Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Tips for A Felony-Free Holiday Season

Santa Being Arrested

   Last holiday season Uncle Jack showed up for Thanksgiving, which would have been great except that Uncle Shawn showed up too, which would also have been great—except that Uncle Jack voted for Hillary Clinton last November and Uncle Shawn voted for (you guessed it)—Donald Trump. And while no one was arrested, yelling was heard, insults were lobbed, and even a few ballistic F-bombs were dropped. Aunt Sophie had to cover her ears, little kids had to be rushed out of the room, and grandma had to be restrained from tanning both their hides since both were, well—too old.

   So much for a peaceful holiday dinner.

   This year, however, will be different. Uncles Jack and Shawn still aren’t speaking to one another (apparently as long as Senator Schumer isn’t talking to Speaker Ryan, Jack and Shawn aren’t communicating on principle). But they will be seated as far away from each other as possible in case someone brings up tax reform. However, since everyone attending Thanksgiving dinner this year is required to sign a pledge not to debate the health care debacle or the guilt/innocence of anyone accused of harassment, discrimination or looking crossed-eyed at others, we are hopeful that this holiday dinner might actually be pleasant.

   With this experience in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to outline a few tactics we all might want to keep in mind so that this dawn of the season of peace might actually be. Chances are we’re going to be seeing lots of folks that we might normally not see—whether we want to or not. And given certain personalities, it’s not out of the question that some conversations might go a little, well—nuclear. Meltdowns may occur. Poisoning of the atmosphere around your dinner table is not out of the question. Mass casualties are probable.  

   Except for you.

   You can be—if you’re forewarned and willing—the baking soda that neutralizes the meltdown.   

   “And just how would I do that?” you’re asking. “You don’t know my Uncle Ebenezer!”  Well, maybe not, but Uncle Eb takes many forms: Grandpa, your second cousin twice removed (for good reason), your ex, and Satan. We’ve all experienced Uncle Ebenezer at one time or another. So—what can you do when things begin to trend a little, shall we say, awkward?

   Change the topic. Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks so feel free to do that (except expressions of gratitude regarding who’s president or who’s not—try to avoid those). Religion is okay since God is, after all, the Reason for the Season; when discussing the Nativity story, everyone pretty much agrees with what happened on the first Christmas. Just don’t fight about whether the Wise Men got there in three days or three years; it doesn’t matter. And don’t get into things like whose pastor is the most long-winded, whether or not Christmas trees are Biblical, and for everyone’s sake, it doesn’t matter who wrote Silent Night—Catholic or Protestant—it’s now public domain.

   Keep your lips closed about what you won’t eat. Look, we’re all aware that glutton, sugar, red dyes, salt, fat, and processed foods cause much pain and suffering. We all know that non-organic fruits, vegetables, turkey, chicken, salmon, tuna, et cetera ad nauseam are more deadly than rat poison. We’ve read the 30-foot billboard warnings, seen the 60 Minutes exposé, and been indoctrinated since kindergarten. We’ve read the memos and have the “You Eat, You Die” t-shirt. We know that it only takes one meal once a year to kill us. We don’t need to hear about it at a holiday dinner. The fact is, someone has planned for days and slaved over a hot stove or turkey fryer for hours and odds are they’re not going to take kindly to enduring a lecture about how lethal their food is. Okay? Thank you.

   Avoid correcting anyone else’s kids! Honestly, it won’t go over well. Why? Well, the fact is that many parents who bring their kidlets to holiday functions expect everyone else to be envious that those little cherubs aren’t theirs. Now granted, this is often a subconscious illusion but, nonetheless, you do not want to be the one to burst that little bubble. So, no matter what the little darlings do or say, walk away. If you must comment on their behavior—let’s say they’re sticking a fork into an electrical outlet—you might want to approach it by casually commenting to mommy that their child is in a life-threatening situation. However, make certain you assure the parent that neither their child’s behavior nor your comment on it is in any way meant to reflect negatively on that child’s superior intelligence.

Santa Got Run Over By A Trike

   But—what to do if the parent corners you and begins bragging incessantly about their child(ren)? Not much you can do. Go to your happy place.

   So you’re wrong. Take the hit. No one has ever died from being accused of being wrong. (Well, only those on trial for capitol offenses but that’s not you. Probably.) If Uncle Ebenezer or his minions want to argue, just don’t. Instead, you might consider other options. You could agree with him. It’ll leave him speechless and you can make your escape. You could comment on how wonderfully behaved his children are. You’d be wrong again but—what the heck?

   DO NOT EVER COMMENT ON THE “BABY BUMP”! EVER.  That is, until someone informs you that there truly is a baby bump—then you may comment. However, tread lightly: never agree when the perspective mom complains that she looks like a beached whale. Don’t even nod. If she asks if she looks fat, the answer is an emphatic “no!” In fact, you couldn’t even tell she was pregnant. And whatever you do, don’t ask if she’s having twins.

   Now that you know the rules of engagement for a happy holiday get-together with family and friends, you can be the one to ensure that all goes smoothly and no one gets hurt. And when the going gets rough and you don’t know whether you can pull off the impossible, remember: it can’t be more difficult than making peace in the Middle East.

   Oh, and one more thing: under no circumstances should you cave to the temptation to roll your eyes.

   Now—have a Merry Thanksgiving, Happy Christmas and Peaceful Holiday Season!









It’s Entirely About What We Do Have.


How do you feel when you’re bombarded by perfection, every day, 24-7? How do you feel when you see perfect people – 60-year-old women with flawless skin, size zero bodies, and faces that would make Helen of Troy look like an old hag? Or what about when you hear of people making seven-figure incomes and stocking up on gold and silver or buying an island in the South Pacific just for something to do with all of their spare change? How about when you see “perfect” families – 2.5 exceptionally well-behaved children with IQ’s of 150 and 4.0 GPA’s – and two parents who still hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes after 35 years? How do you feel when you see people celebrating the holidays, joyfully singing carols with dozens of family and friends while sitting in front of a perfectly-browned turkey in a custom-built log cabin decorated entirely in Martha Stewart Thanksgiving.

Maybe not so good – or grateful.

Our society is saturated with “perfect” and, for the most part, completely unrealistic situations involving ideal people, families, careers, finances – you name it and it’s out there. By “out there,” I mean on television, in magazines, on the internet, on billboards – everywhere you look.  And unless we turn off all media and never go anywhere, we can’t escape it. And who does that?

The fact is that when we’ve spent our whole lives being inundated with the Big Lie – “you can and should be perfect” – it’s hard to look at our own faulty lives and be grateful. 

What if we don’t look like a rock star? What if we’re overweight or have wrinkles or thinning hair?  What’s the message? “Fix it!”  What if we don’t make six figures and have money to spend on gold, silver, cruises, winter homes in Florida or a brand new Lexus? What if we’re just barely making ends meet – or not even? What if we don’t even have a job? What if we don’t have the perfect family, all gathered together for the holidays – families who get along and laugh and care about each other?  What if our families are split up and live in different places or our family members won’t even speak to one another? What if our “perfect” children or parents or relatives – aren’t?

What then?

Sometimes around the holidays, it’s easy to get the impression that we got the short end of the stick or that something has gone very wrong because we don’t have all of the above. Somehow, during the holidays, everything that we don’t have or weren’t born with or haven’t achieved can suddenly seem so much more obvious – and excruciating. It’s no wonder that this time of year mental health pros are so much busier. People are depressed because the culture paints us a picture of how things “should” be. But they’re not. So maybe we don’t have the big house in the wealthy neighborhood.  That’s okay.

I remember one particular day many years ago when I was crying up a storm at not having a home of my own (like everyone else I knew). I was sobbing, the mascara was running and suddenly, in the midst of the pity party I was hosting, the Lord spoke to me.

“Look around your living room,” He said. “How big would you say it is?”

This can’t be good, I thought. It’s not like He doesn’t know.

“I don’t know. Maybe 18’ x 20’.”

“Do you know how many people in the world would give their right arms for a place that big? Do you know how many entire families in the world live in a total space not even that big?”


After that little chat, I wasn’t crying anymore. Instead, I’d learned a huge lesson: it’s not about what we don’t have; it’s about what we do have.

Compared to 90% of people in the rest of the world, Americans have it pretty good. Besides food, shelter and clothing, we have clean water at the touch of a tap, heat and hot water, and – although many kids complain about it – free K-12 education. Plus, in addition to the many material things that people in other countries don’t have access to, we also have freedoms – to speak, to worship, to assemble, and to make choices in our lives that the citizens of many other countries don’t have the privilege of making for themselves or for their children.

We take so much for granted.

But today, I’m grateful for so much: for God, my country and my family (imperfect as we all are), my home, the food we have every day, my job, my friends – I am so blessed. So this Thanksgiving, my prayer is that the Lord will bless you and your family, many times over.

More importantly, on this day of thanks, may we be truly grateful and may we bless the Lord for all that He has given us.




Do Not Eat the Rubber Cookies . . .

festival-of-trees-display  Last Thursday, I missed my regular mid-week post and many of you were sweet enough to wonder why. Good news – nothing is wrong. (There is no bad news.) The thing is that at one point in time, I agreed to be our district’s faculty association community relations’ person, which means I get to do all of the event planning for our teacher union. What was I thinking?? Some years, three of those events happen to fall in the same week. This was one of those years. So – it’s just been a really crazy week. And I have the pics to prove it. Here’s a sample.

Monday: Tagged and delivered 155 SPA gifts all around thehfa-mug school district. Since Tuesday was Support Professionals’ Appreciation Day, our teachers’ union (HFA) gives gifts to the district’s employees’ union. This year, I decided it might be a nice idea to order mugs so that (the idea being) every time our staff members use theirs, they remember (hopefully) how much we teachers appreciate everything they do for us. The fact is that those are the people who really run things and keep us all sane – no easy task. They actually all deserve Metals of Honor and combat pay. I wish I could make that happen. I will make sure they all end up on Santa’s “nice” list.

Tuesday: Finished shopping for the HFA gift basket and HFA Christmas tree that we donate to various fundraising events. Every year, our school district organizes a Christmas Bureau carnival where dozens of donated baskets are raffled off to raise money for a huge giveaway of food and Christmas presents to help families in our district. The carnival happens the weekend before Thanksgiving and that money is then used to buy the food and presents which we give away the week before Christmas. Last year, we gave food and gifts to over 170 families. In addition, the HFA Christmas tree is donated to the Festival of Trees which is a community Christmas fundraiser; at the festival, donated trees are auctioned off to raise money as well.hfa-basket-i

Wednesday: Packed and wrapped the (above-mentioned) basket. Of course, I couldn’t find a basket bag big enough so it was back to the stores I went.

Everything always takes longer than I think it will. (Must be a time-warp law or something.)

This year, I did a “Country Christmas” theme, imagining that I could find tickets to some December country music concert somewhere. Know what I found out? There aren’t any. That’s how Blake Shelton and a bunch of his CD buddies ended up in the basket.

Thursday: Got home from parent-teacher conferences at 7pm (somewhat dazed) and then finished decorating the Christmas tree. Every year the organization sponsoring the Festival of Trees designates a theme for the trees and this year the theme was gingerbread men (and women). I decided it might be fun, along with the gingerbread people, to decorate the tree in all kinds of candy. At least, it sounded fun. Things I learned: gingerbread marshmallow peeps don’t really look good with a hook through them. And since I refused to bake gingerbread cookies (I don’t have the cookie-baking gene), I found out that you can buy fake rubber gingerbread cookie ornaments at the Christmas Tree Shoppe. Where else, right? (Although I probably should’ve posted a “Do Not Eat” warning on them.) The other thing I found out is how long it takes to hook candy onto a tree. “How long could it take?” I asked myself, planning to be done in time for a little Thursday night NFL action. I found out it takes over three hours. Turns out the ornament hooks like to tear the delicate little candy wrappers.hfa-tree

Did I mention the parent-teacher conferences till 6pm? These are the conferences where generally the parents who show up aren’t the ones you really need to see. Except for a couple of them. Two moms arrived with their sons who had, it turns out, a totally different version of how they behave in my class than I have. And the moms had never heard my version. That was fun.

Friday: Delivered the basket to the Carnival and the tree to the Festival of Trees. Since I have a 45-minute commute to school, I gave up trying to keep the tree vertical after five minutes. Luckily, I had it wrapped in plastic. Fast-forward to later that evening – I was happily on my way to a friend’s birthday party when I learned something else: never, never try to drive anywhere in Syracuse a half hour before a Syracuse University basketball game at the Dome. Unless you have a tank full of gas and three books on tape. You’re going to need them.

hfa-gingerbread-manSaturday: After a fun event at church, and then running up to school to visit the Christmas Carnival and the Festival of Trees, I decided to stop at the store and pick up a few things….

Now by this time, rumors were swirling like snowflakes around Central New York of a major Lake Effect event to hit most of upstate New York on Sunday afternoon and lasting through Monday evening. (For those of you south of the Mason-Dixon, that means lots of snow, lots of wind, lots of white-out conditions.) Now, I’m for anything causing a snow day (short of nuclear winter) but usually such rumors don’t pan out. Anything less than a foot of snow usually gets us nothing – unless accompanied by lots of wind and whiteouts. So – given that the temp had been 65 degrees when I left in the morning (wearing flip-flops) and had dropped twenty-five degrees between 2 and 4pm, we began to think that perhaps the Forecasters had gotten it right this time. This meant that, between turkey shopping and the impending Snowpocalyse, the stores were jammed with crazy people. Just what I needed. However, noting the rapid, minute-by-minute decline in frozen Butterballs, I decided I’d better grab one while there was still one to be had. Who knew when they’d shoot more?

Eventually, I made it home and the week ended. Mugs, baskets, trees, and birthday presents had all been delivered, and the after-school tutoring had gotten done. (Did I mention that that goes on for two hours every night?) And I am happy to report that no one was injured, maimed or (accidently) killed in the process. Even the gingerbread men survived. This morning was church (where I might have repented for anything I may or may not have said or done this week), and now here I sit, watching the radar and calculating the odds of a snow day. 

Just a break in the action before the real fun begins….