Tag Archives: Christmas cards


January. I don’t have much use for it; hate it, really.

January is a dark and cold reminder that we’ve eaten too much, drunk too much, spent too much, perhaps slept too little, for way too long. Boom. The scale. The credit card bills. Dry, cracking, pasty skin. Freezing pipes.

Every January I’d like to turn myself inside out and hide until the first crocus peeps through the thawing ground.

Not today.

Call me nuts, but today I added about 20 Christmas cards, which have trickled in over the last two weeks, to our sprawling display. Every year I use nearly two full rolls of masking tape to affix incoming cards to the molding around the doorways in our home. One hundred seven in all this year–so far.

Today it hit me. One hundred seven people or families expressed their love and good wishes – to us!

One hundred seven people went to the time and expense to buy or hand-make cards. Some signed their names or wrote lengthy personal notes. Some even addressed envelopes. They spent 46 cents apiece for stamps. They went to the mailbox. To wish us a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

Today, in the frigid darkness of the month I despise, I counted 107 expressions of good wishes. And, as I counted these blessings, I saw light. I felt warmth.

In the rush of opening the mail, we can forget that there is meaning in the wishes that honor the holy event we celebrate in December, and there’s immeasurable hope in the wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

Fellow January-haters: Let us thumb our noses at seasonal affective disorder by re-reading our Christmas cards (if they haven’t already gone out with our dried out evergreens) or remembering at least one person who wished us well, and appreciate how much we are loved.

And let there be light.


Filed under Hearth and Home, Holidays

Worst wishes

Words to consider as we face another season of long lists and short tempers:

In the season of good will,
If you find you’re wishing ill
To those who help you to prepare,
It’s time to stop and get some air.

This year I dedicate this ditty with apologies to clerks at CVS and FedEx-Kinko’s.

The design and production of our Christmas greetings hit some snags this year. I might be on the naughty list of a few retailers, though I’ve tried to walk the line between charitable kindness and insistence on reasonable service. It’s taken years of experience to recognize that, when I catch myself about to wish someone harm, I need to take a breath and shut up, let up and, if needed, give up and do the job myself.

My husband and I often enjoy designing our own cards, though our creativity waxes and wanes with the years. One of our best featured a picture of our son in front of Italy’s leaning tower, with a caption reading “Pisa on Earth.” Another good one featured the son, after not having seen a barber in eight months, with the caption, “Hairy Christmas.”

One year, I took my design to Ritz Photo, which lost the order, botched the order, lost it again, and then pretty much banned me from the store. Eventually, I cancelled the order and channeled my anger into a new hand-made card:

‘Twas the month before Christmas
When the Welch family went
To order the greeting cards
They’ve traditionally sent.

They chose a cute photo
Of their 10-year-old son.
From a year’s worth of pictures
They chose the best one.

They went to Ritz Photo,
A reputable shop,
To make a photo greeting
But, oh, what a flop!

Surely Ritz can do photos
(Or so one would think)
Who’d have known that their service
To High Heaven would stink?

The incompetence displayed
By the photo shop staff
Got progressively worse
With each stupid gaffe
(They messed it up so many times, one should laugh!)

But it wasn’t so funny
For the Welches, this time
As they felt their patience vanish
And their anger level climb.

Back and forth to the lab
The Christmas greeting was sent
And back and forth and back and forth
Into oblivion it went.

The Welches gave up,
It just wasn’t worth
The stress in this season
Of the Christ Child’s birth.

So with help from their computer
And the angels above
They send you this hand-made
Christmas greeting with love.

Come to think of it, most of the Ritz Photo stores in our area have since closed.


Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Rants and Raves


This weekend the last of the Christmas decorations will likely come down at my house. Or, more accurately, go up—to the attic.

We dragged our spruce skeleton out before New Year’s. I am guessing it was cut down around August.

The crèche should have been put away on Thursday, which was Epiphany. We’ll just say the Magi extended their trip, but they’ll head back to their Orient in the attic this afternoon. Most everything else is packed up. I hate the see the mantel garlands go, they’re so pretty, but they too will be gone soon.

The last to go will be the Christmas cards that we affix to the molding in our living room—primarily that which frames an alcove where the tree goes. The remainder of the cards spill over into doorways and such. Taking down 180-some cards will be time-consuming and bittersweet, because we’ll re-read each one, take a moment to remember each friend and look at pictures of kids we seldom see.

There are several other items that stay up all year. We don’t necessarily consider them Christmas decorations, but people tend to ask mid-year why we still have Christmas decorations out. The truth is, well, I don’t know what the truth is.

Over the years, our kitchen has developed a chili pepper theme, and there’s an iron chili pepper wall hanging that says Feliz Navidad. It’s been hanging for 20 years, as much for the peppers as for the Navidad. There’s a carved wood statue of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus; it lives on the dining room mantel year-round. There’s a collectible Byers’ choice caroler that the family of one of my hospice patients gave me. She has a special place on a little shelf and deserves to stay out of the attic. Because our dining room is red, there are all sorts of adornments—candle holders, berry wreaths, red glass bowls and such—that could be considered Christmasy. Maybe we’ve just forgotten to put them away, or perhaps no longer even see them.

Are there knickknacks in your home that you can’t quite explain?


Filed under Family and Friends, Hearth and Home, Holidays

To the letter

I don’t know about you, but I sense an uncomfortable tension between traditional etiquette and contemporary reality. Nowhere is it more palpable to me than on a Christmas card envelope.

Every year I find different ways of reconciling my respect for proper etiquette with the realities of modern relationships. Last night, the tension kept me awake, as I revisited hundreds of envelopes in my head.

One of the virtues of etiquette is that it gives us clear rules and bright lines between what is proper and what isn’t. I do try to adhere to these, as it saves me from making erroneous judgment calls.

However, the rules were written at a time when households were composed of traditional relationships, typically, a mister and a missus and some children.

One rule I follow strictly is placing a prefix before a name. I’d never address a letter to “John and Mary Smith.” Never. Etiquette calls for “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” and I follow that.

I’d also never address a birthday card to “Mary Smith.” But here’s where it gets a little dicey. In the old days, the proper way to address a letter to Mary would have been “Mrs. John Smith.” Nowadays, I’d be inclined to write “Ms. Mary Smith,” especially if Mary were on the younger side. But never “Mrs. Mary Smith,” though that has become accepted.

Our Christmas card list is made up of all sorts of exceptions to the rule. This is worth celebrating, because it shows the rich diversity of our friends, their professional accomplishments and living situations.

But therein lies the tension. What if the husband is a mister but his wife is a doctor? Or the wife uses her maiden name? Does one address a couple as “Mr. and Dr.?” No, because etiquette requires use of the husband’s name, so it doesn’t match up:  “Mr. and Dr. John Smith” is incorrect because John isn’t the doctor; Mary is. If the two went by the same last name, then it would be “Mr. John Smith and Dr. Mary Smith.” If Mary uses her maiden name, then it would be “Mr. John Smith and Dr. Mary Jones.” One line or two?

What about a same-sex couple? One wouldn’t say “Mr. and Mr. Baxter” if they don’t share a last name. Even so, whose first name would be used?  What I do is put one person’s name on the first line, usually the one I know better:  Mr. William Brown and Mr. Robert Green. Or both names on the first line if they fit. 

What if one member of the couple has a military title but the two have different last names? Or what if they share a last name but the woman is the military officer? Mr. and Captain? Who, the man or the woman? What if one is a judge?

When addressing a family, I typically address the envelope to “The Nelson Family” (even when the family is one parent and one child) and inside say “Dear Richard, Martha, Bobby, Billy and Betty, comma. Notice I said “Dear.” That’s how letters and cards are addressed. Not “Richard, Martha, Bobby, Billy and Betty.” Let’s not let “Dear” fade away. Please.

In addressing my cards, I encountered instances in which I did not know all the children’s names. Lacking clear guidance, I simply said, “Dear Richard, Martha and family.” Tacky, I know, but that’s all I knew to do.

As an empty-nester, I pondered whether or not to sign my son’s name to our card. I probably shouldn’t have, but I did. What if the addressees’ children have left the nest? Are their names included any longer?

These issues weighed heavily on my mind at three o’clock this morning. The cards are going in the mail today, so there’s not much I can do this year. Next year maybe I’ll keep the rules handy with the master list.

I don’t hear anyone else worrying about these issues. Am I alone in my tension? I suspect the people who wear white shoes and pants between Labor day and Memorial Day will say that times have changed and we should just do whatever is easier. And truly, dropping prefixes and titles is easier. But I can’t do it. I am conditioned for convention, predisposed toward politesse. And sleepy.



Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Holidays

Yule log me out

Tick. Tick. Tick. If you haven’t noticed, there are exactly three weeks until Christmas. I have trouble hearing carols above the ticking away of the annoying clock against which I work fiercely to accomplish the self-imposed and society-imposed holiday chores.

I’ve become a Grinch about nearly every holiday of the year, mostly because self and society collude cruelly to impose unrealistic expectations and impossible deadlines.

I typically don’t get a lot of sympathy when I complain about the holiday stress because about 85 percent of it is self-imposed. I send out 260 cards and hand address each one. The .001 percent lineage I have to Emily Post won’t allow me to print labels. This year, my dreaded holiday newsletter came back from the printer with a typo that wasn’t in the original, so off it went for a reprint, because Word Nymph can’t send a typo to 260 people.

The upheaval caused by our central air installation, which no doubt by now you are sick of reading, stands in the way of most other tasks—from wrapping and shipping to putting up the tree. Hence, the last-minute scramble will be all the more intense.

By this time in the season, I start to go a little crazy. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” sends me over the edge, and one playing too many of Mannheim Steamroller’s version of “Carol of the Bells” (one is one too many) has me fighting the urge to crash my car into a Jersey wall at 60 miles per hour.

This year, as an experiment, I’ve decided to pick one society-imposed chore and do away with it altogether. If that works, maybe I’ll pick another in 2011. This one wasn’t a hard choice because my family asked me to nix it.

I won’t be doing any baking. The problem is, I like the idea of baking cookies. I like how tingly Martha Stewart looks when she does it. My friends bake exquisite decorated sugar cookies, reaping great joy. The ritual just seems so appealing.

The sad truth is, I am a terrible baker with a faulty oven. Last year’s attempt at my grandmother’s delicate ginger thins could have doubled as equipment for the NHL. I dream about attempting a Bûche de Noël, but fear it would be seized as a weapon of mass destruction.

Instead I’ll dream of Nancy’s chocolate thumb prints, Mary Lee’s angels, Roxanne’s painted ginger snow queens and the Grady family’s fourth generation cookie ritual, while I head to the store for boxed Walker’s shortbread. Sigh.


Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Hearth and Home, Holidays, Music

More holiday greetings

Have you realized that Christmas is exactly three months away?

Have you begun thinking about what you’ll put in your Christmas letter? Or gearing up to read the dozens of letters you will receive during the holiday season? 

I am often well into Christmas preparations by this time of year. My goal is usually to have everything done before Thanksgiving, so I can deal with our family’s onslaught of birthdays and anniversaries that fall between the two holidays, and also so that I am able to give the Christian season of Advent its due solemnity.

Ha. Even with all the advance preparation, it seems I still crash into Christmas like an overheated stock car having lost two wheels.

My tradition has been to have hand designed Christmas cards in hand in time to address them by hand while I am answering the door Halloween night. Then over the next four weeks, I write the notes inside at a civilized pace, and actually give thought to the family and friends I am writing. We send out more than 250 cards every year, so pacing is key.

Every year, the dilemma of a Christmas newsletter presents itself. Do I really want to burden my loved ones with 12 months of minutia when they barely have time to count two turtle doves?

I’ve always been a fan of photos. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I like one or two that say it all. I prefer they be larger than a thumbnail and illuminated by a flash, so we don’t need magnifying glasses when we sit down for the card-opening ritual.

Now that I write a blog, you already have more details about my year than any holiday letter could reveal. You know about my speeding ticket, my ills and diet woes, my husband’s amnesia, my favorite song lyrics and my son’s college graduation, as well as way too many stories and true confessions from my childhood. You know we are getting central air, and that I have a clean basement. You’ve read my travel stories and know which airports I’ve been in, what books and magazines I read, what concerts and plays I’ve attended. You even know my favorite smells and how many weeks I have been off coffee.

Egad, I’ve already written the world’s longest Christmas letter, more than 150 pages! How can you stand me?

I still plan to hand address 250 envelopes this year, but there is nothing left to put inside.

Please remember there’s no Word Nymph on Sundays. I may still be recovering from National Punctuation Day.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Technology and Social Media