Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If that is the case, then Christmas cards officially drive me insane.
Every year I swear that I’m starting the process early enough to finally get those cards in the mail well before Christmas, and yet here I am again this year, dragging my big bag of stamped cards to the post office the day after Christmas and glancing sheepishly at the postal workers who thought their busy season had ended. As everyone knows, the last thing you ever want to do is piss off a postal worker.
For years we hired my friend Laura Wagner to take family photos (follow her link if you want a great photographer). If I were a smart gal, the moment I finished a photo session, I would book another session with her for the following year, much like I schedule a dentist appointment for 6 months after I’m packing up my complimentary toothbrush and dental floss. Instead, my family’s entire December gets completely booked, and we don’t have a common two hours of daylight to get everyone together with the goal of taking a family photo.
My friend and neighbor Gina has a good camera, so one weeknight in mid-December we asked her 16-year old son Jet to come by to take a few shots and give us the memory card. Unfortunately, I didn’t investigate the shot before he left. The framing was much too wide and seemed to warrant the caption: “Cathy’s cramped living room and a few indiscernible heads in the far left corner.” My daughter Emily was perched in the back and her head was about a ½ inch tall, while Spike, our Australian shepherd was in the foreground and looked big enough to sit on the entire family in one squat. Even if I did want the photo, for some reason my computer kept seeing the shots as an unrecognizable format and refused to download them.
For round 2, I dragged over a piece of furniture and used it as a tripod as I set the timer on my camera. I should mention that my family was not happy that there was a round 2. The prospect of unblinkingly grinning for yet another round of red eye flashes was not something that would force a natural smile. Tom had a death lock hold on the two big dogs, while Mary’s little dog Bella kept squirming from her grip and chasing me to the camera. Emily was obviously not smiling and getting more and more upset each time I told her so. Jake was making goofy faces, and Mary kept whining for the whole ordeal to be over. After about a half dozen shots that were all stinkers, I went into Crazy Mom Mode and shouted, “I don’t ask for a lot, but this was important to me, dammit!!!”
I stomped off to the bedroom, fantasizing about leaving my family forever and moving to a small Midwest town to live an anonymous child-free life, where no one would know me or expect a Christmas photo from my seemingly happy family whose guts I now hated – and vice versa.
A couple minutes later, Tom knocked on the door and told me that everyone was ready to take the picture. I was pretty embarrassed about my behavior. I would like to say “needless to say,” but obviously it wasn’t needless to say. I apologized for throwing a tantrum like a 4-year old and started round 3 as I proceeded to take the best family photo I could with my standard consumer Nikon camera.
Not one shot was worth mass-producing. Heads were turned, human faces were buried by dog snouts, and I realized that Emily’s lipstick was too red. I would have been willing to use a bad photo as a blooper, but there weren’t any with everyone in the shot. We were all completely burnt out from the ordeal of taking a family photo, so we decided to take another photo the next time we could get everyone together and in a good mood.
Two nights later we tried again.
The shot still sucked. Sure, everyone was framed well, and they were all smiling, and their eyes were open and they were looking at the camera, but it’s still a standard consumer camera in less than ideal lighting, while my friend Laura Wagner has years of practice and training and big bucks spent on great cameras and lighting equipment. Also, the red eye worked on Spike’s blue eyes, but Jasmine’s (our German shepherd) brown eyes were glowing green like some kind of horror film. I tried to smudge it out with the iPhoto touch up tool, but then she just looked freaky in a different way.
All the flaws of the photo were made more apparent blown up in a 6” x 8” card, so I created a Costco photo montage where it was shrunk down to a 1-3/4” x 3” shot along side photos of Emily shooting a bow and arrow, Mary with her new little dog, Jake with his Student of the Month certificate, the kids at a Dodger game, Tom and Jake in their Cub Scout uniforms, and me with Jake at his school’s Rockin’ for Colfax concert – a great photo taken by Colfax’s premiere photographer Grettel Cortes (follow her link for her fabulous photographic abilities).
So why did it take until December 27th to get the cards in the mail? A combination of whittling down my 2000+ word first draft letter, and addressing and stamping a boatload of cards.
Thankfully they are now all in the mail. It’s a very good thing I ordered the “Happy Holidays” cards rather than the “Merry Christmas.”
If there’s any lesson to be learned, I will give Laura or Grettel a call in January and book them for sometime before December 2013.
Either that, or just scrap the “Happy Holidays” theme and wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. Hopefully I can get those cards in the mail before mid February.