Wrapped in Love and Sunflowers

At the beginning of the year, after being cancer-free for 13 years, my sister Lori, heard the dreaded news–the cancer had returned. Initially, I shared this with just two or three close friends, soliciting their prayers. Out of respect for Lori’s privacy, I hadn’t talked about it much until I spilled to my penfriend Christine B, whose response prompted me to share Lori’s story with a group of my penfriends. They have been more than kind and supportive of me, and I knew they would embrace my sister and let her know that there are people all over the world who are rooting for her, sending her good thoughts, and praying.

Some of them went even further and sent supportive cheer mail my way as well–including three sunflower cards painted just for me!

“Sisters Dancing” by Trang K

Trang watercolored two flowers dancing–a sunflower and a purple tulip–Lori’s favorite flower in her favorite color. Her written note expresses sweetly, as only Trang can:

May you always dance to the sweetness of life in all its glory and fill your heart with everlasting joy and love.

“Time for Watercolor” by Christine B.

With her busy summer schedule, Christine B took the time to watercolor a new cheerful sunflower for my wall.

“A Note of Peace and Love” by Connie F.

Connie’s sunflower brightened a gloomy day. She slipped a beautiful bookmark (to be shared later) and a quote into the envelope with her sunflower:

It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.  –Donna Karan

Knowing who God is makes horrific trials bearable. Lori is a bit more challenged this time around, but her faith is sure. Sometimes, it seems that worry is all I can do, but from her, I’m learning more and more not to worry. Her path isn’t easy, but through faith and fervent prayer, I can be a calming presence in the chaos of the journey just for her.

To my penfriends–Lori has received your beautiful expressions of love, hope, courage, grace, peace, and faith. We are incredibly moved by your sacred act of giving. Thank you, Christine, Trang, Lisa, Paige, Debra, Jennifer, Lori-Anne, Louise, Arielle, Sheila L, Connie, Suzette, Jacki, Gina, Andrea, Fran, Litsa, and Cricket. You have wrapped our hearts in love and have served as tangible evidence of God.

Hugs to you…

Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song “Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal, Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

Liberate Your Art: Side-swapping Shindig

It’s always a bit of a challenge when Liberate Your Art ends, but side swaps help participants extend the camaraderie a little longer. I was so insanely busy when the postcards for side swaps started coming in that I just placed them in an envelope to enjoy after grades, reports, and meetings.

That time has come!

I received 13 cards via the extra swaps, plus a bonus package I’ll share tomorrow. Would you like to review them with me? Here goes…

Sherry H. of Amook Island Creations sent a reproduction of a mixed media piece accented with a Matisse quote:

“Always Flowers,” by Sherry H.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.  –Henri Matisse

She encourages us to “look to nature for inspiration.”

From Terry O, an “in-progress” project:

“Slow Stitch” by Terry O.

This is a “slow-stitch” project. All of it is done by hand. Terry “attached a worn, paper thin vintage handkerchief to a sturdier fabric–a pink linen tablecloth, thereby creating a new piece.” Isn’t it pretty? I’m impressed that it was stitched by hand.

My penfriend Lisa C sent a “city shot” as she describes it.

“City Shot” by Lisa C

I almost didn’t notice the buildings because I was “lost in the clouds.” Interestingly, the postcard Lisa sent last year also featured clouds.  She shot this from the parking lot of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

You can find more of Lisa’s work on her blog and her website, Chasing the Sun.

Christine B, my faithful friend, sent two. Here’s the first one, a macro shot of a dragonfly.

“Dragonfly” by Christine B.

My hubby added this one to his collection. [He says, “Thanks, Christine!”]

Kathy and I agreed to swap before I received her card as part of the main swap, so I was surprised (and elated) when she sent another mixed media piece.

“Heart in Hand” by Kathy Mc

Like the first one (see LYA 2018 post), this one also started as a magazine page. She altered the page with oil, pastels, acrylics, citra solv, and monoprint. You can find more of Kathy’s work via Sol Sister Studio, her Facebook page.

As expected, Janice D sent a gorgeous mixed media piece–an angel, this time.

“Winging It,” by Janice D.

Her note, appropriate:

We’re all winging it. That’s what angels do.

You might want to go and take a look at last year’s Dreamer again and her LYA blog post to see more of her angels.

From my blogging friend Louise of Drops of Everything:

“Dancing Clothes” by Louise M

Until I read Louise’s caption (“Dancing Clothes”), I was prepared to entitle this one “Linen and Things.” 😉 She added a quote to the back:

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  –Mother Teresa

I remember hanging up clothes to dry outdoors during the summer when I was younger. I was not yet into “seeing” or photography, so it didn’t strike me as “artistic,” but I had lots of fun running and playing through the drying clothes. Louise’s image makes me wish I could recapture those moments from my childhood.

Check out Louise’s blog for more of her photography and art.

My neighbor, PJ, moved away, but she remembered to reach out for a side swap (She used to live in Tennessee, not too far from me, but moved to Kentucky earlier this year).  She sent mountains:

“Flyover to Oaxaca” by Patsy J (PJ)

The painting is part of a triptych PJ created during a Paint Fearless Mexico retreat last November in Oaxaca. She was inspired by the mountains she flew over to get there.  I’m loving the color combination and would love to see the other parts.

My blog friend, Sheila D, sent a lovely bouquet of flowers.

This piece, a giclée print, was featured in UPPERCASE Magazine. She’s a celebrity! Sheila is seriously productive. You can find more of her work on her blog, at Society 6 or on Instagram.

In keeping with the floral theme, Natasha P. sent a peony party:

“Peony Party” by Natasha P.

This appears to be a mixed media piece. Natasha added a quote on back:

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.  –Mary Lou Cook

After visiting Natasha’s blog, I realize that I’d received one of her postcards–a peacock–the first year I participated in LYA. In fact, she was featured in my first “real” blog post. How nice to reconnect! Natasha has a thriving henna business in San Diego.

Peonies seem to be the thing this year. I’m seeing photos and art of peonies everywhere I turn. I even “discovered” some peonies I shot some time ago. I’m not sure they’re worth sharing though. Maybe, I’ll play around with them…

Val vdP of Mellowood Studio sent a beautiful winter-themed watercolor:

“Shadows in the Snow” by Val vdP

Isn’t it just perfect? Val works with various forms–watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, monochromatic, oil. She even does lessons and paint parties. Find lots more of Val’s work on her website: Mellowood Art Gallery. Check out her blog too!

While we’re on the subject of watercolors, Christine sent a pair of sandpipers:

“Sandpipers” by Christine B

Confession–I had to “google” sandpipers to make sure I had the right bird. This watercolor is spot on! 5 green stars, Christine!  I think we should talk Christine into starting a WordPress blog, so she can share her art and photography with a wider audience.

And lastly a “butterfly on deck” from Teresa H.

“Butterfly on Deck” by Teresa H.

I coveted this postcard when Christine posted it in the LYA 2018 group on Facebook. Fortunately, Teresa had one left and she kindly sent it to me! The quote is perfect.

But on paper things can live forever. On paper a butterfly never dies. –Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming

Teresa wrote that the butterfly is “about the size of your palm and glides slowly and majestically from blossom to blossom, so it’s easy to get good photos.”

Though it was my first time swapping with Terry, Natasha, Val, and Teresa, I’ve “side-swapped” with the other artists before, and some have become blog friends and regular penfriends whom I’ve come to cherish over the years. I’m looking forward to building more friendships as we move along this artists’ road.

Tune in tomorrow to see the contents of my surprise LYA package!

I Need the Ocean Because…Mondays are Exhausting

“Ripples of Blessings,” Postcard made by Trang K.

Thalassophile (n.) a lover of the sea; someone who loves the sea, the ocean.

Mondays are exhausting, so I thought you–like me–might need the calming blues and purples of the sea. The lovely postcard above was made especially for me by the personalized postcard queen–Trang K. She blesses so many with her art from the heart.

Trang sent these “ripples of blessings”  to make me “smile and bring peace.” She has an uncanny knack for knowing what a person needs and getting it to them at the right time–and at this moment, I can use the calming vibes of an ocean, river, lake, or stream. Of course, that’s not feasible, so I’ll accept the ocean in the card.

Thanks, Trang!

[Note: the scan does no justice to this postcard].

Autumn Play

An autumn forest is such a place that once entered you never look for the exit. –Mehmet Murat ildan

I think Eileen V, one of my Love Notes pals, has a crystal ball that allows her to see what I’m going through at the moment. She sent me a bit of autumn cheer recently that arrived on a particularly difficult day.

Im Garten des Zen 2017. http://www.harenberg-kalender.de

Eileen playfully watercolored the postcard to capture the colors of the season–beyond the browns, reds, and yellows.

It’s not simply that she sent mail that celebrated my favorite season, but that her message–which included “sending loads of positive energy”–was perfect for the moment I was in.

The card also arrived when I was going through a brief spell with digital coloring, so while waiting for a meeting to begin one morning, I had a little fun with Eileen’s postcard and altered it in an app. [Click an image for a closer look]

 

These are pretty, but Eileen’s stole my heart.

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

❤ ❤ ❤

Dreaming Art: Liberate Your Art Side Swaps

As in years past, I did a little side-swapping after the Liberate Your Art blog hop.  April and May are pretty crazy-busy around here, so I don’t check my post office box as frequently as I should.  When I finally checked, there was a mailbox full of postcards waiting and I jumped for joy when I saw the collection of art.

Here’s a quick look at nine of the ten postcards.

The first postcard came from my faithful postcard pal, Christine B. I met Christine via LYA 2016, but our friendship has grown via Love Notes, which she introduced to me last spring.

“Thistles,” photo by Christine B.

Christine captured this photo in England. She writes that the thistles remind her of “spires” and provides the etymology of the word: Spires–Derived from Old English, spir, meaning a sprout, shoot or a stalk of grass.

Lisa C. sent a great big “howdy” from Texas with her “Dream” photo:

She shot this image as a storm was coming in and later “photoshopped” the tree into the photograph.  I love cloud formations and the unique shapes they make.

You can find more of Lisa’s nature photography on her blog, Chasing the Sun.

I’ve swapped with Sherry H. for the past few rounds of LYA. She sent her mixed media “mountain bird” with greetings from Amook Island (Alaska):

Mixed media art by Sherry H., Amook Island Creations

She printed a simple but inspiring message on back:

Conceive. Believe. Achieve.

Sheila D., with whom I’ve also swapped almost every year I participated in LYA, sent a beautiful watercolor of blues, greens, and purples–a field of purple wildflowers (yay!):

“Wildflowers,” Watercolor by Sheila D.

Sheila encourages, “Keep sharing your art with the world!”  You can see more of Sheila’s watercolors on her blog:  Sheila’s Corner Studio.

Suzette R. sent a textured yellow rose:

“In the Thicket of Things,” Photo by Suzette R.

She shared a quote:

Surely a star danced in Heaven on the day you were born. –Flavia

An interaction with Suzette a few months ago led to the creation of Karle’s Wings. [Thanks, Suzette!]. You can find out more about Suzette and take a look at more of her beautiful photos on her blog, Notes from the Road.

Pat M. of Serendipity shared a gorgeous mixed media magnolia on canvas.

“Magnolia,” mixed media by Pat M.

This piece began as a photo to which Pat added paper for texture and then oil painted.  This is definitely a technique I will try this summer. She also shares a quote:

To be an artist is to believe in life.  –Henry Moore

My “neighbor,” Patsy (PJ) from Tennessee, shared an interesting painting:

“Painting in a Book,” by Pasty L. (PJ)

The painting was completed in an altered photography book using acrylic paint and oil pastels.  The colors come from the original photos on the page.

Janice D. creates beautiful and inspiring mixed media pieces, some of which have a prominent place on one of my inspiration walls. She shared her “Dreamer.”

“Dreamer” by Janice D.

And writes:

Never let it be said that to DREAM is a waste of one’s time, for DREAMS are our realities waiting.  In DREAMS we plant the seeds of our future.

Finally, Christine sent a second card–a sweet reproduction of one of her fabric cards.  I shared an original fabric card in an earlier post.

“Fabric Hearts,” reproduction of a handmade fabric card made by Christine B.

Christine sent the card with a wish that it will “fill [me] with love.”  This card is one of my favorites–I have a thing for hearts, like I have a thing for purple and sunflowers–so it’s headed for an inspiration wall.

I have one more postcard to share, but I’m saving that one for another day–maybe, tomorrow.

For now…thanks ladies, for the beautiful artwork that brightens my journals, my walls, and my days.

If you missed the postcards I received through the regular swap, you can find them here:  Experiment, Create, Play, and Liberate.

Ciao!