Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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Narrative Medicine Helps Treat Patients Better
July 14, 2019
"It makes a difference when they (hospital staff) know you from a a
different perspective than just 'you're a patient here, and we're
talking care of you." That's a quote from Army veteran Fred
Lenzen who is one of a few thousand individuals who have shared some of
their life story as part of a program to include 1,000-word life story
narratives as part of their medical record. The goal is to help them
receive better care because medical staff are better able to understand
a patient's situation. It certainly creates an opportunity for empathy.
The My Life, My Story
program has been implemented in many VA (Veteran Administration)
clinics and facilities around the country. What a great way to provide
greater dignity and respect for veterans.
This program has been featured in a number of publications recently, including the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio.
It started in Madison, Wisconsin where both volunteers and writers,
including poet Thor Ringler, have been interviewing veterans and
writing these narratives since 2013. The term narrative medicine
is being used to describe these consise life stories. What a wonderful
way to dignify a veteran's service and life. Writing about our lives
often has a therapeutic benefit. But this goes even further as it can
help these veterans get better treatment.
40 Years Ago Sony Walkman Made Music More Portable
July 2, 2019
Back in the 1970's rock n' roll had become an industry and people like
me were living their lives to a soundtrack that today could only be
described as classic rock.
I grew up loving groups like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dylan,
Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd and many
It was great to crank up the music in the car or on the home stereo.
But if you went for a walk or wanted to listen to music without
intruding on the personal aural space of others you were kind of
limited. At least until the portable music player most popularized by
the Sony Walkman came along.
Suddenly you could listen to cassette tapes (the industry standard at
the time) where you went and with headphones so you could listen to it
loud but not bother someone else. This was great. No more balancing a
boombox on your shoulders and the fact that it was compact made it even
more conventient. Sony launched the Walkman in July of 1979, forty years ago. It was, for people like me, an ingenious invention that allowed me to take that soundtrack of my life anywhere.
Over the years as the medium of recorded music evolved the Walkman also
adapted. Post cassettes it was CD's and then other digital mini-discs.
These days it is easy to play literally thousands of songs by streaming
them on your smartphone. Times have changed, but I am still nostalgic
for those rock n' roll days of the Walkman. And maybe I am not alone as
the main character in Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Lord, demonstrated.
Taking a Trip that Expands Your Life
June 30, 2019
It took many years for it to finally become a reality: a trip to Europe
that proved to me what I have heard for years. Travel can expand your
life in many signifcant ways.
wife and I just returned from a ten day vacation to Italy and France.
We have wanted to go to Europe for a very long time. In fact, I was
supposed to fulfill the promise of this trip by our 25th wedding
anniversary, but when we achieved that milestone we were not yet able
to do the trip. Fortunately nine years later, and better late than
never, we were able to do it.
The trip included Florence and Collie di Val d'Elsa in Toscany, Venice
and Paris. We saw many great works of art and ate wonderful meals. We
experienced cultures different from our American home and we are richer
for the time and life lessons. Travel can truly expand your life.
It is not easy to take long flights and to spend time, money and energy
on such trips. But it can be truly enlightening and memorable. I feel
blessed to have been able to do so, especially with the love of my
life. We grew closer, even when at times we might have gotten on each
other's nerves, because we shared the experience. To me that is one of
the important things to understand in life, that we are meant to share
our time with and for others.
I wrote more about our trip of a lifetime in our just published
newsletter. It is free to subcribe to and you can find out more and sign up here.
Gifts of Our Fathers
June 16, 2019
On this Father's Day holiday I find it important to reflect on the
gifts of fatherhood. Our dads give us the gift of time, unconditional
love, and knowledge passed on to help us with the many things we must
do in life.
Doing and being are highly connected and when we are taught both by
showing and then doing we learn better.
All our greatest lessons are taught and learned with the heart. Sure,
the head is the seat of knowledge, but wisdom comes from the heart.
I am grateful for the gift of fathers. I mean this as a son and as a
father. The line down through the ages, fathers to sons, across the
generations, forever connects us. Part of what I like so much about
history is that we can study this line back through time. But we can
only do it when we preserve the personal history of our lives. The
stories of our life experiences are lessons that can teach us a great
deal, particularly when they are the life lessons from our hearts.
Happy Father's Day! Never forget the awesome gift of your children and
the great responsibility you have to love them always no matter what.
Water Rafting Builds Father-Son Relationships
June 14, 2019
It is nearly Fathers
(this Sunday) and I just returned from an incredible mini-vacation with
my brother-in-law and our two sons. It was an adventure we will always
remember and a great way to continue to build solid relationships.
My son, Eric, is now 25. Art's son, AJ, just turned 28. So for Art and
I this was a great dad and
Fathers and sons; uncles and nephews - it was already setup to be a
good time. But when we took to the rapids of the Taos Box on the Rio
Grande River our Far
Flung Adventures went to a new level.
water rafting can be very thrilling. This year with all the snow and
rain of the winter and spring we are experiencing one of the best
runoffs in years. The water is rapidly moving and it was quite exciting
to shoot the rapids.
Our trip with tour guide Richard required teamwork. We had all the
gear, including life preservers, water-resistant covers, helmets and
paddles. But the most important thing was that we worked together.
Sometimes we had to vigorously row forwards. At other times it was
necessary to back-paddle. Through it all we had the time of our lives.
Spending quality time like this with our sons is something all of us
will treasure and remember. Life experience moments such as these are
more than enjoyable; they are times of bonding. We relied on each other
and we had a great time together.
Anniversary of D-Day
June 6, 2019
D-Day invasion -
photo Associated Press
I entered the search phrase "75th anniversary of D-Day" in Google and
got an amazing 89,900,000 returns. Seventy-five
years after the largest amphibious military invasion in history there
is a lot to commemorate.
It is probably difficult to visualize this massive invasion that was
critical to the Allies' efforts to end World War II. Miles of beaches
and thousands of troops. Try to imagine what it must have been like for
those who experienced it. It's not possible for us and it is not
something anyone should "want" to experience. Nevertheless, many did go
through the emotional wringer of D-Day.
This week some of those veterans have returned to the beaches of
Normandy to pay their respects and to honor the memories of their
Many people don't appreciate history or have little interest in it. For
me it is essential to know history. It's all about stories - our
stories and the stories of our world.
June 4, 2019
Shadow, our awesome fur baby Chow-Labrador mix (I called
him a "Chowbrador"), after 15 years of unconditional love, crossed over
to the other side a few days ago. He was surrounded with love from
family (Annette, Kristen, Eric, Neti and me) as we said our goodbyes.
You could see in his eyes that he knew we were saying our farewells.
Sad and joy mixed together.
15 years ago at Watermelon Mountain Ranch he picked us.
We thought we were choosing from the litter of six, but no, he came
running right up and let us know in no uncertain terms that he was the
one and to take him home.
He was a fun dog. He had puppy energy for a great many
years. He was my walking and running buddy for over a dozen years. The
past three or so he got to live a pampered life with Eric and Neti and
two other dogs.
When it is time...it's time. I am going to miss him so
much but I am so grateful for all the unconditional love he gave us.
About 7 years ago I wrote an ode to Shadow - Doggone Grateful.
You can read it here.
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