Some people call me Visa or Lira or Lina. My name isn’t difficult to pronounce; my handwriting is impossible to read.

To refer to my pathetic penmanship as chicken scratches would be an insult to poultry everywhere.

Growing up, my siblings and I turned our phone messages into a written game of charades. Did Kim say to meet at the gym to work out with weights? Or did Jim call and say to wait for Kim to work out? My sisters and I spent most of our teenage years waiting in the wrong place at the wrong time for friends who wondered what was wrong with us.

I envy people who, like an experienced maestro leading an orchestra, can transform a simple registration form into a perfect masterpiece with a swift movement of the hand. In triplicate. Their letters are stunning and easy to read, while my scribbles are more unruly than my hair on a humid day.

When I commented on a friend’s impressive grocery list with writing more gorgeous than the script on most wedding invitations, she was embarrassed I noticed her “sloppy writing.” My finest hieroglyphics don’t come close to what she considers cringe-worthy. What I would give for the time she saves by writing distinctly, unlike the hours I spend trying to decipher a grocery list that ultimately requires an encryption device.

Although my illegible lettering causes some people to question why I’m allowed to own a pen, I prefer to send handwritten thank you notes instead of impersonal emails. If someone takes the time to select a gift for me, the least I can do before I return it is to send a note. It’s common courtesy and the best way to make a dent in the more than 500 custom cards I ordered four years ago with my name splashed across the top.

While my friends and family appreciate the effort I put into their notes, my unreadable messages often leave them confused. A friend assumed my enclosure card encouraged her to enjoy the cough drops instead of the chocolates and my sister was relieved I gave her a sweater instead of a Swiffer. One of my clients called to thank me for the invitation to a foot party when instead it was a donation to a food pantry. I didn’t know whether or not I should explain, but when she provided me with a vague, improbable reason for being unable to attend, I let it go.

Fortunately, horrible handwriting isn’t hereditary. Unlike their cursive-challenged mom, my sons write beautifully. By the time they were in middle school, they did everything possible to avoid missing class and showing up the next day with a note I had carefully crafted providing an excuse for an unrecognizable and potentially embarrassing disease like “Chilean Pops” or the “Weasels.”

My sons, tired of attempting to decode my cryptic notes, convinced me to take a basic handwriting course at a local learning center. By the end of the four-week class, I learned strategies for forming letters quickly and clearly, yet the biggest lesson I learned was the importance of securing the lid on a cup of coffee before spilling it and ruining everyone’s work.

Grateful to my sons for suggesting the class, I reached for a notepad to express to them how much I appreciated their constant support and encouragement. I wanted to prove to them that the lessons had made a difference and from now on, the notes taped to the refrigerator would make sense. After working my way through several drafts and half of the sheets in the pad, I looked down at the crumpled balls of paper surrounding my desk and carefully crafted a heartfelt message.

And then I pushed send.

This post was originally published on

2 Thoughts on “The Horrible Handwriting is on the Wall

  1. Visa, this is very funny. Toddling over from the Erma FB page. I was thinking just the other day about how difficult it is for me to hold a pen now. Not because I have arthritis – thank goodness- but because I spend so much time typing. On the other hand, My mother-in-law sent her Christmas card already and her penmanship is beautiful. She can’t type to save herself. Maybe I can get her to do my thank you cards and I’ll fire out her letters to the bank manager…

    • Lisa on at 4:31 pm said:

      Thanks for stopping by. That sounds like a win/win! I type all the time too. It’s too exhausting to try to read my handwriting, even at the grocery.

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