Merry Christmas! I Love You Thi$$$$ Much!

price tagsWell, it’s descended upon us again hasn’t it? The traditional, commercial Christmas is practically here. That magical time of year when we all gather together after rushing madly hither and yon in search of that perfect gift that lets our loved ones know just how very much we love them. Literally.

For example: “Here, Aunt Nancy… here’s a lovely plaid scarf. I know it’s wool and a little scratchy but it matches your eyes. Don’t you think? They did have cashmere, but you see… My love for you is not a cashmere kind of love. My love for you is a woolish kind of love. In fact, I love you around $11 worth.”

See what I mean? Without realizing it, we often divide those we care about into categories, defining our love for them by assigning dollar amounts. Now I know you might argue with me that it is all about budgeting and how can you possibly spend more on Cousin Stuart after dropping less than 20 on Aunt Nancy’s hideous scarf… but we ought to admit that on SOME level it is true.

The math goes a little something like this (Feel free to add a zero depending on which “percenter” you are)… There are those who fall into the $5 category. They are the ones most often occupying the fringes of our lives… Those we HAVE to see on a daily basis but would not necessarily interact with were we not forced to. And those we place into the $10 to $20 range… People with whom we choose to spend time but are not related. And then there’s family. Family eats up most of the budget either out of necessity, obligation or affection.

And this is where the real fun begins. You consider what THEY got YOU last year and thus what type of gift should be given this year. This sometimes breeds a healthy bout of one-up-man-ship or at the very least a breaking even. I’ve often wondered whether or not we should all just keep the $50 or $100 since we’re essentially handing it back and forth year after year. But what would be the fun in that?

Then I remember that it isn’t really about the money. The money is the necessary evil by which feel we must express our gratitude or love this time of year. It’s really all about recognition. Recognition of the people we COULD not or WOULD not live without whether they gave us a faulty, small kitchen appliance (with or without a warranty), a gift card to a place we hate, a too big pair of pajamas or a hideous pair of slippers last year.

Merry Christmas everyone! May you give and receive lots of love to and from your 5, 10, 20 and 50-dollar people this holiday season… no matter what form of currency it comes in.

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…and to the Republic for which it stands…

TitleI was driving to work yesterday saying hateful things to my uncooperative hair, getting stopped at every, single red light and growing increasingly impatient as I secretly cursed the slow-moving guy in front of me for consulting his dashboard GPS on his EVERY move because he was clearly LOST… when I looked out my driver’s side window toward the shopping plaza across the street. On the corner I noticed the flag flying at half-staff and thought to myself with a lump suddenly lodged in my throat: “Oh. Yeah. That’s right.” And just like that, I remembered Sandy Hook. Suddenly none of my petty “issues” mattered AT ALL.

I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… people are deeply hurting. They are grieving instead of baking cookies and shopping and considering what to stuff inside the stockings. On the week before Christmas—a child’s most cherished holiday—parents are burying their babies instead of reading them stories and tucking them in for a brief winter’s nap. I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… a community is drowning in devastation as they grapple with the largest, most difficult questions anyone will ever ask.

The flag, flapping silently from it’s revised position only half-way up the pole, was a solid slap in the face forcing me to gain the proper perspective about something as minor as slow-moving traffic. Yet it was an even harsher reminder that so much of what I worry about on a regular basis is utterly futile. But there won’t always be a flag flying at half-staff to serve as such a wake-up call. Eventually the flag will be raised again as we attempt to move forward and the evening news will begin to cover something else.

And while we ought not remain mired in the darkness that so often spreads from unspeakable tragedy, it IS worth pausing to remember that whether we see the flag raised high with pride or lowered with respect in mourning… it’s fabric wraps all the way around us… All of usEvery day. And well, if we can remember that we’re collectively covered by the same cloth… maybe we can remember that this life is about so much more than ourselves. And maybe that’s a start.

Farewell, Family Christmas Letter

awkward-christmas-card-photosWe’re all aware that while constant connection due to social media is convenient and entertaining, there are many things that have been lost due to this advent of technology and instant, infinite contact. Some things have made me sad as I’ve watched them go… like actually sitting in the same room with someone and talking face to face. But other things?… Not so much. Some things, I was happy to see fall by the wayside. And in recent years, Christmas time has reminded me of one of those things. I am referring to the family Christmas letter. Remember those?

I used to hate them. Every year my mailbox would be jammed with fancy envelopes adorned with pictures of the baby Jesus and custom gold and silver embossed address labels. Inside were the letters… chocked full of bloated, flowery lies stories about the family and their annual exploits. These always included (but were NOT limited to) fancy vacations, costly household renovations or new real estate ventures, overachieving brats children and their exhausted utterly thrilled and proud parents.

Of course accompanying the letters were the perfectly-staged “family photos” — everyone gathered ‘round the hearth in matching turtleneck / sweater combos that had either holly leaves, reindeer or snowflakes embroidered on them. (See above photo for perfect specimen.) OR said family was seen sitting serenely on some beach somewhere in coordinating white linens and sandals.

However, admittedly so, before I hated them… I wrote them. I know… I realize this makes me a bit of a hypocrite and one of “those” people, but at least I’m admitting it. I’m not proud of it, but there was a period of time in the late nineties that I wrote a few of my own. What can I say? I was young and stupid and when I first struck out on my own, how else was I supposed to learn how to act like an adult if I didn’t copy everyone else?

So I’d compile a letter “fluffing” up the events of my life in kind. And being a graphic designer by trade, my letter had to LOOK killer. Thus, I usually chose a theme (yes I said theme) and began its “development” in June. Therefore assuring that nothing worthy of note would be excluded and I would have ample time to procure excellent photos to accompany my exaggerations ur… embellishments um… life events.

So, why did I stop? You may be wondering. I simply got tired of it. And like I mentioned at the beginning, I began to hate them. Sensing that I was, indeed, seeing through the entire charade, I grew weary of reading people’s letters. But even more so, I got tired of feeling the overwhelming need to create my own “utopian mirage” that for a mere 32 cents a piece (back then anyway) could be mailed directly to the residences of everyone I knew.

Family Christmas Letter season was like a printing and postal arms race. Who could cram more into their perfectly-printed letter by being the prettiest, happiest, richest, most-successful, most-fulfilled family IN ALL THE LAND!?! Just once I wanted to see someone compile a letter that was REAL. I never actually had the courage to BE that person… but it would have been so delightful to go to the mailbox and find something like this instead:

Dear Friends and Family,

This year has totally sucked. I hate my job. Bonuses were eliminated despite the fact that the workload has increased by 20 percent. Most weeks I work six, 10-hour days and get maybe four hours of uninterrupted sleep if I’m lucky. Little Larry is failing ALL of his classes and the school has begun tossing around words like “alternative learning programs” and “family intervention” and “expulsion for the betterment of the educational environment as a whole” — whatever THAT means. Our daughter Maude has contracted some sort of scalp fungus that has yet to be identified. My lovely wife Bunny has gained 30 pounds and I swear sometimes when I look at her I believe she is plotting my demise. I no longer eat her cooking.

We didn’t vacation this year due to the fact that the house is falling down around us. The roof is leaking, the bathroom tile is chipping, there is a strange greenish water spot spreading across the kitchen ceiling — the source of which I cannot find to save my life. Meanwhile I discovered asbestos in the attic while setting rat traps and no one will admit what or who caused a giant, smelly rust-colored stain on the living room rug. Unfortunately, none of it can be repaired anytime soon because financially, we are bust. We’ve run up 40K in credit card debt, Maude’s mystery fungus is bankrupting us and the car needs a new transmission.

Sadly, our beloved dog Walter died tragically in a Fourth of July fireworks incident gone horribly wrong and the kids are driving me crazy begging for a new puppy. However, there is one bright spot to report. September proved to be a better month when the lawsuit against me was dropped so long as I continue to adhere to the rules of the restraining order. So that’s a plus.

I’m not going to lie… I hope this letter finds you and yours to be just as miserable as we are.

Happy Holidays!

Sincerely,
The Sellers Family

List of Lost Wishes

Too lovely not to share with the readers of my blog. I loved it!

merlinspielen

Christmas 2012

As I was walking to the grocery store, the wind blew a bright pink slip of paper against my leg. The paper clung to me, begging me to pick it up and see the secrets it held. It was crumpled and damp from the snow. And not just pink – the edges were graced with green and white flowers. And black graceful words inked on the white lines. A grocery list fallen from a pocket.

The list was simple:
Milk
Cheese slices
Baby crackers
Baby food
Diapers
Bologna
Bread
Tomato soup
Perogies
Sour Cream
Mini Bagels
Cream Cheese
Carrots
Apples

A rather basic list telling a simple ordinary story. A mother with an infant. Most likely a young woman from the style of notepaper and the fanciful doodle of hearts and flowers. On the back some more words:

‘Check bank account – see if enough for shampoo? Bottle of wine?…

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What’s That Elf on the Shelf REALLY Up To?

So here we are again. It’s creeping up on Christmas and parents everywhere are creeping around their houses late into the night searching for just the right spot to place their creepy little elf for the kiddies to find come morning. Yes, that wicked ol’ Elf on the Shelf has sprung to life once again and being the hater that I am… I couldn’t help but devote some blog time to the miniature Freak Show.

Some of you may recall that I wrote a post about him and his meteoric rise to fame last Christmas when the tiny demon became a blip on my personal radar. In case you missed it and you’re interested, you can read that one here. I feel I did an adequate job of relaying my fear, disdain and general creeped-out-ed-ness for this convention so I don’t think it’s necessary to expound on that much more.

What I would like to point out is that while I knew I wasn’t the ONLY person who found the Elf on the Shelf to be the very incarnation of evil itself — I had no idea how popular fearing him had actually become. It seems that for every parent out there who adores inflicting him and his “magical powers” upon their child, there is someone else more sensible, someone more enlightened, someone… well… someone more like me.

These enlightened ones know this little guy is up to no good. They understand that beneath that tiny red suit beats a heart of pure darkness. And behind those rosy cheeks and piercing blue eyes lurks a monster waiting to be unleashed… in your home… after you’re all asleep.

I’ve compiled the following images from around the web as proof positive that he is not all he’s cracked up to be. The catchy tune, the cutesy animated commercial and the adorably designed, strategically marketed storybook and package is all a disguise. The plan? Get inside your home and gain your trust. The ultimate goal? Well, take a look for youself…

elf_tree lightself_artistelf_song elf_grandma elf_fluffy

Not to worry though parents—if you’ve been duped by the elf and his cleverly-hatched scheme, and he is, in fact, IN your house this very instance—there is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps your child is also an “enlightened one” like I mentioned earlier. And perhaps he or she will take matters into their own hands… like this one did…

elf_fire

It’s Not Me… It’s You

the_jerk_store-208x300In 37 years I still haven’t managed to figure out that some people are simply NOT worth my time or energy. They will never be kind no matter how many cheerful “Good Mornings” or “Hellos” I waste my breath on uttering day after day after day. Being a friendly and outgoing person myself, I offer everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt by being nice to them. Call me crazy — that’s just how I was raised. However, as I age, I am learning (not nearly fast enough) that there IS a limit. Or at least there SHOULD be a limit on the quantity of niceties I offer up to someone who is—for lack of a better, KINDER term—an @$$hole.

As was discussed recently on a CBS news program, @$$holes are growing in number. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a shock to you wherever you are. I’m sure that in the last seven days you have most likely crossed paths with an obnoxious tailgater or cutter-offer in traffic, a jerk who line jumped you at the register when your arms were busy juggling 12 cans of cat food, a value bottle of shampoo and an unusually large loaf of frozen garlic bread, or an office mate or acquaintance who could not return a greeting to save his or her miserable life. If you’re out there in the world, then you’ve most certainly run across one if not ALL of these characters at some point in time.

There will always be jerks in the world. I get that. But the one thing I truly have a problem with is dealing with the @$$hole(s) who KNOW you and yet REFUSE to be civil. When nothing bitter, sour or otherwise distasteful has transpired between the two of you—how can it when you’ve never even spoken?—yet you’re the recipient of endless cold shoulders, dismissive actions and downright rudeness. What do you do with THESE people? Seriously. I’m asking. Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know what others of you do when dealing with this particular individual in your own lives.

I know the whole “It isn’t you, it’s them” routine is the standard issue response to this question, generally. So please don’t give me that one (plus I already used it in the title). Because I can repeat that to myself until I’m blue in the face, pumping up my morale momentarily and feeling all I’m OK, You’re OK about the whole thing… that is until the very next time one of us veers into the other’s world. And I am dumbfounded once again at their blatant disregard for the other human being in their midst. “HELLO!?! ARE YOU BLIND!?! WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES!?!” I end up screaming inside my brain before rolling my eyes and muttering obscenities under my breath as I stomp off in the opposite direction.

I am not asking to be best friends. I don’t want to know what you’re buying your kids for Christmas or what color ornaments you hung on the tree this year. I don’t even want to know whether or not you’re having a good day. All I’d like is the simple acknowledgment that you and I are indeed occupying the same space on this spinning blue marble called earth at this very same moment in time. A nod, a smile, a simple return of my greeting… Is that too much to ask? Hell. I’d even settle for a grunt of recognition. At least then I’d know you had a soul.

Christmas Tree Mystery

stanley under treeTwas weeks before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… save for perhaps a large orange cat with a penchant for shiny red round things that dangle tauntingly from evergreen branches and roll wildly when he bats and chases them. Saturday morning—after meticulously positioning the tree skirt “just so” and adusting every last branch, twinkle light, bulb, miniature angel, teddy bear, snowman, santa and reindeer the night before—I awoke to discover an ornament missing from the tree. Thus far the crime scene clues include a slightly askew tree skirt, two vacant metal hooks embedded into the carpet, a random red bulb resting silently in the middle of the room and one “innocent” looking kitty peering out at me from between the brightly lit branches. Not sure I’ll be able to crack this one.