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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A message from God?

A customer in my post office today told me of the tragic death of his grandson. He was only 20. He was attending college in New Hampshire, but was doing a semester in Australia. This customer said that since his grandson was knee high that he always said that he wanted to ride a kangaroo. It is wonderful that he made it to Australia.

His death was a freak accident. He was out late (autopsy shows no alcohol or drugs)and came back to the bungalow and the door was locked. He banged on the door and the glass broke. A piece of glass pierced his aorta and he bled to death. Such a tragic, freak accident.

I wouldn't mention this incident here if it weren't for the next thing that he told us. They had a memorial service in Australia (and one in the states), but something unusual happened at the one in Australia. At the time of the service, outside there were eight kangaroos--they said it was unheard of that that many kangaroos would be there at that time of day.

This touched me. I feel this is a sign of God--a tribute to a short lived life on earth. No one could have planned a better tribute.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chili, A Play and Me, trying not to gripe

Well, I promised not to gripe. Yesterday George and I got up at 6:30am (late for George) and cleared off the several more inches of snow that fell in the night. Then we both went to work for four hours each. After lunch I reminded George that we had plans that evening and that he should take a nap. He got about a half hour, I think I got ten minutes.

Our first stop that evening was to a church chili cook-off. There were over 20 crockpots of chili dishes--each one uniquely different. We only sampled 3 or 4. It is interesting how chili can take on so many different styles. We really liked two of the ones we tried. Then the various homemade desserts were stupendous!

From there we went to a favorite little playhouse to see a staged reading. I am not going to name the theater because we love it and have never been disappointed. We have also been to a couple of staged readings (one there) and have enjoyed them.

We got our favorites seats and settled down to be entertained. From the first five minutes my thoughts were, "oh, please don't let the whole thing be like this." I was having a hard time listening to the long introduction. I do not like being read to normally. George loves books on tape or if I read to him. I thought he was probably more "into" this than me. There were ten reader/actors. Much as I tried, I could not find a plot. I believe it was just a day in a town and the various characters. Ocassionally there was something to chuckle about. We caught some of those lines. It was warm in the theatre and I was fighting so hard to keep my eyes open. I prayed I wouldn't embarass myself by falling asleep, per chance to snore. I did doze a couple of times. I tried to glance at George to see if he were as bored as I was. He seemed okay. He did chuckle at a few lines, so I figured I was just too tired--should have had a longer nap. I was praying that he would want to leave at intermission. What if he liked it? How could I possibly stay awake for another hour? Maybe I would sleep in the car, I thought--even though it was only 30 something degrees outside.

Finally it was intermission. George stood up. He asked, "Is it over?" I said, "No, I believe it's intermission." He said, "Well, if it isn't over, it should be." Inside I said, "YES!" I quickly told him, "If you want to leave, I'm okay with that."

There were a couple of other people who went outside to get fresh air or a smoke. None of them kept walking to the parking lot like we did. We have never done that before. We felt like we were committing a crime. When a car went to pass us out on the way home, I imagined it was the police and that they would pull us over...

"You were seen leaving the playhouse before the play was over."

"Oh, really, officer? We thought it was over. That was just intermission? We are truly sorry. We didn't mean to offend anyone."

Thank goodness they don't give tickets for that. I am so thankful that George felt the same way I did. See, I'm not griping. I'm thankful.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

One, Two, Three, Four...letter, fletter, flat...just shoot me now

It's the dreaded time in the post office--the Rural Route Mail Count. The last one was 2006. A little background for you, the post office pays some people salaried (or exempt), some people hourly and some people "evaluated pay"--which is the rural carriers (city carriers get paid by the hour). Every year or two the post office has a mail count--sometimes it's two weeks sometimes it's a month. I am grateful this time it is only two weeks, though the carriers are complaining that this may not be a true picture for only two weeks.

Starting today I have the distinct "pleasure" of counting every piece of mail the carrier is going to deliver each day. I will say that we are now on this system called DPS, so I did not have to count the 888 letters that he had today that came that way(I used to). I did have to count all the flats (magazines and catalogs and large envelopes), packages and other letters and then I had to count separately how many pkgs had to be scanned or signed for and how many change of addresses he processed and his return to sender letters, forwarding, mail he collected and time him with a stop watch while he loads his car. There are other things too--there's a whole chart. I was tired before I began. Then there is transferring info to the computer daily. There are some pieces that have to be challenged--are they a letter or a flat? These are "fletter" pieces. We have to get out this measuring tool and the rule book to decide--same with some of the small pkgs.

I can't tell you what a joyous time this is for me. I can't even keep up with the paperwork on a normal day. I am so happy for this extra burden. It seems lately for me blog=gripe. I am sorry about that. I promise next time it won't be. But I am also informing the world of why people go postal. This is a public service announcement...watch out for extra grumpy postal people the next two weeks.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse/American Idol

I was told by a friend, not only did we have the full moon and a lunar eclipse, but a blue moon too. Whatever it was, I don't think I liked it. First, when I remembered to view it I was already in my nightgown. I stepped into my furry boots and threw on my coat and went out to the front step. The moon was tinted pinkish and the shadow was partially covering it. It was a neat sight, however, barely did I have time to enjoy it when from around the corner of the house in the dark, I heard a crunching noise on the hard crusty snow. I have no idea what it was because I got back in the house as quickly as I could.

I think something about the lunar madness brought out the lunatics. Today (the day after) I found myself dealing with a couple of over-the-top irate people. I think I'm glad that the lunar eclipse won't happen again until 2010.

Let me switch gears...I wanted to make a quick comment on this year's American Idol. Tonight was the first elimination night of the top 24. I have never seen so many of the remaining contestants cry. I think because this is a year that a number of contestants are under 20, and that this is a lot for them to handle emotionally--OR maybe the lunar eclipse effected them too--we will know next week. I have a feeling the tears will be there every week. I was sad when the homeless boy and the aspiring politician didn't make it to the top 24, but the longer they stayed on the harder it would be to see them go. It's an interesting year.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sour Taste

No one's going to want to read this. This is just a gripe, gripe, gripe session. I keep saying "this is the final straw" at the post office, and they keep piling them on. If I am ever missing, you'll have to dig under the haystack that is now on top of me. It's not just me, it's all postmasters especially the poor misunderstood small town postmasters.

There have been a few things happening lately that I think will cause others to take a stand and say, "enough is enough already". I sure hope so. I know there are 3 of us postmasters in CT who have something unique about our offices that no other office of our size in CT has, and therefore, we should be treated differently. We are going to start fighting for this. Wish us luck!

Now here's some griping. A few months ago all carriers were given a grievence settlement for "fletters". This is a new term for flats (large envelopes and magazines) that are sorted on flat sorter machines and have letters (now called fletters) accidentally mixed. in. Some carriers got over $600. lump sum check--every carrier got some kind of check. Guess what? Not all carriers (mine included) has their mail sorted on flat sorter machines. Yet they all got checks!

Okay, if that's not enough...here it is a couple of months later and I don't know what happened but the carriers are getting another lump sum check for some reason. Carriers get cost of living and step increases, so I don't know what this is.

Okay, that's the way it goes. Then my clerk comes in and says he got a letter at home--all level 5 clerks are going to be raised to level 6--which means a higher pay scale for him.

Well, I guess I should be happy for everyone in my office. NOT! A couple of years ago the post office changed things and postmasters now get raises based on "performance". My raise is based on cutting my employees hours, keeping down expenses (including snow plowing, electricity, etc.) and especially by how much more revenue we can bring in--we have to bring in more than the year before. When you work in a town with no businesses, and more people using the computer to pay bills, etc, how are we supposed to bring in money? The mail volume is down.

So, my carrier gets two lump sum payments for doing nothing. My clerk gets a grade increase for doing nothing. I have to cut expenses and sell more stuff in order to make a raise--note that my clerk does some of the sales and he never asks anyone if they want insurance or any extra services which we are required to ask--why doesn't he? Because he does not care. His raise does not depend on it. He gets costs of living and step increases automatically. Now a brand new clerk starts out at $19.11 I'd say that's overpaid!

If a clerk in my size office is at the top of his pay scale, and the postmaster is at the top of his pay scale, the postmster (boss) only makes $1.99 more than the clerk. I can't imagine that happening in real businesses. I can't imagine anyone starting out at $19.11 an hour either.

Well, there I've griped. Do I feel better? No. Send donations. That will make me feel better. :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

A gallon of blood

That title should get someone's attention. This weekend I donated blood. George and I started giving blood about two years ago. We go as often as we can. I just reached my first gallon in total. I thought there would be some kind of fanfare or something. Nothing. :( Last time George gave without me he got a sweatshirt. My daughter gets movie tickets or something free every time she donates. Maybe my blood isn't special enough, I'm A+. Sounds good to me, but I know my husband and daughter are more valuable with their O.
Well, I don't mean to sound selfish. I don't give blood for the rewards. I am happy to help. I am a little envious that a recent time we gave blood and George's neice, Debbie was there. She hadn't given in years. I heard her exclaim to her nurse, "I didn't even feel the needle go in." Hmm...I've never had that experience. Well, it's only a little sting. I can handle it.
I got extra pokings this time too. My iron count was too low 11.2--has to be 12 something. Well, they then sent in their expert iron poker. She warmed up my fingers on my opposite hand and massaged the blood to the tip. Magically it jumped to 13.8! So, I did walk away with a bandage on two fingers and one on my arm. See, I did get something extra-plus a cookie and orange juice and a good feeling that I helped someone today.
I had an uncle that I didn't know that well, and I was surprised when he died that his obituary mentioned what a fantastic donor he was. I could never catch up to his lifetime of donations. I've started too late, but I plan on continuing this as long as I can. It's one little thing that I can do for society. I am sorry that I didn't start sooner.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I remember Valentine's day as a kid, a few days before Valentine's Day the teachers would build it up and hand us out a class list of all the names so that we wouldn't forget anyone. (Unfortunately, someone always got less Valentine's cards, no matter what the teachers did.) We also were given red and white construction paper and time in class to make our big envelope to hold the many greetings we would get. I think the card companies made the same ones every year, with talking animals the most common theme: "bee mine" with a bee; "I couldn't bear it if you'd say no, Valentine" with a bear of course, and "I long for you to be my Valentine" (a giraffe). I don't remember when they started adding the latest toys like Barbie, or cartoons to Valentines. Some even came with a conversation heart candy or a heart shaped lollipop. I have seen pictures, but am way too young to remember the Victorian couples on old Valentines.

Well, it was a fun day. When I became I mother, Valentine's took on a new meaning. First when the kids are in pre-school, they are too young to address or sign their 20cards and Moms are to bring a treat for the class too. You would think as they got older that it would get easier. Well, it seems like I still had to assist them--make sure they wrote one for everyone. Heaven forbid too, that you don't let them pick out the Valentine's themselves.

Somehow it seemed like Valentine's Day was the favorite holiday for the kids when my kids where in school. I don't know what made it more special--was it because it presented a chance to hint that you liked someone without fear of being laughed at? Was it the sugar rush of the goodies? Was it the puns on the cards? Maybe it was the combination of it all especially in the dead of winter.

Well, my kids are grown now. I made my husband his favorite peanut butter fudge for Valentine's Day. He gave me a box of chocolates. We are going to go out for dinner too. Nice and simple, but you know what? I think I miss the silly little Valentine's puns. Oh, well.

A friend sent me an email today--obviously not in the Valentine spirit. He said, "Al Capone was the only one who really knew how to celebrate Valentine's Day." Yikes.

Well, I just wanted this little bird to tell you that I think you're tweet and I know you would bee mine because you know I can't bear the thought of not being your Valentine. My cat says you're purrfect for me. There I feel better now that I got those puns out.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Red Riding Hood's Basket

Tonight we went to the official grand opening of an old friend's new coffee shop. It has been open for a few weeks and we had checked it out and just love it. It is located in Southwick, MA on Congamond Road. The atmosphere is so homey. It makes you want to curl up with a book or laptop or newspaper or just have a cup of coffee, latte or hot chocolate or smoothy and a delicious baked good. It's a fantastic place to meet to talk with an old friend and that is exactly what we did tonight.

At the grand opening were three friends that I grew up with and some of their families. I don't know about you, but for me, whenever I run into the friends that I spent 6 years of elementary school with, it is so comfortable. There are no pretenses. There is no one to impress. We can reminisce about yesterday and share about our todays. It seems that since we all grew up in this small town, we have a bond that is always there.

As we get older and our kids have left, it seems that we want to reconnect with our past more. We have decided that although our friend's coffee shop is 15 miles away, 25 miles for some, that we will try to get together every month or every other month. Will we ever run out of things to say? I doubt it. I'll keep you posted.

Let me describe Red Riding Hood's Basket a little more. There are tin ceilings and walls, different chairs and tables--each table with a small vase of fresh cut flowers. The front of the store even has Little Red Riding Hood in the display window with a tree and a very scarey wolf hiding behind the tree.

There is a case of delicious homemade baked goods, an offering of coffee, teas, lattes, hot chocolate and smoothies. We were fortuate enough to sample a number of these tonight and they were fantastic. She plans to expand to quiches, soups and sandwiches. I can't wait.

If you go around the corner, there's even more. There's a section with two couches, an artifical fireplace, and an old school desk and two bookshelves--one for adults and the other for children. What a great place to hang out.

Let me also tell you about my friend who owns this place. She is a multi-talented person. I do beleive if you were to put her head to head against Martha Stewart, that she could out do her. She is more multi-talented than Martha. Does Martha know how to play the oboe, work with kids, act, write a play, sew? There are so many other talents that Margie has, I'm sure I don't know them all. I have to get caught up with her life to date.

So, if you are ever in Southwick, please go there and tell them Debbie W. sent you.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Mrs. George Washington

Yes, I am married to George Washington. In answer to all your questions: No, my name is not Martha (that's his sister). His father and grandfather were Georges. No, we don't know if he is a decendant of George Washington, but probably not since George did not have any children. Yes, my husband looks good for his age. No, he's never chopped down a cherry tree. Yes, he is honest.
No, our address is not Mount Vernon. Yes, he's gotten kidded about his name. No, he will not sleep at your house just so you can say, "George Washington slept here." No, he is not related to the president, he and President Bush are not related. Yes, his birthday is George Washington's birthday, June 15th--well, this George Washington that is.

I probably left something out, you can let me know if you have other questions.

I do get President's Day off. :)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Other Thing

Okay, I'll keep my promise and tell you the other thing that we do in a small post office in the boondocks (no cell service), we give directions. I hate to give directions. Some people come in clutching their precious map quest. Once I found an error in map quest. Most times the people either miss a turn or forget their left from their right. Why is that so hard to remember left from right? I would think most people could remember that they write with their right. I'm left handed, so it doesn't help me, but I don't need help.

I have had people trying to get to destinations are far as 100 miles away. Some people don't have a map at all and think that we'll have one for them--when you are lost, it's a little too late to be looking for a map. Some people go by memory. Some people do have maps, but they need to for me to be the "you are here" pointer.

I love the show the Amazing Race. I had just watched the season's final episode when this Asian couple came in and said "We need your help. It's an emergency." They were quite lost and wanted to use my computer, phone and get directions. I felt like I was helping someone in the race. I helped them the best I could--couldn't let them come behind the counter to use the computer, but could take the cordless phone to them. Also, because of their accents, I even spoke to one person for them. It turns out they were going for an interview. They told me I was their saviour and an angel. I hope God took into consideration those points.

Well, I apologize if these beginning blogs are boring. I promise they will get better and I hope to add pictures, so you all come back now, you hear?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What's the weather?

I think living in New England creates people who plan better and are more adaptable to change. For some of us, we are prepared if we can't get around for a couple of days due to a major snow storm. Many will rush to the store to stock up on those last minute staples like bread or milk to see us through. This does slow us down a bit because everyone has the same idea and the lines are long.

We change our plans with the weather. There is a smaller percentage who it's still "all systems go" with their 4 wheel drive. In the small post office where I work I have seen people come by snow mobile, cross country skis and of course, by foot.

This environment teaches us to be prepared and to watch the weather forecast. I usually watch the weatherman every morning to be ready for the day, that is if the weatherman is right.

Off and on people will question my knowledge of the forecast and usually I can repeat what I heard the weatherman say. The other day a customer asked me and I said, "I think it's supposed to start sleeting and freezing rain at 3pm and changing to rain later tonight. Then I recalled that the weatherman had said something about 9pm and something about the morning commute. I wondered if I were confusing my days. I almost corrected my statements but I wasn't sure what to correct it to, so I said, "No. I made that all up. I don't know what the weather is going to be."

Fortunately the customer laughed and he said, "Why not, you can guess just as well as the weatherman."

Weather information is just one of the many extra services included for free with my postmaster duties. Next time I'll tell you about another service I regularly provide. Right now I'm going to watch the weather report so I'll be prepared for tomorrow.

It's late

Well, here it is after 11:00pm, which is my bedtime and I've started this new blog thing. I just want to see what this looks like and then I have to go to bed. For those who don't know, I am a postmaster in a small town in a small state. I hope to share with you regularly things that you will be able to relate to or to make you smile. This is new to me and I just want to see how it goes.
Hopefully, I'll be back tomorrow--if I can find the website. (ha ha)