Showing posts with label journal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label journal. Show all posts

April 11, 2015


I have mentioned several times that I have a slight obsession with journals. I've kept one ever since I was 10. The past few years though, I seem remiss about writing in mine

Well, this year, I decided I needed to write more. Not just blog, not just write on my laptop, but actually WRITE... even if nobody reads it, and even if the Peanut is grabbing for the pages and my pen.

Long before it was the 'in thing' to Instagram coffee and food pics, I often took photos of my journal with whatever I happen to be drinking at the time. It helped me keep track of which journals accompanied me on various trips.

This one is from Scotland. I remember because that was the most delightful millionaire's shortbread I'd ever eaten. 

And this is from my favorite little cafe back in my old town in Pennsylvania.

Earlier in the year, I took this photo and posted it on Instagram and said something about New Year, New Journal. I haven't written much in it since, but I've at least scribbled a few things. I'm thinking I need to just make a bit more time during the day to scribble a bit more. 

Oh and that delightful thing atop my coffee? That's a Dutch stroopwaffel. They are delicious cold, but extraordinary when you heat them for a few minutes atop your coffee. YUM.

December 5, 2014

Journal Block?

Last week on Thanksgiving (was that really over a week ago?!) I mentioned my 50 plus journals and how every year I write out what I'm thankful for.

Suffice it to say, with guests visiting, the Sailor arriving home, and the four-month-old Peanut's neediness, I haven't gotten around to writing that list yet, although I've been mulling it around in my head. 

Actually, I've really been mulling around the reasons why it's taking me so long to finish this particular journal.

I bought this current journal in Abu Dhabi in April of 2012. It's a pocket-sized book in a bright turquoise blue — a reminder of the fabulous pedicure I had in the country. My hands look like I spend my days washing dishes without gloves, but if it's sandal weather, I tend to make sure my toenails are actually polished. Turquoise was the color I chose for the remainder of that trip.

Pick any journal off of my shelf and I'll be able to tell you what country I was in and what was going on in my life simply by looking at the book itself. I may not be able to remember the Sailor's mobile phone number, but I can remember where I was while writing the story of my life. Friends who know me well have gifted me gorgeous leather-bound and handmade paper journals from far-flung places around the globe. At the moment I have several from Egypt begging to be filled. 

I picked the small turquoise journal in Abu Dhabi because I envisioned taking it further afield to other international trips to Scotland and Ukraine that summer. Smaller size equals easier transport. Instead, I started the journal on July 4th and due to extenuating family circumstances, didn't get on a plane to anywhere until much later in the year.

Over two years later, this journal still has a few blank pages in it. It's been to South Africa and the Caribbean, plus several States on a 3000-mile road trip, and yet I still can't seem to finish it. I used to complete a pocket-sized journal on a two week trip to Eastern Europe. And yet, despite the crazy few years I've had and the life-changing events along the way, I haven't been able to finish this journal. 

I blame technology to some extent. My iPhone now goes everywhere with me instead of my journal. I type out notes with my finger instead of my pen, and I make lists and calendar entries by clicking open apps. 

I blame this blog a bit, because let's face it, I've written pretty regularly on here for two years now, and it's much faster for me to type than to write anything. Plus it's getting increasingly difficult to reread my handwriting. Not because my eyesight is going, but because my writing is getting sloppier. 

I blame the book that has been stagnating on my computer for years while I try to figure out when I'm ever going to return to Ukraine to write its conclusion. I spent the summer of 2012 partly rereading many of those old journals, while typing out my story of summers past. Clearly I neglected the current journal in the process.
On the other hand (and new baby aside...) it's time to stop blaming other stuff. I think I've just been a little lazy. I often tell other people to write out their thoughts when they are going through life transitions, and yet here I am, trying to muster up the energy to finish writing out the birth story of the Peanut before I forget every little detail, and I only have three pages left to fill. THREE! 

This is the journal that saw the death of my older brother, a special reunion with life-long friends, a major move across the country, pregnancy and a new baby, plus the death of my lifetime mentor — all HUGE events that warrant handwritten thoughts and memories, and yet many of them barely got so much as a scribble of acknowledgement.

It's one thing to type out part of my story, it's quite another to write it out. While I'm thankful my mother made me take typing in school (back in the days when it wasn't even required!) I'm far more grateful that she bought me my first ever journal, giving me a place to store my secrets. (I shared more of that story in an article in the Winter 2014 edition of Artful Blogging.)

Part of me knows that once I start a new journal, the words will come easier. Sometimes a blank slate is all you need. More than once, I've filled up journals from the back as well as the front. The back holds the lists of books I've read since I started that journal (48 in the current journal that I remembered to write down... there could be more.) There are also cinema ticket stubs (at least 18 — some may have fallen out along the way), as well as packing lists, to do lists, and words of wisdom printed on tea bags such as 'grace brings contentment'. 

This particular journal seems to have more stuff scribbled and pasted into the back than usual — like I have been desperately trying to finish this book without having to write anything of substance in it.

I haven't traveled anywhere of late, but the journal does seem to move from room to room with me, willing me to finally finish it. 

It's sitting here next to me on the desk. I definitely don't want to stretch this writing rut into 2015. So, if you'll excuse me, I think while the Peanut is miraculously still sleeping (on his own!), I may just have to finish my story, and this particular journal. 

After all, a new story and a new journal awaits.

January 19, 2014

Scrapbooking on the Cheap: Part I

Ever since my mom bought me my first journal, I have had a love affair with paper and everything related to it: books, magazines, scrapbooks, cards and even office supplies. It's not easy for me to walk past a store that sells paper without at least having a look inside.

Before 'scrapbooking' was a household term, I collected bits of ephemera from road trips and pasted them into a plain spiral bound notebook, labeling it something like 'Brenda's Scrapbook'. (Clever, eh?!) The only thing I paid for were the photos and the actual notebook.

When stickers arrived on the scene in the 1980s, I couldn't contain myself. Unicorns, My Little Ponies, and anything that resembled a horse somehow ended up in my sticker collection. My friends and I traded them, we wore them, we spent money on them. 

Only I didn't have a lot of money in elementary school. I got an allowance, but that certainly didn't go far in the sticker realm. The sticker albums were something else -- I don't remember what they cost, but I do know they were way beyond my budget. 

My mother came up with a plan so that I could still swap stickers at school -- she somehow amassed a bunch of those clear plastic sheets and we put construction paper on the inside. I had a little binder to put the sheets in and suddenly, I had my own sticker book. The stickers still came off easily, and even though I didn't have an 'official' sticker book, I still had a fully functional, and personalized one to carry around.

When craft stores like Michaels came on the scene, I was well into adulthood, but I still about died when I first set foot in one. So much creativity and craftiness under one roof! And all of those stickers! 

I didn't revert to childhood with the unicorns, but I did start to collect bits and pieces for my modern-day scrapbooks.  But I soon discovered that this little hobby of mine was starting to add up. It had never cost me much before... and suddenly, I was out more than just pocket change.

There was still something about paper, scissors and a glue stick that I couldn't resist though. I started looking for ways to continue with my hobby, but I tried to creatively come up with ideas that were cheaper than simply buying all new supplies at a craft store. 

Later this week, I'll share some of those secrets with you. In the meantime, head over to Doris Sander's blog, meanderings and check out her fantastic scrapbooks and photos. I discovered her just a short while ago and she has again inspired me to start scrapbooking again (ever since we moved, I have hardly touched a glue stick). Her scrapbooks make me want to hold them in my hand and turn the pages myself!

January 1, 2013

Happy Chilled Out 2013

Wow. Welcome to 2013. By now, every time zone in the world will have rung in the New Year. You may have awoken to this new day and year, ready to tackle the list created in your mind or journal -- your resolutions to accomplish this year.

Me? I stayed up far too late trying to solve the world's problems with a fellow creative friend and then I slept away the morning. 

Perhaps it's simply the lack of sleep or the yucky weather outside at the moment, but I'm not super motivated to do anything today, let alone try to get everything done on my own list. 

And for now, that's ok. You see, I want 2013 to be a pretty chilled year. I have goals of course, but they are more specific to the pursuit of my overall lifestyle and not just goals I only want to establish for the year. (Intrigued? Read more here.)  

I took these photos of this cardinal a few years ago, at a park near where I live. I have always liked how chilled out he seemed. Even after I walked under the tree, taking several photos of him, he just looked at me -- very chilled, and not only from the cold. Nothing seemed to ruffle his feathers.

He simply sat perched there, looking at the world, assessing his place in it -- and not at all bothered by distractions. 

I have a lot of distractions some days in my life. Especially in today's society, where everything is connected and news of anything arrives at your screen(s) in an instant. Today's distractions have already included emails and updates of other friends' resolutions. 
Awhile back, I came across this journal (the one where I felt like I hadn't accomplished much by the end of the year.) 

I think I got so distracted by the actual goals inside the journal (lose weight, read a book a week), as well as how I was faring in my resolutions compared to others, that I missed out on the irony of the first and last item on this back page: 'Be Real' and 'Be Brenda'.

If I don't have the confidence to live my life in the direction I know I'm supposed to go (even if it looks different from the path others are on), I cannot and will not 'Be Real' or 'Be Brenda'. I will simply be someone distracted by all that is going on around me, comparing myself to a standard set by others, when in fact that's not at all what's meant for me. 

Today, I applaud your resolutions and goals -- I'd love to hear more of them. I stand behind you and support you in what you want to accomplish this year. 

However, I refuse to take on your goals and resolutions on as my own personal goals -- because I'm not you. I'm Brenda. And in order for me to 'Be Brenda', I have to 'Be Real' about how I get there -- which may indeed look quite different from how you will get to be you

Today, I'm simply going to start 2013 as me -- the 2013 chilled out version.

December 19, 2012

Head Start on New Year's Resolutions

In less than two weeks, it's likely most of us will be declaring our New Year's Resolutions to family, friends and collegues. 

Or, if you're more like me, you may scribble the resolutions down perhaps in a private journal -- a kind of insurance to make sure nobody knows whether or not you have succeeded by the end of the year.

Admit it -- most of us have high expectations. We want to lose (insert pounds/kilos/stones), we want to do more, be better, pass the exam and get the promotion. We want to look like and actually be one of the 'successful' people. 

A few years ago, I made myself a goal book. I had some lofty goals in mind. I wanted to read one book a week, lose weight, do various photography projects, and get rid of other 'baggage' in my life -- all in one go! 

I definitely had some high ambitions. Throughout the year I referred to the book and kept a tally of how far behind I was on various projects. At the end of 2010, I looked back on my goal book and felt like a failure. I read half as many books as I wanted to, lost only a few pounds (and then gained them all back) cooked less than I planned to, and still had some baggage lurking, both proverbially and physically. 

My procrastination skills got the better of me in 2011 and instead of creating a new goal book, I revisited the 2010 book and focused on what I DID actually accomplish. I realized that although I didn't read 56 books that year, I still read 25 -- and that was better than not reading anything. I noticed that while I didn't get to all of the recipes I wanted to try out, I still cooked and baked a slew of new ones. I was so focused on what I didn't get done that I totally missed the things I actually accomplished. 

For 2012, I casually kept track of the new recipes I tried on a piece of paper on the fridge, wrote down the books I read in the back of my journal, and took photos of every crafty project I completed -- more out of being a pedantic record-keeper than anything else. After a while, without the 'pressure' of checking to see that I was fulfilling my quota of goals, the resolutions actually became a habit

While I came up with generic mottos for the year: read more, write more, walk more, eat healthier, love others -- along the way I discovered that by letting go of measuring myself, I had actually completed more -- and the 'more' was in fact better quality. 

I'm a firm believe in writing down your goals -- I don't remember who proved the theory or when, but apparently you have a much higher chance of reaching your target if you physically WRITE down your goals -- even if you never look at that piece of paper ever again. 

(This own theory has been proven in my life. During my third year at University, I wrote down a page worth of what seemed to be impossible and absurd things I wanted to do in life. Ten years later, I found that piece of paper and nearly passed out. Nearly everything except 'learn the guitar' had actually happened...)

However, I do think New Year's Resolutions are often in a special pressure-cooker category. I think sometimes we compare ourselves to others, or even our own image (past, present and what we think should be the future), so much that we forget that a resolution or goal is a process and doesn't often happen overnight. 

So we make a resolution, and by January 31st, we feel like a failure because we didn't go to the gym three times that week, or because we devoured two helpings of chocolate cake, or because we got angry with a family member. And then we throw in the towel.

The truth is, resolutions are not easy. They take time. Bear in mind that you may fall off the resolution horse. But then you get back on.

As a child, I had a pony. She wasn't the most obedient thing -- she ran away once and she used to do numerous things at horse shows to purposely embarrass me, I think. She also bucked me off several times. Each time, my mother made me climb back up on her. 

I used to believe it was so I wouldn't be scared of riding after the fall. In reality, I had to get back on my stubborn pony to show her that I was still in charge -- and that she wasn't the boss of me. 

So as you plan your New Year's Resolutions, keep that in mind. No matter what pitfalls January brings, you still have 11 months after that to climb back onto the horse. (Then again, who made the rule that you have to get it all done in 12 months?) Just because your goal book is only half full at the end of this year or even next, it doesn't mean you've failed. It simply means that some things may take a little longer -- and that's okay.

Above all else, stop comparing yourself to others. I did that for a long time -- and once I actually stopped, I saw far more potential in myself than I realized. Read that story here.  

(Of course, this is my own method for accomplishing my personal New Year's Resolutions. Maybe you have a different story -- how do you stay on track?)