My love-hate relationship with journaling

To be candid, my relationship with journaling has been a relationship heavy on the hate side of the equation.

Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of journaling. The anticipation of writing down cogent ideas that perfectly capture life, the universe, and everything: who doesn’t want that?

But this being human thing isn’t always pretty, and it’s taken me a long time to realize that journaling the mess can be, well, messy.

After some false starts, I finally discovered a journaling method and tools that work for me.

My tools:

  • A composition book
  • A FriXion erasable pen

I love beautiful journals. But I don’t want to mess them up with my scribblings. So they sit pristinely on the shelf, never realizing their potential. So this is a problem. I have been using composition books for note-taking for a while. I like them because they are inexpensive and recyclable/biodegradable. So I decided to give one a try for journaling, and I am happy to report I filled the first one in just over six months. Also, at back-to-school time, there are hundreds of styles available.

Okay, the truth is I like writing with pens, but I hate making mistakes, especially in a journal. I don’t want to mess things up. What is the origin of this feeling? I have no idea. I finally decided to own the feeling and work with it. FriXion pens are the perfect solution for me. I like the way they feel, and they come in lots of colors. A word of caution: FriXion pens are also disappearing ink pens. Add heat and poof! Your words will disappear. This quality makes FiXion pens fantastic for quilting but not for archival writing! So if you are writing for the ages, this might not be the right pen choice for you.

I try to write every day, even if it’s just five words. The five-word tip was passed on by Jessica Brody in her Conquering Writer’s Block class on Udemy, which I recommend. I don’t always write every day, but I write a lot more than I used to! I’m filling journals, people. That’s a win!

Leveling up

This month I added a couple of new specialty journals to the lineup. I have one for my creative work. I use it to track progress on creative projects, which is motivating, and it keeps me honest. I also have a health journal to track what I eat, exercise, how I feel. It’s helpful in tweaking things like coffee consumption, sleep, and diet. I also added a Work and Career journal to think through my strengths and where I want to go in my work life. Four journals seems a bit crazy, but the secret is to shoot for updates or log entries (as explained by Austin Kleon).

Take the next step!

There’s still time to browse the back-to-school aisles at your favorite store and pick up a composition book that speaks to you.

My cat meditation

Lille En, the cat with the Danish name

I drink my first cup of coffee in bed every morning and just about every morning, my cat, Lille En, gets in my lap. This used to irritate me because she would bump and nudge the hand holding the coffee cup and spill coffee on me, on the covers. I usually chased her off or tried to coax her to daddy’s side of the bed but this hardly ever worked.  

And then my beloved dog passed Brin away, and I discovered that my irritation with the other furkids died, too. 

I realized our time together is short. Every morning, coffee time is an irresistible invitation for Lille En. And I realized that changing my mindset completely altered what is otherwise the exact same experience. I am ready for the cat, and now I find that I welcome her. I give her attention and notice how beautiful she is and how soft her fur is. I listen to the sound of her purr. She sometimes wraps a leg around me like an embrace. I enjoy our time together.

This morning I realized it’s a meditation of sorts, not unlike the walking meditation that I like to do. In my cat meditation, I notice the cat, and I don’t think about anything else. Sometimes, Lille En goes to sleep, and I resume my coffee drinking. Sometimes, the coffee grows cold on the nightstand. Either way, I notice I am content.

The Blend

Long ago, I attended a master gardener training on container gardening. My big takeaway from that was the idea of soil mixes. I was amazed to learn that many people don’t just use the soil as-is from the bag that they pick up at the garden center. 

The recipe that I learned is:

  • ⅓ potting soil
  • ⅓ peat moss
  • ⅓ pumice

My friend and fellow gardener is the one who I think started calling it “the blend” and the name stuck. Sounds like coffee and I can ALWAYS get behind that!

For a long time, I stuck to the recipe because I thought, “Who am I to mess with a master gardener’s recipe?”

After living in several different regions of the country with varying access to ingredients, I have modified this a bit. Pumice has been impossible for me to find outside of Arizona. There are potential sustainability issues with using peat moss. And that proportion isn’t a hard and fast rule. I’ve learned that it largely depends on the quality and type of potting soil that you start out with. Also, different plants–indoor vs. outdoor and cactus vs. tomato plants–have different needs.

Also, Google soil recipes and explore the wonderful world of gardening. There are so many soil mix recipes on the Internet; I’ve tried several, and a few were a complete failure for me. 

So I hereby give you permission to experiment. Use this recipe as a guide rather than a hard and fast rule. Explore other mixes or go by feel and texture. Observe your plants and ask yourself, “Are they doing well? How’s the drainage?” If you see issues with plant growth or waterlogged soil, you can adjust the recipe. I have been known to re-pot a plant to amend the proportions of soil, peat, and perlite. 

Now my recipe is probably more like this:

  • ½ potting soil
  • ¼-⅓ peat moss or coconut coir
  • ¼ perlite

This year I purchased some compressed blocks of coconut coir that were fantastic–and I bought a few that were less so. Same goes for potting soil–I have had some bad blends that I thought needed more work than they were worth.

For my vegetable container gardening this year, I added compost to the mix or used a compost-amended potting soil that I LOVED. I wish I had purchased 10 bags of that stuff. So far my plants are doing well, and all the tomatoes and peppers are setting fruit. The eggplants haven’t yet decided if they are going to play. (Pacific Northwest Gardening is an adventure. Especially compared to other places I have gardened, June and July were downright cold.)

My go-to potting soil is Kellogg Garden Organics Raised Bed & Potting Mix. I don’t like it on its own, but when it’s part of the blend, it feels perfect to me. 

I buy huge bags of perlite from Home Depot or a local garden supply center that I like that has perlite in sizes that I didn’t know existed before I walked through their doors. Wow.

I do add a cactus soil to the blend when I am potting cactus and succulents. I don’t know if it’s essential to do this–maybe adding more perlite would be sufficient, but I tend to rely on the bagged cactus mixes as an ingredient and that works reliably. 

A note about perlite: You absolutely don’t want to breathe in perlite dust. Wear a mask, or better yet, wet it down completely before handling it. I spray it down in the bag or as I am pouring it into my soil can. (I used a large lidded trash can with wheels for my blend.)

If you used compressed coconut coir, put it in a wheelbarrow or a trash can to soak it and give it time to expand. Give yourself time to soak it, tease it apart, soak it some more and repeat until it expands to its full size. (A coir brick the size of a large paver will expand to about two cubic feet.) It’s an easy and satisfying task to tend to while you are doing other things.

Experiment with your soil mix so that it suits your plants and your growing environment. 

Keep going and keep growing!