Pocket Scrapbooking with Project Life

Cultivate a good life and record it.



good life – by heidi swapp


Part of cultivating a good life is taking on challenges and seeing them with eyes of gratitude. 

It was almost seven years ago when Eric and I packed up our family and relocated to Beijing, China. I remember like it was yesterday. Colton was nine, Cory was eight, Quincy was six, Capri had just turned one, and Connor was all of six weeks old. I was scared to death. I remember the frantic loading of 18 pieces of luggage, two strollers, and three kids on Heely shoes, buzzing around the international departures gate. Just as vividly, I remember unloading the two vans and one car we had to hire to transport us from the airport to what would be our home for the next year.

Initially, the thrill of the adventure filled me with adrenaline and enthusiasm! I was so excited to explore and soak in a different country and culture. I was all gung-ho to get out and experience China! However, it didn’t take long for the reality to set in. Basic needs (like food and clean laundry) presented serious challenges! Driving terrified me. Loading up all my kids to go anywhere was crazy – and if we wanted to go anywhere as a family, we had to hire two taxis to accommodate all of us! After a couple weeks, I could feel a bit of a depression creeping in.

I tried to stay positive on the outside, but I was really missing everything about home. It was hard. 

About that time, I remember going to dinner with another ex-pat couple. While we were out, the wife pointed out everything she hated about China. She mentioned the imperfect, cracked sidewalks, the hazy, polluted sky, and everything in between. I felt myself start to notice all those things and they started to bother me, too! I started to feel critical and intolerant.

It wasn’t long after that I met another woman who invited me to go on a bike ride in the city. I remember being in awe of her bravery to drive her own car all the way to the city center. The entire ride, she told me all the things she loved about China! As we drove, she pointed out must-see spots and shared funny stories and a little history about each place. Once we were on bikes, I followed her through back roads and crazy-busy streets, past quaint markets, over bridges, and around famous landmarks. The driving is so crazy in Beijing; it was pretty much a near-death experience.

We stopped in front of the Forbidden City, directly across from Tiananmen Square — someplace I had only seen in pictures! As we stood in front of that epically recognizable place, she proceeded to express to me the tremendous gratitude she felt for the opportunity to live in Beijing. She explained how her family had grown, how much they had learned, and how special the time “away” but “together” was for her family. In those few hours – everything changed for me.

It was still hard. But it became beautiful.

I chose to see Beijing through her eyes. I marveled at the intricacies of the historic architecture. I loved exploring the amazing gardens and watching the old people fly kites and practice Tai Chi in the parks. We tried new restaurants and laughed at the crazy bathroom situations. We went everywhere, did everything, and everyday I felt tremendous gratitude for the gift of being there.

Fast forward to one year after we moved there and we decided to enroll our kids into a small Chinese school. One of the hardest things I did was put them on a bus at 7 in the morning and have them return at 4:30, knowing they would be fully immersed in Chinese. But guess what? They learned Chinese.

It was so hard, but we were so grateful. (Especially not to be home schooling — not my thing!)

Harder than moving to Beijing was learning suddenly that we needed to return home to the USA. After only 18 months, I was not ready (or happy) to leave. I remember when we got home and we were sending the kids to a new school in Utah, I asked them if they were nervous to attend a new school. Their reply still makes me laugh: “How hard can it be? They speak English!”

I share this story for two reasons:

1. I think it’s critically important to do hard things.

2. Gratitude changes everything! 

Part of cultivating a good life is taking on challenges and seeing them with eyes of gratitude.

There is something very powerful in finding out what you are made of. Most of us are faced with hard things! Some hard stuff we get to choose, some stuff we don’t. Either way, by choosing to see the hardship with gratitude, you are guaranteed to come out on the other side better, smarter, and stronger. Every time.

What an amazing example and mentor that friend was that day. I am forever grateful she let me see Beijing through her eyes.


Note from Becky

I’ve chatted about Heidi a bit recently (herehere + here) because of our new co-branded line of Project Life® products. She’s a genuinely awesome individual, that Heidi Swapp. And she is one of the hardest-working product designers and teachers in our industry. I am grateful for my personal friendship with her. We totally connect on many levels and she is a positive influence in my life – and in so, so, so many lives. Some of yours included, I’m sure. Heidi, thank you for sharing this message that has undoubtedly struck a chord with those who have read your words today. What an important life lesson that we all needed to hear.

Connect with Heidi  ::  Website | Facebook | Instagram


25 Responses

  1. Leslie S. says:

    That is a beautiful post. Thank you Heidi for reminding me to be grateful for every day and enjoy every day to the fullest. You are right, we all encounter hard things in life, it’s how we choose to handle them that makes all the difference.

  2. Paula O says:

    Yes what a great outlook and as mothers we set the tone for the kids! I’m sure your kids gained so much experience and appreciation from your new outlook. I have been to Africa for a period of time, new food, totally new way of life. It was beautiful and life changing and I was sure grateful upon returning home. Our experience really build a beautiful us!

  3. Mel says:

    Thank you. I needed to hear this today. Nearly ten years living in Dubai and I am so ready for home. For family. For normality back home in the UK. This place frustrates me very single day. But it can be beautiful, it never stops, and there is no place on earth like it. The glitz and glamour is not for me, and I have let this stand in the way of experiencing all that is good about this city and country. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for this opportunity and to make the most of it, for me and my family. Right, I’m off to explore!

  4. Karen Brown says:

    Thank you for influencing our inspiration in even another way! Gratidude is a favorite word of mine. I very much appreciate the positive light you two ladies shine for us every day. I love this partnership and look forward to many wonderful and beautiful things from you and your products. Thank you for all you do :)

  5. Molly says:

    This is so powerful. I didn’t move to China but to the West Coast (from lifelong East coast living for almost 50+ years). I fully embrace what Heidi says so beautifully in this post. It’s not easy but I wouldn’t trade these magical transformative times with my family or the gift of my own personal growth for anything. I feel incredibly blessed but I take nothing for granted. I savor each moment and give thanks more than I ever have in life. Thank you Heidi and Becky for sharing this. It’s very meaningful. I will re-read it often.

  6. Kolleen Moss says:

    Heidi and Becky,
    What a blessing your story is Heidi. I have never lived out of the country and cannot imagine doing so especially with all the kiddos you had/have. We had 2 major moves in one year. From Texas to SC to NC. 3 little boys and we were still living within 5 miles of where we grew up. Both of these moves were an amazing adventure. We explored, met new friend and had an awesome time. 23 years later we love our home in NC., and cannot imagine moving back to Texas. One thing I tell people often is God puts awesome people everywhere, not just in our old home town! Thanks for sharing your amazing journey to China!

  7. Gina says:

    Thank you Heidi & Becky. What a good life lesson. I’m going to remember this the next time I’m bitter about something. It’s easy to be grumpy and see the bad but every though it’s difficult, how much richer your life is for seeing the good and being thankful.

  8. Sherry M says:

    Thank You Heidi for reminding us all to be grateful for all life has to offer us, good with bad. And how we all should weed out the negative from the positive to live a healthier and happier life-style. What a profound difference positive thinking people do for our lives. I too, will work hard at being more positive to those around me. And Bless You Becky for sharing this story with us all. Truly did remind me to be a better person

  9. Holly says:

    This hit home so hard today. We’re selling the majority of our stuff, paring down to just six suitcases worth of belongings and me and my two beautiful boys, 5 and 7, are flying across the country to live in a mostly empty apartment, so that we can be with my husband for the remainder of his extended internship. On top of all that, I just found out that my trip to visit my husband in July resulted in an unintended souvenir and we are expecting. Taking some crazy steps to keep our little family together, and I am terrified how hard it is going to be. But I know it’s what we need to do, no matter how scary it is, and I’m hoping it will be an experience that pulls us closer together, and that the sacrifices we make will be worth it. Trying to be grateful, but it’s scary and hard.

  10. Peggy Thompson says:

    I had the privileged to meet Heidi at scrapfest a couple of years ago. It was the first time I had ever seen this woman yet she talked to me like she had known me forever. That is genuine and rare in this day and time. Heidi-you are the BOMB!!!!!!

  11. Karen C says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing.

  12. Bliss Ann says:

    Hello Heidi and Becky, I am filled with delicious joy after reading Heidi’s account of her Beijing experience! I remember following her posts back then and how she started making the world’s cutest downloadable scrapbook supplies (and selling them from China, as I recall) so that others–who were like herself and trapped in a world without local scrapbook stores–could easily document their favorite moments in amazing and beautiful ways… And, of course, those customers could then increase their bliss and gratitude just by focusing on those pix, written accounts and layouts. Thank you both for the wonder and delight you bring so faithfully to the scrapbooking/memory keeping/card making world. Yesterday and today I made cards using Heidi’s Project Life supplies. As I did so, I really got it WHY Heidi is my all-time-fave paper goods designer! Her stuff is hands down THE MOST FUN!!!! And, in the case of the cards I made (one for a wedding, one for a birthday), I KNOW the recipients will ADORE them, be uplifted by them….and likely REMEMBER them! Thank you both for bringing these amazing supplies to us and making them accessible at places such as Michael’s!!!!

  13. Patty Bessmer says:

    As always, Heidi has a beautiful way with words. What a refreshing article about prescriptive and gratitude. Being a military wife and sharing the Air Force adventure for the past 24 years, is to find the extraordinary in each new place even if some may view it as ordinary. Our family go to idea is that each assignment is like going on extended vacation to a new place and we get to bring everything with us. Thanks for putting your experienceuch more eloquently

  14. Kris says:

    What a beautiful article Heidi.
    I love reading these Sunday guest posts that are so honest and real.

  15. Alyssa says:

    Thank you for this post – just what I needed! I love the positivity you’re radiating; it’s not full of “do this, do that and you’ll have a happier life” but rather, a real story that’s so inspiring i’d like to do the same. So thanks again! Love your blog! x

  16. Julie says:

    Hi Heidi and thank you for that post. I have lived in three different African countries with my husband and four kids. I have been that woman who was negative, and I have been the positive woman who took you out biking, and everyone in between. It’s not just about being positive; you do need the gratitude as well. Scrapbooking and card-making have been an outlet for me, too, and as I write I am eagerly waiting for my mail (it takes three weeks to get here but I’m so GRATEFUL that I can actually get it….) and one of those boxes is from Becky Higgins and contains Heidi Swapp products!

  17. Karen Holland says:

    I can relate to a lot of what you said Heidi having been an ex-pat myself in both Argentina and South Africa and I agree that it is an amazingly rewarding experience for so many reasons. Your time in China will be so valuable not only to you and your husband but to your children as well. Thank you for reminding us that we should see all our experiences through the filter of gratitude. God knows what He is doing and he is growing us through both good and bad experiences. They are given to us as gifts of learning and we grow throughout them all. And thank you Becky for your blog and for your wisdom and for sharing your life with us through your amazing Project Life. Good on you! Your Aussie friend, Karen x

  18. I completely agree. It is thankfulness that keeps us going. The second we lose that is the second we start to sink into the waters. Our thankful hearts keep our eyes on Christ and lift us up to see that he will take care of us. Much love!

  19. Candy W. says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is hard to see the good even in a not so good situation but reading your story made me think about some things I am dealing with right now. Love you, your products and love to watch your videos.

  20. Mary Hunt says:

    This is a really cool and amazing story and I am so glad I read it!!

  21. Irene Gaona says:

    WOW, this sure almost made me cry, this note couldn’t be in a better moment, thanks for opening my eyes, and show me to see everything with gratitude ;)

  22. Emily says:

    Yes! My mom taught me this from a young age, to see the good and appreciate the adventures. Scrapbooking helps me remember this – that in any moment, I can see it from a lot of different angles, and describe it with different words. Happiness is a choice, every moment.

  23. lisa sorrow says:

    I am so excited about the pairing between you and Heidi Swapp! thanks for your comments above. Such a good insight!!!! I sometimes feel stuck and unsure of what I am going to do, I am grateful for people like you that keep me motivated to record my family history.

  24. Mary says:

    What a beautiful story, Heidi! I was just trying to imagine how it was taking 5 children to a foreign land- you must have felt like you were counting kids all the time!

  25. Lisa Charlotte says:

    This is such a critical message that we teach our children. I have moved all my life and treat every new place as an experience to savor as I may never be back. Giving our children opportunities to see other cultures is invaluable. And this is not restricted just to traveling overseas. I can’t tell you the number of people that are so closed to seeing the “flyover” states of our amazing country.