Blog Every Day? Yes Way!

After spending the better part of an afternoon “organizing” the incoming mail that cluttered my desk, I decided November will be “Pics and Post Catch-up Month.”  To make sure I follow through with the plan, I made a commitment to participate in BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month), which means I will post every day in November.   I just might be crazy since November for English professors means grading, grading, and more grading and lots of one-on-one meetings with students.  With less than four weeks left of the semester, it’s all downhill.  Really.  It already feels like someone pushed me down a hill while I am already speeding on roller skates.  So talk me out of this madness!

No?

Mail Call!

Mail Call!

Postcards, letters, scripture mail, quote mail, poems, photo inspirations, and so much more!  This is only a fraction of the clutter and it does not include many of the things I plan to blog about this month–photos I’ve captured, fun packages, and artsy and inspirational mail that found places on my walls and in my journals and planners.

I will not blog about the entire mountain of mail, but (starting tomorrow) I will blog about what I feel should be shared–because I find it interesting, unique, or beautiful.

I enlisted a crazy-busy-mom friend to join me in this venture–Brittany of OrdinarilyExtraordinaryMom.  Brittany, whom I’ve known since she was a teenager, is a faith/inspirational blogger who shares her experiences as a mom/wife/teacher/woman trying to make it through this life unscathed.  She also regularly features her adorable family.  She had an “all at once” life change, so I offered her a way out of this gig, but she replied, “I think I’ll need the daily dose of therapy.”

Me too, Brittany.  Me too.

 

 

 

#Write_On: 30 Letters in 30 Days

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Do you know April is National Letter Writing Month? Usually, I shouldn’t need a reason to write letters, but I decided to accept the Write_On Campaign’s invitation to write a letter every day in April.

It is a challenge. April is the most maddening month of the year for many academicians. My university’s semester ends this month, so time is tight: one-on-one conferences with most of my students, advising, making sure online grade books are updated, preplanning for fall, grading, grading, and more grading. The last thing I need is a “challenge,” but I’ve been “slipping” with my letter-writing quite a bit the last several months. My “letters to respond to” stack grows daily.  I even have a few parcels that have been packaged since December and January to be put in the mail.  I am waaaaay behind.  So I’m accepting the invitation–to get back into the swing of regular, intentional letter writing and “catch up” on all the letters and cards on my “to write list.”  I plan to write a letter or two nightly before heading to slumberland.

It’s such a sweet pleasure to sit down and write letters and prepare packages for family and friends.  I get a little frustrated when time and tasks get in the way of that.

Consider writing a letter every day this month. We’re only a few days in, so it’s not too late. Send a letter. Send a postcard. Send a quick note. If you don’t know where or how to begin, check out the Write_On Campaign’s website.  You’ll find lots of suggestions and inspiration.

Chronicle Books also has a nifty list of “30 People to Write for Letter Writing Month.”  If you’re still stumped, ask me. I never run out of ideas of what to send. 😀

And oh, the founders send out a wonderful package of freebies provided by some of the sponsors. Click below for a closer look.

Forgive me if this sounds like a “paid” advertisement.  It isn’t.  I’m just excited about mail. And stationery. And pens. And freebies, especially when quality is not sacrificed.  😉

Happy Letter Writing Month!

 

 

 

 

A Box Full of Nature

My family and I were in and out of town during the month of July and “work” started hours after we returned from our last trip.  There was little time to appreciate and share the goodies that filled my mailbox over the last few of weeks.  But know that I was elated to find “nature” in the stack of mail waiting for our return–postcards and a letter that arrived somewhat unexpectedly.

The first I’m sharing is a really adorable polar bear postcard Silke sent.  She’d told me a few weeks ago that she wanted to add a little fun to my mailbox.  Of course, to my advantage, I forgotten about her intent.

From the postcard back (translated from German): Polar bears have adjusted perfectly with their white fur to their arctic surrounding. When they approach their prey, mostly seals, they even hide their black noses, if possible'

From the postcard back (translated from German): Polar bears have adjusted perfectly with their white fur to their arctic surrounding. When they approach their prey, mostly seals, they even hide their black noses, if possible.

Silke added to the description:  “Now, you tell me how they know they have black noses?”  I laughed out loud, because now I’m wondering that very thing. Animal intelligence.  More polar bear facts she shared:

  • As adults, polar bears live mostly solitary lives
  • They are the world’s biggest land predators
  • They can mate with brown bears
  • Their habitat is endangered by the meltdown of arctic ice.

She even added a tiny, happy brown bear sticker to the back of the postcard.  Adorable. Isn’t he?

Nature in my mailbox PCs-2

Candace of Glenrosa Journeys sent a postcard boasting about her coming retirement.  Okay, not really. Maybe not.  (Not sure, as I received this news as I’m beginning a new academic year). Her postcard should have been “expected” also.  We’d committed to exchanging postcards post-LYA and we procrastinated sending.  I couldn’t decide which one to send, and Candace was lazy–her words, not mine.  😀  She shared a beautiful butterfly postcard and quote that were worth the wait:

“Like a Butterfly” by Candace

The quote:

I want to fly like a butterfly around this beautiful world, till the last frame of my life and the last click of my heart.  –Biju Karakkonam

To see more Candace’s beautiful photography which focuses on the nature of Phoenix, Arizona, you must see her blog,  Glenrosa Journeys, or Flickr album.

Lastly, I received a letter from Beckra, a friend and colleague I met through swap-bot.  This was totally unexpected, especially since she had just sent me a special package a couple of weeks before–and I hadn’t even had a chance to respond to her yet.  Way to put the pressure on, Beckra.  😉

In addition to her newsy letter, she shared her photography story (read: philosophy) and three of her photo postcards. [Click an image for a closer look]

She writes:

Photography is a different way of experiencing, and one that helps me see differently. […] Without photography I’d never spend so much time with water and light, and I’m grateful for that.

I featured Beckra’s calming photo postcards in an October 2014 post I might need to revisit in a couple of days when classes begin: Getting Through the Crazies: part i.

Thank you, ladies, for adding beauty and joy to my life! You’re on my snail mail list for this week. Hugs…

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!

 

“Fall” in Love: The Poetry of Autumn

Emily Dickinson

“Autumn Poets Sing,” Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Fall 2012

I’m pretty sure my next two or three blog posts will focus on autumn.  I can’t help it.  I’m obsessed with the beauty of the season.  This obsession is not peculiar to me alone, of course.  A simple Google search for autumn poems yields pages and pages of links of fall-themed classic and contemporary poetry.  And social network feeds proudly showcase an abundance of autumn photos from around the world.

My own obsession led me to host a “‘Fall’ in Love” swap in “A Thousand Words,” a new photography group on swap-bot.   The swap called for sharing autumn photos and a complementary autumn poem.  Swappers had the choice of sending poem and photo separately or poem and photo integrated. Ladybegood sent this serene autumn scene crafted as a notecard for my use:

"The Woods in Autumn" by Linda, known as "Ladybegood" on swap-bot

“The Woods in Autumn” by Linda, known as “Ladybegood” on swap-bot

And the perfect poem, handwritten on card stock: Autumn Scenes-1

AUTUMN WOODS
by James S. Tippett

I like the woods
In autumn
When dry leaves hide the ground,
When the trees are bare
And the wind sweeps by
With a lonesome rushing sound.

I can rustle the leaves
In autumn
And I can make a bed
In the thick dry leaves
That have fallen
From the bare trees
Overhead.

If you have children, this poem is perfect for getting them to understand imagery.

By the way, Ladybegood included a note telling me a little bit about the photo, but it’s missing in desk clutter (see previous post).

In a different swap, “I Like Light (& Color)” for the Color and Light Photo Swappers Group, swap-bot, Midteacher sent me two autumn photos:

"Vibrant Maple," by Diane, known as "midteacher" on swap-bot

“Vibrant Maple,” by Diane, known as “Midteacher” on swap-bot

Midteacher writes that she passed this tree several times on the way home from work before she made herself stop to take the shot one day. I witness a similar brilliance from my office window every day.  The tree beckoned me till one day I was compelled to step onto the balcony to snap a shot.

“Brilliant Hello,” by Me, Fall 2014

This autumn beauty greets residents and guests at one of the women’s residential halls. My office is quite a distance from the tree, so I plan to take a walk to capture a bit more of the interesting details.  I hope there are still leaves on it by the time the temperatures are mild enough for me to take a campus walk. :-/

Like Ladybegood, Midteacher also sent a photo notecard:

Autumn Scene by Diane, "Midteacher" on swap-bot

Autumn Scene by Diane, “Midteacher” on swap-bot

She was so drawn to this breath-taking scene that after they drove passed it, she had her husband go back so she could snap a shot. Midteacher and I are in three photo groups together and I enjoy having her as a swap partner. Her packages are always well-crafted.  In fact, I have a couple more sets of her photos to share with my blog audience.  Until then, you can check out her work on an earlier post OR check out her blog, A Focused Journey.

For the “‘Fall’ in Love” swap, I sent my partner, Patty aka Cakers, an envelope full of “red leaves” and a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem that so clearly illustrates my giddiness about autumn that I had to send it to her [click image for a closer look]. fall poem 2014 3 Patty loved her envelope full of autumn. In return, with her permission, of course, I “swiped” a photo from her Facebook wall–of leaves she collected during an afternoon walk.

"Patty's Fallen Leaves" by Patty aka Cakers

“All the Colors of Fall” by Patty aka Cakers

Enjoy!

My Pretty Bloomers

I know what you’re thinking, but we’re talking about flowers, people! “My Pretty Bloomers” was the name of a swap I participated in for the “Color and Light Photo Swappers” group on swap-bot. Swappers were to share a photo postcard of flowers from their gardens or, in my case, a photo from someone else’s garden.

Here’s the pretty bold bloomer “Ladydy5,” my partner, sent.  She writes, “This flowers every year” and what makes it a “joy to see” is that it was a gift for a special occasion.

Ladydy5's Pretty Bloomer

“Ladydy5’s Bold Bloomer”

I also received a bloomer via email from my photog-penfriend Dee, who happened to be my send-to partner.

Dee's Pretty Bloomer

“Dee’s Sunny Bloomer”

Simply because the sunflower is my favorite flower, I played around with Dee’s photo a bit.  Here are two of my favorite edits.

And from my photog friend Patty (aka Cakers)–

Patty's Pansy

“Patty’s Pansy”

Don’t you just love the deep, rich colors of this pansy?

Like me, Patty doesn’t have a garden, but she has the most beautiful purple clematis plant.  It’s 22-years-old!  The longest I’ve ever kept a plant alive is three years.  I’m tempted to share her clematis photos here, but I’ll save that for her.  She needs to update her blog anyway. Hint! Hint! 😉

The flowers I photographed are from my friend Colleen’s garden.  She has a very pretty garden, full of variety and color.  She has some staples, such as red, pink, and white roses, but she also mixes things up a bit from one year to the next–based on what I’ve seen the last two years.  She even has an awesome vegetable garden in the back of her yard. I nabbed a few pics of grapes yesterday!

I used a few of the photos of Colleen’s garden to create a collage for my partner.

Colleen's Bloomers 2014

Colleen’s Bloomers

This garden deserves a closer look. Don’t you think?  Here’s a sampling of some of the beauties from last year’s garden. (Click an image to view larger)

Purple is my favorite color, so when I see purple in a garden (okay, anywhere), I’m going to snap a photo of it.   Colleen had purple in abundance in last year’s garden and I’m fighting not to include all of them here.  I just learned from her that the tiny pink flowers are some type of rose, something I would have never guessed.

And this year’s garden:

2014 was dominated by pink in varying shades and lots of different roses.  That yellow flower is a knockout rose–another flower I’d never guess is a type of rose.

My mom has the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen. You’d think she’d pass some of her skill and knowledge on to me.  Really, she tried.  Other things vied for my attention.  But I’m really connected with my mom and I can’t look at flowers without thinking of her, so I’ll share with you a photo of one of hers.

My Mother's Zinnia, 2011

My Mother’s Zinnia, 2011

And lastly, because “life” made me a blog slacker in the spring, I’m sharing with you the “yellow flowers” I received for International Women’s Day 2014.  If you’re interested, you can see the ones I sent out here.

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That’s it for now! Enjoy!

 

One More!

What, Chandra Lynn?  A blog post two days in a row?!  Unheard of! Well, here’s the deal. We checked our P.O. Box for the first time in two or three weeks and there was a postcard waiting for me–

"Lavender," by Laurie, Silverbird Photography

“Lavender,” by Laurie, Silverbird Photography

The last of my Liberate Your Art 2014 “extra” swap postcards!  This one’s from Laurie of Silverbird Photography.  Pretty, pretty lavender.  Something about the marriage of purple and green is so appealing to me!  I met Laurie through WordPress. She left a heartfelt message shortly after my sister’s passing.  I am ever grateful for people like her who reach out and deeply touch the lives of others without realizing it.

You must check out Laurie’s blog, Shooting Glass in the Garden. She truly creates “color poems” as her site address declares: colorpoems.wordpress.com.

More Art Liberated

A few of us had extra postcards from the Liberate Your Art swap and we were all too happy to share our extras and keep the party going a little longer.  But, before I share the newest art that came in, here’s the collage Kat Sloma designed in honor of Liberate Your Art 2014.  She created it using several of the postcards that were liberated this year through her swap.

"Liberate Your Heart," Kat Sloma, 2014

“Liberate Your Heart,” Kat Sloma, 2014

These posters were sold for a short stint during the LYA 2014 blog hop.  There’s a great deal of truth in the words “When you liberate your art, you liberate your heart.” I usually feel a little more “free” after I’ve released a little part of my creative self into the world–a little anxious, but free.

Kat jotted a quick “thank you” on the back of the postcard she mailed to participants of LYA 2011, the very first LYA. I didn’t find out about LYA until the first swap was over, but now, I have all of Kat’s LYA postcards, so that sort of makes up for my missing #1.

"Vespa," by Kat Sloma, Liberate Your Art 2011

“Vespa,” by Kat Sloma, Liberate Your Art 2011

The first “extra” postcard I received came from Pat.  “Hooray for art” is typeset on the back of her card.

"Seagulls" by Patricia Lyon Surrey

“Seagulls on a River” by Patricia Lyon Surrey

Pat shot this photo in Vermont, where she has lived for almost 40 years, then “enhanced it in PhotoShop.” You can see more of Pat’s work on her site.

Then, I received this lovely watercolor postcard from Sheila.  She sent hers in an envelope with a nice, long note (the note, in my opinion, is the point of happy mail anyway). 😀

Sheila

“Hydrangeas” by Sheila Delgado

Sheila makes beautiful postcards.  Of course, I’m happy this one is purple, my favorite color! You can find more art on her site, and if you’re interested, you can purchase her watercolor postcards at Sheila’s Corner on Zazzle.

Finally, Janice shared her vintage camera photo.

LYA Bonus and NPCW Received 2014-4

“Vintage Camera,” by Janice Darby

Janice ran out of postcards from this year’s swap, so she sent a postcard from LYA 2013.  Lucky me!  I “heart” photos of vintage cameras and I’d been coveting a journal by San Francisco-based artist/ illustrator Lisa Congdon with designs (quote and vintage camera) in this style, so this one really made me squeal with delight.  Janice wrote a quote about “mail” on the back of the postcard, which made it extra special:

“And none can hear the postman’s knock without a quickening of the heart.  For who can bear to feel himself forgotten.”

And while we’re on the subject of art, I received this beautiful handmade postcard from swap-bot BeckyG56 for a “May Flowers” swap.  I’d recently taken a photo walk around campus to capture the tulips.  I wasn’t pleased with the tulip photos, so this postcard came just in time!

LYA Bonus and NPCW Received 2014-1

“May Flowers” by Becky

Becky made this collaged postcard with images from calendar pages.  Isn’t it bright and cheerful?

That’s it for now.  If you missed the original Liberate Your Art 2014 post, you can check it out here.

“A Little Something Extra”

I’ve desperately needed to do blog posts for the last few months, but I’ve had to face the unfortunate reality that there was neither time nor energy for anything extra. Since I have so much to share, I determined to find a few minutes today to share at least one item that’s made my mailbox and me happy over the last few weeks.

About a month ago, my friend and visual artist, Amy Bryan, posted a collage of her “woman” art on Facebook and I just had to have it.   Amy had postcards of the collage made, sent the link, and I was the first to order the postcards (yay!).

Here’s the postcard!

Amy Bryan, NOLA Artist

Amy Bryan, Visual Artist, New Orleans, Louisiana

Amy collaged a representative sampling of her woman-centered art.  You can get a closer look at many of the individual images featured in the collage on Amy’s website.  I ordered a set (10 postcards), but, in true New Orleans fashion, Amy added a little something extra, or as we New Orleanians say, “lagniappe.” I was over-the-moon excited when I opened the envelope and found not only the postcards I ordered (+3) but this wonderful print:

"Woman Holding Mustard Greens," by Amy Bryan, Visual Artist

“Holding Mustard Greens,” by Amy Bryan, Visual Artist

This piece, destined for framing and placement in my office, was created on the iPad using the Ukiyoe app.  Amy has created stunning pieces of art using this app.  I especially love her Ghana Series.  [Note: The scanner does little justice to this print]

Amy works with various media, as you can probably tell from the collage.  If you’re interested in learning more about her and her artwork, see her website.

Oh–I almost forgot to mention–Amy created a Christmas ornament that was selected for placement on the White House Christmas tree a few years ago.  That was a proud moment! Amy kindly gave me one of the Christmas cards she designed featuring the ornament, but it disappeared shortly after I received it. My best guess is some post-Katrina mice ate it.  They were a little rampant on campus for a little while Post-K.  :-/

 

 

 

Liberate Your Art 2014: Art, Mail, and Randomness

Liberate Your Art 2014 came and went all too fast! Thanks to Kat Sloma my post office box was happy again! The poor thing hardly gets any fun mail since we use it primarily for bills and (apparently) junk mail, so I always do a little mental happy dance when I pull something fun from the box.

If you’re “newish” to my blog, Liberate Your Art is the annual “arts festival by mail” hosted by the inimitable Kat Sloma. Kat hosts the swap every year to encourage artists to professionally produce and share their work with the world.  Swappers send five pieces of art to share and receive six by other artists (including one by Kat).  You can see my previous years’ posts by clicking the following links: LYA 2013 art sent and received and 2012 art received and 2012 art sent.

This year I, again, received wonderful pieces.

I know! I know! I should showcase the postcards in my environment, but the last few months have been merciless and have provided no time for creativity or anything fun.  :-/

The first one is a close-up of a fall(en) leaf, one of my favorite subjects, photographed by Jennifer of Small Matters.

"Fall" by Jen Erbe

“Fall” by Jen Erbe

Jennifer shared some wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut: “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

Maddy of the United Kingdom shared this beauty.

"Love" by Maddy

“Love” by Maddy

I love how the randomness works out. I love hearts and usually anything with the word “love” on it.   Maddy, of A Jewelling Passion for Art and Everything Else, wrote on the back of her postcard: “Everyone needs a little love in their life or the world just isn’t right.”

The woman-centered awesomeness below was created by Polly. Check out more of her art on her Flickr site.

"Strong-Warrior-Wise-Happy-Spirit-Creative-Heroine-Woman" by Polly Johnson

“Strong-Warrior-Wise-Happy-Spirit-Creative-Heroine-Woman” by Polly Johnson

Notice the intensity. I’m trying to decide if she should have a (framed) place near my desk.  In fact, this is the only one I was able to get a shot of “in my environment” because I retrieved it early one Friday morning before heading to my office.  So, here it is, appropriately next to the teacher figurine my sister gave me and in front of an artistic interpretation of a victim of female genital mutilation created by one of my former students.

"Women"

“Women”

Last, but not least, Kat sent the stunning “Layered Autumn”–another one from my favorite season.

LYA 2014-1

“Layered Autumn” by Kat Sloma of Kat Eye Studio

See what I mean about how the randomness works out? It’s like the art/mail gods schemed to fill my mailbox with things that would make me giddy.  Needless to say, this one will have a permanent place on my “Colors of Autumn” wall.

I’m trying not to stew about the two postcards that are missing somewhere along the postal route. Experience has taught me that they’ll appear…eventually.

As if she knows I have some “missing in action” postcards, the wonderful Candace, as a “random act of kindness” sent me one of her beauties! Candace of Glenrosa Journeys is an awesome photographer and her bird photos are amazing! This one came just in time for my son to claim for his bird-watching journal.

"Stirred for a Bird," by Candace Porth

“Stirred for a Bird,” by Candace Porth

Candace’s photo came with a verse by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

My heart in hiding

stirred for a bird,

–the achieve of,

the mastery of the thing!

Thanks, Candace! One of my postcards will be winging its way to you in a few days.

Here are the pieces I liberated.  I have extras, so if you want to trade, just send me an email.

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Haven’t had enough?  Click the LYA 2014 blog hop button below and enjoy even more “liberated art.”  While you’re at it, join Kat’s mailing list, so you can join LYA 2015!

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