I will be 10

I’m fortunate to live and work close to my grandparents, two of the most influential people in my life. Growing up, I went to an elementary school just blocks from their house and spent entire summers in my mother’s childhood home, doing crafts with Grandma and being completed spoiled rotten by her cooking. (My Maw Maw, Dad’s mom, is also an excellent cook — and baker. I could dedicate an entire post to Maw Maw’s tomato sandwiches, cookies and peanut butter cups, but that will have to tantalize you another day.)

A decade after I started high school and stopped going to Grandma and Grandpa’s daily, I’m still close with my grandparents and try to meet Grandma for lunch every few weeks. She usually has a collection of things to give me — old newspaper announcements from when I made honor roll or the dean’s list; handwritten recipes; photos of my sister and me as little girls. I’ve come to look forward — and almost expect — these small treasures to land in my hands, laughing with Gram at a shared memory from when I was a wild-haired toddler or sullen teen.

I’ve always been a writer. I penned my first book in second grade, about a bunny named Carrot; my teacher was so impressed that she read it to the class. By fifth grade, I’d written an entire family drama about a girl named Viola and her unruly twin brothers, then moved on to writing sequels to “Star Wars,” a middle school obsession, when I finally finished the original trilogy of films and didn’t think the plot headed in the right direction. (At 11, I was a Luke-and-Leia shipper. I just couldn’t get over that they were — gasp — brother and sister. There was love in their eyes, I tell you. Love.)

And in that time? Well, I started penning my memoirs. I’m not sure what a 9-year-old really had to say about life and love, but darn if I didn’t attempt it. Gram had a typewriter and she would often indulge me by setting it up with a few sheets of feather-light paper. It was so delicate, unmarred. A fast typer but never really an accurate one, I would often get frustrated by my typos and give up on the whole typewriter thing. I just didn’t want to mess up that perfect paper.

Plus, then the computer came along. So I started typing on that.

And now I feel old.

But it turns out typing wasn’t as fun as hand writing my stories, so I went back to honing my literary sentiments with markers and sheets of loose-leaf paper. That’s what you find above — one of my early attempts at introducing myself to the world (please note the “Hi!”, as if someone were peeking over my shoulder and anxious to read my thoughts.)

I’ve grown up quite a bit since my “I will be 10” days, but I still feel like that little girl sometimes. Full of a zest for life and eager to tell everyone about the things she loves: pink; Power Rangers; the piano. Though I didn’t turn out to be a scientist or archeologist (where did that come from?), I’m still curious about life and always ready to tell a story.

But now I get to do it on a slightly larger scale.

And for that? I’m eternally thankful. And hopeful for what’s to come.

Not quite as cool as archeology, but I still think 9-year-old Meg would be impressed. You know, if she could tear herself away from “Power Rangers.”

State of the postcard

Since joining Postcrossing, an international postcard-swapping project, my mailbox has been overflowing with love. Postcards in all shapes and sizes have found me at my desk in Maryland, where my coworker Kelly brings in the daily mail.

“Bam!” she shouts each morning, holding my coveted cards out to me. We read them together and admire the photos, often chatting about the differences in the cultures between the sender and myself, one American writer.

Since last August, when I sent my first postcard to Finland, I’ve sent 111 cards to Postcrossing members in 37 countries — and received more than 100 in return. They come from Turkey, South Korea, Ireland, Ukraine . . . and dozens of other places.

And each carries just a little piece of the sender. While I love the photos, what I love best is actually reading the words scrawled on each. The handwriting completely fascinates me: curly; somber; precise; delicate. I love learning about the lives of people in far-flung places — places I’ve never seen and may never see. Members usually have a short “about me” section on their profile, and I can’t count the number of times I read about someone else’s interests and think, “Hey! Me too!”

People are readers. And writers. They’re photographers and music lovers and daughters. They’re parents and boyfriends; travelers and dreamers. They have ambitions. And so many of them tell you about their dreams — things that might be easier to share with me, a stranger, than someone they love (see final message below).

There’s a sort of magic through the shared experience — through knowing that the card in my hand, bent at the corners, once sat on the table or desk or lap of someone in a foreign nation. Someone wrote it out, forming letters meant only for me. And these cards traversed the globe to land right in my hands in America.

Though the hobby isn’t exactly “cheap,” it’s brought me so much joy. The cost of a postcard and international stamp (98 cents) doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the idea of never seeing brightly-colored notes in my mailbox again.

Some recent postcard messages:

“Hi! I’m 15 years old student from Finland. I was surprised, because my interests are exactly the same as yours: I love cooking, photographing and reading! But now I haven’t taken many photos, because it’s sooo cold outside! (about -29 degrees C). I like to take pictures of animals, nature, flowers, butterflies, etc. Take care!” — Finland

“Czeso! Hello! My name’s [name], I’m 21 and I live in Poland. I’m a student of economic. I have an exam tomorrow so I should learn but you know . . . I’m too tired of all these exams. Fortunately, exams period finish in two weeks. ūüôā I’d love to visit USA (esp. NYC) — It’s my biggest dream! And my favorite book’s Dear John by N. Sparks! Take care.” — Poland

“Hello Megan! I’m also a 25-years-old person! But I work as a geography teacher! I love traveling — have been to the U.S.A. one time — Hawaii! This postcard that I want to share with you is my working school! It’s issued by my school because of student’s graduation ceremony. I hope you will like the design. Have a nice day!” — Taiwan

“Dear Megan, Hello! Isn’t this road just amazing? Every time I look at this card I feel the urge to go there — to get in my car and drive — to escape . . . today more than most days. I’m a graduate student in year three of an endless (or so it seems) PhD program at [school]. I absolutely love it. The problem, you may ask? Well, I’m driving myself crazy with a long-distance relationship to a man I love more than my studies. So I want out. I can’t take it anymore. I need to leave [city] and get myself “home” — back where I belong. Why can’t life just be . . . easy?” — USA

Postcards from far away

In this day of Facebook, email, Twitter, texting and¬†— yes — even the occasional phone call, there’s something enchanting, reassuring and exciting about getting mail. And I don’t mean bills, of course, or credit card applications, coupons and flyers. I’m talking smudged-by-the-post-office, honest-to-goodness, postmarked-in-the-U.S.-of-A.¬†handwritten correspondence.

The only person with whom I now keep up a penpal-like relationship would be my grandma —¬†and she¬†lives a¬†lengthy¬†5-minute drive¬†from my office. Despite the fact that we see each other often, we still love to write letters just catching up on our daily lives. To be honest, I think I tell her more in writing than I ever would in person . . . because writing is where I’m most comfortable. Putting my thoughts down in ink is very different than trying to speak them aloud, where I inevitably wind up throwing in an “um . . .” every few breaths. For good measure, you know.

A site I recently discovered¬†after Nat’s mention at Book, Line, and Sinker gives me another way to break out the ol’ writing skills — and put them on postcards. Postcrossing is an international postcard crossing project that allows members to sign up for free, then receive the address and profile of another Postcrossing member. We check out their information, see what sorts of postcards they’re interested in receiving — and then we send away! After your postcard has been received by that member, you’ll receive one from someone else. Somewhere in the world.

I signed up a few days ago and have ordered postcards from Moo featuring my local photography. I’m highlighting Maryland, my home state, in all its many forms — so y’all know I had to get some blue crabs shots in there! I’m really excited to receive my cards and get them in the mail.¬†The folks who will receive my first batch of cards are in Finland, Brazil and Poland —¬†the motherland! When I make a trip to New York to visit Spencer’s family later this month, I plan on sending some more from Niagara Falls and the surrounding area.

It’s just another way to connect, grow¬†and practice my penmanship. How else would I find Ana, a 24-year-old journalist in Brazil — and someone with whom I’d imagine I have plenty to discuss? I love projects that make the world smaller. And I love being a part of that world.