#ThursdayTreeLove | In Winter…

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In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees — Mary Oliver, “White Eyes”

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An urgent deadline made me miss #ThursdayTreeLove last week, but all the tree photos hiding out in my phone will not allow me to forgo participating in the first TTL of the year. So, here I am, a week late, with snow laden trees from my very first tree walk of the year. Oh, how I wish we could capture pure delight with our cameras!

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These photos were snapped January 4, two days after our first snow. We don’t get snow very often in the South, so when we do, we’re [Southerners] usually over-the-moon with excitement. I did not take the time to go out and play in the snow the evening/morning it fell. I planned to the next day when everything was all white and pretty, but the freezing temperatures kept me indoors.

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When I returned to campus two days later, I was pleasantly surprised to find the trees on campus still beautifully adorned with snow. I raced to my office, dropped my bags, grabbed my camera and spent the first moments of the workday with the snow trees.

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I shot with my phone and my camera. I am sharing the phone photos because choosing from among the far-too-many camera photos is a task for another time. [Click images 2-5 to view full-size versions of these photos in a Flickr album. Eventually, I’ll add the DSLR photos. Eventually…]

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The Lion King is running in Nashville, and Cats will be here in Huntsville soon. I will miss both. People are not always cautious, so I am still wary of large group events. Sometimes, it seems the coronavirus is robbing me of life and fun, but spending time with the trees on a gorgeous day more than makes up for it.
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I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

“No Justice, No Peace”

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964. [Public Domain]

If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people. —Martin Luther King, Jr., Three Major Evils

100 Failures in One Year!

Heart's Desire 2I had a full, productive first day back at work, and though I have not completed the task list (unsurprisingly), I feel good about relaxing for the rest of the evening. I thought I’d drop in with a little inspiration for the new year.

I stopped formulating New Year’s goals and resolutions some time ago. I use my birthday (October), instead of January 1, to reflect on the past year and consider my goals for the next 365-day cycle. However, at the beginning of the year, I do take stock of my progress and consider methods I can use to achieve my goals.

One of my forever goals is to get things out of my head, onto paper, and into publications. My life is crazy-busy, but if I’m not writing, I’m dying inside. So I write a LOT! I have journals and notebooks full of writing. And last year, after attending Tara Gray’s Publish and Flourish workshop, I started writing every morning (for a minimum of 15 minutes). I took a break from the practice, because in just a few months, I had drafted several articles and needed to take the time to edit, integrate research where necessary, and consider publications. 

And that’s where many things get stuck. That’s the time-consuming part, and because of all my other responsibilities, those things get put on the back burner. But, I think it’s also the scary part. Finishing can be daunting because it means I have to put it out there and deal with the possibility of rejection.

That’s what I’d like to push through this year, and Kim Liao’s article on failing best, “Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year,” provides the antidote. In the Lit Hub article, Liao shared advice a writing friend she admired offered her:

Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.

I read the article late last year and decided that starting January 1, 2022, I’m going for the goal—100 rejections in a year. Yes, this will be mortifying for my soul, but the goal is not really the rejections, of course. The goal is to keep writing and to keep submitting. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m writing and submitting subpar material just for the sake of rejection. If I go for 100 rejections, that means, I am getting good writing done, crafting proposals, putting my work out there, and not sitting on the fence waiting for the publishing gods to find me. 

I like the idea of pushing for the loss instead of the win. It removes the pressure and anxiety and frees me to write authentically. So, that’s my one “big” plan for the year. I’ll let you know by December 31, 2022 how it goes. 😉

You can use the same principle for your goals. Try your hand at 100 new recipes; create 100 new clothing designs; visit 100 new places; read 100 books; create 100 masterpieces, or even perform 100 random acts of kindness. Whatever it is, go for it!

For now, this is my prayer for you:

May God grant your heart’s desire and renew your plans. — Psalm 20:4

Just remember to put in the work!


About the Image: This is one of the 10 pieces of inspirational “doodle art” I created for the 30-Day Creative Art Gathering. I think another round starts next month.

Favorite Moments of 2021

This year showed us–no matter how much chaos is around us–life continues. The year was brutal. Countless losses, “too many funerals,” constant change, and far too much heartache. But, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, there’s also been good. As we close out 2021, I’m reflecting as I did last year, on some of my favorite moments of the year–in no particular order.

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Clinton Row Color Walk

Street Art. Roaming with my guys anywhere is always a good moment, but when we roamed through downtown Huntsville and found the Clinton Row Art Walk, I was pleased as punch. I shared some of the photos here, but eventually, I’ll share others.

College Language Association (CLA) Annual Conference. This was the first fully virtual academic conference I’d attended. By the time it rolled around [in April], I was oh-so-tired of Zoom, but the conference provided such a rewarding, interactive experience that it didn’t feel virtual at all. I laughed, lauded, and learned.

Joe Wheeler State Park. This work retreat, thankfully, was more retreat than work. I wrote a little about it in Between Water and Trees. I rode the high of all that outdoors for quite some time.

Summer Road Trips! After sheltering-in-place for 16 months, the guys and I hit the road to visit our folks. We went to New Orleans to visit my parents and to Millers Creek, North Carolina to visit Hubby’s parents. Both trips were too short, but it was oh so good to lay eyes on our parents [and siblings] and make sure they’re okay.

English Garden. My in-laws have an amazing English-style garden. When we visited, I stole away often to spend time in the garden. The butterflies loved the garden too, and I have the photos to prove it. 😉

“A Garden Visitor.”

Thanksgiving Road Trip! By November, the benefits of the summer escapes had worn off and we were itching to get out of the bubble of Northern Alabama for just a moment. We took another short road trip to Atlanta to visit my sister and niece for Thanksgiving. Bonus! We also spent a little time with a bunch of nieces and nephews and one of my sisters-in-law! We won’t make mention of the macaroni and cheese that I was compelled to make with the “wrong kind” of pasta and cheese! :-/ [Everyone else thought it was good, but it was not my signature mac and cheese!].

Working with Lilith. I had the privilege of editing a book for one of the most pleasant individuals I’ve ever worked with. She has an incredible story. We were acquainted before, but through this endeavor, our friendship has been developing. Although we indeed completed the work, our meetings to review the edits were more like tea with a friend than work.

Dean. Among last year’s “favorite moments,” I listed that I had accepted the role of department chair. Who knew that less than a year later, I’d drop the chair to accept another role—Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences? I seriously resisted at first until I realized I had no logical explanations for not accepting the role. Of course, I am having a blast!

Tell It Slant. The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Tell It Slant Poetry Festival was everything my writing soul needed and more. I went to seminars, workshops, readings, and Q&A’s. I became acquainted with new poets, acquired new art and books, and most importantly, experimented with new writing techniques. I am certainly looking forward to next year’s event!

Tree Love for 30-Day Creative Gathering

30-Days Creative Gathering. Sheila Delgado’s Creative Challenge was the mental and creative break I needed daily throughout the month of September! This gift to myself offered so much joy!

World Watercolor Month:  Thankfully, my friend Sheila introduced me to this month-long art party. It was fun finding ways to transform my photography into “watercolor” art. If you’re interested, you can find the three #worldwatercolormonth posts by clicking the link.

Time with My Bestie. My bestie came into town to drop off her youngest daughter for college. After the very last minute, her daughter–bound for a university in California–switched course and chose our alma mater (where I now work). So in these “Corona Times” I got to see my bestie! She even bought a sparkling [non-alcoholic] beverage to toast my new role.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff’s “Write Together” sessions were among my favorite moments this year and last year. I don’t always get a chance to participate, but the “time out” for gathering, contemplating, and writing is always well-spent.

Birthday Fun. Despite getting horribly sick halfway through my birthday, that was actually one of the best days of the year. As part of my birthday festivities, the guys and I headed to Scott’s Orchard. Of course, anytime outdoors with my camera and my guys, surrounded by trees, is a perfect day!

A Moment with Dr. Garland. It’s always wonderful when the virtual world collides with the “real world,” so when my blogging friend K.E. Garland showed up as a presenter at the Mellon conference, I was thrilled. We run in similar academic circles, so our encounter “in real life” was just a matter of time. I invited her to present at my university, and we had a moment to connect after her awesome workshop which offered many wonderful tips for surviving the pandemic as an academician. I love her candor and her energy.

Tea Time!

Prayer Circle. Just before the academic year began, my colleague Kayla invited a very small group of women to her home for brunch and prayer over the year. After conversation and a good meal, we talked about our intentions and each prayed over the various facets of the university and the academic year. I recalled the good energy of our Prayer Circle when we hit rough spots in the semester.

Books & Tea. The Women’s Ministries Coordinators at my church organized a series of book talks on Chrystal Evans Hurst’s She’s Still There. The weekly virtual talks were soul-stirring, affirming, inspirational, and fun. The talks culminated with a three-day Women’s Empowerment Weekend and an in-person event featuring Hurst. For that event, we dressed in our best and headed to the church, the first in-person event held at our church since the pandemic began. Of course, we had to present negative COVID-19 test results, wear masks, and practice social distancing.

“Max Your Talent” Mini Women’s Retreat. This regional event, held a couple of weeks ago, was just what I needed as I headed into the Christmas holiday. It reinforced my understanding of my purpose, my humanity, and my identity in Christ.

Sunflower Encounters.  One of my friends recently marveled that “the sunflowers always seem to find [me].” I think she might be right. I typically have sunflower encounters in unexpected places and moments–like the mini sunflower field my guys found at the beginning of the school year. I shared some of the blooms in “The Gift of Sunflowers.”

Sunflowers from Hubby, Beginning to Wilt

Sneaky Sunflowers. I was in the middle of a meeting when my hubby attempted to sneak into my office with a glorious bouquet of sunflowers. He even purchased a vase and filled it with water. The blooms brought so much light and joy to the office and we won’t mention the hundreds of photos I shot as I attempted to recreate some of my favorite Van Gogh pieces with a camera.

Sunflower gifts. My family and friends enjoy surprising me with sunflower gifts, and this year was no different. You’ve seen the sunflower art and the sunflower gift basket from Kelli, but there were other gifts. My [former] student Raven sent a personalized acrylic nameplate for my desk with my new title. Of course, it was embellished with sunflower art. My son gave me a beautiful hand-designed sunflower keepsake box–my new fav! And there were so many more!

Van Gogh Immersive Experience. This! Oh, so much joy! I will talk about it in another post when I have time to manage my photo selection—and when I can avoid “spoiling” the experience for those who have not been yet. I’ll just say this: I waited and waited and waited for the Van Gogh Experience to reach my area. When it finally did, I purchased tickets right away. It did not disappoint!

There were many, many more moments of this year, and these “few” moments show that if we’re paying attention, in spite of a pandemic, we can still find so much good. I hope you this carry with you into 2022.

Happy 2022!

christmas. merry. | a poem and a song

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I come this evening bearing two Christmas gifts for you–“merry,” a poem by Ullie-Kaye, and “This Christmas,” a song by Luther Vandross.

merry.

so let us be merry then.
it is written in the stars
after all, that we sing.
and if we do not know the
words, to hum. and if we do
not know the melody, to close
our eyes and feel the music
beating in our lungs.
and should we be too tired
to feel. should our hearts be
stained with sadness, find
the silence. hunt for peace.
free ourselves from the notion
that we must always be okay.
then save our hallelujahs,
for another day.

ullie-kaye [Trust me. Click the link.]


You’re welcome. 😀

Merry Christmas!

#ThursdayTreeLove | Tickled Pink

Pink Christmas Tree

I have been tickled pink this week!

Earlier this week, I went to the [indoor] mall for the first time in a long, long time. I had hoped to get caught up in the madness of last-minute Christmas shopping, but there was no frenzy. In fact, the line for photos with Santa was the shortest I have ever seen. I have never, ever seen a mall less “bustling” at Christmas!

I walked the mall twice and ended up spending a good bit of time in a store that specializes in Christmas ornaments. The ornaments were cute, but it was the pink Christmas tree [above] that captured my attention. I prefer traditional Christmas colors, but it would be nice to add a small pink tree in honor of my sisters.

Pink is definitely this week’s color.

The next day, I checked my post office box and found a gift from Wanéa, one of my students–a painting of a tree filled with pink blossoms! She loves pink and I love trees, so this is truly a precious gift. [Thanks, Wanéa!]

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Wanéa is not only my student; she is also the daughter of my college roommate, Wanda. Now, I have a special tree painting from both mother and daughter in my art collection!

What color(s) has this week brought you?


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Welcome, Winter!

Paddington with Snowball

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless.  —Terri Guillemets

Paddington, one of my favorite bears, and I are dropping in to wish you a “Happy Winter!” Stay warm and safe!


About the Image: “Paddington with Snowball,” the image above, is featured on a winter card my Love Notes friend Gina B sent last Christmas. Paddington is adapted from the original, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. I have been looking forward to sharing him for a whole year! 😀

The Burnout Grinch

Tinsel Trail, Huntsville, Alabama, 2019

Forgive me. I did not intend to miss a whole week of blogging. After too many meetings, the usual post-semester mayhem, and life in general, all I wanted to do by the time I left work is…nothing.

The struggle is real. So is burnout.

There’s nothing worse than burnout 12 days before Christmas. Scratch that. Actually, there are a lot of things far worse.

But.

Tired is tired. And being in the middle of a pandemic makes regular tired feel like extra, extra tired–like a giant weight of exhaustion around one’s neck.

That unforgiving weight makes it difficult to push through or even move toward the things I actually want to do. :-/

And, I want Christmas. The tree, the lights, the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, the movies, (vegan) egg nog, and too many sweets. To make up for the big family Christmas we need but can’t have because of COVID-19, we need as many bells and whistles as my guys and I can manage.

Don’t let the “Burnout Grinch” steal my Christmas. If you have any out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for overcoming pandemic burnout, please drop them in the comments.

Joy in the Small

“Find Joy,” Monica C for Global heART Exchange

Hello there! I am dropping in with a quick reminder for the weekend:

Find joy in the small things.

Life isn’t meant to be grand all the time, and it isn’t wise to spend our moments seeking or waiting for the grander ones.

Participate fully in the small.

There is always joy in the small moments–the way the sun paints the sky just before evening falls, crisp fall leaves crunch-crunch-crunching beneath our feet, a child’s infectious laughter, warm hugs, holding hands while walking and talking through the woods, an unexpected visit or call from a friend, a cozy fireplace, an afternoon nap.

Each day holds many opportunities for joy. Don’t let the “ordinariness” of the opportunities cause you to miss them. In fact, look for them. Joy is certainly there.


About the Image: The “Find Joy” handmade postcard above features the work of Monica C. She was one of my “receive from” partners in the September Global heART swap. Her postcard arrived on a gloomy day, the only piece of mail in my lonely post office box. The card was made with chalk pastels, ink, and a whole lot of joy. Thank you, Monica!