How to Handle Thanksgiving

A week ago, the economy claimed another magazine market and so came an end to my columnist’s days. But I’m ever so grateful for all those years of writing about the funny stuff in life. I learned a ton about humor writing, and writing in general. I met folks whom I would never have met, and I shared lots of family stories that still haunt/embarrass my kids.

Ah, good times, good times. So, I thought I’d share one of my earliest columns here at the Hall of a Fame. Sort of a fond farewell to the art form of writing the funny in 350 words or less. And it just happens to be about Thanksgiving. (P.S. Hope yours is swell!)

How to Handle Thanksgiving

To understand what passes as cooking in the Hall household, one must first be familiar with the Cathy C. Hall 15 Minute Rule of Cooking. Namely, that a quarter hour (fifteen minutes) is all the time that I (Cathy C. Hall) will spend on food preparation (cooking). So you’re probably asking yourself, “Say, how does she handle something really big, something like Thanksgiving?”

Interesting question.

Back in my young newlywed days, no one expected much from me in the kitchen. I could slap together a mean tuna-burger, but somehow that tasty dish didn’t exactly scream, “Happy Thanksgiving!” So, my mom or mother-in-law usually ended up with the holiday detail.

Not that my mother-in-law minded. She was a great cook-from-scratch kind of woman who frequently wondered why her son had not keeled over from starvation living under my roof. For the first few years, she dutifully prepared a Southern Thanksgiving feast fit for a small army. Everyone was happily stuffed. (Except for the bird.)

But one year, someone gave my mother a smoked turkey. It seemed a waste not to fix it. My mom and I discussed the possibility of toting the bird to my mother-in-law’s, but that seemed a little…oh, what’s the word? Oh yeah, rude. So we came up with an alternate plan. I should have Thanksgiving at my house and prepare all the food. My mom thought it was a terrific idea.

We sat at the table that year, my parents, my mother-in-law, my hubby and me. Everything looked delicious. Everything smelled delicious. But something was not quite…right. I believe my mother-in-law said it best: “This turkey is raw.” That put a bit of a damper on the festivities.

After that, it was understood that my cooking services would no longer be required. I had used the Cathy C. Hall Ruination Rule of Cooking Something Really Big. Namely, that I (Cathy C. Hall) will totally screw up (ruin) a turkey (Something Really Big).

So that’s how I handle Thanksgiving. I let someone else do the cooking and everyone is happy. (Well, except for the bird).

Wit of the Hour: Andy Rooney

“I’ve learned that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.”
~Andy Rooney (1919-2011)

And so the 60 Minutes humorist has come to the end of the roll. But he had a good run, didn’t he? (No pun intended. Although Andy Rooney might laugh at that.)

60 Minutes and I go way back…I mean, way back. Back to the early days of the first born Junior Hall. Because I’d quit my outside-world job, and was home with a baby all week, I suppose I was starved for some kind of intellectual stimulation (no offense to the Beneficent Mr. Hall, of course.) So I watched this program and got…well, I guess “over-stimulated” would be the right word.

The Beneficent Mr. Hall would likely say “crazy.” Whatever. The point is, after 6 months or so of screaming like a banshee at the 60 Minutes folks and the provocative, investigative stories they reported, Mr. Hall advised me to step away from the television. At least, during 60 Minutes. So I did, for the sake of my blood pressure. But every once in awhile, when I was feeling a bit nostalgic, I’d watch the last 10 minutes so I could catch Andy Rooney. I mean, Andy was hilarious.

Did you ever wonder why pizza is round? In Italy, pizza is oblong. But I suppose in America, we like things round. And with lots of cheese on top. You could put a mound of mozzarella on a manhole cover and some New Yorker would eat it.

Andy didn’t say that. (I don’t think. I think I just made that up. But then again, I may be channelling him.) For years, I’ve done Andy Rooney “Did you ever wonder” bits. See, the great thing about the “Did you ever wonder” bits is that you can wonder about anything.

Did you ever wonder why dogs have four legs? Why don’t we say they have two legs and two arms? They only have one butt, though. But four legs come in handy for all that scratching. I wish I had four legs. I itch in some weird places.

Did you ever wonder why those little sticky notes are yellow? Urine is yellow. So’s a school bus.

Did you ever wonder how a guy got a job for a zillion years asking questions like “Did you ever wonder?”?

Still, I’ll miss the old guy.

Finding Something Friday: Humor, Books I’m Reading, Contest, Writing Tips

That’s not a very catchy post title, but it does pretty much sum up the day’s catch.
If you’d like to read October’s column in Modern Senior Living, check out page 13 for “My Not-So-Smart Phone.” (I could probably write a book about phones at the Hall house. One time, I walked into Juniorest Hall’s room and found this mangled mess of wires and such on his bed. Just before I threw it out, he yelled, “Wait! That’s my phone!” Which he was actually still using. It was the phone I’d purchased 24 hours after I’d bought his first phone–but that’s another story.)
As you may remember, October is National Book Month, and I thought I’d update you on what I’m reading now: Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley (a middle grade novel with fairy tale overtones) and Bodies of the Dead And Other Great American Ghost Stories (Did you know Edith Wharton wrote a ghost story? Neither did I, but there she is with Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Willa Cather, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. I don’t know Harriet Prescott Spofford from Adam’s house cat, but how many times do you come across a name with that many double consonants? When I finish this scary book, I’m giving it away in the All Hallow’s Read Giveaway. Don’t forget to mention BOOk in a comment if you want your name in the cauldron.)
Janet Reid (yes, the literary agent, again) is having a contest. You have till tomorrow (at noon) to write a 100 word themed Halloween story with the words she’s posted. You can win a critique from Barbara Poelle, and that’s pretty awesome for a micro-fiction story. (You get bonus points if you work in the word “insalubrious”. And yes, I know that you know what insalubrious means, but I thought I’d give a quick definition for all those folks who may have taken a siesta during 10th grade Vocab drills: insalubrious=not conducive to health, unwholesome.)
Finally, just a quick mention of the writing tips you can find over at Finders & Keepers this week. I mentioned that I attended an SCBWI conference and I wrote a “what I learned from whom I saw” post. It’s packed with stuff you can use, whether you’re a children’s writer or not. (Seriously. It’s kind of a long post. But no one will know if you skim it.)
And now, as my insalubrious tale won’t write itself, I have a story to find on this fine Friday. I’m pretty sure it’s rattling around in my head, somewhere.

Wit of the Day: Groucho Marx

I love, love, LOVE used book sales! Look at all the books I picked up for just a couple bucks! One of my favorite books in the pile is that Treasury of Wit & Wisdom. Because a. I love a good witticism and b. I can use all the wisdom I can get.
Sadly, I do not always have time for wit and wisdom. But then, in what can only be called a witty and wise moment, I had a thought. I bet you like wit and wisdom, too! So I’m going to share here, on the blog; that should motivate me. Occasionally. And possibly, I’ll share a bit of trivia about the person I’m quoting. Because I love, love LOVE bizarre factoids about people, too. I’m not sure why.
To wit:

“A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.”

~Groucho Marx

I’m pretty sure I could have used this line earlier today, trying to figure out something on the Internets. And now a few odd tidbits about Groucho. He dropped out of school at the age of 12, but wrote several books and was friends with T.S. Eliot and Carl Sandberg. He was also friendly with Elton John (though he called him John Elton). And for many years, on stage and the movies, that trademark moustache? Greasepaint.
What about you? Got a favorite Groucho Marx quote or story? Do share!

(P.S. That’s a candy scarecrow necklace, propped up there, on top of the books. Though when I wore it, I felt like it was this cute, little candy person, swinging by its poor little candy neck. Ew.)

Finding Something Friday on Rain At My House!

(With apologies to those who might be a bit damp in other parts of the country)

RAIN!

RAIN, glorious rain!
How happy to see you!
Not just a few drops
But big splashes to soak you!

Just thinking of getting wet
my senses are reeling!
One moment of knowing that
Cooled down feeling!

Rain, glorious rain!
What wouldn’t we give for?
That extra downpour?
That’s all that we live for!

Why should we be stuck so hot,
boiling over like crabs in a pot?

Oh, rain! Magical rain!
Heavenly rain! Beautiful rain!
Marvelous rain! Wonderful rain!
GLORIOUS rain!