“Do Your Random Acts…”

For Lorelei, December 31, 1954 – June 15, 2017

Today, Lorelei C., one of my postcard pals was laid to rest. She was a kind soul who generously and randomly sent postcards that would arrive just when I needed a pick-me-up. Tributes on her Facebook page and the Love Notes page reveal that everyone had that experience with her.

Just hours before her passing, one of her daughters urged us all via a FB post, “Do your random acts of kindness. She loves that stuff.” I can think of no better way to honor her memory than by doing just that.

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Today’s Global HeART kindness postcard features minimalist art by Christine B., the person who introduced me to the Global Art Exchange, the Love Notes community, and (indirectly) to Lorelei.  Christine sends dozens of “random” postcards every week; she clearly exemplifies “random acts of kindness.”

“Kindness,” by Christine B.

On the back of the postcard, Christine penned:

It is just too simple–be kind!

Her placing cutouts of the letters that form the word “kindness” against a plain white background makes her intent is clear. Kindness, plain and simple, is where we should place our focus in our daily interactions.

The card seems to encourage us to do our acts of kindness–without noise, without distraction, without motive or promise of reward, acknowledgement or applause. And sometimes, as Christine points out in her note, the kindness may be in “one word [that] can change someone’s entire day.”

She ends the card with the admonition:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.  –Dalai Lama

Mere days before her passing, Lorelei was still sending postcards. “It is always possible.”

Be Kind to You!

Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others. –Lama Yeshe

Today’s kindness postcard features a mixed media piece by Colette K. of Pennsylvania.

“Count Yourself In” by Colette K.

Colette sent her artwork with a piece of advice worth heeding:

Next time, when you think of beautiful things, don’t forget to count yourself in.

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.

If you’re looking for some ideas, Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself.

You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest:  Take Care!

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out yesterday’s post: Be Kind.

Until tomorrow…

Be Kind.

The last few days have been more unkind than usual as we’ve navigated one disappointment and heartbreak after another each time we listened to national and international news, read an article, or skimmed social media posts. Louise Gale’s choice of theme for the latest Global HeART Exchange–kindness–was almost prophetic, as if she knew that the chaos and madness of the world would need to be softened during these first few weeks of summer with kindness winging its way throughout the world.

Although I missed the signup deadline for the art swap, Louise kindly pointed me to others who would be interested in swapping postcards with me–two who also missed the deadline and one other who made extra cards. I also received kindness from faithful penfriends.

Instead of sharing all the postcards I received in one post, I’m going to “spread” the cards  (including my own) throughout the week, a small effort to “sprinkle a little kindness” every day.

Today’s post features a postcard created by Carolyn H., an artist and yoga instructor who hails from Ohio.

“Be Kind” By Care H.

Care’s mixed media postcard was inspired by the lyrics of Jewel’s song, “Hands” and included a quote from the song:

In the end only kindness matters.

I encourage you to take a moment and listen to this song. Its message is timely, one many of us need to hear today.

May your week, in Care’s words, “sparkle with art and kindness.”

There Came a Wind: An Artist’s Interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s Poem 1593

As usual during summer break, I’ve been taking some time to declutter our home. In one day, I cleared several crates of stuff and found a number of treasures. One such treasure was a beautiful piece of art one of my students completed many, many, many years ago for a literature class.

Response to Emily Dickinson, Poem 1593 by Z. Lott

Students typically have difficulty reading poetry. Gasp! I’m convinced they create a mental block when they hear the word “poetry.” To decrease the pressure and to help them realize their capacity for understanding and interpreting poetry, I have students craft a creative response to a poem.  Students can write another poem, compose a song, create an art piece, etc. in response to a poetic work (from a list of “approved” poems). Through the exercise, students typically learn they understand more than they think and develop confidence to complete the other poetry assignments.

My student chose Poem 1593 by Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite American poets.

There came a Wind like a Bugle –
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost –
The Doom’s electric Moccasin
The very instant passed –
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived – that Day –
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told –
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

The picture does the visual work of the poem. Do you see it?

I like the message of Dickinson’s poem. Whether literal or figurative, storms come. Storms wreak havoc and destruction. Storms go. The world remains. Life is righted again…eventually.

Exactly (almost) three years ago, I “discovered” another student’s artistic rendering of a poem and blogged about it. You can see it here: “The Lamb, The Tyger, and the Lion.”

Enjoy!

Close…Closer…Closest

Don’t be misled by the title–I won’t be giving a lesson on comparatives and superlatives today. 😀

Have you ever shot a photograph that thrilled you?  There’s nothing super spectacular about the photo or the scene even, but shooting it gave you all the “good feels?”

That’s how I feel about a few photos I captured with my iPhone late last week.

Mimosa: Close

I’m not sure why this tree claims my attention. There’s something about the combination of pink and green.  Or maybe it’s the fine wisps that form the featherlike blossoms.

I first noticed the trees several years ago in New Orleans, but I only saw them when I was on the road.  The same thing happened here in Northern Alabama.  I never saw them in a place I could or wanted to stop. . . until last week.

I finally found an opportunity to get up close and personal with the tree when I dropped by my son’s school last week. I glanced up and there was the tree sitting behind the building up a hill!

You know what happened next…

Mimosa: Closer

Now, I see these trees practically everywhere I turn, and my heart does a happy dance whenever I see them.

Mimosa: Closest

To be honest, I’m not even certain what this tree is called.  I read conflicting information about it.  A plant identification app on my phone matched my photo with the Albizia julibrissin, but another website identified the tree as Calliandra surinamensis. The University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions site agreed with the app (Go Gators!).

The tree is commonly called a “mimosa” tree and is native to eastern and southwestern Asia, but flourishes (almost) anywhere it’s planted.  According to UF’s Gardening Solutions site, the mimosa tree is considered an invasive tree and is not recommended for gardening.  The plant that it was mistaken for, Calliandra surinamensis, bears similar blossoms, but is more suited for home gardening.

I’ll continue to appreciate this beautiful tree “from a distance,” photograph them when I can, and play around with the photos in  a few apps. 😉

 

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Have you photographed anything recently that simply thrilled you?

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Lighthouses!

My friend Kem recently returned from a family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.  Do you know what I found in the mail today?  That’s right! A postcard she sent days before her return.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Cape Poge Lighthouse. Photo by Paul Rezendes

Cape Poge Lighthouse is located on Northeast tip of Chappaquiddick Island.

Kem wrote that she always thinks of me when she visits a new place (how sweet!) and that my camera would be quite happy with the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard (I agree!).  The lighthouses were her favorite sites while there.  She talked about her trip and included pics of some of the lighthouses in a recent blog post.

I love lighthouses too, not only because they are beautiful structures but because of their interesting histories.  The Cape Poge Lighthouse postcard prompted me to take another look at the other lighthouse postcards I’ve received over the last several years.

Take a look:

Map of the Lighthouses of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Until the Cape Cod Canal opened in 1914, every vessel sailing between Boston and points south had to weather the dangers of Cape Cod’s dreaded sand bars that thrust out into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1797, the U.S. government constructed the first lighthouse on Cape Cod. These lonely sentinels have since provided guidance to mariners.

Click the link for more information on the Cape Cod Lighthouses.

Scituate Light (Cedar Point), Massachusetts

Scituate Lighthouse–a historic lighthouse of the War of 1812. This lighthouse is located at the entrance to the harbor and offers a beautiful view of the coast and the harbor.

The Cape May Lighthouse, New Jersey

Situated on the southern tip of Cape May Peninsula where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Cape May is recognized by the United States government as the country’s oldest seaside resort.  The Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The St. Simons Lighthouse, St. Simons, Georgia

The St. Simons Lighthouse was built by James Gould in 1810. It was destroyed during the Civil War and rebuilt in 1872.

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Left to Right–

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Although the two “Great Lakes Lighthouses” postcards seem to feature the same houses, there is an additional house in the postcard above–Seul Choix Lighthouse, Lake Michigan (middle white lighthouse).

I received the postcards in swaps from 2010-2016.  However, the final postcard in my very small collection of lighthouses is a “souvenir” I picked up in San Francisco after a visit to Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Island Lighthouse

The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was the first one built on the U.S. West Coast, located in California’s San Francisco Bay. It is located at the southern end of the island near the entrance to the prison.

I enjoyed revisiting the lighthouses and reviewing the many other (unrelated) interesting postcards I ran across.  I encountered many that deserve blog posts, so look for some “flashback” postcard posts in the near future.

I think I just added a visit to all the U.S. lighthouses to my travel bucket list.  Maybe, I’ll get started this summer!

Have you visited any lighthouses lately?

Thanks for thinking of me, Kemi, and for prompting the visit down postcard lane.

In Memoriam…

“Treat the Living Well”

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.  –Jennifer M. Granholm

Sucker Punched by a Postcard

I rarely receive a postcard I don’t like. In fact, I enjoy receiving postcards that share a little about the history of a place.  In spite of my appreciation for history and culture, there are historical and cultural postcards I would not be too excited about receiving–those that valorize racism, sexism, homophobia, and anything that is psychologically or emotionally harmful or that glorify horrific parts of a nation’s past.

I’ll admit it. The sender is one of my favorite postcard pals and I love receiving mail from her, but I raised my eyebrows at the sepia postcard from the “Old West Collectors Series” I received a few days ago–Buffalo Bill Cody.

William F. Cody/Buffalo Bill Cody, 1846-1917

Then, I read the description:

Hunter, scout, indian [sic] fighter; Buffalo Bill romanticized the West in his Wild West Show that toured through the Eastern U.S. and Europe. This photo of the colorful character was taken in El Paso in 1915 by Feldman Studio.

Are you kidding me? Indian fighter?! This postcard felt like a sucker punch. I mentioned this to my hubby–a history buff–and he responded, “That’s not who he really was.”  I’ve paid very little attention to anything having to do with the “wild west,” since most of what I’ve seen in the long ago past of my childhood only perpetuated stereotypes about minorities and women in this country.

But this was worth exploring.  Maybe, I was too hasty.

My search led me to a PBS biography and Corrie N. Cody’s Travel Blog, part of the Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country’s website for tourists. The post separated the man from the myth and I found that the values of the real life person may have very little to do with the values of the “image” or character.

Here are three of the “Top 10 Things You Don’t Know About Buffalo Bill”:

  1. Known as a fearless Indian fighter, Cody respected — and advocated for the rights of — American Indians and once said, “Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government.”
  2. Cody was an ardent supporter of women’s rights and insisted on equal pay for all members of his traveling shows, regardless of gender. “What we want to do is give women even more liberty than they have,” he said. “Let them do any kind of work they see fit, and if they do it as well as men, give them the same pay.”
  3. Cody’s family was Quaker and opposed slavery. When Cody was a young child, the family moved from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, a hotbed of conflict between slavery advocates and abolitionists. While giving an antislavery speech at a local trading post, Cody’s father Isaac was stabbed twice by an angry man in the crowd.

Although I still have some reservations, I’m happy to find that Buffalo Bill is not everything I thought he was. I can find some reasons to appreciate the postcard after all.

You can find out more about Buffalo Bill Cody by following any of the links above.

Have you been duped by television and legend?  Are there some history makers out there you’ve ignored because you thought they were less than positive?  Do tell!

Freedom Quilt Patterns | Farewell, Mrs. Crarey

(Log Cabin)

School ends in a few days and Mrs. Crarey, my favorite second grade teacher, is retiring.  I’m sad for all the children who will miss the opportunity of learning under such an amazing person, but I’m happy for her.  She’s earned her retirement and  she will certainly make deep impressions wherever she goes.

Mrs. Crarey is simply awesome.  Even with a classroom full of many different personalities and learning styles, she has a way of dealing with her students as individuals and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.  I love her not only because she is awesome but because she just loves my son, and even today–three years after he finished second grade–she is a friend of his heart.

I will always be grateful for the way she kept his curiosity piqued and gave him more challenging work when he surpassed benchmarks.  She used his love for reading, robots, science, animals, Star Wars, and mystery to keep him engaged.  That meant a lot to this mom who was uncomfortable in a newish environment with a kid who was pining for home (New Orleans) and still adjusting to a school day structure and approach to teaching and learning that were very different from the Montessori curriculum of his previous experience.

When I blogged about the fifth grade African masks a few months ago, I mentioned there was so much more art to see–much more than I can cover in a couple of blog posts.  But in honor of Mrs. Crarey’s retirement and the tremendous gift she has been to the school, this post focuses on her group’s art fair exhibit.

Mrs. Crarey approaches art purposefully.  She typically has her students complete art projects that connect to a lesson. When my son was in her class, the students drew and learned about owls, West African-style dwellings, jewelry, and women’s attire, geckos, dinosaurs, which I blogged about three and a half years ago, Dr. Seuss, and so much more.  I’m going to miss taking a walk down to her classroom and taking a peek at her students’ masterpieces.

In addition to other art pieces, the class created quilt blocks. After reading Bettye Stroud’s The Patchwork Quilt: A Quilt Map to Freedom, reading about the Underground Railroad, viewing and studying maps of the “slave states” and “free states,” students selected a quilt pattern to draw and color.

“Freedom Quilt”

According to some studies, the quilts played an important role in helping enslaved persons make their way to freedom.  Each quilt piece held significant meaning and provided directions and warnings. Although there have been verbal statements from descendants of enslaved persons regarding the quilt code, there has been no physical proof.

Take a look at the children’s quilt pieces [click an image for a closer look]:

Follow the link to find out what each of the patterns mean: Freedom Quilt Codes.

Farewell, Mrs. Crarey…We’re not sure how we’ll survive the coming years without running into you for our quick chats, but we wish you well on your journey.  Thank you for the fond memories, for your generous spirit, and your heart of gold.

Much love…XOXOX

Mrs. Crarey and My Little One, December 2013

A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.