Spring 2007
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TCU Magazine "Academe"

Clip, crop and paste your past at Big Rock Ranch.

By Allison Fisher Speer '91

Hello, my name is Allison, and I'm addicted to scrapbooking. (Correct response: Hello, Allison.)

I admit, I'm one of the lucky ones -- I'm getting help in the form of a support group of women working toward two goals: to immortalize memories of family and friends for future generations; and to achieve "caught up" status, meaning we have lovingly memorialized every picture we ever took.

At a recent meeting of similarly afflicted souls, I entered the room and interrupted a gaggle of women, heads down, hands frantically fitting one more picture on an acid-free page. These were my people, and they had been in position since early afternoon.

The great room was a rainbow of long rectangular tables with a special setting for each scrapbooker (also known as a "cropper"). Each setting included a mini-trash can, a cup holder, an order form (as a cropper, you always need more stickers and paper, which you can buy on-site) and a little side table for cutting and arranging.

I smiled and found my seat for the weekend at Big Rock Ranch near Canton, Texas, a retreat exclusively for scrapbook addicts like me.

My addiction began nearly seven years ago when I was introduced to a consultant for a major scrapbooking company. She invited me to her house to learn the tricks of the trade. After cropping pictures, adding borders and attaching the final flourish to the first page, I was hooked.

Scrapbooking today is not just slapping old certificates or crinkled ribbons on oversized manila pages. This is a Serious Hobby. So serious that at least three national magazines are dedicated to it. Major chain stores supply the colored stickers, letters in myriad fonts, die-cut shapes for theme pages, paper in every color and pattern, tiny tools and punches, and the embellishments that give life its meaning -- eyelets, brads, papers, stamps, stickers and stencils.

Scrapbookers exist on several levels: beginners -- those who are happy with four pictures on a page and maybe a title declaring "Bobby's First Birthday"; intermediates -- people adept at backing birthday pictures with balloon-shaped paper and who have a small collection of their own supplies; and nutzoid, one-track scrapbookers, who work in groups with others at events like "Crop 'Til You Drop," lasting from 7 a.m. until midnight or later. People in this subphylum often tote their cropping supplies in a rolling bag. And not just any rolling bag, but a special bag with little pen loops, compartments for acid-free tape squares, slots for paper and pouches for fancy scissors.

What's one step beyond nutzoid? Addict. I tumbled into this category after a sojourn at Big Rock Ranch, which is owned and operated by Brooke Fraze Bauer '89. At Big Rock retreats, croppers eat and crop and paste and chat, but rarely sleep.

Drive through the wide iron gates with the huge Texas stars in the center, and there you are. Scrapbook heaven.

Bauer designed this bed and breakfast specifically for our kind, which is her kind, too. Ten sleeping rooms are upstairs, each with a different theme, such as Texas Tradition and Flowers Abound (scrapbookers love themes). Out back, an expansive porch overlooks two large ponds surrounded by walking paths. And of course there's the kitchen, where the best, most fattening comfort foods I have ever devoured are prepared by Brooke and her husband, who is also an enabler.

On a typical day at Big Rock, croppers wake and drift downstairs in pajamas and slippers to find women who have cut, cornered and cropped through the night (apparently some addictions are stronger than mine). On my recent visit, even before coffee, I sat to plan my tasks for the day. So many pictures to arrange, so little time.

After a quick run to the brunch spread -- we're talking five casseroles, muffins, breads, juices and lots of butter -- I rolled back to the table to crop until the masseuse called my name for an hour-long massage. Then back to my spot at the table.

Scrapbooking here is a group activity. Need an idea for a pumpkin patch page? Your newfound friends offer suggestions and left-over paper that you've "got to have" to make your page perfect.

Soon the smell of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies wafts into the room, announcing snack time, where value-sized bags of M&Ms, pretzels, chips, dips and Ding-Dongs beckon -- and soon you're burning loads of calories as you choose, crop and stick.

Some croppers take breaks to watch a movie, nap or go for a walk. OK, that was just me. The rest stay glued to their seats (with acid-free, scrapbooking glue), cutting corners, journaling and affixing fancy ribbon borders to 12-inch by 12-inch pages.

As the weekend winds down, the group votes on "best layout" and a prize is given for most pages completed. The winner this time stopped at 120. Pages. Front and back.

Some may cringe at this mental picture I've created and cropped, complete with shiny stickers and a colorful mat. But there's something about spending time with memories that makes me almost as happy as the day they were made.

Visit: www.bigrockranch.org
Comment about this story at tcumagazine@tcu.edu.