Wild Roses and a Moment of Sweetness

“Eglantine,” from an original mouth-painted by D. Legrix. Published by the Association of Handicapped Artists.

I had a sweet moment today while looking for a particular postcard to blog today. Mixed in with the snail mail and art projects [in various stages] that consume my craft desk was a card from Aunt Sac [short for Sacramento], one of my great aunts, written way back in 1992.  Aunt Sac was very fond of me and I of her. [I was her favorite, but shhh…don’t tell].

In the note, she mentioned speaking briefly with my sister Lori and my [late] Aunt Joy’s failing health, emphasizing her complete trust in God. She joked about her age, commented on not seeing my mom lately, and encouraged me to “keep working hard and praying much.”  She closed the letter with the familiar phrase, “Love you,” our reminder that we’re okay even if all isn’t right in the world.

Aunt Sac is no longer with us, but she still holds a special place in my heart. I pulled the card from my box of old letters earlier this year [for some reason?]; it was nice to run across it again this rainy Thursday. There’s so much history and sweetness in old letters.


About the Image: I was also intrigued by the card. I’m sure I paid little attention to the artwork in my youth, but I am pleased to [now] learn about Denise Legrix (1910-2010), a French writer and artist who painted by mouth. The artwork, entitled “Eglantine,” was produced from an original and  published by the Association of Handicapped Artists, Inc., which is no longer active. I think the work of that organization was picked up by the Mouth & Foot Painting Artists association. Eglantine [sweetbrier] is a type of wild rose. The scan does little justice to the luxurious card, which has the look and feel of an original painting.

Until tomorrow…

Peace Reigns…

“Peace Reigns Over River.” Artist: Qiu Ying, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ink and color on silk.

Sacred hearts
Powered by love and above —
Energies of peace
Lily Wang

I received the postcard above a week or so ago and I have been seriously fascinated by it. According to the information provided on the postcard, this is only a part of Qiu Ying’s “Peace Reigns Over River.” That is difficult to imagine since the partial painting is filled with so many fine details and dozens upon dozens of stories. [Click the image twice for a closer look].

Qui Ying was a Chinese painter, one of four master artists of the Ming Dynasty. According to the brief biography on ArtNet, he “specialized in the gongbi technique, in which the brush was used to describe forms without flourish or expressive variation.” You can read more about Qui Ying here: China Online Museum.

The postcard was sent to me by my friend, Cy, who studies Chinese art and culture. In her message she pointed out some of the beautiful blessings of life, noting that though we are friends “in real life,” we have also been penpals for 30 years (Wow!): She writes:

Here’s to–photo walks during the day; beautiful scenes from nature; a new book by your favorite writer; being in your happy place; having your truths set you free; “liking” the love of your life; getting lost in a beautiful place; receiving mail from a penpal of 30 years.

To that we’ll add–the reign of peace and “sacred hearts” energized by “Love.”

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Happy Birthday to Me | #WordlessWednesday

Bears being sent through the mail should never be squashed up to make them fit. It gives them indigestion. -Pam Brown

Look what traveled all the way from Germany via post to wish me a “Happy Birthday” and live with me forever? Svenja made it just for me and sent it for an October birthdays swap via swap-bot. Thankfully, my little bear friend wasn’t “squashed up” because he fit neatly into an envelope  that fit neatly into my mailbox. No indigestion!

It’s perfect for a birthday #WordlessWednesday and it’s a willing model for bear drawing practice.

Now, pardon me while I continue birthday shenanigans. Or, go to sleep.

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.