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Monday, March 2, 2015

Kiki Lowenstein and the Life Stories, Part !

By Joanna Campbell Slan

As the owner of Time in a Bottle, a scrapbook and craft store in St. Louis, I teach a lot of classes. Sure, it might make sense to delegate them, but teaching is one of my favorite activities. Besides the joy of putting together the projects, I learn so much about my customers, their lives, their hopes and dreams. Usually, I come away from a class feeling inspired.

Now there are those who say the lives of “ordinary” women are boring. None of us have super-powers. Most of us don’t run huge companies. Very few of us make world-shaking decisions. But ordinary women bring new life into this world. Once a child has arrived, we nurture that life and the lives of everyone we come into contact with. And very often, we are there to see death when it comes to claim our friends and family members. Tell me, what’s more important than all that?

Nothing. Because life is all that matters. In the end, we hope that we’ve lived a journey worth celebrating. Scrapbooks do just that. They celebrate our lives, committing our stories to paper so we can pass them along to the next generation.

That’s exactly what I told my eight students on that blustery day in January. “Welcome to ‘My Journey,’ a class designed to help you record your lives. We’re going to meet monthly to share our stories. While this is a scrapbooking class, a lot of our focus will be on journaling. Since it’s often an undervalued part of our craft, that might seem hard at first, but I’ll be here to help.”

“We’re going to be writing?” A slight frown marred the perfectly made-up face of Leah Adagio. Of course, it wasn’t a complete frown because she couldn’t wrinkle her brow, the result of heavy Botox use. I knew Leah by reputation since she ran with my mother-in-law’s country club crowd. To say I’d been surprised to see her was an understatement.

“That’s right. Although you’ll be making a scrapbook, you’ll also be working to tell your life story in words.” At that point, I hesitated as my co-worker Clancy Whitehead slipped into an empty chair at our worktable. I raised an eyebrow to question Clancy. She caught my drift.
“I decided to join the class. I hope you don’t mind.”

As usual, she wore a classically stylish outfit—in this case gray slacks, a matching sweater, and an ivory silk blouse. Her glossy presence reminded me that I was struggling with my post-baby weight. Consequently, I was still wearing my maternity pants and large blouses. Clancy has a touch of OCD, which makes her quite the perfectionist. She’s the first to admit that she goes too far in her quest to have everything “just so.” Although we’ve known each other for three years, and despite the fact I consider her a best friend, she’s still a mystery to me. There are parts of her life that she won’t share. And now she was joining a class designed to encourage sharing. Would she really let down the barriers and let me see what she was hiding?

I couldn’t help but wonder.  Clancy guarded her privacy with all the zeal of the Fort Knox security forces.

Rather than ponder the matter further, I gave my class their first assignment. “I want you to write about a toy you had as a child, and why that particular toy mattered to you. Tell us who gave you the toy. How you played with it, and where it is today, if you know. When you come back next month, please bring photos of the toy or pictures of you as a child.”

The words were no more than out of my mouth when I glanced over to see Clancy frown. 

And unlike Leah, Clancy’s whole face creased in disapproval.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for part 2!

Joanna Campbell Slan is a national, bestselling and award-winning author.  She has just completed Shotgun, Wedding, Bells: Book #11 in a mystery series featuring ace scrapbooker Kiki Lowenstein. It’s available at


Dianne Turner said...

Hi Joanna, I love your stories, such a good thing to read when I am winding down for the night, all is quiet and I am comfy. This short read though is not enough to satisfy my reading need this I would like to know when Part 2 is ready...
Always enjoyable.

Joanna Slan said...

I have to turn it in by March 10. I think it'll appear a month or two later. Sorry, kiddo!

But please note that I'm writing a short story in real time on the blog. So stay tuned!

Karen Good said...

This pulled me in to the point of thinking about a doll I had as a child - wishing I still had it to take a picture of for scrapbooking. Ready for Part 2!

Anonymous said...

Joanna, are you going to finish this short story?

Joanna Slan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna Slan said...

Karen, could you find a photo of a similar doll on line?

Joanna Slan said...

Yes, anonymous, I will finish it. The final portions will be here and in the magazine, Chicago Scrapbooker. If you're subscribed to my newsletter, I'll keep you informed. You can sign up on my website,