Snail Mail, Lent and Chocolate

I will not be sad to see the cold go away.

I will not be sad to see the cold go away.

Miles run yesterday: 6

Temperature outside, with rain (my least favorite weather): 36

Bags of Cadbury’s Mini-Eggs almost gone: 1

Lent has the distinction of falling across another season: race season.

Two years ago, I was training and running my first marathon. Last year, I ran another half-marathon.

But also, there was the annual giving up of something, a skill set I am not entirely equipped to handle. And I was very, very hungry.

The year I trained for the marathon, I kept waking up in the middle of the night wanting to eat something; my stomach felt cavernous at least 23 hours a day.

One year, I gave up wine. (Not advisable.)

The next couple of years, the kids and I gave up chocolate. My kids were even more rigid than I was (“Hmmm. I’m pretty sure hot chocolate is in liquid form, which may not count.” “Mo-om!”) We were not very nice people during those days. And people kept offering us chocolate.

So this year, my kids put their feet down. Been there, done that.

They decided to add something instead of taking it away, which I find much easier. Much easier.

Each week, they are writing old-fashioned, handwritten, snail-mail letters.

My daughter whips several out in about 15 minutes.

My son sits at the table with a pen and stares at the paper. “What can I write about?”

My daughter starts listing: “The Y pool, middle school, the movie we watched, how we’re excited about summer camp, the book we’re reading…”

“Okay, okay!” My son leans over the paper and laboriously writes two sentences. “Now what?”

Last Saturday morning, I looked over my daughter’s letters. One to a friend in the neighborhood right next to ours said, “Hey, do you want to come over and play on Sunday?”

I looked over at my daughter. “Um. You do know that Monday is a federal holiday, and the mail won’t run, so your friend won’t even get this until at least Tuesday, right?”

Expression: horrified. “What? I’m putting it in the mail today.”

“Right. And… well, it’s not like email. It doesn’t get there the second you close the mailbox door. There’s like… travel and processing time.”

Disbelief. Sighs. Stomping. Re-writing.

And then, as I beg the Saturday mail carrier to stop at the corner of our road because our letters aren’t ready, my own disbelief: my daughter does not know how to address an envelope.

The address: written across the top of the envelope, no name, just an address. Barely room for a stamp. We had to send it sans name because the mail carrier was experiencing his own disbelief: Dude, is this really a matter of national significance? Just give me the mail, and let’s call it a day.

Her friend’s family received the letter and wondered, “Why, it’s a mystery! A letter for our house!”

And when her friend got the letter, she told her mom, “I got a real letter, through the mail, handwritten and everything! I want to do that, too!”

Sometimes things work out the way you think they will, sometimes things happen that you don’t expect.

I thought the letter-writing would be a feel-good, easy-to-accomplish Lenten activity. But it turns out, it may be almost as difficult as giving up chocolate.

Well, almost.

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Happy Blogiversary to Me!

You might have heard me mention the boots my BFF bought me for a penny. Ask and ye shall receive: here they are!

You might have heard me mention the boots my BFF bought me for a penny. You wanted a photo. Ask and ye shall receive: here they are!

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Passwords computer programs expect us to remember:59

Chapters my writing group has critiqued in my novel: 19

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Shoot. Someone’s already done that.

Anyway, happy blogiversary to me! It’s been one year since I started posting at Writing by the Numbers, and I really appreciate everyone who has climbed aboard for the ride. Thank you for reading!

I never thought I would blog or share so many details about my life or get to know so many virtual people.

This year, I have blogged about:

how to make the best chocolate chip cookies,

how lightning struck our TV,

how my son was starting middle school,

how my daughter persuaded me to wear dresses,

how I surprised my mom when I was 5,

how I touched a strange woman’s bathing suit,

how I got all ninja on an imagined carjacker,

how ennui and pee go together,

how we should write real letters more often,

how the world could end, and

how I managed to lock myself both out of and into a variety of places.

I also turned 40, wrote a draft of a novel, started looking for a full-time job and ran many, many miles. (I should have kept a better account of that.)

I have enjoyed getting to know those of you whose blogs I visit regularly, and I appreciate the comments and support you have shown to my blog. If there is something you would like for me to write about more (or less), feel free to drop me a line.

And if you are reading this, give yourself a pat on the back. You are an awesome individual.

Celebrate My Unofficial Handwrite-a-Letter Day

When this English tree lost its leaves, it snuggled up in a secondary, fuzzy coat.

When this English tree lost its leaves, it snuggled up in a secondary, fuzzy coat.

Miles run today: 4.5

Chapters still needing revision before submitting to writing group (Sunday–eek!): 1

Handwritten letters most people write per month: 0

Happy birthday how oil are you now. Can You send a note back to me.

My son received this note from a first grade neighbor the other day. The paper is taped together, and the words are way, way up near the top, very carefully considered.

I love it.

I would not dare suggest that I believe we should all go back to the days before email and texting and dial-in conference calls and Skype.

However, I believe a handwritten letter is special.

I receive hundreds of emails each week. I love hearing about writer friends’ accomplishments through Facebook. I am thankful that I can interview people over the phone for work; it saves time and gas expense.

But when I walk out to the mailbox and once in a blue moon receive a handwritten note, my heart skips.

Back when I was away from home for the first time as a freshman at college, we had tiny mailboxes in the large dorm lobby. Each day, I would open the small door and hope for something from home or something from a friend away at another college.

When I saw my mother’s steady, loopy cursive or my father’s sharp, diagonal scroll, my grandmother’s warm script or my friend’s careful blend of cursive and print, the envelopes themselves made my day before I even ripped open the seal. The stamp or the sticker used to secure the envelope was often chosen with care.

After I opened the letter, I might be able to tell that the writer was short on time: their writing seemed labored and cut off quickly without completely finishing the thought.

Or perhaps the edge of her coffee cup had rested for a moment on the edge of the paper; I could picture my mom writing at the kitchen table, gazing out at the birds stopping by the birdbath right outside her window. Maybe my dad had been sitting in the recliner, resting the paper on a magazine and taking the time to describe a recent dinner before he lifted the leg rest and let his eyes grow heavy.

When I was away from college and home for the summer, my boyfriend sometimes sent letters with intricate drawings of things he had seen or places he had been.

Before we met, my husband spent many months in England away from his American girlfriend in the days before the Internet. He wrote pages and pages that made the trans-Atlantic voyage, laboriously penned while his friends were napping or headed out on the town.

As I addressed our Christmas cards last night, I thought about how glad I am to receive the photos and good wishes around the holiday season from friends and family far and wide.

But even better are the notes and cards that come without any warning or expectation. Almost no one is expected to write thank you notes or to send letters that make no demands; words that simply shoot the breeze.

What if you were to choose one lucky person to write to? Not for the holidays, but for today.

For all of you young people who can’t remember life before the Internet, choose someone older, someone who remembers the joy of receiving a letter. Or better yet, choose someone young who never checks his mailbox because there is never anything of value inside.

I urge you to take pen in hand tomorrow, Saturday, December 1, and write to a neighbor, friend or family member. Tell them anything: thank you for existing, what you did last weekend, how you think about that trip you took together two years ago whenever you need a pick-me-up.

I guarantee that when that person opens the mailbox, she will smile. And you will be the reason.