Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Seeing the Big Picture

I am the mother to five really cute kids. Yes, you read that right, 5 kids. And 5 kids, as you can well imagine, are a lot of work. It's good, happy work, but hard nonetheless.

My oldest is 12 years old.

While I pregnant with him, my sister introduced me to scrapbooking. I liked the idea of combining pictures with words and pretty paper. Never underestimate the power of pretty paper. And so I scrapbooked about my first son, and then second son, when he came along just 21 months later.

When my boys were 2 and 1, we moved to Sweden. And suddenly, my scrapbooking had more urgency. I felt compelled to document this terribly exciting adventure we had undertaken. I took pictures of the buses we took to get around. I snapped photos in the grocery store, of the cobble-stones in the center of Lund, of flower vines clinging to old walls, and ancient trees.

That first year in Sweden, I found myself pregnant again with our third son. He was born in a rush in a Swedish hospital. It really was a wonderful time.

Then I got sick, really sick, and was eventually diagnosed with lupus, and thought my world would shatter. I had three really small boys. It was a tough time. The boys were like most small boys and got into a lot of trouble. I was very tired most of the time, trying to cope with sleepless nights, keeping a house clean, feeding and caring for my boys was overwhelming, my husband was enrolled in a pretty demanding PhD program. I had friends and support. But at the same time, I was a young mother of three boys in a foreign country. And through it all, I kept scrapbooks. They helped me keep my perspective, focus on the positive parts of my life, and cope with my challenges.

Thankfully, with good medical care, I was able to regain much of my health and the quality of my life really improved. A few years later, we had our miracle baby, a beautiful girl. 
During this time our family was able to take some wonderful trips to different countries. We soaked up culture, art, music, food, history, architecture, and life during these trips. And I documented them on my blog at A Stranger Here. Between my scrapbooks and my blog, I felt like those outlets allowed me to process my life, to see my blessings,and to see the big picture of this life I was living and creating. I could look at my trials and hardships with perspective, realizing that life, while hard at times, was very, very good. 

Then my husband graduated from Lund University and our lives changed.

Six months later we packed our suitcases, all 12 of them, and moved back to the U.S., to New York. Living in New York, was simultaneously good and bad. I experienced culture shock to a magnitude that I had not anticipated. Along with culture shock, I suffered from deep homesickness for Sweden and our friends there. Add to that an unexpected pregnancy which left me very sick and horribly fatigued, and it was a challenging time. We also had some external challenges that were difficult to face. 

I kept blogging and making pages for my scrapbook. And even though I struggled, I still felt blessed. And really, when you have a baby like this, who wouldn't feel blessed? 

Now that we live in Riyadh, I keep writing on my blog and I work on my scrapbooks almost every day. My blog posts help me process this experience in Riyadh, and my scrapbooks keep my grounded, helping me see the big picture.

I don't have a perfect life. But I do have a remarkably rich life filled with both good and bad things. I strive to keep perspective and my eyes on the big picture through my blog and through my scrapbooks. The whole purpose of sharing this is that I think we all need perspective in our lives. And I encourage you to do whatever it takes to keep your perspective, to help you through the hard times, and to see your blessings. That may be blogging, scrapbooking, journaling, photography, music, art, or something else. Whatever it is for you, keep on doing it. I promise you it does make a difference in your life.

How do you keep your eye on the big picture? What do you do to keep your perspective?


  1. What a lovely post. I have found that for myself. Journal keeping--in whatever variety is good for the soul.

  2. I needed to read this today, thank you. -Dawn

  3. Thank you for this post. Sometimes, though, for me, the things I do to keep that perspective overwhelm me and make me anxious and stressed out. That is something I haven't yet really figured out how to cope with. Because when I don't do the things I love, I feel anxious but feeling like I need to be doing them even just because I want to also leaves me feeling anxious. I guess life is just hard and figuring it all out is part of the process.

  4. Tiffany, thank u so much for sharing this with us. It made me think and touched me a lot! Iman