“Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.”
I had an unexpected but pleasant surprise at work. Donald Ritchie, Historian Emeritus of the U.S. Senate and oral history guru to thousands around the globe, was in Lexington to deliver the annual Prichard Lecture which he did yesterday. He stopped by the Nunn Center this morning for an interview with Doug Boyd. It was a pleasure to meet Donald. I learned over the summer that we have a mutual friend in Judi Jennings who just happens to be one of my favorite people. As expected of Judi’s friends, he was especially kind to me, and he gave Doug an excellent interview. He’s quite well spoken and concise in thought. I enjoyed my day at work a great deal, and it’s always a joy to meet someone kind.
“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.”
~ Anne Lamott
I had a chance to do an oral history with Erin Chandler. She’s a real trooper for being my guinea pig. You might recall that she’s in town for a while, so we’re making the most of it. This was just the first of 3 or 4 oral histories with her. She’s had quite the life. We could conduct a ton of oral histories with her and she wouldn’t run out of stories.
I’ve known Erin for several years now, and she never ceases to amaze me. When I think of someone emotionally strong and resilient, I think Erin (she probably wouldn’t call herself emotionally strong, but she is). When I think of someone who makes the most of whatever life throws their way, I think Erin. Her cousin Whit once told me, “She works every day to be happy.” And she does. She never stops learning. She never stops trying to be a better person. What more could anyone possibly ask for in a friend?
Just outside the studio is Stacy Yelton and Crystal Heis’ office space. They had scanned a book called “The People’s House: Governor’s Mansions of Kentucky“. Erin rifled through the pages and found several photos of her mom and dad. In case I haven’t mentioned it, her grandfather was Happy Chandler; two time governor of Kentucky and the Baseball Commissioner that desegregated the game. Obviously, there were pictures of her grandparents in the book as well. Today’s interview centered on Erin’s early life which very much included her grandparents, so it was sweet that this book happened to be around. Crystal said we should take a picture of Erin and the book. I ran for my camera, hearing Crystal in the distance “This better not end up in the outhouse.” I couldn’t help myself. Forgive me Crystal. The picture is just too sweet not to post.
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” ~ Mary Oliver
For a long time I’ve been trying to find a way to interview dad about his life. He met my friend and writing and art life mentor, Gurney Norman, back in December at the funeral of a mutual friend’s father. They hit it off big time. I’ve never known dad to make such an effort to be friends with someone. He thought the world of Gurney the second they met. The feeling was mutual it turned out.
A few weeks ago I awoke from a deep sleep with the answer. (yes, my mind works that way sometimes) I knew Gurney should talk to dad. They share so, so, so much in common. They’re both mountain men. They’re a year apart in age. They both went through jump school in the army. Gurney not only knows where Hardburly is,the coal camp where dad was born, but he has actually been there. The list goes on. So, I asked Gurney if he would interview dad. It was an enthusiastic yes. I was beyond honored. Dad was honored, too. He didn’t care as much about the oral history part as he cared about talking to Gurney again.
Gurney is a smart man. He’s genuinely interested in what people have to say. He’s equally interesting to listen to, for he has lived many lives in this one life. So, that’s how they did their interview; like a conversation. When dad actually stopped talking for a second (I’ve never heard him so eager to talk – ever!), Gurney shared his own wisdom, insight, and theories. He knew how to draw dad out; how to make him more comfortable so that he would tell his stories. As I suspected, Gurney is a natural at oral histories, probably because he was a reporter for many years, but also because, like I said, he is genuinely interested in people. You have to be interested in order to know how to listen and to ask the right questions.
This was the first of what I hope will be many talks between these two new/old friends, whether it be for our cameras, or just over coffee. I don’t think they care either as long as they can keep talking. There was more admiration and respect in that room than words can define. Most of it was coming from me. I just felt incredibly blessed to be loved by two such great men.
“When you are truly comfortable with who you are, not everybody will like you.
But you won’t care about it one bit.”
This is what’s kept me so busy this week. We’ve gone from a room packed to the rafters (not exaggerating) with gear and desks and students, to this. Tomorrow, new carpet, and on Friday, we’ll do it all in reverse with mostly new (to us) furniture. I am so thankful UK has a team of guys to move the heavy stuff. I’d be ready for the pasture without them. Apart from the busy, I’m pretty excited to see this facelift. I’m also very pleased with how well my allergies have behaved. I did all the moving without a mask: a real risk, believe it or not. After three days of serious dust and stuff, apart from a minor sore throat in the evenings, I’ve felt fine. My most sincere thanks to Dr. Beth Miller and her nurses for getting me back on the road to good health with those allergy shots. That’s only taken four years <insert laughter>. The mold might take a little longer. I’m not complaining – I’m a believer and exceedingly grateful!
“By embracing what comes on this journey, and having faith that we are not given anything we cannot handle, we go with the flow that life offers. ” ~ Daily Buddha
I’ve finished my first full week in the Nunn Center. It was, in a word, fantastic, in no small way thanks to this man, Seth Newell. While Doug has been excellent at the big picture and general workflow of the job, Seth has been invaluable for the in-the-trenches work. Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without him this week. Apart from being my savior, there was something else about Seth I was immediately drawn to. He reminds me so, so, so very much of my dear friend Rich Kidd (yes, that’s his real name) whom I haven’t seen in 25 years. Back in the day, Rich had different color hair and dressed like a punk. Seth has a shaved head and tattoo adorned arms. Same effect, different generation, at least to me that’s true. More than looks, however, is how similar they are in spirit. They’re happiest when they’re helping. They’re efficient, organized, thorough, positive, all rolled up in a great work ethic. They’re the people you want by your side if you want to succeed. I’ve missed Rich a lot over the years, so it has been the most pleasant of surprises to get to know Seth. He even laughs at my stupid jokes just like Rich. Sadly, next week is his last in the Nunn Center for he took a GA position. The good news is that he’ll still be in the building, so I can continue to enjoy his company and kindness. He really is awesome.
“Don’t waste your life trying to impress other people. Do what you love, love what you do.” ~ Jim @thedailybuddha
See that twinkle in my eye? That’s because today I was offered and accepted a job as manager for the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in Special Collections at UK Libraries. Years ago, before I took the job running the newspaper program, I helped develop the first digitization efforts for the Nunn Center. Since then, Director Doug Boyd has catapulted the Nunn Center onto the world stage. From around the globe, he is the man they call, and the Nunn Center’s collections are second to none. That I am returning is the best possible job, and one that I can really sink my teeth into. Doug has always talked to me as an equal. He’s smart, creative, innovative, ballsy (thank God), and he asks the right questions. Yet, something he said made all the difference for me. When I said I’d be happy to work for him, he quickly stopped me and said, “With, not for.” BAM – I was ready to go to work that very moment! I am so incredibly blessed that words really don’t suffice: Blessed to be employed, blessed to have great co-workers (the ones who knew about this today could not have been kinder to me), blessed to have built an incredible national newspaper collection, and blessed to continue my career at the University of Kentucky. See what faith can do? Never doubt the power of positive thinking. Ever.