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Managing projects and priorities can be very challenging. Many years ago I heard somewhere (did I read this? did I hear it? I don’t remember) that a person can only successfully manage three or four priorities. At the time I thought, if my priorities are church, family, and work, what else is there? That doesn’t leave much left for my hobbies and this became a huge conflict for me.

Now that I have retired, I still feel conflicted because I have so many things I want to do and it is hard to know what to do first.

Without knowing that background and totally unsolicited, in the last few days two different people in two totally different situations have make a very wise statement. “Work on one project, get it completed, then tackle the next one. That is the only way to get something done.”

I feel I have a history of getting things done: I finished the NGS Home Study Course. I successfully completed my genealogy certification portfolio. I completed the 18-month ProGen Study. I completed Mom’s beautiful book. All of these have been long-term projects that I’ve juggled with my other priorities.

I know what my immediate projects are: 1) certification renewal (due in October) and 2) Iowa research article for NGSQ (due March 2014). My next long-term project is to write a book about my uncle’s service in World War II as a fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater and his death only days before the end of the war. He was my mother’s only sibling and I have all the letters he wrote home.

In the meantime, I juggle sorting, cooking and cleaning, lawn and garden work, babysitting, and the list goes on and on…

One project at a time!

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Over the last 2-3 days southern Iowa has benefitted from 5-7 inches of rain. Yesterday afternoon, Dave left work at 2:00 so we could make a Lineville cemetery stop prior to going to Allerton for a special dinner. Not only is everything very soggy after all of that rain, yesterday was a cold 40 degrees with a strong, blustery northwest wind.

Just travelling to southern Iowa can be a challenge after such a downpour. Whitebreast Creek and the Chariton River nearly always flood after heavy rains. Several roads are low grade and water usually goes over some roads… which just happen to be on our route to Lineville and Allerton.

Yes, we could have gone many miles out of our way on I-35 and Hwy 2 to reach our destinations, but that just isn’t our way. We knew Hwys 34 and 65 were closed at Lucas. So we decided to test whether we could go through Lacona and south of Chariton on Hwy 14. I kept checking my iPhone; Hwy 14 seemed to be open. Dave even asked at the courthouse in Chariton; Hwy 14 seemed to be open. So we headed south. We didn’t find any road blocks where we expected, so we kept going. We came to the vulnerable section. We saw local officials monitoring the situation, water lapped along the road and across part of the road. We were allowed to cross and drove through an inch or two of water; no problems. Whew!

We drove on toward the cemetery at Lineville. It always amazes us. The gravestone topper that we left on Dave’s grandparents’ stone nearly two years ago was still there! Dave removed the old flowers and wired a new silk flower arrangement to the saddle. Ordinarily, we spend some time walking around the cemetery, but not today. The waterlogged grass and the bitter wind just were not conducive to a leisure stroll. We’ll be back on a better day.

We stayed on hard-surface roads as we drove around Lineville, Allerton, and Corydon and arrived at the Old Time Soda Fountain just ahead of the 6:30 dinner time.

These dinners are held at interesting venues. The event is the South Central Regional Partnership annual dinner and is sponsored by a local Presbyterian church. This evening was sponsored by the Allerton United Presbyterian Church. Dave started going when he was on Session at our church; now we both attend. The sponsors create opportunities for participants to learn about their community. Last year we toured the Sprint Car Museum in Knoxville. Another year we visited the John L. Lewis Museum in Lucas.

The Old Time Soda Fountain in Allerton is amazing. The building probably dates from the late 1800s, though I forgot to ask. Restoration efforts are progressing. The soda fountain itself is restored original equipment (estimate was $9,000, actual cost just to restore that piece of equipment was $17,000). At one time during the restoration process a large exterior wall collapsed and the owner group struggled to find someone who would tackle that rebuilding project. The original shelving is currently being stripped of several coats of paint and the original wood is emerging. Currently, the group is raising money to remove the false ceiling and reveal the original tin ceiling. The group’s efforts are commendable! For a town that could appear dying, community projects keep the sense of community alive and add quality of life value. The Soda Fountain is open on Saturday nights from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

Former Allerton Presbyterian Church member, now a resident of Centerville, Nancy Bennett gave the program on Walldogs International. Her group started in Allerton in 1993 when a group of international artists worked to improve the town’s appearance with painting murals on some of the buildings. Since 1993 the group has worked each year in a variety of communities in several countries, though many are in central United States. Interesting how this international group is rooted in Allerton’s efforts to keep their community alive.

From Allerton our dinner group moved to the Prairie Trails Museum in Corydon. Dave’s mother loved this museum in her hometown; Dave and I have visited it previously. On this visit we were impressed with the building additions and the expanded exhibits from our previous visits, but Dave and I were tired. We accepted “rain-check” tickets to come back on a different day.

It has been nearly two years since we’ve made this trek, so if the day had been beautiful, we wanted to visit other family sites, as well. Maybe next year, when we are both retired, we can make it a day trip.

In the meantime, as we continue our sorting projects, we saw potential homes for some items we have. We have some glass milk and cream bottles, as well as some old glass pop bottles that the Old Time Soda Fountain expressed interest in. The museum in Corydon is looking for items from the 20th century and we have several items from Dave’s parents that could be donated to that museum.

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So, how do I like retirement? I LOVE IT!

What have I done? LOTS!

1. For starters, I had to learn how to use my new computer with Windows 8. I also had to load some software and install some hardware. While I try to use as much technology as I can, it isn’t exactly second nature for me, so everything takes me longer.
2. Next I re-scanned and photoshop’d more than 750 photos and finished Mom’s memoirs, which also meant my first-time experience working with a publisher and a separate printer.
3. We photographed Mom’s artwork and I created a Shutterfly photo book for family members.
4. I emptied at least two dozen boxes of stuff, by sorting and filing or recycling, but I can see many more boxes needing attention as I write this.
5. I created a Shutterfly photo book and wrote the accompanying travelogue from our New England trip last fall. The book is 97 pages! Then, I actually discarded the travel brochures that aren’t genealogy related.
6. I scanned the entire collection of our society newsletters and 1895 Warren County census records and added them to the new Warren County Genealogical Society website.
7. I facilitated an adult Sunday school class on writing Treasured Family Stories.
8. I got the hang of blogging.
9. I had a broken tooth pulled and am consulting about the next step.
10. I’m helping my mother more: doing her laundry, running errands, etc.
11. Dave and I provided child care for three grandchildren during Spring Break.
12. I began research for a 1907 weather-related, family genealogy project.
13. I exercise at least 5 days a week: Jane Fonda DVD, treadmill, yoga, and/or go for a walk. I haven’t gotten back up to 10,000 steps a day, but I’m on my way.
14. And, for the fun of it, I made nine batches of yummy raspberry jam.

And, people ask me what I’m doing in retirement!

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Some projects just can’t be accomplished in one full swoop.

At one point my office and our basement family room were filled with boxes, as well as our spare bedroom and our store room… in other words, practically our entire basement was a massive storage unit. This was mostly the stuff I had received from my mother as she downsized a couple different times.

Not all of this stuff is paper, but a large percentage is paper. By paper, I mean undocumented research notes, photocopies of documents, notes with more than one surname on a sheet of paper, several different family groups sheets for the same individual—created at different times when my mother found something, loose photos, a few stories my mother has written, more photocopies of documents, and a few original documents. Then, also letters, diaries, calendars, lots of newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and photo albums. Some of these things were my mother’s, but some belonged to her mother, other things belonged to her uncle and aunt.

Every time we have downsized my mother, for the most part, I have been more interested in the genealogy/family history side than in getting a lot of things: vases, dishes, baskets, silverware, glassware, needlework, etc. Please rest assured, however, I have gotten my share of those things, as well.

So, a few months ago, I purchased a bunch of cardboard file boxes. In fairly small letters I labeled the lids with family surnames. We set up a couple of 5-foot tables and placed the boxes side-by-side on the tables. One by one, I opened each of the many boxes of stuff and sorted as many paper and photographic items as possible into family groups placing the items in the appropriate surname box. I did not make any attempt to further divide the items within the surname or to label the items. I just sorted into the surname group. Otherwise, it would have been much too easy to get bogged down in the detail. These cardboard file boxes were then stacked in the spare bedroom. While sorted by family surname, they remained difficult to access, but certainly in better order than they were previously.

During the marathon sorting session last weekend, Dave and I emptied several file drawers. This past weekend I transferred items from the surname boxes into file drawers labeled with the respective surnames. I have hanging folders in the drawers, so I divided up the items and placed them into the hanging folders. Again, I did not make any other attempt to sort the items. That will come later. For now, I’m just happy to be making the treasures more accessible in the drawers.

I’m making progress—a baby step at a time.

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Siblings sorting

Yesterday, my husband and his sister started sorting boxes of stuff that we kept at our house after their mother (Willa Jean, or simply Willa) passed away five years ago. Dave had looked at some of these boxes last weekend during our marathon sorting session and decided that his sister should share the fun. They spent nearly 5 hours laughing and reminiscing, but hard at work.

When they found greeting cards, they kept the cards from family members that had notes or letters attached. As appropriate, these will be given to the descendants of the senders. Willa Jean had assembled a lot of pictures and letters into family groups and had already given some of the pictures to appropriate people. She had also assembled letters that she had received from her siblings, punched holes and placed them into 3-ring binders. We took a notebook that Willa had assembled containing letters from her sister last summer to the sister’s daughter. The daughter was thrilled! Her mother had not kept a diary, so this is as close to a diary as she will ever have for her mother—in her mother’s own words.

Throughout her life, Willa had kept many files of bridal and baby shower games and files of jokes. Also she was an avid collector of newspaper articles on well-known personalities, whether local or national, ranging from the Kennedy family to Shawn Johnson, from Gordon Gammack to Ding Darling. And she kept newspaper articles about the weather. Sorry, Mom, these went to the recycle bin as they can be found on the world wide web today.

Willa had written her life’s history and since no one can imagine that either Dave or his sister will ever do any additional writing on their parents’ lives, they elected to discard all of the old financial papers. But, keep in mind that their mother had saved everything—bills, cancelled checks, and tax papers. For Dave and his sister it was overwhelming.

In the end, they started with about 8 boxes and managed to whittle them down to one box, plus some miscellaneous things.

What lessons can we all learn? Limit what you keep to a few things that show significant purchases and cost-of-living, for example. It is easy for children to become overwhelmed and throw away everything.

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Sorting marathon

Last weekend Dave and I had a sorting marathon of sorts (yes, pun intended). We worked much of the day on Saturday (and a little on Sunday afternoon) sorting stuff in file drawers in our storeroom. We are lucky enough to have 7 four-drawer filing cabinets, but some of the stuff in these files hadn’t been touched in years, and was definitely outdated.

So, we worked in these files, as well as in some boxes. I estimate that we worked 6 or more hours total, with breaks on Saturday for lunch and a late afternoon walk

How did we sort? What did we sort?

Examples of items that got discarded:
1. old meeting agendas, it did not matter what organization—they all got tossed
2. travel literature that we’ve picked up at rest stops, maps and other travel flyers
3. programs for events that we attended but family didn’t actually participate in
4. duplicate newsletters, program handouts
5. old financial papers, monthly bills (sent to the shredder not the recycle, as appropriate)
6. old magazines, old newspapers from Y2K, and other non-family events
7. Boy Scout camping itineraries, meeting notes, etc.

We checked every piece of paper just to be sure we kept everything that we felt we should keep. And, of course, some reminiscing also accompanied the process. We tried to turn the hard work into a little bit of fun.

Sorting around filing cabinets, however, meant we were on our feet the entire time we were working. By the end of the day, we were totally exhausted! After working so hard, and filling our recycle dumpster to capacity, we “treated” ourselves by spending the evening with wine, cheese and watching “Secretariat.” (We rarely go to the movies, but will purchase an occasional DVD and watch at home at our leisure.)

Yes, we accomplished a lot, but unfortunately there is many times more work to be done!

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From May 1998 to May 2006 I was the newsletter editor for the Warren County Genealogical Society (WCGS). During that time I made an effort to collect as many of the society’s old newsletters as I could find. I made photocopies, as needed, so there was a complete set in the genealogy section at the Indianola Public Library and in the library of the Warren County Historical Society, as well as I kept a complete set, current up to that time.

Recently, WCGS has started its own website at www.warrencountygenes.com and I offered to scan all of these newsletters and put them on the website. Since my mother and mother-in-law were also members of WCGS, I have newsletters that they had as well as my own (as well as some others that I have somehow accumulated) putting this project in the realm of my sorting/throwing/keeping/donating mantra.

After studying the number of newsletters that I had in my possession, many of them being duplicates, I concluded that if I kept a complete set of paper copies and scanned/posted all of the newsletters to the website, that I could discard all of the other copies. That’s not quite the way it worked out because I found three more large notebooks with still another set, which I have decided to donate somewhere, I just have to determine the best home for them. At any rate, not only did I have the duplicate copies from other people, I had also kept extra copies of newsletters while I was editor, so when the tossing started, I nearly filled our recycle bin with WCGS newsletters.

Since then, I have found three previously unknown newsletters from the early days of the society amongst my many boxes of stuff. That was an unexpected surprise.

As I continue going through boxes, it’s so nice to already know that the individual duplicate copies of more current newsletters that I find can go directly to a recycle bin. I don’t have to make a decision.

It took me nearly two days to scan and post the newsletters to the website, but what a feeling of accomplishment when the project was completed. Then, there was the added benefit: I had opened up some filing cabinet space and book shelf space!

Win, win! I have gotten rid of a lot of paper, opened up storage space, and all the members of our society have access to all of the past newsletters!

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