Friday, July 27, 2012

One Year Of Letters

"And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make." ~the Beatles

I just got finished watching the Olympic opening ceremony, and Let It Be is on my mind, for a number of reasons, but I think it makes a nice start to this entry.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of My Year of Letters. I didn't succeed in sending a letter a
day, as I'd originally intended - but I do believe I sent more than 365 letters and postcards (as many days I sent more than 1), though I stopped counting after a while because it was taking away from the fun. I set out this year to write daily letters as a practice of mindfulness, kindness, and love, and a ways of reconnecting with friends and family. While I didn't reach my daily goal, letter writing has certainly become a practice for me, even more so than before I started this project. I am more centered and connected when I write my letters, and I do it with greater intention. I reconnected with old friends, even made some new ones, and (I think) brightened a few days. And in terms of sending love, I sent many letters, but I got back so much more - not necessarily in quantity, but definitely in love and in gratitude for the letters that I sent. 

I'm reminded of the song from Rent:
Five hundred twenty-nine thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-nine thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-nine thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In terms of letters, mine is a TOMS shoe box:

Though my year of letters is ending, my letters will continue.I will also keep this blog going for the occasional post about stationery, letter writing, pen pals and the like.Thanks for reading!

(and if you didn't get a letter yet, just send me your address or let me know you want one :)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Peace Postcards

I had the good fortune to stumble into a fantastic used bookshop in my new neighborhood this evening after dinner. Bluestocking Books has a fanTAStic selection, including Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States featured prominently in the window for the 4th of July (it might be the next book I walk out with - tonight I walked out with Ram Dass' Be Here Now). I think I will be saying goodbye to for the foreseeable future!

But Bluestocking Books doesn't just have books - they have an amazing postcard selection, including a number of peace postcards! Here are a few of my favorites:

 And this one is particularly apt for the upcoming 4th of July holiday:

I'm planning to send my first one, Peace On Earth, to Russia via postcrossing, but the rest are up for grabs - if you'd like a postcard let me know! :-)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Peace On Us

I got this great peace stationery from my friend Rachel who sent it from Australia. The perfect stationery for sending some peace and love around the world!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Postcards from the Border

Hey, I'm back!

It's been a while since I've posted on here - been slacking a bit on my letters, plus we moved, which took up a lot of time and energy.

Let me know if you want our new address!

I also traveled to Tijuana this month, and will go back again next week for some peace education workshops with 80 teachers, in conjunction with Teachers Without Borders, the Organization of American States, and the Baja California Department of Education.

To commemorate the trip, I took the opportunity to use's great postcard function. I used one of my favorite photos of the border graffiti. Let me know if you want one! :-)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sealing Wax and Other Fancy Stuff

World Market sent me a $10 happy birthday coupon to use in its store, and I got a sealing wax kit!
The wax is like a little crayon, and then it comes with a stamp with three different faces - hearts (pictured), stars, and a fleur de lis. It adds a whole new dimension to my letter writing experience!

And it definitely requires mindfulness and concentration. There is actually some technique involved in sealing an envelope with wax. You need to get the wax in the right spot, you need the right amount of wax. Then you need to stir the wax to get the bubbles out (you stir with the crayon stick), and finally you have to wait until just the right time to press the seal.

I've tried it twice so far and both turned out OK. The first one I erred on the side of waiting too long, and the impression wasn't very deep. Just now I tried it but didn't check to see the direction of the hearts before I pressed - doh!
But it still looks nice :-)

(there is no "other fancy stuff" as the title implies...I just wanted to quote Puff the Magic Dragon :)

I've been slacking on this blog, and it's been a whole month since my last post. And to be honest, I did not keep up with my letter-a-day goal this month. This month has been a little tricky. I'm struggling with un(der)employment right now, and some days are harder than others. On the harder days, I find it hard to write a letter. Writing a letter takes a certain amount of energy - any quality communication does - and when I write a letter I want to be sending love, not negativity. Thus on days when I've been feeling less-than-inspired, I haven't been writing, and I think this is OK.

At the same time, I realize that focusing to write a letter could be just what I need to pull me out of the negativity, so this month I think I'll try that. It might be helpful, and I'll let you know how it goes!

Also, we are probably moving at the end of the month. Our lease ends in April, so we are looking for new abodes. Check in with me later for our new address!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Make Tea, Not War

I found this postcard in my local stationery shop. I love it :-) I'm sending the first one through the Postcrossing project, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to go back to get more to send to everyone I know!

This also connects beautifully to my newest project, PeaceMeal - Cultivating Peace Through Food. Please check it out!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Certified Mail Treat

Today I woke up feeling a little uninspired. We've had the good fortune of a rainy day here in sunny San Diego, but the cloudy skies and cool air have me feeling less-than-productive.

Yesterday, I wasn't home when the mail arrived, and when I got back there was a note on the door that I had some certified, insured mail that needed to be picked up at the post office. I wasn't sure what it might be, and whether it was something to be excited about or not, so I didn't think much of it.

This morning, I went to pick it up - and was delighted by what was inside!

It was copies of the book "People Building Peace 2.0," in which my story, "Peace Education Without Borders," was published. I entered the story in the Peace Portal Stories for Peace Challenge last year, and it was selected as one of 25 winners. As a winner, you get your story published in the book, and you also get 10 free copies of the book! What a nice treat.

I love blogging, but there is something really exciting about seeing your words in such a tangible form. I think I am going to have to pursue more opportunities like this.

And that gave me my much-needed inspiration for today!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

My husband and I are of the mentality that "every day is Valentine's Day". We're not a fan of the commercialism, and we like to do nice little things for each other randomly and express love for each other on a regular basis. However, he still took the opportunity to still buy me a beautiful bouquet of tulips for our new tulip holder from the Netherlands (thanks Alistair! thanks Lieke! :)

And maybe thinking it's just another day has its limits. In regards to this "it's just another day" mentality, a friend commented on Facebook today, "Of all the posts in my news feed today, at least 90% are about how it's just another day. It seems like the Anti-Valentine people are the bandwagon jumpers to me. Who cares if someone decides to show extra affection to someone else today? I can think of worse things people do." (Thanks Jason! :)  Right on! So, Valentine Haters, jump on board, and take some advice from MC Yogi: give love!

I am usually not a fan of "greeting card holidays", (similarly, for me, "everyday is a letter writing day!" :) but my mom bought me some fantastic Valentine's Day stationery this year from Papyrus (what you can't see in the photo is the deliciously soft velveteen texture of the card) so I went with it, and have been sending these out over the past few weeks. I'd also like to share the insert in the Papyrus cards, explaining the chosen symbol of the hummingbird:

"Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our heats to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird's delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation."

Beautifully connected to both My Year of Letters and Valentine's Day!

Photo credit: James Knox Photography - my amazingly talented cousin, who took this photo at La Costa Resort when we had our wedding celebration there in November. Thanks James! :)

Finally, I just want to share my favorite quote about love, from the great sage and poet Rumi:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” 

This resonates with my belief that we are love, we are peace at our deepest, truest essence, and our task, as Rumi says is not to look for love outside of ourselves, but rather to look inside and figure out how we are blocking the love within us from shining through.

And on that note, break down the barriers and get down to MC Yogi! :-)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chain of Gratitude

Today I would like to share my friend Nathaniel Dunigan's blog on "The Power of the HAND-written Word," which as you know I am a strong believer in! In his blog, Nathaniel talks about how in Uganda, the way of replying to "thank you" involves thanking the person for appreciating, creating a "thank you chain."

I have some cards that compliment this chain of gratitude idea. They are called Karma Cards (I'm pretty sure I've blogged about them here before), and they are from New Leaf Paper, a sustainable printing company that makes fabulous stationery. The card has a simple yet elegant design and says "Gracias". The card's seam is perforated, and on the reverse of "Gracias" it's a postcard - so the recipient can actually reuse the card and send it to someone else! I thought this was a great idea both in terms of sustainability and for the sake of carrying on the chain of gratitude.

Like Nathaniel, I keep a stack of these cards on-hand so that at anytime I can pick one up and express gratitude the handwritten way.

I recently read an article about a man, John Kralik, who did a project similar to My Year of Letters, but he focused on sending one handwritten thank you note everyday. He subsequently wrote a book called "A Simple Act of Gratitude," a memoir on how this practice was transformative for him. I haven't read the book yet, but I like the idea.

What are you thankful for today? Consider sending a thank you note! :-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

28-day Meditation Challenge

What are you doing for the month of February? Why not take part in Sharon Salzberg's 28-day meditation challenge? Today is only Day 2, so you can begin anew right where you are! If you're interested in joining, please visit here for more info:

Real Happiness is a great meditation resource, both for those who are new to meditation and for seasoned practitioners. The beautiful thing about meditation is that it's best to always approach it with a beginner's mind, so whether you've been practicing for 10 days or 10 years, what Sharon has to offer can support your practice. She has an incredible way of making meditation accessible.

For me, writing letters is an extension of my meditation practice. It is a way to further cultivate the skills that I try to hone while sitting and apply them in my daily life. And on that note, I think I have some letters to write! :-)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Ode to 100 Yen Stationery

Oh, how I long for the days where I could go into a hundred yen shop and buy riduculous stationery to my heart's content!

When I lived in Japan, one of my pasttimes was shopping in the 100 yen stores - where everything really is 100 yen ($1), AND it's practical stuff (NOT like dollar stores here in the US where most of it is garbage). And you could find some real treasures in their in terms of their comedic value.

My all-time favorite 100-yen purchase was a mug, the first mug I bought in Japan. Sadly, the mug shattered a few months ago, but I did manage to write down the poetry before I threw the pieces away. It read:

I hope to fly! (caterpiller)

the sky is and wants me
when I can fly! (birds)

Look at our beautiful legs
All our acts look like dancing (flamingos)

If I flew more and more high,
If I were free to swim in the blue sky,
Through this blue sea!! (Dolphins and whales)

Let’s walk more slowly today.
I can walk faster, but I feel like doing (armadillo).

What a pretty flower!
Oh….Something has a break on my nose.
My nose tickles. (Dog)

This is my lvely place!
My friends, little bard,
be coming soon.
(Deer and birds)

I was sad my favorite mug broke, but the words live on.

Hundred yen stationery was equally delightful, and in a similar, nonsensical vein. I've talked about 100 yen stationery in previous posts, but I needed to write about it again today, because I found some in a local shop and it brought back memories.

This particular set says "Look! Isn't that dog cute? Is it a dachshund? It looks like our dog but much longer." Now, this actually makes more sense than most 100 yen stationery. One of my favorites was called "Cool bone guy". It had skulls and crosses on it, and it said:
"I am cool bone guy. Girls are gutlessnesses in such me."
Gutlessnesses. Gutlessnesses?! One can imagine what he was going for, that Cool Bone Guy....

The 100 yen stationery at my local shop sold for a whopping $4.80. I still bought it. It also made me realize that I should start a 100 yen stationery importing business.

The other fantastic thing about 100 yen stationery is that it comes in a set with matching envelopes and stickers, making the letter writing process that much more enjoyable!

This is my ode to the 100 yen stationery!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011 Year of Letters Review: Reflections So Far

At the end of 2011, I did a big, self-reflective year in review process, largely based on the suggestions of Chris Guillebeau of the Art of Nonconformity blog. I thought about 2011, what went well and what didn't, and what I'd like to make happen in 2012.

I thought I would do a similar, though shorter, process for My Year of Letters in 2011.

I started MYOL in July 2011. Since then, I've sent an average of more than one letter per day, although I didn't realize my goal of actually sending a letter a day (ie, I might send 7 letters in a week, but I might have sent 2 in one day). This happened a few times when I traveled, lost track of time, etc. In 2012 I'd like to stay on track with the practice of writing a handwritten note everyday regardless of circumstances. However, life happens, so all I can do is try my best!

I had started out keeping track of how many letters I sent and where I sent them too. However, over time I found this to be a bit tedious - not having time to update the lists in addition to actually writing letters. On one hand, I really wish I knew exactly how many letters I've sent so far! On the other hand, I don't think it really matters.

MYOL started out with me sending letters to almost everyone who's address I have. I also started sharing these blog posts on Facebook, and through that, received more addresses. This, combined with having wedding party invitations, thank you notes for the gifts we received, and holiday cards, took up the bulk of the year. When I started the project, I thought at some point I'd have to start sending random letters to people I might not know - famous people, politicians, etc. That hasn't really happened yet (I did write a few letters to Congressional representatives), although I would still like it to. I'll set a goal for 2012 to include more "random" letters in my writing.

Through my initial round of letters and Facebook posts, I developed a few lovely pen pal relationships from friends from various phases of life. That has definitely been the most rewarding part of the YOL. As I've mentioned in previous posts, letters are special - you have a different kind of conversation than if you were sitting over coffee or talking on the phone. It's also given me a chance to reconnect - one of the initial goals of the project. I treasure my correspondence with these friends. In 2012 I will continue to nurture these relationships.

I've received so many letters! This is a pure bonus of the project. Right now they are all in a shoe box, and I rotate the ones that I display on my bedside table, kitchen counter or bookcase. I want to get a nice, special box to put my letters in - just looking for the right container.

I also got involved with Postcrossing, which has been a really fun little project. However, I do rely on Postcrossing if it's the end of the day and I'm not feeling inspired to write a longer, more involved letter. Good or bad? Not sure. But I do know that I've really enjoyed participating in the project, have a really nice postcard collection, and have some new friends from all over the world :-)

In short, it was a good start to MYOL. Now I'm about half-way through the year, and my intention is to keep it up - in fact, my overall intention is to keep it up for the rest of my life, but let's take it one day at a time :-)