Friday, July 21, 2017

USPS explores the wonder of sharks

Forty-two years after the movie "Jaws" hit the big screen and 101 years after a series of real shark attacks terrorized the Jersey Shore, the USPS is introducing a set of postage stamps featuring five species of sharks. The First Class Forever (49 cents) stamps showcase images of the mako, thresher, great white, hammerhead and whale sharks. All of those sharks are known to inhabit U.S. waters.

According to the USPS news release, there will be a First-Day-of-Issue ceremony at 8 a.m. July 26 at the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky. It will be a ticketed event. Tickets are limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Anyone interested may request free tickets by sending an email to usps.com/sharks.

Art director Derry Noyes designed the sheet with original artwork by Sam Weber. The sheet includes four stamps each of Weber’s five shark illustrations. The stamps can be pre-ordered in the USPS shop online.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lincoln's 'Bixby Letter' in the News

From the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana
in the Library of Congress
More than 150 years ago, a letter was hand-delivered to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston by the adjutant general of Massachusetts. The letter was presented as correspondence from President Abraham Lincoln, offering his condolences on the deaths of her five sons in the Civil War. Controversy has surrounded the letter since it was first received. And this week, Time magazine's website features an article by Lily Rothman, Time history and archives editor, regarding the latest research on the letter.

According to Time, a working group at the Center for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, England, has been using forensic linguistics to solve the mystery about who really wrote the letter.

As a 1995 article in the "Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association" explains, the situation was full of drama from the beginning. Not only did Mrs. Bixby not have five sons die in the war, but she was a Southern sympathizer and reportedly tore up the letter shortly after receiving it. Apparently, before it was delivered to Mrs. Bixby, though, the letter was shared with the Boston Evening Transcript and the Boston Evening Traveller, which published it. That's how we know about it today. The copy that is known today, pictured above, is thought to be a copy of a forgery.

But, the issue that has brought 21st century technology together with 19th or 20th century handwriting is the true author of that letter. It is possible -- and even likely, according to the Time article -- that Lincoln's secretary, John Hay wrote the letter. The group that has been researching the letter will present a paper on the topic at the ninth International Corpus Linguistics Conference at the University of Birmingham in Birmingham, England, on Wednesday, July 26.

They compared the writing of Lincoln and Hay to that of the letter to determine who actually wrote it. Although that concept has been around for quite some time, the use of computer technology makes it even more certain that Hay wrote the letter for Lincoln.

You can read the Time article here and the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association article here. They are both interesting reads.

Regardless of whether the author of the letter was Lincoln or Hay, it is an elegant example of a sympathy letter. The letter says, "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming." And, "I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Jane Austen letter shows her satirical nature

A letter written by author Jane Austen sold yesterday at Sotheby’s in London for quite a bit more than the estimated 100,000 British pounds ($128,820 USD) it was expected to bring in. According to the Sotheby’s website, the letter written to Austen’s niece sold for 162,500 pounds ($209,333).

The 1812 letter highlights the writer’s satirical tendencies with its commentary about a fellow author’s recent book. Written in third person, the letter was sent to Anna Austen but is written as if it were addressing the other writer, Rachel Hunter, whose Gothic novel “Lady Maclairn, the Victim of Villainy” Jane Austen deemed to be “most tiresome and prosy”

A second piece, a fragment of a letter written to the same niece in 1814, was auctioned off at the same time for 17,500 pounds ($22,544). Another letter fragment was also offered, but the auction site had not yet listed the final sale price of it when I checked this morning.

For more details on the letters, visit the Sotheby’s site. There is a news release and three auction listings.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wyeth to be honored with U.S. postage stamp set


On Wednesday, July 12, the U.S. Postal service will have a First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony for the Andrew Wyeth stamps that commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth.It will be at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Wyeth's home town. His son, Jamie Wyeth, is expected to be at the ceremony.

According to the USPS, the pane of 12 Forever stamps celebrates the centennial of the birth of Andrew Wyeth (July 12, 1917 – Jan. 16, 2009), one of the most prominent American artists of the 20th century. "Working in a realistic style that defied artistic trends, Wyeth created haunting and enigmatic paintings based largely on people and places in his life, a body of work that continues to resist easy or comfortable interpretation," the USPS news release states.

The set of stamps each features a detail from a different Andrew Wyeth painting. The paintings are: “Wind from the Sea” (1947), “Big Room” (1988), “Christina’s World” (1948), “Alvaro and Christina” (1968), “Frostbitten” (1962), “Sailor’s Valentine” (1985), “Soaring” (1942–1950), “North Light” (1984), “Spring Fed” (1967), “The Carry” (2003), “Young Bull” (1960), and “My Studio” (1974). The selvage, or area outside of the stamp images, shows a photograph of Wyeth from the 1930s. Art director Derry Noyes of Washington, DC, designed the pane.

Wyeth, who finished his last completed painting just a few months before his death, received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990 and the National Medal of Arts in 2007. Sites in Pennsylvania and Maine that influenced his work were recently designated National Historic Landmarks.

The stamps are available for pre-order on the USPS website.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Happy mailbox!

It's been a great week for incoming mail! I received letters from two fellow bloggers, several Postcrossing postcards, a letter with a wax seal that survived the system, a postcard that made it all the way from France with 3-D stickers on it and more.

One of the Postcrossing cards is a Father Christmas puzzle postcard from the Czech Republic. It's especially significant because not only do I collect Santa Claus stuff, but my great-grandparents came to Texas from what is now known as the Czech Republic!

Now, it's time for me to get busy and do my part to keep the art of letter writing alive!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Online exhibit shows the letters of war

The Legacy Project, which I've mentioned on this blog several times, has teamed up with the Gilder Lehrman Insitute of American History to present an online exhibit titled "Battle Lines: Letters From America's Wars."

The exhibition has five chapters, and each chapter features several letters. If you have the right software in your computer (Adobe Flash), you can see images of the original letters, as well as typed transcripts.

To visit the exhibit, go to http://www.gilderlehrman.org/collection/battlelines

It is a wonderful project, especially interesting for history buffs and letter lovers (I've seen the term epistophile used unofficially online).

Monday, July 3, 2017

Letter Writing Inspiration

A News Cafe
Here is some letter-writing inspiration to start the week off on a good note:

Last week, Valerie Ing of Redding, California, wrote her column for A News Cafe (anewscafe.com) about Wendi Harner and her letter writing habits. Not only does Wendi love to write letters, but she's also a big proponent of Girls Love Mail, an organization that sends letters to women who are in treatment for breast cancer. Anyone can write letters to be sent in packets to those with cancer.

To read Valerie's story about Wendi, click here. For more information about Girls Love Mail, visit the group's website at GirlsLoveMail.com.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Looking for something to do? Write a letter!

From what I can see, based on today's weather forecast, much of the U.S. is expected to experience warm temperatures this summer day, with highs ranging from the upper 80s to more than 110 degrees (F) for much of the country, especially the west, southwest and southeast. Many of the areas that aren't forecast for hot weather likely are expecting storms, or at least rain today. And, it's not just in the U.S. that it's a hot summer.  I'm getting reports from Postcrossing participants -- via their postcards and comments on the postcards I send them -- that it's quite warm in parts of Europe and Asia, as well.

What I'm getting at is that if you end up spending time indoors today to escape the heat or the storms -- or cold in the southern hemisphere -- this is a great time to write a letter or two. Banish the boredom of summer by reaching out to the world with a handwritten note or postcard.

And, if the weather is nice enough, find yourself a comfortable spot outside and get to writing!

What to write about? Write about the weather, your plans, your dreams, your day...just write!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Reminder for U.S. residents

Don't forget...next Tuesday the United States will celebrate Independence Day, and mail will not be delivered or picked up by the U.S. Postal Service. It's a federal holiday, and there will be no mail service on Tuesday, July 4. So, mail your letters early and/or expect a slight delay.

Happy letter writing!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Letters to Soldiers -- Past and Present

From the Amarillo Globe-News
This past weekend, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, hosted a letter writing event in conjunction with its exhibit “The Great War and the Panhandle-Plains Region.”

The story caught my attention because of the letter writing aspect but also because I visited that museum a time or two as a kid. We lived about an hour away.

According to Lisa Lamb’s article on the Amarillo Globe-News’ website, there were two parts to the Saturday event. Area residents brought their World War I memorabilia to be considered for inclusion in the museum’s collection, and a program on Letters From Home highlighted the importance of letter writing during World War I. Additionally, visitors had the opportunity to write a letter to today’s U.S. military members through the Operation Gratitude project.

After reading that story, I tracked down Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization in California. The group’s online media kit says that they send care packages and letters of support to individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines deployed in harm’s way, to their children left behind, and to first responders, veterans, new recruits, military families, wounded heroes and their caregivers. Starting in 2003, they have sent 1,784,080 care packages so far.

Those care packages include a variety of items, including letters. According to the Operation Gratitude website, they have sent 5 million hand-written letters. That’s a lot of letters!

You can read more about Operation Gratitude and how you can become involved on the organization’s website.

It sounds like a good project that letter writers will enjoy!

Friday, June 23, 2017

A column about letters and a letter about the column

Last week, Lana Sweeten-Shults, a writer and editor for the Wichita Falls Times Record News, wrote a column about letter writing, and my friend Laura alerted me, knowing how interested I would be.

The column focused on her kids and how she came to realize that they didn't know how to write letters -- or postcards -- and her mission to remedy that situation.

She steps back in time to when she was a young girl, writing to her penpal, sending off for photos of celebrities and writing to her sister who was in the Army. You can read the column on the Times Record News' website at http://bit.ly/2rrw1Tx

Sweeten-Shults' column inspired a letter to the editor by a reader who reminisced about letter writing and other topics. In his letter, Joseph E. Whalen, Jr. of Wichita Falls suggests that people who protest things might see better results if they wrote letters instead.

As we head into this weekend, let's take Lana and Joseph's advice and write some letters. Write about whatever strikes your fancy. Write to complain; write to say "wish you were here"; write to say "I miss you."

Happy letterwriting!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Letter Writing Project Benefits Students and Chicago Organization

To me, one of the fun and wondrous things about life -- and the internet -- is how one thing leads to another and another and before long you have learned something new and fascinating.

I started out researching a story about letter writing. I came across an article on the Chicago Reader website about two Chicago school classes that wrote letters to each other. The story not only detailed how the students got to know their letter-writing partners, but it also explained that the project culminated in the publishing of a book featuring some of their letters.

As I looked up more information about the book, I discovered 826CHI, a nonprofit organization that provides free writing and tutoring programs for Chicago students. Not only does the organization have workshops, field trips and in-school projects, it also has a publishing department that prints and binds students' works into books that are sold at The Secret Agent Supply Co., a shop in Chicago that benefits 826CHI.

The letter-related book is titled "P.S. You Sound Like Someone I Can Trust," a line taken directly from one student's letter. You can order the book online at The Secret Agent Supply Co.  

You can read more about 826CHI and all of their programs, including a gallery of student writing, at the organization's website.

And, you can read the entire article about the letter writing project on the Chicago Reader.

According to the article, each year 826CHI has a unique project, so this letter writing program was a one-time event. But, that's not to stop anyone else from creating a similar program between two school classes. Such a project could teach handwriting, business skills, writing/English skills, as well as the basics of how to write and mail a letter, and much more, I'm sure. It could be done with or without the book. But, if a group wanted to publish a book of their letters, a quick print or print-on-demand service could handle it inexpensively.

I certainly hope the idea spreads and more and more young people learn the joys of letter writing!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My kind of soft drink!

My husband found this Dr Pepper bottle featuring postage stamps. It appears to be a part of the "Pick Your Pepper" promotion the soft drink company first launched last year to celebrate self-expression.

According to a news release last summer, the hundreds of unique designs were inspired by "various millennial passion point categories." That must mean that stamps -- and maybe letter writing, snail mail, analog communications, etc. -- are still relevant and interesting!

Other designs include unicorns, fireworks, cassette tapes and many more. Have you seen one yet?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Outgoing mail

I got up bright and early this morning and wrote four postcards to Postcrossing.com members. Are you a member of Postcrossing? It's a great way to connect with people all over the world! Check it out if you love sending and receiving postcards. Some Postcrosing participants are interested in "direct swaps" and/or regular letter writing, but not all are.

I'm also sending out a letter to a friend today. I love using vintage (never used, of course) stamps!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday morning roundup of articles about letter writing

From the Irish News
Here's a Monday morning roundup of recent stories in the news about letter writing. Enjoy!

Penpals meet in Boulder, Colorado, for the first time after corresponding for 60 years. Read the story in the Boulder Daily Camera.

A letter collector writes about the joys of letters. Read the story in the Irish News.

Some celebrity penpals are strange pairings. Read more in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Three writers pen the letters they never wrote but wish they had. From the Belfast Telegraph.
 


Friday, June 9, 2017

To write or not to write about politics

There seems to be quite a bit of political turbulence world-wide nowadays, and I'm curious if people who have international penpals discuss politics in their correspondence.

I would have to say that I usually don't write about politics in my letters, mostly because I'm not very confrontational, and I don't want to offend anyone. But, I'm happy to answer questions from my penpals, even offer up my opinion, if I'm asked for it.

I think that the longer a correspondence continues, the more likely penpals are to write about such matters. Once they get to know each other better, through their letters, they are more comfortable being open and honest about things like that.

How about you? Do you write about politics or any other controversial topic in your letters?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Letter writing finds a new generation of fans

From the Grand Haven Tribune.
Thanks to two Michigan school teachers -- who just happen to be mother and daughter -- a new generation has discovered the joys of letter writing.

According to the story in the Grand Haven Tribune, Trisha Larsen and her daughter, Georgeanne Larsen, live in western Michigan. They teach kindergarten in towns just across the Grand River from each other. And, since February, their students have struck up a correspondence.

One of the things the students have learned is how they like the same types of things that the kids in the other school like. What a great way to teach the youngsters about the world, even if it isn't that far away!

Read the full story online at the Tribune.

Monday, June 5, 2017

USPS stamp honors philosopher Henry David Thoreau

Last month, the U.S. Postal Service introduced a new stamp celebrating writer, philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau during the bicentennial year of his birth. Thoreau was born July 12, 1817.

He is likely best known for his book "Walden," detailing his experiences of living for two years in a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau wrote many more books, essays, poems, articles, etc. And, he also wrote many letters, which have also been collected and published. 

In one letter to his sister, a 20-year-old Thoreau wrote:
 "...letter-writing too often degenerates into a communicating of facts, and not of truths; of other men's deeds and not our thoughts. What are the convulsions of a planet, compared with the emotions of the soul? or the rising of a thousand suns, if that is not enlightened by a ray?"
The USPS stamps are available in blocks of four or 10 and as a sheet of 20. Additionally, you can order a digital color postmark, first-day cover, framed art piece, a ceremony program and more. Visit usps.com or your local post office.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Weather gives us something to write about!

This photo of the cholla cactus flowers at our house shows bright skies. Today, it's cloudy with a chance of rain. 

It's not yet summer here in the northern hemisphere -- there's still almost three weeks to go -- but already we've had 100+ temperatures here in this part of Texas. Last week, the thermometer topped the century mark at least two days. Fortunately, this week, we've had more clouds and a little bit of rain, so it's cooled off somewhat, only reaching the upper 80s and lower 90s.

Does the weather affect your letter writing? Do you tend to write more if it's cold and/or rainy and you're stuck inside? Or, do you write more when you can go sit outside on the patio or in the hammock?

At the very least, the weather gives us something to write about. If you're experiencing letter writers' block, try writing a few paragraphs about the weather. Tell your letter's recipient what it's like where you are. How does it make you feel? What's your favorite type of weather?

If you find yourself wondering what to write this weekend, try writing a weather letter. Maybe even delight your penpal with a sketch of your atmosphere!

Happy letter writing!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

California grandmother writes 7,000+ letters to troops serving overseas


The story of 365 Letters sounds like a lot of letters, until I read about Alleen Cooper, a 98-year-old California letter writer who enjoys sending mail to U.S. military troops. According to the story, she has written more than 7,000 letters since she started counting about six years ago, but she started writing letters during World War II.

She says she plans to keep writing letters as long as she can.

Take a look at the inspiring story by clicking here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Smithsonian exhibit features letters from World War I

Today, Memorial Day in the United States, is a good day to highlight "My Fellow Soldiers," the Smithsonian Institute's National Postal Museum exhibit on display in the Mail Call Gallery. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I, the exhibit features letters from what was known as "The Great War." It will be open through Nov. 29, 2018, so you have plenty of opportunity to see it.

According to the website, "My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I" was created by the National Postal Museum in collaboration with the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University and was made possible, in part, through the support of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The exhibit features letters from soldiers, their parents, their wives and other relatives. There are poignant letters, brave letters and letters detailing mistreatment of African American soldiers at the hands of their fellow Americans.

If you can't make it to the museum to see the exhibit, or if you'd like a sneak peak or closer look, the online exhibit can be viewed at https://postalmuseum.si.edu/MyFellowSoldiers/index.html.

Online, you can see letters, postcards, ads for the Parker Pen Company, and more. It's an excellent exhibit for anyone interested in letter writing, history, World War I, soldiers, etc.









Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It's the time of year for writing thank you notes

Available at USPS.com
Last week, I attended the end-of-year awards ceremony at the local high school. The program honored students who had attended state competitions – academic and athletic – as well as those earning a special honors award. Additionally, all of the local scholarships for the graduating class were handed out.

Following the ceremony, the principal announced a reception for the scholarship recipients. And, then he mentioned that the seniors were to stay in the library after the reception for a thank you letter writing event so that they could properly acknowledge their scholarships. That was great to hear! Hopefully, any of the students who didn’t already know how to write a proper thank you letter learned how that day. It really is an important skill to have in life!

Here are a few tips for writing thank you letters:
  • Specifically mention the gift, scholarship, job interview, whatever it is for which you are thankful. You don’t have to be awkwardly detailed, but you do need to acknowledge that you know what the gift was. For example, you can say, “Thank you for the shirt you sent for my birthday.” Or, “I want to let you know how much I appreciate receiving the Smith Family Scholarship this year.”
  • Express appreciation for the gift, even if you didn’t really like it. You don’t have to lie about it, but you can still thank the person for, basically, making the effort. “Thank you for the bow tie. I’ve never had one before. It certainly makes a bold statement.”
  • If you think it’s necessary, remind your letter’s recipient who you are. This might be necessary in the case of a foundation that gives out several scholarships to students at different schools. For example, you could say, “After I graduate from Midtown High School, I will be attending State University, and this scholarship will certainly come in handy!”
  • If you really did like the gift, be sure to explain why. “The bread machine was our favorite wedding gift. We love homemade bread, but with our schedules, we just don’t have the time to make bread very often. The machine lets us wake up to freshly baked bread any day!”
  • If at all possible, hand-write the letter. It adds that personal touch everyone appreciates.
Here is an example of a complete thank you letter:
    Dear Aunt Sue,

    Thank you for the book you sent me for graduation. I’ve just started reading it, but the advice in it has been valuable already! I appreciate your thoughtfulness in choosing such a relevant book for me. I will be certain to add it to my permanent library.

    Again, thank you!

    Love,

    Emma
Happy letter writing!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

More cool stamps from the USPS

The U.S. Postal Service is just going all out this year with new stamp designs! Late last month we heard about the upcoming Total Eclipse stamps featuring an image of the eclipsed sun that turns into an image of the moon with the touch of your finger. Now, we can pre-order the new "Have a Ball!" stamps that will have the look -- and feel -- of eight different sports balls.

According to the USPS website, the stamps will be available nationwide June 14 but can be pre-ordered online now. The First Class Forever stamps depict balls used in baseball, basketball, football, golf, kickball, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

A special coating applied to selected areas of the stamps during the printing process gives them a texture that mimics the feel of a:
  • baseball’s stitching;
  • golf ball’s dimples;
  • tennis ball’s seams;
  • soccer ball or volleyball’s textured panels; and,
  • the different raised patterns of a football, basketball and kickball.
What a fun time it is to be buying stamps!

Monday, May 15, 2017

National Stationery Show starts Sunday

Next Sunday, May 21, is the start of this year's National Stationery Show in New York City. The show is expected to bring more than 750 exhibitors and more than 10,000 industry professionals. The NSS caters to buyers and sellers of specialty paper products – from greeting cards, custom invitations, announcements, gift wrap, calendars, and journals, to lifestyle gifts, such as candles, toys, personal care, travel gadgets and more.

To some, "stationery" means only "writing paper," but the definition really covers so much more. According to a number of online dictionaries and other sources, the word comes from the use of the word "stationer" in the Middle Ages to describe a bookdealer who sold books and papers. "Stationer" was used because such shops were in a fixed -- stationary -- location, as opposed to the traveling peddlers that were more common at the time. As most of the stationary shops were located near universities, the term "stationer" came to refer to the specific type of shop that sold books and other paper products.

So, at one time, the words "stationary" and "stationery" were directly related. Nowadays, we use "stationary" to refer to something that is not moving and "stationery" for papers, pens and other writing products.

If you have the privilege of visiting the National Stationery Show this year, you'll have a chance to visit some of the booths of the shop owners featured in the NSS "Stationery Stories" section of the website. You can click over there now and read about how Mary Billings, owner of Love of Character, Wichita, Kansas, turned her dreams into reality or how Jocelyn Kirouac, co-owner of √úmlaut Brooklyn, remarried her first husband, Roland Kirouac, two decades after their divorce and started a greeting card company. There are more stories at the NSS site!


Monday, May 8, 2017

Stamping Out Hunger

This coming Saturday, May 13, is the United States' Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Letter carriers in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America will collect food donations that their postal customers leave by mailboxes and in post offices and deliver them to local community food banks, pantries and shelters. According information from the National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO), letter carriers, including rural letter carriers, as well as other postal employees and other volunteers, have collected more than 1.5 billion pounds of food the past 24 years.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the food drive. To read about the history of the project, visit the official Stamp Out Hunger website.

To donate, just place a box or can of non-perishable food next to your mailbox before your letter carrier delivers mail on the second Saturday in May. The carrier will do the rest. The food is sorted, and delivered to an area food bank or pantry, where it is available for needy families.

Please note that this is a voluntary project on the letter carriers' part. If you do not receive any kind of information from your letter carrier or see an article in your local newspaper, call your post office on or before Friday to see if they are participating.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Planning Ahead for Mother's Day

Sunday, May 14, will be Mother's Day in the United States and quite a few other countries. That's a little more than a week away, so there's plenty of time to write letters to our moms.

Oh, sure, she'll appreciate some chocolate and a bouquet of flowers and even a pretty greeting card. But, one thing just about any mom in the world will truly cherish is a handwritten, heartfelt letter from her child.

What should you write in a letter to your mom? Here are a few tips:

* Tell her how much you love her and how you appreciate the things she does for you or has done in the past. Get specific, name a few things that she does or did. Like what? Pack your lunch, wash your clothes, check to make sure you're OK, babysit your kids, remind you of your siblings' birthdays...

* Recall a special memory of the two of you, maybe baking cookies together, taking a walk in the park, watching a late-night movie.

* Let your mom know how she's influenced your life. What did she do to set a good example for you? What about her do you try to emulate? How has her presence in your life led you to do good things?

* Make plans to go somewhere or do something with your mom -- soon. Be specific in the letter. Tell her you're going to take her to dinner next Sunday or that you've scheduled a spa day for the two of you to enjoy together. It doesn't have to be expensive, though. You can let her know you've cleared your schedule for an entire day to spend with her, just the two of you, talking, reminiscing, enjoying each other's company.

Don't put it off! Write the letter this weekend so that you can get it in the mail in time for Mother's Day. Even if you're hand-delivering the letter, go ahead and write it now so you're not rushed.

If you can't write a letter to your mom, write a letter to any mom that you admire. She will appreciate it!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Force is Stong in This Marriage

When we decided to get married on May 4, my husband and I had no idea that date would become known as "Star Wars Day." In fact, it may have already been called that in some circles back then, but we hadn't heard of it. Now, "May the Fourth Be With You" is a meme plastered all over the internet today. And, to make it a two-day celebration, tomorrow, May 5, is known as "Revenge of the Fifth," a take off on the movie "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith," infringing a bit on the Cinco de Mayo celebrations that are reportedly more popular in the United States than they are in Mexico.

We really didn't realize, at first anyway, that it was also the birthdate of my great-grandmother. All we were thinking about was that it was NOT the same day as the Texas Tech University graduation, the date that had been our first choice. Since all of our family lived out of town, they needed hotel rooms that were not available on the graduation day. So, we changed our wedding date, and everything turned out great.

Usually, we don't make a big fuss over our anniversary. This year, he gave me roses, and we both got each other cards, cards so similar that our daughter asked, "Did you get each other the same card???" Not quite, but they are close enough as to illustrate our strong connection. We think alike. Always have, probably always will.

Today, write a letter to someone you love...or your favorite Star Wars fan! Enjoy the day!



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

National Teacher Day is NEXT week!

Since we often write letters and/or send cards for holidays and other specially observed events, those calendar dates are often discussed on this blog. So it seems appropriate to bring up the confusion surrounding this year's Teacher Appreciation Week and the accompanying National Teacher Day.

According to the National Education Agency website, there was a National Teacher Day in 1953 and again in 1980, as proclaimed by the U.S. Congress. In 1985, the NEA voted to change the observation and celebration to the Tuesday of the first full week in May.

That's where this year's confusion comes from. The first day of May was on a Monday this year. That's the first day of the school week, but Sunday is the first day of the traditional calendar in the United States. So, some people and schools are celebrating National Teacher Day and Teacher Appreciation Week this week.

However, the National Education Agency and the National PTA have announced that the events are next week, May 7-12. National Teacher Day will be May 9, 2017. And, that's good for letter writers who haven't yet written a letter to their favorite teacher! There's still time! You can write a letter to your favorite teacher from when you were in school, or if you have kids of your own now, you can write a letter of appreciation to one or all of their teachers.

If you need something to get your letter started, the NEA and PTA presidents have posted their own letter of appreciation online, and the PTA has a downloadable thank you card that parents can printout for their kids to give to teachers.

#ThankATeacher

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

New Book Features Letters of Kirk Douglas and Wife Anne

http://www.reporternews.com/story/life/books/2017/04/30/kirk-douglas-wife-anne-she-most-difficult-woman-ever-met-new-book/100747486/
According to Running Press Book Publishers, today is the official publication date for a new book focusing on the letters of one of Hollywood's longest lasting couples -- Kirk and Anne Douglas.

"Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood" by Kirk Douglas and Anne Douglas with Marcia Newberger and a Foreword by Michael Douglas features the letters that Kirk and Anne exchanged during their courtship and marriage. Later this month, they will celebrate their 63rd anniversary.

In a USA Today article, the couple explain how they initially started out working on a book about all the letters Kirk had received from other celebrities through the years. But, when Anne brought out a box of their own letters, their focus changed. The story quotes Anne as saying that letters are "so personal, something that touches you or disappoints you. But today, you get an email. It does nothing to you! It’s cold. It’s the new world. I like the old world better."

For the complete story, read the article on the Abilene Reporter-News website.  The book is available in hardback or ebook from most booksellers. More details are available on the Running Press website.

Thanks to my good friend Laura for sharing this story with me!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Happy May Day!

When I was a young girl, the kids in my neighborhood celebrated May Day -- May 1 -- by leaving little baskets of flowers on the front porches of our neighbors. We would ring the doorbells and then run and hide, peeking from behind the shrubs to see the neighbors' faces when they found the flowers.

I think we heard about the May Day tradition at school and from our mothers, who told us of their similar adventures from their childhood. I don't remember what kind of "baskets" we used, but it seems like we fashioned something out of paper. Maybe we wove paper strips into baskets at school or taped together notebook paper at home. I'm sure the flowers were wildflowers growing in the yards, maybe even dandelions!

Wikipedia says the tradition of May baskets has been fading since the late 20th century, which is a shame, because a little basket of flowers might just brighten up someone's day!

Even if you're not dropping anonymous baskets of flowers off at the neighbors' houses today, you can still send a little bit of May cheer with your letters via the great Botanical Art stamps that the U.S. Postal Service offers. They came out last year, so if your post office doesn't have them anymore, you can order them online at usps.com.

Happy letterwriting!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Considering the Benefits of Letter Writing

As the United States' National Card and Letter Writing Month, as well as the UK's National Stationery Week, comes to a close this weekend, this seems like a good time to consider some of the benefits of handwritten correspondence.

The first thing that comes to mind is that handwriting a letter requires that we slow down in a world that is often too fast-paced for our own good. For starters, when I write in a hurry, my handwriting is terrible. So, the slower I go, the better I write. That's probably true content-wise, too. When I write fast, I tend to leave out letters or words, subconsciously combining words. For example, "with the" becomes "withe." Being aware of such things forces me to slow down and write a proper letter.

Secondly, the entire ritual of letter writing -- using a pen to hand-write a message on stationery, folding it and putting it into a stamped and addressed envelope and then putting it in the mailbox -- invokes an air of gracious living. When we do that, we are somehow more civilized than we are when we're posting something silly on Facebook or sending out an abbreviated text message.

And then there's the fun part of the process. Sending a "real" letter gives us the chance to add a "P.S." at the end, enclose a stick of our favorite gum and then decorate the outside of the envelope with colored pens and stickers. We can even choose postage stamps to match the color of the envelope, the mood of the letter or the personality of the recipient.

This weekend, try writing a letter to someone who usually doesn't write letters. While you might be less likely to receive a return message, there's always the chance you might introduce a new letter writer into the world.

Happy letterwriting!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

USPS reveals new first-of-its-kind 'Total Eclipse' stamps

Today, the U.S. Postal Service announced plans to release a new, innovative postage stamp featuring an image that will change with the heat from your finger.


The Total Solar Eclipse stamps initially show an image of the sun completely blacked out by the moon. But, a second image is hiding beneath. Using the body heat of your thumb or fingers and rubbing the eclipse image will reveal an underlying image of the Moon. The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.

The stamp features an image from a photograph taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak, aka Mr. Eclipse, of Portal, Arizona, that shows a total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006. Espenak also took the photograph of the Full Moon featured on the stamp.
  
The Total Solar Eclipse stamp commemorates the upcoming solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, which will be seen throughout most of the United States, although the total eclipse will be visible only in a 70-mile wide path that will track across the sky from Oregon to South Carolina, according to predictions. For more information on the eclipse, visit the NASA website or eclipse-dedicated sites, such as Eclipse2017.org. Information also is available from the USPS in the stamp announcement.

The Forever First Class stamps will be released in a First-Day-of-Issue ceremony at 1:30 p.m. June 20 at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. 

On that day, the university will celebrate the summer solstice, and before the stamp ceremony, visitors may witness an architectural feature of the building where a single beam of sunlight shines on a silver dollar embedded in the floor, which occurs at noon on the summer solstice in the UW Art Museum’s Rotunda Gallery.

This is the first U.S. stamp application of thermochromic ink. The inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect. To help ensure longevity, the Postal Service will be offering a special envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane for a nominal fee.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Celebrating World Stationery Day!

Today, April 26, 2017, is known as World Stationery Day, in conjunction with National Stationery Week and the London Stationery Show, which wraps up today. The theme of this year's World Stationery Day is "Writing matters."

On the World Stationery Day website, there are quite a few examples of why writing matters, including an A to Z list of reasons.

To me, writing -- as in handwriting a letter on real paper -- matters because it is a personal connection between the sender and the receiver. It's a tangible communication, something both people involved actually touched.

From another perspective, that of a writer, (hand)writing matters because it allows my thoughts to flow onto the page in a way that typing on a computer or phone keyboard doesn't. Some things that are in my mind just need to be written by hand on paper.

Why does writing matter to you?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Don't Forget the Cards!

USPS cards
As I mentioned back on April 1, the U.S. Postal Service officially named April as National Card and Letter Writing Month back in 2001. Many of us shorten that to simply Letter Writing Month, but we really shouldn't forget the cards!

According to a 2016 report by the Greeting Card Association, Americans buy about 6.5 billion greeting cards each year. Yep, that "billion," with a "b."

I know many letter writers think of greeting cards as less personal than a handwritten letter, but it's important to remember that the two aren't mutually exclusive. Just because you send a card doesn't mean you can't also write a letter. And, just because you enjoy writing letters doesn't mean you can't fold it up and put it in a pretty (or funny or touching or ironic...) card.

There are so many different types of cards nowadays and in such a wide price range. If you're budget-minded, check out the dollar stores. They often have nice cards for 50 cents or less. On the other hand, you can buy a customized greeting card for $35 on Etsy. And, of course, there are many, many cards at every price in between.

Maybe you can even buy greeting cards at your local post office. There's a rack of cards at my post office! And, there are some cards -- both notecards and greeting cards -- on the USPS website.

One of the great things about cards is that they often have professionally written verse, so if you can't think of the perfect thing to say, you don't have to worry about it -- someone else thought of it for you!

So, when you're writing letters this month, don't forget the cards!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Letter Writing Month Wraps Up This Week

As the United States' National Letter Writing Month comes to a close this week, National Stationery Week is just getting started in the UK.

If you're looking for some inspiration in your letter writing, here are a couple of articles that will provide all the encouragement you need:

* Joy Bailey, a 27-year-old from Grapevine, Texas, is featured in The Dallas Morning News. She has a website, SpreadJoy24-7.com, about the letters she shares with the world.

*  In Camarillo, California, Julie Merrick has long known the power of writing letters. She turned that knowledge into a TEDx talk, "The Gift That Can Last Forever." You can read more about Julie in an article in the Ventura County Star and on her blog, A Letter A Week.

Now, go write some letters!


Friday, April 21, 2017

Earth Day is April 22

Tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day, which began in 1970 as a national day to focus on the environment. The U.S. Postal Service is celebrating Earth Day this year by continuing and encouraging others to practice good recycling. The USPS recycling program is known as USPS Blue Earth; you can read more on the Blue Earth website.

Letter writers (and receivers) around the world can join in by recycling as much of what comes in the mail as we can. If your community has a recycling program, use it instead of the trash can to dispose of unwanted paper, cardboard, plastic, etc. Don't forget to reuse as much as possible, too. Check to see if the paper, envelopes, boxes, packaging material and more can be reused, either in their original form or altered in mail art projects.

One way to support the USPS and to add a bit of "green" to your mail: Purchase some of the upcoming "Green Succulent" stamps. They are for First Class International letters, at a value of $1.15 (for a 1-ounce letter). The round stamp features a photo of the echeveria plant. They aren't available yet, but you can pre-order the stamps online.

Happy Earth Day and Happy Letterwriting!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

He'll mail it for you

Ryan Epp, a former computer science student at Temple University, has created a new service -- mailing letters to Congress. According to The Temple News, the student newspaper, Epp came up with the idea when he wrote a letter to a senator but didn't have a stamp. He searched for a service that would mail the letter for him, and when he couldn't find such a business, he started one -- Snail Mail Congress.

Anyone wanting to write a letter to a U.S. senator or representative can write their letter on the website, pay $1.28, and Epp will format and print the letter. Then, he'll put it in an envelope, address it, add postage and mail it. The service even offers a tracking service.

On his website, Epp says that the fee covers only the exact cost of the paper, envelope, postage, etc.

If you'd like some tips on How to Write Your Congressman/Woman, check out my February blog post on that topic.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Patriot Letters

Boston was a busy city Monday, with both the annual marathon and the Patriot's Day Parade taking place yesterday. The marathon may have lasted all afternoon for some runners, but the parade was over in less than an hour. Immediately following the parade was a reenactment of Paul Revere's April 18, 1775, ride to warn people of the approaching British troops.

More information about Paul Revere and that famous ride are available at the Paul Revere House in Boston, which is also hosting a letter-related event. If you're in Boston today and tomorrow -- April 18 and 19 -- you might want to drop by the museum, located at 19 N. Square in Boston, and take a look at the collection "Your Own, Paul Revere" which features some of the letters written by the Revere family and their friends.

Those attending will also get a chance to see examples of vintage postcards sent by tourists in the 19th and 20th centuries. According to the Paul Revere House website, some postcards in the collection feature the Revere House, others showcase the surrounding North End neighborhood. Everyone will also have a chance to practice their quill pen writing skills and make a postcard to send from the Revere House.

From the Northeast Document Conservation Center
Another interesting Paul Revere-related letter story is about the "Lost" Paul Revere letter, dated May 2, 1775 -- almost 242 years ago. According to an article by Julie Martin on the Northeast Document Conservation Center website, the letter was taken to the Paul Revere House, where its authenticity was immediately recognized. The museum worked with the family that owned the letter to allow the NEDCC to do some restoration work on the old and damaged letter. The letter was treated and then digitized so that further study could be done without injuring the original document.

According to the site, later, the museum was able to acquire the letter for its collection.

What a letter writing history!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Weekend Letterwriting Topics

Vintage card from The Graphics Fairy
This weekend, we’re a month into Spring in the northern hemisphere, and here in Texas, the

As you’re writing letters this weekend, here are a few topics you can write about:

* The weather. What's happening in your world today? Is it sunny or rainy? Is there still some snow on the ground? Is this typical?

* Spring holiday(s) you celebrate. What do you celebrate? How?

* Sports. Here in the U.S. baseball and softball are going strong right now. Do you play sports? What's your favorite sport? Your favorite team?

* As we move from winter to spring and into summer, our food choices often change. What are your favorite spring foods? Include a recipe in your letter!

Happy letter writing!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Letters of Artists

If you're going to be in South Florida next week, you will have the opportunity to attend the opening of "Pen to Paper," an exhibit of letters written by various artists, as well as attend an accompanying lecture at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Robert Motherwell (from the Smithsonian)
The letters are a selection from the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Art. It includes handwritten letters from Berenice Abbott, Mary Cassatt, Frederic Edwin Church, Howard Finster, Harriet Hosmer, Ray Johnson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Motherwell, Maxfield Parrish, Edward Weston, and many others.

According to the website www.SouthFlorida.com, the exhibit includes 38 letters written by 32 American icons and "marks the start of a national Smithsonian tour of the letters, which span the early 1800s through the 1980s and feature love letters, notes and elaborately illustrated missives."

"Pen to Paper" opens at the Norton on Tuesday, April 18. On Thursday, April 20, Liza Kirwin, Deputy Director, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, will introduce a range of artists’ writings in a lecture "Archives of American Art from A-Z." 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Recycling and Writing Letters!

 
I love stationery. Cute, quirky, simple, elegant...it doesn't really matter. I just almost can't resist it.

But, I know that stationery -- especially fancy stationery -- isn't necessary for letter writing. Believe me, a letter written on plain notebook paper will be just as enthusiastically received as one written on expensive paper.

Even if you don't have access to notebook paper, there is paper all around that can be recycled into writing paper, envelopes, cards, etc. I'm always saving different types of paper to reuse, such as the comics from the Sunday newspaper, magazine pages, pages from damaged books, etc.

But, if you're really into to recycling or really need paper, there are even more sources of paper readily available...food packaging, junk mail, computer printouts that are no longer needed, old school papers, etc. Sometimes, it takes a little creativity to use paper that has already been used. Addresses can be difficult to see if the paper has words or pictures on it, so you might need to use labels. Other options are to write the address on a small piece of paper and tape it to the envelope or to use some type of correction fluid or tape to make a spot on the envelope to write on. With such techniques, you might need to place clear tape over the address to make sure it doesn't smudge, scrape or fall off.

Limner over at Oh, Write Me has been blogging about some great mailings she's making from recycled Whole Foods Market paper bags. Click on over there. You'll be amazed by her talent!

Earth Day is coming up later this month (April 22), and these ideas are great ways of combining Earth-friendly ways with letter writing! Do you have any other ideas? Share them with us!
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