Discovering Spring in a Pretty Purple Pansy

Although we’ve had consistently warmer temperatures for the last week or so, spring has not actually sprung here in Northern Alabama.  I’ve been waiting a bit impatiently for the blossoms to fully appear, but it seems the temperamental winter we’ve had has made our early spring less brilliant than usual.

We’re not the only ones experiencing a delayed spring.

I received a postcard today from my photog pal, Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot, for an A Thousand Words group swap, “Early Spring Photo Postcard.”  She writes that it is still “clearly winter in Michigan.  The freezing cold and bitter wind hasn’t let up.”  As a result, she had to find a little spring at a local nursery’s “Spring Expo.”

Purple Pansy by Diane W.(Midteacher on swap-bot)

Of course, I’m pretty pleased with this gorgeous purple pansy. Not only is the pansy beautiful but the presentation is stunning, so I’m grateful Diane was forced to find spring in another way [Sorry, Diane].  She writes that the pansy was popular among the attendees and she “enjoyed watching everyone’s faces light up when they saw” the pansy. I wish she’d seen my face light up when I retrieved her postcard after work today!

How appropriate that Diane accented the flower with the word “discover.” I’ve been looking for strong evidence of spring (beyond temperature) for a week now!

Now, I have to figure out which inspiration wall needs this purple pansy most–the one at home or the one at work???

Has spring sprung yet in your region?

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?


“When Giving Is All We Have”

"I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart." Psalm 9:1 Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

“I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart.” Psalm 9:1.  Gratitude Art by Lorelei C. #lovenotesjb

When Giving Is All We Have

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

~Alberto Ríos, 1952

Happy Gratitude Day!

Postcards = Love

Shannan, a Love Notes participant, stopped by my office today.  She traveled all the way from her office on campus to say hello.  That’s right!  One of the participants and I live in the same area and work at the same university. What are the odds? We discovered this just after the October round began.  Furthermore, I had been following her blog and never made the connection between the blogger and the grant writer who helped me with a recent grant proposal. The world is so much smaller than we think, and I’m always surprised by that reality.  Anyway, her stopping by reminded me that I hadn’t written about my October Love Notes!

As you may recall from an October post, Love Notes is hosted by Jennifer Belthoff.  Participants sign up for the swap on her 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.

My October partner, Martha Slavin, is an artist and writer who resides on the West Coast.  She sent beautifully designed cards with well-considered messages.

"Imagine," art by Martha Slavin

“Imagine,” art by Martha Slavin

In response to the week one prompt, “Imagine,”  Martha wrote:


a word that resonates deep

inside you–like




words that connect us.

For the week two prompt, “Don’t forget to remember…,” Martha sent a community themed postcard that underscored the message she wrote on the back.

"How to Build a Community," Text by members SCW Community. Karen Kerney, watercolor and colored pencils.

“How to Build a Community,” Text by members SCW Community. Karen Kerney, watercolor and colored pencils.

She reminded me of our connection to each other as humans and advised:  “Don’t forget to remember…”

  • that community is what makes us human
  • that it takes at least two to be whole
  • that you can reach out every day to someone who needs you

If you’re interested in the postcard art, you can find more information here: Syracuse Cultural Workers.  It can be purchased in various forms–print, notecard, bookmark, t-shirt.

For the final week’s prompt, “Courage is…,” Martha sent a mixed-media piece she created:

"I See You, Butterfly," artwork by Martha Slavin

“I See You, Butterfly,” artwork by Martha Slavin

She defined courage as:

  • taking the next step
  • seeing with new eyes
  • living with you feelings
  • reaching out to others
  • getting help when you need it

Martha sent an extra piece with the final mailing:

"What Blows in the Wind?" art and text by Martha Slavin

“What Blows in the Wind?” art and text by Martha Slavin

What blows in the wind?

songs. leaves. smoke. dust. memories. seeds. scents. Mary Poppins. rain. sleet. snow. hail. storms. sailboats. birds. hats. thoughts. feathers. doors. whispers. bubbles. petals. curtains. longings.

Who wouldn’t love a poem in which “Mary Poppins” makes an appearance? Notice the mix of abstract and concrete?

Martha also tucked into the envelope her business card which features her artwork (on back):

"Tree of Life," art by Martha Slavin

“Tree of Life,” art by Martha Slavin

A lovely reminder of the life-sustaining contribution of trees.

I also received cards from other Love Notes participants–Christine, Lorelei, and Jacki–but I’ll share those tomorrow (maybe).  For now, take a few extra moments to enjoy Martha’s pretties. You can find more of Martha’s art and writing at: Postcards in the Air.

Save the date:  The next round of Love Notes begins January 2017.


Something Old and Blue and Something New

This was a pretty pathetic mail week.  In fact, one friend–who usually writes long, informative letters–responded to my lengthy letter through a lengthy email! Oh, pooh!  I understand “busy” and since her email was loaded with great news, I forgave her.

Since nothing new arrived and I still have a lot of catch-up blogging to do, I’m sharing “something old and something blue.”  In honor of the first week of classes at my university, here’s a book-themed postcard “Onyx” of swap-bot sent earlier this year:

Some of my all-time favorites

“All-time Favorites,” By Onyx

“Onyx” read my profile and made this postcard especially for me. The painted postcard measures approximately 10 x 6 inches.  She featured three of my favorite texts: The Holy Bible;  Homer’s Ulysses [The Odyssey]; and (we’ll assume) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

The Bible is a favorite not simply because it is the sacred text of my faith; I’ve loved it since my undergraduate days when I enrolled in the course “The Bible as Literature” with the inimitable Dr. Bernard Benn.  It was under his tutelage that I fell in love with scripture as poetry, history, narrative, and so much more.  It was also in his class that I realized that studying sacred texts as I would study literature–uncovering multiple layers of meaning–led to deeper, more meaningful Bible study.

Although I learned to seriously love and appreciate Shakespeare’s works as an undergraduate and The Odyssey as a graduate student, my teaching them to my own students solidified their place among my favorites.  Shakespeare became a favorite because of his incredible insight, his masterful wordplay, and his revelations of the political and social climate in which he lived. The Odyssey because of Odysseus’s journeys to self-knowledge and home, quests that are a part of the “universal human experience.”

This is probably the first time in a long time that I won’t be teaching all three of these texts in some form, but it won’t be difficult to find a way to work them into my courses–British Literature Survey and Contemporary British Literature.

The first week with my mostly new students made up for the empty mailbox. I’m always happy for the start of a new semester–fresh faces, fresh ideas, and new opportunities to make a difference.



Happy Belated World Postcard Day! Happy Belated National Postcard Week!

Needless to say, I’ve been a little lax in sharing my good mail days with you.  Life gets busy.  My desk remains cluttered and things get buried beneath other responsibilities, tasks, and daily mayhem.  So I’ve been “decluttering” my desk at a rate that makes “decluttering” pointless.  BUT, I’ve found some great things so far–obviously some things that I’d planned to blog about months ago.  POSTCARDS! (Yes, I’m screaming).

World Postcard Day was a month ago—October 9 to be exact.  I joined a WPCD swap and received cute little Ernie the Envie from Rachel, one of swap-bot’s founders.

Ernie the Envelope, swap-bot's cute logo.

Ernie the Envelope, swap-bot’s cute logo.

She writes that she started swap-bot to connect with people all over the world in a tangible way.

Then, there were these 31st National Postcard Week 2014 surprises waiting in my “check-when-I think-about-it” postal box.  Although, NPCW is in May,  I actually received these some time in August or early September.  Apparently, I’m on some NPCW mailing list somewhere.  (I haven’t even had time to investigate that).

William sent two cards–a fun one and a touristy one:

Bill and Dee with Pals Goofy and Mickey, November 2013

Bill and Dee with Pals Goofy and Mickey, November 2013

"United States Capitol, Washington D.C.: Home of House of Representatives and Senate," Photo by William Marquart, January 2014

“United States Capitol, Washington D.C.: Home of House of Representatives and Senate,” Photo by William Marquart, January 2014

Steve, a postcard collector from Fresno, California sent this postcard of a San Francisco early morning:

"Morning Moods"

“Morning Moods as San Franciso Begins a New Day,” Photo by Sandor Balatoni

This postcard represents his “Plan B.”  Circumstances prevented him from getting his postcards printed in time for NPCW.  Of course, I’m not complaining about the beautiful sunrise.  Not complaining about the vintage postage and postal markings that cover the back of the postcard either. 😉

NPCW and Ch Bk Illustration sent-67-2

NPCW and Ch Bk Illustration sent-67-2 - Version 2

The message on the back closes with, “Living the postcard life.”  Love it!

Earl Bucken from St. Augustine, Florida sent:

NPCW and Ch Bk Illustration sent-67-3

“Light Gull Island Lighthouse,” Photo by Earl Bucken, 2002

He had a bit of the lighthouse’s history printed on the back:

Located on the North Fork of Long Island, NY.  The first lighthouse was built in 1803, at a cost of $15,000. When the War of 1812 came to eastern Long Island, the British visited and demanded the light be extinguished.  The keeper refused, and the British removed the  illuminating apparatus from the lantern. The proven vulnerability caused the government to erect a hundred food diameter wall around the tower and keeper’s quarters in 1817.  The wall cost $24,500 and was 300 feet in circumference.  In 1978 [the lighthouse] was automated, ending 172 years of light keeping tradition on the tiny island.

And here are the postcards I received during National Postcard Week 2014 from swap-bots:

From swap-bot “rubyhouseslippers,” this fun and quirky card:

"Elfin Party" (c)

“Elfin Party” by Vanessa Valencia

You can find more of Vanessa Valencia’s fun artwork at her website.  She even lets you inside her studio and gallery.  If you’re into elves and dolls and other fun creations, you’ll love visiting her site.

From swap-bot Andi who hosted the NPCW swap I joined:

Galapagos Islands: Situated in the Pacific Ocean, some 1000 km from the Soth American Continent, these 19 isalnds and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique "living museum and showcase of evotion." Located a the confluence of trhee ocean currents, the Galapagos are a "melting pot" of marine species. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Galapagos Islands: Living Museum

From the postcard back:

Galapagos Islands: Situated in the Pacific Ocean, some 1000 km from the South American Continent, these 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution.” Located a the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos are a “melting pot” of marine species. UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Demaris, whose swap I participated in last year, sent several cards.  Here are the three I like best:

Demaris introduced me to National Postcard Week last year.  She has more information about it here.

And here are the postcards I sent:

Purple Pansies, Photo by Me!

I remember designing this one because I felt I should toss some purple out into the world.

Then, this one, I couldn’t resist:

The “Mysterious” Trike by Me!

After almost two academic years, this trike “mysteriously” appeared outside my office window one day.  I raced out to snap a few shots.  And then, I didn’t see the trike again for the rest of the year.

This year, however, I see it quite frequently.  In fact, I captured it with my camera phone as I was walking back to my office from a meeting one morning. The owner had attached an evergreen tree car fresheners to each handlebar. This was funny to me at the moment.

I didn’t quite achieve the goal of full participation this year (making and sending 100 postcards for NPCW), but I managed to make them and send about 10.  Close enough.

If you’re interested, you can check out the cards I sent last year here and the cards I received last year here.

Happy Postcarding!