Sweet Things Long Forgotten

A few days ago I told my bestie that I am thinking about deactivating my Facebook account because I am frustrated with the soul-tiring news that fills my feed. Today, I have another reason to deactivate.

Facebook stole my letters!

I spent some time this morning going through a box of letters from my (mostly) teen years. I lingered a bit with a stack of letters from my mom and siblings. I literally rolled on the floor laughing at almost every letter. I also marveled at how much memory is stored in those letters: my baby sister Dani’s tween prattling; my younger sister Angie’s (still) wry humor; my older brother Dennis’ first thoughts about California; my oldest sister Val’s daily tasks as a new mother; the squabbles between the two youngest; my mom’s instructions for how to use enclosed money; the envelope full of newspaper pages from Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Orleans.

The letters are treasures, really. Mini-histories of our family life.

I used to send a long, newsy letter to family and friends at the end or beginning of each year. The year I activated a Facebook account, that ceased. Even though I enjoyed writing the letters and selecting the top photos of the year to enclose, I stopped. I reasoned since most family and friends are on Facebook, I can share that way. But it’s surely not the same. I don’t share everything via social media. In fact, I share very little. Besides, there are still a lot of people in my family and friends circle who do not use social media at all.

Moreover.

Status updates and photos online are fun, but, 30 years from now, I don’t think it will be as rewarding to go through decades and decades of (the future equivalent of) Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds as it will be to go through stacks of letters from family and friends.

So, seriously. Pick up a pen. Grab some paper and write a letter; encourage  your parents, your siblings, your children to write as well. Write to family and life-long friends. Tell them to share the little joys of their day, their day-to-day interactions, their thoughts. Anything. Letters don’t have to be long. My mom was busy. Her letters were always short and sweet, but lovingly appreciated.

Years from now, when the cares of life burden your brain and you can barely remember which way is up, you’ll be glad for the little reminders of sweet things long forgotten.

Plutôt la Vie: Choose Life Instead

I heard from Courtney, one of my wonderful students. She is studying in France the 2018-19 academic year, and we promised we’d write to each other months ago!  According to her note, she sent two postcards at the same time–the one below was actually number two, written four months after the first. (I haven’t laid eyes on the first one yet). I’m so excited to hear from her and know that she is well.

Here’s the image that evokes many words:

Édouard Boubat (1923-1999), Paris, May 1968

This postcard was the last one of its kind on the rack and the “perfect reminder” to Courtney of me. If she were here, we’d have a long, long conversation about the postcard–the photography, the words, the poem written by French Surrealist poet/novelist/theorist André Breton that inspired the street art turned fine art by French photographer Édouard Boubat.

I asked Louise, my French blogging/penfriend, about the meaning of the phrase, Plutôt la vie. I was suspicious of the “rough” translation, “rather life.” Louise translated the phrase, “Choose life instead.” As with translation, typically, I’m pretty sure there’s still some nuance (in meaning)  that can’t be transferred with the substitution of one word for another. We can get pretty close, but we don’t always hit the mark.

It seems almost unfair to share the art without the poem, so here it is:

Plutôt la Vie: Choose Life Instead
André Breton

Choose life instead of those prisms with no depth even if their colors are purer
Instead of this hour always hidden instead of these terrible vehicles of cold flame
Instead of these overripe stones
Choose this heart with its safety catch
Instead of that murmuring pool
And that white fabric singing in the air and the earth at the same time
Instead of that marriage blessing joining my forehead to total vanity’s
Choose life

Choose life with its conspiratorial sheets
Its scars from escapes
Choose life choose that rose window on my tomb
The life of being here nothing but being here
Where one voice says Are you there where another answers Are you there
I’m hardly here at all alas
And even when we might be making fun of what we kill
Choose life

Choose life choose life venerable Childhood
The ribbon coming out of a fakir
Resembles the playground slide of the world
Though the sun is only a shipwreck
Insofar as a woman’s body resembles it
You dream contemplating the whole length of its trajectory
Or only while closing your eyes on the adorable storm named your hand
Choose life

Choose life with its waiting rooms
When you know you’ll never be shown in
Choose life instead of those health spas
Where you’re served by drudges
Choose life unfavorable and long
When the books close again here on less gentle shelves
And when over there the weather would be better than better it would be free yes
Choose life

Choose life as the pit of scorn
With that head beautiful enough
Like the antidote to that perfection it summons and it fears
Life the makeup on God’s face
Life like a virgin passport
A little town like Pont-á-Mousson
And since everything’s already been said
Choose life instead

Of course, the poem deserves a more in-depth reading, but on first glance, Breton seems to call on us to see “life” and beauty in the commonplace, in the mundane, and the unexpected, to live a life beyond the dictates and definitions of society, and accept pain as a beautiful inevitability.

Boubat’s photograph masterfully captures the intention of the poem.

Plutôt la vie

Art and Letters: It’s Time for Happy Mail!

I’m dropping by today to encourage you to participate in the Liberate Your Art and/or Love Notes.  The signup deadlines are upon us.

Are you a “closet” artist who’s a little timid about sharing your art with the world? Do you have thousands of photos sitting on your hard drive, in your camera, or in the cloud? Dozens of drawings, sketches, illustrations, paintings, carvings, or sculptures? Have you crafted beautiful scarves or dresses.? Do you use calligraphy to write poems or quotes? If you create anything, Liberate Your Art is your swap, and it’s time to share your art with the world.

Participation is easy-peasy. You select one to five (1-5) pieces of art, make postcard reproductions, and send the postcards along with address labels and postage stamps to Kat Sloma, the swap founder and coordinator.  She organizes the postcards and “sends them out into the world.” You will receive six (6) pieces of art in return–one from Kat.

You can find all the details by clicking the image below:

And if you’re interested in seeing art I received and sent from past swaps, click here: LYA on Pics and Posts.

***   ***   ***

So art’s not your thing, but you want to get in on the snail mail love? Try Love Notes. Also easy. You write three postcards (or note cards) to one partner over a three week period–in response to a prompt.  Cards may be purchased or handmade.  The idea is to connect with another person through writing and spread love via snail mail.

Click the link below for more details and to sign up! The first round of 2018 starts January 14, so act quickly!

You can check out some of the Love Notes exchanges I’ve participated in by clicking here: Love Notes on Pics and Posts.

I participate in both. In fact, a LYA participant introduced me to Love Notes. Should  you decide to participate, you will find wonderful communities of beautiful souls and (should you choose) your relationships will extend beyond the yearly (LYA) and quarterly (LN) swaps.

If you have any questions about either swap, please feel free to contact me using the contact form at the bottom of the “A Little About Me” page.

I highly recommend MOO for getting postcards printed. If you’d like to order from MOO, use my referral link and you can save 20% and I can earn moo bucks.  [Note: I’m not paid to advertise MOO. I’ve been using moo for 5+ years. They do great work and have excellent customer service. Also, I get to “moo” without being looked at strangely]. 😛

I hope to see you in one or both swaps!

Let’s Meet for Tea!

One day I’m going to plan a mega tea party and invite all my pen friends. It would be wonderful to sit around and chat at length about our mutual interests, the pretty things we all love, and our lives in general. That is not feasible at the moment, so instead, I gather the letters and postcards received and enjoy them with a hot cup of herbal tea during my quiet moments in the morning or evening.  I imagine that I am having tea with my friends as I savor their words.

That’s what Trang K’s Live-Laugh-Love postcard is about.

“Steeped in Life, Love, and Laughter,” Handmade Postcard by Trang K.

Trang crafts such delicate watercolor postcards. You might remember the sunflower she sent a few months ago. [She sent another sunflower recently. I’ll be sharing that one on the blog soon]. Trang not only creates visually beautiful cards but she also writes beautiful messages.  On this one she wrote about the way she crafted the postcard.

She writes:

Postcards have two sides: “a scenic” side and a “journey” side. While the scenic side tickles our senses, the journey side is filled with facts stamps, dates, and beautifully handwritten words from caring hearts…fingerprints of the postcard’s travels in time and space. ❤

She continues:

I created this postcard to feature the “journey” on both sides–real and imagined.  Like an envelope wraps the gift of a letter, the journey side, full of LIFE and stamped with LOVE and LAUGHTER is the gift.  May we each celebrate the scenic route and savor the homecoming of our hearts to our souls.

Don’t you want to write a letter now? Then do so…Grab a postcard or some stationery, make some tea, and have a spot with a faraway friend.

Monday Blues with the Moon Goddess

Since today is a holiday in the USA, I replaced my usual Monday blues with some other blues.

“Painted Snail”

Christine B. sent this cool painted snail postcard with well wishes for the start of the academic year. She found the card at Snailmailcool, which is all about “old school” mail–“putting it in a mailbox…so the recipient can open it, read it, save it…treasure it.”

“Swimming with Dolphins,” Mixed Media Mandala by Judi Rose

Do you see the tiny dolphins in the center of the mandala? They swam all the way from Albany, Western Australia, thanks to Nyima. Since we met, Nyima and I have noted the synchronicity of our encounters.  Even our names are synchronous–her name, given to her by a Tibetan lama while on a spiritual journey, means sun; mine means moon. It was not so surprising, then, that I received her soothing blue dolphins the same day I received Christine’s blue snail.

She addressed me as “Moon Goddess” in the card and expressed wishes for “much joy, love, and happiness–today and every day.”

Nyima creates stunning mandalas, under the name Judi Rose Art. You can see more of her art via Facebook and Instagram.

“Autumn Blues” by Tara Kamiya

Of course, this Monday holiday required taking a little quiet time, gazing out of my home office window, watching the butterflies play, and updating my everyday ARC for autumn. My friend Cy gifted this divider and matching stickers to me last autumn. She purchased them from Tara Kamiya who designs and sells planner goodies.

Since it wouldn’t be a proper bluesy Monday without music, I leave you with some music for Tuesday–in case the other kind of blues are deferred till you return to work tomorrow:

Have a cool blue day!

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?

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!