lydamorehouse: (yaoi)
I have written here, in the past, about how I have suspected that some of my International Pen Friends, who have sent me "rejection" letters, after a few back-and-forths, might have done so because I chose to come out to them as a lesbian. I have no ACTUAL proof, of course.  No one has ever written to say, "I'm sorry I can't write to you any more; you are a disgusting queer."  Mostly, they say, "Oh, jeez, look at the time. I committed to writing to you, but suddenly I can't because.... uh, BUSY.  HONEST." Yet, these letters (I've gotten two) would IMMEDIATELY follow my telling them that, yeah, actually "Shawn" is a lady, and my wife.

Now, I should be clear, I've had a number of success stories. My pen pal in Netherlands who loves "F.R.I.E.N.D.S." has a lesbian daughter, so coming out to her was a no-brainer. Both of my Australians could care less. Another one of my German pen friends is clearly a LITTLE prickly about it, but my sense is she's kind of prickly about a LOT of things. :-)

But, here's a new piece in the puzzle of "What is up with the conservative streak in pen friends?"  

A couple of entries ago, I explained FBs (Friend Books).  Several days ago a random person in Maryland who found my name on a FB, sent me a pile of them.  Most of them were half-way full and this Maryland correspondent had included her name in all of them, like you do.  However.  One of them was from that someone I shall call "Cass," who started one for herself.  She had a long entry on her front cover about the various things she was interested in and things she'd be willing to swap, all very typical stuff.  Then she adds, "I am bi, open-minded pen pals only, please." 

No one had added their name.

Not one soul.

Not even the person who sent it to me, who had put her name in literally every other FB.

Despite a plea from Cass that the FB be "passed quickly." 

I know I live in the era of Trump, when people boldly and proudly wear their bigotry on their sleeves. Yet, pen palling, by its nature, seemed to me to be the sort of hobby that would naturally attract people who were interested in other people. It's a hobby that requires you to talk to strangers. The entire POINT of pen friends is to reach out, sometimes across international borders, with a hand out in friendship.  

Of course I wrote to Cass. I sent her a picture of my family, a short introductory note that suggested that we could be pals, and sent her a pile of FBs to "swap," hoping that somewhere in all of them, she would find someone else who would write back.  I added my name to the FB that she started and sent it on to a friend who I know is open-minded, even though she isn't part of the pen palling community.  

But, I don't entirely understand it.  I mean, yes, pen palling is an old-fashioned kind of hobby. I guess maybe that 'old-fashionedness' lends itself to certain stereotype of a stay-at-home mom, who is lonely... but I still don't see how that lends itself to "eew, gay!" Also what are these people worried about? That we're going to write long letters detailing our sex lives?  No, I'm just as boring a pen pal as anyone else. I talk about my failed garden projects and my cats.  Do you suppose other pen pals are worried about being hit on?  Even though I explain I am MARRIED with kids.

It's weird and baffling, and it makes me sad.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
Today, in the mail, I got a thick envelope from someone I didn't know in Revere, MA. Most of my pen pals from the International Pen Friends (IPF) are, well, international... so I was curious what this thick envelope might contain. I opened it up and out came a veritable ton of what are called "Friendship Books" (FBs.)

I couldn't figure out how I'd been gifted with this "bounty," until I discovered that one of the FBs was started for me, by one of my German pen pals.

Friendship Books are hard to explain. Wikipedia has an article about them, but it doesn't entirely do them justice. The ones I've seen are small, a quarter of a sheet of paper in size. They're handmade, often very crudely--nothing more than colored paper, side-stapled together.  On the front is a person's name and address.  This little booklet is then sent on to pen pals, each of them writing their name and address in it, and passing it along to one of THEIR pen pals, almost like a chain letter, except the idea is to fill the booklet up with people interested in receiving new pen pals. Once the book is filled, it's sent back to the person whose name is on the front/top.


There's all these unspoken rules.  Sometimes people send FBs just to see how far they'll go around the world before they come back, so, if you're using the FB to find more pen pals, you have to examine each entry carefully. Some people will just sign their name and something like, "Waving from Cleveland Ohio, and passing on!" 

There are all these codes involved: SNNP (Sorry No New Pen Pals) or NPW (New Pen Pals Wanted) or LLW (Long Letter Writer) or AS (Answers Some), as opposed to AA (Answers All).  They will often include date of birth, because a lot of pen pal seekers want to converse only with people their age. They'll also list the languages they're comfortable writing in--which has been frustrating for me. I've been trying to land a Japanese pen pal, but the ONE I spotted in a FB only wanted pen pals in Korean.  (You may be scratching your head, but international pen pals often use correspondence as a way to practice/keep up on their English/foreign language skills.)  I also actually saw someone who listed, and I kid you not, Esperanto as one of the languages they'd correspond in.  People will include lists of interests: puppies! Unicorns! Heavy Metal music! (or, another one I saw from a different Japanese FBer "I love Jesus!")

But, so I got this huge pile and for the first time went through several of them looking for the words "FB and slam swappers needed" which meant that they were willing to accept FBs, because, honestly, I kind of hate the pressure of having a bunch laying around that I haven't sent out yet.  This is the other way in which these remind me of chain letters, honestly. I have this weird sense of "AH, I should do something with this immediately!"  Anyway, I managed to unload a bunch of them that way.

I have to admit to enjoying reading through these things, strange as they are.  When I was showing these to my friend Naomi today, I read one of the longer ones in which this person wanted to swap: "FBs, postcards, teabags, magnets, bookmarks, pocket letters, ATC, flip books, washi." And, suddenly we were like, "What are pocket letters??"

So we Googled it and found that pocket letters are a crafter's answer to pen palling. You thought this was about writing to people? NOPE. This is a f*cking art form!  Pocket letters are where you fill up a nine-pocket trading card protector with cute things, like stickers, tea bags, pictures, or whatever you like and then send them to someone who will send something similar to you. You collect them in a three-ring binder, kind of like scrapbooking for strangers.

It seems kind of cool.  I may have to try it.

I feel like if I go deep enough into this pen palling culture, I'll be ready to write an exposé for Vanity Fair or Teen Vogue.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
 Yesterday was a fun mail day.  

One of the very best parts of being a member of the International Pen Friends (IPF) is that, occasionally, the postal carrier delivers FIVE personal letters, all addressed to you.  Two of them were from my regular Canadian pen friend. She's an actual friend who became a pen pal, and her letters are always a delight. We didn't actually know each other terribly well when we started corresponding, but we knew each other from exchanges in Bleach fandom.  She's a lot like my friend in Seattle, who I knew passably before we started corresponding (she was a writing student of mine) and we've become closer thanks to years of letter writing.  I got my Seattle pen friend by asking Facebook for volunteers. 

Of the other letters that arrived were:

1.  A letter from Malta.  MALTA, you guys.  The other nifty thing about my Maltese correspondent is that she got my name not from IPF, but from one of the various FBs that I've participated in.  I had genuinely never HEARD of Friendship Books until one of my German pen pals, Petra, introduced me to them. I still think they're kind of weird. Just slips of paper or homemade booklets with people's addresses in them and odd codes. Seriously, SNNP (sorry no new pen pals) and NPW (new pen pals wanted) that are passed in the mail a little like a chain letter, without the pressure, because you can always return it to the original sender. 

But, Malta, that's cool. I hope my reply entices another from her.

2. I seem to have finally snagged a correspondent from the UK.  You would not think this would be SO hard.  English/UK addresses easily make up a third of what's on offer for an English-speaker like myself on any given IPF list.  Yet, despite faithfully writing to all of them, I have only ever gotten one previous reply from anyone in England and that was a "rejection." Somehow, I seem to have passed muster with someone there finally. Fingers crossed this winning streak continues. Interestingly, in my grand experiment of "should I come out right away or not?" in the introduction letter I sent this one (Kate) I decidedly did NOT. So, I should probably return to my strategy of, "wait until they know you pretty well before you reveal that you're a big, old butch lesbian." I already took a chance revealing to Kate that I'm an otaku.  Let's see if I can weather that storm!

3. The last one was also a new IPF member, this one from France. I have a couple of other French correspondents, but they seem to have slowed down.  The thing about IPF is that it's like any kind of blind matching site.  Even when you're willing to try anyone, some people click better than others.  This is why I sprang for a half-year renewal because I wanted another list so that I could keep throwing out feelers.  

Anyway, I know all of this stuff is likely only really fascinating to me.  I have always been interested in other people's lives and this is a fun way for me to explore that.  I was writing to my Maltese pen pal last night explaining how I got into pen palling.  I have discovered that many of the people who are in IPF have been members since they were teenagers. It's a hobby that they've kept all their lives, unlike me. I hunted up IPF because I remembered being assigned a pen pal in 4th grade or thereabouts. There was a time in the 1970s when pen palling was kind of the 'it' hobby, particularly among teenage girls. At least, that's how it seemed to me back then, at any rate.  I wasn't into it then, though the idea intrigued me. I was a fairly terrible correspondent, too, when I did have the opportunity, probably because I imagined that somehow I would have an instant foreign friend, with whom I could share the secrets of my soul, etc., etc.  In 1970, I would have killed for a French pen pal. Instead I got someone from Japan. Ironically, I found that annoying at the time. Japan? Who's even heard of it?  Why is this girl sending me all this crap with a weird kitty on it??

Ah, things that are wasted on the young, eh?

I wrote a lot of letters to friends and family when I was in college.  To be fair, that was how we communicated before the internet, but I have always liked the feel of pen on paper.  There is something, too, about sharing your thoughts with just one person at a time.  Obviously, you can still do that with private messaging and e-mail, but a letter is more sensual--in that it appeals to all the senses.  

Plus, shit shows up in the mail.  I love when shit shows up in the mail.  Did I mention I got 5 letters yesterday??? FIVE!
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 The weirdest thing about being a member of the IPF (International Pen Friends) is that occasionally, the people you reach out to feel compelled to write back to tell you they don't want you as a pen pal. Part of how IPF works is that, once you pay your membership fee, you're given a list of names and addresses. They're all also members of IPF, of course, but it's your job to write to each one of them and to basically try to be interesting and clever enough to provoke a response.  

With my first set of pen friends, I never mentioned being gay.  I mean, in all honesty, it's both a really huge part of my life and nothing much at all. Literally, all it means is that instead of writing 'my spouse, he', I write 'my spouse, she.' It's not like by coming out I'm hoping to write the sordid details of my love life in erotic detail.  But, at the same time, it has felt disingenuous to be silent.  So, with this mid-year list, I've been trying to just casually let it drop early.  

Very casually.

And, of course, I have no idea whether or not this recent rejection is because of that, or because, in fact, the person on the other end wanted to be clear that it was NOT that.  

Regardless, I find this compulsion weird. To go to the effort to send an aerogram?  (I honest-to-gods did NOT know those things still existed!) Just to say, "I won't be writing back"?  Why not just not write back. Most people don't, honestly. This is partly why I opted for the 15 name list.  Out of fifteen, I expected to end up with two or three decent, consistent pen friends.... and that seems about right.

It's also just kind of mean. I mean, I went to the mailbox yesterday and saw an AEROGRAM! I was like, "Oooh! What is??" and then it's all, "I regret to inform you that health issues keep me from being your pen friend. Best of luck."  

V. sad.

Ah, well. 

My foot is achy today, but I'm able to put more pressure on it. Before I head out to my usual Wednesday gathering, I'm going to take a couple more ibuprofen and try to stay off it. I know that I'm probably still pushing it. Sprains take FOREVER to heal.  But, of course, now that I HAVE to rest my foot, I suddenly want to paint the house and do all the projects!  That's just how it goes, isn't it?

Oh, and today is reading Wednesday, isn't it???
I'm a little more than a third of the way into Witches of New York by Ami McKay.  It's a dense read, so it's slow going.  I might be on this one for some time yet.  Otherwise... boy, it's been a tough week. I've been finishing up watching the anime of "Pandora Hearts," while I do the dishes. I've got about 5 more episodes left, then it's on to something else. I'll have to decide what. I think I have a To Be Watched list of anime that's about a mile long.

How about you? Reading or watching anything interesting lately? 

lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
 We dropped Mason off at the airport just a little over an hour ago.  He's on his way to compete in the KidWind National Competition.  ( with his team.  A lot of my friends contributed to the team's fundraiser, so A BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE. YOU MADE THIS POSSIBLE!! 

If you want to read more about what is actually happening at the National competition:

mason leaving for Anaheim

Mason will be back on Friday, and, until then, Shawn and I have the place to ourselves.  I suspect we'll get up to all sorts of mischief, including maybe going hog wild and cleaning the house. Books will be read with abandon!  We might even have DORITOS AND CHEESE FOR DINNER.


Yesterday, it was sunny, so I spent much of the day outside. I'm really proud of how my faux Japanese garden is looking this year, and I'm working very slowly on getting other parts of the yard in decent shape. (I should really take some pictures before the ENORMOUS bleeding heart stops blooming).  I don't think we'll ever be a showcase garden, but it would be nice if I could look out and feel happy instead of thinking, "OMG what a mess." I definitely think we're well on our way to that.  Especially since several bulbs showed up for stuff I don't remember ordering. I planted them in a couple of different places--a few near the little free library (which is my one remaining "problem" area) and a bunch in the front of the Japanese garden.  I think they're going to be irises...?  We'll have to see what blooms next year, if the squirrels don't eat them all and/or replant them for me.

I got a couple of letters from my international pen friends yesterday.  I love all my pen friends, but I have a couple that I adore. My friend in Canada is AWESOME. Of course, I didn't get her from IPF.  She's actually someone I know from Bleach fandom who volunteered last time I put out a request for pen pals. Her letters always make me happy.

The other letter came from an IPF friend from the Netherlands. I like this particular woman because in her very first letter back to me she talked about her daughter and her daughter's partner (female.) This meant that I felt free to be my honest/authentic self, which is something that I've been sloooooowly revealing to my other IPFers.  I mean I had that one German lady quit me because I told her I wasn't Christian.  Can you imagine if I'd said that I was a big ol' lesbian?  Probably we could have heard her head exploding from across the ocean, eh? But, my Netherlander is great. She got me following the recent election there--another country that held tight against the rise of fascism.  She always closes her letters with "Ah! That Trump of yours!" in various iterations.    

A sign of our times. 
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 Under normal circumstances, in America, FB would be Facebook for a lot of people, right?  WELL... if you're a German pen pal (and trust me, if you are a German woman of a certain age, I think it's a fair guess to say that you either are, or have experimented with pen friending at some point in your life,) FB stands for Friendship Book.  

What is a friendship book?  It's... okay, it's usually handmade, here's a picture of one sent to me:

german friendship book

Inside the booklet are people's names and addresses. Some people handwrite their addresses, but others have address labels specially printed for FBs, which include a whole lot of mysterious acronyms.  "NPW" = New Pen Pal Wanted.  SNNP = "Sorry! No New Pen Pals!" (I'm considering keeping a list handy, because some of them are counterintuitive.)

Often people will include the various languages they could potentially correspond in, you might see "NPW in English, François,.." etc.

How you use this is kind of like a chain letter, only much less malevolent.  One person starts it (in the case of my example above someone has started it for someone else), and they send it on to one of their pen friends. That pen friend adds their name (and whatever notation they might like), and then they pass it on to one of their friends.  When the booklet is filled, it's returned to the original, initial address.  Sometimes these are used to actually gain new pen pals, but sometimes they're just sent off into the world to see how far they go before they come back.  There's apparently a whole subculture of FBs, which... weirdly, I am now part of, that include things called "decos" and "crams." In addition to the several books that have now been passed to me from German pen pals (this is REALLY a German thing,) I also received a Friendship Sheet

Here's another couple examples of what they can look like (sorry this is a little blurry.)

more FBs

If anyone out there wants to be part of this German pen palling thing, let me know. I should note that it's not unusual for people from other countries to have gotten roped into this.  The only thing they need to have had is a German pen pal.  I've seen names from Russia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Austria, and I'm not the only US pen pal to have been part of one of these.  

It's a weird/cool thing. Feels very retro, very 1980s.  It's kind fun.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
 The other thing that happened yesterday was that Mason's LEGO League team won the regional competition!  He and his team will be going on to state! I would post a picture of Mason with this medallion, but I'm trying to figure out what's up with the pictures. (I thought I had them fixed, because *I* can see them on any device, even not logged into my journal.  All our devices, however, are Macs or iThings. I wonder if that's part of it. I'm going to try to do more research, because a journal without ANY pictures, ever, is kind of sad.)

I've also steadily started to get replies from the letters of introduction that I wrote to my various pen pals. Yesterday, I got a reply from my ONE correspondent in the Netherlands. She seems amazing. She's the first one to acknowledge that I wrote to all of my pen friends that I did NOT vote for the current present.  Her reply was, "GOOD for you."  She also just casually mentioned her daughter's girlfriend.  I LIKE this pen pal.  It should be very easy to reply to her.

lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
First, I have to do a little whining. It's not real complaining mind you, just a little bit of shoulder shrugging at the world. Remember when I signed up for the International Pen Friends? I got this enormous list of people to write to--about fourteen or so names. I've spent the last couple of months writing individual letters to each of the people on the list. This has been an enormous amount of fun, mind you, even though I found the idea of an introductory letter a bit daunting. I mean, writing to strangers? It's a little weird because you want to say something interesting, but you have no idea what the other person might like to hear about.

But, that's not the part that I want to talk about.

I guess I assumed since i paid for a package of 15 people that the people on my list were it. My full 15. But, twice now, I've gotten letters from people NOT on my list. (One from Germany and another from France.) This is not a bad thing, not at all (both letter writers were absolutely delightful!), it's just... confusing. Does this mean, potentially, I could end up with over 30 pen friends? Like, did my name go out on 15 other lists?

I mean, in a way, this makes a certain amount of sense, right? Out of thirty people SOME of them will write. A couple of them might even become regulars--people I really hit it off with. I, of course, quickly replied to both my pen pals. I'm sure the pen pal in Germany is a little stunned. She sent me a happy little note and I replied with a copy of Tall, Dark & Dead IN GERMAN. (What? She said she loved to read!?)

It's a funny, thing, too, because both of the people I received notes from had a very standardized sort of introduction. "Hello, I am ____, I got your name from the International Pen Friends." I suspect I was probably supposed to start my letters that way. Instead, I just launched into all sorts of weird things, including drawing a map of the North American continent with a tiny dot near St. Paul labeled "me." I probably seemed very odd.

Which might explain why I haven't heard back from anyone I've written to yet.

Who knows. It's all a grand adventure. I do so love getting mail, so I've been enjoying running to the box to see what's in it, like I'm fifteen years old again. Oh, and if you're reading this and thinking, "Damn, I wish Lyda would write to me!" I totally will. You just have to send me your address:

In other news, I've decided that in the up-coming year I'm only going to read All the Gay. I thought I'd follow along with Gay YA's book club as much as humanly possible as well as hunting down other queer books to read. 2017 is going to be the year of Teh Gay. Everything will be super-fabulous and queer af. I think that is one of the many ways in which I'm going to deal with the incoming administration from Hell.  

Speaking of the incoming administration, I really wish I could afford to go to the Women's March on Washington.  I ran into someone at the coffee shop the other day who said that there's a scholarship to help pay for the bus ride there and back again.  If I could afford it, that would be cool. I've heard that the march is likely not to be very well organized, but, you know, having marched with a bunch of people on Lake Street I'm kind of figuring that'd be okay.  Very likely, however, I'm going to end up at the Minnesota State Capitol with a handful of women.  I say that like it's a bad thing, which it isn't, but it feels very missing out on a potentially awesome, historical moment.

Thoughts? Anyone I know going?

lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
Last night was the board meeting of Quatrefoil Library.  Normally, this would have been a Wyrdsmiths night for me, but shortly after I bowed out, a bunch of people chimed in that they had conflicts and/or ENDED UP IN THE ER, (but that's another story.)  

The board meeting was fascinating.  One of the things I discovered, listening to people talk, is that many of the other board candidates had put in a lot more people-hours into the organization.  One of the other board candidates had been an artist in residence; another had helped with an archival project.  And, I thought: what am I doing trying to jump in at the top?  Especially when I found out that there were a number of committees that a person could join without being a board member.  

What I really want to do for Quatrefoil is physically HELP.  You know what I mean? Maybe not staffing the desk (because I think the hours might conflict with my existing library work), but maybe to help build/expand content for their social media or review books for their newsletter or other places where I can link back to  them to help raise their profile. I can put out chairs for an event.  I can set out snacks or help clean-up.  I can help recruit writers and readers. Stuff like that.

I made what I felt like was a good connection to the acquisitions board member, and I'm hoping that, though him, I can find the right kind of committee work for me.  Ideally, he and I could work together to really raise people's awareness of Quatrefoil's collection... which is HUGE and expansive and I don't know how many people know that much about them, despite how long they've been in the community. So, if you see me talking them up here, that's all part of my overall goal.  :-)

At any rate, I just wrote some follow-up emails to my contacts that hopefully made my continued excitement clear, but explained how humbled I was at the meeting and how much I'd like to work my way up to the position of board member... after paying some real dues.

So, that was last night.  

Today... today is starting out slowly.  Shawn is out with a migraine.  I'm huddled under the blankets because it's so cold outside that the radiators haven't managed to catch up. I'm thinking about writing another pen pal letter. I have about four or five left to write on my list. It's been a little frustrating, if only because I'm such a school girl and I run anxiously to the mailbox every day, hoping to find some new treasure from some stranger overseas.  I did get the one, but it's been otherwise silent.  I wonder if they give you such a big list, knowing that a lot of people aren't going to follow-through?  Or maybe I'm just being anxious and I'm the person down on the list, like the last few stragglers are on my own.

lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
One of the ways that I'm finding helps me cope in this post-Trump-election universe is, basically, journaling. This is why you've seen me here so often lately.  I'm finding that just taking time to reflect on my day helps me get through it.  I have a couple of friends that I've been writing letters to, too, and they've seen an upswing in correspondence, as well.  (This may, in part, be in compensation for my inability to fiction ATM, but I've been feeling a drive to write the queerest queer book in the history of queer fiction, so who knows?)

On the other hand, I don't necessarily want to inundate my friends with a letter a day.  I mean, MAYBE they'd appreciate it, but I've been trying to keep it to one letter a week.  But, I LOVE actual correspondence. I LOVE getting things in my mailbox that aren't bills or advertising.  I LOVE stationary and pens.

So, on a whim, after talking about my failed attempt at an international pen pal in 4th grade, I decided to see if there were still organizations that did this--that matched strangers up with other strangers in foreign countries.  There are!  So, I signed up with the International Pen Friends, paid my membership dues, and have been waiting somewhat impatiently to see what would come of it.

Well, today I got my list.  15 people!

I get to write to 15 people around the world!  HOW COOL IS THAT?  Seriously, I'm supposed to send a letter to everyone on the list. !5! I'm going to have to allocate these people days of the week!  Anyway.... I got 2 Australians, 4 in England (all from tiny sounding towns like North Wolverhampton), 1 from Belgium, 3 from France, 4 from Germany and one from the Netherlands.  Interestingly, I asked for people all over the globe, from every single continent (well, minus Antarctica because it wasn't an option), and I entirely got placed with Europeans.  But, that's still cool.  I can't wait to get writing to them! 
lydamorehouse: (ichimaru gin)
This is the sort of thing that appears as random art on the bottom of the letters I send to my pen pal, Keri, in Seattle. Several years ago (or maybe just a couple years ago), I decided that I missed the sensual, private pleasure of writing personal letters. So I put out a request on Facebook. Keri, a woman I only kinda-sorta knew at the time said, "Oooh, pick me!" So I did. We've been corresponding for at least a year and a half if not two years now and every time I write to her, I usually embellish the letter with a bit of fan art/art.

Here's what I'm sending her this week:

renji all

Pretty nice, huh? I bet you wish you were my pen pal.

Or maybe not. Maybe you'd be pretty sick of all the Renji I send.... Although, tbf, I have actually sent her Ichigo, Kisuke Urahara, Captain Kyouraku, Byakuya, and Gin Ichimaru, so I'm not ENTIRELY one-track fan art-ing her. Though there's a lot of Renji. How do I know? My red colored pencil is little more than a sad little stub.

October 2017

1 2345 67
89 10 11 12 1314
15 1617 1819 20 21


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 22nd, 2017 03:20 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios