Day is about this weekend, and especially on
Monday, May 24.
There is plenty of information and resources about life story writing,
memoir capture and preserving personal history to be found online.
Perhaps you are here as a result of a search on Google
or another search engine.
However, I still like to read books to get
information and inspiration.
One that I go back to time and again is Write From
the Inside by Lissa Ann Forbes (The Elemental Press). She writes from her own experience and
shares insight into capturing moments in our life. But beyond that she
writes about dreams, goals, dissapointments, family, achievements and
more. She encourages you to tap into your own experience and write
about it. That's the heart of memoir. As Personal History Awareness
Month continues consider reading this book (or other books
crafting memoir and personal history - a few more suggestions here).
Runner With a Cause
I ended up on my High School cross country team practically by
accident. I ran in P.E. and my coach noticed I was pretty good. Next
thing you know I was running a few miles at a time. But, once I was out
school it was pretty much work and softball. I gave up the jogging.
Thirty years later, in
2006, I discovered Team in Training
and decided to get involved. They are an endurance training charity arm
of the Leukemia and
Lymphoma Society. People get together and participate in
cycling, hiking, walking and running events and fundraise at the same
time. Find a cure for blood cancers. Meet new friends. Worthy cause.
I've since done a marathon (26.2) and half-marathon (13.1) miles with
TNT. I even wrote about it here.
I've decided to do it again, this time a half marathon in October here
in Albuquerque (Duke City event). I am doing in partly for the
experience and fellow
team members, but mostly because people I know keep getting cancer. One
my best friends from High School lost his brother a couple of months
ago to Leukemia. I've decided to run in memory of John's brother, Joe.
I would love for you to help me with my goal, but even
more importantly - help those you know. Find out more about Team in
Training. Visit and comfort friends and family affected by cancer. Some
day there will be a cure and we all can do something to make that a
Why would any retirement home or assisted living center make the
mistake of treating their residents like children? Sadly, it appears
this happens more than anyone would like. It's not a problem limited to
these facilities, of course. Far too many people treat elders with a
lack of respect for their experience and intellect. But you would think
community residential centers for elders would be on top of their game,
especially the upscale ones.
I'm not lumping all facilities together. Certainly there are those that
cater to the interests and activities of their adult residents with
stimulating adult activities. And there should be more of this,
especially in the area of life story reminiscing and personal history.
What sparked this posting? I read an interesting article at Baby Boomer [Knowledge Center]
about boomer services
by Dr. Ellen
Brandt. That article focuses more on her career as a former journalist
with a PHD and now specializing in life story video documentation
(Lifestories Limited, Medford, NY), however, she does make a point
about the growing need for creative aging services. But be sure to read
her Summer Camp for Seniors article - it probably will make you
laugh, angry and
interested in promoting greater awareness of elders' needs for
activity geared to their interests, education and intellect.
It's hard for me to believe that already a week
and a half has passed
since my daughter was married. Kristen and Nathan make a splendid
couple and it was certainly a blessed event.
May is moving right along - with lots of special memories for me and my
family. I hope that this Personal
History Awareness Month is inspiring
you do to something about your family history. My May newsletter is
just going out with more on the topic. You can also read it online by
visiting the backissues pageYour_Life_Is_Your_Story-backissues.html.
2009 Winners of the
Jane Addams Children's Book Awards
Each year since 1953
the Jane Addams Peace Association
announces their Children's Book Awards. These selections recognize the
children's books published the preceding year that effectively promote
the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality
of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards
for excellence. Jane Addams was the first American woman to receive the
Nobel Peace Prize.
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari
Maathai, written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola,
profiles the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Surrender
Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
by Margarita Engle uses free verse, poems and Cuban history to explore
resistance to slavery and occupation in Cuba in the late
There are some other notable selection. You've probably heard of the
legend of John Henry - the "big, big man" who worked on the railroad. Ain't Nothing
But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry,
by Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson, tracks the real man behind
the larger-than-life hero of folk song fame. 40,000
African-American men laid railroad tracks across the United States in
This week is Children's
Book Week, and in honor of that I posted this
information. However, you should also take a closer look at this year's
honorees. These books can teach young people about the value of
diversity and powerful stories about doing good for our planet and our
human family. That encompasses the greater message of preserving family
history. It also echoes the theme of this year's International Day of Sharing Life Stories on May 16 - to recognize
human rights and
I've raved - for good reason - about Michael Boyter's MemoryGrabber.
Because it is an easy to understand, easy to use and valuable lifestory
tool. Michael wrote an e-book to help anyone get their life story
project going. He updated and revised it last year. Helpful tips to get
started. Ideas to spark memories. I've used it myself and often with
clients to help them get started on their autobiography, memoir or
The price has been reduced from $14.95 to just $4.95 as a special
Mother's Day weekend offer.
This is really incredible because it is still the same great
e-book product, but for ten dollars less. That's practically giving it
away! Talk about over-delivering...seriously.
Hurry while this offer lasts.
Find out more about the Memorygrabber
is nearly a wrap and my son and I have pampered my wife (his mother).
I've also been going through emails and reports of various Mother's Day
observations and memories. My mom passed on three years ago and it was
this time in 2006 that I had my last nice visit with her in Kansas City
(by the time we saw her for her last week alive in June she was in and
out of consciousness).
I came across a nice story about five sisters who lost their mom nine
years ago, and in the succeeding years they have grown closer. They
share their lives and their memories and their mother lives on in them.
You can read Diane Mapes Losing
my mom — and finding her in my sisters at msnbc.com.
Over at Real Simple you can discover some great questions to
ask your mom (now, while she is still around) to get better insight
into her and your family history.
Boldy going where no TV series/movie sequels have gone before!
You may not want to admit it, but if you grew up in the 60's/70's you
probably watched Star
Trek. I wasn't really a trekkie...not really (my teenage
son thinks otherwise and loves to tease me about it). My friends and I
goof on the show at school, and yes, I watched lots of reruns.
There have been a myriad of spinoffs and continuations, but now Star Trek
to the future with the new movie and the "early" days of Kirk, Spock,
et al. And this reinvention of the "franchise" should attract new fans
while getting those who grew up with the series/movies someting to chat
about over beers or lattes.
NPR's Bob Mondello gives you
something to consider about the new motion
picture, which opens in theaters today.
Maybe you want to write your memoir or have a biography written about
you. Eventually. You just don't seem to get around to it.
However, when something is required that is part of career advancement
or media recognition you might suddenly
find the motivation.
One way to get started is to have a short (1-2 pages) professional
biography written about you. This is today's Personal History Month
tip. I provide this service and it can be invaluable. It is possible
you will get a
request for something like this and the party asking will want it
"yesterday". Do some advance planning - get this done now. Plus it
might lead to a more in depth personal history project down the road
(and you will have a starting point).
Check out my offer
(less than $80!) and contact me if you are
Mother's Day is this Sunday. Here's another Personal History Month
idea. Create a special Mom Memoir.
This could be a hand-written journal or "brag book" with photos and
mementos that you could complete in a couple of hours. Or it could be
more extensive, utilizing a personal historian and a life story
Get with your siblings and make it a group project. Remember
your Mom. A Mom Memoir can even be done after your mother has passed
on, as a tribute book.
Making a Photo
The month of May is Personal
History Month and throughout this month I
will be posting some personal history tips.
For today I want to make a suggestion about some of the photos you've
accumulated. We all have photo books full of pictures...and memories.
At some point you may want to include some of them in a personal
history project. To give yourself a headstart I suggest creating a
catalog of photographs you want to include.
It's fairly easy to do this. You can create a spreadsheet, using an
application like Excel, and list each photo with pertinent information,
including where the photo was taken, who is in it (or what is in the
picture if a place or object without people), date of the photograph,
and I also suggest you categorize it (such as family,
vacation, career, and so on).
Finally, be sure to use an identification code. Keep it simple, like
the first three letters of your last name, and three digits. For
example, I might use GIL001 for my purposes (last name, Gilbert, and
the first photo in the collection).
While you inventoring your pictures you might go ahead and scan those
you plan on using. That way you have a headstart on digital photos for
a family history project.