May 30, 2007

The Joy of Journaling

Valerie J. Steimle

I started writing a journal when I was 12 years old. As a young woman, I wrote all about my dreams and aspirations. (Along with whom I secretly liked at church.) It was a great way to keep track of my goals and vent the frustrations of growing up. That was 35 years ago. Now, nine children and seven journals later I‘m still writing. I started a brand new journal at the turn of the century and looking back on the other journals, I was surprised at the details of my life.

There were some things I had forgotten about. For example, I wrote an entry of what it felt like the first time my oldest kicked me when I was carrying her in my womb. People forget about the details of their life. I am grateful that I took the time to write about the little things.
There are some days I am motivated to record all the funny things that everyone did that day in our whole family. It would take a lot of time but it was worth it for all the memories recorded.

Like the time I wrote about a day which started out “Today, I woke up this morning to ‘one of those days’. I knew it was going to be ‘one of those days’ because I went past the hallway bathroom and found three signs taped on the door:
1) DANGER: Biochemical Neurotoxins DANGER
2) DANGER: Biohazard Stupidity
3) DO NOT ENTER: Quarantine Warning

Let me explain: Last night Naomi’s (17) running shoes were stinking up her room. Tasha (14) and Sarah (19) were complaining about the smell. Naomi washed them and sprayed them with ‘fabreeze’ but they still smelled so she hid them under the sink in the hallway bathroom and Isaac (16) hung up the signs.” The day got progressively more chaotic with trying to locate all the Planet of the Ape movies to have a Planet of the Apes movie marathon. I wrote it all down in my journal.

Then there are other days I don’t care to write at all. (I don’t like those days.) So I came up with an idea on how to keep an even keel. Instead of overwhelming myself with the idea of writing all the details every day for an hour, I think to myself, I will only write five minutes every other day and leave it at that. If I write more fine, if I don’t that’s fine too.
I like to record the funny things that my children have done. When I am depressed, those writings can really cheer me up. Then there were times I recorded unusual happenings that didn’t seem to be funny at the time, but now are priceless. For example, one year in the first week of school, (we homeschool) I recorded the complaints of my children whose ages spanned from 3 to 15. I had run to the store for a few minutes and when I came back this is what I heard:
1. “Nobody is doing school work.”
2. “Isaac didn’t want to cut the lawn.” (My oldest son, 13 at the time)
3. Tasha and Jena (neighbor child) were cheating at kickball.” (both 11)
4. “Tasha didn’t want to cut the lawn.” (They were supposed to take turns)
5. “Sarah (15) hit Caleb.” (8)
6. “Caleb hit her back.”
7. “Tasha hit Sarah with her PEZ dispenser.”
8. “Isaac locked Caleb in the closet.”
9. “Naomi (14) is touching everyone’s stuff.”
10. “Everyone is yelling at Naomi.”
11. “Naomi was walking backwards and ran into Sarah.”
12. “Naomi shot Lydia (3) with a rubber band.”

That entry really makes me laugh. It’s so typical of what children will say about each other when they are annoyed. I never would have remembered all those details if I had not written them down.

My life is so full and my writing reflects that lifestyle. I don’t record all the mundane things I do but I write about what is important to me at the time. Sometimes hanging up bed sheets on a cool windy day is important to me so I write about that. Sometimes swinging gently in my hammock under the trees with my 3-year-old is important to me so I write about that. After I do my weekly biking, sometimes I’ll write my thoughts for the morning. One of the best things about writing is that I’ll always have the pages of my thoughts kept safe for reading on another day.

Not only are there snippets of my children’s life in my journal, but my goals for the year and my spiritual insights are recorded there as well. Writing down my feelings about world events and what is important to me in my life is therapeutic. I feel much better after writing for a half an hour and can face the day of peanut butter and jelly faces, a sink full of dirty dishes and homework to correct. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone in the world and I have the personal writings in my journal to prove it.


  1. I loved reading about your family, Valerie! Thank you for reminding us that even the seemingly mundane events in our lives have a purpose. I am going to be more diligent about writing down daily events.

  2. Thanks for reminding Valerie how hysterical it is to re read your old journal entries. That was the one aspect of the gospel I truly enjoyed and continue to enjoy although my emphasis has changed over the years. Still what I thought at 17 it both touching and silly to me now.


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