#30DaysofGratitude: Letters Worth Noting


The envelopes from my mom's cards are just as fun as the cards themselves!

The seeds of this project have been germinating under grow lights for a while. Back in September I sat down to write a couple of thank you notes. As I dug through my box of spare cards—all the way to the bottom for the thank you cards—I realized it had been at least three years since I'd written a thank you note.


I say thank you, I email thank you, according to TweetStats one of my most tweeted words is "thanks," but you and I both know that nothing compares to receiving the words "thank you" in writing. I've never been diligent with thank you notes. I don't think I sent more than a handful of thank you notes throughout my childhood, I just told my mom I did (sorry Mom, sorry Grandma). I remembered to send them after job interviews, but that served my own self-interest as much as it offered my appreciation.

Have you seen the blog is Letters of Note? The handwritten letters captivate me, as they offer insight into the writer; his mood, his sense of humor, his level of precision. Did the writer have exacting penmanship or was he comfortable sending the letter with cross-outs? I especially adore notes that include little drawings (I've already linked to this letter from father to son, my favorite; see also this letter from father to daughter), perhaps because my mom and my uncle both illustrate their letters to me (and envelopes, as above).

The handwriting of a loved one is special. I have a yellow box that holds nearly every card I've received in the last dozen years, beginning my freshman year of college. A few short years later I lost Shannon, Grandma, and Grandpa all in one awful week. I can't explain it, but I cherish scraps of their handwriting as much—if not more—than photographs.


Shannon always wrote with a green pen, her favorite color.

As the art of letter writing declines, the value of notes and letters increases. While I have no doubt that someday people will coo over an Emails of Note blog, one part of the aesthetic connection is lost when all our written communication is transmitted through 1s and 0s. The artist in me appreciates having something tangible, to feel the weight of the card and the topography of embossed letters, to recognize Shannon's green ink or my mom's illustrations.

Perhaps, like the hastily written thank yous after an interview, this project is just for my own benefit. If so, fine; but I like to imagine that other people appreciate receiving handwritten letters just as much as I do. I'm eager to get started; I can barely wait for Thanksgiving to arrive so I can write the first note!

How about you? Do you keep cards? What about them do you love?

#30DaysofGratitude: Inspiration

Cards ready and waiting for their turn.

Thirty Days of Gratitude is a patchwork quilt of different projects I've admired this year, each of which I'll highlight as we go along. Most recently, and perhaps most directly, it is inspired by the generous Secret Agent L project.

Everyone needs a cool hunter in their lives; my friend Matt has impeccable taste, so when he said, "I think you'll like this site," I knew it would be great. Try amazing! Laura (Secret Agent L) encourages random acts of kindness around the world. Please go check her site. I'll wait.

Now that you've seen it, do you feel inspired? Do you want to participate? I know I was, am, and will be inspired by Laura and her affiliated agents for a long time to come.

The news in Philly gets me down on a daily basis: shootings, suicide by train, an awful lady keeping prisoners in her basement to steal social security money. I'm filled with despair at the violence for the sake of violence. Secret Agent L is the antithesis; a network of people sharing kindness purely because they can.

As with our Thirty Days of Gratitude, you don't need money to participate in Secret Agent L's project. Yes, a lot of the projects posted there include gift cards or store-bought items, but my first project as an affiliated agent cost me a total of eight cents and some time.

You don't need money to participate in Thirty Days of Gratitude. It's okay if you can't afford to buy greeting cards. It's okay if you don't know how to make your own. Grab a piece of white paper and write a letter. You could illustrate it if you'd like, but as long as your words are genuine, have confidence that is enough.

New Project: Thirty Days of Gratitude

I've been casting about for my next project over the last few weeks, not quite sure where to take this blog next. What do I want to write about? What do you want to read? Rather than hopping from topic to topic, I've wished I had something larger to share with you.

I think I've finally found it. Beginning on Thanksgiving and running over the course of thirty days, I am going to hand write a thank you card daily to someone who has influenced my life over the past year.

I have so much to be grateful for this year; I'm traveling down the road of my life's goals. Far more importantly, I have so many people to be grateful for, all of the lovely people who are helping me along the way, both new and long-time friends. I don't say thank you often enough.

Here are the parameters for my project, although I suspect I'll make some alterations along the way:

  • Why: My life is going well and I need to recognize the people who have helped me get here. Daily writing practice is an ancillary benefit.
  • Daily commitment: Hand write at least one thank you card per day; photograph the card
  • Duration: November 24 (Thanksgiving) to December 23

I don't feel it is appropriate to post the contents of the letters here on the blog (that's between the recipient and me), but I will post a photo of the the card's outside. I'm looking forward to writing about the inspirations for this project and the role gratitude has played in my life.

I'd love for you to join me, if not for thirty days, then at least for a day or two. Identify someone who has made a difference in your life this year and find a way to say thank you.

Photo by Sadie Hernandez


Saying Thank You

The ground moved in Philadelphia today, not because I did something monumental, but because the actual ground moved, something I have not experienced previously. My boss is from San Diego and so I've quizzed him on the earthquake phenomena on more than one occasion. I have my comfort zone; it includes blizzards, tornado warnings, mosquitoes; it does not include poisonous snakes and insects, nor spontaneous fluctuations of the terra supposed firma.

That being said, it was small (5.9) and I quite enjoyed it. The floor started shaking, as though we were up in the Sears Tower on a windy day; except that we were on the 14th floor. It brought a little excitement to the afternoon, which previously had relied on our new CityView candy display for entertainment. Jende did accuse me of causing the earthquake, and I think I'll hesitate the next time I feel like calling out anything biblical.

Let's all take a moment and say thanks. And if we feel so inclined, I know a really good organization that helps people after real earthquakes (aforementioned boss is the USA Chairman).

Speaking of thanks, I've been scratching around for a good "thank you" quote, but I just keep coming up empty-handed. I've never been terribly good at sending thank you cards—okay, let's be honest; I am terrible with sending thank you cards, but it's something I'm working on. Mom did her best to teach me that it was the right thing to do, but unless she bolted me to the chair, I always refused write one.

Now, of course, a thank you card is an excuse for a craft project. I'm not too big into basic papercraft (read: I hate scrapbooking), but I just can't let these opportunities pass me by. I have a reputation to uphold, and it does not include pre-made thank you cards.

So, if you've got a good "thanks for the encouragement" quote, I'd be ever so grateful if you could pass it along.