So, how did you spend Boxing Day?
Unless you’re wearing a toque and scanning the web for creative ways to incorporate Christmas leftovers into poutine, you spent it staring at the Amazon.com home page in a kind of disconnected-post-holiday stupor, head propped on your coffee mug and desperately trying to remember what day it is and how you got to work this morning.
At ease, Suzy Snowflake. The color-coded Christmas threat scale has been changed from fuchsia to magenta, signaling a "less-than-elevated-but-remain wary" threat of continued holiday madness. Time to check the expiration date on that carton of egg nog in the fridge before the Penicillium takes over and your left with a thick Camembert that smells like nutmeg.
The post-holiday lull is always a confusing time of year for me. After three months of knowing what I’m supposed to be doing I find myself stumbling around wondering what I should be doing. If you’re like me, then you're at work, sitting in a half-empty office and cursing yourself for using up all your vacation days tackling the honey-do list from last spring (not done yet). If you were smart and took the time off, then you're staring at the sulking Christmas tree that suddenly seems so "last year," contemplating the appropriate amount of time before you can drag it to the curb without your neighbors calling you Grinch McBuzzkill.
No need to worry about the icicle lights on the gutters—those stay up all year.
This year I’ve decided to compose a list of 10 helpful post-holiday activities to fill those first gloomy weeks of January with meaningful purpose and spiritual enlightenment. Don’t fret if you can’t cross them all off prior to New Year's Day; the week after that is another traditional waste of days so you have plenty of time to get it all done.
- Read your Christmas cards. At some point in late December these were spilling over the mailbox like foam out of a beer glass, so you grabbed the bulk, separated the bills from the good tidings and promptly chucked them in a pile on the coffee table. Well now is the time to read them. Go ahead, grab the open bottle of Pinot Grigio on the buffet, pour it into a tall water glass and let the good cheer wash over you. Invite over a few neighbors and make it a drinking game! A card that features the kids on vacation at the beach with "Merry Christmas" written in the sand? Drink! You discover that a close friend had a daughter and you didn’t know? Drink! That daughter is now 6 years old? Drink! Obnoxious holiday letter designed to make you feel inferior and question your accomplishments and marital status? Drink! You get the idea.
- Go to the urgent care clinic. You woke up with the sniffles on Thanksgiving morning and you’ve been hacking like a cat coughing up a wool fur ball ever since. Your kids are wearing surgical masks at the breakfast table and Robitussin stock just ticked up a point. Don’t you think its time to see the doctor before you barf up a lung?
- Store the holiday decorations right the first time. Do you remember how frustrated you were a few weeks ago when you blew an entire Saturday looking for the Advent House only to discover it in a bin marked “inflatable pool toys”? Now’s your chance to do it right the first time.
- Buy a cookbook. Christmas Eve morning was not the time to discover that the turkey needed two days to defrost, and despite your attempts at deception there is no way you convinced the in-laws that the takeout KFC was "my family’s secret recipe," despite the fact you served it on your best china. Resolve not to invite the Colonel next year.
- Make and break resolutions. You weren’t going to keep them anyways. Try this: Stand in the kitchen and announce to no one in particular, “This year I plan to get in better shape than a European Soccer star!” Then open the fridge, grab a beer and a dish of leftover French Silk pie, and take aim for a spot on the couch closest to where you tossed the remote control. You’ll feel better.
- Throw away the holiday cookies. Yes, tins too. Chances are by now you're nearing the bottom and all that’s left is the gluten-free Soylent Brown Macaroons not even the dog will eat. Throw them away before temptation gets the better of you.
- Take down the Elf on a Shelf. You know Elfy? That creepy holiday marionette that you’ve been moving from place to place for the last month? How many times did you wake up in a cold sweat at 4:22 a.m. and realize you forgot to find a new hiding spot for him? How many times did you wake up at 4.22 a.m. terrified you’d find him perched on your shoulder, clamping a surprisingly firm red felt hand over your mouth as he cackles and reaches into your throat to rip out your soul? Time to get back in the box, Elfy.
- Read the instructions with Mom. You’re the one who thought an iPad would be a great gift. “Now Mom can download slots and play at home instead of going to the casino!” What you didn’t anticipate is that teaching Mom to use a computer is like teaching a squirrel to drive. Unless you want to see the iPad propping open a window at Mom’s house, you better start helping her now.
- Smash any Christmas CDs that feature "The Little Drummer Boy." For god’s sake, please.
- Start thinking Spring. It’s never to early!
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This is my last "official" column for Patch. Seems they're closin' down the plant in Hushpukena and the L and N won't be stoppin' around here no more, so I'm planning on staying one step ahead of the bank man and headin' east to Murfreesboro. I got a brother there and he's gonna talk to Foreman Elias, maybe get me on at the Saw Mill in Evelyn Creek...
I want to thank my current editor Amanda for her professionalism and my former editor Elaine for her dedication and encouragement. I also want to thank all of you whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person for a drink or two or those who have shared your opinions of my writing with me via email. I especially want to thank the trolls who cower behind puppet pseudonyms and hurl insults from the safety of anonymity, you make the sincere and courageous stand out all the more.
See you wherever the Schlitz is on tap and the meatloaf is homemade.
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