Holiday Survival — Dinnertime Dogma, Snooping Houseguests, and Christ’s Bar Mitzvah

By Piper Bayard

This month, Holmes and I are dedicated to spreading cheer and relieving the tension of the holidays. We invite you to send your questions to me, a pragmatic author/belly dancer and not-so-closet redneck, and Holmes, a man with experience in intelligence and covert operations who thinks 90% of life’s problems can be solved with sex, C4, or hollow points.

Brendan Stallard has a serious question for us, and it’s one that we’re sure many people have had to deal with over the years:

His problem relates to relatives who parrot dogma at the dinner table. “It seems as if all they want is to sit around the table and moan about the welfare mothers, tax dodgers and the grasping poor, and nod like idiot donkeys at one another at their meanness. They are all wealthy, and have never known much of hard work or poverty. I love them all dearly, as mad and crazy right wingers as they are.”

Reindeer fences SeppVei wikimedia public domain

Image by SeppVei.

Note how this reindeer fence makes an excellent boundary.

Some come in, some stay out, and we can still chat with them through the bars.

Bayard & Holmes:

You’re going to have to set some boundaries, and you have every right to do so. It’s your home. When people visit your home, they have to play by your rules or leave. And while hollow points and C4 might be fun, Christmas is always better if you can get through dinner without them so let’s look at alternatives.

You might want to call a truce to political discussions in advance of the gathering with a little, “Let’s agree to make this fun for everyone and stay away from politics this year.” People will still wander back to that topic by habit, at which you would be in a position to smile and say in a warm tone, “Hey, nooooo politics guys! It’s the holidays.”

No politics at a dinner table was a common social rule not very long ago so instituting that rule in your home would not be a radical departure from social norms. A smile and sweet tone of voice can make almost any rebuke acceptable to the other person. Just make sure you don’t answer their assertions with your own or the fight will be on.

A second approach would be to ignore their chatter and their opinions the way you might ignore a loud advertisement on the television. Envision yourself hitting a mute button and tune them out altogether.

The more extreme solution would be simply not inviting them. Our guess is that with good communication prior to the visit, though, you will not have to take that step.

Good luck! And please let us know how it goes.

Sneaking a Peek by Peter Fendi

Sneaking a Peek by Peter Fendi

Susie Lindau has an issue with nosey guests:

I wonder how to handle the obnoxious guest who tours the entire house including my closets and medicine cabinets?

Bayard:

The first thing that comes to mind is the memory of a young woman in my college dorm who was having issues with someone stealing her shampoo. My solution—I mean her solution—was to fill the shampoo bottle with hair remover.

Along those lines, I think it would be fun to take some sort of popular and attractive medication, like Ativan or Percocet, and put the bottle front and center in your medicine cabinet. However, before your party, take the real meds out and fill it with some sort of extreme laxative. Just remember to switch the meds back after everyone has gone home. When your guest is too “busy” the next day to leave his or her house, you can sit back and smile, knowing you’ve done the world a service.

Holmes:

Snooping when you are a guest in a home is something that CIA agents risk getting shot to do to targets in enemy states. It’s not reasonable conduct for legitimate guests.

Texanne and other readers suggested rigging loud alarms or other surprises to your medicine cabinet. This would be effective as long as you are up for the ensuing conversation with the violator. Perhaps I am naïve, but I have to wonder if your guest list is a touch to long. If these folks can’t be trusted with your medicine cabinet, can they be trusted to be in your home with your children?

Julie Glover is out of sync with the Holiday spirit:

How the heck can we get Christmas back down to 12 days? I’m a Scrooge until about December 15, when I think the Christmas season really should begin. If it wasn’t for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and my church’s candlelight service, I might want to give up celebrating Jesus’ birthday altogether and see if there’s a quieter holiday for his bar mitzvah instead. (Okay, now that I re-read that, maybe the question is, How can I get in the holiday spirit?)

Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall in Jerusalem uploaded by Alwynloh wikimedia

Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall in Jerusalem. Not Jesus’ Bar Mitzvah, but no doubt similar.

image by Alwynloh, wikimedia commons

Bayard:

I think you may be onto something with that bar mitzvah idea, especially since Christ’s bar mitzvah would have been the same time of year, I’m guessing. When people wish you a “Merry Christmas” respond with “Matzel Tov!” Then write up their reactions and publish them. That way, you haven’t offended anyone, you aren’t celebrating Christmas before you’re ready, and you get some fun and a blog out of it. It’s win/win all the way around.

Holmes:

Christmas season starts for YOU when YOU say it does. Decorate on the day that you want to and ignore Christmas until then. The fact that others are in a “Christmas groove” doesn’t mean that you have to be. It’s YOUR Christmas. Make it what you want it to be.

Carry a water pistol with you, perhaps something in a festive red and green, and when people assault you with their Christmas spirit, give them a quick squirt and say, “Merry Christmas, my ass!” That should serve you with the dual purpose of putting them in their place, and you in the holiday spirit.

Please tell us about your Holiday Survival dilemmas in the comments section below. Nothing warms our hearts during the holiday season like turning your problems into our opportunities. And remember, no question is out-of-bounds, but our answers might be.

The Last First Day

By Piper Bayard

Fall. The time when the years of bottles, diapers, potty training, play dates, eaten refrigerator magnets and beans up noses culminate in that most memorable of days, the First Day of Kindergarten. The day when mothers finally get to have a hot meal and possibly a drink for the first time since before pregnancy. Who care’s that it isn’t even noon?

Photo by Patsy Lynch, FEMA Photo Library, Wikimedia Commons

My son was terrified as I half drug him into the boutique charter school I had carefully vetted in my search for the foundation that would prevent him from making permanent, adult-sized dents in my couch at the age of eighteen. Back then, he still wanted to marry me when he grew up, and he thought digging in the back yard was the perfect career. With a quick hug and my best motherly assurances, I dashed away before he could see the tears streaming down my cheeks.

I spent the next two and a half hours imagining him singing with his class, frolicking at recess, and laughing with new friends. Then I rushed to pick him up, and this is what I found.

“I HATE THIS SCHOOL! THESE TEACHERS ARE MEAN, MEAN, MEAN, AND I’M NEVER COMING BACK AGAIN!”

My perfect angel was slouched in the hallway, already banished from the classroom and its bounty. Thus began our journey.

In the past eleven years, I have learned many lessons.

  • The fancy charter school in the next town over is not necessarily better than the unremarkable school up the street.
  • Children really ARE just like their parents.
  • All teachers say they want volunteers.
  • Some teachers actually do want volunteers.
  • Most teachers say they want volunteers because it’s District policy, but they actually pray in their hearts that they will never, ever have to talk to a parent outside of parent/teacher conferences because parents really ARE just like their children.
  • If I don’t believe everything my children say about their teachers, perhaps their teachers won’t believe everything my children say about me.

Photo of Schulers Donuts by Cindy Funk, Wikimedia Commons

  • And MOST importantly, exercise liberal Donut Diplomacy. Nothing receives a higher Good Will Return Quotient than a dozen donuts strategically delivered to the office staff periodically throughout the year. Trust me. The good will of the office staff is invaluable at blasting away the inevitable obstacles in the journey, and if there are enough donuts to share with the faculty and administrators, the Good Will Benefits compound exponentially.

My son and I visited colleges this summer. Turns out he is a born engineer, and he’s still out to proove digging is a career.

Today, he and I drove his terrified baby sister to her first day of high school. Our Last First Day on our family’s public school journey. He had some advice for her.

  • Don’t be narcissistic. You’ll stand out in a bad way.
  • If you’re going to play volleyball when high school boys are watching, no little shorts for you. You’ll have to find a way to play it in a burka.
  • Get a thicker skin. When you’re swimming with sharks, don’t bleed.

Together, we booted her out of the car with our love and the comforting lie that the three pounds she gained this week in her  “salty meats therapy session” (aka compulsive salami consumption brought on by starting-high-school anxiety) didn’t really create a muffin top.

On this Last First Day, I do my children the now rare favor of picking up their belongings and planning a special dinner for them. But only after I duct tape the refrigerator door shut on the salami and fight off the weakness in my heart that says a couple of adult-sized dents in my couch might not be so bad.

What have your First Days been like? What are the lessons you’ve learned in your educational journeys?

 

The End is Near (and we deserve it). . . . Stiletto Heel Racing

picture by Jean-Philippe Mondon for Wikimedia Commons

Having worn stiletto heels, I must admit that I’m impressed with these ladies.

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Astute observations from August McLaughlin. Thoughtful Blog Reading: Habits and Perks

Your Date Coach is Here . . . Got Questions? Patricia Sands hosts Dating and Relationship Coach, Christine Hart.

Cool fact about the Japanese that I didn’t know. Susan Spann’s Shinoy Dinglehoppers: Koromogae.

You guys are going to love this one. Study: Oral Sex Cures Morning Sickness

Donna Newton and Peter Koevari team up. Authors and Piracy: eBooks on the High Seas

I’ll tell you something about my Intelligence Operative writing partner, Holmes. He folds a fitted sheet perfectly. I have no idea how he does it. My own fitted sheets look like squirrels have been dancing in them so I was glad to come across this YouTube video.

Success Lessons from Parker the Drama Dog

By Piper Bayard

Meet Parker.

We got Parker from the Humane Society a couple months back when I had a feeling there was a dog waiting that would be a perfect fit for our family. Parker had been taken back twice because he doesn’t play well with others. He almost completely ignored us during our initial visit, and he was about twenty pounds overweight. Perfect, right? Yes. We saw it that way, too.

Once we got him home, we also discovered he was terrified of everything from the vacuum sweeper to the guinea pig to the staircase. But after three days and two pounds of ham to coax him up the stairs, he relaxed into a self-contained, happy pup that blended well with the family. And the best part? He didn’t seem to shed much at all.

Then came the bait and switch. We got back from Vancouver Island to find Parker had started to shed while we were away. In fact, it seemed to be his new mission in life.

In a heartbeat I had dog brush in hand and was calling our little fluff factory to the back door. But he would have none of it. Every time I stroked him gently with the dog brush, he yelped and snapped. I couldn’t even pluck away the loose tufts of hair without him acting like I was ripping off appendages.

So I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. Traumatize the dog, or allow him to coat us and all of our belongings in his tresses?

DD and I decided to take Parker for a walk and contemplate the situation. While I glared at the dog and DD laughed about the matter, she started flipping the rope leash up and down along his hind end, coaxing off chunks of fluff and leaving his tuchus looking like a topographical map of the Rocky Mountains. Parker was so distracted by all of the sights and smells around him that he didn’t notice.

That made me bold. Every time he stopped to sniff some marvelous delight, I ran forward and started grabbing out handfuls of hair. By the time we finished the walk, it looked like we’d shaved a bear on the path, and Parker didn’t notice or object once. Clearly, when it came to helping him shed, Parker was a drama queen.

The next day, I took the brush with me on our walk and encouraged Parker to sniff every rock, plant, or animal trace we crossed as I left a trail of dog hair tumbleweeds to mystify joggers through the day.

I decided to push it and took him out on the porch at home and continued my work. Without a walk to distract him, he began yelping and snapping again, but this time, I knew I wasn’t hurting him so I gave him a firm ‘no’ and ignored his fussing. He soon settled down.

Now, Parker still hates brushing, but he tolerates it, and I don’t have to feel like a tribble every time I lie down on the couch. And the best part? After I took charge and told him to knock off the drama, he trusts me more than ever, and the new problem is not tripping as he  walks on my heels all day.

Success lessons? Some fears are nothing but bad habits, and discipline will save the day when indulgence fails.

What does your pet teach you about success?

All the best to all of you for knowing when to take charge.