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Photos Are Our Life Stories…Do You “Show and Tell” Yours?

Pictured: My son standing by a WWII photo of my Dad (3rd from left) displayed at Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

Photographs are the footprints of our lives.  It shows us where we’ve been and who we used to be.  It is a huge part of our  legacy that we leave behind for our children and loved ones.

Every photo has a back story.  Sharing the stories bring special meaning to each of them and so shouldn’t we feel obliged to tell, and retell, our stories so they will endure through the generations?

I want to share with you how my personal family history has been perpetuated in a very unique way because of photo organizing and storytelling.

In recounting my Dad’s World War II stories, it occurred to me that without my Mom’s organized photo albums, we could not have made this special discovery. But it was not merely about the organizing of the photos, it was the significant storytelling that helped us make the connection.

As children, we grew up with wondrous tales of Dad’s World War II adventures. He was a radio gunner, flying on a B-17 in the 8th Army Air Force. Every mission was a dangerous one.  I never really understood that as a young child, but the framed shadow box that hung on our den wall,  preserving his Purple Heart,  Distinguished Flying Cross, Good Conduct, Air Medal, and Bronze Medal Star let me know that it was something special.  It was a permanent commemoration of his heroic achievements, and that would later set the stage for the endless storytelling he would eventually share with his grandchildren.

There was one particular photo (pictured) that my Mom had in her organized photo albums, that depicted one of my Dad’s last missions. It was significant because this particular mission, nose-arted with “Angel in DeSkies” was not his regular crew.  In fact, he barely knew them.  His previous crew on “Idiot’s Delight” crashed and burned, leaving no survivors. For reasons unknown,  he fortunately never flew that mission. Nonetheless, this photo became a “classic” in our family history.  We also looked at it often because of its nostalgia and the fact that family resemblance was uncanny to that of my maturing brother at the same age.

When my children were able to understand, they appreciated their Grandpa’s history, loved and admired him as he often wore his notorious B-17 baseball hat with such pride.  They loved playing with his army gear and canteen since they were actually authentic souvenirs of war, a foreign concept back then.

Years later, we visited Washington D.C. and while at the Air and Space Museum, we meandered around the different exhibits and froze when we noticed an enormous mural on the wall.  It was the very same picture of my Dad and crew standing in front of the B-17.  Because it was such a familiar and noteworthy photo, we were able to recognize it immediately.  Most importantly, if this original photo was never shared or spoken of, we would never have even known my Dad was even in the photograph.  Like other vistors, we would have just passed it by.  A story never told.

Before my Dad passed away, he had the opportunity to take us all to a WWII Plane Exhibition in Florida at a local Boca Raton airport, where an original B-17 was displayed for all to view.  Volunteers permitted interactive tours and so my Dad was only too happy to have his grandchildren climb into the very tight quarters of his simulated radio gunner seat and re-enact history.  A  day for my children to cherish, always…and yes, of course, we have the photographs!

Two years ago, my son returned to Washington D.C. with friends and was eager to revisit the museum to look for his grandpa’s photo.  It was still there. 🙂 We will continue to tell his stories, and we are honored that these memories are captured on display in such a prestigious museum, to be visited for generations to come.

I now realize that when I was a young Mom, I was so caught up in the moments, I was too busy to realize how significant they actually were, until they passed.  So now when our family makes the time to revisit the good old days through my photos, I’m so grateful to have them. We can trace our lives through these photos.  It is our timeline.  They rekindle the memories and compel us to retell the stories.

No doubt there is great value in photo-organizing but suffice it to say, it can be as simple as a labelled shoebox. How you organize and preserve your family heirlooms is discretionary.  Understand that they are invaluable treasures.

Find the old special photos, label them, and share their stories with your family. Take new photos and don’t bury them in virtual folders.  Be creative with your storytelling.

The great thing about a good photo is that it speaks a thousand words.   It’s a great opportunity for show and tell, don’t you think?

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The Value in Organizing Your Past

We all spend our lifetimes creating memories. We want to savor the good times and sometimes commemorate the sad ones.  Time does not stand still, and so we must understand that “this too shall pass,” doesn’t merely refer to the hardships…it means that even the happiest of times must come to an eventual end.  All the more reason to appreciate and treasure them.  Sustainable organization is key.

But it takes great effort and TLC to preserve and honor our memories.  So often, we are rushing through our lives and don’t take the time to organize the memories.  Taking digital photos is great, but how frequently do we print them out into albums?  Storing them in organized folders on your desktop is easy and accessible, but is it ever utilized?  I bet, no.  I would guess that friends, family, and even next generation, would enjoy sharing them more in a book they can all touch.

To me, it’s all about sustainable memories, and I’m going to tell you why.  My mother has always had a proclivity to organize everything, especially our family photo albums. She took great pride in creating a pictorial account of our entire family history, organized and labeled each binder in consecutive years. The albums trace the lives of my parents even prior to their marriage, and on through through their golden years.  All of our family memories are captured in those albums; countless vacations, birthday and anniversary celebrations, camp visiting days, holidays, weddings, births, bar and bat-mitzvahs of my children, are all documented.  Truly, it is storytelling at its best.  My Dad has since passed, and so I find significant comfort in glancing through these special albums with not only my Mom, but with the rest of my family.

This past winter, my brother (who resides in Italy for the past 20 years) and I, shared a short visit in Florida, where my mother now lives.  We reminisced through our childhood and had fun connecting the pieces of our past. The best part about it was that we were able to pinpoint a particular year that we wanted to revisit, and immerse ourselves in that album. We took turns picking favorite years and times of our lives. One of my my favorites is still the 1942 album where I can gaze at my Dad as a handsome young soldier.  My own children get to see a different kind of Grandpa too.  Priceless.

These photos are not strewn all over in some random box in the attic, nor separated or torn in tattered envelopes. They were honored, preserved and displayed into beautifully bound photo albums.  These will pass down for generations to come for all to enjoy. They will not be lost.

And as the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I continue the tradition of organizing our family photo albums.  I get kidded for this all the time, but everyone can always depend on me for having the latest celebration in our most recent album.

The organization of your past need not stop at photos. If you have an old collection of favorite tee shirts, there are quilting companies that will sew them all into a beautiful patchwork quilt.  What an amazing way to honor the actual fabric of your life!  You may not be able to still wear them, but you can definitely still enjoy them.  They are a part of your past that can still bring you pleasure todaySustainable.

One of my clients was struggling with letting go of her abundant collection of special cartoon logo sweaters that were just sitting on a shelf in her closet (they are now too small, and she hasn’t any daughters to pass them down to) until I suggested she create comfy blankets out of them for her sons.  She was teary-eyed at the thought of passing down this very special piece of her and being able to still enjoy them, in yet a different way.   It’s something her children will always have and can pass down to their children.  Sustainable.

Ditto to sport jerseys, medals, or any memorabilia…place them in a shadow box and frame them.  Trophies can be deconstructed and then you could just mount and display the award plaque on a velvet backdrop, with pride.

Find innovative and resourceful ways to organize your past and create sustainable memories for your family.  They will find immeasurable value in it because you’ve shown them how to cherish things you love.

Now that’s what I would call a teachable moment with great sustainability.


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Why Unfinished Projects Never Get Completed

As the year draws to a close, it’s a natural time to reflect on the past year.  There are probably a litany of projects that you had hoped to accomplish this year, but they just didn’t happen.  What went wrong? Why didn’t you pursue them?

Starting projects are easy but completing them can be more challenging.  Tackling personal projects do not have to loom as large as climbing Mt. Everest.  Typically, they get put on the back-burner for when you have the time.  That’s the biggie, but it’s only just one of the reasons.  Unfortunately, projects become easily forgotten and neglected because they aren’t managed well, nor planned.  Here’s some helpful hints;

    • Space:  Many times we simply don’t have the ample space to accommodate the ongoing project to work on it.
    • Tools:  Having the appropriate materials and tools on hand to complete the project is essential.
    • Goals/timeline:  Establishing a time-line will help you achieve your goal in manageable time frames.  It is so much more difficult to target ambiguous goals like “soon”, “summer”, or “whenever”.  Hold yourself accountable to a more specific time, date.  Create a strategic plan 
    • Be realistic:  This is a key factor for the success of the project.  If you take on too much and didn’t allow enough time to complete it, you are guaranteed to set yourself up for failure.
    • Organize:  Don’t be haphazard with your efforts.  Be your own Project Manager and manage it.  Break down the actions into small manageable bite-size tasks that you can routinely do.
    • Commit:  Staying committed to a project is probably the most difficult step of all.  Focus on the goal and what it will feel like when the job is done, and create a plan how to get there.  Whether it is a daily or weekend plan, carve out a sufficient amount of time to work on it.


Let’s say for example your project is photo organizing.  For months or even years, you’ve been shoving and cramming all your photos in shoe-boxes, drawers, or envelopes, and never made the time to organize them. This sorting process is a huge undertaking so you need to organize the process.   If every time you immerse yourself  into this project and it requires you to schlep the boxes up and down, to and fro, the project is doomed. Resist the temptation to spread out every photo you own and clutter every horizontal surface in your home.  Organize one box at a time, so at the end of the day, you will have made some productive headway and pushed out the overwhelm.

All projects (and hobbies, for that matter) need their own home.  If you love knitting, corral all the yarns and needles in an organized space so that you can enjoy your hobby and not impede on the other living spaces in your home.  Ditto to arts and any craft.

The bottom line is this;  If you DO NOT have the space, right tools, realistic time-line, organization, or commitment, you will lose interest in the project.  As a result, and in the worst case scenario…you might be inclined to start a brand NEW project!

Uh-oh, T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  Tame your projects with time-management. Sounds like a plan to me, how ’bout you?

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Day 14: (May 10) Took all the photos out of their frames, sorted them into loose photo boxes I already had.  Most of those photos were duplicates and their originals were already organized in my albums. These extras were available for usage for school projects, montages, or for giving to friends and family.  Acknowledging that they were excess, I still decided to hold onto them, in case the kids wanted to access them or keep them, and therefore not disturb my original albums. Through the years, I must admit,  the boxes got sloppy and the photos were just thrown in haphazardly.  Today, although so time consuming, I enjoyed sorting them by years and had fun revisited my past once again. Glancing at my old photographs brings me lots of joy, but that’s just me. 

The really archival photo books were all in such diverse sizes and and were clumsy and broken as I blogged about earlier. So for now, I taped heavyweight cardboard to preserve their spines, labeled each one. Gave the heavy albums more support and will make the the packing easier. Another day, another time, I will consider scanning them all onto my computer, (it would probably take months????) 

My last 25 years of photo albums are all organized in uniform books and are displayed in a bookcase in my den, to be enjoyed at any time.  I refer to them often because they are accessible and housed in a beautiful space.  The new rental space will not be able to accommodate them in the same way, so I am sad they have to boxed and perhaps be rarely viewed. I will dread considering them as buried treasure. 

easily accesible photo albums in den wall unit
easily accesible photo albums in den wall unit


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