Postcard Project

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Dear former students,

This website, ink + sky, functions like a classroom; it is a place for learning, growth, community, and creativity. It is a safe space. Like my former classroom, my blog is not a place for harm or hate.

It is also not a platform for advancing others’ personal agendas or promotional campaigns. We all possess invaluable First Amendment rights, and venues and vehicles exist for us to exercise those rights. Please take advantage of those resources instead of attempting to use ink + sky. Thank you.

Please read the following information carefully before you request a postcard:

Harm

If your response to the writing prompt (“I am trying to figure out…”) suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:

  • Harming yourself.
  • Harming someone else.
  • Being harmed by someone else.

For help in these matters, please contact local law enforcement, a health-care provider, and/or a trusted friend or family member.

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Hate

If your response suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:

  • Hate language of any kind, including symbols and/or images that represent hate groups, their missions, and/or their tactics.
  • Religious or political criticism.
  • Slurs and/or derogatory language related to gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, ethnic and/or racial identity, age, class, financial status, and disability.
  • Defamation of another’s character.
  • Support for any activity (criminal in nature) that could result in distress to people and/or animals.

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Personal Agendas and Promotional Campaigns 

To exercise your rights of free speech and expression, please consider starting your own blog if you would like to advance a personal agenda or distribute promotional media. 

If your response suggests any of the following, your postcard will not be published:

  • Religious or political commentary. This includes contentious public policy issues (border wall, immigration, health care, etc.).
  • Profanity beyond those words permitted in classrooms (i.e. Mr. Bishop’s).
  • Recreational drug use, even of legal substances (e.g. alcohol and marijuana).
  • Any references to the debates about abortion, gun control, euthanasia, the drinking age, and/or drug legalization.
  • The naming, description, and/or imagery of genitals and/or sexual acts.
  • Advertising for non-profit organizations or for-profit entities (companies, individuals, etc.).
  • Marketing (web addresses, phone numbers, street addresses, QR codes, etc.).
  • Publicity for gangs and/or gang membership.
  • “Secret codes” of numbers, letters, and/or symbols that could be used to transmit information to others in order to advance a personal agenda.

Classroom

My blog, ink + sky, functions like a classroom; it is a place for learning, growth, community, and creativity. It is a safe space.

Assuming you have read this far — and that you agree to the parameters described above — please message me on Facebook and include this phrase: make it count. I will mail you a pre-stamped postcard like the one below. Directions are printed on its reverse side. The rest is up to you.

Note — A limited number of postcards have been created. Please request one only if you are committed to completing it and mailing it back to me. I am covering all of the expenses of this writing project. Be mindful of that fact.

We are all people first.

Sincerely,
Mr. Bishop

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Note — The photograph featuring the “no hate” sign was taken by T. Chick McClure, and it is available on unsplash.com. The image of the binder and bar chart is by rawpixel, and it was obtained from unsplash.com.

Guest Spotlight — MT’s Greenroom Journal

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If this notebook’s black cover leads you to suspect that its backstory might be ominous, think again. The narrative behind it is full of light. Margaret Trudeau’s 6″ x 8″ journal is a product of Greenroom, an innovative producer of eco-conscious writing materials founded by Southern California’s David Imbernino and his wife, Hyun Mi Oh. The husband-and-wife team is anything but subdued, as their diverse and often colorful line of notebooks, binders, greeting cards, and stationery can attest. When the light hits Margaret’s journal, those gold foil dots sparkle like droplets of water on a seal’s back.

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What does the company’s name refer to? In surf culture, the greenroom is — according to greenroomeco.com — the “perfect space inside the curve of a wave when the water completely encircles the surfer.” The man below, who was captured by photographer Jeremy Bishop, is experiencing the fleeting beauty and power of this space.

All of Greenroom’s products feature recycled paper and soy-based inks, two qualities that reduce their impact on Mother Nature. As a college senior with a keen awareness of her place in the natural world, Margaret is someone who reduces her carbon footprint when possible — so this 190-page journal, which is composed of 60-70% recycled materials, is an obvious fit.

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As a busy young woman who is finishing her last year at the University of Michigan, preparing for her wedding in 2020, and planning for a move to Lansing in the summer, Margaret keeps many balls in the air. And that is one reason why she was drawn to journaling last year. She explains: “With so much going on, setting aside time to reflect is a necessary meditation for my daily schedule.”

Let’s let Margaret, who will soon be earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in American Culture with a minor in Digital Studies, explain how she uses her notebook:

“Many of my classes cover philosophical arguments that bring up more questions than answers. This journal is a great way for me to form my own arguments, angrily scribble my annoyances (if necessary), and plan for future events and assignments. The content of my journal ebbs and flows with my mood; however, many features remain constant:”

  • List making: I am prone to making lists of things I need to do, upcoming exams and due dates, and items to be packed for vacations and weekend trips. These lists take the form of pros/cons, weekly schedules, and creative project descriptions.
  • Planning: The freshness of a new page excites the part of me that likes to plan four steps (read: four months) ahead. Many wedding plans, coursework requirements, vacations, apartment hunting thoughts, and job search updates are to be found in my journal.

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  • Sarcasm: At times, the beauty of journaling makes itself apparent in the moment for me, when overhearing nearby conversations to which I wish to respond, for example. The privacy of a journal holds my comments safely inside for my entertainment. Excerpt from 1.10.19, second day of my last semester of undergrad school: “SI 410. First meeting. I’m sandwiched between two men who seem to disregard their showers.”
  • Reflection and observation: Many entries in my journal are a digestion of my day, which lends itself nicely to comprehending conversations and observing the world around me. Excerpt from 12.5.18. Writing about what life will look like as we move to Lansing, and what opportunities are there for me. “In Lansing, there is Michigan State (the enemy), and the State of Michigan (funny how prepositions rearrange a college into a government).”

When Margaret is laying down ink on the page, she uses Pilot G2 Ultra Fine Point (0.38mm) black pens. You can learn more about these high-quality gel-ink pens on ink + sky’s Materials page.

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Margeret’s preferred mode of transfer is cursive (not print). Why? She “[finds] the cursive font encourages an unending flow of information and thought.”

Before she dashes back out into the welcoming surf of her daily life, Margaret has these final words to share: “I thoroughly enjoy journaling, and having a record of my thoughts helps to keep track of where I’ve been, and where I’m going in all parts of life.”

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If you are looking for Greenroom notebooks, binders, or stationery, you have two options: your local Target store, or Target.com. In 2005, Greenroom formed an exclusive partnership with the national retailer; therefore, you won’t find its unique, eco-friendly products at office supply stores or Amazon.com.

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Note — The photograph of the surfer and the woman wearing a watch were taken by Jeremy Bishop, and they were obtained from Unsplash.com. The photograph of the seal was captured by British photographer Samuel Scrimshaw, and it was borrowed from Unsplash.com. The photograph of the two pairs of shoes was taken by Marc A. Sporys and is available at Unsplash.com. The image of the Pilot G2 pens was taken from Target.com. The image of the Target puppy gift card was found on wdwinfo.com.

Disney Characters Journal

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Perhaps the most vibrant notebook that I own, the Disney Characters Journal is the third to be featured from the group that I affectionately call The Fantastic Four. Why choose this name? The set of four unique journals was designed and constructed by a pair of my former students, Meagan and Kathryn. If you missed the first two blog posts in this series, please see the following:

  1. “Let’s Make It Count” Journal
  2. Many B’s Journal

This notebook’s front and back cover feature dozens of Disney characters — including both heroes and villains — that were carefully cut from multiple sources and then assembled into collages that sit beneath a veneer of packing tape. This process likely took hours.

Before I share the journal’s first entry, please realize that it was penned on June 4. There is no significance to this particular date, but the fact that it lies less than ten days before the end of the school year (and thus on the eve of summer vacation) means two things:

  1. I was likely exhausted from months of instruction and innumerable weekends spent critiquing essays, and…
  2. I was surely giddy with anticipation that a decrease in work-load was right around the corner.

So if you sense an excessive level of optimism in the following passage — as though I was channeling the spirit of Walt Whitman — these are the reasons why. Not four cups of coffee. But I do enjoy coffee, especially dark roasts. Anyway, I created this entry (which is followed by a transcription) in either my 1st- or 2nd-period class during a five-minute free write with my students. It was Thursday, June 4, 2015.

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Beginning a new composition book today. I like starting off, embarking on a new writing adventure with limitless potential in front of me. My pen directs the course. My mind pushes it forward.

Summer rises up ahead, a bright orange-yellow glow that beckons for a marriage of reality and possibility. So much intellectual freedom. So much openness. So much joy. Barriers previously noted have been withdrawn, and my senses expand wildly as I imagine the possibilities of the spaces in front of me. Every day becomes worthy: it is full of possibilities, tantalizing the spirit, coaxing out the best from the soul, provoking the imagination.

Days are investments — conscious efforts glazed with the unexpected. Releasing so much that could be!

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This journal’s Disney theme was not accidental.

Although I am not a mouse-ear-wearing fanatic, I do have a history with the company that has brought dozens of legendary characters to life through animated features, live-action films, and theatrical productions. For a semester during my undergrad years I participated in the Disney College Program Internship in Orlando, FL. Rather than attend classes at Michigan State in the spring of 1996, I spent five months immersed in Disney culture, tradition, and hospitality. My students — including Meagan and Kathryn — knew this.

Pictured below are my identification card and name tags. You might notice a yellowish hue to the latter; that was caused by long exposure to the bright Florida sun.

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During my internship I enrolled in a series of classes taught by Disney executives that dealt with such topics as marketing, communication, guest service, and hospitality management. I was also taught about the rich history of Disney culture, learning about such concepts as the two-finger point (never a single finger, as that could be perceived as rude) and the understanding that all Cast Members exist “on stage” and thus they constantly inform the Guests’ experience.

Although the classes were instrumental in helping me understand Disney philosophy and gain some awareness of how large corporations function, the real learning occurred at my work location. For 40+ hours per week I served in a retail shop situated on the ground floor of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which is more commonly known as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror to park attendees. The tall salmon-colored building looms ominously at the end of Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (one of WDW’s Orlando theme parks).

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After Guests plunged multiple stories in a fright-filled elevator car, they were deposited into a hallway that led to my gift shop. There we offered them picture frames, bellhop caps, and all manner of custom-themed products that you might find in an upscale hotel: monogramed towels, guest books, door hangers, disposable cameras and film (it was 1996, after all), and small collectibles. Our biggest seller? T-shirts featuring various Twilight Zone-inspired designs and slogans. We sold hundreds of t-shirts every week.

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While working in my location, I wore the costume seen below. It featured a double-breasted suit, white dress shirt, tie, and striped suspenders. The young ladies between Mickey and me were two other MSU students who were also participating in the College Program Internship in the spring of 1996. They are wearing the costumes that were used at their work locations. Please note that although Cinderella Castle stands in the background, I did not work in the Magic Kingdom.

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Now let’s shift gears. What follows is this journal’s second entry, which was written on the same day as the one featured above (June 4, 2015), but during the next class period. You will notice a significant shift in tone and content, because an event loomed ahead that was causing me considerable nervousness: reading students’ names at the graduation ceremony held at DTE Energy Music Theater.

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Turning the page to the next class! Sitting in third hour now. Graduation is coming up next week. Wednesday evening at DTE in Clarkston will be our destination. We’re there for a relatively long span of time: about three hours. I’ll be ready. I am under less stress than last year. Should not have any trouble with getting my names ready. Middle of the alphabet. Won’t have to wait nearly as long as last year. Felt dizzy last year, but I am optimistic that that was a consequence of incredible levels of stress being revealed at a time of heightened challenge — an especially demanding situation requiring considerable focus and public presence. I know I will be calm next [week?]. Like the SEALs

  1. Goal setting
  2. Rehearsal
  3. Positive self-talk
  4. Controlled breathing

Results will come from these steps.img_4917 2A few observations…

First, the optimism of the first entry has been replaced with a realism shaded by caution. I am clearly apprehensive about the upcoming ceremony and the fact that I will — for a short time — be reading students’ names before an audience of close to one thousand people.

Second, the wordy sentence dealing with “an especially demanding situation” refers to an event that profoundly changed my life. During the previous school year, in April of 2014, I began experiencing surges of acute anxiety in my classroom. These unannounced waves of fear and paralysis occurred when I was leading instruction, and they normally overwhelmed my senses. I was often forced to stop speaking and regroup, which was deeply humiliating because I was typically standing in front of dozens of teenagers. A symbolic narrative documenting what occurred that month — and during the three years that followed — can be found in The Ranch Hand, which was my first blog post. That composition stands as one of the most honest pieces I have ever written.

Third, the reference to “SEALs” (and the four steps that follow it) emerged from watching a History Channel feature called The Brain: Mystery Explained. In that documentary, which you can watch a portion of right here, the narrator explains how U.S. Navy SEALs manage fear and stay focused in incredibly stressful situations. They rely on goal setting, rehearsal, positive self-talk, and controlled breathing. As soon as I watched this program, I latched onto the four-part series as a way to try coping with the periods of anxiety that were disrupting my professional life.

My last observation…

Although I worked for The Mouse over two decades ago, I am aware that modern life rarely plays out like a Disney movie. Instead, the moments of joy, comfort, and belonging that enliven us exist alongside those that are filled with sorrow, distress, and loneliness. Navigating these highs and lows shapes our character. 

I would like to thank Kathryn and Meagan — my former Honors English 10 students and current college undergrads — for providing me with this journal that features another kind of character. The colorful faces on its front and back cover keep me smiling even long after I filled its pages with my thoughts.

Since I was 16 years old I have been journaling because it helps me process the events and emotions that I am experiencing. When something excites me, I write about it. When something terrifies me, I write about. When I face a challenging decision, I write about it. Nearly thirty years of journaling have shown me that it yields relief and insight.

If you are struggling with soul-testing lows — or surging to great heights and wondering how to capitalize on those peaks of creativity or vision — consider picking up a pen and recording your thoughts on paper. Not for an audience, but for you. In time, you may realize that the small world inside you is actually a castle full of wonders.

Curious to learn more? Please see my Getting Started Page for a few suggestions.

img_4917Note — The image of The Hollywood Tower Hotel was obtained from the website of WDW Theme Parks. The photograph of the inside of the Tower of Terror’s gift shop was borrowed from insidethemagic.net.

Guest Spotlight — AB’s Q&A-a-day Journal

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This compact but powerfully-designed journal belongs to Alex Bergquist, who is a person of pleasing contrasts. Although she is a passionate skier and outdoor enthusiast, Alex is also a committed reader and a student of culture and history. Thus it is not surprising that an individual who harbors so many diverse interests would also be attracted to personal writing and the reflection that it fosters.

The Q&A-a-day guided journal, which is a product of the Crown Publishing Group’s Clarkson Potter lifestyle division, encourages the user to pen a brief response to a single daily question. What makes the notebook unique is that its goal is to motivate the writer to re-visit its 365 questions over five successive years. Consequently, a fully-completed volume will contain 1,825 short responses — each limited to four lines of text.

Alex remarks, “[E]ach day probably won’t seem profound, but the purpose of the journal is to see how much can change over five years, even in small areas of life without consciously being aware.” She continues by noting that, “I’m very eager to see the progression in this time of life right after graduating from college!” Alex graciously shared not only images of the inside of her journal, but photographs of several of her initial entries:

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The question for January 3 is What are you reading right now?

What books are currently part of Alex’s life?

Having finished the first two novels in Lisa McMann’s The Unwanteds series, she is now working through the third installment — Island of Fire (2013). It holds an 85% 5-star rating from 210 reviewers on Amazon.com. Lisa McMann — a Holland, MI native who moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2004 — is the author of several other series including The Vision Trilogy, The Wake Trilogy, and The Unwanteds: Quests. Island of Fire and its predecessors hold a special place in Alex’s heart because they were gifted to her from her grandfather.

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Liza Mundy’s 2018 national bestselling Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II is also part of Alex’s current reading routine. Mundy’s non-fiction account of the 10,000+ women hired by the U.S. military to break German and Japanese codes carries a 72% 5-star rating from 422 reviewers on Amazon.com. More about Liza Mundy and her books — including a young-adult version of Code Girls — can be found at LizaMundy.com.

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The third book in Alex’s rotation is Jodi Picoult’s novel small great things (2016). With 79% of more than 8,000 Amazon reviewers providing it with 5 stars, the #1 New York Times Bestseller’s track record is certainly impressive. The book’s press release notes the following: “With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, injustice, and compassion — and doesn’t offer easy answers.”

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If you are curious about Alex’s Q&A-a-day journal and desire to know more about the kinds of daily questions that it poses, here is a selection from the first two weeks of the year:

  • January 1 — What is your mission?
  • January 2 — Can people change?
  • January 3 — What are you reading right now?
  • January 4 — The best part of today?
  • January 5 — What was the last restaurant you went to?
  • January 6 — Today was tough because _____.
  • January 9 — Was today typical? Why or why not?
  • January 10 — Write down something that inspired you today.
  • January 11 — Today you lost _____.
  • January 12 — What is your favorite accessory?
  • January 13 — Where do you want to travel next?

Although 2019 is already underway, can you pick up the journal now and still find great value in it? Absolutely! Simply begin responding to the guided questions on the date that you acquire it. Then take comfort in knowing that the notebook will carry you into January of 2020. In effect, you can already prepare for one of next year’s New Year’s Resolutions — continue your habit of daily writing!

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Note — The image of Island of Fire was borrowed from Simon & Schuster’s TheUnwantedsSeries.com. The image of Code Girls was obtained from Liza Mundy’s website. The cover of small great things was found at barnesandnoble.com. The author of this blog post took the photograph of the back cover of the Q&A-a-day journal.

Guest Spotlight — JH’s “She Believed” Journal

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As a respected educator who is involved in numerous district and county programs, Jennifer Howe embodies the ethos of the affirmation featured on her journal: She Believed She Could So She Did. In her professional role as a German and English teacher at Lake Orion High School, Jennifer has spent her career helping students believe in their potential while she has continually pushed her own.

At home, Jennifer is just as engaged as she is in her classroom. She and her husband, who live in Auburn Hills, MI, have two daughters who are active, curious, and full of their mother’s eagerness to engage with the world. These qualities will help the girls make the most of their family’s first international trip, which will take them and their parents to Germany this summer.

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Germany’s town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Jennifer has a long history with personal writing, beginning with a diary that she maintained in elementary school. Only a few years later, one of her favorite journals was formed when she was a student in a creative writing class in high school. That notebook is one that she still revisits. When Jennifer moved on to college she journaled on a computer for a while (saving the entries to disc), but then migrated back to paper. During the summer of 2018 she journaled steadily, but her return to teaching in the fall cut down on the frequency of her opening the cover.

With the dawning of the New Year, Jennifer recommited to personal writing. She dedicates at least 5 minutes per day to journaling, most often in the early morning when her home is quiet. She finds journaling beneficial because it allows her to, “remember important events, to clear [her] mind, or work through challenges.” With wide-ruled pages and an 8.5″ x 11″ size, her notebook provides ample space for all three. Amazon.com currently has the She Believed journal, which 67% of reviewers provide with a 5-star rating, priced at only $4.99

Traditionally, Jennifer composes in cursive, using Pilot G2 gel ink pens — a favorite among many writers, including the author of this blog post. However, her 8-year-old daughter has recently convinced her to give another option a try: Paper Mate’s Flair Pens. One can be seen in the top photograph. These felt tip pens, which are available in several dozen colors as well as three different point variations (medium, fine, and extra-fine), hold a special place at her daughter’s school: they can only be used when students are writing (i.e. not for artwork or doodling).

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The cover of Jennifer’s journal features a powerful phrase, “she believed she could so she did,” whose original author is unknown. Based on web research data, we know that it has been circulating on-line since the early 2000s. Curiously, what is also shaded by a degree of uncertainty is arguably the most iconic image — and slogan — used to promote female empowerment in recent decades: the Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s “We Can Do It!” poster.

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In 1942, the Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Corporation, which manufactured numerous electrical devices including turbines and generators, hired graphic artist J. Howard Miller (ca. 1915-1990) to create a series of posters to promote the efforts of the company’s internal War Production Co-Ordinating Committee. Very little is known about Miller, who earned a degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1939 and was living in that city during World War II. Even his birth and death dates are uncertain. But the impact of his illustration is now legendary, and it continues to grow.

However, a significant misconception regarding the poster is prominent today because the name “Rosie the Riveter” identifies several other artifacts from the World War II era — namely a song and a painting featured on a magazine cover. Despite what many people believe, J. Howard Miller’s boldly-colored poster was not designed to rally public support for the war effort, and neither has it served as a symbol of female empowerment since the 1940s. Rather, the poster — which was essentially invisible to the public during the War — was seen by few Americans until the 1980s.

In a remarkable New York Times article from January 22, 2018, Dr. James J. Kimball of Seton Hall University is quoted as saying that, “It turns out that almost everything we think about Rosie the Riveter is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong.”

Although Miller’s poster was revealed in 1943, its reach was very restricted. It did not become a cultural symbol of patriotism and women’s strength during the wartime years. Instead, the poster was only on display inside a few Westinghouse manufacturing plants for several weeks in February of 1943 until it was replaced by the next one in the series. Notice the small “Post Feb. 15 to Feb. 28” instruction found in the lower-left corner of the image. Miller designed 42 posters — most featuring men — and their goals were to boost morale and reduce absenteeism among Westinghouse’s factory workers.

Rather than Miller’s poster, it was a painting by famed American artist Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) that became a national symbol during the 1940s. Rockwell’s painting, which graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943, was entitled “Rosie the Riveter.” The name of the painting references a popular song with the same title that was produced in 1942 and recorded by several musicians. It was Rockwell’s painting — not Miller’s illustration — that became widespread during World War II. In fact, Rockwell’s rugged and defiant Rosie (her feet rest on a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf) was so popular that The Post allowed the U.S. Department of Treasury to use it to market war bonds.

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It was not until the 1980s, when Miller’s 17″ x 22″ poster was rediscovered, that it began to creep into the national consciousness and started serving as an influential vehicle for promoting women’s strength and capabilities. “Rosie the Riveter” definitely was an extremely influential cultural concept in the 1940s, but the “We Can Do It!” illustration was not. A fascinating history of J. Howard Miller’s poster — and the ways its likeness has been utilized by innumerable people and organizations since its public rebirth in the 1980s — can be found here.

Today, some journals like Jennifer Howe’s feature affirming slogans of women accomplishing what they set their sights on. And whether those goals involve riveting, writing, or reforming standards in business or civic affairs, the “we can — and do” message continues to spread. Jennifer’s two daughters will undoubtedly carry on that tradition. In fact, they are likely already doing so.

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Note — The image of J. Howard Miller’s poster was obtained from the website of The National Museum of American History. The photograph of Germany’s Rothenburg ob der Tauber was taken by Roman Kraft, and it was obtained from Unsplash.com. The image of the cover of The Saturday Evening Post was found on the website for the Norman Rockwell Museum. Finally, the image of the “She Believed” journal featured at the bottom of this post was borrowed from Amazon.com.

Guest Spotlight — AC’s Medici Lion Journal

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This gorgeous tooled-leather journal belongs to Adriana Cashwell, a former Michigan resident who now lives in Richmond, VA, where she studied psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received this notebook from a family member when she was a student at Lake Orion High School, but has not begun using it until now. Why? She explains that, “I’ve always found it too beautiful to write in if I wasn’t going to be serious about it.” I can relate, as I have received several journals over the years that seemed too ornamental for regular use.

Fortunately, Adriana has started journaling again, citing the fact that she has “always considered writing as a part of [her] soul.” And she maintains “hopes of getting her thoughts out of [her] head and onto paper, where they feel a little less threatening and make more sense.” Again, I can fully understand; writing helps me to re-consider the perplexing thoughts — and difficult decisions — that I ruminate about.

To make the transfer process as smooth as possible, Adriana relies on Pilot’s G2 Gel Ink pens. Most often she uses the fine-point variety, but recently she has been reaching for an extra-fine pen that has found its way into her arsenal. The G2, which is available in a striking range of colors, is a favorite of mine. I explain why on ink + sky‘s Materials page.

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Adriana’s journal was imported to the U.S. by Fiorentina, a distributor of stationery and gifts from across the Atlantic. One of its primary sources of leather goods is Italy, but it also gathers high-quality writing-related products from artisans in many European countries. If you are looking for its products locally, one of the best bets is Barnes & Noble. And online, check out BarnesAndNoble.com. Please be aware that Fiorentina’s website loads very slowly.

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Although the 9″ x 7″ Medici Lions Italian Leather Journal seems expensive at $39.95, it features refillable pages; therefore, you can use it for years because its recycled leather exterior is rugged and wear-resistant. Simply insert a new pad of paper when you finish the current one!

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Here is an image displaying the perimeter’s woven binding as well as the tooled leather interior of the front cover. Notice how the first page of the inner paper tablet inserts into the inside cover’s vertical leather “pocket,” which holds it securely.

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The lion is a common symbol of nobility in heraldry, a word that refers to the art and science of armorial bearings (or the armory). The most well-known segment of heraldry encompasses the coat of arms. For hundreds of years, lions have been used in countless coats of arms of different families, countries, and nations. The lions featured in coats of arms — as well as on actual armor and weaponry — are presented in different positions or attitudes. The Wikipedia.org page for “Lion (heraldry)” features a fascinating chart that outlines the most common lion attitudes.

The attitude of the lion on Adriana’s journal is known as rampant. Why? The Lion is standing erect, and its forepaws are raised. It is ready for battle.

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As a companion image, consider this photograph of an amazing 800-year-old shield that belonged to Konrad von Thüringen (ca. 1201-1240). Its lion also stands in the rampant attitude (but faces the opposite direction):

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Finally, what does the word Medici mean?

Medici is the name of a family from Italy that was very influential in the financial sector. The Medici Bank was founded in Florence in 1397, but the family did not achieve its greatest social, political, artistic, and economic power until the early 15th century. An incredible resource for learning more about this legendary family — and its many noteworthy members — is The Medici Archive Project.

In 2016, Netflix released an original 8-part series entitled Medici: Masters of Florence. It carries an IMDB rating of 7.9/10. Actor Richard Madden (seen below) plays the role of Cosimo de Medici, the young heir to his murdered father’s banking fortune. A second season of the historical drama ran in the fall of 2018.

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Note — The image of the Fiorentina logo was obtained from Fiorentinaltd.com. The image of the Medici Lion journal found beneath the logo was located on BarnesAndNoble.com. The close-up shots of the notebook were taken by the author of this blog post. The image of the Pilot Pens was borrowed from Walmart.com. The publicity image of Netflix’s Medici series was located on IMDB.com.

Blue light haiku

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Blue lights in morning
pull close above winter’s gray —
words like stars reveal.

What is a haiku? It’s a short, three-line poem of Japanese origin that juxtaposes two images, often following a 5-7-5 pattern of syllables. A reference to the season, or a kigo, is normally included to signal the time of year.

One of the most famous haiku poets is Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), whose likeness is presented here by Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

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You might be familiar with Hokusai’s legendary woodblock prints; they adorn everything from t-shirts to tote bags. Below is Under the Wave Off Kanagawa (c. 1830-31), which is also known as the Great Wave.

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Barnes & Noble sells a 200-page Piccadilly Sketchbook featuring the Great Wave:

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Thinking about trying your hand at a haiku?

Do it! And send it to me. Your piece might be featured on ink + sky.

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Note – The image of Hokusai’s woodblock print was found on Matsuo Basho’s Wikipedia.org page. The image of Under the Wave Off Kanagawa was obtained from the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.