Mary and Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink explores a thirty-year friendship between two women: one who had never learned to cultivate female friendships, and the other who had managed to gather and maintain a large group of friends throughout her adult life. The fact that thousands of handwritten letters between them linked these two together is just part of the intriguing story. Mary Potter Kenyon, the author of "Refined by Fire," "Coupon Crazy," and "Chemo-Therapist," and her co-writer Mary Jedlicka Humston share an unforgettable friendship that will inspire you to pick up your pen and begin writing "Dear . . . "
"For thirty years, the Marys have maintained their correspondence, their connection empowered by sheets of paper. Through their letters, these two friends have been able to get through extremely difficult moments and grow as mothers, friends, and community members. Their commitment to each other is apparent within these pages. One cannot help but smile when reading how Mary Kenyon and Mary Humston have flourished through their friendship with each other."- from the Foreword by Kathy Zadrozny & Donovan Beeson Yothers, Founders of the Letter Writers Alliance
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Mary can you give my blog readers your best advice on how to be a good friend?
I might be the wrong person to ask about friendship. It is only in the last six years I have learned what it is to have close relationships outside of family. For most of my adult life, I had few friends outside of my husband, sisters. Whether it was due to a lack of time, a distrust of females in general, or a combination of both, I wasn't sure how to make or maintain friendships. I'd been bullied as a child, and the worst offenders in the parochial grade school I attended were female. While I did enjoy some female friendships in high school, I got married a year after graduation, and once the babies started coming, I immersed myself in motherhood, and later, homeschooling. Who had time or energy for friends? I met Mary Jedlicka Humston (co-author of "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink") in 1996, when I was pregnant with my third child. When we moved away from her after a year, Mary and I maintained our friendship via handwritten letters, and a few face-to-face visits. It wasn't until 2011, when I attended a Christian Writer's conference, that I formed other fledgling female relationships, friendships that sustained me during the following year, when my husband unexpectedly died. Now I collect friends, male and female, cherishing relationships that have enriched my life immeasurably. If I were to give advice on friendship, it would be to take the time to reach out regularly to let your friends know they are important in your life. It's too easy to take someone for granted. Our friends need to know we are there for them when they need us.
Why did you decide to write this memoir with Mary?
Mary and I had such different experiences in regards to female friendship. She was a social butterfly; had always had friends, and was actively involved in many organizations and groups. And while we had much in common, there were glaring differences in our lifestyles, not the least of which was that I had eight children to her three. We knew our letter-writing relationship was unusual; we'd write 3-4 letters a week, not waiting for a return letter to arrive before writing another. We figured we'd sent more than 8000 letters between us in 30 years.
But after my husband's death in March 2012, our relationship changed dramatically. Despite not having lost a close family member, Mary somehow knew to visit me once a month and take me out to lunch. She was one of the few people who asked the difficult questions, and then took the time to listen. I'd had four books published by that time and the idea of co-writing one suddenly appealed to me. It wasn't a new idea; we'd discussed it before, but the timing seemed right. The outline was easy; I already knew what the book would look like; alternating chapters on topics I wanted to explore anyway, topics like faith, early mothering, and envy.
Do you still hand write letters to friends? Not only do Mary and I continue to write letters, I've adopted a Tuesday morning ritual since David's death, of reaching out to someone every week with a card or letter. David died on a Tuesday, and for a long time, I dreaded Tuesdays, marking yet another week without him. When I decided to do something positive on Tuesdays, instead, it made all the difference. Now, I look forward to Tuesdays. I never write a letter or send a card expecting one in return. That's not the point.
What are your hobbies other than writing? I'm a voracious reader;non-fiction when I'm working on a writing project, but fiction when I need an escape. I love riding my bicycle and teaching beginning writing classes. But writing and public speaking are my passions.
Tell us about your family. I was married to David for nearly 33 years. He was a five-year cancer survivor when he died of heart failure. I have eight children, and until this summer, all of them lived within an hour of me, two on the same block! Son Dan and his wife, Lydia, live across the street. Daughter Elizabeth and her husband Ben live a block away with their three children, 13-year-old Becca, 9-year-old Joe, and 4-year-old Amy. Jacob, who lives in Heaven with his grandpa, would have turned 12 this summer. My son Michael and daughter Rachel live ten minutes away, in the small town where I grew up. Michael purchased my parent's house, and Rachel lives with her two dogs in a house three blocks from him. My son, Matthew, lives an hour away. Emily, who married Hugh last year, now lives in Virginia, where he is serving in the Marines. Katie, age 17, and Abby, age 14 live with me. I work as a Senior Services librarian and teach writing classes for community colleges, workshops for libraries, and I'm also a public speaker.
What is one accomplishment you are most proud of? Surviving since the death of my husband five years ago, and obtaining certification for grief counseling this year. While David would have been extremely pleased and proud of my writing and public speaking (he always believed in me), those accomplishments aren't of my own making. I have felt God leading me all along, and I credit Him.
What are you working on now? I have a grief journal coming out in May 2018, and I'm working on a book on utilizing your creativity in your everyday life. I'm also planning a grief retreat for October and will be facilitating a GriefShare support group at a Methodist church here in town.
What is your favorite Bible verse and why? Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Because I felt that all along, even during those darkest of days during early mourning. I knew he had gone before me to prepare me, bringing the right people into my life, and guiding me in my writing and my work.
Tell readers how to keep up with you?
Linked In: Mary Potter Kenyon
Facebook Author Page: Mary Potter Kenyon