Playing With Junk Mail


I’m a couple days late on this prompt, but I loved the idea so much I decided it’s better to be late than not participate at all.

Courtesy of The Daily Prompt: Bookworms:

Grab the nearest book. Open it and go to the tenth word. Do a Google Image Search of the word. Write about what the image brings to mind.

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After opening Elegy for Eddie (Maisie Dobbs#9) to a random page, I counted ten words and ended up on the word “porter.” This is one of the images that showed up in a Google image search:


Magdalene Cambridge Porters Lodge
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

When I was a kid, my sister and I loved to play post office. My grandfather took a cardboard box and added slots along with labels, so we could pretend to sort mail like they do at the post office. To make it even more realistic, we’d go to the post office and take all the junk mail out of the trash cans so we could have “real” mail to put into the slots. Looking back, I can’t believe we dug through trash cans and took other people’s discarded mail. My grandmother, however, justified it by telling us it was trash and therefore belonged to no one. I laugh about it now, but as an adult, I never ever throw anything into a post office trash can!  After all, there could be a child with an overactive imagination digging through the trash.

We got envelopes that were stuffed with everything from coupons, credit card offers, insurance pitches, product advertisements, charity mailers, and Publisher’s Clearing House entry packets. When we weren’t sorting the envelopes into the slots, we were opening them and playing with the contents. I must have filled out hundreds of credit card applications (in a way this prepared me for adult life!) and completed dozens of Publisher’s Clearing House entry forms.  Publisher’s Clearing House envelopes were my favorite because they were filled with so many fun things! Back in my day, they sent a folded sheet of magazine stamps or stickers to stick on the entry form. I played with those stamps on the entries, but I also pretended they were postage stamps for my play mail.

After playing with the insides of the envelopes, we’d seal them back up again and sort them as if they were coming into a different post office.  This little game of imagination entertained my sister and I for countless hours. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so much fun.

While children today enjoy incredible technology, I often wonder if they are missing out on simple imaginary play. My sister and I could play all day without a battery charger or a lit up screen. We played everything from office, grocery store, salon, and restaurant. They were games to us, but they helped us face the real world with a creative spirit and a certain element of fun. To this day, going to the post office makes me smile.

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c.b.w. 2013


Coloring Isn’t Just For Kids


While paging through my Wreck This Journal, I came across the “Test Page” where there are instructions to use the space to test out crayons, paints, and other art supplies. The test page reminded me of something I always did in my coloring books as a kid and now as an adult. As a five-year-old and a 34- year-old, I’ve always created color swatches on the inside cover before coloring anything on an actual page.

Scribble, scribble!

Yes, I still color.  Even though it’s an activity mostly reserved for children, I find immense joy in the practice of filling blank spaces with color whether it be Garfield or an intricate Medieval tapestry.  I love how the image changes when color is added, the smell of crayons and colored pencils, the swishing sound of a crayon going back and forth, and the feeling of accomplishment when the page is completed.  The process is very relaxing and cathartic when real life threatens to turn everything black and white.

My drawer is filled with at least twenty coloring books.  Some are brand new while others have been with me since I was a little girl.  The oldest one I have is a Bullwinkle and Rocky coloring book I’ve had since I was about eight years old.  My juvenile scribbles scrawl across half of it, right beside the pages I colored just last week.  Yup, I still color Bullwinkle and all his friends! The inner child in me rejoices, (and she really giggled when I bought a new Smurfs coloring book a few months ago).

Garfield, Barbie, and Bullwinkle are relics from my childhood, but I still color in them on a regular basis. The Smurfs coloring book is a brand new addition to my collection!

Last week’s coloring creation.

When I’m looking for a challenge, I delve into my collection of Dover coloring books which contain highly artistic plates ranging from intricate tile patterns, butterflies, Egyptian art, and complicated geometric designs.  My muse is always challenged to come up with interesting color palettes to fill in all the blank spaces.

Dover coloring books offer unique and artistic images.

From my Medieval Tapestry Coloring Book. It probably took a total of 4 hours to complete.

I stock a wide variety of coloring supplies and I’m always a sucker for something new.  I have everything from crayons (regular, glitter, metallic, variegated,), colored pencils, markers (fat, skinny, classic, bold, and bright), Twistables, glitter glue, and metallic gel pens.  Every time I sit down to color, I make a huge mess and lay out all my coloring utensils.  The possibilities are endless and I love the sense freedom that comes from all those colors.

Part of my collection of coloring supplies.

Once I’ve chosen what coloring book to play in and what image to color, I set about finding the color combinations.  That means making color swatches on a piece of scratch paper or on the inside cover.  After a while, the swatches make for an interesting piece of art in and of themselves.

With all the colors chosen, I let myself get lost in the moment.  If the image is particularly complicated, two hours (or more) will easily fly by without my knowledge.  I’m totally absorbed and the outside world just disappears.  All that matters is color.  No one is ever too old to bask in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

Go ahead and grab some crayons.  You know you want to.

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Special Note: Due to some changes made by WordPress, be sure to uncheck the box that says, “Notify me of follow-up comments via email,” if you do not wish to receive e-mails for every new comment on this post.  At the moment, the box is checked as a default, (and I can’t fix it).

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c.b. 2012

Paper Dolls Are Partially At Fault


There are days when I wonder why I subject myself to the process of writing.  As much as I love wordsmithing, it often  keeps me up at night (or wakes me from a rare, valuable sleep) and drives me crazy on a daily basis.  I can’t help but wonder, what got me into this mess?  Then I’ll come across something the reminds me I’ve never really had a choice when it comes to playing with words.  Right before I left for London, I cleaned out a drawer and found a surprising stash of childhood toys, including a large envelope of my old paper dolls. I smiled like a complete idiot and embraced my inner child.  I pulled out each doll with all their clothes and instantly began to remember how they once let my imagination run free with interesting characters and plot lines.  Even when my age was a single digit – I was making up stories!

Paper dolls were among my favorite toys for a number of reasons: 1) I could afford them on my allowance. 2) I loved the hands-on process of punching them out.  I can still hear the sound of the perforated edges “popping” 3)  I could change their clothes much faster than the standard doll. Faster wardrobe changes meant I could get through the story I made up before I forgot how it ended.

Above:  The Heart Family paper doll set.  Awwww, I loved playing with this family.  I remember how I always had the little kids playing hide and seek with the parents.

Above: Teddy Bear Family, (Western Publishing, Co.).  This remains my favorite set of paper dolls. Not only are the bears adorable, but these were made in a unique way.  All the fabric for the clothing and the bears was photographed instead of drawn to give everything a more realistic appearance of texture.  My bear family did everything from family picnics to trips to the lake!

Above: Maxie and Barbie & The Rockers.  The fun thing about these is I still have the matching standard 11½” dolls! Barbie and her short-lived rival Maxie provided endless hours of make-believe magic. In particular, my rockers would give concerts and lip sync to cassettes I had lying around, while Maxie was always on a shopping trip to pick a dress for her prom.

Above: William and Kate.  Apparently, I will never be too old for paper dolls.  While in London, I couldn’t resist buying this fantastic set of dolls and clothes.   Whenever I have a few minutes I sit down and cut out an outfit or two, (no perforated edges!).  It’s amazing how these little dolls are once again firing up my creativity.

The need to tell stories has been part of my personality for as long as I can remember.  Before I ever picked up a pen, my imagination was always in overdrive with my paper dolls, stuffed animals, and just about anything else around me.  As an adult, the storytelling part of my soul exists as a writer and as a history teacher (I joke around that I spend my entire day telling stories in the classroom . . . they just happen to be true stories!).   I take it to be a good sign that in both work and leisure I am truly in my element, doing what I love.  Even though words sometimes threaten my sanity, I am always going to be a writer.  However, I have to put some of the blame on my paper dolls!

c.b. 2011