Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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Journaling Check Up
July 18, 2018
Although I may not be as regular in some kinds of writing, including here on my blog for Your Life Is Your Story, one area that I am faithful to writing nearly everyday is in my journal.
I have been keeping journals for years. I have used both handwritten
journals and digital. I like writing on a computer because I can type
pretty fast and it helps me get my thoughts out. Handwritten journals
have their advantages too, such as being more readily available,
portable and allowing for doodling and illustrations. I enjoy keeping
my journal writing on files that I can return to and reflect on.
Journal writing reflection can be helpful in a lot of ways. Check out an article I wrote about this very subject back in 2013. I think it still has timely points.
Journals are not necessarily for anyone else to read, although they
could be. Some people turn journals into memoirs. It certainly can be a
helpful record for inspiration when writing life stories.
I find that I will write about a lot of different things in my journal
entries. Usually it is a conversation with myself and not something I
would make public. Sometimes it is deeply spiritual. At other times I
may be musing more about events in my daily life or what is going on
with family and friends. There have been times when my journal entries
have led to inspiration for articles or other written pieces. The
freedom to write whatever I want and to sort of test it out by getting
the thoughts from my head to the page (or screen) is often therapeutic.
Do I ever write my feelings or observations about what is happening on
a more global scale? Yes, sometimes, but it is not that often that I
will get political. I guess it just depends on what is happening in the
world that strikes a nerve and that I feel I need to process with
writing. In other words, for me, my journals are not necessarily
It is totally up to you what you make your journals about. I find that
keeping a positive outlook on life, even through various struggles and
having gratitude be an ongoing theme helps me as both a writer and a
Journal writing can certainly help you grow as a writer. Like anything
that needs practice writing benefits and improves over time when you do
it regularly. So if for no other reason than to grow as a writer I will
continue to journal. But I know that I am doing it for more than the
benefit of honing my writing skill. I journal write so that I can help
make sense of life and that makes it an ongoing adventure.
On the Road With Kin
July 8, 2018
"On the road again, I just can't wait to get on the road again." So
sang Willie Nelson in one of his more popular songs. Borrowing from
that theme, summertime is often when many families get on the road for
vacation, driving to various destinations.
Road trips with family (on the road with kin) can be both enjoyable and
stressful. Mostly they are memorable, thanks to the good times and the
bad. Anyone who has driven long distances with their children can
attest to the highs and lows of such travel. You know the oft repeated
weary refrain: "Are we there yet?"
Anyone who has seen the hilarious road trip comedy National Lampoon's Vacation recognizes that not all goes according to plans, no matter how well you prepare.
I've been following the exploits of a somewhat epic road vacation by a
teacher friend of mine. She, her husband and two adorable little girls
have been all over the Eastern portion of the United States the past
month. It is a long journey from New Mexico. But from the many social
media posts I can tell they are having a vacation for the ages. Surely
the girls will long remember the many places they've been and the good
times with relatives.
Recently my brother took his 16 year old son on a long trip from
Virginia to the midwest. They started by bus because one of the goals
was to pickup an important purchase. My brother was buying a vintage
1986 Trans Am for his son and then they were driving it back home. But
as part of the journey they made stops in places like Chicago,
Indianapolis and Cleveland. The "Windy City", Indy 500 racetrack
and Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame are worthy stops along the way. I am sure
both father and son will never forget the road trip, expecially the
bonding resulting from such experiences.
Road trips give us a chance to expand our horizons, both figuratively
and literally. We get out of our normal routines and we spend many
miles in each other's company. The travels are about seeing new or old
places, but also living lives of adventure. This nurtures our spirits
and forges strong bonds. And that contributes to our life experiences
and can make us better, even more appreciative, people.
Let Me Tell You About the Ride to Telluride
June 28, 2018
The fabulous Telluride Bluegrass Festival
took place last week, starting on Thursday, June 21 and concluding on
Sunday, June 24. If you are not familiar with either Telluride or the
annual bluegrass festival then let me tell you about the ride to Telluride.
This ride began for me some thirty-five years ago. I was working in
radio back then and really just getting started in the business. Some
friends came along as we drove north from Albuquerque through scenic
forests and very winding and twisting mountain roads to reach our
destination. It was both exhilerating and frightening as we climbed to
over 11,000 feet in some places and hugged the mountainside through
places like Red Mountain Pass and the quaint village of Ouray.
Into the Colorado Rockies with jagged peaks and down into an old mining
town of Telluride we drove. A group of us split the cost of a condo in
town that nestled up to the mountainside with a lovely little creak
running right by the backporch. Just being there was half the fun. But
the music - oh, the music - is what makes the bluegrass festival so
I am still a little fuzzy about that first time there. I was young, and
let's just say a bit Rocky Mountain High. But looking through the archives from Planet Bluegrass
I think I can narrow it down to between 1981 and 1983. Some of the
great acts that played those years were David Bromberg, the late-great
John Hartford, Leon Russell, Delbert McClinton, Steve Goodman, Peter
Rowan, Norman Blake, New Grass Revival and a host of others. Grinnin'
and pickin'; rockin' and rollin'. It was a grand time.
This past weekend I finally returned to Telluride, this time older,
maybe a bit wiser, a little less wild, but still quite appreciative of
the beauty and enjoyment of it all. This was the 45th annual festival
and it was a great experience. I especially enjoyed Sturgill Simpson
closing out the festival with a very electric and energetic set on
We are all on a ride in life. Going back to Telluride was a highwater
mark for me and one I will treasure. Making time and spending money on
"experiences" is more important to me than "things". I am so very
grateful for the ride.
When People and Places Make History
June 26, 2018
When certain people go places and leave their mark it can be
historic. So much so that the place becomes associated with the person.
Washington crossing the Delaware. Reagan and the Berlin Wall. Or
John Wayne and Ridgway, Colorado.
Okay, admittedly that last reference may be lost on you. Unless, like
me, you have been to Ridgway and even had a bite to eat at the True Grit Cafe. I was there a couple of days ago enjoying a Colorado getaway. My wife and I haven't had a chance to take a vacation with just the two of us in quite a while. So we did. And believe me, it was a wonderful time.
of that time was spent in Ridgway. It turns out this colorful Colorado
town in Ouray County amidst amazing Rocky Mountains was a key setting
for many scenes of the classic western film, True Grit. The
movie featured an all star cast of John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim
Darby, Bruce Dern and Robert Duvall. "The Duke" (Wayne) even won an
Oscar for his performance.
The town is proud of its connection to the film and John Wayne, but the place is more than its western movie classic claim to fame. We really enjoyed our time there with the beautiful mountains.
This got me thinking about how certain places can garner attention and
fame because of who spent time in their location and why. Isn't this
part how personal history works with our own
stories? Think of the places you've lived or visited. These places are
part of your life story. They may not be historically famous, but
they are important to you and perhaps to others who discover your own
special life story. This is worth considering when you write about your
I know that our trip to Colorado with time well spent in Ridgway is now part of my story. The dots between True Grit (which I saw when it was originally in theaters in 1969) and our summer visit in 2018 are now connected.
What are the places you've been that are important to your life and story?
It's a Summertime Thing
June 21, 2018
Today is the Summer Solstice (for those of us in the Northern
Hemisphere). The longest day of the year. The most sunlight in a
twenty-four hour period, and here in New Mexico plenty of heat.
Summer is a good time of year. As the saying goes, "the living is
easy." I find myself taking in life at a bit slower pace. Enjoying time
off from teaching, being with friends and family, but also getting some
satisfaction out of solitude.
Summer can be times of vacation with traveling and can bring its own
set of life circumstances. I am grateful I am not dealing with any
airports this summer. But I will take a couple of road trips. One of
them is to Santa Fe this evening to see some live music on the historic
downtown plaza. I am extremely excited to see one of my favorites this
evening. Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express will play on this first
day of summer for the Santa Fe Bandstand concert series.
If you are not familiar with Chuck Prophet
I encourage you to check out some of his music. He's a very talented
singer and songwriter with pathos, insight, fun and rock n' roll. His
latest album is Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins. It's been on high frequency play in my car for months.
Another older Prophet song that works especially well for this today and this time or year is Summertime Thing. You can get the vibe here.
Happy Pappy Day
June 17, 2018
Today is Father's Day. I got a text this morning from a longtime friend
who has two grown children, a son and daughter, about the same ages as
my kids. "Happy Pappy Day!" was the message.
addition to feeling good about the text, it got me thinking about being
a father and all the names we use to refer to this parental role.
There's the formal father,
but that's a bit stuffy for me. I like dad, daddy, pops and papa. I
don't usually get called "Pappy", but it was fun to be addressed that
way from my friend.
Being a dad is a responsibility, a job and an honor. It's not easy, but
any parent, be it a mother or father, will assert that. It is, however,
the best. Raising kids is in many ways what life is really all about.
While we teach them they are returning the favor. It doesn't always
feel like a lesson, especially when we wade into those difficult waters
of discipline. But in the end being a dad is just, well, awesome!
What can we, the fathers in the world, best do for our kids? Is it take
them fishing, play catch or go to Disneyland? Yes, all of that is
wonderful, but what we really need to do is be there. The best present for any kid is the care and love that we give by just being present to them!
Sometimes I feel pressure to have deep, meaningful heart-to-heart talks
with my daughter and son. It's best, however, to let that happen
organically. It doesn't mean to miss the opportunity to tell them what
they mean to you. But we have to remember that having those heart talks
happens best out of times when we are just hanging out together. Don't
ever let those opportunities pass or you might end up like the father
Harry Chapin sings about in Cats in the Cradle.
My dad passed away half a dozen years ago and I do miss him. We had our
differences, the natural tug-of-war that most fathers and sons engage
in. He was stoic and didn't easily show his emotions, being a military
man and of another generation. That's okay. I still got to know him and
really see him. He was human and I learned to let him get down from the
pedestal I put him on. He could be tough, but also tender. Hard on me
at times, and then incredibly silly.
So to all the fathers a big shout out to you. Know that you have the gift of children with all that entails. Happy Pappy Day!
Anthony Bourdain - Storyteller
June 12, 2018
The news of Anthony Bourdain's death, another sad instance of suicide,
has garnered a lot of media attention. Our society seems to have
an insatiable appetite for celebrity news, even and especially maybe
for the darker side of things.
Despite whatever demons brought Bourdain to take his own life, the
positives that are coming from his passing are that more people are
discovering his zeal for life and for learning about and sharing his
experiences with other cultures and peoples. Bourdain was popular for
his various television journalistic exploits that combined travel, food
and story. He was quite good at all of this.
I am one of those people who had never really explored his work, his
writing and his story telling. I suppose that's a shame, except that it
is never too late to discover the benefits that can come from learning
about other people, be it the stories shared by a
journalist/adventurer/food connoisseur like Bourdain, or from your
friends and family members. We all have a life and stories to tell and
the more that we appreciate, understand and do this, the better the world will be (in my humble opinion).
At any rate, I have taken some time the past couple of days to learn
more about the life of Anthony Bourdain. I've watched some episodes of Parts Unknown,
his popular CNN program that takes us on multicultural journeys of food
and people, and I've been reading some articles. I just finished two
from The New Yorker. Both were published when the news broke of Bourdain's death. They were Anthony Bourdain and the Power of Telling the Truth by Helen Rosner and Travels with Anthony Bourdain
by Patrick Radden Keefe. They gave me more insight into Bourdain's life
and personality, but you can certainly draw your own conclusions from
watching Bourdain's shows.
It is always hoped that anyone who feels the darkness closing in too
much and begins to contemplate ending life will reach out for help.
Surely seeking help is one of the hardest and bravest things they can
do. Suicide is a growing problem, especially in the United States, with
young and old alike. Prevention measures can be taken. It
requires interacting with those who can give help and certainly that
can be easier said than done. But it can be done with a phone call or
even a text (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255).
If you need help - get help. And if you can give help, then do so.
Never underestimate the power and value of offering a kind
word or a compassionate ear.
June 8, 2018
With apologies to the Beatles and Hey Jude,
I titled this post "Hey June" because in many ways the month of
June is, for me, the most important month of the year. Let me unpack
that for you.
of all, as a teacher the month of June brings the long anticipated
summer break. Kids love having summer and no school, but teachers also
welcome the respite from the classroom. Don't be fooled by the myth
that teachers actually have all summer off. Oh, no, we are busy with
lesson plans, professional development and the all important reflection
on our teaching philosophies, classroom management and ways to make
education more meaningful, purposeful and even fun!
However, we do get some down time, and to me that is one of the most
important and needed things in the life of an educator. During the
school year the days are tightly packed and there is little
discretionary time. Heck, if we get ten minutes to wolf down a sandwich
at lunch that's pretty good. And little things like bathroom
breaks are few and far between.
So, yes, one week into June I am definitely enjoying the ability to go for a long walk, do some pleasure
reading, or just sit and relax. This morning I was at an open space in
the North Valley of Albuquerque, along the Rio Grande, where I got to
sit quietly for twenty minutes and watch ducks float across a pond and
dragonflies dance along the watery surface. Pretty nice.
June is the halfway mark of a calendar year, so it is a good time to
assess how life is going for 2018. I do a lot of journaling and it is
often in June that I write more often and go back and read entries
from previous years, especially those written in the month of June.
I am frequently surprised at the number of significant events that have
happened (or continue to happen) during June. Four birthdays of
relatives, three of which are nephews who also happen to be godsons. A
couple of wedding anniversaries, some graduations, and memories of my
first hire as a teacher in 2011 (I am now seven years into this later
career in life). I ran my first half-marathon in San Diego in June of
2006, and I celebrate a sobriety anniversary this month, too (27 years
come June 22). Additionally, June marks life passings. It is hard to
believe it will be a dozen years since my mother died come June 15. And
the news of my wife's aunt about to make the transition from earthly
life has been with us for over a week. She is still hanging on, but
fortunately is surrounded by love ones and appears to be at peace.
It is so very important to reflect on life and appreciate all that we
get to experience. Yes, of course, it is one day at a time, but over
the years those life events accumulate. The good times and the bad are
all part of the tapestry of living. The best way to view it is through
eyes of gratitude.
So, thank you, June. Like the Beatles Hey Jude, we take it (life) and make it better, better, better...yeah!
has a story to tell!
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