Scrapbooks and the Truth

I’ve been scrapbooking since my oldest daughter was 12 years old. 23 years.

When I first started, I had all the pictures from our life as a family with three kids, along with pictures for my husband and I from our growing up years. At first I used scrapbooks from the scrapbook store with page 8.5 x 11 inch page protectors. I stamped on my pages and used pinking shears for decoration, along with double stick tabs and tape. Not to mention, stickers. I even used construction paper in my first scrapbook. I did have some old style photo albums. Some with individual slots for pictures. Some with sticky stuff on the pages and film over the top. I had many envelopes with pictures and negatives.

I took all the pictures out of the old style photo albums and placed them in my new 8.5 x 11 inch albums with page protectors.

Then, I was invited to a Creative Memories scrapbooking party and learned the “truth” about the proper supplies for scrapbooking. That is, if I wanted to make my memories last, I had to use lignin and acid free paper so that my pictures would last and be protected for a lifetime. Also, the photo safe protectors to keep your pictures from fading. Of course, Creative Memories had all these super safe supplies. They also held workshops and parties where I could do scrapbooking with other scrapbookers. I bought into this whole system. I have many albums with scrapbook pages, stickers, glitter, and page protectors. I’ve spent at least a couple thousand dollars on supplies to protect my memories.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It would be more accurate to say that a few pictures in the history of the world are worth a thousand words.

This is one of my early albums with the 8.5 by 11 pages.

It contains pictures from my family’s Thanksgiving through Christmas events for about ten years.

I assert that most of the pictures in this album would not generate a thousand words.

Holiday album

Here are a couple of the pages. Very few words. This must have been about 1996, judging by the size of my kids and house we lived in. Looking through the scrapbook, I failed to write the year. How could I have done that?

Christmas somewhere in the 1990s

For so many of our pictures, we don’t have a 1000 words to explain them. I might have a 100 words. Maybe. These pages must have been 1997 or later, because of the picture of that tree. We bought it the year for the second Christmas we lived in that house. It was a giant tree. When we were in the store, we knew we wanted a big artificial tree because the artificial tree we had for the prior house looked so tiny in this house. This house was much bigger. But we overestimated the size of our living room. This tree was so tall that it touched the ceiling. We could never put an angel on the top of it. We always had to put her near the top. I don’t remember why we didn’t return the tree to the store. It could be that we bought it on clearance after Christmas the year before. Or it could be that it was too hard to get it back in the box to return to the store. I can’t remember.

And how would anyone know if I was telling the truth when I can’t remember the whole truth?

The words below are woefully inadequate. They don’t begin to tell the story of our visits to see Grandma.

The Creative Memories selling point is being creative in the way that we display our pictures in albums. Stickers. Glitter. Papers. Journaling. Most of these pages are before Creative Memories.

I wonder how many of our memories are creative in another way. We can’t remember everything, even with pictures to remind us. For instance, I can’t remember when we bought that giant tree. Was it Christmas 1995 or 1996? I remember my family was very sick during Christmas 1995 with influenza. I remember our kids laying on mattresses in the living room in front of the tree. They were running fevers on Christmas Eve. We didn’t open presents until everyone was well enough to enjoy opening presents. Was that in front of the giant tree or the little tree. Or did we have both at the same time?

Even with pictures, we have some creative memories. We are often not good historians of our own lives.

No Longer a Hero Mom and Dad

Lately I’ve been feeling disoriented. Flailing around a bit. A weight has been lifted off. In a sense, I’ve lost a part of my identity.

Now, no one around us knows that we spent 25 years raising children with autism. Unless we tell them.

We can pass as parents who have raised ordinary children. We don’t have to make time and planning in our schedule for speech and occupational therapy. We don’t have to go to IEPC meetings with committees to make a plan for their needed services. We don’t have to make a case for their continued need for social work and pragmatic speech therapy. We don’t have to practice social skills at home and be on the lookout for meltdowns.

We could pass for normal parents. We could let people think that our three adult children are just like everyone else’s children.

Five years ago, we left the community and the church family where we raised them. In that community, we couldn’t help people knowing that our children had autism. We shepherded them around. They needed protection. They needed prompting. We needed to prepare teachers and youth leaders. How to talk to them. That it was okay to interrupt discussions about kittens or video games. A large number of people in our former church knew them. They knew us, and considered us exemplary parents. Parents of utter patience. Hero parents. But of course, they didn’t want to be us.

We couldn’t pass for normal parents then. But now we can, if we want to. If we didn’t want to get too close to new people. Two of our kids want to pass as neurotypical, although autism still affects their social interactions. My son is very successful in some ways. He’s making six figures as web developer. He owns a condo. His sister who lives with him has unrelated health problems, which keep her from working. Our oldest daughter can’t hide her disability. Her job depends on it. She works for a government contractor which employs people with disabilities. Nevertheless, she is a top producer as a high tech chat IT professional.

We could pass as ordinary parents.

Except there are holes. No little league. No travel. No senior class trips. No prom. A lot of holes in our lives and in theirs.

And that is the crux of the matter. That is the foundation of the novel I am writing.

Cynthia

Touching Yarn

I wanna go to Michael’s. In person.

I wanna touch some yarn. I wanna go to Horrock’s and look at flowers.

And touch them. Smell them. Be there in person.

The Ugh Year

A year of Covid restrictions. Covid fighting. Covid death and sickness. Covid mean-spiritedness.

570,000 dead now, depending on your source. This is probably an undercount.

When the new year turned, I was angry. Angry that Trump refused to take this seriously. That he purposely used the fights about Covid for political gain. That he spread lies and disinformation. Callous and cynical. A pathological liar who criminally caused the death of so many. Lies, nothing but lies and disinformation. And smears. And attacks on those who disagreed with his lies. Ugh.

I’ve stayed in for a year except for absolute necessity. I go to work a couple of afternoons a week. The rest of the time, I work from home. I am fortunate my employer lets me do this. I’ve gone into a grocery store occasionally. I have my groceries delivered. I go into pharmacies more often.

I stay in because my husband has cancer and is immune compromised. I also stay in, I admit, because I am afraid to get Covid-19. And any of the variants. So I wear a mask when out and I practice social distancing. We did go to church for a while this summer. But in October infections rose, so we decided to stay home for a while.

We both are fully vaccinated as of next Monday. And we should be free to go out. However, my husband has been struggling with an open sore on his heel since Christmas Eve. Actually, before Christmas Eve. That’s just the day that I finally convinced him to go the doctor for it. In addition he has skin cancer in several locations. Since February 22, he has had four spots excised and a total of six surgeries. After the last Mohs surgery, the surgeon ordered a whole abdomen CT scan to look for other cancers. He has an underlying cancer, myelofibrosis, which puts him at high risk for skin cancers. We are waiting on the results of that scan. Ugh.

So since March of last year, it’s been a tough year. An ugh year.

And yet.

I’ve been able to work from home 80% of the time. Even now, I’m working from home. That may change soon due to the fact that I’m fully vaccinated as of this coming Monday.

I’m fully vaccinated as of this coming Monday. I can go get a haircut, finally. I’ve learned that I like longer hair, but not this long.

Only one person in my extended family came down with Covid so far. That was my sister, a nurse. She works with Covid patients in dialysis. But she thinks she caught Covid when she went to a tire shop, where the manager asked her if she minded if they wore masks (she had come in with a mask on). She told them that she was a nurse and worked on Covid floors and they should put a mask on since she might have it and be contagious. A couple of them sheepishly walked out of the waiting area. The service manager reluctantly put his mask on. And two guys just sat looking at their phones. She thinks it is likely that she caught covid there. She had a very mild case, but the timing is right. Yes, it could have been at the hospital. But it was likely at the tire shop.

Hopefully, I’ve learned to respond less to people I disagree with. It’s mostly a waste of time and energy.

Hopefully, I’ve learned to appreciated getting together with others. And also to limit my interactions so that I don’t get too busy again. I’m not sure what to do with those who refuse to get the vaccine. Those who refuse to wear masks. Those who loudly proclaim they will eat only in restaurants that don’t require masks. For now, I will avoid them, I guess. I pray they don’t get Covid. Especially the older ones with multiple health issues. I know I don’t want Covid.

It will probably take me a while to learn to go out again. To be comfortable with not wearing a mask. To be close to people.

Cynthia