Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Modern Day Miracle!

Today’s technology is nothing less than a modern day miracle. Cellphones, email, webcams, blogs, & Facebook help us stay better connected these days with those we love who may live miles away or even across the globe.

As a grandmother with some out-of-state grandchildren, I wanted to find fun ways to “stay connected” with my little ones who are just a little too young to be “plugged in” right now. So I try to send fun things to them in the mail for any & all holidays. Yes, I’m talking about “snail mail” – remember the good old fashioned United States Postal Service?

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, children LOVE to get mail - especially when they get old enough to start writing & reading. We typically send some kind of treat & a holiday book, I’m a fan of reading to children & new books spark an interest in reading. Before our older grandchildren could read on their own, G’pa & I would read the book on a cassette tape & ring a bell when it was time for them to turn the page. This helped them become familiar with the sound of our voices. Our oldest grandson would get so excited - when he got a new book he would open it up, recognize what it was, then insist that his mom immediately plug it into the tape player so he could read along to his new story. Not too many cassette players out there anymore.

One of my new favorite ways to stay connected is my “Grandma’s Story Swap.” My sister-in-law gave me this fabulous idea. It is just a simple spiral notebook that she shares with her granddaughter across the country. So I started this precious little project myself. I draw a picture & write a sentence or two about it, then send it to a grandchild who would then draw a picture & tell me about it. At first, their mom’s would write it for them, but as their writing skills developed they took over the writing on their own. The stories could be about things they like to do or they could make up a little story to tell. Here’s some early samples to give you the idea.

Well, one sad day I received this in the mail…

Why was this in plastic?

I found this letter inside the plastic…

Needless to say, I-Was-Sick-To-My-Stomach! The envelope was empty! The notebook did NOT make it safely back to me in the mail. As I considered the loss of such a precious project my heart sank…but then a thought occurred to me. They sent a Zip Code, 85626 – I know where to start looking. Perhaps there is a “lost mail” department in Arizona? If there was such a thing, this bright purple notebook would be easy enough to describe or perhaps even stand out from all the other lost mail! A calm began to sweep over me. It was worth a try…

Long story, short – the Consumer Affairs department connected me with a Costumer Service representative of the appropriate post office. She was very helpful & genuinely concerned for my lost treasure. She explained the process to me but tried not to get my hopes up. Evidently my notebook was not the first casualty as a result of those mail sorting machines. The unidentified mail is sent to a certain post office where they try to determine where to send or return these unfortunate pieces of mail by the descriptions people give them when they call looking for something. But they only do this once a month so she took my name, phone number & address & promised to call me whether they found it or not.

Well, several weeks later I got a call from that same sweet representative – miraculously, they found it! I was so happy! She seemed sincerely delighted to be able to return it to me & I was thrilled to have my treasure back. I have since stamped my name & address on the inside cover & back of every notebook. I even reinforce the envelopes with clear packing tape in an effort to avoid this mishap in the future! I am relieved to report that my desert darling in AZ & I have resumed our story swappin’. I will continue to connect with my grandchildren through snail mail…at least until they outgrow the idea of writing to their grandmother. Who knows, maybe they will “friend” me on Facebook someday? Hey, it could happen.

Miracles do happen! My faith in humanity has been strengthened…well, at least my faith in the United States Postal Service has increased knowing that there are nice people out there who truly care & take their jobs seriously. Thanks to my new BFF at the Arizona Customer Service department of the USPS & all you other nice people out there – the world is a nicer place with people like you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Confessions of a retired school teacher…

When I retired from teaching school in 2005, I had hoped to finally tackle the long list of “projects” that I had been putting off until I had “TIME.” Here I am, 6 years later…my list of projects keeps growing with very little being accomplished!

At the beginning of each New Year I have this strong desire to “get organized.” Then I read this great little book Project: Organization by Marie Ricks.

The author points out that the term “getting organized” implies that organization is a destination or end result - unfortunately, I learned that organization is an on-going process - a way of life, NOT a goal that can be completed & checked off a list. I was soooooo depressed! I felt that I would NEVER get there…whereever “there” was?

Then I realized that I just needed to change my mind set. I need to “be” organized. I have come to understand that our lives are in constant cycles of organization – we move from organization to disorganization & back again in everything we do…the reality is that there are always groceries to buy, meals to fix, laundry to do, bills to pay…I just need to embrace the cycle!

I seem to spin my wheels - a lot – there are so many things I want to do that I don’t end up doing any of them because I don’t know where to start! So I turned to the most organized person I know - my wonderfully OCD, “every-second-counts” husband, the master list-maker, for the help that I needed to seriously tackle my project list. So his advice? You guessed it, start with a “list” of all the projects you want to do without regard to priority. (I was getting hung up on which project was most important before I wrote it down, silly me.)

Here is my “partial” project list. I say partial because, like organization, projects are in constant flux & new projects are continually making their way on my list, pushing the others aside as the need arises! Some projects are time sensitive & must move to the top of the list (like a birthday gift, or a Christmas gift, or a baby shower gift, etc). So basically I need to let go of the idea that ALL of my projects make it onto the “final” list because the list will continue to evolve. Oh yeah, the list:

- Copy & send the pictures I took (over a year ago) to my friend who moved to Iowa – seriously, I’m the WORST FRIEND EVER!

- Finish the holiday pillowcases for my last grandson.

- Grandson’s quilt (I decided that I would make each of my grandchildren a small quilt when they turned 8 years old. I’m only one quilt behind right now, but I have a granddaughter turning 8 in April!)

- Pioneer dresses for my granddaughters (I made them for 2 of them, so now I feel like I need to make them for the others…guilt is a terrible thing!)

- Catalogue/organize & scan ALL my favorite pictures – yes, since the beginning of time!

- Finish my personal history – another project that requires continual adjustments because I am still experiencing my history.

- Add pictures to my parents histories – at least I have their histories written already!

- Make 3 more Nativity advents for this Christmas (I ran out of time last Christmas & only completed ½ of my goal.) – I was becoming a stress-monster & decided it wasn’t worth it - the others could wait.

- I purchased fabric 3 years ago to make a special dress…I want to make that dress!

- I just took something off my list as I realized that it really wasn’t important enough to put on this list! Ha! I’m growing up…I don’t have to do it all!

- Transfer my old home videos to DVD (At least I’ve already purchased the program to do this – that’s a step in the right direction!)

- Go through the attic boxes & see if I’m ready to get rid of any of those treasures that I’ve been hanging onto for all these years.

- Figure out how to use my new serger! New toys are always fun…

- Catalogue/organize our business travel trips

- Catalogue/organize our personal travel trips – including our African safari from 1998!

- Copy the pictures from our last family cross-country Church history trip for the kids (Wasn’t that like, 2001? – I’m the WORST MOTHER EVER!)

- Geneology/family history – another one of those “on going” projects.

- “The” t-shirt quilts (I’ve been hanging onto my kids’ special t-shirts through the years to make a t-shirt quilt out of them…I’ve finished 2 of them already.)

- Finish putting pictures in the kids’ baby books (Yes, I know my baby is 24!)

UGH! I know the list is overwhelming…but I’m told that we get from here to there by putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. I have come to realize that I cannot complete any of these projects without a plan. My next step will be to find a box for each project so that I can take one of these projects out whenever I am ready to tackle one. Hopefully this will make it easier to decide which are time sensitive, maybe try to determine how long each project will take, then try to “temporarily” prioritize…because “life” happens & will inevitably determine what the list looks like on any given day.

Do you think I need to see a psychologist to determine whether or not I will go crazy if I try to do all of these projects of if I will make myself crazier if I attempt to do them all? Seriously? I do not think that I’m a quitter, but what is the real value in these projects anyway?