Preparing for Week In The Life™ 2018

From May 7th to 13th, Ali Edwards is once again doing her 7-day documentary project Week In The Life™ (WITL). This will be my first time participating, and since she’s been at it since 2005, I’m a little late to the party, but as I always say: rather late that never, right? (Okay, I don’t always say that, but I do believe no matter when you start documenting your story, you’re never too late, so there.)

The heart of WITL is one that resonates with my own feelings about Your Story:

[Week In The Life is about] valuing your own story. If you do the same thing everyday, awesome. Document that. If you are super busy, document that. Document whatever your life looks like right now and really own that story. One of the reasons I love doing this project each year is it’s often a great time to take stock in how I’m living my life right now. Your story is important even if to no one else but you. (Ali Edwards)

A week-long project like this is quite an undertaking, but I joined the WITL Facebook Group and those fellow WITLers are really active and supportive. Ali also has an amazing collection of WITL posts and resources on her site, so I spent a lot of time reading through everything, and watching every past WITL album walk-through video I could find.

This project is all about documenting a slice of life right now, and it can be as simple or detailed as you want it to be. I quickly realized that, unlike Ali and most of the other people who do WITL, I don’t do Project Life the rest of the time, so the “slice of life” I want this project to record will have to be much more comprehensive than someone who does other memory keeping projects that can fill those story gaps.

So, to prepare for this year’s WITL, I did the following:

  • I spent the last 2 days just thinking about what I want to record with this project, what it is I want to remember about this time of our life, and all the different ways I can go about recording it.
  • I took Ali’s free daily worksheet and adapted it by adding a bunch of extra questions/prompts (see below for detail), and recreating it in a Google Doc (so I can fill it out on my phone).
  • Since I’m doing a digital album that I’ll print out as an A4 photo book, I prepared a digital template where I can drop my photos in as the week progresses. I can’t do my journaling on the day like Ali, because my words need to simmer and mature a bit, but I can do that with the photos.
  • And, last but not least, a very important thing I did to prepare was to browse all the #weekinthelife posts on Instagram, and subscribe to #aeweekinthelife as well as to a few crafters who post drool worthy, inspirational pics.

Since I know you’re just dying to know what I added to the daily sheet, here’s a short rundown:

  • I added a questionnaire that each person in the household will fill out (one for the kids and one for the adults).
  • I added house-focused prompts, since we’re in the process of selling our house—a house both our kids grew up in and we originally thought we’d live in for a very long time—so it’s a very important part of our current memory that I want to preserve.
  • I added “doing” prompts that I will fill in as the week progresses (like “reading”, “watching”, “eating”, “listening”, “playing”, “making”…) Most of those I’ll only fill in once, but if it’s appropriate I’d do it a few times (like with “reading”, which can change on a whim with my kids).

Something else I’m adding to the album is a short summary of each person that will go at the start of the album, since this album will be all about our family.

Finally, I am consciously and meticulously going to include my husband in there. He never speaks about himself ever, so this will be one of the only ways anyone will ever get a glimpse into his psyche (to learn his favorite color, or what he loves to watch on TV, or what his favorite anything is…) and I imagine that one day my children will thank me for it. I’m curious about some of his answers myself, TBH 🙂

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On Clarity and Transparency, and my WHY

[Author note: This post follows on the previous one, a bit like a part 2. Read it first, then come back.]

Knowing something and fixing something are two completely separate things. Intellectually, we all know it. It’s a different thing when we need to change our lifelong habits, though.

One of the biggest obstacles I discovered is my need to be private to the point of becoming a hermit. Yet I also believe in honesty, transparency, and I love sharing my stories. On closer inspection, I realised that I had a deep-seated fear of rejection, and a need of being seen—someone seeing me: my heart, my inner self—a need that has seldom been met in my life, especially lately, and that has resulted in me slowly closing off and hiding.

I (re)discovered Simon Sinek’s message, “Discover your WHY”, which helped me look deeper, and I made a startling discovery: my business and my 2 hobbies (three things I could never reconcile) were all born out of my WHY.

So what is my why? I go into it in more depth below, but the short summary is this:

I believe in the power of story.

I’ve been mulling this over for a while, and I have decided to align my actions with my why, especially with the things I put online, like on this blog, where I’m telling my story in one way or another.

My WHY

A person’s WHY is what they believe, what inspires them and drives them. It is your core values, and is not the same as WHAT or HOW.

Here’s my WHY:

I believe everyone has a story. Every single person has something burning inside them that wants to come out and be shared. I believe people matter—every single person, absolutely, unquestionably—and therefore each and every story matters. I truly believe that every story needs to be shared in some way.

I believe in the power of story, and the ripples of change that happens when you tell your story. I believe that all of us have something to share that someone out there in the world needs to hear.

I believe in the power of story. Even as I write these words, it sends a soul-deep thrill through me. That is why I want to scrapbook, and why I love the idea of Project Life™. That is why I love writing short stories and publishing it even if I’m too self-conscious to share it with the people I know. That is why I want to build websites and help bootstrapping authors, artists and dreamers overcome the technology barrier so they can reach their audience, whether through an affordable website, connecting their different accounts and services, or creating beautiful ebooks they can send out into the world.

Life has very nearly stolen my story. It stole my confidence and my dreams. I have felt guilty and incompetent for a very long time, and it has made me hunker down into myself, a lifelong self-preservation tactic. Habits are hard to break, and bad habits can feel impossibly so.

But no more. I owe it to myself, to my kids, and to those precious people out there that need to hear my story, to you, to get my story out. I’ve got other obstacles to overcome as well, like my fear of failure, the impossibly high standards I set for myself, and that nagging voice that tells me that I’ve got nothing to say, and no one cares anyway.

Yesterday I took a big leap: I decided to believe in my WHY, and that helping others tell their stories is worth something. What did I do? I created a Patreon* page.

Patreon-Elmi

Through it I want to help others tell their stories, mainly in 2 ways:

  1. By creating digital products that will help you think about your stories and let you tell them in a creative way
  2. By combining it with YouTube, I will tell my own stories, and by doing so, hopefully inspire others to do the same, because it is going to be incredibly difficult for me. I’m hoping it will give others the courage to try.

You can visit my page to take a look at the different rewards for patrons (i.e. subscribers), or just jump in and become a Patron!

*Patreon is a platform where creatives can get paid monthly by fans and in return they give fans “rewards” based on their subscription level. Each Patreon creator is unique, and the subscription tiers are determined by each individual creator.

 

Funerals, Memories, and Facing My Fears

My last post was all happy and Christmassy and short. Very short. When I read it I remember the emotions so clearly, because at the time we were going through a dark period and I needed happy and cheerful and fake fake fake.

You see, my mother-in-law (MIL) passed away a week before that post, after we watched her deteriorate for 6 months. The last month or two before she died had already been hard on us, with my kids watching their granny become a stranger in a hospital bed, and my husband seeing his mom become a shadow of herself. Despite that, the 3 a.m. call still caught us off guard, and everything went dark for a while.

Front page of my mother-in-law's tribute.

Front page of my mother-in-law’s tribute. It was designed to be folded in half to become an A5 booklet that wrap around the funeral letter.

I threw myself into creating a tribute worthy of my MIL, fuelled by love and obligation, and probably some guilt and regrets. I was working against the clock to have it ready for her funeral, spending too many days immersed in memories while the pain was still too raw, all while trying to keep it together for my family. I remember making that cheery Christmas card, and having the distinct impression that maybe, if I fake it hard enough, maybe, eventually, things will get better.

Inside of the tribute.

Inside of the tribute. It shows highlights of her life.

Grief, like a giant black hole, swallowed Christmas and New Years and I can’t even remember coming up for air before April.

That’s when I got sick. I had excruciating pain for weeks and had to have an extensive operation that put me in bed for another month to fully recover. The worst part was being away from my kids, and my 2-year old took it especially hard. Then, just as things got better, something else went wrong. I had terrible pain in my arm, so much so I couldn’t use it at all, which directly affected my kids again. It got worse before it got better—more than a month, and I still haven’t regained full use of my arm, although it is getting better.

Amid all of this I was having an existential crisis. I looked back and thought, my MIL was in a good place before things went south. Things were great for her, in fact, and then she had a small accident. Nothing life threatening at all. Except it was. She never knew that the last time she read a book for Linnae or played peek-a-boo with Aiden was the last time she would read a book for Linnae or play peek-a-boo with Aiden.

What if that was me? I was healthy and fine, until I wasn’t.

Front page of the tribute I made for my father-in-law’s funeral 4 years ago.

Of course, once I went down that rabbit hole I couldn’t stop. I never shared my father-in-law’s (FIL) tribute 4 years ago when he died. It was a big shock when we heard the news—he was healthier than many people half his age. The worst of it was that he died less than a month before his very first grandchild, my daughter Linnae, was born. He also had no way of knowing that the last time he’d be fixing a gate for friends would be the last time he’d be doing anything. He was making plans, being excited about the future, and just marking time while he waited for Linnae to come. Isn’t that what we all do? Banking on all the lovely things we’ll do in the future while missing today? I know I did.

That’s what went through my head when I was lying in bed, unable to let my kids sit on my lap, or cuddle them, or just hold them. The last time I held my son could well have been the last time I held my son, ever.

As I was struggling to come to terms with my fragility, I kept thinking of all the scrapbook pages I haven’t done, the baby albums I never completed, all the photos I printed with the best of intentions that are gathering dust in a closet.

A strange truth dawned on me, one that took weeks to truly come into focus: Keeping memories overwhelm me. Sometimes, it bloody well scares me. As a designer and writer, I always assumed that scrapbooking would be easy for me. Well, hello 15 years of struggling. How does one even deal with something like this?

Luckily this was not the sum total of my realisation. But that is a story for a different day. 

First holiday card of the season, yay! 

I made a quick Happy Holidays card from a pre-printed card base and some bits and bobs I had in my stash. It came out pretty sweet, don’t you think?

Cute Bookmarks

Aren’t these just the cutest bookmarks? I don’t know who made them (sorry—leave a comment if you do!), but I’m definitely going to CASE them one of these days!

Reblogged from Collection at looking4myradio.tumblr.com

Scrapbook page of hip hop workshop fun and using the Project Life App

I have been trying out the Project Life Android App by Becky Higgins, and I must say I’m impressed. For the first time in my life I can (potentially) finish a page right there on my phone which saves me a lot of time, and there’s enough free, beautiful kits to get even the pickiest scrapbooker started.

Scrapbook page of dance workshop

Dancing used to be a big part of my teenage and new adult years. When we moved to Hermanus in late 2010, I discovered a dance studio and convinced my husband to take ballroom & latin dance classes with me 🙂 But after I got pregnant with my first child I had to give it all up, and it’s been a long 3 ½ years. That’s why this dance workshop was such a major event for me. I love hip hop—that’s my roots, and favourite style of dancing—and my youngest is finally old enough that I can “disappear” for a few hours on a Saturday morning. Even if I can’t pop to save my life, LOL!

About the layout:

This scrapbook layout documents a single event, so I’ve “cheated” a little by using a Project Life template—since there are no rules in this wonderful hobby of ours it’s all good! This is what I love about pocket scrapbooking, it takes the guesswork out of a page’s design, and because it places hard limits on the number of photos and areas where one can journal, it actually makes it easier to tell the story. I simply picked my photos, chose two journaling cards and voilà!

Using the Project Life App:

The Project Life App is a wonderful tool, and because it lives on the same device that houses all my photos, it’s a godsend. Unfortunately the app still has some ways to go before it can be a one-stop-app for complete scrapbooking.

One major pain in the behind is the app’s limited font editing capabilities. Oh. Em. Gee. Don’t get me started on it. To work around this majorly lacking functionality, I finish my page without adding any text, then save the layout to pull it into Photoshop Elements where I add the final journaling. This way gives me more control (e.g. in this layout, I ended up changing the journaling card colours to match the photos), BUT it defeats the purpose of making the Project Life app a quick and easy way to churn out layouts. I suppose I could settle for a layout that uses very simple font options —I’ve done it before—but it makes my inner-designer cringe spasmodically, something I try to avoid if I can.

Another big usability issue is that you can’t move elements between pockets. For instance, if you want your journaling to appear in a different location, you have to retype and reformat your journaling from scratch; if you want to use the same photo but in a different location, you have to load it from the Gallery again instead of moving it around between pockets.

A big gripe of mine is that every change overrides whatever was in that pocket previously, and there’s no undo button. I’ve lost count of the number of times a painstakingly edited text block disappeared because I accidentally selected a filler card instead of a journaling card.

It also lacks even basic image editing functionality, like rotation, shadow/highlight, brightness, etc. which is a strange deficiency in a photo-type app. I usually edit all my photos first with Snapseed before importing them into Project Life App.

Besides its amazing array of editing functions, filters, and special effects, Snapseed doesn’t compress the final, saved image like most other apps I’ve used before. This is very important if you want to print out your pages at full size.

How do you use the Project Life app? Do you have any workarounds for some of its limitations?

  • Project Life Kit: Midnight Edition (digital)
  • Software: Project Life Android App by Becky Higgins; Photoshop Elements.
  • Fonts: Avenir (main journaling), Bebas Neue (date), serialSue_TRIAL (filler card body), Times New Yorker (filler card accent)

[Scrapbook page] Digital layout of my 2-year-old daughter at play

Scrapbook pages of my little girl playingIt’s been a while since I’ve scrapped because I simply don’t have time. My little boy is already 7 months old, and that just spurred me on to start documenting our life the way I intended to two years ago before my first one was born, so I began to gather photos (not an easy task between two phones, an SLR, and two point-and-shoot cameras). I fully intended to make a Project Life® layout, but when I saw all the beautiful photos of Linnae playing, it quickly turned into a “Linnae at play” double-page spread 🙂 .

SB Linnae Speel (page1 web)I guess I channelled my inner Cathy again, because this is typically her style for digital layouts, with the wide margins, sharp corners, and unapologetically symmetrical design. She prefers a more monochromatic approach, infused with lots of puns, white space, and #hashtags, while I opted to keep the photos in their fully coloured glory, and used words in a purely functional fashion. But even though the pages are quite busy, the wide margins and symmetry help to keep the layout balanced. And I wanted that happy, almost ecstatic look—it suits my daughter’s personality to a T.

SB Linnae Speel (page2 web)Because there were so many photos to choose from, I decided to rather use all the spaces for photos and skip any elaborate journalling and pocket page-type “filler cards”. Instead I created a post on my personal blog that goes into detail about every one of the photos, hence the QR code. Gotta love the digital age! 😀 For that reason I’m not going to go into any personal detail here, so if you’re curious go read it over there. (It’s in Afrikaans; if anyone who does not understand it asks, I’d consider doing a translation here).

I used a beautiful kit from Mommyish called “Daily” because it has nice PL elements—which I didn’t even use, go figure. I intend to print this in a 12 x 12″ photo book¹ once I have enough pages, as part of my Projek Leef memory keeping (my own Afrikaans version of Project Life®).

Project Details:

Digital elements: “Daily” kit by MommyishTemplate: Elmi (that’s me!) • Fonts: Bebas Neue (title), jr!hand (labels/journalling) • Software: Photoshop

Footnotes:

¹ photo book: Q-photo is running a 50% off sale on all photo books until the end of October. If I can do 18 more layouts (just 9 double pages *cough cough*), I will have a beautiful, full colour memory book for roughly R350 (incl. delivery). That’s a bargain!

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Are you living your calling?

Most people are frustrated with where they’re at in their lives, but very few ever know what to do about it. Personally I find it difficult to balance a “normal” life with all the things I want to do but feel too guilty/scared/inadequate to pursue; so I keep them separate, tucking the big, scary, “selfish” dreams away while the safe, mundane, everyday eats away at my soul. And I can’t shake this nagging feeling that I am missing something big, that I’m meant for bigger things.

The Art of Work by Jeff GoinsJeff Goins has managed to break away from the shackling mindset that prevents people from living their best life to the fullest. He has discovered how to live his calling, and has spent a year researching, interviewing, and gathering his own life experience into an inspiring, actionable book, The Art of Work, that has garnered the praise of industry giants such as Seth Godin, Michael Hyatt, and Steven Pressfield.

I’ve been a fan of Jeff for a while now—I follow his blog, listen to his podcast, and have read most of his books—because what he has to say is simple yet profound and I always take something away from it. The Art of Work, due to be released in March, promises to be as good (if not better) as his current groundbreaking body of work.

Right now he is on a mission to get his book into the hands of as many people for as little as possible, so he is giving it away for free if you pay shipping and handling. That means you pay $6,99 (roughly R85) for an awesome, life-changing book that will be delivered straight to your door in March! Once it gets released, it will retail at $16,99—and since we in sunny South Africa will most probably not get it at our local Exclusive Books, we have to add shipping as well. And then you won’t even get the bonuses*.

Once it gets released on March 24th, this amazing price goes away forever.

I strongly urge you to go check out his website to see what it’s about. If you have to, watch the video, read the amazing reviews by people who matter, and read the blurb, but make sure you buy the book before you close the tab.

* If you’re still not sure, let me tell you about the very enticing bonuses you’ll get with his pre-release offer that makes this deal a no-brainer:

  • A PDF version of the book that you can download right now (yay!)
  • A downloadable workbook with practical action-steps to take
  • A mini-video course to help you find your calling
  • An exclusive community of people pursuing their life’s purpose, as well as access to the author for community Q&A

Are you still here? You should be on Jeff’s website, buying The Art of Work!

Very important disclaimer: I am NOT an affiliate of Jeff Goins, I am NOT getting any compensation for this post, and I will NOT make any money if you do decide to buy his book. Why did I write this glowing endorsement then? Because I honestly believe his book has an important message that can change your life for the better. I have already ordered my copy, and am off to read the PDF the moment I’ve published this post off to bed. I’ll read it tomorrow.