A Year Of Notebooks

I filled twelve notebooks and am halfway through thirteen. Filled: I leave several of the perforated end pages blank, tearing them out for the kids to draw on. I write small. It comes out even enough.

I was hoping I’d find some Kuwaiti dinar when I flipped through my notebooks. Instead I found a carrot cake recipe, two temporary tattoos, letter starts, hall passes, a drawing of a saucepan (?), and an illustrated short story by Claire.

When I go through old notebooks, I see the reason why some writers keep their journal separate from their practice and drafting. I tried that once, over a decade ago. Since then, I’ve excused throwing all my writing in one notebook by supposing I’m entwined enough outside of the pages, I may as well play all the parts on lined paper too: prayer and journaling next to fiction next to haphazard poetry. But having all my writing in one place makes seeing me unavoidable. I see the swing of my emotions. Hope and sturdiness of my faith. A prayer of thanks. And a few pages after, paragraphs of insecurity. I interrupt myself with prayers and verses. I turn the page and continue drafting.

I like me, mostly. I want to be Sarah. Looking through my 2014 notebooks I understand that if I quit drafting poetry, fiction and essay to share, I would still journal. The majority of my notebook space is me sorting something out. Some of that sloppy practice informs finished work.

I love that.

Here are excerpts from my 2014 WP. The majority are short ideas I’d circled to go back to, to mine more deeply. Maybe I’ll dig into a few in 2015.


I have this picture of stretching myself out as flat and open as possible, absorbing sun and rest.


I want something beautiful made from my messiness.


I start to live for a lesson. Like I need to name it to pass the level.

Later that month:

I can’t think why I should cover my nakedness. There is no shame in a work being completed.

Later that month:

Naming pain is important. Respect physical pain, learn the intricacy of your form. Acknowledge all pain. Unstop yourself and live in it.

Why is it easier to shove a fear or hurt down than to let pain bloom?

Let pain bloom. Sometimes I walk through a day, cracking. It hurts. I have to keep it together.

I know someone who won’t name her illness because she thinks that gives her illness power.


What I want for my daughter:
Please don’t be angry at yourself
Know you are beautiful
Know God loves you
Please don’t hurt yourself
Let God comfort you
Enjoy your present moment
Sit on the bus
Be kind
I love you
Even when you’re a mess
I’m a mess too
And God is Redeemer


I gave my heart to a spent fantasy. I think of David seeing Bathsheba. I hurt for him too. To doubt your good gifts. Open my eyes to all I have.


I cannot nap. My body hums. I hear my heart and the cars on the street. My children sleep like stones. Claire buries herself next to me. Grant abandons his body for a dream. My children are beautiful: milk cheeks, curled lashes.


In Prague

I think there are no secrets here. I leaned out the window yesterday to watch pedestrians. This is better than TV.

From our flat I can hear cars, music from a radio, a piano, British men talking at a café table under our window, another group of men in a flat across the courtyard, elevator ding, my kids giggling in the next room, a kid yelling, a baby crying, laughter on the street, the clack of heels, the approach and fade of conversation, the front door closing heavily, a cheer.


I have enough.


So much of my twenties felt like play-acting. Like following a script. Now we marry, now we have children. God, let me live unscripted now, free of anyone’s expectation.


Enough is a hard measure.


Keep writing, even the same thing again.


Make me a conduit of grace.

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