"The Power of a Handwritten Note"

Buried amongst all of the ridiculously insane amount of junk mail that fill my email inbox, I found this email that coincides perfectly with my post from Monday. It came to me from LearnVest, a Website filled with interesting, practical and, dare I say, fun financial tips and advice. Their solid information flows over into "all topics," and I have found their articles to be worth receiving on a daily basis. (See: you can sign up for a daily dose of their antidotes delivered to your inbox.) Here are their tips on personal handwritten notes:

The Power of the Handwritten Note: From Thank You Notes To Condolences

Remember how exciting it was to get mail when you were a little kid? That feeling doesn’t change as you get older. If you want to make someone feel special, put it in writing. This holiday season, when you want to recognize someone—or need to thank someone who gave you a gift—remember that handwritten words are worth a thousand, well, you know.
Whether you want to show someone you care, want to thank someone who’s helped you out in the past, or want to be remembered by someone you met while networking at holiday parties, the receiver will appreciate the effort. And you? You’re all class.
Put The “Person” In “Personal.”
Sometimes an email or a text is totally appropriate, but in professional situations and those where you have something more substantial to express, we recommend going the handwritten route. Here are a few examples of when we suggest putting pen to paper:
* Thank those you spoke with during job interviews.
* Got a raise or promotion? Show your boss that you appreciate his or her effort on your behalf.
* A close friend’s grandmother passed away and you’re not sure what to say, but you can offer heartfelt sympathy in writing.
* You see that your favorite professor from college won a major award; handwritten congratulations are in order.
* You goofed, big time, and forgot your Aunt Wendy’s birthday – send her a letter.
Be Specific and Sincere.
Whether you forgot an occasion, or want to send a note of congrats or thanks, it’s never too late. Even after the fact, your recipient will appreciate that you’re thinking of her. Make sure your message is well-written and expresses exactly what you want to say. If you’re unsure, feel free to type it out on your computer first or use scratch paper until you get it right.
The Anatomy of The Perfect Note.
Longer isn’t better. A brief, to-the-point message is often more poignant than the longest of letters. Be as specific as possible. Instead of talking around the fact that you’re thankful, state clearly what you’re grateful for (even if the answer is that you’re grateful for the person’s friendship and want to wish him or her happy holidays). Aim to include at least one particular example of why you’re grateful, why you value the person as much as you do, what you spoke about at your job interview, etc. The more personalized, the better—the last thing you want is for the recipient to think that you’re jotting out similar, generic notes to a bunch of different people.
Send Smart, Save More.
Fancy stationery can get expensive, but you don’t need the triple-weight ecru to convey your personal message. In general, we recommend choosing something simple and elegant that would be appropriate for any occasion. There are so many gorgeous choices available when it comes to stationery that it’s hard to choose just one. We could only narrow it down to five, so click through our slide show to check out our favorites, then gather your goods and start writing.

Reindeer Games

Over the weekend we had our "family dinner" Yuledtide Potluck. There isn't a whole lot of genetic family that participates in our attempted weekly family dinners, but as Mark says, our chosen family. You know the ones -- everybody has an aunt or uncle that really isn't such. I imagine when that day comes that we are moms and dads (in the distant, barely glimsable future) these will be the roles we will act out.

The actual event of family dinner began when my cousin was just a we little House of Representatives intern and we made a pact to have a meal together a week. Then he moved back and we moved into the city and Jed moved to Rockville and Emily and Mark moved from the Midwest... and viola, suddenly hanging out isn't walking across the hall, it's a planned event, a la family dinner night. So, in true Yuletide fashion we found it necessary to have a holiday party before we all part ways for the upcoming anniversary celebration of Jesus's birth. And that we did.

Everyone pulled out all the stops when asked to bring a dish to share. There was lasagna, hot wings, crab cakes, garlic potatoes, sweet potato salad, butternut squash soup, celebration bread, baked brie, beef tips, cookies, veggies and the list goes on...no rhyme or reason to the menu and it was all delectable. Add in some vino, Champagne and Blair's great-grandmother's secret "grown up punch" recipe and you've got a family potluck.

Add in our "family" and you've got blissful ridiculousness. Two hours of Catch Phrase, attempted choreographed dances to Christmas tunes and the main event, making it's first annual debut...The Reindeer Game. It doesn't need much explanation: 10 balloons and one pair of panty hose per team and the first team to make wearable antlers out of the materials wins. However easy it may sound, it is in fact not. You would think we got control top nylons!

I feel so blessed to have friends who are, deep down, just as weird as me. I must admit that there is at least one perk to growing up: the pressure to conform is gone (or at least diminished) and enjoying life in your own way fills the spot. Not that I was ever really one to fall in line behind others...just trying to give this whole adult thing a positive spin. And, in the spirit of the season, it's hard not to just be happy.


$10 Gift Exchange

Until three years ago, my Grandma Dood had a longstanding tradition of Christmas stockings. She basically perpetuated everyone's youth and filled them with candy, Nerf guns, nail polish, infomerical gadgets, Gak amongst other, "just for fun" gifts. And when I say filled, I mean to the point that the stocking was draped on a paper grocery sack loaded down with our goodies.

And three years ago, my Christmas world came crashing down. Okay, not really, but I think it's been noted and confirmed that I struggle to deal well with transitions. Especially when I am transitioning out of gifts. My fragile state of being aside, Grandma thinks she is getting old (which is about as far from the truth as you can get -- she is younger than a few of my friends' parents) and needed to remove some stress from her holiday shopping. Again at my expense. Can you tell I'm bitter? And this is actually me getting over it. 

(Side note: I'm not actually angry with my Grandma, so no sharp breaths over my comments. I'm practicing a literary device known as satire and we have a much more closer bond than probably 95% of other grandmother/granddaughter duos. Check it out.)

Okay, so I actually am over it, because when killing one tradition, she replaced it with a new one... the family gift exchange. And perhaps I am being a little dramatic. Just a little. The rule is you bring a $10 gift to put into the mix and we follow the "Bad Santa Rules," where you can steal a gift from another player (which I have, from my Great Grandmother, don't judge). Since everyone joins in on the fun, we have quite the array of gifts...and some very, err, special wrapping techniques. 

Do you know how hard it is to find a $10 gift?! Well, actually every year is gets easier and I pour my Christmas shopping efforts into finding the perfect contribution to our exchange. And every year as soon as I have spent my $10, I find something else I like better. Sigh... Grandma took the stress from her shoulders and filled the basket on my head! (But let's be serious, I love this stuff!)

Today's Real Simple email came just a little too late for me, but perhaps someone else can benefit from Martha's "25 Stocking Stuffers Under $15." 

My personal favorite are the Christmas Crowd Glass Markers from CB2. They remind me of that drinking game we all played in college where there is a rule that you have to remove the imaginary little man from the rim of your glass before you take a drink. Ahhhhh, nostalgia. And the classiest of sorts.

Ho ho ho! 

Paperless Post

There is nothing better than a real live invitation, thank-you note, holiday card, just because were friends, birthday, anniversary or [insert anything else that warrants a cards here], but in this oh-so-digital age we live in, the etiquette of a physical card has become more of a novelty. And expect a physical invitation to arrive in your mailbox in the event of a wedding. (And even then, don't set your sites too high.)

Now what are you to do if cards are your thing? If you think every time your best friend comes over engraved silk and vellum should precede? First of all, that isn't cost effective. Nor do time constraints allow for such a production.

Well fellow neurotics, I give you Paperless Post, accessible at www.paperlesspost.com. Not only can you fully customize the wording, font color, paper and embellishments, but you can choose an envelope color and liner! The card arrives to recipients in an envelope and once clicked on it opens up to reveal the masterpiece inside. They make Evite look like Franzia -- weak and cheap.

It still has the great features of Evite -- tracking, messenging, +1's, etc -- only simplified and classy. That's right, classy. Trust me, once you send correspondence via Paperless Post, you won't dare send an electronic card sans envelope again.

Loose Tooth

What do our dreams really mean?

Now that the hubs and I have said our nuptials, the wedding nightmares -- like the one where I couldn't be in attendance, so Rosy stood in for me, or even better when my mom some how okay-ed that hot dogs be the entrĂ©e! -- have subsided. I am no longer searching for job, so visions of interview blunders -- some may have actually been reality -- are no longer waking me up. And we finally got the cat pee smell out of the closet, so my visions of social ostracization as side effect of my foul smelling clothes, are only a memory.

There is one theme that has popped up in my dreams over the past few years, and on quite a frequent basis. Nearly every other week, and sometimes more often, I dream about having a loose tooth; sometimes the tooth falls out after yanking and sometimes it is just wiggly when I press my tongue against it. If you think about the last time you had a loose tooth -- probably grade school -- you will understand the bizarre sensation of having a tooth loose. Albeit painful, it's almost comforting to experience a part of my life I never thought I would again (and in actuality won't unless it's by outside force). In the dream I'm never mad about losing my tooth, but more in a state of disbelief that my tooth is actually loose! And it's never exactly the same situation, but that loose tooth stays constant.

I told my mom about my strange reoccurring dream and she-who-is-probably-the-least-superstitious/mythological-person-I-know took it upon herself to Google the meaning of the dream and send me the below translation of my internalizations:

Psychological Meaning: Dreaming of teeth falling out may represent insecurity. These dreams often occur at a time of transition between one phase of life and another. When we lost our milk teeth, we also gradually lost our childhood innocence. Loosing your teeth therefore show that today you have similar feelings of uncertainty and self-consciousness as you did in childhood. The dream could also highlight your worries about getting older or your sexual attractiveness.

Could this have been more dead on?! Am I the only twenty-something out there loosing teeth in my subconscious? Although, I have made my life a perpetual transition, so maybe while everyone else in my age group has faced the fact that we are closer to 30 than 20, I'm just out in la-la land. I am very aware how neurotic and anxious I am, but surely there are others out there who feel the stress of turning the page to a new chapter.

Or, perhaps I just need to see the dentist to make sure these dreams just are premonitions of what is to come. Because I doubt if I had a falling out tooth in reality, I would be so embracing. No, I'm actually positive I would be horrified.

A New Chapter

My free time in October was dedicated to finishing my graduate school application. It seems that every August brings boredom and "wild" ideas that lead t results in more work when I am busy, and this August was no exception. I decided that I need another degree and spent the month tossing a ball back and forth from law school to political communications, which was no easy decision. This is a huge fork in my road and I have a hard time choosing dinner at restaurant, let alone something that may have a lasting effect on my career!

I concluded that the George Washington University's School of Political Management is the right choice for  me -- at least right now. Their Strategic Public Relations program is one I have been contemplating since my first year post undergrad and I can have my Masters degree for the price of one year at American University Law...a definite check in GW's "pro list." 

After biting the bullet and putting my application in, I found out that the former CEO of NAB is teaching at GWSPM and showered me with advice and support, even inviting me to a lecture. It's hard to believe that I have lived as a grown up long enough to have built a small network of colleagues that I can rely on in these instances. This process has shown me that that working hard and treating others as you want to be treated isn't wasted effort, nor does it go unnoticed.

In early November, it hit me that returning to school wasn't just a bi-product of the August lull that I had thrown to the wayside. I had actually sent in my application and earning a Masters degree could be a real possibility...oh wait, I had to get accepted first.

And two weeks I go, I did just that. I have been accepted into the George Washington School of Political Management and am going to be a student again beginning January 10! Checking off items on the life goals list is such a surreal feeling, but let's see if I am this excited mid-March

Now, onto the scholarship search...

December 1?!

Does anyone else feel like you blinked at August turned into December? I mean really -- it's December?! In less then three weeks we will be packing our bags for two weeks in Illinois for the Christmas holiday. It just doesn't seem possible.

I have noticed a common theme for my life this fall and it begins with b and ends with usy. My blog folder in gmail is over flowing with half thoughts I didn't want to forget to share, miscellaneous Martha Stewart tips and interesting financial advice, not to mention the endless random photos. Yet, you notice that November 10 was the last time I posted.

And yes, I have been able to board the bus and commute to and even from (once) work. Though it hasn't come with out more, err, learning experiences. Did you know that every bus that utilizes the stop I hop on by my office may not in fact take me to the stop which I need to exit to get home? It's true and I found out about 10 blocks further than I needed to be.

Also -- don't judge, this is a direct exhibition of my over crowded schedule -- whilst making cookies from a mix this evening -- in my defense, I happen to love Funfetti perhaps more than diamonds, come on, there are sprinkles in the dough! Who doesn't love that -- I a new use for a gravy boat. Use it to soften butter in the microwave; it makes the soften butter easy to pour and serves as a utensil rest through out the rest of the recipe.

Now, in lieu of trying to cram all the rest of my ramblings from the past twenty days in one post, I am going to put my best foot forward in the next few days in stringing together at least one [semi]comprehensible entry a day. Why? Because my over-neurotic brain is consumed with worry that at the age of 25, if I don't have my experiences, ideas and thoughts in writing that they will be forgotten. By me.

Bring it on, December.