Monday, September 29, 2014

Two Decades in the Making

Sometimes there are no easy answers, or no fast answers. At least not with me. ;-) Lisa Echerd invited me to participate in The Scrapbooker's Blog Tour and I was thrilled to be asked to join the blog hopping. Thanks for stopping by today if you are new to my corner of the world. 

This past week I marked my twentieth year of scrapbooking as an adult. Two decades of paper and photos. {#bliss} Yes, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of scrapbookers who attended a Creative Memories class in the '90's. I fell in love hard and fast and decided the September Saturday of the class that I was a scrapbooker in the making - and the only way as a new stay at home mom that I could really afford it was to sell it. I sent in my contract the following day, and became active the first week of October 1994. While I waited for my consultant kit, I sat at the kitchen table and carved Christmas photos into circles and ovals, and taped them into the Holly Berry album that I splurged on at the class.

Fast forward twenty years. So, so, so many changes. Creative Memories is gone. Thank goodness I moved to Dallas in 2005 and discovered the world of supplies outside of the CM corridor. Thank goodness my love of scrapbooking surpasses the bounds of one company. Thank goodness my passion for photography is timeless. Thank goodness my desire to lay out a story is innate and, thus far, unquenchable.

Of course, not only have I changed, and CM folded, but the very tow-headed little blonde boys that supplied me with unending photos, warm hugs, and sweet anecdotes have also grown up and moved on to college, leaving empty rooms and uncluttered kitchen countertops in their wake. Thank goodness I have my memories and my stories to tell. And then, when and if I am ever out of fresh photos, I can retell those fifteen years that are trapped in book cloth coversets, ensconced in Mrs. Grossman sticker patterns.

Yes, this blog post is literally twenty years in the making. And I have the photos to prove it. ;-) That is a little glimpse of my evolution. But, to the point at hand...the blog hop!

Right now, I am working on learning to scrap as an empty nester. I am working on living out of my heart to tell stories across time and space. I am working on remembering. And telling. The layout on my desk is in primitive stages. It is a Christmas layout. Having pulled out my Christmas supplies for one layout, I decided to stay in that genre and make the most of the mess I have everywhere. I always struggle with Christmas layouts. How much is too much? How can you put down on paper the joy and sentiment of a holiday that is really 25 days long?

That is also sort of the conundrum of the layout. When do you know it's time to stop?  I can spend 30 minutes or 30 hours on a layout. I love to hand stitch. I love to use border punches. I love to work in the journaling. I could write much more than I usually do on the page. I think that is how I birthed the idea for my blog - to tell more of the story behind the photos....

I think of myself as a slow scrapper by definition, and I think of myself as a methodical scrapper in my mind. I work to achieve balance and symmetry, to move the eye across the page, to convey the story through photos and paper and words. My signature style, if you will, is a double page layout. 99% of the time I am working on two pages. That goes back to my yearbook staff training, where we were always to work through and across the gutter, to bring about cohesion even if the topics on the accompanying pages were unrelated. I could not tell you how long it takes me to make any specific page. I will tell you that I go until I am mentally done with it and I feel a sense of deep satisfaction with it. 

Since discovering Basic Grey in 2005, I have to admit that my deep love is patterned paper. I like to hold it, to buy it, to smell it, to cut it, to see it, to keep it. I love colors that play together and I love finding just the perfect paper to use on a layout. It can take me a long while to find the right paper for a layout. I start with my photos and usually gather the sampling of them that I think can fit on a layout together to weave the plot of what I want my words and story to convey.

Somewhere in between picking the photos and taping them down, I pull the paper and I also pick my sketch. I found sketches in 2005, too. Of course, CM had layout pages, but I loved going beyond the "creative copy this page" book to discover the sketch and work with the bones of a layout that could be interchangeable. Creating Keepsakes had two sketch books that I used over and over, and then I found Becky Fleck's Page Maps...and then in 2010, I hit the motherlode of sketches. Through Two Peas in a Bucket, also now gone, I found out about Scrapbook Generations' sketch books. I placed an order totaling $42 on January 23, 2010, and went on my merry way of actually finding a sketch tool that worked like I actually wanted to work. I believe I have every one of their sketch books, and now that they do downloads also, I have many electronic sketches on my iPad and printed out and added into my binder. {Which has grown from 1 binder now to 4.}

There are very few pages that I have made since that point where I have NOT used an SG sketch. I love the clean lines, the symmetry, the focus on using double page layouts, and, for the most part, featuring 4 x 6 photos. I love starting with a sketch (shown in the 3-ring binder on the layout below) and watching the page morph and develop into a layout that marries photos with story, creating a layout that I love.

Aside from pretty paper, fun photos and smart sketches, I love to use my Silhouette Cameo on layouts. I love to design layout elements and cut them out and know that what I am doing is unique in all the world. I love fonts. I love seeing it all come together. I have been up and down in my scrappy journey over the twenty years, but I will tell you that when I am not feeling the layout love, I can usually be lured back into the creative process by spending some time with my jpegs, finding something in the pixels that compels me to pull out the paper and begin again. 

I don't think I'll ever stop creating layouts. I hope not. I love the sheer creative fun in the process of it, and I love seeing an album fill up, and I love going back through my layouts, each almost like a child, and remembering what they say to me about when I made that layout, in addition to the story the photos set forth. This layout that I made in 2013 catalogs that I have scrapped every year for every National Scrapbook Day that has ever been held, going back to CM's inaugural NSD crop in May 1995. {How well I remember that first NSD, as I was 6 months pregnant with my youngest son.} 

I think the sticker I put on the layout sums up perfectly my affair with my paper and my photos that has been two decades in the making. "Do what you love and do it often." Scrap every chance you can. As I approach 50, I bear to heart the sentiment "You only live once." Of course, maybe as a scrapper, though, we can leave behind a little bit of ourselves, and our very own chapter of the scrapbook evolution.

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Lily Bee
Font: Pharmacy

I have three scrappy friends to share with you today. As Lisa tagged me, I am tagging them! Next Monday, they will have their blog post up for their turn on The Scrapbooker's Blog Tour. I would love for you to check them out!

Laurie Danielle is something I'll never be - the mother to a little darling girl! I've never scrapped "girl pages" and I just love her bright use of colors and the fun layouts she does of her little one! I am always inspired by her artistic bend. Check out her work on her blog, I think you'll love it!

Stephanie Feltus is a sweetie that I have had the pleasure of scrapping with more than once. I am always envious of her having started scrapbooking so young, before being married. She will have her whole life scrapped! Her blog address is and I would love for you to check our her work!

TinaGale Husong is another friend that I have had the pleasure of scrapping with. Not in my home state, and not in hers, but up in St. Louis! Tina is a Mickey fanatic, too, and so not only can we dish die cuts, but we can dish Disney. Her blog is and it is another great blog to check out! 

Thanks for stopping by on my turn at the Scrapbooker's Blog Tour! I'll be back next Monday with another story and layout, and a reminder to check out Laurie, Stephanie, and Tina Gale.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Million Dollar Movies, Priceless Moments

Some of us are old enough to remember television on three network channels only...and maybe that fourth local channel that offered reruns, if you could twist your antennae just right and the wind wasn't blowing too hard. You know...the days when the children were the remote? And there was one television in the house and it might have been in a cabinet as big as your sofa?

Dad and mom had the most amazing television set. And boy was it ever a set. It was a long chest-like cabinet, with the television screen in the middle, and big speakers on either side of it. The fascinating part, though, was that the top of both speakers lifted, and revealed a turntable on one side and a tape player on the other side. Opening up those special cases was akin to opening Fort Knox. 

Every time mom wanted to move the furniture, the big question was, "Where will we put the TV?" You see, it had to hook up externally to the antennae that was outside the window, via a thin black cord that was the equivalent of the TV's umbilical cord. That TV could only go so far from the window. Otherwise, it really was just another big piece of furniture.

It's so funny to think back now to how we all circled around that square screen, as if it were the campfire. However, none of us could sit directly in front of the screen if dad was home, as our little heads would block his view. Of course, we could not talk either. We sat between him and the speakers and we couldn't - or didn't - dare override the important sound emitting from those side speakers that accompanied the grainy - and sometimes still black and white - picture off our  choice de jour from our four channels.

So, our little semi-circle on the floor each night was our "front seat" to the wide world of sports, olympics that occurred every four years, news that came on twice a day for 30 minutes, Mash, Sanford & Son, All in the Family, The Waltons, The Carol Burnett Show, and the crowning moment of any day, The Tonight Show with the inimitable Johnny Carson. {I was only old enough to stay up late enough to watch this when I entered high school.} As persnickety as all the TV watching rules were, we did do a lot of laughing over simple sitcoms and comic geniuses.

Afternoons of TV were much more relaxed. They usually included my brother and I settling in to our favorite set of reruns - Gilligan's Island, I Dream of Jeannie, Leave it to Beaver, The Addams Family, The Monsters, with maybe some Flintstones thrown in there somewhere. And oh, the Scooby Doo marathons that a Saturday morning offered! So many simple moments together on that oval rug that substituted for the highway of our MatchBox cars during antennae outages or program delays - or the dreaded news bulletin interruption.

Life was simple. Four channels simple. Amazingly, we got all we needed to off of those four channels. And, we didn't even get to watch everything they offered! Soap was off limits. I think Eight is Enough was also off the list. And we missed all of the Wonderful World of Disney broadcasts since we went to church every Sunday night. There are still, to this day, Disney classics I haven't seen. {Shudder.} ;-)

One of the best memories of all of the TV elements, though, is my memory of the daily movie. Every afternoon at 3 PM, the local CBS channel would run the MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE. It had such a hokey graphic. A case, shaped to hold a roll of movie film, decked out and completely covered in gold rhinestones, with simple black all caps lettering on it saying MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE. But, the fun part was that it was on a little turntable and it would slowly spin, as if that made the movie more compelling.

Mom and I watched so many movies together. She was home until my brother started kindergarten, and then she was home in the summer. It would be a warm sunny afternoon, and she would sit on the couch folding laundry, and I would sit at her feet, and we would sing with Elvis, laugh with Bob Hope, and cry with Doris Day. It was a quiet time of the day. The movie would be over by 5, and dinner would be started during the commercials toward the end. And in those pre-dusk shadowy afternoons, movie magic happened. Life paused. Aside from the laundry, the to-do lists were set aside. Mom and I would sit there and watch the movies, happy to be together, happy to be entertained, happy to see the showcase of the million dollar movie.

I have always loved movies. Seeing a good movie throughout my life has always been a joy. Steve and I had many dates to campus movies. We still love to go today. Finding a new classic, a new favorite, is like finding a true treasure. I think it goes back to those afternoons with my mom. 

Sometimes in the absence of clothes clamoring to be folded, I could curl up on the couch next to her, settling into the soft crook of her padded arm. She was a good pillow. She was a good movie buddy. She is - and always has been - my great friend. While I have my memories of the million dollar movies, I am blessed today to still have my movie buddy, and our friendship is the real movie magic.

Reel Favorites ~ Timeless Movies I Love ~ 2009

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Notebook Paper and Denim

I have tried to revisit in my mind the mental bookmark that segregates for me the beginning of my love affair with all things supply related. There is no watermark moment, no recalled genesis, no hallmark memory. I can simply remember that as long as I can remember, I have loved school supplies.

As a young child, we would head to Ronnie's Supermarket and pick up our supply list off the aisle end cap - that supply list having been typed on an old manual typewriter and run off via carbon paper. Remember that lovely cornflower blue ink? We would carry our supplies proudly home in big sturdy brown paper bags, lay them all out on the floor, carefully label them, and then, almost in a manner reserved for crown jewels, place them back inside the same brown bag where they would hold revered status until the bell rang on the first day of school. 

And we would carry them in to class in that same brown bag. $50 backpack? Not necessary. We were above knowing we needed one. And all year long, I took careful time with my supplies - never one to want to sharpen my crayons and face the jagged edge of the torn paper for the rest of the year, never one to mix colors of paint on the plastic palette, never one to just throw them at day's end into my desk. No sirree - I coddled them for the year, knowing that what was left over was mine to keep and could then be added to my private stash back at home.

And what were summers for, but playing school? As I think back on the cool of the mornings in the gulf summer heat, I am amazed to think that we played school in a garage with a door that never opened. We cleared a space and set up a desk area for 2-3 students, and we rotated who was teacher and who was student, using up our supplies left over from the grade we just finished, which, if we were lucky, included some extra worksheets that we never needed in "filler time". I loved playing school. I loved school. I loved the whole spectrum of it, the supplies just being the easiest outward manifestation, the one constant as you changed teachers and campuses. Give me a new pack of 64 crayons and watch me transcend time.

Fast forward to my early 30's, and see me with two young sons, and a corner in an upstairs retreat where we had craft supplies and a little oak table with 2 chairs. {Don't think I didn't wish I had that table and chairs back in the '70's in my garage!} We did arts and crafts with the boys as early as they could manage to move their fingers around on a piece of paper. I have piles and piles of childhood art around here, mocking me with its presence. I refuse to let it go just yet!

And read, oh, would we read. Many times it would be the same book over and over. I never knew the full measure of my husband's patience until the year that my oldest child asked him to read the same Dorling Kindersley bulldozer book every night. Now, these were photos of all kinds of machines, with descriptions of their name and purpose. No story here - just a machine encyclopedia if you will. Philip wore that book ragged and heaven help us if bedtime came and the bulldozer book was needing to be unearthed. 

Preschool time came around too soon for the boys and I, I guess. I don't know if it was the fashion of the day, or the fear of letting them go, or their desire to soak up everything and learn from me all I would impart...but some combination of any of that led me to a stint with homeschooling. I was not cut out for it. The boys were not cut out for it. Thankfully we all had sense enough to recognize that early on. What I remember fondly about the experience, though, are all the workbooks we bought and how fun it was to set up a school room in my own home for my sons, and see their little heads bent over that blonde oak table, pursuing the completion of some little assignment. This was definitely a new definition of school supplies for me!

When the boys began kindergarten, we lived in the valley at the very southern tip of Texas. Borders blended and societies merged, and all of the stores of McAllen served not only the citizens of McAllen, but also the needs of any visitors over from Mexico, in pursuit of goods not available to them at home. Translation: buy it when you see it, because it won't last long. I learned early to guess at what you needed, and buy extra, because by the time the teacher told you it was on "the list", it would no longer be on the shelves. 

We had one Target in town, south of our home, towards the border. You needed to go early in the morning for it to be clean, for the checkout lines to be tolerable, for the aisles to be maneuverable. There was no way, in this border town, I would ever even consider going in to the Walmart. No way. Target was my only option. So, when they set out the school supplies, we were there. The boys would pick out their folders, their spirals, their crayons, their map pencils, their scissors, their rulers, their pencils, their pens.

It was always so much fun to see the choices, to revel in the colors, to mark this year's trends based on the images on all the supplies. It was entertaining to watch them consider the choices, as if they were selecting a house or a car, weighing all the options, importing onto the array of supplies a value far beyond the price tag, ensuring they ended up with an assortment that did not match their brother's. No copy cats here! Get that individuality captured! The buggy would fill and we would head home with our new round of treasures. 

I will 'fess up. There were usually 1 or 2 or 7 things in the buggy for me as well. My husband learned early on that my brain requires an assortment of note pads, post-it notes, pens and spirals. Just because. After all, when the bell rang, it was a "new year" for me, too. I couldn't head into my volunteer meetings with last year's tool kit, could I? The travesty!

Home we three would head. Supplies divvied up onto the counter. Label maker pulled out. Backpack loaded. In July no less. What were we to do? The fun was in the selecting, the fun was in the waiting, the fun was in the going. We relished the entire process. My boys were always extremely eager for meet the teacher night, and the commencement of the school year. They were great little students and loved the social network of school as much as they adored their teachers and mastered their lessons.

When Texas launched tax free sales weekend, and Macy's matched their tax hiatus with back to school sales, we upped our school shopping to include clothes. We learned to go the night before and preview the choices. Some stores would set things to the side for me, ready for me on Friday morning to run in at opening bell and pay quickly and get out before the crowds descended. {Thanks Aeropostale - you done good by me.} Steve would always pick up the jeans at Macy's. Of course, he calls them denim. And he would let me know when the denim deals happened. I would let him know their sizes.

When the boy were in middle school, they began taking an interest in their clothes. By the time they graduated, I was out of the picture, with the exception of the photo on my debit card. They morphed from Aeropostale to Urban Outfitters and Pac Sun. I morphed from going to giving them a budget. I honestly didn't mind and I enjoyed seeing what treasures they came home with, albeit some of them looking like my definition of school clothes not so much. Denim? It still came from Macy's. We've had all sizes of Levi's in this house. You could measure the growth of the child by the change in that famous waistband tag.

When August 2013 rolled around, we were left with one child at home needing supplies. One child at home that does not like to shop. One child at home that is independent. One child at home that would rather not be seen in public with us unless it is at Chuy's for mexicana comida deluxe. We casually offered to Andrew a little excursion and nearly fell over when he agreed to go!

We headed to North Park mall quickly, before he changed his mind, in search of anything he would agree to let us buy. Said child not only dislikes shopping, at the time he disliked getting anything either. We settled on some jeans, er....denim, and we found some shirts he liked, and we even found some shoes. It was a wardrobe trifecta. Given he was in the spirit, we then headed to Target. Why put off to tomorrow what you can do today? With Andrew, we knew to strike while the iron is hot. A momentous end to a family tradition? #bullseye

Notebook paper? Check. Binder? Check. Red pens? Check. Last round of this shopping rodeo? Check, check, check. It was a sobering reality to be sure. Hard to believe my days of spirals and new pens and fun notebooks are over. Oh, wait. They're not. You might just find, if you know where to look, my private stash of school supplies. A part of me will always feel invigorated by "the start of school", and will soak in the new beginning of a season. New blue jeans, though, are optional. 

Back 2 School Shopping ~ Our Final Rodeo ~ August 2013

Paper: Basic Grey, Lily Bee, Pink Paislee, Simple Stories
Font: Pacifico

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

You Can Never Have Too Much Happiness

My oldest sister bought a house built in 1913 in LaPorte, to turn it into a quilt retreat. Steve and I ran to Houston on Saturday for the day and spent the second half of it with my sister and her husband. Even though I have been following the progress on her blog, it was fun to see the house in person. As we finished up the exterior tour and headed into the house, I paused for a moment and looked toward the end of the porch and said to sister, "This porch reminds me so much of Granny's porch."

Our grandmother had a craftsman style home and on the big family gathering days, we children were relegated to the outdoors, as that was the best space left over to accommodate me, my siblings, and my 20-odd cousins. That porch was not only a long dining table, but also a grand castle, a steamship, a pirate island, a grocery store, a lookout had possibilities as endless as the summer days were long. The expanse of the covered porch and the placement of the house in relation to the sun's exposure guaranteed shade at all times and I don't recall it ever being a hot spot.

It grew in me, I guess, a deep respect and unshakeable adoration for a good 'ole porch. Having lived in Texas my whole life, I am savvy enough to know that if I want to be outside half of the year, I need to build or cultivate some kind of shade. We have been blessed - or cursed - to build from the ground up four houses. Each time, I have been meticulous in selecting the house, selecting the lot, working with the builder...and each time I have factored in the setting and rising sun and its impact on the house. 

When we built our current home, we absolutely lucked out. The silhouette of our home casts a complete shadow on the backyard every afternoon beginning around 4 p.m. It is really a sweet little treasure. In 2012 when we expanded our back porch by 1,000 square feet, we nixed plans to build an arbor, realizing it would cover up the view of the nighttime stars, and the house would give us the needed evening shade for gatherings and dinners.

We have really loved that back porch. It's a quiet escape in the morning to watch the sun come up, while you sip your snicker doodle coffee. It's a relaxing perch from which one can watch Truman chase rabbits during the day. It's an outdoor living room in the evening when we all come home from work and, previously, the boys from school, where we can sit and gather and soak in the freshness of the outdoors, which we all seem to love and need regular daily Vitamin D doses. A good day to me is one in which I have spent a good amount of time on my back porch.

When the boys were home and in their driving years, Sunday afternoons shifted from time spent with us to time spent with friends. It was a change we didn't relish, but it was one we could not fight. We could see the value in their development of community with friends from their youth group. The tectonic shift in how we spent the one day my husband almost always has off was one to which we did not easily adapt, but adapt we did. We considered it preparation for the looming college launch years. You loosen the strings long before you let them go.

The change in our together time made us appreciate the moments that we were together all the more. Sunday lunch shared every week can become common and more a process of remember whose turn it is to pick the entree. Sunday lunch shared 6-8 times a year becomes a treasured jewel, more about who you're with than where you are, the undisputed peak of the week. And usually, when the boys would eat lunch with us, they would not go back out. 

June 2013 began the countdown to Philip leaving. He nestled in with us more toward the end with deliberate cutting of local ties and, in my heart I believe, his own process of saying goodbye to the life he had known, as he hunkered down in his room more often than he had in a few years. It is interesting to contrast and compare their leaving processes now, but that is another story for another day. 

This sunny afternoon found us all together, and I happened to have my DSLR with me, knowing that this day together was one of those jewels. There is no grand story here. Just three of the photos I shot that day, capturing the vitality of my sons' beautiful faces, their penchant for sitting near each other, their endearing and effortless smiles. They are such a complimentary pairing. You could put them up against any classic - peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, Batman and Robin - and they could hold their own. They laugh so much together. They crack each other up. They crack us up, too. 

It has always been such a joy to see them interact. I have hundreds of photos of them laughing together. They are each precious to me. My only regret is not having the ability to capture their wit on paper, or video. I could not ever begin that undertaking - it would require me to record them constantly and they would never go for that. Mercy - getting a smiling photo of Andrew is a task that is daunting enough already. 

As I looked at photos on Sunday to scrap, these prints called out to me. And as I paired them with paper, this little Summer Fresh line seemed to be, like my boys, the perfect pairing. One of the little tags for the paper set proclaimed, "You can never have too much happiness." As I look at these boys laughing on my back porch, and smile and weep at the memory, I know that little tag nailed it. 

There will be more stories, more laughter, more moments together on the back porch. They will become jewels that are even more precious. As I FaceTime with my sons now in Nashville and in Denver, and try to glimpse their essence through all 27" of my iMac screen, I know it is true. You can never have too much happiness.

You Can Never Have Too Much Happiness ~ Back Porch Stories ~ June 2013

Paper: Simple Stories, Cosmo Cricket