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November, 2008

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November 29, 2008

The story of Helen Keller is one of the best ever. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, tells of her life as a blind and deaf woman, including her very special relationship with teacher Annie Sullivan who brought her out of the darkness of her deafness and blindness.  It is an inspiring tale of dealing with great difficulties.

Her story was made into a play, and later Academy Award winning movie, The Miracle Worker.  The playwright was William Gibson, who has just passed away at the age of 94.

November 28, 2008

Have you spent an hour today listening to someone's story?  The first National Day of Listening, an initiative of StoryCorps, was today.  A good article about it made the front page of the the San Francisco Chronicle. Oral history project: small stories, big impact is online here.

November 27, 2008

Here's a question to ponder on this Thanksgiving Day.  Are we entitled to anything we want if we are not first truly grateful for what we've already received?

Think about it.  And "thank" about it.

Gratitude is one of the most important universal principles.  It is good for your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

Sometimes it is difficult to be grateful.  Those are the times when it is even more important to practice the attitude of gratitude.  Make a list of all you have to be grateful for.

The United States has a holiday set aside for gratitude.  And that's a good thing (see this link for the proclamation from President George Washington in 1789).  But gratitude is not just a feeling. It is best expressed in action.

Since "your life IS your story", spend time on this special day to consider how gratitude plays a part in your life.

I'm grateful for so many things - life, family, friends and God as I understand God.  I am also grateful to all of you as we walk our life journeys together.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

November 26, 2008

I love to hear about people's courageous stories in the face of adversity. Nobody enjoys going through hard times, but I bet if you have you can look back and see how much you grew as a result.

Economic struggles are on the mind of many of us. Times are tough.  Some people are losing their jobs. I personally experienced this on Monday as I was "downsized" from my radio job.  The new "buzz" term for this is RIF - as in, reduction in workforce. It's not the first time and it does hurt - especially this close to Thanksgiving.  However, I already feel growing pains that are going to be good for me.

But I'm using this opportunity to spend more time doing what I really love. Hearing about and writing people's stories!  We've all got a story to tell.

There are a number of you who will read this who've been surfing the Web and dreaming about how to make your passion an avocation and use the Internet to build a real business.  I can point you to many people who've done that and are doing that - true success stories - using what I use for this site.  Site Build It! is not hype. It takes effort and it's not an overnight success.  In my book those are all indications of something real.

Take two and a half minutes to watch a video - here.  The success stories it touches on will inspire you.  Then you can take the next step.  Learn more; contact me.  You could be giving yourself a great gift - discovering who you really are and pursuing your true passion in life.  

Wouldn't that be something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving?

November 25, 2008

This Friday is StoryCorps self-proclaimed first annual National Day of Listening. Since Friday (November 28) is the day after Thanksgiving
it’s a good time of year to do that. Families will be gathered together. Pick one member and encourage them to tell some of their story in an hour or so. Granted, it won’t be a full blown memoir, but it’s a start.

You may well have heard about StoryCorps. What started as a story booth in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal where people could record a short oral history has grown to an expansive story preservation project in multiple cities as well as utilizing mobile touring recording trailers, a book and much more. They were recognized with the prestigious Peabody Award in 2007 and they are to be congratulated for developing a project that is getting people to preserve stories.

Visit the StoryCorps website to find out more - They’ve simplified the process to make it easy for anyone to participate.

November 21, 2008

One week from now many of us will be in the middle of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  You might be spending time with family.  Eating leftover turkey. Watching football.  Hanging out.

Will you take time this year to preserve stories?  I think Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays for sharing some family history.  People gather for meals, especially the main event on Thanksgiving Day.  We try to focus on what we have to be grateful for.  Young and old together.  It can be a prime time for connecting.

Don't force the issue, but if you get the opportunity (as the designated "personal historian" of your clan) try to get down on paper, or in a recording, some of those special family stories.  A good way to start would be to ask your family members to think about something in particular they are thankful for...and let it develop from there.

November 18, 2008

The stress many people are dealing with regarding the economic crisis can be very difficult.  I think most of us are feeling the pinch.  Still, life must go on. Remember that whatever happens with jobs and finances, it is part of your life situation - but it is not your life!  

Your life is who you really are.  Tough times are painful, but we certainly can and do grow in the tough times.  The Great Depression on the 1930's caused a lot of suffering and anguish, but out of that grew new prosperity.  

How we document what goes on in our lives can make a difference in the lives of others.  Your story has the potential to pass on great lessons.  

Since preserving your life story can be an expense you can't afford - at least in hiring a writer or personal historian - I want to encourage you to try to at least do something.  Keep a journal.  Write letters.  If you have a video camera try recording some family gatherings.

And for $50 you can make headway with the MemoryPress option.  For under $15 there is the MemoryGrabber.  Both these options are viable and can help you make a good beginning on preserving your story.  I can help you discover the benefits of these services, or others.  Feel free to contact me.

November 13, 2008

On the heels of Veterans Day I found a news story from Milwaukee about a memoir musical based on family newsletters that circulated during World War Two.

The Daly News was a way for the Daly family to stay connected during that time and share the news from letters of four sons and one son-in-law fighting the war along with insight from life during the war in Milwaukee.  A grandson later discovered these "newsletters" and decided to create a musical play based on them. How creative!  See the article Milwaukee family's WWII-era letters inspire musical at JSOnline (Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel).

November 8, 2008

The Veterans Day Holiday is almost here (November 11).  There is a wealth of personal history that many of our veterans can pass on - if they are willing. Often they don't know how to go about that, or are embarrased or don't think their stories are worth preserving.  Of course, we know that's not true.

A couple of resources are worth exploring.  One is the Veterans History Project (a service of the Library of Congress).  Volunteers around the country have recorded many veterans' stories, but many more are still hoped for, especially as our elder vets are nearing the end of their significant lives.  The Association of Personal Historians is an official partner - more here.  And you can find out more about the Veterans History Project from this upclose profile I created.

Another interesting site I recently discovered preserves Veterans war letters. It is the Legacy Project and they are online here.

November 6, 2008

The Election was just two days ago, but it feels in some ways like so much time has passed.  I often feel that way after significant events.

And significant this election was.  From all reports it was one of the highest voter turnouts ever.  And after the last eight years and the many challenges we are facing it clearly was time for something different.  Both John McCain and Barack Obama are good men - I'm convinced of that.  But Obama has been elected and he has the huge task ahead of helping lead America the next four years.

One of the most impressive things as I watched Tuesday night were the two speeches from the candidates.  McCain was gracious, humble, honest and he called for all of us to rally behind our new president.  Obama also was compimentary of his opponent and said he would work hard as our president and that he wanted to hear from all those who didn't vote for him, to hear what they need to say.  And he also was honest and real about being a man called to lead, but that he said, in so many words, that he is going to make mistakes.  Refreshing, considering all those who have cynically attacked him as a messiah figure.
Much has been made of the President-elect being the first African-American president.  And that is historic.  But it should not be the main thing to focus on.  Someday we will have other firsts, including a woman president.

All of us surely need to recognize the importance to our individual life stories, and that of our families, of this election.  I hope that you are giving that some thought, even writing about it.  Journaling is a great ongoing way to preserve your thoughts about historic events and how they fit into your personal narrative.

November 1, 2008

A very colorful person who was fascinated by the lives of others, particular everyday people that he enjoyed engaging in conversation and ultimately sharing their lives with others, passed away yesterday (October 31, 2008) at the age of 96.  

Studs Terkel has to be considered one of the founding fathers of oral history. He was for many years the host of a popular radio show in Chicago (on WFMT).  And he was also a writer, sometimes actor and certainly a lover of life and lives.  He wrote many books from his voluminous tape-recorded interviews. Most were about everyday Americans, including his first best seller in 1966, "Division Street: America".  His "'The Good War': An Oral History of World War II" won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985.

There are numerous tributes and obituaries online right now, but I found the NY Times and the Chicago Tribune pieces to be especially revealing.  Both mention his gift for interviewing, which was more of listening and engaging his subjects in conversation.

Thanks, Studs, for all you did to validate the stories of others and legitimize personal history.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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