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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dealing with life's challenges...

One of the most important things a journal can do for us is help us to cope with life's challenges; both Danny Gregory and Laura Frankstone addressed this issue in their interviews--Laura's recent blog entries continue offering us a glimpse into journaling as a coping tool.  I've certainly found it to be true for me, over and over again, whether I simply sketch what is, express my feelings, or poke fun at myself.  It helps. 

My dear husband has recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and though it's early days and the prognosis is very good, still...I find the journal helpful.  Above, life goes on, with music and our good friend Kevin Morgan.  (As I noted here, the boys look much more solemn than they were!  We had a great time...)

I journaled the day we went over to North Kansas City Hospital for what the doctor refers to as his "cancer talk," and I'm glad I did.  I sketched, yes, but I also made copious notes that will help us in the days to come, as they did to reach a decision about treatment, at the time.  We'd NEVER remember all those numbers and what they mean if I hadn't written them down.

I've sketched before my own surgery, and when J. had his esophageal procedure, as well as when visiting his mom in the hospital and his dad in the nursing home...it helped.  It not only calms us, but helps get us outside of, and beyond, our immediate concerns.

Of  course there are all types and grades of challenges in our lives!  A test we need to pass, a job that needs doing, a trip to plan, a meeting to record...all of it can end up here.

This not only reminded me of the first bird at the new feeder, but that it was one of those times when I needed my cane--it's a wonderful old blackthorn cane from Ireland that Joseph gave me, and I love to draw it, if not to have to use it.  It happens, from time to time!  

(I usually sketch it to keep track of when this occurs and why--in this case it was a long run through two huge airports! I learned my lesson, I am NOT too proud to have a wheelchair at the gate.  Any more...)

I had the blues, bad, when I did the above watercolor pencil sketch in the back of my journal...it helped!  I still remember the blues, but I recall the beauty of the day much more.

Of course recording the minor challenges is good, too.  We'd misjudged the drop-off on the snowy road and landed in a ditch way too deep even for my 4WD Jeep to climb out of.  So that was me, climbing up the seat to the only door that would open!  Every time we pass that road THIS winter we joke about taking a trip down memory lane...

I made my Fantasy Journal when things were particularly stressful with the family.  That involved WAY too many phone calls, as you might deduce!  (And no, we didn't have a wonderful vintage phone like this, nor did we actually use dynamite.  It was just what I WANTED to do, every time the phone rang!)

These goofy images helped me deal with things with fun and humor--good for BOTH of us!  The above image is the last one in that little journal, but you're welcome to go see the others at the link!

How has your journal helped YOU to deal with the curves life can throw you?


Note:  gentlemen, have your PSA checked at your next checkup!  Early detection is the best for this slow-growing cancer!

And oh, yes, good thoughts and positive energy are more than welcome...


  1. Beautiful, Kate. Journals are wonderfully therapeutic--somehow, getting images and words on paper does help. So sorry to hear about Joseph's diagnosis, but as you said, thank goodness that they've caught it early on. Best wishes to him in whatever lies ahead.

  2. Joseph and you will certainly be in my prayers. So thankful it has been caught early. Your journal entry is inspiring, both as journaling but also as you share honestly how you deal with challenges. I am picking up my pen now to do some sketching and writing.

  3. I don't think I would cope half as well without my journal, thank you both! I talked it over with Joseph before doing this one, because it was, after all, his diagnosis, but we feel that if we can keep just one man from having to deal with a more advanced situation, it's well worth it.

  4. I love to see other artists journals. I have kept a journal for years in notebooks and do some doodling in them. I really need to keep it in a sketchbook instead of a lined notebook where I keep my to do lists. :O. My DH has to have his PSA checked soon for his yearly tests.. it was high last time but that wasnt abnormal for his age ..still we need to keep a check on it. Wishing for the best for your hubby.

  5. I sketched my sons face the day he left for basic training. I wrote about being aware that the next time I saw him I would be meeting someone new. How right I was. The next time we met he was no longer a boy...he had gained 18 pounds, carried himself like a man, and had emotional depth of character. That day I sketched, too. I wrote about the "man" I met. Three months later was 9/11...

  6. Cris, yes, do watch that. I'm so glad he went to the doctor when he did.

    Brenda, what a wonderful outlook, you must have been very proud of the man he became.

  7. Kate, I 've sketched near my Dad when he was in the hospital on a respirator for 10 days, we didn't think he would pull thru but he did. I was the only one with him and I truly was so upset I didn't know what to do so I drew the end of the bed, the door handle and the box of kleenex. When my son was having knee surgery I sketched the lamp and trash can in the waiting room.. anyway.. you get the idea.. it goes with me to the dr.s office, hospital.. whatever. I use a regular sketchbook and you have inspired me to get a journal sketchbook.. I will be praying for you and your husband and hold you in my hearts, hugs to you,Diana

  8. Love the peek into your sketchbook today, the bird at the feeder and the one with the "blues" jumped out at me. Praying all goes well for your husband. Thanks for sharing your art, your life, the emotions we all face at one time or another.

  9. My thoughts are with you and Joseph ... may all go well. And good for you, sharing it with us so that others will take the necessary precautions.

  10. Thinking of you both and sending best wishes. Thank you for the post and for the sharing.

  11. Kate and Joseph my heart is with you! My husband and I have been hit by that awful C as have many friends and family. You are so right early detection is Key - And a journal is a fabulous way to vent and feel your way through this frightening time. You are both in my prayers!!!

  12. Thanks, all...it really DOES help cope, doesn't it. Drawing often takes me out of myself, away from my concerns as well as giving me ways to deal with whatever it may be. Your kindness is much appreciated!

    Both Joseph's recent doctors have been fascinated by someone sketching. My eye doctor actually looks forward to my visits to see what I've sketched in her office!

  13. This summer I had the opportunity to use my sketchbook journal to help me cope with a challenge in a slightly different way. My Dad was in the hospital for 4 months with yet another bout of congestive heart failure and various other health serious health problems. We were all feeling (my Dad included) that this was his time to go. I shared my journals with him in hopes they would cheer him up a bit as he was very depressed. He really enjoyed them, and I felt that it brought us even closer. I am so glad that I did! My Dad is home and much better now. Every day is a blessing, and every day does matter.

    Kate, I pray for Joseph and you everyday. I have lost one too many loved ones to cancer, and I have two clients (I a Massage Therapist) in the process of fighting. I would LOVE to see Joseph kick his cancer's butt!!

  14. Thank you, Wendi, isn't it amazing how SHARING our journals with our loved ones can bring us closer? I'm so glad it worked that way for you.

    And I'm sure he will, it's very early, small, and contained. Just another glitch to deal with...with the help of a good doctor and good friends and their prayers!

  15. Hugs and positive mojo to the two of you—as always, thanks for inspiring us!

  16. Dear Kate! Wishing you and Joseph lots of great time and better drawing opportunities than hospital visits - though you make even them interesting! please keep drawing your way through life - it's an inspiration to many!

  17. Thanks, both of you! You know I keep drawing, it keeps me what passes for sane. :-)

  18. Kate- I am glad they caught it early- thank goodness for small mercies! My thoughts and best wishes are with you... and I shall expect more doctor's office drawings from you. Drawing is like a meditation at time- it allows you that kind of focus that takes you away from the hassles of life!

  19. Me too, thank you Rachel. And you're right, working in my journal is a wonderful way to focus on something besides my squirrel-cage worries.

  20. Kate, Good Luck to you and Joseph. Try to keep it upbeat and happy, happy thoughts heals.....

    When I shattered my ankle Christmastime 2009, I was shattered physically and emotionally. I felt helpless and angry. I had to relearn how to walk and pain was a constant companion....over a year later, I am still working on getting back to normal but I am starting to move forward. My sketchbook was my place to vent. The first few pages were angry, but over time, I had to find things that made me happy and started to list them in my book because I realized how bad the bad thoughts made me feel. They pulled me down, it was hard because I had to see past the pain and I felt like I was climbing out of a cesspool. I couldn't even stand at an easel without paying for it with pain.

    My husband helped me through it. I couldn't do it without my hubby. The support and love of a spouse goes a long way to help in the healing process and keep sketching happy things! It helps!


  21. Gina, thank you for the good wishes, and we will indeed.

    I injured my knee in '97, which progressed to arthritis...don't remember many pain-free days since, though some are better than others. You're right, you just have to stay positive and do what you do, do what you CAN do. But like you, I spent a while being angry I couldn't do the things I loved doing. I still miss long walks in the woods, but I do other things I enjoy...and yes, list them in my journal! Keeps me focused!

  22. Hey, I'm away from the computer for a few days, slowly get back in and catch up with happenings and wham! What news!

    I'm sooooo glad this is an early catch for Joseph! Medicine and healing methods have progressed so much. Be in good hands, keep your focus on the beauty of the present and know that all of us have you in our hearts and prayers. Joseph, you will heal. Kate, you and Joseph have a love and strength that will stand tall and meet this bump. And, you are so right, journaling keeps one centered, alive and aware of each moment.


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