Why I Won’t Ever Send a Holiday Card

Ah, the holidaze. Time for the beautiful cards, postcards and letters telling friends and family how wonderful Madeline and Jackson are. Winsome photos of beautiful couples and lovely families show up in those not-so-personal envelopes from Shutterfly and Tiny Prints. I secretly LOATHED receiving those envelopes from 2003-2007.

Obviously, those were the years we wanted children, but they were not forthcoming.

In 2004, we decided to take a photo with our surrogate child: our Corgi. We adopted our Corgi as a puppy in 2003, when we first moved back from London.

I am not a very religious person, although I did try throughout my childhood to be so. I grew up in a conservative church which preached that girls who were the victims at the age of 9 of incest should still become mothers. I was taught that women who had been raped, women who were going to die if they bore a child should still bear that child, even if they both died. I fought with my pastor about these policies: I am proud I did so. But I was taught that my attitude was wrong, evil even. It turned me off organized religion, probably forever.

But I believe in one thing and that is the power of luck. I think that holiday cards tempt fate for me. I will never, ever send one out.

Why is this?

Well, in 2004, after I had suffered from and recovered from a debilitating illness, and when we were trying very hard to make a baby and it wasn’t happening, we decided to send out a card of us and our dog. Our Corgi, which we had bought from a reputable breeder and assiduously trained at the Humane Society. This dog was our child, we thought. Our surrogate child, in lieu of the human baby we were unable to produce. We took a lovely picture of our “family”.

Luck did not enjoy our family card. As soon as it was sent, I noticed an unusual presence of black crows in our back yard. I had never seen any before 2004, and suddenly I saw them everywhere and that continued until 2006. Also, after that card was sent, our dog changed his behavior. Before a cuddly and friendly and reassuring presence, our beloved dog started growling at us and our extended family. It grew worse and worse until he bit my brother-in-law hard enough to break his skin. I took him to several behaviorists until one told us that our dog was the most aggressive dog she’d ever seen in her long career. She told me there was no way that he was going to change, he was only to get worse until he caused serious harm.

I did not accept her answer. Our dog was the one bright light in my life: to have him become dangerous was inconceivable. I asked for all her advice, and gave him lots of love and discipline as recommended: training him (again) to heel on walks, that I was his master by treat-training him. Helping our dog became my whole life.

Until the day Darcy went out of town and the dog attacked me. As part of the training, I could never allow him to enter a door before me because then he would know he was the Alpha Dog. Well, I was on the phone, and not paying attention that he was trailing me down the hallway. He sprinted ahead of me, entered a door before me, and attacked me. His form of attack was to relentlessly bite my ankles until I collapsed onto the floor, and then he began attacking my stomach, by biting me. It was a ruthless attack. I somehow dropped the phone, got up, ran into the pantry and slammed the door behind me. I then used the phone in there to call the breeder, who took the attack very seriously.

She came that day (drove from several hours away) to assess the situation. I stayed in the pantry until she arrived. Once she arrived, she decided that the dog was aggressive beyond what a normal person could handle. She took away the dog.

And there began a new sort of hell. In the addition to my infertility, I was also a failure to my dog, whom I loved more than most things on earth.

And the crows circled my back yard, cawing, triumphant. They proclaimed my ineptitude. I wanted a dog I could love. Not even that was going to be allowed.

And I crawled into the fetal position. And stayed there for a weekend.

It was all because of that holiday card. Never again would I want to proclaim any type of domestic bliss of any kind. Because the black crows of doom still linger. This morning, early, I saw them landing one by one, in our back yard.

I grabbed the broom out of our pantry and I chased those crows away. Never again will I let them linger on my property, cawing that I don’t deserve happiness. But nor will I flaunt any happiness. Because if I do, they will circle our home, overjoyed at my hubris.

Do you believe in bad luck? Do you think that flaunting happiness can lead to hubris?

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “Why I Won’t Ever Send a Holiday Card

  1. Wow, your post gave me goose bumps and chills! So sorry you had to go through that :(.

  2. oh, how sad … I’m sorry that you lost your beloved dog, too. 😦 (I have a friend who got a dog to help her with the grief of infertility and loss … this would be devastating to her.)

    It’s funny … I have a post in my head about luck and superstition, and I do sometimes worry about tempting fate. But I also really like holiday cards, because they remind me to reconnect with people I’ve lost touch with, people that I really DO like. And most of the cards aren’t intentionally flaunting families. On my end, I’m careful to send non-photo cards to people whom I think that might offend or hurt. And I send photo cards to people who I think might want to see us. Even though I left the Catholic church long ago (we go to a UU fellowship since my son was born), the ritual of reconnection is an important one for me at this time of year.

    As for the crows … you need to talk to them. Weird, but trust me on this one … they visited me during my years of miscarriages, and we finally made peace.

    • How did you talk to them?

      • Disclaimer: I am not a nut case. 🙂

        Like Frenchie, I’ve come to see crows as messengers, rather than as deliverers of doom. I had a colleague who addressed them (well, each one individually) as “Brother Crow,” and I got in the habit of doing so, too. I’d greet them. I’d tell them how I was feeling. I’d comment on the weather. I don’t know … I just made calm small talk, and treated them as intelligent beings. (There’s research out there saying that they hold a grudge, so don’t shout at them, whatever you do.) At one point, I asked them to watch over me and my unborn child (who turned out to be N.). I don’t know what made me do this, but I found out later that in Native American traditions, crows are believed to be the spirits of people who have passed on, and are watching over you.

        Apparently crows are among the most intelligent animals, and can actually distinguish one human being from another. They also have regional languages and conspire together. So don’t underestimate the power of communication. 🙂

  3. K

    That’s a fascinating and sad story. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with your dog–especially when you have to deal with infertility–talk about a double whammy.

    I don’t know how much I *believe* in luck and superstition, but I none-the-less think about it all the time. My SIL is pregnant and due and June, and her mother has already booked the room for the shower. All I could think was, you really want to book it this early? Though I’m not Jewish, I love the tradition of having a shower after the baby is born.

    I also remember, years ago, before I had even met my husband, I was talking with my aunts and mom and we somehow got on the topic of getting pregnant, and I was asking around how long it took them to get pregnant, and I clearly remember sarcastically saying, almost under my breath, “It will probably take me 2 years to get pregnant.” I had absolutely no reason to believe that I would struggle to get pregnant, but here I am, years later, and it’s taken me over 2 years and I’m still not pregnant. I swear sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t some sort of premonition, or if I cursed myself by uttering those words.

    Lastly, my husband and I are in the process of buying a house, and we haven’t been back to it since the inspection. Not even a drive-by. Cause we don’t want to jinx it. So we’re staying away until we’ve secured financing and can move in.

    All this is to say, I totally understand not sending out Christmas cards.

  4. Oh. This story is heartbreaking. I’m sorry. I am torn about Holiday cards. The truth is that I enjoy getting them from the people that I don’t get to see but I could never bring myself to send one of those picture cards because it feel exhibitionist to me. I know that puts me somewhere in the 1800’s but it’s also one of the reasons that I abandoned my FB account. I just don’t feel right broadcasting myself in that way. Blogging, on the other hand, feels totally different because I can provide more context and substance to the self that I’m putting out there – ok, tangent.

  5. I love the picture! Your outfit is way cute :), but I totally understand why after that experience you would loathe holiday cards. I, for one, LOVE them. I get irritated when I receive them and they contain only pictures of one’s children as I believe you are a family even without children and I don’t understand why the parents don’t want to be in the picture too. Plus, during the Christmas season when we were going through IVF, those cards stung the worst.

    BUT, I do love receiving them and seeing how far away friends have changed over the course of the year. And, we sent one out this year… I debated heavily over doing it but because I love Christmas and receiving cards myself, I decided to go ahead.

    Off topic, but I have to say I LOVE your blog. This is my first time commenting, but I have been following for quite a while. I loved your post about enjoying your pregnancy after IF… It really hit home. Keep up the good work :).

  6. Of course, I believe those. And how odd that we were both thinking along the same lines today, and Justine as well. I’ll have to spend the day wondering how this can bode well for us all. It can’t be just coincidence, right?

    Oh! I just had a thought. We were going to send our first Christmas cards this year. We didn’t get our picture because of a terrible problem. Are we having this problem because we even considered the Christmas cards? I want to throw out those hateful blank cards right this minute! Superstition has definitely taken over, and we’re never sending cards.

    I’m so sorry about your dog. It’s a long story, but basically my MIL kidnapped my dog and held him hostage from me. He was the only comfort I had left, and it was the worst night of my life. I can’t imagine things were any better for you.

  7. I do believe in bad luck – and faith. For me, it manifested itself in a different way.

    I am the person who gets crapped on by birds all the time. Literally. Ever since I was a kid, I remember bird crap landing on me – about once a year. 90% of the time – on my head. And I always considered it to be a good luck thing, a sign of my life being in balance with the universe.

    When my first marriage started to fail, the birds stopped crapping on me. They just stopped. Not a single one crapped on me in 2004-2008. Things were getting worse and worse, I knew I needed to make the decision to leave – and I just couldn’t.

    Faith sent me a sign: I went abroad and then had problems getting back to Toronto (really long, bizarre story). I seriously considered not going back. But I did.

    So the faith sent me another blow: while I was having fun water-skiing with my friends, I was hit by the water-skiing handle in my eye. Usually, when the water-skiing person falls in the water, the handle just falls in the water, trailing the boat. Not this time. This time it ricocheted back into the boat as if attached by elastic – right into my eye (I was sitting in the boat). I ended up with 20 stitches. My ex was on a trip at the time. When I called him after this whole ordeal, he didn’t sound concerned. And then for the remaining 3 or so days of his trip he didn’t even call. That’s when, looking at myself in the mirror, looking like a domestic abuse case with my eye almost swollen shut, I realized: this is it. I gotta go.

    I left. And then I met my current husband. And then the birds started crapping on me again. And they’ve been crapping on me on an annual basis ever since. And I do feel in harmony with the universe. But now I listen to those sounds and pay attention.

  8. Wow, that’s such a scary story about your dog! I totally believe in superstitions, although I always tell myself I don’t “really”. but I do. I’ve been scared to start my holiday letter, because I want to write about how I love my new job, but what if I jinx it? I try to focus on positive thinking and looking for signs in things. It makes no sense, but I still do it.

  9. Frenchie

    Wow. That story is heartbreaking! I’m so sorry! The crows have visited me too…at different times, mostly during my first marriage. However I saw them as trying to warn me of things I was overlooking, that I already knew deep down. It was if they were a message from my psyche to pay attention. Rather than a harbinger of doom, they were like a messenger, a chorus of messengers saying, “look out, pay attention!”

    I don’t think it’s hubris to proclaim your bliss. You deserve it and it’s not hubris when you are grateful for what you have. If you don’t feel comfortable sending those Christmas cards that’s understandable, but don’t “hide your light undera bushel” so to speak!

    I have sent out the Christmas cards with the kid photo, but it was for certain friends and family who I knew would really want to see that. It didn’t go out to absolutely everyone. As if I am organized enough to get cards out to everyone I know anyway–ha.

    Take care.

  10. Man, Darcy is HAWT! (You are, too, of course.)

    But that’s not what this post is about. I enjoyed the comments about crows and annual cards and the loss of your beloved dog during an already difficult time.

    I like getting cards. It was hard during my TTC years to receive the happy family ones. I don’t send them because I’m lazy.

    Perhaps you carry a belief that happiness brings pride brings a knock-down. My mentor is working with me on releasing beliefs that no longer serve me. Maybe you can do this, too. I am coming to believe that the Divine is happy when we are happy and does not purposefully withhold happiness from us.

    • Hee! I think so too. Darcy loves compliments 😉

      I think you’re right that I think happiness —>pride—->fall. I was really full of myself after my perfect wedding and honeymoon. I had become one of those women who believed good luck and happiness were to be expected. Then, the long, long fall from grace.

      I would love to release this belief. I have learned from our sadness and pain and will never again believe that I make my own luck. Maybe that’s enough to let it go???

      Great comment, Lori. I really needed to hear this today.

  11. I’m sorry you had to go through all that with your dog. I love what Justine said! Try talking to them. Make peace.

    I am on the fence about sending out picture cards. I like the idea of them and always love getting them, but I like writing in a regular card better.

  12. Mel

    I just got chills reading your story. I don’t know if it works that way BUT I also am the type who if something is a maybe, simply wouldn’t tempt fate because what do I really gain by sending the card?

    I am also a non-card sender, but it is simply due to laziness.

  13. This post was so chilling. I love the idea of talking to Brother Crow… but I also can see why you’d just chase them away as hard as you could.

  14. This may be one of the most heartbreaking posts I have ever read…and we’re in the IRL community. I remember you telling me briefly about this, but reading it in your words as your wrote them here, stirred up so many emotions for me. I’m not even quite sure how to express them. I’m proud of you for fighting back against the crows, reclaiming your Alpha. I’m mad that all of that happened and made you feel like that. How is it you’re not afraid of dogs now? Are you?

    I thought about taking a photo of Tim, Took and I for a holiday card this year, but it just felt so fake. To me, there was someone else missing. And I refused to have K in the photo with us, because that made it even worse….like we were faking a family when, to me, it is so painfully incomplete.

  15. What a horrible experience that must have been. At that time as well, I feel for both you and the dog. I’m not so superstitious but can easily turn different things into signs of sorts, both good and bad depending on were I’m at and the situation.

  16. What a heart-wrenching experience. I am so sorry about your dog. I am fascinated (that isn’t the best word choice, but it will do) though that you connect what happened directly to sending out your cards. I get your line of thinking, but as I was reading your post it struck me as a coincidence, not a correlation.

    I do believe in bad luck at times, but don’t think we do things that invite it into our life. It think bad luck just happens. I used to believe that everything in life happened for a reason and was all part of God’s plan until we had our daughter Molly. After she came into and out our life I was no longer able to embrace that theology. Now I believe that we can make good come from every challenge and difficulty we face in life, but there isn’t necessary a purpose for our pain and suffering that is pre-determined or intended by the divine.

    As for Christmas cards, I LOVE receiving and sending them, especially ones with letters. I started sending a Christmas letter when I was in college and after Bob and I got married we continued and have done so every year since. Our family and friends lovingly (or not) mock us and call it our Christmas brochure/newsletter), because of how I produce it, but they also let us know often that they look forward to receiving it every year. Last year for the first time we sent ours electronically to those in our lives who use email regularly.

    The year that we conceived Molly we did mention it in the Christmas card and within days things started going down hill. I think at the time I did think that in some ways we “jinxed” things by sharing about it as we did, but I don’t think I really believed that. It was painful though to be getting a lot of congratulatory phone calls, cards and emails and to have to tell people things weren’t going well. But it also allowed us to receive a lot of support, love and care from our friends and family.

    Anyway, very interesting post. I appreciate what Lori shared in her comment about challenging ourselves to think about things differently. I know its easier said than done, but worth trying at times. Thanks again for sharing.

    • This is one of the most beautiful and thoughtful comments I have ever received. Thank you so much for responding in such a philosophical and wise manner. I really love this: “…we can make good come from every challenge and difficulty we face in life, but there isn’t necessarily a purpose to our pain and suffering that is pre-determined or intended by the divine.”

      I guess I had this false foundation that everything in my life would be easy, wonderful and would make sense. Losses would happen to me, but in the normal order of things. I worked hard, was kind and thoughtful and generally did what was right. I went through typical heartaches, but came out stronger. I found an amazing husband. I guess I consumed too much pop culture: no one in the movies or TV series seemed to have much trouble after they got their fairy tale endings (if that was even covered). Like lots of Gen Xers, I just kinda believed that I deserved the American Dream.

      But when it didn’t happen and there was so much suffering and pain and loss (of innocence and of my unborn children) I just didn’t know how to handle it. I don’t know that anyone is equipped to handle ALI: if I’ve learned anything from reading blogs, I know that it is extremely painful and terrible for everyone. Terrible things happen in life. And I wonder what I should tell my children.

      I guess the best thing to tell my kids is what you said. There are terrible things that happen in life. But how we handle them and what we can teach others about them is how we make a difference in life.

      Thank you, truly.

  17. Port of Indecision

    My first thought about the dogs and crows story was rabies – I was convinced you were going to say the crows and the dog were snacking on some nasty dead thing (because dogs, though I love them, are gross) that had rabies. Because that’s just crazy that the dog did such a 180.

    I don’t actually believe in luck and jinxes. But I sure act like I do. I still (at almost 30 weeks) have a hard time talking to people about this pregnancy because I feel like I’m only going to learn that I’m STILL talking to people about a pregnancy that doesn’t end well.

  18. Tracy

    Oh my gosh. This is about the most heartbreaking post I’ve read in a long time. I am so sorry you had to experience loosing your dog like that. I would lose my mind if I had my pup leave our family. Ugh… just ugh.

    Came across your blog after seeing Bodega mention you in her posts a bunch – figured you had to be cool 🙂

  19. I am so, so sorry to hear that you went through such a horrible time with your dog. I’m a dog person and can’t imagine having to deal with that situation.

    Your blog is lovely and I really enjoy your writing. I just discovered it recently and am reading it compulsively!

  20. This is SO heartbreaking! I can’t imagine how hard it must have been having your beloved dog turn on you after giving so much of yourself to caring for him. I’m so sorry. I would have lashed out at those crows too!

  21. Pingback: A Crow’s Funeral | Too Many Fish to Fry

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