Tag Archives: humor

I Miss You Already, Robin Williams

12 Aug

When I was ten years old, my greatest ambition was to have a pair of rainbow-striped suspenders, a la Mork, the alien who hailed from the planet Ork on my favorite TV show, Mork and Mindy. Yes, I’m serious. I remember going to the fabric store with my mother and she, bless her heart, inquired as to the availability of rainbow-striped elastic. I can’t remember why we didn’t buy any but I think it may have been because it was out of stock. So apparently there were several other kids running around town who, like me, wanted to be compared to the incomparable Robin Williams.

I have not seen all of his movies over the years, nor did I love every one that I did see, but every time that I happened to catch him being interviewed, I had to stop and watch because he never failed to make me laugh. He always amazed me with his quick wit and his hilarious comparisons. How his mind could fly from one thing to another and make it all uproariously funny! I envied his ability to think on his feet. I can think on my feet to a degree – I actually enjoyed extemporaneous speaking in speech class – but I’m not funny. I don’t have one iota of his ability to make people laugh.

Not many people do.

The truth is, Robin Williams could also make people cry. His movie What Dreams May Come is one of my favorite movies of all time. Perhaps “favorite” is not the right word. It’s too depressing to be a “favorite”. Maybe “most heart-wrenching” would be better. Or “most unforgettable”. Never has a movie made me think more about life, about death, about heaven and hell. About theology.

Is it trite to say that the world is diminished because of his loss? It is, trite or not. My heart hurts, thinking that even as he cracked us all up, he was hurting so desperately inside. I pray that I’ll give grace to the next person who irritates me – to the next and the next and the next ad infinitum – because I have no idea what is going on inside of them. Because, even if a person is smiling on the outside, on the inside they may be breaking apart.

Na-Nu, Na-Nu, Robin. I miss you.

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The Traumatic Santa Boat

20 Dec

My sister reminded me of something the other day. Something I’d tried to forget, it was so traumatic. Something which, whenever I’ve thought about it over the years, always made me feel creepy and slightly soiled.

What could be so horrible?

The Santa Boat.

Growing up on Orcas Island, WA, was unique in many ways. One of those ways was that Santa, rather than sliding into town on a sledge as he might here in Minnesota, would sail up to the Orcas Landing in a ship.

Well, a boat. A grubby, frightening boat, filled with terrifying creatures impersonating elves.

What I mean is, Santa came in an old boat and he had pirates and clowns for a crew.

He scared me to death.

The dreadful pirates were gaudy and loud and I have a memory of one of them trying to kiss my friend’s mother.

As everyone knows, clowns are horrible anyway. Add raunchy pirates masquerading as elves and you have one strange tradition. I don’t remember much about Santa himself. I presume he was round and bearded and tattooed. He had to be to fit in with that crew.

Now, in the Santa Boat’s defense, I only attended once (that I remember) and I don’t know if every year was quite as raucous as that one was. Nor am I sure if the tradition continues or if it went the way of most other pirate ships the world over, Somalia excluded.

All I know is that no toy or candy or promise of gifts to be delivered down the chimney on Christmas morning, could induce me to set foot on the Santa Boat ever again.

Anyone else have horrifying Santa memories?

PS – I do know for sure that the Santa Boat still goes to Waldron Island, another island in the San Juans. I sure hope that it’s less frightening for those Waldron kids…

Why I Will Never Win the Pulitzer for Photography

13 Dec

You may find this hard to believe – then again, as you’re reading my blog, you may not – but I LOVE writing our annual Christmas letter. Truly love it.

The Christmas card photo my husband thought we should use this year.


I know that there are people for whom writing an annual letter is worse than going to the dentist. Especially in this day of televisions on the ceiling above the dentist chair and x-rays that don’t threaten the lives of all your unborn children. For me, however, writing our letter is like writing this blog: it’s a chance to visit with you, my friends both old and new, it’s a chance to use my sense of humor which is all too often absent from my conversation but crops up in my writing, and it’s a chance to talk about myself. All good things, in my opinion.

The picture we used last year. Because I gave up.


Notice, however, that I said WRITING my letter is all these good things. I did not say that addressing the envelopes, signing the letters and getting the adorable picture of my children is part of the fun. That part is comparable to the dentist visit. Not the present-day visit, either, but the torturous kind of a few decades ago. But, it must be done so I watch mind-numbing TV and get to work.

Items needed for the job:

1) 176 envelopes, non-lick variety (praise Jesus for such an invention) and security-tinted because I hate seeing through envelopes that aren’t meant to be seen through.

2) Self-sticking stamps (ditto on the praise Jesus above).

3) My address book, which is a scribbled-out-mess-with-tiny-addresses-written-in-the-margins-of-every-single-page-junk-yard.

4) The letters themselves (hopefully with some sort of decoration but often not because I’ve talked too long again and covered both sides of the paper) each signed personally with a hand-written greeting included. (Don’t get me started about photocopied signatures.)

One try a few years back.


Some years I MAKE my cards. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. Or at least for praise. One year, when I had two children and only half a brain, I made ones so complicated that it took 15 steps to complete ONE card. And yes, I made over 150 even back then. It was beautiful: a giant white snowflake on opaque vellum with blue cardstock behind it and tiny sparkling snowflakes surrounding it. I was so sick of them by the time I was done that I didn’t even make one for myself to keep. Hopefully my mother kept hers.

I haven’t been that foolish since. Close. But not quite.

5) The photo.

Oy, vey, the photo.

Grumpy baby. Unhappy mama.


One year it took us four tries – of about 20 shots each try – to get a new one. This is because I am too cheap to go to a real photographer and prefer to torture myself after church each week during the month of November.

So far this year I haven’t even tried yet. I would have last Sunday except that I had the stomach flu like as unto the pain of childbirth. ‘nuf said.

So I have set a new photo-taking goal. I plan to “borrow” the Christmas tree at church as a background and wait until the Christmas pageant to capture the kids in all their angelic and wise-man glory. I’m hoping it will take less than 5 minutes. Even with a digital camera that may be optimism way beyond my usual standards.

"Mmmm...tasty shoe!"


I must say one last thing about my Christmas letters. They are NOT brag sheets about the kids. Yes, my sixth grade son tested at a 12th grade level for math, but why must everyone know that? And really, do they care? Nor do they need to know that my fourth grade daughter earned all sorts of Girl Scout badges or that our four year old is the cutest, smartest, most clever child ever born. I mean, really…

What I write about is living. With a few facts about our family thrown in for leavening.

Kinda like my blog posts.

PS – Stay tuned over the next couple weeks for more examples of my Christmas card photos gone horribly wrong.

The one we used this year. Not exactly professional.

Gift-Buying: the Scourge of the Holidays

9 Dec

It’s time for a bonus mid-week blog post. There’s just too much to write about this time of year!!!

I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop – Benlee’s – and basking in the Christmas glory of about a dozen Christmas trees of various sizes, carols playing, and Highlander Grogg in my coffee cup. A fire blazes – well, smolders – in the hearth and I am forced to admit something to myself. Something that I have secretly known for a long time but have never said out loud before. (What is this blog becoming anyway? A confessional?)

I am not good at choosing Christmas gifts.

Finding the perfect items for my immediate family is not too difficult, though it’s funny how some years are easier for certain people. I’m doing pretty well for my husband this year, for example, whereas in other years I’ve been pulling out my hair by this point in Santa-induced frustration. The kids, too, are usually not too hard to figure out…though my pocketbook may beg to differ.

My favorite antique ornaments - all bought for a song at various "antique"/junk stores or garage sales.


But consider this: THE BROTHERS-IN-LAW.

Oy, vey, how I have failed them!

I try. I try all year long. Come January, I’m on the lookout for The Perfect Gift – for my sisters and their husbands, my dad, my mom, my nieces and nephews and their kids. (Yes, I’m a great-aunt. Makes me sound like I wear horned-rimmed spectacles and scold the neighborhood children every time they roll a ball into my pristine yard. “You hoodlums!” she said, shaking her fist. “Leave my flowers alone! Now get over here and help me rescue my cat from the tree.”)

Part of the problem, of course, is that with adults, you’re dealing with people who can go out and buy whatever the heck they want at any time of the year so they’re not sitting around, writing hopeful wish-lists and posting them to the North Pole.

This means you are forced to be creative. Or very smart. Or to shop on Black Friday. (NO STINKIN’ WAY.) Or to spend vast amounts of money. Problem: my self-imposed Christmas budget-per-person is approximately the same as it was during the Bush Administration. The first George. About 24 years ago.

My door swag. I like making wreaths, but I got lazy this year. A wreath takes...oh, an hour or so. Time for this swag: 10 minutes, tops.


So I try being creative, because when it comes to gifts, I simply am not smart. Exhibit A: A few years back, I found myself, come this time of year, pondering my brother-in-law who lives on Orcas Island. “He’s an out-doors-ish kind of guy,” I thought. “He goes hunting and camps out when he hunts. Doesn’t he?” (Answer: not exactly. He’s in an RV…but it’s an ancient, only-slightly-above-a-tent sort of vehicle with no running water and even its delusions of grandeur were long-ago rusted off.)

So, taking my vast knowledge of him to the L.L.Bean website, I began to shop. “This thing? Too expensive. That thing? I think he has one. This? Hmmm…well…maybe!” And so Charley got a lantern for Christmas that year. Now, lest you applaud me, allow me to describe said lantern: it was eight inches tall, black, decorated with a moose, and held a tea light candle as its entire light-source.

Charley, bless his heart, has a sense of humor. I don’t THINK he said, “What am I supposed to do with this?” but he probably thought it. I responded to his unsaid thought like this: “Well, everyone needs a light when camping, right?” Charley [tentatively]: “Yes…” Me [always the optimist]: “Well, now you have a nice new one!” Charley [looking skeptical]: “But it’s too small to help much.” Me [looking on the bright side]: “Yes, but it’s so romantic!”

Charley burst into laughter. It lasted quite a long time.

This year I’m afraid that I’ve given him new reason to laugh. But at least his gift will be practical. That is, if he doesn’t mind holding open-mouthed fish cozies on his beer cans.

Charley's gift this year. He's a fisherman...so...he'll like these. Right?

Yes. I’m serious. That’s what I got him. What? It fit my budget. And my sister says he’ll use them. That and the Mini Mexican sombrero set with tiny-bottle-of-tequila that my husband bought in Mexico for all the bros-in-law and nephews (they’re all adults!) for their stocking gifts will fit the bill quite nicely.

Good thing they don’t read my blog.

Stocking gifts for the brothers-in-law and nephews. We have these giant stockings...and you've got to fill them somehow!!


Merry shopping, everyone!!

PS – my sister really liked the lantern.

PS #2 – I really do love my brothers-in-law. Good thing they know that.

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