Time to Make Art!

It’s almost time for Louise Gale’s next Global heART Exchange, so get your paintbrushes, distress inks, watercolors, and/or camera ready!

I last participated in the swap in February. I think there was an April swap, but I had too much going on to participate. I received three cards from the February swap, and they’ve been craving some attention:

“Sun Flower,” by Lucile

Lucine, of the Netherlands, re-purposed a postcard and doodled me a sunny postcard.  If you look closely, you can see the design of the postcard beneath the white paint. It adds a little something to the doodles. Doesn’t it?

“You Are Enough.” Made by Maria R.

“You Are Enough” comes from Maria R. of Richmond, New Hampshire. She made the card with watercolor and cutouts. Her message on the back solidifies the theme illustrated on the front:

Write your own story! Love yourself!

Jackqulynn W. of  Columbia Falls, Montana cloaked her postcard in an envelope that was almost as beautiful as the contents inside:

Envelope Front, Made by Jackqulynn W.

Envelope Back, Made by Jackqulynn W.

You really have to see the card in person for the full impact of its beauty.

“Heartful.” Made by Jackqulynn W.

Jackqulynn included a quote she found on the Facebook page, Butterflies and Pebbles–something to keep in my heart:

Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you today. You matter. You are loved. Your laughter is a beautiful thing. And your presence on this earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.

The theme, as you’ve guessed by now, was “love.”  I’m thrilled that even though none of the senders had a clue about who I am or what I like, they all sent favorites–sunflowers, typewriters, hearts, words, and music.

The signup deadline for the next heART exchange is May 27, so step out of your comfort zone, be a kid again–as my colleague suggests–get messy, make something, and show it off!

Here’s the link: Global heART Swap.

 

Seven Keys for a Productive and Fulfilling Life

Even though they are spoken directly to graduates, I love the motivational and inspirational graduation speeches. I certainly felt inspired Saturday night as I listened to actor and producer Darryl Bell, of A Different World fame, address the graduates at my alma mater–which is also my employer. 😀

Bell delivered a succinct, timely, and power-packed list speech that resonated with me and reminded me of some basic principles for navigating life. Here are his tips and what I remember of his commentary on each one.

  1.  Use the gifts that call you.  Choose a vocation because of your compulsion toward it, your passion, not simply because you’re competent in an area. Your being good at what you do but hating it leads to a miserable life.  Pay attention to the thing that keeps calling you, the thing you can’t help but do. “Your gifts have been calling you. Answer them.”
  2. Remember the four-year-old.  Four-year-olds are confident that they can do anything.  A few years later, kids begin to learn their strengths and their limits, and begin to doubt themselves. Be like four-year-olds and do not put limits on what is possible. Use all of your abilities and gifts, empowered by your education, to solve the world’s problems.
  3. See the world. Travel beyond your state, beyond your country. Experience other places and cultures. Those interactions will open you up to other ways of seeing and being. If you only know America, you can’t be competitive in a global economy. Travel changes your perspective on life and everything you do.
  4. Pick somebody else.  Sometimes you won’t hear extraordinary advice given because you hear the same voice so often that you automatically tune it out.  Pick someone else. Always ask another person; get another opinion. It affirms and confirms. Sometimes you have to hear [the extraordinary advice] from someone else.
  5. Ask for help.  No one accomplishes anything without the help of others. Life is worse than hard. You’ll have times when you’ll face bone-crushing, soul-crushing defeat, where you’ll feel like “it” isn’t even possible. Interestingly, when you are going through these moments, when you most need help, contrary to what is logical and instinctive, you are least likely to ask for help.  You must fight through your vulnerability and through your shame and ask for help. You’ll be surprised by the people who exceed your expectations in providing what you need to turn the situation around. Be prepared to ask for help.
  6. Be kind. Kindness goes a long way and is long remembered.
  7. Embrace the fear. You experience fear when you try to accomplish something big and you are afraid to fail. “Everything that I accomplished that was worth something scared me and I learned to run toward it, to embrace it.” Fear tells you this is something worth doing. Embrace it! Run toward it! Grab it! Now, go change the world!

Bell punctuated his list with (mostly) entertaining anecdotes from his life that kept us all riveted. He offered keys for a productive and fulfilling life. There are other keys, of course, but I think the graduates found the most important one in the school’s motto–“God first!”

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.   –Matthew 6:33 AMP

Until next time…

[Note: Photo from Pixabay.com]

The Solitary Bird

Just before heading indoors after exploring an abandoned bird’s nest one day last week, I looked up and the golden glow of the sunset sky was so gorgeous, I was stunned. Moments into admiring the sky, a single goose caught my eye, its partner a little distance ahead. I took the shot.

The photo reminded me of a poem Dr. Benn, my undergraduate professor and mentor, shared with me:

The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
The second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
The third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
The fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
The fifth, that it sings very softly.
–San Juan de la Cruz, Sayings of Light and Love

Obviously, this goose has very little in common with the “solitary” bird described in the poem–it was not alone; it doesn’t sing; it doesn’t even “honk” softly. But the lens captured a bird alone and reminded me of the poem.

My Mother Taught Me…

If you were paying really close attention, you probably noticed (and then quickly forgot) that I hadn’t posted the postcards I received for Love Notes 22 prompt 3. At first, I hesitated because I wanted to include my partner’s last response in the blog post, but then, I decided the post should wait for Mother’s Day, a perfect time to share responses to the prompt, “My mother taught me…”

Based on postings in the group, the last prompt had many of the participants contemplating deeply the role(s) their mothers played in their lives. For some, this was a painful exercise–because of mothers who were absent, abusive, or deceased. But even then, they acknowledged that they learned something positive from their mothers.

I received four postcards from Love Notes friends in response to the prompt–Christine B, Litsa L., Lisa C., and Eileen V. Eileen’s is earmarked for Father’s Day, but here are the others:

Cape Blanco Light, Port Orford, Oregon

Christine’s mother taught her “to be loving, supportive, and compassionate.” Christine writes, “She’s still teaching me to be positive; that’s been a hard lesson.”

Telephone Booth

When Litsa asked her daughter what she learned from her, her daughter told she taught her “to be kind.” Litsa learned that from her own mother and adds that her mother also taught her resilience: “Just carry on. What else is there to do?”

“Love,” Photo Postcard By Lisa C.

Lisa C’s mother taught her:

There’s only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.

It’s interesting how all three postcards depict images that serve as metaphors for mothers–a light guiding us safely home; just a phone call way; regal in her role as mother doling out love generously.

I  enjoyed this prompt because–in case you haven’t figured out by now–I love talking about my parents. I sent a list letter of ten (plus one) things my mother taught me:

  • Be kind. If you can help a person, do so—no questions asked.
  • Don’t judge. Love people for who they are and don’t expect them to “be like you.”
  • Let it go. Life is too short, so don’t hold a grudge and don’t waste energy on trifles.
  • Hold your head high. You are somebody in this world. Know your worth, even if others don’t.
  • Take it to God. Don’t unload your burdens on mere humans who can’t handle the load.
  • Take time daily for prayer, meditation and scripture.
  • Keep a clean house.  (I’m still working on this one).
  • Always feed the children. Have food, snacks, and treats available for all children who visit.
  • Have your own bank account.
  • Celebrate every birthday.
  • Bonus: There is incredible strength in silence.

It was hard not to write 100 things!

What have you learned from your mother? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Mother’s Day!

In the Moment Stories

I’ve wanted to blog all week, but “crazy-busy” wouldn’t let me, so after photographing flowers Thursday morning, I opened the Instagram app to post a photo with a few hashtags. Then, I remembered “stories.” I’d never posted a story before, but I discovered immediately that they are perfect for sharing “in the moment” photos or thoughts when a blog post is out of the question:

Like when you’re driving along and the flowers on the side of the road require some time with them.

Or when, at some point during the morning drive, you look up and the sky deserves more than a glance.

Or while you’re sitting in your car waiting for a meeting to start and you notice dogwood blossoms not too far from you, when everywhere else (as far as you know) the blossoms took leave weeks ago.

Moments like these often sit in my camera or on my phone unshared. There are thousands of them (literally). I’ll do better.

I plan to “flesh out” these particular experiences some time soon with more photos (and words), so stay tuned.

Enjoy your weekend!

Life’s Rewards: “To Be Elated Over a Bird’s Nest…”

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life. –John Burroughs

I submitted my grades today and closed the book on Spring 2018. As I looked outside my window yesterday and today, the beautiful weather beckoned me and provided the motivation to push to completion. The sky was filled with so many cumulus clouds that I couldn’t resist taking a few minutes to photograph them. Today was just as gorgeous, so I sent grades for my final class and grabbed my camera for more photos. [I’ll share those later–maybe, tomorrow].

After today’s session, my hubby and I visited a Killdeer that was nesting at the back of the yard. Although we cautiously approached, the bird left the nest to protect its brood. This gave me a good look at the eggs and a shot I liked [above].

Just before evening, we visited again with our little one. By this time, our feathered friend was a little more comfortable and remained on the nest, wary and watching. [Click an image for a closer look].

It stirred only when I changed my vantage point for a different shot.

The bird has been nesting for quite some time. In fact, my hubby told me about it some time ago–when I was too crazy-busy to take a look. It stood its ground and protected the precious cargo through lawn mowings and thunderstorms.

I appreciate its tenacity and courage.

And I’m grateful for the time I was able to spend with it. This felt like a gift–a reward–for maintaining my sanity once again through the crazy last half of the semester.

For more information about Killdeer, see the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birdwatching.

How to Take a Photo Walk When You Can’t

“Chickadee.” Photograph by Gale D.

Can we say tired? I am so physically and mentally exhausted from grading, grading, grading, and grading. I want to take a photo walk, but (1) my camera battery isn’t charged. I learned this last night when I was about to record my son playing in the strings orchestra. And (2) I barely have enough energy to make it to the door let alone through it.

Therefore, I decided to take my photo walk indoors today. How? Thankfully, Diane W, Midteacher on swap-bot, created a series of swaps for the A Thousand Words group that’s right up my photo alley. The series, called Take a Walk, encourages photographers to take some time with their cameras regularly and share their photos with others in the group.

If you’ve been following Pics and Posts long enough, you know photo walks are my go-to for “getting through the crazies.” I take a walk–camera in hand–quite regularly during the work day to take a break from screens and students, to readjust or reset. Also, my hubby, son, and I take photo walks and drives on weekends when the weather’s nice (or tolerable).

Today, I need to follow a different path, so we’ll take a walk with Gale D, Grstamping on swap-bot.

Gale, from Ontario (Canada), spends a lot of time outdoors and loves shooting “in nature,” particularly in her favorite spot near Lake Ontario. She “can hand feed birds, watch squirrels at play, stalk deer, and be stalked by wild turkeys.” These ventures help her to feel close to nature and clear her mind. They also keep her sane.

She sent me a few of her memorable encounters–either because of their beauty or because of how the animals trusted her in their space–from her January photo walk.

Gale was allowed to get up close and personal with the chickadees. She even fed a few from her hand! They love sunflower seeds!

“Hand Feeding the Chickadees.” Photograph by Gale D.

A vibrant visit with a blue jay added a splash of color to the grays and browns of winter.

“Blue Jay: Vibrant in Winter.” Photograph by Gale D.

And finally, she had a brief tête-à-tête with a squirrel, her favorite subject because they’re not only beautiful but “they’re fun to watch!”

“Squirrel.” Photograph by Gale D.

I love these photos, but I’m kind of interested in seeing a photo captured while she was evading wild turkeys! 😀

You can take a photo walk too, even if you can’t get outdoors. Check out Glenrosa Journeys. Candace takes readers with her as she explores Arizona. Her photography and her blog are inspiring. For photos without the blog, check out the Nature Photography Group on Flickr. You can find more of Gale’s work at Photographic Touch.

Stay tuned. I’ll share more “take a walk” photos soon.

Walk on!