Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shirt Box Tops and Works of Art

This Christmas it was our turn to have my parents with us. After dinner on the 25th, my dad asked each of us about childhood Christmas memories. Stockings came up in many of the memories. It was the perfect opportunity for me to validate with my parents some of my own memories.

You see, as a child we had "stockings", but we didn't have stockings. Santa chose to approach our morning treats in a utilitarian fashion, leaving our goodies in various tops and bottoms of department store boxes. Yes, shirt boxes. As with so many family traditions, you don't really question their normalcy - you just roll with it. There was no laying out of a stocking, no selection of its placement in the room, no picking of a perch. When given the go ahead, we four children would fly down the hall, round the corner into the living room and search frantically through the four piles until your eyes landed on what one hoped was "your pile", given it's resemblance to one's whisperings into the fat man's ear at the downtown Foley's.

Years and years this went on and - like so many children - we delighted in the simplicity of our Christmas mornings. Our shirt box tops would hold oranges, chewing gum, a banana - yes, one - and varied nuts in their shells: pecan, brazilian, almond and one little round one that looked like an acorn, filberts I believe. Lordamercy, I left hulling those nuts to New Year's. I couldn't be bothered to tear myself away from my toys for a good week or so. And of course, over time, your shirt box occupants would mingle with another's and eventually there'd be one bowl of nuts, nestled proudly in their shells, on the kitchen counter alongside an orange or two.

There was one year, though, that things changed. One year for Christmas, my grandmother gave to my mom the most beautiful six handmade stockings you would ever see. I can vividly recall their detail in my mind. Little works of art. The DAD stocking had a man sitting in a stuffed armchair, wearing a smoking jacket, holding a pipe, and reading a newspaper. The MOM stocking had a woman wearing a beautiful red robe and slippers and a necklace as she decorated a tree. 

The stockings were not - to my knowledge - a kit. I believe my grandmother bought the elements and materials to piece together that family of 6. Our names were on the top stocking band in felt and sequins. So many hours of handwork. It boggles my mind. My scene on my very own stocking was of two children, a girl with blond ponytails and a sturdy boy, caroling underneath a street lantern. Did my grandmother know before I did my love of music?

Those stockings were so revered. Every year they would be brought out and carefully tacked to the wall, making certain to put the thumbtack in the hole from the year before. No fireplace needed in Houston, making for an awkward moment each year. But, we grew accustomed to the soft arch of six stockings cascading the wall behind the tree. And those stockings hung on the wall all season long. They were definitely not to be stuffed on Christmas Eve. Santa could jolly well continue leaving our fruit and nuts in our shirt box tops. Around New Year's, mother would take down the stockings from the wall, wrap them individually in tissue paper, and box them up. They stayed down out of the attic for protection. They were far too grand to be relegated to that hothouse with our other Christmas decorations.

When I married, I was given my stocking. Those 6 stockings that my grandmother made, like their owners, live today in 5 houses in 5 cities. I still treasure my handmade stocking. I did make a decision, though, when it passed to my possession. I decided that I was going to use mine each year. My own mother continued the handmade stocking tradition and made stockings for each of her sons-in-law, her daughter-in-law, all of her twelve original grandchildren, and some of her early great-grandchildren. My mother used those felt kits, by Bucilla I believe. But, they, too, are works of art. Finding a stocking kit that you liked, that fit with the others in your family collection, and then actually getting it ready for your child's first Christmas was a joy that I, and each of my sisters, treasured in our early family days.

Every year now, I hang 4 handmade stockings on my hearth. I have evaluated houses we've purchased based on whether or not there was a mantle for them. And every year when we deck the halls, I remember shirt boxes and oranges and brazilian nuts and blond-headed boys and chewing gum and Reese's Peanut Butter trees. My oldest son mentioned a few years back that his favorite thing was opening our stockings. I have to say I agree. Sometimes it's the littlest of trinkets that can make a morning memorable. Sometimes it's the simple joy of the stockings, and the stories they hold, that makes Christmas magical.

The Simple Joy of Stockings ~ Christmas Morning ~ December 2010

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: October Afternoon, Echo Park
Fonts: Honey Script, Chaparral Pro

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Joy of the Pomp & Circumstance

My cousin, Margie, is forever telling me I think too much. I am forever telling her that I can't help it. I am forever telling God that He must have wanted me to think this much, because He's the one who wired me. And all the while, I keep thinking.

I could long see coming this day and all that it held. Not just the diploma, the pomp and circumstance, or even the advent of college. What I could see coming was the end of life together as a family of four. I have always thought that we really balanced each other out and the four of us together make up my family, the place my heart comes home to every night, the place that defines me, that softens me, that challenges me, that encourages me. You know, home.

And so, in anticipation of the swirl of senior year, we bought a 12 month academic calendar. I straddled that monster out on the kitchen table and dropped in every high school, church and college preview event known to us, stretching from July to June. And yes, being the thinker that I am, I color coded it. Why use one Sharpie when you can use seven? 

And with each setting of the sun, we marked off one of the squares that represented in my mind our little house of four. And I cried. I cried almost daily. Some days, I cried more than once in a day. I can't explain it. I won't apologize for it. I can only tell you with all candor that I cried. As I think about it - and you must know I think about it - I wonder if my attachment to my boys being at home runs so very deep because I was a stay at home mom for nearly fourteen years? Part of my brain likes to think so. Surely if there is a reason for it, it instantly becomes more rational, yes?

People at work would ask about my senior - his college search, his interests, his board testing, his graduation date - and any mention of any of it would find me in a quick puddle of tears. Tears that learned to slide so easily down my cheeks, as if in ruts worn well by the frequency of their appearance. They began to expect me to be a mess and I began to stay in my office a little more. I had enough going on that I didn't need to be the loony bin candidate or that month's pity party honoree.

I would not be lying at all if I told you I cried from July up to May. The senior year trudged on. The boy made his college choice. And began to get excited. And began to prepare for the big transition and the change and the move and the new life. I tried to be supportive. I learned to text things I wanted to say, but that my voice could not say without cracking or my face support my mouth by providing dry eyes. My boy learned to filter what he told me. And when he told me.

 As the graduation day approached, I set aside my emotions and settled on the task at hand - the base logistics of getting 8 guests + 1 graduate on time from my house to the ceremony venue. Downtown. Dallas. 20 miles away with traffic variables and zero venue knowledge and the already insufferable June Texas heat.

The situation with the oldest child is that everything you do is a first. You have no real clue. The parenting books run out of content long before you run out of questions. You learn to probe gently and if you are lucky, you have a network of friends that are older than you on the age curve. Without my network of friends near and far, I know I could not make it as a mom.

I reached out to some friends from church whose son graduated from the same high school with some questions. So, I went into the event with an idea of where to go and where to park. I took off in the lead car, determined to get my graduate "to the church on time". We suffered through the uncertainties and did indeed get there, get parked and get inside on time. 

As I reached out to him, donned in his cap and gown, helping him to get it on and get it all straight, I fought one last wave of emotion. A surge of acknowledgement of life together swelled over me and culminated in a sense of pride in this man boy, who towers over me by 6 inches, as I helped him place his honor cords and quickly snapped one quick picture without daring to ask permission.

After that, he took off to join the throng and I settled in to helping the following car maneuver the streets, parking, and concrete maze of downtown. It was nice to have the distraction honestly. Finally, all 8 of us were together and we set in to get seats and wait for the beginning of the ceremony. Philip's graduating class size was record-setting, a fact acknowledged by the media and the presenters of the day. I think that was my lucky break.

In the sheer determination of the district's goal to graduate 1,600 students in under 2 hours, the ceremony itself was a media whirlwind of faces, the pace itself defying you to look away or blink or ponder the magnitude of the passing out of the sheepskin. You literally would miss your child's face on the big screen if you weren't looking in the nano second that they passed in front of the camera. The consolation in the speed of it all was that one was so focused on keeping up with it that there was no time for emotions at all, let alone tears.

I embraced the numbing speed of it all. It allowed me to detach from the college launch. It allowed me to try to look for classmates of his that I had known over the years. It allowed me to be excited because he was excited. When it was all said and done, the day itself was a good day. And I guess any day that you are celebrating the graduation of a high school student there is reason enough to take in the joy of the pomp and circumstance. Way to go, Class of 2013! Ya' done good. Way to go, mom! You made it, too.

Class of 2013 ~ Philip's Graduation ~ June 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: October Afternoon
Font: Blackjack

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remains of the Day

I think that we started with over 200 photos. And we were charged with the task of narrowing it down to 25. That was my budgeted amount – 25. It’s hard to pick the best of the best of the best when they are all absolutely wonderful.
We sat on an ottoman in a den and stared at a 60-inch screen, eyes glued to it. We took in the delight of all the variations. We had our breath taken away by a few. We chuckled over the silly in-between shot expressions that even the photographer had loved enough to snap candidly. And I, of course, teared up over some of the absolute best ones. Over the whole process. Over having to narrow down what we took away from the day. It seemed not enough.
Some shots were absolutely “YES – we must have that!” As we got closer to 25, the debate loomed longer. Hubby and I wanted the ones “we wanted” – the ones that spoke to us. And he was adamant about the 25. Narrowing it down – 200 to 25 – was like torture. And not only to us. I think in final desperation to have us out of her house, our photographer caved and tossed in 7 extra. 32 shots. 13 years in the making. 5 outfits. 3 venues. 8 backdrops. I’m praying it's enough. That the remains of the day are enough for this mama’s heart.
When I sat down to scrap the photos, I wanted to scrap them all. And I hope to. But, I needed to get some of them down and so I chose predominantly the ones used on the graduation invitation, and threw in a couple more that I liked. I thought about the title I would use. “Oh the Places You Will Go” is common, or “Adventure is Out There”, or “Way to Go, Grad”….and it seemed as though I wanted to say more to him than that. I happened upon the WRMK sentiment and thought it expressed perfectly this mama’s sentiment for her boy out there now in the big ‘ole world. And I thought, too, the little Hello World sticker perfectly embodied my boy’s heart longing. He was ready to go long before I was ready to let him go.
I am thankful for my remains of the day. And every once in a while if I want to just punish my heart a little, I will troll through the 32 images and just remember. Togetherness. Joy. Laughter. Big boy hugs. Little boy tears. Scraped knees. Bruised hearts. Life. Our life together. My remains of the day.
Be Forever True to Your Heart ~ Senior Photo Shoot ~ April 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Echo Park, Simple Stories, We R Memory Keepers
Font: Collegiate Inside

Photo Credit: Kim West Photography

Saturday, November 9, 2013


I looked across the table at my husband one day and I could see in his eyes the weight of the nest emptying. Back-to-back boys has been a ride – joy, terror, bliss, chaos. I have known for a few years that my honey would take hard the hit of the college drop-off. And I was right. And he did. We decided that we would take a little trip. You know – embrace the change? Start a new ritual? Being the mouse fans that we are, we thought we would head to Orlando. But, as fate would have it, the places we wanted to stay were booked, so we looked toward Anaheim.
We had gone there together for the very first time ever together. Back in 1986. We were both visiting friends in Fresno and they took us. That was so long ago. I don’t even think there are any photographs of it. If there are, they are on film somewhere with Miss Ginny in Fresno. But, I have faint memories of the park. We then took the boys there for the first time in 1999. Our little family of four headed west. To see the mouse. Toon Town times and little blonde boys falling asleep in their mouse-eared nuggets were the order of the day. And I have a few photos of that trip. And negatives somewhere. It seemed like a circle to book-end the trip with the boys with a second trip for the two of us.
We stayed at The Disneyland Hotel in 1999 and opted this time for The Grand Californian Hotel. As the trip got closer, we became more and more excited. I would text hubby little images of the parks and we would do countdowns. During all of our anticipation, a friend asked if we were going to the Halloween party. I told her we weren’t planning on it. She talked about how much fun she had at it. So, on a whim, we decided we would buy hard tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. And we ended up trick or treating! And it was so much fun.
Biggest moment – being blown away by all of the reworking in the Haunted Mansion to convert it to embody The Nightmare Before Christmas. Biggest let down – the main PM parade didn’t showcase the villains like I thought it should. Silliest moment - us standing in long lines to actually trick-or-treat with hundreds of other adults. But, it was a little bit of magically ghoulish fun. And just the thing we needed to help ease our hurting hearts.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ~ Disneyland ~ October 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Echo Park, Girls Paperie, Pink Paislee
Fonts: Minnie, Noteworthy, Blackmoor LET

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Comic Book Kid

It's hard to get anything past this kid. He's a little too much like his mom. In many ways. The big 18 loomed, and we were faced with the fact that older brother would be away at college and two good friends would be out of state on vacation. No birthday day celebrating. Andrew could not even get a little excited about his big day without his 3 main side kicks. 

So, introduction of Plan B. And Plan B mushroomed. Once we had those 3 on board, we got the creative idea to blow it all out into a big party, a surprise party, a surprise birthday party, the likes of which this kid hasn't seen in a few years.

I honestly think the last time he had a birthday party was in the 6th grade. And I'm not gonna' lie. I've had serious mom guilt about it. But, to my point, he is like his mom and has not wanted a party. So, against all wishes I knew he would have, hubby and I set out to mastermind an 18th birthday party bash, albeit a party one week before his birthday. Which I knew would bother him. Like it would bother his mom. But, having it early was in our favor since it would be totally unexpected. 

Hubby worked with the pastor at church, Bo, who worked with the kids from church and it looked like we were going to pull this thing off. We waffled a little bit on what exactly to do with a house full of boys, and we waffled a bit on whether or not to get a birthday cake. We knew good teenage boy food was key and that cake would good - and we knew we could figure out some kind of after dinner event that would make Andrew smile. I just felt it would all come together. 

And come together it did. All the boys showed up on time. Bo had commandeered Andrew to come over to work on some things...and then blindfolded Andrew and promptly drive him back home. Hubby got home with the Pluckers wings and the birthday cake. I printed off an X-men image to decorate the cake. Was it actually going to come off without a hitch? 

Sure enough, Bo got Andrew there and through the doorway before Andrew knew where he was. And when he walked through the door and saw everyone, his face lit up like a Christmas tree! Score! The kid who didn't ever want a party could actually have a party and enjoy it!  Wings, chips and queso were devoured, the cake was enjoyed, gifts were fun, all amidst typical teenage boy teasing and conversation.

 They laughed and cut-up and were genuinely having a great time. Almost all of them opted to head out to see The Wolverine movie with my guys. The party was the perfect way to celebrate his big day. It was an added bonus that the teen boy movie d'jour was actually an X-Men movie. 

But beyond the obvious success of the evening, I saw the real gift of the evening. 12 young men came into our home and celebrated my somewhat introverted son. My son that gives of himself and never asks anything in return.

You see, my comic book kid is full of surprises and he regularly entertains us with his own comedic banter, his quick retorts, his deep ability to empathize, his rapier sharp wit. And he is my super hero. Because he can do all of that with a skip in his step and a smile as big as Dallas on his face. Kapow. Bam. Wow. 

Surprise ~ Andrew's 18th ~ August 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation

Paper: Simple Stories
Font: BD Cartoon Shout

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For the Love of the Game

If I were to be completely honest, I would have to save that I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with these men. And that is so unlike me. I am usually fairly consistent, painfully loyal and stoically steadfast. I’ve never been one to play the field….Chalk it up to my childhood, or our nomadic married life, or just my yearning for the “real deal”.
Football started for me as a young child, and goes as far back as I can recall. You see, it’s always been there. Back in the days of “Luv Ya’ Blue” and Bum Phillips’ prowess as the leader of the Houston Oilers, I was in the hey days of my teenage life. And as a native Houstonian, the Oilers were always on in the background. So very many Sunday afternoons spent as a young girl, laying belly down on the carpet reading the Sunday cartoons, football game playing on one of our three TV channels, and the roast in the oven warming up the house with its aromatic, heady scent. I didn’t care much about the football game, but it was part of my Sunday trifecta of family fall bliss.
I headed off to Arkansas for college. And shut down on football. Our college team was insubstantial and the Razorback fans were beyond my comprehension. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were saved up for fun road trips, campus leisure, last minute studying and the ever present piles of laundry. Young married life had us back in Houston, but Bum was long gone and the chants of “Luv Ya’ Blue” were gone with him. In fact, before long, the whole team was packed up lock, stock and barrel and shipped off to a greedier fan base in Tennessee.
They left town the same year that we did. Our Houston days turned to San Antonio days turned to McAllen days  and we spent almost a decade in regions that didn’t have an NFL franchise. It didn’t matter. We were busy with the boys and Sunday afternoons were set aside for naps or time at the park or family days spent crafting or playing games. I’m really practically thrilled that for those eight years we lived outside the scope of “Game Day”. We crafted Sabbath memories and traditions and reveled in together times.
When we moved to Dallas in 2005, I wasn’t anticipating falling in love with the NFL. I had flirted with The Cowboys in my childhood during Christmas visits to family in Denton. I always had aunts and uncles and cousins that were rooting for their hometown team. I was around them often enough, but it was never okay for me to love them given the divisive rivalry in Texas between Oiler fans and Cowboy fans. I didn’t know then that my observance from afar of Tom Landry’s gentlemanly coaching of the Cowboys would lay the groundwork for my own fan base. And I didn’t fall in love fast once here, either. My Cowboys crept up on me much like my sweetheart…just a little bit here and there over time, until suddenly I had to admit I was in love and needed them in my life.
Having lived so long outside the scope of the NFL, I had never gone to a real game. I had never really even aspired to. But when Jerry Jones launched the new stadium with the 2009 season, I was already an avid fan and my curiosity was peaked. Attendance in early 2010 to a state play-off football game at Jerry’s World to watch my sister’s school district drew me in. The chance to go to the stadium for the $10 admission was a chance we couldn’t pass up. And, the stadium rewarded our attendance – it was truly amazing. I was still content, though, given ticket prices, to watch the home team games on our television.
As luck would have it, the season opener for 2013 was at home…against our division rivals, the New York Giants…the pre-season roster was looking good…Jason Garrett was gelling as a coach…the ante for a home win was up…and we needed a little something fun to do. Sometimes I get a wild hair…and I just had this gut feeling that the Cowboys were going to win for the first time against the Giants in the new stadium…and I wanted to be there! I just felt like, given our recent launch of our oldest to college, that we needed to get out of the house, we needed to do something different, we needed to stir up some fun.
I found the tickets online via StubHub, reserved and prepaid for parking…and kept the secret from my honey for as long as I could. I was bubbling inside and so very excited that I had to tell him on Saturday before the game the next day – I just couldn’t contain it anymore. I wanted him to have the chance to look forward to it as much as I was! The words to NBC’s Sunday night game never rang more true – “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday Night!” We woke up Sunday morning almost giddy. I couldn’t help but tell our pastor where we were headed that night. See, everyone’s a fan. Most anyone you run into is proud of our hometown team – regardless of their record. It’s just a club we’re all in together.
We planned to leave the house around 3. We’d drive over ahead of the traffic, eat at the nearby Pappadeaux, and then head into the stadium to catch everything. We got there around 5:30 and were truly entertained for the two hours leading up to the game. And I can tell you this – it was the PERFECT game to have as your first NFL game.
We were the NBC’s Sunday night football. We were in a division game. We were up against our rivals. We were going for the first home win. And win we did! There’s never been a faster game that I watched. Four quarters rolled by, down after down, faster than you can say “How ’bout dem Cowboys!” We beat the Giants solidly – and at that moment all of the rest of the season didn’t matter. For that moment, we were winners and we were so excited to be part of it all. We were there. For the team. For the win. For the fun. For the game. For the love of the game.
I’ve Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night ~ Cowboys vs. Giants ~ September 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Little Yellow Bicycle
Chipboard Letters: Bella Blvd.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Little Slice of Heaven

Although mother got the recipe from her mother, I never remember them at my grandmother's house. I do remember my aunt making a coconut or lemon version, but the memory is faint, and it may feed more off of stories heard than substantive experiences.

Mother would always make two, and it usually involved company coming over, or taking them somewhere. And with six of us in the house, 16 lottery slices were never enough. Since it was a stove top recipe, the sign was always clear that she was making THEM, if the crusts cooking in the oven weren't signal enough. And if you played your cards right, you could be in the kitchen to perhaps get a lick out of the pan, or off the beater if meringue was to your liking.

The chocolate cream pies were most often made to take to the Sunday dinner on the grounds. I learned at an early age to eat dessert first. If you waited until "dessert time", you would hunt down her white corning ware pie pans and see only the cornflower blue design on the bottom, the slices of pie themselves having long gone to rest on someone else's plate. Surely there wasn't anything wrong with proactively commandeering a little slice of heaven on church grounds.

I began baking and cooking in college, but didn't launch into my own version of the chocolate cream pies until several years after I married. After all, I was content to sit back and let mother and/or my older sister provide them for our family gatherings. And I still knew to go quiet, grab early and eat dessert first. But we eventually moved out of the family nest and so I guess I began making the pies myself around 1991.

I will concede that it is a finicky recipe, given that it is a custard and must be rendered at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time at just the right dew point. But, oh mercy, if you hit it right, it sure is divine. And, if it doesn't set up well, we've all learned it tastes just as good off a spoon as it does off a fork. 

Mother gave me a cookbook for my 25th birthday that held a pie crust recipe I could effectively manage. Steve's grandmother taught me how to pick a crust up off the counter using my rolling pin. But I began tinkering with the recipe not long after my first or second attempt, because I wanted that pie to set up, and I wanted more of it in a pie shell.  

At some point, I picked up a deep dish pie pan from Williams Sonoma and before we left The Woodlands in 1997, I had made peace with the recipe - having conquered it effectively enough to have recurring success and having tweaked it a little to make it better. 

I have two early vivid memories of me making it - having it at Thanksgiving one year with the Crums and Uncle Mark and then taking it to the church for the Gullo family meal following Austin's memorial service. I can still hear Lee and Kristi commenting on how good the pie was and how even the meringue was so tasty. And I remember Donna telling me how she knew the pie was homemade, based on my thumbprints on the crust, and how eating that old-fashioned pie was such a comfort on such an incredibly difficult day.

I've moved around this 'ole state, living in five cities, but I've taken that pie recipe with me to every home we've occupied, every church we've attended, every group where we've gathered. It has served me well.  I even made four one morning to take to work for my boss's 50th birthday lunch. She requested it, letting me know it was the best chocolate pie she's ever had.

My boys have grown up on it, just as I have, seeing the marks of the pie in the making, hoping against hope it's for us here at the house, licking the pan, eager for the first piece long before it has cooled down and set up. 

And I guess, of all the times I have made it, or want to make it, or hope to make it, the times that I am making it for my family are the best times. I love how they love it as much as I love it. I love that when I am making my pie, that I am making a pie that my grandmother made, that my aunts made, that my mom makes to this day, that my sisters make to this day. It's our own little tradition, this little slice of chocolate cream heaven.

Family Recipe ~ our Chocolate Cream Pie ~ September 2012

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Carta Bella

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Live from Scrap Central

The thing about a scrap room is that it grows as organically…and exponentially…as the very brads, bling and Basic Grey that you hoard…er...collect.

When I started scrapping in 1994, I stored my scrapping supplies in the under the staircase coat closet that I commandeered. I repurposed that puppy from holding coats to holding card stock. Who needs coats in Houston anyway? A trip to The Container Store and I was outfitted with a shelving system that fit neatly where the jean jackets were no longer welcome. When I wanted to scrap, I pulled my supplies out of the closet and worked on the breakfast room table. So tidy and organized was I.

In 1997 we moved to San Antonio and space had to be reevaluated. Given the age of my boys then, I needed to be near them to scrap during the moments they played together. I carved off a section of the playroom and that beloved staircase shelving unit got a promotion to the wall in the alcove of the playroom. A desk underneath it and I was good to go. I reveled in the ability to leave things out and come and work as I could with my pretties.

By the time we moved to McAllen in 2000, I was a bona fide scrapper with a growing collection. I went from occupying maybe 20% of a smallish room to occupying almost half of a two car garage that had been converted to a guest suite by the previous owners. I was in tall cotton with all that real estate! And I was loving the trend of upgrading my square footage with each move.

When we moved to Dallas in 2005, I was naive enough to think I could go back to about the same amount of space I had in San Antonio. I took half of an extra room upstairs. And hated it. Not enough sunlight, wrong part of the house, quarters too cramped, and my counter height work space was just not comfortable to sit at and scrap. I wasn't scrapping…and I knew it had to do with the space.

In 2006, I had the idea to move my stuff downstairs and split the home office space with my scrap space. Well, 7 years later and I am happy to report that I have gone from the 50/50 split to about a 90/10 split. I now have only two drawers that contain household files. And I have decadently spread my scrap stash all over the rest of the space.

But, the best part of my current Scrap Central is it's location in the house. See, it really is central. It's between the front door and the door to the garage, in the room that was to be the formal living room that we converted to a study when we built. I can swivel in my chair and see the entry way, the dining room, the family room, the kitchen and the breakfast room. 

And I can - thankfully - hear my family moving about in all of those rooms. And they can hear me. I love being in "my room", yet hearing them through the house. And often is the time when they will come in here and plop down on one of the chairs and hang out with me. Seriously love that. I nabbed those chairs from Calico Corner and they are one of my favorite elements of my room. 

Here's a little tour of my room in its current state.

We had the cabinets built-in before we moved in. I designed them and they are built to my specs. They hold so many things and keep the lines clean in the room, which is important to me. Love how the computer area is slightly lower in height than the working counter areas. Sweet hubby was kind enough to install a key board tray under the computer table, so my keyboard is ergonomic and also invisible.

The red walls are one of my favorite aspects of the room. Really love the pop of my favorite color. My chair is a Herman Miller Aeron. I have trouble sitting for long periods and this chair is amazing...a real key to allow me to sit for long stretches to scrap.

The desk is a bread and butter desk from the 1800's. It comes apart and could travel in a covered wagon. It has two drawers in it that run the width of the desk. Perfect spot to stash adhesive refills and small brads. And that chandelier has been in all of my houses. I take it every time we move. It's one of my very favorite things.

The little tiny table beside my desk holds my trimmer. It's perfect for turning to cut and simultaneously keeps it from occupying my coveted desk top space. My lamp is an Ott lite and really is key to this working girl being able to scrap at night. 

My Demdaco Angels are gifts from my boys over the years. I love their messages that speak to my heart. I grabbed the slipper chairs at Calico Corner. The wire basket in the left of the photo holds stamps - mostly phrase stamps and Studio AE stamps. Grabbed that basket on one of our trips to the semi-annual Round Top antique fair.

Please don't hate. :-) We found this antique hardware cabinet at Round Top for $400. The cabinet is very deep, allowing you to stash so much in each drawer. It holds almost all of my smaller embellishments. The vintage typewriter on top is just eye candy. I don't have the patience to type with it. It's too hard to use, in my opinion.

What Scrap Central is complete without an Ikea Expedit? I debated getting a 16 cubby unit…but went with the 8 cubby unit so I could keep my cross wall in my room. 5 of the cubbies hold patterned paper, sorted by manufacturer. 2 cubbies hold my beloved Bazzill, the only card stock I use. The last cubby holds some binders that contain memorabilia to use, 12 x 12 sticker sheets and some of my favorite sketches from Scrapbook Generation.

Oh - and see my new typewriter? It's an electric Brother GX6750 that I got at Amazon. I met a scrapper, Darby, at a crop in Missouri that had one. I fell in immediate love over it and came home and promptly ordered one. I don't love it sitting out, but I go with making stuff easy to access and use, knowing if it isn't easy to access, it won't get used. It's very easy to type on and I have to make myself not use it on every layout.

And here you can see my beloved cross wall. I have been collecting these crosses for a long time and they each tell a story.

Finally, here is a shot of the top of my desk. Love, love sitting here and scrapping. 

It's taken me awhile to get to this spot, but the journey has been so worth it. And I am happy to be blogging to you, live from my Scrap Central.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Borrowed Year

I am about to enter a new demographic. I wish I felt great about it. I wish it was one you auditioned for, or interviewed for, or longed for…or even really just wanted. I cannot speak for the scores of others that have entered this demographic before me. I can’t track the path of their heart or read back into their thoughts. I can only speak for me as I muddle through the processing of my own heart and thoughts.
I think back to 1994 when this idea birthed and to 1999 when I launched it, when I drew the line in the sand and committed. I held back. I cheated. Could you blame me? My baby boy should have started school in August, 1999. 5 seemed far too young back then to send them off for 8 hours into the care of others. Whose crazy idea was this, to start school at 5? What is so significant about turning 5 that allows you to loosen the apron strings? I couldn’t see it then, anymore than I can see it now. So, I cheated, and I’ve been living in and wallowing in and reveling in my borrowed year.
We must all pay the piper. My dues come up for payment soon. High School graduation is two weeks from tomorrow. Then we begin the whirlwind of “final” senior high trips and closure with all friends and local haunts, amidst the act of walking the tightrope toward college – the high wire act of summer orientation and registration and early enrollment for freshman. I don’t care for this tempest of activity at all. I don’t want to be one of those, one of those mothers of high school graduates and college students.
In my effort to stem the tide, to stay the execution, to defer the payment, I procrastinated on finishing his school days scrapbook. As long as I didn’t look at all the years, they weren’t really acknowledged, right? As long as I didn’t begin the Senior Year in the scrapbook, it couldn’t end, right? This past Friday, able to put it off no longer, I took a vacation day from work and settled my heart and head into a 4-day work weekend on the scrapbook. Two weeks to finish, two weeks. I’ve got to get this done now so I can move on to the party preparations. Two weeks? How can it only be two weeks away?
Thanks to my newfound friend, the Combi patch, my raging hormones cooperated and I focused on the work at hand and ignored the underlying meaning. I paced the work out. I had daily goals. I bought one bag of m&m’s to ration out rewards to myself each day as I hit the 25% completion goal for that day. I drank coffee. I moved around to stay awake. I watched every Audrey Hepburn movie that Netflix could offer me. I moved on to Cary Grant afterwards and followed the cues of recommended watchings at the bottom of the Netflix screen, in a robotic mental state so as not to upset the tender applecart of emotions in my heart. I plowed on through all the pages to do, all the grades to remember, all the stories that sum up a child’s school years.
As Monday wound down, as lunch time passed and dinner time approached, I could put off no longer the finality of the project, the finality of the weekend, the finality of his school years, the finality of my nest being full. And as a trade-off, I have this one souvenir,  one 2″ scrapbook, 40 pages of memories that are called up by pictures and tidbits of stories. I looked at the album cover, thick and full, and somehow felt both a sense of accomplishment and a trickle of devastation. I got it done! I could pass the hallmark test of a scrapping mom – I had spawned a childhood memory book, on time and done. As elated as I could allow myself to feel, I also battled the other side of my heart and head that wanted to just lay my head down and weep over the end of an era.
As I waged my own war of emotions in my heart, my son came in from a friend’s house. My words were limited, as the thick choking sensation in my throat prohibited verbosity. I could merely push the album toward him as some message, some offering, some sense of finality. He said, “That’s it, then? It’s done? It sort of makes it all real now, doesn’t it?” I nodded, unable to say much of anything. I pushed the album toward him and managed to push out, “Would you like to see it?” He slowly said, “Sure” and took the album and settled into a chair, turning the pages at differing rates.
I could not really watch it and turned my back on him to face my computer monitor, fighting for some sense of order and control over my emotions, willing the tears to stay dammed up in my head. I turned at one point to watch him and noticed him taking a picture of a picture with his phone. Kids are so funny these days. We are all instant and prolific photographers. He finished looking at the book and got up and came to me, silently, and just hugged me. I was crying, but I could feel that he, too, was crying. We just sat there, hugging, dealing with our emotions, and weeping over the thoughts we were processing and the facts that continue to present themselves – that he will leave in about 70 days, forever changing the mix of our family life and in one fell swoop eradicating the home and life I have fought to protect for them and offer to them.
Ah, these big ‘ole boys with legs that take them up taller than their mother, with wit that challenges our humor and debates our morals, with eyes that see beyond our own horizon. These big ‘ole boys that want to take on the world. It’s easy to forget that they are in there, too, guarding their hearts, their little soft baby hearts, the heart that you have nurtured for every day of every year of their life.
I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I wouldn’t trade any of the days. I don’t have any regrets. I’ve loved every minute of it all. But I am most grateful for my borrowed year, the very best year to have.