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“Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back
the only path to serenity.”
                              ~Lao Tzu

One of my recent projects has been a labour of love for our daughter. A genealogy scrapbook. As with most tasks, paying attention yields a few lessons along the way.


so much choice…

As you know, I have always been a snapper of photos. My own photos fill albums. Inherited photos fill a file drawer. I now realise the photos I’ve taken for myself are mostly a form of visual diary. This is me, where I went, who accompanied me and, God help me, what hairstyle I was sporting at the time!! Probably interesting to no one but me!


‘under construction’

But the inherited photos were more. They worried me. It became obvious it would be my job to assemble this branch of our families’ histories in some form that would help our daughter understand from whom, and where, she had come. Since we have only one offspring, and both of all our families are in the USA, she will likely be the only surviving disseminator of the family history in Australia.

What a responsibility… for us both.

a humble woman of great spirit and talent

a humble woman of great spirit and talent

We have travelled with her as many times as possible over the years; driving her all over to see her relatives. They cover a fairly wide swath, from Wyoming and Illinois to Ohio, Virginia and Florida. We are a mobile lot! But of course, there were a couple of generations she never met. Fortunately, all of her Grandparents lived long enough for her to know, at least a little. (an earlier post about the Great Grandmother— see photo above—she didn’t know, which includes the words to the poem depicted above)

You can see the dilemma… how to put together the knowledge in my head, the photos in the file, give her a sense of connection, and not overwhelm her.

Gee, that sounds easy.

ages and stages of life

My Mother, ages and stages of life

Here were the parameters on which I settled:

  • there would be ONE, 20 page (10 two sided pages) album. No more.
  • the objective would be to show the primary lineage, and key relationships, not all the distant relatives
  • whenever possible I would insert a photo of her with the person(s)
  • whenever possible I would show her at a similar age of key persons in a previous generation photo
  • dates and names would accompany photos making future identifications possible

    from Italy and back again

    from Italy and back again–3yr old girl in top photo is me, 3yr old in bottom left photo is our daughter, the man depicted in the top photo, left side, and bottom two photos is my Dad, with his parents and children, and also in Italy, where his Dad was from.

Here is what I realised while working on the album:

  • too much information is still too much
  • there are deep emotions attached to a project like this
  • it requires love and lots of time to do this (about 60 hours, I estimate)
  • no matter what I put together, it is only MY view. Others may (will probably) be critical, but the job is open for them to do their OWN version.
  • when the album was finished I felt massively relieved.

    through the ages

    through the ages

She has not seen the album, except online in a photo stream I set up for her. I will hand carry it when we go to Adelaide to see her in a few months. She will love it, but I also know that she has many other photo albums, and another scrapbook and… enough is enough.

The time was right. My work is done; I can now stand back. Serenity reigns.


PS. ‘Do you work, then step back’—then step forward for something else… I prepared this to post while we are away starting end of next week, but our daughter has had an unfortunate health event (piriformis syndrome) that necessitates my going to Adelaide to help with her recovery before traveling. This is a long anticipated family holiday back to the US, so we want to be well enough to enjoy it. It is likely you will not hear much from me for a month, but I will be collecting new things to share with you. Keep well. And yes, the album is traveling with me to Adelaide! xx