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COL It's not just scrapbooking, it's a way of life

Scrapbookers are not like you and me.

Unless you and I feel the perverse desire to catalog every single photograph we've ever taken by sticking it in a photo album with a border of baby bears sporting word bubbles asking "Are we bear yet?"

Three hours at a scrapbooking seminar

9:07 a.m.: Somehow, I've had the gall, after seeing the announcement in a Twin Cities newspaper, to just show up at a scrapbooking seminar held in the back room of a Twin Cities arts and crafts store.

The woman at the check-in desk -- really just a folding table at the front of the store -- shakes her head in disbelief when I tell her I don't have a registration number. That no I did not lose my registration number. That no I have not registered.

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She lets out a long sigh -- the exact sigh you'd use to let someone else know you're superior because you own a hole punch that can punch holes in the shape of bunnies -- before finally agreeing to let me in.

She then hands me a name tag. And the term "name tag," here, is an understatement. What I eventually pin to my shirt looks like what would be left if a Michaels craft store somehow imploded -- like a craft-store neutron star -- into a fist-sized blob of crafts with a safety pin attached.

My name tag, and this is only a slight exaggeration, is made up of a half dozen or so pine cones, spray-painted gold and attached to a cross section of a medium-sized white birch tree, which in turn is attached to a full-sized Christmas wreath spray-painted in silver glitter. I would not be surprised if, at some point, a chipmunk family scurried out of it.

9:32 a.m.: After a store tour, fifteen of us -- myself and fourteen women mostly in appliqué; sweatshirts and sweaters -- take our seats in the back room for the first discussion, titled "How to Organize Your Scrapbooking Workplace," in which the presenter has chosen to read from a book titled "How to Organize Your Scrapbooking Workplace."

A high percentage of the appliqué; sweatshirts and sweaters sport phrases or sayings. If their facts are correct, and these statistics hold true across the scrapbooking crowd, then an estimated 7 percent of scrapbookers, if they want the best seat in the house, have to move the cat. Another 7 percent are considered crafty mamas. And a whopping 14 percent of all scrapbookers work for a company called Mom's Taxi Service.

"Being unorganized," begins our presenter, "can turn a scrapbook into just scraps. And a book."

I'm already confused.

9: 34 a.m.: The ideal scrapbooking workplace, we are warned repeatedly, is an extension of self. Your scrapbook workplace is more than simply a desk and color-coded Tupperware containers in which to store your various "Are we having fun yet?" stamps. Your scrapbooking station represents your personality. Examples of locations for your extension of self include -- and this alone was worth my $20 entry fee ($18 for pre-registrants) -- basement space, attic space, space in your laundry room, and those spaces that might have previously been occupied by kids who've left for college or "spouses who've passed on."

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Scrapbooker wannabes everywhere are just biding their time, waiting for their husband to die so they'll finally have space to hang their ribbon spools and bear-filled "I need a bear hug!" contact paper.

10:11 a.m.: The presenter -- whom I'll call The Elderly Woman Who Has Devoted The Final Years Of Her Life To Forcing Others To Create A Scrapbooking Station In Their Laundry Room -- is describing, in mind-numbing detail, her list of categories for organizing themed-paper stock. Categories include animals, babies, beach scenes, birthdays, celebrations, floral patterns, patriotic events, weddings, winters, etc., etc.

10:17 a.m.: I have just realized that "How to Organize Your Scrapbooking Workplace" is the entire seminar. I had planned to duck out after one or two short presentations. An hour tops. Now I know that I'm trapped here for the duration.

10:57 a.m.: I might or might not be hallucinating. Although I can see the presenter's lips moving, the words I hear sound like "vellum" and "brayers" and "Extra eyelets? Simply organize an eyelet swap!"

11:22 a.m.: "A mobile scrapbooking kit," according to TEWWHDTFYOHLTFOTCASSITLR, "should always be kept in a spot that is easily accessible and easy to remember so you can get to it in a hurry."

Just in case, we can only assume, someone calls you on your red scrapbooking emergency phone with a report of some loose Polaroids without decorative ribbons.

11:44 a.m.: The scrapbooking tips and tidbits are flying fast and furious. "I use cream colored doilies as borders for antique photos," says the woman who, if she wants the best seat in the house, has to move her cat.

The one-upmanship is impressive. One woman keeps a mini scrapbooking kit in her glove box. Another collects leather scraps from a nearby factory. One woman is considering an operation in which she would have both of her hands removed and the wrists retrofitted with receptors that would allow her to more easily attach stamping tools or scallop-pattern scissors. Another has found a doctor in Mexico who has agreed to convert her mucus membranes into paste dispensers.

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11:55 a.m.: You would assume that, especially when scrapbooking, it's safety first. Yet the topic of scrapbooking safety is not even mentioned until nearly three hours into the presentation. Then the talk centers around ergonomics and how to make a lumbar pillow out of old T-shirts. Though she warns that she's "no doctor," TEWWHDTFYOHLTFOTCASSITLR also touches on the physical fitness involved in maintaining that scrapbooking physique. "Build up those muscle groups," she says, "that feel the effects of scrapbooking."

Namely, your retrofitted wrist stubs and that part of your brain that spends a lot of time thinking about stuffed bears.

12:01 p.m.: Lunch.

Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine, in which this piece previously appeared. Look for the January issue on newsstands now.

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