Return to Snail Mail: A Personal Handwritten Letter Campaign

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint 

2014 started as my year of gifting good stories. Buying books for friends and family members – mostly my mom and my boys, providing moments of escape from their every day lives. Or sending recommendations of interest to those who keep a running list like I do.

Slowly this gift is morphing into stories of my life via handwritten notes and cards, like a personal history or memoir through correspondence. I’m not quite sure why …

Maybe it’s the thrill of “real” mail or the fact that simple things are important.

More than likely it’s due to seeing old friends and realizing our interactions are social media driven only. We could call or write but why when Facebook feeds run like a life highlights newsreel? Because Facebook is usually the good times without room for the difficult and sad, the intimate moments of life.

It could be the fact that while on vacation my dudes sent postcards to some of their friends, whose parents told me of their excitement upon receiving the quick note. How can we not spread that joy again?

Maybe it’s because we have friends spending a year abroad. Wouldn’t it be sweet for them to get letters from home? To feel connected and not far away despite the distance?

Or it could be thanks to my dear friend, whose daily walk includes checking the mail with her infant. A tradition in the making, I think. Of course they need mail to retrieve from the box.

The reason doesn’t matter much. Only the desire to send some love: signed, sealed, and delivered.

I’ll still give books but they may have a personal story penned in my own hand, tucked between the pages.

Here’s to great stories!

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Postcards from Southern California: Family Fun in the Hot Hot Sun

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

It was like a furnace. Temperatures ranged from 90 to 105 degrees. Too hot to do anything other than lounge; which we did.

Trying to find a cool spot and stay hydrated were the top of our activities list while visiting my family in High Desert. [Side Note: Mom’s house doesn’t have central air-conditioning.]

We spent time with the family we don’t see often enough. Shopping and bowling. Eating our favorite Southern California foods like In-N-Out.

We had the opportunity to catch up with life-long friends and hit the beach.

Plenty of ‘selfie’ style photos exist. My boys will have pictures with me in them as well as their cousins, aunts, and Granny. Usually, I take tons of food shots but this year I promised myself, I’d feature the people. Interesting how different this vacation slide deck will look.

I read 3 books:

  • A Better World by Marcus Sakey, exceeded my expectations. It’s better than book one in the saga, Brilliance. Trust me a must read.
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, was amazing. Another must read.
  • The Secret’s in the Sauce by Linda Evans Shepard and Eva Marie Everson.

We saw 2 movies which were family dates with my sisters, niece and nephew:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction

We had 1 date without the kiddos. Just hubby and me. It’s hard to pull off when we’re home.

These are bonus tracks on the vacation album.

Cousins in the surf. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Cousins in the surf.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

There were lots of items on our ‘to do’ list that we never got marked off. We didn’t have our Read-A-Thon which the boys wanted to do in Colorado originally. I’m so glad we gave our books their own suitcase to travel with us. Oh well we will plan it for next month.

New meaning to book bag. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

New meaning to book bag.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Now we’re home, a little jet lagged and struggling with the return to routine, but color me grateful for the days we sat on the front porch in the setting sun with the people I love most in the world.

Postcards from Colorado: Adventures in Thin Air

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Greetings …

Today is post Tuesday and I haven’t had a chance to slow down enough to organize my thoughts and experiences into a cohesive narrative. But instead of missing post day I decided to bullet some of the highlights and share some scenic shots.

BACKGROUND: Colorado, the first week of our vacation is thanks to Calvin Theological Seminary, my husband’s alma mater. They offer a seminar to pastors, Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching.

This opportunity is designed to allow said pastors to also have a family vacation i.e. sessions from 8-noon followed by time for family adventures.

The course hosted by Scott Hoezee and Neal Plantinga (author of Reading for Preaching), required my husband to do some serious reading:

  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Enrique’s Journey – Sonia Nazario
  • Collected Poems – Jane Kenyon
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems – Robert Frost
  • The Wednesday Wars – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Robert Caro

Of course my reading list is a little longer now.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

We had the pleasure of staying at Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies, which is a beautiful place to stay. AND it has lots of activities for everyone.

From a parenting perspective, I have to say my dudes surprised me. In particular, our oldest tried many things that if you’d told me a week prior that he would do so I wouldn’t have believed it.

  • He went on the zip line, some 30 feet off the ground, as did my husband. They each used one word to describe it. Dude said, “Fast.” Hubby said, “Fun.”
  • He climbed the rock wall. Again some 30 feet off the ground, even though heights make him nervous.
  • He also tried roller-skating for the first time; counting the number of times he fell as we went along. It’s been at least 15 years since I was on skates and I loved sharing it with my dude.
  • He navigated the cafeteria like a camp veteran, helping his brother along the way, making us think he’s ready for an overnight camp experience without us.

Both boys tried their hand at archery, which isn’t as easy as our favorite quiver-wearing-bow-wielding-heroes make it look.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest wasn’t as adventurous but he enjoyed:

  • Miniature golf
  • Volleyball for the first time. And,
  • Basketball, even though he told me, “I’m not ready for the NBA.” What a sweet boy!

Okay, I’d also like to say they wrote and mailed postcards to friends about our time in Colorado; giving a glimpse into our vacation. Yes, I am smiling for the handwritten correspondence, brief, as you have to be on a postcard. Their handwriting at 9 and 7 years old is priceless.

These moments made this momma proud.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My personal fave of our time was sitting in a small group around the fireplace listening Gary D. Schmidt and his editor daughter, Kathleen Kerr, as they talked about writing and publishing in today’s world. I didn’t say a word. Never asked a question. I was the weirdo in the back sporting the perma-grin.

My husband’s personal fave comes courtesy of Facebook. A friend posted that they were “camping in the Rockies” and the picture loaded the location of Winter Park, CO. Just 10 minutes down the road.

Hubby was able to catch up with three of his closest childhood friends and their families. Some we hadn’t visited in a couple of years, others in more than a decade. It was an unexpected and special surprise in our trip. Yay Facebook for bringing people together.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

LAST NOTES:

  • Check out Snow Mountain Ranch. You may want to plan a trip there. If you go there,
  • Visit The Foundry which is a great place: movie theater & bowling alley mashup. Order the caramel corn which is to die for; comfy leather seats, where we watched How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  • Stop by Dozens Restaurant if you make it to Denver. Oh how delicious the food. See my meal?
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Thanks to the altitude, my oldest son and I suffered from headaches and bloody noses despite drinking as much fluid as we could. And the hubby had trouble sleeping. It was still one of the best vacations to date.

In two weeks I’ll be back in Colorado for work but I am grateful I was able to experience it on vacation, otherwise I would have missed out on so much of this beautiful state.

Happy summer travels … be safe.

Postcard: Wichita, Kansas – There’s No Place Like Home

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Early last week, as I prepped for my weekend business trip, the tune “Kansas City” from The Jacksons: An American Dream TV mini-series played in my mind. It played till I realized I wasn’t head to Kansas City but to Wichita. My mistake…

Of course, when I remembered where I was headed, it made me think of Dorothy and Toto. It made me think of the quest for home and the journey to courage, wisdom, and heart.

If you’re in need of another Jackson reference, consider The Wiz movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Then just ease on down the road.

Or maybe, you want a different literary reference all together. In which case I have this one for you: The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverley Cleary which my dudes and I just finished reading before my trip.

In the story our protagonist, Ralph Mouse, gets trapped under a water glass by two school teachers (kindergarten and second grade). They debate whether or not they should take him back to Wichita, Kansas with them to sit in a cage on the windowsill of their respective classrooms.

Regardless of the reference that says: “Wichita” to you, I have to say it’s not a place I enjoy visiting, at least not usually. I’ve been both for business and personal reasons. The city doesn’t appear to have a lot to offer.

It doesn’t help that my work trips are short with specific constraints. I mainly see the inside of a conference center. The only view of the city and its tourism happen through the window of a moving vehicle.

We stayed at the Drury Place which had all the charm of centuries gone by with the modern amenities of our techie society.

My favorite thing was the fact that there was a mail chute or tube system that ran to every floor. In its heyday the letters would fall to a black cast iron box in the lobby with the words: US Postal Service painted in gold. It was sealed but it reminded me of my love of handwritten letters. I wish I’d taken some pictures.

The hotel offered a program called: Kickback. Essentially an appetizer buffet that you could make into your evening meal: hotdogs, pasta, baked potatoes, and other snackable items like nachos. Also, included were three alcoholic beverages. A nice way to thank guests for choosing their hotel I’d say.

The beauty of my job is that each event gathers large groups of people together. A Petri dish, if you will, of human behavior. A writer’s dream. And this trip was no different. The people of Wichita, both guests and staff, were friendly and warm with ready smiles.

And I met a couple of characters along the way:

The chef who said he needed a hug and a kiss on the mouth (really?) in order for us to continue enjoying the freshly popped corn. (Part of Kickback which means it’s complementary.) Needless to say I offered the hug but I don’t kiss on the first date.

And then there was the cabbie who insisted on calling me baby, like we were a couple. Ha … we skipped right to terms of endearment? Yes, as I said, friendly people.

Side note: my experience taught me, if you go to Wichita, rent a car. Cab service is practically obsolete. (You have to call ahead by at least an hour.)

The weather was windy yet sunny and warm. A far cry from the snow and sleet my family had to contend with while I was away. And bonus … no tornados.

Saving grace of this trip: Redrock Canyon Grill.

Service was impressive. Watching the servers was like watching a well timed dance performance. As wait staff glided in and out, maneuvering around one another to clear plates and drop off refills and ask what we needed. It didn’t matter that they weren’t our server, if it needed to be done and they were near by, they handled it. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

And the food? AMAZING. We had the Shrimp Cargot to start (I didn’t get a picture); followed by salad with a signature sweet ranch dressing (so delicious); then the main dish of steak and redskin mashed potatoes (oh the mash with green onions and garlic … yum); and of course the end of the meal … a dessert called Something Chocolate (truly divine).

If you ever make it to Wichita, this place has to be on your list. Warning … go early because this is the spot. People were wrapped around the bar, spilling out of the waiting area and teeming around outside by the open fire pit.

Thanks to the memorable dining experience (I now need to lose a few more pounds); and the friendly people, Wichita has climbed a few ticks up my list of places to visit.

But despite all of this, I have to agree with Dorothy: “There’s no place like home.” And for me home isn’t Wichita but at least now I would look forward to going back.

What place has surprised you and ended up on your favorites list? If you’ve been to Wichita and have suggestions of places to see or go, let me know because I’ll be headed back at some point for work.