Thursday, December 31, 2015

15 from 2015

It is the last day of the year, somehow.

On the way to the market this morning (along with the rest of the procrastinators) to buy fixings for lumpia -- a New Year's must-have -- it occurred to me that I wasn't all that excited about the switchover from 2015 to 2016. Should I be?

While I once counted New Year's Eve among my favorite holidays, I don't really feel that way anymore. It is a holiday that is overtly about time and its passage; it forces one to reflect on beginnings and endings. This is, in theory, a good thing -- New Year's Eve might actually be the most effective holiday for reminding us what it means to be human.

That said, I now understand why we respond to this day with alcohol and excess and explosives.

And traditions. There is comfort within them, after all -- they offer a semblance of regularity, of balance, amidst uncertainty.

Here's one of my mine: each year at this time, I look back through the pages that I have created, because they aren't just pages, they are memories. They are part of the story of my year.  Here are fifteen pages from 2015, and what they say about how I spent the last 365 days.
This is a good place to start, with beginnings. Perspective is everything, and this year, I have tried to embrace the extraordinary in the ordinary, to release myself from narrow thinking and to be more open to what is before me. This is, as the journaling makes clear, not an easy task, but even in the most frustrating or mundane of circumstances, wonder is still present. 
This year has brought with it a lot of change and soul-searching. I know that some might look at a layout like this and see a reflection of selfie culture, of narcissism, but that's not the case here. I always feel awkward putting my face on a page. A Kardashian I am not. Even though I might be reluctant about literally "facing" myself in the process of creating self-portrait pages, I cannot convey strongly enough just how illuminating the process can be. 
Because scrapbooking is an investment of time and self, no layout is devoid of meaning. 
I really can't say what will become of these pages someday, but I know that the process more than the product has impacted me and brought about shifts in the way I perceive and move through the world. I look back at these pages and regard them as freeze frames, momentary glimpses of life as it is lived. 
This year's pages document a lot of the "big stuff" -- milestones, life-changers. 
They document a lot of the "hard stuff" -- the heartbreaks, the setbacks, the pushing through. 
They document what endures. 
And they document what delights. 

They each, in their own way, make a simple request, a human one: "remember." 
This is why the details matter -- memory fades. The freshness and fullness of right now will inevitably recede, but through scrapbooking, we can gather up the bits and pieces, the fleeting and the fragmented, and piece them together on the page. 
Already I am looking back at this year through a haze. These pages offer moments of clarity. 
I don't just want to document events, each page part of a monotonous cycle of who-what-when-where. Stories are more than their plots. Scrapbooks are a chronicle of sorts, and within any story, an understanding of character is essential. I want my layouts to be about those with whom I share my life.  
I want there to be spirit and personality and laughter and love in my pages. 
I want color to be not just in the papers and accents and photos, but in the memories as well. I want every page to be vibrant, full of life. It all comes back to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. 
Because scrapbooking isn't just about life; it's about a legacy. 
It may sound morbid, but we can't really talk about memory without acknowledging mortality. We all want to focus on beginnings at this time of year, but the endings can't be denied. As the inscription on Keats's grave site reminds us, our names, too, are "writ in water." This is not to say that all attempts at documenting our memories, at trying to remember and be remembered, are futile; this is to say that scrapbooking, which some still mock as a silly little hobby, reminds us of what it means to be human. Page after page, we document what is already past, and in doing so, we learn how to be even more present in our own lives. 

So here we are, at the end of a year, and at the beginning of a new one. If you've been following me at all here, then you know what needs to be done -- you can feel the itch in your fingers, you can see the page coming together already, piece by piece. 

It's time to remember.  It's time to move forward.  

Scrapbookers know that each relies on the other. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December Scraptastic Club Layouts

Don't get me wrong: I love scrapbooking the holidays. However, when faced with a choice of kits from Scraptastic Club for December, I opted not to go for the overtly holiday-themed (and now sold out) "All I Want for Christmas" kit, since I was already working with the Stocking Stuffer kit to create my holiday album.

Despite the nearly irresistible allure of red and green and cuter-than-Kris-Kringle accents, something about the "All of You" kit and add-on called to me. I'm so glad I made the choice, as this kit has kept me in a creative mood for the past 24 hours. I have three layouts to show for it!

The first is a holiday layout -- though not of the Christmas variety. This one goes back a month, documenting our Thanksgiving celebration.
I so love the Maggie Holmes "Carefree" paper from her Crate Paper "Shine" collection. I added the journaling to the "painted" sections. A second strip houses a gathering of accents.

The paper makes another appearance on my second layout.
If you were/are a fan of Magnum, P.I., then you will understand just how excited our entire family was when my cousin appeared on an episode of the show.
The third layout mixes bits and pieces of the "All of You" kit in layers, all in an effort to help me reflect on the layers of years that have culminated in my being the bearer of 40 of them.
I guess 40 is supposed to be a big deal. It's the year when all of the "over the hill" jokes start -- although no one has subjected me to those yet, thankfully.  This layout gave me a chance to reflect on what turning 40 means to me.
So there you have it: three layouts from one kit in less than 24 hours.  Maybe now that I've gotten some non-Christmas scrapping out of my system, I can turn my attention back toward my holiday album. We'll see.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Guesting at Bella Blvd

Every manufacturer has a trademark look -- something that "marks" its products as being from that particular company. For Bella Blvd, that look involves vibrant color, a clean, graphic design, and whimsical and playful elements.

Imagine, then, how thrilled I was to be a guest on the Bella Blvd Studio blog this month!

My first layout is a nod to Christmas past. 
That little dude rocking the track suit will grow up to become my future husband. 
The second layout is about the other man in my life. 
What can I say? We're perfect for each other. 
The third layout uses the "Illustrated Faith" collection from Bella Blvd. 
These pages remind me that what is behind a meaningful layout isn't just the photos or the journaling or the accents or the papers -- those things can't be compartmentalized, not really. They all come together and click into place, each doing its part to tell a story, to capture a moment, to preserve a memory. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Not-So-Daily Holiday Album

Today on the Scraptastic Club blog, I'm sharing some pages from my holiday album-in-progress., using the Stocking Stuffer kit. Check out the post here. 

As in years past, I have accepted the fact that there is no way that I can keep up with the album on a daily basis (not without popping Xanax daily), so my approach has been less of a daily one and more of a not-so-daily one.
I've also decided not to sugar coat. I'm just going to tell it straight.  December is full of joy and wonder and excitement, but it is also full of stress and messiness and irritants. Within my album there are a heckuva lot of "happy, happy, joy, joy" moments documented, but there is also room for a little bit of Scrooge and a small helping of the Grinch. 
The goal, after all, is to capture a month in the life  -- that is, the life I am actually living, and not some Martha Stewart-fied or Rockwellian version of that life. 
That said, I do believe that a holiday album is a great way of cultivating the Christmas spirit. As I plan and put together each page, I become more mindful of the magic and the miracles that may not reveal themselves to us when we become preoccupied by the hustle and bustle of the season.
The most common question that I have been asked over the past two weeks is, "Are you ready for Christmas?" My response is always to exhale a "no" while laughing and shaking my head. As of today, it is still the answer, but in a way, this album has helped me to prepare for and to reflect upon the December days that pass by quickly. It helps to drive the days forward meaningfully. 
For instance, in the end-of-the-quarter and end-of-the-semester rush at school, I nearly forgot about the Feast of St. Nicholas, and my yearly tradition to hand out candy canes to my students on that day. It occurred to me, however, while working on the album on the weekend of December 6 (the Feast of St. Nicholas), that I hadn't yet added my annual candy cane page to the album. Whoops!  My remorse for nearly missing this most favorite of Advent days resulted in me stocking up on extra candy canes. On a near-daily basis for the duration of the quarter (and through final exam week), my students were treated to candy canes. They have the album to thank. 
My work/school life actually blends fairly frequently with my home life in the pages of this album. Christmas isn't just something that we celebrate at home -- the season is evident everywhere. 

Of course, my family is still front and center in the album, as they are what makes the holidays so special to me. 

I have lots of ideas for more pages -- but if they don't all make their way into the album, that's okay -- my not-so-daily approach allows me to roll with it. After all, what is more important than documenting the holidays is actually experiencing them! 

With that in mind, I'm off to decorate the tree! 

(And yes, I am aware that it is December 23. Thank the album for reminding me that a tree photo is missing).