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Mom Goes Off-Message

My Mom and step-dad are in town and last night my childhood buddy Mike came over and after dinner we all gathered in the living room to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas." We were re-enacting a beloved childhood ritual. We'd watched the show countless times in the '60s and '70s, laughing at Snoopy dancing on Schroeder's piano, and Lucy playing psychiatrist, and Charlie Brown picking out the saddest little tree on the Christmas tree lot.

My Mom, as you may recall, is a farmgirl from Indiana. Used to milk cows before dawn. Shucked corn in the barn. Sheered the sheep. She's still very down to Earth. She always loved "Peanuts" and the quiet humor and subtle poetry of Charles Schulz. Anyway, about halfway through the program last night, she made an announcement:

"I've never seen this."


She insisted that she'd never seen "A Charlie Brown Christmas," much less watched it regularly in my presence back in our humble Gainesville home.

Indeed I had to admit to myself that I had no specific memory of ever seeing the program with my family. I had been nurturing a false memory. Undoubtedly most of what I remember about growing up is confabulated. My memories of being at Woodstock, for example, are possibly delusional. (The Woodstock stuff is fuzzy in my mind, but I assumed that simply went with the territory.)

Throughout America in the coming days people will be participating in beloved family rituals that have never previously existed except in someone's twisted fantasy. This is known as creating an "instant tradition." Which is all good. Everyone needs a chance to start a venerable tradition anew.

But here's where I draw the line: Recently my Mom mentioned casually that she didn't actually grow up on a farm. She said she grew up in town, mostly. Obviously I was so unsettled I told her to tell me nothing more about it.

Mom, please stick to the script.


I made a stupendous list of things to do today at work, but I can tell already that the whole city is going to be shut down for the annual Friday Before Christmas holiday. It's a quasi-holiday, extra-calendrical, off the books but very much enforced. And boy am I steamed. Why should I be punished just because everyone is coming up lame on the very day I finally decided to do some work? Today is the day I would have done something amazing -- the day I would have, hold onto your seats, accomplished something. But no, it's like there's this huge conspiracy to defy my ambitions whenever they happen to emerge, Lazarus-like, from the murky bog of torpor, the swamp of ennui and the black lagoon of overwrought metaphors.

I ... can't ... win.

The exciting thing is that the New Year brings with it wonderful opportunities for improving this blog. We do not subscribe to the theory, advanced by Fisher, that blogs are dead, that they're just so 2004. No, we think blogs like this one are merely pathetic, and that we'd have to ramp up the substantive content roughly 1,000 percent just to elevate them to the condition of vapid. BUT....with a new year comes the opportunity to add additional features, such as (cross fingers) images. You know: Pictures. [Fact: I'm going to get video training! Like, learn how to carry a video camera so I can stream video onto the blog of, I don't know, people walking past my desk.]

Also this may be the year the blog develops a consistent subject matter, rather than jumping around among diverse topics ranging from What I Might Eat For Lunch to Why I'm In a Bad Mood to Shouldn't People Pay More Attention To Me. Surely there's a unifying theme buried in there somewhere.

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 22, 2006; 8:47 AM ET
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Next: Santa In Trouble


I know just what you mean Joel. Why just yesterday I was telling my son about this wonderful Christmas I once had were all I wanted was an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

Oh well. I guess what I really need to be worried about is when I start telling stories I think are made up, but actually aren't.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 22, 2006 10:36 AM | Report abuse

jeez, nothing good can come out of the "black lagoon of overwrought metaphors." JA, let it rest. Go muddle yourself a tall mojito and enjoy the day.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | December 22, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

You had time to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas?" Man, this week I 've been running around packing equipment, unpacking equipment, desperately shopping (I'm still missing stuff for 4 critical people), and of course, my guitar lesson on Monday, which I have not been able to follow-up with actual practice, yet. Oh, yeah, and frittering away valuable hours of work time with lingering on this blog-thingy. My life is very, very difficult. You could die from such a life.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | December 22, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Used to milk cows before down.

Don't you mean dawn?


Posted by: just channeling Tom fan here | December 22, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

So sorry to be committing go walk now.

Posted by: omni | December 22, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Ooohhh, pictures. Indents. A boodle Festivius gift! Maybe the secret surprise of italics? I can hardly wait.

You know its been a big year here on the blog. The cool picture of Joel riding the beastly blog. Now indents AND pictures. Life is pretty good.

I am a little worried about the whole "consistent subject matter, rather than jumping around among diverse topics " section though.

Posted by: dr | December 22, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

StoTim, hopefully you get your shopping done today. It's very dangerous to try and achieve the state of spendipity* on the last weekend before Christmas.

Around Christmas, things that happen twice are traditions. If something happens three times it is a venerable tradition.

* royalty cheque to martooni/danghippie in the mail

Posted by: SonofCarl | December 22, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Thanks omni...

dr, you will get italics in the boodle when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers.

Hey, Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by: Achenbach | December 22, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

The thought of Lazarus rising from a misty bog full of purple-flowering bladderworts suggests the theme for a movie. That's so much better than rising from a mere coffin or cave.

I dunno about pictures. When there happens to be surf, a nearby forum is full of fresh pictures of wonderful waves occupied by people playing hookey. Not good for morale.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | December 22, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

And obviously there will never be any consistency in the subject matter. This blog? Ha!

I need to shop too. Heaven forbid that a child wake up Christmas morning with only, for example, 783 presents. There must always be more.

You know what they say: Most is the new more.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 22, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I find this blog to be full of great topics, interesting information I would never find otherwise, and wonderful people. What's not to love? Even without italics and indents, I love it! No changes, please, if they will mess up the formula.

Last day report: I have nothing important to do, so I'm just doing busywork and happy to have the opportunity! No tears.

Posted by: slyness | December 22, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

> * royalty cheque to martooni/danghippie in the mail

SoC... is it safe to cash this thing?

Joel... you do know that items that come packaged together (i.e., 1000 piece puzzles, 500 piece Lego sets, pairs of socks) can be counted towards the "total gifts" by the piece?

Makes wrapping a bit of a chore, but who wouldn't want to find 8000 tiny presents under the tree?

Posted by: martooni | December 22, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

In my house, anything purchased after Nov. 15 goes under the tree. Underwear, socks, toilet paper, batteries, etc. We're big on quantity vs quality here in the G household.

JA... have a great Christmas. And as I get ready for my son to turn 18 next week (I was taken aback last night when I kissed his bearded, manly face), I give you this advice:

Kiss your mom; hug your mom; listen to your mom; ask her advice; tell her how pretty she looks; tell her how much she means to you; yada yada yada.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you to do those things, but it just makes me feel better to say it.

Thanks for the opportunity.

Posted by: TBG | December 22, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Having safely ordered everything online and endured several onslaughts of cookies, donuts and pastry I'm working on a slightly different holiday request.

I have a week to cobble together a 3 min. music video from public domain or my own footage and pics for an indie band, to be broadcast (hopefully) on Canadian TV.

Still, beats the he11 out of going to work.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 22, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Dang, no italics. Oh well, pictures are good. Pictures are great. Heck its almost as good as my Nancy Drews from all those years ago.

I am about to start a new tradition. If I say it out loud and serve it, it is tradition.
In lieu of baking this year I am serving Twinkies. Christmas Twinkies. I feel so tacky somehow.

Posted by: dr | December 22, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't that be "sheared the sheep" - although sheering sheep has a nice symmetry to it.

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 22, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm. Maybe the pictures thing requires some thought. Personally, I have mastered the art of monitor orientation (general rule: discretion trumps both feng shui and ergonomics), but pictures might diminish the vaguely work-related look of the Achenblog. Better have a vote once the deputy shop steward gets back.

Posted by: SonofCarl | December 22, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Error Flynn! More details please. This is like those headline teasers on the news. As Ellen DeGeneris said: "Find out what common foodstuffs may be hazardous to your health. More on the 10 o'clock newshour." After dinner?!

Posted by: Yoki | December 22, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't have any deep pithys today, so will just wish all a great holiday week. Might check in occasionally while I'm off next week.

Posted by: ebtnut | December 22, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

>Error Flynn! More details please.

Yoki, all I can say at this point is "Have you ever seen 'Bride Of The Gorilla' or 'King of the Zombies'?"

A Kung Fu Bob Dylan with flashcards?

This may be your chance. If we can get it together I will certainly post program details.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 22, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

*Pondering in a Rodin sculpture pose*
Is a lack of formula in itself a formula?

Bc... I'm still trying to recover from that "Blew out his thong / dancing to Louie lou-ay" line. I don't even WANT to know how that could happen.

I'm gonna have to drop that image in a conversation one of those days. A sure conversation-stopper, I think.

Pat: Confucius says blind man should not buy basenji for pet.

Dogs have such an annoying habit of being speedbumps, don't they? I once had to chew Wilbrodog out after he got behind me when I was up on a small stool. I stepped down and back and nearly fell backwards over him.

He's never done it again. Maybe a bell or something on the dog would help?

BTW, I found it funny Wilbrodog was barking a lot when he met you.

I had told him once it would be helpful to bark around blind people (esp with guide dogs) so they'd know a dog was in the area. I just suggested it because he virtually never barks on the job, and he doesn't have a "bark on command" cue.

When he normally barks, it's loud to raise the roof, too, so I considered teaching him to bark on command would be an act of auditory terrorism.

Instead of barking, he touches me and mouthes doggy sanskrit at me instead. It is truly, truly weird.

Hm, Joel, gotta make your quota?

I agree with SoC-- pictures should be linkable or optional for these who have slow connections, nil vision, or need to look vaguely like they're reading MsWord. But not that the Washington Post cares that most of their avid readers read at work because of boffo connection speeds, etc.

Video blogging will be fun, although it takes practice, and some talent to shoot video. It helps to be able to think of the world through one eye all the time.

You could always shoot pictures or photographs and then use fancy editing to make a photo melange a la Ken Burns. Or is that Menage a Trois?

Still life video. Only people who are thumbs at video would think of that idea. And Ken Burns, of course.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Joel, just dismember the toys and wrap up the parts separately and make a project of putting the toys back together.

"Look honey! You got another teddy bear leg!" "Wow, an whole severed rocking-horse head!"

The urge to have many gifts is mostly about the surprise/unwrapping, not actual possession.

Who wants Christmas to end in like 3 seconds when the child hurricanes whip through all presents and then realize it's all over now?

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Christmas pythies sound better than Christmas pissies.

[Insert other holidays you prefer]

The rain last night interfered with a tradition in our yard. We BURN some leaves in an old Franklin stove. Yes. Against the law, I am sure.

I count carbon carefully, and do not burn wood in my fireplace. I ride my bike to work.

So, I am entitled to a twenty-five minute controlled burn. My neighbors have not yet complained. The ash gets mixed in the compost pile -- potash, as my grand dad used to say.

Long ago and far away, we had St. Lucy's Day -- make that solstice, now -- bonfires near the Missouri River in Great Falls, MT. Hobos hung out in the shadows, as we crowded around the steel drum fires. I recall skating occasionally on Gibson Pond, but sometimes the ice was not quite thick enough.

True story. My dad's true Christmas stories concerned eating rabbit in the Depression, the progeny of Peter or Petina Rabbits....he will not eat rabbit now or ever, amen.

His parents did not eat bunny at Easter. But before and after, yes, I am sure.

Posted by: College Parkian | December 22, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Somehow, we always wind up discussing eating rabbit here. I don't know why (and ewwww).

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 22, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I'll bet the Caged Rabbit knows why.

Posted by: omni | December 22, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Know who else never eats rabbit, now or ever?

Posted by: omni | December 22, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

*Somehow, we always wind up discussing eating rabbit here. I don't know why (and ewwww).*

Is that like Rabbit Redux? Hm-m-m. Might make a good title for a book.

Posted by: ebtnut | December 22, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Liz mentioned the Jimmy Stewart Christmas ornaments in her column the other day. You can find them in the store here:

Jimmy Stewart is of course from my hometown - and he's a Princeton graduate, too. His family went to the church that my family did. Bedford Falls in It's a Wonderful Life reminds me a bit of Indiana, PA.

I haven't been to the museum - my sister is a bit resistant - but it is in the library that I spent a lot of time in as a kid (talking too loudly and eating popcorn).

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 22, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I was actually quite taken with the mental picture of Joel's mother sheering sheep - lines and rows of sheep, held together with some strong but attractive fiber, hung inside the window curtains. Bleating.

I thought this blog already had a common thread, hinted at in the Kit's last paragraph. Something about Joel's inexorable psychological deterioration. And that of the rest of us, of course.

It is almost time to take the Boy and Guest Boy ice skating downtown. Hey, we did this last year with the same Guest Boy. I guess it is a tradition.

Posted by: Ivansom | December 22, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

the answer is a forehead slapper!

Posted by: omni | December 22, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

As some of the older boodlers will attest, if you remember the 60s you weren't there. The net population of people that thinks they were at Woodstock but weren't is exceeded only by the survivors of alien abductions (gratuitious CBA reference).

And don't get your hopes up boodlers, he mentioned pictures and video for HIM, nothing about italics and hyperlinks for us. Contrariwise, I would have to assume that rash resolutions to stay on topic apply only to words above the byline and date stamp.

Happy belated b-day, TBG. My forthcoming change of IP address has made me busier than I really ought to be, which is why I am so jealous of slyness.

TBG, my mother also subscribed to the kitchen sink theory of stocking stuffers. Perennial items included playing cards, nail clippers, black plastic combs, and underwear. I had to have a long somber talk with my wife-back-when-she-was-just-my-serious-girlfriend
that getting lingerie in her stocking meant that she was being accepted into the family and no other untoward suggestion should be implied.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 22, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Elmer Fudd

Posted by: omni | December 22, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Wholly off-topic and not even seasonal, do any of you dog people have opinions on the efficacy of invisible fences v. electric fences, any differences between the two, etc.? I have about 500 feet of chain link fence enclosing the dog yard, and it is as air to Evil Animal #1. Today I watched with my own eyes as, at lightning speed, he scooped out a depression which is, I swear to you, no deeper than my index finger, and slipped underneath. He's not a full-grown black lab, he's a mouse. At this rate he'll spend the rest of his natural life (which may be short) in his crate, let out to eat and answer the Call of Nature under my bilious gaze. Thus the query about fence treatment.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 22, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

omni, you wascal! **slaps forehead**

Posted by: yellojkt | December 22, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

A black lab throw pillow makes a wonderful accent to sheep sheers.

It's a good thing.

Posted by: SonofCarl | December 22, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, SonofCarl, you've made my day.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 22, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I'm only too glad to continue to provide conversation-stopping moments.

My lab still likes to lie down directly behind me when I'm doing the dishes. Sometimes she licks my bare feet, and I know she's there. Sometimes, she sneaks up behind me (easy to do when the water's running) and if I turn around quickly (e.g. the phone rings) I'm doing a D!ck Van Dyk3-style arms-flailing face plant into the kitchen floor. Of course, the dog thinks my audience-of-one stage dive means it's time to play, and will run off and return with a toy, smiling and wagging her tail whilst I assess my damage. Come to think of it, when that happens I usually *do* play with her until the bleeding stops, so perhaps she's smarter than I give her credit for.

Error, I'd love to see that video when you get it done. 'King of the Zombies' was an odd but funny flick, made me think of a Scooby Doo episode filmed during WWII. Oh, and probably has the first recorded dancing zombies, way before George Romero and Michael Jackson. Never saw 'Bride of the Gorilla', but Sidomak's other stuff was pretty cool to me as a kid: Wolf Man, Donovan's Brain, etc.

What's the song about, EF?


Posted by: bc | December 22, 2006 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I am sitting here in my "global warming wardrobe"--winter colors and summer-weight fabrics (I owe Tom Friedman at the NYT this morning for this term), after having poured myself a half cup of rum (*w* the rum was for the rum balls recipe, but after nips and pinches of the dough for this refrigerated cookie, you could definitely say that I am BUI--Boodling under the influence), musing about the holiday.

I was glad to see superfrenchie participating in this Kit this morning. I think many of you find him contrarian, but I find him intellectually honest, I guess one could say.

I've been thinking how contrarian Christmas really is. Think about it. You've got:

read and green, direct opposites on the color wheel

silver and gold and red and green against the drab, dull and unadorned

silver and gold--or wealth against poverty

logs ablaze and heat against the bitter cold

festive holiday feasts against brutal famine

wishes and desires against need and necessity

glamour and fantasy against simplicity and reality

peace and love against war and brutality.

May be, Joel, that the twisted myths are better than the truth--for us globally. And in some cases, personally, the false memories may be better than how it really was.

I discovered another self-descriptor today in a NYT piece about the ubiquity of inflatable outdoor decorations this year. I am "culturally understated," according to the article. This in a town that is "culturally overstated." At least the HEB-sponsored tree in front of the Alamo has decorations that are dedicated to children's literacy--in a city in which so few read.

I'm ready to put blades under my feet and skate down the San Antonio River. How nice it would be to have a simple New England Christmas or be back in the redwoods of northern California.

For the weekend, I'm snuggling up with Tony (not Blair, although the idea did cross my mind). I'm curling up with Hillerman and his latest dealing with shapeshifters. I figure this cultural story is as good as the other.

For the Boodle:
Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Happy Kwaanza
Felices Fiestas
Merry Myth-mas

Posted by: Loomis | December 22, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: College Parkian | December 22, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Woodstock? I knew I was going to lose my in-state tuition, so I was doing summer quarter rather than straying out into the outside world.

I haven't checked out the beachside downtown to see if the rabbits are coming out in the evening. Apparently the absence of dogs and presence of St Augustine grass makes the area amenable.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | December 22, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I'd settle for underlining!

I was supposed to go to Woodstock, but I had a dentist appointment. I was at Newport when Dylan went electric, though.

Posted by: maggie o'd | December 22, 2006 1:36 PM | Report abuse

SoC, I often tell the other dog (a spaniel) "You're going to make a fine hat some day. Keep it up, and that day is gonna come soon."

She's 15 now, I think even she realizes that's an empty threat. Plus, she's old and her fur isn't what it once was. Perhaps a nice pair of gloves...

Ivansmom we have an invisible fence (on the recommendation of a friend who has a couple of labs), and it's worked out quite well for us.


Posted by: bc | December 22, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Fearing Joel A's psychological deterioration? Well, let us remember the important stuff from recent boodles-past:
JA has his own hair liberally rooted on top and sides, with scientist-philosopherp-genius puffs of body winging out in benevolent brainey aurora....

I like the idea of BUI-ing. But driving this afternoon of Son of CPian, and Friends of Son of CPian. So what is here is my own silliness, without sauce to inspire.

Hey, here is my secret of the day: my tree is very crooked, but stable.

So the tree looks under the influence. Actually, said tree is drinking in my Granny's recipe (she who feed bunny to her progeny):

2 cups of very warm water
5 aspirins (coated ones must be crushed)
3 tablespoons of molasses
1 table spoons of bleach

The WaPo "Home" section two weeks ago gave a recipe for forced bulbs that relies heavily on gin or vodka. I will take care of that shortly.

Posted by: College Parkian | December 22, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

One of my neighbors in my cramped townhouse community spent a lot of time and effort installing an invisiible fence for his yappy Jack Russell terrorist to no beneficial effect. I assume the purpose of the fence is for negative reinforcement training and you only train a dog things it wants to do. As a kid we had a beagle that kept jumping our chickenwire fence. We kept building it higher but the dog kept exploiting vulnerabilities in the enclosure.

I have no real dog training expertise, but I have to think the solution is to get the dog to not want to jump the fence.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 22, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

>What's the song about, EF?

bc, he's a monkey man in a voodoo land, bling bling shake that thing...

Cracks me up. What I love about this guy is he's still at it after job and wife and kids and 30 years. I met him when his band "The Instigators" played at CBGBs back in the day, with Wendy O. and the Plasmatics opening up for HIM. Most of the other guys are in jail or dead or junkies, and he managed to sidestep all that and get a life. He's a CAD designer, teaches kung fu, and still finds time to make new albums, to say nothing of filling in as a puppet-master on my "Groundhog Wars" project.

A true Renaissance man. Gotta love it.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 22, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

O Little Town of Bethlehem

And with that I bid you all all the usual biddings for this time of year.

Posted by: omni | December 22, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"philosopherp", that's funny.

Though I think "philosoperp" might fit better in this case.


Posted by: bc | December 22, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

oops, I'm a boodlecidal maniac.

Posted by: omni | December 22, 2006 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Error... I already knew you were all right, but you just went up a few pegs on my scale of coolness...

Wendy O. and The Plasmatics.

You just gotta respect a woman who wears black electrical tape over her, umm ... areolas? ... while straddling a school bus as it rams through a wall of television sets.

I wonder if that scene was the inspiration behind The Cramps' "TV Set" from "Bad Music for Bad People".

The CBGB's reference didn't hurt either. Was only there once, back in the late 80's. I have no clue who was playing that night -- all I remember is that it was extremely loud and my Doc Martins stuck to the floor.

Posted by: martooni | December 22, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Ah ha, EF.

Are you allowed to use mash-up stuff?

I'm thinking the first segment of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and/or "Planet of the Apes", etc. I doubt any of that's public domain though. Hopefully you won't be reduced to using YouTube shots of monkeys engaged in poo flinging or worse. I haven't been able to look at electrical tape the same way since I saw the Plasmatics at the Bayou a long, long, time ago (nice segue, eh?).

Also, forgot to ack Ivansmom's "bilious gaze". Nice.


Posted by: bc | December 22, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - My sister has had good luck with an invisible fence keeping her black labs out of the street and on her country property.

There is the small problem of keeping the collars on the dogs and the batteries fresh.

Posted by: Midnight Madrona | December 22, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, harder done than said. Although my dog could clear a 4 feet fence, he doesn't-- for the simple reason he's only out on leash. He will stay where he's told most of the time except when he feels other things are more important-- his jobm greeting friends. I actually spent 10 days having him stay behind a baby gate he could easily jump.

My old dog was an escape artist-- out all day in the yard and not walked daily, and ALL dogs love walks. She learned to open the fence, that was her speciality. She couldn't jump, didn't like digging under fences. We wound up using a rope latch, and then always twisting that over in a figure 8. Once the gate got a little loose and she squeezed under the fence with a clearance of maybe 3-4 inches (85 lb golden mix!)-- my dad saw her.

She was the definition of incorrigible. We finally did get an electric fence, but not for her escape efforts, but because the dog in the next yard kept jumping over the fence to try and play or whatever with her and she was seriously traumatized and didn't want to be alone in the yard anymore. As a result, and this is true, she started breaking into the house through the laundry room window. She also went on prozac because of her serious anxiety attacks. I've talked to a few people and I get the impression my dog had bona fide escape and seperation anxiety nearly to the ultimate.

So my only suggestion is, walk your dog regularly and spend time, practice recalls within the yard, so the dog gets used to staying close to you and not haring off. And if you can look at lining the "favorite dig place" with rocks, rubble, concrete blocks, etc. on the other side, you will have a pretty good anti-dig deterrent.

Invisible fence just shocks the dog when it goes past a certain stage. It offers the dog no protection against loose dogs and other critters that could attack it when alone in the yard, so I would say go electric to train your dog to stay away from the fence, fortify your fence against digging.

Also work on getting the dog to LISTEN to you in the yard, and do a nice speed recall (always call when you have food-- that'll do the trick) to you and or to the door. You'll never know when you need it if your dog has found a skunk friend or whatever and is interested in saying hello.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Joel, I highly recommend Daniel Gilbert's "Stumbling On Happiness". It's a great exploration of how we misremember and, consequently, mispredict.

Posted by: eraserhead | December 22, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom -- I take care of some doggies that have invisible electric fences. They work very well. The dog needs to wear the collar that will provide a shock if he/she tries to go beyond the boundary.

I know of dogs who get so trained they don't even wear the collars anymore. A definite Pavlovian response.

I got some good news today -- I have strep throat! And yes, it is good news.

I've been so bleeping sick, and on a number of different antibiotcs, none of which did any good. They finally took a throat swab today. Voila!! streptococcus in my throat.

So now I can take amoxycillin, and be able to drive up to DC for christmas. I was beginning to think I'd be home alone for the holidays -- and that I would have to cancel my 1/3 date with a scalpel -- I don't know if I could have worked up the courage to reschedule the surgery!!

Happy holidays everyone!!! Gee -- i finally get the time and the physical fitness to boodle, and the holidays come around. I'm guessing there'll be a fair amount of boodle traffic over the weekend.

Is Mudge staying in Mojitoland for Christmas?

the boodler formerly known as nelson

Posted by: yeti overlord | December 22, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Again (why does this always happen) I am seconding Wilbrod. I feel very strongly against invisible fencing for two reasons. One, the mild electric shock delivered by the collar will absolutely not work to restrain a dog who is highly motivated to cross the line. If there is something really enticing on the other side, over they go (a female in oestrus, a piece of poisoned steak, etc.). Unless the dog has the self-discipline to stay close to home without the shock, it ain't gonna work, and if the dogs does, it doesn't need the line.

And the bigger reason, that the invisible fence won't keep other animals/people out of your yard. It is just too dangerous for your companion to be left at the mercy of any passing rover.

So no, I say either get a real fence strong and high enough that the dog and strangers are disuaded, or keep your dog on-leash with you outdoors.

Even what Wilbrod calls a 'speed recall' and I call the 'really reliable recall' will not protect your dog from strangers.

Posted by: Yoki | December 22, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

sigh . . .

I've never heard of Wendy O. and the Plasmatics. Or CBGBs for that matter.

I missed Woodstock by a decade too.

Posted by: yeti overlord | December 22, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

yeti o, glad you figured out what you have. Take it easy, take your medicine.

I know CBGB's because of Talking Heads and the Ramones, although I wasn't into punk rock so much.

The weekend of Woodstock, I was in upstate (western) NY state with my best friend, at her grandparents. Her cousin told us he was hitchhiking to Cornell to see some friends, but he went to Woodstock. At 17, I was too young to have done anything like that, if I had even known about it ahead of time, which I don't think I did. And given the conditions, I'm just as glad I wasn't there.

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 22, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm really too busy to post but in the interests of a living boodle...

We may have to assign a different standards over the dark times (I feel like Obiwan when I say that)before we worry about boodledeath.

If no one posts for a week, we can worry. Otherwise the boodle LIVES.

Posted by: dr | December 22, 2006 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I have seen King of the Zombies, so I think I may be getting an inkling here...

Not only did #1 and #2 declare this the first official stress-free Christmas, but I have been given express permission to Boodle all I want, even on Christmas day. I shall probably also blog. So I'll be popping in and out.

It's aliiiiive!

Posted by: Yoki | December 22, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

dr, you got it right. The blog is now on Holiday Mode, operating on Standby Power. It is a vampire appliance.

"Dormant" would be a fair word to describe it. I see it as a bulb embedded in the frozen Earth but prepared to erupt, in the right conditions, into something glorious. Now everyone go home and have a great holiday!

Posted by: Achenbach | December 22, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, dr, I remember that Joel said the Boodle would "go dark" during the holidays last year, but I don't recall if that meant we couldn't make comments. I hope not! I want to hear what everybody gets, and I definitely want to hear that Mudge is surviving Mojitoville, or paradise, whatever the prison he's in.

Posted by: Slyness | December 22, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, didn't mean to steal your thunder... just that Lady was a dog education of one type in itself. As for chasing after females in heat, or females in heat wanting to escape for some hot and heavy petting-- there's one good remedy that involves the V-E-T.

I also recommend the dog be in with the family when the family's home as much as possible. Pack time is good time!

And ideally, the fenced area containing the dog be well away from the street whenever possible. Dogs become more defensive-aggressive when they can be teased by kids and nasty people walking by, especially if they can do it in odd corners hard to observe from the house or the street.

By high enough-- I say 5 feet is a good idea.

Also for safety, signs help deter would-be trespassers. I've seen this sign up on some high-fenced dog runs saying "I can make it to the fence in 2.8 seconds. Can you?"

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Wendy O

Posted by: Boooko999 | December 22, 2006 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Watching the shuttle land live on

Way cool.


Posted by: bc | December 22, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Shuttle's down safely.

Way, way cool.


Posted by: bc | December 22, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of dogs, I'm pretty much speechless over this story.

Sean Jean jackets constructed with dog fur.


Posted by: bc | December 22, 2006 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Funny you should bring up false memories. I recently went to Memphis and Nashville, to revisit spots that I went to first in the late 70's. When I arrived on Beale St., I could swear it had changed ....a lot. But it was memory that was visual memory was way really shook me up. I have been re-examining some of my faves. Wish me luck.

Posted by: Salmon Dave | December 22, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I am the last one at the office and am now shutting out the lights. I find the irony amusing.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 22, 2006 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I hope every one has a great Christmas. I will be here for another hour or until the work is done.

My next task is handing out bonuses. Its a good job and a small compensation for all the times I hoist my own petard. Joy and merriment abound.

I am considering asking Sanata for my very own petard removal tool, and maybe a fancier petard pole,if indeed petards do have poles. If they don't they should.

Now anyone west of me, go home, put your feet up and enjoy.

Posted by: dr | December 22, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Memory is a reconstruction job. Visual memory can feel more accurate than it is, especially since we add more filler than there is, and we can accidentally hook together a few memories due to similar-looking features.

Auditory memory is slower to develop, but more accurate. Maybe it's because people pay more attention to memorize the sounds and the brain "hums" it more than visual memory gets hummed? Or is it the comparatively low information density compared to the zipped video files we carry in our brains?

Of course, ever since I read a guy who, while very fascinating, put forth the concept that the sense of time was tied to hearing sounds, I've always been skeptical of claims concerning auditory processing and cognition. The fact is, people need as much sensitivity to time intervals when catching a ball as when listening to Beethoven.
(Maybe more so, or they could get concussed. JUST what happens if you get fuzzy on when the next note comes when listening to music?)

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 6:09 PM | Report abuse

"I thought my mom was a farmgirl..." I bet Joel drew that together from stories about farms and other things, not from a direct testimony from his mom.

We all do that-- infer from circumstancial evidence, and fill in chance remarks with our 4-D multicolor videos.

I once told a boy I was born in a desert state and it was very deserty where I live. I saw him getting mistyeyed so I built up the desert aspect, never once mentioning, you know, that I was born in the CITY and that we had irrigated grass and all.

I did mention catching lizards and other points that were perfectly true. But I could see he was imaging me living in a shack with Good Ol' Spike as my desert hound, hunting lizards and jackrabbit for dinner and picking prickly pears, trudging through howling sandstorms...

When I've never EVEN seen that sort of thing outside a car window or TV.

Which leads to why women say men (and boys) never listen to them.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree Wilbrod, that *all* pets should be neutered (all mine are!); however, some people do have intact show animals, or breeding animals, and hoo boy, those males can get out of all most anything in the interests of lurve.

Also, my neutered boys (and in a different way, the girls too) will still react to a female in heat, they just shoot blanks.

Yes, five feet is good. Eight feet is even better!

Posted by: Yoki | December 22, 2006 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Joel's Mom on this one. My kids have seen literally thousands of movies and television shows of which I have caught, if I'm lucky, the most fleeting glimpses. The girls still insist I've seen the same things they have, because they distinctly remember me being around. But did you ever meet an adult woman who did only one thing (i.e. watching the screen) when she could be doing seven (i.e. folding laundry, stirring the soup, chastising the cat, checking the BlackBerry, writing a letter to Grandma, glancing at the screen to ensure suitability of language for youngsters, laughing with Himself...) at once?

Posted by: Yoki | December 22, 2006 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Rhat's a good point Yoki. I was wondering about exactly that once.

Wilbrodog once caught the scent of something and seemed pleasantly puzzled and I let him show me where it was. He led me to a car with a dog who seemed VERY unhappy to see him, was growling and snapping at him. I've always assumed she was in heat, because I've never seen him act like that before or since so obviously air-scenting and tracking down a dog.

Still, he went with me just fine and didn't act like an lovestruck idiot. Just "hey, that's some really nice perfume, what's causing it?" kind of attitude. He was neutered after puberty, and in my opinion, it wasn't too soon.

For one, I could do without the marking addiction which we have come to a gradual compromise about, but I think we need to be working on better communication of when he needs to go while on duty.

I put him on a regular "smell n mark" break schedule and that helps. He likes to do a little doggy boodling on the grass before bedtime.

And 8 foot fence-- if Wilbrodog ever learns how to use hedge clippers, that's a lot of fence to fix ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 6:42 PM | Report abuse

One of the Christmas Rituals that is common to many families is the prayer that comes right before digging into the turkey and other good eats. I am pretty sure that many of those in my family who particapate in this ritual Christmas Dinner Prayer do not pray at any other time of the year. Well, unless they visit home for the other two big Christian holidays, Easter and Thanksgiving. What makes this dinner prayer ritual even sillier in my family than in most, is that our family prayer leader does not even believe that individual prayers are paid any attention to by any God. Regardless of this belief, my father always includes in the Christmas Dinner Prayer a request that God "keep safe the other members of our family scattered around the country." Everyone at the table is honestly touched, so none of us dare ask, "Hey, does anyone at this table actually believe that God is up there somewhere listening to all these Christmas Dinner Prayers from around the world to determine who to keep safe? Does anyone think if our Christmas Dinner Prayer is smarter or more touching than our next door neighbor's Christmas Dinner Prayer, God might protect our family more than their family?" Nobody asks this question because why ruin a touching family ritual like the Christmas Dinner Prayer.

Posted by: Roger Prine | December 22, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, "But did you ever meet an adult woman who did only one thing (i.e. watching the screen) when she could be doing seven (i.e. folding laundry, stirring the soup, chastising the cat, checking the BlackBerry, writing a letter to Grandma, glancing at the screen to ensure suitability of language for youngsters, laughing with Himself...) at once?"
I am amazed my better half always teaches the kids FOCUS, FOCUS while she is simultaneously multitasking. Not surprisingly, Rice said in Wapo it is possible for an African American to be a President.

Posted by: Daiwanlan | December 22, 2006 7:19 PM | Report abuse

bc, thanks for the shuttle update. Glad to hear it all came down as planned.

>I doubt any of that's public domain though.
Yeah, that's the problem. I have literally hundreds of tapes and laserdiscs and DVDs I could pull clips from but then I can only show it in my living room. It has to be guaranteed public domain. Hey, it's only three minutes, if I can't get something ginned up from those two I'm a piker.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 22, 2006 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Mortality: the shadow of death and the reminder of the fragility of life and family makes people hug their loved ones all the closer.

If your pop was saying "Lord, give us a boat by next Christmas", it wouldn't be as touching.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 7:40 PM | Report abuse

That's nothing, MaggieO'd: I was at Menlo Park when Edison went electric.

But seriously, you really were at Newport? Do you now know that backing himn up was The Band, with Roibbie Robertson, et. al.? And did you cheer or boo?

Just checking in quickly. I'm sitting in the lobby of this place, which is a giant palapa (thatched roof hut, only the hut is 150 feet tall--amazing and beautiful. Of course, if we had phoito capability, I'd POST A PHOTO TO SHOW YOU. Ooops, I'm sorry, supposed to be using my indoor voice.

A great tragedy was narrowly averted half an hour ago, when the bartended informed me she couldn't make me a mojito because she had no mint leaves, but said she could make something similar. I picked myself off the floor, where I had thrown myself in a hissy fit and was holding my breath, until I turned purple, and said, "Tell me more, senora, por favor." So she made me a "caipirinha," a drink I had never heard of, and in an effort to keep this here boodle interesting and informative in keeping with Joel's New Year's Restitution you can read all about it here: . Basically the word means "country bumpkin" in Brazilian, but I'm willing to be broad-minded. At any rate, I'm now drinking my second one, and must stagger back to the room for a shower and room service dinner. I will try to boodle more later (if I sober up) as I have mucho to tell.

Later dudes. Oh, to any of you who are signing off for the three day weekend, feliz Navidad, as we say here in paradiso.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 22, 2006 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Yes, maggie, tell us more about Dylan at Newport! I believe, though, that it was mostly the Paul Butterfield Blues Band backing him there (which I know only because of No Direction Home - and confirmed it on wikipedia). The Band had the privilege of backing him during the tour when he regularly got booed during the electric set. I had no idea that was happening at the time - of course I thought electric was cool.

Mudge, keep having a good time and celebrating for all of us!

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 22, 2006 7:57 PM | Report abuse

>Error... I already knew you were all right, but you just went up a few pegs on my scale of coolness...

Thanks martooni, but I wasn't the one playing. Actually did my first sound gig for The Instigators at a soirt of roadhouse called the Red Fox Inn in North Brunswick. I made $16 for the night, the band members made $13, and there was a knife fight on the dance floor in the middle of the 2nd set.

Not the last time that would happen while I was behind the board.

Many years later I ended up living a couple of blocks from CBGBs. Now that it's gone I'm sorry I didn't hang out there, but at the time I preferred Arturo's on Houston Street. It featured a coal-fired pizza oven, a jazz trio and Swedish girls.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 22, 2006 8:21 PM | Report abuse

I am still at work awaiting one final call before banging the door shut. There is not a soul here. Its very very strange. Ah there is my call.

I'm Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. bye.

Posted by: dr | December 22, 2006 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Hey, for any of you weather buffs, regarding the Denver / Colorado Springs / Front Range great blizzard of December 2006, it was mighty storm. I would say we are on par with any class 3 hurricane. I drove home from work as it intensified. Relentless howling winds and frequent whiteout conditions from corner to corner--only back roads were open. But my new Subaru Outback 4-wheel great mileage automobile and my terrified, clutch the wheel with both hands, "I'll do anything for you God" driving, made it! (this is not a commercial) That is all.

Posted by: Random Commenter | December 22, 2006 8:52 PM | Report abuse

My question are so many:

1) why wasn't this dog plane-trained
2) Allowed to be relieved before entering the plane
3) The handler noticed and captured the bowel movement?

In other words, it's the trainers and handlers who should be in the doghouse.

By the way, if you have ever flown, TSA knows and keeps track of your underwear size, style, and color.

So if Mudge has forgotten what thong size and color he had before it blew out, he can ask TSA.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 8:52 PM | Report abuse

BTW, I may be able to do a Dec 28 BPH. Who is in and who is out for that date?

I know Mudge will be busy buffing his mojo with his mojitos, feeding the piranhas in the cay while drinking caipirinhas, and so on and no way he'll be back here for a cheeseburger by then.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 22, 2006 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Okay, here's what I remember (or think I remember; it was the 60s after all).

We, being poor students, were in the cheap seats waaay in the back. Folk music was god then. We hung out at the Club 47 in Harvard Square every single night. We were accustomed to such great musicians as Jackie Washington, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Rush, The Jim Queskin Jug Band, the Charles River Valley Boys, Ramblin Jack Elliot, and so many others entertaining us. We were serious folkies.

But, sometime that summer, Dylan released some really fabulous electrified blues, and we loved it. We had become attuned to the blues because of the Chambers Brothers and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Taj Mahal that we loved the fact that Dylan was heading in that direction.

So, we went to Newport just loving music of all kinds. When he came out with the Butterfield Band and played Maggie's Farm and Like a Rolling Stone, we went NUTZ. But the old fogies, the Purists, went insane. The booing was intense and real. Talk about 'My Generation'.

THen came Viet Nam, Cambodia, Kent State and the rest you know.

I know, I sound really old, but I take comfort in the fact that Curmudgeon is even older.

Posted by: maggie o'd | December 22, 2006 9:09 PM | Report abuse

OK, have finally caught up on the last three boodles, and am deeply chagrinned that I just now read bc's terrific (and justifiably double-posted)"Mo Mojitoville," have sprayed caipirinha out my nose and across my keyboard. A standing ovation, sir.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 22, 2006 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Random, good for you. Those pics looked horrendous. Nice to know the Outback is up to the task. I'll bet it gets a heckuva lot better mileage than my '96 GMC.

That alone could be a lifesaver in those circumstances.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 22, 2006 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, underneath the fence is harder. I've known people who caught the round end of big, BBQ skewers in the fence, then pounded them into the ground. The lab-mouse will have to dig pretty deep to get those out. Or consider rebar threaded through the bottom few diamonds of the fence and pushed deep into the ground.

I'm trying to come up with a finesse move for you. You could electric fence within the physical fence, but I'm feeling there must be a better way to outsmart him. Does he fetch? If so, what about one of those automatic ball throwers to keep him happy in the yard?

Posted by: dbG | December 22, 2006 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I just knocked another 1/8 inch ice off my satellite dish and slid back down the deck stairs getting back into the house. I've filled the bathtub with water, gathered candles, flashlights, radio, and batteries. If the freezing rain keeps up I may lose power but I'll have a 200 acre skating rink.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 22, 2006 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I have the greatest respect for you as a woman and as a lawyer. But I must say, if the dog is escaping, it means the dog is not spending enough time indoors with its family. A dog cannot be left out in a yard by itself *without* going ranky and trying to break out (to find some place more sociable to live). They are social animals and must be accompanied. 'Nuff said.

Posted by: Yoki | December 22, 2006 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Error Flynn,

Yes, I sheeplishly admit I was plugging the decision I made to purchase the Subaru. It proved it's worth.

I looks like the Artic around here. I'm ready to see a polar bear!

Posted by: Random Commenter | December 22, 2006 10:58 PM | Report abuse

SCC: sheepishly!

Posted by: random Commenter | December 22, 2006 11:00 PM | Report abuse

SCC: It. Okay, the holidays have compromised me.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 22, 2006 11:03 PM | Report abuse

That blank was me. Bye all.

Posted by: Random Commenter | December 22, 2006 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I am finally home. This was a great night to get groceries. The store was dead, downright empty. For any of you really late and desperate shoppers, there are no crowds here.

From here on in, I anticipate fragrant teas and after noon coffee, and book reading, a fire in the fire place, and scented candles glowing all around. No sleeping late, because why waste a perfectly good day off sleeping?

The reality is that right now I am going to go and make a bunch of white chocolate dipped pretzels for a friend who loves them. I might not be baking this year but a true friend still does the chocolate.

Posted by: dr | December 22, 2006 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Random Commenter, glad you made it! If global warming continues, the polar bears may migrate! We're hoping that now that winter is here, the weather will calm down. The people stuck in airports have my sympathy - talk about frustration.

maggie, thanks so much. That's so cool that you were there, and liked it, and got to see those great musicians. Wow - I have an imaginary friend who saw Dylan go electric at Newport - excellent!

boko999, take care up on the roof and where ever else you're going.

dr, yay, glad you're at home! Those pretzels sound good...

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 22, 2006 11:55 PM | Report abuse

maggie, my sister is a Tom Rush fan. He played here in Seattle last Feb and I went - he's still very good - talks a lot and is quite funny. He had been living in Wyoming (Jackson Hole area) and had some Cheney stories. He autographed stuff and talked to people between his sets and after the show. My sister saw him in April.

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 23, 2006 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Happy Holidays to all.

And, remember that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | December 23, 2006 6:20 AM | Report abuse

Today's riddle is in the form of Jumper Jeopardy.

The answer is, "Anardica."

Posted by: Jumper | December 23, 2006 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Saw all the nice comments and wishes and prayers THANK YOU.

Saw my dad for about 2 and a half hours before his surgery, he was a little restless but still making jokes. The chaplain came in to give his the prayers for the sick.

We met with his surgeon who explained what he would try to do, as there were many blockages (the critical one being 99%) he knew it would be difficult and they had to be careful not to cause a stroke. He has blockages in the neck, heart and legs.

Surgery lasted about five and a half hours and from what was explained to me it did not go easily but the doctor was able to do what was most critical, stents may be added later to further improve things but they must weight the risk of causing a stroke.

Right now I am somewhat cautious as they came his sedated after the surgery and we are still awaiting a further update.

Going back to the previous boodle - this will be my best Christmas present ever.

Thanks all.

Now I need to go back boodle and enjoy, saw omnis link to Pie Jesus - think I will listen repeatedly.

Error let us know when we can see that video.

Hope this isn't too disjointed - a little tired.

Posted by: dmd | December 23, 2006 7:36 AM | Report abuse

I hope your dad is doing well, dmd. He has all our Christmas prayers.

I am once again about three boodles behind, so I posted my answer to worst Christmas present ever on my blog and linkbacked to the original boodle discussion.

We'll see if I have more bad presents to add to the list this year.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 23, 2006 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Today I have to wrap things. It always reminds me of when I was little and nothing was ever wrapped.

We three oldest, my brother, my sister, and I usually slept in one room the night before Christmas. Brother usually woke up first and we'd all go down to look. The tree lights were left burning all night so everything glowed. We could see all our wonderful new things, all laid out right there under the tree. There was always a small box of candy too. Hard candy, licorice allsorts, caramels, little chocolates all tossed together in a shoebox wrapped in christmas paper. We were not allowed to touch anything until mom or dad got up. But you could look, and oh the looking was good. If you could talk your brother into it, he'd snitch candy for you. This was not hard. Then you'd have to go wake up dad. It usually involved throwing our bodies on him as he slept, and jumping around until he knew he was never going to get anymore sleep.

I remember the year my sister and I got our little table, and a tea set. Another time we got a little stove and a really fancy set of dishes, all blue and white, and a set of pots and pans. But most of all I remember the year we got the dollhouse and the barn.

Our house was a presed tin ranch, 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and dining room, big livingroom and bath. Its walls were printed with a fireplace, pictures, wallpaper, and all the usual things homes have on their walls, The outside was printed with artfully painted trees and landscaping. And we had all kinds of little plastic furniture.

My brother got a pressed tin barn, with a full set of animals, bales, tractors, all the things dad had out in the real barn, and more. I don't know who was more thrilled, my brother or we girls, but it was a great year.

My dad played with us, helping set things up, and was pretty much interferring. He moved the beds to the hayloft, he'd put the rocking chair in the bathroom, all of a sudden ther'd be a cow in the living room and sheep under the couch. There'd be a chours of 'daaaaaaad' and mom would call from the kitchen 'och, Johnny', and then he do something else silly. That fateful day as he 'helped' he noted something seriously missing from the pasture my brother had made for the cows. No cowpies. So he searched through the candy box and found a chocolate macaroon, and laid them in a trail behind one of the cows.

Those little macaroon chocolates were from that point on called cowpies at our house and it has always been the family's favourite candy treat.

Every year when I wrap gifts, these are the things I think of. The pressed tin Christmas, dad being silly and cowpies.

I have probably told this story before, I have probably told most of my stories before. They are the colours of my life. I am sourrounded here by wonderful imaginary friends who continue to add colour to my days, from Kbertocci who sent me a book, to Linda who charms me with her family tree, and all the rest who play here with me. And of course mostly to Joel who invited us to his proch and never thought we'd stay so long.

Bless all of you and have a very very Merry Christmas.

Posted by: dr | December 23, 2006 7:57 AM | Report abuse

What is Al Gore's nukular?

Posted by: Jumper | December 23, 2006 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Oh, dr... that was wonderful. A great Christmas present for all of us. It was Kit-worthy.

I remember the year my mom and my best friend's mom (they lived next door) conspired and made us each cowgirl outfits: fringed skirts and vests. They were made of complementary colored denim and were the absolute coolest things we could imagine. Funny that even at my young age it was the fact that they had worked together on the project that made it such a wonderful present to me.

dmd... glad your dad pulled through the surgery. Here's hoping for a safe recovery. We're all still thinking of him and will keep him in our hearts for Christmas--and beyond.

Today is extended-family Christmas. The one we used to have at Mom and Dad's on Christmas Day--just three short years ago. We are gathering at my sister's house this year, which is just about four houses down the street from me, so it can't be better: the whole family within short walking distance and NOT AT MY HOUSE. Who could ask for more?

Posted by: TBG | December 23, 2006 8:06 AM | Report abuse

dmd, hang in there. There is a whole bunch of us praying for him and thinking of him, and of all of you sitting waiting near his side.

Posted by: dr | December 23, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

What a great Christmas story. CNN is reporting on a Komodo Dragon that is about to reproduce parthenegenetically (if that's a word)at the Chester Zoo in England. While a virgin hatching may not have the same cachet of a virgin birth , it is bound to be queiter. Three fairly intelligent looking red tailed skinks have been observed wandering around the area arguing and pointing at the sky.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 23, 2006 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Thanks dr, I just wish I was at his side, but the hospital he is at is in London about an hour forty five away. Made the trip yesterday (through the pouring rain), but probably not today as it is just too far and our visit today will be severely limited in time 20 min. and he will still be very groggy. I have also had flu/colds in the house so I am the only one safe to visit.

I had one of those tin dollhouses as well,I loved it, my kids have so many dollhouse - they make a lot of noise now, I miss that tin house!

Merry Christmas all.

Posted by: dmd | December 23, 2006 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Best Wishes to your Dad and family dmd.
And take care of yourself, you're going to be busy.
Get your Dad a laptop and he can boodle while recovering. Some people saved e-mails I sent them when I was on a morphine drip for 3 weeks. Add a small digital camera and he could become a menace.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 23, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Boko.. your scenario brings a whole new meaning to "hilarity ensues."

Posted by: TBG | December 23, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Boko, I am laughing at the laptop idea, yesterday as we were waiting for the surgery dad was describing how interesting the angiogram had been, all I could think of was I bet he is missing his computer he would have been googling up a storm getting all the information he could about the surgery and then advising the doctors on what procedures would be best or what the latest techniques are, as he did when mom was sick.

Posted by: dmd | December 23, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse

My Uncle had his heart attck hours after hearing of my Mother death. During his recovery my cousins most important job was to supply his Dad with information. When your body is letting you dowm it's important to be able to make what decisions are still left to you.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 23, 2006 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm one of those people who would want a spinal, a mirror, and a map when having surgery. After having the end of my nose almost cut off coming out of Mike's Place at Carleton University, the resident sewing it back on threated to euthanize me if I didn't keep my eyes shut. I think he said euthanize.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 23, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Joel, by the way love the kit, it is perfect for me right now. My dad grew up in a large family, he and his brothers and sisters were born in rapid succession.

I grew up listening to his various tales about their childhood which included, giant puffballs, a tobaggon/luge course (down the streetsthat range in length from one to three miles and included lookouts at various points when they turned corners from one street to the other. Over time we were able to cross reference dads version of these stories with his other siblings - resulting in many downsizings of the fables.

Also I could not even count the number of times I have seen a Charlie Brown Christmas, since I was a child I was glued to the TV at christmas time watching the speacials, the kids and I still watch but often times I will look around to notice they have abandoned me and I am alone watching Frosty Returns. What is wrong with children theses days?

Posted by: dmd | December 23, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Nah, dmd, you are right beside him in your heart. It really doesn't matter where on the planet you are, its where your heart is.

You know as I wrote that this morning, I do have to wonder about my memory. I remember the box of candy as being there all the time, and being the way it was. But I can only really remember it the one time.

I do remember clearly more than once, while jumping on dad, that we were told it was still the middle of the night and we had to go back to bed. We were also told that we could get up again only when it was light out and that if we did not, Santa would take it all back. Now if any of you recall how late it stays dark at this time of year...

Posted by: dr | December 23, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Cute dr, we were the opposite, my mom was the biggest kid at Christmas, our mornings started early - we were allowed to look at the stockings and one gift was unwrapped - the main purpose was to buy time for mom and dad but she was normally awake before we were.

To this day I am still trying to figure out how my dad got a flash of red past one bedroom window and sleigh tracks in the front lawn snow - I have tried repeatedly to worm the truth out of him but he will not give up the secret.

Posted by: dmd | December 23, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I am hopelessly behind on reading the boodles. Working in an environment where I am a temp and have no access to the Internet, nor the guts if I did have access, has done this to me.

Dmd, my best wishes for your Dad's recovery, he sounds like a great Dad. As for memories, a week ago "S" and I went out to eat at a restaurant that I had been to years ago. I was sure it was on the waterfront in an boatyard area. After we rode around for ten minutes without finding it, I called my daughter who told me where it was - across the street from the water and about half a mile away from where I thought it was. I have also screwed up directions twice in the past couple of weeks, necessitating pulling over and checking my map book. I used to pride myself on my good memory for places, not anymore. I am cleaning, baking and listening to the Barenaked Ladies Christmas album which I had forgotten I had. It is very good and very funny, their take on "Deck the Halls" is unique.

If I don't get a chance to drop in later, may I wish everyone here a Very Merry Christmas, safe, warm and happy with loved ones. I hope Santa is good to all.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 23, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I think it was at one of her kid's birthday parties that my sister explained to a companion that the dog we had as kids had gone to live with a nice lady on a farm. I definetly remember trying to catch my breath and frightened children.
I'll question her more closely about Santa.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 23, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I've been skeptical of the farm story, but sometimes it's actually true. Just not true often enough, or dogs wouldn't be at the "adoption farms" at the shelter.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 23, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

sequential chat.

Posted by: muon | December 23, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

dmd, thanks for letting us know how your dad's surgery went. Continued good thoughts for his recovery.

dr, that was a great story. Your dad sounds like my husband - more a kid than the kids. I got one of those farm sets too. I had some dolls, but I always preferred animals (horses).

I had a bad habit of forgetting to fill the Christmas stockings - or give my kid the card with money when he was older. Right now I've got presents to wrap and put under the tree.

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 23, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The baby of the family (3 1/2) is just hearing about Santa Claus. Because she gets so much stuff for Christmas anyway, Santa only brings one big toy. Her take on it ... she doesn't want some strange man in our house when everyone's asleep, even though I've told her Santa and I go way back. He can just leave her toy on the porch.

Posted by: LostInThought | December 23, 2006 1:06 PM | Report abuse

When my mom was a little girl, she saw her father struggling to bring a doll's crib into the house late one Christmas Eve.

When he saw her, he had the quick thinking to say, "Look what I just found on the porch! Santa must have left it here!"

Posted by: TBG | December 23, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I am back from my Mom's after doing our family tradition tree.23 years ago she had me take down a branch of a pine tree that was in the way of her clothes line and instead of throwing it away,she had me put it in the tree stand.Ever since that day I have always cut down something out of her yard.It sort of looks like Charlie Brown's tree.Not uniform like everyone else's.We call it the Christmas Branch.

Over the years my Brother's have given my Mom 2 artificial trees.But she or "We" won't put them up.We always find a Branch in her yard.This year I had to stand on a step ladder and use an extended saw on a long pole.

Today is my shot at putting up a tree,I live in the mountains and cut down one out of my yard.But I struggled with it this year.Getting it to stand on it's own.So I sat back,grabbed a glass of wine and thought about it for a while.Well I am not sure if this is permitted or not,but I had to bungee it up to make it stand straight.I guess a bungee is better then duct tape!!!!

I just thought I would share that with everyone.Enjoy your Tree or Branch or whatever you have.

But most of all Enjoy your Holiday season.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 23, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Fake wreath, and not-nearly-bare-enough apartment on my part. Happy holidays!

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 23, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

We tried a Christmas Branch from our backyard balsam fir a few years ago - and then we wound up getting a tree anyway. Last year we had a very small living Christmas tree, which is now outside in a big pot. We got a nice little noble fir this year, which is still sucking up water.

The tree from last year is a stone pine, which had short, bluish needles. The new growth - new needles on the old branches - has much longer needles. I don't know why - it looks a little weird. Maybe because the roots have more room?

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 23, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I really should google before I post. Here is the answer to my stone pine question, with a nice illustration. The longer needles appear as the tree gets older and will eventually replace all the short needles.

A thousand apologies.

Posted by: mostlylurking | December 23, 2006 4:21 PM | Report abuse

For your holiday amusement I submit the following ditty to be sung to the tune of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

I caught Daddy on the Achenblog

Posting in the middle of the night.

I fear that he pretends,

That messages he sends,

To people that he calls

His imaginary friends

Then, when I caught him on the Achenblog

He flinched and then his face went snowy white

He pleaded for me not to tell

Or Mommy would give him hell

For posting on that blog every night.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 23, 2006 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Joel has a hilariuous Rough Draft at (ivansmom, SonofCarl, PLS, and others in the legal field, you may wish to avert your eyes. Or not.)

Posted by: Anonymous | December 23, 2006 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh, the 6:44 was me. Perhaps one caipirinha too many.

Padouk, loved the song. Opps, here comes the wife. Gotta run and pretend I'm checking football scores.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 23, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Snort. It's a good thing Joel wasn't in the same room with me when I read that. He'd get a kick in the shins for that "not elf enough" crack.

We are so misunderstood by those over 5 feet tall. Gnome, elf, dwarf, it's all the same to them.

It's very simple even in the complicated world of Christmas: elves make toys and cookies, dwarf mine the coal for the stockings, and gnomes do the heavy research and thinking about how to fit Santa's heavy load down chimneys.

Which is why we have a high unemployment rate: "Diet or forget it" isn't an acceptable solution, apparently.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 23, 2006 8:02 PM | Report abuse

RD... love the song. Perfect!

Posted by: TBG | December 23, 2006 8:41 PM | Report abuse

When I was a kid, my grandpa used look out the front door and shout to my brothers and I that he saw Santa's sleigh overhead.
Sadly, we weren't ever quite quick enough, but one time I did see *something*...

We leave cookies, milk, and carrots out for Santa and the Team every year, and danged if he doesn't at least snack on it a bit every year. If others are doing this - and I suspect they are - it might have something to do with the problem noted in Joel's #7.

Some of you (ladies, IIRC) have asked about how Our Man Mudge may have blown out his thong. As you may know, Mudge is a whirling dervish of a dancer - a Tazmanian Devil, if you prefer - and in this case he was a little to vigorous in transition from the Watusi to the Pony. Well, if you know the Pony, I'm sure you can figure out that with the forces involved, a very small fault in the structural integrity can result in a loss of containment. Next thing you know, you have a core breach and all hell breaking loose.

And the song, RD... well, I'm posting this at around 11:30 PM, aren't I?


Posted by: bc | December 23, 2006 11:29 PM | Report abuse

bc... you think 11:30 is bad? I'm starting this post at 3:55am.

regarding Joel's Rough Draft... it started out as yet another "funny in that Joel way" piece (not that there's anything wrong with that) but then I got to the part about the ambiguously gay reindeer and laughed so hard I nearly had an "accident". I will now spend the rest of this holiday season with the image of Dasher and Prancer engaging in unnatural acts while wearing studded leather chaps and biker hats to the tune of "It's Raining Men". (not that there's anything wrong with that either)

Which reminds me... Santa wears a very nice belt. Do you think he might be... nevermind.

Anyway, to sort of get back "on-kit"... manufactured memories can be much better than the "real" ones. Like that Christmas past where Santa brought me a pony *and* a go-cart *and* a motorcycle... and me and Mom and Dad rode them around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols... and the owner of Best Buy started telling everyone that Circuit City had the better deal on 96-inch plasma TVs... and then Jimmy Stewart stopped by for some eggnog with his imaginary lagamorphic friend... and nobody stole Baby Jesus from the Woolworth's creche to take Him on a Vegas roadtrip that year.

Yep. Them were the days.

(and yes, it took me almost an hour to compose this drivel... that's why Joel gets paid the big bucks and us Persons of the Year get squat)

Posted by: martooni | December 24, 2006 4:49 AM | Report abuse

btw... my previous post was brought to you by the glassy-eyed folks at "Insomnia". (motto: "Sleep is for *girls*")

Posted by: martooni | December 24, 2006 5:04 AM | Report abuse


I wonder if my insomnia has anything to do with the mental image of 'Mudge experiencing a "wardrobe malfunction" involving a Speedo.

Posted by: martooni | December 24, 2006 5:08 AM | Report abuse

and damn you, bc...

A Speedo failing under the stress of the switch from the Watusi to the Pony is only a good thing if Maria Sharapova is wearing it. (no offense, 'Mudge)

Posted by: martooni | December 24, 2006 5:18 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. I have been just too worn out to even comment, and some of my comments have been eaten by the "comment monster", and I was too tired to repeat.

Don't have much time this morning, the g-girl and I have terrible colds, the runny nose, the congestion, the cough, all of it, and none of it good. We're going to try to get to church this morning.

This has been a year of ups and downs, and the downs seem to win hands down, for lack of a better word. But through it all, my friends here at the Achenblog have been a great source of joy and renewal. I thank you, each and everyone. And it is true that I pray everyday that God will send you and your families whatever is needed in your life. As always it is my prayer that you come to know God through His Son, Jesus. That is the best prayer.

Again, I want to thank you for your many kindnesses to me, and to my family. I am always overwhelmed and awed by you, and so yesterday, I was again. I could hardly believe my eyes, and I thanked you in my heart, and I thanked God for you.

Please have a wonderful holiday, as always prayers have been said, and blessings sought for you and family no matter the need. I look forward to talking to you in the year to come, and enjoying your company.

And from my heart, I believe that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Peace and love to all.

Posted by: Cassandra S | December 24, 2006 6:36 AM | Report abuse

I started reading Joel's column wondering who the alleged sender was and Joel did not disappoint. Hilarious.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 24, 2006 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Santa has provided a New Kit

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | December 24, 2006 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Maybe you can sheer sheap, but you shear sheep. (Some people on farms, apocryphal or otherwise, are reputed to do other things, apocryphal or otherwise, to sheep, but they are easier to spell.)

Posted by: David Fishlow | December 26, 2006 2:15 AM | Report abuse

Having not read all the comments my first thought was perhaps Mom is exhibiting signs of dementia or Alzheimers? My mom does and frequently disremembers things or remembers things that never happened. Not a sermon, just a thought.

Posted by: Stick | December 26, 2006 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Could be Alzheimer's. An AP article a couple of days ago stated that families often don't recognize the symptoms until the holidays when people actually get together and try to interact with one another.

Posted by: Dave | December 28, 2006 8:37 AM | Report abuse

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