Category: celebrating groundhog day

Groundhog Day 2015: Snow City

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago, you could see plenty of lawn in front of my house. We live out in an open field, so our snow melts faster than many of our friends, but still–almost February, and we had so little snow? What is this–Miami Beach?

Not hardly.

We got the big blizzard last Monday night, followed by another 12″ or so Friday, and now there’s another 6-10″ falling at the moment. Oh. And I discovered there’s another 8-12″ forecast for Thursday. It’s like the gods of winter are trying to make up for missed opportunities. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Snow days as a kid are a mixed blessing. Sure, you get the day off, but then you have to make it up later?

Snow days as an adult working year round? Pure gravy. There’s nothing to make up! Woot!

Last week, I was too sick to really appreciate them (and frankly, I’m still a fair bit sick now–this flu is terrible), but I had 2.75 snow days last week. The kids had a full 3. And today’s another snow day for all of us. Who knows what the storm will bring Thursday. Sometimes these things materialize, and sometimes they fizzle. All I know is that for today, Groundhog Day, we have the whole day to lounge around like the true groundhogs we are.

Alas, it means that there will be no party this evening, with the traditional Groundhog Games of Skill, or the Groundhog Treats, or the communal Groundhog Day viewing. But on the other hand, we’d already canceled, because I didn’t want to risk giving anyone the flu of death as a Groundhog Day present. So we’ll be having games of skill with just the family participating. I’m thinking it might involve lots of board games today. Video games might also be involved. There will be the movie, of course. And for treats, we might just use the cornucopia of treats we had for the Super Bowl yesterday (how ’bout that game, folks? CRAZINESS!).

The great thing about G-Day is there’s no way to really mess it up. You get to do whatever you want to do, every year. You don’t have to live by their rules anymore.

All you do is wake up and decide to have an awesome day, however you want it to be had. And then you go and make that day happen. Sometimes the weather gods smile on you and make things even easier on you, but even when you have work, you can still have a day of pure wow.

Anyway. I’m off to continue my own personal wow day. Wishing you and yours a wonderfulicious Groundhog Day. Let me know how you’re going to celebrate it today in the comments on here or on Facebook!

My Friend the Groundhog

I suppose it was inevitable. We live off in the country. Denisa has a thriving garden each year. Sooner or later, a groundhog was going to find us and start going to town on those tasty veggies.

At first, Denisa thought it was some kind of beetle, or slugs. Something was eating the tops of her broccoli and carrots. She asked around for different ideas about how to deal with it–and then she saw it.

The groundhog in flagrante delicto.

She came inside to complain to me, and I think I wasn’t quite as compassionate and enraged as I ought to have been. My response? “Woo hoo! Our yearly summoning ritual finally paid off. The groundhog has appeared!”

She didn’t think it was as amusing as I did.

In any case, my vote that we encourage the groundhog and keep him as a family mascot or pet was vetoed down quite quickly. Maybe I’d have been better off channeling a  certain Bill Murray + groundhog movie scene. (Maybe not one you’re thinking of.) “I’ve got to get inside this guy’s pelt and crawl around for a couple of days.”

And how about this scene? “We can do that. We don’t even have to have a reason.”

Yeah . . . We’ll see where this goes from here.

Why Groundhog Day Might Be Better Than Christmas

Let’s get the religious argument out of the way right off the kicker. I’m not here to say that Groundhog Day is more important than the celebration of Christ’s birth. (Though I might argue that Christmas these days is about more than the celebration of said birth. But today’s blog post isn’t about that, and it would take me too long to get into it at the moment . . .) No–for my current purposes, I’m just looking at the expectations we all have of any particular day. When I get up on a work day, I have an idea of how that day will go. Breakfast, writing, eight hours of work, home to breathe for a bit, then help kids with homework, make and eat dinner, catch a bit of a movie at night, and off to bed to repeat it all the next day. Typically I’m right.

I have different expectations from weekends. I want to get more done, have more fun–it all depends on the weekend day in question. Whatever it is, I have an idea of what the day is supposed to “be like” before it happens. My feeling on that day then swings on how closely it held up to expectations. Did I get everything done I wanted to? Did I have a good time? Great time? That sort of thing. An average weekend day might be an awesome work day–depending on what I thought I’d get out of it.

Holidays have some expectations that can reach staggering heights, and none are worse offenders at this than Christmas (for me, at least). Think about it–it’s something we start building up to right around Thanksgiving, although my son reminded me yesterday that the buildup actually starts around December 26th. (Seriously. It’s the day after Christmas, and he was already plotting what he was going to ask for next year.) Other holidays have lower expectations. Thanksgiving (for me) is all about eating too much food and then watching football and being a bum. I’ve got tons of practice doing that, and so my Thanksgivings are typically awesome days. Fourth of July? Blow stuff up and eat hamburgers. Easy peasy. Halloween? The expectations are rising, but even still, it all boils down to getting and eating candy. Valentines Day can be a minefield of expectations, but it hasn’t been for me. Denisa and I aren’t like that.

But then there’s Christmas.

Take a minute and think about everything this day is supposed to be. You’ve got to provide a stunning, childhood defining day for your children, all the while making sure they don’t forget the “real meaning of Christmas” and turn into present-hungry piranhas. You need to figure out good, thoughtful gifts for a slew of family. You need to write Christmas cards and send them off to everybody and their brother (or else face their wrath, it sounds like). You need to reach out to all your close loved ones and make sure they feel loved, and you need to prep and consume a real humdinger of a dinner. Oh yeah–and then there’s Christmas parties that must be awesome, and a Christmas Eve that needs to be out of the park, too. And don’t forget decorations and all the rest of that shopping. And wrapping wrapping wrapping. And make sure to see all the great Christmas movies. And–and–and–

It’s a day with huge expectations. (I realize it might not be for you. Please don’t rub it in.)

What I’m trying to say is that to even meet those expectations, you need to have a home run. To exceed them? Good luck. Christmas is the summer blockbuster of holidays. It’s the day that everybody expects to be awesome, and if it’s just excellent or really cool, then the disappointment can feel sharp.

This is not to say my Christmas was bad this year. I had a great Christmas. Real blast. But then I compare it to today. I’m taking the day off, and so my expectations were slightly heightened, but not that high. And I’m going ice fishing, Denisa’s taking TRC skiing, I’m going to go to a Magic draft, and then I’m going to top the day off by watching the BYU bowl game. It’s going to be a great day (at least it has been so far . . .)

And it didn’t take me a month of prep to pull off.

Which brings me to Groundhog Day. My love for the holiday is well known, and I think one of the reasons for it is that the expectations of the day are so low. Pretty much nil. Watch the movie, eat some sweets, the end. Groundhog Day is willing to be whatever I want it to be. It can have a huge party, or not. It can have special food, or not. I never feel an ounce of guilt for having missed a special Groundhog Day treat. It is what it is.

And it’s lovely.

Maybe the lesson to be learned here is deeper. Maybe it’s about celebrating the holidays more simply, and not expecting so much out of myself or any one day in particular. But those are deeper thoughts for a deeper day.

I’ve got fun things to do. This day’s got a lot to get done, after all.

Happy day after the day after Christmas!

And the Winner of the Groundhog Haiku Contest Is . . .

After 74 votes over the space of a week, some pretty intense campaigning, and allegations of voter fraud, I’m proud to announce a winner of my Groundhog Haiku contest. Ready?
Her winning haiku, in its entirety:

A groundhog I am
Call me Punxsutawney Phil
I’ll eat your garden
Debbie gets to have a character named after her in my current book, TARNHELM. In fact, I’ve already picked out the spot for her to reside, and I’m presenting you with her scene in its entirety, right now. (Debbie, your name can appear however you’d like–just let me know.) To give you all some context, the main character (Vee–a new kid in the school) is going up to talk to a girl (Victoria–Miss Popularity). The book’s told from Vee’s point of view, and he’s patterned his life after film noir. So it’s supposed to have a sort of Sam Spade flair to the text.
Victoria was surrounded by a court of cheerleaders, with a select few jocks peppered around the table to make things cordial. I stood in the doorway behind her, observing for a spell before I spoke to her.

She was clearly the alpha cheer. Every detail at the table screamed it. The way the other girls’ eyes would flick to her for approval or cues about what to do, the way she managed the emotions of the group with a flirting smile in one direction, a well-placed hand on a shoulder, a tiny frown of confusion. No one at the table was allowed to forget her for a moment. If she could have it her way, the whole room would be devoted to her.

Their table sat right in the middle of the cafeteria. Lines for hoagies on one side and pizza on the other. You couldn’t eat a school lunch and not pass by her coterie. It was almost enough to make a man want to start brown bagging it.

I left my post by the door and strode over to the table, tapping the doll to Victoria’s right on the shoulder. “You’re wanted in the guidance counselor’s office,” I said.

The girl turned and frowned at me. “Excuse me?”

“Guidance counselor sent me to get you.”


“I’m pretty sure,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Debbie Kinney-Dearden.”

I snapped my fingers and pointed at her. “That’s the one. They’re expecting you.”


I shrugged. “Didn’t ask. Not my business.”

Debbie got up and grabbed a few books and her purse and then hustled out of the room. I sat down in her now empty seat. “What are we talking about?” I asked loudly, smiling at the rest of them.

I got a sea of disapproval in return, a wall of disgruntled fake noses and perfect teeth. Victoria defused the situation by laughing. “Everyone, this is Vee. Vee, this is everyone. He’s doing an article about me for the school newspaper. Weren’t we going to do the interview after school today, Vee?”

“Sorry,” I said. “Must have slipped my mind.”

One of the cheer squad must have taken that as a sign of weakness—a chance to pounce. “You’re not in seventh period lunch,” she said, her lip curled up in revulsion for who knew what reason.

“Beautiful and observant,” I said. “What a winning combination.” I turned to Victoria. “Now if you don’t mind, Princess, you and I need to have that interview.”

“Now?” She was still smiling, but there was an edge around her eyes—I didn’t know her well enough to know if it was panic or fear or something else.

“No time like the present. Would you like to do it here, or is there some place more . . . comfortable?”

“I know just the place.” She pushed back from the table and stood up. As we left the room, I heard conversation start back up in her court. No doubt the rumor mill about us would be churning away happily by now. To the best of my knowledge, our school didn’t even havea paper.

So there you have it. I won’t tell you what the rest of the book’s about, but that’s a nice sneak peek there as a thank you to all who voted. I’ll make sure to keep everybody updated if the book gets picked up for publication. In the meantime, remember: less than a month until Vodnik comes out!

Groundhog Haiku Contest

So as you all know, we had the official Groundhog Party last week, and there was the ever-popular Groundhog Games of Skill. This year’s slate of contests included Tossing Cards into a Hat, Drawing a Groundhog with Your Eyes Closed, and Groundhog Speed Haiku.

That’s right–in five minutes or less, contestants had to come up with their best groundhog-themed haiku, and party goers then voted on which haiku was the winner.

Naturally, I’m going to share those haiku with you now, because when you’ve got a bunch of groundhog haiku, that’s not the sort of thing you just sit on. However, I’ve decided that it would be much more interesting and fair to open the joy of creating groundhog Japanese poetry to the world in general.

Let’s have a contest.

I’m removing the time constraint. You’ve got as long as you want to come up with your haiku. Well, at least until entries start drying up. We’ll let it go at least a week. Once a week has passed and I don’t see any more entries flooding in (because I expect there to be *so many* entries), I will pick the top five haiku, and then I’ll put those five up for a vote to you, my faithful readers. At that point, you’ll all be able to vote for a week or so, and then I’ll declare the winner.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a cool contest if we didn’t have some sort of cool giveaway, would it? I’ll be running another Vodnik contest soon (to give away some e-copies of the book), but we just had one of those, and I feel like I’m shilling the book just a tad much right this second, so I’ll mix this one up a bit. The winner of THIS contest will get to have his or her name (or a name of their choice–within reason) immortalized in my next book, Tarnhelm. (Note: you’re not going to be a major character, but your name will appear in the text itself, not just the acknowledgments page. Also note that I can’t guarantee this book will ever be published, seeing as how I don’t have a contract for it. But who knows–it could be the next smash hit, right? And there would be your name, for the whole world to see.)

Sound fair?

For those of you who don’t know, haiku are three lines–the first is five syllables long, the second is seven, and the third is five again. That’s all the constraints you have, other than the fact that it has to deal with Groundhog Day somehow. (Doesn’t have to be about the film, but it can be.) Remember, you have essentially two audiences here. First is me–I have to like your haiku enough to put it in the top 5. So you need something that’s going to appeal to me. But then you also need something that’s going to appeal to all my billions of blog readers.

Decisions decisions . . .

You’re welcome to enter the contest as many times as you like. But each entry has to have a new haiku, and I’m only going to select one haiku per entrant when it comes to the final round.

To get your thought processes churning, here are the entries from the party–I’m already including all of them in the contest (to ensure that we at least have some entries, no matter what).

Entry 1
Groundhogs are my friends
Shadow watching to the end
Winter’s almost done
Entry 2
Is that my shadow?
Can winter be almost done?
Six more weeks til spring!

Entry 3
Every day the same:

I Got You Babe plays again.
Sonny & Cher. Yuck.
Entry 4
Groundhog groundhog here I am
Brown and fat and round
Come out, come out of the ground.
Entry 5
Watch *the* Bill Murray
Play with groundhog so furry.
Watch as they scurry.
Entry 6
Groundhog Day is here.
Quit messing with my winter,
Brown and furry rat.
Entry 7
Gobblers Knob and Polka
Sweet Vermouth with Ned and Nancy
Wake up Phil. Go home!

Those are some pretty strong entries. Think you can beat ’em? Start Haiku-ing!

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