10 Books to Read if You’re the Grinch

Are you tired of Christmas season starting the day after Halloween? Are you tired of talking about presents and gift lists and that creepy Elf on the Shelf thing? Do you just need an escape from tinsel and sappy music?


Have no fear! I’m here to help with an eclectic list of books to allow escape from the holidays. They range from murder and mayhem to family and love (but not the holiday season!). All of them have happy endings though, so read without fear of being bummed out.

  1. The In Death books, by JD Robb They’re all fantastic murder mysteries featuring Eve Dallas, her love interest Roarke, and assorted characters that grow and change over the series. Some of them actually do take place over the holidays, but if you haven’t read them before, start at the beginning with Naked in Death. It doesn’t have any holiday mentions whatsoever. There’s romance in every book, but unlike most romance novels, with 40+ books in the series, we get to see what happens after “happily ever after.”
  2. Graveminder, by Melissa Marr When Rebekkah’s adopted grandmother dies, she finds out that she’s the one who now has to carry out a peculiar arrangement with death, performing a ritual at every grave to make sure the dead stay dead.
  3. There Will Be Lies, by Nick Lake Shelby has lived her whole life protected by her overprotective mother. But when she’s hit by a car and goes to the hospital, she starts to learn secrets about herself and her family. Meanwhile, she starts being transported to the Dreaming, where Coyote asks her to save the world.
  4. Ready, Player One, by Ernest Cline Most of my friends who are hardcore gamers or like hard sci-fi had multiple issues with this book, so be warned. I thought it was just a fun, fast read with lots of 80s nostalgia. It’s coming out as a movie next year, so now’s a good time to read it.
  5. 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster An autistic man who’s life is rigid and structured has a run-in with the new neighbor and her son. He starts to realize there’s more to life than routine.
  6. Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia I absolutely loved this book, though it’s not without problems. It’s YA, and the main character is struggling with schizophrenia. *It’s not an accurate portrayal of schizophrenia.* But if you overlook that, the book is a lot of fun.
  7. Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter This is my go-to pick me up book. Whenever I need a refresher course on optimism, I read this.
  8. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood I pretty recommend this on every list for any reason. But it fills all the promises I made, so you should read it. Everyone should read it.
  9. Almost Interesting, by David Spade I’ve never been a huge David Spade fan, but this was funny. He talks about his days in SNL, which was interesting. I listened to the audiobook, which I think made it more enjoyable.
  10. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed This fantastic memoir is the reason I now want to someday walk at least part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl is struggling in her life after a divorce and the death of her mother, so hikes 1,000 miles with little preparation, and learns a lot about herself in the process.

Are you all-in for the holidays, or already over it?

Elf on the Shelf

th-1When did Elf on the Shelf become a thing?  I never even heard of this growing up.

I remember having an elf.  I called him Mischievous, and I made up stories about him.  I remember riding the bus with a slightly younger girl and telling her stories about the magical elf.  I have no idea where I got it or where it went.  This wasn’t a Christmas thing; as far as I recall, I did this year round.

I think elf on the shelf is a cute idea, and Pinterest has some great ideas on how to do it, both nice and erm… naughty.

I asked my Facebook friends about Elf on the Shelf and got quite a few mixed reactions.  So what do you do when you need an answer?  Ask Mr. Google, of course!

According to Mr. Google (and Wikipedia), Elf on the Shelf came about because of a  2005 book by the same name, written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, and illustrated by Coë Steinwart.  The book came with an elf, and al la Cabbage Patch Kids, had a section where you named your elf to “adopt” it.

The original idea was that the elf was to play hide and seek, hiding and spying on kids for Santa.  Pinterest makes it look like a lot of people set up scenes with what their elf was doing and how it got in trouble.  Either way, I find the idea both cute and creepy simultaneously.  Apparently my Facebook friends are pretty evenly split too.  Big Brother was mentioned numerous times.

So where do you weigh in… cute or creepy?

It Really Is a Wonderful Life

IMG_2964It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is one of my all time favorite movies, not just for Christmas, but in general.  Since I was a kid, I’ve watched this almost every year.

I recently got to see this movie in the theater, something I never thought I’d be able to do.  Alamo Drafthouse plays old movies, and we bought tickets as soon as we spotted it on the schedule.  I’ve seen the movie many, many times, and I cry every time.  I cry in the beginning, and then again in the end.  Oh, and I also cry with Mr. Gower is hitting George.  Okay, I pretty much cry during the whole movie.  Your heart must be made of stone if you don’t.  The end of the movie played along with background noises of sniffling and blowing noses.  To use a cliche, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

What I love about this movie is that George Bailey is an ordinary guy forced to be extraordinary because of his situation.  Sure, he could have made different choices.  He could have chosen to do what Mr. Gower told him to and deliver the pills.  He could have chosen to go off to college and say “To Hell with the building and loan!”  He could have taken Mr. Potter up on his job offer.  But he didn’t do any of these things.  To him, he lived an ordinary life.  He lived in a drafty old house with lots of kids, an older car, and struggled to make ends meet.  He didn’t get to travel, the way he wanted to.

What he couldn’t see, what none of us can see, is how many lives we’ve touched.  Sometimes it seems like we’re in this life alone, doesn’t it?  In some ways, I think social media reinforces this concept because we can all see other people’s lives, but we’re not directly involved in them.

But the fact is, each and every one of us affect others in ways that we can’t possibly understand.  We’re not likely to have a Clarence who can show us what the world would have been like if we weren’t in it.  Here’s a real life example: when I was doing therapy, I would say some wonderful, profound things.  But later, when clients told me what I said that most affected them or what they most remembered, it was things that I didn’t even remember saying, or things that I thought meant nothing.  My point is that sometimes, when we don’t know that we’re affecting others, when we’re just being ourselves, that’s when we’re doing the most for other people.

That’s why I try to spread positivity.  I try to smile at the cashier and leave an extra dollar for a tip when I can.  I try to let in that person who wants to merge in traffic.  I try to listen to the crazy cat lady at PetSmart, even when I really don’t need to hear about the protein content of wet cat food.  I try to like or comment on other people’s Facebook posts because I know how lonely it can be when it seems like no one’s listening.  I try to comment on other writer’s blogs and support them.  I try to say “please” and “thank you.”  I try to be the best version of myself I can, because I just don’t know how something I say or do might affect someone.

Maybe I’ve never saved anyone’s life, or anything that dramatic.  But what if helped someone have a better day, and they went out and saved someone’s life?  It’s the Butterfly Effect, and there’s no way of knowing what happens when you flutter your wings, or how far those air currents go.

Be the best version of yourself that you can be today, and every day.  Let go of competition and jealousy.  You’re wonderful and you’re you for a reason.

It really is a wonderful life.  🙂

If you’re curious, here’s my list of the Top 10 Christmas movies.

Feel Good Friday

th-1Stray dog joins racing team.

A young woman reaches out to a family having a bad day.

Austin teen raises money for an automatic door for his wheelchair.

A child with autism asks for mail for Christmas, and hundreds respond.

Bystanders rescue strangers from an apartment complex.

Michigan cops and UPTV teamed up to hand out presents instead of tickets.

You get to choose your attitude today, and every day.  What do you choose today?  Do you choose to focus on what makes you happy and grateful, or what makes you sad and full of longing?

You Can’t Please Everyone

Happy Whatever!

Happy Whatever!

Well, it’s that time of the year again, folks.  You know what I’m talking about, where the holidays are a-comin’, and it’s time to wonder… What the hell can I say?

You see, the political correctness police say that “Happy Holidays” is most appropriate because it won’t offend anyone and encompasses all holidays.  However some Christians are in an uproar because the term should be “Merry Christmas,” and they see “Happy Holidays” as somehow taking away from Christmas, compromising where there shouldn’t be a compromise.  The American Family Association is actually calling for its supporters to boycott PetSmart for a month because they don’t use the word “Christmas.”  Instead, even though there’s a sea of green and red, they call the gear “Holiday.”  And I bet it’ll still be on clearance on December 26th.

Honestly, I think that both attitudes are silly overreactions.  We don’t have worse things to worry about in the world?  If I want to wish you a “Merry Christmas,” why would that offend you?  Just because I say that, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also have a Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Blessed Solstice, or any other holiday you celebrate.  Just because I wish you a “Happy Tuesday” doesn’t mean you can’t be happy other days of the week.  It just means that Tuesday is what’s on my mind.

But I get it; non-Christians maybe get tired of seeing all the Christmas stuff everywhere, so some of them would rather hear “Happy Holidays.”  Well, that’s nice too.  At least you took time to say something nice, and at least things look festive.  If someone intends to be nice, can’t we just let it go at that instead of making sure they have the exact right words you want to hear?  You wish me a Happy Hanukah, and I’ll wish you a Blessed Solstice, and we’ll go our separate ways, secure in the knowledge that someone wanted to spread goodwill and cheer.

Spread kindness, not discord.

Remember, the point of the season, whatever you celebrate, is to spread cheer, joy, love, and kindness.  How can we do that if we’re bickering over what phrase to use?  Are we really only supposed to spread cheer, joy, love, and kindness to people who say the right thing?  Or should we spread goodwill to everyone?

Whatever you celebrate, enjoy it.  But more importantly, enjoy your loved ones.

Quite frankly, wish me a happy whatever you celebrate.  And I’ll smile and say, “Same to you.”

Food For Thought

by The TV Guy

thSometimes in our lives we come across a product or service we rant and rave about.  In our age of technology there is a wide array of places we can learn about new things. The television is still my go to medium and this time it is no different. During a re-run of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmermann, a tour of Olympic Provisions in Portland, Oregon awakened my inner desire for cured meats.

The hanging room, as I refer to it, was filled with salamis of various types and styles inspired from different parts of Europe. The short segment on cable inspired a Christmas buying lollapalooza for family and myself.  I am looking forward to trying the rest of their products.

Don’t let anyone tell you that TV has no redeeming value!


Peace on Earth?

by The TV Guy

Happy Holidays to all as you hunt for those little extra bits of something for those you love. With all the love in our hearts we set forth to acquire the things that we all  want. The peace on Earth has left the planet and we are left with shootings, fighting and arguing. The mantra of the holiday shopping this season is, “kill or be killed”.

As you can see from the video the shoppers are surrounding a pallet that one may think is full of gold bars that are being given away as a kind gesture from King Wal-Mart to the serfs.

No I think they are an off brand 20 something inch television. The 20-second mark of the video the first shopper hits the floor. At the 40-second mark two women begin to fight over the object. It must have some sort of magical powers or maybe money inside. Cue the police and store security, by the 1 minute mark the woman is on the ground, still fighting, and not willing to let go of her (Precious)………

Wow well it is the end of the world and I feel fine…..A little saddened by what we have become at this glorious time of year.

Shop safely and make sure you have someone watching your back……

Everything is new

Usually, Sunday is the start of my weekend, but because I started this new job last week, Sunday is the end of my weekend, like pretty much everyone else in the world.

I don’t like it.

I still have everything to do!  I took time off during my 4 day weekend and enjoyed myself… can you believe it?  I had Thanksgiving dinner, decorated for the holidays, and took one day to do pretty much nothing.  So today, I have to do everything!  I have to go grocery shopping :(, cook for the week, do my laundry, pay my bills, and go hiking.  I think it’s going to be a busy day.

I’m not a fan of new.  I like all my old friends and don’t feel the need to make new ones (unless I’m living somewhere new; then I make an effort).  I really didn’t want to take a new job.  I’m sort of dreading starting back and working the full week next week.  I just keep reminding myself that in a few weeks, it will be “old” and will be better.  But it’s hard.  I liked my old coworkers, my old office.  I liked my van and my clipboard.  I miss the TV guy and joking around with other teams.  In my new office, I have to speak in an indoor voice and make sure I don’t say anything that could be construed as sexual harassment.

So, today I do my housework, and tomorrow, I go back to the office.

How do you deal with new?

The Ghost of Christmas Present- A Novel

imagesI’m going to start this review with an observation: very few novels about Christmas hold any surprises.  That doesn’t make them bad.  Sometimes I like predictable.

The Ghost of Christmas Present: A Novel, by Scott Abbott and Amy Maude Swinton, has no surprises.  Patrick lost his wife a year ago, and Braden suffers from the same heart anomaly that took his mother.  He needs heart surgery.  Enter Ted, aka Grandpa, who blames Patrick for his daughter’s death, and decides to get Child Protective Services to investigate.  In the meantime, Patrick loses his job and needs enough money to keep the heat on.  When he realizes that a day job won’t do it, he uses his acting skills to panhandle as the Ghost of Christmas Present, bringing cheer and Shakespeare to the 9 to fivers.

Again, this was a nice book.  The characters aren’t particularly well-developed, but the story moves at a good pace, and it’s a feel good book.  If you’re looking for something to spend a relaxing afternoon with, this book isn’t bad.  If you want a book to make you think, pass on this one.