Monday, December 31, 2012

No New Year's resolutions but I do have letter writing goals

I don't make New Year's Resolutions because I fall flat on my face within a very short time and I dislike setting myself up for failure. Also, although I understand the appeal of the "It's a chance for a fresh start" concept, the reality is that every day, every minute, every second of my life gives the opportunities for fresh starts.

For several years I pondered why I failed with the shiny, sparkly resolutions thing and finally decided knowing why I failed wasn't necessary. What mattered was that I failed so I set out to create a system for myself to make improvements with regular goal setting and evaluation. It took a few years but I eventually succeeded.

I set realistic goals for myself throughout the year then break down the steps needed to succeed into small bits, giving each bit a general time limit. I'm not too hard on myself in regard to the time because life really can, and does, get in the way. I even allow myself to slide on the minor details once in awhile and I don't punish myself for sliding.

I have several goals for the first quarter of the new year. None of them are impractical, impossible, or lofty. In fact, they're very simple goals. However, each one of them requires discipline and I see that as a good thing. They also require regular time outs to take note of where I stand on them and re-evaluate if needed. Again, I see this as a good thing.

My first letter writing goal is to improve my cursive handwriting. This is an ongoing project for me and it's one reason I write letters. I used to have beautiful handwriting but as I got older and busier and using a computer replaced or minimized time using pens, pencils, and paper my skills slipped. It's the old "use it or lose it" thing and now I try to focus on bettering my handwriting. Corresponding with others helps. I also use a practice sheet I found online.

This is very similar to what I learned in elementary school and it comes fairly easily to me, but I get sloppy. I print several sheets a week and when I have a few minutes to spare I work on them. Those of you who've received correspondence from me are probably very surprised that this is akin to what I was taught. I told you I get sloppy! ;-)

My second letter writing goal is to participate in and successfully complete the A Month of Letters Challenge. I send and receive quite a bit of mail but I want to follow the easier-said-than-done-in-my-mind guidelines of the challenge and I'll need a bit of discipline to do so. Sometimes the last thing I want to do after an eight hour shift on my feet is write a letter. This is where sliding a little will come in handy. I just have to keep from sliding into the abyss of not writing!

My third letter writing goal is to improve the quality of my letter content. Writing interesting letters, especially to strangers, isn't that easy for me. I sometimes feel stumped and find myself writing to just fill the page. I don't like that and I don't think the recipients like it, either. I'm capable of so much more and I know it.

Finally, my fourth letter writing goal is to make new friends. This one really needs no explanation, I think. I just enjoy communicating with people from places and lifestyles different than mine.

So there you have my letter writing goals for the first quarter of 2013. Each of the goals is achievable but will take "sticktoitiveness". I'll most likely chart my progress and share my self-evaluations here. I definitely would like feedback on the goals and on the progress I make or don't make.

Have you set letter writing goals for yourself? If so, what are they?

Enjoy your Monday and make it a wonderful last day of 2012!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Greetings

Since I'm off this weekend I've been working on a homemade desk organizer and writing my New Year's correspondence. This morning I have the base of the organizer almost finished and only three letters written because this here interwebz holds me captive!

There's always shiny bling calling to me from the web. Whether it's a newly found blog (this one makes me a bit misty-eyed), reading about or preparing for a writing project that's about to begin, or email from a friend I've missed, it seems distraction is usually afoot and I often fail at ignoring said distraction.

To help combat that on this, a rare-for-me weekend off, I've tried to ignore my computer. I've done fairly well but this morning I want to share links for a few of my favorite New Year's letters and greetings. These aren't things I've sent or received but are just pretties that make me smile.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

A 1908 Austrian New Year's postcard

A Soldier's Illustrated New Year's Greeting - sent in 1917, this letter shows the artistic talent of a solder of World War I.

Postcard from the Past

Postcard from the Road - A very pretty vintage French New Year's postcard shared by Tara Bradford.

Vintage New Year's postcards from Russia... with love, of course!

Another vintage French postcard

For so many, 2012 has been a difficult year. The economy, job losses, and national tragedies break our hearts but we keep on keepin' on. Human beings are a very resilient bunch and we do what we can to not just manage but overcome and make our way to the top of the heap, looking forward to the good things a new year might bestow upon us.

My wish for all of you is that 2013 be a marvelous year that brings plenty of smiles, a lot of laughter, as little sadness as possible, and a very full mailbox!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Logging mail is a priority on my To Do list

I've never been one to log incoming or outgoing mail but from what I read on blogs, a lot of letter writers keep this practice.

I have quite a bit of mail coming in and going out and think it might be help me stay organized. I worry about dropping the ball and not replying in a timely fashion or, heaven forbid, forgetting to reply all together!

So, in light of that, do you log the letters/mail art you receive? If so, how do you do it? I'd love to know.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Teaching a child to use sealing wax

I was just about to seal the last of tomorrow's outgoing mail when there was a knock on the door. It was the daughter of one of my neighbors. Angela is 7 and comes by now and then to "play" with Sammy. He isn't wild about kids so there really isn't much playing. It's more like she chases him and tries to pet him and he runs and finally tolerates her for a couple of minutes.

When she saw the wax stick and lighter in my hand, Angela asked what I was doing. I told her and showed her the dried seals I did earlier this evening and a couple of broken seals on mail I'd received and she begged to try it. I had her practice a few times on scrap paper then let her seal the last envelope. Well, she didn't quite seal it as her aim was a tad off and she had a drip or two but hey, for her first attempt it's great! 

She had fun doing it and asked me if she can use my sealing wax on letters to her grandparents. Of course I said yes and she left quite excited. I heard her yelling as she went into her apartment in the next building, "Hey Mom, guess what I got to do!"

I hope her mother isn't upset and doesn't consider it dangerous because with proper supervision a child can learn to use sealing wax and create a very handsome seal. I learned when I was a little older than Angela and a good wax seal is a thing of beauty. Maybe I should go talk to her mother about it, though. :-)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas day picture

Before it started snowing on Tuesday I stepped outside with my camera. I didn't have anything in particular that I wanted to shoot but one never knows what or who might be out and about, right?

As I stood on the patio, shivering in my shorts and tee shirt, I noticed the drops of water hanging off the steps that run parallel to my patio fence. I moved in a bit closer and took a chance.

I think the result is quite nice for an amateur who knows very little about photography.

Snow! And today's mail

We had snow yesterday! It does happen now and then in this part of Texas but it's been a few years. I stayed home and watched "It's a Wonderful Life" in the afternoon and ate stir fried chicken and vegetables. Later I made oatmeal cookies and Sammy the cat and I snuggled on the couch and fell asleep listening to some lovely music. Several times during the night the power went off but it came back on quickly. Many in our area weren't so fortunate but I think most of the power has been restored by now.

I was concerned about driving to work this morning so I left earlier than usual but the roads were only wet. I had a long shift but checked my PO box after work and found a letter from Jan at Of Bibles, books and letters....

She wrote a very nice dispatch and even sealed the envelope with wax. I'm so excited to hear from someone other than family. I love the letters from my aunt but to get one from Jan just made my day.

Thank you, Jan, and keep an eye open for a reply.

I'm off tomorrow and will make another run to the post office to drop off some letters. I also need to replenish my supply of wax. Finding it locally has proven to be impossible but I hear there's a new store that carries it so I'll most likely check there to see if the rumor is true. ;-)

May your Thursday be full of wonder and your mailbox full of marvels! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A very quiet Christmas day for me

I was supposed to go to my mother's house today. She and my stepfather are alone and I wanted to be with them but the weather isn't cooperating. A storm system is upon us and although it's 49 degrees right now, the weather gurus are predicting a very sharp drop in the temperature and perhaps some snow and ice later in the day. There's little chance for accumulation but it could happen and Mom doesn't want me traveling in inclement weather so she asked me to stay home and safe. I reluctantly agreed. So, it's just me and Sammy the cat on this cool and wet Christmas day.

I got to visit with my sons and daughter in law for a bit before they headed back to Austin. They surprised me with the wonderful gift of a Kindle! I haven't transferred the 200 something ebooks I have to the Kindle but will work on that today.

I also need to write some letters and cards so I'll do that and drop them off at the post office after work tomorrow. 

I hope you and yours have a wonderful day. Enjoy whatever you do and stay merry!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas with my family

Yesterday was our family's get together. I had to be at work at 4 so I didn't get to spend much time with them but I enjoyed seeing my mother and stepdad, sisters, and a nephew and his wife. My sons and daughter in law didn't make it in until after I had to leave for work so I won't see them until tonight after I get off work. We'll have a few hours together this evening and tomorrow morning before they head back home and I head off to a very long Christmas Eve shift.

We had a delicious dinner of prime rib, mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed asparagus, green beans, salad, and rolls. There was dessert of pecan pie but I had to skedaddle for work so I missed that. Maybe I can get my sons to bring me a slice when they visit this evening.

Mom insisted that we open gifts before I left for work and wow, my family outdid themselves on mine. I generally don't even participate in the gift giving so maybe that's why. I got two sets of note cards, some nice writing paper, a passel of pens, a beautiful hair clip, rollers (yes, I still use the old fashioned foam curlers at times), a makeup bag, a digital camera bag that I use for my insulin pump, a Starbucks gift card, and "Marley and Me", for those times when a girl just needs a good old fashioned cry. ;-)

I also opened the rest of my Secret Santa gifts and got an emergency fire starter, a portable knife/fork/spoon assembly, another lovely hair clip, and a case of quilted 4 ounce canning jars! Mom really liked that last gift. We can't have enough canning jars and they're just the right size for a household of two who eat like birds and another household of one.

My work shift was nice but very, very busy and today and tomorrow will most likely be replays. 

Have a lovely holiday, readers, and enjoy your friends and family!

Friday, December 21, 2012

No mail today but yesterday....

there were two more Google+ Secret Santa gifts in my postal box. I thought of opening them but instead took them to my mother's house and put them under her tree. Seeing more prettily wrapped packages cheered her substantially. I'm not a lover of Christmas. It isn't so much the holiday that I dislike but the commercialized, idealized consumeristic garbage that surrounds it. Yeah, I know I sound like the Grinch. I'm really not like that for the most part, but years of working retail and studying the roots of holy days and holidays have changed my perspective. I'm all for spending time with family and friends, though, and making others smile any time of the year!

I have a long work shift tomorrow and won't get to see my family for more than a couple of hours at our get together. I'm sad about that but these things happen so I'll deal with it.

I still haven't figured out how to display the mail art I have sitting on my table. I think I'll talk to some of the creative family members I hope to see tomorrow. Maybe one of them will have a brilliant idea.

Have a lovely weekend and a great mail day!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mail art display

I haven't checked either of my mail boxes today. I decided to take this day off to do nothing and that's about all I've done today. I had the good intentions of cleaning the apartment and going to see a friend but decided to rest and it's been a lovely day of napping, reading, letter writing, and blog hopping. Oh, I did get productive for a few minutes by cleaning off my pub table. In the process, I found a lovely stack of mail art that I'd forgotten about!

Several months ago I put a few pieces in a tiled mirror frame and hung it on the wall over my television.

I love the frame so it seemed like a beautiful way to display the pieces. I eventually moved the frame to my "crazy wall".

Now I have more mail art to find a home for and am wondering if putting it in an album of some sort might be a good option. I like that idea but I really prefer having the art where I can see it at a glance rather than flip through book pages.

Perhaps a collage would work. Or maybe I should just go really primitive and stick it on a cork board. I don't want to poke holes in the pieces, though.

If you have ideas on ways to display the mail art without damaging it, please let me know.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another nice mail day!

I had a long shift at work and didn't get out of there until close to 11 PM but wanted to check my post office box. I'm glad I did because in it were two little Amazon gifts sent by a Google+ friend of mine. I think I know what the packages contain but I'll take them with me to Mom's house Thursday, put them under her tree, and open them on the 25th. Because of my work schedule on the 22nd, I won't be able to attend the family get together that day but will spend the 25th with my mother and stepfather. Opening these two little sweet gifts will make the day more special and fun.

I hope you get wonders in your mail tomorrow!

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's been a lovely mail day!

I finally got my vehicle and keys back this afternoon and the first thing I did was make a run to the post office. I dropped off some outgoing letters and was thrilled to find in my box a Secret Santa gift of the "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving"! This book is as much for my mother as it is for me and receiving it made my day! Mom and I will have a great time going through it and will use what we learn to help us make good use of the pressure canner I recently bought her.

I beat feet back home and eagerly checked my box where I found a card and stickers from a friend in Australia. She sends the cutest little things and I love to put one of her stickers on letters and envelopes I send to others. The image on the front of the card is a photograph taken by the very talented Australian, Trevor Farrell.

I sent her a card and note a few days ago. With Christmas around the corner, I'm not sure how fast or slow the mail to that part of the world is but trust she'll get it soon.

I hope your mail box was full of goodness today!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This week's To Do List - be available to someone who needs a friend

In addition to my normal to dos of cleaning, laundry, cooking and responding to letters I've received, this week's list has a somewhat unusual item on it.

The holidays, especially Christmas, are difficult for a lot of people, including a young woman I work with whom I'll call Anne. Anne is 22 and lost her father to cancer about a year ago. His battle with the disease was a short but vicious one and she witnessed his suffering and agonizing death. Today, as I walked into the store from my break, I saw her sitting on a low ledge sobbing. She was talking to someone on her cell phone and I slowed a bit as I approached her. I said, "Anne" and she put her phone down. I knelt on the ground in front of her and put my arms around her. She sobbed on my shoulder. I didn't say anything. I just held her while she cried, shaking and clutching me. She managed to get out a few words, "All these families, they're all so happy! I want to be happy again." I thought of a lot of things I could have said and a few I really wanted to say but I stayed silent while she poured out her grief.

Finally, she pulled away and wiped her tears from her face. I reached out and smoothed her hair. "This is a very tough time for you, I know. My dad died several years ago and I still miss him." She nodded and choked back a few more tears and said, "I haven't cried this hard since he died! Why now?" and we talked for a bit about how hard the holidays can be and how they bring up memories, both good and bad, of our departed loved ones. I told her that my grief over losing my father and daughters sometimes sneaks up on me and other times slaps me in the face and either way is horrible but the slapping times are the worst because I don't expect them. They strike me out of nowhere and cause me to practically crumble in grief. She nodded again and looked a little embarrassed. "Will it get better?" she asked and I had to think on that one for a few seconds. "It should." I said. "But we're all different and there's no way to know just how good it will get for you or how long it will take." She looked away for a few seconds then looked back at me and flashed her beautiful smile. "Thanks." I stood up, took my notepad from my pocket, wrote my phone number on the top page, tore it out, and handed it to her. "You're welcome. Call me if you ever want to talk. Or cry." She nodded and I went back into the building and back to work.

I don't know if I handled that situation as well as I could have. A hundred platitudes rattled around in my head and almost came out of my mouth and it took strength not to say them. I wanted to but there's no way for me to know what the future holds for Anne. My crystal ball is broken so I chose to be honest without being harsh and to just be available right then when she needed me.

In a couple of days, I'll surprise Anne with a notecard and letter in her locker. I might even put a goodie or two in the envelope, something that will bring a smile to her face.

This week I'll make myself available to someone who needs a friend. It might be that Anne is the only opportunity for that I'll have this week but knowing what I do about human nature, I think there will be more.

And I'll be waiting.


I haven't been able to check my mail in several days because my box keys are with my other keys at the shop that has my vehicle! Oy, the agony of being unable to open my mail boxes and see what surprises are in them is just too much. I should get the keys (and the vehicle) back tonight and will head to the post office to drop off letters and check my box then head home to check that box. The anticipation of what lies ahead is simply delicious!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

More recent mail art and this week's to do list update

One of the mail artists I hear from on a regular basis sent me three post card sized pieces recently. I really love the glossiness and colors of these and am considering how best to show them off.

I have some of his other work, along with a few pieces from Wenchkin, set in a tiled mirror frame. I like the arrangement but there's not room in that frame for more so what to do with these three lovelies has been in the forefront of my mind for a few days. I'm sure I'll come up with something.

I posted a few days ago about my "to do" list for this week. It had four items on it. They were: write Mom a letter and tell her all the things she did right, acknowledge a service worker, be the first to say "thank you" and mean it, and write a letter. I'm happy to write that I accomplished those four things and tomorrow will post my list for the coming week. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

This week's To Do List - small acts of kindness

My Live Better America To Do List for this week has 4 things on it; write Mom a letter and tell her all the things she did right, acknowledge a service worker, be the first to say "thank you" and mean it, and write a letter. The first and last items aren't the same thing for me so I'll do both. I'm sure that between work and other activities I'll have opportunities for the remaining two. Not that I don't already do them but this week I'll actively watch for those opportunities and act on them quickly. As a service worker of sorts myself I know how a simple compliment on my job makes the day much better. It really doesn't take a lot to make me smile!

What's on your to do list this week?

Recent mail art

Now and then I get some very interesting mail art. With rare exception, I appreciate each piece regardless of the content or theme. Of all the mail artists who've graced my mailbox, Wenchkin is my favorite. Perusing her ArtFire store is a lot of fun, especially if you like work inspired by the Day of the Dead. I knew little of this holiday until I saw some of Wenchkin's work on Google+ and have since been a fan, if not of the holiday then at least of this woman's creativity.

Very recently she posted a photo of a note card she'd created. I admired it and asked her if I could purchase it but she sent it to me free of charge. Given my love of cooking and baking, it's not surprising this little card is now displayed on my "crazy wall" with other items that make me smile.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And she's off!

When I was about 10 or so, one of my sisters sold Current items for a school fundraiser. I fell madly in love with the stationery and notecard sets offered by the company and my mother happily indulged my obsession. She was and still is a letter writer and although the juvenile clowns and frogs of the Current line didn't appeal to her, a daughter who shared her love of paper and writing instruments did. I still remember the design of the items she bought for me and they've long since been written upon and mailed to cousins and now deceased grandparents.

The truth is that I love paper, pens and pencils, inkwells, sealing wax, staplers, paper clips, post it notes and any item that might be considered "office supplies". I have a collection of notebooks, binders, and writing instruments that would enable me to start a small store of my own. Over the years, I've added to the collection and taken away from it, giving items to friends or local shelters when the stash got to be unmanageable. I pare it down just to build it again when I find something that strikes me as a 'must have'. I know I really don't need the item but I indulge my little addiction and also control it by actually using the items I acquire.

Each week I make a menu plan and lists of groceries I need to buy, tasks I need to accomplish, and things I need to remember. When I'm angry or sad about something, I put it all on paper then burn it or throw it away. And I write letters, most of them to people I've not met and probably never will meet. The best part of letter writing is that most people respond in kind and in this day of digital communication few things thrill me like opening my mail box to find hand written letters. That's a sad commentary on our society but it is what it is. Fortunately, there are still some letter writers and we're slowly finding one another via blogs and social media. How ironic that we use technology to indulge a passion for an almost lost art. 

Letter writing can be very intimate but one of its beauties is that when I write a letter, I can pour out as little or as much as I like. To someone I've never met and haven't corresponded with yet I write very general stuff. I tell them a bit about who I am and what I like and ask pointed questions to learn about that person. To a beloved aunt, the writing is more intimate. She hears the good and bad that are happening in my life. I recently wrote my first letter to an adult nephew who eschews the phone and doesn't do social media. We aren't close but I find him to be an interesting person and want to learn more about him. He writes letters to his grandmother so I think a written dialogue with him is a good place to start. I asked questions to find out what's going on in his life and told him a bit about my job and the stereo I purchased for his grandmother. It wasn't the most interesting letter I've written but he'll reply and we'll go from there. I see it as a new beginning to an old relationship.

A few days ago I decided to blog about letter writing and my love of the tools for it. So prepare yourself...the words and photos are coming!

To start the ball rolling, here's a photo taken in June during a de-cluttering session I had. I found these in a dresser drawer and they're just a small part of the stash. Most of the items have been donated to a local women's shelter but I've kept a few because I'll use them later or find someone who has a genuine need for one of them.

So, let the letter writing continue, shall we?