Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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Almost Famous Movie Turns Twenty
September 23, 2020
Crowe was a teenage rock journalist in San Diego in 1973. I was a
senior in High School and listening to a lot of rock music and reading
magazines like Rolling Stone which Crowe got to contribute to. I am sure I must have read his contributions.
The movie "Almost Famous"
came out in 2000 and it took Cameron Crowe, now a screenwriter and
director, ten years to bring it to the silver screen. The movie is
partly autobiographic. But what is so great about the film (along with
many of the cast members and their terrific performances) was how it
captured the love of rock music back then. It was a heady time, a time
of immense creativity and loud guitars, a time of Led Zeppelin, Eric
Clapton, Pink Floyd, the Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead and others. It
was a time of coming of age for both rock music and me!
I have always loved "Almost Famous". On its twenty year anniversary
there has been reminiscing by Crowe and cast members. Here's a good article that has been part of the looking back.
Rock of Righteousness, Ruth Bader Ginsburg
September 20, 2020
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the "Notorius RBG", Supreme Court Justice, and
champion of equality, particularly when it came to gender rights, died
on Friday at the age of 87. She battled cancer five times and then
some, often returning to duties when people would surely have given her
a pass to spend more time recovering.
Her legacy casts a long shadow. She might have been short in stature,
but she stood tall when it came to fighting for justice. It was fitting
that she rose to the position of Associate Justice on the Supreme Court
Her vacancy has already stirred the current administration and
Republican leadership to quickly fill that spot with their choice and
they want to get it done before the election. That would be quite the
rush and a contradiction of the position they took back in 2016 when
then President Obama submitted a nomination to replace Antonin Scalia.
There was more time to consider that nomination in February, nine
months before Election Day. But the Republican majority sat on it,
stating the American people should have a say, meaning the upcoming
presidential election. How quickly they have reversed their position.
Once again we see what serves political partisanship seems more
important than careful consideration and fairness.
One of Ginsburg's fellow justices, Stephen Breyer, called her a "rock
of righteousness". I think she lived up to that title. Her
accomplishments in face of many challenges are impressive. She argued
many cases before the Supreme Court long before she was a member. She
overcome obstacles, including just getting hired after her prestigious
law school performance. As is true with the passing of any person
noteworthy for their well-lived lives, there are numerous powerful
tributes and articles to read. This NPR article is a good one.
Doing the right thing because it is the
right thing is not always fashionable. At the end our our lives we
should all hope that there were times when we did. It's fair to say RGB
did more than a few times.
September 13, 2020
Today is Grandparents Day
in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very
blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to
visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the
coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when
they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and
Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught
up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a
precious time in their lives - and ours!
I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same
place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But
we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we
Nana was my maternal grandmother. She was from Boston, a little white
haired lady full of love and good humor. Her husband and my maternal
grandfather died young . My mom was still a teenager. Of course, I
never met him and what I know is what was passed down to me. How I wish
I could have met him.
On my dad's side my paternal grandparents lived long lives. I remember
visiting them in their New York City suburb home of Pellam when I was
about 8. Later when they retired in Arizona I got to visit them as an
adult and learned more about them, the family and especially my
somewhat famous Great-grandfather, Fred Gilbert. Fred was quite the
sharpshooter and was inducted into the Trapshooters Hall of Fame. He
died in 1927, long before I was born, but I have my grandfather's name.
It was passed down through three generations.
Annie Payne, a personal historian in Australia that I've been blessed
to know for many years, wrote recently about remembering our
grandparents. You can find the post on her History from the Heart Facebook page.
In her post she remarks about the importance of her grandmas as major
figures in her life. And Annie also has three of her own grandchildren.
They seem quite delightful.
You can visit Annie Payne's main History from the Heart website to find out more about her personal history services. She's a gifted interviewer and writer.
Tribute in Light for 9-11
September 11, 2020
Every year this date arrives and I am reminded of how rapidly a day can
dawn clear and bright and end dark and somber. In New Mexico that day
in 2001 it was another beautiful September day. Sunny and warm, the
kind of postcard weather that makes living here enjoyable.
Back east, across the miles, New York City also had a sunny morning.
And then chaos and tragedy amidst the terrorist attacks. I've been to
NYC a number of times. In 2001 I was there with my family in June, just
three months prior to the World Trade Towers collapsing as a result of
hijacked airliners flown into them. It was unthinkable. But it happened.
I've been to the 9-11 Memorial. I've stood silently with moist eyes at
the pools built upon ground zero. Names carved into stone, all those
who perished that fateful day.
I am a teacher of fifth graders. Each year when this day comes I find
myself taking time to educate them about what happened. I don't like to
dwell too much on the tragedy. I try to focus more on the the
compassion and heroism of those who responded to the emergency. Life is
precious, all life, and young people need encouragement to face the
future, just as those of us with some gray and wrinkles.
Beams of light shine into the New York City night each September 11. It is known as the Tribute in Light. See more at the 911 Memorial website.
September 9, 2020
days has September - and you know how the rest goes. Thirty days is the
standard for a month, although a few have 31 days. And there's the
outlier February that checks in at 28. Unless it is a Leap Year and we
add another day to the second month of the year.
30 days can be quite a marker. A lot can happen in a month. We are
approaching the thirty day mark for the school year where I teach.
Already? Yes, and it's been quite a ride so far. All distance learning.
Creating a community is not easy with these fifth graders. But we are
giving it a go and starting to gel.
30 days for anyone in recovery is important. Although the key is to
take it one day at a time for any addict or alcoholic who begins a
journey of sobriety, the first thirty days can seem like a very long
time. Congrats to those who reach that point, but don't rest on your
30 days into a new relationship often gives a couple some time to see beyond the initial flush of romance.
30 days with a newborn child is a view into the miracle of new life. Babies change so much in that time.
30 days into a pandemic. Seems like a long time ago.
30 days. Sometimes it is quick, gone in a blink of an eye. At other
times it can feel like a lifetime. Humble Pie had a hit with their
song, Thirty Days in the Hole, a bluesy foot-stompin' rocker about getting busted for doing drugs and trying to make it through a rough patch in jail.
30 days has September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31,
except for February with 28, unless it's a leap year, then one day late.
Remembering Brock and Seaver Baseball Legends
September 7, 2020
I've been a baseball fan all my life. The sweet spot was probably as a
teenager in the early to mid-1970's. Every summer brought the joy of
balls, bats, gloves, running, jumping and high fiving with others as we
celebrated the great American pasttime.
Two of the players I greatly admired were Lou Brock and Tom Seaver. One
was an outfielder and baserunning marvel. The other a pitching
sensation. Both of them were revered by their teams and dubbed "The
Lou Brock started with the Cubs but hit his stride (literally) with the
St. Louis Cardinals. If a team needs a sparkplug at the top of the
lineup to ignite an offense (they do), then Brock was the spark that
lit the fire of several great Cardinal teams. He holds the National
League alltime basestealing record of 938 swiped bags. One year he
stole 118 bases, breaking Maury Wills' season record of 104. Brock was
also an excellent hitter and surpassed 3,000 hits, one of the career
accomplishments often used as a measuring stick for getting voted into
the Hall of Fame.
Tom Seaver was a pitcher of excellence. He helped the hapless New York
Mets become champions. Seaver eventually threw a no-hitter, one of the
greatest accomplishments by any pitcher, but he threw five one-hitters
before finally achieving the no-no. Seaver was with the Cincinnati Reds
at that point in his career and he was facing the Cardinals, so one of
the players who went hitless against him was the great Lou Brock.
Seaver is also a Hall of Famer who won over 300 games, a mark for
pitchers that is akin to 3,000 hits for a position player.
I saw Tom Seaver pitch once while with the Mets against the Dodgers. It
was a thrilling pitcher's duel between "Tom Terrific" and the Dodgers
Don Drysdale. Los Angeles won in extra innings. It was one of the first
major league baseball games I ever saw and a real thrillride for a
Seaver and Brock had a lot of intersecting moments in their careers. No
hitter faced Seaver more times than Brock. No pitcher threw to Brock
more than Seaver. But what we are seeing now that they both passed
within a week of each other (Seaver at the age of 75, Brock at 81) is
how they are remembered as fine human beings and great representatives
of the game (MLB.com story).
Legacy Zoom Writers
September 2, 2020
Okay, show of hands. How many of you knew what Zoom was before the COVID 19 pandemic?
That's what I thought. I have been no stranger to video conferencing,
but to be honest it was Skype, FaceTime or Google Meet for me, or
sometimes one of those fancy webinar platforms like Cisco webex.
But we be Zoom-ing now! Zoom
is one of those video conference tools, like Skype and Google Meet,
that has become extremely popular, even a way of business and
So no surprise that life story writers are finding a way to stay
connected and help writers make their stories become written
realities. I found an inspiring July story about some passionate
seniors who used Zoom to help them collaborate and write their stories.
See it here.
A Secret Goodbye to Life Changed to a Memoir
August 24, 2020
Imbeault never intended to write a memoir. Strange when you consider he
always fancied himself a writer. What eventually became his memoir
actually started as a secret goodbye to his life. He'd decided to end
it all when he found it too difficult to deal with his life trauma and
But a strange thing happened as he began to write about it. The goodbye
note expanded, grew and became something like therapy. It shows once
again that "nothing listens like paper".
It was apparently a long process and there were tears and despair. I am
glad Robert chose to work with a therapist as he continued his writing.
It is dangerous sometimes to go it alone. He states in his article
about writing this memoir, "Sharing in words the worst parts of my life
both in what was done to me and who I’d become because of it sank
me deeper into despair, but resolute, I pushed forward."
Something else he said, "Only the pages knew my words, only the words
knew my feelings", is revealing. Often in journaling I know I am
speaking to myself. At some point, however, we can choose to reveal
parts of our emotional journey.
Robert was encouraged to share his story. It could help others. He
discoverd the truth of that when another man in his men's group told
him he couldn't have found the courage to share his struggles if it
hadn't been for Robert's book (Before I Leave You: A Memoir on Suicide, Addiction and Healing).
That is affirmation for the power of our stories. You write it for
yourself and you write it for others, even people you may not yet know
who will be helped by your story.
First Days, First Things
August 18, 2020
The first days of school are always very busy for teachers, students,
staff, parents and the rest of the families. This year it seems to have
gone to a whole new level.
This is my tenth year as a full-time teacher and my ninth teaching
fifth graders. It is a great age. Ten and eleven year olds are still
full of wonder and curiosity, but they definitely have some
independence and sense of self asserting itself. One of my big jobs is
to teach them to be more organized and responsible. You can
imagine how challenging that is this year with our distance learning
and the pandemic. Everything is remote teaching for now, but we do have
plans to go to a hybrid model with some students coming on alternating
weeks while the rest of the class continues with the remote lessons.
I am finding so many competing priorities for me in these first days of
the new school year. And that is not too different from the start of
organizing a life story project. When you begin the work of a memoir,
autobiography or personal history project there is a lot to consider.
You need to create a memory list of the main topics or areas to cover
in your story. There is a lot of reminiscing and that can be exhausting
as you dig up memories.
Finding photographs, old letters, diaries and journals, family recipes
and even previous writing can create a huge amount of materials.
Reflections on this material is important. And there is the hard
work of the writing. No wonder so many people turn to professionals
like writers and writing coaches or personal historians.
Remember that you have to take it a bit at a time. Firsts things first.
Just like the beginning of a school year as we create and teach
procedures and routines. It is a good idea to develop a schedule and
some routines as you tackle your life story. Commit to a certain amount
of time for reminiscing, using notes or someone who can interview you
and help you process your memories. You should mark out time to do
research, going through old photographs, yearbooks, maybe doing some
First days of any big project, be it a new school year or a life story
project, takes thoughtful planning. But you can do it one step at a
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