Archive for April, 2024

Service of It’s Only Five Cents More: Impact of Another USPS Price Increase

Monday, April 29th, 2024

Mostly older people mail traditional letters or pay bills by mail and mostly older people enjoy receiving traditional cards. One of the recipients of my Halloween, Valentine, holiday and birthday cards was a dear friend who died recently at 99. After she retired, she told me how much receiving the cards meant. I will miss her especially as I address those envelopes.

How long will I keep up the tradition of sending cards? I shared the news of the July 14 five cent price increase for a Forever Stamp—on top of two cents in January–with folks who use the mails. We will be paying 73 cents for one. I’ll no longer fork over chump change to mail 100+ Christmas/Hannukah greetings. I’ve pretty much stopped sending cards to younger people as I suspect they languish in unopened mailboxes for months and are an annoyance considered wasteful.

Cousin Deb responded to my stamp price increase news: “I will buy quite a few before that date. What a large leap in price!  As a senior, I feel that they are not so subtly telling us to go everything electronic. I am stubbornly still paying some bills by check, and I also like to communicate by cards and letters.

“But even though I never had any problems with leaving my mail out for the mailman to pick up, I now will be mailing them inside the post office. AARP has convinced me to do that.  And, making sure that I use a pen that is permanent black, like a fine point Sharpie. It is a major pain, as it is now too far to walk!”

For a while, after I read about the importance of using the right ink for writing a check, I was giving Sharpie pens to friends who mail checks.

Like Deb, I’m careful about where I put mail to be sent. I haven’t put a letter in a blue street mailbox in months. I am lucky that in my apartment building the trusty mail people pick up our letters from a box inside the building. Post offices near me aren’t convenient.

I have reasons for wanting the microfiche check images I get from my bank. The memo section on one in which my husband had written “downpayment,” was proof needed in a disagreement with a vendor. And I dislike the concept that a company or organization can suck out of my account any amount of money it cares to for as long as it wants. I also use the tiny check facsimiles as proof of charitable donations. Some less sophisticated yet needy organizations–such as local food banks–have no staff to send online or physical acknowledgements for donations.

Will you change your mailing habits as the cost of a first-class stamp gallops towards a dollar? Have you already done so?

Service of Endangered No More

Thursday, April 25th, 2024

Have you heard of flat pigtoe, southern acornshell, stirrupshell, upland combshell, green-blossom pearly, tubercled-blossom pearly, turgid-blossom pearly or yellow-blossom pearly? They are all types of mussel. Once on the endangered species list, they no longer are. Aliza Chasan on wrote about them and another 13 species, from a fruit bat to a warbler, removed from the daunting list last October.

When Scott Simon spoke about Clark, the bald eagle on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday in early April, he shed light, in his charming way, on species rescued from extinction. He said, “The celebrity eagle is an ambassador for his species. His father, Captain, was gifted to President Ronald Reagan by West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.” That was in 1982. Clark’s sister, Carol, came too. They stayed with the President for six years when Carol went to the National Zoo, said Simon, and Captain to the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Mo.

All but Clark of some six healthy eaglet siblings were released to the wild, recounted Simon. Clark’s bad feet held him back, leading to his position as a spokesbird. These days he travels by plane with handler Daniel Cone, to soar over events while the “Star-Spangled Banner” plays. Simon concluded, “Because of conservation efforts, the bald eagle has been removed from the endangered species list.”

Brought tears to my eyes.

Have any of your favorite creatures been saved by conservation efforts? Are any in transition–almost saved–still in need of a healthy nudge?

Service of Conflicting Loyalties

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

We’re often confronted with allegiances that bump up against one another. I’m rewatching a series on Netflix, “Virgin River.” In it, a person with terminal cancer has asked her best friend’s husband [a doctor], and other close friends to let her tell her best friend about her diagnosis. Trouble is that this woman is on a trip, and she is devastated when her friend dies while she’s still away and nobody has told her of the serious illness out of loyalty to the wishes of the sick person.

At least three times officemates who were crucial to the running of a magazine or PR agency at which we were both employed, told me that they would soon be giving notice and to please keep it quiet. I always did.

A friend was annoyed when her husband wouldn’t tell her anything about a case the jury he was on was determining a verdict because he’d been told not to discuss the case with anyone.

It’s important to be clear when your news is not to be shared. If the person is married, I think that it should be OK, if the spouse is trustworthy, to give that partner a pass on the embargo. It’s ideal not to create potential friction as a result of your request for secrecy.

Have you been put in an uncomfortable position when asked not to discuss a situation with anyone? Have you asked not to hear the confidence? Have you asked others to honor your secret?

Service of a Great Evening Out in New York

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

I attended an unforgettable interview at the 92nd Street Y this week. The glow of witnessing a lively and extraordinary conversation between two astonishing people—Doris Kearns Goodwin and David Rubenstein—continued to exhilarate and warm me on the bus ride home. The talk and ride were the best of New York, confirming, yet again, why I love living here.

Rubenstein didn’t let the conversation lag on any topic, nudging Doris off one and on to another memory time and again. She wasn’t the slightest bit flustered easily jumping back and forth to answer each question with heart stopping recall of fascinating incidents. She shared firsthand insights with dates and events/turning points of the 1960s—the focus of her new book, “An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s.” And she was funny. She told us that this book wasn’t her fattest and that a reader told her that she’d fallen asleep reading one of the others and that “it was so heavy it broke my nose.”

According to the Y’s program director, David, lawyer, businessman, [founder/co-owner of the private equity firm Carlyle Group], philanthropist, author, former government official and sports team owner [Baltimore Orioles], is often onstage at the Y, and you can see why. He was perfectly prepared, had all his questions in his head after reading the book “in three sittings.” He delivered them without notes with popcorn popping speed. The time flew by.

And while Doris let him lead her most of the time, he wasn’t in control. As he’d done countless times before, he’d step on her last sentence to ask another question. When he interrupted her while speaking about her children, as she’d only mentioned the name of her youngest of three sons, Joe, she ignored his latest question and said that she wanted to finish speaking about Joe, and she did. Joe had received the Bronze Star for Army service in Iraq and served a tour in Afghanistan.

After the talk I strolled from Lexington Avenue and 92nd Street to the Second Avenue bus stop at 86th Street and plopped down in a front seat when the bus arrived. Opposite me was a young man reading a copy of Doris’s book. Each attendee had been given a copy. I reached into my tote bag to pull out my copy, showed it to him, smiled and asked what he thought of the talk. That started a lively 30 block conversation about the interview, the relationship between Doris and her husband Dick, the difference in values between the 1960s and now, music—Mozart and Aaron Copeland in particular, [he is a musician] –and Malcolm Gladwell.

When he got off the bus a woman who had moved closer to us and had listened to our banter, sidled over and asked me if I’d just been to the Y. She said she’d wanted to attend but already had tickets to a concert. We chatted for another 10 blocks.

I walked home from the bus stop on a cloud.

It’s nice to go to events with a friend to have someone to talk to about the film, play, workshop, or talk. It’s not always convenient. But there’s something magical about having the chance to do so with strangers on a New York City bus.

Have you enjoyed similar conversations, as you exit an event or stop for a snack at a nearby restaurant afterwards–or on a bus?

Service of When to Tell the Boss

Monday, April 15th, 2024

The trend these days is to never admit to an error, never apologize and look for someone or something else to blame if caught. I am ever thankful that my job isn’t crucial to life and limb such as folding parachutes, operating on patients, or air traffic controller. It’s hard to ignore a mistake made by people in these jobs. My errors are embarrassing but they don’t kill anyone.

A friend shared this situation. She was working at home when she heard a crash in the kitchen. Her cleaning woman was working there. My friend figured that the woman had broken one or two wine glasses that were on the kitchen counter. She didn’t want to make her feel badly so she didn’t leave her office to confront her.

The cleaning woman didn’t say a word about it. Both glasses appear to be missing. Was it strange that she didn’t own up, my friend asked?

In the days before email I’d mailed out a “Save the Date” for a client’s press introduction. The client received a copy and called to say the date was wrong. At first I thought she was teasing me. When she said she was serious, I immediately said I’d pay for the printing and postage of another mailing. She said that the mistake was her fault, that she hadn’t told me about the date change, and she acknowledged that she’d approved the copy with the wrong date. She wouldn’t hear of my paying for the correction.

I’ve made mistakes or inadvertently caused a kerfuffle and while it’s hard to do, I’ve prepared my client or boss, getting in front of the issue by admitting it. Never once have I been sorry. I figure the person would rather hear it from me than be blindsided should there be repercussions.

My laptop has a voracious appetite. I was convinced I’d seen an email from a client—it flashed by. But I couldn’t find it anywhere including in my deleted, junk or spam files. The man is terribly busy, but I fell on my sword and asked him to send it again. He laughed. I never found the original.

What should my friend do about the cleaning lady—ask if she broke the wine glasses or forget about the instance? Have you owned up to a mistake or do you cross your fingers and hope it goes away?

Service of Where Have All the Manners Gone?

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

You don’t have to go to etiquette school to avoid behaving boorishly. A tad of empathy often helps. Here are some examples that I suspect happen too often.

You’re sitting in the lobby of your hotel with friends and relatives the day after a family and close friends event. You order drinks for your wife and yourself and some relatives also sitting in a wide circle, but you skip a couple in this group. Adding insult to injury, next, as you guzzle, you discuss the quality and aroma of the whiskey chosen. I think that’s rude.

You’re at a workshop where lunch is served. The waiter puts a basket of bread on the table. Some of the others take two pieces so the basket is empty when it gets to you. Taking two of anything before everyone has been served is rude.

A trade magazine publisher who became a dear friend told me, years ago, about a business meeting he had with an advertiser. It was in the client’s office. The client was munching away on his chicken salad sandwich and could easily have asked his secretary to order something for the publisher, but he didn’t. He wasn’t offered a glass of water. Eating in front of others like this is rude. I remember once hiding a burger in my desk drawer when an editor popped into my office unannounced. Waiting to finish lunch until the person left wasn’t written in a manners guide. It just felt right.

Is selfish/clueless behavior acceptable today or are these instances anomalies? Do you have examples?

Service of Mother Nature is in Charge

Monday, April 8th, 2024

These leaves swayed back and forth in my 27th floor apartment during the April, 2024 earthquake

There’s no advance notice of an earthquake. There is a short one for a tornado. I lived in the Midwest briefly and was petrified by one that skirted our town at dinnertime. Hurricanes have the decency to give residents time to evacuate. Though what a conundrum—where to go? How? What to take? Hurricane Sandy shocked lifelong New Yorkers as unforgiving, fierce waters leapt into the city willy nilly.  Blizzards upstate left behind feet tall snow souvenirs and no electricity for days and no phone sometimes for weeks. Thank goodness I’ve not been victim of a forest fire, mudslide or tsunami.

With all our smarts and technology, we still are nowhere near the driver’s seat when nature wants to flash its muscle.

I can hear the sound of people of California, Taiwan, China, Turkey and other earthquake prone regions rolling their collective eyes hearing about the to-do over the earthquake that shook parts of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut on Friday. Compared to other places it was barely a rattle.

It gave New Yorkers a chance to speak to one another in elevators or waiting for the bus. Strangers used to chat easily and often in Manhattan but not nearly as much for the last 20 years or more. Newcomers barely respond to “good morning.”

From my perch on the 27th floor I felt the floor shake where I sat at my laptop and my two-foot-long amaryllis leaves by the window [photo above] swayed back and forth. I’ve lived here five years. This was a first shake and sway.

But it wasn’t my first earthquake. I was in Chile with my mother as a teen for that. My nephews were young and kept asking mom to repeat the story. We were taking a siesta. Mom said, “please stop hitting my bed with your foot.” I replied that I wasn’t near her bed. That’s when she realized we were in an earthquake.

I was in San Francisco on business when a significant earthquake happened. The next day I was at a workshop when in the hallway outside a noisy container on wheels bounced over the rough flooring creating a racket. The woman next to me almost landed in my lap she was so alarmed by what she thought was the sound of an aftershock. I wasn’t thrilled looking at the substantial cracks in the conference center’s immense pilings next to where I staffed a booth for a trade show.

That same decade on the east coast as we woke one morning in Brooklyn the floor trembled. I remember because we were off to New Orleans that day.  We lived on the fifth floor.

Mother Nature sneezes and coughs, sighs, hollers and screams when she wants. There’s little to nothing we can do about it. Have you been in a memorable earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or storm?

The path to our house after a 2017 snowstorm.

Service of Changing Pace of Your Dinner Menus

Thursday, April 4th, 2024

Sometimes I cheat and order takeout.

I have a pretty standard weekly dinner menu which usually includes some kind of chicken, [canned] tuna in romaine lettuce and Campari tomatoes, pasta with tomato sauce and sometimes salmon. My tiny air fryer makes yummy potato strips. If I can find Amy’s frozen margherita pizza I split it in two and punctuate the usual fare with this treat. And once or twice a winter I might make a simple version of boeuf Bourguignon.

I recently tried a recipe I picked up from The New York Times’ “Cooking” section: Peanut noodles. I already had all the ingredients: creamy peanut butter, grated parmesan, soy sauce, unsalted butter and noodles. It was delish, so simple, prepared in the time to cook the noodles and not the same-old-same-old.

One friend just brought me a basil plant and another a magnificent tomato. I added mozzarella and had the nucleus of a delicious dinner that wasn’t my usual.

I remember when, decades ago, I stopped reading Gourmet Magazine because a recipe called for me to stir a strawberry mixture outdoors over three sunny days. Who has the time and who can predict that the weather will cooperate and does everyone have an outdoor space to do this? Turned me off. But I digress.

My husband was a talented cook. I miss his creativity and the beautifully plated dishes he’d present.

To change pace, I’ll cheat and order takeout.

Have you discovered easy-to-make recipes that change the routine of your dinner menus or do you find comfort in making and serving the same things week after week?

Winter stew

Service of How to Invite a Guest to Leave

Monday, April 1st, 2024

I’m the worst at asking a friend to go home. Some don’t get the hint. One heard me conducting business on the phone. I said, once I’d hung up, that I had to contact a few people right away. The person didn’t move a muscle.

When my cousin sent a text about her recent visitor, her incident resonated. The guest wasn’t as bad as Monty Woolley in “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” but who is?

Her visitor came at 11:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until 9:15 p.m.

Deb wrote that the guest “is a young woman who I met when I was volunteering for the library, and we worked together for Market Day and book sales. She was about 16 then. She since has become a nurse and lives in Wisconsin, about an hour and a half from me. She is over six feet tall, very slim, and has a great personality once you know her. She is shy but we have become great friends over the years.

“The last time I saw her was during Covid. We text occasionally. We are 50 years apart, but we are both nerds. We discuss our favorite science fiction shows and films, books, music, philosophy, and world events.

“I took her to lunch at a new little restaurant. They have a fresh menu and suggest a wine that goes well with what you choose. I had a delicious flatbread with spinach and other vegetables, cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. We stayed two and a half hours while she showed me all the pictures she has taken of her recent travels! I do enjoy seeing pictures of peoples’ travels but I can do without a narrative!!!

“When we returned to my house I politely asked if she wanted to come in for a bit. Finally, about six, I said I was hungry: did she want some scrambled eggs and toast? Thinking she might say ‘no, time to go,’ she said su’re!’ We continued to visit. She showed me a beautiful video game with wonderful music.

“When she left, I was exhausted. But I value our friendship. I am really not her mentor. We are just two people who enjoy the same interests. She suggested a field trip to a neat park or an outdoor event for the next time. Since it seems to be freezing cold, it will be a while!”

How do you invite people to leave your home or office, or do you suffer in silence?

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