Sunday, November 03, 2013

How to Make Friends and Write to People, Part 2

So now that you have the background behind how I kind of stumbled into this penpalling thing, you know I am no expert.  Plenty of people have written more and better on this topic (and hopefully soon I will round some of that great info up for you), but here I give you my perspective (geared towards making pen friends through Instagram) in 6 simple steps.

Step 1:  Write a letter to someone you know.  

If you are interested in snail mail and pen palling, I suggest starting with those closest to you--write a letter to your grandmother, your mother, your sister, your brother, your best friend from high school . . . or send a thank-you letter to someone who has had you over for dinner or given you a gift (no matter how long ago).

Step 2:  Take a picture and tag it.

Before you send the letter off, take a picture--conceal the addresses for privacy--and post it to Instagram.  You don't have to say who it's for, and you might consider keeping it a secret, especially if the intended recipient is also on Instagram (don't want to spoil the surprise).  That said, you could also mention the recipient and create a little suspense/give them something to look forward to.  I have done a little of both, but I lean towards keeping it a secret.  Tag it with a mail-related hashtag (#sendmoremail, #stationery, #showandmail, and #snailmail are a few good ones).

Note:  You do not have to have a dedicated mail account on IG.  You can keep photographing what you've always enjoyed photographing, but adding snail mail pics to your account is a good way to meet others interested in snail mail as well.  It doesn't have to be all you post about--there are letter lovers who only occasionally take pictures of mail, those who focus exclusively on mail, and those like me who have a little of everything with a heavy emphasis on mail.  :)

Step 3:  Keep writing letters to family and friends.
Write your grandmother again.  Get back in touch with an out-of-state friend.  Send your cousin a birthday card.  Even if you aren't receiving mail in return, enjoy the process of giving to another, sending mail off to be enjoyed with no strings attached.  Writing a letter is like a good talk with an old friend.  You feel connected just by the act of writing, and you know that you are sending something that will likely brighten someone's day.  It's worth it for that alone.

Step 4:  Be sociable on Instagram.

If you're enjoying the Instagram thing and you want to keep meeting new IGers, keep taking and posting pics.  Pretty soon you will have a collection of happy mail pics in your gallery, and you might have already met some other snail mailers.  Follow the accounts of those who inspire you.  Comment on photos and say hello.

Always be sincere in your IG conversations--just enjoy interacting with others who share your interests, regardless of whether or not you will ever be penpals or they will ever follow you back.  Have fun making new friends, and eventually you may find that some of these friends would like to exchange letters.  Occasionally, someone will put a request out for new penpals.  Responding to a general request or responding to a request that someone makes of you through comments on a photo is a great way to get started writing.

Step 5:  Keep these tips in mind (just a few things I've learned by watching):
  • The person that introduces himself/herself or requests to exchange letters generally starts the process (if agreed to) by writing first.  
  • Use email, rather than the comments section on IG, to exchange addresses.  In this case, your email will be displayed publicly but your address won't.  I think there are varying levels of caution with this.  It doesn't worry me too much to have my email out there, but I do go ahead and use email to get the formalities taken care of.  That said . . . see below.  
  • A few of my IG friends (hello, @bevinblight, @carmsdubois, and @juliabump!) have also devised a stealthy "self-destructing message" system wherein information is left in a comment, written down by the intended recipient, and then deleted immediately after.  (This is a surefire way to add some intrigue to the whole process and is very appealing to me, as I did have my own detective agency as a kid and have a lot of experience with this kind of top-secret stuff.)  
  • Some avid snail mailers may have all the penpals that they can handle at the moment.  Be sure to check their profiles before requesting in case they have already specified that they are not looking for new pals at this time.
  • If a fellow Instagrammer replies that he or she is not taking on new penpals at the moment, do not take it personally.  That just means that this person is already full with real life responsibilities and current letter writing commitments.  Don't worry--there are lots of people out there who need a good letter and lots of people willing to write.  Give it time and be friendly and keep sending happy mail to everyone that's already in your address book.  
  • Your new penpals do not necessarily have to be established letter writing enthusiasts--any of your Instagram friends could be a future penpal.  If someone leaves a kind comment on one of your snail mail photos or if you have an IG friend you've interacted with frequently, ask if that person would like to share his or her address and start writing.  

Step 6:  Remember--your existing friends can be penpals too.

Keep in mind that you may have an offline friend who is just as interested in keeping in touch via snail mail as your Instagram friends are.  Ask around (in person, on Facebook, by email . . .).  If you find someone who is game, just start small by committing to one letter each and deciding who is going to write first.  It's always nice to build and strengthen current friendships in addition to making new ones!   

There is more to be said on this and lots of inspiring sites (and Instagram accounts!) to check out, but for now I will leave you with these 6 steps.  Let me know if you have any questions!  And if any of my more experienced letter writing friends are reading this, I'd love for you to chime in with your experience and wisdom!  How did you get started?

Time to write a letter.  :)


P. S. I've been using my IG pics for these posts, so sorry for the repeats (and sub par quality).  Grainy IG pics are better than no pics, right?

P. P. S. To all fo my "real life" and Instagram friends--I am thankful for you!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Make Friends and Write to People, Part 1

Recently on Instagram, Sarah asked me how I got into penpalling and if I had any information about this sort of thing on my blog.  I had been writing a little post in my head for a while now, and her question prompted me to finally get it together.  As it turns out, though, it will be more than one post because, well, this is one of my favorite topics and I am kind of wordy.

How I got started

Every time I get happy mail, my 9-year-old daughter says, "Why do you get so much good mail?  Your penpals send you the best things."

And I tell her, "If you want to get mail, you need to send mail!"

And this is 100% true.  But in the back of my mind I think, "And get an Instagram account."  I am not going to tell her that right now, though.

I have written to friends and family since I was little and have even had a couple of penpals (friends from summer camps and my friend Claudia in Germany), but only recently have I started writing regularly to people I've never met in person who live across the country and across the world.

This past July, Jeff took a two-week trip to South Africa.  Shortly after he left the country, I got srep throat.  Shortly after that, each one of my kids took turns getting sick with a stomach bug.  That meant that at least one of us was sick during that whole time period.  

Some of the postcards Jeff sent from South Africa

What does this have to do with letter writing?  Well, we were homebound for a good two weeks.  We made basically NO plans outside of the house.  Once my strep cleared up (rather quickly with the antibiotic), I felt fine and was able to take care of the kids, who mostly wanted to watch cartoons and sleep.  I stayed up late at night waiting for it to be morning in South Africa so I could talk to Jeff when he woke up.  I used all of this downtime and late-night time to myself to catch up on a pretty large backlog of thank-you notes.  It was a wonderful way to spend the time because I had so many that I needed to write and also because writing to people is a great way to feel connected and not lonely when you are homebound and your husband is on the other side of the world with limited cell phone reception and time to talk.  :)

The first batch of long overdue thank-you letters

Snail mail has been a favorite topic on this blog since the beginning, but at that point this summer I hadn't blogged in months.  But I had been on Instagram fairly regularly since our trip to Italy in June.  I decided to start taking pictures of the mail I sent and posting them to Instagram because pretty mail pics are some of my favorite pics to look at.  (And posting to Instagram was more manageable for me at that time than posting to the blog.)

And then . . . a whole new world opened up for me.

Instagram is an amazing social media site in the way it allows for interaction among users.  I already followed some of my favorite bloggers, but I started meeting other snail mail and paper enthusiasts (bloggers and non-bloggers alike) through hashtags like #sendmoremail, #showandmail, #snailmail, and #stationery (just to name a few).

Now several of these new Instagram friends have become my penpals, which is so very cool to me.  And even those that are not officially my penpals, I consider kindred spirits and online friends.  :)
And I owe all of this to a couple weeks of downtime, a long list of thank-yous, and Instagram (I love Instagram).

I'm working on another post with more practical steps for getting started in letter writing, but for now I will leave you with a little sneak peek.  Step 1 is super simple:

Write a letter to someone you know, preferably your grandma.

I got started in penpalling just by writing the letters I already needed to write.  Start working on yours, and I'll be back with more soon!


P. S. For some visual inspiration in the meantime, search the Instagram hashtags #sendmoremail, #snailmail, #stationery, and #showandmail.  And you can see all my mail-related pics (and more) on my account here.

P. P. S. Remember, the best inspiration comes from actually writing--so get out your pen and paper and write!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Who has more fun than people !?

I made some mail the other night inspired by a saying that has been in my family for years.  You know all the "life is good" stuff you see around (especially at the beach)?  Well, my family's version of "life is good" is this--"Who has more fun than people!?"

It is both an exclamation and a question.  One could simply leave it as an exclamation (because it's obviously rhetorical), but my Grandpa Orlie--on particularly good days--demanded an answer.

"Who has more fun than people!?" he would shout (while camping/tailgating/watching a football game/smoking meat in the backyard/when the wheat was doing good).  Then he would slap whomever was nearest him on the back and say it again:  "Who has more fun than people!?"

We would all be quite jovial along with him because it was always so nice to see him that way.  He would say it again.

"Who has more fun than people? Eh?  Tell me--WHO.HAS.MORE.FUN.THAN.PEOPLE!?"

Over the years the family discussed this pressing question from several angles.  Occasionally, the question itself was brought into question.  Who has more fun than people?  Shouldn't it be what has more fun than people?  It doesn't even make any sense . . .

Other times, my dad and uncles would throw out possibilities as to who/what might actually have more fun than people.  Being the overgrown adolescent boys that they are, it was decided, after much insightful discussion, that the only real possibility was rabbits, and that due to their . . . breeding habits.

But even then--well, could rabbits really have more fun than people?  Do rabbits count as Who?  And the conversation went round and round.  

So--the official answer to that question became--rabbits, maybe (because this really is one of the great questions of human existence, and we just can't be 100% sure).

The conversation would go like this--

Grandpa [in a good mood after wheat prices went up/the Sooners won the game/a good fish fry/a good fishing story/a good joke . . . ] :  "Who has more fun than people!?  Eh!  Heh, heh, heh. WHO.HAS.MORE.FUN.THAN.PEOPLE!?"

Whichever one of us was getting the most pressure to answer:  "I don't know!  Rabbits . . . maybe??"

We'd all agree this was a valid answer and a reasonable possibility.  My dad and uncles might even go into why . . .

But Grandpa was not convinced.  His answer:

"Well, I ain't never seen a rabbit on a bank with a fishing pole."

Hmmm . . . true?

And there we were, back at square one.  If Grandpa had just identified ultimate fun . . . and if a rabbit had never, in fact, been seen on a bank with a fishing pole, then . . . WHO HAS MORE FUN THAN PEOPLE???

We may never know for sure.  Perhaps no one has more fun than people, not even rabbits.  (But my dad and uncles would remind you that rabbits definitely do have a lot of fun . . . )

I love my family.


P. S. I thought this expression was unique to my grandpa until I heard MIKE DITKA say it on ESPN a few months ago.  C'mon, Man!  I googled it, and I also discovered a t-shirt with the saying on it and a blog that goes by that name (because the author's grandma used to say it), and several references to polka (which makes total sense).

I'd love to know where the saying originated.  Does anyone know?  Has anyone else been looking for the answer to this question?  Probably not.  But I bet now you are dying to know who has more fun than people.

P. P. S. Rabbits have become sort of a symbol of [good, clean] fun to me, free of innuendo (don't let my dad and uncles ruin it for you).  The question and answer has been repeated so many times, the only association I make is "fun --> rabbits." Two stately brass rabbits sit on my bookshelf as a reminder of just what a good life we have.  (Next, I would like to commission a painting of a smug-looking rabbit on a bank with a fishing pole.  That would blow Grandpa's mind.)

P. P. P. S. You guys--when I started this post, there were only TWO rabbits, and now . . .

Friday, September 27, 2013

Come say hello at Paper Pastries!

Happy Friday, friends!

I wrote a guest post for Paper Pastries, one of my very favorite paper blogs (and shops) about how I like to use rubber stamps and paper punches in my snail mail.  Come say hello and pick up a few ideas for a crafty fall weekend.

I hope you enjoy!


P. S. I guest posted for Paper Pastries last year as well, and you can find that post (all about tiny envelopes!) right here.

P. P. S. A big hello and welcome to Paper Pastries readers and new Instagram friends!  xo

Friday, September 20, 2013

Free Printables for Stationery Lovers

When I first started reading [mostly craft] blogs, I remember being so excited when someone would offer a cool (free!) printable.  I downloaded several years ago, and I just found them again in a folder while unpacking craft supplies.  I've decided that no matter what the printable was originally intended for, I am going to find a way to use it in my stationery.

Here are a few of the print outs I found the other day that are still available online (yay!).  All three of these are oldies but goodies created by Ez Pudewa of Creature Comforts blog, one of the loveliest places on the Internet.  (There are lots of beautiful pictures in the original blog posts--be sure to take a look!)

These mini wallpaper notes are just delicious.  I love the pattern and colors so much!  The printable comes with a template for a mini (3x3 inch) envelope as well.

These hand painted paper button embellishments can be printed as buttons or plain round discs (with no button holes).  There are so many uses for these, but I think they would be fun decorating notecards or an envelope/package, or simply used as envelope enclosures/large confetti!

And I can't get over these oversized paper bows, available to print in pink, aqua, and plain white (for embellishing).  Wouldn't it be fun to see one of these on a package?

Now that I have found these again, I can't wait to use them!  Just thought I'd share in case some of my snail mail/stationery friends might take a fancy to them as well.  :)

Hope you enjoy!


P. S. When a blogger is super generous and shares an awesome free printable, I think it's always nice to leave a thank-you comment when you download, letting them know you appreciate their sharing something so great.  And always give credit when you use a blogger's designs in one of your own projects!  Happy weekend and happy creating!

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