JUST JOAN IN A NUTSHELL #MyFirstPostRevisited

Thanks to T WAYNE at A JOYFUL PROCESS for nominating me for
the “My First Blog Post” challenge. The challenge was created by
Sarah Brentyn of the Lemon Shark blog.  Below are the rules:

Obvious rules:
1.  No cheating.  (It must be your FIRST post, no exceptions.)
2.  Link back to the person who tagged you.
(Thank them, or perhaps curse them with a plague of ladybugs).

Other rules:
3.  Cut and paste your old post into a new post or reblog it.
(Either way is fine but NO editing.)
4.  Put the hashtag #MyFirstPostRevisited in your title.
5.  Tag 5 other bloggers to take up this challenge.
6.  Notify your tags in the comment section of their blog.
(Don’t just hope they notice a pingback somewhere in their spam).
7.  Feel free to cut and paste the badge to use in your post.
8.  Include “the rules” in your post.

I am not going to nominate fellow bloggers (honestly, the last thing I need is a plague of ladybugs), but if any of you wish to share your first post, go ahead, and consider it sanctioned by me.

OK, HERE GOES… A Just Joan 42 blast from the past!
(We’re not talking eons, just 18 months ago.  Mine is still a baby blog).

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When I retired last year, I enrolled in a poetry class at our local college. What I sought was a way to pass the time and nurture my lifelong love of writing.  What I found was myself.  And now you have found me.  By way of introduction, I have concocted this little “recipe” poem:

ME IN A NUTSHELL

1 head naturally curly hair, salted and peppered
1 big mouth
2 cups French press coffee
1 unique perspective
1 notebook
1 pen
1 extra-large heart
1 avocado
1 library card
1 pair Birkenstocks (socks optional)

Combine with a crazy husband, two rescue dogs, and one stray cat in a small but organized house.  Add a yearning for simplicity and a dash of environmentalism, then ask yourself “What Would Jesus Do?”  Pour into a casserole dish and top with French fried onions.  Slide it into the oven and set the dial to NPR.  While it bakes, go hug a tree and perform a random act of kindness.  Take it out before it’s done and shove it in the closet with all the other unfinished projects.  Grab a glass of Moscato, ignore the TV, and curl up on the couch with a good book.

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‘TIS THE SEASON OF RERUNS

starbucks-red-cup

I have been busy, busy, busy this week, so I’m recycling a post from last December inspired, in part, by Starbuck’s dilemma about serving their coffees in red holiday cups.  Relax and enjoy this encore presentation:

THE TWELVE BANES OF CHRISTMAS

HOLY HOLIDAY HOOLIGANS, BATMAN!  These evil yuletide villains have returned for the season and may be headed to a city near you:

PUMPKIN SPICE MEISTER is the mastermind behind a diabolical plan to take over the world before the New Year by slowly invading every product line, from flavored coffee drinks to scented doggie-poo bags.

THE RED-CUPSTER, disguised as an ambassador of political correct-ness, pulls shameless publicity stunts to conjure up conflict, squelch goodwill, and distract the public from the real meaning of Christmas.

THE ZAPSTER incites electrical mayhem by tangling up strands of lights, hiding the multi-outlets you know you just bought, shorting
out extension cords, and blowing random circuits in the fuse box.

THE NEEDLER sucks up endless gallons of water and sheds every time you look at him.  Stay calm and don’t make a move toward the vacuum cleaner or he will spontaneously combust and set your house on fire.

THE MUDDLER employs hypnosis to take control of brain cells, causing confusion, incomplete lists, multiple trips to the store and post office, and inability to recall what it was you crawled up into the attic for.

THE PRANKSTER joins random groups of carolers and sings off-key, deploys his fart machine during church services, transforms prime parking spaces into queues for shopping carts, and teases the family dog by hiding little sausages in the toes of all the Christmas stockings.

THE SCOTCH TAPESTER is an obsessive-compulsive psychopath driven to secure all loose folds of wrapping paper directly onto the box, thus insuring that each and every package is sealed up as tight as Fort Knox.

THE TOPPLER creates a powerful optical illusion that causes you to see your tree as straight when it is, in fact, quite crooked.  He then arranges all the heaviest ornaments on one side and chases the cat up the trunk.

THE PEEKSTER dislikes surprises, so he secretly unwraps his Christmas gifts and examines the contents, then carefully rewraps them and puts them back under the tree.  His archenemy is the Scotch-Tapester.

THE SAMPLER pops into the kitchen and helps himself when your back is turned.  He sneaks nips of the good whiskey and is especially fond of “finger foods” such as cookie dough, cheese balls, and turkey gravy.

THE SHRINKSTER performs his evil magic throughout the season on everything from cardboard shipping boxes and the trunk of your car to your holiday budget and the waistband of your favorite pants.

THE LEFT-OGLER stands there forever holding the refrigerator door open, picking at the turkey carcass and checking out the Tupperware, before walking away whining “There’s nothing to eat around here!”

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10-4 GOOD BUDDIES, OVER AND OUT

crazy-blogger

Now that I’ve met my goal of posting weekly for one year, I am at a crossroads.  A few friends have wondered how long I’m going to keep “piddling around” here on WordPress.  Admittedly, my tiny blog has not rocketed me into literary fame and fortune.  But in my defense, I think a lot more has gone on here than just piddling.  For instance:

1) This is the longest string of journal entries I have ever written
2) It is eternally preserved in the cloud for everyone’s reading pleasure
3) My non-techie self was able to learn and master WordPress.  Go, me!
4) I now know I can bust through writer’s block and meet a deadline
5) I’ve gotten to share stories and memories with family and friends
6) I’ve met awesome bloggers from all over the world
7) I’ve found many interesting blogs that I will continue to follow
8) I’ve been nominated for blogging awards
9) I have more than doubled my number of followers in just one year
10) Best of all, I’ve gotten lots of ordinary people to like poetry, probably many who faithfully read these pages only to humor me

You’ve got to admit, that’s a heck of a nice list of accomplishments.  That said, I think the time has come to move on and use what I have learned here to conquer my other writing goals.  I plan to keep my site, for the ease of viewing other blogs on WordPress Reader.  A big thanks to all my regulars, especially those who left comments and words of encouragement.  Who knows?  I may revive JJ42 after a long winter’s nap, so keep me on the radar.  10-4, good buddies, over and out.

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BLOWN AWAY… AND GRATEFUL!

blog award
My very first blogging award–an auspicious occasion that deserves its own post!  I’ll chuck the boring, longwinded speech and instead, share
a fun anecdote, some inside info, and links to my favorite stuff.  Enjoy!

I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Aston Kamunde, whose ethereal poems express his unique perspective on life.  If you’re a poetry lover (or even if you’re not) check out Aston’s blog.  Always,
a line or phrase will jump out and speak to me in a very personal way.

I’m excited beyond words (almost) to have been chosen.  “Versatile” is the perfect description of my blog, a true hodge-podge-collage of memoir and poetry.  Per the rules, I am to share seven things about myself, then pass the torch to other deserving blogs.  So here goes:

1.  For me, the only thing better than a writing prompt is a dictation straight from the Muse, who usually finds her voice around 4 AM.

2.  For exercise and inspiration, I walk two miles a day.  Incidentally, that’s exactly the distance to the public library and back.

3.  I have a cat and two pound pups.  The cat can camouflage anywhere.  One dog loves to lick the exhaust pipe of my Honda more than he likes to lick himself (for the record, a lot).  The other dog shifted our motor-home into gear and drove it into a ditch at a rest area.  No, not kidding.  Bonus:  Hubby was inside the RV at the time.  Double Bonus:  He was in the bathroom, terrified that Armageddon had caught him with his pants down.  Fortunately, the motorhome and all involved parties escaped serious injury and went on to live happily ever after.

rv tow

4.  I love every kind of ethnic food, own a wok, and can cook Thai.

5.  I almost threw up from nerves at my first open mike night.

6.  I cannot play practical jokes or poker; my face is a dead giveaway.

7.  My writing heroes are Erma Bombeck and Weird Al Yankovic.  They recently joined forces on a new book:  At Wit’s End Over Word Crimes(JK!  Erma is deceased and Weird Al is probably hunkered down in his basement working out the rhymes for his next parody masterpiece.)

For additional bio, see my introductory post, Just Joan in a Nutshell.

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And now, for my nominees.  I have hand-picked a JJ42 post for each of you and ask that, in addition to sharing seven fun facts and passing on the torch, you respond in the comment area with a link to a post from your own archives that you think I will enjoy.  Without further ado:

1.  Elan Mudrow of http://tricksterchase.com is a true wordsmith.  His blog features intriguing vintage photos paired with thought-provoking poetry.  He treats every subject with care, from the light and humorous to the serious and melancholy.  For you, Elan, an assortment of seasonal tree poems, A Year of Sap and Branches.

2.  Bitter Ben of http://bensbitterblog.com.  Who knew bitterness could be so delicious?  Ben recently celebrated a huge milestone — 700 blog posts!  So he has a massive archive of bitter selections to sample.  For you, Ben, I have chosen The Twelve Banes of Christmas, a short list of the Super-Villains that fill my holiday season with bitterness.

3.  Marissa of https://rockandrollsupermom.wordpress.com.  This Queen of Rhythm and Rhyme gives ol’ Dr. Seuss a run for his money!  And her wry humor and surprise endings are the icing on the cake.
If you like rhymes, come take a peek.
Some here are common, some unique.
And of course, my favorite kind: oblique!
Marissa rocks some fine technique
on her WordPress site; that’s my critique.
For you, Marissa, backstage pass to the Secret Universe of the Purse.

4.  Professor Julez of https://professorjulez.wordpress.com.  Zany, offbeat, and full of energy, this stand-up-comedian-trapped-inside-of-a-math-teacher is a class act.  For you, Julez, Things Worth a Double Take, a collection of life equations that don’t quite add up.

5.  Trek of https://circumstance227.wordpress.com.  Infused with subtle humor and unfailing honesty, her blog is nothing short of addictive.  As I scrolled through the archives, I was amazed that two totally unrelated brains could think so much alike.  For you Trek, and your elderly Dog #3, I have selected a bittersweet canine tale, Earnest and True to the End.

Honorable Mention:  TippyGnu of https://unicorniks.wordpress.com, a fellow introvert whose wit and imagination flow effortlessly through his stories, both fiction and non-fiction.  He proclaims his blog to be an “Award-Free Zone” but I want to recognize him anyway.  TippyGnu, meet King Kong-Cinderella, the hapless heroine of Halloween 1977.

Thank you again, Aston, and congratulations to all.  Happy blogging!

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PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL’S SECRET LOVE CHILD?

Groundhog Day is drawing near, a reminder that the mammalian family is comprised of two distinct groups:  those who hibernate, and those who don’t.  Although the groundhog is perhaps the most well-known Hibernator, the group also includes more obscure breeds:  hermits, introverts, invalids, homebodies, man-cave dwellers, and video-gamers, to name but a few.  I am a proud member of this sect, reciting daily our pledge of allegiance, which ends with these words: “one Hiber-Nation, underground, with coziness and solitude for all.”

Non-hibernators are commonly known as Cabin Fever-ites.  Last week,
it was minus two degrees with the wind chill, but a plethora of these creatures were out and about:  deer crossing the road, procrastinator squirrels looking for nuts, and intrepid shoppers gathering essentials like celery, Lotto tickets, and new magnets for the refrigerator.  They do not seem to understand the joys of hibernation:

1.  you advance directly from autumn to spring
2.  sleeping for as long as you want
3.  in flannel pajamas, burrowed under a toasty quilt
4.  losing winter weight instead of gaining it
5.  and waking (ta-da!) without bags under your eyes

At our house, a daily snoozing contest keeps us in practice year-round.  I normally abstain from participating because I am a simple homebody-introvert with little aptitude for sleeping in; the coffee pot calls to me and it’s all over.  My high-strung pup Callie is likewise handicapped; she bounds out of bed when I do, eager to stand on the sofa and bark at the neighbors as they warm up their cars and head off to work.  Her laid-back brother Tailor, however, could be Punxsutawney Phil’s love child.  He can remain in bed indefinitely, engaged in fierce competition with his day-sleeping Daddy for the coveted title of Nesquatch.  The word
is a loose derivative of “nesh-squawk,” the derogatory nickname my grandmother pinned on whichever lazybones kid was the last to roll
out of bed.  “Hurry and get up,” she’d say, “You don’t want to be the nesh-squawk!”  My husband and son countered this admonition with a resounding, “Why not?”  So we changed the rules a bit:  if you manage to stay in bed the longest, you are declared the winner.  Getting up for any reason (except to pee) is grounds for immediate disqualification.  The margin between victory and defeat can be slim, so every second counts.  Despite the skill and determination of his worthy opponent, Tailor nearly always prevails.

If I happen to awaken before the day’s first bluish light peeks around the blinds, I love to observe my little champion at work.  Often, my breathing falls in step with his and off I go, back to the Land of Nod:

CONTENTMENT

Just before dawn, I awaken next to my still-sleeping pup.
The white of his tuxedo glows faintly against the black.
His chest rises and falls, softly and silently.

Suddenly, he erupts in a series of muffled snorts and barks.
His feet twitch in unison as they carry him
to and from the farthest reaches of dreamland.

Then they go quiet and he relaxes into his sleeping self,
arching his back in a sustained full-body stretch
that would be the envy of any yogi.

His warm head settles comfortably onto my legs.
I cannot bear to disturb him and savor instead
the look of perfect contentment on his face.

Soon the hypnotic cadence of his breathing beckons,
bidding my return to the parallel universe that lies
behind closed eyelids.  I drift, unable to resist.

This blog post is lovingly dedicated to my father, Victor.
Happy Birthday, Dad!  Hope you don’t see your shadow.

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EARNEST AND TRUE TO THE END

earnie swim

A tiny paw tapped my pant leg.  It belonged to one of the Puppies For Sale, a round-bodied Lab whose sleek black coat was dotted with curly cowlicks.  Two soulful brown eyes gazed up at me from his irresistibly earnest little face and within minutes, Earnest and True had an official name on his “papers” and a window seat in our car.  Our resident Alpha was thrilled with her new role as big sister, alternately mothering and bossing around her little charge.  Easygoing Earnie was the yin to her yang and her most devoted follower.  Although she patiently taught him everything she knew, he never learned to give dog kisses.  And my attempts at tutoring him, however heroic, were entirely unsuccessful.  Charming and gregarious, Earnie was the star of Puppy Kindergarten; the classes were held in the vet’s office and at every appointment for the next fifteen years, he searched under the waiting room chairs for his playmates.  He wasn’t given to mischief unless it involved food.  Or balls.  Or keeping his gnarly toenails as far away from the clippers as possible.  Until his final year, when he inexplicably melted into skin and bones, Earnie was overweight and usually on a diet.  That said, he never missed a meal, and sometimes ate two if his sister took her eyes off her dish.  He raided the garbage can.  He ate stale bread we threw out for the birds.  He talked sympathetic dog sitters out of extra food and treats by pretending he was starving.  His other passion was collecting balls; some he came by honestly, others he “creatively acquired” from neighbors’ yards, the park, or on walks.  Over a lifetime, his cache filled a laundry basket.  In fact, he learned to swim when he chased a tennis ball into our garden pond.  Swimming was another talent he pursued with vigor, constantly seeking out bigger and better venues.  If the local public pond wasn’t frozen, he considered it fair game and jumped in.  When the creek ran high and fast from the spring rains, he rode down it like a water slide.  He could barely contain his excitement the first time he laid eyes on Lake Erie, a body of water so expansive that it touched the sky.  He chased his dreams and stayed ahead of old age for a long time, but it gained a foothold when he lost his sister, his lifelong BFF. To help fill the void, we adopted two young pound pups who doted on him, snuggled with him, groomed him, and kept him entertained with their antics.  As his clock wound down, we concentrated on filling each moment with the things he loved most, from the simplest of pleasures to the craziest of dreams:

EARNIE’S BUCKET LIST

1.  Go for walks with the family, on his own power, at his own pace.  He flatly refused to ride in a wagon; we tried, and he tipped it over.

2.  Run.  His hips were riddled with arthritis, so I’d often lift up his back legs and run along beside him while he sprinted on the front ones.

3.  Roll in the snow.  In his opinion, it was the best part of winter.

4.  Get his butt rubbed.  Ears?  Flanks?  Belly?  Meh!  He was a tush guy.

5.  Sunbathe.  He had a favorite spot on the sofa where he stretched out to soak up the late morning rays, a daily rendezvous he never missed.

6.  Eat whatever and whenever he pleased.  A dream-come-true for a perpetually hungry dog who had spent most of his adult life on a diet.

7.  Swim in the ocean.  So we fired up the RV for an eleventh hour road trip to the coast of Maine.  That’s him, above, paddling in the Atlantic.

8.  Collect more balls.  He acquired his last one, an orange and green tennis ball, just two weeks before he passed.  It was wedged against a mailbox post and half-hidden in the snow, but that did not deter him.

9.  Own a plush pink Kong football.  It was the only thing he wanted for Christmas.  Santa brought one, and Earnie never let it out of his sight.

10.  Go peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.  Dr. Brett Ellis, our beloved vet, obliged, and made a housecall when the time came.

Earnie was true blue to the end, but my final memories will forever be:

PINK

THE decision could be delayed no longer.
Come, I begged the vet, but
not quite yet… wait until
tomorrow.

The day of reckoning refused to be blue
or a somber shade of gray
to match my mood.
Instead,

Each detail was tinged with contradiction,
shades of pink so cheerful,
I longed to smack them.
Senseless.

The fuzzy pink football hugged tight to his chest,
the one he held close day and night

The eager pink tongue that gulped treats laced with dope,
then lolled from his lazy grin

The velvet pink belly that wiggled with glee
as he rolled on his back in the snow

The juicy pink core of a steak grilled mid-rare,
the last he would eat in this world

The sparkling pink bottle we uncorked and shared,
toasting with goblets raised high

The caustic pink bubbles that fizzled and burned
past the obstinate lump in my throat

The pale pink solution that filled us with dread
before peacefully stopping his heart

The gracious pink sky that embraced his pure soul
as it soared to the heavens above

Whenever a four-legged shadow cavorts
across a striking roseate sunset,
I am certain that he
is behind it.

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LOOK WHAT 2015 DRAGGED IN!

January always brings out the mad scientist in me.  Here is my newest theory:  if the rate of the passage of time is constant, the moments of the year that flew by must be balanced out by moments that dragged. I’m not talking about everyday slowness, like drumming my fingers as I wait for the coffee to brew or lingering on hold while a computerized voice repeatedly thanks me for my patience and returns me to Muzak Hell.  The sloth of which I speak is a superhuman entity, moving at the speed of a plodding tortoise jammed into reverse and divided by ten.  With that in mind, and without further ado, I am pleased to present:

THE TEN LONGEST MOMENTS OF 2015

1. Worrying as our dog paddled slowly back to shore after swimming out waaaaay too far into the lake chasing sea gulls.  Those qualified as the longest minutes of my life, and probably hers, too.  Afterward, we both collapsed onto the beach, utterly exhausted.

2. Waiting for my husband to make his effing move on the SCRABBLE board.  (To be fair, he would probably say the same thing about me.)

3. Lying in the dental chair with my head lower than my body, bright light boring into my eyes, and the left side of my face shot full of Novocaine while a cheerful sadist jackhammers away at my molar.

4. Standing in line at Starbucks behind the poor sap nominated by his seventeen pickiest office mates to make the morning coffee run.

5. Sitting through the ridiculously long series of trailers that preceded “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” at the movie theater.

6. Waiting for the plumber to come and unclog the kitchen sink after I scorched a pot of chili and, in a panic, poured the whole thing down the garbage disposal.  I wouldn’t have believed co-existing with an odor that foul could be classified as a “non-emergency.”

7. Enduring four days of non-stop drizzle cooped up inside a 27-foot motorhome with my husband and two dogs at a remote state park with severely limited cellular service and no access to WiFi.

8. Suffering through that miserable bout of bronchitis during which I coughed so hard that I strained a muscle between my ribs and couldn’t inhale without doubling over in pain.  I tried splinting my torso with an old spandex “body shaper” but then I couldn’t breathe at all.

9. Traversing the final five miles of freeway before a long-awaited rest area, sorely regretting my decision to bypass the last one and fervently praying that the car will not hit a bump or pothole.

10. Every minute I’ve spent staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen while in the throes of writer’s block.

What was your longest moment in 2015?  Click HERE to share it!

THE TWELVE BANES OF CHRISTMAS

HOLY HOLIDAY HOOLIGANS, BATMAN!  These evil yuletide villains have returned for the season and may be headed to a city near you:

PUMPKIN SPICE MEISTER is the mastermind behind a diabolical plan to take over the world before the New Year by slowly invading every product line, from flavored coffee drinks to scented doggie-poo bags.

THE RED-CUPSTER, disguised as an ambassador of political correct-ness, pulls shameless publicity stunts to conjure up conflict, squelch goodwill, and distract the public from the real meaning of Christmas.

THE ZAPSTER incites electrical mayhem by tangling up strands of lights, hiding the multi-outlets you know you just bought, shorting
out extension cords, and blowing random circuits in the fuse box.

THE NEEDLER sucks up endless gallons of water and sheds every time you look at him.  Stay calm and don’t make a move toward the vacuum cleaner or he will spontaneously combust and set your house on fire.

THE MUDDLER employs hypnosis to take control of brain cells, causing confusion, incomplete lists, multiple trips to the store and post office, and inability to recall what it was you crawled up into the attic for.

THE PRANKSTER joins random groups of carolers and sings off-key, deploys his fart machine during church services, transforms prime parking spaces into queues for shopping carts, and teases the family dog by hiding little sausages in the toes of all the Christmas stockings.

THE SCOTCH TAPESTER is an obsessive-compulsive psychopath driven to secure all loose folds of wrapping paper directly onto the box, thus insuring that each and every package is sealed up as tight as Fort Knox.

THE TOPPLER creates a powerful optical illusion that causes you to see your tree as straight when it is, in fact, quite crooked.  He then arranges all the heaviest ornaments on one side and chases the cat up the trunk.

THE PEEKSTER dislikes surprises, so he secretly unwraps his Christmas gifts and examines the contents, then carefully rewraps them and puts them back under the tree.  His archenemy is the Scotch-Tapester.

THE SAMPLER pops into the kitchen and helps himself when your back is turned.  He sneaks nips of the good whiskey and is especially fond of “finger foods” such as cookie dough, cheese balls, and turkey gravy.

THE SHRINKSTER performs his evil magic throughout the season on everything from cardboard shipping boxes and the trunk of your car to your holiday budget and the waistband of your favorite pants.

THE LEFT-OGLER stands there forever holding the refrigerator door open, picking at the turkey carcass and checking out the Tupperware, before walking away whining “There’s nothing to eat around here!”

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A DOG’S LETTER TO SANTA

I was dusting the other day and found this lying on the printer:

letter to Santa

You’ve probably deduced that parts of this post are fictional.  The part about me dusting, for instance.  Congratulations, Sherlock, well done!  Now we can move on to more perplexing mysteries, like where Tailor learned to type.  And in outline form, no less!  Do you think he knows where I keep the envelopes and stamps?  Can he reach the flag on the mailbox?  What will happen when he finds out the truth about Santa?  And discovers that my credit cards are the key to the wonderful world of Amazon.com?  What if he grows up to be a lawyer?  Like so many pet parents, I worry.  But for today, I’m content to let him revel in the magic of Christmas.  I’ll hug him tight for remembering Ginger and Callie in his letter and vouch that he’s a good boy if the North Pole should call me requesting verification.  Of course, Santa will bring him everything he asked for, except maybe the heated indoor pool… and that giant stick from the back yard, the one he knows he isn’t allowed to bring in the house.  Maybe I’ll slip a Roomba under the tree… just because he was cheeky enough to go behind my back and ask Santa Claus for the stick! After he and Roomba are through chasing each other, we’ll take turns bobbing for chicken, straight from the bucket, then flop down in front of the TV.  From my cozy corner seat, I’ll count my blessings, beginning with the one wielding the remote, the one sprawled across my lap, the one meowing to go outside, and the one snoring from the depths of an extra-crispy food coma.  If I start crying, you can blame it on Hallmark; those sappy holiday movies get me every time!

Wishing you a blessed season filled with laughter, love, and memories.

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