Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

[Previous Suburban Farmgirl, October 2009 – October 2010]
You’ve heard the expression “if these walls could talk…” Well mine does – at least, the rectangle that’s covered by a bulletin board above my desk seems to have plenty to say.
It’s a mishmash of photos, postcards, kids’ artwork, buttons and other random bits that have caught my eye. I’ve always kept a board like that. As I tack things up over time, it becomes less cork and more mirror, a reflection of the gal sticking in all those pushpins.
Want to know what it told me today?

Usually my bulletin board whispers one basic message: Cheer up! That’s the simple reason why, as far back as high school, I began tacking up birthday cards, Polaroids, and song lyrics printed in the Detroit News “What They’re Singing” column. Looking at this stuff makes me happy.
I was never deliberate or clever enough to put the board to work for me, as does RuralFarmgirl blogger/Farmgirl Sister Rene, who shared her cool “goal board” with us when the new year began. Similarly, designers and magazine editors I’ve known often use “idea boards” that blend images, swatches, and slogans to capture a mood that will inspire a particular project. Not me. I thought I was just sticking up happy stuff.
But today as I was idly looking over the board (which happens, oh, a hundred times a workday, as if I expect to find the next sentence there for the plucking like some ripe blackberry), I heard a chorus of different messages. Not just, cheer up, buttercup, but something more like, You go girl! These pep talks have, of course, been there all along – I’m the one who picked out what’s up on the board after all, so the inspirations must have once caught my eye before. Today, though, I must’ve been in the mood to take their messages to heart anew.
Maybe because I really need them!
So here’s what I heard:

“Keep trying!”
The oldest item on my board, my favorite, was once a birthday card. Given to me by my roommate Kathleen our sophomore year at the University of Iowa, it’s been trimmed down over time to a smallish picture. In it, a brave (or maybe foolhardy) figure leaps from one rock cliff to another. He’s suspended in midair and, according to the laws of physics (or the angle of the camera) seems unlikely to make it, although you can’t help expecting that he will. The card’s printed inscription had read, “Who dares not need hope for nothing.” Over the years, I’ve often recited this to myself before hitting “send” on an email soliciting work or before making a risky phone call.
I confess lately to feeling rather hopeless about certain life situations, so my eye travels often to that determined fellow between the cliffs. Kathleen is the unlikeliest person to have given me such a lifelong source of go-for-broke inspiration – she used to be so prim and timid that we nicknamed her “Spike,” as a joke. Well, you can’t judge a bookworm by her cover! Spike’s a teacher now, married to a minister near Des Moines and the mother of an Air Force Academy appointee, so I know she’s inspired plenty of people since me.

“Always keep your enthusiasm.”
This “happy mommy’s day” card from my youngest child brims with enthusiasm. I love the sentiment – but I really love its sheer exuberance. Something worth holding onto.

“Pssst… change is in the air!”
I suppose if I were a genuine farm farmgirl I’d be starting these carrot seeds instead of tacking them on a bulletin board! They were a gift, given as much for the brand name (Seeds of Change) as for the delicious veggie they’ll become (and in my favorite color!). But if they were sitting in soil already, I might not feel very inspired by them until the first green shoots appeared in the pot. But right in front of my desk, here, now, the package itself reminds me that spring’s a –comin’, literally and figuratively.
(The message on the card above the seeds is just funny!)

“Never underestimate the power of girl power.”
Hats off to amazing women! The big photo is of my godmother and I, taken a few years ago. A former member of the WWII Women Marines, she just sent me a valentine, reminiscing about marching to hear Eleanor Roosevelt speak, in an e-mail from her new computer – at age 94! (I’m thinking she’s a whole post of her own!) The little handwritten card next to us says “We love ey cheth r” — sounded out by my daughter as a beginning writer. Love the emotion in those stick figures! (Those babies are my four kids, each at 6 months, and we have our own camaraderie.) And the postcard along the top, some of you might recognize, came packaged inside my MaryJanesFarm chocolates. The spring flowers, including my favorite daffodils, deliver the same whisper of promise as those carrot seeds – but I also keep the card in sight because it reminds me of the swell camaraderie and energy I reap from my exchanges here with you all on this virtual farm.

“You deserve your voice today.”
I received this last postcard when I wrote a book with a Harvard ob-gyn called “The V Book.” (Yes, those v’s!) At the time, the coincidental “V” was the interesting part of the card. Now I’m much more interested in the “voice” part.
That’s an ongoing interest as I struggle with a new book project.
I think many of us leave messages to ourselves. For some it’s on corkboards, for others a Facebook page. We leave trails of clues in elaborate scrapbooks or on the messy refrigerator door. In your diary? Your doodles? Your dreams?
What secret messages are whispering to you? L is for listen!

  1. Tina says:

    I leave "words of wisdom" to myself on the top page of notepads. The notepads end up sitting in a pile or in my desk drawers. Every once in a while I’ll be sorting through my things and come across my words of wisdom (quotes I’ve read or brilliant ideas of my own or interesting facts and health tips). Many times it will cheer me up.Some times I’ll stash the notepad away to find again at a later date.

  2. Nancy says:

    I really enjoy your blog…And as always, reading these touch my heart…I find my greatest comfort, wisdon, peace & joy in reading my bible every day. For me, prayer helps & has helped answer the toughest problems in my life. And for an instant smile, I look to my family picture wall. To see my children’s & grandchildren’s smiles always lightens my heart and I am very thankful for all my live’s blessings…

  3. TJ says:

    I love this! As a write-from-home mom of two preschoolers (homeschooled), I find myself sometimes missing "me"… I’m going to revamp the corkboard in "mommy’s bathroom" to remind me of all the other things I am – horsewoman, inactive pilot, hiker, gardener, child of God! My life experiences and interests add to my overall character, which benefits my husband and kids as well. Thanks for this wonderful reminder and encouragement to not only "be" but to also enjoy ourselves!!! ~TJ

  4. Emily says:

    I have a little room in our basement I call my ‘Craft Room’. It is slowly becoming a bulletin board with walls. I keep cards and hand drawn pictures and notes from special folk. I have photos and memorabilia tacked on the walls or stuck in baskets and boxes everywhere. I know the room would look much neater and organized if I started getting rid of these scraps and mementos but then where would my inspiration and memories come from? I can’t pare it down to a bulletin board but it gives me the same feeling. A glance or a riffle through a pile can start something new and meaningful!

  5. Janice K. says:

    I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog! Last week I actually made the granola and it is wonderful.. Now I will continue to make my own!
    My favorite clipping on my bulletin board is of the character ‘Rose is Rose’. ‘Let’s see now, shall I start planning dinner, or shall I find a ribbon of highway and see where it takes me?’ Then, ‘Alter egos have NO appreciation for a painstakingly assembled recipe file!’

  6. Sonya says:

    I love what Paula has done with her board. It is a glimps into herself that was a smiling moment.
    As an artist, I love to tack quotes that inspire me to create. Sometimes they come from fortune cookies, sometimes from a book I’m reading & often times from scripture. I’ll sprinkle these quotes with scraps of color that bring me joy. Ribbon; yarn; paper, it doesn’t matter as long as it lifts my heart. Family photos; glittered butterflies; jewelry that I’ve made, all find a place tucked amongst my reminders to… LOOK UP!!
    One of my favorite quotes is this..,"Two men looked through prison bars, one saw mud the other stars." I don’t know it’s author but I know it’s inspiration. Keep your eyes above the mud of this life. Live life with expectant joy, even when in times of difficulty.
    My prison bars have been the,constant,arm pain that I have suffered with for a year now. As an artist, it has been very difficult to take out my art supplies, only to put them back within minutes, because of the pain.
    This "prison" has taught me to find new ways to express myself, & find my purpose during this season of my life. I am now free to help two family members, that are in worse physical shape than me, and that couldn’t happen when I was busy creating my art from morning till night. I have enjoyed encouraging others in pain, & I’ve learned to accept my home the way it is, & not ache over every little thing that is out of place. I guess the name of my board would be..HOPE!
    Sonya Palumbo

  7. Tara says:

    Funnily enough I am sitting at my laptop reading this today which sits on my sewing table infront of my Inspiration board… Instead of in the computer room where I usually check my emails. Coincidence?? I don’t think so.
    What a wonderful board! I have two Inspiration boards (thats what I call them) and they are in my sewing room and my laundry room! 🙂 my sewing room board has pictures quotes, colors, etc that, like you, caught my eye and I wanted to post them to inspire me when I’m sewing. Although, oftentimes I just come in here and sit for a few minutes and look at the board and it inspires me in other ways. The board in my laundry room is newer and doesn’t have as much "stuff" but it has my homemade laundry soap recipe handy and pictures of my girls, things that make me happy. So i guess I have a Happy board and an Inspiration board. Thank you so much for this post! It made my day.

  8. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    Sandy–thanks for the whisper comment and interesting info! Mystery solved! ps

  9. Marcia says:

    How we desire to reach for the tangible and document it in some form that we will refer back to when desired; catching it and tucking it away; like the gathering of fireflies into our jar. Once in the jar we watch, laugh, get excited, and then we discover that in order for joy to remain we must let them fly away. In releasing comes the true fulfillment, and we will forever remember. Our minds are the inspiration boards; with us, wherever we may go.

  10. Denise says:

    Thanks for your lovely blog. My kitchen fridge and my notebook – which I keep in my bag are the two places that I keep things that inspire me and feel happy when I look at them. My notebook has my dreams and brochures of things I wish to do in the future as well as inspirational quotes and cards.
    My devotional book is also inspiring for me every day too.
    Remember God is watching over you and He can help you any and all the times you need it. He’s the best friend there is. Thanks again. I look forward to reading each entry you make. It brings joy to my heart to know there are like minded ladies out there in the world and we are united by our love of the simple things that bring the most pleasure in life. Keep up the good work – now I sound like a teacher which I’m not. lol

  11. Cindy L says:

    Nice to find your blog and to see that suburban living is recognized by the "farm community" too, if our hearts are in the right places. Your bulletin board looks like mine, and I think it’s a fine place to tell our daily stories. I also keep a journal and a blog (am also a professional writer), so my stuff is everywhere!

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