Monthly Archives: February 2013

fire up. up. up. up.

After the recent news of the USPS possibly dropping the Saturday delivery, I’ve noticed more and more opportunities to send a letter in the mail.

Black Sheep Postal Service first caught my eye on instagram around Valentine’s Day. This service was not simply sending out cards but ginormous Valentine’s hearts around the country. It all started with a guy named Justin Kerr who loved writing cards to friends but rarely received one in return. Black Sheep was created for the people who have good intentions to write but never get around to picking up a pen. This is where Justin steps in with his hand-crafted cards and ambition to keep people staying in touch with those they care about. Black Sheep offers many card options including monthly, birthday, and holidays. We love this man with a mission.

 

Cleverbug

For those other similarly good-intentioned people who are stuck to their phone, let me introduce cleverbug. This phone app allows you to send a printed, personalized card (even including pictures from Facebook) directly from your phone to their home. No, it’s not handwritten but if this fires up the “younger” generation to appreciate snail mail for a change, we’re all for it.

Lastly, we wanted to mention a piece our friend, Julie Kesti, posted this last week on brown ink.  Julie is one of those amazing women who finds beauty in everything she sees. She is an artist who also has a fondness towards writing letters (more on her pen pal correspondences later). Currently living in Shanghai, Julie is hoping to attend an artist workshop on Cortes Island this summer and has created a brilliant opportunity for others to support her campaign.  Her packages of goodness for contributors to her trip are brilliant and hopefully put a fire in the belly of those with similar dreams.

    happily hooked

    I surrendered. After months of going against the masses, I finally caved on Sunday afternoon and began to immerse myself in the lives of the characters on little old Downton Abbey. I think I was tired of hearing, “You’re NOT watching Downton Abbey?” from most family and friends who, like me, are hooked on fantastic series such as Mad Men and Homeland.

    The Cast of Downton Abbey

    I should have known it was going to suck me in! After just finishing the fifth episode of Season 1 I’m a happily hooked fan. The music, the clothes, the castle, the accents, it’s all appealing. To be honest, I’m usually not a classical film fanatic. That said, there’s something about these lives which take us to another era, to a time of simplicity and serenity. A time when people sipped tea and made time together.

    But what I love most are the letters. They play a leading role in all their lives. Letters begin relationships as well as create potential disaster which effects everyone. These letters hold proof of the feelings people have for one another and are used as blackmail. Letters threaten jobs, marriages, livelihood… And then consider the lag between the posting of a letter and when it’s actually read. Circumstances can alter adding a little Edwardian intrigue to any situation, even today.

    Downton Abbey S3E2 a letter from a dead man

    It reminds me of the days at summer camp when you were anxiously awaiting a letter. So much excitement when it arrived and anticipation of what news you might soon read. It also reminds me that it’s OK to not have all the answers at our fingertips right when you need them. Patience is something our family is working on. Downton Abbey suggests the Browns should slow it down. We might just hold the written words in our next correspondence a bit more tighter, reading it a second or third time.

    Off to finish Season 1…By the way, for you true Downton Abbey fans, what’s up with the dry skies in England? I spent a very wet college semester in London and the rainiest spring in history “baby bjorning” Emmett around South Kensington. I can’t recall a scene where anyone in the Crawley family or the servants are even carrying a brelli. Was there a drought around 1912 I am unaware of ?

      mechanical pencil


      image

      Yes, that’s me. Looking up a word in an old Webster’s, way back in grade school. The whole scene feels vintage; the feel of my dad’s mechanical pencil, mom’s clunky white telephone and that enormous dictionary I lugged around our house, landing at the location of my homework station that particular day.

      This picture reminds me of what writing used to feel like. It’s when we took time to find the right word with the correct spelling (vs. today’s ever present spellcheck), a thoughtful process which briefly took you from a busy family and everything surrounding you. Concentration needed. Multitasking not acceptable. Breath required.

      It’s the reason why I’ve recently decided to make a conscious effort to place more energy into my own personal writing, beginning with my first writing class! During the month of March I will attend a three week writing practice and meditation class. The course, taught by local teacher Teri Blair, will focus on slowing down and becoming intentional in our lives and writing, no pressure attached. It honestly makes me a bit nervous sharing this decision. But now that it’s out there I promise to keep you abreast to my experiences throughout the class (if anyone would like to join, email teriwrites@yahoo.com).

      I also signed up for a class this spring; Writing Your Baby’s Birth Story at Blooma, my sister’s yoga studio. This activity has been on my mind since giving birth to Bea. It’s a chance to relive the day our baby girl arrived into the world through my own memory and handwriting. The teacher Alisa Blackwood states, “The act of writing can help you process your labor experience, from the highs and lows, to the surprises, challenges, rewards, and funny or poignant moments.” I look forward to documenting this day before the details start to blend and eventually fade.

      The Artist's Way

      Lastly (yes, there is more) I am returning back to a morning writing ritual by following The Artist’s Way. Just to give you a brief history, two years ago when Nick and I were pondering the idea of creating a blog, my friend Jean suggested I pick up The Artist’s Way. For those unfamiliar, The Artist’s Way, written by Julia Cameron, is a book which teaches techniques and exercises to help people gain self-confidence by supporting their creative talents and skills. One of the two basic tools is the morning pages, a daily journal entry consisting of three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness stuff. Yes, three pages each day. I gave this a go during my first trimester with Bea, but I was so darn tuckered out that it didn’t last too long. Now that I’m getting a little more rest, I feel the time has come to start fresh and bring the morning pages back into my life. Wish me luck people!!!

      I certainly understand this entry is a bit self-centered. Apologies. My simple intention was to remind you fabulous readers (and writers) of the many resources available. The hope is for writing to be a natural, perhaps daily, part of your day. And for the mechanical pencil to not “bring me back” to younger years, but present ones instead.

        American Apple Pie

        I never thought I’d find myself daydreaming about the US Postal Service like I have this past week. It all started with a flurry of new stamps issued in January (including the increased cost) and continues with the likelihood of saying goodbye to Saturday mail delivery. But let’s start with the good news…..

        Global Forever®

        One no longer needs to question the cost of an international stamp whether you’re sending it to Nice or Nicaragua.  The newly introduced Global Forever Stamp can be used on a 1-ounce First-Class International letter to any country in the world for a mere $1.10

        The Apple postcard stamp is one of my new favorites.  The selection includes the bright red Baldwin, the green Granny Smith, the yellow Golden Delicious, and the multi-colored Northern Spy. The stamp art is illustrated with pen, ink and watercolor, with some additional detail added on the computer.

        The Emancipation Proclamation stamp commemorates the 150th Anniversary of receiving Lincoln’s signature on January 1st, 1863. The designer, Gail Anderson, used rare type she found when digging through old typeface and dingbats used in a Nashville letterpress shop, one of the oldest print houses in America; a great deal of effort placed into an important stamp.

        Kaleidoscope Flowers

        Flowers are one of the most popular features for stamp collectors as well as with the purchasing public. With these Kaleidoscope Flowers stamps the designer and artists have taken these classic perennials and brought in a graphic element to keep it modern.

        Belgium to issue stamps that taste of chocolate

        And just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Belgium Post Office plans to issue chocolate smelling and tasting stamps. The Bpost states, “We have added a chocolate taste to the glue of the stamps. You can taste [it] when you lick it. It was not easy to get the scent and flavor of the dark chocolate right. In the end, people from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland all worked on it.” Maybe our USPS can come up with a US flavored and smelling stamp…American apple pie, smores, hot dogs?  On to the bad news…

        On Wednesday the US Postal Service shared its plans to end Saturday letter delivery beginning this August. The news was not a complete surprise but it still broke my heart. I got the news via text from a close friend, Angela, who is the Executive Prodcuer at our local WCCO news channel. She was curious if I would agree to an interview concerning the topic. Yikes. If it wasn’t for the possibility of promoting brown ink (apologies) I would have hesitated. I freeze at public speaking. But in the name of letter writing I agreed to the interview. And all in all it was short and sweet…

        I get it. Since 2007 first-class mail volume has declined by 37% as online communication and payments have skyrocketed. Hundreds of post offices have closed, hours cut and staff reduced over the same time. By stopping Saturday delivering the USPS will save $2 billion a year from its annual loss. A good chunk of change. But where does the cutting end? In the 1950’s twice-a-day delivery was cut to once a day. In another five years will we see a weekday delivery cut, more post offices closed? The end to Saturday delivery will be harmful to small businesses, rural communities, and elderly who rely on their mail for commerce and communication.  However, in every article I’ve come across I hear most Americans favor the change.

        I honestly don’t have any solutions on how to stop this downward spiral. So for now, I will continue to buy more stamps, mail more letters and support Post Offices like this one in Vermont which needs to stay active in order to stay afloat. Jane Davies, the woman who who runs the post office, is getting creative; when she receives any art postcard she will send one in return. No, Jane is not issuing the new USPS American Pie smelling stamp but she’s driven and passionate about mail. And sometimes that’s what it takes.