Amnesia lane, let’s stroll…

So I was taking a stroll down amnesia lane yesterday evening and well into the night. Yea, even into the wee hours of the morning. The lane is a very long lane. If one does stroll down this lane often, it can be a very scenic stroll.

It is amazing what one can find when they go looking for something very specific. In this particular instance, I was looking for something extremely specific. I was on a mission. I was looking for old websites. I was looking for websites that I could take screen shots and and post on my portfolio. I am in the process of overhauling my business website again and I am updating my portfolio and I wanted to include more work. I do a lot of different things and I have done a lot of different things. While some of these things are “old” they are still 100% viable and telling of my skills. So I was on a mission to find some of these.

This, however, was not going to be as easy as it sounds.

The problem? The way that the dynamics worked when I was working in the partnership I was in at the time many of these websites were done. I am a front-end designer. I am trying to venture out to something a bit more all inclusive but I am about all things pretty. I love the look and feel. I want to make things look good. That is me. At the time, I was all about pretty. I was working in a partnership as a co-owner of a company called Inventive Site Strategies, Inc. I was the primary designer and I was happy. Oh so happy! I got to design and I did that. We would get the projects. I would design and make the websites look good. I would then relinquish my control and hand them over to the other half of the company and they would put all functionality behind my pretty “face.” It worked. I was happy doing what I wanted to be doing – making things look pretty. It did not get any better than that. I rarely saw the websites after that. Unless, of course, something broke the pretty face and I had to fix it or if something needed to be changed. Still it worked and I was happy.

So what do I do about this? I had all these original files most likely, but many of these sites belonged to fickle owners who I knew could not make up their minds when we were in the heat of the project. Here we are 7-10 years later. It is not likely that any of these websites are up in any of their form. It is not likely that any of these logos are even still around. Not an issue with the graphic design work such as logos as I would still have original files on my computer, but those websites that I had poured my heart and soul (and skill) into…what do I do about those? How do I recover the past?

Enter the memory of the “Way Back Machine.” Now I hate the thing, personally. I honestly, hate the thing. Why? Primarily because if I take a website down, I want it taken down. I want it gone. Wait a second! Here I am 7-10 years later wanting to recover something and I just said I wanted it gone. Yep, I am a hypocrite. No, not really. Some things should not live on forever, especially when removed. So there you have it. What is it? It is a huge internet archiving website.

Nevertheless, I wandered over there. I was on a mission, remember?

I put in the first URL for the one pageant. Nothing. I went back to the dates on the files on my backup hard drive. Nothing came up. There was no archive for that. Evidently, I had done my job correctly and prevented robots from doing things they were not supposed to be doing. Thank you very much!

I typed in the second URL and went back to the approximate dates. It had the right color scheme. Could it be? Now back in that day, the clients what a lot of Flash splash pages. I obliged even if I did not like them. The client is right, some of the time. They got what they wanted if it was not morally wrong and did not insult my design intelligence. I digress. There was a big blank where the Flash was. My heart sank. Disappointment was setting in. I clicked on the “enter” link. The page pops up. No style sheet! Could it get any worse than this? How could that be? Come on! Never fear, I have Web Developer Extension for Firefox installed and I can attach a style sheet. So I go to my back-up drive and find the style sheet. There are three. The extension bar will only allow me to attach 1 at a time. Oh boy. That helped. I used the “edit CSS” feature on the toolbar and copied the CSS into the style sheets, overwriting what popped up. That was marginally better. The problem? The pictures were all missing! All of them! Not a single one. That was not going to help me out there.

So I type in a few more to come up empty handed.

Finally, I found one that it came up styled and pretty. All it was missing was the header image and the footer image. I knew I had those in my back-up. Think, think, think. I snapped the screen shot with my handy Pearl Crescent Page Saver Basic add-on for Firefox, set to capture the entire page. I wandered over to Photoshop and placed the appropriate header image and footer image over the top. I had to edit out the “alt text” for the missing footer image, but that took a couple of seconds. I had me a complete screen shot! Awesome!

Alas, the rest. Not so easy.

But it was wandering through this process that I found something interesting. It was something exciting. It probably means absolutely nothing at all, but it was exciting to me. It warmed my heart and it was actually pretty cool. Why? I did that. I had my hand in that. When I put in the URL for the Ms United States New York United States website into the “Way Back Machine,” I found something out that I never knew. The website was selected for a small award. Like I said, it was probably a miniscule and unimportant award. It was still selected.

Screen shot of the Ms United States Mrs New York United States website from the “Way Back Machine.” Excuse the screen shot, the pictures are largely missing, but this is what the archive shows today. The point of interest is the lighthouse image at the bottom left side.

It was selected as the Long Island, New York Editor’s Choice Award – Website of the week for the week of January 26, 2007. That was a long time ago! It was a fun find. I had no idea.

The website screenshot showing the award date. Check the top left column for the Mrs New York State.

That was a big boost to put a big ole grin on my face. I was super excited to find it. That was pretty neat to find. I certainly did not expect to find it. I am sure it means nothing, but it meant something to someone at some point. It was cool enough to make it onto the website. I will go with the fact that in 2007 it was cool. So that was fun to find. I did that! I made that.

Of course I never did find all the websites intact enough to be portfolio worthy. At least not using the “Way Back Machine.”

That is alright, my quest did not stop there.

I should add that I have not touched my desktop computer in several years. It has not been decommissioned completely because it still has stuff on it that I value. It still has a lot of stuff that I want like pictures of the children and whatnot. So it is still stowed away in the closet and has been since my sister moved in to live with us and has since moved out. I have become completely dependent on my aging but trusty Macbook Pro.

Alas, I knew that I had backed up most of the stuff on that machine (the desktop) before stowing it away for safe keeping – or at least I hope I did – so I was going to start with the primary backup drive. Surely I would find what I needed there, right? I was hopeful that at least I would find a lot of the graphic design work that I had done.

This was true. I did. I found things I had completely forgotten about! Oh the discoveries.

I went through the “web work” folder by folder. Just browsing through the memories. This is not even all of the stuff I have ever done. There is older. It goes way back, but not all the way back. Of course, there was enough there for me to see how far my web design and graphic design skills have come in the past many years. For that, I am truly grateful. I have come a long way. I have a long way to go.

I was not going to give up the dream of having these works in my portfolio, however. So I finally submitted to snapping screen shots of the works as I let go of them and turned them over. In their pre-content stages. It is not perfect. It is not what I wanted. It is, however, work. It is my work. It is unadulterated and pristine. It is not marred by someone else and no other hands have touched it.

I found lots of graphic design work that I am not sure ever came to fruition. I know I worked on it. They look final. There were zip files in the folders. Must have been final. However, I do not ever remember seeing them live any where. That is the sad part of the experience. I honestly do not know what happened to all of these things that I did. Should I care? I probably should not.

However, to me they are works of my talent, my skill, and my heart. They are works of me. I do not want to say, “I did not do that” or dismiss them. I did that. When someone asks, “What do you do?” I want to be able to say, “I did that.”

Of course, the rabbit hole just continued to open up. It always does. On that same back-up drive were all the kids’ pictures from years past. Not too many years, but enough. I took a wander through a couple of years. Alright, it was one year and part of a second. It was the year before Lance turned two. It was the year that Lance broke his leg. That’s how I know that it was before he turned two because he broke his leg shortly before his second birthday. My how much those children have grown! There were the dirty faces. The dirty glasses on Kyle. That is one of Kyle’s trademarks. Andrew had his glasses on! This was back before we had an actual piano. Lance climbing on the table with my brand new scanner – standing up. Andrew and Kyle taking apart a computer. All three of them playing with boxes and using boxes for uses other than their intended purpose. The hot wheels. Generally, just how busy they were. The energy level. The faces they made.

I was looking at some of the digital scrapbook pages I had completed for them and of course that left me longing for more time to just sit and scrapbook more often. The desire and time. The pictures were so precious I just wanted to sit there and scrapbook them last night but it was after 1:00am. I was falling asleep. I was smiling and happy, but I was falling asleep. I needed to go to sleep. I needed to big my wander down that lane farewell…

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