We’re about thirty years in, now, on making our own Christmas cards, and by “we,” I mean me, with Dave’s usual lavish support. Until five years ago, I carved a block and hand-printed over a hundred cards in black ink, and then hand-colored each one, and then wrote inside them and addressed the envelopes, and in the days before email that also entailed a fat recap of our entire year in longhand, because some of those people only heard from us that often. It worked out to about, carry the one, five thousand minutes per card, which means–move the decimal–I should be done with 1994’s batch any time now.
Utterly ridiculous amount of time involved. Of course, I worked then, and as everyone knows, retired people are oh so busy. You know why retired people tell you they’re busy? They just want to work “retired” into the conversation as often as possible because they enjoy the look on your face.
So, yes, I’m busy, but that’s after working in nine or more hours of sleep a night, and a leisurely morning with the newspaper and coffee, and a considerable chunk of time staring into space. I now devote about three days to carving out my card block and getting a decent print and coloring it, and then it’s off to the print shop for mass production. One “Murry Christmas” in my illegible hand on the inside, slap on the stamp, and Bob’s yer uncle. The only really aggravating part involves Microsoft.
I made a spreadsheet of my Christmas card recipients. It’s got three columns. Name, address, city.
I don’t even really know what a spreadsheet is, and my Microsoft Excel spreadsheet knows this, and tries to wipe me off on the first low branch it trots under.
Wikipedia: “A spreadsheet is an interactive computer application for organization, analysis, and storage of data in tabular form.” Sure it is! And you can manipulate all that data. And by “you” I mean you, not me. I try to alphabetize my list, for instance, and I get a nice column of names in order, which is useful if you don’t mind that their addresses didn’t tag along with them. Every time I try to do something like this my spreadsheet goes tectonic. The columns shift along predetermined fault lines with the names uplifted and the cities subsiding. Yes, I looked up how to do it right, but my spreadsheet can smell fear, and is in fact quite energized by it. My spreadsheet will stop suddenly just to watch me sail over its head into the bushes.
At one point I thought I couldn’t add a new name to my list unless it fit alphabetically where I deleted a dead person.
So after a while I quit trying to manipulate my data and just flang it in. Which is inelegant, but at least it’s all there. Until that dark day comes that I need to do a Mail Merge and get all those data on sheets of label paper.
But this is Microsoft. There’s going to be a quiz. What is the name of your printer’s first pet? Bzzzt, wrong answer, the parakeet totally counts. What kind of label paper are you using? Here’s a list of a thousand brands of label paper. It’s probably one of those, have a spin. What is the PIN number for your account? Do you want to start an account? Would you like 10% off for doing a survey? What’s your maternal grandfather’s first name? Are you sure? They changed things when they left the old country. What? Oh, you wanted to print labels? Never mind. What is the name of your printer’s first pet?
Every year. Every year I would curse and drink and spend hours and finally my labels blundered into the barn and I slammed the gate behind them, and then I carefully wrote out instructions for the next year for what seemed to work. The next year those instructions did not work. Shit, I bought a Mac ten years ago, but I was afraid to not use Microsoft, so I got Microsoft Office for Mac all saddled up and tied it to my toolbar where it is routinely spooked by just about everything. So this year I sidled up to my computer and threw a blanket over my spreadsheet’s head and went to retrieve last year’s instructions. And guess the hell what? I didn’t have instructions from last year. What I did have was last year’s list ready to print. I apparently saved the successful last step of the Mail Merge as a word document, and I was able to edit it for this year and hit Print and the gol-durned thing sprinted away and came back with my labels. Like that.
Which means I can send the spreadsheet to pasture and just update my word document from now on. I’m sure I didn’t think of this wonderful thing. I think one of my young friends came drifting through and pulled a beer out of the fridge and fixed the settings on my computer and evicted the gremlins and reamed out my phone and said BTW (that’s the way they talk) you can just use this document from now on, LOL. And I forgot it until now.
And this is why old ladies keep a lot of beer in the fridge.
I haven't sent Christmas cards in decades. I just can't see the point in writing to people that one never encounters outside of sending cards. And if you see them all the time… again, what's the point in sending a card? Yeah… I'm not much on tradition.
Oh, most people don't send cards. Even most people on my own card list. This is just my personal little project. After all, I started it in the eighties or something like that.
I love that you do it, even without reciprocity….I do too and it's quite wonderful even if anachronistic.
Yup! No need to reciprocate.
Love this post. I hate spreadsheets. I have the same troubles with them. I also love to send and receive cards. Your carvings are fabulous! Your card would be considered a treasure at my house.
Yes, absolutely! Those of us who are fortunate enough to be on said list feel very grateful indeed! Each one a treasure, and we have quite a stack by now. LOVE them! Don't deserve them, but please don't mention that bit.
Thanks M.A.! I had to redo my whole printing this year because I miscommunicated and got cards that were bigger than I usually send. And because some people do save them all, I thought it was important to keep them about the same size. You should be getting yours today!
Wow, you are an artist too!!
I have lots of ways to amuse myself, but don't ask me to dance.
You are amazingly talented!!!
(And there is 'flang' again, my favorite of your made-up words).
I just looked up flang and danged if you're not right. I made it up. I coulda sworn it was semi-legal.
Some picky little grammarian will probably come along and tell you it's just a typo.
But I'm here to confess my own aversion to Spreadsheets.I have only to see "Excel" and "mail merge" appear and I quietly close the door as I leave.
Note to self: buy more beer.
Wine not beer. But yes.
You know, we really should educate ourselves. But beer. And wine.
Yep. Ad hoc. Or, as I like to say add hock
I love Excel. I love putting all the numbers in their spots, making them jump or dance or 90th percentile however I want. Give me a line graph! Give me a scatter graph! Make it greener!
I know a lot of people like you. They will make a spreadsheet for anything, they love them so much. (sigh) I really should learn more.
If you ever get stuck with a spreadsheet, I really like figuring out (other people's) spreadsheet problems. So shoot me an email.
Oh no. I'd have to have you over (or visit you) and get a whole tutorial. It's not just one thing. It's the whole thing. But okay, I will take you up on that!
Send your young friends here please. My Excel is hanging up out of the blue. Worked forever, but today refuses to let me edit my Christmas gift list. I decided last year that I only send out cards to those who send to me…makes my life very easy!
Y'know what's even easier? Not doing cards at all. (See my comment above.) We're old. We don't have the time for this shit.
I wouldn't send out store-bought cards, myself, so I get it.
My computer son is visiting. Took care of a couple of problems on the old computer. I save them up for his visits…
That whole birth-and-eighteen-years thing seems like a lot to ask, but you're sitting pretty now.
Sounds like a familiar demographic here. Gonna be 81 next week. My daughter, who now lives with me, untangles my 'puter problems Handy, that.
Yeah, obviously you're doing okay. You know what you're doing. You're weighing in here, aren't you?
Your art is amazing. I LOVE those otters! Sometimes I wonder what else I could have done with the time I put into bringing up two good humans, but then I think about my two good humans (and now two grandchildren) and I'm okay with my choice 🙂 But dang it, you are talented.
Guess what? You're not dead yet! And a lot of artistic ability is not only learned (that's what we call artists, people who have taught themselves) but CAN be learned, and taught. Take a workshop.
"Flang"?? Oh dear, they stumped us, didn't they? One dictionary says it is a 'miner's pick with 2 points', another source says it is
"a project to add Fortran support to the Clang compiler", the Urban Dictionary says it is "Storm chasing slang for a very close lightning strike.
Goodness me, there goes all my self-righteousness over knowing lotsa cool words.
We must be gettin' old — just not keeping up like we did before………
There's a lot of evidence that you're right about us getting old.
We send about 150 cards a year, including a poem by either him or me (or a heavily edited collaboration). We've been writing the poems for about 26 years now. It's kind of hard to come up with something new to say each year – and I have to say that the last 10 years or so have been pretty dark. One year my Aunt Sylvia asked me if we'd seen anyone about depression. Ha! Anyway, for a number of years I made the cards myself – I was part of the Stampin' Up cult. There was something satisfying about doing it, until there wasn't. Last year we used up all the free charity cards we'd been saving for years, but this year we'll have to buy something.
I kind of lost my train of thought… what I meant to say was AMEN TO THE MAIL MERGE NIGHTMARE. Every year. And I'm an office manager so I should know how to do it blindfolded. Sigh.
That's a lot of cards, sister. Love the poem. I used to write a lot of poems. I still write Dave a Valentine's poem every year, but you're right–it's hard to come up with new material after a while.
I love spreadsheets. And arguing with my printer and winning. And seeing tidy lists and pages trot off the printer's tongue, ready to go.
But cards? For the mail? Snail mail? By Canada Post? Strike-happy Canada Post? You've gotta be kidding! I'm still waiting for a Christmas gift my grandma (long deceased, as unfortunately Canada Post isn't) sent me when my kids were small.
That's what e-mail is for! Or even (redacted) Facebook.
But then again, if I were to produce something as beautiful as your hand-carved cards, I would be waiting at the door of my local Canada Post office with a dolly load.
You mean Canada mail isn't good? I like to think Canada everything is good. Except tar sands oil. I am starting to collect people who use the phrase "I love spreadsheets," because they are legion.
Oooh, I wish I was on your list. I keep on sending cards – cards which, now that I'm – ahem – retired I actually create myself. Well, sort of. Allow a photo service to create. Anyhoo – I write less and less inside them every year.
What's with that Ayam Sate comment? Yikes.
Kim. Send me your address. I think I might even have it, but send it to me. I'll send you a card.
And I'm happy to tell you that I've kept every one of those cards and display them every year.
Jimmy, you have them all? I don't. I don't even have more than about five. I have all the blocks still, I think, so I could make some, but those first (25) years I printed out just as many as I needed because it was a pain in the ass and didn't have any left over. Now I order up more than I need. One of these years I'll bundle them up in batches of five and sell them on the Interwebs.
The last time I made a spreadsheet I used a word document and just added columns and lines as needed, not a true spreadsheet according to Excel, but it worked for me. I don't think I saved it though, it was just a master shopping list of everything I tend to buy and I had it laminated so I could use a whiteboard marker to tick items I'd be needing on the next shopping trip. If I needed to do it all again I could probably open Word and figure it out. My "send-a-card" list is very small though, less than half a dozen people now.
I gather it's not a spreadsheet unless you can Manipulate it, and the grease pencil doesn't count.
I'm sure glad I'm still on that list. I have every card you've ever made. A work of art that I look forward to each year. I'm going to start framing a couple of them for display. Merry Christmas my friend,
Wow! As noted above–I DON'T have a whole set. I have about six of them. (But still have the blocks–no round tuit.) Merry Christmas!
Oh my, you are not only a crafty wordsmith, you are an amazing artist. I used to do my own photo cards, then went to store bought ones, and this year everyone gets the free charity cards. What remains consistent over the past 35 or so years is the newsletter, which is heavy on photos from the year’s adventures as well as my granddaughter. I managed to make one particularly traumatic year sound like a comedy. Murry Christmas, Murr.
A lot of people disparage the newsletters, but I like every single one of them. And it sounds like you know how to do it right.
Oh dear god, I damn near peed my pants reading this.