Original Holiday Tune (My gift to you…)

Can you believe it’s Christmas week already??? Okay, I admit it. I’ve been feeling festive for MONTHS. Lucky for us all, I’ve calmed down since age five. A little. As a kid my holiday vigor was so intense, I often came down with the flu promptly after. (Red and green tinsle-topped butterflies that flitter up must eventually come down…) If only I’d had this song back then…

“Every Day is Christmas” started out as a gift from my hubby. A talented drummer and overall brilliant guy who’d never before written a song came out with these perfect lyrics and a melody to boot. (Hmm… Love must have that effect… ;)) We finished it together, took it to a friend’s in-home recording studio and vwa-la! The first McLaughlin holiday hit was born. Now it’s my gift to you.

So sit back and enjoy! If you dig it, please purchase “Every Day is Christmas” at iTunes. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Center for Adult Literacy, an organization responsible for over three decades of cutting edge, high-impact research, training and innovation toward increasing adult literacy in the U.S. and worldwide.

What’s the best gift you’ve given or received? Besides this one (kidding! ;)), what’s your favorite holiday tune?

Stealing Jesus

Regardless of how we spend them, the holidays draw up memories—some wonderful, some we’d rather forget and some that just keep getting funnier.

I don’t recall many details about the day I stole Jesus. But since I was in high school, it was probably like most winter days. I woke up to the sound of my mother’s voice, munched on toast in a fog then slipped on the ice en route to catch the bus. (Seeing icy streets gives me phantom aches to this day.) Come dusk, after more fogginess also known as classes, I went to my friend Andrea’s house to meet with my Odyssey of the Mind team. (If you’re unfamiliar with OM, think math team for creatives.) There, I woke up.

Beck’s “I’m a loser baby…” hummed from the stereo while we dined on doughnuts and M&Ms in preparation for the evening’s events. Tonight we’d do a scavenger hunt, Andrea explained. In OM, making practice activities as difficult as possible was key, particularly since our sights were set on state competition and beyond. Toward this end, baby Jesus appeared on my list.

Most of my teammates were atheists, which was equal to devil worship in the eyes of my grandparents—a strict Baptist pastor and missionary team. I’d spent the summer organizing benefit concerts to raise awareness about child abuse, for which I was made co-recipient of the Minnesota Peace Prize. In other words, I was a goody-goody supreme—not someone predictably comfy with Jesus-nabbing.

To toughen matters further, I couldn’t drive yet and the only Jesus in the neighborhood was real, and not in a second coming type way. Mary and Joseph’s breath made frozen white puffs in the air and the little tyke in the manger wasn’t plastic.

Crap, I thought, unable to even think cuss words yet, much less state them. Then I had an idea. I’d call a friend, hitch a ride to my house and borrow the plastic, lit-up Jesus from the nativity scene in the yard. My family was asleep, I figured; no one would miss him for a few hours. And besides, the little dude deserved some respite.

Once the mission was accomplished, I returned to Andrea’s house. The gang fell speechless as I presented every item on my list, including the mighty savior. Sure, I’d found a creative solution—one of the O.M. pillars. But far more remarkable was the fact that I, Ms. Goody Two Shoes, stole him, presumably from a stranger’s yard. And seemed fine with it. No, not just fine, pleased.

Hours later, exhausted and high from sugar, creative tricks and camaraderie, we called it a night and a teammate drove me home.

The next morning I woke to sounds best suited to nightmares. Muffled crying. Serious voices. Something terribly wrong. I jolted upright: Cora? Listening closer, I had no doubt. My youngest sister was upset. Really upset. Before I could rush downstairs to help soothe her, she said something I’ll never forget: “But Mom, why would someone steal Jesus?”

The word crap no longer seemed strong enough. @$%#! I forgot Jesus! 

I snuck into my parents’ room and phoned Andrea, held my breath as she searched to no avail: Jesus wasn’t there. @#$@#$#&$#@$!!! 

I sat paralyzed in my room, scrambling for what to do. I could still hear my parents’ voices, filled with angst and disappointment more due to Cora’s heartache than the missing figure. What my team didn’t know was that amidst my recent do-goodings, I’d also been picked up by the cops (for skipping class with a friend, leading our parents to believe we’d been abducted) and gotten in trouble for other…*clearing throat* …things. Seeing my sisters’ sad faces as the cop car pulled into the driveway had been too much. I couldn’t disappoint Cor, or any of them, again.

I spent the day working up the courage to tell my family the truth, while the term “finding Christ” took on a whole new meaning.

That night, still Jesus-less and lost for an alternate plan, I heard my mom and Cor praying for the bad person who took him. Tomorrow, I decided. I would tell them tomorrow.

I woke the next morning to brighter sounds. Sing song chatter. Laughter. Cora’s voice, this time chipper: “It’s a Christmas miracle!”

Tears filled my eyes once I realized what had happened. The teammate who’d driven me home from Andrea’s had tucked baby Jesus back in his bed. My sister’s joy almost made the ordeal worthwhile.

Deeming my shame and frustration punishment enough, and not wishing to taint my sister’s “miracle” or opinion of me, I kept the truth to myself until last year when my hubby outed me. I’m glad he did, as the laughter it’s brought up since is like a holiday in itself.

I suppose stealing Jesus taught me that although the truth does set us free and hurt stems from dishonesty, sometimes good things happen regardless. Just sometimes.

*****

So, what about you? Steal any religious icons lately? 😉 What turns of events have gone from sour to miraculous? Have you reaped surprising benefits from simply keeping your mouth shut? Do tell. I always love hearing from you…HONEST.

Fa La Ha Ha Blog Bash

So I, er, I mean a random blonde went to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. Here’s what went down:

Blonde: May I have 50 Christmas stamps?

Clerk: What denomination?

Blonde: Oh my God! Has it come to this? Fine. Give me 6 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian and 32 Baptist.

Laughing yet? I hope so, because laughter is good for your heart—literally. A study conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that people with heart disease are 40 percent less likely to laugh with ease. Research has also linked laughter with an improved capability to manage stress and fewer instances of stress and anxiety. (Geesh… Sign me up!)

I’ve always admired people who guffaw at just about anything or find hilarity in popular comedies I find treacherous to sit through. But just when I suspect I lack some funny bones, something comes along and strikes me as FUUUUU—NNY. I start laughing and can’t stop until tears pool in my eyes, my belly aches and my bladder control grows questionable. Y’all kept me laughing through my Naughty & Nice fun. I figured it was time to reciprocate.

Recently, this was my HAHA inspiration:

HAAAAAA!!!!!!! See what I MEAN??? This hat isn’t only hilarious, but so darn useful. A few potential uses, off the top of my HEAD. LOL! (*slinking down* Okay, not as funny.)

With a turkey hat, you can:

1. …bring light to a serious situation. Imagine, you’re sitting at a table full of relatives who have as much in common as lightbulbs and kumquats. The silence is so thick, you fear breathing. You bust out this bad boy and every straight lip curves upward, or opens wide to LOL.

2. …make a statement for animal rights. (For added power, carry a sign: “You think eating animals looks goofy?”)

3. …start a fashion trend. (Hey, if Zubaz could do it…)

4. …keep your as head as warm stuffing.

5. …make others fear they’ve gone crazy. (“What do you mean, what’s on my head?”)

6 …eat herb-seasoned bread bits to your heart’s desire.

7. …play the “put this on your head game.”

8. …top off your turkey dinner Halloween costume.

9. …give the gift of laughter to everyone on your list. Think about it: Christians, Jews and atheists may disagree on certain points, but they ALL have heads. They also either eat or avoid chicken. You simply can’t go wrong. (Since the hat isn’t edible, no worries on whether it’s kosher.)

10. …create holiday memories to last a lifetime. (Yep, planning on this myself.)

***** All this for only $10.99 $6.49 at Amazon! ;)*****

Whether you have no trouble seeing the light in grim situations and laugh out loud at everyday scenarios, say, turkey hat wearing, or can’t recall the last time you chuckled, I hope you get a kick out of these fabulous links. I know I did.

Lucy Writes a Novel, by M.G. Miller: A hilarious walk down the slush-pile memory lane.

Funny Christmas Cookies, featured by In Erika’s Kitchen: Darth Vador, Bacon & Eggs and Kim Kardashian’s behind. (Need I say more?)

Urban Word Wednesday: Manolescent, by Natalie Hartford: Natalie’s weekly word series never fails in making me laugh.

For the Golfer in Your Life: The Potty Putter (Yes, You Read That Correctly), by Natalie Hartford: The photo alone is giggle-worthy.

When Words Fail, Eat More Friggin’ Pudding, by Coleen Patrick: When lyrics go wrong, laughter goes right.

Fifty-Six of the Best (or Worst) Similies Ever Written, featured by The Journal Pulp: Also the funniest similies!

Are You Sexy and You Know It? LMAFO You Are!, by Tameri Etherton: If you’ve ever wondered when togs become underwear…

The Grinch is Pregnant, by Myndi Shafer: Myndi makes such a great case, she could be a lawyer by day, standup comic by night.

Great Expectations, by Kristen Lamb: Why a little boy dug through horse poo with glee (and you should, too).

Author Marc Shuster referred me to clip and it’s been popping into my head routinely since. Even if you’ve seen the entire film, this scene is precious as a stand-alone:

Now, if we could just get Buddy to don a turkey hat…

Speaking of which, I have a Naughty & Nice challenge for y’all. Order your own turkey hat and take photos or video of you wearing it. (No Photoshop allowed, you non-GGs!) If five of you do so and blog about it, I’ll sport mine in public and share the embarrassment  goofy awesomeness in a post.

In the meantime, I love hearing from you. Are you an easy laugher? What’s your personal “turkey hat?” How many of the real deal are you purchasing today? 😉

The Case for Christmas

As a kid, I often fell ill the day after Christmas. The adrenaline of weeks—okay months—of excitement wore off, leaving me with a severe case of post-holiday flu. Lately I’ve noticed a new epidemic: pre-holiday flu.

“Christmas commercials, already?! Please!”
“How can Target sell holiday stuff? It was just Halloween!”
Translation: BAH HUMBUG.

I get it. If you’ve said such things, you probably hate the consumerism involved, not necessarily the holiday itself. But it’s not like figgy pudding is being forced down our throats. No one is dragging us blindfolded to red-and-green sales. And since when was commercial watching obligatory? (And seriously. Don’t Christmasy commercials beat belching frogs, miraculous dish grease removal and people texting each other hands down in coolness???)

As a potential remedy for the pre-Christmas grumpy phenomenon, I felt it necessary to share a few of its perks. (If this displeases you, please click the little ‘x’ in the top corner of this window and visit GrinchesRUs.)

Giving & Receiving. Christmas isn’t just a day, but a season meant for giving—regardless of our spiritual beliefs. Such giving need not correlate with pricey electronics, clothes or jewelry. We can give handmade cards, baked goods, poems, stories or the best gifts: our time, helpfulness and company. And getting these gifts is almost as fun as giving them.

Acting Like Kids. I had the opportunity to “be Santa for a day” on behalf of the USA network a few years back. (View clips from my Santa experience here.)  I can’t tell you how many adults turned into little kids with sparks in their eyes as they shared their wish lists or received a surprise gift. (And no, it had nothing to do with my short dress or gender. Pffft!) We’re grownups with grownup responsibilities all year long. May as well embrace every opportunity to de-mature ourselves and get giddy.

Stories & Imagination. Writers in particular should embrace the imagination, stories and magical nature of Christmas. A stout, bearded man visits every child on the planet to fulfill his or her wish. (But look out if you’re naughty…) Ghosts of Christmas past/present/future, flying reindeer, a man’s ability to shrink down and slither down narrow chimneys, a far off land filled with hard-working elves and, a woman birthing the world’s savior… It’s sci-fi, thriller, mystery, fantasy and, depending on your beliefs, historical fiction or nonfiction, all rolled into one.

Anticipation. Having something to look forward to rocks. It’s vital for happiness, according to Gretchen Rubin, the best-selling author of The Happiness Project. If the holiday sort of snuck up on us, we would miss out on all the fun involved with decorating, pondering gifts for loved ones, holiday tunes, the smell of pine needles, and so on. If you don’t have reasons to anticipate the upcoming holidays, seek them. 

The Importance of Savoring: A friend of mine had a huge wedding and said she was so stressed during the preparation that she forgot to savor the journey. The same could be said about the weeks and months leading up to the publication of our books… The journey can be half the fun, if not more. Best we make the most of it, stay mindful of its advantages and let it linger.

The holiday season is what we make of it. You’re creative… Make this one bright.

What do you think? Are you a grinch who clenches up at anything-Christmas? Do you think Christmas fervor goes on too long? Or do you embrace it?