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.

Louise’s Tips For Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Part 2

October 22, 2009

Louise’s Tips For Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome  – Part 2Wedding Head Shot (with Dress)

4. Ask for help when you need it – Most human beings find it difficult to ask for help, or at least those in my culture do. But I think it’s quite a universal thing. And often people who have CFS are people who have previously been very high achievers and classic Type A personalities (just a generalisation, not gospel). So when someone in our society with a rather independent personality finds themselves with an illness where they can barely get out of bed – if they can even do that – it puts them in a very powerless position in many respects. Proud, independent go-getters do not find it easy to deal with this sudden loss of power and independence. I know I didn’t. And because of this I found it very hard to admit to even the people closest to me that I needed their support, either physically or emotionally.A Helping Hand

But when I have found the humility to ask for help from my friends and family at particularly difficult times, I’ve found it quite liberating. I have been worried at times that I would never regain my independence, but time has proven that I could and have done. There are still things I need help with and I admit that, ask for it, sometimes get it, sometimes don’t, and just keep moving on.

5. Try not to complain too much – Now this might seem like a contradiction to the above tip, but it’s not really. I just know that at times, because of how miserable I have felt physically and mentally, that I have not been a particularly pleasant person to be around. I never tended to take it out on my former husband, but I look back and realise that I did talk a lot about how awful I felt, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day. Some of it was trying to make sense of it myself as the symptoms are/were so unpredictable, but I realise now that constantly talking about how horrible I feel and telling people my symptoms drags my friends and family down, and me with it.

I also realise that much of it was a plea for understanding and acknowledgement of an “invisible” illness that I so desperately wanted people to “see”. For the most part over the 17 years I haven’t really looked sick, and that is usually how people judge how sick a person is, whether that is reasonable or not. So I can see that much of my complaining and describing of my symptoms was kind of like a silent scream to people, wanting so much for them to know that though I may look ok, I’m not really underneath.

When people asked “How are you?” in the conversational, Aussie version of “Hey” or “Howdy”, I’d even go as far as deliberately not answering the normal “yeh, good thanks”. Instead, I’d say “Not bad” – then under my breath I’d say to myself “not good either”. Or worse, I’d actually say “I’m feeling awful actually” just to test out their response. That stuff was attention-grabbing from a desperately sad, angry victim of a mysterious illness. I am not that anymore. I’m a person who lives with CFS, not a victim of it or anything else. But it’s taken a long time to get to that.

6. Don’t let CFS become your identity – This is a related topic to the one above. Because we often cannot work and all we do day to day is try to deal with and manage our illness, we tend to feel we have nothing other than CFS, it’s symptoms, the emotions around it and various treatments or research to talk about. I used to say I’m a CFS sufferer, but I realised some time ago the power of language and how it creates our world. So I’ve changed it to I have chronic fatigue syndrome, so that it separates the illness from who I am. I also try to avoid the word sufferer now, even though there has been and still is a lot of suffering involved, because I am attempting to steer away from perceiving or portraying myself as a victim. That is my personal choice, but I certainly know I’ve developed quite a victim mentality over time, and that is one thing I’m continually working to transform.

I realise I have a lot more say over my life and the illness I have than even I am sometimes willing to admit – sometimes not as much influence as I’d like, but I have taken that step of cutting ‘sufferer’ out of my vocab when speaking of the illness I have. As you may notice I am also practicing referring to CFS as an illness I have, rather than “my illness”. That’s not always the easiest thing to do in conversation, so I sometimes do say “my CFS” or dealing with “my illness”, but if I can I steer clear of it. These are just subtle things in a way, but they can be very powerful in giving us some power back in our own perception and that of the people around us.

One other way people allow CFS to become their identity is by becoming an ‘expert’ on all the research out there on the illness. Be careful of that one because it can really drain you and get you down in the process. See tip #9 for more on this.

7. Surround yourself with beautiful, positive things that bring you joyI found very early on with this illness that I could very easily go down the path of thinking all doom and gloom. Now, this is not my natural default, but being hit with an illness no-one knows much about, often don’t even believe you have, and facing the prospect of having it for an indefinite period certainly makes even a cheery soul like me a bit depressed.

One of the things I found at that time was that I sought out comedy shows on tv rather than dramas, and basically looked for things that boosted my mood. I was lucky enough not to have major problems with memory and concentration as some people with CFS do, so I also started reading books that talked about coping with chronic illness, which led onto me discovering Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and other amazing authors in the mind-body realm. There are some fantastic resources out there on positive topics if you just look. I love books, but I’m also getting some great stuff off the internet. Blogs such as http://www.positivityblog.com are great sources of positive material.

Music has also always been a great positive boost for me, and I’ve used it a lot to get me through. If you have trouble reading, many of the authors like the aforementioned have books on CD/MP3. Also there’s a lot that can be downloaded for free from various sites to download to mp3.Sunset over Gramps

Attempt to  surround yourself with beautiful things or things that bring you joy – photographs of loved ones, a beautiful sunset, flowers, colourful knick-knacks, whatever makes it more enjoyable for you to be in your home – especially your bedroom!! I have also used drawing and art as therapy, and adding one of your own pictures to your wall can also be a great source of pride and joy.

8. Get treated for the things that are treatable – this is sort of similar to the find things that work and use them advice. But sometimes when we have CFS, there is such is mish-mash of symptoms, often weird ones that can’t be explained. I know I’ve sort of become a bit like “oh, that’s obviously just another part of the CFS and it’s not much use going to the doctor cos nothing ever shows up on tests anyway”. That attitude can become a bit of a trap, so if new symptoms appear, as much as it might be a hassle going through all the tests, it’s best to get them checked out in case they’re something different – and maybe they can even be treated!!! What a lovely notion that one is : ).

But also for other more long-term symptoms, it’s always good to get retested every now and then because some things may have new treatments available. Also, if you are suffering from depression as a consequence of the illness (my belief is it is usually as a consequence not a cause of CFS), then try anti-depressants. They may work, and if they give you a better quality of life, use them. Because of electro-sensitivity, the pain of my headaches is usually so intense by the end of the day that I need to take medication to get me to sleep. Sleep seems to be the only thing that improves the electro headaches. I realise this is not ideal, but it allows me to have better, quicker sleep, which allows me to have quality of life. Whatever the side-effects may be I am willing to deal with them at a later date in favour of being able to live my life as fully as possible right now.

9. Stay aware of new research, but don’t become obsessed with finding a cure and/or cause – When I was first diagnosed with CFS, and especially when I had to move home and give up my job because of the severity of it, it became like a mission for me to find answers and ‘fix’ myself. I did that for almost 2 years, and maybe it’s just part of the process – one of the steps of grief. I was kind of in denial during that time. When I went to a support group and heard one lady say she’d had CFS 20 years, I just thought she was exaggerating and that was absolutely never going to be me. Hmmmm.

When I finally accepted I had CFS, I found some of my symptoms improved, and I think that was because I wasn’t fighting so hard anymore against the idea that I had a chronic illness, which gave my mind and body a rest.

I know people who just have to read every piece of new research on possible causes and cures. I think it is important to keep up with the news, but becoming obsessed with it will just cause you more stress. I looked up a site on electrosensitivity the other day and although it was great to hear of people like me, it started to depress me after a while because at the moment there are few answers, just lots of talk of causes etc. I have chosen for now not to read anymore of that for a while. On the other hand, I’ve been really encouraged by a couple of things recently such as the discovery of a certain retrovirus in a large percentage of CFS patients in one study. I’ll be following that with interest.

I completed an Honours thesis on elite athletes who had suffered from CFS, but who had overcome it and made it back to the elite level. I also started a PhD before my pregnancy, which was looking into the quality of life of people with CFS, and how to improve it. I unfortunately wasn’t able to continue with it, and now my life has taken another path. During all that research, however, I discovered just how much literature there is out there on CFS – and that was 6 years ago, so there must be ooodles more now. Just be careful not to get bogged down in it all because it can get a bit depressing. Balance out your CFS reading with more light-hearted topics or novels.

I’ve realised through writing this that I actually use a lot of management tools and could offer many tips to people how to have the best quality of life possible within their experience of CFS. What I might do is keep writing them down and occasionally add another blog of a few more tips each time. Let me know what you think of that idea. I would truly appreciate any feedback from any of these tips – or any of your own.

Remember these are just based on one person’s experience (mine!) with CFS. Every person with CFS is unique, and thus has different needs.

In case anyone is wondering, I do have a Bachelor of Psychology and a first class Honours (Arts-Psychology) degree. I have also been trained and have worked as a telephone counsellor, and have started and run support groups for people with CFS. I am not, however, a psychologist or a counsellor, so all my tips are from my personal experience of CFS, not based on research or clinical experience.

If these blogs make one person’s life a little easier living with CFS, then I have achieved my goal.

Stay tuned for more tips over time.

Keep Smiling

Louise

Louise’s Tips For Managing CFS/ME Part 1

October 22, 2009

As my business it It’s My Life DVDs I thought I’d write a bit about my life so that the people I am meeting and connecting with on Twitter and other social networks can get to know me a bit better.                  Louise - Wedding - 12.6.08

Rather than telling my whole  life story right here today, I’ve decided to focus on an area of my life that has been with me for almost half my life now. That is, I have had the illness chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) for the past 17 years – and possibly longer. Boy, when I write that it sounds quite awful, and I guess at times it has been, but what I really want to write about today is my tips for managing this enigmatic, misunderstood, debilitating illness. (After writing it all, I’ve decided to break it into 2 parts for ease of reading).

For those of you unfamiliar with what CFS/ME is, I won’t go into full detail here, but I’ll tell you my symptoms. They have varied a lot over the years, with some things being much worse at various times. My current situation is quite manageable, but maybe that is because I’ve had 17 years to learn how to manage the symptoms. My major symptoms are: fatigue (I rarely feel refreshed after sleep & if I do it doesn’t last long), I have got used to feeling tired most of the time. Some days I feel like I have the flu and barely have the energy to get out of bed, but thankfully those days are rare now as I’ve learned how to manage my fatigue. The major way I manage is by having a sleep in the afternoon – about 1 1/2 hours, sometimes more if I don’t set my alarm or my daughter is away.

It’s impossible to describe the fatigue but the way I describe it is that even if I’m feeling quite good, I hit about 2pm and it’s like someone has reached into my body & taken the batteries out. Then it’s like I’ve hit a wall (or it’s hit me) & if I don’t already have one, I get a headache, sometimes feel dizzy, & basically try to get to bed as quickly as I can. Now that my daughter goes to school I push on till I pick her up, then I rest. She is used to it, & knows I’m just in the next room.

I could go on and on trying to describe the fatigue, & I have done over the years in a bid to get people to comprehend what I’m going through. These days I’ve largely made my peace with the fact that unless someone climbs inside my body & becomes me, no-one will ever truly know what I mean when I say fatigue.

I also get lots of headaches, digestive problems, bowel problems, have many food & chemical sensitivities … you know I kind of forget all the symptoms as they’re just part of my life, but basically it’s a big mix of unpleasant symptoms, which is what makes it a syndrome.

On top of all this, during pregnancy 6 1/2 years ago I developed electro-sensitivity, which means I get terrible migraine-like headaches from everything electro-magnetic – from this computer to fluro lights to the tv to telephones of any sort, especially mobile phones, the car, the heater … the list goes on. So why am I sitting here inflicting pain on myself? Well, it’s a long story, but basically I chose to live my life with headaches as opposed to trying to avoid headaches (ie. the world) & live like a hermit. Maybe I’ll write a blog about that aspect at another time.

In this blog post I’d like to give people my top tips for managing CFS. As well as being a contribution to family historians, genealogists and others interested in capturing people’s stories on video, I also want to be a contribution to the CFS community that I have been a part of for so many years. Also, as I said my business is called It’s My Life DVDs, so I want to give readers of my blog some insight into what “my life” is.

[NB. I know there is great conjecture about what the illness should be called, but just for pure ease I will use CFS here, as it is still what the layperson commonly knows it as. ME is probably a more apt description, but the illness is what it is unfortunately regardless of the name we give it]

Louise’s Tips For Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

1. Have a routine – I found in the very earliest & darkest period of my experience with CFS that maintaining some type of routine in my otherwise routine-less life gave me some sense of normality. I worked out back then that the best time for me to get up was 9am – if I got up earlier I was exhausted by 10, if I got up later I still felt exhausted by the same time as if I’d got up at 9 – so 9am I set my alarm and regardless how I felt I got out of bed, had a shower, had breakfast & made my bed. Sometimes that was all I could manage & I’d flop on the couch and watch TV. On a ‘bad’ day – & those with CFS will know what I’m talking about when I say bad day – I sometimes would stay in bed, but even on those days I used to try to do at least that basic routine. From there on, I always had a list of things I wanted to do, but often they didn’t get done. But I always had some basic aims for the day. Back in those days I’d look at my Mum (I had to move back home at that point), doing all the usual life things like cooking dinner, cleaning the house, managing a household, & I couldn’t even imagine how I could ever do that again. Luckily things change!

Anyway, these days my routine is busier as I have learned to use various tools, diet changes etc to manage the illness, but I still have a routine. Having a child and CFS are not a great mix, but somehow I’ve made it through 6 years and I’m doing quite well. My daughter started school this year, so that provided some new challenges. It means rising earlier, pushing past the tiredness, headache etc into the shower, breakfast, get my daughter ready, drop her off at school, then usually I try to work until it’s time to pick her up. As I work from home, ‘work’ comes in many forms, and often involves phone calls, computer work, friends dropping in, but generally I try to work school hours Monday to Friday.

Now sometimes work for me involves 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off. Sometimes I just have to give into the fatigue & sleep. Other times, depending on what I’m doing, I can get longer out of my body.

But one thing that is virtually non-negotiable is my afternoon nap. As I said, now I have to pick S (I prefer to keep my daughter’s name private) up from school, I have to push on through the exhaustion for a bit longer. But I have made it a priority to be there for her at the end of school, so that is just what I do. We have a lovely talk on the way home (10-15 mins) about her day, then when we get in I make her afternoon tea, she gets to watch ABC Kids on TV, & I retire to the next room to sleep/rest for 1 1/2 hours. I don’t always get to sleep, even when I’m exhausted, but that time out gives me a boost to get through the rest of the day. If I don’t do it, I feel horrible for the rest of the day – & that isn’t good for my patience (read temper) as a parent or for my husband, or for me. S always knows she can come into me at any time, but she generally doesn’t disturb me much. When she was a baby I had her well trained to have her afternoon sleep when I had mine – subsequently she kept having the afternoon sleeps till she was 3 1/2 because she always knew I was sleeping when she was, so she wasn’t missing out on anything!

Something I want to point out through is, over time, although I know I feel better with my mid-afternoon nap, i can get through the day if I have to. Once I was terrified to miss my nap due to the fear of how awful I feel when I do. I’ve got over that fear. If there’s a course/seminar I want to do that is all day, or 3 days in a row, I can do it. I feel pretty average after 3pm, but I still function ok.

So what was for many years a non-negotiable nap has now become a bit more flexible and thus given me more freedom to say yes to events – work, family or personal – that I once would have seen myself as unable to do. By slightly pushing the boundaries every now and then, I have surprised myself. I usually need a day or two to recover from a full day out – or a week if it’s a 3-day course. But if I deem it important enough I can do it.

There often seems to be so much in the “I can’t” basket with CFS, so realising an “I can’t” is actually “I can … at least sometimes” is very freeing. Much of the time, it’s not actually that I can’t but that I don’t like/want the consequences if I do. Changing the vocab to “I choose not to due to the negative effect it has”, gives me some power back – leaving me/us less of a victim.

Something else I also do now is try to prepare as much as possible the night before, as I always feel better late at night, and feel pretty awful in the morning. So I make S’s lunch, prepare her clothes, prepare my clothes & any other things I will need in the morning. That allows me a few more minutes sleep, & doesn’t demand much from my foggy mind the next morning.

2. Have a purpose – I found in the early days of having CFS, one of the most soul-destroying aspects of the illness was having no real purpose in the world. My days rolled into one another, I didn’t have any particular role/job to do, I didn’t know when or if I would ever get better so planning for the future seemed a bit futile, and I found it became a very slippery slope toward depression. I wouldn’t say I became clinically depressed at that stage, but there was definitely a low-level depression due to my lack of purpose or contribution in the world, the physical symptoms that made me feel so horrible, and the general lack of understanding or compassion from a lot of people who seemed to think I just lacked motivation or didn’t want to work. All fantastic contributors to feeling miserable.

So finding a purpose, however small it might appear to others, was my key to survival in those most difficult times, and continues to be a driver for me now. Back in the early days I did a correspondence course in freelance photography, which I could do at my own pace, but which made me feel like I was doing something toward my future. I also wrote a lot, which had always been a coping tool for me. I wrote poetry, journal articles & even the occasional freelance journalism piece (having been a journalist for a short time prior to getting ill).

Every afternoon after my second sleep (I had to have 2 back then), I’d put my runners on and just walk out the door – rain, hail or shine; feeling good or feeling lousy. I knew that 20 mins of walking left me feeling better afterwards, so even if I felt horrible, I didn’t allow myself to think. I’d just be on auto-pilot and walk out the door and around the block. I could only do this after my sleep because I had the energy then, but the endorphins or whatever it was always helped the headaches a bit, usually energised me at least for a short time, & it lifted my mood (maybe why I avoided depression at that time – though it got me at later stages).

3. Find things that work and use them – though I have never found one thing that has “cured” the CFS, I have found various treatments, both mainstream & alternative that have helped certain symptoms. Some are easier to implement than others, however, and I sometimes find myself getting lazy and not using some of the tools I know  really work. I suppose it’s like anyone who’s perhaps trying to maintain a fitness program – they know that going to the gym or walking or riding their bike all keep them fit, but some days they just don’t have the motivation or discipline to do any of it.

With me, I know certain breathing techniques can help energise me a bit, & I certainly know gentle yoga is wonderful for me and if I do it regularly – even a little bit – I don’t have to have as many massages and generally don’t get as much back & neck pain. But do I do it as regularly as I could? Not always. Recently I’ve been doing at least 20 minutes 5-6 days a week (which includes my weekly class of 1 1/2 hours), & I have noticed a real difference in having less pain – and I also feel stronger (which might be partly psychological but who cares).

Basically my message is that in your search for a “cure” to this debilitating illness, often we find things that help one symptom. For me it’s been like walking along the beach searching for different shells, picking up the ones I really like and putting them in my bag or leaving the ones behind that I don’t like. If a treatment or technique works, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t. And try not to judge yourself if you find something works that you may have certain opinions about (or other people have opinions about). If a medication from a doctor helps, use it. If a treatment from a Sharman works, go to them. With this illness being such a mixed bag of symptoms, different from one individual to the next, if you find something that works for you celebrate it and use it as part of your arsenal to manage your own personal experience of CFS.

No two people with CFS have exactly the same symptoms, so try not to compare yourself to others. Work out what’s good for you and stay true to yourself. Anything that reduces pain, increases energy, helps indigestion, irritable bowel problems, concentration, memory and that doesn’t have extremely harmful side effects (eg things like illicit drugs, alcohol etc), is a good thing. I’ve found much of living with CFS is about quality of life. If something improves your quality of life, you can afford it, it’s not illegal etc then make sure you use it.

END OF PART 1. PLEASE REFER TO NEXT BLOG POST FOR PART 2.

Keep Smiling

Louise

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

It’s been a while …

October 3, 2009

I haven’t blogged for a few days now – maybe even a week or so. I get stuck in the thinking of  – “I need to have something really interesting to say otherwise it’s not worth putting it in my blog”. Now that’s all well and good, but as with anything, the longer you don’t do it for the less you want to do it. The little voice in your head can be very convincing in its negativity sometimes.

So tonight I’m just going to blog about what’s going on. I always said if I had a blog that I didn’t want it to be a gossip column and that I wanted it to be a contribution to anyone who reads it. I also didn’t want it to become a “Days of Our Lives” thing where I tell you every time I’m going to scratch my nose.  So I’ll attempt tonight to be a contribution and not be tedious, while at the same time not having anything specific that I plan to write about.

Something that has really affected me this week is the tragic death of a friend in the tsunami in Samoa. My friend Viv died while on her last day of a 10 day holiday in Samoa. I hadn’t seen her for some time, but we did some pretty intensive courses together 3 years ago at Landmark Education where we got to know each other quite deeply. I then did another couple of 10-week seminars with her and got to know her even better. It’s hard to explain because the Landmark courses really allow you to get to know people in a very deep way very quickly – while at the same time getting to know yourself and how your past affects how you act in the present. So Viv and I probably knew stuff about each other that some of our closest friends and family don’t, purely due to the nature of the programs we did together.

When I was watching the news the other night about the tsunami and her face came up on the screen as the only Victorian at that time to be confirmed dead as a result of the tragedy, it was an incredible shock. I always feel so much for anyone involved in a tragedy, but in a selfish way I also hope and pray none of my friends or family are involved. This time it wasn’t the case.

Vivien was a beautiful person with an incredible love of life. The major consolation I can get from her death is that I know she lived her life fully and followed her passions. She was a wonderful teacher of drama (by all accounts), but I knew her as a wonderful human being; a person just like me – though  she was 20 years older – who had fears, doubts, insecurities, strengths, ambitions, etc etc. The wonderful thing about how I got to know Viv was that there was no divide between us due to age, background, job etc. We were just 2 human beings amongst many others trying to work out how to get the best out of ourselves and live a life we love – and contribute to others as much as we can.

I know Viv died having left nothing in the tank. She lived life to the fullest, loved her family and friends (and told them so), and completed many things from her past that had been holding her back. Some people have negative views about Landmark, but what it gave Viv was the opportunity to have lived a complete life, not driven by the past. I don’t care what negative stuff some people say, that’s what Landmark offers everyone, including me, and I recommend it to everyone. Anyone who says it’s a cult is talking rubbish. There are people out there who want to be negative and nothing will stop them from dragging others with them. Landmark Education is an amazing organisation that gives people the tools to live their lives powerfully and live a life they love. What people do with those tools is up to them, but I know I’m one person who is extremely grateful for all the tools because there’s no way I would even be writing on this computer without them. And Viv probably wouldn’t have been in Samoa having a wonderful holiday, knowing that she had given her all to life. Vale Vivien. I know you are resting in peace.

I didn’t plan to write about Landmark, but it’s been a huge contributor to my life (and how I met wonderful Viv), and I want to acknowledge that. During pregnancy 6 years ago I developed electrosensitivity – a condition which means I get intense migraine-like headaches from everything electrical or electromagnetic – that includes this computer, the tv, phones – fixed or mobile – the car, the heater, fluro lights etc etc. I thought my life was over and that I would never be able to contribute to the world in the way I wanted to.

Through the courses at Landmark I realised that I actually had a choice. That, yes, I get headaches from tv and computers, but I could actually still use them – I just get headaches from them. So suddenly I had a choice in the matter – live like a hermit, avoiding life (cos life these days revolves around electricity!) or have headaches but live my life. I’ve chosen the latter, and now I’m running a business that involves video cameras, television, computers and telephones. I now have a blog and a twitter account. And I have constant headaches. But I take medication at night, I sleep, and I start again each morning. I may not feel as fresh in the head as other people (I also have CFS), but I’m out there living.

All of the above is a choice I make – a choice I make day to day, hour to hour, but it gives me power that I never believed I had. And I’ve seen hundreds, probably thousands by now, of other people Landmark courses have made an incredible difference to. I love their programs and I love what they stand for. I sometimes hold back from saying that, in case people think negatively of me or think I’ve been sucked into something. But there it is. I love Landmark Education and I’m proud of it. Anyone who gives them half a chance would agree, I’m sure. Some just don’t give them that chance. If you get the opportunity to do one of their programs – and they’re all over the world so the opportunity’s there every day – do it. You won’t regret it.

Well, that’s my blog for today. I hope you got something out of it and now know me a bit better.

(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)

Cheers

Louise

10 Tips For Interviewing Your Young Child On Video

September 22, 2009

101_1064I’m a huge advocate for capturing people’s stories on video, regardless of their age, background or any other consideration. Hence, if you have a video camera I believe capturing your child’s life story on video as they grow up is just too good an opportunity to miss.

Why interview your kids?

I’ve interviewed my daughter on video since she could speak. It’s a more interesting variation on the video we often see of kids playing or just doing things at random. While I love capturing these moments too, sitting down with your kids every now and then and asking them a few questions on video is a great way to capture their story at various stages of their development. And with their little imaginations on full throttle in the early years you can certainly capture some great stories.

How do I interview my young children?

As many people may not think to ‘interview’ their children,  or may not know how to go about it effectively, I thought I’d put together a few tips to help you along the way. These are mainly tips for young children, however, some may also apply to older children as well.

1. Ask simple questions. Usually in an interview I would suggest using open-ended questions, but with young kids it’s a bit different. The questions need to be specific and simple if you want them to open up. Later in the conversation or at later ages, open-ended questions work better. I’ll give you an example – “Did you go to school this week?” “What was your favourite thing you did at school this week?” “What did you like most about doing that?” “Who did you do it with?” “Did something funny happen at school this week?” “Tell me how the funny thing happened” “Was there anything else that you did this week that was fun?”. If you don’t get answers from one of these, you have a back-up question. Asking ‘what did you do at school today?’ can sometimes get  “oh, nothing much” or something similar. So I’ve learned to ask further specific questions which then lead to much more interesting answers. I think little kids sometimes get a bit overwhelmed when they’re asked about their whole day or week. Getting specific is the key.

2. Get them to tell you about something they’ve done recently. Again, ask specific questions. If you’re their parent you know what they’ve been doing so just prompt them to get them started, and keep asking those questions to keep them going!

3. Get them to sing a song they love. Simple but can be quite gorgeous because they forget you’re there! It’s a good way to circumvent playing to the camera too.

4. Ask them to dance for you, then ask them questions about it – a bit out of left field, but as some kids love to dance, but are a bit shy, this can be a way of relaxing them before getting them to talk. You could even put on one of their favourite songs so they can do their usual dance – very cute! Then ask them why they like the song or where they learned the dance etc.

5. Ask lots of “favourite” questions. Eg What is your favourite book? What do you like about it? Who’s your favourite person/character in the book? Who gave it to you? Having the same list of ‘favourite’ questions that you ask every time you interview them can be a really great way of showing their growth and development. Their favourite song will change quite regularly, as will their favourite food or tv show.

6. Ask leading questions – about things you already know they have been talking about, but you would like to capture them speaking about on video. Eg. Something they’ve just done at school or kinder, a party they’ve just been to, a holiday they’ve just been on. “You just went to Queensland didn’t you. Tell me what you did up there”.

7. Pick a topic to focus on in your ten minutes and stick to it. Maybe you might like to get your child talking about their grandparents, for instance. It could go something like “How ‘bout you tell me about ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grandad’ today” “What do you like doing with Grandma?” “Tell me about a time with Grandma that made you laugh?” “What’s your favourite thing about Grandma?” “Where do they live?” “What do you like doing when you visit them?”etc etc

8. Ask them to tell you a story or read you a book. Even if they can’t read, they make up great stories if you can get them going. These can be priceless!

9. Mix it up. Pick two or three of the above and combine them. Sometimes you will find your child is talkative, and other times not. If asking them about one thing doesn’t work, or they’re too shy this time to sing (even though they did last time), try another one of the ideas.

10. If they’re really not into it or really don’t want to, don’t force the issue. This will just lead to them hating when the camera comes out. Either put it away completely or suggest doing it a bit later. Because I’ve done little interviews with my daughter since she could speak, and videoed her from a very young age, she is used to it. One thing she really loves is when I turn the video screen around so she can see herself. It can be a trap at times, as she sees it as a fascinating mirror (and starts to pull faces, poke out her tongue etc), but if they’re reluctant it can be a good way to get kids to at least sit in front of the camera.

Kids, like adults, like attention and like to feel interesting, so just being interested enough in them to suggest a video interview will often be enough to get them on board.

Bonus Tip: Keep It Short!!

I mentioned 10 minutes in one of the tips. This is because that is about the attention span of most young kids when it comes to videoing. Doing the interview in short stints can often work the best. As soon as they start being silly and playing up to the camera that’s usually a sign that they’ve had enough for now.

Good luck with capturing your child’s story! I’d love to hear your feedback. Let me know any tips you can suggest?

(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

Wedding Head Shot #6

Louise

Value your story!

September 17, 2009

Louise

In my business as a personal video biographer, I often hear people say “but I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say” or “Oh, I’ve lived a boring life. You know who you should speak to is …”. Or there’s just the really common one of “I wouldn’t have anything to say”.

Now, I’ve always maintained that everyone has a story, regardless of age, experience, background etc. I’ve interviewed my 6 year old daughter numerous times ever since she could talk. The answers she gives to questions I think I know the answers to are often fascinating.

Similarly, I have interviewed older family members and found out many things about them that I had never heard before. After my Grandad died (he had been my first video interviewee almost 10 years ago) we were driving past a fairly new church in my Mum’s home town of Stawell, Vic, Australia. I pointed to the church and said to my daughter, “there used to be a house there and my Grandad was born in that house”. My Mum, who was driving,  said “Really, how did you know that?”. “He told me in the interview I did with him”, I said. That was one of my first experiences of realising that we often don’t know or find out things about our loved ones merely because we don’t think to ask them and they don’t think to tell us. You see, my Mum was very close to my Grandad, yet she didn’t know the exact place where he was born.

I think hesitancy to be interviewed on video often comes down to two (2) things:

1. People don’t value what they have contributed to the world.

It’s much easier for us to look at others and see their achievements, or believe people we know who tell great stories are much more interesting than we are. It seems to be much harder for us to acknowledge that many of the things we take for granted are actually fascinating stories to family members and others. From personal experience, I know that once I have moved on from a dramatic period in my life, or have learned to adapt to a particular situation, I tend to play down the courage, adaptability and skills that are/were involved in those experiences. When I do go into detail with people I think will actually be interested, I find they are often inspired by what I’ve accomplished or how I manage things.

Maybe it’s just human nature to play down the importance of dramatic or challenging times. It allows us to move on with the rest of our lives. But largely, I think, it is a case of a learned behaviour of invalidating ourselves. I know in Australia the “tall poppy syndrome” is alive and thriving. We get taught very early not to brag or ‘skite’ about our achievements – not to “get a big head” when we achieve something great. Aussies are notorious for championing the battler, but if/when the battler actually starts winning/succeeding in a major way – Chop! Off with their head – just like if a poppy grows much taller than the rest of the crop. It’s almost a national sport to build people up and then cut them down with gossip, innuendo, criticism and so on.

When someone who has initially resisted being interviewed because they didn’t think their story would be interesting changes their mind for whatever reason, I find I’m the one who sometimes has to end the interview because I had only allocated an hour or so (because they had been so reluctant or notoriously ‘shy’). If I have unlimited time, it’s amazing how long a supposedly shy person who has ‘led a boring life’ or ‘has nothing to say that’s interesting’ can tell stories for. And quite often these people tell the most fascinating stories.

I often describe my video interviews as just like sitting down for a cuppa and having a chat – there’s just a video camera and a couple of lights around as well. Once I get people started I think they really enjoy it, and in the process begin to value their life story. That’s the really gratifying bit.

Recently I got my husband to interview me, as I am always on the other end of the camera and I really wanted to capture some of my life story for my daughter and future generations. I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. It was so nice reminiscing about my childhood, and even when it came to more difficult topics, I realised how much I had learned and grown from those times as the words came out of my mouth.

2. A video camera is involved

When the word video is mentioned even the most gregarious, apparently confident people can do a double-take. It’s funny how intimidated we can be by the thought of having a visual record of ourselves versus an audio or written one. I’m not sure exactly what it is – maybe we’re so caught up in our worries of how we’ll look that we get scared. This can be the case for an 80 year old as much as for a 16 year old.

Once people sit down and start talking, however, I find they very quickly forget there’s a camera there. The key is to set your equipment up so that it is all under control, then start the conversation. Once you engage your interviewee  in a conversation, and as long as you’re not constantly checking your camera or adjusting lights, they will very quickly start to enjoy the experience and forget about the camera. It really is just like having a chat over a cup of tea or coffee.

One tip I have for anyone looking to interview a family member who is extremely reluctant is to suggest you just do 10 questions. I did that with my Dad, and I was fully intending to stick to it. But he got into it so much I actually had to stop and change the tape after 45 minutes. I really thought he would only do the 10 questions then run out the door as he is one of the most humble peoople I know. But we did a fantastic interview where I found out so many things I didn’t know. I must admit I used the additional line of “if you fell off the end of the earth tomorrow Sophie wouldn’t remember you (she was 3 at the time)”. That was the clincher, but it won’t work for everyone.

So the long and the short of it is I don’t believe there is really anyone out there who has no story, a boring life or has nothing to say. We all have a valuable story, and telling it on video is a way to capture it for your family now and for generations to come.  There are many reasons I prefer video over audio or written biographies, but I’ll go into that one at another time.

Now it’s time to pick up your video and start asking questions. And don’t think you can’t do it. If you can hold a conversation, you can interview someone on video. And if you need tips there are plenty of resources on the web for oral history questions or just contact me and I can point you in the right direction.

Happy memory catching!

(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)

Louise Hocking

Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

10 tips for interviewing your young child on video

  1. Ask simple questions. Usually in an interview I would suggest using open-ended questions, but with young kids it’s a bit different. The questions need to specific and simple if you want them to open up. Later in the conversation or at later ages, open-ended questions work better. I’ll give you an example – “Did you go to school this week?” “What was your favourite thing you did at school this week?” “What did you like most about doing that?” “Who did you do it with?” “Did something funny happen at school this week?” “Tell me how the funny thing happened” “Was there anything else that you did this week that was fun?”.

  1. Get them to tell you about something they’ve done recently.

  1. Get them to sing a song they love

  1. Ask them to dance for you

  1. Ask lots of “favourite” questions. Eg What is your favourite book? What do you like about it? Who’s your favourite person/character in the book? Who gave it to you?

  1. Ask leading questions – about things you already know they have been talking about, but would like to capture. Eg. Something they’ve just done at school or kinder, a party they’ve just been to, a holiday they’ve just been on. “You just went to Queensland didn’t you. Tell me what you did up there”

  1. Pick a topic to focus on in your ten minutes and stick to it. Maybe you might like to get your child talking about their grandparents, for instance. It could go something like “How ‘bout you tell me about ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grandad’ today” “What do you like doing with Grandma?” “Tell me about a time with Grandma that made you laugh?” “What’s your favourite thing about Grandma?” “Where do they live?” “What do you like doing when you visit them?”etc etc

  1. Ask them to tell you a story or read you a book (even if they can’t read, they make up great stories if you can get them going)

  1. Mix it up. Pick two or three of the above and combine them. Sometimes you will find your child is talkative, and other times not. If asking them about one thing doesn’t work, or they’re too shy this time to sing (even though they did last time), try another one of the ideas.

  1. If they’re really not into it or really don’t want to, don’t force the issue. This will just lead to them hating when the camera comes out. Either put it away completely or suggest doing it a bit later. Because I’ve done little interviews with my daughter since she could speak, and videoed her from a very young age, she is used to it. One thing she really loves is when I turn the video screen around so she can see herself. It can be a trap at times, as they see it as a fascinating mirror (and start to pull faces, poke out their tongue etc), but if they’re reluctant it can be a good way to get them to at least sit in front of the camera.

Value your personal history

August 26, 2009

Hi all,

This is a great article by Stefani Twyford – a video biographer from Houston Texas. It really sums up why I value capturing people’s personal histories.

http://legacymultimedia.com/blog/2009/07/16/what-calls-us-to-these-personal-histories/