Sunflowers and Poetry | Game Called Life

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As promised Monday, I’m back with another poem by Javan. The poem below comes from Something to Someone. If your week has been a little challenging like mine, you might also need this nice and easy poem that doesn’t tax the brain or stretch the intellectual muscles.

By Javan

I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
For I’ve not learned to see children crying
without feeling pain
For I’ve not learned to watch animals destroyed
without wondering why
For I’ve not yet met a king or celebrity
that I would bow down to
or a man so insignificant
that I would use for a stepping-stone
For I’ve not learned to be a
“yes man”
to narrow minded bosses
who quote rules without reason
And I’ve not learned to manipulate
the feelings of others
to be used for my own advantages
then cast aside as I see fit
No, I’m not very good
at this Game called Life
And if everything goes well
maybe I never will be


About the Image: My friend Christine B sent this bright sprinkling of sunflowers to cheer me after I told her I was having a very sad day. She used the TouchNote app to send the postcard featuring her artwork.

Sunflowers and Poetry | Meet Me Halfway

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Since we are in the final week of National Poetry Month, I decided to share poetry and sunflowers all week long. This month–with all its busyness–tried to rob me of poetry, but I persisted. I wrote and read poetry daily and even managed to plan and host another successful [annual] poetry event.

This weekend I “rediscovered” Javan, a poet I enjoyed as a teen. I [probably] purchased the two books I own while perusing shops on Canal Street in New Orleans–Meet Me Halfway and Something to Someone. I have not read these books in decades, but thought about them a couple of days ago and luckily found them with ease in my home library.

After reading through selections, I see why I loved his works way back then. His poetry is uncomplicated and speaks to our yearnings and all the things that cause teenage angst.  

Here are two poems from Meet Me Halfway to start you work week. I plan to share another one of his poems Thursday.

By Javan

I’ve learned
That Life offers much more
Than most people take

I’ve learned
That many people live their life
Within small circles
Afraid to go out
Afraid to let others in

And I’ve also learned
That at the end of Life’s game
Most people wish
That somehow
They could have played it differently

By Javan

Many people complain
Life never gave them any chances

We are given Life
We must take the Chances


About the Image: Today’s tiny art is brought to you by none other than Sheila Delgado of Sheila’s Corner Studio. She sent this gem to me in late October and I have been looking forward to sharing it with you. It kicks off “Sunflowers and Poetry Week” perfectly! You can view a better scan of the sunflower and read about her creative process in Smooth the Way. Oh, why sunflowers with poetry? “Just because,” of course!

Favorite Moments of 2021

This year showed us–no matter how much chaos is around us–life continues. The year was brutal. Countless losses, “too many funerals,” constant change, and far too much heartache. But, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, there’s also been good. As we close out 2021, I’m reflecting as I did last year, on some of my favorite moments of the year–in no particular order.

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Clinton Row Color Walk

Street Art. Roaming with my guys anywhere is always a good moment, but when we roamed through downtown Huntsville and found the Clinton Row Art Walk, I was pleased as punch. I shared some of the photos here, but eventually, I’ll share others.

College Language Association (CLA) Annual Conference. This was the first fully virtual academic conference I’d attended. By the time it rolled around [in April], I was oh-so-tired of Zoom, but the conference provided such a rewarding, interactive experience that it didn’t feel virtual at all. I laughed, lauded, and learned.

Joe Wheeler State Park. This work retreat, thankfully, was more retreat than work. I wrote a little about it in Between Water and Trees. I rode the high of all that outdoors for quite some time.

Summer Road Trips! After sheltering-in-place for 16 months, the guys and I hit the road to visit our folks. We went to New Orleans to visit my parents and to Millers Creek, North Carolina to visit Hubby’s parents. Both trips were too short, but it was oh so good to lay eyes on our parents [and siblings] and make sure they’re okay.

English Garden. My in-laws have an amazing English-style garden. When we visited, I stole away often to spend time in the garden. The butterflies loved the garden too, and I have the photos to prove it. 😉

“A Garden Visitor.”

Thanksgiving Road Trip! By November, the benefits of the summer escapes had worn off and we were itching to get out of the bubble of Northern Alabama for just a moment. We took another short road trip to Atlanta to visit my sister and niece for Thanksgiving. Bonus! We also spent a little time with a bunch of nieces and nephews and one of my sisters-in-law! We won’t make mention of the macaroni and cheese that I was compelled to make with the “wrong kind” of pasta and cheese! :-/ [Everyone else thought it was good, but it was not my signature mac and cheese!].

Working with Lilith. I had the privilege of editing a book for one of the most pleasant individuals I’ve ever worked with. She has an incredible story. We were acquainted before, but through this endeavor, our friendship has been developing. Although we indeed completed the work, our meetings to review the edits were more like tea with a friend than work.

Dean. Among last year’s “favorite moments,” I listed that I had accepted the role of department chair. Who knew that less than a year later, I’d drop the chair to accept another role—Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences? I seriously resisted at first until I realized I had no logical explanations for not accepting the role. Of course, I am having a blast!

Tell It Slant. The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Tell It Slant Poetry Festival was everything my writing soul needed and more. I went to seminars, workshops, readings, and Q&A’s. I became acquainted with new poets, acquired new art and books, and most importantly, experimented with new writing techniques. I am certainly looking forward to next year’s event!

Tree Love for 30-Day Creative Gathering

30-Days Creative Gathering. Sheila Delgado’s Creative Challenge was the mental and creative break I needed daily throughout the month of September! This gift to myself offered so much joy!

World Watercolor Month:  Thankfully, my friend Sheila introduced me to this month-long art party. It was fun finding ways to transform my photography into “watercolor” art. If you’re interested, you can find the three #worldwatercolormonth posts by clicking the link.

Time with My Bestie. My bestie came into town to drop off her youngest daughter for college. After the very last minute, her daughter–bound for a university in California–switched course and chose our alma mater (where I now work). So in these “Corona Times” I got to see my bestie! She even bought a sparkling [non-alcoholic] beverage to toast my new role.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff’s “Write Together” sessions were among my favorite moments this year and last year. I don’t always get a chance to participate, but the “time out” for gathering, contemplating, and writing is always well-spent.

Birthday Fun. Despite getting horribly sick halfway through my birthday, that was actually one of the best days of the year. As part of my birthday festivities, the guys and I headed to Scott’s Orchard. Of course, anytime outdoors with my camera and my guys, surrounded by trees, is a perfect day!

A Moment with Dr. Garland. It’s always wonderful when the virtual world collides with the “real world,” so when my blogging friend K.E. Garland showed up as a presenter at the Mellon conference, I was thrilled. We run in similar academic circles, so our encounter “in real life” was just a matter of time. I invited her to present at my university, and we had a moment to connect after her awesome workshop which offered many wonderful tips for surviving the pandemic as an academician. I love her candor and her energy.

Tea Time!

Prayer Circle. Just before the academic year began, my colleague Kayla invited a very small group of women to her home for brunch and prayer over the year. After conversation and a good meal, we talked about our intentions and each prayed over the various facets of the university and the academic year. I recalled the good energy of our Prayer Circle when we hit rough spots in the semester.

Books & Tea. The Women’s Ministries Coordinators at my church organized a series of book talks on Chrystal Evans Hurst’s She’s Still There. The weekly virtual talks were soul-stirring, affirming, inspirational, and fun. The talks culminated with a three-day Women’s Empowerment Weekend and an in-person event featuring Hurst. For that event, we dressed in our best and headed to the church, the first in-person event held at our church since the pandemic began. Of course, we had to present negative COVID-19 test results, wear masks, and practice social distancing.

“Max Your Talent” Mini Women’s Retreat. This regional event, held a couple of weeks ago, was just what I needed as I headed into the Christmas holiday. It reinforced my understanding of my purpose, my humanity, and my identity in Christ.

Sunflower Encounters.  One of my friends recently marveled that “the sunflowers always seem to find [me].” I think she might be right. I typically have sunflower encounters in unexpected places and moments–like the mini sunflower field my guys found at the beginning of the school year. I shared some of the blooms in “The Gift of Sunflowers.”

Sunflowers from Hubby, Beginning to Wilt

Sneaky Sunflowers. I was in the middle of a meeting when my hubby attempted to sneak into my office with a glorious bouquet of sunflowers. He even purchased a vase and filled it with water. The blooms brought so much light and joy to the office and we won’t mention the hundreds of photos I shot as I attempted to recreate some of my favorite Van Gogh pieces with a camera.

Sunflower gifts. My family and friends enjoy surprising me with sunflower gifts, and this year was no different. You’ve seen the sunflower art and the sunflower gift basket from Kelli, but there were other gifts. My [former] student Raven sent a personalized acrylic nameplate for my desk with my new title. Of course, it was embellished with sunflower art. My son gave me a beautiful hand-designed sunflower keepsake box–my new fav! And there were so many more!

Van Gogh Immersive Experience. This! Oh, so much joy! I will talk about it in another post when I have time to manage my photo selection—and when I can avoid “spoiling” the experience for those who have not been yet. I’ll just say this: I waited and waited and waited for the Van Gogh Experience to reach my area. When it finally did, I purchased tickets right away. It did not disappoint!

There were many, many more moments of this year, and these “few” moments show that if we’re paying attention, in spite of a pandemic, we can still find so much good. I hope you this carry with you into 2022.

Happy 2022!

Sunflowers and Truth | Hard, Hard Truth

“Birthday Sunflowers” by Christine B.

Today’s truth comes from Grounded Spirituality by author and teacher, Jeff Brown. The short version: Take care of you. Do the work to “deal with your stuff.” It’s hard. It’s continual, but it’s worth it. Your past will no longer control your attitudes or behavior. 

Sunflower by Christine Brooks
“Sunflower Pair” by Christine B.

It’s up to you–it’s always up to you. You can deny, repress, distort, and bury your unresolved wounds all you want. You can reframe them, pseudo-positivity them, detach from them, bypass them. You can rename yourself, hide away in a monastery, turn your story around.  And you can spend all your money on superficial healing practices and hocus-pocus practitioners. But it won’t mean a [darn] thing if you don’t do the deeper work to excavate and heal your primary wounds. The material is still there, right where you left it, subconsciously ruling your life and controlling your choices. This is the nature of unhealed material–it is alive, and one way or the other, it will manifest itself in your lived experience. It will language your inner negative. It will obstruct your path and limit your possibilities. It lives everywhere that you live. And so you have to decide–excavate it and bring it into consciousness where it can be worked through an integrated; or repress it and watch it rule your life. It’s one of the hardest truths we have to face: if we don’t deal with our stuff, it deals with us. There is no way around this. Choose.

–Jeff Brown, Grounded Spirituality
Sunflower by Sheila Delgado
“Sunflower Trio” by Sheila D.

About the Images: The hard pill of today’s post deserves three cheerful sunflower watercolors. The sunflowers are brought to you by my friend and Love Noter, Christine B. She sent the top watercolor  with two more beautiful pieces of art for my birthday (10.02). She sent the other two earlier this year–just because. The final piece is a regifted watercolor, the work of my friend, Sheila D. I’m sending love, light, and many hugs to Christine as she prepares to memorialize her mom next week. [If you’re reading on a mobile device or tablet, click the images to view full images in Flickr].

Lessons from the Pandemic

Yellow Flowers in Vase by Sheila D of Sheila’s Corner Studio

I confess. I sometimes feel like a slacker. Sure, I am always doing something, but as I said in an earlier post, I’ve been getting nowhere.

Everywhere I turn, it seems someone has completed a book, started a new venture, traveled the seven seas, or even managed to purge and organize their home during the pandemic. I’ve done zip! I’m usually adept at side-stepping the comparison trap, but lately I have wondered if I’m just plain lazy!

Over the last year we’ve been given many tips on how to thrive, how to stay motivated, and how to do this, that, or the other during the pandemic. It was refreshing to join Pastor Lola Johnston’s Bloom in the Pandemic webinar a few weeks ago and hear her offer, instead of tips for thriving during the pandemic, two reassuring pieces of advice—to simply believe God is who He says He is and practice the principle of Matthew 6:33. She encouraged participants to refrain from practicing belief in our outcome and instead practice belief in the God of the outcome.

Whew!

It was nice to be let off the hook, to release the feelings of failure or guilt for not being completely awesome during the last 15+ months.

Of course, I wasn’t a slacker. I did not reach some of the goals I set for myself, but as I revisit those goals, some of them were way too big and way too much for our present circumstances. But during an actual, maddening pandemic, I held down a full time job, ably managed a leadership position that I was suddenly thrust into, taught overloads each semester, and operated fully in my family without losing my mind. And I actually managed to accomplish a few other things.

It helps to pivot our perspective. Doesn’t it?

If we focus on the gains instead of the unchecked items on our goals list, we’ll find ourselves in a healthier mental space. I realized this while writing a list of lessons learned in response to the final prompt of Love Notes 35. Even though I didn’t achieve some of my biggies, I’ve gained in ways that expanded my soul tremendously and I’ve learned so much.

I’ve learned to listen for the silence.
I’ve learned to find the path to stillness no matter where I am.
I’ve learned to adjust.
I’ve learned to keep moving.
I’ve learned to find time to write and “just be” in small moments because there will never be enough time, otherwise.
I’ve learned to appreciate the questions.
I’ve learned the answers do not always come.
I’ve learned [again] to accept sorrow and grief as necessary parts of life.
I’ve learned to let the deep, aching pain of loss do its work.
I’ve learned that my being vulnerable frees others to drop their masks.
I’ve learned that everyone is indeed fighting a battle.
I’ve learned that there’s very little I can control, but what I can control makes all the difference in my attitude and outlook.
I’ve learned that those who need our compassion most are those for whom compassion is a difficult exercise
I’ve learned to walk in the truth that everyone is made in the image of God.

Even though I sometimes feel like I should be doing so much more, I am learning that continuing to breathe and walk with joy during the pandemic are extraordinary accomplishments.

What have you learned in the last year or so?


About the Image: The bright yellow flowers were sent to me by my blogging pen friend, talented artist, and Love Noter, Sheila D. I actually wrote this blog post more than a week ago, but refused to post it because I wanted this particular piece of art to lead the post. I misplaced my “to be blogged” art file and it took me a whole week to find it! Why this postcard? In the face of difficult challenges over the last year+, Sheila has maintained a beautiful outlook on life. I find that inspiring.

Coping with the Madness of 2020: List It

I woke up this morning with thoughts of an eight-year-old boy, the nephew of one of my kindest friends. He woke up this morning for the first time without his mother’s embrace. She passed yesterday after a very lengthy battle with cancer. Though I didn’t know her or her little boy, I felt myself spiraling for my friend, for her family, and especially for the little one.

As if the out-of-the-ordinary madness of 2020 isn’t enough, unfortunately we also have to deal with dreaded realities like illness and death. The everyday concerns and these hardships  combined with the abnormalities of this year can create a perfect stew of unmanageable anxiety and grief.

So how do I cope when life feels impossible and the emotions are too big to manage?  In addition to prayer (which we’ll save for another day), I make lists.

Lists, you ask? Not a typical task list but a lists of things I can’t control alongside a list of things I can control.

I can’t bring back the little boy’s mom. I can’t stop the hurt or grief, but I can pray and offer support.

I can’t singlehandedly eradicate the coronavirus, but I can do my part to stop the spread and protect my family and myself by wearing masks and avoiding situations in which social distancing is challenged.

I can’t control how the vote goes tomorrow, but I can control how I participate in the democratic process by exercising my hard-won right and responsibility to vote.

I can’t take away the abuse a friend suffered as a child that continues to hurt and traumatize so many decades later, but I can listen, affirm, pray, and hug.

I can’t make people not be racist, but I can educate and choose to operate from a place of love regardless.

When I was a teen, I encountered the “Serenity Prayer” on the front of a church bulletin, and the first part has been a mantra ever since:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. –Reinhold Niebuhr

The lists help me confront the big scary things in black and white, and then, determine my response to them. More often than not, serenity is the welcomed outcome.


About the Images: The images in this post are the full color versions of the grainy black and white photos in the previous post. I’d mentioned in my latest #treelove post that for Creative Auto shots the camera shoots an original color photo AND processes the “creative photo” at the same time. I don’t like these as much, but this is what happens when I don’t remember where I put the images I’d planned for today’s post. :-/