The Letter Writing Revolution

Revitalizing a Lost Art One Letter at a Time

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Welcome Home Cpl Ashwood

I received an unexpected letter today from "my" soldier with the patch he promised me. I had been wondering how he was and if he had made it home yet. Although the letter was mailed at the end of October, I just received it today and from what he tells me, he should be back on Canadian soil within the week! I wanted to share a portion of his letter with all of you as it was very touching and made me smile:

"I am glad that people from your revolution have written soldiers and hope they (the soldiers) have written back but it was my pleasure to answer the two that came my way. It brightens the heart and soul when we know we are not only remembered when the hearse is being driven down the highway of heroes but all of the time. I thank you and everyone else for their support and wishes."

Here is a photo of the patch Cpl Ashwood sent:

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Letter to a Soldier challenge. You can still write to a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan if you want to. Write to:

A Canadian Soldier
Kandahar, Afghanistan
PO Box 5058 Stn Forces
Belleville ON
K8N 5W6

I know your letter will be appreciated.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

'Tis the Season

As we near the end of November, it is apparent that in no time at all, Christmas will be upon us. Since I was raised in an Irish Catholic home, we celebrate Christmas although I am aware that this season brings with it  various holidays and holy days. With all due respect to all of the upcoming religious celebrations around the world, I will focus on the one that I am familiar with personally which is Christmas.

I have been known to sporadically send out Christmas cards depending on what is going in my life at this time of year. In 2003, I gave birth to our only child and since she was very sick, we spent that first Christmas at The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). I did not send out cards that year for obvious reasons.
A visit from Santa in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit
at CHEO December 2003

The Christmas' that followed were affected by what was going on with our daughter. I did my best to get some cards out and would also throw in the token Christmas update of all that had gone in within our lives in the previous year. I also enjoyed receiving Christmas cards as it was the only time of the year that fun mail arrived. I have to be honest, though, I never cared for Christmas cards that simply had the person's name signed on it. This seemed to be a waste, to some degree, of paper and stamps. If a card had one personal line written to us, it was appreciated. With that said, the mass mail out Christmas letters were enjoyed as well even though I knew it wasn't written specifically for me or our family. At least it had  personal news and updates and not just a Hallmark greeting.

Since I created The Letter Writing Revolution and so far we are having a relatively uneventful few months (shouldn't have said that outloud!), I plan to get writing some Christmas cards now in preparation of mailing in the next couple of weeks. I also intend on writing a personal letter/note in every single one. Our daughter's birthday lands on December 5th so we do not do anything about Christmas until her birthday is over. After that celebration, I usually take a few days before I can even think about Christmas trees and decorations. This usually leaves me scrambling around December 15th and wondering if I should even bother at that point.

What do you do as far as Christmas greetings are concerned (assuming you celebrate Christmas)? Do you write up a Christmas letter to enclose in your cards? Do you even bother with mailing out cards? Are they store bought or homemade?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Letter To God

I share the following as it made me laugh but also as a gentle reminder to never assume anything. For a realistic account of the job of the postal worker, go here and here. Enjoy~

There was a man who worked for the Post Office whose job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day, a letter came addressed in a shaky handwriting to God with no actual address. He thought he should open it to see what it was about. The letter read:

Dear God,
I am an 83 year old widow, living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension payment. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with, have no family to turn to and you are my only hope.. Can you please help me?


The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all the other workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96, which they put into an envelope and sent to the woman.For the rest of the day, all of the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and the dinner she would be able to share with her friends. Christmas came and went. A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God. All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read:

Dear God,

How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing. I think it might have been those bastards at the post office.


Monday, November 15, 2010

NYC Photos Relating to TLWR

I suppose it is time for me to move on from NYC. I will spend many moments daydreaming about this trip that I had been imagining for many, many years. As I walked around this great city, I took the following shots for my blog readers.

US Postal boxes in the downtown area

The following three shots are of the main post office in NYC. It is an incredible building about to become the new Pennsylvania Station (Penn Station) and will no longer be used as a post office.

And finally, a NYC cab and another US Postal box on Park Avenue.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Remembrance

In 1990, I travelled to Europe with my older sister for a back packing excursion. A highlight of this trip was our visit to Belgium and taking a small bus tour of the various war memorials, gravesites as well as the hospital (a makeshift shelter built into the side of a hill) where Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918), wrote the now famous poem "In Flander's Fields." Today is November 11th and the day that we remember all of the men and women who have served (and are serving) our country and who have made sacrifices including their emotional and physical health and even their lives. Please read the post A Letter to a Soldier and offer a moment of silence today in remembrance.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Poppies growing in Ypres cemetery.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Letters in a Time of Tragedy

In 2001, my husband and I had recently moved back to Ontario from British Columbia. We were renting a basement apartment in the country near the city of Ottawa while we decided where we wanted to buy our first home and settle down.

On the morning of September 11th 2001, he went to work as usual and I watched a bit of the news while eating my breakfast before going to work in my studio which was essentially the second bedroom of the apartment. I left the television on although muted it. I recall going into the livingroom and kitchen periodically and noticing the television but didn't give it much thought. I assumed it was a movie or something that was playing. It didn't register that it was live news. The phone rang around 9am and my sister asked me if I had the television on. She was home and not working as her second child was due within a month or so. We both watched in horror, moments later, as the second plane flew into the second WTC tower. Soon, my husband, who worked at a news station, called me to say he wasn't sure when he would get home. At that point, no one was sure what was happening. Would other major cities be targeted? At the time, my husband worked in the capital city of Canada. 9/11 is one of those events that each one of us remembers exactly what we were doing and where we were on that morning.

A part of my journey to NYC was to visit Ground Zero. After going into the American Express building and standing in front of a glass wall which overlooks the former WTC tower site, my dad and I ditched the tour and made our way across to St. Paul's Chapel. This small chapel built in 1766 stands in the middle of giant skyscrapers in downtown New York City. The chapel's backyard, which is also a small cemetary, backs onto Church Street. Across Church Street is Ground Zero. When the various explosions occurred and eventually when the towers came down on 9/11, the windows of the surrounding buildings, within a mile and a half radius, shattered. The windows of this church remained intact and the church was spared from destruction. It is believed that the ancient windows contain so much lead in the original glass that they withstood the powerful fall of the WTC towers.

Ground Zero where building has begun again. In the upper left corner you can see a clump of trees and the
steeple of St. Paul's Chapel emerging from the trees.

Ground Zero and St. Paul's Chapel in the background.
 Immediately following the attacks until May 2002, St. Paul's Chapel was home to an extraordinary round-the-clock volunteer relief ministry for recovery workers at Ground Zero. Approximately 14, 000 volunteers offered their assistance to those who were involved in the recovery effort. There were meals, cots, prayer services, counsel and even professionals like Registered Massage Therapists, Chiropractors and Podiatrists volunteered their time and skill to look after all of the needs of the recovery crews. It was a place of refuge.....a sacred space where hundreds of recovery workers could rest, obtain medical attention and support.

When you arrive at St. Paul's Chapel, you can follow a display that is on the front steps that briefly describes the volunteer ministry and the events of 9/11 from the time the first tower was hit until the relief ministry drew to a close in May 2002. The exhibit is called Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero. The majority of the exhibit is displayed inside the Chapel. Most of the pews have been removed to make space for the mementos and the exhibit. A dusty fire fighter's uniform and boots are casually draped over George Washington's pew. Each day at 12:30 pm there is a Prayers for Peace service in the centre of the chapel. Holy Eucharist is offered every Sunday at 8am and 10am.

What struck me was the incredible amount of hand written cards and letters which were sent in the days, weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks. Each letter and card is there displayed......hundreds of them. I was not allowed to take photographs within the chapel but took the following photo from the display outside the chapel.
It was very moving and very emotional to stand where such tragedy took place on September 11th 2001.
The following poem was written by J. Chester Johnson and I want to share it here with you:

St. Paul's Chapel

It stood. Not a window broken. Not a stone dislodged.
It stood when nothing else did.
It stood when terrorists brought September down.
It stood among myths. It stood among ruins.

To stand was its purpose, long lines prove that.
It stands, and around it now, a shrine of letters, poems, acrostics, litter of the heart.
It is the standing people want:
To grieve, serve and tend
celebrate the lasting stone of St. Paul's Chapel.

And deep into its thick breath, the largest banner
fittingly from Oklahoma climbs heavenward
with hands as stars, and stripes, hands as a flag;
and a rescuer reaches for a stuffed toy
to collect a touch;
and George Washington's pew doesn't go unused.

Charity fills a hole or two.

It stood in place of other sorts.
It stood when nothing else could.
The great had fallen, as the brute hardware came down.

It stood.

~ J. Chester Johnson

That afternoon, dad and I walked to Central Park and visited Strawberry Fields. I pulled the following excerpt from the Central Park website:
"Located near Central Park West between 71st and 74th Streets, Strawberry Fields is a 2.5 acre area of Central Park that pays tribute to the late Beatle, John Lennon, singer, songwriter, musician and peace activist. John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono lived in the Dakota Apartments adjacently located to this area of the park. It was here, walking into his home, on December 8, 1980, that John Lennon was murdered and shot dead. To commemorate his life, talents and memory, on March 26, 1981, City Council Member Henry J. Stern designated this area, the couple's favorite in Central Park, as Strawberry Fields. Named after the title of the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever," the teardrop shaped region was re-landscaped by the Central Park Conservancy with the help of landscape architect Bruce Kelley and a generous $1 million donation from Yoko Ono.
The iconic black and white Imagine mosaic, designed by a team of artists from the Italian city of Naples, lies in the center of Strawberry Fields. Named after another famous song by John Lennon, "Imagine" evokes a vision and hope for a world without strife, war and conflict."

"Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace..."

~ John Lennon

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Desperately Seeking Kate

I have recently returned from New York City. It is difficult to describe this magnificent city in only a few words. If you have had the opportunity to experience NYC, then you know exactly what I am talking about. If you haven't, I would suggest you grab a pen and add this destination to your "bucket list." I have thought about it over and over since my return on Sunday evening and I am not sure what it was exactly that mesmerized me but I think it is simply the energy, vibe and pulse of this place. I have wanted to visit New York since I was a child and dreamed of growing up to be an actress. My dad always said he would take me one day. After some glitches with my dad's health in the past year and my 40th birthday approaching, we decided to just do it......seize the day!
Dad and I in Central Park

On the Brooklyn Bridge
One of the many things I wished to accomplish in my short stay was to visit Kate's Paperie. It was recommended to me by Gary at Paper/Papier in Ottawa. I did a quick search online before I left and by Saturday morning, my dad and I were heading up West Broadway from Canal Street in search of 561 W. Broadway. When we reached the end of the street, we back tracked but we could not find Kate's Paperie. Finally, I went into a coffee shop and asked if anyone knew where this shop might be. One of the young men working behind the counter took out his Blackberry and discovered that this location no longer existed. The nearest one was in West Greenwich Village at 8 West 13th Street. So,we were off again and in less than 15 minutes, we found the tell tale logo for Kate's Paperie.

I was so excited to shop here and find some unique stationery. It was really the only shopping I was interested in doing in NYC. I panic in a clothing store but throw me into a stationery or shoe store, and I can be occupied for hours. After looking through cards, box sets, ribbons and NYC themed stationery, I came upon some very beautiful Christmas tree ornaments (which I cannot describe here as they will be gifts for my family members).

A couple of shots of the inside of Kate's Paperie.
I approached one of the young women who was working and asked if she could package the ornaments so that I could safely bring them home to Ottawa. She looked at me and said, "Are you from Ottawa? I'm from Ottawa!!!" To which I replied, "Yes, we are...sort of." Then she explained that she was actually from a small town outside of Ottawa which I probably hadn't heard of. It turns out she grew up in Fitzroy Harbour, a small community which is a mere 40-minute drive from our hometown of Cobden. What are the chances? I can only imagine how excited she was to see people from her home especially when her new home is shared with about 8 million people. She has been in NYC for the past year and a half studying acting......a common career choice for those living in NYC. I call that little encounter serendipity. I shared TLWR blog with Kaylah (the woman from Fitzroy Harbour) and her co-worker, whose name has escaped me, and asked them to pass it along to all of the letter writers in NYC.
Posing with Kate's Paperie staff . The woman to my right is from New Jersey and
the woman to my left is Kaylah, the Ottawa valley girl..........."Just a small town girl in the city lights.........."
If you happen to be in NYC and you want to check out Kate's Paperie, you can find them at four locations in Manhattan. And for those of you living outside of NYC or if a trip is not in your plans anytime soon, Kate's will ship internationally so feel free to browse the site and do some online shopping.

Next time I will do more research as I learned too late that there are many fine stationery shops in New York. This will not be my one and only trip to the "Big Apple" so I will have more chances to explore next time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Letter To A Soldier Part 2

I have returned from the city that never sleeps!!!! What an incredible journey I have had. In the days to come, I will share letter-writing related posts about my trip to glorious NYC.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a message from our soldier, Kris, who distributed all of the letters that were sent to Afghanistan by followers/readers of TLWR. Kris sent this message to our mutual friend and she passed it over to me. Thanks, Cathy! Here it is:

"I have been getting quite a few letters from the people from the blog. We have been really busy since I got back and short staffed because a lot of the troops went on holidays at the same time. I have a letter to write back to and I intend on getting that out as soon as possible. The boys (and girls) here do try their best to write back to them all but sometimes it isn't that easy. They all mean well though.

I spoke to a postal guy today and he says that if you send the letters to 'A Canadian Soldier' as the person they will reach someone. The posties throw those letters in with various unit mail and they get distributed. The Sergeant's Majors try to make sure that they all get answered. The address would be:
A Canadian Soldier
Kandahar, Afghanistan
PO Box 5058 Stn Forces
Belleville ON
K8N 5W6
You can let her (Julie) know that of all the letters were very appreciated. Some were really short and some were REALLY long and all were worth reading. Each person who took the time to write had the same sentiments about us and the war. They all told a little (and some a lot) about themselves. Everyone of them made mention of the 'Letter Writing Campaign' from the blog."

If you haven't written to a Canadian soldier and wish to, write to the above address. If you didn't hear back from YOUR soldier that you originally wrote to, please know that your letter was appreciated and consider writing to another soldier. Remember the goal is to brighten a soldier's day. Let them know we are thinking of them here and that their efforts have not gone unrecognized.

That's it for today....more about NYC momentarily.........