Letters and privilege

A letter sitting on a desk

The pandemic has forced us to slow down. And that’s a good thing.

One of the slow-downs has sped up life for many… delivery services are overloaded. A good friend drives for Amazon. He has been regularly been putting in 60-hour workweeks. Knowing him makes me very thankful to all the delivery drivers out there.

An upside to overloaded delivery services is that we have to wait. Amazon Prime used to mean next-day delivery. Now it can mean two-week delivery.

Some of the things we “need” we really don’t need.


We have some friends in South Africa. They live near Cape Town, a beautiful place that would be fun to visit. That’s on my list of dream destinations… if only the airfare was less. (Sigh.)

I sent them a letter last summer and received it back a month later. A stamped message on the envelope informed me that South Africa no longer has any mail service.

Wow.

I take for granted the privilege that mail is.


Before the pandemic, one of my sons lived in Sicily, Italy. Two months was the normal time for my letters to reach his mailbox.

Living in America is a privilege.

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Keratin Something

"Keratin Something" - a fictional hair product

It was early. I was in the shower. My eyes weren’t quite focused yet.

“Keratin Something” is what I saw.

It was really “Keratin Smoothing,” but how much more fun would it be if the product was actually named “Keratin Something?!”

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Space

dining room table with saturday morning coffee and reading

You have to find space in your life.

Life has seasons. When our kids were seven, five and zero years old, we had little space in our lives to think, plan or relax.

Now that we’re semi-empty nesters,* there’s more space.

* Our college-age daughter is temporarily home on break and staying busy with work and friends. Our two sons are no longer living under the same roof.

No matter the season, I’ve always tried to carve out space to let my mind recover from the stresses of the week.

Saturday morning has been that time for many years. I wake up at the same time as on weekdays, so the house is quiet for about two hours before anyone appears.

I enjoy the newspaper. (Yes, we still have it delivered. There’s something about consuming information on paper that is more satisfying than looking at a screen, especially on the weekend.)

I love my coffee-press coffee.

I savor the quiet.


I would encourage you to carve out some space in your week. Let your mind breathe.

Maybe it’s just a five-minute walk around the block.

Enjoy.

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Japan

Sit-down small restaurant in Japan - courtesy of bantersnaps on Unsplash

I’ve always been fascinated by Japan.

Japanese culture is so different than American culture. Here are just a few examples that capture my imagination:

  • In Tokyo, living and shopping spaces bring efficiency to levels never achieved in the USA.
  • Artisan culture is expressed in fascinating ways, such as extreme pour over coffee methods that have migrated back to the USA. (See this article at Boutique Japan.)
  • One person’s trash is another person’s treasure… more than twenty years ago, my friends Eric and Sheryl, who lived in Japan for at least a year, told me of how their neighbors would put perfectly good stereo equipment on the curb to be picked up by the garbage collectors after they bought newer and better equipment.
  • Even though the salaryman concept is losing ground, Japan’s often unquestioning commitment to work lives on. (See this article at The Lily.)
  • When I was in college, I picked up a photo calendar featuring Japan’s beautiful and rugged mountains. I think Japan has more mountains per square kilometer than my beloved Colorado. (Check out Kamikochi.)
  • Japan loves bizarre little cars that will never find their way to the States, such as the Honda N-WGN and the Nissan Roox. I’d love to feature one in my driveway.

Even post-pandemic (if we ever get there), I may never get to visit. But it’s nice to dream.


Photo courtesy of bantersnaps on Unsplash. Used by permission via a Creative Commons license.

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The post I couldn’t write

blog post not written - screenshot

I started writing. I stopped.

It’s hard to be a voter in this election cycle.

Telling you why I voted one way or the other in a blog post is impossible. It’s so easy to be misunderstood or judged.

Our world has become so polarized that it’s hard to be fully heard. If a sound bite heading features what you don’t believe, you probably won’t read the whole article. And even if you read the whole article, you would probably read your own meaning over the words. I often do the same.

Face-to-face discussion is the only way to really understand what the other person means. (And yes, discuss at a safe distance.)

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Get those other perspectives

Wall Street Journal Columnists - photo of magazine spread

Every month or so, The Wall Street Journal publishes WSJ Magazine, which I thoroughly enjoy.

One of the best sections is “The Columnists,” where six different people share their thoughts on a single-word subject. The most recent feature focused on time.

A wonderful aspect of this feature is that WSJ always pulls people from several different disciplines. For “time,” Bill Nye represented science and an actress shared how time affected her life. A chef is almost always represented, an author talks, and at least one celebrity pontificates on their brushes with the topic.

In the same way, it’s helpful to get different perspectives on what we’re facing in life. One viewpoint will rarely provide all the answers we need. Even when we know we disagree with a particular approach to life or culture, it’s good to hear from that side to help us shape our views.

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Warnings on a chair?

labels hanging off of portable camp chairs

I was sitting at outdoor church last Sunday morning, and I noticed a family sitting in front of me.

Every one of their chairs had two-part tags hanging off.

I looked closely, and this is what I saw:

  • Warning: Do not use this chair as a hat. Serious damage to your brain may result.
  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Soy-free
  • Nut-free
  • Zero calories
  • Warning: Contains inedible materials. Consumption may cause cancer or heart disease.
  • Not tested on animals
  • Not intended for use while water skiing
  • Failure to comply with warnings and disclaimers may result in death.
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My favorite month

Aspen leaves in the mountains of Colorado during September

September is my favorite month.

After a long hot summer, the cool days are such a wonderful change.

Leaves are starting to change, at least in North America. (I missed that during the five years I lived in Africa.) Growing up in suburban Washington DC, I loved the rich variety of colors falling around me.

My birthday hits this month. Though I’m not huge on birthday celebrations, it’s still a fun day.

School starts. Or it did during my childhood… that was before school began in August. I always enjoyed going back to class and friends, even though it meant the pain of homework.

Enjoy your September!

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Weird times

Skyline of Denver with a construction crane

These are such strange times.

We’re surrounded by business closing – yet some sectors of the stock market are soaring.

The world has become Woke and yet there seems to be complete intolerance toward anything but the majority view. Every single written or spoken word is judged using just one filter that determines what is correct.

In the name of justice, society is shutting down traditional methods of maintaining law and order.

Wake me up when it’s over.

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An Ideal Boy

An Ideal Boy poster

We lived in Kenya, Africa for five years.

The most numerous non-African people in Kenya are from South Asia.

(There is some pretty awesome Indian food there – in fact, the best I’ve ever tasted.)

One day I went into a shop run by South Asians and found a poster – “An Ideal Boy.” I bought it instantly because of the reflection of a quirky part of India’s colonial-era past.

And all these years later, I found that poster in our attic.

I’m sharing it with you.

You can see a PDF of “An Ideal Boy” here. Download the file, enjoy it, whatever.

If you want to buy one of the panels, I’m selling them for $5 each, which includes shipping to US addresses. There are 12 panels, and there’s just one of each. I plan to keep one or two for myself (whatever is left). If you’re interested, send me an email at paul at pmerrill dot com, and I’ll be in touch. Send me your address too. We’ll exchange the funds via PayPal or Venmo.

First come, first served. (There’s only one “Salutes parents.”)

Each panel is about 5 1/2″ x 6.”

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