Middle Aged Mama: Why Cards Make So Much Sense

Cathy ZielskeCards, CZ Life49 Comments

An online friend posted the other day, “…card making is where it’s at for those of us whose kids are past that stage where you can make enough scrapbook pages about them to satisfy our need to CREATE.”

I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement.

My kids aren’t really kids anymore.

My daughter is 21. She’s a woman. She is a junior in college and her life is amazing to watch unfold, but it’s not for public consumption anymore. Oh sure, I can tell you she plays ultimate. But really, the details of her life are hers. Maybe I’ll sprinkle a few into layouts that I make here and there, but by and large, it’s her story and now is the time for this memory keeping middle aged mama to step aside and witness all the glory that is her. Not me. It’s not about me anymore.

My son is 17. I only share a few sports-related things here and there. The adorable anecdotes of his childhood are a thing of the past. I used to Tweet, years ago, all the funny things he would say. He still says really funny things, but if I kept up with that type of public sharing, a) he’d be a little pissed off, and b) you’d judge me for my son’s level of sailor banter. His story is his. Again, it’s not about me anymore.

Actually, it never should have been about me, but I went into this public scrapbook life and so, it did become my story, as well. And as I began to make a living in this business, their stories became entwined in the commerce that keeps me making ends meet.

Luckily for me, a little therapy along the way has kept me honest and kept me respectful of their lives. That matters to me far more than any amount of income ever could.

So card making came along and it felt like a piece of creative life that was missing.

WHAAAT?! I can make a card and I don’t have to get it approved by anyone in my family? Sign me up! I can make a card and they could not care less. Trust me on this. (Okay, Aidan has said she’s kind of excited to make cards when she’s home for the summer, but… everyone else? You know…)

Card making is a safe way to get creative and share it with you. I’m not revealing any secrets (other than the fact that blending inks is not really my forte), and I can forge ahead into territory that is both completely new to me and a lot of fun, too. And I can share that enthusiasm with you.

Is there a lament in any of this? Sure. My life is moving at lightning speed. My children grew up and there are years I wish I could get back because I became a much better mother after I figured out some shit along the way. That’s the stuff that keeps me respectful of their stories. This parenting thing? It requires the ability to navigate the current and adjust course on the fly in order to be the mom they need right now. Part of what they do need is privacy and the right to own their stories. Again, and say it with me if you like, it’s not about me.

But the other cool thing is, there are so many stories I can tell. Stories from my life. Stories from their childhood that I never documented. I have never been the most prolific scrapbooker, even after all these years of working in the industry. I just don’t have enough room for all those albums.

Anyhoo… I just wanted to share these thoughts today, here in this space. I’ve been blogging about my life since 2005. That’s a lot of years and a lot of stories.

There are still many stories to share but those stories need to reflect my experience in this middle place.

And whaddya know? Cards are something that are filling in some of those gaps in my need to make shit.

Not a bad way to go.



Cathy ZielskeMiddle Aged Mama: Why Cards Make So Much Sense

49 Comments on “Middle Aged Mama: Why Cards Make So Much Sense”

  1. #1

    Our daughter is 24. I find some joy in going back to tell some scrapbook stories that with the gift of perspective were way more scrapbook worthy than I realized at the time – you know . . . The little moments that when you look back, were actually defining moments. But I so hear you – in therapy for me those boundaries as a mom of an adult are friggin land mines for me! You’re doing great in forging a new path all your own – don’t forget that. And a huge thanks for keeping it real and letting us walk with you on this journey.

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I do think that a little therapy is good for everyone. It pretty much saved every relationship in my life. 🙂

  2. #3
    Susan Middleton

    I strayed from the fun of scrapbooking in recent years for similar reasons. The need to create (which I didn’t realize was a need at the time) led me from paper to ceramics and glass…great fun, but I missed papercrafting. Your discovery of the joy of card making was just what I needed. Thanks for sharing!

  3. #4

    This resonates so much for me! My only child is an amazing 26 yr old daughter, and as you’ve discovered, the opportunity to put moments to paper changes with time. I, too, morphed into a card maker, but with none of the panache and enthusiasm you’ve shown! So by living vicariously through the one and only CZ, I’m eager to step up my game, PERHAPS purchase a Big Shot, and set about re-engaging my creativity and personal therapy sessions. Thank you for the inspiration and gorgeousness of your new outlet, and for always keepin’ it real!

  4. #5

    I think I am experiencing something similar. I LOVE scrapbooking, but I got more into “documenting” (Project Life) & found it not as fulfilling. I’ve always made cards & enjoyed it, so I’m adding some new skills (thanks to you, Cathy) to my repertoire. I’ve always been intrigued with watercolor & tried it some years back, without success. I dived in recently & bought a boatload of new supplies, only to find it so frustrating again. Like you, blending doesn’t seem to be my thing—I still love the concept, but it makes me crazy to try to make something come out on paper that I have in my head. I’m definitely at a turning point, but don’t know which way to turn right now!! And some days I think I’ll just go back to hybrid scrapbooking, forget documenting per se, along with watercolor because it makes me feel as if I’m just spinning my wheels. I’ll watch this space to see what others are feeling/saying.

    1. #5.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Kay, I tell ya… those distress inks are SO fun to water color with! Did you watch that video I shared the other day by Laura Bassen? I have been doing her technique and having so much fun with something I never thought I would do? Also, just the whole craft mat + smoothing those inks and adding water… it creates such fun results!

      1. #5.1.1

        Yes, I did watch Laura’s video. And some others. I think my problem with watercolor/blending is that I want to paint a pretty picture of SOMEthing, not just swoosh color around. True, the latter is a lot of fun, but I’m looking for something else.
        I have had some Hero Arts watercolor flower stamps for years. I drag them out every now & again. I want to somehow reproduce the image shown on the back side of the stamp. BUT I CAN’T & it’s driving me crazy! I’ve tried several techniques—coloring the stamp itself, misting it, stamping the design in a light color so I have a guide & swishing the colors around on that, both with a paintbrush & a water brush. And yes, I bought a pack of Tim’s Distress inks. I’ve tried the Spectrum Noir Aqua markers, watercolor crayons, a child’s tin of paints….the list goes on. Maybe I should just say, “I’ve given it the old college try & it’s simply not my cup of tea.” I should add that, intrigued with the watercolor concept, I purchased some of Anna Aspnes’ products & I have had considerable success with them. Maybe that’s my answer!! But it’s not that tactile experience.

  5. #7

    Feeling exactly the same way! Mine are 29, 26 and 23. Gave my youngest one of my first homemade cards today for her birthday and she was really touched!

  6. #8

    While I understand that it’s your children’s story now… I feel you are fogetting very much about Ann important story- YOUR story. You mention nothing about scrapbooking your life and adventures as a creative outlet. I have 3 children and while they are at the stages where they do the cute things that I can document, I also make sure to document the stories of my life too. I hope I don’t get to the place in my life where I forget about myself and my husband and our adventures, because those are even more important to me. My life matters and is just as important to document as my children’s, no matter the age. I feel like you need to change your perspective on how you look at your life as it seems like you don’t feel it’s important enough to document.

    1. #8.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Tara, I have to smile because I have more albums about me than my kids. It’s true. I do so many pages about myself it’s almost narcissistic! The point of this post is about their stories. 🙂 Not my story. I’m the first person to stand up and say, “LADIES! SCRAP YOU!”

      Just wanted to clarify that. 🙂

  7. #9
    Leslie Flynn

    This: “My children grew up and there are years I wish I could get back because I became a much better mother after I figured out some shit along the way.” Could not agree with you more!! I’m not big into regret, but if I had one, this would be it! Love your take on staying creative post-scrapbooking! P.S. My baby is looking into the Twin Cities for college. 🙂 Fingers crossed . . .

    1. #9.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I am big into regret, and here’s why: it will change you. It’s not about wallowing in the what ifs, but it is about understanding who I was and who I am today and the work that went into essentially growing up a bit and leaving all of my ridiculous behaviors behind. 🙂 So I tap into that regret daily, because it’s the best motivation I know to aspire to reach my potential as a human.

  8. #10

    You have spurred on my love of card making again but I’m not giving up scrapbooking and telling my story. I still have two almost adult sons living at home who don’t mind me scrapbooking their life; I have five grandkids of daughters who do not scrapbook, so I am gladly taking up the charge.

    1. #11.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You know what’s funny, Anna? NEITHER DO I! I am just making the cards. Don’t even really care where they end up. Hell, they could stay in a drawer and that would be fine. Of course, I will use them for family birthdays etc. Or I could box a set together and give them as a gift to family members. It’s literally just about the MAKING right now. I haven’t felt that newness in a while. 🙂

    2. #11.2
      Tammy B

      Gift the ones you won’t use. Nursing homes, fire halls, charities. I bundled up a package of ten and gave them to my doctor as a little thank you. Give them to your family or friends to use. You’d be surprised at how much they appreciate it.

  9. #12
    Mismatched Croc Patti (remember when those were the rage?!)

    I stepped away from scrapbooking too because I felt like I hit a wall every time I even sat down to try and be creative…i actually felt anxious about it…os I went back to school and didn’t even look at my creative space for almost 3 years (so long that I found a dead mouse in my space!)…i have recently begun to make cards also! They don’t tie my brain up in the logistics of a 12×12 page. I find it very freeing!

  10. #13
    Jen G

    Yes! I am right there with you on this!! I have only one child – and at almost 18 years old, she is not a choke at all. She’ll graduate at the end of June. I guess it’s a good thing that I haven’t been as prolific a scrapbooker as I’d wished….I have a lot of history to work with. (I think the last year spent making. slot of cards has been my unconscious denial of this impending life change.)

  11. #14
    Diane Morales

    OMG! What a AWESOME story.
    There are alot of us going through the same thing with our kid’s. My daughter is 20 and my son just turned 24. They are making their own story right now. It true, it time for us to figure our sh** out. Don’t worry you got sisters (and brothers) who are going through the same stuff. Stay creative. And YOU DO YOU! I have been cardmaking​ for many years. I have been enjoying your journey into something new. Your funny as hell, and I LOVE that you don’t edit who you are. Keep it coming

    1. #14.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Thanks, Diane. I do feel I should say I do edit some of it. 🙂 I swear like a sailor and sometimes that doesn’t really fly all that well in the, ahem, public life. Maybe next year for my birthday, I’ll give up the pretense that I don’t. 😉

  12. #15

    As the mother of an adult child and long-time memory keeper I TOTALLY GET THIS. So cheers to finding new ways to make things and thanks for sharing your enthusiasm with all of us.

    P.S. huge fan of or IG story. 🙂

  13. #16

    Just a comment about distress ink blending. I’m not very good at blending with the original distress inks, but the distress oxides? An entirely different story. They are wetter and much easier to work with – less lines to try to bend away. And adding water gives the ink a different look vs the plain distressed.

  14. #17
    Susan M.

    You said it best with this: “… I became a much better mother after I figured out some shit along the way. ” ALL those years I was a terrible mother, but I was learning. I had no good role models to help me; it was all trial & error (lots of it).

    It was really hard for me to navigate those waters when the story shifted from ours to yours. It’s a balance and I didn’t handle it well at first. Now, I’m better…not great, but better. Thanks for sharing so honestly all the time. It helps when someone is real.

  15. #18
    Katina martinezkatina

    Cathy … I could not love you anymore right at this moment. I have followed you for years, and I have also been a card maker on the side for years.
    For sure my heart is in documenting the stories of my life and that of my families… But there is something fun about card making.
    It has been a tremendous joy watching you find this hobby, and dive in eyes wide open.
    Thank you for sharing your creativity, and your honesty. Including is not for me either… I think it’s beautiful but it’s a little tedious and I don’t understand it… Lol
    Are amazing as always… can’t wait to see you create even more!!!!

  16. #19

    I do understand the need to fill that gap but have done it with photography to get that creative need filled. We do need to find outlets as we get older, those who do not see the need are doomed. Glad you found card making, I do simple PL to document my family and street photography the rest of the time. Life is good.

  17. #20
    Tamara R.

    I have a soon-to-be 23 yr old, and a 14 yr old….boy, did you nailed it on the head of why I don’t scrapbook anymore. Almost everything they say and do gets vetoed for documenting. So basically what’s left are my dogs, my husband, and me. Not exactly inspiring when it comes time to cut, mat, glue down, and embellish in an album. Card making has given me a creative outlet that doesn’t step on any toes.

    Thanks for keeping me laughing. Your Instagram videos crack me up!

    1. #20.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yeah, I do tell my story, but sometimes I feel like I need a break. lol. I have a LOT of pages about me.

  18. #21

    I never had kids so scrapbooking never really did it for me much. I love card making. I love to send cards to friends and relatives. I always have a card ready I can send to someone. And if I make too many cards? I can give sets of cards as gifts for friends and family, too! They love that. But I’m with you – I mostly do it just to satisfy my need to create. And they aren’t so long and involved when I want a quick project. I am glad you found card making and are enjoying it so much! It’s such fun – and it seems you aren’t the only one – it seems that the stamp and die makers are finally catching on and making a TON of stuff for card makers now – when it used to seem like everything was for scrap bookers before. And you know what? You can always go back to scrapbooking when the grandkids finally arrive!

    1. #21.1
      Cathy Zielske

      You mean there might be grandkids some day???

      Ha! And I’m not leaving scrapbooking, to clarify, but… there are fewer stories that can be shared in this space. But cards? It’s a green light!

    1. #22.1
      Cathy Zielske

      As an introvert, the idea of going to a class… not my jam, but there are SO many great online classes! I’m already taking one at Online Card Classes. Good stuff. SO much to learn and try.

    1. #24.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I have not really done art journaling, but… I love that link you shared! Thank you!

    1. #25.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I think what you wrote is lovely. I feel a little sensitive that what I wrote made you ‘bristle.’

      I am not suggesting that I make cards and ditch scrapbooking. I have many stories to tell, but they are not necessarily for public consumption.

      I can observe my children but I don’t need to invade their spaces with my reactions in public. I want to observe and I want to give to them. I can document as well, but I guess right now, it’s not my focus.

      I have never been a prolific scrapbooker. I have always felt what I do is great. What I don’t do, also great. I do not feel the responsibility to bear witness to my history. For me, what I have done already and whatever I do going forward, again, it’s all good.

      1. #25.1.1

        Cathy, I mean “bristle” in the sense of…this experience of having adult children has been really difficult for me (and ours has not been smooth or happy, sadly), and so I am always trying to figure out what I did wrong and how I can turn it around. If other, middle-aged moms are feeling the way you are, but I’m not…my bristle was with myself and my questioning of how other moms are doing and being with their adult kids in successful ways. The bristle was my response to my experiences filtered through your words, if that makes sense. Not your words themselves, I didn’t mean to criticize at all because I am firmly seated in the “everyone gets to have her own response” train. 🙂 I loved your thoughts and wanted to explore the spark they made in me.

        1. #
          Cathy Zielske

          Totally makes sense. I just wasn’t sure if what I wrote impugned anyone in some sense.

          But keep in mind, I’ve been working in therapy for six years. It has not been pleasant but the side effects have helped me to connect with my kids in a way that would not have been possible if I hadn’t made some real changes. 🙂

  19. #26

    You probably already know, but in Day 4 of Sparkle & Shine (a class at Online Card Classes) Jennifer McGuire used a Cathy Zielske stamp on one of her example cards. I got to tell you it felt like a personal triumph. Ha! You have talked about how she has inspired you so much and I know you are friends, etc. But still it was just so cool watching your worlds collide a bit. I love how supportive the people in these industries are of each other. It makes it such a great place to hang out and it makes you feel good to spend time and money with companies and people that are just so dang kind (even if they have mouths like sailors, which you know just makes you real.) Go Cathy Go!

    1. #26.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Okay, I did not know that. THAT IS RAD. She is rad. She is. I don’t know if I have met anyone as supportive as she has been to me.

      I’m marking it. I want to pay that forward.

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