Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Decade of Pumpkin Devotion

When my beloved PSL made its fall debut in 2003, I actually lived in one of the last cities in America that did not have a Starbucks. Unreal, I know. We lived in McAllen, down south, at the "bottom of Texas" as Andrew would say, and the "RioPlex" of border towns were not yet on the radar of Starbucks. Mind you, the Foley's was the number two store at that time in volume, so there was plenty of money in the Mexico national tourist mecca. 

And admittedly, I guess we were on their radar at that time, because one year later on October 1, 2004, the first Starbucks in the valley would open, about 4 minutes from my house. I know the date because I was there and I have a photo of myself with a giant inflatable cup of coffee to prove it. ;-)

But, back to the PSL. I guess I would have to credit my oldest sister, Ronda, for the introduction to one of my besties. Ronda was working at the time and hitting up Starbucks daily for her cup of joe, and I know her enough to know she would have been one of the first people in Houston to try a pumpkin flavored drink when the barista offered it to her. So, as I recreate it in my mind, I am imagining that I had my first PSL at Thanksgiving 2003, and it was probably on Black Friday when we went out on our annual shopping pilgrimage.

I have a November birthday. I love having a November birthday. I love fall, even here in Texas where we don't really do fall. I guess we have a little fall in November, and I guess that is why I love fall and November. I know in many parts of the country, it is already snowing in November and moving into winter...but Texas takes its time and slowly ushers in the changing of the seasonal guards, or gourds if you will, for fall. ;-)

Thanksgiving has also long been my favorite holiday. All of the joy and richness of Christmas, without any of the procurement stress for all the people on your list. It's a time of being together, being thankful, getting ready for the big burst to Christmas, but reveling in the slow pace of the waning autumn days. I love that Starbucks launched a drink just for fall. Just for me.

In 2004, I was able to get my regular fill of my beloved PSL at my new valley Starbucks. Yeehaw. Yes, I know it doesn't have pumpkin. Yes, I know it is high in calories. But, I will hand it to Starbucks for being innovative and inventive and creating a drink that is deliciousness served warm. We moved to Dallas in July 2005 and so by the third year of the launch, I was in an area where I had a pick of any number of Starbucks. In fact, my own little town has one on the corner of the bustling main intersection. Hello Dallas metroplex. Enter Starbucks heaven.

I can't count how many times I would pick up a PSL for me, and for one of the boys' teachers. I loved to bring them a cup of good cheer. It's the perfect drink to surprise someone with - not too strong, not too sweet - and I was happy to share my love of all things pumpkin with anyone who was brave enough to sign on for teaching a room full of rowdy kids. It is the official drink of Thanksgiving, right? And to whom could I be more grateful than teachers?

And now look at my baby - all grown up and ten years old. It's hard to believe I've had a decade of them. It's hard to remember life before a savory warm PSL. I'm grateful she survived the recession. I'm grateful that some things stay around for awhile. I'm grateful that new traditions can happen. I'm grateful for sisters and shared shopping excursions. I'm grateful for all things pumpkin. Served warm in a cup with whipped cream? Yes, please!

PSL ~ A Decade of Pumpkin Spice Lattes ~ September 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Simple Stories
Letter Stickers: American Crafts

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Invitation to CREATE

I guess I began writing as a fifth grader. I entered a play in the Bicentennial Fair about Betsy Ross and the American flag. I can still remember the two Davids playing the roles of American Revolutionaries as they acted out my play on the stage of the Astroarena in Houston. The following year I took creative writing with, of all names, Ms. English, and that segued into newspaper staff in the 7th grade with Mrs. Blanscet. I cannot recall easily if I wrote my 8th grade year, as I know I was an officer on the Student Council. But, as high school beckoned, I decided to follow my journalistic flair.

I tried out for and made the staff of The Gauntlet. It was heaven. I was made for yearbook staff. I loved the grid paper, the large rub-ons, the smell of the chemicals coming out of the darkroom, the dusty layer of all things paper on every conceivable surface. I was assigned the Underclassmen section of the yearbook, and set out to paste tons of little headshots down on paper, and type the names out via one of the Smith Coronas lined up underneath the shoulder high windows. The yearbook room was at the end of the last hall, as if forgotten, or relegated to the fringe, but it was the perfect spot in my book. We had easy access out to our cars to go sell ads, and swing by Jack in the Box on our way back.

I stayed on yearbook staff for all four years of high school. I was offered and accepted the position of Editor-in-Chief for my sophomore year, and kept that position until I graduated. The Gauntlet became my baby and even though I worked with three different yearbook advisors, I was able to be the voice of continuity and help vision cast the themes each year. I recruited friends to the staff. By my senior year, the staff had morphed from students that needed an elective to a staff of honor students and close friends, friends that I am still in the loop with to this day. And my first yearbook editor, Ms. Bryce, is a jewel to me and I am thankful that I am still in touch with both her and Mrs. Blanscet. Teachers are amazing inspiration touch points.

High school ended and even though I was offered a journalism scholarship at a state school, the powers that be determined that I attend a private school in Arkansas. I left behind my vision for being a journalist and took on the accountant cap at my alma mater that would now be at the foothills of the Ozarks. I did dabble with yearbook there. My freshman year I was on Petit Jean staff, once again on the Underclassmen section, but it didn't feel the same at all. I didn't connect with any of the others, and the goal set for me of graduating in three years didn't really allow the time for it. I set it all to the side.

As a young stay-at-home mom, I was introduced to scrapbooking. That was perfect timing, because I had actually created a TO DO list after leaving corporate America, and organizing and dealing with photos was at the top of the list. Sadly, 20 years later, the rest of the list remains untouched. Maybe I will get those recipes organized after I retire. Again. :-) Scrapbooking filled my creative void, and awakened in me all of my journalistic love that I had set to the side, much like the letter jacket, the Jack in the Box runs, and the schoolbooks themselves. I had a good but wild scrapbooking ride with Creative Memories, and then moved to the Dallas metroplex. In the big city, much like the physical transition itself from the Rio Grande Valley to Big D, I left CM behind, back in the dust of the valley, as I grew ready to embrace all of the ideals that glittered in the posh Dallas skyline. 

Much like leaving AOL and finding the "real internet", I parted ways with CM and found a whole "real scrappy world". One thing led to another, and I eventually morphed my style of scrapbooking completely, led by the ideas and inspiration I was finding in that scrappy world.  I found Creating Keepsakes in 2005 and had - as what I consider a pipe dream, super lofty, basically unattainable - the goal of being published. I didn't want the publicity per se, I just wanted my work to be "that good". Having won first place at state UIL in writing, I was accustomed to pushing myself and pursuing excellence. {Now, I am not saying by any measure of degree that I believe I have attained that now, or will ever attain it. I am saying I like to learn and love to improve.}

My scrappy world led me down the road, or should I say up the road, to Scrapbook Generation in Springfield, Missouri. Missouri really did become the SHOW ME state. I found their sketches in 2010 via some friends on Two Peas in a Bucket, and it was the marriage of my high school journalism love to my young mom's love of all things paper and photos and pen. Their sketches helped me refine my layouts, define my style, and experiment with new angles of inspiration. My husband has always supported my crafting. He doesn't always understand my "need" for so much paper, but he never questions it, and has been known to go out of the way to help me pull off a hair-brained idea. 

I found out that Scrapbook Generation held a mega crop twice a year. And in the summer of 2011, I decided I wanted to go. And I convinced my husband to take me. And I convinced a bunch of gals from Two Peas to go, too. We had a wonderful time. I made it back for a second one. And then I segued to their retreats, all the while loving on their sketches and using 'em like there's no tomorrow. Since discovering their sketches in 2010, I could probably count on one hand the number of layouts I've done without one of their sketches. I just find them to be such a foundational grid that lock me in for a beautiful layout, and set me up to be able to create outside the box of that grid something that will work, that will be fun, that I will enjoy. 

And having met the female family of four that IS Scrapbook Generation, I can tell you they are women of honor, women with family values, women with amazing and unending creativity, women that care, women that serve, women that have succeeded in the business world, women that will laugh with you, women that will cry with you, women that you are blessed to know. When they launched CREATE last year, I was blown away by the free electronic monthly magazine, and I was, honestly, a tad jealous of the inaugural design team. Even though I have drooled over every issue of the 2014 magazine, when the design call came out for 2015, I wasn't sure I would apply, unsure of whether I could make the cut, unwilling to open up my heart to hope, unwilling to be left out, much like the photos that don't make the page. I waffled back and forth, and on the last day, I did send in my application, knowing if I didn't try to be again a part of creating for these SG women that embody so many traits that are also embedded in my core, that I would be full of regret.

I did apply, and then I doubted myself, and I fretted, and I had resigned myself to not making the team, and I talked to Steve about it almost nightly while walking, trying all the while to breathe and not obsess...and on the very night that I had given up all hope, Steve walked in to Scrap Central at the exact moment that my iMac flashed an email bubble at the top right of my screen, and in that second that I could see him in my peripheral vision, I could also see Debbie's email address and the words "Welcome to the CREATE team" on that email bubble. I was so excited that I wanted to shout and jump around and cry and breathe big sighs of relief. And I blurted out some jumbled words to him, and opened the email and read some of the sweetest words a gal can see when she has striven for so long to be a creative wordsmith.

I won't be the best, and I won't be the most creative, and I won't have the work that is over the top, but I can tell you I will give it my all. I can tell you I will love it. I can tell you I am honored beyond measure. I can tell you I love to create. Thanks, Scrapbook Generation, for the inspiration, the ideas, the friendship, the amazing online store, the over the top sketches, and the invitation to CREATE. I am looking forward to 2015 with eyes wide open, photos at the ready, and paper scattered everywhere. Come create with me, come CREATE with us.


Scrap-a-Palooza ~ Scrapbook Generation Mega Crop ~ June 2011
Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Pebbles
Letter Stickers: American Crafts

Monday, October 27, 2014

To The Kingdom Come

We moved away from the community in which I was raised in January 1991, after living there as a married couple for 3 1/2 years. It was a change that my family questioned, but one that I knew in my heart was best for me and Steve, one that would give us the opportunity to craft together our life, a life outside the enmeshed boundaries of a large multi-generational family that had calendars full of events. 

We sold our little North Shore house that General Homes had built for us in 1988, and moved north 45 minutes to The Woodlands, into a two-story house that Ryland built for us. It was all just so perfect, looking back, and when my nephews coined the area "the magical forest", I think they were on to something. We picked a lot at the end of a cul-de-sac and I was immediately in love with all the mature trees and the wild blackberry bushes at the back of the property.

We found a new church home and began living the life that would grow and mature us, in much the same way as the hundred-year-old pines and yaupons that surrounded every house, each neighborhood, all roadsides. We were blessed to live in The Woodlands for just short of 7 years, and I would be lying if I were to say that I don't miss it to this day. I don't play the "What if" game, but if I am ever tempted to, it would be regarding my magical forest.

Outside the scope of frequent family events, we found ourselves with some open calendar space and began cultivating friendships with peers. It was an almost novel concept to us, having lived near my parents and my sisters and their families, and all the fun, but unending, series of events that 7 nieces and nephews offered. We teased that - at that time - we had 3 weeks off in June, as there were no birthdays or events between Father's Day and July 4. At any rate, living 45 minutes away from all of that gave us a new leash on life.

We found so many other twenty-something couples at our church home and it wasn't long before the forest began to feel a little bit more like a home for our hearts. One of our friends was actually a single guy, and as such, he would drop by more often than others. I can remember crystal clear in my mind Ralph, in red sweatpants, lounging on our wedgewood blue couch one December while we did some Christmas baking, and him talking about KLTY, the Houston area Christian radio station. 

Steve and I had both listened to some Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith back in college, but as a married couple, I had introduced Steve to country & western, and I think most of the time our radio was tuned to that. Ralph planted another forest seed that night. We then began listening to KLTY sporadically, but I struggled with all the different genre sounds the different artists embodied. I eventually got over that annoyance and embraced the divergent sounds. And the seed that Ralph planted took root, and over time we both fell in love with Contemporary Christian music and kept all radios tuned to 94.9. I can still remember Philip as a two-year-old singing the jingle along with the radio whenever KLTY played their call sign.

Fast forward nearly 25 years, years full of a musical diet that was about 95% comprised of Contemporary Christian music, and I discovered the annual Night of Joy event at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. Well, imagine my complete and utter delight at the concept of two nights of concerts at one of my favorite places on earth! World were colliding - and it was a beautiful thing!

Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns, Mercy Me, Third Day, David Crowder Band - the 2010 headliner MainStage bands. Literally all bands I loved, bands whose CDs I had, whose songs I knew. Having the amazing husband that I do, when I pitched the idea, he didn't call me crazy, but began considering the feasibility of it and whether or not we could go. We had not left the boys behind on many, if any, trips in over a decade, but they weren't up for the adventure and it seemed like it was time for a trip for two. We lined up my mom to come stay with the boys, and booked our seats on the Magical Express.

It was a wonderful trip. It was bittersweet to be there without the boys, but we did have so much fun. We had three full days, and two travel days, and managed to have plenty of time to take in the magic of all four parks over the long 5 day weekend. The two nights of concerts at Magic Kingdom was a true joy, and it was the perfect experience for our first hard ticket Disney event. Not only did we love the concerts in front of Cinderella's castle, we loved that as we walked through the park, we could hear them piping Christian music throughout the entire park. It was so much fun to be walking through Adventureland in the dark and hearing Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine" over the sound system. 

Yes, worlds were colliding and it was a beautiful thing. The Happiest Place on Earth took on new meaning. It seemed even more magical that weekend. We haven't been back to a Night of Joy event yet. I am pleased that the annual event continues. I hope to someday make it back to one. Every time I get the invitation that offers "To The Kingdom Come", I sigh, I smile, I remember, and I wish. Dreams do really come true. I know. I've been blessed enough to know. To the Kingdom come? Yes, please! I can only imagine!

Magical Trip for Two ~ Night of Joy ~ September 2010
Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: We R Memory Keepers
Letter Stickers: October Afternoon
Title Font: Waltograph