Till the Gossamer Thread Catch: A Short Break with Walt Whitman

I’m in the middle of grading a heap of papers and trying desperately not to lose focus until I reach today’s goal, so I’m dropping in to share a “photo poem” I pulled from my “archives”–the second verse of Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” paired with a dandelion I shot some time ago.

You can find the (only a few lines longer) full poem and a little about the poet here: Academy of American Poets: Whitman.

Until next time…

Start with Yes…

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the postcards I received for Love Notes 21, Prompt 1, “Start with…” At the time I did not share the card I designed in response to the prompt because they were en route to the recipients and I didn’t want to “spoil” their fun by posting here.  But here it is…

I captured the train tracks while waiting for my hubby and son to finish up at a pet shop that also sells and exhibits art. Cool, right? The photo served as a perfect image for my response to the prompt:

Start with…yes. The road ahead awaits your consent.

We get so many messages telling us how to say “no”–messages that remind us that we shouldn’t let others take advantage of our generosity or take more than we’re willing to give of our time and resources. The problem is that “no” is such a powerful word that it seeps into our consciousness and into our language even when we don’t want it to, especially when we talk to ourselves. “No” spearheads all the negative self-talk at the root of our unplanted dreams. It convinces us that we’re not prepared enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not articulate enough to do one thing or another. We’ve trained ourselves so well in the art of no that we say “no” to everything…even to things that are healthy and beneficial for us.

So my message…”start with  yes,” is about changing the internal dialogue. It’s about dismissing all the reasons why we shouldn’t and embracing the reasons why we should and all the what ifs in a way that exposes the benefits and not the drawbacks of the word “yes.” Clinging to “no” means we’re stuck in this one place. Never venturing. Never gaining and never reaching what is waiting for us just beyond “yes” and further down the road.

I encourage you to start with yes…and participate as a whole new world unfolds before you.

Creative Conundrum

I’m on break for seven more glorious days (including the weekend). I desperately need a mental break, so I’m trying not to slip into my old “Thanksgiving Break” habit of spending the entire time grading papers, catching up, and updating my grade book.

There is a pile of books on the floor in my crafting space, paint, ink, and a bin of stamps begging for attention–not to mention the words, words, words in my head needing to come out!

So many things to get into, so little time.  But…I’m determined to get my hands stained with ink and paint and stuck to something this week.

What about you? Are you planning any creative adventures this week?


Motivation on a Monday: I Hope You Smile

I received a bright purple postcard recently, and without flipping it to the message side, I knew immediately who had sent it–Jacki, my purple-loving Love Notes pal who lives on the other side of the pond.

She wrote a nice, long quote on the back, perfect for sharing on a Monday.

One day it just clicks. You realize what’s important and what isn’t. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realize how far you’ve come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that you would never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become.

I hope that you can smile when you look in the mirror today “because you are truly proud of yourself” and truly in love with the person staring back at you.

If you’re not there yet, wrap yourself in a little purple love, knowing you’ll get there some day.

Start With…

Love Notes 21 ended a week ago (or has it been two weeks?). I got a bit off track this round, but today I made significant progress by getting most of my cards in the mail. Finally. I think I’ve earned the “right” to post about the round this week.

As usual, Jennifer Belthoff, the swap coordinator, sent prompts weekly for three weeks. Prompt 1 was appropriate: “Start with…”

My partner, Lori K, crafted a whimsical postcard that still tickles me.

“Three Little Birds,” Handmade Card by Lori K.

My hubby, son, and I had so much fun giving each bird a story.

Her message to me:

Start each day with a happy thought and a smile! It will put everyone around you in a good mood.

Lori is a scrapbooking, stamping, card-making diva. You can see her work on her blog, Lori’s Creations.

I received extra Love Notes from postcard pals. Their thoughtfulness never ceases to amaze me. Each sender seems to handpick the cards to suit my tastes and interests.

Christine B. sent a photo of the moon setting on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Maybe, you remember my connection to the moon?

“Setting Moon,” the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Photo by Christine B.

She penned wise counsel on the back, “sealed” with her signature green star:

Start with a prayer…Then, be ready for anything. Life dishes out lots of stuff. Try to keep a positive attitude. That helps.

For my art-and-poetry loving, woman-centered soul, Litsa L sent a postcard featuring the art of Czechoslovakian Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.

“Poetry from the Arts, 1898,” Alphonse Mucha, 1860-1939.

In the piece,

Poetry is personified by a female figure gazing at the moonlit countryside in contemplation. She is framed by a laurel branch, the attribute of divination and poetry. —Mucha Foundation

Litsa advises:

Start with the beginning. The journey follows. Sometimes, there is an ending, sometimes another beginning, but always a journey.

For my love of trees and autumn, Lisa C sent a “whisper of fall” from her backyard:

“Whisper of Fall,” Photo by Lisa C.

She had a short poem imprinted on the back of the postcard. I assume she wrote the poem (?). 

Tall and regal.
Roots grown deeper.
Each leaf has its own character.
Essence of life.

She added her response to the prompt:

Start with a single tree…and some day a forest will grow.

You can see more of Lisa’s beautiful photography and musings on her website, Wandering Shutterfly.

Stay tuned. I’ll share postcards for prompts 2 and 3 later this week.

Until tomorrow…

The “Other” Sister: “I didn’t have to fight…”

Although I’ve written about my younger sister Karlette who succumbed to breast cancer a few years ago, I have not mentioned Lori, my other sister, who danced with the devil. Lori’s diagnosis came a few years before Karlette’s first. I asked her to write a blog post about her experience, but she feels that she has little to add to the conversation. However, what she shared with me during the “trying-to convince-her” discussion says a lot about the feelings of some breast cancer survivors whose battles may not have been as “dramatic” as others’.

It has been hard for me to think of myself as a survivor. I really didn’t have to fight cancer. Karlette fought cancer. It kept coming for her and she fought with everything she had. I just went through treatments and it was gone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever celebrated survival. I know that there’s always the possibility of its coming back, but my plan would be the same[…]. I never thought of it as a fight. I thank God for His mercy and for blessing me when so many others had to fight and many even lost.

When I pointed out to her that her status as “survivor” is a matter of perspective, that every year she “holds her breath until given the ‘cancer free’ news,” she responded:

I do. [But] I give it all to God. I thank Him daily for every breath I take. Don’t get me wrong. I know I, too, could have lost, but I know that it was God who fought and won. Not me–not without giving it to Him.

It has been difficult for Lori being the older sister survivor when one of her baby sisters didn’t survive. She lives with profound sadness because of this reality. I watched her go through treatment, and it wasn’t pretty. Cancer changed her life. It changed her body’s chemistry and even impacted the way she processed our younger sister’s passing. 

A cancer diagnosis–no matter how positive the prognosis–is a sucker punch that a person feels deep in his or her being. Every cancer survivor lives with the possibility that “it” may return.

That is what makes survivors survivors–not “beating” the disease or coming through unscathed but the daunting reality of the disease; they’re survivors because they can stand up in the world and move and contribute and be [whole and well] with the looming possibility of such crippling news.

We lost Karlette. That’s an awful reality that hurts like hell. But losing her makes us celebrate Lori even more. Though we may never have the answer to why not Karlette too, Lori’s survival is important. It rescues us from despair. It gives us hope. And that is certainly a reason to celebrate.

The closing lines of my favorite Lucille Clifton poem comes to mind:

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
[from “won’t you celebrate with me“]

*Photos in this post are from Pixabay.

What About the Children?

Photo from Pixabay

I’m having another super busy Monday, but it’s been weighing heavily on my heart to share the powerful message about children and homelessness my sister-friend Takiyah Franklin (Tk) recently recorded.

In sharing why she recorded the song, Tk writes:

The homeless crisis is getting worse . . . and while I want to see more action from [our] city [and state] officials, we the people have to act as well. I definitely don’t have the solution to the housing crisis, but I know I’m not so far removed from the realities of poverty to not care. Music is one way to raise awareness, so I choose to lift my voice as a tool for social justice.

In speaking specifically about the situation in Oakland, California, Tk reminds:

It is our duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is our duty to hold local and state officials accountable for working with the community and the corporations taking over to find solutions to homelessness and poverty.

The song, called “Homeless Children,” is the result of the collaboration between  Dan Zemelman (pianist and co-writer), Albert Greenberg (co-writer), Alberto Hernandez (engineer), Julie Wolf (producer), and Tk (vocal artist).

Click the image to listen to the song:

“Homeless Children” Recording. Photo by Pat Augsburger. Used by Permission.

For more information about childhood homelessness and to find ways you can help, see the following:

Be sure to check out local missions and programs to help with the the homeless crisis in your area.

It is my hope that homeless children–indeed all homeless people–will get the assistance they need  to improve their circumstances on this side of heaven.

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…