documenting the ordinary

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Watercolors43 Comments

So, I’m basically a stalker now.

I’ve shared about Michelle Wooderson’s watercolor class (on Jeanne Oliver’s Creative Network) and how inspirational I find her Instagram feed.  She’s one of my “click-overs”. **

In addition to inciting art supply envy (in the best possible way), she has been sharing a watercolor journal project.  It’s a 1920’s diary she is working through – reading the entries and adding a sketch or watercolor to each page.

The thing that struck me more than the loose and free art added by Michelle, is that these entries are mundane.  The diary was just about documenting the ordinary…the everyday things that happen in life.  Weather, errands, chores, visits, etc.

And I want to see what Cora, the diary author, is doing each day!

There is an attraction to the ordinary and the simple and I think it’s easy to forget that as a blogger.  I know I put pressure on myself to have something “special” to share, but the daily happenings can be equally compelling, maybe even more so.

Actually, at my yard sale last weekend, a sweet woman walked up to me and said something like, “You know, I care about you and love reading about you and your family and what you’re up to.  You don’t always have to share a tutorial or a makeover.”

I was a little caught off guard, because I didn’t have my Miss Mustard Seed hat on.  I was just Marian having a yard sale.  But it was such an encouragement to me.  I can, as a person, get overshadowed by “Miss Mustard Seed” – a domain name that has become a brand and professional persona.

So, I’m working on that…finding the balance between the simple and the special.

I sent a message to Michelle and told her I might be interested in purchasing a diary from a stash she was about to list in her online shop.  She said she had just the one for me…  the blue-covered diary kept by Elizabeth Bush in 1979, when I was just one year old.

I did sneak a peek at a few entries and I can’t wait to get to know Elizabeth through her diary.  I can tell you immediately that she was disciplined, because there is an entry every single day!

Since the pages are thin, I will follow Michelle’s example and add a light coat of gesso to each page prior to adding a watercolor sketch.

I seriously doubt I’ll be able to do an entry each day, but I hope to work on it when I can.

You know…in all of my spare time!

** A “click-over” is an Instagram account that I have to click-over to, so I don’t miss one of their posts that may not show up in my feed.

documenting the ordinary

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43 Comments on “documenting the ordinary”

  1. I’ve never commented before but couldn’t resist today. While I don’t know who Elizabeth is, based on her references to Galesburg and the Black Swan, she is from my hometown in Kalamazoo, Michigan, It’s amazing that her diary made it all the way to you in PA!

  2. Gosh…this made me want to start my own diary….just the everyday (wish my Nana would have kept a diary I would have loved to read her everyday life)….. Because everyday moments are beautiful! Fun post Marian!.

  3. Oh, diaries. I kept just such everyday, mundane diaries starting at age 9 through age 16 or so, faithfully documenting my little life. They are a HOOT to re-read now as an over-the-hill adult! All the enthusiasm is there in exclamation points, all caps, underlines, etc. Snippets of nature, locks of hair, photos, drawings, the works. How I wish I had kept it up for all my years. I tried again when my kids were babies and I got a lot of good stuff down, but it was infrequent at best. I will always hold on to those diaries and maybe there is yet still time to start documenting again! And I think that handwritten is best, overall. I wouldn’t be doing it on the computer, even though it is faster.

  4. I am the person who was asked to “care for” all of the family papers/photographs/journals from long ago. With those boxes are handfuls of my great, great grandfather’s journals that look very similar to Michelle’s. I’ve read through them, noting the planting of the corn, the chicken care, the amount of precipitation, births, marriages and even the death of his young son, Archie. They are a bit mundane, but from reading, I can tell that it helped him to plan for the future, by looking at the past. I love how Michelle added beauty to these little books that were such a part of the people from the past. Perhaps one day….

  5. I keep a daily journal as it gives me such joy to read what I was doing a year or ten ago! I tape in pictures and clothing tags and gum wrappers. What ever is important to me at the time.
    Thanks to you, I just discovered Michelle and am waiting on a journal from 1963 when I was three! I can’t wait to hold it!
    And yes, it’s your ordinary life that is so interesting. We internet people feel as if we’re friends so it’s really just letters you are writing to us!

  6. My mom will soon be 87, and she has kept a diary for years and years. I have NO artistic talent so I couldn’t add cool watercolors, but I so look back to reading through all of these (there are stacks and stacks) once she’s gone. It will somehow seem to keep her alive…at least in my mind.

  7. Great blog. My Grandmother added pages to the back of her Bible and kept a diary. She was a preacher and I named my daughter Lila after her. Thanks for sharing

  8. My mother used to keep what she called her “page a day” (because the first book she bought said “A-Page-A-Day” on the cover). She would faithfully record God Only Knows What in them – she would NEVER let me see. She kept them in the top drawer of her dresser and would periodically get rid of them (where they went, only she knew). When I asked her why she didn’t keep them, she said because they were only for her to see and when she was done with them – she was done with them. When she passed, there were a few “page a days” in her top drawer and – being the dutiful daughter I always tried to be – I resisted the urge to peek and got rid of them. Just as she would have wanted.

    1. Wow, I admire you, Denise. You honored what your mother wished but I do not know if I would have been able to resist reading what she had written.

    2. I so admire you for that! I mean it! I would’ve been so tempted but your good deed inspired me to do better!!

  9. That’s one thing My family or I ever did was keep a diary. Would have been fun to have my grandmother keep a diary she was 100 years old when she died. Born 1891 – 1991….would have been interesting to know what a day in 1891 would have been like.

    Oh well….

  10. I have been a reading teacher for struggling readers who of course, also struggle to write. You are not alone in thinking you have to write about something interesting or compelling. I would ask, after the Christmas break, what did you do? Nothing. They all felt that they had to have an adventure, they had to go to Jokers, or to the movies, or skiing or something exciting and unique. I would say, Nothing? Did you go out and play? Did you play video games? (Unfortunately, all too often that is what TOO many children spend their free time doing, all day, every day.)
    I love to watch shows from the BBC and I have often noticed that the story lines are very, very simple. No car crashes, no American excesses, sex, violence and all that junk. Life is interesting and if you are able to write coherent sentences, what you choose to write is what you will write best. Do we all like the same writers, the same stories? Write about things that you care about. Not only will your writing be better because of your passion, you might be surprised how much you will enjoy writing.

  11. Just thought of something that the author, David McCullough said during an interview. No one writes letters anymore, so if you want to become famous, keep a diary. Sometime, in the future, your mundane entries will be records of what life was like. Just a thought.

    I feel I must also add, I personally would never be able to illustrate in someone else’s diary. Everyone is entitled to do what they wish with their property, but I feel that if she made a copy and painted, that would be somethiing else. Don’t know why I feel the need to add this opinion, perhaps because it does bother me. And I realize, the author of the diary might have been thrilled. Just my opinion.

    1. I do see your point, but since it has ended up in my possession, I feel at peace with putting my stamp on it. I think it’s a way to honor the person who wrote it and keep the diary dynamic. 🙂

  12. My mom kept a diary everyday of her adult life and none of us got a chance to read it. I think her ramblings were for her eyes only so I accepted it when she discarded them.

  13. I feel the same as the ‘yard-sale lady’. I care about you too; your life, your family, your creativity. And, one beautiful thing your blog and photos and projects bring out, is that like-minded people from all over respond in kind. It is so wonderful to see. It is special & uplifting. You are going through the same things that most of us do and trying to do it all as harmoniously as possible. Going through all of the stuff we accumulate and deciding what to keep, and what to pass on; we all have that task and it is encouraging to give it more focus by following your journey. I have 160+ years of photo albums that I am the keeper of, but I am thinking ahead to the next ‘keeper of the stuff’ and planning a cabinet that is unique to keep them in so they can go on to the next ‘keeper’ more easily. And, Diaries! What a wonderful resource for history. I found a love letter from my Great-Great Grandfather to his fiance’ that was precious . Written in 1857, three months before they were married.

  14. I have had a good life but my one great regret is that I did not keep a journal. It would be so interesting to look back at the simple pleasures of being myself, wife and mother. My three granddaughters are here for the week. A set of twins at 10 and a 9 year old who is the life of the party. I bought each one of them a diary to record their week at camp.
    My oldest sister is 87 years old and she recently gave me her diary from the early 1940’s. So interesting and mostly
    mundane at the same time. When I was born a preemie I didn’t come home fast. So she wrote upon my arrival “it” came home today.
    I never knew how long it took me to get to five pounds and the diary revealed that it was about a month. So if you are still young and raising children or all of the above please think about starting a journal. Even Hugh Heffner
    at the age of 90 has kept a diary or journal all of his life. Imagine what they contained! lol

  15. This is such a cool idea!! I love it!
    I also need to adopt this idea and become better at it. As I usually become enthralled in just my “business persona & name” this was a good reminder that it’s not all about that, just to have fun with it and let me in on a personal level.

  16. I’ve kept diaries/journals since I was a pre-teen and now I’m in my 60’s. My favorite however is one I’ve just come across in a box. It belonged to my husband’s mother and was written in the 1930’s when she was in high school. The entries are so interesting to read and give us a glimpse of her everyday life. Her father had passed away when she was small, so it’s just her, her mother and sister. I never knew her, as she passed away when my husband was 16, due to breast cancer.

  17. What a unique idea, to paint on the pages! My mother was a hairdresser, opening her business in 1950 on the porch of our house. For each year she was in business (nearly 50), we have her appointment books. They were more than appointment books, though. Meetings, school plays, vacations, visits by grandkids, etc. were all recorded. Two years ago, one sister and I embarked on transcribing these to one large book, so that each member of our family could have these memories on hand. What a great summer we had while we were getting this done – going back in time, remembering the customers and the events she recorded! We had a copy of the transcript done for each grandchild, and when they were presented to the kids, it was quite emotional! Too bad none of us daughters are artists – what a great time we could have with these books! I love your ideas and creativity, and the way you think outside the box! Best to you and yours, Marian, wherever y’all are going!

  18. I was just going to say the same thing! My brother lives in Galesburg and Brent & I got engaged at the Black Swan! Small world! Love you and your heart, Marian! Thanks for sharing your life with us!

  19. All of the above comments are “spot on”! I too, did journaling in my mid life and am now in my late 60s. I still have them, and read them on occasion. I smile, shake my head, cry, or laugh out loud at some of the entries. I also completed a few Gratitude journals with nothing but things, people, events, or simple blessings that I received on a noted day. I started a special journal for my daughter when she was pregnant with my first grand child (a granddaughter). I gave her my thoughts on simple things or events I felt were necessary just to say “I did it”. I left much of this particular journal blank, in order for my daughter to do the same type thing for her daughter and hopefully, in time, for my granddaughter’s daughter (if that happens) as it is passed down from each mother to daughter. Of all the blogs that I subscribe to, yours is my favorite as I see YOU……and feeling you and I could meet for the first time and sit and gab about most anything and have a great time. Keep up the good work. I look forward to following you and your family to your next chapter in life.

  20. Beautifully stated. I look forward to your future blogs about the everyday. What might seem mundane to you could be inspiration — or just a much-needed break in the day — for someone else.

    Today’s piece is a reminder that, for me, some of your most memorable blogs have been about the people in your life:
    – The time your son chose the color “Typewriter” and painted his own nightstand (so cute) as part of a makeover of his bedroom.
    – When you talked about the special way you prepare a skirt steak for Jeff, or
    – The fun you had working and gossiping with other lifestyle bloggers at a Lazy Boy promotional event.

    In other words, that lady at the yard sale knew what she was talking about.

  21. Yes, I always enjoy knowing what your family has been up to or dealing with. Makes you “more real” and not the persona “Miss Mustard Seed” but Marian.

  22. Wonderful idea! Please write more on these journals. Where do you buy them?
    Let us not forget that what we write today will be as interesting to people in 75, 100 years as what you are reading today. Hats off to the daughter who did not read her Mother’s diary when the Mother passed. Mother raised you well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Lest we forget that the “simple things” in life are free.

    Thanks for sharing.

  23. yesterday I wrote a letter to my grandson for his first birthday– my son and his wife asked for letters instead of gifts. the plan is to open them on his 18th birthday, sort of a time capsule. my 94 year old mom wrote him one, too, since i would guess she’ll be gone when he opens his letters. time is fleeting…

  24. I have a daily journal but it is on my IPad,I hope I can print it someday and it is a mundane entry most of the time as I’m not an entrepreneur or anything exciting. I occasionally put a photo in it if the family is involved or a special gathering but I do it everyday, kinda fun to look back.

  25. Journals are so special and though I have never done a daily journal, I have written and painted in watercolor my travel journals. Writing in the journals as I travel and sight see and leaving room for a painting on the pages. Some painted on the trip with a tiny portable watercolor kit the size of a wallet and others painted from photos taken while traveling later. What a joy for you to have discovered this wonderful practice. I paint and sketch nearly every day and it’s so rewarding!

  26. I, too, love hearing what Cora is up to over on Michelle’s Instagram. And, of course, covet her loose watercolor style!!!

  27. Years ago I made journals for my mom and friends for Chistmas using free note pads and wallpaper samples. My mom gave hers back to me a year later filled with a year of stories and observations. It will always be one of my most prized possessions.

  28. A friend of mine gave me a lovely gift after I gave birth to my first born. We attended the same fellowship, and while I was expecting, she wrote down each Sunday what I was wearing, things I said about the baby, and little snippets of our conversation. It was the best gift I could have gotten! I did this for my sister-in-law, and she took the journal and kept writing in it after her baby was born and recorded her thoughts and the baby’s “firsts.” There is such beauty to be found in the every day life of each one of us!

  29. I used to keep a diary when I was younger…high school and a couple of years in college. I thought it was boring because it wasn’t super exciting. But, the other day, my husband and I were having a conversation about what we used to eat when we were younger. I actually ran upstairs and in my box of keepsakes, I pulled out my old diary. I had actually written down several new recipes that I had whipped up “back in the day”. If only I had kept up the habit of documenting every day. The weather, the people, the work, the feelings, and of course the food. The ordinary is extraordinary! Thank you for sharing. Hope you have a lovely start to the weekend! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  30. My grandma always kept a diary. When she passed each of the grandkids got the one from their birth year. Of course my birth was in it. That was also the year she made a beautiful room size denim braided rug for my Dad. And I have the rug! Still use it in all its faded glory. I loved reading her diary.

  31. Once on a trip with a 5 year old friend, (I was an adult) we kept a diary – at the end of the day I would ask her what the best part of the day was and write that down for her. It was fun to see what she had enjoyed. She was very impressed that we could create a diary as she had never heard of them prior to the trip.

  32. I think that this is a really neat idea, but I personally would be mortified if someone had access to my journals one day – they are my dumping grounds for a lot of anxiety and frustration and I’d hate for others to have to read through that. 🙂 I should work on a diary though that is more about things that actually happen in everyday life.

    1. I agree with you Jenni. I have been journaling since I was a teenager. Like you, they are a dumping ground and my safe place to let go and destress. I wouldn’t want anyone other than my husband or children reading them after I am gone. With that said, my journals are also a place to practice personal affirmation and gratitude. Because of journaling, I am able to be more present and acknowledge life’s tiniest moments.

  33. Oh, I just came across Michelle’s account also at a perfect time. I just acquired my parents “guests” signature books from their wedding and their funerals. Only a few pages are written in and then all of those blank pages. I don’t paint, so I’m trying to think of ways to use those lovely books as a remembrance of some kind also. I do keep a daily Journal, in one of those Black/White Composition notebooks. And I too love the comment from your yard sale lady, we love to hear about your everyday life. How God uses changes in our lives and we can each benefit and rejoice with other people. Thank you for sharing.

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