Don’t let fruitcake anxiety ruin your holidays

imageNote: In observance of National Fruitcake Appreciation Day today, I thought I’d offer this rum-laced flashback…

Recent studies show that anxiety during the holidays is not only common but, in many cases, the result of FDAD — Fruitcake Disposal Anxiety Disorder. On one hand, your fruitcake is often given as a gift and therefore deserving of some measure of appreciation. On the other hand, you may have already tossed it into your neighbor’s yard, where it has become a chew toy for their pit bull.

This often leads to feelings of anxiety, particularly when you see “Buster,” still intoxicated with rum, struggling to dislodge the sugar loaf from his tightly-clenched jaws.

So, as a service to our readers, we assembled a group of psychiatrists to help provide insight into dealing with FDAD. At a cost of more than $200 an hour, we held an informative, three-minute discussion to create the following self-help guide:

I’m OK — You’re OK. But Give Me a Fruitcake and I’ll Kill You.

What follows is an easy, four-step guide to help FDAD sufferers control their fruitcake anxiety.  Continue reading

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Men: Hurry and return the dumb gift you got your wife!

imageMany years ago, I bought my wife an Epilady shaver for Christmas. Because it was a sleek, modern, electrical device costing over $50, there was no reason to suspect it would feel like someone had just ripped the hair out of her legs using Super Glue and a roll of duct tape. While I’m sure I’ve gotten my wife gifts she didn’t really like, she’s always accepted them graciously. But in this case, as she chased me through the house completely naked and swiping at my scalp with her new Epilady, two things came to mind:

1) She really hates this gift,
And
2) I shouldn’t have gotten her the cordless model.

Now, before I get an angry letter from Park Products, Inc., I should clarify that this was a long time ago, and I’m sure the latest model is a vast improvement over the one my wife hurled through our bathroom window.  Continue reading

Special Delivery: A cautionary Christmas tale

A blogger friend named Randall Willis once posted a beautiful poem that I’m always reminded of this time of year. 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 around Christmas. 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 in your own way, every day…
_______________________________________________________________

imageHe 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 what’s-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

Supporting a friend with the help of a crazed squirrel

It was crazed squirrels, not the police, who drove Thelma and Louise into the Grand Canyon.

Yesterday, I posted “I just found a squirrel in my car” as my Facebook status. I did this as part of a Breast Cancer Awareness movement on social media. Before long, those who weren’t aware of the movement began to leave panicked comments like, “What the @#$% is HAPPENING?!? People are finding squirrels in their cars EVERYWHERE!! Do they want our NUTS?!? Are they RUSSIAN?!? CANADIAN?!? High on ROCKSTAR?!?”

To anyone currently locked in a safe room eating military grade rations after reading thousands of “squirrel” statuses, I apologize. However, it doesn’t mean the squirrel threat isn’t real.

Several years ago while visiting the Grand Canyon, my chance to enjoy one of the world’s greatest natural wonders was marred by an unprovoked squirrel attack. Anyone who’s been there can tell you that the park is completely over run by hordes of crazed, hyperactive squirrels. It’s gotten so bad that the park service installed coin-operated food dispensers, the idea being that tourists could feed the squirrels while remaining blissfully unaware that the pellets were, in effect, simply a diversion meant to save their lives.

The problem is that the squirrels are now SICK of these pellets, which tourists still purchase, but now hurl directly at the squirrels while fleeing back to their cars. In most cases, they never get to see the Grand Canyon at all, choosing instead to escape by turning their windshield wipers on high and dislodging enough squirrels to navigate their way into the nearest Sequoia patch.

(Movie note: Thelma & Louise originally ended with them eluding the police, then tragically plunging into the Grand Canyon in a hail of gun fire, food pellets and flailing squirrels.) Continue reading

If you’re a writer, join the club! (At NSNC, I mean)

imageHey, let’s be honest.

Being a writer is weird.

Most people, given a choice between writing a 200-word essay or being taised in the bare buttocks, would drop their pants before you can say “It was a dark and stormy nigh-AAAAAggghhh!”

Particularly in today’s faced-paced, text-speak oriented world of social media shorthand, the thought of spending hours toiling over words in order to convey an idea, feeling or moment is — in the words of Master of Horror® Stephen King — “A little creepy. But I like it.”

Several years ago, I let my membership to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists lapse. As a result, publishers stopped taking my calls; I entered into a period of writer’s blockage similar to eating a two-pound brick of cheddar; thousands unfriended me on Facebook; I burned my pizza; the list goes on.

Ok, fine. None of that happened, although I did burn a pizza.

Coincidence? We’ll never know for sure.  Continue reading

Sorry, I’ve been incapacitated lately as an Elvis-obsessed elf

imageI’ve been called a lot of things in my life, many of which I can’t say here because of this blog’s questionable G-rating.

However, until a few weeks ago, I’d never been called “Elfis,” which is the name of an Elvis-obsessed elf I’m playing in our community theater’s production of “Ho-Ho-Hollywood.”

In fact, being involved in this show has introduced me to a lot of firsts in my life. For example, wearing a bell-bottomed jumpsuit with a teddy bear embroidered on the cape.

Also, I’ve never stuffed mini Christmas lights down my pants so that I can “light up” when necessary — something that caused one theater goer to ask another, “I wonder what Ned has in his pants?”

Yes, for those in the front row, I can hear you.

While we’re at it, having someone wonder what’s in my pants is also a new experience for me.   Continue reading

Before you buy that Christmas gift, ask Mr. Knowitall

imageSince the 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.

Dear Mr. Knowitall: Do those electronic muscle stimulators really help trim fat and tone muscles?
Really hope so in Reedsport

Dear Really: As you know, the principle behind the device is the utilization of a continuous sequence of small shocks that stimulates muscle activity, similar to your body’s own natural electrical impulses. An easy way to think of it is to visualize a car and its battery. Now visualize the car, the battery — and a pair of jumper cables clamped to your buttocks as someone starts the engine. While there’s no scientific proof this will trim fat and build muscle, studies show that most people find themselves stimulated enough to go to the gym after one session.  Continue reading

Low-calorie holiday treats that won’t cause diarrhea!

image Unless you’re a hyperactive nine-year-old fueled by Pixie Sticks and Hostess Cupcakes without an ounce of concern for weight-gain because concern is the ONLY ounce you’re going to gain this holiday season, then you’re like the rest of us trying to get through the next six weeks without looking like Jabba the Hutt’s stunt double.

What this means is finding a healthy balance between satisfying your God-given right to partake in all of those delicious holiday treats while, at the same time, adhering to the God-given Commandment to avoid gluttony.

Yes, the Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways. Take fruitcake for example…

No, seriously. Please take mine.

That’s because over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing quick and easy holiday recipe tips that are both low-calorie and delicious! And not just because “quick and easy” is my pet name.

Today, I am going to show you how to make a cup of hot chocolate that you can drink as an alternative to buttered rum or egg nog, which are not only high in calories but, depending on the alcohol content, can lead to makinge a snow angel in the front yard wearing nothing but a Santa hat.

In August.  Continue reading

Separating Thanksgiving fact from fiction with the help of Mr. Knowitall

image It’s been more than 300 years since that first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians sat down together in celebration and, much like the Americans of today, made a solemn vow not to eat more than your standard bull elk.

We know this because of a passage recently discovered in the diary of Pilgrim Edward Winslow, who described the first Thanksgiving like this:

Our harvest be large so that we might rejoice! Our plates and bellies be full to swelling! We have feasted on meats and gathered crops, and pies of sweet fruit!
Aye, I say! I think it be time to vomit!

— Edward Winslow, Dec. 13, 1621

In spite of this kind of irrefutable historic documentation, many myths still exist about one of our most celebrated holidays. For example: Did anyone actually eat the Indian corn, or was it just used as a decoration? Continue reading

I’m finally giving up on being People Magazine’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’

imageAdmittedly, I have given up my dream of being called “Sexiest Man Alive” by anyone other than my incredibly supportive, beautiful and nearsighted wife.

Back when George Clooney got the title a second time in 2006, I was inspired to continue my quest. Sure, the fact that he is ruggedly handsome, square-jawed and extremely fit were factors to consider — assuming you’re into those kinds of things — but he had a much more important quality that gave me hope: He’s actually WAY older than me!

By a good five years.

Which is almost a decade, really.

So, given our conclusion that George Clooney is practically a Centenarian, I was feeling pretty good about my chances, even after being overlooked for Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon, Channing Tatum, Chris Hemsworth, Dave Beckham, Ross Murray, etc.  Continue reading