digitizing david’s mission
Gift giving is not really our love language.
Sure, David and I have given each other plenty of gifts over the years — and there have been some really good ones. But both of us agree that when it comes to birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays … it’s not the tangible gifts that matter. It’s our time together. We skip the gifts and create memories. That said, every time Christmas rolls around we check in with each other and agree that the kids should see us do at least something for each other. LOL
This year David hooked me up with some Apple AirPods (I love them!) and a sweet yoga mat and accessories, complete with a subscription to Yoga with Adriene on YouTube all set up on our TV because he knows I’ve really wanted to explore yoga, so this was really thoughtful and solution-based (speaking of love languages!). I’ll let you know how that goes. I got him a couple smaller tangible things, but my main gift for him — and quite possibly one of the best gifts I’ve pulled off — was digitizing his entire mission! This was certainly a labor of love. While “personal” in nature, I am sharing this with you because 1) I pretty much share everything I do in the “memory-keeping department” with you because sharing is caring! … and 2) I really feel like sharing my process will help / encourage / motivate some of you to finally tackle a project that you may have been putting off … and that’s part of my life’s work and passion — helping YOU!
First, a brief explanation on what a “mission” is, in this context. In our church, young adults have the choice and opportunity to serve a volunteer mission for a period of 2 years (for young men, as early as 18 years of age) or 18 months (for young women, as early as 19 years of age). Until a few years ago, the age for young men was actually 19 and that’s when David began his two-year mission to Washington D.C. North / Baltimore, Maryland — 1993 to 1995. These missionaries are not paid; in fact, they pay for their mission (and there is financial support for those unable to come up with the funds).
LDS (or “Mormon”) missionaries dedicate this specific period in their lives entirely to serving others and doing the Lord’s work in an area that they are called to serve in. They do not choose where they will serve. They are literally called to an area (ANYwhere in the entire world) and that’s where they go. They could be a state or two away from home or completely on the other side of the planet. Many learn a new language and as you can imagine, become fluent in that language. During one’s mission, they set aside the cares of the world. They take a break from dating and secular learning and hobbies. Instead they are focused on becoming the best version of themselves as they share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with anyone who is ready to learn. They teach people about God and His Plan of Happiness and our purpose here on earth, and how we can obtain the greatest happiness. They render Christlike service to people on a daily basis — whether those on the receiving end are interested in what these missionaries have to say or not.
BACK STORY TO THE PROJECT
Okay, you get the point. So it’s a really, really big deal — and it’s certainly a significant chunk of a missionary’s life. David and I were married 6 months after he returned home from his mission and that happens to be when I was really, truly, deeply discovering my passion for scrapbooking. Luckily David had all of his mission pictures organized in a photo album (the kind where you slip the photos into the pockets) and some others in a box.
Being the ambitious scrapbooker and loving wife that I was (am) … I was determined to really “scrapbook” my new husband’s mission “properly.” The photo album just wouldn’t do! It needed to be more “special” than that! (*rolling my eyes now*) Ugh. You guys. That was silly! … but whatever. I removed all those photos from the photo albums and got a tote set up, complete with hanging file folders. I transported all his photos to those folders and intended to get it all scrapbooked in between my full-time school + work schedule.
Ha! I’m funny.
Turns out, that was unrealistic thinking. Go figure. Twenty two years have passed since that newlywed phase and David’s mission was still sitting in the tote this year. I can’t even claim “not enough time” as the reason for my procrastination, if I’m being honest. I mean … we all have 24 hours in a day and we can choose how to spend our time. And I’ve done a TON of scrapbooking in those 22 years! So why was I putting this specific project so far to the side? It’s important! It’s special! It’s a big deal! It’s two whole years of my husband’s life!
The truth? I revered his mission memories so much that I felt intimidated. I didn’t think I could really do it “justice.” But in the spirit of total transparency … I am really, really glad I didn’t “scrapbook” his mission back then. Scrapbooking in the nineties was all about creativity and we’ve come a LONG way (I have certainly come a long way!) and I cringe a little thinking of what I might have done with his pictures had I tackled that project back in the day.
So fast forward. Christmas is rolling around. David doesn’t need a single thing that he isn’t going to buy for himself anyway, and I’m on a mission (no pun intended) to come up with something that is meaningful and unique and a true sign of my affection for him. It took about a half a second for this thought to pop into my mind that went something like this: “It’s time! It’s time to get David’s mission digitized. No more procrastinating. Just block off the time and DO IT.”
How’s that for a motivating kick-in-the-rear kind of prompting?
I didn’t think twice. I just DID it. I knew it would mean setting everything else to the side for complete focus (however long that would take) … and you know what? It worked. Sometimes you just have to stop thinking about something, get over feeling guilty about it, and just DO it!
You are quite likely familiar with one of my most significant philosophies when it comes to memory keeping, and that is: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND! Yes. Always. So before I began this project and finally circled back to a good intention from 22 years ago, I envisioned the end result.
Guess what, guys? I don’t KNOW what the end result looks like exactly. I know (and David and I have discussed this in recent years) that it will be a photo book that takes up less real estate than a big album. Obviously using the Project Life® App makes the most sense (duh) and obviously doing it this way means it’ll be easy-breezy to make copies for each of the kids to have too (that’s the cherry on top). But how many pages and how / when that will come together is still to be determined.
But here’s the cool part: It doesn’t matter! Regardless of those details, I KNEW that everything needed to be scanned and digitized. So THAT would be the gift. THAT would be what I could pull off in time for Christmas. And THAT would be huge! So my end game for the time being was to do THAT! Sometimes projects are procrastinated because they seem so huge, so insurmountable. (Know what I mean? I’m sure you do.) Instead we should give ourselves permission to do what we can … however we can … when we can. I’m a believer in “batching” in memory keeping. Doing a bunch of something that’s all the same kind of work — whether it’s scanning, like what I’m sharing with you right now, or doing all the photo selection and printing for a physical album in one sitting, or catching up on a bunch of journaling at one time. You get the idea.
Total investment of my time: 12 hours
Number of photos scanned: 1,185
Number of letters scanned: 54
STEP BY STEP: WHAT I DID + HOW I DID IT
1) SHHHH. | First thing on my mind? Keeping this a secret, of course! This part likely doesn’t apply to a project you’re about to tackle. It just happened to be that this would be a surprise gift for my husband … but 99% of my memory-keeping projects are not secretive at all. Anyway — I knew that this would mean chipping away while my husband was at work and guaranteed to not be around. Even though I have a scanner set up both at home and the office, I chose to work on this project at the office. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, but I knew it’d be at LEAST a full work day so I blocked off the day, brought in a couple totes full of his mission stuff, and told the girls what I was doing (physically present + available but essentially not doing regular work).
And … I went after it! The work began!
2) ORGANIZATION IS KEY | As I mentioned earlier, that part was pretty much already done from all those years ago. In fact, I’d call the organizational component of a project like this “PHASE 1” … and Phase 1 is exactly where we left off 22 years ago. As I opened the lid to that tote full of hanging files, recognizing my own handwriting from those years, I was so grateful this part was done.
3) PHASE 2 = SCAN, SCAN, SCAN | I started with pictures. I went hanging file by hanging file. One at a time. Batch of photos by batch of photos. I placed a handful of photos in the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 at a time (this has been our go-to scanner for years), pushed the button to activate the scanner (which is always connected to my computer), and it automatically pulled the pictures through, one at a time, and very quickly.
4) STORE IN DROPBOX | As each batch of photos was completed (which takes a matter of seconds, really) … I added (moved) each batch to Dropbox, in its respective sub folder. How I have it set up: In our main “Photos” folder, I have a sub folder called “David’s Mission.” Within that, I have sub folders such as “01 Pre Mission,” “02 Missionary Training Center,” “03 (First Area),” “04 (Next Area),” and so forth.
NOTE: It’s very typical on missions that the missionaries spend a period of time in one area, then be transferred to another and another so that within their greater geographical mission, they cover several specific areas in that state / region / country.
5) FILE RE-NAMING | Once the now-scanned batch of pictures was added to their sub folder, and while the physical prints were still sitting there on my desk, and before I placed them back in their hanging folder … I re-named each and every file with any information David wrote on the back of the photos all those years ago (he did this along the way on his mission, thank goodness, so most dates / names / places were identified while it was all fresh on his mind). This was back in the days of printing a roll of 24 or 36, know what I mean? Back when we actually printed photos! There were definitely perks to that old method, before we got into the digital age of photography that we’re in now.
6) LETTERS | Then I tackled all the letters. Same process. I scanned all the letters that David had handwritten and mailed to his family in Arizona. His mom had kept them all (of course + thank goodness!) and gave them to David at some point. Those file names are the respective dates on which his letters were written. I love that the scanner has options, including “duplex” scanning, which means it scans both the front AND back of two-sided items / documents. This has really come in handy, as you can imagine.
So … that’s what I did! One full 8-hour day spilled into the next and I was able to get the whole thing wrapped up with an additional half day (4 hours). I felt really good about that! I feel like one of the most helpful things was being totally focused. I really did ignore my inbox pretty well and didn’t allow myself to get pulled into various directions throughout the day(s). I know how multi-tasking works and it usually results in me not doing a great job at either thing I’m working on. So for that day & a half, I was 100% focused on digitizing David’s mission.
David was delighted with the gift! He’s stoked to have his mission digitized. I’m stoked to kick that guilt to the curb. Now … obviously I’m not totally DONE yet. I still need to actually make the photo book, of course. That’s PHASE 3 (the final phase of the project). But that’s not something I would do “behind David’s back,” you know? This was his mission. These are his memories, his stories to tell.
So what I think that will look like is this: David and I will sit down together for 20-30 minutes sometime, with Dropbox open, and go through all that is in there and get a sense for what he cares the most about, what doesn’t really matter much anymore (especially with all these years that have past), and that’s that! It will be then that I’ll know my direction for pulling together the photo book. I’ll determine how many pages it will be (100 pages / 200 sides is the max for a soft cover photo book through the Project Life App), then I’ll do the math and figure out about how many pages it will be per “chapter” (area in his mission). See what I’m saying? Working backwards like that makes soooo much sense in scrapbooking and it’s one of my best tips!
Then I’ll knock out those app pages (lying down and totally comfortable and without getting out any supplies — yay!), have him add some journaling, and that’s how we’ll get the photo book completed. We’ll order it through the app of course (including a copy for each of the kids), and … oh man. I can’t even wait to hold that in our hands. FINALLY!!
Anyway, I knew that no matter how and when the photo book would come together … it all had to be digitized, no matter what. That’s why the scanning component was so critical.
What about the stuff?
Now that all the photos and letters are digitized … do I toss it? Keep it?? Great question! Truth is … I don’t have all those answers. And because I’m not sure, and because I don’t feel comfortable tossing these treasures — even though they’re all scanned — I’m not gonna toss them! It’ll all remain stored and organized as it is and I’m okay with that.
how this applies to you
Alright. Let’s round out this fun topic by bringing it back to YOU! Are you ready to put a goal into ACTION??
1) IDENTIFY ONE TOPIC | Could be a trip / phase of life / special occasion / category of memories that you have, where a pile / box / drawer full of pictures (etc.) is just sitting, WAITING for your attention. This won’t likely take too much thought. I’d be willing to bet that something stood out in your mind immediately. It’s very likely that you have felt the nudge (or straight up guilt) to do something with those pictures once and for all. Okay — got it? Do you have it identified?
2) MAKE A PLAN | Perhaps that plan makes sense in 3 phases like David’s mission project. Phase 1 was the organization, Phase 2 was the scanning / digitizing, and Phase 3 will be making the photo book. Break your master plan into phases so that it’s easier to digest. If you think of it as one big “thing to do,” it’ll just remain un-done because it’s simply too overwhelming.
Make a plan. Break it up. Write it down.
3) START | As in … begin with Phase 1. Just do it! Seems so easy, right? I know it’s not usually that simple (hello, it took me 22 years to blow the dust off this project! I get it!) — but you know what really helps?? Two things: First of all, go with it when you’re FEELING it. Know what I mean? Like, the itch is there. You’re in the mood. Your vision is clear and you’re motivated. When you feel those feels … do everything you can to set everything else aside so that you can tap into that fresh energy and RUN with it! The second thing that I find to be helpful (as was the case for me in David’s mission project) is to give yourself a deadline and / or schedule the time. Like, actually add this as a calendar item. This Saturday from 12-4 you are going to blast your favorite tunes, get in the zone, and go for it! Or … each Sunday you are going to set aside an hour to chip away. Or … whatever works for you! You gotta do what works for you, friend. Always.
I’m cheering you on. I really am. I so want you to have memory-keeping success! It’s an amazing feeling to document the stories, preserve the photos, and savor the memories … no matter how you choose to do it.
Should you feel so inclined, leave a comment below with the project YOU’RE going to tackle this year. Let’s be ambitious and say … this quarter! Within the next 3 months … the first quarter of 2018 … what’s it gonna be?? I’m with you. I’ll set a goal right here, right now, to complete David’s mission book by tackling Phase 3 and getting it DONE!
Let’s DO this! *high five*