Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Percolated Story

Every week I spend 90 or so minutes listening to a scrapbooking podcast called "Paperclipping Round Table". This week's show "The Sum of Our Stories", got me thinking about my story telling and my process, and how intertwined the two concepts are.

When I was relatively new to scrapbooking, but after I had identified the basis for "my style", I scrapbooked at the dining room table. I quickly came to realize that what worked best for me was to lay out my photos on the table early in the day. As the day would wear on, I'd visit them and fuss at them a little. First I'd chose a background cardstock...and then go put that load of laundry in. Next trip through I'd pick out some accent colors for use in the title and mats. Later on I might pull a punch that would help carry the theme, or rearrange the photos to play with the flow of the layout. Meanwhile, the time spent away from the layout was spent thinking about the perfect title, and what I wanted the journaling to say. By the time the kids were in bed I had the ingredients and mostly all I had to do was assemble.

And that, my friends, is a gross over simplification of the process. Because nothing is really that easy, but it is the basics of how things went, and it did make completing the page more efficient.

Fast forward to present day. I no longer have three very young children, two dogs, a cat, and a husband earning an MBA who wasn't around much and left me with almost all the chores. Now I'm divorced, have four big kids, 3 of whom don't need a mother as much as a taxi service, a dog and a full time job. Gone is the luxury or starting a page while the kids ate their cereal and finishing after they go to bed. Now it's more like starting something one day, futzing with it for a week (in snatches of time like the old system) and finally completing it a week later. This doesn't bother me. It's jut life. It's either this process or nothing. And, nothing really isn't an option.

Back to the Paperclipping Round Table and the concept of telling stories. I have come to be very grateful for how long it takes me to complete a page, or at least for what that span of time from beginning to end affords me. I have found that by pulling out the pictures and laying them out and then having a couple of day's worth of commutes to think about them, I end up with a story very different than the one I would have told had I just launched in as soon as I pulled the pictures out.

For instance:

These pictures are from a trip to park that Molly likes.  We've only been twice.  After our first trip Molly asked to go back there almost every month, but our time is special and I try to have new adventures when we're together.  So this second trip was pretty special, because it took over a year to get back there.  If I had had the luxury of time, these pictures would have been used on one layout and the journaling would have been brief and it would have centered on the trip to the park.  But because of my process, and the fact that I had lots of time to think about these photos and let my mind wander and think more abstractly about the story that I could tell, I had time for  new ideas to percolate to the surface. 

What would have been a layout about a trip to the park turned into a layout about Molly's courage and another layout about Maggie's amazing attitude about life.

Journaling reads:
Hey chickadee! Weigh the outcome.  How bad can it be?  A skinned knee? A bruised ego?  But what if things go according to plan?  What if you don't fall?  You'll have fun. You'll get that "I did it!" feeling.  You'll approach the next scary thing with a little more confidence.  Believe me.   I know how this drill works.  I know how discouraging failure can be, and how thrilling success can be.  But more than anything, I know how haunting not trying can - for days - you'll think back and say "I should have..." or "Next time..."
Go ahead and Jump
We stood and waited for you to muster the courage to jump off of this tire onto the rope for what felt like a half hour.  Ted, Maggie and I all offered you encouraging words. Ted and Maggie tried to show you how easy it was and gave you helpful hints. I know what you were going through, agonizing over all the possible bad outcomes and wanting, more than anything, to have enough courage to do it - to experience the thrill of floating through the air.  For long minutes the fear outweighed the rush, but finally a burst of courage came and you do it! I was so proud that you found it in you to just do it!  This is the very definition of courage: being afraid and overcoming it. You are courageous.

Journaling reads:
I had this physics teacher in high school.  He didn't like me very much and I didn't always understand the way he taught.  But there is one thing that I have carried from him, one of those life lessons that spoke so directly to me that I have never been able to shake it: "You have to go along to get along".  I find myself struggling against this notion, always resisting the urge to speak my mind, play the devil's advocate...and yet I still know the value of those words.  Maggie, on the other hand, seems to embody the very notion of going along and getting along...and does so without appearing to compromise her core beliefs.  This day, for example, was all about placating Molly, who had been asking to go to the wooden park for a solid year.  The playground is most definitely geared toward younger kids, it's not really the place that most (almost) 15 year olds would get excited to visit.  but Maggie didn't pout or act put out, she hopped on a swing; raced her brother down the side (although, she did cheat!); offered Molly encouragement on the rope swing... all with a genuine smile on her face.  I often think that Maggie was given to me as a gift, as a an example.  (oct 18)

Sometimes I wish that I had more time to scrapbook. But then when I think about how differently these pictures would have been treated if I hadn't had time to let those stories develop.  I really love the fact that I have two pages that offer positive reinforcement and recognition of my daughters' good qualities.  I don't need to record the fact that we went to the park - they'll remember our tips on their own.  What I value here is that I had the chance to say something nice to and about my girls and I took it.  When I'm gone I want them to know how much I loved and valued them as people.  And if that means it takes a week to finish a page, then so be it. 

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