My Grandpa Ray kept a calendar journal. He used the annual free wall calendars from Hoffman’s Hardware store. Each day, he’d jot in the weather, and maybe a note. For instance: “Cloudy. Cort called.” Or “Rain-1 in. Morgann here.” He might state a doctor appointment or if he filled the gas tank, but always the weather. I love these calendars, and I wish I had them (or just one of them!) to browse through. I really admire his consistency, and his simplicity.
On January 1st of 2013, I decided to start a daily journal. Just a few lines each day recording minor happenings, and things the boys said. It was all in an attempt to remember our days, and allow for better documentation and storytelling for our family book (which is my version of Project Life™ that includes stories + photographs). I wasn’t sure if I would stay on track with the journal. I have always kept small books for jotting down ideas, and lists, and memories, but I had never had success maintaining a daily journal.
At the end of February, I’d filled the first journal, and moved into Book Two…which lasted through mid-May, and so on. I kept the journal on my night table. By adding the day’s happenings each night, I got into a great habit, and it was so satisfying to have one full journal. It made me wish I’d started the practice years ago.
I use journals that had been lying around empty. My handwriting in these books is downright messy compared to a thank you note or even my grocery lists. I just wanted to capture the essence of the day, with my filter, mark our course as a family. Sometimes, I forget a few days. I take the journal to the dinner table, and we all four chime in and recollect those events.
It turns out that I’m particular about the size. I think this has to do with the content I’m writing down. I want to fill a page or two. And 4X6 inch books are near-perfect. I happily use lined, unlined, gridded mid-weight paper. But I always customize the covers.
I am feverishly repurposing some journals that I have had for a while. I deconstruct the hardcover, split the too-thick book into thirds, and re-bind in soft cover. (This process is a whole other story that I’m happy to share). I don’t need for these journals to last forever because it seems that the very act of writing it down helps me remember things more clearly.
The journals have become excellent argument enders. For example, when did we see that Stephen King opera? (Saturday, September 28th). Who’s turn is it to host a holiday? (Up for grabs). We also charted our progress through Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. After starts and stops through Book 1, we pulled out Book 2 on Monday, October 14th and read almost nightly through Book 13 on Sunday, February 23rd. Whew.
There are days that only have lists of watercolor paint names, or Oscar nominated films we should watch, or notations about the weather (still no rain; we are in a drought!), or what I cooked. There are lists of what we’re reading, if we see family or friends, and whether the Giants won. There are days that don’t get recorded, and that’s okay. To me, it means we’re living.
Every once in a while, I interview my boys, time-capsuling their favorites; the simple things that they are enjoying right now. And sometimes my own favorites. This may seem vain, but here’s the thing. I would love to have a record of this daily-ness from my mom or my Grandmother. I’d love to know her go-to nail polish color or how often she met up with her friends. I’d love to know her small triumphs (forced amaryllis is blooming!) and her challenges (car battery died…again). Even though I don’t go into much depth, I think you can tell what’s constantly on my mind: my family of four, and the orbit we’re on. Daily. And simple.