Pop Up, Sunflowers!

When I can’t be in the actual presence of sunflowers, perhaps, the next best thing is receiving sunflowers in the mail. I always, always, always squeal when I turn over a postcard or open an envelope to find SUNFLOWERS!

When I opened the plain white envelope from Janet T for the final note of Love Notes 25, I wasn’t expecting to find a sunflower.

And when I opened the beautiful brown card with the bright yellow laser-cut sunflower on front, I expected to find a note written inside, but…

 

…a whole sunflower field popped up!

None of my photos adequately convey the experience of opening the popup card, but you can probably figure out I nearly passed out with glee!

Here’s a little bit of the experience:

 

The card was designed by Kathie for lovepop.  If you’re interested in what inspired Kathie’s sunflower creation, check out the story by clicking here. And don’t miss the smiley face!

Sunflower week is over, but don’t despair! I have many more sunflowers to share. I’ll spare you another week of sunflowers posts [this year], but maybe, you’ll see one or two or three more before the end of the year.

Until then, shine on!

So Many Sunflowers…

Designed by Michele Frusciano for Pictura

My penfriend Christine has been my most prolific sunflower supplier. At least seven sunflowers on my wall came from her. This number does not include the gorgeous sunflower notecard sets she sent to be shared with others.

Some cards feature her photography. Some her watercolors like the two below. Some are store-bought like the one above. All of them bring cheer and brightness when days are far from sunny.

The card above, designed by Michele Frusciano, is prettier and more detailed than the scan. It is full of light and texture, not flat as it appears. The accents–lines, dots, diamonds, and squiggles–are a metallic blue and gold. The center of the bloom is navy blue and the bloom is embossed–or double embossed (is that a thing?).

Maybe, these photos give a better picture (no pun intended). [Click an image for a closer look].

The watercolor sunflowers below held a beautiful set of monogrammed sunflower notecards Christine purchased to support another artist.

“Quick Watercolor Sunflowers” by Christine

The sunflower sisters appear to be involved in an animated conversation.

“Inspired by Sheila D.”

For this one, Christine borrowed our mutual artist friend Sheila D’s idea of sunflowers in a vase.  She imitated so well that at first sight I thought it was from Sheila!

Sunflowers in vases always remind me of Van Gogh–whose sunflowers I hope to talk about later this week.

Each of Christine’s cards deserves its own blog post. So many sunflowers, so few posts. . .

They Lived “Their Brightest Lives”

“The Brightest Sunflower.” Photograph by Eileen V.

despite knowing
they won’t be here for long
they still choose to live
their brightest lives

rupi kaur, “sunflowers,” the sun and her flowers

Today’s sunflower love features the photography of my Love Notes friend, Eileen V. She captured the sunny bloom while out and about with a friend and sent the card with hugs, strength, and hope in light of Lori’s passing.

Eileen wrote that whenever she sees a sunflower she thinks of me and her daughter, Alanna, who also loved sunflowers.I did not miss the “past tense” in Eileen’s mention of her daughter, and I learned shortly afterwards that she lost her daughter some years ago to a tragic accident. It’s bittersweet to share a precious connection via sunflowers, and when I see them, I will think of Eileen and Alanna.

My heart breaks. It breaks for all of us who have lost someone dear to us. But it comforts me to know Alanna, Lori, and Karlette lived “their brightest lives” and touched so many hearts during their brief sojourn in this world.

Meet Kaja: The Lovely Bear

Kaja, Photo by Oliver Utz

Bears find themselves at the spot where two deep-seated but contradictory human impulses collide: the desire to feel protected from unforeseeable danger and the longing for unspoiled nature.  —Bernd Brunner, Bears: A Brief History

This lovely bear has been sitting in my “to be blogged” bin since February. Her name is Kaja. My Love Notes friend, Eileen V, sent the postcard after learning about my love for bears through a blog post featuring vintage bear postcards from another Love Notes friend.

Kaja is Eileen’s rescue bear. She was rescued along with her two sisters after spending 15 years in a small, concrete garage. The bears were poorly fed and had no exercise. As a result they suffer from arthritis.

The animals are now sheltered in the Black Forest Woods in Alternativer wolf und Bärenpark [Alternative Wolf and Bear Park] Schwarzwald in Germany, which provides the bears [and wolves] with an “animal-friendly home where they can use a natural environment to explore the area, hide, dig caves, bathe or retreat to hibernation.” In the park the animals “rediscover instincts and natural behaviors.”

I’m happy that Kaja has a home designed for her needs, but it saddens me that misdirected “love” for animals leads to their being mistreated. A bear is not a pet. Neither is a panther. Nor a bobcat. Nor a dolphin. Nor an alligator. Nor a rattlesnake.

Love them, but leave them where they belong.

Quotes: The [Prophetic] Wisdom of Lincoln

Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont

As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

–Abraham Lincoln, letter to Joshua F. Speed, August 22, 1855

***     ***     ***

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic destroyed.

–Abraham Lincoln, letter to Col. William F. Elkins, November 21, 1864

***     ***     ***

The ballot is stronger than the bullet.  –Abraham Lincoln, speech, May 19, 1856


Note on Postcard: Sheila L, one of my Love Notes friends, sent the postcard above featuring a bit of the garden and house at Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home. You can find out more about the Vermont home of Robert Todd Lincoln and his wife Mary Harlon Lincoln by clicking the link: Hildene.

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.

 

Autumn: Brilliant Leaves, Happy Mail, and Seven Reasons Why

Last week the temperatures finally dipped into the 50’s and this morning we woke up to 30’s and a freeze warning. I am excited that autumn has finally made an appearance–in terms of temperature at least. [Note: I live in the South, so temperatures may well be in the upper 80’s or even lower 90’s by the end of the week].

I searched for signs of autumn while taking a short walk last week. There was little indication of the season’s change, but I was elated to find autumn leaves on a favorite Dogwood.

It is delightful watching this tree transition over the months, and though I look forward to the blossoms in spring, its autumn leaves beautifully illustrate why I love the season.

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My penfriend/love notes pal Andrea recently sent a bit of autumn-inspired pocket mail. In the one of the pockets she enclosed a list of six reasons why she loves autumn.  [Click an image for a closer look].

Andrea ended her list by inviting “me” to share why I love the season. Of course, it doesn’t take much to get me to extol the virtues of autumn, so here are [my not necessarily top] seven reasons why autumn is my favorite season:

  1. Changing colors of the trees and foliage–especially now that I live in a place where I can see the brilliance of the season
  2. Milder temperatures–long-awaited relief from the oppressive southern summer and a short break from budget-busting utilities bills
  3. Boots and sweaters
  4. Hot chocolate/cocoa and popcorn [yum!]
  5. October–the best month of all!
  6. My new favorite throw [a birthday gift from a new friend]–chocolate brown, leaf embossed, plush–perfect for movie nights
  7. Pumpkin everything–except I’m not too impressed with Krispy Kreme’s pumpkin cake donut. It would be soooo much better if they’d lose the sugar/glaze on top

How about you? What do you love about autumn?


[Also, linking up with Dawn of The Day After in the Festival of Leaves photo challenge]