Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Life and Scrapbooking

I am a scrapbooker.  I am one of those women who carries a camera around, takes pictures of everything and then takes the photos, memorabilia and the like and condenses it to 12 x 12 pages.  These are decorated with paper, stickers, and the journaling that provides the backstory and identifies the subjects.  It is a pretty good hobby, actually.  I've been at it since January 1996, and have completed enough scrapbooks for myself and for other people that I'm fairly certain that this isn't a phase that I'm going through.  I've done phases that have bordered on obsessions...African violets, an attempt at cardmaking, casserole making, reading biographies of Presidents, calligraphy, and weight lifting. 

Short attention span, you say?  Not exactly.  Each of these went on for at least a year.  I know.  Weird.

Scrapbooking for me is a creative outlet much like writing.  Except that scrapbooking came with a whole host of friends who are as crazy as I am about putting our stories on paper.  Or maybe we're just plain crazy in general.  We often wonder. 

I mean, it is true that we refer to our scrapbooking sessions as "therapy."  I'd say that scrapbooking is cheaper than a therapist, but I'm fairly sure that I'd be lying.  At least those of us who are recovering stickerholics and papermaniacs...like...um...me.

Some of the scrapbooking ladies I hang with have graduated from lugging bags of stuff around and jumped into the digital age.  No longer are they cutting little pieces of paper or stressing over layouts.  They are so over THAT.  They are now clicking their digital photos into templates that eventually become books with real pages and excellent quality.  I'm still into the whole fifteen pound albums that are slowly overtaking my living room.  I think of myself as an old school scrapbooker.  The truth is...I like the feeling of handling the paper and the photos.  Much like some people refuse to purchase a Kindle because they like to manually flip the pages of a book.

However, after fifteen years of creating albums, I'm currently planning a new piece of furniture to house these bad boys out of necessity.  I'm so serious.

The kids seem to enjoy the albums, and I've found it is a reference of sorts to remember certain passages in their lives.  Never mind that they'd prefer that they not relive some of them.

Like the "Connect the dots...NO! Chicken pox!" page starring Brian.  He was dotted from head to toe, but he was also photographed shirtless so that I could document this passage because I had chicken stickers and thought it would be "cute."  He'll probably be on some future version of "Oprah" talking about how he was traumatized by his mother's overbearing obsession with documentation of every facet of his life through photography.  Sad thing is...he'll have proof.

He wasn't the only victim, though.  I photographed Jill's old boyfriends and put their photos in the albums before I realized (years later) that it was conceivable that this might be a really bad plan.  Now I only put the occasional photo of a "significant other" in the family album.  I'm not going to rip the boyfriend graveyard out or act like they didn't exist...but I do restrain myself from actually letting them make it into the album except for the occasional cameo appearance.  I take pictures of them just in case I'll need them for a rehearsal dinner video one day...but for now they live in a box along with any picture that shows my hips, bad hair, ungroomed dogs, or the house looking like it actually does most of the time.

I started thinking of how this scrapbooking hobby/habit/obsession grew from one page to what it is now.  And how much scrapbooking is like life.

Like life, I've learned how to scrapbook more efficiently the longer I've been at it.  I've learned that a lot of what I used to deem important - almost necessary - really isn't.  I've come to value simplicity although I do occasionally like to go all out.  I have all of the tools, supplies, and knowledge that I need to put together the albums, and I am amazed at how quickly I can put them together if I put my mind to it.  However, I'm always thrilled to learn something new.  Just like life.

We start out enthusiastic in our lives at 18 or 22 or whenever and feel that we are ready to tackle this project called "life."  To put it in perspective...think about where your photos are right now.  On the wall?  In a box?  Pretty much everywhere, yes?  Maybe they are on your refrigerator or in neat carefully labeled boxes in chronological order (if they are, you are truly retentive.)  Perhaps they are sitting in your computer just waiting for the day your hard drive crashes or the camera card that is currently in your camera gets full...if you can actually remember where you put it last.

Life offers us a lot of choices, and we usually agree about the importance of the choices - just like our pictures are important.  We just don't always prepare adequately.  We value the idea of doing something amazing with our lives...but the actual doing it gets lost in busyness and inattention and the unimportant much like scrapbooks get complicated by trying to make everything perfect.  Perfect is highly overrated.

You can learn how to do a better job with your project called "life" if you have a basic understanding that there are people who have done it longer and learned from the mistakes they made along the way.  

You learn that you don't have to own every tool in the catalog...you just need to make the most of what you have.  Sometimes, you'll have friends who'll share their tools or skills with you.  Other times, you'll get better by working at it and modifying it to suit you.  The secret is understanding that we aren't meant to possess every skill we need to get through life.  If we did, why would we need friends or our faith?

There are always going to be people that are better than you are at something, and people who are going to look to you as if you are the expert.  Enjoy both.  I have a friend who is excelling in the realm of paint...which is foreign to me.  I excel in the realm of paper.  This pretty much works for us.  I have found that most of my friends have something to teach me, and I have something to offer them in return.  I'm completely over that aggravating girl-competition thing that I hated when I was younger and now cannot tolerate in grown women.  I mean, get over the fact that someone is better than you at something.  Applaud them for it.  Don't freak out or feel inferior...or cause anyone else to feel that way either.  After all, your gifts are actually a gift to you...and to everyone you know...from God. 

I learned in making my scrapbooks that there were certain things that were available to decorate them that didn't appeal to me particularly, but were lovely for someone else.  Some of them require more skill, aptitude, or patience than I currently possess.  Sometimes I try something new these days and find it to be an extraordinarily humbling experience.  I think that everyone needs to do this from time to time.  It makes us appreciate the gifts of others all the more.  Don't roll your eyes if they tell you how easy it is for them.  Most true gifts are effortless to the person that possesses them.

I realized in scrapbooking - and in life - that my talent level was greater than some and not as great as others.  I grew by being around people that could teach me, and I helped others grow in return.  Some of my best times in life have been sitting at someone's feet learning something new or guiding the hands of someone learning from me.

Yes, life and scrapbooking have a lot in common.  Every page is a series of choices...which photos to use, which colors will highlight the photos best, and what words will convey the spirit of what was happening at the time.  Life is the same way...choices that lead to other choices...that weave together to somehow make something beautiful...called a life.  Sometimes it is art...and sometimes it is fun.

But it is always an experience to be treasured.  Always.

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