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.

#3: Holiday task planning for kids

holiday matrixHa, ha, ha! Oh, you were serious? Clearly the writer of today’s sad and desperate search term is not a regular reader. I can’t even get my kids to set the table or empty the dishwasher on a normal day. What makes you think I can get them to deck the halls?

But in the spirit of shared desperation, I’ll offer these simple tasks children and teens can help with in the run-up to the holidays.

  1. Wrap gifts. Make sure they use an obscene amount of gift wrap and an entire roll of tape. Corners need not be square, the pattern on the paper need not be straight. Just tell them to go for it. That paper will get ripped to shreds when it’s opened anyway.
  2. Make bourbon balls. Oh, wait – is it OK for kids to handle bourbon in a cooking setting, or can I get into some kind of trouble for that? Not that I think they would actually drink the bourbon, but they might spill it and we do have some cats with poor judgment so I could end up on the wrong side of the ASPCA.
  3. String holiday lights. Never mind that your children are merely 4 feet tall, they can hang them at shrub height. If it disturbs you, and you want to view the lights from below, just lie down in the yard. You’ll probably feel like doing this anyway as the holidays approach.
  4. Put together that *@!#$* fake tree. Right, it looks almost real. If you stand 25 feet away and squint. Once it’s up, have them tear recklessly through boxes of carefully packed ornaments looking for the most fragile. Make sure they fight over who gets to hang them.
  5. Sweep up broken ornaments. See above.
  6. Have them learn carols to perform for your guests. They can sing in unison or, if they are over-achievers, in harmony. Not only will you be able to listen in rapt attention as they learn their parts, you can trot them out like the Von Trapps (matching outfits optional). This task is so wonderful because it is something they can do together. It will be even more fun than getting a single child to practice the piano.

Oh, the blessed holidays. I can feel my spirits rising already. Now, where is that bourbon?


A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

Read the holiday series

Read the original series

#2: Why do some people dislike dressing in costumes?

holiday matrixWell, Halloween has come and gone, as has the pressure to be something you’re not, specifically, someone who loves to dress in a costume. Some of us abhor this custom, but clearly, we are only one side of the equation. In this post, we’ll try to answer the writer of the sad and desperate search term Why do some people dislike dressing in costumes?

Well, dear reader, it comes down to this: Some of us are just not creative and fun. For those of us who spend an average day staring at our wardrobes with loathing and disgust, the need to select a costume just ratchets up the pressure.

And for those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time on our grooming with the only goal being to get in the range of acceptable, the idea of assuming an appearance that is worse than we usually look is daunting. We’re spending a lot of time to avoid discolored teeth, straggly hair, wrinkles and pallid skin. Why, dear reader, would we want to throw that all away by accentuating our natural flaws?

And, because I cannot stay silent on this subject, let me point out that dressing in a costume for a party or to trick-or-treat with your kids is one thing. Being asked to don one for a day at the office, or a professional event, is downright cruel.

Clearly, I am more aligned with the writer of the search term I hate Halloween costumes for work. I’m with you, pal. I’m with you.


A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

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#1: Why I hate Halloween

holiday matrixIt’s not hard to figure out why this particular Sad and Desperate search term hit my site since I wrote a post titled Why I hate Halloween. That post, however, dealt with the specific and heinous practice of employees wearing costumes to work, a “tradition” I abhor. Dear reader, there are plenty of other reasons to dislike Halloween!

It destroys perfectly good linens. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to lay my head on a pillowcase that has been dragged through every lawn in our neighborhood.

It’s heck on those costly braces. Chewy candy is bad. Bad, bad, bad. But how can one resist a whole pillowcase full of it?

It kicks off the holiday eating season, that depressing time of year when you watch the numbers on the scale go up while your energy and enthusiasm go down. (Although in my family, the holiday eating season kicks off even earlier with the celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving, not because we are Canadian, but to accommodate other family commitments, iffy November weather, and one family’s annual November 1 departure to Florida.)

The acceptable age to “trick-or-treat” seems to be going up, and the older the trick-or-treater, the less effort goes into the costume. I expect any year now to be opening the door to a bunch of college students dressed as, well, college students.

Over the years, I have found only one thing to like about Halloween – the neighbor one block over who hands out beer to the adults in the party. Thank you, dear friend.


A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate: Holiday edition

holiday matrixIt’s on its way, that moment you’ve all been waiting for – the continuation of Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate, the series in which I offer advice to the searchers whose terms hit my blog.

The series has been on hiatus since Andre and his friends hijacked my traffic, but since they seem to have moved on to other b-grade content, I’m picking it up again with a holiday series. Sort of like the second half of the final season of Mad Men, and the Downton Abbey holiday episode all rolled into one!

Stay tuned over the next few weeks while I answer questions and respond to musings like:

Why I hate Halloween

Why do some people dislike dressing in costumes

Holiday task planning for kids

Bad gifts

Company Christmas party on Christmas Eve, and a particularly sad entry:

Finally the day is over

Not a holiday post, you say? I beg to differ. Stay tuned…

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

ImageNo, we’re not Canadian. And it’s no longer Canadian Thanksgiving. But we’re celebrating anyway.

My family and childhood friends gather each October over a conveniently-timed school holiday to feast on turkey and all the trimmings. It’s a time-shift extraordinaire, designed to bring family together who would otherwise:

  • Be at home celebrating with the other side of the family.
  • Be stuck halfway to their destination in a freak, Thanksgiving week snow storm.
  • Spend 2-1/2 days traveling through a succession of airports for a 2-1/2 hour meal.
  • Head to Florida for the winter to escape all of the above.

It’s a great system, really. There is no pressure from the upcoming Holiday Shopping, er, Christmas season. No one is heading out, bellies bloated to get in their favorite 4 a.m. Black Friday line. And sometimes, the weather is so nice we’ve eaten outside. I can tell you, that does not happen around here in November.

If I could get others to cooperate, I would probably shift some other holidays around, too. Here’s what I’d do:

Celebrate the 4th of July in October. You can hold the fireworks at 8:00 p.m. and there are no mosquitoes to contend with.

Have Christmas coincide with Labor Day so I could do my Christmas shopping and my back-to-school shopping at the same time.

Always have obscure, national holidays fall on Mondays so we could have an embarrassment of three-day weekends. Oh, wait – we already do that.

That last one might seem obvious to some, but when you are a freelance writer, you are what’s called deadline-driven, that is to say, the weekdays and weekends often run into each other leading to the classic freelancer’s no-day weekend.

What about you? Have a holiday you’d like to shift? When would you hold it, and what is it called?

I love a parade

IMG_0696It is my privilege to attend an annual 4th of July parade that defines what small town celebrations are all about. Each year, we anticipate representatives from all modes of transportation – tractor, truck, car, horse. We cheer loudly for the bands and the veterans. We vie for the free water and hotdogs, and the kids risk life and limb to retrieve candy from the street.

I love this parade. Its main asset is that it changes little from year to year, and let me tell you, there is much comfort in predictability.

Here are some of this year’s highlights:

The mammoth is looking a little warm. He probably wasn’t meant for this weather.

IMG_0673 There is a lot of liberty going on here.


All the emergency vehicles are in the parade, so don’t light the barbecue until it’s over.


Not sure which I like best – the mariachi band or the polka band (I have an inherited love of mariachi music, but this is a Grammy-winning polka band, I kid you not!)

bands The guys in the little cars hope the parade never ends.


At times, the pacing could have used a little attention.


Nothing to say here.


I think I was this car in another life.


The water ski team is taking no chances this year.


Belated best wishes to those of you for whom the 4th is the holiday of the summer. Hope you celebrated in style!