January 11th, 2017
Dear, Dear Diary
I started keeping a diary when I was nine years old. It was bright yellow and came with a gold lock and a tiny key. Believe it or not, I’m looking at that very diary right now. The key is long gone, and the cover has faded to the color of wheat, but it’s still decorated with carefully selected stickers. On the front is a striped kitten, a tiny chipmunk in green shorts and a little dog wearing a red winter coat. On the back are ladybirds and bunnies, plus this declaration in dark blue ink: “Harriette waz here, ’83.”
I started this five-year diary when I was a child of nine and kept it, with complete dedication, until I was officially a teenager. In 1979, I rode a short, fat Shetland pony named Ginger through verdant fields in Vermont and played The Dukes of Hazzard with the boys next door. By 1984, I was in Dunedin, New Zealand, longing for a boyfriend, occasionally fighting with girlfriends and constantly lamenting the dullness of my adolescent life.
This diary is bursting with words and mementos. For five years, I had a mere four lines to capture my daily thoughts, feelings, ideas, dreams and fears. Four lines! To compensate, I made paper pockets for the inside of each cover, obliquely labeled “Memories” and “ETC.” Today, I can carefully reach inside each miniature treasure trove and find relics of my past. Here’s an excerpt from a typed letter from a 13-year-old pal: “Today was the most boring day of my life. We’ll have to do something really hilarious to cheer evry body up, ‘cause we’re all so DEPRESSED!!!!!!!!!”
Another one: preserved in the back pocket, a pledge – Top Secret – signed with a friend that we will not eat “junk food (chips, chocolate etc.) and will not snack in between meals until July 31st or until further notice.” The agreement includes a formidable P.S.: Do 20 mins. exercise each day. Make up an EXERCISE CHART and Stick To It!
And finally, set off with asterisks and all caps: *STOP BITING NAILS*
(Confession: I still make this kind of self-improvement vow, although for the most part, I have stopped biting my nails.)
My five-year-diary ushered in a lifetime of journals and journaling. I remember thinking that if anyone ever read my diaries (God forbid), they’d never suspect anything meaningful was happening in the world. I suppose you could glean some knowledge of pop culture through references like “I love Duran Duran” or “Saw Dire Straits in concert.” But I guess that’s the beauty of a diary: it’s yours to fill however you want.
The last time I kept a daily journal was during each of my pregnancies. I’m so glad I did. Both diaries served as the basis for detailed letters I later wrote to my boys about their gestation and birth. Both have given me irrefutable evidence I can use against those boys, should I ever need it, about the hell they put me through while in utero. Just saying.
A final thought. I’m sure all this “diarying” – if that’s not a word, it should be – has something to do with my becoming a writer. (Also this: I suck at math.) Every night for many, many years, I’d climb into bed, pull out a pen and my private book and mentally retrace my day before drifting off to sleep. Surely my nightly writing habit helped me develop a practice, maybe even a craft, for sifting through and sorting out thoughts, experiences or events.
These days, if I’m up at 3:00 a.m. because a seed of an idea has planted itself in my brain, I know sleep will be impossible until I’ve written it down. Actually, “written it out” – of my head, that is – is more accurate.
I guess after nearly four decades of writing myself to sleep, sometimes, still, that’s exactly what it takes.
Chances are, you’ve made kale chips about a million times. But just in case, here’s the world’s easiest recipe for a crunchy, salty vegetable snack that tastes almost as good as your favorite potato chip.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
1 bunch kale (either curly or flat-leaf), washed and dried, with middle stem removed and leaves torn into potato-chip-size pieces
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Salt to taste
Note: Make sure your kale is completely dry, otherwise it may wilt rather than crisp in the oven (which would be sad).
In a medium-size bowl, toss the kale with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Distribute in a single layer across a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, then turn the leaves. Bake for another 3-5 minutes or until crispy. Be careful not to burn the kale in the last moments of baking.
Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
I love getting book reviews from other Newsy! readers because it reminds me to keep an open mind about choosing books outside my comfort genres. When I read Victoria From Vermont’s review of this week’s quirky fantasy novel, I was intrigued. I was also grateful for the nudge to add something entirely unexpected to my “books to read” list for 2017.
I picked this little volume up at my local bookstore thanks to a glowing staff review. I was certainly not disappointed with its dry humor, sarcasm and bizarrely lovable characters. Johannes Cabal is a necromancer out to win back his soul from Satan, having traded it with the devil in exchange for knowledge about the dark art of communicating with the dead. Cabal strikes a deal with the snarky, bored-out-of-his-mind Satan. As a result, he brings to life some surprisingly charismatic piles of bones and tracks down his suave vampire of a brother to help him meet his end goal. I found it hard not to adore Cabal and his motley crew, even at the peak of his nefarious scheming. I’m excited that the series continues with a fifth (and maybe even sixth) book. If you’re looking for a charming romance or a sweet, feel-good novel, don’t bother with Johannes Cabal. But if “darkly funny” and “anything-but-mainstream” sounds appealing, I suggest you give this book a whirl.
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