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3 Practical Helps for Telling Your Story

Memoir, lifestory, EasterOne life on this earth is all we get, whether it is enough or not enough, and the obvious conclusion would seem to be that at the very least we are fools if we do not live it as fully and bravely and beautifully as we can.

Frederick Buechner

Want to explore this thought further on this Easter weekend? Take a look at this essay

Only One Life

 

Looking for resources to start your story? Here are 3 to inspire you:

The Book of Myself, by Carl and David Marshall is a great fill-in-the-blank style with excellent prompts to get you thinking about your life story. Grab your favorite pen and answer the questions, easy to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Legacies, by Duane Elgin and Coleen LeDrew is a wonderfully practical illustrated how-to guide full of great questions and examples. If you’re more visual and like to “see ” how it’s done, take a look at this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Memoir, by Victoria Costello is everything you’ve come to expect from this series. Don’t take offense, it’s really an easy to follow guide that covers the nuts and bolts in a practical, doable way. If you enjoy writing this is probably the book for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be inspired, not overwhelmed–you’ve got this! One of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do is help someone tell their story.

Strong and Simple–Slice of Life Descriptions

Did you know you don’t have to be “older” (whatever that is) to share a slice of ordinary daily life in a remarkable way? My young friend Jenny Shuster brought readers into a typical evening in her life in less than 200 stunningly beautiful words. Please read and let her show you how it’s done!

 

“My life is nowhere near the “American dream”. But it is beautiful in its own way. This evening, as I helped Carissa take a bath, I could hear Sophia practicing a beautiful Mozart aria in her room. The rhythmic clink of weights coming from John’s room added erratic punctuation to her singing. Our lodger Lydia was in the living room deep in homework for her graduate class. Dad was working his usual culinary magic in the kitchen preparing a hearty dinner for the hungry horde. And Mom was out with the last of the sunlight preparing the garden for spring. Not long after dinner (we usually eat late) Bill would be home from work, and we all would enjoy a few hours of each other’s company. 

Again, my life hasn’t turned out the way I planned. But God has led me through everything and blessed me beyond what I could imagine. I do not know what the future holds for me. But I find rest and joy in the arms of my Heavenly Father! He has always taken care of me. I know He will continue to do so!”

 

Thanks for sharing Jenny!

I’d love to read your slice of life too, please send it in.

St. Patrick’s Day–Irish Mexican Heritage in the Southwest

Today many of us are Irish wannabes. Your version of mixing the cultures might mean something like a green burrito. Or it may go much deeper. Do you have family roots that grew out of the Emerald Isle? You’d be surprised at how far the web of cultural intermingling extends.

 

There are many historical links between Mexico and Ireland, often leading to marriages and families founded as a friendly cross cultural partnership here in the southwest.  As comedian Brian Regan likes to tease, “and one thing led to another….” I’ve met several families here in southern New Mexico proud of their shared heritage.

 

Take a look at these excerpts from an excellent article from the Houston Institute for Culture

THE IRISH PRESENCE IN MEXICO
By Rose Mary Salum

(excerpt)

“Another prominent Irishman who had a hand in Mexican politics was Dublin-born Hugh O’Connor, who moved to Nueva España to escape the harsh conditions that reigned in Ireland at that time. In his adopted homeland, he became one of the most notable bureaucrats, taking office as governor of the region of Texas and commander of the northern frontier. He was also the founder of the town now known as Tucson, Arizona. In the 18th century, several bureaucrats and officers who represented Spain in Mexico were either Irish, or of Irish descent. O’Connor was one of the most important and distinguished.”

“The Irish division was known as Los San Patricios, or “Those of Saint Patrick.” It participated in all the major battles of the war and was cited for bravery by General López de Santa Anna, the Mexican Commander in Chief and President.”

Salum points out:

“The Irish in Mexico have an honorable reputation and a respectable legacy. To this day, an Irishman will be told countless times about the famous “Irish martyrs” who defected from the U.S. Army and gave their lives trying to save Mexico from U.S. aggression.”

 

So, on this St. Patrick’s Day 2018, as you honor the remarkable, real Patrick, born in 385 A.D. (original name Maewyn Succat), may you be inspired to toast your Irish and Mexican ancestors alike.

Let me know what Bit o’ the Irish you found in your heritage.

What’s Your Superpower?

Today I stopped by Buddy Day at a nearby park, sponsored by Down Syndrome Families of Las Cruces.  I saw super heroes, without capes, doing many amazing and wonderful things. The early spring grounds were packed with kids and their families having a blast in the jumping balloons, eating hot dogs and nachos and cuddling the animals in the petting zoo. Horses pulled trolleys loaded with grinning kids around the park. Local first responders provided thrills, patient explanations and boosts to look inside their fire trucks and ambulances.

What a Good Day!

 

Spiderman and Mickey Mouse were also making the rounds, kneeling down to hug children, high fiving them and it started me thinking. Here’s a great little game to play with your kids that will encourage them to think about what makes them unique. It also gives you a chance to help them see their extended family and others through a different lens.

 

A Superhero lens

 

Here’s the 4 step easy plan:

Collect some basic art supplies, paper, crayons, pencils, etc. maybe even some modeling clay.

 

1–Ask your kids what their super power is. Have them describe themselves and their super power. If they’re able to write it have them tell you and then you, as the superhero’s administrative assistant (trust me, they’ll love this), can write it down for them. Check out this blog from Linda Hunter of Pretend City Children’s Museum:

Wearing a Superman Cape can Help Preschoolers!

 

2–Have the kids draw, paint, make a sculpture or otherwise use some of those art materials to create a visual model of themselves as a superhero or otherwise showing their superhero awesomeness.

 

3–Talk about parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers—someone older than them. Ask your kids “What’s Grandma’s superpower?” “How do you think Uncle Jim is a superhero?” Write the description, draw the picture. Maybe you’ve got Grandma in a red cape, wielding a rolling pin and making the best pie ever, maybe Uncle Jim’s superpower is being a fireman and helping people, or fixing cars. Maybe Aunt Tina’s cape has dog bones on it and she’s the best puppy trainer you’ve ever seen.

Final step:

4–Share the superhero goodness with the people you’ve honored. Ask some more questions about their super power and how they use it to help people. You might even take your collection of family super hero pictures and descriptions and put them together into a simple photocopied book. Make extras and share them with each other.

Love, laughter, appreciation and joy magnified!

Connect the Dots: Using Objects to Tell Your Story

As promised, let’s talk about how to use the objects in your life to weave the threads of a story. The Sewing Machine, by Natalie Fergie is currently on Amazon’s best seller list. This fascinating novel uses a common household tool as the common element tying together lives and families across generations. I’ve decided not to give you too many details as I don’t want to spoil a good read. If you think you’ve seen this plot before let me challenge you—you have never seen it quite like this!

 

You will never look at the mundane objects in your life the same way after reading this book. It will open your eyes to nuances of story and coincidences that have affected your own life. It will make you think. Any maybe dismiss the whole notion of coincidence.

 

Some themes to consider as you think about any objects in your life that might serve as generational connectors or story starters:

 

Trace the history of an object through your family tree. You can use the history of an object to both anchor and tell your own family history. This popular technique is used by fiction writers and works beautifully in writing your memoir too.

Is there something that has been passed down through the generations? Trace its origins, who held it for a time and why. Who has it now? Why? Where do you think it will go next? Can you imagine a few generations down the road who might cherish it? Why?

There is value in castoffs– people and things—why is this particular object valued?

 

Different people value objects for different reasons,

can you trace the attitudes of your object’s previous owners?

 

One of my clients has a rolling pin that is very special to her. She is a great natural story teller and loves to pass on the history of this object. And her grown children and their children love to hear it. Grandma’s rolling pin has a legacy all its own.

It started as a wedding gift many generations ago, prior to the Civil War. It was lovingly passed down and is part of a tradition of pie making and biscuit rolling that touches the heartstrings of all in the family. It connects them. It isn’t just a chunk of hardwood; it is the memoirs of family gatherings, of joyful times celebrated, of grief shared. It is the connecting piece, witnessing future hopes as little hands are coached in how to roll out the pastry evenly and as new grandchildren are bounced on knees over a piece of after-dinner pie. It sits in testimony to the love and resilience of family as friendly bantering bounces around the kitchen about which kinds of pies to bake this year.

Assignment:

Make a list of the important objects in your life.

 

You will probably see one or two rise to the top with a feeling of emotion and poignancy that shouts out “Tell my story!” Now, get that thing and hold it, look at it, really see it in all the details. Let your mind wander over everything you know about it and the people who have cherished it before you. See how many points of connection you can make with that object(s).  !

When you’re done with this little exercise you will probably have enough material for several chapters or your own little mini-memoir using this object as the thread.

Good luck and have fun!