The Secret Garden – Revealed

Oh. Shit. Now, I remember.

I am not hallucinating. I do not have a Secret Santa who thinks I’m worthy of a $200 present. My sister-in-law was not just denying sending us a hydroponic garden to drive my wife crazy. It wasn’t even a gift at all – it just arrived around Christmas.

So, I did not drunk-order another indoor garden. However, I did kinda order it. Well, I applied for it, and then forgot about it. If it weren’t for a rather cryptic email I received this afternoon, I never would have remembered applying for it, because I had assumed I didn’t really meet the criteria.

This is a good lesson for businesses in how leaving tracks with customers is important because in this case, THERE WEREN’T ANY. I was convinced that this was a truly remarkable screw-up (wrong machine, wrong address) by a Chinese company pretending to sell stuff on Amazon. It wasn’t. It is part of a non-documented, well-hidden program from the City of Dallas.

Our tax dollars at work.

Here is how I finally remembered that I had signed up for the City’s program for indoor gardens, before I had ever seen the Amazon ad for the AeroGarden we got my Mom (I think).

I received an email today from City Hall, which states:

Hello,

Thank you for your interest in receiving an in-home garden kit! 

The gardens have already started shipping and you will be receiving your kit via contactless mail delivery. December is a high peak season for shipping so please be patient and allow up to four weeks for delivery from the vendor. The City does not have the ability to track packages for you.

This program is part of a pilot that addresses short term food needs for COVID as well as potential long term food access. You may be contacted to learn more about your experience using these in home kits and your health. We are excited to learn more from you about the idea of helping people grow food indoors.

Happy holidays and happy gardening!

That’s it. No signature. No links to rules and regulations. Nothing to sign to acknowledge receipt.

So, apparently, the city is sending out free hydroponic gardens. Then, I vaguely remembered signing up for a city program for in-home gardening, because it sounded interesting. I just couldn’t find any receipts. I searched every email account I have, I wandered through my Chrome history, I drove my wife partially insane asking her questions, but there was no record of me ever having ordered anything from the city or applied for a indoor garden program.

This would explain how Click and Grow got my name, address and cell phone and thought it was drop-shipped — and why Amazon had no records of it.

Off to Dr. Google.

This took much longer than it should have, but as I said, the City doesn’t seem to have any record of it, even though it’s a city program. I tried every search term I thought made sense and several that didn’t and finally found a link to a image on one of the city council member’s pages (ironically, not my city council member.)

Now, I remember, still vaguely. At the time, I didn’t really think I was a “vulnerable population” member, but I am currently unemployed and I am over 60, so who knows what the criteria was? For one thing, you had to have Internet access, since I saw it online somewhere.

I remember that I figured I would fill out the initial form, look at the paperwork that inevitably followed, and determine if I was really eligible. If not, maybe I would just buy one of the gardens, because they sound cool.

That’s how government programs work, right?

Not this one. I filled out the SurveyMonkey form (which is now closed, so don’t bother), and it just accepted the input and said, “Thank you” (I think – again, there’s no record.) I think you can have SurveyMonkey send a receipt or a copy of the form – or you can choose not to bother anyone with a paper trail.

Note the description in the image – “nine plants.” Note the photo (which when Googled returns “Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 – White”.)

Mystery solved.

We’re growing lettuce that we bought with our tax dollars.

Now, I just have to figure out where I saw the invitation in the first place. That’s for another day. I did close out my ticket with Click and Grow support trying to find the origin of the package.

Our Government Lettuce

The Secret Garden – A Christmas Mystery

Gardens are sprouting up everywhere.

We have a Christmas mystery, one that is nice to have, but perplexing nonetheless.

First of all, I will admit that I never know what to get my family for Christmas. Well, that’s not completely true – I will regularly buy my grandkids something I want to play with so when we visit, I have toys ready to go for me, unless they’ve been broken or lost in the meantime.

For the past few years, gifts haven’t been a major issue, because we’ve been traveling over Christmas. So, while we might still exchange gifts in person with our local family, but it was short and sweet, i.e. I cannot guarantee the amount of thought that went into the choices, and the gift exchange was way before or way after the actual date. However, this year, we’re staying home, which means we needed gifts for my Mom and my little brother. My little brother and I usually just promise to take each other to dinner, and then forget about it, which is equal value for both of us. My Mom has so much stuff in her condo that she is regifting things to me every time I visit her. Also, my brother knows her personal shopper at Neiman Marcus and I don’t, so he has the upper hand on Mom gifts.

However, this year, inspiration struck for both of them. In other words, a couple of online ads actually worked. I got an email from an unnamed company with something that my brother will appreciate, if not enjoy. (I would mention specifically what I got my brother, because it is extremely cool and very expensive [as far as he knows], but he hasn’t see the gift yet. I’m pretty sure Mom doesn’t read my blog – or know what a blog is, so I can talk about her gift.)

One day while I was flailing around for something to get Mom (OK, one day while I was wasting time online), I saw an ad on Facebook for an AeroGarden, a hydroponic indoor garden “system” for growing plants – mainly small vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Side issue: yes, I know, you can grow pot in them, but that’s not legal in a lot of areas. I’ve known this since two of my fraternity brothers were growing pot in an aquarium turned “herb garden” in our dorm in the early 80s. They thought they were extremely clever and would never be detected until the rather elderly maid told them, “Your marijuana plants need watering.”

Sorry for the interruption, I just like that story.

Much like the Instant Pot (a pressure cooker) and the Ninja Foodi Grill (a convection oven), the AeroGarden provides function that could probably be found for less, but it would not be nearly as cool, because it is a sexy-looking package with one rockin’ name.

Anyway, the smallest AeroGarden – a Sprout – that holds three plants was on sale for $59 which is within reason for a temporarily unemployed person. (Sprout. It’s so freakin’ cute.)

So, we ordered a AeroGarden Sprout with a Salad Greens kit for Mom. Done. Finished with shopping.

Truth be told, I had a ulterior motive for ordering my Mom a AeroGarden. I wanted one. So, I sold my wife on the benefits for Mom (cribbed from the AeroGarden website and their constant marketing emails) until she started coming up with her own benefits, and then she discovered that there was an AeroGarden Sprout that came with an herb kit. These were the same herbs she grows in planters on our patio, but it’s getting colder now, so she had dug them up a couple weeks ago.

I said, “Gee, Sweetie, you could grow your basil indoors year-round!”

Sold. (Heh heh heh.)

I was given permission to order another AeroGarden Sprout for us, with the herbs kit. It arrived on November thirtieth, and I planted it the same day, so it’s been growing for just over three weeks. Left-to-right, parsley, dill, and basil (amazingly, Parsley, Dill and Basil were my ex-wife’s divorce attorneys.)

Our first AeroGarden. Parsley, Dill and Basil after just over three weeks of growth.

Then, my wife started thinking (which is never good for my wallet), “Hey, maybe the grandkids would like one of these! They all love tomatoes. Do they have one that will grow tomatoes?”

I’m still trying to get her to stop saying “One that grows (x)” – it’s a garden. It’s just water instead of dirt. It grows whatever you plant in it. There isn’t a specialized one for tomatoes or herbs or pot (not that people would grow pot in one.)

Now, we had already purchased Christmas gifts for all three grandkids and their parents, so I was going to hold off until the next gift occasion – like Arbor Day, but it’s $59, so why not? I ordered one for the kids and requested the tomato kit. Well, I ordered a slightly larger one for the kids, because the Sprouts were sold out. So, they’re getting a Harvest. A Harvest holds six plants instead of three.

I was in a panic when I ordered it because AeroGarden was rapidly selling out of all the entry level models. I’m not really sure when it went from “an extra gift” to “has to be there for Christmas”, but so it goes. I found the Harvest model on Amazon, but I managed to not pay attention while ordering and selected some fake seller in China as a supplier, so that order never arrived. Now, I had disappointed the grandkids by not getting them something they didn’t know about that wasn’t their actual Christmas gift. (AeroGarden still had none in stock. Apparently, those online ads really work.)

I canceled the Chinese order, got a refund from Amazon, and ordered another on Amazon from Amazon, because the AeroGarden site was still sold out. It was $50 more, but it will probably get there. (It shipped while I was writing this.) Today, AeroGarden now has that model back in stock for $50 less. Have I mentioned I hate Christmas?

Where was I going with this?

To summarize, we have an AeroGarden Sprout with dill, parsley and basil which has been planted since November thirtieth and is doing quite well (see photo above). We have an AeroGarden Harvest that is waiting for its tomato kit to arrive (see below), so we have a field waiting to be sown.

There’s another Sprout in a box, wrapped for Mom that will be opened on Christmas, which hopefully has the Salad kit included. If not, I’m sure she’ll plant whatever is in the box, or we can give her one of the extra tomato kits (see below).

There’s (allegedly) an AeroGarden Harvest on a slow boat from China for the kids that had the order officially canceled but may still arrive someday. There’s another Harvest shipping directly from Amazon to the kids, which will arrive after Christmas, but we had already bought their Christmas presents before the whole indoor gardening thing started, so it doesn’t matter – although they already have received their tomato kit. (Christmas Miracle Update: The Harvest arrived on Christmas Eve morning.)

That’s a lot of gardens, but then my wife decided she would really like to grow tomatoes, so I ordered another AeroGarden Harvest for us, since the Sprouts were still sold out. It arrived with the salad greens kit instead of the tomato kit I specified. Oops. Easy solution – I just ordered a tomato kit from Amazon. After a day or two, Amazon said they couldn’t deliver it, so I canceled that order and ordered one direct from AeroGarden. That one shipped.

Then, I got an email from AeroGarden apologizing for the problems with my order and letting me know the tomato kit was being shipped immediately.

Now, I’m not sure if AeroGarden is apologizing for sending the wrong kit with the Harvest, or apologizing for Amazon not being able to fulfill the tomato kit order to make up for the wrong kit they had shipped, since the order number they mentioned was for the free replacement tomato kit. So, I may be getting two tomato kits. I’m a bit afraid that if we get two $15 tomato kits, my wife will want to purchase another $150 Harvest so we can plant both immediately. Of course, the Harvest is $99 today, so she would remind me that we would be saving money. Somehow.

So, we’re basically farmers at this point, and there were enough orders to enough places that eventually some confusion was bound to occur.

To quote Alice’s Restaurant Massacree and the great Arlo Guthrie, “That’s not what I came to tell you about.

In the midst of starting gardens all across America, I got a notice from UPS that they were going to deliver a package from a company in New Jersey. I didn’t recognize the company name, but this happens often, because my wife’s deliveries show up on my UPS MyChoice account. However, “New Jersey” could also mean our self-appointed favorite niece (I’m not taking sides until all the gifts arrive) sent us something. I looked up the company, and it was a drop-shipper that does distribution and deliveries for other companies, so that meant it could be from anyone, so I just waited it out.

Then, the package arrived. It was addressed to me. It had my cell phone number as a contact number on the label. That’s all that was on the label. So, we opened it to see if there was a card. There was no card.

Inside the rather large box was a Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 and a lettuce seed kit. After some research, I determined that Click and Grow is basically an Eastern European-invented version of an AeroGarden. In other words, it’s another hydroponic indoor garden system with a seed kit. That’s it. No card, no insert, no bill.

Where the hell did this come from?

That was not a very charitable thought, especially given the time of year. So, I apologized to the Lord for the uncharitable thought, and rephrased it.

Who the hell sent us this?

Now, there is a relatively long list of suspects for sending us unlabeled gifts, especially on my wife’s side of the family. People order items online, change the shipping address, and forget to mark “gift” or there’s no gift option available. It happened to us with some presents which may not have been opened yet (but rare and highly expensive) that we sent our nieces and nephews this year, so we sent some frantic texts to cover it and tell them the gifts were not wrapped (and get credit for the gifts). However, when I determined from Click and Grow website that a Smart Garden 9 was approximately $200, the list shortened significantly. I’m not saying my friends and family are cheap, I’m just saying I know how much they value me in their lives.

My first thought (which almost caused a stroke) was that the fake Chinese company from Amazon that was currently failing to deliver the kids’ AeroGarden Harvest had managed to send the wrong brand of hydroponic garden to the wrong house. After I managed to get my blood pressure down to a level where I could read my computer screen, I checked the order status at Amazon, and at that point (this was before I canceled it), it was still showing as “ready to ship”, and the order was addressed to my son’s house.

Hmm.

So, if it wasn’t a mistake, how did it get here? Whoever sent it knows my name, address and cell phone number (all on the shipping label.) So, it was probably sent on purpose by someone that knows me fairly well.

Did I drunk order it? If so, why didn’t I drunk order another AeroGarden? Wait. We have InstaCart – why didn’t I drunk order more liquor? When was the last time I was drunk enough to shop online?

I had to Google Click and Grow since I had never heard of the company. (We’re an AeroGarden family.) Once I found them, I asked to reset my password on the site. The site had no record of any of my email addresses. So, if I drunk ordered it, I didn’t order it directly from them. Hmm.

If drunk ordered anything, it would probably be from Amazon, who knows my credit card, bank account, blood type, wife’s ring size, dogs’ names and favorite treats and who knows what else. Therefore, it would be in my Amazon orders list. So, I scrolled and scrolled (and scrolled) and never found anything. I even searched for “Click and Grow”. Nothing. Hmm.

I still don’t know in which order that the two companies (AeroGarden and Click and Grow) were founded and started shipping, so I’m not sure which is a knock-off of the other. But the AeroGarden looks more polished and obviously has a better marketing team, so I thought, “Who would send me a knock-off of something I already have?”

However, nobody really knew we had one. So, then it was, “Who would assume I would like something like this?”

Then, more depressingly, “Who would spend $200 on me that doesn’t live in my house?”

This basically lead to a list of all of the eccentrics we know. Crazy people are all around us, in and out of our families. Eccentrics are the specific crazy people that will buy you $200 Christmas presents. Eccentrics are the crazy people that you like. Time to visit the eccentrics list.

Two of the members of our eccentric list will be here on Christmas Day, unless my wife is sick, which is her usual condition during the holidays. While a hydroponic garden would have been out of character for my little brother, he has moments of whimsy, so he remained on the suspect list. The other is my Mom, and the chances of her getting us the same thing (from a different company) as we got her were fairly slim, even though hilarious, especially since I do all of her online ordering. I didn’t have an email from her asking me to send myself a hydroponic garden, so she was probably off the list.

Nonetheless, I checked with both of them. Neither claimed credit. (Well, my brother instantly claimed credit, but slipped when I asked him to identify exactly what he had given us. As I had to remind my wife, you never ask, “Hey, did you send us a $200 hydroponic garden?”, you ask, “Hey, did you send us something expensive, and if so, what was it?”)

The next two on the list are friends that live in New Mexico (together), and we had talked to them and showed them the AeroGarden Sprout (with buds – not those types of buds) before the mystery Smart Garden 9 had even shipped (according to UPS), so they were some of the few people who knew we already had one. It’s not out of character for them, but we had already received something from them for Christmas, and they probably wouldn’t give us something we had. Plus, they said it wasn’t them. Suspects cleared.

Next was my sister-in-law up North who is allergic to the Internet (and most things invented after 1950), and she would have had to call my wife to do the online ordering for her, which would have spoiled the surprise. Plus, she has a real farm, so a countertop garden would have seemed silly to her. Also, she had sent us something already. She didn’t know anything about it, but has found the daily phone reports of this investigation highly amusing. She will never read this, because it is on the Internet.

Next was my other sister-in-law who loves the Internet, but had already given us gifts. She said it wasn’t from her. I assume she will buy one soon, especially if our herb crops come in, and my wife starts gushing about it.

So, my wife posted the question to her Facebook friends and acquaintances, where many of my wife’s friends immediately took credit, but none could identify what they had actually given us. Nice try, Brooklyn.

At this point, I decided to track it down from the shipping information.

We called the shipper in New Jersey, whose phone forwarded us to their office in California – which is closer to China, in case it really was the wrong product to the wrong address. They couldn’t help.

I emailed the Click and Grow company and had a lovely week-long email chat with their support team, trying to explain why I had no idea why one of their products had managed to get to my house, but that I was pleased to have it. They requested a picture of the box and serial number, and a picture of the UPS label.

After a couple of days, they gave up and said it looked to them like it had been ordered from Amazon and drop-shipped, so it wasn’t in their system.

So, my wife called Amazon where the operator seemed fixated on solving the problem of an “unwanted package.” She did not grasp the concept of “unexpected.” Apparently, Amazon employees do not receive gifts. She finally checked the UPS tracking number, couldn’t find it in their system, and concluded it was not from Amazon. I am still not sure how a package that was traveling around just before Christmas was not from Amazon.

Finally, my wife called UPS whose automated system helpfully told her the package was delivered on the seventeenth. Thank you, logistics experts. She finally forced the system to route her to a human (sic) who managed to not understand the question, and then dropped the line. Well, hung up on her, since the call routed to their survey robot (bad move).

UPS then called back hours later and gave my wife the reference numbers for the shipment. These were the numbers from the label that was on the package. One of them is coincidentally my cell phone number. This was a Double Jeopardy answer for “What is less than useless?”

During the search for the gift-giver, another seed kit arrived for the Click and Grow, so whomever sent the garden decided we should not just grow lettuces. Either that, or the sender told someone else, “Hey, if you don’t know what to get them, send a seed kit. I sent them a Click and Grow.” This seed kit will be planted after the two that arrived with the garden have been grown, so about the time we go on our next cruise in 2022. I’m a bit concerned another garden arrival may be imminent.

The Back Forty: our AeroGarden Harvest, waiting for tomatoes. Our Mystery Click and Grow Smart Garden 9, growing lettuces: Green Sorrel, Romaine, and Arugula.

I’m breathlessly waiting for the mail to arrive today. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Newsletter 2013

Editor’s Note: The physical Christmas cards are a wee bit late this year. We plead vacation. Every year, my wife demands a Christmas newsletter, because all our friends have one, and every year, I realize I just don’t have the energy or creativity to do one. So, I’ve decided to let the pets take turns. This year, Rocky the Chihuahua drew the short straw. However, he seems to think it’s a privilege, so it may become his job permanently.

Feliz Navidad!

Hola, everybody!
RockyMy name is Rockford J Gilhooly, and you can call me “Rocky.” I am the newest member of the Gilhooly clan, Galemeadow chapter, and my very wise Cocker Spaniel brother Murphy told me that the new guy receives the honor of writing the family Christmas newsletter. He was giggling after he told me that, but I’m not sure why. Dad told me I wasn’t supposed to make the newsletter all about me, so I guess I will talk about some of the other people around here, too. It’s just I’m the most important.

I have never actually been in a family where the pets write the newsletter, but I heard that Murphy’s newsletter was much better received than Dad’s.

So, this is the 2013 (semi-) annual Christmas newsletter, but the story actually begins on April 30, 2012. That morning, Mom was at the vet with one of the other guys when a lady carried me in. I had been hit by a car, and both my back legs were broken. The lady was very nice, but she technically was not a Good Samaritan, since she didn’t pay for my operation. Sparky’s Pals (and some of their very generous donors) did, and Dad took the corporate checkbook away from Mom after that. I had a femoral head ostecotemy on both legs. Dad said that my surgeon, Dr. Mountain, removed the heads of each femur and that scar tissue (hopefully) would grow up and replace the joint. (I don’t know what’s he’s talking about, either, and they’re my legs.) Dr. Mountain thought one leg would heal well enough to let me walk. He wasn’t sure about the other one.

Well, I can run and jump and climb on Mom’s head when she’s sitting in her chair or lying in bed, and I even climbed over a baby gate to say “Hola” to Uncle Stephen one day, so I guess the operation worked! Mom and Dad tried very hard to find a family that would adopt me, but eventually, I wore Mom down, so I’m staying here, with the rest of the PsychoPuppies. Dad said even if I left, I would still be here because I shed. Ha ha. So, now, I get to write the newsletter! (Dad said they named me “Rocky” since I fought a Cadillac and almost won. I don’t know what that means.)

Enough about me. For now. Let’s get on to the other news, even though there isn’t much happy to report this year.

Dad said this was probably the first Christmas newsletter that has an obituary section, but some years are like that. He said if I knew basic Latin, 2013 would be Annus horribilis. I think he was just trying to remind you, my dear readers, that he and Uncle Stephen went to prep school.

Mom’s Aunt Lucy Veccia died in December, 2012, just before Mom and Dad left on their annual vacation. They were with her the night before she passed away. On the day Aunt Lucy passed away, Mom found out that she had been appointed the executor of her estate, and she’s hoping to have all the paperwork done before the end of the year. Aunt Lucy would have liked me, because she was a dog person. Dad said her dog was named Rags. Mom and Dad created a memorial website for her at www.lucyveccia.com for her family and friends to visit.

My grandpa, John Vincent Gilhooly, died in February 2013. Mom and Dad had dinner with him the night before he passed away, so the last thing Mom did was feed him (the Italian way) and the last thing Dad did was get him a drink (the Irish way.) If I had been there, I would have climbed on his head (the Chihuahua way.) I never got to meet Grandpa, which is sad, because he would have loved me, even though he wasn’t a dog person. Everyone is a Chihuahua person! You can visit his memorial website at www.johnvgilhooly.com for more about him, including the obituaries and eulogies. Mom said that most of the people in the Church laughed during Dad’s eulogy, but they were supposed to laugh, so it was OK. I’m not sure Dad understands funerals very well. (Grandma is just glad Dad didn’t refer to all the priests and deacons as “Men In Black.”)

While Mom was starting to work on Aunt Lucy’s estate, her cousin Donna (one of the beneficiaries) passed away, so Mom got to help deal with that estate, too. So, there were three deaths in the family in about six weeks, and that was just the start of the year. Do not make Mom your executor, unless you want a very cranky one.

To summarize 2013: Mom spent all year doing estate paperwork, Dad spent all year at the office with three new managers in three months, and I spent all year working on the newsletter. I think I did the best job, don’t you?

Sparky’s Pals was pretty quiet this year, except for their stellar failed adoption of me, which started last year. Mom and Dad are hoping to get the school programs going again next year, estate paperwork willing. In the meantime, Dad did manage to get KNON to play public service announcements for Sparky’s Pals, so if they’re not in schools, at least they’re on the radio.

KNON was nice enough to play the PSAs because Dad is President of the radio station! It’s actually a non-profit, community station, and if you’re not in Dallas, you can listen online at www.knon.org. Dad said to remind you that you can donate online, as well. They say if you don’t like the station, just wait and they will change it for you, which is true, since most programs are only two or three hours long and then the format changes.

Dad was also Principal for a Day this year! He got to shadow the principal at Dan D Rogers Elementary school, visit all the classes, do the daily announcements, and sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the students. (Dad thinks this may have been hazing.) He also did Sparky’s Pals presentations to two of the grades so he managed to tie most of his volunteer work together. (He went back to the school for their career day and talked about IBM and KNON, so he covered everything he does at the school.) He did not take me, which was unfortunate, since I am a very good enforcer.

Mom and Dad took their annual Christmas cruise a week early this year, so they were home for Christmas. They had also taken an earlier cruise this year, in April, across the Atlantic, on the inaugural cruise of the Norwegian Breakaway. They sailed from Southampton to New York. Dad said it was on his bucket list. Mom’s friends reminded her it was about the same time of year and route as the Titanic. Luckily, they made it home. Mom said they had a cabin with a butler. She’s mad Dad won’t get her a house with a butler. I’m mad that they didn’t bring me anything. I was hoping for some British treats, even if I had to eat them on the wrong side of the couch.

Christmas this year is at Grandma Gilhooly’s house – I’ve already been there, and it’s a nice place, but there are too many closed doors – and there will be a lot of people there! J. R. and Ginger and Caleb and Carson (and a new granddaughter on the way – news if you’re not on Facebook) will be coming down for Christmas, so they will be in Dallas for almost two weeks. (Did I mention J. R. is now teaching in Ohio? No? Are you not on Facebook? J. R. is now an Instructor in Theology at Cedarville University, so the Grand Prairie gang moved from Grand Prairie to Cedarville, Ohio for the start of the school year earlier this year. Mom and Grandma are waiting for Ginger to freeze so they will move home, but considering the Icepocalypse Dallas just had, Ohio may actually be warmer.)

It will be nice to see such a large group, because it’s more likely there will be leftovers for me! I am going to start whining extra early, so Mom will take me along. I am very good at parties, and Dad said if Caleb and Carson are there, most of the doors will end up open, anyway.

Mom and Dad both said 2014 is bound to be a better year than this one, and Mom is going to kiss a stingray for good luck while she’s on vacation. This annoys me greatly, since she doesn’t like doggie kisses (they’re the best!) but she’ll kiss a big, flat fish? I don’t understand her sometimes. There is probably rum involved. (Update: Mom’s stingray trip got canceled, but she still won’t kiss me. Species predjudice, I guess.)

That must be all that’s important this year, because Murphy said the newsletter had to be three pages or less or people stopped reading it.

I’m Rocky, and I approved this newsletter.

Christmas Anonymous

Editor’s Note: This was originally written in 2011. I just reread it and I’m not sure I disagree with any of my conclusions. This year (2020) was my first Christmas at home in twelve years, with COVID-19 adding stress to everything else that is stressful about the holidays. If you read this and agree with any of it, you’re not alone. If you think I’m insane, you’re not alone. Peace. Happy New Year.

If you really know me, you will understand where this is coming from, you’ll feel my pain, and you’ll know I’ll be in a much better mood in January. If you think you know me, and this seems unbelievable harsh in places, you don’t really know me. Be forewarned.

Also, this post makes no sense unless you’ve read Christmas Anonymous. This is what my first meeting would be.

Scene: A small meeting room, somewhere in a strip mall, Suburbia. 

Uh, this is my first time here, so I’m a bit nervous. I hope you’ll bear with me. Oh, sorry. Hi! I’m Kevin, and I hate Christmas.

Hi, Kevin!

I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my issues with Christmas. I hope you can help me. I spend the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s always on the verge of crying and I’m really not sure why. There’s a lot of reasons I’m sure, but hopefully, someone in here will share a similar set of reasons. 2020: Being out of work and living in a COVID world did not help at all.

First, I’m not really sure why I hate Christmas. I don’t hate Christ by any means, so I really shouldn’t hate people celebrating His birthday, even if there was no physical way He was born on December 25th.

2020: I’m not sure “hate” is the proper term any longer. The holidays just depress me. My ex-wife told my wife I hated Christmas, so I just owned it, but hatred is too strong a term.

I do still believe in God, even if many of His Churches are all seemingly filled with hypocrites. If Holden Caufield wanted to find phonies, he just needed to look to the Cafeteria Christians.

Maybe it’s the soul-crushing realization that people really aren’t celebrating Christ’s birthday. Of course, Christmas was actually created by co-opting a pagan holiday, so I’m not sure anyone ever actually celebrated Christmas. Nobody seems to care about Christmas anymore, it’s not politically correct to use the term. It’s best to say  “the holidays”, so you don’t offend the Jews or the people of Islam or anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa.

2020: Political correctness has gotten progressively worse in the time since I wrote this, but Christmas still lives on, mostly.

Maybe it’s the simple fact that if you grow up in Dallas, you will never see the Christmas of TV and movies. I think we’ve had one actual White Christmas during my lifetime, and I was out of town that year. A White Christmas in Dallas means power outages and multi-car accidents, rather than carriage rides, anyway.

Maybe it’s the inevitable unspoken competition on gifts – you will never get what you want, since what you want is often driven by commercials, and you may not watch the same commercials as your friends, relatives and parents. Different generations will rarely know what others actually want. Some will try, with varying levels of success.

The inability to know (or care) what will make someone happy  is probably what invented the gift card industry, which I never liked, since you’re basically telling someone “I think you’re worth $50, but only at Target.” It also says you aren’t really willing to put any thought into a gift at all. 2020: Except that some of my relatives love gift cards, so if you know that, then a gift card is the right present. It still lets them know exactly how much you think they’re worth.

I’m actually still very bitter that my younger brother got a dog when I was about eight. It’s worse now that I’m in animal rescue, and I realize that my parents probably bought a dog from a backyard breeder after doing zero research into a proper breed and I really don’t want to know where his dog went after six months, but back then, all I knew was that he got a dog, I got some plastic models and when the dog went away, he got replacement presents and I got squat.

At this point, I should say that my late mother-in-law got me great gifts. She somehow knew something that I actually wanted, and as a bonus, she would generally make my wife get it for me, and my wife would think it was a stupid gift. Her gifts were always small, but they were from the heart and they were something that I wanted, even if I didn’t know it beforehand. Thanks, Rose. I miss you.

Maybe it’s the invention of the Christmas newsletter. I actually started writing this as a byproduct of trying to write a family newsletter, and I realized that I hadn’t successfully done one in three years. [Editor’s note: the dogs eventually took over the Christmas newsletter, and have received rave reviews.] A lot has happened in three years – we lost my mother-in-law, we gained a daughter-in-law and a grandson, but as I was writing the short paragraphs to try to keep it to a reasonable length, it hit me – if you’re close enough to me to get a summary of my life, wouldn’t you already know this stuff?

2020: The newsletter does cover some of the more random events of the year, and lately, it has been announcing things not everyone would know. So, I’m less negative about it than I was. Plus, the dogs write it now.

Maybe it’s working in a sales organization, where bless their hearts, most salespeople are just incapable of closing any deals any time except the last two weeks of the quarter. This means Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, since it’s quarter-end and year-end. It’s make quotas or update resumes time. If your job requires supporting salespeople, it’s about to be your fault that they spent the time from Halloween to Thanksgiving gazing in the mirror and jerking off, so they managed to miss quota.

2020: I do not miss working in a sales organization. I do miss working.

I don’t know what my expectations are from the holidays. I just know that there is a tremendous amount of pressure to be nice to people you would much rather ignore. There is pressure to work extra hours in a time when your personal life is calling you. There is pressure to spend money on people you wouldn’t even talk to during the rest of the year.

2020: Ignoring people has been much easier in quarantine, but after enough time stuck in the house, you begin to miss people, even the annoying ones. Working extra hours wasn’t an issue, since I was out of work, but there was extreme pressure to find a job, mostly to finance Christmas.

So it goes.

Maybe that’s why I hate Christmas.

2020: I’m still not sure.

Can someone tell me the twelve steps of Christmas?

Christmas Anonymous

I really don’t like the holidays. Actually, I dread the holidays. I spend the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s in a deep depression. I’m constantly on the edge of tears. I don’t know why. (I have my suspicions, but publishing them would probably offend a lot of people.) So, I thought what is really needed is an organization to help those of us who dread the holidays. We need Christmas Anonymous.

Now, Christmas Anonymous would be built on the basic principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the foundation for many successful recovery programs. Even people who have never had a drink have probably heard of the Twelve Steps. (In fact, somebody may have already done this work, in which case, I apologize. Doing it has been rather cathartic for me.)

I’ve only been to one AA meeting in my life (on a date – which can tell you how well the relationship worked), and it was an amazing experience. It was a religious experience, as well – only people who share the same dark secret can relate to your true issues and from that relation can come salvation.

So, I’ve taken the original Twelve-Step program (quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous – thank you, Bill W.), and translated it for those of us who can’t seem to cope with the holidays. You’re out there. You’re hurting. You’re not alone.

I read the Twelve Steps just before I went to the AA meeting. Until then, I had no idea what the steps were (although since then I’ve received apologies from alcoholic friends over the years, so I recognized that was one of them.) Some people think AA’s Twelve Steps are very close to a religion – God is mentioned everywhere throughout them. While this may offend some non-alcoholics who think “it’s only a drinking problem”, in the case of Christmas Anonymous, I believe it is absolutely a core part of the solution. (As the sarcastic would say: What? God in Christmas? Surely not.)

Here are the Twelve Steps, for members of Christmas Anonymous.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over Christmas. No matter how hard we wished or bitched, it would still arrive every year on December 25th. Ads begin just after the Fourth of July.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. In this case, perhaps trying to restore the true meaning of Christmas as a religious holiday rather than a reason to spend ourselves into debt will help us through the season.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Wouldn’t Christmas be an excellent time to rededicate yourself to your beliefs? You don’t have to be Christian, but if you’re pummeled by Christmas music and commercials anyway, take a moment to connect with your God. 
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Why do we hate Christmas? Is it religious? Financial? Fear? Relationships?
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our hatred of Christmas. Tell your significant other, friend or family member why you’re so cranky during the holidays. Find someone who will actually listen. If nothing else, blog about it. 
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. This should always be true whether you hate Christmas or love drugs.  
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Perhaps this would be a good private prayer during Christmas services. If you avoid services, take a moment on Christmas to ask your God for this. 
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Who avoids you during the holidays? They’re on this list.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. In most cases, this is probably a sincere apology to friends and family for being such an asshole during the holidays.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. You’re not going to get through every Christmas unscathed. Remember this. Keep trying.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. If you can find God, you can celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. It was one at one time. 
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in pain during the holidays, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Find others who hate Christmas, and give them this message. Think what else you hate as much as the holidays, and apply the steps. 

Merry Christmas!