In Sickness + In Health, AND Dave Ramsey

Collage and Wood inc. owner Crystal Waddell with her family: husband Jon Waddell and son Asher Waddell.

When Jon and I got engaged, all signs pointed to a charmed life. But not long after, he became sick. He lost over 20 pounds in a month. He felt unwell, but all tests came back negative for serious diseases. I was so afraid he was going to die. Happiness seemed always just out of my grasp and I always assume the worst.

When he began to feel better, I was so relieved. Next came a heart attack scare with my dad, but by our wedding day, both of them were there to perform their respective roles beautifully.

Within months we were pregnant with Asher and during our “baby-moon” trip up the east coast from North Carolina to New Jersey, I had to stop and pee almost hourly. I was eight months pregnant and didn’t notice that Jon had to go as often as I did.

Jon noticed, though – and when we finally got home he said he wanted to use his step dad’s glucometer to check his blood sugar. (Tom is a type II diabetic). The glucometer read 300+.

We made the horrible joke that when I was tested for gestational, Jon got the diabetes instead. At age 30, Jon was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, also known as Type 1.

I plan on sharing more about life with a Type 1 later, but for now I want to focus on the difficulty we had adjusting to living with this disease.

I am so ashamed of my initial response to Jon, my lack of support for him. I want to go back and slap me! As I held Asher in my arms, suffering from undiagnosed postpartum depression, I remember telling Jon that I could never give him a shot, that he would need to handle his diabetes so that I could focus on being a mom.

Jon was exhausted, but that didn’t stop me from trying to run him all the way into the ground. I dragged him to club volleyball practices and weekend tournaments. I also needed his help with the new coaching business I started called “Fundamental Sports Clinics”.

All this in addition to his volunteer coaching responsibilities for a middle school football team and volunteering at church. Poor guy! But if you were to ask him about that time, Jon would say he loved coaching volleyball and the chance it gave us to travel.

We were operating our home budget on a $30,000 salary and things were tighter than a worship leader’s skinny jeans.

But Jon’s diabetes actually created an amazing bond with our team after he had an incredibly scary blood sugar low at a tournament, while holding Asher in his arms. I cried while one of the mom’s shoved every snack and piece of fruit she could find into Jon’s mouth – and we all shared relieved hugs, smiles and glances when he came back to life.

That team rallied around my family and loved like Asher like a baby brother. At the end of this season, I wanted to do something special for our girls. I wanted them to remember this special blend of awesome that connected us.

As the season came to a close, I started looking up ideas on Pinterest. I am across wooden letters covered in pictures. I calculated the cost, used coupons, and went to a local craft store to purchase a letter for each of my players. One of the parents had taken AMAZING photos over the season and there were hundreds to choose from.

Sadly these photos were collecting digital dust in a photo folder on Facebook.

Not comprehending the tedious task before me, I set out to make 11 personalized photo collages for each of my players. After the first one, I thought I should quit. I felt I could never finish! Yet I was determined to keep going.

Somehow, I finished them. And I was so proud. I hoped they would feel the love and care that I poured into each one of their collages. That they would know how much they, and this season, meant to us.

At our end of the season party, I could not contain my excitement to give my girls their personalized collages. This was 2013. Six years later, I can still remember the look of awe and appreciation from my players and their parents. They knew I loved them, and that’s all I needed them to know.

So. Why did I tell you all of this? I wanted you to know why I make photo collages, and why I started The Collage and Wood Shop. That volleyball season will never be replicated, but the memories live on forever – in our hearts and minds and for my players, a tangible keepsake collage.

I can solve that same problem for you by combining the memories into a collage into a meaningful shape: letter, silhouette, or number.

But the main reason for Collage and Wood is this: When my family needed me (and they did as we adjusted to life near the poverty line and life with Type 1); as we sacrificed my salary, I used my hands to make the only thing I had ever created as a gift: wooden letters covered with photos.

Because like Dave Ramsey said, when you’re broke and you need money: you need to WORK.

If I have a chance to make a collage for you, my intention will be the same for your players as it was for mine: to celebrate the amazing moments of the season or a career and remind her that she is seen, valued, and loved.

Welcome to Collage and Wood! Thank you for being a part of my family’s labor of love. Take a look around and see how we’ve grown!

Published by collageandwood

Hello. I am a collage and event decor maker. I help women create custom keepsakes & celebrate high achievers! #seniornight 🥳Do you need giant letters or numbers? I can make it happen, and probably faster than you think :) Check me out at

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