Friday, January 30, 2009

I heard it on the radio

"Oh yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman. Wait, Mr. Postman. Please Mr. Postman, look and see, is there a letter, a letter for me?"

So sang The Marvelettes, the Carpenters, The Beatles, and probably other groups. For many generations, it may be the most well-known song about mail.

But, I remember several others...

In 1980, George Jones released "He Stopped Loving Her Today," with the lyrics, "...kept some letters by his bed, dated 1962. He had underlined in red every single 'I love you.'"

Like Jones' song, many songs about letters are sad. "Travelin' Soldier," written by Bruce Robison and recorded by the Dixie Chicks tells of a young man going off to war and seeking someone he can send letters back to: "He said I bet you got a boyfriend but I don't care, I got no one to send a letter to. Would you mind if I sent one back here to you?"

Conway Twitty's "Joanie" says, "Joanie wrote me a note one day, and this is what she had to say, 'Jimmy please say you'll wait for me; I'll grow up some day, you'll see.'"

Several songs have the title "Dear John" or "Dear John Letter," including one recorded by Hank Williams. R.B. Greaves sang "Take a Letter Maria," and The Box Tops (and many others) sang, "Give me a ticket for an aeroplane, Ain't got time to take a fast train.
Lonely days are gone, I'm a-goin' home, 'Cause my baby done wrote me a letter," in the song "The Letter."

From the 1930s came "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," recorded by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Fats Waller, Billy Williams, Nat King Cole, Barry Manilow and many others. And, in 1962, Elvis Presley released "Return to Sender": "I gave a letter to the postman, He put it his sack. Bright and early next morning, He brought my letter back. She wrote upon it: Return to sender, address unknown. No such number, no such zone."

More recently, Brad Paisley sings about writing a letter and sending it back in time to his 17-year-old self, reassuring himself that everything will be OK.

What songs about letters do you know? I'm sure there are more!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Help save our mail delivery!

Yesterday, the U.S. Postmaster General John E. Potter addressed a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate and asked to change the rules that require that the mail be delivered six days a week here, in order to save money. For details, click here.

I'm hoping that doesn't happen. The U.S. postal service has been a part of our country from the very beginning. In fact, Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress in 1775. I think we need to hang on to this part of our country and to the "daily delivery" tradition.

According to "The United States Postal Service: An American History, 1775-2006," a booklet you can view or download at (or, "Originally, letter carriers worked 52 weeks a year, typically 9 to 11 hours a day from Monday through Saturday, and if necessary, part of Sunday." Additionally, many homes received mail twice a day, and businesses had mail delivered up to four times a day.

So, six-day-a-week mail delivery has a long history in our country.

If you'd like to see U.S. Mail continue to be delivered six days a week, I think the first step is to contact the senators on the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security. That's who the postmaster general talked to yesterday. Those subcommittee members are Thomas R. Carper (chairman, D-Del), John McCain (R-Ariz), Carl Levin (D-Mich), Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jon Tester (D-Mont).

The subcommittee is part of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs. Other members of that committee are Joseph Lieberman (chairman, Conn), Susan M. Collins (Maine), Mark L. Pryor (Ark), John Ensign (Nev), Mary Landrieu (La), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Claire McCaskill (Mo), Roland Burris (Ill.) and Michael Bennett (Colo).

According to the committee's Web page, you can contact the members by mail at 340 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510. There also are phone numbers and fax numbers listed on the site. And, you can find links to all of the senators at the Senate Web site. It might be a good idea to also contact your senator and let him/her know how you feel about the situation.

You might also want to contact the postmaster general John "Jack" Potter at 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington DC 20260-0010. Or, you can send an e-mail to the USPS via this link.

Of course, one of the best ways to support the U.S. Postal Service is to write letters and mail them. Within the United States, it only costs 42 cents to mail a letter that weighs 1 ounce or less. That's several sheets of paper and an envelope. Forty-two cents. You can mail a letter from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere else in the U.S. for less than the cost of a candy bar, less than a cup of coffee, less than almost anything. And, if you'd rather send a short note on a postcard, that costs just 27 cents! You can even send a 1-ounce or lighter letter anywhere in the world, from the U.S., for less than $1!

So, it's a good deal. And, we may lose part of the convenience of the deal if we no longer have daily (except for Sunday) delivery and pick-up of mail.

Let's do what we can to save our postal service!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Best thing about this project

As this 365 Letters project gets underway, I've discovered one of the best things about it is the responses I'm getting in the mail! That might have seemed obvious, but now that the letters have started showing up in the mailbox, it's been confirmed!

It's been such fun getting letters from friends I haven't heard from in quite a while! Many of my friends are people I've worked with over the years, so we have varying perspectives on the newspaper/journalism world. 

When my husband and I (along with our young daughter) moved about four hours away from where we'd lived for the previous 20 years, we left behind our network of people who think like us. We enjoy the rural home we've been living in for almost 6 years now, but we often find ourselves isolated when it comes to the things we like to discuss. This letter-writing project has put me back in touch with those people who think like we do, who have the same off-beat sense of humor journalists tend to have, who really know who I am.

It's also fun to find out some of the similar things we've all been doing or thinking about. I guess that's how true friends are!

Why don't you try it? Write a letter today!

Another letter-writing blog

I had a comment yesterday from Wendy at the blog A Passion for Letter Writing, a great blog that I hadn't seen before.

Wendy gave me this award for my promotion of letter writing.

Thanks Wendy!

Message in a Bottle Award from

Monday, January 26, 2009

More presidential letters

Last week, my family and I traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, and while we were there, we visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.

It was a very interesting place with complete replicas of the the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. According to the statistics, the library and museum houses about 76.8 million pages of paper documents from Bill Clinton's administration.

Included in the museum were large displays with a timeline showing key events and highlights of Mr. Clinton's eight years in office. His daily schedules were located in binders below the timeline, and on the back of each timeline display were glass cases filled with letters he sent and received during his presidency.

There were letters from Fred Rogers (of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" TV fame), Tony Danza, Sheryl Crow and many others. In some cases, there were copies of Mr. Clinton's replies to the letter writers. There were also letters to Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady. She received letters from Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama and others.

Reports that came out last week indicate that President Barack Obama may be the first U.S. President to use e-mail while in the White House. I hope that won't diminish the number of letters he sends or receives. A glass case full of printed-out e-mails just won't be the same as the handwritten and hand-signed letters that are in Mr. Clinton's library.

To me, that part of the Clinton Library was just one more celebration of the importance of letters in our lives.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Great day for U.S. -- great day for letter writing!

As I write this, CBS is airing schoolchildren reading aloud the letter that Barack Obama wrote to his daughters, Sasha and Malia. The letter can be read in-full at Parade Magazine's Web site.

What a great gift to his daughters! When you read the letter, you'll see that he discusses current events, as well as his own personal life and history, and what he expects and hopes for their future together. He gives them some guidelines for how he hopes that they'll lead their lives, and he tells them how proud he is of them.

I hope that parents all over the world will take a cue from the new U.S. President and write a letter to their own children. Write a letter; slip it under their pillow or drop it in the mailbox so they'll get a wonderful envelope to open! Share yourself with your children in a way that they will be able to cherish forever.

Other letters that were mentioned in the news today include the letter that outgoing President Bush wrote to incoming President Obama and the letter that Bush's daughters, Barbara and Jenna wrote to Obama's daughters with advice about being the daughters of the president. They offered advice about friends, puppies and sliding down the banister in the White House.

How wonderful that letter writing has taken such a spotlight on this historic day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

So much to write about today!

Those letters that my grandparents exchanged 70 years ago....they offer not only a peek at their love for one another but also a glimpse of everyday life in 1939-1940.

Granny told Grandpa about who came to visit, which of her sisters she was fighting with, what chores she was doing, what clothes she was making, the types of entertainment they found interesting, etc. Grandpa wrote back, telling of visiting his cousin, looking for work, riding in rodeos and more.

In today's world, more specifically today and tomorrow in the United States, we have so much to write about! Write a letter to someone you know, talking about your thoughts on the political events of the day, offer up your feelings about the economy, discuss your favorite movie. Make it specific! Tell all about your life, your job, your home, your fun.

Then, put the letter in the mail! Maybe you'll get an answer in the return mail!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

News from my Etsy shop

If you liked the little songbird note card I listed in the Etsy shop Wednesday, you might like the treasury that JoyfulHandKnits posted today. It's full of songbirds, and my card is included. If you get a chance, click on over and check them out!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pen Pals in the 21st Century

Back in my high school days, I had several pen pals, people who lived in different countries and exchanged letters with me. People I had never met.

To tell the truth, that was quite a few years ago, and I really don't remember all the details about how I got all the pen pals. It seems that there were some sort of services that we sent our name and address to and they matched us up with pen pals. I'm sure it was free. I had pen pals in England, Japan, Denmark, Malaysia, a couple of African countries and maybe Korea.

One time, my pen pal in Denmark sent me information about getting a pen pal in Yugoslavia. We both sent our names in. As it turns out, it wasn't a pen pal service, it was, apparently, the most popular teen magazine in Yugoslavia. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Yugoslavian teens read our request for pen pals and had our addresses. I received dozens, maybe hundreds of letters. I don't remember how many I responded to, but in the end, I had several Yugoslavian pen pals.

One of the funniest stories involved a cute Yugoslavian boy who wrote to both me and my pen pal from Denmark. One time, he inadvertently mixed up the two letters and sent mine to her and hers to me. Problem was, they were identical...and he was declaring his undying love and desire to meet both of us. I think we both dumped him.

Of course, this was in the 1980s, before e-mail was invented, so it took several weeks for that scenario to play out across the miles.

I tried recently to find out if there are still such things as pen-and-paper pen pals. It seems in this day and age, there aren't many. First of all, the Internet, along with e-mail, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc., makes possible instantaneous communication with just about anyone in the world. Secondly, with fears of stalkers and child abductors, I think very few people are willing to participate in a program that sends kids' names and addresses out to unknown people.

Still, I did find a few of sites that might be of help to anyone looking to write "real" letters to someone else. Of course, I had to weed through a bunch of dating sites and prisoner pen pal sites, but these seem more legitimate. But, if you're looking for a pen pal, please investigate any service thoroughly before you send them anything. I'm not recommending these sites, just sharing what I found. And, I have never used any of these sites myself. It looks like most of these services have fees.

The publisher of this site,, has a newsletter that you can subscribe to.
International Pen Friends says it's been around since 1967, connecting pen pals around the world.
Student Letter Exchange says it's been around for 70 years, and it has an "Adult Pen Pal Directory" section.

There may be more pen pal services out there, but I haven't found them yet.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some of my favorite letters

I cherish lots of letters, especially those written to me by my family, but some of my favorite letters were from people I never met and often never heard from again. They were the readers of my food column when I worked for the Lubbock, Texas, newspaper in the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Every week, I wrote a column than not only included my thoughts on a specific food topic but also the recipe requests of readers and the recipes that others sent in.

On a weekly basis, handfuls of letters arrived at the office. Sometimes they just sent in a request for an old recipe they remembered from their childhood. Other times, they included photocopies of pages from old cookbooks; sometimes the readers even sent me entire cookbooks! Most of the letters were handwritten, and often the writer sent me background about the recipe they were submitting or requesting.

I guess they were sort of like fan mail, an ego boost. And, I guess that's why they're some of my favorites!

For several years, I saved all of the letters. But, after packing them up and hauling them to one new house and then another, I eventually weeded them out to just my favorites.

My husband tells of his excitement as a kid when he found a stash of postcards that fans had sent his father, who had an East Texas radio show in the 1940s and '50s. Through the years, the postcards were lost, but Tony remembers how fascinating it was to read what others thought about his dad.

I think that's one reason I save the letters to the food editor. Maybe someday, someone will find them interesting.

I've scanned one of the letters for you to see (if you click on the letter, you can actually read it). The writer sent a recipe for coconut cake, but she delightfully told her family history behind the "Christmas cake."

Now, go write a letter!

Friday, January 9, 2009


One of the letter-writing items in my Etsy shop has been included on The Handicrafter blog! Check it out! Leave a comment about one of the items, and you might be there next time.

10 Reasons to Write a Letter

1. It's personal — The recipient of your letter knows that not only did you think about him or her but that you took the time to sit down, put pen to paper and record your thoughts.

2. It's personalized — You can choose a card or stationery and envelope that matches your personality. If there's no stationery that matches you, you can make your own!

3. It's lasting — Oh sure, lots of people save e-mails, but who actually pulls them out of the archives and reads them again? Letters can be saved and cherished for generations.

4. It can be romantic — Spritz a little perfume on the paper, tuck in a wildflower from that bouquet he picked for last summer, end it with Xs and Ox....

5. It's cheap — A piece of paper, an envelope, a stamp and a pen, and you have something that the recipient will treasure forever.

6. It's controlled — There's no chance you'll accidentally send a handwritten letter to everyone in your address book, like you can mistakenly do with e-mail.

7. It lets you spread good news — The economy, the war, crime...the news can be so depressing these days. A letter from you gives your recipient some good news for a change. Tell him or her how your kids are doing in school, that you saw a bluebird in the front yard yesterday, even just that you thought of them today. It'll brighten their day!

8. It's tangible — A letter can be held, carried around, slipped under a pillow, re-read at the coffee shop. Oh, I know about Blackberries and other ways of reading e-mail in the coffee shop, but it's not the same. Trust me. It's not the same.

9. Technology won't make it obsolete — I can read the handwritten letters that my great-great-great-grandmother wrote to my great-great-grandfather more than 100 years ago. Will your great-great-great-grandchildren be able to read your e-mails in 100 years? I'll bet they'll still be able to read your hand-written letters, though!

10. It takes time — This means there are fewer chances for you to say something you don't mean. More time for you to say the right thing, to say it the way you really want to say it. A well-thought letter shows you took time for the recipient.

Now, what reasons do you have for writing a letter? Share them with us in the comments section!

By the way, I stayed on schedule and wrote my eighth letter last night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

One week down, 51 more to go

I wrote my seventh letter of the new year last night. That's seven letters in seven days, so I'm right on track.

I've been anxiously awaiting a response from any of my letter recipients. I didn't tell anyone about this project before I started sending out the letters, but I've included a little note with each letter, letting them know about this blog.

Last night, I received my first response — an e-mail from my sister, letting me know that my niece was happy to get the letter. They were excited to find out about the project and blog.

So, it's a good start, so far!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cheating? I don't think so!

Yesterday's letter, I wrote to my daughter.

At first, I wondered if that would be cheating. She's only 8 years old, and she lives in the same house that I do.

But, then, I thought, no, it's not cheating. She received some good news yesterday — she was asked to be on the school's color guard, helping to raise and lower the United States flag outside the building every day. We're very proud of her for that achievement, and I wanted to let her know in a special way.

So, I wrote her a letter. A letter that I mailed to her.

She likes getting mail. Don't we all? It's so exciting to see an envelope with our name on it, sitting there in the mail box. But, we don't get much mail nowadays. We get e-mail, for which the computer voice announces "You have mail," but there's rarely a hand-addressed envelope in the mailbox.

Plus, my daughter will be able to keep this letter, maybe even put it in her scrapbook, and years later remember the honor and how proud we were of her.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Runs in the family

My letter writing project has inspired my 8-year-old daughter. She's been asking lots of questions about letter writing, and she's been writing letters lately. Ever since she's known how to write, she has written letters, but with my new project underway, she's started writing more.

I don't think she'll be able to keep up with one a day, but she's having fun. She decorates the envelopes, even making some on her own. And, she makes her own notecards. So far, she hasn't received any responses, at least not from her little third-grade friends. In the past, she's exchanged letters with my aunt.

Maybe her letters will encourage her friends to pick up this old-fashioned practice!

Project Status

Last night, I sat down and wrote a letter to an "old" friend from high school. We tend to communicate by e-mail nowadays, but I think she likes getting a hand-written letter from me occasionally.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Family Tradition

Letter writing was always an important part of our family communications. Up until e-mail was invented. But, I suppose it was that way with most families.

One thing that makes our family's letter writing even more interesting is that the people in my family, especially the women, are savers. That means we save everything, including letters. So, I have many of those letters or copies of those letters to rely on for family history information.

The oldest letter that I know of from one of my direct ancestors was written in 1869. I don't have the original letter, or even a copy of it, but I do have typed transcriptions and interpretations of the letter. There are four other letters that I know of, with the last one written in 1871.

The letters are from Mary Caroline Boyd Vick, my great-great-great-grandmother. She married Littleberry (or Little Berry) Fletcher Vick, and they came with several other relatives to Texas from Mississippi. Along that trip and after having settled in Texas, Mary and several of the others wrote letters to the folks back in Mississippi. Thankfully, from my point of view, those Mississippians saved the letters.

She was writing from their camp at Caldwell, Texas, which is just a few miles from Lexington, Texas, where they eventually settled, at least for a while. The family ended up in Stephens County, Texas, where my family and I now live.

Mary Caroline's grammar leaves a little to be desired, but she asks her sister to overlook the mistakes since she is writing from the swamps and is watching over the "brigade," presumably her kids.

She tells about the mules and wagons being stuck in the marsh and not able to cross a creek. "We have had hard times but no worse than I expected," she wrote.

I don't know where the original letters are, and I've never even seen a photocopy of the originals, just typed versions. Still, the information they contain is priceless. It gives me such a wonderful glimpse into the lives of my ancestors that I wouldn't have if the letters had never been written or hadn't been saved.

The letters can be read online at Go to the Mailing List section and search out the "Vick" section. Then, look in the archives in 2001, starting in about June. The letters continue, month after month, through most of that year.

This is one reason why I like to write "real" letters. Who knows how many e-mail letters I've already lost through the years. But, I still have most of the pen and paper letters. Hopefully, someday in the far away future, some descendant of mine will find my collection of letters as fascinating as I find Mary Caroline's letters.

On track

So far, I'm on track with my letter writing. I've written and mailed letters to my aunt, niece and two friends. I still need to write today's letter.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009: The Year of the Letter

I know, I know. With everything there is to do today, who has time to sit down and actually write a letter? We barely have time, some days, to hit "Reply" to an e-mail or tap out a text message response.

But, what better way to connect with the ones we love, to let them know that we think so much of them that we made time in our busy schedules to write a "real" letter?

I did a test-run last year, sending out about a month's worth of letters to family and friends. I deemed it a success, having received several letters in return, many from family and friends who were surprised to have received a real letter from me.

But, I wanted more. I wanted to do more. So, I developed this project, 365 Letters. It is my plan to write a letter a day throughout the year 2009.

I'll let you know how I'm doing through this blog. But, I don't want any letter recipient to think that they got a letter just so that I would have something to write about or so that I could meet my goal. My friends and family, and my connections to them, are the reasons for the project and this blog, not the other way around.

I hope my friends and family are happy to hear from me and that I'll get lots of letters in return!

I hope you'll join me in my quest to make 2009 "The Year of the Letter."
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