Merrily Manic

Every year that I actually get around to doing Christmas cards, I realize again (this isn’t news), that I am a bona fide nut case-an obsessive compulsive one at that. Just finding the right card to send becomes a search that consumes days, weeks, and months–providing I start early enough, and just for that reason it’s best if I don’t allow myself that much lead time. No matter the time allowed, it is guaranteed that I will take this seemingly simple process and turn it into one with the complexity of simultaneously launching three space shuttles from three far-flung points in the world.

This year I decided to make my own cards. Good–that eliminated the endless search for perfection in the manufactured kind. Even when I have gone the commercial route, I end up altering the cards I’ve bought so that they reflect more of me–or, more precisely, my cats. So I end up drawing and painting one way or another. Might as well start from scratch. So, this year, that’s what I did.

Then it was merely a matter of dreaming up a design to feature 4 cats and illustrate their very distinctive personalities. I’m still miles ahead at this point in terms of time investment than if I were going the store-bought route.

So, I came up with a design and painted it. There, that was done. But wait…the next step is to color copy what I’ve painted and then paste the copies to individual Christmas cards. Because it is only cost efficient if I copy two images at once, I either have to re-paint the same design twice (originals copy better than copies of an original), or come up with a second design. You see, things that started out being simple are already becoming complex. Just having to make such a decision is complex.

Finally I decided, in the interest of not boring myself with painting the same thing twice, to come up with a second image. OK, did that and painted it. Time investment is creeping upwards.

Then off to Kinko’s for the color copies, and that, I’m relieved to say, has become one truly improved and hugely simplified process from what it was just a few years ago. Now you just position your original and copy–no fooling around with various color values and intensities–the machine does it all, does it right, and off you go in less than five minutes. I need to take some lessons from this machine.

Now it’s cutting and pasting, and not of the virtual variety. Cut out the copied images and paste them to blank cards. Back to being fairly simple, but time consuming. And now I should be almost finished with this project, right? Wrong. Something else was needed…but what? That was easy. They needed some sparkle, and being the glitter fanatic that I am, glitter was obviously the way to go.

Luckily, I already had some glitter paint. Unluckily, it was not what it was cracked up to be. It did not squeeze out of the bottle and through the attached plastic nozzle with any degree of ease at all. I took to my brushes. It didn’t brush easily either, but the effect was good…time quotient is skyrocketing upwards. Finally, realizing that to decorate both designs using this technique meant that my cards would be ready to send out maybe by Memorial Day—a bit late for most people. I streamlined things considerably for the second image and managed to finish with still a few days between now and Christmas.

All of this time spent on these cards, and yet so far not one has been written. I decided to do it backwards and write the addresses on all the envelopes first. I had a gold pen left over from last year and thought I was all set. But it was one of those that runs through ink quickly and the next step ended up being a trip to the art supply store to re-stock.

Well, of course there were more, as well as new and improved, choices from what I had been using. That took more time to investigate and then, again, decide. You’d be amazed at how long I can agonize over a detail like the degree of gold and the degree of sparkle in a given gold ink before I can move on. But eventually I did manage to do that and still remain within the Christmas season.

Back home, I continued with the addressing–and in the middle of it, got hit with another idea for adding just a touch more glitter to one set of cards. There I went again. Who among the people I send these things to would ever guess that each one represents a measurable portion of my lifetime? (I hope not too many, or they will surely band together, stage an intervention, and have me put away for good.)

So now I’m at the writing-the-messages part. That used to take me forever because I wrote an epistle on each one. No more. I leave that newsy part to e-mail, and if anyone wants to complain about that, please feel free.

Oh yes, I haven’t mentioned the extensive dithering involved in the decision making process as to which recipient receives which card design. That, of course, requires intense psycho-analysis of each person on the card list and then matching the results to one of the two designs–and there goes another major block of time.

I’ve put in my time on these cards and they have to go–now. And besides, I have to get on with cookie decorating–and of course, no two can be alike.

And now, who are those little men in white coats at my door as I type? Never mind, I’m pretty sure I know.

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