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May, 2014

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The Book Hound Promotes Personal History Awareness Month

May 29, 2014

As Personal History Awareness Month comes to a close I hope you have been exposed to the idea of preservingyour life story and personal history. These days, thanks to the development and changes in recording options, you have a better chance to get your story recorded and written than perhaps any other time.

As a reader and writer I still favor the written word. I like being able to read about a person's life, especially when there are revelations and insights into life's purpose. Good autobiographies, biographies, memoirs and life stories can transport us back in time or touch our hearts as we learn of struggles and triumphs.

Janice Hermsen (LaRue Press) has a radio show, The Book Hound, and she has invited me to join her and some other guests to discuss Personal History Awareness Month. The show will air live on Friday, May 30, from 11 am to 12 noon Pacific Daylight Time and you can tune it in online at You are invited to call in to share your questions or thoughts (775.827.8900 or 855.790.8255). There's more about The Book Hound on their Facebook Page. I am looking forward to the program and I hope you will be joining us tomorrow.

Maya Angelou, Gifted Writer, Poet, Teacher and Artist, Has Passed On

May 28, 2014

The very gifted writer, poet, teacher, artist, activist, storyteller and wonderful human being, Maya Angelou, has passed away at the age of 86.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928, she grew up in a segregated society, but fortunately saw many changes in her world. Her civil rights activism definitely made an impact. I like to remember her for her inspirational words, particularly during tough times.

Her impact on generations of people of all color cannot be understated. She was an established dancer and singer before her writing career took off. Her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is probably her best known work and told of her troubled and abused childhood. She also was a prolific poet and writer, a teacher on many levels, and someone we can look to as an example of not letting hard times define her.

She gave us many fine quotes. My personal favorite is: 
"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." 

A link to a fine tribute and story to Maya Angelou by NPR is online here.

Memorial Memories

May 27, 2014

Yesterday was the Memorial Day Holiday in the United States. It is a day to remember the military veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. These fallen warriors paid the ultimate price of dying in battle.  We recall their bravery and sacrifice. It is horrible that so many wars have occurred throughout history. And it is sad that so many have died as a result.

Somber and solemn - those are the thoughts whenever I've visited a war memorial. There are many in the USA, but there are also war memorials in other lands. A Google search on world war memorials yielded quite a number of images.

Memorials serve a purpose. They remind us of those who passed on. The memories stirred by visiting a memorial can be powerful and emotional. It was certainly the case when I first walked the length of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1996. On the National Mall you can also visit memorials dedicated to soldiers of other major conflicts (War World I ad II, Korea).

You can help to keep memories alive by creating family histories, life stories and memoirs. These records preserved in writing, audio or video are powerful memorials and testaments to the lives of our friends and family.

Peek Into Past Through Family Photos

May 22, 2014

It is so easy these days to take pictures. Personal smart phones, tablets and digitial cameras make it a snap to grab and preserve moments in time. This is great and convenient. But it wasn't always so easy. Less than 100 years ago as families took photos of children it often took time to pose the camera subjects. As a result, picture taking often became something of an event.

Recently one of my cousins found some wonderful photographs of her mother (my aunt) and my father when they were kids. It was time traveling to peek into the past through these family photos and see them in their youth. There were also some wonderful shots of my grandparents and my great grandparents.

Lois Anne and Thomas Gilbert in young brother and sister photograph

What I love about this particular photo from the past are the expressions of young Lois Anne and Thomas. Lois is peering into the camera and obviously proud to display a doll and teddy bear in little chairs set in front of them. Dad, on the other hand, didn't seem to be particularly pleased to have his picture taken. Or perhaps he was just in a serious mood. I can recognize in their youthful features the looks I knew from their much later adult years. I also like seeing their clothing and hairstyles.

What can you do with photos such as these besides the obvious value of keeping them as mementos? They can serve as real inspiration for writing about family history. I know that spending time looking over family photographs helps spur memories and the accompanying emotions they resurrect.  This can be a great help prior to writing about our personal/family histories. When you haven't looked at past family photos in a while you may be surprised at what surfaces when you view them. Doing some quick writing to capture the reminiscences can be very effective for when you sit for future writing. It doesn't have to be polished writing. It is more important to capture the feelings those peeks back in time evoke. How does it make you feel? What do you remember from that time in life? How does it help you dig deeper into your memories? This is personal history mining that can yield a true treasure for memoir writers.

The Meaning of Life - In Your View

May 18, 2014

As we continue through the month of May and I reflect on the various ways that we can preserve our life stories I think a lot about how our perspective of our experiences contributes to the meaning of our lives. Many people ponder THE MEANING OF LIFE. But in reality, the meaning and the purpose of life is something each of us must discover. We do it best by living a full life and appreciating each day. We take the good with the bad.

Other people can help us in our reflection on life's meaning. From parents to partners, children to elders, our interaction with people can teach us many things. I have also found that reading memoirs and biographies of other people helps me to view my own life. Sharing our stories is important!

May is Personal History Awareness Month. Spend some time thinking about your life experiences and then consider how you might preserve your story for others. Determing what story and why are good first steps and you can read more about what I have to say about that.

Somber and Sacred - 9-11 Museum Dedicated

May 15, 2014

History is being preserved in a somber and sacred way at the newly dedicated 9-11 Museum in New York City. The day of the terrorist attacks is one not to be forgotten. September 11, 2001 was a day of infamy. How we honor the memory of first responders, victims, survivors and families is important. Today President Obama and First Lady Obama were on hand for the dedication of this new museum (CNN story).
Tom Gilbert and wife Annette at the 9-11 Memorial in New York City4
We prefer remembering happier times, but moments in history when tragedy strikes, and more importantly, how humanity responds, are crucial. I'm glad that this museum has been built. A couple of years ago I toured with my family the 9-11 Memorial with the special reflection pools.  Now this new museum can be part of preserving memories and legacies for future generations. It is a special thing that this dedication took place in this month of May, the month of Personal History Awareness.

Mother's Day Memories

May 10, 2014

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. It is a day full of honoring the moms, but we should not limit it to them. Of course, they are the main focus, but all women who nuture, or all men, for that matter, should be remembered. And the kids - well, that's what makes it such an adventure.

Mother's Day Memories can in a wide variety. My mother passed on in 2006. The memories of her final week with the family gathered at bedside will always be treasured. It was sad and joyful at the same time, as noted in my article, Opening Death's Door.

Mother's Day poster

My wife and I are blessed to have two children, a girl and boy, both now grown. One year, when they were younger, we put together a poster collage for a Mother's Day homemade present. It was as much fun making it as it was giving it. Our daughter is a mom twice over so we have the special treat of grandchildren.

Each of us has our own Mother's Day memories and they should be special to each of us for personal reasons. Sharing them gives us the opportunity to talk about those memories and our mothers. That's part of what makes personal history great.

John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for Slate, reminisced about his mom and urges moms (and dads) to write future letters for their offspring (Write a Letter to Your Children).  Also on Slate is Fifty Things About My Mother by Laura Lynn Brown. The article had me both laughing and reflecting.

Celebrate Mother's Day with memories, new and old ones. Sharing the stories is part of sharing the love.

What Kind of Student Were You?

May 7, 2014

The month of May seems to move pretty fast in my world. I am a teacher and this year I am again teaching 5th graders. May is our final month of the school year. We are busy with final projects, lessons and assessments. On top of that there are many other activities for the end of the year. We do a field trip to the zoo. We have a field day of outdoor physical activities (running, jumping, throwing and so forth). The talent show is just around the corner. As a result, I am challenged to get all the things we need done before the end of the year accomplished. Will there be compromises? Of course. Will we still finish strong? You bet.

One of the great challenges for a teacher is helping all the students succeed. People learn at different speeds and in different ways. It is a teacher's responsibility to vary instruction and help students in their education by differentiating instruction so they get to use their preferred learning styles. It's not easy. By the way, not all the responsibility is with the teacher. Students need to do their part, too. But teachers, like good writing instructors, coaches, consultants and personal historians, find ways to inspire and encourage.

All this brings to mind one of the questions I like to use when helping people craft a memoir or life story. What kind of student were you? It is one of the Ten Good Interview Starters I include in an article I wrote. It's Personal History Awareness Month and considering good interview questions is a good tip.

Personal History Awareness Ramps Up in May

May 3 2014

I am sure that you notice that each month of the calendar year is full of awareness for various causes. Everything from plants, foods, sports and hobbies to various clans, groups and causes. It's amazing - and fascinating.

When it comes to promoting awareness about the importance of personal history (life stories, family histories, memoirs, biographies and the like) May is the month. I feel it is important to both educate and promote the importance of preserving our history in the form of life stories. I wrote an article specifically about this back in 2009 - May is Personal History Awareness Month.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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