Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Surrender All.

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Girl Warrior. Surrender all. Let go of all the junk that litters your beautiful life. This includes everything. Externally and internally. Release all the things that break your heart, your mind and ultimately, your precious soul.

Change what you can. Clean house when you. Chuck out all the clutter wherever you can. Clear away as much of the chaos and confusion that is causing you stress and suffering, anguish and agony, distress and disease. Do all that is necessary to rid yourself of negativity. Say farewell to the three isms – cynicism, criticism and pessimism – in yourself, in others, in situations, and in circumstances.

Put on your fiercest boots and kick away. Stomp hard and stomp fast. Do what you have to, to set yourself free from these physical, emotional and spiritual crushers. But be warned Girl Warrior, this may also mean you have to say goodbye to some people, places, things and thinking. Yes, thinking. And this may not be easy. Loosening the grip, uncurling the fist, severing the tie is grueling work. But it is also gratifying.

Girl Warrior, now stand up and take a long hard look at your world, the one you have created. Is it as good as you can make it, at least for today? Have you done all you can? Given it your best shot? Tried the hardest you possibly could? If the answer is yes, then drop to your knees. Kiss the ground. Exhale fully and let it all go.

Then slip into sweet sweet surrender.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Be Happy. Dive into the Deep.

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I’m not much of a swimmer. I can dog paddle for very short periods at a time. Otherwise I’m too pooped to pop. Treading water escapes me. There’s a rhythm to it that I just don’t get. Mostly I just make a big splash and call it a fun day at the pool.

I love to go to the beach. But again, I don’t swim. Instead I comb for natural treasures washed ashore by the wind and waves. Bleached and broken bits of shells half buried beneath my toes. Tiny rocks made smooth and shiny by the tumbling sea. I especially love gnarled and knobby pieces of driftwood, torn from the ancient limbs of coastal trees. My all-time favorite finds are the shards of apothecary blue or coke-bottle green glass, buffed and polished by sand and surf.

Whether I’m at the pool or the beach, the one thing I’ve never ever done is dive in. The mere thought fills my heart with terror. Dark, inky, suffocating irrational fear overtakes the part of my brain that knows better. Suffice to say, it’s not on my bucket list and never will be. And I’m okay with that.

For as much as the thought of diving into the watery depths gives me angst, there is one arena that I do dive in without trepidation. Professionally. Over the years I have become skilled at leaping, lunging and launching into the vast unknown. And for some strange reason it’s always been so. My first big leap was into Advertising as a Copywriter. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing at first. I had read Ogilvy on Advertising, liked to write, had watched countless commercials, and actually read the ads in newspapers and magazines. But most importantly, I just knew that if I went for it – hook, line and sinker – it would be, not only a game-changer, a life-changer. So I dove right into the deep end. Head first into a world I knew very little about but wanted to be a part of. And I’ve been dive-bombing ever since. Sometimes I belly flop and founder. I’ve even sunk a few times. But it’s always been worth the plunge.

There are so many benefits to diving into the deep at work. Here are a few that I would like to share with you, in no particular order.

  1. You’ll grow and stretch in ways you never thought possible. Professionally and personally. The new and wonderful things you learn at work will spill over into all the other areas of your life. It’s a lens-changer.
  2. You’ll start to conquer fear. Maybe not entirely, but you’ll learn that you can feel the fear and still do “it” anyway. Shaky legs will get you there, wherever that is. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
  3. You’ll be one of those admirable people who always rise to the occasion, no matter how difficult or challenging. This is the stepping-stone to leadership.
  4. You’ll get to collaborate with really bright, inspiring and talented people. You’ll get to be part of something bigger than yourself. And when that happens, there’s only one word for it. Magic.
  5. You’ll discover that the more you do, the more you can do. You’re capabilities, strengths and wisdom in all areas will increase exponentially.
  6. You’ll get to wear many hats and try your hand at different things. Experiment and test new ideas. Be multi-faceted and express yourself in all your glorious colors.
  7. You’ll gain the trust and confidence of those around you. You’ll become their “go to” person. With that will come more opportunities and increased responsibility.
  8. You’ll go to places you never thought possible. Not just in the physical world. That’s just half the equation. You’ll discover places in your wandering mind that exceed your wildest imaginings.
  9. You’ll start to enjoy the exhilaration of stepping off the edge into whatever is out there. Without hesitation or second-guessing. You’ll become a champion at risk-taking. You’ll understand intimately the meaning of “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” No one will ever accuse you of not trying, of giving up before you start, of being a quitter. Because you will be an extreme diver.
  10. You’ll be happier.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 12 Ways to Bring Heart and Meaning to Your Work.

DSCN1378dI’m a lucky woman. I was born and raised in a small town in Northwestern Ontario at a time when career options were somewhat limited for women. Or more specifically, my vision for what I could be when I grew up was myopic. Salesgirl. Secretary. Teacher. Nurse. Wife. Mother. It was a time of women’s liberation and world transformation but we lagged behind in our town of early snows and sweltering summers. From that list, I chose Teacher, Secondary Level, with specialization in English and History. An honorable profession, but not for me, at least not back then.

Secretly, I had bigger dreams than the classroom could contain. Write novels. Tell stories. Spend my days in the presence of creative, imaginative and artistic folks. And oddly enough, to carry a satchel-style briefcase made of brown leather to work every day.

Through a series of fortunate events, that spanned the better part of a decade, I landed a job as a Junior Copywriter in a mid-sized boutique agency in Toronto. Thus began a career I never dreamed of but as it turns out was tailor-made for me.

Fast forward two decades to the West Coast to a small boutique agency nestled in the countryside where fields of green are dotted with sheep, horses, chickens and goats. It is here that I have found my place amongst some of the most talented and creative minds in Canada. It is here that I bring my heart for service, my teacher’s sensibility and a mother’s compassion and love.

I am a Production Manager.

I have had tons of on-the-job training and learning over the years. But so much of what I do professionally, and the way I work, my modus operandi, comes from my personal life and core values. There are so many, I could write a book, but here are a dozen things I’d like to share with you, in no particular order.

  1. Be kind and compassionate. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. The old adage is true. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Walk a mile in their moccasins or mukluks or Manolos. Seek understanding. Express genuine concern. Cultivate a magnanimous spirit.
  2. Treat everyone the same, from the courier to the CEO. Everyone is important and has value. Everyone has a meaningful role to play in your business. Be respectful and appreciative of what each person brings to the table, regardless of their title or station in life.
  3. See the good in everyone. It’s there. Truth is, you may have to dig deep to see it in some. While others it sits on the surface like a shiny penny. You have the power to bring out the best in everyone. But first you have to see it.
  4. Be generous with your praise. If someone says or does something you think is terrific or wonderful, remarkable or just plain nice, acknowledge it. Don’t be stingy in this area. Don’t withhold. Let your colleagues, associates and suppliers know how much you appreciate them and the work they do. Take pleasure in the accomplishments of others.
  5. Think of different ways to do things. Be innovative and creative in your approach to everything. This will add freshness to your daily routine. Be a Curious George. Say, “yes” to new opportunities and challenges, even if they scare you. Zig when everyone else is zagging.
  6. Have impeccable manners. There is no excuse for rudeness. Anywhere. Anytime. Treat everyone respectfully and politely. Please and thank you go a long way.
  7. Fear not and take risk. Fear kills creativity and it’s paralyzing. It’s that simple. Kick it to the curb every time it enters your heart, mind or spirit. Go out on a limb and extend yourself beyond your comfort zone. Don’t listen to the naysayers or the negative noise around you. Listen to the small quiet voice within that cheers you on and propels you to greater accomplishments. And if fear or insecurity does creep in, work with the confidence, faith and belief that others have in you. Remember why you were hired in the first place.
  8. Be of service and helpful. Look for all the ways you can make someone else’s job easier and more meaningful. Lighten their load. Lift their spirits. Be someone who can be counted on, trusted, relied upon, and the wind beneath the wings. The supporting actors always have the most interesting parts. Remember that.
  9. Be smart not a smart aleck. Be humble and gracious. Let your talent and brilliance speak for itself. It isn’t necessary to flaunt your credentials. There’s no need to show off or grandstand. Park your ego and let others shine. When you do, it’s remarkable how smart and wise your colleagues will find you.
  10. Extend grace in order to receive grace. We all make mistakes, for we are only human after all. First and foremost, be forgiving when someone makes a mistake, especially on your watch. Accept that things often go awry. Turn out wrong with disappointing results. Understand that unfortunate things happen, even with the best intentions, the best efforts, the best people on the project. Resist the urge to point fingers, assign blame or throw someone under the bus. Trust me, in situations like this, the people involved feel badly enough. Scolding an adult like you would a five-year old child is demoralizing and doesn’t accomplish anything. Nor does it move the conversation in the direction it needs to go.
  11. Recover quickly from mistakes. It’s not the end of the world. You’ll survive. This too shall pass. But first, own it and then move swiftly to repair things. And know this, in the end it’s not the mistake that anyone remembers but how it was dealt with. A bad resolution leaves a bitter taste that lingers in the air. Gather all your resources to help you to fix things. Remember, you are not alone. Most things that go wrong involve several people, all of whom could have prevented it from happening at some point along the process. So rally your troops. Fix it, extend your sincere apologies, learn from the experience, stop beating yourself up. And move on.
  12. Go for a walk at lunch. Take a break. Get out of the office or studio or plant or store, or wherever you spend your day. Leave. I go for a walk every day because that’s what I like to do. I love being outdoors, regardless of the weather or time of year. Walking changes my perspective and opens the window to more mindful ways of working. Helps me to see things differently, more clearly. Unclogs my brain, and possibly my arteries. It eases the stress, fosters problem solving, inspiration and new ideas. I often take an idea for a walk to see if it “has legs” or needs to be tossed. After twenty minutes on the road, I usually know. If walking isn’t your thing, then find something that is. But most importantly, remove yourself from the building. Make this a daily habit. It’s one of the healthiest and most productive things you can do in your day. It’s one of the keys to long-lasting and enduring success.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This Year I’ll be a Better Me. Or not.

IMG_3906I’m not big on resolutions. New Year’s or otherwise.  But I do want to be a better, kinder, gentler me. More loving. More magnanimous. More heart. More soul. More La Bamba.

And what better time to start a self-improvement regime than on January 1 of each year.

Fresh starts, heroic efforts and good intentions aside, odds are I’ll be a kaleidoscopic mixed bag of goodies and baddies this coming year. Just like last year and the year before that.  And the year before, before, before. You get the picture. For this is the enigma that makes living sweet and interesting. Irresistible and delicious. Inspiring and auspicious. I could soar with the divine Messengers of God. Or grovel in the mud with the Prince of Darkness himself. Who knows. That’s the intriguing part. The ride. The rock. The roll of this thing called life.

But let’s imagine for a moment, I was big on resolutions. Picture me sitting at my computer on New Year’s Day typing up an entire year’s worth of aspirations, desires and goals.

Categorically they might go something like this:

Spiritual:

I’ll be more spiritual. Or not. I may just float this boat into the sea of iniquity. Not intentionally. That’s not me. But I might drift off-course from time to time. I’m human.  Shit like that happens. Most days though, I’ll continue with my daily letters to God. I love these intimate conversations. They’re a bit one-sided at times but they do make me feel better. A daily emotional dump into the neatly lined pages of a Hilroy notebook is remarkably cathartic. Good for the Soul.  I’ll work on being kinder and more loving to everyone, even those who are difficult to like, much less love. I’ll pray and open the eyes of my heart.  I’ll listen with compassion and empathy. I’ll tread lighter on the earth. I’ll work on my awesomeness. Maybe even turn myself into sauce.

Physical:

I’ll be more physical. Or not. At times I’ll laze around, eat rubbish and binge-watch every season of Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad, even though I already did that last year.  Some resolutions are worth repeating. There will be other binges as well. Like too much turkey and cranberries at Thanksgiving. Too many bottles of alcohol-free wine. Oh, the shame of it all. But there will be redemption. I will continue with my daily practice of yoga because it still manages to keep me somewhat limber.  And without going all Zen on you, it’s a conduit to my higher self. I like that place in me. I’ll walk the winding country road during my lunch breaks. With every twist and bend there’s a brood of hens or flock of sheep that delight me, no matter how many times I see them. Similar to how I feel about my children. I’ll also keep running every morning. Learn new things from the hill. Or maybe not. It might simply be one steep mother of a hill that I have to drag myself up to get home.  Sometimes a hill is just a hill.

Family:

I’ll spend more time with my family. Or not. It’s entirely possible that they don’t want to spend more time with me. They do have lives of their own. So there’s that. Wonderful lives that have nothing to do with me. Hard to believe I know, but true. But still, I’d like to see more of them. And, this includes my extended family and friends. You and you and you. Sadly, I’m guilty of being socially lazy. I’m the sloth of the soiree. But I can do better. I vow to do better. We’ll meet in places other than Facebook. I’ll get off the couch. Turn off the reruns of SoA or BB and hook up with you dear ones. We can chat over tea in a coffee house. Go to a concert and lose our hearing. Attend a poetry reading at a used bookstore. Dance our asses off in the middle of the street. Sing our own Coke commercial. It doesn’t matter what we do. It’s about the familial connection and glue. I’d love to spend all kinds of crazy-time with you, deepening the bonds of family.  What about you?

Work:

I’ll work harder. Or not. Maybe I’ll work smarter. Or not. Truthfully, I don’t even understand what that expression means. Sounds like motivational mumbo jumbo. I’m smart. I work. I do my very best. Every day. But most importantly, I show up. That’s critical, I think. Especially when you work with other people who are counting on you. It’s a pretty simple philosophy. One that’s always worked for me.  And if you enjoy the work you do, then bonus. And if not, take a look inside. The wisdom dwells there. But first you gotta show up.

Play:

I’ll play more. Or not. I have no idea what that means either. Do I go out and frolic in the sun? Run through mud puddles? Roll around in the dirt. Fly a kite? Play Cards Against Humanity?  Join an organized sport?  Ride a bike or a scooter?  These all sound like legitimately fun things to do. I might even give one or two the old College try.  But most likely, I’ll carry on doing the things I’ve always done for fun. Write. Read. Play music. Sing in the shower. You may find these activities horribly dull. I guess at the end of the day, or year, we have to define our own fun.  And as Nike says, just do it.

Financial:

I’ll be more wealthy. Or not. Bottom line, I don’t care. I’ve never been driven by the money. Why start now? It gives me heartburn just thinking about it. I prefer to do the things that delight and amuse me.  Tickle my fancy. Capture my imagination. Challenge my status quo.  Some of those things pay fairly well and keep food on the table.  Others don’t pay a cent. But I love doing them just the same. Maybe even more. Like writing this blog, for instance. I’d be a penniless beggar if this was how I made my living. But it brings me enormous pleasure and joy. It’s gratifying beyond my wildest expectations. And if these things, these heavenly intangible things, were currency?  I’d be a millionaire. Ten times over.  And that’s good enough for me.

There you have it. Words to live by? Could be. Words of wisdom?  Possibly. Words worth repeating? Maybe not. You tell me.

Now back to reality. The big reason I don’t do resolutions is that I can’t keep them. Why would I set myself up for failure?  I can’t take that kind of pressure. Can you?

So rather than engaging in all forms of frenetic doing, accomplishing, goal setting and achieving, I choose to relax into the year. Let it unfold organically. Bask in the wonder and glory and pleasure of it all. Smell the roses and the coffee and the intoxicating aroma of life. Embrace the git and grime and messiness. Revel in the perfectly miraculous humanness.

No doubt, I’ll trip over myself along the way. But I’ll enjoy the tumble for it’s not the end of the world. A fall is just a fall after all.

I encourage you to do the same. Pursue the things that you find worthwhile. That add meaning to your life and to your tribe.  Be mindful that it isn’t always lofty or profound or life-altering. But it is essential. Take time to sit still and do absolutely nothing. For it’s in moments like these that you get to know the wonder of you.

Now go on.  Give yourself a big fat passionate hug. Tell yourself you’re beautiful. Glorious. Loving. Full of awesome sauce. There’s no one else in the universe quite like you.

Then resolve to tell someone else to do the same.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Attic, Hunting for Treasure and the Letter from Jerry.

The box containing the letter from Jerry.

I love treasure hunts.  And finding things I thought were lost forever.  There’s nothing like cleaning out a closet and finding some long forgotten gem.  An old photograph.  A thinking-of-you card or note.  A love letter from someone you once thought you couldn’t live without.  A concert ticket.  Recital program.  A baby book with a lock of hair and a lost tooth.

Most homes have storage spaces where certain things are put away.  For another day.  Another year.  Another time.  Sometimes these things get lost in the deep dark recesses at the very back.   And before you know it, forgotten.  Like they never existed.  We had a little attic in our home that contained such consigned to oblivion artifacts.  It was there that my addiction to treasure hunting began.

Little back story.  We lived on a street lined with wartime houses. They were all pretty much identical except for the size.  Two, three and four bedroom wooden bungalows that looked like they were built more for hasty necessity than longevity.  The big bad wolf could blow one over with a huff and a puff.  Ours was a four bedroom model, with two of those bedrooms on the second floor where the ceilings were sloped and the walls hung low.  My two older brothers occupied one of these rooms.  The other was where Ma sewed and I played by her side.

In “the boys room” there was a little door about three feet tall.  It looked like something that belonged on a child’s play house.  It’s Lilliputian size made it all the more alluring.  Irresistible. Tempting.  And I was drawn to it like a bee to honey.  A moth to light.  In my young impressionable mind it was the door to a whole other world.  Not necessarily like the one in The Chronicles of Narnia.  But equally fascinating and compelling to a small girl with a big imagination.  Truth was, on the other side of the door was just our attic.  And not like the kind you see in the movies either.  It wasn’t some dusty expansive space on the top floor of an old mansion filled with cobwebs and spooky pirate chests that groaned when opened.  It didn’t contain the magical world of Narnia with all its Turkish delight, White Witch and the great lion king Aslan.  But it was filled with family treasures.  And its own flavor of magic.  At times it could be scary.  And sometimes with a little inspiration, it could be downright spine-tingling. But it was always fun to explore.

It was dark, dry and dusty smelling with extreme temperatures. In the summer it was like the fires of hell.  You’d break into a sweat after two minutes.  In winter, it was colder than the Arctic.  You could see your breath if you could see at all.  It was pitch dark so you had to leave the door open and carry a flashlight.  The floors were uneven and creaked with ever move you made.  Slivers in stocking feet were commonplace.  There was also the odd nail that popped up out of nowhere.  The outer wall was lined with pink fiberglass insulation. And slanted so that the entire space formed a perfect right-angle triangle.  It was cramped and claustrophobic, which made moving around a challenge.  Even for a small person.  You had to hunch over or crawl on all fours.  But to me, it was the perfect size and shape.

Part of the fun of going into the attic was the fear.  Nothing filled my heart with terror quite like the scary shadows cast by the flashlight.  Ricocheting sinisterly off the fiberglass walls in the ghostly enclave within the upstairs bedroom.  Littered with the artifacts of our family’s personal narrative.  Dusty cardboard boxes filled with worn out clothes.  Old baby doll carriages with broken wheels.  Tangled webs of Christmas lights.  Battered suitcases with broken locks.  The canvas tent and metal poles.  Old hard cover books.  Stacks of dog-eared Popular Mechanics and Readers Digest.  Family Circle magazines with all the recipes clipped out.  Shoe boxes filled with old negatives of photographs taken on the Six-20 Brownie Junior.  A bulky Scrapbook containing a lock from a first hair cut, and pages of birthday cards and other childhood memorabilia taped carefully into place.  Dance Costumes stored in a McNulty’s dress box.  Old dolls with missing eyelashes and hair cut short by an amateur hairdresser.  Dime store Dishes with chips and cracks.  Bundles of metal clothes hangers.  And sundry bits and bobbles that The Old Man and Ma kept for reasons known only to them.  Treasures each and every one.  Freshly discovered foray after foray into the enchanted land.

I experience this same awe and wonder every time I re-discover the letter from Jerry.

Over twenty years ago, when I was working in a Toronto advertising agency as a Copywriter, I was partnered with an Art Director named Jerry.  We got to know each other quite well over the course of the year that we worked together.  Professional lives quite often blur into the personal in these circumstances.  We seek the universal thread that binds.  Common ground.  Connectivity.  I think it makes us better workers.  And our work better.

It was during one of our many creative sessions that Jerry and I somehow got onto the topic of mail.  I had mentioned how much I loved opening the mailbox to discover a surprise card or a letter.  But this rarely happened, I explained.  All I ever got was bills and junk mail, I complained.  I longed for the good old pen pal days, I declared.  Sigh.

My self-esteem was at an all-time low when Jerry and I had this discussion.  My marriage had fallen apart.  I felt ugly.  And not only unloved but unloveable.  Jerry listened.  I had no idea how well until a few days later.

It was a night like a hundred other nights.  I came home from work exhausted.  Rushed to get dinner started before my kids tore one another apart.  Fury induced by hunger and low blood sugar.  All three of us.  Once dinner was underway I hung up my coat, kicked off my boots and went to the mailbox.  It contained the usual things.  Bills, bills and more bills.  Junk mail from companies wanting me to buy their goods or services.  Disappointing all of it.  But in amongst the undesirable mail was a white business sized envelope addressed to me in cyan colored ink.  The kind used in fountain pens.  Or fine writing instruments as they were commonly referred to back then.  We all owned at least one.  In fact, I was given one when I departed from this agency.  And still have it as a keepsake and a reminder of another time, another place.

Just the sight of that cyan blue fountain ink made my heart beat faster.  I didn’t recognize the handwriting.  But something told me it was going to be good. No matter what. In that instant before opening the envelope there was optimism.  And hope. Elation.  My hands were shaking as I carefully removed the folded lined sheet of paper.  It looked like a page removed from a student’s notebook.  Six by nine inches.  Blue horizontal lines with two red vertical ones forming the margins.

It began “Dearest Bonney.”  You could tell that the writer had corrected the spelling of my name because the dot over the misspelling was still there.  I hadn’t spelled my name with an ‘ie’ since grade eight.  But this only added to the sweetness of the salutation.  The letter went on to say, “This may only happen once so really enjoy it.  But it’s happening because you are truly the kind of person who deserves to come home and find a letter from someone….”  The rest is between me and Jerry.  It was (and still is) the best letter I have ever received in my entire life.  I hold it amongst my dearest possessions.

Jerry and I weren’t lovers.  There was no office romance.  No secret affair.  We were just “Buds.”  Colleagues. Friends. But he gave me a gift like no other.

That was well over twenty years ago.  I have not only moved across the country, but have lived in several different houses since I got here.  Yet the letter has moved everywhere with me.  I packed it away when we left for the Westcoast.

But there’s a peculiar thing about this letter.  It keeps being found.  Over and over and over.  It’s the Groundhog Day letter.  I pack it away.  Forget about it.  And then a few years later I discover it.  All new and fresh again.  Like that night twenty years ago.  Like the treasures in our attic.  Every time I pack it away it’s in a different container, in a different spot.  This isn’t intentional.  It’s usually as a result of some sort of house cleaning.  Or purging of the past.  And with that goes the consolidation of those things being chucked and those things being kept.  The letter from Jerry is always in the “keeper” pile.  I love the serendipitous nature of discovering the letter.  The random accidental earthing of this jewel every few years.

It happened again last Saturday.  I was on the hunt for more family photographs and bits and pieces of our history when I found it.  Tucked away in a box inside a basket at the top of one of the closets in my office.  It’s an awkward spot.  Things that are stored there, are left there.  Kind of like Las Vegas.  But last weekend I was on a mission.  And the great treasure hunter in me had re-surfaced.  I had to find something good.  And I did.

In the box along with Jerry’s letter there was an assortment of random things. One of the most peculiar items was a placemat I made in elementary school for Christmas.  It looked like it was made from a white sheet.  It was adorned with two red bells, several food stains and “Merry Christmas” in my handwriting.  There was also a letter from my parent’s lawyer regarding their estate, a slide rule from high school, a golf ball, a Sarah McLachlan Surfacing CD cover, a photocopy of an American Express card cut into four pieces, a 19-year old candy rose and a combination lock.

There were a lot of other things too.  But once again I separated the wheat from the chaff.   All the stuff I described, along with the letter from Jerry, has now been placed into another box and stored away.  For the next time.  When I need to be reminded that I am someone who deserves to come home from work and find a treasure in the mailbox.  Love in cyan blue fountain ink.

Footnote: I have no idea where Jerry is today.  I don’t even remember his last name.  But I will never forget him and his wonderful thoughtful gift.

The beginning of the letter from Jerry.