Handwritten letters give Valentines a personal touch

- With each stroke of the pen, or peck on a manual, vintage typewriter emotions are translated into works of art.

"I love paper. I love the tactile nature of it. I love the way it feels. It's very meditative.  It's very mindful,"  proprietor of the Paper Seahorse in South Tampa, and host of the Tampa Bay Letter Writers meet-up - Tona Bell said.

She believes those mindful messages become priceless gifts.

"Getting something hand written, hand made its just someone took the time to do that its infused with their energy their intention," Bell explained.

In this multi-tasking age, digital communications allow us to cut, paste and delete. Alex English says the Letter Writers Club is helping him personalize his correspondence.

"An email is great to receive, but it's just black and white and shows up on a computer. You get a million of them every day," says English.

Rekki Falsone is creating a greeting card with a handmade paper rose and cutout heart. It's her first time with the group.

She says the reason for being here is simple, "Fun, relaxation, being around nice people." 

Unlike the rapid fire world outside, within this historic bungalow, the pace is slow with members carefully focusing on each word before indelibly committing it to paper.

Peggy Martin says she's been writing letters since she was 7-years-old. She grew up in a rural area and later spent years overseas in the Peace Corp. 

Although she uses email regularly, Peggy believes thoughts are things that can be transmitted to others. Monthly, handwritten notes and illustrations helped her connect with the grandson she saw only once a year.

"Of course it's coming from your own heart, so you're thinking of that person, you're thinking of how you're going to say this to that person, you're visualizing that person and that person is going to get all of that when they read that letter. They're going to feel it," she said.

Psychologist Dr. Dae Sheridan says those feelings may help relationships grow. 

"I think it's important for people to continue to spark something new in their relationship if this isn't something that they've done before it may be a new way to connect.  My hope would be that a love letter would be a springboard to face to face communication," Dr. Sheridan said.

But don't despair if you don't get a love letter in return, because some people have different ways of expressing love. 

"Instead of jumping to conclusions that the person is rejecting you or that the person doesn't care for you the way that you're showing your care for them, have that conversation about,  'Is this a way that you would share your feelings with me?'" she explains.

At the Paper Seahorse, the meet-up members use wax drippings to seal their special treasures with love. 

Tona saves all the letters she receives and admits - although many of us don't do the same - she believes most people likely view a handwritten love letter as a keepsake. 

"You can send some flowers that are going to die you can send some chocolates that will be delicious but then they'll be gone but if you sent them a note or drew them a picture in it they're going to hold onto it," she smiles.

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