Do yourself a favor and read this book

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life23 Comments

The world lost a true original on Monday. Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away at the age of 51 from ovarian cancer. Many of us in this community of memory keepers are mourning the loss of a woman who inspired us to take note of the little things; to see the beauty in the seemingly inconsequential. A woman who truly beckoned lovely with her words and actions.

In 2005, my friend Stacy told me to check out a book, “an encyclopedia of life,” she called it. She said it would inspire me to tell more stories.

As a scrapbooker, I had always felt the pull to document my story and reading Amy’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life was just the push I needed to really explore my version of being alive in scrapbook form. At the time, I was invited to teach a class at a Creating Keepsakes Albums workshop and I needed to come up with a concept for the class.

After reading Amy’s book, it became clear: we’ll make an encyclopedia of our lives. I wanted to encourage my students to turn the lens of focus onto themselves. What reflected their experience of being a human and alive on this glorious planet? I wanted women to scrapbook their stories.

Of course, I needed to get in touch with Amy to find out if I could take her concept and teach a class around it without infringing on her work or wholly original ideas.

Amy was nothing, if not gracious and generous when I made my pitch to her. She was not familiar with the modern memory keeping movement and said:

The scrapbooking movement is really interesting to me,
and I have to say, you’re my first official ambassador
into it.  You’re right–i didn’t imagine it to be what
it actually is. It’s just very cool and special and
as far as i’m concerned, ABSOLUTELY the way to go in
terms of preserving photos and capturing the essence
of family life.

She gave it her blessing and I taught the class at two events in 2006.

Since then, it’s morphed into other versions of other classes, but this post isn’t about me and how I took someone else’s inspiration and capitalized on it—it’s about her brilliance as a writer and how it inspired so many people and continues to do that today.

A few weeks back when I first learned of Amy’s illness, I spent time watching her Ted Talks and other videos, feeling overwhelmed with grief for a woman I did not know personally, but alas, she is one of those special individuals that makes you feel as though you did know her.

Amy had contacted me last spring to tell me about her new book, Textbook, just to say, “Once upon a time you liked my first memoir and maybe you’ll like this one too?” Of course, I bought it sight unseen and have loved reading that book, too.

Our time here… it’s so short, really.


I just wanted to say thank you to Amy, and to send peace and love to her family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.

It serves to remind me to, as Amy once said, “Make the most of our time here.

Thank you, Amy, for creating such lovely things.

Please check out all of Amy’s amazing books here.

Cathy ZielskeDo yourself a favor and read this book

23 Comments on “Do yourself a favor and read this book”

  1. #1

    I’m so sorry to hear of her passing. That book is on my shelf and thanks to you, I have created two A-Z | Abridged albums. I’m off to look out her last title.

  2. #4

    I am so sad to hear about Amy’s passing. She has certainly been an inspiration to me. I have a couple of her books and, like Ruth, I have made an A-Z album a la CZ. I’ve just ordered “Textbook” and 2 of Amy’s children’s books for my granddaughters. I was not aware of her TED talks, so I followed your link. Now I’ll have to listen to others. RIP dear Amy.

    p.s. I’m off to make a little Yellow Umbrella paper pin to wear and celebrate her life.

  3. #5

    Beautifully written for a beautiful soul. Such a loss for our world. Thank you for sharing, Cathy.

  4. #6

    I’ve only read her children’s books so far, but will add the rest to my list! Sounds like the perfect time to turn Encyclopedia into an online class, perhaps? 🙂 (Or is that what Me: The Abridged version is?)

  5. #8

    I am so sad to hear of Amy’s passing. I loved both of her books – especially Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I was in college when it came out. I read a short review of it and decided to buy it. I loved reading it; it felt like such a special book. Although I never picked it up to read it again, it’s made the cut time after time and moved to new apartments and houses and cities with me. It’s on my bookcase to this day. You are so right that it feels like you “know” her after reading her books.

  6. #9

    I remember reading a letter in Simple Scrapbooks that was sent from the widower of a woman who had taken your Encyclopedia class. He had found her album and it was such a treasure to him. <3

    1. #9.1
      Stacy A

      I was going to write the same thing. I remember him as well and that has always stuck with me. Cathy, you are a worthy ambassador and kindred spirit to Amy and you, like her, allow us to feel like we know you when we have never met.

  7. #10

    Oh, how sad. Thank you for reminding me to look up her work and order her book. A couple weeks ago Amy wrote an article in the New York Times titled “You may want to marry my husband”. Why I was crying while reading the New York Times, my husband asked that day – truly an unusual site. How lovely that you had a personal encounter with her. I look forward to reading her books and will definitely look up her Ted Talks.

  8. #11
    Lori Hudson

    Her death has just broken me open… What “Ordinary Life” ends at 51?? Hers was extraordinary. At my age, every death I feel, makes me pledge to honor the ordinary things and be thankful. That is so very hard to do. I’m going to read her book again. I’ll have to purchase it because many of my books were lost on the great house flood of 2016. Yes. Ordinary things.

  9. #12

    I was fortunate to take your class at CKU. I love that scrapbook.I had been thinking about how I would like to do another one, because so much has changed! I pray her family finds peace in the legacy she has left.

  10. #13

    NEED to finish my ‘ME’ book. As always Cathy, you have written such a moving sentiment for an inspiring soul.

  11. #15

    My “Me” scrapbook was one of the most fun projects ever, and I read Amy’s book before beginning it. She was such a gifted writer, and I truly enjoyed her work. I’ll be praying for comfort for her family – so sad to lose her, and so young.

    Thank you, Cathy, for sharing her book with us. If not for you, I would never have read it, and never tackled my “alphabet scrapbook.”

  12. #16

    It’s crazy how devastated you can feel for someone you didn’t know in real life. So glad she shared her gifts…

  13. #17

    wait, wait wait! I haven’t been to your site in ages and I needed a pick me up tonight as I burn the midnight oil on a refugee case called up for its hearing on Monday And what about Amy’s “spoon”? did you read that with your kids? yes, i loved encyclopedia, it inspired me to make one for my girls to know more about me when i’m gone, but SPOON? if not already, read it with your 2 beautiful children…. carry on Cathy, thank g-d you are here when I need to take a break from human right violations….

    1. #18.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hey Donna, I do! It’s called Me: The Abridged Version. It’s under the CLASSES menu at the top of the page!

  14. #19

    Cathy, Do you know you just rock? Seriously. I have fallen away from memory keeping and this brings me great sadness. I can never seem to stick w it consistently as a busy mom and It disturbs me greatly. For some reason I typed in your name the other day just wondering “Is she stilll scrappin’?” And yes you were, of course. I read a few blog entries and stopped cold at the one about Amy Rosenthal. It spoke to me so strongly and I immediately knew I needed to get to work on my memoir. Just thanks for your consistency and your awesome style. I really admire it and you:)

    1. #19.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well that’s pretty cool to read this morning. Thank you. You know, I’ve been at this since 2003 and I still really love it. I guess I would have to, right? To make a career out of it. I consider myself lucky on many levels.

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