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Talking Points -- A Christmas letter others were lucky enough to have missed

You've probably received dozens of Christmas letters this year and the approach is always the same. And you know there's a hidden theme in many of them. For example:

• "We hope you're having a blessed Christmas season" (translation -- We haven't been to church in months, but if we use words like "blessed," you'll think that we must be front pew regulars).

• "This has been a very busy year for our family" (translation -- You can't possibly be as involved and engaged -- you can't possibly be as important -- as we are, so Ha! we're better than you, you lazy slugs).

• "Jerry just received a promotion and he deserves it for all the time he devotes to his work." (translation -- Jerry can't stand being around the house very much, so he's turned into a desk junkie).

• "The kids are all doing great in school and participating in everything that comes their way." (translation -- We're just happy the kids are still allowed in school, and they'll do anything to get out of doing homework and being at home with the parents).

• "We took a family trip to Aruba and all had a fantastic time." (translation -- Oh, you didn't have the money to take an expensive trip to a Caribbean island this year? Aw, that's too bad. Did you at least get to the Starbuck beach on Minnewaska? Good for you!).

• "Hope 2007 is a happy and healthy year, and we look forward to hearing from you real soon!" (translation -- Hope you can wait until next winter to live vicariously through us again, and don't even think about calling).

Maybe I'm just cynical -- ya think? -- but that's the way I read some of those letters. And in the few times I've sent out Christmas letters, I tried to put a new twist on it, both to entertain myself and to thumb my nose at the folks who I know use them to be haughty.

So here's a short Christmas letter from me:

"Hi everyone. When you figure out who this is from, I know many of you will say sarcastically under your breath, 'Oh great, he's still alive.' For others, you'll be happy to get this because now you'll have something to get the yule log burning.

"I'd go into a long list of what I've done this year, but it can't be a long list since I haven't done much of anything, really. I stayed out of the way of talented co-workers and they got some things accomplished, I went home and ate dinners I didn't have to cook, and I annoyed the kids to the point that they'd willingly go to their rooms.

"Other things I did: I breathed air 5,781,600 times in 2006. When you really think about it, that's a biggy, and I'm pretty proud of that.

"My heart also beat about 34 million times, which has me on track to surpass the 1.6 billion lifetime beat mark by my birthday. Another 10 years and I'll be closing in on the 2 billion beats milestone. I'll send you a notice as the grand day approaches. Unless I miss a beat or two, in which case you'll probably be getting a different kind of notice about me.

"I did other things a bunch of times in 2006 -- took steps, blinked, said the words, 'Who's turn is it to take out the dog?' Now, I'd prefer to focus on what I didn't do in 2006:

• I didn't get fired. You'd have to know me better to understand what an accomplishment this is.

• I didn't waver in my steadfast refusal to win the Powerball lottery. There are just a few things I absolutely cannot abide and abundant financial security is one of them.

• I did not get a load of gravel for the driveway this summer. The wind patterns just never were right for an afternoon of raking a pile of rock. Maybe 2007 is the year.

• And as long as I broached the subject, I didn't get to, oh, about half of the projects on my 'honey-do' list. This will shock most males, who ardently refuse to kick back in the recliner and handcuff the TV remote to their wrists until they've hammered, cut, clipped, tightened, sharpened, sawed, swept, sanded, stained, puddied, spackled and painted everything that needs it.

"But there were some successes:

• I didn't leave the seat up.

• I didn't drink from the carton.

• I didn't leave an empty carton in the 'frig.

• I didn't leave lights on when I left a room.

• I didn't double-dip my Tostitos.

• I didn't eat peanut butter with a spoon.

• I didn't blow the tax return on a Harley down payment.

• I didn't kick our, nor anyone else's, dog.

• I didn't order pay-per-view movies of questionable content.

• I didn't really send this letter to anyone. In that light, you'd have to consider 2006 to be, indeed, a very good year."