The Christmas Family Newsletter Brag Fest


Vector Illustrator, be able to scale to any size without loss resolution.

Most of us have received them and they usually come to us from families we hardly know, who live far, far away. People whom we haven’t seen since Nixon was President. Even so, every year we become privy to all the intimate details of what purportedly happened in their highly exciting, award winning lives since their last Christmas brag fest. Of course, not all of the Christmas family newsletters we’ve received over the years resemble what I’m about to describe. Yet there’s been enough of them to wrap Christmas presents with until the year 2023.

These delightful documents are filled to overflowing with details I’m certain the well-meaning writers never meant to exaggerate, manipulate, or dare I say, even fabricate. Yet somewhere along the way, the writer who slaved away writing, and rewriting, the history of their family’s lives over the past twelve months decided maybe a little—or perhaps even a lot—of poetic license was perfectly acceptable. Then once the newsletter evolved over several drafts, it went from being what really took place, to an all-out Festive Family Fake Fest.

I doubt they don’t ever mean for it to get quite so out of hand. However, realizing their musings might be mundane at best, they wrap it all up nicely with expensive foil paper and an exquisite bow. They never once consider we’re on to what’s really inside their pompous package of self-praise.

For all those unsuspecting people who’ve never received one before, I believe that just as the word FRAGILE is written on a parcel containing breakable stuff, so should the words BRAG ALERT be boldly stamped on the outside of the envelope of most Christmas family newsletters.

Reading through one of these newsletters—which goes on for several pages—you become aware that not even every recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize combined could possibly accomplish, in their collective lifetimes, what these amazing families have done in the past year alone. Major achievement awards, badges of honor, photographs with world leaders, and thousands of well-deserved trophies must certainly cover the walls and mantels of their humble abodes.

Unbeknownst to whoever wrote it, instead of evoking envy, awe, and admiration, they end up producing smirks, sneers, and sometimes sympathy. Sympathy for the poor writer who spent so long putting together this fourteen-page pat on the back, because you know everyone else who reads it is going to be laughing just as hard as you are. One day the writer may go back over what they sent out, and if they happen to be in a far less stuck up state of mind than when they wrote it, they will inevitably die of embarrassment.

One thing I do admire about them—which the authors of these audacious annual autobiographies never planned for—is their creative usage of the English language. For example: “Martin was given the unanimous approval senior management to take his entrepreneurial skills to a whole new level, based on his dedication to the company.” Translation? The lazy bum got fired. Or better yet, this: “Garrett continues to excel in all his favorite upper-level high school courses, and displays great leadership qualities in his extracurricular activities.” Which translates into: the only course Garrett’s passing this semester is the Basket Weaving class given in the attic of the school, and he’s also the kingpin of a local gang.

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a Daly Family Christmas Newsletter, but my creative writing skills would pale in comparison to the great works of art we’ve received throughout the years. So I think I’ll just stick to scribbling Merry Christmas inside the cards I buy in boxed sets from my local mega-mart, and leave it at that.

Taken from my book Christmas Madness, Mayhem, & Mall Santas: Humorous Insights into the Holiday Season.


Over the River and Through the Woods: Long Drive Ahead for Thanksgiving this Year?


Recently, on a day when it was about fifty-five degrees outside, my husband proclaimed it was far too raw for him to go out and grill the steaks we were going to have for dinner. This is the same man who several years before, made me ride three hours with him to his parent’s house for Thanksgiving, in subzero temperatures, in a car with a broken heater.

I voiced my concerns several times about not wanting to go, as becoming a human ice sculpture oddly didn’t appeal to me, but he demanded that we would be there—dead or alive. Realizing it was no use to argue with him, I layered myself in several sweaters, scarves, and blankets and we set off on our journey across the arctic tundra.

About an hour into the trip he got pulled over for speeding. When the officer came over to the car he asked what the hurry was, Tim—even though he prides himself on always going at least two hundred miles per hour over the speed limit—fed the cop the line that he had no idea he was going so fast. The officer eyed me curiously—probably because my teeth were chattering faster than the car had been going. “You all right, Miss?” he asked.

“Y-y-y-y-yes, officer, I’m j-j-just a tad c-c-c-cold.” I managed to get out through blue lips that were difficult to move. Tim confessed that the car heater was broken. Now more concerned with that than the Indie 500 race Tim had been simulating, he told us he hoped we didn’t have a long drive ahead of us. I stated—through heavy layers of steam—that we were making a three hour trip to Tim’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving.  Tim shot me a look, as if I were trying to make him look bad.

“Why would anyone in their right mind travel all that way with a broken car heater on a day like this?” The officer asked. “I’ll let you off with just a warning as long as you get this pretty lady a nice big, hot cup of coffee someplace very soon.” Tim agreed, shot me another look, and we drove off.

“Do you really think you need coffee?” Tim asked—not feeling the effects of the cold nearly as much as I because his core is made from ice—“We’re already behind schedule and my mother won’t be happy if we’re late.”

“W-w-w-would she be h-h-h-happy if I fr-fr-fr-froze to death? Wait, d-d-don’t answer th-th-that, just g-g-get me that c-c-c-coffee, please.” Sighing his most exasperated, put-upon sigh, he pulled off the highway and into a parking lot of some local donut hole-in-the-wall. Then, with an attitude, went in and bought me a hot beverage.

“You owe me,” he said, with a look of disdain. I grabbed the cup and clung to its warmth like my life depended on it—which it probably did—and we sped off.

“D-d-don’t go s-s-so fast, the n-n-next cop m-m-might not l-l-let you off th-th-the hook,” I warned.

“Look, I wouldn’t have had to speed if it wasn’t for you. First, you complained on and on before we left that a little cold weather should keep us from such an all-important event that the fate of the world depends upon. Then you had to bat your eyelashes at that cop so I’d be forced to go way out of my way to get you a coffee.”

I gave up trying to argue, because—as usual—there was no talking any sense into him, and decided to concentrate my energies on consuming my coffee before it turned to ice. I said nothing for several miles.

“Are you trying to give me the cold shoulder?” Tim asked.

“What other k-k-kind of sh-sh-shoudler could I give you, g-g-given the f-f-fact that it’s about t-t-ten degrees in the c-c-car?” I countered.

We rode in silence the rest of the way.

By the time we got there, I could no longer feel my limbs. Tim jumped out of the car and scrambled for the house. He turned back and saw that I hadn’t yet moved. “Hurry up,” he said, “we’re already late!” Instead of trying to help me open the door, he stood and watched in impatient annoyance as I struggled to grasp the door handle with the icicles that had once been my fingers. I then slowly hoisted my frozen legs out of the car, and attempted to walk up the driveway with all the grace a block of ice can muster. Tim rolled his eyes.

“My mother will not be pleased that you made us late like this,” he said as we got to the front steps. And he was right, because as soon as we walked through the door, the reception we got for our tardiness was far colder than any part of the car ride had been.

Moral of the story: If you find yourself making a journey this holiday season with a busted car heater—at your husband’s insistence—and he happens to get pulled over for speeding, ditch your husband for the cute cop and live happily ever after riding around in a nice, warm  police car.  😉


Mall Santas


One of the creepiest things a small child may ever encounter in the mall—besides a Mall Easter Bunny, or the creepy guy with one tooth working the counter of the ice cream shop—is a Mall Santa. I’ve seen countless innocent toddlers and babies terrified out of their tiny little minds at the mere sight of such a creature. What small child wants to be handed over to a disturbing looking stranger in a cheap red suit, scuffed up boots, a beard made out of cotton balls, and breath that reeks of salami, licorice, and whiskey?

I remember when my son Cameron, who was about six months old at the time, had his very first encounter with a Mall Santa. My husband and my parents also came along for the joyous occasion as they didn’t want to miss out on this rite of passage. After standing in line for about twenty minutes for Cameron’s big chance to see ‘Santa,’ the poor kid became a bit cranky. Crankiness turned into crying, and crying turned into a full-blown conniption fit. My dear, devoted husband and parents all suddenly remembered they had other places to be—and scattered quickly in different directions—which left me and my child alone to face the imposing imposter on our own. Deserters.

Well, I finally got him calmed down—and even happy again—right before our meet and greet with the big fat man in the red pants. At last, we were first in line. “HO-HO-HO! And who have we here?” was all it took. The smile I’d worked so hard to re-establish on Cameron’s face vanished in a millisecond upon hearing those words, and wails of unbridled terror ensued. I held my poor child tightly while he screamed and flailed, tears squirting from his eyes in all directions. At that moment I wanted to just forget the whole thing, get him out of there, and save him from the evil clutches of the way too jolly dude before us. Yet instead, I put my desperate desire of wanting my child’s ‘First Picture with Santa’ above all else, and proceeded to haphazardly hand him over to the man with whisky-tainted breath and a cotton ball beard.

For the next few minutes I, the ‘elves,’ and the imposter himself all tried to appease Cameron to no avail. Cameron reached out his little arms to me, his petrified eyes pleading with me to pick him up and save him, but all I did was stand there and watch. That moment still haunts me to this very day.

Finally, one of the elves got a shot of him while he was screaming, which—if you squint one eye and tilt your head slightly to the left—almost gives the impression of a smile. Then Santa handed him back to me. I felt like I’d sold Cameron out. I paid my $14.99—the price charged for torturing a small child for 2 minutes—and got him the heck away from there. Then out of nowhere, our deserters reappeared.

“How’d it go with Santa?” my husband asked enthusiastically. I narrowed my eyes, peering icily at the people who’d left us in the dust, then I revealed what happened and waited for their reactions. All three of our betrayers laughed their heads off. Jerks.

Anyway, I still have that ‘First Picture with Santa,’ and every time I look at it all I can think about is my decision—in that one split second—where I could’ve either saved my child from something he’d probably need years of therapy for, or hand him over to some drunk guy in a cheap red suit. I chose the latter.

The above is an excerpt from my book Christmas Madness, Mayhem, & Mall Santas: Humorous Insights into the Holiday Season

The Procrastinator’s Countdown to Christmas


Think you’ve got all the time in the world to get your Christmas crap done?!? Think again…


First Weekend in November:  You smirk at all the Christmas lunatics who have: (a) already started their shopping, and (b) started putting up their Christmas decorations. Don’t these seasonal sickos have lives? Sit back and relax – you know you’ve got plenty of time.

Second Weekend in November:  Briefly you toy with the idea of getting started with your shopping—but why rush things—so you decide to stay home and watch TV, but every other channel has on a Christmas movie. Tossing your remote in disgust, you glance out the window and notice your neighbors are erecting what can only be described as a Christmas mini-golf course in their front yard. “Festive fools,” you mutter under your breath.

Third Weekend in November:  You have every intention to start shopping, but unexpected guests drop by who stay the whole weekend. In great, giddy detail they gush about not only being done with their shopping, but that their halls are decked as well. You consider decking them, but force a gracious smile instead.

Fourth Weekend in November:  Everyone in the house has come down with the flu.

First Weekend in December:  You finally start Christmas shopping on Saturday, and plan to spend Sunday decorating. However, you spend the entire weekend looking for that toy your child’s been begging for, only to realize it’s no longer available anywhere. You’ve got zero shopping done, and accomplish zilch in the decorating department. Slight panic begins to set in.

Second Weekend in December:  The biggest blizzard known to man or arctic beast blows into town. You decide it’s no big deal; you’ll just shop online for that elusive toy, and try to get in as much other shopping as possible while you’re at it. Yet as soon as you sit down at the computer the storm cuts the electricity. You move on to decorating, but it’s a bit difficult without any light to see what you’re doing.

Third Weekend in December:  On Saturday your child has a Christmas play, a Christmas pageant, and a Christmas party to attend. On Sunday you get to go visit your in-laws.

Fourth Weekend in December:  You have sixty-eight million things to do and only two days to do them in. You head to the mall to find everything pawed through, ripped open, and stampeded upon. You buy the least offensive stuff you can find, rush home, wrap it, and throw it under the tree. You notice the tree looks like someone put it up in the dark—oh wait, they did—but there’s no time to fix it now as you’re having a dinner party in three hours and haven’t even been to the store yet.

Later during the party, you confess to one of your guests that you haven’t found that toy your child wanted. She smugly looks down her seasonally satisfied nose at you and divulges that she bought it for her child back in early November, when it was available everywhere. You smile your best fake smile and make a mental note to never speak to her again.  Just then the lights on the tree blow out. You explain to everyone that it’s because they were last year’s lights, as you didn’t have time to buy new ones this year. Under her breath, you hear that same rotten woman mutter “Unfestive fool…”

The Moral of the Story: If you’re going to be a fool at Christmastime, it’s far better to be a festive one than the alternative.

When Halloween and Christmas Collide


Nothing beats walking into your local mega-mart the first of October—on a day when it’s 87 degrees out—and being accosted by the results of Halloween and Christmas throwing up all over each other. Never mind Halloween’s almost a month away, but can’t they at least wait till children break in their back-to-school shoes before being forced into choosing their Christmas stockings?

This time of year, massively confused holiday sections display everything from fiber-optic reindeer, to choirs of motion activated angels, to moronically huge, inflatable snow globes parked directly in front of cheesy cardboard Halloween backdrops of haunted houses, dastardly pumpkins, and chainsaw wielding murderers on the lookout for their next unsuspecting victim.

Call me crazy, but seeing piles of Christmas stuff out this early, joining forces with a plethora of Halloween paraphernalia—when it still seriously feels like beach weather—is just wrong. It’s also bizarre to see folks shuffling by in their flip flops with eclectic combinations of candy corn, fake Christmas wreaths, and sunblock filling their shopping carts.

The stores also supply everyone’s eardrums with a wide variety of confusing holiday music. While children peruse the costume aisles, trying to decide what to go as for trick-or-treat, “Jingle Bells” rings out to one and all. When their mothers find themselves lured into the Christmas card aisle, “Monster Mash” is drilled into their brains. No wonder so many people just say “Happy Holidays” these days; no one’s quite sure what’s being celebrated when.

I’m not really one to talk, though. There was once a Halloween night several years ago that I still feel really bad about. First just let me say that Christmas decorating takes weeks at our house, and I was just trying to get a good head start—the day before Halloween. At the time I saw nothing wrong with it, but my son Cameron, who was five at the time, was far from impressed to see a three-foot tall Santa lurking in the living room next to a huge light-up ghost. Not to mention the animated nutcrackers looming over the jack-o-lanterns, while “Silent Night” played softly in the background. The poor kid’s still not fully over it and will probably need therapy till he’s twenty-three.

From that moment on Cameron put his foot down, and made me swear I’d never, ever again start decorating for Christmas until November. I reluctantly agreed. I do admit it was kind of weird to see Saint Nick and the Ghost of Trick-or-Treat Present making awkward small talk with each other. Maybe they could’ve found a way to bond if they’d only gone shopping together in their local mega-mart in the beginning of October.

“When Halloween and Christmas Collide” is an excerpt taken from my book, Christmas Madness, Mayhem, & Mall Santas: Humorous Insights into the Holiday Season, available through all major online bookstores.

Tis the Season of Ghouls, Goblins, and Styrofoam Gravestones



The Halloween season will soon be in full swing. Lawns will be scattered with scary scarecrows, wandered upon on by wicked witches, and covered from corner to corner in creepy cobwebs. Some yards will set the stage for a happy haunting while other  will look like Halloween threw up.  Excited children will try to decide what to “go as,” while perplexed parents craft costumes late into the night and acquire an overabundance of candy.

I find the ever-increasing amounts of Halloween decorations available to the general public to be both amazing and scary—scary in more ways than one. While many displays are brilliant, there are others that look like someone ransacked a dumpster out behind a Halloween store,  and flung the contents all over their yard just before a hurricane hit. Not only are these displays trip hazards for unsuspecting trick-or-treaters, but it wouldn’t surprise me to ride by these places and see prison inmates—complete with orange jumpsuits and shackles—performing state appointed clean-up duty. Who knows, maybe my perfectionist nature just isn’t allowing me to see the artistic beauty of it all.

However, the Halloween costumes of today are far better than the lame ones available when I was a kid. I remember wearing pathetic looking plastic masks that always had a cheap, cheesy, stretched out string across the back, meant to hold the mask in place but never actually did. The masks’ material didn’t breathe, and neither could I when I wore them. These days, the masks are form-fitted, breathable numbers that look like something out of a Wes Craven flick. Not only are they ridiculously realistic, but almost scary enough to make you pass out while you’re passing out candy. At our door we see everything from precious little girls in intricately detailed princess costumes—which I’m sure their moms slaved away on for weeks—to the late night teenage ninjas who show up on the doorstep, not in costumes, but in hoodies—with blank, stares being the only things masking their faces—and say nothing while they hold out their grungy pillowcases waiting for you to add to their stash.

Most costumes are store bought, but there are many mothers who make their little monsters—I mean darlings—homemade costumes. There are two possible reasons for this: (a) they’re wonderfully creative women who can lovingly craft an award-winning costume that their children, and their children’s children, will rise up and call them wonderful for, or (b) their kid couldn’t make up his mind about what he wanted to “go as,” and when he finally did, the stores no longer had it. Any time I’ve ever made my child a costume, I’ve fallen into the latter category. But either way, moms will lose sleep, lose feeling in their fingers, and lose their minds as they sew, super glue, and staple their nights away leading up to All Hallows’ Eve. Hopefully, at some point during all of this, the moms will remember to head out and get some choice candy before the stores are all out of that too.

When all is said and done, no matter how messy your yard looks, how wrong your child’s costume went, or how stale that off-brand candy you bought tastes, Halloween is a magical time of year for our kids. So don’t wish it away, because as soon as it’s over you’re going to have to not only deal with decorating for Christmas, creating costumes for your little devils—I mean angels—Christmas pageant, and baking a whole heavenly host of holiday cookies, fudge, and fruitcake; but you’ll also have to shop till you drop, wrap till you weep, and feed  your family an endless supply of festively fattening feasts.

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