Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The better Christmas letter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Family and Friends!

Where to start! Well, Jimmy graduated from high school this past spring, and we celebrated by giving him a brand new Porsche Carrera! Jimmy loves the car and is currently looking into future job options in agribusiness. And Janie is doing super great in the middle of her sophomore year in high school. She made the junior varsity cheerleading squad, and is thinking about taking the high school equivalency test in order to have a shorter wait to start her chosen career, which we think will be something in the entertainment industry (Fingers crossed!)
Dave is still at his dream job of small claims court administrator at the county, and has actively pursued his long time hobbies of designing and collecting things. He really has high hopes of getting his own HGTV show combining his varied interests.
We took a summer vacation visiting relatives in Iowa, where Jimmy and Janie got to know more of their cousins, and for the first time, Dave’s big brother, Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob was nice enough to take us to a wonderful county fair where he won the hog-calling contest and bought us all the corndogs we could eat! What a day!
We also managed to paint the house avocado green this summer with electric yellow trim! The new colors really spiffed up the look of the place and neighbors are now talking about how they should paint their houses different colors!
We held a yard sale this summer to get rid of some of the stuff we never use and managed to get $1,050 in sales! We’re thinking about using the money to buy Janie some braces, so she’ll have an even more perfect smile, Lord willing!
I’ve been keeping busy at my DMV photographer’s job, which I find very fulfilling. I meet different people every day and always have fun clicking that shutter! I still play Bunco with the girls every month where we have a potluck. I don’t even care about the game, it’s just a chance to gab with the gals and eat good home cooked food.
Next year, Dave and I are planning to go on a Carnival Cruise to Mazatlan (Mexico)! We’re so excited already because we’ve heard you get to eat as much as you want whenever you want and there’s even karaoke, which (don’t tell him I told you this) Dave absolutely loves. He does a great rendition of “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland.
Well, that about wraps up this year. Hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!
The McFongs, Dave, Molly, Jimmy and Janie

Sound familiar?
Right before the holidays, many of us write a Christmas letter to all our friends and family, to share just how great everything is in our life.
But we Christmas letter writers, in sending out this letter, sometimes on colored paper and including family photos, should pause for a moment and ask ourselves a few important questions.
First, do all our friends and family buy our airbrushed version of our family events for the past year?
And second, does a positive spin on our Christmas letter make readers groan and roll their eyes?
Well, surveys show, No, and Yes!
The Better Christmas Letter Society wants to reverse what has become an annoying, obnoxious and all too common practice: The all-positive, self-complimentary Christmas letter sent each holiday season to friends and family. While the senders are sure their letters are appreciated as entertaining updates of family doings, the fact is, they’re all too often wrong about this. In reality, these letters do anything but make readers feel happy admiration. They more often make readers mutter quips such as, “What horseshit!” “Who cares?” and “This is sooo lame, can you believe this crap?!”
As a public service the Better Christmas Letter Society has a few tips for Christmas letter writers. All to help their efforts be appreciated instead of cruelly mocked, torn up and thrown disdainfully into the wastebasket.
First, don’t just include all the good things that happened in the past year. Sure, put in that you won your bowling league, or Dad had a great birthday weekend in Vegas. But don’t be afraid to put in a few rough goes you went through as well! People love to read that stuff. Just look at the tabloids. It’s humanizing!
On the other hand, readers are guaranteed to glaze over when there’s too much happy talk. Why? It sounds phony, made up. And it makes the reader wonder. Especially when they know for a fact that plenty of not so hot things happened to you and yours, and there’s no mention of it in the Christmas letter. Just as if it never happened. Now surveys show, that annoys readers. They think you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes. They think you’re an idiot to even think you can fool them. So the letter will be seen for what it is: Puffery, self-serving drivel.
So go ahead. Bring in the truth, even if it’s hard to admit. Share a little dirty laundry. Just as long as you stay upbeat, maybe throw in a joke or two, and don’t sound like a drunk crying in his or her beer or appletini.
But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself. The following version has a few revealing, reality-based, not so positive admissions to the typical happy-talk Christmas letter you read above. See if you wouldn’t pass this new version around for everyone to read! That’s what you want, isn’t it?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Family and Friends!
Good news this year! Jimmie graduated from high school (at long last) and to reward his bad behavior (just joking) we got him a brand new Porsche Carrera! Can you believe we did that? Well Jimmie was so happy about it, he got drunk and flipped it into a parked car, totaling the Porsche and the parked car. Luckily he had his seatbelt on and wasn’t hurt. He says he doesn’t remember anything about it! Go figure. He still lives at home and deals pot, but we think he has potential to be a real player in business. He gets away with everything!
Janie made the junior varsity cheerleading squad, but gosh darn it, we found out the nose guard on the varsity football team got her pregnant at some party. She’s going to have the baby and try to graduate high school early and take care of the baby out of her bedroom. Well, who am I to talk, I had Jimmie when I was 16, so this is what I get! Janie’s looking into career options, but I think once she has the kid her best bet is stripping. She’s got the booty to pull in the bucks, just like I used to!
Dave loves his job at small claims court, and still manages to find time for his beloved hobbies in women’s shoe design, interpretive dance and teddy bear collecting. He’s convinced there’s an HGTV show he could host in there somewhere!
We all drove to Iowa to visit Dave’s relatives last summer (two teens in the car, imagine that!). Jimmy and Janie got to meet more of their cousins (No kissing, I hope!) and for the first time we met Dave’s big brother, Uncle Bob.
Uncle Bob took us to a wonderful county fair where he took first in the hog-calling contest! He was so proud, he bought corn dogs and beer for everyone! Everybody ate and drank so much, we could barely get in and out of Uncle Bob’s Hummer. The next day, we were all hung over, and ate stacks and stacks of Uncle Bob’s blueberry pancakes all smothered in butter and maple syrup. Ooh, I’m famished just thinking about it!
We also painted the house avocado green this summer, with electric yellow trim. It really looks different now, we love it. But some neighbors are collecting signatures to outlaw our new colors for houses in the neighborhood. Can you imagine? Some people have too much time on their hands! I think they’re just jealous!
We did a “junk” sale this summer and cleared over a thousand bucks! Maybe that’ll help pay for braces for Janie. Gotta have a perfect white tooth smile for the cameras!
I’m still clicking license photos at the DMV. You know what? Very few people are photogenic! Anyway, I also have my monthly potluck and Bunco night with the girls. Boy, do we chatter AND eat! Never any casseroles left at the end of the night, especially when I make my Frito pie!
I got Dave to agree to a Carnival Karaoke Cruise next year to Mazatlan (Mexico)! He’s so excited, he’s planning to do his signature ballad, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” as Judy Garland. Can you believe he’ll be in full wig, makeup and sequined dress? What a scream! And the best part is, you get to eat all you want whenever you want. They aren’t going to make any money on me!
Well Whew! That about wraps up this year! Hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!
The McFongs. Dave, Molly, Jimmy and Janie

This is an essay included in Mark Eric Larson's book of essays, "The NERVE...of Some People's Kids," at 

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