Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Wish I Had Said During the Podcast

Yesterday, I was one of the guests on the Paperclipping Roundtable Podcast. PRT is a wonderful podcast that discusses scrapbooking. They have a great following of listeners around the world. Noell and Izzy Hyman do a great job of creating a consistently interesting podcast that really does educate, entertain, and inspire me.

The podcast I participated was called "Rootless". We discussed the concept of Third Culture Kids (TCK) and how scrapbooking can help highly mobile and transient families deal with the challenges of the lifestyle.

Here are some thoughts I had that I wanted to share.

1) Highly transient families families often experience loss with possessions as their lifestyle doesn't always allow for these things to be carried with them everywhere. Scrapbooking has become a way for me to preserve memories and experiences that I have no other tangible link to.

                                       (Visiting an ancient Roman ampitheatre in Ceaseara, Israel)

I have given away, sold, or thrown away couches, tables, beds, knicknacks, toys, clothes, shoes, heirlooms, kitchen equipment, bikes, bike trailers, strollers, etc. When we moved to Sweden, we pared down our belongings to what could fit into a few suitcases. (I did burden my parents with several boxes of books that have spent many years in storage. I still can't bear to let them go, but I'm realistic enough to realize that may have to discarded at some point.) While living in Sweden, we knew that we would be moving ourselves back to the United States. There would not be a moving company to pack up our belongings to our new home. We did not accumulate things. I didn't buy paintings, decorations, or souvenirs. My memories of our life in Sweden are recorded in our pictures and documented with my scrapbooks. When we lived in Israel, I couldn't afford to buy hardly anything. We did purchase a Christmas Creche made out of olive wood. But otherwise, our pictures and scrapbooks are the only physical link we have to our amazing experiences.

                                        (The view of Riyadh from a hotel room. This picture inspired
                                           the name for this blog.)

Granted I can't lug my scrapbooks around. They often go in storage during our travels. But they are precious enough that I keep them.

2) Scrapbooking often provides much needed perspective to process both the good and bad experiences of expat life.

I scrapped my last year living in Sweden a few years after it had occurred. There is a difference in that scrapbook versus the pages I made while living there. I was much more humble about our experiences. I found I was able to ascribe meaning that I simply couldn't process at the time the events occurred. I imagine I will need a little time and distance to process my Riyadh experiences.

                 (I am still coming to terms with wearing an abaya for 18 months on a daily basis. It was a necessary part of my experience, but one I still don't have the words to fully describe what it was like. It wasn't totally awful, but neither was it totally awesome.)

3) Scrapbooking allows family memories of grand adventures to be preserved. My kids can look back in the albums and remember what their snowsuits looked like in Sweden. They can remember the playgrounds they explored in Israel. They can remember the grocery stores in Saudi Arabia and the color of the desert sand.

4) Creating scrapbook pages helps me deal with the loss of treasured friends as we leave behind friends or are left behind.

5) Scrapbooking helps me emphasize our family stability. Even though we don't always have stability of place, we always have one another.

6) Scrapbooking helps me approach my life as an expat with gratitude, curiousity, wonder, and an open mind. I am so grateful for the experiences and life I lead. I would never trade any of our adventures for a different life. It is MY life and I own it, good and bad.


  1. I listened to the podcast this morning during my commute. It was excellently done and quite a beautiful podcast if that makes sense. I think all Americans would do well by visiting a culture completely different from our own. I bet we would all come back with a level of appreciation and gratitude that escapes many of us. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Rosann. I agree with you that Americans can really benefit from deeper experiences with other cultures. I know I have been changed significantly because of my international experiences, and all for the better.

  3. It was a privilege to share this podcast with you, Tiffany. I wish it would have been longer though. :) I love looking at your photos and your writing is very lovely. I'll add your blog to my feed of blogs and will continue to visit you. :) I wish you all the best for your stay in New York for now. Winter is coming...just saying. ;) Do you know about how long you are going to stay there? Or you never know, like us? I'm happy I got to "meet" you and hope that we can continue to exchange. :) Marie

  4. I listened to the podcast last night and enjoyed it immensely. As a military mom we have some of the same issues of living a life that seems transient. It feels like we're never quite settled, just passing through on the way to the next duty station. And we've the unusual ones who don't actually move that often! I need to start those scrapbooks so we can remember our previous "lives"!

  5. You rocked the podcast Tiffany! I am so proud that you are my sister. You have accomplished so much as a mother and individual. Do you want to scrapbook for me? Because I hate it. Love you!

  6. I was so glad to see your name being among the guests at the roundtable, there can not be THAT many Tiffany Wacaser in the scrapbooking world, was my thought and I'm glad I was right! It was so good to hear your voice and all you said was really great. So good to see you and your family. Kramar! Monica Ahlström

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts both here and on the podcast. They are very relevant for me as we prepare to leave northern Canada for 4 years in South Africa, with our soon to be TCK (she is 3 and a half right now). Friends down the street from us were in Saudi for 6 years, and I have been impressed by the maturity their kids exhibit. :)