A Year in a Life

December 12, 2012

By Gabrielle.

My dear friend Emily’s mother passed away recently after a heart-breaking 8-year fight with cancer. The holidays are such a hard time to lose a loved one! Endlessly stylish, Emily’s mother was a designer, writer and dedicated naturalist. She was mostly retired by the time I met her, but I loved every conversation I had with her and secretly wished I could somehow have her as a mentor.

One of the things Emily found while going through her mother’s things was a day planner from 1967. It’s not a journal. It’s more of a daily task list. But Emily has written a lovely post about the planner, where she lists out every single item in the planner, gives insight to some of the tasks, and includes questions she wishes she could ask her mom.

The planner is a window into a year of her mother’s life and I found myself so fascinated with Emily’s post! Her mother was such a creative soul and I loved reading about and imagining what her life was like as a young mother.

Outside of this blog, I’m not much of a journal keeper, but I do have all sorts of notebooks full of lists. I’ve never thought of them worth keeping, but seeing Emily’s post makes me think my kids or grandkids might enjoy looking through them someday.

Are you a journal keeper? A list maker? Or maybe both? Have you ever inherited a day planner?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melissa December 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

I have my grandma’s planner from the year before she died of cancer when I was six months old. I love reading through all the things she did but it’s also heartbreaking to think she passed away so soon and quickly after that year. Life was just so simple 30 years ago!


2 Diana W December 12, 2012 at 9:45 am

I have been going through some of the things at my grandpa’s house, and he has loads of family history stuff. One of the things I find most fascinating is the little books of random notes that have been kept, from my great grandmother, and others. It is a unique look into her life and what she did and thought about. Letters are also a big window into someone’s life. I have the letters that my great grandfather and great-grandmother wrote to each other in their 6-week courtship from the time they met in April until they got married in May. After reading those letters I feel like I was there, and know how they felt, and what they were thinking at the time.


3 Jess December 12, 2012 at 9:55 am

When we were sorting my grandma’s belongings, I remember the rest of the family bustling around fixing tables and throwing out food and bringing out jewellery boxes, while I sat with her planners from the last couple of years (meticulously kept, even in the throes of Alzheimer’s).

Nothing exciting, just daily life – which is maybe better.


4 E.M. December 12, 2012 at 11:48 am

After both of my grandparents were gone, my aunt found a box of things in their attic- including a box of letters from 1941-1946 from when they met just before my grandfather deployed in WWII all the way until they got married.

My aunt put them together in an incredible book that we had published through Blurb.com. One of the last things in the book is the contents of my grandfather’s high school “journal” which is basically just a 2-years-long-list of what he did every day… things like “track practice,” “glee club meeting,” “barn dance,” “harvested hay,” etc. He grew up in rural RURAL Kansas, so it was really interesting to read for a city girl like me.


5 Sharon @ Discovering Blog December 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

This morning, I was cleaning up a junk drawer, and held in my hand my daily planner from 2010. I thought about throwing it out, even though I’ve been keeping mine for the last several years. I put it back in the drawer, and after reading your post, I’m glad at I did!

On a sadder note, last year I had to clean out the office of an employee who had passed away in his sleep. It was too much for his wife, and after doing it I could understand. Seeing his planner, his motivational quotes, his plans for weight loss, his Bucket List…it was rough. It showed me that you’re not always so lucky to live until old age, sometimes you go in your 50′s, with 4 kids at home and in college, and you have plans that do not get done.


6 Karen December 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I really loved this post, because I am more of a listmaker than a journalist. We are going to be moving soon to another house, and I carefully packed my daily planners from the last four years into a box. I have earlier daily planners stored somewhere in a separate box tha didn’t get unpacked while we lived in our current house.

My mother is the same way – listmaker rather than journalist. I probably got this from her. =)


7 julia g blair December 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Thanks millions for posting Janet’s amazing planner! I attended Janet’s funeral which was an experience I’ll never forget . I also attended Janet’s mother’s and father’s and her Aunt Iris’ funeral years ago and still remember the feelings of goodness and authenticity which these marvelous people personified. None of them were impressed with themselves. They appreciated life, family, friends, the earth and all that is good and beautiful. They were all happy people and left a legacy of joy and gratitude and love and lots of laughter as well as tears. My world is a better place because of them. Sincere gratitude ! Julia b


8 Emily S. December 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm

This is a tribute! Even though it has brought me to tears – I appreciate you sharing it. And thanks to Julia for her sweet comment.


9 Susie B December 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I read the post on Emily’s blog (I’m sorry of her passing), and I agree, I would have loved this woman as a mentor! How fascinating she was- not that she kept a planner, but reading what she did, I am amazed. How many woman look so stylish while being naturalists, directing neighborhood plays, and skiing? She would have had a great blog!


10 Tonja December 12, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I have all kinds of lists and I don’t want to throw any of them away after finding a notebook of my mom’s after her passing. My most comprehensive set of lists is my menus and grocery lists since 2006. I included the days I didn’t have to cook due to vacations or time spent with friends. It’s a journal of sorts.


11 Tracy December 12, 2012 at 9:07 pm

My mother gave me my great-grandmother’s daily calendar recently. It was so fascinating to read. I treasure it because she used to babysit me when I was very small, and I have sweet memories of our special days together. The calendar (looking very similar to the one in the picture) was such an insight into her daily life after moving to Blythe, CA from the East coast in 1946. From having a house built and a garden put into their desert property, to my mother’s birth, newborn colic, and all of the nurses they went through (who has nurses these days?) trying to sooth her so my grandma could help her mother with the supervision of household tasks. Hair appointments and what she thought of the results, visits to the dressmaker, dinner parties, marital stress and reuniting, local politics, and other family members migrating west to join them; such careful details of lives that I love so much! It still sits on my bedside table where I pick it up from time to time for inspiration and connection. It is a definite priceless treasure!


12 Tracy December 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Lists! I love saving lists! Especially for special events. Sometimes I don’t get all of the pictures that I would like to, so I save the lists as another kind of snapshot. They are so funny and fun to read over!


13 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay December 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I read the whole post. Simply genius. Simply the best sort of tribute. Lovely.


14 Tasha December 13, 2012 at 4:13 am

These treasures from our past are things we may be able to create for our futures, I agree! I do not journal or really make lists, do the little slips of paper that say “toilet paper, milk, cat food” that I find in my purse count? I loved finding my old Bapcis’ phone book in her unique Polish script…too bad most is understood. I also a found a few years back all of my own first report cards from grades K-6 and learned that I was sometimes “bossy” during playtime in the house/kitchen area lol. Just yesterday, I was reading and really enjoying looking at my high school yearbooks, I don’t even know why I did this (I keep them in my desk at school where I teach to share with kids in June) and I found a beautiful letter from my sister written on a page. It was giving such good advice, so hopeful for me and I could read between the lines to see how she worried about me then ( I was a little misdirected) and it warmed my heart. The past holds so many keys…♥


15 Stephanie @ henry happened December 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm

This was so fascinating to read, I’m so glad you posted it. My mom passed away 2 months ago and everyday I think of something that I wish I had asked her. I have kicked myself for not keeping birthday cards from her. I wish she had been a journal keeper because I would give anything to have that.


16 Debbie December 14, 2012 at 6:09 am

I really love this article, thank you so much for sharing. I started to keep a “one-sentence” journal after reading the Happiness Project, and I love going back and looking through what I wrote. I know my boys will enjoy it later on as well.


17 Kharmen December 19, 2012 at 3:19 am

Thanks for sharing. I was so captivated by Emily’s blog post and felt it a privilege to get a glimpse into a fascinating woman’s life. It inspired me to jot down what ran through my head shortly after reading it –an unexpected trip about my day planners through the past 16 years of my life:


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