Write On: Journaling During a Pandemic

What were you doing the summer you turned 13?

I was on an American President Lines cruiseship, on a 26-day trip from Manila, Philippines (where I lived from 1966-1969) back to the United States, with stopovers in Japan and Hong Kong. I remember the ship had a swimming pool, and more than one restaurant, and a lot of kids around my age. I remember that I foolishly hung my three-quarters size guitar on the wall of my stateroom, where it got cracked on the voyage.

And I remember buying my first journal at an immense toy store in Hong Kong, beginning a lifelong habit of recording my thoughts and feelings and saving my memories of people I’d met, places I’d visited, events I’d witnessed, and experiences I’d had on my travels. My mom, a’h, suggested I buy the journal, as I was already a seasoned, intercontinental traveler, experiencing different cultures all over the world. Keeping a journal has become a cherished practice.

a person journaling
Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

Since we’re all living through a unique period in time, during this coronavirus pandemic, I thought I’d encourage each of you to take up journaling. Think of the stories you will have to tell your children and grandchildren! There are many ways to keep a journal, and I’ll share some ideas with you here.

Selecting a Journal

Yes, in my opinion, journaling involves writing with a pen—or sketching with a pen or pencil—on paper. What you write online requires electricity to access, and it may not be available to share the way your analog journal entries will be (although I do admit I sometimes print out letters I’ve typed and insert those loose pages into my handwritten journal). I promise you the experience will be well worth it! So, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose a journal.

fountain pen on paper
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

That first journal I bought in 1969 had a soft fabric cover in pastel plaid. The fabric cover stained easily, and I outgrew my fondness for plaids and pastels. My next journal had a plastic cover. That was even worse: it got hot and sticky. Now, I use a journal with a cover that has a pleasant feel and moves smoothly over a desk, table, or lap. My journals are always easy to carry with me, with a flexible binding, good quality paper that takes fountain-pen ink, and built-in pockets for ticket stubs or other small mementos. Some people use plain school notebooks, but I like the Moleskin Classic, lined, soft cover journals (they make unlined versions for those inclined to augment their words with pictures).

This year, I tried using an environmentally-friendly, stone paper journal. I love the idea of it, and the paper takes fountain pen ink beautifully, but it’s too heavy to lug around and has a fabric cover.

Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing a journal type, start writing!

Tips for Novice Journal Writers:

  • Keep your journal with you, so you’re ready to write or sketch at any time
  • Keep the first page blank; start writing on the second page (trust me on this)
  • Date every entry (day, month, year): you think you’ll remember later, but you won’t
  • Don’t edit your writing or feel you have to write beautifully, just jot down your thoughts
  • Write a little or a lot—it’s up to you
  • Write when you want to and don’t feel obligated to write every day (it’s not a chore)
  • If you have a hard time starting to write, just make a bullet list of the day’s events
  • Write lists of your favorite things, like books, quotes, films, or recipes
  • Although you don’t have to write everyday, try to make writing part of your routine as your get ready in the morning or wind down at night

You’re living through extraordinary times, on a personal and communal level. Consider sharing with your journal what you share in conversation with your friends and families—or the thoughts you’re thinking but not expressing.

Your journals are just for you. Don’t feel you have to make a compete record of your experiences, with photos, or pressed flowers, or theater tickets. Some days you might feel like scrapbooking; other days, you may want to use the bullet-point method of jotting down your day’s activities to use to jog your memory later. Your journal writing doesn’t have to be perfect, grammatically correct, or demonstrate your calligraphic handwriting skills.

Keeping a journal helps you articulate your thoughts and feelings and can be a therapeutic “safe space” to record your emotions, preserve your memories, and reflect honestly on how your life experiences are aligning with your life goals. The act of writing is a useful technique for self-awareness and personal growth. It’s true: sometimes you discover what you’re thinking or feeling as you write!

blank journal with flowers
Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

For inspiration, explore these diaries from famous authors and regular people, which can be found in the TCL catalog or for free online:

Happy reading—and journaling!

This post was contributed by Aviva Adler, Librarian, Touro College Israel

Finding Solace at an Animal Sanctuary

For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to animals, from gushing over the stray cats that my father used to bring home like some sort of Pied Piper, to having the distinct memory of rushing across the road as a teen to assist a jaywalking turtle. When, in 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to work directly with animals (many of which most people never get the chance to work with), I immediately accepted.

On my very first day volunteering, I was tasked with mucking up after a pair of alpacas, feeding over a dozen chickens, and brushing a big bovine beauty named Annabelle. While it was hard, physical work, it was also heavenly. I was completely in my element, surrounded by over fifty animals of all different shapes, sizes, and species, and learning as much as I could about them. Continue reading

Math Adds Up To Sewing Success

I was never good at art. Throughout school, I was a disaster at drawing and a mess at painting. Art classes did little more than fill me with a sense of incompetence. Always told that I was more of a spatial and abstract thinker, I stuck to what I was good at: math and science.

I was in high school when I began to play around with my mom’s sewing machine just for fun. I made some interesting and awful clothes — I was not good at art, right?

It was a math teacher who changed my mind about my ability to sew. He asked me how geometry helped me figure out how to put pattern pieces together. Sewing, he told me, is nothing more than geometry. It requires measuring, numbers, cutting shapes of fabric, and putting them together like a puzzle. A lightbulb went off in my head: sewing is the math geek’s answer to artistic endeavors and creative outlets. I was hooked.

During the current coronavirus lockdown, I decided to spend some time catching up on patterns and fabrics I had accumulated over the years to make some clothes and share with our Touro community. Here is the dress I will try out:

dress pattern
McCall’s 7627 pattern (Figure 1)

Here it goes!

I started by measuring and calculating my pattern size. After, I cut out pattern shapes from the fabric (Figures 2 and 3).

cutting out the fabric
Figure 2
cutting fabric out
Figure 3

After all the pieces of fabric are cut out, then comes the instructions on how to assemble them (Figure 4).

sewing machine next to cut fabric
Figure 4

The instructions call for constructing the top first by sewing the bodice together with darts, pleats, and facing to add design features (Figure 5).

beginning to sew
Figure 5

The top of the garment is put together, minus the sleeves; they are added later (Figure 6).

after the first sew
Figure 6

Next, I started work on the skirt section. Ironing is unfortunately required to get a perfect seam (Figure 7).

ironing the skirt section
Figure 7

Like putting a puzzle together, the skirt was in four sections that needed to be sewn together (Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8

Adding darts and pleats to skirt section to add figure enhancement (Figure 9).

adding pleats and darts
Figure 9

The bottom and the top are complete. Now to attach them to each other (Figure 10).

sewing the top and the bottom to each other
Figure 10

The top and the bottom are matched up and sewn together. Final finishes are made to the garment by hemming rough edges and cutting loose strings (Figure 11).

the dress after making final touches
Figure 11

The dress is then machine-washed and dried in order to get any chemicals out of the fabric and to pre-shrink the garment if is made of cotton.

Final adjustments are made for fitting (Figure 12), and the dress is done. Geometry — that’s all it is!

modelling the dress after it has been washed
Figure 12

This blog post was contributed by Annette Carr, Librarian at the School of Health Sciences at Bay Shore. All photos courtesy of the author.