Monday, June 26, 2017

Oh, Wow. My Goodness. Why, I Never . . . & the Kindness of Pen Friends

While I like to think I'm fairly good at paying attention and noticing things, Mrs. Duffy brought me up short and schooled me on just how often I fail at both. Here's the truth:  I ordered the eclipse stamps because I've been a little desperate for simple black and white stamps. The eclipse stamps seemed to fill the bill almost as well as Abe Lincoln's did. So, I happily took possession of my order when it arrived, perfunctorily examined them, returned all unmolested, to the USPS envelope after sharing an image with y'all, never realizing their uniqueness . . . until today. And, oh my. Look at that!

At first glance I was unimpressed because they were copperish--not black at all. I just found them after misplacing, and they were black. Hmm. I accidentally touched one when I picked it up without doing it in a corner of the sheet. Well, what 'cha say! There's the Earth again! Then it came to me. I remembered seeing that happen before, when I wasn't paying attention! That Therochromic ink at work! Mrs. Duffy? Oh, Mrs. D. I do thank thee. Ye? I do thank ye? Comments can be such good things. Thanks to everyone who leaves one. Or two. 

World, you turned me upside down. Upside down you turned me. Upside down and round and round! Instinctively you give to me the awe that I need! (Ala Diana Ross!)

Try making your own solar-lunar-Earth-eclipse phases, and see what happens. *grin* It's actually fun. Simple. Fun. There's a storm working itself up right outside my window at the moment. We need the rain. The humidity and pressure affects me "jointly." Jointly. Get it? I wonder who came up with this idea for eclipse stamps. They deserve recognition and a raise. At the very least. I hope you're playing with your stamps too. And let me say this:  I noticed they changed on their own when I left them on my keyboard and the sun struck them . . . It's all coming back to me now.

And . . . As if that wasn't enough to twist my tee shirt in a tight wad, there was this . . .

Inside was this . . .

. . . and this . . .

And then, inside there are these. I stuttered. Because I could not find my coherent speech.

Scrabble tiles too??? Oh, oh, oh. Susan wrote,  "Christmas in July June." *grin*

Yep, that happened. Here's a quick little story to go with:  JC went into the postoffice to get lovely mail; we'd been to the Black Walnut, and Barnes & Noble, so I was flagging just a little. That's a long drive between the cafe and the post office. But when he came out with a big box I was so happy that he'd finally gotten something that I forgot about being tired. Perhaps Erin had sent him something? "No," he said,, "I just told you I canceled my box." And he had, less than ten minutes earlier, but Erin would have used my p.o.b. 

JC plopped the box on the back seat, got in the truck, handed me my letters, and drove off. I'm all in mouth-agape mode, wondering-asking, "So that's my box? Why did you put it in back? I want my box." He said, all tight lipped, "You can open it when we get home. The box is heavy." So I go, "Wait, that's my box. I have the right to hold it and shake it and wonder what's in it. You're not my daddy. You can't tell me what to do with my mail. This is America. My daddy fought in Vietnam for my right to . . . " I heard fifes fifing, and drums drumming, and cannons firing in the background as I spoke my piece, while JC's getting all red faced and starts to white knuckles the steering wheel.

Before we were a block away from the post office he wheeled into the parking lot of the convenience store, got out, opened the back door, grabbed my box, came around the truck, opened my door and gave me my box. I grinned, and stopped orating, 'cause one cannot orate and grin simultaneously, and I held my heavy assed box on my lap. I looked at every side, shook it, wondered what might be inside, and didn't put it down--even after my right thigh went numb. I learned that taking photos with an iPhone in a moving truck makes you look like you were in idiot mode while trying to work a camera's phone, but only when you see all the shaking that went on later. No matter. I sent Erin a text with one image and she texted back, "It's too blurred to tell much, but I am so happy for you."

I opened by box from Susan, at the kitchen table, with a butcher knife and much care. I paused for effect too before slowly lifting each flap; you cannot imagine how much my grin lit up our kitchen. I told anyone who'd listen how Susan had sent me a boat load of treasure. Photos were included. *still grinning*

Susan. I never could have imagined such a thing.

June 26, 2017

Dear Susan,

Thank you very much.

You are great-and-giving-and-so-generous. Or is that redundant?

Sincerely sincere,


P.S.  JC asked me why you gave me your stamps. I told him I didn't know. I'm humbled because you did. Thanks, one more time.

Well, just when I thought I'd stop being surprised . . . good fortune struck again. Today. 

I didn't know the box was waiting, since I didn't have the package notification app too. JC recommended getting it yesterday. This surprise was in our home mail box today. I collected it on my way to the post office because I had more mail in my p.o.b. today! Imagine that!

To prove my self-restraint, I did not open Dodson, D.'s package until I was in the post office parking lot. That was hard to do. I was tempted to open it at long stop lights but I don't text or talk and drive, so no way would I open mail at lights either. I read his long letter in the parking lot too. It was like having a conversation. He talked and I was there to listen. You know what I mean. That's what correspondence is.

The colors lit up the day! "Raw materials," I like that. The ESP thing is working again. Last night I wished for a portfolio just the right size to keep a series of drawings I'm working on, safe and neat. Then, lo! and behold! 

Night before last, my sister Elaine and I talked for two hours and forty-eight minutes. It was our first conversation this year, and I told her about how I wanted a fountain pen like our teachers had when we were young girls. I told her about how I feel like my cup runneth over sometimes with all the things I was deprived of when I was growing up; things like books and art supplies and yes, good fountain pens. Well, guess what.

Inside the perfect, dreamed of zippered pouch, was one of my favorite art journals. I bought one several years ago but never used it up. That's an annoying habit I have--saving good stuff because it's too good to use . . .

See? Here's mine. 

A drawing of an early Fat Chick, 2013 is on page two.

And, Dodson, D. included my favorite watercolors. I have . . . I forget how many of these I've gone through in my attempts to teach myself the fine art of watercoloring. 

Long after I'd examined my fortunes in-depth, in the privacy of home, and just as I was returning the gems to the pouch, I heard a little noise in the bag. When I looked inside, why what to my wondering eyes should appear but a clear J. Herbin fountain pen! I kn-o-o-ow. I couldn't believe it either. So I took it apart to make sure it was real. And guess what. It is.

Dear Dodson, 

I'd hug your neck really hard if I could. Thank-you will have to be an inferior substitute though, since I cannot reach that far. There's a song about how one's arms are too short to box with God. Well, mine are too short to hug your neck. So please accept my most sincerely sincere thanks. You too, are one in a million too. And thanks for the lovely conversation. 

The glare makes my eyes hurt now. I've been here talking for too-too long, so I must go, put drops in both eyes, lie in the dark a spell, and count my lucky stars.

Be well. And thank you.




Saturday, June 24, 2017

Another Saturday Evening Post + 1 Fun Link

They're here. And they're far more interesting in hand than on screen. Stories began writing themselves with brain fluid the moment I saw them. First touch sent a frisson of excitement from my fingertips to my brain in an unavoidable symbiotic synapse. The impression lingers. 

This tracking map is an unexpected pleasure for sure. I've never watched an eclipse. Have you? I always forget to look, never imagining how the temperature might drop. I mention that little bit of newly acquired info out of wonder. It stands to reason that it would, because the sun brings not only light, which is warmth, and I also understand how the ancients feared the sun's loss after a sudden disappearance. I wonder if there's ever been a series of postage stamps featuring the moon's phases. 

Had these come a day earlier the first of the twenty would have graced last night's envelope. Too late, JC mailed last night's conversations today. I set out to write/respond to as many "duly noteds" as my law allowed. Or, let's just say I was in a letter-writing state of mind last night. A headache cut short my aspirations . . . Computer glasses are in my very near future.

                                                                       Stamp People

I know Debbie's as an etegami artist but we know artists wear many different hats, don't we? Debbie donned a new bonnet, and she wears it rather well. Have you tried etegami? Reciprocity is a fun artistic exercise. Try it, then show us your stuff. Way to go, Debbie. You've inspired me to try my hand at creating a tribe of my own stamp people. Non-etegami though. Thanks for sharing.

Friday, June 23, 2017

People Are Talkin'

People are talkin'? Heck, I'm talkin'! Something's wrong. I sent a box out into the world naked. All that white space wasted. 

I left four packages unfinished, unwrapped, unaddressed . . . 

Talk about a paper trail? I left a messy trail in my wake that tells a sorry tale. The photo boxes will eventually hold archived mail from pen friends. I just stacked them there for a minute while I went through a stash . . .

This, my friends, i proof. Unadulterated proof that it's not always my fault that paper messes happen. I was sorting, making keeper and toss 'em stacks, when   the   phone   rang. 

As you can see, there's so much good stuff here that requires careful thought and consideration. It needs time. I need time. A body cannot zip through everything, and tossing valuable paper product all willy-nilly is like a sin or something. It just needs a little more attention . . .

I discovered these by chance. I do like a terrarium, don't you? Have you ever spelled a word correctly but checked the dictionary anyway, just to be on the safe side? I tend to do it more often as I age, this second guessing. 

And there's this! I spent a lot of time hunting all the elements, and it took even more time--time I'll never recoup, to adhere them in place. And those stamps . . . Two of my favorites from the USPS and two of the best artist stamps ever discovered in Archiver's, gone to . . . Well, not gone to waste, but the address label will be a total wash if I cannot come up with a clever way to save it. It's been all tarted up for a once-upon-a-time pen friend who declined to continue our penfriendship. *sigh* I wish us all Good Fortune.

Are all British bakers as nice, polite, helpful, and considerate as the ones on "The Bread British Baking Show?" Surely they're Canadians disguised as Brits? I can't write for watching. It's the Dampfnudel episode, and the next bake is braiding bread. What's her name is making an ark. When questioned about there being one elephant, she replied as seriously as a heart attack, "They had a fight you see." In answer to "Where's the other dove?" she said, "Well, it's flown off you see." I want her to win. I do, I do, I do! Her story about her poor childhood and her loving father buying them ice cream cones now they're adults, 'cause he couldn't when they were young made my eyes swim. Val's her name! She just burned a finger. The animals went in two by two! That's it! Do you know it? I like that Andrew too. Paul is such a flirt. And I've forgotten what this post is meant to be about. 

Moving on down this road . . .

These liners are over eleven years old. Okay, to be fair so is the envelope. I made them when we lived at the old house, and I had two pen friends:  One in Rhode Island, the other in Japan. Who you callin' a hoarder? It just saved itself for the right person!

People are talking' about this too. But it can wait. 

May all your mail be to your liking.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Read a Letter in the Parking Lot When You Can't Wait Until You Get Home

I've had a string of great mail days lately. That's a big deal now since so many bloggers are abandoning their little homes on the Net. And while I do understand why they might, I cannot help but mourn the losses. My daily rituals include reading the posts in my read/follow lists for the fix I be jonesing for. Nothing is so disruptive or as unsettling as a deafening silence . . . followed by a Houdiniesque disappearance. 

I enjoy having posts delivered to my inbox, but I get a major thrill from starting at the top of My Favorite Blogs list, going down the line, reading and sipping tea as part of my day. That's my time, so you know I have the nerve to be disappointed when a favorite blogger misses a day. Don't let it go two or even three in a row. Seriously. They've got a lot of nerve! And I am not above inquiring in an e-mail, "Where are you?" Okay, not really, but I do wonder. I mean if you cannot count on a blogger, who can you count on? Bloggers, don't just abandon your home. If you're gonna quit, give us a little notice. Please and thank you. Some really great writers/photographers/storytellers dropped the keyboard. *sigh*

So, as a copper pot calling copper kettles brass, I'm deeply appreciative of the bloggers who soldier on in the face of blogger glut, burnout, choosing a none-blogging life, or whatever else came between you and us. Thank you for being a part of my reading experience.

I get a thrill when there's mail, and double delight chills when there's mail in both boxes.  And . . . a UPS delivery! On the same day! It don't get much better'n that. Okay, it don't get much better'n that unless you write a letter that starts off sluggish, and you think of waiting to write another day, but something tells you to keep on--to not waste the paper or the already-written words, and you listen. Before you're aware of where you are, or what you're doing, you've hit your stride and boom! You've written at least three whole pages, drawn some silliness in the margins, and signed your name, with "love and a hug."

Moving on . . . Here's a teachable bit about how to read a letter in the post office parking lot when you cannot wait until you get home. 

Number one:  Read a letter in the parking lot only if you think it holds the answer to a question you've been waiting for. Otherwise you might get heat stroke because the windows are up and the ac is off because you feel too guilty about sitting in a parking lot with the motor running to turn it on. Pretend it's so important you're willing to risk suffocating or baking inside a hot SUV.

Number two:  Never forget this. The thickest envelope is the one to go for first. Spread the pages in a discernible fan. That's way its importance is more convincing. 

Number three:  Read without moving your lips. People will forgive you then because you'll look like you're smart enough to know better, so they'll figure the letter has to be super important. I know I noticed someone reading a letter in the parking lot, I'd tell myself it's possibly a letter from a parole officer, an attorney, the IRS, Alf, a publisher rejecting their latest story, divorce papers . . . 

Number four:  Wear your darkest sunglasses to block out the sight of anyone who might look at you like you're nuts for being in the heat without ac on, and with the windows up. Do not make eye contact. Just read. Slowly makes it look like you're not even hot.

Number five:  When you come to the end, lovingly return the missive to its envelope, then sit there for a while, like you're too moved by what you've read to turn the key in the ignition. 

Note to self:  Nobody's ever looking at you when you think they are.  Get over yourself and go home.

I watched "Freaks" last night when I couldn't sleep. That was after I read this:

Doesn't that just wet your readin' n writin' whistle? All the Gothic novels have at least the heroine writing in a chapter or two where the sounds of a quill scratching on paper seems to fill the room. ". . . the biting hush of ink on paper" above makes one pause--in an attempt to imagine how a hush bites. Wordsmithing par excellence? Or simple slight of hand with pen? Hmm.

Such color--prettier than a tangerine. 

Feel free to expect a whale of a tale tomorrow. Or the day after. A tale of a whale's tail? Anything is possible.

The End.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hope Springs Eternal Even After the Creek Rises and Washes Out the Bridge

I gasped when I saw this. I opened it a corner of my old and faithful cleaver. JC left it on a kitchen counter on top of the other mail, a clear sign that he deemed it important too. And so I thought it was the surprise I've hoped would happen for decades. 

Always check the zip code first, is a credo. It didn't matter that it's several towns distant, I was determined to get there even if it meant using Uber. I would draw among peers again! Hope happens.

So. What's the most exciting mail you've held in recent hope? Did it deliver?

I'm writing at a more leisurely pace these days. It's too hot to pen faster. The wet pen nibs move across paper easily enough, but my hand feels like a match head striking a rough surface in super slow motion, as if bent on creating a slo-mo fire. It often sounds that way in my ever fanciful imagination when I practice calligraphy on resume paper. That's how quiet it is in the night quiet as I practice alone in silence, and the rest of the house sleeps. 

I'm writing more postcards though. Irony begins with iron, and iron feels like a cool metal when it's this hot. But I'm so glad we no longer have to iron everything we wear since ironing is hot work. Ironic is cooler than moronic too. Yet still I write.

Here's a favorite postcard, another I've held on to for too long simply because it tells me a different story each time I simply grace it with a glance. Today she tells me he just got up and walked out on her, and while she'd run after him in the past, she's just too tired to give a hot trot tonight. So he can go to blazes, and she wouldn't pee in his ear if his brain was on fire. 

"Yes, I'm hot and super very tired of wearing all these layers because you men don't seem to know how to control your lustful imaginings when you see a female. Just you wait until a woman invents the bikini, spaghetti strap dresses, and slip dresses. You want lust? I'll give you so much lust you'll want to have a sex change just so you can fondle your own breasts!" she thought as she sweltered in the heat of the summer sun. "Oh! And you should try being rubbed by whale bone and drawstrings in bloomers! I am too chafed to be bothered!" Such are the true thoughts of one of the first super models while out on a photo shoot.

"Use more milk? Seriously?" asked the cow with sore udders, just before she kicked over the milking stool, barely missing the milkmaid's head. The bull just laughed and rolled his eyes.

Why is it called Minute Maid Park when there are no maids on the field, no maids selling juice made in a minute in the concession stands, and I spell "minute" the very same way. *sigh* It's too hot for this.

So, moving on . . . I did write a letter. Three whole pages worth. Then I had to draw a little. Added some red a little. I felt so much better than a little happier after all this.

Some hot and sour soup made me feel so good! That soup in my tsunami in a bowl yesterday evening started waves of good feeling that carried over into this day. Doc gets to give her verdict tomorrow. Why did I wait so long to seek a remedy? Fingers crossed. 

Wishing I'd lowered that stamp just a little. When I tried it last night it didn't work. Hmm. It's what's inside that counts, right? Maybe next time I'll get it right. Hope has its own springboard.

Write more mail.


P.S.  Irony? A case in point:  JC were finally on the patio again, enjoying the breeze, talking about important slug deterrents that involve beer, when the neighbor came out and light up. When you are allergic and haven't been around secondhand smoke for awhile it seems to jolt the brain with a vengeance, making it hard to like your neighbor, let alone love him.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Happy Juneteenth

I read the morning e-mails in bed because my stomach didn't want me to move across the room to my desk. Um-huh, it's still like that. I do have an appointment in a day or two, so I'm determined to live until then. But the e-mail I chose to read first made me feel a lot better. The subject field said, Happy Juneteenth! in all caps. The results:  Immediate happiness! I sat up straighter, I grinned. And I felt less than guilty for deciding not to write my Juneteenth post last night. I believed I'd be well today, and would do the holiday justice. Dear friend, Anna saved the day, and acknowledged my history, thus making me prouder of my ancestors who survived slavery, two years of extended enslavement, and thrived in spite of it--and happier to be me.

Houston celebrated the re-opening of Emancipation Park today. It has a facelift, and it is fabulous, dahlins'! Texas pretended not to know Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation until two years after the fact. I mean how could Texas not know? They didn't have the telegraph? There's an old insult that goes, "If you want word to spread, telegraph or tell a Negro." That was plantation talk about slave "code." They may have lost their drums but they had word of mouth. So how did it take  took two years for a single newspaper to make it from Washington to Texas? What? The mail didn't run that far? And if Lincoln signed the Declaration in 1863 why did it take so long . . . Never mind.

I have a copy of this photo of our youngest ex-slave ancestor, Mandy Armstrong. She was the third hardest female to trace in history. Lucy, the first hard-to-find-evidence-of, who married the first Eli, still remains in shadow because she was a slave, hence no sure records of her before the first census that included the family. Lucy married our Eli who was born in 1820. I believe I may have discovered records that name the ship and the captain that brought him to America. 

Our Mandy had a paper twin. I spent years collecting documents, and even a photo of the woman I believed was my grandfather's sister. I have data that traces her presence from Bevilport, Texas to the pages of The Slave Narratives. How could there have been two Amanda Armstrongs? How could there have been two Amanda Armstrongs who married one Josh Hadnot? Josh was a player? How could their children bear the same names? Oh, the cruelties of slavery! Oh, the cruelty of the person who touched up Mandy's photo. 

I'm saddened every time I look at the photos of our family members who were enslaved two years after they were deemed free. Surely they should have been compensated for their labor. Ships sailed into Galveston as regularly as a clock ticked. Texas knew. Texans knew . . . Ignorance of the law is not a viable excuse in today's courts. Why not then? 

"In 1623 Antonio and Isabella gave birth to William Tucker, the first African child born in America. The Tucker Family and descendants from the first African child born in America still resides in Hampton. William Tucker is buried in Hampton." 

Of all the records in my collections, one of my most favorite is the image of the 1867 Voter Registration roll that bears Ely/Eli's X. He couldn't read or write but he was accounted for. Two hundred forty-four years after the first African child was born in America, Eli and his were free on paper. And here I am.

A favorite book on the subject could be better but the photographs are moving and tell a better story of Black Americans and the End of Slavery. I find myself staring at the images, wondering but not wanting to know firsthand, the how and why of the when. Whenever I see photographs of any slaves, and read the Slave Narratives, I cannot help but wonder if the people in them might be relatives. 

Lucy and Eli came to Texas with a  thirty-four old widowed daughter, Mary, and her daughter. Surely Mary wasn't their only child. One has to wonder how many family members were left behind along the coastal route and inland routes that brought them into Texas, and one has to wonder how many were sold., once thought to be an answer to our need to know the names of ghosts left in shadow of our histories, wooed us with promises of revelation and connection . . . But that's another story about a new type of enslavement. But discovering DNA relatives along the routes Eli and Lucy traveled gave us hope. Those DNA results became a bit too much to bear, so a break from research helped save this camel's sore heart and back. For now. I still celebrate Juneteenth though. 

This is a ver special photograph of Mary McLeod Bethune and students from her school. More girls than boys, sadly enough.  

An emancipation jigsaw puzzle. It's missing a piece!

The caption, "A man whose race cannot be determined sits below a sign reading 'Auction & Negro Sales.' " Well, he has dark skin, a rifle rests next to him, my imagination created a good story to go along with. It comes from watching the movie, "Get Out." My favorite line in the movie:  "Get him, Grandpa." 

Shocking, huh? 

This photograph seems to have been used more than any other in articles about Juneteenth. I like it too. Somewhere there's a book that speaks to the celebrations in Galveston, Texas. My parents honeymooned in Galveston. Our oldest sister was born there. I lived less than an hour away on the mainland one upon a time, and Galveston was like our back yard. Galveston, gateway to news of emancipation. 

It makes this one a little less painful to bear. 

M-m-m, good. They're ghosts in old his-story, when truth is, they helped settle the west. They were the Buffalo Soldiers, the cowboys, and settlers. They were survivors. Dude sure knew how to wear those skinny jeans, too. 

Life is a celebration.

Sometimes, the more things change . . . the more they say the same.

Life Emancipation is a celebration. Happy Juneteenth!