The Art of Letter Writing to Keep Relationships and Our Memories Alive

I was reading through some of my past Ramblings and rediscovered this post from 2016. I find it is still relevant to me today. I’ve edited it a bit and would like to re-share it with you. Perhaps you’ll find something of interest in it as well.

Repost from 2012 and 2016 – I was recently in New York City and visited the 9/11 Memorial located directly across Remembering 9-11 Coverfrom where the World Trade Center towers once stood. During my visit, I came across this book, Remembering 9/11. The memorial and the book triggered a flurry of memories of that tragic day. I was moved by the items at the memorial that represented all those people who lost their lives that day. Moreover, I was touched by the letters from family members and friends whose lives were forever changed by the tragedy of that day. Those letters stirred up memories from my own life, particularly memories of my dad, who passed away in 2006.

Not long after this NYC visit, I ran across the letter I had given to my dad three months before he lost his battle with cancer. I had written to him as I reflected on the great Strommen Forgivness and Grace Photo- Dadmemories I had and I wanted to thank him for who he was and how he had impacted my life. That letter became the foundation of my talk at his funeral. As I re-read the letter I found the deep emotions of his loss surface along with many wonderful memories of him. The letter brought back into clarity these important memories and I recognized the power of the written word to help keep memories and feelings alive in my heart and fresh in my mind.

This was again reinforced on Mother’s Day when I was in Naples visiting Mom. We were having brunch with our pastor, Rev. Steve Wigdahl. He mentioned he had written his mom-and-bobmother a letter and mailed it—not that a phone call would not suffice, but he thought a letter would be something that she could touch and read time and time again until he saw her again. As Rev. Steve said, this is the great aspect of letters that we have forgotten and lost in this technology-focused world of ours.

These experiences have helped me to be thankful for my life and memories, both the good ones and those of events I wish had not occurred. I was blessed as a child growing up. I was blessed during the years my own children grew and developed. I remember the wonderful times of our family camping trips and experiences and of being engaged in my children’s activities and their career development as they matured into the great people they are today. I treasure these times and am constantly reminded that while the details of these memories may fade a bit, they cannot be lost or forgotten. We need to remember the wonderful nature and importance of family.

I encourage you to sit down and write your parents a letter if they are still living and thank them for all they have done over the years. Write letters (and mail them!) to your children reminding them how important they are to you and how proud you are of them (regardless of their age). As the Caribou Coffee slogan says, “Life is short, stay awake for it!”

“Cherish your memories and write a letter to those you love!”



Finding Happiness Knowing When to Say “No” and When to Say “Yes!”

walk outsideI’ve recently had two remarkable experiences that are so closely tied together in an absolutely unintentional way. Were they an accident? Probably not.

This Rambling was inspired by an article I came across recently in USA TODAY about “happiness.” It caught my attention because I’ve personally been reflecting on the idea of “joy.” I believe happiness can come and go so quickly while joy or joyfulness seems (to me) to be the bedrock of a wholehearted and fulfilling life.

What is the difference between “joy” and “happiness”? Here are some thoughts on my perspective:

Happiness is a temporary state of mind about how we are feeling; it’s short-lived. Happiness is like hunger: When we are hungry, we eat and are no longer hungry. A sense of happiness needs to be continually fed. Don’t get me wrong, I love being happy. When we are happy it activates our endorphins, which makes us feel good. But happiness can be fleeting and temporary. It is triggered by something we see, someone we are with, a great experience, a personal accomplishment, or seeing the accomplishments of a family member or someone we care about.

Joyfulness is far deeper, far more meaningful. I find it tends to linger longer than moments of happiness. It adds substance and resilience to our life. The depths of joyfulness can carry us through those times in life when we are experiencing sadness.

When I was younger and in the earlier stages of my career I was driven to succeed. I kept my calendar crammed full. I would always make room for one more appointment, one more opportunity to engage, one more opportunity to prove to myself and others (including my friend and mentor, my dad) that I could do it! It was nearly impossible for me to ever say “no.” What I have since learned (that was also highlighted in the article) is that I was cheating myself: I was not giving those around me the quality time they needed. I just wanted to “get it done” so I could move on to the next thing. I felt good, I think I was happy, yet I did not have a foundation of joy.

I just returned from my first ever solo vacation with Backroads, a travel company that organizes biking and hiking tours for like-minded professionals. I signed up for a bike tour through California wine country including Sonoma and Redwood. I made the decision to do this over six months ago as a way of saying “YES!” to Bob and “NO” to a work schedule. I made the decision to embrace life and to expand my experiences, including meeting a new array of friends. I wanted to leave my comfort zone and add to my inner perspectives on life, culture, and people and to challenge myself to do something new and fun. I found not only happiness, but built a stronger base of joyfulness from this experience. I said “NO” to a few days of work commitments and “YES” to my soul, my heart, and my mind. I came back better as to who I am, what I want to be, and with a new commitment to embracing others and life experiences.

As I was sitting having a leisurely breakfast before leaving Sonoma to return home, I was reflecting on my experience and how I was feeling. I opened the USA TODAY newspaper and there was an article that popped up in a section I normally do not read: “Finding Happiness through NO.” I smiled at the coincidence of my just completed experience and the article that landed in my lap. This article tied my past few days together and reinforced that this will not be my last experience to wholeheartedly expand BOB, to embrace life, and to embrace new friends around the country. I’m glad I took the time to read the article as it added so much to my engagement with those I’d met on the trip.

So, I’ll share with you some of the questions that I ask myself:

  • Do you experience happiness? How do you define it?
  • How do you handle sadness and disappointment?
  • What are you doing each day to strive for happiness? How focused are you on the negatives?
  • Where do gratefulness and grace fit into happiness?
  • How do you define being joyful?
  • Are you intentionally striving to have an inner feeling of joy and if so, what are you doing?
  • What else can you do to enhance happiness, build on joyfulness, and be more resilient during times of sadness?
  • How do you think you carry yourself when happy, when sad, and when you have joyfulness?
  • Have you ever thought about the lasting and powerful impact on wholeheartedness and intentional living when your bucket is being filled with a deeper and more meaningful feeling of joy?
  • Are you thankful for your gifts and blessings? If not, get out in the world and experience the others, their lives, problems and joys. By doing so, your paradigm on life and your blessings will dramatically change.

Be happy, yet strive for being joyful and thankful for all the blessings and gifts you have been given, earned, and learned through intentional and wholehearted living


I was given an article found in the Mpls Star and Tribune this past weekend from a very good friend that struck a cord that is the basis for this rambling.

“6 Steps to Make America Civil….and a little greater”

This is not a very creative personally thought out Rambling. I feel that rather than attempting to make my own creative commentary on these “6”, I am proving a copy of the article for the substance of this Rambling as I feel the article expanded enough on the “6” that it created sufficient insight for all of us to consider as we live our lives and engage in those around us.


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Keep these “6” posted on your refrigerator, on your computer, in your thoughts as civility leads to such great outcomes!