Friday, December 31, 2021

Which was worse 2020 or 2021? + CathyO's vintage mail

 Here are some words from Kathleen Norris:

Life is easier than you think: all that is necessary is to accept the impossible, do without the indispensable, and bear the intolerable.

Fiona Dempster posted that quote back in September. She started her Thursday Thoughts in 2010, the same year I started PTE. The quote came from page 18 of 106 pages in her *quote folder.* I think Fiona is way more organized than I am. She used this quote right after NZ had a 5.8 earthquake - on top of everything else that's been going on. 

My litmus test on any given day is this: If there were no trips to the ER (or covid scares) and the plumbing, heating, electricity, appliances, internet connection are all working, didn't have to call a tow truck - then there is nothing to complain about.

I am not expecting 2022 to be better at all. Hopefully, that does not sound dismal. Since we do not get any previews of the future - let's just pretend like we're ready to face anything and everything. Heaven knows I've had a whole year of watching other people cope with stuff that I would not have traded for my own brush with whatever that was I brushed with.

Happy New Year.


The next envelope in my disorganized folder of Oct-Nov-Dec envelopes is this super fun card and envelope from CathyO. It's an idea that would work for any season or holiday - with a little tweaking of the image. Wonderful lettering. It looks like a font, but it is hand lettered. I have a ton of goofy vintage photos. Maybe I will appropriate the idea and use it for my valentines and other mailings.

Happy New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Type Worship + Mia's bones

 Yesterday's post mentioned surfing through Australia and England. This guy made the claim that The John Stevens Shop is the *oldest* continuously running business in the US. That is not correct, but, we'll let it go. He has a ton of inspirational stuff on his website. Obviously, he uses the computer to make everything slick and symmetrical. But, he does have one piece that he drew by hand because the end product was letterpress and letterpress is just so beautifully forgiving.

I apologize for the salty language. We have already covered the topic of salty language and those of us who are in the gray years will continue to avoid the salty language. I noticed over the T-day weekend that while my daughter and her husband continue to have a strict rule against salty language, the dad bought a very funny birthday card for the mom. It had a salty word on it and he thought he had kept it hidden at the store where he had taken their 8 year old daughter to pick out a birthday gift. Nothing gets past 8 year olds. She came racing in the house, told her brother that dad bought a card with a bad word, then the two of them raced to tell the mom. Of course, it all came across as comical and it seems like the kids are mature enough to know what the bad words are and still refrain from using them. 

Something else I found out that seems like progress. I asked my granddaughter if any of the girls in her 2nd grade class had short hair. During drop off and pick up at the playground, it seemed as though all the girls had long hair. She brought out a booklet with class pictures and pointed to the girls with short hair. Then she pointed to one kid with chin length hair and said, "Thatcher is not a boy or a girl." Later I asked my daughter about Thatcher and she said that as far as she can tell, non-binary people are no big deal to the kids in the class. It's just a random public school not too far from Wrigleyville in Chicago -- so, maybe there is some growing kindness and acceptance in the future.

A portion of Jamie's salty artwork

And a lovely envelope from Mia in Canada. Once again - there was no planning in this pair, but they are cousins because they are items turned into letters - pencils and bones. I've done both and can imagine doing some more. Someday.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

RIP to the year 2021 + env from Leslie

On Dec 4th, my morning surf took me to Australia, England, and back to the US. I frequently mention world famous lettering artist, John Stevens and every now and then I run across *the other* John Stevens. It is a shop on the list of the oldest continuously running businesses in the US. (founded in 1705) Their website is a spectacular rabbit hole full of all kinds of lovely images. They do their lettering with a brush on the stone and then carve it. My mind is blown (in more ways than one) that people can do this. Happy surfing. I even enjoyed the map and wandering around on street view.

From Leslie. I love this envelope made from what I am pretty sure is the USPS stamp catalogue. If you order stamps online, you also get a very nice quarterly catalogue. I'm not happy with the USPS worker who drew the Sharpie line across the butterfly. Grrrr. 

The technique of rubbing across a textured surface would be a fun one to try.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Medical appointment warning + Envelope from Chuck

 By the way, I've been meaning to mention something that goes along with the Patient Portal warning from earlier this year. If someone tells you that you have an appointment to have your broken bones set - be prepared to fall (virtually) through the cracks. And while you are down there - be prepared to have a very difficult time getting anyone to respond to you. Keep in mind, you are not allowed to have any food or water, so you will not be in tip top shape as you navigate the situation. And then later, be prepared to fight with your insurance company to fill a simple prescription for pain meds. This did not happen to me - but it was painful to hear about it. 

The worst part is that there are fewer and fewer ways to actually talk to people who might be able to straighten out things that are not going as planned. Electronic communication has caught on and nobody worked the bugs out before they embraced the exciting new concept. It seemed like a good idea - and lots of people/agencies/companies/etc have jumped on board -- but, it reminds me a lot of the excitement surrounding the Titanic when it was new and exciting. And now--- just as then --- there are a lot of people left *floating.*


Here is Chuck's November envelope - a pilgrim/gnome. I suppose I could insert my trip report now that it is the 28th and I should be home. I'm writing this on the 25th - right after brunch. The grandkids have plenty to keep them occupied for the rest of the day. The adults are dazed and confused. There was a covid scare (thankfully everyone was negative) but two of us had/have a generic head cold - so everyone is a little off. It's good the kids are getting old enough to handle some quick changes of plans. The mom and dad are ready to switch from traditional holidays to an alternative - a trip to a beach. The kids are not on board at all. 

Next challenge -- make it through 8-10 weeks of winter. No more falling.

Monday, December 27, 2021

From Smash -- Danny Gregory

Long-time pen pal and inspirator (I think I made that word up) Sue AKA Smash - surprised me with this one. I LOVE it -- but I do not recall seeing anything like this from her previously. I love both he lettering as well as the design. I feel some appropriating coming on.

 I've mentioned Danny Gregory from time to time. You may sign up to get his weekly emails. 

He usually has something inspirational. This time is sounds like Danny is having an existential crisis.  It's very long - and spoiler alert - it's a long dither about dithering. So, I am offering it as a random piece of writing because Danny is happy to have people like me provide some publicity for people like him. If your head is screwed on straight today, you don't need to read it. If you are dithering, you may read it and know that you are not alone. 

I am not dithering today because I only have 4 days left to fill for the whole year.

Hi jean wilson,

I could sort of, maybe, use a new desk chair. 
Mine occasionally decides to slowly ease me to the floor while I’m working.  People on Zoom report watching me slowly descend out of sight as I talk.  
It’s somewhat disconcerting.  
So I spend some time online shopping for chairs, reading reviews, and looking at shipping costs.
I usually write in Scrivener, but is it the ideal writing app for me? I take notes in Google Keep. I like the markup capabilities of a new app called Craft. I spend some time reading comparison reviews of other apps. Then I subscribe to a podcast from Lit and Latte in which different writers talk about their process. I listen to half an episode while I start to make swatches of my new colored pencils on watercolor and drawing paper. I make a couple more swatches, then sharpen all my pencils and arrange them precisely according to the spectrum.
This reminds me of a cool Danish artist I might bring to Sketchbook Skool, so I open her page on Instagram, then start looking at people she follows. Every 4th post on Instagram is now an annoying ad, but then I click on one that shows me a new camera stand that’s kind of neat. Huh, I wonder if they carry it on Amazon…..

Soon the afternoon is gone.

The thing is, I didn’t intend to spend today buying chairs or downloading apps, or sharpening pencils.
I intended to spend it writing this essay for you.
Instead, I dithered.

Dithering is all about rearranging (or shopping for) deck chairs on the Titanic of my mind. Burning through the time allotted doing things that seem industrious and look like Work — after all, I do sorta need a chair, a writing app, swatches, etc., kinda. But they are all really just Procrastination, the slow cousin of Perfectionism.
And Perfectionism is the hardest-working sidekick of that voice in my head, the Monkey.

There are a zillion things vaguely adjacent to my dream, my creative goal, that the Monkey uses to keep me away from actually sitting down and making. And every day, there are new distractions, new websites, new TV shows, new products being shipped to new art supply stores.  
Perhaps some are perfectly legitimate assets that can help me make better work.  
But are they worth the time? Are they worth wandering off course and getting lost in the shrubbery?

It’s all about my goal. If an activity isn’t moving me towards it, it is dithering.
My goal is to write a lot and regularly. My other goal is to fill sketchbook pages. I feel so centered and accomplished at the end of a day of doing these things.
To reach that goal, I don’t need new chairs or arranged pencils.  
I just need to dirty pages.

So I pull up a dining room chair, open Google Docs, and write and write and write.
When I have cranked out many good, bad or indifferent pages, then I’ll allow myself, briefly and only then, to browse fonts and try out different margin widths.

The Monkey doesn’t want me to reach my goals. 
Because doing so might disrupt the status quo. 
What if I write a whole book-worth of good pages? Then I might talk to my publisher, who might want me to go on tour and meet new people who will invite me to new things and expose me to new ideas, all of which could be risky and different and terrifying to this creature that would much prefer I just sat huddled in a blanket paging through  

Sometimes, I feel like such a weakling. 
It takes energy, focus, a muscular core to stay on task and not dither. That can seem like hard work. 
But writing or drawing gets me in the flow state, which energizes and makes me happy, whereas dithering leaves me feeling depleted, dull, and slightly ashamed.

It all comes down to a simple question. 
What do we want to do with ourselves? How do we want to use that creative spark burning inside us? 
Do we want to slowly smother it in crap and distraction? Or do we want to make something cool? A body of work, a completed project, a book, a show, something that makes us proud and happy.

Maybe you don’t have a goal.
Maybe your monkey has convinced you that you aren’t trying to be professional, that you don’t want to publish a book or open a store or have a gallery show, that you just like playing around with art, that my perspective is not for you. 
Maybe your monkey has whispered so many dithering commands in your ear so often that you are lulled into a compliant stupor.

But I doubt you’d have read so far into this email if that were true.

I think deep down, you know that focussing and committing and doing will help you draw better or write more or get back to that dream you had at six or twelve or twenty or forty-four. 
Dithering will just drain away your energy, your days,  and your bank account.

Your pal,

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Story Objects -- From Thomas

Vera's work popped up in an email and. I do not recall seeing her work so I'm not sure how I got on her mailing list, but I am sure glad I did. I probably won't have time to do anything like this - but it's been fun to just surf around on her website. You can buy the kits to make the houses or you can get downloadable files to cut your own on a Cricut. She says you could - in theory - do all the cutting by hand. That's tempting, but I gave myself a very bad case of tennis elbow from too much cutting by hand. Besides, I do not need little paper houses. Maybe someday the grandkids will be old enough and have an interest in building paper houses. 

Vera van Wolferen Link to her website


This lovely envelope is from Thomas. He pops in to exchange once in a while. I like the leaf card, too. I never met a leaf I didn't like, except poison ivy. That stuff is nasty. Thank you for participating in the October exchange Thomas. I used to get Thomas and Troy mixed up because they both lived in Texas - but Troy moved to New Orleans. And thanks to the USPS for leaving off the cancel as well as a vicious Sharpie-slash.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

From Leslie - puzzle and light

 Since MrWilson has joined us in Chicago, I can up my R&R time - and file another report on what it is like to have Christmas with an 8 yr old and a 6 yr old. My strategy when my kids were young was that they got one present on Dec 24th and it was supposed to entertain them all day. My grandkids like Legos, and I found a really fun jigsaw puzzle that is just rows and rows of little Lego people. I hope my daughter had it on her radar to have the puzzle table cleared off so that the kids could start working on it on the 24th. I hope I remembered to buy myself one of those headlights that you wear on your head to illuminate whatever you are working on. I had to buy one when they lived in Toronto because the kitchen was so dark I couldn't see anything. They laughed at me at first -- but, then I noticed that they were borrowing it. Their puzzle table is not well lit at all. Grrrrr. Although I am guessing that working on jigsaw puzzles would be a horrible drain on my brain.


At first I thought that was a feather, now I am thinking it must be a leaf. It is from Leslie and there was probably a fun note inside. I always enjoy Leslie's notes. I also correspond with her via email. Note to Leslie - and anyone else I correspond with - my short term memory is messed up - so, be prepared for me to not remember much of what is in any correspondence. 

Flip side of Leslie's envelope

Friday, December 24, 2021

Jean's Annual Dec 24th Story (2010 Chuck)

Am I the only one who remembers that somewhere along the line I started writing an annual Dec 24th story? The inspiration for this one happened on Nov 12.

Earlier this year, the BigHelpfulBrother (BHB) and his wife decided to downsize out of their GreatBigDreamHome full of all kinds of stuff that people who have a variety of interests can amass. It was a huge project - getting rid of all the stuff they no longer needed. By November they had moved out and were down to a garage full of odds and ends - maybe useful to somebody, but not suitable for Goodwill.  BHB and his wife had a couple unanticipated (and difficult) events to manage - so I offered to list the items on Craig's List in the Free Stuff category.

My listing, which included a few photos, offered to hold items - as long as people would pick stuff up between 10 and noon the following day. It worked out beautifully. Of all the random stuff that was listed the most popular item was that bucket of wood scraps. Someone named Ashley had offered to take quite a few items, so I put the bucket of wood scraps on her list to pick up. She mentioned that she lived right around the corner which sounded like she would probably show up. 

Ten people showed up promptly and were very polite. There was also a ton of random stuff that I had not listed and figured that people would indulge in *impulse taking.* Oh.My.Gosh. Did their eyes light up when I pointed to the array of More Free Stuff along the entire west wall of the garage. At least half the stuff was gone within the first half hour.

I was also impressed with how many people made a point of thanking me for not sending everything to the landfill. I was the one who was grateful that I didn't have to haul anything anywhere. It's just nice to know that there are people who take the time and energy to help keep usable stuff out of the landfill.

Here comes the fun part of the story. Ashley had offered to take about 8 things including that bucket of wood scraps. But then she saw all the additional items and was happily filling her car. As she was collecting, I told her that she had gotten the the most sought after item of the day - the bucket of wood scraps.

She said, "Really? Well, I don't actually need it. You can give it to someone else." She probably realized that she already had more than she could fit in her car - and she did end up making two trips.

Sean, one of the people who had asked about the bucket of wood scraps was still looking around and heard Ashley's offer to give it to someone else. "You're not going to take it?" he asked.

"Nope," said Ashley, "You can have it."

"Oh wow," said Sean, "Now I can make Christmas presents."

It was a charming exchange. And fun to see someone so excited about a bucket of wood scraps. I can't remember all the other comments that entertained me for two hours. Things like: "Five gallon buckets!! I've been WANTING five gallon buckets."

Of course, there were still some items leftover after the big 2-hour give-away - because 3 people did not show up. I was going to have to figure out what to do with the dregs - which included a box of hazardous waste materials. As luck would have it, Saturday morning was the final day to haul random junk (and hazardous waste) to Metro Waste. Mr. Wilson agreed to help me. 

When all of a sudden, out of the mist, came Reverse Santa, AKA Kyle. An email popped up from a guy who was sorry he had missed the Friday Free-For-All and wondered if there were any rakes and shovels left. Yes. Joanne did not show up for her rakes and shovels. Great. Kyle said he would meet us at 9 am. Kyle was the best Reverse Santa we could have imagined. He took nearly everything INCLUDING the hazardous waste. So we didn't even have to drive out to the Metro Waste Transfer Station and pay to get rid of stuff. 

Sometimes things have a way of working out. Remind me of this next time I am ranting.

So, that's my Dec 24th story. I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying whatever it is that makes them happy - even if it is just a bucket of wood scraps.

Here is an envelope because we always have an envelope. It is my Dec 2010 envelope from Chuck. A spectacular amount of work. This was pre-exchange - so rather than divide his time between 5 or 6 envelopes, he got to spend all of it on ME :-) And you need to open it and enlarge it on a big screen to really appreciate how beautifully detailed it is.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

From Rachael - Set of questions

 Written on Dec 3rd - it occurred to me that when this pops up, I will be in Chicago. So, here is something new to try in blurb-composing -- write questions - and then answer them during my quiet time in my room on the 22nd.

Dec 22: I deleted the questions. They weren't that interesting. My favorite part of this trip is the magnificent Lego totem that I am building. I am still very disappointed in Lego, that they have too many itty-bitty pieces that only work on very complicated projects where you have to follow the directions - and they have eliminated a lot of the creative aspect of the concept. 


I'm wildly excited about these letters. Of course, the proportion of the name to the envelope pleases me and not every name would be as lovely. The way the first and last name fit together would have a huge impact. Right here I am resisting the temptation to review the lengths of all the names that show up with regularity on the exchanges. However, I am thinking that down the road, if I return to exchanging with everyone on a given month - I might do a better job of pre-sorting the names so that I have a better idea of which names will fit which layouts.

If you do a search for Jeri or Jeri Hobart - you will see that she frequently does center layouts and she has some nice ways of centering the stamps, too. On this one, I can imagine the big stamp, sideways, in the center, a Tiffany lamp on each side, and then the pears next to the lamps. Just a thought. It's perfectly fine the way it is.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

From Janet - Maple syrup

 Here at the 420, pure maple syrup is one of our major food groups. It must be pure maple syrup. So, you can imagine how alarming it was to learn on Nov 30th that there is a global maple sugar shortage. Canada has already taken steps to insure that there are enough reserves for their citizens. Although nobody should rely on me as an accurate source of information. I'm not one to slosh syrup onto my carbs. But, I'm not sure I could endure life with a syrup-deprived MrWilson. I compensate for my impaired kitchen skills by serving up lots of pancakes and waffles. I sent him a link to the article. I hope he understands that he needs to stock up. I have no idea if this news will have gone viral by the time this post pops up. If it hasn't and you need to insure that you have a stock pile of maple syrup, I hope this news has not arrived too late.


It is now Dec 9 - as I add photos to previously written blurbs. Usually, an envelope from Janet will scream, "I am from Janet!" But for some reason, this one did not. I really like the way she took the stamp, enlarged the image for the envelope, made a duplicate sticker for the back, and then did a whole collage inside that was inspired by the stamp. 

I've shown the collage in two orientations. I preferred the landscape orientation because I wanted that bold yellow line to be the horizon. But, she wrote on the back of the collage, so I could deduce that her preference for the orientation is the portrait, with flowers at the bottom. That one is fine with me. But it brings up too many questions. It makes me look at it in a literal way. The landscape orientation is more abstract. I'm babbling. Ignore me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Mike Gold - From Lynne

More from Mike Gold - I wasn't sure if I was going to leave this on the blog - but, here is is, still Dec 2, with my new process of writing the blog posts first and then adding an envelope. I've only written 4 of the 13 that I need. I've also shared that my brain restoration has hit a plateau. So, my current plan is to write stuff like this to myself so that I can see how I feel in a couple weeks when this pops up.

I have read in a variety of places that journaling is a good way to cope with all kinds of issues. It struck me that I could dovetail journaling with the blog. I'll keep adding envelopes and a few random thoughts about artwork. But, art might be on the back burner for a while. 


Now it is Dec 8th and I am adding envelopes to pre-written blog posts. There is no rhyme or reason to which envelopes get added to which blurbs. I just go straight down the list. There is also no rhyme or reason to whether the envelope is at the top or the bottom.

I deeply regret this pointless drivel, but it might be working its way into something that has more to offer.

Real time P.S.
One of the perks of living in Chicago is that if you need to go on a trip, you can just leave the kids with Nanna and go stay at a hotel downtown. It takes 20 minutes to get there and since you have not been there in a couple years, you feel like you are on a mini vacation. So far, I have not been bamboozled. They tried. They wanted to open their advent calendars on the evening before. Nanna was born at night, but not LAST night. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

From Patty - Combobulate/holiday doldrums

Patty's November envelope - fun as well as USPS friendly. If I did some digging, I could find that font in my stash. Maybe I have posted it to the blog. It would be lovely if I had tagged all the exemplars that I have posted - and maybe someday I will do that. LOL. The scale between the large name and the address is very nice. I can't see this layout being quite as nice with any name longer than 4 letters. Unless you cut into the band on the left, but, I wouldn't like to see it any narrower. Depending on the letters, a 5-letter name would work, if the individual letters were compressed and the height was maintained.


The concept of combobulating has caught my fancy. We have no idea how long I will be on my combobulate binge. Brace yourselves for random pondering and musing. Remember, readers and exchangers, your envelopes and emails are a most welcome series of bright spots and I will be eternally grateful.

If anyone is facing any holiday doldrums, feel free to send me a big-fat-raging-flaming-over-the-top-out-of-the-box rant. jmwilson411-at-yahoo-dot-com

Where did this idea come from? 

Over the years I've had numerous conversations with people who start out by asking me something about the upcoming holidays. Are you ready for them - or something like that. While I am a good sport about the holidays, periodically they have been challenging for me. When asked if I am *ready* for them - I often stick my neck out and am honest that other than the gift wrapping paper and the mail, it's not really my favorite time of year. 

It's amazing how many people upon hearing that I am not a *holiday enthusiast* will let loose with some pretty pent up *stuff.* I can't find the right word - but you know what I mean. So, if anyone needs to let loose with a good rant, go right ahead. Your comments are safe with me - unless they are so good that I need to put them on the blog, but, I will edit them enough that they can't be traced back to you.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

From Leslie - the process

This card and envelope is very nicely combobulated.
Leslie is our poster-child for having fun. Follow her on IG to see her daily output.   
I think she spent 100 days doing revisions of work that she thought needed revising.

More about the process - writing on Dec 2. <deleted>

On Dec 10, I reviewed what I wrote and it was nutty. I'm feeling much better about my situation - so I deleted the nutty stuff. I am going to leave the definition of combobulate in because there is one part that I think is worth saving. 

Definitions. Combobulate rate. (Verb) To put together in a somewhat mysterious manner. To bring something out of a state of confusion or disarray. To manufacture by some unusual or novel means. Antonym: discombobulate. Usage: We must think out-of-the-box in order to combobulatea solution to overcome all these seemingly impossible challenges.

Thinking out-of-the-box. That's always been my comfort zone. So, it will be good for me to keep that as my baseline. Not everyone likes to be out-of-the-box. That's fine. If that's your comfort zone - keep it. Don't let anyone tell you that it should be one way or the other.


Here is a documentary that I highly recommend if you like stories about artists. I watched it for free on Kanopy and see that it is rentable on Amazon and AppleTV. Ursula von Rydingsvard was a child in Europe during WWII, then a displaced person (in a camp), then resettled to the US where she endured some additional trauma. Art was her saving grace and it is very interesting to hear her describe her journey. There are not a lot of painful details - but it does an excellent job of showing how taking the art path was her saving grace.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

From Tome - the new and improved process

Lovely watercolor lines - that I am guessing were done between  strips of a removable tape. The colors are perfect with the stamp. The address is USPS friendly. 

Dec 10: Tome sent this in the Nov exchange and I still haven't sent her Nov-Dec envelope. It's been hard to decide what to send - and not for any reason - other than brain-scramble. The longer it takes for me to decide what to send, the more paralyzed I become. Luckily, I know I have a deadline - because I'm heading in to Chicago on the 16th.

The giant wind storm that swept though the mid-west a couple days ago didn't do much to Duh Moines. The power was out for about 4 hours. I made it to Chicago the next morning even though I was concerned about flying into the Windy City since the 80-90 MPH winds had been headed that way. It was an odd trip. Instead of the normal up and down bouncing that I am familiar with - it was as if there was an elephant on the tip of each wing - and they were playing teeter totter. As the wings went up and down and I pictured our pilot wrestling with the *steering wheel.* The BigHelpfulBrother is going to enlighten us on what was going on in the comment section. We will also find out what they call the*steering wheel.* I'm hoping he doesn't tell us the pilot must have been a complete nincompoop and that the only reason for side to side tipping is someone named Jarrod or Alex wanted to give the passengers something to talk about. Mario, our fight attendant was very nice. I need to bring cards and pens and make pretty thank yous for the people who introduce themselves at the beginning of the flight.


Dec 2, 2021

I'm toying with the idea of turning my blog into a type of diary. There are 13 days left to fill in December and I have just discovered the word *combobulate.* Maybe you recall hearing it in early December. In November, I put the topic of my brain injury to rest because I was sick and tired of it and assumed that everyone else was as well. 

Sadly, that little alien pilot (who invaded my brain) is alive and well and he had other plans for me. The best we can do for now is some kind of truce - where I agree to have more patience while things get back in order. 

As mentioned previously, if I have trouble sleeping, I turn on a boring audiobook, set the timer for 20 minutes and it's the best way to lull me back to sleep. On a good night, I only wake up a couple times. On a bad night I wake up hourly. So, my latest sleepy time book has been Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. It was the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write/compose the stage play, Hamilton (which I have not seen - which explains why I knew next to nothing about Hamilton or that whole era. Unless there was something significant in the art world going on in any given era, information didn't embed itself in my memory.)

Thirty-six hours of listening. The longest book I have found with plenty of sleep inducing details. I can't believe the revolution actually succeeded. My favorite part (so far) was when they knew of a way to take out one of the top British military leaders - but decided to just leave him alone because he was so incompetent that they figured a replacement might make things more difficult for them.

More than anything else - and maybe everyone already knows this -- but the so called framers/movers/shakers/settlers/opportunistic scoundrels of the new country were a very mixed bag of people with all kinds of issues. There is nothing going on today that is any worse than what was going on then. Except maybe automatic weapons. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

From Christina - motivation


A card and envelope combo from Christina. Her choices with the western wear stamp are quite nice. I love the pattern on the back of the envelope. If she did the math to make it come out right, it was worth the time it took. Or maybe she was just lucky that it fit so nicely. I also like the orange, blue and teal pumpkins. They are asking to be saved and used on something else....

A.W. left a comment on the Nov 25th post wondering if I had tips for how to motivate one's self to do the Swedish Death Cleaning. She did not call it that. She referred to my post about helping my BigHBrother and SIL with their down-sizing. A.W. also mentioned that she had experience in helping others organize but was a bit stuck on getting around to her own *stuff.*

One of my favorite motivational quotes is:

We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.

For my brother and SIL, maintaining their current home was getting to be *a pain.* IMHO if people are still enjoying their current abode, it's hard to motivate changes within familiar surroundings. Downsizing necessitates a lot of change. 

Sometimes, people get motivated to organize (at a current abode) because they can't remember what they have. Pulling out everything and putting the like-items together can be a very good jolt to the system. Realizing how much there is of a particular item can inspire a person to part with a portion said items.

I do much better when I designate a space for something and do not allow any overflow whatsoever. It is still painful to part with things -- but, once they are gone, life usually goes on.

I looked up the quote (to get it right) and it is from John Townsend and Henry Cloud - authors of self help books. I do not recall where I first heard the quote. I'm not familiar with them. I did notice that *how to get motivated* is a HUGE topic. I'm guessing I won't be coming up with anything that would be new or more effective than everything that is already out there.

I guess I can offer to make a house call to A.W. and reorganize your space. I have no idea who you are or where you live. My apologies if I know you -- but I just don't have your name attached to your *handle.* Is there another name for the alternative names that people use on the internet?

Thursday, December 16, 2021

From Ruth - (The train is still off the tracks)

It's 5:30 pm - on Wednesday - I am listening to the storm warning sirens -- going off for the second time - fingers crossed that we don't get nailed. Very unsettling. But, I did want to let CK in Garden City, NY know that her a.d.o.r.a.b.l.e. envelope arrived today. The letter was chock full of kindness and thankfulness for the inspiration she gets from the blog.  I figured if I took time to write this - in case my house blows away - at least CK will not wonder what happened to her letter.

Also - shout out to K-2 -- I got your last message on FF -- and hope I survive this storm, so that I can respond.
I need to feature your greeting cards on the blog. 


My first holiday card of the season - from Ruth. Every year I am blown away with loveliness from all different directions. Thank you, Ruth, for a splendid kick-off to the holiday season. I did not get any cards done before T-day so I will be sending valentines.

Love it.

Love it.

Love it.

On Dec 7th, I am adding this warning. It relates to the topic of evaluating the quality of artwork.


The WSJ had an article that was too complicated for me. It involved research on marketing products to caregivers. We don't really care about that part. The part that interests us is this observation about how people feel that any effort to make a card is better than just buying a card. 

<quote from article>

This was true even though people uninvolved in the experiment thought premade greeting cards had nicer designs; even they believed, though, that the homemade cards better expressed love.

The same pattern ran through several experiments—people felt better about themselves, and their caregiving, if they exerted more effort. 

<end of quote>

As I grumble about the poor quality (IMHO) of my work on envelopes - in the back of my mind, I know that people still appreciate that I spend time on trying to make something. I tend to feel objective when I make my observation. Maybe my observations are subjective. Maybe we should save our energy for some different discussions.

Good grief, Jean, get to the point. 


Dec 14th -- one last opportunity to edit -- I deleted the last line because it didn't make sense. The point of relating the research was to show that even when people agree that the quality of something made by hand is less than a commercial product, there is some added value to the fact that someone took time to make something by hand.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Bonus post - envelope tip

Today's regular post is below this one.

This popped up on Pinterest - I like the words by Thomas Edison: When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this - you haven't. It looks like something that would be fun to do on the left side of an envelope.

I just heard from an exchanger who had an envelope returned because the address was on a label that had fallen off. My son who is now working at the USPS on the *keep-the-machines-running* team tells me that all of the machines run really hard 24/7/365 - and they only turn them off for regular servicing. Flimsy mail is the worst. It gets chewed up. Each machine is full of shredded stuff and bits that fall off the mail art.

Things like washi tape, puffy stickers, collaged bits, labels - or anything adhered to the envelope - might  fall off and contribute to the problem. The machines have lots of moving parts and they are not gentle. They dislike rigid, inflexible mail as much as they dislike the flimsy stuff. That is why the USPS charges extra if the item is rigid. If you don't believe me -- check the website. 

So -- as much as I like all the collage and added bits and pieces - I am going to recommend that people stick to the basics. Markers, ink, pencil, or paint - on paper. There are special adhesive papers and labels that are meant for mail. The packaging usually indicates that it has a PERMANENT adhesive. That stuff really sticks - so it is fine to use.

I'm sure this is not welcome advice - but, I'd rather share my insider info. The olden days, when people lovingly sorted each piece of mail by hand are over. Oh dear, now I am curious to know exactly when the first automated sorting machines were invented. 

I guess that quote at the top could be put to good use here:
If you really want to make collaged artwork - make it and put it inside a plain envelope. There is nothing magical about the artwork being on the outside of the envelope.


P.S. I just learned that the envelope that was returned to the exchanger was made out of fabric. The machines are not going to like fabric. You would need to put something like that inside a clear acetate outer envelope.


Celebrating the end of my Nov-Dec situation

I thought I was done with my own - but apparently not. This one didn't bother me as much after I drew the white circles around the dots. Such a random minor thing that made such a big difference. It helped that the copper Sharpie looked nice on that paper.

This one is a deeply regretted offering - but Patty has listened to me whine in person, and she seems like a genuinely sympathetic person. She's a mom -- but no daughters - so maybe her tolerance for whining is above average. Most boys are not whiners.

But my theory probably won't stand up because on the other hand were have Janet, with multiple daughters -- and she seems to tolerate my whining as much a Patty does - so, what it takes to be a whiner-tolerator will remain a mystery - to me. It is entirely possible that I was a whiner - so when I hatched one of my own - I was made aware of my least pleasant trait. 

The landscape on Janet's has been in the stack of unfinished envelopes. Out the door. Happy trails.

And the final envelope of the Nov-Dec debacle -- is exactly like the one I sent to Christi a while back - except it had a correctly facing N. It's not like me to redo something with such a minor mistake. But, I did. So there is sat - in a stack - and voila - it looks wonderful with the last remaining western wear stamp.

So long to the stacks and the stamps the Nov-Dec list.

I have edited some of these posts with Nov-Dec envelopes that I did not love. More than one person thought I was too hard on myself. At first, I did not get it. To me, I was just being truthful. Then I realized that I'm not a fan of listening to people crab (whine) about their work. I'm still going to say that I deeply regret things when I deeply regret things. That was Rachael's line and I love it.

There will be a valiant effort to make objective comments about things that could be refined. As I recall, Peter Thornton (one of the world's best calligraphy teachers) used to wear a t-shirt to his workshops that said, "No whining." Does anyone else recall that t-shirt? 


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Already posted?

Rachael got two Dec's because I am unable to keep track of a list.

As I write this on Nov 19th, I am scrambling to fill up Dec - which means using up every single image in the folder and obviously I have lost track of which ones I have posted - so, tomorrow will be the last day and then the rest of the year will be filled with all the goodies that have been arriving. Wonderful stuff.

An aside which explains why I am in a tizzy. (I know. I know. I'm always in a tizzy)

How many people enjoy the experience of nomadic offspring - texting that they will be in the midwest for T-day - but not specifying exactly which city - and you already know that he will just assume that everyone will be on board with finding out which city at the last minute?

I am happy to report that I am delighted to have *learned* how to live with ambiguity and spontaneity. It will also nudge me into filling up Dec before this unscheduled week of chaos commenses.

I have my own version of this quote:

I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.  Kahlil Gibran

Here's mine:

I have learned patience from the impatient, tolerance from the chaotic, and fearlessness from the fearless - and I actually am grateful - to you-know-who. JMW

I've spouted that Gibran quote for years -- and it always nudges me (or knocks me) into a better frame of mind. 


Monday, December 13, 2021

Bonus post - Heather's videos

Keep scrolling, after this post, to get to the daily envelope. 

Above, what she creates. Below, how it starts.

 Here is a link to Heather Held's video of a pointed pen star design. The second link is to all her videos if you would prefer something other than a star.

All of her videos:

MikeGoldish to JeanR

A while back CathyO sent a very cool envelope with lettering similar to that *thing* on the far left. I did not go back and really study it and I didn't look carefully at Mike's examples on IG. All I did was reflect on his inspiration which (I think, but I am not sure) was the popular phrase: A line is a dot going for a walk.

I deeply regret that I do not have time to research the original source of that phrase. It used to be on the tip of my tongue because was a major lesson in my classes when I was teaching. Feel free to Google it and make a solo trip down that rabbit hole.

I did not fill up enough space, so I added her name a second time. The color choices look a little off - but it was more about having fun. Or trying to have fun. We might try again sometime.


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Paper makes a difference (mine to Lauren, Debbie and Clover)

This is the end of the triangle trees and it gets its own post to illustrate how much the paper contributes to the image. That washed out green on the top one is the same marker I used on the 100% cotton envelope below.

And then I found a darker green which helps a lot. But, that dark green would not have worked on the top envelope. I can only use Sharpies on the shimmers. I didn't figure this out soon enough. So, the idea was ditched. The quest to find good markers for the shimmer envelopes keeps going. Maybe in 2022 I will prioritize the envelopes and use up all of the shimmers before I allow myself to touch any of the others. 

I will not allow myself to do any more of these mixed styles. Or maybe I will. 
I deeply regret how often I resort to this style. The regret is twice as deep if I have already sent this style to Clover and Debbie. They are newer exchangers - so I was thinking it might be new to them. 


Saturday, December 11, 2021

A bunch of triangle trees

Realtime add on: There was a triangle tree on Dec 7th and CJ left a comment that she liked the idea and was going to use it for her holiday mail. Thank you, CJ, for letting me know that an idea that didn't seem that great to me - gave you a starting point. CJ is going to post an image on her blog in a couple days - so I'll link to it when I see it.

The name is Sharon Fite. I tried this idea several times and finally gave up. I also photographed them without stamps because my organizational skills have been damaged. By the time I got the stamps on and did the outer envelopes - all I cared about was flinging them into a mailbox. 

Most of the layered-scripty-tree-like envelopes are right here. It feels good to be slogging through these as fast as possible - because then we can look at the gorgeous stuff that people sent in Oct and Nov.

Maggie's, above might be my favorite - I think it was the last one I did - so it's possible that I would have figured out something if I had done all 23 in the exchange - but that's a risk I won't take. If I haven't figured out something that works within 5 or 6 tries - I cut my losses and move on.

After I did these four, I switched to doing red flourishing to look like garlands and added the names like ornaments. They are too rigid for me. And I do not care for the third-third-third amount of red, green, gold. I like it better when one color anchors the design and the others are subordinates and/or accents.

Lower case (above) horrible idea. I should have known better. Grrrrr
But, I do like the quality of the lines better - a little looser.

And then I switched to my G-Tecs (below) -- another bad idea.
Nibs and ink on a Crane's envelope might have been lovely. If I use up all my bad envelopes and only have good ones -- that might resolve all my issues. But in fairness to cheap pens - sometimes they are fine. But they need expensive envelopes.

Realtime PS - I checked CJ's blog to see if she had posted one of her envelopes with a triangle tree and did not see one, but I did see that she was happy to get the check from the insurance company for something that Quill had done. I knew Quill was her cat and wondered - what the heck could Quill have done.

CJ does not have the [Search] feature on her blog, I couldn't find the [Search] feature on her blog, but, I clicked on a [Quill] label on a post and scrolled down to find this blurb about a naughty kitty:

3. Insurance adjustor came to write up claim after Quill turned the taps on in the bathroom, overflowed the sink, and flooded into the basement. Adjustor gave us name of company to come in and dry the basement and check for mold

 I am guessing some of the readers might want to know why you taught your kitty how to turn on faucets.

CJ left a comment with the whole story -- thanks CJ.