Tenterhooks, those hooks that hold fabric over the “tent” during manufacture? Not what’s on my mind.

I’m much more worried about what is going on with my country and it is scaring me half to death. Not just scary, though. Horribly depressing.

Now that I’ve said that, I’m going to make an effort to return to not thinking. I’m worded out. Read out. Mentally exhausted, angry, frustrated, and wounded. If I live long enough to vote again, I hope I get to see every last Republican voted out of government. Then, let’s call on the ghosts of Wyatt Earp and his boys — and have them run every last one of those evil bastards out-of-town.

Every town.



Let them live on dry sand and cactus under a relentless sky.

Nothing makes us all feel so frightened and vulnerable as realizing we have an out-of-control government and nothing we can do about it. It is a genuinely terrifying experience and I do not wish this on anyone.


This year, finally, I added lights to our tiny tree. I wanted them before, but they were always too expensive. This year, I bought 6 sets of tiny LED lights for about $4. I wrapped them around the tree … and now, the tree is just right. It needed some lights. I have only used 4 so far … two remaining in case the others punk out.

We put the two nutcrackers on top of the wood stove. If Duke got hold of one, it would be wood shards in minutes.

The blue lights are still up over the big window in the living room, same as last year and for the past 10 years. I will add the gifts when I wrap them. But with Duke, the Toothsome, I think I’ll put them out last, maybe on Christmas Eve.

How deliciously simple. The simplicity is a big improvement on my holiday spirits. When it’s too much like work, a lot of the fun disappears for me.

Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate! Even if you don’t celebrate any specific holiday? Enjoy the season. Be bright and cheerful and enjoy the bright nights and lights and happy greetings. After the holidays are over, it’s only winter.

It’s one of my goals in life to prove that it’s possible to have a lovely Christmas tree that is NOT 9-feet-tall, real, or weighing half a ton. I know the argument that “fake trees” are a hazard because they are plastic. I would believe that — except for a few details:

  1. No one buys a “fake tree” for a single year’s use. Each of mine has lasted five years or longer.
  2. They are much too expensive to buy annually and many of us leave the tree fully or partly decorated, then store it in a basement or attic for the following year. You cannot do that with a live tree.
  3. The ability of manufacturers to make a tree look very real has come a long, long way from when we were kids. A lot of people like to touch my tree to be sure if it’s real or not because it looks entirely real.

Given all this, buying a non-real tree is no more expensive or unfair to the environment than buying any other decorative object for your home. Nothing lasts forever. I’ve had to throw away burnt out ovens and lamps and carpets and who knows what else.

This little, fake, 4-foot tree has been with us — as of this year — for four years. I paid less than $30 including shipping. No, I didn’t get it on Amazon. These are specialized items and I wanted one that looked as much like a tree as possible … without the dry, falling needles and branches and the godawful mess a real tree makes. The falling needles alone can take a full year to finally get clear and I’m pretty sure I’ve still got some needles hiding in the wood and bricks from our only two trees “real” trees, 17 and 18 years ago.

Also note: we live on a street with a Christmas tree farm just up the road. We did the whole thing with the hayride and picking the tree and tying it to the car and then … figuring out where to put it because that was when we have five people living here and space was at a premium.

I do not believe that a dead, dry, real tree in some way screams “Birth of Our Lord” — well your lord, not mine but you get the idea — any more than no tree or a fake tree. The tree has nothing to do with religion. It predates modern religion by probably a thousand years and is more reminiscent of the ancient Norse and Celts than Christianity.

Decorate however it suits you. Do whatever makes you happy and enjoy it. It is a festive time of year and I think we need some festivities during this darkest part of our trip around the sun. At least when it is full dark by four o’clock, I can light up the tree. That helps. Truly, it does.


Roommates, by Rich Paschall, a roommate in the dark

At some point you may have had a roommate other than your parents and siblings. They do not count for this consideration as you did not pick them.  You had to deal with them or endure them according to the rules of family. If you lived with a brother or sister after you moved out of your parents’ house, however, then what follows is all on you. By that point in life, you knew what you were getting into. If your brother left his dirty socks wherever he took them off in the apartment, you should have know that would happen. There’s no use to carp about it now.

My first roommate was while I was in college. We did not go to college together. We were high school chums. This actually worked out well as he was rarely around. I think that he had a girlfriend to keep warm and when our lease was up, off he went. I found another apartment for myself.

After a year, I had a friend ask me to be roommates at a time when my lease was ending. He wanted to move out of his parents’ house. We found a spot and that too lasted a year. We got along well. He moved out to get married and I moved on.

I moved to another building where I live now.  I had two roommates at different times.  One got married and I moved to another apartment in the building. He lived there a year after that and left.  You may think there is something about me that encourages roommates to get married and move.

Then I had an on and off relationship with an on and off roommate. We were good friends until we lived together. Everything we did seemed to bother one of us. He liked shopping tours, I didn’t. He liked reruns of certain comedies, I didn’t. Seriously, how often can you watch Three’s Company in your life, especially if you know how every episode ends. I liked the Golden Girls, but not every night of the week. Soon I knew every one of those episodes too. If I did not sit down to watch them with my roommate, he was pissed. We are better friends in recent years, probably because he lives in another state.

In South America

My most recent and much younger roommate came from South America and is likely in culture shock at the US Midwest. In his part of the world it is 85 degrees every day and 65 every night on average. If it hits 90 they are having a heat wave and if it hits 59 they are freezing. He has advised that he does not like air conditioning and helped me remove my air conditioner from the bedroom window. “No like,” he declared. Since it was already Fall when we removed it, I thought it was fine. He’ll like it if he is here in the summer when it is 100 and humid.

As the weather got colder he told me he was freezing when it got to 68 or 69 in the house. Since most places had no need of heat in his town, there were no thermostats.


Now that he understands what the arrow up button does on the thermostat, I think we are in for higher gas bills. I have already warned my neighbor in another apartment as the heat by us controls both apartments. Neighbor does not like it so warm, but at least he can voice his concerns to roomie in Spanish and I will be left out of the conversation.

Before roomie left South America, he declared he was the chef. As an athlete and workout freak, he eats 4 or 5 meals a day and is particular about what he eats. This was no problem to me as I would gladly hand over whatever chores and duties he would like. There is a small problem with this, or a big one depending on how you would like to eat. Aside from breakfast which could be fruit, yogurt, cereal, sweet breads or pancakes, if I would make them, everything else was pretty much the same.

He prepared meals as he did in the poor suburban town of a big South American city. Everything was served with white rice, which we bought in large bags. Rice is a staple in many parts of the world as you can keep it a long time and it is relatively cheap. We usually have potatoes cooked with onions and diced up tomatoes and what little bit of meat was thrown in. As for vegetables of color, “No like.” We share the dishwashing duties and in truth I would rather do it. When I see the job he has done, “No like.”

At times we get a little frustrated with one another as mates, partners or spouses sometimes do. Although it is not funny at the time, we must look like a comedy routine. When roomie is a bit excited, he is babbling at me in Spanish and I am doing the same to him in English. It looks like Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from the I Love Lucy sitcom, and unfortunately, I am playing the part of Lucy.

In his small apartment in South America, which I visited on two occasions, I could see that shoes were left by the door of the two room apartment.  One big room was the living room and bedroom, and the other large room was the kitchen.  There was a tiny bathroom and shower.  There was a certain order to this that did not fit well for us.  Roomie thought it would be fine to leave his large gym shoes at the bedroom door as always.  The bedroom door opens to a small passage with an archway to the kitchen, a closet door and a bathroom door. 

In other words, it was not the front door.  I have now tripped over the shoes often enough in the night, that I have convinced roomie in terms he probably did not understand, to leave them elsewhere.  That seems to be everywhere else in the apartment.  Some things you just have to live with.


This morning, after last night’s midnight signing of a law to abandon Americans to the tragedy of poverty with no recourse to government, I realized that there can be but one reason this has happened.

The Republican party and nearly all its members have signed contracts with the Devil. Real contracts. Signed at the crossroads in the dead of night. In blood. Because this certainly can’t be any kind of “principles” from anyone who is supposed to protect this country from danger or economic collapse — or even nuclear war. This has got to be the foul paw prints of the evil one at his finest.

Christians? I don’t think so. Does anyone see any Christian act in any of the behavior of this band of evil-doers? I thought not.

At some point, late in the night, they all gathered and each drew blood and signed their name. From this they got “a career” and probably wealth — because in the end, it’s always about money. It is possible that the Koch brothers actually are emissaries of the devil, if not the devil incarnate. Hard to tell in these modern times.

Welcome to Hell, folks. I believe we are living in it.