Friday, September 23, 2016

Three Ways to Creatively Use Old Greeting Cards

  1. Make the cards into a book. I actually have a book of old greeting cards. I used an old photo album – Saddle_Sewing504_1024x1024.jpgthe ones with the clingy plastic overlay – and inserted a card on each page. You can’t see the inside of the cards in this way so I was thinking how else can the cards be made into a book where you can see both the inside and outside of the card? Make the cards into a saddle-stitch book. I will eventually make one out of some cards I have at home in a bag and post later. But there are lots of great tutorials out there on how to make a saddle-stitch book. Here is one that I like: Saddle Stitch Binding. If the cards will end up being a really thick book then use the Coptic Stitch method: Coptic Stitch Binding or make two books (as the coptic stitch is very work intensive.
  2. Frame as artwork. I wouldn’t do every single card you have this way but select no more than 5 of your favorite cards and frame them as if they were art. If you want the inside of the card on display as well; photo copy it, arrange and glue the card and copy next to each other on a piece of poster board or cardboard, cut to fit in the frame, and hang on your wall. In this photo, the person matted three cards in a single frame. The mat holes were cut the same size and the cards were floated in that space.DSC_0095-21.jpg
  3. Decoupage. If you aren’t that attached to your cards but keep them for the image on the front, cut off the front of each card and decoupage them onto an item like a small table, canvas, wooden box, etc. There are many tutorials online for decoupaging. Here is a good very basic one for doing it on canvas How to Decoupage. (You could also still scan in the message part of the cards and keep as digital files.) In this photo, the person decoupaged cards on this end table.  
 The same idea can be done with old photos as I've done here to a kitchen table with old black and white photos from college. Make sure to apply a coat of polyurethane to protect from moisture at the end of your project.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

   When you were born, you cried and everybody else was happy. The only question that matters is this - when you die, will you be happy when everybody else is crying?

― Tony Campolo 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Memory Jar by Regina Sokas

Currently, I am participating in a 30-day creativity challenge from #CreativeSprint for the month of April 2016. I met a fellow sprinter, Regina Sokas, who posted this creative on April 5th:
She made this memory jar from small items of her mother's that were in a drawer and included a small photograph of her mother at the top of the jar.
This is a perfect example of Legacy and Memory making that doesn't require you to be a Rembrandt or Picasso to create.

Check out Ms. Sokas blog article at Found Patrick.

ceramic jar with lid
small items
acrylic paint (optional)
jewelry glue, heavy duty ModPodge or Gem-Tac by Beacon (personal favorite - I recommend these over hot glue)

A great tutorial using a glass jar: Glass Marble Mosaic Vase
The glass makes it a little more slippery in this tutorial, but they use grout for a more finished look but it's not necessary.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I Am with You Still

"I give you this one thought to keep - I am with you still. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on the snow, I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning's hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not think of me as gone - I am with you still - in each new dawn." ~Native American Prayer

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Words in the Wind

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. ~ Robert Frost

I am the sum of my history. All of my experiences, people I’ve met, relationships I’ve had, emotions I’ve felt and decisions I’ve made, have brought me to today.
I’ve held on to letters – not just love letters, all of them – for sentimental reasons, or so I thought. I couldn’t throw them away. Some letters I’ve read over and over and over again throughout the years, and some I’d completely forgotten.
It’s interesting to think of the notion “someone took the time.” We easily forget this. When we are going through tough times or when we are feeling lonely, we tend to think thoughts like “no one loves me,” or “I wish someone would think of me for a change.” I’ve thought these thoughts often. In the back of my mind and in my heart, I know there are people who love me, particularly my family. I know that God loves me. But for some reason, these positive affirmations get buried beneath the negativity.
But when I look at old letters, I’m reminded of how much I am loved. And it is as simple as someone took the time to think of me. They took a moment out of their busy life to reflect on me, put pen to paper and write. And they took it several steps further by folding the letter neatly, placing it in an envelope, addressing the envelope, putting a stamp on it and mailing it.
Just think about that for a moment. 
Time is precious to us all. We’re only given so much of it.
Of course, most of my letters are from ex-lovers and friends (some of them ex-friends). And, although I am no longer a part of their lives,  I mattered to them at that moment they wrote me. To me, this is special. Special because during my interactions with them, I learned invaluable life lessons and I grew and matured from those lessons. I can’t take back anything that I have experienced with them. I can only look back and thank them for sharing those precious moments with me. For those moments make up a part of who I am today. So thank you. Thank you for thinking of me and sharing your thoughts with me.
In creating this piece, I cut up the letters. This process allowed me to not only say goodbye to the letters but to my grief of loosing a part of my life that is no longer present but still relevant. Whether people are no longer in our lives due to separation, death or just simply growing up, the feeling of loss is still experienced and should be acknowledged so we can fully move forward with what remains of our own lives. Most of my letters are from people who are no longer a part of my life but are still living. These were people whom I loved and, at the time, it hurt to loose them. But now that I've looked at their significance in my life from a different perspective, I can properly say goodbye. I can confidently shred my letters without negativity and let them go.*
However, should you want to keep old letters, I would suggest choosing your most treasured letters and have them scanned to make a book out of them. A book will keep better, will be easier to access and share, and takes up less space. If you're like me, your letters were kept in several shoe boxes scattered around the house or in a storage bin. And by all means, don't keep any hateful or negative letters. There's nothing worse than looking back on a person and being reminded of bad times.*
*Added to a previous article written on
Materials: Cut-up letters, construction paper, printed photo, glue stick and ink pen. I personally like for creating photo books. If you are scanning documents, they will need to be saved as a jpg. I also recommend if you want to submit pdfs or if you are planning to key in the the documents in a text program.

Friday, September 18, 2015


I was cleaning my office today and organizing some things when I came across a small box of letters and cards that I'd forgotten. You see I had brought the box to work in an attempt to go through the box a little at a time during my lunch breaks and eventually making a decision to dispose of them. I hadn't touch the box since.

When I looked in the box, I thought it would be a good idea to commemorate my past by creating an Afro (for my Afros365 blog) out of the used stamps from the envelopes, since the stamps are the first thing I noticed. So, I put a few of them to the side and, during my break, I began emptying the envelopes and tearing the stamps off.

One envelope in particular caught my eye because it had my grandmother's address label in the corner. I flipped it over, ready to pull the letter out when the first thing I see is a five dollar bill peeking out. I immediately dropped the letter and became overwhelmed. Not with sadness because my grandmother is no longer with me. She died November 9, 2001 (not too long after 9-11-2001). She was my other parent. My confident. My best friend. And I love her so much. No, I was overwhelmed with joy. To Mari Kondo: This envelope and its contents definitely "sparked joy."

I can't remember ever feeling this way in all my life. All of my good memories of my grandma came rushing in at me like a wave just hit me on the beach. Salty, painful but exhilarating. For a full 5 minutes or so, I cried. And I didn't want to stop it. It was immediate and urgent and I didn't want to let go of the feeling. Normally, when I am about to cry, I'm trying to, unsuccessfully, contain it and keep it from pouring out. But not this time. At any rate, it was too sudden for me to have a chance to think about it. I couldn't touch the envelope or even look at it for a few minutes.

When I got my composure (with the help of a friend who read one of the letters out loud and made me laugh), I read the letter and two others that were just like it and also had $5 in them. Mary Alice Lewis Buster was an amazing woman. Not only did she take the time to write her granddaughter over seas, but she placed money in them. Money that she didn't have to give. I don't know why I never spent the money. Maybe because I knew she was retired and living on a fixed income. Maybe I wanted to treasure something that she so willingly gave me.  Or maybe because it reminded me of her giving heart and I wanted to hold on to that part of her.

My grandma has always been that way towards me. No matter what she had, she shared with me. She was always there for me. Even when I made unsound decisions, she supported those decisions. When I came home from Italy, my grandma surprised me (and other family members) with a t-shirt she had specially made for me. It said "Been there, done that." And it had a list of all of the cities I'd visited while abroad. (I wore that shirt so much, it became tattered and ragged.) My aunts and uncles shirts' had the words "my niece" at the top and my mom's had "my daughter." And, of course, she had one that said "my granddaughter." She was so proud of me. I had gotten her a tote bag with the word Rome on it and a t-shirt and I took a picture of her with that bag. She had the biggest brightest smile. It was one of my favorite Christmases.

Legacy isn't about the things, although things sometimes help trigger memories. But it's the memories themselves that we hold so dear. I have touched or come across items that belonged to my grandma over the years and none have caused the passionate reaction I just had with that letter. Those other items were not about an interaction between she and I. Her jewelry came from other people or her personal purchases. Her scarves, though lovely, were things she wore for her pleasure. Pictures, blankets, clothing, photo books and picture frames are all nice and I held on to them because they were hers, but not because they spark joy in me. However, the letters were her personal thoughts to me. They were her responses to conversations we'd shared over the phone and via other letters. They represent the interactions that we'd shared during the time I had with her.

I love my grandma from this day till the next and the next thereafter. And I don't have to feel guilty for letting go of some of her material things. After all, she did. I have all of my fond memories. And I have a few items, like these three letters, that I will always treasure. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being in my life grandma. I love you.


In our present world of emails, social media, instant messaging, etc., what would be more special than to write someone you love a handwritten, snail-mailed letter. I don't recommend sending things with monetary value through the mail but there are many ways to make it special like decorating the borders of the paper or sending a few photos that relate to you and the receiver. You never know what someone will treasure after you've passed along.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What's My Legacy?

I picked up the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo as a gift for my aunt and ended up reading it. (Divine intervention possibly?) It has changed my mindset about decluttering my home, my work space and, ultimately, my life. This is not a review of her work, but I mention it because reading the book led to several questions about myself and my legacy.

I was following (and still am) her process for going through my things and deciding what brings me joy. Upon going through my paper clutter, I rediscovered poems I'd written in junior high school, old love letters, creative writing lessons from high school and other things that all of a sudden, I couldn't throw away. I asked myself the question that Ms. Kondo proposes: Does this spark joy? My answer was repeatedly no.
Old school papers and drawings from middle school - almost 3 decades old!

So, why was I holding on? It dawned on me that I could save the memory and get rid of the paper. I would consolidate my memories. I began the process of typing in old writings and scanning cards and letters with the hopes of getting one book printed of all of those papers that would be much smaller and more concise. In fact, why not do this with all of my items I couldn't let go but didn't spark joy? I began photographing dolls and stuffed animals and other items that I quickly sold at a yard sale for next to nothing - yeah, it must have been very dear to me. In reality, I was looking for a way out.

I hit a road block in my consolidating. I was getting nowhere fast. Something didn't feel right about how I was decluttering. And I was veering way off-course.
Current status. I unpacked several boxes that had been stored for more than a decade. I was, needless to say, overwhelmed.

Last week, I stopped my consolidation process and asked myself, "why am I doing this?" Is it because I think my son or family will treasure my old things in book format? Did I want to chronicle every facet of my life from childhood to adulthood? At what point will I stop consolidating before it gets to be too much?  I had several reasons why I should continue the process. I, myself, would love a book of memories to glance through, even if only I enjoyed it.

In her book, Ms. Kondo mentions making things more prominent by paring down a collection. For example, instead of having a unicorn collection of 100 displayed all over the place, a few special pieces - like five - would stand out more and draw more attention. In other words, less is more. She also warned that going through memorabilia should be last on the list. I never thought going through paper that I would run into items that fall into the memorabilia category.

So, although my idea of consolidating seems like a good idea and I still plan to do it, it will make a better book if it contain just a few of each of the collections with a short paragraph of what those collections meant to me. And it would serve me better to save for last.

I will be better able to pick through each of the items — by asking myself does it spark joy — when I know that I am looking for the few special ones to add to my book. Therefore my book will be that much more meaningful.

Ms. Kondo also explains a process in which you say goodbye to an object/thing that does not spark joy — even if it once did — by telling it thank you for bringing me joy and for serving (whatever purpose it served) in my life. It gives me peace of mind when I do this and, therefore, makes it easier for me to let it go.

This entire process is helping me to not only declutter and purge but also to stop living in the past and worrying about the future. It's teaching me to live in the present - now. I am allowing myself the freedom to let go while remembering and maintaining the things that made me who I am today. This is something I can teach my son and it will be something he will appreciate when this body dies. Part of my legacy will be making it easier for him to say goodbye when my time comes.

Project Idea:
Photograph, scan or key-in a favorite collection of yours or a loved-one's to make into a photo book. Maybe you have a collection of stamps, movie tickets, toys from your childhood, jewelry, comic books, artwork, love letters, greeting cards, etc. The key is to choose the best ones to include in the book with a very short paragraph about each collection. And then toss/sell/give away the collection. You save your loved-ones the burden of having to go through hundreds of items upon your death and trying to make those tough decisions of letting it go. And let's face it, usually people avoid having to go through a loved-one's items for years after their death.

Great sites for making photo books: MyPublisher, Flickr, iPhoto, Blurb, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens and Walmart. My personal favorites are MyPublisher and iPhoto.