Don’t forget to remove the cat when taking down your Christmas tree

image For our family, packing up the Christmas decorations is never easy. Not only because it means the official end of the holiday season, but also because it means it’s time to pry the cat out of the Christmas tree.

What makes this process especially difficult is sap. You see, it’s not until after spending the better part of December attached to the mid-section of our tree that our cat realizes she can no longer retract her claws.

A few years ago, this actually resulted in a front page story in the Weekly World News under the headline:

Holiday Tree sprouts CAT TUMOR!

It’s not like we haven’t tried to keep this tragedy from happening. In fact, we’ve even taken our cat to a pet psychologist, thinking that maybe she suffers from a traumatic experience that is somehow triggered by the site of Christmas trees — such as an unresolved conflict with a strand of tinsel. Continue reading

Full-contact bowling could get more men to yell at their TVs

(Around here, Sundays are for more than just sleeping in — and my kids make sure of that. It’s also the day I reach way, wayyyy back into the archives, arching my back like an Olympic gymnast in order to retrieve a post from a time when my total followers matched the number of people in my immediate family. On an unrelated note, I could use the name of a good chiropractor…)

Full-contact bowling could add a whole new meaning to the agony of defeat.

Full-contact bowling could add a whole new meaning to the agony of defeat.

Like millions of other red-blooded, unathletic men across America, I will spend a good portion of New Year’s Day sitting on the couch, eating handfuls of assorted snack foods, and whining every time a player from my team makes even the teeniest mistake.

It doesn’t matter that these men are performing feats of athletic skill I can only achieve in my dreams (after which I usually wake up with a pulled groin muscle.) And it doesn’t matter that each of these men possesses more muscle mass than my entire body weight plus a mid-sized SUV. Continue reading

Exciting tips on how to fail at your New Year’s writing resolutions

image No, we didn’t hit a time warp. And no, you aren’t just waking up from a rum-induced fog caused by fruitcake vapors. It really is FRIDAY! If you’re like me, and spent most of yesterday thinking it was Monday, this probably comes as a bit of a shock. Rest assured, being a journalist, I have verified this development through rigorous research and the help of my local Starbuck’s, where I was told it is Frappe’ Friday. That means in addition to saving .50 cents on a $9 coffee drink whose name sounds like a kitten getting sick, it’s also time for Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing — or my NWOW for short. Not that my NWOW has ever been called short.

At least in terms of word count.

For those who might be visiting for the first time, I should explain this is the day I draw upon my 15 years as a columnist to offer tips that Writer’s Digest recently called “… a shining example of why some writers go on to have successful careers as plumbers…” and what Tom Clancy has described as “The antithesis of precise literary implosion.”

I don’t know what that means exactly, but hey: Tom CLANCY said it! And that’s good enough for me.

But enough with the accolades! Continue reading

If at first you don’t succeed, I’ll meet you in Customer Service

image It was 10 years ago this week I found myself standing in line with approximately 800 other husbands (conservative estimate) who, like me, had been sent to return the Christmas gift they had gotten their wives.

I should probably point out that I’m not still waiting in that line and have since re-married. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

However, I can distinctly remember the experience for a number of reasons. First, because it’s rare to see so many men standing in line for something that isn’t leading to a sporting event, urinal or more beer.

Not necessarily in that order.

Secondly, I remember it because the loudspeaker, which was positioned directly over my head, played the same Christmas song 16 times. This was over the course of an hour, by the end of which I was making up lyrics I can’t print here. Continue reading

Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

A blogger friend named Randall recently posted a beautiful poem about taking time to recognize the magic in our lives. In his poem, he used snow as an analogy for the magic that is constantly swirling around us — and how, like snow, it can quickly melt away and go unnoticed unless we make an effort to see it. What follows is a Christmas tale based on a true-life experience. It’s a mixture of fact, whimsy, hope and my belief that a heartfelt wish is the cornerstone of life’s most important magical moments. That said, my thanks to all of you for sharing the magic every day…

image He looked very out of place sitting alone in the flight terminal, his arms folded over a Superman backpack, and large brown eyes peering out from beneath his baseball cap. A few seats away, a keyboard recital was being performed by a businessman wearing Bluetooth headphones and chastising someone at “headquarters” about overspending.

“I said gifts for the immediate staff only. That means Carl, Jody, Jessica and whats-her-name — the gal we hired last month,” he instructed, keyboard clattering continuously. “Yeah, her — Loni. But that’s it. I never said anything about the sales department. What? Of course you’re included with the immediate staff. Get yourself something.”

The boy shifted, causing his plastic chair to squeak a bit as he leaned toward the businessman. “Hey, Dad…”

For the first time, the man’s fingers left the keyboard, just long enough to wave his son to silence.

The boy obeyed, and hugged his backpack a little closer to his chest. Continue reading

I’m sorry, Colleen — you won a copy of my book. Can we still be friends?

imageDepending on how your office Christmas party went, some of you may remember last week’s Holiday Blog Hop, hosted by Gliterary Girl Media, and how fate — in the form of a random drawing involving nearly 50 names and a wild, blindfolded squirrel named “Skippy” — meant some unfortunate soul was going to win a free copy of my new book, Humor at the Speed of Life.

I’m here to report, after completing an arduous selection process with the help of “Skippy” (followed by a brief visit to the emergency room), an unsuspecting victim a lucky winner has been selected!

What is particularly exciting is that, even after being informed of what she won, Colleen at the blog Slow Writer is still willing to accept her prize! In fact, in that dizzying moment when she received the heart-pounding news, her exact words were: “Oh, great… Wait! Isn’t there a coupon for a free Bloomin’ Onion on the back?!?” Continue reading

Santa Summit prompts Greenland ‘No-Fly Zone’

(There are only THREE SHOPPING DAYS LEFT before Christmas! But HEY! it’s also Flashback Sunday! That means you have a decision to make: You can either leave now and ensure the happiness of those you love by joining the hordes of desperate shoppers fighting over the last copy of Battlefield 4, OR you can stay here and read this week’s Flashback, secure in the knowledge that your back-up present — Beyonce’s new album — will be available as a free gift with any purchase of a Happy Meal starting Christmas morning. Whichever you choose, please be careful…)

Santa's Christmas Eve will go a little quicker now that he can skip Greenland.

Santa’s Christmas Eve will go a little quicker now that he can skip Greenland.

What makes email great is that it’s so darned easy to use. For example: If you come across something that absolutely HAS TO BE SEEN by everyone you know — like say a picture of a cat doing chin-ups — you can simply click a button and send it to 100 people. Or in the case of my favorite aunt who still hasn’t mastered this process, you can send that very same knee-slapping picture to one person — such as your favorite nephew — 100 times.

The reason I bring this up is because, if not for email, I sincerely doubt someone from Midland, Mich., would’ve gone to the trouble of sending me a photo of 176 Santas standing on the deck of a fishing boat off the coast of Greenland (And YES, this is primarily the kind of email I get.)

I should mention that we were one of 50 newspapers that received the photo, which was part of an announcement letting people know that classes at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School had come to an end. Continue reading

One of the biggest mistakes in my life? The time I quit writing

image Hello and welcome to what Modern Blogger Magazine has called “The Most Popular Weekly Feature on the Internet, at least on Fridays, for sites named Ned’s Blog, and not counting porn sites with the same name.” I’m obviously VERY excited about this distinction! Although, not being one of those sites, my excitement is a little more discreet. Not to say my excitement isn’t enormous! It’s actually huge!

Wait… this isn’t coming out right at all. I just mean that if you could see me right now, you’d know I’m very happy… DANG IT! I’m going to quit while I’m a head.

Anyway, for those who might be visiting for the first time, assuming you are still reading after that opening, my Nickel’s Worth on Writing is that day each week when I take insights gained through 15 years as a newspaper columnist and offer them up, much like a sampler platter at Applebee’s, except without one of those mysterious extra crispy French fries mixed in with your chicken strips. In fact, my NWOW has been mentioned by best-selling author John Grisham as “The first place I go when I need ideas for new lawsuit stories.”

High praise indeed! But enough with the accolades! Continue reading

Before you buy that Christmas gift, ask Mr. Knowitall

image Since last month’s introduction of Mr. Knowitall, who is our resident historian, economist, food critic, movie reviewer, foreign affairs consultant, science correspondent, consumer products expert and vending machine repairman (not necessarily in that order), many of you have written in seeking advice about holiday gift-giving.

Due to the enormous volume of email we received, they will be answered through a lottery-style process — which means that, until he wins the lottery, Mr. Knowitall will continue to answer your questions.

So let us begin. Continue reading

Hold on to that knob! It’s time to revisit The Door in our newsroom

The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance): Sentinel of journalistic history and guardian of our commode since 1971.

The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance): Sentinel of journalistic history and guardian of our commode since 1971.

There’s no need to rub your eyes or splash cold water on your face! And you, the one banging your head with a ream of copy paper: Stop that.

What you’re seeing is REAL.

That truly is The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance), which is the most important door in our two-door newsroom. Not just because it leads to the commode, but also because it displays the best and worst examples of print journalism clipped and taped there by reporters at Siuslaw News since the 1970s. We like to think of The Door as the Smithsonian of journalistic history, except with the occasional sound of flushing. As I mentioned a couple of months ago when I closed The Door after it’s year-long run as a weekly feature here, I would re-open it under the following conditions:

1) A new example of print journalism Shame, Blame or Brilliance has been deemed worthy of inclusion

And

2) Our delivery guy, “Joe,” hasn’t used the commode in at least two days

As you’ve probably guessed by now, each of these incredibly strict criteria has been met! (And if you haven’t guessed that by now, a position in Walmart security is waiting for you.) What this means is that we will be participating in an extremely rare induction ceremony for The Door, which hasn’t occurred since running out of glue sticks and adhesives in the mid 1980s. Continue reading