ScrapMoir How To #26: Writing Your Life’s Regrets for Scrapbooks or Memoir

by Bettyann Schmidt on March 10, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #74 – Women’s Memoir Writing, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

New Ebook for All Memoir Writers and Scrapbookers

Writing your memoir? Working on your family photo collection? Want to know more about combining the best of scrapbooking and memoir? Bettyann Schmidt, our regular blogger on the topic of ScrapMoir — using memoir writing to enhance your treasured photos — has just released her new ebook. She’s agreed to make it available through our website at no cost to you. Be sure to sign up for it now. In the right column, you’ll see how to get it. Just enter your name and email address and you’ll receive an email with a link to the valuable ebook.

Thanks Bettyann. This is a real treasure.

–Matilda and Kendra


by Bettyann Schmidt

We often hear, “If you could go back in time and do something different, knowing what you know now, what would it be?”

What do you think of when you hear that question? I’ve got a few times I’d like to live over again, making better decisions. Maybe more than a few. Some of us make more bad decisions than others.

How come dumb stuff seems so smart while you’re doing it?~Redneck Girl,

Identity Theft

My Number One regret is what happened when I moved to Tennessee from my hometown. I did that because I was married to the wrong man for me. So, maybe I should back up and say my #1 is getting married to begin with, but that’s my second regret actually.

No, I allowed myself to be separated from my family more than I should have. That was my choice, and now, some 40 years later, I see what was stolen from me.

I grew up in a very large Catholic family who loved to celebrate good times. Everyone had a fair amount of children. Two aunts, one on Mom’s side and one on Dad’s side, had seven children. I’m the oldest of six.

So when we got together, it was loud, a lot of laughing, teasing, beer drinking adults, and hyper kids on Coca-Cola and all the sweets they wanted. For us kids, it was time to show off to our cousins, scream and yell, and just plain enjoy each other.

I married a boy with no family–other than his parents, 3 brothers and one sister, and one un-married uncle. When just the few of them got together, sadly, there were more fights and arguing than laughing and celebrating.

At first, of course, being married and having a new family is fun. It doesn’t take long, however, for the real stuff to unveil itself. For instance, a Sunday dinner where his mom sails a tray of Jello across the dining room, right over your head, and it smashes onto the buffet. She wanted to stop the arguing at the table.

I called my Mom as soon as we returned home and told her I had made a mistake and my new family was insane. You’d have to have known my mother to appreciate her reaction to the Jello incident. It was uncommon for my Mom to actually raise her voice. Mom suffered silently and became ill when things got out of hand in her life. She “whined” at us kids trying to kill each other over a stolen toy or trinket. Mostly it was, “I’m going to tell your father when he comes home.”

No, this in-law family had way more serious issues. But eventually I became one of them, so to speak, and I went where my husband led. And with that logic, I moved with him to Nashville to further his music career.

Cincinnati was not that far from us, about a five-hour drive, but working all week and not having a lot of money, and always having either an on-the-verge-of or for-real broken-down vehicle, kept us from visiting a lot. I remember the first year being incredibly homesick for my family, and I couldn’t even call because we had no telephone. I finally got a good job at General Electric and got to use the Watts line at least once a week to call Mom and Dad. The only thing I looked forward to, besides my husband making some money, was going home to visit.

My favorite uncle told me on a recent visit to Cincy, “We always thought, Bettyann, that you’d come back, but you didn’t.” We laughed, but inside I was crying, because now his children, my cousins, are grown with grandchildren of their own. It hurts to have missed their lives, having their babies, the baptisms and first communions, weddings.

I have no one to blame but myself. I could have just made the decision to stay connected and managed it by myself. I didn’t.

What I found recently, when I reconnected with my extended family, is my identity. It was buried inside a flower bulb in my heart waiting for a sprinkling of family to burst out of the ground. I’m, once again, Bettyann Cecile Dean, and I feel like I’ve come back to life.

All those years of depression, one-by-one, little-by-little, pushed my identity into the shell, and I never knew how alone I truly felt. I didn’t recognize what had happened to me. I lived in first one husband’s family, and then a second mate’s family, and I was like an orphan.

When my sister died, and then both my parents, I was a nomad in the desert. I have children, but several of them aren’t close, and I have in-laws who are good replacements for my own blood, but there has been something missing.

My children missed growing up with their cousins. My sisters and brothers don’t feel the extended family importance I do. They’re younger, and none of them have the memories I have. Each is a separate family now, in different locations, and none of them visit each other. I’m the only one who tries, and as the years wear on, it’s becoming difficult to try to keep our unit in the Dean family together.

You can’t regret what you can’t remember.~Lisa Birnbach

When I go “home” now, I visit my cousins and my uncle and next trip my youngest aunt. I try to see my brother and sister there, but they’re living in a world where life is too busy and too serious, and what memories they have are bad ones. I’ve chosen to embrace mostly the good.

It’s not too difficult now, however, to make the trip whenever I want. I know I still have more intact Dean family units there waiting for me.

What If

What If…

Accept everything about yourself—I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end—no apologies, no regrets.~Henry Kissinger

Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to ;earn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.~Mary Anne Radmacher

I told my family I was going to live in the past for a while. I wanted to do this so that I could finish, finally, saying what I want to say, and writing it into a book. I wanted to dwell on the photos and the memories, the stories, the ancestry. I realized at the end of this process I would have to emerge, and I wanted to do that better off than when I’d entered.

I feel I’ve been able to do that. I merely had to look at my present life with all of its possibilities, the blessings in doing whatever I want. There are few boundaries for me. I have gifts individual and specific to me. It’s up to me to use what I have to enjoy my full life right now. Going home or being here in my humble creative space, my garden, volunteering and helping those in need, just simply reveling in my freedom to “be.” I get to choose.

Now my “what if” revolves around today or tomorrow. What if I miss that golden something while I’m regretting yesterday or 40 years ago? That would be just plain dumb, wouldn’t it?

Leave a comment below, telling me about life regrets you may have or how you managed to heal yourself of them, a story or just a sentence is so nice when it comes my way by your comments. I’ll be sure to respond to any of you comments.

And remember, my new ebook—Scrapbooking + Memoir = ScrapMoir: 7 Steps to Combining Your Photos, Your Memories, Your Stories, is available beginning today. You can get your copy while it is still free by signing up in the right most column on this site. Or, if you want to get all four of the ebooks currently available free through Women’s Memoirs, click here.

Bettyann Schmidt
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