The Lost Art of A Good Letter

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Happy February! Can you believe we’ve already crossed a month off in 2018? It’s been such a frosty winter here; I’m glad it’s a short month!

My high school sophomore daughter crossed a traditional milestone yesterday- receiving her class ring. I still have mine, though not worn in almost three decades, it’s a special keepsake. Our world is changing at warp speed these days and many traditions are falling by the wayside. One important “tradition” that has all but disappeared, has faded far too quickly: the art of letter writing. We need an intervention – a Letter-Writing-Revival!

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I’m a true-blue, apron-wearing, tradition-and-vintage-loving farmgirl, but I’m not a totally “off-the-grid” girl. I think there’s much to be said for many modern conveniences. Directionally challenged, GPS saves me from a life of never leaving the house because I’d get lost. At home, I’m totally into my snazzy red washer and dryer purchased last year. While I love vinyl records on a turntable and still have a few albums, it’s pretty cool to ask “Alexa” to play whatever songs my heart desires while cooking dinner. And honestly, I don’t know how my parents survived letting me leave the house as a teenager without a cell phone to check in with! Nowadays, I can’t imagine life without the internet. I love blogging, and without an online connection, I couldn’t have made some of the wonderful farmgirl friendships, forged through the Farmgirl Sisterhood Chatroom, and here on the blog. However, it’s with sadness when I think that many of the “Post-Millennial, Generations Y and Z,” will never know the reflection that comes with the now-seems-antiquated action of writing a letter, or the thrill of finding a real, stamped letter in your mailbox! A letter with a greeting, body, and a closing conveys true communication, compared to a quick text. It’s like eating a fine meal on beautiful china with silverware, compared to eating greasy fast food with your hands in your car from a drive-thru.

I learned to type in high school, and our school had one of the first classrooms with computers. It’s like being in two places at one time, knowing life before and after computers and devices became as common as indoor plumbing.

My daughter wasn’t taught cursive handwriting in school. She learned at home. I remember when, a few years ago, we were filling out a form together and she didn’t know what a “signature” was. Handwriting is as unique as a fingerprint. I love that I recognize my mama’s writing on an envelope before I even look at the return address, and my daddy’s handwriting is absolutely beautiful to this day! Handwriting is just that- it’s personal. With email and texting, our world is getting just far too impersonal.

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Cards and letters can be keepsakes, time capsules for the moment we received them. They can be read again and again. I like to decorate for the seasons, especially now in the cold bleak of February in a Connecticut winter. An antique basin with a pink stripe, found in a thrift store, currently graces my dining table- filled with special Valentines from past years, their messages still as sweet as they day they graced the mailbox.

Researchers suggest that the human brain can be rewired from constant use of electronic devices. We want more, faster. While an email can be personal, a hand signed card or handwritten note is even more so. Humans are moving at warp speed because technology is lightning fast. Email has made us type faster than we think, and the content is often sloppy and filled with grammatical errors. Texts are so instant, many times with “text speech”, filled with sentence fragments with no reflection or inflection. When we put pen in hand, we have to slow down a bit to put our thoughts and messages on paper.

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In an old vintage sewing pattern that once belonged to my grandmother, I found a handwritten letter from her baby sister, mailed in the 60s. Though I never got to meet her sister, the letter she wrote gave me a real sense of who she was. My grandmother kept that letter for decades. Read about the treasures found here.

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We lost my beloved aunt this past December. She would always send surprises in the mail…little gifts or cards, always with handwritten notes. The last card I got from her was shortly after we visited Houston in April. That note is a sweet keepsake of a wonderful, memorable day we all spent together. I will miss her letters and cards, and am so thankful I saved all of them!

When I was little, my mom would tuck notes in my lunch box. I did the same for my daughter. When she was little, she would also leave notes and drawings tucked all over the house where I would find them.

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Now that she’s a teenager, we share a special journal. Every so often, we write letter entries back and forth, leaving the journal for the other to find. Sometimes it’s a reflection on a special day we’ve shared, or just for me to remind her how awesome she is! It also helps us communicate if there is a subject we butt heads on. Teen years are hard, and today’s pressures on our kids can be overwhelming! My daughter and I have always been especially close; I think our journal letters have made us even closer!

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Last week, I received a surprise box in the mail, (along with a hand written note) from a very special farmgirl friend. Inside, was a little booklet written in 1959 by Golden-Age etiquette guru, Amy Vanderbilt titled, Amy Vanderbilt’s Guide to Correct Letter Writing, touching on everything from light-hearted friendly letters to business letters and formal invitations.

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Though much of the booklet is outdated, some of it is still great advice (like sending thank you notes). My favorite line in the book reads, “The best {letters} sound like the person writing them”.

Here’s my February challenge: send a card or letter to someone special. It doesn’t have to be for Valentine’s Day. Put paper to pen, slow down, and send someone a little note. Text  messages aren’t forever…a letter is so much better!

 

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

 

Leave a comment 32 Comments

  1. Dori Troutman says:

    I love, love, love this post Nicole! I’ve had it on my mind the last little while that I really miss receiving hand-written letters and then I quickly had to remind myself that in order to receive then I need to SEND some! :-) And so your post is a good reminder that I need to do that immediately. Maybe I will start slow… like one a week or something.

    I love the journal that you and your daughter are sharing. What a fabulous idea and I think that I am going to start that with my grand-girls. What a keepsake that will be for your daughter.

    My all-time favorite classes in high school were Home-Ec (thats no surprise!) and Typing! I LOVED my typing class. We had manual typewriters and I loved mine so much… I remember the day that we were switched out to electric and it was amazing how my speed improved! :-)

    Great memories, Nicole! Thanks so much for your post.

    Hugs,

    Dori, Ranch Farmgirl friend! xo

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dori! Oh thank you! I love to give and receive hand-written letters so much. I also miss hand-signed Christmas cards, which I still do, even though it is time consuming. An “e-card” just isn’t the same! I think starting a journal with your grand girls is awesome! I wish I had that with my grandmother! Thankfully, I kept special cards and letters, even when I was back in high school.
      My favorite class was Home Ec, too. Now they do a ‘cooking’ class, but I giggle because the pancake recipe reads, “Ingredients: pancake mix, water”. Give those adorable grand girls a hug from me, and one for you, too! ~Nicole

  2. Elaine C says:

    Thank you for the great blog. I don’t have beautiful handwriting, as my mother had, but I still send birthday, Christmas, Valentine cards, thank you notes, and letters. Receiving these means so much to me, and I hope it does to others. It is sad that email, tweets, and FB pass for so many special occasions now.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Elaine, Thank you! I agree…special occasions should be just that – special. Email and tweets and Facebook are great, but not for a special occasion. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Cissy Foster says:

    I still enjoy mailing out cards for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc…and I have kept all that I did receive since I’ve been married many years ago. Sometimes I regret having internet, as that is how most want to communicate nowadays, but I realize that without it, I would not hear from anyone otherwise. I too long for some of the simpler times of hand written letters, something tangible to reread, an old friend, like a favorite novel from years past.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Cissy, Beautifully said! You are so right. Many of the cards and letters I have are from friends who communicated via letter, then later email, and now, sadly, only Facebook. I love Christmas, and really love getting hand signed Christmas cards. Sadly, I see fewer in the stores, and less in the mailbox each year. I’m not giving up, and hope that my daughter’s generation will someday realize what they are missing. Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Rebecca says:

    I love the feeling of finding an envelope in my mailbox with a hand written address. I just know that it’s going to be something special. We have a lady’s Bible study group at church and our leader passes out note cards at the end of the evening to encourage each lady to pick a person from the group and write a little note. When I get a note from one of my friends from that group, it’s just a wonderful joy to know that someone has taken the time to write to me. I still enjoy writing letters (or in some cases, just a note) and we never know what a difference it can make in someone’s life. I have all the old letters that my dad wrote to my mom while he served in the Army during World War II, and it gives me a better understanding of who he was and the relationship of my parents when they were young.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Rebecca, Thank you for sharing. I love both the note card idea for a group of friends or Bible study group, and your story of the letters you have from your parents during WWII. How romantic and special! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Patricia Rush Morris says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m with you, in that I enjoy very much the modern and fast ways of communicating. I can’t imagine having to wait for weeks or months, for a letter from my daughter or son that they made it across the country via a wagon train!! And I love my laptop and tablet, washer and dryer, and heavens I need my vacuum!! But handwritten notes and letters are still a wonderful thing to receive. They are so personal and just make you feel special.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Patricia, Oh I hear you! I am so far away from any family, and when we first moved here twenty-five-plus years ago, long distance calling was still a very expensive luxury. I would eagerly anticipate letters from home. Thankfully, in this day and age, I speak to my parents just about every day via phone. I can’t imagine the prairie days, like you mentioned, waiting months to hear news on a loved one. I am also apreciating my washer and dryer today – it’s a very snowy, icy day here, but there is something to be said for freshly dried laundry on a clothesline in summer! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, NIcole

  6. Julie says:

    What a wonderful blog on the ” lost art” of letter writing…I have letters that I have saved from my deceased grandmothers that are among my “prized possessions”. As you described, they are in their individual styles of handwriting…so it seems like they are still with us.
    Thank You for reminding us of how special, a handwritten, letter can make us feel in this age of texts and emails…

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Julie! I love that you have your grandmother’s letters. So very special. I always appreciate a note or card in the mailbox, especially nowadays in our “digital” age. It does seem as though the writer of a hand signed or handwritten letter is right there with us! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Denise says:

    ah, so very true!

  8. Carol says:

    Hi Nicole! Love this post. I grew up with a mother and father who both loved letter writing. They set a good example for their three daughters. I love the internet and I love staying in touch with friends and family near and far but I still love sending cards and notes. And, like Julie above, I have saved handwritten letters and cards from all of my grandparents and many other people. I treasure them. I actually write to my 88-year old mother once a month because she gets so excited getting mail! She lives 2 hours away. I write all kinds of newsy little things, include newspaper clippings I know she’ll enjoy and I always send her photographs. I send greeting cards and notes to my grandchildren, ages 13, 9, and 2 as well. I hope they keep them! Carol

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Carol, Thank you for sharing. I love what you wrote. The internet is great, but so are the tangible ways to keep in touch, like you mention with your grandchildren. I have cards and letters from relatives, and also from “Lucy” the “grandmother neighbor” who lived across the street from me when I was a child. They all mean so much. Keep up the good work; your grandchildren are so blessed! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Joan says:

    Great blog!! With Christmas in our, not so distant past, I reflectd on how few Christmas greetings we received, makes me sad. SO I have already started on my, ‘ a year in the life at our home’, by keeping notes. Now, I’m sure my notes will need to be edited but cards/letters will be sent this year. I am excited for this to be and yes they each will be hand written. Thanks for this blog. God bless.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joan, thank you! I felt the same way this year. I was saddened by the smaller amount of Christmas cards; some senders have passed on, while others opted for “digital”. I love your “year in the life” idea. I would love to hear more as you continue. Thanks for reading and commenting! Big Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Vivian Monroe says:

    Nicole, I love this. It is true we are getting so busy and trying to move our lives down the road so fast, we are missing out on so much. My daughter in love is the best at sending cards. Everytime they come for a visit (they just live an hour away) I usually have something to send back with them, or cook them lunch etc, she always sends back a cute little handwritten card thanking us. :) She is so considerate that way. So usually at Christmas I will put a book of stamps in her stocking and once I got her a wax and Letter J sealer to seal her envelopes. She loved it. I love receiving cards in the mail. Be Blessed. Neta.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Neta! Good to hear from you! How sweet (Daughter in Love), and what a great idea to put stamps in her stocking! I always say my mother-in-law is my “bonus”; sounds like your daughter in Love is a lucky, blessed lady as well. Much love to you. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Jodie says:

    I tell you what…January is a hard month for me because my mailbox is not as fun to check! This past December, I received 75 Christmas cards. I hang them all in the large “door frame” between my dining room and living room. I keep them up until at least February, sometimes later. My birthday is in August and I usually get at least 10-12 cards that I place on my mantle. I just love it. I quit Facebook 5 years ago and my friends know how much I cherish their cards and letters. My five year old loves to make cards with me. They’re nothing fancy, but give me a chance to write a little letter to let someone know I’m thinking of them. And yes, I have kept many letters from mama, daddy and my grandparents and I love spending a rainy day going through old letters.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Jodie, One of my favorite things about Christmas is the receiving (and sending) of Christmas cards. What a great thing you do with your five year old – making cards. I love to do that too, and maybe I will make a few now that it’s February. I haven’t made any homemade ones in awhile. I love your comment – what a great way to spend a rainy day. Thanks for sharing! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. Beverly Battaglia says:

    I love this blog. Your grandmother, my mother, had the most beautiful handwriting I ever saw. My friend, Mary Ammerman, also has a very beautiful and distinct handwriting. It tells a lot about a person. Mine was good when I had to make good grades in school, but later I was always in a hurry and got sloppy. Beautiful picture of you and Audrey and I am so proud of her.
    I love you,
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mama! I love your handwriting! It’s not that sloppy! I know my grandmother’s writing was stunning! I have all the little notes you’ve sent me through the years. They mean so much to me. I love you, Nicole

  13. Hadassah says:

    Ooh, good post. I absolutely love sending, writing, and recieving letters! Thanks for the challenge! I’ll be sure and try it! :)

    Hadassah <3

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Hadassah, thank you, I am so happy you enjoyed my post and are stepping up to my challenge! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  14. Kaye H says:

    I really enjoyed your post. I have two pen pals from a FB page and it’s the coolest thing to be writing letters. My granddaughter who is 24 writes letters or cards to me a lot which is very surprising. She never learned cursive either but the last two cards had a few cursive words❣️

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Kaye, Thank you…I love that your granddaughter writes letters to you. Wonderful! Thanks for reading and sharing. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  15. Sandi King says:

    OH, Nicole, I loved this post. I miss getting letters also. My cousin thanked me in a Christmas card she sent for sending her a Christmas card with my signature and a note inside. She said it is rare to get those and she misses the letters and notes and cards also. I have about 10 years worth of my mom’s letters that I have put in a binder inside sleeves to keep them from harm. We did genealogy research and she always let me know what she would find and I did the same for her so we did a lot of letter writing. I remember one sister-in-law who lived out west and we would write the longest letters back and forth telling each other all about what we were doing and who we got to visit and even if we cleaned house on a certain day and what we accomplished in trying something new. I so looked forward to those days when the mail would arrive with a letter and it would be a special day for me. I do so miss writing and being written to. I always send Christmas cards and I try to remember everyone’s birthday or anniversary and send them cards, but people move so much and with FB they just forget about updating a person on their new addresses. Instant (sort of) communication. I even miss the telephone conversations which we don’t have as much now with FB and Twitter. People are growing so far apart that a commercial on TV says, to four people in the room ” You could put down your cellphones and talk to each other.” Their reply was, laughter. That is sad.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sandi, I love that you have all of those letters from your mom. What treasures. I have fewer and fewer friends that write cards and letters these days. Facebook is great for some things, for instance I found my dream vintage camper on a tag sale group, or I can see pictures of my husband’s family in Denmark or my beloved cousins and nieces down south “in real time”, but it should never have served as a replacement of real communication. When my daughter was little, we took her to American Girl Cafe in New York City. We got all dressed up, she dressed her dolly up, and we went to eat there (it was really, really good food and service, I miss it now she’s a teen). Anyway, we watched as one little girl with her dolly sat, sad, just looking down at the table. Her father never once addressed her or looked up from his phone. Not once. We have a rule…no devices at the table. My daughter is really good about that, but I know a lot of parents keep theirs on so of course the kids will, too. We all need to find balance. Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing with me! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  16. Marilyn says:

    I love this post. I send cards for all occasions to relatives,friends and to children of friends. E- cards are not the same and you cannot keep them. My family has albums of cards sent to us over the many years. it is fun to reread them from time to time. it is a shame that the schools have forgone teaching cursive writing. I learned cursive writing in the third grade at a public school. My handwriting improved because of a sixth grade teacher, she was a stickler for perfect handwriting. We would have penmanship lessons every day. She taught us how to place the paper on the desk when writing. I am grateful for her lessons.
    Marilyn

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marilyn! I think “real” as opposed to “virtual” cards and letters make holidays, even ones that aren’t “vacation” days like Valentine’s, for example, special days. And this past Christmas, I sent “virtual” party invitations for our yearly Christmas party. Some of them were never delivered, and I had to make sure my friends didn’t get their feelings hurt and assure them they were indeed invited. I will not do that again! It will be a mailed invite or a phone call next time! Farmgirl Thanks for reading and commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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