Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hello, 2021

As 2020 ends, I'm filled with gratitude...gratitude that we've not lost a loved one to this mess, that we have been gainfully employed, that we have great wifi. But my heart hurts, too, for all those who have lost loved ones or experienced the terrible long-term effects of the disease, for all those who have had other health problems and had to deal with a health-care system in crisis, for all those who struggle financially or who have to stay in dysfunctional, toxic homes. 

My heart hurts for those who have had to deal with injustice, hatred, violence, political division, and the ugliness of the world. 

I am always an optimist. I believe we will come through this changed and stronger...eventually. Right now, we're in it. And it sucks. 

Our hobby allows us to make pretty things. It's therapy, an escape, self-care, a way to show love. Take the time to make the world a better, more beautiful place. Take care of yourself and those you love. Take care of your neighbors, even if they voted for the "wrong" guy or look different. Do good. Do no harm. Stay in love. Say hello to 2021. 

We've got this. 

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and kindness,


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Blocking Inspiration

 Sticking with the blocking concept from yesterday's card but using an inspiration piece this time...

Like yesterday's card, this card uses Simon Says Stamp's lovely Sending Sympathy set. The branch stamps in the set are so simple and perfect! I struggled with the arrangement for a while, let the card sit unfinished on my desk overnight, came back to it, and solved the puzzle in a few minutes.

When you get stuck, walking away for a time is often the easiest way forward!

The color combination was inspired by this pin. I had inks to match but ended up substituting a Sahara Sand heart in place of the Wet Cement ink.

My syllabus is updated for the spring semester. I will teach two sections of English Composition 2 online via Zoom. Comp 2 is my favorite on the composition classes because it goes deep into research methods and writing, and students tend to be more serious than in Comp 1 classes. 

Last semester taught me just how little we can cover in a Zoom class compared to a face-to-face class, and ultimately, I suspect the experience of teaching online will make me a much more efficient and effective instructor. Nevertheless, I long for the brick-and-mortar classroom. I miss people!!!!

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and kindness,


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Simple Concepts and Blocking

Back in the day, color blocking was a very common practice in scrapbooking. It may still be today, but I've not scrapped in about 12 years, so I'm supremely out of touch. 

I like using blocks on cards--a 3 x 3 square grid is particularly appealing to OCD me--but for today's card, I just separated the image and the sentiment onto two panels and left them white-on-white with no colored cardstock. 

To the paper and ink, I added a single, tiny rhinestone. 

The stamps are from Simon Says Stamp's Sending Sympathy set.

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and kindness,


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Back to Basics, Return to Roots, Focus on Foundations...Whatever

 After months of sporadic stamping--with uneven results--I found myself continuing to struggle with getting back into the stamping groove. I surfed Pinterest, took a stab at some inspired cards, threw the results in the trash, and walked away for a few days. I ordered a bunch of new stamps in November, but they didn't help.

I tried cleaning out my stash, only to realize that everything was already so very tidy and organized and purged that there really was no point. 

No. Point. 


So I decided to get back to basics. Paper and ink. Eleven years ago, I started a thread on Splitcoast Stampers. At the time, dies, Copics, and Prismacolor pencils with gamsol were everywhere. I tried to encourage people who didn't want to make cards that required lots of expensive supplies (and massive artistic talent)--cards that often ended up being thick as doorstops and impossible to mail--to follow their instincts and make simple cards...a counter-cultural impulse that received a ton of support and eventually ended up birthing this blog. 

Simplicity by LateBlossom. 

All three of today's cards embody that original impulse and get back to the root of who I am as a stamper.

Nothing but paper and ink. Not even bling. Lots of white space. 

The floral set is an ancient Papertrey set, new to me, called Flower Garden that I picked up for about $5. 

After shaking down my mojo with these three cards, I'm feeling ever so much better! 

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas despite our current very weird situation. Ours was certainly lovely, with a bit of snow even! I had no idea that our military years were training us to handle a very COVID Christmas, but we managed quite nicely. 

Singing Christmas hymns around the Advent wreath

Mercy, grace, peace, love, and kindness,


Monday, December 21, 2020

Pondering Christmas 2020

The following, slightly modified, was written for presentation in worship at First United Methodist Church of Springboro this past weekend. Before that, I used a slightly different version for a devotional on Facebook Live. If you're feeling the weight of grief this Christmas...even "just" grief from the loss of "normal," may these words bring a little comfort to you. Merry Christmas.

Think for a minute about the night of Jesus’ birth. Little Bethlehem was crowded to overflowing for the census. People were gathering everywhere…no social distancing. I can easily imagine the noises, the smells of animals and food and unwashed bodies, the jostling for space. It must have been sensory overload for a young couple from little nowhere Nazareth.

On Christmas Eve, when we sing Silent Night, it’s easy to forget that chaos. The beautiful, soft song about a calm, quiet, holy night represents the spirit of Christmas—our longing for peace—more than the literal reality of that night, with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus crammed into a stable and dealing with visiting shepherds spreading the words of the heavenly hosts to all…a good night, but not a quiet one. 

Mary handles the mess calmly. She treasures these things and ponders them in her heart.

Christmas 2020 needs a bit of pondering in our hearts, too. What do we think of this strange Christmas season? How do we process what’s happening?

We can use our technology to Zoom with family and friends, and we can order gifts to be shipped online. We can send cards and boxes of homemade goodies through the mail. We can decorate our homes and worship and light candles online, using the Advent kits our church handed out. These substitutes for our usual traditions and comforts help…some. But Christmas 2020 is unprecedented in our lives. It won’t be the same as Christmases Past.

What do we think about this? In his book Stillness is the Key, Ryan Holiday says that we need to find more moments of silence in which to think, and he describes a place in Helsinki, Finland, designed for that. “[T]here is a small building called the Kamppi Chapel It’s not a place of worship, strictly speaking, but it’s as quiet as any cathedral. Quieter, in fact, because there are no echoes. No organs. No enormous creaking doors. It is, in fact, a Church of Silence. It’s open to anyone and everyone who is interested in a moment of quiet spirituality in a busy city. You walk in and there is just silence. Glorious, sacred silence.”

Where do you go to find glorious, sacred silence, a peace so deep that you can ponder?

The silence that gives good pondering doesn’t come in a Christmas Eve candlelight service. Think about it. There, we gather in community, crammed into pews—no social distancing. The little ones are restless and often “help” with the readings and the preaching and the prayers. The songs are participatory, the readings often responsive, and when we light the candles, we are multitasking…singing, tilting, passing the light, trying not to spill wax or light the person in front of us on fire, trying to keep little ones from lighting themselves on fire.

Silent Night—the song—is wonderful for bringing community together in peace, hope, love, and joy. But maybe not in silence.

The psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.” It's a good verse to guide us through this mess.

Christmas 2020 will not be the same for any of us, and that grieves us. It is a loss. Whether this is a first Christmas without a loved one, or a first Christmas without the long drive to Grandma’s house to gather with the whole family, or a first Christmas without a crowded candlelight service, it’s just not going to be the same. How do we reimagine Silent Night? How do we reimagine Christmas in the time of COVID?

I think we’re being invited to ponder the meaning of it all in a very real and profound way. Because as much as we want Christmas to be about gathering and eating together and exchanging gifts together and caroling together and passing fire down the pews together, the real meaning, the real celebration, the real truth of Christmas is that Christ our Savior is born. That’s our treasure.

God willing, we will have more Christmases for traveling, gathering and passing the light in community, but this Christmas brings its own treasure, if we can be still and know it. If we can find the Kamppi Chapel in our own homes and hearts for glorious, sacred silence to ponder God’s love for us.

Seek out those moments you can be still and silent…there may well be more of them this year. As you are still, know that Emmanuel, God with us, is born. My hope is that we will treasure this, and ponder it in our hearts, just like Mary so long ago.

Peace be with you.