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Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Posts tagged "spotlight"

We've written about postboxes on the blog before, like the very old post office tree in South Africa, or the barrel postbox in the Galapagos... but did you know there's a very special postbox in Utah that has its own Postcrossing account?

Yup, you read that right! Her name is M (aka MthePostBox), and she lives in South Jordan (a leafy suburb of Salt Lake City), together with Sir Owen, a telephone booth which functions as a free library. They love postcards and books respectively — and when we stumbled on their profile, we found their story so charming that we just had to invite them for the blog. 😊

Sir Owen and M

Sir Owen and M

Could you introduce yourselves to the community?

M: Certainly! I am Dame Mavis Margaret, although my friends all call me 'M'. I was named after two female code breakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. Have you ever seen the movie, "The Imitation Game"? That was the place. There were around 10,000 people working to break codes in secret during those years (and that's just the people! There were also telephone boxes, telegraphs, post boxes, and a not insignificant number of spy pigeons — but that's another story). As an anthropomorphised Post Box, I came into service in 1941.

Mavis Batey

Mavis Batey, a code breaker at Bletchley Park during WWII, and one of M's namesakes.

Sir Owen: I am Sir Owen St. George, named after the Royal Librarian of Kings George V, VI, and the first years of Queen Elizabeth II. As an anthropomorphised telephone box I came into service in 1936, and also got involved in the code breaking efforts during the war. M. and I first worked together at Bletchley, then stayed in intermittent contact after the war — she stayed in England, while I immigrated to Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States in the 1970s, (though still in the capacity of a functioning telephone box — I wasn't decommissioned until the early 2000s).

What is South Jordan like? And how did you end up there?

Sir Owen: South Jordan is just lovely — it's located about 25 km southwest of Salt Lake City, the capital city of Utah. As a former farming community that has become increasingly developed and suburban, there are plenty of parks and open spaces, though some neighbourhoods can be quite spread out and not feel very walkable. Everyone seems to favour their Sport Utility Vehicle or Minivan!

Which leads to how I happened to relocate to South Jordan. My stewards had wanted a Little Free Library or neighbourhood book swap for several years: an opportunity to share their love of books and reading, but also to provide a reason for families, friends, and neighbours in the community to get out walking, interact, and share a smile. And what can do that better than free books in a British telephone box? They investigated having one restored and shipped from England, but when they happened upon me outside a Las Vegas antique store, it was an ideal match for all of us.

Sir Owen without M

Sir Owen without M. Doesn't he look a bit lonely?

M: Sir Owen relocated to Utah and began his days as a Little Free Library in August of 2015. He enjoyed his new surroundings so much that he asked if I might consider joining him. I had been retired for some years at that point, but know that whatever our age or position, we can all find new purpose and be useful. I immigrated in mid 2016, and my stewards finally had my brickwork completed last October.

How did you find out about Postcrossing? What made you stay?

M: I must thank one of my patrons! My stewards originally had postcards made up to enable Sir Owen's and my visitors to send a kind note to a friend, but then one of our patrons pointed me to the Postcrossing website. Imagine being able to do a similar thing with people all across the world! I remember wondering what I would say that could possibly be interesting enough to fill up a whole postcard. But reading about the person to whom I'm sending a postcard (or from whom I've received one), and possibly finding a point of commonality and connection, it helps me realise that no matter our backgrounds, we have so much in common with and so much to learn from each other. And that's what makes me stay. 😊

Do you have a favourite postcard you've received?
Postcard Selection

Sampling of postcards that M has received.

M: I have received so many wonderful and beautiful postcards! Honestly the ones I remember the most are the ones where someone shares something about themselves or why they chose the particular card they sent. A lovely Postcrosser (and self-proclaimed "Crazy Cat Lady" 😀 ) in Switzerland recently sent me a postcard she had made which included a picture of her cat who lived over 16 years! Our library cat Locutus also turns 16 this year, which gave us each a chance to connect and reflect on our benevolent feline overlords.

Locutus the Library Cat

Locutus the Library Cat will occasionally deign to visit, if treats are provided.

Do you do anything special with the cards you receive?
World Map Mural

A world map mural, perfect for marking all the postcards sent and received.

M: My stewards have a large (2 meters x 3 meters) world map mural in the family office. Each postcard sent and received gets a small sticky tab showing were it was received from (or sent to), the number of days it took to be delivered, and distance sent. Their children love learning about the geography and cultural details of so many people across the globe! I also feature many postcards that I've received on Sir Owen's Instagram account, which helps share the Postcrossing fun with his followers in the Little Free Library and larger "Bookstagram" community (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, includes a lot of existing Postcrossers and has convinced others to join!).

Do you get many visitors everyday?
Halloween Visitors

Halloween visitors.

Sir Owen: Yes! Although technically located on my stewards' property, they intentionally located us next to a walking path that many children use to go to and from the local primary school. My stewards try to keep my shelves stocked with a good selection of books, but there are also other reasons to stop by — free bookmarks and treats, colouring pages, doggie treats, and of course blank postcards to send to a friend! If patrons address them and place them in M, my stewards will even affix postage and mail them via USPS on their behalf.

Sir Owen Freebies

Various surprises for patrons. Oh, and don't forget a book while you're here!

Visitor Notes

Visitors love leaving Sir Owen and M (and each other) notes on the windows when they visit.

How does the free library work?

Sir Owen: While the motto of a Little Free Library is "Take a Book, Leave a Book", there's no expectation that you have to leave a book in order to take one. The purpose is to share the love of reading and build community! If you like a book that you take, you can keep it forever. Or you can share it with a friend, or even return it to another Little Free Library in a different neighbourhood. Similarly if patrons have books they've enjoyed that they'd like to share with others, they can place them in my returns and donations bin under my bottom shelf (emblazoned with the Union Jack, of course).

Sir Owen s Rules

Sir Owen's Rules. The first rule is by far the most important.

I have five shelves organized roughly by age, from picture books on the bottom shelf for children, up through primary and secondary school, young adult, and books for grown-ups. While most of my selections are donated, my stewards also enjoy curating books to ensure I have a good selection for all reading levels (one steward has become quite familiar with the local thrift stores), as well as for particular holidays and themes throughout the year. My favourite celebration? Banned Books Week — celebrated the last week in September every year with the American Library Association. I've rediscovered classics and found so many new and interesting ideas that way!

Is M a normal mailbox, still in use by USPS? And is there a phone in the phone booth? :)

M: I am merely decorative as far as the USPS is concerned, as I would have to have the words 'U.S. Mail' stamped or painted on me to serve in any official capacity. However I did have the great honour of serving as an official letter drop for Santa Claus this past Christmas! Not only did I get to help deliver them, but every child who wrote also received a return postcard from Mrs. Claus stamped from the North Pole. I have also occasionally been mistaken as a book return. 😊

Santa Letter Drop

M loved being an official drop-off for letters to Santa this past Christmas.

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning!

Checking M for Postcards

The youngest child of Sir Owen and M's stewards loves checking M every day for new postcards to mail for patrons.

Sir Owen: I no longer feature a telephone; that leaves more room for books! However about a week after I opened, a kindly gentleman visited me and gave me a frame that had once housed the emergency telephone in a lift. As you saw above, I use it now to welcome patrons and explain what a Little Free Library is.

Finally, any plans for the future?

Sir Owen and M: Why, books, reading, and Postcrossing of course! Our stewards also think there might be a faerie garden in our future, as well as a couple of other surprises still in the works. One of our stewards says that if he could figure out how to pay the bills by purchasing books at thrift stores and then giving them away for free, he'd retire and steward for us full time (well, that and tend the royal beehives 😊 ). Our other steward (by far the more handy of the two) enjoys creating amazing projects for us in her growing wood shop (such as Sir Owen's bookshelves, and our brand new bench featured in the first picture above!). Sir Owen and I plan on being here happily giving people a chance to slow down, share a smile, and build community, both in our local neighbourhood and across the world.

Thank you Ana for letting us share our story!

Thank you guys for this wonderful interview! I wish we lived closer to South Jordan, to pay M and Sir Owen a visit and sit on their bench for a while...

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Most people have a favourite author from their childhood or teenage years — for many, that might be Dr. Seuss, Roal Dahl or Enid Blyton. Maybe J. K. Rowling or Beatrix Potter? Or perhaps a mix of all of those! If you grew up in Portugal though, one of them would probably be Alice Vieira. Her name is inescapable in any Portuguese adolescent's life, often featured in school books and "must-read" lists.

To me, her works are linked with a clear memory of this being the first author I read as a young teenager whose books felt "real". Often, the characters were kids just like us, discovering real life and wondering aloud about the same things we thought about all the time. Alice's words flow in the pages as the most natural thing in the world, funny and ironic at times, and yet genuine and straightforward. It's easy to understand and fall in love with — and year after year, new generations of children continue to do so.

So you can probably imagine our surprise when, some years ago, we discovered Alice (aka paisdasmaravilhas) is a postcrosser too, and carries postcards everywhere she goes... often to interviews, where she explains Postcrossing to puzzled journalists! We met her last year, and, very humbled and honoured, asked her a few questions about her relationship with mail. Here she is, in her own words!

To those out there who don't know you, how would you describe Alice Vieira?

An old journalist colleague of mine described me as the "activist of optimism"... I think it defines me well. Even in tough times, I always believe things will work out, if we give it our best.

How did you find out about Postcrossing? What made you stay?

I think I might have seen it on Facebook... but the big push to sign up came from my friend José (aka PilotOne). And then, it's really nice to receive postcards from the other side of the world, from someone who read a book of mine — it happened with a young Chinese postcrosser, who told me that he was going to save my book for his son that was about to be born (and then sent me a picture of the baby!) or exchange postcards back and forth with several others (the last one is a young Finnish lady who calls me "granny"). There are other funny instances as well, such as the time I received a postcard... from a neighbour!

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Which part of Postcrossing do you enjoy the most?

It gives me great pleasure is to pick the best postcard for someone. Even today, I was out looking for cute postcards with cats. And I also use the opportunity to "advertise" our own national treasures: for instance, if someone is interested in contemporary art — and they often are — I send postcards with reproductions of paintings by Almada, Amadeo Souza-Cardoso, etc.

Have you always written postcards, or is it more of a recent thing? Who did you write to, before Postcrossing?

Always!!! Since I was a child. And I've always insisted with my children to do the same: I have a postcard that I always carry with me, that my son sent me when he was 8 years old, from Coimbra where he was playing at a chess tournament. It reads "Mom: I have nothing to say. Kisses."
Before discovering the project, I used to send (and I still do!) to a group of friends, some of which I've converted to Postcrossing. And on all of my friend's birthdays as well. And on holidays... This year I've already received two happy birthday cards from two Facebook friends, one from Germany and another one from Finland.

What other things are you passionate about?

Writing — and of course, my children and grandchildren.

Thank you so much Alice! It's so nice to finally see you on the blog! 😊

PS - Coincidently, today is Alice's birthday... please join us in wishing her a happy birthday on the comments below!

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Meet Alex (aka Zeby), a very enthusiastic young postcrosser from New Zealand. His mom Marian describes him as a little evangelist who will happily tell everyone he meets about Postcrossing... and he's doing such a great job that he earned the very special Ambassador badge last year! So of course, we had to have him on the blog for an interview. 😊

Hi Alex! How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

My Mum found Postcrossing on the internet one day and thought it looked interesting. She had collected postcards when she was young and she thought I might like to have a new hobby. My brother had started stamp collecting and I wanted to do my own thing, I really like postcards and getting mail, so it was the perfect hobby for me.

Postcrossing has been a great experience so far, it gets even more interesting each day. It gives me the chance to talk to people on the other side of the world. I get to learn about what creatures live in their countries, what their capital city is like and what their lives are like.

I've joined in a lot of Round Robins on the Postcrossing Forum, it's a lot of fun. From the Forum my brother and I have also got penpals our own age — it's really nice to write cards and letters to other kids.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I'm a Cub Scout. I love earning new badges, last year I earned 12 individual award badges. My twin brother and I got more badges than other Cub in the pack but it was a lot of work to get that many done in the year. Dad joined Cubs as a Leader late last year too and we all went to the Cubs 100 Years Camp in November.

Zeby and his family

My biggest hobby is reading. I love it. I read a lot, over 200 pages every night but Dad turns the light off if it gets too late. My favourite kinds of books are fantasy books. I got a lot of books for Christmas and I go to the library nearly every week.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

My letterbox is a long way away from my house, it's a big rural letterbox and we don't get mail every day in our valley. My postie comes in a van and sometimes I am at the letterbox waiting for him. He was very curious about all the mail I was getting so I told him about Postcrossing, he says I'm keeping him in a job with all my Postcrossing mail.

Zeby's mailbox

Here's me at one of our local postboxes, I normally post my cards here as it's outside the supermarket.

Zeby's postbox

I have a whole wall of cards on display. There's one from each country in my collection pinned on the wall and I've got string leading to where it's from in the world.

Zeby's wall of postcards

My world map got too crowded so my uncle gave me a map of Europe.

Zeby's wall of postcards

I swap cards around with my collection boxes and the wall. I have collections of native animals, native costumes, Cold War, volcanoes and space. My brother and I also have a box of Greetings From cards we are collecting. In my room I have my special owl collection on the wall. The house is covered in postcards!

Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

I've talked to my gifted education class about Postcrossing. They liked the idea and a lot wanted to join themselves. The teacher liked the idea too because it opens the world to classrooms.

My Scout Pack Master loved my Postcrossing so much she joined. Dad says I talk to everyone I meet about Postcrossing. Everyone who comes in our house gets a tour of my Postcrossing maps!

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

I like picking a new person to send a card to and then reading their profiles. I want to know about the people and match a card to them. It's like a lucky dip, getting a new person. I enjoy sending cards out.

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

I have so many postcards that I love. I don't have an absolute favourite but so many people have sent me amazing cards. My rarest official card was from Montenegro:

ME-2303

Someone else sent me an official with my name on the front!

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My favourite rare country was a card from Antarctica, though it didn't come from Postcrossing. It was sent from a New Zealand scientist I met, she went down to Antarctica to do some field work this summer.

Antarctica
Is there anything that you are passionate about?

Space is a big passion for me. My hero is Neil deGrasse Tyson, he's an astrophysicist. I love astronomy and one day I'd like my own telescope to look at the stars. All science is amazing.

I love learning, I want to know as much as possible. I like trying to learn languages. I like learning about history and how the world works. I'm lucky that I'm a worldschooler!

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Although we've never met Luzia (aka Luziaceleste) in person, we know she's a generous postcrosser. Sometimes, she'll send postcards in advance to participants in meetings across the world... just to say hi and share a bit of the joy of Postcrossing! How nice is that? 😊 To discover more about Luzia, we asked her our usual round of questions:

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

It happened in seconds. A work colleague, next table to mine, mentioned he intended to join the project. I checked it out and registered before him!

Reason is simple: I have been always fascinated by mailing postcards. Every travel in my life has these moments where I shop, write and go after nice stamps before mail them. It a sort of proof that I've been on the place, and besides, sharing the experience with dear people is wonderful.

Postcrossing took me a step forward: exchanging postcards is also the exchange of culture and individual points of view.

In the very beginning, I used to send one postcard at a time. After asking for the direction and reading the profile, I searched the best postcard and then sent it. Soon, I realised that storing postcards would be handy, and I slowly asked for more addresses. Now I have two collections: the received postcards and the blank postcards to send. I am constantly being hooked by Postcrossing. Frankly, this an endless world. The more you get into, the more possibilities you discover: decoration, swaps, collections. If you wonder how this is true, go to Postcrossing Forum! I made many virtual friends there, that are not that 'virtual' after all, as postcards are very physical stuff.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I love the Tea Ceremony. Have been practicing for decades. It helps me to understand Japanese aesthetics and ethical views. It is very handy for postcards too: space for writing is minimal comparing to letters. Getting the most out of a few words is an art. And a goal.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
Postcrossing Spotlight: Luziaceleste from Brazil!

I store postcards in boxes — not in albums. I love the contact with them, having them on my hands. Periodically, I rearrange the classification. With the growing in my collection, I see sense in ordering them in more refined ways. For instance, the 'heart-themed' postcards are under sub-classification of 'Nature oriented'. Blank postcard are also stored in boxes according to the theme, to help me find the best postcard. I have no idea how many of each one I store... I don't mind the figure, I enjoy the fun and the possibilities.

Postcrossing Spotlight: Luziaceleste from Brazil! Postcrossing Spotlight: Luziaceleste from Brazil!
Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

Some people are enthusiastic when they see my postcards arriving and also the joy I have in sending them. A cousin, a niece, a friend and some people felt motivated... but quit after a while. Attendants in the Post Office are very curious, but language in a barrier in Brazil.

I like to support newbies, to ease their steps, helping them to cope with the difficulties we face at the start. Unfortunately, Brazil is a country with a lack of production of decent postcards, picturing the local scenario.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

The matching point! I love sending a postcard that I know the person will be pleased to receive. It is surprising when we get something that took someone's time and effort... This is the magic!

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

What a difficult task. It is so unfair to all the other postcards... Let's say that a good sample of nice postcard I got are:

Postcrossing Spotlight: Luziaceleste from Brazil!

A tasty, fresh and inspiring heart

luzia A mailbox, on a very peculiar street. This postcard came from a swap with Japan via the forum's 'stamp related postcard tag'. Postcrossing Spotlight: Luziaceleste from Brazil!

A special eye chart!

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

The postcard I got from Tuvalu was a touching one for me. Thinking that the country is in danger talks deeply to my heart.

Of course, we also value the rare... but, I do value every postcard. From time to time, there is a huge number of postcrossers in one country and I send to and get from this country more than others. Still remember when Finland was a frequent country! This is a good opportunity to see personal differences. How people communicate, what they are able to express in their profiles or in the postcards. Every person is a single person, and even further, every postcard is unique.

Have you met any other members in real life?

I dream with meetups. And yes, there was a mini international meetup here some time ago. I was glad to join martinha, vbformig and andreaeiko for a nice chat. Now, we are doing efforts to do more local meetings with postcrossers. Let's see!

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I live in a crowded business city, so, every opportunity I have to escape, here I am, ready to get into Nature. Travelling is for me the best way to learn about others, through food, drinks and cultural production (in this order, please) and learn more about myself through relaxing and enjoying life. Travelling is also related to postcards... but this is no longer travel dependent, hahaha!

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Mark (aka maleko) hails from Hawaii (USA). He has been gracefully hosting the Random Acts of Smileness thread on the forum for the past few years, and has a special toy voyager of his own... Come meet them both on this spotlight interview! 😊

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

In my twenties I moved around a lot, so I got into the habit of sending postcards to friends as a quick and casual way of keeping in touch. I’ve kept it up ever since. I’ve always been interested in snail mail and pens, paper, and office supplies in general. One day I read about Postcrossing on Missive Maven’s blog, and wandered over to this site and signed up. Over four years and 400 postcards later, I’m still very glad I came across that blog post. The great thing is, sometime after joining I actually drew Missive Maven’s name for an official card, and was able to thank her for turning me on to this wonderful community. She sent me a hurray message saying how tickled she was to find out that she had introduced me to Postcrossing. We both enjoyed that Postcrossing coincidence.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

Nothing terribly interesting. I like to read (mostly fiction and biographies) and write. For some reason the ordinary physical act of writing with pen and paper gives me a kind of pleasure no laptop keyboard can bring. I’ve also kept a diary since I was a child. It has become a form of self-help for me: often I don’t know what I am thinking until I’ve written it down. And once in a great while I’ll look over a few diary entries from decades ago and remember the person I was then.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
maleko

This is my desk where I write postcards. The letterbox holds the cards I’ve recently received.

postcards

Here is the box where I keep my supply of postcards to send.

mailbox

This is the old green mailbox where I normally leave my cards for my mail carrier, Raymond, to pick up.

post office

This is my neighborhood post office.

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

Clearly it’s not possible to choose a favorite card. Recently, though, I learned about interactive postcards from one of Ana’s posts on this blog, and discovered that I really liked them. Here are two that have a special place on my bookshelf: a 3-D stereoscope-type card that I received as a gift from Vladyslav1998, and a construction project that was an official card from LittlePingui.

interactive cards

I also love the card below, from dallesandro, because it’s all about inclusiveness and honoring our differences. Incidentally, it’s the only card I’ve ever received that shows someone in a wheelchair, which means something to me because I’ve been in a wheelchair since I was a teenager.

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But what really makes a card special for me is the open friendliness, kindness, or courage that comes through the message on the back. In my profile, I ask people to tell me about the things that are good and true and authentic in their lives, and I cannot count the times I’ve been uplifted by the things they share.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

It’s always great to find a postcard or two lying there when I open the mailbox, but I think sending cards is my favorite part of this hobby. It feels creative, relaxing, and even meditative: to sit at my desk and search for the right card for the right person, choose some interesting stamps, and write a short, simple message to someone far away. Such a small act can redeem the toughest day for me, and hopefully it has a similar effect on the person who receives the card. It can be a quiet blessing for two lives.

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

About a year after joining Postcrossing, I received CU-1397, a postcard from a university professor in Cuba. This was very exciting for me, before the beginning of more normalized relations between Cuba and the U.S., and it was an eloquent reminder of what Postcrossing could be.

Have you met any other members in real life?

I’ve enjoyed such warm pen-friendships through Postcrossing that I almost feel as if I’ve met many other postcrossers in person. But in reality I only recently met a few at a meetup here in Honolulu organized by oneup92. It was a small gathering, but we had fun getting acquainted over a meal and signing a huge stack of cards.

honolulu meetup

A few years ago my wonderful Postcrossing friend mondkind sent me a traveling toy bear that she’d made for me. Kaipo the bear has met many more Postcrossers than I have, because he has dual citizenship, spending the autumn and winter months in Hamburg, Germany, and the spring and summer here in Hawaii.

3statekaipo

I think he might be the only bear who has attended both the huge Bielefeld International Postcrossing Meeting hosted by nordbaer and the Honolulu meetup!

What are you are passionate about?

Someone tried to tell me recently that emphasizing the need for education was outdated and “old-school,” that there are quicker and easier ways to “get ahead” in life these days. Yeah, right. I believe in both formal education and independent lifelong learning. I think we are put on this earth to learn something from, and contribute something to, each other, and disrespecting that process is somehow missing the point of the whole experience.

For the past seven years I’ve volunteered a few hours each week at a middle school, where I tutor students who are newly arrived from other countries and whose first language is not English. These kids are amazing: so motivated and filled with enthusiasm, so helpful toward each other, and so appreciative of the help they receive from others. I also admire their resilience, how gracefully they are able to adapt to the major changes in their lives. Honestly, I learn more from them than I am able to teach, and they inspire me with great hope for the future.

I also host the Random Acts of Smileness Round Robin on the Postcrossing Forum. I inherited this round robin a couple of years ago from lapoussine35. Forum members sign up there to nominate friends to receive cards from other group members, and to send cards to the other group members’ nominees. It’s not about receiving cards for yourself; instead, you’re spreading the good cheer to others. I’m constantly encouraged by the thoughtfulness and generosity of the “RAS agents” who participate. One of them once told me I have the best job on the internet, and there are moments when I think she may be right!

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