The best time of year for mail is December.   Not only are we inundated with catalogues full of intriguing merchandise (The Magic Bullet, anyone?), but our usually empty mailbox is stuffed with mail from friends.   Holiday cards in all shapes and sizes, with pictures and without, some with hand-written notes and others with typed letters.   It's wonderful to hear from everyone and reviewing the new cards is the highlight of our day. For our first Christmas, Hubby and I did the requisite photo holiday card that included a picture from our wedding.   We figured this was great for those out-of-towners who were unable to attend the wedding, as well as those who were at the wedding but may have had too much fun to even remember what we looked like. For the next year or two we created a photo card and included a brief holiday letter.   Nothing wrong with that, right?   We were sure that everyone was anxious to read our letter that captured all the details of the year.   Looking back, these letters were a bit verbose. And quite a bit boring. I ™m not kidding. Even I ™m bored re-reading my own holiday message. The year we bought our house was an expensive year.   In an effort to be economical, Hubby and I put on our creative hats and came up with a budget-friendly holiday card that conveyed what we ™d been up to all year in a fun way.   The year was laid out in a project flow-chart, one scale featured the months and the other showed the stress levels for events that happened throughout the year.    We didn't think much about the card except that we were proud of our out-of-the-box thinking. Much to our surprise, we had a huge positive response from this funny little card.   Since then we have challenged ourselves each year to develop a clever card that tells our story without including a letter, continually setting the bar higher in terms of creativity and surprising our friends and family. Some that stand out include the year of our first remodel, the year my dad passed away (took some creative thinking to convey such news without being morose), and the year that we wrote a poem to the cadence of Twas the Night Before Christmas .   Was it Pulitzer-prize winning? No, but it made people laugh. My absolute favorite card was the year Hubby was laid-off.   With the help of friends who have serious graphic skills, we re-created the classic American Gothic “ you know, the somber farm couple standing with a pitchfork in front of a white house?     In our version, I stood dressed in my business suit holding a laptop and the Wall Street Journal; Hubby wore sweats, an apron and bunny slippers and held a toilet brush.   The caption was something like, With the recession came role-reversal .   Never mind that I had always worked; people got the idea and rave reviews came pouring in.   Hubby was such a good sport to wear my bunny slippers. When I was laid off the following year, American Gothic spoke to us again.   This time I held the box of ˜stuff ™ from my office including a pink slip, a stricken look on my face.   Hubby's also in a suit, holding the laptop (he was working again), and with a smile on his face he's handing me the toilet brush.   Classic! Christmas card We really like to get cards with photos, especially those with pics of the entire family.   Even the pets.   We implore our friends to include themselves in the holiday photo.   We love your kids, but in many cases we don't really know them. Besides, it's you we want to see.   How else can we compare which of you has aged well? We are quite competitive when it comes to our holiday card, wanting ours to be the best of the year.   This year, we must bow down to some of our best friends, the same friends that helped us create American Gothic.     Their card simply takes the cake.   It's their son's first Christmas and of course we expected the requisite Baby's First Christmas card, maybe on Santa's lap or at least in a holiday outfit that would warrant teasing for years to come.   Their card?   A fabulous photo of their son in the middle of a full-blown-cry-your-eyes-out meltdown.   Hilarious, true, cute and it conveys exactly what's happening in their lives “ raising a child.   Absolutely the best-card-ever. Of course we have a bone to pick with them; they are not in the picture.   Guess I would want to back away from a child having a major melt-down too. But next year, they ™d better be in the picture. © Tami Cannizzaro 2011 All Rights Reserved

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