Finally, a Bullet Journal That Works For Me

I have tried for so long to create a bullet journal which pleased me. I drew lines on a Moleskine, I added sketches to a Leuchtturm1917, I searched Instagram for images so that I could bullet journal properly.

What is “properly”? I have discovered that it is the way that works for me, not copying someone else. I cannot draw like Frederica (@feebujo). I cannot use Zebra mild liners to box off my pages into colorful segments. I do not want to record my Mood or Self Care.

The best way for me, as I finally discovered, was to open this Mother and Child leather journal which was made in Italy. It is to use my Mont Blanc Meisterstück, both so special to me that I have never used either one although I’ve owned them for decades. (What was I planning, to “save them for the wake” as my father says?)

My plan is to keep the pages simple. Clean. And significant to me. I have a spread for thankfulness, for my Bible reading plan, for books I’ve both received from publishers and read. Of course, there is a calendar too, laid out across two pages as my writing has always been a bit on the large side.

Someday I may return to my beloved Midori Traveler’s Notebooks. But for now, I want a book which can hold all I want to write: plans, dreams, memories, events. And, I am finally using the beautiful stationery I have acquired in which to do so.

Do you keep a journal? Do you save your lovely notebooks instead of writing in them? Is there a system that works for you? I would love to know.

Our Public Library Has A New Policy

The library staff put these fliers in the last three books I’ve checked out like it’s a good thing. No more fines! Now there is no reward for responsibility, and carelessness is reinforced.

It has been no small laughing matter that I incurred fines when I was a child. Perhaps you’ve read my lament about losing Toby Tyler and the Circus, the months long search for it, and the fine my mother ended up paying. I was so ashamed that I didn’t need any punishment. When it finally turned up, years later, between the wall and my bed, I didn’t even feel joyful. I’m still rather upset about that book.

When my son was in high school he had a fine for something like $500.00 due to all the CDs he’d left in his car for months and months. I’m sure some were probably lost, too. Remembering my experience with Toby, I thought he should ask the library if we could replace them. “No,” they said. They also would not agree to a deal in which we paid half. So, the Christmas money from his grandparents went to the library that year.

Both of our experiences were uncomfortable. I clearly remember each one, although they were thirty years apart. But, they taught us something! We learned that we needed to care for what was not our own. We learned the value of time and honoring a due date. We learned that there were consequences for irresponsibility.

Now the library is saying, in essence, “Don’t worry if you accrue fines! Now you can return your books whenever you please.” Here is how the back of the flyer explains their new policy:

Naperville Public Library is no longer charging fines for overdue items. Those who do not return materials on time will have their accounts locked after seven days rather than accruing fines. Once an item is returned, the account will be unlocked.

This new policy will allow for:

* Increased flexibility for our customers.

* Equitable access to resources.

* Better customer service.

* A continued commitment to responsibly utilizing Library resources.

Every day I wake up wondering what new policy will replace the old. And, when I discover what it is, I rarely find a plan that promotes morality, or responsibility, or personal accountability. It seems that things are just made “easier” for everyone, and that cannot be a good thing. My mother has a fabulous saying. “Education is expensive,” she says, and it is! We learn when things are hard, as this great quote reiterates:

“Nothing worth having comes easy.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Silly library, what are you teaching?

The Shadow Jury’s Winning Book for the International Booker Prize 2021

We have read a lot of books since the International Booker Prize 2021 Longlist was released on March 30. “We” being the Shadow Jury comprised of Tony, Stu, David, Oisin, Vivek, Areeb, Frances, Barbara, and I. The books weren’t always easy, or comforting, or even necessarily fiction. But, they were all interesting in their own way and certainly reflective of societal issues today. I would say they reflected some political issues, but my fellow members felt that was extreme. At the same time, we agreed that perhaps it was fortunate for the official jurors that Minor Detail did not make their shortlist with the strife going on in Israel again, still, even now.

So, what was on the official shortlist? These six books pictured above. Our own shortlist was quite comparable, with the exception of two. We replaced The Dangers of Smoking in Bed and The War of the Poor with Wretchedness and Minor Detail. Many of us considered The Dangers of Smoking in Bed incomparable to the quality of writing found in Enriquez’ earlier collection, Things We Lost in The Fire. One of our “problems” with The War of The Poor is that a mere 112 pages can hardly be substantial enough to qualify as a prize winning novel.

Here are some of highlights from the perspective of the Shadow Panel:

  • We declared our tenth Shadow Winner this year.
  • Our choice is only the second winner, after Jon Kalman Stefansson’s novel The Sorrow Of Angels in 2014, not to appear on the official shortlist.
  • Our shortlist has books from Fitzcarraldo Editions as number one and number two. In fact, four out of the last five Shadow Winners have been published by them.
  • We were able to meet twice, via Zoom, to discuss each novel. It was fascinating to me to finally be able to put a face with these blogging friends who gathered from Australia, England, India and the U.S. to share our love of literature and the International Booker Prize books.

Of the six books listed on our shortlist, the Shadow Jury used the following scoring system: 10 points for our favorite, then 7, 5, 3, 2, 1 down to our least favorite. Coming in with the top choice for four of the Shadow Jury members was the book we chose, and only one person did not have it listed in his/her top three. What was that book? The novel the Shadow Jury feels most deserving of the International Booker Prize 2021 is Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.

For me, there was no other novel amongst the thirteen which carried the quality of writing, the impact of story, and the deep irony of title; really, is there such a thing as a minor detail within our lives? The least little thing seems to carry a major impact.

The breakdown of the scores for our shortlist is as follows:

  • 6th place: Wretchedness (25 points)
  • 5th place: At Night All Blood is Black (31 points)
  • 4th place: The Employees (37 points)
  • 3rd place: When We Cease To Understand The World (39 points)
  • 2nd place: In Memory of Memory (52 points)
  • 1st place: Minor Detail (68 points)

(I would like to point out that another personal favorite of mine was The Pear Field, which made neither the official, nor the Shadow Jury, lists. But, I loved it. I would also like to give a huge thank you to Tony, of Tony’s Reading List, as he led us through our decision from the beginning to the end. And now, I look forward to streaming the award ceremony on YouTube (or Facebook) at 12:00 noon in Illinois.)

20 Books of Summer…2021

Hosted by Cathy at 746 Books
  1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fydor Dostoevsky
  2. Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka
  3. Cain by Jose Saramago
  4. Facing The Mountain by Daniel James Brown
  5. Double Blind by Edward St. Aubyn
  6. Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
  7. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsn
  8. We The Living by Ayn Rand
  9. The Bookseller of Florence by Ross King
  10. Tomorrow Will be Better by Betty Smith
  11. The Therapist by Helene Flood
  12. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  13. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  14. Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
  15. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  16. Falling by T. J. Newman
  17. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  18. I Is Another by Jon Fosse
  19. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
  20. Prague by Arthur Phillips


See the sign up post here, to find what others are reading this summer. (June 1, 2021 through September 1, 2021)

Do Join Us!


Just in case you can never get enough of Russian literature, like me, feast your eyes on the small collection of Dostoevsky works above. (With an addition of a matryoshka doll from my friends Carol and Tom.) They normally abide on my Russian literature shelf next to Tolstoy, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Bulgakov, and other lesser known Russian authors.

You may notice a few tabs in my Pevear and Volokhonsky edition which I used a few years ago (2010) in another read-along. But now, Arti of Ripple Effects is hosting a fresh read-along of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and I must reread it with her. Not only do I appreciate her insights into what it is we read together (In Remembrance of Things Past, or Midnight’s Children, for example), I appreciate her pace.

Here is the schedule she has laid out for us:

  • Part 1: May 22
  • Part II: June 12
  • Part III: July 3
  • Part IV and Epilogue: July 24

That is quite feasible, is it not? I do hope you’ll join us, even if, as Tom said, “Didn’t we just read this?” 😉

In which we are kept from harm.

I got my Johnson and Johnson one shot vaccine yesterday at Oswald’s Pharmacy. Some twelve year old, dressed up in nurse’s scrubs, launched the syringe like a spear into my arm. Then, she put her foot on my thigh and used two hands to pull it out. That’s what it felt like, anyway.

I have been lying in bed all day, listening to a gentle rain outside my window, which is the only soothing thing available to me right now. I can’t read. I can’t write in my Midori. My head is pounding, pounding, pounding, while my muscles burn, and my joints ache.

So, that’s how the vaccination is going for me.

But, my son brought me a bouquet of roses just like his father used to do when he was alive. They are so white and pure, a lovely reminder of all that we have which is good, and it is much.

The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV)

Truly Yours, Baum-Kuchen, and Planner Peace

I have been checking the mail every day with great anticipation. For not so long ago, I sent my new Midori passport notebook to Baum-Kuchen for a personal customization. I wanted my initials and a very important Japanese term embossed on the cover.

When I was up late at night a few weeks ago, my husband asked me, “What are you doing?”

“Filling in my 2022 calendar insert,” I replied, “for my new Traveler’s Notebook.”

“Meredith,” he said, “It’s March. Of 2021.”

He doesn’t understand, of course. That’s why I gave him my old, already gloriously worn in Passport TN, the one I used during our trip to Japan. It’s navy, his favorite color, and I thought he could join me in planning now that he’s retired. Maybe he will, and maybe he won’t, but it doesn’t detract from my utter joy in the notebooks, the inserts, and the filling in of them.

These are the inserts from 2020. There are more than I usually fill, but 2020 was a more than usual year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to them now that the pandemic seems to be dissipating.

“Mom,” I said this week, “do you realize we started walking together March 20 of last year?”

It’s so easy to refer to an occasion, a memory, an event, or a thought with these little beauties.

My newly embossed cover has wabi-sabi embossed in the center, with my initials down below. What is wabi-sabi? Quite simply, it means finding beauty in the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is so perfectly suited to the balance I yearn for between control and acceptance. It is a term I want to fully embrace, and now I can with this reminder on the cover of my new notebook.

It is just perfect.

The Fragile World by Kerby Rosanes…Look at this gorgeous coloring book!

One of my favorite “childish” pleasures is coloring with my Faber-Castell oil-based pencils. It is a great luxury to have the time, although not necessarily the ability, to sit with a book and contemplate the layers of color being laid down to enrich an already beautiful work of art.

I was thrilled that Penguin Random House sent me the Fragile World coloring book by Kerby Rosanes this week. Before I add my own touch to it, I wanted to show you a few of the intricate drawings of fifty-six endangered animals.

Fragile World is a coloring book to savor, exploring fifty-six endangered, vulnerable, and threatened animals and landscapes—from the Tapanuli orangutan to the hawksbill turtle, from the Philippine bay caves to the Baltic Sea. The illustrations are intricate, detailed and unforgettable, both magisterial and whimsical. And the result is a stunning tribute to Mother Nature. Fragile World is a coloring experience that is at once vintage Kerby and unlike any of his previous books.” (back cover)

Fragile World will be available March 16 for $15.00 from Penguin Random House.

Six Degrees of Separation, Starting With Redhead by the Side of the Road


Because “road” made me think of:


which had an Australian doctor bringing me to:

a novel set in Australia, about a man who must decide between his emotions and his ambitions, which reminds me of:

as Vronsky, and of course Anna, sacrifice everything for love. And because it is a Russian novel written by Tolstoy, I am reminded of:

a classic I have always meant to finish, maybe this is the year? But, the parts I have read reminded me, strangely, of:


because of the war, the manners and etiquette, the passion of each side convinced that they are in the right.

Find the Six Degrees of Separation meme here.