My Strange Pull: The Original Journal


Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

— Rumi

My Strange Pull

I have been pulled towards The Original Journal for twenty years. I have been collecting signatures from people for two decades.  If you don’t know this about me, I ask random people I meet to sign my journal. I tell them there are three things they need to know before they sign it:

1. There’s a Front Door – Rated PG13

2. There’s a Back Door – Not Rated

3. There’s no rules!

I guess you could say The Original Journal is a living journal, scrapbook and a yearbook all rolled into one with two ways to enter the book — through the front and the back of the book. Like a house, a front door is for more formal introductions and meetings and a back door is more familiar, uncensored, and messy. The back door usually has a screen door letting in fresh air.

I just can’t let The Original Journal go. It won’t let me go!  I have to see this through to publication.  I am in the process right now of finding a printer.  Each printer I talk to tells me it is a complicated printing job. I will have to find a specialty printer.  I don’t want to give up the tape binding like a typical composition notebook. I want The Original Journal to feel like a composition notebook, but of course it will have special elements to it to induce and provoke creativity, journaling, and musings.  There will a selection of quotes from other original journal signers (there are hundreds of journals with thousands of signatures and many pearls of wisdom from ordinary folks). The first edition will include 50 quotes — 20 Front Door quotes and 20 Back Door quotes, along with 10 of my personal favorites.  I can’t wait to get this journal to press.

Trusting My Gut (Business Instinct)

As I have gone through this process, I have had to be flexible and let go of things I have clutched tightly to for a long time. For example, the black and white marble design that I have been using for the last seven years has been let go. I worked with a talented graphic designer, who is also the sister of my best friend from childhood. Their father is an commercial artist in the Chicago area (where I grew up). “Arch” was also my soccer coach as a kid. He would Ginger and me into the city to create in his industrial size studio where large billboard size canvases stretched across thousands of square feet of creation space. It was so exciting to go into Chicago from the suburbs to paint and explore creatively on weekends.  These excursions planted a seed of creativity and art for me. Arch has worked for Disney and many other companies. I remember the feeling of freedom paired with splats of color and creation. It made me giddy (perhaps it was the paint fumes). I love creating and it is a natural high for me. My best work is done late at night when the house is quiet and night offers her blank canvas.

It was serendipitous that I connected with Julia (my best friend’s older sister). Ginger (best friend fro childhood) and I had many adventures as children and many funny memories. Ginger has the most contagious laugh I have ever heard.

I had to trust my gut (what I have been calling my business instinct) when someone (before I connected with Julia) offered to create a logo for me and it was not working.  I did not feel this person understood my vision for my company logo or The Original Journal. I have to say it was a great thing that I trusted my gut. Now I have a logo and cover design I really like and I think you will too. The logo and cover designs have gone through revisions and adjustments but it is really close to being finished. It’s amazing how many split-the-atom decisions have to be made when designing something. Detail. Detail. Detail.

Kickstarter Video

As you know, if you follow The Original Journal or my other social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) you know that I have been working with a videographer on a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to print the first edition of The Original Journal. It was very serendipitous how I met Jah-mul. He is from New York City. One of the first interactive original journals I made was The New York Journal that I made for my first trip to NYC. I actually got reprimanded for zoning out at a boring literacy training I was attending as a teacher. I was so excited about my trip and went a little ADHD with the glue stick, markers, scissors, and creative supplies that were on the table, but that is another story and probably another seed of how The Original Journal came to be).

Cover of The New York Journal (Front Door cover). This journal was created in 1998

Cover of The New York Journal (Front Door cover). This journal was created in 1998

No doubt about it - I am a right brained brainiac.

No doubt about it – I am a right brained brainiac.

Jah-mul and I hit it off after a professor at a local college suggested him because of his creativity and talent in videography.  I am really excited to see what the video will look like. I have enjoyed working with Jah-mul and I see a bright future for him as a film maker. I started The Original Journal in college so it is interesting to work with a college student on the Kickstarter video. I will keep you posted when I launch the campaign. I wanted to launch the video on Summer Solstice, but I may have to launch it closer to July or August as I am still searching for the right printer. I am getting my right brain ducks in a row so they form a beautiful left brain formation.

ducks in a row

When Can You Purchase The Original Journal?

I wish I had the answer to this question!  I am hoping the journals will be available for pre-orders by August and Back to School. If they are available for Back to School, it will be closer to the end of August. But in reality, I don’t think I will have them ready until September.  I will keep you posted. It looks like the printing issue will be resolved this summer as I am still researching printers to find the right printer.  It is very exciting to be moving into this next phase of the project as see it go from project to product.  I am also in the process of finding a website designer as I need to set up an e-commerce site. If you know of anyone, please shoot me an email. But please no spam. I take personal recommendations from people I know very seriously and enjoy working with people I have a personal connection to.

Adapting and Letting Go

This process of setting up a small business and taking an idea that has floated in the right brain down to the left brain field has been a discovery process. I have had to let go of certain things. It was hard at first, but I am seeing the bigger picture.


The bigger picture is unlocking doors and unblocking myself from my own issues related to success and failure. I have been ding some soul searching on things that get in my way. And I am one of them. I have an Upper Limit Problem, which I am working on. I have had to let go of perfectionism which is really a way to set up a giant roadblock on the path to success. It would be more of a failure if I didn’t see the publication of this project through. I am prepared to fail and learn from it, but the success lies in getting it done. It’s really scary pursuing the dream that lives in the deepest pocket of your heart, but in the process I have realized that I am creating a product that will help people do exactly that. And I am so excited to tell you about the special parts of the journal that help you focus on your inner heart pocket dream. This exciting component to the journal will be revealed closer to publication. I had an aha moment late one night when I was working through some kinks to the design and it hit me.  It’s the core of the vision for my company and for The Original Journal.

What exciting projects are you working on and what fears are you working through as you go after them? I’d love to hear from you.

Photo taken in Canterbury, England 2014

Sit down and dream a little…                                                    Photo taken in Canterbury, England 2014

Memomuse Update: July Joy and Sorrow

Hello friends.  I am sorry I have not been keeping you in the loop of what is going on. Although I have been active on Facebook and Twitter, I have been somewhat dormant.  I am working on learning how to use Photoshop so I can upload photos with watermarks and protect my work.  But really all I want to do is share and tell.  I have so many images I want to share but since I have had to deal with photo piracy and I have the tools to watermark them, I feel I should use the tools to watermark images. Except the whole watermarking process puts out my fire and it always feels laborious.

open the door

I am not the most technical person and struggle with left brain waves. I prefer the open ended ocean of the right brain world.

Ocean photo by Megan Oteri Copyright 2011

Ocean photo by Megan Oteri Copyright 2011

I am working on some new posts for all three of my blogs: The Original Journal, The Community Kitchen, and Memomuse.  I have compartmentalized to try to target potential readers better.  I am a bit exhausted from social media though.  I am putting my energy into writing (in Microsoft Word). I get very distracted when I am on the internet.

But here is the 411 for July. We went to Washington D.C. to inurn my mother at Arlington National Cemetery.  She was placed in the same shelf like box (for lack of a better description) in the Columbarium (where people are placed when they are cremated).

My mother and I on my wedding day.

My mother and I on my wedding day.

I will post a detailed post about that as Arlington was very moving.


Columbarium: My parents’ grave

I climbed the ladder and placed my mother’s ashes in the box like shelf, or think of as an ash cubby in a way. I know morbid, but I am just writing, or rather blogging so I am not going to struggle with finding the perfect word/description. The marine who was the pall bearer or ash box holder, was very serious and he marched in typical Arlington fashion. He was very serious.  I guess I am dismissing the seriousness of death, but my mom died Christmas Eve and her inurnment was scheduled in July.  It was a serious affair and very moving, so I am not being flip — just trying to be funny.

The Pastor and Marine who were at my mom's funeral

The Pastor and Marine who were at my mom’s funeral

The marine had the most beautiful blue eyes.  They sparkled even.  As he handed me the urn box with my mom’s heart and ashes in it, I said “Semper Fi.” It was awkward.  I sometimes can be so strange even to myself.

Well, anyway, he handed off Betty and I placed her urn box in with my father’s, making sure they were back to back and their boxes touched.  I dusted off my father’s ten-year old death dust from the top of his box.  That was intense.  Dust to dust.  Anyway, it was moving.  I wrote a descriptive piece about this experience for the SAMLA conference.  I am the chair of the creative nonfiction panel this year. SAMLA will be held in Atlanta this November.

This was taken walking back from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which we went to after my mom's funeral

This was taken walking back from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which we went to after my mom’s funeral

See, even when I try to write a little update, it turns into a whole lot of words. 

I went to Evanston, Illinois at the end of July for a research trip on a book I am working on: The Community Kitchen. That was amazing.

Another view of this beautiful house.  You can go on tours of the Dawes House.  The Dawes House is the home of the Evanston History Center, where I conducted my research primarily.

Another view of this beautiful house. You can go on tours of the Dawes House. The Dawes House is the home of the Evanston History Center, where I conducted my research primarily.

My mom grew up in New York City, but moved back to Evanston in 1947 with her mom after her parents divorced. I went to Evanston a lot as a child with my parents. Mom took us to visit our grandma and great-aunt often.   A post will be coming soon about my trip to Evanston, either on The Community Kitchen blog or here.  The compartmentalizing is taking its toll on me.  Managing three blogs is a lot of work.  And I take my blog posts serious.  Probably too serious.

The Original Journal had several signings in Evanston. One was a man I met on the airplane.  He likes redheads.  Another signing was a Northwestern chemistry student taking a break in the Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern.  That is the signing I am going to feature on The Original Journal blog.  She wrote a great journal signing.  A couple more journal signatures were done on Northwestern campus.  So, there will be some posts on that blog.

Got to run. I am writing a book after all, so chop chop to it I go.

I will leave you with my mother’s favorite poem by Kahlil Gibran — “On Joy and Sorrow”

On Joy and Sorrow
 Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.