Mistress of the Mix: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Mistress letter

Everybody’s got their hobby. For some, its golf. For others, scuba diving or mountain climbing. For Wendi Harner, its handwritten letters. I have to hand it to my friend, who may be single-handedly keeping the post office alive in this modern age that has moved us from the swirls of penmanship and licking envelopes to sending instant messages with our thumbs. Writing letters is, as Wendi says, “a dying art.”

As for me, I belong to the E-mail generation. It’s how I communicate, all day long. But I can’t even remember the last time my daughter sent me an E-mail. That’s because her generation is almost strictly into texting. Young people her age are so into using their phones to text, that they can’t even be bothered to speak into one. In fact her outgoing voicemail message is “Hang up and text me!”

But my friend Wendi sends real mail.  Like actual cards and letters that involve stamps, envelopes, trekking to the mailbox and the U.S. Postal Service. In fact sometimes she just throws it out there to the world and offers to write mail to anyone. “Want snail mail? I am your girl,” she posted on Facebook. “Send me your address and I will send you something handwritten.”

And she will. She really will.

Everybody, meet Wendi Harner.

Everybody, meet Wendi Harner.

I found out about Wendi’s passion for writing letters when I bumped into her in Safeway a few years ago and she asked me how my daughter was doing. We’ve known Wendi pretty much since Day 1 in Redding. When we enrolled Sophia at West Redding Pre-School, Wendi worked in the infant room. Sophia was with the pre-school kids on the other side of the building with Wendi’s daughter Maddie, and a friendship was born between kids and their moms.

Back to that day in Safeway. I told Wendi that Sophia was having a tough time in the dorms because the roommate situation wasn’t working out that well, and she’d just broken up with her boyfriend. Wendi asked me if Sophia might appreciate getting some mail. I gave her the address, and she actually sent her a sweet note of support which really made Sophia’s day.

Wendi says writing has been one of her favorite things to do since she was in grade school and kept a journal. And around the same time, she grew fond of receiving mail, because her grandmother Iris sent her mail on a regular basis which often included goodies like gum, a few dollars or some stickers. So all of the mail Wendi sends today is decorated with stickers. But where did her passion for sending letters really begin? Well, it all had to do with music.

Wendi's collection of stationary.

Wendi’s collection of stationary.

“I’ve always been a music fanatic,” Wendi told me. “My dream job was to be a singer, musician or radio DJ, and that is no joke! Remember Star Hits Magazine?” That was a magazine that had articles on popular alternative rock musicians like Adam Ant, the Thompson Twins and The Cure. Wendi says there was a section in the magazine called RSVP where you could write in, listing info about yourself and the music you were interested in. That’s how she got her pen pals Susan in New York and Paul in Hawaii. “We still send each other snail mail after 36 years, and we all prefer snail mail over any other means of communication.” She also had a pen pal in Kansas during junior high, and another in Egypt that she corresponded with for years until he got married, and told Wendi he wouldn’t be able to write to a woman any longer.

Madison Harner, crafter of homemade postcards.

Madison Harner, crafter of homemade postcards.

There’s one person Wendi has been corresponding with for years and years who has saved every single letter that she’s received. That would be her daughter Madison, who – like my own daughter – is away in Oregon at college. Wendi visited her in Monmouth earlier this month and Maddie showed her a big box of letters…then told her mom it was just ONE of the boxes she’s saved! Maddie thinks its pretty awesome that her mom sends letters to people. “She sends letters to a lot of my friends, even when they are as far away as France! Her letters make my day so much better, and I’m happy that she can make someone else’s day too.”

Unlike my daughter, Maddie actually writes back to her mom sometimes (Wendi says for every ten letters she writes she might get one back), but Maddie prefers to talk on the phone – which is also pretty rare these days for a person on the cusp of 21. But Maddie is starting to pick up some of her mother’s passion. She says she prefers sending postcards to letters, and although her postcard of choice is to send something from an Oregon state park, she also likes to get crafty and make homemade postcards.

Girls Love Mail 2

Wendi gets immense personal satisfaction putting pen to paper, and says it’s kind of cathartic. “Often I envision the person I’m writing to opening their mailbox and finding something delightfully positive among the pile of advertisements and bills.”

Wendi says she sent over 25 pieces of snail mail last week, which might be a personal record. But she’s got an ulterior motive right now. There’s an entire movement dedicated to sending supportive and encouraging letters to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and Wendi is all about kicking cancer’s ass. So she’s asking everyone she knows to join her in writing a letter of support through Girls Love Mail. Its a simple concept… you write a letter or two and send it to someone you don’t know. But you at least know that this person has been diagnosed with cancer. Girls Love Mail bundles them and sends them along to cancer care centers. The staff then makes sure that your letter offering peace, support, love and well wishes will make its way into the hands of a woman who has just been giving some pretty awful news. Wendi even promises that for every one letter written by folks she’s invited, she’ll write another two. So don’t let this girl down. She needs to break last week’s record!

While you sit down and put pen to paper, let me entertain you with some music to write letters by. Just click on the play arrow in the embedded You’ve Got Mail Playlist below, or listen to it directly by clicking on the link. And let Wendi know if you’ve taken her up on the Girls Love Mail initiative with a comment below. It’d make her day. Also, if you know someone who’s day Wendi could make with some  handwritten mail, all she needs is the address!

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

24 Responses

  1. Beverly Stafford says:

    Love Letters Straight From Your Heart

  2. Jwahnnie says:

    Our Lorny is a good letter-writer. 🙂

    Have you ever heard of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’, “I’d Have Wrote You a Letter But I Couldn’t Spell #@!% and That’s All I Got to Say”. It’s a break-up song. Lol.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7oYQDhWP7s

    • Mistress of the Mix says:

      Never heard of that one! I’ll have to add it when I get a chance. And about Lorny… not only have I saved all of his letters, I made a big scrap book with his letters! Some of them were even written before he and I were acquainted, and most of them were written before we met in person! I adore his letters, even (or maybe especially) the ones that are just one sentence long. Or the super inappropriate post cards he used to send to us in Alaska knowing that everyone in the post office would see them before they made their way to my PO Box!

      • Jwahnnie says:

        I save them all too. And while on that ship, the super inappropriate ones were even more potentially scrutinized by that small community post office on board. Lol. Whenever I’d get one, I’d have a private reading among my friends in my cabin and you could hear us cracking up for miles.

  3. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I used to be know for writing long (10-12 page) hand-written letters in the style of “new journalism.”  I mean the type of new journalism that started with what happened, included the subjective experience of the writer, and often veered off into “Really? That happened?” territory.  (Think Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as the exemplar of the final step.)   There wasn’t a lot of reciprocity—I just enjoyed the excuse for free-association writing.

    The letters usually included a few crude line drawings/cartoons.  By crude, I don’t mean that they were all ribald.  Some were—but what I mean is that as an artist, I’m a decent tennis player.

    It’s been almost 30 years since I’ve penned such a letter.   Email (and later social media) killed letter writing more than video killed the radio star.   (See Val?  I managed to work in a music reference at the very last.)

  4. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    As is my habit, here are a few more:

    Take a Letter, Maria — R.B Greaves  (Val, how’d you miss this one?)

    Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody — John Prine (“I delivered more junk-mail than the junk yard could hold”)

    The Letter — Hayes Caryll

    Write a Letter Home — Jackie Greene

    Letter 2 My Unborn — 2Pac

  5. Mistress of the Mix says:

    “…as an artist, I’m a decent tennis player.” Best line I’ve heard all day!!!!!!!!

  6. cheyenne says:

    How about “Return to Sender” by Elvis.

  7. Mistress of the Mix says:

    CLEARLY I am going to go back and add a bunch of songs to today’s playlist. So many of these get my ‘stamp’ of approval! Heh heh.

  8. Wendi Harner says:

    Wow! Thank you Valerie. I am truly honored that you featured Madison and I in in your column.  You and Sophia will always have a special place in my heart.

    For anyone writing letters to Girls Love Mail be sure to check out the website and follow the GLM letter writing guidelines BEFORE you write.

  9. Gary Tull says:

    You also missed “P S I Love You” by  The Beatles.

    • Mistress of the Mix says:

      I’m on the road right now and don’t have access to my Spotify account to make changes to the playlist, but last night as I was falling asleep PS I Love You popped into my head! It was the version Bette Midler did in the film “For The Boys” which is one of my favorite songs of all time! So safe to say I’m just a little bit embarrassed that this didn’t make it onto my list!


  10. Gary Tull says:

    Another great letter song: “One of These Days”  by Neil Young.  It’s on the  Harvest Moon LP.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      Good one.  I have a feeling Neil never wrote that letter—the song is the letter.

      Neil famously burnt some bridges, as he admits in the song “Thrasher”:  “So I got bored and left them there, they were just dead weight to me.  Better down the road without that load.”

      • Gary Tull says:

        I  mostly agree though maybe he’s not ready to write that letter yet.

        Neil Explains the Effortless Nature In Which He’s Able to Tell a Story in Song
        “I don’t try to think of them. I wait till they come. A metaphor may be that if you’re trying to catch a rabbit, you don’t wait right by the hole … And then the rabbit comes out of the hole, he looks around. You start talking to the rabbit, but you’re not looking at it. Ultimately the rabbit is friendly and the song is born. The idea is, he’s free to come, free to go. Who would want to intimidate or disrespect the source of the rabbit? And in that way, if the song happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t matter.”

        Young (revealing a bit of his cantankerous side) says that’s why he has periods of prolific creativity and other times where there’s nothing. He adds, “If it doesn’t come to me, I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look for it. I really hate things that people work on. There’s nothing about music that should be ‘working on it.’ There’s no good reason to be something you’re not, or trying to be somebody that you think is good.”  June, 2012

  11. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    I love the craft of letter writing.  I’ve saved all of my mother’s and aunt’s letters to me as well as the wonderfully creative letters from college class mates of mine from college.   I still write letters because many of my elders don’t have computers.  Letter writing requires a good grasp of nuance in word choice and the ability to tell a story.

    I find that texts and e-mails often go in one eye and out the other.

    Thank you for this article.

  12. Melanie says:

    Yay for Wendi and her letter-writing!!  We have to stop saying letter-writing is a dying art, lest it become so. 🙂  I’m a letter-writer too.  I’ve been striving to send 365 pieces of mail per year for the last several years.  Most years I make my goal and even if I don’t I’ve still sent many greetings.  Some are to people I don’t know or barely know.  The hard part these days is “surprising” someone you barely know with snail-mail.  Getting their address or correct address can be challenging.  Sometimes, I just ask for it.  The surprise is gone but by the time they get their card or letter, it’s a pseudo-surprise.  Thanks for the reminder about Girls Love Mail.  I checked into it (as a letter-writer & cancer survivor myself) and then got distracted.  :).

  13. Melanie says:

    Wendi, if you send me your address (or tell me how to find you on FB), I’ll send YOU a letter!!

  14. Wendi says:

    I have a new pen pal!! Melanie I am so happy our paths crossed. I  replayed to your letter yesterday. *Hsppy dancing!*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *