Archive for the ‘Family History’ Category

A Living, Speaking History Book

May 3, 2010

Louise - Wedding - 12.6.08Last Friday I had the most wonderful experience of interviewing the oldest living member of my extended family.

A Living History Book!!

Ninety-four year old Keith is my grandfather’s cousin, however, as he left my home town years before I was born and only came back to visit occasionally, I didn’t really know him very well. I had been told what a wonderful memory he had and that he was a great story teller, so driving the 1 1/2 hours to interview him had been on my ‘to-do’ list for some time. Finally a couple of weeks ago, I bit the bullet and called him to make a date.

I arrived at Keith’s retirement home quite flustered after having got myself lost once I got to Bendigo (central Victoria, Australia). So a 90 minute drive had turned into a 2 hour drive. At that point, tired and flustered, knowing I had to get back by a certain time for other commitments, I said to myself – “I’m never doing this again!! This is ridiculous. I have so many other things I should be doing, and after today I’m going to be too tired to do anything”.

Then I took a deep breath, reconnected myself with the reason I was there – my deep commitment to capturing people’s stories and my own family history – and got out of the car to greet my patient interviewee who was standing nearby.

Of course I wanted to get straight into the interview as I knew we had limited time, but I took time to be shown around Keith’s unit, have a quick cuppa, and of course, set up my equipment. Luckily Keith was just as keen to get started, so off we went.

As always, after establishing the basic details of the person – full name, date of birth and where they were born – I started asking questions about Keith’s memories of his father, mother and grandparents. When Keith was born his family had lived in my home town, then had moved away, and had moved back when he was 5 years old. His account of their trip down from Minyip to Navarre via horse, buggy and foot-power was fascinating.

But eventually I got to asking him about his grandfather, who he knew very well – my great great grandfather. As Keith told me about the “jolly” fellow who was my great great grandfather, and then spoke of his great uncles, I was suddenly hit by an amazing feeling – it was like I had opened up a history book and was able to ask it questions.

You see, back in 1988, we had a Bibby reunion, where all the descendants of Thomas and Elizabeth Bibby (who had settled in Navarre from Lancashire) all gathered. They had had 11 children (I think), and so all of us had a different coloured name tag and a name up the top of the name tag of the child we were descended from. In my case it was William.

As I was 15 at the time, my friends and I laughed at being descended from “Willy” and “Peter” and “Arthur”. We had no idea who these people were. They were just names to us. I found it interesting to find that my cousins who I had grown up with in the same town were actually my 4th or 5th cousins. Many people barely know their first cousins and here I was growing up with my 4th and 5th cousins! An interesting quirk of my home town of Navarre is that we are pretty much all related, but some people who I share the same surname with are more distantly related to me than those with different surnames.

Anyway, I digress. The amazing thing about my interview with Keith on Friday was that he actually had known William (Bill – his grandfather), Peter, Arthur and Bert (my great grandfather who I knew quite well). A shiver went through me as I realised I could ask Keith about all of these people, and he would be able to tell me about who that person was, their personality, funny stories and so on.

Keith was like my time machine!! And a short time earlier I’d been questioning my sanity in using up a whole day to go and interview him! I silently rebuked myself, and was given a very strong reminder of why I do what I do. As well as being fascinating to me – especially Keith’s memories of his friendship with my much-loved and much-missed Pop – in a couple of hours, I captured some of the history of our family for every other member of my family. Keith’s immediate family now have a record of his life. My 4th and 5th cousins now have a verbal recollection given by someone who knew their great great grandfather. And Keith knows that those precious memories are now captured forever.

And guess what? Keith was no longer just a distant relative I hardly knew. He is now someone I know intimately and will not be someone I “wish” I had interviewed before they died. He is now a real, courageous, amazingly gracious man in my eyes, not just an elderly relative who used to visit every time shearing was on.

As I wound the interview up, Keith informed me I’d have to come back because he had at least another 2 hours of things he didn’t get to. And you know what, I’m going to get back there as soon as I can. He’s the last of his generation in our family. He’s willing to be interviewed, he’s interesting, his memory is great – he’s a living history book!!

So if there’s someone in your life who you’ve been meaning to get around to interviewing – or paying for someone else to interview them – it’s time. Get your diary/calendar out and pick a day. You will never have the time. You will always be busy. And you will always have better things you could be doing with your time. But pick a day,  make the time, and you will never regret it!!

Keep Smiling

Louise - Wedding - 12.6.08

Louise

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Why everyone should record their story on video

April 6, 2010

There are many personal video biographers out there, whether they call themselves by this name or not. I believe it’s the most appropriate description of what I do, however, I only discovered this job description in the last 6 months.

Regardless, all people who value oral history and conduct it via the medium of video have various reasons why they see it as a superior way to capture oral history to other methods – ie. audio only.

These are the reasons I believe people should record their life story – and record it on video/DVD!

1.  Every person has a story!

Whatever you may think, every person’s story is valuable and worth recording – even yours!

2. Recording your story celebrates you life

By recording your story on video, it is a celebration of your life – your successes, your failures, your lessons, your story. With video you have a living colour, animated record of yourself telling your life story. It captures the ‘real’ you in even greater detail than mere audio or written personal histories.

With video, you get the whole box and dice – you, your family & future generations get to see your smile, your laugh, the way you wave your hands around when you talk, and all the little tiny visual things that make  you unique.

3. You’ll hear stories you may never hear otherwise

In my experience, many things come out in personal video biographies that may never be known otherwise. This is not to say that I probe for family secrets or get people to speak about things they don’t want to speak about. Rather, it is merely the fact that I ask questions that other people in the person’s family have never thought to ask – and so they have never heard the answer. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve given the example before, but when I interviewed my Grandad I asked him where he was born, and he told me the exact address and told me where it was – and that a church was now built on it. After he had passed away, I pointed this church out to my young daughter as the location of where my Grandad was born.

Fred & I - 1989

Grandad & I – 1989

My Mum, who was driving the car at the time, asked me in a surprised voice, how I knew that. And I said, “Grandad told me when I interviewed him”. Mum was extremely close to my Grandad, but she would never have known that information if I hadn’t interviewed him.

4. A death is the death of a thousand stories

When people die, many stories die with them. Whether it is a story that only they could tell because they were the only one at a certain place at a certain time, or whether it is just their personal version of something that many others witnessed, it is their story. Everyone has a unique perspective on everything. Capturing this is a way of capturing the personality, values, beliefs and essence of the person being interviewed. Video just enhances this.

5. Your story is your legacy

When it comes down to us, we are basically a collection of stories bound up to make a person. Things happen to us in life, but we are the ones who interpret them and make meaning out of them. We are the ones who tell “our” story of what happened. A person standing next to us may well tell a completely different story. But for us, our story is real. It may not be fact, but to us, it appears to be. Nobody else can ever truly tell your story.

6.  “If those walls could talk”.

How many times have you – particularly genealogists – gazed longingly at an ancestor’s photograph, wishing they could speak? Well, by interviewing your relatives on video it’s just like having a talking photograph – and if genealogy is your passion, you can ask specific questions about people you’re researching and so on.

7.  “If not you, then who?”

If you’re the one who has the video camera, the question is, “If not you, then who?”. If you’re the genealogist in the family, or even if you’re just interested in your Mum or Dad’s story, if you have the video camera you may be the only one who ever asks them to tell their story and record it.

It’s very easy to say that someone else in the family would do it better or has more time etc etc, but when it comes down to it, you are the one. Just get your loved one’s permission, set the camera up and start asking questions – you may be very surprised with what happens after that (and there’s always the option of deleting it if you really hate it – though for an historian that sends shivers through me :-))

Of course, if you don’t have a camera or the time, you could always employ someone like me to do it for you. Contact me & I’m sure I can put you onto someone great in your area.

____________________

Now I know I’ve crossed over here into the basic question of “why record your story”, whether on video, audio or written, but I think you get the idea of why I see recording your story on video as the most valuable, desirable method of capturing a person’s story.

Let me know what you think!

(Update: As of Nov 14th 2013 please contact me via email at louise@15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com, visit the 15 Minute Power Plays With Your Kids ebook Facebook or Twitter Page or visit the website www.15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com If you happen to stumble across this post and it’s NOT because I’ve linked to it from my book, pop over and say hi anyway :-). Please  DO NOT go to my previous website at www.itsmylifeproject.com.au as it has been hacked)

Keep Smiling

Louise

@itsmylifedvds

http://facebook.com/lifestorydvds

Dan Curtis’ Top 5 Personal History Blogs for 2009

February 7, 2010

Well, so much for writing every day. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has a way of catching you unawares sometimes, and this week has been one of them for me. More on that later in a special post re CFS.

In this brief post, I wanted to direct all you oral and personal historians, genealogists and personal video biographers etc to a very useful blog post by Dan Curtis late last year.

Dan is a professional personal historian, and from what I’ve seen so far, also a great blogger.

His blog is titled : The Top Five Personal History Blogs For 2009 which is basically self-descriptive really. The ones I know on the list are fantastic, and the others are on my to-do list!

If you want to learn more about capturing personal history and the work of personal historians, check out these blogs – as well as Dan’s, which he quite modestly left off the list – http://dancurtis.ca

Hey, eventually I might even make it on the list. A bit of work to do before that though : )

(Update: As of Nov 14th 2013 please contact me via email at louise@15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com, visit the 15 Minute Power Plays With Your Kids ebook Facebook or Twitter Page or visit the website www.15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com If you happen to stumble across this post and it’s NOT because I’ve linked to it from my book, pop over and say hi anyway :-). Please  DO NOT go to my previous website at www.itsmylifeproject.com.au as it has been hacked)

Keep Smiling

Louise

@itsmylifedvds

www.facebook.com/lifestorydvds

4 Reasons Video Beats Audio For Oral History

February 2, 2010

When I tell people my business involves interviewing people on video and making it into a DVD life story, most people say “what a fantastic idea!”

They then often speak of someone they have always wanted to interview in their family, but have never got around to doing it – which is actually a major reason I started my business – for those people who want the finished product, but don’t find the time to do it themselves.

Despite this enthusiasm, however, many people have reservations about the use of video as opposed to audio recordings. They either cringe about the idea of themselves being on video, or they express a fear that their intended interviewee won’t want to talk on video. I’ve even found most oral history organisations I’ve looked up on the internet, when discussing oral history interviews, still refer to audio interviews (this may have changed recently).

It’s like there’s an inbuilt fear within most people of being recorded on video. Some have a fear of being recorded full stop, but I find there are many more who fear what they might look like on video, or “what if I say something stupid?” (even if not verbalised, it’s a thought that goes through their head).

Ever since getting my first video camera 10 years ago to go to the Sydney Olympics, I have used it to interview family members and other interesting people. Basically, for a start, I interviewed anyone who said yes. Often the family members I really wanted to interview were the most camera shy – though I have now succeeded in capturing most of those people on camera.

So why do I believe video/dvd recording of oral history is superior to audio recordings?

1. You get to see the person’s face, as well as hear their voice – and it’s not only their face, it’s their gestures, seeing them laugh, getting to see all the little visual quirks that make them them. Audio captures some of this, but video just makes it so much richer.

2. It’s easier & more likely to be accessed – Give a family a DVD of their grandmother’s life story and they can immediately stick it in the DVD player or computer and watch it. Give them a CD or mp3 and I bet you they don’t sit down immediately and listen to it. And if they do, I bet they don’t just sit there and close their eyes to concentrate on every word. As there is no visual, it’s much easier for people to think they can listen and do housework, read the paper and so on at the same time. In the process, they miss half the story. In my experience DVDs get watched till the end and are much more likely to be brought out for family and friends to have “a quick look”.

3. DVD/Video holds the viewers attention – This is a continuation of the above in many ways. Having both visual and audio stimulus, a DVD life story/personal video biography is much more likely to hold the viewers attention. There are many studies to show that certain people are more audio- orientated, others are more visual and some are more kinesthetic (hands on). DVDs provide for both the auditory and the visual-dominated people, thus making it more likely that the interview will grab and hold their attention.

4. It really feels like the person is in the room with you – When my Grandad died, many family members wanted copies of the interviews I’d done with him. Back then, with Video 8 and no hard drive, I had to play the interviews into the TV and record them in real time. When I was setting this up, there was a room full of mourning relatives, so I apologised to them if it was upsetting them to see Grandad on the screen. I asked would they like me to turn the screen off once I set it up, but most said to just leave it on and they’d see how they went with it. When I walked in 10 minutes later, I found the whole room virtually silent, glued to the TV. One of them said, with a sense of wonder and excitement in their voice “It’s like he’s actually here in the room with us”. And the rest agreed. That is something audio just can’t quite capture.

So, yes, video cameras are slightly more intrusive to the interviewee than a mini audio recorder. But over the years I’ve stuck to my guns and been able to persuade even the most reluctant family members – the ones I never thought would do it – to be interviewed on video. And now I have that captured forever for all the family & generations to come.

What I find is once it’s been agreed upon, the set up’s been done (as quickly and with as little fuss as possible!), as soon as we get into conversation, the person very quickly forgets about the camera. As I tell all my interviewees, it’s just like sitting down for a cuppa and having a chat – just with a video going in the background (and maybe a light or two ; )

One trick I used with my Dad was to just ask him to do 10 questions with me – for my daughter (his only grandchild at the time – a little emotional blackmail!). I truly was only going to do 10 questions, but after 45 minutes I had to change the tape. I apologised to Dad, saying it had gone a bit longer than planned. And you know what he said? “Oh, it’s ok. I probably wouldn’t be able to get to sleep now anyway”. In other words, he had found he was quite enjoying the experience!!

So in my opinion it’s worth recording oral history on video rather than just audio. It may take some extra convincing on your part, but the final product is superior. And with computers these days you can always extract the audio separately and put it on a separate CD if you want an audio version to listen to in the car. You can’t create visuals though if you haven’t recorded them in the first place!

Of course if the interviewee is absolutely adamant they will not be videoed, but are happy to be audio recorded, absolutely still do it. Oral life stories are still amazing and incredibly valuable. I’m just saying, if at all possible, opt for video first and purely oral recordings as a last resort.

I plan to write some tips and hints in my coming blogs, but if you have any questions, please let me know.

(Update: As of Nov 14th 2013 please contact me via email at louise@15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com, visit the 15 Minute Power Plays With Your Kids ebook Facebook or Twitter Page or visit the website www.15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com If you happen to stumble across this post and it’s NOT because I’ve linked to it from my book, pop over and say hi anyway :-). Please  DO NOT go to my previous website at www.itsmylifeproject.com.au as it has been hacked)

Keep Smiling
Louise

@itsmylifedvds

http://www.facebook.com/lifestorydvds

Is Oral History Valuable For Genealogists?

February 1, 2010

“There are places I remember all my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better, Some have gone, and some remain. All these places have their moments, with lovers and friends I still can recall. Some are dead and some are living. In my life, I’ve loved them all.” – In My LifeThe Beatles (Lennon/McCartney)

My motto is “Everyone has a story”, and I am continually advocating that people tell their life story on camera or record their loved ones telling their story.

I am very clear about one thing, however. A story is just that, a story. It is not necessarily fact. Actually I would go so far as to say stories are never fact. Stories are one person’s interpretation of something that happened at a certain time. Get them to tell that story again and they will almost always tell it slightly differently.

Hence, oral history in the area of genealogy has its pitfalls, as most genealogists will attest to. If you’re looking for facts, oral history is just one part of the puzzle. Sometimes, however, on certain matters the only material you have on that matter is the recollection of one person. Other times, there are opportunities to cross-check dates, stories etc with other people or official records. But of course, even these can be innacurate.

What I’m basically exploring here is how valuable is oral history or personal video biography to genealogists? Well, I would still say that oral history is invaluable to genealogists. There are a number of reasons for this.

1. Dates and marriage/birth certificates are all very well, but they tell us nothing about the day of the event, birth or marriage or the people involved. People who were around at these times can give us the juicy stuff – a description of the wedding breakfast, the weather the day Johnny was born or the celebrations in their town on Armistice Day in 1918.  Dates & certificates are the bones; oral stories are the flesh that makes the body whole.

2. If you’re totally hooked up on ‘facts’, you can miss some amazing stories. Now some people may embellish the facts, but in amongst it you get a few ‘facts’, while also often getting a fascinating story.

3. ‘Facts’ are often just a story that appears real. One could propose that there is no such thing as facts. For instance, a person in Australia could be said to be born at 4am on December 28th, however, in Germany at that moment it was 6pm. So what time was the baby born? I could go on with more philosophical hoo-ha, but you get my meaning.

4. My favourite part about filming and recording people telling their stories is that in the telling of the story you really get a sense of who that person is. You get a sense of what’s important to them, their values, their loves, their

Fred & I – 1989

personality. What a wonderful way to capture who that person is/was! It might not all be roses, but it’s way more real than a headstone that just says – Fred Smith b.18.4.1927  d. 4.11.2001 Beloved husband of Betty (thankfully I did interview Freddo; he was my granddad, despite the apparent generic example ; )

5. Regardless of who it is you’re interviewing, taking time to hear their stories and taking a

genuine interest in them will almost always bring you an increased sense of closeness to that person – even if you already think you’re as close as you could possibly be with them. And guess what? I can almost guarantee you’ll hear something you’ve never heard. It doesn’t matter how well I know my interviewee, I always walk away with some new knowledge. Of course the key is to ask the right questions, but more on that in a later blog.

Look, I could go on and on about why oral history is an essential part of genealogy. It’s only my opinion. I’d love to hear yours.

Disclaimer: I’m not a genealogist. I’m interested in genealogy, but at this stage I’m more intested in capturing stories on film of the relatives who are living, breathing witnesses to our family history now.

(Update: As of Nov 14th 2013 please contact me via email at louise@15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com, visit the 15 Minute Power Plays With Your Kids ebook Facebook or Twitter Page or visit the website www.15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com If you happen to stumble across this post and it’s NOT because I’ve linked to it from my book, pop over and say hi anyway :-). Please  DO NOT go to my previous website at www.itsmylifeproject.com.au as it has been hacked)

Keep smiling

Louise @itsmylifedvds

DVD slideshows of your facebook photos

January 29, 2010

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone reading this that my overall aim of developing a blog, having a twitter account and facebook page are all part of a grander plan to have my business – It’s My Life DVDs- grow and blossom. And in the process, my plan is obviously to make money from it. Making a living from what I am most passionate about sounds pretty darn good to me!

Nana & I

Nana & I

Hence, I am currently learning all I can about social media marketing, blogging and the like. I plan to move this blog over to a more sophisticated one in the future so that I can really contribute to people who want to learn more about oral history and personal video biography. Ultimately my aim is for everyone on the planet to have their life recorded on DVD – or whatever medium is current at that point. I really do believe every person – young and old – has an amazing story to tell. And the difference that can by made by just getting interested enough to interview a loved one can be astonishing!

But I digress.

Since starting to develop my internet presence, I realised I also need to develop some products that I can offer to anyone, anywhere. My Life Story DVDs are the major focus of my business, but if I want to make a difference to the people I connect with on twitter, facebook and here, I have to develop other products – plus provide valuable content for people reading my blog (stay tuned!).

One product I realised I can offer to anyone, anywhere, are my digital photo slideshow montages. This is where people email or send me their digital photos and I put them to a musical slideshow, design an artistic, professional cover and send it back to them.

Over Christmas I stumbled across another avenue in this realm. My Nana asked me if I’d do a couple of slideshows of family photos for my cousins who live overseas and interstate. Realising I had few photos, I had the bright idea of downloading their facebook photo albums & putting them to music. The result was fantastic, with both my cousins loving their DVDs. I now realise I can provide this service to anyone on facebook. They can just friend me, I can download their photos and send me any others via email, and then unfriend me. And not long after that they’ll have all their photos on an easy-to-view slideshow DVD.

I’m continually thinking of new products I can offer, while still staying within my passion of capturing people’s life stories in one way or another – preferably in a visual medium.

So if you’re on facebook and would like your photos collated on a professional DVD, please look me up. It’s easiest to first contact me through my It’s My Life DVDs fanpage – http://www.facebook.com/lifestorydvds and then we can organise to connect our personal profiles for the short time it will take. The price will depend on how many photos you have, whether you want captions and so on.

So thanks Nana!! I love you to bits anyway, but now I’ve got a whole new avenue to my business courtesy of you. Love you!! (of course, she doesn’t have a computer, but I’ll pass this on ; )

(Update: As of Nov 14th 2013 please contact me via email at louise@15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com, visit the 15 Minute Power Plays With Your Kids ebook Facebook or Twitter Page or visit the website www.15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com If you happen to stumble across this post and it’s NOT because I’ve linked to it from my book, pop over and say hi anyway :-). Please  DO NOT go to my previous website at www.itsmylifeproject.com.au as it has been hacked)

Keep smiling

Louise

PS. If you have any ideas of what I could provide to you re oral history, please let me know.

Seizing the day – Interviewing family in the holidays

December 31, 2009

Louise the cowboy elf 🙂

The other day I was home in Navarre (my home town) visiting family and friends who were home for Christmas. It also happened to be my birthday this particular day (28/12) and I was provided with the best birthday present I’ve ever received – a chance to interview my Mum about her life. We have been talking about doing such an interview for at least 4 years, with my Mum always being willing and myself very much wanting to add my treasured Mum’s story to my library of family video biographies.

The problem has always been basically two-fold – not finding the time when she wasn’t too tired from work and/or the fact my 6 year old daughter is always with me when I visit “home”. This year, with my daughter spending a week with her Dad, and my Mum’s ever-welcoming house surprisingly free of people, we finally got our chance. The fact that it was my birthday certainly wasn’t going to stop me. In fact I used it as extra leverage – “You know what would be the best birthday present you could ever give me …”

Christmas holidays or other holiday periods throughout the year are often busy, crazy times, while at the same time being fun and joyous occasions. Some people may question the suitability of the holiday period to attempt a life story video interview. And in some cases I’m sure it wouldn’t be suitable. The last three Christmas periods have proven to be very unsuitable to interview my mother, but this year was our year. Other years I’ve usually found other relatives to interview.

One of the main reasons the holidays are a great time for family interviews is that if the person in question is on holidays, they are usually feeling relaxed. Hence they are much more likely to feel up to sitting down to what they may initially perceive to be a demanding or at least slightly stressful interview. This was another reason I now have an interview recorded with my Mum; she was relaxed and on holidays from work.

Another main reason to grab the holiday period as an opportunity for interviewing is that many relatives only visit once a year – at Christmas or at Easter. These people may otherwise live a long way away, providing little opportunity to capture their stories on video at other times. It really is a case of seize the day when it comes to this time of year. Grandma may only be visiting for 2 weeks. And as much as we don’t like to think it, no-one knows what the next day, let alone year, will bring.

I have a number of examples of opportunities lost – and with them the stories of the people I loved so much and that my daughter will never know. I regret so much not interviewing my daughter’s grandmother before she died. If I’d only seized the day with her, we’d all have a beautiful memory of Cynthia and not just photos that give no real sense of the lady who could talk the leg off a chair. It’s not only for my daughter that I wish I’d pushed aside my own fears, health complaints and other excuses.

This holiday season, find someone you love, get your video camera out, put it on a tripod – or stack of books! – and ask them about their life. You’ll never regret it!!

(Update: As of Nov 14th 2013 please contact me via email at louise@15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com, visit the 15 Minute Power Plays With Your Kids ebook Facebook or Twitter Page or visit the website www.15minutepowerplayswithyourkids.com If you happen to stumble across this post and it’s NOT because I’ve linked to it from my book, pop over and say hi anyway :-). Please  DO NOT go to my previous website at www.itsmylifeproject.com.au as it has been hacked)

Keep smiling

Louise

I love people

December 2, 2009

I have been reminded today one of the main reasons that I am so passionate about building my business and providing the service of personal video biography to as many people as possible.

The reason:  I love people!!

I was assisting with a grandparents day at my daughter’s school today, and while walking around offering finger food to such a polyglot bunch of people, I was once again struck by how much people delight me.

I love interacting with people regardless of age, background, race, creed etc etc. To me, people are just people. Of course, I’m human, so I have built-in, learned biases, but I’m learning more and more to go beyond those and see further into people I may have once dismissed. These people I’m talking about tend to be the “hard nuts to crack”-type people. You know the ones I mean – the people who wear a constant scowl, appear rude and uninterested in others, never smile, and struggle to speak when spoken to.

Since starting my business interviewing people about their lives on video I’ve come to realise that these people are often the ones who have the most interesting story. It’s just a matter of taking the time to step through the barriers they put up – usually to protect themselves.

Okay, I can see that my background in psychology has helped me with this conclusion too, as well as the courses I’ve done with Landmark Education, which have helped me identify my own biases and prejudices, and has led me to have even more compassion for people than I already had.

I have always been a people person. I’ve always been fascinated by the human mind, which led me to seek out self-help books at a very early age in order to overcome a lack of confidence in myself – plus the fascination with the human mind led me to study psychology for 6 years!

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that if you scratch the surface just a little bit we are all pretty much the same underneath. Every person has the same basic needs and wants, it’s just that some people have taken so many hits from life that they have got to a point where they don’t recognise these basic needs and wants. Mostly they pretend they don’t care and that they don’t need anyone or anything. But scratch the surface with these people and you find someone who is just too scared to care or need or want.

I used to be a rescuer in my earlier days and there’s still a hint of that in my personality. I’d pick boyfriends who were bits of rebels and try to ‘save’ them. In short, it didn’t work, though I think I did make a positive contribution to their lives – I like to think so anyway : ).

I’ve learned over the years that you can’t ‘save’ people. If people ask for my help I give it to them, but I try not to go around searching for people that need help and attempt to rescue them. It’s far too tiring and often painful when it doesn’t go the way I hoped it would go. The old saying is so true that you can only help people who help themselves.

But all of this doesn’t stop me from seeing the beauty in all people. Sometimes I have to look extra hard, but if I allow myself, I can see beauty in every person I meet or know.  It’s often harder with the people I know best as there is a lot of history with them – and not all of it is good. It’s often a much easier route to focus on the negative things people have ‘done’ to me or others I know. I may not choose to spend a lot of time with such people, but I can still see them as amazing people if I let myself put aside emotions such as anger, resentment, jealousy, fear and hurt.

I love the saying that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Resentment and anger directed at a person only ever hurts the holder of the anger and resentment – unless physical actions are taken against the person, but that never leads to anything good either.

No matter how certain people have behaved towards me I seem to have an almost annoying capacity to forgive. I say annoying because sometimes I really just wish I could see things in black and white like many others do. Life would be so much simpler then. But I know, for instance, that the woman who ‘stole’ my ex-husband’s heart was not really an evil monster who plotted and planned, conniving and manipulating him to fall in love with her. At times I’ve convinced myself that was the case (in extreme emotional times!), but the other side of my brain is always there balancing the victim out. And it tells me that my ex-husband fell in love with a lovely, kind-hearted, generous person who in other circumstances I would probably have been very good friends with. Now that hurts a little to be so sensible about it, but it’s true. And my ex-husband may have behaved in ways that didn’t always become him, but I’m no saint either. We are all human, and we make mistakes. We hurt people – often the ones we love the most – and we do stupid things in the name of love and jealousy. No-one is immune.

Why I say all this in a blog titled “I love people” is because it is often the frailty of human beings that make them so fascinating. People who are willing to admit their failings and weaknesses as well as their strengths and triumphs are the people I tend to gravitate towards. And often the main reason we don’t get to see the beauty in people is because we are consumed by anger and resentment, and pretending that we’re not!

I am organising my 20 year school reunion at the moment and am really looking forward to getting together with all the people I went through school with. Twenty years of life certainly is a great leveller. I already know through conversations on facebook with old classmates that life has left us all a little scarred, but has also helped us to grow and see the beauty in the small things as well as the large. I don’t think you have that perspective in high school – unless you have had to deal with some pretty big stuff. And even then, you probably feel like a misfit, whereas at 37 we can probably all claim our traumas, our triumphs, and see that life is an amazing journey.

One of my favourite songs – spoken word – is “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrman. It has a fantastic line in it regarding what I’ve been talking about “Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind … The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself”

Oh, and those basic needs we all have? The need to be loved, the need to love, the need to feel needed. The list goes on, but these are at the core of everyone. So much of our life is dictated by whether we think our words or actions look good to others. Or on the flip side we spend our time making sure we don’t look bad to others. All the while not REALLY having a clue what others think anyway because we’re too caught up in our own stuff. And guess what? For the most part other people are too busy worrying about looking good or avoiding looking bad to notice much of what you’re doing anyway.

But getting back to the topic at hand. Look around you. People are amazing! Take the time to ask the people close to you a few more questions than the basic “How’re you going?” or “How’s life?”. Or if you do ask those questions, genuinely want to hear the answer, and let the person know that. If you take the time to go beyond the surface with people close to you or just someone you meet down the street or at a party you will find people are interesting – fascinating in fact!

A great challenge to give yourself is to spend some time with someone you have previously had a set opinion about, especially if you’ve seen them as boring or annoying. Really take the time to set aside your pre-conceived judgements, opinions and beliefs about them and get into their world. You may not end up best friends, but I bet you will find that they are a lot more interesting than you every realised – and a lot more like you than you would ever have credited.

And of course, if you have a video camera, my suggestion is to take the time to REALLY get to know your family and friends by interviewing them about their life. There hasn’t been an interview I’ve ever done where I haven’t heard something I’d never heard prior to that – and that includes the family members I am extremely close to.

So get out there and appreciate the wonders around you – the people who make up this amazing world!

Keep smiling

Louise xx

P.S. I listened to a great teleseminar today via ISMA, where Cindy Ratzlaff (@BrandYou) spoke with Mark Eldridge about branding yourself & your business. Cindy said something that really resonated with me – “Take imperfect action; it’s so much better than inaction”. So I have completed this “imperfect” post and am publishing it. Thanks Cindy!!http://Cindyratzlaff.com


Capture Your Family History in a Cookbook

November 3, 2009

I just love this idea of people capturing their family history through the medium of a cookbook. So many stories within families happen around the dinner table and families bond around food. I know my Grandma’s sausage rolls and yummy desserts are famous in our family, as is my Nana’s trifle and my Mum’s pavlova. To create a cookbook with all the family recipes in it, plus stories about the people who’s recipes they are would be fantastic. There are so many stories you could put in a book like this. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the whole broadcast myself, but Stefani Twyford had it on her facebook fanpage, so that’s endorsement enough for me.

I’m always looking for any way to capture the stories of the people of this world. I love video as the medium for doing it, but if a cookbook gets people sharing and preserving their history, I’m all for it. I’d certainly love to do it for my family. Another thing on the to do list … Might make a lovely Christmas present for Gram or Nana – or actually, probably for the younger members of the family. Oh, my mind is going now. Enjoy listening to the link, and I hope that it gives you some “food for thought” – couldn’t help using that pun : )

RE-BROADCAST Hella Buchheim has developed a CD-Rom called A Plate Full of Memories that helps people create their own personalized family cookbooks.

Stefani Twyford’s tips on writing/videoing biographies

October 19, 2009

This is a wonderful article about writing and/or videoing biographies by Stefani Twyford.

http://legacymultimedia.com/blog/2008/05/02/what-makes-a-good-biography-or-autobiography