I Choose You!

Okay, so, for those who don’t have a frame of reference, “I choose you!” alludes to the ever elusive Pokemon from a game which, up until recently, saw far more activity in my house than it had any right to. In this game, I’m told – because I never played, you’re supposed to throw a poke-ball at whatever poor creature you’re trying to capture, hit it in the head with said ball, and trap it. I’m not sure if it should be considered a fun game or serial killer training. But there you go.

Now that that’s cleared up, onward people. I was perusing the photos on my phone for no good reason when I came across one I could not remember taking. As it turns out, I didn’t take it. My daughter did, at some point during the Christmas season when we were out and about and her own phone’s battery had expired.

I CHOOSE YOU!

This is a handy-dandy form of mistletoe, if you ask me. Now, the reasonable part of my mind realizes that this mistletoe is made for “on the move” Christmas kissing and that the handle is meant for the bearer to simply “hold” the mistletoe over someone’s head. But…the asshole unreasonable part of my mind couldn’t help but think this would be an ideal tool for cracking someone over the head while simultaneously screaming: “I CHOOSE YOU!” It would certainly make that boring Christmas party a lot more interesting. Especially if the liquor is flowing and that hot guy from the corner office on the third floor shows up.

 

 

* Since we live in a day and age where stipulations have become a necessity, let it be known that I am in no way condoning or encouraging the use of said item for bashing someone in the head…whether for kisses or just because the person was annoying.  Okay, well, maybe if they’re annoying, but that’s IT people! 

** Per my lawyer’s advice, one more caveat: no-one, and I mean no-one, should ever come to this blog looking for advice. I am not responsible for my own actions most of the time, I certainly cannot be responsible for yours.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

Happy holidays to all, from my family to yours. I hope you have a joyful holiday filled with the people and traditions you love. And may the season shine a warm, caring light on you, your families, and the animals alike.

— artwork by Liz Goodrick-Dillon

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

The holidays are coming. And so are my relatives. It’s time to test that great annual sociology thesis: “Is it possible to compress numbers of humans who are related by blood or marriage into a confined space for several hours, fill them with carbohydrates, tryptophan, and alcohol, and not have them tear into one another over any number of disputed points of view?”  Generally, no.

At least that’s been my experience.  No matter what the intentions for a peaceful dinner are, no matter what pre-victual agreements have been signed, festive family get-togethers usually devolve into raised voices, hurt feelings, and shouts of, “Susan, grab the kids.  We’re leaving right now!”

Here’s the problem. Chances are we’re going to continue having holidays to celebrate. Moreover, and probably against good common sense, we’ll more than likely have family over to share the chaos joy of the season. Unless Prohibition should miraculously come back, alcohol will be served. And that folks, is the tinder and kindling for a family feud. That’s why I’ve developed a guide to help diffuse what I call “Holiday Hot Spots.”

I’ve found that flare-ups usually occur when one of the following topics is brought up:

  • Politics – this one is usually a “given.” I mean, there’s a reason why they say never to discuss politics in polite company. That’s because it makes people want to throttle each other. This year I’ve put “Politics” at the top of the list because of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. If I’m in the kitchen and I hear people shouting, “Drain the Swamp,” “Lock him up,” “But what about Crooked Hilary,” “El Cheeto Grande,”or “Covfefe,” I know that I have to run into the living room screaming, “Oh my god, somebody knocked over Jimmy’s terrarium full of black widow spiders! Check your legs! CHECK YOUR LEGS!” I find that this stops the arguing, dead in its tracks. As an added plus, everyone gets a little pre-dinner work-out.
  • The Media – rather than bursting into flames right from the start, these arguments usually simmer until they finally reach a flash point. If I hear the words Hannity, Fake News, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, Lamestream Media, or Kellyanne Conway, I know that I have to spring into action, like immediately, in order to waylay any punches that might be thrown overly heated debate that might occur. I’ve found that by saying something to attract everyone’s attention while confusing them at the same time works very well, and makes them forget what was causing the argument in the first place. I’m good at this. Just this past Thanksgiving, I casually walked into the family room and cheerfully said, “I decided to change things up a little this year.  Turkey sounded sooooo boring.  I hope you all like muskrat. It was free, just lying there on the side of the road. How could I resist? They say it tastes like badger.” It got their attention, yet no-one knew how to respond. And there, with their collective mouths agape, the bickering ended.
  • The Outcast – most families have one. It’s the family member who is currently “on the outs” with the rest of the family. Their crime could be imagined, “I hear that he dates loose women.” Or, it could be real, “I’m glad she’s not here to get drunk and set the Christmas tree on fire again.” Whatever the reason…a prior engagement or perhaps a moment of mental clarity…they “weren’t able to come this year.”  Not being there to defend himself or herself, they suffer (albeit, in absentia) the majority of the verbal abuse from the family who is gathered. I mean, right? This entertainment usually keeps everyone occupied for quite a while, and all is right with the world. That is until someone decides (usually with vindictive glee) that enough is enough and points out a peccadillo of someone who is actually present and within earshot or brings up a decades old story that is best left untold. Then it’s true confessions time, and not in a good “truth or dare” kind of way. Friends tell me that I should just do the “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” speech when this happens. However, I find that I can quickly diffuse things by setting the Christmas tree on fire. Again.

 

Holiday Cookie Exchange…Sort Of

So, I was invited to join a “virtual cookie swap” group today by no less than three friends. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this oddity, but apparently it’s a so-called club where people share photos of cookies with each other — the kinds of confections they would LIKE to bake for the holidays (but won’t), instead of real cookies. I’m confused. It’s as if these people don’t know me at all.

Drinkle Balls, Drinkle Balls, Drinkle All the Way

You know, the holidays will be here before we know it. In my neighborhood there are already Christmas lights up on houses and throughout the town, in shop windows and on street lamps (gotta love that small town quaintness) — some were in place even before Thanksgiving. The residents here, as in many areas, are really into their decorations. I guess, I can’t blame them. In one way or another, the season has been celebrated for about 2,000 years — and decorations, both indoor and out, are a big part of that, always have been — at least in recent eras. This year, a distiller in London has figured out how to merge the special magic of a Christmas tree with the possible unbridled consumption of “Christmas Cheer.” I found out about this while looking for articles on ideas for spooky pumpkin faces. Go figure.

For about $40, depending on the exchange rate, you can buy a six-pack of clear plastic orbs with screw-off tops that are designed to be hung on a Christmas tree. Each one contains a little over 1.6 ounces (a large shot) of England’s Lakes Distillers premium whiskey. For about $24, you can buy a “mega” ornament that contains almost 5 ounces of Christmas Cheer!  Have they offered these before? If so, why wasn’t I informed!?

click the pic to find out more about these nifty decorations

When I found out that you could also buy these ornaments filled with gin, vodka, or rum, visions of alcohol soaked sugarplums danced in my head. Coupled with my discovery of the fact that whiskey Advent Calendars are also a thing (I mean, seriously where have I been??), I realized there was now a way to become gloriously semi-conscious throughout the season.

I mean, honestly, how cool is this!? Click the picture to read the article.

Being somewhat analytical by nature, I decided to look at the pros and cons of festooning my tree with these ornaments, and the role of an alcohol laden Advent Calendar in the house.

PROS:

  • The unique molecular construction of ethanol (alcohol) will diffuse the light from the tree lights, casting a warm glow of hospitality throughout the room. Yay science!
  • Deciding to hang booze on your tree will impress your friends. My friends, at least.
  • If you are close to losing your mind from watching Burl Ives narrate the Rudolph cartoon for the 19th time, you can lean over and casually pop open an ornament.
  • When you find yourself getting sucked into a political argument with a relative, toss an ornament to them and say, “Hey, Uncle Fred! Put this in your pie hole.” He will thank you and soon forget just what he was carrying on about. Or in the alternative, you can drink one or two or three, and soon not care a hoot about Uncle Fred and his conspiracy theories.
  • These are great for tree-trimming parties. Just be sure your neighbors know the ground rules: “The Drinkable Balls are for the tree, the eggnog is for the guests.”
  • The orbs are reusable. Save the empties until next year. Or hell, refill them throughout the current year. Recycling at its best!
  • The reward aspect of the whiskey Advent Calendar will help to motivate you to get to December 25th by giving you a reason to wake up each day. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me…we all know how crazy the holidays can be, especially if you have a large, contentious family visiting for the season. Of course, you have to pace yourself…you don’t want to run out by December 2nd. Not saying I would…but, well, you just never know.

CONS:

  • The Drinkle Balls must be placed near the top of the tree to keep tiny hands from trying to find out why these ornaments are so special. Of course, I don’t have that problem any more since my kids are older, so…yay me!
  • Studies have shown that households with high levels of stress usually consume all the balls within two days of being put on the tree. Don’t look at me. They’re not talking about me. Are they? No, no, I mean, no, of course not.
  • Set ground rules for visitors. “My tree is NOT an open bar!” should be your ongoing mantra.
  • Drinkle Balls are filled with whiskey. Whiskey is ethanol. Ethanol can also be used as rocket fuel. It’s okay if you don’t believe me. I swear I read it somewhere but for the life of me, I can’t remember where. But I do know (common sense, people!) that a Drinkle Ball placed too close to hot Christmas tree lights could cause the whiskey to heat and explode, turning your Christmas Tree into a Saturn V rocket launch.
  • On the other hand, the whiskey themed Advent Calendars need to have a time lock to prevent doors from being opened before the date arrives. It would be a real downer to see that you’ve already used the whiskey shots up to 12/24, and it’s only 12/10. Again, not saying I would do that, but…oh, who am I kidding? I would so do that.

What the heck, I think I’m going to get some Drinkle Balls this year.  I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Winter is Coming

Friends, danger is upon us. We are approaching that time of year when brother will turn against brother, sister will deceive sister, and strangers will come to fisticuffs over dwindling supplies of cherished treasure. There’s only one thing that can bring the madness in our society to such a fever pitch. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about holiday shopping.

Get those elbows ready for pushing people out of the way (I hear a sale on elbow pads starts today!) and start brushing up on your bob-and-weave coordination, it all kicks off today, Black Friday, and soon it will be followed by an all-out Christmas merchandise assault. I don’t know what it is about good deals, but it truly unleashes the beast in some people. Maybe it’s mob mentality that comes from being in large, billowing crowds of shoppers. It overtakes rational thought about how to treat your fellow Man and turns them into your worst adversary. Maybe it’s the pressure of finally get the perfect gift for someone you love. Maybe it’s knowing your friends will all be jealous of the fancy new TV/microwave/laptop you have without being any the wiser that you got it at 50% off, or maybe having the ability to pat oneself on the back over such an awesome deal is in fact part of it. Maybe it’s a mix of all these.

All I know is that people who are out and about doing holiday shopping will get downright mean if their mission is slowed down in any way, even by their own kids. On many an occasion I’ve seen seemingly normal parents threaten their children with the promise that Santa will skip over their house Christmas morning if they even think about throwing a hissy-fit in the middle of the store. If I could relive my kids’ childhood, I personally would’ve used the Krampus threat a lot more than I did…that’s the kind of thing that gets kids to sit up and listen.

I’m not sure who I feel for more when I see these parental showdowns in the middle of a jam-packed store…the exasperated parent driven to Santa-related threats, or the kids for throwing the fit in the first place (or at least those kids where you can tell it’s due to stress and being seriously over-tired). Okay, well, that’s actually an easy one…I feel for the strangers having to deal with both of them when all they want is to make it through the crowds to get their paper towels and toilet paper in peace.

Thank goodness I’m not a child (at least not age-wise anyway). I’ve lost my shit MANY times at the mall and would be a permanent name on Santa’s blacklist if the “no visit for you” rules applied to me. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I may be on the no-fly list for Santa’s sleigh, but it’s for entirely different reasons.

In fact, kids have it pretty good, don’t they? They can get away with a fairly good amount before they face any real consequences. But if one of us so-called “adults” yells and screams and stomps our feet in the middle of a store (maybe even knock over a display or two), all of a sudden here comes security to take us to grown-up timeout, which trust me, doesn’t involve cookies and milk afterwards.

I guess that’s what really separates adults from children. We ALL want to bitch and moan, but adults have learned how to keep all of that inside for the sake of appearances, ulcers and migraines notwithstanding.  Most of the time at least. If there’s ever a time when the rage might be too much to control, it’s in these next couple months. So, please, be careful out there. Winter is coming.

Happy-Merry Hallowgivingchristmas

Have you been to the stores lately? Have you!? It was bad enough when the stores were putting out their Halloween candy in July.  July, people. But now, now our treasured holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are being merged into one mega-holiday season. I don’t know if this phenomenon has hit your area yet, but in my town the stores have Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations in adjacent aisles. Really retailers?  Just why?

There can be only answer: money. Retail stores will do 30% of their annual business during the “Christmas Season.” It makes sense to make the Christmas Season last for almost 70 days.  Even though the habit is being dialed back, many large retailers are now even open on Thanksgiving Day, denying their employees anything to be thankful for except overtime pay…and even that is not a guarantee given the existence of sneaky Scrooge-like scheduling gurus.

In a stroke of extreme irony, stores now have mega-sales on what is now known as Black Friday; the day after Thanksgiving. People wait in line all night to be among the first to buy something, anything that is on sale. On Thursday they give thanks for what they have, on Friday they are savagely punching and fighting people to get an X-Box or flat screen TV.  Finishing off the Thanksgiving weekend is White Monday. This is the online shopper’s day to stay planted in front of a computer searching for audacious online deals. Using this logic, I expect to see Magenta Tuesday for people to have their own Holiday Garage Sales.

Although, I will interject here – one of my favorite concepts is Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and is a day of actual GIVING – to charities big and small…so Magenta Tuesday better back the hell off.

I don’t want to sound curmudgeonly, but I really feel that the flattening of the traditional holiday “spikes” turns the last quarter of the year into an amorphous blob of festive displays, shopping guilt, jammed mall parking lots, and a false fear that I might forget to buy a gift for someone.

Someone somewhere is bound to capitalize on this frenzied commercialism by inventing color-coded bins for us to stash our stashes of gifts and decorations: Orange and Black for Halloween; Brown and Orange for Thanksgiving; and of course, Red and Green for Christmas.  This will allow us to keep order in our frenetic final days of the year. Sheesh, I can feel the stress coming on already.

Of course, this begs the question, “When will the madness end?” I don’t want to be forced to buy a brown bin with leaf decor for all the Autumnal Equinox goodies, or a pink bin with red hearts for all my Valentine’s Day gifts.

Am I being unreasonable? I just want to focus on Halloween until it’s time to focus on Thanksgiving.  When that’s over, I can set my sights on getting into the Christmas Spirit.

 

The Personalities of Christmas

Christmas is just a day away and the journey through hell to visit beloved family is upon many an innocent soul. This yearly event brings together a mish-mash of individuals from extended family to close personal friends, long-time family friends, to who the hell are these people. Every holiday gathering has them. Those people who you don’t know, those people you don’t like, and those people you would never hang out with if they weren’t related to you.  For your convenience, I have listed the personality types you will find at nearly any get-together this season in one easy go-to guide.  Keep this with you at all times; your survival may depend on early identification of The Personalities of Christmas.

xmas-blog-post

  1. Aunt Edna: Aunt Edna isn’t really anyone’s aunt.  She is just included in holiday gatherings and drinks egg nog while pinching the cheeks of children (anyone under the age of say 30) and clucking annoyingly.  No one knows exactly where Aunt Edna came from, she just showed up one year and kept coming back.  It’s all good though; Aunt Edna makes the best cookies. Just avoid a full-frontal approach if you prefer your cheeks unpinched.
  1. The Gift Giving Overachiever: This is usually a female.  No matter what you give, she one-ups you.  But not in a good way. I know, sounds weird, right? Buy her a thoughtful gift card to her favorite store?  She will give you a hand knitted king-sized comforter she has been working on since last Christmas, knitted with her own hair that she collected from her hairbrush and shower drain.  By the way, here is a matching pillow sham. Start early after the gift-giving ends the year before in a quest to find the weak link aka the newbie to the family who has no idea about psycho overachiever so you can be sure and talk them into trading her should you draw her name again in Secret Santa. Hey, Cousin Joe did it to you when you married into the family so it’s only fair the torch get passed onto the next sucker new member of the family.
  1. The Gift Giving Underachiever: Sorry, guys, but this is usually male.  He is so stressed at the idea of choosing gifts, facing crowds in stores, and Christmas music piped over loudspeakers that he shuts down.  Finally, on Christmas Eve after the stores are closed, he heads out.  His lucky wife will receive a 7-11 coffee mug (with free refills!), a lotto scratch off ticket, and a Valentine’s Day card with “Be My Valentine scratched off” and “Merry Christmas” handwritten across the top. The gift will be wrapped in a grocery store plastic bag and duct tape.
  1. The Pampered Pets:  There are many pet personalities, and everyone loves to bring them all together during the holidays.  Fluffy the cat will be stuck halfway up the tree, and Rocky the dog will be tangled in the Christmas lights (because he chased Fluffy the cat up the tree).  Great, someone, we’re not sure who…but the Ne’er-do-well is looking particularly frizzy and singed…just chewed through the cord to the Christmas tree light and blew a fuse. Tiny little yappers become irresistible to the larger dogs who will chase them with thoughts of sugar plums cannibalism dancing in their little doggy heads.  One especially bad at his job scent hound will shred half the wrapping on each present searching for that elusive squeaker toy or treat that’s sure to be under the tree but getting only that flannel shirt for Grandpa or slippers for Mom, and his owner will frantically try to avoid re-wrapping them by using Band-Aids, staples and Gorilla Glue to fold the paper back around the gifts. It’s okay, though; the Gift Giving Underachiever still has plenty of duct tape to go around.
  1. The Kid Who Still Believes in Santa: You have to buy different types of wrapping paper to wrap the gifts that “Santa” brought and secretly resent giving Santa the credit for the PlayStation under the tree because Santa’s not the one that worked overtime for months to get the money to pay for that thing, dealing with people you already hate and not sleeping just to work double shifts and…and oh nevermind, it’s the thought that counts, right? You will invest in letters from Santa, and brave the frigid night to go out and place reindeer footprints on the roof and lawn. You may be really dedicated and invest in reindeer poop to throw in your yard. You’ll stay up late at night or else set the alarm for reaaallly early just so you can shake that damned set of sleigh bells ever so slightly to create a buzz of excitement throughout the sleepy house. You threaten vile, murderous acts against the older child and any other family member who feels the truth should be set free for the younger child (and really – how would that look to Santa after all??). And in the end, it’s worth it to see this kid’s face in the morning. After all, you’d do anything to keep him at this innocent age.  But, sadly, he will become:
  1. The Kid Who Finally Realized That Santa Doesn’t Exist: You saw this coming last year when she began to question the logic of a man in a sled pulled by magical flying reindeer breaking into people’s houses to leave gifts in every house across the globe.  Your explanations were getting more and more bizarre as you tried to keep the dream alive by making up stories of Santa having to hire helpers to hang out in malls, using time machines to navigate time zones, and being a millionaire to pay the wages of all the hard-working, unionized elves.  Trying to keep this one away from the Kid Who Still Believes in Santa is a logistical nightmare. Hence the threats of vile, heinous acts against your very own offspring (who, ironically, is doted on the other 11 months of the year). One of these days, you just know Krampus is going to show up on your humble doorstep if not for your lies, then certainly for your threats against a child who simply wants to spill the beans tell the truth.
  1. The Tipsy Sipper: I can identify with this one, just a little bit.  I find that a nice glass, or box, of wine helps holiday parties run a little smoother.  I start my holiday sipping on Labor Day, and usually stop around Valentine’s Day.  Nothing wrong with seeing your friends and family through wine-colored glasses.  The Tipsy Sipper is a lot different from:
  1. Uncle Albert: You already know he snuck a flask into the party, spiked the punch bowl, and is currently telling deep, dark family secrets to the mailman and anyone else who will listen.  You will eventually find him in the shrubbery out front, sprawled out in his Santa boxer shorts and tangled in Christmas lights that used to hang ever so brightly and prettily on the gutters, yelling incoherently at the sky about something that happened to cause Cousin Jack and Cousin Harold to stop talking back in 1956 while the neighbors live stream him in all his glory to Facebook.
  1. Cousin Gertrude: When you hear Cousin Gertrude is coming, you can’t help rolling your eyes. “No! Who invited her?” someone will inevitably say. “Well, she IS family after all,” someone will reply…as if that makes it okay.  If you are lucky, Cousin Gertrude will be on her medication and sitting quietly on the couch, meditating or doing yoga. If she is off her medication, she will be sitting in a corner, mumbling to herself and laughing as she watches the wall while the family pretends not to notice. No one ever wants her to try to reenact what she sees on the wall like she did last year (we’re all still trying to recuperate from that fiasco), so it’s better to just go about your business and not encourage her.
  1. The Crafty One: Pinterest has nothing on this one.  The Crafty One, armed with a glue gun, a piece of felt and a paperclip will MacGyver a multi-cultural animated holiday centerpiece worthy of the White House.  Your construction paper napkin rings never had a chance, no matter how much glitter you put on them.  She also sewed her own Christmas dress and is currently fabricating a sports sedan in the garage out of tin cans and pallets. She is nothing if not perfect and was put on God’s green earth to make all others feel inadequate but what comes out of her mouth is a pseudo-humble “Oh, this thing? It’s just a little something I threw together!” I suggest hitting the punch bowl early.
  1. The Cook: “I just brought a little snack,” says the Cook as she unloads a U-Haul of covered dishes and crock pots into your house. The Cook is usually a sweet great-grandmother who learned to cook southern style.  Her food is stick to your ribs old-fashioned goodness, but everyone will be passed out an hour after eating it.  If she didn’t bring food, she will wander into your kitchen and find a box of stale Ritz crackers, a bag of rice, and a can of mixed vegetables in your cupboard and whip up a little seven-course dinner.
  1. The Opinionator: This unique individual prides himself on being able to single-handedly offend every person at the party.  No subject is taboo to the Opinionator, and he will not back down from a good debate about everything from politics to religion, veganism, child rearing and Star Wars versus Star Trek.  He may be indirectly responsible for creating The Tipsy Sipper. Okay, maybe not so indirectly.
  1. The Gossiper: She will be the one making witty observations about everyone at the party, everyone who didn’t show up, and people she has seen on dog food commercials. She will gossip behind everyone’s back while forming alliances like a Christmas themed Survivor show.  You are always nice to The Gossiper because secretly, you fear her just a little bit.  She filmed your karaoke version of Funky Town, and she isn’t afraid to use it.
  1. The Christmas Cheer Spreader: The Christmas Cheer Spreader put her tree up on Halloween.  She wore candy cane earrings to Thanksgiving dinner, and she is the reason Christmas advertising starts in June.  She finished her Christmas Shopping in August (she was late this year, she’ll have you know) and her presents have been wrapped since Labor Day.   Although we would rather eat dirt than let her (or anyone else) know, we all sort of secretly wish we were the Christmas Cheer Spreader as we stand in a Target line on Christmas Eve with a cart full of clothing that we already know will need to be returned because the only size left was petite and who is anyone kidding?  Petite.  Yeah, right.

Holidays are not stress free, and God knows every holiday function is doomed to failure from the start, if you invite people, that is. Oh, I’m not saying every event is sure to fail in epic proportions – although those are certainly the most exciting. Perhaps it will only fail in small degrees…because nothing can be perfect no matter how much we want it to be. Because people are involved, family is involved. And people, especially family, are simply not perfect.

Still, take a minute to appreciate every friend and family member in all their flawed glory this year; it is the mixture of personalities that makes the season memorable, warm, and usually hilarious.

I’ll drink to that.