Thursday, March 12, 2015

Your Dreams Stay Big, Your Worries Stay Small

That's my boy there in the green jacket, with the messenger bag and the columbian blue baseball cap worn backwards. That's my boy, away at college, living a life some might say he was born to live. He has always been fairly independent, circling back to the parental units much like a homing pigeon, touching base as needing, remembering where he's from, but not necessarily wanting or needing to hang out there. Big on friendships and social scenes, small on hanging out with us. 

Now, he does love a good family vacation. And he does love us. But just sitting here, chilling with us, not so much. When he hit middle school, he really went into his room for the evenings for the most part, or to the media room. He's my gamer. Not one for TV shows or hanging out downstairs. I took him at face value, never trying to mold him differently, but missing him each night as he headed upstairs. Or, as he aged, headed out to work, or out with friends. 

I think one of the benefits of college is that when they do come home, they do come home. To rest, to recharge, to remember. I think both of my boys really hunkered down at home during Christmas break. Besides family gatherings and church, they didn't really go hang out with friends or do anything. I was surprised, but secretly I loved it. I am glad for the times when we are all back together under one roof.

I was never surprised that Philip planned to go to college. There was never any question. We live in a school district where 94% of graduates go on to some college level work. They are prepped for that. In the fifth grade, you set a trajectory for middle school and at that point, they begin pointing you to college work preparation. I remember quite a few hard discussions with middle school teachers, whom I thought were asking too much of a twelve-year-old. They calmly and firmly let me know that their job was to prepare them for the rigors of high school. And, on the few times that I did talk to one of the boys' high school teachers, they calmly and firmly let me know their job was to prepare them for the rigors of college. And I can say both boys thus far have adapted very well to college. Thank you Tax Dollars, and thank you to their teachers.

When Philip hit the youth group at church, he formed a friendship with Jordan, or J-Money as he was called back in the day. Gosh, that was eight years ago, back in 2007. See, I was the horrible mom that held both of my boys back from starting school one year. So, they were slightly more mature, and both boys connected well with older kids. Philip let me know on numerous occasions, as did Andrew, that I had done them wrong and they were graduating one year late. {If I had it to do over again, I would do the very same thing. Thank you Collins.} At any rate, Philip felt in his heart that he was in the same class as Jordan. So, when Jordan developed senior-itis, Philip did, too. The only problem? Philip was a junior. 

So, by the time Philip's senior year rolled around, we had looked at five colleges before the August school bell rang, kicking off the official countdown. One in Georgia, two in Tennessee, two in Arkansas. That left his senior year to just do some preview weekend experiences and hone down his choices. He did two previews and by November, he had made his selection, falling in love with Nashville as much as, or perhaps even more than, falling in love with the university he picked there.

His plan mapped out, he settled into riding out the last few months as a high school student living under his parents' wings. He made no bones about being ready to leave. I do think there were a few moments toward the end where he got a little sentimental, but the growing urgency of picking out what to take and what to leave at home, and making the list of things to pick up before leaving town quickly overcrowded the little seed of sentimentality. 

Of course, during all of this, mom is finishing his School of Life album, and planning a graduation party, and basically trying to just hold it all together. Goodness. I don't think I've ever cried so much as the day I finished his senior slide show and did the preview of it with the music going. I had picked six songs, with Philip's input, and they were the backdrop to his slideshow, in this order:

  • This Is Home - Switchfoot
  • Dare You To Move - Switchfoot
  • Find Your Wings - Mark Harris
  • My Wish - Rascal Flatts
  • Home - Philip Phillips
  • On My Way - Phil Collins, from Brother Bear

And that ending song finished off the slideshow with my boy looking down the railroad tracks, ready to go.
Tell everybody I'm on my way
New friends and new places to see
With blue skies ahead, yes I'm on my way
And there's no where else that I'd rather be 
Tell everybody I'm on my way
And I'm loving every step I take
With the sun beatin' down, yes I'm on my way
And I can't keep this smile off my face
'Cause there's nothing like seein' each other again
No matter what the distance between
And the stories that we tell will make you smile
Oh it really lifts my heart
So tell 'em all I'm on my way
New friends and new places to see
And to sleep under the stars and could ask for more
With the moon keeping watch over me 
Not the snow not the rain can change my mind
The sun will come out wait and see
And the feeling of the wind in your face can lift your heart
Oh, there's no where I would rather be
'Cause I'm on my way now
Well and truly
I'm on my way now
I'm on my way now 
Tell everybody I'm on my way
And I just can't wait to be there
With blue skies ahead yes I'm on my way
And nothing but good times to share
So, tell everybody I'm on my way
And I just can't wait to be home
With the sun beating down yes I'm on my way
And nothing but good times to show
I'm on my way
Yes, I'm on my way

I can see that railroad track picture in my mind, and that was June. Fast forward two months, and the college drop-off happened at the speed of light. Oh, Steve and I weren't ready. And I don't think Andrew really was either. But, no mistake, Philip got there, we got him settled, and it was clear as day he was ready for us to go, and for his new life to begin. We rolled onto campus that morning about 9, and rolled off around 4:30. See, we had to get on our way, so that he could get on his way. 

I love seeing this boy in this photo, full of confidence, ready to take on his new life, discover himself, figure out what he's to do with life. My prayer was then, and continues to be, that he enjoys the journey, and isn't reaching only for a future destination, and that he is truly loving every step he takes, with his new friends and new places to see.

Son, I will tell everybody you're on your way. Breathe in the blue sky. Savor the good times. New friends and new places to see. The moon is keeping watch over you. My wish? That your dreams stay big and your worries stay small. Dream big. Adventure is out there.

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Echo Park
Title Fonts: Gurmukhi, Halohandletter 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Buzz and Woody

I have on my lofty To Do list the project of scanning all of my film negatives into jpegs. I know it sounds crazy, and it's not an easy task and that is why I haven't yet started it. But, it's moments like the one above that make me want to. I have a big stack of negatives and would never have the patience to ferret through them to find that photo. I ended up popping it out of one of my albums from 1998 and scanning it. It's grainy, and that makes me sad, but in a pinch it'll do. The memory comes through. Maybe one day I can reprint this picture in its full glory.

We were never too big on Halloween. I told my husband the other day that I was really glad I wasn't living in the Pinterest-DIY crazed days. These gals today really are under the pressure to put out the dog, so to speak, on anything children related. I saw on my Facebook feed last month some amazing over the top Valentine boxes. I don't think I could have held up under the pressure! Now, the first Halloween for each of my sons my mom did sew the costumes. But, after that, I was walking into brick and mortars, like everyone else, and looking for something halfway striking on the shelves.

The year that Disney rolled out the Buzz and Woody play suits, I knew to snatch them up. I don't recall so much the night of Trick or Treating, per se, but I can tell you that the costumes stayed around for awhile and the boys played in them countless times. Andrew had this funny deep voice he developed to talk to Buzz. And when Philip was wearing the costume, Andrew only called him Buzz. Boy, did he stay in character. I think that hat is still in my attic. I'm not entirely sure. I have a hard time letting go. In my mind, I never would have said yes, but sometimes Steve vetoes me based on the condition something is in. So, if it's not up there, he pitched it. I put that hat away many a time.

The boys have always played well together. We moved them four times - four cities, four houses - and they are 16 months apart, so it was natural for them to have each other to play with, and those bonding moments when we were somewhere new and knew only each other were pivotal, I think. There was a short span of time here and there where they took some breathers - time they needed to adapt to the ever changing person they were becoming. The end of the middle school years got a little rough. But, they were rough on us all, and I am so glad we all got through those years, intact and still loving each other.

When they were younger, they were tow-headed blondes. As infants, you could see slight traces of red at the roots, but it gave way quickly to blonde, and I never dreamed they would both be redheads. I loved them as little blonde boys, and I love them more as redheaded young men. The oldest is in Nashville now, about to wrap up his second year of college, and the youngest is in Denver, about to wrap up his first year of college. We are all adapted now to this new normal, I think. Oh, of course, I wish I saw them more. I try with grace to accept the time we are together, and I try with grace to accept the big lulls in between communication and not take personally the unanswered texts. I keep thinking they are working their way through another phase, finding themselves in a new normal, and they'll come back around. {They will, won't they? Someone please say yes.}

Philip is headed to Chicago and Toronto for spring break, and Steve is flying up to do a Colorado road trip with Andrew. See, they are in different schools and have as such different calendars, and their school breaks are off by one week. Philip got home one week before Andrew at Christmas, and Andrew was home one week without Philip, and now, of course, their spring breaks are one week apart, too. I think that is one of the worst facts - that the week we all had together in the spring is no more. But, we have our family vacation planned for May, and I am looking forward to that.

The one 4x6 photo below, the photo of them walking arm in arm, was taken on our family vacation in 2013. It was impromptu, unstaged, in fact I'm sure they weren't aware at the time that I took it. They usually walk ahead of us. I can't keep up with their youth and their long legs. And the other day I was looking through these vacation photos and stumbled upon that one, and knew that I wanted to tell a story of my own Buzz and Woody, and so I went looking through time to find the pictures. 

There is a picture of them at every house they have lived in. They are washing cars at our home in The Woodlands. The Halloween photo was our San Antonio porch. The bluebonnet photo was taken while we lived in McAllen. And that little photo where they are peaking out from the quilt was a moment in this house, when they built a fort upstairs and laughed when I found them. At each phase of their lives they have been there for each other. It makes my heart smile to remember the shows they put on for us, the times I would peer through a window and seem them deep in play outside, the times they would head out to Bible study together, or run to the comic book store together. 

Their running days are limited now to when they are both back here. I know they wouldn't easily admit it, but they miss each other. The day before I stumbled upon that 4x6 photo, we had a text from our younger son, asking to go see his brother on his birthday weekend. And the day after I printed this photo, my oldest son changed his Facebook cover photo to a picture of the two of them playing in the Destin sand in 2007. I didn't even know he had access to that photo. Both incidents warmed my heart, and let me know that, across the miles, through time, and space, they are there for each other.

They have the gift of a natural friendship, the bond of two shared decades, the mix of some common interests and ideas and quirks. No matter what, I think, they will always be that grown up version to each other of Buzz and Woody. You know those two had their strong personalities, too, and made it just fine. I know my boys will, too. Friends from the beginning, and friends to infinity and beyond. They have been my favorite boy story now for two decades. And there's no end in sight for that either.

Boy Story ~ Friends for Life ~ Photos span 1997 - 2013

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: October Afternoon, Monbonbon, Kika Digital
Title Font: Gil Sans, Slapstick Comic

Monday, March 9, 2015

Spring is Coming & CREATE is Bursting with Color

The second issue of 2015 is here! It was another fun set of assignments for me, and I can't wait to see the four layouts I turned in, along with the incredible work of the rest of the CREATE design team, and the awesome layouts from the Doodlebug team and the readers gallery! 

Scrapbook Generation has upgraded their website since last issue's release, so be sure to check them out! Click here to see the CREATE magazines on their website. And after checking out the magazine, check out the incredible week long celebration they are having in the online store to celebrate the "new grand opening". I may or may not have ordered more dots today to get some free Thickers. Just because Blueberry sounds fun.  And like handbags, a gal can never have too many dots. ;-)

See my post here to read about my Boy Story layout featured in the March issue. I think this layout is one of my all time favorites.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Anatomy of an Album - MIR

When I started scrapbooking with that darling six month old baby that was providing more photo fodder than I could possibly manage, I naturally and logically scrapped chronologically. It was just the deductive method for someone that is analytical, and usually fairly logical, like me. And I scrapped that way for probably a dozen years. From 1994, up to 2006.

In 2006, watershed changes unfolded. I started working part-time at a scrapbook store in Frisco, Recollections, and my world opened up. I stopped using Creative Memories products exclusively. And I found and read "The Big Picture" by Stacy Julian, which was released on November 30, 2005. It was sold at the store I worked at, and at the Great American Scrapbook Convention in June 2006, it was promoted heavily. And if I really reach into my memory, I can also recall that in the summer of 2006 I traveled to Houston to attend Creating Keepsakes University, taking classes there from "celebrity teachers", including Stacy Julian herself.

I remember being enthralled with Stacy's fresh approach to story telling and letting the story drive the layout, and her encouragement to break free from the literal grid of the calendar. It was a life changing class for me. At that moment, I would have thought that Stacy could part water. I recall her class having us ride the emotional roller coaster, as she shared some of her albums, her approach, and her advice for making our albums more meaningful.
Well, never to do anything less than whole hog, I dove into this new approach, and began metamorphosing the way I had scrapbooked - from the linear calendar grid of always going in date order, letting events drive my layouts, and always being behind, to the freedom to scrap any photos from any moment that I wanted, to tell that story, and to put them into a - gasp - 3-ring binder album that would allow me to easily move around my layouts. I could even tell stories that weren't tied to an event, but to a thought or a perspective! Photo freedom!

And that would be the title of her follow-up book, released on February 26, 2008, "Finding Photo Freedom". After reading that book, I was determined to take her class, Library of Memories, that was offered on her class website, Big Picture Scrapbooks, or BPS as they came known to be. I worked slowly to "build my library", one story at a time. And after working in that style for eight years, I am proud to say that I do indeed have a library. And I love the story-based approach to scrapbooking.

Now, you have to understand there is a whole underbelly to the scrapbooking world, and that is the online community. There are websites and galleries and message boards, and lots of scrapbookers avail themselves of these 24/7 internet info domains, if you will. I hung out at Two Peas for a long time. And found many wonderful friends there, that I am in daily contact with to this day, thankfully through another message board.

One such internet scrapping buddy goes by the board name of Cherrypicker. Love her to pieces. She's a true gem, and everyone that knows her is blessed by her, and in awe of how she gets everything done that she gets done. Mad scrapping talent. She's like a said - a gem. Now, in 2010, Cherrypicker shared with some of us on the board her idea for Month in Review (MIR) album. It got my curiosity up, and she even emailed me in 2010 some sample photos of three or four years of her own MIR albums. I saved that email - have it still - and began mulling over her idea. 

I liked her idea, I did, I did. I was loath to return to anything that wreaked of chronology, but I was also intrigued by the idea of summarizing a span of time. Cherrypicker's MIR idea was to make a double page layout of each month, and have an album that had 24 pages in it when done, 26 counting title page and end page, and maybe adding pages at the back for memorabilia, or adding a pocket. She does do memorabilia pages. I just wasn't sure I would.

In 2010, I completed Ali Edwards' Week in the Life (WITL) project, and enjoyed the documenting the whole sections of our daily life in that point in time, but man, documenting a whole week with four moving family parts was hard! I'll have to share this album with y'all at some point. I loved it, but wasn't too keen to sign up to do it again. 

Well, up against that WITL idea, and Cherrypicker's MIR idea, out came bursting onto the scene Project Life (PL) by Becky Higgins. I bought Becky's first kit, which she called Project 365 actually. I started it. And did about 5 days. Printing pictures daily wasn't feasible, and it just wasn't going to work for me! Now, in 2012 I tried the new and improved PL again, and bought a home printer, an Epson Picturemate Charm. That printer was another life changing moment. Any photo that you see of mine dated after December 2011 is going to be one I have printed at home on my Charm.

Where am I going with all of this?! The Charm gave me true photo freedom with instant print accessibility, and enabled me to do PL for one year, 2012. 2012 was the last full calendar year that both boys were going to be home, and that was my impetus to push through PL for 2012. So, at that point in time, I'd done WITL for one year - 2010 - and I did PL for all of 2012, and I liked both of them well enough in their own right, but wasn't committed to attempting either again. Well, Cherrypicker's idea came {finally} to full fruition, because in 2013, she started sharing her 2013 MIR album with some of us gals online, and a bunch of us committed to trying it for 2014. 

I was slow going out of the start. Something about having a boy start college in 2013 had me behind, I guess. ;-) We picked our format and our papers and prepped them all in late 2013, readying them for easy completion in 2014. The story telling side of me loves non-chrono scrapping, but the orderly organized side of me loves a little recap of the year. Voila! Month in Review! Everything I had been ginning through from 2006 to 2014 all came together!

I love, love, love my first Month in Review album, 2014. It isn't lost on me that my summary style scrapbook came to fruition in the year my nest emptied, in the year I turned 50. I love serendipitous moments, and take them any chance I can.  I wanted to share with you my journey to this album, and encourage you to try it if you haven't. It's very easy. You just need 8-10 photos from each month, and you can do your page in less than a day. 

So, spend a dozen days...and end up with a priceless album of your year! It's so incredibly doable. I am so thankful Cherrypicker kept at her idea, and kept encouraging so many of us. And yes, I've already started 2015. January is done, and February is on the table. 

I think, no matter how you scrap, or how often, or what you use, or how you get the story out, the story is worth the struggle. Get your stories down. If for no other reason, get your stories down for you. And then sit back and enjoy all the memories that got you to today, and give you hope for all the tomorrows.

Month in Review ~ 2014

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Simple Stories
Titling: Simple Stories