my stories

Family Album 2015, my stories

Photo Book Layout: The Garfield Trail

A few weeks ago, I shared the story of our visit to the Garfield Trail in Grant County, Indiana. Today, I'm sharing a two-page spread I made to document the trip for our 2015 family photo book.

As with previous years, I am planning on creating an 8x10 photo book and printing with Blurb. But, this year I'm allowing for a little flexibility in the way I tell stories and create layouts for our book. I'm also hoping to create some layouts a little more in real time and documenting some things close to the event. 

For this spread, I adapted an 8 1/2 x11 template from Cathy Zielske to fit the 8x10 layout of my book. I had less photos I wanted to use than the original design, so I modified the size of the frames on the left-facing page. The original design had the large image on the left and the photo collage on the right. I reversed this order and adjusted the placement of the title and journaling areas to maintain the asymmetrical design.

Digital Products Used in This Spread

my stories

Road Trip: The Garfield Trail

One of the reasons I was so attracted to moving from Southern California to Central Indiana came when I learned that 50% of the country would be within an 8-hour drive. There's so much of this country that I have never seen. Places with history and stories, regional foods, and intriguing accents. For me, it's not enough to know there is a place called Cleveland. I want to walk and drive its streets, know what the air smells like, and be able to tell you about that incredible doughnut I ate there, or the way people did/didn't stare at my interracial family.

This one was called Duffer Garfield and was inside the pro shop at the Arbor Trace Golf Course in Marion, IN. It smelled like cigarette smoke.

There's a need I have to experience a place viscerally. To absorb it into my senses. But more than that,
I am infinitely curious about story. I love taking the tour, visiting the historical society, reading the information brochure. And if there is a trait of mine I hope I pass on to my daughter, it's my curiosity: my interest in what has happened and where things might be headed. There is nothing as fascinating to me as learning how people came to live in certain places and when. Or discovering a unique historical connection in small places.

And that is, in a nutshell, how we found ourselves chasing the Garfield Trail just before New Year's.

Our first stop on the Garfield Trail titled, Paws for Thought—Marion, IN.

Garfield creator, Jim Davis, was born and raised in Grant County, Indiana, which is about an hour north of where we live. A few years ago, they erected Garfield statues at different sites throughout the small towns in the area. And by visiting the statues, you explore Grant County.

Interestingly, I learned that the county was once a natural gas boomtown at the turn of the last century. The largest city, Marion, was bursting with theatres, cable cars, sports leagues and glass factories. As we drove through the towns this early boom was evident. There were dilapidated Victorians everyhwere, and ranshackle brick-facaded downtown areas that were mostly-shuttered now, but appeared to have once been something.

Dr. Garfield outside Marion General Hospital. The hospital dates to the 1890's and has been in this location since 1944.

That something vanished a long time ago, almost as quickly as it had come. By 1930, much of the area was abandoned. A dozen ghosts towns sprung up. The gas wells had run dry. The sports teams relocated to Indianapolis. The street cars stopped running. Those who could, moved on.

Those who were left, were hopeless angry as the Great Depression began to spread across the nation, unleashing a decade of hatred and despair. The citizens of Marion would exercise that rage by committing one of the most heinous acts of public torture and execution. On August 7, 1930, Marion, Indiana would become the northernmost city to lynch black men. They would beat and hang two black teenagers who were accused of rape and murder. An iconic and devastating photo of the lynching is believed to have inspired the lyrics of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit.

College Bound Garfield at the Sweetser Switch Trail and Depot in Sweetser, IN. The town is literally named for being a rail switch. Switcher turned Switzer and finally Sweetser.

In 1930, my family kindly walking these same streets would have been, at best, unthinkable. At worst, deadly. I am so much more keenly aware of that here in the Midwest, which is far more segregated than most places on the West Coast. We are always greeted warmly. But the difference is stark.

In the mid-1950's, General Motors built a giant stamping plant in the area, making way for Grant County's second boom. Like most of post-World War II Midwest, Grant County flourished with high-paying, blue collar union factory jobs. And as we drove through the towns, we could see the thousands of Mid-Century, suburban ranch homes that sprung up to meet the demands of the workers and families who at one time poured into the area. Some of these neighborhoods looked aged, but quaint. Many others seemed to be struggling. I wondered out loud how some people were staying warm inside houses with failing roofs and plastic-covered windows.

Outside the public library in Gas City, IN. The street signs in Gas City are all shaped like oil derricks, similar to the one on the platform, in homage to its natural gas history.

We drew curious glances when we stopped by the public library in Gas City about 45-minutes before closing. It was warm inside and the children's books were plenty. There was only one other patron inside on this very chilly afternoon. I asked if it was always this quiet, and was told it was usually quiet that day, but normally they were much busier. I was relieved to hear. Libraries are one of my favorite places. But a library without patrons won't be around for long. We stayed long enough to read couple of picture books and moved on to our final stops.

Our final stop on the trail, Scream for Ice Cream in front of Ivanhoe's Drive-In. I regret we didn't go in. They are famous for having over 200 flavors of shakes and sundaes.

In the end, we didn't make to all 11 of the stops on the Garfield Trail. We started our journey too late. The sun was starting to set when we visited our final statue in front of Ivanhoe's Drive-In. But our adventure has me excited for those other un-named trails we get to travel on, as we learn to make Middle America our home.

my stories

In Process: January

This is Not a Manifesto

Wednesday AM | Week in the Life 2014 spread by Yolanda Lockhart-Howe 

Most people seem to hit the New Year hard. They're inspired, driven and full of declarations about what they're going to accomplish, change, blow up in their lives in the upcoming year. From a distance, I can admire all that. But I also find it deeply bewildering.

Where on earth does everyone find so much energy for their list-making and planner decorating? How are people writing multiple 1000-word manifestos on their plans for crafting and memory keeping before we've reached the end of the first week of January?

This is not a criticism of the Type-A's and all of their productivity. I admire it. It's just completely foreign to me. Setting intentions (unraveling what needs to be changed, looking at it closely, making a plan) is a slow process for me. I rarely feel like I know what I need to get from a year until I'm knee-deep into it. Heck, it took me a good two years into my thirties before I unraveled what my twenties had been about.

It's hard for me to figure out how people are able to impose on the year what they want, how they know what that is on January 1st. For me, it's more a process of revelation. Things are uncovered, discovered. I look at it intensely, ask it questions, and see where it takes me.

So, this is not an action item list of Great Things I'm Going to Do This Year. This is not a manifesto. It's just a little list of things I'm working on right now, and that I hope to tell you more about in this space in the days and weeks to come.

  • Revealing photo book that documents our cross-country move from the West Coast to the Midwest. I have had the finished book in my hands for a few months, now.
    I finished it right before my surgery in September. I hope to have a series of posts up by the end of the month that detail my approach to making this book and walks you through the finished version.
  • Finishing my Week in the Life 2014 photo book. I completed the documenting part of this project last fall. I am about 75% finished with building the book using Blurb BookWright and Photoshop. It's been my major project since the year began. My favorite spread (so far) is at the top of this post.
  • Starting to build my 2014 Family Album (see 2013 here). I am pretty sure that I am keeping the same layout for 2014 as I used for 2013. And, it will likely be the end of this summer before I finish this book.
  • Thinking about creating smaller, quarterly photo books for 2015.
  • Wondering if quarterly photo books are just too much, unnecessary fuss.
    (Answer: probably.)
  • Learning how to make patterns and digital paper collections in Illustrator through a cool online class I won. I've just finished week 1 of this 8-week class and I'm really excited to learn something new and get pushed out of my Illustrator comfort zone (which consists of manipulating vector objects made by others and pulling them into Photoshop, my BFF 4 EVER).
  • Pondering what returning to full-time work is going to look like, and 
  • Looking at job listings online.
  • Planning our dinners through the end of March. I picked a theme for each day of the week and made an iCal calendar with links to the recipes online. Working on Week in the Life has been truly revealing as to how much havoc not having a planned dinner regularly throws into our lives. I'm almost 40. It's time to get that problem under control.

my stories

When you read this, I will be in the hospital

It's a little bit bizarre to pick right now, this moment when I know my life is going to be turned upside down (again) to decide that this is the right moment to unlock myself, to claim my space in the creative universe and say:

I make things that bring me joy.
Things that I am proud of.
I want to share them with You.


There is only now. And now—as a surgeon takes the fibers and cells of what was once a functioning abdominal wall, but no longer is, and uses all the powers of science, the magic of faith, and infuses it with his hundreds of hours of training, and imbues it with his years of experience to repair what is broken—yes, now, is the time to stand.

I have tried for years to apologize for my existence. I have tried to say what I Am Not: 

  • I am not a Writer, I just have a BA in English (and I didn't got to a good school).
  • I am not a Photographer, I just have (had) a photography business.
  • I am not a Designer, I'm just good at Photoshop (but others are better).

Twice, the Universe has come forward and said: this is not the path you should be on. And twice my position has been eliminated and it is effective immediately. The first time, I grieved. I saw everything I had done wrong (instead of all the ways I had been wronged). The second time, I got angry. Very angry. I was wiser this time. I had a child and much more was at stake. I didn't go away quietly. I made sure I was whole.

And, speaking of holes, there are many of them. They line a scar that runs the length of my abdomen. The first half was created when I pushed every part of myself into bringing a child into this world; and when she was out, I forgot to hold something back for myself. I kept giving until almost every ounce of blood had flowed out of me, and only the hands of surgeons and the donated blood of strangers kept me from giving too much. The second half of the scar was created a year ago. When part of my intestines literally tied itself I a knot (symbolism, anyone?).

And those repeated violations, the cutting of the muscles and the suturing, have left things very messy indeed. But they are going to fix it. They are going to try. Complete abdominal reconstruction. It's going to hurt. I know this. I've lived through this pain. In some ways, I was just getting over it.

So why now? Why start creating and sharing now?

Because I've finally listened.

There is a question I'm being asked to answer. I have spent most of my life trying to avoid it. It has been easier to be hidden. It has been easier to do what made logical sense, financial sense,  what was easy-to-achieve, what carried low risk of failure.

Creators must create. Those creations must be shared. And when you share, you might get critiqued. Someone might just say that what I make sucks. I might say I'm going to do something and not follow through.

I might get embarrassed. There is nothing I hate more than the feeling that someone is judging me...

And then my body reminded me for the third time that I will not be around forever. Things break down. Time moves forward. If you're not ready to stand up and show yourself now, when would be a good time? Age 50? 70?

Stop wasting time. It's all you have.

And with that, I welcome you into this space. It's a little place on the internet where I show what I create and how I've created them.

I have worked on a few posts about my primary passion right now, which is telling my family's story through photobooks. But as you can see, I also like to spew 1000 words on the screen. So, there will be some of that, too. That writing, that's creation, too.