Speaking of Sunflowers…

“Chelsey’s Sunflower” Postcard Made by Trang K.

Isn’t this the most adorable piglet “sunning” beneath the brilliant rays of a sunflower? This postcard was beautifully made by the talented Trang K, who sent me a different sunflower few months ago. Trang wrote a long note, sweetly embellished with  flourishes, doodled flowers, hearts, and a butterfly.  She closed the card with, “You are a blessing and a treasure” written in gold. I’m convinced her heart overflows into each card she makes.

My sunflowers bloom all year long, thanks to my penfriends.

“The Sunflowers” by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Sunny Inspiration: Look Up!

My neighbor’s sunflowers came in beautifully and I made a few trips to capture them in their various stages. I managed to capture dozens of pics–one is featured in Finding Love Notes, Naturally, posted a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to work with a couple of the photos yesterday–one featuring a sunflower with its “face” turned upward and the other a “downcast” flower leaning away from another that is still full of life. The photos were on my mind and I wanted to combine them with words that speak their language.

The blooms are visual reminders that when the “stuff” of life is coming at us full force, all we have to do is stand firm, “face the Sun,” and rest in the embrace of the One who is always near.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Sunflower PhotoArt by Me!

Sometimes, it’s necessary to face our problems “head on,” stare them down, and conquer them. At other times–when things are out of our control and bigger than we could ever imagine–we have to turn away from our struggles and focus our attention on the One who handles the insurmountable and scary situations for us. Otherwise, the worry and stress can affect our health.

“God Is Near the Broken-Hearted,” Sunflowers PhotoArt by Me!

We feel alone in such situations–it seems no one understands, can provide the comfort we need or help us manage our problems. It is imperative to know that we are not alone, that God is near, cradling us in His protective arms, and carrying us through the difficulties.

When we train our focus heavenward, our problems are placed in proper perspective, and we learn to trust the “Lover of our souls” to manage all our concerns so we can go on living and loving without distress.

I prefer to see sunflowers with a sunny disposition, but the sunflower in the second photo communicated so profoundly and beautifully the message of Psalm 34:18 that I had to capture it–even with the photo-bombing bee. The bee might seem a distraction, an annoyance even, but without bees there would be no flowers.

Wishing you a week filled with sunshine and good things…

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?

Encore? Let Kindness Bloom!

My little “sister” Brittany of OrdinarilyExtraordinaryMom requested an “encore” of Kindness Week. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, but maybe, this bit of kindness will satisfy for now.

Chante Marie, one of my (now former) students and recent college graduate, was “inspired” by the kindness week posts too! She posted a time-lapse video of her creation “Let Kindness Bloom” on Instagram.

Here’s the finished product. [Click the image to view the short video].

“Let Kindness Bloom,” by Chante Marie

The message is sweet and to the point.  As we watch the tree blossom and come to life at Chante’s hands, we understand better the import of the words: Kindness grows and enhances life’s color and brilliance. Give it freely. Let it bloom.

Chante is a singer, composer, writer, artist, and minimalist who is on her way to grand places! More importantly, she is “quite simply” an intelligent, witty, beautiful person whom the world needs to know.  If you want to know more about Chante Marie, check out Quite Simply Minimal, her minimalist blog, or her website which provides links to her art, poetry, YouTube channel, Facebook page and more.

Be sure to sow some seeds of kindness this week!

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.