You gotta be…

I started tapping back into this song (by Des’ree) as a mantra in February when I needed some inspiration. Always a favorite 90s jam, but I really listened to each lyric and found something I needed to hear. It was the perfect setup for what I was about to face in March when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. To say it came as a shock is an understatement. Not really something you expect to find out after having an annual physical with all good numbers and results, & taking no medications. I was quickly submerged in the world of breast cancer diagnosis, and in my nature, researched the hell out of it. In these few short months I’ve read books, scientific studies, articles, blogs, forums, joined in local groups who provide education, and listened to podcasts. I’m still early on in a sense, but I feel like I’ve gotten a handle on what it is and mostly learned how much I really did not know, or that a lot of what is *thought* to be known is misunderstood, until you are patient zero. 

I found my cancer myself thru routine self exam. (PSA: do your exams!) In hindsight, I should’ve gone to the doctor immediately, but due to covid I told myself I was monitoring until my routine annual exam. My doctor agreed further diagnostic testing should be done to rule anything out and so the exams began. I am not a queasy person. I am not overly emotional. I am fairly realistic: I like facts, logic, numbers, and truth. So none of this was really scary for me, just a bit uncomfortable. I am independent, so handing over the reigns to others for my health, the one thing I felt I controlled (as much as any of us can really, which is to say – not a whole lot!), was the hardest part. And let’s face it, healthcare in the US, even with good insurance, still not the best. But that’s a post for another day. So began navigating the system as I did and taking each step to learn more and come up with a plan of action. The waiting in between was hard. Once I had results and I knew what was ahead, it is a lot easier to come around to the plan.

I am a thinker. Always have been. I like to think critically about my own thoughts and ask myself questions of why I think that, and challenge the ways in which I do and see if I can evolve my thoughts all the time. All. The. Time. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve mellowed a bit on needing to know every single little thing. I certainly don’t share it like I used to. 

It’s my day job to observe and ask questions, and being a storyteller, I am interested in people’s stories. So the idea that I had a new story to tell was a spark for so much more… I started thinking about what I knew about cancer (very little actually) except for how it relates to people that I know that have had it. And the bottom line is you just don’t know until you know or unless your an oncologist. And even they sometimes don’t seem to really know the things that actual cancer patients know. And it’s not a slight to those concerned, no one wants to be in this club, but it is a gentle reminder in mindfulness that you should approach the subject (ie, the cancer patient) from a place of unknowing. It’s perfectly fine to relate the instances you are aware of, well at least with me, maybe not all people appreciate it, but I can see the difference in meaning well and wanting to connect, versus touting some unverified belief system about cancer. 

I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s words, “what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life?” I have to say, even though my diagnosis didn’t warrant it, of course, we all think about our fate. And nothing has changed for me. I feel the same about death that I felt before this. I’ve never been afraid of it. It’s a part of life. And it exists for the purpose of life to go on, a circular motion, it is required. Of course, we all would like to see it be timely and seasonal, but it doesn’t always happen that way.

For the past 10 years or so, I’ve had the opportunity to live my life the way I truly want. I’ve worked on making my home with my person in life and our 2 kitties. I’ve made mistakes and crappy things have happened sometimes, but it has all led me to a stronger foundation, & a softer perspective. I’ve traveled where I wanted to. I’ve seen things I’ve wanted to see. I’ve achieved the professional goals I have set. I’ve listened to live music I’ve wanted to hear. Not a day goes by that I am not steeped in gratitude for my experiences, relationships and time spent. I literally practice gratitude every day, and more on days I am feeling down.  

What has changed? Maybe it’s too early to tell. There may be a slight perspective shift on letting go a bit more. I am a motivated person, mostly motivated by what I want to learn, see and do in life, and share with others. I think this diagnosis has made me tell myself to relax a bit more. I tend to like things a certain way (thanks Mom!) and sometimes try to bear this unto others, and really, it’s not necessary. I can skip the critique once in a while. Though some* may say it’s part of my charm. (*some is me, I’m the only one that says that ;)) 

So what can you do? You can say a prayer and send good energy into the universe. You don’t have to help me, but help someone. You can make a donation to a worthy cause, these two have directly affected me:

You can ask your representatives to support legislation for better, smarter regulations regarding cancer patients, specifically metastatic patients. Some of this legislation relates to research, how data is compiled and where the funding is then routed because of that data; also, what type of disability is accessible and when for people facing terminal diagnosis. This site has more info:

And you can get vaccinated! Vaccination is a responsible choice if you want to be part of an interactive society. Immunocompromised people (chemo patients, transplant patients) are dealing with enough. They don’t need to worry about a pandemic too. Individual beliefs mean nothing in a society that doesn’t exist.


DIY Mini Scrapbook Album – Vacay

Aruba mini album

I was inspired to try making my own mini scrapbook album from scratch after watching Heidi Swapp’s tutorial class on It’s a free class & she uses boxed cards to make the base of the album.

I had a few photos printed from my last vacation to Aruba and decided to use those for the album. They are press prints from Persnickety Prints that I had hanging on my Christmas tree last year. The press prints are so nice and sturdy, just love them. I also highly recommend the pearl finish when you have an image that you want to shimmer.

I had this Simple Stories Good Day Sunshine paper pad that I’ve been using for years now. I think it was a freebie from the Stamp & Scrapbook Expo, so it was a big stack with multiple pages of each design. I decided to try to kill it off with this album.

I chose a few papers and cut them down so that the album would be a 6×8 size. I adhered some pages together and used my sewing machine to sew pockets in a few pages (3). Heidi Swapp gives this idea/tip in her 2nd video in the class series. I like the idea of mixing the pages, some with pocket tags, some without.

I cut some chipboard to 6×8 and adhered it all together with Tombo permanent adhesive. For the cover I chose a paper that was 9 inches long so there would be overhang onto the back of the album to cover the spine. The journal card pages worked perfect for that.

Once the base of the album was complete, I loosely outlined where I wanted the photos then proceeded to complete & embellish each page. In total it probably took about 6-7 hours to complete the whole thing. Probably the quickest I’ve ever completed a project like this. Using the one paper pack as a base and sticking to a theme probably helped me focus more and get it done.

Aruba mini album

I used a lot of stash supplies, that “escape” sticker is from 7 Gypsies. Lots of Simple Stories embellishments from their mini “snap” packs and some other beach/paradise collection like “Here We Go”.

Aruba mini album

I love tags, and finally picked up a tag die-cut set at Stamp & Scrapbook Expo last year. It is from Hero Arts, the Infinity Tag set.

Aruba mini album

These papers worked out well because of the way they are color blocked for divided page protectors, it sort of blocks off different parts of the page layouts and also provides embellishment without having to add too much extra.

Aruba mini album

The “pure magic” is from Me & My Big Ideas, the other stickers and washi are Simple Stories Here We Go collection.

Aruba mini album

This fruity paper is from a 6×6 pad – American Crafts Dear Lizzy Happy Place. It was perfect for a visit to the smoothie bowl shack.

Aruba mini album

When I decided to start this album I had no printer ink, so couldn’t print additional photos that way. I did use my Lifeprint mini printer to print out mini photos of the food and snacks from the trip. The strip of paper under “good eats” is inked with Ranger Distress Inks. Again the pattern paper was already designed, so I didn’t have to add anything to it.

Aruba mini album

Aruba mini album

Sunglasses paper from 6×6 pad – American Crafts Dear Lizzy Happy Place. I also started by using the kraft photo corners, then just decided to continue that throughout the album for cohesiveness. The press prints are such a nice quality and I didn’t want to adhere them down.

Aruba mini album

This layout probably took the longest because I was trying to block off the left page to add some small stories. I have a Lifeprint hyperphoto that will take the place of the regular photo on the top part about these swans, fish and a swimming iguana. (Their servers were down at the time 😦 )

The bottom was a visit to a favorite night spot, Bugaloe, with live music & the best grouper ceviche – yum!

For the right side, I added a different paper from Simple Stories Summer Vibes collection. I cut parts off to make the words make sense for the theme.

Aruba mini album

I wanted to include some journaling in the album, some was recorded in Day One app and other in an Instagram post. I put the journaling (which I write a word or two about the different things that happen, places visited or inside joke type stories) on the viewable page. Then I add my more personal take to the pocket tag.

For the page I wanted to put the journaling right on that busy page, so I used the negative from the tag die-cut to ink a space that journaling printed on vellum would show up. I used Ranger Oxide Inks to get a nice layer of ink to cover up the images on the paper. At first I just printed the font in black, but then decided I would like it reversed better. I use apps on my phone to create this journaling and print directly to my Canon printer using their printer app. (Letterglow app, PicStitch app, and Canon Print – learn more about that here) I continued that inking on the right side of the page to outline the photo a bit more.

Aruba mini album

Used my typewriter for this journaling on the tag.

Aruba mini album

This album was fun and surprisingly easy to come together. I’m glad I have a completed project for something I wasn’t even sure I was going to scrap the photos for to begin with.

I highly recommend checking out Heidi’s class and trying a mini album of your own.

Feeling Crabby // scrapbook layout share

Crab layout

I needed to just make a page. I hadn’t done it in a while. I wanted to capture the moment. I wanted to capture my mood. A few incidents have just been circling and sometimes recording it, & getting it out seems to offer clarity in some way. Or maybe validation?

I needed to get some photos printed on my Instax with the black border film that was in there, so that I could change it for some other photos I wanted to print.

Instax printer

So I printed these 2 photos from capturing my crab sweater, which also coincided with a Instagram post a couple weeks ago.

I just wanted to make and not think too much. I used paper from Pinkfresh Studio Dream On collection and elements from their Indigo Hill collection, I received in a warehouse box last year.

Crab layout

I also wanted to incorporate the new Tim Holtz Snarky Small Talk stickers.

I also used some stickers from Simple Stories Carpe Diem Posh line.

The cute little crab is actually from a stationery pad my cousin gifted to me.

If you follow me at all, you may know about my quest to understand my journey more, which deals with a lot of inward soul searching, in true fashion of a Cancer or crab, water sign, guided by the moon.

I let the colors of my sweater guide me. Nautical colors are always a favorite, but I liked that this was not a layout from the nautical season so much. Thinking about these collections in different ways.

Crab layout

I’ve been challenging myself to use older supplies, so pulled out the polaroid border frame and arranged it under the pop-dotted Instax photos.

I knew the most important part was getting some journaling down and left a space at the bottom for some quick notes. These sentence fragments are probably my favorite way to record journaling. Just how my monkey mind thinks sometimes, in bits & pieces.

Crab layout

I used a metallic pencil to quickly sketch some lines as a guide for the journaling. I went to use my Signo white roller ball pen, but it was almost out of ink, so I switched to the Sakura gelly roll. This one also wasn’t flowing, but got it to work. I suspect this incredibly dry air is part of that.

Crab layout

For the date title, I used some older alpha stickers. The white did not show up as well as I wanted with the pattern paper, so I outlined it with black pen to stand out a bit more.

I like how the layout finally came together. Sometimes I’m not sure as I’m going along, but I was determined to not get held up too much. I actually finished it rather quickly in comparison to others.

Crab layout

I always come back to a few tried & true techniques, or rather things I love about scrapbooking:

Candid photos  //  handwriting  //  pattern paper mixing  //  collage (or more modernly known as clustering)  //  words/phrases  //  dark backgrounds  // a 3-color scheme