His Joy…My Strength

Joy is the atmosphere of heaven. It is the air God the Father Himself breathes in every day of eternity. And because joy is heaven’s delivered gift to me while I walk on planet earth, it is my delight and strength to experience the blessedness that God on His throne enjoys.   –Carol Burton McLeod, Joy for All Seasons

Paper Bag Art: Smile. You Are Unique.

Do brown paper bags inspire you?

I love the message on the paper bag at Chop Chop, my favorite “new” restaurant to get a chopped salad [They only sell salads, so don’t go there looking for chops]. 😉

In short, simple sentences, the bag offers “feel good” advice for living the good life.

There’s too much positivity on the bag to toss or use till it falls apart, so I decided to upcycle it into something that would last “just a little longer.”  With paper and glue, I transformed the bag into art for my inspiration wall.

This was simple to make–I used two pieces of 12 x 12 scrapbook paper, trimmed one to about 11 x 11 and then recycled the chipboard from a package of pocket pages. The bottom layer is a about 12.5 x 13.  After trimming the excess from the bag, I layered everything and applied three coats of Sparkle Mod Podge. I, then, added some embellishments from my stash. All done! [Eventually, I’ll get it framed].

Just in case you have difficulty seeing all the words, it reads:

Smile.You are unique. Discover and pursue your passions. Support your community. Listen and be heard. Be the change you desire. Your time is now. Take a moment and just breathe. Enjoy simplicity. Learn and practice every day. Question the status quo. Climb higher. Leave a gentle footprint. Live free. Eat well. Make amazing friends. Challenge yourself. Live in the moment. Dance when everyone is watching. Be strong. Be loud. Be unafraid. Be relentless. Share your passions. Elevate your tastes. Keep it real. Keep it fresh.

As you can see from the first picture, I have another bag ready to go. I plan to take a completely different approach with that one. For now, I’m eyeing a Chipotle bag for my next “craftsterpiece.”

Have you created anything with a paper bag lately?

Postcards and the Recipe for Summer

I woke up this morning stunned by the reality that there are 25 measly days left of my summer vacation.

Summer is my time to get.things.done. I usually use the time to “repair” and catch up on everything. I read. I write. I play. I watch a whole season of a television series I don’t have time to watch during the academic year. I create. I write letters and send lots of postcards. I purge toys, books, clothing. I catch up on [some of] the “household matters” that pile up from August to May. I plan for fall semester.

This summer is different. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night with an unchanged “to do list.”  Sure, I get some things done. But, despite my daily lists, I spend most of my time daydreaming or staring at the computer screen trying to figure out what to do next–or what I have the desire and energy to do next. Then, I take a nap.

As I was organizing the postcards I received over the last few months, I mulled over reasons I’m not as productive and considered strategies to increase my productivity over the next few weeks.  I paused when I ran across two love notes that scream “summer.” They reminded me that summer is not all about work, and what I need is rest not a reset.

“Pool at Luna Park,” Sketch/Watercolor by Andrea F.

Andrea F., an author/artist and Love Notes participant from Vienna, Austria, sent both images.

The first is a sketch Andrea completed while in Australia in February to escape the cold Austrian winter.  It depicts the North Sydney Olympic Pool with a view of Luna Park.  I’m impressed with how accurately Andrea sketched the scene. Check out a photograph here to see what I mean: North Sydney Olympic Pool [fourth image beneath the central image].

“Summer” by Andrea F.

 

With the collage postcard above, Andrea provided the recipe for summer–masterpieces, poetry, fancy, eternity, and pure art [see image for measurements].

Thanks for the reminder, Andrea! Summer is for all of this.

So, bear with me while I check myself: I work hard from August to May. My weekdays begin at 4:00 a.m. (sometimes 3:00), and I regularly put 75-80 hours per week into my work–preparing for classes, meeting with students, grading papers, attending other meetings, and doing my part for the committees on which I serve.  It’s insane to squeeze everything that I didn’t get around to from August to May into a two-month summer. It is absolutely okay to not kill myself working just as hard while I’m on break. Summer is, after all, the best perk of academia.

Thanks to two beautiful postcards, my break has finally begun–vacation from guilt, lists, schedules, and the fierce pressure to get it all done. I need the poetry, art, fancy, and naps (especially) to cope with life after July.

In Memoriam…

“Treat the Living Well”

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.  –Jennifer M. Granholm

30 Days Straight–We Made It!

“Oscar the Grouch Tree” on the “Tinsel Trail” at Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo! I actually blogged every day for 30 days straight.  Let me tell you. This was not easy, but it was worth it.  Not only did I get caught up on some blogging but I reminded myself that I can find time to get things done “no matter what.”  Most days were manageable; however, there were some rough spots–days when I was overworked and plain ol’ exhausted, nights when selecting photos or scanning images or putting more than two words together felt like the most difficult thing in the world.  But here we are on the 30th post in 30 days.

The most important thing I’m taking away from this experience is a re-acquaintance with a tenacity I’d forgotten I had, the “sticktoitiveness” drilled into me at a very early age by parents who believed a commitment is a commitment and, unless it is destructive, it should be honored–even when I make the commitment only to myself.  I can work around and through time constraints, daily demands, and unexpected challenges to meet my personal and professional goals.  Although they take a different type of energy and intellect, those other projects–the ones that “count” in “real life,” the ones that are on hold “until I can concentrate” or work without life’s constant disruptions–can get done now. And they will.

Thank you, my blog audience, for following along on this adventure and for your “likes,” your comments, and your encouragement along the way. And guess what! NaBloPoMo’s end is timed perfectly.  Today is also the last day of classes for the semester, which means I now get to dedicate the next 10 days of my life to grading.  I’ll be scarce for a week or two, but I’ll be back because I have much more to share.

Oh–in case you’re wondering why Oscar the Grouch is featured on the page, there’s no connection between him and the end of NaBloPoMo.  He’s here because he represents my mood the last couple of days and because he provides a sneak preview of one of my December blog posts. 😉

Until then…Have joy!

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Note: If you missed any of the NaBloPoMo blog posts and you’d like to catch up, click the November archive link. —>

“When Giving Is All We Have”

"I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart." Psalm 9:1 Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

“I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart.” Psalm 9:1.  Gratitude Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

When Giving Is All We Have

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

~Alberto Ríos, 1952

Happy Gratitude Day!

“Such Grace…One Autumnal Face”

"Red Maple"

Captured Today: “Red Maple”

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”

~John Donne~

"Red Maple"

Close-up: “Red Maple”

“Just Like Your Dad,” or Happy Birthday, Daddy!

 

Daddy.

Daddy.

“Just like your dad,” some people say to me. Typically, this is in reference to some unwavering position I hold on a particular issue. I’m not always sure of their meaning, but I take it as a compliment. My father is an honest, hardworking man of his word. He has impeccable integrity. Is he perfect? No. Can he be stubborn and contrary? Indeed! But it is because of his strong opinions and my having to battle him throughout my childhood and adolescence for the right to my own, that I do not waver with every “change in the direction of the wind.” It is because of his (and my mother’s) sacrificing that I know my worth. And because of the fierceness of his commitment and service to our family that I know the character of genuine love.

Today is my dad’s 81st birthday. Eighty-one years is a long time to be blessed with life and good health and love on this earth. It is more meaningful because my dad is the first among his parents and siblings to live beyond the age of 60. I imagine that he spent his years up to that point a little anxious…holding his breath a little. So we celebrated 60.  We celebrated 70. And then, 80. And 80 was major because we had not gathered as a family since Karlette passed.  There was something in the celebration that was more than just another birthday–it was a celebration of “being alive” and with family and close friends. For some of us, we celebrated for Karlette, who loved (and never missed) these family gatherings, and who would have been right there with us making much over Daddy. For some of us, it was intense because our last celebration of this magnitude–for my dad’s 70th birthday–where family and friends gathered was just weeks before Hurricane Katrina scattered us in different directions. For those of us who suffered loss after loss after loss over the last few years, the celebration served as a welcome exorcism of the heaviness of the grief that weighed us down.

That was last year. This year the celebration is a little quieter–as we had a huge family reunion a few weeks ago. But the day is no less significant. As I celebrate my dad and his day, I’m not only looking at today. I am looking back to the warmth of yesterday, meditating on all the intangible and imperishable gifts my father bestowed on his 10 children. I also look to tomorrow, as I realize these gifts are being instilled in generation after generation of his progeny. Though I cannot tell all that he is and all that he’s accomplished in one blog post, this is what I celebrate.

Thank you, Daddy, for being unapologetically who you are and for passing a little of that on to me.

Happy Birthday, with all my love…

 

Mom and Dad with all their children at their 50th wedding anniversary, 2008.

Mom and Dad with all their children at their 50th wedding anniversary, 2008.

Mount Fuji and the Goddess

Mount Fuji

“Princess Tatsuta (Tatsuta-hime),” from A Collection of Takehisa Yumeji’s Pictures in Woodblock Print (Takehisa Yumeji mock-hanga she), about 1935. Color woodblock, published by Kyoto Hanga-in (O-Edo edition). The British Museum.

My penfriend, Beckra, who is putting me to shame in the area of snail mail, sent this postcard with a holiday greeting and update on her academic life.  She included this with well wishes for the new year, referencing the Japanese legend that it is a sign of good fortune to come if one dreams of Mount Fuji at the turn of the year.

Beckra also noted “how the woman’s clothing has its own mountain-like monumentality…” I see that. Do you?

I wanted to know more about the print itself, so I did my own mini-research on the print.

The inscription reads:

Last year the rice was dear, and we lacked for our daily food; this year the rice is cheap and the farmers are suffering. For Princess Tatsuta. Poem by Du Fu.

This is from the curator’s comments:

Tatsuta-hime, Shinto goddess of autumn and the harvest, is manifested as one of Yumeji’s svelte modern beauties in a high-waisted kimono with long swinging sleeves, posing before a distant, barren Mt Fuji. The woodblock print is based on a two-fold screen of the same title (Yumeji Kyodo Bijutsukan), painted in 1931, which may have been intended as a pair with ‘Ode to Mt Haruna’ (‘Haruna sanpu’, 1930). This last depicted a similarly dressed woman as Sao-hime, goddess of spring, standing in front of a landscape of Mt Haruna, the site for Yumeji’s planned Institute of Industrial Arts (Sangyo Bijutsu Kenkyujo). Both screens were exhibited at the Shinjuku Mitsukoshi Department Store just before Yumeji went on an extended trip to USA and Europe (May 1931 to September 1933).

The artist is quoted as saying about Princess Tatsuta: ‘She’s the crowning woman of my life. She’s Miss Nippon! (Takahashi Yoji, ‘Bessatsu Taiyo 20: Takehisa Yumeji’ (Autumn 1977), no. 116, p. 105.)’ The inscription is an adaption of lines by the Tang poet Du Fu (712-70), dedicated by Yumeji to Tatsuta-hime, and can be translated as follows: ‘Last year the rice was dear, and we lacked for our daily food; this year the rice is cheap and the farmers are suffering (Takeda Michitaro, ‘et al’. ‘Nihon no meiga 9: Kiyokata, Shoen, Yumeji’, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1977, [Yumeji] no. 20, text p. 97).’ The print is from a posthumous edition.

Literature:
Smith, Lawrence. ‘The Japanese Print Since 1900’. London, British Museum Press, 1983, no. 63a.

There are many stories packed into this beautiful postcard.

 

The Fall of Autumn

Remember my “Brilliant Hello” posted a couple of days ago?

“Brilliant Hello”

Look at it now.  About a week later–every single leaf blown to the ground, thanks to our cold, windy days.

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“Golden Path”

It’s not even December yet. Winter has usurped autumn.

Brilliant Hello: Golden Walkway, November 2014

Brilliant Hello: Golden Path, November 2014

Autumn is brilliant but brief.