Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cosmos and Perogies

It's New Year's Eve. So many thoughts tumbling around my head.

Resolutions, reflections, and procrastinations.
Dreams, wishes, concerns and causes.
Plans, projects and possibilities.
Past and present.

Thank you 2008 for milestones and memories too many to mention.
I face 2009 with unyielding optimism and the feeling that humankind is on the precipice of collective consciousness. We will need that.

So on this last night of 2008, I concocted myself a cosmopolitan and fried up some perogies - bacon, onions and all! Total comfort food and comfort. I saw the movie Milk with my eldest daughter this afternoon, spoke to my parents and MIH to exchange Happy New Years' wishes and left a message on daughter 2's answering machine. Loose ends are tied up. Two hours left in 2008 and then a new calendar will begin. A new page will be written. For now, I sit quietly sipping my cosmo, my heart full of gratitude and my tummy full of perogies!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Second Chances

It's been an emotional day. I went with MIH to meet her first mom for only the second time. First Mom lives a few hours away and we were meeting up to take her to lunch as a celebration of her 75th birthday. On the drive out there our casual chit chat couldn't mask the underlying smorgasbord of emotion. What to expect? What to ask? What to feel? So many questions -- how will this new family intersect with the existing family - if at all?

MIH was warm but a little guarded when First Mom opened the door and hugged her. First Mom seemed smaller in person that her picture. I watched MIH intently to see how she was reacting to all of this. I found it mind boggling ... We sat with First Mom for a while in her home and I couldn't resist asking a few questions about MIH's first father and brothers. The pain on First Mom's face was evident but her eyes sparkled with hope. MIH's eyes were perpetually brimming - with an occasional rogue tear escaping.
Naked truth. First Mom was brave and honest as she described her life and choices. MIH was equally honest as she in turn described the life she had lead with her adopted parents. It occurred to me that I was witnessing a second chance for these beautiful strong women. There is time. First Mom was so young when she had MIH - that she is only 17 years older. As they exchanged stories and tried to compress 53 years of life into 2 hours I couldn't help but note the similarities between them. I couldn't resist the occasional enthusiastic "MIH does that too!"

Both women are warm and somewhat reserved -- maybe cautious is the better word. They have faced personal challenges and longed for that which they were missing. They share an attitude of living choices - and choosing attitudes. Both did the best they could and made the most of the circumstances they were handed. Neither time nor space has prohibited the seedlings of familiarity from taking root. Family.

Sharing. Acceptance. Empathy. Forgiveness. Second chances. What a gift!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Farewells and Reunions

Today my sister and I dropped our parents off at the airport for their flight back to Florida. Luckily we were all busy unloading luggage, hugging goodbye, and exchanging last minute instructions - which removed the emotional teary quotient from our farewell. I usually get a lump the size of Alaska in my throat when I have to say goodbye to Pops and the family. I just swallowed it whole and kept my mind busy. I just wasn't up for sadness. But when I drive by and their house is dark, and no one to hear my honk .... : (

The drive home - which included a border crossing (and a lengthy wait) - gave my sister and I a rare opportunity for uninterrupted chatter. Not that we need an excuse but still, it was a nice treat.

Tomorrow I am taking a road trip of another sort with MIH. I know she has great anxieties about it but in my heart I know she will make a memory tomorrow that will become a treasure for her to cherish always. She is going to celebrate her first mom's 75th birthday by taking her to lunch and I know that no matter what, that will be the best gift her first mom will get this year. And they both have waited a lifetime for it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Loose Threads

The house is eerily quiet. My sister and her family left for home at the crack of dawn. Kidlet is at driving school. Eldest daughter has already checked in ... I have had a decadent day so far. I stayed in bed this morning to finish watching The Jane Austen Book Club. With the wind howling and rattling the house and the dog cuddled close - it couldn't have been more perfect. Only my caffeine craving drove me downstairs in search of coffee.

I moved my lazy behind - coffee in hand - to the family room and catch a retrospect of famous people who passed in 2008. Artists, scientists, actors, musicians and pioneers. Famous people who left the world a better place. It made me think of all of the not-famous people who also make the world a better place just for being in it.

MIHToday is my MIH's (mom-in-heart) birthday. I refer to her as MIH as she is far too special to be called "in-law", a term that implies a mandated relationship. Ours has grown far past that ... and we have found we share a deep belief that we can choose our response to the events and circumstances in our life. For Christmas I gave her the Randy Pausch book, The Last Lecture. She is not a huge reader but I know that she will enjoy his perspective on living life fully - a philosophy she lives every day. She has been grappling with issues from her childhood and has important decisions to make regarding her birth family. This year could be pivotal --and she will choose.

My Dad and StepMom head back to Florida tomorrow. This will truly mark the end of the holiday season for me. I am proud that I have spent every Christmas Day- since birth - with my parents. They embody Christmas for me. What is it about Christmas that triggers the memory reel to roll? This is truly a time for reflection and gratitude. My memory reel is rich with colour, relatives, hugs, love -- more than most have in a lifetime. For my childhood, I am supremely grateful. For the life I have built today - I am content and blessed.

The house is eerily quiet -- and peaceful. And for that - I am grateful.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Books are Back

I have loved books as long as I can remember and this Christmas, I received a record 9 books as gifts. Each one is a variation on a theme near and dear to me. More importantly - they show me that the people close to me really know me.

~ G R A T I T U D E ~

One of my most favourite was the new Annie Leibovitz book, filled with stories behind her pictures and the people she has photograghed. I have only have a few minutes to scan the pages but I can't wait to dive into it. I have my new collection neatly stacked on my desk -- my very own literary feast just waiting to be devoured. If I could I would barracade myself in a cosy little cave and read for a week. I may need a reading vacation!

~ C O N T E N T M E N T ~

Of course this all has reinforced my desire for a library .... and if you can believe it - as I write this blog entry, there is a design makeover TV show on. Subject: home libraries.

Synchronicity at its best. Universe is telling me I need a library. Is anyone listening? : )

Amyway - books are back - to stay!

~ H A P P I N E S S ~

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Afterglow

Well it's over now-- and it was grand. Weeks of effort - shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning are the seeds, and the 2 or 3 days of concentrated family times and a lifetime of memories are the harvest.

Things got really busy just before Christmas eve and with the gentle reminding of hubby I resisted getting worked up about the stuff that simply did not get done -- even though that "thing" ended up being the cleaning. Yikes. I just camouflaged the dust and dirt and hid the clutter as I repeated the mantra "focus on what is really important". Low lighting helped too.

Christmas Eve at hubby's parents was a great kick start. My MIH loves Christmas and embodies the very best part of the season -- colour, generosity, family, love abundance. We left there with contented with full bellies and sore cheeks from smiling. Their Shar-Pei was a big reason for the smiles!

Christmas morning was magical ... hubby and I were up before the kids. The times definitely are a' changing! There is a sacred space of time just before the world awakens, the house is quiet and lit only by the Christmas tree, in which there is utter peace. I love that and claim that special time as my own.

In spite of our vow to cut back on materialism, the tree bulged with gifts. There was a distinct difference though ... the gifts were more thoughtful and meaningful - evidenced by wide smiles, misty eyes and hugs. I parted with two of my most precious possessions; I gave eldest daughter a gold locket that was bought as a gift when my mother was born 69 years ago. She is my mother's namesake and I knew she would treasure it. Middle daughter received my 1942 edition of Anne of Green Gables that had been my mother's. My way of giving while I live ....

The feast -- Hubby took on turkey duty and wowed us with the results of his constant coddling and basting of the bird. The lemons, oranges, apples and onions didn't hurt either. The chatter was animated, constant and loud. I often wonder how food even gets eaten in our family -- as the din never ceases!

At the end of the day, the pots were piled high, the house was littered with food remnants, and half empty wine glasses, and hubby and I were exhausted. At the end of the day we all agreed that it was one of the best Christmas' ever -although we say that every year. Kidlet gave me keeper moment when she spontaneously wrapped her arms around me and told me she was happier than she has been in a really long time.

At the end of the day, it was grand. And I am still basking in the afterglow of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's a Wrap! Not!

Countdown is on - and it's not days, but rather, hours. Thought I was ready.

tick tock

Laundry to do. Bedding to change. Presents to find (the ones I tucked away in really good spots).

tick tock

Rugs to vaccuum - or maybe burn! Toilets to scrub. Floors to wash. Presents to find (I hid them so well even I can't find them). Pictures to print.

tick tock

Food to buy. Camera battery to charge. One more gift card to buy - and more if I don't find those hidden presents.

tick tock

Dog to bath. Fridge to wipe. House to clean.

tick tock

What's that ticking??? Of course - It's the sound of Christmas thundering towards us- ready or not! And I thought it was a wrap ....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gifts that keep on giving ...

Amidst all of the usual "news" and weather doom and gloom forecasts on TV this morning, a story on a unique "green company" caught my attention. Now I know where I will be buying my Christmas cards next year ... Botanical Paperworks. They are based out of Winnipeg and produce eco-paper products made from 100% post consumer waste. And that isn't even the best part -- the paper is embedded with seeds and when you are finished with the paper, you can plant it and voila - something grows - wildflowers, herbs etc. How perfect is that! Eco-friendly, green, responsibly produced, Canadian, and a gift that keeps on giving. Now that is my kinda gift!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let the fun begin

The best part of the Christmas season is about to begin ... the seemingly endless get-togethers with family and my special friends. As I write this I hear the hum of snow blowers in the background and see the "smoke" streaming outside from our furnace. I haven't ventured outside yet.

I thought I was so well prepared and ahead of the game but now as I sit amid the laundry that needs to be put away, the floor that needs serious cleaning and the odds and sods from kidlet, wrapping remnants and other stuff that has accumulated on our coffee table, I can feel the rumblings of panic setting in. Yikes. I still have to buy drinks and wrap a few things to bring to our first big family party this afternoon. And then there is that baking I haven't started. Oh - and I better remember to shower!

What to do first ... Calm down. Don't get overwhelmed. One thing at a time. Exhale.
Geesh, that felt good.

I just have to remember the point of all the preparations -- family-time! I can't lose sight of the forest for the trees. Priorities! That being said, it's time for me to get off the computer and get ready to go. Start living the fun - instead of just writing about it!

UPDATE: A wonderful time was had by all ... and just as we were leaving, it gently began to snow and one couldn't help but feel the peace and see the hope glistening.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stormy Weather ...

Today was the first storm of the year. Welcome Christmas! Welcome winter! Left for work early this morning in clear skies knowing that the ride home would be a treat! Managed a few shots on the drive home (thanks to auto focus).

Visibility was zero in some places on the highway ...

Our street looking so very peaceful.

Home sweet home. Benzie (my car) came through and won me over. Jeep rules!

Hubby duelling with the shovel!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Lives of Poo!

I had been complaining that I've been having a hard time trying to find gifts that are responsibly produced and "green". Then today - after all of my shopping was completed (of course) - I stumbled across the most interesting website with the best gift ideas ever ... Ellie Poo! Paper products made from elephant dung collected mainly from elephant orphanages from Sri Lanka (and then distributed by Mr Ellie Pooh.) Doesn`t get much greener than that. They have a wonderful collection of handmade journals, stationary, scrapbook/photo albums and paper.
Hits all my hot buttons: eco friendly, environmentally sustainable, "green" environmentally conscious company.
Definitely something to keep in mind for next year. And it reinforces that old adage -- when life hands you poo, make pooper -- paper!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Let it snow ...

Today I woke up to a fresh white blanket of snow. Perfect! Things are really coming together for a perfect white Christmas. While everyone around us have been shovelling the stuff for weeks, my little town somehow dodged the snowfalls, leaving a very bleak, gray landscape. Not now!

My hubby didn't share my enthusiasm at 6:15 am this morning as he donned his touque and shovel ... however he did clean off and start my car for me so he obviously has the Christmas spirit in there somewhere ...

For some reason Canadians forget how to drive in the snow over the summer. Even though the snowploughs had already cleared the highways, cars were chugging along at a snail's pace as if they were terrified, braking every few seconds as if to test that the brakes do in fact work. Ugh! i tried not to get impatient and instead found a radio station with Christmas music and sang my little heart out all the way to work, waving happily to the truck drivers as I sailed past them. Corny - I know. And another thing I know is that I need driving glasses. As my optometrist predicted, these "aging" eyes can no longer see the white lines on the highway if it is dark and rainy. I rely on lights on the cars in front of me and hope they know where the heck they are going. And the drive isn't going to get easier as the winter progresses. So an eye exam is on my "to do" list!

Getting back to Christmas ... the parents arrived last night from Florida and I stopped in on my way home from work. We opened a bottle of wine and sat back to catch up on the last few months. It wasn't long before little sister stopped in too. Another bottle of wine! As we sat gathered around the coffee table munching and chatting (and sipping) I got that warm glow in my tummy that signals absolute contentment. Life is indeed good.

And today is my company's Christmas luncheon ... another bead on the Christmas string. So for now -- at this very moment -- all is calm and all is white!

Monday, December 15, 2008

With every Christmas card I write ...

Love this time of year. Lots of deliveries (Internet shopping!!) and mail. And amongst the plethora of flyers, newspapers and bills piled high on the kitchen table are the gems -- Christmas cards! There are those from special people close by and then there are those annual communications from friends and family from far away, those who use this opportunity to fill you in on all of the news of the past year. Today I came home to three -- one from a high school friend that included a family update letter, one from my aunt who lives out of town and one from a lady who was a close friend of my mother and father who lives up north, and remembers me every Christmas. They join the ever growing display on the kitchen buffet. Ahhh. Love it!

Isn't that what Christmas is all about -- our relationships. Reaching out for that connection, gently fanning the spark on brittle kindling to coax a flame. Tonight I am sending out my own communications, or at least writing them. I am thumbing through my address book to build my list and putting the final touches on my family Christmas letter. With any luck I'll have 30 cards to drop into the mail tomorrow (or at least Wednesday). Sowing seeds! The harvest is love.

I suppose I am fortunate to have 30 people in my life I want to reach out to. (Note to self to not take that for granted). Tomorrow my dad and stepmom migrate back from the south for two weeks of Christmas cheer and a healthy dose of winter. Kidlet and I dropped by their house to turn the heat up and stock some essentials. The pieces of the Christmas puzzle are coming together and I can't wait! No coal in the sock for me. I've been a good girl and I just know my Christmas wish is going to come true. It already is ...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel Alot Like Christmas

Tree is up! Our eclectic (fake) tree adorned - each ornament either a piece of family history or a gift from someone special. The Christmas music is loaded into my MP3 player - a really good assortment I must add - and is all hooked up to my sound system. I am finished my shopping and this weekend I even got everything wrapped up. I didn't buy wrapping paper and I decided to only use my cloth bags, reuse my gift bags or old boxes I had kicking around. I am getting in touch with my creative (s)elf. Label me Christmas Wiz (or not). At least I met one goal - to get all of the shopping and errands out of the way early so we could be freed up to actually enjoy the company of our family and friends. What a concept!

It looks as though that is going to happen ... this is the year that our whole family - my parents, daughters, sisters and brother and all of the nieces and nephews are all together for Christmas Day. My girls love when we have the "big one", as do I. Not sure if it's my imagination but it seems as though people are in particularly good moods as they go about their Christmas errands. Surprising considering the times ...

Anyway -nothing can dampen this girl's Christmas spirit. Soon the house will be filled with the smells of Christmas -- as soon as I move kidlet's stinking hockey bag from the front foyer and start baking! But that is for another day!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Laws of Attraction in Action

It's been nice lately to have someone to chat with about the laws of attraction, dreams, books and what is important is this life. My new cube neighbour at work and I share a belief in the principles of creating your own reality, power of thought, visualization and much more. Before our day gets started we exchange "success" stories and anecdotes, coffee mugs in hand. It reminds me how important it is to have someone to share with. Those lively heart-to-heart chats reinforce and inject positive energy into the otherwise stale office air and help set the compass for the day.

Today we were talking about how we can look back on what seemed like times of chaos and disorder and see it all as pieces of a puzzle fitting together perfectly. That unplanned pregnancy that lead to a bigger apartment. That first job with a tough boss that taught us our work ethic. Sometimes our "vision" is limiting -- so defined that we don't leave room for even greater possibility.

At lunch we joked about the laws of attraction -- as she tried to take one piece of bread, but got two stuck together. She really wanted that extra starch! But as Richard Bach says in his book Illusions, "every person, all the events of your live in our life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you". My cube colleague and I -- have something to learn from one another -and that's no accident!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Giving As a Way of Living

During this season of giving, I am uncomfortable. I am restless. It seems everything I am giving, is easy for me to give. I need to give something deeper - more - something that I would be parting with, a sacrifice of sorts. That volunteering notion is nagging me again, creeping from my subconscious to activate my generosity switch.

As we drove past a maximum security corrections facility for youth I thought aloud that maybe I would like to volunteer there ... maybe run a writing group or something. My accomplished teenager asked me (rhetorically) what I knew about running a writing group. A cauldron of emotions boiled over inside me and it confirmed what I already knew (apart from the fact that my daughter seems to know nothing about me personally); I have to be a living example of the change I want to see. I have to do it for her, for my community and most importantly for me.

As a teenager I volunteered at an organization for mentally and physically challenged people. I have never know such joy and fulfillment. I spread my time between the workshops, stores and my most favourite - the group home. I came home every night bubbling with stories of the affection and attachments I was forming with the special people I was supposedly helping. In actuality, we helped one another. They taught me about unconditional acceptance and love and most importantly, I learned about myself. I learned that I had alot of love to share as well as alot of care. I learned that when you volunteer, you always get back tenfold what you give. That's not the reason to give, but it is a reason to live - more abundantly, spiritually and authentically.

The right stream will present itself to me, and when it does, I am ready.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Making a List ...

I pledged that no matter what - in every preparation, activity and event related to Christmas that I was involved in - I would have love in my heart. I vowed not to say I was stressed out, complain, nor get grumpy in the crowds. I want to wring every possible joy out of this special time of year; to simplify; be more authentic in my giving; and to give while I live.

I set out to buy gifts that are responsibly and ethically produced. This has turned out to be harder than I anticipated. Discouraged after wandering big box stores and reading Made in China labels, I came home and went online. What a pleasure to browse and search in the comfort of your comfy flannels. I think when we find ourselves stumped on what to give someone we are supposed to know so well, because "they have that already", it's time to give a gift that keeps on giving.

I especially love the Hunger Site; it provides a ton of options for gift giving - benefiting a whole host of causes ranging from literacy, animal rescue, hunger to rain forest, breast cancer and child health. I have ordered everything from luggage tags to education for Afghan girls over the years. is especially dear to me. I love that the organization works to help people in need become self reliant and speaks to the ideal of giving a hand up. This year I am also giving Kiva gift credits. For $25 people can become micro loaners to people all around the world who are trying to build better lives for themselves. I find myself pouring over the stories of the waiting entrepreneurs and coming away inspired. They should have an addiction warning on the site cause once you start -- you can`t stop!

We give for many different reasons; personally, I love the good, warm feeling I get from watching the delight and pleasure on the faces of my friends and family as they open the gifts I have chosen for them. With Kiva and Heifer gifts, the satisfaction and good feeling come from knowing you are helping someone live a better life. And there is no greater gift than that.

So - I`m making a list and checking it twice.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's The Real Thing ...

Today was a great day; one that marked a very important tradition in our family -- decorating our Christmas tree. Old dusty boxes were retrieved from the various storage nooks and my hubby set up and readied our artificial tree. Yup - artificial. For years I felt that I was taking the environmentally friendly option by not killing a living tree for the pleasure of having it in my living room for a mere two weeks. I now feel very differently ... regrets -- I've had a few.

I am embarrassed by my unnaturally perfect, unnatural tree - that - once I am finished with it - will end up in a landfill, not decomposing forever and ever. The other problem I have is that half my family (me included) are seriously allergic to the live trees. What to do??

For now I have decided to keep using my already purchased artificial tree until it can be used no more. It would be pointless to retire it to a landfill prematurely solely to assuage my shame and guilt.

One thing that isn't artificial though - the warm and fuzzy feeling I get watching my girls "Christmasize" our home. Lights, stockings, garlands and ornaments. Finally - it's beginning to look alot like Christmas -- and it's the real thing!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

View From My Cube

At work I usually keep the blinds down in my work cube. The view of the alley and graffiti isn't particularly inspiring. Especially on those gray, overcast days - it seems easier to block out the real world and create our own inside, comforting zone. I think many of us feel that way about the situation with our government. The situation is messy and somewhat dismal and it is easier to look away or pull the blinds down.

The view may not be pretty but these are definitely interesting times for Canada. Our minority government has been suspended (prorogued -- gotta love that word) until the end of January during a time of great economic strain and public unrest. Many thought that another election was inevitable, and then there were those who were against the coalition government. I for one was all for a coalition government.

Considering we just had an election, and the fact that Harper is exploiting the minority situation - banking on the other parties not wanting to force and election and fall into disfavour with the public - and is trying to push his garbage through) - I am all for a coalition. I think the parties would have to focus less on partisan positions and pass legislation etc that are at the core of what is important to Canadians. The fear mongering about the Bloc is a smoke screen, as the proposed coalition government consists only of Liberals and NDP. The Bloc has pledged their votes. I only wish that the Liberal had a stronger leader however I think Layton and Rae will have strong voices.

I think the next two months will be filled with lots of Conservative ads promoting the party position. They have the money to spend. It will be interesting to see where it all ends up.

Like I said, the view may not be pretty, but it sure is interesting.