Monday, December 21, 2009

Me and My Christmas Cards

Right after pictures with Santa, my most favorite semi-secular part of Christmas is Christmas cards. Sending AND Receiving.

There is a science to this. Here's how I do mine:

After getting married, I sent Thank You notes and then Christmas cards to all the folks that generously sent us wedding gifts. After a few years, I weeded that list down to the folks that usually responded to my Christmas cards. Family and friends, of course, remain. Since I've had kids, my Christmas card always includes a picture of the kiddos.
So I send some cards to my parents' friends so they can see how Lulu and Granddaddy's Texas Babies are growing and how much Sam looks like Lulu did when she was a little girl.

I always order the custom-printed cards. I have our family name and the year printed on the cards. I have all my addresses in a MS Access database and use this to print address labels each year.

Even though the cards are printed with our family name and date, I ALWAYS personally sign our first names and often pen a short message. On 120+ cards. Each year.

And while I don't talk to many of these folks all year long and current contact may be limited to a rare email and holiday greetings, I savor taking the time to sign the cards and think of each of these people/families that have had an impact on my life. The memories of my heart are re-visited each year when I do my Christmas cards. These cards are never a task to be completed but a treasured recollection of all the people I love as well as relationships and experiences I have to be thankful for.

Though I am not a regular Christmas card letter writer,
some years I have included letters. When there is tale to tell, I tell it.

So now that you know how I do it - here's my scoring system on receiving cards. And yes, I have received some form of all of these at some point in time.

You send me a card +1000 points
It is pre-printed and you sign it personally +25
It is pre-printed and you do not sign it -25 points
It has a picture of your kids, dogs, or ducks (you know who you are) +50 points
It has a picture of your kids, dogs, or ducks & they are really cute +100 points
It has a picture of your entire family on it
It has a picture of
your entire family on it, you still look 20 years old & haven't gained a pound -500 points
It is not pre-printed & you sign it +40 points
You write a short note +75 points
You make me a Handmade card +200 points
Your card has sparkles (Bling) on it +50

Card artwork designed by you or your child +100 points
You send me a Christmas letter +25 points
You send me a Christmas letter - it is humorous & informative +50 points
You send me a Christmas letter & you brag about your new car/house & brilliant trust fund kids -100 points (seriously, if you can't tell it like it is, don't tell it at all!)
You send me a Christmas card with your kids in front of the Eiffel Tower BONUS +250
You include Cash +1 point for every dollar

I do love Christmas and the mail that goes along with it. It's the one time of year I race the kids to the mailbox.

I love it! Love it! Love it!

I love all the folks I send cards to.

I especially love all of you that send me cards. Particularly the ones where they are homemade, they sparkle, you're funny, your kids are cute, your age shows and you send me money!

Keep 'em coming!

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Different Kind of Santa Letter....

My letter to the General Manager at The Village at Allen about a new policy regarding pictures with the Big Guy (AKA Santa Claus)

December 7, 2009

General Manager

The Village at Allen

190 E Stacy Rd Ste. 1308

Allen, TX 75002

Dear Ms. GM,

I am the parent of three young children who anxiously look forward to seeing Santa Claus every year. Samantha, 10 has special needs. Savannah is eight and my son, Smith, is five. They still believe in and treasure Santa Claus, as do I. For nine of Sam’s 11 Christmases we have had their pictures taken with the Big Guy.

Until last year, we visited the Big Guy at Stonebriar Centre in Frisco. When word got out that the Big Guy had moved I scoured the internet until I found him at The Village at Allen. My kids loved going to see the Big Guy last year. The reindeer and children’s village were a huge hit with them. I liked going to The Village at Allen for the shopping. We all looked forward to going back this year.

We arrived an hour before the doors opened to be first in line as Sam cannot tolerate the anxiety of waiting her turn once she sees Santa. My children played with their Grandmother while I waited on queue. As a line quickly formed I thought surely they would open the doors soon. It was very cold and as one might expect in a line to see Santa, there were lots of children and babies waiting in the cold. I was informed the doors opened at 11AM. This policy should be revisited immediately.

We finally got in the door a little before 11AM. As my children were walking up to see Santa, I went to take a candid picture and was quickly informed that no outside pictures were allowed. I was also informed this was a ‘Mall Decision.’ This is the first time in nine years with the Big Guy I could not take my own pictures. I have ALWAYS purchased a photo package as well as taken candid shots of my children talking to Santa Claus. And while the posed, purchased pictures of my children with Santa are my dearest Christmas treasure, I especially cherish capturing the rapport my children have with the Big Guy while telling him their deepest wishes and hearts’ desires.

One year, when Sam was about four, she started to walk away from Santa when she was done. She paused, turned around and looked at Santa. I asked her if she wanted to hug Santa. Before she could even nod her head, the Big Guy opened his arms and Sam ran into them. If I had not taken my own candid shots, I would not have a tangible memento of this gloriously magical moment in my child’s life.

This will likely be the last year two of my children believe in Santa and I feel your business decision has stolen something from us. The awe-inspiring exchange between children and Santa may never happen again for them. And you robbed us of an opportunity to capture it on film with your selfish financial decision to squeeze a few more dollars out of an already strapped public.

I know the Big Guy is big business for you and I can not fault you for wanting to maintain or even increase your revenue. That is your job and I get it. But Christmas is not only about the bottom line. It is also about CHARITY, peace on earth and loving your fellow man. You demonstrate none of these holiday tenets. I am certain there are some families that cannot afford to purchase the picture packages; especially in these tough economic times. On behalf of all parents you are denying the opportunity to film or photograph their children’s experience with the Big Guy, I say shame on you!

I will take my children wherever the Big Guy is next year. I will take them to see him as long as they will allow me to and as long as I can find him. If he is back at The Village at Allen next year, I will go there and I will purchase my photo package. But I will not spend a single penny with The Village at Allen merchants the other 364 days of the year.