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

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Game Boy

I read recently, "The days are long, but time flies" or something of that sort. As I contemplate turning 50 one month from today, I can definitely say that is the understatement of the year...or, more appropriately, the half century mark, if you will. I am not morbid about aging, and I don't have any unnatural feelings about it. I just really kind of sit here and shake my head at how fast it has all gone. 

One does not have to look far or hard to see how fast time has gone. Think back to your cell phone 5 years ago. Or consider the price of gas the first time you filled your car tank. Recall the dress code issues when you were in school. Find any little tidbit from your teenage years, and compare it to anything you see a teenager out there doing today. Time flies, and life evolves.

I will always be a bit of a technology buff, I believe, if I can continue to keep up with it. I will forever remember where I was the night Princess Diana died, because I was in my home "office" at my computer, a Compaq Presario All-in-One, with one disc drive in the front - a new ground-breaking 3.5" inch hard disk, which ushered in the farewell for the floppy disk. We paid $2,500 for that computer at Comp USA in Houston, and we were on the cutting edge to have a desktop computer at home. Now, mind you, this was all of 1994. Twenty years ago.

And the internet? As we knew it then, the internet existed as viewed from the portal through the parameters of AOL. We didn't even know the real internet. And accessing it? Dial-up baby. As in modem. As in nothing else could be going on communication wise. As in you had to have your phone line connected to the back of your computer and no phone talking could occur. It's funny to remember, and also kind of crazy to contemplate at the same time.

I bought that computer for my new working woman turned stay-at-home mom business. I was so proud of it. Business cards printed with my email address, and the phone number that would ring if I wasn't out surfing AOL's news bites of the real world wide web. I do remember Kraft and Proctor and Gamble as being two of the companies that began ghosting their web address on the bottom left corners of their television commercials. And I also remember scoffing at why in the world anyone would ever need to know their dot com addresses. 

One of my tender memories, and I have the photo tucked away safely on a scrapbook page, is my oldest son, around 18 months old, standing on his tip toes, sippy cup in his left hand, and his right hand is extended up to the computer keyboard, and he is trying so hard to connect with that machine. I guess even back then he was wired a little like mom - interested in all things technology. 

Fast forward three years, and that little blonde boy that was so full of energy and light would be scampering around under my desk in a new house in a new city, hooking up the computer components, following the color codes on the peripherals to plug them in correctly. I can still see his little feet sticking out from the desk, his whole little body almost hidden underneath the desk and behind the tower. I had graduated at this point to a black Dell. Woot, woot.

It wasn't soon after this moment that I began battling this little tow-headed bundle of ideas for computer time. Yes, one computer in the house. He would want to play either Roller Coaster Tycoon, or his Tonka Construction game. I folded many loads of laundry to the sounds of either a dump truck backing up, or kids screaming as their coaster descended. If I were to hear either of those game sounds today, I would instantly be transported back to a house in San Antonio, where I fought the blacktopped barefoot imprints on beige berber like nobody's business.

Computer games gave way to Game Boy and Nintendo DS and then PlayStation 3...but somewhere along the way, the boy returned to a computer game. When we lived in McAllen, he and his classmates stumbled upon a game called RuneScape and he would play this game on the family computer that we had set up - that same Dell that had been with us in San Antonio was hanging in there, on its last leg.

For Christmas in 2001, my amazing husband gifted me with the first iPod, it having been released in October 2001. {So, think about that for a minute - the iPod isn't even 15 yet.} Well, I was taken completely by surprise! I had no idea he was getting this for me, and I set out immediately on Christmas Day afternoon to begin importing my CD's into this new software called iTunes. Well, like an 85-year-old on Jeopardy, that poor computer didn't stand a chance memory wise. And my poor husband didn't realize that the Christmas iPod would require a New Year's laptop. I love that man for so many reasons, but one near the top of the list is that he will indulge my technological cravings. Time after time.

I left Best Buy on New Year's Eve with a newfangled laptop, of all things, and began once again the transporting of all of my LIFE, including music and photos, onto the latest version of personal computing. The old Dell, with some life in it still, was relegated to my sons - and the oldest launched full fledge into his RuneScape games, often with his younger brother sitting at his side, content to watch the medieval questing and simulated life.

Over ten years, in three homes, on four computers, my oldest son has played RuneScape. I can understand it a little. I fought my own demon of addiction with Zoo Tycoon when the boys were in grade school. I finally had to quit the game altogether so there would be clean clothes in the drawers and food on the table. {And that reminds me of an aunt that was an avid video gamer in her seventies...maybe it's just in our gene pool...}

During Philip's last year of high school, he became more intentional about hanging out downstairs. I appreciated that so very much. It gave me so much joy to see him hunkered over his computer screen on the couch, or at the desk in the family room, or in one of my slipper chairs here in Scrap Central. He lived for the release of new quests and has now accumulated quite the collection of holiday regalia from ten years of completing activities on his RuneScape account. I like seeing what he's done with his character. I like seeing him figuring out how to do something. I like seeing him passionate about ideas. I like seeing him game. 

The quest goes on. He's in college now. I miss seeing him here, hanging out.  But in the young man now, with his sophisticated MacBook on his lap, I can in the blink of an eye go back in my mind to that little tow-headed boy, camped out on the bleached pine desk in my San Antonio study, backing up dump trucks and building houses on the old black Dell. It is a joy to watch your children grow and change. And it is a joy to see some character traits deepen and morph, much as the very pixels on our screen have. Yes, the days are long, but time flies. 

Ten Years on the Quest ~ Philip & RuneScape ~ March 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Carta Bella
Letter Stickers: Pink Paislee and Cosmo Cricket

Monday, October 6, 2014

Simply Being Together

This past January was the thirty year mark of my having met this most amazing man. I wanted there to be fireworks in the sky, a romantic getaway for two, a weekend of moments to pause and reflect on three decades of being friends. It wasn't in the budget, though, and instead we sent off a college tuition payment. ;-) No harm, no foul. 

When I look at our life together, I am always amazed that God picked me to give such a wonderful gift of a man. There isn't a day that we get to spend together where we do not laugh, or smile at each other across the room, or finish each other's sentence, while wishing we had more time together. I don't mind getting older at all, but I am really learning to value the measure of a moment.

While having the blessing of scrapbooking for two decades, I have had the blessing of carving out a life for three decades with a funny, tender, sweet man who happened first to be my friend. The treasure in that lies in the fact that he enjoys me, he lets me be me, he strives to bring out the best in me, and he sees me for who I am, and not who he wishes I were. There isn't any higher calling in our life than that. I know I am who I am today because God gave me this man to help mold me and shape me into the best pieces of me.

Steve has always been very supportive of my scrapbooking, and also of my writing. There are many nights he will sit in here on a chair, with either his Airbook or my little TV on, and just camp out in here with me and let me create, and he is content. And every night that I am in Scrap Central, I am wishing he was in here with me. I think of our "last house", the one more I want to build, and I ponder how I can create a space that allows me to create right next to him. 

Last fall, October 2013, I was taking an online class. It's a spectacular class - it kind of made my eyes open up more to the possibilities with the sketches I love so much. The class is called Photo Arrangement Replay and it dissects the bones of the sketches and tells you how to put them back together. Well, one sketch called for a big element, and I immediately thought of a star, and I immediately thought of wanting to do a layout about going to the Cowboys - Giants football game.

I began pulling papers together, and I just didn't have the right ones. I didn't have all of the ones that I wanted. Drat that college tuition, and me cutting back some and being sensible. ;-) There were two stores "near" me at the time, one 66 miles south of me, and one 75 miles west of me. Yes, the metroplex is huge. I called the one south of me and they did not have the paper I needed. I called the one west of me, and they did have the paper I needed. Then, I debated inwardly the utter insanity of driving 75 miles to buy 3 one dollar pieces of paper. Well, the whole of scrapbooking can be considered insanity if you look at it on the dollars and cents/sense scale. I've never let that deter me yet. ;-)

What I love about this man of mine is that he gets it. When I told him my dilemma of not having the right paper, not being able to get it delivered from an online order until the deadline for the layout was past, and the possibility of driving 1 1/2 hours to a little store to which I had never before been and 1 1/2 hours back from same said store, he said, "Well, it's a beautiful day. Let's go." Yes, long ago, you had me at hello.

We left home around 11 am, trying to time the to and from trip legs outside the boundaries of any rush hour traffic situations, and we headed west, to Fort Worth, very nearly after a load of goats. Now, my mother would always say if someone was taking a long time and not arriving as expected "They must have gone to Fort Worth after a load of goats!",  meaning they were inherently lost, off base, running behind. If ever there was a moment in my life when I might be considered to be headed to Fort Worth after a load of goats, I knew with all of my being as I buckled into my seat that this might very well be that moment.

It was an absolutely beautiful day for a drive. We went on roads we had never been on before, unknowing at the time that in a month we would repeat this drive as part of the journey to visit a college with our youngest son. I like serendipitous moments like that. And while we were out and about on this beautiful fall day, we saw for the first time a restaurant called Pappa's Burgers. Now, anyone that grew up in Houston knows the fame of the Pappa's brand. And Steve and I have a long love of eating at all of their various restaurants, including the beloved but short-lived Italian Pappa Mia's off 1-10, and the genesis of their brand, The Strawberry Patch off Westheimer.

So, we knew when we saw that burger joint, as well as we knew we were on an incredibly silly field trip, that we should stop and redeem the sanity level by having a good 'ole Texas burger. And, oh, my goodness - what a burger it was! We sat on the open air covered patio and just had a delightful lunch. I have a secret fetish for Fritos and any burger that has guacamole and Fritos on it always gets my vote. I loved that burger. I do hope some day to make it back there for another one. The onion rings were equally good and Steve liked his burger, too. Truly a fun little find.

We finished up our meal, headed on to the store, I bought my paper, and we headed home, to Scrap Central, where I could finish this layout, For the Love of the Game. It was just an ordinary kind of day in our life, really. A day where we ran an errand. A day where we stumbled onto some good food and shared a meal al fresco. A day where we took in some of the beautiful soft hills of Texas. A day where we found some adventure and explored new places. A day where we loved simply being together.  And I have been blessed to have three decades of them. Yes, long ago, you had me at hello.

Fun in Forth Worth ~ Paper Diva Field Trip ~ October 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Carta Bella
Font: EggCream

Finally, I want to remind you to check out my three friends, Laurie, Stephanie, and Tina, on The Scrapbooker's Blog Tour! Today they will have their blog post up for their turn on tour and I would love for you to check them out! 

From last week's post:
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!