The World Cup

France World Cup by Natalie Parker

It’s Saturday and we’re making lunch at home, watching the World Cup.  He says, “just think, four years ago we were sitting in Paris watching France’s opening match.  It was your first time out of the country and now we’ve been to seven continents.”

It was our last day in Paris.  And it coincided with France’s opening match in the World Cup.  It was a happy coincidence when we planned the trip but we were excited to cap it off that way.

We were on our way back to Paris for one night after traveling elsewhere.  We had just enough time to land, drop our bags at the airport hotel, then take the train into Paris for the evening.  The mission? Find some place to watch the World Cup.

The plane was on time.  Our airport shuttle did not come.  I fought with a pay phone then an expensive call on my cell phone.  Our airport shuttle did not exist.  Walking to the other side of a gargantuan airport, we were travel newbs carrying too many clothes.  And a case of champagne.  Finally to our hotel, finally back out and on the train, finally back in what had instantly become our favorite city.

We picked a little cafe across from our original hotel on rue des Écoles.  The waitress eyed us suspiciously.  The rest of the tables were full of French, passing around face paint.  Surely us foreigners weren’t intending on taking up a table to order a meal while everyone was trying to watch the World Cup?  We sat.  We ordered our drinks before the match started.  All set.

The game wasn’t great but I’ll always remember them pounding the tables and cheering “Allez les bleus!”  I remember the waitress treating us a little more kindly after it was clear that we were there for the game and did not bother her for more wine until halftime.  I’ll remember the dad with his kid at the table next to us, the dad having to cut up the French version of a hot dog his kid was eating.  Parents cutting up hot dogs for kids — it’s international.

Pit stop for an ice cream and staring at Notre Dame at night, then back to the train.  In the train station, read enough French to know the train stopped going to the airport early due to maintenance.  Understand enough mass transit to know the gamble of a bus bridge, take the gamble.  Thankfully the buses are there when we get to the last stop.  However, the buses don’t drop us off at the airport train station, just some random airport stop.  We argue with a cab driver to get us back to our hotel.

And just like that, capped off with the World Cup, our trip was over.  His first time off the continent.  My first time out of the country.  Four years ago.  Measuring my life by major world events is a favorite pastime.  Oh yeah, and USA, USA!!

The Creative Doldroms

Flowers by Natalie Parker

There’s nothing quite so annoying as when creativity leaves you.  Creativity is not a finite commodity — it cannot be used up.  But sometimes it just flies the coop.

Yesterday I finished my first scrapbook layout in over a month.  The previous one I barely eeked out after sitting with it for a few weeks.  In sum, no meaningful scrapbook work since about the end of March.  I always have several layouts that I haven’t posted, so you the audience don’t really see my ebbs and flows.  But trust me, they’re there.  This last bout was so bad I didn’t even want to write about scrabpooking.

I know exactly how it happened.  From the end of March until mid-May, school and work zapped me.  So much going on that I felt like I didn’t have room in my brain for anything else.  I finished school for the semester and decided to take a couple weeks off before starting my thesis work.  Not so fast.  Work still zapped me.  I wanted to work on my projects.  I had time to work on my projects.  My creative brain was having none of it.

I know what to do when that happens.  Don’t stress, work on something else.  Enjoy something else.  It will come back eventually.  It’s hard not to get frustrated when I have precious little time to work on my own projects and can’t.  Instead, I’ve been reading, watching movies, fixing the collage frame, and more.

Finally a new page finished.  Here’s hoping it’s on its way back!

Collecting Memories, Not Things

Antarctica by Natalie Parker 8

Spring has sprung and April is clean-out month at my house.  Any time we have for housework we are spending cleaning out closets, cabinets, and our garage.

What a difference a few years make.  How our priorities in life have changed.

We collect memories, not things.  We choose to live in a smaller place with less room for “stuff.”  Our smaller home lets us live closer to fun things in our neighborhood and saves us money so we can go out and create memories.

I used to dream about saving all of my books so I could have a Belle library one day.  Every bookish girl dreams of having her own library.  I was holding onto a lot of books I won’t read again just to have a big collection.  Why do I need a collection just for the sake of having a collection?

Buy a big house with a library for all of these books?  Or save the money to go on another adventure?  I’d choose the adventure.  Every time.

I didn’t throw out all my books.  But I did decide I’m only keeping what can fit on the shelf.  I’m amazed that Mr. P feels the same way.  He’s not pressuring me to get rid of things and I’m not pressuring him.  We both have a clear sense of what matters to us.

When I’m old, I don’t think I’m going to look back fondly at the bookcase.  I’m going to remember the great memories we created.  The books are just an example.  We attacked the garage and our office closet.  The bathroom and hall closets are next.  Our bedroom closet and clothes got the treatment in January.

It’s hard to get rid of things that are perfectly good.  The solution?  We try to sell, donate, or give things to friends.  We have a favorite charity store in town, plus another store that takes paper goods and scrapbooking supplies I won’t use.  We are much more mindful now about what we will bring into the house.  Do we really need it?  They were giving away hats at the baseball game, but do we need them?  Will we use them?

I’ve read many places that we get more value out of experiences than things.  It’s taken us a while to realize it but I emphatically agree.  There’s a lightness that we feel when we have space to grow.  Space to grow and places to go.

Time Passing

Wedding Invitation Scrapbook Page

Time passes so quickly.  That is not a surprise.  I like to think as someone who documents memories and studies about saving information that I’m more acutely aware than most.

Still, there are moments that stand out, when time socks you in the gut saying, “hi, remember me?”  Then I realize I am just like everyone else who can never truly prepare for how quickly life goes.

We lost another of our grandparents this week.  It made me think about the layout I made for the wedding scrapbook with pictures of our grandparents and their response cards.

It’s been almost eight years since those photos were taken and half of the people on that page are gone.  I have a mixture of happy and sad feelings and am mostly thinking about how quickly time passes.

I’m glad I made that page.

Tips for a Computer Restore

Computer Restore by Natalie ParkerAh, the pretty blue new-computer screen.

I’ve had my computer for a couple of years now and like any toddler, it started to develop some annoying tendencies despite my love and care.

To get more miles out of my computer, sometimes I decide to start over with a computer restore.  What do I mean by that?  I mean wiping all the data off my computer and restoring it to factory settings.

Here are some tips for doing your own computer restore.

Note: These tips are for PC users only.  I have no idea if you’d even need to do this on a Mac.  Leave me alone, Mac lovers!

List Your Software: Hit your Start menu and look at all the programs installed on your computer.  Write down everything that didn’t come with your computer.  Make sure you have the software to reinstall.  Sometimes this involves digging in the closet for the CD.  Oftentimes the product website will have the program available for download (Silhouette does!).

Device Drivers: Technically software, but make sure you have the CD’s or can download the drivers for your printers or any other devices.

Back.Up.Your.Photos: I wag my finger at you because you should be doing this already!  Double check to make sure all of your photos on your backup are up to date.

Back up Other Files: Go through your files and decide what you don’t need and what you need to save.  I deleted some, transferred some to my external hard drive, and uploaded others to Google Docs.  Make sure stuff like your music and other important documents are safe!

Fonts: I download a lot of fonts.  I made a copy of the Fonts folder on my computer and put it on my external hard drive (Start > Control Panel > Fonts).

Silhouette Files: I have a lot of designs in my Library that I traced and made myself.  I made sure I saved them all to a file on the external hard drive.

On Restore Points: Windows saves restore points and you can also create restore points to take your computer back to a certain point of time.  I’m a bigger fan of a clean state and going to back to factory settings.

Check Your Manual: Finally, your computer should have instructions (go find and dust them off or Google it) on how to perform a factory restore.  Once you’ve considered all the above steps, check the instructions for your computer.  Way back in the day computers would come with a restore CD.  Oftentimes now, you press a button when the computer starts to get to a special menu (on mine it was F8).

Good luck!  It’s nice to have a clean slate!

Thanks 2013

2013 by Natalie Parker

Man, that sure flew by.

2013 has brought me unimaginable opportunities and adventures.  I thought I really packed in the adventure in 2012 but 2013 shattered the mold.

The year was not without heartache, but I’ve been trying hard to focus on the positives in life.  When I had difficult moments this year, I tried to use them as practice on how to carry myself and come out stronger.

The end of the year makes me so very thankful for all the opportunities life has afforded me and so very excited about the future.

Happy New Year!  May 2014 bring you unimaginable happiness!

Make Time for Creative Time

Make time for creative time by Natalie ParkerMaking time in life for creative activities is a frequent topic I read about.  Over here in my little corner of the internet, here’s my take on it:

Make time for creative time.
If something is important to you, you will make time for it.

I hate waking up any earlier than I possibly need to.  I used to give myself only a 1-2 minute buffer in the morning when I was getting ready for work.

Then I started my Master’s Program.  I was concerned I would lose time for blogging and scrapbooking.  Then I did something that’s so unequivocally against my personality:  I started getting up earlier.

Not early early.  Just around 30 minutes early.  After I get ready for the day, for 30 minutes I sit and work on a creative project.  I don’t clean the house, I don’t start looking at work email.  Creative time only.

I found that creative time in the morning is calming.  I don’t have things piling up in the day yet to make me worry.  By the time I get to work, I’ve already done a little something for a project and I don’t stress out as much if there’s something that’s going to eat into my creative time in the evening.

How about you?  Does this make you think of how you prioritize creative time?