Kindness Matters. Period.

We wrap up our seven days of kindness posts with the postcard I crafted for Louise Gale’s Global heART Swap.  And we end where we began.

Kindness matters.

“Kindness Matters. Period.”

However, Jewel’s song was not the inspiration for the postcard. Instead, I was inspired by the many, many expressions of kindess I’ve witnessed either directly or indirectly and the powerful impact(s) they have made.

Many of us are familiar with the Ian McClaren’s quote (often attributed to Plato), “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We read this so much that it has descended into the realm of cliche. We no longer “hear” the import of the words, but the reality is that most, if not all, of us are coping with something tragic, challenging, or traumatic.

We convince ourselves that we can do nothing to help, that our small efforts don’t and won’t make much difference, but they really do and will. Our acts of kindness may change someone’s mood from desperate to hopeful and may even make the difference between life and death.

So…

Extend a little kindness in whatever form it needs to take for the situation–smile at strangers, wish someone a nice day, drive with courtesy, pay it forward, forgive, agree to disagree, or walk away. During the particular interaction with you–no matter how brief–an individual may be dealing with something that is much heavier, much more trying, so give that person a momentary break from his or her madness.

Kindness matters. Period.

Just in case you’ve missed any of the earlier posts, they’re listed below for your convenience.

Have a kind week!

Close…Closer…Closest

Don’t be misled by the title–I won’t be giving a lesson on comparatives and superlatives today. 😀

Have you ever shot a photograph that thrilled you?  There’s nothing super spectacular about the photo or the scene even, but shooting it gave you all the “good feels?”

That’s how I feel about a few photos I captured with my iPhone late last week.

Mimosa: Close

I’m not sure why this tree claims my attention. There’s something about the combination of pink and green.  Or maybe it’s the fine wisps that form the featherlike blossoms.

I first noticed the trees several years ago in New Orleans, but I only saw them when I was on the road.  The same thing happened here in Northern Alabama.  I never saw them in a place I could or wanted to stop. . . until last week.

I finally found an opportunity to get up close and personal with the tree when I dropped by my son’s school last week. I glanced up and there was the tree sitting behind the building up a hill!

You know what happened next…

Mimosa: Closer

Now, I see these trees practically everywhere I turn, and my heart does a happy dance whenever I see them.

Mimosa: Closest

To be honest, I’m not even certain what this tree is called.  I read conflicting information about it.  A plant identification app on my phone matched my photo with the Albizia julibrissin, but another website identified the tree as Calliandra surinamensis. The University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions site agreed with the app (Go Gators!).

The tree is commonly called a “mimosa” tree and is native to eastern and southwestern Asia, but flourishes (almost) anywhere it’s planted.  According to UF’s Gardening Solutions site, the mimosa tree is considered an invasive tree and is not recommended for gardening.  The plant that it was mistaken for, Calliandra surinamensis, bears similar blossoms, but is more suited for home gardening.

I’ll continue to appreciate this beautiful tree “from a distance,” photograph them when I can, and play around with the photos in  a few apps. 😉

 

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Have you photographed anything recently that simply thrilled you?

Following Wasps and Finding Hearts

I was sitting in my backyard an hour ago, clearing the clutter of the day from my mind, trying to feel human again–talking to God, listening for His voice, affirming His promise of peace.

As I was lost in thought, a wasp flew by and I absent-mindedly followed its path to a log I found interesting enough to photograph. As I poised to take the shot, the wasp changed its course and led me to this beautiful gift.

“Found Heart”

A found heart! The second one for the day!

My day started with a found heart my penfriend Christine posted on Instagram this morning.

Christine’s “Found Heart”

The hearts are reminders that no matter how utterly mired in the muck of life we find ourselves, love is the fundamental principle, the basis from which we should operate and the truth we must walk in. It is the thing we must cling to in the face of all the stuff tossed our way. It is what keeps us okay–sane and whole.

In the crazy rush of doing and getting it is easy to forget love, so I wish to remind you as I must remind myself from time to time:  You are indeed loved.  Be sure to take some time each day to bask in this knowledge and let it fill you to overflowing.

Hugs and hearts…

Love, Lines, and Angles: Finding Beauty in Ordinary Places

My friend Cy doesn’t consider herself a photographer; however, she has a knack for evoking strong feelings with the ordinary things she photographs with her phone camera. She always remarks that she’s learning a lot about photography from me, but I am learning so much from her.

I’ve been attempting to “train” my eye to see things differently and find art in ordinary things. So, while my camera and I have been having a wonderful time watching spring unfold, I’ve also been making a point of photographing some of the mundane things I encounter in my everyday life, things to which I usually pay little attention.

A couple of weeks ago I focused on lines. They were everywhere–in my office, in the air, on the ground, on my student’s back.   Even though my camera was often mere inches away, I captured the photos below with my iPhone because usually the ordinary is most striking when I’m not expecting it and when I’m not attempting to “force” it.

I noticed the power lines on my walk down the driveway to the mailbox one afternoon. I was struck by the awe and power they represent–power to give life and to take it.

Power and Respect.

The dandelion was beneath them, hoping for some attention, before all the “wishes” blew away.

“Dande-Lines”

A sleek bike was resting in the hallway mere feet away from my (work) office. It was a gift waiting for me to return from a brief walk on campus.  The lines on the floor were not to be ignored either.

“Circles, Lines, and Angles”

The table, chair, and railing lines caught my eye while I was having lunch with a friend, reminding me of all the ways we work to stay connected. The empty chair (for me) represented a friend who could not join us for lunch that day.  

“Lines of Communication.”

Finally, my student’s thought-provoking tattoo.  The words “reflect God’s love” are written in Arabic with the sun and rays providing the visual message.  There’s an intriguing story that goes along with this tattoo, but the lines–the rays–grabbed my attention.

“Reflect God’s Love”

There’s simply so much beauty in the ordinary. Sometimes, it takes adjusting one’s angle or purview just a little, but it’s there. Always.  

Have you found beauty in the everyday things that meet your eyes?

Wabi-Sabi: My Liberate Your Art 2017 Reject

The Liberate Your Art 2017 (LYA) swap has begun! I received my first postcard a couple of days ago and I can hardly contain my excitement as I wait for the remaining cards to arrive.

Some people begin posting their cards on social media and “side-swapping” right away, but I usually wait till the LYA blog hop to post and begin sending extra cards.  I look forward to “the surprises” and want to see the postcards for the first time when they land in my mailbox.

It doesn’t hurt to share a postcard that didn’t make the cut.  Right?

As usual, I had a hard time deciding which cards to choose for the swap, so I had a lot of different cards printed. The design below was an early pick, but after seeing it printed as a postcard, I changed my mind.

“Wabi-Sabi: Beauty and Decay”

There’s nothing spectacular about the original photo, but I liked it when I shot it last August. I was a bit fatigued after being in meetings all day and stepped outside to escape for a moment. The flowers provided aesthetic relief after being trapped indoors.  They were showing signs of decay, but there was something in their beauty that caught my eye that rainy afternoon.

“Beauty and Decay,” iPhone Photo

I edited the photo a half dozen ways using the iColorama app. This was a favorite:

“Beauty and Decay,” Edited in iColorama

Wabi-sabi: a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.  [Definition from WordStuck].

The Japanese principle of wabi-sabi provided the perfect expression for what I was hoping to capture in the photo–beauty in imperfection.  After adding “wabi-sabi” to the photo, I sent the photo for a photo inspiration swap hosted for the “A Thousand Words” group on swap-bot.

“Beauty and Decay,” Edited in iColorama

The final edit (first photo) was colorful and cheerful, and I appreciate that it did not mask the imperfections.

Considering the message of the design, it is a bit ironic that this one was not chosen for the swap.  No worries though.  It has made its way into at least two mailboxes and I have a few more in my stash to share. 😉

Have a fabulous week!

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)?

Autumn Has Flowers Too!

At the mention of spring, we imagine an explosion of blossoms in many, many colors. At the mention of autumn, we think of the changing of trees.  But autumn has flowers too, and that was the point of the photo postcard swap in which my penfriend Beckra and I participated.

On a walk in the woods, Beckra captured Ladies’ Tresses which is a kind of orchid.  She writes that it is “great that when autumn brings some relief from Arkansas heat, it also brings flowers. We call it a second spring.”

Ladies' Tresses, photo by Rebecca R. (aka Beckra)

“Second Spring.” Ladies’ Tresses, photo by Rebecca R. (aka Beckra)

She points out that in this photo the blooms have not fully unfurled.

When I was at the Nashville Zoo last month, there were flowers everywhere.  In addition to some “still flowering” rose bushes and hydrangeas, there were mums everywhere (I think they’re mums).

"Mums the Word"

“Mums the Word”

And there’s always, always something blooming on our beautiful campus. This caught my eye while I was having a very rare moment to chit-chat with my friend, Meli.

Campus Bloom, iPhone Photo

Campus Bloom, iPhone Photo

I was grateful to see some pink dancing with the oranges, yellows, and reds of autumn, but I decided on “typical” autumn colors for the swap.  I played around with a couple of photos in the iColorama app and ended it up with way too many versions, so my hubby and son helped me select some of the edits. From their selection, I sent three or four to Beckra. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

“Behind the Glass” was inspired by an autumn photo Beckra sent to me.  “Van Gogh” is my favorite of the set, probably because he’s my favorite Impressionist.  “Nautilus” and “Ray” tie for second.

The advantage of a late fall here in Northern Alabama is that everything is still so beautiful and brilliant, but I have a feeling that is going to change with the blink of an eye, so I’m pretty sure this is going to be my last autumn post for the year. Until next year, I’ll just enjoy this year’s photos. 😉

Nature Photo Challenge: An Old Friend

"An Old Friend," (Original), September, 2015

“An Old Friend,” (Original), September, 2015, iPhone 5

I continue the “Nature Photo Challenge” with a photo of a tree I see almost daily during the work week.  There are many beautiful trees in my work environment at varying stages of life.  This one is near my building, just outside the side door.  I behold its changing beauty each time I step outdoors for a much needed breather.  I almost can’t help snapping a shot with my phone before returning to my office.

The weather and years have aged it gracefully.

"An Old Friend," September, 2015

“An Old Friend,” September, 2015, iPhone 5 (Altered in Snapseed and Photos/Mac)

List Journaling: What Makes 4th Graders Happy?

I really, really don’t have time to write a blog post, but I must interrupt my unplanned blogging hiatus to share with you how I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time I had with a group of fourth graders earlier today (my little one’s class). We talked about and played with some of the things that bring me joy–writing, list journaling, stickers, and washi tape!

The kids must have been as excited as I was: One of the parents sent me a text message thanking me for taking time out to do something special with and for the kids.  I joked that the kids are really my captive audience–since very few of my adult friends want to play with stickers and make lists just for the fun of it.

I spoke with the kids about list journaling, showed them a “100 Things That Give Me Joy” list I wrote a little over a year ago, and challenged them as a class to write 100 things that make them happy.  I figured, if everyone worked toward writing 10 each, maybe, we’d get to 100 collectively.IMG_5593

They had a blast selecting stickers and washi tape and decorating their new journals. In fact, some of them spent a lot more time on decorating than they did on writing!

If you’ve ever wondered what makes kids happy, here’s a list–in their own words:

  1. God/Jesus
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Animals
  5. Robots
  6. Writing
  7. Playing
  8. Singing
  9. Dancing
  10. L.A.R.P.ing (If you guessed that my child wrote this one, you are absolutely right! Just in case you don’t know, LARP is an acronym for “Live Action Role Play”)
  11. Owls
  12. Reading
  13. School
  14. Bunnies
  15. Lions
  16. Tigers (and bears, oh my!–I added that part for dramatic effect.  Did it work?)
  17. The Philippine eagle (very specific!)
  18. Owls
  19. Panthers
  20. Falcons
  21. Basketball
  22. Soccer
  23. A great view
  24. Drawing smiling faces
  25. Singing happy songs
  26. Rollerskating
  27. Watching television
  28. Physical Education (PE)
  29. Resting
  30. Swimming
  31. Dressing up
  32. Doing hair
  33. Sleep (Yes!)
  34. Going to restaurants
  35. Movies
  36. Reading the Bible
  37. Eating
  38. Love (Hugs for this one)
  39. Brother
  40. Mom (Of course!)
  41. Flowers
  42. Ice cream (Surprisingly, I saw this only on one list)
  43. My pet
  44. This journal (Aww…)
  45. My toys
  46. When people play with me
  47. When my parents buy things for me
  48. Acting
  49. Taking care of animals
  50. Drawing
  51. Watching the flags outside the school
  52. Swimming during the hot summer
  53. Working out at the gym near home (This child is inspiring! How many nine-year-olds work out?)
  54. Watching stars in the sky
  55. Superman movies
  56. Football
  57. Iceskating
  58. Sleepovers
  59. Zoos
  60. Candy
  61. Flowers
  62. Stars
  63. Cake
  64. America
  65. Sewing
  66. Quilting
  67. The color pink
  68. Emojis
  69. Space

IMG_5595We fell a bit short of the 100-mark, but most of the kids wrote at least 10 things. It just so happens that many of the same things make them happy.  As a whole, they seem to value and find joy in things that really matter–God, family, and friends were on almost every list. I like that they take pleasure in participating instead of passively watching.

Their lists did not reflect the materialism that is so much a part of our cultures.They proved the point that no matter how much they whine, beg, and “barter,” electronics, clothes, and the latest “things” don’t really make kids happy.

We ended our short time together with their making a commitment to continue working on the lists and writing in their journals.  That was the goal–to get them writing for pleasure on a regular basis.

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for sharing your class time with me!

Just in case you have no idea what I mean by “list journaling,” it is simply journaling via list, usually based on a prompt. Although it is an easier way to approach journaling, it is amazing how much we can learn about ourselves through listing.

If you’re interested, there are many wonderful list journal “communities.”  My favorites are:IMG_5597

  • The Reset Girl’s #ListersGottaList–provides monthly list journaling prompts for adults and children
  • Kam and Amy’s 30 Days of List–provides journal prompts for three months out the year.  A small fee is required.

You can go all the way out and embellish your journal with stickers, stamps, washi tape, art, etc. or you can keep it simple and just make lists. It’s all up to you!

That’s it for now.  Be sure to “tune in” again soon. I plan to share with you artwork by the same group of fourth graders! Children’s art–one of the things that give me joy!