O Tidings of Comfort Annoy

blur-business-card-211290Now that Facebook has become a year-round newsletter, packed with enough posts to make us feel miserable all year long, can we finally call it quits on those dreadful holiday letters?

I understand a family newsletter can be a highlight of the season, recapping all your adventures with witty repartee and candy cane clip art, but to many people, this bragalicious tradition is lemon juice in the paper cuts of life. Reading about how you cured black lung disease or saved an endangered species makes others’ successes look like table scraps.

My newsletter would go something like this, “Dear family and friends, I did not get arrested this year. Happy New Year! Love, Peri.” (Disclaimer: The year’s not over yet.)

So, first of all, don’t write a Christmas letter. However, if you feel you must write an annual message or your life won’t be complete, here are tips to make it bearable for friends and family.

Let your children do the writing. I would LOVE getting a Christmas message that read, “Mom cries in the bathroom and tells us to eat Froot Loops for dinner. Dad has a special ‘drinking mug’ in his garage. Aunt Ethel spent Thanksgiving in the county jail for walking streets. Happy Holidays!”

Use your letter as a weapon. A Christmas newsletter can encourage friendly competition amongst your offspring. Announce who had the most As, the best-cleaned room or who peed the bed the least amount of times. Be sure to embarrass the *&%$ out of them so they’ll be on their best behavior next year.

Create an acronym. For instance, NOEL can be Notice Our Exceptional Lives or No One Enjoys Letters.

Quote Quiz. Choose the funniest quotes said by your family during the year and have your readers guess who said it.

January–“Who left the %&@* lights on?!”

February—“Is there a reason there are a dozen shoes by the back door?”

March—“Who left the %&@* lights on again?”

Write from your pet’s perspective. “This is Peri’s dog, Ringo. I was taken to the vet three times this year and had to get shots. She forgot to give me a treat twice last week, even after I sat under her feet for three consecutive episodes of Westworld. She also didn’t pet me long enough after she got home from work, but she gave me a steak bone, so all’s forgiven.”card-celebration-christmas-1652103

Share a family recipe. If people ask for your sugar cookie recipe, put it in your Christmas newsletter. But don’t be like my neighbor who leaves out key ingredients so my cookies never taste quite the same as hers. Not cool.

Don’t recount Family Disasters 2016. Your water heater broke, your car died in the desert, you have rats in the basement and bats in your belfry. You lost several jobs, were abducted by aliens and SWAT kicked in your door at 3 a.m. Newsletters are not catastrophe competitions. Next!

Don’t brag. For every straight-A accomplishment, for every award-winning dance competition and for every higher-salary promotion you exclaim over, your letter will be read by a man with kids struggling in school, a daughter with no noticeable rhythm and a woman in a dead-end, mind-numbing job. Take it down a notch, will ya?

Even better, since I never receive mail anymore (except for Hickory Farm catalogs and postcards from mortgage companies), maybe save all your glowing updates for Facebook and Instagram where you can gush all you’d like. You can even add clip art.

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Top 5 Worst Things That Can Happen When You’re Camping

Everything about camping is wrong. There’s a reason we stopped living nomadic lifestyles and built homes for our families. By taking your family camping, you’re pushing back thousands of years of progress. Don’t be a progress hater.

If you insist on dragging your family through the wilderness, here are the top 5 worst things that will probably happen.

No cell service. Let’s say you’re playing Scattergories and your husband throws out a stupid word. You grab your phone to Google “Pandalicious” only to remember there is no service at the top of Mt. Crumpet. In that case, your phone becomes a weapon to throw at your husband’s head.

You have to poop. Every outhouse looks like a crime scene.  You know there’s some creepy ass poopophile who’s climbed into the latrine and is filming for his YouTube bowel movement channel.

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(This luxurious bathroom is filled with wasps but not filled with toilet paper.)

Bear maulings. According to BearSmart.com, if you happen upon a bear in the woods, “Identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone.” That’s because bears are super-civilized, we’re too stupid to acknowledge their advanced breeding.

Me (coming face-to-face with a bear): Hello, Mr. Bear. My name is Peri Kinder and I love your coat. Is that Chanel?

Bear: [rips my face off and uses my leg bones as chopsticks]

Camp Food. Outside dining is overly-romanticized. You picture your family sitting around the campfire eating Dutch Oven BBQ ribs, dinner rolls and apple crisp. In reality, it takes approximately 35 hours for a Dutch Oven to reach a heat high enough to cook  ramen noodles. You’ll be stuck with a diet of Cheetos, Oreos, trail mix and canned soup—if someone remembered to pack the can opener.

Wildlife. We covered the bear section, but we didn’t discuss squirrels, raccoons, otters, chipmunks, mice, rats, tarantulas, mountain lions, deer, moose, elk, frogs, turtles, owls, hawks, porcupines, foxes, badgers, potguts, moles and snakes. Each of these creatures hates you and will kill you with no provocation.

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(Isn’t he cute?? No. Don’t fall for it. He’ll eat your eyeballs like grapes.)

Summer Vacation Blues

I remember summer vacation. Used to be, the school bell rang and we’d dash from our seats like cheetahs chasing a tasty gazelle. We were free! Three months of laziness!

Now. Boo. The kids are out of school, enjoying three months of freedom they won’t appreciate–and us 9-to-5ers are trying not to cry as we look out our office windows at the sunshine and the joy and the warmth and the happiness going on without us.

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(I’ll never smile again.)

Something’s wrong with society. Well, that’s obvious, but something ELSE is wrong with society. Imagine how productive and enthused we’d be after a whole summer of playtime and rest!

So who do I petition to make this happen? My overlords didn’t even crack a smile at my suggestion. They’re obviously stone people who don’t remember being young and frivolous. They probably eat the full-sized shredded wheat blocks—with no sugar.

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(Shredded wheat in its natural habitat.)

Hear me out, dear overlords!

What if we just have the month of July off to romp and play? No one does business in July anyway! I’d wear shorts everyday, hike each morning, eat fresh foods from farmer’s markets, bask in the sunshine and spit watermelon seeds at my grandkids. I’m tearing up just thinking about it!

I’d come back to work in August, ready to hit it hard. Well. Now that I think about it. I probably wouldn’t. I’d spend August wishing I was still sitting by the pool, drinking margaritas and reading trashy novels.

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(This is where I want to die.)

Maybe it’s best I don’t have the summer off. Once I tasted that freedom, I’d only daydream away the hours, longing for a simple life where I could sleep in a hammock and live on grilled vegetables. But a gal can dream, dear overlords. You can’t take that from me.

Don’t Kill the Messenger

Back when Paleolithic man ruled the world, humans only learned what was happening outside their cave when another caveman rode into town on his velociraptor.

Soon, dinosaurs evolved into horses (duh, that’s just science) and traveling merchants shared stories and events as they roamed the country. They’d sit around campfires, making s’mores and spreading gossip. In cities, town criers walked the streets in ridiculous outfits, ringing bells and shouting information at passersby.

When Johannes Gutenberg mechanized the printing process, he started a revolution that led to books, newspapers and inexpensive bird cage lining. Town criers became journalists, people dedicated to the pursuit of truth, shining a light on injustice and living on hot coffee and cold pizza.

America’s Founding Fathers recognized the importance of the press, protecting free speech in the first amendment. Journalists were regarded as necessary vermin, an invaluable cog in the democratic process of checks and balances.

Distinguished reporters like Carl Bernstein, Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite took journalism to its apex before its Icarus-like plunge into the mud of “journalism” today.

With the introduction of the Internet Machine, news has changed. A flood of misinformation is available at our fingertips and anyone can post “news” and share it as reality. Your crazy Uncle Joe has the ability to post his conspiracy theories as fact, while negating facts as theories. (Yes, I’m talking to you, holocaust deniers and urine therapy adherents.)

As newspapers fold and journalists are fired, consumers must find their way in a wild wilderness, navigating blogs, podcasts, posts, tweets, forums and websites, searching for truth, justice and the American way.

On TV, Barbie and Ken dolls throw softball questions at politicians, making no effort to hide their biases. They’re like balloon bouquets; pretty to look at and fun for a while, but then they float creepily through your home, lurking in doorways and scaring the Skittles out of you at 3 a.m.

Sponsored content (advertorials) sneak their way into news broadcasts and articles, looking like journalism, but in reality they are just fancy ads. Usually, readers don’t even know. Journalists have become public relations specialists, crafting news instead of reporting it.

On top of all that, our president declared war on the press. The U.S. just ranked 45th on the World Press Freedom Index, coming in behind places like Bahari, Namibia and Sokovia. (Only one of those countries is real, but I’m presenting it as fact. Most readers don’t bother discovering the truth.)

Do reporters pick on Trump? Yes. Does he deserve it? Maybe not all the time. Maybe. But his anti-press pomposity further erodes the faith we’ve placed in our news agencies as his bellowing cry of “Fake news!” rings from media outlets.

Investigative journalists are an endangered species. It seems little vetting, research or fact-checking is being done. It’s more important to have the story first—even if it’s inaccurate.  Wikipedia isn’t research. (I know that, because I looked up journalism on Wikipedia and it said, “This is not a news source.”) Here are other things that aren’t news sources: Facebook, Twitter, hateful bloggers and venom-spewing talk show hosts.

In 2009, I wrote a column, grumbling about the sensationalizing of stories where a celebrity’s activities were treated as breaking news. (FYI: It’s not.) Things have only gone downhill since then.

There are many journalists still working hard to present the truth, but it’s getting harder to hear their voices over the screeching of velociraptors, the screaming of town criers and the bellicose rants of our leaders.

No news isn’t good news. No news is no news.

Originally published in Iron County Today–http://ironcountytoday.com/news/life-and-laughter-dont-kill-the-messenger/