Merr . . . uh . . . Happy Holidays

Merr . . . uh . . . Happy Holidays December 23, 2005

I’ll admit I am not always the most appreciative recipient of my friends’ Christmas letters. I mean, I love hearing about their lives and seeing how much their kids have grown, but it just seems like everyone has the most delightful time writing about their most wonderful year and sending it to all their dearly beloved friends.

And I feel that perhaps my life (wonderfully fabulous as it is mind you) just might not be the same level of wonderful as everyone else’s.

The irony of all of that, of course, is that I try my very best to get a beautiful card accompanied by a cheery review of the year to all my friends before Christmas, too.

This year, however, was full of one pitfall after another, a whole series of mishaps leading to the sad fact that all my dearly beloved friends will not be getting their news of our wonderful year until after Christmas. This is something of a nagging concern to me, you understand, because I can clearly see how the late arrival of our annual Christmas letter might possibly suggest to our far-away friends that everything in every part of our lives has (gasp!) not been quite perfect this past year, and that maybe our kids did not, in fact, smile the entire year through just like they are smiling in the picture.

Here’s what happened. As you know, you must begin the process of creating the perfect Christmas greeting by acquiring beautiful, unique, high quality (but cheap–especially when you have as many dear friends as we do!) cards, preferrably with adorable pictures of the kids on them.

The first mishap in this effort was that (and I am ashamed to admit this) I have not taken any pictures of my children since about March, all of which would be sorely out of date for use as a Christmas photo. Just the thought of rounding the kids up, making sure they are dressed and dressed decently, then threatening them sufficiently to make them smile beautifically–all three at the same time–well, that was enough to make me want to crawl under the covers and not come out for a long, long time.

Sadly, this procrastination led to more procrastination and by Thanksgiving I had no picture.

I am happy to report that God came to my aid in this matter through my friend Monica who, for some reason unknown to me, likes to take pictures of children and took a bunch pictures of my children while she was here visiting at Thanksgiving. Her kind attachment of these photos to a recent email was like a message from God that perhaps all was not lost in the quest for the perfect holiday greeting.

So, starting to feel the pinch of the deadline but emboldened by the good fortune of a cute picture, I pressed on.

The second setback in the effort this year was placing the order for the cards. I finally decided from which company to order but had to schedule an appointment with Mark to discuss our printed greeting. (Even though we’re married to each other we have to schedule appointments because we are both extremely busy and important. And tired.)

The question of our greeting was a delicate one. We wanted something heartfelt but not cheesy, socially responsible but not too generic, reflective of our faith but not offensive, classy but not cold. Furthermore, we could not ignore the fact that we live in a city recently rocked by controversy over our president and his wife choosing to print “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” in their cards. What was our collective position on this critical issue?!?!! Did we know our position? Did we even know this was an issue? Did we want to become embroiled in political controversy by either adopting the White House’s approach or choosing the opposite in protest? Would our friends be offended if we used Merry Christmas? Would our friends think we weren’t spiritual enough if we used Happy Holidays?

Profound discussions ensued and finally we decided “Wishing You Peace” would be the best option. Everybody likes peace, after all, and it sort of sounds spiritual, right?

Once that was decided I discovered if you pay a lot of extra money you can mask your procrastination by getting your cards printed really, really fast and shipped overnight. (With miracles like that I just don’t see how people can doubt the existence of God.) That is, of course, until I got an email on December 22 from the printing company that began: “Dear Valued Customer: It is with deep regret that we must inform you of a massive system failure which has resulted in our inability to print your holiday cards. It pains us as much as it must you that your cards will not be delivered before Christmas . . . .”

I can’t really print my full thoughts on that turn of events, but suffice it to say that I am fairly certain they were not as pained about this turn of events as I was or . . . as I hoped they would be.

So, here we are two days before Christmas and no greetings from the Butlers are clogging up the U.S. Postal Service processing centers. What this means, of course, is that all of our dear friends, many of whom mailed us their holiday greetings the last week in NOVEMBER, will go through Christmas 2005 without the opportunity to exclaim with delight over the perfectly wonderful year the Butlers had.

For this, I apologize.

But the good news today is that I am well on my way to rectifying this unfortunate dilemma. See, I’ve solved the card problem (stay tuned) and, in fact, have already begun the family letter:

Dear Valued Friends: It is with deep regret that we must inform you of a massive system failure which has resulted in our inability to mail our holiday cards until after the holiday. It pains us as much as it must you that you will not get to spend your holiday reflecting on the delightful year we had . . . .

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