Nine Years Since… (Reblog on the 12th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina)

On this date that marks the twelfth year since Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of New Orleans (NOLA), it’s difficult to look at images of Texas under water without thinking about NOLA. My knowing that people are displaced (again) and have lost homes (again) and that their lives will be changed (again) does more than pull at my heart strings. This knowledge conjures all the feelings of Post-Katrina New Orleans that I want to avoid. I keep turning away, forcing my gaze away from the images and the stories. But. It’s important that we look. It’s necessary that we feel. It’s imperative that we do something to help.

Lives are affected in more ways than many can imagine and will be for some time. If those of us who were living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina still feel its effects 12 years later, it’s not hard to comprehend the shock and trauma of those who are going through the ordeal at this moment.

Pics and Posts

I’ve been slightly agitated all week long, with “something” gnawing just beneath the surface.  I couldn’t figure the cause of my mental discomfort till late last night when the date “August 29th” hit  me.  August 29th.  August 29th.  Nine years ago, I woke up in my sister’s home in Lithonia, Georgia to discover that just as we all breathed a sigh of relief thinking NOLA had been spared the worst of Hurricane Katrina, the flood protection walls breached.  With that break, so many things in my life changed all at once, and I found myself vacillating between moments of hopefulness and moments of helplessness.  My husband and I did not lose our home, but we lost so much more than that, and in some ways, I am still dealing with those losses today.

I realized recently that I’m a slow griever.  Grief ekes out slowly, laboriously, as I feel I have time to “handle” unpleasant and difficult…

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Fran-Made: What Is Your Postcard Story?

What do you to when you encounter a postcard pal who plays in a New Orleans-style brass band? You love her instantly!

I “met” Fran a few months ago through an offer she posted for American Girl postcards.  I just “had to have” Addy! Since that first Addy postcard (hang on, I’ll be blogging about her soon), there’s been a steady stream of postcards from Fran in my mailbox. She finds postcards at antique shops and estate sales and generously sends to those who will appreciate them.I’m tempted to spend the next several posts showing off the postcards Fran sent.

Fran also makes her own postcards. The first “Fran-made” postcard I received was vibrant and intriguing and included an Artist Trading Card (ATC) and a note that detailed her “postcard story.”

Her postcard journey began with ATC’s seven years ago.  She enjoyed designing the “tiny art” cards in the style of the one pictured below–ink colored in with copic markers.

Circles, Lines, and Angles, ATC by Fran B.

ATC’s are about the size of a playing card–2.5 x 3.5 inches–and allow for tightly conceived art. Sometimes an artist needs a larger canvas, so eventually, Fran realized she could make her designs on larger card stock and began making postcards. Postcards became significant when she was challenged by her mother’s illness.

Angles and Lines, Postcard by Fran B.

She writes:

I had made a few cards when my mom learned she had breast cancer. She lived in Florida. . . I began to send her a postcard at least once a week, sometimes more.  I could pray for her while I made my lines and colored them in. I also did some collage style cards as well and by the time she was well enough again to come and spend a month or so with us in summers, she had quite a collection of postcards.

Fran’s meaningful and touching postcard story compelled me to think about my own. I can’t remember the moment I fell in love with sending and receiving postcards, but I’m sure it was around the same time I got into penpaling as a preteen. For years, my favorite postcards were those that told stories, shared some inspirational message or a bit of humor, and those that were artistically “different” or “bold.” I regularly exchanged postcards (and letters) with high school and college friends, but then “email” became a “thing” and snail mail communications almost vanished.

When I “discovered” swap-bot seven years ago, I found a whole community of individuals who loved sending and receiving postcards. My collections grew to hundreds in less than a year, and I welcomed them all–literary, children’s book illustrations, maps, state cards, history, cultural, purple, pink, floral, lighthouses, African American, art, quirky, funny, and so much more.

I started designing my own postcards on a regular basis because of the many creative swaps on swap-bot, but the Liberate Your Art swaps (hosted by Kat Sloma) emboldened me to share them with the world.

Photo postcards, in particular, provide the perfect way for me to share the beautiful things I encounter in my daily life. Crafting my own postcards and writing postcards also rescue me from life’s temporary madnesses. So, while I don’t remember quite where my story begins, I know why it continues.

Do you have a postcard story? If not, it’s time to begin… 😉

Look for the Gift

Do you remember my student, Chante Marie?

She’s leaving in a week to pursue her music career! Needless to say, I’m so proud of her. I know “just going for it” can be a scary venture, but Chante has a beautiful gift and spirit and she’ll be more than okay.

She and her hubby (they’re such a cute couple) dropped by my office yesterday and brought gifts—a lighthouse postcard, which I’ll share later, and a journal. Chante did not give me a journal to fill with words, but she gave me her very own art journal—filled from cover to cover with her art and brief musings!

Dream: Chante’s Art Book

This is such a precious gift. I am speechless.

During the drive to school and work this morning my son and I talked about the importance of looking for the gift in each day. Life can be, well…life. Something might happen during the course of the day that “knocks the wind” out of us—an injustice, an unkindness, a failure, a disappointment. Some days we’re knocked down before we can recover from the last blow, and sometimes we feel like we can’t “catch a break.”

A page from Chante’s Art book

Even on those days when it’s a struggle to lift our heads, there’s a gift waiting for us.

Sometimes the gift is tangible—a flower, a letter, a beautiful art journal, or a hug when needed. Sometimes, it’s intangible—the beauty of another’s soul, the sighting of a hummingbird, a painted sky, the good feeling that comes from doing well, a phone call that comes just when needed, or the sudden appearance of someone who just crossed your mind.

Actively seeking the gift works to rescue us from slipping into a mundane pattern of doing and getting and merely tolerating life. It saves us from cynicism and from fretting over trifles.

Fly Away: A page from Chante’s art book

Chante’s gift provided that for me yesterday and continues to bless me today. She gave me more than a physical journal; she also gave (part of) her soul journey. The intangible expressed through the tangible makes a very powerful gift.

 

Join me in making a habit of looking for the gift in each day. If you need a little help, check out my penfriend Beckra’s blog: Every Day, One Good Thing.

Be sure to collect a few gifts from Chante’s IG and blog too!

Ciao!

Time Out and Bad Solar Eclipse Photos

This is extraordinary that humankind has figured out that we live on a big sphere, orbiting another sphere, with a smaller sphere orbiting us, and once in a while, these things line up and we experience totality. –Bill Nye, August 21, 2017

Yes, this is yet another eclipse post.

I looked forward to the eclipse and enjoyed every second of it, not simply because of the amazing spectacle it was but because for once, it seemed, we found something else to talk about. The steady diet of social challenge, politics, and White House shenanigans we’re fed in the USA was interrupted for many glorious hours of focus on the solar eclipse.

A time out we needed.

Like many businesses and schools in the area, the University and K-12 campuses (where I work) shut down for a couple of hours and watched the moon pass between the sun and the earth. Students celebrated a break from classes (Many profs and teachers did too, but shhh…we won’t tell). Families interrupted a busy Monday schedule to enjoy the eclipse together. The University provided snowballs and ice cream to keep us cool in the 91 degree heat.

I did not prepare adequately and completely forgot my solar filter. I was not willing to risk my camera sensor, so I attempted to take pics of the eclipse with my iPhone. Major fail!

These are really bad photos, but I figured, something is better than nothing.

This photo surprised me. It reveals just how powerful the sun is.

Eclipse What?

The sun was about 95% covered at this point (We experienced 97% coverage in Northern Alabama). It is amazing how much light escaped through that sliver. Notice the strange hue of the sky?  I’m not sure you can see it, but the sky was “bluer” before the eclipse.

Watching everyone marvel at the eclipse was just as enjoyable as the eclipse itself.  My son:

My not-so-little one enjoying the eclipse.

I might get in trouble for the next picture, but my colleague’s wife, Jewel, was so engrossed in the eclipse that she didn’t hear my greeting. This is her “punishment” for “ignoring” me.

A “Jewel” enjoying the eclipse.

I think two hours in the heat affected my thinking. It never crossed my mind to photograph the shadows, but thankfully, my friend Meli did! I love the crescent moon-shaped shadows cast by the eclipse! [Click an image for a closer look].

Many people have shared many words of wisdom about the eclipse. There are indeed some profound and valuable lessons, but the eclipse simply provided me with a break–a time out from all the little things that irk and frustrate and a moment to focus on something much grander.

NOTE: Thanks to Dr. Tiffany, one of my former students–now a molecular biologist–for the Bill Nye quote.

Guest Post: “The Moral Moment” by Dr. Blue

As much as I would love to use today’s blog post to write about fun and lighthearted things as we enter the weekend, my heart has been heavy all week. We began classes for the semester a few days ago, but just before my first class, I ran across a photo snapped on the first day of class a couple of years ago–a sidewalk chalk protest: Mike Brown should be on his way to class too.

“Mike Brown should be on his way to class too.”

As I tried desperately to block out Charlottesville, Virginia and a failure of leadership to provide a moral response, I felt the chilling reality that this could have been Brown’s senior year in college deep in my soul. I voted Tuesday with no hope. It was just part of the process, my right as an American citizen, my duty as an African American. All week, I listened to children who are afraid and talked to students who are now very watchful and careful about their surroundings in a southern city where sightings of the confederate flag is not uncommon.

The question that came up time and time again, “What do we do?” What can we do?

Today’s post (which begins below) was written by Dedrick Blue, D.Min, Dean of Religion and Theology at Oakwood University. In response to the events of the last week, Blue calls us to reach inside and decide what we will do. The question is not “what can we do?” The question, he points out, is “what will I do?” We must answer that question for ourselves and make the decision to act.

***      ***      ***

Each of us will come to a moment in our lives when moral decency will beg for response. These are times of great moral and spiritual crises that test our metal and our faith. These defining moments shape history and shape our personal history. We have come to that moment.

As our nation grieves over the tragic events in Charlottesville, VA which left three dead and 19 injured at the hands of violent-sanctioned white supremacy, we are obliged to pause and reflect upon the meaning of the moment.

While some may argue over whether a Confederate statue should survive, be clear that was not the issue. The issue is whether people–black, brown, yellow, red, Jew, Muslim–should survive. The statue is just a symbol of the genocide perpetrated by white supremacy upon people of color and those not conforming to white Protestant, Anglo-Saxon phenotype.  Those white supremacists are unequivocal in their assertion that the inanimate statue has a greater right to American soil than breathing persons of color. They assert that the history of white supremacy and genocide is the true history of America. In this, they are both right and wrong. Rebellion and genocide are part of our history, but they are not to be our trajectory or our destiny. And certainly, genocide is not to be memorialized as something noble.

Our great Republic has never been perfect. And yet, this nation with Her hands and conscience soiled by chattel slavery, chose to repudiate Her past and march forward toward a more perfect union. This of course was not without costs. Our nation lost nearly a million of its citizens in a Civil War. The backlash from Reconstruction gave birth to Jim Crow and “strange fruit on southern trees.” Churches were bombed, buses were burned, leaders were assassinated, children were incarcerated and voters were intimidated in this march toward a more perfect union. Like Abel, the blood of those sacrifices cry out for justice from America’s soil, and plead that those sacrifices be not in vain.

Now we have come to this moment in our nation’s history, when the President of these United States has chosen to ignore the sacrifices of our bloody, glorious past. My first reaction is to say that he seeks to resurrect the demons of racism and white supremacy. However, truth be told, that ghoulish specter has never ceased to stalk our heels, and continues to lurk in our bedrooms and boardrooms. That poltergeist shoots down unarmed boys in the street, snatches healthcare from senior citizens, sits in legislative councils, and rewards robber barons with tax cuts. And now in this moment, we see our President acting as a medium to call up and invite that demon to sit at his welcome table.

Let us be clear. This is a pivotal moment in American history. It is a moment when this nation will either rise once more and strive toward her credo that “all men are created equal” or will slither back into the quagmire of its racist history.

But this is not just a pivotal moment for America. It is a pivotal moment for each citizen of America. For what is America if it is not each of us? America is not just a government; it is a people bound together by constitution and geography, but even more importantly, bound together by ideal. This moment now tests not only the government but also that ideal. We as a nation and as a people are challenged in this moral moment to vociferously repudiate the demons of white supremacy. We must not be silent now. We cannot run for cover or place our proverbial head in the proverbial sand and pretend that if we ignore it, it does not exist.

Neither can we retreat into apocalyptic passivism which takes the position that all these things are just signs of the end and Jesus will fix it all when He returns. If we choose to be silent now then, we do so at the peril of our souls. For our streets are stained with blood, our children cower in fear, and evil parades with torches of terror in our parks. Real people are dying.

To call upon our God to act, but refuse to act when God calls is spiritual schizophrenia at best and downright hypocrisy at worst. The God we serve is not only moved by injustice but moves against injustice. The examples are replete in Scripture. I need not repeat the stories of God’s intervention for the slaves of Egypt; His denunciations of oppression in the Book of Micah; or His admonition in the Torah to embrace the widow, the orphan and the stranger.

God acts!

We also learn from Scripture that in the time of moral and spiritual crisis, God not only moves into action but He also moves people into action. Moses had to agree to go to the most powerful ruler in the world and demand release of the Hebrew captives. In another era, God called upon a woman named Esther to reveal to the king a wicked plot to destroy the Jews perpetrated by the racist Haman.

God moves against injustice, but He uses people as His agents. And each of person has to come to that moral moment when he/she has to decide that the call and the cause are greater than the comfort of willful ignorance.

Every generation must face its moral moment. Martin Luther King, Jr. faced the moral moment on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Rosa Parks faced the moral moment on the back of a bus. Heather Heyer faced the moral moment on a back street in Charlottesville.

This now is our moral moment. We must choose to hear the call and choose a response. The call comes to each of us in a different way. I dare not be so bold as to declare how God speaks and how He speaks to you. But I will be so bold as to say that God does speak and He always looks for a response.

One of America’s greatest statesmen, Dr. Martin Luther King, declared:

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right. 

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Moral decency demands a response!

–Dr. Dedrick Blue, Dean of Religion and Theology, Oakwood University

Photo from Pixabay

Be the Change: Your Journey to Give

“The Beauty of the Butterfly,” Photo by Me! (August 2016)

Today would have been my last Love Notes 20 post, but I decided to prolong the fun. My partner faced some challenges and needed a little extra time to get her last card to me, so instead of posting about the cards I received for the final prompt, I’m sharing with you the letter I sent in response to the final prompt.

“Be the change.”

When I considered the prompt, so many thoughts raced through my mind that I hardly knew how to tackle it. I ruminated for many days; then, during my prayer and meditation moments one morning, I read a thought that stuck with me and coincided with the theme.

Here’s a summary:

In order to see God’s vision for your life and become part of God’s story, there are four promises you must claim:

  • You have a gift only you can give.
  • Someone has a need only you can meet, only you can heal—no matter how inadequate you feel.
  • Joy is the journey where the gift and the need collide. God’s path for your life is a collision course. The intersection where your gift crashes into the world’s need is where you will truly begin to live.
  • Your journey to give your gift will break you…but it will also make you.  –[from Better Than You Can Imagine: God’s Calling, Your Adventure by Patrick Quinn, emphasis mine]

After reading this, I knew I had to share this with my penfriends, so I sent them a letter instead of a postcard or notecard.

The excerpt from Better Than You Can Imagine unveils a principle I embrace. If we are to be the change, then we have to find the gift someone needs—the world needs—that only we can give. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide what we’re going to give. We decide to accept and share the gift, but discovering this gift is a journey—not a decision.

Imagine how much collective change we can create if all individuals would take the journey to find that one thing and exercise it. We would literally change the world! As we partner with God on finding this “great need,” our lives are transformed from the inside out and we experience the “symbiotic” nature of change: the world opens up and reveals to us what it needs and we open up and provide.

Far too often we get caught up in the idea of making a name for ourselves or doing something grand when what seems smallest can make a huge impact on someone’s life and on the world.

A long time ago, I read “A Grammarian’s Funeral,” a poem by Robert Browning, which celebrates the grammarian’s lifelong dedication to Greek language study and his discovery of the articles. While he lived, his colleagues criticized his “wasting his life” and his brilliant mind on such trifles. For them his work was menial, but, though they seem a small contribution, the articles—a, an, and the—are so essential to our languages.

Like the grammarian, we must be keenly focused on finding our part and then doing it. In doing our “small” part, we change the whole.

I encourage you, if you have not already done so, take the journey to find your unique gift and be the change. In affecting even one person’s life, you’re doing your part to change the entire world. The possibilities are amazing!

First Day!

Image from Pixabay

I’m amused.

Today was the “first day of school”–the international holiday (of varied dates) for parents everywhere. I laughed at how my son was so excited for this day that he could hardly get to sleep last night. I chuckled over the number of times this morning I had to dodge a preteen in hot pursuit of a sorely missed friend.

I was further tickled by how each group had its own personality: Elementary students super excited and not afraid to show it. The whole body of Middle School cautious, uncertain of the “appropriate” public response–not too little, not too much. High Schoolers, too cool to show any enthusiasm or interest in any of the morning exercises. Student Council openly enjoying their dual role as ambassadors and spirit squad.

Almost everyone was thrilled on the “first day” to see peers, to get back into a regular routine of study and learning, school sports, and so much more.

What amuses me most is that on the “first day,” it seems every child was running toward the school building, buzzing with energy, ready to tackle the year ahead.  But by the last day…

These same children will be running in the opposite direction–arms flying in the air–away from school and friends, drunk on the possibility of two and a half months of freedom. From school.

K-12.  A funny little bunch.

The Ripple Effect: Sharing Kindness with Our Words

Last week ended with my feeling “less than kind,” so I’m happy to revisit the postcards I received for prompt two of Love Notes 20 to increase and fortify my kindness quotient. The prompt was “Share kindness…” I know. I know. I’ve done a number of kindness posts recently–eight, to be exact–but there’s so much more to share on the topic.

My partner, Jenni P, sent another postcard from the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. I’m convinced someone had a talk with her about my postcard “likes.”

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

She loves Mother Teresa, so she wrote a MT quote as her message:

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.  –Mother Teresa

Christine must have been peeking over her shoulder because their messages “echo” each other!

“Share Kindness,” postcard crafted by Christine B.

Connie F sent photo inspiration, featuring another favorite–trees.

“Roots in All Direction,” photo by Connie F.

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make trees. –Amelia Earhart

I love how Connie completed the prompt:

Sharing kindness has a ripple effect. We never know how far a kind word or gesture will go.

Lastly, my Austrian postcard pal, Andrea F, crafted a tag postcard featuring a photo of a quirky mailbox. I’m slightly amazed that she sent it “naked” (with no envelope) and it made it to me in almost pristine condition.

“Kindness and Confetti,” postcard made by Andrea F.

She reminded me to “throw kindness like confetti” and to toss a little in the direction of myself–which is the sentiment written on the back of the postcards I sent.

As for my part, I “crafted” a “minimalist” postcard. That’s what I’m calling it, at least. I cut leftover white cardstock down to 4×6, printed a kindness scripture onto the cards, used the Cricut to transform miscellaneous scrapbook paper into hearts, and glued the heart to the cardstock.

“Be Compassionate,” handmade postcard by Me!

Interestingly, within the context–just a few verses before Ephesians 4:32–the instruction is given to:

Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that benefit those who hear them.  –Ephesians 4:29

The compatibility of our messages is uncanny, almost as if we’re sharing one mind on the matter of kindness.

So much unkindness is (typically) rooted in our speech that we must be reminded to be kind with our words and to speak only what “benefits those who hear them.” It takes nothing from us to speak a tender word or encourage someone along the way, but often we behave as if giving to someone takes something from us. Actually, the effect is just the opposite–treating each other with compassion makes room in our hearts to give more and make our world a better place.

It took very little work and very little effort to make my postcard. Likewise, kindness takes little, if any, work and effort.

I’ve made a conscious decision to share kindness with my words and “be generous” with my love to increase my kindness quotient this week. Want to join me?

Sunny Inspiration: Look Up!

My neighbor’s sunflowers came in beautifully and I made a few trips to capture them in their various stages. I managed to capture dozens of pics–one is featured in Finding Love Notes, Naturally, posted a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to work with a couple of the photos yesterday–one featuring a sunflower with its “face” turned upward and the other a “downcast” flower leaning away from another that is still full of life. The photos were on my mind and I wanted to combine them with words that speak their language.

The blooms are visual reminders that when the “stuff” of life is coming at us full force, all we have to do is stand firm, “face the Sun,” and rest in the embrace of the One who is always near.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Sunflower PhotoArt by Me!

Sometimes, it’s necessary to face our problems “head on,” stare them down, and conquer them. At other times–when things are out of our control and bigger than we could ever imagine–we have to turn away from our struggles and focus our attention on the One who handles the insurmountable and scary situations for us. Otherwise, the worry and stress can affect our health.

“God Is Near the Broken-Hearted,” Sunflowers PhotoArt by Me!

We feel alone in such situations–it seems no one understands, can provide the comfort we need or help us manage our problems. It is imperative to know that we are not alone, that God is near, cradling us in His protective arms, and carrying us through the difficulties.

When we train our focus heavenward, our problems are placed in proper perspective, and we learn to trust the “Lover of our souls” to manage all our concerns so we can go on living and loving without distress.

I prefer to see sunflowers with a sunny disposition, but the sunflower in the second photo communicated so profoundly and beautifully the message of Psalm 34:18 that I had to capture it–even with the photo-bombing bee. The bee might seem a distraction, an annoyance even, but without bees there would be no flowers.

Wishing you a week filled with sunshine and good things…

Postcard: Cotentin and a Bit of Art Therapy

We’re in a new month and Cy is back from Madrid, so there’s no “Snapshots from Madrid” today. Instead, we take a brief trip to France.

My globetrotting photographer-blogger friend Louise of Drops of Everything has been doing a lot of travel this summer–she’s in Italy at the moment–and just last week I received a gorgeous postcard from Normandy. I was pleasantly surprised and tickled because I sent her a postcard from New Orleans two days after this one began its journey to me.

En Normandie, Cherbourg. Photo by Franck Godard.

Louise shares stunning images from her travels via her Facebook page, Louise Mamet Photography. She has a thing for water vehicles. The first image she sent to me is entitled “Shipyard of Camaret.”

Based on descriptions I’ve read, Cotentin sounds divine, like the perfect escape from reality:

The Cotentin peninsula in Normandy is a land of wilderness, lulled by the wind and the sea, a land of hidden treasures : La Hague, Val de Saire, UNESCO heritage sites, and lands of art and history.  –from LaManche Tourism

Normandy is the birthplace of Impressionism, one of my favorite art movements, and the description perfectly relates what attracted artists to the area. I’m sure scenes such as this one (minus the buildings) inspired many impressionist masterpieces, so I “reimagined” the image as one.

Godard’s “Cotentin” reimagined as an Impressionist painting. Edited with Impresso App.

The photograph was expertly captured by Franck Godard. You can see more of his Normandy work by visiting his page.

After a week of long meetings, art is the prescription I need, so this weekend, I’m pulling out my art books to feed my soul and my paint to have a little creative fun.

What are you up to this weekend? Be sure to do something that feeds your soul!