Looking Back on a Year of List-Making

Years before I became a busy FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member, I was already a dedicated journaler. My seminal journal entries usually began with a dramatic “Dear Diary…” and continued with thorough retellings of my second-grade days.

A decade and a half later, my journals are more like anchors that ground me within the daily whirl. In the past year of FoodCorps service, I have kept three distinct journals: one for work and two for me. I used one journal to make daily to-do lists and take notes during trainings and meetings; this work  journal keeps me organized and documents what I’ve done every day of service for the entire 11-month term. In tandem with this journal I also make daily notes in a personal notebook—reserved for life outside of service only! This notebook holds monthly and daily to-do lists and opens up space to record the happy and exciting bits of daily life in coastal Maine. As if two weren’t enough, I also keep a third journal that is reminiscent of my second-grade diary: a smaller book that I write in less frequently, reserved for private feelings and  reflections.

Between my work tasks, personal life, and private musings, my triple-threat journal arsenal paints a clear picture of my days—and also reveals what I value, my favorite activities, and the scope of my service term here at Trenton Elementary School.

I scanned some of my work and personal journals from three points throughout the year—September, February, and May—to give you a glimpse of my time, both at work and home, throughout a year of service.

Work journal from September 28:

If you look closely, you can tell I’m still at the beginning of my service—still plugging through my Healthy School Toolkit (a FoodCorps booklet that gives service members benchmarks and ideas for service), meeting with teachers, and double-checking the first frost date (for the record: October 10th) to determine when I need to harvest all my outdoor crops.

My personal journal from the same day: 

This one evidences how busy I am at work— but I still manage to call my parents, exercise, and drive to a local farm to pick up veggies for class the next day, all after a full day of service.

Things start evolving in my work journal from February 16:

February is a strange month in Maine because it feels as if it’s been winter for many months, but it’s still nowhere near springtime! I was spending many of these cold winter days planning and preparing: plotting our garden, collaborating with a local artist and seed saver on projects for my students, and getting ready for a bulb sale fundraiser and hydroponics project. I also started Master Gardener classes at the local Cooperative Extension office (“MG” in my notes) — the best professional development opportunity I could ask for!

On the same day, my personal journal:

This entry details a relaxed Friday night after a long week at school. I often use Friday evenings to do errands that got pushed to the wayside during the busy week— note the scintillating details of my shopping list, and preparations for a winter break trip to Burlington, VT.

Finally, a work journal excerpt from a more recent day, May 10th:

This spring day was full of work in my school’s greenhouse, tending to our seedlings and prepping for a seedling sale. I also had a half hour lesson with my first grade class (happily spent turning compost into our garden beds and planting new strawberry plants!) and a chunk of time spent hanging out with middle schoolers during lunch time. I ended the day by writing my weekly garden newsletter and sending it off to our principal.

And a last personal journal from the same day:

After getting home from work at 5:30, I changed into my wetsuit and headed out on a kayaking adventure with my boyfriend, which certainly counted as my exercise for the day! The best part about living in coastal Maine is the ability to be out on the water—whether ocean, bay, pond, or creek—at a moment’s notice. I also squeezed in some personal gardening time and started all of my own seeds for the season. After settling my seeds into their new home beneath my homemade grow light, I hit the hay with another satisfying and exciting day in the books.

I feel so grateful to have spent the year serving alongside such dedicated educators who allowed me to enter their space, mount drawings of vegetables on their walls, and occasionally return their students with dirty hands and wet sneakers.

Reading through this series of journal entries today, with only one week (!) of FoodCorps service left to complete, is giving me a lot to reflect on. Mostly, I feel grateful for every busy day and night that led towards my goal of improving healthy options and fresh food access at Trenton Elementary School. Besides the success of our thriving school garden, I am thrilled to consider the strong relationships I’ve built this year—my supervisor, the school secretary, and the cafeteria director (among many other staff members!) have all become my trusted allies and friends. I feel so grateful to have spent the year serving alongside such dedicated educators who allowed me to enter their space, mount drawings of vegetables on their walls, and occasionally return their students with dirty hands and wet sneakers. When this year began, I was nervous and excited to serve the staff and students at Trenton Elementary School. Now, as I wrap up my service term, I am realizing that the students and staff also served me—helping me become a more confident, flexible, and capable leader than I ever thought possible.