The Twelve Days of Flu Seas’n

The entire family has endured a one-two punch this flu season. First it was the “Lose 4 Pounds in 24 Hours” bug that flattened us like dominoes. Just when the last one recovered, along came the “Knock You On Your Back High Fever” bug. So many bugs, so few exterminators. In the event the flu has not hit your family yet, I have set our cautionary tale to song. Take heed. And a face mask.

On the first day of flu seas’n my true love gave to me a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the second day of flu seas’n my true love gave to me two Tylenol and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the third day of flu seas’n my true love gave to me flat 7UP, two Tylenol and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the fourth day of flu seas’n my true love gave to me trashcan by the bed, flat 7UP, two Tylenol, and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the fifth day of flu seas’n my true love gave to me a temp of one-oh-three. Hand sanitizer, three cans of Lysol, two dozen face masks and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the sixth day of flu seas’n my true love gave to me sprints to the bathroom and a temp of one-oh-three. Head in the toilet, flat 7UP, two Tylenol and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the seventh day of flu seas’n my true love sighed to me “Digital thermometer, salt water gargle, when will this end?” Hand sanitizer, flat 7UP, two Tylenol and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the eighth day of flu seas’n my true love gave to me a trip to MedCheck, report on the family, muscle aches and chills, a temp of one-oh-three. Hand sanitizer, flat 7UP, two Tylenol, and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the ninth day of flu seas’n, my true love gave to me respiratory gunk, antibiotics, news the kids all have it, muscle aches and chills, a temp of one-oh-three. Wadded up tissues, flat 7UP, two Tylenol and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the tenth day of flu seas’n my true love said to me: “They’re sniffling in Chicago, puking in Missouri, sick as dogs in Tennessee.” Rumbling in the tummy, flat 7UP, two Tylenol and a big, sloppy, wet sneeze.

On the eleventh day of flu seas’n my true love snarled at me: “Where’s that vaporizer, blast those antibiotics, what good was that MedCheck, you’re still lethargic, here’s an extra blanket and why are you still one-oh-three? That cough is horrific, 7UP is sick’ning and cover your face when you sneeze!”

On the twelfth day of flu seas’n my true love said to me: “You’re no longer chilling, your temperature is normal, you look healthy to me. But I’m feeling dizzy, my head is hurting, my stomach is churning, how can this beeeeeee?”

Most wonderful time of the year — the end

Before we turn to a new calendar page, 2014 merits a look back at some of the least important stories, which means they won’t be nearly as depressing as the really important stories. At best, a look at the lighter side may provide some comic relief; at worst, you may conclude things really are as bad as you thought.

It was a good year for bacon lovers who celebrated the debut of Naked Bacon Cooking Armor. It’s a red contraption that looks like Superman’s skivvies. Diehard bacon lovers who enjoy cooking in the nude and can now cook fully protected. Well, not fully, but you know. What a relief.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, giving a new nuance to “Rocky Mountain High.” Residents say the average speed on the interstate is now 30 mph—and that’s in the high-speed lane.

Flappy Bird became one of the most downloaded free games generating $50,000 a day in ad sales according to the game’s Vietnam-based developer Dong Nguyen. The game was not only highly popular but, for many, highly addictive. Feeling guilty over the addictive nature and overuse of the game, Nguyen removed it from the market.

Eighty-nine-year-old Delores Dennison of Ohio attended her first prom this past spring. Her 19-year-old great-grandson knew she’d never been to a prom, so this knockout Eagle Scout invited her to his. Delores wore a blue dress and carried a small clutch with her nitro and puffer. Austin led his great-grandma to the dance floor, where he surprised her with a song he had chosen for the occasion. “I Love the Kisses of Delores,” is a song Delores’ husband used to sing to her.

George Prior, 50 (old enough to know better), began drinking 10 cans of Coke every day for a month to see how it would affect him. He gained weight. Shocker. Hey, George, if someone suggests you repeat that with a fifth of whiskey, don’t do it.

The day before Thanksgiving, a female passenger boarded an early morning US Airways flight with her emotional support pig. Yes, you read that right. Turns out the pig was more emotional than supportive. The pig began squealing and then relieved itself on the floor. Passengers objected. The flight crew directed the passenger to deplane and that little piggy went wee, wee, wee all the way home.

In November, 17-year-old Abby Snodgrass made news in a Missouri Wal-Mart when she heard associates talking over a radio about someone needing CPR in electronics. She raced over, saw an 11-month-old not breathing and began doing CPR for children, which she had just learned in health class. The baby revived. Rarely does a Wal-Mart shopper see such stellar customer service.

A television anchor in Sydney, Australia revealed that he wore the same blue suit every day for a year on air and nobody noticed. Upon hearing this news, seven out of 10 married men turned to their wives and said, “I told you I could wear these pants another day.”

As we say goodbye to 2014, it seems appropriate to quote one of the characters from “Frozen,” Disney’s highly successful licensing darling, “Let it go! Let it go! Let it go!”

Shepherds often cast in baa-d role

One of my favorite hidden-camera gags is of high school students called to the counselor’s office to learn the results of their career aptitude tests.

The first student entered the office and took a seat. The counselor said the results were clear-cut as to what career path the student should pursue.

The student was immediately attentive and sat up straight.

The counselor said, “Shepherd.”

Not a single student, when informed they were suited to be a shepherd, fist bumped the counselor, asked about starting pay or a benefits package. Silence. Each and every one was dumbfounded.

I’m not sure the role of shepherd is terribly popular anywhere. Even in Christmas pageant settings, parents of the kids who play Mary and Joseph will gladly point out their star. Parents of shepherds tend to go mute. Let’s be honest here—even sheep have more lines than shepherds. Baa.

Off stage and across pasture lands, sheep are greasy and smelly. Wet wool is matted, dirty and mangy.

Sheep not only bump into you, they constantly bump into each other. Lacking fangs, talons, a powerful roar or amazing speed, they flock to protect themselves. It is their only and best defense. Unless, of course, they flock together and walk off a 50-foot cliff like 1500 sheep did in Turkey several years ago.

Sheep also have a reputation as, well, not very bright. This is why you occasionally read groundbreaking studies claiming sheep may actually have intelligence. The journal Nature reports that sheep may be as good as humans at distinguishing faces in a crowd. Yes, three out of five sheep can pick out a Kardashian on Rodeo Drive.

Tending sheep is for a select few. The wages and resources for sheep herding are better today, but even now a sheep herder must be rough and gritty, able to endure harsh elements, loneliness and a good measure of frustration.

The role of the shepherds in the Christmas narrative has always been a marvel. The announcement of Christ’s birth could have been delivered to anybody—the rich, the powerful, the established class, those in the know with name recognition and good connections. But the news was delivered to shepherds—rough and rugged men with little money, no power and no status. They were working class, without wealth or social pedigrees.

The shepherds have been polished and refined over the years, now often appearing in crèche sets, on cards and in romanticized paintings with neat and clean robes, trimmed beards and a peaceful countenance. In reality, their clothes were worn and tattered and bore the smell of sweat and hard work. Their beards were probably matted and the looks on their faces were likely ones of bewilderment—dumbfounded, just like the kids in the counselor’s office.

The news of Christ’s birth not only came first to lowly shepherds, the one born in the manger grew to be like them, lowly and humble, known as the Good Shepherd.

I like that the news of Christ’s birth came to ordinary people first, to the everyday man with universal struggles and universal hopes and dreams. It still does.

Fantasy Christmas gifts within everyone’s budget

Two years ago Christmas Eve, I received a log cabin in Maine, a day at a spa and a vacation in Italy.

Snowy log cabinWe gave two of our kids brand new mini-vans, one of our sons-in-law an NFL franchise and our daughter-in-law a full-size washer and dryer.

The husband got a bookstore and his own newspaper chain.

It was a good Christmas, all right—and so economical. Nothing cost a dime. They were fantasy gifts. Few things are more fun than spending imaginary money. This must be what it feels like to be an elected representative in Washington.

We’re back to buying a few gifts this year, primarily for the pitter-patter of little feet. Try explaining fantasy gifts to the preschool crowd. Gift giving can be a source of angst, but what’s a holiday without some temporary insanity?

My mother used to keep a tally to make sure things were even at Christmas. I was puzzled by her compulsion and thought her scorecard was completely unnecessary, yet here I sit with an Excel spreadsheet open before me.

Nobody has ever played that “you like him best” card, nor can I imagine any of them doing so, but maybe it’s because I’ve kept things even by keeping a tally over the years. And if I hadn’t kept a tally, maybe things wouldn’t have been even and, well, it’s all a vicious cycle.

One of the grandkids has come in $4 behind the rest of the grandkids. I could pick something up online but shipping would put the kid $6 ahead of the others. I could even things out by getting the other six some trinket they won’t want, need or would look at a second time, but why add to the junk pile?

A couple of 2-liters would even the score, but who gives Mountain Dew to toddlers?

They’re all too young to chew gum.

Socks. Oh that’s exciting. Just call me Sock Grandma.

Maybe a new toothbrush and a little toothpaste. Toothbrush Grandma. She’s right up there with Sock Grandma.

It would be a whole lot easier to let a disparity stand, then if someone noticed just say, “That’s right, you’re my favorite this year. The rest of you need to try harder.”

Of course, I could be looking at this from the wrong angle. Why add to the trove to even the tally when you can subtract?

“Yes, some of you are missing the yellow and orange from your new box of crayons, but Grandma took them out to keep things even.”

The ace in the hole is my backup plan: “Listen kids, that doll might not have any clothes and Grandma may have taken the wheels off that truck, but she went a little crazy trying to keep things even. What do you say next year we bag this gift thing and all head to Grandma’s cabin in Maine?”

We’ll drive those new mini-vans we got your parents a few years ago.

How to ruin an apology with an excuse

Being a person who routinely plans ahead for things, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize.

Granted, I have not done or said anything patently offensive to any demographic, large or small—and please forgive the size references, no offense intended—but in light of today’s super-sensitive climate it’s just a matter of time, so I’d like to apologize now and be done with it. That is, unless you are offended by me being proactive and in that case I am sorry that you are offended.

If at any time, in any way, I have made or do make comments that offend, or might possibly offend you, your friends, your family, your co-workers, your pets, the guy who sold you your car, the person who styles your hair or the sales clerk who said you look good in graphic print leggings, then for that I apologize.

That said, if I make comments and you are not offended, why don’t we get together for a drink? I’m sorry, that could be offensive. What I meant to say was, why don’t we share a bag of kale chips?

Please know that my behavior can be erratic due to hunger, sleep deprivation or a barrage of the latest headlines. While I would never try to excuse my behavior, let me just say that mistakes can be made, timelines can be off, communication can fail, files can be lost and emails can be deleted. If somehow through my actions you are offended, your job placed in jeopardy or your reputation besmirched and you think I was responsible, then for that I am sorry. If not, then we’re good, right?

The important thing is that we learn from the past as we look forward to the future. Why not put any and all potential misunderstanding behind us right now by holding hands and sharing a moment that hopefully will lead to a group hug. That’s right, lean in.

No, don’t. I apologize to those of you who found that suggestive.

Don’t lean in; stay where you are. Step back. A little farther, please. Thank you.

I apologize to those of you who have been hurt by what you now sense to be a certain distance I have put between us.

Please allow me to acknowledge fault where acknowledging fault would be appropriate. Know that as I acknowledge fault where acknowledging fault is appropriate, I will take full and complete responsibility for my actions by throwing my chief of whatever under the bus and immediately firing my PR team. As you can tell by my sincerity—and the tear in my left eye—there is absolutely no need for litigation.

While I can neither confirm nor deny anything, I speak from the heart when I say if you were hurt due to having a bad day, being keenly self-absorbed or suffering from a social media-induced narcissism and believing the world revolves around you and your quirks and predilections, then for that I am sorry.

Truly, truly sorry.