Postcards and the Storyteller

Postcard Storyteller logo

I started collecting postcards back in my late teens when I joined the International Youth Service (IYS). That was in the age of actual snail mail, well before email and the internet. Yes, back in the day when people knew how to use rotary dial phones, and we had this thing called a rolodex instead of the contact list on your phone or email account.

IYS was a student penpal service, matching young people with their preference of country, gender and age. For a minimal fee which you paid in international money order, you sent a form to Finland and waited to get an address to write to. I found some friends with whom I corresponded with for many years. One in particular, Clara from Hong Kong, has been a friend even to this day. Although there was a long lull in our correspondence, we managed to find each other again a few years back, reuniting in Hong Kong in 2018. We started writing when she was about to end high school, and I was about to go into college. She was able to visit the Philippines several times as a tour escort for outbound groups from Hong Kong to Manila, which is how we managed to make so many memories together through the years. I would’ve attended her wedding if I could, but that was not meant to be. Years passed, she was widowed and now with a grown daughter, and thanks to Facebook, we found each other again.

I learned a lot about other cultures through the many friends I found via snail mail, and one of the favorite ways by which we introduced each other to our respective countries was through postcards. Even back then, I considered them my window to the world. I really couldn’t travel out of the country then but found myself visiting all these foreign lands through these postcards.

When I started collecting, I collected all the postcards that I was sent, sending back postcards printed by the likes of National Bookstore, Bookmark, Goodwill, etc. Back then, at least half a row of shelves, and not just a rack, was devoted to different types of postcards, alongside 4-5x as many greeting cards. This was when people found a greeting card indispensable to send greetings and messages to friends and loved ones for any and all occasions.

Vintage postcards in my collection

I have to admit that at the start, I bought the Philippine postcards purely to exchange and send out. It took me a few years before I realized I should be keeping a copy of each card I sent, even before I made a decision to leave for New York.

When that time came in my mid-30s, my postcards made it to New York with my then fiancée, in one heavy shoebox. Another shoebox travelled with my balikbayan box when I finally moved in 2000. That, along with my pencils, were the only collectibles I took. I gave away my hardbound books and coffee mugs. (The mug collection would later make a return as I got into Starbucks mugs, a passion to this day.)

As I started my new life in New York, the postcard collection grew. I joined Yahoogroups and billboard lists which published postcard collector’s names and mailing addresses and collecting interests. We had roundrobins and swaps and swaplists. I can’t remember when it was that I started drifting towards maps and lighthouses. As I learned about different collecting categories and meeting people who collected them, I found myself just fascinated by these two. There were specific group swaps organized with these cards in mind. My collection grew. During local travels and vacations overseas, I looked for the maps and lighthouses. We even incorporated visits to lighthouses during our road trips when we could. When I suffered two miscarriages as we were trying to have a baby, we retreated to Montauk to visit the Montauk lighthouse and spend the weekend to heal. But I will not get into my fascination with these two categories today. That’s for another time.

Vintage lighthouse postcards

I somehow ended up drifting away from postcards as life got busier when I eventually had my son in 2004. There’s a definite demand on time and resources when you get into actively trading postcards, and although I never stopped collecting, I slowly lost interest in direct or group swaps. It was also around this time that I started sending postcards home every time we travelled, this time addressed to my son. I would pick up postcards wherever we went, and chronicle our trip and I would send them from the places we visited. Even when we were visiting family in the Philippines, I tried to send back postcards to give him something to go back to when he was older. All this time, I made sure to keep one postcard in mint condition for my collection.

Then around 2012, I discovered Postcrossing.com which seemed to be an interesting way to get back into the hobby. There I met other Filipino collectors, most notable of whom was Raine, a much younger then student of Architecture in the same University where I took my prelaw degree. She and I shared not just a passion for postcards, but a love for personal art and art exchanges. Because of Raine, I got into Artist Trading Cards and found Swapbot and ATC trading groups. I went back into postcards with a newfound interest in Philippine postcards to help me reconnect with everything I left behind. Swapbot also got me back into active swaps with other like minded collectors of postcards and other items. By this time, I had refined my collecting interests to include Vintage and Modern Philippines, New York and Paris. The first two were the places I called home, and the third, my favorite city after two visits many years before.

Vintage Philippine postcards

I got back into postcard swaps and trades with the same gusto as I did before and continued to add to my collection.   I joined a postcrossing group of Filipinos on Facebook under the banner of Postcrossing Philippines.   I  even got to attend two “unofficial” meetups in Manila while continuing to meet with Raine whenever I came home through a period of 4 years or so.. until some personal challenges made me stop once again.

In the beginning of 2020, I had tried to make a more determined effort to destash and shed the things that I no longer needed or didn’t have a use for.  The Pandemic and the lockdown that began in March 2020 made me look at my collection and I decided eventually, that the best way to trim it down to what I really wanted, was to go back to trading or swapping in postcard groups.

I started again in September, but the global slowdown of mail hampered my effort.  I picked up in November and December and have been back since.  I started an instagram account dedicated to postcards and my growing collection, under the handle “postcard_storyteller”.  I believe that every postcard is a way to tell a story, and I have a lot of those stories to tell.  Beginning with this one, and then some.

To date, I have also created a Youtube channel under the same handle and plan to produce more videos about the hobby.  I have joined a few other groups to widen my swapping circle.  All of those are stories for another time.  For now, it’s just me announcing to the world that I’m back, once again.  I don’t think my “return” will be complete without dedicating a portion of the blog to this newfound return to postcards, so let’s start off with this.  Here’s to more postcards heading my way, and heading out into the world to the homes of like minded souls who look through the same window to the world.

Monday musing: Creative frenzy

I started writing this at half past six and the sun hadn’t quite awakened just yet. I had tried to wake up my brain with my usual cup of Joe and my quarter of a cup of oat bran. And I started writing.

Creating for the #GiftOf50.  I’ve had a productive  weekend with my tools. I’ve been busy sorting my beads (Saturday) and creating (Sunday and most of the nights preceding it). I usually string the beads onto headpins before assembling the actual earring dangle then I finish this as a second step in a batch. I only put the ear wires when I’m sure I’m done, with no other finding or component or additional gemstone or bead to add. Last night, I did the last step.

Here’s the thing.. I had started creating basically with the idea of making a batch of earrings to give away as part of my #GiftOf50 push. After assembling the earrings, I am now torn about actually giving them away and posting them in the shop. Did I just create a problem for myself here?
I’ve also been busy with my Marian necklaces which deserves a post altogether.  Three (make that 4) pendants and necklaces in production.  I have the pendants done (finally), but I am in a design quandary.  (again, have to write about this separately.)

Giving in to the challah bread craving. I love bread but I’m trying so hard to stay away from it.  The week prior has been good in the area of trying to keep my weight in check, so I thought I’d give myself a break over the weekend with a “bread run”,  even if only for one loaf of challah bread from my challah bread source in my area, Le Pain Quotidien.  I meant to make some French toast, but congratulate me for resisting the urge.  I did eat it throughout the weekend..  grilled cheese dinner on Saturday, and this simple yet hearty breakfast of tomato scrambled eggs for Sunday breakfast.

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Sunday breakfast of tomato scrambled eggs and challah bread.. brings me back home to breakfasts in Manila with the “tasty” sliced bread or better yet, pandesal. .

I’m not worried about the scale tipping a tad higher because I know saying goodbye to my carbs beginning today will correct that.  For me personally, I have learned that weight loss is best managed by weight control– and at my age, I am not killing myself over a slight weight gain (nothing over a pound), more so when I’ve succeeded in keeping my weight down.  I am at my usual plateau and the only goal now is to break it and even go lower.  Soon!

My happy mailbox..I have never stopped collecting postcards even if I haven’t been actively trading them, and it always brings a smile to my face when I find a postcard in the daily mail when I sort them at the end of the day.. what more when I get 3!! Thanks to my friends from Postcrossing Philippines who continue to keep my collection growing with their postcards from home.  Keep them coming!

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#HappyMailbox: Thank you for the postcards, @mumwrites and @skyorange … for the mail smiles you brought my way with these cards from the Philippines. 🇵🇭 Such wonderful additions to my collection! Mail coming your way.. 💌

More lawyer wannabe questions.  I haven’t forgotten and I am not ignoring them.  Thanks for reaching out via email — I always appreciate hearing from the people who stumble into my corner of the web.  Again, I am getting to the questions soon.  Keep dreaming..

Gotham chick recommends.  Sometime in 2015, I thought I’d create a specific account for Gothamchickshopper for product and service recommendations.  I created an Instagram and twitter account, and yes, a blog.  I’ve always had the account on my smartphone but haven’t really been writing about it.  (I hardly get to keep up with this one!).

So I’ve started being more focused with the new hashtag #GothamChickRecommends and hope to keep the social media accounts more active as well.  I am even thinking of doing a weekly roundup here.  My restaurant posts have become short blurbs that can be an entire blogpost and I really should focus on some of that.  (That’s me talking to myself.)

I think I’m off to a good start and will hopefully get at least one of these blurbs into an actual post here during the week.. plus one or two or three.

Happy Monday!

Gift of 50 – Postcards and Chicken Sandwich

Gift of 50Life is good.  I keep saying I’m not quite where I want to be yet– but are we ever? And yet I know I’m getting there, because I’m moving towards “happier”.  It’s a deliberate step forward — I’m not waiting for “happy” to find me.  I’m making it happen.

I have much to be grateful for as I hit this birthday milestone, and a few weeks back I started this project for the year I’m calling the Gift of 50. (Please see the navigation bar.).   I have tried to make a list of 50 “gifts” to give back and pay my good fortune forward in thanksgiving for being where I am now.

Postcards on their way. I have been collecting postcards since I was 17 and have amassed a modest collection, but through the years, I have acquired postcards which are not within my collecting category.  I recently rejoined a Philippine Postcrossing group and am well on my way to finding a home for the postcards I don’t want to keep.

It feels good to be able to give someone a card or two (or more) from the cards in my collection which would otherwise just gather dust and turn yellow without much love from me.  I have found the recipients, so I am sorting and putting away the postcards in “packets”, and have started sending out individual ones to those who prefer their postcards sent that way.

As a collector, I know how it feels to receive something to add to your collection, so I am trying to spread the love so to speak.  I am happy to have had the chance to make new friends along the way, and hopefully trim my collection substantially by this time next year.

Chicken sandwiches are in demand, more so since a Chick-fil-a opened nearby.  So far, two meals given out.  I’m still iffy about writing about it, though, although one was impactful in a meaningful sense because I did it while Angelo was with me.  It felt good, he said — and I’m glad to have made that impression.  Paying forward the blessings by sharing with others is one of my goals in doing the Gift of 50.

It’s not just about being good — but being good in a way that makes a difference even to just one individual.

In the mail.  I  have two snail mail cards in the mail:  one to a friend who celebrated a birthday, and one to a classmate from way back who is currently undergoing medical challenges.  I have a second dear friend in the latter category for whom I have a card which will be going out, too.  I have always said time and again that there is something about receiving something you can hold through the post, in this day and age of electronic correspondence.  Nothing beats being able to go back to what was written and said in the card without having to flip a device.  The correspondence is a gift by itself which one can touch and come back to over and over again.

It doesn’t sound like much but I feel I’m moving in the right direction and actually making this happen.. The lunch I had hoped to have with possibly a newfound friend has been scheduled and I am looking forward to that.  I am making my ear candy and other little gifts.  There is a bigger project or two I’m also working on and hoping to get off the ground within the next 11 months or so.  I’ll keep you posted..

Handmade Card: Off to P

I’ve been working on this card inspired by an “accidental” printing over an already printed photograph.  I printed the photo as is, then accidentally printed a background paper over it lending it a ghost-like blur that I quite liked.. For effect, I then printed a clear black and white version of the same photo and cut out a rectangular portion and put it on top of the bigger printout.  Voila! 

No fancy graphics software or tweaking involved.  Just printing twice over.

Step-by-step tutorial already up in my craft blog: Gothamchick.com

Handmade card: Off to P

Inside, I printed out a quote picked up on GoodReads via Google: 

“You’ve got this life and while you’ve got it, you’d better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone’s hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people’s eyes like they’re the last you’ll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there’s no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it’s the only one left in the world!”
C. JoyBell C.
 
 

Some "Happy" from Friends and Journaling

I have a “love-hate” relationship with Facebook these days.  I am hardly there, and when I do log in, I pop in and go out quicker than quick.  I browse the updates which isn’t much considering that I now have a few hundred friends (which isn’t so cool when you look at how the feeds go), so I am seriously considering trimming down that friend list.  I’m sure a lot of people also don’t appreciate getting nonsensical updates from me.  I wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that many of them have unsubscribed from my feeds, although there isn’t much going on on my own page.

From time to time, I do come across some gems, like today, I picked this quote up from a friend, co-paulinian and colleague of my sister at work,  Edlynn.  I had to go back and grab the line, post it here, and will be putting it in my happiness journal at a later time.

“The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.” — Dan Dennett

And I got a pleasant surprise when BFF Pia K popped out on the chat — which was quite serendipitous by itself.  (As you can see, I’m still hooked on “serendipity” as I am continuing to work on my Artist Trading Card Mega Swap.)

Pia and I have known each other since the second grade, which is 39 years worth of the Pinay New Yorker on this earth.  I’ve written about it here a while back that we used to be mistaken for sisters back in grade school.  We went to the same high school and landed together most of our four years with the nuns — I think we managed to do it for 3 of 4.  She went to the other branch of the same University I went to and we completely lost touch.  We sort of “got back together” the last 4-5 years which was literally thanks to the post offices on both sides of the world.  And for that, I am eternally grateful to every mailman I see.  Our friendship, you see, was rekindled and kept alive by snail mail.  And I am still trying.

Though I don’t write her quite as often, I continue to try.   Despite the technology all around us, I still believe that the written word on hard copy carries a different kind of magic all its own.

So we had a good chat about how age makes you wake up at odd hours, and how, even if you crave sleep, you end up doing so little of it. (I told her it was age.)  We talked about our kids — which, we agreed, was one of the best accomplishments we can claim in our lifetime.  (Unfortunately, Pia beats me with 4 of her own against my unico hijo.)  And we traded light banter and then FB conked out on us and I had to go back to work.

Somewhere there, though, we talked about journaling.

I told her to just write whatever, whenever.  Journaling should be spontaneous.  The first thought, the first word, the feeling that comes to mind at that very moment.  That is the essence of capturing the moment in words just as you would want to do it with a picture.  I thought I’d come up with some journaling prompts for Pia as she starts this new journey.

1. There’s always a sticky, a tape receipt, a paper napkin handy where you can scribble the date, the time and place, and even a single word like “Thanks.”

2. Think of a happy memory.  Start with “Remember the time…”

3. Grab some words of wisdom.  They might not be your own, but the thought of wanting to share it with someone you love or care for makes it your gift.

4. Cut up a picture, or even a magazine ad or article that reminds you of something or someone and paste it onto the journal.

5. Even a simple “I love you” can fill a whole page with feelings.

Good luck on this new journey, P.  I have always believed you were a great writer — I have always worked hard to catch up with you but have never quite caught up.. =)   Take care, my dearest friend.

A warm hug from across the oceans – From my bestfriend, Fe

Wherever you are,

whatever you’re doing right now,

you are so very loved.

Can you feel it?

I hope so, I really do.

Because we both know

some days can be, well,

trying —

to say the least..

And although I know you’re fine

and perfectly capable

of handling things on your own,

you still deserve some moral support.

I still want to be there for you.

Rooting for you in the tough moments,

celebrating the good things with you…

caring about and supporting you

every step of the way.

So don’t be afraid to reach out

when you need me, okay?

And always remember

how dearly and completely

you are missed, appreciated,

admired, and loved.

Always loved.

Then she writes : “I love you.  Happy birthday.”  Of course I had to reach for the tissue and wipe the tears away.  Thank you for the love and friendship, Fe…

Take Care of You

I am not sure I’ve posted anything about this just yet because this card has been sitting in my art folder for a couple of months now.  It’s the first of three that I had rendered in ink first and then photocopied onto duplicates, and decorated and painted over in different fashions.  The photocopies made it easier to paint over as there was no fear of the original black ink bleeding.  For this version, it’s all just watercolor over the wordart.

It’s the first of the series of three that is finally making its way to the post office, and I didn’t post the other two because they are still “works in progress”.  (I have a bunch of those..)  I have been remiss with my notes and letters to home, but I’m hoping to catch up again.

No matter how quick technology helps us connect, it is still lacking in terms of giving you the warm and fuzzy  feeling that holding and reading a letter or a card gives when you take one out of its envelope.  This is something the younger generation will be missing in this electronic age.

Now on its way to you…

Of blogs, friends, and snail mail.. oh, and yes, my Fourth of July weekend

I will try NOT to make this a rambling list, but coming off of a three-day weekend and continuing to be in holiday mode is a little dangerous.  Still, I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to update my corner of the blogsphere.  Happy fourth, everyone!

I was just visiting my favorite artist’s corner, Balzer Designs by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, where I stop by for some bit of inspiration every now and then and what do you know — she was writing about blogging (Some Thoughts on Blogging) which I could truly relate to.  I guess you can say this particular post is part of THAT inspiration.  I feel bad that I haven’t yet started my journey in art journaling just yet, but I might get on with it this July.  (Promises, promises…)  It helps that I am actually seriously considering creating cards for some friends I want to bug all summer long (and beyond) just so we can keep the USPS (United States Postal Service) relevant.

Earlier in the day, I also stopped by for an update on a friend from way back who is doing a great job chronicling her personal journey against the big C in The Evil Crab.  I have known Anna Lisa German-Thomson or Annalee as we called her then and then Chinot as her close friends know her, since our elementary days in St. Paul Pasig — and thanks to Facebook, we reconnected even if we went our separate ways from high school on.  We have popped in and out of each others blogs every now and then, but I must say her new blog has made such a big impact on me.  I hate that I had not been current with my blog hopping nor FB status checking (which, I now realize, is the curse of having too many people on my friend list), and it took me a while to catch on with what Chinot has been up against.  So a few days ago, I sent a card her way (yes, via snail mail) after sending her younger sister who I had know way back when, too, a note requesting for her mailing address.  I know that most people will swear by electronic mail — it’s just that I’m rather old fashioned when it comes to correspondence, more so when I feel a need to have my thoughts travel the distance in a tangible form.  I know it can make a difference and it has made a difference — so I have added another destination for my cards, letters and clippings.  (Someone in Horseshoe Village gets a regular dose.. or is getting a regular dose, too, again.)

The three-day weekend was a good chance to recharge, create, and spend some time with friends doing the winery route in the North Fork of Long Island.  I like picnics because they’re casual and relaxing, but I didn’t come prepared for the sun beyond wearing an almost full-length long sleeve tunic.  End result was sun burn on my neck, and I saved my face from over exposure to the sun by sitting on the side of the picnic table which had my back to it.  Some of Alan’s friends from high school had gathered for a reunion and some fun.

Cheese from Murrays, a small tray of dried fruit, some pepperoni and Saucisson Sec from Freshdirect, ample seedless grapes and fresh strawberries, crackers galore, packed the picnic bag with enough utensils (slicing board, serrated knives for the meats and spreaders for the cheese), ziploc bags, and take out lunch from Panera’s catering menu — and the lovely setting: Martha Clara Vineyards — and we were all set.  The wine was good, the company even better.

We went to Palmer Vineyards for a quick stop, then to Tanger Outlets, and finally dinner at Boulder Creek.  (I was too tired by then that I could only tackle a bowl of french onion soup.)  It was tiring but a lot of fun, and it is always good to reconnect with friends doing the things you like doing.  It was also refreshing to see my seven-year-old interacting with children from Manila — and with fellow Fil-Am children here in New York.

The weekend saw me creating quite a number of pieces for posting in my Etsy shop which should be up soon.  (Will I ever hit 300 items for sale?)  And yes, the button repairs were done quite successfully.  =)  For all the things I consider done over the last three days, I still feel I didn’t quite accomplish everything I wanted to.  I did inch forward slightly reading the latest installment I’m trying to catch up on.  You’d think that spending an afternoon lazing away under the sun in a vineyard would’ve given me time to read.  Nope.

It’s a Tuesday that feels like a Monday.  This is the downside of a long weekend… but there’s work and the rest of life to get on with.  Getting there, getting there…

Coming soon on GothamChick (ETSY)