Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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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!
War Memorials Revisited
May 28, 2018
Today is the Memorial Day Holiday
in the United States. Originally started to honor fallen soldiers of
the Civil War, it is now a day to remember all those who have served in
the military and gave their lives fighting against tyranny and to
keep our freedoms.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article about war memorials. There
are many war memorials in the United States. A few, such as the
Vietnam Wall, are in Washington D.C. On the National Mall you
can find the World War II Memorial and the Korean War Veterans
Memorial. In New Mexico where I live there is a Memorial Park in
Albuquerque and also a very impressive Vietnam Vets Memorial and Chapel
in Angel Fire.
are created to help us remember. They are visible testimonials. When we
reflect on the lives of people killed in war it is important to
recognize the importance of service. Perhaps someday wars will end and
we will have lasting peace. So many men and women have given their
lives in pursuit of this, to fight to keep us free. The average life
expectancy these days is around 80 years. Not so for many soldiers who
died in the prime of their lives. Warriors have to be prepared to die
| read more |
Brennan Manning and Finding Grace Through Darkness
May 23, 2018
A quote from Brennan Manning
that I posted in 2010 popped up on my Facebook account today. You know
how you get reminded of things you previously posted? Well this
particular quote is a powerful one, and it reminded me that through
many troubled travels we often find grace and light that make life
deeper and more meaningful that we'd previously known.
The quote was: "To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light
side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what
God's grace means."
Manning certainly knew what he was talking about. Many people have
found great spiritual solace and insight from the "Ragamuffin Gospel"
message he shared with so many. Despite his difficult battles with his
alcoholism he kept a kind and compassionate heart, especially for the
poor and lonely.
I read his memoir, All Is Grace,
a few years ago, and it really moved me. What Manning reminds us is
that we are going to have hard times, just as we will have good times
in life. And all of it is important. If we can embrace the journey and
be grateful and grow from it, even better, share it with others, we
then help other people on their life journey.
British Royals and American Fascination
May 16, 2018
Americans love celebrities and it seems we ratch it up another notch
when it comes to the British Royal Family. Americans are fascinated
with them, especially the younger ones as they get married and have
The royal wedding for Meghan and Harry is Saturday, May 19, and some
people will be up at three or four in the morning to watch the event
live on TV, or the "telly" as the Brits call it.
So what's the big deal? I am not enamored with it all, but I admit to
sort of following the news. So I decided to search on the
Internet about this fascination and Google included a link to a
post on StudyBreaks, 8 Reasons Why Americans Are Obsessed With The British Royal Family.
Some of the reasons make sense to me, such as the royals are a bit like
a real-life fairytale, the human element, how we've watched them grow
up over the years, and all the history between America and England.
Of course, the fact that Meghan Markle, the bride-to-be, happens to be
an American contributes to the fascination. Are you planning on
watching the wedding? If so, will you be writing about it, perhaps in
your journal or diary? Maybe it will be part of a memoir and give
future generations insight into what you thought was such big celebrity
Humans of (insert city here) are Telling Their Stories
May 8, 2018
I've been following Humans of New Mexico
on my Facebook feed. I live in "The Land of Enchantment" and the
stories of people here are interesting to me. The group has a purpose
of collecting and sharing the oral histories of everyday New Mexicans.
Since I like the phrase everybody has a story this is something I can certainly appreciate and promote.
New Mexicans are a diverse bunch. New Mexico did not achieve statehood
until 1912, but it was a U.S. Territory for a long time. Previous to
that it was part of New Spain. Residents of the state come from that
rich heritage, along with Native Americans (quite a few different and
fascinating pueblos), immigrants, and an assortment of transplants from
other states (like me).
There is also an interesting part of the Old West that makes up our
state's legacy. Think ranchhands, cattle rustlers, dancehall divas and
gunslingers. Tradition has it Billy the Kid died in New Mexico, but not
before making his mark.
I think Humans of New York was the first "Humans of" group. It is a pretty fascinating photoblog and collection of stories gathered from many interviews.
The idea of capturing life stories from everyday people through oral
history and photographs is one excellent way to preserve people's
personal history. I like to craft longer narratives, but the shorter
oral format works well, especially in this day and age when not a lot
of people pick up a book (sad to say).
If you haven't already checked out some of the stories found on HONY or
HONM and other similar sites, please do. These are powerful platforms
to learn about our fellow humans.
has a story to tell!
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