Archive for August 2012

Two Sales Reps Walk Into A Bar…   Leave a comment

Two sales reps walk into a bar.

The first one says, “I had such a great day!  I met with 6 different prospects, and I had great conversations with each of them.  I’m really making progress!”

The second one says, “Yeah, I didn’t sell a damn thing today, either.”

Posted August 25, 2012 by henrymowry in Selling

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I Could Not Run   2 comments

Philmont’s most famous landmark, the Tooth of Time.

When I started getting in shape to go to Philmont, I really didn’t know what I was doing.  I decided that I could lose weight if I started running … something I had never been serious about.  I had run track in high school — but I mean that in the loosest possible sense.  I ran, I was in high school.  I was pitiful.  The only team point I ever scored was when I finished 5th in a 5 man race.  I ran the 2 mile.  No idea what my times were … who would keep track of such a thing?  The stop watches were already off when I finished.  Every time.

Assistant Referee, 2002

Move forward many years, and Velda volunteered me to be a referee for Christopher’s soccer team, a part of the AYSO program.  (Many referees begin this way!)  I told myself that it was my exercise program … and it was better than nothing.  But it did not lead to healthier lifestyle choices, and I remained overweight.  I could run as fast as a 9 year old dribbling the ball, though, so I was OK.  This would have been 1992.

Ten years later, I was a better, faster referee, but I still needed to shed 60 pounds.  When I first hit the road to begin running … I couldn’t run a mile.  Long before then, I was a wheezing mess.  I kept at it, though, in my sweats and my Reebok cross trainers … and kept at it.  I actually ran enough miles in those Reeboks that I wore the soles of the shoes away to a severe angle (come to find out, I’m an underpronator.  Who knew?).  When I finally bought new shoes, I found I could not even walk without pain, as my tendons wouldn’t let the soles of my feet land flat as I ran anymore.  Oops.  Back to walking.

And then I was a fitness runner.  As I got more serious about my running, I got more serious about my gear, eventually switching to good shoes, a GPS system, and (perhaps most importantly) a simple spreadsheet log of what I had done.  I began to keep a daily record of my runs after I was well into my fitness program; in February ’03 I was able to do 10 minute miles for 3 mile runs on a good day (on a bad day, not so much).  I split the longer runs into shorter intervals, and kept track of my time for every interval.  I didn’t have that in high school … now, I became obsessed with it.

I believe that this daily ritual is the most important reason that my running succeeded:  I always knew how fast I was running, and I wouldn’t let myself slow down.  I pushed.  I was in a race with myself, and I celebrated every time I broke my record for an interval by coloring that square in my spreadsheet a special color!  Silly, but it worked.  I focused on turning the spreadsheet green, one interval at a time, one day at a time.

On my last run before Philmont, I did my 3 miles with an average mile pace of 9:51, my best yet.  My weight?  Back to what it was in college.

Philmont was GREAT … my life was GREAT.  I felt better than I had in years.  And suddenly … I had achieved my goal — and didn’t have another.  That just wouldn’t do.  It was about then that I talked to a great lady, Linda Johnson.  Linda was a serious runner — she was doing 9 miles as a daily run.  Linda worked with me as a sales rep, and she taught me the value of multiplication.

Linda asked what I was running, and I told her I was doing 3 miles most days.  She said great, if you can run 3 miles, you can run 6 miles (and I could!).  And if I could run 6 miles, Linda said I could run 12, and that’s almost a half marathon.  And if I could run a half marathon, she proudly said, I could run a marathon.

A marathon?  WHAT?

Remember where I started:  I could not run a mile.  And here I was a year later, with a real runner telling me that I could do a marathon.  Unbelievable.

And then I did it.

Here’s your takeaway:

1.  Get a goal.

2.  Keep track of your progress versus that goal.

3.  Celebrate your progress towards your goal.

4.  Achieve that goal.

January 18, 2004. San Diego Marathon, now called the Carlsbad Marathon. 26.2 beautiful Southern California miles!

Master of His Domain   Leave a comment

Yellow moth on our yellow butterfly bush. Shot with a Nikon D7000 and 85mm lens @ F8, 1/250 second.

Posted August 22, 2012 by henrymowry in Photography

Better Ingredients = Better Margaritas   1 comment

This artisan tequila tastes as good as its hand-blown bottle looks!

When we were visiting Old Town Liquor in San Diego, we learned about a highly recommended tequila: Sin Rival.  This new Reposado had to be worked into our search for the Perfect Margarita!

Another discovery in San Diego was this organic margarita mix. It is NOT FRESH, but it’s the best bottled mix we’ve found. When you don’t have time to make fresh margarita mix, this is not awful; it’s better than many bars serve!

Also on the agenda:  checking out the idea that agave nectar is superior to simple sugar in margarita mix.  Seems like a simple idea, right?  But until you actually check it out, you just don’t know.  Happy to do that for you!

Four of us did some quick little taste tests.  In a word, YES, agave nectar makes a big difference.  It’s clear that’s going to be our new standard in our search for the Perfect Margarita!

We used a slight variation of this Agave Nectar Margarita Recipe from Food.com:

1-1/2 oz reposado tequila

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz agave nectar

1/2 oz Grand Marnier

The first thing we did was make 2 versions of this recipe with Don Celso Reposado.  We put agave nectar in one mix, and simple sugar in the other.  All 4 tasters agreed:  no contest.  Agave nectar is the clear winner!

We then continued with a couple of other taste tests, using agave nectar but with different tequilas.

1.  Don Celso Reposado again bested Sol de Mexico Reposado.

2.  Don Celso Reposado bested Sin Rival Reposado.

Don Celso, you may recall, was the top-ranked tequila from our original taste test of 15 tequilas.  It’s the undefeated champion so far. It must be noted, however, that each tequila brings a unique flavor to its Margaritas.  As we continue in our search for the Perfect Margarita, we’re going to need to tweak the final recipe to match the flavor profile of the winning tequila.

Tough, tough work ahead of us.

A great tasting tequila, and with its undefeated record in taste tests so far, it’s going to be hard to replace Don Celso Reposado in our Perfect Margaritas!

Posted August 18, 2012 by henrymowry in Recipes, The Perfect Margarita

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Your Family Tree   2 comments

Letha Shull, age 16, showing a bit of the grit that would power her genealogy research decades later!

My Mom got into genealogy by accident, really.  As part of the Bicentennial celebration, our home town was publishing a history of the community.  “On the Banks of the Elk Horn” was to include the history of the town and the families that had lived there.  Mom was tasked by the committee with writing the history of the Mowry family, so Mom dutifully talked to the older generation and wrote our history in 1972.

Multiple members of my family had copies of these pictures of my Great Great Grandparents, but not all of them were labeled so we knew who they were!

A year later, she was convinced, much of what she had written was wrong.  The oral history she relied on was proven inaccurate when confronted with basic research into county records that were easily available.

And Mom’s love of genealogy was born.

She began buying 3×5 cards by the case, and typing individual records of life events on each card (so, one for a birth, one for a marriage, etc).  She typed cards for every announcement in the local newspaper, and then began adding other published records.

Eventually, she typed thousands of cards for everything in the four counties in northwest Missouri, and then started adding more esoteric records, such as funeral home and cemetery records.  A database was created, and then re-written.  And she’s now begun entering all of those old index cards into the database.

She’s a few thousand cards in, and she’s still only in the B’s.  And this is still what she does for fun!

I knew my father was adopted, but I didn’t know he cost $23 until Mom showed me this receipt!

Mom has infected me with her passion, of course, and I’ve tried to help her around the edges since the ’80s. I had access to unique resources in LA back before everything was online.  Today, her decades of knowledge still far outweighs my access to the LDS library in Santa Monica!

She’s already done a huge, huge amount of work, taking our family back multiple generations (and proving multiple connections to the Revolutionary War soldiers which will eventually be used for my Granddaughter’s DAR membership, for example).  Mom’s work has taken the Mowry line now back 7 generations to John “Maurer” Mowry, born in 1725.  The Morgan and MacDonald family lines are also back into the 1700s.

Not all records are in the family bibles! These birth and marriage dates were recorded by my Great Grandmother on to a wall hanging that included photos of her 7 kids.

Remember, though, where her journey began: bad information from relatives that she had to record and then disprove on her way to a more complete understanding of our family tree.

So, how should YOU get started?

  1.  Write down what you know … for some people that’s their personal information only.  Some people are lucky enough to know their grandparents and even great-grandparents — and their birth dates.  It’s a very rare person, though, that actually knows birth, marriage and death dates back 3 generations.  Write down what you THINK you know … here are some forms you can download and use to get started, here or here.
  2. Write down what you don’t know … this could very well be a larger list.  Sometimes you discover things you don’t know along the way … like a new step grandmother that your grandfather never mentioned.
  3. Talk to your immediate family for information, direction & more.  You’ll probably know what you can talk about with your immediate family … and what subjects you best avoid.  It’s great to know “everything” … but do you really NEED to know every divorce date?  Avoid those topics that will incite relatives, and lead to them disengaging from your project.
  4. Get pictures!  If you have been following my blog, you know that I love family pictures.  You will be very surprised at the pictures that various members of your family have that you’ve never seen.  Even your immediate family will likely have pictures that you’ve never seen before.
  5. Talk to your extended family.  Some cousins may not be happy with prying questions about marriage dates, birth dates … not everyone will want to share private information!  Ask questions, be happy with the answers … and then you can check them for accuracy on your own time!
  6. Get pictures!  When you look at pictures from your extended family, you’ll be amazed what you will find.  Cousins will have new pictures, identifications on pictures that may be unlabeled in your collection, or simply better prints that are in better condition that the pictures in your immediate family’s collection.
  7. Begin your research.  I’ll leave research tips to the myriad of published and online resources that you have to call upon.  My go to is Ancestry.com; it’ll help you in many ways — but be careful.  Just because something is online doesn’t mean it is true!

    This picture is from a tin type, and is probably the oldest in our family’s collection. John Blair Morgan died in 1865, age 73.

Are Lines Always This Blurry?   1 comment

Every Sci Fi fan’s favorite hand held device, of course, is the tricorder.  Those are almost a reality today, thanks to a $10 million prize offered for the company that develops one.  Here’s some recent news coverage.  So, real tricorders are just around the corner!

Who knew that a tricorder would be proven to be too large and too inflexible just 40 years later?

We’ve had several handheld devices compete to be your favorite.  We’ve had  PDAs, personal audio recorders, watches with news feeds, and many more.  There was a time that an operations manager at Six Flags Magic Mountain had to wear a pair of two-way radios and a beeper (remember those?) to stay in communication with staff.  Thankfully, those days are gone.

I used to know what a camera was.  You know, the kind you put film in?  I did that, a lot.  Those were good days.

Today, a phone is a camera. Oh, and a flashlight, a thermometer, a compass, a level, a phonebook, a clock, a game console, a two-way, a juke box, a radio, a book, a computer, an alarm … and I’m just getting started.

Dedicated cameras have survived in ways that beepers, PDAs and wristwatches have not.  However, it now appears that smartphones and their ever-improving features are having a negative impact on digital camera sales … down nearly a third in England over the last 5 years, for example.  Smartphones have put millions of cameras into consumers’ hands, and in some cases, those phones have replaced cameras.

Since dedicated cameras have better photographic functionality … what should you do?  Carry 2 devices, or “make do” with just your smartphone?

Note: the idea of only carrying a camera is just not possible today!

In the latest twist, according to this article, Nikon may soon introduce a camera that uses 3G to connect to the web and use apps.  Instagram on your camera?  Just wait a couple of weeks, and it appears that we’ll be there.

I guess it only figures.  I mean, an e-reader can use 3G, so why not a camera?  Or will the camera just be WiFi capable, as with the lower models of the Kindle or iPad?  Time will tell.

In theory, this means that Nikon’s extending their CoolPix series with a ‘net capable camera … so that means we’ll have the option of a better point & shoot that runs onboard apps for processing and uploads pix directly.  Just like your smartphone … but with better optics?  It’s hard for me to believe they could deliver better processing, too.

Will that encourage you to carry a web-capable camera in addition to your smartphone?  Or is Nikon barking up the wrong tree?

For today, my vote is with a high quality camera (which is why I carry a DSLR).  I seldom shoot with my smartphone, which, I know, just means that I’m too old to understand.

But I don’t wear a watch anymore.  That’s some progress, right?

This party pic belongs on facebook, right? Immediately, right? Unfortunately, I shot it with my DSLR, uploaded it to my computer, opened processing software to edit and downgrade the file, and THEN I uploaded it. Maybe Nikon does have a good idea!

Posted August 9, 2012 by henrymowry in Photography

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You Need SMART Goals   2 comments

It’s a classic problem:  how do you set goals that are meaningful?  Goals that actually will help you succeed?

According to Wikipedia, the concept of SMART goals first appeared in 1981, and the mnemonic has been re-worked in several directions since then by various writers.  Here’s my take.  Your goals should be SMART:

S – Specific

It’s not enough to create a general goal … such as “I will increase sales” or “I will make more phone calls.”  In the end, those goals aren’t strong enough to stand the test of time.  Rather, you need to make goals that state exactly what you intend to do:  “I will increase sales 5% this year,” or “I will make 50 calls each day next week.”

M – Measurable

Goals have to be measurable … so you know if you made it or not!  “I’m going to work really hard the next month” is not a good goal, because there isn’t a way to reliably evaluate your performance.

A – Attainable

Goals are actually harmful if they are impossible to achieve.  If the goal is to increase sales by 5,000% each of the next 3 years … well, in most companies, that’s not possible.  Sometimes management wants to saddle a sales team with the goals that they “need” to achieve their department goals.  However, if the sales team perceives the goals are impossible, they will quickly ignore the goals … and create different personal goals that they CAN achieve.  You know, goals like “find a new job this month.”

R – Relevant

It might be great to have a goal to cut the grass by 8am (especially in the summer heat!), but is it really important to have that goal?  We all have daily tasks we need to achieve, from cleaning to laundry to grocery shopping.  On the other hand, good goals should propel your life forward either personally or professionally.

T – Timely

Good goals should be time-bound:  “I’m going to increase sales 15% in the month of April over prior year sales” is very specific; sales are going to be increased in the month of April.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I believe in big personal goals, like the 15-year 2012 Plan, or the 5-year goal of Creating Family Photo Scrapbooks.  Big goals are great, certainly, but note that these goals were actually attained.

The best goals are the ones that you focus on, work on, and achieve.  We have all made New Year’s resolutions that don’t survive January before they are forgotten.  Next year, make a SMART goal.

Posted August 7, 2012 by henrymowry in Selling

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Get Big Ones   3 comments

I grew up on a small family farm in rural Missouri.  My world was pretty small … a trip to St Joseph, 32 miles away, was a very big deal.

I joined Scouting while in second grade, and loved reading Boy’s Life and dreaming big dreams about what I would do in Scouting.  One of my biggest dreams was to go on the ultimate Scouting adventure:  backpacking at tbe Philmont Scout Reservation, near Cimarron, New Mexico.  Understand, my Troop never went backpacking.  Such a trip was way, way beyond the resources of my family, and of my troop.  It simply wasn’t going to happen.  But the dream … did not die.

1970, after receiving my God & Country award. I was 14 years old, and wouldn’t have lasted on the trails of Philmont, even if I could have gotten there.

It’s important to have goals.  Really, really big goals.  You need to get big ones.

I wrote in a recent post about “The 2012 Plan.”  This plan took 15 years to complete, and the best part was that I didn’t have to do the work!  I graduated from Mizzou in 1978.  Beginning in 1997, it was up to the wife and 3 kids for them to earn their degrees.  15 years and 5 degrees later, we deserve the family celebration that’s just a few days away.

I’m sure that Velda will say that the worst part of the Plan was that the family had to eat my cooking while she was studying for her Masters in Nursing from UCLA.  I never understood what the problem was: not only am I proficient in the kitchen, I prepare dishes that Velda never will.  And the kids didn’t complain (too much) about the 3 dishes they said I prepared … not even the Hamburger Helper!  Good news:  we all survived!

No one will mistake what I do for the artistry that Velda performs in the kitchen.  But the choice to miss her cooking for a few meals in order for her to achieve one of her big goals was not a choice at all.  She’s been happy as a nurse practitioner ever since.

But, back to Philmont. I did not reach that goal until I was 46.  But that’s really not the story.

Climbing the Tooth of Time is a part of the Philmont experience that no backpacker should miss!

The problem for me was that Boy Scouts are serious about backpacking, and, thank goodness, they expect the boys and leaders to be in shape.  You have to make a goal weight based on your height … or you don’t go on the trail.  Once I understood that my boys wanted to go to Philmont, I had to prepare myself.  And lose about 60 pounds.

I’ve never been a gym rat.  Velda had achieved great success with Weight Watchers, but that didn’t seem like my thing, either.  I started doing what I had not done since high school:  I decided to run.

The problem, though, was that I wasn’t able to run any distance at all.  I started walking in my cross trainer Reeboks, wearing sweats … and worked myself up from there.  Eventually, I could run 2 miles without walking.  That was a very big day, let me assure you!  But I was not nearly done.

I fixed my diet (a calorie-counting shake from Costco in the morning, a banana and an apple for snacks, Subway for lunch, and a sensible dinner from Velda.  I kept pushing.  And the weight fell off.  Running became a daily obsession, and I eventually got up to 7-mile runs on the weekends.  I faithfully kept a running log every day, and used a GPS system to track my times for each segment of the runs I did.

By the time I went to Philmont with my boys, I was in the best shape of my life.  I had lost 70 pounds.  Hitting the trail with 50+ pounds on my back for a 10-day, 52-mile trek was still nothing to sneeze at, but I was ready.  I was 46, but keeping up with 17-year old boys was not a problem.  We sat on the Tooth of Time at sunrise, and we proudly proclaimed “Go Big or Go Home” while we reveled in the burro races, the trail food, and a feeling of self reliance that’s very difficult to discover if you’re sitting on your sofa.

It was the most personally fulfilling thing I have done in Scouting.  And I got there because I had a goal.  A big one.

We made it: Michael Mowry, Christopher Mowry, myself, and Lyle “The Destroyer” Wohlfarth with the map he was in charge of for all 52 miles. 2003.

Babies Have It Easy   2 comments

I’m new to the Grandparent’s business, I admit.  Payton is not quite 4 months old, so it’s clear I have a lot to learn.  One thing I do know:  after 21 years out of the baby business, I now see that babies have it SO much easier today.

This formula dispenser is from Munchkin.

I first saw this with Payton’s bottles.  So much better than we had!  Payton swallows almost no air with her bottle, which is such a refreshing change!  Making bottles was made so much easier, too, since formula mixing is now simplified with a formula dispenser like the one illustrated.

The next innovation — again, not that expensive, is the Bumbo Seat.

One of our great tragedies as new parents was the alternative product from 20 years ago … the infamous Sassy Seat.

The Bumbo with tray is $64.95 on Amazon.com. It is PERFECT for a baby that can hold their head up, but isn’t quite ready to sit erect on their own.

You see, my only wish as a new parent was to get a healthy baby.  Boy?  Girl?  Not my concern.  I wanted a healthy baby, but that’s not what God had in mind for us.  Christopher (who later told us he was afraid of Mom’s skeleton) decided to be born 8 weeks early.  So there we were, 27 years old and basically alone in California … with a baby born weighing 4 pounds, 13 ounces and living in the NICU: Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit.  He had a scary beginning; he was placed on a ventilator when he was 1 day old.  But he did indeed get stronger after that initial misstep, and we got to bring him home when he was 2 months old.

Eventually, he grew stronger, and when a few months old, he joined us at the kitchen table in a Sassy Seat.  Come to find out, that product was introduced in 1982 (Christopher was born in 1983) … and we bought it.  I had no idea how bad a decision that would prove to be.

This picture from the Sassy Seat website looks a lot like the seat that Christopher lost his first tooth on.

The initial version of the Sassy Seat — as shown on their website today — had square aluminum tubing as the seat’s structural members.  The problem was that Christopher, as baby’s eventually do, began to cut his teeth.  One of his front bottom teeth came in first. We placed him in the Sassy Seat, and he wanted to chew on the square aluminum tubes because, well, he could.  The problem was that he got his tooth hooked under the aluminum tube, got scared, and then jerked his head up with enough force to RIP THE TOOTH OUT OF HIS MOUTH.

That was not a fun Sunday evening.  An emergency trip to a pediatric dentist (who told us to put the tooth in a cup of milk and meet him at the office), who then had me hold my baby down so he could shove the tooth back into the empty socket in his jaw.

This was not a good night.

Pop the tray on, and you’ve got a great place for toys … and Cheerios in a few months, I predict.

Christopher’s tooth, amazingly, stayed put in his jaw as a spacer until his adult teeth came in.  A happy ending, indeed.  However, had we had a Bumbo Seat, we would have never had the problem in the first place.  I’ve seen Payton join us at the dinner table in her Bumbo, and heartily recommend it to you.  Today’s babies deserve no less.

As I said, I’m new to the Grandparent business, and when we needed to buy a baby swing for our house, I asked Velda to make sure that I was there in addition to our Visa card.  I knew things had changed since we bought our last swing about 29 years ago, and, man, Babies R Us did not disappoint.

We got the swing, and it’s great.  It’s a jukebox.  It’s a light show.  It swings in 3 directions.  It’s AC, it’s DC … it even has flying sheep and waving, billowy clouds.  I am CERTAIN that Fisher Price charges more today than whatever manufacturer we bought from in 1983.  It plays lullabyes, bathes baby in starlight, and even shuts the swing down when it thinks baby should be asleep.

Like I said, babies have it easy today.  Baby’s parents have it easy, too.

But after 29 years of progress, isn’t it reassuring to learn that things are getting better?  Progress is a very good thing, and who would want it any other way?  The next generation should have it easier.  Isn’t that why I have been working so hard?

Payton agreed to model for this picture in the twilight of the swing, but as her wide-awake eyes attest, she was not going to sleep!

Posted August 5, 2012 by henrymowry in Living Life

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Creating a Family Photo Scrapbook   2 comments

Here’s the step-by-step that I followed to create my family’s photo scrapbooks.

I did cover pages for each book as a collage of fun pictures & details from the people featured. Later books also included a key to which person was in which photo (oops!).

Happy to recommend the # 1 selling genealogy software!

I updated my genealogy files with the parents, using the program Family Tree Maker.  It’s an easy program to use – and believe me, it’s very important to have a family tree to help you keep track of which child belongs with which parent.  There’s a dizzying array of last names, maiden names, extended families and “Uncles” that are really “friends.”  As baseball taught us, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard!

When you combine Family Tree Maker with a subscription to that company’s www.Ancestry.com, you have a powerful tool to expand your family tree.  Highly recommended if you want a big job that few undertake … but that will thrill the people in your family that appreciate having good, accurate records of who’s who.

We made appointments with the family members we could visit; I also exchanged a few packages with relatives that preferred to send me pictures for scanning.

We visited each family for 2-3 hours.  I brought my laptop, flat bed scanner and a cheap printer.  I had a plug strip with extension cord, and typically set up the gear on a kitchen or dining room table.  I also brought my Nikon camera to shoot pictures too large for the scanner, and to shoot the people at each scanning “event.”  We had prepped families to set aside photos that they wanted included in the collection (and some did, some didn’t).  When the family started taking portraits off of the walls for scanning, I knew we were getting somewhere!

My goal, constantly reinforced, was to include “good pictures” of the family.  I focused on:

  • Studio shots
  • Senior pictures
  • Wedding pictures, especially of beautiful brides (they all are!)
  • Family snapshots at important events, like family reunions, birthday celebrations, etc.
  • Good pictures

I quickly learned that I needed a naming convention for all files as well as a file organization system that I understood.  Files were named “last name, first name and other people in the picture, ” or perhaps “Mowry Family, Henry, 2006.”  I used maiden names as much as possible, and used some key words to distinguish photos from each other, such as school, bride, toddler, Sr Pic, etc.  Group shots were given a relevant name (such as Baugher 7x), and then I printed the photo on my cheap printer.  Someone then wrote on the printed page the file name and the name of each person in the picture (names were often written on the faces in the printed copy to ensure we knew who was who).  Try it; it works and served to quickly identify group shots so we could keep scanning new pictures.

Having beautiful relatives always makes the books easier to look at!

I only included photos that each family wanted included.  Some wanted divorced spouses in the book; some didn’t.  Some included family pictures of spouses that weren’t in the bloodline.  That was all fine with me:  I appreciated the support.  I didn’t have an agenda in making these books; I just wanted to preserve and share family pictures.  Widely.

Pictures of brides are always beautiful … especially when the bride is my own!

Scans were done in the .tif format, which I learned is the best format for digital editing.  I did not scan photos as .jpg files, as those files lose quality each time they are edited/saved. Scans were done using settings of 48-bit color with a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi).  A scan done at 300 dpi will make a lovely print at its original size.

The B&W setting was 16 bit grayscale, with the same dpi.  I often increased the line screen dramatically for important photos; my mother’s wedding picture was done at 800 dpi.  My Great Great Grandfather’s Civil War tintype was scanned at 1200 dpi.  With high quality scans like those, you can blow up the photos, and often fix photographic problems using basic photo editing software like Photoshop Elements (where I started), or the full Photoshop (where I ended).  The tintype ended up blowing up from about 6 square inches to 80 square inches; it looked just fine.

Digital photos are today’s standard, and resolutions are rising along with smartphone lens quality.  When I started this process, Facebook photos were low resolution and virtually unusable in a printed book like I was creating.  Today, many photos posted to Facebook are higher resolution and can be printed with acceptable sharpness. Scanning photos is still essential, but Facebook photos are great supplements, especially from scattered relatives if you can’t visit their homes.

I laid the pages out using Word, which was the simplest solution for me (but I would use a “real” layout program if I was starting over today!).  Each of the four families had a unique color scheme (border and headline colors), which provided a subtle differentiation between the families.  I used four templates for each family:  plain landscape and portrait, and landscape and portrait with a text box for explanations and photo captions.

Family members love pages of snap shots. It’s OK to sacrifice quality when you only have a few pictures of some family members.

Here’s my basic formula:  each person got their own page, with 3-5 pictures on it.  Additional pages were created for brides, weddings, family gatherings, and whatever made sense.  If the pictures weren’t available, then the pages were combined so the layouts were pleasing to the eye.  Some families got 8 pages, some got 1 page.  Ancestors from the 1800s seldom had pictures; today’s child has pictures taken daily if you closely monitor Facebook!

The genealogy pages illustrating how people were related proved to be extremely popular. No one knows all of their relatives; pages like this one — created in Family Tree Maker — provide great road maps for understanding how the different branches of the family tree are connected.

Genealogy pages were added to help the reader follow the flow of the family.  I basically started with the oldest generation, organized by family group, with oldest child first, etc.

The final pages are a “complete” family tree showing birth, marriage and death dates for everyone in the family.  Each book includes a pair of CD ROMs with copies of the .pdf files for all pages, allowing for on screen viewing, or easy reprinting.  The Chucalo book also included a recording of a wonderful interview with 98-year old Aunt Millie about growing up in the 1920s and ‘30s.  Priceless.

Pages were printed on my color laserjet.  Pages were placed back-to-back in page protectors, in 3-ring binders.  The intent was to make a scrapbook that could change and expand with the family.  Given the number of pages I created (books have run 150 – 250 pages per family), I felt this was the right way to go.

Books were presented to all contributors.  I made between 15 and 25 copies of each family’s photo scrapbook.

Years later, I continue to hear from family members about how much they appreciate these books.  They were definitely big ideas; I spent many weekends and evenings completing all of the photo editing, layout, printing and assembly that went into each book.

Here’s the key question:  if you don’t have something like this, then how will your families remember their ancestors, cousins and good times that have been shared?

The simple ideas are best. Themed pages, such as this one, will be great additions to your family photo scrapbook.

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