How to Half-Ass a Bullet Journal

Iceland Journal that I haven’t touched since… (see Moleskine Chapter Journal for more… in plum). 

Guys, I’ve sought advice on the ever-loving Instagram AND on its cruel twin, Twitter, but I can’t seem to understand how to attack or accomplish the mysterious bullet journal.

If I showed you the amount of quarter-completed journals I own, and high school mathed a total of how much was spent on each one, I think I could make a grown man on a budget cry.  No adult should be able to spend this much on journaling and not actually have at least a square of completed Ikea shelf to show for it.

(Mathed is an awesome verb)

I would show you pictures, but honestly, it’s at hoarder level and I mean that totally as a reference to the TLC show. And the worst part is that people know this about me so they give me journals.  One of my students for Christmas gave me this adorable and charmed striped nautical journal.  My cousin just gave me the 52 Lists for Happiness journal. I buy Moleskines like the company’s stock is plummeting and they’re ready to shut down any second.  (The stock reference is overdramatic because I’m not even sure if Moleskine is privately owned).

This is what I call “The Main Chick” because she’s the biggest and got the Sylvia Plath sticker.

What I’m saying is: I’ve tried everything.

Here’s a few of those trials and errors:

  1. Keeping the journals next to bed to write in before I sleep — but I prefer to read before I sleep.
  2. Subsequently carrying them around with me everywhere like I’m going to take a quiet moment everyday outside some quaint Parisian-inspired coffee shop and doodle my way to productivity.
  3. Refused to buy a new one until I finish an old one — for this I just get squirrel tendencies and shiny-object my way to failure.
  4. Admitted I have a problem.  Don’t they say this is the first step? I’ll admit it all day.
  5. Bought smaller journals for carrying to transfer to said huge journal to manage my life every day.
  6. Colored in my journal at work which is totally UNproductive.
  7. Bought journaling how-to magazines and magazines with just a bunch of journal photographs for inspiration.
  8. Also, Pinterest.
  9. I follow like 97234 bulletjournalers on Instagram and hit the little flag on all of their pictures to save them and use their weekly spread (or whatever spread) in my own journal.
  10. Given up my coveted Poketo agenda for a week to see if I could agenda in my bullet journal.   (I may or may not also be creating a plan to hoard these).
Now I’ll have TWO incomplete 52 List journals. BAH

Tonight, I asked people how they #bujo on Twitter and Ayla Jae said she has one big goal and she uses her bullet journal to track that one goal into little steps.  I think she’s writing a book, just assuming from her Twitter bio, but how would I even start? Like … track my writing everyday? I’m sure that’s productive and I should be doing that (HEY, failed Nanowrimo attempt) but should I add that to my other bullet journal’s list of “To Do’s” for the day.  What I’m saying is, how does this not become a chore? 

I get that there are some really awesome people who do bullet-journaling for a living on Youtube.  But what about us folks that work a full day and come home to make dinner and walk the dog and have no … time. I know what you’re going to say.  This is YOUR time, this is the time for YOURself.  And I want that time, but where in my day do I put it.  And if I want it to be fancy (don’t we all) and I almost care about that more than actual productivity, how do I quiet the idiot in my head?


If you’re like me and you need to join the Bullet Journalers Anonymous and get your shit together, FA’REAL, sign up below for something that will be planned halfway in my journal.  How do we make a plan? Should I write this plan in my bullet journal.

Oh, Lawd.


Tender, Not Tinder.

This week I followed along to Susannah Conway’s Word of the Year series. It’s a five day series that coaches an individual through finding a word that they can live on for the next year.  For me, living on a word focuses me on what I want to pursue, what kind of habitat I want to create for myself, how I want to interact with those I love and with strangers over email. (I have the big problem of typing before thinking).

qxteuy3My friend Nat is constantly telling me to read (or reread because I’ve skimmed-ish) The Four Agreements, a Toltec Wisdom book by Don Miguel Ruiz.  I’ve gotten the quick gist of The Four Agreements before, but that definitely doesn’t mean that I’ve lived by them.  I make assumptions about tone in every email I receive, particularly from high school parents. Whoops. I keep my word, but I don’t always say exactly what I mean and then I get frustrated when people don’t understand my frustration. I take everything, everything, personally.  I am the definition of what David Foster Wallace calls living in my “water.”  I live in a world of my own creation.  It caused a lot of problems for me this year.  For instance, I never saw Trump coming because I had never had political discussions with anyone who disagreed with my viewpoint.  The only person I knew who was voting for him was BJ’s Nana and I knew that her constant stream of Fox News wasn’t going to come unhinged by my points brought to her from Slate Magazines, Huffington Post, and Politico. (I swing pretty left, ya see).

Other ways my water sucks me dry is when my best friend was arguing with people on Facebook who didn’t understand the Oakland highway protestors when yet another black man was shot by police officers.  He kept saying, you don’t understand, the whole point is to interrupt the everyday, to bring something into your day that is jarring you from your own sphere.  I didn’t get it until I looked at my water and realized how much I needed to be moved.

And thus, my word of 2017.  It was almost move, and then almost linger, but when it really came down to what I needed to do in my world, I chose the word Tend(er). Yes, I couldn’t really decide between tend and tender and so I used my impeccable grammar (HAR HAR) to help me out. Here’s a few things I journaled about the word tender. For me, it means to “stay soft, give into feelings.  Soften the edges.  Love harder. Let the intimate moments come / stay. Be less in your head and more in your heart.” To the actual dictionary people on their high horses it means, “showing gentleness or concern or sympathy.”

Here are a few photos from the journey through the five day series by Susannah Conway, “Find Your Word”

I want to be more kind, more soft-hearted, more compassionate outside of my own water.  But I want to be tender with myself as well.  My goal for this year is to get essays and poetry published in print literary journals and print magazines. In order to do that, I have to quiet the critic in my head and nurture the pen in my hand without judgment of what that pen is gushing. There will be days when I sound like a thirteen year old girl in a mall walk conversation and days when I sound like Orwell.  My attitude towards each of these days must be tender.

More of my journaling from throughout the series. 

Tender might also change my relationships with friends and family.  I tend to be a blunt, straightforward hardass.  I like to believe that I’m openminded and I listen well, but this is only true in certain aspects of my life.  While I was watching the horrible, but delectable show that is Timber Creek Lodge yesterday, one of the cast members said that he doesn’t believe he’s above anyone else or that anyone else’s role is below his.  I need a little bit of that humility.  My scrappy fight to the best and the strongest at everything (really I think that’s a feminist drive that I would never want to squash) has led me down a path where I forget the small things, and I do less giving.  In order to be tender, I have to be less selfish and more in-tune with other people’s needs, particularly my parents and my soon to be husband.

img_3421I compiled, and probably need help with the last thing.  There’s a list of books that I think will help me bring out tenderness in my life and if you have recommendations I would love to hear them.  I wrote about this on my book blog here.  Skip on over them and leave some comments on books: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, travel, memoir, comics, whatever, that you think brought out tenderness in you and I will add them to my list.

What are your resolutions and goals for the coming year? Have you chosen a word?  Untidy Grace also wrote about her Word of the Year. She’s been thinking about it for three months ya’ll, that’s crazy awesome. Visit to see another perspective there.


“Either to Please or To Educate”

When ever someone asks me who I would invite to a dinner party living or dead, I always think of the Salons of Paris (and then eventually the greater European area).  But let me be honest, the reason I sometimes read Salon is that Megan Mayhew Bergman writes a column for Salon and I respect am obsessed with her so much that I read Salon as tribute.  So, recently, Kim Brooks wrote an article for Salon called Death to high school english.

I was a pie chart of miffed, offended, inspired, and in agreement after finishing.

A summary: Kim Brooks is a college composition professor who feels that students don’t write enough in the classroom to be successful in college and instead are reading classics, and doing short presentations, with student enthusiasm at the forefront, and discussion that has no basis in the text.  Instead, students should be writing, as a form of critical thinking, analyzing, writing, writing writing.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 5.23.19 PMOn the one hand, I’m a self-proclaimed “English teacher that doesn’t teach novels.” On the other hand, I feel for those English teacher of old that still teach the classics and have students analyze the feminist theory in Pride and Prejudice and don’t care whether you’re engaged with a text as long as you can analyze and synthesize its parts.

I’m fortunately, not that teacher.  I didn’t really feel like Brooks was speaking to me so much because my kids write so much that I drowned in loose leaf paper every afternoon.  They write until they complain about all the writing.  They write, because the only true way to teach grammar is through writing.  They peer edit and then they revise, because if you’re not revising then are you even actually writing? I want pens to bleed out, Game of Thrones style.   I want pencils to go to the nub over the course of the week.  My students write individually, they write with peers, they write in collaborative groups, and as a class, I mean, when I think about it, it’s kind of insane the amount of trees that I’m singlehandedly killing until we get enough technology to go paperless.  I believe in this idea that students have to write, in every class, to learn.  STEM and English are not these mysterious outcasts to one another, they blend as easy as the arts and English, S(T)EAMlessly.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 5.24.38 PMMy advice to teachers who focus on the literature and not the writing.  Put a test on it.  Never in all my four years of teaching would I think that I would say this, but, lots and lots of teachers teach to a test.  If you put two constructive response questions on a state test that don’t even measure grammar or sentence variety, or flow, but only evidence and an answer, then most teachers who are being evaluated on those silly paragraphs will think of them as silly.  Put an essay on that sucker.  Put an argumentative speech on it.  Make it wear a slam poem.  If you don’t want to be that exciting, make them write a poem that uses all the bits of figurative language.  Throw the whole truck of rhetorical devices at them and make them put them on the page in a provocative way.  If you want teachers to care about writing, when they’re not writers themselves, then put a test on it.   The SAT and the ACT don’t measure student growth, but if you and all the rich phonies (a la Holden CauLfield) want kids to write, PUT A TEST ON IT.

Thoughts? I would love to hear from other teachers on how much writing they expect, what they’re favorite writing lesson is, or if you think I’m a complete looney.  Let it out, sister or mister.

Image by Ken Whytock (Creative Commons)

Also, please do not confuse this with me endorsing standardized testing.  I hate those beasts, hate, with a passionate, fiery, distaste, but I believe in writing.  And I believe in making the majority believe.  And write now, we gotta do what we gotta do.