Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 in Review

The year will soon be spent, and my pictures, as I went through them this morning, tell my story.  My pictures always tell the year's highlights.  That's pretty cool.

My story, Paving Roads, whch was about our son Jeff was published in Gifts 2 by Woodbine House.  Opening that package when it finally arrived was awesome, for all of us. 

Jeff also graduated from high school in May, a big achievement and cause for family celebration.

                                                         Jeff and older brother, Eric.

Graduation gift from me -- Trip to Florida.  Just the two of us.  We ended up missing Dad terribly.  But we had fun.

ScrapMoir How To #4: Holiday Scrapbooking, Writing, & Remembering

I became a bimonthly writer/blogger for  I post photos and write about what I do as a scrapbooker and memoirist working on my family history story for the future generations. 

New Family Members

One night a Kittie Mama carried, one by one,
tiny little babies down from our roof.  She apparently
gave birth and was taking care of them in our attic.
Gary brought them in to me one at a time.  They were
so tiny they fit in the palm of his hand.  From Left:
Malcolm, Matthew (Mattie), and Sidney with blue eyes.

Mama is a feral, as many cats out here are, and Gary decided we would socialize the kittens so that we would be able to get them to the vet for neutering when it was time and when they got sick.  It's nearly impossible sometimes to catch a feral cat.  Recently, he was finally able to catch Kittie Mama and get her to the vet for spaying, so she will not have more kitties.

From the night the three little boys came into the house, it's been a cicrcus, with four dogs already inside.  So you can only imagine.  I've never understood how people just toss animals out on the sides of roads...or bring them out here to farm land where they figure we will not turn them away.  And, of course, they're right.  Farm people have big hearts.  We care for the land, the environment, and all living things.  You don't have to be perfect to live here on our farm. 

The Kitties Grow

Book Kittie Malcolm

PC Writer Kittie Mattie

I Got Back to My Roots at Cincinnati Oktoberfest '09

The old neighborhood, Clifton.  Across the street from Grandma's old apartment

Downtown for the Celebration with Jeff, who wants to remain anonymous.  Wow, my Florida tan still looks pretty good.

Old St. George, sign in front of priests' rectory.  My whole life for years was entwined in St. George school and church.  Love the "great good place" wording.

My Annual ScrapShare Scrapbook Retreat

My space, working on a page showing my first writing retreat in 2007.  I save everything of course.

The whole group -- in our shirts and pink boas.  We ARE scrapbook divas!
I'm in the back, the last full row, third from left.


Not everything in a year is good or fun.  We all realize that.  The fact is that I spent a week in the hospital, and that definitely was not fun.  We moved from the big old house we lived in for 17 years up the road to our smaller rental house, where we first lived when we got married and where Jeff was born, when our renters moved out.  The work it still needs is incredible, and Gary will eventually get it finished.  A priority for 2010 is getting the big old house ready for renting.  A big job.

We've been to some funerals.  Some of the very old neighbors have passed away.  A friend, Charlene Frey, who wasn't so old. 

The recession kept going and managed to start touching us with its long reaching tentacles.  Economizing has become the byword for the country we live in.

Jeff voted for the first time in the presidential election.  I wish I had a photo of that.  We saw a first that night on TV, all three of us sitting on the couch.  A black president winning the vote.  Watching history is solemn to me. 

Overall, we consider ourselves incredibly blessed.

Now I have to work on my December 31st ScrapMoir for  Be sure to visit there New Year's Eve for a good start to a new year, something to excite you about working on your memories in 2010, even if you don't think you have any events worthwhile to write about or take pictures of.

See you in 2010.  Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Thanksgiving Gift

While I've been laying around, not feeling well  -- after I got tired of too much TV -- I decided to make a little holiday book to chronicle my journey through the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Actually, I have a big 12" Christmas Album I keep up with every year, but this little one will only hold one photo at most on the page.  Most of the page is for writing -- kind of a diary or journal of the holiday season.  I thought I'd share this with you today, my gift to you, for Thanksgiving.  It would also make a cute predecorated gift for someone special.

I used one of my Creative Memories' 8x8-inch books which is actually laveder (certain ones are the leatherette & this is one of those), but matched real nicely the big snowflake diecut sticker.  I also put an autumn leaf on the front since I'm started in November and a title diecut "Holidays 2009."

The kay to this album is to pre-decorate it, so you can just snap a photo and stick it in along he way or jot down a few words -- maybe your shopping list or to-do's.

These are my Autumn pages leading up to the Christmas Countdown section of this album. 
I love my page about the woods on our property, so I wrote about how I feel, especially this time of year, walking down the paths, and seeing all the beautiful colors.  Just Nature!  I so love Nature.  I wrote a little note on the page with the scarecrow about a small handmade book Jeff and I created.  We had so much fund doing it together, and he got a chance to WRITE.  In case you're wondering who the young couple kissing is, it's me and my handsome man the evening we got married.  I wrote around the circle-cropped photo that he is what I am most grateful for.

I was so upset that my silver gel pen dried out.  How perfect would that have been to journal of this page about polishing the silverware for Thanksgiving.  I cropped a tiny square photo of my silverware chest and notice that I also need to polish the wood.  It looks so tacky!  I love the "Tradtions" paper I found.  Heck, I just love tradition.        

The list "Remember" on the page with the apron is the layout before Thanksgiving Day.  That's where I wrote about polishing the silver and in big stick-on letters "WHOLE FOODS."  That's the grocery store in Nashville I have to shop at for non-allergic foods for Jeff...and sometimes for myself.  I love The Whole Foods Grocery. 

My Thanksgiving page.  I love the deer and the pine tree.  Just like our farm.  I will put a photo of the dinner gang here tomorrow and write something.
The Countdownn to Christmas begins, and there is Day 1 with a December calendar I cut from a sheet of scrapbook paper. 

December 2.  I used a lacy overlay on this and a hang tag tied with furry yarn.
These are all of them so far. I'm working on December 5 and 6 now...well, after getting my bread in the breadmaker and pie in the oven. December 6th is the Feast of St. Nicholas, who comes on the night of the 5th and fills all the good lttle boys' and girls' stockings. I've always celebrated St. Nick's. Now my daughter keeps the tradition as well for her family. Like I said, it's all about tradition.

You may be wondering where I'm getting alll these awesome ideas.  Stacy Julian's The Big Picture.  I've taken several of her online classes now, read The Big Picture book and have ordered Photo Freedom.  As soon as she announced the 2010 Library of Photos Class (LOM), I'm signing up.  I've already started using her techniques in organizing my photos.  Of course, like everything, I've put my own spin on it.  And I do love my CM products.  

Speaking of gotta see the little Snow Maker and  Snowflake Maker!   Also new is the Scalloped Circle Maker and Stardust Border Maker. 

And of course I love my albums.  I just wish I hadn't used every color of the rainbow when they came out.  I loved the look my niece had with all CM old black leather Masterpiece Albums on a shelf.  Why didn't I do that?  Of course, now there is the PicFolio Max in black leatherette and the PicFolio Milestones, but neither of these exactly match my needs.  At any rate, I'll be ordering a new blackk Max Coverset that I can insert refills in.  It's gettinng closer to the look I want. 

For my "Category Boxes," I'm using four Mini Power Sorts stacked two-up on my shelves. 

And, of course, I have the "Big Box," the regular Power Sort, which is my Cold Storage. 

Honestly, the little photo book Jeff and I put together one day last week was so fast and easy BECAUSE I was using my PowerSort -- the big square one -- for what Stacy calls "cold storage."  I just didn't realize that's what I was using it for.  I'd already scrapbooked most of my photos -- all the years up through 2007, so I just kept all the ones left over in my PS.  In my Mini PS I  put freshly printed photos for scrapbooking.

When I pulled all those cool little photos out for Jeff for his book, I "got it."  I figured out The Big Picture.  It's not about chronology all the time.  Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's so not.  And when it's not, you don't feel "behind."  You can rest assured your lifetime of memories are all filed behind their tabs exactly where you will always be able to find them.  And even more importantly, you can even put them into albums when and how you feel like it. 

On Jeff's next birthday, I might put a few photos of him as a baby and growing up over the years, instead of the usual every photo of his party that isn't blurry going on a multi-page layout. 

This is just the coolest thing. 

Do yourself a favor -- or give yourself a Christmas gift or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gift, birthday or just for-no-reason-at-all gift, and get the book Photo Freedom or the prequel The Big Picture.  And have more scrapbooking fun than ever.

Signing off for now.


Some days back, when I was younger, when a person was experiencing hard circumstances or "down" times, they would say, "I'm going through changes."

That said it all.

You didn't ask anymore.  That explained their mood.  Their behavior.  The funk.  The quiet.

Sometimes creativity made its way through where you'd least expect it.  That's how blues musicians are born. 

Today, the day before The Feast, Thanksgiving, I am thankful for not only the good that I've been blessed with so abundantly but also for the hard and the rough, because sometimes that's what shapes you, makes you stronger, and occasionally births in you a new song.

Today is the day for bread baking and pie making for me, among other chores which have already been started early this morning.  I've been sick this month and have not, as yet, to know why.  Guess it's one of those modern designer "virus" categories they just dump everything into that cann't be explained.

That aside, I'm glad I feel better today to cook...and if I'm lucky tomorrow to eat as well.  Throughout the last two months -- when I just wasn't up to posting -- I've learned new things about myself:

~~  If I'm depressed, my body will react in whatever way it can to let me know

~~  I must examine my life to see what is causing the uneasy feelings in me

~~  An absence of feeding my physical as well as my spiritual self will make me sick

~~  Love does not mean you have to give yourself away

~~  I give myself away when I give up my solitude and peace

Friday, September 11, 2009

My ScrapMoir Article

My story, "My Mother's Upstairs One-Egg Cake," just appeared yesterday on Women's Memoirs in their ScrapMoir section.

Additionally, I'll be a permanent guest blogger twice a month, teaching how to use scrapbooking and memoir to tell our precious stories, including current stories of your children and grandchildren who are still young and you are seeing and hearing the stories now! Don't worry if you think your handwriting is awful. I have solutions. If you think you're not creative, that's even better. If you have pictures, this is for you. If you have stories without pictures, it's for you too. No one is excluded.


Here's a good story for my scrapbook.

Jeff's graduation from high school.

If you figure in that Jeff started early intervention at Vanderbilt's Susan Gray School when he was five weeks old, we think he has earned at least a doctorate in "A Life in School."

What a kid.

He may be attending Tennessee Vocational School, which is a residential program, or he may work with his Dad. He liked the school when we toured it recently, but he sure loves working with Dad too, and he's certainly learning day-by-day. He can now screw in switchplates to walls and hammer better than he did.


I'm adding more people to my newsletter and am currently working on the next installment, which will focus on writing family stories for scrapbooks and journals. Be sure to click on the box here on this site to be added to the list. You'll also be notified of current news goings-on in the industry as well as updates on my book. When it's finished, my email list will receive a discount plus other freebies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Oooh, I Think This Is My Favorite Scrapbook Site

I cannot believe I found Sistine Chapel paper! When I scrap my photos of the St George, the huge Catholic church I attended growing up, I can use this paper because this is what was on those immense ceilings. Too cool.

And I can use this diecut for the train trip Gary and I want on before we were married, for my "About Us" album.

And is this not beautiful paper four our trip to the beach?

I need help, because I want to get everything on this site. It's, but it's way more than travel. There are weddings and romance, school, every known sport, and, get this, war... like map paper from the Iraqui war and vellum soldier's prayer. Stuff from the Gulf war, Vietnam, WWII.

I've never see such a huge assortment of supplies on one site. Plus if you sign up as an email friend, they'll send you a 20% off coupon. Orders over $59 ship free. I have no association with this site, except I signed up for the 20%. I just had to share this. They also are on Facebook, and you can be a fan.

Coincidentally, I got a Google allert this morning that they are merging with I cheked this out. It's quite interesting. A new concept that combines photos online with Utube, blogs, recipes, and the like, into one creative place. There is a childrens box for parents to write and share tips. Of course, there's a craft diva box, which is what I'm interested in. I'm looking it over and studying all the things it does. So stay tuned.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Last Weekend's Retreat

Getting the hang of Stacy Julian's Big Picture Scrapbooking.

Here is my last layout before I closed up shop.

Photos of Jeff and Gary in the Gulf at Anna Maria Island. Not the greatest photo of my page, but I am getting better at this.

I only wanted these two pictures on the page and tried to stay away from too much clutter.

And I so have to get the date stamp off my photos. I keep setting my camera and it keeps putting it back on.

This one of Jeff horseback riding has light bouncing off of it, but you can see the layout. This one I waned as many pictures as I could get on one page. I had a stack to choose from, but I followed the Big Picture Scrapbooking rule of storing the rest of the pictures in a photo box behind the label "Jeff's Activities" or in cold storage, meaning I wouldn't be scrapping these.

Even if I ended up using some of the rest of these photos some time down the line I can still find them in my cold storage box, for which I'm using my big Power Sort from CM.

I'm using, for right now, the Mini Power Sorts for the boxes labeled All About Us, Places We Go, People We Love, and Thins We Do

I actually came home from the retreat and organized my scrap area, and I can't believe what a difference it makes, with my new goals in mind. If you have not read Stacy's books, she's got a whole different perspective on scrapbooking. Of course, she's all into telling the stories, and that's what I like about her the most.

To the right is Cyndi, our fearless retreat sister, holding up the little pink sweater with the diva penguin on the front which I knitted for the baby shower. Yes, I knit too. And write. Oh, and read several books a week. And that's it. I hardly have time for anything else.

Our other preggo ss sister is Marcy, and I knitted her a blue (for boy) blanket, which she is not holding up.

News ~~

September 10th, I will be on the Women's Memoirs site with a story about My Mother's One-Egg Cake. Then I will be a guest blogger twice a month on the site, writing about using scrapbooking and writing to create memories and stories like Kitchen Scraps.

I've made several cookbooks using the techniques, and these are wonderful gifts for loved ones, especially our children and grandchildren. So keep check on the site to find out more.

Be sure to look in this Thursday, the 10th, to read an interesting story about my famiy in the 1940s.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cottage Tales Festival

Please join me in this festival of Cottage Tales books, written by award winning author, Susan Wittig Albert. Susan also writes the China Bayles mysteries, the latest being Wormwood, number 17 in the series.

You can go to Susan's site, About Thyme to learn more and read about herbs and recipes.

Follow the link below to see all of the Cottage Tales books. This is a real treat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Food to Remember

Do you have memories of food growing up? I have so many. May be that we loved to eat, but we also had family celebrations that always involved delicious food. We were Catholic, so we had the Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, and graduations and so on. The marriages, and the funerals.

Once a year, we went with the church and the whole neighborhood to Coney Island, and every family packed a huge picnic lunch. My mother always brought cold fried chicken, which I can still taste to this day and cannot replicate. Her potato salad caused fights between me and my sisters.

My dad also cooked. He made huge pots of chili which was so hot, my mother made him cook two pots, one for everyone else and one for him.

We were poor, so we didn't eat too many fancy meals, mostly stews, soups, and one-pot creations. I still make cabbage and German sausage, string beans and potatoes, navy bean soup, my dad's vegetable soup, and my favorite beef stew.

Dad loved ice cream, and he made sundaes for us and banana splits. Mom didn't like to bake much, but she made the best one-egg cake with caramel icing I ever tasted.

My maternal grandfather lived on a farm, and in the summer we'd pick wild blackberries, and my step-grandmother made the best blackberry pie. She also wrung the heads off chickens and cleaned them and fried them up for dinner, but we won't go there.

My Favorite Beef Stew

1 pound of stew beef, or leftover potroast cut in chunks
4 good sized potatoes, cut in eighths
4 carrots, sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 can of peas
2 tablespoons of flour, divided
1 to 2 tablespoons of oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons catsup

Coat stew beef with flour mixed with salt and pepper and saute in oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot. When slightly browned, add potatoes, carrots, and celery plus enough water to cover. Bring to boil and then turn stove to simmer and cook until vegetables are tender. If water cooks down, add a little more. When done, take about a fourth cup of water out of the pot and mix with the other tablespoon of flour to make a paste and then pour back into the stew. Add catsup and peas and salt and pepper to taste.

I usually make this in my crock pot which doesn't require much water. I usually serve with homemade bread or rolls. I also add a little wine occasionally and a few more seasonings to my liking.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Notebook Journals

Above, the "concertina" journal I created last year. Ignore the 2004 date. My camera reset and I just haven't cropped these photos for some reason. Busy maybe? This journal was the most complicated because it's stitched using an awl and fiber with a BIG needle. It has pockets which are handy, and I glued a calendar to the front. Then I used some of scrapbook "stash" to doll it up.

In Memories in Order, I talk about using a notebook or journal to keep up with what you will be learning as well as to capture those thoughts, ideas, and memories that just flash into your brain and just as quickly disappear.

I carry a small notebook in my bag when I'm out and about. It's a "Moleskine," sold usually at stationery and book stores. Mine's black and has a black ribbon bookmark and an elastic holder to keep it closed.

I also have a decorated journal I keep on my bedside table, similar to the Moleskine, but red bookcloth, and larger, 5 x 7 inches. I used my scrapbooking products to express myself in making the red cover beautiful and creative.

Before that, I had one of those composition books you can buy when school sales are going on, like right now, sometimes for as low as 10 cents a piece. I also decorated the cover of that one too.

One of my scrapbook "sisters" gave me this comp book, and I used some of the other embellishments to decorate it. Even made a pocket for my scissors. You can see the little "B" charm hanging from the scissors. No more wondering whose they are now.

I've heard a few people say they have a hard time writing in a beautiful journal because they don't want to ruin it, or they think it calls for beautiful writing. Maybe if I paid an exhorbitant amount for the book, it would stifle my creativity, but none of mine are expensive, so I get more creativity and inspiration for my writing by looking at their beauty. On the cover of my current red journal I have a transparent stick-on, "Live, Laugh, Love," so at the close of the day, when I pick it up, that's what I see, and it inspires me.

Two of my customers a few years ago made scrapbooks from such journals with unlined pages, where they adhered photos, decorative paper and other embellishments, and their own handwriting. They had even adhered some 3-D items like silk flowers, momentos, "chunky" scrapbooks known in the industry. Oh, the covers didn't lie flat. They were prettty chunky. But they were inspirational.

That inspired me, and I began putting some things like pictures from magazines on my pages and stickers from my collection, maybe a photo or two if I didn't need it for my family scrapbook. It's quite fun. You can draw or sketch in these too if you have unlined pages. I saw a Moleskine last summer that a man had created while he toured Rome. He must have been an artist becauss his pen and ink drawings were beautiful. I can't draw, but I can kind of sketch.

At any rate, I call these "Notebook Journals," because they're double-duty. You can just journal about your day, take notes, especially when you're out shopping. You can make a grocery list or menu on the go, or if you're caught waiting somewhere. When I'm browsing bookstores, which is where you'll find me if there's one close to me, I'll write down titles I want and then see if the library has them before I buy.

Since I don't like to carry a big planner anymore, I've glued a small calendar to the inside cover of some of my Notebook Journals. Now I keep my datebook on my cell phone, but it's still nice to see it on paper while you're using your Notebook Journal.

For a while I had a 5 x 7 inch, 3-ring binder which held my whole life behind dividers: Menus, to-do lists, goals, book list, monthly and weekly calendars, address book, client list, notes. It was too much. But I still keep it on my desk and now have a section for websites with logins and passwords. There's just no need to carry it around, but I do take it if I'm traveling.

I also like to make travel journals. To the left is one I created using a comp book. Inside I have pockets I made from cardstock for maps, tickets, receipts, etc. I wrote directions for places we wanted to visit and journaled along the way. A good keepsake.

My "button" journal.

On the right is the "star" album I created totally from scrapbook paper and ribbon.

Please check back for more creative ways to hold your memories, and if you sign up for my newsletter here, you'll receive a special on Memories in Order when it's finished that will only go to those on the newsletter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's Not a Legacy if...

It's Not a Legacy if it doesn't tell a story.

After you've gotten "The Point" (see my previous post, and you know what you want to do to preserve your memories, we need to talk about the most important element of all: How to make it a legacy. Maybe it will be a traditional scrapbook, perhaps a digital album, or a printed and bound book. You might only want to organize your photos where they'll be safely preserved for a lifetime. It's possible you want to create a journal and include a few select pictures and some decorative elements.

Whatever your choice, without the stories, what will become of your creation? After you're gone, will anyone know anything about your life? Sure, there are stories we tell to our children and grandchildren, but will they always be remembered?

Do you consider some of your stories significant enough to pass on? At one time, I didn't think mine were. I've changed my mind. The choices I made, the triumphs, the failures, especially the insights I gained, all became important to pass down through the family. My parents, grandparents, my ancestors, they all have stories that I want to leave as my legacy.

I want my great grandchildren and their children to know that my grandmother went to work at age 15 in a "box factory," according to the census that year. Life hasn't always been what we know today, or will be in the future. I want them to know what kind of man my father was, all he endured to raise six children in a single-income home on $75 a week.

And how I got in trouble in Catholic high school for defying the Pope's ruling on who gets saved if the doctor must make a choice between the baby or the mother, when at the time my mother was having a hard pregnancy with my youngest brother, her sixth child. That story will tell them something about my beliefs, my rebelliousness.

How I felt at John F. Kennedy's assassination. And his brother, Bobby's. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder. What went through my mind on 9/11 when I saw the attack on our own soil.

You don't have to be a writer to record these events for posterity. One way is to write letters in your book to those you want to touch.

I was working at my desk today when someone down the hall yelled that the Trade Center had been hit by an airplane. I ran down to the TV and watched when they showed it again. Then another plane hit the other tower and they said terrorists were flying the planes. Where would they strike next? Were we at war now? I was so scared. All I could think was I wanted to be with my family.

If you notice in the above, the words are all simple, no fancy adjectives or hard grammar. It's just the truth of how you felt at a particular moment in time that someone will consider precious someday. Way more important than just a bunch of pictures and a few words about the event or a picture cut from a magazine or the newspaper, though I use those to add to historical events as well. It's how I felt inside, though, that tells the story along with the historic account.

Not all letter-type writing will be about historic events. Let's say you are creating an album for your son as a high school graduation gift. Instead of just adhering the photos and maybe even adding a word or two of description under them like, "Your First Day of Kindergarten," try this:

I'll never forget your first day of kindergarten. You were so excited to go that you got up all by yourself and ate all of your breakfast as fast as you could, grabbed your new backpack and waited at the door for me. When we got to your room, you looked inside and then turned around and grabbed my leg and said I changed my mind.

In this example, I didn't even put quotation marks around what your little boy might have said. That's okay. You might not know or remember all those nuances of grammar you learned in English class. But I guarantee you that your son will treasure this story the rest of his life because you wrote it. He will share it with his kids someday. It's important that you remembered his first day of kindergarten.

If you are writing memoir, you would probably write differently than letter-style, and it might look like this:

John's first day of kindergarten was cute. He got up all by himself and ate his breakfast in a hurry, got his backpack, and waited for me at the door. When we got to his room, he changed his mind when he saw the strange classroom and all the other kids. He held onto my leg and cried. And then I cried too.

There's a lot more about memoir writing, which is in my book. Looking at the above example, it would seem that you are writing your entire life story, and John's first day of kindergarten appears where it belongs in the chronology of your life. Some people scrapbook that way, chronologically. I'm one of those. But that's not necessarily so with memoir writing. In fact, usually memoirs are written about a specific period in one's life, also called a "slice of life."

It could be you're writing about a time in your life raising your kids, maybe even as a single mom. Or maybe your early life living on a farm and what it was like to go off to college and live in the city. Maybe you're even thinking of doing an album or book of all of your children's school years.

Just remember the importance of your stories here. Why not make this a true legacy. Some people leave a fortune in money, some a grand estate, maybe a huge collection of antique jewelry. If you don't have any of that, or even if you do, leave the one that will be treasured most.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's the Point?

Whenever taking on a project, especially a big one, there has to be an end in mind. You know, what's the finished project supposed to look like. In other words, what's the point?

Since 1999, teaching people how to tell their stories in scrapbooks and family albums, highlighting their photos to best advantage, and how to be certain these memories stand the test of time, I noticed many who gave up before they even got started in earnest because of the overwhelming size of the job. Other obstacles, of course, were lack of money to buy all that elaborate stuff in the stores, not enough time, "my handwriting is awful," and "I'm not creative."

My forthcoming book, Memories in Order, addresses all of these barriers, but perhaps the most significant chapter is "The Point," early on, because if you can't answer this question, you won't be sure of what you're doing, and the project won't take on the significance it should. Die-hard scrapbookers and album makers know the point, or what the project looks like at the end. Maybe not exactly what the physical book will look like because they change methods and pick up new strategies as they go, but as far as what they want to achieve by doing the work, they are certain.

It's like writing. If I don't know what I want people to learn, or I'm not sure of what my real message is underneath all the words, I will give up. I've given up on projects a lot and can see them sitting on my shelves or stored away in drawers because I wasn't sure of "the point."

For me, when it comes to my albums, first off, it doesn't seem like work at all because I enjoy doing it so much. I know the memories are being kept alive in my books for the children and grandchildren for a lifetime and beyond. I have a true passion for this, passing down heritage. And I'm intent on passing down my lessons learned throughout my life, the good and the bad.

It's not like that for everyone who makes albums or scrapbooks. Some people just want to create an album for their graduating senior as a gift of all their school memories. They have a point. Some people want to create travel albums for the family, maybe holiday albums, or albums of all of their child's birthdays. And some people want to write a memoir, maybe incorporating some old photos. Like me, a lot of people just want their family pictures stored safely somewhere where they can be pulled out and celebrated over and over again.

So what is your point?

I plan for Memories in Order to be the first of my Scrapbook Simply series. Not to confuse the name with Simple Scrapbooks, which is a great magazine I love to read and copy layouts from. By Scrapbook Simply I don't want to infer creating simple scrapbooks, but rather simply sitting down to create that book of memories you've been putting off because of all of the reasons listed above, or some other reason you have. I point out in the book there is nothing stopping you from getting started. Just Scrapbook Simply already.

My website is undergoing a new face, and will be up and running in a few days, and you'll be able to see more about the book, which is in the first edit stage at present. It's an exciting task for me that I've been working on for a long time.

In the meantime, I have an essay in an anthology titled Gifts II that will be out this winter I believe. The book is about Down syndrome individuals, and I've written a piece about my son Jeff, "Road Pavers." I'm so proud of this work because it tells my son's story of courage, hard work, complete tolerance and love of every person--and every animal--he encounters. My SimplySpecial website will be up again in a few days after some changes as well. The subtitle: "Aren't we all special?"

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Of Reading & Books

Yesterday my book group met at our little local library. We'd read the #5 rated book on Amazon this past month: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Along with discussing the book itself and its impact on us, or lack of impact for some, we shared stories of our childhood with books. What was the first book you remember reading and how did it affect you? Mine was Heidi. It changed me by teaching me about a faraway land so different than the inner city where I lived. Heidi's story was absolutely exotic to me. I wondered, "Where do you get goat cheese to eat?" My mother did not know.

Then came the Little House books, and I lost myself in the prairie life and the woods, Pa playing fiddle at night, sleeping in a loft. Wow, families lived like that? My world continued to grow. I was learning different cultures and geography. More significant, my love of learning was blooming.

We talked yesterday about why we all were such avid readers when today this is not the norm for most children. The answer is apparent, of course: More alluring media. TV, DVDs, video games, SmartPhones and all that glitter. I hate sounding like an old lady, and I won't tell about walking to school in 4 feet of snow, but are reading and good books dying?

When you consider the publishing crisis, giving way to ebooks, electronic readers, book downloads to your cell phone, what will become of the beloved hardbacks you can hold in your hands and display proudly on your bookshelves? One thought is that less paper books will be published. Already this has happened. The ones that do go to print must therefore be worthy. And they'll cost more.

I see a time coming when we go back a little ways, where "real," good books are not in supply as they are now, where one buys selectively that beautiful volume for his/her shelf, and libraries thrive because they supply the rest of what we need and desire. Sort of like when I was a kid. Would that be so bad?

By the way, the Guernsy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a good book. I'm not sure I want to make a Potato Peel Pie, though if times get too bad, that might be an option.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Do You Wake Up?

When you open your eyes in the morning, do you feel excited to start the day? Is the job or the project calling you, revving up your ambition and your eagerness to get started?

I remember times when I felt that way upon waking. But then the toll of the passing years sucks all that out of us it seems. We hit the snooze several times and wish we were on vacation somewhere exciting or exotic. The day's chores and to-do list, the phone calls, the errands all bring us down to the real world of just living another day exactly like the one before. And we know the one tomorrow will be just the same.

Is there anyway to change this drain on our lives, or are those good old days really over?

I found a secret that works for me just recently, and it's made a huge difference in my overall attitude about life.

We need a project. Something ongoing that we never really finish. People sometimes call it a hobby. But project is a better word.

  • Let's say you've got a vision for creating a wonderland of garden paths for all seasons of the year on your property. Can you sketch the plan out on paper and use seed catalogs to find the plants you will be using and add them to your drawing? Then plan where you will start digging, what path you will work on first. We all know garden addicts who do this. It keeps them going beyond the dullness of same-old, same-old every day and gives them pleasure beyond measure.

  • Painting. You might never have really dabbled in art before but you admire others who do. Might you try your hand at it? Start small. See if you like it, if you think you're at least a little good at it. Then you might decide to keep at it and become better until you can't wait to climb out of bed every morning to finish one of your projects.

  • Photography. This is an exciting project, and one that can be dear to the heart as well if you love taking photos of your family and using them as wall art or creataing scrapbooks. I do both, and there many mornings I can't wait to get to my craft table in the front room and work.
  • Charitable Causes. One of the best feelings is to help someone who needs it, and there are so many ways to give. Find a cause to work for, something that helps change the world, and you won't want to sleep your life away.
  • Faith. This is the one that does it for me when nothing else can. All of creation itself astonishes me. Every season of the year holds wonders to behold, and it is too much for me to grasp sometimes I want to write about it, sing, just observe. And thank God for all of it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

International Day of Sharing Life Stories

Who has a LifeStory to share?

Do you journal? Do you scrapbook and tell the stories of the pictures in your albums? Do you and your family sit around the dinner table and talk and laugh about past stories? Are you passing down any stories for your children, grandchildren, and others who may want to read them somewhere down the line?

You all know by now that this is my goal, my pet project, to record our family's stories. Several weeks ago I found myself remembering a story about my father and started writing in my notebook, not caring about punctuation, spelling, or all that other stuff that gets in the way. After all, your journal or notebook is only for your eyes. Nobody else has to see it. Sometimes I take these sories from my notebook and fix them up and submit them for contests or publications. But you don't have to do this.

Some of the stories from my notebooks go into my photo albums. I love how my album pages look using my computer to write --classic and beautiful. The longer I scrapbook, the more minimalist I become. I'm displaying the photos in ways now that bring out the stories behind them. I might have only one photo and an entire printed page of writing. All those available fonts!! How can you not get excited?

Recently my granddaughter Erica was visiting, and I'd just been working on some of her photos from last summer (yeah, I'm a little behind, but what scrapbooker isn't?). She was so happy to see herself on the pages and just stared wide-eyed with those huge big blues at how beautiful she looked in living color with stories about her.

Go to the International Day of Sharing Life Stories for site maps of some events in the world this weekend to celebrate this event. Unfortunately, there are none locally for me, and I'm not up to traveling at the moment. If I was, I'd probably go to Ohio State University since that's close to my hometown of Cincinnati.

I'm celebrating the day here in my scraproom, organizing my stuff and thinking of doing some digital to clear out the backlog. I can do a digi album in a couple of days if I put my mind to it. Maybe I will; maybe I won't. I might use some of my beautiful paper, ribbon, titles, etc. for paper pages. We'll see.

I've put some favorite book links to the left in celebration of LifeStory Writing Day.

Here are just a few of the U.S.A. events from the website above.

Columbus, Ohio: Digital story screening and Faculty panel at the Wexner Center Theater; Storytelling performance at Browning Amphitheater - Ohio State University – Columbus, OH

Fire Island: On May 17, 2008 students, parents, teachers, administrators and local public officials will gather at the Ocean Beach Historical Society on Fire Island to honor senior members of their community, many of whom took part in an initiative known as the “Student Elder Project.” Through their participation, these seniors acknowledged the importance of preserving their local history. This evening will showcase all of the student’s iMovies, produced to document the lives of project participants. This opening will also serve as a platform for each student to present a DVD copy to their respective elder.

Bloomington, IN: The Museum of the Person. Citizens in Bloomington will celebrate life story in multiple ways and places! Life story photo exhibits (Picturing my World, Memory of the Square, and Third Street Park); a student-led Cold War Memories story booth; story circles of all kinds in several venues; international telephone calls from Bloomington to home; and also a mapmaking project to tell the story of their public housing community. The events will take place at various venues of Bloomington, IN, on May 12, May 16 and May 17.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Two Truths and a Lie

A game! If you can correctly guess the truths about myself in this post and the one lie, you win a free copy of Daisy Chain. See my post below about the new book, and do wach the trailer.

It's springtime here on the farm, or days away from the start of spring, which means the crops are going in the soil. We're going completely organic this year. I started studying organic farming back in the '70s and had quite a plot of fresh veggies I could feed my kids on a city lot. My entire backyard was a garden. I learned from my Dad growing his tomatoes and peppers in a small inner city yard.

I also lived on my grandfather's farm in Ohio when I was a young child and remember snapping peas on the porch with my step-grandmother, Elva. I also watched her wring the chickens' necks on the clothesline, dress 'em and fry 'em up for the dinner table.

So here I am back on a farm, growing my own food, trying to be frugal, a good steward of the planet, and all that.

Now, here are some more things about me. Pick two you think are true and one you think is a lie? Then post here or email me.

1. I was fat when I was a kid.
2. My favorite veggie is corn.
3. I got kicked out of Catholic school.
4. My favorite song is "I Can't Tell You Why," originally by the Eagles.
5. I love to write poetry.

The contest ends this Monday, the 15th! I'll post the answers then, after I pick a winner.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

10 Things You Didn't Know About Food

Read this, and you'll want to be fed intravenously.

10 Things We Didn’t Know About Food
How the authors of the new Rough Guide to Food lost their appetites for the food industry.
by George Miller and Katharine Reeve

Go to 10 Things here and read if you dare. The website is called "Common Dreams."

I am currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The facts about food are astounding. It never occurred to me how much fuel we use to grow and ship what you buy in the grocery aisles. For instance, if every family ate just one meal a week that was locally grown, we could save 1.1 BILLION barrels of fuel.

You know the saying: "You ARE what you eat." Do you know what you're putting into your body?


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Women Take Root! I subscribe to several good email groups, and this post today from "Women Take Root and Write" was exactly what I needed to read today. My focus has been off lately. Check this site out, you gals out there. You guys too. A good life is not reserved for either sex. I've quoted the article in part.

January 28, 2009Your Focus Becomes Your Reality"Have you done a recent reality check on the current condition of your life? Are you blessed and happy, or depressed, hopeless, and in despair? What you choose to focus on will become your reality...If you are not happy with your current reality, it is time to refocus. The definition of "focus" is: a central point, as of attraction, attention; the core, the heart. Life throws choices at you every day. Make no mistake, whatever choices you make are seeds that will shape your future...Consider Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. We cannot imagine what he had to endure, but he has lived to tell how he survived the inhumane treatment in concentration camps. His focus and his attitude allowed him to endure the darkest moments of his life. Mr. Frankl quotes, 'The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances.'

I love the Frankl quote. I wish I'd used this earlier today when someone asked me my favorite quotation. This is powerful.

Women Take Root. A good place to hang out. If you love writing, Women Take Root and Write is even better

Photo of me and Jeff for Gifts II, soon to be published!

Women's Memoirs

Women's Memoirs
Women's Memoirs