Teens, When Lying to Your Parents, You Need to Up Your Game

Teens, When Lying to Your Parents, You Need to Up Your Game

[The following true story is based on a time when a good friend of mine’s then 16-year-old daughter tried to wriggle out of several lies she told her parents about a “sleepover” at a friend’s house, which in actuality was a party with several boys and alcohol, while her friend’s parents were out of town for the evening, unaware of what was taking place at their house.]

Hey, teenagers, don’t you hate it when you make up a perfectly good lie to get out of trouble, and your parents refuse to believe you? Well, this just means you need to work on your prevarication skills. Either that, or you could try telling your parents the truth for once. Nah, forget it. That would never work.

Hey, teenagers, don’t you hate it when you make up a perfectly good lie to get out of trouble, and your parents refuse to believe you? Well, this just means you need to work on your prevarication skills. Either that, or you could try telling your parents the truth for once. Nah, forget it. That would never work.

Hey, girl. Wazzup? Sorry to hear your parents busted you over your harmless shindig last weekend at Monica’s house. I can’t believe they completely lost it just because you girls had a few boys join you for your sleepover while her parents were out of town.

You did absolutely nothing wrong – if you overlook the minor fact that you failed to mention that the get-together would include boys… and alcohol… and weed… and cops. It was all just an unfortunate misunderstanding. It could have happened to anybody.

Parents are so lame, right? With all their Nazi rules about showing them respect and cleaning your room and telling you to get off your phone even though you’ve only been on it for an hour and a half, and not letting you do sleepover parties with boys, beer pong, and weed. So unfair, I agree.

Hey, next time you plan to make up a fiction to conceal your plans for an epic underage beer bash, perhaps you should invest a little more time on your fake backstory to avoid getting caught. Let’s go over what happened, and just maybe, we can piece together where your deception went off the rails.

Before you headed out on your weekend of teenage debauchery, I liked the way you chose to compliment your parents, even though they probably found it a bit odd, given it was the first time you had said anything nice to them in ten months. But when you said, “Mom, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you look so pretty,” it might have come off sounding a tad bit more credible had you not told her this while she still had her hair in curlers and her face slathered in Noxzema skin cream. Just saying.

Then, when you were at Monica’s house, remember how your mom texted you, asking for her parents’ names and phone number in case of emergency? I applaud your fast thinking, given that Monica’s parents were in Chicago, 1,800 miles away, with no idea of the party you girls were instigating. But perhaps you shouldn’t have panicked and given your mom the phone number of your friend Chad, who was also at the party.

Who could have possibly foreseen that your mom might then call that very same phone number to ask Monica’s parents if they’d like her to bring a homemade dessert for the sleepover. Imagine your mom’s confusion when Chad, doing his best middle-aged dad impersonation, lowered his voice an octave and replied, “Nah, thanks, girl. But we’re chill. The girls are having a crazy’ lit’ time. Later, gator.”

Then, do you remember what happened when your mom asked Monica’s dad if there would be any alcohol served at this sleepover? Drawing a blank? Let me refresh your memory. Dad, er Chad, explained, “No way, mom. I made sure to lock up all the good stuff in the fridge.” Can you see how that might have elevated your mom’s anxiety ever so slightly?

Do you notice anything missing from this photo of a party of teenagers? If you guessed, “Where are the parents?”, you’re a winner. These underage kids are having a fun time chillaxing with 45 of their closest friends. If you ask me, they’re just having good clean fun – and perhaps just a little too much tequila.

Do you notice anything missing from this photo of a party of teenagers? If you guessed, “Where are the parents?”, you’re a winner. These underage kids are having a fun time chillaxing with 45 of their closest friends. If you ask me, they’re just having good clean fun – and perhaps just a little too much tequila.

Then barely twenty seconds after she got off the phone from Dad/Chad, she called you, remember? She asked you, “How old is Monica’s dad? He sounds rather young.” Then your brain misfired, and you blurted out, “Monica’s dad can’t talk now. He had to go to work.” 

If I have my notes correct, it was around 10:45pm when your mom shocked you by showing up at Monica’s house, because you had forgotten your sleeping bag. Imagine her dismay when she learned that apparently both parents had to leave the house suddenly for work emergencies – and would not, according to you, be home for another two hours.

If you ask me, it is entirely plausible that there might be a work emergency at 10:45pm on a Saturday night – especially for Monica’s dad, who is an accountant, not to mention for her stay-at-home mom. Like you, I would have been furious at your mom for not believing your lies. The fact that she feels she can’t trust you is totally her fault.

That’s about the time when your mom, walking through the front door, noticed that there were six boys on the premises. I think you almost had her convinced when you made up that narrative about how the entire group of them had just stopped by moments before, asking for help with their geometry homework. Too bad your mom could not hear your very believable explanation over the six 16-year-olds boys singing and dancing along to K-pop songs by BTS blaring on the karaoke machine at 160 decibels.

I also have to applaud your quick cerebration when your mom saw the beer keg on the back patio. I’m not sure I would have been as imaginative as you to come up with your almost convincing fabrication that Monica’s dad had bought it for a neighborhood block party later that week. I think your mom would have fallen for it, had it not been for your idiot friend Troy, who unwittingly approached her and said, and I quote, “Hey, you must be Monica’s mom. I thought you were in Chicago. Welcome back. Care for a brewski? Or are you more of a Tequila mom?” I understand now why Troy had to repeat 9th grade.

Where are the parents, you ask? On a weekend visit to Chicago. But don’t worry. Their 16-year-old daughter Monica promised them she’d just have a quiet sleepover with a couple friends. She’ll even vacuum the house. Such a responsible girl.

Where are the parents, you ask? On a weekend visit to Chicago. But don’t worry. Their 16-year-old daughter Monica promised them she’d just have a quiet sleepover with a couple friends. She’ll even vacuum the house. Such a responsible girl.

Still, I bet this would have all blown over, had it not been for the two cop cars that pulled up in response to a neighbor’s complaint about the ruckus. Who knew that police dogs could detect the smell of pot so quickly? Impressive. Too bad your mom didn’t buy your next anecdote about how you had no idea what it was and thought it was some sort of seasoning to add flavor to your salad. A valiant Hail Mary try, girl.

I’m relieved to hear the cops let all of you off with just a warning. But I’m sorry your parents have grounded you for two months. I guess that means you’ll miss the secret rave party at Jessica’s house next weekend – I mean, the all-nighter where just girls will all be working on that science fair team project. I hope your mom changes her mind. You might start by complimenting her on her cooking. Good luck.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2021

Twelve Teachers

Twelve Teachers

Top Row (L to R): My mom, my older brothers Bob and John Second Row: My sister Betsy, Bill Anderson, Steve Fisher Third Row: Dale Willman, Mark Gravel, Tim Fletcher Bottom Row: My elder daughter Rachel, my younger daughter Emily, and my wife and soulmate, Michele

Top Row (L to R): My mom, my older brothers Bob and John; Second Row: My sister Betsy, Bill Anderson, Steve Fisher; Third Row: Dale Willman, Mark Gravel, Tim Fletcher
Bottom Row: My elder daughter Rachel, my younger daughter Emily, and my wife and soulmate, Michele

Growing up, I had many dedicated teachers. A decades-belated thank you to Mrs. Perkins (4th grade), Mr. Nash (English), and General Verbeck (biology), and Mr. Vandenberg (Latin I, 2 and, thanks to my friend Steve Fisher, who knows what he did, Latin 3). My learning, however, did not end with my formal education. I have been blessed to have had many capable managers and mentors throughout my career. Thank you, Alan Horton, Jerry Parichy, Valerie Sanford, Chris Noble, and Cynthia Clay, to name a few.

As I look back over the past 65 years, I realize that some of the most impactful educators I’ve had have been family members and friends. There are twelve individuals who stand out as the most influential teachers in my life. This week’s column is about them.

My mom, Betty Clark (she remarried). At one month shy of turning 100 years old, she is, amazingly, still with us. A WW II veteran and mother of five, she endured a difficult marriage to a husband who suffered from serious, untreated mental illness and chronic anger management issues. She had the courage to leave this situation in an era when women did not seek divorce. Having not worked outside the home in 28 years, she set out to get a job and became a dietician at the VA. She reclaimed life by traveling to many countries, her favorite being Israel. Now in a nursing home, she rallies on, showing all around her that she still has a wit. She is always game for a good laugh – just check out her photo above, taken at age 97. People ask me, “Tim, why is it that you smile so much?” That’s simple. Thanks, mom.

Bob Jones. Our nine year age gap kept me from getting to know my oldest brother when I was young. But as I entered my career, we became re-acquainted by discussing career and life challenges. Bob became a “big brother” mentor to me and taught me the importance of understanding myself and my impact on others. From Bob, I learned to look for the positive in situations and people. As a result, throughout my career, I posted on my wall these words: “Catch them doing something right.”

John Jones. My second oldest brother, five years my senior, John was the All-American boy. Growing up, he was my role model. I wanted to be just like him. I still do. He is modest to a fault and has always been the rock of our family. When there was a crisis, John was the steady hand willing to intervene to calm the waters. Over time, I have come to appreciate how kind and caring a person John is – and funny. And he taught me to love sports and playing board games – I can’t forget about that!

Betsy Jones. I could write a book about my younger sister. She has been the editor of my blog these past 11 years. (I’ll be curious to see how she edits this description of her.) When we were little, because we were the two youngest, we became very close. She is the historian of my childhood, with a memory of details I had long forgotten. Nobody I know has endured more hardship and heartbreak than my sister. But every time she has been knocked down, she gets back up. Betsy is the most resilient person I have ever known – and one of funniest. She has an expanding universe of friends because like me, they see in her one of the most giving, selfless people you will ever find. [No edits. Thanks – Your editor] 

Bill Anderson. If you want to know why I sometimes (okay, usually) act like an 11-year-old, blame Bill. Bill is my oldest friend. We met in 4th grade because our dads were best friends. For the past five decades, Bill has reminded me of the importance of staying young at heart and not taking life too seriously. When we get together, we revert to high schoolers. Bill is a person of deep faith, and one of the most high-integrity people I have ever known. He has taught me, better than just about anyone else, the importance of working to maintain a close friendship, despite the physical distance between us most of our lives.

Steve Fisher. Some may ask where I developed my warped sense of humor. Look no further. Steve is the funniest person I have ever met. I launched this humor blog, in part, to honor him for teaching me how to make others laugh. We met in 7th grade and he has kept me howling with laughter ever since. Steve also taught me the meaning of courage. Ten years ago, he almost died from a devastating illness that left him with life-altering physical injuries. But through it all, he has demonstrated enormous courage and self-deprecating humor. Steve is my hero.

Dale Willman. Dale and I met early in our modeling careers. Yes, we were models, for a one-off fashion shoot, hired by a  mutual friend, for reasons neither of us will ever understand. Shortly after we met, my father died quite unexpectedly. Dale responded in a way that sealed our lifelong friendship: he came to the funeral. He turned out to be an unexpected source of strength that I leaned on in my time of grief. A journalist, Dale has worked and taught all over the world, and instilled in me the value of broadening my worldview. Like me, Dale has a small teddy bear called Grumpy that he takes to exotic places, although only my Grumpy has been to the North Pole (get over it, Dale).

Mark Gravel. I worked in the newspaper industry for 9 years and there is only one person I keep in touch with from that era: Mark. In addition to possessing a wickedly sharp sense of humor (he has co-written several of my humor articles), Mark loves doing surprises and practical jokes. But even more importantly, Mark exudes a genuineness, a kindness, and a deep desire to put the needs of others before himself. In the dictionary under the word “Gentleman” there should be a picture of Mark, for he truly is just that – even if he is Canadian, like my wife.

Tim Fletcher. I have always admired Tim’s first name. But beyond that, my soft-spoken friend is a remarkable dad. We became friends while working at an internet startup, When I was struggling with trying to unlock the mysteries of parenting my then teenage daughters, Tim repeatedly provided an understanding ear and wise counsel to help me become a better dad. For several years, Tim has grappled with a serious illness. But through it all, he has accepted his physical limitations with positivity, grace, and a stubborn refusal to be blocked from pursuing a full life.

Rachel Jones. From a young age, my elder daughter has demonstrated a strong independent streak. I will always remember when at four years of age, as I tried to help her, she insisted, “I do it myself, Daddy.” She became extremely self-reliant and responsible far beyond her age. Her sense of determination and her work ethic astound me, be it on the soccer field or pursuing her passion of becoming a nurse. Now 26 and a cardiology nurse, Rachel has matured into a confident, hardworking adult. Most inspiring is her deeply caring heart, for her patients, her family, and her cats (not sure in which order). She teaches me all the time what it means to put the needs of others before one’s own.

Emily Jones. When she was a teenager, she and her sister taught me the importance of patience in parenting. At 4’11” tall, Em has always been the shortest person in any group photo. But she’s never let that stop her from pursuing the highest of goals in life, and with a passion. She is fearless and doesn’t let obstacles deter her from her dreams. Extremely smart and resourceful, in college she once asked me, “Dad, do you know anybody at Space X?” Of course, I didn’t. Two days later, using just LinkedIn, she corralled an interview. A week later, Space X hired her in their elite intern program. Over the years, she has amazed me with her giving heart, often surprising my wife and me with the most extraordinary gifts out of the blue (including my very cool Space X shirt.)

Michele Rushworth. When we said our wedding vows, I told her, “I want to grow old with you.” Those words ring just as true 33 years later. I am proud of everything she has achieved with her art. She has helped to push me outside my comfort zone to try new things (even fish). A voracious reader, she has educated me about other cultures, history, and science. It was Michele who suggested we pursue international adoption. She had the idea for us to move to an island I had never heard of. And whatever I learned about being a caring, patient parent, I learned in great part from my best friend’s example. Our daughters could not have asked for a better mom. It has been a privilege and a joy to be growing old – that is, older – with my wife, Michele.

I have had many truly wonderful friends throughout my life, including many people who space constraints simply don’t permit me to mention. As I get older, I’ve learned that true wealth is measured not by the size of one’s bank account but by the number of meaningful friendships we have in life. On this scale, I’m rich beyond my wildest dreams. I owe a debt of gratitude I’ll never be able to repay to these twelve funny, kind, extraordinary teachers, and to others not mentioned (due to witness protection constraints). Thank you all.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020. Edited by Betsy Jones

Warning Signs You May Be Experiencing  Kronic Incessant Disorder Syndrome (K.I.D.S.)

Warning Signs You May Be Experiencing Kronic Incessant Disorder Syndrome (K.I.D.S.)

Every single day people from all walks of life learn the upsetting diagnosis: They’ve become another statistic in the global pandemic of K.I.D.S. While there are many effective methods of prevention, as of today, there is no known cure.

Every single day people from all walks of life learn the upsetting diagnosis: They’ve become another statistic in the global pandemic of K.I.D.S. While there are many effective methods of prevention, as of today, there is no known cure.

Just as our nation is grappling with the Coronavirus pandemic, it appears there is another crisis rapidly spreading throughout the world. Over the past 50 years, throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia, there has been an explosion of reported cases of Kronic Incessant Disorder Syndrome (better known by its acronym, K.I.D.S.). No socio-demographic group has been spared by this invasive and intractable outbreak. In fact, I myself have been waging my own personal battle with K.I.D.S. for over twenty years.

According to humanitarian relief agencies’ longitudinal studies dating back to the 19th century, the number of known cases of K.I.D.S. is at its highest level in human history. Alarmingly, it shows no signs of reversing its upward trend. For millions of couples facing the long-term ordeal of K.I.D.S., there is no relief in sight and social distancing is simply not an option.

Scientists have been unable to unlock the mysterious inner workings of K.I.D.S., but its origins have been conclusively linked to a combination of alcohol consumption combined with unprotected sexual contact in the vast majority of cases. Warning signs that you may have contracted K.I.D.S. include an inability to maintain an orderly household and an increasing disregard for clutter and chaos. Another warning sign includes a dramatic degree of social distancing by adults who have not been exposed to K.I.D.S.

What makes this epidemic of K.I.D.S. so debilitating is that there is very little anyone can do to combat it. Once contracted, in the vast majority of cases, the condition, while not usually fatal, typically lasts the rest of their lives. People coping with even the mildest form of K.I.D.S. often report that the condition gets progressively more difficult to manage over time, as the virus mutates in appearance, continually grows in size, and in later stages becomes increasingly resistant to attempts to control it. As people struggle to adapt to living with K.I.D.S., they report that close friends they’ve known for years but who have not contracted K.I.D.S. often avoid them like the plague.

Early stage K.I.D.S. is often associated with significant sleep deprivation lasting up to eight months. During this “incubator” period, common side effects include a significant decline in the victim’s range of vocabulary, typically accompanied by an uncontrollable urge to speak in a high-pitched chirpy voice about successful bowel movements.

Scientists have identified an alarming phenomenon in people suffering with K.I.D.S. – a noticeable deterioration in their mental faculties. They speculate that this intellectual impairment may be caused by prolonged exposure to vacuous television programming dedicated to letters of the alphabet or possibly due to being subjected to endless recitations of drippy songs about Baby Belugas or beautiful days in the neighborhood.

Surprisingly, after a few years, some K.I.D.S. sufferers have reported brief intervals of partially regained lucidity and brief episodes where the worst aspects of K.I.D.S. appear to go into in remission. They can sometimes regain normal sleep cycles and are able to enjoy more adult-themed TV programming. There have even been reported instances in which people living with K.I.D.S. have experienced momentary fits of laughter at birthday parties, zoos, and little league games – but these anecdotal stories have yet to be substantiated with empirical evidence.

One of the most common ailments afflicting people with K.I.D.S. is a perceived loss of control, independence and spontaneity. They often report feeling chained to endless cycles of vehicular transport to soccer games, piano recitals, and doctor’s appointments, taking the place of time previously used for hiking with friends, playing tennis, and working out at the gym. As a result of this hard-to-break cycle, another common side effect of K.I.D.S. is unsightly weight gain and a marked decline in concern for personal appearance.

It is common for people with advanced stages of K.I.D.S. to experience wild swings of emotion and increased levels of stress. If you encounter an otherwise rational adult barking out phrases like who do you think paid for that? or would it kill you to say, ‘thank you?’ or because I said so!, the chances are high the person is battling K.I.D.S. There are many reports of K.I.D.S. wiping out a couple’s entire long-term savings. Some studies suggestion that this steep decline in personal net worth is most severe for people who have been struggling with K.I.D.S. for 18 to 22 years.

The good news is that there are glimmers of hope. For some people facing an uphill struggle with K.I.D.S., symptoms of frustration and exhaustion tend to fade about the time when the financial strain of managing K.I.D.S. has passed its peak. There are dozens of documented cases where victims of K.I.D.S. can resume relatively normal lives somewhere around 18 years from the onset of the condition, engaging in conversations about politics or professional sports teams or taking long drives that no longer require emergency pit stops to eliminate bodily fluids.

Theories abound as to the primary cause of an incurable condition suffered by adults called Kronic Incessant Disorder Syndrome (KIDS), but a recent study suggests prolonged exposure to rainbow-colored aliens with annoying, chirpy voices may be a contributor.

Theories abound as to the primary cause of an incurable condition suffered by adults called Kronic Incessant Disorder Syndrome (KIDS), but a recent study suggests prolonged exposure to rainbow-colored aliens with annoying, chirpy voices may be a contributor.

While there are several effective methods for the prevention of K.I.D.S., currently there is no cure. The unsettling reality is that the existence of K.I.D.S. has become a global epidemic. Ever since my wife and I first received the shocking diagnosis more than two decades ago that we had both become exposed to K.I.D.S., our lives have been consumed just trying to manage this condition.

But here is the oddest part about this chronically overwhelming, exhausting condition. Even though coming down with K.I.D.S. has radically turned my life upside down, drained my life savings and caused me endless sleepless nights, I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I had never gotten K.I.D.S. It’s one lifelong condition for which I hope they never find a cure.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base. 

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2020

Surviving Christmas Dinner with Relatives

Surviving Christmas Dinner with Relatives

It’s Christmas dinner, a time of giving thanks and sharing good food and stories with your family, and occasionally with some quirky relatives who make things, well, let’s just say, interesting.

It’s Christmas dinner, a time of giving thanks and sharing good food and stories with your family, and occasionally with some quirky relatives who make things, well, let’s just say, interesting.

The weather is getting colder. The hours of daylight are rapidly waning. And Costco has inflatable eight-foot Snow Globes on sale (although in full disclosure, these went on sale in early September). The holiday season is officially upon us.

An important tradition is the family Christmas dinner with loved ones, and, sometimes with not-so-loved ones, by which I mean your cranky, Fox News-watching, conspiracy-theory-loving Uncle Howard, who announces three days before Christmas that he’ll be joining you for the feast, even though you didn’t actually invite him.

Unfortunately, all too often the sumptuous Christmas repast can be accompanied by heightened tensions as we struggle to avoid getting sucked into a heated argument with relatives who are oblivious of their behavior. If you’re anxious about the impending arrival of Uncle Howard, who will most likely be carrying a half-consumed case of Budweiser, don’t despair. It’s going to be okay. You’ll get through this in one piece, I promise.

When Uncle Howard makes his grand entrance two hours late with Carlotta, his latest practically-prepubescent fling, on his arm, be sure to greet them with a polite hug. Try to ignore their matching red MAGA hats – and the large tabby cat draped around Carlotta’s neck. You might want to lock Otto, your schnauzer, in the basement, lest his very strong prey instinct kicks in and he chases the kitty around everyone’s feet.

Remember, above all else, DO NOT BRING UP POLITICS! When Howard snipes, “So, who are you voting for in 2020,?” just smile, say, “There’s an election in 2020? Whatta ya’ know!?,” and quickly change the subject.

When all are seated around the festive table, take this opportunity to fan the flames of familial bonding by sharing how your wife has helped you to become a better husband. Well done. You could not possibly have guessed that Howard would use words of harmonious wedded bliss to torch his ex: “Speaking of wives, my ex totally cleaned me out in the divorce. And now she wants my house. Over my dead body…” Okay, maybe you should have foreseen that one. Time to change the subject – again.

I recommend football. What balding senior citizen with a hot young girlfriend doesn’t like to brag about his knowledge of sports. So, you open with, “Hey, looks like another rebuilding year for the Dolphins, eh?” Who knew Howard’s comeback would be, “Nah, pro football has been ruined for me – ever since all those Negroes showed their hatred for America by refusing to stand for our National Anthem.” I know what you’re thinking – did he just say “Negroes?” Bite your tongue.

Okay, so talking sports was a bad idea. You need to find an innocuous topic that no one can argue about. Ahh…the weather. Conversation doesn’t get blander than that. You causally mention, “I hear we may get six inches of snow today. Looks like we might have a white Christmas after all.” But to your dismay, Uncle H storms back, “Gonna snow? See, I told you snowflakes that global warming is a hoax. All this hysteria about climate change is just liberal propaganda. I know because Sean Hannity says so.”

Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t see that one coming either. Still, it’ll be fine. Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. Just then, the doorbell rings. Who could that be? Why of course, it’s your cousin Claire with her wife, Monica. “Hey, Couz! We happened to be in the neighborhood and thought we’d stop by. Are we too late for chow?” What could possibly go wrong now?

As the gracious host you are, you welcome your unexpected guests to join in the gaiety. Out of left field – or rather, far right field – Howard walks up to Monica, smiles and remarks, “Howdy, girls. You know, 90% of lesbians are witches. You’re both gonna burn in Hell. But in the meantime, Merry Christmas.” Looking back at you, he smirks, adding, “Or am I required to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ to not offend our liberal friends’ feelings in their politically correct War on Christmas?”

One thing that can create some anxiety at Christmas is the arrival of the unexpected relative who’s far more delighted to see you than you are to see them. No worries. What could possibly go wrong?

One thing that can create some anxiety at Christmas is the arrival of the unexpected relative who’s far more delighted to see you than you are to see them. No worries. What could possibly go wrong?

Somehow you are able to corral everybody back to the dinner table, making last-minute strategic seating alterations. Calm seems to have returned. You gather everyone in your gaze and suggest each person share what they’re grateful for at this special time of year. You set an excellent example by observing, “I am thankful for my family, our good health, and our lovely home. We are so blessed.” Nice try. Then Uncle Howard chimes in, “I’m thankful Carlotta is way hotter than my nasty ex-wife. And I’m thankful to God for choosing Donald Trump to be our greatest president ever. And once he’s re-elected in a landslide victory, he’ll lock up Hillary and Obama.”

Things quickly unravel. Go figure. Everybody starts shouting. Claire angrily hurls a dinner roll that hits Howard smack in the eye. Monica accidentally steps on Carlotta’s cat, who lets out a blood-curdling MEEOOOOWW!!!!. This sets off a barking frenzy by Otto, which startles Grandma, who jumps up from her wheelchair, accidentally knocking over the candelabra, which sets the tablecloth on fire. That activates the sprinkler system, dowsing your wife’s new dress and expensive coiffure. Baby Sally starts wailing, which further terrifies the cat, who hurls itself through the kitchen window, followed by Otto, who you did not know could leap that high. All of which amuses your kids to no end, who are laughing hysterically.

Claire screams something about Howard being a disgusting racist pig, to which Howard yells back, “At least I won’t burn in hell for being a lesbian!” Christmas with the relatives has descended into total pandemonium. When the smoke alarm starts trilling, you merely shake your head as you realize your apple pie in the oven is now toast.

Despite your best efforts, let’s face it, your family Christmas dinner has been a Chernobyl-level meltdown. And that’s not even counting the 150 stitches the cat and dog needed for their acrobatics smashing through the kitchen window. (No worries. The window can be replaced.) To avoid another disaster next holiday, I suggest you seriously consider entering the Witness Protection Program so none of your relatives can find you. Sure, that may sound drastic. But it’s either that or listening to Uncle Howard’s tirade about how the Ukrainians tried to steal the 2020 election from Trump.

Good luck. I hear Montana is a nice place to start a new life.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

[Photos are stills from the 1989 film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.]

I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

It was a dark and stormy Halloween night. My two young daughters, Rachel and Emmy, could not wait to get started. Earlier that week I’d spent an evening helping them come up with their costumes. Emmy could not decide between a fairy princess or Barney the dinosaur or Hello Kitty. So naturally, the only solution was Barney the Hello Kitty dinosaur princess. Whatever makes you happy, my little angel, I mean, dinosaur kitty princess.

Rachel’s outfit was easier. She insisted on being Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak. So I drew a lightning bolt on her forehead, put a sliver of duct tape on a pair of my black-framed glasses and found a blanket to which I affixed a big sign that read: INVISIBILITY CLOAK.  YOU CAN’T SEE ME!

The girls kept asking, “Daddy, when can we go trick or treating?” To which I would respond, “It’s only Wednesday. Halloween is not for another three days. Be patient.” This went on every few hours until the big day, at which point, the incessant questioning accelerated to every 5 minutes.

Finally it was time for the main event. They looked so cute – Emmy in her princess tiara, sparkly gloves and Cinderella flowing gown, with the matching kitty ears, whiskers and a long purple dinosaur tail. Meanwhile Rachel was almost completely hidden underneath her Mighty Morphin Power Rangers invisibility blanket. Of course, once we ventured out into the 42-degree drizzling weather, it was actually hard to make out their costumes beneath their winter coats and Thomas the Tank Engine galoshes.

Everywhere I looked, there were pirates, super heroes, princesses and scary monsters – some of them in strollers – all in search of one thing: SUGAR! As soon as Emmy noticed all the other kids racing ahead for the same candy she was after, she started to panic, fearing all the good stuff would be gone by the time we got to the door, and people would be handing out pennies – or worse yet, toothbrushes. Like every year, we came upon a house with a sign next to a large wicker basket that read, “Please, take just one.” It was empty – of course. The time was 4:57 pm.

My girls rushed from door to door for what felt like three hours, but a check of my watch told me it had only been 35 minutes. It occurred to me that they might as well rename this Holiday “Disney’s Halloween”, because, as I looked around, it seemed that every girl under the age of eight was either Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Ariel from Little Mermaid, Jasmine from Aladdin, or Pocahontas. Although now that I think of it, there was that one seven-year-old girl dressed as a Zombie Princess / Egyptian Mummy carrying what looked to be a dead snake and a hula hoop. Not sure what her parents were thinking.

As we went from house to house, Rachel kept asking me to walk further away from her. She was only eight, but already she was embarrassed to be seen with her dad. I agreed to stay at the sidewalk while she took her sister by the hand to each door. Emmy got up the nerve to bravely demand, “Tick or Teat.” (She had not quite mastered the concept of the letter “R” yet.)

I looked at my watch again – and at their sagging, over-stuffed pillow cases. It was almost 7:30 pm. Over howling protests about me being a mean daddy – and their claims that all their friends’ parents let them stay out till dawn to trick or treat – I finally bribed them by promising not to eat all their candy after they went to sleep, if they agreed to come home now.

Then came the most important part of Halloween: The trade negotiations. Rachel and Emmy spent the next hour trying to outmaneuver their opponent.

Emmy: I’ll give you a Necco Wafers AND a Smarties for your Twix.

Rachel: Are you nuts? I’ll give you a box of Nerds if you give me your Nestlé Crunch.

Emmy: No way! My Nestlé Crunch is twice the size of that box of Nerds. I’ll give you all the candy corn in my bag for two Butterfinger bars.

Rachel: Nope. I’ll give you this box of Junior Mints for your Kit Kat Bar.

Emmy: Are you insane?

Halloween - bucket of candyIt went on like this for quite some time. In the end, I believe the only trade actually made was two pieces of bubble gum for a tootsie pop.

After they were asleep in their beds, I did what any loving father would do. I pilfered through their haul to collect my Dad Tax – you know, my fair payment for having spent almost three hours standing guard 30 feet away at the sidewalk when I could have been home watching the game. I doubt they’ll miss a couple boxes of Milk Duds or that Clark Bar. And don’t worry. I didn’t touch their Kit Kat or Twix bars. I would never do something so cruel. I settled for an Almond Joy because Emmy didn’t like coconut.

The next morning, I woke up to see my kids having breakfast together. Quietly. Calmly. No fighting. No name calling. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then it became clear. They were too busy stuffing their pie holes with Gummy Bears and Reese’s Pieces.

I thought about intervening and shouting something about getting a healthy breakfast. And then I thought, why ruin this rare moment of tranquility. Emmy even gave me a Kit Kat bar (I think she stole it from Rachel) and invited me to join them. That breakfast with my two kids, scarfing down all that candy – yeah, that was the best breakfast I’d had in a long, long time.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2015