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. 

Art Mail and Watercolor Therapy

As I mentioned a month or so ago, I’ve been “doing art” to combat some of life’s stressors. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve been able to pull off. In fact, one of my friends loved my doodles and drawings so much that she chose one as her new logo. Wow–right?

Thanks to artist and blogger Deb Breton, I’ve now added watercolor to my daily art therapy sessions. She sent an art mail package that contained a set of 12 watercolor pencils, a 9×12 watercolor pad, and a print featuring “Birds on a Wire,” one of her first watercolors. Squeal!

I played with the pencils all weekend, familiarizing myself with the medium. I prefer a smaller canvas, so I cut the paper down to 4×6 and experimented with the watercolor pencils, ink, and regular colored pencils. Here’s a sampling of my weekend fun.

Trying out the pencils.

My first not so great background–which I tried to redeem with a doodled flower and a “feel good” quote.

A better background. I have plans to add a poem and doodles or a photo.

My third attempt at flowers. Same quote.

The “paintings” actually look better “in real life,” but they’re still far from perfect. Of course, perfection is not the point. In fact, it’s freeing to have less expectations, so I can continue to experiment and have fun without the pressure.

Before you go, be sure to click one of the links above and check out Deb’s “Birds on a Wire” and her other work. I’m always inspired by her creativity!

Thank you, Deb, for making my life a little more artful!

The Elephants Know–It’s Been One of Those Days

Photo by Stefanie Powers/Viesti Associates

Look at what I found! A postcard from the ’90s!

Wow! That’s longer ago than it sounds. In fact, based on my address at the time, this postcard was literally sent at the beginning of the decade. 28 years ago. Can that be?!

The postcard came from the same friend I “mused” about a month ago. I found it in a file folder with some other postcards from lifelong friends–as I was cleaning out old stuff to make room for new stuff. It was odd to find them there, since I normally keep letters and cards organized in boxes.

The card is perfect for today. It matches my mood.

I’ve been stuck indoors all week because of cold and rainy weather, and I’m over it! I’m so over it! It’s cramping my autumn-loving style and hindering my ability to think straight and get things done. Including blog posts.

So, enjoy the elephants.

I’m going to curl up under my favorite blanket with a piping hot cup of pumpkin spice tea and a good book. Not Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I’m saving that one for winter break. 😉

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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]

Sometimes All You Can Do…

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  –1 Peter 5:7

It was such a pleasant surprise to find a card from my little “sister” Brittany in my mailbox when I returned from work today.

Photo/Scrapbook Page by Maggie Mae Sharp, Maggie’s Quill, Inc.

Sometimes all you can do…is bow your head and pray.

Brittany wrote that she thought about me when she saw and purchased this card almost four months ago. Sending it was delayed, but it arrived right on time–just when I need prayer and a good chuckle.

Brittany could have sent her loving message via text message, but I ❤ that she wrote it in a cute card and sent it via snail mail. I can tuck it in my planner or a journal and read it again and again.

Someone you know needs to know that you’re thinking about them, so grab a card and write a note. A couple of sentences go a long way to lift someone’s spirits.

Thanks for the prayers and the love, Brit!


Note about the card: The card comes from “Maggie Mae’s Scrapbook.” The back of the card gives a little history about the company: For many years, Maggie Mae Sharp has kept her favorite memories of family and friends in a scrapbook, combining nostalgic charm of antique photography with the wit and wisdom of treasured family jokes, quotes, scriptures, and common sense adages. Today, she brings some of her favorite combinations of pictures and words in greeting card form. Maggie Mae says, “I hope you will enjoy sharing some of my scrapbook memories with the special people God has placed inyour life.”

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.