Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘Letter Issues’ Category

The Longest Letter Ever Written

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Well I had to share this inspirational story!

Second Quarter Same as the First

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a great 2010. I wish it could be 2010 all the time! The fabulous feelings that have come with the year thus far have a bit to do with the outside happenings—career pursuits and whatnot—but more so with the inside happenings. I am shedding the skin of my twenties and moving ahead into my thirties with gusto and wiser eyes. I’m mighty excited for what this second quarter, specifically the month of April, will bring. Here are a few goings on:

Spring – It’s the first full month of spring! Welcome sweet season. We’ve missed you. Feel free to stay as long as you like.

National Card & Letter Writing Month – It’s that time again. This is my third year celebrating NC&LWM. I won’t be doing what I did last year last year—writing a letter a day for the whole month. I will, however, step it up a notch. I have a stack of letters on my desk that I’ve been meaning to respond to. I encourage everyone to handwrite at least one letter this month, unless you’re a regular letter writer then write a few extra. Here are some of my thoughts on NC&LWM from two years ago—they haven’t changed. Also, Carla over at 365 letters is still up to some fantastic letter-writing pursuits.

National Poetry Month – Not only is it the month the celebrate the art of letter writing but also the practice of writing, reading, and reciting poetry. This is my first year knowing of and actively celebrating National Poetry Month. I will do so by finally uploading some video content to the poetry blog I spoke of last June. It’s not uploaded just yet, but I’ve got my flip camera ready and aim to have it up by next week.

Communication in the 21st Century – Anyone live in the southeastern Pennsylvania region? I’m doing a lecture on communication in the 21st century at the Waynesborough Country Club in Paoli on April 18th. I’ll talk in depth about letter writing, as usual, and will also discuss they best ways to get in touch with people when we have so many options. For example, it’s best not send a resignation letter through Facebook (or even to friend your boss on Facebook). But if you want try and reach a celebrity, Twitter might just be the best way. The event is $10 at the door. RSVP by e-mail please. Thank you!

Wedding Vow WritingI’m still working on this and excited to do it. Hopefully I’ll be up and running by wedding season.

On the People Who Don’t Write Back

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Thank you Maggie for igniting such a lively discussion with your comment on Breaking News: Thank You Notes (4 blogs below). I have a lot to say. Too much for the comment section! So I’ll respond up here. I’ve pulled part of Maggie’s comment:

My problem lately is how to write a letter to someone you KNOW is not going to take the time to respond. I write several friends who don’t have email, or don’t depend on email to keep in touch with others, and it’s hard to keep writing these friends when I know they will not respond. Hardly anyone takes the time to sit down to write a letter these days. And, that is reinforced by the fact that one is usually hard pressed to find letter writing stationery at even the stationery stores, or at least the stores around where I live.

I know it can be disheartening when you take the time to write to people and they don’t take the time to respond, but that doesn’t mean your letter wasn’t appreciated. I think Hope made a great point in saying, “You have no idea what kind of reaction your letters receive.” Masa and Rodney expressed similarly encouraging sentiments.

One of my friend’s tells this great story about a guy and a letter. She had volunteered with him for a year—eventually the program ended and the time came to go their separate ways. She wrote him a goodbye letter encapsulating the year they had spent together and going on about how great the work they were doing was. Now, she had romantic feelings for him, but she did not reveal that in the letter. Perhaps he it read it between the lines. He never wrote back.

More than a year later, the two of them found themselves in a bar—talking about old times and catching each other up on what was presently going on in their lives. At one point he said, “You wrote me a wonderful letter, didn’t you?” She’s funny. When she tells the story it goes something like: My heart fell on the floor. I know it sounds impossible. I know that there’s a rib cage and lots of skin to prevent such a thing from happening. But I’m not kidding. My heart fell on the floor.

I, too, have written many letters that received no written response, but that are brought up in conversation years later. This is one (of the many) things I love about letter writing. People remember it! Remember when I wrote a-letter-a-day for the month of April? Do you know how many responses I got—via letter. One. Yup one. Now, my friend Heddy e-mailed me yesterday to say she sent a letter. So when I receive her letter I will have received two responses. It was still worth it! It was a challenge I issued to myself, and I met it.

I think the safest thing to do when you write someone a letter is assume that you won’t get a response. If the person is worth writing to knowing that, then write away. Enjoy the process. Hide from your computer with a cup of tea and a piece of paper (that how I do it). Don’t fear sounding too self-absorbed by talking about what’s going on in your life. As long as you invite the other person to talk about him or herself with a Now tell me what’s been going on with you! (or something of the sort) at then end, then you’re fine.

With regards to paper: My thoughts, like Rodney’s, went straight to Papyrus. Their greeting cards are very expensive, but their bundles of writing paper are affordable and last forever. I have a stack of blue letter-paper—I’ve had it for months—and it’s what I write all of my letters (that aren’t thank you notes) on. But any old piece of paper will do. Honestly! Computer paper. Even notebook paper. What matters are the words.

I hope this helps, Maggie.

Happy July everyone!

Save the Date

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

A boyfriend of mine once told me that if you want to make something official, or at least have indisputable proof that you wrote it on a certain date, then mail it to yourself. The USPO is a government institution and when it stamps the date on a parcel, it is proof positive of that very moment in time.

The boyfriend who told me this did not stay my boyfriend. He became my friend. We have been a part of each other’s lives for 10 years this October (we dated for two of those years in the beginning). Our friendship has certainly had its naysayers claiming that we can’t really just be friends and surely we’ll end up together. I try not to waste energy fighting those people because they’ve already made up their minds’ and are happy to inflict a Hollywood ending on my story. I know better. We’re friends, and all of my very close friends know and accept this. I’ve stood by and watched him date both casually and seriously. He’s been my sounding board for boys, and I’ve been his for girls. Never at any point has either one of us suggested to the other that we give romance another go. At some point over the last decade we became brother and sister. Much to my dismay, this is about to change.

He is now seriously involved with a woman who does not approve of our friendship. I didn’t realize how serious her distaste for me was until the end of last year when he confessed to having told me many lies because he wanted me to like her. He was lying to me to protect me, which I can appreciate, but it hurts no matter what when your best friend lies. He continues assuring me that they’ve worked it all out and our friendship will be fine. Except it’s not. We are hardly in touch. He’ll tell me he’ll call me so we can catch up and then he doesn’t (normally that’s not something that would bother me too much, but under these circumstances I am looking for evidence that everything will be fine.) When I try to tell him that his lack of communication hurts me, he says, “I don’t need this. I don’t need this.” (All I can hear is “I don’t need you. I don’t need you.”) He’s saying he doesn’t need to fight about the situation with his girlfriend and then turn around and fight with me about it. I don’t want to fight either, but I need to be able to tell him that he’s hurting me and have him care. If a friend doesn’t care that you’re hurt can they be called a friend any more? He would care if my heart were broken or if my father were in the hospital, but when he’s the source of the pain he doesn’t want to deal with it.

I suggested to him that he take six months away from me and reassess whether I mean anything to him or not. He got very angry at me saying if I walk away then he looks like a fool (and I subsequently look like a fool) for defending our friendship to such an extreme degree to his girlfriend. Unfortunately, he’s right. This reminds me of an Edgar Allan Poe story called “The Oval Portrait.” It’s about a man who is painting a portrait of a woman. He becomes so obsessed with the painting itself that he stops paying attention to the woman he’s painting (she is in extreme discomfort). When he’s finished, the painting is beautiful, and the woman is dead. He’s working so hard to defend our friendship that he’s not taking any time to actually be my friend. This hurts. It also pretty much ensures that the situation becomes a self-fulling prophecy. I know things have to change when your friends are involved in a relationship. I can accommodate change. I can’t be ignored.

I can’t explain this to him (as he’ll get annoyed and angry with me), and I can’t walk away. All I can do is stand here and wait for the inevitable to happen. In the meantime, however, I’m going to take his advice. I’m going to write him a letter and delineate my hurt over what’s going on, my gratefulness for ten years of knowing him, and my understanding that the end is now in sight. I will mail this letter to myself. Someday I will give it to him (stamped with the current date), so he knows that my denial ended long before his.

Oh yes, and he doesn’t read my blog. This much I know is true.

Boys will be Boys*

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Since the early days of my letter-writing service, I’ve noticed a pattern. Whatever type of letter request I receive, it’s usually followed by a very similar request. For example, when the DailyCandy write-up came out, I received an onslaught of letter requests all from women wanting to write loves letters to their husbands for Christmas (so encouraging and cute). Although that’s the only period in the history of this Web site when I had an onslaught of requests (meaning 30 letter requests everyday for a week!), the pattern continued. Someone would come in and want a birthday toast written and shortly thereafter someone else would also want a toast. I had two women come to me within a week of each other wanting a series of thank you notes written. Requests come in pairs. Two people—who have nothing to do with each other—wanting the same type of letter. Something is in the air.

The most recent two-type phenomena came from two men—both apologizing profusely to their significant other. One had been caught lying to his wife and the other had been emotionally neglectful of his girlfriend. Of course there are many more details that I won’t share for privacy’s sake, but you get the idea. I am fascinated for a few reasons:

1. The phenomena itself: I haven’t had any letter requests for a while and then two of the exact same nature come at me. It never ceases to amaze me.

2. The fear of being left alone: Both men are on the verge of breaking down at the possibility of losing their love. They are apologizing as if their lives depend on it. Now it’s true both of them can be held accountable as they have done many things wrong. (Neither man is in denial about this, and both are willing to admit it on the page.) It makes me wonder how much of that initial fear is not really fear of losing the girl but rather fear of being left alone. I don’t know the answer to this, and I’m not making any judgments. I’m just throwing the rhetorical question out there. Often times when people go into a total panic over a break-up—depending on the circumstance of course—I see it as more of a not wanting to deal with life alone rather than a pure need for the other person. In a relationship you get used to having someone to consult on every decision you make and there’s always someone around to verify your self worth. Their presence alone tells you I’m worthy of being loved. Of course we’re all worthy of being loved whether we’re in a relationship or not, but that’s hard to believe at certain down points in life. When the validation of a significant other is taken away suddenly, is it the heart or the ego that suffers more?

3. My role in the drama: If I were friends with either of these women, my advice would probably be to walk away and never look back. But I am not friends with anyone here. I am the letter writer. I must stay neutral and do everything in my power to express the intimate thoughts of the one requesting the letter. After the transaction had taken place with one of the gentlemen, I wished him well and told him that I hope everything works out for him. He replied with, “Even if it doesn’t, the letter actually helped ME!” That was an insightful comment. Reminded me (even I need reminding on occasion) of the many purposes of letter writing.

*To clarify: The title of this blog implies that only men do things wrong in relationships, and we all know that’s not true. I referred to “boys being boys” simply because I’m dealing with boys in this case. Girls, too, have been known to be girls.

The Delinquent Letter Writer

Friday, May 8th, 2009

I cannot tell a lie: I’ve been locked out of my P.O. Box. Oh the shame!

I first got a P.O. Box when I updated this Web site (in early 2007). I wanted to offer people the option of writing me letters without posting my address for anyone and everyone to see. Truth be told, most people e-mail me when they have a question or comment, which is fine. I’ve only received a handful of letters in my P.O. Box, but it’s always a joy when I do. After a reader turned friend, Masa, wrote me a few times, I ended up giving him my address so I didn’t have to make my way to the post office as often.

I’m not sure if you know this, but you have to pay for a P.O. Box. It’s not much: $20 for six months and $40 for a year. I usually pay in six-month increments because I never know if anything—i.e. my living situation—will change. And it’s happened more than once when the six-month mark has come round and I receive a phone call saying, “You have to come in and pay or we’ll put a lock your P.O. Box.” Sounds so ominous! I always made it just in time though. Until last Saturday . . .

I sauntered to the post office without a care in the world. I put my key in the box and couldn’t get it back out. I yanked, pulled, twisted, and restlessly turned before I realized it wasn’t stuck—something grabbed it. Apparently, when they put a “lock” on you P.O. Box they have some sort of mechanism waiting on the other side that grabs the key and keeps it. Did six months really go by that fast?! My landline hasn’t been working properly, so if the post office left a message I didn’t receive it. I’m wondering why they didn’t send me a letter. They have my address—you have to establish residency in a certain zip code before they give you a P.O. Box. But there’s no use blaming the post office I suppose—though I think their scare tactics are cruel and unusual.

I kneeled (my box is really low to the floor) in defeat. I wriggled my keychain from the key and walked out with the helpless piece of metal still sticking out. Things got worse the following week when a reader e-mailed me and told me he had just received a package that he had sent to me back in the mail. It has sticker on it that says “box closed.” The worse part: he sent it from Honolulu. It went from Hawaii to PA and back. Once again, that makes me mad at the post office for not just giving it to me! And once again, I’m to blame. Sigh.

Now for the hard part: Walking sheepishly back in and asking if I can have my PO Box back. It will take me a while to muster up the courage. I’ll let you know how it goes. I don’t know if they’ll give me the same number. R.I.P. Box 50.

My friend scanned and e-mailed me an image of the package as it was sent back to him. Here it is:


Increasing the Odds

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

There is a fabulous giveaway happening over at A Passion for Letter Writing. Site maven, Wendy, has teamed up with Elizabeth Levi of Blue Chair Studio who has graciously offered to give away a six-pack of handmade cards and a bookGoddess (bookmark). I entered by leaving a comment at a Passion for Letters, but apparently I increase my odds of winning if I blog about it here, too. And so I am! I’m grateful to now know about Blue Chair in any case.