Order Soon for Christmas Delivery!🎄 ➔

When I was in the Seventh Grade at Earl Warren Jr. High, we had an English assignment that required us to select a pen pal and write them a letter. We were paired up with a school in, at that time, West Germany and our class was given a foreign student’s name and address. We were required to write one letter. It was a brief school assignment that changed the way I viewed the world.

As the result of a random selection, my pen pal became a thirteen year old girl named Simone Merkle. I sent her a letter introducing myself and I’m sure I would cringe if I read the contents today. I would like to think my letter was a thoughtful representation of an American teenager who was well versed on current events and world geography. Instead, I’m sure I spoke about my “Wizard of Oz” collection and my desire to join the “Ice Capades.”

I quickly received a letter back from Simone and it far exceeded my expectations…

simone first letter2

simone first letter

Everything seemed exotic about this note from across the world: the red and blue stripes of the Air Mail envelope, the peculiar stamps and post mark, seeing “U.S.A.” written below my address. I was living in a pre-Internet world and had managed to connect with someone across the globe with nothing more that a pen, paper and stamp.

I wonder if you could even explain that process to a kid today?

simone first letter3

In Simone’s first letter, I learned that she lived in the Black Forest, near France and Switzerland. I referred to our family’s Encyclopedia Britannica set to confirm her whereabouts. She told me she had blue eyes and brown hair and no siblings. She listed her hobbies and they didn’t sound much different than my own interests. She told me her nickname in her English class was “Sandy” and I could address her by that if I wished. I wouldn’t dream of it. If I was going to have an international friend, I wanted her name to be exotic!

Our correspondence continued over our Seventh Grade year and by summer I had forgotten our meeting was the result of an assignment. Her letters were filled with the details of a typical teenager’s exploits. She spoke about going to the movies, hanging out with her friends and listening to her favorite “Roxette” cassette tape.

We shared photos of each other…

Simone pic2

simone my pic2

Wow…Cowabunga, Dude!

She sent me handmade birthday greetings…

simone bday

And post cards from her “holiday” travels…

simone holiday

I remember the details of her trips inspired me to also use the term “holiday” instead of vacation. In my mind, it sounded so grand, so European. However, I only had a chance to use that phrase once. My brother caught me saying, “My family and I are taking a ski holiday to Big Bear Lake” and then he beat me up.

My Eighth Grade year was documented monthly by letters from Simone. She spoke about her parent’s divorce and having to choose whether she would live with her father or mother. When the Berlin Wall fell in October of 1990, she wrote about her hope for a unified Germany.

Suddenly, we weren’t little kids swapping letters anymore. Our written words had followed each other into adolescence and I looked forward to seeing the world through her experiences.

simone stack3

My letters from Simone became infrequent near the end of my Sophomore year of high school. I read the last letter I received from her and there’s no indication as to why we stopped corresponding. Perhaps we both became busy with the trials and tribulations of our high school experiences. Maybe she went off to University early and didn’t have time to write to a guy in Nebraska that she had never met in person. Or it could simply be that we drifted off into separate directions as friendships have a tendency to do.

I never forgot about Simone. When I went off to college I thought about reconnecting with her and I had visions of backpacking through Europe with my buddy from Germany. I could see us getting Eurail passes, staying in youth hostels and sipping cappuccinos in cafes that are adjacent to grand art museums. We could talk about our long written friendship and dissect all of the thoughts and events we had experienced in our youth. Upon coming home, I would  tell everyone I had just returned from a fabulous “holiday” and I wouldn’t care what people thought.

simone stamps5

I recently sat down and revisited my letters from Simone. Immediately, I was taken back to my youth and experienced a total sense memory as I re-read her words. I remembered what these letters meant to me and how her correspondence made me feel connected to something bigger than my own world. It made me feel sad for younger generations because chances are they will never know this form of communication. To be honest, I have saved hundreds of emails that meant something to me at the time I received them yet I have never made the effort to review their content.

Virtual communication has made everything look the same because personalization simply doesn’t exist in an email, text or instant message. The way we archive our words to one another has changed forever and my greatest fear is that in the process, beautiful words will be lost.

At least Simone’s words are safe with me.

Her pen pal.

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Scott Rager

Robert Scott Rager is a Nebraska native who returned home to start a boutique business called "County Seat Living". His personal goal for "County Seat" is to translate the lifestyle design he was creating in Los Angeles for the past twelve years and apply it to the sensibility of the Great Plains. Whether he's writing about decorating, homemade ice cream, floral creations, event planning or product design, he wants the personality and style of Nebraska to shine bright.

Lent For Kids: 40 Ways To Spend 40 Days

In: Featured, Kids
Cross with bird

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season leading to Easter. Our 3-year-old has been talking about the Easter bunny since January, when he finally understood that Christmas was over. While I’m happy he’s excited for the upcoming holiday, I really want to find some good, concrete ways to help him learn that this time of year is not only about bunnies and candy in eggs. So, I’ve decided to come up with 40 ways to spend the 40 days of Lent with kids. Some of these will work better with older children, while others are great for...

Keep Reading

Chocolate Pot de Crème

In: Featured, Kitchen

Chocolate and romance go hand in hand and with Valentine’s Day around the bend, why not have a beautifully simple and romantic dessert on the menu? With Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday, it might be a little more difficult to get those reservations to go out to eat to celebrate. If you end up staying home, why not have an easy, romantic dessert to finish your meal? Made in a blender or food processor and refrigerated, this recipe is easy to make and the result can be a beautiful and elegant dessert that will put the perfect cap on...

Keep Reading

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

In: Featured, Kitchen

Written By:  Rachel Gnagy @ Inscribed Photography & Design (recipe originally from here) One of my favorite ‘girly’ meals to make is soup served in bread bowls. I love getting the Broccoli Cheese soup at Quizno’s (it’s healthy because it has broccoli, right?) and Panera’s Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice soup. YUM. So when I saw a recipe on Pinterest for creamy chicken and rice soup, I thought I would give it a try! You will need: 1 Tablespoon of olive oil 2-3 carrots, sliced 2 cloves of garlic, minced 5 cups of chicken stock 1 cup of cooked chicken,...

Keep Reading

Chicken Cordon Bleu for Two

In: Featured, Kitchen

Written By:  Rachel @ Inscribed Photography (Recipe originally from here) Valentine’s Day is coming up and with that in mind I wanted to bring you an easy, delicious meal for you and your special man. This recipe is by far the easiest Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe and it is super yummy too! Pair it with some steamed veggies on the side and something chocolatey for dessert and you’re all set for a romantic dinner for two. For the chicken, you will need: 2 chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise 8 slices of deli ham 8 slices of Swiss cheese 1...

Keep Reading

Easy Weeknight Beef Stroganoff

In: Featured, Kitchen

We all have those heirloom recipes we grew up with, but when you get married you inherit a whole new set of recipes your spouse grew up with, too. This stroganoff recipe is one that my husband grew up eating and then cooked frequently for himself before I took over in the kitchen. (ha.) He made it for me once while we were dating, and I will admit – I was super skeptical. Generally, these sorts of humble dishes aren’t my cup of tea – the ones made with cream-of canned soups and noodles. However, I tried it and was...

Keep Reading

Hanging Onto Hope: The Dream That Saved My Baby Girl

In: Faith, Featured, Journal, Kids
Hanging Onto Hope: The Dream That Saved My Baby Girl www.herviewfromhome.com

Family and friends often assure pregnant women that their “maternal instincts” can be relied on to guide them into motherhood. This previously undiscovered gift will reveal itself the first time she holds her child. As a mother of four I believe in this instinct, but also recognize that experience and wisdom help. The birth of our fifth child, Kinsley, has introduced me to another source of guidance and strength that I never anticipated. Kinsley was born the day after Christmas. She was pink, beautiful and certified by the medical staff as being in perfect health. She was welcomed with unconditional...

Keep Reading

Bow Your Head and Vote, Yes the Outcome is Rigged

In: Featured
Bow Your Head and Vote, Yes the Outcome is Rigged www.herviewfromhome.com

“Keep in mind this is God’s plan! And who am I to dare question God’s plan!” I say it over and over as I watch this mess unfold before me. This mess, America is calling an election. I have never been impressed with the two-party system. It allows too much power to a select few and limits our freedoms. So, as I watch and listen and pray, as Trump and Clinton march to the White House, I only hope more Americans now see the disaster that is the two-party system. Two people that should be sitting in jail are now...

Keep Reading

This Kick-Ass Cancer Survivor Shares 20 Easy Ways To Make Your Life Healthier Today

In: Featured, Health, Healthy Living, Mental Health, Motherhood
This Kick-Ass Cancer Survivor Shares 20 Easy Ways To Make Your Life Healthier Today www.herviewfromhome.com

I recently went through quite an experience with my health. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2015. Following my diagnosis, I underwent a treatment regimen of chemotherapy, double mastectomy, and then, 28 rounds of radiation.  Before my diagnosis, I felt the healthiest I have probably, in my whole life. I was exercising regularly. Eating, conscious of my health. And after birthing three kids in 6 years, finding ways to focus on myself once again. And then — WHAM — cancer.  Excuuuuuuuuse me?!?! Cancer?!? I was, for all intents and purposes, a 33-year-old with great habits and a great...

Keep Reading

The Great Melt Down

In: Faith, Featured, Kids, Kitchen
The Great Melt Down www.herviewfromhome.com

When my brother Bobby and I were little kids, one of the great treats of summer was a journey to a neighboring town where my dad would buy each of us a hand-dipped ice cream cone. During the drive home, my mom would turn around from the front seat and point out drips that we back-seat-riders needed to lick up quick. I, the ever-eager pleaser, would anxiously eat my ice cream as quickly as possible, barely taking a breath between licks. Bobby, on the other hand, came up with the more reasonable response. He would grin at Mom and bite...

Keep Reading

The Best (and free) Drug Prevention Strategy

In: Featured, Health, Healthy Living, Kids, Relationships
The Best (and free) Drug Prevention Strategy www.herviewfromhome.com

A secret Facebook group has been uncovered by police that connects kids as young as 12 years-old to places where they can buy drugs. (see the link to the story at the end of this blog)  Shocking? Yes. Surprising? No. Kids find a way, don’t they? So what can we do? There are apps we can buy. There are rules we can make. There are punishments we can deliver.  Yet the best prevention of all is our relationship with our young people.  Time together, conversation, and honest sharing of our lives is the most effective way to influence our kids–even...

Keep Reading