Story and Why
"Your Life is Your
© Tom Gilbert
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Is Your Underwear on Backwards?
November 30, 2020
You probably read that opening remarks line and thought, “WT…?”
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?
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?
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.
November 26, 2020
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
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
November 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
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
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
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
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
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
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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