Tag Archive | holidays

The Most Over-Hyped Time of the Year

Christmas shopping-frenzy checkoutOnly eight days till Christmas, and I’m immersed in the holiday spirit. But there have been past Christmases when I was mired in depression or feeling very “bah humbug” about the holidays. I’m well aware that this season conjures up a wide range of emotions in shades from joy to despair, and that December can be a problematic time for many people, especially those living alone or with emotional, physical or financial problems – and doesn’t that include just about everybody? 

Julie reading at the Nitty Gritty Slam

Julie reading at the Nitty Gritty Slam

For this night’s Nitty Gritty Slam at Valentine’s in Albany,** I wanted to write something new to read at the open mic that precedes the actual poetry slam. Tonight’s theme, in keeping with the holidays, is the “Annual Airing of Grievances.” On my car radio, even the country station has been playing Andy Williams’s inescapable “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,”*** and I’ve been thinking of writing a parody substituting “horrible” for “wonderful.” But I didn’t want to focus on negativity – not completely, at any rate.  

But walking my dog by the lake this morning, I came up with “over-hyped,” and by the time he’d finished pooping, I had the beginning of these lyrics in my head. Feel free to borrow them for your local sing-along. Or if you’re coming to Valentine’s, print them out or save them on your smart phone so you can join in.



It’s the most over-hyped time of the year.

So you’d better be happy, and best make it snappy

Or people will jeer.

It’s the most over-hyped time of the year.


All your family will want lots of gifts.

So you’d better go shopping, and don’t dream of stopping

Or you’ll cause a rift

If you don’t spring for pricy new gifts.



There’ll be parties each night and if you’re not invited,

Then you can just stay home and mope.

Drink your brandy-spiked eggnog till you’re in a deep fog.

You’ll wake up a hung-over dope!


It’s the season they sing about snow.

But you can’t shovel white stuff ‘less you’ve got the right stuff.

Head south now, just go –

Oops, you can’t, ‘cause you don’t have the dough.



Hang those lights, deck those halls. If being cheery seems false,

Just keep wearing that shit-eating grin.*

This will pass soon enough, just hang in and stay tough

Till the January bills trickle in!


(dramatic key change)

But for now, eat and drink, have no fear.

Though this season’s depressing, more turkey and dressing

Will fill you with cheer,

And you’ll gain ten more pounds for New Year!


(Repeat first stanza if desired)

*Substitute “big phony grin” as needed

blue Christmas tree in grand hall** For more about the Nitty Gritty Slam, visit www.albanypoets.com. This is the last slam of the year, and by next Christmas, Valentine’s will have been demolished to make way for a huge parking garage for Albany Med. Right now, the snow’s coming down hard, and I may not make it to tonight’s event after all. But I just poured some eggnog, and I can always sing this at “Poets Speak Loud” next Monday at McGeary’s. You can find info on that at the same website.  

***The song was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle for the Andy Williams TV show and premiered in 1963. It wasn’t an overnight smash, but he sang it every year and it slowly gained popularity. Now, love it or hate it, it ranks among the top ten Christmas songs. Andy Williams died in September, 2012.


Gratitude for the things money can’t buy

My refrigerator’s looking pretty bare, but I can’t shop for groceries, because my checking account’s practically zeroed out. Fortunately my predicament’s temporary, because tomorrow’s the fourth Tuesday of the month, and that means my Social Security payment will magically appear in my account, followed on the last day of the month by my New York State retirement check.

Actually my situation’s not as grim as this suggests, because my significant other can make up the shortfall and then some. If I were forced to live on my retirement income alone, I’d be in dire straits, like so many millions of single women in this country. This time of year especially, I’m enormously grateful for my good fortune. I’m thankful, too, that Obama won the election; if the Republicans had their way, the safety net that helps sustain our society might well have been destroyed, plunging countless millions into ever deepening poverty while the privileged one percent continue raking in the big bucks.

As always, this Thanksgiving brought lots of talk about gratitude, and it’s almost mandatory to maintain an attitude of good cheer through the coming weeks. Well before Thanksgiving, my favorite oldies station began playing nonstop Christmas music, and I’ll admit I enjoy it up to a point, but I can’t agree with Andy Williams when he sings “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” (He died this year, but his rendition of this saccharine song endures.)

Van Gogh

According to a recent poll, 45% of Americans are so financially stressed this time of year that they wish Christmas would simply disappear. The findings are dubious, though, because the survey was sponsored by a company that focuses on risky financial instruments designed for people already living perilously close to their personal financial cliffs.

In recent years, I’ve been doing my best to live within my means, modest as they may be. I paid off and then cancelled all but one of my credit cards, and I haven’t used that one in years. I haven’t even activated it when they send me a new one, but I’m still paying off the balance. I’ll admit I’m tempted to resurrect it to add to my family’s holiday cheer this Christmas, but if I do, I swear I’ll be ultra-cautious with it.

I’m grateful that as I age, I crave less and less in the way of material possessions. I’ve already got more than I need, and I had no problem boycotting Black Friday and Cyber Monday, especially since I didn’t have the wherewithal to pay in cash. My house is already overflowing with stuff I can’t bear to part with, so why add to the clutter?

As part of a spiritual deepening program in my Unitarian Universalist congregation, I’ve begun making a daily list of the things I’m grateful for. The trick is to select a number and stick to it each day. I’ve chosen the number seven, and it’s surprisingly easy to come up with that many. Right now, for example, I’m grateful for:

  1. My cat Lunesta, dozing and purring between my legs
  2. My husband, reading in the recliner across from mine
  3. My dog Sirius, lying on guard next to the front door
  4. My house – be it ever so humble, it’s warm and dry, and we own it
  5. The wonderful group of women writers I met with this afternoon
  6. Their laughter and enthusiasm when I read a scene from my novel
  7. National Novel Writing Month ends this Friday, and I’m going to meet my quota of 50,000 words

I could go on – I haven’t even mentioned my daughter and granddaughters – but you get the idea. Family, friends, pets, creativity – simple things, and except for our modest mortgage, they don’t cost a cent.

Are you feeling grateful this time of year? Do you love the holidays, or are you more like those folks in the survey who wish they’d go away?