Bring on the Sun!

My mailbox has been brimming with love and cheer all year. I thought I’d use the summer break to “catchup-blog” about snail mail, but summer will be over before that plan is fully realized. Therefore, I’ll just blog as the mood hits me. And right now, I’ve been hit with the sunflower bug.

One of my neighbors is growing sunflowers in her backyard again. I look out my office window to watch their progress and await the sunny blossoms that will make their appearance soon. I can’t wait to visit them!

Fortunately, I have penfriends who can do amazing things with watercolors, pens, cameras, and paintbrushes. Their artwork keeps my sunflower-heart happy even when sunflowers are out of season. Two of them were kind enough to send me sunflower love–and their cards arrived on the same day!

The first postcard features a photograph shot by Christine B.

Is It a Sunflower? by Christine B.

Christine’s note informed that this was a black-eyed Susan and not a sunflower, but she wasn’t sure. It looked like a sunflower to me, so I did a little research. My garden app–not helpful.  Google–very helpful. What did I learn? Even if this is indeed a black-eyed Susan, the wildflowers are in the sunflower family. How cool is that? Christine (kind of) sent a “sunflower” without intending to do so.

Happy dance!

Wild American Beauty: The Black-eyed Susan offers a cute story and interesting tidbits about the flower, but doesn’t mention its relationship to the sunflower. The Old Farmer’s Almanac does.

The second image was crafted just for me by one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever “met.” This is my first time receiving a card from Trang, but I’ve seen her gorgeous creations via Love Notes and the Global heART Exchange.

“Sunflower for Chandra” by Trang K.

I squealed when I saw this beauty! The card was made with watercolor, pen, and glitter (The scan does little justice to the art work, and the clear glitter shows up as dots). To top it all, Trang wrote a sweet “just for me” message on the back:

Let your heart shine like the sun and bloom into flowers…sparkling with love and joy.

Trang’s sparkly personality comes through this card!

These flowers will join the collection of sunflower postcards on my inspiration wall, offering cheer and light during the dark moments. Thanks, ladies!

Note: Signup for the next round of Love Notes closes July 9. What are you waiting for? Follow the link to sign up. You know you want to.  😉  #LoveNotesJB

❤ ❤ ❤

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!

My Bouquet of Yellow Postcards

My Yellow Postcard Bouquet

I cannot let March end without sharing the big yellow bouquet of postcards I received in honor of International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month.  With Beckra’s (ongoing) permission, I hosted her “Yellow Flowers for International Women’s Day” swap on swap-bot for the fifth time.  I felt compelled to share the yellow blessing with the Love Notes community and many were excited to participate.  So, in addition to the swap-bot participants and the women in my circle of family and friends, I also sent dozens of postcards to Love Notes participants.  In return, my mailbox was filled with yellow flowers all month long.

The first postcards came from my two swap-bot partners, Jan and Valerie [Click image for a closer look].

My penfriend Beckra sent a bright closeup of a yellow flower she photographed.  She hasn’t participated in the swaps lately, but she always sends me a card for IWD.

“Happy International Women’s Day.” Photograph by R.R., Beckra

Then, the cards from my Love Notes pals made their way to my P.O. Box from various parts of the USA and the world.

Christine B’s was the first to arrived with an IWD greeting and a sweet message–“You are an outstanding woman and I am glad we connected.”

“Happy, Happy International Women’s Day.” Photographer, Christine B.

After reading the Karle’s Wings post, Christine sent a second postcard, orchids, in memory of my sister, Karlette.  Isn’t she the best?  There’s a special heart hidden in the photo. Can you see it?

“Orchid for Karlette.” Photograph by Christine B.

I usually don’t mind postal markings on postcards.  I “minded” this time. :-/

Lorelei sent a coloring card with a couple of spots colored in yellow:

Illustration by Johanna Basford, from Secret Garden 20 Postcards

Many sent photo postcards.  Some, like  Beckra’s and Christine’s, featured the photography of the senders [Click image for a closer look].

Ellen even used a stamp featuring my favorite flower:

Sunflower Postage

Some sent “store-bought” postcards: [Click image for a closer look].

Many included inspiring messages:

“Life is Beautiful.” From Jackie W.

She is clothed in strength and dignity,and she laughs without fear of the future.  –Proverbs 31:25

We get so worried about being “pretty.” Let’s be pretty kind, pretty funny, pretty smart, pretty strong. –Britt Nicole

“Waterlily.” From Eileen of Germany

Little yellow flowers
Dancing with the breeze
Little yellow flowers
Huddled round the trees
Little yellow flowers
Seemed to know my pain
Little yellow flowers
in my mem’ry will remain.  –Valerie Dohren

Yellow Jessamine, State Flower of South Carolina with an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, State Butterfly of South Carolina.  From Connie of S.C.

Some women fear the fire; some women simply become it.  –R.H. Sin

“Tree Cotton Plant.” From Sheila L.

May we continue to make progress on all issues that affect women.

Some featured the art of the senders with inspirational reminders [Click an image for a closer look].

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.  –Mother Teresa [Cricket]

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.  –Unknown [Lori W.]

Debra D. sent an elegant “thank you” for my “hosting” the swap.

“Thanks,” Heartmade by Debra D. of Virginia

Martha S., whose work has been featured on Pics and Posts before, sent one of her gorgeous artistic creations with a poem (the scan does little justice).

“Cherry Blossom Season.” Artist Martha S.

An artist to me
is one
of those
kind of prophets
of our community.
Their antennae,
or their sense
of what’s
happening,
is so vital
and so pure
that we always
need to listen
to them. –Fiach Mac Conghail

And finally, Lori-Anne C. of Canada,  sent a handmade, sunflower-shaped postcard that made me squeal on a day when I really, really needed to be reminded to “face the sun.”

“Sunflower Love.” Artist Lori C.

The beautifully written message on the back of the postcard was just what I needed to hear the day it arrived.

Isn’t that an “amazing” message?

You are amazing and strong and brave and wonderful!

When life tries to convince you otherwise, be sure to carry this heartfelt message with you.

Thanks, ladies, for all the postcard love!  Until next time…Hugs!

Face the Sun: My Summer in One Photo

Today is the last “official” day of summer, and I cannot let the evening pass without posting about a summer-themed swap I hosted–“My Summer in One Photo.”

For the swap, partners had to “capture” their summer in one image. Literally. Not two, three, or four images crammed into one 4×6 print or notecard, but a single image. Quite a challenge for those of us who had eventful summers.

My photog pal, Cakers, sent this:

Patty's Box

“Needle Tips Box,” Photo by Cakers

Even though I didn’t know what it was, I immediately knew it had something to do with knitting because Cakers is an avid knitter, and possibly an addict. In case, you think I’m exaggerating about Cakers’ “addiction,” she has a knitting injury from too much knitting and her swap name when I met her was “midwestknitgirl.” Enough said. 😀

The photo features her needle tips in the “cool, funky” box she bought “cheap” recently. Thankfully, she gave an explanation. Needle tips are, part of what are called “interchangeables.” You can switch the tips with different length cords.

Her words, not mine. I have no idea what she’s talking about.

I had quite a number of major events myself–saying “good-bye” to friends, witnessing my little one’s choir join a 1000-voice mass choir to perform in front of an audience of 84,000 (and millions more? via broadcast), spending time with one of my beautiful best friends and her family, my dad’s 80th birthday celebration which was the icing on the cake of my summer. I probably should blog about all of that some time.

But when I sat down to think about how to capture “everything,” including the many things that are not listed here, one image comes to mind.

The sunflower.

I spent a lot of time during the summer looking at cheerful sunflower photos and mulling over a Helen Keller quote:

Doodled using the Art Studio App on iPad earlier this year. I can actually draw something that looks like a flower. ;-)

Doodled using the Art Studio App on iPad earlier this year. I can actually draw something that looks like a flower. 😉

My hubby’s back issues prevented his planting a sunflower garden outside my office window, but early one weekend morning, as I was having quiet time in my home office, I noticed bright, yellow sunflowers waving to me from our “back” neighbor’s yard. I grabbed my camera and hiked the grassy field separating us and spent some time with the sunflowers.

This was my favorite shot from the bunch:

Version 2

“Face the Sun”

It became a special reminder of a commitment I made earlier in the year when I was faced with one thing after another–to turn to the “Sun,” the Son of God, in all circumstances.

As summer progressed, certain situations intensified, and although I’d somewhat “mastered” coping well with things that affected me personally, I found myself slipping beneath the emotional weight of what was happening, not to me, but to people I love.  I had to constantly train my thinking and my attitude in the direction of “the Sun.”

What I love about sunflowers is their reminder to us that without the Son and/or when we live in the “shadows,” we are weighed down by heaviness and dark feelings. When we face the Son, we dwell in light and we stand tall and strong in the face of adversity.