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

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May, 2013

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What a Writer Reveals

May 31, 2013

I am a Personal Historian who loves to hear people's stories, especially the struggles and triumphs and how they have shaped their lives. I also love to write about this. My writing services typically involve either interviewing someone and then taking that material and writing a narrative, or reviewing and editing the writing of others. Either way, it gives me the opportunity to meet someone and help them understand how their life matters. Everyone has experiences to share and lessons learned. Everyone has a story.

There is a wonderful quote from the poet Walt Whitman that sums this up. "A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls."

Would you like to discover more about yourself and how your life experiences have contributed to who you are? Consider working with a writer like me. The Life Story Resources page will give you more information. You might also  want to read the article I wrote, Writing My Life Story. And as always, you can get information by email by filling out the form on the Get Started page. I look forward to hearing from you.

The Art of Digital Storytelling

May 30, 2013

Learn about the "art" of digital story telling, including how it can be used in education and business with this article at

Aspire, Inspire and Perspire

May 28, 2013

Anything worth doing in your life is typically going to involve three things: aspiration, inspiration and perspiration.

The first, to aspire, requires the desire. That usually occurs regardless of the follow through. Each of us has at times a desire to accomplish something meaningful and purposeful in our lives. But that desire alone won't get it done.

Next comes the inspiration. Who do you look up to? Where do you find your inspiration? It comes to me from various and sometimes surprising sources. In each day there are stories of inspiration and triumph. When the odds are stacked against someone and yet they carry on, that provides inspiration to me. Such is the case with the story I encountered over the weekend. Bret Dunlap could have settled for an embittered and self-pitying life and few would have blamed him. But his mother would have none of that and neither would Bret. Despite a horrible accident at the age of six when a truck slammed into him in the street, Bret has gone on to a life of hard work and some pretty cool accomplishments, such as running marathons. His life isn't glamorous and there have been plenty of disapointments and hardships along the way. But he never gives up, as revealed through the wonderfully written story of his perseverance by Steve Friedman of Runner's Magazine.

Which brings us to point three: perspiration. The things that matter the most to us typically are the result of hard work, sacrifice and discipline. I'm not saying there aren't gifts. Grace abounds. But we still have to suit up and show up. Hard work yields both results and rewards.

Aspire to a life worth living. Inspire others by your example. Don't sweat the small stuff, but perspire when necessary.

WWI Doughboys Might Not Have Told These Stories

May 27, 2013

It is Memorial Day, the day to honor all those who gave their lives in fighting for freedom and against oppression in the (too) many wars in the past two centuries. A few days ago I came across this story on NPR and knew I would want to post about it.

A Race Against Time To Find WWI's Last 'Doughboys' is the accounting of how writer Richard Rubin set out to find and capture as many stories of living American World War One veterans as possible. In many ways it was a race against time and he didn't always get the story before the veteran passed on. We have to remember that most of these men were over 100 years old.

The Last of the Doughboys by Richard RubinHis book, The Last of the Doughboys, is a collection of stories from centenian vets. At the time of this global conflict, and for the years that followed until the Great Depression and WWII, this was the largest war in history. People could not imagine anything worse. Telling their stories was often a way to purge some painful demons. Many had never told their story to anyone, and one of the suprising answers to why for Rubin was that no one had ever asked.

Keep the memories of our veterans alive. Honor them and listen to them if they are willing to talk about their experiences. Not all will be. But some are just waiting to be asked.

Keying in on Ray Manzarek of the Doors

May 22, 2013

Another musical icon passed on Monday (cancer at the age of 74). Ray Manzarek was an innovative keyboardist and music maestro for the Doors. The face and voice of that famous rock group was Jim Morrison, but it was Manzarek's keyboard work that really set the tone, especially on some of their bigger hits like "Love Her Madly", "Break On Through", "Hello, I Love You", "LA Woman" and even lesser known songs like "Soul Kitchen". I am not in any way lessening the importance of guitarist Robby Krieger or drummer John Densmore; they were integral parts of the band. But Ray laid the musical foundation. The opening riffs of "Light My Fire" are embedded in me and a whole generation of children from the 60's.

Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors by Ray ManzarekAny time I heard Manzarek interviewed I was always struck by his articulate expression of the music, his craft, the "scene" and anything else he commented on. He was a good writer, too, and in addition to his memoir, Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors, he also penned two novels. One of them explored in fiction the urban myth of Jim Morrison faking his death. This Los Angeles Times article comments on his books.

It's inevitable as time goes on that more of the entertainers from the cultural revolution of the 1960's will be ending their earthly journey. It certainly gives me pause and reason to reminisce. It also offers the opportunity to introduce their talents and legacy to a new generation. The Doors are a prime example of a group that continued to gain new fans long after their heyday.

The Roar of the Tornado

May 20, 2013

It can sound like a thousand freight trains. The roar of a tornado is alarming, and with good reason. The news from today and yesterday about the powerful tornadoes that hit Oklahoma brought back memories of attending college in the late 1970's at the University of Oklahoma. Norman is the town where OU is based and it is also the national center for severe weather studies.

Many a time we would hear the tornado sirens blaring warnings and then we would scramble for shelter. In my time at the university we never had one touch down in Norman, but I recall once when a tornado flew right over our dorm building. Another time I and two college pals were emerging from a diner on the outskirts of Norman and the sky had that eerie green/black color. The hairs on our neck and arms were at static electricity attention. We looked at each other and quickly hopped in the car. Driving towards home we heard the sirens and had to stop at a bowling alley and hunker down while the twisters flew past us. We were lucky - no funnels hit our ground. But just a few miles away the storms wreaked havoc and destruction.

It's common to talk about the weather. When there really is something to talk about it is worth preserving the story. Natural disasters cause hardship and heartbreak. But they are also part of our personal history landscape. Got a storm memory to write about? Send me a short introduction. It could be the beginning of a memoir or life story.

Preserving Our American Family

May 14, 2013

Who is saving the voices of America? That's a pretty wide open question. Many people enjoy the stories that various family members share. In every family there is often somebody known for being a good storyteller. Over time those stories get better as they are repeated and they tend to become remembered and passed on.

But how many people actually record the talking of other family members? Get beyond being uncomfortable at being recorded and sit down with someone and talk to them, ask them about life, and save those recordings!

Doing this might give you a better idea of the importance of saving voices. To go beyond that and see how it is being done in a grander and more professional way, explore Our American Family. This project is capturing the voices of everyday families and documenting their extraordinary stories as a PBS television series. This is an excellent way for us to learn about our shared heritage and to better appreciate how every family has a story worth preserving.

Ice Cream Makers Oral History - How Dreyer's Is Preserving Their Success Story

May 8, 2013

Dreyer's is an ice cream making company whose story of developing from a small company to one of America's most popular brands is being preserved through oral history interviews that include former owners, investors and other significant players over the years. Their philosophy makes for a good story, but I also applaud how they are going about saving some important company history. Thanks to videographer RJ McHatton of Inventive Productions for alerting me and others to this story through the APH Facebook page.

Shoe Stories

May 6, 2013

Most of us are on our feet everyday. The shoes we wear can make a statement - perhaps about your work, lifestyle or degree of comfort or discomfort you are willing to put up with.

Shoe storiesRunning shoes tell a story. The pair pictured here are my latest and they are about to be retired. Since 2006 I've been doing some distance running and that has included a couple of marathons and another half dozen half marathons. I've run for charity, for fitness, for spiritual release and just for the sheer need to be outdoors taking in the world from the perspective of a runner. That means legs and lungs pumping, music in my ears and a song in my heart.

I've never run the Boston Marathon (I'm not that good), but when the tragic news broke about the bombings at this year's event it struck me to the core. I immediately felt a bond with all the people who were affected. That bond is even stronger now that I've had a chance to read some of the amazing short contributions by runners from this year's event. Boston Magazine was getting their May issue ready to go to the printers when this year's Boston Marathon was defiled. But the act of terrorists cannot kill the spirit of runners, Boston nor good people everywhere. This is a fact we've seen comfirmed many times since April 15.

The staff of the magazine made the right decision to change their cover and provide a feature story. They didn't have much time to work on it, but the response via social media, email and personal contact was great and they were able to include some powerful reports from people who participated in the marathon. And the picture on the cover of the magazine is awe-inspiring. Running shoes in the shape of a heart with the middle left open and the words, "We Will Finish The Race". Good job, Boston Magazine. Well done, contributors. Boston Strong, indeed.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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