Christmas Past – 2010

As I write my annual, snarky Christmas letter, I’m revisiting some highlights of past years. From my heart to yours. With apologies.

Feigning enthusiasm at Carhenge

Feigning enthusiasm at Carhenge

A Family Portrait

Child #3, age 6. When not playing the piano, he can be found playing football in the hallway with his brother. This week’s football highlights: Knocking out both top front teeth and a bloody nose. He is currently on injured reserve.

Child #2, age 8. When not pulverizing his brother while playing football, he can be found watching football, reading about football, or thinking about football. Unless he’s playing baseball or skiing. Fined $25,000 this week for unnecessary roughness.

Child #1, age 11. She can be found engaging in typical pre-teen activity like emailing the same friend 18 times a day and begging for a phone. She also dances, plays the clarinet, and skis as far away from her brothers as possible.

Mr. Day, pushing middle age. Cannot be found. It is believed he is flying back and forth between New York and San Francisco in a last minute attempt to retain his Delta Airlines platinum status.

Sarah, ageless, like in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Can be found either in yoga class trying unsuccessfully to breathe or in her home office trying unsuccessfully to multitask. Has taken to crafting limericks during periods of meditation.

Highlights from the Year

  • January – Treated cats and kids for mange.
  • February – Replaced stove and washer when they failed within 12 hours of each other.
  • April – Freezer accidentally thawed; salmon, bacon, tomato sauce and strawberry rhubarb pies for a week.
  • June – Faked intention to complete summer math workbooks.
  • July – Forgot to schedule a birthday party for Child #2.
  • August – Child #3 throws up in the saloon at Buckskin Joe’s Wild West World.
  • November – Shovel first 12″ snowstorm of the year. Hurray!
  • December – Shovel first 22″ snowstorm of  the year. Hurray!

Tomorrow, excerpts from 2011…

Read other years:




Christmas Past – 2009

As I write my annual, snarky Christmas letter, I’m revisiting some highlights of past years. From my heart to yours. With apologies.

Skipped Trip to Corn Palace Stirs Controversy

The Days traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota this summer in their first family road trip to extend beyond the middle of the state. Since their plans included every other tourist attraction on the route, Sarah vetoed the annual trek to the Corn Palace in Mitchell.


Tour guide at Custer State Park

“I thought one tourist trap per trip was sufficient and the Petrified Forest more than fit the bill,” Sarah explained. “There is not much to do at the Corn Palace except look at corn, although it is displayed in a very attractive fashion.”

Sarah could not recall the classic car display the family claimed to have seen the previous year.

“You were too busy looking for the exits to notice,” her husband pointed out.


Tomorrow, excerpts from 2010…

Read other years:



Christmas Past – 2008

As I write my annual, snarky Christmas letter, I’m revisiting some highlights of past years. From my heart to yours. With apologies.

Two of Three Kids Master Ski Lift

The Days introduced the kids to skiing this spring in Idaho. Even Child #3 was able to participate in ski school. Miraculously, though he was age 3 at sea level, his age increased to 4 once the family reached higher elevations.

ski photo

Unfortunately, after two days of skiing, Child #3 was still exiting the chair lift in a face-down position.

“Well, there’s always next year,” Sarah said blithely, brushing the snow out of his nostrils.

Fun Economic Facts 

Due to the the recent meltdown of the economy:

  • The Days have delayed retirement to age 85
  • Child #1 will have to work two jobs while in college
  • Child #2 will attend community college
  • Child #3 will attend McDonald’s Hamburger University
  • The value of the Days’ stock portfolio is now roughly equivalent in value to a 1980 Volkswagen Vanagon

Birth Announcement

In a bow to rising gas prices, Mr. Day traded in his SUV for a subcompact named Bubbles. At birth, Bubbles weighed 2489 pounds and was 161.6″ long.

“You’d think I’d be buying a mid-life crisis car,” said Mr. Day, “But pride only goes so far at $4.00 a gallon.”

Tomorrow, excerpts from 2009…

Read other years:



Christmas Past – 2007

As I write my annual, snarky Christmas letter, I’m revisiting some highlights of past years. From my heart to yours. With apologies.

Here are a few highlights of the 2007 police reports in our metro area. As the newspaper says, when they print them, “not a comprehensive picture of crime…”

Fighting crime in the western suburbs

Fighting crime in the western suburbs

Theft/Property Loss

A man in the 2900 block of Village Circle lost his passport and social security card eight years ago and finally decided that he should report it.

Gas smell

A strong smell of natural gas was reported in the 100 block of E. Elm Street. The caller said the smell was possibly from the stove, or could have been caused by the dog.


A caller said a drunk man was in a tree with a chainsaw in the 400 block of Franklin Ave.

False Alarm

A caller in the 5400 block of Mallard Lane reported the smell of smoke and rubber in the home. It turned out to be the smell from a vacuum cleaner belt.

Suspicious Activity

A caller said a woman was trying to get a coyote into her vehicle near W. 78th Street and Powers Boulevard.

And a business brief…

After years of stating, “I will never, ever work for a large corporation again,” the head of the family accepted an offer from one of the largest software companies in the entire world, leaving the company he founded with no one at the helm. After extensive negotiation, Sarah agreed to buy it for $1.

“I hope to double its value in 2008,” Sarah stated.

Tomorrow, excerpts from 2008…

Read other years



#4: Bad gifts

holiday matrix

Today’s sad and desperate search term, bad gifts, has me wondering – was the searcher purposely trying to identify a bad gift for someone? Or trying to avoid giving a bad gift? I’m going to go with the less-cynical option today, and assume it is the latter.

To help this person out, here is a list of items you should never “gift”:

  • Any small appliance, unless the recipient has specifically asked for it.
  • A craft, unless you are absolutely, positively sure it is a) cute; b) useful; and c) not offensive in any way (think Kleenex box cover in the shape of Pocahontas’ head. Yup.)
  • Any noisy child’s toy without an off switch.
  • Any item of clothing with a company logo. Believe me, it happens.
  • Anything alive, especially if it requires an inordinate amount of care and feeding such as, oh, I don’t know, a retired sled dog team.
  • A project, like that useful make-your-own garden stepping stones concrete and concrete mold kit I so unfortunately selected one year. (Sorry, Mom.)
  • Any book, item, or program that could be interpreted as a message that the recipient should lose weight, get in shape, improve their marriage, or change their lifestyle. Christmas is not a time to point out what you view as someone’s personal deficiency. We will take care of that ourselves when it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, at least for a couple of days.
  • Anything you secretly want yourself. The recipient might notice you staring wistfully at it as you unwrap your Pocahontas Kleenex box cover.

And my best advice – adhere to the Golden Rule of Gift Giving: Always provide a gift receipt as you would have others do unto you.

That is, unless the sled dog retirement bureau has a no-return policy.

Read the holiday series

Read the original series

P.S. If you’re looking for a treat for yourself, check out the recent offer from author Barb Taub. Pick up some good reading, and help out an animal shelter – all at the same time!

A gift with a give-back

Tales_from_Null_City-Barb_Taub-1563x2500I’m taking time out from my usual inane posts to bring you a generous holiday opportunity from blogger friend and author, Barb Taub. You can pick up some good reading, and help a couple of worthy organizations in the process.

In the spirit of the holidays, Barb’s publisher, Hartwood Publishing, is offering a special gift package of Barb’s urban fantasy Null City series, a two-story set called Tales From Null City, for the sale price of $0.99 (or £0.77 in UK). Her holiday themed Don’t Touch is also available for $0.99.

Barb will donate all royalties from sales between now and January 1, 2015 to these two fabulous organizations that care for animals:

  • In the USNo Kill Advocacy Center. Headed up by Nathan Winograd, the No Kill Advocacy Center movement is revolutionizing shelters across America.
  • In UKDogsTrust. Active since 1891, this no-kill shelter found homes for almost 15,000 dogs last year.

The offer’s only fitting since most of Barb’s stories feature an animal companion in a prominent role – from George, the grumpy cat in Don’t Touch, to Bygul, feline goddess of Payback is a Witch.

Don’t Touch follows thirteen-year-old Lette, who inherits an extreme form of the family ‘gift’. Every day whatever she touches converts into something new:  bunnies, bubbles, bombs, and everything in between:

Hope flares each morning in the tiny flash of a second before Lette touches that first thing. And destroys it.

Lette’s search for a cure leads her to Stefan, whose fairy-tale looks hide a monstrous legacy, and to Rag, an arrogant, crabby ex-angel with boundary issues. The three face an army led by a monster who feeds on children’s fear. But it’s their own inner demons they must defeat first.

In Tales From Null City, you’ll find two stories: Payback is a Witch, and Just For the Spell Of It:

Superpowers suck. If you just want to live a normal life, Null City is only a Metro ride away. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, become parents, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. But outside of Null City, now that the century-long secret Nonwars between Gifts and Haven are over and the Accords Treaty is signed, an uneasy peace is policed by Wardens under the command of the Accords Agency.

So if you find yourself with a few minutes, pick up one or both of these fine e-reads on What better way to celebrate? A good deed, and a good read. I’ve already grabbed my copies.


A different sort of writer’s block

happy holidaysI have not yet written my Christmas letter. “Not a problem,” you say, since most people would rather have their teeth cleaned than read about the fabulous things other families have done throughout the year. But that’s not the case with mine. Mine has an audience.

You see, years ago, underneath a cloud of holiday doom, I wrote what can only be called a sarcastic Christmas letter. It hadn’t been a good year, and I wasn’t feeling festive. The letter was, more or less, a satire. But it was funny in a sad sort of way.

I took a risk and put it in the mail. And got rave reviews.

Unfortunately, that meant the pressure was on to produce, year after year, content that was funny, seasonal, and newsy. I think this is year eight now, and I’m running out of material for stories like those in the past, stories with headlines like:

Slaughter at Little Big Horn Brings Family Closer

Two Out of Three Kids Master the Ski Lift

Family Finishes Siding the House After Only Six Years

As the holiday approaches, I start to get inquiries from friends and family – “When will I get your letter?” and “Have you finished your letter yet?”

Once again, the pressure is on to produce. I have about a week if I expect to get it out before Christmas. I must get my funny on. Funny, for me, has a season.

This is a Daily Post Ready, Set, Done piece – 10 minutes of free-writing, no edits.

The (dinner) matrix

Dinner – that blessed time of day when families gather to share thoughts, experiences, and food. That is if they’re willing to share food.

I have spent the last 15 years of my life trying to get nutritious food into three children with wildly differing tastes. One will eat vegetables all day, but virtually no fruit. One eats fruit by the pound, but skips most of the vegetables. One eats neither. And then, in a twist that I will never understand, two of them will eat oddities like mussels and escargot. The nerve!

In order to make dinnertime a little more palatable (get it?) I’ve developed the handy, dandy chart, below:

food chart

It seems so long ago


Today’s Daily Post photo challenge struck a nerve. The theme, Gone but not Forgotten, took me instantly back to a family vacation just a few months ago in beautiful northern Wisconsin. It feels like years ago.

In many ways, this has been a difficult fall. We’ve experienced love and loss, pursued new ventures and let go of comfortable, old habits. We’ve grown as a family and as individuals, although sometimes that growth has been accompanied by fear, or frustration, or sorrow.

This photo, while it captures a peaceful moment in my life, hurts me a little. I know it doesn’t look like it depicts a summer vacation. It was a strange August week – lots of rain, little sun. But I haven’t seen my family so relaxed and happy in years as they were in this place. When I look at this picture now, I am painfully aware that my kids are not as young as they were even just a few short months ago. They’ve gained some maturity. But they’ve lost some innocence.

Read the my original Up North post.

See other photo challenge posts.