Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Great Holiday Card Debacle

It went this year, as it goes nearly every year. I had the thought. I suspect the thought burst into my brain for the first time sometime in July or August—early. It went, “This is the year. Yes! I will finally, really, no I’m serious this time do it. It will be perfect. I will send holiday cards to everyone I know. Splendid,” I thought. “I have time this year—so no excuses. Perhaps I’m finally a grownup.”

Some weeks later, I was on FB, and I saw that a very talented woman I know from Maine was selling her art as greeting cards. She was selling beautiful cards, some of them resplendent with snowy landscapes that made me wistful for New England. They were special, which just ratcheted up my enthusiasm. By then, I’d been seeing all the pleas to shop local, buy local, and support businesses here at home. So now, not only would I be a good person for—at long last—sending holiday cards and telling all of my truly excellent friends how much I really appreciate them—now I’d save the U.S. economy and support the arts. How much better could I get?

Of course, I’d have to find—in the physical world—where all of my truly excellent friends actually live. I typically have to call my mother each and every time I need to locate my own sister’s addresses just to send presents to my niece and nephews. “It will be okay, though,” I thought, “I’ll just email, FB, and tweet out to all of my friends and get them to send me their mailing addresses.” It shouldn’t be that hard. I’d finally start that great big name and address spreadsheet I'd always imagined, the one I assume most women start when they get married and have to send out all the invitations and thank-you notes. Perhaps the fact that I’m so bad at this exercise every year is really just because I’ve never walked down the aisle. Maybe it’s not me, per se; maybe it’s just my status as a partnered, yet not married, woman that is responsible for my annual apathetic performance when it comes to holiday cards?

The truth is, I’ve always been bad at getting things—any things—into the mail. (Think about it; when did you ever hear from me before email, FB, and Twitter?) Being a tremendously scattered person does not do me any favors because getting something into the real, physical, nearly bankrupt, snail-mail, U.S. postal system requires one to collect, coordinate, and eventually call upon your local post office or mailbox; you need at least all of the following:
  1. Card or Paper or Postcard (the thing being sent)
  2. Pen (in working order)
  3. Envelope (except in the case of postcard)
  4. Stamp
  5. Mailing Address
  6. Post Office or Mailbox 
That’s six whole things, and I’m sure I’m missing something. I typically am. And it always plays out exactly the same way. I always start out with enthusiasm and with the best of intentions. For example, I buy postcards—as I did 25 years ago when I was in Switzerland. The post cards then get toted around in a backpack—waiting for that perfect moment when I’m sitting in a café, looking cool and sipping tea—because that’s when I’ll write them. I never end up sitting in a café, looking cool and sipping tea. When I’m in Switzerland in my early twenties, I spend my time schussing about on the ski slopes, hiking around in the lowlands, and in the evenings, chugging beer in bars with my coaching buddies while the postcards languish in the backpack back in my room.

At some point, while waiting for one of my ski-coaching roommates to finish in the shower, a few postcards will actually get written. And, then, as soon as the shower is free, they’ll get tucked into a book or a notebook or a journal. And at the moment when they get slammed between the pages, they will likely just be written. It is unlikely that they will be addressed, and it is highly improbable that they will be affixed with a stamp.

Years later, I’ll be flipping through an old book or notebook or journal, and I’ll find the postcard—never completed, never sent. I’ll look at it with a twinge of nostalgia and regret: a good idea never seen through—another friend or family member not reminded that I was thinking of them.

After my initial mid-to-late summer burst of goodwill—accompanied by my half-year resolution to do the whole holiday card thing—Brian and I scoot off to Maine to learn how to build wooden boats. We then return home to Florida to decide that we are no longer going to build a wooden boat of our own—at least not now. So, we dash off to Seattle to visit with old friends there and to figure out how to rekindle our Pacific Northwest lives—both of us now hoping to pursue dreams that had been put off on a shelf while chasing the boat-building, sail-around-the-world dream.

Less than ten days before Christmas, I have a sinking feeling. “Have I missed it yet again?” Online, I learn that Claudia Diller’s note cards are sold out. “Rats! All the punctual people got all the cards.” And now I feel bad. I’m leaving for New Hampshire in four days to be with family for the holidays, and not only am I not packed, but I’ve bungled the whole holiday card thing—again! I still don’t even know both of my sister’s addresses, and I haven’t saved the U.S. economy, supported the arts, or helped the ailing postal service, and none of my friends will know how much I’ve been thinking of them. They won’t know that I’ve actually been trying to concoct a scheme for getting out to Seattle by way of all 48 contiguous states—just so that I might pop in and see them. They won’t know that I’m secretly planning a huge reunion for someday when I’ve finally rebuilt my rotted-out little shack in Maine. And they won’t know that I’ve been thinking of them today as I watch a pair of cute little diving ducks repeatedly follow each other beneath the surface and then bounce back up one after the other as they swim around our little section of OchlockoneeBay, where we’ve been living in Florida.

“Well,” I think, “maybe I’ll write one of those ‘here’s what we’ve been up to in 2012’ letters, and I’ll send it electronically.” I research these letters online. I see that some people try to make them very funny. The funny authors try to tease the people who write holiday update letters that are too boastful or that over share about life events that not everyone would want to hear. This idea leaves me feeling somewhat defeated, so instead of packing or rushing out to buy whatever remaining holidays cards might still be hanging out on discount shelves just eight days before Christmas, I read the funny book by Caitlin Moran that has had me laughing out loud, and I write in my journal, and I watch the diving ducks—and I think, maybe next year.

So, to all my family, friends, and readers, please know that despite my terminal disorganization and ineptitude with certain standard social practices, I love you all, and I wish you the very merriest of Christmases, the happiest of Hanukkahs, and the most Splendid of Spaghetti Monster Days. I hope that your New Year is bright, cheerful, prosperous, and healthy. I wish you vast quantities of friendship, laughter, and love to see you through all of your days—and I hope that 2013 will bring you great joy, peace, and comfort.

And to Claudia Diller, I’d really like to order some of your cards for next year. Please let me know when they’re back in stock! I'd like to buy the book you illustrated too.  :-)

And to all of you who actually do manage to get real, tangible holiday cards into the actual mail, how on earth do you do it?????? I’m in awe!

Oh, and if you’d like to help my desperate cause for next year, please send me your physical mailing address: (beliveaulisa at gmail.) 


  1. My sister is almost a competitive Xmas card/newsletter sender. Thanksgiving, they are all addressed and stamped; Black Friday they go in the mail, no matter what. Sometimes I hate my sister.

    I'm a little more lackadaisical, but I do tend to get 'em started over Thanksgiving weekend, anyway. I keep my addresses gathered in a WordPerfect database I can merge to create labels or lists, so that saves me time. (Except for the list of all the cards that got returned the previous year that I was gonna update the addresses over the course of the year and never got around to.)

  2. Hi Beverly,
    As of today, I just started my "big list." Maybe 2013 will be my year! Send me your address if you'd like to be on the list!

    Also, I hope you have wonderful holidays, and as always, thank you for swinging by my blog. I really enjoy reading yours.

    All the best!


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