Thanks for the Memories

In the power point “Letter-Writing 101” workshops we present at libraries we encourage attendees to find ways to organize the treasure trove of greeting cards or letters they might have held onto. When I delved into a trunk full of memories for personal examples of treasured letters and cards, I came across many photos and newspaper clippings I would like to have displayed in my home. I’m not a scrapbooker, but that would have been one option.

The very same day I wrote about delving into the trunk, I came across this lovely, solid oak room divider that I knew would be perfect for hiding my corner full of boxes in my office. I spent several hours this weekend deciding which photos I would add to the display. I like the idea that I can change them at any time and rotate my memories.

I chose mostly photos of the people I love that I have lost, along with a few newspaper clippings. I’d like to work in more handwritten notes, but this is what I have right now;

photos shelf 001I’ve incorporated photos of my parents, an aerial view of the house I grew up in, the wedding photo of David and I, along with the Chuck E. Cheese photo booth picture we used for a 30th anniversary newspaper announcement (also featured on our gravestone), a clipping about the bookstore business we’d begun together, clippings and photos about my couponing obsession (such a large part of our lifestyle for so many years!), the last Valentine I got from Jacob and the Christmas card Elizabeth sent before she knew that cancer was growing in their little boy. There is also a lovely pastel drawing I found in my mother’s papers. I added a section of a greeting card David had given me; the “Thanks for the memories” in his handwriting, a fitting tribute to the man who has given me so many memories. This project is a work in progress, and I expect to eventually work in a letter or two, as well as adding a photo of grand baby Amy to the mix.

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Thrift Store “Book Haul”

I don’t know why “coincidences” like this continue to amaze me, since I have so many of them, but they do. Maybe because I don’t believe they actually are coincidences. I stopped at a Goodwill thrift store this afternoon and purchased these books. I was excited to find a newer copy of Heaven is For Real for my library because our copy got ruined in the drop box last week. The Power of a Praying Woman Bible and Everyday Encouragement Journal are like new. And despite the fact that 2015 is nearing completion, I couldn’t resist the leather bound daily planner for 50-cents, with one of my favorite Bible verses inscribed on it: Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. plans to give you hope and a future.”

Then there is the boxed genuine bonded leather daily devotional journal, nearly new except for an inscription inside, and I can easily remove that page.

The single fiction title I picked up is Falling Home by Karen White.

DSCF3340These are all wonderful books, but my most amazing find today was the Bill Hybels’ Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond. If you remember my “book haul” photo from a BookOutlet order earlier this week, you’ll recall the brand new DVD included in the box. Yes, it was Bill Hybels’ Power of a Whisper:Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond. What do you think the odds are that I would find the book that goes with the DVD within days of each other, one through the mail and the other in a thrift store thirty miles from home? Just yesterday one of the members of my group stopped me in the grocery store to ask if I’d decided what to use for our next study. I wasn’t sure then.

I am now.

The Trunk of Treasure

When my sister Joan recently asked if I had the computer disc my mother had saved a manuscript on, I begged her not to make me visit the trunk of sadness. The trunk of sadness. The chest of doom. Whatever I call it, I don’t think I’ve gotten to the bottom since I inherited DSCF3332it from my mother in 2010 and filled it full of memorabilia. It’s a lovely quality chest, really, but packed to the brim with memoriDSCF3336es.

Memories like the postcards and valentine from my grandson Jacob, who passed away in 2013, the piece of paper my sisters wrote their phone numbers on so that I could call them at any time of day after my husband David died in 2012, a postcard I’d once sent to him, a birthday card from my penfriend Pam Pierre for my 52nd birthday. She knew it would be a difficult day as it was also the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Pam herself died a short time later.

In working on Mary & Me, I’d already dived into several boxes and totes as a way to jumpstart memories regarding the topics we were covering. When writing about my years raising young children, I unearthed the daybooks I’d kept during the bulk of that time.  marykjournals Writing on the topic of mothers, I read my Mom’s Memory Book and studied her old address book, searching for a mention of friends.

But I had somehow managed to avoid the trunk, knowing it inevitably made me cry to go through it. In recent weeks however, I’ve been diligently working on a power point for our first “Letter-Writing 101” workshop. One important point we make in the presentation is that letters and cards can be treasures. I know I treasure my mother’s old letters to her mother, letters she’d written as a young mother of ten children.I also saved all the letters my mother wrote me.

moms letters

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I certainly cherish those rare notes or letters from my father. It was one of those notes I was searching for to include in the power point, which was why I spent a few hours this week looking in the chest.

DSCF3326I did find a letter he’d written right after I left home for college, but not the note I was searching for; one he’d left on the table while I was in high-school, instructing me to put on the potatoes to boil and my brother John to feed and water the ducks. I’d wanted an example of how precious one short note like that can be.

Instead of crying, I found myself smiling as I unearthed memory after memory. A letter from a high-school teacher, Mr. A, admonishing me to thank my parents, do my best at whatever I do, follow my dreams, and always remember that I am special. DSCF3329

The tote full of sympathy cards and letters that I received after David’s death. I smiled as I noted how many return addresses were from recently acquired friends, when there was a distinct lack of friends in my life just five years ago, another topic we broach in our book.

sympathy cards and lettersDavid’s cards and letters he’d kept during his cancer treatment. If you don’t think a card or letter sent to someone going through cancer treatment can really make a difference in their life, consider that my husband asked to look through this box of cards five years after his cancer. He sat on the bed and pored through each and every message he’d received, and then he read the journal I’d kept during the period of caregiving. A card can make or break a day when we face tough times.

davids cardsI unearthed more jewels in the chest. I was delighted to discover an old “Women’s Household” magazine at the bottom of it (yes, I got to the bottom). Inside, page after page of penpal ads, something we don’t see in our news stand magazines anymore.

Womens household magazineMy digging revealed some real treasures in the form of old cards, random notes and movie stubs.

david card and noteDespite what it looks like, I don’t keep everything. Years ago Mary and I agreed to get rid of each others’ letters, a decision I sometimes regret, but considering we’d each have over 4500 letters to store, we’d definitely need another trunk.

Since there was more laughter and smiles than tears this time around, I think I can safely change the label of my storage space from “trunk of sadness” to that of “trunk of treasure.”

And yes, Joan, I found the computer disc.

Another Book Haul

My last “Book Haul” post netted a lot of interest so I decided to share a box of books that landed on my porch today from Book Outlet. These books were purchased during a special half-price sale.

book haul 001The book I am adding to the top of my “to-read” pile is one that has to do with letter-writing, of course; Dear Deb: A Woman with Cancer, a Friend With Secrets, and the Letters That Became Their Miracle by Margaret Terry.

The leather bound copy of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts is so beautiful, I thought it might make a good Christmas gift. Unfortunately, it is no longer available for the $3.24 price I paid.

The Bill Hybels Too Busy Not to Pray study guide and Power of a Whisper DVD are items I am considering for my Bible study group.

Also included in my box for future reading: It’s a God Thing by Don Jacobson, When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church, by Lillian Daniel, Heaven’s Lessons by Steve Sjogren, Bargain Junkie: Living the Good Life on the Cheap by Annie Korzen, A Waist is a Terrible Thing to Mind by Karen Scalf Linamen (love that title!), Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace by Beverly Donofrio, Debbie Macomber’s Once Upon a Time: Discovering Our Forever After Story, and Grace in the Maybe: Instructions on Not Knowing Everything About God.

While I do love non-fiction, I’ve got a pile of yummy fiction waiting for plastic covers at my library. I’ll take a photo of that “library haul” when I bring it home.

Another Adventure in Letter Writing

~ by Mary Jedlicka Humston

The other night I staged items for a “photo shoot.” Mary and I are preparing a power point presentation to use at our Letter Writing 101 workshops for our book Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink. I had already taken photos of how fun confetti is to throw inside envelopes. I prepared for my next shoot by searching for envelopes plastered with fun, festive, and numerous stickers I’d saved from my friend Kathy M. from CA, the queen of stickers.
While riffling through a basket containing some of her letters and cards, I made an astounding discovery. There, amid her correspondence, were envelopes with different handwriting. For many years, I had thought all the letters in that basket were from Kathy, but, now I found that wasn’t true. Some, gasp, were from Mary! You will understand my surprise when you read the following paragraph written by Mary. It begins the very first chapter of our book:

I cannot count the number of mornings in the past twenty-eight years I started with a written narrative to Mary Humston. Long before Facebook existed, these “status reports” came in the form of handwritten letters. If they had been saved, they’d likely fill more than one massive trunk by now, because they were both frequent (sometimes as many as five or six in a week) and occasionally quite lengthy. Had we kept our mutual letters, they would have revealed far more about us than any journal could. Some days I wish I had them, for an intimate peek at my former self, the mother of three, then four, five, and ultimately eight children. Other days I am glad for their absence, not necessarily wanting to revisit the mind-boggling mess of minutiae mothering a large brood included. There were many days, many years, when I struggled just to maintain a semblance of selfhood. Those letters to and from Mary were a sort of lifeline that kept me sane.
-Mary Potter Kenyon, from Chapter One of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink.

mary letters

I thought I had thrown away or shredded almost all of Mary’s letters. A handful of them were preserved within my journals, but otherwise, we had decided not to keep them. And, yet, there right in front of me, were dozens of letters dating from May 2001 to March 2003, a good twelve to fourteen years ago. Ok, so I couldn’t rest until I actually counted them. (And, I’m certain you’re interested in knowing the total, too, right?) So, drum roll please…how many letters from Mary were in the basket?

Almost one-hundred letters. One-hundred letters!
Needless to say, I can’t wait to re-read them. What will they contain? What were we writing about back then? What were our worries and joys? Will we be surprised, or will we nod our heads in understanding and recognition? After I read them, those letters are destined for Mary. To keep. Hmmm. I wonder, will they spawn another book or just trigger some fond memories??

Book Review: The Miracle in the Middle

I do read books that aren’t about either friendship or letters. In fact, I regularly rate and review books on my Goodreads account, where it is obvious, from my list of nearly 300 read books, that I lean towards memoir, non-fiction, inspirational, and contemporary fiction in my reading tastes. I am particularly interested in inspirational books that help me grow in my faith.

I chose The Miracle in the Middle: Finding God’s Voice in the Void, because I hoped it would shed more light on the concept of listening to God. I expect it will be obvious to readers of our Mary & Me book that a shared faith is a crucial element in mine and Mary’s friendship. That said, while Mary H. has always seemed to have a good grasp on what it means to discern God’s will, I’m still learning what it is to have a real relationship with God. So, yes, I had high expectations for this book, perhaps too high.

miracle in the middleThe book began with a car trip example, and boy, could I identify. As the mother of eight children, there were many years when my husband and I didn’t take any trips at all, because there was nothing “fun” about listening to squalling babies and arguing toddlers for hours in a closed space. And yes, I agree, the middle of any trip always seemed the most difficult. By chapter four, however, I’d read more about author Charlotte Gambill’s mountain-climbing and running than I did about developing a relationship with God. Yes, I understand using personal anecdotes to illustrate a point, but in this case, the incidents seemed more about the author’s physical prowess and less about incidents and events readers could relate to. And dare I say it? Bible verses and stories were used too often, in places that didn’t seem necessary, and I found myself skimming over them sometimes.

There are redeeming qualities to this book. If you are a runner, mountain-climber, or facing a large task or goal that seems insurmountable, there is encouragement to be found in sections of this book. You can get a lot out of just reading the pull quotes off each page. The prayer points at the end of each chapter are another plus.

Disclaimer: I was given this book by for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

“Oh, please don’t…,” I wanted to plead with the young girl who requested Fifty Shades of Grey, in front of her mother, no less. But of course, as the director of a library, I cannot prohibit, or censor, the reading choices of our patrons. In The Little Paris Bookshop Monsieur Perdu, owner of the bookstore on a barge, has no such qualms or limitations. In fact, he possesses an unusual gift, in that he knows which book a reader needs to heal emotionally. So when he barks out a sharp “No!” to a woman whose husband recently left her, and refuses to sell her a book that she requests, I yearned for the same power as a librarian. In a perfect world, I would allow no fourteen-year-old girl to read trashy books.

little paris bookshop
While I chose this book for the cover that prominently featured a stamped letter and the word “bookshop,” (I am an avid letter writer and reader) it was the story that drew me in. An abandoned lover who can save others through books, but can’t manage to save himself? A woman who has lost any sense of self-esteem because of a bad marriage, who is “saved” by books? And then we have the character of the successful author who is filled with angst, unable to complete a second book. Even that letter shown on the cover is part of the story. Why would the bookseller wait twenty years to read a letter left behind by the only woman he had ever loved? And what happens after he reads it, and realizes his mistake? While there were a couple sections that too closely resembled the aforementioned “trash,” the author, Nina George, and the plot did manage to redeem themselves by book’s end.

Interested in this book? You can read an excerpt by clicking here.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from Blogging for Books for an honest review.

Friendship Day Winner!!

The winner of our Friendship Day drawing was Becky Peiffer of Iowa. Please e-mail with your address so we can mail your prize. Congratulations, and thank you to all who entered.

Celebrate Friendship and Mary & Me With a Drawing!

Today is National Girlfriends Day, according to at least one website. According to the United Nations website, yesterday was the International Day of Friendship, with yet another source or two claiming that many counties, including India, celebrate it as Friendship Day on the first Sunday of August. There is also a Women’s Friendship Month (September), National Women’s Friendship Day (third Sunday in September) and International Friendship Month (February). And the fun doesn’t stop there. “Old Friends, New Friends Week” is the third week of May.
The Marys are thrilled to have their book Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink released during September, a month when two of those “holidays” fall. We are also taking full advantage of tomorrow’s Friendship Day by hosting one of our first appearances as co-authors at The Bread Basket tearoom in Manchester. With a free “friendship tea” from 2:00-4:00, and an author reading at 2:30, it is our way of celebrating both friendship and our upcoming book release. As for Women’s Friendship Month, we have two big launches planned, as well as a friendship tea, and several “Letter-Writing 101” workshops. October promises to look just as busy, and there is even a “Mary & Me” event already scheduled for November.

We have something besides friendship to celebrate this week, and that is the announcement from our publisher that Mary & Me will be released in Australia in the spring! What exciting news~

To celebrate this news, along with Friendship Day, we’ve decided to hold another drawing. One lucky winner, drawn at random on the morning of Tuesday, August 4th, will receive all this:

  • a signed copy of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink
  • a sheet of forget-me-not stamps
  • a folio of flower-themed stationery with envelopes
  • 2 notepads
  • five new greeting cards, made with recycled paper that has flower seeds embedded into it
  • a new hardcover book from the lovely Victoria magazine, Writing Personal Notes and Letters
  • $10 Amazon gift card

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amazon gift card

How do you enter? Simple. Follow these four steps for your chance to win:

  1. Go to our Facebook Page. Click HERE
  2. Become a fan of our page by clicking on “LIKE”
  3. Comment underneath the drawing link
  4. Then “Share” that post on your Facebook page

One name will be chosen from the entries and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, August 4th, our Facebook page and blog.

Good luck~