err in the direction of kindness

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greetings, folks!  i’ve been taking an obvious blog sabbatical.  because of THIS:


can you even believe that bump is only fourteen weeks old in this picture??? y’all – the 3rd baby is not messing around. i have been showing since i peed on the stick and basically in maternity clothes since then too.  i tried to do the whole rubber-band-around-the-button-thing and then decided not to be a hero, and promptly started wearing full-fledged maternity pants.  much better.  anyway, we are all elated / scared / excited / scared.  and i apologize for going MIA, but i have been feeling just awful.  anytime that 2nd trimester golden age wants to kick in, i am ready!!!!

this past weekend, a gaggle of girlfriends and i celebrated the wedding of our very good friend, dorothy, on daufuskie island, SC!  it was a blast and SO beautiful.  full blog post to come, as i did many of the paper items.  here is a quick picture of us on the way to the rehearsal dinner. (l-r: amy, dorothy aka THE BRIDE, betsey, me and jen)

photo-197p.s. i love that green dress – i bought it from a v. stylish neighbor & friend who had used it as a maternity dress of sorts too.  it’s a generously cut DVF!  love that diane.

we all arrived on daufuskie on thursday; betsey and i driving together from atlanta and catching the 6:30 ferry from hilton head.  i pictured us completely wind-blown and maybe a little damp from the surf during the ferry ride, but turns out ferries have come a long way – we sat in an air-conditioned room with cushioned seats!  who knew.  we were shown to our golf cart and started on our trek to our house, a simple 20 minute golf cart ride away…  except for a plethora of roundabouts, forks, windy roads, is that a median or do we veer left?  that kind of thing.  this sweet, sweet old man saw that we were lost and asked where we were headed – we told him our address and he said, “ah – i’m going that direction.  follow me – where i turn right, you turn left!”  so we did.  and we got to the point where he was supposed to turn right, and he said “you know – it’s kind of tricky back there.  i’ll just take you all the way.”  how kind of him to take time out of his night to show two gals on their way.  i think he is a perfect example of george saunders’ commencement address — have you read this??  you must.  it is so good.  i want to “err in the direction of kindness.”  and watch out for monkey poop.  rush has recently made the proclamation that when we reach the age of 100, we will all shrink back into babies.  maybe he’s not all wrong; babies are generally pretty loving and kind.  here it is:


George Saunders convocation speech, Syracuse University, 2013.

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” And they’ll tell you. Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked. Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret? Being poor from time to time? Not really. Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?” (And don’t even ASK what that entails.) No. I don’t regret that. Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked? And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months? Not so much. Do I regret the occasional humiliation? Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl? No. I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.” ELLEN was small, shy. She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” — that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.” And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then — they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still. It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:

Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this. There are ways. You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter. Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend; establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition — recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard — it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include . . . well, everything.

One thing in our favor: some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age. It might be a simple matter of attrition: as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish — how illogical, really. We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality. We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be. We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now). Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving. I think this is true. The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE. If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment. You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit. That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today. One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

Congratulations, by the way.

When young, we’re anxious — understandably — to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you — in particular you, of this generation — may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can . . .

And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously — as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up. Speed it along. Start right now. There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.


hoping to not be as much of a stranger; i’ve missed y’all!



a ladylike savannah bridal luncheon

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i get soooo excited when people send me photos of the actual events that i design invitations for.  it is so much fun to see how the theme gets carried out, and who doesn’t love some good party pics!!!  the fete today comes to us from savannah – home of all things southern, genteel, charming and just darn pretty.  i worked with the bride’s wonderfully sweet stepmother in creating a sophisticated but ladylike and feminine bridal luncheon invitation.  we used a palette of pink and gold and fashioned coordinating place cards…

pink and gold bridal luncheon invitethe bride’s monogram atop the invitation was a must.  it’s the last time she’ll ever use it, after all!

pink and gold bridesmaid luncheoni love a good flourish.

flourishesin the etsy shop here

as if the general setting of savannah could get any more lovely, they held the luncheon at the olde pink house – a gorgeous savannah mansion built in the 1700s that is rumored to be haunted!

OPH 01the luncheon looked nothing short of beautiful.




ladies who lunchcheers to the new bride – complete with a pink champagne toast shown above!


a lowcountry rehearsal dinner

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rbb and i had the most fantastic weekend at the wedding of my dear friend heidi and her betrothed, sam.  i love a wedding weekend that is just that – a weekend affair.  through all of the events, we got to know so many of their family members, their friends from nyc and from growing up, and by the time we pulled out of the farewell brunch on sunday, we had loads of fun new acquaintances.  i’ll do a full post on the wedding and all of the unbelievably beautiful details after the profesh photography comes in (and was it ever a gorgeous wedding and bride!!), but in the meantime, i bring you the rehearsal dinner style!

being a destination wedding just outside of hilton head, south carolina, sam’s mother wanted to capture all that the lowcountry had to offer.  really, how can you not take advantage of such beauty…

belfair entrance, avenue of the oaks

i loved where her head was!  we designed an invitation with a slight nod to a nautical theme with an anchor, tied it in with the verbiage (perfectly goes with getting hitched, right?) and a dose of gingham for spring and also to represent the casual nature of the outdoor affair.

anchor close up

anchor rehearsal dinner invite

nautical rehearsal dinner invite 2

in the etsy shop here.

we also designed matching place cards, which were then attached to oyster shells. (love)

nautical place cardsaside from a torrential downpour during cocktail hour (which honestly made for a great story and gave everyone a reason to huddle together under the pavilion / bar and get to know one another!), it was an absolutely lovely event with loads of sweet and funny toasts to the bride and groom.

here are me and my san diego cronies (l-r: brooke, brin, me and giovanna – aka my twin, people are always mixing us up and it happened a good many times over the weekend!) on our way out the door to the dinner.  hard to believe it’s been over 10 years since i moved there…but whenever these girls all get together, it’s as if no time has passed.

my san diego ladiesand we had to get a picture with the BRIDE!  there’s heidi on the left at the karaoke after-party – so. much. fun.

63181_4085814163711_115864667_nthe bride and groom, karaoke lovers extraordinaire (sam proposed singing karaoke!!), on the eve of their big day.

912866_10200597079025635_735562355_nso, so, so happy for these two!!  i have to share a line from sam’s toast at the rehearsal dinner because it was one of these sweetest things i’d ever heard.  he said that no matter how successful he was in life, nothing he achieves will be as successful as what he was planning to do the next day – marrying heidi metcalfe.

i mean…  i’m tearing up just thinking about it.  cheers to the LEWISES!!!!!


katie + jess – classic southern elegance

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one of my favorite parts of this stationery gig is working with brides.  i just love helping a gal out with her wedding vision and getting to know all of the big day’s details, then hearing all about it and seeing pictures after the fact.  it is just the most fun!  the bride and i usually get pretty tight by the end of our time together – it is a months long process after all, and you exchange emails fairly frequently.  i felt like katie and i went through her entire engagement together – she had been referred to me by her friend haley (another past bridal client i love!  although have never met!) right after that ring was slipped on her finger, and since she and her fiance planned their wedding six months out, we had to gets to stepping!  so that we did, and we worked together right up to the end on her wedding program.  we had such fun…and she even blogged about calliespondence.  i mean, i have the coolest clients.

you rebels will love this – katie and jess’s wedding was in oxford, mississippi.  you don’t get much more small town southern charm than there!  i love it.  for the invitations, she chose a custom calligraphy design in gold ink, letterpressed on crane’s beautiful cream lettra paper.  we lined the envelopes in a metallic gold mums print…it was just the right balance of whimsy and elegance.

p.s. all of the gorgeous photos are courtesy of karlin connell.  (for more, her blog on the wedding {with vendors} is here)

we had the same calligrapher address the envelopes so everything coordinated…

the program was a long and skinny format with the newly married couple’s monogram at the top…

i cannot get over how beautiful everything was (most of all, katie!)…

congrats to katie and jess – i’m honored to have had a part in your big day!!

calliespondence client in t&c

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y’all, i am so tragically behind in blogging.  there are scores of fun projects i think about and want to write about but i just cannot find the time!  for instance, one of my clients was featured in the “weddings” section of the august 2011 town & country.  august 2011.  and it came out in july 2011!!!!!  that’s absurd, seeing as now it is june 2012.  after staring at the magazine sitting on the floor of my office for a good ten+ months, i decided that today it was high time to feature it.  well, and i saw the lovely bride last night and it jogged my memory :)

we did wedding weekend itineraries that featured a full run-down of the events, things to do in atlanta, and helpful phone numbers.

i’m not sure if you can read it, but it lists jalisco as “the BEST mexican restaurant in atlanta.”  it is, for real.

the groom also created a map (way to go, helpful groom!) that we printed on deckled edge paper to include in the welcome baskets.

i don’t know about you, but i just love the weddings section of town & country.  i usually flip there first and then work my way through the rest of the rag…

how cute are they?!

and, i’m pretty sure they are standing in front of the chapel doors at the same church where rbb and i got hitched.  holla!


ginny + daniel: glamorous winter affair

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y’all, i LOVE what i do.  i mean, really love it.  so often, i get to reconnect with old friends who are getting married, having a baby, throwing a party…and we just have a ball working together.  actually, i wish there was another word for it besides “work” because it doesn’t feel like it at all.  that’s how it was working recently with a friend from college and sorority sister, ginny.  she got engaged and rang me up to see about doing her save the dates and wedding invitations, and of course i was thrilled to help!  she was creating an amazing winter wedding with themes of green boxwoods and topiaries amongst all white flowers, coupled with touches of elegant black and white patterns.  swoon.  being a winter bride myself, i have a soft spot for cold month weddings. mainly because they call for fur wearing, which makes everything fabulous.

we set the tone with the save the date – black whimsical text with a topiary featured at the top, a sweet border, and sealed it all up with a green envelope.

for the wedding invitation, we chose a super thick 140 lb. light cream cardstock on which to print black thermography ink…and lined the envelopes in a custom pattern exactly matching the table runners!  there is such love in those small wedding details, no?

i loved the language on the reply card: guests could check either “wouldn’t miss it for the world” or “will celebrate from afar.”

and now for the amazingly gorgeous affair, photographed by the talented heidi of our labor of love.  OMG.  get ready for some jaw-dropping beauty.

i just love it all, top to bottom, a to z.  congrats ginny and daniel!!!

calliespondence on style me pretty georgia

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wow, what an exciting week of features for calliespondence!  yesterday the ‘out of africa’ inspiration shoot we prepared letterpress invitations, menus and place cards for was shown on style me pretty’s georgia blog.  the chevron detail pattern even got a shout out from the writer in the introduction!  love that.  style me pretty is THE place to go for chic and stylish wedding (or just party) ideas, vendors and plain all around gorgeousness.  i am so honored to have been a part of this shoot – thanks to aharon hill photography for thinking of me!!  you can view the feature here, full photo gallery here and i’ve put the paper goods pictures below just for kicks.

calligraphy is courtesy of carol gray calligraphy – she taught me how to do the copperplate style in a class at callanwolde and has since been a great resource for my bridal clients!

thanks to all of the photo shoot vendors and style me pretty georgia!!


sweet peeps

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alright people…i’m back.  well, for short stints of time anyway.  today i have a most exciting new, local (to atlanta) company to share with you!  you may recall the adorable elmo / sesame street cake that i had made for rush’s 2nd birthday…katie from sweet peeps whipped that right up for me and did such a fantastic job!  it looked pretty and tasted great, which in my previous bakery-buying experience, is pretty much like double negative integers.  don’t those cancel each other out?  maybe?  it’s been a long time since algebra class, plus i probably shouldn’t try hard math on just a few hours of sleep.

anyway.  katie is a former bridal client (her fab wedding to be featured shortly) and came to calliespondence again after she was hitched to get some business cards.  we had some fun with these – i just love a business card that doesn’t take itself too seriously!  we settled on a 2 inch by 2 inch square size, nice and petite, with a cute graphic on the front and important info on the back.  check it.

i think the end result is just perfect for a confectionary biz!  and just look what a dynamo katie is with some flour and buttercream…here is a sampling of her recent work.

i’m going to start with the wedding cakes because they are AMAZEBALLS.  and wedding cakes are just so darn pretty (especially these).

don’t you love?!
and sometimes, you may need a specialty dessert for a theme party or otherwise…and clearly, she is atlanta’s own cake boss.
on top of being super talented, katie is a doll to work with…and that goes a long way in my book.  be sure to keep sweet peeps in mind for any fun baked goods you may need!  

out of africa: a styled wedding shoot

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approximately two weeks ago, i was asked by my friend aharon of aharon hill photography (talented taker of rush’s newborn photographs; one of my very favorites you can see at the end of this post) to participate in a styled wedding photo shoot…meaning that nobody would actually be getting married, but we would use props and such to make it look like they were.  how FUN!  i was tickled to be included, so of course i scrambled to get designing and also made my new letterpress printer scramble (i’m sure he loves me already) to have the invitation and menu made in time for the shoot.  the weather agreed perfectly and the other talented vendors truly made the theme shine!  if it’s been a while since you’ve seen the movie, here are good inspiration frames courtesy of the stylist’s blog…

ok, check out this loveliness from modern day times.

gorgeous, no?  here is the full cast of characters that helped to pull this off!

photography: aharon hill photography
stylist: lauren lee-crane
location: the wren’s nest, atlanta
flowers: gardenia floral design
calligraphy: carol gray calligraphy
paper goods: calliespondence
wedding cake: miss mamie’s cupcakes, cakes and such

thanks for including me, ladies!!

john + haley: blue and white coastal romance

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working with brides to see their vision is just the most fun.  i love getting into the details with them, hearing their plans for the reception, what they envision for the invitation…it’s all a blast.  working with haley was no exception – she wanted a really unique invitation style for her rosemary beach, florida wedding in april, and i was thrilled to hear what she had in mind!  we hired a local calligrapher to pen out the invitation wording, return address for the outer envelope and reply card language…it made such the difference.  there are nuances that a computer font just cannot pick up on that the human hand can only do.  it was so lovely!  from there, we had the invitation letterpressed in grey and then added a blue and white striped back to the invitation.  i am simply in love with the result….

the reply card language was too cute.  choices guests could select were: “wouldn’t miss it for the world” and “will celebrate from afar.”  then they could leave a bit of wisdom for the bride and groom.  love!

with haley having such a high attention to detail and style on the invitation, i knew the wedding would blow me away.  and was i right…feast your eyes on this affair!  and let’s discuss how totally fantastic her wedding dress is…and how gorgeous she was in it!!

wedding photos courtesy of paul johnson photography.

it looks like it was a perfect day.  congrats john and haley!!!!