Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yearly Reports


I've been getting all those reproduced letters that come once a year, from friends and family, which list all the events of their lives over the past year. I don't know about you, but I am affected quite negatively by these yearly family reports, for some reason. Since I haven't heard from them all year, the changes unsettle me and some of them leave me in a state of shock.

I don't send out these yearly progress reports, because there is so little to report around here. This year, as in other years, there has been no trauma or drama and nothing much is really happening. Our lives remain placid and uneventful, but I suppose it is better than the alternative. I am sure that major changes are looming on the curve of the New Year, but I'm much happier at the uneventfulness of things. I'd rather report a wedding, some births, and the house being painted than the latest degree, promotion, or vacation.

I haven't quite figured out why I don't warm to these newsletters. Maybe I'm looking for some kind of news that has more character, or I don't want to admit that they make me feel like I'm not doing very much! I'd like to know how others feel about it, and why they do or do not enjoy the yearly newsletters.

painting by L. Sherman (Click on for a larger view)

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Santa Clara , CA (December 8, 2005) — A California family has penned the world’s longest ever Christmas newsletter, and the first known example to take the form of a printed and bound, full-color book.

Doug and Diane Hughes of Santa Clara, California are sending copies of the 142-page volume, entitled “Hughes News,” to a mailing list of over 100 family and friends."

Yikes... here's the rest if you are interested!

http://www.lulu.com/static/pr/12_08_05.php

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Same ol' stuff, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
I am so amused that you even bring this topic up. It is the very topic my husband and I have been discussing the last couple of days. What your wrote , "I haven't quite figured out why I don't warm to these newsletters. Maybe I'm looking for some kind of news that has more character, or I don't want to admit that they make me feel like I'm not doing very much!" Is probably why my husband even were discussing this. I have felt the very same way. Also, at times, for me, if the person has the ability to do lots of lovely things, perhaps travel with their children...or whatever...I find myself having to fight off a guilt trip of some kind.
For me, I find the notes cause turmoil. Of course, in some ways, I am glad for all the happy success that the family expresses, but at the same time, it feels like an advertisement of the family. Some of the things that are written about, I have done with my family too, but, I never thought to tell the world about it.
I find it hard to explain..But, I do not enjoy these letters, something about them, just does not feel right when I am reading them. My husband feels the very same way.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

Yes, they do cause inner turmoil. I am uneasy, restless and disturbed after reading them. So much of it looks like progress to the writer, and is detailed to impress, but when I really analyze what some of these families are doing, I actually get more depressed because of what I know about the event. For example, one family reports they went to Disney World. That shouldn't depress me, and I'm not jealous (my world is better than Disney World and I don't have to stand in line), but it seems so temporal and reveals nothing that draws me closer to them.

Last year, about the time we started getting these copied newsletters, my daughter and I did a parody of our own family, in which we reported how splendid everything was ;-) but never sent it out. One year when my children were teenagers they did one that was very funny, with cartoons and jokes.

Sherri said...

I thought I was one of a very few who can not stand these types of newsletters. I'd rather get nothing than to get those and thankfully, so far, I've not gotten one yet this year.

To me they are superficial methods of tooting one's proverbial horn. A prideful, cold, unemotional way of flying in the face of all that is true home life. Home is where one goes to escape the garbage of the world. Yet so many homes today have more "garbage" inside then what is outside. Everyone is in such a hurry to broadcast to the world just how successful they are, how they juggle all of these tasks and how "achieved" they are. I've yet to read one that talks of "spiritual" achievements, or sacred times, of the pruning that God performs. Perhaps there is none of these things in their lives and for that I am truly sorry. Reading these newsletters only serve to bring me sad feelings for those families, especially the children.

This turned into a real soapbox. Sorry. I'll just close for now.
Sherri
Romans 8:28 All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

Anonymous said...

My heart rejoiced with I read your comments. I have felt the same way for years! In fact, not consciously I suppose, I wouldn't even read the letters until after Christmas when things had slowed down a bit. The letters always made me feel so depressed and that I wasn't a very good mother because my children weren't doing all that was written about by so many. I have talked about this with my children - by the time you read through all the letters, there is a long list of what you don't do. But then everyone writing the letters doesn't do all that everyone else does either.

My belief is that God is most pleased when we take time to know Him and when we have peaceful and calm spirits. These aren't qualities you write about in a Christmas letter. But then the entire Christmas hype of our culture is the opposite of Jesus being born in a stable or riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. May we not compare ourselves to the Christmas letters and the people who write them, but rather examine our hearts before God and ask if we have grown closer to Him this past year.

Jennifer said...

For the most part I enjoy them. I don't care for the ones that are very flat with no personality or the ones that are saccharine sweet. But I do enjoy the updates on parts of lives I don't get to hear about first hand-sometimes it's siblings activities that are interesting to hear about or an event in someone's life that I missed. My husband has a lot of cousins that we see about once a year at the family reunion. It is nice to get these letters to have something to start a conversation about when we see them. I know we try to make ours have a bit of our family personality and we also try to include things people may not have heard about.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

I am from a very private family. My parents would answer "Better than we deserve," when people asked them, "How are you?" They wouldn't report anything bad, and would have died of shame to accept charity of any sort, so they wouldn't report to anyone about hardship of any kind. On the other hand, if they were successful in something, they wouldn't have wanted the less fortunate to feel bad, so they kept quiet about that, too. If someone started talking about the new addition to the house that Daddy was adding, or a change in occupation, etc., he would nod, and change the subject by asking a question like, "What do you think of..." or "How do you..."

It's true, such yearly newsletters don't really report the inner growth of a person or the personality of a family fully enough. But even the "Look how we are growing spiritually" ones make me feel bad. These newsletters are good for acquaintances that you don't have a real personal relationship with, but I think friends and close relatives should get real letters!

Anonymous said...

It seems that this is why they upset you: "Since I haven't heard from them all year, the changes unsettle me and some of them leave me in a state of shock."

Evidently they are people that you aren't in close contact with, for whatever reason.

I've always liked the letters.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

I wonder what the history of this mimeographed method of letter-writing is. I first remember them coming in the 60's. Before that, cards would come, with handwritten notes in them. In the 19th century, personal letters were individually witten, with the person's personality and tastes in mind.

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia, I am so glad you brought this up! I too have a very difficult time with these letters. I have detested their arrival ever since I have been married (14 years). Before that I don't recall receiving any. But every year I will receive at least one. I have an unfortunate friend who does not send out Christmas cards at all if she cannot get her letter done on time. Consequently, I have not heard from her at Christmas for years! Not even a card as there is no letter to send with it! I have another friend who I see every week. I know all about the things in their letter and more and she sent me a letter anyway!

For the most part, it is clear that these letters are the "keeping up with the Jones'" variety. They inevitably taint the spirit, especially when they come from fellow believers, and are very difficult to read with any joy.

Once upon a time I would find myself seething with jealousy over the "great conquests" and accomplishments of my friends and brethren. Now I find I am more saddened that these folks are in bondage to the writing of these letters and possibly to the pursuit of these accomplishments. I often wonder what goes on in the spirit of the believers who write these things as they are writing them. Do they have any sense of grieving the Spirit, or is there that vague sense that these things somehow ought not to be said, or even that there is just something wrong with this even if they can't put their finger on just what it is? I don't know. But all of those things happen to me whenever I just entertain the thought of writing one myself.

I am not sure why or how these letters ever got to be so fashionable. Personally, I think they should be done away with.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

My intention is not to hurt anyone's feelings who sends these out or enjoys getting them. I've been lately answering them, personally, though, and giving my own insights into their activities and telling them what I like about this or that or if I admire something that they are doing. This usually gets a personal, hand written response. I only pick out one or two things in the impersonal newsletter that I can relate to, that develops warmth between the two of us.

Anonymous said...

I personally do not mind these letters. Maybe it's because our situation is sort of unique. My family has, over the years, lived in many different states and cities. My father started several churches and is currently pastoring. We keep in contact with many, many friends that have been made over the years. Between my father and mother, I have 20 aunts and uncles. They all have children (some, quite a few!), who are now to the age of marriage and starting their own families. This doesn't even include further extended family! Christmas letters for us are a simple way to give everybody an update. We keep in contact as much as possible, but quite frankly, sending out copied letters still takes a lot of time, and I can't imagine how long it would take us to individually write out the letters.

That is just my perspective. We certainly don't try to brag or anything. Our letters are short, but we just want to share with our friends and family (who we only get to see once a year or less) the many blessings the Lord has given us. We share about weddings that have just happened or are upcoming, share the news of the babies, and any other major events that have happened in our lives.

And I love to receive these letters! Almost all those people that we send our letters too, send us a letter as well, and it keeps us better informed in their lives. I especially like when they include pictures so I can see how much everybody has changed. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it depends upon the tone.

I have received some letters where all they do is brag, but in a 'nice' way. "Oh, we just bought a 10,000 sq ft home" or "How do you like the pictures of our new yacht?" or "We just went on a world cruise and the cabins cost us $20,000 a pop". Detailing junior's accomplishments at school ad nauseum is annoying as well. Hearing about the minuate of Daddy's raise and his big bonus is rather insensitive to those who might be struggling. Hearing the gory details of surgeries, health issues or Grandpa's bowel troubles makes for very unpleasant reading and does not spread any Christmas cheer.

The letters where warmth, love and faith are conveyed are always welcome to me. I love reading about the small, ordinary things families are doing - homeschooling, funny things toddlers say, babies, weddings, gardening, family vacations and projects. I enjoy funny stories and pictures.

As in many things, tone, intent and delivery is what makes the difference!

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia, my heart rejoiced when I read your comments. I have felt the same way for years! In fact, not consciously I suppose, I wouldn't even read the letters until after Christmas when things had slowed down a bit. The letters always made me feel so depressed and that I wasn't a very good mother because my children weren't doing all that was written about. I have talked about this with my children - by the time you read through all the letters, there is a long list of what you don't do. But then everyone writing the letters doesn't do all that everyone else does either.

My belief is that God is most pleased when we take time to know Him and when we have peaceful and calm spirits. These aren't quallities you write about in a Christmas letter. But then the entire Christmas hype of our culture is the opposite of Jesus being born in a stable or riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. May we not compare ourselves to the Christmas letters or those who mean well when they send them, but rather examine our hearts before God and ask if we have grown closer to Him this past year.

Marie said...

I have friends from sea to sea, and in foreign countries. I insert a newsletter in the cards because, if I didn't, all they would hear from me is "Merry Christmas." We have five children and a lot happens over the year. I would have to devote a whole lot of time handwriting the information fifty times over. I don't think that should be necessary in order to communicate with people.

My intention for sending them out is not to brag, but to share. Now I'm a little paranoid that people roll their eyes when they get them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this! I thought I was one of those "rare few" who did not warm up to recieving these newsletters. I appreciate your honesty.

Tamiko

Samara said...

Our family, like Anonymous above, both sends and receives many of these letters. As a military and missionary family, we've moved far and frequently over the years, and so have friends and family scattered across the globe.
Unlike the letters you've been receiving, our family letter concerns only relevant family news and the focus is on "What the Lord has done in our lives this year". We do include family news like weddings (more and more of them lately!), births, deaths, and graduations; however the focus is our thanks and love for being given another year serving our Lord and sharing in His blessings, not on "bragging" our purchases, vacations or SAT scores.

I also enjoy the readings of these letters (over the past few weeks we've often read them aloud after dinner). Many of my parents' friends have written news of their new mission stations, friends saved, babies born... Others have requested prayers for children at war abroad or loved ones suffering long illness. I believe that such correspondence with friends & family heightens my appreciation for the meaning of the Christmas season, reminding me of our oneness in Christ, regardless of distance.

Candy said...

I love getting Christmas letters from family and friends. Through the past few years, I've been about the only one sending them out anymore. :-(

I'm quite saddened that I am unable to send out a letter this year. We usually send one out for each Christmas, and it includes an updated family picture.

This year would have been a big one. We moved, I'm preggy, etc...

In Conclusion, I personally LOVE Christmas letters.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only person who didn't like these newsletters.

Sharon

FindingJoy said...

Some of them I love. Some of them I don't love so much. In general, I'd rather get a copied newsletter than just a signed card, but I do get at least one or two resumes of achievements and financial success each year that just leave me flat. I really appreciate the ones with pictures of the family, no matter how boastful the newsletter is.

One of my friends is chronically ill with migraines and has a delightful newsletter. She puts as much emphasis on reporting a potluck at someone's house as others would report going on an cruise.

Anonymous said...

Ddear Lady Lydia,
I too must chime in with dislike of newsletters! My much missed and very wise mother-in-law called them letters from the "wanted to and couldn't" set. I think she was right! So many are filled with strange and somewhat dishonest descriptions of what is happening in life - such as "John is now enjoying life in Belltown" which is actually where the state prison is that John is in after being convicted for selling dope! Thank heaven we get only one a year - from a family that my husband knows professionally. We cringe when we read what "spin" they put on the events of the year to look as successful as they think they should to be accepted by the people who they think are important. I end up feeling SO sorry for them - I think by being so absorbed in worrying how the life they lead will be perceived by others they miss thinking about how the life they lead will be perceived by God!

Thanks SO much for your HONEST comments! - Meg

Heather said...

This year has been really bad for these letters. They have left me feeling saddened. I got one from a family we used to go to church with when we lived in Arizona that bragged about getting to see a famous transvestite! Argh! I am glad that I am not the only one who feels this way. ;o)

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why hearing about someone else's success would make you unhappy unless you are jealous. But then I don't know anyone with a 10,000 sq. ft. house or a yacht. =)

I enjoy hearing from my friends and I started the letters when I found I was writing the same thing over and over. I have been ill and this is the first year in many years I have been able to even do Christmas cards, so I haven't been sending the letters. But I do like getting them.

Michelle said...

I myself enjoy hearing what's going on in the lives of my cousins and their families. We are spread all across the country and don't see each other much at all. I like hearing that this cousin is in college, that her brother has just started at a new school and is now taller than she is, that my aunt and uncle are happy in their new home. Their letters are never boastful, and I appreciate them.

I'm sorry some of you have been so distressed by letters from family and friends. That's unfortunate.

Suzanne said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas newsletters. I love receiving them from friends overseas and hearing all about what they have been doing whereas I hate receiving them from someone who lives two suburbs away who hasn't been in contact all year and now believes that because it's Christmas that I have suddenly developed an overwhelming curiosity into their personal lives. I wonder if it is pride on my part because these hated newsletters never give me a chance to reciprocate about our family's affairs. I feel that it is more a 'monologue' on their part instead of a 'conversation' so to speak. As if they want you to know about them but aren't really interested in knowing about you.

Lady Lydia Speaks said...

I've been trying to find the origin of this custom. I believe it began with the printing business. The printers offerred a discount if you ordered a certain number of copies of the yearly family letter. The first one I ever saw, came in the late 60's, but it might have been going on before that.

Georgene said...

I read a newsletter last year that was the best I've ever read. From beginning to end the letter glorified God and what He had been doing in the families life the past year. God was totally lifted up. The letter still gave an account of the families happenings but the focus was on God and not the family. They were secondary. I learned a great lesson from reading that letter.

Janet said...

I frequent your blog site and find interesting and helpful articles. Thank you for sharing these.

I enjoy getting the newsletters as it keeps me informed of what is happening in my friends' lives. (I only get a couple a year.) I enjoy them more than just a signed card.

I am one who sends out "yearly reports" as we have family and friends that are curious as to what is going on in our lives since we have adopted 6 children in the last 4 years. I like to let them know how God has been involved in our lives throughout the year.

I figure those who are not interested can toss it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
It sure has been interesting reading different points of view on this reproduced letter topic.
For me, I am more on the disliking the letters side. But, after reading several of the comments, It certainly makes me understand why some may enjoy these letters.
The idea that some of these people want you to know about them, but are possibly not that interested in you, is a feeling that I have experienced. Sometimes, in dealing with these people, it is not just a feeling, but a fact.

Kathleen in Illinois said...

Lady Lydia, I do receive such a newsletter from one cousin, but now that several states separate us and neither one of us writes letter per se, that is the best way for me to "keep up" with him.

I think the difference is that he is a lay minister and his half-column newsletter is FULL of the ministries he has been involved in, in the past year. PLUS he always put a personal note at the bottom.........

Not one of those "top me if you can" newsletters that I know others send......

I used to get a "newsletter" from a friend who was always "full of herself" and her family and it was always temporal........Haven't heard from her in years. I am sad about that, but sadder still at what must have happened...

Kathleen in IL

Anonymous said...

I think I must have nice friends, because the letters I get, and it's only three this year, are very nice and not braggy at all. My piano teacher called them "brag letters," just as I was about to write one, so I refrained from even mentioning anyone's accomplishments, lest someone be offended or feel badly about themselves. The letter I wrote scarcely mentioned the children or jobs, but was filled with hopes that all recipients would be blessed by the season and the Reason for the season. I am self-conscious now about writing any letters at all. I did write a lengthy one a few years ago that talked about each family member but I didn't think it was "braggy"; I talked about each child's personality and likes, but didn't brag at all. I did say they were wonderful children and very loved by us. My motive for that was more to show folks that even though we have seven children, we still love them and enjoy our busy hectic lives with them, knowing that some people think we must be so miserable with "so many" children "underfoot." Anyway...in defense of letters, I love receiving them, I think they have the potential to unite people and make folks feel more connected to the senders, even if they don't talk much during the year. It seems there is always something to complain about, doesn't there? Now we are "not happy" about holiday letters. To each his own, I say. If you don't like them, then employ the Golden Rule and don't send one yourself, I guess. Or send one that is not braggy and just talks about how much you love and care for the recipients and would welcome calls and letters during the year.

Wanda said...

I have had both types of letters and had similar reactions to the different prevailing mood of them. One thing I always enjoy receiving is the photo card that has become rather popular. Seeing everyone's children growing up is a true joy. These never leave me feeling anything but pleasure.

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