The Dark Side tries to spoil new ‘Star Wars’ for me

Must … resist … the … Dark … Side. It calls to me. Tempts me to read spoilers about “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” before I have a chance to see it.

“Brian! Just Google: ‘spoilers for new Star Wars movie.’ The Force will show you the way.”

No … must … resist ….

I messed up royally with the last installment. Read a few too many stories and learned about Han Solo’s death. Wait, a minute … you didn’t know that? I meant how he landed the Millennium Falcon in a yellow zone and Republic Parking Enforcement put a boot on it.

I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I don’t want to read too much, or accidentally scroll through something that gives away key plot points.

I have to resist for a few more days … until I can get my unenthusiastic family off the couch to go see it.

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Dial-it-in Christmas decorating

It may have been a world record for Christmas decorating. In fact, I think it took longer to get the boxes out of the attic than it did to get ornaments on the tree and the holiday nick-knacks dispersed about the house.

I’ve nearly foregone Christmas just so I wouldn’t have to drag those dang boxes down the rickety attic steps. Nothing is worse than hitting your head multiple times, stumbling over luggage and nearly toppling out of the opening, only to be told: “No! That’s a box of Thanksgiving stuff! We need Christmas!”

But once it was all down, decorating became a slapdash race this year. Even more so than previous years. At times, it looked more like net-casting or leaf-blowing than decorating.

Maybe it was the weather. It felt like 120 degrees outside as I strained in the sun to put Christmas light icicles around the front porch and not get impaled on the bougainvillea. My wife reported to her aunt in Long Island that it was a very Florida Christmas: “We’re all in shorts, the doors are open and we’ve got the AC running.”

Maybe that had something to do with the not-so-festive mood. The just-get-it-done approach. Like we were at the beach, not the North Pole.

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Lessons from Thanksgiving

It was a time to give thanks — to be mindful, take stock in all that we have and show gratitude. That is the meaning of Thanksgiving. But along with it, the holiday brings a lot of other lessons for us to learn and ponder. Lessons not quite as significant, but just as important.

Like how dogs would sooner be thrown into a pool of hot lava than go out in the rain. And if you’re in a hurry – because it’s Thanksgiving morning and there’s a turkey in the oven – they’ll fight you even more.

My brother and his family traveled north this year to visit my sister-in-law’s family. We took care of his dog, who I affectionately refer to as “Meat Chunk.” It’s because she resembles a side of beef. She runs around the house with my dog crashing into things, dislodging structural support walls and crushing toes.

Because my dog and his are like dueling tornadoes, Meat Chunk was going back to her house Thanksgiving morning. The rainy morning. The morning when everything was flooded. The morning I had a 15-second window that didn’t include time for scrambling around the car trying to get her out and yelling, “Damn you, Meat Chunk, it’s just a little rain!”

That got a few stares on the street.

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The Thanksgiving Quiz

Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and to get everyone ready for the cooking and the horde of family members who will complain about your food, question all of your hard work and then spend the whole day fighting like a pack of drunken honey badgers, I’ve put together this quiz. Answers at the bottom.

1. How do you know when the turkey is ready?
A. It reaches an internal temperature of 865 degrees.
B. The ice chunk in the body cavity finally melts.
C. You get tired of guests asking when it’s going to be ready so you just start carving it, even though the juices aren’t running clear.
D. You have a “hunch” or a “good feeling about it.”

2. At what time is it appropriate to open the first bottle of wine?
A. 5:15 a.m.
B. 5:30 a.m.
C. 5:45 a.m.
D. After the 52nd time your mother calls asking when she is supposed to come over.

3. What is the best way to defuse family tension at the dinner table?
A. Tap dance routine.
B. Faking appendicitis.
C. Blurting out as loud as you can: “IT WAS COL. MUSTARD IN THE PARLOR WITH THE PIPE!!!”
D. Demand that all family members submit to genetic testing to prove that you are related by blood.

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Long live Halloween, said the dad with the stretched waistband

At the last moment, Halloween was saved. My worst fears — that a pyramid-sized pile of candy wouldn’t materialize from my daughter’s well-worn trick-or-treating pumpkin — were allayed.

Long live Halloween … the night when dads gorge themselves on the spoils of their children’s hard work.

But this year, it wasn’t looking so good. My 11-year-old daughter had decided a week or so ago she wasn’t going to participate. No dressing up. No trick-or-treating with friends. No pyramid of sweetness for dear old dad. She would just give out candy at home … THAT WE HAD TO BUY!!!

My daughter only eats about a third of her candy from Halloween: pink and red Starbursts, a scattering of Skittles, Whoppers and a few other sugar-laden, artificially-dyed brands. They have to meet her high standards, and not seem tampered with. (If a cat so much as looks at my child funny, she blacklists the house, quarantines the candy as “tampered with” and turns it over to me.)

All that candy – Almond Joys, Snickers, Baby Ruths! – all become mine.

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It’s 4-year-old party time … spark the chain reaction

A nuclear chain reaction occurs when subatomic particles collide in spectacular fashion, causing the particles to change (they become generally grumpy, irritable and complain a lot) followed by additional reactions that release incredible energy … and burn your face off.

The closest you should ever come to experiencing such an event is attending a 4-year-old boy’s birthday party. In this case, you will see a blast of white light, feel intense, overwhelming heat and find yourself balled up in a corner screaming, “Why, Lord, why?!?”

This will inevitably prompt a curious 4-year-old to wander over and ask in the sweetest, most consoling voice: “Do you like Transformers? Because I like Transformers!”

At this point, you will wish that your face HAD burned off.

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Dreaming of anchovies and ‘Survivor’

I’ve always want to be on the TV show, “Survivor.” I’m a huge fan and pictured myself scrambling over obstacles, organizing blindsides, eating coconuts and pretty much becoming a banquet for mosquitoes.

I would do pretty well, I figured. I’m scrappy. I can rough it. I like a challenge. I would “survive!”

I’ve thought all of this … right up until the other night. The night the dream died.

It was at a youth group meeting at Memorial Presbyterian. A dinner “with games” for kids and parents to kick off the year. I figured it would be board games or goofy get-to-know-you types. But instead they announced it would be a take on the TV show “Fear Factor,” which puts contestants in scary situations to see how they respond.

Close enough to “Survivor” to see what I’m made of!

I volunteered for an “eating” contest. I pictured myself scarfing down a giant bowl of meatballs or gummy bears in front of an adoring crowd screaming, “Bri-an! Eats-like! A-pig!”

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The anticlimactic middle school drop-off

Is it wrong as a parent to want a little drama? A little upset-ment? A little kicking and screaming and “Why world?!? Don’t make me go!”

Is it wrong to think that starting 6th grade — this major milestone, this turning point in the lives of the Thompson household, this big new, adventure — shouldn’t be so easy?

Or is that kind of selfish?

Because the first day of school — of middle school! — was pretty anticlimactic. Downright dull, and even un-eventful. It felt a bit like every other day.

And it shouldn’t … BECAUSE I DIED A LITTLE INSIDE!

MY BABY IS GROWING UP, PEOPLE! (And she doesn’t seem to mind.)

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Giving up Cuban coffee, and going against the family

There are some of you who know my mother. See my mother. Talk to her on a regular basis. And because she doesn’t read this column, I ask you for a favor: NEVER mention what I am about to write.

Because that will be it for me. Over. I will be banished. Cast off from the family. Written out of the will. Seated at the uncomfortable corner at Christmas dinner with the chair that could collapse at any minute. Called a “traitor” and someone who disrespects his heritage.

Why? It’s all because I’ve given up on Cuban coffee.

Oh, the horror! The shame! I am truly a bad son.

Yes, it is true. I now brew Starbucks mass-produced grounds in a super-easy 4-cup American-style coffeemaker. It takes mere minutes and can be done in one easy step.

I have traded tradition for simplicity and convenience. And truth is, I really like it!

I realized recently I don’t want to give up a half hour every morning just for proper percolation! To put on the leather apron and gloves and goggles for when the molten caffeine starts to spit sparks. All for an early morning jolt. My new little coffeemaker can do it in a fraction of the time.

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On becoming mom … for one weekend of travel

“You’re mom now,” my daughter said. We were at the airport waiting on a flight to Detroit. She was holding a wad of chewed-up gum as thick as her fist.

I was dumbfounded. Unsure what to do or say. So, I tried something deep and insightful: “Huh?!?”

“You’re MOM!” the 11-year-old repeated. “Mom always has a piece of paper for my gum. Don’t you have a piece of paper?!?”

“Paper? I don’t have any paper. I don’t have anything! Go spit it out.”

She stood there and stared at me. Might have even sighed.

“You’re mom now.” What did that even mean?!?

We were traveling together. Just dad and daughter … alone. On the way to see my sister perform in the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. A super-fast trip. Two nights. It was the first time we had gone somewhere so far, and so long, without my wife.

No mom. (Could we manage?)

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