January. The month for getting organized, eating right, hitting the gym and starting something new.

I thought I was ready to skip the paper and rely on my iphone to keep my important dates, even send little reminders and be in electronic sync with others.  I also read about “bullet journals” a hybrid between a to-do list, planner and diary that is good for people who would really like to keep a journal/diary but are having trouble sticking with the habit. I didn’t want to be locked in to someone else’s system, having relied on pocket sized Cavallini or Moleskin planners in the past few years.  

I came across my mother’s 1958 calendar, the year I turned two and dad built the house. 

Her neat penciled entries tucked inside the confines of one day. She didn’t use it to mark appointments or track social commitments. These events were recorded after the fact. In her case she didn’t use it as a planner, more of a diary.

The unusual weather events, “February 26. It got up to 59 degrees today. Wendy and Debbie wore their in-betweeners.” The progress on the house “Dick started putting on the rain gutters this evening.” The birth weight of babies born to friends,  “Michael Thomas, 9 pounds, 1 oz.”  Excursions “Went to Dayton’s Daisy sale with Pat. I was on the Randy Merriman TV show! Won a pair of shoes.”

This daily diary became the start of a 60 year habit for Mom, of capturing the large and small events. They were not expansive or reflective in the way we think of “journaling” now, but they created an account of what happened-a record of her life.  I haven’t looked through her whole collection of journals, or diaries, as she called them. It’s not that I think it would be a violation of her privacy, I just haven’t. I see them when I pull into the garage, stored in a clear plastic bin labeled “Journals.” A stack of bins I promised Phil I will sort through–soon.

As a girl, I wrote sporadically in a diary with a latch that locked, wanting to keep out any snoops.

But really there wasn’t anything THAT juicy in my grade school life, instead mostly sweet things- the day our dog died “My baby puppy Daffy was killed by a car at 6:00 pm.” My loopy cursive punctuated with dog hair plucked from the bedspread. There is a pencil drawing of Daffy wearing a collar she never had. A list of boyfriends, my certificate of membership to  the Girl Scouts of America, and a very dry, brittle pressed carnation from my confirmation. 

I graduated to a speckled composition book in college when I started asking more complicated questions of myself and opened myself to new adventures. Seeing the sunrise over the Atlantic from Fort Lauderdale beach. Impressions of new friends on campus.

Now as I read the entry of December 31, 1979 flying into Gatwick it lets me feel my excitement. The me of an earlier time.

 I don’t think we need to guard and hide our words from others.  Unless you are a famous figure, the journals we keep will languish in a chest without anyone knowing their contents. Unless we crack them open. 

I continued Mom’s practice of keeping a diary-a Hallmark pocket calendar, an illustrated travelogue covering my impressions of Europe as a first timer,  a red book chronicling the progress of home improvement projects on our first home, and then journals of motherhood for each of our children.  Later I moved on to longer entries in various styles of notebooks that became less diary and more journal. It provided an invitation to capture ideas, recount stories, solve problems and act as an incubator for subjects to write about later.  All in one place. I find I use my paper calendar as a way to do this too. Little doodles, illustrations, quotations, clips and bits of ephemera tucked in to the pages.

I WANT to keep a paper calendar to capture these things, to share what I have discovered about  myself and others. What about you? What inspires you to keep a record of your life, whether it is calendar, diary or journal?  Or what might keep you from it?

11 thoughts on “Calendar/Diary/Journal?

  1. From one lover of the written word on real paper, in real time, to another, thank you for this. I have my Grandmother’s journals from her trips abroad. She was widowed young, and traveled with her women friends on steam ships to Europe and Asia and Egypt. Think of that! What a confident and adventurous woman. A good role model for us. My mother and father wrote poems to one another when he was stationed on a ship in WWII and my sister has those. These paper records of lives well lived are, for me, dear to my heart. I saw a joke not long ago that said some day we can write notes to each other in cursive and it will be like a secret code the kids can’t read! Maybe. Thank you, Janet

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    1. Janet- You will have to tell me the stories you know about your grandmother’s journeys. I am fascinated by adventuring women in that time period. It seems like a golden age. I feel the same way about WWII era women. They had a taste (many) of what life was like on their own. Ad again I laugh at the idea of cursive being a secret code, especially handwriting in a hurry, like mine is sometimes. I can’t even read it! D


  2. Debra, what a lovely post. I once read a great book about diaries and journaling, called Leaving a Trace. That’s how I think about my journals, which may not ever be read by anyone, but I like leaving something behind. I don’t write daily, but it’s a good place to try out new writing ideas. And think how we treasure the left behind-discovered-and published diaries and journals of women who came long before us and had so few outlets for their words…pioneer women, women who were enslaved, women living through the Civil War.

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  3. You come from a journaling past! I’m so impressed that you still have your mother’s diaries and journals–what a window into her life! My mother was given a travel journal when she got married. She never did much travel, but used it to record funny things we three kids said or did, as well as our immunizations. My journal is essential to me. I admit I use it for many things. Mainly, I do personal journaling and preliminary planning and drafting for my memoir. More often than not, these entries surprise me when they overlap. I also use mine to note passages and takeaways from books I’m reading. Now someone needs to invent a system that will allow me to retrieve all these random items when I need them!

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    1. I understand this system! For me it is also scattered. But just writing it down seems to be what I need. When I go back and retrieve material it is truly hit or miss, that it wasn’t worth probing for. I also think of Terry Tempest Williams, her mother’s journals that were blank. My goodness, it is a mix. But keep going, for sure. Debra


  4. Debra – I so love this post. It was a delight to read about your mother’s journal/dairy habit as well as yours. Especially fun to hear some of the snippets from both. My dad kept daily notes in tiny spiral-bound notebooks for as long as I can remember. Every night he recorded the high and low temperature and a few short notes about the day. I’ve always been a keeper of journals of some sort of the other but never with the same dedication of my Dad. A year ago, my husband and I started a nightly journal of sorts, modeled after what my dad did. We write the high and low temp for each day and things we are both grateful for. In addition to that, I keep journals for writing and have started the whole bullet journal thing to keep track of my day-to-day activities and to keep notes about things.

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    1. Myrna-
      Thank you for sharing this. I love the idea of you and your husband recapping the day like this. How important to record your personal history and experience in this way. Tell me more about the bullet journal system you use. I love the concept! And how wonderful you too have modeled it after your father’s system. Keep on keeping notes about “things.” I love that. Debra


  5. Dear Sister,
    Love, love your work. Adding pictures is perfect- you are very resourceful. Mom was a dedicated journal keeper for sure. I would like to see what she thought was important to record because I tend not to remember details from childhood to recent past. I know they are safe with you. One day soon we will have to have a sister read-a-thon and fill up on Mom’s jottings of our family’s past.
    Thanks, Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Sister- Isn’t that true? The dedication to record happenings in our life. I thought the journals were in Shari’s garage, but lo and behold, I was backing out of the garage and there they were in the bins right next to me. I would love to crack them open at a time and place when we can be together. Mom! Wow! Love, your sis


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