Are You Happy with Your Story?*

“Story Girl” by Connie S.

I received the most adorable tag this weekend! It came from my penfriend Connie S. I sort of coveted the tag when I saw it in a Facebook photo among several tags she crafted a few weeks ago for a “Little Wings and Tim Holtz” challenge on swap-bot. This one was an extra, so she sent it as a gift as I “get back into teaching mode.” Happy dance!

Connie wrote a note on pretty floral stationery and ended with the question–“Are you happy with your story?”

On this rainy, bluesy Monday when the headaches are unrelenting, it’s difficult to answer when my mood and pain are trying to do the typing.

Interestingly, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about “my story”–the narrative of my life that shapes who I am, my path, and who I am becoming. Particularly, I’ve noticed  just how often other people insist on writing my story or are set on what they think I should do and be; I’ve also taken note of just how often what they think I should do, think, and be benefits them in some way.

Though sometimes [most times, maybe?] individuals are actually advocating for us, I realize if we’re just going along and not paying attention, we can make it easy for someone else to write or rewrite our story. Therefore, we must be intentional about guarding our own developing script.

My life isn’t perfect–it’s certainly “been no crystal stair,” but those ups and downs and all arounds have developed in me a deep sense of empathy and compassion. The questions yet unanswered have taught me to love the questions and either seek the answers with an open heart and mind or patiently wait through the process. I’m learning still that sometimes the answers will come on “the other side of glory.” In my weakest moments, through Christ I’ve found strength–grace sufficient–to overcome the seemingly insurmountable.

I have an amazing family, the best friends, and good energy in my most important spaces. When I count my blessings, they far outnumber my setbacks and disappointments. Even in my most dejected state or my hour of most profound need, my gratitude deepens and widens over the blessed life God has given me and over His indescribable, incomparable love for me.

Am I happy with my story? Yes indeed. I’m not sure I’d know how to behave with a different story.

Are you happy with your story?

*My apologies to those of you who received a draft of this post via email or in your reader. Somehow the WordPress bot decided to publish before I hit the publish button. 

An Art Statement: Making a Mess, Restoring Order

As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.  –Calvin, Calvin and HobbesBill Watterson

I spent most of today sitting at my window in silence, untangling thoughts, and fighting icky feelings that were trying to take root. I needed to press pause on my ruminations, so–inspired by my many artist pals–I decided to pull out my long-neglected paint and brushes and make a mess.

Three postcard-sized pieces of “art” later, the ickiness kicked rocks. The works have two things in common–purple as a base color and “lack o’ skill.” I’m sharing them with you anyway because creating a masterpiece was not the point. Besides, my two biggest fans–my guys–like them and they encouraged me to post here on the blog.

Art is certainly not my forte, but I like Calvin’s artist statement [above], so I’ll claim it as my own. 🙂 Perhaps, I’ll add words [and/or photos] and send them out into the world.

If you’re feeling a bit out of sorts, pull out your paint or markers and make a mess. It’s amazing how order is restored through the creative chaos. It’s this reality that most likely prompted someone to substitute art for the word “music” in Berthold Auerbach’s quote and attribute it to Pablo Picasso: Music  “[Art] washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Be sure to make a healthy mess this week!

My First Washi Tape Card!

I’ve had a bunch of 12×12 washi paper sheets for some time, but I haven’t done much more than use them to cut a few shapes and robots with the Cricut. Beth, one of my swap-bot buddies uses washi tape for envelopes, postcards, letters and other mail-related items. I was really fascinated by her use of it on an envelope and a couple of postcards she sent to me, so I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. Some people have done amazing things with washi tape, but I wasn’t looking for amazing; I was looking for simple. Then, Beth posted a washi tape card swap. The image she posted with the swap made making a washi tape card look super easy, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

"With Gratitude," from "A StephMade Life."

“With Gratitude,” from “A StephMade Life.”

Steph, the card-maker, strategically placed colorful (uneven) strips of washi tape on card stock. She talks about the process on the blog post linked above the photo.

Here’s some of my process in pictures (forgive me for not taking pics earlier in the process):

Almost done...

Almost done…

I really didn’t have a plan. I just knew I didn’t want to go with horizontal or vertical lines. I thought I’d do just a few strips and leave an opening and some of the white border to embellish. I got a little carried away and ended up taping the entire card–with the exception of my middle.

Finished with the tape...

Finished with the tape…

This was simple. And the good thing about the card is that I didn’t have to cut any new sheets. I used remnants from Cricut cutouts. There’s always the random strip of material here and there that isn’t used by the machine–the space between cutouts, the border, etc.–so I’m so glad I didn’t toss those “shaped-out” sheets.

Should I fill the opening with green?

Should I fill the opening with green?

Should I fill the opening with red?

Should I fill the opening with red?

I even tried pink and thought about yellow and purple, but red won.

Trying out embellishments for the middle

Hmmm…An embellishment for the middle?

I thought I liked this one...

I thought I liked this one and decided AFTER I tacked it down that the red and green were too much.

I chose something a little more casual and a little less obvious with the color choice.

I chose something a little more casual and a little less obvious with the color choice.

I’m pleased. It’s bright and cheerful and just a little unpredictable and random. What do you think?

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Dr. Seuss: Postcards and Kid Art (+ Freebies)

Did you celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2nd?  Did you pick up a book in his honor?  I have been having a lot of fun reviewing Dr. Seuss’s books and enjoying the zany and just plain strange art he created. I hosted my third annual “Dr. Seuss’s Birthday” swap on swap-bot just to get some adults involved in my obsession with Dr. Seuss, so a few of us had a little fun sending each other flat-themed packages based on Theodor Geisel’s children’s literature. My partner will receive a bunch of cool Dr. Seuss-inspired items–“The Cat in the Hat” swap cards, sparkly stickers, the Yertle the Turtle  story, a book suggestion, two bookmarks and this postcard I found on ebay:

“Find the Cat in the Hat Today”

This is actually an ad card for HarperCollins Publishers, but it doesn’t really look like one.  It was designed and printed by Boomerang Media, a UK-based marketing company.

My partner, “JaMaJo” sent me a handmade postcard and an ATC.  The ATC took a little bit of a beating on its way through the postal system, but it’s still cute.

“Try them, try them and you may!
Try them and you may, I say.”

And here’s the “Green Eggs and Ham” ATC:

“Green Eggs and Ham” ATC by JaMaJo

Dr. Seuss reminds me of childhood reading and fun.  I loved reading as a child and read every book I could get my hands on.  I spent hours on weekend afternoons lying in my bed reading. I vividly recall my Beverly Cleary phase.   Although our teachers encouraged reading and often offered incentives, we didn’t have cool programs like the NEA’s Read Across America; nor did we celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday.  I feel like I missed out on something big (like I do when I see that baby dolls can do so much more now), but one of the wonderful things about having a young child is that I can re-visit my childhood through him and with him.  So I celebrate RAA/Dr. Seuss’s birthday with him. Last week, his first/second grade class participated in Read Across America and held a weeklong celebration of Dr. Seuss.  The kids read and shared their favorite books and ended the week with a birthday celebration/Dr. Seuss-themed costume party.

They also completed a few creative art projects. If you’ve been following my blog, you should know I was thrilled to see the children’s art (see earlier post on children’s art) .  I photographed some of the projects just so I can enjoy them a little longer. Let’s take a look at some of the art from Adrienne Saulsbury’s class.  This first set features the children’s artistic renderings of “The Cat in the Hat” (Click any image to view larger).

I think they’re pretty good for first and second graders!  I can’t draw as well as some of them as an adult!

The second set showcases book covers the students created.  Inspired by There’s a Wocket in My Pocket, the students came up with a silly book title that included a made-up item that rhymed with a real object.

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The silly titles are adorable.  They certainly captured the spirit of Dr. Seuss.  Oh, to be a kid and have such wonderful projects!  It’s cute that the kids signed their books, “Dr. ___.”

I’m convinced these art projects not only stimulate creativity, but they pique the children’s interest in reading.  Isn’t that what celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday is all about? I appreciate Mrs. Saulsbury for focusing so much on reading and for doing what she can to make reading fun for her students.  She encourages the children and parents to read together daily. She reminds parents that they should read to their children and their children should read to them.  She even urges the children to keep a reading log. My little one has been reading since he was 3.  He is quite a reader and although he claims he has to “be in the mood,” we have never had a problem getting him to read.  He reads everything–the Bible, storybooks, serial novels, kid-friendly comic books, magazines, informative books on robots (of course), space, science and nature.  We sometimes read as many as 5 or 6 books in one evening–down from 10 (when he was much younger).  Reading is such an important fundamental skill. Without it, the other skills can be inaccessible.

If you want to get into some Dr. Seuss this week, check out Lysa’s Illustrator Study list on Amazon for suggestions.  There’s something for all ages.  Brain Pickings also offers a number of excellent posts on Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss):  WWII Political Propaganda Cartoons and The Seven Lady Godivas and The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.

Oh, I almost forgot. I created two bookmarks for the class, and now, I’m sharing them with you. I designed these using papers and elements from

Reading with the Cat in the Hat

Reading with the Cat in the Hat

Reading with Thing 1 and Thing 2

Reading with Thing 1 and Thing 2

If you have any problems downloading any of these, let me know via “comment” and I’ll deliver the bookmarks to you via email and, if necessary, in another format.

I also photographed each student in his or her Dr. Seuss-inspired costume and holding a favorite book.  Here’s my own little “Cat in the Hat.”

My own personal

My own personal “Cat in the Hat”

Happy reading!

A Month of Letters and January Goodness

LetterMo2013square-300x300Author Mary Robinette Kowal offers a fabulous postal challenge for the Month of February: Mail an item through the post every day it runs.  This year, that’s 23 days.  A minimum of 23 items.  Not so hard.   I am going for it and am looking forward to posting something every day–maybe, even on Sundays just for kicks.  I’ll try my best to post daily in February to update you on my progress–this will be quite a feat and almost a miracle.  If you want to find out more about “A Month of Letters,” check it out at

January was a pretty busy mail in/mail out month for me.  I’m pretty sure I met February’s “Month of Letters” challenge in January!  I  sent and received a number of ATCs, postcards, photos, photo note cards, letters, collages, packages and much more.  It was a great mail month.  I can’t remember exactly when items were sent and received, but I’ll highlight several.

Imagine my excitement when I received the Shakespeare Book of Postcards (Pomegranate) which features art from the “vast collections” of  the Library of Congress.  I ordered them (“used”) through Amazon (seller: cheapdozen) and was delighted to receive them in pristine condition.  The postcard book offers “oversized” art reproductions based on Shakespeare’s plays and a few artistic renderings of the Bard himself.  There are also representative lines from the play highlighted on the back each of the postcard.

Front cover of Shakespeare Plays:  A Book of Postcards

Front cover of Shakespeare Plays: A Book of Postcards

Here are a few of the postcards included:

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That wasn’t the only bit of Shakespeare I received this month.  “Txstitcher,” my partner in a floral mail art swap included a couple of Shakespeare-inspired embellishments in the super-stuffed envelope of floral goodness she sent.   I’m a little more Shakespeare-obsessed than usual at the moment because I’m teaching Shakespeare this semester and it’s great to have all of this visual inspiration.

Shakespeare Quote Embellishments

Shakespeare Quote Embellishments

I also received a number of ATCs this month on various themes:  Photo ATC, Valentine Owl, Pink Valentine and Dr. Seuss.  Some of the ATCs that came in:

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And some that went out:

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One of my favorite swaps this month was “Take a Photo:  Look Up.”  My partner sent a lovely photo note card that was taken on a dreary day in Pennsylvania.

"Look Up," by swap-bot CDheartsdragonfies

“Look Up” by Chari, swap-bot CDheartsdragonfies

Chari reports the weather’s been dreary and it’s difficult to get great photos.  This particular photo was taken on a nice warm day at about 11 in the morning.  So yes, that’s the sun, not the moon. And, though the photo looks black and white, it’s actually a color photo.  I like it! The feel and the color. Sometimes, dreary, rainy, and/or foggy days “make” the best photos!  (This scan does little justice to the actual photo and note card).

And here are my own “Look Up” Photos.  I chose two cloud photos taken from a plane en route to New Orleans from New York City.  I captured at least a dozen great cloud photos that day and I get a kick out of how clear the photos turned out.  They were taken through dirty airplane windows, after all!

"It's Wonderful to Look Up"

“No Boundaries” by Me!

"Liquid Mountains" by Me!

“Liquid Mountains” by Me!

This is just a little of the January goodness.   I’ll have to highlight the many postcards I received in January in another post.  Until then…Toodles!

“Make Mail Pretty!”

I love, love, love pulling decorated envelopes out of the mailbox, and I can’t remember if I’ve ever used a plain white envelope for personal mail.  I have two bins filled with stickers and a hard drive filled with photographs and other digital art to make sure no one receives a plain envelope from me!   I even make my own envelopes sometimes–thanks to my Cricut and my Martha Stewart Scorer and Envelope Maker.   (I find envelope-making very relaxing when I’ve had a really stressful week).  Even postal workers compliment my decorated envelopes. I secretly hope I’m adding a little sunshine to their day as well.

I receive LOTS of decorated envelopes–and mail art–from swappers.   I admire those who can take a bunch of miscellaneous scraps, cutouts, rubber stamps, postage stamps and stickers and use them to transform a plain envelope into art–into something I want to preserve just as much as what’s on the inside.  Here are some of the decorated envies I’ve received within the last year or two.  Some are recent. Some are not so recent.  They represent the range of decorated envelopes–simple to full blown “mail art.”

“Love Snail Mail”
This is a simple one. The sender used a rubber stamp (or two) and a 3.5 inch floppy label. Do you see how it makes the plain craft envelope pop? Props to swapper Castlequeen for using Romare Bearden postage. I “heart” his work!

Simple. Buggy. Cute.

“Children’s Art”
If I remember correctly, the sender used a sheet of kid art and transformed it into this envelope. This is the front. The next image shows the back. My only “regret” is the label covers the brightly colored girl’s face.


This is the back of the envelope, AKA the girl’s bottom half.

Isn’t this adorable? I have no idea what the penguins are saying! Translation, please.

The back of the penguins envelope. This is also a handmade envelope.


“Paris Airmail”
This is one of my favorites. I appreciate the elegant arrangement of the elements.


This is the back. Love, love, love the texture!

“Purple Cloud and Music Notes”
Even a purple sharpie and deco tape can be used to make a plain envelope beautiful!

“Doodles and Design”
SFreer sent this one. She doodles, stamps and zentangles a beautiful envelope.

Doodles and Design Part 2. This is the back of SFreer’s envelope. Isn’t it charming???

“Dream and Inspire”
SFreer sent this one for me to share with someone else. I doubt I’ll be able to part with it. Believe it or not, she used napkins, word stamps and bling to make this envelope. Beautiful work!

The back of “Dream and Inspire” by SFreer.

“Inspired Elements”
As with most of the mail art I’ve received, I can’t remember who sent this envelope. I recall that the swapper said she used pieces of wallpaper in her design. I also recall that I raided this mail art and used some of the elements in other projects. Oops! Isn’t the literary postage wonderful?

Inspired Elements–the back.

“Autumn Blessings”
This one was designed by swapper Tami. Even the inside of a security envelope becomes a tool for a mail artist.  Gotta love Garfield and Odie!

“Make Mail Pretty”
This envelope, designed by swapper Smmarrty, inspired the blog post. I love the textures and the arrangement of the elements.

The back of “Make Mail Pretty.” Surprisingly, I haven’t peeled off the stickers and used them in something else!

If you’re interested in mail art, do a google search and you’ll find TONS of inspiration.  Don’t be intimidated by the super-duper complicated mail art.  Just do something to make your mail pretty.  Add a sticker.  Use colored pens for the address.  Doodle a flower or a tree. Make the postal workers smile AND brighten someone’s mailbox.

While you’re searching around for mail art inspiration, check out this blog: Friperee(n):Purveyor of Nonsense, Adornments and Other Frivolities.

Happy 12.12.12!

Good Mail In…

This was a rocky week for me, but finding good mail in the mailbox always cheers me up–immediately!  Here are the goodies that came this week:

Ernie the Envie, the swap-bot logo. I sent one out and I took one in!

This beautiful purple flower postcard was made by fellow swap-bot Sharp Shooter, FundyGirl. She photographs flowers in memory of her late grandfather who was also a photographer. What an admirable way to honor his memory!

This GORGEOUS breast cancer awareness “greeting” card was made by Namabear, a member of the swap-bot group, Crafting Queens. This was made for the “Think Pink” swap in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October). Neither the scan nor the photograph does justice to this awesome card.