Sunflowers & Snippets | There Will Be Times…

Sunflower by VAM-2

For our final “Sunflowers & Snippets” post I am sharing a piece written Wednesday evening–during the latest “Write Together” session. Since I had not participated since July, I gleefully looked forward to the session all day. Sadly, I found myself too exhausted to think clearly, so much of my writing that evening was incoherent. In reviewing my responses moments ago, I found some snippets of snippets that will be useful to develop later, but for now, my response to the prompt “There may be times…”  [ I changed “may” to “will,” because there will be times].

There will be times when you will walk alone, when no one will be able to join you on the road, escort you along the way, or stand with you and chat when you pause by the wayside to rest and refresh.

There will be times when the lessons cease, when the mentors and advisors will be unavailable, so you will reach deep within and draw from the store of good stuff built in you and the good stuff poured into you during times of community and song and celebration.

There will be times when you will find yourself removing heavy boulders from your path, but instead of feeling the strain of lifting alone, you will feel only the flutter of your heart dancing in the light of the moon.  –Chandra Lynn, “Write Together,” 10-20-21


About the Image: My hubby finally downloaded pics from his camera and “found” the gorgeous sunflowers he captured when we visited Scott’s Orchard last October. There’s something soulful about his images. This is one of five that are among my favorites, but I’ll let him share the others on his blog (hint! hint!–to him).

Sunflowers & Snippets | In This Very Moment…

Suzette's Sunflowers

I am back with another “Write Together” snippet. This piece was written in response to the prompt “In this very moment…”

In this very moment I am excited by the possibilities of who I am becoming. I am shedding the old casing, tossing aside ideas and versions of myself that no longer serve who I am in this moment or who I am becoming. Up to now, what has made giving up the former self so difficult is that she was good. She was organized, oh-so-together, and well-equipped for the journey—that bygone journey for a me that is skipping into the past of known worlds. This present me spends a lot of time in overwhelming chaos because transformation is not neat and tidy. It’s messy, confusing, and sometimes traumatic. But I’m learning not to fight it. I’m learning to partner with it in a new dance, a new becoming. I see glimpses of this new person. I can’t wait to meet her.  –Chandra Lynn, Write Together, 01.25.21


About the Image: Today’s gorgeous sunflowers were crafted by my Love Notes friend, Suzette R of Desert Blue Sky. She sent the oversized postcard because of my love for sunflowers and my enthusiastic response when she posted them on Facebook. Like many of us, Suzette is also processing grief. Part of her healing this year has been in planting and growing in her garden. Check out two more sunflowers from her garden: Here and here.

Sunflowers & Snippets | I Choose Pencil…

Kim B Sunflower in Vintage Vase 2021

For this week’s sunflower posts, I will be sharing sunflower photographs with snippets of my writing from “Write Together” sessions coordinated by Jennifer Belthoff of Love Notes fame. I don’t always have the time to participate in the weekly sessions, but every time I do, I leave refreshed and primed to work on my “actual” writing.

In the one-hour sessions, Jennifer facilitates three rounds of writing. She offers three prompts for each round, gives 8-10 minutes to respond to one prompt (or more) and then allows participants to share their material.

I enjoy the sessions because they provide a timeout for me, and though I do not attend as often as I wish, I am always amazed by how much writing I am able to do in those small moments.

Today’s snippet was written in response to the prompt: “I am choosing pencil.”

I am choosing pencil because few things are permanent, and so much changes from day to day as we navigate the terrain of a pandemic. I am choosing pencil because life is already hard, and there have been far too many deaths, far too many things we cannot reverse. I am choosing pencil so I can erase the parts that don’t fit, the nonsense and pettiness of the day to day, the meannesses that spill out at the end of a long, exhausting day or after another sleepless night. We need compassion and patience and forgiveness and so much love. Pencils are good for helping us revise or escape reality. I am choosing pencil because maybe, we can alter the pain and loss and write a different story. –Chandra Lynn, “Write Together,” 01.04.21

Ironically, typing this in a blog post makes it a bit less temporary, but I hope you get the point.

2021-10-18_130026


About the Images: Today’s images come from my Love Notes friend, Kim B. The top photo features sunflowers in a vintage vase that travelled from her Nana’s house full of flowers to her house and back to her Nana’s for a refill. The bottom photo features an “amazing accident in photography” as she captured the bee in flight when her intention was to capture one of her homegrown sunflowers. The other happy accident happened when I scanned the photo. My “phone scanner” gave the photo a vintage feel. The sunflower itself is a little overexposed, so I’d planned to fix that for Kim in PhotoShop. However, I like the accidental effect offered by the scan, so I decided to leave it alone.

Favorite Moments of 2020

My blogging friend, Akilah of The Englishist, recently posted her favorite moments of 2020. I’m “stealing” her idea because I think we all need a reminder that despite the icky, crazy of this year, there is also a lot of good. Plus, as you know, I love making lists.

So here are some of my favorite moments of the year of (mostly) sheltering-in-place and almost running out of toilet paper.

Trip to New Orleans. Along with my dad’s three sisters, the guys and I visited New Orleans and returned to ‘Bama just before the Coronavirus outbreak. It was a desperately needed trip for all of us. I am so glad we were able to see my parents and some of my siblings before the pandemic forced us all to stay put. I am missing them like crazy, so I’d probably be out of my mind if we hadn’t taken that short trip.

Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project. As you read in an earlier post, I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook to Brooklyn Arts Library. Here’s the link to my mini sketchbook of doodles and quotes if you’re interested: #facethesun: Sunflower and Her Friends.

Try not to judge me too harshly. I’m so not a sketch artist. I didn’t realize I should have only doodled on the front of the pages. I’m definitely going to participate again, with a full-size book and my photography—the art medium with which I’m most comfortable.

Book Talk. Literally two days before the University decided to transition to online learning because of the pandemic, I had the pleasure of coordinating a panel discussion on the book, When Saints Sing the Blues for Wednesday night services at the University church. It was well-attended and well-received. I enjoyed listening to the stories of each of the panelists and speaking with attendees afterwards.

Lettering with the Creator of Cuteness.  Thanks to the gift of time due to the pandemic, I joined Creative Hand Lettering and Doodling with Lindsay. For the first couple of months (or so), I watched Lindsay’s informative and humorous live videos, practiced lettering, and downloaded her free Corona coloring pages and other goodies. The photograph to the left features one of my first projects. The assignment was to use “tinker toy” lettering with a line from a song. This was the perfect creative outlet for our “Corona times.” I don’t have much time to view Lindsay live, but a friend gave me a gift of the workbook, Creative Hand Letter with Lindsay, so I practice whenever I get a chance.

Write Together. Jennifer Belthoff, who coordinates Love Notes, also hosts Write Together, Art Journaling, and other classes. I joined Write Together one evening, and it was such a healing, soul-filling experience that I rode the high for weeks. Life got in the way for a few weeks and when I found time again, I felt a little weird about joining after having missed so much. If Jennifer continues to host next year, I hope to join at least twice a month.

Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt. My son’s (middle school) teachers assigned a “pandemic-style” scavenger hunt for the students. They had to find a list of items in their own neighborhoods. We had fun running (and driving) up and down the street looking for the items, and of course, I took advantage and captured some roses.

Eighth Grade Graduation. My not-so-little one “graduated” from 8th grade! So many things were canceled for the students, but the school administrators decided to hold a scaled-down graduation program with social distancing measures in place. It was held in July–almost two months after the planned date–but we were all so happy for this moment of celebration and to see other people! 🙂 My son, as class president, delivered an excellent speech. This was a proud Mommy (and Daddy) moment.

Spectrum Publication. One of my blog posts was reprinted in Spectrum Magazine (online).

The Chair. I accepted the role of Chair of the Department of English and Foreign Languages. This isn’t exactly a moment, but a shift. I’d served as department chair at another university for several years. I’d also served in other administrative capacities, but even though I enjoy administrative work, I’d made a decision not to go down that road again (for many sound reasons). God had other plans and He let me know very clearly in a moment that can only be described as an epiphany. I don’t know [yet] why He called me to this task, but I promised to walk in obedience, so here I am.

Three Sundays with David Whyte. David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, hosts poetry seminars via Zoom, typically three Sundays in a month. I participated in three–The Courage in Poetry (April); Just Beyond Yourself (May); and Half a Shade Braver (September). In each session, he shared poetic wisdom, stories about his travels, anecdotes about his friend John O’Donohue, his own poetry and the poetry of others. The sessions were life-changing, and I wrote so much poetry as a result.

A Moment with Raven. One of my former students, Raven, came into town to visit family, and she took a moment out to visit me! We met just outside campus at the Farmer’s Market. It did my heart good to see her and know she is doing well! Of course, I tried to get her to leave California and come and work with me, but she makes more than we can pay her. :-/

Sunflowers in My Backyard. My guys planted sunflowers right outside my office window. I watched them grow from seedlings to 6-7 feet tall. They brought so much joy to my days. The sunflower pictured here was the first to bloom. I have many, many more to share, but it’s so difficult to choose!

Moulin Rouge. You read about my encounter with the Moulin Rouge sunflower in an earlier post. This might be one of my top ten favorite moments of the decade.

Sunflowers in My Mailbox. Sunflowers in my mailbox always create a “favorite” moment, and my friends have kept me and my mailbox happy with sunflowers. In addition to the lovely cards and postcards, I received a number of sunflower packages–a boxful of sunflower goodies from my bestie, a personalized sunflower Starbucks cup from my “niece,” Christian, sunflower stickers from Raven, a package full of sunflower postcards from Debbie T, and a beautiful sunflower teapot from Christine B, two of my Love Notes friends.

Christmas Card Lane. I shared the Christmas Card Lane experience a couple of days ago. I needed that strong dose of Christmas joy.

When the year started, we had grand plans, but before many of those plans could be executed, without much warning, everything changed. Instantly. For everyone. In the entire world. As the days rolled on, things got stranger and more complicated and more twisted, and here we are at the end of all that crazy. And I am grateful for these favorite moments and for the many, many beautiful, everyday moments of 2020–(almost) nightly movie nights with my guys, Zoom calls with family, long walks, putting up lights and balloons for birthdays, trying new vegan recipes, opening a mailbox full of happy mail, drive-by visits with relatives and friends, singing and praying with my guys, listening to them play various instruments, and church services in pajamas.

I’m not sure what next year will hold, but “I know Who holds the future.” Therefore, I am looking forward to new moments–ordinary, extraordinary, and beautiful.

Coping with the Madness of 2020: Journal!

Last week my friend Chella posed a question on Facebook: What are you doing to bear this anxiety? I can’t remember if I answered her question, but I’ve certainly thought about it.

Let’s face it–life can be hard, but 2020 has taken hard to a seemingly unbearable level. The year has presented a perfect storm of anxiety-inducing madness. There are things I’ve always done to deal with anxiety, stress, and the general disappointments and heartache that life brings: Pray. Meditate. Journal. Walk. Create. Though this hasn’t changed since we entered this tumultuous year, my activity in these areas has ramped up quite a bit since March.

I thought I would kill the proverbial “two birds with one stone” and get a few short blog posts out of my answer to Chella’s question. I’m not answering in any particular order. It’s all important and part of my spiritual practices and soul journey.

If I don’t write, I feel like I’m not breathing, so I journal.

I journal every day—in the morning, throughout the day, and in the evening if I don’t crash first. I have literally seven [or is it eight?] journals going at once; they serve different immediate purposes, but they all work to save my sanity.

Weekends, though, provide freedom to journal without worrying about schedules and tasks.  I can spend hours journaling without disruption. Today, I’m adding something new to my practice–a guided journal.

I rarely have a shortage of words, so I’ve never needed journaling prompts or guidance. I don’t think I’ve ever done a full guided journal before, but since my friend Dee [Delores James of Keep It Tight Sisters] wrote one, I am doing one now.

It’s nice to sit down this Saturday evening  with her latest publication, It’s My Time: A Guided Journal to Deeper Self-Love. In addition to plenty of writing space, the book includes affirmations, quotes, motivation, lists, writing and thinking prompts, and contemplative exercises to guide the self-care journey. Bonus: It’s purple! 🙂

If you’d like to learn about the therapeutic [and other] benefits of journaling and some simple approaches to journaling, see my July 2016 post: Journaling: Unleash the Magic. If the idea of a completely blank page is a bit daunting, a guided journal like Dee’s is a great place to start!

Note: All the images in this post are from It’s My Time: A Guided Journal to Deeper Self-Love. Even though this sounds like a sponsored post, it is not. 😀

Sylvia Barnes and Toni Morrison | Teaching, Preaching, and Doing the Work

Dr. Sylvia Barnes, October 2014.

Last week was not a good week for my heart.

Before I could digest the news that the literary goddess herself, Toni Morrison, had passed, I learned that Dr. Sylvia Barnes, one of my undergraduate mentors, had passed. With the news of both deaths, I felt as if every bit of oxygen was squeezed from my body.

As I sat through a brief meeting holding in the knowledge of their passings, I realized with everything in me that I am sick and tired of loss.

I’m tired of trying to find the words to express the deep sense of emptiness I feel when someone significant to me dies. There are no words for the love I can’t give, the unexpressed admiration and near deification of those who have profoundly impacted my life and who have had a strong hand in shaping who I am as a person, a writer, a scholar.

Sisters. Aunts. Uncles. Friends. Mentors. Professors. Literary goddesses. I’m tired of processing loss.

It is interesting that both women died the same day, August 5, 2019. I held both in high esteem for their unapologetic focus on black lives, for their commitment to excellence, for their wisdom, for their very humanity.

Dr. Barnes was the Toni Morrison of my undergraduate world. We were in awe of her—her standard of excellence, her fiery passion, her unflinching dedication to the deep study of literature, language, and light. Her dignified presence filled any room she entered. She taught eager undergraduates so many things, not just about literature but about life and love and how to navigate the madness of the world. I distinctly remember some of the wisdom she shared about the importance of reading in gaining and creating knowledge, about relationships and love and attraction.

In her raspy voice, with polished Jamaican accent, she urged us to “Read, read, read everything you can get your hands on. Read!” She wasn’t just an English professor. Like Baby Suggs Holy of Toni Morrison’s Beloved–preaching in the clearing–she was a divinely inspired preacher offering keys for life; every single class with Dr. Barnes felt like a sermon of love for our beautiful Black selves.

When I struggled with racism in graduate school, I reached out to her for counsel, and she candidly shared stories of her own similar experiences while in pursuit of the doctoral degree. Somehow, just knowing she overcame them intensified my determination to push through.

Toni Morrison speaking at “A Tribute to Chinua Achebe–50 Years Anniversary of Things Fall Apart.” December, 2008. Photo by Angela Radulescu

I spend a great deal of time studying, teaching, and writing about Toni Morrison’s novels. My first real encounter with her came when I was in college through my own not-for-a-course reading. The Bluest Eye left me in utter despair. I had read other black writers. I was drawn to them because of the way they spoke to an American experience with which I could identify. But it was Toni Morrison who awakened the scholar in me, who made me ask questions and drove me to write about books; it was her body of work which led me to theorize through literature the unique experiences of Black girls and women.

It was Sylvia Barnes who showed me I could, who encouraged me to use my singular voice to speak about Black girls’ and Black women’s experiences.

It has only been a week, so I’m still processing these losses and what they mean to me. These women—goddesses, really—have filled me for more than half my life and have prepared me for their parting. Though they toiled tirelessly, there is yet much work to be done. The mantle has been passed on, and we—those of us who write about, think about, theorize about Black experiences—must get down to business and with urgency do the work.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge–even wisdom. Like art.  Toni Morrison, The Nation, 2015

Photo from Pixabay

Joy Break 5 | Scatter Joy!

Scatter JoyWhen I was in college, every Friday students were given an opportunity to write positive, joy-filled messages to whomever they wished. Someone would go around the cafeteria during the lunch hours and pass out minimally decorated colored paper entitled “Joy Notes,” give individuals an opportunity to write a message, collect them, and deliver them to the dormitory offices for distribution via students’ mailboxes.

It was such a pleasure to write these notes because I knew they would make the recipients feel loved and appreciated.

What a treat it was to discover a “Joy Note” in my own box–especially after an unbearable or stressful week.

I saved many of the Joy Notes written to me, and they still warm my heart. Among them are a note from my roommate, expressing her delight that we were rooming again and appreciation for my friendship; a note from one of my good friends that decried our busy senior-year life and that let me know she cherished our friendship though we didn’t have as much time to chat as we had in previous years; one from another friend, thankful for my support through a difficult time in his life; a lengthy “missive” from my bestie after she moved off campus about how much work she was getting done since she didn’t have our long talks, shopping sprees, one-on-one basketball games, and other adventures to distract her. But, of course, she was missing all of that! 😀

You know where this is heading.

This wouldn’t be Joy Week on Pics and Posts if I were to let it end without encouraging you to spread joy to others.

It’s always a delight to know that someone is thinking of us and that we are appreciated for simply being who we are. So…take a moment to write a “joy note” today. Write a note to your spouse, your child, a long-lost friend, your parents for putting up with you; a “thinking of you” note to a few individuals you haven’t heard from lately; a thank you to the neighbor who kindly drags your trash can from the curb each week or who cuts your grass as a surprise while you’re on vacation.

We shy away from such activities because we overthink them and try to do much more than is necessary. In this case, “less is more.” Even one sentence is sufficient to spread a little joy.

To make life easier, you can use the simple 4×6 printable I designed using one of my own doodled flowers. [Aren’t you proud of me?] The card prints nicely in black and white too and can be sent as a postcard if printed on card stock.

[Click the links below to access the freebies–one ruled, one unruled]

The “spread joy” flower was inspired by a coneflower drawn by my penfriend Christine for the Brooklyn Art Library Sketch Book Project. Her flower was inspired by a flower sketched by Jane M., another artist and Love Noter. One person’s creative joy led to another’s and that led to another’s. See how quickly the joy spreads?

Come on! Let’s scatter some joy this weekend!


Bonus: Check out the gorgeous “Scatter Joy” image available as a free download from Ashley at The Handmade Home.  Be sure to download the freebie and display it in your home to remind yourself to “scatter joy” each and every day.

 

Vote: New Blog?

My hubby recently uncovered a treasure trove of writings, photographs, and journals from my early life. As I was looking through everything, it seemed a waste to just have things sit in folders and notebooks, unread.

I enjoyed revisiting younger me and reconnecting with her, so I’ve been thinking about starting another blog to allow her to speak–without the intrusions of “present” me.

It is absolutely insane for me to even consider another blog. I have to steal time for this one.  But summer always makes me feel like I can conquer all–including time.

So what do you think? Should my early musings get their own blog? Or should I make it a regular feature–twice monthly, maybe–of my current blog? Or leave it alone altogether?

Vote below.

Live, Love, and Write Good Sentences

Poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Photo by Hans Beacham

I want to live, to love and say it well in good sentences.  –Sylvia Plath

I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.   –Sylvia Plath

Postcard Note: The postcard, featuring Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, came from Gina B (aka Bianca), my pen friend/literary twin in Germany. I received the postcard a day or two after talking with one of my students about her senior thesis. I’d suggested to her that she include Sylvia Plath in her discussion about Anne Sexton’s poetry. Coincidence? More than that, of course.