Christmas Card Greetings

Yesterday I finally dressed, and took my Christmas cards to the post office. I needed stamps and while there I bought them, stuck them on the letters, and mailed them. It was the first time I did anything productive after my minimally invasive procedure on the prostate. I hate to think what the recovery would be like had I opted for one of the invasive procedures. Nevertheless, I felt good enough to drive to the P.O. On the way there I began think about how I started sending Christmas cards, why do I do it?

The answer is pretty simple, I do it because my parents did it, and my wife Barbara’s parents did it. I remember as a kid watching my parents team up at the dining room table to hand write, stuff, and lick envelopes. My parents had many friends and they all exchanged cards for the holiday.

That got me to thinking who the heck invented the Christmas card in the first place. History tells me that before 1843 the upper crust British were in the habit of writing lengthy holiday letters to friends. They would then send a servant to hand carry the greeting to the friend. Then in 1843, along came Henry Cole who worked for the newly invented postal service. His job was to encourage people to use the new service. It was he who invented the very first Christmas greeting card on a single piece of heavy paper. On it he printed a traditional holiday scene, and a Christmas Greeting. These cards were printed and pre-posted with a stamp and called the penny postal, and thus the snow-ball started rolling down the hill.

The volume of cards sent by mail is diminishing rapidly as folks are opting to send electronic messaging over the printed card. The U.S.Postal Service, however still sells Christmas stamps. When they started this tradition the stamp depicted only a Christian scene. This year I had a choice between six designs depicting 2022 holiday seasons, and three from last year as well, and twelve more new commemoratives. At sixty cents each stamp, I shelled out $120 bucks for two hundred stamps and the USPS got that much richer.

At one time I would have bought many more just to add to my collection, but since I am faced with disposing of said collection I have learned that stamp collecting, even though it still does exist is no longer popular. My collection dates back to 1947 when I began at the urging of Sister Flora my fourth grade teacher. All I know is that many foolish people like me spend more money than necessary on stamps for their collections. All of them believing it is a good investment and will grow in value. I have yet to see a collector sell his collection at over face value.

When Dad and Mom sent their cards the postage was three cents, today, it is twenty times higher at sixty cents.

Since I am wrestling with the idea of no longer sending cards through the mail, I will test an idea out on you my BLOG readers. Here is my 2022 Christmas letter to you as a friend.

                                      December 18, 2022

Dear Friend:

I love reading Christmas letters. Friends report their activities, and those of their children and grandchildren. When I don’t see a friend for a long time reading all of those details makes me happy. Many times, I learn that someone has moved and I didn’t know it, or worse that a friend died. Watching families grow and shrink are all a part of this magnificent life God has granted us. That is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus each year, because we love Him, and we see His love in the families we know.
My own life is not very exciting anymore, not that it ever was, but things are slowing down. I haven’t traveled since 2016, except to drive to the Grumpa Joe family reunion in Covert. Otherwise, I drive the same car, live in the same house, eat the same food, sleep the same hours, and drink red wine with the same terrific friends. Even my plan to move into an apartment changed, and instead, I did some remodeling by finishing the basement.
The kids are doing well. Jacque has passed the five-year mark with her cancer, but she continues to develop side effects which the doctors can’t decide are from the cancer, or her radiation treatment. As poor as she feels, she insists on visiting her dad most every Sunday. Her two kids are out of the nest, Jenna started college and Joey works as a chef. My oldest son Steve turned 60 this year. I can’t believe he is just a few years away from retirement. His oldest son Ben started college, he’s headed toward pharmacy. God knows I can use another pharmacist to keep me straight with my collection of pills, Bradley continues in high school. Michael the youngest is also an empty nester. Dana and Abbey moved to the towns they work in, and Dan finished his degree in Astro-engineering, but signed up for a master’s degree. He wants to keep on learning more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.
Lovely and I invited her grandson Gerry to come and live with us, and by golly he accepted. That means my family is growing again. Barbara celebrates her twentieth year in heaven, Peggy her fourth, and I left Panduit for retirement twenty years ago.
Work on intarsia art has slowed down because of the remodeling, but will resume again soon. One thing I did was to build myself a shop with walls, lights, outlets, and shelves to keep things neat. Note, I didn’t make a home-made Christmas card this year. During the summer, I help Lovely with her vegetable garden tending to pickles and cucumbers which I call the Pickle Factory. She makes dill pickles nearly every day of the summer. That girl loves her pickles (so do I).
After fifteen years I resigned from the Lions Club board of directors, but remain active as a plain Lion. Instead, I joined the Board of Directors for OASIS a support group for people with vision impairment. So many things to do, and so little time or energy to do them.
For once I have put up my outside Christmas lights before the temp dropped below freezing. In years past I hated the frozen fingers and ears, but loved the Vodka warmups. This year I just loved the Vodka.
Here is wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

With all our love,

Grumpa Joe & I.

I Remember Eddie

All the latest news about how poorly our mail service does has reminded me of my first recollections of the same service. Today, we complain about how much it costs to run the department, how long it takes to get a letter, and how often we find boxes of undelivered mail lying about in secret stashes. I will use a cliche to make my point, back in the good old days getting mail was considered sacred. Remember the old creed “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”? Today, it is still somewhat a sacred bond to deliver the mail, but it is no where near to the service we once had.

My first bone of contention is related to the position of the mailbox. In my home town of Chicago the mailboxes were mounted to the front of the house next to the door. Some doors had mail slots instead of boxes, and your mail was delivered to the interior of your home. Of course they couldn’t do that in the rural areas where homes are often many yards back from the road so the USPS allowed farmers to have post boxes along the road side. When did a suburban community become a rural farm?

My parents were poor and had a very small home in the city. The houses were two feet apart. In the modern vernacular that is known as urban density.

Our mailman’s name was Eddie. Do you remember your first mailman’s name? No? Probably because you never see him when he flys by in his cute little USPS delivery van and pokes his hand out the window into your box. Back in the nineteen forties and fifties, mailmen (Women who delivered mail were scarce back then) carried all their deliverables in a heavy leather pouch that he slung over his shoulder onto his back. He carried a hand full of mail that had been pre-sorted and gathered together in the order of delivery. The man or woman in the delivery van also use this system. It seems to work better when all the mail is bunched by address in the same order as the houses on the street. We knew Eddie because he knocked on the door to let us know when he put something important into your box. My mother was a very personable woman and made friends with him soon after meeting him.

Eddie’s first deliver was in the morning. When his leather bag was empty at the end of the street he was in front of a drop box. He opened the box with a special key that hung from his belt. Inside the box was more mail. After filling his pouch he went back to delivering. After lunch, Eddie made a second round of deliveries, and this happened six days a week. Today, the service is limited to one delivery a day to a box at the curb.

Back then, most mail we received came from someone we knew with news of the family. Today, I picked up six pieces of mail. Of the six, four were vanilla grade advertising flyers and two were important to me, namely bills. Yesterday, all the mail was of the type I label as junk-mail. Most mail is junk these days, and for this reason the USPS is seventy-eight billon dollars in arrears this budget season. If my math is correct every citizen of the US now owes the USPS $260 on top of what they normally spend in the budget year.

One year, I remember Mom gifting Eddie with some Bantam hen eggs for his kids. He was amazed at how small they were. Eddie could not stop thanking Mom for these eggs. Their friendship became really solid after that gift. I don’t remember when Eddie retired but after he did we never saw him again.

Evolution overcame the USPS and slowly the twice a day deliveries were stopped, Bags carried on the back lost out to bags on a carts, and eventually in the nineteen eighties the carts lost out to the zippy little Grumman vans designed especially for delivering mail.

Stamp collecting was huge hobby in the fifties. I began in the fourth grade and stopped collecting in the eighties or nineties. Today, I am pondering how to deal with the collection. People my age are flooding the market with old stamps in their collections making them valueless. I heard rumor that collectors who bought entire sheets of stamps as an investment are getting as little as thirty cents on the dollar for them. Talk about losing your ass, that is one sure way to do it, buy a stock for ten dollars and sell it for three. Have you ever wondered why some junk mail comes with a block of old stamps of small denominations? It is because people can buy the stamps cheap and the USPS has to deliver the letter as long as it has the correct amount of postage on it.

When I collected, I often thought the USPS was missing the boat. I thought they were dumb for not issuing more new stamps than they did, because collectors buy the things just to look at them, the postal service never has to provide any service for all those stamps they sold making collector stamps a huge profit. I would have provided collectors with special service above and beyond that of regular mail because other than selling me the stamp they didn’t have to do a single thing for that money.

Anyway, we find our selves debating how and when we will cover the 78 billion dollar shortage.

Is Man A Lessor Life Form?

Logo of the United States National Park Service

Logo of the United States National Park Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in March, 2011 I published a cartoon about this very irony. What sense do we make to the world, or to the universe, by contradicting ourselves so stupidly. Unless we mean that man is a lessor life form than other animals on planet earth.


A lesson in irony.

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud of the fact it is distributing the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.” Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.

This ends today’s lesson.


Thanks Dennis for reminding me how stupid our government is.