Getting into the Christmas spirits

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You read that right.

If you are someone who loves the holidays, you’re probably enjoying these last few days in the run up to Christmas. If you are someone who just worked 30 hours over a weekend you’re thinking they are incredibly poorly timed.

The Christmas theme at my house this year is: The Who’s house after the Grinch ransacked it, only the Grinch never came back. There is no tree. No wreath. No wrapped gifts. A few sad holiday cards, sent by dear souls who haven’t fallen into the black hole of capitalist chaos, sit on a table in my empty living room. (That’s right. The Grinch even took the furniture.)

The reminders are everywhere that I am behind. My email is full of messages screaming “last chance” and “ends today.” Too which I respond, “Delete you.”

As I walk through the beautifully adorned downtown skyways on my way to work, the Muzak reminds me that Santa’s on his way. “You say that like it’s a good thing,” I mutter.

And when I enter the post office and see the “We appreciate your business” sign on the door, I think, “No. No, you do not. If you did there wouldn’t be 20 people holding large boxes in this line, and you would not be chatting up the person you’re serving with news of your grandkids.”

Today I’m taking a day off to see if I can actually make this holiday thing work out this year. (Which explains why I’m spending time blogging, right?) I have a list as long as my arm and will burn a tank of gas driving from here to there. As of 8:00 a.m., I had already hit the “who are you kidding” stage of my day, and mentally removed a few items.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like another memorable year where I served spaghetti and meatballs for Christmas dinner. (Tip to readers: if you have to decide at the last minute between going to the liquor store before it closes and going to the grocery store before it closes, choose the liquor store. I guarantee your guests will not notice what you serve them for dinner.)

But I must away. The malls await me. I go armed with 60% off coupons for this and that. (It seems the only people more desperate than me this time of year are the retailers.)

Wish me luck.

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#5: Company Christmas party on Christmas Eve

holiday matrix

Or, 10 excuses to get you out of the annual office holiday party.

When I wrote my satirical holiday series last year, I never imagined there were actually employers cruel enough to schedule the annual office party on Christmas Eve. However, the blighted individual behind today’s sad and desperate search term seems to work for Ebenezer Scrooge himself.

While I may be too late to save this poor soul, here are a few excuses to get you out of that lousy, last-minute need to feign office goodwill.

I’m sorry, I can’t attend this year because…

  1. I have a delivery to pick up in Whoville.
  2. It takes me hours to position my elf on the shelf.
  3. I think I’m coming down with the flu, and wouldn’t dream of disrupting the blessed holiday events of my beloved coworkers.
  4. I have to assemble a 1000-piece wooden, Victorian dollhouse, and a bicycle this evening.
  5. I still have Christmas shopping to do.
  6. I’m trying to make the last post office pick-up time before the holidays.
  7. If I don’t get to the grocery store, we’ll be having spaghetti and meatballs for Christmas dinner.
  8. I have to thaw a turkey.
  9. I hit the Christmas prune strudel a little early and must stay near the facilities.
  10. I need to pick up my items for Valentine’s Day before the stores are sold out.

I hope one of these will suit you. If not, and you’re in the holiday spirit, please share your no-fail excuse for skipping the office party in the comments. Consider it your selfless gift to mankind.

Read the holiday series

Read the original series

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.

Christmas Past – 2012

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

IMG_1332Mild Weather Disrupts Winter Activities

The only thing Minnesotans complain about more than a harsh winter is a mild winter. While global warming has definitely benefited those of us in the frozen north with milder temperatures, earlier springs, and warmer falls, there is a downside.

Ski Season

Warm temperatures and a lack of snow present a conflict for those families enrolled in ski school. After skipping a few weekends, the Days decided that navigating rocks and patches of grass was preferable to wasting the exorbitant (and nonrefundable) ski school enrollment fees. Fortunately, only minor injuries resulted.

Winter Recreation Camp

The boys spent two days at an overnight winter recreation camp despite the lack of even a single flake of snow. They reported that the highlight of camp was tobogganing down the inside of a huge (and fortunately empty) sewer pipe. Oh, and baking cookies, a classic Minnesota winter activity.

Important Economic Categories

Tragically, as reported in the January 20th edition of the local newspaper, the ice wine season was officially cancelled due to a lack of ice-generating temperatures. Not addressed: The question “What is ice wine?”

A Snapshot from March

  • 4 lacrosse games
  • 9 lacrosse practices
  • 11 dance classes
  • 2 dance competitions
  • 4 baseball clinics
  • 4 piano lessons
  • 4 chess club meetings
  • 4 birthday parties
  • 8 swim lessons
  • 5 school events
  • 3 school conferences
  • 3 round-trips to the airport
  • 2 trips to the orthodontist
  • 1 opera

And finally to end the month…one well-deserved vacation!

Tomorrow, excerpts from 2013…

Read other years:

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Christmas Past – 2011

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

Sporting the latest in orthopedic resort wear

Sporting the latest in orthopedic resort wear

How They Spent the Year

Sarah – Rehabbing a knee she severely sprained by following her hot-dogging husband down an icy black diamond ski run, an injury incurred three days before the Days’ first kid-free vacation trip in a decade.

Mr. Day – Flying to and from Detroit for meetings with auto companies, proving that the economic stimulus funds benefited at least one family.

Child #1 – Begging for a phone during the first half of the year, and on the phone for the second half of the year.

Child #2 – Memorizing every Calvin and Hobbes cartoon ever written.

Child #3 – Trying to hit the B flat while playing the Star Spangled Banner on the piano.

Other Sweet Memories…

  • January – The Days ignore ice dams on the roof that are causing water to drip through the recessed lights in the kitchen.
  • March – Child #2 climbs (and then falls out of) a tree while wearing boots and snow pants.
  • April – First little league game of the season snowed out. Second little league game of the season snowed out.
  • May – Child #1 comes up early in the rotation at his first ever piano recital. No one from the family is there to see it.
  • June – Child #2 hits the first triple of his baseball career. No one from the family is there to see it.
  • November – Sarah shows off the new roof, gutters and soffits announcing, “Look up kids, there’s our new car!”
  • December – Sarah adjusts to working out with a personal trainer young enough to be her son.

Tomorrow, excerpts from 2012…

Read other years:

2007

2008

2009

2010

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:

2007

2008

2009

2011

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.

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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.

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Tomorrow, excerpts from 2010…

Read other years:

2007

2008

2010

2011

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:

2007

2009

2010

2011

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.

Disturbance

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

2008

2009

2010

2011

#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 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.