Throwback Thursday: Zen in the Art of Pooh Journaling

Every Thursday, I dig I out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the right and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Exciting news, you guys! I’ve moved onto the second diary in my collection! We’re getting closer to my truly humiliating entries!

You're right, Ashley. These are two COMPLETELY different notebooks. You have such dynamic taste.

You’re right, Ashley. These are two COMPLETELY different notebooks. You have such dynamic taste.

Tuesday May 4, 1999

Hello. My name is Ashley Elizabeth Otto. I’m in the fifth grade at Clovis Grove Elementary school in Menasha Wisconsin. I play the violin. My instructor is Ms. Jane B—- F—–. My best friends are Ashley A, Ashley M, Katie B, and Malee L. In my family there are 4 other people, not including myself. First there is my Dad, Kraig. He works at “J.J. Keller”, and he works for My Uncle Mark, who is my favorite uncle. (I’ll tell you about him later.) Next my mom, Eileen. Her maiden name is H——. She works at “Piggly Wiggly”. Next Corey he is 12, he goes to Maple Wood Middle school. Finnally Ryan. He is 5, he went to “Tinny Tots”. Ms. F—- says that I have extraordinary talent in music. Thats good for my dream! My dream is to be in the New York Symphony, and a hairstylist on the side. I’d like to marry a doctor and live in a big house. My dream car is a VW Beetle. End. 

Saturday May 8, 1999

I feel great today! Even though its only about 10:40, I really feel great! I have a feeling today will be  a great day. Or a “happy day” as I used to call it. Corey would call it a “Rock and Roll day.” Today I slept in till 8:00. I got up, played a game of pool with Corey. (We got a 10 in 1 pool table, its got pool, basket ball, lots of games, a lego table, and more!) I had a toaster strudle for breakfast. Then mom went to Dawn’s house. (she’s still there.) While she was there I got into the shower, shaved my legs. Then I blow dried my hair, washed my hair, and now I’m writing in you! I will work out after this too. I don’t know what else to say. End. (for now!) 

I still feel great! Ok, so there’s this girl, Hilary Hahn. She looks like she’s 11, but she’s 19! 19! Well anyway, here’s here story for Time for kids: 

[i then proceeded to copy a short article about Hilary Hahn in unbelievably tiny print]

What’s really amazing is that at age 10 she got into a musical academy! I wish I could do something like that! Well I almost did. I’ll tell you the story of when I started violin. It begins last year…

“Please dad! I really want to play violin! Pleeeeeaase!” “Well I’ll have to check with your mom first.” Well after Dad talked to mom about it, they said yes. We had to go to Gegan to get fitted for our instrument. My cousin Kyle was there, he would play the cello. I was fitted with a 1/4 size violin. On my first lesson at 9:00 on a Monday morning we learned “twinkle twinkle little star.” Plucking. I did not want to practice plucking. “OH wow! I can pluck!” So, I practiced with my bow. When my mom came to my 12:00 lesson one time I passed “Mississippi hotdog.” (a twinkle variation) Ms. F—– stood on her head! I was the first one in my group to pass it. So while there were on song #1, I was on song #2. One day when I had passed “Perpetual Motion” the 9th song Ms. F—– called and said that song #9 was the song that she wanted her students to be by the end of their second year. So she was going to give me a scholarship to Suzuki summer camp! Well even with the scholarship it was to much for my parents to pay. So I didn’t go. Well, she said that if during the summer there were no lessons that I might get private lessons. Well I didn’t do that either. So in the summer school classes there was Strings Lessons. All because of me! Me! Well sometime in March we had our annual “Strings Festival.” We had a rehearsal at 12:30….

I proceeded to list more rehearsals and lessons that establish my excitement and apparent status as a Suzuki Book 1 prodigy. “Gavotte is a simple song, but hard bowings to it” was my grammatically unsound statement about my progress at that point. It wasn’t so much an entry about me starting violin so much as an overview of my accomplishments my first year. I just sort of bragged about myself. Sort of begs the question: have I really changed at all?

If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice the dates of these entries overlap some of my earlier Throwback Thursdays. I promise, I’m not going back, I’m just moving on to the next journal. I thought my excitement over new notebooks and journals started much later in life, but turns out it’s always been an issue. The cursive of this first entry is so tightly written that it makes my hand sore. Flipping through this diary, I find that most of my hand writing here is small. Maybe I’ll find that I was a passionate advocate for paper conservation while writing in this notebook. Or maybe it’s just that I was hoping the publisher would more favorably judge a neatly written journal when deciding which 10 year old’s journal to publish next.

Journal

I remember writing introductions for many of my early diaries, but I think this was the most deliberate one. It was as if I expected to have a conversation with it. “Wow, that’s really your name?” my diary would say. “No! Your dad doesn’t work there! And your brother went to ‘Tinny Tots’? What did they do there, study tin cans and potatoes?” For the record, it was actually called Tiny Tots – I was just a moron who didn’t know how to spell. I think these introductory entries were a sort of offering to the journal. It felt too assuming to just start writing about my days. I thought each journal needed a preface – as if anybody would read them and not be able glean the details from later pages. Obviously I was still learning the art of story telling. I’ve since learned a few things about writing.

Construct a story by establishing the plot (I needed to ask my parents if I could play violin because I wanted to join Malee when she left math for lessons), introducing characters (me, 11 and anxious; my father, work-weary with dirty fingernails; my mother, fresh-faced and wiping the counters), illustrating the setting (early fall, cool breeze brightening the warm air of my parents’ kitchen, we’re standing near the drawer with the telephone book), create tension (I had asked the year before, but my dad said no, that I was too young – maybe next year), sprinkling in dialogue (“Can I pleeeaaase, Dad? Can I?” “Your mother and I will need to talk about it”), and granting a resolution (they said yes, I kicked ass).

This second diary looks like a much more serious attempt to capture my place in the world. It was around the time I was first made aware of impermanence. I wanted something to leave behind – a collection of Pooh journals, apparently – that would justify my existence. At the time, I remember hearing my mother warn me about the end days, saying that the rapture was near. I was almost certain I would never make it to 18. I didn’t think I’d die, I would just never reach that age or I would just be raptured in a Jesus beam. I guess you could say these diaries were my gift to the sinners not raptured.

Actually that seems like more of a punishment. “For all of eternity, your only reading material will be a Pooh diary written in metallic gel pen recounting one girl’s greatest indecision: whose hotness is hotter – Leonardo Dicaprio, James Van Der Beek or Joey M? Hope all the sins were worth it, heathen.”

It’s obvious that my journaling began as a desperate attempt to stake a claim on my life. “I was here! I lived! I have thoughts that matter! My story has got to be important!” Though I don’t journal as often as I would like, I think I write for the same reason. I think this blog has established my stake (according to search terms, a claim whose only worth is its advice on encounters with ex-boyfriends), and my personal journal tackles much more personal issues. Now I use my journal for the venting I’m sick of bothering Andrea with. It’s for the thoughts not entertaining enough for Twitter and too depressing to make into Facebook statuses. I suppose my more recent journals would reveal an apparently depressed and often romantically confused woman whose biggest wish is to find a way to survive on fourteen hours of sleep each week.

Keep dreaming, Ashley. Keep dreaming.

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Throwback Thursday: A Vending Machine Sticker & Daddy Issues

September 5, 1998

Dear Genna, 

Today It rained. When John and Devon went out for patrol they came back socking wet, I was laughing inside cause if he saw me he would have killed me. Like yesterday he spelled dog wrong – Dog! He chased me into the girls’ bathroom. During recsess Ashley A, Malee, Katy, and me played scrabble. for my frist turn I put down Leo. On my fifth I meant to have oars but I put down Leoa! I was so embarrassed. 

When Dad, Corey, Ryan and I went to Piggly Wiggle I think dad was mad Because he looked at Ryan like, “You stop or I’ll spank you!” Well when we were waiting for Dad in the checkout, Me and Corey went to look at the stickers. This teenager came (he was cute) to get a sticker his money was jammed and he said, “If I don’t get a sticker I’m gonna bust this thing!” So he got another It was a stupid one so he gave it to me!

Guess what? I’m getting a lovin’ Leo book! I think he is hot. I have tons of posters of him. Then in an article in Teen machine It was: DiCapro vs. Damon. I wonder who’d win? Maybe..um Dicapro. Duh! 

This is the sticker –>Sticker

I know it looks like a fat lady but hey a cute guy gave it to me. Me!

Without reading this entry, I remember this event – getting the sticker from the strange teenage boy. I don’t remember my dad being upset at Ryan or what he was upset about, but I do remember those stern looks he would give us when we were misbehaving while grocery shopping. This was back when my mom worked as a cashier at Piggly Wiggly in the evenings. Sometimes my dad would take us to the store to visit her.

I’ve always been a pragmatic person. Though I’ve always been a daydreamer, I’ml aware of reality’s constraints. While walking through the grocery store, I used to imagine that some boy would find himself so enchanted by me that he would be compelled to tell me I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. I knew this would never happen – I knew that I was too young for anyone to look at me like that, and even if a boy did notice me, the presence of my father would thwart any move he might think to make. So when this older cooler boy engaged me – I was excited but wary. Eventually my dad would walking through the automatic doors, pushing a cart full of groceries and it would be revealed that I was just a child, dependent upon her dad for transportation.

But while my dad was still at the checkout, I was able to indulge my daydream. I’d tell myself that certain things were signs. If he doesn’t get this next sticker, it means he likes me. If he looks at me, it means my shirt is cool. If he gives the sticker to me, it means he’s going to look for me again. While I knew it didn’t really mean anything when he gave me this sticker (it was a stupid one after all), I made it seem like it was.  I went home and wrote in my diary, because I thought that just maybe this was the start of something significant.

In the books I read – historical fiction, mostly – boys were always timidly approaching girls and making them feel special by little trinkets. Reality was a constant disappointment for me. I know that my diary makes me sound like I had no concept of reality, but it’s really the opposite. I just always wanted my life to sound better and more impressive than what it really was. My life was boring. I was ordinary. I wanted to be extraordinary. I wanted to stand out for something other than being the girl who wore handmade dresses and played pretend at recess after most of her peers stopped.

This entry is indicative of my early interactions with men – feeling like it was acceptable to receive their leftovers throw-aways. I was so desperate for any bit of attention from a boy that I was willing to accept anything they gave me. After writing mostly about Scott and my father in a personal narrative class, my professor asked if I thought there was a reason I dated a whole slew of  assholes despite such a heroic father. I was quick to point out that I didn’t date a slew of assholes, just one for a significant amount of time.

I never truly answered her question, so the question still remains: Assuming a girl’s father is her strongest male figure – the one who illustrates how she should be treated – why did I accept so little from my early boyfriends? From all my boyfriends, for that matter. Even after my most significant relationship ended a little less than a year ago, I still felt like I was just a little bit used – like I had served my purpose for a chunk of time and the time had come for him to move on.

My father has always been there for me – if I’m stranded on the side of the road, if I’m crying about money or about a guy he hugs me, if I need a meal he feeds me, if I’m shivering he’ll give me his coat. It’s not that boyfriends didn’t or wouldn’t do these things for me. Maybe it’s just that I’ve never really given them the chance. Maybe I’ve never allowed room for them to actually impress me since my father is such a significant part of my life. Maybe I’ll always be disappointed by men who are not my father. Damnit, dad. Why are you such a good dad?

Good luck trying to date me, future beaus.

I had no intention of making this post so inquisitive. I thought I’d point out 10-year old Ashley’s excellent grasp of punctuation in dialogue but her apparent disregard for commas elsewhere. I was clearly horrified by my peers’ shortcomings while being oblivious to my own (but come on – I still have trouble spelling recess sometimes) Also, I was obsessed with Leonardo Dicaprio, but I couldn’t be bothered to learn how to actually spell his name.

Throwback Thursday: Dear Genna

Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking of trying to find some way to make posts a little bit more regular. My style here has always just been “Hey! That’s clever idea! I bet I can write a few paragraphs about it. Let’s spend three hours writing a 1,000 word blog post!” I enjoy that because I’m not held accountable if a week goes by without posting anything because I’m not inspired. Nobody can tell me they were expecting anything from me. All they can do now is be delighted when they get a notification that I’ve written a new post.

I’ve had conversations with a few bloggers about this. Some say it’s best to stay to make a schedule to keep yourself in check. Readers appreciate consistency. Other bloggers say that it’s best to write only when it strikes. I just use this as an excuse not to write. If I get an idea, I think, “Yeah, I could do that…but, but…Pinterest!” I tell myself I’m not writing because my readers will know that I didn’t want to write it. But you know what? There’s some truth there. I think you guys would stop reading if I started writing solely about Zooey Deschanel bangs (just make sure the edges are rounded) and outfits to wear when you see your ex-boyfriend (in the summer: a white sundress. With spanx, you ho. In the winter: skinny jeans, heeled boots, and something comfortable. Wear a scarf. Don’t be a ho.) Just because I’ve written about those things (and those are the two highest search terms that lead new visitors here) before, it’s not what I write about.

At the most basic, I share my life. Some of my posts leave me feeling extremely vulnerable after they’re published. Others make me laugh and I’m excited to see how people react. What I seek most is to be honest with you. I want you to feel like we could be friends. Because we could be. And probably should be, so friend me on Facebook. Who doesn’t want more friends? Like everyone else, my life can be exciting, tedious, hilarious, heartbreaking, and melancholy. I just try to share those experiences with you.

So, I’m starting something new here on Everything is Blooming: Throwback Thursdays. I’ve been journaling since I was ten years old. I’d like to show you my beginnings. I’m doing this for a few reasons. First: it gives me an excuse to go through this box that I’ve been lugging from apartment to apartment. Second: I think it will be hilarious. When you’re going through childhood, adolescent, and teenage angst, you are certain that whatever you’re involved in has enough cosmic weight to deserve the universe’s undivided attention. Fifteen years later and this stuff is gold. Third: I think my memory is fading. I can’t remember details from high school more than I can remember those from fifth grade. Fourth: It will give me more writing material. Serious writing material.

table

I’ve spent the last decade trying to develop my writing voice. Blogging sort of interrupted that. Suddenly I was writing for an audience. It’s a bit of a performance, so some things don’t get to be in the show. I don’t allow you to know everything I laugh about (If you’re interested, my twitter gives you a pretty good idea). I don’t let you know about every friend, every date, every hangover (I didn’t mean anything by putting those two together. I promise), every creation, or every anything for that matter. Some parts of my life deserve to be kept sacred and others deserve to preserved in something that takes me more than three hours to write. These are the things I’m hoping to uncover while I searching through my journals.

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m going to share a journal entry or two – sans editing, so you can hopefully see my grammar and apostrophe use improve – with a short commentary. This will be posted every Thursday morning, today’s inception being the only exception.

So, without further ado – Throwback Thursday:

August 13, 98

Dear Diary,

I think instead of calling you “Diary’ I’m going to of a name for you.

There’s only 1 thing I hate about my mom. When your in the middle of one thing she told you to, she tells you to…There she goes again.

August 19, 98

Dear…,

I haven’t thought of a name for you yet. Wait! Genna. I’m going to name  you Genna cause she just moved all the way to south Caralina. And I won’t see her that often. I have to go to bed now. Bye, Genna.

September 3, 98

Dear Genna,

Now schools seems even longer! I have to sit by Andy B and Josh D! I hate both of them. Like this afternoon they kept on singing “Saxamaphone.” Then I’m like, “Will you shut the heck up?!!” They stoped for about 2.5 sec., and started up again. The only good part is that Ashley M is in my group.

Tomorrow I start carpooling with Katy B. I have a violin lesson at 8:00. 8:00! The 8:00! But…Malee is in my class. I’m kinda tired. See ya!

It’s also worth nothing that I signed every entry. Like it was a letter or something. The signature usually varied, but I hope that when I write a book someday, I’m able to sign all of the first editions with this beauty:

Sign

I probably should have taught a calligraphy class for ten year olds. I could be rich right now.

The year before, I had borrowed The Diary of Anne Frank from the school’s library. I remember feeling superior as I walked to the left side of the library towards the chapter books while the other kids stayed to the right, which held most of the  picture books. At some point – I’m not sure when exactly – I began scoffing at books with illustrations. This remained until I took two semesters of comparative literature and read Persepolis and Watchmen.

When I checked out, I remember the librarian asking me if I was sure I wanted to read The Diary of Anne Frank. “Do you know what this is about?” I told her yes, though I had no idea. I just had no idea diaries could be published (Blogs would have BLOWN Young Ashley’s mind), so when I saw the word “diary,” I grabbed it. After checking out, I began reading immediately and decided I was going to publish a diary. And since Anne had a name for her diary, I needed one for mine. I thought that people would be interested in knowing that it was the name of my cousin. Wasn’t I clever?

Ever since reading Anne’s diary, I’ve deluded myself in thinking that other people would be interested in my thoughts. I like to think  that it’s an evolved flavor of egotism. I try not to just blurt out days’ agendas, though sometimes that’s all I feel I’m capable of: “I woke up and had like FOUR cups of coffee, you guys. And then, omg, the cute guy at work wore those pants and he like totally smiled at me and then I only worked a half day because I had an appointment in the afternoon. It was so weird and like, seriously – have you heard the Nicki Minaj album? It’s literally the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” (I was serious about that last part though. Have you heard it?It’s terrible.) I try to go a little further and touch on the emotions and illustrate the connections.

If I haven’t learned at least a little about myself at the end of it, I’m not really proud of the post. And to answer your question, there are only a few posts I’m truly proud of. I’m going to be brainstorming other regular post topics, and if you  have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Until then, I’ll keep flipping through my pages and laughing at myself, per usual.