4-4-4: Four Weeks, Four Topics, Four Notes

Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy.  Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.

A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem.  The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap.  Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.

This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.

I decided to host the swap again.  This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot.  Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.

Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant.  Take a look:

Week 1: Beauty

Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden.  She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.

She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.

Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.

Week 2: Color

“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well.  The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.”  She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.

Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Week 3: Alone

“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot

The theme isn’t obvious on this one.  The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart.  She had a pretty difficult autumn one year.  The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it.  Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan.  While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance.  It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them.  The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy.  Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.

She writes in sum:

I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!

Week 4: Fragrant

I  was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope.  It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.

These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.

Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits.  They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!

As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art.  Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other.  We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques.  It’s on my list for the summer.

Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.

Until then…

Have a happy mail day!

Pink Orchids and Karle’s Wings

“March 11.”

“Pink orchids.”

These words played over and over in my mind as I awakened from my slumber this morning.  Today marks four years since we lost Karlette, my younger sister, to breast cancer.  And pink orchids were her favorite flowers.

I’ve been fighting with a photo of pink orchids I shot at the New Orleans Botanical Gardens in January. I want it to commemorate her life. I want it to be beautiful.  I want it to represent her.  I want it to be perfect. It’s far from perfect, but it’s what I have until I get back to New Orleans and capture them again.

Pink Orchid, New Orleans Botanical Gardens

I realize my fretting over the orchids has a lot to do with my trying to cope with March 11, a date that gives me anxiety, although I think about my sister every.single.day.

Before her death, Karlette and I had plans to write the stories of her brutal battles with breast cancer and what we’d hoped would be her victory.  I have the pictures, but without her voice,  I know it will not be the story she wanted told.

Some aspect of her story will be shared eventually, but for now, I’ve decided to honor her memory in another way.

Recently, I had the privilege of writing postcards to breast cancer patients with whom my only acquaintance is that someone they know is in one of the same Facebook groups to which I belong.   I prayed and used my sister’s experience to guide me as I wrote.  I thought about what she would say and how she would encourage women.  It dawned on me that sometimes a small thing such as a postcard or note goes a long way to cheer someone who is struggling with this disease, and honoring Karlette does not require a monumental gesture.

So today, instead of suffering silently this awful loss, I’m reclaiming March 11.  Today, I am launching Karle’s Wings, a postcard ministry aimed at sharing with breast cancer sufferers and survivors beauty, light, and joy–characteristics Karlette embodied.

If you or someone you know would benefit from a postcard from Karle’s Wings, please complete the contact form below. The  information will remain private and will not be shared with anyone beyond the purpose of addressing a postcard, note, or letter. Within days of receiving the request, you, your family member or friend will receive a handwritten, personalized postcard from Karle’s Wings.

Love and light…

IMG_6837

Photo by Tapman Media, New Orleans

Cup and Chaucer: Mini Pocket Flipbook

One of the most enjoyable snail mail projects I worked on this year was a mini pocket flipbook for a swap in the Cup and Chaucer group on swap-bot.  Cup and Chaucer, as you might have guessed, is a group of swap-bots who love mulling over a great literature with piping hot cup of tea.

I’d never done a flipbook before, but my interest was piqued by the theme–books!  How could I resist?  Besides sticking to the theme, the only other requirement was that we incorporate a pocket.

My “receive from” partner, AnnaM, created a beautiful flipbook–lots of purple and gold, pretty embellishments, and many thoughtful handmade items.  Overall, it was an elegant flipbook, nicely presented.

This is how the flipbook came out of the envelope:

Flipbook Packaging

Flipbook Packaging

Here’s the front cover:

Flipbook Front Cover

Flipbook Front Cover

And the back cover:

Back Cover

“There is no scent so pleasant to my nostrils as the faint subtle reek which comes from an ancient book.” –Arthur Conan Doyle

And everything in between [click an image for a closer look]:

Here’s a closer look at some of the tuck-ins [click an image for a closer look]:

There was just so much “eye candy.” I remember doing the happy mail dance when I opened the package.

The swap came at a crazy time for me–April.  The cruelest month. Remember?  I didn’t even see an opportunity to work on it until the mail deadline date.  I ended up grabbing a bunch of supplies on my way out the door one morning, working on it, and completing it in record time in my office (between classes, of course).  I posted it on my way home.

I chose a color pallet and crafted without a plan:

fullsizerender-57

It was early spring and I was happy to see and play with color again.

True to my “English professor” word, I finished the front cover last (I tell my students to write their essay introductions last).

Bookish Flipbook Front Cover

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  –Charles Williams Eliot

Here’s the back cover and everything in-between [click an image for a closer look]:

My favorite part is Dickens’ Dream by Victorian artist Robert William Buss.  I scavenged it from a mailer from one of the textbook publishers. The curly haired lady was also salvaged from an envelope or the back of a postcard.

The flipbook was 5 x 7 inches, a manageable size.  It was bound with washi tape. I tucked in Jane Austen postcards, Project Life cards, star-shaped Post-it notes, washi tape, and paperclip bookmarks–something else I learned to do this year.

Making the flipbook was an easy and fun activity; I’m looking forward to crafting another one. If you’d like to make your own flipbook and need to see more of the process, here’s the YouTube video I reviewed before making my own:

Doesn’t this look like fun for a rainy day?

Autumn Happy Mail

I hope you’re not tired of reading about autumn, because I received a bit of autumn happy mail today and I have to share!

Swap-bot’s Midteacher sent a swap in an autumn-themed envelope with a gorgeous autumn card and photo.  Autumn was not the theme of the swap, but it is not unusual for swappers to send extras that the receiver will enjoy. Of course, my love for the season is no secret.

I will share the swap items tomorrow, but for today, let’s just take a look at the envelope and the autumn extras.  Here’s the pretty mail art:

Zentangled Leaves by Midteacher

Zentangled Leaves by Midteacher

Just seeing this envelope makes me smile.

On the inside was a card designed with one of Midteacher’s photos and embellished with paper, ribbon, and other items.

Fall Card made by Midteacher

Fall Card made by DBW aka Midteacher

I mentioned Midteacher’s card-making techniques in a post earlier this month.

She wrote a special thank you note inside which made me feel warm, fuzzy, and appreciated.

She adhered a little photo  inspiration to the inside of the card:

Photo Inspiration by Midteacher

Photo Inspiration by DBW aka Midteacher

And added a photo featuring her favorite autumn mug and a crunchy, frosty pile of autumn leaves:

"Leaves and Tea," Photo by DBW/Diane aka Midteacher (swap-bot)

“Leaves and Tea,” Photo by Diane aka Midteacher

Now, I have to make a decision: Should these go on my “Fall Wall” or should they be used in my journaling?  Maybe, they should go on the wall until I’m ready to use them in a journal. Hmmm… I’ll figure it out later. For now, I’ll just enjoy the little happy-makers.

“See ya” tomorrow…

 

More Postcard Love!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I did receive a number of extra postcards from Love Notes participants.  The great thing about the Love Notes community is that the connections to other individuals are not just about getting postcards.  Participants enjoy reaching out in their own way to other participants. Some make cards and notecards. Some purchase them, but all seem to use snail mail to brighten someone’s day and to get to know each other better.  I was pleasantly surprised when I received my first unsolicited Love Notes and now I look forward to the occasional happy mail in my P.O. Box.

Here are the extra love notes from October 2016. From Christine B.:

Paris France Arc: De Tiomphe De L'ecole

Paris, France Arc: De Tiomphe De L’ecole

“Don’t forget to remember:

  • You deserve the very best.
  • Be sure to love yourself.
  • Pay yourself a compliment.
  • Continue to make art and look at nature.”
Sunset, Pto. Lobos, Mexico, photo by Christine B.

Sunset, Pto. Lobos, Mexico, photo by Christine B.

“Imagine…No hate. No judgment. No suffering. Just peace and love.”

“People with Courage,” art by Christine B.

“Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway…”

From Lorelei (whose name I love):

“3-D Pumpkin Love,” made by Lorelei C.

“Don’t forget to remember…

  • to enjoy a pumpkin latte or muffin or both
  • to treat the kiddies to best treats ever
  • to enjoy the gorgeous colors of the season
  • to unplug and read a good book
  • to enjoy friendships old and new”
The Duquesne Incline was once a practical mode of transport for Pittsburgh's citizens, providing safe and gelable public transportation. The hisser rail care, which began operating in 1877, is now a popular attraction for tourists. With is 400-foot rise up Mt. Washington, the Incline provides sa scenic view of the Pittsburgh skyline. Photo by Blair Seitz

The Duquesne Incline was once a practical mode of transport for Pittsburgh’s citizens, providing safe and reliable public transportation. The historic rail car, which began operating in 1877, is now a popular attraction for tourists. With its 400-foot rise up Mt. Washington, the Incline provides a scenic view of the Pittsburgh skyline. Photo by Blair Seitz

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.  –Albert Einstein

“Can you imagine using this as transportation to work, shops, churches, or schools? And with kids, packages, bad weather?  Oh, my!”

From Jacki W., a new Love Notes friend, who resides in the U.K.:

Weeping Window from the installation

Weeping Window from the installation “Blood Swept Lands and Seas Red.” Poppies and original concept by artist Paul Cummins. Installation designed by Tom Piper

“Don’t forget to remember that life is too short to wake up with regrets, so love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it.  Nobody said it would be easy. They just promised it would most likely be worth it.”

“The Beguiling of Merlin,” Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898). Lady Lever Art Gallery. National Museums Liverpool

Sent with a nice long note with lots of love.

That’s it for now.  Hope to see you in January for Love Notes 2017!

Make More Happy: Snail Mail Quick Tip

Sometimes, people shy away from sending happy mail to others because they don’t know what to write. If you’re one of those people who breaks out in a sweat at even the suggestion of writing a sentence or two, there is indeed a way to put a smile on someone’s face without the anxiety.  It is so simple. So easy. You’ll kick yourself for not realizing you could have been doing this all along.

What am I talking about? Sending quotes through the postal system! Inspirational. Motivational. Scriptural. Humorous. Snarky. Political. Historical. Woman-centered. Bookish.

A postcard or a notecard with a quote communicates that you’re thinking of someone just as effectively as a letter or note.  Seriously.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a simple postcard:

Quote Postcard.

“I want the life, sedateness and leisure of the little town, and its less competitive life leave me more time and space to ponder on problems that seem never to have answers.”

Love it, right? Now, here’s the message:

"Hope. It's the only thing stronger than fear..." From the Hunger Games Movie

“Hope. It’s the only thing stronger than fear…” From the Hunger Games Movie

Nothing fancy. Not even a greeting on this one, but don’t you love it even more?

Here’s the inside of a favorite notecard I received earlier this year:

“It Was Never Random”

This notecard carries major sunshine because, even though the quote selection seems random, the person took what she knew about me and found short quotes I’d like.

You see? It’s pretty easy.  Now, it’s your turn.  Get a postcard–any postcard–find a quote, write it on the postcard, and send it on its way. Don’t have a postcard? Try a notecard or even a piece of card stock. Easy-peasy.  Stickers, washi tape, and doodles are optional.

It’s a win-win. Your mood will be elevated during the time you spend selecting quotes and writing them on postcards and you’ll make someone else’s day a bit brighter.

Do you need help finding quotes?  You’ll find more than you need at any of the sites below:

Now, let’s go make some happy!

 

 

Pretty Purple Postcard!

Squeals! Look at what was in my mailbox:

"Creativity, Light, and Love," by Tiare Smith Designs

“Creativity, Light, and Love,” by Tiare Smith Designs

Neither my hubby nor I checked our mailbox Thursday, so this bit of awesomeness was retrieved Friday morning as I was heading out to work. Why the squeals?  My friend Cy and I “discovered” Tiare Smith Designs moments apart.  I actually shared her Etsy link with Cy when I saw some AKA sorority-inspired art.  As usual, I was multitasking while shopping, so the “Tia Collection,” one of the sets of postcards I placed in my cart, sold out before I could place the order.  I lamented missing out on Tia, but who didn’t miss out? And who sent me this postcard?  Cy!

Pause for the “happy mail” dance.

According to her creator, “Tia is here to bring light and love into the world.  She has many stories to share.”  Besides her “purpleness,” I love the innocence, sweetness, and light Tia projects.  She makes me want to skip through a field of flowers with nary a care in the world.

I initially went to Tiare’s shop to purchase a birthday gift for myself–a print the artist posted in “Black Women Who Plan and Create,” a community of black women planners, crafters, and artists on Facebook and Instagram.

"Fearless Girl" by Tiare Smith Designs

“Fearless Girl” by Tiare Smith Designs

This print captured everything I was feeling in the few days after my birthday. Focused. Determined. Fearless.

There was so much eye candy in the shop that I couldn’t resist purchasing other prints. Besides, I had gift cards to spend. 🙂 I purchased a total of 16 postcards, and Tiare included four extras, including three abstract still life prints and a multi-paneled print with tips for including it in planner layouts.  Here’s a peek at the order:

A collection of prints by Tiare Smith Designs

A collection of prints by Tiare Smith Designs

Tiare is a mixed media artist and instructor who obviously has fun with her work, but she also takes her work and her customers seriously.  She has great customer service–ships quickly, responds to questions, and customizes orders.  If you want to see more of Tiare’s art, check her out at Tiare Smith Designs or at her Etsy Shop. She’s also on Instagram and Twitter as @iamclassygirl and on Facebook: Tiare Smith Designs.

It’s always a treat to find a random postcard from Cy in my mailbox, partly because the writing side is always handled with simplicity and elegance.  Her message included a quote sticker:  “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” A “truth” to live by! 😉

Thank you, Cy, for always having my “postcard” back.

 

 

Blog Every Day? Yes Way!

After spending the better part of an afternoon “organizing” the incoming mail that cluttered my desk, I decided November will be “Pics and Post Catch-up Month.”  To make sure I follow through with the plan, I made a commitment to participate in BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month), which means I will post every day in November.   I just might be crazy since November for English professors means grading, grading, and more grading and lots of one-on-one meetings with students.  With less than four weeks left of the semester, it’s all downhill.  Really.  It already feels like someone pushed me down a hill while I am already speeding on roller skates.  So talk me out of this madness!

No?

Mail Call!

Mail Call!

Postcards, letters, scripture mail, quote mail, poems, photo inspirations, and so much more!  This is only a fraction of the clutter and it does not include many of the things I plan to blog about this month–photos I’ve captured, fun packages, and artsy and inspirational mail that found places on my walls and in my journals and planners.

I will not blog about the entire mountain of mail, but (starting tomorrow) I will blog about what I feel should be shared–because I find it interesting, unique, or beautiful.

I enlisted a crazy-busy-mom friend to join me in this venture–Brittany of OrdinarilyExtraordinaryMom.  Brittany, whom I’ve known since she was a teenager, is a faith/inspirational blogger who shares her experiences as a mom/wife/teacher/woman trying to make it through this life unscathed.  She also regularly features her adorable family.  She had an “all at once” life change, so I offered her a way out of this gig, but she replied, “I think I’ll need the daily dose of therapy.”

Me too, Brittany.  Me too.

 

 

 

Happy World Post Day!

I just found this gorgeous postcard in a stack of mail that came while I was away at a conference. Amy, Eclectonote on Swap-bot, sent this postcard for a World Post Day swap.  I almost forgot about World Post Day! Gasp!

Mailbox

Mailbox

The swap called for sharing postal-related postcards.  I

My “send-to” partner, Maria–who lives in Moscow–probably won’t receive her cards for a while, but when she does I hope she loves the postcard featuring the vintage postal boxes in our campus post office.  When I returned as a faculty member to my alma mater four years ago I was tickled pink that the mailboxes I knew as a student were still there!

Vintage Post Office Boxes, Photo by Me!

Vintage Post Office Boxes, Photo by Me!

My box was #57, so I made sure to include it in the shot.

World Post Day is celebrated on October 9.  According to the Universal Postal Union, its purpose is to “bring awareness to the Post’s role in the everyday lives of people and businesses, as well as its contribution to global social and economic development.” You can find out more on the UPI’s website.

I have a busy Sunday ahead of me, but that won’t stop me from taking a few minutes to write some happy mail!  Will you join me?

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press!

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press

Happy Mail from Bunny Bear Press

I just returned from a wonderful trip to New Orleans (more on that later) to find a gorgeous package in my mailbox from Bunny Bear Press. Adina, the owner, sent the package as a “thank you” for my letting her know about a glitch with her signup link.  Totally unnecessary, but who am I to refuse happy mail?

Take a closer look at the gorgeousness.  [Click an image for a closer look].

Beautiful, right?

Each card was designed and handprinted by Adina.  I don’t usually buy greeting cards for birthdays and such–I make my own–but the high quality and uniqueness of her cards urge me to support Bunny Bear Press.

I ❤ Adina even more because of her drive to get women to write more letters. She recently started the Pen Gals Club (#thePenGals) to encourage women to write letters and send snail mail to their gal pals instead of using texting and social media to communicate–even those jokes, anecdotes, and little tidbits of information we’re prone to share.  As much as I love snail mail and contribute to the volume of mail winging its way through the USPS, I usually simply call or text my closest gal pals.  So I decided to accept the challenge. The day I signed up, I wrote my bestie a letter, included some inspirational goodies, and prettied up the envelope; she was so thrilled, she dubbed me “The Creative, Feel Good, Pretty Snail Mail Wonder Woman!” Pretty impressive title, eh?

If you’re interested in the Pen Gals Club, you can sign up by clicking the link. Adina has all sorts of plans and goodies for those of us who sign up.  After signup, she sends an information packed email and weekly newsletters filled with snail mail inspiration. I’m so excited that, as I plan my schedule for the academic year, I’m building time in to write letters and notes to my closest friends.  They’re worth it.

Until next time…

Write more letters…

Bunny Bear Press Contacts

Bunny Bear Press Contact Info

[Note: I realize this must sound like a paid advertisement, but it isn’t.  I’m simply excited about snail mail: good snail mail and great ideas about snail mail must be shared!]