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.

 

Things that go bump in the night

I mean, honestly…is it a dog or a four-legged ninja. Sometimes I wonder. Or maybe it’s one of those ghosts from Paranormal Activity that shows up with a sheet over its “head,” but when the sheet is removed, lo and behold, there’s nothing there, and that’s when everyone watching loses their sh…well, you know. I’ll admit, I wasn’t brave enough to go that far to see if that would happen in this case. Seriously, who wants to piss off demons when you don’t have to?And considering that the blanket made its way back to its bed after getting a drink left me thinking that whatever was underneath was too sleepy to cause any real ghostly damage. I can’t say that’s a bad thing.

Hide-and-seek skill level: expert

 

 

Canine Symphony in C

Back in the day, I had a wonderful dog, a Shih Tzu named Boopers. I loved her to pieces. Among her many attributes (not least of which, was just being a smart, loyal, loving companion), she was a great watch dog. She might not have physically been able to do anything about a person breaking in, like attack anything except his ankles and maybe his calves, but she was phenomenal about alerting us to possible Ninja intruders. Which, when you think about it, was really her job…the job of any small dog, actually. They’re the alarm system and either the larger dog, or you, as the human of the house, are supposed to do the rest.

Boopers was especially good at her job. She could tell the difference in cat noises permeating the darkness throughout the inner sanctum of the house…of which there were many in the night due to our own personal zoo. She could tell if the noises outside were “normal” noises, like an owl on the roof, or a squirrel scurrying across the deck, or maybe the neighbors coughing a bit too loudly out on their own back porch. Hey, what can I say? Sound travels here. So, when she barked, or worse, growled deep in her throat, you knew…you just knew…you had to get up to look to see what was going on to cause a disturbance in the force. She was trustworthy and reliable, and an amazing alarm system.

The dogs I have now? Not so much. If so much as a leaf blows across the yard three doors down, they bark. If the neighbor next door sneezes deep within the realm of her kitchen, they bark. If they hear a car that’s just a tad bit too loud in the exhaust system somewhere out there in the neighborhood, they bark. Maybe the couple two streets over slam a door in the midst of their argument debate over “Star Wars vs Star Trek.” Yep, you guessed it. They bark.

Sometimes, I think these dogs bark just to hear themselves bark. And once one loses it, the other one loses it, and then the cacophony is truly a thing to behold.

“What are you barking at!? What’s going on!? Where’s the danger? Let me at it!” 

“I don’t know, I just thought maybe I heard something but then I started barking and it sounded cool, so I kept doing it!”

“Oh wow, that’s a fantastic idea, I think I’ll bark too and then we’ll both be barking!? How cool is that??”

“Hey, that’s awesome! We can get into sync so there’s absolutely no lag time and all the human will hear is constant ear-splitting yaps in completely different timbres!”

“Why do you think she’s holding her ears and looking fierce?”

“I don’t know…maybe she just can’t stand the symphony that is our high-pitched barking because it’s simply too awe-inducing and lovely beyond words. We should bark louder!”

I love Petra and Rufus beyond belief, of that, there is no doubt in the world. But when these 2:00 a.m. concerts come around to awaken me from a dead-sleep, I sure do miss my Boopers.

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, Christmas 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?