Family photo 2010 (courtesy Korey Howell)This week we are mailing out our first family holiday letter in ages.

I used to do this every single year.  I won’t say like clockwork, because when I got around to sending them was pretty loose. One year when I was in Japan on Navy shipboard duty, I think I finally launched the last batch sometime in early February, prompting one recipient to write back, “What is this – some strange Asian custom?”

Even if I didn’t hear back from people, I sent them anyway, because it was very important to me to keep connecting and I knew they were probably getting them, which was enough. One year, I lost track of a high school friend, so I found and called his Mom to get his address. I was relentless.

Then, life and email and Facebook and blogging happened and it was all too much. Even when my husband would present me with a good draft each year, I just couldn’t get it together. I like to send a photo and that also became a hassle to get one to my admittedly ridiculous standards, with all of us in it and with all of our eyes open.

But, something was missing by not sending a hard copy greeting every year.  I live with Web ephemera every day – it’s my living and I love it – but it can disappear and be forgotten. You have to boot it up to look at it.

Friends deserve something that takes more effort and that lasts for a long time, is DRM-free and can’t be remotely deleted from their Kindle.

This year, we gaggled together for family portraits by the wonderful Austin photographer Korey Howell, I grabbed my husband’s letter draft and actually did something with it, and once we overcame an initially screwed-up printing run – hey, your printer rollers leave lines, Mr. Office Supply Megachain – it felt wonderful to put stamps on those upper right envelope corners.

Out the door they went to the mailbox up the street….the first 14.  We usually send around 50, so I have a lot more work to do, but I’m enjoying it and I promise to get it all finished well before February.

I’ll still see those friends on Facebook and elsewhere online, but it feels good to be a correspondence switch-hitter.

Update:  I also ordered some interesting cards from the Metropolitan Museum of Art online store so we’ll be ready for 2011. Now’s the time to stock up!

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