A Double Dose of Cute

All day midterm grading has left me completely exhausted, but my “wiring” will not allow me to miss “Microblog Monday,” so here’s a cute notecard Arielle W., a new pen friend sent:

Papyrus Stationery. Art by Betsy Snyder.

The art is from Betsy Snyder’s “over-the-top” cute Haiku Baby.

While we’re on the subject of “cute,” check out my little “sister” Brittany’s latest blog post, Doll Yourself Up, Mama.  She encourages us to be our cutest selves–even if we’re no longer 20–and invites us to join her Fall Challenge.

Have a cute week!

“Live and Laugh and Laugh at Love”

It’s “Live-Laugh-Love” Week on Pics and Posts!

That was the theme of the latest round of the Global HeART Swap/heART exchange. I missed the deadline (again), but found a way to participate because the theme is dear to my heart (I’ll explain later this week). When I lamented that I’d missed signup, kind souls came to the rescue and filled my mailbox with life, love, and laughter. I will be sharing their cards throughout the week.

Things have been a “bit over the top” lately, so I’m grateful for the postcards that were sent to me. I have often paused in the middle of the madness to revisit the messages written and enjoy the pretty.

The first card is a colorful collage postcard from Eileen V of Stuttgart, Germany.

“Life is a Bowl of Cherries,” Made by Eileen V.

Her interpretation of the theme includes a purple (just for me) circus act and lyrics from [Fosse’s] “Life is a Bowl of Cherries.”

Life is just a bowl of cherries, don’t take it serious, its mysterious. Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh and laugh at love, love a laugh, laugh and love. –Bob Fosse

Eileen included a note recommending that I watch Follies: New Broadway Cast Recording, “Live, Laugh, Love.”

She managed to pack a whole lot of fun into a 4×6 postcard!

I hope your week is filled with laughter.

Get Up and See!

Today is my birthday!

Normally, I spend the days leading up to my very own day contemplating the past months and making plans for the the days ahead.  My “New Year’s resolutions” begin October 2, not January 1. Not so this year. The last couple of weeks have been filled with anxiety, noise, and internal clutter, and I haven’t been able to grasp the calm I need to get the internal work done. It did not help to wake up in the wee morning hours to the horrible news of an attack in Vegas.

But I am grateful. To be alive (I’m familiar with the alternative). To be well (for the most part). To be accepted. To be showered with love (and brownies, every now and then). For the many, many good people and experiences my many days have brought to me.

Exactly five years ago one of these good people–at that time a new friend–gave me a beautiful card for my birthday. Because it “lives” on my desk, I see it frequently, but today I took a moment to appreciate it again.

“Rita Dove,” detail of The Furious Flower Portrait Quilt, 2004. Mixed media collage on canvas. Artist: Malaika Favorite

The portrait of U.S. Poet Laureate (1993-95) Rita Dove is part of a 24-poet/panel masterpiece by mixed media artist Malaika Favorite which honors the history of African American poetry. The work was commissioned for Furious Flower, a conference held every decade (since 1994), that celebrates, stimulates, and encourages African American poetry and poetic voices.

Dove’s poem, “Dawn Revisited,” from her collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks, is printed on the back of the card.

Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading

glorious shade. If you don’t look back,

 the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits –
eggs and sausage on the grill.

The whole sky is yours

 to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You’ll never know
who’s down there, frying those eggs,
if you don’t get up and see.
The poem is the swift kick in the butt I need to “shake a leg” and get things done!  Please excuse me while I get up and see…

“Charming” Postcards with Gandhi

It’s been about a month since I posted my response to the final prompt of Love Notes 20, so it’s time to make good on my promise to share the cards I received for the prompt. As you might recall, the prompt was “Be the change.”

I received four beautiful postcards from some of my Love Notes penfriends.

Connie F played a little scrabble and then crafted this cute card. 😉

“Scrabble: Be the Change,” Postcard made by Connie F.

Expounding on the theme, Connie writes,

“Change in our hearts, minds, and actions start with us for sure.”

She closed her greeting with the greeting found on Christine B’s gorgeous butterfly postcard:

“Butterfly Peace,” Photo by Christine

Be the change…and remember without change there would be no butterflies.  FLY HIGH.

Eileen V cited Robin Sharma and cautioned that, “change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.”

“Deep Meditation”

The back was just as artistic as the front with pretty (and neat) handwriting that I can only dream of emulating.

Andrea F, ever unique in her approach to the prompts, sent a recipe, ‘How to be the Change.”

“Recipe for Change,” postcard and charm crafted by Andrea F

Ingredients:

  • You
  • Your passion
  • Lots of love, patience
  • A hint of craftiness

Directions: Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Dream big and go for your dreams. Inspire others and spread your love.

As you can see, Andrea also crafted and placed a wine glass charm on the card. This added a “charming” feature to the card.  I’ve attached the charm to my Gidan Nodza Traveler’s Notebook, so I get to see it every day!

My “Charmed” Traveler’s Notebook

Here’s a close up of the charm:

Charm made by Andrea

See how it honors our snail mail relationship. 🙂

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a quote typically attributed to Gandhi. However, that is simply a pithy “reduction” of Gandhi’s full statement:

We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do. – Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi underscores the interactive nature of transformation between the world and us. We, alone, do not create change in the world, rather we respond to the world’s need, a need that is also within us. As we change, the world is transformed and vice versa. 

Are you tuning in? Listening for what the world needs? And what you need?

Rumi: The Guest House

Artwork by Chante Marie

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
translated by Coleman Barks

Fran-Made: What Is Your Postcard Story?

What do you to when you encounter a postcard pal who plays in a New Orleans-style brass band? You love her instantly!

I “met” Fran a few months ago through an offer she posted for American Girl postcards.  I just “had to have” Addy! Since that first Addy postcard (hang on, I’ll be blogging about her soon), there’s been a steady stream of postcards from Fran in my mailbox. She finds postcards at antique shops and estate sales and generously sends to those who will appreciate them.I’m tempted to spend the next several posts showing off the postcards Fran sent.

Fran also makes her own postcards. The first “Fran-made” postcard I received was vibrant and intriguing and included an Artist Trading Card (ATC) and a note that detailed her “postcard story.”

Her postcard journey began with ATC’s seven years ago.  She enjoyed designing the “tiny art” cards in the style of the one pictured below–ink colored in with copic markers.

Circles, Lines, and Angles, ATC by Fran B.

ATC’s are about the size of a playing card–2.5 x 3.5 inches–and allow for tightly conceived art. Sometimes an artist needs a larger canvas, so eventually, Fran realized she could make her designs on larger card stock and began making postcards. Postcards became significant when she was challenged by her mother’s illness.

Angles and Lines, Postcard by Fran B.

She writes:

I had made a few cards when my mom learned she had breast cancer. She lived in Florida. . . I began to send her a postcard at least once a week, sometimes more.  I could pray for her while I made my lines and colored them in. I also did some collage style cards as well and by the time she was well enough again to come and spend a month or so with us in summers, she had quite a collection of postcards.

Fran’s meaningful and touching postcard story compelled me to think about my own. I can’t remember the moment I fell in love with sending and receiving postcards, but I’m sure it was around the same time I got into penpaling as a preteen. For years, my favorite postcards were those that told stories, shared some inspirational message or a bit of humor, and those that were artistically “different” or “bold.” I regularly exchanged postcards (and letters) with high school and college friends, but then “email” became a “thing” and snail mail communications almost vanished.

When I “discovered” swap-bot seven years ago, I found a whole community of individuals who loved sending and receiving postcards. My collections grew to hundreds in less than a year, and I welcomed them all–literary, children’s book illustrations, maps, state cards, history, cultural, purple, pink, floral, lighthouses, African American, art, quirky, funny, and so much more.

I started designing my own postcards on a regular basis because of the many creative swaps on swap-bot, but the Liberate Your Art swaps (hosted by Kat Sloma) emboldened me to share them with the world.

Photo postcards, in particular, provide the perfect way for me to share the beautiful things I encounter in my daily life. Crafting my own postcards and writing postcards also rescue me from life’s temporary madnesses. So, while I don’t remember quite where my story begins, I know why it continues.

Do you have a postcard story? If not, it’s time to begin… 😉

Time Out and Bad Solar Eclipse Photos

This is extraordinary that humankind has figured out that we live on a big sphere, orbiting another sphere, with a smaller sphere orbiting us, and once in a while, these things line up and we experience totality. –Bill Nye, August 21, 2017

Yes, this is yet another eclipse post.

I looked forward to the eclipse and enjoyed every second of it, not simply because of the amazing spectacle it was but because for once, it seemed, we found something else to talk about. The steady diet of social challenge, politics, and White House shenanigans we’re fed in the USA was interrupted for many glorious hours of focus on the solar eclipse.

A time out we needed.

Like many businesses and schools in the area, the University and K-12 campuses (where I work) shut down for a couple of hours and watched the moon pass between the sun and the earth. Students celebrated a break from classes (Many profs and teachers did too, but shhh…we won’t tell). Families interrupted a busy Monday schedule to enjoy the eclipse together. The University provided snowballs and ice cream to keep us cool in the 91 degree heat.

I did not prepare adequately and completely forgot my solar filter. I was not willing to risk my camera sensor, so I attempted to take pics of the eclipse with my iPhone. Major fail!

These are really bad photos, but I figured, something is better than nothing.

This photo surprised me. It reveals just how powerful the sun is.

Eclipse What?

The sun was about 95% covered at this point (We experienced 97% coverage in Northern Alabama). It is amazing how much light escaped through that sliver. Notice the strange hue of the sky?  I’m not sure you can see it, but the sky was “bluer” before the eclipse.

Watching everyone marvel at the eclipse was just as enjoyable as the eclipse itself.  My son:

My not-so-little one enjoying the eclipse.

I might get in trouble for the next picture, but my colleague’s wife, Jewel, was so engrossed in the eclipse that she didn’t hear my greeting. This is her “punishment” for “ignoring” me.

A “Jewel” enjoying the eclipse.

I think two hours in the heat affected my thinking. It never crossed my mind to photograph the shadows, but thankfully, my friend Meli did! I love the crescent moon-shaped shadows cast by the eclipse! [Click an image for a closer look].

Many people have shared many words of wisdom about the eclipse. There are indeed some profound and valuable lessons, but the eclipse simply provided me with a break–a time out from all the little things that irk and frustrate and a moment to focus on something much grander.

NOTE: Thanks to Dr. Tiffany, one of my former students–now a molecular biologist–for the Bill Nye quote.

Be the Change: Your Journey to Give

“The Beauty of the Butterfly,” Photo by Me! (August 2016)

Today would have been my last Love Notes 20 post, but I decided to prolong the fun. My partner faced some challenges and needed a little extra time to get her last card to me, so instead of posting about the cards I received for the final prompt, I’m sharing with you the letter I sent in response to the final prompt.

“Be the change.”

When I considered the prompt, so many thoughts raced through my mind that I hardly knew how to tackle it. I ruminated for many days; then, during my prayer and meditation moments one morning, I read a thought that stuck with me and coincided with the theme.

Here’s a summary:

In order to see God’s vision for your life and become part of God’s story, there are four promises you must claim:

  • You have a gift only you can give.
  • Someone has a need only you can meet, only you can heal—no matter how inadequate you feel.
  • Joy is the journey where the gift and the need collide. God’s path for your life is a collision course. The intersection where your gift crashes into the world’s need is where you will truly begin to live.
  • Your journey to give your gift will break you…but it will also make you.  –[from Better Than You Can Imagine: God’s Calling, Your Adventure by Patrick Quinn, emphasis mine]

After reading this, I knew I had to share this with my penfriends, so I sent them a letter instead of a postcard or notecard.

The excerpt from Better Than You Can Imagine unveils a principle I embrace. If we are to be the change, then we have to find the gift someone needs—the world needs—that only we can give. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide what we’re going to give. We decide to accept and share the gift, but discovering this gift is a journey—not a decision.

Imagine how much collective change we can create if all individuals would take the journey to find that one thing and exercise it. We would literally change the world! As we partner with God on finding this “great need,” our lives are transformed from the inside out and we experience the “symbiotic” nature of change: the world opens up and reveals to us what it needs and we open up and provide.

Far too often we get caught up in the idea of making a name for ourselves or doing something grand when what seems smallest can make a huge impact on someone’s life and on the world.

A long time ago, I read “A Grammarian’s Funeral,” a poem by Robert Browning, which celebrates the grammarian’s lifelong dedication to Greek language study and his discovery of the articles. While he lived, his colleagues criticized his “wasting his life” and his brilliant mind on such trifles. For them his work was menial, but, though they seem a small contribution, the articles—a, an, and the—are so essential to our languages.

Like the grammarian, we must be keenly focused on finding our part and then doing it. In doing our “small” part, we change the whole.

I encourage you, if you have not already done so, take the journey to find your unique gift and be the change. In affecting even one person’s life, you’re doing your part to change the entire world. The possibilities are amazing!

The Ripple Effect: Sharing Kindness with Our Words

Last week ended with my feeling “less than kind,” so I’m happy to revisit the postcards I received for prompt two of Love Notes 20 to increase and fortify my kindness quotient. The prompt was “Share kindness…” I know. I know. I’ve done a number of kindness posts recently–eight, to be exact–but there’s so much more to share on the topic.

My partner, Jenni P, sent another postcard from the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. I’m convinced someone had a talk with her about my postcard “likes.”

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

She loves Mother Teresa, so she wrote a MT quote as her message:

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.  –Mother Teresa

Christine must have been peeking over her shoulder because their messages “echo” each other!

“Share Kindness,” postcard crafted by Christine B.

Connie F sent photo inspiration, featuring another favorite–trees.

“Roots in All Direction,” photo by Connie F.

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make trees. –Amelia Earhart

I love how Connie completed the prompt:

Sharing kindness has a ripple effect. We never know how far a kind word or gesture will go.

Lastly, my Austrian postcard pal, Andrea F, crafted a tag postcard featuring a photo of a quirky mailbox. I’m slightly amazed that she sent it “naked” (with no envelope) and it made it to me in almost pristine condition.

“Kindness and Confetti,” postcard made by Andrea F.

She reminded me to “throw kindness like confetti” and to toss a little in the direction of myself–which is the sentiment written on the back of the postcards I sent.

As for my part, I “crafted” a “minimalist” postcard. That’s what I’m calling it, at least. I cut leftover white cardstock down to 4×6, printed a kindness scripture onto the cards, used the Cricut to transform miscellaneous scrapbook paper into hearts, and glued the heart to the cardstock.

“Be Compassionate,” handmade postcard by Me!

Interestingly, within the context–just a few verses before Ephesians 4:32–the instruction is given to:

Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that benefit those who hear them.  –Ephesians 4:29

The compatibility of our messages is uncanny, almost as if we’re sharing one mind on the matter of kindness.

So much unkindness is (typically) rooted in our speech that we must be reminded to be kind with our words and to speak only what “benefits those who hear them.” It takes nothing from us to speak a tender word or encourage someone along the way, but often we behave as if giving to someone takes something from us. Actually, the effect is just the opposite–treating each other with compassion makes room in our hearts to give more and make our world a better place.

It took very little work and very little effort to make my postcard. Likewise, kindness takes little, if any, work and effort.

I’ve made a conscious decision to share kindness with my words and “be generous” with my love to increase my kindness quotient this week. Want to join me?

Hello Beautiful!

“Hello Beautiful,” by Timree

I sent the final letters for Love Notes 20 this morning. Sigh. I’ll send postcards periodically to my Love Notes pals while we wait for the next round, but the return to work tomorrow and preparation for the 2017-18 academic year means I must take a short break from my role as a snail mail revolutionary and focus on the life of the mind.

As you may recall from earlier posts:

Love Notes is a postcard project coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff that “encourages slowing down, getting back to basics, and connecting through handwritten notes sent through the mail.” Participants sign up for the swap on Jennifer’s website and then she assigns partners–notified via email–who correspond with each other for three weeks based on a prompt she provides each Sunday.

The prompts for this round were provided by Mindy T of Embody Love Movement. Each prompt provided participants with the opportunity to reflect and share with their partners. I plan to use today’s microblog and the next two “Microblog Mondays” to share the cards and messages I received from my assigned partner and the kind souls who sent beautiful reflections out of the goodness of their hearts.

The first prompt was “Hello beautiful…”

Being told we are beautiful makes a tremendous impact on our mental, physical, and emotional health, so I can only imagine the good vibes that reverberated throughout the world as Love Notes participants retrieved postcard after postcard, note after note, letter after letter that began with the words, “Hello Beautiful!”

My partner, Jenni P, sent a postcard from the “Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.”

From the postcard back: Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site preserves the 19th-century home of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, father and stepmother of our 16t president. Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer living in Springfield by the time his parents moved here, but his burgeoning law practice often brought him to Charleston and the farm, especially during the 1840s. Abraham Lincoln also owned a portion of the farm which he deeded back to his father and step-mother for their use during their lifetime. Today, Lincoln Log Cabin is an 86 acre historic site that includes an accurate reproduction of the Lincolns’ two-room cabin which was reconstructed on the original cabin site in 1935-1936 as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. A working, living history farm has been developed around the cabin. The site also includes the Moore Home, where Lincoln bid farewell to his family in 1861 before leaving to assume the Presidency, and the grave sites of Thomas and Sarah Lincoln at the Thomas Lincoln Cemetery. For more information, go to www. lincolnlogcabin.org.

Jenni has no knowledge of my love for purple, so it was a nice coincidence to find the purple flowers in the photo. Her message:

Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks, not in what they say. Just in what they are. –Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger

Andrea F, whose work you’ve seen recently in a “summertime post,” graced my mailbox with a collage of “happy red postcards.”

Collage, “Happy Red Postcards,” by Andrea F.

She wrote that the collage is a compilation of postcards from some “beautiful happy moments” in her life she wishes to share.  She closed the note simply–

Be beautiful.

Lori W’s cute chipmunk gave me the “warm fuzzies.”  The little critter comes from Animal Box: A Collection of 100 Animal Postcards.

“Chipmunk,” 1990. By David Howell. Originally published in Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York by Susan Allport

Her message–

Hello beautiful! Rest your heart on the ultimate certainty–you are loved!

Isn’t it so that when we walk in this truth (knowing we are loved) we are indeed more beautiful–inside and out?

I did the happy mail dance when I pulled the cards from Christine B and Connie F from the mailbox. Why? They both sent sunflowers! Christine sent a bouquet of sunflowers embellished with washi tape and paper accents.

“Sunflowers seem to be always smiling.”  Photo postcard by Christine B.

She counseled:

Be true to who you are and smile. It’s the prettiest thing you can wear.

Connie designed “one of a kind” cards for some of us in the group. I was simply speechless when I pulled her card out of the envelope. Everything about this card made my heart sing–the sunflowers, the washi tape, the tiny mirrors, and the heartfelt message. [Photo does no justice].

“Hello Beautiful,” crafted by Connie F.

There are many beautiful people in the world.  Never forget you are one of them.  I hope you feel beautiful today! If you start to wonder what beautiful looks like, check the mirror.

My own message, drawn from a wall sticker in my home office, “Be your own kind of beautiful,” encouraged my postcard pals to embrace their unique light and shine on!

Just yesterday, I happily found a package of “Hello Beautiful” notecards (top) designed by Timree that I purchased some time ago. They’re too pretty to remain stored in my stuffed box of stationery, so I plan to write to some of my sisterfriends and remind them of their beauty.

If you were to write a “hello beautiful” message today, to whom would you write and what would you say?