He has paddled the waters of the Mississippi River, channeling
his inner Tom Sawyer. He's biked the length of South America, and
from the northernmost city in Norway to Athens. He's ridden across
the United States six times - and may even earn a place in the
Guinness Book of World Records.
And just like every year at this time, Forrest "Frosty"
Wooldridge will regale his friends and family with tales of his
exploits - in a holiday newsletter that's closer to a novella.
His newsletter defies all the accepted rules about such things:
it's much too long, it's boastful, it's confessional. He says his
life - a Peter Pan existence, he likes to call it - is just too
"extraordinarily" interesting not to spill beyond the single page
that proper etiquette dictates. Over the past 32 years, as Mr.
Wooldridge's adventures have become ever further flung, his holiday
newsletter has ballooned to four pages of "power verbs" and "jacked-
But his friends don't seem to mind.
"It's awesome," says Sandy Colhoun of Sanbornton, N.H., who met
Wooldridge in Antarctica seven years ago and has been on his mailing
list ever since. "Frosty is an exceptional individual in every way,
and I'm inspired by the approach he takes to life. You can't help
but read the letter and share some of the energy and enthusiasm he
As the holiday season rolls around, so does the ubiquitous
newsletter, making a sometimes welcome and often dreaded appearance.
(Not every recipient is as welcoming as Mr. Colhoun. As one
colleague offers: "My wife's aunt/cousin often sends out a
'newsletter,' or rather, a novel, around the Christmas season. I
ceremoniously burn it as kindling for our traditional Christmas
morning fire." But another co-worker gives them considerably higher
marks than, say, "two fruitcakes" or a "postcard saying you have
been given a gift subscription to Sea Monkey Monthly.")
Yet despite its many warts - too much information, grimy spots
the glue stick left behind - the holiday letter seems to be a
tradition not to be tampered with. It's a tangible touchstone in a
time when communication can be fleeting and ephemeral.
"In this electronic age, it's so easy to send an e-mail. It's so
easy to send an E-card," says Christine Louise Hohlbaum, an
expatriate living near Munich, Germany, who keeps her family in
Virginia abreast of her life through her Web log. "But having a card
or picture in your hand makes all the difference. The paper connects
you in some way."
Elaine Floyd, author of "Creating Family Newsletters," agrees.
"We use technology in some ways, but I think people take great
pleasure in the tactile," she says. "For the holidays there is
something about ... getting mail, opening it up - having that be
part of your Christmas decorations."
Where advances in the newsletter are apparent, however, is in the
ease with which they are produced and their overall more handsome
appearance. Digital cameras, scanners, and printers spit out sleek
photos, while elegant decorative paper stock is widely available at
specialty stores and discounters, thanks to the popularity of
This month, Better Homes and Gardens magazine features an article
called "The New Family Newsletter." It offers suggestions for pithy,
crafty takes on a classic - including a paper ornament monogrammed
with the recipient's initial, and a business card printed with your
family's contact information to urge friends and family to keep in