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What I’ve been up to...

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a bit. I have been working on two big, very time consuming projects. Thankfully, both of them are finished! I have a hard time stopping when I’m in the middle of a project to divert my attention else where. I become mega focused on my mission and try to get it finished as soon as possible.

My first project has been in progress since the Spring, but my mom is the one who got the ball rolling about a year ago. For Mother’s Day 2020, my siblings got together and bought Mom a photo scanning service, called Legacy Box. We paid for 1,000 photos to be scanned which was around $500. Little did we know how much work it would take to sort through all the family photos to choose what would be scanned.

Old family photos: My dad in college; Me around age 10 with a $25 gift card I won; The only Christmas we were all together. My dad would be dead by the next one; My mom and dad's wedding along with their parents.

Mom had one year to get the photos ready and sent in to the service. She decided to finally start the project after the first of the year and have it finished by the end of February. She kept saying how much work it was and how draining it was on her. I love looking through old photos and wondered why it was such a process for her. With all my siblings’ encouragement, she finally decided to separate the decades of photos in to ‘groups’ to scan with Legacy box and ‘individuals’ in to the six piles, one for each of her kids. I wasn’t a fan of this idea because it divides up the story seen through the photos, but she did it anyway. At the beginning of March, Mom sent off 1,200 photos to be scanned ranging from the 1930’s to 2013. She had six boxes of photos for us kids.

I took my box with the plan of scanning my old photos in myself because I didn’t want to shell out money for something I could do. My plan for the summer was to have all the photos scanned by the time the boys started school. But I had back surgery instead which set me back about 2 months. In May, I came across a bunch of old negatives that I wanted to make digital. By now, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit long enough to scan in all the photos myself with my back as bad as it was. I found SouthTree photo service which was running a special. I paid about $150 for 500 photos/negatives to be scanned.

I gingerly held the negatives up to the light in order to hopefully decipher who was in the photo. I only wanted to pay for ‘good’ photos to be turned digital. As much as I tried to see the picture, it was still a crapshoot because I couldn’t tell if the photo would be clear or not. I bundled all 500 pieces in to bags of 25 items and affixed the pre-printed bar code which was mailed to me in a large cardboard box. I used the box to mail all my printed photos and negatives.

I received the box back about two months later with all my prints and negatives along with a silver flash drive loaded with all of my digital copies. After inserting the flash drive, I discovered all my images in numerological order based on the bar code I attached to each package. Now a big problem presented itself. I had to label each ONE of these digital images. If I didn’t, these would be of no use to future generations. Just like my grandparents’ old photos that weren’t labeled are of no use to me now because I didn’t know who the people or places are. My grandchildren wouldn’t be able to recognize my younger self or the events and places important in my life.

I began the large tasks of right clicking on each photo to rename every image – all 500 of them! I was eager to do this at first. I renamed each photo with who, when and where. I also wrote on the back of each printed photo to fill in any missing info that wasn’t already written on it.

As I bagged up my photos to send in, I kept them in comparable categories like college years, childhood, baby pictures, etc. But as I opened my computer for my second session of renaming, I found that all my categorical photos were not together. They were in alphabetical order! Oh no! I sighed and kept renaming which only made the problem bigger. (Not using my brain here!) I should have made a folder for each set of photos in a bag. Instead, I had 500 random photos to put in folders labeled by year on my external hard drive. Dividing all those photos out by year after renaming the files took several hours. I learned my lesson about renaming files.

With that big section of the job finished, I began scanning the rest of my old photos four at a time on my printer/scanner. I have an Epson WorkForce 3540 which does a great job turning prints in to digital files. After scanning, I had to rename all those files as well. And write on the back of the prints. And file by year, both the prints and the digitized version.

Here are the steps I went through to digitalize and file all my photos:

1) Scan old photos – it is not time efficient to label the pics as I scan them. I scanned sections of photos at a time.

2) Rename each file on the computer. Who, What, Where

3) Write on the back of each printed photo

4) Separate each digital image in to folders labeled by year

5) File all prints in to accordion files labeled by year

6) Eventually make digital scrapbooks from my older brother’s birth until I started making paper scrapbooks around my junior year in high school, including stories I can remember

All of this was so tedious. Sometimes I got my years mixed up and had to go back and refile the images. I kept pushing through. It was time consuming and, since I can’t sit for long, I divided the job in to little bits here and there.

Mom had received her flash drive back by this point and was slowly working up the resolve to relabel each digital file. She was so burnt out on photos and I still couldn’t understand why. Since I wanted the digital images sooner rather than later to make my digital scrapbooks, I volunteered to go through all her 1,200 images and do the five steps I just did with mine. I told her of my labeling misadventure and she agreed to let me have the scanned prints so I could pull any information written on the backs of them and the flash drive.

Top: my dad's parents in the 1940s; my dad's grandma; Bottom: my mom's grandparents; my mom's parents in the 1930s. I love these old photos! The hair styles, the clothes - these are MY people! German on one side, Scottish, Irish and English on the other. I've traced my family back to 1471. I LOVE HISTORY! I love the stories...

I started with black and white photos from the 1930s and worked my way forward. As I got to the photos around my dad’s death and my childhood, I began to understand why Mom felt exhausted by the photos: triggers. Wow, was I triggered. All the emotions - sadness, anger, hurt, neglect, injustice – from my childhood hit me like heat from an open oven. I was unprepared to dredge up the past. I didn’t want to face those emotions. I just wanted to get this job done. I’ve worked hard over the last three years with my psychologist to work through my past. But when I saw the photos, read the backs of them and remembered the stories just off camera, all of the work seemed for not. I didn’t want to go back and revisit this past right then. I just wanted to finish the job. The emotions weren’t as strong as they had been a few years ago. I knew that was because of my hard work to understand why I felt the way I did – to go back and find the root of my thinking and retrain myself with positive self-talk. I was safe now. I wasn’t a little girl who could be abused anymore at the hands of her step-dad. I still didn’t understand why my dad had to die of cancer at the age of 30, but I had the tools now to work through my grief. I had processed my feelings of loss. I knew I was allowed to feel those feelings and those feelings were ok. I was better now. I was mentally in such a better place than I was three years ago.

Since I wanted to get the photo job finished, not revisit all my feelings about the past, I put on a book to listen to while I worked. The book took my mind off the memories while my hands did the work. I was relieved. There is a time and place to feel those feelings, but I didn’t want that time to be now. I will write about it and work through those unresolved issues in the future. I will write out the stories of what made me who I am when I put the digital scrapbook together. I plan to write a book with stories from my childhood as well. When I tell The Hubby stories of me as a kid, he shakes his head in disbelief that we lived the way we did. The way I was taught to see the world from through my child’s eye was very odd, indeed.

After spending several hours most days for more than a month, I finished the photo digitization project. I even scanned in my older brother’s photos and labeled them so my scrapbook would be a better picture of my life. We did almost everything together and I wanted the photo to show it. I was proud of myself! It was tedious, time consuming and labor intensive and IT WAS DONE!! I just had the fun part left – making the digital scrapbooks on Shutterfly. I love doing that stuff. I hope to work on the scrapbooks over the winter.


­­­My second big project was obtaining donations for Cort’s Fall Festival fundraiser at school. I went back in time to my past life, before I was disabled, and pulled out my volunteer board skills I had honed for years. I started making calls and visits asking for donations. Once I have the bit between my teeth, I run with it and that’s what happened here. Even though I told myself and The Hubby, I wasn’t going to step up and do anything this first semester as this new school. I was just going to watch and learn how this new phase of our life ran. Well, I lied. To myself and The Hubby. Before I knew it, my mind had decided I was going to ask our local bank to donate a Yeti cooler and Lowes to donate a fire pit. I did ask both and they both awarded me with hundreds of dollars of goods for the silent auction. I was elated.

I suddenly realized I had made this a competition. I wanted to see how much I could turn on the charm and get donations. This was heady stuff! I couldn’t believe who I was becoming. Every where we went, every business or restaurant visited (and then some), I asked for a donation. I had donations stacking up in my closet at home. I loved the accolades the other homeroom moms rained down on me. I could still do this, I thought to myself. And I was GOOD at it. Who was this person?! I thought to myself. I hated to do this stuff a decade ago. Now, I loved the adrenaline rush of the ask. Once again, who am I?

Two larger frames which I and my neighbor decorated for Cort's Fall Festival fundraiser.

Then, I got a crazy creative hair trapped in my brain. Since our two ‘baskets’ for Cort’s teacher were “Happy Fall Ya’ll” and “Yard Beautification”, why don’t I make home décor items to go with all the donations and gift certificates. I set off in ten gears above high gear! I was going all out now. We had one week left before we had to turn our ‘baskets’ in to be photographed and put online. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I decided I would make throw pillows out of sweaters, pumpkins out of sweater sleeves and wreaths out of picture frames.

I headed off to Dollar Tree to find fall décor to use in my three different projects. While there, I met a lady who told me about a great thrift store that was half off everything that day. I headed down there and grabbed some beautiful sweaters, plaid men’s button up shirts and throw pillows for very little $$. My office floor and window seat was covered with all my creative stuff. George, Cort’s cat, was having a fabulous time jumping and hiding in my mess.

L-R: some of the picture frame art we made; sweater and men's shirt pillows; pumpkins made from the sweater and shirt sleeves.

I kept myself awake at night creating picture frame wreaths and wall décor in my head. I was stressed about the picture frame wreath part of the project. I enjoy being creative, but fake flowers and ribbons are not my strong suit. I called on one of my neighbors and the other homeroom moms for backup. We spent a Wednesday making art. It was fun to be kid-less, designing home décor with hot glue guns and chatting while sitting on the floor of my office. We put together 15 picture frame pieces. I made 25 sleeve pumpkins and 13 throw pillows from the sweaters and men’s shirts.

My dining room chairs and stool I decided to redo.

After just over a week of non-stop creating, my creativity was shot and my mind a numb jumble. And my house was a mess!!! Big mess! In the middle of all that, I decided to have my mom help me reupholster my dining room chairs and stools. The timing was not ideal, but those old chair cushions were so gross.

Wow, I’m tired just writing about all this. So that’s the scoop on my MIA on the blog. I still have another project I want to finish before I start on the scrapbooks.

I used a text base service called Queepsake, which I highly recommend, to help record daily details about the boys when they were little. I started using it right after Asa was born when Cort was two. Each day, Queepsake sent me a text asking a question about the boys which I would answer via text. They save the Q&As, including any pictures I sent them. I have more than 1,100 posts. With that many posts, I would need to print two books for each boy. Their books aren’t cheap to print and I want the boys’ answers to be parallel in a book because we did almost everything together at that time. I plan to copy and paste from Queepsake in to a Shutterfly book. I will have to download the photos I sent off my Queepsake account and upload them to Shutterfly. Work intensive? Yes. But I want it this way, so I’m willing to put the work in. I began the process last spring and know it will be a bit frustrating. I will just have to push through even when I want to throw in the towel. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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