Showing More of Ourselves in Our Scrapbooks: Documenting the Peaks and Valleys of Life

I really enjoyed this past Mother's Day. The kids are getting old enough to understand why we have the holiday, they get excited to give gifts and cards, and love coming upstairs to watch me open them. Their attention spans are longer now and they appreciate family togetherness more, so it was fun for me to create this page about our day together:

I love creating the "happy" layouts! I do feel it's important to document optimism, family togetherness, and everything that's good. But, honestly, I feel equally compelled to make pages about things like this:

It's not the most popular choice amongst scrapbookers to show the unpleasant realities of life in their albums. Some people have questioned why I would create a page about things my kids do that bother me. They have said they don't want to focus on the difficult things, and that the positive should only be accentuated. I do think being positive is important in our pages, but I see no reason why the "rosey" parts of our lives should completely dominate them.

I'll tell you one reason I feel this way. I overheard a conversation once --- I believe it was right before Christmas one year. There was a small group of ladies in an aerobics class I was taking, and before class started, they were discussing things that were hard for them about the holidays. One of the things they lamented was receiving the yearly Christmas letters from family and friends. They were talking about how weary they were of hearing about their friends "perfect" life, their "perfect" children, who were "perfect" in all their extra-curriculars, their "perfect" houses, and etc. These gals said additionally, that they didn't believe those who said everything in their lives were "stunning" and "always ideal."

I thought about what was being said and decided there was some truth to it. Making things appear perfect isn't always interesting. Sometimes, it can also come off as fake and insincere.

So, a few years later, when I discovered scrapping, I decided I would try to present a balanced view as I created my albums. While I don't believe that our scrapbooks need to have a gloomy tone, I think it's acceptable and even important to show that our lives have peaks and valleys. There are wonderful times, and then there those days when things are rough.

I made a choice to document our difficulties because I want my kids to see that life is not always smooth sailing. I think it will be a great teaching tool for them. They need to see that tough times in our life can be overcome and can teach us important lessons. I hope that by showing how we worked our way through the rough patches, we became better as individuals and families.

So how does one create a page on a hard subject? By being tactfully honest, which to me, means:

-speaking from your heart (as corny as that sounds)
-writing about what you've learned during your experience
-ensuring that your content is tasteful and not offensive
-not sharing any information that has been told to you in confidence

As I have applied these guidelines, it has helped me make layouts that tell the not-so-happy story with sensitivity.

For example, before my husband and I adopted our kids, we had a long, arduous battle with infertility. We had made the decision to file adoption papers and have me receive fertility treatments at the same time. There came a point when we knew we had had enough pills, needles, and doctor appointments, and that we were done with the medical aspect of trying to have children.

At that point, I made an album documenting my experience with infertility and the loss of having my own biological children. One of the reasons I did this was to provide a way for me to say goodbye to that dream. It helped me mourn the loss and enabled me to embrace the idea of adoption. One of the layouts I did was a goodbye letter to my biological child, the one I wouldn't ever get to hold in my arms:

When the album was finished, I realized that it has also served as a catharsis. Creating it had enabled me to feel my sad feelings and move on with my life. And, on those days when I still feel the grief and long for that dream child, I read through the album once more, touch the pages, and cry. It has turned out to be a work that continues to heal and comfort me.

The album is too big to share in its entirety here, so if you wish to see more, then you can see it at my gallery over at Two Peas.

Whew! That was a lot to say! I hope that something I wrote today will get you thinking about what you share in your layouts, and inspire you to show the peaks and the valleys.

Have a good day!


  1. Lorell, can I be you when I grow up?

    That's a lovely layout, sweet and heart-wrenching at the same time.

    You have such an amazing way with words!

  2. Those are great pages. It's nice to see the Mother's day you finally got to have after going through the pain of fertility and the loss of having biological kids. Your kids are great! They make us smile when we see them.

  3. Your journaling is so heartfelt. THose pages are amazing and a treasure.

  4. I'm 100% in agreement with you & I don't hesitate to scrapbook the less-than-perfect moments! I love your "goodbye" LO & have been doing some journaling on that subject as we get deeper (and are waiting longer and longer) into the adoption process.