Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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Memoir and Imagination
July 7, 2020
Memoir has been defined as factual stories about someone's life.
Further, it is considered a writing form that covers a specific aspect
of the writer's life. This gives the writer a freedom to better explore
the themes that have been influential in their life. Unlike an
autobiography that follows a chronological timeline a memoir might take
a particular period of life and focus on challenges faced and lessons
I find that more liberating. Facts and details are still important, but
reasons, motivation and purpose also come into play. But how important
is it to be truthful?
The truth in your memoir is important, even vital. Stretching the truth
to the point of fiction moves a memoir into the territory of novel.
Presenting a novel as the truth can land a writer into some hot water
as James Frey, author of the best-selling A Million Little Pieces
discovered when he first passed off his story as memoir and later was
caught up in a scandal when it was discovered much of it was
fabricated. The book has since been marketed as a semi-fictional novel.
See the Wikipedia article for more.
Jim Carrey, the comedian who parlayed his funnyman persona and antics
into a successful movie career, has just released a memoir of sorts, Memoirs and Misinformation.
He states from the beginning that the story, co-authored with Dana
Vachon, is a novel. Carrey is the protaganist facing his fantasies
and demons as a movie star still seeking ultimate meaning and success
beyond dollars and adoration. It is based on much of his life and
sounds pretty entertaining.
Mixing fact and fiction certainly can be entertaining and clever. But
caution should be exercised if your goal with a memoir is to present a
truthful life story. Does everything you write have to be perfectly
factual? I don't think so. After all, memory can be selective and
sometimes we can't remember every detail with precision. However, it
does seem to me important that you aren't deliberately distorting
things, especially for ulterior motives.
I believe memoir can be a valuable journey of discovery. Your truth is
what you honestly discover and present to your reader. Using your
imagination to enhance the story and make it more readable should be
acceptable. Just don't stretch the facts beyond what really happened.
Too much imagination and you no longer have your story.
If you are contemplating writing a memoir, or have already begun the
process, keep in mind that this will take real work and time. But it
can be done. I have frequently found inspiration and detailed help from
the many articles and resources presented by The Memoir Network.
Calling Forth A Different Kind of 4th of July
July 4, 2020
Independence Day 2020. But clearly this is not a typical 4th of July.
This year we are dealing with one challenge after another. The pandemic
fallout affects us socially, economically, physically, mentally,
emotionally, and it appears even politically.
Time to focus on more than hot dogs, flags and fireworks.
If we are to be the United
States of America then it takes a group effort. Diversity means that
not all is the same. We can celebrate some differences and find
strength in pulling from different perspectives.
But we must not let our differences divide us so that we don't work
together to finally help bring about the ideals upon which our nation
It is good that we are raising awareness along with raising American
flags. Action needs to follow, the kind of action that results in more
caring for each other and more helping each other. It should be
apparent that requires sacrifices. It means we don't take advantage of
others for our personal gain. Anyone who is against a vision of equal
rights regardless of race, creed, gender or human dignity does not
represent the vision of a country that is supposed to uphold
self-evident truths that we are all entitled to liberty and a pursuit
It's getting late, but it is not too late to call forth a different kind of 4th.
A Year for 2020
June 29, 2020
2020 has become the “Year of the Pandemic”. But the
and tribulations brought about by the worldwide Covid 19 virus are only
part of the story.
Unrest over racial injustice, police brutality, economic inequality, a
struggle for civil rights for all and the very welfare of our planet in
the face of ongoing climate change consequences are putting
and obstacles” right in our face.
Never in my lifetime have we had a year with so much upheaval. Yes,
some of these problems have been around for a long time, but it appears
that it’s coming to a head. We may not want to see it. It can
hard to look at the truth of what needs to change and what needs to be
done. But we ignore it at our own peril. Thus the sage saying,
“If nothing changes, nothing changes.”
How ironic that this is all happening this year. 2020 vision is the
term for visual acuity, the clarity or sharpness of vision measured at
20 feet. If you have 20-20 vision you don’t need corrective
lenses. You have good eyesight. This year we really need to see clearly.
| continue reading here
Feedback From Foo Fighters Father
June 25, 2020
This is a followup to Father's Day. I came across an essay written by
Dave Grohl, the musician (drummer with Nirvana, guitarist/frontman, et
al for the band Foo Fighters) where he delves honestly and openly into
his sometimes frustrating relationship with his father. As a rebellious
punk rocker kid he gave his more conservative dad some difficult times.
His father, James Harper Grohl, was an award-winning journalist with
many other talents. He was a sometimes actor and a classically trained
musician. He was also quite conservative. And they had some difficulty
over the years communicating. Man, I could really relate to the essay.
In reading it my own challenges talking with my father came to mind. He
was also conservative, highly intelligent and a rockstar Air Force
bomber and fighter jet pilot. We had a few clashes. But mostly we just
had a hard time communicating. I really wanted to have some honest and
nurturing conversations with my dad. That admittedly was probably hard
for my dad to see given my often rebellious attitude.
My pop passed in 2012, but something from Dave Grohl's essay struck me
- reminded me - that my dad did eventually reach out and "talk" in a
richer and deeper way. It was just that the talking was through letters
and emails. We never did have the face-to-face, heart-to-hearts. But
the writing, all after my mom passed away in 2006, was thoughtful,
supportive and encouraging, in the best way that my father could do
In Grohl's essay he relates how his father didn't think Dave would
amount to anything as a rebel rocker. Until Dave wrote an achingly
powerful, tear-stained note to his father that brought about a newfound
respect from his dad and made an opening for a relationship that
eventually grew in depth and love. He got the validation he was seeking
and it came in the form of a few simple, written words, a response to
Dave's angry "I'm leaving home and I'll show you!" note.
His father wrote, "Your writing has punch, David. Punch is power!" As
Dave relates, it was validation, much needed as a "fledgling writer"
and aspiring music artist.
We all need to hear encouragement and honest feedback from our parents.
We need it from our families, from teachers, from mentors and even from
our critics. It is something I've personally valued. It is something
that I hope I am doing for others as well.
June 20, 2020
parents well, their father's hell will slowly go by
And feed them with your youth, they seek the truth before they die"
-- Crosby, Stills
Let's face it, Father's Day, like virtually every holiday or
significant calendar date since March, is different this year.
Different because we are dealing with so many impactful situations,
from the coronavirus to renewed calls to reform systemic racism and the
protection of the rights of all people regardless of race, color, creed
What does it mean to be a father this year? It's a question I am asking
myself. And my answer is to double down on the values I hold dear. I
can't hold those values without a faith that it all matters and is part
of Something Bigger.
The great life lesson happening this year is that we are continuing to
face struggles and persecution. We are continuing to grapple with what
it means to be members of a society and caretakers of our common home
(planet Earth). And we are learning how to not give up in the face of
We are in this together. Sticking to a self-centered viewpoint or
living only to take care of "number one" just doesn't cut it.
I am so grateful for fatherhood. Somehow, despite my many shortcomings,
I see with pride how my children have grown into responsible and loving
adults. I know there are many factors that have contributed to this
result. I am just a part of a much bigger picture.
One of the things we all need to do is extend some grace and
forgiveness to each other. We all make mistakes. Making amends - that
is, mending our ways - is part of that. I know there are things I could
have done better. I don't wallow in remorse. Instead I commit to do
better. Remember, when you know better then your responsibility is to do better.
Thank you to all the fathers. Thank you to their fathers, and the
fathers before them. Thank you for the rest of the family and friends
who help us on our way.
June 19 2020
It has become more and more apparent to me, a second career elementary
school teacher, that much of what I was taught in my young schooling
was skewed to perspectives that favor the historical "ruling class".
And every year I learn more from digging deeper into our past so that I
can become better educated to the truth.
How can anyone teach someone unless they first do some of their own
learning? The education of white people to the reality of our
controversial history is not the responsibility of our brothers and
sisters of other skin tones. I thank them, however, for continuing to
raise their voices.
is an independence day for African-Americans. The United States marked
its independence as a new nation on July 4, 1776. But that was
independence of colonists from England. The time honored document
containing this declaration stated, "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is apparent to anyone
who cares to find out that it unfortunately did not include
African-American slaves, just as it also didn't really encompass
the Creator-endowed rights of Native Americans, children or women.
It is shameful that it is taking so long for enough of society to
awaken to this truth and do something about it. Yet there is great hope
in the lifting of so many voices in this most trying year. It
just goes to show that it takes a lot of collective calamity to shake
and wake us up.
Today I am educating myself further about Juneteenth and what it means.
That is necessary so that I can be a better facilitator of learning for
the young people I teach. If you are not familiar with the historical
June 19, 1865 was when Union soldiers brought news to the
enslaved in Galveston, Texas that they had been emancipated, a
proclamation made by President Abraham Lincoln two and a half years
earlier. News traveled slowly through the South (and certainly was
surpressed by slave owners) and it was two months after General Lee
surrendered his Confederate forces and the Civil War came to an end.
Here are some things I've come across so far
today as part of my awakening.
The emancipation of slaves was long overdue. The reality of treating
African-Americans with the dignity, freedom, respect and rights that
all citizens of the United States are entitled to is even longer
overdue. If anyone wonders why there is still so much unrest and
protesting going on then consider the 400 year plus struggle against
systemic racism. Read the words of Lift
Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson.
First a poem, and then put to music, it is considered the Black
I read an article by Jelani Cobb for The New Yorker.
His profound comments address the need for self-reflection about the
evil of slavery. Juneteenth may be a celebration of freedom for
African-Americans, but for whites it needs to be a time of honest
recognition of our country's sin. Oppression of people - any people -
is wrong and must be opposed.
Google created a doodle to mark the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth.
You can see stories about it all over the Internet, including this CNN story. Good
for Google. But they don't have a long history of marking this event.
This year they, like so many other companies and organizations, have
been stirred into doing something. There is a wonderful video
about it that features commentary by the artist Loveis Wise and
narrator LeVar Burton along with Angelica McKinley, Project Art
Director for the GoogleDoodle Team.
Keep learning, keep lifting your voice, tell your stories and do it in
a way that contributes our collective betterment.|
at the Mall
June 15, 2020
I was at a local shopping mall here in Albuquerque today and it brought
back a flood of memories.
Keep in mind that getting out and about and around crowds is still
largely discouraged during this Covid 19 pandemic. So my actions are
not condoning that. Have a true purpose and get it done is kind of my
motto right now.
Nevertheless, I did need to make a trip to this mall. There is a local
custom t-shirt printing shop there and I needed a couple of shirts for
a gift. The shirts have a cool car design a friend of mine put
together. So I went to the mall, placed the order with the artwork, and
was told to return in an hour.
There was no sense in heading back home so I spent the time walking
around and people watching. It reminded me of my youth. In the 1970-s
and 80-s shopping malls were a big deal. Not so much for the
shopping or purchases. More for the hanging out and the teenage version
of people watching. That pretty much translated to looking at pretty
Shopping malls have had their ups and downs. You can read an
interesting article about that courtesy of Smithsonian magazine.
Transformation of the American Shopping Mall
relates the evolution many malls have gone through. True enough, some
retailers, many of them big names, are suffering. And sometimes malls
become something other than a destination for shopping, such as
churches or places of higher learning.
But what I saw again today was that there is mostly a lot of walking
around with places to order something to eat or drink (we all know the
food courts). But the 2020 version of mall visiting included the mostly
ubiquitous face covering and reminders to social distance.
The experience was nostalgic. I remember how my younger brother and I
went through the phase of walking several feet behind our mom when we
had to accompany her to the mall. This was the early teen "just not
cool to be seen with your mom" phase.
I've lived in a lot of different places around the USA, so I've seen my
share of shopping malls. Some had outdoor parts (San Diego and Tampa)
and others were practically theme parks (the Mall of America).
Although not a huge part of my personal history they do have their
place. Today was a nice trip down memory lane and an interesting
opportunity to reflect on what it was like then and is like now.
From Arielle Nobile About Belonging in the USA
June 9, 2020
There is so much going on right now and many people are saying ABOUT
The stories are not new. And that is part of the problem. The
perspective of many white people, myself included, as not been
enlightened enough. Even when we want equal rights and support #BLACKLIVESMATTER we
have to face up to the truth about white privilege and the history of
systemic racism in the United States.
Years ago I began communicating once in a while with Arielle Nobile.
She is a life story writer, personal historian and documentary film
maker. I've watched her business grow. Even better, I've watched her grow in great
enlightenment about the importance of lives and life stories.
I can say I've learned a thing or two from her.
So today I want to point you to her work and a recent blog post she
wrote on June 2. She lives in Chicago and in the midst of the protests
she takes an honest look at her place in society and her growing
perspective. She is a woman, Jewish with immigrant roots, and surely a
strong supporter of people's rights. Yet she opens up in her blog post
about something that white people (including herself; including me)
need to get a good grasp on.
Her post is titled The Unacknowledged War on Black and Brown
She makes many important points in her article. And she asks us to
consider some powerful questions. Three of them in particular struck me
When you talk about good or bad neighborhoods or good or bad schools,
what are you really referring to?
When was the first time you had a conversation about race in your own
family of origin? What was the context? What was the messaging? (My
addition to this would be, what is the nature of your conversations
about race now?)
What have you taught your children about race?
When you read her post
I hope it spurs some introspection followed by dialogue and action.
People are calling out for real change. They have before. Real change
takes a lot of hard work and courage. Remember, if nothing changes -
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