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I didn’t have a lot of ideas when Paul and I started to discuss what we should do for the 2011 Christmas Card. Should it be our year in review, about the wedding or some other topic? I never thought I would be one of those people that would send out the “Christmas Letter” type of card. Quite frankly, they used to annoy me when I got them in the mail. Somehow my life just never seemed to measure up to those folks who took the time to write those yearly retrospectives.

But then, I never expected to be doing lots of things that I now do; use a magnifying glass to read small print for example, shop online or have a Facebook page. I guess the mere efficiency of the mass letter wins out over repetitive writing. Then there is the fact that times are different. Communication is different. We email, text, Facebook and stay connected as we are moving through our days, so writing a holiday card to stay in touch is old-fashioned and to many, unnecessary.

So okay, call me old-fashioned, but I actually think there is still a lot to be said for receiving a hand written note with an interesting stamp on the envelope. Of course, my note is mostly done on the computer but I do try to add a little something handwritten to each person. Whether or not anyone can actually read my writing is another matter. This year I was running so behind that many of the personal notes just didn’t happen. Of course, I don’t bake cookies and give them out anymore either. Time seems to evaporate at a rapid speed.

So this might surprise you, I actually enjoy going to the Post Office, engaging the postal clerk in light-hearted conversation (I consider this a challenge), view all the new commemorative stamps and then purchase several different kinds. I am sure this annoys all the other postal patrons since everyone today is in such a hurry. I want to look at all my choices. When I am at the counter I tune out all the other customers and focus on the stamps. Maybe it is the fact that the postal clerk has an interested consumer or just that everyone else in line has to wait, I don’t know but it is fun seeing them smile.

I bring the stamps home and decide which one goes on each envelope depending on the contents and destination. I like to think people notice. I actually think they like little things like fun postage stamps. I like to believe those little images make them smile. Seeing the stamp on the envelope is something simple that may only affect them for a few seconds, but I choose to believe it makes a difference.

Back in the day collecting postage stamps was a huge hobby and the most collected thing world-wide. It also was important where the stamp was postage marked and if it was hand cancelled. Postage is one of those items that we all come in contact with and use. Kind of like the weather we all experience it and have it in common. Not as easy to start a conversation about stamps as it is the weather, but the connection is there all the same. Of course weather can actually impact our lives, stamps just facilitate information being sent and received from person to person.

Most men seem to view commemorative stamps as unnecessary. They go straight for the flags or whatever is in a book. Nothing fancy, just a stamp to stick on an envelope and get the job done. Women on the other hand like the variety and shopping experience of choosing their designs. We develop a connection with whatever we are sending and want the appropriate stamp on the envelope. Now there are websites out there selling personalized stamps. While I think those are cool, I kind of think it is cheating. There was honor that was associated with stamp design and people couldn’t be on a stamp until they had passed. Yes, I know…old fashioned.

I must say that since the stamps have become self sticking they feel more like a sticker than a stamp. It used to be such a process to stamp all the Christmas envelopes and put them in the mail. We would get out a little dish of water, a round sponge and a cloth to keep our fingers non sticky. Now it is a breeze. That is one modern convenience that I greatly appreciate.

So this is a mundane fascination with postage I know. But I bet you look at your envelopes from now on and see what type of postage is on the upper right corner. If it is a commemorative stamp you know someone took the time to stand in line to purchase that especially for your envelope. Be appreciative and the next time someone makes a comment about the weather, ask them if they have seen those new Tiger Stamps yet?

Last year, the beginning of October, Paul and I put out our Fall and Halloween decorations inside our Lincoln home.  It is our favorite time of year and we so enjoy this ritual.  Every year we add to our collection with a few new pieces.

We don’t go overboard on the Halloween theme and focus more on the fall aspect of the season.  We tie the two seasons together with crows. We have quite a few of them in different sizes.  I started un-wrapping the crows from storage one by one.  As I un-wrapped them I began to place each one in different areas of the house; On the leaf garland over the fireplace, perched on top of Ben our grandfather clock, resting on the wreath hanging on the front door, on the landing going up the stairs, a pair flying over the dining room table and another pair pecking at the pumpkins and gourds I had placed in the family butter churn.  Each one seemed to add fun autumn energy to the house.  Paul would comment on how they brought an interesting element to the different decorations.

As I worked on decorating the house I welcomed each one back into the home.  I have a tendency to talk to things as I work with them telling them how much I enjoy them and how I appreciate them.  My thoughts were about the crows in the fields this time of year and the flock that flies in for fall and lives in the tops of the redwood trees in my Roseville neighborhood. They are only here for a short time and yet they help to create a noticeable transition from summer to fall.

As I placed the smaller ones in the butter churn I heard all the pigeons that hang out on the house next door fly away.  I turned and looked out the window and there they were….crows!  They were all lined up on the fence looking around and saying hello!  It was so very cool!  I called Paul over to look. We laughed and enjoyed the moment.  I had been calling in crow energy and they responded.  It was magical…like the morning autumn mist that lingers above the tops of the warm summer fields…it is there… but you must look quickly before it dissipates into the day.

Last year, the crows did not visit us again after that first day.  I was honored that they responded to our welcome call. This year, we were gone for the first part of October and were late in placing our decorations.  The crows had already moved on.

Fall shows up in so many different ways. For the first time in a few years, there were cobwebs floating in the air. I am not sure what makes this phenomenon occur but it is both cool and odd. I remember one year as it was happening, I had a manager come into town to work with me. As we drove around the area, he saw all the large webs, some with particles from the cottonwood trees attached to them, floating through the air.  They crossed our path several times as we were walking and while in our vehicle. It freaked him out.  I just laughed. I have lived here so long I guess it has become normal to me. He could not wait to get back on his plane later that day and away from the webs.

We have been lucky this year that the autumn rain and wind have been minimal allowing the leaves to linger on the trees, shimmering with all their different colors and looking like stained glass windows throughout the city.  The air is crisp, the sky is blue and the reds, yellows and oranges of the leaves dance for our wonderment. Fall is definitely in the air, but the crow energy is gone for now.  We will have to wait until next year to call them in and say hello.

There have been a couple of times in my life where I have been transported from the here and now to a different place and time.  Where I turned and looked at a certain view and felt as if I was in a portal to another world, another place, another time.

One of these experiences happened on the first Saturday of August of 2008.  I was driving around Lake Tahoe with some friends and the weather was lovely.  We stopped in King’s Beach to stretch our legs and look at an Art Fair that was happening lakeside. I strolled alone looking at the different artists and enjoying myself.  I came to the end of the art exhibits and went a little further before I turned to go back to join my friends.  I stopped briefly and turned to look out at the Lake and breathe it in.

There before me was this amazing scene that I could only describe as otherworldly.  It was beautiful, enchanting and mesmerizing.  The temperature was about 79 degrees, there was a breeze coming across the lake, boats were tethered and riding the waves, people were on the beach playing and sitting under colorful umbrellas and others were riding jet skis amidst the white caps.  As I looked out across the alpine lake the vista was spectacular.  I just stood there in a trance unable to move, drinking it in.  I felt as if I were in a painting or a movie and like Alice, if I were to step on the sand I would disappear into the scene.

I pulled myself out of the trance and headed back to join my group.  One of my friends was walking towards me.  I grabbed him and said “I have something to show you.”  He followed me and when I was again at the exact spot I had him turn around and look. “Just look” I said. He stood there and said the exact same thing that had come into my mind. “It is otherworldly. I feel transported.  This is amazing.”  Neither of us wanted to leave.

The memory of that experience lingers in my mind. I have been back several times over the years to the same place and alas, the portal is gone. On that one day, it was simply perfect. I have tried viewing it from other spots on the beach, but none have the same effect as that one specific location on that particular day.  A perfect moment in time, a portal to another world where happiness and joy dance on the waves and sail through the air filling our hearts and souls with their bounty.

Now that summer is here I find myself wearing lots of linen and cotton, both fabrics that look better when ironed. I love to iron. There is something very soothing about ironing. The scent of the steam as it hits the clean cloth. The immediate satisfaction of something wrinkled becoming freshly pressed. I can get lost in ironing. My mind relaxes and I just let it drift. It is one of those chores that accomplishes something and at the same time allows me to let go and process my thoughts.

I like to use a small bottle of lavender water to spray my clothes with as I iron. I enjoy the smell and it is kind of nostalgic and almost indulgent. I iron in batches mostly. I wait until I have a large grouping then haul it all out and do it all at once. Sometimes I am really indulgent and I watch a chick flick while I iron.

My fiancé on the other hand irons everyday. He likes to have his clothes freshly pressed right before he puts them on. He uses magic sizing instead of lavender water but the smell of the steaming iron as it glides over his clothes still makes me smile. Well that and the fact that he actually irons his own clothes.

In this modern world where everything happens so fast ironing is kind of a throw back. It takes a bit of time, there are no short cuts and the basic iron hasn’t changed too much over the years. I like that. I take comfort in that. A heavy stainless steel iron with steam is still the best bet.

The ironing board is an important piece as well. It needs to be adjustable, padded well and good sized. If the pad is not thick enough you can get the imprint from the ironing board on your clothes. That is not good. It isn’t as easy finding a good board these days as it is a good iron. I like to use both ends of the board. Sometimes the back end of the board is perfect for the shoulders of a shirt.

My mom taught me how to iron. There is a proper sequence to ironing. Well at least there is my proper sequence; Shirt collar, then sleeves, front lapel, front sides, shoulders and back. I don’t really vary too much except sometimes I do half of the front then do the back and then finish up the other side of the front. Pants are harder to do because you have to get the seam right down the front. I am fairly picky about how the piece looks once I hang it up and look at it. If it isn’t right I take it off and put it back on the ironing board.

When I was growing up I liked to watch my mom iron. It was a chore for her but I liked to see all the clothes get hung up on the little rack she kept next to the ironing board. Her dresses (they called them shifts) and my dad’s work shirts hung right next to each other. My mom liked to sew when I was growing up and made most of her shifts. When I was quite young she made my clothes too. We had lots of shifts that matched. I loved that! Both of our dresses were hanging next to my dad’s chambray work shirts…ahh…the simple things that make an impression on our young minds.

My aunt took in ironing to help support herself while I was growing up. When my mom and I would visit her she would be standing in her family room ironing other people’s clothes while we visited. It was interesting and kind of cool to get a glimpse into other people’s closets. She made decent money at it and I think she kind of enjoyed it. It gave her time to think or watch television as she worked. The tools were easy to put away and it was inexpensive to operate. She was able to stay home with the kids and yet bring in spending money.

Ironing is about feeling good about what we are wearing and being presentable to the world. It is about positive self image and it is about doing a chore, seeing results and relaxing the mind. All good things… I like that.

My mom is the record keeper in our family. She is the one we go to if we want to know something. I use the term record keeper because she keeps track of family information and details. She has all the childhood illness data, vital stats like births, marriages, divorces and deaths as well as the family genealogy history. My mom keeps these records and information in files. It expands from this type of information to more mundane day to day stuff.  My mom has kept a diary for as long as I can remember.

No juicy secrets in these pages, just the basics like the weather, what she and dad did that day, a new purchase noted perhaps and an interesting tidbit here and there. My mom has taken notes on the normal stuff life is made up of and has tucked them away in these handwritten pages.

Many times we refer back to these pages to check on what we did at certain holidays, or when the garden was planted, when harvest started or when repairs were made.  It may seem boring but as she starts to look back through the pages and read her notes it brings back memories.  It reminds us of what we have been through and the threads that tie us together.  It is comforting to me, to know the information is there.  As we age and life becomes full of details our memories of past days fade and we forget the small things that make up our lives.  It serves us to remember that the ordinary is extraordinary.

The fact that she has done this for so long speaks to her discipline.  I admire it and respect it.  I haven’t written a diary.  I keep records in files but not a handwritten accounting of days.  That practice is a commitment to life and to family. Documenting a normal human existence through the eyes of a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend and creating a family history book is sacred.

Recently, I found an autograph memory book that my mom had given me a while back. It was my paternal grandmother’s.  It is a treasure.  The book is small, orange velvet with ivory flowers on the outside. On the inside are well wishes, poems and signatures from my grandmother’s parents, sister, cousins, teachers and friends, all in their own handwriting by fountain pen.  The book covers from elementary school through college. It is remarkable to hold such a wonderful piece of history. Reading the written words from their own hand I can feel their personalities leap off the page.

Neither my mom nor grandmother set out to provide written snapshots into their lives. Yet they did.  What a wonderful gift. It is the people and their stories that give life meaning and interest. My family like most has great characters and stories filled with drama, success, sadness, fun, illness and heartache. It is the compilation of these great individuals and their journeys that offers us strength and wisdom. Handwritten notes of day to day living, love letters to life.

©2011 Lisa Prunier, High Road Post

Recently I was reorganizing my garage and found some tax documents that were ready to be shredded. You know, past the seven year mark so it was time for them to go. I am the type of person who likes to clear out the clutter. I am not an over achiever in this arena but probably better at it than most. So I was kind of surprised to find these boxes of documents still up in my garage. They had been moved out of sight so when I read the dates on the boxes I was shocked to find they were nine, ten and eleven years old.

My life has changed a lot over the last eleven years. I am aware of this of course but as I delved into the boxes to begin shredding it became apparent that not just my life has changed. Life in general has changed. Some changes happen instantly and others incrementally, they kind of sneak into your life while you watch.

As I began to sift through the papers it occurred to me as technology is developed and we begin to introduce and implement it into our daily lives slowly our way of living changes. We develop new habits and our behaviors change. Our children (entire generations) have no point of reference to what has come before and probably no real appreciation for the technology and comforts they now know as the standard way of living. I am sure my parents and grandparents felt the same way about my generation.

I am a woman in her early fifties. Not old but not young either. I tell you this to let you know I have a few decades of history here on earth. Merely a snapshot in time in evolutionary comparisons, I know. Yet as I began to pull documents out to start shredding I was reminded of events that have transpired over the last eleven years. I found papers that were from my career at that time and I reminisced about the job, co workers, trips to Chicago and how long ago that all seems. The company I worked for is no longer in business and the industry has all but disappeared. It starts to sink in how very different life is now, entire industries fading away while others come to life creating our current world.

I dug into the box and opened up another envelope. I found carbon copied credit card receipts that have the entire credit card numbers on them. This was an acceptable practice back then. We trusted that no one was going to steal our credit card number and with few exceptions for many years this was the case. We really didn’t worry about identity theft. I am sure it happened but it wasn’t as common or as easy. Then I remembered being asked if you would like the carbon copy ripped up? Or we would rip them up and leave the pieces behind! Paying by credit card has evolved in so many ways.

My phone bills reminded me of phone companies that no longer exist. Cell phones had just transitioned from being car phones (I kind of like to think of them as land lines for your car) to being what they are now, in many households replacing the traditional home phone. A few years ago there were hardwired car phones and an entire industry for installing them in your car and now we have laws that say no cell phone usage while driving or hands free only.

People are talking everywhere about everything (disturbingly many times about things way too personal). Slowly our personal space became invaded with other people’s private conversations. This is an odd thing you are walking through the middle of a stranger’s life story without context and can at times feel guilty for listening.

Looking over my old phone bills it occurred to me text messaging had not yet started and we were okay not having it. Text messaging is now a great form of communication.

Okay, I had so much to shred I burnt up my shredder! Have you noticed that shredders are treacherous and have an odd smell to them? Shredding is now a common practice that was not prevalent eleven years ago. We shred our junk mail, our documents, old credit cards and just about any piece of paper we think might possibly allow someone to steal information from us. Yet, we post tons of personal information on the internet (sometimes as we are actually doing the activity we are posting about) giving people a detailed itinerary of our daily lives and then we link it to all of our family and friends.

In one of the boxes I found invoices from one of my first Internet Providers, it is no longer in business of course. Computers were around but not yet as integral to our daily lives. Today I use my computer for everything, I have my own website, I wouldn’t be able to communicate without email and I would be lost without my PC or my laptop! It seems I have adapted.

I do think all of this technology adds a level of immediacy to our lives. I believe this creates unreasonable expectations for responses. This can all be very stressful. Sometimes immediately reacting or responding is not the best course of action. Sitting with something and processing the information can offer better insight.

You may wonder how I got all of this from a box of tax documents waiting to be put through the shredder. Well in a word, paper, a real piece of evidence linking us to our history. A paper trail of documents etched with personal handwriting that represents a way of living that no longer exists on many levels. A trip down memory lane for me and an acknowledgment of being a participant in what we call progress. As I sent each piece through the shredder I saw my not so distant past move into a bygone area…a time past. There is definitely a part of me that misses it and a part that embraces the change and evolution. I do wonder though, if we shred our link to the past and no longer chronicle our personal history how will future generations come to know us and our stories?

©2011 Lisa Prunier, High Road Post

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