July 25, 2014

Making a scrapbook from a wine bag

I was asked to create a going away present for one of our administrators. They wanted a scrapbook, but not an ordinary one, that could hold photos and quotes from all of the principals in our school district.

When they asked me to do this, it was near the Christmas holidays and the stores were already full of holiday stash. I was shopping at Big Lots and came across these awesome bags intended for holding wine bottles...
They're a dark purple with a fabulous metallic prism effect. When folded in half, there are 5 surfaces, front and back, for adding pages and a bonus pouch in the middle for a pullout pocket. I folded each one, cut a piece of coordinated background paper from this pack I got at Michael's.

And they ended up looking like this...

This is one of the pouch pockets.

I cut the rope handles and planned a way to use them in my binding. I gathered all six bags and measured the depth, length, and height to determine how big my scrapbook was going to be. I used foam board to make the outside. I'd give dimensions, but it was based on the bag I purchased, and would only work with that bag. It was simply a matter of stacking the bags on top of each other and measuring them, allowing for the "middles" to be pushed closer together where they are bound.
To bind the bags to the scrapbook, I tied each one by wrapping the cord around the folded bag onto the spine of the scrapbook.
I frayed the ends of the cord just for interest and texture. Each principal provided me with pictures and quotes, so I added them to all of the pages and inside the pouch pockets.
I embellished each page with stickers and the end result was beautiful! I kind of had in my head what it was going to look like, but the actual end result was much better than I imagined. I think the color choices were a big part of the success.
In the end, I decided it needed a box to stay stored in, so I used more foam board to create one. I just measured the finished scrapbook, and came up with the measurements for my box.
I Modpodged more of the same background paper all around the sides and top. Note: Modpodge on foam board creates bubbles, but it isn't horrible. Just not perfect!

The finished box, is embellished with buttons and stickers. I also added some purple satin ribbon along the edges of the box to cover up the score lines in the foam board.
My administrator friend was thrilled with her gift! Tada!

The whole process wasn't all that difficult, but I will admit, it was time consuming. Mostly because I was creating it as I went, but I was very happy with the end results.

July 21, 2014

Dear Jane

A commercial flashed as I was watching TV and it was a promo for a Queen Latifah’s show. Jane Fonda was a guest and they showed a little flash of a moment of Jane walking out on stage. Holy Shit, she looked amazing! I Googled Jane Fonda Queen Latifah and whoopty do, up popped several still pictures of Ms. Fonda on set. Here she is at 77 freakin years old! SEVENTY SEVEN!

Yes, I know we could all look that good if we had unlimited funds and access to the best plastic surgeons, but before you judge, let me remind you of these faces… who also have big bucks and docs at their beck and call and, well, you know… they look different. That's the nicest thing I can say. I do believe genetics has served Ms. Fonda well.

After Googling her age, because I was curious, I tripped over her quote regarding aging and emotions:

"But I find my emotions are way more accessible than they were when I was younger and I've come to feel it has to do with age. I have become so wonderfully, terribly aware of time, of how little of it I have left; how much of it is behind me, and everything becomes so precious.
"With age, I am able to appreciate the beauty in small things more than when I was younger perhaps because I pay attention more. I feel myself becoming part of everything, as if I bleed into other people's joy and pain. Maybe, without my being conscious of it, there's the reality that in a few decades (if I'm lucky) I will be in the earth, fertilizing some of the very things I look at now and tear up over."

I love that! I too feel more weepy now than I ever have been, and well up at the silliest things. I have also become much more aware of my time left on earth and realize the insignificance of things that I once thought so precious. Like stuff I have collected. I have looked around my house with older eyes and no longer see treasures. I see stuff, that’s only value is to add a little pleasant aesthetics to my every day view. I now yearn for the things money can’t buy like Time; Solitude; Tranquility; Joy.  And maybe, just maybe, I’d like to get rid of the turkey neck I inherited genetically (thanks dad). I want Jane’s neck, and her hair, and that fabulous smile. 

Dear Jane, 
You kind of scared me in the 60’s, but I think you are and always have been a beautiful woman.  Seventy seven, Jane! Dayum! 
OK, you are officially on my fantasy dinner with fantasy friends list. You’re in good company. Who would you like to sit next to? Your choices are…

Bob Keeshan (a gentle hero from my childhood)

Fred Rogers (although it’s hard to picture him without also picturing Eddie Murphy & SNL, he is another gentle hero I admire)

Marilyn Monroe (I want to apologize to her for all of society who ate her up and spit her out)

Jane Goodall (flawless dedication to her cause)

Walter Cronkite (I trusted him as much as I trust God)

Mohammad Ali (charisma at its finest)

And me. 

I promise not to stare too much. Ha! Who am I kidding! I’m going to stare the crap out of you after I hug the crap out of everybody else. Call me.

May 28, 2014

The Spirit Tree

My maternal grandmother had the ability, like my mother, to make me pee myself a little when she walked in the room. Grandma was cranky, and angry. Those are my perceived memories, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, she loved us, we knew it, and loved her back. She had 11 children and lost her husband when her youngest was 3. She had to be strong and like most of her generation, did what needed to be done without complaining or assistance from the government. Hell, I’d be cranky too.

She came to visit us once when she was 65 years old. She was crippled with arthritis in her knees, and had gray permed haired. She wore the typical housedress that women of her era wore, and had old-school nylon stockings. She wore them everyday, and she would start her day with them rolled down to her ankles until she went out and about. Then, they got rolled up and secured to her girdle/garter belt.
They were not pantyhose, those weren’t even invented yet, but Stockings… the kind you bought at a Stocking Counter in the department stores, and the sales clerk usually put them folded nicely in tissue, inside a special long, flat “stocking box”. And they were shaped like a curvy leg, not like the big wad you get nowadays in a package of pantyhose.
On that visit, she was cooking supper and I was assigned to help her. Being the good military child that I was, I never volunteered for a chore. I didn’t need to… they were assigned to us on a daily basis. She was not happy with the way I was peeling the potatoes and yelled at me for peeling them with a knife instead of a potato peeler. “YOU’’RE WASTING HALF OF THE POTATO!” Yes, in caps because it was loud and angry. When my eyes welled up, she said something like “go on tell your mama, big baby”. If I felt like doing the math, I could tell you what year that was and how old I was, but since math makes my butt hurt, we’ll let that go. I can tell you I was old enough for that to make a lifelong impression.

What I took from that moment was I didn’t ever want to live to be 65. In my mind, she was old and miserable and just had to be near death. I prayed in my best Catholic prayers for God to let me die before I turned 65. I prayed that for a LOT of years. Well, I am now 62, and not anything like my grandma. My hair is gray, but you’d never know it. My hairdresser makes sure of that.  I watch What Not To Wear faithfully and apply those rules to my wardrobe. Stacy and Clinton are my best friends. I’m healthy and happy, and although I have my cranky moments, I mostly bury those so deep no one knows about them.

My Grandma lived another 30 plus years, and got a little softer with time. A little.
Life is hard and should be so much easier when you reach your 90’s. It isn’t. It is confusing, and sad, and depressing… for the seniors and their families getting them through it. I bless my siblings every single day for tenderly caring for mom. We have learned first hand that a retirement home is a somewhat safe place but without constant supervision from a loved one, it is a scary place. It has been an eye opening experience for all of us.

I don’t think I’m ready to go yet, but my prayers are different. I don’t know what’s in my fate as far as a death scenario goes, and glad I don’t. If I could choose, it would be a peaceful moment. Let me just not wake up one day. Don’t we all wish for that? Just let me go way before the Assisted Living Years. No Depends, no mush at the dinner table. No wheelchair gatherings around a TV in a communal lobby. Dear Lord, no. Please.

I have a lot of hopes in my life, but my biggest hope is that my children and grandchildren have fond, loving, warm-fuzzy memories about their mama/grandma. I found this awesome link on the big www.com that meets my wants for my after life. Take a look here. It may sound crazy to some, but it is totally up my alley.

It is, in a nutshell, an urn of sorts that you mix human ashes (from a cremation) with a tree seedling, and the tree absorbs the calcium rich ash, and grows to be a big tree in memory of the loved one. I love that idea. Really, go to the link. It’s awesome. If my children are reading this, bookmark the link, please. That’s my living wish. Seriously. Find a nice place where my grandchildren and great grandchildren can come visit the tree, and plop me down. Gigi’s tree! A nice deciduous elm would be nice. Yeah, that’s what I want…Yellow and red leaves in the fall, and beautiful bright green leaves in the spring.  Hang a swing from one of my strong branches, so I can cradle my babies, and their babies… A sweet Spirit Tree.

January 30, 2014

Christmas Treasures

This post is a little late since it is more than a month since Christmas, but I, like the rest of the world got caught up in all the hustle bustle business of “December” which bled over into “January”. My grandchildren are the center of my universe and every ounce of the joy they bring me lights up my dark places and keeps me centered and humble. Please forgive the tardiness, but read on.

This year my boys are 5 and 6 and full of pure rambunctious energy. I know no one on earth more loud than these two boys except maybe their dad, and when they are out in public, you know it.  Inside voices?... fuhgettaboutit. Baby K is almost 2, and the sweetest angel on earth. I started a tradition two years ago when the boys were very young, and I hope it’s one we can continue as long as I am around.  Since they are from a split family, they have a long list of people in their lives who love them as much as I do, but this tradition is for their mama’s side of the family. Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s Off to Dollar Tree We Go with a list in hand of their loved ones so they can each pick out a gift to them for Christmas. I wish I could capture a picture of the entire experience, but believe me, handling a toddler and two wild boys by myself is an adventure of its own and the distraction of a camera would be just enough to send me over the edge.

This trip, baby sis got to ride in the cart and “helped” pick out candy and cookies for herself, which consisted of pointing and grunting through that binky - Maggie Simpson style - but the biggest entertainment of the day for me was watching my boys so very thoughtfully and very carefully pick out each gift for everyone on their lists. First on the list was Mom… she got a new makeup brush from one and some eye shadow from the other. Next up was mom’s beau. 

Braydon (here) said, after picking up a box of cookies, “momma bought some of these once and he LOVED them so, so much, so I want to get these for him”.  He bought a spinner toy for beau’s son “I’ll teach him how to use it”.

Mason (here, with baby K) said “Papa is always out of batteries, so I’m getting these for him”. He also picked out some play money for beau’s son “he’ll like this, I think there’s about $350 dollars in there!” and he found some beef jerky for his carnivorous uncle. “Mmmm, yummy, I like this beef stuff too.” He slipped a box of cookies behind his back and into the cart so baby sis couldn’t see her gift. She didn’t even notice as she had already picked out a box of Lifesaver Gummies for herself. She calls them “nummies” and for the entire ride in her cart, she held them up to me and said “Open. Nummies.” over and over again. The explanation of having to pay for them first went on deaf ears, but she didn’t fuss and eventually I gave in to her sweet baby face and opened them for her. Not the first time I've done that, I'll admit that here.

Let me share that I had old ladies smiling and cupping their mouths with delight and complimenting me on the manners of my boys as they kept saying excuse me to get by people in the narrow aisles and the yes ma’ams were flowing like melted buttah.  “Oh my, these are the most polite children!” “You can tell they’ve been raised right, you must be very proud!” (If they could only see the thought bubble over my head at that moment, the same one I had when I first heard words of praise from my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher. This thought… “Wait, my child? Are you sure there isn’t another child with the same name in your class?”) If the People of Dollar Tree only knew how wild these boys can be or how many times they’d been taken out of stores by a frustrated and exhausted mama… but not today. Today they were incredible and good as gold. And I said thank you very much to every fellow shopper.

I’m not sure what happened, a little Christmas magic perhaps, but whatever it was I’ll take it. They’re learning an important message about giving from the heart. Even a simple $1 gift, given with love is what the whole idea of gift giving is all about. Choosing the wrapping paper and writing the names on the tags was important to them too.

My gift from them was the pleasure of witnessing selfless acts of love for the people who mean the most to them. Thank you for the Merriest Christmas ever, my sweet grandtots, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I love you more than you’ll ever know.