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Lamenting The Lost Art Of Writing

Introducing Wyckoff's new Mom Patch columnist

It’s time to do something for me!  Did I just say that out loud?  How can a mother of four possibly think she has the right to think about herself? I have been feeling restless and needing a new adventure. Maybe it is that forty-something crisis. I always believe things come into your life for a reason and the opportunity to write for the Patch landed on my lap.    

My name is Lynn Bruggemann and my children cover the spectrum – a college sophomore, a high school senior,  an 8th grader and a 4thgrader.  Yes I am guilty of trying to pass the college student off as my younger sibling – hey a girl has to try.  My resume includes freelance publicist and professional PTO president having served at Coolidge, Eisenhower and Ramapo. 

Ok now what to write about.  Staring at the screen what do I want to say or more accurately write in this first column.  Should it be witty or serious?  What are the hot button issues – college acceptances, decline in volunteers, school elections, head lice? 

I am procrastinating like one of my teenagers with a deadline looming.  Then it hit me why I am temporarily paralyzed   -- I am not writing.  In a pure organic sense putting the pencil to the paper.  Raiding the fourth graders backpack for the Ticonderoga #2 and a marble composition book I started to write which made me think of the art of writing.

What do we as moms still write? I have a friend who is a tech guru but she still writes in a calendar her to do list with a pencil.  No Google calendar or Blackberry for her.  I have seen a few  shopping lists the last time I was in the grocery store but another friend does her food shopping online and never makes a list.

Can you remember getting a pen pal?  I think mine was found in Young Miss Magazine and she was from California! I remember wanting pretty stationery for my birthday.  Do our children even know what stationery is?  I took special care with my penmanship and even made those little hearts over the “I” instead of a dot.  I was sharing a bit of myself with her and making a statement.  The mailman brought good stuff back then not junk.

There was a decline in the number of holiday letters AKA brag letters this winter.  Why bother writing about the family’s trials, tribulations and achievements when daily posts on Facebook keep family and friends informed.  I am ok with that – they were computer generated and I like Facebook.

Do you still send thank you notes?  My 14-year-old just celebrated his birthday.  He will be writing the old-fashioned “Dear Uncle Al thank you for your generous gift.”  He will complain his hand hurts from “all that writing.” It is not child abuse; it is my duty to teach you good manners and a proper thank you note is on that list.  No email or text thank yous for you dear son.

My fourth grader is sold on the idea of writing her spelling words five times each.  The hand to mind connection seems to be working – she is getting As.

There is something special about receiving a card or note that has a person’s handwriting on it.  It is a part of them that you can hold when they can’t physically be there with you.  I have a drawer of cards and notes from my college roommate.  She has lived around the world and holding those cards and seeing her handwriting helps me hear her voice like no email can.   

When you pack your child’s backpack tomorrow take the time to find a note card or sheet of paper and pen and share a bit of yourself with them.  Maybe it’s a note of encouragement or just wishing them a good day.   Imagine the delight on their face when they discover a handwritten note from mom!  

The first column is complete and my hand does not hurt.  I hope you write me --- just click my name above.

Debbie Fallon March 31, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Fabulous Lynn!!! You so accurately pinpointed the sentiment surrounding what is truly missed today with so little personal writing exchanged. Those rare handwritten messages are treasures to be cherished. Thank you, Lynn for warming my heart with your witty wisdom.
Donna Maguire March 31, 2011 at 12:56 AM
great article. reminded me how I loved to get mail fron my pen pal. We used to send pink paper and fill it up with p.s.'s!!! It is so true that writing well is an art, and you have certainly mastered it!!
Karen March 31, 2011 at 03:12 AM
Lynn - I loved this column. I can relate - my children still write old fashioned thank you notes- I believe this is important. When I was growing up, there was nothing like getting a letter from a friend who had moved far away - or even better - from my pen pal from ENGLAND. How exotic! I appreciate how you touched on something so true. Technology has enriched our lives, but we have also lost some of the simple joys because of it too. I look forward to reading your column!!!
Mary Lyons March 31, 2011 at 10:58 AM
Hey Lynn ~ Have fun with the column! I remember corresponding with my first pen pal, Marie from France. Even my first boyfriend and I wrote letters - he lived all the way in Manhattan after all! I still recall my favorite stationery; ladybugs on white paper. Dduring high school my friends and I wrote letters all the time over the summer from our respective beach, lake and camp destinations.
Kathleen Gostissa March 31, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Hey Lynn, Your article was FANTASTIC!! I still write everything down in an appt. book - can't help it, even though i do have a blackberry. Keep the articles coming, and yes it is time for you to do something for yourself.!!!
Jean Gaviglio March 31, 2011 at 12:00 PM
Bravo Lynn! Relevant, funny, and beautifully written! I look forward to following your column! PS--My kids have to write thank you notes the "old fashioned way" too. It's just the right thing to do.
Ellen Papera March 31, 2011 at 12:11 PM
Hi Lynn - Great column! I totally agree about the thank you notes! My kids have been tortured the same way. I had a pen pal from India...I think I still have her picture, although we lost touch long ago. Do you remember the sealing wax with stamps for letters? That was fun back in the day. Keep up the good work!
Janet Tanis March 31, 2011 at 01:43 PM
I can't think of a better voice for Wyckoff's Mom's Patch. Thanks Lynn.
Isabelle March 31, 2011 at 02:01 PM
This brings back memories of my pen pal in high school. No fancy stationery for us, but we did use different pen colors, create secret codes, and write in spirals. We had so much fun with so little. Nice memories to look back on. Thanks for a great article Lynn!
Debbie Denton March 31, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Nice Job Lynn! Pride comes to mind here. I am a southern fan of your writing style, parenting, and friendship. Teaching children the proper elements of life is much harder for us than our own parents. Too many people dismiss these rituals. In fact, many missed the manner boat all together. Thank you for reminding us to take personal time for ourselves and defining how fabulous 40's can be. Well done and looking forward to your next column.
Cara Goodrich March 31, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Great job, Lynn. I completely agree that our children are lacking the important skill of writing/communicating. I recently organized my high school reunion and was searching for photos and other memorabilia of those years. My parents came across 2 boxes filled with stuff I saved in my closet at their house. There were countless "notes" from friends, folded origami-style, that I remember passing back and forth which contained everything from what we planned to wear to school that day to our "deepest" feelings about a situation-the longer the better. Today, our children text and email-the shorter the better. Even the schools have taken away book reports and replaced them with shorter, reading responses. The art of writing has been dwindled down to following a cookie cutter mold. When will they learn the art of developing an idea and using descriptive writing/vocabulary to make an argument.
Wynne Benvenuto March 31, 2011 at 02:23 PM
You're so right,Lynn. I still have many of the cards and letters that I've received through the years and every now and then I take a peek at them and I'm transported to a different time and place. It was fun to read your column and I'm looking forward to the next one !
Jennifer Manteau March 31, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Great article Lynn! In a time when our children are texting Grandma and asking for a new video game for their birthday, it is wonderful to remind us all what the real important things are in life. There is no substitute for human connection, and taking the time to write a letter sends a message of love to those who are important to us. I too have a big hand-written calendar with our family's schedule, make my kids write thank you notes, and send paper Christmas cards. And I am probably the last person on earth (or at least in my circle of friends) who is not on Facebook. Looking forward to hearing more about what all of us Moms face daily, thank you!!
Kate Randazzo March 31, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Hi Lynne, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your column this morning. I agree with you that the art of writing is lost. I too remember getting the "Currents Tri-fold stationary with the flowers or ladybugs and the matching sticker closures. The Hallmark store sold beautiful note cards and address books, not silly bands and Vera Bradley bags. It was such a nice surprise getting your call this morning and the heads up about your column. Bravo on your column, I look forward to may more. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to grab some stationary so I can catch up with a dear friend.
Caryn Kasmanoff March 31, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Thanks for an enjoyable article Lynn. I remember going to the library in college to write papers, and bringing all different kinds of pens and sharpened pencils, because my hands would tire of holding the same pen for too long. And then I would go back to my dorm room to type it out on the Selectric. I've aged myself. Another thing I love to write is my daily to-do list, and emphatically crossing out the tasks I've completed. You can't get that kind of satisfaction on a computer or blackberry.
Gretchen March 31, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Bravo Lynn! I've always wondered what types of "memories" we will have that are "tangible" like letters and cards with our kids and grandkids. My mom has a beautiful box of every card, note or poem her 8 grandkids have written over the past 19 years. It is a wonderful stroll down memory lane on those dark winter days or when a child grows up and moves away. I've got my own little collection and hope in the future it doesn't evolve into cyber space memories --they are fleeting at best.
Michele Kurys March 31, 2011 at 05:01 PM
Congratulations Lynn on your column. I still wait for the mail person to come to see if I have received a letter or card instead of a bill and various junk mail. I look forward to Christmas cards and am very happy to see if someone took the time to actually write a few words. Can't wait for your next column.
Carla Pappalardo March 31, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Good Morning Lynn, Bravo! the world is such a different place then when we were childre. Like many, I insist on my children preparing handwritten thank you notes for gifts from family and friends. It is a lost art, however. In fact, I recently pulled out some old notes that I had recieved to show my kids an example of a well written note - so sad or should I say :(
Kim Ansh March 31, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Congrats Lynn!! Great column!! I had a pen pal too. I can't remember how I got her but she lived in Belgium. Right now, I have it easy - my children are still young enough that they think it's exciting to write & draw their own thank you cards. Thanks for the look back in time to the good old days!!
Susan Blezow March 31, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Great column on a subject near and dear to my heart. I could never give up my handwritten datebook/calendar/lists. In fact, my favorite store growing up was a stationery store and I still get a thrill purchasing fresh notebooks and pens at Staples. Good luck with your new venture!
Karen April 01, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Lynn, you are so right. Being able to pull out letters from my grandmother who passed away brings back so many wonderful memeories. What will our kids pull out...facebook and email and texts are deleted and gone. I even have some notes that got passed in class back in middle school, remember passing a friend in the hallway and being handed a note? The excitement and anticipation of what it contained, no shorthand or abreviations in those either! Good luck. Karen Levy
Lucy April 01, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Loved your first column Lynn, congrats!!! Can't wait for all that follow.
Susan April 01, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Lynn, "Brava" and Ditto to all previous responses. As usual, you have expressed my own thoughts in much better terms. I look forward to all future "mindstorms" you create in upcoming articles. It is so nice to know that there are so many of us old-fashioned thinkers around. Thank you for doing what you do so well, expressing yourself. Susan
Susan April 01, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Your article is an excellent reminder to all of us that the "old fashioned way" should not always be pushed aside in favor of modernization! Don't get me wrong, like most, I live an "iLife" however, my calendar is still paper and posted by the door so ALL the family members can keep track of each others comings and goings. I prefer actually talking to people over texting or email. And, spending time with friends, even if it is a brief, to keep connected. I send "real" note cards, greeting cards and invitations. Technology has made them readily available at the click of a button, but there is something wonderful about looking for the perfect stationary, rising to the challenge of finding the "right words" to put in ink using your best pen, and then sealing the envelope with wax. Your eloquent article made me chuckle. Did you know that last week Webster added "words" like OMG, LOL and TTYL to the dictionary...REALLY? Our children need to learn how to stay connected through the written and spoken word, not abbreviations. Writing until their "hand hurts" and having to participate in public speaking are part of learning to communicate. All the short cuts will simply short change them, and the generations that follow. Those rules of etiquette from Miss Emily Post should not be pushed aside. Even if our children roll their eyes at us now; they will realize the importance of these life lessons as they look through their shoebox of notes, cards and mementos.
Corinn Scher April 02, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Bravo Lynn, I finally put my old fashioned calendar down and logged on. Being an "old fashioned" mother myself, it took me a few minutes to find you on the patch. What a great start. Keep them coming. When you write from the heart, you can't go wrong. In two months after my son's Bar Mitzvah, he will be painfully aware of the art of the hand-written thank you note! On the up side, I will have new pictures to update my profile pic of facebook....I can take the one down from Ben's....if someone will show me how!
Jane LaBua April 02, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Great column Lynn! I also had a pen pal and remember how exciting it was to get a letter in the mail from her or my out-of-state cousins. Now everything is written electronically and you can't get personal for fear it will be plastered on the web for the world to see. I will be checking for your column all the way from Williamsburg, Va. !!
Linda Vreeland April 04, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Dear Lynn: 
Love your new column! Your first topic really hit home for me. I just had this conversation with one of my cousins. We were brought up to send handwritten "thank you" notes to friends and relatives for whatever reason -- birthday and Christmas gifts, attending a graduation, or helping move a piano, but this etiquette is not being passed down to today’s generation. Recipients of my handwritten cards today spark "wow, how thoughtful" responses, making me think they hadn't received anything like it in recent decades. I'll bet Hallmark has seen a drop in card sales, but for me, I'll still buy or make my own cards. We all need and appreciate that personal touch once in awhile. Okay, I'm going to "click to send" now. :-)
James Kleimann April 04, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Lynn's not just a great writer, she also happens to be a great neighbor!
catherine Scaglione April 04, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Congratulations (Thelma) I enjoyed reading your first article. I also enjoy getting hand written cards, it means so much more when someone touches your heart with a hand written note. Louise
Brian Scanlan April 05, 2011 at 09:36 AM
Very nice column, Lynn. I still remember my mother sitting us down to write thank you notes after our birthdays and Christmas, and now my children do the same. I get notes from my nieces and nephews, too--all because my mother insisted when we were growing up. It's amazing how consistent it's been over all the years. I look forward to your next column!

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