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— Have you ever written one of those end-of-the-year Christmas letters to family and friends? I am referring to the ones where people write a nice, tidy summary of their lives for the past 12 months, add their holiday greetings and then enclose a copy with each of their Christmas cards.

I think it is a very good idea and I really enjoy receiving them from others. However, my attempts to write one myself were more challenging than I expected.

For starters, I can barely remember what happened last week, not to mention several months ago. A look back at the calendar helps jog memories too numerous to mention, thus initiating the challenge of deciding which items make the cut and which details get deleted.

I find myself pondering what it is that I could put in my letter that family and friends would really enjoy hearing? At what point have I said enough about myself without sounding as though I have a case of “it’s all about me”? When have I reached the point where comments about our good fortunes have spilled over into sounding “braggy”? When is enough “enough” in writing about my children and grandchildren and their accomplishments? And, should I mention A Walk in the Park? I could maybe include a Web address in case someone is interested in reading the column online … or is that too presumptuous? Should I attempt to make the letter comical, serious, encouraging, philosophical, or simply a factual account of the past year? Go ahead and call me “overly analytical.” I know the shoe fits.

After second guessing my second guesses, and filling the page with the contents of our lives, I am then left to decide when to shut up. Once my thoughts get rolling, I sometimes have trouble halting the train. Aside from the point when the words begin to run off the bottom of the page, how do I know when it’s time to close it down? Ican’t finish without saying something about the dog, our jobs, the cows and especially how grateful we are for all our blessings, our families and our friends.

It’s not easy to condense a whole year’s happenings, not to mention related comments and holiday greetings, into one page. However, common sense says that even our loved ones won’t find our lives so interesting that I should ramble on for longer. Finding a good balance in all these areas is the key, I think.

Last year was my first time to send out Christmas letters. After repeated attempts at writing and rewriting, I came up with a page-long greeting I felt was good enough to distribute. But first, I wanted to get another opinion or two. So, I attached the letter to an e-mail and sent a copy to each of my two daughters. I asked them to review the letter and invited them to reply with any suggestions for needed changes. They both complied, and their comments were so reflective of their strengths and personalities that they caused me to chuckle.

Megan, the “editor” of the family, made no mention of content but found a spelling error and suggested I change the font size. Andrea, the one who keeps us laughing, used a round about way to suggest I might have included too many details. Her e-mail simply stated, “I didn’t see anything in there about your not-so-fun, routine medical procedure.”

With the girls’ suggestions in mind, I made a few changes to the letter and e-mailed it out. Interestingly, it was the responses I got from recipients that gave me a bit more confidence to share my writings with others, which eventually led to writing A Walk in the Park each week. So, if you have yet to give it a try, you might want to consider writing a Christmas letter sometime. You just never know where it might lead.

Writing for this column each and every week has been challenging and lots of fun. Your patience while I learn, and your encouraging comments, are greatly appreciated. I look forward to where it takes us in 2010.

I sincerely hope you, dear reader, have gained something from it, as well. In any case, having this space affords me the chance - without subjecting you to my whole year-in-review letter - to wish you a very happy holiday season filled with every Christmas blessing.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 12/23/2009

Print Headline: A Walk in the Park Writing Those Christmas Letters

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