White and Wrong – A kindly indictment

Anybody who knows me will tell you I’m totally Mr. Christmas.


I’m jolly, for one thing, and, as a “winter”, I look sharp in red. I also drink deeply from the cup of human kindness when thirsty, love getting free stuff, and harbor no fear of reindeer such that are properly restrained.

True, nobody who knows me ever calls me Mr. Christmas to my face, possibly because they also know I’m uncomfortable with praise, being subject to so very much of it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t apply that tender title to me outside of my hearing. It just fits, because I love everything about Christmas.

Okay, so I’m not crazy about unloading precious monies better spent on myself obtaining gifts for people who’ve possessed everything they could ever wear, watch, read, hear, and play since I gave it to them at least a dozen Christmases past.

And sure, I could do without the herd of relations flying in from all Creation, looking for a weeks-worth of sit-down suppers, messing up my guest beds and persistently trying to “catch up” in the middle of my favorite television shows.

For that matter, it kind of sticks in my Craw of Peace and Brotherhood that the networks routinely dump all of my favorite television shows each December, replacing them with syrupy seasonal fare that invariably looks cheap and canned in reruns.

And I admit to feeling a twinge of Grinch everytime some Kringle-Come-Lately throws on a free-with-your-fill-up Santa Hat and carries on like they’re Mr. Christmas, when anybody who knows me will tell you they couldn’t muster a fraction of my legendary cheer on their best day.

And then there’s the weather, which usually stinks.

On the other hand, I love Christmas lights.

A lot.

Maybe too much.

Christmas lights are the reason for the season, as far as I’m concerned. Inexpensive to purchase and to operate, the smallest string transforms the blandest landscape into a glittering realm of beauty and wonder. The monotonous paths of our lives are made splendid, the everyday enchanting, the dreary delightful and the mundane marvelous.

I will flatter myself to say that I put on a pretty decent display, myself. I do it in part for myself, because it makes coming home after dark even more agreeable than usual, and partly because Peter, my brother and Cohort in Christmas, wouldn’t hesitate to flay my hide clean off if I didn’t, but mostly I think of dressing up the house in its holiday finest as my own little gift to the neighborhood. It pleases my generous heart to think of the grateful smile that must touch my neighbors’ pursed lips as, wending their weary way home after a long day of drudgery and disappointment, they spy my fanciful handiwork through its encircling veil of trees and spontaneously recommit themselves to Charity and Good Works, and – then and there – decide to bite the bullet and pay for the costly and life-saving medical treatment so desperately needed by whomever passes for Tiny Tim in their impoverished household.

It’s my gift to the world, really, because Tiny Tim could grow up to invent some boon to all Mankind, like bacon-flavored toothpaste, or self-applicating toilet paper. You’re welcome in advance.

I confess that, driving down my street of a December night, I feel a warmth and solicitude toward those of my neighbors thoughtful enough to cheer my passage, and take disapproving note of those so dim of spirit or black of heart that they can’t be bothered. But there’s a third group on my street, and on every street, and they’re the ones to whom I direct this impassioned epistle. I’m talking about you white-light people.


One month a year you get to wreath your colorless hovels in sparkling splendor, and you choose white lights. For 31 too-short days you can illuminate your benighted lives in every shade of joy, and you put up white lights. After feasting upon the incandescent banquet that I have laid for you, you go home and plug in a string of white lights.

How is that right?

I mean, don’t you white-light people get enough undifferentiated visual stimulation every other day, hour and minute of the year? Every lamp in your house is white. The flourescent bulbs at your office are white. Car headlights are white. Streetlights are white. Flashlights are white. Your Coleman propane lantern burns white. Even the sun – the sun – is little more than a koo-koo-kajillion-watt, thermo-nuclear yard light bathing the Earth in an inexhaustible stream of radiant vanilla pabulum and keeping the solar system up at all hours.

Show some imagination, is all.

In my book, white lights aren’t properly Christmas lights at all. They’re just really tiny reading lights that you can’t possibly read by. They’re an affront to the concept of Christmas decoration. A broken promise. A cheat.

“Icicle” lights? Who do you think you’re trying to kid? They don’t look any more like icicles than Cindy Lou Who looks like a Bumble.

“Star” lights? Last time I checked, stars come in a variety of designer colors like blue giants, red dwarfs, and green clovers. Truly, you mock the very Cosmos.



I’m not trying to make trouble.

I’m not proposing that Congress enacts laws criminalizing the sale, possession and use of white “Christmas” lights, and if they did anyway I would be among the first to call for moderate sentencing guidelines for persons convicted on such charges.

It’s Christmas, after all.

I’m not asking for Peace on Earth, or a 92-inch plasma, although I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the plasma. I’m just asking for a shade more creativity. You’ve got the whole spectrum to choose from. Be the rainbow.

I’m begging you.

Color my world.

Making the Best of Holiday Stress

The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing others’ loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas.

W. C. Jones







At the risk of agreeing with a certain tight-fisted crank out of a Dickens novel, it may be a good thing the Holidays come but once a year.

After all, every cheerfully gift-wrapped package you place under the Christmas tree with care takes a bite out of your butter and egg money; every office party and mall crawl takes a bite out of your increasingly precious time; and, with every savory bite of turkey and all the gravy-soaked trimmings, the only thing you seem to have more of is yourself.

According to an American Psychological Association (APA) poll, most people point to lack of money as their chief holiday headache, followed in close order by the pressures of gift-giving, lack of time, and credit card debt. As if that weren’t enough coal in the national stocking, one-fifth of Americans worry that the holiday blues could damage their health, which isn’t surprising since 36 percent admit self-treating the problem with food and/or booze, two front-end fixes that commonly yield a freight of new frets down the road. Happily, there are plenty of effective remedies for seasonal stress that don’t involve either saturated fats or lampshade hats.

Meditation-at-Pure-Hot-Yoga“Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing,” counsels the APA. “Taking care of yourself helps keep your mind and body primed to deal with stressful situations.”

A solid 45 percent of Americans list exercise as their preferred stress-busting strategy. Got a house full of cranky relatives? Run away to the gym and let them resolve the great LED vs incandescent debate without you. Can’t face another minute of combat-shopping at Southwest Plaza? Most local wilderness trails are free, and there’s never a line.

Given the spirit of the season, it’s entirely appropriate that 44 percent of Americans banish their Christmas cares with religious and spiritual activities. If the holidays traditionally entail a whole raft of onerous duties and responsibilities, they also provide endless opportunities for both inspiration and quiet reflection. Special church observances, holiday concerts and programs, and even cable reruns of Perry Como Christmas specials can help the harried rise above the mundane and profane and appreciate the season’s more eloquent messages.

Finally, and as difficult as it may be, what with lights to string and cards to write and hams to glaze, the best antidote to winter worries is simply to get over yourself. You may be frustrated and fatigued, but at least you’ve got the strength to get up in the morning and a warm bed to collapse into each night.

“…Focus outward rather than inward,” advises Candy Arrington, writing for CBN.com. “Realize that you are not the only one struggling during the holidays. There are many others who are sad, depressed and lonely. Even though you might not feel like exerting yourself, push yourself to find a way to offer an act of service for an elderly or disabled person in your church or community.”

Turns out, the “season of giving” is called that for a very good reason. It’s hard to get uptight about the mote in your own eye when your attention is on the plank in somebody else’s.

“When you find a way to improve someone’s day, two things will happen,” explains the online Family Education Network. “One, you’ll forget your own worries for a while, perhaps even putting them in better perspective, and, two, you’ll feel a rush of confidence as you make a difference in someone’s life.”




Holiday Habits


For lo’, he hath said it

“Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.”  ~ Mark Twain




Please understand that Mr. Twain wasn’t talking about your traditional Christmas customs, but those of unnamed others who lack your refined taste, deep perception and admirable sense of decorum.

This is an important distinction, because the Holidays are largely the sum of their traditions and it wouldn’t do to think you’re going to spend the next two-score and 10 days engaged in absurdity and foolishness. Not like Rosie O’Donnell, who attires her entire tribe in brand-new matching jam-jams every Christmas morning, or like Martha Stewart, who tricks out her dogs in velvet and cubic zirconia. Pop-singer and holiday heretic Lance Bass deep-fries a turkey, if you can believe it, which of course you can’t, being naturally above such vulgarities.



But that’s not to say you don’t know somebody who falls into the traditionally-challenged class. Somebody with mistletoe headgear, for instance, or an otherwise sober-minded and upstanding neighbor who invites you over every year for the sole and only purpose of bringing you within pestering distance of a dusty plastic trout that sings “Run, Run, Rudolph”. Somebody, in short, who could use a few Yule-timely pointers on keeping Christmas well. For those unfortunates, we are pleased to offer the following examples of Proper Holiday Comportment as described by persons of recognized gravity and discernment.


Like quiche you can eat with a straw

Like quiche you can eat with a straw

“There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime.  Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.” ~ P.J. O’Rourke



“One thing we always do is make cabbage rolls for Christmas dinner,” says Hiwan resident Barbara Melinkovich, without even a hint of shame or self-consciousness. “My husband’s parents are Croatian, and it’s a tradition over there.”

Well so is drinking beer seasoned with rosemary, but that doesn’t make it right. Would you like revise your statement?

Presents best left wrapped

Presents best left wrapped

“We make the cabbage rolls the day before, and on Christmas Day we all go ice-skating on a pond near our house, then come home and cook them for dinner.”

Much better. Pond-skating is an excellent Christmas tradition and worthy of general emulation. You should probably lead with that next time.

Encouraged by Malinkovich’s success, her sister, Sally Kennedy, steps up to the hearth.

“I know it sounds silly,” offers Kennedy, “but when we were kids we always had a Christmas parade.”

I think you mean you attended a Christmas parade.

“No, we had one. Before the kids could open their presents, we would have our own little Christmas parade around the house. We didn’t dress up or anything, just in our pajamas, or whatever. I told you it was kind of silly.”

Kind of genius, more like – all the fun of Macys without all the product placement and inane color-commentary. Kennedy’s delightful tradition earns four candy canes out of a possible five.

At first unclear on the concept, 10-year-old Hailey Brown eventually tumbles on a near-universal tradition that is at once festive and illuminating.

“Me and my sister wake up first, and then we have to wait until grandma and grandpa wake up,” explains Hailey, keeping track of the precise sequence of Christmas-morning events on the fingers of her left hand. “Then they say ‘wait until we get ready’, and we wait, and then, when they’re ready, we go downstairs and open presents.”

Yes, Hailey, frustration is a holiday tradition. Deal with it.


Battle noelle

Battle Noel

“Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall”.Dave Barry



“We bake cookies,” says Theresa Howell, getting ready to launch a rare November fishing expedition on Evergreen Lake. Her husband, Brian, sees to the tackle while daughters Ella, 5, and Sylvia, 2, perform ballast duties in the family canoe. “I buy pounds of butter,” Theresa laughs.

Since one pound of butter yields approximately four times its weight in pure merriness, the Howell place must be pretty cheery by mid-December.

“We also celebrate Saint Nicholas Day in our house, so the girls kind of get two Christmases.”

You have my undivided attention. Please continue.



“It’s a German holiday on Dec. 6. We all put out our shoes at night and Saint Nicholas leaves something in them. It’s usually nothing big – a little craft-book, or something.”

“It tides them over till Christmas,” grins Brian.

Glad tidings, indeed. For extending the magic of Christmas back almost three full weeks, the Howell’s are hereby awarded a silver Star of Bethlehem with holly-leaf cluster. Across the way, Diane Pieper and her granddaughters are wrapping up a pleasant morning’s lake-walk.

“We always take food and toys down to some poor kids in Denver,” says 9-year-old Taylor. “It’s nice because otherwise they wouldn’t get anything. I also get to see some friends I don’t get to see any other time.”

It’s the perfect Holiday tradition, really. Does good and feels good. You’re to be commended, Taylor, for…

“And guess what?” bursts out her sister, 6-year-old Jordan. “One time she had all these stuffed animals – they were Beanie Babies – and that’s all – but there were a whole lot of them – and she gave them all away!”

My, that’s certainly a selfless…

Celebrity sighting

Celebrity sighting

“And guess what else? One time it was nighttime, and we saw a red light and a green light, and I think the red light was Rudolph’s red nose!”

How truly wondrous to witness…

“And guess what else? Every year we pet the reindeer. We pet Rudolph and Dancer. I like Dancer, but Rudolph is the best one!”

If Denver could harness Jordan’s holiday spirit, the City and County Building would be visible from Neptune.

Brook Forest resident Greg Konigsbauer and his two young’uns are enjoying the unseasonably fine weather at the Stagecoach Park playground. Technically, the Konigsbauer clan begins its Christmas observances on Dec. 21.

“That’s Charlotte’s birthday, so we have all the kids in the neighborhood over for cinnamon buns,” says Greg. “Since her birthday is so close to Christmas, it’s our way of making sure she gets something special.”

Traditionalists might argue that Charlotte’s cinnamon social is more correctly a birthday tradition, but we won’t. And just so there won’t be any hurt feelings, we should point out that not all Konigsbauer Christmas activities are traditionally ambiguous.

“We always watch ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’.”

Okay, so lots of families do that, but not every family has 3-year-old Charlotte, a giggling little sprite who could be Cindy Lou Who’s stunt double. And if that’s not enough reason to stick with a fine tradition, Charlotte’s energetic 6-year-old brother, Jack, offers his own deeply personal and logically unassailable reason for making the Grinch a regular holiday visitor.

“Green is my favorite color,” Jack says, earnestly. “And blue. Green and blue.”


That's the stuff...

That’s the stuff…

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” ~ Dr. Seuss

Because Gratitude Matters

goose6Come closer, children, give an ear
A tale is told this time of year
About good Christians full of cheer
Which I will tell apace

Be still and hush and take a seat
Down here beside my slippered feet
And learn why always, ‘ere you eat
To say a word of grace

The Barrows were a Godly crew
Right and righteous, true and blue
They occupied the foremost pew
Each Sunday without fail

 At Christmas-tide they hit their stride
Gath’ring near from far and wide
And in their father’s house abide
The newborn King to hail

‘Twas not so very long ago
a-trudging through the crunchy snow
The Barrows came to table so
To eat their Christmas feast

Candied yam, stuffing, dinner roll
Potato drifts, both mashed and whole
Savory green-bean casserole
Cinnamon apple juice

The sideboard groaned with toothsome fare
And gleaming silver dinnerware
And basted with surpassing care
A jolly Christmas goose

Despite the bounty on both flanks
The Barrows in their pious ranks
Forgot to offer words of thanks
For reasons not pursued

They had no sooner taken seats
Than reached for greens and meats and sweets
Pled little Tim “Let’s first entreat!”
But none were in the mood

As Grandpa rose to carve the bird
Abundant helpings seemed assured
When of a sudden there was heard
A yummy crackling sound

The goose lay squirming on its plate
An entrée oddly animate
Imbued with a malicious hate
For all the Barrows ‘round

On drumsticks baked a golden brown
It first brought luckless Grandpa down
Ripped out the throat beneath his frown
Then leapt for Aunt Lenore

 Her pretty face in ribbons fell
Her piquant giblets pureed well
More quickly than the eye could tell
Her dress was soaked in gore

It ate the heart of Uncle Phil
Filleted his wife with vicious will
When Cousin Buck went through the mill
His guts oozed out like clay

And thus it went, around the room
Each Barrow meeting bloody doom
The sav’ry fowl a savage broom
Their lives to sweep away

An age it seemed to little Tim
His cup of terror filled to brim
And shiv’ring in his every limb
As kith and kin were flayed

 At last an awful silence fell
As loud as any funeral bell
And Tim surveyed the festive hell
Upon the table laid

Aunt Effy was a total loss
Eye-sockets stuffed with cran’bry sauce
Her braided hair now dental floss
Her tongue was in her ear

Brother Jubel was coarsely ground
The carving knife stood from his crown
In rich brown gravy he was drown
A horror without peer

On every side Tim’s family
Lay sliced and diced most expertly
The Barrow Clan, except for he
Had sung its last Noel

Lo! there upon its polished tin
Reclined the goose who’d orphaned him
Still crispy outside, moist within
Waiting the supper bell

Its vengeful angel having fled
And cleansing anger put to bed
The lethal bird was simply dead
And seasoned to a tee

Tim clasped his hands and bowed to pray
“Lord, bless this dinner, anyway”
And that made everything okay
A simple courtesy

He seized a drumstick, tore it loose
Pulled up a chair, parked his caboose
“If none of you is having goose
I guess that’s more for me!”

And such, my dears, may be the lot
Of all whom breaking bread will not
Thank Providence for what they’ve got
On merry Christmas Day

goose-graceNow everyone, get on your feet
The table’s set, go take your seat
But if you’re smart, before you eat
You’ll find a word to say