Storytellers are clockwise from top left, Edward Giron, Deborah Cristobal, Selden Cummings and Susan Miles Gulbransen.

It’s a new year, and with it comes toasts for health, wealth and happiness. While it’s tempting to sit back and rely on the adage, “All good things come to those who wait,” the only way to capture those elusive well-wishes is to take action. That’s right, you have to do something. Like what? Writing and sharing your life stories!

As a personal historian, I assist those who wish to record their stories and witness first-hand how lives are enriched with unexpected rewards. Throughout the process, narrators regale others with childhood escapades, clarify their values, fall contemplative at heartaches, gain therapeutic value in recognizing what they’ve survived, unravel a deeper understanding of themselves and their choices and find a great sense of peace in knowing that everything they have accomplished and learned will remain in the hands of their children, grandchildren and future descendants yet unknown.

Therein lies health, wealth and happiness immeasurable.

Invariably, I’m grateful to be on the production end of these legacies, but last month the table turned when I became a narrator as one of 20 participants in the Santa Barbara Center Stage Theater’s “Holiday Memories” performances. While at first apprehensive about my ability to coherently present my piece in front of an audience, with encouragement, I soon discovered joy in bringing to life a childhood memory about waking to snow on a Christmas morning. My moment on stage was exhilarating and tremendously satisfying, as the act of giving should be, and I found it fun allowing listeners a peek inside at a treasure from my past. Wondering if my castmates had felt something similar, I put forth the question and received these gracious insights.

Actor/playwright/director Edward Giron said, “(I’ve) written fiction and plays, but when I write about actual events in my life, knowing I’d have a chance of performing them, now that’s a different story. I’ve written twice for the Holiday Memories series and had to remind myself to get to the essence, be truthful and (not to) embellish, and let yourself relive the experience, no matter how painful or joyous, and express it in the writing. The result is not only to be able to relive the memory, but to keep it, and the people in it, alive and always close in your heart. And maybe also in the hearts of those who read and listen to it.”

Deborah Cristobal, a seasoned actress, made her debut on the personal storytelling front and “learned that sharing my story on stage was a blessing not only for our audience, but for me as well. I enjoyed hearing that people really liked my piece and could relate to it, even though they may have experienced a different situation than mine. A Hispanic lady told me she also felt like she was the only one of her ethnicity growing up, and a gentleman said that he was entertained by my story. This made me feel more connected to people—we are a lot more similar to one another than we think we are.”

Selden Cummings, a Santa Barbara-born musician and writer, found “it is a rare treat to be able to share details of one’s life experience with a large crowd, especially alongside a group of other storytellers, hitherto strangers. Nowadays, the art of storytelling seems under appreciated. It has not been entirely lost, mind you, but compared to the flashy entertainment afforded by iPhones and action films, the simple act of reciting a story before an audience is nearly unheard of. Thank God for Center Stage Theater’s willingness to embrace this ancient art form. Who would have thought that nothing more than a voice and an ear is needed to ensure maximum interest and enjoyment for an audience? George Lucas might have saved a great deal of money.”

Susan Miles Gulbransen, a prolific writer, teacher, and current columnist for Noozhawk, related how storytelling has been a part of her life since childhood. “When life was jammed with chores we would sit down to dinner and tell stories, told by a small child or a grandparent. They helped us understand who our families were and how life can work out. Hearing children tell stories also gives adults different perspectives. Stories help us discover more about our world, and understand people facing various situations. Learning about our history, culture and values brings us together with more insight and awareness of each other.”

With this new year comes the opportunity for a new you. Set yourself on the path of fresh discoveries of YOU by taking time for reflection, journaling and sharing, and make this new year the “write” year!

Lisa Lombardi O’Reilly has lived in Carpinteria since 1997 and is a personal and family historian specializing in making heirloom books out of life stories. She is a member of the Association of Personal Historians, the National Genealogical Society and the Association for Professional Genealogists. For more information, visit and; send an email to; or call Lisa at (805) 680-7375.

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