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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It’s almost Thanksgiving, and eleventh hour grocery shoppers are gearing up for the big feast.  I remember pushing my cart amid the throng the year of the canned pumpkin shortage.  OMG!  Convinced that our holiday table would not be complete without pumpkin pie,
I bought the genuine article and set to work on it.  After hacking the thing in half, scraping out a zillion slimy seeds, steaming it in the oven, scooping out the flesh, and pureeing it to the consistency of Libby’s,
I stirred it together with the other ingredients, poured it into a home-made crust, and baked it into a golden masterpiece that sat, untouched, on the dessert table.  What people went crazy for was the completely unconventional chocolate torte with raspberry drizzle.  I didn’t blame them; given the option, the pilgrims and Indians probably would have done the same.  Perhaps folks had simply grown weary of tradition and were ready to embrace a new way of doing things.

Inspired by this pioneer spirit, I decided to readdress my own habits regarding Black Friday and Christmas shopping in general.  I recalled a recent visit with an elderly friend.  As I got up to leave, I noticed it was raining and lamented that I had forgotten my umbrella.  “I have extras,” she said.  “Come and pick one out.”  I followed her down the hall and she opened a closet that contained a pile of umbrellas in a variety of colors.  Other shelves were laden with containers of dusting powder, tubes of hand lotion, scented candles, flashlights, pairs of gloves, and plush throw blankets still zippered in their original plastic cases.  “I tell my family and friends I don’t need anything, but they buy it anyway,” she said, by way of explanation.  “I could open my own Mini-Mart!”  We laughed about it, but she had a point.  I asked if there was some other gift she would have preferred.  “A visit?” she replied. “It gets lonely in this big old house by myself.  Or a slice of homemade pie…  Kroger’s is alright, but it’s just not the same.”  So on that Black Friday, instead of going shopping, I placed a generous wedge of my masterpiece pumpkin pie on a plate, added some freshly whipped cream, and drove over to surprise her.  You would have thought she won the lottery.  The heart-warming memory of her beaming smile was the motivation for many “alternative” gifts in the years that followed, including a donation to Operation Smile in honor of my nurse peeps.  After all, what trinket from the Mall could possibly compare with the smile of a child who’s been given a new lease on life?  Or a backpack of food for a struggling family?  Shelter on a winter night?  Warm mittens on a pair of cold little hands?  The chance at an education and a brighter future?  Make this the year you break tradition.  Invest in hope and share the magic.  Go for the chocolate torte — you know you want to.

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Only 7.3% of Americans have served in the military, a fraction that sounds elite, but equates to some 23 million people.  A veteran myself,
I salute each and every one of you.  I offer up prayers on your behalf, tribute to your contributions and sacrifice, and heartfelt appreciation for your commitment to peace and freedom in our country and the wider world.  In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’d like to share two poems.  The first is the story of a forgotten young airman—one quite beloved
to me—who dearly wishes his service to be remembered.  The second
is the tale of an earnest medic who returns from war facing memories
he dearly wishes he could forget:


On the eve of eleven-eleven,
a young Airman is served
with walking papers,
his increasingly erratic behavior
deftly swept under the rug
of crime and punishment.

Hastily discharged and
wrestling in the grip
of undiagnosed psychosis,
he’s told to fend for himself;
twenty-three months of service
does not a veteran make.

The Voices intrude.
Pervasive whispers
meddle in his life, career,
relationships, even his dreams.
He battles to stay afloat
within his skewed world.

Fast forward thirty years:
In the mailbox, an envelope,
the long-awaited culmination
of a hard-fought battle with VA
for benefits and recognition.
Inside, a 100% victory.

It’s not about money,
but restoration of honor
and stripes wrongly taken.
With tears in his eyes,
he looks in the mirror and sees,
at long last, a proud veteran.



Quiet and hard-working
A capable medic and practical joker extraordinaire
He kept the whole office laughing

One day his number came up
Orders to the Middle East, his mission clean and simple:
Patch up wounded soldiers

And ship ‘em back to the States
He never took a life, just worked tirelessly to save them
War’s pain seeping in by osmosis

Long busy days and sleepless nights
Punctuated by trips to the chow hall and makeshift gym
If you were lucky, a package from home

He returned in the best shape of his life
Thin and buff, pockets bulging with tax-free war zone pay
But his eyes told a different story

He dutifully clicked through his JPEGs of war
A show-and-tell of horrors that would haunt me long after
Fighting emotion, keeping his game face on

He told his story to many a curious medic
Until he couldn’t tell it anymore, the flashdrive buried in a dusty drawer
If only it were so easy to get rid of pictures in your head

His smile was rare, the easy laugh silent
Eyes careworn, underscored by the inky shadows of insomnia
Once you’ve seen, says he, you can never un-see

You go on, but life will never be the same.

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Trees spark verse in every season
Of careful diction, rhyme and reason

Assonance, alliteration
Double entendre, personification

But craft is trumped by the timeless art
Of listening well with an open heart



The thin dark trunk
And its skinny offshoots
Rise up from Mother Earth
Responding to the warmth of the fiery ball above
With tiny bumps the shade of brick
That will slowly erupt
Into the emerald foliage of spring



Her leafy canopy does not weep.
She is content to simply be
herself, haphazard and unique.

Her silver-white petticoat shimmies
beneath a modest skirt of green;
she dances, horizontal, in the breeze.

A wanton and cunning daredevil, she
waves teasing hands toward overhead wires,
and dangles deft feet above bonfires.

Brazen and wild and free,
her confident spirit knows no fear.
She does as she pleases.



A autumnal pandemic seizes maples unaware
Dotting them in random crimson hives
Neither the elderly nor the young are immune

The blotches take hold and expand and join hands
Until every branch shivers and burns in full fever
Copses aflame, tortured and crying for mercy

Nature’s tonic rides in on a bitter wind
Smiting ravaged leaves and tossing them to the ground
Branches emerge cleansed, but bare and frail

Facing the hardest but most crucial part of healing
Resting quietly, regaining strength
Tucked, until spring, beneath a blanket of white



Seven firs gather
around a park bench
A stand of weary backs
and creaking knees
and aching feet
Too hard-nosed to sit

Branches droop
Boughs hang heavy
Like green icicles
that have beaten
Winter’s crystal ones
To the punch

The pines press on
Squaring their shoulders
Warding off winds
Boarding birds
Discharging their duties
Refusing respite

Stoic evergreens
Snub both praise and pity
And bid me farewell
Then brood and blather
On which is finer
Sainthood or martyrdom