Tag: journals

My Book of Astonishments: Daily Goodness, Grins, and Gratitudes

2 red journals, one large and one small on a blue surface in front of a leopard-print chaise pin cushion, a blue pin cushion, and a piece of amethyst

Book of Astonishments: Daily Goodness, Grins, and Gratitude v1 (small) and the larger v.2

In August 2018, I began keeping a journal I call The Book of Astonishments: Daily Goodness, Grins, and Gratitudes. It was a small blank journal, one that fit nicely inside my small pocketbook so I was never without it. I didn’t write complete sentences and paragraphs, just bullet notes and phrases to remind me. Before the fist month ended, I was filling page after page after page after page after page. In April 2020 my Book of Astonishments: Daily Goodness, Grains, and Gratitudes moved to larger quarters . . . and in less than a week, I was filling page after page after page after page in the new, larger journal.

I have long believed that the more you say Thank you for, the more reasons you have to say Thank you. These journals are my evidence, my proof.

Relishing goodness begets more goodness to relish.
Grinning often begets more opportunities to grin.
Saying Thank you begets more reasons to say Thank you.
Living in joy begets more joyful living.
Welcoming happiness begets more happiness on your door step.
You get the idea. It’s the very best kind of Magic.

 

drawings of eyes, football, hearts, and words in a child’s journal

words and drawings of a bicycle, a wooly mammoth, a bouncing ball, a riding toy in a child’s daily journal

 

I got to spend several weeks with my grands recently, and one day I told my grandson about my journal, explained my aforementioned philosophy to him, and asked if he’d like to keep his own journal. He said yes,, so I whipped out a small blank book I’d taken with me for story writing, and we began.

Me to Grandson: What do you want to put in your G3 Journal for today?
The Grandson, without a moment’s hesitation: Doughnuts for breakfast! The awesome, wonderful surprises you give me! Getting hugs from you every day and getting to give you hugs every day. James’ birthday party. Walking around the lake and throwing rocks in it.

I don’t know if his parents will be able to work this addition into the nightly bedtime ritual, but I assure you that it will be part of the nightly ritual when we are together!

Do you keep a Gratitude Journal? A Goodness, Grins, and Gratitude Journal? Does the Magic happen to you, too?

Did I Tell You the One About

Our Vows . . . 

Forty-seven years ago today, I made my way down the aisle to say “I sure will!” when asked if I willingly made and agreed to keep my vows to Andy, The Engineer. Now I can’t say I thought about it at the time because the words “I sure will” just fell right out of my mouth, but looking back, it seems to me now that saying “I will” might be more meaningful and lasting than saying “I do.” I might’ve said “I sure will” because of authority issues (The preacher who married us was not chosen because I liked him – I didn’t, and the feeling was mutual – but because he was the only one available on the date we set.). I  might’ve said “I sure will” because my brain chose that particular moment to take a nap after the inevitable hecticness preceding a wedding. I’ve had a while to think about it, and saying “I sure will” sure seems like  my heart’s way of saying “For the rest of my life, I will honor these vows I make to you here (and the vows we made to each other in our private-just-the-two-of-us ceremony”) while saying “I do” seems more like a “yeah-sure-whatever-you-just-said-now-let’s-party” commitment to keep the vows at least tonight.

I told the preacher not to worry about the vows, that we were writing our own. (I’d already started mine, but you knew that.) I want y’all to know that man put both hands on his desk palms down, rose up out of his chair, leaned over the desk in my direction, and said in what amounted to a hiss, “I have NEVER let couples write their own vows, and I’m not about to start with you, Jeanne Hewell.” I looked him in the eye back to his retinas and said, “Fine, but know this: if you use the word ‘obey’ or anything akin to it, I will NOT say it.”

I waited till just before the ceremony to tell him we’d be saying our own words when we exchanged rings. Score one for Jeanne.

How We Chose The Date . . . 

My father-in-law was known to harumph and complain quite loudly when a wedding interrupted his weekend, so we got married at 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night. He’d promised us the prize – a cruise on the Rhine – if his company won some purchasing contest, so we thought it a good idea to be officially married before setting sail. I wrote dates on slips of paper, and we drew July 31 out of the hat, making July 31, 1973 a date that will live in infamy, as they say.

wedding invitation in frame

The Preparations . . . 

My mother got married in the local jail. Yes, really. Back in The Day, citizens of Fayette County elected the sheriff and got the wife for free to do the cooking and cleaning for the prisoners. They kept expenses down even more by providing the sheriff’s family a place to live instead of hiring extra guards. Well, my maternal granddaddy was the sheriff, so Mother and Daddy tied the knot in the living room at the jail.

While I love that story, Mother? Not so much. So once the date was set, I told her, “I want you to give yourself the wedding you wished you’d had. Go ahead. Knock yourself out,” reserving for myself the job of designing my bouquet, choosing the color (Tropicana. Everywhere we live, we plant a tropicana rose bush.); invitations; my attire; and the place. I asked that the reception be held at home (because I’ve always loved the story of a jailhouse wedding) and  asked that we have watermelon at the reception. We wanted to get married on my family’s land, atop a hill overlooking the lake where my paternal granddaddy and I sometimes fished (and killed snakes) and, it occurs to me as I write this, just in front of the place where the uncle I am named after was killed. Likely thinking of parking, women walking on soft earth in heels, and wondering if the church had enough folding chairs, my mother was not enamored with the idea. As it turns out, the preacher we wound up with wasn’t either, so into the church we went.

And the watermelon? It was served, and Andy and I got to enjoy some only because Donn, Andy’s brother, fetched a bowl full and delivered it to us.

The Photos . . . 

I was hit by a car on the streets of downtown Atlanta five weeks before the wedding. I’ll tell you that story another day, but what you need to know right now is that it broke my left knee and landed me in a full leg plaster cast. Everywhere we went from that date forward to our wedding day, I sat on the backseat with my leg on the seat while The Engineer drove with his left hand so we could hold hands over the seat.

Five days before the wedding, the  orthopedic doc cut the cast off, took an x-ray, then came into the room to tell me with a straight face, “Your leg hasn’t healed the way I’d like it to, so we need to put the cast back on.”

”Oh no you don’t,” I told him. That cast is now an umbrella stand, and I’m outta here.”

My left leg wouldn’t bend willingly, so I was still on crutches when July 31 came around. I used Daddy’s arm to help get me down the aisle. When it was time to exit stage left, The Engineer whisked me off my feet and carried me out of the church. No, it wasn’t planned. I was every bit as surprised as the men you’ll see leaning to the right to avoid my size 5.5 saddle-clad left foot getting awfully close to their faces ‘cause The Engineer had eyes only for me back then.

The Dress . . .

Having missed the memo alerting me that Mothers of the Groom were to wear beige, stay out of the way, and keep their mouths completely shut, I invited my mother-in-law to go shopping for wedding dresses with my mother and me. “It’ll be fun,” I told her, “we’ll snag me a dress then go have lunch somewhere.” She agreed, my mother and I picked her up, and off we went – the bride and her two mothers.

We started at a shop at North DeKalb Mall, not so far from the Chambers’ house. I selected a dress with a higher empire waist, thinking it would hide all my rolls of fat . . . the flesh that only I saw when I looked in the mirror at my 98-pound self. I came out of the dressing room, both women liked it, and I said “Great, we’ll take it.” I stood as the pins were put in place for the person who would make the alterations, then asked, “Where will we have lunch?”

the bride, the groom, a young girl

The Other Dresses . . . 

I also have in my cedar chest, the dress Mother wore that night and the dress her mother wore that night. Three generations of dresses, one pink, one blue, one white. I wish I had the dresses Mrs. C and Nancy wore.

gold journal on old brown, white, and blue quilt. on cover of journal is Follow Your Heart.

The Stories . . . 

I’m delighted to tell you that earlier this year, The Engineer surprised me yet again earlier this year by agreeing to co-write our memories. I found matching journals at the dollar store in Denver, and told him the deadline is July 31, 2022. That’ll give me a year to merge the two journals (likely more, in my case) into one book. What a kick it’ll be to see what he remembers (and how much he gets right)!

red stitched letters on white dress with lace

The Plan . . . 

Oh, the things we keep. I am now stitching memories onto the skirt of the dress – slowly, so far, because there’s something about the possibility of COVID-19 lurking around every corner that slows me down and faster as we move towards the big Five-Oh mark. I have plans for the veil, too, and I still have the shoes (they are on display in my studio)  and the fingerless gloves Mother “encouraged” me to get. Who knows what I’ll do with all those accessories? Though I have no idea what to do with it, it seems I’m staging  an installation  – three generations of dresses, my veil, the shoes, gloves, photos, my wedding planning book, a box of napkins from the wedding, the book, my bouquet, and so many other things – and I’m calling it The State of Our Union. Stay tuned.

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Post Script . . . 

Today, The Engineer marked the day by gifting me 3 pairs of new socks and 2 replacement bulbs for my photography lights. And me? I gifted him this blog post.

 

I Am Here . . . Even When I’m Not

I’d always heard that the older you get, the faster time flies.

It’s true.

2014 was the year I wanted days filled with making (stitching); marking (writing); moving (walking), and laughing (enough said). I assigned each a color: orange for making; aqua for marking; red for moving; and purple for laughing. I kept my journal in a big 8.5 x 11 sketchbook, one for each quarter. The paper was most excellent – no bleed through at all – but it was big and it was heavy.

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My haptic and visual tracker for 2014, a cloth called Evidence, is not yet finished. It’s big and bulky, and I’m using my sewing machine for a change. Maybe one day soon I’ll be home long enough to finish it. Fingers crossed.

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Last week, I came across a 1959 desk diary. Unused. Because it’s for the food industry, the first 50-100 pages are shiny, glossy pages filled with recipes. I love the look of this book – filled with possibilities. Love the pebbly texture of the red cover. Love the quote at the bottom of each page. Love wondering about the person who owned it . . . and didn’t use it after the first 3 days. I wonder if I could fit my do’s and done’s on just one wide-ruled page.

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Then I spied this little jewel, a 1955 diary from Westinghouse Electric Supply. It’s possible my father-in-law was given one of these, seeing as how he was an electrical contractor. I wish us all a life that’s far bigger than this space allows for documentation.

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I seem almost obsessed with creating a tangible legacy, with leaving some track of my existence. The more I am away from writing and stitching, the smaller and more insignificant I feel. The more time I spend tending to others, the more I disappear. I dread dying and having my tombstone say “She helped a lot of people”, leaving my kids to wonder who I really was. And then again, maybe I overestimate their interest in me. I keep a journal – be it digital, written, or stitched – to prove to myself I’m here. You can just call me Kilroy.