Scrapbook Cull: What I've Learned So Far

About a week ago, Kendell and I somehow came to the decision that we should switch rooms. He’d move into the smaller, darker bedroom for his office and I’d get the brighter, bigger room for my crafty space. We’d previously thought my current table/bookshelf setup wouldn’t fit in that room (which is bigger but only has three walls because the fourth has a built-in bookshelf). I’m not 100% sure what sparked our conversation, but it got to a point where I said “well, it must be nice to be hanging out in here with all this light,” which is funny because Kendell likes a darker room than I do. We started measuring and figured out that yep, we could make it work.

Thus engendering this mess:

Craft room reorg

I decided that I only want to move what I am actually going to use. (You can read more of how I am choosing what to keep on THIS POST.) Kendell thought this would just take a couple of days but, alas, no. I am seriously pondering every piece of paper and package of stickers. I’ve got eight different give-this-to-this-person piles going. I’ve thrown away dried-out rub-on packages (I honestly don’t think I will ever buy a rub-on again because they definitely have a shelf life, which makes me wonder how long they will actually stay rubbed on to layouts), alphabet stickers with so few random letters left I couldn’t spell anything at all, many duplicate photos, and several half-finished mini albums I’d made for scrapbooking assignments (in the long-ago days when I had scrapbooking assignments).

I started by cleaning off my main table and then going around the room clockwise so I ended up with my closet full of product drawers. I have most of my supplies organized by color, the rest by theme. Five days later, I am almost through with that closet (about six drawers to go). I intend on finishing the drawers tomorrow and then I will start actually moving stuff from one room to another. 

This is not the first time I’ve gotten rid of scrapbooking supplies or moved my crafty space. (I’ve actually had my stuff set up in each of our bedrooms at different times since we’ve lived in this house; my favorite room is the one I’m returning to because all of the kids slept there as babies, at one point or another, and it makes me happy to be in the same space their baby breaths lived.) So I know it can be a learning process, and I wanted to write down a few things I have learned so far.

  1. There are supplies I buy a lot of but use rarely. Namely, black foam alphas, white foam alphas, and anything green. Even though I set myself the goal of getting rid of stuff I don’t actually use, I kept most of these because I still know how I will use them, and it isn’t on imaginary layouts I might never get to create, but on specific topics I just haven’t done much. (This also applies to the baby boy drawer...I have very, very slowly scrapbooked Kaleb’s baby year. Not because I don’t want to, or don’t enjoy baby pages, but because I love them so much that if I hurry up and do them all, I won’t have any left to make. Please note the contrast between not wanting to “hurry up” and Kaleb’s age...he’s almost 16.)
  2. There are some photos I’m a little bit afraid to scrapbook. Not the topics themselves, but the photos. Namely: pictures from hiking and pictures from southern Utah. When the photos are of gorgeous places, what products do you use so as to add rather than detract from the gorgeousness of the location? (This is why I have all of those unused green products, by the way. Because they’d be great—I think!—with hiking photos.) Also, travel in general. I’ve done some awesome trips over the past decade but have made almost zero layouts about any of them. 
  3. I had supplies grouped in awkward ways that made it harder to find things. One drawer with travel andbeach and summer was overwhelming to find anything in. (And only in my mind do birthday, Easter, and sports supplies go in the same drawer!) So I eliminated some categories and combined others and came up with new categories. Which means I’ve also gathered travel memorabilia and notes from random spots and put them all in the travel drawer with the travel supplies. I also have a drawer of hiking supplies, which I didn’t think I could do as not many manufacturers actually make many hiking-themed supplies, aside from a random hiking boot here and there. But I guess I’ve accumulated what has been made.
  4. My scrapbooking approach must change as my life changes. I’ve mostly caught up with Christmas layouts, for example, so I really do not need the massive amount of Christmas supplies I’ve accumulated. Same with Halloween. I still have a ton of untold stories about my kids, but if I stopped scrapbooking tomorrow, they would all have a lot of tidbits of their life recorded. I think it is OK if I also scrap more about myself at this point. (While still telling their stories as well.)
  5. It is impossible to discard any Basic Grey supply. I’ve tried. I just put them back. So pretty, so unique, and now completely irreplaceable. (RIP Basic Grey)

As I have gone through this process—which I am calling a cull rather than a purge because it feels more positive—I have had some self-castigation. I’ve definitely overspent. (Don’t tell my husband I said that. I will deny it to my dying day.) But I’ve also remembered some really cool stuff I have and should USE.

I’m excited to see how my new space comes together and to start scrapbooking (and quilting! but that’s a different post) with my supplies that feel enlivened by the reduction.


The Beautiful Things that Become Burdens: A Question for Purging

One of the hardest things for me in the immediate aftermath of my mom’s death was trying to decide what to do with her fabric collection.

It’s hard to even put into words how much fabric she has accumulated over a lifetime of sewing. Maybe 2000 yards. It filled the entire family room in the basement. And so much of it was just her, her personality in cotton. (For example, in all of those yards and yards, there were only five or six small pieces of grey. She did not like grey!) I know exactly how that feels, when you’re standing in the fabric store and you find a piece that speaks to you, and so you buy it and bring it home and then…add it to the pile of other pieces that also spoke to you. You intended to do something fun with it, but there are only so many quilts one can make in a lifetime.

The supplies of your craft are creative sparks, and we want to have them because they speak to our unique creative vision.

The reason it was painful was that it felt like giving away (or in some cases, tossing) parts of her, not just some fabric. She had plans for all of that yardage, and so there was a part of her connected to it. And so not keeping it all felt like a betrayal or a rejection of her.

I hope not to leave something like that for my own kids to deal with.

I’m actually pretty good with my fabric. I mean, I do buy things just because they “speak” to me, but I try to keep my collection small.

But my scrapbook supplies are another story entirely.

Purging scrapbook supplies april 2021

I’ve been scrapbooking since 1996, when the only companies were The Paper Patch and Creative Memories. I have a clear memory of the first patterned paper I bought that didn’t have a white background (it was by Keeping Memories Alive). I remember American Craft’s first line. I actually still own some of SEI’s first line, which was revolutionary in its use of simple lines and color blocking.

Twenty five years of scrapbooking means I’ve had 25 years to buy things. Things I love, things that speak to me. Things that I might use somewhere. Things that were a great price.

Over those years, I have honed my purchasing habits. I know what I never use (chipboard, metal, anything pokey or stiff or bulky) and what I use with regularity (alphabet stickers, small puffy stickers but only the ones that are squishy, white cardstock). I have also purged my supplies often.

Kendell and I were talking yesterday and I was complaining about the lack of light in my current crafty room. The room he uses for his work-from-home office has two windows and is bright and airy, and I’m not really sure why but we thought it wouldn’t work to set up my office in that room. But we got out the measuring tape and figured it out, so soon we are going to switch rooms.

And I am going to take that opportunity to purge. Brutally, viciously purge. Streamline. Make my space more functional because there are fewer supplies.

So far, I have purged with this rule: I can only keep what I LOVE and ADORE. If I’m kind of iffy about a supply, or if my tastes have changed, out it goes. Since I have kept up with that, I do truly love & adore what I have.

But I also know that I have way too much stuff.

Like my mom’s fabric horde, my scrapbook supplies have become a sort of drain on my creativity. It’s overwhelming to delve into all of the stuff, so I’ve gotten into the habit of using my newest supplies (which is great!) instead of mixing in what I already have.

I think I need a new purging rule. I think I must ask myself this question:

What will I actually use this for?

This makes me think of my drawer of floral papers. I love floral papers. But. I have mostly sons. And many of my daughter’s photos have already been scrapbooked. So while I do love & adore them, I rarely actually use them.

Answering that question might be painful, honestly. Because what comes to mind, often, when I fall in love with a piece of patterned paper or some floral die cuts, is what I could use it for. Photos I’ve already scrapped. Pictures I never took. Imaginary, in-the-future photo shoots.

Saying “I love this floral patterned paper” is one thing. Knowing—knowing for real, not just imagining—where I really will use it is another thing altogether. It’s like, if I get rid of a sheet of stickers that I could use on a layout about, say, a future grandchild, I am eliminating the possibility of that future person.

And it’s also difficult because it is like my mother’s fabric: taken as a whole collection, my scrapbook supplies say something about my personality. My tastes & interests & favorites, even the things I don’t really like much. (You’ll find almost no red in my supplies, for example, as it’s just not a color I use much except for Christmas layouts.)

But I also know it’s time. All of these beautiful supplies really are beautiful, but they are holding me back. The combined weight of it all limits my ability to move dynamically. So I am giving myself both an assignment and a permission slip: let go, because it is OK to do so.


Messy Craft Table as Self-Portrait

This morning my plan was to add the border to the baby quilt I’ve been working on, so I can get that one and the other two that I need to finish sandwiched and quilted. I got derailed by laundry, though, and needing a quick trip to Target for the laundry and since I’m still not driving I had to wait until Kendell had a break in his calls and then…

I walked into my crafty space and just kind of had to laugh. Because look at my table:

Messy crafty desk 4 8 2021

I’m not the kind of person who’s bugged by some clutter. I’m OK to work around it. But this is ridiculous…all the useable space is used up! So before I did anything, I needed to clean up my space.

But then I really looked at it, and I thought….hmmmmmm. That’s kind of a self-portrait right there, isn’t it? My desk says a lot about me, my personality, my affections, my obsessions. So before I cleaned up I snapped a pic. I know it looks like a cluttered ridiculous mess, but here’s what my table mess reveals about me (starting from the left and working to the right.

  1. I make quilts. I make baby quilts. If you are my friend or my family member and you have a baby, I’ll probably make a quilt for you. SOMETIMES I will buy the fabric but never make or actually give the quilt to you. But I still thought about it, that counts, right? It’s probably me overthinking, but the making of baby quilts is not just a shower gift for me. It is a love language that I speak to other people, a way of giving them my time and something tangible. It is because of Aunt Merle making me a baby quilt, and I can’t actually remember Aunt Merle but I can remember loving that baby quilt she made and so in essence some part of her is still here. Still remembered. Am I saying I make baby quilts to ward off my fear of death? Maybe. Don’t tell the new moms that though.
  2. My ginormous paper cutter. Kendell surprised me with this Rotatrim in 1997 or 98 and 20+ years later it still works perfectly. It felt obscenely expensive at the time but the long-lasting nature has made up for the cost. It is one of my most useful and most-used scrapbooking tools. And there on top of it is a quilting ruler, which I use interchangeable for quilting and scrapbooking.
  3. There are actually four things for placing cups on on my desk. The one I’ve used the longest is the one Elliot made for me. I think about him every day, partly because I have this beautiful and useful object he made for me. (Translation: my favorite gifts are the thoughtful and useful ones that carry some of the giver’s personality.) Also Monet’s Water Lilies, which I bought at the Denver Art Museum after seeing the exhibit. The corner is chipped because the airport security made me empty my entire carry-on bag (as has happened every time I’ve flown out of Denver) and the woman handling my stuff dropped it. Guilty of transporting art over state boundaries I guess and there’s always a price to pay for that. I’m not bitter.
  4. I didn’t think I would love having a laptop. I like the sturdiness of a desktop. But since Kendell’s been working from home (for the past four years, folks, don’t complain about your year-long time of never having any solitude or peace or quiet until you’ve done it for almost half a decade) and he uses the desktop, I’ve fallen in love with my laptop. Poems, essays, blog posts, political diatribes, editing photos, chatting with friends, writing scrapbook journaling and in my journal and bits & pieces of unfinished stories and…I use it a lot. So much so that I’ve worn out the left arrow key. (I don’t know why it’s that key.) Yes, I do have a purple mouse.
  5. The last scrapbook layout I finished, some supplies I still need to put away, my box of pins (unapologetically pink), a pile of purple pens. Just pretty and fun and colorful stuff I use.
  6. A couple of the border strips. I’m not 100% sure I can make the vision of this border actually work, but I’m going to try! I’ll let you know!
  7. My surgery amulets. I like Alex + Ani bracelets. During my recovery I wore those two gold ones. One has a seashell and it reminds me of the moment on the beach at Carmel when I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t muscle my way through this injury but would probably have to have it fixed. I cried a little but then I felt a deep sense of peace. Maybe the ocean waves were fooling me, but I felt like it would eventually be OK. The other has a charm of a gymnast doing a pose similar to dancer’s pose. I wore that one to remind myself that I have been strong and flexible in the past and those traits will help me be strong and flexible again. I’ve worn them every day since my surgery.
  8. Burt’s Bees. My favorite line stamp for journaling. My only real “mixed media” supplies that I actually use (the Heidi Swapp Color Shine spray). A box of new stuff from Felicity Jane, one of my favorite scrapooking companies. A book I’ve partially read.
  9. A headband and a scrunchie. Head bands are starting to show up around the house again, proof that I am doing more outside movement. I have some longstanding and fairly deep Forehead Issues, friends. It’s a story. I can’t stand to have my forehead exposed to sunlight. So I have a, well…a generously-sized collection of Bondi Bands. I keep them handy in all the spaces just in case.
  10. That clear tray holds new photos and supplies I want to use ASAP. The smaller pink one holds scraps I’ll use to make cards. As soon as I make cards. I still need to make, write, and send thank you cards to the many people who helped after my surgery. Three months later isn’t too late is it? 

I had to slightly clean off my desk just to write this post. Now I’m going to put on the border. Except I just heard the laundry machine ding…


I Touch Glitter Every Day: On Preemptive Apologies and Loving My Scrapbooking Self

Last week, after someone asked a question in one of the scrapbook groups I’m in on Facebook, I found myself reading my own blog. Specifically, some of my posts about scrapbooking. I went in search of a post I thought I’d written about how to fit in a lot of journaling on a layout (turns out, I didn’t write a blog post about it; instead, it was one of the lessons from my Big Picture Scrapbooking classes), but as I scrolled and read, I noticed a couple of things:

  1. I’ve written a lot of posts that could be helpful for other scrapbookers. (Please note it took me about five minutes to write that sentence because I don’t want to be all tooting-my-own-horn, you know?)
  2. Almost every single post I’ve written about scrapbooking either starts with or includes some sort of preemptive apology.

What’s a preemptive apology? It’s where I purposefully cut off the mockery of my internal voices by acknowledging their objections up front. IE: yes, I know scrapbooking is dumb, yes I know it’s silly for a grown-ass woman to be playing with colored pencils like a kindergartener high on new school supplies, yes I know I’m not an artist, yes I know this is terribly self-indulgent, yes I know my effort in writing this is pointless because I’m not now nor will I ever be sitting at the Cool Scrapbooking Ladies table.

If I say it out loud then there’s no point in the critics saying it, right?

(I have some pretty deep connections to the preemptive apology, going all the way back to…the beginning of my life, probably.)

These two realizations made me feel sort of despondent, but also sort of annoyed at myself. To clarify my realization, I looked at my Instagram posts about scrapbooking and, yes, they hold true there, too. Decent content, preemptive apologies.

And then, same week, I saw this meme:

Zooey d meme

I had to look up what TV show it’s from, as I didn’t watch it (it’s called New Girl). I don’t even know if I would like the character saying those things. I actually don’t rock polka dots (too trypy for me) and I can’t stand glitter. (I do brake for birds.)

But that stupid meme was an ah-ha for me.

Because, yep: I have touched glitter today. And by "glitter" I mean puffy stickers & pretty paper & alphabet stamps & watercolor paint. Probably somewhere on my hands there’s an ink stain, and probably it is aqua or purple. I have 8 million different script fonts installed on my computer. I have more scrapbooking supplies than I could use in a lifetime and last night I added more to an online shopping cart. I know how to blend markers and which inks are the best for longevity and how to use Photoshop and which photo printing service makes the best prints. I have two bowls full of washi tape, and yes, thanks for asking, they ARE precious to me. (The washi tape rolls and the bowls.) I like being crafty and I like that some of my family photos have meaning because I’ve told their stories.

And none of that makes me weak, lame, silly, pathetic, stupid, or pointless.

Even though in my head I feel weak, lame, silly, etc.

This ah-ha made me ask myself: Who am I preemptively apologizing to? The Queen Bees from high school (who don’t actually follow my social media anyway). The cool guy in my head, an amalgam of mountain biker & motorcycle rider and all the qualities those two identities entail. The bad-ass trail runner girls who are tiny and strong and can knock out twenty miles without even breathing hard. My husband, who tries to be supportive but just really doesn’t understand this aspect of me at all. The alternate version of myself who made different choices and ended up successful in meaningful ways. The friends I used to scrapbook with who don’t scrapbook anymore. And yes, all the ladies at the Cool Scrapbookers table.

I’m sick of preemptive apologies.

I’m sick of feeling embarrassed over the things I love.

I’m almost fifty years old. If now is not the time to exorcise the critical voices in my head, that time will never come at all.

The fact that I try to touch glitter every day doesn’t mean I’m not strong or smart.

It just means that making stuff makes me happy.

And while the truth is that yes: people have, in real life and with their actual voices, said negative things to me about my hobby (some sly and passive-aggressive, some abrupt and openly ridiculing), a good portion of the shame comes from the chorus in my head.

So I have set myself a goal. I actually have been working on this for most of my forties anyway: be who I am. Be instead of perform. I am trying to do this in all aspects of my life, but I haven’t really embraced my crafty self. My scrapbooking self, who has nurtured me through many things.

I’m not going to apologize anymore. I’m not going to feel embarrassed.

I’m going to scrapbook, and I’m going to sometimes share what I make, and I’m not going to say I’m sorry.

And those voices in my head?

They can feel free to unfollow me.


Scrapbooking is a Way I Tell the World I Loved It

I had the opportunity to record an episode of The Scrap Gals podcast. (It will be downloadable next week!) The topic: Your favorite scrapbook layout you’ve ever made.

When Tracie told me the topic, two layouts immediately sprang to my mind. But then I thought…well, I’ve made a lot of layouts. What if I’ve forgotten some? So I pulled out an album, thinking I’d thumb through and see.

A pleasant hour or so later, with my crafty space even messier than it was before (I am in the middle of a quilting storm!), I had found a few other “favorite layout ever”s, but I kept going back to the same two I originally thought of, so these are the layouts I talked about in the podcast.

Here is the first one, and it was, literally, the first layout that came to my mind in connection with the word “favorite.”

2000 10 xx Nathan Cascade Springs

Why is it a favorite? Partly for that photo. (The enlarged one on the left side. Remember when you had to take your negative back to the photo developing place, after having figured out with your lightbox exactly which frame you wanted to enlarge, and then wait for even longer to get the big print back?) That is Nathan at 11 months. That autumn day we went to Cascade Springs, which is a spot in the mountains here with gentle paths and wooden bridges over the springs. The other pictures are cute, but that one of Nathan? One of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. (It makes me more determined to figure out a digital camera option, because if I had taken this with a cell phone yesterday, it would not be this lovely.)

So…that photo.

But I also love what I did on the layout. The colors in the patterned paper (I wrote on the back that it was made by “OAR” but damned if I can remember now what company that was) are perfect, and that gold crinkly paper behind the big photo, and how well it goes with the quote. (I realized looking at this that there’s a typo…can you spot it?) Like the gold paper is the shook foil.

What’s funny to me about this layout being a favorite, though, is that there is almost NO journaling. At least, on the front. On the back, I wrote about Kendell being grumpy that day, and kind of ruining the experience for me a little bit, and how we forgot Nathan’s shoes (probably what made Kendell grumpy). As I talked about it on the podcast, I realized that these photos are from a transitional time in our lives, when Kendell was out of work and we didn’t know what would happen, and this little moment was (mostly) a reprieve from that fear, when we were just this family of three in the woods. I wrote that all on the back because I didn’t really feel then, like I do now, that it is OK to have the more difficult details included with the good ones.

The second layout that came to mind was this one, which I made in 2016:

1972 12 25 Amy Christmas photo at Grandma Elsie's house

When I first saw that photo, which is from my first Christmas in 1972, I started to cry. Everyone in it is so young and hopeful, and I was just little and innocent and not yet damaged at all. This layout is probably not the best when you look at it from a design perspective…it is a lot of journaling to balance with the 6x6 photo (which is also not the best if you are looking at it from a composition perspective) and the title. But I love the patterned paper, the gold script “love,” and the fact that I used Basic Grey stickers for part of the title.

Really, though, this is another very-most-favorite layout because of the journaling. In it, I wrote about how the photograph forms a connection between me and my grandma Elsie, who I wasn’t very close with. And how that connection is also why I take photographs as much as I do, and why I make scrapbook layouts, so that I am also connected to the future.

I’m sharing a few other layouts that I didn’t talk about in the podcast, layouts that, when I saw them as I flipped through my albums, made me pause because they feel authentic to me. Like I made them not only as a reason to use pretty paper and cute embellishments, but as a method of drawing more of those connections between past, present, and future. 2006 05 20 kaleb six impossible things

Sometimes I look around my crafty space and just have to laugh. It’s amazing: I have an entire room stuffed to the brim with the supplies of my chosen crafts. I think when I first started scrapbooking, I did it partly out of…the concept of being virtuous, I guess, in relationship to my photos. Not just leaving them in an album no one looked at or on a computer file where they don’t even really exist. Writing down stories so my kids would have them accessible and know things about themselves they might not otherwise seemed like a…almost like a noble thing to do. Or maybe I just told myself that to justify the time and expense.

2001 06 xx Jake Still Waters

But as I have continued making layouts (I have been scrapbooking since 1995, when Haley was born), I have discovered something deeper.

If I am honest, I don’t even really know how to exist without scrapbooking. Even when I haven’t been actively scrapbooking for months at a time, I still think like a scrapbooker. I still write down stories and take lots of pictures and buy supplies. Not every layout I have ever made has been authentic in the ways that these layouts feel. Some have just been cute layouts or fun supplies. But even on those layouts—like the first one, with the 8x10 of Nathan sitting in the autumn leaves—they aren’t only frivolous. They say something about my personality, the things I find important, the way I choose to live my life.

2012 08 05 Haley Still Here

Thinking about what my favorite layout might be pushed me to think about the deeper reasons behind my scrapbooking. It is OK that it is sometimes only about the craft of it, the color & patterns & puffy stickers. Because that is a part of me. And trying to get more than one layer into the same space—a story and a photo—is also a part of me.

 

2001 12 xx Jake tender is the real tough

Once I am gone, I don’t imagine that the kids will keep all the layouts I ever made. I mean…I hope they do, but if they don’t I won’t haunt them from my grave or anything. I understand that what is important to me isn’t necessarily important to them.

 

2005 02 11 Nathan Kaycis Wedding how lucky I am to have you

But I do hope that some of them will speak to each one. That they will discover things they didn’t know about their own lives and about their mom. That the layouts will help them see me as a whole person, someone who happened to also be their mother. That the layouts will be proof that they are loved.

2012 09 03 Kaleb fall love you as much as

 

Does it mean that the reason I scrapbook is to leave a tangible record of my love for my kids, my husband, and my life?

2010 09 03 Kaleb be still my heart bicuspid valve

I suppose it might. I really like that thought, in fact. I mean, I do hope my relationships themselves show them that I love them. But a second form of proof isn’t a bad thing.

Scrapbooking is a way to tell the world you loved the world. It is my way (it doesn’t have to be yours), and, when push comes to shove, I will likely never stop doing it completely.

2001 03 21 letter to Haley


Deep Thoughts about Scrapbooking

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday, Kendell and Jake went hiking on a Sunday morning. Because of my injured toe I haven’t been able to hike, and as Kendell was dying for a good mountain wander, Jake went with him.

That morning, Kaleb slept in.

Which means that for a few hours, I was alone in my house. Solitude is a rare commodity these days, with everyone working from home, and as the door shut behind my two boys, I did a little swirly dance in the kitchen. A dance no one saw because no one was home.

In that quietness, my excitement over scrapbooking came rushing back, so I went into my crafty room, piled up all of my sewing projects into a corner, and made a layout.

I turned my music on, shuffled through pictures, wrote journaling, found some patterned paper and embellishments I wanted to use. An hour in, the timer for the washer went off, so I paused in my happiness to rotate the laundry. What was this feeling in me, this lightness? This sparkle?

I just love this combination so much: an empty house and working on memory keeping.

***

In the silence and solitude, I thought about this hobby of mine. About why I love it, about why I haven’t been doing it much for the past two years.

Messy scrapbook desk
(the stuff I need to clean off my desk this morning)

I know not everyone understands it, and on the top of that list is my husband. He was raised on a family farm, where work was never, ever finished, with an ethic illustrated by both his parents that if you aren’t working on something, you’re being lazy.

I sat on my tall stool next to my open window and thought about this—about how Kendell feels about hobbies and leisure time and relaxing influences how I feel about it.

If you’ve read the book A Man Called Ove, you might understand better. Remember how Ove could not comprehend people reading for pleasure? His opinion was that books were for information-gathering and learning, and everything else was a waste of time. And yet, he loved his wife, who loved reading for pleasure, and so he built her bookshelves.

That is how it is with Kendell and scrapbooking. (Quilting too, although I feel far less guilt over quilting.) (Also, for that matter, reading.) (And blogging.) He wants to be supportive because he loves me, so he builds bookshelves (both literal bookshelves and metaphorical ones), but he doesn’t understand it, and sometimes that lack of understanding comes across as criticism.

And since I have a personality that automatically feels guilt for everything, this doesn’t sit well. (I wish I were more like Ove’s wife and could just laugh away the criticism…but I don’t know how to do that.) It festers, mixing as it bubbles with my own ethic, which is to make something productive with my life. Sometimes I’m not sure if scrapbooking is really productive. (Maybe that is why I feel less guilty about quilting: when I am finished, I have made something useful. Family history is useful, but it won’t keep you warm.)

When I am alone at home, it is easier for me to not feel guilty. To block out all the other things calling for my attention—the laundry, the kitchen, the yard. I could be prepping meals or scrubbing corners or dusting the ceiling fans. Why do I think I can ignore all of those and indulge in my hobby? I can’t quite quiet those voices when Kendell is home, even if he says nothing at all. But when he is gone…I can. It is like a sort of meditation, almost. My heart and mind enter a quiet space, which is influenced by pretty, colorful things and by looking at pictures of the people I love and by remembering the past. For me, it is like the feeling when you have hiked a long, dusty, steep trail, and you get to a stream, and you get to set your pack down, take off your boots, and put your feet in the water. Cool, refreshing, quiet, peaceful. I love the trail, just like I love my husband, but that time at the stream gives me what I need to keep going in the heat and the dust and the vert.

***

So here I am. It’s a Sunday, and Kendell is hiking. By himself, as neither Jake nor Kaleb wanted to go. But they are occupied, and the laundry is going, and it is quiet. I am sitting at my tall table with my high stool, and I am looking at pictures.

My thoughts go like this: I could scrapbook those pictures of Haley on the day we went to the wild animal preserve in Colorado. But the last layout I made was about Haley. So maybe I could scrapbook these pictures I just found from Ragnar 2013. But am I scrapbooking about myself too much? Is that conceited? But I really want to scrapbook about Jake, but I have so few photos of him. But…have I told all the wrong stories? Have I told the big stories? If I died tomorrow would this be enough? But…

Since that last Sunday of solitude, I have gotten myself organized. I’ve gotten rid of some things, and gone through the piles (and piles and piles, I confess) of new things I’ve purchased this year, organizing them into my way of using them. I gathered all of the photos I’ve printed but not scrapbooked and put them in a binder with notes and supplies. I’ve even made a few layouts.

I’m looking through my photos, and I’m thinking about the layouts I’ve already made. Not just this year, but since I started scrapbooking in 1996. I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life in this hobby. More than 1000 layouts. A lot of stories told and pictures preserved. But does any of it mean anything, in the end?

I am realizing that I need to separate how Kendell feels about my hobby from how I do.

Because, yes: I love it. It is quiet and restorative and fun. But do all of these layouts I’ve made connect with my life’s ethic? Am I making these because they are pleasant to make, and in doing so avoiding the harder—but perhaps more impactful—other work I might be doing? Am I emotionally invested in my crafts because they are an easy way to delve into creativity, without requiring judgement from anyone other than myself and my husband?

Am I, in other words, scrapbooking (and quilting) to avoid the hard work of writing?

I know: deep thoughts about a silly hobby. Making things and overthinking: it’s what I do. But time is so short and I feel a pressing need to finally take this step. To do the hard work.


2020 Goals: March Recap and April Ambitions

Keeping up with my goal to COMMIT this year, here’s an accounting of my March progress and a list of my April goals.

MARCH GOALS:

  1. My EXERCISE goals were to run 50 miles and to go to 10 ballet barre classes. March goals running
    COVID-19 put an end to the ballet barre classes, but I did get in three before the craziness escalated. As the month progressed, Kendell wanted to walk with me, so I walked a lot. More than I ran. I am feeling like getting outside and moving is more important than ever right now, and it matters more that I do it and less HOW. My mileage this month:

6 runs, 23.55 miles
6 walks, 24.55 miles
2 hikes (Dry Creek and Grove Creek), 10.28 miles
58.38 total miles

March goals dry canyon hike

  1. My WRITING goals were to blog two times a week, work on four poems, and finish an essay. Almost total fail. I did blog 8 times, but I worked on zero poems or essays. The enforced togetherness of the quarantine is not fantastic for my writing goals.
  2. My QUILTING goals were to finish the octagon flower blocks, bind Jake’s quilt, and figure out the process for Kaleb’s quilt. I finished a hot pad I made with some scraps from my Crazy Paving quilt (it is named "purple chakra") March goals purple chakra
    and the octagon flowers and I bound Jake’s quilt, but he hasn’t used it yet because I haven’t dared to take it to the laundromat. I did not figure out the process for Kaleb’s quilt but I did print out the pattern so that is a start! My other goal was to NOT quilt as much, and I did accomplish that; I made one little mug rug and I shopped for fabrics for another table runner, but that was all.
  3. My SCRAPBOOKING goal was to make some layouts, and I did that! I organized and executed my Christmas in March week (which is extending into April!) and I made 10 layouts. March goals scrapbooking
  4. My READING goal was to finish the two books I hadn’t and to start The Dark Tower series. Reading has taken the second-biggest hit during the quarantine for me (writing is first), but I did accomplish these goals. But I haven’t read much at all.

March goals dark tower

APRIL GOALS:

  1. EXERCISE: Eight runs (two a week) and as many walks as Kendell or anyone else wants to go on. Three hikes. Pick up strength training again by logging in to my Beach Body account and/or Peleton app. Also, MOVE MORE while I’m working at home. On Wednesday I took several 5-minute breaks where I did a little bit of exercise—jumping jacks, planks, burpees, each one followed by some gentle cobra poses—and my back felt 100% better at the end of the day.
  2. WRITING: Blog twice a week. A couple of days ago, I got sucked into a YouTube add for a Master Class by Joyce Carol Oates. Three things she said I want to remember: “The most destructive thing to our creativity is constant interruption.” “If you feel like you are a writer, you probably are…Take that instinct and turn it into a craft.” “What we all need is the psychological uplift of finishing something.” I was listening to this at the same time I saw that meme about how if you don’t finally do the thing you’ve been putting off doing during the quarantine, you obviously didn’t NOT do it because you didn’t have the time, but lacked motivation. If I don’t finally settle down and write something, anything, during the quarantine, will I ever? Well…who knows? What I want to do is to look at it like a challenge. I WILL be interrupted. I love my people and I love that we are together, but just their presence in the house makes me feel less able to write. (Does blogging count as writing? Yes…but also, sort of no, because it is easier. It doesn’t have the challenge of being chosen by an editor in order to be seen, and so in that sense it is more of a writing exercise.) So, I am making my goal smaller and more specific: I am going to finish an essay I started a while ago and submit it to the Ploughshares emerging writer contest.
  3. QUILTING: Actually make the table runner. Start on Kaleb’s quilt.
  4. SCRAPBOOKING: Finish the Christmas layouts I had planned and make three layouts for my family stories album.
  5. READING: Commit to reading for 30 minutes a day. I have the time. I’m going to try to not let myself feel guilty about this.
  6. BONUS GOAL: Right now, it feels like packages are life. I keep placing online orders for stuff I don’t need. So, I’m setting the goal of MAILING more than I order. I’m going to make and send two cards a week.

Of course...with all that is going on, maybe the best goal is just to survive! How did your March goals go? 


50 Hikes Project: Thoughts on an Album

Last year, Kendell and I did 50 hikes together. I didn’t blog about them much because in my head I have the spark of a book idea that is growing out of those hikes, the changes they inspired, and the reasons behind them. So I have notes in my hiking notebook and scattered throughout my journal but nothing in a central place.

In December, I had the idea that it would be great to put together a photo album with pictures from our hikes, to give Kendell for Christmas. (I would have to add the last hike after Christmas, because we took it on December 30.) I wanted this to be a simple album, mostly just photos and journaling with a few embellishments. I ordered a 6x8 photo album and some two-up photo holders (so two 4x6 photos per side). I started going through photos on my phone and, wow. I was swiftly overwhelmed. Of course I can’t print every photo I took from 50 hikes (at least, not if I wanted to fit them all in to one album), so I tried to narrow it down to 2-3 per hike.

50 hikes album photos
I'm using this Simple Stories black leather album and their Snap photo pages. Mostly 4x6 but some 6x8 photos too.

And then I bumped into the problem of photo orientation. Right now I am just using my cell phone for photos when I hike (I really want to change that and find a good small camera, as I’m getting more and more frustrated by the cell phone limitations, no matter how much they’ve improved), and think about it: how do you usually hold your cell phone when you take a pic? Vertically. But how are most pocket pages oriented? Horizontally. I know it shouldn’t matter and I can put a vertical in one pocket and a horizontal in the next one and it’s not a huge deal, the photos are still visible.

It still bugs me.

50 hikes album open with both photos
One vertical photo, one horizontal. This makes me crazy.



And then I started trying to figure out how to include some journaling. This varied widely depending on the hike. Some hikes were epic, like the 14 miler we did when we ran out of water at the half-way mark, got stung by yellow jackets, stumbled upon a big, angry rattlesnake, and got lost when we took a wrong turn. Some hikes were just…lovely rambles, but no big stories. In my head, I pictured small journaling blocks that I would stick on top of one of the photos from each hike, with the name of the trail, the distance and vert, and a few details. But as the “few details” are so different for each hike, some of the small journaling blocks are not really very small.
And then I also got hung up on how to orientate the journaling. If I had, say, four vertical photos for a hike, all together in the sheet protectors like this:

50 hikes album open with vertical photos
This is the album lying open on my desk, with four vertical 4x6 photos. You have to turn the album one quarter turn to see the pictures properly. Which way would you put the journaling?

then should I put the journaling so you could read it when you flipped the album to look at the photos? Or so you could read it as you just turned the pages, even though it would run the opposite way of the photos?


Eventually, I got all the photos printed. I printed some as 6x8 and more as 4x6. I tried to find as many horizontal photos as I could. I gathered all the story details.

50 hikes album journaling
See....these are the journaling boxes. No consistency to the size because the stories are all different lengths. I will put a stamped image in the empty space under the hike details.



Did I finish it and give it to Kendell for Christmas?

No.

Did I finish it and give it to him for our anniversary in February.

No.

I’m just frustrated by the whole thing. I wanted it to be simple but it’s gotten more and more complicated and I have a TON of photos (250+ so I have options to choose from) and all the sheet protectors but I don’t know how to proceed.

Actually, here’s what I want to have happen. I would like some scrapbooking company to make an 8x8 album that has two types of pocket protectors for the photos. One that holds two vertical 4x6 (which would be 8x6, yes, which is entirely different than 6x8) photos and one that holds two horizontal 4x6 photos. The holes on the protectors would line up so they all fit nicely into the album. Yes, the pages themselves would be a different size, but you could just flip the pages without having to turn the album to see the photos correctly.

One day I will put on my big girl pants and put the album together…but I already know I won’t love it.

At any rate, that is a very long introduction for what I really wanted to write about today (which I will blog about tomorrow), and that is that I have set myself a new goal. This year, who knows how many hikes we will take. We’ve had a slow start because of muddy trails and so only did one hike in each January and February and two in March. I don’t know if we’ll make it to 50 again. But I DO know I want to document it in an easier and less frustrating way. For one, I am paying attention now and trying to take horizontal photos on EVERY hike. I am researching a new, small camera I can take hiking with us. And I’m going to blog about every hike we take. These blog posts will include photos, and then I will just save them so I can print them at the end of the year, but I won’t have to spend 57 bajillion hours processing them all at once. The stories will all be in one place (in my 2020 hikes category). And maybe by then my dream album will have been invented and produced. Or maybe I'll figure out some different approach, I don't know. I'm open to suggestions!

Tomorrow I will start posting about our first hikes of 2020.


Christmas in...March?

One of the post-holiday, survive-January traditions I’ve established is to scrap the previous December’s photos in the following January. (So…I scrapped December 2016’s Christmas stories in January of 2017.) But at the end of December 2017, my mom got really sick. And then through most of 2018, she was ill, in and out of different facilities, and she didn’t actually make it back home until October of 2018. Then she passed away in January of 2019, and the process of cleaning out her house and settling her estate (not to mention grief) took up much of that year.

Also Kendell had knee surgery in February 2018, and then he started working from home, and I had whooping cough in the middle of my marathon training, and somehow in all of that mess, scrapbooking just kind of fell by the wayside.

But it has always felt important to me to keep the Christmas stories scrapbooked. I’m not sure why Christmas feels so important to me, except for the fact that there are always great stories to go along with the holidays, and because it’s the time I feel strongly connected to both my own family and my own history, and because I wish I had more photos and stories from my childhood Christmases.

Or it might just be the fact that Christmas supplies are pretty fun to use.

Christmas in march

So even though it’s March and I didn’t do any scrapbooking at all in January (but I made several quilts and got acquainted with my new sewing machine), I’m going to use the next week (and, let’s be honest…maybe all the way into April) to scrapbook some stories and photos from 2018 and 2019.

If you’d like to join me, just for fun AND to relieve some of that COVID-19 stress, here’s a list of challenges:

  1. Write your journaling in the form of a letter.
  2. Scrap some photos you’ve had printed for more than 5 years.
  3. Use an alphabet stamp to create your title.
  4. Combine an old product and a new product on the same page.
  5. Use a non-Christmas-themed supply on a Christmas layout.
  6. Make a layout with FIVE or more puffy stickers, THREE or more washi taps, and TWO or more different patterned papers.
  7. Combine silver and gold on one layout.
  8. Make a double-page spread.
  9. Make a layout about yourself.
  10. Make a layout using non-traditional Christmas colors.

You can use all the challenges or some. You can make one layout or 27. You can even just print out your photos and put them in your photo album if you don’t make scrapbooks. You could finish up your December Daily or Journal Your Christmas or however else you document your holidays.

If you play along and want to share, use the hashtag #christmasinmarch2020 so it is all grouped together. I’ll be sharing here and on my Instagram, which is @amylsorensen. Hope you’ll join in!


2020 Goals: February Recap and March List

Trying to be more proactive with my goals this year, I’m breaking things down by the month instead of thinking bigger. My word this year is “commit” and while I am not 100% there yet (nor will I probably ever be), I’m feeling good about my progress. I am much more apt to work on my goals if I put them out into the world, so I’m going to attempt to do this each month, either on Instagram (I am @amylsorensen) or here: review the previous month’s work and list the current month’s goals.

February Goals:

  1. Exercise for 30 minutes every day. I didn’t accomplish this, mostly because of a strained hamstring I didn’t want to aggravate. But, I did exercise MUCH more in February than January. Almost 50 miles, two hikes (it’s been muddy here and Kendell can’t deal with mud), and seven ballet barre classes. I’m OK with not making the goal exactly because it still helped me to move more. Goal recap running feb mar
  2. Push ups and planks every day. Yeah…totally tanked on this one. I think I managed it for three or four days, and then random days here and there.
  3. Work on a writing project every Monday, something that is not my blog. Another miss. I am realizing that when I am deep into the quilting process, I put everything else on hold. (Even stuff like laundry and fixing dinner.) However, I did have some ideas that I put down on paper, and besides, see #4.
  4. Blog twice a week—posts that aren't book reviews. I wrote nine blog posts this month, one of which was a book review, so YES. I accomplished this goal! My favorite post was the one about raisin bread and while it is perhaps too personal, this post about my continuously developing relationship with my faith was cathartic and helped me to understand myself better. I feel like picking up a blogging habit again will contribute to my writing progress as well, even if no one reads my posts, because I am remembering how satisfying it is to spend an hour crafting something with words.
  5. Make my January family stories scrapbook layout and one other one from last year. Remember that all-encompassing thing I do with quilting? Yeah…my February quilt is pretty much the only crafting I did this month. BUT. I did get the photos printed for January 2020 and December 2019 for the family stories album, and I have the journaling formatted and ready to print. Plus I gathered up a bunch of photos I had already printed for other 2019 family pages and got them organized into the correct months. So, not fully completed, but progress!
    Goal recap scrapbooking feb mar
    I also managed to buy a few new supplies! These papers don't go with these photos but they are all new.

March Goals:

EXERCISE: 10 ballet barre classes and run 50 miles. I’ll take whatever hiking I can get but it’s so dependent on weather right now I don’t want to set any goals. PUSH UPS AND PLANKS! I know those are so good for me. Also, continue working on my year-long flexibility goals, which are getting my splits back and perfecting dancer pose.

WRITING: Continue blogging twice a week. Finish four poems and polish my pie-crust essay.

QUILTING: Finish the last straggly bits of quilting projects: the octagon flower blocks and bind Jake’s quilt. At the end of the month, sit down and figure out the process to follow for the quilt I want to make for Kaleb. I have the pattern, but the process and fabric requirements are for fat quarters and I’m making it out of yardage and scraps, so I need to create a process. (I’m not going to do this until the end of the month so as to give myself a few more chances at finding any other fabrics I need to include—the main fabric is sharks, and the accent fabric is white with wavy aqua stripes, so I’m just looking for bits of aqua or navy or ocean-themed (but not cutesy) to finish out the collecting phase.

SCRAPBOOKING: Make some layouts! I am going to focus on the family stories layouts but I also have pictures printed for some other layouts I’m excited to make. Also put together my 50 Hikes album—all of the photos are printed and the journaling is written, just need to put it all together. (This won’t really be a scrapbook, per se. A few little embellishments but it’s mostly just photos and journaling in a 6x8 album. I meant to finish this for Christmas for Kendell’s gift. Then for our anniversary. Guess I’ll just give it to him as a “happy Wednesday!” gift!)

READING: I’m almost done with the two novels I’ve been meandering through. Then I’ll start The Dark Tower series.

What are you working on these days?