Mail from several centuries ago…

“Three hundred years ago, before envelopes, passwords and security codes, writers often struggled to keep thoughts, cares and dreams expressed in their letters private.
One popular way was to use a technique called letter locking — intricately folding a flat sheet of paper to become its own envelope. This security strategy presented a challenge when 577 locked letters delivered to The Hague in the Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 were found in a trunk of undelivered mail…”

Mail delivery seems to be getting back to normal…

Greetings! I had 2 posts in January about problems with timely mail and package delivery in the US. My post on Jan. 25th highlighted a NPR report about problems nationally. I meant to share this news from my local area when I saw it in early February:

WYFF 4 Investigates: Viewers voice concern over late mail in Greenville
– Viewers complained about packages sitting for days inside the Greenville USPS distribution center.

From mid autumn through January, I did not find domestic mail delivery times to be universally slow but unpredictable – some mail arriving promptly and quickly, with other items taking a while. We encountered the same with packages as the WYFF report mentions. The tracking showed some packages sitting in a facility somewhere in the US (not just in Greenville) for as long as 1-2 weeks before finally entering the delivery stream. And like someone in the article, we also had a package arrive in Greenville, then leave Greenville for Atlanta, before coming back to Greenville! What in the world? Maybe the Greenville facility was just too full?

Since late January, mail and package delivery seems back to normal. Yeah! Now I need to get some letter writing done!

I mostly ignored the letters in my “to answer” pile in January.  Partly because I just needed a break. I sent or gave out about 130 Christmas cards in December, many of which also contained a brief note or a letter.

Valentine’s Day cards…

I utilized my rubber stamps, stickers, and other paper craft supplies to make Valentine’s Day cards that I dropped off today at a local nursing home. As these COVID-19 times continue, try to think of folks that might feel particularly isolated and reach out in some way.  Here are 2 photos of the cards – about 60 of them.

More about postal delays in the USA

Regarding my last post, I just saw this news article from NPR about the delays with postal mail:

‘There’s No End In Sight’: Mail Delivery Delays Continue Across The Country

It begins:

You’ve got mail. Somewhere. Probably. The U.S. Postal Service is still digging out from under an avalanche of mail sent during the recent holiday season. But for much of the past year the postal system has been strained by the impact of COVID-19 on its workflow and workforce…

Slow and unpredictable mail delivery within the US

During most of COVID-19, mail delivery within the US (domestic) has mostly gone on as usual – no delay or only slight delays. International mail has taken longer. For example, letters to western Europe taking 6 weeks when they’d normally take about one week.

HOWEVER, domestic mail has now become wacky and slow and unpredictable since mid-autumn, getting worse around Christmas time, but still problematic in January. I know this from my personal experience, but also from “reports” people are sharing on social media and online pen pal groups.

I say wacky and unpredictable because that describes it. Some letters are arriving quickly with normal delivery times, while other letters are very slow, taking an excessive length of time. Even as long as 2 months to go from one place in the US to another! Someone I know locally in a town 30 minutes from my house sent me a card that took 10 days to arrive! Normally this would take 1-2 days. Some people are just now receiving Christmas cards sent to them in early to mid December.

This is not complaint but just stating fact. I think it is a combination of factors: postal employees getting COVID-19 and out sick or quarantined, extra mail being sent as Christmas approached with less postal staff to handle it, etc. For packages that can be tracked with a tracking number, some packages were sitting in a processing facility for literally 1-2 weeks, just sitting there, going nowhere. I also read one article that said in certain areas of the US the local USPS failed to prepare and plan ahead as they should have for extra Christmas mail so this contributed to the problem as well. For example, it said they should have hired extra trucks ahead of time and did not.

Again, the point here, is not to complain, as these are unique times. Patience is a virtue! Rather the point is: don’t give up on your pen pals. They may have promptly wrote you a letter that has simply not arrived…yet!  Keep waiting!

If you still don’t receive an expected letter after waiting a bit longer, you may want to drop your pen pal a note to check in with them. Hopefully, the post may be getting at least somewhat back to normal now that the Christmas rush is over.

Are you avoiding a hobby that you supposedly enjoy? Re-sparking creativity and fun

I know not all pen pals are involved with rubber stamping, but some of these thoughts can apply to other related hobbies. I’ve rubber stamped for – wow, thinking about it – about 27 years. My level of involvement has varied over the years, times where I have done more, less, or almost no stamping. But in the last 5 years or so, I have done more stamping than ever before, I enjoy it much more, and I think I make better quality items than in the past. Why? Several different reasons.

For one, since rubber stamping is not as popular as it was years ago, I frequently find wood block rubber stamps at thrift stores very inexpensively. I am frugal, and it has been quite exciting for me (haha) to add so many stamps to my collection so cheaply. More stamps to work with, of course, provides a bigger variety of options for card making and that spurs my interest.

But also, in the last few years, my approach to stamping changed in several ways. Often, years ago, I now realize, I was trying to imitate other’s stamping, and many did involved and complex stamping projects. I would try such things and was always disappointed when my results fell short. (Perfectionist tendencies come into play here too.) I’m also a practical person that likes things to be simpler, and the complex stamp projects were more frustrating than fun for me. In addition, I was sometimes focused on trying to make some money stamping. (Many stamp companies had/have “angel policies” where you can sell items you make with your stamps as long as you are selling handmade originals, not mass producing them.)

So, combining these things, I was stamping with the wrong approach and for wrong reasons. Instead of imitating others, I needed to find MY stamping style and niche – stamping in my own way, in a way that I enjoy, that fits my preference for simpler projects. Of course, we can learn techniques from others, but can adapt the techniques to better fit our own style.

Also, the why behind what we do is important. This quote is about writing, but can apply to other things: “Write because you love the art and the discipline, not because you are looking to sell something.” Ann Patchett

When your primary motivation is to monetize a hobby, that affects you, even if you don’t realize it. Of course, one can both enjoy something and want to make money too, but when the primary motivator is money that can stifle creativity and throw off your focus.

Perfectionist tendencies can have a similar affect, leaving you frustrated and disappointed, and those feelings are not conducive to you enjoying and developing your hobby!

Whatever the hobby is:

Be yourself. Enjoy yourself. Find your niche. Find your own style.

Sure, get ideas from others, but why feel pressured to do it just like them, especially if certain techniques are actually stressful to you, rather than fun?

And who cares if what you make isn’t “perfect”! Who defines perfect anyways? Relax. In the end, you may have better results, than if you were striving for so-called perfection.

 

Easy Way to Make DIY Cute Envelope — Otterspace Studio

I had a post about how to make envelopes. I have different templates that I utilize. However, I think the method this blogger uses is simpler and easier than my method! Check it out!

If you didn’t already know, Andit and I (owners of Otterspace Studio) currently live in different countries. We send letters to each other quite often. Yes, we definitely still contact each other via messenger, but we both love receiving snail mail, it’s like receiving an unexpected gift 😀 Someday, when I finished writing a letter, […]

Easy Way to Make DIY Cute Envelope — Otterspace Studio

New desktop decor, and literary letters

I had a post a while back featuring my office/craft room. See here. I recently changed what I have on the top of my roll top desk. Photo here:

So far, and it has been a few weeks, my cats have not knocked the items off. Yeah! The photo in the middle is original artwork by Bryana Joy. It is Gandalf and says “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”  Learn more about the work of Bryana Joy HERE.

My husband, as a gift last year, subscribed me to Bryana’s unique postal letters each month for 6 months. Here is a description from her web site, and I so enjoyed these literary letters each month, mailed with vintage postage stamps.

“The Letters From the Sea Tower are handmade monthly subscription letters that celebrate art and literature and how it matters for the Great Battle of Our Time. My aim in creating each month’s letter is to produce a work of art that fills people with courage and creativity and to contribute to the revival of beautiful, meaningful, and unique hard-copy mail. The letters are handwritten and painted by me and then carefully scanned and reprinted in my own home on heavy, archival quality, 100% cotton paper. I personalize them by hand for each recipient and mail them out monthly in an epic old-fashioned envelope with ink stamps and unique postage stamps.”

Photos below. You will note some of the postage stamps are from England as she temporarily lived in England, so some of my letters were mailed in the U.S. and some from there. I enjoyed the varying stamps!

 

A special Christmas card from overseas

I received 3 Christmas cards yesterday from England, Tasmania, and the Netherlands. The one from the Netherlands was extra special and unique. She made the card, and it came with nativity images that she drew, for you to cut out and make your own nativity scene. If I did not explain that well, the photos below should bring clarity! I could have colored the images, but decided I liked the simplicity of keeping them black and white.

“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”   Luke 2

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21

 

Send out Christmas cards this year!

I’ve never stopped sending Christmas cards by post to friends and family. Even in an age of social media, e-mail, texting (and the like) a Christmas card – especially with a brief handwritten note – is more personal and can bring a better sense of connection with another.

I think modern tech can make us lazy. We get accustomed to communicating with “everyone at once” – That is, posting an update on social media for all to see, or sending a group text or e-mail, and we communicate less with individuals. Yet, folks can still feel isolated and lonely despite all this communicating. I’ve read articles highlighting this – a personal touch is lost.

Particularly with the difficult year 2020 has been, make an effort to send out Christmas cards! Touch base with old friends or family you have been out of touch with. Send a card to those you have only “group” communicated with. Give neighbors a card. Remember anyone elderly in your life. Etc.

Write a note or brief letter with the card – share your news, but inquire about them too. While it is not necessary, you could get creative and decorate the envelope. This could be as simple as putting some holiday themed stickers on it, or rubber stamping or using washi tape. Send a real photo of yourself or your family. Wow – a tangible, developed photo rather than a digital photo shared on social media or text.

Help folks remember the pleasures of the post – the tangible and personal nature of a card in the mail – this Christmas.