Choose >>> Joy

“Finding JOY in the Midst of Chaos” by Lynda F.

Isn’t this artwork gorgeous? This is the card Lynda F sent with her response to Love Notes 26, Prompt 2, “Choose…” Lynda wrote:

Choose  >>> Joy
Start with a small step.
What little things bring you exquisite joy and happy-ness?
Try one. Then another. Then one more.
Try to do at least one joyful thing for yourself every day…
You deserve it!
Find your happy place!

Can we pause for a moment and talk about how much I need Lynda’s words?

I’ve been trapped in a season of work, work, work, and more work, getting next to no sleep and finding no time for the “little things” that add joy to my days. In the seconds between tasks, I’ve been dreaming about ignoring the to-do list, making Valentine’s Day cards, trying some of Diane’s photo collaging techniques, and taking long, long walks with my camera. At this point, I’ll settle for playing with stickers and my planner!

The office manager in my department mentioned today that she feels out of sorts if she goes too long without working with her hobbies. I exclaimed, “Me too,” and decided that I would do something–anything–this evening for balance and for joy.

As I mentioned in one of my 12 Days of Christmas Postcards posts, the word “joy” is significant to me, so the card is even more special. In fact, Lynda and I were in sync for this prompt; when I read the prompt, my response was also “choose joy.” No matter how much I tried to “shake joy” and find something else, joy insisted. So I encouraged Lynda to choose the steadying foundation of joy. I’m sure she did.

For more Lynda-art check her out on Instagram–@ladyfishpirate. Warning: You will be inspired to drop everything on your agenda and spend the night (or day) creating beauty. If it gives you joy, why not? 😉

I Invite You to…

Love Notes 26 just ended. Sort of. I have yet to send my response for the final prompt, but since tonight we’re dealing with the madness of my son’s finishing up his science project, I’m dropping in with my partner’s response to the first prompt: “I invite you to…”

Lynda F, who is an artist, gave me a “ticket to happiness” and collaged a beautiful invitation for the year, written by poet and artist, S.C. Lourie:

Make sure you give considerable time to your dreams this year. Believe in yourself, darling. Make a wish and let it take you on an adventure. Like flowers, may your deepest wishes and dreams blossom in your hands, and those who love you will help them blossom too.  –S.C. Lourie, butterfliesandpebbles

Thank you for these words, Lynda, and for introducing me to another “Instagram Poet.” I’ve been a little obsessed with the “Writers of Instagram” lately.

This year began with an insane amount of craziness [redundant, I know], but I’m going to be a bit more intentional this month about finding quiet moments to figure out life–a little of it at least.

Stay tuned. I’ll be blogging Love Notes from Lynda Wednesday and Friday too!

Purple Orchids and Self-Love

Photo by Christine B.

Self-love has been the theme for today. It popped up a number of times during the day–when [writing] my own morning musings steered me in that direction; when I read the latest blog post written by Briana M., a student in my Creative Nonfiction course–who happens to be the granddaughter of my late mentor; and finally, when the book I was reading to begin a class session opened to a chapter entitled “Schedule Your Own Happiness” instead of the chapter I’d bookmarked.

Point taken.

I’ve declared this week “Self-love Week” on Pics and Posts, and Briana’s insightful post–which defines self-love–is the perfect place to begin. With her permission, I’m sharing it here:

This week taught me that Self-Love is painful.
Self-Love is seeing a therapist to handle childhood trauma.
Self-Love is writing a letter to release pent up resentment.
Self-Love is visiting a grandmother who doesn’t remember who you are.
Self-Love is taking care of whatever is tugging at your heart.
Self-Love is the heavy lifting.
Self-Love is cleaning up the mess someone else left in your front yard.
Self-Love is forgiveness and forgiving those who do not deserve it.
Self-Love is forgiving yourself when no one else will.
Self-Love is digging deep enough to heal the pain you suppressed for years.
Self-Love is finding the source of the dark cloud following you around.
Self-Love is painful.
Self-Love is rewarding.
Self-Love is more than bubble bath and face mask.

This week, require more of yourself, you deserve it. –Briana M., The Introvert’s Escape Maneuver, “Self-Love is Painful”

Be sure to visit Briana’s blog and show her some blogger-love.


Note on the image: Today’s luxurious purple orchids were captured by my friend Christine B. They’re from her mother’s lovely garden.  Extra love provided by the USPS. 😉

Forgive me for being five minutes late for…

 

#ThursdayTreeLove | The Oak and a Lesson in Self-Healing

Oak Tree in City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 2017

This was not a good week. I was ready to throw in the towel by Wednesday morning, but I got up, dressed, pushed through the rest of the week, and kept Philippians 4:13 on repeat.

I’m taking a mental health day tomorrow.

In the last couple of days, I was told twice–in so many words–that I was being negative. Me? The person who always finds the rainbow and gives [almost] everyone the benefit of the doubt? The individuals who commented were right. The heaviness of unexpressed grief, of holding it together, and of having to navigate all of life despite my feelings was seeping out in unpleasant ways.

Each time, I went back to my office and asked God for forgiveness and a little more of His grace. He didn’t give the scolding I deserved. Instead, He gave empathy, reminded me of my humanness, and affirmed my decision to take some time away from the usual maddening routine.

Normally, when I’m in an icky place internally, my camera and a slow walk with the trees work together to adjust my mood. Not so this week. I walked almost daily, spent time with the trees, looked for unique perspectives to photograph and…nothing. My mood was unchanged. I realized, sadly, considering the trees isn’t always an effective panacea.

Today is #ThursdayTreeLove and I was so sure I’d write a post about the lovely trees I’d considered all week. I’m not fond of the idea of sharing this week’s photos, so I decided to share some from a happier moment–photos from a walk through City Park in New Orleans with my mom, one of my older brothers, and my baby sister.

We captured loads of photos on that walk, but today, we’ll take a look at one of the gorgeous Oak Trees in the park:

My photos aren’t great, but I’m sharing them anyway because I love the structure of the tree, the network of branches, and the way the tree seems to reach across the park toward the other trees.

You can somewhat see the massive size of the tree if you note my “tiny” brother in the lower right corner of the photo.

Trees and buildings in the background are puny by comparison.

The 1300-acre City Park of New Orleans is home to 30,000 trees, and proudly boasts “the oldest grove of mature live oaks in the world, including the magnificent Anseman Oak and McDonogh Oak, which are between 750 and 900 years old” [See Trees in City Park].

My guys and I spent so much time in the Park when we lived in New Orleans that we captured hundreds of tree photos. We were (and still are) especially fond of the Oak Trees. The trees are simply breathtaking. One day, I’ll go through my collection and select a few to share on the blog. For now, enjoy a little extra #ThursdayTreeLove with a few more City Park Oak photos on my hubby’s blog. I think you’ll enjoy “The Root of It All.”

I read somewhere that trees are self-healing. I don’t remember all the details of the process, and I certainly don’t expect to do the healing work alone, but there’s wisdom in turning inward, taking care, and doing my part. I coped a bit better last week because I was intentional about spending some time daily, allowing myself to feel and write and think. I did none of that this week and it showed.

Moving forward, I’ll put into practice the lesson of the trees.


I am joining Parul Thakur every second and fourth Thursday for #ThursdayTreeLove. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Reclaiming “the Grind”

Today was my first day (back) at work.

Last night, I had inexplicable anxiety about facing today. With the way I was feeling, one would think I absolutely hate my job or hate working. But I don’t. After almost 24 years in the university classroom, I’m happy to say that I still thoroughly enjoy most aspects of my work. I dislike meetings, grading marathons, and end-of-semester madness. But I enjoy crafting information and creating content. I love facilitating discussions and watching students evolve, find their voices, and exercise their agency. I love engaging with students, tracking their progress, and keeping in touch with them as they move on from the university and develop their personal and professional lives.

So WHY? Why was I inwardly responding with such trepidation to the “first day back.” I’ve had a productive summer of writing, lots of reading, plenty of relaxation, and completion of a few projects. Then, it dawned on me. That’s the problem with returning to work–the rigid schedule that forces me up and out of the house and “doing” constantly until I fall exhausted into bed each night only to wake up the next morning with too little sleep to do it all over again and never, ever finding time for my own intellectual pursuits. Until next summer, gone are the slow, quiet mornings of sipping tea, spending time with God and watching day break. Until next summer, no playing board games with the guys and binge-watching Scott and Bailey (or some other British drama) with my hubby in the middle of the week.

Summers make me feel invincible, like I can accomplish any and all things. This summer has been particularly productive, so I don’t want to disrupt that productivity. Although I’m excited by the prospect of returning to a routine for my son, I realize that returning to a routine for me means less productivity. Less creativity. Less giving of my time in ways I choose, instead of ways that are mandated or expected.

By the time I drove down the driveway this morning, I was okay. I have two more weeks left before students return and classes actually begin, and in that time, I will be implementing ways to take care of my intellectual and creative self and continue to get my own work done. I’ll also work on getting more sleep. I don’t ever want to feel like the classroom is a trap and a killer of dreams (literally and figuratively).

Kindness Week Day 7: Charge Your Inner Light

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Be kind to yourself.

When I began “Kindness Week,” I knew the prompt for the last post would focus on kindness to self. The words were in my spirit, but tonight as I was typing them, I realized the words felt familiar because I’d already written the post a year ago! I started to scrap the topic, but decided the words bear repeating.  After all, even the kindest among us has difficulty being kind to ourselves.

Here are the words from last summer’s post:

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.  —Pics and Posts, June 20, 2017

Kindness to ourselves often requires changing the language we use to speak to ourselves. It requires taking care of our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.

Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself. You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest: Take Care. Just recently I encountered a young blogger, a college student, who features a self-care post almost every Sunday. You might want to check out her blog too: The Introvert’s Escape Maneuver.

Earlier this week my son suggested that I close out the seven days of kindness with the message, “be kind to everyone.” It really is that simple.

I encourage you to live with a spirit of kindness. Walk with it. Breathe it. Look for the good in people. Help people in need, including the disheveled stranger who asks for a dollar or two. Drive with courtesy. Give the benefit of the doubt. Forgive easily. Love freely.

Make kindness more than a habit. Make it part of your character.  And remember–we can be heart and light to others only if the inner light is glowing.

 

Note on today’s image: The postcard above was made by Terry L. who participates in both Love Notes and the Global heART Exchange. She sent the card in April, shortly after receiving happy heART mail from me. Her message is clear: “Be kind to yourself. You are amazing! You’re good enough. You are worth it!”

Previous “Kindness Week” posts:

Have a “kind” 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.