The Appreciation Factor

All things Appreciation: Things to Appreciate and the Ways we look at, Show and Think about Appreciation.

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Putting Pen to Paper 52 Times (A Letter Challenge)

Here at The Appreciation Factor I frequently extol the need for sharing your gratitude and showing appreciation, but I also talk a great deal about sending handwritten (thank you) notes over an electronic one.  (Check out my Thank You Note Category if you want to read more.)  There’s something about a handwritten note that immediately says to me, “They care a little more” or “Look at the attention to detail!” Candidly the fact that I mail 90% of my correspondence and hand-write my thank you notes is something I think sets me apart in a good way.  Think about it.  When was the last time you wrote or received a handwritten note? How did it make you feel?


You might want to consider writing one today, especially since it’s National Handwriting Day. (More on that in a minute.)


Many think it’s too much trouble to get everything together to send a handwritten note.  Or they may think it’s too time-consuming to send “snail mail” when it comes to the job search. (I don’t fully agree with this).  Or they’re stymied by poor handwriting or simply by a lack of what to say.  True, some people actually have horrific handwriting, but to me it’s worth putting pen to paper, no matter what your penmanship looks to show you care. In terms of content, if you write from the heart, are authentic, and/or show gratitude, you can’t go wrong.



The topic of handwriting goes deeper for me at the moment. Since the start of the new year, I’ve been thinking about writing more and sending more letters via the mail.  While I always write a handwritten thank you note after a job interview, I’ve wanted to take this idea further.  I’ve been thinking about taking on a letter-writing challenge.  The seed may have been planted/inspired by my interview with Of Note Stationers or perhaps it was last year’s 30 day letter writing challenge by Devoted Diarist  or maybe, it was the time this fall when Steph  from Postcards to Mom sent me a postcard from Portland, ME all because I said, yes when she asked who wanted one.   I’m not sure, but I do know that I want to set a goal of incorporating more appreciation and gratitude in my life this year as I know that the more I show and share it with the world, the more the universe will send it back to me. Who doesn’t want more of that?

What’s stopped me from kicking this off so far has been: how many letters to write, when I should start (e.g., Can I say I started January 1st and just catch up), and whom should I write to?  These questions were making me feel a little overwhelmed and as I’m leaning in a great book The 5 Second Rule the second after you think of a great idea, the mind conspires to stop you from completing it.  Yes it does!  However today when I saw a post on Twitter promoting National Handwriting Day it was a sign for me to take action.

History of National Handwriting Day

National Handwriting Day was established by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in 1977,
as a way to reintroduce one’s self to a pen and a piece of paper. They thought it was “a chance to re-explore
the purity and power of handwriting.” – WOW that’s deep!
It’s also the same day as John Hancock’s birthday – the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence.

So you’re hearing it here first….

One of my goals for 2018 is that I am going to send 52 handwritten letters/notes in 2018.


  • Letters, note cards and postcards count. (Job interview thank you notes do not, nor does typed correspondence – unless I’m being kitschy and using a typewriter. Ha Ha.)
  • In each piece of correspondence,  I will try to instill or focus on my gratitude and appreciation. Is there something that I can genuinely express in my note? Wonderful, if it feels forced, I won’t bother.
  • Write the letter/note as soon as it comes to me.  For each moment that passes between the idea and putting pen to paper means the less likely I’ll be to write it.
  • Aim for surprise and delight.  I also hope to surprise some of my recipients.   I think surprise mail – those pieces which are unexpected and/or out of the blue, but which really seem to make someone’s day, is the best kind of letter to receive.  Sometimes it’s just noticing the other person is alive is what means so much.
  • Write more than just thank you notes.  Just because I’ll be including my gratitude and appreciation will not mean that every letter is thank you based. A Just Because card is great too!
  • Don’t expect  to hear/receive a card/note back. The goal is not to collect letters, nor does everyone want or like to write letters. That’s OK. This #52Letters goal is for me.
  • Write 1 love letter. I want to include at least one of these and I always love an extra challenge.
  • Be Creative. While I’ll never be Devoted Diarist (see below) with her stylized envelopes which I covet, I will write neatly (hey undertaking  the challenge will improve my penmanship) and I’ll be creative where I can and perhaps with the chosen recipients.

    Source: Devoted Diarist
    Iris Apfel (in glasses) Card by @tay.ham








The handwritten note is powerful.  It becomes a literal piece of history and in many cases a cherished piece of correspondence or love letter.  The simple task of writing a note will also help slow me down and be deliberate in my actions.  I’m looking forward to sharing more love and gratitude in the world as simply sharing it also makes me feel good.  I’ll provide updates or tweets on my progress so you can see how it’s going.


PS:  This is my 100th post and on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.  Thank you for being along for the ride, these almost 6 years. (1/31 is my 6th anniversary.)  I’m so grateful for your support, encouragement, patience, ideas, and appreciation of my little piece of the blogosphere.    If I could send you all a handwritten thank you note, I would.
Thank you,



The Power of the Written Word – Featuring Of Note Stationers

I may have met my match when it comes to appreciation and letter writing in Kate Kellman (KK) and Isabel Bonenfant (IB) of Of Note Stationers.  These two lovely ladies started a company that was specifically meant to bring back the slower process of letter writing and to help bring a better balance to their fast paced lives.  The Appreciation Factor was fortunate enough to score an interview with these two.


Who is Of Note Stationers:

Of Note Stationers is a unique card/stationery company out of Amherst, MA that is focused on encouraging people to slow down and be mindful of the world around them through letter writing/sending correspondence. While they primarily produce cards they also create:

  • Letter Writing Sets
  • Gift Tags
  • Art Prints
  • Rubber Stamps
  • Mini Notes
  • Custom Business Cards and more

ONS cards tap into our generosity of spirit and include messages that emphasize the things that you may often think, but you don’t often say.   Here are two great examples:

                       You can and You Will”
“I think of you often and want you to know” 


I think Kate and Isabel put it best when they say,

“We believe that letter writing is a mindful act.
It’s one that allows you to slow down, appreciate the little things in life,
|and share that appreciation with others.

We strive to keep people connected and deepen relationships through the written word.”


You can see why I/The Appreciation Factor fell in love with the company and these two women immediately!

Here are some highlights from my interview:

How it All Began

After meeting in the summer of 2012, Kate, at the time a Special Ed teacher, realized that she was living at a pace that was unsustainable.  She wasn’t sure what direction she wanted to go in next, but knew something had to change. Isabel was also making a change, as she was moving from a position in industrial design to one in graphic design.

The two had become friends after living together for several months and learning that they both had a love of letter writing in common.  “Letter writing was something that took deliberation took time and effort to complete,” Kate told me.  “Our lives were becoming so digital, what with everyone primarily conversing via emails, social media and texts.  Isabel and I both loved, and wanted to bring back the slow process of letter writing.”

The idea of possibly creating a business around this process was further sparked when Isabel and her fiancé were designing their wedding invitations. A friend of theirs from Mass Art printed the invitations on a letterpress and they fell in love with the [creative] process.”

KK:  “We thought that starting a stationery/correspondence company would be a way to force us to slow down.  Neither of us had a background in business, but we knew that if we went ahead with this kind of company that we didn’t want to be like everyone else; we wanted to make an impact.”

Kate and Isabel also knew they needed to do their homework before launching a business.  She continues, “We spent a year doing market research on the card industry, visiting different specialty and retail card stores, attending trade shows, and researching the internet and social media.  We found a huge community of letter writers who were so wonderful and supportive.

When considering what type of company we wanted to create, we decided that we wanted to narrow our focus.  We were especially drawn towards the “just because” message.  Both Isabel and I always enjoyed receiving and sending cards that conveyed a “because I’m thinking of you message.”  We felt this niche supported friendship in a thoughtful, slow way.

We also knew that people often think [positive] things about their friends and family but that they don’t often say out them loud and/or share them.  We wanted to encourage and provide a way for people to share these kind words.”


A Field Apart

Of Note Stationers products aren’t quite like everyone else’s out there. For instance their “tagline” says, “Specializing in meaningful correspondence.”  Beyond noticing that almost EVERY CARD sparked a “YES! I’ve wanted to say that!” moment in me, I noticed that Of Note Stationers doesn’t include many images on their products. Most cards and other products only contain words.


TAF: I noticed that your cards, prints and stationery primarily only feature words. Is there a reason for this?

KK:  “This was deliberate.  There are two reasons for this.

    1. We wanted to honor the power of words we feature so that their true meaning is felt and heard. We felt that images would take away the focus on the words themselves. 

      Card: Magnificent. (Mag . nif. i. cent)      adj. exceptionally fine. Today was magnificent.

We often look at words and think we know the meaning. Isabel and I found that when we looked up several words that we were considering for cards, the definitions went so much deeper
than we thought.  We began to see the true meaning and saw that many would have a greater impact than we thought they would.  For instance, our Magnificent card, it reads “exceptionally fine. Today was magnificent.” Think about how much that definition could resonate and mean to the person who receives it.






2.  The second reason is that it allows the words inside, [your message/note] to have a greater impact. Your recipient can truly enjoy the sentiment and words that you are sharing.”


Kate added, “We are adding some illustrations to cards, but it’s done with intention.  The images are minimal and we feel they add to the sentiments vs. distract from them.”



TAF: What do you like most about your business?

IB: “There are honestly quite a few things that I love about our business, but I will start by saying that having the freedom to make decisions that suit our vision, our lifestyle, and our goals is one of the privileges that makes this journey of owning our business well worth it. Since we started this venture, we’ve each worn many hats as we’ve learned the ins and outs of operating a business. From designing, to marketing, to figuring out production and packaging, to planning events, it’s quite exciting although sometimes overwhelming to be constantly learning. While some decisions have led us to success and others have been more of a learning experience, we have been truly lucky to have found a community of small business owners that have been both supportive and inspiring in our journey.”


KK “Everything… I like going to work every day.  We’re learning as we go, and there’s a constant variety to what I do. Isabel and I also love meeting people like you [The Appreciation Factor], who appreciate what we’re doing, the cards/messages we’re creating, and that they share our passion for letter writing. There has also been a good enough response so far for us to keep going. I don’t see a reason for us to stop. Overall it’s made us happier in life.”


TAF: What tips would you give my followers about sending correspondence?

IB: “To get a letter, write a letter. Sometimes, it takes writing a couple to receive one in return, but there is nothing more rewarding than coming home to a handwritten note in the mailbox. Whether it comes from a friend, a family member, or a pen pal, there is something really magical about sharing your thoughts in writing. One of my pen pals is actually a really good friend of mine from college. She currently lives in Brooklyn and although we exchange text messages and phone calls occasionally, I feel like I have gotten to know her more deeply through her letters.  I have found that we’re able to connect in a different way. Perhaps it’s because of the state of mind we find ourselves while writing, but I know that there is extreme value in strengthening a friendship through the handwritten word.”


KK:  “I know that stepping out of our normal [using texts, emails, and social media to communicate] can be daunting, but I’d like to encourage you to let go of the pressure of doing something different. The fact that you took time out of your day to buy a card, sit down, and write, is a gift in of itself. Don’t worry about saying something profound. It’s okay to keep it simple and just let someone know that you are thinking of them. I bet you’ll surprise yourself. It’s your thoughtfulness, the hand-written message, and your presence through the card that will further connect you with those people.”


I simply love that Kate also sees the card as a gift in and of its self.  Truly, as I often say here, it’s the little things in life that can have the greatest impact.  I can’t recommended checking out Of Note Stationers highly enough. They offer seasonal cards and likely will have that card that will have you too saying – “YES! That’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to say.”  I also found these two lovely woman down to earth and just as kind as the sentiments that grace their products, especially after they so graciously agreed to an interview!  I suspect we’ll see these two in the stationery and correspondence industry for years to come.

Many thanks to Kate and Isabel for their time, kindness when I was a bit of a fan girl when I met them for the first time, and for their patience while I got this post written.  It’s true, this community of those who appreciate the handwritten letter and correspondence is strong and supportive. I feel so fortunate to be able to consider myself part of this “tribe.”

You can see more of Of Note Stationers line of products and can follow them at the addresses below! I really hope you’ll check them out!


Twitter: @ofnotestationer   (note No “s” at the end)



Do you have a go to card, stationery or company that thinks about appreciation that we do, which you’d like to see featured on The Appreciation Factor? Please let me know.

I’m always on the look out for people and companies who see value in showing gratitude and taking the time to write a handwritten note!

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Send a Little Love – 30 Day Letter Challenge

This gem is a share/inspiration from Mail More Love’s/Devoted Diarist’s Rhea Abramson. Since stumbling across her blog a few months ago during National Letter Writing Month (April), I’ve been an avid reader and follower of her blog and Instagram posts.

*Check out the Instagram account (Devoted Diarist) for her envelope artwork – I want one!   You’ll also likely be inspired by some of the card designs (and designers) she features! I know I was. (DearHancock anyone? Love those bunnies!)

While I haven’t quite taken on the 30 day challenge, (I’m struggling to find 30 people to write to, or 20 for that matter!) I love this idea. As a lover of sharing appreciation and all things handwritten… I WILL find a way to participate. (She has great tips in putting everything in reach!) It just may not be this month/summer.

Without further ado, Rhea’s recent post on a Summer Letter Writing Challenge  (Thanks Rhea!)



I began my foray into writing a letter every day with a 30 day snail mail challenge back in July of 2015. Here is a FLIPGRAM of the 30 days. That adventure filled my world with gems I never expected to encounter. My own stationery business, a snail mate, friends near and far, a Letter […]

via Summer Letter Writing Challenge — Mail More Love


Thankful Thursdays -June 22nd Edition

Happy summer!  I’ve been looking forward to the first day of summer for a long time. As I said to someone yesterday on the phone, I may like the first day of summer even more than my birthday!


I’ve got some great Thankful Thursday stories to share today.  You’ll note that two are around writing; I was more inspired by National Stationary Month than I realized.  Two others focus on middle schoolers really stepping up.  As you know, Thankful Thursdays are stories, people, companies, and videos that move me, and which exemplify appreciation, kindness, or those making a difference in the world.  These five stories really spoke to me and I hope they’ll speak to you too!

As an added bonus that’s in honor of summer, I’ve included a refreshing non-alcoholic drink, Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca, courtesy of the How Sweet It Is blog.


We’re Really Just All the Same

I found this on Twitter in May, and it still moves me every time I watch it.  A girl in Birmingham, England came to school with a new prosthetic blade.  How did her classmates react?

Watch this video to find out:

Thanks to for this story



They Say Middle School Can Be Cruel, But This One has Kindness In It

We’ve all known that group in middle school who always has the best and most expensive things and who seem to look down on those who don’t.  In this case, one who had a lot, shared a lot more.   Instead of continuing to allow a younger classmate to be bullied and made fun of, an 8th grade boy gave a 6th grader a pair of his Air Jordan’s that he’d only worn a few times! (FYI: Some Air Jordan’s cost over $125!)
His parting comment: “…remember this day for the rest of your life.  No matter how many bad people there are, there are always people that will help you in the long run.” WOW! Such wise words from an 8th grader.

Click this link to read the whole story.



A Letter Makes A Difference – Girls Love Mail

Ever since National Stationery Month in April, I’ve candidly become a bit obsessed with cards and letter writing – much more so than what I expound upon here at The Appreciation Factor. I’ve told you in the past how much impact a handwritten note can have, so you’ll quickly see why, this story about Girls Love Mail, an organization that sends handwritten notes of encouragement to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, made such an impact on me.


I think I’m going to have to write a few letters myself for Girls Love Mail and join their 2017 Miles of Mail campaign (as of this post, Girls Love Mail is on Lap 2 with over 9,400 letters received, and over 92,000 have received a letter since the group’s founding in 2011!)  Truly, when more has a letter meant so much?



Putting a Spin on a Serious Topic

While you may have distinct opinions on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and it’s depiction of a girl who commits suicide and who she blames, I promise this is not story is not a downer.

Much has been said about 13 Reasons Why and how it glamorizes suicide.  I personally did not have that take away but I know younger audiences could walk away with different ideas from this program. This is why I wanted to share a story of Oxford, Michigan, who turned the story around to be, 13 Reasons Why Not.  The school wanted to address suicide, bullying, depression and other challenges teens face, with a positive twist.  Select students from Oxford High School were picked to tell their story and to thank a friend/friends for bringing hope and inspiration to their lives.

You can listen to this NPR Youth Radio feature: 13 Reasons Why Not (Listen here).


Rocks Can Make a Difference

One pile found on Martha’s Vineyard. Source: Backwater Trading Co.

Ever a fan of acts of kindness, this one won me over immediately. It’s probably because I also collect rocks – primarily heart-shaped rocks, but still find a nice rock can really make my beach day – even one without any writing on it.  The thought of finding one with an inspirational message… wow!

It all started when Meagan Murphy wrote some inspirational messages for friends on rocks she found on her local Cape Cod beach.  Inspired by the positive reactions she received, she started leaving inspiration rocks for strangers to hind on her local beach.  So many people were moved by them, that they started to leave their own.

Now formally, The Kindness Rocks Project ( it’s expanded across the US and rocks have been left/found in over 10 countries!
There are two goals of The Kindness Rocks Project:
1.  Inspire others through randomly placed rocks along the way
2.  Recruit every person who stumbles upon one to join in the pursuit of inspiring others through random acts of kindness.

What a great reminder to always act as kindly as possible, and share inspiration in places one may not expect it.

How can you get involved?  Anyone and everyone is welcome to participate – no registration is needed.  Simply decorate a rock and leave it for the next person to find. Doesn’t get much easier than that.


And as a special treat a recipe courtesy of Jessica Merchant of How Sweet it Is

Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca (frozen non-alcoholic drink)

Source: How Sweet It Is (Jessica Merchant)

Serves: 4         Total Time: 20 minutes

– 1/2 Large Watermelon, Seeded and Cubed (about 4 cups)
– 1/2 Cup freshly squeezed lime juice
– 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest, plus extra for topping
– 3 Tablespoons sugar
– Pinch of salt
– 4 Cups Ice
– Garnish: Lime and Watermelon wedges


I’ve tried this and it’s Ahhhhhmazing! Can’t wait for the really good summer watermelon to come out! I’m also thinking about adding some Mint to this too!  Let me know what you think!

What did you think of this issue of Thankful Thursdays?

Have a link you want to share for my next issue of Thankful Thursdays – Share it in the comments section.


Drop “Me” A Line – It’s National Letter Writing Month

April is National Letter Writing Month. Get those Pens out!

If I could, I’d have this song playing while you read the post. It’s cathartic to me and oh so clever, even if it’s not exactly mimicking putting pen to paper.


If you’ve already heard about National Letter Writing Month, my apologies, I know I’m a little late to the game.  Once I heard about it however, of course I needed to share because HELLLLOOOO, this is so up my alley.  How better to show your appreciation than with a handwritten note.  (Candidly – this celebration also reminded me that I need to write more notes all year long.)

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