My Secret, Now Yours


Rachel from Raleigh

 For about 4 years I’ve been dealing with depression. No one knows because I hide it well with my personality. It’s an ongoing struggle but I know there has to be some kind of end. If not an end, a way to live with it but not let it overcome me.

My secret, now yours

— Rachel


Circles of Life


Schrijver means writer in Dutch.  This is a page from The Holland Journal.  Someone I had met in Holland (back in 2000) recently got in touch with me via email. An excerpt below from the recent email:

            One evening a friend (Cathelijne) and I decided to hang out in the Irish pub.                     Soon we started talking with this nice girl, Megan, carrying a notebook. She told             us that she was from the United States and was traveling through Europe and                 the Netherlands and for some reasons I do not remember anymore about why                 she visited Groningen that day. See was curious about our lives, the                               Netherlands and the city of Groningen.

            It is a weird thing that for reasons unknown and at times you least expect it you               meet people you never forget. It is that magical thing that makes some people                 and some events more special than others. I remember we liked the girl and                   decided to take her on tour in the night life of Groningen. It became a great                     night. We visited many bars, had many, many dances and had a lot, lot, lot of                 fun together. It was so to say legen, wait for it, dary (to quote Barney from the                 sitcom How I Met Your Mother).

           I remember that it was already early the next morning when I walked the girl                    back to her hotel. I remember me and her talking about her dream to write a                    book about her travels and about the poetry see sometimes wrote. Since she                  had to travel back further (I think even back to the States) the next day we                      decided to exchange e-mail addresses and keep in touch and maybe, who                      knows, meet again somewhere.

          Do you remember?

          Is it weird to reply to a 14 year old e-mail (and spam it to all other addresses I                 could find of you)? Yes, it definitely is but my curiosity wins it over the chance                 you do not like it or do not remember so here is my reply. I hope that you                         receive it, read it and maybe reply again and answer the questions. How are                   you, are you well and do you remember? …. I do…

We had kept in touch briefly by email in 2000 and life faded into life for both of us on separate continents.

I often thought of this person wondering what happened to him.  So interesting when life comes full circle. For me, 14 years later, he remembered the girl with the journal who asked people to sign it.  He could very well be the person who wrote “Schrijver” in the journal. I love this page of the journal. There is a coffee stained poem written on the back.



Strolling along in

Amsterdam along

A canal lined street

2 young girls scream

In fun, “Halo” to fellow Sunday


Little Girl amusement sings

in their shirts

I ask to take their picture

and they say cheese with

innocent gaiety.

As I walk away on of the

girls says, “Touriste.”

I say “Watch it…no



There is a quiet hum

Now as I sit on green

Steps. My yellow backpack

Blends in so

And I share a moment

With grace.

Conquer It. Just Do It. Mistakes Only Make Your Stronger.

A page in the Original Journal
A page in the Original Journal. This journal is from the North Carolina Original Journal. And yes, that is an original autograph and signature of the one and only Anne Lamott. I went to her book signing and reading at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC.  

Here is some background info on this page in the Original Journal.

1. It is the current Original Journal (I am carrying this one around with me now in North Carolina).

2. Emery Smith was an administrator that I worked for (as a teacher). He is also a redhead.

3. Anne Lamott is one of my all time favorite authors.

4. Emins or Emily Ashley is a random person — have no idea who she is. She is obviously an Original Journal signer.  I love what she says and I also love that it is on the same page as Anne Lamott’s Original Journal signing.

5. That is red ink that bled onto my notebook at the top. I am not one to put caps back on pens and of course, the journal travels with me everywhere I go.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

Journal Your Journey

The 411 on The Original Journal

I am not the first person to ask people to sign my journal.  And I will not be the last.  But I have a unique project that I’ve been working on for the past decade and a half.  I have been asking people to sign my journal since I was a senior in college.  A friend gave me a multi-pack of journals with sunflowers on them.  The pocket-size journal of that pack became the first journal of The Original Journal Project. 

When someone would say something funny or wise or obscene, I’d say, “Write that sh*t down.”  And so began the journal.

After I graduated, I carried my journal everywhere I went.  In 1996, I made a pact with myself to take out my journal and begin writing wherever I was if muse came a-knockin’.  So wherever I was, there was the journal, out on the coffee table, bar, sidewalk, street, bus, airport — you get the point.

I, then began asking random people to sign my journal.  I am a writer and I see stories everywhere, especially in people.  I would tell them there are three rules:

Front Door

1.  There is a Front Door, which is Rated PG-13 (you enter the Front Door in the front of the journal).

Back Door

2.  There is a Back Door, which is Not Yet Rated (you enter the Back Door by flipping the book around and going in the back of the journal).

3.  There are no rules.



The images below are part of The Original Journal Project, which includes signatures from many of the hundreds of journals.

I met Dan from England on the Greyhound Bus.  He was bored and not a big fan of Greyhound.
I met Dan from England on the Greyhound Bus. He was bored and not a big fan of Greyhound.

fire hydrant

NYC Journal circa 1998
NYC Journal circa 1998

People write all kinds of stuff in the journal.

I ask people in train stations, bus depots, airports, en route traveling, cafes, bars, pubs, taverns, friends, business associates, students, teachers, my dentist, you name it, people from all different journeys – walking, running, tripping, skipping, singing their own song of life, to sign the journal and I am still collecting signatures.

Some people politely decline. Some enthusiastically accept, and some simply don’t get it, but what matters most, are those that do. Most people accept the invitation and leave their unique thought. Some journal signings are big thoughts; some are medium thoughts; some are deep thoughts; some are naughty thoughts; some are nice thoughts and some are tiny thoughts. Some are thoughtless. Some are random. Some aren’t thoughts at all. But one thing that is unique about all the journal signings and the people who sign them, is they are all original.

I wrote a book proposal for this in 2007.  It took a really long time to export the creative idea into a well-written, expository frame.  I polished it and mailed it to a major publisher in January of 2008.  It made it all the way to the acquisition meeting.  I remember the day I mailed it out as it was the day Obama was inaugurated.  And there was a blizzard in Eastern North Carolina.

The journal has traveled some of the world (me with it).  It has been to half of the United States, Holland, and the UK. It has traveled and been signed on airplanes, Greyhound buses, cabs, cars, on foot, in parked cars, and many other forms of traveling.  The journal is still traveling, just a little bit slower, as I am a mom now to a toddler.

There is a New York Journal, Greyhound Journal, Holland Journal, Boston Journal, California Journal, and now most recently, the UK Journal. There are many others.  You will meet the people that signed the journal through this website.  You will also have the opportunity to participate, as The Original Journal is an on-going project.

There have been similar book projects that have been created, organized, and published.  I get so frustrated when I see a book project similar to mine out there on book shelves.  Mainly because I just can’t get left brain organized to publish it myself.  I call this crossing the left brained rickety bridge.  I have pitched the book to four literary agents and they all say it is a great, unique idea, but it needs some more time.  Dude (or Dudette), I have been working on this for almost 20 years.  The dude that invented the printing press went broke and had to hand it over to someone else (I learned this recently at the British Library).

I believe in this project. I believe it’s my calling to create journals for people to journal their journey.

I believe this journal project will get published.  There will be more journals, as a result of The Original Journal’s publication.

So, I have started this website and I’ll see where the journey leads.

The Original Journal is a celebration of people and their story.  I want this project to ultimately be published as a journal with quotes to inspire someone (you) started on their (your) story.

So, stayed tuned and check in every once in a while.

A couple things:

1.  I’d love to have you participate in the Original Journal Project. Photograph a sign, draw a picture, send up a smoke signal, collect a moment, randomize some thinking, shoot some wisdom out the ole’ cake hole. Capture it. Write it. Upload it. Email it. Don’t sit there. Journal Your Journey. I’m waiting. Ask my husband; I hate to wait. Here, you’ll need this: email address —; Twitter — @OriginalJournal; Facebook — The Original Journal Project; Tumblr — The Original Journal Project. <foot tapping>

Go old school. Pick up a pen. Personalize it. Put some passion in it (or not). Participate by scanning or taking a selfie of your signature; tweet, tumblr, facebook, or email your handwritten signature to The Original Journal. You don’t have to handwrite it, but I am trying to re-create a person to person journal signing. If your handwriting is illegible, please provide a typed translation, but do include the scanned handwritten version. Journal Signings (signatures) can be anonymous.

2.  Please pass the word along.

3. Eventually there will be some homemade, handmade journals available to purchase on Etsy or somewhere.  I have to consult my left brain and work that out.

4.  Thank you for taking the time to visit The Original Journal.  Please “like” it on Facebook and/or follow this blog. Find The Original Journal on Twitter and Tumblr.


“Wizdam comes from the hart not from the dark. Sincerely, Ernesto”

This was written in a purple A to Z kids’ cursive handwriting practice journal.  (Yes, remember when teachers actually taught this beautiful art form?)

This journal signature was on the W page.  Each of my students wrote their own favorite word in the journal, choosing a letter of their own. Ernesto chose W.

Ernesto was a 4th grade student in my class in 1998 – 1999 in Southern California. He was a hispanic boy with the most beautiful big brown eyes and long eyelashes. He was a kind soul. I wonder what he is doing now. He was a poet and philosopher. I loved talking with him. He was an old soul and had a lot of wisdom for a boy so young.

Kids are wise; they see truth.

Wellness Is Your Destiny

Wellness is your destiny
Wellness is your destiny…

Let me be frank —
All that is lost is symptom — all that is gained is created. Wellness is your destiny. Work it.
– Ted

I wish I could tell you who Ted is. This journal is from the late nineties, dare I say early turn of the millennium. Ted is wise.

Twenty Dollars and Taverns Tall

Directions to Greenwich Village
Directions to Greenwich Village

“To Greenwich Village

6 Train to Astor Place

Walk south to Houston St.

below Houston is SOHO”

– Edward Dougherty

NYC 98′

I believe New Yorkers are kind people. My mom is a New Yorker, born and raised. She always said, “You ask any New Yorker for directions and they will stop and give them to you.” I tested her statement when I was in New York for the first time in 1998.

New York City Sidewalk
New York City Sidewalk

My last stop on my three-day adventure had to be The Village.

I asked for directions in a camera store after visiting my mom’s childhood stomping grounds. It was a beautiful fall day. I went to her school, Dalton and where she grew up — Park Avenue and 89th.

Dalton School. It should be noted that this photo is from 1998 and was my first camera, which I borrowed from the friend I was staying with. I love film -- it makes you choose your photos carefully.
Dalton School. It should be noted that this photo is from 1998 and was my first camera, which I borrowed from the friend I was staying with. I love film — it makes you choose your photos carefully.

I stopped in to get film at a camera store near Lexington and 86th (at least that is what I the journal says). I think this camera store is a Best Buy now. Three very friendly and helpful New Yorkers gave me directions to the Village. This was pre-cell phone and Google map days. I don’t even think digital film was invented yet.

Ed even wrote the directions down for me in the NYC Journal; Ella, Eddie, and Ed wrote their own journal signings too.

Eddie, Ella, and Ed -- NYC Journal
Eddie, Ella, and Ed — NYC Journal

When I got off the 6 Train, I asked a man for directions to the White Horse Tavern.  He was on his way to pick up his daughter at day-care and kindly said he did not have time to sign the journal, but he gave me directions verbally. I had just walked up the subway stairs and it was literally just around the corner. He pointed and smiled.

I wanted to go to the White Horse Tavern because I was going to be discovered. I was wearing a scarlet begonia in my hair (I know — how cliché).

carriage ride wm

I didn’t take a carriage ride, as it was too expensive. I just hung out with the horses for awhile.

As I walked through the empty bar, I was disappointed not to see a room full of editors and writers. I did walk past an older man sitting by himself at a table near the window. My scarlet begonia fell to the floor. I was not aware it fell and went to the bar to order a beer. The older gentleman said, “Excuse me miss, your flower fell on the floor.”  I picked it up and asked the man if I could join him. I was not discovered, but I met a very interesting man who fought in the Korean War (Inchon) and was a Marine like my father.

He didn’t sign the journal, but he told me what to write. I wrote his name and 3rd BN H-Co. 1st Marines and his Marine ID number. When I shared with him that my father was in Inchon, he didn’t say much, he just acknowledged how brave my dad was for being there — for surviving.

Front Door Cover of NYC Journal
Front Door Cover of NYC Journal

In red pen on the same page, next to a faded taped on begonia is Vivamus Mea Lesbia Catullus — 3rd c. poet Roman. Bill and I shared a wonderful conversation about love, war, honor, and beauty. I will never forget the sparkle in his azure blue eyes; he was so alive. He told me, “Make sure you order the steak while you still have the teeth to chew it.”

Another NYC Journal signature

Another NYC Journal signature

I wrote a longer essay about my adventure in New York that October (which was my first time visiting New York). Long story short: I didn’t have enough money to take a cab back to the flat I was staying at. I had to go get my bags and my friend I was staying with arranged for a car to take me to the airport. I really didn’t want to leave the White Horse or New York for that matter. The bar was slowly filling up with energy and people were coming in after work. I thought of all the great writers, ideas and conversations the tavern had seen and heard. But it was time for me to go.

Bill and I sat at second table to the left. White Horse TavernPhoto Source:
Bill and I sat at second table to the left. 
Photo Source: Wikipedia White Horse  Tavern

I only had subway tokens and enough cash to buy another beer. I didn’t have time to take the subway; I needed to take a taxi. I was prepared to miss my plane on purpose. I went to the pay phone to call my friend, but he did not answer. I went back to the table and told Bill my predicament  He said I had responsibilities I needed to attend to and reminded me that NYC would still be here for plenty more visits. Bill gave me a twenty-dollar bill on one stipulation — I had to pay it forward one day.

I did, but that is another story.

I stepped out the tavern doors into the late afternoon light after saying goodbye to Bill. Gorgeous shadows cast themselves on the sidewalk — the very same sidewalk Dylan Thomas stumbled on. The same sidewalk Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson walked on.

The White Horse TavernSource: The New York Times© Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Time
The White Horse Tavern
Source: The New York Times
© Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Time

I left in a taxi filled with story and wonder.

New York Yellow Cab on Park Avenue
New York Yellow Cab on Park Avenue

After I got my bags at my friend’s brownstone, the car was there to take me to the airport — the driver in his black suit and hat, waiting on the sidewalk. The sun was setting on New York as the black shiny car entered the tunnel to go to Newark Airport. It was beautiful; purple, orange, and red streaks echoed in the New York skyline.

I will never forget that beautiful afternoon I ended up in Greenwich Village and I never will forget the kindness of that stranger.

Full Journal Page in NYC Journal. The three people in the photo are from a camera store in NYC I stopped in to get film. I asked for directions to the Village at this store. Ed was the person who wrote down the directions.
Full Journal Page in NYC Journal. The three people in the photo are from a camera store in NYC I stopped in to get film. I asked for directions to the Village at this store. Ed was the person who wrote down the directions.

Find The Original Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

 Links to article on The White Horse Tavern:

Let Me Be Frank

Let Me Be Frank

“Let me be frank —
All that is lost is symptom — all that is gained is created. Wellness is your destiny. Work it.”
– Ted

Let me be frank —
All that is lost is symptom — all that is gained is created. Wellness is your destiny. Work it.”
– Ted

I wish I could tell you who Ted is. This journal is from the late nineties, dare I say early turn of the millennium. Ted is wise.

Chicago Is My Kind of Town

Fast Eddie signed the journal in 2000 at Ed Debevic’s in Chicago

Ed Debevic’s is just about the coolest diner ever.  It is located at 640 North Wells Street in Chicago.  It is a diner, but not just any diner.  The waiters and waitresses are of the thespian nature, and will stand on the counter and dance, insult and shout at you, and just plain ignore you.  It’s their job to be rude to you and to entertain you.  It’s a lot of fun, and the food is delicious.

Photo Credit: So Very Vicki

Here is a review from Center Stage Chicago if you’d like to read more about this sassy diner.

Here is another review, from American Project.

So Fast Eddie was about to break from the stress of his new job, he slid into the pink plastic shiny booth and we started chatting.  Turns out standing on tables and dancing and shouting at customers is quite stressful.  Fast Eddie was one cool cat in my book.  Of course, I took out the journal (which is called The Chicago Journal), and what do you know — that is what he wrote.

This is the cover of The Leap Journal, also referred to as The Chicago Journal

The Leap Journal (The Chicago Journal) traveled from California where I was living at the time.  I call it the Leap Journal because I had no idea what my next move was going to be.  I was twenty-six, and had to make a decision.  I had been accepted into the Art Institute of Chicago’s writing program.  I was in Chicago to see if that is where I was supposed to go. I also was born and raised in Chicago, so the trip was a blast because I was able to see my childhood home.

I knocked on the door of my suburban home and asked the homeowners if I could go inside.  It was a strange feeling to see the home I grew up in, completely remodeled.  The flowers and gardens I remember so vividly were gone.

That’s me as a little one with my foot sticky out — always the observer — a writer in trainer, or perhaps always an outlier. Look at that garden — my parents were garden magicians.

The most delightful experience was seeing a red tulip that bloomed, still fragrant with the deep soil of memory.  I asked the owner permission if I could pick and place the petals in my journal.  They obliged. The hallway of my childhood home was much shorter than I imagined in my mind.  For some reason, the hallway in my mind was much longer.

I am gearing up to get my journal self-published, so stay tuned to the blog.  I am going to try Kickstarter.  Any tips for this process are welcome.  I am also going to use the funds raised from Kickstarter to build a website where people can sign the journal virtually.

Some of my favorite stops in Chicago were:

Lincoln Park Zoo (my mom always took us there — it was her favorite Chicago landmark)

Lincoln Park Zoo holds magical memories; my sister and I used to hold our faces smack right up to the glass and the polar bear would do flips for us. He (or she) was magic.

Riding the L

Sears Tower

Northern Trust Bank (my father was a security guard there and he always brought me home extra NTB newsletter blank paper to write on)

Navy Pier

Oak Street Beach

Buckingham Fountain

Photo Credit:

The Art Institute of Chicago Museum (oh I love the lions)

Click on the fountain photo to read about more great Chicago attractions, including Lincoln Park Zoo.

Chicago is a great city and I love the people.  You have to know a Chicagoan to truly understand what I am talking about.  Just enough honest to not be rude, but no sweet syrupy phoniness. How I love that city.  It’s my kind of town!

If you are interested in following my other blog, it is where I write about cowboys, motherhood, creativity, writing, photography, gardening, and earthy-thinky stuff.  You can also follow me on Twitter: @memomuse1.

I have also just started a Twitter account (@600DavisSt) for my food memoir of my great grandmother’s iconic bakery — The Community Kitchen, which was located at 600 Davis Street in Evanston, Illinois.  My great grandmother, along with women from the Evanston Woman’s Club started it in 1918 during WWI as a food conservation project.   The women of the Evanston Woman’s Club canned 7,000 jars of fruits and vegetables from wartime gardens, donating half to charities and selling the other half — netting a profit of $250 for the Wartime Emergency Fund.   In 1918, these same women made homemade soups during the Spanish Influenza outbreak, delivering hot soups to families.  I come from a long line of Chicago women. And damn proud of it!

Thank you for stopping by.  Journal Your Journey

~ memomuse