Tag Archives: silly letters

In which I have too many things to say

When befuddled, I make lists.


(click for better view) References were Celtic Design Spiral Patterns by Aiden Meehans, and The Book of Illuminated Letters By Morgan. Thank you, New York Public Library!

In all sincerity though, projects like this are good for my soul. I learn new things from new sources, and it gives my head a break from all these words that letter writing, and blogging, and tutoring in liberal arts demand from me. Studying designs, trying them out, discarding or modifying them, and then sketching and inking are all part of a process that exercises my intuition and puzzle-solving faculties while my brain puts on the auto-pilot and takes a much needed nap.

And I have 50 of them!

2) After years of being sort of peripherally aware of it I have finally discovered ebay, and its treasure trove of stamps and stationery. Check out these 29c space stamps! I don’t like my total (price + shipping) to exceed the worth (in this case, the face value of the stamps) of the item I’m paying for, which means that I haven’t had much luck with stamps on ebay. These cool ones, however, ultimately sold for less than face value so that I think I even made a bit of a “profit.” I feel so pleased with myself when things like that happen!

It’s a dangerous feeling though. One thing led to another, and when I was fed up looking at wonderful stamps I didn’t want to pay for I began to search for stationery. Well, there’s a lot more stationery that sells within my standard budget—in this case, the total cost must come out to less than a dollar per paper/envelope pair—and I’ve been a slave to the bidding screen all. day. long. On the upside, I have a much more affordable way to add some very cool stationery to my collection without paying through the nose at Papyrus. On the downside, I definitely don’t make enough on a tutor’s wage to support the kind of buying habit I’ve fallen into this month.

3) The mail is starting to trickle in slowwwwwwwly, but with enough frequency that I have hope when the mailman comes now. I received a letter from Alex in Chicago a couple of days ago that is the subject of today’s response. I know my sister is in the process of writing to me, and Lee, Ramya, and Jamie have all promised me letters soon. Hopefully blogging about their assurances will make it come true! (Are you out there guys? See—I’ve said it to the world! Now you have to make it happen!)

4) I had a thought that bears more thinking on: the slow trickle of mail may actually have nothing to do with my letters now, in 2011. In fact, this may just be Karma, come back to set things to right. My 55th letter was sent to an old friend of my mother’s, a nun she met when she volunteered at an orphanage for severely disabled Arab children in Haifa, Israel.*

The subject matter? Responses to the letters she sent me circa 1997-98, when I asked her to be my pen-pal. I was 8 or 9, a terrible procrastinator, and may have only sent one rather disappointing note back to her. I knew I was a horrible pen-pal and that I wasn’t living up to my end of the bargain, and I did quite honestly burn with shame whenever I thought about what Christian must think of me for not being polite enough to write her back. (I placed a lot of stock by politeness at that age, having an investment in being a favorite of adults because I didn’t get along with kids my own age. There was just often a an wide chasm between what I knew I ought to do and what I made time for.)

In any case, I came across her letters in my box of correspondence and thought, “Fourteen years later is still better than never, right?” So I wrote her a letter that touched on everything from her stamp collection and fountain pens, to books from then and now (she sent me some great ones!), to more obscure topics such as the elementary school’s international food festival (what did I bring? That would have been Irish sodabread) and the young deaf Hatian boy that had lived with her briefly. I can only imagine how surprised she will be to receive such a letter out of the blue!

It was a very, very long letter, but quite fun to write. Whether by sheer luck or thoughtfulness (my bet), her letters often talked about interests that we had in common in ’97-’98. And since Christian wrote to me like an adult her letters have aged well; they even seem to say more in 2011. With the passage of time I’ve become a better listener, and some things she wrote of mean more now than they did then.  How interesting her stamp collection seems now! And how kind of her to pray for me by virtue of her friendship with my mom. An 8 year old doesn’t really get the significance of someone saying, “I care about you and know all about you, even though I’ve never met you!” Now that I’m in the position of caring for and following my friend’s baby son, despite having never met him, I can much better appreciate what Christian wanted to tell me. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

*My mom has hardly left the States since she got married and had three demanding kids, but those weeks in Haifa left an indelible impression on her. Photos of those children stand next to our own and the three of us grew up with stories of these kids, all of whom have since passed away.

55. Sr. Christian M. -Chicago

56. Becky (@ Send Something) -Bethlehem

57. Anna M. (@ Postcossing) – Odessa, Ukraine

58. Renee & Family (2011 Letters Project) -Roanoke

59. Alex C. -Chicago


Hey there, Cupid!

43. Tiff L. -Chicago

44. Nick G. -Ann Arbor

45. the love of my life (no, really.)

A note on Valentine’s Day:

Valentine’s Day is one of those silly holidays that I used to have a much stronger opinion about when I had fewer emotions to puzzle me and a much more definitive view of the world and my place in it. These days, it doesn’t bother me so much—not like, say, Thanksgiving. (There’s a holiday I don’t get along with!) But Valentine’s Day? I think we’ve probably made our peace.

Part of the reconciliation process probably owes to the fact that I think I celebrated V-Day much differently than many people do growing up. It’s a romantic holiday, for sure, but going to a very small grammar school, where everyone one knew each other too well (and were too well supervised) to date, and then to a small girls high school, where boys were elusive and flirting with each other was the biggest source of laughter and bonding, meant that among my peers Valentine’s Day was always first about our friends. We made cards for each other. We put chocolate kisses and those terrible little hearts in each other’s lockers. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and “Happy Single’s Awareness Day!” rang through the red-decked halls as cupids shot arrows of platonic affection into the barely-covered rears of our Catholic schoolgirl skirts…

Too much? Okay, so it probably wasn’t as idyllic as I remember, but it is mostly true—scout’s honor. Valentine’s Day has always been about friends for me and my social set. Boys weren’t a part of our lives—or anyone else’s—for the most part, and my schools promoted the holiday as one for exchanging small gifts and cards between friends. And that’s what I remember instead of any bitterness at being unattached, or resentment of other couples, or disgust at the saccharine sweetness and idiocy of couples who treat it like a precursor, or pre-requisite, for a wedding day. Valentine’s was fun!

If I’m completely honest though, I will admit that when I did consider the “true” meaning of Valentine’s Day as a kid I was very disparaging, in part because, really guys, people act incredibly stupid in service of the fat little angel boy with a boy and arrow. It’s an artificially created day: in the end, it’s not more or less significant to a relationship than the 13th or 15th. People should keep that in mind more.

And in part, I’m a very cynical person about romantic love, and lasting love in particular. Almost always have been (I remember the exact moment of clarity in in pre-k actually), and probably always will be. That said, the nature of my cynicism has undergone a radical change in the last several years as my understanding of the complexity of love has developed past the very black and white–but mostly black–outlook of my rather judgmental youth.

So in honor of growing up and realizing that I am, very occasionally, wrong about the world, my letter for today is a love letter to my likely fictional soul-mate. On the incredibly off-chance I am proven mistaken and he actually shows up, at least I’ll be prepared.