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!

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