Postage stamps as art~

If you’ve never seen their lovely magazine, Chip and Joanna Gaines produce the quarterly The Magnolia Journal,  devoted to fresh inspiration for your life and your home. The Spring 2018 issue includes an article on letter-writing.

Magnolia article0002.jpg“Setting aside time to write a letter to loved ones is a tangible way to show them that you care; however, this thoughtful act is just as beneficial to the writer,” the article states, a truth well-known to readers of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink.

One suggestion made is to beautify your letters with the use of vintage stamps. Were you aware it is legal to utilize vintage unused postage stamps in mailing letters? I’ve been doing that for more than a year now, ever since I discovered “lots” of vintage stamps on eBay, for less than the face value of the postage. So, not only do my envelopes look more interesting, I’m saving money. My latest find was a lot of stamps with a face value of $50, for just $36. Just type in “discount postage” or “unused postage stamps” if you are interested in getting some stamps for your own use.

My latest find~$50 worth of unused postage stamps for just $36 on eBay.

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Someone Else’s Story on Valentine’s Day

A friend gave me this journal Monday night, saying it made her think of me. She didn’t remember where she got it, but she knew I’d appreciate the inscription from a Kate to her grandmother on the front endpaper. She was right, though I couldn’t help but lament Grandma’s decision to sell or donate her granddaughter’s gift.

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My friend Sue couldn’t have known that I’d filled my journal the day before, and I wanted one with some inspirational sayings in it for my next journal. It wasn’t until  I got it out of my tote bag this morning that I noticed “Grams” had used it. There was a single page filled out, dated 2-14-2000. Eighteen years ago today. How apt I would come across this message eighteen years after it was written, on a holiday I avoid thinking much about since my husband’s death. 

courage journal2Grams believed it took courage to take pen in hand and begin writing. There is a grain of truth to that. Every writer who faces down a blank sheet of paper or empty computer screen and begins writing is brave. Grams never wrote in the journal again. It takes courage, discipline, and hard work to keep on writing despite rejections, time constraints, and the inevitable disruptions life throws our way.

Everyone has a story to tell. I don’t know Grams’ but can infer from her writing she was not married in 2000.  Sadly, if she wanted candy for Valentine’s Day, she had to stop at Fannie Mae and buy it for herself.  As stories go, this one points to a happy ending; Frank has invited her to five plays and dinner at a country club.

And that last line holds poignant hope for both writer and reader.

“How wonderful to hear someone say ‘you’re worth it.”   






Book Review: Becoming Madeleine

Despite it being hailed as a middle-school age biography, readers of our blog will love this book; letters, postcards, journal entries, friendship. You’ll find all of this, and much more in this delightful book.

Anyone who has read Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink  or has followed my other blog Mary Potter Kenyon for any length of time will know Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite authors, not for the fiction she is most famous for, but her Crosswick Journals series. One of my first blog posts was about her influence on my writing and my marriage way back in 2009.

I was in my late 30’s when I read A Circle of Quiet, identifying with the writer who was also a mother, a woman who “escaped” the cacophony of a noisy household to burn garbage in the back yard. I often did the same. Her thoughts on the craft have been very influential in my writing:

“To work on a book is for me very much the same thing as to pray. Both involve discipline. If the artist works only when he feels like it, he’s not apt to build up much of a body of work. Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go. Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear.” (Walking on Water, page 140)

Because it was about caring for her husband during his cancer, I read Two-Part Invention while my husband underwent cancer treatment in 2006. I was devastated by Madeleine’s loss. It was the first book I read after David died in 2012. Madeleine walked me through those first steps of the dark unknown of grief. 

“Now I am setting out into the unknown. It will take me a long while to work through the grief. There are no shortcuts; it has to be gone through.” (Two-Part Invention, page 228)

Madeleine L’Engle’s words touched my heart and soul so deeply, I mentioned her several times in my book  Refined By Fire; A Journey of Grief and Grace. Her granddaughter Lena graciously wrote a blurb endorsement.

“Mary Kenyon’s Refined by Fire reminds me of my grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle, who taught so many of us that writing can be a form of prayer that leads us to grace. I was moved to read how her influence inspired Mary to write and heal as well. Mary’s writing style is extremely accessible, and her voice raw, authentic and brave. By the end I was crying with her. I would definitely recommend her book to anyone who is going through any type of loss.”-  Léna Roy, granddaughter of Madeleine L’Engle

So it was with much anticipation I awaited the publication of Lena and her sister Charlotte’s biography of their grandmother, Becoming Madeleine.

madelieneMarketed as a middle grade biography, don’t let that stop you from reading it. This delightful book speaks to the hearts of writers and wannabe writers, as well as Madeleine L’Engle fans. It includes photographs, poems, letters and journal entries from Madeleine’s childhood, teens, and through her successes (and failures!) as a writer. I felt a real thrill of delight when I saw the photo of Crosswicks, as if spotting a favorite place. I couldn’t bear to highlight anything in this lovely book so marked pages  I want to return to with sticky notes instead.

I was fascinated by the mind of the young Madeleine, her mature insights. From her journal, at losing her beloved grandmother she called Dearma;

“I think this has been my passing from childhood into girlhood, because as mother says, though I am fifteen, I have really been a child all these years. And I read in another book that a person is never dead until you have forgotten then, so Dearma can never be dead to me, because I will never forget her.”

Then there is her reaction to a rejection from Good Housekeeping for a poem she’d sent at age 16. She not only added the rejection letter to her journal, on the opposite page, she’d written “I got this delightful little refusal from Good Housekeeping today & my poem was returned all dirtied. Someday Good Housekeeping will ask me to write poems for it!! 

There were a few surprises. While I’d known about the loss of her husband through the Crosswicks Journal series, I hadn’t realized she’d lost a son years later. When I read that, I wanted to pick up pen and paper to write her a letter. Which just goes to show you; the true power of a good biography is that it brings the subject alive. 

“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don’t want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

Thank you, Léna and Charlotte. You have managed to bring illumination to this famous writer’s life who just happened to be your grandmother. I hope you have already considered the possibilities in working on an adult biography, as well.

So Close to Goal…Book Giveaway 1-20

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Expressive Writing for Healing by Mary Potter Kenyon

Expressive Writing for Healing

by Mary Potter Kenyon

Giveaway ends February 28, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

If you aren’t on Goodreads, and want to win a free copy of Expressive Writing for Healing, continue reading.

One of my goals for 2018 is to grow my social media outreach, as my Expressive Writing for Healing journal comes out this year.  I’m setting up workshops on the topic, as well as Legacy of Creativity workshops in conjunction with the book I’m working on now. You can see my upcoming events HERE.

As part of that outreach, I’d like to hit 500 followers on my Mary Potter Kenyon Author Page. Anyone who LIKES my page will be entered in a random drawing for a signed copy of Expressive Writing for Healing AND a $10 Target gift card.

Don’t worry, if you LIKED my page in the last week, before you saw this post, I’ll check my notifications and add your name to the random drawing as well. I’ll choose one name on January 20th for a free advance copy of my upcoming journal and $10 Target gift card. If you already like my page, you can still win. Just go to my Author page, look for this blog post, and SHARE it! I’ll check Share notifications as well, and your name will be entered, too. LIKE AND SHARE, and double your chances!  So what are you waiting for? Go to my Author Page now, and help me meet my goal of 500 LIKES.

Merry Mary New Year~

“I’ll need to go in my office and write for a few minutes at midnight,” I informed my daughters last night as we watched television. “I’d once heard that whatever you are doing at midnight on New Year’s Eve is how you’ll spend the rest of the year, so I want to be writing.”

If that superstition holds true, I’ll be sleeping through most of the year, as I woke up to laughter five minutes after it began. I’d fallen asleep! Turns out, I had that superstition wrong. The point is to actually be doing something related to your employment on the first day of the new year. By doing it well, but not working too hard, you’ll do your job well and not be overworked the rest of the year.

I’m not sure if writing for seven consecutive hours today constitutes working “too hard,” but I hope it bodes well for productivity the rest of the year. While I’ve been employed part-time as librarian since March, it’s my writing and workshops I’ve been concentrating on over the holidays.

A year ago, I was miserable in a job that should have been perfect for me; getting paid to go to work every morning and write as a newspaper reporter.  Now employed part-time, I spend my free mornings writing what I want to write. Last year, that meant finishing up a journal that will be released this April.

Expressive Writing for Healing

Since signing a book contract in November, I’m also working on a book about creativity. The seeds of this book were planted in my heart a long time ago, shortly after my mother passed away in 2010. She left behind many notebooks and journals that made it clear her greatest wish for her children was that they get to Heaven and utilize their talents. Her words became a catalyst for change in my creativity and faith. The winter after her death, I embarked on what would become one of the most creative periods of my life up to that point. In her empty house, I found solitude and solace, a private writing retreat. There, I worked on a book manuscript, wrote articles and essays, prepared couponing and writing workshops and designed a power point presentation on creativity. I also began a file folder on creativity, certain it would someday become a book in honor of my creative mother. It could be said that grief was the impetus to taking my writing seriously, the legacy of my mother as my muse. My work in progress opens with her words.

“Our main purpose on earth is to save our soul and try to do the will of God in all things. That also means using the talents he gave us, and using them for good.”

I pulled out that old file folder in March. By late June, I’d completed the book proposal. A lot of research went on in-between; on the science behind creativity, the link between creativity and health and happiness, and the spiritual aspect of creativity. (After all, how can we talk about creativity without mentioning The Creator?)

creativity book1

A few of my favorites~

I’ve continued doing research as I delve into the different topics. The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer and Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle were old favorites that I re-read. World Enough & Time I borrowed from my sister Joan and read on the airplane on the way home from visiting her in Florida. The Art of Creative Living by Thomas Kinkade was one of the last books my mother had read in the summer of 2010.

By late summer, all this reading and writing about creativity led me to begin a Lifelong Learner’s Creativity group at the library where I work. Many of the women who joined weren’t exactly sure what they wanted to gain from it, but something in the description appealed to a restless, unnamed feeling stirring within them.
“Perhaps you were the daydreamer in grade school, the child staring out the window with a head full of stories, or the one reading books from your lap beneath the desk. Then someone snatched the box of crayons from your hand, insisting you’d done it all wrong; that trees weren’t pink, and bunnies weren’t purple, and you’d gone outside the lines. Or maybe they pulled the book out from beneath your desk, telling you it was time for math, not reading. Whether you’re ready to reignite your childhood passion for all things creative, and want your crayons back, or are looking for a way to connect with your inner artist and others who think outside of the box, a new group forming at the James Kennedy Library might be of interest.”

Our circle now serves as a focus group of sorts, representing my target audience. We’ve already done several of the activities I suggest in my book. This month we’ll be painting on canvas, and next month we’ll envision what our more creative life looks like with Vision Boards.

In the same vein, I’m incorporating creativity exercises into a “Legacy of Creativity” workshop. While I’ll continue doing writing workshops, I’m looking forward to doing  “Expressive Writing for Healing” and “Legacy of Creativity” workshops in 2018.

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You’ll have to attend one of my creativity workshops to see what the pencils are for~


So, this is what the beginning of 2018 looks like for me; a new book coming out in April, work on a manuscript that is due the end of May, and workshops and classes scheduled on my days off from the library. Despite nodding off at midnight, I’m fairly certain I won’t be sleeping through 2018.

Mary, and Me, Update…

By Mary Jedlicka Humston

If you’ve followed this site in the past, you’ve noticed a long drought of blogless days. What in the world happened?
It boils down to two things: bicycles and books.
I’ll start with the bicycle since that relates to me. It was a lovely fall day on Oct. 8 in Lanesboro, MN. My husband Jim, another couple, and I rode the scenic trails on a brilliant Sunday morning. We’d only traveled five miles, out of the 19 we’d ride that day, when our group suddenly slowed. This was done frequently since there was a lot of traffic on the trail: bikers, walkers, joggers. When we slowed this time, I wasn’t prepared, and my front tire clipped Jim’s back tire.
You know how something’s going to happen, and you can’t stop it? I knew I was going to tip over, but I couldn’t right the bike in time. BAM! I fell hard on unforgiving asphalt.
Road rash bleeding on my left knee and left hand were the obvious injuries, but my right arm (which instinctively shot out to break the fall) was sore. I repeatedly but gently shook it, remarking that my elbow hurt, and how I must’ve jammed it. I knew how badly that hurts, since I jammed both elbows at a cheerleading camp one summer in the ‘70s.
Grateful for my helmet and that I hadn’t fallen on my face or head, I got back on the bike and rode five miles to our car where Jim bandaged my knee and hand.

Our group continued on until we stopped for pie, a biker’s reward for hard work. When I couldn’t guide the fork of pumpkin crunch pie to my mouth, I thought, “Oh, no. I must’ve jammed my wrist, too.” So, the left hand pitch-hit and carried out the pie-eating duties. The remaining five miles really stressed the fact that my wrist wasn’t doing well. Shifting gears was painful. We headed for Iowa City. Once home, an ER visit was deemed necessary. Lo and behold, x-rays discovered a broken right elbow and a suspected broken right wrist. Thus, began a five to six week period with a splint, sling, or cast.

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This brings me to Mary, our blog, and me. The right is my dominant hand. Imagine this. In all our years of friendship neither of us had ever had injuries get in the way of our letter writing. Now, I had to use my left hand. I did the best I could. These letters weren’t exactly pretty. They required extra time and patience. My hand tired easily. And, hardest of all for me, I couldn’t expound on my feelings much, or I’d have been travailing with the pen and paper for hours.
I started the car by sitting in the passenger seat, reaching the ignition with my left hand, jumping out of the car to the driver’s side and then driving with my left hand, performing amazing stretches and acrobatics with the seatbelt and shifting from drive to reverse to park. So, driving 90 miles one-way to visit Mary didn’t happen either. Exhaustion, lack of energy, and napping figured into this equation, too,

A bicycle accident changed our letter writing but didn’t stop us. It did, however, affect our blog postsRemember I mentioned the second reason for this blog drought? Books.

Mary signed a contract in November, and is hard at work on her next book, which I’ll let her tell you about in a future blog post.

So here it is; our first Mary and Me blog post since November 3, right in time for the holidays. Mary is busy writing her new book, and I’m still working hard on the physical therapy exercises and stretches and achieving almost complete range of motion.

Merry, Merry Christmas from Mary and Mary!!

Book Review: 30 Days to Peace journal

SinSELRES_6a490afb-b304-42d4-861a-f7b157ed5a81SELRES_6a490afb-b304-42d4-861a-f7b157ed5a81ce both Marys journal, and fans of our book are likely to be interested in journals,  I decided to review this one-month creative journal on the Mary and Me blog, instead of my personal blog,

30 Days to Peace: A One-Month Creative Journalis a lovely little book .

30 days

I freely admit to choosing it from BloggingforBooks (in exchange for an honest review) because of the cover, and the description:

“In our loud and busy lives, it’s easy to miss the life-giving breeze of peace. That’s what this interactive journal is for. It’s about slowing down and taking time to pursue and embrace peace. It’s about welcoming the call to be a peacemaker. It’s about finding a peace rooted in faith rather than circumstances and living out that miracle every day. This is an invitation to create, write, doodle, and draw your way into the deep, lasting peace of God.”

Who doesn’t want peace in their life? What busy woman doesn’t need a reminder to slow down and find peace in faith?

That said, it feels like there is a lot of wasted space in this journal, when Bible quotes fill one page and the opposite page is filled with a design. The pages designated for writing are lovely, and unlined (in case you want to doodle, instead of write), but I’ve always resisted utilizing writing prompts, preferring instead to write on whatever I choose.

A pretty journal, but not one I’d use, or gift to the other Mary. A good gift for someone new to journaling, and small enough to be carried in a purse.

Video Book Review: Love & Salt

This is my first video book review, a review of Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Lettersby Amy Andrews & Jessica Mesman Griffith.  (excuse the early audio, not sure what happened)

Check out Jessica’s webpage, or read more about Amy and their book at Loyola Press.

I attempted this video review a couple of days ago, but was interrupted by a bat. Despite my abject horror at the sight of a bat flying around my house, and my inane response (calling out for a 17-year-old to save me), I laugh every time I see this video, so I’m including it for your enjoyment.

Stay tuned for more book review videos in the future, along with a video tour of my home office, my favorite place to read and write.

Book Review: Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away

Reviewed by Mary Jedlicka Humston

While Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away: A Love Letter to My Family might appear an unusual book for our blog, the title intrigued me with that one word: letter. And, more specifically the words: love letter.

This book’s topic is about football and dealing with severe brain injuries due to concussion, but it is also a letter of love that Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts tight end Ben Utecht wrote for his family. (with Mark Tabb) He writes his thoughts as a love letter to his wife Karyn and four daughters (although the book is written as a memoir, not as a collections of letters). It’s all the more pertinent because he is currently living with the side effects (in his case, severe memory loss) of what he is believed to suffer with: CTE, (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) a condition resulting from repeated head blows and concussions.

Current research has proven a link between CTE and football, but the condition is impossible to diagnose while the player is still alive. In fact, an autopsy on football players’ brains currently is the only definitive way to attain a diagnosis. Recent news reports highlight a study, conducted by Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University School of Medicine, which was published in The Journal of American Medical Association in late July, 2017. The study shows that depression, memory loss, cognitive trouble, changes in behavior and/or mood, and addiction are symptoms indicative of severe brain injuries associated with concussions sustained during football.

Five major concussions are documented during Utecht’s football career. That’s not counting the multiple mild brain injuries he also suffered. Writing this book allows him to record his memories for his family should he ever reach a point where his memory loss interferes with recalling important events from his life.

One poignant segment of the book stands out for me. He is chatting with his wife Karyn and two good friends about the couple’s recent marriage. As the conversation continues, Utecht becomes angrier and angrier. How can they be so rude as to talk about this wedding while he’s sitting there? He was best friends with the groom and yet he was not even invited to the wedding. When he finally unleashes his anger and deep hurt, he immediately sobers when shown a photo, not only proving that he attended the wedding, but that he was a groomsman.

counting the days

Counting the Days While My Mind Slips Away: A Love Letter to My Family (2016) is heavy with football stories and language, but it’s also a personal story of triumph and determination and how Utecht perseveres despite the challenges he faces. He has also become well-known for singing (he’s sung with Christian singer Sandi Patty and has frequently sung the National Anthem at sporting events). A beautiful song results from that love letter he wrote his wife and his daughters that I mentioned at the beginning of this review. As a nice accompaniment to the book, I’d advise you to watch the You Tube song/video inspired by that letter: You Will Always Be My Girls.

Even though I didn’t understand all the football language and some play-by-play action, I recommend this book. It especially becomes more pertinent since CTE has been in the news so much lately.

Book Review: The Story You Need to Tell

“After unearthing twenty-seven journals from dusty shelves and long-forgotten hiding places, I began reading them. I thought I would skim through them, a glass of red wine in hand, in two to three hours. Wrong. A week later I was still caught up in the thick of them. I learned how I opened up as a thinker. How I loved to read and explore books. I learned how some authors captivated me, while others tied me in knots. How writer Christine Baldwin taught me the value of keeping a journal for life. How I became a writer. How ideas intrigued me. How becoming a mother changed and fascinated me.”

I was hooked as soon as I read those words. As we’ve shared on this blog, Mary and I recently delved into our own journals and daybooks. Mary is still working her way through hers.


I picked up Sandra Marinella’s The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal From Trauma, Illness, or Loss as research for my upcoming workshop, “Expressive Writing for Healing” offered in August at Hawkeye  community college in Cedar Falls, and in September at NICC in Dubuque.  As I’ve noted before, unlike my Mary & Me co-author, I really didn’t journal much until after my husband died, when I instinctively turned to writing to work my way through grief.

journalsIn fact, I couldn’t stop writing. I blogged, filled pages of my journal, wrote essays, letters to my friend Mary, and worked on several books, including what would become Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace

Knowing how much expressive writing had helped me, I began delving into the science behind it, reading books and articles by James W. Pennebaker, the man who was at the forefront of research on the connection between expressive writing and healing. I’ve written about Pennebaker many times, mentioning him in both my upcoming grief journal and my workshops, as well as previous blog postings.  While Marinella discusses his research in her book, she also frequently refers to her mentor, Christina Baldwin, author of Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Storya book I immediately added to my Amazon cart. That’s what happens when I fall in the rabbit-hole of research; I invariably add to my to-read list. The topic of journaling doesn’t just apply to my workshops; I have a grief journal coming out in May, am including a chapter on expressive writing in my book on creativity, and will be utilizing journals for the GriefShare grief support group I facilitate at a local church and the Lifelong Learning creativity group I’m forming this fall at the library where I’m employed.

The writing prompts at the end of each chapter in The Story You Need to Tell are some of the best I’ve ever seen. I’ll be utilizing some of them in my monthly memoir group, where members often request a writing prompt assignment.

Sandra Marinella is an award-winning teacher and writer. After facing breast cancer in 2012, she turned her focus from teaching to writing as a way of healing, and began volunteering with veterans and cancer patients. Some patient’s stories, and their life transformations, are featured as examples in her book. Sandra founded the Story You Need to Tell Project at

The author doesn’t shy away from telling her own stories, which makes this book all the more powerful. Can we really talk about expressive writing without sharing some of our own? One of the most touching chapters for me was the one on healing from loss. Marinella had some pretty intense conversations with her father while he was dying; discussing death, prayer, and faith. Since they shared a love of music, the author asked him to try and communicate with her through music after he died. He loved the idea.

“One day after we arrived home, my dad mouthed his last word to me, Mom. I promised to care for her. And she hobbled over to hold his hand. Two days after he made it home, my dad took his last breaths with his love, my mom, and his family gathered around him. In those moments he radiated serenity, a transcendent beauty. For long moments we stood in hushed awe around him. 

After he passed, we sang and prayed. My brother recited Psalm 23, and then we stood reverently by his side. And in that holy moment- Standing by my father and his soul- my head was filled with the joyful clanging of church bells.’Do you hear them?’ I asked my family.”