What’s Your Story?

Do you keep journals? Write in a diary?

What is a journal? Business people will tell you that it’s a “record that keeps accounting transactions in chronological order, i.e. as they occur. ”

Writers use journals to come up with story ideas or to make memory lists for memoir. Journals help us tap into our creativity.

Mental health professionals often suggest keeping a journal as a means to discover your inner self and identify issues you may have hidden from yourself.

Journals can be very private or shared with individuals or groups.

Journals and diaries are a way to:

  • leave your legacy for your children
  • sort out your feelings about the past
  • communicate with yourself and others
  • unleash the right side of your brain (creativity)
  • figure out day-to-day issues and time management
  • understand your life story
  • keep track of a specific event as it is happening in your life

I tend to use random spiral notebooks for my journals, but there are many more formal journals you can purchase. They may have “prompts” in case you aren’t sure what to write about.

Years ago, after the birth of my first grandchild, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a journal called “Grandma, Tell Me Your Story.” Each page had a prompt for each day of the year. There were blank pages at the end where I could write whatever came to mind. The topics were something like:

  • January 1 – How did your family celebrate the New Year?
  • January 2 – What were your favorite activities in the winter?

Most months had holiday-specific prompts (if there was a holiday that month) as well as general topics like “Did you ever get in trouble at school? What did you do?” or “What was your favorite Halloween costume? Describe it.” One particularly poignant page in September asked “Where were you on 9/11?”

I wrote in the journal each day and by the end of the year, I returned it to my son for my granddaughter to read in the future.

Recently, I found another “Grandmother” journal that I plan to write WITH my granddaughter. It’s a “back and forth” journal where one of us writes and tJounral grandmahe other responds.

I am scheduled for a major surgical procedure next week and have been journaling about it. It will require major lifestyle changes so I am ambivalent and a little scared. Will I be able to do what is needed to stay healthy? I’d planned to grab a regular notebook to write in, but my friend said I should buy a special journal since this will be a major change in my life. She thought it would be wise to write down the process as well as my anxiety and feelings of anticipation. Why am I having the procedure? How will it improve my life? What will I be able to do afterwards that I can’t do now? What is the doctor telling me day-to-day?

I saw some journals at the card store while I was looking for Father’s Day and birthday cards. One caught my eye. It was beautifully bound and combined adult coloring designs and lined pages. But, it cost $25 so I put it down. A spiral notebook would only cost $2 or so. I told my friend, an adult coloring book fan, about it and she said I needed to go back and get the journal. “You deserve it.”

While out shopping, I was near another card store, same company. I decided to stop in rather than driving across town to the one where I originally saw the journal. Disappointed, no journals like it were to be seen. I asked the cashier as I was leaving the store and she pointed, saying, “Check out the clearance table.”

I walked over and laying on the table among scented candles, stuffed Easter bunnies, and small Mother’s Day plaques sat a lone coloring journal. Spiral and paper instead of leather bound, the coloring areas were on the outer margins of each page instead of the top. Price: $5. I couldn’t pass it up. I took it to the cashier and she rang it up at $2.50. Even better. “Clearance” proved true. Being a spiral, it’s easier to open up flat and write.


With a price like that, I couldn’t resist buying a second one listed for $8. It was more elaborate with pale green binding and sayings inside as well as coloring at the top.

I should be set for awhile.

I’ve discovered that writing in the coloring journal isn’t as tiring if I write awhile and then color awhile. Different hand muscles are in use for each activity.

journal inside

I have other journals that I will leave for my children as legacy. There is one about Family Traditions. Each major holiday has page where I wrote about typical ways we celebrated when our sons were small or still living at home. Each page has a pocket side where I store mementos such as cards, place-mats or small items.

There are so many journals out there that are fun and useful. I hope you can find one or two you like. To paraphrase the beginning definition of a journal by accountants –” A journal is a record that keeps personal and family history in chronological order, i.e. as they occur. ” Or not.

Journal mothers


Fighting the Bad Guys

Since the Paris attacks last week, people have posted all kinds of negative things on social media. But today, I watched a very touching video of a Parisian father whose wife was killed in the attack. He is a now a single father of a 17-month old son. He has vowed not to let the terrorists win. He will do this by doing every-day things and teaching his son to be a caring person.

I was raised in a small town in Nebraska in the 1950-60’s. I felt safe. Why? Because I knew people. People watched out for me. I knew people who knew people. We didn’t have electronic devices to communicate, so we learned to watch and observe. We could recognize strangers. We learned to recognize potentially dangerous situations. We knew there were risks of going to certain parts of town after dark. We were taught to observe people, places and things that might harm us. We knew our environment and people watched out for one another.harvest time Cozad 1958

I went off to college to the “big city” of Lincoln, Nebraska. But I still felt safe because I lived in the college community. I knew practically everyone in my dorm and many people in the other dorms. I knew classmates and professors, cleaning people and cafeteria workers. I recognized other college students as we passed, taking the same route to classes every day. We often nodded and greeted one another. I was in organizations on campus and I went to Sunday Mass at the Newman Center where there were more familiar faces. I knew a lot of people in the student section of the stadium, cheering the Huskers to victory. (It was 1971-73 and a great time to be a fan!)

On campuses today, people seem much more isolated, walking around with their heads down, texting or looking at their smart phones. We have not taught our children to be aware of their surroundings, to pick up on signs of danger.

I married a small town boy who had grown up in a more isolated area than I did. He took a job in Omaha. Scared me to death. Big, bad Omaha, where they shoot each other. At least, that is what we read in the newspaper. I soon discovered that Omaha people were friendly. Many of my friends were much like me—raised in a small town, but ended up in the city as adults. I felt safe. My childhood rearing had paid off. I knew what to watch for and how to avoid risky situations. Or at least, recognize that the situation might be risky before I did it anyway.

A few years ago, we moved to Chicago and it was quite a shock.
People in large cities are anonymous. Most people don’t give  eye contact. With all those people, it can be a very lonely place. If you don’t care to know your neighbor, you can have 100 neighbors but no contact with them.IMG_1957.JPG
Our new neighbors must have thought I was a crazy woman because I made cookies and took them to the houses around us and introduced myself. I got to know my neighbors, at least by name, because I took the initiative. Had I waited for them to introduce themselves to me, we would have waited a long time.

Four years later, we were transferred back to Omaha and moved into an established neighborhood.

Immediately, the neighbors came over with cakes and cookies and introduced themselves. One couple had an evening “coffee” with all the neighbors there to meet us. They wanted to know more about us, not in a nosy manner, but an inviting way. And they told us about their jobs, families and situation.

Our society seems to be losing that sense of community and neighborliness. We are so focused on work and making money, that we are becoming more isolated and within ourselves and small group.

The old adage “There is safety in numbers” is true. The more people you know and understand, the better off you are.

So, what does this have to do with terrorism? I think one of the biggest deterrents we can use against terrorism is being neighborly. Get to know people. Don’t be afraid to ask their names. Get to know their backgrounds. Show an interest.

Imagine if people had made an effort to know some of the guys before they shot up movie theaters or college campuses. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe someone would have recognized that this person was dangerous or was “on the edge” and got help or reported their behavior.

Same with the terrorists, who were members of a cell living in Belgium. Belgium, not Syria. NOW people share stories about these people, telling us how bad the neighborhood is, how they felt uneasy around these guys, how they witnessed suspicious behavior. What if these “witnesses” would have shown the same concern before the attack happened?

Of course, there are no guarantees that someone won’t attack, but it might help if we were a little more aware of our surroundings, aware of our neighbors, aware of potentially dangerous or risky situations. And act on them.

  • Get to know your “part of the world.” Observe your environment. Don’t walk around with your nose in your smart phone.
  • Notice things.
  • Ask people about themselves. Be friendly. Get to know them.
  • Become less self-absorbed and more interested in other people.
  • Protect and help those around you. Teach your children what to look for without frightening them.
  • Remind them of their strengths and abilities so they grow to be confident, aware individuals.
  • Focus more on others than your bank account. Check your priorities. What is really of value to you?
  • Broaden your circle of friends. Get to know friends of friends.
  • Don’t let the terrorists or shooters “win.” Live your life without fear.
  • Avoid lumping any group of people together. We Americans are all different. America is a country of refugees and our family roots show us that, at some point, we, too, were refugees. No color, religion, or form of dress defines us. We should not define others by color, religion or dress.

Our country was founded on freedom. We want to protect that freedom but we should also want that freedom for others.

Many times in our history, we have helped others find freedom. Americans helped free the world from Nazi terror in WWII. Our example helped bring down the Berlin Wall. Numerous people are living free today because of American sacrifice. We haven’t always gotten it “right” but we shouldn’t let that stop us.IMG_2872 (2)

Our forefathers didn’t say “Only Christians can come” or “America belongs to only certain people.” One person’s freedom isn’t more important than another’s and we need to show that to the terrorists by living as we always have, an open society willing to give others a chance at freedom.

As I wrap up this blog post this morning, I overhear a gentleman being interviewed on television about how to fight terrorism. He said “Be alert. Be aware. Don’t be afraid.” He must have read my mind.

“Be alert. Be aware. Don’t be afraid” should be our mantra.