graduation announcements help calm nerves of the season

by rebecca on May 4, 2015

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I like the feeling of folding a paper precisely in half and then half again. It’s a signal to my system that somewhere in life there are exact marking points. 4 corners come together and, Viola! My message is tucked neatly away to be unfolded in the hands of a dear friend. Graduation rituals are similar. We’ve chosen a particular day in May to put on a robe, toss a cap into the air and, viola! A new era of life begins. Precision.

Except that it doesn’t feel so precise.

Not inside my mommy heart. And not for my children. My son is watching the housing website to see where he will live next year. My daughter is getting stranded on the side of the road as her truck chugs and doesn’t make it up the hill to the fix-it-up-chappie. Adult worries in the night are beginning to awaken them. Where will I live? How will I pay the bills?

folded paper on spring table clothGraduation season comes with 80 thousand deadlines. Big decisions like declare where you are going to college and little things like ordering your cap and gown. But because there are so many decisions crowded into the U-haul trailer we’ve reserved to move my daughter to Montana, and my son to his new dorm, we are tightly packed.

Do you know that the origin of the word deadline came from a prison camp in the Civil War? A line was painted just beyond the stockade and, if prisoners were found outside of that line, they were shot. Dead. Words have power. No wonder deadlines strike terror even as they motivate us to get tasks completed.

So we are doing what any normal family would. We are ignoring the fear by playing with paper.

We are sending out announcements and cards. As far as I’m concerned good paper cures any ill.

Logan in yellow field archery for websiteMy son shoots a bow. He competed nationally and placed 5th, helping his Colorado team to earn a 2nd place medal. I have been singing this Sweet Honey in the Rock song to him all his life, “Your children are not your children, they are the sons and the daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but they are not from you and though they are with they belong not to you.” It is part of a Kahlil Gibran poem with the line, “You are the bows, from which your children, as living arrows, are sent.” I didn’t know, when I began singing it to my son, that he would become an archer.

As I designed his graduation announcement everything came together. My son loves the outdoors, hunting, and shooting his bow, and we have had many talks about how his time in the woods has fed our family, not just with protein, but with sunshine, and the love of someone who cared about how an animal died and came to our table. I’ve captured the history and influence of this song that I hummed to him when he fit between my wrist and elbow, and allowed it to fit on the 4 corners of the page, neatly folded. I get to gather all kinds of photos from his childhood and send them to the people who have been the enormous tribe that helped to launch him into the world.

blender flowers lewis and clark 2015 75 resolution 480 pixelsI visited my daughter’s beautiful campus in Portland, Oregon just a month before her graduation when she was presenting her honors thesis. We collected flowers and tossed them in a blender to make paper. This is a celebration of the potpourri she’s experienced on this campus and the seedlings that will continue to show up, as blossoms, for the rest of her life.

making paper yellow and blue 2015 480 pixels 75 resolutionmaking paper yellow and blue with Kaitlin spring 2015 graduation 75 resolution 480 pixelsShe wrote notes on these hand made cards for the professors who sat on her thesis advising committee and for other prominent mentors that carried her as she got her education. I begged her to tell me everything her professors said when she sat in the debriefing meeting and handed out bags of tea she had blended herself.

Why does paper, blended or folded, help to still the storm of overwhelm? What rituals help you when you are facing a big life transition? What graduations are you experiencing this year? (hint: as well as launching my children, my husband and I are both turning 50…any milestones at your house?)

flowers on paper towel outside Kaitlin roomIf you would like to see the text I included inside my graduation invitation because you are playing with paper, send me an email: rbcamullen @ and write, “graduation text” in the subject line.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny May 4, 2015 at 8:19 am

Lots of big events happening in your life Rebecca! What a great picture of your son shooting his bow and arrow. I have tried archery in the past and really enjoyed it. Sounds like you are a really ‘together’ family, and able to take on the challenges ahead. Turing 50; yes, been there! I turned 50 last year- my tip? Celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate! X


rebecca May 5, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Penny, how did you celebrate turning 50?


Sue Ann Gleason May 4, 2015 at 1:23 pm

This is such a beautiful display of legacy and the gorgeous ways you color the lives of your children with love, Rebecca. We may forget the flavor of our graduation cake but who could possibly forget handmade paper, homespun tea and the rituals you have so lovingly crafted to usher your children into the next season of their lives? I bow.


rebecca May 4, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Thanks for seeing this as the legacy I’m trying to offer my children, Sue Ann. And, I’m touched you would use the words, “color the lives of your children with love.” One of the images I offer my clients is that parenting is like being offered the black and white coloring book-images of our children and, as parents, our job is to help them become their brightest selves by filling in those lines that are already there, with brilliant color. In this way, our children can actually see themselves and know who they are when they look into the mirror of life.


Sue Ann Gleason May 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Love that synchronicity. xxoo


Neens Bea May 4, 2015 at 2:29 pm

What a beautiful post! Best of luck with all your transitions and milestones! 🙂


Helen Garside May 4, 2015 at 2:34 pm

What a lovely written post Rebecca. I love paper too. Thanks so much for showing the handmade paper with the flowers. Such lovely rituals you have created and shared with us. Your children are truly blessed to have a Mum like you who understands and cherishes the importance of transitions and how to celebrate them with personal meaning. Well done!


rebecca May 5, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Thanks for visiting, Helen. Rituals are important to me, as you can see!


Laura May 6, 2015 at 9:38 pm

I love the first picture in the blog — right outside my back door, my patio is covered in the same petals (it’s gorgeous until the dogs track them all inside!).

I love the idea of folding the paper to contain the overwhelm. Neat and tidy — at least on the outside, right? 🙂


rebecca May 31, 2015 at 10:30 am

“Paper to contain the overwhelm,” what a beautiful way of saying it.


Laura C May 9, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Oh Rebecca, how beautifully you write! I am on the other end of your pendulum (my daughter just turned 2), but I know that in a blink of an eye, it will swing and I will be sending her off on her way. I love the song you used to sing to your son, and I often think “This is my daughter but she is not mine”. I struggled growing up with a mother who felt I was an extension of her, so I love to hear how conscious you are to support your children in becoming the people they were meant to discover for themselves. I aspire to that! Thank you for this tender post.


rebecca May 31, 2015 at 10:34 am

Laura, I love that you are on the other end of this motherhood journey thinking about how you want to do this. I think it’s pretty easy for us, as parents, to see our children as extensions of ourselves, so I have a great deal of compassion for your mom. I can imagine how much that was a struggle for you, however.Finding our own way in the world is such a crucial part of growing up. I think parenting is all about aspiring, so you are well on your way to writing a new path.


Yvette Francino May 11, 2015 at 12:54 pm

As always, Rebecca, beautiful words and photos. You’re an inspiration to us all. Congratulations on the graduations, Mother’s Day, and milestone birthdays. The memories you’re creating for you and your family will carry on through the generations.


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