Bright Potential
Book Review: The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid by Kate Hattemer

Deep Thoughts about Scrapbooking

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday, Kendell and Jake went hiking on a Sunday morning. Because of my injured toe I haven’t been able to hike, and as Kendell was dying for a good mountain wander, Jake went with him.

That morning, Kaleb slept in.

Which means that for a few hours, I was alone in my house. Solitude is a rare commodity these days, with everyone working from home, and as the door shut behind my two boys, I did a little swirly dance in the kitchen. A dance no one saw because no one was home.

In that quietness, my excitement over scrapbooking came rushing back, so I went into my crafty room, piled up all of my sewing projects into a corner, and made a layout.

I turned my music on, shuffled through pictures, wrote journaling, found some patterned paper and embellishments I wanted to use. An hour in, the timer for the washer went off, so I paused in my happiness to rotate the laundry. What was this feeling in me, this lightness? This sparkle?

I just love this combination so much: an empty house and working on memory keeping.


In the silence and solitude, I thought about this hobby of mine. About why I love it, about why I haven’t been doing it much for the past two years.

Messy scrapbook desk
(the stuff I need to clean off my desk this morning)

I know not everyone understands it, and on the top of that list is my husband. He was raised on a family farm, where work was never, ever finished, with an ethic illustrated by both his parents that if you aren’t working on something, you’re being lazy.

I sat on my tall stool next to my open window and thought about this—about how Kendell feels about hobbies and leisure time and relaxing influences how I feel about it.

If you’ve read the book A Man Called Ove, you might understand better. Remember how Ove could not comprehend people reading for pleasure? His opinion was that books were for information-gathering and learning, and everything else was a waste of time. And yet, he loved his wife, who loved reading for pleasure, and so he built her bookshelves.

That is how it is with Kendell and scrapbooking. (Quilting too, although I feel far less guilt over quilting.) (Also, for that matter, reading.) (And blogging.) He wants to be supportive because he loves me, so he builds bookshelves (both literal bookshelves and metaphorical ones), but he doesn’t understand it, and sometimes that lack of understanding comes across as criticism.

And since I have a personality that automatically feels guilt for everything, this doesn’t sit well. (I wish I were more like Ove’s wife and could just laugh away the criticism…but I don’t know how to do that.) It festers, mixing as it bubbles with my own ethic, which is to make something productive with my life. Sometimes I’m not sure if scrapbooking is really productive. (Maybe that is why I feel less guilty about quilting: when I am finished, I have made something useful. Family history is useful, but it won’t keep you warm.)

When I am alone at home, it is easier for me to not feel guilty. To block out all the other things calling for my attention—the laundry, the kitchen, the yard. I could be prepping meals or scrubbing corners or dusting the ceiling fans. Why do I think I can ignore all of those and indulge in my hobby? I can’t quite quiet those voices when Kendell is home, even if he says nothing at all. But when he is gone…I can. It is like a sort of meditation, almost. My heart and mind enter a quiet space, which is influenced by pretty, colorful things and by looking at pictures of the people I love and by remembering the past. For me, it is like the feeling when you have hiked a long, dusty, steep trail, and you get to a stream, and you get to set your pack down, take off your boots, and put your feet in the water. Cool, refreshing, quiet, peaceful. I love the trail, just like I love my husband, but that time at the stream gives me what I need to keep going in the heat and the dust and the vert.


So here I am. It’s a Sunday, and Kendell is hiking. By himself, as neither Jake nor Kaleb wanted to go. But they are occupied, and the laundry is going, and it is quiet. I am sitting at my tall table with my high stool, and I am looking at pictures.

My thoughts go like this: I could scrapbook those pictures of Haley on the day we went to the wild animal preserve in Colorado. But the last layout I made was about Haley. So maybe I could scrapbook these pictures I just found from Ragnar 2013. But am I scrapbooking about myself too much? Is that conceited? But I really want to scrapbook about Jake, but I have so few photos of him. But…have I told all the wrong stories? Have I told the big stories? If I died tomorrow would this be enough? But…

Since that last Sunday of solitude, I have gotten myself organized. I’ve gotten rid of some things, and gone through the piles (and piles and piles, I confess) of new things I’ve purchased this year, organizing them into my way of using them. I gathered all of the photos I’ve printed but not scrapbooked and put them in a binder with notes and supplies. I’ve even made a few layouts.

I’m looking through my photos, and I’m thinking about the layouts I’ve already made. Not just this year, but since I started scrapbooking in 1996. I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life in this hobby. More than 1000 layouts. A lot of stories told and pictures preserved. But does any of it mean anything, in the end?

I am realizing that I need to separate how Kendell feels about my hobby from how I do.

Because, yes: I love it. It is quiet and restorative and fun. But do all of these layouts I’ve made connect with my life’s ethic? Am I making these because they are pleasant to make, and in doing so avoiding the harder—but perhaps more impactful—other work I might be doing? Am I emotionally invested in my crafts because they are an easy way to delve into creativity, without requiring judgement from anyone other than myself and my husband?

Am I, in other words, scrapbooking (and quilting) to avoid the hard work of writing?

I know: deep thoughts about a silly hobby. Making things and overthinking: it’s what I do. But time is so short and I feel a pressing need to finally take this step. To do the hard work.




Tracie Claiborne

Well dear Gussy, I missed the opportunity to have you talk about this in the show!!!! Wow! What insight! It would bum me out if Mike felt that way or if I even thought he did. He is my biggest fan, thinking that anything creative is worth spending time on. My mother, on the other hand, she feels exactly as you described. Scrapbooking is frivolous and she doesn't have time for such endeavors. Maybe she thinks more highly of it now that I can buy groceries because of it (since I made it my job) but mainly, no hobbies are worthwhile pursuits. I say it is an extremely worthwhile pursuit and one worth spending time on, as you know. Loved reading your thoughts here!

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