Friday, December 19, 2008

Sending out the Christmas cards

As the snow continues to fall here in Seattle…Snowy streetSnowy Street 2

USA Today noted this week that 56% of all Americans have never lived outside of their home state.  The main reasons given for staying in their hometown were the tug of family ties and friends, and a feeling of belonging.  I would guess that they have a lifetime of friends and partners close at hand.

The other half of us end up leaving a contrail of friends and colleagues behind our life’s trajectories as we change jobs, residences, and countries countries.  The advent of Facebook and LinkedIn has brought me back into contact with many folks I’ve separated from over the years, and there’s no question that the ease and immediacy of he Internet has strengthened old ties.

But I still hold to the tradition of sending out Christmas cards to keep in touch at the holidays.

I liked getting cards from old friends, year by year, reading about the changes in their jobs, the arrival of children, the family vacations, the loss of relatives.  I never minded getting the copy of a generic Christmas note as long as it was accompanied by a few penned sentences of a personal sentiment. I try to keep my annual note upbeat, add contact information, print it on nice paper.  My write-to-return ration is probably 3:1, but I still enjoy getting a card and seldom take anyone off my list.

My problem is managing the address list.

It seems silly in this day of cloud databases and shared contact lists, but I still manage my Christmas addresses with a little hard-cover book with inserts for each contact. I’ve had it since college, and every year, I go through it to copy the addresses onto the envelopes, then update the little paper slips with new information as each card arrives.

Last year, I made a significant effort to update the overall list, adding addresses from school and work that have started to drift since I became expatriate.  People are much more reticent to give out home addresses than e-mail addresses and phone numbers when I ask for contact information, but I think that the list is pretty good now.

Still, it all depends on a little book filled with alphabetized slips of paper.

I’ve made a resolution to move it all to an electronic database, but it’s proving to be a very difficult task.  Outlook only allows one database, and mine is filled with business contacts.  Windows Live Contacts wants to import and notify people, but doesn’t have facilities for simply cataloguing them.  Yahoo and Google are tailored for email, not for physical addresses.

It seems that there is a broader issue with physical files that we all accumulated before laptop computers: address lists, recipe files, research notebooks.  There is just no simple way to move them all into the electronic world, and I keep maintaining ever more battered legacy pages using ever deteriorating handwriting skills.

I really want to update my records, probably into something like Windows Live, but can’t find instructions, templates, or tools that help me to use the application for this purpose.  ‘anyone have any favorites?


A Touch of Dutch said...

It took me hours to go through everything, everywhere, to find all of the correct addresses this year, so I invested more time into it & updated my address book. So I can relate with this! I've updated them on my Windows Outlook.

And I always enjoy sending out Christmas cards because I know at this time of the year, it means the most ;-)

The snow looks lovely! Have a happy holidays :-)

Dave Hampton said...

THe snow has been really pretty this year, but driving on the hills has been terrible: I've been up at 7 am to get snow tires down and take a car to get them put on. Fortunately, the predicted storm with 90 mph winds and 10 inches of snow didn't materialize last night.

I'll probably set things up using Outlook categories, then try to transfer the file to Windows Live. I am frustrated that Outlook now allows only one personal address book; it would have been nice to just make a separate one. And the sync features are a bit scary: I've had corrputed entries overwrite good ones before (also a problem with syncing picture archives).

Have a wonderful and festive Christmas holiday in the Netherlands and enjoy the New Year's celebrations!