The best thing about being a writer…UPDATED

…it gives you an excuse to have a pretty notebook like this one in your purse:

Then you can fill your notebook with all sorts of things you want to remember. Train schedules, addresses and phone numbers that you need all the time but simply can’t remember. Random thoughts. Snippets of conversations you want to think more about. Bad poems written by yourself; better poems written by others. Quick little prayers. Things you have observed around you and pondered, and will want to revisit when you have more time. The name of the artist playing a jazzy piece you heard on the radio.

I’ve just filled this beautiful book, which my husband gave to me, and as I prepared to put it on the shelf, I leafed through it. Here is the arcane and random jumbling of my mind:

If you remain in me and my word remains in you, then you can ask for anything and it will be given you. — Gospel of John.
“The dumbest boy in the world is the one who, offered a dollar or a quarter from his Uncle, chooses the dollar. He is stupid because the Uncle will never play that game with him again. If he chooses the quarter, the Uncle will play it again and again. If the boy can put his ego aside, and allow his Uncle to believe he is the smarter, the boy will be the richer.” –Sermon
Priest: ‘I think I’ve lost my faith.’
Cardinal Cushing: ‘Don’t flatter yourself; you’re just bored.’ — Sermon
We are not meant to ‘succeed’ at Lent, but to fail and know our dependence upon Grace.
At Adoration, I came to see the greatness and all-encompassing nature of God’s love for us. This is no illusion; it is the only reality.
Some days I completely understand the sense of abandonment. I know I am not abandoned. Intellectually I know it. But my heart feels abandoned, still. Like a child left behind in a marketplace. Everyone goes about their business and no one sees me alone, skittish and awkward and so very afraid. The feeling will pass; it always does, aided by both the intellect, and the knowing, but…here in this busy, sad, ill-swept marketplace…I am quite alone and horribly abandoned. And my grief is almost too much to be borne.
Send card to Julie. Don’t forget, stupid.
Know-it-all-son: I don’t pray; I don’t need to because God knows all.”
Me: But even Jesus prayed…
Psalm 73: “I was stupid and did not understand; no better than a beast in your sight. Yet I was always in your presence.” That’s my whole life: blind, confused, obstinate, selfish, embittered, stupid as a beast. Yet you loved me. What a radical you are, O Lord, so counter-intuitive. Please teach me; my heart is ready.
One is surly and unpleasant. One is angry because he hates his job, even as he knows he should be thankful to have one. One can’t find a job and complains that he cannot play guitar because his fingers “have become stupid.” Lord, what is going on? Don’t trust Lizzie!
Will you please make use of that baptism, Jesus, Your Majesty. Make use of that portal, to illuminate our understanding of your great love for us, your mercy, your constancy and your plan. Opened at baptism, never to be closed (even if we think we are closed, even if we actively hold the opening tightly shut) -there is still a minute way in, a crack between fingers. Our closing off is never perfect. Blast through our closing, via the slenderest slivers of access, with your radiant light, that we may find the plans you know you have for us. Plans of fullness, not of harm, to give us a future, and a hope. You, of course, are all of these things: light, love, plans, fullness, future, hope. Guide us to you. Amen.

I am being asked where my husband found such a beautiful notebook. He says he picked it up at Borders Books and Music, but I know you won’t be surprised to learn you can purchase it through Amazon. When he realized I was close to filling it, he bought me another book -slightly smaller and with fewer pages- that he thought would fit my purse more easily. This one he got at Barnes & Noble, but you can read about it here too.

It is beautiful too, and I liked the red ribbon page marker very much (it’s red…what more need I say?). Like the first book, it has a magnetic closure which keeps it from getting sullied and unlovely. Is it more beautiful than the first? I guess that’s a totally subjective view. I have an especial warmth for the first one, because it was so unique, and took me by surprise, I think.

These and other really lovely designs can be found at the manufacturers website.

Buster -who has kept a journal, on-and-off, since he could write, and who always has a small notebook on him to jot down a thought or a lyric, keeps telling me I should pick up one of these moleskin books he swears by He says they’re durable and of excellent quality.

But they’re not pretty. Perhaps that is why he prefers them!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Manny L.

    Well, I don’t carry a purse to keep one in, but this has inspired me to keep one. I’ve tried keeping a journal in the past, and it always seems to die out. I guess the journals I’ve kept in the past were modeled on the Henry James type, where one is writing full paragraphs of thought. That’s just too much, and I’m not the most disciplined person in the world. Perhaps little snippets like this will work out better. Sort of like little Twitter notes to myself. ;)

  • Peggy Bowes

    What a wonderful, timely post! I’m a fledgling writer, and I just sent a note to a friend last night stating my need for a beautiful notebook to organize my lists and observations. My current method of Post-Its stuck in random places is just not working!

    I also enjoyed the peek inside your journal. The quote about Lent was especially relevant and thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing.

  • jill e

    We are not meant to ’succeed’ at Lent, but to fail and know our dependence upon Grace.

    That’s a very good thing to hear right now. Thanks for sharing it!

  • http://!!!! kelleybee

    We are not meant to ’succeed’ at Lent, but to fail and know our dependence upon Grace.

    Good, because I have failed miserably this Lent. Am fasting and praying today. Also a news fast….I am discovering that I am nothing without our Good and Gracious God.

  • NY Mom

    My very deep question: Where’d you get that book? It’s beautiful!

  • Mary

    All sorts of book stores and stationary stores sell all sorts of neat notebooks. I’ve got one myself, even though I needed some care to get one small enough for my purse.

  • JuliB

    What NYMom said…

  • Maggie45

    Your husband is very thoughtful, and has very good taste.

    I don’t consider myself a writer, but I carry a bound notebook with me everywhere also. I use it for everything….my thoughts, what happens, directions, my spending, prayers, quotes, notes at lectures, etc etc. Mead makes some very nice sturdy inexpensive leather bound ones in various sizes. My Walmart carries them, and they keep changing the locations in the store, which causes me to think they’re not carrying them anymore and consequently I’ll buy several at a time.

    Thank you for sharing your contents with us.

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  • Christine

    I am with the others on where you got the notebook. My niece is a writer (at age 15) and she would love the perfect girliness of that book…

    [My husband says he bought the book for me at Borders. It really is exquisite -even nicer than the photo; the pattern is apparently based on antique silk fabric from Europe. The pages are lined, in the back there is a little "envelope flap. I really do love it. He's bought me another, slightly smaller notebook to replace this one. Got it at Barnes and's nice too, but not as lovely as the one I've just filled. -admin]

  • Fr Dwight Longenecker

    I like:

    Catholic Schoolgirl to Mother Superior: Mother I think I’ve lost my faith.

    MS: Nonsense girl. You can’t lose something you never had.

  • F

    Only a man in love would give such a lovely and thoughtful gift to his wife. Impressive. Men, take note.

    Thanks for the grace line about Lent. Guilt is banished from just that one line alone. Makes me want to get back on the Lent horse and try again.

    [My husband is a gem; I don't deserve him. And yes, get back on that horse. -admin]

  • Joe

    Some are saying you can eat meat tomorrow because it is St. Joseph’s Day.

    Wrong. They must be a bunch of lawyers over there to come up with such a screwy idea.


    There is a reason for this. Because the tradition on St. Joseph’s Day is to not eat meat even on days when it falls other than a Friday. It used to be a tradition not to eat meat at all during Lent. Now those were real Catholics, really tough and committed, but I digress.

    Plus there is a specific St. Joseph recipes that good Catholics follow (good Catholics of course meaning Sicilians and Italians who recognize the true celebration of St. Joseph’s Day as opposed the people of another island nation who celebrate a feast day this week).

    Some recipies.

    Some more recipies.

  • Joe

    I am sorry to go off topic from the note book, which is really lovely. If I had such a note book I would keep my St. Joseph recipes in it.

  • Joe

    Here’s some recipies for the feast tomorrow. Add them to your note books!

    Pasta di San Giuse (pasta with breadcrumbs that symbolize sawdust)
    Note: This recipe came from my parish’s website, and was said to be in tribute of “Mamma Giglio.” I don’t know who Mamma Giglio is, but I don’t want to omit the dedication to an Italian Mamma!

    Cooked pasta

    2 TBSP olive oil
    5 cloves garlic, chopped
    pinch of red pepper flakes
    2 cups chopped fresh fennel
    2 cups crushed tomatoes
    2 TBSP tomato paste
    1 TBSP chopped fresh basil
    4 cans of drained, skinless, boneless sardines

    Heat oil in large pot, and saute in it the garlic and pepper flakes. Add the fennel, tomatoes, paste, and basil. Cover and let simmer 30 minutes ’til fennel is tender. Add the sardines and simmer a few more minutes.

    1 TBSP olive oil
    1 cup fine homemade breadcrumbs

    Heat oil, and add crumbs and heat until golden brown. Pour sauce over the pasta, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

    Sfinge di San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Cream Puffs)

    1 cup water
    1/3 cup unsalted butter
    1 TBSP sugar
    Grated rind of 1 lemon
    Pinch of salt
    1 cup sifted flour
    4 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 TBSP Cognac or vanilla

    2 cups ricotta cheese
    1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
    1/2 tsp. vanilla
    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/3 cup grated dark chocolate
    2 TBSP finely chopped pistachios

    Powdered sugar
    Lemon rind

    Put water, butter, granulated sugar, lemon rind, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, and as soon as the butter has melted, remove from heat. Add the flour all at once, stirring constantly and with vigor.

    Return the pan to the heat, and stir constantly until the mixture forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. Cook just a little longer, until you hear a slight crackling, frying sound. Remove the pan from the heat, and cool slightly.

    Add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure that each egg is thoroughly blended into the mixture before you add the next. Stir until smooth and thoroughly blended . Add the Cognac or vanilla. Cover the dough and let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 400º F.

    Drop the dough by heaping tablespoonsful on a buttered cookie sheet or onto parchment-lined sheet (better!), leaving 2 inches between the sfinge. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

    Filling: Mix the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, and pistachios. Just before serving (so they don’t get soggy!), cut off the tops of the sfinge and fill; place top back on after filling. Arrange on platter, sprinkle with powdered sugar to make them pretty, and garnish platter with lemon rind.

  • Sherry

    Dear Anchoress,

    Would you (and any of your readers who would like to participate) take a moment to make a list of your favorite poems in your little journal—and then send it to me? I’m doing a survey in anticipation of Poetry Month, April. Read more about it here:

    Sherry at Semicolon

  • Sally Thomas

    Lovely notebook! I can’t use those for writing, though — they stress me out too much. I’ve been given innumerable beautiful blank books over the years, but I can’t stand to use them for the incredibly messy jotting and scratching-out that I do. I have to use those cheapie composition books with the marbleized covers, and they have to be the big clunky-sized ones.

    I have my children make books as part of our homeschooling — we currently have nature/weather journals going, as well as commonplace books and one on the Seven Sacraments for my soon-to-be First Communicant. Part of me would love to give them something gorgeous to write in, feeling that it would inspire them to write gorgeously, but so far what they really, really love are manila folders run through the 3-hole-punch, with pages tied in with bits of yarn.

    I love what you’ve jotted in yours, though. Maybe I need to make another stab at a commonplace book for myself.

    [I have big handwriting; the book is narrow. I write in cars, on trains, squeezed into's always sloppy. -admin]

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  • Joanna

    That *is* a good idea. I don’t like to journal, but I had a notebook some time ago in which I did something similar. Perhaps I’ll find another one…

  • Dave Gibboni

    I like those “moleskin” notebooks, too, precisely because they’re plain and black.

    By the way, they’re not “moleskin,” like the fuzzy-textured material, but “Moleskine,” a brand name, and pronounced [mole-eh-skee-nuh]. They’re Italian, so of course they’re wonderful. :-)

  • Peggy Bowes

    I checked the mail today and was flabbergasted to find a package containing the EXACT notebook used by our beloved Anchoress. It was sent to me by my sweet younger sister, Susanna, who first introduced me to this amazing blog. It was such a thoughtful gesture that it brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes grace comes in the form of an unexpected gift that is exactly right.