In This Moment…

In this moment, I am Monday evening weary, but I am enjoying the quiet just before bedtime and the beautiful note written by Nicole E., my partner for Love Notes 30. For the first prompt, “In this moment,” she penned:

In this moment…

…you are a gift of love to all those who meet you.
…your desires of the heart are being nurtured by Mother Nature.
…everything you need for success is in the very place you stand. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and look around you. Inspiration is right there.
…you are not only enough, but you are allowed to ask for more.
…there is a cup of tea waiting for you to savor every sip. It wants to reveal its magic to you.
…I have enjoyed writing this note to you!

Nicole wrote her note inside an elegant laser cut card by Mara-Mi. I can’t seem to photograph the card adequately, but you can see a picture of the card here: Mara-Mi Floral Card.

The roses are in honor of my mom’s birthday. She’s 83 today! ūüôā

Until next time…

Wild Roses and a Moment of Sweetness

“Eglantine,” from an original mouth-painted by D. Legrix. Published by the Association of Handicapped Artists.

I had a sweet moment today while looking for a particular postcard to blog today. Mixed in with the snail mail and art projects [in various stages] that consume my craft desk was a card from Aunt Sac [short for Sacramento], one of my great aunts, written way back in 1992.¬† Aunt Sac was very fond of me and I of her. [I was her favorite, but shhh…don’t tell].

In the note, she mentioned speaking briefly with my sister Lori and my [late] Aunt Joy’s failing health, emphasizing her complete trust in God. She joked about her age, commented on not seeing my mom lately, and encouraged me to “keep working hard and praying much.”¬† She closed the letter with the familiar phrase, “Love you,” our reminder that we’re okay even if all isn’t right in the world.

Aunt Sac is no longer with us, but she still holds a special place in my heart. I pulled the card from my box of old letters earlier this year [for some reason?]; it was nice to run across it again this rainy Thursday. There’s so much history and sweetness in old letters.


About the Image: I was also intrigued by the card. I’m sure I paid little attention to the artwork in my youth, but I am pleased to [now] learn about Denise Legrix (1910-2010), a French writer and artist who painted by mouth. The artwork, entitled “Eglantine,” was produced from an original and¬† published by the Association of Handicapped Artists, Inc., which is no longer active. I think the work of that organization was picked up by the Mouth & Foot Painting Artists association. Eglantine [sweetbrier] is a type of wild rose. The scan does little justice to the luxurious card, which has the look and feel of an original painting.

Until tomorrow…

A Written Word: A Small Thing

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:18 MSG

Among the precious notes written to me by my colleagues and students is a touching letter and beautiful tulip sculpted by my multi-talented student Tyhara Rain.

I’ve read the letter many times in the quiet of the night and when I pause during the day. Tyhara’s soothing words remind me into Whose arms I can fall when the darkest despair descends:

When you feel too emotionally worn out to get through the day, when your heart aches too much to let you fall asleep, I encourage you to close your eyes…breathe…imagine yourself cradled in the loving arms of our Savior. Feel free to bury your face in His chest, and feel free to feel the ache and sorrow of loss.¬† Sob if you have to. He understands. Feel his arms wrap tightly and protectively around you in your broken state. Listen to His whisper as He reminds you of His promises of life eternal, everlasting joy, comfort during trials, and His nearness to you always. Stay in His embrace as long as you need. When you’re ready, open your eyes, know God is¬†always with you, and claim the power of God through Jesus to get you through…

I carry Tyhara’s letter with me throughout the day. It remains in my “pouch of pretties,” available when I need to refer to it. The tulip, Lori’s favorite flower, rests on the mantel. In Tyhara’s words, “a small thing to bring comfort […].”

A Written Word: Seven Days of Inspiration and Comfort

“A Bundle of Notes” from colleagues and students

It’s okay. It’s okay to bleed a while. –from a note written by Linda W.

In the quiet of night, after I’ve stirred restlessly and aimlessly all day, I find calm and peace as I unfold a note or open a card written to carry me through this difficult period in my life. The note Silke sent five years ago, which I’ve read and shared dozens of times, is read repeatedly again.

As I work through my grief, I’m moved by my friends, penfriends, colleagues, and students who put pen to paper to offer words of comfort and encouragement. There’s something sacred in those notes, in individuals’ choosing to take part in someone else’s pain and loss.

Often, people can’t find the words to say or they speak one sentence more than they should, but somehow, the pen helps them find words that possess power to soothe and heal.

The precious words offer the humanity I need when so much of my grief is trapped in an aching silence.

Someone else needs these words, so I’ve decided to share some of the beautiful, inspiring, comforting words on the blog this week–sometimes, an image and a quote, sometimes an excerpt from a card or note, sometimes a reflection.

Always in the evening…when I have a moment to “just be.”

This evening’s quote comes from the note written by a new friend who suffered her own loss not so long ago. It’s a reminder that it’s okay to be “not okay,” and ultimately, we pay the price for pretending we are.

Sweet Things Long Forgotten

A few days ago I told my bestie that I am thinking about deactivating my Facebook account because I am frustrated with the soul-tiring news that fills my feed. Today, I have another reason to deactivate.

Facebook stole my letters!

I spent some time this morning going through a box of letters from my (mostly) teen years. I lingered a bit with a stack of letters from my mom and siblings. I literally rolled on the floor laughing at almost every letter. I also marveled at how much memory is stored in those letters: my baby sister Dani’s tween prattling; my younger sister Angie’s (still) wry humor; my older brother Dennis’ first thoughts about California; my oldest sister Val’s daily tasks as a new mother; the squabbles between the two youngest; my mom’s instructions for how to use enclosed money; the envelope full of newspaper pages from Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Orleans.

The letters are treasures, really. Mini-histories of our family life.

I used to send a long, newsy letter to family and friends at the end or beginning of each year. The year I activated a Facebook account, that ceased. Even though I enjoyed writing the letters and selecting the top photos of the year to enclose, I stopped. I reasoned since most family and friends are on Facebook, I can share that way. But it’s surely not the same. I don’t share everything via social media. In fact, I share very little. Besides, there are still a lot of people in my family and friends circle who do not use social media at all.

Moreover.

Status updates and photos online are fun, but, 30 years from now, I don’t think it will be as rewarding to go through decades and decades of (the future equivalent of) Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds as it will be to go through stacks of letters from family and friends.

So, seriously. Pick up a pen. Grab some paper and write a letter; encourage ¬†your parents, your siblings, your children to write as well. Write to family and life-long friends. Tell them to share the little joys of their day, their day-to-day interactions, their thoughts. Anything. Letters don’t have to be long. My mom was busy. Her letters were always short and sweet, but lovingly appreciated.

Years from now, when the cares of life burden your brain and you can barely remember which way is up, you’ll be glad for the little reminders of sweet things long forgotten.

Let’s Meet for Tea!

One day I’m going to plan a mega tea party and invite all my pen friends. It would be wonderful to sit around and chat at length about our mutual interests, the pretty things we all love, and our lives in general.¬†That is not feasible at the moment, so¬†instead, I¬†gather the letters and postcards received and enjoy them with a hot cup of herbal tea during my quiet moments in the morning or evening.¬†¬†I imagine that I am having tea with my¬†friends as I savor their words.

That’s what Trang K’s Live-Laugh-Love postcard is about.

“Steeped in Life, Love, and Laughter,” Handmade Postcard by Trang K.

Trang crafts such delicate watercolor postcards. You might remember the sunflower she sent a few months ago. [She sent another sunflower recently. I’ll be sharing that one on the blog soon]. Trang not only creates visually beautiful cards but she also writes beautiful messages.¬† On this one she wrote about the way she crafted the postcard.

She writes:

Postcards have two sides: “a scenic” side and a “journey” side. While the scenic side tickles our senses, the journey side is filled with facts stamps, dates, and beautifully handwritten words from caring hearts…fingerprints of the postcard’s travels in time and space. ‚̧

She continues:

I created this postcard to feature the “journey” on both sides–real and imagined.¬† Like an envelope wraps the gift of a letter, the journey side, full of LIFE and stamped with LOVE and LAUGHTER is the gift.¬† May we each celebrate the scenic route and savor the homecoming of our hearts to our souls.

Don’t you want to write a letter now? Then do so…Grab a postcard or some stationery, make some tea, and have a spot with a faraway friend.

4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail¬†relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.¬†¬†Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person¬†knowing we won’t¬†hear from each other again¬†until years later when one of us is¬†randomly selected as the¬†other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again. ¬†This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey,¬†Midteacher on¬†swap-bot. ¬†Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant. ¬†Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.¬† She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in¬†this postcard very well. ¬†The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo.¬†She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.” ¬†She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone”¬†by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.¬† The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.¬† She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.¬† The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.¬† Then her son, a marine,¬†was deployed to Afghanistan.¬† While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance. ¬†It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.¬† The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy. ¬†Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits. ¬†They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.¬† Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other. ¬†We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques. ¬†It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press!

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press

I just returned from a wonderful trip to New Orleans (more on that later) to find a gorgeous package in my mailbox from Bunny Bear Press. Adina, the owner, sent the package¬†as a “thank you” for my letting her know about a glitch with her signup link. ¬†Totally unnecessary, but who am I to refuse happy mail?

Take a closer look at the gorgeousness.  [Click an image for a closer look].

Beautiful, right?

Each card was designed and handprinted¬†by Adina. ¬†I don’t usually buy greeting cards for birthdays and such–I make my own–but the high quality and uniqueness of her cards urge¬†me to support¬†Bunny Bear Press.

I ‚̧ Adina¬†even more because of her drive to get women to write more letters.¬†She¬†recently¬†started the Pen Gals Club (#thePenGals) to encourage women to write letters and send snail mail to their gal pals instead of using texting and social media to communicate–even those jokes, anecdotes, and little tidbits of information we’re prone to share. ¬†As much as I love snail mail and contribute to the volume of mail winging its way through the USPS, I usually simply call or text my closest gal pals. ¬†So I decided to accept the challenge. The day I signed up, I wrote my bestie a letter, included some inspirational goodies, and prettied up the envelope; she was so thrilled, she dubbed me “The Creative, Feel Good, Pretty Snail Mail Wonder Woman!” Pretty impressive title, eh?

If you’re interested in the Pen Gals Club, you can sign up by clicking the link. Adina has all sorts of plans and goodies¬†for those of us who sign up. ¬†After signup, she sends an information packed email and weekly newsletters filled with snail mail inspiration. I’m so excited that, as I plan my schedule for the academic year, I’m building time in to write letters and notes to my closest friends. ¬†They’re worth it.

Until next time…

Write more letters…

Bunny Bear Press Contacts

Bunny Bear Press Contact Info

[Note: I realize this must sound like a paid advertisement, but it isn’t. ¬†I’m simply excited about snail mail:¬†good snail mail and great ideas about snail mail must be shared!]

Nine Little Pockets Full of Happy

Few things make me giddier than unexpected mail from a friend or an immediate written¬†reply to a personal letter. ¬†I went¬†on a letter-writing spree late last month. ¬†I expected to hear from no one any time soon. ¬†But within a week of my sending her a letter, my penfriend Beth wrote back. She didn’t send “just” a letter, but a pocket letter. ¬†Now, in case you haven’t heard, pocket letters are the latest snail mail¬†craze. ¬†I’ve done six¬†since I learned about them late winter/early spring. ¬†Two of my colleague-friends and I tried them out on each other first (see their first pocket letters near the end of the post).

Traditionally, pocket letters are put together using nine-pocket trading¬†card protectors. ¬†I make¬†mine with Project Life pocket pages. I prefer the larger “canvas” and the various shapes and sizes to work with. ¬†Besides,¬†I have boxes of PL pages screaming to be used.

Pocket letters have been “popularized” by¬†Janette Lane. ¬†On her blog, she provides instructions, tips, templates, and even a video for putting them together. You¬†can insert into the nine little pockets anything that will fit, but the “letter” is a must for one of the pockets. ¬†Enough chat. ¬†Here’s the pocket letter:

My Very Pink Pocket Letter

My Very Pink Pocket Letter from Beth

 

Pink, sparkly,¬†and cheerful!¬† And that’s just the front…

The Back of My Pocket Letter from Beth

The Back of My Pocket Letter from Beth

It is typical to stash items in the back of the pocket letter, so Beth tucked lots of fun goodies inside–tiny stickers and embellishments I plan to use in my planners and for making ATCs. ¬†Besides the letter, there are really no strict “requirements,” but I don’t think I’ve seen a pocket letter yet that didn’t contain a factory sealed¬†tea bag.

Here’s a closer look at the items tucked into the pockets:

Fun stuff!

But the best part of the pocket letter is…you guessed it! The letter! ¬†Beth wrote a nice long letter and used stationery recycled from leftover journal pages–something I also do with my leftover journal pages! ¬†I loved all the quotes and insights printed on the pages.

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Interesting side note about the¬†“do not follow” quote: It is usually attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, not T.S. Eliot. ¬†Investigation time!

The cool thing about pocket letters is that they fold neatly into a¬†business envelope–or in the case of the ones I make, an A7 envelope–and placed in the mail. ¬†I reinforce the edges with strong washi tape or clear packing tape. They usually cost between $1.50-2.00¬†to mail¬†(USA domestic).

Here are pics of the first pocket letters I received [click an image for a closer look]:

We’ve all improved tremendously since our first pocket letters!

Pocket letters are a fun way to share more than a letter with a friend or relative. Instead of dropping photos, tips, inspirational material, etc. into an envelope with a letter, you can incorporate all of those things into a unique and personalized pocket page.  They take a little more planning than letter-in-envelope, but they make attractive and unexpected gifts.

Try one out today!

 

Letters!

Yesterday was “blah.” ¬†I struggled through the day. ¬†The sun fought bravely for a moment, so I opened my curtains to let the light in fully. ¬†I normally work with only natural light in my office, so I figure having to turn the lights on contributed to my malaise. ¬†The sun’s dominance¬†was short-lived.

My¬†mood suddenly turned bright when I arrived home to find four wonderful pieces of “real” mail waiting for me in the mailbox. ¬†My heart jumped for joy!

First a postcard for “Superhero PC Swap #1”¬†from¬†“namelessgirl” (that’s her actual swap-bot name).

Action Comics No.419, December 1972 | Artists: Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson, DC Comics

Action Comics No. 419 |December 1972| Artists: Neal Adams and Murphy Anderson, DC Comics

She writes that she loves all things superhero and she just finished reading the book Super Gods by Grant Morrison.

My partner’s favorite superhero is Batman, so I sent her two postcards:

Detective Comics No. 587 |June 1988| Artist: Norm Breyfogle, DC Comics

Superhero Swap-1 Sent 01-23-15

Detective Comics No. 38 |April 1940| Artists: Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, DC Comics

I also received¬†lists of fairytales, myths, and folklore from Pynart,¬†who hosted the swap “I Still Believe in 398.2,” the Dewey Decimal number for folk literature. ¬†Swappers were supposed to send three lists–cherished fairytales, myths, and folklore.

IMG_5473

I love the “Puss in Boots” envelope. ¬†I’m still working on making my too-long lists manageable, and I plan to include one of the lesser known tales with the letter to my partner. Shhh…don’t tell.

I received not one, but two letters from Artybeth, one of my¬†pen friends and a “Christian Friend” on swap-bot.

IMG_5457

This first one was for a Christian Friends swap, “Spiritual Goals 2015.” ¬†We were to share our spiritual goals in a letter and place an encouraging scripture on the outside of the envelope. As usual, Artybeth enclosed extra goodies–more washi tape samples for me! I really like getting samples with swaps. ¬†I usually ¬†get samples of washi tape that I don’t have–there are so many great ones! ¬†But what I really like is that they’re flat and¬†fit anywhere, so they’re perfect¬†for journaling and letter writing on the go!

IMG_5463

The second one was just because…Well, really, in response to a letter I’d written to her back in November. ¬†Again, she enclosed cute extras. ¬†I’m loving the vintage typewriter and Snoopy happy with a letter; this is probably what I looked like after leaving the mailbox.

Well, I’m off to respond to letters and start my list of individuals to write during “Month of Letters 2015”–a letter, notecard, postcard, happy mail into the world every day.

Wishing you a happy mail day…