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?


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


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?

Stone Bracelet in a Jewelry Box

For the past five years, every January you could find me in my scrapbook space, making layouts about Christmas. Christmas in January—that was my thing, because I never could really manage making any layouts during December. (Scrapbookers who make projects like December Daily make no sense to me. I can barely get Christmas together, let alone an entire daily album.) This was my way of coping with January, of bringing light and memory and prettiness to a month that, in Utah, includes too much air pollution and so many smoggy days.

Well—for the past five years except last year. In January 2019, I spent most of my time with my mom in the hospital, and then at her home while she was in hospice, and then planning her funeral. And then the next three months were consumed with cleaning out her house.

During those months of sifting through the possessions acquired during an entire lifetime (really, more than one lifetime, as there were also my dad’s possessions still in her house, and both of my grandparents’, including some items of my dad’s dad, who died in the 50s), something shifted in me. When faced with the quantities of stuff at my mom’s house, I started questioning what kind of legacy I want to leave for my own children. What possessions matter the most to me? What might matter to them? (Because I don’t think these are always the same things.) I realized that without stories attached, most of her possessions are just items.

For example, I kept a beautiful bracelet I found in her jewelry box, made of a sort of bronzed gold and what look like rocks that have been polished smooth and then sliced into thin slivers. Stone bracelet 01
I think it is striking and unusual, so I kept it and I wear it—but that is its only story. I don’t know where she got it, or if she loved it, or why she kept it. I don't remember her ever wearing it.

I wish I knew the story, even if she just bought it at Dillard’s one day because it was on sale.

Stories matter: this is one of the pieces of knowledge that cleaning out her possessions taught me.

Which should bring me around to more scrapbooking, because I have always been drawn to it through the story aspect.

Instead, I have almost entirely stopped scrapbooking.

I’ve still been taking notes and writing some stories. I’ve still been taking pictures. I’ve even still been buying supplies.

But I only made about twelve scrapbook layouts last year.

This is because every time I sit down to scrapbook, I am filled with the same feeling I had when I first started tackling my mother’s collection of fabric. She had so much fabric. I understand this, buying things you think you might use and then never getting around to actually using them. It’s why I have supplies in my scrapbook drawers that are ten or twelve years old—because I bought it but then never got around to using it. I can look at it (a piece of patterned paper, a sheet of alphabet stickers, whatever) and still see how could use it. But there isn’t enough lifetime left to use it all.

I saw her fabric stash and I thought about how many quilts she finished—in her house, there were only three finished quilts. Dozens of partly-finished quilts, with all the supplies packaged together to be finished—one day. She made and finished others, of course, as gifts for many people. But in her house, three quilts. Four daughters. I decided to be the daughter who didn’t get a quilt from my mother, and I decided that without rancor or passive aggressiveness. I already own quilts I have made. I wanted my sisters to have my mother’s. I thought I will just finish one of these that she didn’t finish and it will be the same thing.  I thought about the quilt I own that was made by my great grandma Amy, and how that should be enough. None of my sisters have that quilt, I thought, so they should have the ones our mother made.

That quilt—maybe that is where it starts, really. This heritage of making things. My earliest memories, which are really only feeling memories (rather than story memories), are deeply attached to that quilt. The patch with the salmon-colored floral, the hue of turquoise that unites the other pieces, the fraying cotton thread, its vaguely musty scent: those aren’t just sensory details, but they are in essence what my childhood feels, smells, looks like. If I hold it I reconnect with the child I used to be, sitting under the quilt in my grandma’s bedroom while she told me stories about her parents.

I treasure this quilt. I “treasure” it by keeping it safely stored in my linen closet, where, true, it can’t really be damaged, but it also can’t make any new connections. Upon my death, my children would find it in the closet and know it was the quilt the grandma I was named for made…but that is all. That is the only bit of connection they would have, because I kept it safely in the closet.

Like the stone bracelet in the jewelry box.

It is all tied together—scrapbooking, quilting, making things. My mother’s jewelry, her china and clothes and the boxes of pictures and the yarn and the fabric and the half-finished quilts. The doll with her head hanging on by a thread, kept because the sound it made reminded her of Michele as a baby. All of her possessions were part of who she was, but our relationship didn’t allow for us, somehow, to know each other’s stories. (If, to flip this, she were to clean out my house because I had died—she wouldn’t know the stories of the possessions I value the most, either.)

So then I must bring this to myself, sitting down to make something. It’s become easier to make quilts than scrapbook layouts. Because quilts—quilts say something. They are useful, and soft, and warm. They are items that touch you. They are intimate, but without the potential for damage that intimacy can hold. They are items that can exist when their maker is gone, and it is almost like touching that person, to touch the quilt she made. You can be gone, as the maker, but the person wrapped in your quilt might still hear a little echo of your voice. They would certainly, at least, feel less cold.

Since I didn’t get a quilt my mother made, I can only have that if I finish what she started, and then it is not from her but from me.

I bring myself to this process of what I want to make. (Not making anything at all isn’t feasible for me. Making is how I cope, even if the making is unnecessary and superfluous.) I want to tell stories but I am, deep down, wondering: why am I telling stories and then shutting them away in scrapbooks? It is the same as the quilt in the linen closest, the bracelet in the jewelry box. It is—it is this truth? Is this the truth:

Am I just like my mother?

Do I keep my stories to myself? Am I shuttered up? Have I made relationships with my children that don’t allow for openness and connection, that don’t really breathe, that aren’t deep enough to allow for the real, actual person who exists?

Do I want to scrapbook not really because I want to leave my memories here before I’m gone, but because I don’t know how to truly connect with the people I love?

I know my mother loved me—but I also know she didn’t really know me. This is both of our faults, and it is also the reality of death. I can’t fix it anymore. (I don’t know if I could fix it even when she was still here. Even if she’d been her for twenty more years.) I wanted her to see me for who I am, not for who she was disappointed I didn’t become, and I’m not sure she did that. I’m not sure she could.

And that is the legacy I don’t want to pass on to my own children.

When I sat down to write this, I thought I would write about my scrapbooking goals. But here I am, in true Amy fashion, mired deep in existential thinking. Which is a pattern I keep repeating, every time I try to scrapbook. I start making a layout and end up wondering if I have managed to make a life with any meaning.

And then I start making another quilt.

And I know I am not following any healthy routes here. I know I am walking toward a cliff, but never jumping off. I know I am not ever managing to address the real issue, which while it grows from the soil of my relationship with my mother, isn’t about my mother. It isn’t even about me. It’s about healing what is in the future. It is about the fact that when I die, I hope the scrapbook layouts and the quilts have meaning for my kids, or for their spouses if they have them, or for my grandchildren if any arrive here. But more, I hope our relationships have meaning. I hope they know why I loved the silver necklace I wore the most (not just because I bought it on a trip to Mexico, but because my mom, Haley, Jake, and Nathan were in the jewelry store with me when I bought it, and because I had gone running on the beach that same day and I had a blister on my big toe from the sand in my running shoes, and because my hair was curly that day and my left shoulder sunburnt but not my right, and because I spoke in mangled Spanish to the store owner when I bought it and because the air smells different there than anywhere else I have ever been, and so when I put on my silver bead necklace it isn’t just a piece of jewelry, but it is the memory of that day in San Lucas and the feeling that my mom was glad I bought it) but even more I want them to know I loved them for exactly who they are.

Those words are repeated over and over in their scrapbook layouts.

Repeated and then put into a sheet protector and closed into books that no one looks at very often. That might become just some other stuff they have to sort through when I am dead. I don’t want them to have to feel what I felt during those three months of sorting my mother’s possessions. The way every choice (keep? discard?)  was like murdering her.

I want that knowledge to live inside of them. Not only after I’m gone, but right now. Right this second. Because I don’t want them to have to feel what I am feeling right now, a year after she died, that my mother loved me but she didn’t really love me.

They won’t be without quilts.

They won’t be without stories.

I hope they won’t be without the knowledge that I love them.

Stone bracelet 02

Goodbye July!

I can’t believe July is already over. We are still in the heat of deep summer here, and honestly, July isn’t my favorite month. It’s hot and almost no flowers are blooming and even the grass just seems drained.

But if July ends, then it’s August. And if it’s August, can autumn be far behind?

Time, though, moves too swiftly, so I’m trying to savor summer before it ends. I’ve tried since Kaleb got out of school, in fact, to just enjoy the days, even though they’re hot. One thing that’s helped is that this year I’ve mostly abandoned trying to wear shorts. I just never feel comfortable in them. I’ve worn a lot of dresses and a LOT of running skirts and yeah, my elephant knees are exposed but I’m just so much more comfortable this summer. I didn’t post on Instagram every day for 31 Days of Skirt, but I did actually wear Skirt Sports every day!

Heat aside, July was a pretty good month. And before I turn my calendar over to August, I wanted to write a recap.

Solstice to Equinox Streak:
I exercised every day this month, except for the Saturday I was sick. I didn’t do cardio every day; on some days I lifted weights or did resistance training for a half hour. I had a little exercise epiphany: there is almost always time. One day I went for a walk at 1:00 in the afternoon, when it was blazing hot, but I wanted to get it in. So I went to the shadiest part of a path by the river and I got it in. Several nights I did my resistance/weights at 9:00 p.m. But committing to the streak has helped so much, not just with my consistency but with my mindset about exercise. I can really do it every day. And while I have yet to see any weight come off (it actually is continuing to bulge around my belly…I have an appointment with my doctor next month because I’m so frustrated by this!), I feel like I am stronger.

I added cartwheels to my workout strategies. I know: that sounds totally weird, and is a cartwheel really a workout? Surprisingly, yes. More of a plyometric thing, but a simple cartwheel asks a lot of your upper body, your core, and your flexibility. Plus it’s just so fun! I visited for a little while one night with my niece and her daughter, who was trying to do ariels in the grass. My body totally remembers how to do them, how it’s not really about the speed you put into it but learning how to swing your arms correctly. I gave her some pointers, and she said “but you can’t do ariels Aunt Amy!” and I said “not anymore, but I can still do a pretty good cartwheel,” and she said “NO WAY! Show me! I think you’re too old!” and so when I was done holding her new baby brother I did a cartwheel for her. Never too old!


I also achieved a milestone this month that I haven’t done in two years: I had a 100-mile month. 103.7, to be exact. (To compare, I ran 90.5 in June and 75-ish in May.) And, I know: that’s not a lot to many people. Lots of runners have 100 mile weeks! But for me, it is a little reward to see my count for the month go over 100. Even last summer when I was in marathon training I never had a 100-mile month (whooping cough!). It feels like I accomplished something. Not all of those miles were running, but that’s just fine, because I also hiked a lot!

I ran a total of 50 miles (it’s actually 49.98 but I think I can round up). I had my longest run since my marathon, 6.5 miles around where I live. I had the fastest mile I’ve had in a long time, 8:48. (Again…I know that’s not fast in comparison to many runners. But it’s fast for me.) And, guess what?


Trail running

Well, maybe “took up” is too intense. I started trail running. I didn’t buy any trail running shoes so I don’t feel like I can call myself a “trail runner” yet. I was cautious and I went on very safe trails. But I just decided one day: I want to run trails too. (A longer blog post is coming on this topic.) I did two trail runs and I’m really itching to do more.

Big Springs with friends twice
My friend Wendy and I got out three times for hikes in the foothills.
Kendell and I together: Great Western Trail, Scout Falls and part of the TImponooke Trail (until the snow got too risky), Buffalo Peak, Rock Canyon, and Silver Glance Lake. We are up to 28 hikes together this year. I’m hoping we can make it to 50 but we’ll see.

I am more in love with hiking than ever. The best thing this year is the wildflowers. They’ve been amazing from all the snow we’ve had! I just wish that I were a better photographer and could capture images that communicate how beautiful they are. But instead of carrying my big camera to photograph the flowers, I have tried to focus on being present and fully admiring the meadows.

20190719_200502 wildflowers buffalo peak 4x6

I had a couple of conversations with my kids this month that helped me get rid of some unnecessary guilt I’ve been carrying for a long, long time. Well, maybe the guilt wasn’t exactly “unnecessary,” but these two conversations just helped me to see my choices in a different light. My heart feels so much lighter.

I took Kaleb to swim in a little local pond this month, with some of his friends. He loved it. I had taken him there five years ago, when he was only 9, and I had to pull up my pictures of that day. It was amazing to see how much he has changed. (Sometimes I just have to stop thinking about how utterly strange it is that Kaleb, who was the baby I waited the longest for, is becoming a person. Even though he’s been a person (by which I mean, not a baby) for a long time, it still just sometimes hits me hard. I waited and prayed for him for so long, and then, BAM, all of a sudden he’s grown up. I had a lovely time relaxing on the grass by the pond, reading, but I got so fried on my legs. Three weeks later, they are still so tender and itchy.

Kendell and I had a fun date night when we had to drive north to pick Kaleb up from Lagoon, an amusement park about 90 minutes away from us. We brought Kaleb and his friend some pizza for dinner, and then he and I went out to eat, went shopping, and then saw The Lion King. We haven’t done enough dating in the past little while. We hike together a lot but it was nice to get out and do something a little bit different.

I got to meet my two newest great nephews. I just love babies and am so happy they are here safely. I love that both sides of our family continue to grow.

While I managed to buy a lot of new supplies, I didn’t ever get around to making any scrapbook layouts this month. I haven’t, in fact, made a scrapbook layout since February or March. I’m not really sure I can explain why, but this is the longest I’ve gone without scrapbooking since I picked up the hobby in 1996. I scrapbooked as a mom with young kids, as a mom with young kids working on her degree, as a mom with young kids doing student teaching and then being a teacher. I scrapped around Kendell’s many surgeries. I scrapbooked while I stayed up late waiting for teenagers to come home from dances and jobs and dates. It’s been a central part of my identity for as long as I’ve been an adult. Kendell working from home has something to do with it, as does the process of cleaning out my mom’s house. (By scrapbooking am I just creating a huge burden for my kids to deal with when I’M dead?) Some of it is that I feel like all the pictures of my mom’s that I need to scan are hanging over me, a project that is zapping all of my creative energy. Some of it I don’t understand. I still want to make scrapbook layouts. I still shop for supplies. I just…haven’t done it.

But! I have quilted a ton. I’ve got all my scraps managed and organized. I am almost done with the quilt I’m making for Jake and then I can start the one I’m making for Kaleb. I am actually, finally sewing together all the billion half-square pink and black triangles I’ve made over the past 7 or 8 years. (I’m trying to decide…is 90x90 too big for a quilt that won’t be used on a bed? I just have so many squares I love. And I live with tall people. But on the other hand: How much will a 90x90 quilt weigh once I back it (with minky!) and add batting? Will it even be useful or just a big pain in the butt?

July has not been a great reading month for me. I’m stuck in a book with characters I like and am interested in…but the story is moving so slowly I keep putting it down for other things. But I don’t want to not finish it because I want to know what happens to them all! Maybe I need another sick day just to get through it. I am also re-reading the novel Contact, which I read about 18 times as a teenager. I was a little bit nervous about the re-read because what if my adult tastes found it lame or inane or narrow minded? But what I am discovering is just how much of my beliefs about the universe/religion/is-there-anything-after-this-life was shaped by this book. Which is really strange, but also fairly liberating.

Finally, writing. I’m continuing to work on the poem I started. There is a deadline and a place to submit so that is pushing me. I still haven’t written the perfect transition I need, but I DID dream I wrote it, and then in the dream repeated it over and over so I wouldn’t forget it when I woke up. But I don’t remember it. I want to write more—I have an essay about pie crust that’s partly formed, too.

Tomorrow I am going to write my goals for August, but right now I am going to go sit out on my back porch. I’m going to listen to the crickets and admire the scent of the summer air, which is especially delicious tonight because it rained today. I’m going to breath in this deep-summer night and try to store it up as a hedge against winter darkness.

How was your July?

Photos and Stories are a Legacy

On Saturday, January 19, my mom made a decision: Rather than undergoing another surgery, one that would result in her losing her independence, she decided to enter hospice care. We brought her home the next day. My sisters and I made sure that one of us was always there, but there were also other family members and friends who came in and out, saying goodbye.

On the second day, my sister Becky got antsy and needed a project, so she decided to bring up all of the boxes of photos. She’d previously helped my mom pack these photos, which she’d gathered from various places around her house in Springville back when she was in the process of moving.

In these boxes there were photos from all different times. A studio portrait of my mom at age nine or ten had a family photo from 1991 underneath it, and then a stack of random snapshots anywhere from 1989 to 2005. Some school photos of each sister, including a few class pictures. Black and white portraits of my great grandparents and their siblings, some dating back to the 1920s. Mounds and piles and stacks and envelopes of photos. Some ruined, some dusty, some torn, some in fine shape. I found photos of myself that I have never seen before or forgotten existed, photos of my grandparents I will cherish now that I have them, even a photo of my Grandma Elsie standing on a trail in Bryce Canyon in the exact same spot where I have also stood for a picture.

It was thrilling and discouraging and moving and more than a bit overwhelming.

Old photos

Over the next few days, I ended up sorting through all of those photos. I made a pile for myself and each of my sisters, a pile of photos to scan for the funeral, and one of old family photos that seemed important for everyone to have.

And I threw away photos.

I threw away so many photos.

Photos I’d given her of my family that I also had copies of. Blurry photos. Photos that were torn. Entire stacks of pictures that had stuck together and couldn’t be pried apart. We used to have a cat, Noelle, who would lick any pictures she found, and there were quite a few she’d irreparably damaged.

But a lot of the throw-aways were pictures of scenery and places and buildings.

I could guess where a lot of them were taken: London, southern Utah, Mexico, the beach, the mountains.

But without any words or stories to go along with them, they were entirely meaningless to everyone.

And honestly: even some of the photos with people in them felt inconsequential, somehow. Void of context, that photo of my mom and another woman I don’t know, for example, posing in their bikinis on a beach was, yes, a picture of my mom. But what does it mean? What beach were they at? How did she feel about her body? Why did she pick out that swimsuit? Who is the other woman in the picture and what kind of relationship did they have?

Oh how I wish she had written down the stories to go along with some of those photos.

I know not everyone understands my scrapbooking hobby. It’s easy to see it as sort of silly, a grown woman sticking down stickers and playing with paint and colored pencils like a kindergartener.

Sorting through my mother’s pictures was so moving to me. It was amazing to see how faces appear and reappear, my mom and dad’s features showing here and there in a child or a grandchild. Those piles of photos are evidence of a life that was lived: family, travels, holidays, houses and parties and snowstorms and rainbows.

But it also reinforced something for me: what I do isn’t silly. Even if there are stickers and glue and ribbon and flowery paper.

Because there are also stories. Thoughts, impressions, funny tales, personality quirks. Details of a life, context for the images.

I haven’t told all of the stories. Not mine, not my kids’. If I died tomorrow, there would be so many stories I haven’t told. Stories about races and running. Stories about motherhood, about being a wife and a friend. Stories about my job. Stories about the places I’ve traveled to.

At least some of them are told. At least, if I died tomorrow, my kids would have my words in writing. Not just my voice saying “I love you,” but my hand writing it, too.

Photos are images of places and people.

But photos paired with words are a legacy.

That experience of sorting my mom’s pictures (and o! how I wish I would’ve asked one of my sisters to snap a photo of me sorting the photos, surrounded by piles and piles of photos) taught me many things. It will change how I take photos in the future. Some wisdom I am still trying to put into words. But this I can say:

In the end, scrapbooking isn’t about the supplies. It is only about the photos and the words. Everything else is fun and pretty and colorful, but the stories—the stories are where the meaning is found.

And I feel something else. It isn’t really inspiration. It’s more of a prodding. A spurring: tell more stories. Not really scrapbook more things. But to simplify; to make sure the stories I want people to know about the photos I have taken are written down, because no one can do that but me.

I don’t want my kids to have to face boxes of meaningless photos. I want them to just have the stories and pictures that held meaning for me, so they know: their stories matter. My stories matter. The stories of a life are lost unless you write them down.

International Scrapbook Day: Thoughts on Mixed Media and Instructions for Stamping Titles

Today is International Scrapbook Day, and I am playing along with the Scrap Gals' iNSD adventures. Welcome to my blog!
I have a confession: until I made my layout for iNSD, I hadn't scrapbooked for almost a month! I somehow caught a quilting fever and instead of scrapbooking I used my crafty time to make three baby quilts, finish one quilt for myself, and make some more half-square triangles for my half-square triangle quilt which I am actually perhaps a little bit afraid to finally put together (even though I now have almost 300 4.5" half-square triangles. It's time!).
Whenever I take a little break from scrapbooking, it almost feels like I've never scrapbooked before, so to get myself back in the groove I use one of my tried-and-true techniques. And one of my favorite things to do is a mixed-media title. "Mixed media" is a term I also use when I'm quilting; in fabric it means I like making quilts with a mix of cotton, flannel, maybe a bit of lawn and some minky and perhaps some satin. In scrapbooking it means not just using one type of alphabet- or word-based product for my title (only alphabet stickers for example), but mixing it up (alphabet stickers and a printed die cut word).
Here's the layout I made, to show you what I mean:
In the layout, I used an alphabet stamp, some alphabet stickers, and a word I cut with my Silhouette machine. I really like taking this sort of approach to my title, partly because it means I get to use a variety of my supplies. But I also like it for the way it allows me to add contrast in color, font, and size on my layout.
It's sort of a learned skill to mix different letterforms, so here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when you're making a mixed-media title:
1. Use size to create emphasis. I tend to think of part of my title as "little words"—the, of, and, for example. Sometimes the little part is a sort of introduction to something else I want to emphasize. Try to use a smaller media for these "little words," whatever form they take, and a larger media for the words you want to really draw attention to. In my layout, for example, I almost used a different alphabet stamp for the "thoughts on being an" phrase, but it was nearly the same size as the alphabet stickers I used for the word "Allman." I went with the smaller font to allow "Allman" to stand out. And then I went ahead and made "girl" pretty darn big.
2.Mix type styles with an eye for contrast. But not too much contrast! Again...you learn as you do this more often. Think about both the letter shape and its mood. Two different sans serif fonts might not have enough difference for the contrast to be noticeable. A serif and a sans serif is almost always a good mix. A smooth script and a rougher brush script would probably feel like just a bit too much. In my layout, I think the mood of the alphabet stamp and the stickers is pretty similar; mostly a basic sans serif but with a swirly flair.
3. Choose one flamboyant product, and keep everything else more simple. This helps limit visual confusion and gives your title a cohesive feel. The script font I used for "girl" in my title (it's called Cheddar Jack and I use it quite a bit) is great for one big word, but much more and it might feel too cluttered. (If you want to set everything in a script font, use the same one and then vary things by size.)
4. Repeat the colors you mix. You'll notice that my title has purple, pink, and aqua colors (which is one of my current favorite color schemes; that quilt I made for myself uses that scheme), and that the flowers I used in the layout are also purple, pink, and aqua. This not only creates cohesion on the layout, it helps it feel like the colors are used with purpose.
There are a million other tips on mixing letter media, but these four are the ones I always think of when I make a mixed media title. Now, those stamping tips I promised!
I used to be in the habit of buying alphabet stamps but not using them much. Then I decided I needed to use my stuff and that included stamps. Over the past two years or so I've fallen in love with stamping part or all of my title, right on the background of my layout. I've got a method that helps it be both fast and easy to stamp a title:
1. Write the words on a piece of scratch paper first. This way I make sure I get the spelling correct before I start stamping, and it gives me a reference to keep my letters in order. This is especially helpful because quite often I start a word on the right side of the title space and then work backwards...it's easy to make a spelling error when you're stamping backwards. I glance at the handwritten words with each letter I stamp, just to make sure.
write a reference copy of your text
A friend gave me this cute notebook and I keep it on my scrapbooking desk to use as scratch paper. I like that it's sort of a record of my memory-keeping. It also has notes about quilts in it, and times for doctor appointments.
2. If I'm unsure of how much space I need, I do a test stamp with just one letter. I think of this as my stamping draft. I pick a letter that is an average width for the stamp set I'm using, and then I stamp it as if I'm stamping out the words. There's not actually any reason to stamp the actual letters to figure out the space unless you are concerned with being EXACTLY correct. I'm usually not (raise your hand if you, too, are more of a wing-it kind of scrapper than a perfectionist), so it's usually close enough. Keep in mind that some letters are usually much narrower (I and J, for example) and some are wider (M and W) than average.
how to space stamped text
Here's an image showing you what I mean: that long row of Ns is the space I needed to spell out the longer part of the "little" section of my title, "thoughts on." I stamped it first, and then I got a bit worried that the "being an" part wouldn't fit...so I did a draft of that, too, which is the shorter row of Ns. Since there is an I in the word "being" I knew I'd need less space than I measured for that part, so I could then see I had plenty o' space.
3. I use TWO acrylic blocks. One I stamp with, and one (I think of it as my collecting block) I stick the letters on as I finish with them. I put the letters I know I'll use more than once on the top left corner of the block I'm not stamping with. This makes it both easy and quick to stamp a title. I just get into a fast rhythm: grab the letter, stick it on my stamping block, glance at the handwritten word, ink and stamp, then stick the letter on the collecting block and start again. An added perk to this approach? When you're done it's easy to clean your stamps because the dirty ones are all collected on the block. 
collecting block for alpha stamps
It's sort of hard to photograph my two-block system because acrylic blocks are transparent. But hopefully this gives you an idea of what I mean. Letters I use more than once in the upper left hand corer. Also, please note that asterisk...I left it on the block the last time I stamped and now I'll have to figure out which set it goes with!
4. I give myself space for imperfections. I personally think part of the beauty of stamping is that it is, in fact, done by hand and thus isn't perfect. If I smudge some ink, or I don't get the spacing between letters or words exactly right, it's OK. I look at it as proof that made this, not a computer or a robot. If you're really wanting the stamping to be exactly right, you can always stamp on a separate piece of cardstock or patterned paper and then adhere it to your layout, but I confess: I almost always just stamp right on the background.
I like to live on the wild side.
Hope your iNSD is full of fun new layouts. Make sure to link me up in your preferred method if you take on my challenge. Happy scrapping!

Scrapbooking is Memories made Tangible (or: Remembering Becky Higgins's book Scrapbooking Secrets)

A few weeks ago in the scrapbooking Facebook group I belong to, we were talking about style and how it evolves. (That discussion sparked this post.) The discussion made me think about a lot of things, not just my style but also what has influenced it.

I’ve been scrapbooking for a long time—since 1996. I started because I had a baby, and all of my friends were scrapbooking, and several of them were also selling Creative Memories supplies. I resisted Creative Memories because it seemed both slightly bossy (all those rules about acid free!) and entirely too expensive (which makes me laugh now, as I confess: I’ve spent a bit of money on scrapbooking supplies in the past two decades). Eventually I succumbed and started using Creative Memories albums, but they always felt restrictive to me. My next switch was to Close to My Heart albums, which I even sold for a while.

Scrapbook room



(Kendell was horrified that I'd post this photo with my room so messy. I say a messy scrappy space is the sign of a scrapbooker who actually makes scrapbook layouts! Also: in that MOMA bag are 300 half-square triangles for a quilt I'm making, and you can just see the corner of the desk I just set up with my laptop.)

In more than two decades of scrapbooking, I’ve witnessed just about every single trend and style that’s happened. The glory days of Creating Keepsakes, Simple Scrapbooks, Scrapbooks Etc, and a few more I’ve likely forgotten—getting a new magazine in my mailbox was cause for celebration. Two Peas in a Bucket, DMarie, and many other websites where scrapbookers gathered to “talk” about scrapbooking. I remember when the only line of scrapbooking paper was Paper Patch and how revolutionary KMA seemed because the background of the pattern was off-white instead of white. The drama of the Scrapooking Hall of Fame contests (I applied twice); the way I pined to be noticed by CK (and never was) and the absolute thrill of writing for Simple (O, how I miss those days).

And that’s just the industry stuff—if I stop to think about all of the trends in supplies and techniques it’s almost overwhelming.

As I thought about this history, I started to understand why it is difficult for people to become scrapbookers. You have to have a sort of dedication to your craft, the type that infiltrates most parts of your life. I literally can’t imagine how people enjoy life without scrapbooking. It brings me so much happiness to put stories together with pictures and a few little scrappy bits. But I also can see how this hobby isn’t for everyone, and how finding your way in might seem a little bit too intense.

But I’m glad I found scrapbooking and grateful I’ve stuck with it. The very first layout I ever made was done at a scrapbook crop at Pebbles in My Pocket. I put the photos down, and found some cute puppy stickers to match, and stuck those down, and then the crop leader told me I needed to write something about the pictures. “Write” is always a magic word (it might’ve been that exact moment that I fell in love with scrapbooking), so this seemed pretty miraculous to me. Not just putting my photos somewhere other than a box, but writing about them? I asked her if it would be OK if I wrote about the photos when I got home, because I didn’t love my handwriting and I knew I had a lot to say. I wanted to print the journaling, and she said “well, I’ve never heard of someone doing that, but I guess you could.”

That’s been my approach ever since: write big stories.

But just like the industry has changed in multiple ways as different people have influenced it, my style changed, too. It took me a long, long time to understand that what I want to do with my layouts might not be what everyone else thinks should be done, and that that is OK. There really isn’t any scrapbooking police, and I can do what I want.

One of the things that helped me figure that out was this book by Becky Higgins, Scrapbooking Secrets. There’s a clear line in my albums: pre- and post-Secrets. The book helped me to understand design in a way that I hadn’t before, and taught me that my simpler approach was ok (even though my style is not very much like Becky Higgins’s style). I talked at length on the Scrap Gals podcast recently about just how it changed me, and you can listen to that podcast HERE. The experience of re-reading the book, almost twenty years later, was just that: an experience that changed me. It reminded me of just how many layouts I have made, and how many stories I’ve told. It showed me how my confidence has grown and how freeing it has been to let go of wanting to be noticed as An Important Scrapbooker and just being the scrapbooker that I am. And how glad I am that while I was influenced by the changing trends, I stayed committed to telling stories.

A few days after I re-read Becky’s book, I decided to look through my older albums. I ended up spending more than two hours flipping through pages. I’m not sure, as scrapbookers, we can experience scrapbooks like “normal” people do, because we’re always going to notice the scrapbooking itself. Some of those older layouts are visually painful to look at, but I still loved seeing the pictures, reading what I’d written, and remembering making the layouts. (Metascrapbooking at its finest!) I don’t know if these albums will matter to anyone else when I’m gone (I hope they do), but that time looking through layouts reminded me of just how much they matter to me.

And my memory was right: there is a pretty clear divide in my style. Here’s an idea what I mean by how Scrapbooking Secrets changed my approach. Two layouts about spring, made about a year apart, the first one pre-Secrets, the second one post.

1999 04 xx jake busy as a bee

(Not the best photo of a layout because A--it's a CM album and B--I didn't want to take the sheet protectors off as I always tear them when I do that and I don't have any more replacements.)

2002 03 xx Nathan ode to 2

(A baffling thing to me about this layout: Why didn't I put the date anywhere? I know it's from spring 2002...but I almost always date my layouts. Not sure why I didn't on this one!)

It’s not that the first layout is bad, really. It’s just so busy. It feels cluttered to me. (But I still want to gush at those photos. Little Jakey! O my gosh, he was so sweet and cute!) The second one is the opposite of cluttered; I might’ve taken “simple” to the extreme here. (Also need to gush at those photos of little Nafe. Why must they grow up???) The first one is more about the process of scrapbooking—it’s hard to imagine fussy cutting all of those bumble bees, but I did it! The second one is only about the photos and the story (which I wrote as a poem, in couplets because he was two, get it?).

Yesterday I finished another scrapbook layout. 2017 11 23 Amy ThanksgivingAll of this looking back I’ve been doing made me stop and think, while I made my newest layout: what matters? Why am I doing this? Does it even matter at all? And I think it does. Yes, you can lose your focus in all of the pretty stuff, you can prioritize the making of the layout over the layout itself (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you can spend hours painting or embossing or fussy cutting tiny bumble bees. Or you can just stick down some photos with some journaling. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that these items exist. The photos are out of boxes; they’re paired with stories. They exist as objects in this world (as opposed to something digital on your phone or computer hard drive) and therefore they can be looked at, read, admired or mocked, touched, flipped through.

They are memories made tangible.

A Study of Scrapbooking Style

When Haley was a teenager and we'd go shopping together, something magical (to me) would sometimes happen. Actually, it happened quite a lot: She'd come across a skirt, or a shirt, or a book cover, or a pretty dish, and she'd say "Mom! This looks exactly like you." She was almost always right; she could discern my style almost immediately. She could also do this with my mom's style, especially clothes. In fact, one day at the mall, we wandered through Macy's for a good half hour or so, just picking out clothes for her grandma.

(I should make a scrapbook layout about that story!)

In one of the latest Scrap Gals podcasts, the topic was style: how you develop your style, how you recognize it, how you use it as a place to start from and sometimes deviate away from; how know what your style is helps make buying supplies easier and certainly makes scrapbooking itself simpler. At least, once you embrace your style.

My scrappy style is fairly word intensive. My layouts always have a lot of journaling, and making the written story feel like a cohesive part of the design (instead of an added-on afterthought) is one of my major design goals. It took me a while to be comfortable with that aspect of my style, however, because in the Scrapbook World (TM), it's sort of an anomaly. The point of Scrapbook World is to sell product, and some of those products help you tell a story, but that isn't as important as using the product. I felt, for many years, like that essential part of my approach was somehow faulty because an emphasis on story wasn't something I saw very often.

Once I decided I didn't care what the Industry thought, I embraced that part of my process and never looked back.

Which made it much easier to buy scrapbook supplies, because if my focus (telling stories) wasn't problematic or weird (because I decided it wasn't), then my other scrappy quirks also didn't have to be problematic or weird.

So, in addition to my focus on stories, I realized I do have a style when it comes to the supplies I use. I'm not sure what to name this. An old scrapbooking friend once said my style is "Edwardian," which I am OK with, as long as there are flowers in the Edwardian world. And script fonts, but not the cutesty sort.

Anyway, whatever I might label my style, here are its elements:

  • ​Clean-ish design elements. This might be summed up best by this statement: I am a fan of the fleur-de-lis. I love black and white designs, or one color + white. I am not afraid of flowers, but they have to have a certain feel—not too frou-frou. I like designs that seem elegant rather than fancy. And I sort of take a fairly active approach to avoiding elements that strike me as “cute.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with cute.)
  • B sides of patterned paper. As far as patterns go, I almost always like the B side best. This is because the B side is usually smaller or simpler.
  • Classic fonts. I can't tell you the last time I used a cute font. My favorite fonts are serifs; they might be sort of old-fashioned right now in the typography world, but for me they've never lost their appeal. I will use a sans serif font sometimes, too, but only a handful of them; it's hard to explain exactly why, but many sans serif fonts seem visually lazy to me. This goes for text; for titles, I actually really love a good, clean sans serif font. (But I won't argue with a good serif, either.)
  • Script fonts. Here’s another ish part of my style: I love script fonts. I'm guessing they don't really fall in the "clean" category. And I'm fairly picky on what kind of script I want to use, too; it's got to be legible but still pretty. It can't feel too old and it also can't feel like a baseball font. Brush is OK if it's not too messy, except when I want something messy. Swoopy is also OK, but not too much of a swoop. It's complicated. But when I find a script font I love, whether in .TFF or sticker format, I'll use it quite a lot. (Yes...even boy pages can have a script font or two.) In fact, when I find a perfect script alphabet sticker sheet, I’ll usually buy four or five.
  • Simple embellishments. Partly this is because I’m not really skilled at using a lot of embellishments on a layout. Partly it’s because once I’ve designed the title, I sort of feel done with using “stuff.” I tend to make one grouping of embellishments on a layout; I try to put it near the layout’s date. My favorite types of embellishments are words, hearts, generic shapes (dots, hexagons, tags), and small icons. I’ve recently fallen in love with camera images, and I have been a fan of the ampersand as an embellishment for a long time. If I had to only pick one, though, I’d always go for words. I love a cluster of words that match the layout’s theme.
  • Mostly flat. I'm OK with puffy things, as long as they're squishy. But after scrapbooking for more than twenty years, one of the things I've learned is that stiff dimensional items always mar the opposite layout in a book. And scratch the sheet protector. Chipboard comes unstuck. Acrylic is beautiful but just too thick. So in my style I embrace flatness, unless the supply is flexible (literally…not metaphorically!).
  • White-based color schemes. I don’t love grungy designs; if I have a choice I’ll always pick grey as an accent over brown. Except for fall layouts, and sometimes Christmas, I am drawn to supplies with a white (rather than cream or off-white) foundation. Recently, my favorite colors are those in the aqua/turquoise/ocean hues, but I also love purple (if it’s a clear tone), and pink when I can use it. I am always drawn to green supplies in the scrapbook store, but I almost never use them on my layouts—maybe because my photos tend to have a lot of green, so I want contrast? I love the recent trend of gold, but if I could choose I wish it all came in silver instead.

While I was thinking about my scrapbooking style and working on this post, I’ve also been deep into several sewing projects. (Five quilts at once, but who’s counting?) I realized that my design aesthetic for scrapbooking is really similar to my quilting aesthetic. Those five quilts? They each have several fleur-de-lis patterns, for example, and black-and-white florals, and some non frou-frou florals too. Which made me look around my house, and suddenly I was seeing my scrapbooking style expressed in several places.

I decided to challenge myself: I found a home item that reflects my design style and used it as an inspiration for a scrapbook layout. I picked this bowl, Aqua and navy bowlwhich I recently bought at Target because when I saw it I thought “if Haley were with me right now, she’s recognize that as something I would love.” I’ve been using it as a garbage can during my quilting process—I put all the little scraps in it as I’m cutting, so they’re not spread all over my cutting mat and counter. I might not ever use it for food…I think it will find a place in my scrappy space.

Anyway, here’s the layout I made that was inspired by that bowl:

  Style and suse layout

And I think it’s a fairly true representation of my style. That aqua patterned paper on the bottom is exactly the type of thing that I love; there’s the cluster of words and a camera, puffy sans serif title stickers, and a good chunk of journaling. (The font is called Karu and it’s a recent addition; I think I will use it quite a bit.)

Maybe it’s the fact that I am smack in the middle of my 40s and I’m getting too old to care about what anyone else thinks. Maybe I am just growing more comfortable with myself. But I am glad I have a style that’s unique to me—and I’m glad I can find scrapbook products (and clothes, and fabrics, and pretty dishes) that reflect it.

Have you ever pondered on your scrapbooking or crafty style?

Scrapbooking Statistics: I Might Be A Nerd, But There's Something to Learn from the Numbers

I’ve always tried to keep a record of some sort of the scrapbook layouts I make. This started back when I used Creative Memories albums, which have a strap-hinge binding and front-to-back pages. I made a table to keep track of what came next, chronologically, so I didn’t accidentally skip something or make a layout on the wrong side of a page.

2002 08 01 Nathan friends with zach lopp

When I switched to post-bound albums in 2002, I stopped scrapbooking chronologically. Now I do some layouts seasonally: Christmas layouts in January, at least a handful of Halloween layouts in October, birthday layouts in the summer (which is either weird or makes total sense, considering we don’t have any summer birthdays in my family), vacation layouts in August. Mostly, though, I make layouts by which stories I’m feeling inspired to tell. Then I (eventually) organize them chronologically into albums. (I have a HUGE pile of layouts right now, and I need to reorganize my albums, but when I have scrappy time I want to make scrapbook layouts, not put layouts into albums, even though that pile is driving me nuts AND I still haven’t moved the albums from my old scrappy space to my new one.) This change in my process has been very freeing for me, but sometimes it creates a problem: Scrapbooking the same stories or photos more than once.

So for the past few years, I’ve made sure to photograph or scan every layout I make, and I created a spreadsheet to keep track of what I’ve made. I call this spreadsheet “scrapbook maps”; there is a workbook for each of my kids and one for me (I confess: I have never made a scrapbook layout explicitly for my husband), and the entries are sorted chronologically. So if I’m not sure if I’ve scrapbooked, say, Christmas 2005, I can look it up in my spreadsheet. (I don’t have scans/photos of all the layouts I’ve ever made, because I only started photographing layouts, except for the ones I made for my Big Picture classes, in 2014.)

2013 07 10 Haley with Brave Wings USU orientation

In 2017, I set a goal of also keeping a yearly spreadsheet (it’s called “yearly scrappy stats”). Is this overkill? Probably. Is it nerdy? Absolutely! Does the data make me happy? Yes! The scrapbook maps spreadsheet is just about layout details, but the yearly one is more about numbers. This year I kept track of a lot of number-based data (you can see a breakdown below), and this morning I did some calculations so I could see what I might learn. Here’s what I discovered:

Total layouts: 95. I’m not sure if this is a lot or not very many, as I haven’t ever kept really detailed yearly records.

One page layouts: 77% of my layouts (74/95) are one-page layouts. Of those, 32% have one photo; 28% have two and 26% have three. The most photos I fit onto one single-page layout was seven.

2012 12 01 Haley We Take Selfies

Two page layouts: 23% of my layouts (21/95) are two-page layouts. Of those, 42% have seven photos; 33% have eight and 14% have ten. The most photos I fit onto one double-page layout was eleven.

2016 12 25 Nathan Christmas Day

I scrapbooked a total of 339 photos.

I try to make about the same amount of layouts for each of my kids every year. I failed at that pretty dismally. I’m not going to share those stats, but that did make me think about why I feel inspired to scrap about certain topics. It is more than just about wanting to use a specific supply, but about how connected I am feeling to the person. In some ways, the less connected I feel, the more I want to scrapbook about that person, because through telling that person’s stories I feel less distance. This is one of my goals, then, for 2018: to catch up on the person I scrapbooked about the least in 2017, and keep it even for everyone else.

2017 07 23 Amy Sunshine mountains wildflowers

I made ten layouts about myself, which is the most I’ve ever done. I am trying to tell more of my own stories, both about current experiences and older memories. I’m the only person who’s going to do this, and maybe no one will care if these layouts exist, but it brings me a certain type of happiness to get my own stories matched up with photos.

I did a lot of holiday scrapbooking in 2017: 13 Christmas layouts and 14 Easter layouts. I always scrapbook Christmas layouts, but I realized one day early last spring that I’ve done very few layouts about Easter. So I rectified that! I used a lot of older supplies I’ve been hanging on to for spring-ish layouts and rediscovered some photos I just love. I only made three birthday layouts and one vacation layout.

2014 04 20 Jake Easter

Most of my layouts were made in the first third of the year. I made 50 layouts before May 1, but spread out the rest through the year. I make the fewest layouts in the summer. The thing that influences how many layouts I’m making? Vacations. During the month before our two big vacations I made almost no layouts, as I was busy planning trips instead.

A surprise from the data: I tend to think of myself as a 50/50 scrapbooker: that my layouts are half single-page, half double-page. Or at most 66/33. So I was surprised to see that only 25% were double pages. I’m not opposed to single-photo layouts; I think they are an opportunity to really dig deeply into a story as well as giving space to a lovely image. I also tend to think of myself as someone who almost always uses more than one photo, and while most of my pages do have more than one, 25% are one-photo layouts.

2006 04 02 Nathan Never Forget You are Loved at Easter Party

I’m still thinking about how this record-keeping experience might change my scrapbooking. It has helped me see my approach more clearly, but I think I need a few years of data before a bigger picture can start to be seen. So I intended on continuing on with my scrapbooking data gathering in 2018 and beyond.

2016 07 08 Kaleb at Hilarys wedding

Influence by my spreadsheets, here are my scrapbooking goals for 2018:

  1. Even up how many layouts I make for each kid and catch up the kid with the fewest layouts last year.
  2. Be more thoughtful in my photo-selection process. Am I doing single-photo layouts because they are easier or because they are the best way to tell the story?
  3. Make more layouts about vacations and birthdays. I think I will also write a blog post about why these are difficult for me to make.
  4. Keep on making “Life Right Now” style layouts. I made about 15 of these in 2017 and they are, to me, a good way to summarize a bunch of memories into one place.
  5. Continue working on my monthly family album. Again, this deserves its own blog post, but to sum up: Since July I’ve being making one double-page layout about our family each month. I keep these super-simple, using the same font for the title and journaling for each layout. This has influenced how I think about taking photos during the month and I want to keep doing it.
  6. Give myself permission to not feel guilty or weird about scrapbooking about myself. Will I have too many layouts about me at the end of my life? Who knows. Will it matter? Not sure.
  7. Start using my Canon more. (Which means I need to get it serviced, as it is not focusing properly. Or maybe I will just sell all of my equipment and start over.) Cell phone cameras are awesome but I really do love my DSLR photos more.

Here’s to telling many more stories in 2018! If you are a scrapbooker, do you keep track of your layouts?