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© Tom  Gilbert

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Is Your Underwear on Backwards?

November 30, 2020

You probably read that opening remarks line and thought, “WT…?”

Is My Underwear on Backwards? by Virgene KilbournAdmittedly it was meant to get your attention. And what I want to direct your attention to is a new book that is now available by Virgene E. Kilbourn. The book has the intriguing and humorous title, Is My Underwear On Backwards?

Virgene is a gifted writer with several funny and relatable life story events compiled in her new book. From her childhood to married life and later, she demonstrates her storytelling gift while making you nod your head at something similar or maybe shake it in disbelief. How could so many odd and hilarious events happen in one life?

I was privileged to help Virgene with this book. She brought the stories and did the main writing while I encouraged, coached and helped revise. It was a fun project to collaborate on. Even better, it’s a great read! You can order it online through Amazon and I am confident you’ll find it a very enjoyable read.



Delivering Gratitude

November 26, 2020
Happy Thanksgiving
The 2020 version of the Thanksgiving Holiday is not a typical "Turkey Day". The pandemic is keeping many (not all) at home in small household gatherings. It's the right thing to do to keep from creating coronavirus super-spreader events which inevitably result when too many get together indoors, in close quarters, especially when sharing a meal.

Nevertheless, that is typically the nature of Thanksgiving, minus the spreading of a virus of course. Families and friends together for hours, consuming large quatitites of traditional holiday fixings as well as swapping stories and being together to show our love and gratitude for our many blessings.

At least that's the idea. Sure, there are often dysfunctional and argumentative get-togethers. But that's not the intent of the holiday. The idea with a day of thanks is to remember that all we have is often a blessing, even a gift.

This year my brother-in-law and my wife delivered gratitude. I helped them pack together turkey and ham meals with all the sides. It was Art's idea to do something since we were not going to have the big and festive gathering that we normally do on Thanksgiving Day. After we put together the "care packages" they proceeded to drive around Albuquerque and even to the mountains and Santa Fe. We have siblings, children, parents and friends who were wisely staying home, but who got the safe visit and delivery of a holiday meal. I wasn't able to go with them, but it makes me smile imagining the doorbells, knocks and welcoming faces.

Thanksgiving isn't just the food. It's the intention and the action. Gratitude isn't defined by a fuzzy, feel good sensation. It's shown in doing for others and being with them. Even in a time when we can't be all in the same place we can visit that spacious area of the heart.

Count your blessings and deliver your gratitude greeting in whatever (safe) fashion you can.


Questions Guide Our Learning

Questions guide our learningNovember 16, 2020

I am a school teacher and a personal historian. There are some similarities in the work. One of them is the use of questions.

Questions guide our learning. I firmly believe that. Asking the right questions helps us at the start of learning something new as well as assessing later what we have learned.

When you begin the process of reminiscing about your life and developing the storyline it is good to ask certain questions. One of the most important is Why do you want to tell your story? We all have a story to tell. Determining the reason for preserving that story can be a powerful motivator for getting it done.

Some of the best reasons are to make sense of your life, to pass on some personal history and your values to loved ones, especially your descendants. Some people want to brag. Others are out for revenge (I don't recommend that as motivation). Some are humble, but still feel it is important. Consider the adage, "When a person dies a library burns down."

Along with the reason for creating a life story or memoir, there are questions to help you in the process. To guide you in your developing an outline and scope of story. Determining the right questions will not only help you get started, it will help you continue. A danger for many writing their life story is getting bogged down and losing momentum.

If you do care about your life and experiences and want to preserve them I hope you will pursue it. You don't have to be a great writer, especially if you are preserving memories for yourself or family and close friends. Just write like you talk. You can always find people who specialize in writing to help you. Or you can take the time to develop your ability with workshops and lessons.

Questions guide our learning. And questions also keep us wondering. That's a great gift, staying in awe of our amazing gift of life. So, are you going to tell your story?


Circle of Friends

November 6, 2020

Now more than ever, it is important to have friends. We all need to have real friendships, the kind that hold up under all kinds of conditions. Tried and true friendships lift us up and we all, as the late singer/songwriter Bill Withers said, "need someone to lean on."

Who makes up your circle of friends? What are the things that help you form good and lasting friendships?

An article in Grand Magazine - Who Do You Surround Yourself With? - has some excellent tips. One of the things pointed out in the article is that no matter how old you are you should never stop making and keeping friends. For those of us in our more "golden years" this should be encouraging.

The article also points out that who we surround ourselves with is very important. Your circle of friends should include those who have shared ideas and interests. Sure, that makes sense. But I would also point out that real friends are able to discuss their differences in an open-minded way and with respect. Boy do we need to see more of that modeled in society!

The author, Jerry Witkovsky adds another important point, that we all need to willing to learn from each other. "Age is not a factor; it’s about connecting around ideas and an openness to enriching someone else’s life and allowing them to enrich yours. You can choose to grow and learn starting right now."


Election Day 2020

November 3, 2020

Election Day - I voted The day is here. Election Day in the United States. Our country is a democracy and set up so that the people choose their representatives in elections. This is done on local, county, state and national levels. Every year there is an election day,

Every four years the stakes are higher. Every four years is an election for the Presidency. For a long time the world has looked at the United States as one of the most powerful countries with a wide-reaching influence. This year has been highly publicized, politicized, debated, discussed, argued over and it is going to be closely watched.

As a life story site and in my role as both life story encourager and 5th grade elementary educator I feel it is important to celebrate our freedoms and to note the importance of each election.

The voting age in the USA was lowered to 18 as an extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1970. The 26th Amendment to the Constitution ratified in 1971 upheld the rights of 18 and older to vote. I turned 18 at the end of 1973 so I couldn't vote until 1974. My first opportunity to vote in a presidential election was 1976. I haven't missed one of these election day opportunities since.

People like to say if you don't vote then you get what you get and can't complain. I know a number of people have become disillusioned by the process, by I strive to avoid cynicism.

This year's election seems to be generating record turnouts. A lot of people have voted early or by absentee ballot, many motivated by concerns over crowds in a pandemic. A valid concern in my view and I voted by mail.

It is good to see lots of people exercising their right to vote. Nevertheless, I am concerned by how divided our nation seems to be. I am hoping for better days and more working together instead of opposition and no compromise. Call me an optimist.

Here's to freedom to choose. Here's to participating in life and living each day in recognition of our values, our many blessings, and our hope. It takes all of us. You have a right to your beliefs and you can choose who you associate with, but I sure hope that we are all awakening to the importance of bringing about good in our world. Your life story hopefully will reflect that you did your part, you did your best and you see that your story and our stories matter.


Helen Jones Woods and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm 

October 29, 2020

Living to 96 is an accomplishment for anyone. Helen Jones Woods passed away recently, another 2020 casualty of COVID-19. But in her passing she leaves a legacy as one strong and independent woman who lived a full life.

In addition to being a member of an all female instrumental swing band, she spent time as a nurse and a teacher's aide. She felt called to help people, such as problem children who often need a lot of love and compassion. She must have been cut out for that job. She self-proclaimed herself "the director of hugs and kisses."

It sounds like she was quite a wonderful woman (The Improbable Life of Helen Jones Woods and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Megan Mayhew Bergman, posted to New Yorker Magazine). I love to hear the life stories about people like Helen Jones Woods. It affirms for me once again that many people are living extraordinary lives. And that even in so-called normal lives people can be extraordinary in how they live, full of care for others and using their talents.

Certainly Woods was talented. In the 1930s and 40's she toured with a record-breaking and racially integrated all female swing band. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was an instrumental group that toured the world. She played trombone and joined the group at the young age of fourteen! The group had members from five different races, a real testimony of diversity creating something greater than the individual parts. They toured extensively and to packed venues. 

The touring was not without challenges. They dealt with discrimination and Woods added working for civil rights to her life resume. An impressive life and one worthy of remembering and taking cues from. The best lead by example and it sounds like Woods did that very well.

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