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Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Christmas Blog Post

2013 was a year of highs and lows.

1/12: I was in the Snow Ball dance competition, and was pleased with how I did, especially in my age and gender category.

4/20: Started a new postal route which pays more but has also resulted in long hours.

5/19: Attended Spencer's college graduation. He is now a manager at the UW Madison Laboratory of Genetics.

7/6: Returned to Madison for the wedding of Jenny Soceka, my cousin's daughter. Groom Tim Wartinbee is a US Marine and the wedding was complete with sabers and dress blues.

7/30: Farheen's brothers were murdered.

8/4: My niece's ex-boyfriend was beaten after walking through a gang fight.

8/17: Farheen and Dan were married near Chicago, following traditions of Islam and India. Quite the contrast to the military wedding, but both weddings were colorful, joyous, and an honor to attend.

10/26: Returned to Chicago to attend the memorial service for my Aunt Jean.

12/14: Found a 4th cousin using DNA technology.

12/21: Brother-in-law Bill Butler found dead from a heart attack.

12/26: Holding down the K route. Still ahead are the January flats, mail count, and spring break holds.

12/27: Looking forward to seeing Spencer and Emma today!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bill Butler, 1952-2013

My brother-in-law, William Eugene Butler, was found dead in his home December 21. An autopsy showed that he had a heart attack. He had been helping his neighbors shovel their driveways.

As I was shoveling snow this week, I remembered what Bill had said, that if you shovel it before you drive on it, you don't pack it down. So far this year I've had partial success.

Bill knew how to make a double heart shape by driving a certain way in the snow. Of course, then you pack it down, but that's ok.

Bill was a retired police officer. Before he was in law enforcement, he worked at the Hennepin County Home School. He helped me recover my bicycle after it was stolen the day of the Roseville tornado in 1981. We put up reward posters, and he took me to the home of the perpetrator where I identified the bike so the Roseville police would have probable cause. It is the same bike I ride today.

Bill introduced us to the Ironman 100K bike ride, and that was a family event for us in the early 80's.

One day some young kids threw some eggs at our house. Before the eggs had dried or we even knew what had happened, they were at our front door to apologize. Bill had spotted them, followed them to the corner store, got them to tell the truth, and arranged for them to clean up the mess.

When my father died in 1982, it was Bill who was the calming presence and kept the to-do list.

He was my emergency contact. He drove me home after I had surgery for a deviated septum. He drove Mom to the dentist, even after he and my sister were separated. He visited her when she was in transitional care. He took her to see Scott. He took Mom to see the Blue Angels air show. He took us to the Carlton Celebrity Room.

He travelled to Iowa to observe the RAGBRAI bike ride there, and was good to my grandmother Evelyn Harper. When Spencer and I visited Evelyn for the last time in 2005, Bill gave me several ideas for interesting side trips, including the caves along the Minnesota-Iowa border, and the scenic Mississippi River valley along the Wisconsin border.

Bill had an artistic side. He made creative maps, and in recent years managed to wear a Santa hat in his driver's license photo. He made a lot of videos of his daughters growing up, and we were watching some of those this year.

Mom kept a Diet Coke for him in the corner of the refrigerator. The last time he visited was late summer or early fall as I recall. He offered to take Mom to visit her brother in Iowa, but she wasn't up to it with the logistics of the oxygen. He told me he had visited with Ray Widstrand. Ray was a former boyfriend of Bill's daughter, and survived a beating after trying to walk through a gang fight. To me that was Bill, there for people going through difficulty.

I will miss him.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You

Reader's Digest posted "13 Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You" and "11 More Things Your Mail Carrier Won’t Tell You".


To their lists I would add the following:

1. The entire approach to the mailbox should be clear of snow. If you've just carved out a notch, we still have to get out of the truck to reach the box. Parked cars, landscapers, movers, and garbage cans, especially on cul-de-sacs, also really slow us down.

2. The condition of your mailbox is important. It should have a decent handle, and should open and close quickly and reliably. It should be level so the mail doesn't slide out, and it should be the right height, 41-45" from ground to the bottom of the box. The house number should be on the box as well as the house, in big type. Reflective is nice, so you can see it at night as you approach. Also, a bigger box can save us a trip to the door for a larger parcel. Cluster box units should be in good repair and have working parcel locker keys.

3. If you live or work in a multi-unit building, the apartment or suite number is part of your address. Sorting is more difficult without it. If the carrier does not know or can't remember who you are, they can send the mail back endorsed as Insufficient Address.

4. If you have a bad bar code, the carrier has to key in the number by hand. Bad bar codes can be caused by smudging, covering, not enough or too much ink in the toner cartridge, affixing the bar code around the corner of a package, or even curving it around a tube!

5. If your mailbox is full, we can bring it back to the post office, hold it for 10 days, and then send it back as Unclaimed. The more mail there is in the box, the more it slows us down.

6. Notifying all senders of your new address saves a lot of time and paper. The automated system does not catch all the forwarding, so the carrier forwards first class mail, and discards bulk rate mail. And please, if you move, don't send letters using your old return address. Especially after 18 months, when they must go to the dead letter department!

7. Held mail must have an end date, from 3 to 30 days. Any longer than that is a temporary forward. And please use a hold form. Don't just leave a note in the mailbox!