Tell Your Story: The 2021 Plan

Two and a half years ago, I shared my struggles with telling my story. I talked about a few different roadblocks I was experiencing.

  • Huge gaping holes in our family’s story. How do I fill in the holes? Do I want to fill in the holes? Or are there parts of our story that I’m still just not ready to share yet? Maybe parts I never want to share?
  • Lack of journaling. Do I remember why I took the photos? What was happening in our lives when the photos were taken, or when we didn’t take any photos at all? What was happening in the world? What’s the backstory?
  • Clutter & lack of organization? Where is everything? How do I combine the digital and physical bits of our lives? There are time periods with just physical photos and ephemera. I have time periods with a mixture of digital and physical photos and ephemera. I have other time periods with only digital photos and physical ephemera. How can I combine things? What do I need/want to keep?
  • There are so many different ways to tackle this. What tools do I want to use?

I came up with some solutions to some things then that I wanted to try. Since it’s been over two and a half years, let’s check in and see where I am.

Did I Meet My 2017 goals?

According to my Summer 2017 recording for Modern Photo Solutions, out of the previous 11 years, I only had TWO years completely scrapbooked, and had more than 15,000 unscrapbooked digital photos, and boxes of 35mm photos.

Update: As of January 8, 2021, I now have 2005, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018*, and 2019* finished. I am almost finished with 2020. Two years have an “*” next to them because I’ve finished scrapbooking all the photos I have from those years. I am waiting for photos from a couple of plays my girls were in. I was in the process of getting them from the director when Covid hit. I have to physically go to her home with my external hard drive to copy the photos. It will likely take a couple of hours. I’m counting them done until I get the photos! As far as the 15, 000 unscrapbooked photos, I’m not going to physically count all of my unscrapbooked digital photos. I don’t want to know how many I have now! I am really proud of myself for accomplishing this! I documented some really hard times our family went through during these years. It can be hard to fill those Huge Gaping Holes, when there’s a lot of pain hiding there. Here’s the secret… there was also a lot of joy and happiness and beauty right next to the painful memories.

My 2017 memory keeping goal was to stay current with 2017 while finishing my 2016 pages.  I’m not sure if I met that goal during 2017, but as of today, 2016 & 2017 are both finished.

Organization Sundays still pop up on my calendar, but they have become a thing of the past. I do remind my family to open Dropbox and upload their photos on a weekly basis. A couple of times a month, I transfer everyone’s photos to my computer and organize them in LightRoom.

My Goals for 2021

I don’t want to label it as a goal, for some reason, but I definitely want to place an emphasis on telling our story in 2021, and I want to tell our story while it’s happening. 2020 was an eventful year and I feel like a lot of it is a blur. Already. I don’t want to lose 2021. So much has already happened and we’re just over a week into the year.

The Prep Work: Gathering all the stuff

We have so much information at our fingertips. As I’m scrolling Instagram, Twitter and news sites I am taking screenshots of the things I want to remember, and the things that will help me tell the story of our year. Weekly, I’m taking a screenshot of the forecast for the week, the Covid testing numbers for Utah, the school Covid dashboard, as well as emails & communications from the school. I’m taking screenshots of new stories and images. I take a screenshot of our Come Follow Me Sunday School lesson title & image almost every week. If anything stands out to me in the study, I add a screenshot of that as well. I’m also taking screenshots of quotes, memes and other cultural references that will help round out our story. Not all of those things will end up going in our scrapbook each week, but they’ll help me remember what was going on and help me tell our story. I’m also planning to write a quick weekly journal of how & what everyone in the family is doing. It will probably live in an app on my phone until I’m ready to document that week.

The Process

I’m still finding that I really love doing a weekly 2-page layout in a pocket-style digital format. Some weeks end up being 4 pages or even 10 (yep, 10). And that’s totally okay with me. I’m not limiting what I want to share. Other people are very strict at keeping to the 2-page layout and that is completely wonderful for them. I wholeheartedly support them. I am not a minimalist, in any way! I designed a set of This Year 2021: Journal Cards that I’ll be using, along with my Life in Pockets Templates, to tackle this year. The Journal Cards are very similar to 2020’s cards. I scrapbook all my weeks from Monday thru Sunday so that weekend events are all together.

What I’m Hoping to Achieve

Sunday evenings, I’m hoping to spend an hour documenting. I want to scrapbook the previous week’s photos. This part is going to sound confusing but since I scrapbook Monday thru Sunday, I don’t mean the week I’m currently in. For example, the Sunday at the end of Week 2, I hope to be documenting photos from Week 1. I’ll be seven days removed from the stress but will still be able to remember the details. Hopefully, these pages don’t take an hour each week. I’m planning to have 2020 finished by the end of this weekend. That will free up some time to work on 2015, then 2014 as well. Those two years are going to take a long time. I only have 3 months finished in 2015, and none finished in 2014. Thankfully, I didn’t take a ton of photos in those years.

For now, I’m using Photoshop with my Life in Pockets Templates to document these pages. I originally planned to use the Project Life app, but my phone is too full and can’t handle running the app. A new phone isn’t in the cards, and neither is an iPad right now. I have my eyes on a shiny new gold 128GB iPad with an Apple Pencil and I’m hoping to purchase it for myself in the next few months as an incentive for meeting my business goals. At that point, I’ll likely use the ProjectLife app for my “catch up” years to fill in holes.

The Results

As soon as I have enough finished layouts to fill a section of an album, about 3-4 months, I print the individual pages at my favorite professional print lab, PersnicketyPrints. Then I add them to these black faux leather 12×12 albums from We R Memory Keepers. They can be hard to find and they are frequently out of stock, but they’re my favorite. I want to eventually replace all my other albums with these.

As soon as I get my 2020 pages finished, I’ll put in a PersnicketyPrints order and document my process. Putting the pages in sheet protectors and adding them to albums is my favorite part of this entire process.

Quick Recap

This got a bit long-winded, but the plan is to tell our 2021 story while it’s happening, and use any extra time to fill in the 2015 then 2014 holes. I also will be putting together photo books for my daughters with pages from the various musical theater productions they’ve been in, assuming I can get the photos from the director. This is a totally manageable plan. And guess what, it’s flexible. I’ll be checking in with you and sharing tips and tricks I come across each month. I’ll be doing layout shares and pointing you towards fun products I’m using for my albums.

Keep Scrapping!

Tell Your Story: Modern Photo Solutions

This is the transcript of a recorded message played on Modern Photo Solutions, a podcast with Steph Clay, in Summer 2017.

Hi, this is Meredith from meredithcardall.com

I started digital scrapbooking in 2005 when my daughter was almost a year old. I skipped around and scrapbooked whatever I felt creatively inspired to scrapbook. Last year, I realized that I had gaping holes of time in my scrapbooks. Out of the previous 11 years, I only had TWO years completely scrapbooked, and had more than 15,000 unscrapbookeddigital photos, and boxes of 35mm photos. That’s a problem!

I was really overwhelmed at the enormity of the project of getting caught up. I took a quick look at my Photo folders and realized that I could remember most of what happened in 2013, but anything prior to that I would need to do quite a bit of research in order to do any meaningful journaling. I set a goal to finish scrapbooking all of 2013 by the end of 2016. I finished the very last page at 7pm on December 31st. My memory keeping goal this year is to stay current with 2017 while finishing my 2016 pages. One of the best solutions I have found for scrapbooking a large volume of photos is to use apps to scrapbook. While I do still enjoy scrapbooking as a creative release in Photoshop, I am using the Project Life app to scrapbook most of our everyday moments. I was able to scrapbook 11 pages yesterday between waiting in the carpool line at school & at a 1 hour play rehearsal. I can literally scrapbook anywhere I can use my phone.

Once my 2013 to current photos are all scrapped, I will go back to 2004 when my older daughter was born and start filling in the gaps. I am hoping that I can start that by the end of December. As I do my organizing & cleaning this spring & summer, I am purposefully seeking out and gathering all of the old journals, planners, calendars, photos and memorabilia that I have stashed in various spots throughout the house into one easily accessible spot in my office. I file those items it in monthly file folders. Anything that’s too large for a file folder or if I can’t determine the date it gets placed in a bin next to my desk for an Organization Sunday. Sunday evenings are my memory keeping and story-telling time. While most of that time I can be found scrapbooking, two Sunday evenings a month I dedicate at least some of my time to getting organized.  At the beginning of each month, I make sure that I have tagged all of the previous month’s photos in Lightroom and back them up. I am backing up to an external hard drive as well as Google Photos, Prime Photos andDropBox. I also continuously back everything up with BackBlaze. My other Organization Sunday rotates to whichever Sunday I just don’t feel like scrapbooking. That’s when I go through the bin next to my desk and determine dates for the old photos and memorabilia. Then I file it in its monthly file folder. If I have time or if I find something really important that I wouldn’t want to lose, I will scan or photograph those items that evening as well. For documents or pieces of kids’ artwork that I want to include in our family album, I take a photo with my Samsung phone camera on my white desk. If it’s a photo or an important document I scan it using my 10 year old Epson Perfection 4490 Photo Scanner.  I scan documents at 600ppi and important photos at 1200ppi.  Through this purposeful searching for photos and memorabilia, I have found priceless family treasures in the form of letters written by my Granny who passed away more than 10 years ago. I have been able to digitize the letters so they’ll be available for future generations. My goal is to get them organized and uploaded to FamilySearch so that my extended family has access to these treasures as well.

I have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to be making progress when I was completely overwhelmed just a short time ago.

Tell Your Story: Gather the Stuff & Organize It

This was written for a blog post in June 2017, and never published.

You may remember, Problem #4 was that I have pieces of memorabilia and photos scattered throughout my house.

As I do my organizing & cleaning this spring & summer, I am purposefully seeking out and gathering all of the old journals, planners, calendars, photos and memorabilia that I have stashed in various spots throughout the house into one easily accessible spot in the house. If an item is dated or if I can quickly determine the date, the items get filed in monthly file folders. Anything that’s too large for a file folder or if I can’t determine the date it gets placed in a bin next to my desk. Sunday evenings are my memory keeping and story-telling time. Most of that time I can be found scrapbooking.  Two Sunday evenings a month I dedicate at least some of my time to getting organized.  At the beginning of each month, I make sure that all of the photos from the previous month are tagged in Lightroom and backed up to my external hard drive. I recently added Google Photos, Prime Photos and DropBox to my back up list. I am in love with Google Photos. I also continuously back everything up with Backblaze, which has saved me several times. My other Organization Sunday rotates to whichever Sunday I just don’t feel like scrapbooking. That’s when I go through the bin next to my desk and try to determine dates for the old photos and memorabilia. When I can determine the date, I file it in its monthly file folder. If I have time or if I find really something really important, I will scan or photograph it that night as well. For documents or pieces of kids’ artwork that I want to include in our family album, I take a photo with my Samsung phone camera on my white desk. If it’s a photo or an important document I scan it using my 10 year old Epson Perfection 4490 Photo Scanner.  That scanner is amazing! I scan documents at 600ppi and important photos at 1200ppi. 

Just before Christmas, while I was cleaning out our extra bedroom/storage room in the basement, I found a box of letters my granny wrote to me while I was in college. I was taking a Family History class and asked her to write me letters about her life so that I could write her biography. She wrote me a few letters with enough information to write my required 5-page biography of her life. After I finished the class, the letters kept coming. They were more detailed and jumped around to different parts of her life. I read each letter and loved receiving them, but my 20-year-old-self didn’t do anything else with those letters. So, my organization Sundays in November and December were spent scanning and backing up those priceless letters from my now-deceased Granny. I haven’t done anything else with them, but finding those letters started this urgency within me to tell our family story, and to back it up! What else do I not have digitized?! My goal is that when my grandkids ask for information to write a biography, I can point them to the rows of completed scrapbooks, or I can email them completed pages, and we can sit down together and I can show them our story, not only the good and fun things, but also what we learned from the things that maybe weren’t so good. I can’t think of anything better.

Tell Your Story: Identify the Problems in Your Memory Keeping

This post was originally written in May 2017

About a week ago, I talked about how I felt like I was failing at telling our family’s story. I was completely overwhelmed and quite honestly, I was avoiding the issues. I am happy to report that I am feeling much more positive than I was last week.  And I have learned that I am not alone! A lot of people are having the same issues as me.  I have done quite a bit of targeted research over the last week. It’s amazing how information can help you become empowered. I’m no longer avoiding my scrapbook and personal history writing issues, I’m tackling them and learning from my mistakes. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing information I’ve learned with you. I hope that it helps you feel empowered to tell your life story, too!

Step 1: Identify the problem(s)

Well, that sounds like an obvious step, but it’s one that I hadn’t done yet. I complained about not having things done, but I had never written down all of the problems. I am a visual person and writing something down helps me process it better. If you’re like me, grab a piece of paper and start listing all the issues you are having with your memory keeping process. You could also do this in Evernote or really anywhere you can make a list. Your list may be very different than my own, and that’s okay! We are all on our own memory keeping journey, and everyone’s path will be a little bit different.

Problems:

  1. I have big holes of time that are not scrapbooked.
  2. There are big holes in the content of our story.
  3. We may have incomplete photo backups, local & online
  4. There are pieces of memorabilia and photos scattered throughout my house
  5. I have boxes of 35mm film that has not been digitized
  6. Not all of my images are tagged or organized
  7. No one in our house has their entire personal history written

Step 2: Research

Armed with my list of problems, I headed out in search of answers! I will share my research findings in future posts. I’m still learning, so adding to this section will be ongoing.

Step 3: Design a Plan of Attack

For each problem, list a couple of different possible solutions. I used post-it notes so I wouldn’t have to scribble things out. Plus, I really like the colors. I’ll share my post-in notes in future posts, too.

Step 4: Implement the Plan

Just do it. Come up with a plan and commit to it. Add entries to your calendar. Set goals. Make yourself accountable for your plan. Come up with a system to reward yourself for meeting your goals.

Step 5: Evaluate the Plan

In 1 month, take a step back and evaluate your plan.  Are you happy with the progress you’ve made? Do you need to adjust any goals? Set a date with yourself and your memory keeping each month to evaluate where you are and if the plan is still working for you. If it’s not working, go back to Step 3 and see if any of your other possible solutions would work better for you. If those don’t seem like they would work for you, go back to Step 1. Is the original problem still a problem you care about or has something else become more important? While it’s important to set goals, remember that they aren’t written in stone. They can be updated, changed or even replaced with new and better goals. This is YOUR family’s personal history. You have to do what’s best for you.

Repeat this process as often as is necessary.

What’s on your problem list?