You MAY have gotten an actual, physical, printed card from me. If you did, please forgive its flaws. Most of them have some. More of you would have gotten them, if the process had gone better. By the time it was over, I had laughed, cried, sworn (a lot), given up, and vowed never, ever to do this again.
I hadn’t sent physical cards out for at least five years, maybe longer. It is so much easier and faster to do the job electronically. And, in my case, so much more professional. I could have just made the thing and sent it to VistaPrint, or whoever does that kind of thing in Canada. If American Greetings had hooked up with a printing service and tempted me, while I was making the card at their site, I probably would have.
Mais, non. Amazon had nice looking double sided glossy card stock, and envelopes by the hundreds. I ordered a couple of hundred. Then I went to work “creating” the card. I never should have used American Greetings, either, because there’s no way to save your work-in-process. I left the last grammatical error in and never did translate it into French, because I got tired of redoing the whole thing, every time I thought of an improvement. Next time: Microsoft Publisher. And that was the easy part.
It was the printing operation that nearly sent me screaming off to the funny farm. It started off innocently enough. I had been using OEM inkjet cartridges, and my printing had gone a little iffy, so I put fifteen minutes unto all the aligning and cleaning steps at my disposal. Then I printed a couple of cards on plain paper. They looked okey and the double-sided printing attachment at the back of my pretty expensive, 3-year-old HP printer, worked just fine. I was sufficiently emboldened to load up the glossy card stock. It went pretty well for the first forty or fifty cards. Some printed better than others. Some of the printing is dark and some is streaky. I had to let it go. I didn’t buy enough paper to get that picky. I ran the cleaning/aligning stuff periodically. When that stopped working, I just ditched all three of the color cartridges and replaced them with HP originals. The printer said it was happier and it worked better, at least on the ink front.
But the sheet feeding mechanism was starting to balk. And the double-sided printing attachment started jamming. I cleaned it as best I could, but it didn’t help much. First every third or fourth card needed attention. Then it went down to every single card and they would have to be printed one side at a time. It’s not intuitively obvious how to feed the second side in. Some of you will notice that when you open your card, you have to turn it right side up to read it. Sorry about that. After a good few balls-ups, I put these little post-its beside the feeder tray.
Then it went from bad to worse. The regular sheet feeding mechanism decided it had had enough of this card stock stuff and wouldn’t take it off the stack. I had to put each piece into the feeder by itself. After another ten cards or so, it wanted me to set them in there just so. It wouldn’t pick them off the floor of the tray anymore. It’s tough when the mechanical staff starts getting uppity. Can you imagine the color of the air in my office? The printer was deaf. It didn’t care if I was sad, mad or going hysterical. I thought of taking them to a nearby copy center, but by this time, I had gone stubborn, too. I labored on.
When it was kicking back every piece of card stock, I added a back stop. Believe it or not, this arrangement worked for the last thirty or forty cards. Note: paper already fed because it won’t pick it out of the tray. The little piggie USB drive prevents the card stock from being pushed back into the tray. At one point, every piece, that went half way in, stuck there and had to be cleaned off until I found the source of the dirt and eliminated it.
Then I broke the tab that stops the paper from falling on the floor. That’s easy to do when you are hand feeding every page. If you forget and leave it up, but not extended, the card stock tries to feed back into the printer. The mad grab to stop that isn’t pretty. Some of you got cards with evidence of that action on them. In the process, I broke the mechanism, so it doesn’t fold down anymore and is harder to deal with.
The more tired and frustrated I got, the dumber I got. I am not exactly proud of this operation.
So…You don’t all have cards at all and it’s too bad I’m not famous. A good few of you would have collector’s items. Next year the process is going electronic again!
And, for all of you, with our love, here is Robbie’s and my Holiday Greeting:
And I made the card before Omicron hit. May it be off as quickly as it came. I can think of no better wish.
Linda Cantey said:
Love this. Robbie is adorable. We still have paper cards. Can I get an address to send to you?
Sent from my iPhone
Helen Megan said:
Wonderful to hear from you. I’ll send you an email. If the old address I have for you still works, you’ll get it. The adorable Robbie is gnawing on my arm. I need to throw another ball. Love, H.
Wanda Arti said:
Well, I won’t try it !! Lovely to receive your greeting nevertheless. Happy Christmas Helen ( and remember to contact next time you are in U.K.) Xx Wanda
Sent from my iPhone
Damaris Wescott said:
Merry Christmas Helen and Robbie …
I hope you will forgive me, but I have tears streaming down my face and I’m gasping for breath, I am laughing so hard. I guess it takes one to know one. Every instance brought back memories of recalcitrant software and stubborn printers I have met and attempted to work with. I once bought a small printer to take on a cruise and a BIG stack of card stock – but I forgot to try it before I left (yeah, I’ll never do THAT again) only to spent about an hour on Twitter with HP (at ship’s internet prices) to find out that my printer didn’t like really heavy (read quality) card stock – so I spent my afternoon in Florence in the wind and rain going from office supply to office supply to get lighter weight card stock. I’m sorry you use a PC because the card software I use is PrintShop, which is absolutely OUTSTANDING – but mine is made for MAC by MacKiev. Sadly EA (Electronic Arts) who made the original The Print Shop software, still puts out the program for PC and it is not nearly as good. I only know because I recommended to Jan Yetke who then wanted lessons and it appeared that NOTHING came with the program (true it was cheaper than mine) and everything had to be purchased and downloaded to make it work half as well as the program I have. I briefly used the Hallmark card program which wasn’t too bad but was nowhere near as intuitive and convenient as the Mac Program that I use. Of course, the ideal situation is that one experiments in MAY or JUNE so that when the 11th hour shows up in December, you already know the pitfalls! Now – all that being said, I use Costco. They do a great job on the colors (harder on my jobs because most of the technicians are not used to the colors and light underwater) and their quality is very good. The other place that does a creditable job, believe it or not, is WALGREENs (but NOT WALMART, whose color handling sucks). It is much more fun to design the card (I use a combination of PhotoShop and PrintShop) – then send it off to have someone else do the ‘grunt work’.
Thanks for the good laugh – Love and Merry Christmas to you, Skritches to Robby! Dee
Helen Megan said:
Our minds sure meet on this one. We have both gone through all stages of PCs and their peripherals. Yes, that’s what we old IBMers called everything that wasn’t the CPU. About 25 years ago, I I used PrintShop for this kind of thing, and it worked fine. I think it was originally invented for the PC. I remember it coming with 6 CDs full of graphics and such. I just got cheap. I have always had the big Microsoft package with Access, Power Point, etc. and it comes with Publisher. Publisher doesn’t give you as much help and neat graphics as PrintShop, but I am perfectly capable of doing something good with it and will be going back there next time and I’ll pull my graphics off the Internet.
You DO need good color resolution. You have the most fabulous photos. I once entertained guests after dinner with a slideshow from your Facebook page. Keep on diving. You have fans.
Love and Merry Christmas to you, too. Helen
Deborah Scipio said:
How ambitious of you to consider designing your own Xmas card. And then to have all kinds of problems with your printer.
Attached is our Xmas card. It really is so easy and reliable to send our greetings electronically. Unlike you, I didn’t bother to design my own card except on Word.
Hopefully the new variant doesn’t go on forever as it would be so nice to have you over again. Meanwhile, I shall keep my fingers crossed for you that none of your upcoming cruises are cancelled.
Best wishes, Debbie & Dominique
Joan Westgate said:
Hi Helen, ALL happiness to you & Robbie. You made me feel more normal telling about your computer problems. Thanks for that. This retirement facility is very good; lots of activities & my constant requests to have more veggies and brown rice not white. Nice folks here to befriend. It is cheerfully decorated for the holidays. It will look dull when they take it all down. Have a fulfilling and successful new year, Lots of love, Joan W
Marge Mapp said:
Helen! You had me laughing and commiserating with every word! Been there, done (almost all) that âºâºâº Fond memories of Christmas letter printings pastâincluding some calls to our printer guy, when we still had the company.
Your electronic version is great, and so are the wishes. Thanks so much! Ours to you will follow tonight (snail mail version on the way also).
Marge and Chris
Roger Keeler said:
Your card arrived in the mail today.
I was really taken with the creativity of it.
And thank you for this explanation of the process: it just makes me appreciate the physical card all the more.
The very best to you and Robbie, too, this Christmastide!
(Rev.) Roger H. Keeler, J.C.D., Ph.D.,
Oblate School of Theology
285 Oblate Drive
San Antonio, Texas
telephone: 210.341.1366, extension 317
nancy nelson said:
I got both! I enjoyed your story of printing nightmares. I sent 150 + cards for 50 years–my list, my Mum’s, and my mother-in-law’s. The stressful part for me was using word and excel to print individual address labels. I have now gone totally electronic and post-Christmas. Looks like a quiet one, no restaurants, gym or pool, no family-. Sky got a positive test result today, paid to have it done at hospital with only 2-hour wait. My other son Bryan is just getting over Covid in New Hampshire, as a firefighter and EMT he delivers patients to hospitals all the time, so it was inevitable. My brother Bryan in Toronto recently. I guess it’s just me and Netflix! And a turkey. Take care!
Nancy Nelson 514-909-6418
I feel so special and so honored to have received a perfect Christmas card from you and Robbie. Thank you so much – I will treasure it!
Dee Wescott Sent from my iPhone
raymond wong said:
Received your card today.
Thank you very much as we have not received a physical card for many years.
Your time and effort in creating this are appreciated.
From the other side of the world
Ray and Claudia