Friday, September 29, 2017

Why I Stay Caught Up Preserving My Memories and Photos

So many things vie for our attention these days.  It seems like we hardly have a minute to sit still.  We’ve got soccer games and piano lessons and grocery shopping and laundry and (ahem) blog posts to write.  And we take pictures of everything these days.  Preserving those photos and the memories that go with them tend to sit on the to-do list for long periods of time for most people.  But not me!  And I’ll tell you why.

Here's what it all comes down to:  I need my pictures and memories.

Seeing photos and reminiscing about happy times has been shown to actually {increase happiness in the present}.  I need that.  I am busy, worried, stressed, and overloaded on a pretty regular basis.  I can’t take a trip to Hawaii every time I need to relax.

 But I can sit down and spend 10 minutes looking through my 2008 trip to Hawaii ANY TIME I WANT because I’ve preserved those pictures and memories in a physical book.  

Heirloom-quality digital book made {here}.
{Reminiscing} lets you go home.  It’s Christmas again.  I’m with my grandpa again.  I’m bringing that sweet baby home from the hospital again.  Re-living the good times gives me perspective on the bad ones.  It gives me hope and a greater sense of peace.  I’m more centered and grounded because I’m in touch with my own self.  And, let me tell you–  I need that.

I don't just need my pictures and memories--I need the process of preserving them.  

I saw a very funny ad recently about preserving your photos by basically pushing a button, and how much better that is than “wasting time” doing it the traditional way.  I enjoyed the ad until “wasting time” was mentioned, and then I choked a little bit.  Pushing a button is all well and good, and it’s better than not having any preserved pictures at all, for sure.  But because we’re so “busy,” we have completely lost sight of what the PROCESS of memory-keeping really does for us.
"It’s a valuable exercise to close your eyes every once in a while and think, “What is the most wonderful moment I have lived through during the past year?”  It might be part of a grand event or a very simple moment, perhaps a brief interaction with another person.  The grand or simple, it doesn’t matter."  ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley
Taking the time to interact with your photos and your memories is cathartic.  Much like keeping a gratitude journal, putting words to your life’s experiences as you preserve photos gives you perspective and gratitude and a sense of purpose.  The process is necessary.

I’ve mentioned this a lot in previous #familyhistoryfriday posts because this is a really big deal.  It’s very important to me.  What photos, memories, and family stories do for kids has a lasting impact:

I want my kids to have something to hold in their laps and look at that will lift their spirits when times are tough.  I want them to have the ability to reminisce.  I want them to see connections and see how they belong when they see pictures of grandparents and cousins.  I want them to be uplifted when they remember.  I want a venue to tell my kids what I love about them, what I see in them.  I want to celebrate their accomplishments and even the times they tried and didn’t really accomplish what they’d hoped.  I want them to see that we had fun along the way.

One of the biggest reasons I prioritize staying caught up on preserving my pictures and memories is because I forget quickly.  My memory fades.  Ask me about my first job or my first day of college, and I can tell you very few things.  I don’t remember them very well because I didn’t write anything down and I didn’t take a picture.  If I had taken pictures and then written about it when I preserved the pictures, I would know more details right now than I do.

Ask me about our first apartment after we got married or about the beach trip with my cousins when we were teenagers, and I can tell you a lot more because I took pictures and wrote down my memories of the events.  Preserving photos and memories is the best way I know of to {keep your memory from fading}!     

In fact, I would say that memory-keeping is the ability to “google” your life!  Isn’t that true?!  I can’t tell you how many times we’ll be sitting around as a family talking about something and someone will say, “Now when was that?” or “What did it look like?” and we’ll pull out our family scrapbooks and look it up!  It feels a little like pulling out your phone to look up the actor in the movie to try to figure out where you know him from, or any of the other things we look up with ease these days.  Having scrapbooks, memory books, photo books, and albums lets you look up and reminisce and learn and enjoy!

I know we’re all busy.  I know memory-keeping can fall by the wayside.  But in addition to preserving my memories while they’re still fresh (and before I forget details), I stay caught up preserving my photos and memories because I need all the benefits that I’ve listed here.  I need to remember good times, feel grounded, and have a greater sense of gratitude right now.  I need the cathartic experience of interacting with my photos and the story of my life in a very real way right now.  I need my kids to have a greater sense of belonging and increased self-esteem and greater resilience right now.  Will I need those things in the future?  Absolutely.  But I just can’t wait.  I need all the {benefits of family stories, photos, and memories right now}.

Making time for memory-keeping can be challenging, but there are lots of tricks to make it work.  I’ve mentioned several in previous #familyhistoryfriday posts, and I’ve collected some really helpful links and information {here}.  Like most things in life, we tend to find time for our priorities.

The week after I graduated from college, I attended a women’s conference there at my alma mater.  I remember few things that were said at that event more than 20 years ago, but I will always remember one statement one of the speakers said:
“We have too much to do so that we will know what is important.”
Think about that.  Let it stick with you, too.  We don’t have to do everything.  We just need to do what matters.

If you missed the last 3 #familyhistoryfriday posts about HOW I stay caught up, links to each can be found {here}.

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This post was originally published at on September 29, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

video tutorial: DIY chocolate label favors

If you are looking for an impressive, affordable, unique way to make a celebration spectacular, you have come to the right place.

Whether you have an upcoming wedding, baby shower, graduation, retirement, birthday, holiday, or thank you, creating PERSONALIZED labels for chocolates fits any occasion and makes it UNFORGETTABLE.

You'll see *exactly* what I mean at this tutorial!

Friday, September 22, 2017

HM Digital Scrapbooking (How I Stay Caught Up, part 3)

Because I’m habitually caught up on preserving my photos and memories, I’m sharing exactly how I do that this month on #familyhistoryfriday.  Today I’m very excited to share the actual method I use because it’s so much fun.  It helps me stay caught up on pictures {because it’s addicting}– I always find myself itching to create one more page or finish preserving the latest event I’ve photographed.  

As I mentioned last week, it’s very important to find YOUR thing when considering how to preserve your pictures and life’s stories.  Trying to do something that doesn’t really jive with you doesn’t usually work.

For me, what works beautifully is digital scrapbooking with Heritage Makers.  I love it for a variety of reasons which I outline in today’s video, not the least of which is flexibility, quality, convenience, and several time-savers.

In this final video in this month’s series, “How I Stay Caught Up Preserving My Pictures and Memories,” I first share why I love this method– why HM digital scrapbooking works for me personally.  Then I have you peek over my shoulder as I create a scrap page with pictures from a recent vacation.  This video will help you see why this is my chosen method–how it’s fast, creative (from a very basic level to a fancy-pants one), and so much fun that it’s easy for me to stay caught up on my pictures.  

I’m so excited to have you join me for this video.  Watch me do what works for me!

What did you find helpful or interesting in the video?  Please share in the comments.

So far this month on #familyhistoryfriday, I’ve given three tips to stay caught up on your memory-keeping.  They are three things that I do regularly, so I can tell you that it works!
  1.  I organize my pictures in chronological order, and I prioritize doing so.  I don’t wait very long to get my photos off my camera or phone and onto my computer so they’re ready to preserve.  There are several little tips about organizing in {the original post}.
  2. I have chosen a memory-keeping method that works for me.  There’s always some new, trendy thing going on, but it’s absolutely vital to choose something that works for you.  If you don’t love it, you probably won’t do it.  See {last week’s post} for some ideas to love.
  3. I DO the memory-keeping method that works for me.  I can find something fantastic–which digital scrapbooking with {Heritage Makers} really is for me–but if I don’t do it, it doesn’t even matter that I found something amazing.  Making time and prioritizing your photos are big parts of that, and you can find some suggestions to do that {here} if you need them.
Here's what I love about HM Digital Scrapbooking and how it helps me stay caught up! 
  • I love digital because I can resize images and make everything fit on a page, from photos to cute embellishments.  
  • I also love that everything is self-contained on a computer without lots of supplies.  I can be as creative or basic as I want with digital scrapbooking.  I can spend some creative time on it or just put things together quickly and cleanly.
  • With {Heritage Makers} I can copy pages and copy whole projects which saves me tons of time. 
  • No limits on photos or text is important to me.
  • Not having to buy digital art (just having it included) is something else I love.  
  • I love the high quality and {Heirloom Assurance} that Heritage Makers offers.  
  • Digital Scrapbooking with Heritage Makers is so fun that it’s addicting, and I come back to it again and again, wanting to do just one more page.

Although the thicker digital scrap pages I use are not the cheapest option offered by Heritage Makers, (the {storybooks} are), they are exactly the right fit for MY needs and preferences and purposes.  Maybe they'll be yours, too.  Or maybe you'll find a different perfect solution that works for you in the video I made for you.  

The last four posts on #familyhistoryfriday have been about how I stay caught up preserving my photos and memories.  Next week I will talk about why I stay caught up.  What’s the big deal?  Why is staying caught up (or even kinda close to caught up) so important?  There is some solid reasoning behind it, and some reasons it really matters.  See you next week!

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This post was originally published at on September 22, 2017 by Jennifer Wise.  See more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag next to Labels below.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

why your family needs its stories

What is the story of your family?  How does the story line go?  Have you ever thought of life as a story?

If you were a historian, you could probably go through the year and summarize it in a story.  In fact, you probably already do that once a year if you do a {family letter at Christmastime}.

Did you know that our brains are actually wired for storytelling?  Our brains process facts, sure, but what they really love is STORIES.  Our brains want connections, and stories actually create them.

Rachel Gillette wrote an article for {Fast Company called "Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling in Marketing."}  Here's what she said about the difference between data and story:

"When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well."  (italics added)

Did you catch that?  We're talking about LITERALLY preserving memories!!  

Recording your story allows you to re-live experiences!  And I know from my own experience that if there's any part of the story you don't particularly want to remember, you won't remember it if you don't record it.  When we go on family vacations, I don't take pictures of meltdowns, so when we look back at the pictures and our story later, it's like it never happened!  ;)

And that "you won't remember it if you don't record it" truth is a double-edged sword.  It works out nicely if you don't want to remember the meltdown, but it should make you think twice if you're not recording your family's story and preserving your photos and memories.

Because, truthfully:  it's gone.

So much of what we take pictures of is part of our family story.  We take pictures of special events like first days of school and family vacations, of the new house or the new car.  This is what makes our story.

Rachel Trotter wrote a great article called {Family Vacations Create Great Family Stories} which emphasizes how many fantastic memories and bonding moments come out of vacations.  She lists 5 ways to make your vacations "storyful," from food to music, which you can find at the link.

I've experienced it, too--family vacations are some of the best sources for family stories.  They make some of the best memories!

Two years ago we went to Mexico as a family.  (Yes, the water really IS that color!)  As it turned out, my mom passed away two weeks before our trip.  When I got on the plane, it didn't feel like the time for a fun getaway, but it didn't take me long to realize that it was the perfect time for it.  Aside from the peace of sitting at the turquoise water's edge, we made lots of amazing memories that are part of our family's narrative.  Hilarious things happened.  Miraculous things happened.  Weird and therefore funny things happened.  Really, really cool things happened.  And we STILL talk about it.  We look back on that shared experience with great fondness.

And that's what a family story is:  a shared experience.

And that's why we need them.
an 11.5x8.5 Heritage Makers Storybook
So when you make the memories and take the pictures, don't forget to record the story!  Your family needs its stories.  And the process of telling them--recording photos and memories--is cathartic!

If you need some helps in telling or recording your family stories, here are three:
{Heritage Makers} is my favorite way to get my stories (and photos) into print because of the quality, Heirloom Assurance, total flexibility to tell my story my way, competitive price, and more.  You can {get started here} or {contact me} if you need ideas and direction or someone to bounce your own ideas off of.  I love helping people tell their stories!  Advice and help getting started is free, so don't be shy.  

Your story in any shape, size, or style you want from

Every family needs its stories because it needs the connections and the sense of belonging that come from them.  Family stories have a lot of power.  In a world struggling for connections these days, the solution is much closer than we think.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Using Something I Love (How I Stay Caught Up on My Pictures, part 2)

This month on #familyhistoryfriday I’m sharing how I personally stay caught up preserving my own photos and memories.  Being behind can be not only overwhelming but paralyzing.  Last week I showed you {my photo organization system} that helps me know what I have and where it is.  That’s the first important step to preserving pictures, but an equally important step is to do it using something you love.  

What type of memory-keeping method would make you look forward to sitting down and preserving your photos?  Your chosen method should be something do-able, something in both your price range and interest.  Mostly, though, it should be addictive.  (I’m not kidding.)  It should be something that draws you back again and again.  Choosing a memory-keeping method you love is crucial to your success in staying caught up preserving your pictures.

Let's brainstorm about YOU.  Are you a hands-on person?  Are you a computer person?  Do you work best in groups or alone?  What kind of memory-keeping method would best serve you?  What would you love and do I’ve made this video for you so we could brainstorm a little what might or might not be interesting to you.  See what you like (or don’t like), and think about what will be your best chance for wild success at preserving your photos regularly.

UPDATE:  Here's another {simple digital solution} that isn't included in the video.  See which would work best for you!  All methods shown in the video are available {here}.

The four methods I showed in the video are methods I personally like because of the simplicity and creativity involved.  I also like that you can sort of fake creativity through the use of quick paper kits and digital templates!


Preserving photos in a beautiful way is nice, but it’s not required.  My parents and grandparents took and preserved photos before any of the current cutesy trends.  The books and albums that they created are cherished and priceless.  Let that always be your focus.

Let me tell you about my experiences and what changed.

I’ve always put photos in albums and written a little something to go with them.  Good memories are so good for you.  They serve you long past the actual event by making you happy all over again.  Photos have a magic to them.  You can see faces long-gone or relive a great experience.  Memory-keeping (preserving photos and memories) is {good for the heart and soul}.

When scrapbooking became a thing, I had a friend who also prioritized memory-keeping.  We had little kids the same age, so we would set aside days to get together with our totes full of paper and stickers and let our kids play while we preserved our photos.  It was a creative, social way to preserve photos and memories.  I always looked forward to it.

After several years of doing this with my friend regularly, I moved to the other side of the country.  Life got busier at the same time.  I began {digital scrapbooking} because it was easier and was a huge time-saver both in terms of how long a page took to create and how I could just order multiple copies without having to re-create everything (one for each of my kids).  In my new location I found other digital memory-keepers and we got together with laptops once a month.

Items shown in the video are {at this link} by clicking “products” at the upper right.
Another cross-country move brought another change.  I do memory-keeping mostly on my own now.  What used to be memory-keeping with friends has become helping others and teaching them as they do their memory-keeping.  So memory-keeping for me has become me-time:  a quiet, cathartic, relaxing, grounding time.  I use a method I love, and I look forward to it all the time– to working on just one more page or completing a big event preserved in digital scrapbook pages.  I love sharing them with my family.  I love thumbing through them on my own.  My memory-keeping method is a creative outlet and a stress reducer for me.  It continues to be good for my heart and soul.

Next week I will show you what I do, the addicting method I love and do regularly.  In fact, you’ll get to see my actual process and what makes it so fun.  Unlike today’s show-and-tell type video, when I show you my addictive method next week, it will feel like you’re doing it with me.  You’ll see exactly why I love it and why it’s so easy for me to stay caught up preserving my photos and memories.

You don't have to love digital scrapbooking like I do, but staying caught up on your pictures is much easier if you find something YOU love.

Why is finding an addicting way to preserve your pictures and memories so crucial?  So you’ll do it and enjoy doing it!  So you’ll come back again and again.  So you can stop feeling overwhelmed and guilty.

Photos and memories have an enormous power to bring you joy.  Let them.

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This post was originally published at on September 15, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  You can find more #familyhistoryfriday articles by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Heritage Makers Studio 101 - video tutorial for beginners

Heritage Makers digital personal publishing is a powerful tool for memory-keeping, creating high-quality family yearbooks, digital scrapbooking, giving unforgettable gifts, and even creating your own business products!  The program you use is called Studio.  It's similar to other drag-n-drop programs like Photoshop, Canva, or Publisher, only with many more tools and included (free) digital art.

Using Heritage Makers is a lot of fun!  A tour through Studio can be helpful as you create storybooks, scrap pages, cook books, playing cards, calendars, canvases, and all the rest of the products available at Heritage Makers.  I've created the video tutorial below for beginners who would like a tour of the website ("How do I find out when my publishing points expire?" or "How do I change my password?") as well as a guided walk through Studio itself ("How do I upload pictures to my account?" or "How do I rotate a photo?")

Happy Heritage Making!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Organizing My Photos (How I Stay Caught Up, part 1)

I stay caught up on preserving my photos and memories.  It’s true!  I know that puts me in a small minority, but it’s a great place to be!  I’m very passionate about helping people join me in that Consistent & Successful Memory-Keepers minority, so that’s why this month on #familyhistoryfriday each week I’m going to share exactly HOW I do that.  Organizing your photos is the big first step.

Because we’re inundated with photos these days, it can be hard to even know what we have or where it is.  Organizing your pictures is the first important step to preserving them.  This video I made especially for Evolve! readers shows my actual method for organizing my photos on my computer.  This method helps me sort through what I have so that I can get rid of extras and duplicates (or very similar photos).  This method also makes it easy for me to find my photos, too!  Let me walk you through my process:

I’ve written a few times about narrowing down photos– finding {extras} and sorting so that what you’re left with is do-able, or something you’re able to preserve.

If you take 100 pictures and you preserve 100 pictures, you’re set.  If you take 100 pictures and leave them on your phone or computer and then take another 100 and do the same thing and another 100, and you keep going that way and feel pretty overwhelmed and you don't preserve any of them, you may need to just pick your favorites to preserve.

If it’s a choice between being so overwhelmed with the amount of photos you have that you never preserve any and just preserving your favorites, pick your favorites.  {Preserving some is much better than none.}

Organizing and storing your photos digitally is all well and good, but always remember the bigger picture:  Preserving them with details (names, dates, memories) is the goal.  A nameless photo doesn’t mean anything to anyone.  A jpeg file may get corrupted.  Computers crash.  The printed photo is what’s meaningful.  Organizing your photos is the first step to getting there.

Next week we’ll look at the second important step to avoid getting behind on preserving your pictures:  finding a method you will love and do.  I suggest something {addicting}, so stay tuned.

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This post was originally published at on September 8, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Be True To Yourself: podcast with Jennifer Wise

I was interviewed recently by Krista Palo of Evolve! for her Podcast series, "Real Life, Real Passion."  The series asks real people how they use their passion in real life.

We talked about the importance of being yourself, having courage to be yourself, and embracing that you are the expert.  We also talked about personalities, overcoming challenges, and how compassion for your own self is an important part of happiness. 

I hope you will enjoy this inspiring podcast!  Put in your earphones and listen as you're vacuuming or walking, and come away feeling better about yourself and life.

Friday, September 1, 2017

How I Stay Caught Up Preserving My Pictures and Memories

When I tell people I am pretty consistently caught up on preserving my pictures and memories, their reactions are usually a combination of surprise and envy.  Being caught up is a great feeling, and preserving the story and experiences of your family {benefits you and them} in meaningful, lasting ways.  This is something I truly want to share!  So this month I’ll be sharing with you HOW I stay caught up.  Each #familyhistoryfriday I’ll tell you about my own experience and practices.  By getting a peek into what I do and what methods work for me, I hope you’ll not only be inspired but also come away with some useful tools so that YOU can say, “I’m pretty consistently caught up on preserving my pictures and memories,” and reap the benefits.

I have three keys to avoid getting behind on preserving my photos and memories.  I’ll go into more detail on each one over the next three weeks.  I’ve decided to do something different, too:  I’m going to be actually showing you each of my keys via video!  So you can literally watch my process as I implement each of these three keys:
  1. {First, I organize myphotos. I  will show you my organizational method because I think it makes photos really easy to find and therefore use in a photo album or memory book.  I have learned that this is something that many people aren’t sure how to do, and since it’s really the first step, let’s start there.
  2. {Next, I use a memory-keepingmethod I love (and am addicted to).}  This may seem like an obvious step, but I can’t tell you how many people say, “I can’t preserve my photos and memories because I’m not a scrapbooker.”  Scrapbooking is just one of many methods to memory-keeping– it’s not the only one!  It is absolutely vital to find a method you will love and therefore do.  In the video, we will brainstorm and explore a few different options so you can find something that’s a good fit for you.  
  3. {Last, I DO IT!}  I’ll actually do some memory-keeping so you can see it in action.  This will be a fun video.  I’ll show you what method I use, why I love it, and why I have chosen it for my everyday memory-keeping.  It may be my best-kept secret for staying caught up on preserving pictures.
You can find videos about each of these 3 keys (photo organizing, using a method I love to find success, and what I actually use for my preferred memory-keeping) each of the next three weeks on #familyhistoryfriday.

(UPDATE:  I've also added links right there in my list of 3 that will take you right to those videos.  As a bonus, {here's one more great, high-quality method to consider that's pretty simple} that is new since video #2 was made.  See which of all these is your favorite!  What will you love?)

If you haven’t been preserving photos and memories for a while, you may be a little overwhelmed and not even know where to start.  Here are some pointers:
I always encourage people to start with whatever makes the most sense to THEM.  If you’re trying to do something that works for someone else but doesn’t work for you, you probably won’t get very far.  See which of these suggestions sounds the most do-able to you:
  • Start recently.  If you just got back from a trip or if you just had a celebration, your memories will be fresh of that event.  It may be easiest for you to record and document something that recently happened.
  • Start chronologically.  For some people, it may be easiest to start where they left off.  If you were really good at preserving your photos and memories until 2012, you might want to start at 2012 and work forward.
  • Start recently AND chronologically.  Did you see the {Two-In-One Plan} I posted a few weeks ago on #familyhistoryfriday?  It’s a great way to start preserving photos and memories where you are right now AND previous years at the same time.  It’s the perfect catch-up method.  If you didn't catch it then, click that link and check it out.  I think it's a brilliant way to catch up.
  • Start with the nagging.  If there’s something you feel that you need to do before you can start everything else, start there.  Before my mom passed away, she gave me a few boxes of mementos with the charge to do something with them.  I decided to make {a life story book about her} using those mementos.  When I started creating the book, I –of course– still had my usual, everyday photos and memory-keeping to do.  I did both for a while, but my mom’s book was always in the back of my head.  Kinda nagging.  So eventually I dedicated time to focus on that instead, and I found I could get more done on the book when I wasn’t trying to do multiple projects at once.  After I completed the book, going back to my regular memory-keeping was easier, too.

Whatever you do, start easy!

Whichever of those four suggestions makes the most sense to you is probably the one you should do. The most important thing is to start easy.  Choose a do-able project first, something you can finish rather quickly so that you can feel your progress and use its momentum.  If you start with something huge and overwhelming, it’s easy to quit before you begin –or at least before you get very far.  So START EASY!

There are a few more tips on bringing your photos to life {right here}, including how to find time and other ideas on starting, if you need some.

Next week at #familyhistoryfriday we will talk about organizing photos.  Remember I’ll be showing you on video how I organize my photos.  It’s key to how I stay caught up preserving my pictures and memories.  Organizing the photos is the first important step to doing something with them.  

And THAT’S the real goal!  Having accessible photos to see, hold, and enjoy makes all the difference.

Lots of people need help knowing how to get caught up and stay there, so
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This post was originally published at on September 1, 2017, by Jennifer Wise.  More #familyhistoryfriday posts can be found by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.