Friday, November 14, 2008

The first time

Today is the day after the first time I missed a post for NaBloPoMo. I was doing everyone a favor, though. I was very cranky. I blame my female-ness. So I did what I always do when I am cranky: I cleaned my apartment from top to bottom. Its nice and sparkly now, and my laundry is all done.

I am feeling better today. Due, in no small part to the fact that my place is clean and I have Fridays off. So life is good once again.

In the spirit of slacking, and since yesterday was a first time for something, I decided to complete my MamaKat assignment a little late with the prompt:

The first time I wrote a "top ten" list as my Christmas letter, I did so out of desperation. I am one of those people who believe in the art of the Christmas letter. It's important! I have a lot of friends with whom I was once very close, but now are what I call "Christmas card friends." I consider them my friends, I care about what is going on in their lives, but my ONLY contact with them is through Christmas cards. My one chance for contact in the year needs to be a carefully crafted, upbeat yet informative, inpired letter that says ME all over it.

Some people completely miss the mark with their Christmas letters. They rotely list the events over the past year and it ends up sounding like a quarterly report. Or they try to make their lives sound so perfect that it ends up like a Disneyfied version of reality.

I think the hardest thing to master is probably talking about your kids without sounding too braggy. I don't have kids of my own, and I can only imagine how hard that is too pull off. I have hard time not braging about my neices and nephews. Still, some people pull it off beautifully. Some do not.

I have one friend who missed the mark by so much that her letters are almost comical. One December, I said as much to M. He said I was being mean and grabbed the letter out of my hand. After reading it, he said: "You're wrong. There's nothing wrong with that letter. I, for one, find it fascinating that her 5 year old just graduated from college!"

Having set the bar so high for myself, I was having a terrible time constructing my letter one year. Work was not going well for me. I was in a supervisory position that I hated, the administrator of the facility where I worked was a bit of a psycho, and I felt like if I left, I would be a failure. This work stress was spilling over into the rest of my life. I had gained weight, wasn't working out as much as I was used to, and just felt terrible. Plus, I was feeling very homesick for the east coast. Any letter I started ended up sounding like a rant session. When I tried to keep my morose outlook out of the letters, I ended up with the quarterly report. Oh what was I to do?

I am a compulsive list maker. In complete desperation I decided to start by listing the elements I wanted to include in the letter. What happened this year? What did I accomplish? What good happened? What did I learn? Well, that's what it's all about, really, isn't it? What did I learn?

Then it hit me: if I can't write a Christmas letter (which I clearly couldn't this year) then maybe I could just write out a list. And "the top ten things I learned this year" was born. (with a tip of the hat to David Letterman)

What I didn't anticipate was how for the first time in years, I heard from my Christmas card friends before next Christmas:

"That was great! It was the only Christmas letter that I enjoyed!"

"Oh, when I read that, I could HEAR you saying each of the top ten things!"

"I called my husband up at work and read him that list over the phone!"

This year will by the 5th top ten list. (And this year, I have a years worth of blogs to pull my list from) Five years. Oh jeez. It's gonna have to ge a GOOD one, this year. That's a lot of pressure! I have to make sure its not too boring or not too Disney. I dunno. This year may be the first time I do something completely different for my Christmas letter.

I'll keep you posted


Diane said...

I TOTALLY believe in the art of the Christmas letter. When my daughter was a toddler, my letter was a list of things we'd learned from her... stuff like, "A Teletubbie doll will soak up every ounce of water from the fountain in the mall." People tell me all the time they can't wait for my letters (though that's some serious pressure!).

Sorry your day was crappy... glad today is better (and your place is all sparkly!)

Heather said...

Great idea! I definitely feel you on the "too Disney" thing. I have relatives who (if you didn't actualy know their children, you'd think they were little saints, angels of God sent to do no wrong (not the little hellions they actually are!)
Stick to the truth! It's usually funnier. :)

the gazelle said...

I, too, work hard on my holiday letters - and I'm always afraid that they come off as a Disney-fied quarterly report.

I hate the ones that pretend the kid wrote them - that's just lame (although once, I got a letter from some guy's favorite chair - that was...different).

Anonymous said...

What an interesting idea. Would love to see one of your past lists, if it's not too personal to put on the entire internet! (Or maybe you could cull out your favorites?)

Mama Kat said...

Christmas letters are FUN!

Not a fan of the five page letters though...and yes...we do get five page letters. Those people should blog.