Journaling across generations

I started keeping a journal after a writing workshop at University of Pennsylvania that I attended as a high school student. I kept them faithfully for at least a decade, tapered off in my consistency after the birth of my daughter, experimented with forms (most recently adapting a bullet journal style) and renewed my habit in the last few years but still not with the same devotion I once did.

I used to fill a standard cheap journal in a month. Larger, fancier volumes took longer. I color coded a lot of my text. One color for fiction, one color for poetry and another for personal experience. That sort of thing.

The blank ones included sketches. Briefly, I used calligraphy pen and even briefer a fancy fountain pen.

My current fascination is Alphabooks, blank journals in the shape of alphabet letters. I found the A on clearance. My husband had recommended his mother buy me the N for Christmas as it is the second letter of my name, but I fooled them and mentioned if I had the chance I would continue the series with B and write alphabetically.

I also have an affinity for Sharpie pens. I bought a set in August 2016 and they are still going strong.

Eventually, my journals ended up in a box in the attic. Or, several boxes, more accurately.

My now 13-year-old daughter has always been captivated by the written word, always written in notebooks, constantly starting projects and ripping out pages (and never finishing). She has started working on her own stories, but journaling hasn’t held her interest.

 

But she keeps asking to read my journals. I cringe.

I tell her she needs to remember that journals have a lot of angst in them, a lot of unfiltered, unedited thoughts and that what I say in these journals might not always be… well… nice or even what I would say on a different day. And some of my tales might color her opinion of the people she knows, even her own family.

But she keeps asking.
I bought her a nice journal for Christmas. And a HUGE set of Flair pens. She has journaled for 15

days straight. She starts on her journaling journey as I wonder if mine has been worth it. Who wants to read that drivel? There are so many volumes are they worth sifting through? Do I say hateful things?

She asked again. She volunteered to get them from the attic. We sorted through the boxes and at some point I had labeled the cover of the journal with the major events of that time period. I selected a pile of about ten I said she could read.

She started with the journal that included when her father and I got married.

She’s read me excerpts: story ideas I’d forgotten about, adventures and misadventures,

my life as a vegetarian. My favorite thus far has been a poem about my nephew when he was about 3, and a page where he scribbled in my journal. Then my daughter found a journal where she was 2, and I let her scribble in my journal.

So I guess those journals are worth something.

The wonder and brilliance of children

I am far from a perfect parent. I show my daughter my strength and also my weakness. 

I love children. If I had more patience, I would have spent more time with as many of them as possible. 

A little boy occasionally comes into the store where I work in the café. I believe he comes with his grandmother and by the time they reach me, she seems exasperated. And I know why.

They have their shopping bags. They are ready to leave. She offers him a pizza.

He’s about four and he never stops talking. And I try my best not to interrupt him because my manners need to demonstrate how people listen to and engage others. Then the questions start.

It’s Easter week. The store is busy. At this particular moment, I’m momentarily caught up and there’s no one waiting. 

So I answer his questions. These aren’t dumb questions, these are “how things work” questions. What is that light? What’s that sound? I explain everything he asks about, even though his grandparent clearly wants to go. But he’s processing, he’s learning, and maybe someday he’ll be a scientist or an engineer because of this interest in how things work.

But now, my daughter.

I frequently help my friend Nancy with her writing career. Nancy is an essayist and poet. She’s also blind so sending an email, managing submissions and finding writing markets can be challenging with a sighted person at a computer. Her diligence and prolific work habits inspire me so the relationship is mutually beneficial.

My daughter is on spring break so she joined Nancy and I at Dunkin Donuts where I sipped iced coffee flavored with pistachio and Nancy drank her vanilla chai. And we even had donuts!

When we were done working, my daughter piped in.

She thought it would be interesting if we all wrote flash nonfiction about the morning to see the different perspectives. Nancy and I were thrilled. We set word counts and pledged to write and submit this piece.

Daughter and I did ours. We love them. Can’t wait to see what Nancy does.

Made possible because we listened to a child. 

Good doesn’t matter

Like any human, I have good days and bad. This weekend was hard for me. Blame hormones. A sick cat. Family members who don’t see eye to eye with me. Whatever you like. Reality is… Such is life.

I have been focusing a lot of time and energy on diet and exercise recently, but today (and yesterday) I couldn’t bring myself to lift my weights or go for a walk. Instead, I went to Dunkin Donuts. Had a 250+ calorie iced coffee and not one but two donuts. Some people get drunk, I prefer a sugar high. It didn’t work.

So I talked to some friends. Thanks to them, I felt more myself. My family challenged me to the first day’s training session from the app “Couch to 5K” (C25K). We did it. As a family. Now I can eat something small for dinner and not feel badly.

Looking over some of my notes from today I am reminded once again that the things that make you feel accomplished are those achievements outside your comfort zone: going for a run when you don’t think you have the physical strength, tap dancing when you’re really awful at it…

Or for me, even fashion illustration. And sharing it with the world. My fiction manuscripts are set in the high fashion world (and oddly enough, Francophone Africa). I have always designed dresses and clothes for the characters.

I am not an artist. But, while feeling poorly today, I designed the dress in the photograph. It’s worn by a French woman who marries a half-French, half Issa-Somali Muslim man from Djibouti. She’s a trouble maker who lost her left leg (and some other body parts) to an IED in Afghanistan.

Doughnuts might not be good for me. I might not draw well. I must look like an idiot running around my local park. But today, these things soothed me.IMG_1262.JPG