Once again, Thank God Its Monday and, as such, #HappyMonday to everyone! I personally look forward to all Mondays because they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you!
Summer has unofficially started and I’m so looking forward to summertime road trips and picnics like I wrote about last week. I’m also looking forward to going camping, again! June is just a few days away and it celebrates, among other things, National Camping Month and National Great Outdoors Month! I’ll be writing more about that next week.
Today, I want to write about pen pals, as Thursday is not only the start of June, but also National Pen Pal Day! Handwriting and letter writing are becoming things of the past – nostalgia keeps it hanging on by a thread, though.
Have you ever been a pen pal? Many young pen pal relationships start from a brief friendship at summer camp or as strangers that never met, such as through a school writing program or magazine ad. Nowadays, you can get pen pals online.
My first time, as a pen pal, was when I was in 5th grade and “assigned” a pen pal who was also in 5th grade, in another state. That was through a national school writing program. We only corresponded for one semester.
We learned about each other’s likes and dislikes, families and friends, as well as school and community events. I loved being and having a pen pal. I wrote to several others, over the following years, most of whom I found through ads in various teen magazines.
It was wonderful, getting mail addressed to me and reading about my new friend’s life in another state. And the reciprocation was just as special. Eventually, most stopped writing, as they got older and busier, which happens often. Very seldom do people ever maintain friendships from childhood into their teen years, let alone into adulthood.
However, I’ve remained friends with one pen pal for over 46 years, now! Although, nowadays, other than some notes on our annual Christmas cards, we don’t physically write letters to each other anymore because we often keep in touch on Facebook. We’ve still never met in person, though.
Sometimes pen pal relationships last less than a year. However, most pen pals remain friends for many years – some for a lifetime. The best pen pals are usually those with common interests or who are open-minded to learning about other people, cultures, and languages. Pen pals generally want to connect with the world outside their own borders.
Pen pals can be people who already know each other but live far apart. Most often, pen pals are strangers that never meet in person. Through an exchange of letters, they share mutual interests and teach each other about their different backgrounds, religions, and lifestyles.
Mom was pen pals, for her entire adult life, with one of her classmates that had moved to New York. She also offered a monthly pen pal exchange in her newsletter, during its first year of publication, in 1974. Mom always encouraged my own pen pal friendships when I was young.
I ALWAYS TRY TO BE brief in my messages of importance to someone on whom I wish to make an impression. As often the importance of what you want to say is lost in too many words. Another writer [Robert Southey, English Poet (1774-1843)] put it best: ‘Be brief, for words are like sunbeams – the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn!’ – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 62)
According to Wikipedia.org, pen pals “are people who regularly write to each other, particularly via postal mail [aka: snail mail]. Pen pals are usually strangers whose relationship is based primarily, or even solely, on their exchange of letters.”
The term, “pen pals” (which began as “pen friends” in the 1920s), has steadily been around since the 1930s; thanks to the Student Letter Exchange society, formed in 1936, to help people find suitable pen pals. It also helped students from different countries connect through letters and learn about each other’s cultures, while improving reading and writing skills.
98five.com’s The World’s Oldest Pen Pals Have Turned 100 Years Old [author unknown (Jan. 9, 2023)] is a really interesting and inspiring 2-minute read about a British man and American woman who’ve been pen pals since 1938, when they were both 16 years old. They both recently turned 100 years old and still correspond (with some help). Check it out!
At MarthaStewart.com, How to Find a Modern-Day Pen Pal, by Alexandra Lim-Chua Wee (April 16, 2019), is a great source from which to start, if you’re feeling nostalgic and want to establish a pen pal relationship – with a peer, an active military member or a veteran, a senior citizen, a “shut-in”, or someone from another country just to name some examples.
Nowadays, we mostly use email and social media platforms, for corresponding. But some of us “older folk” still prefer the old-fashion way – handwritten, with pen and paper (maybe even fancy stationary), an envelope and stamp, a walk to the mailbox, and don’t forget to put the flag up so your postal carrier knows there’s mail waiting to go out!
It’s the simple things in life – like getting or sending a personal letter or card in the postal mail (aka: snail mail) – that still thrill some of us and make us smile, with happy memories of days gone by.
If you’ve never been a pen pal, you may be wondering: “What should I write in my first letter?” I suggest that you first write about where you found their details. Then begin your initial introduction – the basics of who you are – such as name, age, occupation (or grade, if a student), where you’re from, a little about your family/pets (if any).
Next, share your common interests and other details about yourself – hobbies and interests, likes and dislikes. You can also write about what your typical day is like. Keep it personalized but don’t overdo it. Ask your pen pal some questions about their life but, again, don’t overdo it. Save some for the next letter, too.
In From Me, With Love: The Lost Art of Letter Writing (Nov. 26, 2016), as seen on TheGuardian.com, the author, Jon McGregor, wrote:
“I asked people to send us letters; real letters, written by hand and sent through the post. I sat in the office with my student assistants and waited for the letters to arrive. There was something exciting about sorting through the pile, letters from Canada and the US, from Spain and Germany and France, from Donegal and Dublin and Brighton and Tring. We set to work with the letter knives and started to read. I was hoping that they would, while still being framed as letters, take the form of stories, essays, poems, memoir, criticism. What actually happened was that almost everyone wrote about the nostalgic and rare pleasure of sitting down to write a letter at all.”
Reading and writing have many benefits – physically, mentally, and emotionally. They’re great, simple “workouts” that stimulate brain function. Writing is a wonderful way for seniors to exercise their minds and hands. Pen pals often write about their day’s events or current affairs, which helps keep one’s mind sharp.
Therefore, writing is also known to help with memory and putting your life events in perspective with how people in other parts of the world live, too. Writing also improves communication skills, productivity, and overall happiness; while decreasing stress and anxiety.
Handwriting is becoming a thing of the past. Everything is written electronically these days – school papers, emails, texts, even notes. In the unending, human quest for making life easier, the latest contributor to the dying practice of writing, is AI – Artificial Intelligence. Personally, I think it’s a scary thing.
In general, writing anything by hand is becoming a lost practice. I’ve heard that cursive writing (penmanship) isn’t even taught in school anymore. Although “handwriting” and “penmanship” are often used interchangeably, they’re really not the same. “Handwriting” is self-described – the act of writing by hand. “Penmanship” is the ability to write legibly.
Remember when we all used to send and receive handwritten holiday, birthday, and anniversary cards, as well as “Thinking of You” and “Thank You” notes? They are all becoming dying traditions.
Thankfulness is an emotion. Gratitude is an attitude – that of appreciation under any circumstance. Gratitude involves being thankful, but it’s more than just that. Gratitude means being thankful and appreciative of life every day – even when it’s a bad day or nothing special is happening.
IN THE MEANTIME, we open letters every day from people all over the world, saying ‘thank you for writing your books’ – ‘I feel as if I know you just from reading your books’ – ‘I don’t know whether to keep up on reading or run to the kitchen and bake something’ – and then I know [nothing can] keep me from continuing with this work. – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Mixed Blessings – Recipes & Remedies (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; March 1984, p. xv)
In honor of TODAY, still being May and National Salad Month, here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for Chicken Salad Like Hudson’s; as seen in her self-published cookbook, Secret Fast Food Recipes – Revised (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Oct. 1998, 20th printing, p. 28).
I also gave this recipe out a couple of years ago, on Kathy Keene’s ‘Good Neighbor’ radio show, on WHBY (Appleton, WI). Kathy has since retired. The show was discontinued and, unfortunately, my link to the recorded audio doesn’t work anymore.
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
May is still celebrating, among other things… American Cheese Month, Better Speech and Language Month, National Asparagus Month, National Barbecue Month, National Hamburger Month, National Inventor’s Month, National Photography Month, National Salsa Month, National Strawberry Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
Thursday begins the month of June, which observes, among other things… National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, National Candy Month, National Caribbean American Month, National Country Cooking Month, National Dairy Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Papaya Month, National Soul Food Month, National Rose Month, and National Turkey Lovers Month!
June 2nd, is… National Rotisserie Chicken Day and National Rocky Road Day! This day is also National Leave The Office Early Day – unless June 2nd falls on a weekend day then it’s observed on the nearest [Friday or Monday] business day. Plus, as the first Friday in June (for 2023), it’s… National Doughnut Day, too!
June 3rd, is… National Egg Day [which should be in May, with National Egg Month], National Repeat Day, and National Chocolate Macaroons Day! Plus, as the first Saturday in June (for 2023), it is also… National Trails Day, National Bubbly Day, National Prairie Day, and National Play Outside Day [which is the first Saturday of every month]!
June 4th, is… National Cheese Day, National Cognac Day, and National Hug Your Cat Day! Plus, as the first Sunday in June (for 2023), it’s also… National Cancer Survivor’s Day! Additionally, starting the first Sunday in June (4th-10th for 2023), it’s… National Gardening Week and Community Health Improvement Week!
…22 down and 30 to go!