Archive | snail mail

The Secret Language of Postage Stamps

I may have mentioned this before (or I may not have…I’m too absent-minded to remember) but I am teaching a four-day course in the one-room schoolhouse. Birdie, Bunny and Sam are my students and the lesson is Letter-Writing. Yes, I am instructing in the art of Snail Mail. Today was day three and things are still going well. I really like “teaching” and I really like separating things into official categories. What I mean is, I could always pass my knowledge about letter-writing on to any willing soul, but to set it up and gather recourses and plan activities organizes that topic in my mind. Now I could list off facts about snail mail and stamps and Victorian missives instead of filing through my brain for a matter of minutes. Speaking of stamps, we studied them yesterday. The kids (even Little Man) were really fascinated by what they learned about postage stamps. We talked about “the secret language.” Did you know that an upside-down stamp means “I Love You”? Go here to read the other meanings. It is quite clever!
Cleverly Pleasant

Great things from The Dutchess:

I insert here a letter of Jane Austen’s written backwards, addressed to her niece ‘Cassy,’ daughter of Captain Charles Austen (afterwards Admiral), when a little girl.:
“YM RAED YSSAC,I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey. Ruoy xis snisuoc emac ereh yadretsey, dna dah hcae a eceip of ekac. Siht si elttil Yssac’s yadhtrib, dna ehs si eerht sraey dlo. Knarf sah nugeb gninrael Nital. Ew deef eht Nibor yreve gninrom. Yllas netfo seriuqne retfa uoy. Yllas Mahneb sah tog a wen neerg nwog. Teirrah Thgink semoc yreve yad ot daer ot Tnua Ardnassac. Doog eyb, ym raed Yssac.Tnua Ardnassac sdnes reh tseb evol, dna os ew od lla.Ruoy etanoitceffa Tnua, ENAJ NETSUA”

Wasn’t that neat?


“The Dental Patient” or “There and back again.”

Today, as you all anticipated, I had a dental appointment. I was not looking forward to this in the least. Why?

1. My last dental appointment was awful

2. Because the dentist was loud and obnoxious

3. And inflicted much pain

4. And when something didn’t hurt it just felt bad

5. And the hygienist was rude

6. Saying that she had never seen a twelve-year old nervous about going to the dentist

7. And that teeth can’t be sensitive (LIE) so just be still.

Well, this time we went to a new dentist (for obvious reasons.)

It was so, so, so much better. As Sabrina worded it:
“You didn’t feel like you were going to be murdered.”
And I added: “And you weren’t one of a million victims.”
You see, these really big offices are often so busy that you wait in the waiting room for an hour or more. When you finally get called back you don’t ever see the dentist, only the hygienist. You have a new hygienist every time so she never remembers who you are.
“Hi there…(looks at chart) Everly! How is…(looks at chart) homeschooling going?” Get my gist?
They aren’t paying attention, they don’t really care. Well, the new dental office is much smaller. When I walked in (“Animal Farm” in hand) I never even sat down. The hygienist (Tracy-very sweet) was waiting for me. She called me back, took great care of me, ask me how my sisters were doing because she actually remembers who my family is.
To me, this all links together with stuff I’ve talked about before about how our generation is lacking in personal, intimate, face-to-face relationships. Really, face-to-face anything. When you make a business phone call and someone other than a robot answers the telephone you think you must have the wrong number. Hand written snail mail is obviously from your grandmother or else it is a font meant to look like script but really it is just snail-spam. I wonder how many girls have gotten a dozen red roses on facebook and have never received a real dozen on their doorstep. Can you virtually bend down and virtually pick them up and virtually smell their lovely, natural perfume? Can you virtually read the card and virtually paste it in your diary and virtually remember it forever? Virtually look back on his virtual hand writing while he’s virtually away? Remember what it was like to virtually find them there when you open the virtual door? Can you? Is virtual reality enough to replace (for the lack of a better term) real reality? I think not. So when I see Tracy the hygienist or visit with a fellow dental patient or read one of the magazines so neatly arrayed on the table-a sign of caring and time spent, I’ll be glad that I’m not talking to my last hygienist who wasn’t friendly at all or my dentist who was friendly with me just like with the other million patients because he doesn’t want to get sewed.
It is high time we get back to the basics on some things people! When we’re old and grey are we going to be sitting together on our virtual porches (don’t get me started on porches) and reminiscing about the good old days saying:
Me: “You remember the hand shake?” Remember the…what did we call it…high five?”
You: “Oh yes! But those were out-lawed years ago. I remember when my Sunday school teacher used to hug me after class. Now that that is child abuse, they just make eye contact.”
Grand child: “Hug your teacher? Gross! Do you remember doing that thing that they did in old movies-call each other on the telephone?”
Me: “Oh yes! Even that was considered impersonal sometimes though.”
Grand child: “No way! Wasn’t it awkward to hear the other person’s voice?”
You: “Sorry, got to sign off now. My virtual husband is home from virtual work.”
Me: “Alright virtual friend, I am going to sign off too.”
Grand child: “Thanks for the virtual bonding time Grandma!”
2 Corinthians 13:14 (The Message)
The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.
Deuteronomy 4:7 (The Message)
Yes. What other great nation has gods that are intimate with them the way God, our God, is with us, always ready to listen to us?


Snail Mail: A soapbox entry

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I am a advocate for snail mail.
Back when I was your age, we used to LICK THE ENVELOPES. Can you believe that?
So tonight I shall soapbox (that was a verb) about letters. Enjoy the picture, quotations and opinions.

There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters . . . I could be their leader.
Charlie Brown

Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus friends absent speak
John Donne

And this is an excerpt from a wonderful book I received as a Christmas present called “What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens knew.” It is a book about the everyday life, details and culture of the English people of the 1800’s. Something to remember: M.P. means member of Parliament.
The chapter titled The Mail:
Letters told you whether or not you had inherited the estate-whether someone had agreed to marry you-whether cousin Frank was lost at sea-whether a lost heir was actually alive and in New Zealand was now returning to claim his fortune. The mail was expensive except to M.P.s, who, until 1840, could “frank” it, i.e., send it free. Postage was billed on the basis of the number of miles the letter traveled in England, fourpence for the first fifteen miles, eightpence for the eighty, and so on up to seventeen pence for the letter going seven hundred miles. In addition, if you put any enclosures in the letter (even a second piece of notepaper)
the charge was double. And the recipient always paid, not the sender.
(it goes on to say that generous people allowed their relations/friends to write all the time despite the fact that they would have to pay to open it and that many people gave their mail to an M.P. uncle or someone who could “frank” it for them…)

More genteel ways to save postage included using lots of abbreviations in one’s letters and also “crossing,” or turning the letter at a right angle after one had written on a page and writing over it. In general, says Miss Bates of a correspondent to the heroine in Emma, “she fills the whole paper and crosses half. My mother often wonders that I can make it out so well. She often says when the letter is first opened, “Well, Hetty, now I think you will be put to it to make out all that checker-work.”
Until the 1840’s envelopes were not in widespread use so you wrote your letter on a sheet of paper, folded in up and then sealed it and that was you de facto envelope. In Jane Austen, we find the characters using a wafer to seal their missives. This was a small disk made of gum and flour which you licked and then stuck on to the letter to close it. Alternatively, there were seals-gentlemen sometimes carried them on a chain hanging from their waistcoat-which were dipped in beeswax or a similar compound that was melted with the aid of a little desk taper and then applied to the letter. Red sealing wax was for business, other colors for social correspondence, and black for mourning. “In those days there was an art in folding and sealing.” wrote Jane Austen’s nephew in a memoir to his aunt in 1870. “No adhesive envelopes made all easy. Some people’s letters always looked loose and untidy; but her paper was sure to make the right folds, and her sealing-wax to drop into the right place.”
(it goes on to say that in The mayor of Casterbridge a character seals her letter poorly, it opens and is read by the wrong person.)

The day came, of course, when letters were not the only means of communication across long distances in the country. By 1857 most of the large towns in England were linked by telegraph and in 1879 the first telephone exchange in the country appeared in London.

And this concludes Snail Mail: A soapbox entry. That was a lot of writing! I didn’t copy and paste that from somewhere…no sir! I looked at the book in my lap and typed like a mad woman!
Everly Pleasant


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