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!

Woman | #WordlessWednesday

Ann Gardner, “Breathing,” 1996. Sand cast glass, silver leaf.

Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits.  –Ntozake Shange, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo


About the image: Today’s image features the artwork of sculptor Ann Gardner. The piece, entitled “Breathing,” is part of the American Studio Glass collection, on continuous view at the Huntsville Museum of Art. The sculpture is so fierce and feminine that I couldn’t resist pairing it with Shange’s words.

Acquainted with the Night: A Painting and a Poem

“A Yorkshire Lane in November 1873,” by John Atkinson Grimshaw

#ThursdayTreeLove | Recollections

Recollections, Watercolor by Wanda A

It is difficult to realize how great a part of all that is cheerful and delightful in the recollections of our own life is associated with trees. –Wilson Flagg

I realize the image above isn’t a “real” tree, but this tree is special to me. Wanda, my sophomore year college roommate and brilliant art major, painted and gave the tree to me as a gift at some point before we parted ways–she to an art school in New York, me to an internship in Maryland.

The inspiration for this watercolor was a young tree that grew outside of our first floor dorm room. We often sat in our room with the window open and gazed at this tree. When alone, we contemplated and meditated. When together, we people-watched and discussed the trials and triumphs of life and love with our favorite tree always in view.

I looked for the tree almost seven years ago when I first returned to the campus as a professor; unfortunately, it is no longer there. I don’t even have a photograph, so I’m grateful my roomie and friend immortalized the tree through her artwork.

Wanda informed me that her daughter [corrected] is headed to our alma mater this fall [gasp]! Hopefully, she’ll find a special tree and much that is cheerful and delightful.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Joy Break 5 | Scatter Joy!

“Scatter Joy,” Printable by Ashley @ The Handmade Home [Click image to access the printable]

When I was in college, every Friday students were given an opportunity to write positive, joy-filled messages to whomever they wished. Someone would go around the cafeteria during the lunch hours and pass out minimally decorated colored paper entitled “Joy Notes,” give individuals an opportunity to write a message, collect them, and deliver them to the dormitory offices for distribution via students’ mailboxes.

It was such a pleasure to write these notes because I knew they would make the recipients feel loved and appreciated.

What a treat it was to discover a “Joy Note” in my own box–especially after an unbearable or stressful week.

I saved many of the Joy Notes written to me, and they still warm my heart. Among them are a note from my roommate, expressing her delight that we were rooming again and appreciation for my friendship; a note from one of my good friends that decried our busy senior-year life and that let me know she cherished our friendship though we didn’t have as much time to chat as we had in previous years; one from another friend, thankful for my support through a difficult time in his life; a lengthy “missive” from my bestie after she moved off campus about how much work she was getting done since she didn’t have our long talks, shopping sprees, one-on-one basketball games, and other adventures to distract her. But, of course, she was missing all of that! 😀

You know where this is heading.

This wouldn’t be Joy Week on Pics and Posts if I were to let it end without encouraging you to spread joy to others.

It’s always a delight to know that someone is thinking of us and that we are appreciated for simply being who we are. So…take a moment to write a “joy note” today. Write a note to your spouse, your child, a long-lost friend, your parents for putting up with you; a “thinking of you” note to a few individuals you haven’t heard from lately; a thank you to the neighbor who kindly drags your trash can from the curb each week or who cuts your grass as a surprise while you’re on vacation.

We shy away from such activities because we overthink them and try to do much more than is necessary. In this case, “less is more.” Even one sentence is sufficient to spread a little joy.

To make life easier, you can use the simple 4×6 printable I designed using one of my own doodled flowers. [Aren’t you proud of me?] The card prints nicely in black and white too and can be sent as a postcard if printed on card stock.

[Click the links below to access the freebies–one ruled, one unruled]

The “spread joy” flower was inspired by a coneflower drawn by my penfriend Christine for the Brooklyn Art Library Sketch Book Project. Her flower was inspired by a flower sketched by Jane M., another artist and Love Noter. One person’s creative joy led to another’s and that led to another’s. See how quickly the joy spreads?

Come on! Let’s scatter some joy this weekend!


About the image: The gorgeous “Scatter Joy” image is available as a free download from Ashley at The Handmade Home.  Click the image to view the original post and download the freebie. Display it in your home to remind yourself to “scatter joy” each and every day.

 

Joy Break 2 | Dance, Dance, Dance

“Allow yourself to trust joy and embrace it.
You will find you dance with everything.”

My Love Notes friend, Connie, sent the postcard above a couple of years ago. She found it and many others at an art fair, I think. Even though I searched “high and low” for information about the artist, I found none.

This is one of my favorite postcards because there is so much joy in the artwork–the colors, the movements, the expressions. The dance is part of the conversation between the women whose very souls seem to be possessed by joy.

Perhaps, that is the point of the quote above (attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson). When we release ourselves to joy, there’s a light in the step and mirth in the eyes. Our very beings are infused with joy.