Love Notes | There is beauty…

Suzette Purple Wildflower

“There Is Beauty,” Photo by Suzette R.

At night the watchmen of the city say,
“Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the
east.”
     And at noontide the toilers and the way-
farers say, “We have seen her leaning over
the earth from the windows of the sunset.”
 
     In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall
come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
     And in the summer heat the reapers say,
“We have seen her dancing with the autumn
leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her
hair.”  –Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet
 

Sadly, we’ve reached the final Love Notes 38 post. This round was a little of what my soul needed. I am in a tough place (emotionally), and Suzette’s well-prepared packages offered a bit of respite.

Love Notes 38, Prompt 3: There is beauty…

For this prompt, Suzette shared an excerpt of “On Beauty” [above] by Kahlil Gibran, one of my favorite poets.

She, then, shared her own insights on the prompt:
 
There is beauty in every facet of our day-to-day lives. The trick is to be watchful and ready to see it and embrace it when it happens.  –Suzette R.
 
and 
 
There’s beauty in folding a freshly washed load of laundry. There’s beauty in shadows cast by the setting sun. There’s beauty in holding a favorite book. There’s beauty in loving. There’s beauty in aging skin. There’s beauty in every landscape and vista. There is beauty all around when there’s love at home.  –Suzette R.
 
Such healing words!
 
The three posts this week have focused on Suzette’s responses to the prompts, but I did not mention the experience of receiving her elegant packages. You have seen her gorgeous artwork, but you have not seen the little touches–butterfly stamped envelopes, butterfly notecards and washi tape, additional notes of encouragement and poetry tucked inside glassine envelopes. The responses to the prompts were printed on nice card stock and cut/edged exquisitely–almost as if she prepared them to go into my journals. The care she took with each package warmed and soothed my aching heart.
 
Thank you, Suzette, for your friendship and for taking the time to craft beautiful mail that I am honored to share with the world.

Small Acts, Big Impact

Christine B.

“Peace” by Christine B.

Hello December!

Classes are over. Grades are in. I am happy for the quiet office, slower pace, and for time to give attention to things simmering on the back burner. More importantly, I am excited to have time to focus on the holidays and to participate in meaningful challenges like Action for Happiness’ Do Good December (DGD), which encourages small acts of kindness.  I first heard of DGD two years ago, and am eager to participate again this year.

dec_2021

This morning, my friend Christine sent a message with a Nikki Banas’ quote (below) on the impact of our small acts of kindness. Her message solidified my plan to share the kindness calendar with readers today.

You never know the true impact you have on those around you. You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them. You never know how much your kindness turned someone else’s entire life around. You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk. So don’t wait to be kind. Don’t wait for someone else to be kind first. Don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change. Just be kind, because you never know how much someone needs it. —Nikki Banas

Be sure to download the calendar and do one small act of kindness every day. Your act might make a huge difference in someone’s life.


About the Image: The gorgeous artwork above is the work of Christine B. It reminds me of where I’d love to be–peacefully sitting on a beach, watching the ocean and a golden sunset (or sunrise). Christine sent this with sunflowers for my birthday. Her loving act of sharing her creativity has made a significant difference in my life. ❤ [The piece was made with alcohol ink, a fine-point black Sharpie, and oil pens].

Sunflowers and Truth | #truthbombs

Martha Slavin Sunflower

Are you familiar with Danielle LaPorte’s #truthbombs? On 4×4 white cards–in beautiful black script–LaPorte offers pithy bits of wisdom, encouragement, and in-your-face truth. Every now and then, I pull a random card out the elegant encasement, and think, “Whew! Now, that’s a word!” The cards offer perfect journaling prompts and discussion starters. [Click the link above for more information, see sample #truthbombs, and download the app. For the record, this is not an ad]. 

Before heading to work yesterday, I grabbed a handful of random #truthbombs from their box and dropped them on my bag. I thought they would complement the sunflowers I’d planned to share on the blog, but yesterday did not turn out as I planned: By 9:00 a.m., I was annoyed with no less than three people. By 10:00, the number had increased to five. By 1:00, I had a searing headache that made me want to pack up and go home. When I finally arrived home just after 5:00, I wanted only my bed and a good book. When today began to feel like yesterday, a couple of short walks and three of the #truthbombs became the medicine I needed:

  • Notice how you feel
  • Defend your tenderness
  • Compassion is so often the solution

Those three sentences “can preach,” as they say. For me, they were a call to pay attention to my responses.

Yesterday, I was extremely disturbed by individuals who acted selfishly and lacked compassion. When it comes down to it, this was no different than any other day. Almost every day I encounter people who look out for themselves and show little regard for others unless they can benefit in some way. Of course, by the end of the day, I’d pretty much gotten over it and pushed the experience out of my mind. I realized I had to cut those folk some slack. They are human after all, and like me, they deserve room to be just that–human–and perhaps there were good reasons for what I considered their not acting with the decency I expected under the circumstances. 

But I was still bothered by my own reaction: Why was my response so different? Why did I allow myself to become so uncharacteristically entangled with other individuals’ attitudes and behavior? And why am I again feeling out of sorts and bothered?

Annoying people, gloomy weather, frustration over lecture notes I can’t find. All of that is superficial, the easy things to focus on because the real thing–the underlying thing–is big and scary and too much to handle at the beginning of a packed work week. The #truthbombs were a reminder to pay attention to my feelings and not just stop there. I had to get to the root. And I did.

I miss my sister. Her birthday is tomorrow. There will be no celebration. 

Thankfully, the sunflower provides light…in the darkness of the cave in which I have to dwell for a moment. 


About the Image: The watercolor sunflower is the work of my Love Notes friend, Martha S. She was one of my exchange partners in Louise Gale’s Global heART exchange. It was a pleasant surprise to find a postcard from one of my snail mail regulars in my mailbox. Thanks for this gorg sunflower, Martha! It has brightened my days and will soon find its place my the sunflower wall. 

1LW: The First to Rise

IWD 2021 from Lori-Anne

Soon a host of lovely flowers
From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
The crocuses were first.

–from “The Crocuses” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)

The magnificent artwork above is the second precious gift Lori-Anne C sent in honor of my one little word (1LW). [See previous post for the first]. She sent it with the following note, explaining its serendipitous connection to my 1LW:

. . . No matter how I worked your tulips, they kept looking to me like crocus.

It got me to thinking of how the crocus is often our first flower to pop up through the cold dirt and show its glory . . . spring! As though it’s celebrating the returned warmth of the sun . . . in deep yellow and purple.

Maybe this year, a crocus is good . . . for both of us.

Your word “rise” —

A crocus isn’t very tall, but its colour and determination to push through and rise are deep and strong.

Yes, the early crocus and what it has to survive and grow through [especially in Ontario, Canada] to reach the sun and bloom strong may, in fact, be perfect [for your one little word].

Lori-Anne intended to send the flowers for International Women’s Day, but her muse had other plans. The sunflowers and crocuses and her meditation on the crocus’s struggle and determination to rise contribute beautifully to my journey.

1LW: When I Rise Up

IMG_3001 2

Georgia Douglas Johnson’s poem, “When I Rise Up Above the Earth” was the first poem I ran across related to my “one little word.” Of course, I am familiar with Maya Angelou’s popular “Still I Rise,” which gives voice to a collective Black [women’s] “I”–talking back to and ascending in spite of an oppressive system. However, Johnson’s poem speaks to the journey I’m on as an individual wrestling with and rising above personal challenges. [Plus, lines 5-6 present a strong image that I would also illustrate, if I had the skills 😉 ]

“When I Rise Above the Earth”
Georgia Douglas Johnson

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.

My friend, Cy, also posted about her 1LW today. She, too, chose a poem. Be sure to check out her post on “boundaries,” her one little word. 


The “Rise” pennant in the photo above was made by my Love Notes friend Lori-Anne C. This is one of two precious gifts she sent in honor of my 1LW. I recently moved it from my home office to my work office where it hangs as you see it with a sunflower art by Ty, one of my former students. The sunflower reminds me of a sunRISE, so I couldn’t resist placing them together.

Are You Languishing Too?

2021-06-09_151738The school year ended for my son last Wednesday. We have been looking forward to “the end” almost since the beginning. This pandemic year has been hard for everyone, and even though I’m still very much engaged in the daily grind, a tremendous weight has been lifted because at least my son can breathe a little easier and hopefully recuperate “enough” before August.

Some weeks ago, as I listened to Dr. Anita Phillips’ podcast, In the Light, she “hit a nerve.” As she introduced the episode “Beautiful Things,” I heard the word languishing and listened a little more closely:

It is a stealthy emotion […]. It sneaks up on you little by little […]. It is really easy to miss. The feeling of languishing is one of stagnation and emptiness […].

Phillips, a trauma therapist, also referenced a New York Times article, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing:”

Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.

I backtracked and listened to that part over and over.

Languishing.

Is this why I have little interest in doing things I usually enjoy? Is this why it seems I’m working all.the.time but have little to show for it by the end of the day? Why I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning? Why sometimes my brain seems completely devoid of thought?

I know I am not depressed, but I feel out of sorts and disconnected from my usual rhythms.

Languishing.

The word perfectly describes the state I’m in and the state of others with whom I’ve spoken recently about their mental and emotional state during this phase of the pandemic.

We once flourished; now we’re doing our best if we can climb out of bed in the morning. Of course, there are ways to combat this state of being, but for me, it really comes down to the very thing expressed in a Washington Post title on the same subject.

“We all need a break.”

We need time to take care of our mental health and process what we’ve just gone through and what we’ve come through. We need time to grieve the losses and celebrate the gains. We also need time to look ahead and dream of the possibilities once we are truly post-pandemic.

Is that doable right now when we’re barely doing life?

The whole thing is “a lot,” as some say, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the “too much” of it. But we must pay attention and we must deal with our languishing because as the NYT article points out, languishing, in some ways, may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness. Furthermore, as Dr. Phillips emphasized in her podcast, “the mental health impact [of this moment] will far outlast our return to physical safety,” so we must take the time now to “honestly identify and name how [we] are feeling.”

I have many coping strategies [journalingcreatingshutting down technologylisting, sleeping, spending time with trees, and praying], but I am taking Dr. Phillips’ advice of identifying and naming, expressing my feelings, and spending time with those I love. Additionally, because confronting the mental and emotional chaos can be all-consuming, I am processing in small moments. The few minutes while doing the dishes. The walk from building to building while running errands on campus. The half hour or so spent grocery shopping. Whenever I can find even just a moment of quiet, I take the time to process, to exhale, and to heal.

I pray you’re doing the same.


Note: I am not a psychologist or therapist, so I encourage you to read the articles and listen to the podcast linked in this post for more information, tips, and tools for dealing with this mental health challenge–and of course, seek professional counsel should you feel your issues are much larger than you can handle without help.

About the Image: The image above features the artwork of illustrator and designer Eunji Jung. It was this bit of gorgeousness that “introduced” me to my new Love Notes pal, Kathi G. I admired the postcard after another Love Noter posted it in the group, and Kathi kindly sent one my way. Thanks, Kathi!

Bunny Love!

Bunny Mama

More bunny mail!

This adorable bunny postcard from Bianca, my bunny-loving literary twin, reminds me of precious early moments with my son.

When he was an infant, I held my child and allowed him to sit on my lap and cuddle as much as he wanted. There were those who cautioned, “Don’t hold him too much. He will be spoiled.” But there were also many women who encouraged me to cherish those early moments because they go by so quickly. The “wisdom” was in conflict with the warning, so I chose what felt right for me and I have zero regrets. 

Time did fly, and with a blink of the eye my chubby, cuddly little bundle of joy became an energetic ball of lightning zipping and zooming and lighting up our home. And now, he’s a handsome, unspoiled young man towering over both his parents with only a few years standing between himself and adulthood.


Love Notes: Bianca is one of my Love Notes friends. If you love sending snail mail and want to make a new friend, consider joining the Love Notes community. Today is the last day to sign up for Love Notes 35, so jump in!

Sun’s Out!

You may already know I have a thing for bunnies and why I love the bunnies, so I interrupt your Tuesday to share cheeky bunny mail. Why? Because I have spent the last 30 minutes or so staring mindlessly at numbers and letters on a computer screen and getting nowhere. My brain is screaming, “No more!”

We are having a gorgeous day and outdoors is beckoning. It is time to heed the bunny call. Time to get my “buns” outside, unexposed, of course!

I hope you can catch some sun this week!

Buns Out

About the Image: My Love Notes friend, Kelly C, sent the card above last spring to celebrate the season. It is the perfect card for early spring weather in Northern Alabama. Tune in later this week for more bunny mail.

At the Right Time…

I recently received Morgan Harper Nichols’s beautiful book, All Along You Were Blooming, as a gift. This book is filled with such beautiful soul-filling poetry that I can’t simply pick it up, select a poem, and move on. I have to wait for a moment when I can savor her words and let them sink deep into and soak my soul from the bottom up (if souls have bottoms).

I read the poem that follows this afternoon, and it feels like it was written for me in this moment. I’ve been operating in a fog and from a place of brokenness for far too long. I felt myself beginning to fall beneath the weight of it all, the pandemic, and being in crisis mode all.the.time. A few days ago–Sunday–I simply asked God to help me release the weight. I asked for clarity and direction. I don’t normally put in major [for my job] work hours during the weekend, but Sunday I work-worked for hours nonstop. Something in me felt compelled to clear several things off that particular plate.

By the next morning, I realized that there was a major shift inside. The Divine One had taken the whole load and kept me too busy to fuss and fret. The challenges are still here–obviously–but the weight is not mine to bear. I found myself really breathing again for the first time in a long time.

At the right time,
every broken thing
will come together for good.
You are more than your
failures,
successes,
more than your fears.
And far beyond the surface
of your desires,
there is a truer season
why you are still here.
If you find yourself struggling
to see past your imperfections
because you cannot figure out how
what’s torn apart can come together,
may you know in your soul
that the answer is not found in thinking,
feeling,
doing,
but in trusting what is Greater than you.

–Morgan Nichols, All Along You Were Blooming


About the Images: When I received the butterfly postcard [second photo] from my Love Notes friend Christine B, I was über excited because I knew somewhere in my 2016 photo library there was a twin butterfly feasting on yellow flowers [top photo]. Ha! I was wrong. The butterflies, though slightly similar in underside color, are different. My photo features a common buckeye; Christine’s a Melissa Blue.  Maybe, they’re cousins. 😉

Sunflower Love

The kind of Shalom we’re trying to give to people around us requires us to take an active interest in their physical and spiritual well-being. –Lisa Jo-Baker, Never Unfriended

Welcome to Sunflower Month on Pics and Posts!

Since I’m usually a bit overwhelmed with “the beginning of the semester” and unfinished business from the previous semester, I considered taking a blog break this month to focus on all the getting-things-going-in-January stuff.  Then, I remembered, my blog is a happy place, and I need it to escape the madness whenever I can.

So here I am escaping for a moment. I won’t post every day (obviously), but with the exception of the two #ThursdayTreeLove posts, I will share lots of sunflower love this month. Why? Because, as one of my friends pointed out when I questioned whether a sunflower month would be too much, “we need the bright and beautiful right now. ”

As for the gorgeous image above, it was crafted by Kim B, one of my Love Notes friends. I met her when she reached out to me as my sister Lori was nearing her last days. Kim wanted to offer hope and encouragement to both of us and she did just that. I shared her sunflower, which she “grew from a tiny seed,” on Instagram a few months ago, but it came to mind immediately when my hubby told me that instead of focusing on “one little word,” this year, his prayer is that he loves as God loves.

I swoon.

Can you imagine the exponential potential of his interactions with individuals he comes across? How many lives can be charged with even one encounter?

To tune in to others and offer love, unrestrained and without strings, is the best gift we can offer the world.

I am joining him in this prayer. Won’t you?