Monday, July 31, 2017

Day 31: Snapshot

Today's the last day of our 31 day journaling challenge! The assignment for today is another snapshot. I suggested on day 1 that you write about what you are currently doing. Ideally, I'd like to write one of these snapshots about once a month, but in practice it's more like a couple times a year.

Choose one of the following angles, or come up with your own:

-A gratitude list. Write about the things you are thankful for right now.

-Kid profiles. Write about what each kid is into at the moment, funny phrases they use, favorite books, shows, foods, activities, etc.

-Best and worst: what things are making you happy right now, and what is making you unhappy?

-Day in the life: what an average day looks like right now.

-Slices of joy: even if you are in a rough spot right now, what are the small things that lift your spirits?
Public art is always a slice of joy for me.
I saw this mosaic at Deep Eddy pool a couple weeks ago. Can you spot the little dinosaur?

It was a 106 degree weekend here in Austin, and I have a kid with an injury that prevents us from going to the pool. The atmosphere in my house is reflecting that restless, sweaty, grumpy, trapped-in-the-house, late summer feeling. I'm going to rely on slices of joy to make it through the week, for example, those few moments in the evening when teeth have been (finally, probably inadequately) brushed and we sit down together to read a few pages of Harry Potter.

I hope you've had fun reading along and writing some of your own entries. I can absolutely promise you that a year from now, or ten years from now, when you or your kids are reading your journal, you will be so glad you took the time to write down your thoughts and memories.

Day 30: Parents

For day 30, let's write about our parents. You could:

-describe the ways in which you are similar to and different from each of them
-write about their best qualities
-interview them about their childhood experiences
-write about how the world has changed in their lifetimes
-record your favorite things to do with your parents
-tell about obstacles they have overcome in their lives
I am fortunate to have great parents who love and support me, and I recognize that this is not the case for everyone. If this is a difficult topic for you, feel free to write about your pet or your best friend or someone else who has been a supportive figure in your life. But you might find some catharsis in writing about your difficult experiences and complex emotions. Journals don't always have to be about the good stuff.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day 29: Expectation vs reality

At book club the other night, my friend mentioned that she has known what she wanted her life to be like since her late teens, and so far it has all gone according to the plan. Her marriage (to the guy she fell for at age 15!), college, kids, etc. have all played out as she anticipated.

I replied that I have had the opposite of that. If I had written out a detailed life plan as a young adult, it would bear almost no resemblance to what my reality has been these past couple decades.
My college experience, career path, marriage, kids, the place I live...all those and more are quite different, in good ways and bad, from what I expected them to be.

What about you? When you graduated high school and headed into adult life, what did you think was ahead of you? How many of your predictions came true? Are there things that haven't happened yet that you are still working toward? Are there things that you wanted or expected that you are glad you didn't get?

You could also use this topic to tell a detailed story about a specific experience. When I agreed to a cross-country ride share to get myself home from college one summer, I had no idea what a ridiculous saga it would turn into. Late in the afternoon, hours later than we'd planned, I loaded my stuff into a suburban packed with several other people and their stuff and thought, "Well, this probably won't be the most fun ride ever, but at least tomorrow I'll be home!" Five minutes later the driver pulled into another apartment complex and informed us that we would be towing a junker car behind us (which was itself packed with junk) so that his brother could fix it up and sell it back in Illinois. So, we've got an old suburban, full of twenty year olds and their luggage, towing another car through the mountains, setting out just as night is about to fall. That journey was exactly as fun as you might expect it to be.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Day 28: Food, part 2

Today let's write about food that you eat away from home.

-What are your current favorite restaurants for eating in and taking to-go? What were they when you were younger?

-Are there places that you always visit when you are in particular cities or regions?

When I go home to the Chicago suburbs, I always plan for a Giordano's pizza and a couple cheeseburgers at Portillo's. Once in a while I am lucky enough to get someone who knows that "extra pickles" doesn't mean "three pickles instead of two". It means "as many pickles as you can pile on".
Yes please.

-Do you have specific foods that you eat on road trips?

When I was a kid, road trips meant Life cereal eaten from a Solo cup for breakfast, a cooler full of pop and bagel sandwich ingredients, Pringles and Bugles to snack on, and maybe a stop for Frostys at Wendy's.

-You could make a "best in class" list, detailing where you get your favorite hamburger, salad, taco, doughnut, etc. I have a friend doing an extensive survey of Austin doughnut shops, which sounds pretty amazing. I'll bet my kids would like to contribute to that research project.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Day 27: Food, part 1

Today we're writing about food, with a focus on what you eat at home. We will cover food eaten away form home in tomorrow's post.

 Take your pick:

-What does a typical day of eating look like for you? (List breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks/treats.)

-What recipes are on heavy rotation at your house right now?

-Talk about your favorite recipes and tell where you got them.

-List your favorite foods, and ask your family members to do the same.

-List the foods your parents made when you were kid, and write about how your tastes have changed.

-Do you prefer to cook or to bake? Or both? Or neither?

-Record some of your food-related memories, for example Thanksgiving dinner, Saturday morning pancake breakfasts, or foods your mom or dad gave you when you were sick.
Easy summer salad: cucumbers, watermelon, and strawberries with feta and balsamic vinaigrette.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Day 26: That's awkward

Depending on how you feel about confrontation, you might hate today's topic. We're writing about awkward, uncomfortable, and tense conversations you've had. Have you ever done any of the following?

-fired/reprimanded someone or been fired/reprimanded
-caught someone in a lie or been caught in a lie
-broken up with someone or been dumped (you might have already covered this on day 23)
-participated in an intervention
-delivered or received sex education
-finally dealt with a long-simmering emotional issue with someone close to you
When I don't have a picture to match the subject, sometimes I just pick something random.
Here's a grackle.

There are a lot of directions you could go with this. I can think of a ton of awkward conversations from my own life, and I've actually written about a couple here. But as I mentioned in a previous post, talking about sex is not difficult for me. It's a topic that I cover early and often with my three boys. It's really important that we give our children the self-confidence that comes from being informed, and I promise that the more more you have those conversations, the easier it gets.

If you have 25 minutes to kill, you should watch how they deal with sex ed on King of the Hill. Peggy Hill gets crap done.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Day 25: Walking

We are down to the last seven days of the July journal challenge. Are you well on your way to a thorough personal history to pass down to future generations? Or do you at least have some notes jotted down on your phone? If you've been following along, reading my stuff but not writing your own, why not try to do it for this final week? You'll be happy that you did.

Today's topic is to write about a time (or times) that you walked a very long distance. I know I've mentioned this trip before, but Matt and I walked a TON when we traveled in Europe. We took leisurely walks in nature, hiked to scenic views, explored cities on foot, and criss-crossed enormous museums until we were exhausted.

In Switzerland, there was one destination halfway up a mountain, and our guidebook suggested taking a train, warning that the trip back down could really do a number on your knees. I convinced Matt that we should just hoof it; I figured once we made it up there, how hard could it be walking downhill? Pretty hard, as it turns out, but the scenery was decent.
Ditto in Barcelona when I insisted that we shouldn't waste money on a cab trip out to see Park Guell (many, many, many blocks from our hotel).
I can also think of a walk-a-thon I did as a teenager where I chose stylish shoes over comfortable gym shoes and regretted it by about mile 2. In more recent years, I find that any significant distance I walk with kids has the potential to turn arduous if my companions get tired, hot, or grumpy. For example, the walk between the parking lot and a swimming hole can feel easy or endless, depending on whether we have cloud cover:
If you are a Mormon like me, it's quite possible that you have participated in one of our weirder traditions, a pioneer trek. We dress up in period clothes and walk and walk and walk in an effort to appreciate the experience of our pioneer ancestors as they migrated west in the 1800s.
Or maybe you have had to march in place for half an hour in your living room at 10:00 at night when you glanced at your fitbit and realized that you hadn't hit your 10,000 steps yet? Does that actually count as walking? I don't know, but you should probably write about it.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 24: Assets & liabilities

Time to make a pro/con list about yourself!
What are you really good at?
What are you really terrible at?

I'm good at starting projects, terrible at finishing them.
Halloween quilt: start date Jan 2017, likely finish date sometime in the 2020s

I'm good at taking and organizing photos, terrible at organizing paper.
I'm good at talking about difficult subjects (like sex or racism), terrible at telling bedtime stories.
I'm good at purchasing vegetables, terrible at using them in my cooking.

I hope that you will be kind to yourself as you make this assessment, and may your goods outweigh your terribles by at least one.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Day 22 and 23: Love and heartbreak

I went to a wedding yesterday, where I got to see a couple of young, fresh-faced twenty somethings start their life together. This led to me reminiscing about the early days of my relationship with Matt. I realized that while I have told my kids the story of how we got together, I've never written it down. (Not from a backward-looking perspective, anyway. I kept a journal at the time it was happening, plus I still have the lovey-dovey letters we exchanged during the long distance portion of our relationship, but my kids might never get to see those. I haven't decided yet.)
So, the writing assignment for day 22 is to record a love story. That could mean your spouse or high school or college love, or just any story of loving someone.

For day 23, write about a time that you had your heart broken. Or if you are lucky enough to have escaped major heartbreak, maybe you were the heart breaker? Or maybe you were the shoulder that your best friend cried on when he/she suffered major heartbreak? This topic is basically a free pass for me, due to my aforementioned journals. I had a new crush every week as a teenager, plus plenty of cringe-inducing entries after a particularly ugly breakup. If I had more courage, I'd read them aloud at a Mortified event, but for now, they will stay tucked away on a shelf.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 21: Highlight reel

In my last post I mentioned that getting to live in the same neighborhood as all my favorite people is one version of heaven I've imagined. Another involves getting to re-live or at least re-watch all of the best scenes from my life.
What if you could make a highlight reel of your life and experience those moments whenever you wanted to? What would you include?
My list features milestones you might expect, such as my wedding, college graduation, and the birth of my children, though I'd like to edit the scenes to make them less brutally hot, less brutally hot, and less blindingly painful, respectively.
I'd also include a lot of small, easy, happy moments like this day I spent in Costa Rica while on a study trip in college.
I was with great people, the scenery was incredible, and we had no agenda that afternoon except to sit on the porch and look at the volcano. It's one of the most peaceful memories I have.
What's on your highlight reel?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Day 20: Your ideal neighbors

What if you could populate your whole neighborhood with your favorite people? Who would make the cut? Family? (Some but not all, perhaps?) Old friends? New friends? Would any of your current neighbors get to stay? Have any of your co-workers or fellow students or other acquaintances moved up to A-list status? Would you take one person but not their spouse (or children)?

Pic of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, because we're talking about neighbors, plus I just really love Fred Rogers

It's possible that you don't live in a suburban neighborhood like I do, with traditional rows of houses and sidewalks and a bank of mailboxes. Maybe you live in a big apartment building and don't know any of your neighbors, or maybe you intentionally chose a home in a remote area in order to avoid having close neighbors. That's fine; the point is to consider who you most enjoy spending time with.

Make a list of your very favorite people in your life. If you have time, write something about each person: what you like about them, what role they have played in your life, what you have learned from them, favorite memories involving them.

I've been thinking about this topic for years; it's actually one of the variations of heaven I have imagined. I'm fortunate to have a lovely family who gets along well, so last month's reunion was a mini version of this "choose your neighbors" idea. But when I add in my extended family, in-law family, childhood friends, college friends, and church friends from several congregations we've attended over the years, the list gets pretty long. I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to things, so why wouldn't I also hoard favorite people? I'm gonna need a really large block.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Day 18 & 19: Do-overs & travel

I'll just say it: I'm in a lazy summer slump right now. It's hot and humid, my kids are picking at each other constantly, and even publishing one little post didn't make it onto my bare minimum to-do list yesterday.

Ah well. We move forward. Here are two topics to consider.

First, for day 18: What if you had the power of do-overs? What decisions would you change from your past? It's a tricky question because of the ripple effect, like when someone in a movie goes back in time to change one little thing, only to realize they've changed a thousand other things as a result.
I often wish I'd started college differently, either gone somewhere else or roomed with my best friend or at least tried harder to make it work at the college I did end up attending freshman year. Instead, I decided pretty early into my first semester that I wasn't happy, and I mentally checked out. I was homesick and annoyed and didn't try very hard to be successful in my classes, because I'd already decided that I would transfer out at the end of the school year. But here comes that ripple effect, because if I had done things differently, I might not have come home and gotten that summer job at the restaurant where I met my future husband. So I guess it was ultimately a good thing that I spent a year being kind of sullen and lazy? Sure, let's go with that.

This weekend I'll be helping out at the wedding reception of my friend's daughter. I'm sure I will come away from that with a long mental list of things I wish I'd done differently at my own wedding.
For those of us doing a small budget, DIY reception in the 1990s, there was no Pinterest, y'all. There was you and your mom with a bolt of tulle fabric and a bunch of folding chairs and a friend with some DJ equipment.

Second, for day 19: What if you could travel anywhere in the world, without regard to cost or vacation days from work or any of those other practical concerns? Where would you go? Would you explore the places you haven't been yet, or go back and revisit favorite spots? Would you hop from place to place or plunk yourself on the beach somewhere and stay put for a month?

Why not make your dream travel list, as extravagant and impractical as possible, and then pick one place that is an actual possibility and start to plan for it? They say that you get almost as much joy anticipating a future event as the event itself, so even if you put it five years in the future, look at all that anticipatory joy you'll get!

I have big plans for a giant family road trip where we hit every National Park in the western United States. Matt and I recently sat down and mapped out a possible route, and it turns out you can't quite fit them all in with the number of vacation days we have available. Three parks isn't as good as fifteen parks, but it's better than no parks, am I right?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Day 17: Prized posessions

If your house were on fire, what things would you grab on your way out the door, obviously assuming that your beloved people and animals were all safe? I remember seeing this question posed a few years ago on a tumblr, and this morning when I showed my son some of the photographic answers, he said, "I don't see a wallet anywhere!" Ha! He goes straight for the practical, while I am all sentimental.

For the most part, my photos are my most valuable items. I'd be dragging out armloads of photo albums, boxes of prints, and computer hard drives. (I would obviously die in the attempt to rescue all of my memories.)

For the purpose of a journal entry, let's expand the question beyond what you could carry out the door in a crisis. What are your prized possessions? You can:

-Make a list of all your favorite things.

-Tell the details and stories behind them.

-Write about where you'd like them to end up when you don't need them anymore, in other words, bequeath them

-Ask your kids, spouse, parents, etc. the same question and compare your lists
I bought this painting in Barcelona in 2001. It definitely makes the list. 
You can see the rest of my tiny art collection here.

I'd also include my journals, cringe-inducing thought the older ones can be, my wedding ring, and letters from my days of dating Matt. (Yes, we wrote each other actual letters, which kinda makes it sound like we started our relationship in the 1940s.) One more of my prized possessions is my scrap afghan shown here, where I talked about not being able to keep nice things out while my kids are young. Pretty much still true three years later.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Day 16: Games & toys

It's day 16 of 31, which means we are more than halfway done! If you've been following along wanting to write some journal entries but haven't made it happen, I encourage you to just start! These don't have to be done in any order, and personally I feel stressed about projects when I feel like I have a lot of "catch up" work to do. So you could just dive in and start with today, and if you eventually get back to the first 15 entries some time, great.

Just start somewhere. It's true in so many areas of life, isn't it?

Today's topic is games and toys that you played with when you were a kid. What were your favorites? Did you play with siblings? With friends? Have you played any of the same ones with your own kids? Were there toys that your friends had that made you jealous? Was there a toy that you saved up for in order to buy yourself? If you have access to old family photos, it might be helpful to browse special occasion pictures like birthdays or Christmas to jog your memory.
My old Mr. Mouth still lives in my parents' basement, though he's not in as good shape as this guy

I am basically incapable of passing up vintage toys and games at the thrift shops, especially if it's something that I recognize from my own childhood. I once purchased all twelve of these old puzzles because growing up we had the Daffy Duck one on the top row.
Thrift shopping: a hobby as well as maybe an illness

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Day 15: Injuries and Illnesses

You know that scene in Jaws where the guys compare scars? I've had a few conversations like that, where you sit around and share your stories of illnesses and injuries, trying to top each other with shocking or cringe-inducing details. My family is actually a little bit crazy in this department. It's not all that unusual for me to get a text in the family chat with a picture of a cousin's misshapen forehead due to a giant purple goose egg, or my brother sending a photo of his bloody mouth all, "Hey guys, just got hit in the face with a line drive. Headed to the emergency dentist now."

For today's journal entry, we are going to collect all of our stories of injuries and illnesses. You could:

-Make a list of your own incidents, starting as early as you can remember, which for me begins with vague images of sitting on my mom's lap with a bloody wound on my hand that resulted in a scar I show off frequently.

-Write about injuries and illnesses from your family lore, like that time I couldn't resist picking off my sister's chicken pox scab, leaving a scar that is still visible today. (Again, sorry about that.)

-If you have children, you could write about their experiences, which are of course your experiences as well. My mom always said that she was good in a crisis, could handle the sight of blood, etc., but as soon as she knew her kid was out of danger, the stress hit her and she felt like she might pass out.

Here's one of my stupidest injuries. I was dancing to loud music, alone in the kitchen, and I accidentally scratched my own forehead, resulting in a little Harry Potter scar. It's kind of ridiculous to answer people's "what happened?" with "I flailed my arms too wildly while kitchen dancing."

Friday, July 14, 2017

Day 14: Money money money

For day 14, let's write about about money.

-a time you had lots of money

-a time when you didn't have enough money

-a time when you gave money to someone else

-a time that you had to borrow money

-a time that you lost money

In college, I sometimes felt quite rich at the end of a busy Friday or Saturday night waiting tables, when I'd close my last ticket and then count out my tips. It's kind of fun to have like $105 in ones in a fat wad in your pocket. I mentioned this to a friend who said, "Yeah, I remember that too, and I'd be telling myself, 'Do not drink this money. You need it to pay bills!'" Ha!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Day 13: Technology

Does anyone else have the problem where when you hear the word "technology" you often begin to sing that ridiculous song that Kip made up for his girlfriend in Napoleon Dynamite?

You know I love technology,
But not as much as I love you,
But I still love technology,
Always and forever...

Just me then? Ok.

For this journal entry, you have to start by imagining yourself as an old person, sitting in a rocking chair, bending the ear of some youngster. "Well, sonny, back in my day, we had to get up and walk over to the TV to change the channel..."

In other words, answer the question: How has technology changed in your lifetime?

You may have noticed the terrible picture quality of the photos in yesterday's post. The colors are grayish, the images are grainy, they're just generally not good. Here's the camera we used for those pictures:

It's the first digital camera that Matt and I owned, and it's huge. We purchased it in early 2001 as we were planning our two month European backpacking trip. We wanted a way to take a couple thousand pictures without carrying around 60 or 70 rolls of film. The next digital camera I got in 2003 was so much smaller, more like the size of that playing card, and took much better photos. And now we all have phone cameras that take ten times better photos than that.

I'll share one more example of technology changing in my lifetime, and then I'll let you go about your day, hopefully with that Napoleon Dynamite song stuck in your head. (Muah-ha-ha!)

I did Model UN in college, where you learn all about another country and then go to a conference and pretend to be representatives from that country--in my case, Costa Rica--and attempt to solve a bunch of global problems. It was a small group, about nine of us plus the professor, and the class had a relatively laid-back feel because of that.
One Sunday night, the Simpsons had an episode where the kids did Model UN at school. I wanted so badly to show a clip of it to my class. We were meeting in a room that had a TV/VCR mounted to the wall, so I figured if I could get a taped copy somehow and cue it up to the relevant part, I could pop it in and show them my favorite scene.

Lisa: Point of order! If we want to learn anything, we must respect--
Bart: Point of odor! Lisa stinks.

A parliamentary procedure joke! That's gold, y'all!

I tried to figure out if there was going to be a rerun, so that I could program my VCR and bring the tape to school. In the end, I couldn't get it, and I was reduced to, "Hey, did you guys see them doing Model UN on the Simpsons the other day? It was pretty funny."

And what's the situation today? I'm texting with my siblings, and someone makes a comment about bacon, and two seconds later my brother adds a gif from The Office of Michael Scott with his George Foreman Grill foot burn.

It's a crazy world we live in.

PS: Here's the clip I wanted to show my Model UN team way back in 1998.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Day 11 & 12: Homes and cars

These two are fun lists to make, assuming you love a trip down memory lane like I do.

For day 11, make a list of all the homes you've lived in, starting from your first home and working up to today.

As usual, add details or stories that come to mind, such as:

-Your first memories of your childhood home

-Your college dorm or apartment, roommates, living on your own for the first time

-Your fist home purchase, how you chose it, how much it cost

-The home you brought your babies home to

-Details about the neighborhood and neighbors for each place

This is my parents' house, which I never technically lived in, since they had it built after I was married. But I visit a couple times a year, and this is the house my kids have always associated with their grandparents. One day while it was still being built, we drove by to check out the progress and found that the yard was not quite done yet.

For day 12, make a list of all the cars you have had. You can start with your earliest memory of the family car, or just the cars that you have owned as an adult. Some other details you could include:

-On which car did you learn to drive?

-Which was your favorite, and why?

-Any traffic tickets or accidents?

Matt was driving this car when we started dating, and on through the first few years of our marriage. It was a stick shift and very low to the ground. I felt very sporty and cool driving it, and I loved those flip-up headlights.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Day 10: Songs

All done writing about death? Ready to move on to something a bit more fun? Let's make some song lists!
Music-loving mannequin at the Cathedral of Junk

My favorite idea within this topic is to write about songs that remind you of specific people or experiences or periods of time in your life. I still own old mix tapes (actual tapes, you guys. I'm very old) that friends (like Autumn) made for me in high school, as well as the one Matt made for me when we were dating. Those songs bring me right back to 1992 and 1996.

Other ideas for your journal:

-Your favorite songs when you were younger

-Your favorite songs now

-Songs that you like to sing loud in the car

-Songs that you wallowed in after breakups

-Songs that you hate

-Favorite songs by genre, like pop, church hymns, Christmas songs, or music your parents or grandparents listened to

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Quick trip to San Antonio

Autumn and I have been friends since she invited me to her bowling/slumber party birthday in middle school. I love her so much, and I was thrilled to hear that she was coming to San Antonio for a professional conference this weekend. I promptly invited myself to visit her for dinner and a sleepover.
Friendships are strengthened over enchiladas and Mexican pastries.

Wow! A geode as tall as me.

When Autumn left for her morning meetings, I stayed back at the hotel and cried my way through the end of a sad book, as I mentioned in the Day 9 Journal challenge post, and then I pulled myself together and explored the Hemisfair grounds. I'm a sucker for mosaics, and I hit the jackpot here.

Such a great park for kids! It's called Yanaguana Garden; 
definitely check it out if you visit San Antonio!

This installation was inside a hotel on the Riverwalk. 
We will almost certainly attempt to copy it at the Morse house.

Tower of the Americas

The next few pictures are outside the Mexican Cultural Institute

These awesom pastel drawings were at a shop in the La Villita complex

Huge mosaic of a Riverwalk scene in the hotel lobby

Pretty things at the antique mall

And finally, a beautiful mirror in Autumn's hotel. 
I don't usually covet furnishings in hotels, but apparently I just don't stay in very stylish hotels.