Scrapbooking: My secret shame

Come around closer–this one I need to tell with my eyes half-closed and my voice full of self-inflicted pain.

It starts thusly:

Maybe five or six years ago, everybody I knew was doing some version of Creative Memories or Stampin Up! or some other company with random! exclamation points and aggressively cutesy stamps that you would then wash! with a special marker or even use your finger to spread colored! chalk over what you’d just done.

Every birthday I’d get at least three cards that were just about bursting out of their envelopes because of the card, which was card stock topped with hand-torn corrugated cardboard topped with watercolor paper topped with an embossed stamped picture of a cake topped with a surprisingly large piece of feather boa.

My desire to avoid ever being asked to participate in a “Crop” or card-making party was enormous. I was the Gloria Steinem of scrapbookers–never would my formidable mind bend to the subjugation of stamps featuring round baby heads with a single thick strand of hair on top! I would never be sacrificed on the altar of mice wearing clothes! When I gave cards, they were a single sheet of paper with a carefully ironic newspaper headline attached with whatever adhesive I could dig out of the junk drawer. “Unabomber Celebrates 65th in Jail” brought down the house, I tell you.

But then I began to see the fruit of the labors of those enslaved to Creative Memories. I’d sit down and a 10-lb scrapbook would be plunked in my lap. Little Cordelia’s every waking moment, it seemed, every vacation and zoo visit and first tooth and first time she met a doggy, all carefully chronicled on acid-free paper, with vellum ink designed to withstand the centuries. Long after we’re all gone, The Time Mommy Got a Plugged Duct (giant word: OWIE!) will shine bright, meticulously journaled, grommeted, be-ribboned, heat-gunned, and brayered.

To put it bluntly, I sucked as a creative memories parent. I could barely remember what I ate for dinner the night before, much less what the subway schedule was on the day last summer we went to the Common. Half the time, the only way I knew which kid it was in that baby picture was by the color of the car behind her. “Oh, the grey Camry–that’s you, Meri!” Yes, that time I cut out a haiku on the age of volcanos from the New Yorker and gave it to my sister for her 25th birthday was pure. comedy. gold (and it was), but that didn’t absolve me from the uncomfortable realization that if one of my kids got lost on the way home from the bus stop and I had to give the police a recent picture, I’d be calling up my cousin and asking if he still had the one he took on his camera phone.

Plus, right around that time, digital scrapbooking became a “thing.” Well, hey, beautiful; where have YOU been? It was geeky, it involved software piracy ($600 for Photoshop? Are they NUTS?), it was appealingly “free” (oh, yeah, except for the $50 in photo paper every two weeks, and the external hard drive, and the camera, and the Photoshop when Doug found out I had Kazaa’d it and fixed me with a steely glare), and I could generate the solid, physical, CMYK evidence that I really did love my children no matter what car was behind them.

And so, dear readers, I became a scrapper. THERE! You have it! Oh, I became the scrapper’s scrapper. I had hundreds of digital papers and embellishments and grommets with drop shadows; I could generate realistic torn paper in open source graphics programs; I was a charter adopter of Picasa and I had Two Peas in a Bucket set to remember me on log-in. Oh yes… I scrapped.

The rather huge problem in all this is that I totally blew.

Over six months I generated about a hundred complete layouts, enough to fill three or four albums, then actually LOOKED at what I had done. And I made a noise in my throat like a dog trying to bring up that piece of gristle that just isn’t digesting. And I quietly closed my Gimp window (nevermore to implement a Gaussian blur on top of a realistic drop shadow) and tried to forget that I had ever done anything even close to placing photorealistic felt letters on top of a digital chipboard tag.

And yes, I am going to show you one.

Those prone to heart issues brought on by fits of laughter should step away now.


Let’s dissect, shall we?

First–fairly decent picture of cute Tabi and cute Dee; too much glow on the thing and the skin tones are off because I was using a crappy camera and it was getting dark, but on the whole it’s a picture I’d enjoy looking at, remembering the apples; it’s all good.

And then it all goes to crap.


What in the sweet angels in heaven was I thinking? That I was BUTTONING the picture? Slipping it in under gigantic buttons as, you know, you do so often? If I had printed this thing at 12 x 12, each of those buttons would be the size of my PALM. I WAS BUTTONING A PICTURE TO A PIECE OF BROWN PAPER WITH GIANT SHINY BUTTONS.

Oh, and then of course because the buttons weren’t enough, I had to beat that picture into submission and zig-zag stitch it down. You are going NOWHERE, you rebellious picture of Tabitha stealing apples! NOWHERE!

Tragically, Joanna perished today under the weight of a colossal button. Friends tried to pry it off her, but it was solidly zig-zag stitched down.

And… ummm… that’s only a middling bad one.

So, OBVIOUSLY, somebody needs to keep my hand off the jpgs of tiny staples. But when I spared the world that pain and stopped doing scrapbooking, I also stopped every other effort that would lead to me being able to identify children using more than the length of my own hair (“Well, my bangs are really ugly, so that must be you, Honour!”).

I also miss what was the whole point in the first place, journaling about what and why and where and how it felt and trying to capture the moment in more than just a photograph.

And so, with great trepidation, I am considering–CONSIDERING, mind you–doing it again. I’ll have to have extremely strict rules about glitter alphabets, but maybe if I treat the papers as matting (rather than a foundation for throwing forty pounds of crap on and then topping the whole thing with a balsawood airplane) and stick to very straightforward negative space for journaling, I can keep the Beast of Fug under control.

I will be posting the results of these efforts. If anyone sees a button, call the police.


One thought on “Scrapbooking: My secret shame

  1. I don’t know, I don’t think it looks that bad. But then, I am always a bit mystified as to what to do with all those scrappy bits one is supposed to add to pages anyway. They are cute in their little baggy on the store wall, but what does one DO with them? I do not want more stuff than picture on a page. The buttons would be the size of your head though.

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