Using Smart Albums in iPhoto to Keep Track of Your Best Photos

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to change up the way you do things, especially when it comes to organizing your digital photos. It’s a time to keep doing what works and ditch what doesn’t. What works for me is organizing pictures by event and adding the year, month and day they were taken to the title of each folder. If I have two events in one day (like a program at school during the day  and a birthday party that night), I place them in separate folders and include “01” after the date of the first and “02” after the date of the second activity to make sure that the folders show up in the proper order (see example below).

Photos Organized by Year and Event

What also works is periodically backing up these folders to DVDs that I give to Bill to take to work. This ensures that, in the event of a fire, our pictures are not lost forever.

What hasn’t been working is having to search through every folder at the end of the year to find the pictures that I would like to include in our annual Christmas Card and end of year slideshow. In search of a solution that would make the most of software I already have, I read up on how to use iPhoto Smart Albums and created one called 2013 Best Photos. I then added parameters so the album only contains pictures from 2013 events that I gave a 5-star rating (see article titled How To Create Essential Smart Albums for Your iPhoto Library at www.makeuseof.com).

To test my new process, I imported a photo from our camera and gave it a five-star rating. The picture appeared in the new smart album and my photo-taking year is off to a great start, proving that Continuous Process Improvement is not just for companies: It’s for anyone who is up for the challenge of putting every system to the test until the good is better and the better is best!

So That …

On March 17th, I attended the 2012 Hearts at Home Conference in Normal, Illinois. The fist speakers of the day were reality TV stars Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. As I listened to the famous couple talk about the circumstances that led up to their series, “19 Kids and Counting,” two words came up so frequently in their conversation that I felt compelled to make them the cornerstone—and title—of mine as I learned how:

  • God told Jim Bob to run for a seat on the US Senate so that …
  • a photographer could take his family’s picture when they showed up at the polls so that
  • the New York Times would buy the photo and write about the large family from Arkansas who supported their father on election day.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great. Jim Bob had to lose his race for US Senate so that he could say “yes” to a documentary and the television series that followed. It’s a lesson that inspired me to create my latest (and shortest) parenting rhyme as I concluded that every “drat” has a “so that.”

It’s hard to understand in our darkest moments that God’s hand will one day be removed to let in the light, but it does happen when we lean on verses like Romans 8:28 and Isaiah 43:19.

I’ve had a lot of “so that’s” in my life. One of the most memorable occurred in 2010 when:

  • my ovaries stopped producing estrogen so that …
  • my digestive system would slow to a crawl so that
  • the doctor would schedule a colonoscopy ten years before my first one would normally be due so that
  • the silent killer known as colon cancer could be discovered before it had time to spread.

Hind sight is not just 20/20. It’s a 10-4 that God is at work in our lives. The disciples realized this first hand when:

  • God sent his son to die on a cross for our sins so that …
  • all who believe in him will have eternal life so that …
  • we are free to serve God, not out of obligation, but in celebration of what Jesus did to save our lives.

This wasn’t what the apostles had asked for. They were looking for someone to save them from the Romans, not themselves.

I read once that the purpose of prayer is not to tell God what we want from Him, but to teach us about what He requires of us. Jim Bob knew this when, on the heels of defeat, He prayed for insight into what God would have him do next with his life. Our challenge is the same as we ask, not for our will to be done, but to understand His and trust that when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would, God can use bad for good.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43:19)

Bad Ingredients

“I’m on the train,” Bill said when I answered the phone. “I should be home by 7:30.”

“Sure beats getting home at 1:30 a.m. like you did last night,” I replied.

My husband puts in some crazy hours during his busy season; and every year, there’s a two-week window when I wonder how long he can keep up the pace. During this stressful time, I try to be like the woman from Proverbs 31 where her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value because she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

Part of the good that I bring—literally—to the table during busy season is a freshly made dessert in case Bill wants a late night snack before going to bed. Although my family might tell you otherwise, I’m not a terrible baker. As long as I follow the directions on the box or bag, nothing gets burned and nobody usually gets hurt by eating it.

Still, I known for my kitchen mishaps. Probably because the ones that I do have overshadow even my best laid plans. Like when Bill came home to find a pan of rice crispy bars waiting for him. I made them after noticing a forgotten box of cereal in the back of a cupboard earlier that day. Although the contents didn’t expire for several months, the holiday packaging should have been my clue that the outcome would not be worth my effort. What it was worth was a laugh when Bill took a bite out of one and said: “Call the Blackhawks to see if they want their hockey pucks back.”

“They’re not that bad,” I protested.

“I’m lucky I didn’t break a tooth,” he exclaimed before good-naturedly adding, “It’s good to be home.”

This type of banter is common in our household. As a firm believer in the saying “If you want to fight, keep it light”, I rarely take jabs seriously, whether poked in fun or out of frustration. According to John Gottman, this is a good thing because defensiveness is one of what he calls the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse because “defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner.” (The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, p. 31)

Hearing that this trait—when mixed with unhealthy doses of criticism, contempt, and stonewalling—can push even the strongest marriage toward an undesirable end makes me even more determined to admit my weaknesses before anybody else does.

Why?

Because awareness paves the way for acceptance and the knowledge that, whether my family has something to laugh about or something to eat, it will nourish them either way. In the case of my rice crispy bars it was the former when Bill went upstairs and, before turning in, made a reservation to take me out to dinner that Friday night.

As soon as I received the invitation in my inbox, I replied: “Should we order dessert at the restaurant or have some when we get home?

“I have a dentist appointment on Saturday morning so I guess either is fine,” he said before shutting down his computer.

Unlike my treats (which I threw in the trash before heading upstairs), my evening couldn’t have turned out better. Bad ingredients don’t make for a good dessert, but they do strengthen a relationship if you don’t take yourself—or your cooking—too seriously and trust that with a  little humor, even the worst mistake will turn out fine.

If you want to fight, keep it light and all will be well at the end of the night.

Equipping the Called

A friend recently learned that her car was equipped with a remote starter—on the day she went to trade it in. I can relate: I’ve had my iPhone for eight months and just realized that I can print from it.

I often say that when we make the most of what we have, God blesses us with more. But what if we don’t know what we have? What then? Does a lack of knowledge let us off the hook for all consequences?

Ignorance is not bliss if it keeps us from enjoying the blessings that are ours for the taking. … Like a warm vehicle in the winter. … And a phone that lives up to its potential.

Maybe that’s why God works through His spirit to give us a hand—or a timely whisper. I read once that the brain can’t help but answer a question once it’s been asked. Having repeatedly found this to be true, I have to wonder if God does this as a reminder that He can be trusted to do the same.

Even when we don’t know it, God is at work behind the scenes to meet our deepest needs. The Beatles weren’t kidding when they sang that all we need is love. God’s love—and a little initiative on our part—is all we need to find answers to even the most perplexing problems. Like today when Katie asked me to help her get the wireless printer to work with our home computer. After I searched the internet for solutions, attempted to reload the printer driver, and called Apple for support, my oldest said: “That’s one thing I love about being in this family: You know how to fix things when they stop working.”

“I don’t know what to do,” I confessed.

“You sure look like you do.”

What Katie saw as confidence was really a reliance on the One that all of us should be turning to. Matthew 7:7 promises that when we take the first step, God will lead us to the next one and the next until everything we need to do gets done. And although the pace is rarely as fast as we would like, those who keep following. … and trusting. … will eventually see every wrong made right.

That’s what happened to me when, as a last resort, I reset the cable router and our printer sprang to life. To her excitement and my surprise, Katie’s e-reader also started working for the first time in over a week.

The saying is true. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And when we do our best and trust Him with the rest, He will exceed our expectations every time.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7b

Automating Calendar and Contact Information

A subscriber recently e-mailed me to ask if I had any tips on managing contacts. Since this is a question that others may have, I’m also sharing this information with you.

For over ten years, I stored my contacts in Microsoft Outlook because they synced to whatever smart phone I had at the time and worked with Outlook’s mail program so I never had to look up an address. It was also easy to locate and backup the file that the contact information was stored in (making it simple to transfer information to a new computer whenever I upgraded).

After making the switch to a Macbook Pro last June (which I don’t regret), it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what to do because the contact and calendar information in Office 2011 (which is the version that Microsoft created to run on a Mac) had major syncing issues with my iPhone.

I ended up transferring all of my contacts to the address book that came with my Mac. It syncs well to my iPhone and solved the problem.

To fix the calendar problem, I uploaded my appointments to google calendar and set my iPhone up so that whatever I add to my google calendar appears on my phone and vice versa.

I am a firm believer in Romans 8:28, which assures us that all experiences—even bad ones—can be used for good if we learn from what we live through. With this in mind, I offer up the following lessons learned:

  • Office  2011’s version of Outlook on the Mac is not worth the effort it takes to set it up.
  • If I hadn’t had problems syncing Outlook’s calendar to my phone, I never would have discovered how easy Google calendar is to use (or enjoyed the benefits of having access to my calendar from another computer when I accidentally spilled water on mine).  I especially like how easy Google’s calendar is to schedule an event and invite others (even if they use a different calendar program to keep track of appointments).
  • My final lesson learned is actually a rhyme that I use to remember the message behind Romans 8:28:  If things don’t turn out the way you think they should, trust God to use bad for good.

That’s all for my first technology update. If you have a calendar or contact solution that works well for you, feel free to add a comment to this post so that everyone can benefit from your experience. For help with automating your appointments and address book or syncing them with an iPhone, my coaching business is up and running (website coming soon) and I would be happy to work with you on this and any other area of your life that needs an upgrade.

Your progress is my passion and I can’t think of a better calling than encouraging my readers to stop settling and start living a no limits life today.

Giving Up Control to Gain It

If you break a few traffic laws to make an appointment, does the good deed cancel out the bad one? This was the question I asked myself after a dentist appointment ran long and I wondered if I would make it home in time to take my daughters to the station. Katie had talked Bill into taking her and her sister to a rock concert and I didn’t want them to miss the 5:13 train to Chicago.

If it’s possible to try so hard to control a situation that you wind up losing it, that’s where I was mentally at when I used my iPhone to see if the freeway was backed up. The application I checked showed heavy traffic for most of the way home; and I decided not to take the on-ramp, even though cars on the interstate seemed to be traveling at normal speed. Several minutes (and stop lights) later, I realized that I had made a big mistake.

Sometimes too much information is as bad as not having enough, I decided as I called Bill to give him an update.

“It’s five o’clock and I still have four miles to go.”

“You’re not going to make it,” he said. “If you catch the 6:13 instead, the girls will understand.”

Determined to stick to the original plan, I called home to tell them to be ready.

We had less than ten minutes to get to the station as I turned onto our street. Thankfully, Katie and Hollie were both standing in the driveway when I pulled up.

“Are we speeding?” my youngest asked before we reached the end of the block.

“We haven’t gone far enough to be speeding,” I assured her. Hollie didn’t ask again as I maneuvered through traffic like a NASCAR driver vying for the win at Talladega Superspeedway.

We arrived at the station with two minutes to spare, making me glad that I had tried. There was even time to solicit the help of two moms who were also waiting for the train. Much to my daughters’ dismay, the ladies were happy to keep an eye on my “babies” until they reached Ogilvie Transportation Center, where Bill would be waiting.

Someday, Katie and Hollie will realize that you can take the girls out of the suburb, but you can’t keep a suburban mom from taking care of her girls. For now, I was content to be the student and my lesson for the day was that too much of a good thing is a bad thing: Even parenting.

As I drove home after watching the train pull away, it was hard to fight the urge to call Katie to see how the ride was going. Although one part of me wanted to hover over my daughters like a helicopter parent, another part—the rational one—knew that if I did I’d be robbing her of the confidence that comes from taking this trip without me. My job as a mom is not to make my kids need me; but to help them realize, one new adventure at a time, that one day they won’t.

Foster Cline and Jim Fay agreed in their book Parenting Teens with Love & Logic when, on page 49, they said: Self-esteem doesn’t just “happen” by making teens feel good or happy. It begins when children assert their independence and try to show their families and the world that they are their own persons.

Katie is definitely her own person, with her own choice in music. And so I reminded myself of my obligation to “do my best and let God do the rest” and decided not to call, trusting that the girls would have a good trip downtown and a great time at the concert. That’s exactly what happened, and when they came home to tell me all about it, I realized that Cline and Fay were right when they said that “worry is the price you pay in advance for most of the things in life that never happen.” (p. 95) And sometimes we have to give up control to gain it as we live by faith and not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

If you have a parenting issue or another area in your life that you would like to gain clarity or get back on track, e-mail julie@nolimitslifecoaching to schedule a free 30-minute coaching consultation and remember to …


Equipping the Called

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, when I go for weeks without posting to my blog, the only thing I feel more of is fear.

Fear that the craft I spent years developing will slowly slip away until I wonder if writing was ever one of my gifts at all.

Experience has taught me that confidence, like a muscle, develops with use. And the longer we go between workouts, the less useful we become.

All of us, at one point or another, have watched someone accomplish an amazing feat and said to ourselves: “I could never do that.” What we should have been saying in these instances is: “I have no intention of trying.”

As I type this, I am watching the movie The King’s Speech with my daughters. In the scene that just transpired, speech therapist Lionel Logue was talking to his wife about an argument he’d had with a patient.

“This fellow could be great, but he’s fighting me,” Logue explained.

Without realizing that her husband was talking about the son of a king who suffered from a severe case of stuttering, she replied: “Perhaps he doesn’t want to be great.”

I have to wonder if God feels as frustrated as this therapist when people say they want to do His will, but never take the time to find out what it is.

Luke 12:48 states that to “everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Why then do so many of us know what our gifts are and fail to develop them? Could it be that we fear success more than we do failure?

Every time I think that what God is calling me to do is more than I can handle, I tell myself the same thing that I say to my daughters when they don’t want to take their medicine: Don’t think, just drink.

God is challenging all of us to do the same by drinking more and worrying less about the cup He has placed before us. Those who do will find that if we don’t think we can do something, it’s probably because we’ve been thinking about things too much.

Colin Firth’s character in “The King’s Speech” definitely thought too much when he doubted his ability to assume the role of king. To allay his fears, the therapist said: “Every stammerer fears going back to square one. I won’t let that happen.”

Our king feels the same way about us so don’t let your dreams die for lack of trying. Instead, remember that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And the best way to gain confidence, is to do.

Enjoying the Ride

Last Sunday my daughters and two of their friends spent a fun, but rainy day at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. The amusement park was closed for Deloitte’s Friends and Family Day, and even the rain couldn’t keep me and the mom that I was with from giving our girls the chance to experience big roller coasters with shorter-than-normal lines.

“We’ll stay as long as you want,” I told the girls as they raced to their first ride.

Eight hours later, we were taking one last rain-pelting turn on the Raging Bull before heading to the van. Everyone was chilled to the bone but, surprisingly, no one complained. We had made the most of this opportunity we had been given, and no amount of shivering could take our sense of satisfaction away. Especially mine.

In the weeks leading up to the event, I’d had several chances to back out of taking the girls to Six Flags. Like when my husband and I learned that the NASCAR race in Joliet was scheduled for the same day. And when our small group announced that the first meeting of the year would be held while we were at the theme park.

Some might see these conflicts as reasons to put off going until next year, but I couldn’t do that to the girls.

Follow through matters.

Being a person of our word matters. So much so that years ago I made up a rhyme to remind my daughters to always do what they said they would do because God rewards those who follow through.

Henry Cloud agreed on page 159 of his book, Integrity, when he had this to say on the subject: “Perseverance takes courage, stamina, emotional reserves, judgment, creativity, and other aspects of character to do. But without it, great things just do not happen.”

Great things like breaking our record for the number of thrill rides ridden in a single day (which now stands at twenty).

And the look on my face when I learned that the American Eagle car I had just buckled into was about to travel … backwards.

Life is a lot like that wooden roller coaster every time it threatens to take us in directions we never intended to go. Whenever this happens, it helps to remember that what some see as a reason to hop off, could also be a reminder to hold on and get ready to enjoy the ride.

“The ability to keep going when we hit an obstacle, believe that there is a way to get it done, and keep going until we find it is one of the most important character abilities that we can ever develop. It is one of the most important aspects of character that leads to success.” Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity, p. 159


Testing 1-2-3

It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, in this case, I’m guessing that it’s just made you wonder what I’ve been up to since my last update. Ever since the launch of my new blog, Time Out for Digging Out with Julie Albin, I’ve been wanting to create a separate podcast for the longer personal essays that were the trademark of my former newsletter. The thought of making this change was a daunting one but, in May, I took a deep breath and purchased the equipment that was needed to make the change. Although the learning curve associated with switching from a PC to an Apple computer was steep, I now have the ability to edit existing—and record new—podcast episodes at home using Garage Band.

The next time you enter my name in the search box of the iTunes store, you will notice that stories published through 2010 appear as part of a new podcast titled Finding the Message in the Mess of Everyday Living. You will also see that Time Out for Digging Out is now listed as the audio version of my blog. Although it will take a while to get caught up, I have uploaded two episodes to give you an idea of what the new format will sound like.

Click on the images below to view my original and newest podcast in iTunes:

As always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated so please let me know if there is something that I could be doing differently to improve my message or ministry. Two heads (or a a few hundred) are definitely better than one as we put every system to the test until the good is better and the better is best.


Too Much of a Good Thing …

I believe that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. And for every questionable action there is the risk of an equally adverse reaction. It is in this spirit of avoiding undesirable outcomes that I got after my oldest daughter for slicing a hole in the top of her water bottle.

“Why can’t you unscrew the cap like everyone else?” I asked.

“Because it’s easier to drink out of this way,” Katie said as she stabbed the lid again.

“Not if I have to take you to the hospital for stitches,” I warned.

My words fell on deaf ears as Katie twisted the knife to make the hole bigger and then pulled it out to examine her handiwork. I should have been more stern with her but the truth is that I admired my daughter’s determination and understood her action. All of us, at one time or another, have dismissed direction and taken a stab at finding our own solution to a problem. Sometimes it works to our advantage and other times it works us over to the point where we’re so afraid of getting hurt that we refuse to even try.

I want my kids to realize the dreams that God has planted in their hearts, not hide from them.

Too much of a good thing (even avoiding negative consequences) is definitely a bad thing if it holds us back or hinders our progress. And although I intend to keep poking holes in Katie’s water bottle theory until she finds a safer way to quench her thirst for efficiency, I never want her to stop trying to make the world a better place. Instead I want my oldest—and all of us—to take responsible chances and view mistakes, not as road blocks to avoid, but as guard rails to keep us moving in the right direction. Only then will we reach the place where God’s plan meets our productivity as we put a lid on our fear of failure and say goodbye to the status quo.

Put every system to the test until the good is better and the better is best.