Friday, November 27, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - All Wrapped Up

As this day after Thanksgiving wanes, and the month of November begins drawing to a close, I am finishing my 30 in 30 Thankfully project with the last seven of the 30 things I'm thankful for this month.

24. I am thankful for that amazing sunset pictured above. Coming out of Barnes and Noble, that light-painted sky caught my eye, and I paused to snap a photo with my phone. I love having that technology in my pocket to capture life as it happens.

25. I'm thankful for Thanksgiving day, time to relax, do a bit of scrapbooking, spend moments with Daniel and DJ, eat good food, and write our wish lists for the holiday season. A simple, sweet holiday with people I love is a treasure indeed.

26. I am thankful for the local scrapbook store, where I've spent many a happy hour browsing and buying, and where I've met some wonderful people that have become good friends. I know not every scrapbooker is lucky enough to have such an awesome store nearby.

27. I am thankful for the book I'm currently reading, Writing Is My Drink. I am becoming inspired to write again, and that dovetails nicely with the word I've just about settled on for 2016.

28. I am thankful for the fun day I had with Daniel today, having breakfast, shopping, getting coffee, being together, laughing like we always do. Lucky, lucky, lucky me.

29. I am thankful for plenty. I know how fortunate I am to have what I have, to enjoy the abundance I enjoy. Life is good.

30. Finally, I am thankful for my own strength. It has been another very difficult year for me, and I am proud of myself for continuing to stand. Part of that is because of my parents who taught me by their examples how it's done. They are both gone, but their love for me lives on in my memories of who they were and who they taught me to be.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Numbers 21-23

21. I am thankful for this view out my front door this morning. Measurable snow doesn't usually fall this early in the season, and it was absolutely beautiful.

22. I am thankful for a day that was both restful and productive.

23. I am thankful to have a warm home on a cold night like this one.

30 in 30 Thankfully - Numbers 19 and 20

19. I am thankful for days like this, perfectly autumn, rainy and chilly. By far, this is my favorite kind of weather, and I love that I live in a place where it happens. (I do feel badly for the neighbor who just had all their leaves bagged up and set at the curb for pickup.)

20. I am thankful for the phone call from my niece Rebecca yesterday. People keeping in touch always makes me happy.

30 in 30 Thankfully - Catching Up

(I accidentally deleted this post, so I had to re-post it.)

Okay, I'm behind. Again. This is the main reason I don't usually attempt daily projects, why 30 in 30 was born in the first place. Daily is a difficult pace to keep, even during the best of times.

So, rather than lament, I'm just going to pick up where I left up and list some things in my life that I'm thankful for and catch this project up. Ready? Set…GO!

I am thankful…

10. that I don't live in a country so embroiled in all manner of turbulence that I have to be a refugee from it. While I know that the United States has its share of problems, I feel lucky to live here and enjoy how good things are for most of the people who do.

11. for my friends. I feel lucky to have really good ones.

12. for coffee. Enough said.

13. that there are good people in the world who balance out those who live out of fear and pain, rather than love.

14. for scrapbooking. It brings me so much joy and preserves memories. I recently looked through two different holiday season albums, and it made me happy to remember those two different holiday seasons.

15. for my health. Good health is precious. I don't want to forget that.

16. that I had good parents who cultivated a relationship with me. I miss them both every day.

17. for friendly folks who will chat with me in line at the grocery store.

18. for all the artisan beer flavors that arrive during the holiday season, making it that much more festive.

There we go, all caught up for now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Number 9

(Changing from "day" to "number" because I'm having trouble sticking to a daily format.)

A moment in time, I don't even know for sure what moment, captured on film. In this picture, taken sometime in 1979 or 1980, most likely, but that's a wild guess at best, I am with my mother on a paddle boat at Tyler State Park in Texas.

I think that's where we were.

I don't have a specific memory of that day, that moment, with my Mom, but I remember her being kind and loving. I remember her laughing and being a lot of fun. I remember her making an effort to make my life full and happy, and teaching me by example to enjoy moments.

Lately, with the holidays approaching especially, I'm feeling more in touch with the loss of my Mom this year.

I am thankful that I have so many happy memories of her.

Like the one in this photo.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 8

Today, I am thankful for the simple pleasure of relaxing with a good book. I forced myself to shelve all the responsibilities for today and just rest.

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 7

(Yes, I realize I'm running a bit behind, but I intend to remedy that today.)

That is my nephew last May on his way into Karmanos Cancer Center on the day before he was admitted for a procedure we hope will save his life. He has leukemia, as I've written about before, and that disease, especially the form he has, is particularly nasty, as well as resilient.

I recently read this article about a new procedure that may eventually turn the tide in the sometimes losing battle with leukemia. It gave me hope that someday people diagnosed with this terrible disease will not have to endure the misery my nephew has endured, that someday, cancers of all kinds will not leave the devastation in their wake that they do, now.

I am thankful beyond measure that my nephew is doing well right now, and I am thankful that the little baby girl mentioned in that article has survived and is doing well. And I'm also thankful for the hope this new medical development brings.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 6

So very thankful for time to play with paper and pretties. For a couple of months or so, I've been going to crops at the local scrapbook store, and not only do I get several hours of scrapbooking time, I have met some truly wonderful women who have become fast friends.

Friendship and fun are great antidotes for the stresses of life.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 5

Today, I am thankful for taking walks with my husband. The one we took this afternoon was once around our neighborhood, about a mile, and while it was still warmer than November usually is, the wind felt like autumn is on the way back, replacing the Indian summer.

We always have good conversations and laughter on our walks, and some of the trees still have their leaves, shining beautiful fall colors, even against a sky promising rain.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 4

It is after midnight, but I haven't gone to bed yet, so I'm calling this day 4, and today I am thankful for autumn.

Because everywhere I turn, there are leaves of gold catching the sunlight, and it takes my breath away.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 3

Today, I'm thankful for treasures like this one, preserved by my little Mommy.

I painted that tree with watercolors on some very flimsy paper probably 25 years ago. I was hanging out with my nephew Luke, and we were watercoloring together. I wasn't thinking about perfection or creating a work of art. I wanted to paint a tree, and that's what I did. I remember being surprised by how much I liked the finished picture.

I gave it to my Mom, and she kept it, eventually framed it, and hung it on her bedroom wall. Today, I found it in a box of her things from her house in Texas, and it made me happy that it mattered enough to her that she would keep it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 2

Today, I am thankful for bright autumn sunlight on a November day warm enough to work out in the garage and sit on the deck with my husband, drinking coffee.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

30 in 30 Thankfully - Day 1

Now, I'm not promising to keep up with this on a daily basis, but I want to document gratitude again this November, so I'm going to give it a shot.

30 days, 30 things I'm thankful for. In no particular order, except today, because this? This I'm most thankful for, always:

Every day of my life, I am surprised and delighted that I get to be with him.

Every. Single. Day.

The two of us, we've been through so much shit together, and we remain head-over-heels in love. Devoted to each other, dedicated to the best for each other. Whatever happens, it is handled. Together. He is my soft place to land. He is my anchor. He is my hero in a hundred thousand ways, and I am so, so lucky I get to be the one to share his life, his dreams, his days, and that he shares mine.

So, yeah. Thankful. Really, really thankful for him.

When October Goes, 2015

October. My favorite month of the year. This one, admittedly, a bit more turbulent than most, but still...I enjoyed its moments. Here are some of my favorite photos from October, 2015.

Sunset at the intersection of 9 Mile and Middlebelt Roads.

Me and my love, together for 14 years, married for 13. So lucky. So much in love.

The light and water show at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. We were there for a conference and to celebrate our anniversary.

Me at the Starbucks near New York, New York, Las Vegas.

The baby tiger at The Mirage. So adorable.

Also at The Mirage, this playful dolphin, flirting with all of us watching from the below ground aquarium. Seeing the dolphins was probably my favorite part of the Las Vegas experience.

Back in the Mitten, fall color in the sunlight.

Daniel and I were invited to visit an elaborate Halloween display at two homes in the area. Every year, these talented people decorate their yards with all kinds of characters and lights and other nifty stuff. That's me with Yoda and Vader, wearing Daniel's Amazon conference jacket because I was freezing, and he is a sweetheart.

More autumn gold. Every year, I find the trees more and more breathtaking.

Me and Daniel, Star Wars fans. I tried and tried to come up with a great costume for us, but while October is my favorite month, it was also a difficult month, so we went easy with the costumes and had a great time at our friend Jenna's charity Halloween bash.

Our nephew DJ as The Punisher. Awesome.

And one more shot of that magnificent autumn color, so fleeting. The leaves are probably already off that tree, danced to the ground by the wind.

As the song by Barry Manilow says, "I should be over it now, I know. It doesn't matter much how old I grow. I hate to see October go..."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Goodbye, September 2015

My favorite photos of the month in no particular order:

This majestic tree I can see from my second floor living room window always captures my attention. On this rainy day, it was dancing in the wind, and I wanted to remember the magic of that...except that the photo doesn't quite do it justice. Still...I love the picture because it does take me back to a normal day of rain and wind and the majesty of nature.

That's me and Chewbacca at Target. We go way back, Chewie and me. All over the place, Star Wars merchandising is cropping up in preparation for The Force Awakens, and I am over the stars (get it?) with excitement. I've been a Star Wars fan a long, long time. I saw the original during the summer of 1977, and I've been devoted ever since, the prequels (which I refer to collectively as "that Phantom Menace nonsense") notwithstanding. I love it that Star Wars is everywhere I look right now, even if Star Wars coffee creamer and Star Wars graham crackers makes it seems little bit like the merchandising machine is out of control. It's still so much fun reliving the memories of the first movies when I was young and anticipating the new movie, which is already making me feel nostalgic for a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Also? I totally love getting to stand next to Chewbacca, even if it is a cardboard cutout almost too tall to be in the same photo with me.

They're done. All done. All the Legos, clean and ready to be built into cool new ships and whatever else my nephew can imagine. Feels good to have that project completed.

I went out to the car one day, and this tattered leaf was stuck to the back window. I thought it looked cool, so I snapped a photo with my iPhone. Nifty.

On a walk around our neighborhood one day, Daniel and I came across this bird, which looks like a baby or a birdie toddler(?) to me. It didn't move, even when we got pretty close, and I couldn't help but worry a little that it was injured or abandoned by its parents, poor little thing. A friend on Facebook shared the photo and asked a friend of hers who knows about birds what kind it might be, but I never heard back. I found myself wishing I could share this photo with my mother. She loved birds, like her mother before her, and she would've enjoyed this photo. I miss her.

My sweetheart husband, Daniel, was such a good sport when we went to a local orchard on the first day of autumn weather, and it rained the whole time we were there. Now, rain doesn't bother me. I'm a water child from way back, and I like almost nothing more than to walk, play, or do just about anything in the rain. Daniel...not a big fan, but he stayed with me as we rode the hay wagon, full of other dedicated (and maybe a little crazy) apple enthusiasts out to the Honey Crisp trees to fill our peck bag full of apples. The rain changed from drizzle to full on downpour just as we started wandering through the trees, but we prevailed.

And that there is DJ, my nephew, and me at Tony Packo's in Toledo, Ohio. When my Mom was a little girl, she and her Mom used to do a bit of Hungarian dancing at that very building, and because the place itself is infused with my heritage, it makes me happy to be there. On a Monday morning, we picked up our good friend Patsy, and off we went. I got to indulge in one of my favorite meals, chicken paprikas and spend time with two awesome people. (I also had to drive over a bridge I do not like...twice, but it was worth it.) What I love about this photo is that DJ looks well and happy, and those two things can't help but make me smile.

There are these trees, I don't know what they're called, but their leaves turn a shade of yellow gold in the fall that is breathtaking. When they fall, it's like gold confetti all over the street, the sidewalk, the car. Beautiful.

Picking up my husband from work one day, I noticed how the light caught in these turning oak leaves, and I had to try to capture it. Sights like these, along with many other reasons, are why I love fall.

On a walk at Heritage Park, a bee busies itself getting ready for summer's end...

...and flowers such a lovely shade of purple dazzle me.

And so September departs, and I welcome October, my favorite month of the year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Currently - September 2015

I was inspired by this post at The Papercraft lab to document what's currently going on in my life as September departs.

Listening - Lately, I've been listening a lot to Sara Bareilles songs. My current favorite is "Chasing the Sun," which has become a theme song for this year, connected to my One Little Word, happy. I also listen to my nephew tell me about his video game adventures, particularly the new DLC (that's "downloadable content") for a game called Destiny. He's been connecting with people online through the xBox One interface, and I often hear him talking to those new friends, and it makes me smile that he's making connections like that, especially because it means that he's feeling good. Also...listening a lot to the breath of autumn breezes through the trees that are turning all kinds of lovely colors as my favorite season gets underway. Love this time of year so much!

Reading - The other day at Target, I picked up the newest book by Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess) called Furiously Happy. I read about a third of it on Monday, and I don't recall ever laughing that hard or that much. Tears were leaking out of my eyes, I was laughing so hard, and there are also serious passages in the book that spoke to me. I've also been reading a book called Flat Rock Journal by Ken Carey that has been sitting on my books shelf for years. Recently, I went through my book collection and packed many up in a box for giveaway, and I put the ones I haven't read on two cleared off shelves, thinking (hoping?) I'll get to them more readily that way. From that stack, I also selected a book called How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor. I started reading that yesterday, and it's fascinating, particularly how little a long-time Star Wars fan like me knew about the origins of these beloved movies.

Eating - Two nights this week, I actually cooked dinner, which hasn't happened in a long, long time. I'm not a big fan of cooking to start with, and because of all the stress in our lives, we've been doing a lot of eating out or taking out or foraging in the cabinets for whatever might be available that resembles sustenance. Awhile back, Daniel and I started eating salads three or four times a week, and we're trying to get back into that habit. Oh, and chocolate. Especially M&M Almonds because, hey, almonds are nuts, and nuts are good for me, so yummy AND nutritious. Two birds. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Nobody's doctor needs to know...

Loving - My husband, Daniel. I mean, of course! But we've been married almost thirteen years, and I continue to be daily amazed at how lucky I am to have found this amazing man. I remember thinking that I couldn't possibly love him more than I did at that moment, only to have the love I feel for him grow even more. These last few years, we've been through hurricane after hurricane in our lives, and he and I just cling to each other and stand against all that wind and turbulence and devastation. I am so grateful. Just so thoroughly awestruck and grateful for him and for the life we create together and the solace I find in his love for me.

Also loving the delectable fall weather we're enjoying here in Michigan right now. The new Starbucks drink, toasted graham latte: yum! Cropping with new friends at the local scrapbook store. I started going to crops a few weeks ago, and this group of women reached out to me, welcomed me into their circle. We share our lives, and we admire each other's creativity, and we laugh and laugh and laugh together.  Lucky me.

Working On - Oh, that list is long and distinguished! I'm continuing to work on making writing a habit, perhaps even a spiritual practice, and I'm working on staying in the moment, the now, more. I'm encountering the concept of mindfulness a lot lately, and it's something that the experts on happiness say contributes greatly to being happy, as well as reducing those things that detract from happiness. I'm working on finding motivation and time to tackle some big projects, including a huge clean out of our garage, which I hope to complete before winter arrives. The difficult part will be going through my mother's stuff, sorting through her belongings, deciding what to keep and what to do with those things, and what to let go of and how to best do that. For several months, I've been working on cleaning out our house just to eliminate clutter that's been growing since we moved in nine years ago. We also may be moving before too long, so I want to be prepared for that.

Contemplating - As I wrote about in this post a couple days ago, I've been thinking a lot about my memory-keeping process and how I might want to change my focus to more meaningful stories, particularly from the past, rather than the everyday life variety. Not that the details of daily life aren't important, but they get preserved in other ways. I'm thinking about what's next for me, as my nephew continues to improve, and my caregiving responsibilities become fewer. What have I always wanted to do? What new dreams do I want to pursue? Those are the things that are rolling around in my head.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shifting Focus

Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking about scrapbooking, specifically how many projects I have going, how much scrapbooking I want to do, how much actually gets done.

Lately, doing all that thinking, I have been overwhelmed.

When I first began scrapbooking, preserving the memories of both my weddings (to the same wonderful man, long story) was at the top of my priorities list. That was about ten years ago, and I have completed maybe three or four pages related to the first wedding. The project that has always been important to me, the memories I started scrapbooking to preserve, keep being set aside for other projects.

At the same time, I feel overwhelmed by the volume of everyday scrapbooking I'm trying to do. As of this writing, I've just begun pages about April of 2014, and I'm about one fifth done with scrapbooking a long-awaited vacation my husband and I took to Florida in the summer of 2014. At the beginning of 2015, I planned to give Project Life a try, and I don't think I completed more than a few spreads, although part of the reason for that is how difficult a year it's been, and the fact that I've had to talk myself into scrapbooking it at all.

I have several projects in various states of completion, including projects from classes I took as many as three years ago. There are mini-books, too, that I've planned, started, not finished.

So, yeah. Completely overwhelmed.

I feel stalled. I feel like scrapbooking has become something to "get done," rather than something to enjoy doing. As I've been writing about in the past few blog posts, I created a stamping challenge for September, not only to get more of the great stamps I have used, but also to reinvigorate my scrapbooking process since I really love to include stamping on scrapbook pages. Instead of inspiring me, it's mostly made me feel pressure to create, and that increases the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Not what I want in a hobby, the activity that's supposed to be a haven from all the stress and turbulence life happens to bring.

I've also been thinking a lot about the stories I actually want to tell, not only about my wedding(s), but about the relationship that led up to that (those) wonderful day(s). How I met the man I chose, how we fell in love, the challenges and triumphs we've encountered along the way, the story of us and why it's my favorite story EVER. Classes I've taken from Noell Hyman and Shimelle Laine have inspired me to dig deeper when it comes to storytelling with paper and photos, and it feels like that's not happening the way I'm currently doing things. I feel like I'm rushing through the process to get to the completed product, and there's nothing whatsoever wrong with that kind of scrapbooking, except it is not fulfilling me. I feel like I'm creating a glorified, multi-volume photo album that's not as meaningful as I want it to be.

Four months ago, I signed up for the monthly stamp subscription from Ali Edwards, which comes with monthly content, and I've often thought, while watching her videos for each month, this is the kind of storytelling about myself and my life I want to do. This!

The details of daily life matter, and I want those captured, but I need to find some kind of balance so that everything else doesn't get lost in the shuffle of trying to keep up with the timeline of the now. I also really want to tell stories about then, the past, my childhood, my parents, especially now that they're both gone, my teenage years, early adulthood, the choices I made and why I made them.

I want to curate the stories I tell with more selection and concentration, a lot less urgency to get the story told, quickly-quickly-quickly because there's just too much to DO to spend time on this ONE story!

That is not all.

These thoughts are rolling around in my head, so I'm sharing them here. I'm not sure just yet what steps I'm going to take to shift my focus, but it's coming. Hopefully soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Stamping Challenge - Set Number Five

For the month of September, I've been conducting my own personal 30 in 30 Stamping Challenge, outlined in this post, and the fifth set I used was Thinking of You by Penny Black:

1. Quintessentially Livvie Layout

For this page about my niece and her very cool personality, I used the leafy border stamp and the butterfly from this set. The buttons are from Stampin' Up!, and the enamel hearts from Pebbles. The enamel dots are from Doodlebug. Everything else is from Simple Stories.

2. Tags

I was in the mood to play with ink and techniques, so I created these two tags, using two different stamps from the set.

Here are details for each one:

The brand new Distress color, Wilted Violet? SO gorgeous! I love the way it mixes with Mermaid Lagoon and Broken China. I used two different background stamps to add texture, Print Pattern and French Script from Stampin' Up!, the latter with silver Distress paint. Glitter stickers from Heidi Swapp add even more shimmer, and the sentiment sticker is from Teresa Collins. The enamel dots come from Doodlebug. So much fun creating this tag--though I confess, it was the second version; the first one was an epic fail. Version two? Love it!

This one uses a color combo of Distress inks that I stumbled upon accidentally when I was testing out colors to coordinate with another project. Those colors are Tumbled Glass, Broken China, and Barn Door. I stamped one of the images from this stamp set a couple times in red on the top of the tag, then embossed it in black in the middle. Three butterfly stickers, some enamel dots from Queen and Company and some red gems, along with a bit of Heidi Swapp mist in gold round out this tag that will be perfect for a card or a layout or...?

3. Thinking of You Card

For this card, which I created for a friend of my Mom's I've been writing to, I used the border stamp, the sentiment stamp, and the daisy stamp. I stamped the image in Archival ink from Ranger, colored with markers, then watercolored the backgrounds with Distress ink. I REALLY dig the result! A couple of doilies and some sequins bring it all together. I think my pen pal will be delighted.


So...with four days of the month left, I've only completed half of my projects, though there are two more in progress right now. Wonder how many more I can finish before September is behind us...

Stamping Challenge - Set Number Four

The stamping challenge continues with the fourth set I used, a fall-themed one from Stampin' Up! called For All Things:

1. Happy Birthday Card

First up, a birthday card for my best friend, another idea inspired by a card I saw on SplitCoastStampers. I used four of the stamps from the set and borrowed the sentiment from another set I chose for this challenge, Butterfly Basics. I rarely make cards anymore, and I send them even more rarely, but this one got into the mail as soon as I took the photo to share. Yay!

2. Autumn Pocket Card Set

My second project with this stamp set is this set of five pocket scrapbooking cards, using almost all of the stamps, along with some stickers from the Simple Stories Sweater Weather collection, a sentiment stamp from a Technique Tuesday stamp, and a sprinkle of gold spray mist from Heidi Swapp. Love!

3. Welcome Autumn Art Journal Page

Along with the leaf and sprig stamps, I used one of the sentiment stamps from the set for this art journal page about how much I enjoy the arrival of my favorite season. Dylusions spray mist created the bright yellow background, and I made use of some Tim Holtz stencils, as well as some old rub-ons and stickers from a kit of autumn-themed supplies I assembled a couple years ago. The finishing touch, a thick pen drawn border around the page. Happiness.

Next up, set number five!

Stamping Challenge - Set Number Three

The third set I used in my stamping challenge was Work of Art by Stampin' Up!:

And these are the projects I created with these stamps:

1. Rockin' the Nu-Step Layout

For this one, I used the border stamp to create...well, a border with colors I matched to some stickers and patterned paper cuts from Echo Park Paper, and I used the heart stamp to accent one of those cut pieces. Several stickers and enamel dots, and Basic Grey letters for the title finish up this page.

2. Date Night Layout

Another card I saw at SplitCoastStampers inspired me to use the heart stamp in this set to create banners for this page, also adding a few hearts as accents. I won't lie: cutting out all those stamped hearts was a bit laborious, but the result made me happy. The Simple Stories patterned paper, part of My Own Kit-April 2014, provided my color scheme, which coordinated well with my photos. I used letter stickers from the same Simple Stories collection (also part of my kit) and some buttons and stickers and enamel dots, and I finished it all up with Distress spray stain.

3. Coloring With Markers Layout

This one was a lot of fun. The Basic Grey patterned paper on the left was my jumping off point, and I coordinated inks to make my own patterned paper background for the right side of the page, using one of the brush stroke stamps and the heart stamp. I also stamped and cut out a couple of hearts for embellishments, and colored some white letter stickers for part of the title. A couple of stickers, some gems and epoxy hearts, and doilies peeking out from behind the matted photos complete a layout that is bright and colorful and makes me oh-so-happy.