Photos, Organization and Retirement

My husband, Jeff is retiring. His employer threw him a retirement luncheon yesterday at TGI Fridays at Miller Park. It was very nice that the company allowed all his coworkers to leave work for an extended lunch. Jeff's boss invited the immediate family so me and two of my three kids attended. It was a wonderful and thoughtful event.

Because of this event, I decided to make a collage called 'Jeff...through the years'. That meant sneaking around gathering photos over the course of the last few weeks. When I realized that this was a tremendous undertaking, I was determined to organize all of our photos no matter what. I had photos everywhere. They were in file cabinets, in photo boxes, stashed in envelopes in cubbies, just everywhere.

I dug up every single photo from every place I could find them. Then I told Jeff it was a good time to get all these paper photos in order. After all, in this digital world, I should only have to do this once. It's not like we print photos anymore. And my digital photos, I am proud to say, have always been very organized. I can find any photo in a moment's notice. That's how good I am at labeling and storing my digital files.

But these paper photos - what a mess! Jeff was oblivious to any plans I had in making something for his retirement lunch. I just started going through all the stacks of photos as I gathered them up around the house. Then I opened all 6 of the photo organization storage boxes I had from the back of the closed. What a mess! As we sat around in the evenings unwinding, I just sorted and sorted and sorted some more. As I sorted, I started a pile for the collage I would eventually make.

After a week went by, I tried to talk myself into quitting this project. I felt like I wasn't making much headway and this was way bigger of a project than I thought. But I still plugged away. I told myself that even if I ran out of time to get a collage completed, it's still not a bad idea to get through all these photos. And memorabilia. There was lots of that all over the place too. Ticket stubs, programs, pamphlets, you name it. I had it stuffed all over the place.

The hard part about organizing photos is deciding how to categorize them. Once I looked through them some sorting was pretty trips to Niagara Falls, motorcycle events, Christmases, family, etc.  Some things were a little more difficult to sort, like photos of friends and events like weddings (were they a friend's wedding or a family member's wedding?). I set the most difficult subjects aside and worked with the easy ones first. Before I knew it, I had the photos filed in 4 of the 6 photo boxes and labeled properly. A 5th box contained all the negatives and the memorabilia so I was feeling confident I was making good progress.

Another tough thing about these photos was the memories that the provoked. So many people in them are now long gone. My dad, Jeff's parents, my brother-in-law and so many aunts and uncles. It was easy to cry over them all. So much sadness in the photos of Jeff's best friend who now has dementia and has no idea who anyone is yet so many blessings in those same photos. Happy memories were everywhere. Once in a while I had to remind myself of that.

At this point I stopped because I really needed to concentrate on the collage. I looked at my stack of photos of Jeff that I set aside and that familiar feeling of being overwhelmed came rushing back. I eyed the photos and chose to apply the same concept that I used when filing all the rest of the photos. I sorted them by subject. Just Jeff, hunting & fishing, family, friends, sporting events, etc. It got easier and easier. Then I made cute labels to print out and add to the collage.

Just one day before the luncheon, I still did not have the collage ready. I didn't even have a display board to use. So I ran to the store and picked one up. I hid it just before Jeff came home from work. That evening, I tried to print my labels for the collage. Much to my dismay, the printer drivers weren't working and I had to reinstall them. So here it is, Tuesday night and I still have no collage to take to the lunch the next day.

I got up at 5:30 the morning of the luncheon. I had renewed vigor to tackle the collage. I decided that if I got it done, great and if not, oh well. No stress. I chose some blue card stock and loaded it into the printer. Instead of printing all 6 pages of my labels, I just printed one page. It worked perfectly! So I printed the other 5 pages and I was off and running.

I took the display board out of the package and laid it out flat. I cut all the labels from each page and started plopping the photos on the display board in piles by subject. I threw the labels I printed on top of each photo pile like I was dealing a deck of cards. One and a half glue sticks later, I had all the photos pasted on the board. I was ready. I even had time to go through the newspaper clippings about Jeff and the ticket stubs and other memorabilia, make copies of them and paste them on the board as well.

I got the project done with an hour to spare. At the lunch Jeff was so touched and surprised and his coworkers enjoyed picking up on a little history about Jeff. The display was a great hit and I am so glad I got it finished. It's nice to have a little conversation piece added to any party.
So now I am looking at the unfinished box of photos that is left. I was really sick of going through photos but I knew if I didn't finish the sorting and filing, I would regret it. It would become another unfinished project tucked away on the to-do list in my brain. I had to finish. I would only feel good if I could totally remove this from that list of things to do. So this morning, I sorted everything that was left and filed it away. Yes, it took me another 3 hours but it is done. Completely, without anything left over to file or to review. And I am happy to report that if I had to find something, I could easily.

Those photo boxes are back in the closet and there is more room in my file drawers. What a great feeling and a great week of making new memories.

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