Thursday, January 24, 2008

Say cheese or whatever

What did we do before digital cameras? We were a lot stingier with how many times we coaxed everyone to smile with the classic "Say cheese!"

Since I climbed aboard the good ship digital in 2004, I've looked at old photos in a completely different way. In my search for images for my history projects, I have seen every imaginable static pose and blurs of impatience, the highs and lows of exposure, missing heads and torsos, etc.

I love the personal side of history and all the stories behind the snapshots of our lives. The other day I had the wonderful opportunity to go through a friend's old photos to scan in pictures for a family history. After a few minutes of sifting through old black and whites and those early square color shots from the 1960s, I had memorized facial features of 40, 50 or even 60 years ago so that I could easily identify who was who in many of the images. My friend, who's 80 years old, sat next to me, and I'd pass one to him every few seconds and ask if that was so-and-so or who on earth was it.

That became the foundation of our conversation, the sharing of memories as he introduced me to his family via these snapshots. I heard about the relative who drank too much, the over-protective grandma, how he met his wife, how he avoided being sent to fight in the Pacific as World War II ended, how he missed an old fishing buddy who had died tragically just a month ago.

There's not a Pulitzer Prize winner in the bunch or any formal organization, but these images are priceless as they tell the real story of everyday life. As a kid, I remember how exciting it was to take a roll of film from our old Brownie to the camera shop and come back in a week and pick up the pictures. We're spoiled today with modern technology's instant gratification that immediately assures us our photo is perfect. The perfect photo of yesterday is judged not on its print quality but on the quality of the moment preserved and shared.

That's Say Cheese 101 for today.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's not easy being purple

I fondly remember Kermit the Frog's signature song, "It's Not Easy Bein' Green," and the way he warbled it with great sincerity and emotion. I love green and Kermit, but I'm a bit fanatical about purple.

Sometimes it's not easy being purple … or blue, red, orange, etc., whatever color floats your lily pad.

I was into purple long before it became fashionable. I gravitated toward most shades of the violet and lavender rainbows at an early age. I really gorged myself on the color when I became an official Purple Ace at the University of Evansville in the fall of 1976. Did I make my college selection entirely based upon its school colors? I don't think so, but who fully comprehends what goes through the mind of an 18-year-young gal when she's preparing to escape home to become short woman on campus.

I still adore the power of purple. I'm a sucker for a purple T-shirt or sweatshirt. Sometimes it's hard to decide … "Should I wear light purple or dark purple?" It decorates my office and colors many of my supplies, namely hundreds of pens and notepads. My husband Roger vows that if I buy one more purple pen, he's going to toss me and my implements of ink out into the street. At least I'll be able to amuse myself on the curb with plenty of writing utensils.

When you say purple, it's one word, but it conjures in our minds a vast rainbow of glittering and subdued hues because we're all blessed to have different definitions. The same goes for any other color to which the folks at Crayola introduce us. In what tint we choose to bathe ourselves is just another way of claiming and announcing our individuality. Purple seems to fit and ignite my creativity. It also symbolizes royalty … and my husband can vouch that I'm a royal pain in the you-know-what at times.

Purple to me is synonymous with passion … the passion I have for life, my loved ones and friends, and the path I've selected to develop and nurture my talents. I write to clear any cobwebs from settling in my brain and entertain, educate and enlighten at the same time. I talk to people to learn, connect and challenge myself to put their life lessons into words to share with others.

It's not easy being purple or fulfilling the aforementioned challenge. Writing, at least for me, is a calling that demands an emotional commitment on my part. That lesson was dramatically reinforced while co-authoring the book on coping with cancer ( I met the most incredible individuals in the process and learned that the majority of we mere mortals just want to be loved, appreciated and called upon to make this world a better place in our own way.

I have accepted a calling to help educate people on how to better communicate their emotions and needs when faced with a devastating disease like cancer (plus some other topics I've got in the works). We humans have the unique power to speak, listen and show that we are compassionate beings.

I just choose to do my work with purple pens.

That's Purple 101 for today.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My new year's solution

Forget the resolutions of a new year. I've opted for a new kind of solution … a lively revolution … a healthier constitution … a lot less pollution … a greater contribution … worldwide distribution … and I won't settle for any substitution.

Yep, the new world, according to Monica Vest Wheeler. There's your attribution.

I have this knack, passion and obsession for connecting us all through human experience and history. I have this inexplicable desire to showcase the power and pleasure of history and to encourage people to ignore all the dull facts they were forced to recite as a student. Instead, they should look a little deeper into the emotion of history because it's all about people.

History is human. History is humanity. History is anything but ho-hum.

No moans or groans allowed! That's an order from this self-proclaimed Queen of History!

We create history every day with every decision we make. Fortunately and sometimes unfortunately, we're judged by our unique human chronicles. Our personal behavior paves or blocks the countless roads that encircle us. It's truly our choice whether we move through this life with the grace of an Olympic athlete — a status earned only through vigorous and exhausting emotional and physical workouts … yeah, that everyday life thing — or with the clumsiness of someone who's trying to run and their shoes are tied or Velcroed together.

This human experience and history mantra of mine is quite simple: Pay close attention to those individuals you love or simply know or encounter briefly along the way. Pay attention to what they're saying and not saying, what they're doing and not doing, what they need and don't need.

That was one of the most valuable life lessons I learned while co-authoring a book on coping with the emotional side of cancer. Cancer patients don't want pity. They want to be treated as the viable, vibrant individuals they've always been, even though they may be sidelined somewhat at this moment in time. Therein lies the history. Therein lies the opportunity to enrich the human experience.

Each of us is a storyteller. Each of us is an audience. Each of us is affected by our personal history, the backstory of everyone we meet, and what we've witnessed on the bigger stage of life.

That's History 101 for today.