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 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?

Love Notes Catchup: Time for New Friendships

Another round of Love Notes began last week, and as I await postcards, I thought it might be wise to share many of the dozens of love notes I received during and since Love Notes #19 (in April). It seems there will never be enough time to showcase all of them, so I’ve decided to share a bundle of cards in this post and others later in their own special posts. As usual, some of the cards are handmade, some are store-bought, but all were especially chosen for me. Forgive me for the lack of details, but do enjoy the pretty. [Click an image for a closer look].

 

Yanelis, my assigned partner, wrote in the first card she sent, “It’s time for new friendships.” Her statement was almost prophetic; I met many new penfriends via the last round and I’m looking forward to getting to know more members of the Love Notes community.

Wishing you a week filled with love and postcards!

Seven Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

Postcard from Love Noter Angela C.

I’ll admit it. I’m not a fan of summer as a season. You won’t find me outdoors much between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. It’s just too hot for me!

Do you–like me–avoid the higher temperatures?  This doesn’t mean you have to stay “cooped up” in your house or bored until the heat lessens. If you’re looking for some ways to enjoy summer and stay really cool, here are a some “tried and true” ways to get out of the house and beat the heat:

Head Out to the Air Conditioning

  • Read at the mall. Grab a book, toss it in your bag, and head out the house to a bench in the air-conditioned mall. When your eyes need a brief rest from reading, you can people-watch or window-shop. If the mall is too far away or not the kind of place you like to hang out, a coffee shop is a great alternative.
  • Hang out at the Public Library. My baby sister and I were just talking about all the wonderful opportunities for growth and entertainment libraries offer. Her local library offers free painting and crafting classes, piano lessons, and so much more. There is always something at the public library here in Huntsville–readings, lectures, crafting, film viewings, book clubs, author signings, discovery centers, special exhibits, and so much more. There is literally something for everyone. In fact, there’s so much to do it’s a wonder we don’t leech off the library’s AC every day.
  • Journal at the Pool. Kids love pools, so what better way to give your kid what he or she wants and get what you want without compromising. Public indoor pools offer the perfect opportunity for you to do a little art journaling or writing. The lifeguards make sure your kid is safe, so you can take “me-time” with your kid in view. Be sure to bring along your favorite pens, pencils, stickers, and washi tape. 😉

Just Outside Your Home, but Close Enough to Air Conditioning

  • Plan an Iced Tea Party. Host an iced tea party for two or three of your friends. You can do this outdoors under a large tree or on your patio. Serve a variety of cold teas and your favorite cold salads, chilled fruit, and raw veggies. I love tea, but I’m not likely to sip hot tea during the scorching days of summer.
  • Step Outdoors. Open your eyes to the “cool” things just outside your door. Spend some time watching from your patio or from your porch. You’ll observe birds, squirrels, bunnies, even foxes, deer and coyotes, depending on where you live. Even the cloud formations can keep you engaged for a really long time. There’s so much to see just outside our front (and back) doors.

Rainy Day (or Indoor Fun)

  • Create a Vision Journal. You’re familiar with vision boards. A vision journal is the same thing, but created in a notebook instead of on a board. Go through old magazines and cut out pictures that represent what you really want in life for your home, career, vacation, health, spiritual development, self-care, etc. Create collages on the journal pages. Refer to the book from time to time and imagine yourself with your dreams fulfilled. Now, of course, you want to do more than create colorful collages of a beautiful life; you also want to make plans for achieving the dream.
  • Private Concert. Your phone, tablet, and/or computer are filled with music, some you haven’t listened to in a long time, if at all. Create a list of your favorites from the past (or present). Turn down the lights, turn up the music, and host your own concert. If your family members want to join in, let them! The more the merrier. (Tip: If you don’t feel like searching through your extensive music archive, you can find a lot of your favorites on YouTube. Create a playlist there and it’s always available for you).

Summer will be over before we know it, so stay indoors and have some summer fun!

 

Encore? Let Kindness Bloom!

My little “sister” Brittany of OrdinarilyExtraordinaryMom requested an “encore” of Kindness Week. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, but maybe, this bit of kindness will satisfy for now.

Chante Marie, one of my (now former) students and recent college graduate, was “inspired” by the kindness week posts too! She posted a time-lapse video of her creation “Let Kindness Bloom” on Instagram.

Here’s the finished product. [Click the image to view the short video].

“Let Kindness Bloom,” by Chante Marie

The message is sweet and to the point.  As we watch the tree blossom and come to life at Chante’s hands, we understand better the import of the words: Kindness grows and enhances life’s color and brilliance. Give it freely. Let it bloom.

Chante is a singer, composer, writer, artist, and minimalist who is on her way to grand places! More importantly, she is “quite simply” an intelligent, witty, beautiful person whom the world needs to know.  If you want to know more about Chante Marie, check out Quite Simply Minimal, her minimalist blog, or her website which provides links to her art, poetry, YouTube channel, Facebook page and more.

Be sure to sow some seeds of kindness this week!

Be Kind.

The last few days have been more unkind than usual as we’ve navigated one disappointment and heartbreak after another each time we listened to national and international news, read an article, or skimmed social media posts. Louise Gale’s choice of theme for the latest Global HeART Exchange–kindness–was almost prophetic, as if she knew that the chaos and madness of the world would need to be softened during these first few weeks of summer with kindness winging its way throughout the world.

Although I missed the signup deadline for the art swap, Louise kindly pointed me to others who would be interested in swapping postcards with me–two who also missed the deadline and one other who made extra cards. I also received kindness from faithful penfriends.

Instead of sharing all the postcards I received in one post, I’m going to “spread” the cards  (including my own) throughout the week, a small effort to “sprinkle a little kindness” every day.

Today’s post features a postcard created by Carolyn H., an artist and yoga instructor who hails from Ohio.

“Be Kind” By Care H.

Care’s mixed media postcard was inspired by the lyrics of Jewel’s song, “Hands” and included a quote from the song:

In the end only kindness matters.

I encourage you to take a moment and listen to this song. Its message is timely, one many of us need to hear today.

May your week, in Care’s words, “sparkle with art and kindness.”

Close…Closer…Closest

Don’t be misled by the title–I won’t be giving a lesson on comparatives and superlatives today. 😀

Have you ever shot a photograph that thrilled you?  There’s nothing super spectacular about the photo or the scene even, but shooting it gave you all the “good feels?”

That’s how I feel about a few photos I captured with my iPhone late last week.

Mimosa: Close

I’m not sure why this tree claims my attention. There’s something about the combination of pink and green.  Or maybe it’s the fine wisps that form the featherlike blossoms.

I first noticed the trees several years ago in New Orleans, but I only saw them when I was on the road.  The same thing happened here in Northern Alabama.  I never saw them in a place I could or wanted to stop. . . until last week.

I finally found an opportunity to get up close and personal with the tree when I dropped by my son’s school last week. I glanced up and there was the tree sitting behind the building up a hill!

You know what happened next…

Mimosa: Closer

Now, I see these trees practically everywhere I turn, and my heart does a happy dance whenever I see them.

Mimosa: Closest

To be honest, I’m not even certain what this tree is called.  I read conflicting information about it.  A plant identification app on my phone matched my photo with the Albizia julibrissin, but another website identified the tree as Calliandra surinamensis. The University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions site agreed with the app (Go Gators!).

The tree is commonly called a “mimosa” tree and is native to eastern and southwestern Asia, but flourishes (almost) anywhere it’s planted.  According to UF’s Gardening Solutions site, the mimosa tree is considered an invasive tree and is not recommended for gardening.  The plant that it was mistaken for, Calliandra surinamensis, bears similar blossoms, but is more suited for home gardening.

I’ll continue to appreciate this beautiful tree “from a distance,” photograph them when I can, and play around with the photos in  a few apps. 😉

 

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Have you photographed anything recently that simply thrilled you?

Lighthouses!

My friend Kem recently returned from a family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.  Do you know what I found in the mail today?  That’s right! A postcard she sent days before her return.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Cape Poge Lighthouse. Photo by Paul Rezendes

Cape Poge Lighthouse is located on Northeast tip of Chappaquiddick Island.

Kem wrote that she always thinks of me when she visits a new place (how sweet!) and that my camera would be quite happy with the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard (I agree!).  The lighthouses were her favorite sites while there.  She talked about her trip and included pics of some of the lighthouses in a recent blog post.

I love lighthouses too, not only because they are beautiful structures but because of their interesting histories.  The Cape Poge Lighthouse postcard prompted me to take another look at the other lighthouse postcards I’ve received over the last several years.

Take a look:

Map of the Lighthouses of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Until the Cape Cod Canal opened in 1914, every vessel sailing between Boston and points south had to weather the dangers of Cape Cod’s dreaded sand bars that thrust out into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1797, the U.S. government constructed the first lighthouse on Cape Cod. These lonely sentinels have since provided guidance to mariners.

Click the link for more information on the Cape Cod Lighthouses.

Scituate Light (Cedar Point), Massachusetts

Scituate Lighthouse–a historic lighthouse of the War of 1812. This lighthouse is located at the entrance to the harbor and offers a beautiful view of the coast and the harbor.

The Cape May Lighthouse, New Jersey

Situated on the southern tip of Cape May Peninsula where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Cape May is recognized by the United States government as the country’s oldest seaside resort.  The Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The St. Simons Lighthouse, St. Simons, Georgia

The St. Simons Lighthouse was built by James Gould in 1810. It was destroyed during the Civil War and rebuilt in 1872.

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Left to Right–

Great Lakes Lighthouses

Although the two “Great Lakes Lighthouses” postcards seem to feature the same houses, there is an additional house in the postcard above–Seul Choix Lighthouse, Lake Michigan (middle white lighthouse).

I received the postcards in swaps from 2010-2016.  However, the final postcard in my very small collection of lighthouses is a “souvenir” I picked up in San Francisco after a visit to Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Island Lighthouse

The Alcatraz Island Lighthouse was the first one built on the U.S. West Coast, located in California’s San Francisco Bay. It is located at the southern end of the island near the entrance to the prison.

I enjoyed revisiting the lighthouses and reviewing the many other (unrelated) interesting postcards I ran across.  I encountered many that deserve blog posts, so look for some “flashback” postcard posts in the near future.

I think I just added a visit to all the U.S. lighthouses to my travel bucket list.  Maybe, I’ll get started this summer!

Have you visited any lighthouses lately?

Thanks for thinking of me, Kemi, and for prompting the visit down postcard lane.