It’s A Wonderful Life, Right?


“Oh Mary, let me touch you. Are you real?”

It never fails. Every year on approximately the same night, a few days before Christmas, I come downstairs after putting my beloved minions to bed and it’s on. “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And it’s always at roughly the same part when I tune in. You know the one I’m talking about: The scene where Mister Potter offers George Bailey a boatload of money and George, in no uncertain terms tells him to stick it up his crinkled old you-know-what. He does so despite the fact that he’s not happy… he’s not living the dream that he once envisioned for himself and regaled his then-girlfriend Mary about. Once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such, and “It’s A Wonderful Life” is one of the best…

He promised her the moon. Told her that if she wanted it, he’d lasso it out of the sky for her. But he never did. He got older… got married and had a couple of kids… moved into a drafty old house with barely two pennies to rub together and spent his life helping others. Despite it all… despite his family and the immense amount of respect his hometown of Bedford Falls has for him, he finds himself on a bridge on Christmas Eve planning to end it all. In a fit of depression, he wishes that he’d never been born, and guess what? He gets to see what the world might’ve been like without him in it thanks to the help of a heavenly body named Clarence whose just trying to earn his damn wings for the umpteenth time.

Y’all know the rest. George realizes how important he is to the people that care about him and the world and he takes it all back. He “awakens” on the same bridge and everything has returned to normal. Cue the music, him running back into town through the snow and arriving at his house, embracing his family and discovering that he has impacted every, and I mean EVERY life in Bedford Falls. And as his littlest minion “Zuzu” tells him that her “teacher says every time a bell rings and angel gets their wings,” the tears that I have been shedding for the last 10 minutes redouble and I start bawling. Not just tearing up, guys and gals: Sobbing like a pre-pubescent kid who just watched “Old Yeller” for the first time. It’s been that way every year for as long as I can remember and it remains that way now, even at the ripe old (young) age of 38. Few movies impact me the way “It’s A Wonderful Life” does. I never understood why…

Until now.

I’m sorry I’ve been “away” for a while. I’ve been busy… damned busy. Back on December 3rd I started a new job–the same one I referenced in my last blog post–and I’ve been knee-deep in learning not just it, but the industry, as well. I’ve been meeting new people and helping people find jobs. Writing has been somewhat of an afterthought for the first time in a long time. It’s not that I’ve given up… I haven’t. But as my good friend and eminent sage of wisdom Kim “Don’t Call Me Kimmy” said a few nights ago, “you’re allowed to focus on other things, Frank. Writing will be there when you’re ready for it and it’s ready for you, again.”

I believe her, and I believe that. Sh*t, here I am, aren’t I? Blogging again after a month of not doing so. It really is like riding a bike. But this little piece of modern Mental Flatulence isn’t about writing. Not directly, at least. It’s about “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and about the realization that I came to roughly five minutes before I started typing. That realization? That I am more like George Bailey than I ever considered before. The kinship I feel with Capra’s tale? It’s a symptom of similarity, i.e. certain aspects of my life seem culled from the pages of the script.

Consider: I grew up a dreamer. I still am, though I consider myself more of a conservative one this unseasonably warm and foggy night in late December of 2013. When I met my then-Pharmacy Intern turned girlfriend turned wife Nicole Gentile I was filled with youthful spit and vinegar. “You’ll see,” I told her, “one day, I’ll make a living as writer and you’ll never have to work again.” Twelve years later and I’m still working an “odd” job, i.e. not writing for a living and Nicole is working 40 plus hours a week as a PIC (Pharmacist in Charge) at CVS/Pharmacy. I live in a drafty, pseudo-old house and have two “Zuzu’s” of my own. I’ve never ended up on a bridge, or anywhere for that matter contemplating ending it. And I never will. But am I happy? Have I lasso’d the moon? Or am I, like George Bailey, merely accepting this life that I live as incontrovertible, i.e. wearing a winky emoticon and a smiley face but bawling my eyes out inside?

I think, in the immortal words of another cinematic icon, Forrest Gump that “it’s a little of both, happening at the same time.” Spoiler alert, friends: I’m NOT always the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face. But then again, who is? May he or she who is cast the first aspersion upon me (I’d appreciate them not throwing stones if at all possible). I have my problems just like everyone else from my beloved wife to you do.  But I don’t need an under-qualified angel to come’on down from heaven and show me what the world would be like without me. I don’t care to know. ‘Cause I’m here. For 38 years I’ve always been here, impacting lives and feeling the impact of others upon me and mine. And I hope to be here for a long time.

Life is full of ups and downs, guys and gals. Not every day “is gonna’ be the best day of [your] life (thanks, American Authors).” There are going to be good ones and bad ones and the key to surviving? To not falling into the raging river of despair that flows beneath the proverbial bridge of existence? It’s to always retain hope. To hold onto your dreams and strive toward them, regardless of whether or not you will actually achieve them before the cold, dark embrace of Night with a capital “N” enfolds you. Sh*t really does happen… eight thousand dollars (symbolic dollars, of course; kind of like ethereal Monopoly money) occasionally DOES disappear. But it is in those times of seemingly insatiable despair where you, like George Bailey, look up and see all the smiling faces of the people you’ve impacted in your life staring back at you. They begin to sing “Auld Lang Syne” in perfect harmony as you hold your youngest minion close to your chest and your oldest sings songs from the “Frozen” soundtrack. Behind you, a bell rings and your youngest grunts the equivalent of “every time a bell rings an angel gets their wings.” And as your tears begin to fall you turn to her, and you look her in her big, brown eyes and say…

“That’s right. That’s right.”

Have a very Merry Christmas, every one. And a Happy New Year to boot. Now if you’ll excuse me, George Bailey is about to “awaken.” Cue me, sobbing like a baby.



What Christmas Means To Me

This is probably the last thing that I should be writing, right now. As of this particular moment in time on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence  the question, “What does Christmas mean to me,” can be answered with one word and one word only: Pain. As in sinus, head and throat. As in I woke up this past, Monday Morning–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or do not celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday–with virtually the same ailment that both of my girls had last week. But wait, you may argue, didn’t your girls have two, separate ailments? Yes. They did, and I got the best of both worlds, i.e. Cara’s fever and Natalie’s congestion. I am a walking, talking, barely breathing, woozy headed, medicated facsimile of a smiling face, right now, and the smiley face? I’ve only got that on for my customers. I’d much rather drink a bottle of Nyquil and crawl up in to a corner for the next day and a half. But I can’t. I won’t. ‘Cause as Freddy Mercury so aptly sang despite his foreknowledge of his own, personal condition, “The show must go on!”

To be honest with you? The only reason that I’m here and not at home, in bed right now is because I need to ensure that the dozen or so moving parts of the massive cylinder order leaving the factory for my biggest OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) this PM get off without a hitch. That’s the kind of thing that I do for my customers, guys. Most Inside Sales/Customer Service people punch in quotes, punch in orders and talk on the phone only when unnecessary. They take sick time when they’re sick (and sometimes when they’re not). But me? I throw myself bodily in to my work. I persevere despite how incredibly sh*tty I feel. I go out and visit my customers. I get to know them on a personal level and not just a professional one. I’m not sure why I do it that way, I just do. And it seems to work pretty well so really, why f*ck around with the system?

Because the older I get, the worse I feel. Yes, I know I’m only 37 years young but “getting sick” can’t be cured by 30 Jello shots and a bottle of champagne anymore. I need real medicine and I need rest. And consistent rest is something I have not been getting these last few weeks.

So why? Why chose now to write a blog post about what Christmas means to me? Won’t your answers be skewed by your condition, you may argue. They may. But I just popped a couple of Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu that I picked up at 7-11, along with a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink and I can already feel my nasal pathways, my head and my chest drying up. It’s amazing what Acetaminophen can do when combined with an antihistamine and caffeine. I’m not saying that I feel 100% better… I don’t. But I’m feeling a bit more functional than I was a few paragraphs ago and some things? Well, I’ve waited a few days to write this and I don’t want to wait any longer lest I forget them. So damn the pounding in my ears, I’m goin’ for broke.

This past Christmas–or this past Tuesday for those of you that have been living under a rock or only celebrate Hanukkah–was my 38th on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Mind you, I really don’t remember the first couple but I can remember from roughly my fifth or sixth on. I can’t recall every gift… every detail of those earliest Christmas mornings but I can remember how they felt. In short? They felt magicalBefore I knew the sad truth about Santa Claus; before I learned that reindeer generally don’t fly, not even with some of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust; before I realized that my then-father now sperm donor had eaten the cookies and drank the milk that I and my little sister had diligently left out for the other big guy, Christmas morning was a time of infinite possibility. In truth? It was the only time. Not even my birthday could match it’s awesomeness.

All that changed as I got older and realized “the truth.” Christmas morning was a time of necessity. It was a time to get up before 10:00 AM–something which I rarely did in my teens–and eat breakfast with my mother and my sister. It was a time to open my significantly smaller pile of gifts with each, passing year despite the fact that all I really wanted to do was kick back on the couch and watch “A Christmas Story” over and over again. Magical gifts like the original Millennium Falcon and the Darth Vader carrying case–both of which are worth bow-coo bucks presently in mint condition; who knew?–were replaced by clothes, more clothes and the occasional novelty gift, i.e. “junk.” All this culminated in my first Christmas away from home–1997 for those of you that are counting–when I slept too late at my apartment, missed Christmas breakfast and showed up at my Mom’s hungover and smelling of tequila and cigarettes around noon. I still don’t know if my mother ever forgave me for that trespass. If she still begrudges me it let me formally state the obvious herein: I’m sorry. And if she forgot about it some time ago? Well, I guess I can’t blame her. Only pseudo-madmen like myself can remember things as mundane and inane as this and can barely remember what they ate for lunch yesterday.

For the record, it was leftover Eggplant Parmesan, a meatball and a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink. Anyone else sensing that “caffeine dependency” is a theme for your old buddy the Madchronicler? My neurologist would have a field day with my caffeine consumption, presently. No migraines for the moment. Just a pounding in my sinuses, my head and my chest that already appears to be returning despite the fact that I just popped those Tylenol Cold and Sinuses an hour ago. All together now: Oh f*ck me. Sorry, but I abandoned oh thank God last night.

And then, three plus years ago, something amazing and unexpected happened: My wife and I had a child. Okay, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. We had been trying for a while. But it wasn’t Cara’s birth that I was referring to as “unexpected.” It was my own renewed interest in Christmas. I remember waking up that December 25th, long before Cara and Nicole did in anticipation of Cara’s reaction to seeing all of her presents under the tree… of her happiness at realizing that Santa had eaten all of his cookies and drank all of his milk. I guess in my elation, I neglected to realize that Cara was only five months and some change old at the time and could barely sit up, much less realize that some jolly and jiggly, red suit clad, cookie and milk loving sot had slid down our non-existent chimney and left her an army of Fisher Price, Playschool and Leap Pad stuff. Still, it was fun opening her presents for her and giving her the paper to play with.

But a fundamental change had been enacted in my life, guys. With each, subsequent year I got more and more “in” to Christmas as Cara realized more and more that something different was happening. This year, my wife and I had our second child (Natalie for those of you keeping score), and Cara turned three. And I knew, even before the season started that this Christmas was going to be as fun as hell.

My anticipation reached a feverish level on Monday night–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or who celebrate Kwanzaa–and that wasn’t because of the temperature I was running. It wasn’t due to the myriad medicines, the two low sugar, Monster Energy drinks that I had consumed or the periodic shots of vodka I was taking when mine and my wife’s families weren’t looking to dull the itch in my throat. Okay, so maybe those factors played in to it a bit but I got very little sleep and was up before anyone else on Christmas morning. I actually had to wait a half an hour for Cara and Nicole to wake up (Natalie is still portable and hence not as much a wakeful necessity) before I could go downstairs. But when I walked down those stairs and saw all of the presents under the tree and against the wall behind and beside it… when I looked over at the end table and saw the cookie crumbs on the plate that Cara had left for Santa, the empty cup that smelled a little like sour milk and the note that Santa had left Cara and Natalie? Well sh*t. I felt the magic come flooding back in to my living room for the first time since I was an impressionable youth despite the fact that I knew “the truth” behind the staged scene laid out before me. It. Was. Christmas! And there was much rejoicing.


In short? I had come full circle, friends. As I turned on the tree and the iPad underneath it which had “Merry Christmas!” written in bold, flowing  purple letters across its face I realized that the reaction that I was about to witness in Cara was the same as the reaction that my own mother and, for a time, my own father turned sperm donor had witnessed in me on those early, Christmas mornings of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The impression of the prototypical, Thomas Kincade Christmas morning was heightened by the rapidly melting, coat of white snow that lay upon the ground outside and the lingering scent of baked cookies that hung over my head from the previous day. Throw in a roaring fireplace which we do not have (the Yule Log is not a sufficient substitute, BTW) and you’ve got a scene to rival any cinematic vision of Christmas morning ever created including my all time favorite, the one that takes place in the Nexus for Captain Jean Luc Picard in “Star Trek: Generations.” Yes, I went there. Don’t believe me? Check it out at your leisure and tell me I’m wrong. I triple dog dare you.

In a word? No. It did not.


Wow. Talk about anti-climactic.

I’m serious, though. It played out like this: Cara came downstairs, smiled and stated very nonchalantly that “Santa was here” before she seated herself next to where my wife indicated her pile was and began to rip through her presents. She further “assisted” her little sister, myself and my wife with our piles. As the process unfolded she seemed to get more and more “in” to what she was doing but admittedly, the entire outcome was somewhat unexpected considering how sure I had been of her reaction leading up to it. After a whirlwind 45 minutes, everything was opened and she was asking me and my wife to remove toys from boxes so she could play with them.

In all honesty? I should have been prepared for it as soon as she came in to mine and my wife’s bedroom and informed us that she did not believe that Santa had come ’cause she had not heard him or his reindeer on the roof of our house. Which is a legitimate point as the ceiling of her room is directly beneath said rooftop. But I was not. Don’t get me wrong: I was not disappointed. Far from it, actually. I savored every shredded piece of wrapping paper that fell upon our living room floor and every “ooh” and “ahh” that her gifts elicited. And I did not for once doubt her belief that “Santa was here” despite her not having heard him and his reindeer because, as she stated at numerous points over the course of the following day and evening, Santa had gotten her everything that she had asked for and she was very thankful.

Perhaps I simply built the scenario up too much in my mind. Maybe she wasn’t quite as ready to embrace the magic of Christmas morning as I thought she was at three and a half. Or maybe the times have changed and the mentalities of our children have done the same. I’m inclined to lean more toward the latter though the former is also a distinct possibility. Little exists in the way of magic nowadays and what does exist is called “fantasy” by most. Our kids? They learn this from the get go. More attention is paid to the sciences and mathematics than is paid to the arts, nowadays. As for me? I’m not a true believer in magic as it exists traditionally though I am a lover of everything and anything fantasy. Wizards and witches, warlocks and leprechauns? There is no place for such things in a world where everything from a holiday to our national debt is analyzed at the microscopic or, some might say quantum level. Such things now fall in to the realm of “fiction” and not “reality.” Not even “Little Kid Reality.”

And Christmas? Both the story that we all know so well and the fundamental spirituality at the center of it (see: Jesus Christ; Saint Nicholas) have been glossed over by the big box retailers and the idea guys. Case in point: The Elf on the Shelf. While I love ours like a member of our family, albeit one that merely shows up for approximately 30 days at the end of the year, wreaks havoc and then leaves, where is Jingle in the traditional canon of Christmas? What child ever wrote in their “What Christmas Means To Me” essay, “My Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, who likes to TP our Christmas tree and have an affair with Barbie right under Ken’s nose.”

None that I know of though there’s always the possibility that there’s some sick and twisted kid out there that thinks like I do. The fact is, Christmas in 2012 (pushing 2013) is not the same as it was 30 plus years ago, or even 15 years ago in 1997. Our children are not the same. Whereas my generation and I were born in to a world of notebooks, number two pencils and Trapper Keepers, Cara and Natalie’s generation is being born in to a world of iPads and Cloud storage. All one of them needs to do is Google “is Santa Claus real” and “the truth” will be revealed. My generation, disenchanted with the magic of Christmas created the same technologies that our children are now being born with. The Catch-22? We used our imaginations to create such things, the same imaginations that once upon a time believed that Santa Claus and his reindeer flew to and landed silently upon our rooftops despite the fact that reindeer aren’t supposed to be able to fly, not even with a sprinkling of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust…

…that Santa slid down our chimneys despite the fact that 75 to 80% of us, growing up, did not have chimneys and the physics of a 400 pound man sliding through an opening with a diameter of a foot are virtually inconceivable…

…that he ate the cookies and drank the milk that we had diligently left out for him…

…that the Thomas Kincade scenes imprinted upon Christmas and post cards, and popularized in movies like “Star Trek: Generations” were, in fact, actual scenes of the perfect Christmas morning that at some point in time existed on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

We created the mentality that our children are now being born with: That everything once considered magical or fantastical has been relegated to the fiction shelf of your local big box, book retailer (see: Barnes and Noble), or the online store of your preferred internet, big box retailer (see: Even Christmas. But still, there is that teeny, tiny part of me that was watching Cara very, very closely on Christmas morning and could see, despite her nonchalant exterior, a twinkle in her eyes that had not existed the previous evening when I had put her to bed. She saw all of those presents beneath the Christmas tree, the empty plate that had once held cookies and the cup beside it that had once held milk, the note that was printed in her Mommy’s distinctive handwriting and she knew that something had happened. Maybe not something magical but something special. Someone had come, be said someone Santa Claus or Daddy/Mommy Claus, and said someone had gotten her everything that she had put on her Christmas list…

And she was very thankful.

What does Christmas mean to me? The same thing that it meant to me when I was a child. I drowned it for a while with tequila and cigarettes, not to mention a heaping dose of skepticism, one too many viewings of “A Christmas Story” and one too few mornings simply sitting around the Yule Log, enjoying my family’s company. I forgot about it for a while but over these last few years, I’ve remembered it. Even without magic, Christmas morning has been and always will be a time of infinite possibility.

As for Cara? Well sh*t. She’s only three and a half. I can only remember as far back as my fifth or sixth Christmas.

Who knows?

Happy Holidays, everyone.


Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish

Happy, happy December 20th, fellow Sh*theads. Not only are we five days away from Christmas or one day away from the Mayan Apocalypse depending on your perspective (or preference; I don’t doubt that one or more of you reading this would be okay with the world ending tomorrow), but this post, if I am fortunate enough to complete it before the end of the world or Santa’s arrival (whichever comes first) will be the 30th blog post that I have completed since I created “Random Musings” back in 2009. Back then, I and most bloggers that I know (or, as some called us then and continue to call us now, “Proverbial Time Wasters”) lived on Google Blogger and no one lived any place else. No one that I was chummy with even knew about WordPress despite the fact that it has existed, per Wikipedia, since 2003 and is now the “most popular blogging system in use on the Internet.” News to me, folks. I just thought it was a trendy alternative.

I have since put away childish things and moved on. “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman Version 2.0” is, in my opinion, superior to “Random Musings” version one, but my original Blogger site will always occupy a spot in my heart, simply because entries one through 22 of this venture were all introduced via it.

Those entries? Some were better received (see Penn State Proud – A Pseudo-Madman’s Take) than others (see “I guess in a way, you always end up right back where you started…”). All have been imported to this site (hence, the links) and the original “Random Musings” has since gone the way of the Dodo Bird. But regardless of the response to an entry or the lack thereof, I never once wavered in my resolve to write what I want to write, when I want to write it and for as long as I choose to do this? I never will. I don’t force it, as can be evidenced by this blog’s time frame–three years–and its output–29, soon to be 30 entries. If you do the math, that averages out to approximately 10 entries a year which, by blogging standards, is little more than a drop in the bucket. Jesus, I’ve only been on WordPress for a few weeks and some people that I follow have already posted 30 entries in that time alone.

What can I say? For me, it’s not about quantity but quality, a fact of my life which transcends just blogging and writing. Roll snare drum. If you didn’t get that good. Newsflash to any newcomers to these compositions: I often take digs at myself and they are many times obvious. If I can sneak a veiled one in every so often… well, to quote those eminent sages of modern cinematic wisdom Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted Logan, “Excellent!” I don’t have to always eviscerate myself, do I?

Um, that was a rhetorical question, guys. Please don’t answer it unless you can support your argument. Gracias. Sin digresiones mas. 

Quality over quantity. I’m not saying that the aforementioned, other bloggers that post every day are in any way, shape or form inferior to me. Quite the contrary: A few of them have a skill and a fortitude that I will never equal. To be honest with you? I’m slightly envious of them. I just don’t have the time or the patience to do this every day. But I have approached and will continue to approach every one of these little ditties that I do find the time to write as more than just a standard, run-of-the-mill, one or two paragraph blurb that can be pigeonholed by one classification and two tags. In truth? Writing is writing, whether you’re blogging or attempting to compose the next great American novel (the last one was “The Stand” by Stephen King; yes, I know that’s my own, personal opinion but I don’t think that I’m alone in my assessment). And I love WordPress but am having a b*tch of a time tagging my work. It defies classification and always has. Still, it would help me to know if there is some veteran, blogger secret that Google Blogger neglected to teach me about how to successfully tag and classify your blog so as to maximize its visibility. If there is and you know it, please message it to me, Tweet it to me or email me it. I’d rather not use a tag like “Valtrex” unless I really, really have to.

No. I approach them in the same way that I approach anything and everything else that I write, be that “anything and everything else” a novel, a short story, a poem or an email (yes, I said “email”; you don’t believe me? Let me know and I’ll send you a copy of “The Collected Couch Chronicles”): With an eye toward perfection. Whether I achieve that or not is your call, not mine. I also like to have a topic in mind when I start writing. It’s not just about… what did I call it a few entries ago? Opening up my proverbial man purse and spilling my problems out on the Intranet for all to see. No. It’s about writing something that I feel is relevant. To a time, a place, a mentality or a situation. And to me. Having a personal connection to what I am writing is crucial to what I view as my success or failure as a writer. Plus, I like to amuse if I can. If I have failed to do any of these things in the last three plus years then I am sorry. I can point you in the direction of any number of other blogs that have effectively achieved all of these goals if you’d like. Just say the word.

That said, this particular blog entry is a bit of an enigma compared to the others. Why? Because I really don’t have a topic in mind this time. Henceforth it’s title, “Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish.” Vague, huh? In truth, my always perturbed mind is perplexed presently (try saying that five times fast) by many topics. Not just Christmas and the 2012 Phenomenon but the Newtown, Connecticut shooting that transpired a week ago, the impending Fiscal Cliff and the problem of when I am going to get my hair cut and my beard trimmed between now and Christmas. Concerning the former two, I’ve considered writing about both but have decided against doing so for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I don’t feel as though I can contribute anything relevant or original to the ongoing dialogue about them. As for the latter, I guess I am holding out hope that the world ends tomorrow and in the process erases the need to be properly groomed for the holidays. If it doesn’t? Well sh*t. I may just take a set of clippers to both my hair and my beard. Maybe my eyebrows, too. Instead of a younger version of Santa Claus I’ll look like a fatter version of Pinky from “The Wall” when my family comes to Christmas Eve dinner. Or a baby rat: Whichever you prefer.

Note to all: That dig was not veiled. I was calling myself portly. End note.

Incidentally, it is now post-12 AM on December 21st in the Far East and the reports coming in from that area of the world are pretty gul’darned saccharine. No fire and brimstone in Sydney, Australia or Tokyo, Japan as near as I can tell. The Earth’s gravitational field appears to be in tact and there’s no sign of Nibiru on either NASA’s long range or short range scanners. Sounds like our New Age interpretation of the termination of the 13th Baktun of the Mayan calendar was about as accurate as our prediction about Y2K. The only difference for me, personally? On New Years Eve, 1999 I was completely fuschnookered at a party and tonight, I will be at home with my two daughters watching “Caillou’s Holiday Movie” or the equivalent. Which is better and which is worse? I’m not really sure, but I know that the 30 Jello shots that I slammed in 1999 would kill me in 2012. Give me death or give me Caillou? No offense, but I’ll take the kid who’s four (’cause each day he grows some more!). End discussion.

Seriously, people? Whether you believe the Bible or not (I, for one, do) you have got to admit at this juncture that in all actuality, no one has any f*cking idea when the world is going to end. As my one friend so aptly put it in response to my Facebook status earlier, “I’ll just wait for the Pope to Tweet about it.”

Incidentally, that status was:


What can I say? I’ve got grooming on my brain. If you could see me right now you’d understand why. I guess that’s the nice thing about writing something without a specific topic in mind: You can jump from one idea to the next at whim. ‘Course it’s also the bad thing about it because a lot of people won’t read something unless it’s focused. Incidentally, I should insert here a shout out to the two people other than me whose responses are visible in the above screenshot. I did not get their permission to use their names or their profile pics and I hope they will not sue me because of this. Anywhos, you know who you are. Booyakasha. Respect. Pero estoy divagando.

Is the world going to end one day? Of course it is. Everything does. But why live your life in fear of it? Live each day like it’s your last and let the Rapture take care of itself. Stop building doomsday bunkers, training with semi-automatic weapons and stocking up on freeze dried lasagna. Save that kind of energy for more important things like your kids. Look at what happened last Friday. Would it kill you to spend another few hours playing with them and not stringing your compound bow? No. It wouldn’t. So do it, dammit. Dress like Eugene/Flynn Ryder from “Tangled” and play princess with your daughter. Trust me: You won’t regret it.

Me, personally? I’d like to believe that when the end does come… if it comes in my lifetime, I’ll have lived my existence with my wife, my daughters, my family and my friends to its fullest extent. That way when the Pope Tweets about the Rapture and I know, with 100% certainty that it’s coming, I can gather up my family and head for ground zero with no regrets because baby? I’ve seen enough movies and read enough books… hell, written enough books that ruminate on the “after” to know that I want no part of it. The survivalists can have their new world order. I’ll take my wispy place in the Ether next to the remaining 99% of the world’s Sh*theads that didn’t survive the scourge. And as the blinding, white light and hot fire engulfs me like it did David Estes in this past week’s episode of “Homeland,” I’ll be able to smile as I feel the heat singe my unruly beard, my wavy salt and pepper hair and my cheeks and say…

You guessed it: Oh thank God. 

So brings me to the conclusion of “Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish,” otherwise known as “Publicar el Número 30 en los Puntos de Subtitulado en Español.” I’m only doing a little of this translation by memory, guys. Two years of college Spanish does not a bilingual blogger make. I may have forsaken Google Blogger in favor or WordPress but Google Translate is still one of my best friends, along with the people at Wikipedia. I hope you weren’t expecting something momentous from my 30th blog entry. I guess I just didn’t have it in me, today. Maybe I’ll save “momentous” for 50 so long as Saint Nick and the universe cooperate. I’ve always wanted to write something on my own, personal multiverse theory. Perhaps that will be the time. But not now. Now, I’ve got a million and one things to worry about, the least of which is how I’m going to get a haircut and trim my beard between now and next Monday night. I guess I’m going to have to. Why?

Because as I write these words, it is 8:35 AM in Sydney, Australia and 6:35 AM in Tokyo, Japan on December 21st, 2012. The Winter Solstice came and went at 6:00 AM in both locations and guess what? Both cities are still in existence. Mind you, the Mayans weren’t based in those locations but rather here in North and South America, where it won’t be 6:00 AM on December 21st until… well, 6:00 AM tomorrow morning, EST. So there is still a bit of wiggle room for the New Agers who believe that the axis of the planet is going to shift within the next 24 hours and fling all of us in to space. While there is still a degree of uncertainty surrounding whether the world is going to end in a few hours or not there is no uncertainty surrounding my 30th blog entry. It is done. To those of you that have followed my inane ramblings for the last three plus years? Thank you for seeing 30 with me. For those that have just discovered “Random Musings” in the last few weeks thank you for seeing eight with me. And for those of you who have stumbled upon these words for the first time?

Welcome. My name if Frank Marsh but I call myself the Madchronicler. I’m a Proverbial Time Waster and an amateur writer. Oh! And I am a Sh*thead. That’s not me taking a dig at myself which I do often. It’s the truth. And guess what? You’re one, too. The world is full of Sh*theads. To be one in my subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole is not a curse but a blessing. It means we’re alike, you and I. And we are, to some extent. Stick around if you want to know more. 30 entries down, and who knows how many more to go?


The Marsh Family Christmas Newsletter (2012 Edition)

It was not my intention to write this. This blog entry actually started as a rumination on the upcoming 2012 Phenomenon or, as I like to call it, the Mayan Apocalypse, but the Christmas music that has been playing incessantly in the background since I sat down at my desk this AM coupled with something my wife proposed to me last night has got my mind going in a completely different direction. A yuletide one. And that never happens, does it?

All together now: Sarcasm fully intended. 

If you are reading this then you are likely familiar with the practice of giving and getting Christmas cards every year. And if you are not familiar with that practice then to Nibiru with you, you cold-hearted Scrooge. What you may or may not be familiar with is the practice of sending a newsletter with your Christmas card or, in some cases, in place of it.

I don’t begrudge the newsletter senders this practice, especially the ones that I only correspond with once every Mayan Apocalypse via phone call, email, snail mail or Facebook. I’m happy to hear about what you’ve been up too and admittedly? I’m oft times embarrassed that you have done so much in the last year while I have done so little. But last night when I returned home from a long day at the office ruminating on valves, motors and various shaped and sized Apocalypses my wife handed me one of these newsletters.

I started reading it while I sipped on my Frappe and ate my crab cakes, potatoes and crescent rolls. The more I dug in to its content the wider my eyes opened. One monumental event after another unfolded on the professionally rendered page of stationary in front of me until I reached the end. There, directly beside a blessing and a signature was a picture of a lamb and a deer standing upon the snow-covered ground. They were looking up at the twinkling Christmas star. The only thing missing from the scene was the sound of a chorus of angels singing Handel’s “Messiah” in the background. It was so very, very perfect, and I knew what Nicole was going to ask me before she even spoke it between a mouthful of crab cake and corn:

“Why don’t you write one of these for us, honey?” The actual question was slightly less intelligible.

Me? I chuckled because I knew that the 2012 Marsh Family Christmas Newsletter would read like a set of directions on how to spend countless hours sitting upon a couch with a restless baby on your lap. It would read like an expert account of how to watch “Tangled” two dozen times and not shout at the end that “it’s not her real mother, honey,” thus traumatizing an innocent three and a half year old for the rest of her natural life. It would be a treatise on how to beat the new, Hoth level of “Angry Birds: Star Wars” or how to drop a 101 point word score on your “Words with Friends” opponent (hint: Position “JAZZY” on a triple letter and a triple word score and marvel at the results).

Sure, there were momentous events in our life over the past year. Natalie’s arrival in late May; me finishing my “Endworld” rewrite in January; me winning big at the Roulette table last month by playing Cara’s birthday, thus offsetting my wife’s heavy losses (love ‘ya, dear). But save for a few isolated incidences like those the year was pretty saccharine. Still, my sweetie asked me to so here you go. Without further adieu I give you the Marsh Family Christmas Newsletter (2012 Edition): 

12/12/12 (or, if the Mayan’s were dyslexic, 12/21/12 AKA the end of the world)

Family and Friends, 

Seasons Greetings and salutations from the Marsh Homestead in Broomall, Pennsylvania! I hope this newsletter finds you healthy, wealthy and wise! 2012 has been a banner year for the Marsh family and I’d like to share a bit of it with you if you will allow me to. You will? Great! 

2012 began with a proverbial whimper, i.e. it began with Cara sleeping and Nicole and I eating ring bologna, pepperoni and cheese while watching a marathon of “Boardwalk Empire.” I still can’t believe they killed off Jimmy! Wait, you did know that, didn’t you? If you didn’t oops. My bad. Next time I’ll post a spoiler alert. 

Okay, SPOILER ALERT: I can’t f*cking believe they killed off Jimmy Darmody! And that truth that he dropped on Nucky about not being half a gangster right before Nucky planted a cap in his a**? I remember saying to Nicole at the time that it would make a great tagline for Season Three. Guess what? It did. Wow. Sometimes my capacity to predict mundane things that have absolutely no bearing on anyone’s life but mine and my wife’s amazes me.

In late January, I completed my rewrite of “Endworld – A Novel” and immediately questioned why the f*ck I had copyrighted it back in 1998 as “Endworld – A Novel” and not just “Endworld.” I know I was a bit of a pretentious little sh*t back then but really, anyone who picks it up can tell instantaneously that its a novel and not a cookbook. I edited it and shipped it off to an editor and a couple of Beta Readers. Only one of the latter read it through to the end and got back to me with his/her thoughts, and he/she pretty much told me that it was terrible. So, I took his/her observations and applied them to a re-rewrite which I then shipped off to him/her again. He/she read it, came back and told me in no uncertain terms that it was slightly less terrible than it had been previously. Needless to say, “Endworld – A Novel” has not yet been published. It is “Pending Further Feedback” and another inevitable rewrite. New Year’s Resolution FAIL.  

The next few months passed without incident but in early April, there were a few complications with Nicole’s pregnancy. Long story short, she went in to premature labor at 32 weeks and ended up on bed rest for the rest of her term. We were forced to step up our preparations for Natalie’s arrival because really? Nicole was pretty much in constant labor from early April on. I converted our office in to a nursery and our basement in to a combination office/playroom/Man Cave by mid-April, always wary that Natalie was going to show up before I was done. I even hung a ceiling fan without maiming myself. Okay, maybe I maimed myself a little, but it’s just a little scar and it’s on my shin. You can’t even see it unless I wear shorts. By the time May rolled around we were 100% ready for Natalie’s arrival. 

Guess what? She didn’t show up until May 30th and that was only because the doctors got tired of waiting for her. They induced Nicole and within four hours of when it started it was over. Welcome to the world Natalie Theresa Marsh! 7 LBs, 0 OZs and 19″ at birth and she’s been growing exponentially since. As of this past Monday she weighs almost 17 LBs and is 27″ long. Which is really just the scientific/mathematical way of saying that she’s a six month old beast compared to how big her older sister was at six months old. But she’s got a wonderful disposition and has been the perfect baby since we brought her home. Who cares about her new habit of waking up between 1:30 and 3:30 AM every night and howling until someone comes in to check on her? Not me and not Nicole. We get a chuckle out of  it despite the fact that neither of us has gotten a decent night’s sleep since Halloween. Ha, ha and HA. See? There has been some isolated talk of training Cara to get up when the baby cries and go check on her but as of yet, we have not committed to it. That’s a lot of responsibility for a three and a half year old though admittedly, Cara probably wouldn’t mind it. It would give her another excuse along with her myriad other ones to stay up past her bedtime. 

Natalie arrived at the end of May and a month later, Cara turned three. I simultaneously decided that it was time to introduce her to “Dora the Explorer” and have been paying the price for that decision since. The Marsh Homestead has been overrun by everything and anything Dora. Backpacks, plates, flatware, stickers, movies and dolls? All f*cking Dora and her good pal, Boots. The good news? It’s not “Spongebob” which my niece and nephew introduced Cara to a few weeks ago, much to my chagrin. We appear to have quelled Cara’s “Spongebob” curiosity for the moment but from what I’ve been told it’s like the Dark Side: Once you give in to it, it will forever dominate your destiny. I’m trying to buy myself a few months of continued innocence from my first born by re-introducing her to her old favorites like the Biscuit books, Dr. Seuss, “Caillou” and “Sesame Street.” So far so good, but she keeps asking me for a crabby patty. I tried to pass an actual crab cake off as one but to no avail. Cara’s a smart kid. She knows the difference. And she only eats chicken nuggets, Gerber ravioli and pizza so really, what was I thinking? 

I just realized that the last paragraph makes it sound like all that Cara does is read books, watch television and eat. Let me restate that: She does the stuff that most three and a half year old’s do, too–playgrounds and play dates, sleepovers and birthday parties–and she also takes ballet every Tuesday afternoon and gymnastics every Saturday morning. 

I‘ve not yet been to a ballet class but gymnastics is ‘kinda my “thing” with her. Needless to say, I’m a bit put off by her gymnastics class and have been since day one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that she’s learning a little discipline and athleticism but it‘s so damn regimented: Like Soviet Russia for tumbling tykes. The teachers make her and her little friends march in formation from one station to the next every time someone rings a bell, and they constantly yell directions at the kids like drill sergeants. And the head of the joint? He looks like a scientific experiment, the result of some mad scientist splicing the genes of an ex-Hippie with those of Bela Karolyi. From his perfectly groomed beard and wild, Einstein-y hair down to the clipboard he never relinquishes, his flannel shirts and Birkenstocks he and I have had a hate-hate relationship from the beginning.

Despite it, the experience has been a good one for Cara and that’s all that matters. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year it’s that my feelings don’t. I get a little nauseous each week from the overwhelming stench of feet mingled with piss mingled with unwashed hair that seems to pervade the place but I’ve learned to deal with it. I’ve even stopped showering before I go so as to fit in better. I don’t know if its working but I’m less grossed out and Bela Karolyi’s Cousin’s Former Roommate steers clear of me, now. Yep. #Winning. 

Cara also has a pet, now. A fish named “Lucy.” I won the original Lucy for her at the fair but within 12 hours of when we brought her home she keeled. Belly up, baby. Complete parenting FAIL. Rather than explain to Cara why Lucy was sleeping so much I decided to leave work early, go to Pet-Smart, buy a female Beta and sub said female Beta in for Lucy. Hence, Lucy 2.0 became a daily part of our lives. Sure, she’s pink and not orange and sure, she looks nothing like a Goldfish but that eventuality is easily explained to a three and a half year old. Cara: “Daddy, why is Lucy pink now?” Me: “Lucy knew pink was your favorite color, honey, so she changed for you.” Cara: “Wow. My fish is magical.” God bless her. May she retain her innocent belief system forever and never have to face the sad and sordid truths that we adults do on a daily basis.    

As for Nicole and I? We’re good. Still working the same jobs and same hours that we were working at this time last year. I’d call our respective existences mundane but I’d be lying. Nicole recently discovered “Song Pop” and I recently re-embraced blogging. I’m also trying to publish a short story but I can’t remember its name, presently. My mind has grown ‘kinda numb from all this 2012 recollecting. What a fascinating year! If it gets any more fascinating I may have to take up hard-core drinking to offset the fascinating-ness of it. But hey, ’tis the season, guys! Rejoice and be glad! All the more so with a tumbler of Single Malt Scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Breathe in and breathe out. Smell that December air. Smells like feces, doesn’t it? Ahh. The sweet smell of parenthood. We. Are. BLESSED. 

And we hope you are, too. Hopefully your respective years have been as eventful as ours has. We look forward to seeing many of you over the upcoming holiday. For those of you that we will not be seeing don’t worry: It’s not you. Okay, well maybe it is a little bit but indirectly. It’s not that you smell or we’re suffering from anything communicable. It’s just that if given the choice between an extra few hours of sleep and getting together/being social, the Marshes will opt for the former. That said, have a wonderful holiday season, whatever your spirituality. Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Festivus, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa! And to all my Atheistic family and friends out there? Hi. Happy December. 

All our Love, 

The Marshes. 

Okay, so maybe our year wasn’t that uneventful. I mean really, it’s all in how you look at it. I just read back over what I wrote and I’m ‘kinda impressed at how much actually has happened to us in 2012. If the world ends in nine days (or, as some dyslexic Mayan’s predicted, tonight at 0:90 MP), at least I’ll be able to meet my maker, secure in the knowledge that I didn’t just spend the entire year farting in to a seat cushion. To the extent that I could I lived my life. I taught Cara how to write her name (with the help of her school, of course) and how to spell everything from it to daddy, mommy, pop-pop and mom-mom (we’re still working on Natalie). I finally managed to get her to a Phillies game and the Devon Horsey Show. So what if I also memorized the lyrics to “I’ve Got A Dream” and can recite whole “Dora the Explorer” books and episodes from memory? So what if the Marsh Christmas Newsletter isn’t overflowing with milestones and pictures of farm animals deep in prayer? I’ve got plenty of time for that in the future. After all, Christmas does come once a year. So long as Nibiru keeps its distance next Friday, it’ll return again in 2013.

In the meantime, I’m done but I don’t feel done. Incomplete. FAIL. I think I know what I need to do but not today. Today, I’ve got a date with a couple of younger women at my three and a half year old’s Christmas concert/cookie decorating spectacular. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll write the Completely False and Over-Exaggeration Laden Marsh Christmas Newsletter (2012 Edition). Tune in then to find out what its like to scale Everest with a six month old in tow.

The Curious Case of Our Elf on the Shelf, Jingle

Good Morning, everyone. I’d like to introduce you to someone very near and dear to me. But more on that in a few paragraphs. First, some perspective.

Historically, I’ve been somewhat of a Grinch about Christmas. There are many reasons why and I won’t explicate them for you herein (I talk enough about myself as it is) but needless to say, that is not entirely true any more. While having a family has not necessarily caused my Christmas heart to grow three sizes on any day, it has made me a great deal less-Grinchy about the holiday season. I still think the season that begins for many on November 1st and doesn’t end until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th is overlong, overblown and is yet another attempt by ‘da man to exploit something sacred for profit like Valentines Day. Or the new “Transformers” franchise (curse you, Michael Bay!). But I’ve given in to it somewhat over the last decade plus. I’ve had to.

Consider: I have a Christmas Mix on Spotify entitled “My Kind of Christmas Mix” which features such holiday classics as “Christmas in Hollis” and “Swiss Colony Beef Log.”  I look forward to putting up our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving every year and to decorating the outside of our house… whenever we have the time to do so (NEWS FLASH: It’s not looking good for 2012). I look forward to taking my daughters to see Santa Claus at the mall though admittedly, said tradition has involved more crying and gnashing of teeth over the last few years than the sheer, sublime joy that meeting Santa and telling him what you want for Christmas should. What can I say? Cara thinks Santa is the sh*t when he’s not towering over her. I like having both my family and Nicole’s family over on Christmas Eve though admittedly, it always helps to have an inexhaustible supply of Egg Nog on hand for the event.

And finally? I love Christmas morning. Watching Cara’s eyes light up when she realizes that Santa ate the milk and cookies that she left out for him… watching her tear through her presents with reckless abandon… spending the next few hours playing with her… it’s all very “It’s a Wonderful Life,” guys. Everything down to the Yule Log burning on our television screen. And it warms my heart despite the chill outside and the snow that is quickly blanketing the world outside my office here in Royersford, Pennsylvania today.

But this blog entry isn’t about Christmas. At least not directly. As I said previously, I’d like to introduce you to someone very near and dear to me. This…

…is our Elf on the Shelf, Jingle. His given name was Jumble but sometime around the beginning of December last Christmas season Cara renamed him, so while all of our documentation states his name as Jumble, we know him and refer to him now as Jingle. For those of you that are blissfully unaware of what the f*ck an Elf on the Shelf is consider this definition, brought to you by your good friends at Wikipedia:

“Every day from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, each family’s scout elf watches over the children and then at night, once everyone goes to bed, the elf flies back to the North Pole to report back to Santa about what activities, good and bad, took place throughout the day. Before the family wakes up each morning, the scout elf flies back from the North Pole and hides. By hiding in a new spot each morning around the house, the scout elf and the family play an on-going game of hide and seek.” (Taken from Wikipedia, November 2012)

That’s pretty much the proverbial long and short of it though the “play[ing] an ongoing game of hide and seek” can quickly get out of hand. At least in Jingle’s case it can. When Nicole first posited the prospect of inviting an Elf on the Shelf in to our home last November I was initially against it. Understand that the prospect of a tiny, human-like creature with pointy ears, rosy cheeks and an unassuming smile traipsing around our home for 30 plus days did not appeal to me in the slightest. I was concerned, among other things, about how our heat bill would be affected by the little f*cker’s comings and goings and how traumatized our cats would be if they actually saw him skipping around in the dark after the rest of us had gone to bed. Jesus, the white one already hides all day and only comes out when she wants to rub her a** against you. A six inch tall elf running around might cause her to go in to cardiac arrest.

She didn’t really leave me or our feline children much of a choice, though. One minute our home was secure and the next, I arrived home from work to find him hanging out on the mirror in our dining room. He glanced over at me with his bulging, “innocent” eyes as I walked passed him and in to the kitchen to get a soda and something in those eyes seemed to bespeak not childlike glee but deep-seated malice. This so-called “elf?” He knew me. He could see in to my soul. And what did he see there?

Himself, guys. He saw himself. What followed over the next few days and weeks was an unprecedented alliance between then-Jumble, now-Jingle and me, his originally reluctant host.

It all started when I came home from work one Saturday afternoon, about a week after his initial arrival. Nicole had made ziti the night before and I helped myself to a heaping bowl of it. She and Cara were over at her mother’s house and would not be back until a bit later on, and Zygote Natalie was resting comfortably in Nicole’s belly. I sat down upon our couch in my customary seat, AKA the Marsh Indentation, directly next to the end table upon which rests, to this day,a light, a book or two that I’m reading and all of our remote controls. I turned on the television and tuned it to the Penn State/Nebraska game. I speared a generous amount of pasta, sauce and melted cheese with my fork and raised it to my mouth. I inserted it. I turned left to see what the thermostat was set to…

And there he wasperched high atop the floor lamp next to the thermostat. I choked on the bite of ziti that I was attempting to chew and spit it out. Jingle wasn’t just looking at me. He was glaring at me with understanding in his eyes and his smile was unwavering. As if by telekinesis, I understood immediately what he required of me and helplessly, I agreed to it because had I been in his place? You bet. I would have proposed the same thing. My appetite replaced by an unexpected sense of purpose, I laid down my bowl of ziti and nodded my head. I swear I saw his cheeky smile increase slightly and his little head twitch in a ghost of a nod.

Game on, that grin and nod seemed to say. I smiled and picked back up my bowl of ziti, ’cause I have never and will never pass up a bowl of Nicole’s ziti for more than a fleeting moment no matter how poor my appetite is. You could have Chucky himself walk across my living room toward me with a machete pointed in my direction and I’d still need to finish my f*cking pasta while he gutted me. Don’t judge me. Try it for yourself and tell me its not addictive.

But I digress. Back to Jingle: In the subsequent days and weeks I took it upon my self to be Jingle’s prime assistant in our home. We would brainstorm at night after Cara had gone to sleep and while Nicole was still working about where he was going to position himself the following day and how I would help him. Jingle, you see, has quite a flair for the dramatic and was unable in many cases to supply himself with the props he needed to fulfill his plans, and while I was never quite sure of where he was going to be the following morning (he rarely followed my idea to a “T”), in no particular order, here are a few of his greatest hits.

Jingle likes his snack food almost as much as Cara likes hers. He has shown a fondness in the past for everything from fruit to, in this picture, Goldfish. Sadly, Jingle isn’t very fond of cleaning up after himself, nor is he fond of using a plate or a bowl. Henceforth how we ended up with a shelf elf’s head in a brand new bag of Goldfish and a trail of the f*cking things on the counter and on the floor. I love him, but I really need to teach him how to be tidier.

Jingle may be an Elf on the Shelf but he’s also got needs. While Jingle’s gender has always been somewhat open to debate (Nicole swears he’s a she and I swear he’s a he), he/she obviously has a thing for blondes. In this particular case, I caught him red-handed sharing a private moment with one of Cara’s Barbies. Notice also the pharmacy-costumed Santa behind him. Apparently he’s also got a thing for voyeurism. I warned him against starting a relationship, however brief with someone that’s been around the block as much as Barbie has but he didn’t listen to me. After a night of debauchery I found him, the following day, here:

I don’t know why he went with just Nyquil over the Nyquil and Valtrex cocktail that I told him was in the medicine cabinet in the Master Bathroom but Jingle has never been one for admitting to his weaknesses. He swears that Barbie was clean and that he really cared for her, even after she left him for either the penguin that danced to the “Cuban Shuffle” or Rock and Roll Elmo (I never discovered which). That said, I understand him catching a cold. After all, he’s only wearing a red felt uniform and a flimsy, red felt hat and he flies to and from the North Pole every night. Dear Santa: The Elf on a Shelf has become a pretty profitable brand. Its spurred books and a holiday special. With all that money coming in, can’t you afford to outfit your elf scouts in a parka, gloves, boots and a knit hat? Remember, big guy: A happy shelf elf is a hard working shelf elf. Sincerely, Me. PS: Don’t tell Nicole about the Valtrex refill I requested in my letter to you. The less she knows the better off we’ll all be.

What I have listed above is not nearly the extent of what I could list. Some ideas were less entertaining than others (hanging from the light in the dining room? Really, Jingle?) but the ones I have noted above are a few of his best. But the coup de grace? Jingle’s masterpiece? Simple, really. It was the night of December 23rd last year when I walked outside to have a cigarette and walked back inside not five minutes later. I beheld this: 

I couldn’t believe it! The little f*cker had actually TP’d our Christmas tree! The thing I, Nicole and Cara (not to mention Zygote Natalie by association) had worked so hard to set up and decorate just a few, short weeks before. The core of our Marsh family, Christmas tradition. I won’t lie to you guys: I felt betrayed. I felt like Jingle had just been stringing me along with his seemingly innocent gestures and comradeship all in preparation for his final gag. I cleaned up the mess as best I could, but not before Nicole came home from work, saw it, screamed and about hung Jingle by his booties over the Harvest Spice candle I had burning in the dining room. But she didn’t. She simply muttered something about him “never coming back… ever” and retired to our room with a sigh of disgust. She left me to deal with him, because really? It had been my alliance with him, not hers that had brought about the destruction of our Christmas tree.

“You need to leave, and you can’t come back next year, Jingle,” I told him, “I’m sorry. Don’t look at me like that, with your chubby, ruddy cheeks and your big, puppy dog eyes. What, you think folding your hands in front of you and crossing your ankles will make you look more innocent? I caught you in the act, Jingle, and this? I’m sorry, my friend, but this… this is goodbye.

He did not answer me as I finished cleaning up his mess, unplugged the tree, turned out the light and went to bed. He remained where he was, unmoved as far as I could tell until the next morning when I came downstairs and found him gone. Nary a trace of him remained save for a single piece of toilet paper that stirred slightly beneath the tree in the heat blowing from our vents and a lone, pretzel flavored Goldfish next to it. Memories of the times we had spent together flooded back and I felt a stray tear run down my cheek. I sighed.

Goodbye, Jingle, I thought again, and went about my Christmas Eve business.

I had a lot to distract me from Jingle’s departure that day, the following day and in the days, weeks and months ahead. Zygote Natalie became Newborn Natalie and is now Infant Natalie. Cara graduated from the Terrible Twos and entered the  Even More Terrible Threes. Nicole and I celebrated our seven year anniversary and our eleventh year together. Inevitably, sometime in mid-November the topic came up in discussion: My mother was considering  inviting an Elf on the Shelf in to her home for the holidays. Did I think it was a good idea?

I shrugged. “Sure mom,” I said dejectedly, “it’ll be… a lot of fun.” I didn’t tell her that I had forcibly exiled mine from my home. Nor did I let on how much I missed him. I pleaded with my wife to let me invite Jingle back but was unable to sway her sensitivities. I went to sleep Thanksgiving night knowing that the possibility of ever seeing Jingle again was tied unavoidably and in opposition to the possibility of ever kissing her again. It was a sad and sleepless night. But when I woke up the next morning:

You can imagine my surprise. There was Jingle, eating Cara’s leftover Halloween candy! He had defied not only my wishes but the Elf on the Shelf Cardinal Rule: Thou shalt not return to the home of one who has ordered you to never return. How would he fulfill his mission and report back to Santa? He did not answer me but somehow, I trusted that he would. I knew that he would find a way. And I knew that Nicole would be okay with his return (which she was). Because he’s a part of our family, now. Granted, he’s a seasonal employee whom we cut loose after we ask him to bust his a** for a month plus but hey: Anyone that can handle flying thousands of miles every night in bone-chilling cold wearing little more than the equivalent of a toilet paper suit can put up with a little inconsistent employment, can’t they?

As I sat there at my dining room table looking at him I smiled. I suddenly understood for maybe the first time since I was a little child, flush with the sheer and sublime joy of meeting Santa at the local mall and telling him what I wanted him to bring me that the Christmas season, however long or overwrought it has grown, remains a time of endless possibilities. Magic can happen, even for the Grinchiest of us if we merely wish it. This Christmas season, I got a special surprise very early on. My friend, Jingle, returned to wreak havoc with me again and God d*mnit, we’re going to make it our mission to top everything that we did last year. Hallelujah!

He mentioned something that morning about a car, our garage and texting. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how that pans out.