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The "Your Life is Your Story" Blog

© Tom  Gilbert

Read about quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products, links, services

                     ...and whatever else catches our fancy

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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 lessons.

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 history essay.

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

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

Your Circle of InfluenceYou 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 have fort
unately 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.
On the train
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 irritating).

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.

All aboard!

Winter Soul Tis
winter soulstice
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.

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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 immeasurable.

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 just valuables.

Find out more
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