Monday, December 19, 2011

Journaling...a noteworthy effort

An inexpensive monthly planner works well as a journal as long as you have a fine-tipped pen and small handwriting.
Simply Living
December 19, 2011

At the end of December, I enter reflection mode. I flip back through the pages of my journal to review annual goals and consider our accomplishments. Each turn of the page triggers memories. I remember the good times, the bad times and everything in between.

I've been our family's record keeper for more than four decades. During some of those years, my journaling efforts were sparse to nonexistent, but since 2000, I've been a diligent recorder of daily doings.

Each month, I post a family review on the computer, but every day I use good old-fashioned paper and pen to jot down the most important information. My journal is a monthly planner that looks like a thin book. Two pages span each month with small squares allotted for every day.

My writing is tiny. It has to be in order to fit even the most rudimentary reporting into the inch-by-inch blocks. A pen with a fine point is necessary, and when I have more to say than will fit, I turn the book sideways and write in the margins.

Record keeping is essential when you get to a certain age. Without a written log, I'd have no idea when we converted our youngest child's bedroom into a kitchen pantry, planted a stand of yin-yang bamboo across from my office window, bought a new-to-me car or did any of a number of small and large accomplishments.

Even when young, it's difficult to remember milestones. When my grandchildren were born, I encouraged their mothers, my two daughters, to keep journals.

"You think you'll remember when the babies first turned over, sat up or had their first belly laugh," I told them. "But you won't. Unless you write stuff like that down, you'll forget. You'll be too busy or too tired. That's just the way it is."

In addition to keeping track of day-to-day events, on the inside back page of my planner I keep a list of yearly goals. I learned years ago that one of the best ways to accomplish dreams is to spell them out, review them regularly and check each one off when completed. It's a simple but effective system. Ralph and I didn't accomplish all our goals for 2011, but a check-mark and date stands next to many.

Oddly enough, one of the most noteworthy of our 2011 accomplishments didn't take any effort by Ralph or me at all. It wasn't on our list of goals and it came about as a complete surprise — at least to us. In 2011, our number of grandchildren quadrupled, from one to four. Our daughter Jenny had twin girls in August, and just a few days ago, our oldest child, Amber, gave birth to her second child and first daughter.

December is, and perhaps always will be, a time for reflection. It's a heady feeling reviewing a year. As I leaf through the inked-in pages in my inexpensive planner, I'm amazed how a few words in a notebook can trigger a flood of memories. Like all years, 2011 was a mixture of positives and negatives. There were difficulties and frustrations, times of anxiety, worry and loss. Fortunately, there were also many days of gladness, unexpected wonders and unbridled joy.

It doesn't matter what form record keeping takes — an online blog, scribbles in a loose-leaf notebook or tiny printing in the blocks of a calendar. The important thing to remember is just that: to remember.

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