Tag: journal

Keeping a Humor Journal

Life is strange right now. But the isolation and huge disruptions to normal life are temporary. There is a light at the end of the tunnel (and no, it’s not a train).

One thing that has really helped me keep my perspective is to keep a humor journal. Every day I write at least one funny thing that happened that day. Sometimes the entry is just “I forgot to do the laundry again.” Sometimes I ask someone in my family if they can remember something funny. Watching for the humor helps. Rereading the entries is even better. Here are a few of the entries in my humor journal:

7-29-20

Yesterday, the school told us it will be online school in the fall. It will be quality education, they reassured us. Not like in the spring, they added.

8-3-20

As I was leaving the house to go grocery shopping, the kids were still calling after me the things they thought I should buy. “Is syrup on the list?” “I need shampoo and conditioner.” I think the list grew by 35% or so in the hour before I left.

8-10-20

I woke up and wanted to go right back to bed. I spent all day fantasizing about taking a nap. I’ll probably stay up late reading.

8-30-20

Our neighbor got a new mailbox, bigger than ours. Our mailbox used to be the biggest on the row. “Do we need to get a bigger mailbox?” I joked. My husband laughed. “Can you imagine escalating that until we’re getting our mail delivered to tree houses?” he asked.

10-27-20

My oldest child: Who has the dishes?

Me: You do.

My oldest child: But I did the dishes a few days ago!

Me: And it’s your turn again.

Adulthood: Finally realizing that chores are never ever truly done.

I’d love to hear some funny moments from your life! Please share them in the comments. And, if you have any questions about keeping a humor journal, please ask!

Facing Worry

I’m a worrier, and it stresses me out. This is not new. Actually, I do better now than I used to.

And yet, I still worry far too much. In some ways, I feel like I took the scout motto to “Be Prepared” much too personally. I’m constantly peering into the shadows trying to anticipate which monster will come out next. Maybe I read too many mystery novels when I was young and impressionable.

It takes a lot of energy to try prevent all the bad things that could possibly happen at once. “Don’t talk to strangers. Or people you know. Or walk too close to cars. Or groups of kids. And look out for dogs. And powerlines…” The warnings I want to give my middle schooler before he walks a block to school in the morning are endless. Usually I manage to limit it to one or two. Sometimes I just drive him to school.

I unplug small appliances before I leave the house and worry about the larger appliances that are too big to unplug. Every time the phone rings, I worry it’s the school calling. Bee sting? Broken arm? The sky falling? They haven’t happened yet, but this could be that call.

Early in our marriage, my husband stopped our newspaper subscription. I was reading the paper cover to cover, and I can still, twenty years later, remember the details of some of the scary stories I read. “It’s stressing you out,” my husband said.

“I need to know what to watch out for,” I told him.

And yet, without the newspaper to warn me, we survived living in that city, and the other cities we lived in. Some bad things happened, but some great things did too. I didn’t miss the newspaper… okay, I did. But I didn’t miss my daily dose of fear.

The internet has tried to provide that with its newsfeeds and Facebook, but I try to be wise and only read a few stories here and there. It’s like a security blanket. If I can just predict the bad things, whatever they are, I can defend against them, right?

But I think that the worry can be a bad thing all on its own. There is a point where it ceases to be helpful, and starts taking too much energy, time and space. I’m tired of worrying.

I will probably never leave my toaster plugged in when I leave the house. I don’t think I will ever ride a rollercoaster without imagining that this is the time it will go off the tracks. That said, I am trying harder to worry less. But how do I worry less after all this time?

Science says that the best way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. This article explains it well: https://www.inc.com/melody-wilding/psychology-says-this-is-how-you-change-a-bad-habit-for-good.html

So what is a good replacement for worry?

In an Ensign article in April 1986, Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.“

And later in the same article, “I have little doubt that many of us are troubled with fears concerning ourselves. We are in a period of stress across the world. There are occasionally hard days for each of us. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Do not let the prophets of gloom endanger your possibilities.”

Bad things do happen, but good things do too. Why not spend my energy preparing for the next big opportunity? Why not notice and recognize the good things that happen? I think it would be a better use of my time.

I’ve started keeping a gratitude journal. I try to get out and help other people. It really gives me a lot of perspective. Somehow, it’s easier to do hard things when I’m doing them for someone else. I am developing my talents and trying to share them.

I may always be a worrier. But, I hope that I can continue to improve. I want to stop seeking out storms and instead enjoy the sunlight. While wearing sunscreen. And a hat.

Do you worry a lot too? What are some things you do when you can tell that you’re starting to worry?

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Filling the Well

In her book, “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron talks about how to overcome writer’s block and burn out. She says that when we are creative, we draw on our life experiences. When we draw from the well too often without replenishing it, we eventually come up empty. We are left relying on the same old stories, or cliches and tropes, or worse, we can’t come up with anything at all.

Creativity is important. It’s not just used for creative endeavors like painting a picture or writing poetry. Creativity helps us solve problems in our daily lives. It assists whenever we communicate or create something new. It is essential. If you are feeling burnt out and stuck, and you aren’t sure why, it might be time to refill your well.

Julia recommends regular walks, keeping a journal, and regularly scheduling time for activities that bring you joy.

The journal is three pages of whatever you are thinking about. It’s meant to be a way to unload your worries and concerns. The activities can be small, like coloring in a coloring book or visiting a furniture store or going to a museum. It can be anything that you can look forward to and that takes you out of your normal routine.

Some of my comic diaries about various activities I do to refill my well. Inspired by Brittany Olsen’s “Comic Diaries.”

Another idea for filling your well is mindfulness. When you get too caught up in your thoughts or a screen that filters the world through other people’s thoughts, then you aren’t really experiencing the world around you. Taking time present in the moment makes food taste better, and it makes the colors around you seem brighter. You notice details that you overlooked before. You feel more free, and the experiences you fill your well with are richer.

Service is a great way to fill your well. It connects you with other people and the outside world. For a moment, you are taken out of your problems and focus on someone else’s. Being an outside observer helps you enter problem-solving mode more easily, and it can jump start your creativity. Service can have the added bonus of building relationships, making your problems seem a little smaller, and bringing you happiness.

If everything seems dark and pointless, and you can’t make yourself do anything, reach out. Tell a trusted friend. Talk to a counselor. Pray. Heavenly Father loves you, and He listens. There have been times where I hid in my closet and cried and prayed until I felt like I could face the world again. I have cried and prayed as I picked tiny game pieces off the floor for what felt like the thousandth time. I’ve prayed for help when I felt like everything is hopeless. The problems didn’t all go away, but they seemed manageable. I had hope and peace once more.

These are all suggestions I’ve tried. They worked for me. They may not all work for you. I hope they do. The world has an unending store of problems to solve. There are things waiting to be created that are beyond our current dreams. Fill your well and you can draw from it whenever you’re in need.

Have you ever felt blocked or burnt out? What did you do? How do you fill your well?

How I Keep a Comic Diary

Last year, through a link on Arie Van De Graaff’s web page, I found Brittany Olsen’s Comic Diaries
page. I was delighted. I had just bought a brush pen and wanted more practice with it. I decided to draw a journal entry once a week in addition to my more traditional daily journaling.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. With the new pen, it was hard not to draw thick, heavy lines. It didn’t look much like a comic, either. I ended up with big, blocky pictures accompanied by words that looked like they were in bold-face type. It was discouraging.

My very first attempt at a comic diary

And then one day, I suddenly received an answer to my problem. In my mind, I saw templates that I could put on the page to make blocks for my comics. They would be the size of the sketchbook pages, while the overall size of the inside comic would remain the same, despite the number or size of boxes.

I realized that I could use the brush pen to trace the boxes and get practice, while using a smaller pen for the words and drawings so that I created a better comic. It all seemed so simple. I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t thought of it before. Inspiration is like that.

I went home and dug through the recycling for the family size Lucky Charms boxes. They’d been on sale, and I’d bought several. There was just enough cardboard to make a good variety of stencils. Any other arrangement of boxes I can adapt from the existing stencils.

I use these stencils to draw the borders on my comic diaries. What a huge difference!

After a few hours of measuring, marking, and careful cutting, I had my stencils. I drew a comic diary entry using my stencils and new ideas, and I was thrilled with the results. It looked a hundred times better. It’s what I’ve done ever since.

My comic diary celebration of two years posting my stories, art and cartoons. Here was my post that day: https://summerbirdstories.com/happy-second-anniversary/

Occasionally, I accidentally skip a page. When that happens, I just add a family recipe on the blank page, comic diary style.

Seriously, try this recipe! We stole it from someone else on the internet (hence the name of the recipe)

Sometimes the weeks are extra full, and it’s hard to not cram everything that happened into the page. I think the best entries are when I share how I’m thinking or feeling, or when I celebrate one big event.

Life is full of highs and lows. Keeping a diary helps capture the emotion and the feelings in life.

I have been keeping a regular journal since high school. I have boxes and boxes of them. I can’t imagine wanting to reread them at all. I know writing in them helps me sort through events and how I feel, but I think they’re probably pretty boring.

My comic diary is interesting. It is more compact time-wise, and less text-dense. When people flip through it, it seems like they start reading without intending to, stopping themselves several pages in and apologizing. I don’t really mind, though. I hope that someday my children will find it equally interesting. It may be a good way to pass down family history. That way, they won’t have to read through boxes of journals to find out what I was thinking or feeling.

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Charlie’s Room: Secret Weapon

Isaac’s only clean pair of black socks had a hole in the toe of one of the socks. He didn’t discover the hole until he put the sock on and his toe poked out the hole in his sock. He had to dig through the laundry basket for a pair of socks he could rewear.

When he started tying his left shoe and the shoelace broke, he knew it was probably going to be one of those days. He tied it back together and tied his shoes. Sure enough, it was rainy and dark when he left for work. Someone was always driving next to him at just his speed when he wanted to switch lanes. He hit every red light.

At work, under the bright florescent lights, he realized that one of the socks he put on was navy, and his shirt was inside-out. His log-in information didn’t work. He had a hundred emails telling him he did something wrong. He left his lunch at home and didn’t have enough time to go buy something.

He had to stay late at work fixing things, listening to his stomach growl. He couldn’t find his scarf when it was time to go home. A puddle stretched across the sidewalk outside the door of his workplace. Isaac had to wade through it to get to his car.

On the way home, his car ran out of gas. He had to walk in the pouring rain to the gas station. The wind turned his umbrella inside out and broke it. He got home very late. Dinner was cold. Charlie had gone to bed early, not feeling well. Marianne was scrubbing a spot on the carpet where he’d thrown up. Isaac greeted her, changed out of his wet clothes, and returned.

She held up the washcloth. “Tag, you’re it. I’ll go heat up your dinner.”

“I can heat it up,” Isaac said.

Marianne shook the washcloth. “Take it anyway. I am so done with this. Why were you home late?”

Isaac shrugged and took the washcloth. “Bad day at work. Ran out of gas. It was one of those days.”

Marianne stood up and Isaac took her place. “Days like that happen, I guess. Did you want to talk about it?” She looked away, and Isaac sighed.

“That’s okay. Go take a break. It looks like you had a hard day, too.”

Marianne looked back and smiled. “Thanks. It has been a little tiring. I think I might go to bed early and read.”

Before long, the house was quiet. Isaac finally got the carpet mostly clean. He went into the kitchen and started to eat his dinner without heating it. Unfortunately, cold spaghetti is slimy. And his hands smelled like vomit even though he’d washed them.

He put his dinner in the microwave and scrubbed his hands again. They still smelled. He washed them again. Was he just imagining things at this point? He put some floral-scented lotion on his hands to mask any remaining smells. The floral scent gave him a headache.

The spaghetti was now a little dried-out and stuck together. But it was no longer slimy. So, he ate it, because at this point, he was really, really hungry. He finished eating, but he was still hungry. He poured himself a bowl of cereal and poured on some milk. It was sour. He tossed the bowl of cereal with a sigh.

The bag of bread was open, and the slice on the end was stale. Isaac ate it anyway. He cleaned up his dishes. He was still a little hungry, but he was too tired to try to find something else to eat. He drank a big glass of cold water. His stomach churned at the sudden cold.

Isaac sneezed as he sat down at his desk, and he reached for a handkerchief. There weren’t any. He went to the kitchen for a paper towel. All gone. There was no toilet paper in the bathroom, either. He changed out the roll for a new one, and finally he could blow his nose.

He sat at his desk and opened the bottom drawer. Isaac had a secret weapon for days like this. At the back of the drawer, there was a small blue book. He tried three pens before he found one that worked. He started writing in his gratitude journal.

His family was safe. His house was warm. The roof didn’t leak. He had dinner waiting for him. There was a gas station within walking distance when he ran out of gas. He didn’t lose his wallet. No one drove by and splashed water on him when he was walking. He messed up at work and didn’t get fired. He had socks without holes. He had shoes without holes. The carpet was clean. Tomorrow would be better.

His problems seemed small. Nothing really terrible had happened, after all. It was just a bad day. Days like that happened sometimes. Isaac sneezed and blew his nose. Time for bed, so that he could fight off this cold. He smiled and put away the journal. Tomorrow was going to be a good day. He could tell.

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