Letters: How I Began Writing

June 18, 2020




A rainbow of delight.

Grade school is when I began writing. Mom required an obligatory thank you to be sent to anyone who gave me a gift. I had to say how I might use the money or why the item was special to me. My first descriptive essays were written in those notes.

Summer kids camp began in fourth grade and mail call was a highlight. At least once, sometimes twice, during the week, I received a letter from my parents. Grandma wrote too. I exchanged my adress with friends and by middle school, I could spin an eight page letter easily. Phone calls were not an option, so Melody received lengthy letters regularly.  It was a form of therapy, I suppose, as I was an only child pondering life. Letters gave me time to think and wonder and smile at memories while I wrote.



I received letters in return that I cherish.

When I lived in the Dominican Republic for two years, teaching second graders, my Grandma Kessler wrote me weekly. She talked about the weather and the crops and shared her insights. I still have those letters tucked away in a special place. I recieved my own special gift each time.

During the Stay At Home Order, letter writing to my students became a daily enjoyment. I asked questions and had a short conversation with the student, sending hugs as best as I could. Virtually!



Stamps. Stickers. Doodles. Hugs.

Decorating the envelope is something new I just began. Stickers, doodles, and some design added created to the envelope. Colorful stamps added pizzaz from sprakling Celebrate to Hot Wheel mania. It’s a giftwrapped envelope.

Now I’m trying to continue to send cheer. My daughter’s friends even wanted in the loop, so I wrote them. Elizabeth says they’ve all posted the notecard somewhere special. Today, I received a thoughtful note in return.

Our words are powerful.


A letter creates a personalized message for the person to cherish, encourgement rekindled each time it’s read. Maybe you are thinking of that someone you could send a note to today. I guarantee it will make their day special!


Stickers are an added bonus.



I wrote my daughter, who still lives with us, with her specialized stamp.

My Summer Home

June 11, 2020

Melody, the one who knows me best.   Nieces joining in the fun.

My cousin, Melody, is my best friend and sister at heart. Laughter would be one adjective to describe us. It began in a small town, population 750, and the home farm. Stewardson, IL was home base for me for four weeks each summer, and the best days of growing up. Priceless!

When asked which season was my favorite, summer was number one, not because of the weather but rather the comforts of belonging.

Being an only child was lonely at times. I was reserved, and home wasn’t exactly full of peace. My parents were good to me and I am thankful for their support and provisions. But Grandma’s house meant cousins (lots of them!), events, and no fights. Mom was one of ten children who grew up on the farm. Her four brothers own farms around the home-place and Grandma’s house was the meeting spot. I wasn’t an “only” anymore; cousins became siblings. I was embraced into the big family and loved learning about the country. The immense love still floods my soul each time I reflect on those summer days.


Grandma Kessler’s home place

My cousins were my life. The Four Musketeers they called us: Melody, her sister Tamara, Pam and me. We had 4H and attended VBS, went to the fair and the beach, had sleepovers and giggled. We laughed and laughed and laughed until our sides hurt. It just took one of us to get the


Melody’s daughter, Morgan. 

laughter ripple started. Even today at family reunions, we congregate together with daughters and nieces and, inevitably, the sound of joyfulness reverberates to the sky. The elderly aunts and uncles look up, shake their heads, and say, “They’re at it again.”

At Melody’s daughter’s wedding Sunday, laughter rang out at the reception. Daughters and nieces joined in too with the men-folk smiling, shrugging, and joining in. “It’s the Kessler clan again” I heard, smiling from my heart to others. A moment to remember.

A moment to savor.


To-Do List

May 22, 2020


“Hello, To-Do List?! We need to talk.”

Getting comfortable, I began, “I’m not sure if you realize who the boss is, but as a reminder: It’s me.

To-Do List just stared at me, quiet, showing me its uses.IMG_1091

“Yes I know I’ve asked you to consult with me on time management and efficiency. I understand your purpose is to be helpful, a motivator in ways. I have a list for menus and groceries. The calendar did help me be consistent in completing the long-term project. The assignment was stacked and the little steps each day made it practical.

But to be frank: You’re a bit bossy!

To-Do List pointed to the colorful paper.

IMG_1072“The paper you suggested is cute and inviting. I do like the satisfaction of crossing off the items as I finish. Yes, the long list pad helps me organize my thoughts. I can brainstorm and it keeps track of what’s completed.

My issue is you keep reminding me of another project due in a month. Then you whisper the chore I forgot to list, so I add it. Then when I’m working on that said task, you interrupt me AGAIN with another project reminder. This happens numerous times. “

To-Do List just sat unmoved, unnerved by my accusation. It stared right back at me.

“I understand it’s necessary to remind me, but frankly – you need to stop interrupting in between tasks. Could you just wait until the end? I have a better idea. We need a new contract.

IMG_1080Please find someone to be my personal assistant to complete your to-do items. In fact, I would like a vacation. Find someone like me to carry on the work listed. It will be an absolute delight, refreshing, even rejuvenating to see the list items crossed off.

And when I return from said vacation, let’s begin with a short list. I will complete a few items, and you can just call that assistant back with anything else you think of. And no interrupting!! There is plenty on the list. I don’t need more.”

To-do List reflected on what I said. Satisfied, I got up to enjoy my book. Noting To-Do List hadn’t changed its expression, I added one final thought, “And I caution you to remember:  I’m the boss!


A Sweet Song

May 14, 2020


Growing up, my dad taught me to notice birds. He was an avid bird-watcher with his sister, spending hours in the woods during a TV free era. I still can’t recognize the birds like him, but my ears catch tunes. It’s my favorite sound in the morning. I lie in bed and hear them sweetly creating a melody, each sending messages to others. I’ve been hearing a few songs lately and had to ask dad to distinguish a couple.

“What’s the robin’s call?” I asked.

“The robin has 8 different calls,” he said.

“Ok. How about a cardinal?” to which dad proceeded to whistle the call I’ve been hearing. I now know when the cardinal sings and which songs are the robins. 

The Red-winged Black Bird reminds me of traveling to Grandma Kessler’s house. They lined the farm land fence rows and it’s the my first memory of asking what it was. Now, I see them in our own rural area.

The Oriels have been gracing our area. None are nesting in my backyard, but they are feeding at my parents’ home. It was the first thing Mom had to show me on Mother’s Day. Others have been mentioning the delightful orange colored bird too.

House Wren Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of OrnithologyIt’s the little brown House Wren that is my favorite. The sweet twitter taps my eardrums almost instantly. Dad had special bird houses for them to nest (they like just plain, cleaned-out homes, no paint) growing up. He would crack the roof slightly on hot summer days to allow the mother to breathe. I never saw the babies, but their demanding chirps let me know they were keeping mama busy.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard the wren call and then another answer. To my delight, at least two families are in the neighborhood. I don’t have a bird house or a bird feeder (cats remember), but there are bushes and trees. Yesterday, I heard the call and looked out the window. There the two were, perched on the bush and singing. My heart delighted with a full smile. I tried to watch where they flew, but they are fast and blend well in the trees.

Today I captured their call on video. (Click on the link to see the video.) I was trying to find words to describe the song and just decided an audio would be best. Turn up your sound and let your ears delight in the House Wren Symphony 3. And next time you are outside, listen for the sweet song.


This Moment

May 7, 2020

IMG_0904A robin flies across the yard, landing on the fence line. Its head turns one way and shifts slightly more. In a quick swoop to the ground, pluck, a worm dangles. It sits there for a moment before flying on. Makes me wonder: are there babies awaiting?


Sunshine makes the yard sparkle. Blades of grass raise their hands waving friendly salutations to each other. Dandelions annoyingly poke through but I do love that brilliant yellow.

IMG_0926Two kittens peak from the shed. They stealthy creep and, snap, pounce a mysterious leaf. A twig is batted and plucked as an imaginary playmate. Mama saunters over, a loving lick given and a purr at my heels. 

I stand nearby waiting and then reach to hold these bundles of joy. Blue eyes look and accept as I embrace. The sun greets me and teases a smile from my face. For a long moment I allow sunshine warmth to sweep grief to the closet.

Hello May. My focus is on you.



May 3, 2020

IMG_0703Saturday I sat for an hour in a long line of traffic. Slowly, each car inched forward in hopes of receiving a kindness, me included. A local sanitation company partnered with restaurants to give away 400 gift certificates. When I read the article, I thought, “How nice. They are sharing kindness with the community.”

IMG_0705Afterwards, my van needed a car wash. Via social media, I had learned Clear Water was giving teachers free car washes. I pulled in line, showed my ID and said I was a teacher. The attendant said, “Thank you so much for your service. Enjoy your car wash.” That word hug embraced me.

Authors have been sharing free items online, such as Jarrett Lerner, that are helpful to teachers and kids.Lauren Tarshis, author of the I Survived series, gave a free 30 minute virtual author-visit. I loved it. You should check it out. Her kindness came from missing the school visits and meeting students.



A fellow teacher friend has a fourth grade son, Luke. We met through our school’s summer library program. We like Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney. We love to talk books and just about life. His 10th birthday was last week, and I sent him a book about World War II. I was so excited for him to get the surprise and my heart was delighted upon receiving his picture. A little kindness from me.

IMG_0732He, his two sisters, and mom brought me a May Day hanging plant. Vibrant and beautiful. A reciprocated act of kindness I wasn’t expecting but brings joy just remembering his face and gazing at the flowers.

A friend sent me a letter. An act of kindness.

My neighbor greeted me at the fence and asked about my parents. Kindness.


A friend started a blog and other friends write. Their words, your words, bring kindness. Kindness. Little acts to brighten the day. What acts of kindness have you received?  5FC823C6-2B78-474A-9D9F-5700EBFD20AA


April 23, 2020


An Invitation To Write

TessaYesterday, I posted this picture to Instagram:

Loving the child and making connections goes beyond the instruction you are giving!

Letters is one way I keep that connection going.

A flood of memories came to mind. Letters are powerful. They provide a special connection between you and the recipient. It’s a life-long remembrance of feeling special, loved, invincible, cherished.


I received a letter from a student, her third, and I didn’t open it until I could savor her words. She decorated the envelope with “Surprise letter” and “I miss you so so so so so much. ❤ ❤ ❤ ” My heart swelled and my tears flowed. Years from now when she looks back to this pandemic crisis, letters of hope and cheer is one thing I want her to remember. I know I will.

HugLetters have become my virtual hug, my physical touch during a social-distancing pandemic. In the technological age, letters are scarce. An artistic greeting shares the personality of the writer. It’s an uninterrupted expression of one self, a voice that sends a message that can be reread many times.

With the recipient in mind, my letter is personalized and sent with encouraging goodness. It’s a platform to ask question to deepen the connection. The letter is an extension of me. It’s conferring about life and leaving each with a memento to move forward and a celebration of the present.


My smile broadens as I’m thinking of my students. I envision delight in my addressee. Just think – my letter can change the day for her, a surprise party in an envelope.

emmaHe will get excited and smile and remember his teacher still believes in him. Each will get a gift, a toast of cheer.


April 16, 2020

An Invitation To Write

I’ve become a collector of little moments: small sparks of brightness, wishful wants, and the ordinary. They help me process information and to cherish impressions. Consequently, I am a recovering stutter of words and brain farts, those moments when I grasp for words, maybe even visualize it, but cannot spit it out. It’s beyond being “on the tip of my tongue;” it’s embarrassing.  Fortunately, I found an app that helps with that – the memories that is, not the awkward pausing. The HighNotes App provides a platform for me to collect these nuggets of marvels.

Notebooks are great too, but I can’t upload a picture quickly onto it. Closeup nature stills are art to me. Capturing a replied text or a comment on Twitter are emotional art to me. I screenshot these and tuck them away on my digital notebook. Contemplating the importance of this app, I listed some reasons (because a list is a collection too.)

  1. Visualize: The picture helps capture fleeting moments and feelings.
  2. Beauty: Endorphins are released. I reread, smile and saturate myself.
  3. Joy: Surrounding myself with goodness because I fight the negative in the world and the lie monster in my head that says I’m not enough.
  4. Blessings: God has blessed me in so many ways. I want my hope to stay fresh and cling to His faithfulness. This focus defeats the anxiety that cleverly creeps in.
  5. Laughter: It feels good to remember. It’s even better when shared.
  6. Memory Igniter: Writing helps my mind process quicker. Thus, I have fewer brain farts.
  7. Reflection: I remember I am capable, I have skills, I can tackle the next task. Constantly learning.
  8. Lab: I try out words, rearrange and change. It’s a notebook of my private thoughts until I’m ready to share.
  9. Organize: Relief. I have a place to collect my nuggets of noticings besides my photos, decluttering and making quick access.
  10. Collection: Just because.

Some sampling entries:

A Blue Thumb

April 9, 2020

Flowers adorned my home growing up. The two front bay windows were flanked with beautiful color, African violets of vibrant purples, pinks, and whites. Mom pampaered them. She fed and nurtured them as prized cherubs. Mom had a green thumb.  Recollecting, my memory-picture scans the 20, no 30, probably 40 violets in those window gardens. I can visualize Mom examining each leaf, pruning when needed. Whispers of growth and good will flowed from my mother’s lips. These were her joy!

As traits go, the green thumb inhertance was not willed to me. Oh, I’ve tried. The beauty of flowers definitely invites me to try. I love the colorwheel blended in nature. I like them. I want them. I do not have the patience or persistence for them like my mom. My plant rearing skills are considered a black thumb.


Like the blue sky enveloping the Earth, I’m a blue thumb. I notice. I observe. I reflect.  Knowledge and nuggets blanket my students. Love enduring covers my family. Listening and laughter spread to my friends.

I may not grow plants, but I’m observant.  I grow minds. I grow encouragement. I grow words. These are my joy!


March 24, 2019

Technology is a gift to us. We learn, connect, and play. The internet provides opportunities to meet authors and explore ideas.

Steve Antony shares the goodness of technology in his book, Unplugged. It also supports balance of exploring the outdoors and the importance of friendship.

Enjoy meeting Steve Antony on this one minute video clip.

Enjoy the reading of Unplugged (4 min. video).

Savorings for reading and in writing for Unplugged:

  • Technology
  • Power of 3
  • Friendship
  • Learning
  • Setting
  • Pros/ Cons