A Moment with the Empress and the Lady

When I taught African American literature, blues artists Bessie Smith’s and Billie Holiday’s songs were key in deepening students’ understanding of the continuities of Black experience and literature and arts in America. I haven’t taught the literature since we moved to Northern Alabama, so their music is collecting dust. In fact, I think the collections are still in boxes.

A couple of days ago, I ran across a Billie Holiday postcard that I’ve had for quite some time–a familiar photo of Lady Day, with the signature gardenia in her hair.

Billie Holiday, c. 1936, Photograph by Robin Carson, from the Collection of Ole Brask

The sender’s note referenced listening to Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith days before sending the postcard. Interestingly, the day after rediscovering the postcard–yesterday, in fact–I received a Bessie Smith postcard from my postcard pal Connie F. Talk about coincidence!

Bessie Smith (1895-1937), Photograph courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives, Pomegranate Communications, Inc.

The music goddesses are telling me to take a moment for Bessie and Billie. They are the best medicine for the madness of the days ahead.

Perhaps, you need a moment too.

Here’s a listening guide of the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, singing “Backwater Blues” with James P. Johnson on the piano:

And for your pure listening pleasure, a 30-song compilation of Lady Day’s “top songs.”

Both women’s lives were cut short, but their influence reaches far beyond their years on this earth, and they continue to make a powerful impact on music in America.

Start with Yes…

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the postcards I received for Love Notes 21, Prompt 1, “Start with…” At the time I did not share the card I designed in response to the prompt because they were en route to the recipients and I didn’t want to “spoil” their fun by posting here.  But here it is…

I captured the train tracks while waiting for my hubby and son to finish up at a pet shop that also sells and exhibits art. Cool, right? The photo served as a perfect image for my response to the prompt:

Start with…yes. The road ahead awaits your consent.

We get so many messages telling us how to say “no”–messages that remind us that we shouldn’t let others take advantage of our generosity or take more than we’re willing to give of our time and resources. The problem is that “no” is such a powerful word that it seeps into our consciousness and into our language even when we don’t want it to, especially when we talk to ourselves. “No” spearheads all the negative self-talk at the root of our unplanted dreams. It convinces us that we’re not prepared enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not articulate enough to do one thing or another. We’ve trained ourselves so well in the art of no that we say “no” to everything…even to things that are healthy and beneficial for us.

So my message…”start with  yes,” is about changing the internal dialogue. It’s about dismissing all the reasons why we shouldn’t and embracing the reasons why we should and all the what ifs in a way that exposes the benefits and not the drawbacks of the word “yes.” Clinging to “no” means we’re stuck in this one place. Never venturing. Never gaining and never reaching what is waiting for us just beyond “yes” and further down the road.

I encourage you to start with yes…and participate as a whole new world unfolds before you.

Speaking of Sunflowers…

“Chelsey’s Sunflower” Postcard Made by Trang K.

Isn’t this the most adorable piglet “sunning” beneath the brilliant rays of a sunflower? This postcard was beautifully made by the talented Trang K, who sent me a different sunflower few months ago. Trang wrote a long note, sweetly embellished with  flourishes, doodled flowers, hearts, and a butterfly.  She closed the card with, “You are a blessing and a treasure” written in gold. I’m convinced her heart overflows into each card she makes.

My sunflowers bloom all year long, thanks to my penfriends.

“The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Spot On!

When Arielle W. offered to send postcards from NASA to interested members of the Love Notes community, I responded “no thanks” because I live in “space central.” Boy, am I glad she ignored me! Why? Just look and see!

Detail of a Sunspot. Big Bear Solar Observatory, New Jersey Institute of Technology

This “space” postcard looks so much like a sunflower that at first glance I thought it was a sunflower. Maybe, this was because I was wearing multifocal contacts–which are amazing in bright light, but a little weird in dim light–but I think many people would have had to take a second look before realizing the image isn’t a sunflower.

The back of the postcard reads:

This detailed image taken in 2010 by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s New Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory–a project partially funded by NASA–features an enormous sunspot on the photosphere of the Sun that is slightly larger than the Earth.

Arielle sent this to me (anyway) because she “thought of me and my love of sunflowers…the card looks almost like a sunflower.” She couldn’t have chosen a better “space” card for me!

Even though this amazing card did not need any help, she also wrote a popular Shakespeare “misquote” on the back:

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.

In case you’re interested, the actual lines are from Julius Caesar:

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. –Cassius to Brutus, Act I, scene ii

There’s some irony in the quote masquerading as Shakespeare appearing on postcard of a sunspot–which I mistook for a sunflower.

Motivation on a Monday: I Hope You Smile

I received a bright purple postcard recently, and without flipping it to the message side, I knew immediately who had sent it–Jacki, my purple-loving Love Notes pal who lives on the other side of the pond.

She wrote a nice, long quote on the back, perfect for sharing on a Monday.

One day it just clicks. You realize what’s important and what isn’t. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realize how far you’ve come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that you would never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become.

I hope that you can smile when you look in the mirror today “because you are truly proud of yourself” and truly in love with the person staring back at you.

If you’re not there yet, wrap yourself in a little purple love, knowing you’ll get there some day.

Because I Love Sunflowers…

Love Notes participants are a creative bunch, and I always feel the love when someone crafts a card especially for me. That is exactly what Lori K did for the Love Notes 21, Prompt 2. After reading about my ❤ for sunflowers, she created a gorgeous autumn-themed sunflower card for me. Double love!

“Autumn Sunflower,” Card made by Lori K.

Lori sent the card with a long, newsy letter that ended with her response to the prompt, “Your history….”

Your history is what makes you who you are. The things you have gone through, both the good and the bad, have taught you how to be the caring and loving person you are. Enjoy each day and make more of your unique history.

Can we talk about how much this sunflower is saving my sanity?

The last five or six weeks have been challenging for my family. My dad has been in and out of the hospital. Worrying, waiting for news, and trying to figure out what’s going on has been emotionally taxing. He’s back in the hospital today, so this sunflower is a beautiful and much needed reminder to turn my face heavenward and trust that God’s “got this.”

Sunflowers normally find a place on the walls of my home and work offices, but I placed this one in my planner because I need to see it each time I open the planner throughout week.

Over the years, my friends–“in real life” and pen friends–have given me many, many sunflower notecards, postcards, drawings, watercolors, paintings, and photos. I’m grateful for the sunflowers, the beautiful messages all around me, prompting me to dwell in the light and stand tall and strong in the face of adversity.

Thank you, Lori. Your sunflower came at the right moment!

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…

Autumn Play

An autumn forest is such a place that once entered you never look for the exit. –Mehmet Murat ildan

I think Eileen V, one of my Love Notes pals, has a crystal ball that allows her to see what I’m going through at the moment. She sent me a bit of autumn cheer recently that arrived on a particularly difficult day.

Im Garten des Zen 2017. http://www.harenberg-kalender.de

Eileen playfully watercolored the postcard to capture the colors of the season–beyond the browns, reds, and yellows.

It’s not simply that she sent mail that celebrated my favorite season, but that her message–which included “sending loads of positive energy”–was perfect for the moment I was in.

The card also arrived when I was going through a brief spell with digital coloring, so while waiting for a meeting to begin one morning, I had a little fun with Eileen’s postcard and altered it in an app. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

These are pretty, but Eileen’s stole my heart.

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! ❤

“Charming” Postcards with Gandhi

It’s been about a month since I posted my response to the final prompt of Love Notes 20, so it’s time to make good on my promise to share the cards I received for the prompt. As you might recall, the prompt was “Be the change.”

I received four beautiful postcards from some of my Love Notes penfriends.

Connie F played a little scrabble and then crafted this cute card. 😉

“Scrabble: Be the Change,” Postcard made by Connie F.

Expounding on the theme, Connie writes,

“Change in our hearts, minds, and actions start with us for sure.”

She closed her greeting with the greeting found on Christine B’s gorgeous butterfly postcard:

“Butterfly Peace,” Photo by Christine

Be the change…and remember without change there would be no butterflies.  FLY HIGH.

Eileen V cited Robin Sharma and cautioned that, “change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.”

“Deep Meditation”

The back was just as artistic as the front with pretty (and neat) handwriting that I can only dream of emulating.

Andrea F, ever unique in her approach to the prompts, sent a recipe, ‘How to be the Change.”

“Recipe for Change,” postcard and charm crafted by Andrea F

Ingredients:

  • You
  • Your passion
  • Lots of love, patience
  • A hint of craftiness

Directions: Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Dream big and go for your dreams. Inspire others and spread your love.

As you can see, Andrea also crafted and placed a wine glass charm on the card. This added a “charming” feature to the card.  I’ve attached the charm to my Gidan Nodza Traveler’s Notebook, so I get to see it every day!

My “Charmed” Traveler’s Notebook

Here’s a close up of the charm:

Charm made by Andrea

See how it honors our snail mail relationship. 🙂

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a quote typically attributed to Gandhi. However, that is simply a pithy “reduction” of Gandhi’s full statement:

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do. – Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi underscores the interactive nature of transformation between the world and us. We, alone, do not create change in the world, rather we respond to the world’s need, a need that is also within us. As we change, the world is transformed and vice versa. 

Are you tuning in? Listening for what the world needs? And what you need?