Dear Amy:

I am wondering about holiday letters, mostly if I should do one this year.

My husband and I (and our dogs -- we don't have kids) have sent one out for the last five years or so.

Usually it's five photos arranged with little captions.

This has been a very bad year, however. I suffered a miscarriage in February, followed by nine months of infertility, and it has completely consumed our lives.

We feel that we really don't have anything to show for the year -- no new jobs, house, activities or trips.

My concern is that if we don't send out a letter, family and friends will read into it either that we're pregnant and not yet telling (not true) or that we're completely depressed (perhaps we are a bit).

I also feel that I may be more worried about this than I should be, but the holidays are turning out to be 100 percent different this year than we ever planned, and I'm trying to exert some control over what I can.

If we do send out a letter, should we mention our miscarriage?

Wondering

You should send out a letter. Don't, however, mention your miscarriage. I'm of the opinion that the content of holiday letters should be the sort of news that you wouldn't mind having taped to somebody else's fridge and read by a visiting repairman. It should be for general consumption and shouldn't contain deeply personal or painful news.

This year it may be even more important for you to send out your holiday letter, because this year you need to work extra hard to recall and reflect on your blessings. Writing your holiday letter will help.

As you and your husband assemble your photos and write captions, you will be forced to thoughtfully (and perhaps tearfully) tap into some of the joy in your life in order to share it with others. It might be hard work this year, but it's worth doing.

Dear Readers:

Let's spread some cheer this year.

I wanted to try to do something extra this holiday season, so I contacted Jim Weiskopf, vice president of communications for the Fisher House Foundation, which serves members of the armed forces who are being treated for wounds suffered while serving in the military. Weiskopf called around to Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and has provided mailing information for people interested in sending cards, letters and gifts to members of the military.

This year, in addition to sending my own holiday letter to friends and family, I'm going to send cards to American service members who have been wounded serving in the armed forces.

If readers would like to reach out to wounded soldiers recovering in VA hospitals, you can send cards, along with toiletries, playing cards, phone cards or packaged candy or gum (no homemade edible treats, please!).

Address your correspondence to "Any Service Member" to the following addresses:

Walter Reed Army Medical Center, c/o American Red Cross, 6900 Georgia Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20307-5001.

Brooke Army Medical Center, c/o Major Cradier, 3851 Roger Brooke Drive, Ft. Sam Houston, Tex. 78234-6200.

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, c/o Chaplain's Office, CMR 402, APO AE 09180. This address is in Germany -- senders should use domestic priority mail. Packages require a custom's declaration.

Readers can also support the USO's mission to provide overseas service members with emotional and physical reminders of home.

The USO enlists hundreds of volunteers to assemble "care packages" of requested and approved items to send to overseas troops. Unfortunately, because of security issues, individuals cannot send mail or packages to "Any Service Member."

A $25 donation will provide a care package (along with a personal message from you) for an overseas service member.

To donate, visit the USO's Web site at www.usocares.org, or call 877-USO-GIVE (876-4483).

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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