December 5, 2009

This is a Test of the Emergency Christmas Card Scoring System

Our first Christmas card arrived and is an excellent test of the Christmas Card Scoring System, but I'm worried about quoting from it because OMG WHAT IF THEY GOOGLE THEIR OWN CHRISTMAS LETTER? But that's not likely, is it? Er...is it? But perhaps someone who reads this blog has received the same letter and would know who it was and would tell them. I'm remembering when Sundry's dad found her blog because of searching for the recipe for a drink they had during his visit. Or I might not be remembering the details exactly right (recipe? drink?), but that was the GIST, and I spent some time searching for the post so I could get the details right and I kept getting distracted by the archives and anyway my point is that it's better to be paranoid safe than caught sorry. But I don't think I can help it. [Edit: Here's the Sundry post! Thank you, Robyn!]

Normally we use the C.C.S.S. for reflecting our happiness in receiving cards: scores are not LITERALLY given. But every so often, maybe once or twice a season, we use the C.C.S.S. to demonstrate why a card is so amusingly bad. Perhaps the writer forgets that not everyone wants to hear about her neighbor's gall bladder. Perhaps the writer forgets that a preachy Christmas letter is either preaching to the choir or else preaching to the people who made an informed decision not to join the choir. Perhaps the writer forgets that a parent's love for and interest in his or her own children is notoriously out of proportion to other people's love for and interest in those same children, and that adjectives such as "amazing" and "beautiful" and "incredible" and "brilliant" are best used only with the other parent. Whatever the situation, the card sends its readers into tears of incredulous laughter the vast majority of cards are NOT going to provoke even if they quote a few verses and brag a little about the children.

So. This card. They get +5 for sending a card, and it falls within the reasonable idea of "pretty" and so that's another +3. It includes a letter, which is +5. The letter is not particularly informative or interesting (their children are wonderful!---no details, just an adjective; they took an autumn walk!), but I think it tries, and I tend to award those points for any effort at all, so they can have +2 (out of a possible +3).

In the beginning of the letter they were going to get -3 for saccharine/cheery, but they crossed the line and got +2 instead for mockability.

The best part really was the "blessed/blessings" count, which was funnier and funnier as I kept finding them: eight in the letter proper, including three in one paragraph alone, and THEN, there was a postscript SOLELY for the purpose of offering another blessing. THEN I looked at the CARD, where they'd written it AGAIN. Ten blessings in all, for a grand total of 9 points lost (because the first usage is allowed as a special holiday lenience).

They also used the word "special" three times, and the word "fellowship" once (one use feels like ten). Those aren't on the points list but I found they added to the amusing impact of all the blessings.

There were four paragraphs, and each one contained 1-2 Bible verses (including one that explained what a torment life was but happily it goes by fast---how festive!), each one accompanied by a plug for the Bible: "Read the entire chapter. It's awesome. Of course the entire Bible is amazing." "If you want to read an exciting book this one is it!!" There was also a reminder that all blessings are theirs because they follow The Lord and because our nation follows The Lord also. So that's -5 for preaching/piousness.

One mention of a colon-related illness, but no entertainment/informational value so that's -1.

Let me just put on my math medal for this calculation.....their card gets 2 points. It seems like it should get more points considering how very much I enjoyed it. Perhaps crossing into mockability should be +10 instead of +2.

47 comments:

Andria said...

I must not have anyone who loves me-- I haven't received any cards yet.

Boo on no details for the colon. After hearing a reality star say on tv that she had a colon cleanse, and an ENTIRE mushroom slice came out, and that she hadn't had any mushrooms since eating a supreme pizza 3 months before-- well, I want a colon cleanse for Christmas, darnit!

Lola said...

I LOVE THIS. And I totally agree that mockability is worth a lot. But now I'm curious. This may be in the archives, so if it is just point me to where, but what is your back story re: religion? You said at one point recently that you had a minister father and sunday school teacher mother right? And now you're anti? If you're able/willing to share I sure would be interested.

cindy kay said...

The preachiness of that card sounds horrendous.

However, I must say that you (and couple other people online) are why I no longer send Christmas letters. I'm paranoid of someone on my list reading my letter with your scoring system in mind and I'll be either annoying or a laughing stock.

The things that were NEWS! for my family this year are probably either boring or unendurable bragging to someone else-- and then what is there left to write about? How can I read someone else's mind and know what in the world they really want to hear?

So-- that brings me to my point: Could you write us a sample Christmas newsletter that scores well? Or maybe two: one that scores high for real, and one that scores high for awful. Then I could have a sort of rule of thumb to follow (or not follow, as the case may be) next time I drum up enough nerve (or insanity) to try to write a Christmas letter. Thanks.

beyond said...

i wonder about the colon also. did a cleansing fast recently that included multiple colon cleansings and i cannot tell you how satisfying it was. oops, that's too much information for a saturday morning, isn't it.
i am really enjoying this series. i used to laugh at the xmas cards my parents got, especially the ones with the photocopied letters inside that were full of fake joy and accounts of the past year's extremely (!) happy (!) times.

Amanda said...

LOVE it! I haven't received any cards yet but I'm ready with my read scoring pen!!!

Shannon said...

The word "fellowship" makes me shiver. I call it the Christian f-word. Yuck! Even when I was really involved in my church I always hated that word. And I am laughing so hard at the overuse of "blessing/blessed". So funny!

Robyn said...

Love the scoring method :)
What does it say about me that I had to go and find this: http://www.sundrymourning.com/2006/06/27/arterial-byways/ for you because it would bug me if I couldn't find it and I didn't want it to bug you too? Have a great weekend! :)

Jess said...

I am racking my brain to think if I know ANYONE who would write and send us such a card, and I don't think that I do. Thankfully.

Jewels said...

Okay now I really REALLY want to read the actual card. You should handwrite it and take a photo, they can't get that through google, right? :) I guess if you're taking pictures you could just take a picture of the ACTUAL card, but for some reason writing it out and taking a photo seems less guilty. Like "ho hum this could have been ANYONE'S card."

Beth said...

It sounds like minus one billion points for overly religious/preachy/pushy.

Swistle said...

Lola- These things are always long stories, but the gist of it is that I grew up Christian and was a solid, intellectual, reasoned believer until I was 20 or 21, at which point Christians would say I "lost my faith" and I would say that I realized it didn't make sense and wasn't true---and that if I was wrong and it WAS true, I didn't want anything to do with it. Well! That was pretty short after all!

Cindy Kay- I think that's why mass mailings don't work. If you're writing to one person, someone you know and have a relationship with, you generally know what they'd find interesting about your life. It's when people try to send the exact same letter to people they talk to daily and people they talk to once a year---well, it's easy to see why it doesn't work out. But even so, I only get one to two mockable ones per year. All the rest are fine and score well. Even this jaw-droppingly crazy one ended up in the black.

Robyn- YAY!! How did you find it??

Marie Green said...

So, you know, if you photocopied it, we could all see it and it would not be google-able.

Also, I once received an ENTIRE 3 page letter chronicling my "aunt" (she used to be married to my blood uncle), anyway, my aunt's father's (I'd never met him) slow, painful death. Along with lots of gory medical details and descriptions.

It was awesome! It's the only one that's ever topped my crazy-gma letter.

DomestiKook said...

Mockability should totally count as +10 points. It's like a second gift. "Aw! A christmas card! Sweet!" Then the relivable enjoyment of the mocking. Especially if it's merciless mocking. :)

Nicole said...

My mother-in-law HATES receiving Christmas letters, probably due to deep seated feelings of insecurity - she hates hearing about how well people are doing. So, she sends out her own Christmas letter which is sarcastic and depressing and mean-spirited all at once. And also contains massive amounts of misspelled words and poor grammar. I wonder how I should give points to that. Mockability - lots of points. But depressing to read because of my MIL's weirdness? Minus a lot of points.

Jen said...

My mother-in-law writes Christmas letters that are pages long. The problem is that she never has anything interesting going on in her life so for whatever strange reason she ends up fixating on me. She'll write paragraph after paragraph about me. It's kind of awkward. I mean, I am a surrogate mother and an all around fascinating person but I always wonder what the other people getting the letter think. Do they wonder why she's writing what amounts to a sonnet about me? What makes it super weird is that we don't even get along that well in real life.

The most awesome/horrible Christmas letter I ever got was from my aunt a few years ago. It detailed all the horrible things that had happened to them in the past year and concluded with the line (I am not shitting you here): "It looks like he'll be completely blind within the next two years. Well, Merry Christmas anyway!" Festive!

Swistle said...

Nicole- Oh, good point. Yes, it seems like it should only get points if it's DELIGHTFULLY mockable.

cindy kay said...

Swistle-- thanks for your explanation. Now that I think about it of course you're right. It all depends on who's reading. That makes me think that I could send mostly cards, but a letter of news to people who really care.

Lola said...

Thanks Swistle, for answering my religion question. As someone who also grew up in a fairly religious family (Catholic) and is now fairly secular, I'm always interested in those with a similar background who end up doubting or non-religious. Last question (if you're up for it): how is the rest of your family with that? Mine is pretty convinced that I'll be "back" at some point, and I basically let them believe it because it makes life infinitely easier.

Swistle said...

Cindy Kay- Or, like, letters to people who are "Christmas card friends" but not to people who are already in the loop. Or maybe just avoiding putting news about a friend's colon problems in the Christmas newsletter---I think that might help a lot.

Lola- I think my family is the same way.

Erin said...

I don't mean to be persnickety (as my grandmother would say), but can you explain why you score your Christmas cards? I'm imagining someone scoring the cards I've sent and feeling depressed that they might not stack up (or, worse, that they're being mocked), and if I think about scoring the cards I receive, it seems like it would take away all the joy I get from the fact that someone was thinking of my husband and me and wanted to wish us well. That's not say that the card you described doesn't seem irritating -- it does, and if I'd received it I would have made several sarcastic comments to my husband. But the scoring system in general seems kind of cynical and mean-spirited. (Which surprises me, because I enjoy your blog and usually empathize completely with the things you write about.)

Swistle said...

Erin- I hate when I write something to be funny and then have to explain I'm not serious. It's hard to say, "Oh, I guess I just WASN'T FUNNY." No, I don't score my actual Christmas cards. I was trying to be funny. And failed.

Kristi said...

I kinda think it deserves a +20 for blog post material. What is up with all the blessings?! Err...I mean, how nice of them.

Nowheymama said...

Our first card of he season was the mass-mailed one from my husband's work. Feh.

But! The next one had a big, fat check! Er, and lots of love.

They totally evened each other out.

desperate housewife said...

So to clarify- were these people GIVING the reader blessings or mentioning perceived blessings given TO them by God?

Jen said...

Like.

Also, I might steal your scoring system. Very fun.

Erin said...

Oops. Now my face is red. So sorry I missed the joke -- but it was me taking things too seriously, not you not being funny. Next time I'll consider the tongue-in-cheek possibility before commenting.

AndreAnna said...

Do you have a PO box? Cause I'll totally send you ours and let you score it online! :)

This cracks me up. I so far have gotten one and because it's pretentious and from annoying people, I give it a -89.

Do you have a douchebag clause?

Swistle said...

Desperate Housewife- Let's see. We have:

- blessed Thanksgiving season
- blessing to have them nearby
- church family truly a blessing
- blessed with good health
- wonderful kids--what a blessing
- so blessed to live close enough
- Blessed is the nation
- May the Lord bless you

That was the letter.

Then the P.S. blessed us, and so did the card.

So I think that's three of the sender blessing the reader, and seven blessings bestowed either implicitly or specifically by The Lord.

Dana said...

I LOVE this! We got our first Christmas card the day you posted the scoring system(no letter with it, though...bummer), and the scoring process was quite fun.

Swistle & Lola - I am also in the "grew up in a religious family & am now more secular" camp. And, yes, they all still think I will come "back" at some point, too. Those cards/letters are particularly fun to score!

Jen - my mom also writes about me (and my sister) in her news letter when nothing particluarly exciting has gone on for her that year. A few years back it was particularly horrible. She actually sent out a newsletter to all of our extended family & friends with a photo of me (that she took without me knowing) & asked everyone to put it on their fridge to remind them to pray daily for me to find my way back to the church. Yeah, -100

Swistle said...

Oh Dana! The fridge photo! I am almost BARFING with laughter!

Dana said...

Yes, I almost barfed a little myself. The laughter came later, after I got over the shock of seeing the photo for the first time on my grandmother's refrigerator (it was a HORRIBLE picture!)
Ahh...the holidays!

d e v a n said...

hee! I wish I could read it, sounds hilarious!

Whitney said...

I just wish someone would send me a Christmas letter. I'm truly feeling a little left out...

And, a little off topic, but not really...I'm starting to feel a little used by my "friends" because we're the only ones sending out cards (and gifts when deemed necessary) and there's no reciprocation going on. Not at all! Nothing! Granted, I enjoy (kind of) send out the things, but it would be nice to get some in return.

As you would say, "Whateves."

And this is such a timely post...I just had to pick my mother up from a colonoscopy this past week. What is it about the holidays and people's bums?

She Likes Purple said...

Not sure if you went over this, but how much off is gratuitous punctuation? I can handle blessing-talk, kinda, but when you start throwing in 18 exclamation points ALONG with blessing talk, you've just completely lost me.

Can I send you one of our cards, so you can score us? In fact, maybe I should send you one FIRST, so I can adjust based on our score.

Jessica in Canada said...

Whitney: I only give out cards to people who gave them to me last year...or someone who is a really good friend and I know would send me one if they had time. My mailing list gets shorter every year. Yay!

Laura said...

We have yet to receive any cards. However, this does remind me of something--have you ever noticed that horrible, cringe-worthy stories are always told around mother's day? Especially in church? About ten years ago, there was a rating system like this circulating for those kinds of stories...

cardiogirl said...

Mock-ability is definitely worth more than +2. It has to be more than +6. I'm going with a +7.

Hey, have you thought about adding some of the text but using @ for the letter a, 0 for the letter o, the number 1 for l and ! for the letter i?

Then you could quote something like:

B1ess!ngs @re 0urs because we f0110w The L0rd. The rest 0f y0u w!11 burn in He11. Merry Chr!stm@s!

Yes, it's time consuming, but worth it, I think.

Please?

Angie said...

This is all just too funny. I loved reading this post and comments. Cardiogirl and Dana's mom, OH MY!

Marie Green said...

In regards to Erin's comment about the scoring system being mean: I would only "score" the worst of the worst. I mean, there are just some that come that are so ridiculous. I get maybe 3 (at most) per year that are mock-worthy.

The majority of the cards we get, however, I do not put through any "scoring system". I love getting them (So! Much!), and making fun a the few awful ones doesn't take the joy out of getting the others.

Joanne said...

We are not getting many yet either, but I am a hypocrite because I haven't sent mine! Anyways, I started to write a letter yesterday and it was WAY too depressing and I felt nothing had happened to merit a letter. I told my husband that and he said, but you had a baby! and I said I know, but what is there to say about that, really? Besides I had a baby? She sleeps badly? I'm tired? she's cute? Ugh. So I figure next year, maybe. :)

As far as a scoring system being mean, well, just - we have to have a sense of humor in this life, right? Or at least TRY to have one?

Stimey said...

Holy moly, who are your friends? I don't get ANY cards like that.

Swistle said...

Stimey- It's RELATIVES. (By marriage.)

el-e-e said...

I love your system. Actually laughed out loud reading your analysis. And I completely agree about the word "Fellowship."

I want to add this to my holiday "traditions."

Lawyerish said...

I cackled several times while reading this post, snorted at least once, and read several excerpts aloud to my husband.

Score for Swistle: 2,000 points!

Anne said...

we're printing out the scoring system. I grew up in a house that always sent Christmas letters- horrible mockable ones. I had no idea people did not do this. I sent them out our first year as grown-up married adults and then refused to ever do it again. We mock the ones from my family each year, especially my ex-step-mom, who always writes a paragraph about us and invariable spells someone's name wrong, or quotes my husband's job title wrong. I can not wait to score her letter!

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer & Crazy Woman said...

LOVE this. Funny. And now will have to use it!

Anonymous said...

You are hilarious. I have your name blog on my reader but didn't realize that wasn't all the Swistle available. My parents' letter this year had a gem. It mentioned that my brother and fiance joined everyone across the country for my grandpa's funeral but didn't mention that I was there too.