Monday, November 30, 2015

Pepys's Diary

The Diary of Samuel Pepys
Thursday 27 November 1662 
At my waking, I found the tops of the houses covered with snow, which is a rare sight, that I have not seen these three years.

Up, and put my people to perfect the cleaning of my house, and so to the office, where we sat till noon; and then we all went to the next house upon Tower Hill, to see the coming by of the Russia Embassador; for whose reception all the City trained-bands do attend in the streets, and the King’s life-guards, and most of the wealthy citizens in their black velvet coats, and gold chains (which remain of their gallantry at the King’s coming in), but they staid so long that we went down again home to dinner.

Samuel Pepys lived from 1633 to 1703 and kept an extensive diary over about 10 years. He was a hardworking business man who lived in very interesting times, surviving plagues, wars, and the London fire. His diary is one of the chief sources of ordinary life in Reformation England.

You can find his diary here: and you can sign up for daily emails!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Art Journals

by an unknown artist who is not me
I love art journals. I'm a huge fan of mixed media collage, especially with a liberal sprinkling of words. On the other hand, I find art journals to be completely intimidating. I like to draw, but don't do it very well.

And I know that the journals that you see on Pinerest are not first efforts. Those books are by professional artists and they are not showing you the pages they did when they were first learning to draw or were having an off day. It's their best work.

Still, wow. Beautiful, but ...

All the journals I make (see tab above) have blank pages so you can add drawings, doodles, or paste pictures. I sometimes doodle some flowers or faces or coffee cups--I draw a lot of coffee cups--on the actual page I'm writing on, but usually I'm too busy talking on paper to add an image. And when I do add an image it's not going to be something I scan and put on the internet.

When I draw in my journal I'm usually listening to something that doesn't require that I take notes. Music, a boring talk, a podcast. I can't sit still and not do something, so if all else fails I draw. I almost never do color in a journal. Color means paint or marker and those might spoil the pages underneath where the writing is, and the writing is the important part. Art journals usually have thick pages that prevent bleed-through but thick, 300lb cold press paper is total overkill for a regular journal--the kind with words.

So I collect art journals on Pinterest and love to look at them, but I'm pretty careful not to compare what I do with that. Comparisons are odious anyway, and that kind of comparison can freeze your blood, which makes fun doodling and fun writing no fun at all.

It's way better to just doodle and enjoy yourself. Say what's in your heart and maybe add an illustration you clipped out of a magazine or draw your least favorite person and give them big ears and an eggplant nose.

And if you are a fabulous artist please leave a link in the comments section. I love to look at art!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Journal Prompt

Write a future biography.

"If you don't know where you are going, you are going to arrive there anyway." I don't know who originally said it and I'm not sure I'm quoting them accurately. It's a meme I saw somewhere, probably on Facebook.  But, goodness gracious, it's true.

Drifting through life is very easy and comfortable. There isn't really anything wrong with it BUT (and there's always a "but") it's not juicy and exiting. It doesn't make you shiver with delight. Those things only happen when you reach for impossible things.

I recently sat in a circle of people who had each written one-page future vision statements. They had been invited to write about themselves 5, 10, or 15 years into the future. Some found it almost impossible to do. The future was just a dark mystery and they couldn't think of anything. Others had detailed plans and had obviously been thinking about it a lot and were glad of the opportunity to share all their dreams and goals.

And then there were two or three who said some form of "This is all a fantasy. None of this stuff is going to happen." All of the people in this category wrote about wonderful things. Interesting job, children, comfortable home, loving spouse, etc. Impossible, empty dreams?

Let's pretend.

Let's pretend that those impossible, empty dreams could actually happen. What's that like? Why do you want that stuff to happen? Why won't it happen? What's stopping you? How do you get around those obstacles?

It's true that there really are barriers that are impossible to get around. Women in their 60s can't become police officers. Men who are 5'10" tall will never play for the NBA.  However, there are ways to punch holes in barriers that will let some of your dreams come true. Women in their 60s can do volunteer work at the police department. Men who love basketball can organize an amateur team.

My grandfather wanted to live on a farm. Unfortunately he had a very well-paying job in the outskirts of Los Angeles and farming wasn't an option. So he farmed his yard. He had the most beautiful flower gardens and lawns in the neighborhood. It satisfied his soul until he could retire and buy a real farm.

There are ways to make dreams come true. There are always ways to get closer, further down the road, within reach of whatever makes you laugh with pleasure. But if you don't plan how to get there that happy life will not hunt you down. You have to look for it yourself.

What do you want your future to look like? Write it down and get really wild. Ask for the moon and the stars and maybe you'll find your dreams and they'll be covered in stardust.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What's the difference between a diary and a journal?

Dear Diary:
Today I did the laundry most of the morning, had lunch with Mom and then shopped for shoes. Jack called and reminded me about Saturday.

Journal Entry:
I've been so focused on work I realized this morning I haven't done laundry in two weeks. The laundry basket has been sitting there, stuffed to the gills, and staring at me accusingly for days. So I did that.

I had lunch with Mom and we had a great talk. The lab tests were all negative so we had chocolate mousse for desert. Only because Francisco's doesn't serve champagne. Neither of us likes champagne anyway. Asterisk: don't order chicken at Francisco's again. Stick to the burgers.

I am NOT going to visit Jack's brother next Saturday. His house gives me the creeps and he has the conversational skills of a tree toad. I'm still figuring out how to get out of it without hurting Jack's feelings.


A diary is a daily record of what you did. It is extremely handy. Journals work for that too, but are usually so chatty it's hard to find something if you need to figure out when you last had the car's oil changed or exactly what day Margaret's kid was born. Nobody's ever going to want to read your diary unless your name is Samuel Pepys.

Journals are different. Journal pages are letters to yourself. That's where you talk about the stuff that would end up in a diary.  In the example above, on a previous page in the journal you would probably have shared how incredibly worried you were about your mom's lab tests. That page would have gently received your pain and grief and this page gladly accepts your relief and joy.

The diary (in the example above) will reflect how you went alone to a movie on Saturday. The journal entry will go into some detail about the tense conversation you and Jack had about his brother.

So diaries are lovely. Keep one of those too, somewhere. You should definitely include an asterisk about the chicken at Francisco's.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How do you really feel?

Diary of Henriette Dessaulles, 1874
One of the best reasons to keep a journal is finding out how you really feel about something.

Journals don't give advice, frown at you or lecture you about how you OUGHT to be feeling. Pick a topic that's been bothering you lately and really air it out. Too often we just bury things we're guilty about feeling. We bury our stuff in television, work, video games, or high-fat, high-sugar food. Your journal isn't going to be disappointed in you or argue back. It's only going to "listen."

We also bury things that we think we can't do anything about.

"What's the point? I can't do anything about that." You may or may not be right. There may be something you can do that you haven't thought of and writing about it will bring that something to mind. You may think of someone you can ask for help. Who knows? You won't know until it all gets out and looked at. If you are right and it's a situation you can't fix, then you have done what you can do about it. You've written about it and gotten your opinions out of you and onto the page. Sometimes that's all you can do and sometimes (certainly not always!) it's enough.

Oddly, your journal can also give you a different perspective.

When you write about whatever is bothering you, get silly. Get exaggerated. Lecture yourself about how you SHOULD feel, and then argue back. Write from the point of view of the person who is bothering you. What do you think they'd say to you about this thing? Write from the point of view of Mother Theresa, or your mother, or Obama, or Eric Cartman. What would any of those people say about what's going on? You can get amazing insight by looking at something from a lot of different directions.

But don't take anything Eric Cartman says too seriously.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Free postage from

I have to admit I'm partial to the spiral bound versions of the journals. I like a journal that lays flat, especially when I'm drawing. handles all the spiral bound version of the journals. is offering free postage until Nov. 4!  enter code USMAIL11 (case-sensitive) at checkout to get free mail shipping

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Journal Prompt

Sudarshan V
"When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky." ~ Buddha

Of course, Buddha said nothing of the sort. This appears to be a sort of rephrasing of part of a Buddhist poem:
Since everything is but an illusion,
Perfect in being what it is,
Having nothing to do with good or bad,
Acceptance or rejection,
One might as well burst out laughing! 
from chapter 1 of The Great Perfection’s Self-Liberation in the Nature of Mind, by Longchenpa (1308-1364)
Prompt: So what does perfect mean? How can the world be perfect?

Commonplace Books

"Commonplace book mid 17th century" by Beinecke Flickr Laboratory 
Commonplace books are almost journals but not quite. They are filled with anything you want to remember, quotes, lists, pictures, recipes. They are almost but not quite a scrap book.

They reason commonplace books don't quite make journal status is because they were almost never used to discuss the entries. I might throw a recipe in my journal but I'll talk about it, why I like it, what I'd change about it and so on. My journal is a place where I discuss things with myself.

A commonplace book would be a place to throw an idea so I won't forget it or to stash a funny quote that I know I'd like to share on Facebook later.

There's more about these interesting artifacts from the past on Wikipedia. (It's where I got that wonderful picture!)