Monday, June 30, 2014

The Boys of Summer

I love summer. We don't have quite the affair going that we did in years of old. I'll confess that it is harder to court my lazy days buddy while pulling a 40 hour work week. But, back in the hay days of being a stay at home mom, I reveled in the ringing of the final bell, knowing my two punkin' heads would soon be back home with me.

Hello slow summer mornings, flip flops, plaid shorts, cereal for dinner, afternoons by the pool, movie festivals of an evening, and hello ice cream weather. There is nothing grander than the luxurious indulgence of taking in all that is summer and savoring it, in a fashion akin to the slow sweet melt of Rocky Road on your tongue. 

I think the absolute hardest part, without a doubt, of going to work outside of the home has been the relinquishment of my summers with the boys. Trading days for dollars was something I kind of needed to step up and do, and it has been my choice, but it has never been easy. 

As I look back at these summer photos, I can tell you exactly where we were without reading the captioning. We would rotate our ice cream outings between Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone, and Marble Slab, each of us having our favorite. This night, it was Marble Slab on North Garland Avenue. We sat outside at a Marble Slab patio table on the evening before the first day of school. 

We kind of had that tradition - going out for a decadent ice cream cone in the near twilight hours of the last day of summer. The boys in this photo are on the eve of entering 6th and 7th grade...and I did not know at the time these photos were taken that this was not only my last day of summer with them, but my last summer with them. About 30 days after this photo op, I would find a full-time job across town and forever shift the shape of our family.

I will forever be thankful for the thirteen years that I was able to be a stay at home mom. What a hard gift to unwrap! I loved being home with them and we had so many fun times, albeit hard, busy times. I released them to kindergarten reluctantly - and every year thereafter the first day of school would find me bereft. I think going out for ice cream was as much for me as for them. Thirteen years of being a stay at home mom - and then seven summers bookending the school years that happened on my stay at home mom watch. It all seems like a lifetime ago.

We tore up our summers. Wore them out. Ate them up. I would cram as much into them as possible, somewhat resembling the cramming into the cone all of the sugary goodness. I soaked in each moment of every sweet summer. And I relished spending time with these two punkin heads, the boys of summer.

Sweet Summer ~ Ice Cream Traditions ~ August 2007

Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's a Pea-utiful Day in the Neighborhood

It's hard to know where some stories begin and end, but this is not one of those. I have a clear memory in my mind of the events that led up to me talking about scrapbooking with my dear friend Lea, and her mentioning to me that Creative Memories had announced that they wanted to be the resource that Two Peas in a Bucket was. That was such a curious goal of CM, to me, that I felt compelled to check out this website. A few steps down the rabbit hole later, I had registered and thought of my username and created an account. The date was marked on my Two Peas account - June 27, 2006. But, I get ahead of myself. Let me start closer to the beginning.

As with most stories, they do not go where you foresee them going, and they do not end where you see them ending. I guess that is what makes for a good tale. I don't know, though...I have always enjoyed a small measure of predictability. I guess there is a bit of comfort in that. But my tale of Two Peas does not follow my measure of comfort, and so please indulge me the time to share a few words about a website that knew me.

In July, 2005, we moved from deep south Texas to the suburbs of Dallas, via my husband's job. I was a stay at home mom at the time, and the boys were entering fourth and fifth grade the following month. At this juncture in time, I had been a scrapbooker for 10 years and 10 months, and I was using, solely, Creative Memories' products. I had just converted to a digital camera, and I was getting my photos developed at Walmart. We were holed up in an apartment while we waited for the house to finish, with the large portion of our belongings sitting in storage crates somewhere between McAllen and Dallas.

With our house targeted to finish in November, we set about living the temporary life in a furnished apartment, overseeing the construction, running down ideas, and preparing for the move-in day. One of the errands we ran between July and November was to the Hest Fitness Equipment store in Frisco. At that time, it was next to Circuit City. As we drove into the parking lot, I noticed the name of a store between Circuit City and Hest - Recollections. I could not believe my eyes. A store that sold scrapbooking supplies! We wrapped up at Hest, and Steve went into Circuit City while I checked out Recollections.

That little errand probably turned into one of the most expensive elliptical machines ever purchased, because I found at that store a new way to scrap! Ever a lover of color and stationary and office supplies, I felt like I had just found Pandora's box of scrappy goodness. I signed up to take some classes and, one year later, I would end up working part-time there, until just shortly before their owner, Michael's, announced their closure. Recollections opened up for me a creative and expressive way to take a hobby I intrinsically adored and enjoy it exponentially more, if possible. I remember the first class I took used Basic Grey's Color Me Silly collection. I still have that project hanging on my wall. I made friends, I found retreats to attend, I bought copious amounts of supplies, and I scrapped on.

My evolution continued. In June 2006, I attended for the first time the Great American Scrapbook Convention in Arlington, Texas, over near the ballpark. Steve had heard about it on the radio and my youngest son pointed out a billboard one day while we were driving. I checked it out - and hit another major milestone - another reaching the point of no return. I found bargains on the stuff I was seeing at Recollections, and I found things I had never seen before, and I seriously began my scrappy stash building. And the desire kindled to further develop my storytelling art form.

And in the summer afternoon conversation where I told Lea about Recollections and the scrapbook convention by the ballpark, she told me about Two Peas. The timing was ideal. We were settled in the new house, a scrap corner upstairs had been carved out, the boys were at a great age for the indulgence of a hobby, and I had found a little local scrapbook store to fuel my fire. Having an online resource was icing on the cake. Two Peas in a Bucket, for those unaware, was established in 1999 by Kristina Nicolai-White and her husband, Jeff. Two Peas was like a three-legged stool to me: online inspiration via the garden girls, classes and gallery, a 24/7 message board community, and the Two Peas online storefront. And over time, each of those components was very significant to me in their own right.

Their tag line that appeared at the top of their website for so long, "Live Life. Scrapbook It.", was a clarion call for my heart. I loved Two Peas from the beginning. If I had to catalog the beginning of my love affair, I would have to say that the inspiration from the gallery was probably the biggest initial draw. It was truly inspiring, and undeniably amazing, to see the work of other scrappers from all over the world. Here I was - such a newb at shucking my CM solid card stock and embracing patterned paper - and trying to take in all the design elements of the newly found tools and supplies I was seeing online and at Recollections. I could spend any given amount of time strolling the gallery and getting ideas.

As I grew braver, I ventured over to the message boards. I lurked, as a reader only, for a long, long time before gaining the courage to post anything. As the boys got older, though, my time available to be online increased, and any given day you would find me "Pea-ing". See, each user was assigned a Pea number and we had to give ourselves a username, a Pea name. Avatar photos were optional. Some of us used real photos of ourselves, and some used pictures of their dogs or kids or favorite iconic images -  coffee cups, flowers, Disney characters. You grew to learn people by the familiarity of their recognizable Avatar photo. And I grew to love posting on the threads and sharing ideas and challenges with other scrapbooking Peas. We shared not only ideas, but we shared events and classes, and earned badges for our efforts. Our virtual flair was just all that - and it came with a Bucket to put them in.

We joked that Peaing was addictive. It was. I became a regular poster to the message boards, and at some point in 2008, I uploaded my first card project to their Gallery of projects. The more familiar I became to others, and they became to me, the more I was out there. Not only did I post replies on the Message Boards, I even began starting conversation threads. I became "A Fixture". The website was always up, and I was always logged in. I learned to turn to the Peas for any question I had on scrapbooking, and even, on the fitting occasion, I would venture to the NSBR (Non-Scrapbook Related) board, asking about vacations or questions about the kids, seeking guidance or input...from all of these Peas. My family would know it was sound knowledge if I heard it from the Peas. If I couldn't find an answer, I only needed "to ask the Peas." Someone somewhere knew it and/or had done it. 

It may sound and seem silly, but it really was a tightly knit community of mostly like-minded souls. The common thread of scrapbooking offered an environment with people who could "get me". They could understand searching for one more piece of that certain patterned paper, struggling to mange amassing amounts of jpegs, offering help to title a layout, ad infinitum. The issues were as endless as the ideas. And I'm not even kidding when I say that my husband and sons would not be surprised at all if I told them something I had learned from the Peas. Oh, the power of the Peas. 

From the Peas, and with the Peas, and through the Peas, I learned about digital scrapbooking, non-chronological scrapbooking, layout kitting. I found out about events where I could take classes - Creating Keepsakes University, Creative Escape, Big Picture Classes. I met real life "scrapbooking celebrities" Stacy Julian, Heidi Swapp, Tim Holtz. I discovered blogs and followed bloggers - May Flaum, Ali Edwards, Cathy Zielske. I fell in love with scrapbookers whose style I admired - Nichol Magouirk, Susan Stringfellow, Allison Davis. I moved my scrap studio downstairs and set it up a la Wookiemouse (a Pea named Stacey), spending 26 weeks tediously organizing every rub-on and spool of ribbon I owned. I learned to stamp and ink and wet and dry emboss. I fell in love with punches and sketches and die cutting. I found my niche. Truly, truly I found my niche. I found the perfect compendium of ideas and people who could help me execute on any idea they shared, or any idea I could dream up. The support of the Peas even led me to try out for a design team, and it was truly a thrill to be selected as a member of the Sketch Support Design Team. Oh, the power of the Peas.

Far beyond meeting my initial desire to find a relevant, 24/7 scrapbooking resource, and far beyond the practical information and inspiring ideas, Two Peas offered me friends. There are Peas whom I have met in real life, Peas I have traveled with, Peas I have retreated with, Peas I have had in my home. I would never have dreamed all those years ago when setting up an account on a website, whose name relates none whatsoever to scrapbooking, that it would be a life-changing event. I share this little glimmer of my story, in the full knowledge that there are over 400,000 other stories that mirror mine, to pay homage to a place that I was proud to be a part of. And I was truly proud to be a Pea.

Two Peas announced on the 25th of June that they would be closing down their website at midnight on July 10. The inevitability, or even the predictability of a loss does not make the pain any less. I wasn't surprised at the announcement, but I was not prepared to grieve as much internally. I can't speak to all the factors that culminated in their decision to close, but I can speak to how incredibly sad it makes me to know that such a rich compendium of caring and sharing, a resource organically grown over 15 years in the garden of their tending, will shut down and be accessible no more. 

I have spent the last five days mining data - checking my bookmarks, copying down ideas, saving images. I grieve when I think about the gallery of Katie Watson, Kelly Goree or Candice Greenway being deleted, never really to fully resurrect, since they no longer scrap in the public eye. I get nostalgic when I think about Rusty Pickle, Daisy D or Scenic Route having layouts in the gallery, and tagging their collections. These lovelies were fallouts of the recession and economic downturn, now out of business, whose collections are residing solely on the shelves of hoarding scrappers. I recall Scrapbooks, Etc. and Simple Stories and Making Memories placing publishing calls and sigh, as these magazines are published no more.

Two Peas goes down, and takes with it a chronicling of the very effort it set out to bolster, the cataloging and remembering of life. {Live Life. Scrapbook It.} No matter what continues to happen to my beloved industry, one that continues to compress and digitize and minimize, I will always know in my heart the special place that Two Peas held in the industry. I will always remember the rich development it offered me. I will forever cherish the friendships I have with my Peas. There will always be a little corner of my world where it was good to be Peanut 266613, where life was chronicled and cared about, where it's a Pea-utiful day in the scrappy neighborhood. 

I keep with me the knowledge gleaned in the garden. I continue to grow and develop. I am truly thankful to have been a Pea. And I am thankful that I will maintain the friendships I have with the Peas. Taking down a website won't take away the power of the Peas - the beautiful souls of the ladies I know and continue to scrap and yap with. Oh, the power of the Peas. Rest in Peas, dear Pod of mine. I will always remember the hay days of Two Peas in a Bucket and how it was the home for my scrapbooking heart, the place where my happy scrapbooking story began. It's always a Pea-utiful day in my neighborhood.

Peanut 266613 ~ Becoming Pennyscraps ~ February 2010
Sketch Credit: Cathy Zielske, Design Your Life via Big Picture Classes
Paper: Imaginisce
Font: 2 Ps Old Type

This layout in and of itself speaks to the impact of Two Peas. This is a "digi template" that I created in Cathy Zielske's Design Your Life class, taken in 2010 on Big Picture Classes, using some digi paper for the large dots. I trimmed the template down, and matted it on real Imaginisce green patterned paper.

Two Peas changed over the years. We all did. I am thankful I had some screen captures of the earlier, more playful look. That was the look of the Pod I loved.

A snapshot of my public profile. After hitting 5,000 posts, you could edit the title that appeared under your screen name, creating your little personal message. There were always puns using PEA as a substitute syllable for anything remotely similar. For the longest time, my self-given title line read "It's a Pea-utiful day in the neighborhood." My Peas were the neighbors of my heart.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

We Come From a Long Line of Love

We got a glimpse of the new normal today. It's Sunday, Father's Day, and one boy is in St. Louis and one boy is in Houston. We have known this day was coming. There's just not really enough preparing for it. I know it's normal. I know life goes on. I know it's a good thing they leave the nest. Yes, yes. We have been told all of this. We agree. It's just going to take a while for the heart to process what the head has acknowledged.

We made plans for the day for the two of us, and both of us headed into the day with a mind determined to enjoy the day and find some good in it, even though we were home alone. At some point this morning, Steve and I came to the same conclusion while we were at different places doing different things. I think that was a God gift - each of us working out to the same point on our own. 

See, our oldest son is working at eight different camps all over the country this summer. We will see him for the July 4 weekend and for the week before the fall semester starts. He is acting as a counselor to boys at camps, while recruiting for his college. Our youngest son left on Saturday for a week, working in Houston with a team from church, reaching out to refugees. Who could have known last year on Father's Day that it would not be the same this year? Who could have guessed that both boys would be away from home, leaving Father's Day traditions in the dust? Who could have known that when you truly give them roots, you also give them wings?

And that is sort of the realization I made this morning. If you think of Father's Day, and the whole art of raising children, and how a father molds and impacts his children in a way distinctly masculine, and totally different from a mother's love, there is no greater acknowledgement of maybe having done the job well than to have your children off serving. 

People love my husband. I've never argued with "the better half" statement. He is clearly the stronger people person in our partnership. My husband has an amazing servant heart. He is patient. He is thoughtful. He is kind. He is forbearing. He is insightful. He is careful, in the sense that he is full of care. He is funny. He is tender. He is generous. He is compassionate. He is contemplative. He is truly such a gift to  me. 

As the boys age, I love seeing the imprint of their dad on their hearts and how it has been shaping their lives. I believe it is only natural that both of my boys would be out in the world serving today when they have both witnessed from the front row their dad serving on a daily basis - to his family, to his co-workers, to his neighbors, to people at his church. When I ponder that Philip is out serving at youth camps and Andrew is out serving at a refugee camp, I am thankful that Steve has poured into our sons the seed of caring and serving. It has been a blessing to me to be a part of the team that has been nurturing those seeds and helping to water them.

We have had a good day. It's been different, but it's been good. Steve heard from both boys yesterday, and Andrew left a card and gift behind for today. We both have talked to our dads. We have spent time together today celebrating Steve, remembering lots of Father's Days gone by. He's done some of his favorite things - riding his bike, drinking coffee on the patio, seeing a movie, taking a nap, eating some seafood and having ice cream. It's been restful and relaxing. But, it has been different.

As I thought this morning about the boys being gone, out serving others, it made me realize that perhaps the best legacy a father can create is children that love to give to others and to serve others. As I contemplated that today, it brought to mind that it must mean that our fathers long ago felt the same way - that they were okay with us leaving the nest and sharing life with others. And then I remembered that old song by Michael Martin Murphy, "We Come From a Long Line of Love."

I bought a beautiful diamond ring I offered it to the sweetest thing I know
And she said she would take it
We started making some wedding plans she looked at me and she took my hand
And said are you sure we can make it
I said my grand dad's still in love with my grandma
I said my dad still thinks my moms the sweetest thing he ever saw

I come from a long line of love
When the times get hard we don't give up
Forever is in my heart and in me blood

You see I come from a long line of love

Years went by and we had a son now he thinks he found someone for him
And they're planning a wedding
He called me up on the phone today just to see what I had to say to him
Did I think he was ready?
I said what his grandfather used to say to me
Its been handed down for ages it runs in our family

You come from a long line of love
When the times get hard we don't give up

Forever is in your heart and in your blood
Son you come from a long line of love
We come from a long line of love

I guess we do. I know when the times get hard, we don't give up. I know forever is in our heart and in our blood. To my sons I would say today, "You come from a long line of love. We come from a long line of love." Happy Father's Day Steve. It's not just one day around here. It's never been just one day a year that I marvel at how you craft our boys to men. Every day I celebrate that you shine your light before our sons, showing them how to serve, how to love. 

Life with you, with them, through the years has been some kind of wonderful. I am thankful for you as a father and friend to our sons. Life will continue to be some kind of wonderful. When the times get hard, we don't give up. I love that we come from a long line of love.

Some Kind of Wonderful ~ Father's Day ~ June 2009
Paper: My Minds Eye