WINTER HAVEN – More than a decade ago, Pat Brenchley found herself coming home every day, laying down on her couch, and being too exhausted to move. She was facing one of the scariest challenges anyone can endure: cancer treatment.
“Back in 1998 I was diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “I would work in the morning, and then I’d have to go home in the afternoon because I had a chemo pump pumping through me, and I’d be very tired.”
She needed something to get her mind off her diagnosis, and she finally found it when she pulled some boxes out of her closet that contained old family photos. That not only gave her some inspiration, but also a mission.
“When I got home in the afternoon, I started going through my pictures and things, and started putting them together,” she said. “I said if I don’t lick this disease, I can say I didn’t just leave a box of pictures sitting around.”
She began creating a scrapbook about her life – and, in effect, about the legacy she felt she might be leaving behind if the cancer proved to be stronger than she was.
“I felt like it was a very good therapy,” Brenchley said. “My mind would say, ‘Gee, I did this.’ It was very good therapy looking at my life through the pictures at a time when I had to focus on fighting a major illness. I wanted my grandchildren to have this so they wouldn’t say ‘Who was grandma’ after I was gone.”
As it turned out, Brenchley was much stronger than the cancer. And as she recovered and became healthier, Brenchley found that the scrapbook she had created became a turning point in her life in another crucial way.
“I went ahead and licked the disease with a lot of prayer and other things,” she said. Then she invested some money into a new business. That was 12 years ago, and today her business, Heart To Heart Fabrics & More, is still going strong. The shop hosts classes on how to create a scrapbook, and all the supplies anyone needs to do it.
But if you do visit Brenchley at her store at 102 Post Ave. SW in Winter Haven, she has some very firm beliefs on the right – and wrong – way to go about preserving a family legacy through a scrapbook.
“The best thing I always tell people is to get all their pictures together and kind of organize them first,” she said. “That’s a first step, if you want a chronological type where you’re doing everything according to when it was taken, or if you want to do an event type of scrap book. Some people do a Christmas scrapbook or one for children, so you can look through their lives. Sometimes many people do them both ways. They do a chronological one about their children up until they leave home. Or their reasoning for coming here in the first place is to say, ‘Oh, my daughter is getting married, so I want to do a wedding scrapbook for her.’ When I talk with them, I usually will say to them, ‘You really ought to consider doing something that reflects your whole life.”
That’s one reason why Brenchley offers classes on scrapbooking.
“If we’re doing a beginning class with someone who has never done this, usually I tell them there are two or three things they’ll want to focus on,” she said. “Look at the page. There needs to be, of course, the pictures, and there needs to be some sort of journaling – ‘This happened when so-and-so was 3 years old,’ and so on. You need some sort of journaling, and you need a title.”
But she also urges people to be judicious about how much they put into a scrapbook.
“They put way too much junk in the books now, in my opinion,” she said, adding that this has become a trend in the entire industry – to focus on the products, and not the creativity or imagination that goes into creating a truly special scrapbook.
“I feel like they kind of looked at consumers and say, ‘Just tell them anything, they’ll buy anything,’ and that is not what scrapbooking is about,” she said. “This is about getting those pictures on the pages so people will know who you are.”
They also don’t need a lot of fancy items to make a high quality, or loving, scrapbook, she added.
“I would tell them they need a good album, and they want to buy something that is not the magnet type of album, but something they can actually do a picture set up, and either slide it in a book or on a page removed from the book that they can lay flat,” she said. “They need glue. I do recommend Hermafix because it is removable. If you decide you don’t want to use that picture, you can take it right off, and it leaves no mess on the picture or the page. They need to be sure it’s acid free, and mainly what people want to see is people’s handwriting in there — even if it’s not the best. And they want to see what the pictures are and what they’re about.”
Mostly, though, find a way to tell a narrative – the story of your life, that will have meaning for your children and grandchildren and those members of the family not yet born, because of what it says about the life you leave behind.
“Mostly they end up being gifts,” Brenchley said. “They say, ‘My daughter is getting married’ and they want to leave her a book. Some do it as a hobby, but the ones who do that are the ones who are going to buy every gadget out there. If you live a real life, you don’t have the time to make every page perfect. I’m cautious of not trying to push people into what I call embellishments. I don’t think embellishments are important for a book.”
Brenchley said she hopes the industry moves back to the issue of quality, and spend less time worrying about how many products can be sold to the people who want to create a first-rate scrapbook.
“I have seen in some trade magazines they’re talking more about that, so maybe that is happening,” she said. “I would really hope that would happen. I hope to be able to get back to the basics.”
To learn more about scrapbooking or Heart to Heart Fabrics, call 863-298-8185.
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