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November 2014

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High Five for Gratitude

November 26, 2014

Making a list of the top things you are grateful for is always beneficial. I believe we should never lose sight of those things in life that mean the most, that we cherish, that are the true treasures by which we measure our wealth.

Around the Thanksgiving holiday it is traditional to gather family together, eat a good meal, and take inventory of all we are grateful for. I was thinking about what I am most grateful while, of all things, walking my dog this afternoon. That can often be a chore, but today the sun is shining and it's Thanksgiving Eve and I am counting my blessings.

As I contemplated the top things for which I am grateful I realized that money didn't make the cut, at least not in the top five. And believe me, I know money can't buy happiness but I could use a little more on the bottom line. It is easy to stress about finances and it can be hard at times to pay the bills. But, no, money isn't part of my gratitude big five.

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Keeping Up Your Contacts

November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving is later this week and the Holiday Season pretty much gets underway this time of year. Many of us spend time writing letters and sending greeting cards. It's good to touch base with our friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and associates.

It's easier these days to do it through social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the like), but an old-fashioned card or letter in the mail always feels more heartfelt. Some people like to send family newsletters. I've crafted these before and sent them out, inspired by other relatives such as my late Aunt Lois Anne, God rest her soul. 

Many of us change our contact information, including email and phone numbers. If you don't keep your contact information current people can lose track of you. Or worse, you might get some unpleasant news, like having your website domain suspended. I learned this the hard way last week. Apparently the provider I keep this site hosted through had an old and now defunct email address listed as my administrative contact. So when ICANN (the agency responsible for coordinating databases of Internet identifiers) tried to contact me to confirm my contact information there was no response. Naturally, as I never saw the emails. And then one day last week my site wouldn't come up and it took a bit of digging to discover the domain was suspended. Once I updated my contact information I was back in business, but it was disconcerting that was unavailable on the web for a couple of days.

So, the lesson is that we need to stay in contact with each other, for personal as well as business reasons. Think about reaching out to those you care about with a real letter or a card with a handwritten note. This is a good time of year to do it when our thoughts should turn to gratitude, love and kindness.

A Father's Legacy Letter to His 5-Year Old Daughter

November 17, 2014

I doubt anyone would blame Tom Attwater if he didn't spend much time thinking about the future of other people, considering he has a brain tumor and his lifetime is limited. But don't tell him that. Yes, he has a brain tumor and, yes, it will probably take his life. But his five year-old daughter, Kelli also has cancer and he has been doing all he can to raise funds for her treatment.

He has also done something more, something there is no price tag you can attach to it. He has given his daughter his love and his attention and a voice to come to her for the years ahead. He has written a thoughtful and heartfelt legacy letter laying out his hopes, dreams, thoughts, wisdom and wishes for her in a variety of future life endeavors. He knows he won't be there in person, but his legacy letter is truly wonderful. As a dad he wants the best for his daughter and he dispenses great advice for her (and anybody else, for that matter) about various topics. He shares his dreams about school, a career, boys, marriage and how he'd like to be remembered. It's good stuff and shows yet another way an ethical will/legacy letter can be a priceless gift.

6 Brothers Documentary - a Story inspired by WWII letters

November 11, 2014

On this Veterans Day we remember the many who have served in the United States Armed Forces. That included my dad, a career Air Force pilot and decorated Vietnam War Vet (see The Pilot Who Soared on Eagles Wings).

One of the things I found of interest recently is a family history inspired by the letters written during WWII by the grandfather of Daniel Stenberg of Bismark, North Dakota. Daniel is a Personal Historian and those letters got him started on what became a family history documentary, 6 Brothers: A Story of Hope, Loss, and Perseverance on the Northern Plains.

I have not seen the documentary, but it sounds fascinating. You can visit the website, to find out more.

I also think it is important that people continue to be aware of Veterans History Project. It is a place where stories of veterans can be archived with the Library of Congress. See more here.

25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 9, 2014

There are too many walls built up in life. Too much separation. Humanity grows by uniting in love and life. However, history is fraught with conflict. That's why today is a day for celebration. Twenty-five years ago on November 9, 1985 the Berlin Wall came down

For many years Berlin was a divided city. The wall was constructed by the German Democratic Republic and that wall not only divided a city, but a country. It was a symbol of the Cold War and when it came down it became a recognition that people should be free.
Berlin Wall
Have you wondered what became of parts of the concrete wall? Many of the slabs are works of art, concrete canvasses on display in many countries and cities. Google, the search engine, has a video on its home page today that shows some of these wall portions. From Madrid to Kiev, Sofia to Washington D.C., Brussels to New York City, the graffiti and artwork display some of the passion for life and freedom shared by people of many lands, language and culture. It's a good day to let freedom ring.

Santana Bringing His Story to Light

November 5, 2014

Carlos Santana memoir The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to LightYesterday I heard an interview with Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana. The extraordinary guitarist has an amazing story he is sharing with his just released memoir, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light.

In the interview on NPR, Santana speaks of his humble beginnings in Mexico. He dedicates his book to his mother. "I think she probably prayed for me more than anyone to keep me from getting lost", he said. And he also spoke about his father, his first teacher, a strict musician who had trouble showing gentleness, but helped instill an appreciation for music. It was in the small and often unsavory clubs of Tijuana that he really learned his craft.

Santana was always drawn to music, but he is also a very spiritual person. And he survived some sexual abuse as a child, something not easy to reveal or discuss. Additionally, Santana dealt with struggles in the United States before he found fame after Woodstock. The memoir is available now, including at, and should be a riveting read.

The Ancient Concept of Ethical Will is Getting New Life

November 3, 2014

I've mentioned the value and importance of Ethical Wills on more than one occasion. It is an ancient concept, this leaving in writing the values that matter most to you. It is an extremely valuable document treasured by loved ones. It dates back to at least Old Testament times for the Hebrew people.

Another article mentioning the importance and growing interest in ethical wills has appeared in the New York Times. In The Ethical Will, an Ancient Concept, is Revamped for the Tech Age by Constance Gustke, we again learn of personal historians encouraging people to create the ethical will. This is especially important for those facing terminal illness. Using more modern techniques, such as a PowerPoint slide show, shows there are various ways to create your ethical will.

Shadow Play

November 1, 2014

Here's something that might spark childhood memories. Remember how you used to make shadows on the wall? Perhaps it was with a flashlight in the bedroom and somebody showed you the way to make animal heads with your hand and fingers, such as a rabbit or dog.

Maybe you marveled on a sunny day at your shadow walking before you. Peter Pan thought it was sowed to the soles of his feet. That's probably a metaphor. Our shadow self is certainly part of our soul. Eventually we learn to deal with it, at least we do if we want to reconcile the dark and light within us all. It's not easy to face our shadow self. But we need to do some shadowdancing to grow as people. And when you are writing your life story you inevitably must look in the shadows. What we often resist writing about can hold some of the best story gold.

I was taking my dog, Shadow (that's his name), on a walk this afternoon. The sun was getting low on the horizon and that created a good shadow effect. I took this picture and uploaded it to Instagram because there is a #WHPshadowplay encouraging some shadow photos this weekend.
My dog, Shadow and I, with our shadows

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