Political junkie that I am, sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode from WTF craziness.
"I can't support the health care bill because it doesn't reduce costs enough," says one Senator -- who vigorously opposed the public option that would have saved Americans lots of money.
Thankfully, Christmas letters are helping me preserve my sanity.
They're a connection to the good old days (OK, maybe they didn't seem so good at the time, but now they do) when life seemed slower, simpler, less filled with aggravations.
I hardly ever get actual letters in the mail anymore. Nor do I send them.
Only at Christmas time is there an excellent chance of opening up the mailbox, thumbing through the stack of mostly crap, and coming across an envelope with a handwritten address penned by someone I know.
It wasn't handwritten, but I even got a Christmas card from President Obama yesterday (which I should, given how much my wife and I contributed to his campaign last year). A nice touch, though I'd be pleased to trade this greeting for more toughness on health care reform.
Earlier in the week Laurel and I sat down at our dining room table and got out our Christmas card lists, boxes of cards bought cheaply at after-Christmas sales, stamps, return address labels provided by the multitudinous charities Laurel donates to (one set of which says "Mr. and Mrs. Laurel Hines, a nice feminist touch), and copies of our 2009 Christmas Letter.
Which soon will be revealed to an eagerly waiting cyberspace world, as our previous letters have been.
I'm waiting to do this online sharing, though, until our mailed Christmas cards have wended their way to the recipients. It's so deliciously old-fashioned to drop messages in a post office box and know that it will take days (rather than email seconds) for them to be received.
Sitting at the table, I kind of wanted to have a quill pen, a bottle of ink, and parchment that I'd roll up after finishing my writing and hand to a courier who would jump onto a horse to deliver my correspondence.
Like the poet said, the world is too much with us these days. I invite it in, of course, with my iPhone, MacBook, high speed DSL, satellite radio, and a jillion DirecTV channels.
Still, it's nice to push it away for a moment by handwriting the address of each person on my Christmas card list, folding our letter into squares, signing a card, often adding a personal note, afixing a stamp and return address label, then licking the envelope edges to seal it.
That last step astounded my wife, while seeming perfectly natural to me. I can't remember her exact objections -- something to do with germs and cow hoof gelatin, I think.
I told Laurel that I've been licking Christmas card envelopes for at least forty years. I'm still alive. So it can't be a fatal act of folly. She said she'll still use a sponge to moisten her cards in her own fashion.
Laurel also has a markedly different way of deciding who to send her cards to. I have a name and address list on my computer. I know exactly who was sent a Christmas card the previous year. The list is updated as people are added and subtracted.
By contrast, Laurel kept asking "Do you think I should send a card to X?" as she thumbed through the pages of her (gasp!) handwritten address book.
I'd say, "Well, did you send a card to them last year?" "I can't remember," she'd reply.
Proving that a husband can learn things about his wife after nineteen years of marriage, this was the first time I'd been exposed to what seems to me to be a chaotic way of Christmas carding.
But it suits Laurel.
She looks at each name in her address book and decides whether a card should be sent to them. Like a Zen master, she lives in the moment. Whether they got a card the previous year doesn't matter (in part because often Laurel can't remember whether they did or not).
I found this now-ness interesting. Yet I prefer my systematic system. After all, I'm me and she's she.
The she of our house has another quirk. Laurel writes notes on boxes of cards that were bought and partially used the previous Christmas: "Sent to N through Z."
I asked her what this was about.
"It tells me to send a different card to people in my address book with names that begin with those letters," she told me, "because they got that card last year."
"Do you really think they'll remember what your card looked like?" "Sure," Laurel said. Hmmmm.
My wife doesn't remember who she sent Christmas cards to in 2008, but she's convinced that these people -- whoever the heck they are -- will open up her 2009 card and think, "Sweet Jesus! This is the same card she sent last year!"
Well, I'm prepared to accept this is possible. Women never forget. (Unfortunately for Tiger Woods.)