Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Who Were These People?

By Keith N Fisher

For many years, in my genealogy hobby, I’ve lamented over not having photographs of my ancestors. The frustration grew stronger each time I learned of a picture in someone’s possession that wasn’t being shared.

If you are like me, you know the names and a little information about ancestors through several generations. I worked to confirm that research and find histories. I looked for personal information in unusual sources such as, historical accounts of areas, personal journals of neighbors, church records, etc.

Finding a picture of them, or of a home they lived in, made me ecstatic. I could relate a visual image to my ancestor and it made that person’s life more real to me. Seeing a face helped me forge a deeper connection to them.

I’ve never finished that project, partly because of lack of resources, partly because of changes in my life, but recently, I had an opportunity to work in the receiving part of a thrift store. (I know that’s a long sentence).

Anyway, while on the job, I noticed dozens of old documents and pictures come in. We had no way of tracing the people in the pictures, and no way to store it all. Because we knew that people often donate things by accident, we’d keep the pictures for a week, hoping they would be claimed. One day I perused the pile of throw-a-ways and found the negative of the picture above. I couldn’t tell who it was, but the mustache looked familiar somehow. I rescued the negative and brought it home to scan it.

Now, I stare into those vaguely familiar faces. They aren’t my ancestors, but they are somebody’s. In light of my quest, I’m saddened by the generations of some families who get tossed out each day. Either, by those who don’t care or they just can’t put a name to the face. Really sad, is the scenario of indifferent executors of wills tossing labeled family history collections.

My mother tells a story of her grandpa burning a stack of old papers and pictures. He’d lost the capacity to remember who they were. She cringes when she thinks about it today, so she’s gone through most of everything she owns and marked who the people were. She writes down the relevance of a document, so her posterity will know.

So, I ask you. Do you know who these people are? I hope to find a family member who recognizes the faces, then I can give them a piece of their family history.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

By Keith N Fisher

As we hurry along through our hectic daily lives, isn’t it nice to have a day to catch up? I don’t mean clearing off your desk, or even emptying your “in” basket. I’m talking about the pause the world takes at this time, each year.

I once saw an episode of a TV show called Fraggle Rock. It illustrates my point. The writers took the premise of the longest day of the year, (Winter solstice), and made the whole world shut down, on that day. Everyone, and everything gradually wound down, then reset, and the world was fresh and new again.

What you celebrate on December 25, doesn’t matter, or even if you celebrate at all. Isn’t it nice to have a day when the world shuts down? Well, mostly. I have to work this year, too.

Lately, I’ve been hearing people correcting others. They claim we should say happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. It’s all in the interest of political correctness. I used to say happy holidays because the term encompassed all the special days at this time of year. Now, I’ve soured to it.

Okay, If I remove the “MC” words in favor of the “HH”, will I be offending those of us who have to work, and can’t take a holiday? The list of taboo words, in our society, continues to grow. I suppose the reason is, we don’t want to offend any special interest groups, and frankly, I can’t keep up with the changes. When it comes to Christmas, I’m more worried about offending Jesus than a special interest group.

Back in the sixties, when they made A Charlie Brown Christmas, there was a big fuss over the Christmas play portion of the show. The producers were concerned about delving into the baby Jesus, thing. I’m so glad, they let Linus narrate the true meaning of Christmas, aren’t you?

Now, there are many people, who would point out the pagan beginnings of the holiday, but as for me, Christmas is for remembering my Savior. It’s a chance to take a moment, take stock, and reset my life. It’s a bright spot during a season of drudgery and despair. Whether, you are Christian or not, giving gifts, singing songs, family gatherings, and even the feast can cleanse the soul.

Like Fraggle Rock, our world has one day a year, when it shuts down, resets, and continues.

As for being politically correct, may you come to grips with what ever you believe in, but try to show tolerance for others, and stop trying to force the rest of us to espouse your cause. I love Jesus and I can’t fathom how that would effect you at all. You can believe what you want, too. It’s call freedom. I will try to remember the preferred way you wish to be addressed, and you can call your holiday whatever you wish. Let me have my preferred names as well. I could say, have a lousy winter season, but I choose to wish you the best. May you have a Merry Christmas.

Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Like a Bundle

By Keith N Fisher

I had occasion to visit a previous place of employment and talked with some of my friends. We talked about changes and I told them what I’ve been up to. In 2005, I lost my career job and I’ve been bouncing through life since. Most recently, I was a victim of the Bush economy and the Obama recovery hasn’t helped.

Because of those issues, I’ve had to start over and build a new career. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing okay. Getting out the chair from sedentary jobs has been beneficial, and the new skills I’m learning have been challenging.

During my visit, three people independently asked if I was still writing. I said yes of course. Then after the last person asked I considered the question on a deeper level.

Of course I’m still writing. How could I not? A couple of years ago, on this blog, I wrote about the need we all have to write. Some of us pretend to quit but always come back to it. For many of us, writing is a core desire. To echo what I wrote then, I have a friend who signs every email with the words, writing is life.

In my new job, I meet many people who claim they just can’t function without that first cup of coffee in the morning. I’ve known others over the years, who can’t relax without that glass of wine or the beer after work. These are indications of addiction and illustrate my point.

I can’t quit writing. Ideas and plot lines float around my head and must be released onto paper, so to speak. Every day something presents itself that must be written down. Once, I have written it, I can move on through my day.

To be fair, I do have friends who are great writers but they just don’t have the all-consuming desire to write. I understand. I seem to function just fine without a cup of coffee and I don’t need a beer or a glass of wine to relax. In fact the older I get the easier it is to fall asleep. So it’s okay to not be driven. On the other hand, I cannot quit.

I told my friend at the old job, that I would always write. Even if my books were never published, I will write them. I cannot not, write. With each new twist my life takes I keep my writing with me. Like a bundle tied to the end of a proverbial stick, resting on the shoulder of a transient, I keep my writing close.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Simultaneous Inspiration

By Keith N Fisher

A great idea for a new story came into my head the other day. The premise, beginning, middle, and end lay themselves out for me while I watched the local news. Then, a few hours later, another idea popped up and I wrote it down, too.

I added those ideas to the myriad other drafts floating in my project file, many of which will never be completed. I’m just too old to write them all. Maybe I’ll bequeath them to my friends so they can write the stories in their own way.

Ideas often come to me like that. It’s how I write. I look over the drafts in my project file and see what excites me the most. The problem lies in being equally excited about more than one story at the same time.

Have you ever written a book, knowing it was given to you through some kind of inspiration? Like the idea that came to me from television news, it falls into your lap? Then, after laboring to write it correctly, you discover someone else had the same idea.

My friend complains that almost every time she starts a new story, a particular famous author writes it too. It’s almost uncanny. One of my current works lost most of it’s luster when I discovered a similar book written by a successful author and we both started writing at the same time.

Why does this happen? I wrote a song once, and then heard it on the radio. There were a few differences, but some of the phrases were exactly the same. I wondered if my lyrics had been stolen. I began to take steps to copyright my work. I even had a notary sign off on some of my songs.

The truth is, there’s something in the wind—always has been. Some call it muse. Others say there is a mystical force that governs creativity. I believe that God wants certain stories to be written so he inspires everyone. Sometimes there is more than one writer listening.

In everyone, there is a magnum opus, a life’s work that defines who we are, and what we believe in. I take comfort in making a difference in other people’s lives. I don’t always succeed, but maybe if I listen to the inspiration, and work hard, I’ll be the one who gets to write the next great book.

Good luck with your inspiration and your writing. See you next week.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Harry's World

By Keith N Fisher

I read Harry Potter out of self-defense. When I started, everyone was waiting for book six to be released. Speculation about the plot was the subject of every conversation. I didn’t understand what they were talking about, because I hadn’t read the story, or seen the movies.

I read the Sorcerer’s Stone expecting to get the facts. I didn’t expect to be entertained. That genre has never been my favorite, but I kept reading because the characters were well drafted, and I wanted to know what happened next.

The Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 and came to the United States as the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998. Who knew the profound affect it would have on literature and a whole generation of movie buffs.

Harry Potter has been part of our culture during the whole lifetimes of this year’s seventh graders. The author wrote great characters, expanded by some wonderful actors. I love the way Bellatrix taunts Harry with the chant “I killed Serious Black.” The actress personifies the homicidal evil that exists in the character.

Who didn’t cry when they saw Dumbledore fall from the tower, even though we all knew it was going to happen? The characters of HP will live in our memories, like the great tears shed by Hagrid as he carried Dumbledore’s body to the tomb.

I went with my family to see the seventh flick the other day. After the previous movie, The Half Blood Prince, I was convinced the producers would screw up The Deathly Hallows, too, but it wasn’t too bad. Since my wife hasn’t read the books, I found myself answering dozens of questions about the plot.

The experience made me wonder when I went from curious reader, to connoisseur of Harry’s world. My little perusal into the magical realm has turned into much more than trying to keep up with conversation.

With the size of the final book, the movie producers determined to spread it out over two movies. I wish they had done the same with some of the other books. I felt cheated when certain scenes were left out of the movies, but I read the books. My memory of the story is much richer because I read the books.

Next year, we’ll get a chance to see the final movie and the world will have to move on. Somehow, though, I don’t think it will. Harry’s world will be part of my culture forever and I tip my hat off to the author. Personally, I can’t wait to find out how the producers deal with the last chapter. I want to see Harry’s world, nineteen years later.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.