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)?

Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God who I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.

Microblog Mondays: African Masks [Children’s Art]

My son is all better and back in school, but I must say, I was in kiddie art heaven last Thursday while I waited to meet with his teacher to collect the assignments he missed.  The school held its annual art fair and though I didn’t see everything, what I did see was pretty impressive.

I’m in the throes of midterm grading, so I’m just going to share the colorful masks done by my son and his peers in Mrs. Trott’s 5th-6th grade (combined) class.

They all started with a basic mask and added touches that express their personalities.

I love every one of these masks!

The students have been learning about the continent of Africa–its landforms, peoples, histories, and cultures–so I’m sure this was a fun exercise to complement their lessons.

Well, I’m back to grading.  I’ll be back eventually with pics of some of the other art.

Happy Monday!

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Microblog Mondays: He Restores My Soul

My little one is sick for the fourth time this season, so when I woke up this morning, worried and stressed, I needed a simple and familiar scripture to start the day. I opened the Bible App and the “Verse of the Day” provided the first few verses of Psalm 23–just what I needed to help the little one get through the day.

“He Leads Me Beside Peaceful Streams,” Wheeler Lake, Huntsville, Alabama.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
Psalm 23:1-3a NLT

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Microblog Mondays: “I Will No Longer Hide in the Shadows”

Need Meets Love and Compassion

“I Will Be The Place Where Need Is Met with Love and Compassion”

If Trump does no other good, we must acknowledge that the reality of his presidency has awakened a slumbering nation.  Many finally realize that we can no longer resist in silence and leave the fate of our nation in the hands of elected officials, many of whom for too long have served their own political interests and agendas and have paid attention to their constituents only when it was time to collect votes.

"I Speak for the Trees Too."

“I Speak for the Trees Too.”

I am particularly proud of the way one of my nieces, Tiffany, has “awakened” and is [re]claiming her voice. She has been wearing out her boots marching and standing up for human rights and against oppression since the day Trump took office.  On that “fateful” day, she responded to her peers who claimed to be taking a social media hiatus to avoid the political talk and conversations.  In a post that I’m sure set their teeth on edge she called them out of their stupor and demanded that they finally see her and her struggle as a Black woman.

I’m glad that many of you can take a social media hiatus, avoid Facebook for the day and disengage from political conversations. I’m glad that you can “take a break” from all of the hate and negativity that you feel you are seeing. I don’t have that luxury.

I cannot take off my skin.
I cannot un-know what it feels like to have white men tell me that they’ve “never had a black girl suck their d*** before.”
I cannot go back and ask all the things I wanted to know in science classes dominated by men who made me feel inferior, insignificant and ignored.
I cannot forget the fear of being followed and harassed for miles on the highway and being spoken to in demeaning ways by men in grocery stores who thought that they had every right to behave that way.

I will march and I will raise my voice. I will face fear and the pain of the things that have shaped my heart and kept me silent and left me afraid. I will not ignore and turn my back to hate. I will look hate directly in the eye and say, “no more.”

Brokenness mends best out in the daylight, and I will no longer hide in the shadows.

Tiffany marched again this weekend, this time in the 11th Annual Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina, coordinated by the NC NAACP.   “Big” sister Erin–one year older–who is also socially conscious, marched with her. They were interviewed by WRAL News.

With Erin at the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina--being interviewed by WRAL

With Erin at the Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina–being interviewed by WRAL

Tiffany is about more than the march. She realizes real change takes more than getting her boots dirty.  While there are things happening in the political arena that we can’t ignore, there are crises in people’s personal lives that need immediate attention, so she’s doing what she can to make life better for others.  This year she’s participating in the Make-a-Wish Trailblaze Challenge to “raise funds and grant wishes for children with life threatening medical conditions.”  It is her goal to “enrich their lives with hope, strength, and joy.”

Travel and Protest: In the airport standing up for immigrants and against the travel ban

Travel and Protest: In the airport standing up for immigrants and against the travel ban.

Thank you for coming out of the shadows, Tiffany.  The world needs you!

March on…

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Microblog Mondays: Reflect.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. –Annie Dillard.

I’ve spent the last 72 hours in bed.  Sick.  Ugh! I wasted a significant amount of that time fretting over the things that weren’t getting done. Initially, I was too sick to read, write, or do much of anything and too irritable to be good company, but a letterpress card Martha S. sent to me last month helped me find value in being sick.

“Reflection.” Designed by David Radarvar.

Reflect.

It will help you learn. It will help you heal. It will help you grow. It will help you better help others. It is the only way to become who you are meant to be.

The card and the accompanying booklet are the perfect journaling companions as I recuperate.  The booklet has six panels which guide reflection on the past year–the good; the bad; career and work; change and growth; friendship and love; and summary.

If you’d like to take some time to reflect, the Holstee guide can be accessed on the site.  Click the “Download the Action List (PDF)” link and you’re there.

What do you do when you’re trapped in bed?

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Microblog Mondays: The Wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

I recently began a new swap series in the “All Things Book-Related” group on swap-bot. For the series, swappers must send partners a book-related postcard with a quote from a fictional or poetic work that enlightens, inspires, or “shows us the way.”  The quote may be printed on the front of the postcard or written on the back.

This is the most recent card I received–for Literary Wisdom #3:

Literary Wisdom

Literary Wisdom from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

The postcard came from Mandi of Lake Elsinore, California.  She writes, “We hear so much bad news these days that we forget there is still love and happiness in the world.”

The Tolkien quote served as a perfect ending to a class discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  One of the most important take-aways from our discussion was the need for us to remain vigilant in the quest to protect our freedoms and preserve our souls while doing so.  We protect ourselves during perilous times–such as these–by recognizing the struggle is not all there is, by praying/mediating, by moving in love, and by immersing ourselves in the love of family and friends.

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Microblog Mondays: Time Out for Cute

I received many beautiful and meaningful postcards the last few days, so at the moment I’m torn between posting something meaningful and something cute.

Watercolor by Martha Slavin

“Cute Overload,” Watercolor by Martha Slavin

As you can see, cute won. Why?  The last few days were challenging, and I just want to stop thinking for a moment.

The postcard is a reproduction of a watercolor by one of my new postcard pals, Martha. Martha is an artist and a writer.  The watercolor was inspired by raccoons that used to live under her deck.  She writes  that they now “just travel through.”

Isn’t he the cutest?

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Microblog Mondays: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Redemptive Power of Love

Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), From African Americans Book of Postcards, Pomegranate.

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

–Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Microblog Mondays: Postcards and Shakespeare

I had other plans for today’s microblog, but I’m thinking about the Shakespeare course I teach every spring and the postcards on my desk are waiting to be shared.

[Click image for a closer look and details]

“As You Like It” is from the Postcards from Penguin collection of Penguin classic covers; I received it for a “Book Lover’s Postcard” swap.  The other two are from the Shakespeare’s Plays collection of postcards featuring images from the Library of Congress.  They will be on their way soon to a couple of Shakespeare-loving friends to celebrate the beginning of the semester.

As part of our conversation about Shakespeare’s world, we will discuss Queen Elizabeth I whose portrait was among the postcards on my desk.

Queen Elizabeth in Queenly Glory

The “Ditchley Portrait” of Queen Elizabeth I by Marcus Geeraerts.

I’m looking forward to hearing what students have to say about portraiture and Queen Elizabeth I, particularly after they study a more “truthful” painting: “A Picture of Misery,” Portrait of Queen Elizabeth.  I have a feeling they won’t be fazed by the “enhancing” of portraits.  They live in an age in which they can modify any image with an iPhone and an app.

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