Reflections on Life & Scrapping

Kathy McElfresh
Kathy McElfresh

Life Lesson: Count Your Blessings (& SCRAP 'em!)

Today’s post will be a different one for me.  Our family has come face-to-face with the realities of a horrible disease as my hubby’s Parkinson’s journey has taken an ugly turn.  As we navigate the myriad of tests and scans and home health options,  I find myself feeling frustrated and angry and confused a LOT more than I’m used to.  At the same time, I find myself reflecting on the “good stuff” and being very grateful for this wonderful hobby (OK, yes, it’s more than a hobby — obsession?)

When this photo was taken just a few weeks ago we were having a family pumpkin painting party and John joined right in wearing his Mickey Mouse shirt, purchased at EPCOT Center on his 70th birthday in 2017.  I absolutely LOVE this photo for SO many reasons — the goofiness of the shirt and his pink pumpkin notwithstanding, I adore the smile and the twinkle in his eyes.  It’s hard for Parkinson’s patients to smile — they have to smile BIG for the muscles to get the message to smile even a little bit. No words can express how happy it makes me to see this BIG smile and to recall how much silly fun we had that night.  We gather around this table for dinner every night after I’ve cleared away my craft supplies and set my video light and camera stand aside to make room.  I’ve scrapped several photos from this night and I’m so happy to have those pages.

Unexplained complications in the last couple weeks might mean that activities like this and the traveling we’ve so enjoyed in our 40 years together will likely change significantly, but looking through my scrapbook albums allows us to relive these happy times and revisit and celebrate our life together.

This is Reese.  Reese is crazy.  She’s sweet and affectionate and fiercely protective of certain members of the family.  Since she arrived on the scene in 2019 as a gift for Ava during her struggle with leukemia, she has grown from a picture-perfect tiny puppy to a scruffy doggy who brings love and laughter everywhere she goes.  She LOVES John (aka Crappaw) and when she sneaks down to the basement where we live she makes a beeline to his lap.  She loves me and is always excited to see me but if I approach John too quickly or if she perceives any encroachment on her space with him, she barks as though someone’s life is in danger.  Then I sit down and she moves over to my lap and acts as though nothing happened.  Dealing with Ava’s leukemia last year and Covid adjustments this year hasn’t been easy but we’re grateful to have this little fur-baby to brighten scrapbook pages and lighten the mood!

KatieBug was the first subject of my scrapbooking.  My first “decorative” pages using shaped photos and formatted pages with stickers were for her baby book.  The family dynamic around her has changed in many ways in her short 18 years of life but she has been the constant beacon of light and hope and empathy and consideration and love.  She’s an extraordinary young woman who is following a dream she’s had since she was 9, driving herself to school and work after getting her license just this year amid Covid restrictions and changes, and voting for the first time in the Presidential election. She’s the sweet, adorable girl she’s always been but she’s also outspoken and determined and brilliant.  I’m so happy to have the millions of pages that document her life because we can follow the progression and celebrate every version of KatieBug that unfolds!

Ava is nothing short of amazing.  She absolutely HATES attention, especially if she feels it’s associated with her having struggled with leukemia.  She does NOT want to be “the cancer kid” and she hates that curly mop that’s growing back after chemo baldness.  She’s somewhat cynical, absolutely brilliant and a great role model for anyone who needs to just roll up sleeves and “get on with it”.  She has educated herself on the disease and its effects on the body and has elected to pursue nutritional and fitness approaches to rebuilding her body.  I retired just after she was born in 2008 so we could help care for her while her parents worked.  She became my gardening buddy and my crafting buddy and I have done more pages about her than about her siblings mainly because we’ve spent more time with her and taken more photos.  And she loves looking at those pages with us and hearing those stories.

These two are something else.  James lost one job for Covid-related reasons and he worked tirelessly to find another and ended up with three to equal the prior income and he has a solid approach to juggling the three and ensuring he builds his positions in each.  Barrett has had to deal with two losing football seasons in high school after leading his middle school teams to successful seasons and attracting national attention for his exploits on the field.  I started scrapping when Barrett was a toddler and as I look at the pages I’ve done about him,  it’s such fun to see him grow from a sweet little Beatles fan to a remarkable athlete and scholar.  He’ll dispute the “scholar” part but he’s brilliant and always comes around to applying himself when it counts.  Meanwhile the two of them provide laughs dressed as characters from “Kingdom” for Halloween…..

I wasn’t scrapping when James was a kid so I don’t have nearly as many pages about him as I should.  A few years ago I went thru the (not acid-free) albums containing his early-life photos and I launched a huge project of scanning and restoring those photos. I scrapped them in a couple of LOADs but I really really really need to re-launch that project and get busy with scrapping my baby boy before he turns 50 (he he)……

Thankful for Scrapbooking!

When I started this post I was feeling sad and maybe feeling a little bit sorry for myself because I wasn’t prepared for the changes in John’s health to happen so soon.  I’m ashamed to say I’ve spent WAY too much time thinking about the things we’ll never be able to do again.  But scrapbooking (and blogging about scrapbooking) allows me to reflect on the life — big exciting life and small everyday life — we’ve shared in our 40 years together.  If you’re reading this you probably already inhabit this crazy world of scrapping and you know what I mean.  As we approach Thanksgiving here in the US and the rest of the holiday season, things are quite different and uncertain in many ways and it’s easy to get bogged down in all that.  So my life lesson for today is to treasure and appreciate everyone and everything awesome in your life, big or small, and to scrap it all.  I believe it’s good therapy to tell (or look back at) those stories and to feel and express gratitude for life as it has unfolded (and been documented).

New Project: The John Years Album(s)

I’ve had it on my “list” for a while but recently I’ve actually started this project.  All of the photos we have from John’s early years are in his mom’s photo albums, complete with her journaling.  They’re not organized chronologically (which is OK by me) so I’ve taken the approach of flipping thru the albums with John and letting him indicate interest or information about certain photos or events or places and then I let him select supplies and even participate in the design of the pages.  It’s definitely a “nostalgia” project but I think it’ll draw him into my hobby (obsession) and spark memories for him.  I’m “scanning” by taking pics with my phone of both the photos and the journaling in his mom’s handwriting.  I haven’t filmed any of the pages yet and I’m not treating this as a “regular” scrappy project, but I may film a few videos and maybe do a special layout share series as I get deeper into it.  It seems an appropriate way to give John a chance to reflect on his life and to enjoy the process of documenting some of it in more detail.

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