How’s Your Penmanship?


Outtakes 221

How’s Your Penmanship?

By Cait Collins

It’s getting closer to the holidays and I’m starting to put my to-do list together. One of my big things is my Christmas card list. I like keeping in touch with family and old friends. I’m very particular about the cards I send. I can spend an hour or more going through the card displays at my favorite Hallmark store. I buy special pens and nice envelope seals.

I hand-address and sign every card. Some have short hand-written notes. Instead of a computer generated letter, I write my letters individually and gear them to the recipient. Do not misunderstand, I enjoy reading the annual newsletters I receive, and if I had a huge list, I would probably do a computer letter. But my list is relatively small, so I write the letters.

So what goes into my letters? It depends on the person, but I try to recall good memories, update friends and family on important events during the year, inquire on goings on with their families, and end with good wishes for the holiday. Each letter is personal.

My mom taught me the importance of the Christmas card tradition. Being in the military, we were often separated from family and friends during the holidays. Cards and notes were Mom’s way of being part of the extended family when we were not able to be home for Christmas. Her list grew with each transfer as she added new friends. Sadly, she would receive notes letting her know of the passing of a special friend. Her address book was filled with pages with names lined through. It was her way of saying “Gone, but not forgotten.” When she became too ill to write her cards, I took on the task. Sometimes I would have to ask her about the person so I could target the letter. I always made sure to get the letters completed early so she could sign them.

As we become more technology oriented, we tend to neglect the old ways. We lose touch with folks who were parts of our lives. We forget there are ties that keep us together, and memories that had impact on us. This holiday season why not reach out to those who hold special places in our hearts. Write a letter. Tuck it inside of a holiday card. The rewards are priceless.

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Enough


Outtakes 73

 Enough

By Cait Collins

I’ve finished the Christmas shopping, fought the crowds at the grocery store, trimmed the tree, hung my stocking, and centered the wreath over the fireplace. My living room looks like a tornado struck it as rolls of wrapping paper, tissue, gift bags, tags, ribbons, and bows litter the floor. I have to finish wrapping all the gifts I’ve purchased for nieces and nephews, family and friends. The cards are addressed and mailed. What have I forgotten? I grab my list and check it again. Everything is done until I starting cooking for my sisters’ birthday dinner. Still, I fell as if something is undone.

I look over at the tree and wonder if it has enough decorations. Should I get out the left-overs and add them to tree? Did I buy enough for the kids? Did I spend enough time writing my letters to the aunts and uncles I seldom see? Have I taken enough time to eat right, exercise, and rest? Have I allowed enough time to enjoy the season or have I allowed the parties, dinners, and all the bad reports from the news media to sap my Christmas spirit.

Reality, the tree looks fine. My nephew, Josh, jointed me for pizza and tree trimming. We talked and laughed while we worked. Our kids always get more than they need. My annual letters to the family are long enough to assure them we are all doing fine. No, I have not eaten right. This time of the year I tend to eat on the run. No on the exercise, but I’ve taken a week off, and I’m really taking a break. The parties and dinners have been enjoyable, and I’ve turned off the news. My nephews and I spent three hours taking in THE HOBBIT. Now I have my feet up and am watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. What more could I want? It is enough.

As I get ready to begin submitting my current work, I ask myself if the novel is good enough. Is there enough description? Are the scenes thoroughly developed? Is there enough back story? Are the characters believable? Even when license is taken with reality, are the events written well enough to make the reader accept it? As I read each chapter, I look for places to improve the manuscript. I work to tame my internal editor to prevent overworking Kate’s story. Even when the final edits are done and the submissions are sent, there will be doubts. It’s the nature of a writer to want to snatch the work back and rewrite one scene or another. It will never be enough. In the end, I must trust my instincts and lay it to rest. I’m almost ready to let go. I’m almost ready to say it is enough.