Thursday, March 14, 2013

10 Tips For Writing To Deployed Loved Ones

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I wanted to put together a follow up to my post yesterday about the importance of snail mail in minimizing the symptoms of PTSD. I thought I would share all the quick tips I've used to make it easy to whip up a letter and get it in the mail quickly.

1) Create a letter writing kit. I have been using an old box from his combat boots. I keep everything in one place including all the things I will list below. So it's easy to pull out the box, whip out some letters, put it all in the box and put the box away. I don't spend any time looking for paper, pens, stamps, envelopes, etc.

2) Make you own free stationery. If you are writing frequently, paper is going to get expensive. I have used ink stamps, our daughter's markers, sticker and Sharpie's to create fun, lively stationery. I have used 8X11 inch copy paper for my letters for the most part so that they can be easily compiled for our family history when he returns. I also only write on the front side so the letters are easy to read.

2) Chose a standard size envelope. I decided to just go with #10 business size envelopes because I could fit a little more in them and then they would be very easy for him to keep organized in a box over there. I do still send cards & other things occasionally, but I thought it would be easiest for him to keep track of them all if them were all pretty much standard.

3) Keep a supply of different stamps on hand. First thing to know is that letters to international U.S. military bases are postaged according to the same rates for mail in the U.S. No additional postage is necessary for basic letters. I keep three different books of stamps in my letter writing kit. I keep a book or two of the standard First Class Letter stamps, a book of 20 cent stamps and a book of postcard stamps. The First Class stamps cover most of my letter writing needs.

If I include an article or extra papers with my letter it may be over limit. When I know my letter is a little bulkier than normal, I slap a 20 cent stamp on to pay for the extra weight. This is much cheaper than using a second first class stamp. That wasted 20+ cents can really add up over time. Then I use the post card stamps for our daughter to send frequent little notes to her Daddy and for when we're traveling to send him a postcard from whatever places we visit. The cheesier the post card the better. My favorite was a glitter-covered one from Las Vegas. My husband detests glitter.

4) Create a stockpile of funny and inspiring articles. When you run across an article in a newspaper, magazine or from a website that you think he would enjoy, make a copy and put it in your box. I went to a few favorite websites and printed out inspiring articles for an hour or so and then just stockpiled them in the bottom of my letter writing box. I added to it as I went along and have always had a nice stack of things to choose from. Now I always have something to pop in the mail to him with a quick note attached for those days when I can't write a longer letter or don't have anything that seems very interesting to say. While typed letters may be faster to write and easier to read, there is something much more personal about a handwritten letter from a loved one so I write by hand.

5) Embarrass him by decorating your envelopes. As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband once made a comment about how embarrassing my brightly colored envelope drawings, especially with hearts, are. I'm all for embarrassing people with outpourings of love. Just avoid anything too embarrassing or that might get them into hot water.

6) Number your letters and the outside envelopes too. Chances are several letters may arrive to them on the same day. By numbering them they know what order to open and read the letters. This is also great for later when you are saving all those letters for family history, which we absolutely are! Easy to organize the envelopes when they are numbered on the outside. I number mine in the bottom left hand corner every time for consistency and ease.

7) Write a few letters at a time and then mail them throughout the week. Sometimes I have put together three to five letters on a Sunday and mailed them throughout the week. The first letters may have most recent news in them. Then I will write a few notes with fun or inspiring articles in them and a couple of more generic letters with things I have wanted to talk to him about that are not time sensitive. Once I have them all numbered I can drop one in the mailbox each day on my way out of the building.

8) If you have kids (or even nieces & nephews) get them involved. It's easiest to take some time over the weekend and have our daughter write three letters to her dad that we can mail through the week. I usually try to do two post cards and one letter on paper in an envelope. She will write a few sentences on the post cards.

Now she writes most of her letters too, but at the beginning when she couldn't write full sentences and sometimes now if I can see she is getting tired I have her tell me what to say and I write the words on paper for her. Having her draw pictures is easy with a one line note. On postcards she will often draw a tiny picture and then just a sentence about how dad is the most wonderful dad in the entire world and then a LOT of XOXOXOXOs all over the page. They she can mail them throughout the week on her way out the door to go to school. I think Daddy actually likes these letters best.

9) Keep your letters upbeat and cheerful. Don't make your letters a depressing sob fest of I miss yous and I can't live without yous. Not encouraging or helpful to a guy stuck somewhere far away. Be upbeat, tell him about all the great things you are doing and that you are taking care of yourself well. Keep it light and loving. Keep him excited to receive your letters.

10) Consider what is most supportive for your loved one and do that. I read about a wife that wrote her husband a letter every day and how much he loved that. Well, I learned fairly quickly that a letter a day was more than my husband had time to even look at and the letters started stockpiling and getting a little overwhelming to him. So I cut back and that worked better for us. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing. Listen to your loved one and figure out what is best for him. But as I mentioned in my previous post, if they act like they don't need snail mail TLC, don't believe it. Keep writing!

Whatever you do during deployment you can never go wrong by consistently reassuring your loved one of your support and love. Snail mail is one of the most powerful, visual, tactile ways you can do that. So grab a pen, create a letter writing kit and make use of the U.S. Postal System.

If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below. I am all for learning new tricks for mailing letters to deployed loved ones.

P.S. You can check out a little write up on not sending those letters and emails you write when you are hoping mad right here.

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