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October 2011

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Over 70 and You Have A Lot To Share

October 29, 2011

David Brooks, Op Ed writer for the New York Times has issued a call for short essays from the "Over 70" crowd. He wants to share some of them in time for Thanksgiving through his The Life Report column. What a grand idea!

Many people bemoan that not much of anything special has happened in their lives, but how many of them really take the time to consider what they've done, where they've been and what they contributed to the world? Look, everyone really does have a story. Sure, some lives may be full of more sparkling reminiscences than others, but what really matters is living your life to the fullest. And I think that sitting down to write a short essay about your experiences to share with the world is a good way to consider your life journey. If you haven't achieved everything on your bucket list perhaps you will recognize that and decide to get after it.

I suspect that many of you who've lived to seventy or longer have many powerful memories to recount. Brooks suggests you evaluated what you've done well, not so well, and what you've learned along the way. Consider your career, family, faith, community and self-knowledge. He even suggests you give yourself a grade in each area. As a teacher that resonates with me, but don't get obsessed about grading yourself. Do, however, look back and find what you can share with young people. This is part of David Brooks motivation. He believes they need help understanding how life, families, careers and friendships develop and evolve. You can help the young; they can benefit from your experiences. This, of course, is a passion for me as a personal historian. I don't want you to wait until it's too late.

See The Life Report entry for more details. And have fun with this. You've got some experiences others want and need to hear.

Memoirs Coming from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Neil Young

October 21, 2011

By this time next year you may be able to read memoirs from Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilder, actor, politician, celebrity) and Neil Young (singer/songwriter). Both have led pretty interesting lives and both have managed to reinvent themselves more than once.

Personally, I'm more impressed with Neil Young. I've grown up with his music and watched him stay true to his "muse" and evolving personal styles without bowing to commercial expectations. The Canadien born icon was in one of the more underappreciated but highly influential bands of the 1960;s - the Buffalo Springfield (which also included Stephen Stills and Ritchie Furay), joined forces with Crosby, Stills and Nash for a supergroup, and also has tried lost of musical genres (country, rock, electronica and grunge). He has been outspoken in protesting war and eoppression and helped physically challenged children with his "Bridge School Concerts". His book is tentatively titled Waging Heavy Peace (more here).

The Arnold Schwarzenegger book has the working title of Totall Recall: My Unbelievabley True Life Story. His story is impressive, from immigrant to champion bodybuilder, a highly successful movie career and time as governor of California along with his high-profile marriage/now divorce to Maria Shriver (Kennedy family). More about his upcoming book here.

A New and Improved MemoryPress Is Coming

October 17, 2011

I recently learned that MemoryPress, part of the personal history services, is getting upgraded. I don't have the details, but I understand that the web platform will be enhanced to improve the "build-online" method of your life story book.

MemoryPress is an affordable way to create a professional book. People have been using the system for memoir, wedding, anniversary and baby books, family biographies and just about any other reason for compiling a book. I did one for my daughter when she graduated High School (Growing Up Kristen) and I'm working on a couple of other projects using MemoryPress. For those of you in process with a book you can continue working with it during the upgrade time. But if you are looking to start something new be aware that FamilyLearn is not accepting new customer until the upgrade is complete. They hope to have it done by the end of the year.

In the meantime, if you are looking for other self-publishing options there are many to choose from. allows you to publish affordably, including in ebook format. So does And there are many other quality options. 

Personal History Guinea Pig

October 13, 2011

It is always interesting to me to discover how people become involved in the field of personal history. Personal Historians is not a job description you hear that much about, at least as far as a career track, but that may be changing. i think it is a matter of time.

It is clear with the increased awareness and media coverage that preserving life stories (what I call personal history work, although it also can be corporate history and community history) is a growing trend. The continued advancement in technology makes it easier to record life events. And we see the growth of social media as promoting the awareness of our past events (school, careers, family, friends). Have you noticed the inclusion of a timeline now in Facebook?

A recent article in the DesMoines Register ( relates the experience of Tim Tracy. He has decided to become a personal historian after discovering his aptitude in pulling out the stories from others. He's a good listener and he enjoys what he does. Now he's decided to do this work professionally after "testing" it out on a few people. In fact, spending time with a man in hospice and discovering the Association of Personal Historians clicked with Tim and he told the man he'd "like to use you as my guinea pig." The result was a videotape with the man detailing various events of his life and discussing his journey as he neared the end (a spiritual one). When the family saw the DVD they were amazed at what they discovered about him, a side of the man they hadn't known. They even played the DVD at his funeral.

Tim Tracy gets it. And he'll probably do well in his new vocation. I keep discovering people like Tim and I'm glad. Because I "get it", too. Everyone has a story - a story worth telling.

Steve Jobs Advice - Follow Your Bliss and Follow Your Vision

October 12, 2011

The recent passing of Steve Jobs has prompted a lot of press and rightfully so. He was a man who made a huge impact on our world through his innovative electronic devices from Apple. He and Apple came up with devices we wanted before we knew they existed, among them the iPod, iPhone and iPad. He and his friend Steve Wozniak were bright, young entrepreneurs who had one of those hard work and great success stories. They started their company and created the first personal computer out of the garage of his childhood home in 1976.

Most accounts of Jobs tell of a very focused, intense and secretive man. But his story will undoubtably be documented in a bio-pic (movie). The authorised biography by Walter Isaacson will soon be released. An insightful article from The Telegraph provides some fascinating information.

If you haven't seen the text of the commencement address he gave at Stanford University in June of 2005 it is well worth reading. He reveals how dropping out of college, but going to a class he was interested in (without the stress or financial burden) became a fortuitous choice when he later released the Mac computer. And the message of following your bliss and your vision is clear. | read here |

Understanding Life Story Options

October 5, 2011

When I tell people I work to help people preserve their life stories or that I am a Personal Historian it often leads to intrigued, but confused looks. "Hmmmm, sounds interesting, Tom. What exactly does that mean?"

Lots of people want to have a memoir written or to preserve family history in some fashion. Those are "life story preserving" options. So are ethical wills. And videobiographies. Ditto for oral history recordings and legacy books. There are so many different ways to tell the story of your life that it can be challenging to determine what is right for you as well as what they mean. A large part of my content on this website is dedicated to this large subject.

Once in a while I see a media article that does a good job of articulating what we personal historians do. Recently the Upstate New York chapter of the APH received some press. The article by Patricia Pihl of the Chautauqua news site,, gives a very good overview of life story options. You can (and shoudl) read Stories of a Lifetime.

40 Years of Hot Air

October 2, 2011

The first passengers in a hot air balloon didn't have much to say to each other. Not that they were stunned into silence from the experience of rising aloft. They just didn't share the same language (as far as I know). These first passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster and they ascended September 19, 1783 in France (per Two months later the first manned hot air balloon flight went up, made by the French brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier.

I wonder what they would think about the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta here in Albuquerque. It is spectacular - a sky full of hundreds of colorful balloons, some of them in exotic shapes. This year the fiesta is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It got its start in a shopping mall parking lot in 1971 as part of a 50th birthday celelbration for radio station KOB-AM.

Hot Air Balloon courtesy of freefoto.comMy first experience with this balloon festival was in 1979. Back in the day I was working as the overnight DJ at KFMG-FM. I didn't know anything about the annual event and one morning as I got off the air and headed home I was amazed at the numerous balloons in the sky. I'd seen hot air ballons before in Albuquerque. This is a popular place for flying them due to the ideal weather conditions including a frequently occurring wind pattern named "the box". But I'd never seen so many. It was awe inspiring!

The next year I made my first trip out to the balloon park. Hundreds of people were gathered in the pre-dawn chill, munching on breakfast burritos and drinking coffee or hot chocolate. Balloon crews were laying out their envelopes and soon began the routine of filling them with air from boxfans followed shortly by blasting the hot air from their propane burners. The loud ffftttt! sound was everywhere. Balloons began to straighten to a vertical position and people held them down with outstretched arms and
tethered ropes. Before long they would ascend, each of them more or less re-enacting the scene from the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard departs for Kansas.

I even had the privilege to fly in a balloon a couple of times. The experience of floating over the city, the Rio Grande below and fellow balloons drifting by, is hard to put into words. Serene and spiritual. The landing, on the other hand, can be a bit rough. You can't really control the speed of the balloons so when you come down it is the pilot's responsibility to adjust with short bursts of propane flame to try to get you down as soft as possible, but you can land, bump and drag along the ground before the gondola comes to a stop. This is why good ground crews learn to anticipate the landing spot and are ready to help ease the gondola to a halt. Back on terra firma passengers are traditionally treated to a post-flight celebration champagne baptism/toast.

Ballooning is amazing, whether watching or flying. If you ever get the opportunity I highly recommend visiting Albuquerque for this even the first week of October. It's great for young and old. One year my aunt took a ride for her 80th birthday. For a virtual tour and look visit

Everybody has a story to tell!
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