The Letter Writing Revolution

Revitalizing a Lost Art One Letter at a Time

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blessed Be the Letter Carrier~ Part 2

"We are mothers and fathers. And sons and daughters. Who every day go about our lives with duty, honor and pride. And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever."
~ US Postal Service Creed

You may recall my field trip in September 2010 when I accompanied a Canada Post Letter Carrier on her 16km route in the Glebe neighborhood of Ottawa. It was a glorious, sunny, autumn day and aside from the fact that I was severely out of shape (making the 14 km walk that day a challenge), the experience was very positive and I thought how wonderful this job would be. The catch was that if I was willing to experience the route in the fall, I had to commit to coming back in the winter months to experience the harsher side of delivering mail.

We made a plan that I would join Lisa on Thursday, February 24th. Let's just say that I couldn't have picked a better winter's day to do it although I really didn't get the true experience of some of the hardships of the mail carrier in the Canadian winter months. For the followers who live in sunnier climates, you may shudder at the thought of walking around in -10 degree Celsius (14 Degrees F) weather but we have had days this winter when the temperature dropped to -30 degrees Celsius which ends feeling more like -42 degrees Celsius with the windchill. On this particular day, we were blessed with a balmy -2 degrees Celsius and clear, dry sidewalks. I wore my running shoes and a couple of light layers. I even had to remove my hat as it was getting too warm after a while.
Lisa loading up her mail bags!

And on top of that, Lisa had a very light mail load compared to the rest of the week. For example, the day before, she had fourteen of the large grey, canvas mail bags containing six bundles of mail each and it took her over four hours to complete her mail route. On this day, she had only six canvas bags with each one containing only two bundles of mail. Although I slowed her down, we still managed to complete the route in just over two hours and I only walked about 10km (6 miles).

I did learn some of the interesting aspects of mail delivery in the winter compared to the warmer months. The most obvious one is the responsibility of the home owners to keep their walkways, steps and driveways clear so that the mail can be delivered safely. I was appalled at the conditions of some of the homes and how treacherous it was for Lisa and I to navigate the walkways. I took some photos of some of the better  examples of poor maintenance on the part of the home owners.
Lisa "Tsk! Tsk! Tsk-ing" this home owner's driveway.

This doesn't look treacherous at all (enter sarcasm)

Canada Post provides their mail carriers with warning cards to leave for their customers as a gentle reminder that their walkways/steps need to be cleared. They look like this:
Sorry, folks! Can't get it to rotate.
 This winter Lisa estimates that she has handed out about 500 warning cards. Lisa tells me that she always gives customers one day's grace after a significant snowfall to clear their walkways. Then she starts handing out the warning cards. If she feels that it is too dangerous to attempt, she will immediately suspend service to that point of call. For example, if she is unable to see the stairs due to snow or if they are covered in ice or if a customer has not cleared after a heavy accumulation, then a warning card will be left. Although Canada Post mail carriers are equipped with cleats, they do not always work as they can get compacted with snow and no longer catch the ice. Walking with cleats is very hard on the feet and knees, as well.Lisa has not had any major injuries this winter although she has fallen around twenty times. She visits her Chiropractor regularly in the winter.
Lisa re-enacting a slip and fall!

If you get your mail delivered to your door, check your property and make sure you have cleared and salted the areas that your mail carrier may walk on. Give yourself extra time in the morning to shovel before your leave for work as your mail will be delivered while you are away from home. And if you fail to clear your walkway and you are left a warning card, do not yell obscenities at your mail carrier. Take responsibility and show some respect.
One of Lisa's favourite customers who gives her a daily kiss!
 One more tip for those who receive mail delivery is to make sure your mail slot/box accommodates the type of mail you receive. Lisa finds it very frustrating when a 140-year old house still uses the original mail slot which was designed for smaller envelopes of the time. It wasn't expected to accomodate magazines, small packets, etc. I think these are simply oversights and something that is easy to resolve to prevent your mail from getting dented and bent. Some of Lisa's customers provide an alternate mail box in the winter to save her from having to come up their long driveways to their back entrance where they normally receive their mail.
This slot is too small for the mail that this household receives.

I'll give Lisa the last word for this post:
"Winter can be a frustrating time to deliver mail: 
harder to walk, cold temperatures, wet feet, having to stop customers mail, heavier clothing and even handling the mail with gloves on. That being said, it is our job and winter is part of living in Canada. I love my job and always know that spring is just around the corner."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Starting Early

In the early posts of The Letter Writing Revolution, I had attempted to hook up some of your children so that they could begin the wonderful experience of having a pen pal. It didn't pan out for a couple of reasons. One: I didn't know how to execute my plan and two: I don't think, at the time, those following TLWR had the children or the desire to participate. Maureen, over at Twig and Toadstool, has written a post to connect children for pen pal-ing. I know Maureen personally so I know you are in good hands. If you have children who want to write letters to children their age, head on over to Maureen's blog, leave a message with your children's names, ages and your email address and Maureen will contact you in a week or so with your match-up. Many of the Canadian and American kids really hope to be connected with a child in another part of the world, so if you are one of my international followers, consider this. Let's get children writing letters so they, too, can experience the joy and the delayed gratification involved in the process of writing and receiving a handwritten letter.

When I was a kid, letter writing was just a normal part of your activities. If you met a friend at summer camp, you kept in contact with them by writing and then mailing a letter. Yes, telephones existed in my childhood (I'm not a dinosaur!) but long distance phone calls were expensive and considered unnecessary when you are 11 years old. So we wrote letters. Stationery was easily accessible. You could by pads of the fancy stuff for very little and you could buy it anywhere: Woolworths, Woolco, Giant Tiger and even at Linda's Sundries shop right here in Cobden. Everyone, it seemed, sold stationery because everyone was writing letters.

I didn't get my own email address until my mid-20's when a friend in BC introduced it to me. She might has well have introduced me to crack cocaine. I was hooked immediately and high from the instantaneous connection I had with my friends in Ontario. I didn't own a computer so craved the times I could go over to her home and use her computer. I also started going into work on my days off to sit in my manager's office and "surf the net" sometimes for up to six hours straight. I couldn't get enough of both emailing and the copious amounts of information at my finger tips. It was exhilarating!!

But like any good "drug" addiction, the effects eventually wore off and emailing, although, a very important and crucial aspect of my communication with both personal and professional contacts,  lost it's pizazz. Hence the birth of The Letter Writing Revolution. The effects of writing, sending and receiving a letter have never worn off. I liken it to losing weight by lifestyle changes, exercise, healthy eating as opposed to losing weight by taking a magic pill and getting fast results. The former is far more satisfying and enduring.

"Every Generation Needs a New Revolution."
~ Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cool Stationery

I have always had a fascination with the humble snowflake. I mean snow is amazing except when you have to drive through a blizzard at night. Here in the Ottawa Valley, we tend to see a good amount of snow between December and March and although it gets tiresome by mid-February, it really is a beautiful thing. I often wonder what it must be like for those who grow up in parts of the world that never get snow. What is like when they move to Canada and experience their first winter?

Over Christmas, while shopping, I came across a book that was filled with microscopic photographs of snowflakes. It was unbelievable to see the detail of each snowflake and to see the variety of "species" of snowflakes. Who knew? I have a friend who loves snowflakes and so I had to get the book for her as a gift. Not long after, my sister introduced me to the photography of Ben Anderman, a local man who also is interested in photographing snowflakes among other things. He takes close-up shots of snowflakes on his woolen mittens. He creates notecards of his photographs which I have fallen in love with.

One of Ben's snowflake photographs!

If you have fallen in love with this interesting stationery, you can visit his website and purchase these and other notecards from him. I am always looking for unique ways to send a letter or a note.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Winner Is........

With only 3 entries to the Valentine's Day GIVEAWAY, I went to and the #2 was randomly selected which means:

is the WINNER of this special GIVEAWAY. You have won a $20 gift certificate lovingly given by Gary at Paper/Papier in Ottawa. Congratulations! You will receive your gift by mail momentarily.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy St. Valentine's Day and GIVEAWAY

In honour of this day that celebrates LOVE, I encourage you to read one of my first posts about Love Letters.  I hope that each of you is thankful for the love in your life whether it be with a spouse, child, parent, friend and/or pet. I would love to hear about the most memorable love letter you have written or received.

Since I am feeling the love today, I would love to give way a gift to one of you who leaves a comment addressing  the question above. Happy Valentine's Day....


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dry Spell

Prior to Christmas, I was cranking out several letters per week and joyfully stamping them and bringing them to our local post office to mail. I was also receiving, on average, a letter per day. I seem to be in a bit of a dry spell.

The dry spell is due to many factors: lack of desire over the holidays and during the passing of my grandmother, busy with work, keeping up with my blogs and lack of time to sit and write as household duties take precedence. Last week I gradually got back into it and the dry spell seems to be coming to a close.

I am wondering about YOU. Are you writing letters? Or are you just reading about writing letters? Have you been in a dry spell? Do you still feel motivated to write or has the novelty worn off? Have you gained some new pen pals or re-ignited your passion for letter writing?

I would love to hear from YOU! If you are a follower and you like this blog, then I would like to invite you to write me a letter and tell me about who you are and where you come from. Drop me a line and I will reply:
Julie Keon, P.O Box 533, Cobden, ON, K0J 1K0 Canada

Happy Writing!

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Box of Letters

Eldon Keon was my paternal grandfather and he and my grandmother, Pearl Conway, married in June of 1940. Their first child was born in 1941 followed in successive years by three more children. My father, Stanley, was born third in line.

My grandparents on their wedding day
 My grandfather passed away in 1989 and my grandmother found herself living alone in their home that they moved to in the early 80's after their retirement. I am sure the loss of her love was enormous and I remember the sparkle was gone from her eyes for a long time after he was gone. Grandma continued to live in that house until just after her 90th birthday when she made a decision to move into a retirement home just around the corner from where she had been living on her own. It was almost two years exactly after this move that Grandma became unwell and by early November 2010, she was hospitalized.

When it became apparent that my sweet Grandmother likely wasn't going to live much longer, she told me that she had had a very good life. I asked her what the highlights were and she replied without hesitation, "Meeting Eldon." This was quickly followed by: "My four children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren." Her only request for Christmas was to be surrounded by family. She got her wish when my parents brought her home on December 27th to die peacefully and surrounded by loved ones. We imagined at the time of her passing, that she ran to Grandpa who had been patiently waiting for her for 22 years. I also had a sense that they were in the room with us watching us weep over Grandma's body knowing that this amazing Matriarch was gone.

And what is left? Odds and ends of a life that was neither filled with monetary wealth or extravagance. The grandchildren chose pieces of her jewelery to have something tangible to remember her by. But probably the most valuable thing that Grandma left behind was a box covered in pastel roses containing all of the letters she exchanged with my grandfather.
The box of letters
My grandparents lived apart at times in their marriage when my grandpa left to work in the mines and my grandma stayed home with the children until she joined him in 1944 in a small, mining community in the Ottawa Valley. There is one written by my Grandpa to my Grandma on April 22nd 1943 (the day of my father's birth).  Part of it reads:
"Dearest Pearl;
This evening I received a telegram from Laura saying you were the mother again of a big boy! I must first congratulate you! You have done it again! ..........................
............................Take good care of yourself and tell me who our new son looks like. 
Good night with all my love;

I am not sure what will become of these letters. I would like to read through them all to piece together their history and love story. And yet, I do not as I feel that perhaps this correspondence was not to be shared years later with extended family that didn't even exist when they were written. We did read a few letters to Grandma in her final days that Grandpa had written years earlier.....almost a lifetime ago when she was young and vibrant and full of life. We told her that he was waiting for her and she nodded knowingly.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

And The Winner Is........

After visiting,  the #7 was randomly selected and so the winner is:


Congratulations to you! I do hope by winning this GIVEAWAY that you will be motivated to put pen to paper and to bring joy to friends and family by sending them some letters. I need you to email me at with some information, please:

1) Your snail mail address
2) Your favourite colour (s)
3) Tell me about yourself (likes/dislikes, classic or funky, etc.)
as I wish to personalize your gift as much as possible.

Your gift will be mailed out by Monday, February 7th.

Thank you to everyone who left comments! And thank you for reading and being inspired by  
The Letter Writing Revolution. Back to regular posts momentarily!

Happy Groundhog Day!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Last Chance For GIVEAWAY

As 29 states in the U.S.A and 5 provinces in Canada brace for the snowstorm of the season, I want to remind you that you have until 6am tomorrow morning to enter to win the "Beat the Winter Blues" GIVEAWAY.

To be eligible, you must be a FOLLOWER of TLWR. Leave a comment here and the winner will be randomly selected in less than 24 hours.

For those of you getting hit the hardest in this storm, stay safe, stay warm and stay off the roads until it passes.