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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

A Star Is Born

And it came to pass in those days—as everything comes to pass, for if it doesn’t pass then it must run the ball—that a decree went out for Caesar Salad from Augusta, Maine.  All the world was to be taxed—the Democrats had won the election.  Everyone came to Bethlehem to be recounted.  In Florida, they came to be counted and recounted, until every male Chad, well hung or with dimples, had been counted again.

Joseph, wearing his amazing Technicolor raincoat that he got at a Christmas sale at Wal-Mart, brought his wife.  She was with child—Joseph should start acting his age.  They tried to get a room at the Holiday Inn (because kids eat for free) but apparently the Patriots were in town for a play-off game, and no rooms were to be had.  They passed up the parking garage for a stable in back.

Meanwhile, there were shepherds standing out in their fields.  Well, where else would they be?  They were watching over their sheep.  Some were counting their sheep.  Others were doing things with their sheep we should not mention.  They were lonely.  They were sore.  They were afraid.

An angel came to them and said, “Fear not, you have nothing to fear but fear itself.  I bring you tidings of great joy!”

The shepherds asked, “What’s a tiding?”

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”

And suddenly, with the angel food cake, there was a hostess of cupcakes.  Praise be to God.

It came upon a midnight clear, although the weatherman had called for snow.  Many of the shepherds had bought merchandise that would be free if six inches of snow fell that night.  It had not snowed in Bethlehem in centuries.  They were clueless.

Hark!  The Harold angel sings.  His name was Harold.  You got a better name for an angel?  But the story is not over until the fat angel sings.

And it came to pass (for if it didn’t pass it wouldn’t be history and we couldn’t write about it now) that the shepherds talked amongst themselves.

“For unto you a child is born,” repeated one shepherd.

“Not me,” replied another.  “I never touched her.”

So they set out to see what this was all about.  Besides, the sheep were tired and there was nothing else to do.

Meanwhile, back in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph found the stable and decked the stalls with boughs of holly.  Don wore now his gay apparel (we always wondered about Don.)  Mary, who was quite pregnant, gave birth to a child.  She had the baby in the stable since her HMO insurance wouldn’t kick in until after the New Year.  Joseph was happy since he could take his tax deduction right away.  She wrapped the babe in sequined clothes, and named him Elvis.  She laid Him with his manager.  He was to be the King.

And it came to pass—apparently a lot of things came to pass back then—that Three Wise Guys, who were apparently lost, saw a star appear in the heavens.  They followed that star from the East, but they really couldn’t be sure what direction it was since they were lost anyway.  Those three kings, disoriented are.  Wearing gifts, they traveled afar.

3wiseguys

They brought the new King gifts of goldfish, Franks-n-beans, and mirth.  In addition to being wise guys, they were pretty funny as well.  They also had a lot of intestinal gas.  They laid their gifts down before the King.

And He said, “Thank you.  Thank you very much.”

The moral of this story: book your reservations ahead of time.

Laugh if you will, for I have given you the gift of mirth.  It is a humble gift.  I hope this gift reminds you of another story, long ago, which came to pass.  And as you come to pass (fourth and long, late in the game) and decorate your stable, wrap your myrrh, drink your eggnog, and tend to your sheep, that you stop for a moment—perhaps more—and consider the reason for the season, and remember that babe—our Savior—so long ago when a Star was born.

Thank you.  And have a Merry Christmas!

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Today we went to a Christmas parade in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.  Why you may ask?  I don’t know for sure, but if you think of a good reason, let me know.

Oh wait!  My daughter was marching with the St. Francis Marching Band, and they were performing in the parade.

I’m still not exactly sure why I was there.  I mean, it’s not like she can’t march without me being there.  I’m pretty sure she can march and chew gum at the same time, so my presence would be superfluous.

So we left the comforts of Hollidaysburg and headed up the face of Mount Crumpit to see a Christmas parade.

Now I am not a big fan of parades to begin with.  Basically, it is a convention of rude people.  I absolutely refuse to watch a parade in Disney World.  People start claiming their territory like two hours before the parade, because God forbid someone’s kid isn’t close enough to actually get run over by Mickey.  There are actually guidelines to watching a Disney parade . . .

Don’t – Arrive just before the parade starts and expect to find a good viewing location. “Excuse me, pardon me.  Ouch!  Look out, would ya!”  Nobody likes a party crasher.  You can expect these kinds of reactions if you get to the parade route when it starts and try to improve your view.  The guests who arrived early won’t appreciate it and may have a choice word or two for you.  Save yourself the embarrassment and plan accordingly.

In Hollidaysburg, people start putting out chairs early the morning of a parade, much like this town below.

saveseats

I have always thought that leaving unattended chairs to save a place is the height of rudeness.  If someone–at least one person–is there, then I can understand it, as long as that one person isn’t reserving half the block.  If you want to wait in line to be first, fine.  Then WAIT.  Don’t send a chair in your place!  And I am apparently not alone in my disdain for people who reserve “their space” hours ahead of time with empty chairs, as the town of Canonsburg, Pa. considered a ban to the practice . . .

A western Pennsylvania borough council is set to vote on a compromise policy to solve concerns about people who put out curbside chairs to reserve seats for the borough’s popular Fourth of July parade.

The issue has come to a head in Canonsburg because some people have put up chairs to save their seats nearly two weeks in advance. Some folks tether the chairs together with rope or chains, or link them to utility poles. That can block access to sidewalks and causes other problems when the chairs blow over in stormy weather.

Officials don’t want to ban the practice entirely because the chair-placing has become an event unto itself, with many residents decorating their chairs in a festive way.

TWO WEEKS???!!! Seriously?  Chair decorating?  And this makes the practice less rude?

But that was not a problem in Ebensburg.  We brought our own folding chairs, but I don’t think anyone else on the street we were on brought their own chairs.  And the street didn’t start to get crowded until about ten minutes before the parade began.  I’m not sure Ebensburg ever gets crowded.  But we had gotten there early, set up our chairs next to the curb–because you just know if you set them further back, some ***** will stand in front of you.  And we actually sat in the chairs instead of using them to keep our place while we did other things.  Like there’s anything else to do in Ebensburg anyway, but I digress.

But sure enough, with the parade just minutes to go, a mother crosses the street with three young kids in tow.  Beside me is a tree.  There are people on the other side of the tree.  She stands in front of the tree, and sits her kids on the curb in front of her.  Of course, there is not enough room.  By the time the St. Francis Band came, the kids had already inched down and I had to sit sideways because there was no room at my feet.

I thought about saying something to the mother–I assume it was the mother, because grandma would have been brought up in a generation where people had respect for other people.  Maybe it was a crazy aunt.  I do not know.  I did not ask.

But I was not happy.  (So which dwarf was I? Rim shot-cymbal.)

I could not back my chair back, because the tree would block my view worse than it already was.

So I got up and stood behind my wife’s chair.  I thought perhaps when the guardian of these innocent parasites saw this happen, she would realize that it was rude for her kids to push me out, and correct the situation.

She did not.disapproval

I glared at her.  With disapproval.  See the photo–that was me!

She didn’t even look at me.  She didn’t acknowledge my disapproval.

Finally, I picked my chair up and moved it down and sat behind my wife.  She was able to inch next to a fire hydrant and my son moved a little, but my parade experience was certainly not filled with the holiday spirit.

The sad part is, if the rude woman had simply asked if it would be okay for her kids to sit in front of me because she was late because she was a single mom or her husband was in Afghanistan, and she had to work two jobs that morning and her car broke down because she couldn’t afford maintainance and she would have been here sooner but . . .  I would have been less apoplectic about the whole situation.

My wife thinks I over-reacted.

I thought I controlled myself very well.

And three more children are being raised to ignore and disrespect others.  I don’t see anything festive in that.

Have you ever had any bad parade experiences?

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I fully understand that Christmas is almost two months away.  And while the malls have had their trees up since Columbus Day, most normal people haven’t started putting up their Christmas decorations yet.

But I am thinking about it.

Putting up Christmas decorations–especially lights–is one of my least favorite tasks.  You know the whole story–one light goes out . . . they all go out!

So as I was contemplating taking down the Halloween decorations, since that holiday has actually passed, I came up with a brilliant idea.  (Keep in mind that when one gets an idea, a light bulb comes on over their head.  But when one idea goes out . . . they all go out!)

Why not re-use my Halloween decorations for Christmas?

It’s brilliant.  They are already up.  Not only do I save time not taking them down, but I don’t have to spend a lot of time putting up new decorations.

Here is my Halloween tabloid . . . be prepared to be afraid.

OK.  The whole thing was created back when my kids were young enough to care about Halloween and enjoyed listening to daddy curse helping daddy in the woodshop.

So here is my plan for Christmas . . . be prepared to deck the halls!

It’s perfect!  Now I know what you are thinking . . . but weren’t there three ghosts in the Christmas Carol?  The Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Presents, and the Ghost of Christmas Bills Yet to be Paid.  So I only have two ghosts, but now the pumpkin has a Santa Clause bag.

My family is less than enthusiastic about my creation.

Maybe if I put a bright ribbon on the pumpkin.

Yeah, that’ll do it!

HO HO HO!

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Christmas Chemistry

For a wonderful holiday treat, start with one hydrogen and one oxygen atom.

Combine them carefully to produce a hydroxyl group (H-O).  Be careful when you bake not to let them get too close together.  350 degrees at about 30 minutes should do the trick.

Your first HO!

If you add a splash of pineapple, you can make a Hawaiian Ho.  Watch for the tiny bubbles to appear.

Once you have perfected the hydroxyl group, you will want to try to combine these to form a H-O-H-O.  Ho-Hos are delicious!

Finally, combine another HO with your Ho-Ho and behold:  Christmas fun for everyone!

And you didn’t think chemistry was fun!  All you have to do is add some Ho’s!

Merry Christmas!

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Puttin’ on the Fritz

Christmas is coming!  (Either that or it’s just breathing hard.)  Did I just type that out loud?  Kind of inappropriate for the season, doncha think?

But the holiday is fast approaching, and in my turkey glazed stupor, I knew it was time for that most ignominious of holiday traditions (well, maybe not as ignominious as finding a parking space at Wal-Mart):  putting up the Christmas lights.

This is my inspiration:

Unfortunately, this is closer to my attempt at duplicating that feat.

I remember putting up Christmas lights on our first house many years ago . . .

Having put up lights for many years, I had a wealth of bad experiences and mishaps from which to draw knowledge.  I vowed that this year would be different.  Before even leaving the warmth of my house, I tested each and every string of lights; examining each bulb individually.  As I scrutinized each tiny miserable twinkle of light, I thought of the numerous times that an entire string of lights would cease to work just because one globe would go bad.

If one nut on your car weren’t properly tightened, you’d still expect your car to run, right?  So why should the whole string shut down for one globe?  Okay.  So the car might have pieces falling off of it, and if it were a really crucial nut, then you might get in an accident and crash and burn . . .so what could happen, the string of lights catch on fire and burn the house down.  (It’s not like it hasn’t almost happened anyway.)

I guess that’s a bad analogy.

So armed with my strings of lights, guaranteed to work, a ladder and an illuminated plastic snowman, I head outdoors to trim my house.  My daughter accompanies me to “help.”  At her age, though, that’s not quite the right word, but being a good father, I let her help, nonetheless.

I set up my ladder at the edge of our garage roof, pick up a string of lights, and start ascending to the top.  My daughter says, in a rather matter-of-fact voice, “Mommy said if you fall off the ladder, I should call 9-1-1.”

Well isn’t mommy ingenuous?  “When did she tell you that?”

“A long time ago,” she replies, innocently.

“I see.”  I start to string the lights across the garage roof.  At the junction where the garage meets the house, there is a peaked gable that rises too high for my ladder to reach.  At this point, I have to climb onto the roof, and mount the lights as I hang precariously on the eave.

On the other side of the gable, the roof flattens out again, but because of the shrubbery and landscaping, it is difficult to move the ladder along.  And, since I’m already on the roof, it’s easier and makes more sense to just continue stringing the lights from up here.  Or so it would seem.

Now the key to outside lighting is the wiring diagram.  This is not an actual schematic on paper, but an overall plan in my head of how the lights are to be connected.  The scheme is complicated by the fact that we have only one outside outlet, located next to the front door under the gable.  Therefore, the lights from down below, the lights from the left side of the house, and the strings from the garage roof and gable all have to come together here at this one point near the bottom of the left side of the gable.  There, they will all connect into one extension cord that runs to the outlet.

Unfortunately, that means the direction of the strings changes, depending on where you are coming from and where you are going.  I realize as I bring the strings from the left side of the house, that the plugs (the ends with the prongs, which may be the male ends, I don’t know not having studied the sexual characteristics of electrical equipment in school)–that should be plugging into the extension cord–are at the opposite ends of my house (at the garage and around the left side of my house.)  In other words, they couldn’t be farther away from where I need to plug them in.

Now there is a sequence of events, which occur, prior to realization, and then a secondary set of consequences that precipitate following the realization.  These are:

  1. You stare at the ends of the strings
  2. You think to yourself, there must be some mistake
  3. You wonder, how am I going to plug this female end into a female end
  4. (as a male, this thought alone diverts your attention to other mental images)
  5. You decide there is no way to plug a non-plug end into the cord, so . . .
  6. You made a mistake, and therefore
  7. You may have to rewire the entire roof again
  8. (You reconsider that female to female thing for a moment, again.)
  9. THUS, the REALIZATION
  10. So you stand up, in disgust, too quickly
  11. You slip on the icy roof
  12. And you plunge to the snowy ground below.

My daughter comes walking over to me.  “Are you making snow angels, daddy?”

Lying on my back, on the cold snowy ground, writhing in pain, I make a pretty decent snow angel.  But that is not what I was intending to do.  The key is to patiently explain this to my daughter.

“Honey, what did mommy say to do if I fell off the ladder?”

“Call 9-1-1.” Smart child.

“So why aren’t you calling?”

“But you didn’t fall off the ladder.”

She is very observant.  Or she may just be a smart-aleck.  I must grant her, though, that technically, I was nowhere near the ladder.  I didn’t fall off the ladder—I fell off the roof.

I analyzed my problem carefully, and decided that I had absolutely no intention of taking the lights down and restringing them in the proper orientation.  As an alternative, I would have to run several extension cords across the front of my house to accommodate the orientation of the lights as they currently were wired.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any extension cords that long—not one, let alone two—so I got the ambulance driver to stop at Wal-Mart and pick me up a couple along the way.

Later that afternoon, the moment of truth arrived.  With extension cords running every which direction, and wires hanging all over the place, I plug the master extension cord into the outlet, and . . .

They don’t light.  Well, the left half light, and part of the right half light, but there is a single string that somehow malfunctioned despite my careful pre-hanging test.  Of course, all the strings following that string aren’t functioning either.  I don’t mean to belabor this engineering point, but if one light bulb goes out in your house, do all the bulbs in every other room go out?  No?  I didn’t think so.  Yet someone thought this would be the perfect way to design Christmas lights.  Curse him!

Despite my better judgment, I climb back up the ladder and fearlessly crawl onto the icy roof.  I remove the damaged string rudely ripping it from the plastic clamps that affix it to my house and return to the safety of the ground below.  Inside, in the comfort of my warm house, with my glasses sufficiently fogged so that I can’t really see what I am doing, I plug the stupid string into an outlet.  No lights.

I shake the string.  (This often works.)  I jiggle the cord where it enters the outlet.  No lights.  I shake the string again.  (This often works when done a second time.)  No lights.  I switch outlets.  No lights.

I methodically take out and replace each bulb with one from a working strand to test the integrity of each bulb.  As long as only one globe is out, this should work.  Besides, the chances of two globes being out are about the same as falling off my roof twice in the same day.  Right?

I actually have a light globe tester, but I don’t know how it works and I threw out the instructions.  So this is the best method short of just buying a new string of lights, which if I think about this in retrospect, would be the best method after all.

After testing each of the one hundred globes, I find I am not able to get the strand to work.  As I am considering my options, I realize as I remove the plug from the outlet that it is one of those new-fangled strings with a fuse box built into the plug.  I pop out the tiny, charred fuses.

After hunting around for twenty or thirty minutes for the replacement fuses that come with the lights, I replace the stupid fuses.  Plugging the cord into the outlet, I am dazzled by a hundred twinkle lights taunting me.

I grab the string out of the outlet, run outside, climb the ladder, replace the string, and return to my front porch, whereupon I reinsert the master extension cord.

I stand back to view my creation.  As I watch, though, the same string of lights (and each successive one thereafter, goes out all of a sudden.  I say a few appropriate words (my daughter fortunately got cold long ago and is inside watching me through the window—I don’t think she can lip-read yet.)

I climb back up the ladder, tear open the fuse box in the string of lights, and dump out two more charred little fuses.  So its back down the ladder, back into the house, back to finding more replacement fuses . . .

After plugging the master cord back in, I stand and watch the lights go back out in a few seconds.

Time to settle this matter for good.

Now, you might think that I just replaced the strand of lights, or that I limited the number of strings following it (that likely was causing the overload that was blowing the fuses,) but I am a creature of higher intelligence with opposable thumbs.  I cut the end off the string containing the fuse box, and splice the end I cut from something else (the toaster I think) onto it.  I wad the whole operation up with electrical tape.  In the dark (it gets dark early here in Pennsylvania in the winter, especially when you waste a couple of hours in the ER,) my patch job looks pretty good.  Once more, I climb down the ladder and plug the master cord into the outlet.

O wondrous sight!  They all light—even the stupid looking snowman.  My goodness what a beautiful sight.  My daughter is applauding from the window and jumping up and down on the sofa. I watch as she inadvertently steps backward and falls off the couch.  Like father, like daughter.  Boy am I proud.

And then, in a twinkling, I hear in the garage, a hissing and sparking from something quite large.  I run to the door to see what is the matter.  (I accidentally bang my head on the ladder.)  And what to my spinning eyes should appear, but a raging fire in the breaker box so near.

I can’t remember whether you should use water or something else on an electrical fire, but I can tell you from this experience, do not use gasoline.  After extinguishing the fire, I realize that I have destroyed the power to my entire house (as well as destroying most of my garage.)  Now, it’s not like I haven’t done this before.  In times like these, I just run an extension cord across the street to my neighbor’s house and tap into his outside outlet.  Fortunately, the EMT’s bought me a couple of extra extension cords just for something like this.  The set-up works pretty well until either my neighbor discovers the line, or until someone drives over the cord (which makes the lights on my house dim momentarily, so it looks like I have twinkle lights.)

But I need to rewire some of the lights—if I blow out my neighbor’s power, then I’m really up the creek without a boat.  So once more, in the dark, I climb up onto the roof.  My hope is to rehang the lights from the left side of the house so they’re not in sequence and can be plugged into the extension cord separately.  I just know this will work.

As I am re-hanging them, though, I come to the icy patch that caused me such pain earlier today.  In order to avoid it, I step over it.  Well, it’s kind of a jump or a lunge, since as I go to step over it, I start to lose my footing.  I land—on another icy patch.  I slip, I fall.  If you flap your arms really hard, you not only don’t fly (nor slow down your fall) but you manage to pre-occupy your hands so that they can’t be used to soften your fall.

My daughter cheers from the window, holding ice to her head.  I hear her exclaim, ere I passed out again, “Daddy’s making snow angels, again.”

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