Family, Parenting, Uncategorized

Scrapbooking — One thing I did right

Like everybody, I spend too much time worrying about what I do wrong or what I don’t do well enough.

For today, I’m going to focus on a few things I’ve done right.

One of those things  was creating scrapbooks of our family life.

I may not have been the craftiest, most artistic scrapbooker in the universe, but I preserved my kids’ childhoods and my own memories in archival quality books.

My favorite pages are the ones with close-up photos  — the ones that capture a mood, a moment, a place, a personality. I love the “photo shoot” of Sara when she wore her blue and white checked, pleated skirt for several days in a row. (She’s always been a skirt girl.) She posed for a photo in nearly every room in the house.IMG_2275

I love the photos of Annie in all her “roles,” like when she set up her art easel on the deck, plopped on her beret and spoke French to me while she painted. Or when she packed her Bitty Baby suitcase, her backpack and her doll on a little vacation in the backyard.IMG_2276

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about scrapbooking:

  1. Focus on the photos themselves, not on the embellishments and cute factor of each page.
  2. Journal! Details can quickly be forgotten.
  3. Go simple. Trends come and go and all the stickers, die-cuts, paper-layering, etc. will fade into the background later because all you want is to see the faces and places you love.
  4. Don’t scrapbook the same kinds of events over and over. I have a million soccer and cheerleading pictures. After awhile, they all look the same.
  5. You only need the best of the prom, dance, sports, party pictures. Keep all the digital photos you want on your computer or storage device, but don’t put them all in a scrapbook. It will overwhelm you and become monotonous in your books.
  6. Perhaps the best advice is to keep duplicates of the close-ups. I can’t tell you how many times I needed photos for school projects, award ceremonies, graduation timelines, and now, for a montage of childhood pictures for a wedding luncheon.  Keep a folder of representative photos over the years so that you don’t have to ply them out of scrapbooks and damage them in the process. (If I’d kept extra copies, my photos in this blog would look better too!)

One final thought…When I was diagnosed with cancer, I stopped making scrapbooks. Partly because I had no energy, and partly because Facebook had become a photo repository, but largely because I didn’t want to see photos of my puffy face, bloated body, bald head, and vacant eyes. But, as soon as that was behind me, I wished I had photographed the entire journey. It’s a critical part of my life history. I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job of collecting photos of myself and my family as we struggled through it.


In the end, we are creating the books of our lives as we live them. All the important events — including some of the ones we would like to forget — should be included to show the ups and downs of the journey.

Learn from me.

If you haven’t started family scrapbooks, do it — in some form. If you have quit, like me, consider how to pick it up again. I signed up for a scrapbooking evening with some friends to help motivate me. I won’t worry about being artistic and clever this time. I will only try to get the photos that tell our stories.

I’ve always kept Journals too. Some are more consistent than others. Lately, there are too many gaps in time, and I want to work on that.

Journals are important too, but the visual gift of a photo from another time is priceless in helping savor the experiences of our lives.

I read this quote that sums it up best: “My grandmother made me a scrapbook because I was once too young to remember; I am making scrapbooks for my family because one day I may be too old to remember.”

Community, Religion

Please Don’t De-friend Me

I’m sitting on a plane sending a few birthday messages to my friends when it occurs to me that I’ve been blowing up Facebook with my “Day to Serve” life lately.


I hope my friends haven’t hid me from their timelines like I’ve wanted to hide my friend Erin from mine.

You see, Erin is so obsessed with MASNsports  photography contest that she posts about a thousand Nats pictures a second. Her one-track posting habits have earned her a lot of grief from her friends, including me.

But, as I looked at my own “Day to Serve” Facebook posts, I realized I should button my sassy lip about Erin’s baseball posts.

I’m an obsessed, one-topic poster too.

Let me try to explain myself…

I am a regional coordinator for Day to Serve. So, early in the beginning of each year, we start holding early morning conference calls to plan this annual service event. Since it’s geographically huge, covering Virginia, D.C., Maryland, and  West Virginia., and we want it to keep growing within this region, it takes over a big chunk of my life, like baseball takes over Erin’s.

The Governors of these states and the mayor of Washington, D.C. appoint staff members to represent them on this committee, and since the LDS Church is a major Day to Serve partner, and I serve as an LDS public affairs director for the DC/Virginia area, I help with everything from news media to interfaith and government partnerships.

The primary focus of our service is on feeding the hungry and improving our communities. We started out with one day a year but grew to a two-week time period to allow more groups to participate, including our friends of the Jewish faith who have a Saturday Sabbath/Shabbat and many Jewish holidays in September.

Can you tell I am trying to justify being a frequent one-topic Facebook poster?

I get so immersed in Day to Serve that I get “share” happy.

A great photo of Bryce Harper with a reminder to buy Nats tickets? Share that baby! A newspaper story about going to the Town of Herndon to promote Day to Serve? Gotta post that! A Feed the Need event in Crystal City? People should know about that!

I wish I could say it might end soon, but we’re starting the most intense time of Day to Serve now because hundreds of service events are going to be happening over the next few weeks and as the results pour in, I won’t be able to help myself.

Please don’t de-friend me for this.

Just patiently understand that it will soon end.

But, in the meantime, try to share the joy with me, and let me brag just a little…

Thanks Julie Fred for the photos
Thanks Julie Fred for the photos

This year, I’ve been particularly proud of our Virginia team for:

  • Getting the Washington Nationals as a Day to Serve partner and having them sponsor two games with part of the proceeds going to Capital Area Food Bank to feed the hungry
  • Getting 500 LDS missionaries to attend the game which helped spike the Nats food donations. After all what do missionaries do anyway? Serve!
  • Getting a Day to Serve proclamation issued by Governor Bob McDonnell
  • Getting Day to Serve resolutions passed in every regional government organization in the Commonwealth of Virginia, resulting in local government jurisdictions following suit and getting their towns, cities, and counties to support Day to Serve. We even saw how one mayor’s leadership in a small Virginia town brought a divided town together under the banner of service.council
  • The Virginia Department of Transportation is encouraging all the participants in the Adopt-A-Highway program to do their clean-up projects during the Day to Serve time frame, adding hundreds of more projects to our effort.
  • Getting the Capital Area Boy Scouts on board with great clean-up projects and a new Day to Serve patchbadge

Of course there are more, but a blog can only be so long.

So far, there are about 500 service events listed on the website, and many more will start popping up in the next two weeks. The results are so astounding that I’ll have to share that.

You see, when millions of people in a huge region of the United States decide to work together to help each other, it’s news. It’s Facebook-worthy. It begs to be shared, promoted, and posted.

And, I confess I have an ulterior motive: I want you to join us.

Do something over the next two weeks to help someone else. Drop off some food at a food pantry. Send in a check to your local food bank. Fill an extra bag of groceries at the store and remember people who are hungry need quality food. Donate some non-perishable protein like peanut butter.

And, did you know it’s extremely difficult for needy families to afford diapers? People rarely think to give baby supplies.

Go to and find out how you can be part of this growing movement.

Then, go ahead, share it on Facebook!

You know I will.


Family, Memoir, Relationships

Small Treasures

In today’s Washington Post magazine, I read a sweet story answering the Post’s question, “What has meaning for you?”

The writer, Amanda Long, wrote about treasuring her father’s appointment book.

It reminded me of when my dad died many years ago, and one of my assigned tasks was to clean out his safe deposit box at the bank.

vaults (Photo credit: the Other michael)

Deeply sad and in a state of shock, I walked into the town bank where I knew most of the people who worked there.

One by one, they expressed their sympathy and told me about how they always loved seeing my dad on his regular visits. Dad owned the small town dairy and made regular trips to the bank to make deposits.

I looked at two empty chairs across from a banker’s desk where my dad and I sat many years before when he took me to open my first bank account, and then again, when I took out my first car loan.

As we walked out, he said, “Always pay your bills on time. Never miss a payment, and you’ll always be able to walk into the bank with your head held high.”


I always followed that advice because I wanted to be like my dad, and hold my head high in a bank.

An assistant walked me back to retrieve Dad’s safe deposit box ,and led me into a private area to open it.

I opened the lid of that metal box and saw legal-sized envelopes stuffed with penny stock certificates.


He loved investing in local oil and gas stocks and playing the penny markets.

He had a knack for picking good stocks and selling them at the right time. His brother once asked him to recommend which stocks to buy. Reluctantly, and after a lot of coaxing, he gave him some recommendations. As he feared, the stocks didn’t do well, and he refused to advise anybody ever again.

Below the stock certificates, I found some bank loans he’d taken out for his business. They were marked, “Paid.” Then, I found a stack of check registers. I thumbed through them and stared absently at his hand writing, so personal and alive. I never imagined I’d appreciate his handwriting so much.


There were stories behind those entries. Some were routine — the grocery store, the doctor, Field and Stream magazine, an elk hunting license. Then there were some that had stories like the regular checks written to a friend who had lost his job. I knew Dad had given him some land to garden to keep him busy and to help him grow vegetables for his family. I didn’t know he also gave him regular checks to help him during all those years of unemployment.

I saw checks to the bank with notes indicating he paid someone else’s truck payment for several months in a row. “When a man’s down on his luck, you can’t stand by and not help him,” I remembered him saying.

I remembered a man who came to Dad’s funeral, who teared up when he said, “I know your dad didn’t have much but he always managed to help other people when they needed it.”

The man had gone to high school with my dad, and then moved away. Many years later, the man’s house caught on fire and burned to the ground. “I hadn’t seen your dad for years, but when he found out about my house fire, he sent me money to help me rebuild.”

Later, my mom was listening to a lesson in church on service and someone shared a story about when her husband lost his job at the nearby steel plant. She said my dad kept delivering dairy products to them even though they couldn’t pay him. She said he never charged them until he found other employment. In fact, she said, he became more generous and added items like bricks of cheese, cartons of cottage cheese, and ice cream treats.

In the end, the thick wads of stock certificates didn’t amount to much, but the check registers, which held no monetary value, became priceless.

I still have them today, and there is no pleasure like that of admiring his handwriting and realizing that, to him, those records only reflected the perfunctory task of good record keeping. But to me, they show the character and soul of a man whose legacy of giving means more than even the most lucrative packet of high-yielding stock certificates.