Showing posts with label storytelling art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label storytelling art. Show all posts

documenting seven ordinary days

For years now I have been following Ali Edwards, guru of simple, storytelling scrapbooking. Somehow she makes it all seem less complicated, more doable, and every time her layouts are stunning and relatively uncluttered.

Every year she chooses one week, seven full days, to document the every day happenings in their family. Our scrapbooks often highlight the highs of the year...trips, holidays, special occasions, and this is all great. But in between those highlights are a whole lot more ordinary days that actually are a more accurate depiction of our life.

I've observed this week for three years now, simply by doing that: observing Ali as she does this project. But behold! Something has come over me this year, and I'm in. I didn't participate the past few years because I thought since we don't have kids, there wouldn't really be a whole lot to document in terms of actual things happening. But looking back, had I started this project, I'd have a week of our "normal" life while we lived in Montana, our "normal" when we lived in Minnesota and our "normal" last year in Nebraska. And I'm already bummed I didn't jump on this wagon earlier.

So this year, I'm grabbing my camera and will take pictures of the ordinary: my daily bowl of raisin nut bran that gets me started each day, my husband picking away at his laptop, my work, our church, and all the other ordinary things that given a bit of time and perspective, won't all seem so ordinary.

All of the details can be found's a lot of digging around to get a feel, but at its core, it's creating a scrapbook of ordinary life, grocery shopping receipts, to-do lists and I'm excited to get started.

Anybody want to do this with me?!! It begins Monday April 19th.

family reunion album

A classmate from my Donna Downey class took this picture below. And when I got it I remembered that after posting the canvas art class, I never reported on the second class!

This class was called Bloom, and out goal was to make a handmade album by the end of class. You can read more about this class on her website found here. Oh, actually, you can't. I think this class just got replaced with her apron class so there is nothing about it on her site anymore....

Anyway, our supply list said that we should bring 17 pictures that are two inches by three inches. When I went to find 17 pictures to document, I decided to focus on my Grandma's birthday party that she celebrated for a week at our family bible camp. She foot the bill for all of her descendants to attend (over 100 people!) and told everyone, "I don't care if you can make it to my funeral. But I do care that you come to my birthday party."

When it came time to plan her party, we got the ball rolling quickly, even though her 90th birthday was still two years off. She got very excited as we planned the week together and thought two years was too long to wait, so the reunion party was moved up a year and therefore renamed 'Grandma's 90-1 party' All of our reunion t-shirts had a logo with 90-1 on it.

She ordered four dairy queen ice cream cakes for the party and chose the theme, "Great is Thy Faithfulness' for our week together. The whole week was a fabulous celebration of God's faithfulness to our family. It is for this reason that I LOVE scrapbooking: This party was in 2007 and three years later, I am soaking up every picture, reliving every memory and feeling the faithfulness of God, celebrated in the life of one woman, all over again.

Donna's class was full of new techniques to try. We made our album from scratch, something I have never done before. This album was made out of cut cardboard, cut in staggered sizes with a box cutter, and each page was covered with paper or fabric, punched with holes holes and binded with binder rings.

This book is still in process, but my weekend plan is to finish it...I'll keep you posted!

around here

(My version of Ali Edwards's Around here.)

Around here we have our laptops on our laps a lot. We cozy up on the couch, passively watch the tv and hit our keyboards with intensity.

Around here we dream a lot. We talk about the future, get excited about possibilities and wonder how our days ahead will unfold.

Around here our cat serves as family mascot. We wake up in the morning with him spread over both of our chests and we laugh and snuggle before the day begins. And other days, we wake up, throw him off of us and fly into the bathroom to begin a day we are already starting late.

Around here we are always scraping our cars off, defrosting our windshields, warming up the engine and wondering for the umpteenth time if we should budget for a garage space. We’ll never do it though. We like our tight budget too much.

Around here we can hear our neighbor’s piano lessons every Monday and Tuesday afternoon and evening. We often will laugh and say, “sounds like someone didn’t practice.”

Around here we physically show excitement when we realize there is a LOST we haven’t watched yet. Same goes for Modern Family.

Around here we are trying to eat more produce. And it’s been going well so far. However, too much asparagus has repercussions the next day, I’ll have you know.

Around here we are thrilled, almost hyper, when the sun comes out and shines over a blue sky. The word elation comes to mind.

Around here we watch the Olympics with lots of verbal commentary. Curling was an unexpected new favorite event, and Shawn White got us so excited we nearly dyed our hair red in support of his amazing flippy-spin-flip-twist move.

Around here we play, tinker, putz, create, try, collaborate and make cool things either on our computer, out of paper, out of fabric or into new board games and handmade radios.

Around here “I’d imagine this will end up on your blog” is said a lot. But said with love and support. And I love that.

Ellis and Stella

After writing about Gil and Virginia, I thought of two other love stories that I wanted to write down. The next love story is my great aunt Stella and my great uncle Ellis. They were married 66 years before Ellis passed away a few years back.

I have to confess that I have not spoken to my great aunt Stella since the funeral. That embarrasses me to admit…especially since I have a circuit of old women who I call regularly from my days working at the nursing home. It seems if I am staying connected with ladies living in a nursing home in Minneapolis, then I should work at staying connected to my own blood family.

I called Stella without any particular questions in mind other than I wanted to hear what she knows of love after 66 years of marriage. And I wanted to know what is like to sleep alone after 66 years of companionship. I just wanted to know what she misses the very most since Uncle Ellis died.

I called her and she answered, and my heart swelled and my eyes filled. I thought for a minute that this could be quite awkward if I just call her and start crying! But I got it together as quick as I could. It's just that it was such a strange thing that happened. Hearing her voice made me instantly miss my Grandma and Grandpa Harrington. My whole childhood of Harrington family time was filled with just this tiny family of Grandma and Grandpa and Grandpa’s only brother Ellis and his wife Stella. When I heard Stella say, “hello” in her super-high-and-sort-of-squeeky voice, I was instantly homesick. So sad and sorry that icons of life pass away. Sad that I hadn’t ever thought to call Aunt Stella in three whole years.

She’s a kick of a woman. I tried to explain that I wanted to write an article of sorts on her and Ellis. And I wanted to put it on my computer magazine column. (I had to think quickly of how to explain a blog, without using the word blog and without getting too technical.) She laughed and said, “Sure. I don’t care. I don’t know people, and they sure don’t know me!” But I wish you did know Stella. She uses words like pertnear for ‘pretty near’ regularly as she talks and she has a honesty about the way things are that is endearing and real. I said, “what should a girl like me know about a marriage that lasts 66 years?” And she replied, “Marriage is give and take. And to be honest, I think I mostly give. I don’t know!”

Then we talked about how the best marriages probably have a husband and wife who both think they mostly give. And she said, “and then you find happiness.”

She met Ellis while working at a restaurant in 1938, she said, “the other girl who was a waitress was going with a fella in Dysart and that fella was a good friend of Ellis. We went together for about a year and a half before we got married.” Soon after Ellis was drafted and was gone overseas for three years. Stella sent him a letter every single day of those three years. And Ellis wrote to her long love letters just about that often.

When I asked her when she misses Ellis the most she told me, “It hasn’t been too many times this winter that I don't wake up at night and I swear to goodness that Ellis is right beside me. And so I put my arm around him like I would when he would have trouble breathing during the night and when he is not there I am just so disappointed. And I have to realize that he’s not here no more.”

They never had kids. She said she told Ellis that she wouldn’t have kids until she had a home first. And by the time they had a home she felt too old to have a family. She cared for her own father and mother and my great grandma and commented that she sacrificed a lot, caring for them and working full time to help pay for their needs.

Ellis died in the middle of the night. Stella was there when he collapsed on the floor and held him when he breathed his last breath.

I asked her how she spends her days now, living in her home, all by herself. She told me that a friend brings the mail by around a quarter of ten, and meals-on-wheels delivers a hot meal a bit before noon. One person will deliver the church bulletin during the week, “so I keep up to date that way” and she’ll often get a phone call from one of the other five widows in town. “We check in on each other. We know how quiet it can be.”

Calling Aunt Stella was the best thing I could have ever done with my day. I called her with a reporter mindset calling to get the scoop on love, but melted into a little girl who just plain loves my family and misses the generation that, because of His great love, is already with Jesus.

ice fishing

I sat next to a woman on my flight to Minneapolis (layover to Arizona) who moved to Omaha in June from India. She and her husband met on the internet, and she talked of what a blessing it was to find him because he was from the same region in India and from the same caste and their parents were very pleased with the match. Now she is in Omaha and she talked about being homesick and lonesome. She is a cricket coach for an Indian team and was travelling on to London for three months where they would be in training. But she wouldn't be able to go home.

We flew to Minneapolis and I explained that I could see my parents house if we took a certain flight pattern and that I, too, feel homesick sometimes. We were looking out the window, a ways out from the cities when I pointed out all of the ice houses on the lakes.

I have never had the honor of explaining ice fishing to someone who has never heard of this sport before. I explained how you drill through the ice to make your hole, how people sit in their little ice houses for hours, how many are heated and some even have televisions. Her eyes were as big as saucers, and the whole concept did seem quite strange as I kept explaining this winter phenomenon.

Then, a few days ago, I got an email from my good college friend, Erik, who is the quintessential Minnesota outdoor enthusiast. He hunts, fishes, snowmobiles, and I think he even spear fishes... Anyway, he sent me a link to a ice fishing competition he and his family fished in this past weekend. Over 20,000 holes are drilled on a lake in Brainerd, Minnesota and the biggest fish wins $150,000! I read the articles about this tournament and suddenly felt my eyes as big as saucers like my new Indian friend. You can read more about the tournament here. The picture below is lots and lots of people standing on blue ice and white snow...

gil and virginia

Cozy up for a love story. One of the best I know.

I worked at a nursing home for two years in Minneapolis wearing a couple different hats. One was to lead activities on the advanced alzheimer’s floor. Memory loss is a mean and cruel thing, and my job was to lead activities and faith conversations to help create community, provide comfort and bring a bit of fun to the third floor.

This was a challenging job for me, especially in the beginning. Asking about pictures on the wall would lead to confusion, frustration and sadness. It took me a while to figure out how to hold conversations pertaining to the very moment we were living in. I have a few memorable conversations about the wonder of doorknobs, scooting around in slippers and long motorcycle rides that one woman took each day in her mind.

I learned so much during those two years about family, faithfulness and love. Gil was a retired Lutheran pastor who faithfully visited his wife, Virginia, every single day for hours at a time. Virginia spent her days nervously wandering up and down the hall. When Gil arrived each day she would look right at him and begin to repeat over and over, “Oh Gil, I’m so scared. I’m just so scared. Gil. I am so scared.” And Gil would lead her to the couch and sit next to her, telling her there is nothing to be afraid of. And after a while, Virginia would stand and Gil would pull her gently down onto his lap, telling her over and over again there was nothing to fear. He would stroke her hair, hug her shoulders and rock her back and forth. Virginia would curl her body up like a little kid, and tuck her head into his neck. And Gil would whisper promises to Virginia, “It’s okay. I’m here. There is nothing to be afraid of. You are safe here.”

Rory and I were very newly wed when I knew Gil and Virginia and I remember coming home often and asking Rory if he’d still hold me when I was 85. And we would wonder about what it would be like to be married that long, knowing each other so well, and what it would be like to walk down a road so dark. We would wonder about our own road ahead, humbled that we just don’t know what our future holds.

But there was so much comfort in witnessing this clear picture of love. And so much peace knowing that God has set us up in marriage so that we may have a best friend for life. Someone to hold, to gently rock, and to comfort.