#Penpalooza First Lines

Throughout the pandemic many of us looked for new ways of entertaining ourselves while trying to calm our fears from the world outside. The world outside was scary. The world outside was for the first time an unknown place. The only “safe” place was inside, locked away in a world we have always called home but the home now felt very different. I have seen so many words used to describe “home” during the first few weeks of quarantine. Prison, small, confining, lacking of oxygen, lonely (even surrounded by family). Many found new hobbies, learning to paint, draw, crochet, knit, cross-stitch, just to name a few. I tried my hand at most of these, starting a project, finishing a project and then learning something new. Many books were read and many words were written. But really it was connection outside of our four walls that all of us were craving. Some say I was made for the quarantine. Enjoying my time alone, I am a natural introvert. However, like many, I didn’t get to hide away from the every day. Because of my job I had to leave the house every morning and go to work. “Essential Workers” they called us. Even though the doors to my office were shut tight I still had to make my way into the office daily to service customers the best way that I could. That brought a whole new level of anxiety to my every day. What if, what if, what if. Those two little words ruled my every day. So as we all slowly trudged through quarantine a new level of loneliness set in. Even those who were surrounded by family, those who made their way out to work daily, the loss of being the social beings that we are; took a toll on us all. And this loneliness is where my story begins.

At home I had my two children and husband. At work I had my coworkers and the random client who came to our drive thru to conduct business. But I was lonely. I would doom scroll social media (Twitter was and still is my favorite). I started noticing a # that would pop up every now and again and I would think, “Oh, that sounds like fun.” and then on I would scroll. Week after week I saw the same # making more and more of an appearance. One day as I came across the # I stopped and took a screen shot to remind myself to take a closer look. And then on I went with my day, forgetting to go back and take a closer look. That next Saturday as I sat in the parking lot waiting for my coworker to arrive I came across that same # and something hit me. I wanted to be a part of this growing community that were taking the loneliness out of the pandemic and creating beautiful bonds around the world. I wanted to reach out and be with friends in a new way. So following the # I took a closer look at this growing community of letter writers. They brought back what was once a favorite past time. The way we communicated before email, text messaging, IMs and all of the social media channels that exist today. Handwritten letters. Mailed with an actual stamp and sent through our postal system to one day landing in the mailbox of its intended recipient. I was excited. After work that day I came straight home, opened my computer and typed in #Penpalooza. I found wonderful posts of decorated letters, washi tape, stickers and stamps. Oh the stationery was beautiful! And everything was candy to my eyes. So what did I do? I found a post and responded saying I would love to have a penpal or two. By that evening I was excited to make new connections. I had 5 responses to my post and 5 new addresses in my inbox. Paper and pen in hand I began my journey and oh what a wonderful journey it has been. I have lost count of the number of new friends I have made but I love the connection to each one.

So to honor those who have brought such light to my life over the last year I went through all of my letters (yes I have every single one) and I have kept track of each first letter (well most of them, this is still a work in progress so I am still finding and putting letters in order). I wanted to pay tribute to each first line from the first letters I have received from those I call my #Penpalooza Family. I hope you enjoy 🙂

***Side note*** I am still going through letters so if you don’t see your first letter here there will be a part 2 to this post and I promise your first line will be there.***

The first letter I received in my mailbox came from Detroit, MI from Elisabeth. I love how our friendship has grown over the year and the fact that we can write pages and pages to each other. First letter dated 30 January 2021 “Dear Jennifer, I’m so glad to have a new penpal! And especially one to talk books and reading with.” Our letters are full of the books we read and the book adventures we go on. I love our friendship and hope that one day I get to make it up to MI to meet and sit on a front porch and trade books and read and read and read.

Following are first lines from many of the letters I have received throughout my time with #Penpalooza. I hope you enjoy and I hope that you too will one day look back at those first lines and remember how it all started.

“Dear Jennifer, Hello! I apologize for the delay in response ~ I was waiting for a stationery shipment (including this letter set!) that took longer than expected.” New York, NY

“Dear Jennifer, Thank you so much for your lovely colorful letter. It only arrived today, so I hope you don’t think that I have ghosted you.” Germany

“Dear Jennifer, I am glad to hear you love the painting! I’m glad I was able to send some cheer your way!” Costa Mesa, CA (Yes I did love the painting and it is displayed on my desk so I can see it everyday as I write.)

“Dear Jennifer, I am writing this letter from London, which currently feels more like an idea than a tangible place.” London

“Dear Jennifer, I am typing this as unfortunately my handwriting is quite terrible.” Rockville, MD (I have to chuckle at this first line because my dear friend you have lovely handwriting as I have come to learn over the last year.)

“Hello Jennifer, It was lovely to receive your letter and am also looking forward to forming a friendship in this way-I think Penpalooza is such a fabulous idea.” Flintshire, UK

“Hi Jennifer! I’m a mom of a girl (turning 10 next week) and a boy (turning 12 in March).” Chicago, IL (I love that many of my penpals are parents and we got to go through some of this pandemic parenthood together…there is no book titled “What to Expect while raising kids in a pandemic” Although I do believe we could all write one now.)

“Dear Jennifer, Thank you so much for the post cards! The selection was perfect.” London

“Hi Jennifer! I’m so excited about #penpalooza! I’m glad I saw your post on Twitter, it’s been so much fun to write letters to folks!” Somerville, MA

“Dear Jennifer, Just a little note to say Thank you for the utterly gorgeous postcard you sent – I absolutely love it and am even thinking of framing it for my kitchen.” London

“Dear Jennifer, I will write you a longer penpalooza letter this weekend to tell you more about myself, but I was inspired by your list of some favorite books and wanted to send some of mine.” West Hollywood, CA

“Dear Jennifer, The enclosed card says that it will grow flowers if planted.” Milton, MA (and yes the flowers grew.)

“Dear Jennifer, As the sun shines and the temperatures start inching upwards, I hope you are recovering from whatever aspect of the terrible weather affected you! I’m always gathering more penpals too – this is such a fantastic idea and a helpful reminder that others are ‘out there’ when we are all so isolated.” Hoover, PA

“Jennifer, I’ve got a bunch of these note cards to use, so I’ll write short notes for starters, I’ll write in cursive if you don’t mind.” Buffalo, NY (Oh I do love your letters and I think we both learned pretty quickly that our long letters are the best, plus you always know what to say and when to say it. How your words reach me at just the right time has amazed me time and time again.)

“Jennifer, I’m so excited to become pen pals and get to know each other.” San Marcos, TX

“Jennifer, It was so lovely to receive your letter. This #penpalooza adventure has made getting the mail much more exciting.” Mankato, MN

“Hi Jennifer, Thank you so much for writing to me – I’m so cheeky to have asked.” Dublin, Ireland (This is probably one of my favorite first lines more than anything because ‘cheeky’ is one of my favorite words and always makes me smile.)

“Dear Jennifer, Hi! 🙂 Thanks for answering my call on Twitter for a penpal!.” Herndon, VA

“Dear Jennifer! 🙂 I thought I’d take a minute to write you back while my laptop charges.” Houston, TX (Don’t you love that we never have to ‘charge’ paper and pencil!)

“Hello Jennifer! So nice to become penpals! I’ve been doing penpalooza for a while now and love it!.” Brooklyn, NY

“Dear Jennifer, It’s so wonderful to get to meet you!” St. Augustine, FL

“Dear Jennifer, Hey! First of all thank you so much for the letter and a poem. I love both of the packages you sent me. I should introduce myself as well so you know who is writing this.” Czech Republic (One of the things I love about Penpalooza is the connections we have made with people of all ages. Who would have thought that almost 50 year old me would make a wonderful connection with my youngest penpal.)

“Dear Jennifer, I hope this #penpalooza letter finds you well and OK and safe. While writing this we live in Germany. Hearing terrible reports about the snow storms in Texas and the power outages…I hope you and your family are OK and this flowery letter reminds you of spring and sunshine and new beginnings! Because that’s what I hope for too.” Berlin, Germany (What amazed me with this letter from Berlin is how my little corner of the world became not so little anymore. Knowing that halfway across the world she thought to write on flowery paper to bring a bit of spring to the snowy weather we had at the time just warmed my heart.)

And that my friends is Part 1 of this #Penpalooza journey. I have many plans for the letters I have received over time and I hope to share more of my journey with you. I would love for you to comment your favorite first line from a letter you have received. Hope you are all well and writing more and more. May our #Penpalooza family thrive and grow.

Much love to you all!

XOXO Jennifer

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