Category Archives: Inspiration & Spirituality

Día de los Muertos: November 1–2

Fascination with the Morbs © Cynthia Frenette from our Day of the Dead 2021 wall calendar. Click for more info.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween.

Though related, the two annual events differ greatly in traditions and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don elaborate makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.

Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.

Literary Calaveras
Calavera means “skull.” But during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, calavera was used to describe short, humorous poems, which were often sarcastic tombstone epitaphs published in newspapers that poked fun at the living. These literary calaveras eventually became a popular part of Día de los Muertos celebrations. Today the practice is alive and well. You’ll find these clever, biting poems in print, read aloud, and broadcast on television and radio programs.

The Calavera Catrina
In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same.

In 1947 artist Diego Rivera featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in his masterpiece mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” Posada’s skeletal bust was dressed in a large feminine hat, and Rivera made his female and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.” Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most ubiquitous symbol.

Altars
The centerpiece of the celebration is an altar, or ofrenda, built in private homes and cemeteries. These aren’t altars for worshipping; rather, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the realm of the living. As such, they’re loaded with offerings—water to quench thirst after the long journey, food, family photos, and a candle for each dead relative. If one of the spirits is a child, you might find small toys on the altar. Marigolds are the main flowers used to decorate the altar. Scattered from altar to gravesite, marigold petals guide wandering souls back to their place of rest. The smoke from copal incense, made from tree resin, transmits praise and prayers and purifies the area around the altar.

Source: National Geographic by Logan Ward


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Dreaming of 2021… Wall Calendars, Planners, and Desk Pads 

Artist Spotlight — Flora Bowley: Creative Revolution

Flora BowleyAmber Lotus Publishing is excited to welcome Flora Bowley to our family. Flora is a painter, pioneer, gentle guide, and author of two books, Brave Intuitive Painting and Creative Revolution.

Blending more than twenty years of professional painting experience with her background as a yoga instructor, healer, and lifelong truth seeker, Flora’s soulful approach to the creative process, along with her books, international retreats, and online courses, has sparked a holistic movement in the intuitive art world by encouraging thousands of people to courageously pick up a paintbrush.

Flora believes that creativity holds the power to awaken, empower, heal, and transform, and her work reminds us that all humans are born with infinite wells of creative expression just waiting to be tapped and remembered.

Flora lives and creates in Portland, Oregon. Her vibrant paintings can be found in galleries and shops and are printed on unique products around the world.

Find out more about Flora at florabowley.com.

Creative Revolution 2020-2021 Weekly Planner


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Creative Revolution 2021 Wall Calendar

Letters Against Isolation — Notes to Cheer Self-Isolating Seniors

As a stationery publisher, we love creating beautiful greeting cards to spread inspiration, comfort, and cheer. We know that a handwritten note has the power to brighten someone’s day — a small act of kindness that can transform.

Sisters Shreya and Saffron were doing their best to support their self-isolating grandparents by calling them every day during the COVID outbreak. Then they had an idea to do something more. Here’s an excerpt from their website Letters Against Isolation:

We realized that without visitors or the ability to interact with the wider world, many senior citizens may be growing lonely. Senior loneliness is a well-documented issue and has effects not only on seniors’ mental health but on their physical health. We believed that we could do something to help this situation. We decided to spread some joy and write handwritten letters to residents of assisted living facilities and care homes. When growing demand for letters outpaced us, we started Letters Against Isolation.

I am Saffron, a 10th grader attending high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I absolutely love volunteering and getting involved with my community! Prior to the pandemic, I was volunteering at our local science museum, hospital and STEM club on a weekly basis. Since I have moved countries and states a few times already, I find volunteering to be my way of getting to know my community and feeling connected. Once the pandemic started, I missed going to my volunteer programs! I was eager to find a new way to build a community and help people in need.

My sister Shreya just graduated from high school a year ago. She is taking a gap year before heading to Washington University in Saint Louis in the fall. Shreya also enjoys volunteering and is very close to our grandparents. She is interested in entrepreneurship and is always searching for ways she can make an impact or improve the community.

Letters Against Isolation started as a small-scale project for the two of us. My grandma who has been self-isolating for almost 4 months was feeling a bit lonely. A friend of hers wrote her a letter and she was so happy to receive it. Shreya and I saw firsthand how something as simple as a letter can remind you that someone is thinking of you, and can really boost your mood. We thought that it is likely that many seniors were also feeling a bit isolated, and sending them a letter could lift their spirits. We contacted a local care facility and asked if we could send their residents a few letters. They told us that the residents were thrilled to receive them! We knew that we wanted to spread the love and that we needed help to do it. We enlisted the help of friends, family, and volunteers online. In just a few days, we found a huge number of people willing to take a bit of time out of their day to bring some joy to a senior.

Their website has wonderful information on participating as well as great ideas for what to write and share.


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Gorgeous New Weekly Planners: Start Planning 2021 Now

Katie Daisy 2020-2021 weekly planner

Katie Daisy in her studio.

We’re over the moon about our new 2020-2021 On-the-Go weekly planners featuring artwork by the amazing Katie Daisy, Geninne Zlatkis, Anahata Joy Katkin, Flora Bowley, and Meera Lee Patel! These brilliantly talented artists have created gorgeous artwork that will inspire you throughout the year.

  • 5″ x 7″ weekly planner (10″ x 7″ open).
  • 17-month calendar — August 2020 through December 2021 — excellent for school and academic planning.
  • Compact planner is perfect for your bag or backpack.
  • Great for students, teachers, parents, and anyone seeking creative inspiration.
  • Monthly 2-page-spread views facilitate big-picture planning.
  • Weekly spreads with ample writing space.
  • Extra lined pages to record notes and reminders.
  • Elastic band closure.
  • Inside pocket for storing receipts and mementos.
  • Wire-O binding offers lie-flat ease and convenience.
  • Printed on paper sourced from a combination of sustainably managed forests and recycled materials.
  • Features US and Canadian legal holidays, phases of the moon, and important observances of the world’s major religions.

Katie Daisy 2020-2021 weekly planner.

Geninne Zlatkis 2020-2021 weekly planner. Her sweet pup Zorro is adorbs!

PAPAYA 2020-2021 weekly planner featuring artwork by Anahata Joy Katkin.

FIREWEED 2020-2021 weekly planner featuring artwork by Anahata Joy Katkin.

Creative Revolution 2020-2021 weekly planner by Flora Bowley. Features drawing and writing prompts to nurture self-discovery

Meera Lee Patel 2020-2021 weekly planner.


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Women’s History Month: International Women’s Day 2020

Image from our Women Who Rock 2020 wall calendar featuring artwork by Rachel Grant. Click for more info.

Women’s History Month 2020: Valiant Women of the Vote

Each year, the month of March is designated by presidential proclamation as a time to recognize and honor women’s contributions to American history.

Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County California Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a Women’s History Week celebration in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women’s Day. The movement spread across the country as other communities initiated their own Women’s History Week celebrations the following year.

In 1980, a consortium of women’s groups and historians—led by the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women’s History Alliance)—successfully lobbied for national recognition. In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.

Subsequent presidents continued to proclaim a National Women’s History Week in March until 1987 when Congress passed Public Law 100-9, designating March as “Women’s History Month.” Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the president to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, each president has issued an annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.

The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes a yearly theme. The 2020 Women’s History Month theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote,” which honors “the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.”

Visit the National Women’s History Museum website to learn more.

International Women’s Day 2020: #EachforEqual

International Women’s Day on March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.

The theme for 2020 is #EachforEqual. An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions—all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations, and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender-equal world.

Visit the IWD website to learn more.

Women Who Rock Our World 2020 Wall Calendar

It’s no secret that, throughout time, societies have emphasized men’s roles and rights. Laws were written by men, for men; education was developed with men in mind; and women were denied equal rights in nearly every aspect. But over the centuries, more and more women have stood up to say, “This isn’t right.” To those women, we raise a fist in reverence and gratitude. They have shown us how to change the world.

Each month of the Women Who Rock 2020 wall calendar highlights one revolutionary woman’s inspirational words paired with dynamic original art by Rachel Grant and a short biography. All of the women in this calendar faced obstacles. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was told she couldn’t be both a lawyer and a mother. Angela Davis was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Dolores Huerta was assaulted by police while protesting the conditions of farmworkers. Marie Curie’s passion for scientific knowledge eventually killed her. These women were not necessarily liked in their time. But instead of listening to the criticism, they focused on the voices of the people they were inspiring and, in many cases, saving. They stayed true to their values, acknowledged the risks they faced, and raised their voices even louder. We have so much to thank them for, from June Jordan’s powerful words of encouragement to Elizabeth Warren’s extraordinary persistence in making her voice heard.


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Random Acts of Kindness Day and Week 2020

Image from the Art of Kindness 2020 wall calendar featuring illustrated quotes by Clairice Gifford. Click for more info.

Random Acts of Kindness Week, which will be observed February 16-22, 2020, is an annual opportunity to unite through kindness. Formally recognized in 1995, this seven-day celebration demonstrates that kindness is contagious. It all starts with one act — one smile, one coffee for a stranger, one favor for a friend. It’s an opportunity for participants to leave the world better than they found it and inspire others to do the same. Since inception, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation estimates that millions of individuals, celebrities, businesses, schools, and partners have participated in these weeklong celebrations. Random Acts of Kindness Day is celebrated on February 17, 2020.

Visit the foundation website to learn more about events in your area. Or you can simply make a personal commitment to practice more mindfulness during that week to create waves and waves of kindness in the world.

From the RAK Foundation website, here are some fun scientifically proven benefits of being kind:

KINDNESS IS TEACHABLE
“It’s kind of like weight training, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.” (Dr. Ritchie Davidson,  University of Wisconsin)

KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS
The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!

KINDNESS INCREASES:

THE LOVE HORMONE
Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the “love hormone” which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re feeling anxious or shy in a social situation.

ENERGY
“About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth” (Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center)

HAPPINESS
A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic — in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations — were happiest overall.

LIFESPAN
“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.” (Christine Carter, Author, “Raising Happiness; In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”)

PLEASURE
According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed — not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”

SEROTONIN
Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!

KINDNESS DECREASES:

PAIN
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins — the brain’s natural painkiller!

STRESS
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population!

ANXIETY
A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals. (University of British Columbia Study)

DEPRESSION
Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and well-being and good fortune are increased.

BLOOD PRESSURE
Committing acts of kindness lowers blood pressure. According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.


About the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

An international nonprofit, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, believes that kindness is key to making the world a better place. This nonpolitical, nonreligious organization leads the way by reminding people that they have a choice to be kind and provides them with free tools to make kindness common in their everyday lives.


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Gratitude in the New Year — Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier

Katie Daisy 2020 weekly planner

Image of the Katie Daisy 2019-2020 On-the-Go Planner

As we enter a new year, many of us contemplate developing new habits with the desire to enrich our lives. While some of these resolutions can be lofty goals, one simple practice of expressing gratitude or keeping a gratitude list can have a lasting impact. A weekly planner or wall calendar is a wonderful place to jot down your lists and then reflect back on them at the end of the year.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Here’s more from the Harvard Health Publishing website:

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).


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Sale — 2020 Calendars, Limited Stock

Feast of Juul — Burning the Yule Log

Image from our Celtic Mandala 2020 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth.

The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the Winter Solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light, and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule (or Juul) log was brought in with great ceremony and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god, Thor. A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log.

In England and in many parts of Germany, France, and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained; then the ashes were collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and useful medicine. French peasants believed that if the ashes were kept under the bed, they would protect the house against thunder and lightning, as well as prevent chilblains on the heels during the winter.

The present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated in the bonfires associated with the Feast of Juul.

Source: Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 5th Ed., published by Omnigraphics


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Sale — Art for Everyone on Your List