Archive for February, 2012

Fliyin’ high?

I have a love-hate relationship with the U.S. postal service.  I love our mail carrier, Merideth, even though the P.O. has made a bunch of really dumb changes that cause her to now work out of the Forsyth office, ten miles away, rather than the Rockaway Beach office, five miles away.  On the few occasions when I actually have to go to a post office, I always go to Rockaway.  Stacy, the former postmaster there, and I were on a first name basis for years, and I also have a good relationship with her replacement, Rose.  Rose doesn’t actually process our mail anymore – a sad thing – but when I call and say, “Hey, this is Patty in Walnut Shade and I’ve got a question,” she’s always happy to hear my voice and get me the information I need.  I’ve never been to the Forsyth post office; in fact, I don’t even know where it is.  But that’s where our mail comes from now, and that’s who I’m supposed to call if I have a problem.

Merideth is great, and for years she has gone out of her way to give us excellent service.  We appreciate that a lot!  One of the things she’s done for me a zillion times is to pick up my out-going packages.  We mail a lot of packages.  I’m a member of a book-swapping club, and I probably mail out a book every two or three weeks on average.  Then there are packages to a daughter in college and packages to a daughter on the mission field, and, as Rose told me the other day, our family is the second-biggest postal customer in Walnut Shade!

A few years back, the postal service made a rule that all packages bearing stamps and weighing over 13 ounces had to be mailed at a post office.  I thought that was a stupid rule, and I continued to put my stamped packages out in our box, and Merideth continued to pick them up.  We both just ignored the rule and, for as long as she worked out of Rockaway, everyone was happy.  The technical work-around was that the carrier was allowed to pick up such packages if she knew the sender.  Well, suffice it to say that Merideth knows our whole family very well!  She even brings Andrew Tootsie Pops!  No problem.

Until a couple weeks ago, when I put out a paperbackswap book that weighed a pound and half, or thereabouts, with stamps on it as always, and it came back the next day with a handwritten note from Merideth saying that since it was over 13 ounces, I’d have to take it to a post office, and if I had a problem I should call the Forsyth office – not the Rockaway Beach office.  I was steamed, not at Merideth, but at the stupid rule. I guess the “big city” office in Forsyth (population:  1716) is too big to accommodate good customers as well as the “little podunk” office in Rockaway (population:  588).

So, today, I had another such book to mail, and I was out and about, and I decided to hit the Hollister (population:  4051) post office.  I will say that after my experience there, I’m sticking with Rockaway form here on out, even though it’s five miles in the wrong direction on the way to nowhere.  Here’s my conversation between the postal clerk (we’ll call him PC) and me:

Me:  I need to mail this package.

PC:  Okay, let’s see.  (He weighs it.)

Me:  I was going to stamp it, but since it’s over 13 ounces, I had to bring it in.

PC:  That’ll be $2.89.  See, we’re saving you money.  (The pbs wrapper said $2.89 + $0.19 delivery confirmation, for a total of $3.08, the amount I was prepared to pay.)

Me:  Does that include the delivery confirmation fee?

PC:  Well, it looks like they already gave you that.

Me:  But it says I owe $3.08.

PC:  Hmmm. . . Well, lemme check.  (He eventually decides I should pay $3.08.  Duh.)

Me:  (handing him the cash)  I liked it a lot better when my carrier could pick up these packages.

PC:  Carriers can’t pick up stamped mail over 13 ounces.

Me:  Yes, I know that.  That’s why I brought it in.  I just wish that rule didn’t exist.

PC:  We didn’t make that rule.  It’s not a local rule, you know.  Aviation policy.

Me:  AVIATION?!?!?!?  My carrier doesn’t deliver my mail by PLANE!!!  (The guy behind me in line busts a gut laughing, but Mr. PC is all business.)

PC:  (getting a little huffy)  Madam, it’s aviation policy that all stamped mail over 13 ounces must be mailed at a post office.

I thanked him and left.  It is obvious to me that in a post office of any size larger than Rockaway Beach, the clerks never have any personality, much less a sense of humor.  I’m going to stay with Rockaway, where we still get to deal with real humans who aren’t afraid to crack a smile.

I wonder if Merideth has her pilot’s license.  It would give new meaning to “air mail.”

Snow at last!

When I went out to walk this morning, it was about 20 degrees and snowing lightly, with an inch on the ground.  Throughout the morning, it snowed pretty steadily and at times fairly hard.  Mid-morning, it started sticking on the road along the center line, although none of the vehicles passing our house had any problems.  I was just so thankful to finally see some snow!  I know the forecast is for the temps to rise in the next day or so, so it probably won’t be with us long, but I do enjoy it very much.

Scott and Josiah had planned to go in to Springfield today, but given the forecast for snow throughout the day and a possibility of freezing rain in the afternoon, Scott re-scheduled his meeting and they both worked from home today.  What a blessing it is that they can be flexible like that!  Then, around 1:00 PM or so, the internet went down.  NOT a good thing when you’re trying to work.  For pay.  I guess Scott called whoever and found out that there was an outage somewhere that had taken it down.  I’m not sure if they gave him an expected time that it would be back up or not, but given our upcoming tax bill and his three weeks off work in March, the man needed to work!  So, he headed out to try to find an internet connection somewhere.

I don’t know where he was going. . . the nearest place that I know has WiFi is McDonald’s in Branson, which is about 10 miles away.  I wasn’t too thrilled about the prospect of his driving around on the icy roads, but he is a big boy and an excellent driver even in tough conditions, so I encouraged him to drive carefully, and off he went.

Some thirty minutes later he returned, saying that Josiah had called and told him our internet was back up.

Me:  So where did you go?

Scott: (kind of breathless) Up the road, up toward 160, and I almost went off in the ditch!  And there was already a car in the ditch.

Me:  Really? Where?

Scott:  Up almost to Melody’s.  It was really something.  I just started sliding and sliding.

I was very thankful that he was home safely.

He went back up to the office to work, and I made some cookies (Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies).  While in the kitchen, I could look out the back window and see Andrew and Josiah with the two neighbor kids sledding across the yard. Josiah was doing his snowboard imitation in slow motion.  Quite fun to watch.  Later, he was helping Kenzi climb the tree back at the property line, and tossing snow balls up to her.

On one of my many little trips up to the office, I mentioned to Scott that it didn’t seem like the boys had tried the Smart Lane hill yet (it turns out that they were honoring Pierce and Kenzi’s mom , who had told her kids that they weren’t allowed to be that close to the highway), and that it was totally snow covered, and no one had driven on it, and with the sleet and stuff, it might have enough of an ice crust to be good.  Scott then said that he thought he might just need to break off work and go out in the snow, and out in the snow he did go!

By that time, things had warmed up a bit and Smart Lane was too slushy for sledding, so Our Three Males fell to the two standard activities which must be pursued whenever there’s any significant amount of snow in the yard:  rolling wheels and building a snowman.

Some readers may remember the legacy of Freddy, the Five-Ball Snowman; a fine fellow who was created in Scott’s yard on R Street in the Heights on one of our very early dates.  Since that time, Freddy, and/or his wife, his friends, and his cousins, have made their appearances in our front yard on a fairly annual basis.

The guys started on the snowman late in the afternoon, at something like 4:45, and they finished him around 6:15, which was really too dark to get stellar photos, but Scott did take a few, and I will now attempt to insert one of them for your viewing pleasure.  BTW, Josiah has yet to use trigonometry to calculate exact measurements, but Scott said he thought this SIX ball snowman (so satisfyingly appropriate for our family) is at least ten feet tall!

Six-Ball Snowman's backside; Josiah & Scott providing scale

Josiah with Six-Ball Snowman, facing forward

You can see that the snowman is quite tall!  As Josiah said at supper, “That snowman is taller than Goliath!”

SPARK!

It’s been a wild three weekends around here.

Two weekends ago, on a Thursday through Saturday, I went away (to the Rendezvous) for some focused time alone with God.  It was WONDERFUL!

Last weekend, our church’s 14 life group leaders-in-training went to the Rendezvous for a retreat. We were there from 6:00 PM Friday till 5:00 PM Saturday. It was intense and overwhelming, but very productive, and God really ministered to us as a group – a family.

This weekend, Scott and I attended the SPARK! marriage conference in Branson.  It was held at the Radisson, but we opted to stay at the Rendezvous instead.  After all, why spend more money to have a hotel room when you could spend less money and have a whole house?

The conference was good in a number of ways.  We learned some new information and heard some old information again.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of stuff we think we already know.  It was great to spend a whole weekend alone together focused on each other and our marriage.  God did some very special things, and we are truly thankful we had this opportunity.

However, after packing and hauling stuff to and from the Rendezvous three weekends in a row, I think I’ll be ready to sleep in my own bed for a while.

Llama of many skills

I may have mentioned this in the past, but it hit me again last night when I was printing some stuff to take to church.

I had just printed ten copies of a Jessica update, and before I could go to bed, I needed only to print one measly copy of a recipe to give to a friend.  I hit the print button, and nothing happened.  Being either a woman of great faith or a total fool, I hit the print button again.  Same result.  I decided that my computer – which I really should name, I think, but I guess that will be a task for another day and a survey for another post – had decided that it didn’t like the print button.  Well, perhaps it would find the full print dialogue more to its liking.  I opened that dude, set the various options appropriately, and hit ok.  Nothing happened. Being a creature of habit, I did it again, with, of course, the identical result.

At that point, I did what I normally do when some computer-related something fails to deliver as promised; although, come August, I won’t be able to do it, so sometime soon I’d probably better start developing a work-around. . .  I opened my google chat and asked if Llama-Tech could make my printer print.  Now, the nice thing about Llama-Tech is that most times, excepting Tuesday afternoons, Llama-Tech responds quickly, fixes my problem, and charges me nothing. Gotta love that South American beast of burden!

Sure enough, within two minutes, I heard the hairy mammal trundling down the attic stairs.  The Llama has had a hard time sleeping on his less than wonderful mattress and box spring, and so has moved his “stall” to Katie’s room.  I am pretty sure the biggest result of the move is that he is now able to simultaneously trash twice as many rooms as before, but at least he is sleeping.  He also has the advantage of claiming that way up there in the third floor he just can’t seem to hear us calling to help put away groceries or whatever.

So he examined the print situation and quickly determined that he had no idea what was wrong or how to fix it.  His only idea was to turn the printer off and back on, which he did.  Then he told me that that process might take a while, because the printer – we call it the Big Printer – always feels compelled to check itself (reminds me of those upper torso exams we women are supposed to do) when you turn it off and back on, and those checks take a while to complete.  That made me think that maybe I should just send the recipe to the Ancient of Days printer in the closet – we call it the Little Printer – which would take longer to print the page, but would start sooner and so might actually let me fall into bed a bit earlier.

And THAT made me think of the noise the Little Printer would make as it fed the paper, aligned the ink cartridges, and printed the job; which is why I asked Josiah, “So, tell me, what noise does the Little Printer make?”  To which he replied with the perfect and very funny series of sound effects that always makes me laugh uncontrollably.  I laughed uncontrollably.  He is indeed a Llama of many skills.