"Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic." -Robin Sharma
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I'm a huge believer in finishing strong. In my book, enthusiastic starts are easy. There's plenty of motivation to be found in the early stages of any commitment, but sooner or later, every enterprise hits a seemingly solid wall of frustration and failure.
And many times, that's where the project dies. But it's no cliche to say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The satisfaction to be found in not only finishing what I've started - or even better, finishing stronger than when I started - is to me the sweetest success of all.
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Back in the day, I used to make a lot of journals. For decades, I've logged my then-babies' milestones, logged our family road trip adventures, and collected a hodge podge of old-school recipe clippings. As my daughters grew older, they started making journals too. Some were undertaken just for pure artistic fun, others served as custom collections of essays, reports, and projects done for our classes.
About ten years ago, two significant events changed up my journaling mojo.
1. My youngest daughter wrapped up her homeschooling career as well as mine, and there went my best excuse for journaling as a priority in life.
2. I began to present my journalistic endeavors in blog format. Editing photos and typing text trended over glue sticks and cardstock, and the old days gave way to the new.
This double whammy of a transition probably happened over the course of several years but looking back now, it feels to me like a dramatically abrupt shift. Apparently, I ran out of journaling juju in a snap.
Because this weekend, I ran across my ancient pile of half-done journals.
Yep. Some were barely started, others almost done, but each one had come to its own special place of hitting a wall, and in my frustration, I'd laid it aside and never come back to it.
But as I sifted through the pile and looked over my abandoned works in progress, my finisher's instincts kicked in and I made a promise to myself.
I'm finishing up each one of these suckers, no matter what.
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I've had one for many years.
I call it my stash. It's a collection of odds and ends of my daughters' childhood lives, too precious to be thrown away but defying categorization with any other storage solution under my roof:
meaningful ticket stubs,
and other precious historical documents from family life that need, nay - deserve! - a proper home.
Now to be sure, these are not the top tier artifacts from my children's childhoods. Of course I have albums and journals and storage boxes devoted to a carefully curated collection of the best of the best.
The items in my stash missed that first cut; at some later date, I probably came across these gems hiding under someone's bed, two layers deep on the side of the fridge, or languishing at the back of a desk drawer. Too late - and out of chronology! - to join their betters, I set them aside to "do something with them later."
Mhmmm. You can guess how that's ended up.
After years - okay, decades! - of stuffing my stash into gallon size Ziploc bags, hiding it in the back of the bookcases, or shoving it into a banker's box destined for the garage, I finally gave these souvenirs of days gone by a permanent place to live.
My solution is shockingly simple. I took a blank scrapbook - mine measures 8.5 x 11 inches and I made it on the nifty little binding machine we kept in constant use during our homeschooling days - and a glue stick, and had at it. Though I used a bit of paper engineering to cope with some odd shapes and sizes, this was not a technologically sophisticated project.
And while I'm sharing these photos now, I'll freely divulge that this project is not quite done. In the next few days, I'll add some labels and explanatory notes, and zhuzh up the design a bit.
But after all these years of waiting, I'm beyond excited to have made even this much progress, and can't wait to share a sampling of my now-organized stash.
^ On the left - a sunny handmade birthday card for my first-born's fifth birthday from her one-year-older cousin. Certainly, this was a gem from the first moment it landed in our mailbox, but as this cousin passed away when he was twenty years old, our sentiment for the card has deepened. We will cherish it forever.
On the right - In 2002, on a family vacation, we stopped by one of my childhood friend's home in southern California. Little did we know that my kids and her kids would hit it off like wildfire, and we soon made a second trip to visit them on the following spring break. After returning home, we sent our friends this photo collage representing all the fun times we had together.
^ Sometime in the early 2000s, my kids' art teacher challenged them to create an illustration using colored pencil, and then write an accompanying story. We Streichers took that one step further by setting the parents to the same task, then publishing spiral-bound books of our illustrated stories and giving them out as Christmas gifts. The original artworks, two of which are shown here, have been living in my stash ever since.
^ And here's more of that artwork - a piece done by my youngest on the left, as well as a second drawing she did in a similar style, on the right. The photo above captures her around the same age with a friend whose mom snapped the photo during a play date and sent me a copy. Oh, the simple days before we posted and tagged.
^ At the top: Here's me, my four daughters, and a few friends who wandered into the frame of a photo commemorating our first snowboarding trip to Stevens Pass, circa 2002. I spent the morning falling down and switched out to skis after lunch.
Below: Two photos - snowy tree tops and a mini snowman - on repeat in a tiled image. Super artsy.
^ On the left: During my daughters' earliest years, I kept a set of four frames devoted to their artwork on the wall near my kitchen. I mounted whichever recent masterpieces tickled my fancy onto colored paper cut to fit the frames, and after displaying them for a while, tucked every single one into their official art boxes. Except this piece, done by my youngest at the ripe old age of two, somehow missed that boat. So now it lives here instead.
On the right: My years as a Girl Scout leader gave birth to a steady stream of projects and props, most of which no longer exist. But this set of paper dolls I made to feature the uniforms worn by Girl Scouts at different levels struck me as too cute to pitch. So now these girls and their GSUSA togs live in a snazzy white paper pocket.
^ Once upon a time at our school for homeschoolers, there was a magical place called the IPC Lab. I can't recall exactly what those letters stood for, but I am still imprinted with the fun that went down within those four walls. Robotic building sets, bins of journaling supplies, and computers for playing LEGO Island 2 were all the rage, but my second-born absolutely lived for the newfangled digital cameras. Pretty sure she must have convinced one of the teachers to shoot this series of photos of her with my eldest; later, my youngest joined the party for some of the cutest darn photos ever.
^ In August of 2002, our family blasted off on a spontaneous cross-country road trip to fetch a new puppy who would become our beloved Ranger. What was meant to be a long weekend journey ended up taking the better part of a month, and later I created an entire journal chronicling that trip. But there were a few photos that turned up after I completed that book, and I could never live with myself if I got rid of photos of this little red angel.
^Oh, the joys of the web cam. Here's a sweet tween photo of my second born, probably 2001, and below that, a nifty collage she made around the same time.
^ Gems, from left to right:
A photograph of sunset at Stevens Pass (top of Hogsback if I'm not mistaken) printed on particularly lovely photo paper.
A b/w photo of baby Ranger trucking around in the dirt and sunshine at his original home on the day we came to pick him up.
A small square torn from a 1970s Thomas Guide (a cleverly designed book of maps that helped us navigate the world before GPS was a thing) that shows my neighborhood before there were any streets built here.
Casey caught in the act at the kitchen counter.
^ Above: For many years, at the end of the school year, I'd make certificates for my math students. First, I'd pick a theme - Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings were particular favorites - and then choose the character that best represented each student in the class. In an elaborate ceremony, I presented each student with a handmade collage explaining who they 'were' and why, and this particular year, I went so far as to make one for myself. Gandalf, naturally.
Below: Another collage - this one having nothing to do with math - I made from tiny bits of colored scraps, torn from pages of old National Geographic magazines.
^ Three random photos of my third-born, printed on plain ol' paper but worth their weight in pure gold, and the crown she made for herself that settled her nickname for years: Princess Jane.
^ Teenagers like to keep their own journals and photo albums - at least mine did - so by the mid 2000s, my collections fell on lean times. But among the gems that I did find (from left to right) are a photo of my second-born at a scholarship presentation, a few small photos of another California trip and some shots around Seattle, and my 17-year-old second-born with four friends, one of whom had just earned his Eagle Scout award.
Want to see the other journals I've finished? Check them out here:
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Want to see the other journals I've finished? Check them out here: