Happy Spring: Education Outdoors

The weather today was (and is) too gorgeous for indoors.  By afternoon, I couldn’t resist, so a couple of my students and I decided to take education outdoors.

English majors discussing issues they’re examining for their final projects.

How did you celebrate the first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere)?

Love Inspired: Loyal Birds and “Fowl” Words

For a recent “Love Inspired” swap for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot Gale D., my partner, went birds and feathers on me.  The goal of the swap was to pair a love quote with an appropriate photo.

Gale settled on a quote from  A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh:

Some people care too much.  I think it’s called love.

Gale does a lot of bird photography, so she sent me two of her favorite photos.

The first, a pair of Mute Swans:

“Mute Swans” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

According to Gale’s note, the Mute Swans “stay together forever. It saves time and energy, and they produce more cygnets this way.  They make a great team.”

I found some interesting tidbits about Mute Swans on Cornell University’s All About Birds Site.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Mute Swans are not native to North America
  • The swans pretty much mate for life, but will find another mate if a partner dies
  • Their reputation for monogamy along with their white plumage has helped establish them as a symbol of love in many cultures
  • The Mute Swan is the “star” of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling
  • The swans are pretty aggressive (so give them lots of space)
  • The oldest known Mute Swan is 26 years, 9 months old

Gale also sent a pair of Canada Geese and their goslings.

“Canada Geese,” by Gale D., grstamping on swap-bot

Gale wrote that she loves Canada Geese, but although they adapt around humans well, she hasn’t had much opportunities to get close to the geese.  Ironically, she lives in Canada.  This particular photo was shot in a cemetery pond.

There are a LOT of Canada Geese on the university campus where I work.  She’d have no problem getting up close and personal with them. During early fall, they pretty much rule the campus, even stopping traffic at times.  That can be annoying, but it is a pretty glorious sight to see them take flight in formation.

During the second year of their lives Canada Geese find a mate, and like Mute Swans, they are monogamous and mate for life.

It truly is inspiring to find such “faithfulness” and “loyalty” in the animal kingdom.  We often think so little of them, but we have so much to learn from them.

Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God who I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.

Microblog Mondays: African Masks [Children’s Art]

My son is all better and back in school, but I must say, I was in kiddie art heaven last Thursday while I waited to meet with his teacher to collect the assignments he missed.  The school held its annual art fair and though I didn’t see everything, what I did see was pretty impressive.

I’m in the throes of midterm grading, so I’m just going to share the colorful masks done by my son and his peers in Mrs. Trott’s 5th-6th grade (combined) class.

They all started with a basic mask and added touches that express their personalities.

I love every one of these masks!

The students have been learning about the continent of Africa–its landforms, peoples, histories, and cultures–so I’m sure this was a fun exercise to complement their lessons.

Well, I’m back to grading.  I’ll be back eventually with pics of some of the other art.

Happy Monday!

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Microblog Mondays: “I Will No Longer Hide in the Shadows”

Need Meets Love and Compassion

“I Will Be The Place Where Need Is Met with Love and Compassion”

If Trump does no other good, we must acknowledge that the reality of his presidency has awakened a slumbering nation.  Many finally realize that we can no longer resist in silence and leave the fate of our nation in the hands of elected officials, many of whom for too long have served their own political interests and agendas and have paid attention to their constituents only when it was time to collect votes.

"I Speak for the Trees Too."

“I Speak for the Trees Too.”

I am particularly proud of the way one of my nieces, Tiffany, has “awakened” and is [re]claiming her voice. She has been wearing out her boots marching and standing up for human rights and against oppression since the day Trump took office.  On that “fateful” day, she responded to her peers who claimed to be taking a social media hiatus to avoid the political talk and conversations.  In a post that I’m sure set their teeth on edge she called them out of their stupor and demanded that they finally see her and her struggle as a Black woman.

I’m glad that many of you can take a social media hiatus, avoid Facebook for the day and disengage from political conversations. I’m glad that you can “take a break” from all of the hate and negativity that you feel you are seeing. I don’t have that luxury.

I cannot take off my skin.
I cannot un-know what it feels like to have white men tell me that they’ve “never had a black girl suck their d*** before.”
I cannot go back and ask all the things I wanted to know in science classes dominated by men who made me feel inferior, insignificant and ignored.
I cannot forget the fear of being followed and harassed for miles on the highway and being spoken to in demeaning ways by men in grocery stores who thought that they had every right to behave that way.

I will march and I will raise my voice. I will face fear and the pain of the things that have shaped my heart and kept me silent and left me afraid. I will not ignore and turn my back to hate. I will look hate directly in the eye and say, “no more.”

Brokenness mends best out in the daylight, and I will no longer hide in the shadows.

Tiffany marched again this weekend, this time in the 11th Annual Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina, coordinated by the NC NAACP.   “Big” sister Erin–one year older–who is also socially conscious, marched with her. They were interviewed by WRAL News.

With Erin at the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina--being interviewed by WRAL

With Erin at the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina–being interviewed by WRAL

Tiffany is about more than the march. She realizes real change takes more than getting her boots dirty.  While there are things happening in the political arena that we can’t ignore, there are crises in people’s personal lives that need immediate attention, so she’s doing what she can to make life better for others.  This year she’s participating in the Make-a-Wish Trailblaze Challenge to “raise funds and grant wishes for children with life threatening medical conditions.”  It is her goal to “enrich their lives with hope, strength, and joy.”

Travel and Protest: In the airport standing up for immigrants and against the travel ban

Travel and Protest: In the airport standing up for immigrants and against the travel ban.

Thank you for coming out of the shadows, Tiffany.  The world needs you!

March on…

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Microblog Mondays: Reflect.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. –Annie Dillard.

I’ve spent the last 72 hours in bed.  Sick.  Ugh! I wasted a significant amount of that time fretting over the things that weren’t getting done. Initially, I was too sick to read, write, or do much of anything and too irritable to be good company, but a letterpress card Martha S. sent to me last month helped me find value in being sick.

“Reflection.” Designed by David Radarvar.

Reflect.

It will help you learn. It will help you heal. It will help you grow. It will help you better help others. It is the only way to become who you are meant to be.

The card and the accompanying booklet are the perfect journaling companions as I recuperate.  The booklet has six panels which guide reflection on the past year–the good; the bad; career and work; change and growth; friendship and love; and summary.

If you’d like to take some time to reflect, the Holstee guide can be accessed on the site.  Click the “Download the Action List (PDF)” link and you’re there.

What do you do when you’re trapped in bed?

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Microblog Mondays: The Wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

I recently began a new swap series in the “All Things Book-Related” group on swap-bot. For the series, swappers must send partners a book-related postcard with a quote from a fictional or poetic work that enlightens, inspires, or “shows us the way.”  The quote may be printed on the front of the postcard or written on the back.

This is the most recent card I received–for Literary Wisdom #3:

Literary Wisdom

Literary Wisdom from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

The postcard came from Mandi of Lake Elsinore, California.  She writes, “We hear so much bad news these days that we forget there is still love and happiness in the world.”

The Tolkien quote served as a perfect ending to a class discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  One of the most important take-aways from our discussion was the need for us to remain vigilant in the quest to protect our freedoms and preserve our souls while doing so.  We protect ourselves during perilous times–such as these–by recognizing the struggle is not all there is, by praying/mediating, by moving in love, and by immersing ourselves in the love of family and friends.

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Microblog Mondays: Time Out for Cute

I received many beautiful and meaningful postcards the last few days, so at the moment I’m torn between posting something meaningful and something cute.

Watercolor by Martha Slavin

“Cute Overload,” Watercolor by Martha Slavin

As you can see, cute won. Why?  The last few days were challenging, and I just want to stop thinking for a moment.

The postcard is a reproduction of a watercolor by one of my new postcard pals, Martha. Martha is an artist and a writer.  The watercolor was inspired by raccoons that used to live under her deck.  She writes  that they now “just travel through.”

Isn’t he the cutest?

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Microblog Mondays: Permission to Rest

Happy New Year!

Two of my nieces shared a meme from “Quiet Quotes” today–one on Instagram, the other on Facebook. The meme reads, “Raise your hand shamelessly if you have successfully wasted the first day of 2017.”  I raised both hands because I did absolutely nothing on the first day of 2017.

Red-tailed Leopard at the Nashville Zoo

Clouded Leopard at the Nashville Zoo

I was fine with my utter slothfulness until night fell and sleep beckoned.  Then…I started thinking about all the things I could have done.

However, today has been super productive, and as I’m blazing through my to do list, I feel differently.  The “wasted first day of 2017” led to a “successful” second day of 2017.  I accomplished more today than I would have accomplished yesterday and today had I not allowed myself to simply rest.  I work (hard) constantly, often even when I’m on vacation.  I earned the “day off,” and the reality is that all the things that must be done will be done when they need to be done.  I have just about a week left of my winter vacation, and I give myself permission to rest even more if I want to.

What about you?  Do you allow yourself time out–to do nothing–to “be” in your own skin without guilt?

[Note: This year I will be participating in Microblog Mondays.  The idea is to post a short blog every Monday–from one word to eight sentences. This one is a little longer than I intended, but “short” is relative. Right?]