A helpful hint for a new year

Have you ever found yourself in the embarrassing social situation where you can’t remember your boss’s wife’s name or maybe the name of the wife of an acquaintance?  It’s really something you have to work on so for the new year here’s a tip which might be helpful. When you can’t remember her name remember this, there’s a 1 in 4 chance that her name is Cindy.



A time capsule

I remember reading an article in 1999 about a local family planning a big New Year’s Eve party where they were going to open a time capsule that had been filled and sealed by their ancestors in 1900.  I never saw a follow up on what was in the time capsule (a wooden fruit box coated with wax) but I imagine there were family pictures, descriptions of life in 1900 and predictions of what the future would bring along with some items common to turn of the twentieth century America.

What a great thing to do.  I’d really like to do that and even though I might not be around to see the opening of any time capsule I would send one hundred years into the future maybe the family will be thrilled to open a box from our time.  I can just see the oldest family member solemnly breaking the seal and opening the capsule to find a letter from our family in 2013 addressed to our family in 2100.

Dear family,

Hello from 2013…and then I came to the end of what I was going to say.

What am I going to say anyway?  “What’s up?  Hey, how’s it going? Did they ever make those flying cars like the ones displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair that were never built?” Anything I would write is going to sound a lot like what would have been in the 1900 time capsule where they would have talked about the wireless (radio) and talking machines (Victrolas) and aeroplanes.  It seems so strange to think about trying to speak to them and they’re my relatives but then what would the family have in common other than having family in common?

I received an invitation a couple of years ago to attend a 50th year eighth grade class reunion. The letter said, we should get together and catch up.  Catch up? “Well let’s see, after eighth grade I entered puberty and went to high school and then I got a job and then I retired. So how about you, what in the world have you been up to?” And that was with people I had actually known fifty years ago.  What do I say to people who won’t be born for another fifty or sixty years?

I did some research on family time capsules and found that some families build time capsules which they open in five years.  Five years?  In five years I’ll still be wearing the same shirt I’ll have on in the family picture.  I want the hundred year box— I want the “look at that car, can you believe those shoes, what a hairdo, that old house was demolished in 2057 for a vegan restaurant, and, wow, I’m about as fat as my great-great-grandfather”, box.

I guess I’ll just do the same thing they did in 1900, put in some family pictures (with a guide to who’s who), some commentary on what the family is doing in 2013, some pictures to give our descendents a view of life in our world and add some common items from 2013 (baseball schedules, menus, football tickets, coins, stamps, lottery tickets, etc.).  I was thinking I might throw in a couple of Subway gift cards but who knows how much a $5 Footlong will be in 2100?

What I really hope is that is that love and pride of family will be the things that we have in common.  I’m very proud of my family and believe that the love will shine through and if it does they will see it and will toast our memories.  Then maybe they’ll take some of our pictures and mementos and information and greetings and love from 2013 and pass them on in their own time capsule to our family of 2200.

It’s too bad that I’ll probably be gone, I really would like to know how those flying cars are working out.

At Christmas it’s the thought that counts

For me, the best part of Christmas is giving dear friends a little gift that is completely unexpected.

“Thank you, you didn’t have to get me anything” and their faces light up like it’s Christmas morning and they’re nine years old again.

The next time you’re in McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Subway or Applebee’s or any other restaurant chain just look for the gift card rack when you’re leaving and pick up a few cards as gifts. During this wonderful time of year imagine how surprised and appreciative your friends will be when you hand them a gift card for their favorite seafood or barbecue restaurant or maybe a gift card so they can take their children or grandchildren to lunch at McDonald’s.  I like to keep plenty on hand. Such a simple thing to do and it doesn’t have to be expensive at all.

You can get them in any amount from $5 to $100 or no amount at all. The cards themselves have no value so help yourself to a stack and keep them handy to pass out at Christmas.  Imagine how thrilled your friends will be with your thoughtfulness when you give them your gift and imagine their surprise when the cashier smiles and says, “Sir, there’s nothing on this card”.

Maybe they’ll realize then that your real gift to them was the gift of joy they felt at Christmas. Maybe not.

Merry Christmas.

Christmas shopping

Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush
home with their treasures

That was then. Now we’re online. It’s so easy to do almost all of your Christmas shopping online up to a couple of days before Christmas.  Click, click, click and other than driving the brick and mortar merchants out of business I guess everyone’s happy (I like to visit the local stores to check out the items before giving them a “beback” and ordering online, I guess that kind of counts as shopping local doesn’t it?, and now I can even order online using my iPhone while I’m standing in front of their goods in their stores so I know I’m ordering exactly what I want: that’s convenience).

There is a downside to all of this though.  With all of this computer magic we’ve gained we’ve lost a major part of gift giving, the best default gift that was always there to bail you out when you put off shopping to the very end.  It was always the go-to gift so you didn’t have to end up like a loser in housewares at Walgreens at 10 o’clock on Christmas Eve.

What am I going to get my nephew Jimmy? What a terrific kid. Maybe I should get him ice skates or a magic set or one of those remote control airplanes or maybe a telescope.  Ya, those would be really great gifts, really great, but it’s too late now to go shopping. Maybe an album.

How about Jill? She’s so sweet and I love being with her and she did get me that fantastic hiking gear last year (I got her a Chubby Checker sings The Best of Broadway album, it’s great).  I know she thinks I’m about ready to pop the question so I’ll stop at Silverman’s Jewelry for that gold locket she looked at and then I’ll have it engraved with her name and a heart with my initials.  She’ll absolutely love it. There’s probably not time to get the engraving done though, I think Silverman’s is closed.  Maybe a couple of albums.

I used to be able to head on over to Record World or Mr. Music for those default albums. Now Record World and Mr. Music are gone and those albums that were always there to help you out are gone replaced by Spotify or iTunes or Pandora or something and that’s progress I guess.  Funny how when they talk about the changes to society caused by advances in technology they never mention the loss of the best default gift.

So without an idea in my head and without a go-to default gift I walk into Walgreens at 10 o’clock on Christmas Eve. I’ll bet Jimmy will like that electric flyswatter I saw in housewares.  I’ll get him one and pick one up for Jill too and maybe a jug of Eau de Walgreens. She’ll love it. Jill is so thoughtful and I’m thinking that she’ll probably get me something really nice this year. I can’t wait to see her in a little while. Oh wait, there she is now heading this way into housewares.

The Christmas letter

You know the envelope.  It’s the red one with the festive return sticker in the corner.  Open it up and there it is on the same paper your cousin Cindy uses every year.  How much time does that woman spend on her Christmas letter anyway? It’s always different but it’s always the same.

Sitting there reading it you start to ask yourself how come Cindy and her family are so terrific and so perfect?  You start to ask yourself but there’s always something that tells you there’s more to it.  I suppose you could call Aunt Janet but you’d have to listen to her complain about her ailment of the month for half an hour before she got around to the skinny on Mike and Cindy.

What you need is a “Christmas letter to English translator” and I just happen to be working on an app. Let me show you how it will work. Here, just scan the letter and then copy sentences to the translator.

“It’s been a busy year at the Martin’s—Mike, Cindy, Hunter, Bethany and our dog, Piddles.”

Translation: Chaos

“Mike has been very busy at work but I think he’s starting to show signs of burning out so I’ve encouraged him to start looking for something new.”

Translation: Mike is in the process of losing his job.

“Sometimes he doesn’t get home until after 10”.

Translation: Mike has a girlfriend.

“Mike is becoming more involved with our church”.

Translation:  Mike’s AA meetings are in the parish hall.

“I’ve been awfully busy at work too but I’m starting to think that maybe I need to go in a different direction”.

Translation: Cindy has been told to clear out her desk.

“I’ve joined a fitness club and especially enjoy the cardio exercises”.

Translation: Cindy’s put on 60 pounds since last Christmas.

“Mike and I enjoy gourmet cooking and have found a number of restaurants that we really like”.

Translation: Cindy is so depressed that she won’t even turn on the stove anymore.

“Hunter is a senior this year and has applied to a number of colleges and universities but keeps thinking that maybe a small college in the mountains where he can do some hiking and get closer to nature will be best for him.”

Translation: Hunter is moving to Colorado because of the change in the marijuana laws.

“Bethany is just as bubbly as ever and is a big help around the house.”

Translation: Bethany is pregnant, has dropped out of school and sits on the couch all day.

“…she has a great boyfriend but he’s been so busy she hardly ever sees him.”

Translation:  Lance hasn’t been around since Bethany told him she’s pregnant.

“That little rascal Piddles is just so darn cute.  It’s so much fun watching him run around the house and then slide across the wooden floors.”

Translation: Cindy had to have the carpet pulled up after Piddles had too many accidents and the Stanley Steemer guy said he couldn’t get the stains out.

“We just love keeping in touch with family and friends and hope we can see more of our dear ones in 2014.”

Translation: Mike and/or Cindy may be calling about borrowing some money.

At this joyous time of year don’t let your friends and relatives get you down. Why do you think they send out that Christmas letter anyway?  They send it out so they can control the conversation on what’s going on in the world of the Martins—-Mike, Cindy, Hunter, Bethany and the dog, Piddles.  They want you to think that they’re normal as they try to convince themselves that they’re normal.  But here’s the normal test—if they were normal they would know that nobody wants to hear about “The Martins”.

What should a Christmas letter say?

“Merry Christmas”

Translation:  Merry Christmas

Santa Claus

Take the time to be a little choosy when going to see Santa Claus. Last year Old St. Nick at Home Depot was about nineteen years old, had on Nike running shoes and asked the kids how old our furnace was. Over the years we’ve all seen Crazy Bob from Northeast Chevy or the guy at Mattress Land on TV in Santa suits and that can be confusing for the children.  Kids don’t believe in Santa Claus for as long as they once did and then the believers are robbed of part of their childhood just so Crazy Bob can stand there dressed as Santa Claus and scream about his low, low, low prices. It’s not right.

We took the kids to see Santa Claus last night.  Santa was great, a real white beard, small gold frame glasses, an old red suit that was just right and a gentle way with the children. Very simple and very nice. 

Kids love to see Santa and parents love to see their kids with Santa and take pictures of their kids with Santa and listen to their children tell Santa what they’re hoping to find under the tree on Christmas morning.  Santa Claus is always magic for the little ones and Santa can be magic for us too when we let him show us the pure joy that we may have forgotten is possible.

If you have little kids take them to see Santa. If you don’t have kids or they’re too big for Santa rent some kids so that you can see that joy again.  See if you don’t remember the joy of Santa Claus when you’re convinced through the eyes of a child that Santa remembers and believes in you.

Ask your doctor

So there I was sitting on a metal stool in the examination room for over 30 minutes waiting for the doctor to come in and this is after sitting in the waiting room for about two hours.  I hadn’t seen any physician assistants or nurses or any other doctors running around like they were in the middle of an emergency so I just sat there slowly burning about the delay (this is at 10:30 in the morning so I could only imagine how backed up it would be in the afternoon).  Why was this taking so long? What was causing the backup? The other people in the waiting room didn’t look that sick to me.

Finally Dr. Walters came in, went though his canned pleasantries while he looked at my chart and then asked me how I had sprained my left hand.  I told him I had slipped on an icy sidewalk and jammed my hand against a tree.  Nothing much to it, he gave me some instructions but I can’t remember if it was cold and then hot or hot and then cold or no hot or no cold but I’m pretty sure it was one of those so I’ll just look it up on Google.

When he stood up he told me to try to use my right hand for lifting and then he asked, “Do you have any questions?”

“Yes, Doctor, I do. Is Lipitor right for me? How about Allergan? I want to ask you about Treximet and Celebrex.  Will Alphagan work for me?  What’s your opinion of Claritin?  Is Glucophage a medicine which might work and how about Lanoxin? Should I try Premarin? Do you ever prescribe Provasic? Should Cymbalta, Enbrel or Crestor be part of my good health program?”

The doctor rolled his eyes, looked at his watch, and raised his hand as I continued to ask about drugs I had seen on TV and then he went over to his desk and pulled out a sheet showing that for some of the drugs I had asked about there are side effects which may include a loss of hearing, dizziness, constipation,  diarrhea, loss of motor skills, stroke, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, dry cough, memory loss, acne, runny nose, dry mouth, blurry vision, abdominal cramps, swelling of the feet and hands, depression, liver damage, hair loss, enlarged breasts in men, death, facial hair on women, severe itching, problems during menopause or an enlarged prostate.

Dr. Walters said he is spending more and more time with patients who come in with these types of questions and then he said that he wanted to start a treatment regimen which would be best for me.  He suggested that I consider recording my TV programs and then watch the shows later when I would be able to fast forward through the pharmaceutical commercials which seem to be causing my concerns and questions.

“Is a DVR right for me, Doctor?” I asked.

“Ask your cable provider.”