Real Men Are Always In Control — Of Themselves, Not Others

Brother Jon’s Page over at Stories That Must Not Die gave me the honor of running my post on domestic abuse today. With the New Year approaching, I truly hope these thoughts can inspire someone to end or leave the cycle of abuse in 2015. Tragedy is the flipside of comedy; they are entwined — and this post is my personal flipside… My best wishes to all of you in the New Year

Stories that Must Not Die

Anyone who reads my weekly newspaper column or blog posts knows I try to keep life in perspective through humor. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the reasons my children are still alive today. While I joke about that, for many years humor was also part of a coping mechanism from a childhood witnessing both verbal and physical abuse by the men in my family — specifically, my father and older brothers.

The good news is that each of them eventually turned themselves, their lives and the lives of the people they loved, around. It wasn’t until I became a father that I realized the impact that a childhood witnessing abuse had on me, and how some of those wounds — as both a witness and recipient — had never truly healed.

I know this because I occasionally saw reflections of my father and brothers in myself as I…

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Portion control probably won’t be one of my New Year’s resolutions

image I won’t graze before my meal,
I refuse to overeat, doggone it;
I swear to stop feeding my face
at some point before I vomit.

I had repeated this mantra to myself in preparation for the Christmas holiday meal, hoping to curb my normal routine of eating so much that I’m forced to change my breathing pattern to something that sounds like a cheetah in heat.

In the past, I’ve simply given in and accepted my fate, preparing for it by wearing one of those long sweaters which hides the fact that, once my pants are unbuttoned, the only thing holding them up is a small strip of packaging tape on each hip — a technique which allows my new center of gravity to shift, and therefore keep me from toppling into the gravy boat when leaning across the dinner table.

It was while standing in line at the hardware store with a roll of double-sided, maximum-hold packaging tape that I had an epiphany — a life-changing moment sparked by two important realizations:

• First, I was setting myself up for failure by purchasing the tape.
And second,
• I’d forgotten my wallet at home. Continue reading Portion control probably won’t be one of my New Year’s resolutions

If at first you don’t succeed, I’ll meet you in customer service

[BEEP] Hi, this is Ned. I’m out of the blog-o-sphere today and probably curled up with an empty carton of egg nog and a pile of Almond Roca wrappers. But if you’ll leave your name, blog and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can think coherently which, coincidentally, is one if my New Year’s resolutions! Happy Holidays! [BEEP]…

image It was many Christmases ago when 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 If at first you don’t succeed, I’ll meet you in customer service

Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

Last year, a blogger friend named Randall 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 that I tell each year on Christmas Eve. 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 sincere 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. Continue reading Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

Deck the brawls (A Christmas tale…sort of)

image If you think trying to explain to your child why there are two Santas on the same city block is hard…

You see, dear, there is a thing called the space-time continuum….


You’ve never heard of Santa’s twin brother…?

…try explaining why those same two Santas are in a back alley, jabbing red-mittened fists at each other.

That was my job one Christmas Eve many years ago as my daughter and I did a little window gazing in Portland. We’d come to see the lights and shop displays in the hope of starting our own holiday tradition. Instead, we stumbled onto a pair of brawling Santas as we crossed an alleyway in downtown.

“Hey Dad, LOOK!” my daughter exclaimed, pointing her tiny finger at them.

We both froze; her out of confusion, me out of fatherly fear.

This is going to be one of those life-altering parental moments, I thought to myself. My answer could either comfort her in later years, or gradually transform her into a serial killer. Continue reading Deck the brawls (A Christmas tale…sort of)

Santa Summit prompts Greenland ‘No-Fly Zone’

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.) Continue reading Santa Summit prompts Greenland ‘No-Fly Zone’

We did something special together (Don’t worry, it’s ok to tell)

Thanks to your help, some families in my area will have a brighter Christmas.
Thanks to your help, some families in my area will have a brighter Christmas.

As many of you know, I was at Fred Meyer on Saturday for a special book-signing fundraiser for Siuslaw Outreach Services, a local organization that provides assistance to abused woman and children, and families in need.

Yes, I realize this is a humor blog and I am a humor columnist, and so far you haven’t laughed once. Keep in mind I’m a professional, so you can trust me when I say it gets funnier.

But not before it gets a little mushy.

On Thursday last week, our office manager Misty handed me letters from Katherine in Minnesota, Michelle in Kansas and Matt in Ohio.

“Look at Mr. Popular,” she said. “Looks like your parole officers finally found you.” Continue reading We did something special together (Don’t worry, it’s ok to tell)

North Korean hackers issue latest threat!


imageEmboldened by their success thwarting the release of Sony Pictures’ controversial comedy The Interview, North Korean hackers issued another threat just moments ago warning of an attack “should anyone ever play a Justin Bieber song again. Ever. Anywhere.”

In an unprecidented move, world leaders from 120 countries immediately met and unanimously agreed to sign a pact keeping the digital airwaves “in all its forms, including our kids’ iPods and Smartphones” free of Justin Bieber music.

“It’s just not worth the risk,” said one world leader. “Gee, I sure hope they don’t make a threat about the new season of ‘American Idol’ or another ‘Hangover’ movie.” Continue reading North Korean hackers issue latest threat!

Learn to distill story ideas like a moonshiner

Moonshine books copy Ok, so let’s suppose you’ve read every weekly Nickel’s Worth On Writing I’ve posted here during the last two years. And let’s also suppose you aren’t my mother. That means you understand the importance of developing a voice, know the tools you need to establish that voice, are prepared to send your work to potential publishers, have established a writing routine and are now sitting at the keyboard ready to write!


…um, but about what?

As a writer, recognizing and developing story ideas is your bread and butter. Or biscuits and gravy, depending on your proximity to the Mason-Dixon line. The point is, whether you are a romance novelist, sci-fi short story writer or weekly columnist, generating ideas — and recognizing the difference between good ones and not-so-good ones (There are no bad ideas in my opinion, and I’ll explain that in a bit) — is the most important skill you must develop. Continue reading Learn to distill story ideas like a moonshiner

Just a random moment of parental pride

As my wife and I attended our youngest daughter’s final holiday choir concert as a middle schooler, we listened as three different soloists sang “Let It Go.”

Our daughter wasn’t one of them.

It was quite possibly our proudest moment as parents.

This is as close to "Frozen" as I like to get.
This is as close to “Frozen” as I like to get.