Save Pictures to Preserve Your Family History

Most of us have a tendency to collect memorabilia from events that occur throughout our lives and none more so than family pictures. Family pictures allow us to relive special moments and share those moments with others who may not have been present the first time around. Our hallways and walls are littered with old photos of parents and grandparents, children and pets, and special places we have visited. What fun to look for family resemblances as we share with each other those special moments that make up our unique family history and heritage. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all of these memories saved and organized, stored in one place, where everyone could easily view them and share them and enjoy them?

A picture is worth a thousand words

I personally discovered as is likely the case for most of us that these pictures are typically scattered in boxes of unlabeled slides, old negatives tucked in envelopes in dresser drawers, and photographs of all shapes and sizes stuffed away in every place imaginable.  Often original one-of-a-kind family pictures are disbursed across multiple households with no “back-up” existing – if they are lost, they are lost forever. If someone would take responsibility to save pictures for future generations, they would be a hero.

I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything ~ John Steinbeck

Realizing this and also interested in creating an archive of my family history in pictures, I boldly went where no one had gone before – Dad’s slides of the past 55+ years. At the end of the trek (get it!) I had viewed thousands of old photos and slides and scanned hundreds more to my laptop. With these pictures I would later create surprise coffee mugs – my mom’s parents standing in their doorstep; my brother-in-law in his white tux on the way to the first prom with my sister; my sister and I in swim suits a hundred years ago; my would-be-musician brother playing a guitar while gazing off into a Mendocino sunset. Each mug specifically created with memories heart-felt by the recipient. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

You know what a camera is? A mirror with memory ~ Anonymous

Senior Activity #1 – Saving Pictures of your Family History

Thanks to the digital age, we have ways to save valuable family memories, back-up irreplaceable one-of-a-kind photographs, and share everything that make up our unique family history. We can spend a lot of money or we can do it our self. Once retired, we have time and are looking for ways to keep busy. Not only will this project keep you busy but the end result will be something to be proud of that the whole family will appreciate.

Although there are multiple ways to archive your family pictures, the process that I went through is as good as many and worked like a charm for me. Since the results were excellent and I can speak directly to my experience, let’s get to it.

(1)    To start, we need a way to scan existing pictures into digital format and store on our computer. This is the most important step since it will determine the quality of the pictures saved.  What we do NOT want is saved pictures that are lower quality than the original. Here is my list of important criteria:

a.       Must be able to scan 35mm slides which is the bulk of our family photos

b.      Must be able to scan MULTIPLE slides at once versus one at a time

c.       Must be able to scan photographs of various size and shape since we have all kinds from 3X3 wallet size up to 10X12 portraits

d.      Must produce high-quality copies

e.      Must be easy to install and use as I am not a computer wizard

f.        Must be less than $100 preferably a brand name of some kind

Based on this criterion, I decided on the Epson V300 Photo Scanner.  I happily found that my decision was right on as I was soon able to begin wading through the initial boxes of slides. Installation was a snap – I just followed the DVD – and soon I was ready to get under way. It took a bit to get used to putting the slides into their frame but after a few times, I got pretty proficient at it.

(2)    Gather the slides, negatives, pictures, newspaper clippings, and such that you want to save. Let family members know of your project and borrow pictures to complete the collection. Start slowly to get familiar with the scanner and the process and how long it takes you. You need not gather all pictures at one time but instead I recommend you copy them in stages. Once you get the hang of it, you can better allocate your time.

(3)    Begin to copy your family memories. If copying 35mm slides, there is a device to load six at one time. If you are copying individual pictures, just lay each on the screen like you would for a copier. Similarly if you are copying clippings or graduation notices or wedding invitations. Just place the pictures on the scanner, close the lid, and press the start button. The nice thing is you can see the quality of each upload at any time by clicking on the picture. A few pointers:

a.       While you are in the copying mode, label the pictures as best you can to better navigate at a later date.

b.      Include a date – I was fine with just the year but you may want to record specific dates.

c.       Create folders for specific events or times – for example, some folders that I created were “Misc Christmas”, “Lake Tahoe” (many years spent here growing up), “Parents Wedding”, “Scenery”, and “Baby Davey” (that’s me – as the first born child with a photographic father, there were LOTS of fun shots if I may say so myself). Grouping will help especially if you have a BUNCH of pictures as we all do!

The first time I used the Epson Scanner I had about ten shoe boxes of slides. We were on vacation in Lake Tahoe so I set aside 1-2 hours each day to copy slides. One at a time, I held each to the sunlight to see what I had, made my selections, loaded the six-pack for slides, set the frame into the scanner and pressed the start button. Lather-rinse-repeat. After spending about eight hour total, I had slightly more than 500 memories saved forever.

(4)    Share the love! I made CDs for my mom and dad, brother and sister, favorite aunt, and of course myself. And there are many gift ideas that enable you to put these personal photos to good use from tee shirts to mouse pads to DVDs to coffee mugs. Check out Shutterfly for even more gift ideas.

The good news is that the actual process of copying your family pictures is straight forward if you have the right equipment. I am sure there are other options, but the set up above did the trick for me. And with my new collection of humorous, timeless, historically-accurate, and ever-unique family pictures, I have birthday and holiday gifts covered for a long time!

Planning for Retirement – Retirement Advice Straight from the Retired

Planning for retirement to live the retired life that we want to live is something each of us needs to seriously undertake and the sooner the better. We need to prepare for the inevitable impact of our aging, we need to understand the financial requirements to support that senior lifestyle, and we need to occupy ourselves with worthwhile endeavors to realize a satisfaction and purpose. And once we arrive, how effective will our planning prove to have been? How accurately will we have for seen what retirement living truly entails? Did we really have a clue those many years ago when we started to look toward the horizon and contemplate retiring?

I asked a group of retired folks to answer three questions about their retirement and what kind of surprises – good and bad – they had experienced upon officially joining the ranks of the retired. The results helped me to better understand first hand that not everything goes as we plan but without a plan, perhaps even less so.

Question 1: What is the best thing about your retirement?

Supporting the premise that retirement life is when you finally can choose to do what you want to do, most of the responses mentioned freedom from work and the stress that it brings.

  • The best thing is that one can go in many directions and pursue those hobbies and likes that work got in the way of pursuing.
  • Retirement made me nicer – I brought home a lot of stress from my job and it impacted my relationships.
  • A sense of satisfaction in having it all work so far. Any time someone retires there is a leap of faith, that the money, health, emotions…all the various parts are going to work out.
  • Freedom from the confines of employment and it’s set hours and responsibilities.

 

Question 2: What was the biggest surprise that you learned after retiring, the thing that you least expected?

Interestingly, one very common mention was being surprised with how fast time passes.

  • The biggest surprise was how quickly the time goes and how little we sometimes accomplish – there’s always tomorrow!
  • I still don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day.
  • Biggest surprise was the way time speeds up.

Also mentioned was the fact that all of the best planning does not guarantee a secure financial future.

  • Regardless of how one plans for their financial future, there is usually not enough finances in retirement income to support all one’s goals. So one must be creative and resourceful in spending.

And finally, plans you make and goals you set may end up changing when you actually cross the retirement finish line. For example, plans to travel extensively may get a little fine tuning.

  • I had plans to spend three months a year in Hawaii, travel to Europe at least once a year, take cruises, buy an RV and travel the country. Very little of that has happened because my wife and I decided being away from our home, family, and friends at this stage of our life isn’t something we want to do.

 

Question 3: What single piece of advice would you give those who are making preparations to retire?

I think that Bob hit the nail on the head when he responded, “Plan, plan, plan for everything, and then realize you have no idea what is going to happen and that is OK. Plans are meant to evolve.”

Two main themes came up in answer to this question:

1.    Have your finances in order so you can weather whatever the future will throw your way. Mary recommends continuing to saving a bit of money each month, “If you don’t put a bit back regularly, savings head south way fast.” The fact is that once you retire, your options to supplement your income are far fewer than while you remain in the working world. So plan and save and save some more now.

2.    Have numerous fun things to do to keep busy and pursue passions to bring meaning to each day. And be sure to take care of yourself and your health so that you can enjoy doing it. Bren has the idea with passions he pursued including the following:

a. Explore ballroom dancing traveling the world as a Cruise Ship Dance Host.

b. Spend time as a substitute teacher to make use of those skills learned teaching prior to retirement.

c. Charitable mission work as he did in Costa Rica.

d. Help where he can like when he was a member of a medical team helping those in need after Hurricane Katrina.

Retirement will hold some surprises for us all. After all, it is the first time we have experienced this stage of life and we are learning as we go. But it is helpful to learn some of the secrets from those who are already there to assist us in becoming better retirement planners.

I like Bob’s final comment and will borrow it as the close of this discussion: “Your retirement will be like a blank canvas. You’ll buy all the paints and brushes but will have no idea what it will look like until you start applying the paint.”

May each of our retirements be a masterpiece.

Thank you to Mary, Bren, Bob, Syd, Jan, Tony, Dave, and Anna for your input.

 

Bob and Syd are fellow retirement bloggers and their sites are well worth a visit.

Bob is at Satisfying Retirement

Syd is at Retirement – A Full-Time Job

Active Retirement – Healthy Aging Requires It

You’ve got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing. ~ Arthur Ashe

 

In my last blog, I shared some examples of retirees living incredibly active senior lives, their calendars packed with daily events and various adventures scheduled out into distant months. We all know how important it is to keep active mentally and physically, not only to fight against the effects of aging but also to give ourselves the kind of satisfying and fulfilling retirement that we all want.  Our retirement days should not be just about getting by – there are exciting things to do and amazing places to be visited with stories to be told and we want to be telling those stories, not merely listening to someone else tales.

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. ~ William James

It is not always easy for senior citizens to get out there and go for it like we did when we were younger, which is okay and I believe even desirable. We are different people at 70 than we were at 17 – if not, the world would be in serious straights. Imagine for one moment a world of 17-year-old running things and we quickly realize that there is a method to the madness of growing old. Still it would be nice to steal a little of that energy that is so present in teenagers and stick it in our back pocket for a little boost. Short of that, what traits do we need to remain active seniors, grabbing life instead of watching it pass by?

Action is the antidote to despair. ~ Joan Baez

Passion – passion knows no age. Older people are just as passionate – if not more – than their younger counterparts. As long as the heart beats, passion is present. When are you more alive than when you vigorously  defend your position or dive head first into something that you really love to do? Our passion can be as unique as our imaginations allow, discovered down the most unlikely alleys we may wander. Don’t fight it, FEED it.

Plans – having activities scheduled helps to keep us in the game. An empty calendar can cause feelings of loneliness and even worthlessness. “No one wants to have anything to do with me.” A busy calendar does not allow time for dark thoughts since you have places to go and people to see. Short term plans such as regular get togethers with friends for bridge, tennis, golf, or a walk keep you active and engaged. And longer term plans – like a trip to France or a week on the coast – keep you anticipating rather than dreading the future.

Persistence – I may not feel like getting out of bed today or I may not be into going on my scheduled walk with Bobby Joe or I may think that I prefer to sit in front of the tube instead of getting outside for some fresh air. But I am not going to give in. Life is meant to be lived not observed. I will persist and I will persevere. And I will live. If you give in, you lose.

Perspective – it is important to know yourself and understand your personal point of view. All of the  life you have lived to this point has created your unique perspective on life and living. However rarely is your point of view the same identical point of view shared by others. Knowing this, you may better understand why a friend behaves the way she does when you may have anticipated her behaving differently. Remember to see things as they really are not just as you perceive them to be. The best perspective from which to accurately view the world is no perspective at all.

Presence – looking too far into the future or dwelling on the past prevents you from living and experiencing this moment. If your mind is distracted by some distant situation, you are unaware of what is going on right now under your nose. It will be very challenging to get the most out of your active life with this separation of mind and body. So remember to be aware of your presence here and now.

Perfection – none of us are perfect so don’t struggle or worry or get down on yourself when you make a mistake. The important thing is that we are doing something. If we do nothing, the risk of making a mistake is zero. But our likelihood of experiencing anything worthwhile is also zero. Active seniors take a chance and accept imperfection gladly in exchange for the opportunity to feel, experience, enjoy and live.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

The first step to living an active senior life is to take the first step.

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.