Category Archives: Holidays

A Cozy Covid Christmas

Coming soon to a streaming service near you, a magical new holiday movie!

“A Cozy Covid Christmas.” 

Starring Sage Periwinkle as Holly Merriweather and Chadwick Strongjaw as Logan Bennett. Featuring Judy Greer as The Quirky Best Friend, Tom Skerritt as Someone’s Dad, and Candace Cameron Bure as the Evil High-Powered Boss.

Meet Holly. A busy and adorably neurotic interior designer living in an undefined big city. When she’s not busy walking determinedly across a crowded crosswalk, she’s busy talking on the phone while signing various documents people hold out for her, followed by busily sipping wine at a hip bar with her best friend. 

Judy Greer: “How did your date go last night?”

Holly: “Terrible. I shouldn’t have even gone. I’m so busy with my career as a successful bakery chef.” 

Judy Greer (whispering): “Interior designer.”

Holly: “Oh. Right. Anyway, I don’t have time for romance. All I care about is this upcoming Very Important Business Deal.”

Judy Greer: “Holly, you need to live a little! Let’s have more wine. Where’s that hot waiter?”

But while Holly may not think she has time for romance, 2020 has different plans. Especially once she runs into Logan Bennett, the charming but damaged hometown bachelor who dresses like a fancy lumberjack and who happens to have a positive test result. 

For reasons that are flimsy and never fully explained, these two strangers must quarantine together over the holidays in a quaint Vermont inn surrounded by picturesque snowy mountains. 

Logan: “Look, let’s just make the best of this. How about we order some food. What do you like? Sushi? Thai?”

Holly: “I guess I could go for a cheeseburger and a beer.”

Logan: “Wow.”

Holly: “What?”

Logan: “Nothing. It’s just…you’re not like other girls, are you?”

The only thing they have in common is their endearing stubbornness and apparent access to unlimited top quality hair products. But when a frozen pipe explodes, forcing them to work together until they end up soaked and laughing on the kitchen floor, they find both of their hearts starting to thaw. 

Judy Greer (via Zoom): “Listen, sweetie, if you don’t go after that hunk of a man, I will.” (sips from giant wine glass)

Holly: “How can I? My career comes first. It always has. Besides, Karen needs those proofs by Christmas Eve…”

Judy Greer: “Oh, it’s a pandemic, Holly! Take a day off, for Pete’s sake! Find you some love in the time of corona.”

Both: (laugh impeccably white toothy laughs while sipping more wine)

But it’s only when a blizzard sweeps through, knocking out the power and forcing these two star-crossed and asymptomatic would-be lovers to huddle together under a blanket surrounded by candlelight, that they truly learn no mandate can force two hearts to socially distance.

Luke…Liam?…Logan!: “It’s just, my parents divorced on Christmas Eve when I was 13 and my fiance left me at the altar at our Christmas themed wedding three years ago and I never got over my childhood dog dying on New Year’s Eve and since then it’s been hard for me to get close to anyone, especially during the holidays.” 

Holly (gently grabbing his hands): “Logan, you may not be an essential worker, but you’re essential to me.” 

Then a bunch of other melodramatic stuff happens after the quarantine ends and they have to return to the real world, all of which is sloppily tied up in the sappy ending on Christmas morning. 

Holly: “Do you think you could ever love me, even though I betrayed you to get the scoop I needed for my Big Magazine Article?”

Logan: “I thought you were an interior designer.” 

Holly: “Oh. Right. Well, do you think you could ever love me even though I’m a mess but always somehow impeccably dressed?”

Logan: “Only if you can forgive me for that sleazy, sexist bet I made with my super rich best friend when I first met you but then changed my mind about once I got to know you.”

(passionate kiss set to rising music and an absurd amount of falling snow)

This holiday season, get ready for “A Cozy Covid Christmas.” Coming to a streaming service near you. 

Probably. 

20 Things To Be Thankful For in 2020

I’ve been reading a lot of pretty mom blogs lately. You know, those blogs written by moms with shiny hair and actual fruit bowls on their tables? (Filled with fruit they actually eat.) The moms who have probably never told their preschooler “oh, bite me” as a rebuttal during an argument. (She won, by the way.) The moms who actually earn money from their writing? (Dirty accusing glare to all the people not reading this.) 

And right now, all the pretty mom blogs are doing a “what I’m thankful for” post. All of which have some version of this sentence: “This year, perhaps more than any other year, it’s important to focus on what matters most in life and remember that we should be thankful for these things, not just on Thanksgiving day, but every day.” 

Pfft. LAME. 

However, they’re not wrong. This has been a rough year for all of us. So maybe it couldn’t hurt to focus on what really matters, even though it goes against the very most basic core of my entire personality. 

And thus, I present, the 20 things I’m thankful for in 2020.

  1. My health. Which is good. Despite my body being composed mostly of coffee and whiskey.
  2. My husband and our two wonderful children. They mean everything to me. It’s so nice to have everyone home all the time, working and learning remotely. And I mean, all the time. All the time. ALL. THE. TIME. And even though the little one threatened to kill me the other day (it was veiled but it was definitely a death threat) we couldn’t be closer. So close. All the close. 
  3. A roof over my head. And it doesn’t even leak. And below that roof are walls and floors. Filled with mice. City mice. Who will never leave because nothing scares them and they are much, much smarter than we are. Although I haven’t ruled out making them chip in for rent.
  4. My dog, Buffy. Who at 15 is alive and healthy(-ish) and still loves to go on walks. I know you’re expecting me to say something snarky here about him but honestly, what kind of monster makes fun of a beloved elderly dog that has been a constant companion and who has farts so rancid they make rotten eggs smell appetizing. 
  5. Nature. Majestic, beautiful nature. So majestic and beautiful that I don’t even mind the mountains of Claritin I have to snort like cocaine every morning in order to step outside.
  6. Technology. For all it has done, especially during this pandemic, but mostly because it has allowed me to lock myself in the attic and have happy hour over Zoom with my friends while my children wail and bang on the door. 
  7. Speaking of which, my friends, both near and far. All of whom don’t bat an eye when my humor goes to a dark, dark place. 
  8. The sound of my children’s laughter. 
  9. The sound of my children sleeping.
  10. The sound of my husband yelling at my children because they won’t listen to me.  
  11. Wine.
  12. Did I say coffee yet?
  13. Food. Because it’s good. I don’t know. I’m losing steam. Twenty is a big number. 
  14. Oh! Peace. That’s a thing that’s always on these lists, right?
  15. Deep fried stuffing balls. They are the best thing I’ve ever created in my life (my kids coming in at a really close second though). 
  16. Alton Brown’s Thanksgiving turkey recipe. 
  17. Alton Brown.
  18. Oceans. They’re super cool. 
  19. That 2020 is slowly marching toward its death. 
  20. All y’all. The ones who read these ridiculous things week after week. And on purpose, no less. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of the pit where my heart should be. 

It’s been a mother of a year

Hey, you know how every year us mothers significantly lower our expectations when it comes to Mother’s Day? How every year you all just skate by on your adorableness, doing the bare minimum? It’s only Mom, afterall. She’s so grateful for anything and everything. Her love is completely unconditional. 

Well, not this year, you filthy urchins. There are now conditions. 

Oh sure, when you were born we played the saintly martyr when you kept us up all night, every night. We faced the fact you wouldn’t let us eat a single hot meal for an entire year with gentle stoicism. And we showed incredible grace and restraint by not throwing you out the window the first time you screamed “I HATE YOU” into our faces. 

We did all that because we love you. And you’re amazing. And we’d die for you. 

But this is 2020, you little wretches. We are done being humble and doting and noble. There is no more “oh, it’s enough of a gift just to be your mom.” It’s not. Not even close. We have spent two months stuck inside this house with you. Two VERY LONG months. With no sleepovers at Memaw’s house, no daycares or schools, no playdates, no library storytime, no playgrounds to give us even one tiny bittersweet gasp of freedom. There is only the constant drowning in your endless waves of needs and demands in a house that is growing more ramshackled by the day. 

Time to step it up, you bitty hellions.  

First things first, do not try to pass yourself off as charmingly incompetent and present us with burnt toast and water mixed with coffee grounds for breakfast. Here’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Careful, it’s heavy. Now start studying. That hollandaise sauce better make us cry tears of joy. 

Speaking of studying, your report card is one big lie. You are far from a delight in class. Which is why the card you give us this year better contain a heartfelt three page letter about how friggin’ gorgeous and phenomenal we are, which you will hand deliver to us on a silver tray that also contains a Bloody Mary. 

While we are on the subject of food and drink, you always want to be fed. Note we did not say “want to eat.” Note we did not say “always hungry.” No, you want to be fed. You want us to make you something. 

Well, guess what we want? 

A swimming pool. 

Start digging. 

And no, we will not watch you dig. A full one third of our lives is now devoted to “hey, mom watch this!” and then watching this. It doesn’t matter if we’re cooking, or if we’re showering, or if we’re on fire. We must watch. We must watch and then watch again and again, every time acting just as delighted as the first time you jumped off the couch and onto the couch cushion. 

Which is why we’re gonna need a life-sized chocolate sculpture of ourselves. 

Then there is the issue of the farts. We have smelled all your farts. All of them. On a constant rotating basis. There is just a constant low hanging miasma of fart essence wherever we go in this house because there is nowhere else for you to fart. So there’s tiny baby farts and gross boy farts and gigantic dad farts and ancient unholy dog farts, all mingling together and creating horrifying new scents. 

Buy us our own island. 

Oh, you can’t afford to buy us our own island? Well, we are the sounding board for every single thought that crosses everyone’s mind. We don’t get to have our own thoughts anymore because we’re too busy listening to all of yours. So you best find someone to bankroll this entire operation. No one’s cuteness is getting them out of this. We are on Week Eight of this crap. Ain’t no one cute around here anymore. 

We moms have not only kept this household going in a global pandemic, but, more importantly, have kept everyone from killing each other. We are freaking warrior goddesses. 

BUY US AN ARMORED UNICORN TO RIDE ON. 

So, in conclusion, we love you all so much. More than life itself. You are the best thing to ever happen to us. Don’t mess this up or we’re setting your room on fire. 

 

New Year, New Me, New Panic Attacks

It was because I was feeling smug. The universe loathes few things more than smugness. And I was practically dripping with the stuff. 

Allow me to paint you a mental picture. It’s a few days after the new year. There I am, sitting on my couch, in my new Christmas pajamas, drinking my new fancy Christmas coffee, a halo of smugness practically hovering over my head. A head that is looking around happily at my clean house. I had survived the holiday season, if not with grace, than at least without any photographic evidence to the contrary. All the proof of my family’s mindless consumerism was organized and put away. I had decluttered the drawers and closets. I was busily filling out my new 2020 planner with reminders of vet appointments and dentist appointments and dozens of other completely awful tasks because I WAS ON TOP OF EVERYTHING THIS YEAR. 

As if that wasn’t enough, I had also started reading (heaven help me) “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living” that my mother had gotten me. Because while I am not usually a big one for self-improvement, I am if it’s telling me that the secret to happiness is wearing big floofy sweaters while wrapped in a blanket and drinking alcohol. 

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No wonder the universe was gunning for me. All that was missing was the “new year, new me” Facebook post. Which I’m sure I would have gotten around to, if I hadn’t decided to go for a run (an activity that is only second in smugness to people who bike for exercise). 

So, there I go, bounding down the steps of my porch, trying to resist the urge to physically pat myself on the back, when I immediately run into our neighborhood’s garbage collectors. We wave and smile at each other before they jovially call out “Hey! You forgot our Christmas cards this year!” Which was an incredibly nice way to put it considering I have lived in the same place for eight years and I have never, in fact, remembered to tip them at Christmas. Because I had completely forgotten that that is a thing you do when you are an adult. 

I just stood there, their words bouncing off my stupid face, which was frozen into the world’s most awkward smile. The kind of smile you give when you realize what a horrible person you are and there is nowhere to hide. 

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There is no excuse. None. 

But I’m going to offer up a defense. I never asked to be an adult. It just happened to me. (And you gotta admit it’s a pretty raw deal that the only way to avoid adulthood is death). As a result, I have always found adulthood to be intensely overwhelming at times. Which is why I usually set the bar pretty low, such as “keep kids alive” and “keep wine fridge stocked.” And everything was FINE until I had to go and smugly waltz into 2020 with the attitude of “I think I’m finally getting the hang of this.”

I literally forgot an entire societal norm. I definitely do not have the hang of this. Who else am I forgetting? Oh god, the recycling guys. The mail carrier. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen our mail carrier. But now I have to go stalk around our neighborhood and hunt them down. But first I have to hit up an ATM. And find a place that still has Christmas cards. Where are my keys? I should write all this down first. I need a pen. Where is a pen? Why is there not a pen in this entire house?!

What else am I forgetting? What other adult stuff has just slipped my mind? For decades? Do we even have a retirement account? We definitely don’t have college funds set up for the kids yet. And we should definitely send at least one. I keep seeing that commercial for Roth IRAs. Do we need one of those? What the hell is it? 

I need to sign my daughter up for preschool next year. Did I miss that deadline? Oh no, and she also wanted me to put her in dance classes. Should I enroll my son in space camp or some crap then too? Where is her birth certificate? They’ll probably need that. Where are any of our birth certificates? And our social security cards! They’re probably wherever our passports are. OH GOD, OUR PASSPORTS EXPIRED!

Where’s the dog? I think his tags are expired. Probably our car’s too. We don’t have the money for any of this. I need new bras! 

Are the kids having too much screen time? I need a better skincare routine. Are my husband and I having enough sex? Should we buy a house? I eat so unhealthy. Am I already riddled with cancer!? IS ALL THIS THE FIRST SIGNS OF DEMENTIA!? 

I’M SPIRALING. I’M SPIRALING! WHY IS THIS ALL SO HARD? AHHHHHHH! THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO! HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY BE OUT OF WINE!?

*breaks down sobbing*

Well, anyway…*wipes nose on sleeve*…to sum up, Happy New Year, everyone. 

 

Thoughts whilst wrapping presents upon a winter’s eve

Well, well, well. Will you look at that? Here I am. Dragging down last year’s beat up and cobwebbed wrapping paper from the attic. Being proactive. Unlike every other year, where I wait until the last minute to do all this and end up turning into Scrooge, mumbling under my breath about decreasing the surplus population. 

Starting with my family. 

But not this year. No, this year I’m on top of it. Wrapping all these Christmas presents over a WEEK ahead of time. I should totally write a book about time management. 

OK, is this all of them then? Oof, I hope so. I don’t remember buying all this. I should really check our bank account. 

No matter though. It’s Christmas! Come on, get into the spirit. Or better yet, the spirits. Gonna go get me a glass of that gallon of eggnog I bought at the liquor store because it was on sale! Everyone’s asleep. The lights are all aglow (except for that one string that went out but I’m too lazy to replace). It’s not snowing but that sleeting is…picturesque. AND I can finally watch that ridiculous Christmas movie that somehow tries to plausibly pull off a time travel plotline about a medieval knight. 

Sigh. Yes. This is perfect.

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Alright, just going to lower myself down onto the floor here. Erg. Was the floor always this far down?  Did I always used to grunt this much? OK, where are the scissors? Scissors, scissors…ah! There they are. Sneaky little devil. And onto the first present. You know, I don’t think I’d ever tell this to anyone, but I definitely have an above average gift wrapping skill. I mean, just look at this. Such tight corners. That I’d love to tape down. Where is the tape? Tape, tape…do we have tape? Did I forget to buy tape? We have to have tape. What house doesn’t have tape? Ugh. Better go check the junk drawer. Up we go. Erg. Ouch.

OK, so we have an ancient roll of tape that is half gone. Going to have to ration the adhesive. No worries though, I’m a master. Just gonna throw some ribbon on this bad boy and a bow and BOOM. Perfection. 

I mean, look at that curly-cue. 

My family truly doesn’t deserve me. 

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OK, what’s this one? A robot unicorn? With wings? That sings? Definitely going to regret this purchase. She’s going to love it though. And look at this one. An overpriced STEM gift from that fancy catalog. He’s going to go nuts. And get so smart. And then go to Harvard and buy me a house. 

Oof. My back. Already with the back pain. Why is this floor so hard? You know what, though? Nothing a little bit more eggnog can’t solve. A little more eggy-nog-nog. Who would have thought that whiskey went so well with eggs? No one. Technically it’s gross. But it’s doing its job. Come to Momma, you. 

Alright, round two. What’s next? A sled? How the hell do I wrap this thing? It’s HUGE. Where did those scissors go? They were just here! Where the f—Oop. There they are. You know, I honestly can’t wait until Christmas morning. The kids are at that perfect age where everything is magical and…oh come on. Where did the pen go? Or for that matter, my back-up pen? Six hundred pens in this stupid house and not a single one within reach! I swear I will burn this entire place down if…oh, there it is. 

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Wait, who was this one for again? 

OK, how many more are left? Oh. Wow. Haven’t even made a dent. But how? My hips are killing me. Everything hurts. Things I didn’t even know existed hurt. How is it possible I’m only this far along? Do I even like this many people? 

And why are all these toys in such oddly shaped packages?

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So tired. More eggnog. That’ll help. And maybe one of those cookies or two (or five) that I spent all day yesterday making. 

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? They ate them ALL? It hasn’t even been 24 hours! Those monsters didn’t even save me one. 

Alright, alright, I need to calm down. This is MY TIME. I should try to enjoy it. Although, if I’m being honest, I wish MY TIME consisted of sitting on the couch doing nothing but mocking this Christmas movie. Seriously, no one dresses like that when it’s cold and snowy out, Ms. Oh But I Wasn’t Even LOOKING For Love. No, in reality, everyone dresses like they’re a homeless marshmallow man from November to April. 

Sigh. OK, where was I? How are there still this many unwrapped things? Eh, you know what? Screw it. I still have plenty of time to wrap before Christmas. I’ll finish tomorrow. Or the next day. Yeah, it’ll totally be fine. 

Now, where’s that eggnog?

 

Not until the holidays are over

It’s understandable, I suppose. If you look at a calendar, there is December, looking on the surface just like any other month. Row after row of days, each begging to be filled up with errands and tasks and to-do lists. So I get why some people treat it just like any other month. 

But let me make this as clear as possible. Nothing is getting accomplished until after the holidays. At least on my end. 

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See, once December starts, you might, MIGHT, get one week at the beginning where I kinda sorta pretend to care and half-heartedly “do” stuff. But we have now reached a point in the season where this is no longer real life. Nothing matters anymore except things that have a decidedly Yuletide bent to them. I am now living in a snow globe filled with eggnog. Go away. I’ll see you all again in January. 

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My dentist is harassing me about making an appointment. The vet is wondering when I’m bringing my dog in for a check-up. My toddler wants me to sign her up for dance classes. Our passports need renewed. Etc. Etc. 

Look, I have to watch “A Christmas Story” AT LEAST five more times. There are cookies I need to buy from the store and pass off as my own special recipe. Not to mention, I still have to figure out which festive liqueur I’m going to slip into my coffee on Christmas morning. I’m swamped. All this constant nagging about deadlines and paying bills and what are we going to do about the leak in the kitchen and the kids need to eat something besides candy canes is fa-la-la-la-la-laing on deaf ears. 

Not until the holidays are over. 

Oh, what’s that? Do I hear what you hear when the car starts? That awful grinding sound? No, sorry. I only hear what Whitney Houston hears. A song, a song, high above the trees, with a voice big enough to block you and the rest of reality out. 

Nothing. Until. The. Holidays. Are. Over. 

Sure I’ll still send my oldest kid to school (because I’m pretty sure legally I have to). But his hygiene and preparedness are a crapshoot this far along in the month. Was I aware I sent him to school wearing two different shoes? And only one sock? Where is his homework? And backpack? Why is he quoting “Die Hard?” 

All things I will definitely address. After the holidays are over. (Although please enjoy these definitely homemade cookies that are my own special recipe). 

We’re out of toothpaste? I’ll put it on your Christmas list. The laundry needs done? What’s a few more days in those pajamas you’ve been wearing all weekend? That gigantic tower of unread mail on my desk? I’ll get to it. I swear. Right now, however, I have to drive around and look at Christmas lights and then stop at a festively decorated craft brewery where my kids will eat french fries and I will drink a beer with 12 percent alcohol called “Yankee Swap.”

That book club I want to start? The writing group I’ve already promised to start? That Christmas party I was thinking of hosting?

All of them can wait. UNTIL AFTER THE HOLIDAYS. I mean, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” isn’t going to watch itself while eating three-fourths of a large pizza. 

And come January 2, you can come bug me about all the stuff I’ve been putting off. Or the 3rd, depending on how bad my New Year Eve’s hangover is. Just get in line behind everyone else and do your best to ignore my sobbing. 

My Thanksgiving Google List

How big of a turkey do I need?

Idiot proof recipes for Thanksgiving turkey

What is a brine?

Is a brine necessary?

Things I can brine a turkey in besides a bucket

Is Alton Brown single?

Pictures of Alton Brown

Alton Brown’s wife

Did Guy Fieri die?

People you’d be surprised are still alive

When are grocery stores the least crowded?

How late is Trader Joe’s open?

Why are there so many people in the world?

How expensive is it to have Thanksgiving catered?

Should I buy a backup turkey?

Videos of how to remove turkey guts

Do gutless turkeys exist?

Thanksgiving cocktails

Thanksgiving cocktails you can make with simple ingredients

Thanksgiving cocktails with three or less ingredients

Wine with the highest alcohol content

That funny Thanksgiving song, not the Adam Sandler one

That funny Thanksgiving song about jail

Thanksgiving playlist ideas

Thanksgiving sweaters for dogs

Thanksgiving sweaters for women

Thanksgiving sweater sets for families

How to make sweet potatoes not suck

Why do people put marshmallows on sweet potatoes?

Recipes for normal potatoes

What is the point of parsley?

Why aren’t there more Thanksgiving movies?

Forgot to thaw turkey

Are turkeys microwave safe?

Can you blow dry a turkey?

Recipe for cheesy vegetable dish, possibly included cauliflower?

How to trick children into eating Thanksgiving dinner

Good responses to ‘I don’t want to eat this’

How to make vegetables taste like not vegetables

Thanksgiving sides you can deep fry

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls

Recipe for deep fried stuffing balls not on a food blog site featuring long stories

How can you tell when a turkey is done?

First aid for minor burns

My discount meat thermometer melted?

Difference between oven safe thermometers and not oven safe

Can I still eat a turkey if a thermometer melted on it?

Pizza places open on Thanksgiving

 

Welcome aboard, plebs

Good morning, passengers! Welcome to Every Airline Flight 525. We will begin boarding in just a few minutes but please stand by for a few pre-flight announcements.

It looks like we are scheduled for an on time take-off, although that will likely change once everyone is onboard and trapped. It does seem we are overbooked today so we ask that our customers be prepared to unceremoniously be bumped to a much later flight even though you have a connecting flight in Washington D.C. We apologize for this inconvenience but have the utmost confidence that no one will be of much help getting you where you need to go. 

Onboard we will have a variety of complimentary beverages and snacks available during the flight. So please enjoy those two swallows of Diet Coke and three tiny pretzels. Of course this only applies to those of you who bought our basic economy seats. First class and economy plus customers will be given something much, much better which, fortunately for the peasants sitting in the back, you will get to glimpse as you awkwardly pass by them during boarding. 

We also have a variety of alcoholic beverages available for purchase if spending $13 on a tiny bottle of vodka that isn’t even big enough to give you a buzz is your idea of a good value. 

For those of you who have a middle seat, please be prepared for the other two people in your row to be seated first and then be super annoyed when they see you that you didn’t have the decency to die on the way to the airport, thus giving them more elbow room and a place to put their gigantic parkas. Middle-seaters should also be advised that you will have to pee about ten minutes after take off but will feel too anxious to ask the aisle person to move again and will spend the rest of the flight in pure misery. There will be plenty of bathrooms once we reach our destination but all of them will have a long line filled only with old people and women with multiple small children in tow. 

Speaking of boarding, we here at Every Airline have a very strict boarding pecking order because classism is our creed and motto. We are now inviting those passengers who require any special assistance and anyone traveling with small children to begin boarding. Yes, even ahead of the rich people. But only because we’re pretty sure it’s required by law or something. For those of you boarding first, please do not make eye contact with the pompous lady who has been hovering near the gate for over an hour and is angry that just because you have a toddler you get to go ahead of her. She is clearly one of our Premier Select Members Plus and as such feels superior to you in every way. Please also note that she is married to the angry man who was indignant when the poor airline worker told him his carry-on, which was clearly a full-sized suitcase, had to go below in the cargo hold. 

We will now begin boarding our Gold Circle Elite customers, which are somehow different from our Premier Select Members Plus customers. For those of you in Boarding Group 5, please stop standing around like you will get on this flight anytime soon. Sit down and pretend to read that overpriced John Grisham book you just bought at the airport souvenir store. 

We are now inviting any veterans or current active military members to board even though the pompous lady is now audibly huffing and looking around with her best “don’t you know who I am?” face.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been informed that all the overhead bins are already full since no one checks baggage anymore because we charge a ridiculous fee for it. Although feel free to hold up the entire line trying to stuff your gigantic overloaded carry-on up there anyway. 

Since we are a bit afraid that the pompous lady is going to have a heart attack, we now invite our Premier Select Blah Blah Blah customers to board. As well as Boarding Groups 1-4 because the only thing our Select Elite Whatever membership gets you is the illusion of prestige.  

Finally we invite Boarding Group 5 to board but most of you already did, sneaking in with the rest of the passengers. 

We here at Every Airline know you have your choice of airlines and are happy that you choose to spend $377.34 to be treated as a criminal and a second-class citizen by us. Please enjoy your flight. Which I have just been informed has been delayed. 

A Nightmare in Elm Trees

It was a cloudless blue day in late summer. The kind of blue that made the heart ache with possibility. The kind of day made for adventures. 

And it was in that spirit of happy potentiality that the little family began packing up their car for a weekend away in the woods. Backpacks full of toys, a small suitcase filled with hoodies and bug spray, a cooler loaded with beer and marshmallows. The father grunting as he loaded the trunk, the children squealing and chasing each other, the mother watching fondly but also desperately trying to remember what she forgot because it was definitely something. 

How could they possibly know under that perfect sky that they were walking into a horror story? (Other than the fact it’s the premise for an entire genre of horror stories?).

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The drive passed quickly and uneventfully. The cabin was small and cozy. They only had one neighbor in this isolated part of the New Hampshire woods. A lone man wearing flannel staying at the other cabin across a copse of trees. The mother joked that he looked like Ted Bundy. The father laughed. Because it’s all fun and games until someone gets murdered. 

For now, it was peaceful. Quiet. Which is probably why the mother was able to hear it. Barely perceptible, but definitely there. She had just sat down and opened her book when a low moan rose up out of the woods. She looked around but when she didn’t see anything, decided to ignore it, managing to read three whole sentences before hearing it again. Only it was a little louder this time. 

“…oooooooommmmmm….”

“Hello?” she practically whispered. “Is…is someone there?”

The woods answered back with the light rustling of leaves in the wind. After a few more moments, she turned her attention back to her book. Finding time to read was a luxury and she refused to waste it. But just when she had finally relaxed, releasing the tension in her shoulders that had been there since the birth of her oldest, there was that sound again. Louder. Much louder. An unearthly wail. 

“MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!” 

No. No, it can’t be, she thought. But it was. Suddenly, like a pop-up book from hell, her two children appeared on either side of her, loudly complaining that they were already bored. 

They had only arrived 20 minutes ago. 

The mother screamed. 

Meanwhile, the father was in the cabin unpacking. Although beautiful late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the windows, the man couldn’t shake the black, foreboding feeling that something wasn’t right. He checked and double-checked all the bags. Everything seemed in order. When suddenly…

“Honey!” he screamed in terror. “We forgot the graham crackers!” 

There are some who say the inhuman wails of the children upon learning this news could be heard as far away as Vermont. 

After that, it was as though the children were possessed. “S’MORES!” they screeched while clawing, grabbing, tearing at their parents with small but freakishly strong hands. “S’MORES!”

Somehow the father managed to escape, fleeing in dread to the car. Twenty minutes later, he was running blindly through the streets of the only nearby town.

“Help! Someone help! I need graham crackers!” His words echoed off the empty buildings. “PLEASE! I left my wife alone with the kids! I don’t know how long she can hold out!”

By the time he returned, a box of horrifyingly overpriced crackers in hand, he found the children dancing around the fire, having gone completely feral in his absence, dirt smudged on their faces like so much war paint. The mother lay in the fetal position to one side, quietly whispering over and over again “he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon…” 

Quickly, the father got to work, roasting marshmallows but trying in his panic not to burn them. May the good Lord have mercy on his soul if he burned them. With shaking hands, he assembled the dark snacks that had turned his children into unrecognizable fiends. But just as quickly as he made them, the children tore into them like a pack of wolves, quickly disemboweling the father’s careful work, discarding the crackers and marshmallows over their shoulders and only eating the chocolate. 

“MORE.” they bellowed. 

The parents quietly wept. 

A few hours later, determined to salvage this family trip, the parents announced in perky but trembling voices, “let’s go for a walk in the woods!” To their surprise, the children agreed, chocolate still ominously smeared across their faces. And for a few glorious minutes, it appeared all might be ok. The children happily scampered ahead, collecting acorns and pine cones. They even let out a few genuine laughs of delight. 

But then the couple made the fatal mistake of enjoying themselves, triggering in the offspring all their most evil and depraved impulses. Because while the children typically loved nature, could spend hours staring at a dead leaf while in the city, they could not stand that very same nature when their parents paid $100 for a cabin completely surrounded by it. 

“This is dumb. Can we go home?”

“My feet hurt. Will you carry me?”

“I SAW A BUG!”

“Can we get an Uber?”

“I hate trees.”

“Did you bring any s’mores? I WANT A S’MORE!”

The parents didn’t die that day. But there are some who say they can still see the ghosts of their expectations haunting the woods to this very day.

On the plus side, the family never did get murdered by their neighbor Ted Bundy. Likely because the children scared him away. Even serial killers have their limits. 

Who deserves a vacation?

Of all the titles I thought I’d have throughout my life, Illicit Vacationer was never one of them. And yet, here I am, with my Instagram feed defiantly full of photos of me and my family cavorting on a beach in Maine.

In my defense, I didn’t read Michelle Singletary’s piece in the Washington Post titled “If you’re in debt, you don’t deserve a summer vacation” until after I got back. So, you can imagine my surprise that I somehow managed to get away with sneaking off to the shore without my student loans grabbing me by the ear and hauling me back home while they lectured to me about financial irresponsibility.

If you haven’t read the article, it’s all right there in the headline. But it’s the “deserve” that got me the most. Interesting word choice, considering that the vast majority of Americans are in debt. Luckily, she clarifies what she means by “debt” with the definitely not condescending sentence “I’m sorry to tell you that you don’t deserve a summer vacation if you’re a hot financial mess.”

Ah. Thanks, Michelle. Hot financial mess. Got it. So…everyone then?

But perhaps my favorite bit was when she goes on to say you don’t deserve a vacation even if you saved up for it. Because we should all be using that money to pay down our debt. Because, honestly, how long is it going to take you to become completely debt-free? What, 30, 40, years? You can vacation in your 80’s.

In HER defense, though, she does graciously offer a solution to us mere commoners, us plebs who frivolously spent our stagnant wages on unaffordable higher education, child care, housing, working vehicles and medical procedures. That solution being, of course, the luxurious and also definitely not condescending concept of the “staycation.” Because everyone knows how relaxing it is to hang out in your filthy house that you hang out in every other day of your life. But, as she so kindly reminds us, don’t spend your valuable time off cleaning and attacking that mile-long to-do list. You’re on vacation, afterall. Act like it. Just step around the piles of laundry and dog vomit.

But enough of Michelle’s Very Helpful Tips for the Working Poor. Let me tell you who I think “deserves” a vacation.

Everyone.

Everyone deserves a vacation. Full stop. Everyone is stressed out. Everyone is busy to the point of exhaustion. Everyone is struggling, in some way or another.

I’m sure even rich people get stressed out from time to time. I don’t know, maybe their third Porsche didn’t start today and now they have to have their butler take it to the mechanic and it’s become like a whole thing. I get it, man. It’s rough.

Which is why we all deserve a break.

Do you know what’s so amazing about vacations? It’s somewhere away. Away from home. Away from your problems. Away from the world’s problems. Just for a bit. Just long enough to breathe and take in a lungful of life.

Because by being away, you get perspective. Say, perspective about how you were not put on this Earth merely to work hard and pay your bills.

And you don’t need a big fancy vacation for this perspective. All travel changes you for the better. We only went an hour and half away. In the off-season. For only five days. Because that’s what we could afford. Most of the time it was 55 degrees and rainy.

But it was heaven. Because it was away. Because it was the four of us, laughing and exploring and eating absolutely nothing of nutritional value and remembering that in the grand scheme of things, all the rest of it is just the small stuff. Life is big and should be treated as such.

Because do you know who deserves a vacation the most, in my opinion? My children. They deserve to run around on beach when they’re young enough to scream in delight and slight terror every time a wave touches their foot. They deserve carefree days full of sandy kisses and sticky hugs that leave their lollipops hopelessly tangled in their mother’s hair. They deserve the pure joy that can only come from hopping in the car and setting off for destinations unknown with happy parents.

Debt will always be there. Even if I finally do pay off all my current debt, my car is 14-years-old. We’ll need a new one soon. At some point, someone will break a leg, or get really sick, or need surgery. Eventually, we’d like to own a house instead of renting. Someday my kids will likely go to college. There will always be more debt.

But you know what there won’t always be more of? Time. This time, right now. Where my kids are young and my husband and I are less young but still young enough to chase them through the streets of a charming seaside town with delight.

I can guarantee you that when all of us are on our deathbeds, we won’t be thinking “man, I’m so happy I got all that debt paid off, what a life well-lived.” We’ll be thinking instead about how we sat and watched the waves on a freezing beach that one day in May. And then we came back to our little oceanfront cottage and made s’mores by the fire, with a peace settling upon us that was interrupted only by spontaneous hugs that left fragments of sticky marshmallow hopelessly tangled in my hair.

So, take that vacation, my friends.

You can’t afford not to.