Christmas

Have Yourself an O'Shea Christmas

Now that Thanksgiving Day is past, and so is Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you will continue to be deluged with ads on TV and radio extolling all the “perfect Christmas gifts” for your loved ones.  Everything is “that perfect gift.”  For example, a six-pack of Tidy Bowl is perfect, and so is a new Lexus. Diamonds, dog beds, electric toothbrushes, ear wax remover, exercise equipment, Omaha meat,and Michael Jordan underwear all seem to qualify as that “perfect” gift.

Now, to be transparent, I am going to make a suggestion for a nice gift for Christmas; really a stocking stuffer kind of gift, not guaranteed to make your significant other fall in love with you or simply smother you with kisses. If you have someone you care about who is a person who reads lots of books, I suggest two.  Both of them were written by me, and are the first two in a series about Thomas O’Shea and his adventures.  (The third in the series is done and due to come out in early 2017, and I’m working on the fourth.)  Their titles are Signs of Struggle  and A Far Gone Night.  They combine mystery, intrigue, romance, and homicide with humor in a small town in northeastern Iowa. Really.  You’ll like them, and your friends and family will, too.  You can purchase them on Amazon, hard copy or e-book.

Whether you purchase these books or not, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. But if you do buy the books, you won’t be sorry.  Way better than a pair of red and green boxers, or a Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer car freshner. Seriously.

Merry and Bright

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is before us, I am preparing myself for the enjoyment of receiving Merry Christmas greetings in emails, e-cards, and the traditional Christmas cards. Ah, those Christmas cards; you know, the ones that brag about how wonderful their family is and, oh, by the way, Merry Christmas. I provide a sample here: "The Schmaltz family has had a wonderful year. Mimsy was named All-Conference in soccer at State U. while maintaining a perfect 4-point in her astrophysics classes, and being Homecoming Queen was a special treat. And we are soooo proud of Hunter! Sophomore Class President at Loveland Day School (private) to go along with his being the starting quarterback on the VARSITY football team! And just a SOPHOMORE! He's already receiving letters from head coaches of several major college teams. All of this while carrying a 3.814237 GPA. And Ray was promoted at work again and earned a hefty raise to go along with our all-expense-paid three days in Cancun as a bonus from his company. Of course Mom is always in the background, cheering on the fam when not publishing her first novel, taking Christian Pole Dancing classes to maintain her figure, and guest appearances on that top-rated TV cooking show - you know the one ; - ) Well, I guess that's it. And oh, Merry Christmas from our new, 4,250 square foot house to yours!"

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One year, dear reader, we received a Christmas card that was a photograph of the family standing next to their new airplane. We sent them a picture of us standing around our recently-repainted Pinto. And Happy Birthday to Jesus!

Seasonal Shopping Disorder

christmas-shopping I'm afraid the main reason for the season around the end of December is, for many people, shopping. We're all familiar with people being stomped to death fighting over bargains, shoppers shattering glass doors of Big Box stores to beat each other to sale items, lunatics camping out for days in line in order to seize good deals ahead of anyone else. These behaviors call for a Three Stooges group slap to bring them back to their senses.

I do not engage in such activities. I DO shop, and I'm good at it. For example, when my niece was getting married a while back, down in Florida, it was decided I needed to buy a suit. I used to have a couple-three suits. Back in high school, where I played basketball (and the older I get the better I was), I had two 3-piece suits available for road trips, where we had a suit-and-tie dress code. But I didn't shop for them. My mother did. And they fit.

So, with a wedding looming and pressure to suit up, I went shopping. By myself. I forget the name of the store, but it was a big store, a chain, and it had men's clothing. Seven minutes after entering the store I was leaving with my suit. And it fit. I had gone directly to the "Men's Clothing" department, found a conservative dark gray suit with light, narrow pinstripes, and bought it. On sale, a detail I didn't know until I paid the cashier. Truth is, it would have been a "5-Minute Suit" except that I tried on the jacket still wearing my sweatshirt, which made it a little snug. But an astute sales lady suggested I try the jacket on without the sweatshirt. Perfect. And I was on my way. Today, the "7-Minute Suit" is a quirky part of family lore.

At Christmas time, I enjoy giving gifts. But my long-suffering wife buys the gifts for our daughters, so that frees me up to shop for her. Sometimes our younger daughter feeds me info-tips on what my bride might like, data acquired over the previous year while they were hanging out. This year, a few days before Christmas, I went shopping downtown (I hate malls). It took forever to purchase my beloved's gifts. Fifteen minutes. One store. So, what did I buy her? Well, three gifts, actually - an article of clothing, a scarf accessory, and earrings - all coordinated aesthetically into one stylish fashion statement. She was genuinely pleased.

And the article of clothing fit. Some of us have the gift, others not so much.

Books, not Guns

RedRyder_0 In still another instance of shameless self-promotion, let me say that, since it's Christmas, and that's the time of the year that people purchase gifts for other people, would you consider picking up either of my novels, Signs of Struggle (debut) or A Far Gone Night (sequel) to give to your friends and family who love to read?

I've never been good at "asking," which is why I would be a total failure in retail or any other kind of sales. I remember trying to sell All Occasion and Christmas Cards when I was a skinny pre-teen. The idea was to sell enough boxes of cards to exchange the receipts for a Daisy BB Gun. My approach was pitiful as I went door-to-door in my old, run-down neighborhood. With great trepidation I would ease up to front doors and knock timidly, hoping no one would answer so I could sprint away into the shadows. If someone did come to the door, I would ask, "You wouldn't want to buy any Christmas or All Occasion greeting cards, would you?"

Turns out I was clairvoyant because, as a matter of fact, they didn't. Somehow I just knew. I gave up early and often, easily discouraged by rejection. Thinking back, those turndowns were pretty good preparation for life as a writer, at least until my sails caught a little breeze with Signs of Struggle, and then a nice gust with A Far Gone Night.

But I went back, day after day for most of the summer until I had sold 1,549 boxes of cards which, in turn, became a gleaming Daisy BB Gun. Remarkably, the gun did not show up the day after I sent in my money. It took days, long summer days, with me, a grisly little urchin looking every day for the mailman to deliver the long box with my prize. Finally, it showed up, and off I ran to quell uprisings of Indians and nefarious activities of outlaws.

And I DID NOT shoot out my eye.

So that's why I'm reluctant to ask people to buy my novels, even though those who have seemed to like them. And that's why I hired Rowe Copeland, book concierge extraordinaire, to do that for me. Except this time.

Anyway, if you're interested in this gift idea, just follow the simple instructions that tag along at the end of this blog. I think you'll be pleased. See, I'm asking you . . .

(Rowe here)

Just call Jill at Fiction Addiction (864) 675-0540 by December 17th to order your book. Let her know which book you'd like and how you would like it inscribed and John (Dad) will come in and write whatever you're heart desires, assuming it fits in the blank space. Jill guarantees in-time for Christmas shipping.

In Support of Defenestration

After a Christmas Eve service at our church, we invited people over to our cottage for food and conversation and general conviviality. My long-suffering wife, Lisa, and I were talking about something and she used the term "non sequitur," which is Latin for "it does not follow." An example would be this: "Life is life and fun is fun, but it's all so quiet when the goldfish die." A friend, not only well-educated but smart in addition, asked simply, "What does that mean?" So we told him and he was fine going forward.

Later, we got to talking about how Bryan was confident enough to ask the question. And I felt a tad bit convicted because sometimes when someone is using a term or reference I don't know, I'll just nod my head and go along without having the guts to admit my ignorance.

I decided right then to suck it up and ask the question from now on. Like, what do you mean when you use that term, or reference a written work, or talk about some occurrence about which I know nothing? Instead of acting like I know what's being said, I will just go ahead and ask the question. What a startling concept! Self-education at it's finest!

And that's how I learned what "defenestration" means. And it's a word I WILL use.

The Boy in the Bridal Boutique

Shortly after Christmas, my long-suffering wife and I drove to Florida for a visit with her sister's family in Melbourne. An unexpected highlight awaited. Given the choice of watching a bunch of men in shorts kicking each other's shins or accompanying my wife, her sister, and two nieces to The Bridal Boutique, I chose the latter.

I had wisely avoided such enterprises when my daughters married, so why was I going now? Well, my gifted, talented, lovely, witty, and brilliant niece is getting married in March. She had purchased a wedding gown and was going in for a fitting. Being a lifelong learner, I thought I'd tag along.

While Anna was getting fitted, I roamed around the estrogen-rich environment, looking at wedding gowns on a rack that extended about the length of a football field. The cheapest gown was $1,800, and they escalated into the low 4's. Off the rack. Above the rack were posters of the Bulemia All-Stars modeling various gowns. One young woman appeared to have failed in her attempt to escape vampires.
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Backtracking to the front of the business, I proved useful in picking out the color for the Mother of the Bride dress. Blue. Later passed over for a mauve taupe sea mist stone aqua.

And even though Anna looked radiant in her tasteful gown, I just might pass when it's time for my niece Amy to visit the Bridal Boutique. And maybe give soccer another look.

Fruitcake and Follicles

This is truly the season of giving, but have you noticed that everyone who has something to sell claims their product or service is 'the perfect gift for Christmas'? I just heard on the radio a commercial claiming that their product was 'the perfect gift for Christmas.' The product is a HAIR REMOVAL SYSTEM! It's not an ordinary hair removal system because it works with men and women, all races, all ages, all hair types, and any place on the human body. Not to mention people who breathe in and out. Now, I ask you: Would you like to receive a HAIR REMOVAL SYSTEM for Christmas? What does that mean for the giver (idiot)? They think you're some kind of simian creature who needs to stop combing their back hair and have all that foliage removed? And what about the receiver (victim)? Did you know you had a problem? Maybe you didn't realize you had a problem, and now an idiot has subtly suggested that might be the case.

As for me, I'm quite content with fruitcake. Figures.orangutan