Microblog Mondays: The Wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

I recently began a new swap series in the “All Things Book-Related” group on swap-bot. For the series, swappers must send partners a book-related postcard with a quote from a fictional or poetic work that enlightens, inspires, or “shows us the way.”  The quote may be printed on the front of the postcard or written on the back.

This is the most recent card I received–for Literary Wisdom #3:

Literary Wisdom

Literary Wisdom from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

The postcard came from Mandi of Lake Elsinore, California.  She writes, “We hear so much bad news these days that we forget there is still love and happiness in the world.”

The Tolkien quote served as a perfect ending to a class discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  One of the most important take-aways from our discussion was the need for us to remain vigilant in the quest to protect our freedoms and preserve our souls while doing so.  We protect ourselves during perilous times–such as these–by recognizing the struggle is not all there is, by praying/mediating, by moving in love, and by immersing ourselves in the love of family and friends.


Mama Is a Saint!


I woke up this morning thinking about my mom and the absolutely beautiful woman she is. Today is her 80th birthday and I am deeply grateful that God continues to gift us with her life.

I hear it over and over and over again.  “Your mom is a saint.”  She’s not simply a good, good person.  She’s a saint.  I’ve learned to accept that perhaps she is, and unlike many women, I wish I were more like my mother.

My mom carried 10 children in her womb, delivered us naturally, and took care of all of us.  As far as I’m concerned, this alone should be enough to qualify her for sainthood.

I lived in the house with us.  And it was a wonderful, noisy house with loads of love and fun, but it also had its fair share of the typical sibling rivalries, squabbles, and kids who always needed something or had a question that just had to be answered.  In my mind, I’m thinking my kid times 10.  No way!

Can you imagine this type of person who has enough love and patience for 10 individual personalities trying to find their way in the world?  Can you imagine worrying and fretting over not one or two or even five but 10 children? Parenting is scary, scary business, and I shutter to think of the challenges ahead for my one kid.  I can’t imagine having to walk with 10 heartbeats floating around in this world.

Mom with my sister Karlette (RIP) and nephew Eric

Mom with my sister Karlette (RIP) and nephew Eric

I distinctly remember my mom taking all of us kids on the bus to Canal Street in New Orleans [Canal Street was the shopping center of New Orleans then].  There might have been only eight or nine of us then, but we’re all pretty close in age. How did she do that?  With nothing less than amazing organizational skills and child management skills.

This explains why our house was impeccable at any time of the day–even with 10 kids.  Unexpected guests might have been met with an apology for her “messy” house, but they probably looked around confused.  My mom’s house was [and is] always clean.  There was no scrambling to clear the clutter when uninvited guests arrived. I don’t even know how she managed that with all of us running all over the house?

And just like our home, we were always clean and dressed and fed well with home-cooked meals every day.  This is no overstatement.  My mom cooked every. single. day. for twelve people. My mom’s version of fast food? Burgers and fries she made herself that were way better than anything we could have purchased at a restaurant.

Mom let us grow and gave us wings.  No matter how many times we came to her with a problem or situation, my mom never directed our actions.  She may have made a comment or two about the situation, but she never told us what to do or tried to manipulate us into doing what she considered the “right” thing.  If we made the wrong decision, she let us fall and learn from our mistakes.  She was still mom, loving us without judgment and allowing us to become.

My mom sacrificed for us in ways that continue to impact our lives. I once asked her what was her dream career. She answered that at one point she wanted to be a nurse. That would have been the perfect career for her. She has a calm and comforting nature that others are drawn to and that would have been so beneficial in nursing. She chose, instead, to nurture the 10 of us into productive members of society.

I know, nowadays, we celebrate mothers who juggle family, careers, community obligations and still find time for themselves, but there was an incredible amount of security for us in knowing that mom was [still is] always there and would always find a way for the things we wanted/needed.

Besides qualifying for sainthood because she put up with us crazy kids, mom is a saint because she put up with my dad.  My dad is a wonderful person, but he and my mom are almost complete opposites.  He is always ready for a party while she prefers the quiet of home.  He spends a lot of time on Facebook baiting his friends and watching CNN and the other news channels while she sits quietly reading.  He loves long debates. She’s not having it.  She says “her piece” and nothing more.  She’s not having the back and forth for too long.  My dad goes on and on and on.

Mom and Dad in the early years.

Mom and Dad in the early years.

I think God chose my mom for us because only a person with her character and spirit could love us all to health and wholeness.  With her quiet spirit, she’s not easily unsettled, so people’s issues (read: craziness) don’t faze her.  She has a heart of gold and always sees the good in people.  She welcomes all and listens without judgment.  She is the embodiment of forgiveness.  She forgave our “wrongdoings” without making us feel rejected or small, and taught us how to forgive.  If we went to her with some “offense” committed against us, she’d basically tell us to shake the dust off our feet and move on.  That bit of her is so ingrained in me that I can’t hold a grudge if I wanted to.

My mom has a fierce, uncompromising faith that is simply inspiring. It is this faith that got her through the most difficult moments of her life and that prays her children through almost unbearable circumstances.

Of course, she’s not perfect–she is human after all–but I’ve not encountered anyone in my life whom I want to emulate more.

Happy Birthday, Mama, with all my love…


Microblog Mondays: Time Out for Cute

I received many beautiful and meaningful postcards the last few days, so at the moment I’m torn between posting something meaningful and something cute.

Watercolor by Martha Slavin

“Cute Overload,” Watercolor by Martha Slavin

As you can see, cute won. Why?  The last few days were challenging, and I just want to stop thinking for a moment.

The postcard is a reproduction of a watercolor by one of my new postcard pals, Martha. Martha is an artist and a writer.  The watercolor was inspired by raccoons that used to live under her deck.  She writes  that they now “just travel through.”

Isn’t he the cutest?


Wisdom from My Dad: If He Fails, We All Fail

I had no intention of watching the inauguration of the 45th president of the U.S.A. or any of the inaugural festivities. In fact, if I could hide from media coverage of the presidency for the next four years, I would.  The grace, dignity, intellect, and character of President Barack Obama makes the Trump we’ve seen thus far a hard, hard pill to swallow, but my dad checked my attitude with the advice he posted on Facebook this morning:

Well folks, today is the day. “Out with the old, in with the new.” I hear that some are asking us to not watch the inauguration.  I disagree.  My dislike of Trump is not so much his politics but his character. If you believe MLK’s words, don’t judge a person by the color of their skin, but by their character.  Trump doesn’t meet the standard of what I consider a person with good morals.  No matter. He is in.  My job is to watch how he acts as POTUS. We must not be foolish and hope he fails.  If he fails, we all fail.

If he fails, we all fail.

Regardless of our political leanings, it’s our job to “stay woke,” as my 70+ year old colleague in academia expresses, and see to it that Trump and his administration work on behalf of the citizens of the United States and, where necessary, of the world–especially those who are disenfranchised and suffering under the weight of systemic oppression.  We must march on and continue the fight in every reasonable way possible.  (Because) No matter who is president, “the struggle is [all too] real” for too many of us and we have a long, long way to go.

Microblog Mondays: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Redemptive Power of Love

Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), From African Americans Book of Postcards, Pomegranate.

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

–Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.


heART Exchange: Joy to the World!

Do you want to see what was in yesterday’s mail that made my heart skip with glee? 😃

Wishing you...

“Wishing You…,”–Handmade art by Ellen

I know this looks like a Christmas card and for some the holiday is “over and done,” but this isn’t a Christmas card. This is a joy to the world card.  To-maa-to,  to-mah-to. 😉  No matter.   I love the holiday season; in fact, I am still in the process of mailing my last few greetings.  [My rule–I have up to one month after the holiday to send cards.] 🙂

This piece of art was sent to me as part of heART Exchange, the Global Art Swap, coordinated by artist Louise Gale. Similar to other art swaps I’ve participated in, Louise inspires artists, collects and coordinates participants’ information, and assigns partners.  For the heART exchange, participates create art based on the assigned theme and send to three partners; they also receive art from three different partners.

Louise started the swap in 2011 because:

Giving and receiving is the constant flow of energy for our heart and what better way than to create, send and receive something beautiful and hand-made through your letter box. I would love to inspire you to live and create from the heart everyday, so it is so wonderful to host and take part in this global art swap.

The theme of the December exchange was “Joy to the World.”  “Wishing you” is the first postcard I’ve received from an assigned partner and I’m looking forward to the others showing up in my mailbox (fingers crossed).  The postcard made its way to me from the Netherlands with warm greetings from Ellen.  The scan does little justice to the cheerful creation which has lots of texture and silver and gold touches.  You can see more of (and perhaps purchase) Ellen’s work by visiting her website.

My postcard pal Christine–who introduced me to the swap–sent a bit of joy my way as well:

"Joy for the Anemones," Photo by Christine B.

“Joy for the Anemones,” Photo by Christine B.

If you’re interested, the next Global Art Swap starts in February, so click the link and join the fun!

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of creating and sending art into the world, Liberate Your Art 2017 signup is open, so take a click over to Kat Eye Studio and join in!


Children’s Book Illustration Postcards: Cute Kids, a Dog, a Cat, and a Tea-Drinking Rat

Every two weeks I host two children’s book illustration postcard swaps on swap-bot.  One “public,” which means any swapper can participate and the other for members of the Book Lovers Congregate group.  I posted the first 10 swaps in the second series of swaps that began last year: here and here.

The 125+ postcards of the first series of swaps can be found by clicking the links that follow: part i, part ii, part iii, part iv, and part v.

To avoid posting dozens of children’s book illustration postcards in one post, I’m making an effort to share the postcards as the swaps complete.  This way, we can spend a little more time on information related to the postcard.

Swap #11 (Public) came from Israel, from Lihior, who remarks that she loves these swaps, and I’m happy to have seen her in every swap so far!ch-bk-illustration-received-11-1

The postcard Lihior sent (above) is from The World of Peter Rabbit, a collection of postcards that features the illustrations of Beatrix Potter, the beloved English writer who penned and illustrated more than 20 children’s books in her lifetime. This particular postcard is from the book The Sly Old Cat, 1907.

According to the information provided on the back of the postcard,  “the book was the third in the series of concertina-bound books that started with The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit and The Story of Miss Moppet, but was canceled when the format proved too fragile for bookshops.”

The series of books was written for younger children and was designed to introduce the children to the world of Peter Rabbit.

The Sly Old Cat was finally published in 1971. It tells the story of a cat who invites a rat to a tea party with the intention of eating him.  No worries.  The mouse outwits the cat and escapes.  He even gets a yummy muffin for his trouble.

The postcard for the Book Lovers Congregate Swap #11 came from Xira in the Netherlands.  She posted a picture of the postcard on Instagram with some other outgoing mail.  I “liked” the photo and “exclaimed” over Jip and Janneke, but I had no idea it was headed my way.  Imagine my surprise!

If you’ve read any of my other children’s book illustration posts, you know that I love the pair of friends from the Dutch preschool children’s books, Jip and Janneke.  The books are written by Annie M.G. Schmidt and illustrated by Fiep Westendorp. The two have been writing and illustrating the children’s books together for more than 30 years.  They feature the best friends living as preschoolers–lives filled with play, mischief, interpersonal conflicts, and loads of fun.  The children and their pets are always in black and white as you see them here.

This particular image is from a 1993 illustration.  The postcard features Jip (pronounced “Yip”) and the Janneke (pronounced “Yan-nic-a” with the stress on the first syllable) and Weenie and Sippy, Jip’s dog and Janneke’s cat.  The postcard back does not indicate from which book the illustration comes.

A few years ago one of my first-year students, after engaging in lengthy conversations with me about the duo, gave me a collection of Jip and Janneke stories on CD.  In Dutch.  One day, I’ll know enough Dutch to understand what I’m listening to. 😀

Jip and Janneke

Jip and Janneke Audio CD Cover

I have already received half of swap #12 and swap #13 is underway, so look for more children’s book illustration postcard posts soon! Until then, spend a few moments revisiting your childhood and pick up some kiddie lit!