Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Have Yourself a Passive-Aggressive Holiday Newsletter

My Love and I are ready to start our annual yuletide battle of the wills and, as mine is as squishy as the ancient Sunkists in our fruit basket, I'm preemptively conceding. Therefore, let it toll throughout our fair, deep-in-hock land that Uncool Christmas card recipients will again be subjected to an annual family holiday newsletter.

I know, I know. Most people hate holiday newsletters. As a fellow blogger recently wrote me: "Your life is not interesting enough to warrant a four-page, four-color tabloid, thank you very much."

True. In fact, most people's lives aren't that interesting yet here we all are, spewing our every thought, alleged bon mot and detail of our kid's last bowel movement on blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

Chew on that while I continue.

The first holiday newsletter we did, back in 1998, was completely justified. We had moved in midyear from the Northeast to an exotic foreign land where the hair is high and the pickles are fried -- Dallas, that is … the Big D, Cowboys and concrete strip malls, y'all -- so we inadvertently lost touch with some good friends. Our solution was a cute one-pager, laid out and written in newspaper fashion, highlighted by a guest column from our new puppy (the late great Kiner was a fine writer but a ham-fisted typist).

The format has changes over the years, but we continued to grind them out … mostly at My Love's behest.

"If people need a written synopsis of the past 12 months of our existence to know what's going on with us, doesn't it stand to reason that we are no longer that close to them and should take them off the Christmas card list, period?" I recently said to her.

She deftly countered with "no."

Therefore, newsletter naysayers, I will do my best to keep it tolerable. For those about to attempt their own newsletters, here's my advice:

Keep it short. I can summarize a year for four people and a dog takes me about 250 words. Twice, in pre-Thing 2 days, I summed up our lives in less than 152 words. Now I'm thinking of writing it Twitter style: "No one died or fired. Won't need to sell kids to pay mortgage. You?" Seventy-three characters to spare. Boo-yah!

Keep it entertaining. For a few years, Kiner served as letter narrator. He made many typos but still wrote better than the executive I once worked for who wrote (twice!) that the company would "use all the tools in our arsenal." Bob, if you are reading this, let me say again that tools are kept in toolboxes and weapons are part of one's arsenal, arse hole.

Avoid bragging, boasting and obnoxiously clever designs … but if you must, do all three past the point of obscenity. My favorite holiday newsletter annually comes from a family friend who, without fail, dazzles us with tales of exotic locales, brilliant career moves and over-the-top leisure pursuits (alpaca farming in Australia covered all three in 2005). These letters come fully packaged, one time as a glossy, UV-coated self-designed N.Y. Times crossword puzzle folded into an origami Ankylosaurus. On 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, no less. Reading these always gives me a good belly laugh of self-righteousness ... followed by weeks of grave depression over my feeble existence. Well, nobody's perfect.

Uh-oh, My Love just asked me what I'm writing about.

"Holiday letters."

"You're writing this year's?"

"No, I'm blogging about how I loathe writing ours every year."

"Oh. I was hoping …"

"C'mon. Why, why, why must I do this year after year?"

"Because you're the writer."

"Cop. Out. Expand YOUR skill set, sweetie. Why don't YOU write it this year and I'll read it over and say, 'Hmm, I don't think we should say THAT!'"

"OK," she said.





Mixed with a homeless cicada.

"OK, I'll do it," I relented, "but you need to finally clean the dog poop off your running sneaker that has been sitting in the laundry room sink for two weeks."

Lonesome train whistle, off screen.

Bare light bulb swinging in the dark night.

Tree falls in the forest but only a deaf, dumb and blind pinball wizard witnesses it.

"I'll think about it," she said.

Crap, literally, I'm on it.

Speaking of, vote me out of the bottom-dwellers at or else the newsletter is headed for your mailbox ASAP.


  1. WOW....I am first!

    Well...if I keep this short.
    We are in our holiday card/newsletter mode and I just want to send e-cards....I'm now sleeping with the dogs.

    Love the post and I feel your pain!!!

  2. I like #3 the most. Why not gild the lily? I love over the top!

  3. I love telling my relatives that my kids are badasses and beat the crap out of each other. It makes them feel good.

  4. Yeah, no newsletters here because there are no kids and HB and I just aren't that interesting. We can't even do photo cards anymore since we don't have a dog anymore and milked the wedding pics for two years too long already.

  5. I'm going to admit right here that I'm kind of a freak when it comes to holiday letters. Oh, I'm not going to be writing any. No thank you. I do like getting them, though. Especially from my cousin, who riddles hers with so many spelling errors it gives my former editor's heart something to do for 10 minutes as I read through it.

    I also like to get worked up about friends who are more poor than I am who regale me with all their family travels in the past year. Damn them. Damn them straight to hell.

    You know what? This comment is kind of lame. I apologize. I'll also understand if you feel it warrants a lonesome tumbleweed rolling through it.

  6. Every year we think that we will do the holiday letter, but fortunately neither one of us can remember any highlights. Except the ones that I get in my hair.

  7. Good times! Hilarious! You are quickly becoming a favorite blogger. This means I will copy your style and may actually lift some of your material if you are cool with it.

    What do you say?

    Thanks in advance!


  8. I can't stand those letters. I have cousins who do it. Blah, blah, blah my kid is an honor student and provides his kidneys to under privlidged midgets on a regular basis. Me, I'm just happy if a card goes out with a picture of the kids in it, before Valentines Day. If it says something inside of it, I have earned my wine for the year.

    Now if you need an idea, I recommend doing it in Cheezeburger speak. If so post it. :)

  9. lol.. i graduated high school in 1998!

    as for Christmas letters.. um.. I don't even send out cards, let alone letters. I do like to read them though. ;)

  10. Oh, that's right, bitches. I'm doing a letter. You want a copy?

  11. I have a genius idea!

    I'm just going to email my family members my twitter link!

    Wait. No. Not a genius idea.

    I'll have to get back to you.

  12. My in-laws used to send out a holiday letter that basically served as a review of trips they'd taken (usually bad) and health issues they'd experienced (real or imaginary). Sometimes these two foci would be addressed within the same sentence; generally, none of it made much sense at all.

    After about six years of reading (and laughing hysterically at) these letters, my wife and I composed one of our own that we read at Christmas dinner — full of complete fabrications, absurd hyperbole, lots of pointless complaining, and all produced in pretty decent mimicry of the in-laws' writing voice. We also slipped in a mention of the forthcoming birth of our firstborn.

    And thus, in one fell swoop, we managed to both let our families know my wife was knocked up... and kill any chance that any of them would ever produce another letter.

  13. I totally hate holiday letters.
    Nobody, but nowhere, and no how can be there be that much sweetness and light...

    Not everyone wants to know about other people's lives...nor do I want to share that much that's not already on my blog - and that is shared with strangers!

  14. I, too, am struggling with our family's annual holiday tome.

    Maybe next year we should actually do something interesting. Then I'd have something to friggin' work with.

    ~ A.

  15. I used to send out letters that were like a Twitter a month. Example: "In January, Piglet turned 5. February, something else happened."

    Not really funny, but definitely to the point where the people who were getting them knew what we were up to.

    My FIL sends out a Christmas letter every year. The whole thing rhymes. He and MIL each get a paragraph and each of their kids (never mind that 2 are married with 7 children in total) gets 1 paragraph. And it's a ton of bragging. I hate them. Somehow I doubt that #3's divorce will make the Christmas letter this year.

  16. The longest glossiest rhymiest Christmas letters are from the sadest people. It's a theory I'm working on.

  17. I like that picture. One "ho" per family member.

  18. Crap, I've already sent out most of my cards. I totally want to do a letter now. I could absolutely write about 24 words with what I've done this year...

  19. I was totally considering doing one of those letters this year. Thank you for making me decide not too. If it can't over-the-top, then I want no part of it.

    I'd be happy to read yours though.

  20. I am *so* glad you wrote about this.

    At last I know I'm not alone!

    The difference is, I hand-write the notes and assemble the photo collage... Everyone I know loves it, but man! Are my hands tired. ;)

    Good luck with yours! -MM

  21. Yes my friend sends those holiday cards that make me feel poor and uneducated. For a while they were sent along with photos of a new baby every year. Insanity!

  22. Bedside - It's so rare that someone gets excited about being my first commenter that I all I can say is that your dogs should be worried about their new bedmate. Thanks.

    ComGod - Everyone needs a good gilding now and then.

    Marinka - Selective memory ... it's a good thing.

    IB - Suck up all you like, I've got nothing but time and a sponge.

    ChuchPunk - Thanks for aging me in an instant.

    Miss Britt - Sending my Twitter link. That'll confuse 'em.

    TwoBusy - That is a better story than the SNL alternative version of "It's a Wonderful Life."

    Anna - You mean Twitter rehab isn't good material? Say hi to Liza and Liz for me.

    Kalia - You're planning and copying mine and inserting your own family's names, aren't you?

  23. I always wondered why people sent me a Holiday I know

  24. i don't think we will get to the holiday cards this year. we have only been back in the states for a week and a half, and the thought of doing cards just wears me out! i do need to update everyone with my new address though so i might do cards just for that reason. we are not including a picture though. i'll direct people to my blog so they can see us there!

  25. I have to say, yours is a holiday newsletter I would actually read, instead of skimming. Or at least yours would be much more likely to be read.

    The holiday newsletter I would write? "Everything's pretty good-- same old, same old. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Sincerely, The Schmos"

  26. Um, I'm from Dallas...where are these tasty fried pickles you speak of?

    I have mixed emotions on the newsletter...if it's from a family, I can understand. BUT...we have a single friend that sends one out every year. We read it out loud in a dramatic voice usually after a glass or two of wine and laugh our asses off. Pretty sure that wasn't the reaction she was going for. :)

  27. HA! I'm just doing ours right now, and I decided on using only a half-sheet this year so that I can use the snapfish envelopes without bending the paper.

    Besides, now that I'm home with the kids all day, all I should have to say is "kids are still alive, knitted a bunch of schtuff, husband working at the hospital all. of. the. time. the end."

    Cliffnotes versions are best, don't you think?

    Oh, and with the goofy pic of the kids on santa's lap, they'll be laughing too hard to care about our letter anyhow.

  28. I fully expect one, dude. Sorry about that. Oh, and I'm too lazy this year to send out my own cards, so, sorry about that too.

    Be sure to stuff mine full of checks. Made out to me. Thanks.

  29. God I love the Short Form! Mine would be 57 words or less now that the kids are grown and out of the house and mostly involve body parts that don't work up to snuff.
    (GAWD, um, did I really say that?)

  30. If I had a pet bird in a bird cage, only then would I like that freakin' news letter my cousin sends out how they went skiing in Aspen, swam with some fish in Maui, and bought two new Lexuses (Lexi? Lexii?) hell, more than one, less than three OK? I on the other hand put two new oxygen sensors in my 7 year-old Chevy, bought a new LL Bean fleece jacket, and paid the dentist $2,000 for a root canal and new crown. I like Vodka Mom's newsletter!

  31. This was a great post. As a librarian I so do passive-aggressive.

  32. I'm totally getting to the point where I feel like saying "If you gave a damn, you'd check out the blog periodically, it's all freaking RIGHT.THERE!" Why do trees need to die so I can tell you all the same crap I bleed all over the internet?

    So...yeah. I'll be doing a newsletter.

    Shut up.

  33. Okay, I admit it. The dog finished "the letter" last night. She referenced part of Chase Utley's World Series speach when discussing the family cat. That should make my mother proud.....

  34. I make my newsletter up every year. Completely. Last year we went on a trip to South America where my son wrestled a previously-thought-extinct mountain lion. The year before that we were government-trained to go after a secret Moonie cabal in France. That way it's at least entertaining (for me).

  35. I like your blog!ver good!

  36. can u leave ur phone number to me???

  37. Although simply reading your these things, but I still can not help but praise from the heart, a good blog!


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