A Double Dose of Cute

All day midterm grading has left me completely exhausted, but my “wiring” will not allow me to miss “Microblog Monday,” so here’s a cute notecard Arielle W., a new pen friend sent:

Papyrus Stationery. Art by Betsy Snyder.

The art is from Betsy Snyder’s “over-the-top” cute Haiku Baby.

While we’re on the subject of “cute,” check out my little “sister” Brittany’s latest blog post, Doll Yourself Up, Mama.  She encourages us to be our cutest selves–even if we’re no longer 20–and invites us to join her Fall Challenge.

Have a cute week!

Live Well. Laugh Triple. Love Without Measure.

The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure.Tibetan Proverb

We’ve reached the last of our “Live-Laugh-Love” posts. I mentioned earlier this week that I would explain later why the theme is significant to me. “Live, Laugh, Love” was my sister Karlette’s mantra. If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you know that we lost her to breast cancer in 2013. I still miss her terribly and think about her every single day. The theme of the latest Global Art Swap provided an opportunity to honor her memory.

It is significant that I’m posting what I sent for the swap today because today is Karlette’s birthday, and as I struggle to move past deep sadness, I find it necessary to revisit the words I shared with pen friends regarding the significance of the theme to me.

Live-Laugh-Love

Karlette lived as much as she could during her short sojourn on this earth; she loved to laugh and she loved so deeply that she was “everybody’s” best friend. Her middle school students and their parents adored her because she poured so much life, love, and laughter into her students. I learned so much from her and came to so many realizations because of how she handled her many rounds with cancer.

We were designed to LIVE abundantly—to fill life with all the good things we can hold. Yet many of us have trouble with “living” a good life because we allow worries, the past, unforgiveness, and so many annoying trifles to get in the way. Problems–struggles–are inevitable, but we don’t have to make such strife central in our lives. In spite of all the trauma and drama, we can choose joy and squeeze every ounce of the good stuff out of life. When we live in the fullness of joy, those “other things” don’t gain much of our attention and we can embrace the good life.

After my sister’s passing–like many who experience the death of a loved one–grief had me in a slow, tightening grip. Although I knew the process was necessary, I still needed to be present and functional. In an effort to shake myself out of the darkness, I called an aunt–a trained counselor–and she encouraged me to laugh. She told me to simply find some funny television shows or movies and LAUGH out loud.  That was the best advice she could have offered at the time. I had forgotten how to smile. I’d forgotten that the most basic thing that makes us feel alive is laughter. And—the bonus—I felt so connected to my sister because she loved to laugh. My aunt’s advice has come in handy quite frequently over the last four years as I found the grief of losing my sister intertwined with other losses.

Laughter also has a way of bridging gaps and mending broken fences, so take it into those relationships that are strained. Find the humor in what may have created a rift. Try not to take life so seriously and make it a point to laugh often—even at yourself. It is certainly medicine for the soul.

LOVE is the most complex part of the theme.  Love is easy when people are loving and loveable, but the journey to becoming a truly loving human is beautifully painful. We have to learn to love those who are mean, hateful, and abusive and those who don’t love us. It takes a tremendous amount of soul work to love in this way, but the beauty it creates in us and in the world is without measure. Please note that “love” does not equal acceptance or tolerance of abuse in any form.

I recently watched a video on the protests in Charlottesville, VA, filmed to capture the perspective of the white nationalists who organized the event. Though repulsed by the faulty reasoning, the language and attitudes against non-Whites, Jews, and homosexuals, I felt a huge wave of compassion for the protesters. How sad it is to live with such hatred and willingness to harm others! How inhumane to wish to annihilate others or strip them of human rights!

No matter our vast differences, true love knows no bounds. We must do the hard work and learn to love those who hate us. Kahlil Gibran’s “On Love” captures this far better than I can.

The card I originally created (above) is very pink because that was Karlette’s favorite color. I designed it in a few other colors to appeal to the tastes of family members who will be receiving the card soon.

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If you or someone you know is dealing with breast cancer, visit the Karle’s Wings link (above), and a bit of light and joy will wing its way soon…

Flowers, Feathers, and Butterflies: Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

When I lamented in the Global Postcard Art Swap/heart Exchange group that I missed the signup deadline for the swap, Sharon R., with whom I had no previous interaction, immediately offered to send me a postcard. When I received her gorgeous postcard, my jaw dropped.

It is simply stunning! The colors, multiple layers, and textures offer a visual feast. The scan does little justice to this handmade postcard. You’d have to see it in person, touch it and hold it to fully appreciate its beauty.

“Live, Laugh, Love.” Handmade postcard by Sharon R.

Live-Laugh-Love is one of those phrases we hear (and see) often, but most of us don’t know where it originated. It has been misattributed to many others–including Hitler (?!) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (doesn’t even sound like him to me); however, the phrase actually comes from the first lines of a poem written in 1904 by writer Bessie Anderson Stanley.  [Note: the year the poem was written explains the gendered language, and we won’t go into what “pure women” might mean].

He has achieved success
who has lived well,
laughed often, and loved much;

who has enjoyed the trust of
pure women,

the respect of intelligent men and
the love of little children;

who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;

who has left the world better than he found it
whether by an improved poppy,
a perfect poem or a rescued soul;

who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;

who has always looked for the best in others and
given them the best he had;

whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.

When you are tempted to measure success by dollars and things, revisit this poem and take a look at the treasures stored up in your soul. When it comes to the things that really matter in life, you will find that you are richer and way more successful than you think!

Let’s Meet for Tea!

One day I’m going to plan a mega tea party and invite all my pen friends. It would be wonderful to sit around and chat at length about our mutual interests, the pretty things we all love, and our lives in general. That is not feasible at the moment, so instead, I gather the letters and postcards received and enjoy them with a hot cup of herbal tea during my quiet moments in the morning or evening.  I imagine that I am having tea with my friends as I savor their words.

That’s what Trang K’s Live-Laugh-Love postcard is about.

“Steeped in Life, Love, and Laughter,” Handmade Postcard by Trang K.

Trang crafts such delicate watercolor postcards. You might remember the sunflower she sent a few months ago. [She sent another sunflower recently. I’ll be sharing that one on the blog soon]. Trang not only creates visually beautiful cards but she also writes beautiful messages.  On this one she wrote about the way she crafted the postcard.

She writes:

Postcards have two sides: “a scenic” side and a “journey” side. While the scenic side tickles our senses, the journey side is filled with facts stamps, dates, and beautifully handwritten words from caring hearts…fingerprints of the postcard’s travels in time and space. ❤

She continues:

I created this postcard to feature the “journey” on both sides–real and imagined.  Like an envelope wraps the gift of a letter, the journey side, full of LIFE and stamped with LOVE and LAUGHTER is the gift.  May we each celebrate the scenic route and savor the homecoming of our hearts to our souls.

Don’t you want to write a letter now? Then do so…Grab a postcard or some stationery, make some tea, and have a spot with a faraway friend.

Keep Swimming…

Today’s Live-Laugh-Love post features a photo postcard from Lisa C.

“Live, Laugh, Love on the Beach” by Lisa C.

Lisa’s beach scene reminds me how much I miss living near water.

Her simple wisdom, printed on the back, captures the swap theme and the message of the ocean:

Live where you feel a sense of belonging…
Love bravely…
Laugh often…
Keep swimming when times are difficult…
Soar when life is a breeze…

The message reminds me of Dory (as in Finding Nemo), and since we have swiftly reached “midterm madness” this semester and (far too soon) the end of my energy, the advice to “keep swimming” is timely.  Dory’s message of fortitude and grit will be my mantra for the next several weeks.

Are you, too, struggling to keep afloat with all that’s going on in your life?  Maybe, Dory’s counsel will help you too.  Just keep swimming…

“Live and Laugh and Laugh at Love”

It’s “Live-Laugh-Love” Week on Pics and Posts!

That was the theme of the latest round of the Global HeART Swap/heART exchange. I missed the deadline (again), but found a way to participate because the theme is dear to my heart (I’ll explain later this week). When I lamented that I’d missed signup, kind souls came to the rescue and filled my mailbox with life, love, and laughter. I will be sharing their cards throughout the week.

Things have been a “bit over the top” lately, so I’m grateful for the postcards that were sent to me. I have often paused in the middle of the madness to revisit the messages written and enjoy the pretty.

The first card is a colorful collage postcard from Eileen V of Stuttgart, Germany.

“Life is a Bowl of Cherries,” Made by Eileen V.

Her interpretation of the theme includes a purple (just for me) circus act and lyrics from [Fosse’s] “Life is a Bowl of Cherries.”

Life is just a bowl of cherries, don’t take it serious, its mysterious. Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh and laugh at love, love a laugh, laugh and love. –Bob Fosse

Eileen included a note recommending that I watch Follies: New Broadway Cast Recording, “Live, Laugh, Love.”

She managed to pack a whole lot of fun into a 4×6 postcard!

I hope your week is filled with laughter.

Get Up and See!

Today is my birthday!

Normally, I spend the days leading up to my very own day contemplating the past months and making plans for the the days ahead.  My “New Year’s resolutions” begin October 2, not January 1. Not so this year. The last couple of weeks have been filled with anxiety, noise, and internal clutter, and I haven’t been able to grasp the calm I need to get the internal work done. It did not help to wake up in the wee morning hours to the horrible news of an attack in Vegas.

But I am grateful. To be alive (I’m familiar with the alternative). To be well (for the most part). To be accepted. To be showered with love (and brownies, every now and then). For the many, many good people and experiences my many days have brought to me.

Exactly five years ago one of these good people–at that time a new friend–gave me a beautiful card for my birthday. Because it “lives” on my desk, I see it frequently, but today I took a moment to appreciate it again.

“Rita Dove,” detail of The Furious Flower Portrait Quilt, 2004. Mixed media collage on canvas. Artist: Malaika Favorite

The portrait of U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-95) Rita Dove is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.

Dove’s poem, “Dawn Revisited,” from her collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks, is printed on the back of the card.

Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading

glorious shade. If you don’t look back,

 the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits –
eggs and sausage on the grill.

The whole sky is yours

 to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You’ll never know
who’s down there, frying those eggs,
if you don’t get up and see.
The poem is the swift kick in the butt I need to “shake a leg” and get things done!  Please excuse me while I get up and see…

You Are Perfectly Loved!

Sometimes, we go through situations that make us feel unwelcome, unwanted, unloved. This Illustrated Faith postcard sent to me by Debra D, one of my Love Notes pals, is a simple reminder to stop the lie before it permeates your spirit and sullies your days.

Illustrated Faith, Bella Blvd

Need more proof?

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.  –Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. –Ephesians 3:18 NLT

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us his children, and that is what we are!  –1 John 3:1a NLT

Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:37-39 NLT

One of the things that keeps me sane and whole–most days, at least–is knowing that God absolutely loves me, that He is enamored with me and makes much of me. We all have those moments when it feels no one loves us. Even though it defies logic, it’s human. But to make sure we don’t stay in that place, it’s good to memorize and meditate on scriptural truth. That way, we attack those negative feelings before they can take root.

Take a moment to commit a “love” verse to memory today! ❤

“We Need a Little Silence”

We have had far too much tossed at us the last several days–natural disasters, the escalating rhetoric on race in the U.S., the criticism of peaceful protest while validating violent protest, the invalidation of one the most basic rights of U.S. citizenry, dangerous political venom spewing from heads of state. In response to all of this, Larry K, one of my former students, wrote in the middle of a semi-lengthy Facebook post–

The world needs a little silence.

I feel this need with every fiber of my being as I am struggling to navigate the chaos.

We are assaulted with a barrage of traditional media and social media commentary all day long and we are not filtering and processing. This leaves us burdened. And weary. And (maybe) cowering in a corner.

In my writing courses, I tell my students that whenever we read an article, a social media post, a work of fiction–anything–we are entering a conversation, and with all conversations we must hear/listen, ask questions, respond, and add to the conversation. Conversations should be healthy and productive and should lead to growth in some way, no matter how small. The problem lately is that there’s been a lot of noise but little listening. We’re all talking at the same time and few are hearing the unspoken. And we’re just becoming more and more angry and frustrated. We’re screaming at each other. And the earth is mad and screaming too–through hurricanes, earthquakes , wildfires, and everything else.

We “need a little silence,” Larry says, “like when you’re angry at your mate and you just retreat to your corner.”

We do. We need to walk away from the fight. Retreat–in both senses of the word.

I urge you to take care of your mind and spirit and tune out the noise, regroup, and take strategic steps to filter what is unnecessary, what is not beneficial to your soul.

Photo Walk: First Day of Autumn Sightings

I’ve been craving time with my camera, so yesterday I arrived at work 30 minutes before conferences with students were scheduled to begin and took a brief walk–camera and iPhone in tow. As expected, there weren’t many signs of autumn, but the walk provided a refreshing start to my day and a clear mind as I headed into the weekend.

My campus walks always start with the trees. The oaks did not disappoint with their gnarly trunks and roots. The fungus attracted my attention here.

Notice the resting ent?

I wonder how he got here from Middle Earth. Or is he a tree troll?

The Dogwoods have so many interesting transformations throughout the year. I’ll have to make a point of charting the changes one year. They’re showing signs of autumn.

Of course, the evergreen deserves admiration all year long.

It wouldn’t be the first day of autumn in Alabama without butterflies and pink.

It’s about to take flight…

A morning walk requires a squirrel.

A couple of bonus photos shot earlier in the week: One provides proof of autumn.

And a tree I encounter (almost) every time I take a campus walk. There’s so much to love and study.

As I’m reviewing these photos, I’m thinking about my older brother, Dennis–a photographer–and feeling a strong connection to him through our mutual love for nature photography. I’m praying him through a medical crisis and sending hugs and deepest love from the Deep South to the West Coast. I love you, big brother!