Tuesday, December 4, 2012

the bear and the fly: a tale of xmas cards and newspapers

the kids in "the valley" with names and schools scrubbed out
to protect the innocent

Last year I wrote a post called Philosophy of a Smaller Christmas about how I wish we could all celebrate Christmas in a smaller, simpler, greener way.  The holidays are very earth centered for me, so I get very scroogy feeling when our celebration creates a lot of waste and trash.  

Last year, I laid out a wish list of things I’d like to see get smaller.  This year, I thought I should put my money where my mouth is. 

One of my suggestions was to cut our holiday card list by excluding local people who we see or talk to regularly.  I thought we would use less paper/stamps and mail truck energy while freeing up time to write personal notes to more distant friends.

I feel sort of embarrassed to admit we have 77 people on our holiday card list.  And it usually grows by a few every year. 

How did someone with one high school friend end up with 77 families on her holiday card list?  She has a lot of cousins and she married a very likable guy (not a bad thing).

I wonder if you think 77 is a lot?  I know other people who have well over 100.   I also know people who have 25. 

Could we have 25?  I went through our list and cut out all of our super local friends.  These are good friends who we see often.  They will understand when I explain that it’s all in the name of a tree. That got me to 67. 

Then I considered some real “cuts.” You know the folks: we’re never in touch, or we never seem to have the right address, or…it starts to feel not very holidayish to go on.  That got me 7 more names.  We were at 60. 

60 is not 25, but it also isn’t 77.  I reassured myself that it was OK because I also planned to order cards on recycled paper. 
Then all my grand plans were dashed when I discovered we had to order the cards in increments of 25.  I would have to get the list to 50, or we were back to 75. 

Well…have you figured out yet that Steve goes along with all of my green ideas to a point?  Think of him like a bear sleeping contentedly in his den, tolerating this fly that he let in years ago and hasn’t been able to get rid of since.  The fly is always buzzing around taking things away, making things smaller, getting into the honey jar, so to speak.

Sometimes the fly goes too far.

Cutting the holiday cards from 60 to 50 was one of those moments. 

Do you need to know the details of what transpired between the bear and the fly? Or do you just need to know that we ordered 75 cards. 


I’m feeling all pouty and frustrated and not green about this when Steve reminds me of something that happened earlier in the week.

We decided to cancel our paper.  I felt really terrible about this decision because I want to support our local journalists.  I want there to be a paper even if I don’t buy it (so selfish!).   Despite our reservations, however, we decided to do it because the thing is huge (with way more content than we read); it comes in a plastic bag; it operates as a gateway for inordinate amounts of advertising on wasteful glossy paper, and of course, we now get so much of our news online.

Canceling sounds so reasonable, but I tell you, it’s hard!!  When I went online to do the deed, I discovered something insidious about those newspaper guys.  They know that we’ve grown all sad and nostalgic about our ritualized way of wrestling those papers into submission every morning, so in a last ditch effort to save themselves, they make it harder for us to pull the trigger: they make us call.

I couldn’t do it.  Instead, I called Steve and told him: “I can’t do it.”  Relatively indifferent, the bear just twitched his ear, hoping the fly would go away.

Later, after the holiday card incident had occurred, the bear had a question.  “How come we can keep the 25lb newspaper that comes to our door every morning, but the biosphere will collapse if we send 25 extra Christmas cards this year?” 

“Oh.” Says the fly. 

So I got on the phone.  I hoped I would be able to navigate the automated system so that I could jump ship by simply pressing “2” in the quiet and shameful anonymity of my kitchen.  But when I selected the option for canceling, the nice robot told me to “wait for the next available service representative to assist you.”

Darn.  They were going to make me say it out loud.

When I told the nice lady on the other end that I wanted to cancel my subscription, she said, “Oh,” with her voice falling: “I’m very sorry to hear that.” 

Do they train them to do that? My stomach just dropped.  Showing my will of steel, I immediately compromised and agreed to a weekend subscription.  By the end of the conversation, I felt like we were old friends.

In the end, we traded 4 newspapers per week for 25 extra Christmas cards per year.

Miraculously, I think the bear, the fly and the earth will all have a very happy holiday.   It is the season of wonders after all.  J


  1. oh...so that's how couples work things out...

    1. ah yes. i should be writing a marriage counseling blog or something, right? we've got it ALL figured out! :)

  2. I am reading through blogs on my nook, so i can't write much now, but i am really enjoying catching up on your posts and i am wondering why it says J at the end?
    - Franny

    1. hey franny,
      i don't know what the 'j' is. at the end of this post? there is a smily face - is that coming through on your nook as a j? but all 'j's' aside, tx for visiting! :) (that's a smily, not a j!)

  3. Yeah, just lost all my comment. Grrrr. I'll be back for more another day!

  4. Cute post! Sound like you reached a nice compromise. At least paper products are somewhat reusable. Newspapers can be used to line guinea pig cages! Xmas cards can be used for various crafts. Colorful catalog pages also make nice wrapping paper. :)

    1. true. recycled paper is not such a bad thing to have around. one thing with only getting the weekend paper i've discovered, we're used to having all that paper for other uses! what do you carve a pumpkin on if you don't have newspaper! we are supposed to try and use newspaper for wrapping paper this year. will see if that happens!