The Etiquette of a Condolence Letter

Recently, the need arose for me to write a condolence letter.  Over the years, I have sent many cards and notes to friends who had suffered a loss, but this time was different.  It was a friend who died, a friend with whom I had been out of touch for several years.  I did not know her family or how to contact them, yet it felt important to reach out to them. Handwritten notes As a first step, I contacted the senior living community where she had been living, in an upscale city located to the…

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Mail Trucks of the Future

Have you ever wondered how many mail trucks are owned by the United States Postal Service, or how old they are?  The short answer is “a lot, and very old.” Approximately 140,000 of the familiar old Grumman mail trucks, created in 1989, are currently on the road, and their average age is over 27 years old. Prototype of new mail truck by Oshkosh Defense As part of the modernization efforts of the USPS, Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense was awarded a $482 million contract to design and plan new mail trucks over the next ten years, the first…

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Ponzi Scheme and Stamps

A certain type of fraud that dates back centuries, known as a Ponzi scheme, derived its name from a deception involving stamps in the early 20th century.  According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a Ponzi scheme is “an investment swindle in which some early investors are paid off with money put up by later ones in order to encourage more and bigger risks.”  Investors are led to believe that their investment is yielding unrealistically high returns.  Despite the 20th century adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” billions of dollars have…

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Landscapes of the Suspense Novel

Brooding landscapes are often a staple of the suspense novel.  In some cases, the shadowy, mysterious house at the center of a country estate is a key character.  Perhaps it is haunted by the ghost of a sophisticated, beautiful, deceased first wife.  Rebecca, by the late Daphne Du Maurier, is a modern classic.  Most suspense novels use scene to set a foreboding mood. Suspense novels In John Banville’s Snow (Handover Square Press, 2020), his first mystery novel written without a pen name, the setting is bleak rather than menacing.  A violent, desecrating murder takes place in…

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Creating chaos at the U.S. Postal Service
Mailbox, Annapolis, MD

Creating chaos at the U.S. Postal Service

Multiple crises over the past year created an unprecedented level of chaos at the U.S. Postal Service.  The service has been disrupted by political disputes over mail-in ballots; removal of street mail boxes, mail sorting machines, and barcode readers; COVID-related illnesses among postal employees; and a much higher volume of mail and packages due to the pandemic.  Some of the causes of chaos were deliberate and avoidable. First, there was the dispute over mail-in ballots.  Due to the pandemic, many voters chose to cast their ballots by mail rather than wait in long lines to vote…

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What to Wear (to an Inauguration)

Every morning when I wake up, my first thoughts lie with making a cup of coffee, not on what to wear that day.  This is a reversal from the many years of a working life, where the pace of the early morning was always fast and the day’s clothing might be decided and perhaps even laid out the night before. These days, while staying at home, the choices about what to wear have become much easier.  I have yoga pants, sweatpants, hiking pants, tights, and an assortment of shirts, long-sleeved athletic tees, sweatshirts, and sweaters.  Whether…

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Pandemic Puppies and Other Pets
Napoleon, Lilah, Cassidy and Roxie

Pandemic Puppies and Other Pets

Relief from stress is never far away when aided by the recent rise of pandemic puppies and other pets.  A few chewed shoes or slippers, a few accidents on the new carpet become nothing as these puppies become part of the family.  Until a few years ago, Napoleon, a shaggy, sandy little ball of fluff, was the only dog on the block.  True to his name, he ruled his small cul-de-sac, roaming from house to house, yard to yard, smelling the flowers and the scents left behind by other dogs, and occasionally, skunks or raccoons.  But…

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Politics and Pandemic

Land's End, San Francisco At last, there is good news on the horizon, a promise that a year dominated by politics and pandemic will soon be over.   Politics never go away, but hopefully, the days will become calmer now that the November presidential election is finally over and a new administration is on the horizon.   With two new vaccines rolling out, there also is hope that the pandemic will subside in the first half of 2021.  Election years are always difficult, but 2020 was a doozy.  It was a brutal year in almost every way possible. …

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Dear Family & Friends: A Holiday Letter by Eileen Shields

Dear Family & Friends, Yes, you read that right. This is a “Dear Family & Friends” holiday letter.  Before I get into the nits and grits that tells you all about the wonder that is me, I thought I should do a bit of research about how best to approach these broad swinging missives.  Surely there are rules laid down for writing one all-encompassing letter to Everyone I Know.  I’m not quite sure what has possessed me to undertake this wholesale approach to communication and it remains a bit of a mystery of how I actually…

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For the Price of a Stamp

For the price of a stamp (Global International, $1.25), I can send a letter or card to my cousins in Switzerland and Canada.  The 2020 Global stamp features a beautiful chrysanthemum.  For the price of a stamp (Forever, domestic, 55 cents), I can send a note, thank you, condolences, and other messages to anyone in the country.  For the price of a stamp, I can honor history, celebrate musicians, view gardens, national parks, and other landscapes.  For the price of a stamp, I can acquire a beautiful piece of art.  For the price of a stamp…

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