Category Archives: penmanship

Thank You Notes

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Just in case my mother forgot to write her thank you notes

for Christmas, 2013’s gifts, I sat down this morning to get

this task finished. It had been on the ‘back burner’ of my

brain, since New Year’s Day. My Mom had always stressed the

importance of writing thank you’s. Even as a child, we would

get our lined paper out of our notebooks, write out our thank

you’s to aunts, uncles and our grandparents. There were years

that we were old enough to use those pretty cards that did not

have any lines and we were then using pen, not pencil, to impart

our personal hand written messages of gratitude. I have several

saved of my Grandpa Mattson’s, some from friends, pen pals,

children and grandchildren’s, along with my parents’ notes all

sent to me, in a little chest purchased from Pier One Imports.

It has a nice little brass latch connecting the hinged lit to

its darkly stained, woven basket chest. I have preserved years

of memories in postcards, letters, cards and little notes that

were ‘dashed off’ on church bulletins or restaurant paper placemats.

Some are loving, others apologetic, and most were saved becoming

special; due to the “who” that sent them. Looking at them, easily

recognizing each family member’s characteristic scrawl or neatly

penned handwriting, brings back memories of the times they were

written. Two of my aunts sent me postcards at camp each year,

summers which also challenged my Dad to take the time, missing

me to write, too. Mom has always been the most faithful, twice

a week correspondent, through college, my moving away and living

in Bowling Green (as a young newlywed), to Lancaster (as a young

mother) and then, finally, during the long years of being single,

here in Delaware. She chose cards sometimes but mainly used floral
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print stationery. My Mom, after all was “Rosie,” so that was often

the theme of gifts. It was very difficult to weed and sort, trying

to choose ones that meant the most, to save!

I started each of the five thank you’s this morning with a bold

and calligraphy written message of “Happy New Year, 2014!” Then,

I followed with the personal words, “Dear ——.”

Here are three of the gifts that were shared with my mother

this past Christmas for which I am so grateful for, too.

The first notes I wrote were showing Thankfulness for

Friendships:

To the couple out in Colorado, who have been friends with my

Mom since she was teaching in Westlake, Ohio in 1970. This

44 year friendship included a man who was the drama coach and

theatre director at Westlake. David Lanning, his wife, their son

and daughter mean a lot to my Mom, for their continued caring

and informative communication. Her old co-worker, David, is the

one who writes about his family’s current happenings.

I like to point this out, have been married to two men who

kept up writing and have two brothers who continue to write

personal letters. I have enjoyed re-reading about my brother,

Randy’s travels and receiving notes on Mother’s Day, Valentine’s

Day and birthday cards from my brother, Rich. I never realized

how rare this was until I entered that match.com six months’

period. Most men were not even interested in emailing and at

our lunch table, when Melvin is around, he says that he is the

only one in his family who still writes ‘snail mail.’

The other friendship was a neighbor, Jeannie J., who lived

across the street from my parents when they retired in 1980.

The couple who lived there had met, (very encouraging to

me), at a Burger King, both divorced and wishing for a new

companion. Jeannie shared with me, wedding photographs last

summer, along with their love story. When they were in line

for fast food, they chatted, as they parted and he shook

her hand, a shock and a shiver went up her arm. Their life

style changed dramatically over the years, motorcycling and

travel was their passion. Unfortunately, Jeannie has lost

her Dennis, her parents and his parents and her son, she is

only five years older than I am, such a kind and sweet,

attractive woman. I thought her special Christmas card to

Mom, with a personal message, merited a thank you from me

to her.

Her message to me had been: “Don’t judge a book by its cover!”

(Since she would never have dreamed of being a ‘biker chick’

in her forties! But that is what she had become once married

to her Dennis.)

The next gift was from my Mom’s cousin, Elaine. My note to her

was thanking her for the Gift of Life. Mom loved her gift of

the gorgeous pot with the bulbs of paperwhites tucked under the

peat moss dirt. I told Elaine about our holidays. I also told

her how Mom had been excited after Christmas to take down her

decorations. She could not wait to put the new planter on a

doily on her shelf outside her apartment door. Many of the

residents like to decorate these as small examples or showcases

for their style and creativity. Her simple, bright green shoots

of the paperwhites were popping out by New Year’s Eve.

Mom had mentioned to me, in one of her recent notes, that she

has been getting compliments on her simple decoration. Some

have felt the message was for a ‘Hope for Spring.’ Elaine is in

her late eighties and I thought her gift such a great idea!

For love, family and remembrance, I thanked my younger cousin,

Holly and her family for the delicious gift of Fannie Mae

chocolates. When Mom opened it, she wanted to share it with us,

but my youngest daughter and I declined, telling her to savor

them, hide them and eat them later, after the holidays. The

beautifully wrapped circular box, ribboned festively with its

golden bow was a perfect gift ‘match’ for my chocolate-loving Mom!

I am always grateful for my brothers’, son’s and daughters’

cooking, baking and sustenance. I had already written my thank

you cards to them. I texted back and forth to my sister in law,

with gratitude for her carefully chosen gifts from South Africa.

I had put off sending these grateful missives long enough! I just

needed to get this ‘chore’ completed. Once finished though, I was

so happy. It is strange how prolonging what you perceive as agony,

often once completed, feels like it was meaningful and you wonder

‘why?’ it took you so long to do it!

I had worried, with my Mom’s memory slipping away, that she would

not follow through on her end. I also think that it never hurts to

double up on thanking someone. It’s always a good idea, to make

sure that the ones who matter the most, know you are filled with

love and gratitude!

Handwritten Love Letters

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Collections of notes and love letters carry such important

messages. Sometimes connecting the world with the past,

sometimes bringing hope and love across the miles and

through dangerous times. Bill Shapiro went around the world

to collect his findings of such varied subjects, but mostly

he wanted Love Letters. (Check out his book, “Other People’s

Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See, October,

2007.)

Bill Shapiro’s book can be studied to help you write a moving

and poignant love letter. His collection of letters range from

the very serious subject matter, includes the humorous to the

sublime.

Bill gathered notes and cards, too, that were sent from the

youngest age of kindergarten to the oldest age of beyond

ninety was a fantastic project for him to undertake. I would

have enjoyed this project and cherished the memories of the

faces on the people sharing them and who I would have met along

my journey.

I think that finding letters in an attic is such a wonderful

way to connect to your family’s heritage and see into the

way their thoughts and feelings were during the period the

messages were sent. The subjects of history, war, Depression

and the Holocaust have given us fascinating missives.

My Dad’s love letters, sent from Cleveland to Middletown,

Ohio were beseeching and searching for the way to capture my

Mom’s heart. They ‘cinched the deal’ while my Mom dated a

few men after college, living at home with her parents and

teaching high school. Their love life was always passionate,

filled with the continued promise that it would last forever.

The packet of shoestring tied cards with each personally

filled out, by my Dad to my Mom, found after his death has

been on my mind, especially as their 59th anniversary is

fast approaching.

You see, four years before my Dad’s death he suffered a

life-changing stroke. It was debilitating in a devastating

way. He was not able to read nor write for months. Once he

‘passed’ the occupational and physical therapists’ time

limit, my mother had helped to find the interesting twist of

fate that had switched his right and left sides of his brain.

He was walking in the winter, through the Sandusky, Ohio mall,

where he kept bumping into people. My mother quietly and gently

would move him back by her side.

When he would reach for his silverware or cup of coffee, she

would note, he would be reaching in the opposite direction

from where he wanted. He would look at my mother, with a

somewhat confused and childlike look on his face. She said it

reminded her of a wounded puppy.

She started by telling him to place his left hand on the table

and remember that was his left side. When he would physically

do this, it helped. It placed him more in the realm of awareness

and also, this became quite helpful for him to read again.

One of my parent’s favorite activity, as they drank their coffee

on retirement days, they would combine their brains and complete

the crossword puzzle in two newspapers daily. What he knew in

science and technology balanced her knowledge of the world,

history and of course, her favorite subject, English and

languages.

My mom found the squares in the crossword puzzle to be rather

helpful for Dad’s orientation and re-introduction to writing

left to right. Why do I think this is significant to love letters?

The way he was childlike had concerned my mother’s mind and their

budget. Her ‘last straw’ was when he chose to buy six ‘expensive’

Vermilion, Ohio beach towels from one of the souvenir stores in

their retirement village of choice. The total came to $120!! my

Mom yelled! My Mom took his credit card away, even though the

thought of his six grandchildren, my three plus Rich and Susan’s

three, were not worth the extraordinary cost! She returned the

towels to wait until a local store (now closed) called Alco’s

had their beach towels on sale, at the end of summer clearance.

So, my Dad was sadly commissioned an ‘allowance’ of only twenty

dollars a week.

Four wonderful years passed. He had been given a new lease on

life, his heart had stopped in the hospital while recuperating

from the stroke. He had gone, he believed ‘to Heaven and back.’

Pulled back to life, by the resuscitation process with those

handheld electric shock pumps on his chest.

Of course, if you have read this before, it never hurts to hear

these encouraging words that my Dad exclaimed, once ‘back from

his spaceship trip to Heaven:’

“If I can make it to Heaven, anyone can!”

My Dad found out he had cancer in late Summer, 2000. He was

told it may be a year or less, he took the chemo and the other

treatments. He was ‘chipper’ but nauseous. He continued to find

wonders in each day, since that stroke had made him a big kid

again. Mom and he had some special and romantic moments, despite

his knowing he was not going to live long.

The fact that he bought, over the short period of September, 2000

when he found out he had cancer and not long to live, until the

beginning of January, a total of 42 cards is outstanding! He used

his budget to buy a few each time that my parents were out, my

Mom swears she never even noticed him wandering around the stores

towards the card department. She also said when she was buying

candy at the local Hallmark Shoppe, she did not notice him looking

and searching for ‘just the right one.’ None of us knew until my

Dad had died on January 27, 2001, that my Mom’s treasure trove of

cards and messages was still waiting for her to find.

It took my Mom past February to even think of going into Dad’s

clothing drawers. She found a few things in the laundry and

was not even wishing to wash them. They had my Dad’s scent on

them. She wore one of his sweatshirts for a month of nights

to bed. She finally got herself ‘geared up’ for the heavy task

of cleaning out the drawers.

Three stacks were made on the bed she no longer slept in. The

day that my Dad passed, she chose to start sleeping on the sofa

with the back of it, like his own back, pressed up against her.

One stack of clothes was for my brothers to search through,

one was for the grandkids, my own three children choosing to

pick a t-shirt and a tie, with my son and oldest daughter

wanting a leather belt each. The third stack of clothing went

to the Vermilion Goodwill Store.

When she opened the socks drawer, she was digging through

it, transferring the great number of tube socks directly

across the room, into her own sock drawer. She, to this

day, wears men’s socks that are leftover from Dad or buys

new ones to remind her of him.

At the bottom of the drawer a pile of cards over 12″ tall,

about 8″ wide, was tied with a brown shoe string. It had

a note at the top. It said (the gist of it):

“Rosalie, I hope that you will find comfort in these cards

that I searched for you to open. Please read only on the

dates that are given on them, so they will last quite

awhile. I hope to make it to our 46th anniversary, but if

not, that will be your first card to open. Now, you know

I love you and will be with you always. Don’t be sad when

the last card is opened. Maybe you can have a party and

celebrate then, on our 50th Golden Anniversary.

Love you, pardner! Bob.”

My Mom called each of us to share the news. We had had a

meal on their 46th anniversary with Mom, my oldest daughter,

both brothers, myself, my sister in law and my ex-husband.

We had eaten at one of their favorite restaurants by the

Sandusky Mall. She had not yet found the hidden cards.

When Valentine’s Day came she had not yet discovered the pile.

But by the rowdy holiday of St. Patrick’s Day and the rest of

the years leading up to 2005, she had several to open on important

dates, along with some silly ones thrown in to fill in gaps in time.

There were six non-holiday ones, that tickled his ‘fancy,’ and had

some nonsensical reference to a memory that they shared. All major

holidays we celebrated, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and New

Year’s. Each had some quick thoughts jotted down after the printed

message. My Dad utilized some of his clever and sarcastic wit. Her

birthday ones and the anniversary ones seemed to my eyes to respect

their serious nature and therefore were very elaborate and ornate.

These were the ‘special’ ones, that if you were there, you would

note a tear shed by Mom. The Halloween ones had silly things like

witches and one time, as if she were a child, one had a ghost that

opened up into three dimensional and whispered, “Boo!”

We had that celebratory party, in a fancy hotel restaurant

halfway to my aunt and uncle’s house in Chardon, Ohio. It was

a lovely feast, where each had put their thirty dollars in to

pay the total bill and include a grand tip for the servers.

It included cousins and three female grandchildren, one great

grandchild, Skyler, (age 4 months), we three siblings, two

spouses, my Aunt Amy and Uncle Orrin and Mom, in all her glory,

at the head of the table.

Gifts were humorous or simple, no expense was stressed when we

planned this celebratory occasion.

Mom ‘kept the card’ but I practically memorized Dad’s message

written here are the words on my Parent’s 50th Anniversary card,

which was absolutely gorgeous,

written five years prior:

“Dear Rosalie,

You were my help mate, my editor, my best friend, my anchor,

my co-pilot, and the mother of my children. You were the love

of my life.

And to Robin, Randy and Rich, our 3 R’s (reading, writing and

‘rithmetic!)

And to Carrie, Jamie, Felicia, Katherine, Jonathan and Libby~~

And to All the Possibilities!

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

(he included 9 ?’s)

I LOVE YOU!

I wish to have you understand what an impact this has been

on my years since. It is hard not to compare the love between

my parents, one raised in the ghetto, working nights at age 11.

My Mom says, “He was such a punk!” While the other half of the

pair (dynamic duo!), my Mom, was raised well. To the long list

of men who have been my suitors (husbands, friends and boyfriends)

I have been disappointed. They “did not hold a candle” to him!

My optimism mixes with some dashes of cynicism, then I get

a little nudge or message in a dream from my Dad:

“Don’t give up the search!

Protect your heart.

He is waiting for you to find him!”

Lovingly sent.

Dropping Penmanship

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“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Somehow, this makes me sad

that I didn’t write this in September, back to school time. But I did

know that penmanship was dropped out of the “Common Core.”

State standards, or school curriculum requirements, no longer require

students to be taught handwriting, cursive or what we called

“penmanship.” I liked to write in my nice blocked off letters in my early

primary school years. Making sure the circles that were made for the “d”

and the “b” didn’t “roll off the page!

I remember watching teachers letters forming on the board while

trying to copy their letters to the “T!” I was a little mimic, Mom said I

imitated the teacher’s moves in ballet class with some humorous

flourishes. I tended to want to add flourishes to my cursive once we

learned how to do that form of writing. I liked my “writing handbooks”

and our journals that we would write our thoughts or follow an

assignment. As a sixth grade Language Arts teacher, I liked taking those

precious journals filled with my students’ thoughts and reflections.

There was a lot of “angst” expressed in their writings. Somehow, if

they had been simply written on a computer and then, printed off, the

impact and power of their words, may not have been driven home.

Of course, schools have not immediately stopped these procedures. I

just can see the day happening, now that it is not “required.” There will

be no tests and no answering to anybody about this area of expertise!

Mom found a really nice article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about

a man who still makes lovely designed pens. HIs name is Brian Gray,

he has a “machine shop” where he makes custom pens. He is a “pen

maker.” There are still a wide variety of people who are interested

in purchasing the hand designed fountain pens with a variety of “nibs.”

There are still beautiful Pelikan pens that have a pelican engraved on

it. I think Cross pens are wonderful tools, this article mentioned by

Joe Crea, a reporter, that he considers them, “reliable tools for everyday

use and inexpensive enough” that he wouldn’t “flip out if they’re lost.”

Joe Crea mentions that he still has in his possession, a “vintage Schaeffer,”

a wedding gift to his parents in the late 1940’s. He has a Mont-blanc

Meisterstuck Classique, a gift from his wife on his 40th birthday.

As writers, how many of you jot your thoughts on note cards or paper

in a notebook, before proceeding to the computer to write your posts

as you blog? I still write notes, since I carry them in my purse, they are

on small slips of paper, either stapled together if I am at home, or

clipped together with a bobby pin or paper clip. I go to the library, spill

the words onto the computer, trying to “beat the clock” before the

next person needs to use the computer. I feel blessed that so far, my

“well has not dried.” (Reference to the days when I would use an ink

well. I no longer use in my pen and ink drawings that form of artistic

usage of ink. I used thin point or extra fine point “Sharpies.” They still

resist the watercolors I apply in some of my drawings and children’s

name drawings.

I do like Joe Crea’s line thtaz summed up the downfall of pen and ink

usage,

“Sure, there were issues that drove many users to abandon their

fountain pens: leaking, smudging, staining. Scratchy nibs. Uneven,

stop-start ink flow. The agony of losing a pricey pen.”

How often in your life have you treasured a special pen? Has one come

to you in a gift box, laid on a bed of black felt, maybe in a set? It was

common in my “old days” to receive them, once you graduated from a

level of school, if you had a boss who wanted to reward you or as a special

occasion gift.

The sadness for me is that I can see the days when we won’t appreciate

those scrolling letters. Nor the artistic and creative ways that people write.

There would not need to be writing analysis books and experts who could

tell your personality, simply through the way you wrote.

History of the words “the pen is mightier than the sword:”

George Whetstone (1582)

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (1602)

Robert Burton (1621)

Thomas Jefferson 1796) to Thomas Paine, “Go on doing with your pen

what in other times was done with the sword.”

The person attributed to “coining the actual phrase” was Edward Bulwer-

Lytton, (1839), in his play, “Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy.”

His words in the play were:

“True, This!-

Beneath the rules of men entirely great

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Behold the arch-enchanters wand! Itself a nothing.

But taking the master-hand

To paralyse the Caesars and to strike

the loud earth breathless-

Take away the sword- states can be saved.”