Thursday, 26 August 2010

Heading to Scotland! August 25, 2010

Hiya, as the British say.  Just sitting around waiting for Friday.  We are leaving early Friday morning to go to Scotland for five days!  A vendor of Joe's (Neil) has invited us up to watch the Highland Games.  He lives in Scotland, so we are heading up for the games which will be on Saturday.  The Highland Games are in cities throughout the highlands (as opposed to the lowlands and central Scotland).  They are hosted by different cities throughout the summer.  We are going to the Lonarch Highland Games.  Neil lives a couple of hours away, this is his favorite.  It is an 8 hour drive, so we will leave early Friday, stop and have lunch with Neil and then keep heading north to our hotel, about 25 miles outside of where the games are held.  A couple of weeks ago I tried to get a hotel in the city where the games are (Strathdon) and there were no rooms available.  Finally one inn keeper told me that there were no rooms as the same families reserve the same rooms for years in advance for the games!  

I really don't know what to expect.  I know there will be lots of men in kilts!  They have all kinds of competitions including piping(?) and highland dancing, track and field events, and the heavy events.  These heavy events include hammer throwing, tug-of-war and tossing the caber.   I thought tossing the caber would be like a shot put type thing.  But I saw a picture online and it is a huge log!  Here is the description:  "This event involves a tree trunk weighing approximately 150 lbs., 18 feet long and 9" in diameter on one end, narrowing to 5" on the other.  The competitor laces his hands together under the narrow end and rests the length of the caber on his shoulder.  He then runs as fast as he can, stops dead and tosses the end he holds in the air so that the heavier end lands on the ground and the light end lands on the ground pointing away from him."  It sounds like entertainment to me!

After we spend Friday night and Saturday night there, we are going to drive to Edinburgh (Scotland's capital).  They have an ongoing festival for the whole month of August with street entertainment, shows, all kinds of stuff going on.  We will only be there for the day as our next two night lodging is an hour or two southwest of there in the Trossachs area of Scotland.

The Trossachs is a beautiful area of lochs (lakes or partially landlocked or protected bay) and hills.  This area is the setting of several novels written by Sir Walter Scott.  Throughout Scotland are many places that Mary Queen of Scots hid while fleeing from the armies of King Henry VIII.  One of those places is a priory in this area. Another neat thing is that we are going to be able to see the village where Rob Roy lived (Robert MacGregor) (remember the movie Rob Roy with Liam Neeson, if you haven't seen it you must), and his grave!  There is also a museum for him.  There is a very pretty village named Luss, which is supposed to be one of the prettiest villages in Scotland.  There is another village that has a fairly famous store called the Trossachs Woollen Mill that I can't wait to shop in!  It doesn't hurt that they sell homemade cakes, scones, biscuits and pancakes too!  This is supposed to be the relaxing part of our mini trip.  Joe is happy to let me do all the planning.  I was hoping we could stroll around the area and relax with some pretty scenery before he has to go back to work on Wednesday.

I hope to have lots to write about when we get home on Tuesday.  We are going to take our Flip camera that Joe's managers gave him before we moved here. What a GREAT gift guys! We've been using it and having fun with it.  Now I need to get busy and work out how to get a video put on this blog.

On the home front (in Maryland)

Our sweet little granddaughter Caroline went to her first day of Kindergarten yesterday.  Can you believe it?  There are pictures of this momentous day on Facebook.  She is very confident and independent.  After taking pictures when the bus picked her up, her mom followed in the car to see her to her classroom.  She informed her mom, "I know where I'm going" and off she went to put her backpack in her locker.  How cute!  Brian asked her when she got home what the best part of her day was and she said, "the bus"!  LOL.  I really miss those two grandkids.

On the home front (England)

I am getting very tired of my meals tasting blah!  The other night I made a lasagna.  One of Joe's favorite meals.  It was a Sunday and true to Joe's M.O. he didn't eat all day so he could be good and hungry for his lasagna.  I don't know how he does that, but oh well.  So I work in the kitchen for over an hour making the lasagna the way he likes it with large sausages on top and ground beef in the sauce.  I made a lovely spinach salad with mushrooms, croutons and tomatoes and my home made oil and vinegar dressing that never fails to delight.  Finally the meal is ready and we sit down to eat.  I was so disappointed by the outcome.  Everything tasted just OK.  It happens all the time and I am tired of it!  The lasagna didn't have a lot of flavor.  Joe asked me if I was using less beef now.  The sausages were flavorless and believe it or not, my own salad dressing didn't even taste good!  Joe asked me why I made so much salad and I told him that I was planning on having two big bowls of it!  As it was I didn't even finish one bowl.  Then had to throw the rest away as there was already dressing all over it.  Joe is so good about it and always says the right things.  He makes a good point that we are eating less because the food doesn't taste as good to us.  I laughed and said, "yeah, but there's so much leftover we have to eat it again tomorrow night"!  We both decided that maybe it will season up overnight.  We can always hope.

The tomato sauce here is called 'sieved tomatoes'.  I'm sure there's hardly any salt added as that seems to be a running issue in the food.  They are VERY health consciouse in their food products.  Many times I have a food item that I am reading the directions for and it will say on the package, "salt may be added, but remember the daily salt requirement is...".
I have never salted food that much, but I have to here.  And it still doesn't taste quite right.  The canned vegetables taste like you bought the kind that are low sodium at home.  The ground beef tastes different.  I don't think there's very much fat in it.  I guess its all healthier, but man, I just want to TASTE again!  Joe is desperate for good tasting beef.  My niece was having a cook out this weekend and put a picture of a huge beef brisket sandwich piled high with beef and oozing sauce.  Joe and I were sitting here salivating!  Of course that was right during the time that he was "fasting" for the wonderful lasagna dinner!  Ha!  

In the restaurants it all depends on where you are and what you order.  In the nicer restaurants the food is very good.  Of course restaurants anywhere are notorious for extra salt and butter because they have to make the food taste good.  But sometimes in the cafe types the food is just bland.  Many times I just don't even finish mine, something I never used to do.  I told Joe if it doesn't taste that good, then I'm not wasting calories on it!  He always finishes his though.  Old habits die hard.  I have to say though the fish and chips are wonderful here!  They huge pieces of fish with tons of batter and are fattening as all get out but YUM worth it.  They serve them with something called mushy peas.  They are actually mushy peas, a mound of that looks sort of like green mashed potatoes.  I love them!  To me the flavor is kind of like split pea soup.  But Joe likes split pea soup and doesn't like the peas so go figure.

The peanut butter here doesn't have as much fat in it either and is real pasty.  Kind of hard to spread on the bread.  I don't think they even used to have peanut butter so I guess we're lucky to have it at all.  They have a VERY small selection of crackers.  I bought a box of "vegetable crackers" that sort of looked like crackers you'd see at home.  YUCK!  I tried some with my lunch today and they were awful.  Threw the whole lot away.  They don't have anything remotely like saltines.  I guess no one here eats crackers in their soup.  You don't get served any with soup in restaurants.  When I asked in the grocery store they had no idea what I was talking about and showed me the salad croutons (of which there are VERY few).  
I looked at cake mixes at the store the other day.  They had Duncan Hines chocolate and marble.  That was IT.  Two flavors and no others, not even any other brands!  I COULD not believe it.  Joe is not a sweet eater, although he does like yellow cake once in a while.  But I knew if I bought the chocolate he wouldn't eat much and then YOU KNOW WHO would eat the whole thing.  I'll have to make him one from scratch one of these days.  Although the powdered sugar for the frostings is called "icing" so who knows, it may have some weird additives in it.

After saying all that, I have to admit that the British are not as fat as Americans.  Partly due to the food, the lack of fast food restaurants and the fact that they walk everywhere.  It is a pretty healthy society I must admit.  Except for the health care.  I am saving up a whole blog for that subject one of these days!  So I suppose the lack of additives in the food is all good in the long run.

I get very few calls on our home phone.  Mainly just Joe telling me he's on his way home from work.  But when I do get a call during the day after I answer they always say, "Is that Mrs. Hawkins?"  Is that Mrs. Hawkins???  What the heck?  But they all do it.  So I just say, "yes" and chuckle to myself.  They love our accent so after a few words they are so pleased to talk to you.  I was in a store the other day shopping and had a young sales girl helping me.  She said she loved my accent and I swear would hardly let me go!  So funny.  Many times watching TV I have to rewind something because I can't figure out what they said.  It's usually when its someone being interviewed or something, not a TV personality.  Their accents are not that thick.

I have a new favorite show.  Animal Cops.  I know we had it at home, but I hardly ever watched it.  Now I set the DVR to record all the shows from different cities (here and US) and watch them when Joe goes to bed.  I don't watch TV during the day.  We watch FOX news in the evening.  Although they are all the afternoon shows since the time difference is so big.  But that way we keep up on what's going on in the US.  Then Joe goes to bed and its me watching all the people being cruel to animals getting their animals taken away and sometimes even jail  or fines!  It is unbelievable how people neglect or abuse their animals.  No one MAKES them have pets, so why do they get them if they aren't going to take care of them?  I just don't get it!  My favorite is when the animals are all healed and happy and get new homes.  I SO long for an animal of my own.  The closest thing I have is that one kitty up the street who I pet when I see her.  (Previous blog has a picture of her).  

I wait for a nice sunny day to do laundry.  You need the sun and a breeze for the laundry to dry on the line.  The sky was blue, sun was shining and I had a load almost ready to be finished in the washer.  I went in and took a quick shower, came back out and the dark clouds have appeared and the wind is kicking up like crazy.  This is typical of the weather here.  Since England is basically one big island, we have a constant threat of rain and usually nice breezes.  It rains one minute and the sun comes out the next.  That's one rule of going outside here.  ALWAYS bring an umbrella. (I've been caught out on my bike three times when it started raining.)  So my clothes are out there whipping in the wind.  I'm hoping they dry before the rain comes.  If not, they'll get wet and then the sun will come out again and dry them.  If you are in a store, making small talk about the weather, usually someone will say, "well I hung my wash out so it will surely rain, oh well".  I don't think anyone here uses a clothes dryer.  They just make due.  I have finally started using my dryer for towels.  Got tired of drying off with stiff scratchy towels.

Joe and I receive mail here about once a week.  Don't get me wrong, they have delivery six days a week.  We just get ours sporadically.  All houses have mail slots, no boxes on streets for curbside delivery.  NONE.  We live down a long lane and my personal feeling is that the mail carrier doesn't want to walk down that lane until he gets a good handful of mail to make it worth it.  Because on the day we do get mail delivery it is usually a good amount.  I guess the Royal Mail does not have the strict rules of the Postal Service.  It was a firing offence to leave a first class letter, or any first class mail behind and not deliver it.  I guess I should be happy that I get the mail at all if they are that lax here.  A letter from our insurance was mailed on 7/19/10.  It would have gone to our VA address and then forwarded here.  The forwarding part would have taken about a week.  So what is the hold-up for the month following that?  Who knows!  However, if I order something online here, usually it is delivered to me the next day!  By other shipping companies, not the Royal Mail.  Most companies have UK divisions, like Amazon etc.  I am always amazed at how fast I get orders like that.  I have even ordered in the evening and many times still received the next day.  Of course the UK is small so the warehouse is probably not too far away.

One last update on the pet situation.  I contacted a shelter and am speaking to the woman in charge about fostering a dog.  They need fosters badly for dogs who are either ill or are not handling the kennels very well.  Right now she has several animals in need of foster.  The one I'm interested in is a lab mix that is eight years old.  His elderly owner just passed away and he is not doing well in the kennel situation at all.  She is mailing me forms to fill out.  I'm a little worried that the owners of our house won't want to agree to me having a pet.  I wouldn't even worry about it because the house is managed by a company and we have never even seen or heard from the owners at all.  But some of the shelters ask for written permission from the landlords. I'm hoping that the issue won't even come up!  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Kathy the Conqueror August 17, 2010

This is just a short blog to tell you my war story.

Last night around 10:00 PM I was sitting on the couch enjoying the television shows that Joe never wants to watch.  Joe was already long gone to bed.  All of a sudden I heard a sound like a pebble falling that landed on the ceramic floor around the fireplace.  I looked over and didn't see anything.  No windows were open, so I just ignored it.  About a second later this HUGE bee started buzzing through the air.  Now, I'm not afraid of bees, but this thing was so huge and flew SO FAST that I couldn't even get a good look at it.  I just knew it was not like any bee I've seen, it had a big body and long wings.

I jumped up and grabbed my newspaper and started to try to smack it.  The thing kept flying high to the ceiling so I couldn't get it good and also it was so fast that I didn't come close to hitting it anyway.  It just kept flying and buzzing like crazy.  And I kept swinging at it because NO WAY was that thing going to stay in the house when I went to bed!  This went on for like 10 minutes.  Finally I decided to open the sliding glass door that goes out back and try to swoosh it out the door.  Which involved me unlocking the door with the key (everything here unlocks from the inside AND the outside with a key), then unlocking the regular lock and then pulling HARD on the door to get it to open.  (This door wouldn't open when we moved in and we had to get a locksmith out here.  Turns out it wasn't the lock, but the door hadn't been opened in years and was basically stuck shut from debris in the slider.  So now we are trying to work it lose day by day).  But, I digress.  So with the door open and the cold air coming in I continued my pursuit.  I went from frantic swats of trying to kill him and swooshing the paper and trying to lead him out.  Nothing seemed to work.  I tell you that thing was a speed racer!

Suddenly there was silence!  I didn't see it go out but it must have.  There was no sound at all.  I shut the door, locked it and went back to my show.  Not five minutes later the stupid thing started up again!  Now it was really getting me mad.  I unlocked the door and opened it again.  I made another attack without success as he flew just out of my reach, landing on the ceilings and up in the window curtains where I couldn't reach him.  About this time I decided that I'd better close off the living room because if it flew into the rest of the house I'd never catch it.  We have two sets of double doors that close the living room off (thank goodness).  I shut those and felt like this was it.  It was he and I and I was determined to be the last man standing.  I turned toward the thing with a new vigor and went into a wild frenzy violently swinging the paper at him for another 5 minutes and then again...silence.  This time I thought maybe I'd got him for sure.  I hadn't seen him fall but in my crazy attack mode I could have missed it.  I stood for a minute and no sound.  Again I closed and locked the door and went back to the TV.

Another few minutes goes by and he flies out of hiding again!!   I know he is probably mad as a hornet (to coin a phrase) but I was MAD too!  I flung the back door open again and was determined that this time I would not be fooled.  The thing was  going to be attacked until I saw it dead or outside.  I was not falling for his little hiding tricks so he could rest up again!  I tell you I was so close to getting  Joe up, but he had been extra tired that night and I just couldn't do it.  With my newspaper rolled into the perfect swatting machine I went crazy on that thing.  Swinging at anything and everything.  Sometimes I would get going and lose track of where he was.  Just about that time he'd buzz my head and I'd run and turn around to try to beat him back.  He was such a huge ugly beast.  I was swinging in circles as he dive bombed from ceiling to furniture to windows.  This went on for several minutes.  I had him close to the door, but he kept staying up so high that the idiot was above the door.  And then again silence!  "You're not fooling me this time", I thought.  So I proceeded to search.  I thought he was in the top of the curtains near the ceiling.  So I kept slapping the curtains with the newspaper.  I even got behind the curtains and stuck the paper underneath the rod and above them slapping and slapping trying to scare him into flight.  But I guess he was educated by now.  He remained quiet.  So I sat down for a rest (with cool air coming in and by now a few smaller bugs).  After a few minutes I quietly got up and peeked underneath the valences that hung down over the top of the sliding door and there he was!  I hit that valence so hard he was thrown straight out the back door.  HURRAY!  I closed the back door as fast as I could and locked it! I was so happy and proud that I had won and he was gone.  I sat down on the couch to relax once more and do you know that stupid bee kept slamming itself into the outside of the window that was next to my couch! He did that for like a half an hour!  I'd hear the ping of his body hitting the window and look out, there he'd be!  It took all my reserve not to get up and do a nanny nanny boo boo dance.  Can you imagine if he would have gotten a hold of me? I would have been filled with holes!  LOL 

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Dear PostSecret fans: August 14, 2010

I have to begin this blog by saying that I was completely overwhelmed by the support and well wishes of the PostSecret fans.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would receive the wealth of responses that I did when Frank posted the link to my blog on his website.  When I got up Sunday morning my husband told me to take a look at my blog stats.  I casually got out my computer and turned it on.  When I clicked on the stats and saw over 7,000 hits my eyes about popped out of my head.  This blog had been started to be like a letter home to our family and friends about our experiences here in the UK.  Now, I have had over 84,000 hits from all over the world!  I have over 230 comments from people that I call friends thanks to the wonderful well wishes that were wafting through my computer!  Such an outpouring I have never seen and am truly humbled.

Isn't it amazing how many lives have been touched because of  PostSecret? There are so many "strangers" who are being connected through Frank's site in cyberspace, books, emails and for the lucky ones, a PostSecret event.  Frank has done a great thing and he will probably never know how many lives he has affected.

I would also like to thank the commenters who live here or have lived here. They read my older blogs and gave me such great advice on places to go while we are here in England.  So many good suggestions.  I have written them all down and started researching them for future trips.  I find it funny how many Brits are reading my blog and laughing over our interpretations of them.  I am glad that I have not offended anyone with my writings. I appreciate the warm welcome that I have received from you, and the British folks that we have met so far.  I had several comments from people who are also Americans living temporarily in this country. I'm glad to know you are out there!  Thanks for the blog addresses so we can share our experiences. But most importantly, thank you for reading!

Again, I am touched by your thoughts and words and thank you all from the bottom of my heart.


Friday, 6 August 2010

POSTSECRET August 6, 2010

This is a post that I have been looking forward to writing for some time now. And it has nothing to do with the United Kingdom or the British! It is a project that I became involved in (unknowingly) a few years ago that has turned out to be a very interesting and unique experience. If you are unaware of PostSecret, let me start at the beginning...

As a mail carrier (in Germantown, MD) you get used to seeing unusual things go through the mail. I have delivered ashes of deceased pets and humans to teary eyed customers; tons of certified letters sent by bill collectors to equally teary eyed customers; valuables in registered mail; live baby chicks, ducklings, worms, crickets, car tires and wheels, steamer trunks, and even packages that are broken and oozing unknown materials. I have even been known to pick up a dog or two who had broken out of their yards and returned them to their owners. You'd think I'd be immune to odd things. But nothing prepared me for PostSecret!

Let me start off by explaining the process of casing mail. Every mail carrier has their own route covering a certain territory. In the office each route has their own case. The big metal case is labeled with everyone's addresses, each address having their own slot where the mail is put. We carriers stand at that case all morning "casing" all the mail for our customers. The mail comes to us in trays and buckets and we are basically sorting for anywhere from 4-6 hours a morning. After all the mail is cased, we pull it all down, in order of delivery

One customer of mine (Frank Warren) started receiving a few post cards in the mail daily. They were preprinted with his address and looked like a card that a dentist office would send reminding you of an upcoming appointment. It was just something I subconsciously noticed. There were just a few every day and they all looked the same. I never turned them over to look at the other side. All I was concerned with was the address side. So for a while I didn't pay much attention. We deal with thousands upon thousands of letters during our mornings of casing our mail and don't usually look to see who a letter is from or what it is. That all changed one day for me.

While casing one of Frank's post cards one fell out of my hands and landed upside down on the floor. I gasped when I read in huge bold letters I LIKE TO HAVE SEX WITH STRANGERS. You can imagine my shock. That's all it said. It had bright coloring underneath the letters. I'll never forget it. I immediately ran around showing my close friends what I had found in the mail. One guy was so shocked he said, "Did a girl write it?" I was like, "how the heck do I know, who cares?" I looked on the address side of the card and read the preprinted instructions next to Frank's address. It invited you to participate in a group art project by writing a secret (that no one else knows) on the other side of the card and mailing it anonymously to the printed address. I don't have to tell you that I pulled the few postcards that were in his address slot that day and began reading them immediately! From that day forward, me, (and a few friends at work who I had showed the postcard to) began reading all the cards daily. I still didn't really know what was going on, but was intrigued.

A few weeks later I happened to meet Frank's lovely wife Jan at the mailbox. She had a knowing little smile on her face and looked as if she knew what I was going to ask. She explained that Frank started this little "experiment" a while ago, handing out these preprinted postcards at metro stations, art exhibits, and shops in Georgetown and the Washington, D.C. area. I think he also went to local libraries and put them inside various books for people to find. The postcards began to trickle in from his efforts. He was enjoying reading the cards and really didn't expect much more from his experiment. We discussed it for a few minutes and I went on my way.

However, as time went on the postcards began to more than just trickle in. We at the post office were having a blast reading them every day. There were silly, funny, serious, sad, lonely, hateful, every kind of emotion you could imagine on these little postcards. The exceptionally funny ones were passed around the office for everyone to share. One of my co-workers said she couldn't believe that this person lived on MY route. She said, "of all people to get this on their route, YOU!" I took it to mean that she knew I was thoroughly enjoying it and maybe she was a tad jealous! I have to say that it was fun and a great conversation topic, but despite all that, I began to learn from it. There are many many sad and lonely people out there and some of these postcards would break your heart. Suddenly the problems that I or my friends might have, seemed small in comparison to the ones I was reading. It certainly made me take a look at my life and realize how lucky I was. I just wanted to reach out and help but they were always anonymous except for the postmark you hadn't a clue where the card came from.

By now I had also talked to Frank about his project. He came out to the box one day and said, "I hope some of these postcards aren't too unsettling for you". I thought it was such a perfect statement as some of them were very crude and he had to know that I was seeing them and possibly becoming offended. I assured him that I could handle it and thought the whole thing was a unique idea. Shortly thereafter Frank started a website for his cards. He began by posting several cards on the website every Sunday from his weekly bundle. And the whole thing just got bigger and bigger.

Soon I was getting postcards from overseas, home made cards, extravagant cards that took hours to create. I remember one that had paper clips and office supplies taped all over it and said something to the effect of "I hate my boss so I waste office supplies". So many people hate their bosses. I wish I could remember all the tricks that have been played on them. One of my favorites was from a person who wrote "When I was a young man in Florida I used to work in a post office as part time Christmas help. We used to read all the postcards that came through. Do you all still do that?" I wanted to scream, "Yes, we still do!" to the guy, but he will never know my answer. I also read ones that left me feeling depressed like the one that wrote about watching her neighbor starve his dog to death in his backyard and she hadn't done anything about it. She feels so guilty and can't get over it. I felt her sadness right through her words on the card. There were quite a few that were actual photographs where a whole family would be standing in the photo and the mom would be scratched out and something like "thanks Mom for ruining my life" over the photo. A lot of them about family dysfunction. There were some that were so bad I can't even repeat here. I was getting a glimpse into strangers' minds and souls. It was heartbreaking at times, and other times inspiring.

I don't know which happened first, the media got wind of the website or Frank put out his first book. All I know is that I rolled up in my truck one day and there were cameras and a reporter interviewing Frank by the mailbox. They were so excited that they happened to be there when the secrets were actually being delivered. I am camera shy (yes, believe me, I am) so I would never allow them to take pictures of me. However, many of them have pictures of my truck slowly pulling up to the box and my hand putting the mail in. I have been interviewed and asked all kinds of questions like "do you read the postcards?" which at that time my reply was, "well, we're not allowed to read the mail, but sometimes they accidentally get turned over" or "does Frank treat you well at Christmas?", which I respond with a resounding "YES" (even though we aren't supposed to accept tips, yeah right). One asked me if I'd ever written in a secret. I actually HAD written a secret in, but his question took me off guard and I suddenly felt flustered, like somehow he would KNOW which one was mine, so I told him "no". Now I realize how silly that was. I never told that to Frank, I guess I should have. Anyway, Frank would stand by with a proud smile knowing that I was enjoying my little moment of fame. He'd go on a radio or talk show and my phone would start buzzing, "that guy on your route is on TV!" Then one day Frank got me at a weak moment and snapped a picture of me delivering his mail. The next book that came out had that picture right in the front! Was I ever shocked! But it was a fun surprise. My daughter was reading the website one day and clicked on a clip of one of Frank's speeches. She was amazed to see ME up on the screen behind Frank. She said, "hey, that's my mom!"

I actually DID get a little fame from it! Some of the postcards started coming with "Hi Kathy" on the front. Frank has a large mailbox with a marker inside where people can come and sign his mailbox. There are a lot of messages written on it to me, thanking me for delivering the secrets. Frank even organized a Internet Christmas letter to me with messages from his followers online and then he printed it out for me at Christmas time. I felt very special. He was always quick to acknowledge me as an important part of PostSecret. He has also given me all his books, signed to me by him of course. He even signed one for my daughter. I have friends from other states who have emailed me and asked if there was any way that I was "Kathy the mail carrier" that they had read about on this new website for secrets they found. It's a small world, that's for sure. I told him a funny story once. I was about a half a mile from his house serving another customer one day and she asked me the "are you the Kathy from PostSecret?" question. I told her I was and she was SO impressed. She had just bought one of his books for her daughter who is a huge fan of PostSecret. She asked me if I would sign the book for her. I told her that I could do better than that. If she would give it to me I'd take it to Frank and have him sign it. She responded, "Oh, no, I want YOUR signature!" How funny is that? Frank was tickled when I told him that. I actually out did him on that one!  Shortly after I quit work Frank had an exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum.  I was invited to attend but was traveling at the time.  The Art Museum made me a brightly colored tiara with "USPS Wonder Woman" written on it.  Frank sent it to me and I will always cherish it.  I wish I could have been there in person to accept it.

Sometimes when I arrived at his mailbox there would be a postcard just lying in there that someone had driven to his house and dropped off for him. I often wondered if it made him nervous to have his address "out there" to millions of people. But he never seemed worried about it. One day when I got to the box there was a note. I picked it up (I wasn't being nosy, a lot of times customers leave us notes to do something like go to the door to retrieve a package or whatever). To paraphrase, the note said "Our parents think we are sleeping in the tent in my backyard but we took a road trip to see your mailbox instead!" and was signed by two girls from Ohio!! Crazy!  

When I left the Post Office in January 2010, to move to England (for 3 years), the secrets were still coming fast and furious. For the past couple of years there were so many that I could not possibly read them all. I'd read a few that happen to catch my eye. Sometimes one of the clerks who sort the mail to the various routes, would read an interesting one and leave it wrong side up in my stack of letters, so that I would read it. It has really opened my eyes to the lives of people all around you. There are so many stories behind the faces. If we could be as open to each other as the people who pour out their secrets, I think it would be a more understanding world. But too often people are afraid to show their inhibitions, sufferings and well, their secrets. As long as we have PostSecret, there is an outlet for those want to share. I have no doubt that it has been a good thing.

Frank's website is one of the most visited websites in the whole world.  Even with that popularity he has never allowed any advertising on it. He hopes to keep it this way. His books and his travels have raised thousands of dollars for suicide prevention, a cause he cares about greatly. He travels all over the country delivering speeches mostly on college and university campuses. His speeches are very popular and draw huge crowds.

As happy as I was to retire from the post office I was very sad to leave the PostSecret project and my friends; Frank and Jan, their daughter Hailey and their wonderful, funny, lovable dog Shadow! I couldn't have asked for nicer customers and a more interesting experience. If Frank posts my blog on his website I hope his readers can tell how much their secrets meant to me over the years.

With Frank's permission I am putting some of the cards (taken from his books) here on my blog along with a few other things that mean so much to me. I hope that I have done Frank's project justice with my reflections.

Frank's preprinted post cards that he passed out to start the project.  Sorry for the fuzziness.

                     THE POSTCARDS


Frank's words to me.