Forgotten Arts in a Sweltering Underbelly Week

Chip bags crinkle and closet doors squeak as family members grab evening snacks behind me. Condensation coats my narrow glass, puddling on the desk below, and ninety-degree weather hangs heavy on the twilight.

“Watch the trees,” my friend advised me earlier this week. “When the leaves go belly-side up,there’s a storm coming.” Peeking out my windows tonight, I catch sight of a few maple leaf bellies, but most are demure, hidden.

In a week of ninety-degree weather and one hundred percent humidity, we have moved college boys onto campus, and carried couches up and down flights of stairs, and in and out of a shiny black pick-up. Different friends graciously shared a couch, a pick-up, and their strength on a sweaty night.

Dropping off some college textbooks yesterday, I stepped into my son’s new home on campus. Bunk-beds, dressers, and three desks crowd a brown and white dorm room, and on his desk, I see it. Familiar writing catches my eye. Propped up in the center of his desk, my son has a handwritten card and note from his little sister. Sloped writing speaks out a promise from the Bible for him, and a nearby card speaks of love and pride in him, and thanks him for being a brother that she looks up to, learns from, and misses already. On a desk with few papers on it, these stand out. 

The Huffington Post, in an article entitled U.S. Postal Service Survey Reveals Personal Letters at a Record Low, noted that for a “typical American household these days, nearly two months will pass before a personal letter shows up” in the mail. In addition to the increasing rarity of handwritten notes in a world of email and texts, Kentucky wonders about The Lost Art of Writing Thank You Notes, and CBS Minnesota’s television channel asks Good Question: Are Hand-Written Thank You Notes Extinct?

Similar articles continue to catch my attention this year, convincing me further that my mom was right. Growing up, my parents gave us construction paper, crayons, pencils and notebook paper, with instructions on how to write thank you notes. We labored over them, our hands cramping up at times until we stopped to shake them out, and then resumed. Christmas or classical music played in early January as we wrote to grandparents, friends and families about the presents they gave us. Lively music flowed in early May as we sent out birthday present thank you’s. My parents’ reasoning was persuasive: if someone took the time to send you a note, give a gift, or extend kindness in some way, then our time was just as meaningful to spend on telling them thank you.

It stuck, and affects my parenting. At my house now, after Christmas and birthdays, or graduations, we pull out cards, slide out pens, and set the mood. Scrawled writing, shaky from disuse, and mounting lines of prose climb up the page, but gratitude seeps out more–and studies show that joy does too. This discipline of joy and thanks– to my Maker, to the people in my life– I desire it and strive for it.

So, tonight, as humidity and ninety-degree weather reminds me of this week’s couches and moves, I pour another glass of ice water, pull out my basket of cards, and scrawl messy up the page, muscles still shaky from disuse. “Dear…”
Hi, thank YOU too, for being here, for reading and sharing your life. Thank you for the quiet solidarity of knowing you are here, whether you comment or not. And for you who slip comments in from time to time, thank you for that. I love hearing from you.
Linking with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.

Photo credit #1 from

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  1. Floyd on August 27, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    The notes and cards sent to our loved ones leave a lasting physical legacy. I'm not great at it, but better than before. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Pat Fries on August 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Hi! So glad for your comments. People love to get notes, including me. It is the attitude of gratitude that resonates when they are written and received. Thanks for your posts! – Pat

  3. Jennifer Dougan on August 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm


    I'm still working at this too. But I want to get better at it.

    Have a great week!


  4. Jennifer Dougan on August 27, 2013 at 8:10 pm


    Smiling with you, friend. 🙂


  5. Unknown on August 28, 2013 at 3:11 am

    This was so wonderful! Thank you for writing about writing to bless.

  6. Cheryl Barker on August 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Sending fun cards or handwritten notes to college kids away from home is something I highly recommend. I did this with my girls from time to time each semester, and I knew how important it was when I'd visit their rooms and see the cards displayed somewhere. It gives them something of you they can hold in their hands.

  7. Alecia Simersky on August 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I love notes and cards sent through the mail. It seems to mean more when you open the mailbox to find a little surprise waiting inside for you. It makes me sad that writing notes is a thing of the past..guess it's the way of our hurried world. I too make mine write thank you notes after receiving a present, I always tell them if someone took the time to remember you then you can take the time to thank them.
    I hope it's something they carry into adulthood with them. Many blessings to you as your son transitions into college life, I'm sure it's as much a transition for you as it is him.

  8. Jennifer Dougan on August 29, 2013 at 11:35 pm


    "Writing to bless" — I like that! Thanks for dropping in here.

    Have a great week,
    Jennifer Dougan

  9. Jennifer Dougan on August 29, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Oh Cheryl, I can just imagine your girls getting those cards and letters in the mail. 🙂

    My daughter and I had a great day with my mom today, walking around a city, enjoying the art studios, fountains, farmer's market, and a cold coffee drink. 🙂


  10. Jennifer Dougan on August 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Alecia,

    It's true, we miss him too– my sweet college boy. 🙂 Thanks.


  11. Richelle Wright on August 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    thanks for popping over and saying hi at our place.

    we love sending personal thank you notes as well, although it is rare that we receive the any more.

    of course, part of the trick is learning the people we're writing to and finding out who prefers written, who prefers email and who likes a publicky sort of fb post!

    great reminder!

    we are home on furlough – but in MI. our son is attending a PA college. How old are your kids?

  12. Jennifer Dougan on September 3, 2013 at 8:01 pm


    I remember the years of furloughs. 🙂 May you have great times of connecting and relaxing with friends, families and church families during this time.

    How is your son enjoying Messiah?

    My kids are 18, 14 and 5 yrs old.

    Jennifer Dougan

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