Big Blue Marble Penpals

Big Blue Marble penpals.

Who remembers Big Blue Marble, the TV show that came on Saturday mornings back in the 1970s (and apparently, on into the 1980s, according to Wikipedia)? Those of us who watched it know the title was a reference to our home planet. In each episode, it featured stories about real-life kids…one segment about an American child and a segment about a child living in another country. The show also encouraged viewers to send letters in to start penpal relationships with kids around the world. I loved it the show, but I never mailed in a letter. But maybe I should have! Because of this pandemic, I’ve discovered that having penpals is fun!

Weeks ago, in an effort to brighten the moods of my friends who are stuck at home, I started sending out letters and some postcards I had collected on different vacations. We are planning to travel with some friends this summer (yes, still planning to go…fingers crossed), so I sent them postcards featuring the places we will visit…because I’ve visited the places before. And lucky for me, when I was there, I picked up some picture postcards, and till now, I’ve never felt the need to use them. But thank you, COVID-19, for encouraging me to dig through all my stuff to find those postcards and send them to friends who live far away.

But here was something cool that I saw on Instagram: one hotel where we have stayed before posted something saying, “Send us your name/address in a direct message, and a member of our staff will mail you a letter from the hotel!” Because I thought it was a fun idea, I submitted my teenage daughter’s name and address…knowing she would love to get some snail mail from one of her favorite places on the planet.

And I was right! When the picture postcard arrived with a sweet note written by the director of guest services, she was thrilled! Without my having to tell you, I’m sure you know what I did. First, I encouraged my daughter to write back…and she did. And instead of just mailing her letter back, I stuck a letter of my own into the envelope, thanking the director of guest services for sending her a postcard.

Since I started mailing postcards and letters, I have had the most fun opening my mail to find some of my friends in faraway places have written back! Some thanked me via facebook or email, and that was thrilling too, because they all said it brightened their days. It’s funny how a simple gesture can make a difference. Seriously, it doesn’t take long to write a quick note, especially on a postcard, and mail it.

If only Big Blue Marble were still on, kids could all get some new penpals all over the world. If I had actually participated as a kid, it would have been a great way to learn about different cultures. I suppose it’s a little old-fashioned now, but I still think it would be fun. Sure, some people use social media to meet “new friends” in other countries, but I don’t trust that. I’ve seen a few too many episodes of 90 Day Fiance, so I see how people get “catfished.” I even saw an episode of Dr. Phil on which a woman had sent thousands of dollars to her “true love” in some foreign country, and then, every time she was supposed to meet him, he missed a flight or had some other lame excuse. He was catfishing her. So no, social media is not the same as the good old Big Blue Marble days, and receiving an email isn’t as much fun as receiving a handwritten letter or postcard.

So I’ll just keep on sending letters and postcards to friends and family in faraway places. If you’d like to receive a postcard, send a private message with your name and address!

In fact, I’m walking down to the mailbox to send off a few more postcards now.

 

Make Time

Busy, busy, busy…we all lead busy lives. Sometimes, we’re busy sitting on our butts watching TV, but we all claim to be busy all the time.

This morning, I took a break from busy. About a week ago, a friend I haven’t seen in a long time sent me a message asking me to meet for coffee. We checked our calendars and decided today would be the day. So at 9:15 this morning, I met a friend at Cafe Moka, a cute little coffee shop in the Waverly shopping center in South Charlotte. Apparently, I was the only person in Charlotte who didn’t know about it, because it was hoppin’! You can see the website here.

This particular friend is sweet and funny, so I was looking forward to seeing her. When I arrived and saw her smiling face waiting in a little nook of the coffee shop, I smiled. At that moment, I knew this was something I needed…to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time…really catch up without distractions, and it was great.

A few days ago, my husband was going through some old photos on his phone, and he came across some from summer of 2008. They were pictures of our daughter with her preschool friend…and there, in the third picture was the daughter of the friend I was meeting for coffee today! My husband texted the pics to me, so as soon as I arrived, I showed them to my friend. She enjoyed looking through them and then said, “I have no recollection of this!” The pictures were made at Carowinds, a local amusement park (see the website here). We ran into my friend and her daughter near an attraction that is no longer at Carowinds…small convertibles on rails that the kids believed they were really driving. Even though they weren’t really driving them, they were a vision of the future.

And now we are officially in the future. My friend’s daughter is now a senior in high school, driving a real car and preparing for college. My own daughter just got her driver’s license two weeks ago…driving herself to high school in a real car instead of waving as she drives past me in the cars on rails at Carowinds. Time flies. And that’s exactly why we need to stop and “smell the roses.”

Time passes so quickly that we often forget to stop and spend some time with the people we care about. Sometimes, I look at my calendar and see the things I need to do instead of the things I want to do. In reality, we need to put forth the effort to do some of the things we want to do and spend time with some of the people we want to see.

But today, I put forth the effort. Today, I enjoyed a little time over coffee with a friend. And it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day…just what the doctor ordered!

 

 

 

***

 

 

Group Text Etiquette

Group texts…I’ve started some and I’ve been included in others. Chances are, you have been on a group text too.

Sometimes I love technology and sometimes I hate it. I love when I can text five friends at the same time to share pictures of their sons or daughters involved in an activity. I love when we can arrange group gatherings more easily because of group texts, emails, or Facebook Messenger. Really, it can make life so much easier.

I was included on a group message on Messenger recently about an upcoming event. We were all able to let each other know if we would be participating, and we were able to volunteer to help with certain things. And maybe I did the wrong thing: once I knew my job, I dropped out of the message. Yep…dropped out of it. But I wasn’t making some terrible statement. I wasn’t saying I didn’t want to be involved in the event. I simply didn’t need to know how the sausage was made! I knew my job, and I knew I would do it.

A friend who was on the same message called me shortly thereafter, asking, “Did you leave the group message?” I replied, “Yes. Was that wrong?” I explained that the host knew I would be there, and she knew what I would be bringing…did I really need to know what everyone else was doing? Did I really need to hear my phone “ding” every two seconds for the rest of the day?!

Maybe I broke some unwritten rule. I’m kind of a no-nonsense, “just the facts” kind of person. When we had our pool resurfaced a few years ago, I asked the contractor when it would be ready. He started telling me what all they had to do, but really…I didn’t need to know how the sausage was made. I just wanted to know when I could use my pool again. Of course, I tried to say it in a nice way, “I have no idea what all that means. I’m leaving town for a couple of weeks, so I guess what I’m actually asking is what date the pool will actually have water in it. What date will we be able to get in the pool?” Just the facts, sir. Despite the fact that I am from the Heart of Dixie…in the Deep South…I’m just not good at sugarcoating things…at all.

So in that recent group message, it was the same situation: I didn’t need to know what Susie and Mary and Jane were bringing…I needed to know my job. I didn’t need to get more notifications on my phone.

Remember when we all first started doing the group email thing? Remember how everyone would “reply all”? I hated that. I still hate it. When I send a group email, I usually say, “Please do not reply ALL. Please simply reply to me.” But you can’t do that in a group text or group message on Messenger. You have to suffer through all the notifications that someone else has responded…unless you leave the group. And if it’s something I won’t even be participating in, well, I’m out as soon as I say I won’t be participating. Once I tell the host that I can’t be involved, I’m out. Get it?

Am I breaking some unwritten rule by taking myself out of group texts and messages when the business part seems to be done? If you’re not volunteering to help with decor for some event, do you really want to read all the texts about it? Am I crazy? Better yet…am I offending people when I leave the group?

Lots of times group texts are fun and/or necessary. There are plenty of times that we’re sharing pictures. I’m totally staying in that. I have some group messages with college friends that we use for special things. We don’t constantly send messages to the group…only when there is something we really want to share. Son’s getting married? Daughter made the team? And then there are times we are still in the middle of discussing what to do for decor for an event…I’m totally staying in if I’m participating. But if I’ll be on vacation while y’all are decorating, I’m leaving the group text. Sorry. I certainly don’t mean to hurt any feelings, but my brain can only take so many “dings” on my phone.

I can’t possibly be the only one who gets annoyed by excessive notifications. Lots of folks have made memes about it, so I know I’m not alone.

So, if I’m ever on a group message or text with you, don’t be offended if I leave it. Either I’m not attending the event you’re discussing, or I feel like the business is done, and I know what my job is. I’m not leaving you; I’m just leaving the notifications/dings.

I have a friend who once told me that if someone doesn’t return her phone call promptly, she automatically thinks she has done something to offend them. I told her, “Oh, I always think they didn’t get the message…or they’re out of town…or they’re as busy as I am.” I guess I’m just not easily offended, so I don’t expect people to be easily offended.

But please…someone tell me if it’s offensive to leave a group text. If it is, I will find a way to tolerate the excessive notifications and dings on my phone…or maybe I’ll just go back to an old flip phone that doesn’t receive texts!

 

 

 

 

*