An “African” Christmas Party

“Gateway to Africa Tree”

Every year the university at which I teach hosts an elaborate “themed” Christmas party. Faculty, staff, and administrators dress according to theme, compete for prizes in some cases (like the ugliest sweater contest one year and the talent competition another year). Photo booths, craft stations, excellent music, door prizes, food, and “the envelope” that reveals our Christmas bonus are “staples” of the event. This year there was even a massage station and a cash bonus in addition to our regular bonus!

The team that coordinates the event always does an extraordinary job transforming the university’s skating rink into an amazing reflection of the theme, but this year’s theme, “Gateway to Africa” ousted my former favorite, “New York, New York.” I was thoroughly thrilled when I entered the party yesterday because I love African art and textiles.

Take a look at what I managed to capture [click an image for a closer look]:

The tree was decorated with African flags, fabric, masks, and ornaments in the shape of the continent:

The displays featured African clothing, art, baskets, and other items.

Everything was beautiful!

For faculty, the party marks the beginning of the holiday break. We submit grades on Monday, party Tuesday, and then recuperate from Fall Semester and rest up for January.

And so winter vacation begins…

Slaying Dragons and Painting Dreams

I captured the image (above) a week or so ago when my hubby, son, and I were exploring downtown. The chair is colorful and worthy of photographing, but I was drawn to the quote.

I dream my painting and then paint my dream.  –Van Gogh

It is perfectly aligned with where my head is at the moment–planning and working toward a few goals.

A few days before encountering the chair, one of my besties and I decided to work toward completing our top three goals and report our progress to each other every week. By the beginning of week one, I was ready to slay in a serious way. By the end, I was whining inwardly that I’d made zero progress on any of my goals.

Thanks to Thanksgiving Break, I’ve had a moment or two of clarity and I’ve concluded that “goal slay” is as much about slaying the dragons that stand in our way as it is about actually achieving our goals: Dragons of time. Dragons of demands. Dragons of habit. Dragons of neglect. Dragons of doubt and fear.

The reality–life is busy and full, so we often have little time to squeeze in a new thing, goal, activity, even person. We’ve developed some patterns and routines that must change. Even our perceived good habits have to change if we are to accomplish our goals. What’s more daunting? We must sharpen our swords on our own imagined dragons before we can slay the really scary ones.

So although I’ve not checked any of the boxes directly leading to any of my goals, I’ve made significant progress on the process. I have well-defined goals and a solid plan to slay some dragons. That’s something…isn’t it?

Start With…

Love Notes 21 ended a week ago (or has it been two weeks?). I got a bit off track this round, but today I made significant progress by getting most of my cards in the mail. Finally. I think I’ve earned the “right” to post about the round this week.

As usual, Jennifer Belthoff, the swap coordinator, sent prompts weekly for three weeks. Prompt 1 was appropriate: “Start with…”

My partner, Lori K, crafted a whimsical postcard that still tickles me.

“Three Little Birds,” Handmade Card by Lori K.

My hubby, son, and I had so much fun giving each bird a story.

Her message to me:

Start each day with a happy thought and a smile! It will put everyone around you in a good mood.

Lori is a scrapbooking, stamping, card-making diva. You can see her work on her blog, Lori’s Creations.

I received extra Love Notes from postcard pals. Their thoughtfulness never ceases to amaze me. Each sender seems to handpick the cards to suit my tastes and interests.

Christine B. sent a photo of the moon setting on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Maybe, you remember my connection to the moon?

“Setting Moon,” the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Photo by Christine B.

She penned wise counsel on the back, “sealed” with her signature green star:

Start with a prayer…Then, be ready for anything. Life dishes out lots of stuff. Try to keep a positive attitude. That helps.

For my art-and-poetry loving, woman-centered soul, Litsa L sent a postcard featuring the art of Czechoslovakian Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.

“Poetry from the Arts, 1898,” Alphonse Mucha, 1860-1939.

In the piece,

Poetry is personified by a female figure gazing at the moonlit countryside in contemplation. She is framed by a laurel branch, the attribute of divination and poetry. —Mucha Foundation

Litsa advises:

Start with the beginning. The journey follows. Sometimes, there is an ending, sometimes another beginning, but always a journey.

For my love of trees and autumn, Lisa C sent a “whisper of fall” from her backyard:

“Whisper of Fall,” Photo by Lisa C.

She had a short poem imprinted on the back of the postcard. I assume she wrote the poem (?). 

Tall and regal.
Roots grown deeper.
Each leaf has its own character.
Essence of life.

She added her response to the prompt:

Start with a single tree…and some day a forest will grow.

You can see more of Lisa’s beautiful photography and musings on her website, Wandering Shutterfly.

Stay tuned. I’ll share postcards for prompts 2 and 3 later this week.

Until tomorrow…

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…

Rumi: The Guest House

Artwork by Chante Marie

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
translated by Coleman Barks

Monday Blues with the Moon Goddess

Since today is a holiday in the USA, I replaced my usual Monday blues with some other blues.

“Painted Snail”

Christine B. sent this cool painted snail postcard with well wishes for the start of the academic year. She found the card at Snailmailcool, which is all about “old school” mail–“putting it in a mailbox…so the recipient can open it, read it, save it…treasure it.”

“Swimming with Dolphins,” Mixed Media Mandala by Judi Rose

Do you see the tiny dolphins in the center of the mandala? They swam all the way from Albany, Western Australia, thanks to Nyima. Since we met, Nyima and I have noted the synchronicity of our encounters.  Even our names are synchronous–her name, given to her by a Tibetan lama while on a spiritual journey, means sun; mine means moon. It was not so surprising, then, that I received her soothing blue dolphins the same day I received Christine’s blue snail.

She addressed me as “Moon Goddess” in the card and expressed wishes for “much joy, love, and happiness–today and every day.”

Nyima creates stunning mandalas, under the name Judi Rose Art. You can see more of her art via Facebook and Instagram.

“Autumn Blues” by Tara Kamiya

Of course, this Monday holiday required taking a little quiet time, gazing out of my home office window, watching the butterflies play, and updating my everyday ARC for autumn. My friend Cy gifted this divider and matching stickers to me last autumn. She purchased them from Tara Kamiya who designs and sells planner goodies.

Since it wouldn’t be a proper bluesy Monday without music, I leave you with some music for Tuesday–in case the other kind of blues are deferred till you return to work tomorrow:

Have a cool blue day!

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!

Snapshots from Madrid: Doors and a Fond Farewell

We’ve reached the final installment of Cy’s “Snapshots from Madrid” series.  Today’s post features some of the interesting doors Cy “experienced” while in Madrid, an appropriate ending for the series.

I had the opportunity to visit the 80th anniversary Picasso exhibit at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. The exhibit, entitled Pity and Terror in Picasso: The Path to Guernica, bring[s] together approximately 150 masterpieces by the artist–some from the Reina Sofía’s own collection and others from over 30 institutions around the world, including the Musée Picasso and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Tate Modern in London; The Museum of Modern Art  (MoMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, to name a few.  There are also selections from private collections including that of Claude Ruiz-Picasso, the son of the artist.

The exhibit was well worth the 10€ entry fee.

But I find the art of everyday Madrid inspirational as well.  In particular, the entry doors to apartment buildings and offices kept me engrossed for quite some time.  Some of the doors appear below.

[Click an image for a closer look.  Be sure to note the fine details–the artistry–of the doors].

  Without a doubt, Madrid has some of the most beautiful doors I’ve ever seen.

As Cy “closes the door” on her adventures in Madrid, she leaves knowing that the door will always be open. Who knows? Maybe, she’ll find her way back to Madrid some day.

Although this is the end of Cy’s series, I have a feeling I’ll be back with a few more random “Snapshots from Madrid” some time soon.

To visit–or revisit–the other three posts in the series, follow the links below:

Thank you, Cy, for allowing us to experience Madrid through you. Have a safe return home.  See you soon, friend!

Encore? Let Kindness Bloom!

My little “sister” Brittany of OrdinarilyExtraordinaryMom requested an “encore” of Kindness Week. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, but maybe, this bit of kindness will satisfy for now.

Chante Marie, one of my (now former) students and recent college graduate, was “inspired” by the kindness week posts too! She posted a time-lapse video of her creation “Let Kindness Bloom” on Instagram.

Here’s the finished product. [Click the image to view the short video].

“Let Kindness Bloom,” by Chante Marie

The message is sweet and to the point.  As we watch the tree blossom and come to life at Chante’s hands, we understand better the import of the words: Kindness grows and enhances life’s color and brilliance. Give it freely. Let it bloom.

Chante is a singer, composer, writer, artist, and minimalist who is on her way to grand places! More importantly, she is “quite simply” an intelligent, witty, beautiful person whom the world needs to know.  If you want to know more about Chante Marie, check out Quite Simply Minimal, her minimalist blog, or her website which provides links to her art, poetry, YouTube channel, Facebook page and more.

Be sure to sow some seeds of kindness this week!

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!