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Day 56: Aunt Patti

Mom (left) and Aunt Patti circa 1951 In Tazewell County, Virginia.

Mom and Aunt Patti circa 1951 In Tazewell County, Virginia.

My mother used to talk to her siblings regularly on the telephone. When I was a kid, I’d wake up on Saturday mornings to the sound of her laughter coming from the kitchen as she talked to one of them on the phone.

Mom was one of six children. She died in 2006 and she had a brother, Jack, who died in 1980. The remaining four live in Southwestern Virginia and Tennessee. I had planned to make a trip this weekend down to see all of them – but Winter Storm Remus had other plans for us so I’m having to postpone it until later this spring.

I called my Aunt Patti to check on the weather conditions there before deciding to postpone the trip and we ended up talking for almost an hour and a half. It was wonderful to catch up.


Dear Aunt Patti

Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed talking with you tonight. With email and Facebook – sometimes we forgo picking up the telephone (and actually dialing instead of texting!) because we feel that we know what is going on in a person’s life, we see all their status updates on social media so we think we’re up to date and don’t need to know more. Well, what that leaves out is knowing how the person is truly feeling, not just what they are broadcasting to the online world, hearing the joy or uncontrollable laughter…and the tremors of fear and pain that can be masked by lifeless letters typed on a screen.

The only person I really have long phone calls with anymore is Dad and occasionally Aunt Sue. Before Mom died Dad would always get on the phone – but he wasn’t much of one to chat on the phone back then. Things have changed. I think he’s lonely now and as a result is much more prone to longer conversations that go beyond, “Hey kiddo – everything ok with you?”

I’ve made a commitment to write more letters this year – Mom used to write me regularly. I miss it – I miss seeing her handwriting. He voice, southern accent and all, could be heard in every stroke of the pen. In addition to my letter-writing, I hope to call loved ones more often. I look forward to calling you and hearing your voice more often.

Thank you again for taking time to talk with me tonight. It made my day – hell it made my whole week! I’m sorry I won’t get down to see you this weekend – but anytime the National Weather Service names the storm that is coming through I’m betting it’s going to be a doozy! Stay warm and safe.


Day 37: Lindsay, Lagunitas Brewing Co.

lagunitas_IPAday-timeI enjoy a wide variety of beers – one of my favorite breweries is Lagunitas. Not only because of the deliciousness of their beverages, but also because of their dedication to helping nonprofits by donating product for fundraising events. They’ve helped out Street Sense, one of my favorite nonprofits, for the past two years and I wanted to let them know how much it means to me as a Board member of Street Sense.

Year of Letters


I hope 2015 is off to a good start for you.

Year of Letters-3I wanted to send you a note to say THANK YOU to you and everyone at Lagunitas for helping Street Sense the past two years with beer donations to our annual gala. You make it so straightforward to receive donations. I can’t tell you how much it means to a small nonprofit like Street Sense. We appreciate it very much.


Day 34: Anonymous (Teaism Dupont)

Day34I thought I would do something different today – leave a letter anonymously somewhere around town. It’s an idea that I got from a project called Letters Left in London.

So I stopped in for lunch at Teaism in Dupont and left my letter on the window sill. I tried to be rather discreet and leave it there with nobody seeing me. I think it worked, but then I wanted a photograph of it and that certainly drew some attention, but apparently not that much because after taking the picture I took my food upstairs and enjoyed my lunch.

I sat there and peacefully enjoyed my asian barbecue chicken kebab while wondering if anyone had picked up my letter. Perhaps someone would come upstairs with it in hand. That might be interesting. I didn’t leave my name on it or even my return address…perhaps I should have, but I can do that next time. Today I was nervous leaving it there, it was like I was doing something wrong. My heart skipped a bit faster.

The letter was still comfortably leaning against the sugar canister when I left some thirty minutes later.


“Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It’s disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there’s something visceral about opening a letter – I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.” – Steve Carell

Take time this week to write someone you care about a handwritten letter.

Not sure what brand of cards these are, but I've had them for a long time.

Not sure what brand of cards these are, but I’ve had them for a long time.

Day 31: Dan Bane, Trader Joe’s

The staff at Trader Joe’s is so cheerful and friendly a trip to TJ’s is like free therapy! Well, not free if you buy some of their delicious food. Every business could learn something from how they engage their customers.

Trader Joes

Dear Mr. Bane,

I wanted to send you a letter to tell you that I think Trader Joe’s creates one of the most enjoyable employee-customer experiences of any large-scale retailer. I frequent my local TJ’s – 1101 25th Street in Northwest Washington, DC – often and everyone there is exceptionally pleasant. And while I know your stores are known for this, my local TJ’s does an outstanding job and I wanted you to know.

Crew members are delighted to help find items or make a product suggestion. I once bought the Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches because an employee told me that they saved her marriage – three times! She might need a little time off by the way. I’m not married, but if I were I would add them to my regular shopping list to keep the relationship strong!

 Keep up the good work. If you ever come to DC – stop in my neighborhood TJ’s and congratulate your team here.

Best regards,
Reed Sandridge


Day 29: Lazlo

An exchange between Lazlo Toth and TIMEX from The Lazlo Letters

An exchange between Lazlo Toth and TIMEX from The Lazlo Letters

Years ago my dad bought me a book called The Lazlo Letters. It’s a collection of real letters sent by an overzealous and awkwardly patriotic crusader named Lazlo Toth. The man behind this persona was Don Novello, a comedic genius who wrote for Saturday Night Live for several years and later returned to the show as Father Guido Sarducci.

Anyway, the book is full of letters that this seemingly caring yet inappropriate citizen writes letters to companies, political figures, celebrities, etc. with uncomfortable praise and often laughable suggestions. They’re hilarious. I later bought his second book: Citizen Lazlo.

With enormous respect and admiration for Lazlo Toth, I penned the following letter.

Lazlo Toth

Dear Lazlo,

I recently embarked on a journey of writing handwritten letters every day for a year – you are Day 29! In a way, your books, The Lazlo Letters and Citizen Lazlo, inspired me to take on this adventure. I understand you have another book called From Bush to Bush, but I haven’t read that one and can’t find it in any bookstores. Pehaps you should try to place your books in stationery stores since people who read your books probably like to write letters! I give you that tip for free.

You always used to say, “You send out letters, you get back letters, that’s for sure!” I actually think you should consider changing your quote slightly because my experience is that you don’t always get a letter back. Perhaps these would work better:

“You send out letters, you might get letters back if you include return postage”

“You send out letters, you will definitely wait a long time to get a response”


“If you forget to write someone and lie about having sent them an email, they probably won’t believe you that it got lost in cyberspace, but if you say that you sent them snail mail, there’s no telling where that letter is at!”

You can use all of them for free.

Lazlo Toth-2By the way, I was disappointed you didn’t throw your hat in the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election ring. You would have won. Your history with Richard M. Nixon would have trumped any power move that Schwarzenegger could have thrown your way. But I saw Conan the Barbarian and get it if you were intimidated by him.

Keep writing, don’t give up on us now – when we need you the most!!

Your fan and friend,
Reed Sandridge


PS  Happy belated birthday – you’re the only person I know with a birthday on New Years Day.
PPS  Go Lakeside Dragons! Fight! Fight! Fight! 

Enclosed: Forever Stamp

Lazlo Toth-3