Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Project Life - My Way

For a long time, I was fascinated by the idea of Becky Higgins' scrapbooking system called Project Life. But I wasn't sure about the cost involved. But this winter I decided to take the plunge. 

The "system" includes a binder, divided page protectors and color coordinated cards like the ones shown in the picture above (purchased separately). They come in a box like this (one box per pattern, so you only get one box at a time):

The cards are mostly for journalling - for telling your story.

Most people use the system to document a week per set of pages. That didn't appeal to me. To start using the system, I decided to do a month per layout. I went through my 2011 pictures and set them in pages just to block out the sections. Some months there are hardly any pictures so those only have a single page. Some months had more vacation-y type pictures that could be a page or two on their own which nicely balanced the smaller months.

A couple hours of just sliding pictures into slots, I started feeling reconnected to the creative side of myself. I have a lot more to do - trim pictures to fit in the smaller slots, mat my photos because I have them printed as "true digital" so they aren't 6 inches long, and I have to do the journalling. And I'm looking forward to digging into my creative side again. So far I am thrilled with the system and the ways I can make it work for me.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


In December, at a moment when I decided I needed something.... different, I saw that Stacy Julian was teaching a new class at Big Picture Classes. I was ready for something new - a new creative challenge. It wasn't cheap, and even though we are in the fourth week and I have yet to make one scrapbook page, it has been completely worthwhile.

I am loving the creative prompts and the system/process we are walking through.

I've been printing my pictures most months on schedule, but they mostly sit in their envelopes like this. But this class pushed me to at least put them in order.

There are 12 areas we are focusing on - like holidays, people, things, rituals, etc. So I have been putting ideas and pictures and other doodads in categories.

The only problem I have run into is the fact that I print pictures once a month, so I take pictures now for new layouts I want to do, but I can't do them until I print the pictures. I finally got smart and made a list by category of pages I can do in February when I have my pictures and what I can do with the pictures I have now. 

Just this bit of sorting I've done the last couple weeks has been refreshing. Maybe this weekend I'll actually get some pages made.

I'll post some more nuggets from the class later - some especially good stuff in class this week that works with my word for the year, "Savor."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January progress

Rather than set a lot of goals for this year, I just set one - to read more books from my "to be read" (TBR) shelves. Yes, shelves, plural.

To that end, I chose one nonfiction, one general fiction, one book for kids and one series from my shelves for each month of the year.

For January, I chose The Writer's Book of Days as my non-fiction. It's a book of writing prompts and writing advice for a year, so while I have not finished it, I am using it regularly, so I am counting that one "done."

My general fiction book for January was Deep Trouble, a book I received from the author ages ago and hadn't gotten around to reading. You can check out my review of it here. That one is also "done." 

I am on book two out of three I was behind on from the Booktown Mystery series. I finished Bookplate Special and have moved on to Chapter and Hearse. I haven't started my book for kids, The Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, yet. So, of the 6 books I picked for January, I have three done. So far so good. There's a little less than a week left in January, so I hope to be doing a lot of reading this weekend.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


About a month ago I was asked to do the congregational prayer at church for this past Sunday. I always say yes when I am asked but I am starting to question that practice. 

I am comfortable speaking in front of the church, even when I have to do something off the cuff. But the last two times I have done this prayer, the writing of the prayer itself has been the worst chore imaginable. I feel like I always bring the downer prayer. I feel like I have to write this epic work that is going to sound beautiful. Even when I try to write something completely from my heart, it feels wrong. Either I'm trying too hard to impress folks or I'm too narrowly-focused on my own needs and experiences. 

All day Saturday - as I did any other task but writing this prayer - I wondered what I was going to do. I started to think it might be a good plan to just string the words of songs together and hope no one really noticed! When I'm stressed, I can be too sassy for my own good.

Each word, each sentence is dragged out of me. I'm typing this up Saturday night to post Tuesday and I have never felt less prepared. It will be hard to get up tomorrow morning to do this. And I will be relieved when it is finished.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Book Nerds

These arrived for my family this week from Cafe Press. The Camp Half-Blood shirts (from the Percy Jackson series) are sold by the site. The Harry Potter/Weasley shirt is one I made - just for me - with a crown from my favorite font/graphic site, Lettering Delights.

What can I say? We are book nerds!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Being Known

One of the foundational passages for our pastor's sermon Sunday was Psalm 139. The pastor talked about being known by God - "even when we are lost and undone." I was feeling pretty lost and undone this last weekend. My husband woke me up Saturday with the news that Dad's oldest brother had passed away Friday after almost two weeks in the hospital following a fall from a ladder. This on top of a week where a student lost her father suddenly and two students lost their house in a fire. I had such high hopes for 2012, but those hopes have been dashed. 2012 doesn't feel any better than 2011 did. 

I'm supposed to be leading the congregational prayer at our church this Sunday. I'm wondering if I should have said no. I'm not feeling hopeful. I'm not feeling a "Yeah, Jesus," sort of spirit. I'm tired of being the one who keeps leading the downer prayers. 

But I was comforted and encouraged Sunday by this idea that I am known. Jesus called Simon, renamed him Peter, and proclaimed a promising future because he knew what had been planted in Simon's soul from the beginning. He knew the potential there, waiting to bear fruit in time. As I have thought often of having lost those on earth who knew me longest and knew me best, I cling to the idea that God knows me even more fully - who I am and whom I will be - the frustration and discouragement I have felt this week, the hope I was longing for. I choose to trust in the One who can, in time, make me "abound in hope" again. [Romans 15:13]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Switching Gears

Dad was home with me for 5 days with hospice services before he went into a facility. After a rocky transition from the hospital to the house, he had one really good day - he was clear headed and cooperative, had his sense of humor back. We played a couple games of cribbage. He made a list of Legos he wanted to get for my son. We listened to music and sang along.

It was a great day. But I almost missed it. I had read all the materials about how the dying usually rally for a couple days to take care of business before slipping away. But what I saw was a man who was extremely week, but making plans for the next couple months. He wanted a wheelchair for going out on errands. He wanted to renew his driver's license. He wanted to talk about longer term in home care.  All I could think was, "How long will my life be on hold? How long will I need to be here, doing what I know is right, but being away from my family? What will we do when school lets out for the summer? How is this going to work?"

Thankfully I was journalling a lot those days. And I was able to remember and revisit those good moments and deal with my guilt for not truly savoring them, for not recognizing my last chance to really enjoy my father.

I thought "Finish" was going to be the right word for 2012, but I have decided to switch to "SAVOR." I want to be more intentional about moments. I tend to live in the past or the future and lose track of the moment. I don't want to wish my life away like that. I don't want to miss other precious pieces of life because I'm focused on what's next.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Choice Is a Powerful Thing.

My Sunday school class is a great group of women at various ages and stages of life. Our lives are just busy enough to keep us from really digging into a book or some other long-term study, so this month we started considering a list of questions posed by a spiritual mentor in the church.

Her one question this week led us on all sorts of great "rabbit trails" for conversation. One piece of the conversation that has stuck with me was about choices.

One person said she had been in a setting where people were asking a fairly popular life-purpose question like "What would you do with your life if there were no roadblocks - money, etc.?" She was struck by how many people mentioned things that were fairly easy to do - take up a sport, for example. Now, sure, some sports can be expensive once you buy gear and find the time and a place to participate. But if you want to learn to play tennis or take up the piano, it isn't too much of a stretch to say you could find someone to teach you, work out the costs, maybe sacrifice here or there to make it happen at some point.

I think it some times comes down to choices. If I choose to do (a) then I am choosing NOT to do (b) or (c).

I have a couple young friends who are apply to graduate schools right now. Frankly, I am jealous. I would love to go back to school, maybe get a PhD or another Master's degree. And these ladies have some freedom in where they are applying to graduate school, and therefore have some flexibility on the program they are pursuing. They can really zero in on a program and a place that can help them get where they want to go.

When I went to graduate school (many, many years ago, it seems), I applied to one school - not because I didn't want to try other options, but mainly because I had already made a more significant choice. I was getting married. My husband was going to be in a particular community because of his work. So by choosing him, I also - by default - chose my graduate school.

Sure, I would like to go back to school. And I could do it tomorrow if I really wanted to. When I start to list the reasons I'm not pursuing that, they all boil down to the fact that I have chosen to put other things first.

Last year my "one word" was choose or choice. This was a powerful word for me because it was a reminder of how much control I have in some aspects of my life. It works in this grad school situation, too. I am not a victim of circumstances that are depriving me of this dream of going back to school. I am an active participant. I have made choices to put other things first at this time in my life. I get to choose, and there is contentment in that.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Project Life

This is Project Life - a memory keeping system developed by Becky Higgins. 
There are four colors - cobalt (seen here), amber (below), clementine (a bright orange) and turquoise. The binder holds the page protectors (which came in the large white box).

The little white box is what I think is fantastic. The page protectors I bought have four 4x6 spots - two at the top and two at the bottom - with four smaller spots in the middle. The pieces in this little white box fit in those spaces.

This very easily can be memory keeping for those who don't scrapbook while also being a starting point for those who love it.

Yes, the little white box is quite a financial investment (Thankfully, I had some Amazon gift cards to use), but if this system will get my pictures in a book and out of little paper envelopes, it's worth it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I haven't really set "goals" per se for the new year, but I really would like to be more crafty. I did some crafty things while we were home for Christmas break, and had a great time.

A new wreath for our front door.

Dividers for a class I'm taking - more on this in the weeks to come.

This last one is a scrapbooking system I have been wanting to try out for some time. When it first debuted, I saw pictures all over the internet of women kissing their white boxes. What could be so awesome?

But now that I have it in my own hands, I get it. I'll post more about it on Thursday so you can see what's so awesome!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Normal

We don't get a lot of phone calls at our house - we are an emailing/Facebooking/texting/in person sort of family. In recent years, I had taken to asking, "Yours or mine?" when the house phone rang because 95% of the time, the caller was either my father or my in-laws. I still hesitate every time the phone rings for a split second before I remember that I don't have a parent to call me any more.

When my father died, I realized I was an orphan. Granted, an adult orphan - more independent and capable than children who lose both parents and are forced to rely on extended family or social services to care for them. But there's something very lonely about recognizing that your family of origin is completely gone and you are the only one left. If you can't remember some event from your childhood, you no longer have parents who can fill in the gaps.

I imagine it wouldn't be such a stark change if I had siblings, but as an only child, I feel completely cut off and alone. I expected the holidays to be difficult, but they were okay. Thanksgiving was probably the hardest because we had been home with Dad the year before - taking him to chemo appointments, sitting with him in the infusion lab. So many comparisons from one year to the next. Christmas Day was the "easiest" because it had been so long since we had been with Dad on Christmas anyway. My birthday was a melancholy day. My family and friends were gracious, and the day was filled with fun activities and birthday wishes. But it was weird knowing there would be no call from Dad - no parent who was there on the day of my birth to acknowledge the anniversary of it. I mentioned to my family how sad it was to think of not getting a birthday phone call. My son took it to heart and disappeared with my husband's cell at one point so he could call me from another part of the house to sing me some birthday wishes. It was very sweet.

This is my new normal. No parents for Mother's Day or Father's Day. No parents to call with reports of new jobs or good report cards or birthday greetings. Some days, the new normal sucks.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where Did I Learn That?

As 2011 was wrapping up, I spent a lot of time thinking through all the things that happened during the year. I remembered the moment when Dad pulled my family into his room at the nursing home, asking us to close the door and telling us he was ready for hospice - he was ready to die. He had had such a rough couple months, I had taken to carrying a notebook in my purse where I could keep track of phone numbers and conversations with doctors. When Dad made his announcement, I remember pulling out that notebook, breathing deeply and trying not to cry. He told me what he wanted and I took notes. I wanted to honor his request by accepting it and following through on his instructions to the letter.

One day while Dad and I were home together (hospice came to the house for several days before a bed opened for him at a facility), one of his sisters-in-law called to check on him while he was sleeping. She is a very sweet woman, and I appreciated that she and her husband were checking on Dad and I. During the conversation, though, she said they just couldn't understand why Dad was  "giving up." I felt this fierce, protective instinct kick in and told her that was not at all what this was. Dad said he was expecting that attitude from some people and I wanted to shield him from it by any means necessary.

Where did I learn that? At what point did I decide that it was more important to honor a dying man's wishes than to argue with him to keep fighting? I was not at all ready to let him go, but without consciously thinking about it, I set aside what I wanted to do what he asked. Maybe it was just the devotion of an only child - a daughter - for her father. Would I have done the same for my mother, with whom I had a more contentious relationship? Considering how quickly my father drifted away, I feel like this was one thing I absolutely got right. I feel like I honored Dad by accepting his choice about hospice and facilitating that transition for him. But I still wonder where I learned this - where I developed a philosophy of death and dying.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Is Here

Well, the tree is down, the ornaments are put away. Christmas is wrapped up for another year.

It feels good to have the house back to semi-normal. Since we are still on winter break here, the house is still in disarray. We did some cleaning around the house - my husband says the trash can has never been so full - and I am trying to get a bunch of books ready for the start of the school year in the library. So, life still feels a little unsettled.

But 2012 is here. I felt a great sense of relief when the clock said 12:00. 2011 was finished. Finally. And we survived.

I spent some time Saturday night with Michael Hyatt's "Seven Questions to Ask About Last Year." It was a good exercise for me to acknowledge the highs and lows of the year and then to put some closure on it and put it behind me. 2011 is finished. Welcome, 2012!

I've decided to use "Finish" as my word for the year. I set aside some books from my many piles of TBRs (to-be-reads) that I want to get through this year. We'll see how that goes.

Hope you had a great New Year's Eve/Day. We are looking forward to a few more days of break before heading back into the school year.