Mailboxes and mail carriers and snow

We don’t get snow like this where I live now, but we did in the northeast U.S.A. where I grew up. This meme (below) shows thoughtfulness for the mail man!

With these curbside mailboxes, the mail man drives and can put the mail in the box from his driver’s seat. Where I live now (southeast), this type of mailbox – at the curb/street – is very common, even in town, in residential neighborhoods with many houses. Where I grew up, this type of mailbox you saw mostly in rural areas. In town, the mailboxes were attached to your house – either on the front porch or your front door had a mail slot – and thus the mail man walked from house to house carrying a bag of mail.

* P.S. I suppose calling this person the “mail man” is outdated, but it is still what comes to mind. Other options would be: mail carrier, postal carrier, mail woman, mail man, etc.

When I visited Finland, I got to see a mail woman that delivered the mail via bicycle. See here.

The problem with effortless communication

A pen pal in England sent me a print article from a magazine entitled: “The lost art of letter writing. Why handwritten letters are enjoying a renaissance.”  It highlighted how COVID-19 has gotten some people back to sending messages by postal mail, and while digital and postal communication can co-exist, sometimes a letter is better! The article mentions the various tangible and personal aspects of postal letter writing that set it apart.

One point in the article that I’d not considered in such a direct way before was: connecting with people now-a-days is effortless. For example, you just click “like” on someone’s social media post or Instagram photo. And while a “like” can be valid and say “I see you” to someone, it requires very little of the person who clicked like. It is also impersonal, especially if that is the only way you respond to the news or photo that they shared.

The word effortless. Do we really feel cared for when the only way someone communicates with us is effortless? I’ve read articles about how there is a loneliness epidemic (not related to COVID lock downs, but before COVID too) despite all the so-called communication taking place with cell phones and over the internet. Many have likely not thought about why they feel lonely despite communicating so much, and I think it is the lack of effort and lack of a personal touch in relationships.

Someone quoted in the article says that when she moved away she wanted to keep in touch with friends in a more detailed and personal way. She wanted her friends to know how much they meant to her, and taking the time and effort to write postal letters would demonstrate that. Note: the time and effort. Giving someone “the gift” of your time and effort sends “a message” that you matter to them.

Of course, a postal letter is not the only way to be more personal and indicate that you genuinely care about someone. It is possible to make online or digital communication more personal. Instead of just clicking “like” how about…sending a private message, leaving a thoughtful comment, etc. This is at least more personal and takes a little more of your thought and time. Take it a step further and postal mail them a card, or make a phone call, in response to special news that they shared on social media.

There is a saying that “it is the thought that counts” but if your communication methods – of whatever type – require little thought from you and only a brainless click? Well, there is no thought to count!

Do you like the IDEA of letter writing but perhaps not actually doing so?

A fairly common complaint I observe is that someone agrees to begin a pen pal friendship, but then never actually writes! One individual sent the first letter but never gets a reply. On occasion, perhaps the receiver realized they did not “connect” with or have enough in common with the writer, but I think that is the case only occasionally. More often than not, I think the problem is…

Someone liked the IDEA of letter writing more than actually doing so.

Someone liked the IDEA of finding letters in their mailbox, but didn’t quite consider the effort or needed commitment to find such letters in the mailbox.

It takes time and effort to write a letter. You must sit down with a pen and paper, do a little thinking and contemplating, decide what to write, and then actually begin writing. It involves quieting yourself and focusing, in a world that so often has us distracted and busy. And to form a friendship by mail it takes commitment and dedication, that is, continuing to write in the future even if life circumstances change.

Related to this, is knowing your “pen pal limit” – How many pen pals can you write and be able to keep up, answering with a quality letter in a reasonable time frame? This will vary from person to person. My personal pen pal limit has typically been 15-20, but yours could be much less or more.

How much free time do you have? How much energy do you have? How much do you really like writing?

How much do you enjoy associated things like stationery, note cards, etc? Some of us just love stationery and related hobbies like paper crafts.

These are all important things to consider. Realistically, you may only want 1 or 2 pen pals, while someone else can handle 15-20.

If you are new to pen pals, start slow. Add 1 or 2 new pen pals at a time. If you are keeping up, add 1 or 2 more. Etc. Eventually you’ll realize you have reached your limit.

Writing pen pals has made a comeback in recent years, but before jumping in make sure you like more than the IDEA of it, but have considered the time and effort involved as well.

Letter writing…quality vs quantity

I’m a life-long pen pal, and certain pen pals say they want “long letter” pals. This does not (usually) mean the person wants to exchange 10 page letters, but that they are not interested in brief letters that only contain superficial thoughts about the weather. They want letters with more effort and depth, that are more than “I did this and I did that” but also share thoughts/ideas, and interact with the letter received.

However, it is not necessarily the length of a letter that makes it worthwhile. Over the years, I’ve received a variety of letters. I’ve gotten letters that were:

very long but Iow quality
and
brief letters that were high quality.

How so?

For example, very long letters that were nothing but monologue – “I did this and I did that” with no dialogue whatsoever. These letters can read more like a diary entry, a record of what someone has done, and lack a personal touch. Even after receiving such letters for a while, the person remains a stranger to me. I know what they have done, but not who they are.

And then there are letters much briefer by comparison, but are a blend of personal news, responding to the letter received with thoughts or questions, and sharing personal feelings or ideas about something in life. After receiving such letters for a while, I feel like I am really getting to know this person. In other words, a friendship is developing! I have a sense of who they are as a person.

So…perhaps the point is to not get hung up on the length of a letter, but to keep quality in mind as well.  I’d rather receive 3 page personal letters where a friendship is growing, than 10 page letters where the person remains a stranger.

 

 

 

My postal scale

This is my digital postal scale that I’ve had since the late 1990’s. I think it was a gift from my husband. It still works great. The only small problem is a little dark blob in the left side of the digital area, but it does not interfere with seeing the weight.

A postal scale is so very worthwhile, as I can keep adding things to the envelope until I max out the weight for up to 1 ounce! (Many pen pals like to enclose things with their letters. See here.) Or if I am knowingly going over an ounce, I can add the additional ounce stamp. I always keep a variety of stamp denominations on hand, so I can try to get exactly or close to the amount of postage needed. Truly, a digital postal scale can help you be frugal, and get the most for your money when sending enclosures.

After using a postal scale for years, I’ve actually gotten pretty good at accurately guessing weight myself! I may not get it exactly right, but can tell – for example – that “this is on the edge for a first-class stamp” – and when I weigh it, it is .9, 1, or 1.1 ounce. Yes, right on the edge.

Anyways, I consider my postal scale an essential item. If it breaks, I will get a new one! Whatever would I do without it?

Pen Pal 101

*This post is a bit long but perhaps scan down it, to see what interests you. There are brief thoughts and links about questions related to letter writing and pen pals.*

Recently I joined a pen pal group on social media, and observing is interesting! Many of those posting are only looking for a pen pal because they are stuck at home due to COVID-19. I wonder if their interest will remain after this is over? Also, it is amusing how little some know about the postal system, as they ask really rudimentary questions about postage. Wow, someone does not know that? I am not making fun, but just amused, since I’ve routinely used the post for 35 years.

Some questions are understandable, and there have been some good ones about letter writing. What do I write in a first letter? How long should a letter be? How often do I write? How many pen pals should I have? Etc. It is great to see people being re-introduced to the idea of letter writing.

I saw an article that said people are talking on the phone more during COVID-19, wanting to hear the voice of others.

In the past I’ve read about increased loneliness in modern times, despite the ease of communicating by text, e-mail, and social media. Many of these modern methods lack a personal touch, and people can still feel isolated despite all the “communicating” taking place. There is indeed something more personal about communicating via a tangible handwritten letter, or hearing someone’s voice on the phone, or getting together in person for coffee.

But regarding some of those basic questions about letter writing, here are brief answers or links to past posts on Postman’s Treasure:

Writing the first letter to a potential new pen friend. A first letter will be lopsided towards you, as you introduce yourself, yet even a first letter can contain dialogue. Also, you are introducing yourself, not sharing your autobiography! haha. Just try to write enough that they get a general idea about who you are.

A letter should be a dialogue, not a monologue. In this post, I share quotes from pen pal ads, where the pen pals express their desire for conversational letters.

♦  How long should a letter be? It is common in the pen pal world for pals to say they want “long letter” pen pals. This does not (usually) mean the person wants to exchange 10 page letters, but rather that they are not interested in overly brief letters that only contain thoughts about the weather. They want letters with more effort than that, more sharing, more depth, etc.

♦ How often should I write? Generally, among pen pals, it is one-for-one. You mail a letter, and then wait for a reply before writing again. Most pen pals prefer regular correspondence. I prefer pen pals that can reply to my letter within 4-6 weeks. I’ve had a couple blog posts related to this:

When you stop hearing from a pen friend. What if you send your letter and receive no reply, even after patiently waiting a while? I encourage you to check in with your pen pal! Maybe a letter got lost, maybe your pen pal’s life has taken a turn for the worse, etc. A friend should…wonder, care, reach out. But with the reasonable expectation that sometimes a pen pal just stops writing and you never learn why.

♦ In regards to the length of time between letters: Where has all our time gone…for letter writing? As a pen pal for 35 years, I’ve noticed a change in the last 10 years or so, even among life-long pen pal enthusiasts. It seems harder to have pen pals that write regularly and consistently. Years ago, most would reply within 2-4 weeks, but now it seems stretched longer and longer, and some only write 2 or 3 times a year.

If you have written a pen pal for years, have an established friendship, and then their life changes, and they can only write a couple times a year? That is different, and I am glad they still keep in touch. But when you are trying to establish a NEW pen pal friendship, letters need to be regular and consistent for a time! It is hard to get to know someone when there is 6 months between letters! You will stay strangers otherwise.

♦ Finally, how many pen pals should you write? That will vary. Find your personal pen pal limit. How many people can you write and still have time to write a quality letter and write back in a reasonable time frame? Start with 1 or 2, and slowly add more. This is about friendship, not bulk mailing. My personal pen pal limit has typically been about 15 – 20 over the years, but your limit could be much lower or higher!

Of course, these are general guidelines, or what is typical among most pen pals. Certainly, some pen pal relationships can be different and not follow the norm!

You may write brief letters and focus on “artsy” correspondence primarily about your shared rubber stamping hobby. You may send weekly brief notes, instead of  long letters every few weeks.  As long as you and your pen friend are on the same page in regards to expectations… Happy writing!

 

Welcome to my pen pal and paper craft room

I always enjoy when a pen pal or paper crafting blogger shows photos of their desk, craft area, etc. So I thought I’d have a couple such posts. This time, my desks. I am not the best photographer of objects and better at scenery, people, etc. But here they are with descriptions. The first photo was hard to get with the window behind as there were glare issues. I am fortunate to have a room that is mostly mine. It is primarily used for my hobbies and other personal life pursuits, although there are some general household items stored in the room too.

This is my beloved roll top desk that I’ve had for many years, since 1995. It was a gift from my husband when I got my bachelors degree. This is mostly my pen pal desk, but it is also used for some household paperwork. It is generally a bit messy. I can roll down the top to hide the mess! I love all the little slots and small drawers. Much of my stationery, as well as note cards, postcards, envelopes, stickers, and address labels are in this desk.

On the right side of the desk, you can see my digital postal scale. I’ve had it since the late 1990’s, and it still works accurately. It is helpful to be able to weigh letters, and maximize the items I place in a letter without going over the weight limit for a stamp. But I do keep a variety of stamp denominations on hand so I can add extra postage if necessary. (My stamp storage tray in a below photo.)This is my rubber stamp and paper craft desk. The big flat top is a good work space. We got it used from friends who were getting rid of it. It was handmade by someone they knew, and great quality. The cubicle of storage behind (on top) was made by my husband who does woodworking. It is perfect for holding paper items. You’ll see a paper cutter to the right (a gift from my husband), and to the left are my rubber stamps in the clear drawers. I also have rubber stamps in a desk drawer, and the boxes on top have some stamps too. Oh, the world map on the wall behind. We love international travel, and on this map I place a pin on places we have traveled.

This sits on top of a storage chest in the room. I bought it at a shop that sells handcrafted items by artists. It was re-purposed. The artist took this old item, and painted and decorated it. When I saw it, I knew I had to buy it! I am not an impulse buyer and am actually frugal, but when I saw this it was special and very “me.”  My husband agreed! The top is where I put incoming mail from my pen pals. In the two little drawers I have FBs and FB making materials. If you don’t know FBs, see here.

This “mess” (although more organized than it looks!) sits on top of a file cabinet. The first is a glass tray with butterflies/flowers on it, but you can’t see that at present. This tray holds my postage stamps. I have more stamps on hand than usual for a couple reasons, and a big order of stamps I mail ordered from USPS arrived several days ago.

The tray behind holds “tuck ins” for my letters. What’s that? See here where I blogged about it. I dislike sending only a letter (although, of course, letters are the main thing!) and I always look for things to enclose with my letters…postcards, articles, tourist pamphlets, paper ephemera, etc. When I come across anything that is a potential tuck-in, I place it in the tray.

The butterfly magnets on the file cabinet? I made them. I took butterfly stickers, laminated them, and stuck a magnet on back. The butterfly stickers were a dud, they would not stick! So, I decided to do something else with them.

Well, that is all for now. I’ll have another post with several more photos.

Hallmark giving away 1 million free cards

My U.S. readers, did you know that Hallmark is giving away 1 million free cards?

Yes! I am sure they won’t last long. Sign up HERE.

As for me, I don’t need any cards. I am drowning in them! I also make cards using my rubber stamps, and I have plenty of card making supplies on hand.

*This is a free wordpress blog, therefore you will see ads. Sorry about that. I have no control over what ads you will see.*

Would your letter be a ridiculous conversation?

I’ve written a number of posts about letters being a dialogue, not a monologue, and that the pen pal hobby should not just be about “getting mail” but forming friendships.

Here is a simple idea to help you think about what constitutes a “quality” letter:

Think about getting together for coffee with a friend locally. Would you… sit down, say hello, then immediately begin talking non-stop, telling them your news, then abruptly stop, say goodbye, get up, and walk out of the coffee shop?

Of course not!! Right?! That wasn’t even a conversation.

So why would you write a letter in that way?

As you write a letter, think of it as having coffee with a friend. There should be some “back and forth” or dialogue as you write the letter. You share some of your news, then make comments about something they wrote about in their letter to you, back to something in your life, then answer or ask questions, etc. The format does not have to be exactly that, but it is an example.

Try to let the letter flow naturally, like a conversation at the coffee shop.

I may share some of the same things with each pen pal, but each letter develops a bit differently. Just like conversations will play out differently with different local friends, even when you discuss similar things with each one.

So…step back and look at your letters. Would your letters be a ridiculous conversation?

List of pen pal and letter writing resources

Letter Writers Alliance is closing down after all these years. I was never a member, and my only involvement was checking in to their blog on occasion. Yet, I will miss them! Their site remains up for now, and the last post has a great list of pen pal and letter writing resources. See it HERE while it remains up. A partial screen shot: