Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products,
...and whatever else catches our fancy
past entries - see the blog
Life Lessons from Your Story
January 24, 2020
One of the powerful reasons for people to write about their life
experiences and share their stories is that everyone learns lessons
from certain situations they have been in. I call them valuable life
Teaching elementary kids about the power of story can be really fun.
Each year I typically guide my fifth grade class through a project that
teaches them about their family. I get them to consider who they are
and what they are like in the context of their parents, grandparents
and other family members. In order for them to fully appreciate this I
ask them to pick a family elder and interview them.
This year I asked my students to get the elder to tell them a story
about a particular time and experience in their life that taught them a
valuable lesson. Then I have the students summarize this in a personal
Some do this writing better than others. I want them all to try to have
a well written essay and I give them lots of feedback. But even if the
end result is not that well written they still learn from the process.
It is really important that young people learn from elders. They need
to learn how to respectfully ask questions and then listen carefully.
Hopefully when they finish their essay they have thought about the life
lesson passed on to them by their family elder. Surely this can be one
way to encourage these future adults and help them understand that we
all learn from our life.
Someone I think is really good at this is Rolland Love. He's an author
of a few books about life experiences growing up in the Ozarks. Just
about every year I read The Blue Hole
aloud to my class and they get a kick out of the two main characters,
brothers Tommy and Dub, and what they go through in the woods in an
engaging and fun mystery novel. Rollad will admit it is based on things
he learned from his elders actual life experiences.
Rolland Love is also active in promoting capturing life stories. His
approach is to have school children interview their grandparents. I
just love how this enriches the special bond that grandparents have
with their grandchildren. There is even a site that Love helped develop
where people can upload their stories. It's called I'm a Story and you can visit it at imastory.com.
I met Rolland several years ago in Kansas City where he resides. We've
stayed in touch over the years and I just marvel at what he is doing in
his golden years. He is a quality elder who stays very active and
involved with others. Plus, he's got a great sense of humor and writes
in the style similar to Mark Twain. Check out his Amazon page to see more of his books.
Two Words of Advice for Parents and Grandparents
January 19, 2020
I was reading the Winter issue of Grand,
a magazine dedicated to grandparents living the ageless life.
There are always lots of interesting interviews and articles. One
caught my eye by Karen L. Rancourt (aka dr. gramma karen - not sure why
she doesn't capitalize her column name, but maybe to show some humility
while advising) titled, The key to successful parent-grandparent relationships in two words. Okay, I'll bite.
She suggests that dealing with the sometimes delicate interactions
between parents and grandparents over the children means respecting
each other's boundaries, being good influences, modeling behavior that
you want those children to learn and understanding our roles. Since I
have lived as a child, grandchild, parent and grandparent I think she's
on to something.
Her two words of advice are different for the grandparents than they
are for the parents. Grands need to learn when they should "zip-it!"
Our role as a grandparent is to be supportive and helpful, but we
have to respect the parents' responsibility for raising their children,
as long as they are safe and being properly nurtured.
The parents two-word zinger is "lighten up!" For sure. Remember
that parenting is hard, but it is the most important "job" in the
world. Things aren't always going to go the way you plan. And parenting
is a lifelong learning experience. So give the grandparents some leeway
and remember that they've been there, done that and typically want the
best for their children and grandchildren.
I thought it was a good read with some great insight and you can view it online here.
Your Circle of Influence
January 17, 2020
You may think there are not many people you influence, but upon careful examination you could be surprised.
All of us move in circles of family members, friends, acquaintances and
strangers. Our level of influence on any of them can vary. And
sometimes we are unaware of the influence. It certainly can be
different depending on whether they are friends or just aquaintances.
We are not very far into the year 2020, but already a lot has happened
in my circles. I have learned about some family changes and those
been positive. At the same time, a couple of people in my work circles
are suffering from the sudden loss of young family members. And
we all know how stressful some of the news happening in our world is
right now and how that affects us and the people in our circles.
I believe that many of us have positive impact on others that we are
unaware of. Maybe sometime down the road you might find out that you
helped a person through something in life. This happens with teachers
who discover years later that a student's life was changed because of
their experience with that teacher, maybe because of just one school
year. I can also think of the many musicians and writers who have
influenced me in my lifetime. Most of them I have never had any
personal contact with and it was their contributions in their art that
somehow connected and resonated with me.
Your circle of influence is important. Never take it for granted.
Remember what Maya Angelou said about this: "I've learned that people
will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people
will never forget how you made them feel."
On the Train
December 30, 2019
I have a friend, he's one of those "one day at a time" guys, and he is
fond of living his life like's on the train. Note, I didn't say, a train. THE train, as in the way he travels through life.
I like this idea and most days I try to be on the train.
It's typically a good feeling, especially when the day is progressing
serenely. Of course, whether it is a smooth day or not, how I ride
these rails depends a lot on my spiritual condition.
So my friend just reminds me that The Train is the way to go. You don't need a ticket, you just get on board (to quote a song).
People get ready. There's a train a-comin'. It's the 2020
Express. Only a couple of more stops left on the old 2019. As is
customary at the end of a calendar year, people get reflective. We look
back and consider those promises and resolutions we made on the first
stop or two of this year's train ride. How'd that work out for you?
We also consider the events and happenings that came down the pike, the
ones we didn't necessarily put in our planners because we had no idea
they were coming. I
find that those things have a whole lot to do with our progress.
Often they are the "tests" for our so-called resolutions. You
want to be more disciplined about working out? Fine, try the
debilitating disease or accident that lays you up for a while, followed
by the very real pain of rehabilitation. That's some kind of work out.
Same thing goes for loss, any kind of loss. It could be a loved one, a
job, one of your senses (lessened eyesight can be particularly
Brothers and Sisters, remember that whatever ride 2019 took you on, how
you responded to it, lived it and appreciated it is going to have a lot
to do with how your take in the scenery once you board 2020.
I don't make resolutions anymore. I make the plans I need to, but I go
with the flow and I remember that everything is connected and it's all
spiritual. I am getting ready to board this new train, find my
seat, connect to the other passengers, and be grateful that we're all
going somewhere and it's bound to be an adventure.
Winter Soul Tis
December 22, 2019
I admit it. I
am a sucker for clever wordplay. It’s the Winter Solstice, the shortest
day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. That means we will
start having more light each day as we go through the long and cold
nights of winter.
‘Tis the season of holidays. These can be joyful and bright. Or for
some, they can be kind of difficult. It is not unusual for people to be
depressed when there is less sunlight. But we also need spiritual light.
I guess it is a bit ironic that in the joyful season of giving so many
can also find it depressing. But that is real life. And having some
somber times when we remember loved ones who have passed is not to be
ignored or disparaged. Grief is part of losing loved ones. Today is the
four year anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law. He was always
very good to me and I do miss him. So, too do his family members.
Keep in mind that when your time has come what you have left behind in the way of letters,
words and deeds can be very impactful. Consider writing down your thoughts for your loved ones in the form of a legacy letter.
| read more |
Legacy Letters Pass on Values
December 9, 2019
Not to be morbid, but you really need to think about what you want your
loved ones to know about how you feel about them before you die.
Leaving a letter or document that passes on your values is not a new
idea. Legacy letters, also known as ethical wills, have been around for
thousands of years.
A legacy letter is a deeply life-affirming way to pass on your love and
values. It can be a document, book or recording - or any combination
thereof - that becomes a treasured personal history item whose value is
Getting guidance and help with this is the mission of Legacy Letters.
Leah Dobkin guides you through this process and helps you create
a lasting and memorable legacy letter that passes on values and not
Find out more
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