Deck the Halls

Happy Holidays from the Smiths!

Forest Walk

A few of my favorite holiday things

Doing/protecting jigsaw puzzles

"No. . . no. . . sit. . . no. . ."

Homemade noodles

"I need, like, 90 more minutes with this puzzle and then I'll come help, Mom."

A trip to the theater

"pew pew pew"

Debate night

"You're saying the same thing. . . You're saying the same thing. . ."

Decorating Uncle Martin's cryogenic chamber

"Has anyone seen the coffin topper?"

The annual costume contest

"I'm just saying, this seems preventable."

Leaving lawn gifts out for the town crier


Most of all, spending time
laughing with loved ones (and pie)

"No. . . no. . . sit. . . no. . ."

I made you something

This is a story my family tells a lot. One Christmas, when she was in 7th or 8th grade, my sister decided to make a bracelet for each of her friends. She had the perfect plan—each friend would get a different color combination of a clipped, beaded piece of jewelry wire that wrapped around your wrist without needing a clasp. She waited too long to make them, however, and my mom, my dad and I all ended up around the table with her, frantically churning out what we hoped were somewhat coherent and thoughtful presents. There were mixed results (and only a little bloodshed). My dad grumbled the entire time—the wire was poking him, the beads were too tiny, his fingers too big, she should have planned better and why did the beads have to be goddamn small? When the dust finally settled, and band-aids were administered, one thing was clear: my dad’s bracelet was gorgeous. The best, even. We recreated it several times over the next few years for other friends, usually accompanied by an overly-gesticulated retelling of its origin story.

This retelling is not about the bracelets. Usually it is because I get a kick out of remembering how well my dad did compared to how annoyed he was, and how proud we were. This year, I’m caught up thinking about how my sister’s knee-jerk reaction, when tasked with giving to an entire group of people, was to make something. It just feels very true. I also want to make something for the people I love, or like, or just happen to spend structured time with every day. I want them to know that I care about them and making things is the way I know how to do that. Part of the gift is the time you put into it, regardless of what it is made of (and I’ve earned my badge in most media in pursuit of gift giving—you name it, I've glued it to something else).

So this year I wanted to give you something for you to give. And since the only reason I know how to make things is because my mom taught me, I wanted her to be involved. I think these stars are a good place to start. They are beautiful and hard to save, which is perfect, because that means we make new ones every year, and add another memory. That’s really the only permanence that counts. One year I made them using Post-it notes in my practically windowless office. This year I made one using notebook paper covered with incorrect math answers while studying for grad school. (Every year I mess up the fourth step the first time around, but I think you'll do great.) When I’m lucky, my mom and I make them together. My mom wrote and illustrated the instructions step-by-step, so you don’t even have to find them elsewhere. Unlike the bracelet, they don’t require any beads or wire or anything special, just paper, scissors and tape or staples—so while bloodshed can’t quite be ruled out, I trust you to be careful enough. Enjoy!

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Snow Dog

It’s the first glorious snow of the year! The world is sparkling, and the driveway is blanketed in white. But neighbor Steve wants to shovel it all away—bad Steve! Claim the snow as your own before Steve can clear it away.

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A Christmas Party Carol

The three ghosts of A Christmas Carol Co. had the same predicament every year: who was in charge of what at their annual office holiday party. Their small business (an insurance business, as they liked to call it—but of a different sort) had taken off since they partnered with Charles Dickens, a small-time journalist, for marketing purposes. The ghosts had offered Dickens a behind-the-scenes tour of their typical client work, which turned out to be their most triumphant case yet. Their unwitting client that year had been a kindless, curmudgeonly Mr. Scrooge. Through a series of professional reports (that did not make it into Dickens’ coverage) and a firsthand look at the miser’s past and future (which definitely did make it to print, though the journalist took some dramatic liberties), the ghosts converted Mr. Scrooge into a firm believer in both Christmas and supernatural spirits. Scrooge even invited the ghosts to his office holiday party, where they met their newest and favorite intern, Tim. 

To celebrate their newfound success, the ghosts felt pressured to throw their own holiday bash to remember. But after such a busy season and uncomfortable with the growing outsider attention, they truly just wanted some low-key time together. Conflicted, the three ghosts watched their most important professional day of the year loom nearer, menacing and festooned with holly. While the world around them accumulated snow and holiday cheer, the Christmas spirits were increasingly inundated with memos and corporate dread. 

To make matters worse, this holiday party would be Tim’s last day with the company. The young man had immediately become an asset to the firm. Since his internship began, Tim had successfully replaced the broken kettle in their kitchenette, set up the office wifi, and taught the three ghosts how to improve their communications by prioritizing email and chat messenger functions over their previous method: materializing in each other’s cubicles without warning to leave spooky, passive aggressive sticky notes. Unfortunately, and awkwardly thanks to their recent success story, Tim now had decades to go before becoming a ghost himself, and therefore would not be qualified for a more permanent spot at the company for quite some time. The kindness the ghosts had inspired in Scrooge meant that the older man invested in better health insurance and working conditions for his employees. Tim had decided his next position would be closer to his relatives in Scrooge’s company. The Christmas Ghosts mourned the loss of their intern even as they celebrated his good health, which made all office interactions even more ominously festive than usual. 

Another problem they ran into every year was this: how do you plan an office party when no one was ever around the office at the same time? When they were not on deadline, the ghosts preferred to telecommute from their different time zones. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come always argued over who should bring what, and who should be responsible for booking the conference room in their shared office building. Office meetings were always a bother to the ghosts. Their previous intern, back in the 1800s, had insisted on seances. Tim pioneered Skype conference calls, even though the Ghost of Christmas Past’s audio always came in with a bit of a delay.

In addition to their different schedules, the venue and activity options for merrymaking seemed terrifyingly endless. Times had changed since they started their business, and the ghosts were annually overwhelmed with possibilities. Previous office holiday disasters included a party at a trendy bar where other patrons quite rudely mistook them for leftover Halloween decorations, an interoffice mixer with their only other “spooky” neighbor—the local taxidermist—and an ill-fated “Escape Room” adventure sponsored by the company.  

In the end, their holiday party struggle reached its annual anxious détente. With no party—or even a garland—planned, the three ghosts and Tim took their yearly client on the usual tour through the potential interplanar horrors of the holiday season that threatened everyone, should the client not change their ways. While their client learned to “seize the day” to be a better person, the ghosts realized that they were under no obligation to put themselves out for a party at all. With the exception of Tim, they were all already ghosts, and did not have to seize the day for a holiday party when they knew there would be more to come. There was no reason whatsoever the ghosts of Dickensian fame couldn’t, in Tim’s words, “just be chill” this season. 

Afterwards, tired but content with a job well done, the Christmas Carol Co. team ordered takeout and streamed a movie, deciding to celebrate by watching some other cast of characters tell a Christmas story for once. 


Groans for the Holidays: An Animated Triptych of Visual Puns

It’s Nothing Really




I don’t

know what to get you

tough to admit

because I’m good

at gifts


I’ve thought about it


a lot

it occurred to me

it’s you

it’s me, but it’s

also, you.

I don’t know you.



I know things about you

the easy things

the kind of things

you’d find

in a quick


What you look like

where you live

what you eat

your mom’s name

your high school mascot

your credit score

the easy stuff.

But is that all

knowing someone is?


I want to know what keeps you

up at night

to take all of it

into my hands

those fears

those embarrassments


I want to

weigh each one

in my palms

learn to

recognize them

as I do

my own


through them

some clue

that one thing

missing from you

I could provide.

But I can’t do that


I could look

at the contents

the rooms and spaces

you frequent

the things you put

in those rooms and spaces

and decide what things

I could add

to belong

to that ever growing

pile of things

things you own.

Are you

those things?


You deserve

better than


I asked a friend:

what was

the best gift

they had received

             So, they didn’t like it

             at first

             when I told them

             I wanted

             to be an actor

             but my dad, he gives me

             this old textbook

             a book on acting

             once it had been his

             now he’s passing it on

             to me. I had no idea.

             I’ve never stopped

             reading it.

I’m not your dad

we don’t have that



I could get you

a book

about a subject

that interests you

but that book

would not represent

a passing torch

an acknowledgement

a first step


own path

it would just be

a nice thought

library fodder.

You deserve better


I asked a friend

about the worst gift

they received


             it was my birthday

             when I got the call.

Is it enough

that I haven’t

given you chlamydia?

I can give you

the gift of

not chlamydia


how many random

people in the world

will never

have given you


You deserve better


I want to give you

something like

pulling a winter coat

out of storage

finding 5 dollars

in the pocket

something that

is both

everything and nothing

a coincidental kindness.

You deserve

something you don’t



car rides

filled with

endless laughter


by a massive

weeping sky

you deserve cliché,

day drunk afternoons,

coffee tables,

littered with


clean baseboards,


of toilet paper,



after all your bills are paid,

to breathe,

you deserve

a breath

and fat

and warm

and cool

and sweat

and soft

and sex

and excess


I cannot give you

what you should have

so, I’ve decided

to give nothing.

This is a nothing

I made

just for you

you can fill it

you can leave it


it is as much

as little

as it needs

it is an absence

with your name on it

in place of what you deserve:

































(Diego, Isaac, Tamsen, Lakecia, Cat, Lauren, and Zoe)