A Legacy of Letters

My mother passed away on April 4th.   It was a sacred honor to share her last moments with her.

I had no way of knowing that when I wrote the post a month ago about sending condolence cards that I would be on the receiving end again so soon. Yet there they are, coming in many ways in recent days–on my desk when I returned to work, in the mail, and hand delivered with food or flowers.  And each message has been a sweet gift of memory, comfort or support.

This weekend, as we went through my mother’s belongings, we found anniversary cards from my father, birthday wishes from my grandmother, and encouraging notes from her best friend.  A life’s big and small moments recounted in these cards, leaving sweet traces of the loving circle of family and friends with whom she shared her life.  I enjoyed finding the many cards and notes I sent her, kept with the rest.

And I found cards that she had filled out and not yet sent.  So I forwarded those on to their intended recipients, hoping to close the circle and bring a smile to their faces, knowing that she thought of them fondly, too.

a tree I drew in my work journal

A family’s legacy

In the mix, I found a journal I gave my mother twenty years ago.  I had encouraged her to write down her thoughts, stories and family lore.  This one, like others I had given her, was largely blank save the first four pages.  But those pages are more precious to us than gold.  In them, she shared loving thoughts of her daughters, a memory of her father, a quote from my father, and the story–that none of us knew–of how she got her nickname,  Teenie.

These pages served as a reminder that when people die, they often take their stories with them.  And when our parents pass, they take many of our own stories with them, too.  I would hear my parents’ stories so often, it seemed I could never forget them.  Panic set in once mom was gone, because the stories seemed to evaporate, too.  I seem only to have wispy fragments. I wish I had more of them written in her hand.

But these few must somehow be enough.

This weekend’s explorations of my mother’s legacy–and the letters and cards she received and the notes she left–reaffirmed for me the power and purpose of connecting through the written word.  Go write down your stories in your hand.  Send a letter.  Share your love and thoughts and encouragement with others.  These become part of your legacy and theirs.

Do it now. There is no time to waste.

 

 

 

Lunar Letter Love

It’s a new moon today.  So she is dark tonight, hiding behind the earth, taking a bit of a rest from reflecting the light of the sun! Everyone deserves a night off once in a while.

I am a bit obsessed with the moon. Her mystery and beauty and changing faces throughout the month are a pleasure to view and enjoy.

So when I saw these flat cards by Midnight Stationery, I knew I needed to have them.

Aren’t they lovely?

They are flat cards, so they are perfect for a quick note on the back…perhaps one bemoaning that it’s been many moons since you’ve seen a friend.

There are three colors to the pack (navy, kraft and black). I plan on using a white or metallic ink on the black and blue cards, and a dark ink (or maybe red) on the kraft color card. I like the different effects the different inks have.

And to complete the theme, I’ll mail these using the 2018 Total Eclipse stamps which reveals a moon when you warm the stamp.

And for my international friends I will send ones that feature this beauty!

Happy New Moon to you! What intentions can you set now that will grow as the moon grows over the next two weeks?  I’m setting the intention of finding more time for creative, artistic fun in the coming month.  Woo hoo!

Sending Sympathy

No matter how our letter writing habits have changed in recent years, it still seems common practice–even among those who are not snail mail enthusiasts–to send a sympathy card when someone you care about has lost a loved one.

Perhaps as a function of my increasing age and my wonderfully large social group, I have had more opportunities than I would like to send these sorts of cards lately.  As I pondered what to write in the most recent card, I thought it was worth sharing my process here.

When I first hear of someone passing away, I consider who might need or appreciate an expression of sympathy and support.  When a man dies, we might think of his wife, but not send notes to his adult children who live far away or his best friend.  If I know those people as well, I’ll reach out with a card.

Second, I find a card that aligns most closely to capturing the person, if I know the deceased personally.  A natural theme for an outdoorsman, a classic theme for a classy lady, that sort of thing.  This alignment helps strike a sweet resonance for the recipient that the deceased was known and seen in this way.

For those who have lost a parent or spouse, I think it is important to send a card that notes that particular loss rather than a more generic expression of sympathy.  Those relationships are so special for us that having the unique nature of this loss recognized feels important.  I know that when my father died suddenly, receiving cards that recognized what the loss of a father stood out as most special.

Of course, please remember that if the relationship is complicated or you are unfamiliar with the quality of the relationship, a more generic response may be appropriate.

Once I’ve chosen my cards and it’s time to sign them, I read the card again and think what personal touch I can add.  If I knew the deceased, I briefly share a cherished memory of the person or an example of a lasting impression they made on me.  If I only know the person to whom I’m sending the card, I share memories or impressions I have of the relationship they had with the deceased, such as: “I know from how you spoke of your mother, that you two were friends, too.”  Those stories and impressions can be precious gifts to the bereaved, showing the lasting legacy of the one who is gone.

After writing, I usually finish the envelope with a nice seal and a pretty and understated stamp.  Of course, another stamp could capture the person’s memory better.  When the man who was like my second dad growing up passed away last year, I used Star Trek stamps for cards to his wife and children.  He was a big fan!

In short, do send a card, use the opportunity to share a sweet memory, and offer your support.  Having been on the receiving end of sympathy cards, I can say that knowing people cared and sent their love meant so much during a time when I was feeling overwhelmed and unmoored. It matters.

In case you need some more guidance or would like some specific words to use, here are some Do’s and Don’ts from Hallmark and Shutterfly.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The day of love is almost here.  If you hurry, you can still mail a love letter and have it arrive in time for Valentine’s Day! Making valentines is one of my favorite craft projects.  And I don’t reserve them for just my spouse–I enjoy sending love to family, friends, and pen pals.

And the stamp you put on the envelope is one more opportunity to spread the love.  One of my favorite enduring practices of the United States Postal Service is their near-annual issuing of Love stamps since the early 1980s.    Check out this list featuring all of the designs since 1974!

In time for Valentine’s Day, the USPS has just released their 2018 Love stamp design.  I have already ordered two sheets  (and you can, too!).

I like the handwritten and vintage feel of it.  It shares an aesthetic to one of my favorite stationery designers: Rifle Paper Co.

However you do it, and on whatever day you choose, I hope you find ways to write down your loving thoughts and share them with people who are important to you.  In this world of instant communication, handwritten letters and homemade cards become cherished keepsakes.

So, go. Find some glitter, heart stickers, and markers and create your heart out.  Do it now. Enjoy the process. And then spread the love!

 

 

 

Weekends are for Letter Writing

I had a great weekend of letter writing!

InCoWriMo is going along swimmingly.  Five days in and I have sent 15 cards and letters! The goal of writing and sending at least one letter a day has me actively seeking inspiration for who to reach out to next.  I’m uncovering birthdays and other reasons to celebrate, being more mindful of things I can express gratitude for, and developing some mail art ideas to create and launch into the world.

How are you spending InCoWriMo?  What inspires you to write?

 

InCoWriMo

Well, this post is a day late (and a dollar short, as my Dad used to say), but February is International Correspondence Writing Month!  Affectionately known as InCoWriMo, the goal is to write and send a letter, note, postcard–something!–every day of February.

I think we can catch up!

I had set a goal that I would send 365 letters this year and have already sent 36, so I’m doing OK.  But it’s already Groundhog Day and I haven’t sent one yet in February, so I have to get crackin’.

Fortunately, I have a late January birthday, so I can begin with some thank you notes for the gifts and kindnesses I received.  And as the winter chill keeps us indoors and some days are dark and gray, a bright note in a mailbox will be good to send some cheer to friends, pen pals and loved ones as we await spring.

And if being part of a larger movement is your thing, you can sign up as a participant here and join the party.

Happy writing!

Snowy Day Stamps

This is the best time of year for my mailbox, and likely yours.  Every day brings a holiday card or end-of-year letter.  And there is glitter everywhere!*

Each year, I get so excited to choose my stamps for the 100 holiday cards I send out.  This year, I knew nearly a year in advance which ones would be decorating my envelopes: the four images of Peter playing in the snow from one of my favorite childhood books, A Snowy Day.

These images, drawn in the early 1960s, still evoke a sense of fun and adventure through their simple design.  But given the world we are in today, these stamps are more than that.  They are a tiny but mighty way of affirming the beauty and innocence of children of color in a world that too often fails at this.   As Andrea Davis Pinkney, recently wrote:

My hope is that the stamps bearing Peter’s image will usher forth positive perceptions, and will make even the most device-driven people glance up from their phones and newsfeeds to enjoy the beauty of a child’s adventure.

A black kid in a hoodie now stands proudly at the upper right corner of millions of envelopes. A brown-skinned boy brings comfort and joy during the holiday season. A child of color helps you and me pay our bills. He’ll bring smiles to people whose mailboxes will be filled with glad tidings. No one will see this kid as a menace, or as a scary societal hazard who portends danger.

Stamps are powerful. They shape narratives about who we see ourselves as as Americans, and show what we value–or should.  So, while these stamps make great additions to Christmas cards, I hope they continue to decorate your letters in the coming year–each one sending a message of hope.

 

If you haven’t gotten yours just yet, you can still purchase them at your local post office or at the Postal Store online.

 

*Random trivia: glitter is called “flitter” by the card designers at Hallmark.  I learned this from my pen pal at The Well-Appointed Desk.

Christmastime in New Orleans

It snowed last week in New Orleans! It was mostly slush in the city, but everyone was talking about how rare snow is in those parts and how it added to the holiday feel.

I spent some time at the historic Roosevelt Hotel for a conference and the hotel was decorated lavishly for the holidays with trees and lights lining the hallways.

But of course, my eye was drawn to this beautiful brass mailbox, still in use after all these years!

And even the mailbox lock was beautiful.

I have dozens of photos of mailboxes in historic buildings across the United States.  I love the feeling I get when one of these beauties reveals itself!

Eclipse!

The Great American Eclipse is today!

The USPS issued a commemorative stamp (in June, on the summer solstice) to celebrate this rare event.

These stamps use a special ink that is black when cool, showing a total solar eclipse. The ink fades when heated by your breath or finger to reveal the moon!

You can buy them here. The back of the stamp sheet provides a map of the path of totality:

You can learn more about the stamps and their special ink here.

Post offices in the path of the eclipse are offering special pictorial cancellations until September.  You can find a post office and request these special cancellations here.

If you have never requested special postmarks, here are some great instructions to get a pristine example back!

Here are a couple of examples of pictorial cancellations:

Most of the U.S. will see at least a partial eclipse today, so be safe in your viewing. If you would rather just watch the total eclipse online, you can find some options here.

And I recommend you check out this TED video. It’s incredible!!

 

 

Connection Builds Trust; Trust Leads to Love; Love Conquers Hate

I have been thinking a lot about the state of the world these days.  And I’ve been feeling a need to write.  And I wondered if any of this had anything to do with snail mail and whether it would “fit” here on this blog that I’ve not come back to for so long.

And then I realized that it all fits, because writing letters and sending them across the land to another builds connections between two beings.  And connection is exactly what we need right now.

So much about our culture is designed to push us apart, put us in separate boxes, highlight differences and make the unfamiliar or strange or different into an enemy to be destroyed.

So today I wanted to stand up for connection and share loudly and clearly that I reject white supremacy, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, and any other fear-based mindset that serves only to drive us apart, justify oppression and perpetuate rampant exploitation  of our earth’s natural resources.

So much of our society currently follows a way that is far from our roots.  All of our peoples, irrespective of origin, once lived fully connected to the earth, her cycles and rhythms.  And the further we part from that, the more we forget who we are and what we are meant to do.

We are meant to connect, to build deep trust and reliance on our communities. And we are meant to contribute our love, our energy, and our gifts in ways that better the world.

In honor of my realization that this blog, and my thoughts, are about more than snail mail, but are still very much about the values related to my love for sending letters, I’ve changed the tag line of this blog from:

Save Snail Mail: Preserving Handwritten Traditions in a Modern World

to:

Save Snail Mail and Other Things That Make Life Worth Living

We need to save it all–all that keeps us human and whole and connected and loving one another.  I’m going to go write some letters as part of that.  I hope you do, too.

With love,

Dana

 

P.S.

I felt called to write this today after reading Layla Saad’s thoughtful, respectful, vulnerable and strength-filled letter.  I encourage everyone to read it and then take action in ways that contribute to dismantling racism and white supremacy. And write your own letters to the world, too.

P.P.S  This image gives me hope.  It is my wish that each one there and all of us who see this photo take action tomorrow and the next day, have the difficult conversations, face our own parts in this unjust system, and keep working at it until we truly can call ourselves the land of the free.

Image from NPR article “Torches Replaced by Candlelight as Thousands Gather for Charlottesville Vigil”