Sunflower Field in Autumn

“Sunflower Field in Autumn” by Diane W. aka midteacher

there is peaceful.
there is wild.
i am both at the same time.

nayyirah waheed, “sum,” salt

Today’s sunflower comes from my photographer friend Diane–midteacher on swap-bot. She continually inspires me with her beautifully crafted photos.

For “Sunflower Field in Autumn” Diane tried a creation process she had just discovered.  For this project she:

  • “gessoed” watercolor paper
  • pushed pearlized crackle paste through stencil
  • allowed to dry overnight
  • Used INFUSIONS color stain on background
  • allowed to dry overnight
  • glued photo; adhered paper and ribbon
  • allowed glue to dry
  • added sewing
  • glued cardstock to backside and trimmed

I get to be the “guinea pig” for many of Diane’s experiments with new techniques. Lucky me–especially when sunflowers are involved!

Thanks for the sunshine, Diane!

What Would You Tell Your 18-Year-Old Self?

“Letters to My 18-Year-Old Self” are pretty popular lately (or maybe always?). I’ve seen them on blogs, in journals, in online newspapers and magazines, even in seminars and workshops, but I’ve given little consideration to the topic. Of course, I’ve wondered every now and then if I should have done some things differently, but I’ve never written a note to my younger self–until three weeks ago when Love Notes 25 kicked off with the prompt:

Write the words you would tell your 18-year-old self.

My assigned partner, Janet T, is new to the Love Notes community. She is a “mom to two beautiful daughters” in their 20’s, so she has probably had some recent practice with the prompt. She wrote her note in a card bearing a gold embossed mermaid silhouette:

Whatever gives you happiness–let that inspire you in your daily life. The things you love make you who you are and don’t let anyone influence you wrongly.

Have courage and be kind.

“Purple Tulips.” Watercolor postcard by Christine B.

My most prolific penfriend, Christine, created the beautiful purple tulip [above] in honor of my sister Lori [and me] and wrote a six-item list:

  1. Bad things happen.
  2. Find people to trust and love as much as you can
  3. Make your voice heard
  4. Vote!
  5. Laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh
  6. Don’t hold your breath

There are many, many things I’d say to my 18-year-old self, much of it far too personal to share in a blog post or a note [to anyone outside myself], so I sent a list of things I find myself saying to my students over and over again–not so much a “letter to my 18-year-old self,” but little bits of counsel that I found (or should have found) useful:

Card designed by Hessa, age 9, Abu-Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Children’s Art Project, MD Anderson Cancer Center. [A gift from Christine].

These sorts of exercises can be fun as long as we avoid falling into the pit of regret and the type of thinking that our lives would be so much better if we had present knowledge then. Our 18-year-old selves were just that. 18. Young. Inexperienced. Insecure. Overly confident. Full of life, contradictions, crazy ideas, and impossibilities.

Despite all the craziness of youth, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but my 18-year-old self made many solid decisions and did more than a few things well. As for the things I didn’t get quite right, mistakes are inevitable and we learn so much more from our missteps than from our successes.

If you’re 18 or thereabout, maybe, you’ll find some usefulness in the lists above. If you’d like a more “focused” list, check out runner and professional coach Steve Magness’ post: Advice for the Young and Driven: A letter to my 18-year-old self.

If you’re waaaay past 18, like I am, what would you say to your 18-year-old self?  Comment below.

 

A Written Word: We Will Forever Hold Her

“Bloom,” Crafted by Cricket P.

This elegant poppies postcard was handmade by my Love Notes pal, Cricket. She designed it for “Beautiful Blooms,” the latest Global heART Swap, but kindly sent one to me in remembrance of Lori. The tiny black dots in the “green painted vases” are poppy seeds  from Cricket’s garden. In a few weeks, we will plant them–in Lori’s honor–just outside my home office window. They will bloom in the spring.

The intimate notes Cricket sent to Lori and me during her struggle and the one she included with “Bloom” are among those I will forever cherish. I will reserve the most intimate details of her notes for my own eyes, but it’s fitting to close with some of the words from her “Blooms” note:

Thank you for including all of us in this journey–for making Lori alive in our world. That we can share in the love and the grief of virtual strangers is a phenomenal thing. It gives hope in/to a troubled world and should be celebrated. Lori touched us all and we’ll forever hold her.

An Envelope Full of Sunflowers: Snail Mail Quick Tip

You have probably figured out by now that I receive a lot of cheerful sunflower mail, so much that I’m pretty sure I can start a blog just for sunflowers. I can’t let my second “Sunflower Week” pass without showing off the beautiful envelope full of sunflowers my Love Notes pal Lori-Anne C sent a few months ago.

Some contents from Lori-Anne’s envelope full of sunflowers

In addition to a stunning hand painted sunflower postcard, Lori-Anne enclosed a couple of sunflower tags (one for me to color), a paper sticker, and a painted wood sunflower magnet.

Note the gorgeous sunflower painted on the edge of the envelope.

Sunflower painted on envelope by Lori-Anne C

And of course, the stunning sunflower:

Live-Laugh-Love Sunflower by Lori-Anne C

Lori-Anne captured my heart–a sunflower with my little sister’s mantra. Absolutely perfect! I was headed to class when I opened the package, and my heart simply overflowed with gratitude.

The envelope full of sunflowers provides an opportunity to share another snail mail quick tip. This is slightly more challenging than the tip I offered some time ago, but it’s still pretty easy.

Tip: Send a themed envelope related to an individual’s interests. The options are endless–butterflies, foxes, roses, rocks, fairies, music, hearts, bears, plants, and so on.

Choose a family member or friend. Think about that person’s interests and fill an envelope with items related to one interest–stickers, note cards, magnets, quotes, postcards. Anything you think they’d like. If you insert just a few flat items, you’ll need only one postage stamp.

What I love about the themed envelope is that you can pack a lot of love with few words. So if you have little time to write or if long missives are not your thing, place a few “themed” items into an envelope, write a one-phrase note [“thinking of you” or “love you”] and send it on its way.

Trust me. You’ll make someone’s day.

Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song “Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal, Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

Kindness Week Day 4: Save the Planet

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Take care of Mother Earth.

The first job given to mankind–after populating the earth–was to take care of it. As we’ve advanced, we’ve found more ways to damage the earth than to maintain it. Let’s do our part to change that.

One of the things I absolutely loved about my son’s Montessori School is that the school focused on the development of the whole person as a citizen of the world. The children were taught how to care about all people and how to care for the earth. Ziploc bags, disposable utensils and containers were not allowed. Lunches, including yogurt, milk and juice, had to be placed in reusable containers. There was a no waste policy. The director and teachers taught the children to conserve water when washing their hands and brushing their teeth and many other tips for saving the environment. The children learned that the little things we do as individuals add up to a world of difference.

Through my son’s early education, I became more intentional about my role in taking care of the earth. The idea of single-handedly conquering the varied “earth” issues is absurd, but there are many little things we can do to preserve our planet for future generations.

Starting today, let’s be kind to the earth. If you don’t know where to begin, here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Use reusable containers, including water bottles and coffee cups
  • Unplug small appliances and phone chargers when they are not in use
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or lathering up
  • Use reusable grocery bags for shopping
  • Keep a trash bag in your car, so when you see litter you can pick it up. This also minimizes the temptation to toss the “beer can” out the window
  • Recycle and upcycle
  • Plant a tree, a shrub, flowers

If you already do these things, kudos! Now, it’s time to step up your game. There’s always more that can be done.

Note about today’s image: The gorgeous painting above was created by Lori-Anne C, one of my Love Notes pals. She created this for the latest Global heART Exchange. The theme was “Nature Quotes.” The back of the painting is just as beautiful as the front.

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Jusqu’à demain…

Holly Art!

The first cards for Liberate Your Art 2018 go out this week, and I am beside myself with excitement as I wait for the cards to find me. Thankfully, my artist friends have kept me satisfied while I wait. One such person is Holly who sent two envelopes of goodness to me over the last few weeks.

Holly joined the “Let’s Celebrate Pooh” swap I hosted in the Cup and Chaucer group on  swap-bot. We won’t tell anyone, but after seeing the beautiful art on her blog, I was slightly disappointed that the swap “randomizer” did not assign her as my “receive from” partner.  But the swap gods were with me anyway. Not only did my assigned partner send me a super cute Pooh bookmark but Holly sent a precious Pooh envelope–even though I wasn’t her partner! Is that cool or what?

Here’s the handmade bookmark from my assigned partner,  which now “marks” the page in one of my journals.

Pooh Bookmark, Made by Moominbrooke

Wanna see what Holly sent?

Pooh, a Tree, and the Bees, Bookmark, Handmade by Holly M.

As you can see–an adorable Pooh bookmark, complete with bees and her impeccable lettering. The envelope was equally adorable, embellished with Pooh stamps and “bees” washi tape.

Recycled, Pooh-Inspired Security Envelope, Holly M.

The swap gods were kind to me again when Holly and I were the only two in a “Celebrate Dr. Seuss” swap in the Cup and Chaucer group.

She sent a letter typed on a vintage typewriter, a “faithfully copied” Cat in the Hat themed note card, envelope, and a bunch of adorable Dr. Seuss themed mailing labels. Perfect for mailing letters to kiddos and other Seuss fans.

Here’s the card:

“The Cat in the Hat,” Faithfully Copied by Holly M.

And the envelope with one of the labels affixed [ignore the smudges from my scanner]:

Envelope by Holly M.

Holly made the card for me to share, but hmm….I’m not sure I’m willing to part with it [yet]. It needs to spend some time on my inspiration wall. Maybe, I’ll fill the envelope with Seuss stickers and send it into the world. I think that’s fair. Don’t  you?

If you get a moment, take a stroll over to Holly’s ThreeSixFiveArt blog where Holly posts (almost) daily about her “random little pieces of art.” Her discipline is inspiring.

One of my artist-professor friends told me that with time and practice anyone can become an artist, that art is a skill that anyone can master. I’m taking him at his word, so when my life feels less chaotic and more like my own, I’m going to enroll in art classes.