Relaying for life

I have always wanted to pull an all nighter doing scrapbooking but never have. My desire to sleep is strong (whose isn’t when you get to my age?) and it really does save me being miserable the next day. However, in the words of the MC at the recent Mildura Relay for Life Event – Cancer patients cannot ‘take a break’ so to be supportive our teams had to be sure there was someone on the track  at all times. And so we did.

Being up all night, staying focussed on the task

Being up all night, staying focussed on the task

Team leader Sandra scraps while not walking by torchlight

Team leader Sandra scraps while not walking by torchlight

Darkness brought a whole new look to displaying how we remember.

Darkness brought a whole new look to displaying how we remember.

There was life in our tent all night for anyone who cared to to stop and say hello and chat about how we preserve and share our photos and stories.

Physically I am a partial wreck with an arthritic knee and degenerating spine so walking lots of track laps is beyond me.  I am glad no-one was comparing lap times! Steady and slow got me around plenty of times.  There was a short nap in there as we also relayed through our sleeping tent but I put in my share of laps for the team and spent most of the rest of my time encouraging relayers to come to our tent and see what we do.

One of our customers is a survivor, proudly completing the laps she could, enjoying the scrapbooking and showing us the courage and hope needed.

One of our customers is a survivor, proudly completing the laps she could, enjoying the scrapbooking and showing us the courage and hope needed.

People who suffer cancer are everyday heroes  They show the rest of us the meaning of the phrase ‘fight back’ and for there families ‘Remember’ is significant. The keyword for our Mildura event was ‘celebrate’.

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Relay for life - Celebrate

Relay for life – Celebrate

Celebrate your life, your story, your way adorned our home

Celebrate your life, your story, your way adorned our home

As a scrapbooker I completely relate to remember and celebrate. I am grateful fightback has (touch wood) not been necessary for any of my family. However, we all have something worth remembering and celebrating and being hopeful about Storybooks (traditional or digital) allow us to do that through sharing the story of a patient, survivor or carer.

Cancer patients, their carers, and those who have been lost to the disease all deserve the recognition that comes with hope for recovery, remembering the fight back and celebrating what we love about the individual. Emotionally it may be difficult to remember, to take photos, but journalling helps to celebrate the heroes and creates an outlet for personal emotional wellbeing when cancer becomes part of your life.

Our team was made up of  consultants and scrapbookers.

Customers joined us to both walk and scrap. We are grateful for their contribution.

Even consultants and their babies joined us to both walk and scrap. We are grateful for everyone’s contribution.

A customer is over the moon with the place and punch tool!

A customer is over the moon with the place and punch tool!

I would love to be celebrating meeting  our fund raising goal. In that area we lagged – but I hope we are forgiven having been first timers.We all sought sponsorship and attempted to raise funds through a raffle and hope bag decorating.

A central message of the event - Hope and remember via the candle lit track

A central message of the event – Hope and remember via the candle lit track

Visitors came to our tent to use out tools and embellishments to decorate their hope bags

Visitors came to our tent to use out tools and embellishments to decorate their hope bags

We also offered 10% of income on sales from the event. Our approach needs a little rethinking as we didn’t raise as much money as we would have liked and we discovered we do need to start earlier on this important task.

Most people at the event were walking, remembering, honoring, or sleeping. Purchasing the materials with which to remember or exploring the healing value of recording and celebrating the stories through scrapbooking was not on their mind. I get that 🙂

We did perhaps go about it in not quite the right way. However, now we have done this event the first time we learned a lot. Our core message – to celebrate your life, your story, your way has a great deal of meaning for those dealing with cancer in their lives, be they sufferer, carer or family and friends. I still believe we have something to offer this event.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the event not because of the walking or scrapbooking by gaslight (which by the way was fun!)  but because the act of celebrating, remembering, and being hopeful are central to the reason for doing what I do. It was very humbling to be among those whose lives have been seriously affected by cancer.

I believe in the healing powers of story and journal, in hoping for recovery or dealing with grief and sincerely hope all those affected by cancer take the time to record the stories of the heroes in their lives.  I hope that at least for some the idea of scrapping the story of the journey will be remembered and they know they can turn to us for help with this task as it can be quite emotional.

The team carry our team banner for the final laps of the event

The team carry our team banner for the final laps of the event

I would like to finish with resounding applause for the organisers of the Mildura event. It was hugely successful and we had a wonderful time doing some good for the community.

No matter the story, tell it anyway.

I came across this article ‘When family Stories Are Difficult’  shared on Facebook and feel the need to confess that telling the difficult stories is one of those things I have avoided. I love to journal as truthfully as I can not just what happened but how I felt, so leaving out the bad stuff enables me to celebrate good times and ignore the bad. The problem with that will be my world will appear to have been completely joyful and there won’t be an explanation for my life as a single woman about to turn 50.

I am now divorced from the father of my children. Since then I have had another relationship that I thought would be my happy ever after one that turned into a bitter battle caused by alcohol and lies that I struggled more than twelve months to recover from and even now wistfully at times wonder if it could or would be worth trying again I loved him so much. (But I do know better – it is he that needs to come to terms with his behaviour and lies, not me). Then there are a few months of one or another boyfriend or date that has not quite worked out. What should I do with these photos?

As a scrapbooking mum I find these and other stories hard to tell. I don’t struggle with reflecting on them, and some of them I do not have a problem talking about, but when it comes to including photos AND journalling the truth from my world view I do come to a striking halt. I have no problem including photos of my ex husband with images of our grandson – he does belong to both of us. The ex partner on the other hand is cropped out or left out of any event we attended in our brief 3 years together. I am not sure that it is my pain, or my shame that causes me to do this. I feel I was hoodwinked. But the bottom line is we did have many good moments too and he was an important part of my own growth journey. So…should I include my alcoholic ex partner, and if I do, what do I write?

This article talks about another kind of family issue – an adopted child. The excerpt suggests we need to journal all our stories, the good and the bad. In reference to adopted children Dr. Jane Aronson says:

Tell them with as much humor and openness as you can, she said. “Children deserve to be playful about who they are,” she said, “and to be proud, and to interpret their own stories into their own ideas.” And if a story brings up strong emotions for a child, let it. “Ask yourself if you’re the one who is uncomfortable,” she told me, and if I am, I need to either address it, or hide it, and let the children tell their stories.

KJ DELL’ANTONIA continues

I want my children to know that a story can be happy and sad at the same time, and maybe that’s exactly what the best stories are. We don’t even always have to feel the same way about our stories. One night, my younger daughter might be thrilled to talk about her foster family at dinner, and might even want to describe, again, the moment when she was handed over to strangers. At another time the introduction of the same topic by a sibling telling some other version of that time might bother her (and “bother” doesn’t fully encompass the available range of emotional reactions).

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/when-family-stories-are-hard-to-tell/

I know both my daughters will have different feelings about stories to do with their dad, and stories to do with my ex partner. But maybe I should scrap them anyway, with humour and honesty so they in turn can share these family stories with their own children.  I can do pages on people that had an impact on my life – good or bad. After all  scrapbooking is all about recording our story and we are perfectly imperfect in an imperfect world.

If I do not include the good with the bad or uncomfortable, what message about resilience and recovery am I leaving my Grandchildren? I want them to know that depression can be managed, and resilience is an important life skill. I guess I better illustrate that in my scrapbooks too!

The value of a simple page that is journalled.

I did a presentation last night and one of the customers showed us and talked about a page she had made for her children’s baby photos. Her first child was very premature so she does not have those gorgeous birth photos we all try to capture on the arrival of our full term bundle of joy. She even shared that people had asked ‘why’ she had kept photos like that. Her answer is simply because that is how it was. She explained her approach to putting the photos on show in an album was to make them beautiful with the journalling.

The page she had made had the ‘ugly’ shots – a first photo of each child. Both are precious to her because her babies were alive and made it through being premature. For that she is grateful. This page includes a verse she has written journalling how she felt at the time. When the children grow and look over their albums they will feel special and precious, just as she felt about them. The fact there is no *oooh gorgeous baby* kind of photo is replaced by words of the heart from mum. This page gives the reader insight into the power of love of mother to child, regardless of the birth circumstances. There is nothing exciting in the photo or the layout. It is the power of the journalling that makes this page priceless. I was so pleased to see how creating the page had empowered her to feel pride in her children and share that with them when they are old enough to read it.

How about you? Do you have photos that illustrate the fearful or traumatic times of your life that with the right words in a journal box can make the page more special than a page of gorgeous photos? Please comment and share!