Jul 172017
 

In storytelling as in life, we find ourselves wearing a variety of hats. The professional. The parent. The expert. The questioner. Some situations call for only one hat. Other times, we wear a combination. Which storytelling hat we don as we tell our own and family stories impacts how we’ll narrate the episodes of the past.

What storytelling hat are you wearing

You don’t have to choose just one, but you should choose. The act of sticking one or more on our heads should be intentional. Thinking about your role as the storyteller can help you handle some of those thorny situations that crop up.

Storyteller’s Hat

We’ll start with the storyteller’s hat. When we wear it we want to:

  • Entertain
  • Create Understanding
  • Preserve chapters of history
  • Form Connections

Most of the time, our inner storyteller influence is a good thing. The desire to form connections makes almost all of us better writers and storytellers, as does the drive to make our stories compelling.

As Diana Raab states in her 5 Tips on the Fine Art of Storytelling article, “When a story is told well, the listener is transported on a journey to a new place.” It opens readers eyes not only to what happened in one particular story, but what could have happened in that time and place. They can imagine living there.

While we discussed this in a recent class I taught, a participant raised his hand, perplexed. “What’s so wrong with embellishment? I’m the family storyteller. What does it matter if I change some details?” While my inner genealogist counted to ten, I invited his classmates to respond.

One questioned what it was that his audience wanted. “You said you’re here because your grandson urged you to write stories down. There are libraries full of good fictional stories. I think perhaps he wants to hear your true story.” Other classmates thought that as long as he didn’t try to sell the embellishments as truth, it was completely up to him.

Great food for thought. How attached are you to your storyteller’s hat?

Wearing the Biographer/Autobiographer/Historian/Genealogist’s Hat

Though they are no less invested in creating understanding and preserving history, these hats are more constraining. That doesn’t mean that historians et al aren’t great writers and storytellers. The Joe Friday, “Just the facts, Ma’am” reputation is unfair (not to mention misattributed). However, as they narrate the past, they make sure to:

  • Get the details right
  • Research and source
  • Provide historical context

And while they’re at it, the family historian hopes to discover ancestor’s and document generations past.

Writing while wearing your historian’s hat requires an adherence to the facts.  As Gore Vidal wrote in Palimpset “…an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.”[1]

Choosing the genealogist’s or historian’s hat, i.e., deciding to be ethically bound to provide an unbiased illumination of history, brings clarity to those “what not to tell” decisions.  Judy Russell, aka The Legal Genealogist, addresses this at length in her “Ethical Genealogist” lecture. (If you’re ever able to attend one, I highly recommend it.) An example she gives is that ethical genealogists can’t paint their slave-owning ancestors as well-loved by their slaves unless they’ve found evidence to back up that claim.

She also presents tips on deciding if leaving out part of the story is revising history. That’s a great measuring stick for all storytellers, regardless of their obsession—or lack-thereof—with finding their ancestors.

The Memorist’s Hat

Memorists storytelling hats Whether you’re penning a literary memoir or telling vignettes of your own life, the memoirist’s hat has a different feel to it. Its hatstrings are entangled with the delicate threads of fallible memory. Rather than research facts, the memoirist endeavors to

  • Tell their own “truth’
  • Focus on their personal memories
  • Narrate emotional events
  • Explain smaller parts of a life story

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen’s poignant article You or Your Memory: On writing memoir and family articulates the decisions memoirists face as they depict episodes that others might well remember differently.

I first thought that memoir was an exercise in linear cataloguing, but realise now that it’s about personal perspective and capturing significant moments and feelings. Memoirists and those close to them must recognise the fallibility and subjectivity of memory, and the fluid nature of narrative. Life influences art as much as art influences life.

The Advocate’s Storytelling Hat

The advocate’s hat goes well with other head-toppings. For instance, memorists describing traumatic episodes of their pasts often self-advocate. When thoughtful and ethical, it’s a noble hat. However, if you forget you’re wearing it under a historian’s hat, it can allow bias to creep into what you meant to be an impartial narrative, because advocates:

  • Seek to persuade
  • Have a declared bias (or should)
  • Represent the interests of one person above others

Some genealogists feel uncomfortable playing the advocate. They feel their role should always be to shine the light of historical and social context on the past, letting readers form their own conclusions. They want to light the entire scene, not to highlight only a narrow path leading to the back-door.

Finding myself incapable at times to walk the tightrope of even-handedness, I sometimes choose to wear the advocate’s hat unashamedly. For instance, even were I capable of it, I don’t feel it’s my role to explain any mitigating circumstances that might explain my great-grandfather abandoning his daughter. I wear the hat of a proud granddaughter, incensed at the neglect he subjected her to.

Your Turn

What storytelling hat do you wear as you narrate chapters of the past? Why does it work for you? What conflicts does it lead you into?

 

Image credit – background image of stacked hats: Morguefile standard license, user “clarita”

[1] As quoted from Gore Vidal in Palimpsest in “Two Possible Definitions for Memoir,” ReadWriteThink.org, accessed July 17, 2018, http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson998/Definition.pdf.

Jul 052017
 

Discovering my Ethnicity via autosomal DNA testing

Taking myself and my sister as a pseudo case-study, I thought it might be interesting to compare the ethnicity estimates obtained through autosomal DNA testing at three different companies.  Note: This is not a detailed comparison of all the DNA-companies and all the features they offer.  Rather, I’ll only compare the origin or ethnicity profiles of three DNA tests.

Ancestry.com’s autosomal DNA Ethnicity Estimate

When I first received (back in 2014, I think) my Ancestry.com results, I had a mixed reaction: “Hmmm….” and “Oh wow, now I can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.”

My ethnicity estimate from Ancestry.com

The “Hmmm…” came because I’ve been tracing my roots for a while (not including the 20 years my aunt spent before I started) and I’ve yet to find an Irish ancestor.  In fact, those ancestors I’ve traced back over the pond, all come from England and Scotland.  My major brick wall is John Wilkinson (born 1803 in Virginia, married to Nancy). The good folks at the Irish Genealogical Society have told me that he’s not likely to have been an Irishman.

Regardless, John and Nancy Wilkinson wouldn’t account for much of that 37% of Irishness. As my 3x great-grandparents, either one of them would only account for 3.3% of my DNA makeup.[1]

Over the last couple of years, Ancestry.com and genetic genealogy bloggers have started publishing answers to my mysterious Irish DNA conundrum. In We are all Irish according to Ancestry.com, Laurence A. Moran suggests that it’s perhaps more meaningful to think of Ancestry’s “Irish” ethnicity as “Celtic.” Ancestry.com’s AncestryDNA – The Irish Connection explains that “Irish” component of their ethnicity estimates simply means that the user shares genetic ancestry with individuals in their Irish reference panel, who possess “deep roots in Ireland going back several generations.”

In other words, an estimate is just that. An informed projection based on comparing DNA with other modern-day people. As Judy G. Russell explains in Those percentages, revisited, “Nobody is out there running around, digging up 500- or 1,000-year-old bones, extracting DNA for us to compare our own DNA to.”

Ancestry.com also points out that the map for Ireland ethnicity overlaps other close-by locations, such as Scotland. That’s a legitimate point. Irish genealogy specialists are quick to point out, that depending where you cross, Scotland and Ireland are only separated by 20 to 50 miles of water.

Ancestry.com’s DNA Result Enhancements

For a while, that was all the information Ancestry.com had for me.  But, to give full credit where credit is due, they keep improving the data their test results provide.  At the end of March 2017, they rolled out Genetic Communities which give greater insight into their ethnicity estimates.

Ancestry.com's ethnicity estimates of by way of genetic communitiesBecause I’m still in the process of understanding them myself, delving deeply in to them are beyond the scope of this post. That said, it is striking how much more information these genetic communities give than their standard pie-chart. I’m sure I’ll spend many happy hours delving into these communities, as well as my DNA-circles.  These are groups of DNA cousins that have identified common ancestors.  (You do need to upload a family tree for this to work.) Curiously, all seven of my DNA-circles stem from my mother’s side of the family.

Family Tree Autosomal DNA “Origins”

I decided to do a little more testing and cousin baiting through Family Tree DNA. Driven more by spontaneity than scientific method, I decided to gift this test kit to my sister, who, in theory, shares 50% of my DNA.  I thought using her spittle might widen the cousin-catching net.

It has. Because each company has their own database of potential matches, her DNA test has yielded different DNA-cousins than Ancestry.com’s matches.

Ethnicity Estimates or Origins per Family Tree DNA

While their “Origins Profile” of 93% British Isles is vague enough not to be confusing, it is, um, well, vague.  (I should note that their “ancient origins” profile, something else beyond the scope of this post, is pretty cool.)

Living Autosomal DNA Ethnicity Estimates

Several fellow genealogists encouraged me to try testing at Living-DNA, a lesser-known (at least in my neck of the woods) company which promises greater origin detail for those of us with European ancestry. Read more about the company Roberta Estes’ LivingDNA Product Review.

Opening my results, I wasn’t a bit surprised to see 92.8% European. (However, the 6+% of Asian DNA did surprise me.)

Living DNA European Ethnicity Estimates Overview

Living DNA European Ethnicity Estimate Overview

No big revelations, until I kept clicking on the little plus sign. Pay dirt. Living DNA lived up to their promise of a more detailed ethnicity estimate.

Detailed British Isles Ethnicity Estimate per Living DNA

Detailed British Isles Ethnicity Estimates per Living DNA

Though I’ve yet to compare the places my known ancestors lived with these results. However, glancing over them and remembering the Ancestral places I had on my 2016 UK visit bucket list, I see a lot of correlation.

However, the comparison raises questions as well. While Ancestry puts my Scandinavian DNA at 24%, LivingDNA reports 6%. Hmmm.

The Take-Aways

  1. The better you understand the technology and protocols each testing company uses, the more meaningful your results will be.
  2. Like everything else in family history, you’ll want multiple sources. And, one source will often lead you to the next. For instance, it wasn’t until I knew that approximately 90% of my DNA origins were from the Europe that I realized that testing at Living DNA was a logical next step.
  3. Depending on your purposes and what you already know about your ancestry, one test might be preferable for you.  In other words, don’t choose which test you take based on price alone. (I found Roberta Estes’ Which DNA Test is Best helpful. Nanalyze’s AncestryDNA vs 23andMe vs FamilyTreeDNA vs Living DNA is also interesting and entertaining.)
  4. Uploading your family tree will greatly increase your odds of finding DNA cousins, and with Ancestry.com, the more information you upload, the better your chances of identifying DNA-circles.
  5. DNA testing lets the genie out of the bottle in a multitude of ways. It can be a lot like Lay’s potato chips. The more you learn about genetic genealogy, the more you’ll understand from these tests.  You can’t learn just one fact. Genetic genealogy is a fascinating field that will draw you in. You’ll definitely want to look into other tools like GedMatch.com.
  6. I’m not 37% Irish.

[1] Degrees of Relations and the Number of Genes Share, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com~laetoli/degree.html

 

Jun 302017
 

Most of us believe that family stories matter, but we’re hard put to explain why. Here’s what I came up with.Why Family Stories Matter

Family is more than the DNA in our cells, more than our biological relatedness. Family is a story in itself—a tale of where we came from. It includes what roads we traveled, what obstacles we faced, and who kept us safe and sane along the way. Family is built on our common experiences, both those that transpired over centuries and those that took place during a singular hot, miserable fourteen-hour trip in the back of a unairconditioned station wagon. It’s the recipes we’ve learned, elbow to elbow as Stacy Troilo likes to say. The bumps, bruises, heartache, healing, and loving that we shared. Sometimes it’s even the what-might-have-been.

Knowing (and Understanding) Family Stories Matter

In his 2013 The Family Stories that Bind Us New York Times article, Bruce Feiler reported an astounding finding. Investigating how to raise happy children, he concluded, “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.” Research shows that children who know their family stories tended to have more resilience.

When you think about how the brain digests stories differently than it processes facts, it makes sense that family stories matter to a child’s development. Stories connect us to characters. That’s doubly powerful when the “characters” are family members. Though thinking of a little train saying, “I think I can, I think I can” is great, knowing Uncle Joe overcame incredible odds is more inspiring.

My maternal grandmother came from a background that could have easily produced a resentful, bitter person. That would have been a normal and sane response to poverty and abandonment. Knowing that and having known the depth of her generous, loving and positive personality through her stories, make the word inspiring seem like faint praise.

Her past—her story—shores me up when I feel slighted. I realize that I too can rise above ugliness and not let it change me. Not to mention that the slights I face don’t even compare to what she faced.  Perspective is a good thing.

I also think of my dear friend John. His grandparents raised him. He had little contact with his mother and never met his father. For him, “family history” is place of rootlessness. I’m not saying he’s not resilient. He is. However, I do think it’s come at a higher price for him.

I also think of hearing LeVar Burton speak at RootsTech last February. He stressed that everyone needs to know where they came from to make their own story complete.

The Telling of Family Stories Matters

A storyteller and an audience comprise a dialogue, a conversation. Family storytelling goes far beyond an entertaining rendition of past events, because our telling, like our stories, has a rich subtext.

Family storytellers aren’t motivated by a need to sit on center stage and enjoy the limelight. They have a need to connect. A desire to comfort and commiserate and celebrate when they’re not physically present.  The nurturing you tacitly express by storytelling is part of your story. Your listeners or readers get that. That’s part of a bond.

A story of getting in trouble for playing hooky from school, for example, tells your reader (or listener) that you didn’t start off perfect. That you’ve been in someone’s ill favor. Perhaps most importantly, you’re explaining that when it happens to them, it’s not going to be the end of the world.

Family Stories: Meant for Sharing

Paul Tritschler articulates it elegantly.

“We don’t become any less by sharing. Stories are part of the fabric of who we are, but only in sharing our life experiences do we develop a sense of self. … Stories cultivate the frequently forgotten yet uniquely human traits that are crucial in building solidarity.”

When I was expecting my second, I tried to stave off any growing feelings of resentment that might be stirring in my eldest son’s belly against the child growing in mine. My go-to exercise was what I called the “love candle.” The love candle was a glass dish filled with wax and three wicks.

Love candle illustrates sharing family stories After lighting the first wick, I’d turn of the lights and explain how lighting the other two wicks (him and his sibling-to-be) didn’t diminish the first flame. As three, they burned brighter. I hoped he’d get how our growing family would only brighten the light of love in our house.

At two, he may not have fully digested my metaphor. He could count to three and thought three people were enough of a family.

You, on the other hand, have realized that the love candle metaphor works for our family stories. Sharing them not only increases the illumination for the hearer. It spreads the connections, ones that can continue to burn even after our own flame is extinguished.

Jun 162017
 

In her ongoing Remember the Descendants blog party, Elizabeth O’Neal asks family historians how they plan to preserve genealogical research for future generations.

Remember the Descendants empty page

Don’t leave a blank page. Remember the descendants in your family tree by preserving genealogical information

The question is well-put for all memoirists and family storytellers. We’re creating a legacy. Even if you don’t know much about your family’s genealogy, preserving what you do know is important.

Preserving Roots, Not Just Branches

Knowing where you came from matters. We hear stories, again and again, about how knowing one’s roots has made a difference. LeVar Burton had a particularly poignant one. I have a couple of my own, which you’ll find peppered throughout this blog.

The Global Family Reunion party I hosted two years ago also brought this home. Though few of the attendees were hard core (or even light core, for that matter) family historians, most showed up with a precious stack of papers, notebook, or chart that Aunt So-and-so had put together years ago. My friend Judy had a single sheet of paper with what her father, then 93, could remember about family names and places.

These unremarkable-looking treasures were heirlooms which connected them to their roots.

Including Family History in Your Legacy of Stories

There are a multitude of ways to preserve that you know about your family’s genealogy. Below are just a few ideas.

Scrapbooking:

You can look at the tutorials on this site or create your own design. Almost every craft store has family tree or family history pages and layouts. When you need inspiration, Stacy Julian’s “a very fruitful tree” site is packed full of great ideas that merge scrapbooking and storytelling. I’ve also pinned quite a few layouts on my Scrapbooking Pinterest board.

Family Bible or Holy Book

Writing names and birth and death dates was a tradition born of necessity before the advent of hospital births and birth certificates. Wouldn’t continuing to honor this tradition make a wonderful gift? Whether it’s a new Bible you purchase for a young person or using your best penmanship (or even a calligraphy pen) to preserve information in your aunt’s dog-eared tome, loved ones will appreciate it.

Remember the Descendants by Writing a Family History Book

You don’t have to have a file cabinet full of genealogical information to start thinking about compiling a family history book. This allows you to combine the stories with the facts. (Hmm. I feel a blog series coming on.)

Digitizing Old Films so the Whole Family Can Enjoy Them

box of memories in the closetDisclosure: I represent Legacy Republic (affiliate link), a company that does just that. It’s not simply a matter of preserving old VHS tapes that are degrading to put them back in the same closet in another, albeit longer-lasting, format. You can remember the descendants by making your past accessible to them and sharing it with them. Those old photo albums and 8mm films can work as story prompts.

Journaling

Journaling isn’t what it used to be when I wrote in my diary in high school. Or at least, it’s not necessarily that.  Though it can be the portal through which you dump your deepest and most embarrassing thoughts, journals also make a great way to preserve memories, stories, and love for the next generation.  Pinterest, of course, makes a great source of inspiration.  But keep in mind, it doesn’t have to look like Martha Stewart’s staff put it together for it to connect.  My grandmother’s journal was barely legible (I’m not endorsing that, mind you), but we love it immensely.

Need more Ideas?

Below are just a few posts in which family history and storytelling intersect.

 Your Turn:

How do plan to preserve genealogical information for your descendants? Leave me a comment or join in Elizabeth’s Remember the Descendants Blog Party (open through June 2017).

 

May 252017
 

A blog or Facebook? Which is better for sharing family history? It’s a question that been going around the genealogy community for the last month or so.Blog or Facebook

Having one foot in the writers’ community and one foot in the family history crowd, the question surprised me. I don’t think it would have come up in an authors’ group. Writers look at it as both, not either or. Probably because “platform building” has become a necessity as authors’ are increasingly forced into functioning as entrepreneurs. They wield whatever tools they can put their hands on and use effectively. Blogging and Facebook come immediately to mind. Continue reading »

May 102017
 

In the hyper-awareness that comes with loss, quite a few bittersweet moments have embossed themselves on my heart and memory. Snapshots of love, grief, and faith, gathered over the last two weeks.

Sacred Bittersweet Moments

Our minds record touching, bittersweet moments more vividly than a camera could.

I thought the dearly departed would have enjoyed some of them, were he watching. Perhaps he was. My insights aren’t unique, I’m sure. Such bittersweet moments happen in families all the time. But I found comfort in writing them down. Considering them together, I realize that they tell a story that is as much about the departed as those he left behind.

I hope that by my sharing them, you’ll record a few of your own. Continue reading »

Apr 252017
 

Romance stories aren’t only for the young. We’ve always known that. But still, it’s the stories of youthful innocence and falling in love that make the best seller lists. The stories of couples entering their seventh decade of marriage make the back pages.romance stories one for the ages

But those long relationships started somewhere, a lot of times with young love. And these stories get better with age.

Last week I sat in a hospital room with two people I dearly love, both in their mid-eighties. A palliative care professional was trying to get the man, recovering from a stroke, to think about “outcomes” and “interventions.” She asked, “How would you feel about it, if you couldn’t go home? If you had to go to a nursing facility?” Continue reading »

Apr 042017
 

As a newly minted Legacy Republic consultant, I seized on the opportunity at RootsTech 2017 to get to know the company’s leadership better. Legacy Republic Logo (Disclosure: I’m a Legacy Maker or consultant. As such I receive financial compensation from orders placed through me or my personal Legacy Republic site. That said, I believe in Legacy Republic’s mission and services. They are the reason I joined.)

During Rootstech2016, Legacy Republic’s president Brian Knapp was busy unveiling their new Studio scanner, the 2nd place winner in the Innovator Summit.  This year, things were a little less hectic. However, Brian was no less enthusiastic about the company’s mission. In addition, he had time to explain Legacy Republic’s commitment to helping family historians tell stories.

View the interview below to hear more about how Legacy Republic helps family storytellers highlight the moments that matter.

Interview

Legacy Republic and Storytelling

Sharleen Reyes, the company’s VP of Marketing impressed me as well. She took time to sit with me and give me insight into how Legacy Republic translates their mission into a marketing strategy. Sharleen isn’t what my former life in international business would have lead me to expect out of a VP of Marketing.  She’s unpretentious, open to new ideas, and has a mile-wide creative streak.

She doesn’t believe in scare tactics.  Though it’s true that media is degrading, particularly VHS media, Legacy Republic frowns on scaring customers into getting every linear foot of video and film in the house digitized.  The mission is to get important memories out of closets and to share them with family.

Which is why, Sharleen explains, Legacy Republic prefers the person-to-person relationship model rather than a traditional sales force.  In fact, Legacy Republic trains their Legacy Makers to back away from “selling.” Instead, they are coached to simply help customers and trust that sales opportunities will develop organically—or not—out of trusted relationships.

Choosing the Moments that Matter

Which moments matter?

A case in point of posed versus un-posed photos. Of course, on the left is the question of why my mom would have cut my bangs so short before a formal portrait. However, the photo on the right portrays a more typical story of how my sister entertained herself sticking her finger in my ear. And why I didn’t seem to mind.

Sharleen and Brian gave a presentation at RootsTech on choosing those moments that matter.  In it, they stressed that the moments that matter are not necessarily the ones in which everyone wears in coordinated outfits and stands in front of an attractive backdrop. It might not even be the one with perfect focus and composition. Rather, they’re the ones that express a moment of personalities and relationships. The ones that give rise to stories. That’s a valuable takeaway for storytellers.

Your Turn:

There are stories lurking in your closets. Look back at media—still or film or video—and choose a couple of ones that have stories which flow from them.  Now go tell those stories!

Mar 102017
 

TapGenes, Tap Genes Logo an application that helps families compile their health information, won the 2016 RootsTech Innovator Summit. Last month, I caught up with CEO Heather Holmes to see what difference a year makes.

Our Interview


(In case you’re wondering, I am not affiliated with TapGenes. I just like the platform. Much of TapGenes is free to use.)

How TapGenes Helps Families Tell their Stories

TapGenes explains that they use “the idea of “crowdsourcing” to help “families create a more complete and accurate family medical history, together.” That little word “together” isn’t an after-thought. As families accumulate information, they have conversations about what they know.  Not only does this help inform all members of the family, it also fosters honest conversations, a key to preventing important health topics from getting swept under the rug. (See Why You Should Tell Health Stories)

Despite all the fanfare about genetic testing, the information already known to your family provides crucial information for doctors. Think about it, before you even see a doctor, you fill out forms about your own and family health history. Unfortunately, a lot of us can’t remember everything in that 10 minutes during which scribble on the forms as we wait to see the doctor. The website is HIPAA compliant so it’s a safe way to accumulate data

You can also fill out your own information, then opt to share it with family members. Perhaps knowing that you suffer from borderline-diabetes or anxiety and depression will make other family members more comfortable sharing their own or taking actions to treat those conditions.

Assessing your risk

In addition to assembling family health information, TapGenes wants to help “families connect the dots between their known risks and … discover where they can impact and influence better health. One way they do that is through questionnaires that assist with risk assessment. Throughout these Q&As, TapGenes weaves in advice regarding life-style choices, such as taking multi-vitamins, exercise, and alcohol consumption.

The ability to change the ending of your story

TapGenes Risk Assessment

Wow. Time for some better self-care and that check-up I’ve been putting off.

My colon cancer risk assessment surprised me.  It also forced me to be honest with myself.

I think of myself as active, but my exercise is on a weekly basis, not daily.  Clicking through the friendly interview, I had to admit the multi-vitamins are nearing their expiration date in the kitchen drawer and that the closest I come to taking a vitamin D supplement is using whole vitamin D enriched milk in my coffee. And it didn’t even ask me about that polyp they found at the last colonoscopy and how long it’s been since I had a follow-up.

By making me a little uncomfortable, TapGenes reminds me that I have an opportunity to influence how that story ends.

Upgraded Membership

All of the above is available under TapGenes free subscription. However, their upgraded membership includes unlimited documents and access to their genetic section and pharmacogenetics alerts.

If you’d like to join me in trying that out, Heather is offering TreasureChestofMemories.com readers a 50% discount on the upgraded membership (from $79 to $39 for a one year subscription).  After signing up for a free account, use the code (treasurechest50) to get the promotional discount for the premium account.

 

Mar 062017
 

When we’re writing our family’s history, we tend to skip over the family health stories.

EKG family health Stories

Have you written about your own or family health stories? Image adapted from “EKG Komplex” by Shizhao, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 Germany

With the exceptions of gory accidents or war injuries, health—or lack of it—gets a subtle billing. It often only rates a simple note of what the attending physician scrawled on a death certificate.

I get it. War stories, including injuries, inspire the imagination. Plus, they possess a certain valor. We’re far removed from a society in which all able-bodied men were expected to serve. And, train-wreck stories rivet us. We’re wired that way. Maybe it’s so we have that “I’m so glad it didn’t happen to me” feeling. Continue reading »