Beauty and the Triumph of Truth

Artwork by Lori-Anne C.

Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man[kind], the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. –Menachem Begin

Despite the disappointment and sadness in my heart today, I am dropping in to bring you flowers. If you are a United States citizen, you need to turn away from the television, put down your phone, and spend a moment with the pretty.


About the Image: The featured art is the work of my Love Notes friend, Lori-Anne C. She makes some of the most exquisite sunflower art. You can see more of her beauties here: Envelope Full of Sunflowers and You’re Entitled to You. Like the other two, the piece above was sent in celebration of women. The purple tulip and sunflower are especially special to me, since they’re symbolic of my relationship with my sister (also named Lori Ann), whose favorite flower was the purple tulip.

Favorite Moments of 2020

My blogging friend, Akilah of The Englishist, recently posted her favorite moments of 2020. I’m “stealing” her idea because I think we all need a reminder that despite the icky, crazy of this year, there is also a lot of good. Plus, as you know, I love making lists.

So here are some of my favorite moments of the year of (mostly) sheltering-in-place and almost running out of toilet paper.

Trip to New Orleans. Along with my dad’s three sisters, the guys and I visited New Orleans and returned to ‘Bama just before the Coronavirus outbreak. It was a desperately needed trip for all of us. I am so glad we were able to see my parents and some of my siblings before the pandemic forced us all to stay put. I am missing them like crazy, so I’d probably be out of my mind if we hadn’t taken that short trip.

Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project. As you read in an earlier post, I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook to Brooklyn Arts Library. Here’s the link to my mini sketchbook of doodles and quotes if you’re interested: #facethesun: Sunflower and Her Friends.

Try not to judge me too harshly. I’m so not a sketch artist. I didn’t realize I should have only doodled on the front of the pages. I’m definitely going to participate again, with a full-size book and my photography—the art medium with which I’m most comfortable.

Book Talk. Literally two days before the University decided to transition to online learning because of the pandemic, I had the pleasure of coordinating a panel discussion on the book, When Saints Sing the Blues for Wednesday night services at the University church. It was well-attended and well-received. I enjoyed listening to the stories of each of the panelists and speaking with attendees afterwards.

Lettering with the Creator of Cuteness.  Thanks to the gift of time due to the pandemic, I joined Creative Hand Lettering and Doodling with Lindsay. For the first couple of months (or so), I watched Lindsay’s informative and humorous live videos, practiced lettering, and downloaded her free Corona coloring pages and other goodies. The photograph to the left features one of my first projects. The assignment was to use “tinker toy” lettering with a line from a song. This was the perfect creative outlet for our “Corona times.” I don’t have much time to view Lindsay live, but a friend gave me a gift of the workbook, Creative Hand Letter with Lindsay, so I practice whenever I get a chance.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff, who coordinates Love Notes, also hosts Write Together, Art Journaling, and other classes. I joined Write Together one evening, and it was such a healing, soul-filling experience that I rode the high for weeks. Life got in the way for a few weeks and when I found time again, I felt a little weird about joining after having missed so much. If Jennifer continues to host next year, I hope to join at least twice a month.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt. My son’s (middle school) teachers assigned a “pandemic-style” scavenger hunt for the students. They had to find a list of items in their own neighborhoods. We had fun running (and driving) up and down the street looking for the items, and of course, I took advantage and captured some roses.

Eighth Grade Graduation. My not-so-little one “graduated” from 8th grade! So many things were canceled for the students, but the school administrators decided to hold a scaled-down graduation program with social distancing measures in place. It was held in July–almost two months after the planned date–but we were all so happy for this moment of celebration and to see other people! 🙂 My son, as class president, delivered an excellent speech. This was a proud Mommy (and Daddy) moment.

Spectrum Publication. One of my blog posts was reprinted in Spectrum Magazine (online).

The Chair. I accepted the role of Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages. This isn’t exactly a moment, but a shift. I’d served as department chair at another university for several years. I’d also served in other administrative capacities, but even though I enjoy administrative work, I’d made a decision not to go down that road again (for many sound reasons). God had other plans and He let me know very clearly in a moment that can only be described as an epiphany. I don’t know [yet] why He called me to this task, but I promised to walk in obedience, so here I am.

Three Sundays with David Whyte. David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, hosts poetry seminars via Zoom, typically three Sundays in a month. I participated in three–The Courage in Poetry (April); Just Beyond Yourself (May); and Half a Shade Braver (September). In each session, he shared poetic wisdom, stories about his travels, anecdotes about his friend John O’Donohue, his own poetry and the poetry of others. The sessions were life-changing, and I wrote so much poetry as a result.

A Moment with Raven. One of my former students, Raven, came into town to visit family, and she took a moment out to visit me! We met just outside campus at the Farmer’s Market. It did my heart good to see her and know she is doing well! Of course, I tried to get her to leave California and come and work with me, but she makes more than we can pay her. :-/

Sunflowers in My Backyard. My guys planted sunflowers right outside my office window. I watched them grow from seedlings to 6-7 feet tall. They brought so much joy to my days. The sunflower pictured here was the first to bloom. I have many, many more to share, but it’s so difficult to choose!

Moulin Rouge. You read about my encounter with the Moulin Rouge sunflower in an earlier post. This might be one of my top ten favorite moments of the decade.

Sunflowers in My Mailbox. Sunflowers in my mailbox always create a “favorite” moment, and my friends have kept me and my mailbox happy with sunflowers. In addition to the lovely cards and postcards, I received a number of sunflower packages–a boxful of sunflower goodies from my bestie, a personalized sunflower Starbucks cup from my “niece,” Christian, sunflower stickers from Raven, a package full of sunflower postcards from Debbie T, and a beautiful sunflower teapot from Christine B, two of my Love Notes friends.

Christmas Card Lane. I shared the Christmas Card Lane experience a couple of days ago. I needed that strong dose of Christmas joy.

When the year started, we had grand plans, but before many of those plans could be executed, without much warning, everything changed. Instantly. For everyone. In the entire world. As the days rolled on, things got stranger and more complicated and more twisted, and here we are at the end of all that crazy. And I am grateful for these favorite moments and for the many, many beautiful, everyday moments of 2020–(almost) nightly movie nights with my guys, Zoom calls with family, long walks, putting up lights and balloons for birthdays, trying new vegan recipes, opening a mailbox full of happy mail, drive-by visits with relatives and friends, singing and praying with my guys, listening to them play various instruments, and church services in pajamas.

I’m not sure what next year will hold, but “I know Who holds the future.” Therefore, I am looking forward to new moments–ordinary, extraordinary, and beautiful.

Beauty and Purpose

Zinnias by Rift Vegan

Today,  I [re]opened a purple envelope filled with beautiful blooms photographed by Rift Vegan, one of my A Thousand Words pals on swap-bot. She sent the flowers a year ago for “Pink and Purple Awareness,” a swap organized to raise awareness and honor victims and survivors of breast cancer and domestic violence.

Here are her photos with her notes:

“Beauty Berry” by Rift Vegan

This lovely plant is actually native to your area, not mine! They plant all kinds of interesting things at the Rhododendron Garden at Hendricks Park–a favorite place to hike!

“Cosmos at the Community Garden” by Rift Vegan

“Rhododendron” by Rift Vegan

This photo was shot early October last year, so Rift wrote:

Prime time for the rhodys is April, but there are outliers that keep the garden in color all year round.

“Asters” by Rift Vegan

I love asters, but they tend to die when I plant them at my community garden plot. It’s been a few years though. It might be time to try again!

“Pretty” by Rift Vegan

I don’t know what this is, but it’s pretty!

As I read Rift’s notes and tidbits of information, I felt like I was taking a walk with her through the gardens. Along with the pictures, she enclosed a much longer note relating her “pink and purple” stories.

Having lost two sisters to breast cancer and a cousin and acquaintances to domestic violence, these issues are dear to my heart. Of course, the problems cannot be solved with flowers. The flowers are simply a beautiful way to honor their strength and remind us of hope.


Update: Thanks to Darren, the ArtyPlantman, I now know the “pretty” flower is called Osteospermum. Of course, the Arty Plantman would know! Thanks, Darren!

Mums the Word!

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.

–Mary Oliver, “Franz Marc’s Blue Horses,” Blue Horses, 2014

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the autumn flower–mums!

When we celebrated my aunt’s birthday this past weekend–social distancing measures in place–I knew I had to capture the mums welcoming us to her home. I had plans to play around with them later.

I’d been adding “create something” to my daily to-do list for days, but had not managed to check off that “task,” so I sat down with my computer and iPad to “play” during last night’s non-presidential debate[?].  I was able to revisit the mums and transform them in more ways than I can share in one blog post.

Here are three of the 12 pieces I crafted. [I will share some of the others in separate posts].

Maybe, they’re beautiful. Maybe, they’re not. No matter. The pleasure was in the process of creating, not the outcome.

#ThursdayTreeLove | “Pretty and Sweet”

I am not like the rose, [so] beautiful and enchantingly rare that it seduces you; and when you have fallen so deliriously, it pierces you with its thorns, wounding you so deep.

I am like the hibiscus, pretty and sweet, yet ordinary. You’d find me anywhere—in backyards and graveyards too, but what you see is what you’d get—no hidden thorns to bare.—Diwa

One day, not too long ago, I was checking out my aunt’s “new” backyard–she had recently moved.  As I was taking in the size of the yard—not too big, not too small “for someone her age”—I was drawn to the way the setting sun caressed blossoms spilling over into the back corner of her yard from her neighbor’s yard.

I recognized the blossoms. Hibiscus, right?

But do hibiscus bushes grow so tall? The tree I was looking up had to be at least 10 feet tall.

I did a little “research” and “lo and behold,” I learned that either there is such a thing as a hibiscus tree or hibiscus plants can be groomed into a tree or both. I am not a horticulturist, so please don’t judge me too harshly for not having the fine details.

I’m just here for the beauty.


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.

A Little Respite…

Earlier today, I decided to go to Instagram to look at pretty things–flowers, poetry, art, and trees.  What I found was beautiful–many, many posts and responses to racism and social injustice in this country. As I hoped and prayed that the posts serve purposes beyond “looks” and “likes,” I continued to scroll for a bit of loveliness. Sadly, there was little.

Today, on this yet again not-so-#WordlessWednesday, I’m writing to invite you to continue to share the pretty. It is indeed important to speak up and act against racism, social injustice, and violations of human rights and to encourage and hold the conversations–especially since in this particular moment of struggle we may finally birth something new and right. Continue to use social media as a platform to inform, educate, and express outrage, but I implore you to continue to share the other aspects of your life also. We need it. We need respite from the struggle and the trauma. Our lives, though full of pain, are also full of beauty and love.


About the image: I spotted the bright yellow “heart” above as the guys and I exited a nature trail last Friday. It spoke volumes. It speaks volumes.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Beauty Remains

Beauty remains in nature, sun, freedom and yourself. If you just look for it, you discover yourself and God, you will stand out. –Anne Frank

My guys and I rediscovered the treasures above in the backyard a windy afternoon two weeks ago. The top photo features the remains of a log that once held a heart in its center.  The log in the bottom photo has been home to many tiny creatures over the years, and though it appears to be reaching its last days, it is still an incredible work of art.

If we “just look for it,” we will discover there is extraordinary beauty in the “remains” of trees.


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.

Heartwounds | #WordlessWednesday

I left my final class of the day saddened by comments made by one of the students. In our discussion about how two films define love, forgiveness, redemption, hope, and freedom, she spewed venom about love in a way that shocked most of the other students.

Sometimes it’s easier for a wounded individual to speak from anger than it is to confront deep pain, but, as an English professor, it’s not my place to “psychoanalyze” her or any other student. It is my “job,” however, to help her develop sound intellectual traits. But, because of her wound, she could not see the shortsightedness of her thinking.

I thought about my student this evening as I was reading through Anointed to Fly, a poetry collection by Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles. The words of “Heartwounds” [below] seemed to leap off the page. With incredible insight, the poem describes the  persistent ache of a woman who [once] loved.  I thought about my student as I read the poem.

“Heartwounds”
Gloria Wade Gayles, Anointed to Fly

Some men have not learned that heartwounds
as deep as a woman’s need for love
do not respond to phoney curatives
of roses, sweetened words and
make-up passion in scented rooms.

They do not heal themselves
with the passing of time
which erases time only
but not pain and the memory
of pain.

Let untreated
heartwounds become
sores
scabs
scars
ugly reminders of flawed love.

Some men believe
women were born
to endure
to understand
to forgive
to be irrational in all things.

It is that way,
they tell us,
with the pull of the moon.

They will not learn
perhaps cannot learn
that a woman’s heart
damaged by multiple wounds
beats faintly

and then

not
at
all


I’m sorry this isn’t a happy poem, and that this #WordlessWednesday is kind of wordy. You can skip the poem and just look at the pretty picture if you wish. I’ve been practicing photographing roses, so you’ll see another rose photo soon.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Knot So Beautiful

There is good in life every day.
Take a few minutes to distract yourself
from your concerns–
long enough to draw strength from a tree…
–Pamela Owens Renfro, “Reach for the Good”

August has been a strange month so far. I have felt “out of sorts” most days and have been so swamped with “things to do” that I’ve found far too little time for the things that add color to my days. This has made me even more grateful to be back on campus with the trees. The heat makes my time outdoors brief, but a [literal] moment with the trees every now and then does much to right my spirit.

The knotty tree above caught my eye as I walked past it with one of my colleagues. Naturally, I paused to take a snapshot with my phone camera. Although my colleague was grossed out by the knots, I was intrigued. I wondered about the tree’s story.

Trees develop knots in response to “stress”—weather, insects, injury, viruses. The knots are evidence of healing and repair. They give the trees character, and if we think about it for a second, it’s pretty amazing that trees are capable of creating beauty from something that can potentially destroy them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were more like trees? Perhaps, we are more like them.

To some degree, how we respond to tension is a matter of choice. Instead of internalizing our stress and creating destructive knots that can lead to mental and physical illness, we can respond to it in productive ways–praying, meditating, journaling, creating, crafting, singing, speaking up for ourselves, setting healthy boundaries.

If left unchecked, stress can leave us damaged and unhealthy. We transform these undesirable effects when we work through our stressors in ways that create beauty in our hearts and lives.

As for my colleague—no worries about her. If she continues to hang around me, she’ll be looking at trees in a different way very soon. 😉


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.