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Posts tagged ‘letters’

Making Memories

photo by counselman collection, via flickr creative commons

photo by counselman collection, via flickr creative commons

“When people say that time goes by too quickly, I generally respond that time goes by at just the right pace.  But today, when I think back on the day you were born, that five-year chunk of time seems to have passed very quickly….you’re growing up in an interesting time, as there are lots of social changes afoot (legalization of gay marriage was a huge social issue in the past year) and technology continues to evolve at rocket speed….I was just looking for the email address I reserved for you when you were born and wondered to myself whether email will even exist when you’re old enough to use it….This year has been filled with tragedies in Newtown and Boston and around the world, and every time one occurs, I have to shift my mind away from the fear that it will happen closer to home and find strength in my confidence that you are going to contribute to making this a more peaceful and happy world….I love you with every bit of my soul.”

These are a few excerpts from the birthday letter I wrote to my son last night.  Every year on my children’s birthdays, I pour myself a glass of wine and take some time to pen a letter re-capping the past year in their lives, my life, our family, our corner of the world, and the broader world and society we’re part of.  My plan is to hold all of these letters and turn them over to the kids when they’re ready to fly the coop…giving them a glimpse into what happened in our lives and in the world as they grew up.

I generally don’t make cakes (I’m a crummy baker) or cool Pinterest-ready gifts on kids’ birthdays, but I do try to “make memories.”  Knowing I lacked the discipline to keep up with a traditional baby book, when I had children, I decided these letters would be the way I’d try to connect the dots for myself and our kids.  I do this because as time goes on, the events of our days and lives start to bleed together.  And an annual milestone like a birthday offers time and space and reason to extract the events and ideas and emotions that stand out over days and months and years and lifetimes and keep them in the forefront of our minds.  In the case of the letter I wrote last night, it’s also a great way to help my children (someday) understand who I am…not just as their mom, but as a person.  I freely write about my own hopes and fears, my own passions and projects, and my own frustrations and celebrations — to remind myself and teach them about the constant juggling and tradeoffs involved in life….and to remind them that each of us is our own unique person on this planet.

Not everyone likes typing letters like I do, and that’s fine.  There are tons of amazing forms of self-expression — songs, videos, drawings, handmade cards, etc.  For example, every year on our anniversary, Sean and I pull out a nondescript book that sits on our bookshelf and together jot down a few notes of trips we took, job highlights and challenges, friends we made, things that happened in the world, etc.   This weekend’s New York Times featured drawings authors made of their children at specific ages, accompanied by a brief 1-sentence summary of the parent’s greatest fear.

The practice of making memories will look and feel different for anyone who does it, but the point is that taking time to make memories — both for yourself and for your loved ones — can be a powerful way to anchor our past, direct our futures, and knit our common experiences together in really special ways.

What do you think?  Do you do anything special to mark the time between birthdays, anniversaries, or even just calendar years?  What do you do, why do you do it, and who do you share it with?   

21st Century Postcards

photo by counselman collection, via flickr creative commons

photo by counselman collection, via flickr creative commons

I’m a luddite in some respects, and I always have been.  As a kid I wanted to be Laura Ingalls, and I dreamed of eating by candlelight and panning for gold and walking to school and running free on a 19th century farm.  I even begged my mom to make me a long gown and bonnet and get me a metal lunch pail to take to school (totally weird, I know).  And even today, I love old-fashioned things like hand-written letters and physical (versus online) stores and paper lists.

In light of my tendency to yearn for the simplicity of the past, it’s ironic that I now live in the land of the future — Silicon Valley.  But I love the future too.  Surrounded by things and people and ideas revolving around technology, it’s hard to not feel excited about the promise of innovation.  I love the way technology helps me keep track of information and stay connected to people and see my parents who live thousands of miles away and learn new things and understand the world around me.  But at the end of the day, I don’t think technology can replace the joy of physical relationships and tangible goods.  I think they need to gracefully co-exist.

One of the most concrete examples of this is the mailbox.  I don’t want it to go away, despite the rise of companies focused on virtualizing mail.  I love finding real letters in the mailbox…feeling the paper and seeing a loved one’s handwriting and knowing they took the time to sit down and write something.  My mom is really great at this (thanks, mom)!

So…in an attempt to marry my real life with my virtual life, I just tried out a postcard app called Postagram.  It was simple: upload photo from phone, write short message, upload address (I sent one to my sister), pay, and hit “send.”  Yes, my sister won’t get a handwritten card, but she will get a smiling photo of my 4-yr-old in a tie when she opens her mailbox one day next week!  This whole process took me under three minutes, and it’s a great way to communicate in a new and interesting way.

If you like this idea, there are lots of companies in this space:

How do you stay in touch with your loved ones?  Do you love real letters, or think of them as a thing of the past?

Love Letters

When I met my now husband we were living in different cities, so the early days of courtship weren’t exactly traditional.  Rather than movies and dinners and everyday surprises, we got to know one another through weekend visits, late night phone conversations, and yes…email (Snapchat didn’t yet exist).  Getting to know someone via email doesn’t sound very romantic, but when you think about it, the idea of a love letter has been around and revered since the beginning of written civilization. Read more

Holiday Cards in July?

photo(4)I dumped our stack of holiday cards into the corner mailbox this morning, feeling relieved to have gotten them out the door before January or February (for the first time ever).  Getting our act together to get cards made and mailed isn’t easy and undoubtedly involves a swift argument over who was on the hook to get the missing addresses, followed by a late-night push to get envelopes stuffed and stamped.  If it’s such a scramble, what keeps us (primarily North Americans and Asians, according to wikipedia) sending cards year after year (the first “Christmas card” was sent in 1843)?  Read more

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