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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Time to Write the Thank-You Notes


Welcome to the aftermath. You survived Christmas for another year.
Take a day off. You’ve earned it. Eat a pastry. Watch a game. Order what you really wanted for Christmas with the Amazon gift card you got from the person who last year gave you what they thought was a back massager, which quickly became a part of family lore that they will never live down.
But then you pick up a pen.
Writing thank-you notes is an essential and non-negotiable responsibility that fulfills a fundamental social-contract obligation: it completes the gift-gratitude circle.
Why Should I Write Thank-You Notes?
Because if you don’t, you’re a selfish, lazy jerk.
The people who gave you stuff shopped for you, wrapped for you, and delivered for you. Even if the gift was just some kitsch tchotchke, effort was made for your benefit. You can sacrifice the hundred seconds or so it takes to pen a note, slide it into an envelope, scrawl an address on the front, and slap a stamp on it.
No, Seriously. What’s the Real Point of Thank-You Notes?
For folks who require a tangible benefit to themselves before doing anything for others, let me offer some motivation:
People who don’t send thank-you notes get fewer gifts. I cut from my Christmas list—and know of many others who do the same—people to whom the gifts I send vanish into a black hole. These are frequently the same people who don’t send me anything, either. (Maybe you don’t really want me in your life? No problem. Off you go.)
And I once received a beautiful antique vanity table (which I still have and will pass on to one of my daughters—whichever one writes the best thank-you notes, probably) from a distant relative with whom I never had a lot of contact. Why did I receive it instead of someone who had closer kin-ties to the giver? “Because you always send thank-you notes.”
Okay, You’ve Convinced Me. But How Do I Write a Thank-You Note?
I’m glad you asked! It’s super easy.
Pick up notecards at Target or Hallmark or the grocery store. Michael’s and A. C. Moore have pretty decent ones in their $1.00 bins. But if going out of the house is a bridge too far, just use a sheet torn off one of those free notepads that charities send you to try to guilt you into sending them money.
But don’t use the return envelope that came with it. It’s really bad form to scratch out the Little Sisters of Charity address and write in your grandparents’ over top of it. Pony up for a box of #10’s, slacker.
And here’s a sample Thank-You Note script to get you started:
Dear Aunt Beulah,
Thank you so much for the thoughtful/useful/interesting (but NOT weird/cheap/crappy) gift you sent.
I’ve always wanted/I never knew I needed/I’ve never before seen a [GIFT(but NOT What made you buy this?/What were you thinking?/Did I do something to offend you?).
I can’t wait to try it out/show it off/research it (but NOT throw it out/re-gift it/light a firecracker under it).
I’m sure it will give me years of pleasure/entertainment/joy (but NOT embarrassment/firewood/fodder for mocking you).
Have a Happy New Year, and I hope to see you soon!
Your adoring/appreciative/only, (but NOT disappointed/P.O.’d/vengeful) nephew,
Theodore
But I Still Have Some Questions About Thank-You Notes.
Fire away!
Do I have to write a thank-you note if the person was present when I opened the gift?
No. Unless you exhibited disgust for the person and/or their gift. If so, write to explain that because others who were present demonstrated such extreme jealousy over the present, you were afraid for your life and did not properly convey the actual depth of your gratitude.
What if I don’t receive thank-you notes for the gifts I gave other people?
Until now you have had little recourse against such detestable, gift-grubbing ingrates. But you can thank Wasting My Education for helping you out with this problem! Just send the offenders the link to this blog post. (You’re welcome.)
My grammer and speling aren’t so good. What if I make a mistakes?
If you are younger than twelve, you will be fully forgiven by the recipient of your thank-you, who will be so charmed by the note that criticism will only cross his/her mind if he/she is a real cretin.
If you are a grown-up, get a dictionary. Ask a more able writer to proof it for you. Type it into the computer for grammar- and spell-check, then rewrite it by hand.
Can’t I just write my note on the computer? Or send it by email?
A handwritten note is better than a typed note (unless you have a physical disability which precludes writing by hand), which is better than an email. But an email is better than no letter at all. Here’s a handy key to decoding thank-you notes written in various media:
Handwritten Note
This sender is gently-bred, well-mannered, and possessed of a bright future.
Typed Note
Barring a writing disability, this sender is more time-conscious and goal-oriented than etiquette- or people-focused. Believes that the end justifies the means. May be a politician or investment banker.
Email
This sender is probably a Millennial or younger. Appreciative, but not possessed of higher-order social graces. And doesn’t care.
No Note At All
Badly reared, egoistic scumbag. Blames others for all his/her problems. Likely jail-bound.
My children aren’t old enough to write yet. Aren’t they exempt from thank-you notes?
Are they exempt from eating? From going to the bathroom? From wearing unsoiled clothing? No, they are not! You are the surrogate who feeds them and changes their diapers and does their laundry until they can manage these tasks themselves.
For babies and toddlers, you are responsible for writing the thank-you note. A delightful adaptation is to take a picture of the child with the gift, and write on the back of that.
If the child is old enough to wield a crayon, have him draw a picture of the gift received. Then you, parent, write a thank-you note next to it.
Older kids do the whole shebang themselves. If necessary take the Wi-Fi hostage until the thank-you notes are written.
But What If I Still Don’t Want to Write Thank-You Notes?
That is, of course, your right. Just like you can choose to not pay your utility bills. You may elect to ignore a court summons. You might also opt to shoot yourself in the foot, or any other body part.
This is America the-land-of-the-free, after all. No one here will ever force you to become a respectable and upright human being. Just ask the president-elect.
So do what you feel is right. Don’t let me pressure you.
Though my children do say I’m really good at that.
“You are, Mom.”
Sit your little round butt back down and finish writing that note!
(They’ll thank me one day.)


Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Don’t Display Your Christmas Photo (For the Same Reason I Avoid Home & Decorating Magazines Like They’re Bubonic Lollipops)


Dearest friend/family member,
Thank you for your Christmas card. If you sent me one it is hanging from the valance in my kitchen, bringing me holiday joy. In college my brother-in-law improvised crown molding around his dorm room by taping up every item of personal mail he received. He called it his “Wall of Love”. Friends’ and family’s Christmas cards make up my “Valance of Love”.
*Warm fuzzies!*
If you sent a picture, thank you for that, too. I love seeing your kids grow, and watching you get older, just like we are. You got a new dog this year, huh? Awesome. He’s cute. (Sorry, she’s cute.)
But I’m not displaying your holiday photo anywhere in my home.
It’s not because I don’t love you. I do. I adore you.
But your picture reminds me of that at which I am a raging failure. Here’s what the voices in my head say when I look at your family’s delightful snapshot over and over again:
Aw. I should really get all of us dressed up in matching outfits and go have a professional photograph done.
Yeah. The last time I tried—and prayed fervently all morning that no one would become facially wounded before the big shoot—the boy fell off the jungle gym and broke his arm. At the precise hour I planned for us to be at the photographer in our greens and blues, we were instead getting black-and-whites at the radiologist.
Wow. We should take a trip to Hawaii (or Morocco, or the Grand Canyon, or Mount Rushmore…).
We rarely take big family trips to exotic places, for a few reasons: first, it’s really expensive to fly five people anywhere, especially outside the U.S.; second, we spend most of our vacation time skiing or visiting grandparents, aunts, and uncles; and third, we’re tired, man! Can’t we ever just stay home, veg out with a Netflix marathon, and chain-eat pizza?!?
Their kids look so happy. And peaceful. And loving. Look, they have their arms around each other!
My kids only put their arms around each other to perform a full nelson, to procure an item before another one gains possession of it, or to prevent a sibling from leaving the vicinity of a vile and deadly fart generated by the one doing the hugging.
I don’t look through magazines like Real Simple, In Style, or Martha Stewart Living for exactly the same reason. They make me feel bad about myself.
That’s gorgeous. I should really paint my living room a pale shade of persimmon, and then distress some recovered pieces of antique-shop furniture with chalk paint and a vintage patina…
Right. I will never do this. I hate painting, I’m cheap, and I can barely eke out enough time and shame to dust the furniture I already have.
Look at those kids’ rooms! All the textiles match and there’s labeled storage for everything. And that adorable, custom-made cupola/reading nook at the end of the architect-designed, Victoria-inspired loft bed would be perfect for…
Give me a freaking break. No actual child actually lives in that room. Or if one does, he’s been banished to the basement for the duration of its design, creation, and photo shoot. Any kid—especially one of mine—would trash that Crate & Barrel Psycho-Fantasy inside of sixty seconds.
Wow. That looks delicious. I wish someone would make that for me. Maybe I should…
No, just no. I don’t like to cook, I’m not that good at it, and the smoke detector has already applied for a week’s vacation from its constant vigil over me whenever I’m in the kitchen. When Trader Joe’s makes that dish in a freezer-to-microwave version, then my family and I will enjoy it.
So please understand that if you come to our house expecting to see your Christmas photo propped on the piano or magnet-ed to the fridge or hanging from the kitchen valance, you will be let down. I’m not nearly secure enough in my flaming mediocrity as a woman, wife, and mother to hold my head up as I pass by your photo.
Now I need to go wrap the rest of my family’s Christmas gifts. I ran out of wrapping paper, so I need to head out to pick some up.
Hope the neighbors don’t mind me fishing through their recycle bins for a few more copies of the Sunday comics…



Friday, December 16, 2016

Read a Book, Help a Family Stay Together

Through Christmas all profits from every purchase of Drawn (in any format) from Amazon or Smashwords will support Abide Family Center in Uganda.
What if you could make things happen
just by drawing them?
85% of the children in Ugandan orphanages have family who want to raise them, but lack the resources to do so. Abide Family Center provides services to help families keep their children at home, where they belong.

Please consider supporting Abide Family Center’s critical interventional work by purchasing a copy (or two) of Drawn, or by donating to Abide’s Christmas Campaign directly at http://abidefamilycenter.org/christmas2016/.

Purchase Drawn at Amazon (E-reader formats)

Happy Reading, Merry Christmas, and thanks for sharing this campaign!