Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gifts From a Year

When I started writing this blog, I had hoped to reflect on each day and find the gifts therein. I mean, each day of life is a precious gift unto itself, and a day worth living must hold a take away - a lesson, an opportunity, an emotion ... something. I started off half heartedly but by last December I stepped it up and challenged myself to write - every day. And it was the best gift I could ever have given myself. I managed 345 posts. I vowed that no matter what else was going on in my life, writing would not be the thing that would be short changed. For the first time ever, I made it - me - a priority. And I am reaping the fruits of my labour of love.

This past year I have lived more mindfully, consciously ... seeking out the gifts in each day. Writing has given me a sense of freedom to explore and excavate my ideas and thoughts on issues - to express the deepest part of myself. I have learned much about myself - from myself.  Through my reflections and explorations I have learned what is important to me as well as what and who can bring meaning to my life.

I made my camera my constant companion, carrying it with me at all times. I noted and captured the colour and textures in everything around me and found beauty in the ordinary.

I lived more fully, in every moment and the most important thing I learned ... I write about that which I need most to learn, know and practice.

So 2009 was the year in which I gave myself the gift and luxury of daily writing and through that, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. I will remember 2009 as the year I set my creative self free.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Post Note: I know from reading your blogs that many of you have suffered great pain, struggles and upheaval  this past year, and my heart goes out to each one of you. I am a firm believer that it is always darkest before the dawn and that the law of nature dictates that change is inevitable. So as I raise my chipped champagne flute filled with flat white wine, I toast that the winds of change and a new year will usher in hope and a peace and that there will be better times ahead. Thank you to all of you who have been a part of my year of self discovery and offered thoughtful words of encouragement and kindness. I could feel the heartbeat of humankind and universal love. Happy New Year! Let's affirm that 2010 will be a very good year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What's the Message?

I heard it from the kitchen. A very distinct, loud ticking sound. It was rhythmic - three steady, measured beats ... a few seconds rest ... and then three beats repeated. It sounded like a summons. I stood in the dining room doorway, head cocked ot one side, for a better listen. It was coming from the living room near the front window. It sounded like an animal in the house ... a big fat, oversized mouse (???) perhaps gnawing on the leg of the couch?  Where was Fritz the hyper, mousing schnauzer when I needed him?

I approached tentatively ... eyes quickly scanning for an escape/ safe route should a GIANT mouse leap out to confront me. Where to leap? How to protect my toes from being trampled by little, creepy mouse claws? (OK - even I think I'm sounding wimpy at this point). S l o w l y, cautiously, with stealthlike precision I tiptoed my way across the room and peered (hands covering all but my one eye) around the edge of the arm of the couch.

And there it was. A big FAT cardinal -- sitting on the ledge, fearlessly pecking the window. We stared one another down ... yet he continued. What was he trying to tell me?? I felt as though he was delivering an urgent message and I sensed his annoyance at my incomprehension. After what seemed like an eternity, I motioned to grab my trusty Canon - and I broke the magical spell. Off she flew (her muted colour was that of a mama bird) leaving me somewhat rattled and mystified. I turned to walk away and there was Fritz, looking just a puzzled as me - looking but NOT yapping.

It was a wondrous sight, yet I can't help feeling I didn't get the message -- yet!

OMG -- it's back again!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Not For Granted

I was just reading my tweets and came across one about the issue of sanitation - or lack thereof - in developing countries. It got me thinking about everyday things I take for granted ... things that would mean much to others who do without.
My list:
  1. shiny, private porcelain toilets that flush - not one - but four!
  2. a comfortable bed and fresh sheets - and a dog to keep my feet warm
  3. soap
  4. running water - not to mention hot water
  5. refrigerator -- and lucky me -- an ice maker
  6. a bowl for my milk and cereal
  7. central heat and cental air conditioning
  8. more clothes than I could ever wear out
  9. tampons
  10. electricity
So from now on, when I enjoy the comfort and convenience of any of the above mentioned blessings, I will do so mindfully and in full appreciation of my good fortune. With every flush I will reflect on the millions/ billions around the planet who do not enjoy the comfort or luxury of privacy, a smooth seat and magazine.

What do I have to complain about - really???  And that is my take away for today!

Sustainable Water Supply  & Sanitation for All People - is a cause that can affect billions of people. Check out the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), a global multi-stakeholder partnership organisation that works to improve the lives of poor people. The World's Longest Toilet Queue is taking place on 22 March, World Water Day 2010.  Join the online queue. I did!

Monday, December 28, 2009


In the midst of all the holiday bustle, we had an important birthday to celebrate. My MIH mother-in-heart is not a typical mother in law -- she is only 10 years older than me -- and feels more like a soul sister than anything. She was the bonus in my marriage to her son. I can hear you doing the math ... yes he is younger than me ...

We all went to see the movie It's Complicated that starred Meryl Streep in all her "older woman" glory. Of course that spurred conversation afterwards with all of us weighing in on our thoughts about beauty, the effects of aging, monumental birthdays etc. We laughed at the line in the movie where Meryl Streep, referring to her naked parts, tells her ex-husband  that "things look different standing up than when lying down". Aint that the truth!

When you are farther along the aging continuum, birthdays are somewhat bittersweet. The bitter part may be the official notification that you have consumed another year of life in your sum total - and are moving along the second half of your life. The sweet part is that it is also a reminder that you have lived another year, and are alive to celebrate another. Definitely a privilege not to be squandered - but celebrated.

MIH is a great example of someone who is forging fearlessly into the aging abyss.We agreed that neither of us had faced a bithday - or age - with dread or drama. In a few months I will turn 50.  Truthfully, I am excited. Many never get the opportunity to live to 50 and I am looking forward to embracing this new decade.

After the movie we went to my sis-in-law's for cake and coffee. How perfect was it that the birthday cake was lemon mousse ... sweet and sour and overall - supremely delicious and enjoyed by all!

So happy birthday MIH ... you wear the years like designer duds and prove that youthfulness and vitality are not measured in years but rather, are qualities of the spirit that are exuded. Thanks for another year of happy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


It is half past noon and I am a vision in my new, neon pink and tangerine plaid fleece PJs - a practice that is generally accepted over the Christmas holidays. So far I've eatern several handfulls of mixed nuts, two teensy pieces of date square and a smidgen of carrot cake (really -- only a smidgen).  In a gigantian display of self control - I have resisted the temptation of the iced cinnamon bun that has my name written all over it. Later.

My kitchen table is covered with remnants of the leftover desserts, edible contents of our Christmas stockings, some random scraps of present tags and ribbon and an empty milk glass. [Note to self to move that tray of squares out of reach.]

Like a kid in toy store, I have been sifting through the treasures ... special books, organic creams, handsfree for the car, a seat to see Jersey Boys, and a special gift from hubby -- a netbook for blogging on the fly. Adventure Girl created a Christmas wreath adorned with Kenyan shillings for our trip. And to top it all off, we received donations to our school building project from friends and family - many of whom have little excess to share - yet they did. thank you 

My heart is full to overflowing. I have more wealth, abundance and good fortunate that I could ever deserve. And most of it has more to do with the country and family that I have been blessed to be born into. So many others have no such luck - they are deprived of hope and opportunity simply because they have been born into seemingly impossible situations. And that is why we must share. Those of us with - must share with those who have not.
We must all give a little, so more can have some.
I tried harder than ever to contribute, share and preserve. [Sidenote: I am proud to report that unlike other years, we have very little waste from wrapping, and many went home with tea towels!] And I will continue to try even harder.

And that is my take away from this Christmas.

[Update Note: Since posting time, I have consumed a few additional date squares, a molasses cookie and some stir fried Thai food. I wonder if one can spontaniously combust???]

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fast and Furious

Fast and furious. That's how the Christmas Hurricane arrived. We prepared for months, weeks and minutes up to its arrival and then when it finally rolled in - we gathered; we laughed; we ate; we remembered; we toasted our loved ones who were missing; and best of all, we simply enjoyed.

And then it blew over - quickly. For as we know,
Christmas does not linger, but the memories do.

I stole today - Boxing Day - for myself. And to an outsider, it may have looked as though I did nothing. And it would be true. I did nothing - consciously; deliberately; mindfully - to soak up every ounce of  serenity the day had to offer. Not a day wasted - but rather a day spent puttering, replaying, and reflecting. I am hoping that my blogger friends were fortunate enough to get some well deserved quiet time for themselves as well.

It is the calm aftermath of the frenzy -- the frenzy we love so much that comes and goes - fast and furiously!

That's right -- a green (soggy)  Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eve of Ready or Not

Christmas Eve - the start of something wonderful.

The "kids" are in bed as I make this Christmas Eve post that I was determined to write. We had our family evening at my beloved in-laws and my MIH (AKA Mrs Christmas) had her place done up like a magical kingdom - everything sparkled in white and silver. Hubby's family is somewhat smaller than mine so it is usually a little quieter. Not tonight though. Lots of laughter and fun in the air ... just like we all hope the season to be.

The fridge is bursting - and the front foyer is catching the overflow. The wine is chilling on the back stoop (yay for sub zero temps). Stuffing bread is in pieces, drying out. The 26 pound turkey is languishing in the water filled sink to rid the last bits of frozen. The stockings are filled to overflowing. The breakfast platters are prepared and the coffee is set for morning. Best of all, the bedrooms are all filled tonight. My babies are home.

And for the first time all day - I am taking just a moment for myself to soak it all in. There is something magical about Christmas Eve that I cannot describe. Peace and anticipation. The calm before the crazy fun chaos of the morn.

But I am ready and armed with rum and eggnog. Bring it on!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I am overwhelmed by the generosity and giving hearts of people ...

I made an effort this Christmas to reach out and give wholly and mindfully. However they say that when you give, you get back tenfold. And I have found this to be absolutely true. I have been on the receiving end of such kindness. Over the past few months my friends and family as well as several of my blogger friends (you know who you are) have supported my dream of going to Africa, as well as raising money to build a Kenyan school . I am humbled by their expressions of love and caring. Thank you ...

I am overwhelmed by the generosity and giving hearts of people ...

And for this, I am eternally grateful.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rolling on in

Peace is restored! The festivities are well under way and it feels just the way it should with only a few days until Christmas (even if that means a little chaos tossed in for flavour). We have already had our first turkey dinner (but who's counting) and family gathering. Hubby's family got the ball rolling. Friends tonight, work colleagues tomorrow (I think I just popped a button) ... then the kids ...and sibs ... YUP! The Christmas snow ball is big and in motion - rolling right on through.  Unstoppable - and for that I am truly grateful!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Change of Plans

I'm runnng way behind! Was ahead of the game, even feeling a little smug. But oops- a setback!

Unexpected hockey game in a town hours away. Last minute Christmas preparations - cancelled - or maybe just delayed.

No energy to panic, I'm just staying the course. What gets done, gets done - the rest will have to wait - or won't.

To top it off - we're sneezing and coughing and burning through the tissues.

Lesson: Release that which you can't control! Embrace that which you can. Merry, *cough*  merry *sniffle* ...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Growing Up and Away

I am stashed away in my bedroom, computer open in my lap, Fritz sprawled across my legs. Kidlet is downstairs in front of a roaring fire with her boyfriend. Yup -- she has a real life boyfriend now. Her very first - the official memo that my baby is growing up.

Time is forever serving up new changes and evolutions. I can feel the cosmic shift and soon my universe will look quite different. In the next nine months I could very well become an empty nester - just hubby and the dog and I. The house will be quiet and cleaner! No more aromatic hockey bag lodged in the front foyer. We'll only need three litres of milk instead of nine every week. I'll probably only have to do 2 loads of laundry and a jar of peanut butter will last for months -- not to mention the ice cream! Kidlet's bedroom floor will reappear and there won't be any wet towels slung over the bannister to dry.

But for now, I still have my little girl here, at home .... in front of fire with her boyfriend. Time to unleash Fritz the yappy schnauzer for a recon mission.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's the Little Things

It's the small things that can make a big difference sometimes. Like my car -- the best feature (in my humble opinion) is my seat warmer. Feeling a suge of heat on my backside on the sub zero mornings is pure heaven. Just like a steaming cup of strong fragrant coffee can be the perfect start to the day -- and finding there is no cream left -- not so perfect. Adventure Girl always says the devil is in the details -- mind you - she is an accountant -- and I think that is true in so many ways. It's the little things that can make the difference between contented and irate; comfort and discomfort; easy and difficult.

I guess that goes for making others happy as well -- small gestures can make a big impact. I had someone recently pay for my coffee in the drive through. The clerk said he was paying it forward - so I paid for the car behind me. Just the experience of having someone extend such a thoughtful gesture made my heart sing and fill me with warmth that lasted all day. I have learned that small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness can reap big rewards. I am off to put my thinking cap on ... and check my fridge for cream!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


We had a hypnotist at our workplace Christmas luncheon today. He was the entertainment. He managed to coax 6  volunteers he needed for the show from the audience (although he wanted 12). Most people were reluctant - me included.

It was fascinating to watch my coworkers respond to the hypnotist's every suggestion - no matter how silly. He had them pulling at their clothes and wiping "sweat" at his suggestion that temperatures were soaring into the high 30's (Celsius). Then he had them falling in love with the first person they laid eyes on so they could slow dance. Of course we in the audience were laughing hysterically at the sight.

But it occurred to me how incredible it would be if it were only that simple - to suggest a positive thought and have people respond so enthusiastically. So many things would be different. We would all be kinder to one another. We could have our hearts opened to and seek the goodness around us. If we started each work day with a suggestion that it was going to be a wonderfully fulfilling, productive day - it would surely become one! So we think - so we shall be. Positive affirmations have the same effect ... but some struggle with the concept. The hypnotist - in a few short minutes had the volunteers reacting and responding to his every comment.
Right thinking begins with the words we say to ourselves.

- James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
I was taught at an early age to program myself with positive thoughts and imagery. I have an internal conversation with myself every day, and when I need it most ... my mother taught me to rephrase my words and wishes from "I want to be" or "I wish"  to "I am ..." . She explained that at first it may not be true at that moment but that if I kept affirming my desires and goals, they would eventually become a reality. The power of suggestion and affirmation are powerful practices and they work both ways (positively and negatively). Channelling energy into destructive thoughts become self fulfilling, so they have to be kept in check.

It works. Maybe not as quickly as a hypnotist ... but it works. Something to keep in mind when making up my "resolutions" for the new year. A list of affirmations of the version of myself that I know I can be - that I am - in the present tense:

> I give more than I get.
> I am generous.
> I am healthy and strong.  etc. etc. etc.

I am hopeful and optimistic - and affirmative!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Squishing the Hum Bug

The hum is all around me
Everywhere it seems – at work, in the stores, and on the street that I live.
Everywhere - but home.

It’s quiet here; there is no hum;
Everyone has gone – my mother, my loved one, my friend – passed or just moved on.
No one here – but me.

The holiday hum is getting louder
Someone is reaching out – a card, a hug and love – turkey with the clan
A Christmas wish – come true.

We all know that the holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times for those who are experiencing sadness, loss, upheaval or loneliness. The very best gift we can give is of ourselves – giving our time, and sharing our love and expressions of kindness and gratitude.

And it doesn’t have to cost a cent, shilling, peso, franc, mark, or rupee. Let's squish the hum bug!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting into Gear

Well winter -- you finally showed up...  finally.

As I drove to work this morning, at zero degrees Celsius it occurred to me that winter was stuck in neutral. It was mid December and there was no traction - no snow; no wintry ambiance; just England weather -- gray and damp.

I'm getting impatient. Green Christmas' make me blue (just a little). I took Kidlet to hockey in the city tonight and as we drove in, I could see the temperature steadily dropping. On the drive home we ran into black ice - a real adventure on a 5 laned highway. We picked the least travelled lane, kicked Benzie into 4 wheel drive and resisted all urges to brake. An abrupt segue into full blown winter!

When we pulled into the driveway - blanketed in a few inches of the white stuff, and minus 5 temperatures, I gave a silent apology ... winter is in low gear ... but gaining momentum.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Checked in

Well, everyone's been checking in - kind've like the pre-Christmas boarding pass. My one and only little brother called to see what kind of pie he should bring for dinner. He is the pie man for every family function. I don't see him often enough so every time I do is a real treat. My younger sister popped in for a Sunday morning - and we discussed the holiday plans, coddling a steaming mug of tea, beside a cosy fire. It was a perfect remedy for a dreary, damp day.

My daughter and I caught up last night with a nice long phone chat. She lives just far enough away that we miss the day to day contact that I have with my other two girls. We plotted our Christmas plans and ploys and of course dragged out some dusty stories from the musty memory sack for a few chuckles. Can't wait to have her home for a few days.

Faraway sister also checked in to tell me she loved the pictures of our Christmas tree that I posted on Facebook. She and her family won't be with us for Christmas this year so she's on stand by ... and it won't be quite the same - a little quieter and definitely more wine in the bottle! (Just kidding - it was a weak attempt to transfer guilt).

And I think I got my last call from my Pops tonight before he flies his snowbird self home for the holidays. I had to update him on the lack of snow, give a weather report, briefly discuss the prospect and  insanity of not passing  universal health care in the US, hear about his citrus crop, review the attendance for Christmas dinner etc (you get the picture).

So now I feel organized and set -  the gang have all checked in, our buffet is lined with sparkly, thoughtful Christmas cards, two parcels arrived in the mail  and my new box of cards calls from the coffee table for addresses. All a precursor for the good times to come.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's a Wrap

I am completely bundled into the insulating warmth of the season. I made yesterday a joyful one ... shopped for my loved ones, and enjoyed every last second I spent wrapping my treasures. The tree seems more contented now ... and the scene is complete.

Hubby and I stole a day for ourselves and I even wrangled him into watching a cheesy (AKA chick flick)  Christmas movie with me. I am not sure how I managed it but I seemed to have removed frantic and replaced it with contented. And that's a first for me.

After I placed the final gift under the tree and sat admiring my handiwork with the tea towels and safety pins, I couldn't stop the anticipation from creeping from my toes to my heart. What is it about Christmas that reacquaints us with the child in ourselves? I went to bed feeling more alive and joyous than I have a right to ...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fa La La and All That Bliss

In the spirit of inclusivity and celebration I would like to wish my Jewish friends and family a Happy Chanukah. I have a few daughters who are not technically Jewish (their mom - me - is not) however their father is, and they belong to a large Jewish family.

When my daughters were little we would light the menorah for the eight days of Chanukah and hang our handmade popsicle stick Star of David ornaments on our Christmas tree. Their bubbe and zaidy would give them little netted bags of chocolate gold foiled gilt coins and the girls would exchange Christmas presents with them. A cultural-traditional morph of sorts.

My kids and I were never a church going family (for obvious reasons). I was baptized in a Christian Protestant church and attended Sunday school when I was a child, but when I couldn't bring myself to utter the declaration that I accepted Christ as my saviour, and that he died on the cross for my sins - I wasn't able to be confirmed in the church and it ended my feeling of belonging in religion. I always loved the stories about Jesus in the bible -- he was my favourite person and I admired his loving,  non judgemental ways and wise words and teaching (which I still follow)  but I fell short of recognising him as a saviour. It wasn't a stretch for me to marry someone outside of my "faith" - because my faith and sprirituality was and is deeply personal.

I tried to provide an open minded, respectful environment for my girls so they could experience all they wanted from the veritable feast of religions, spiritual ideologies, and philosophies - that they may find what, if any, connected best for them.

And so although Christmas is a Christian celebration of the birth of Christ, for families such as mine consisting of different faiths and cultures, it has become a season of peace; a time to reach out to others; a time to give to and help others; and a special time for our family to come together as one - and celebrate that we belong to something bigger than ourselves.

Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and other celebrations and festivals are a channel for joy, expression and unifcation of human spirit. Whatever the label -- dance in the light of this magical season and shine your love brightly!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Late Start - Sweet End

I woke up perky at 5 am. Contented that I had another hour to sleep, I closed my eyes for just a few more minutes. I broke away from my conversation with Bill Clinton and Einstein (crazy dream) to roll over and check the clock. Horrors! I slept in - for one of the few times in my entire working life. Bill was so charming and Einstein - riveting.  I bolted, showered, dressed and clumsily applied some war paint - all in eleven minutes. I had the commute to breath deeply and decompress but it got my day off on shaky footing.

It was a blustery, bitterly cold day today - I still haven't defrosted not my toes anyway. My hair wasn't washed, my toes were (still are) freezing and I had to pump gas without gloves. brrrr

The sweet crept in at the end of the day when I drove into the city to meet my lifelong friend J for dinner. We don't do it often so our visits are cherished tasty morsels. A few hours with J melts the chill and brings me home. We munched on health comfort food -chili nachos and sweet potato fries - and sipped our wine as we got caught up with one another. Sweet. As I drove home I had to chuckle that the day that had started out so frantically had ended so happily and peacefully.

Now it is a little late - so I'm off to bed so that tomorrow - I won't be ... a little late.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

First Snow

It wasn't much, but it did arrive. The first snow. And there is something magical about going out into the cold darkness of an early December morning and finding the evergreens laden with a thick blanket of wet, heavy snow. The moist fresh air inflates your nostrils ... and you want to take deep cleansing breaths. And silence. The snow brings a blanket of hush ... and stillness. All is calm and quiet ...

And then the snowplow roars around the corner dumping its full load at the end of the driveway. I look up and smile (through gritted teeth) at the driver and he gives me a wave. I wave back, with a finger or two and start cleaning off my car with a rubber skate guard (gotta find my snow brush).

And so it begins ... the long winter ... but it starts with the first snow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Other Side of the Holiday Season

When I was folding up the paper bag from my newly purchased bottle of Pinot Grigio, the image of an elephant caught my attention. I thought it had something to do with Africa, but it turned out to be a message about drinking and driving. It was a sobering moment. It got me thinking about how holidays can be an unhappy time for families living with alcoholism.

Holidays and celebrations are often equated with drinking and for some, it means living with parents or spouses who start drinking early on - and keep on drinking until later on. Anxiety can start to creep in at the sight of the liquor bottle on the counter or the drinker having an early morning sip of some of  "the hair of the dog that bit them" (supposedly a cure for a hangover).

It got me thinking about how for many -- Christmas is probably a lonely, sad time of year. I am blessed with an incredibly large, loving clan which means the "small" Christmas gatherings we have every second year still guarantee at least 14 at the table. I have friends that do not have the benefit of a family of such size - and it reminds me not to take mine for granted. There are people who have recently received bad news or lost a loved one, and for them, Christmas may feel hollow and sad. My family had a Christmas like that in 1997.

My Mom passed away a week after her 58th birthday - December 5th. I had small children so needless to say, Christmas went on as usual - as normal as I could possibly make it. My sisters and brother and I did not come together as we traditionally would -- instead we spent quiet time with our respective spouses and children. I think we were all still numb from the funeral and the reality of the loss hadn't fully sunk in. I was writing funeral thank you notes at the same time I was making out my Christmas cards. Surreal.

With the economic pressures on people, the wars being fought, the families being separated, I imagine that this time of year will be a source of stress and pain for many. They need to be remembered; they need people to reach out in love to them; they need the gifts of understanding and caring.

So as I immerse myself in the Christmas joy that is mine -- I will reflect on and remember those who are wrestling with their own challenges, fighting the good fight - and it will deepen my gratitude for all that I have and  who I love in my life. And to anyone for whom Christmas won't be merry -- I will wish  you peace.

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's Written All Over the Tree

Season of Love -- that's what Christmas is. Love. It runs rampant. We find ourselves reaching out to and reconnecting with relatives and friends. We renew our relationship with the pen and paper and that less than instant communication called snail mail - the kind that requires a stamp and envelope. We express our love more openly, signing our cards and tags with the four letter word and whispering it to the people who need to hear it. We seek out opportunities to give, contribute and help. Love. There are many ways to say it. I always say "nothing says I love you like dinner!".

So in this Season of Love, let's remember to give it, say it, mean it and feel it. L O V E.

Love, Lyn

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Putting on the Christmas Ritz

Another traditional ritual has been kept - sort of. My big girl came over to help me decorate the house for Christmas and Kidlet made it home in time to hang her favourite ornaments on the tree. For the first time, middle daughter Harmony was missing. It felt strange.

I can't complain though ... the tree decorating tradition had remained unchanged for 23 years, and now that my girls are grown ups, I can expect more "adaptations" - lots of good ones too I'm sure.

The tattered boxes that held the tree treasures were stacked three high. Each ornament has special significance - and each one has been a gift; I have not purchased a single one.  Our tree is no Homes and Gardens, but rather, an eclectic mish mash of homemade craft projects, Goebels china figurines, pictures of the girls, superheroes, brass bells, and angels all topped off with a linen angel to watch over us. We laughed in awe that Kidlet's homemade garland of macaroni and froot loops survived yet another year - now counting thirteen.

Each ornament is supercharged with the DNA of Christmas' past - one touch triggering a flood of images and memories. These monumental holiday seasons are emotionally charged and can deliver joy exponentially - the first time you experience it and then each year thereafter that these special times are relived and recounted.

So tonight, after a long day of cleaning, decorating and remembering, I sit here, fire blazing, tree sparkling and a row of Christmas stockings hanging from the mantel. Our home is cozied up and I surrender gratefully to the cocoon of peace and serenity invoked by my favourite time of year. 

It is my deepest desire that all could be so fortunate and full to overflowing.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Signs of the Times

I predict alot of Christmas themed posts in the upcoming weeks, so be forewarned. Not sure Gravol will cure nausea resulting from reading sticky sweet, sentimental, bleeding heart posts related to all things Christmas. I have no will power - I simply cannot resist. And why would I - with this magical season lasting a mere three or four weeks, I want to wring out every ounce of wonderful.

One of the upsides of being a blogger is that I have become more observant to everything and everyone around me. It has deepened my appreciation and gratitude, and inspired me to take notice of signs...

Yesterday as I ventured out for my inaugural shopping expedition, I was reminded that I was having a Canadian Christmas (whatever that means -- touques and beer??).  A station wagon drove by with a scotch pine strapped to the roof and I couldn't help thinking that it was a perfect sign of the times ... it was indeed that time of year.

Today was a great day to do grocery shopping. There were volunteers outside handing out pamphlets from Food For Life asking people to consider donating a turkey so an underprivileged family could enjoy a nice Christmas dinner as well. Coincidentally the grocery store was running a special that awarded a free turkey ($25 value) to anyone spending $250 or more. I filled my cart. We only shop twice a month so I didn't think it would be  a problem to spend that much. I stocked up on stuff, and bought extra stocking stuffers - even tea towels (for wrapping). When the cashier rang up the bill, I had spent $250.67! Talk about cutting it close! I was able to leave the store and hand over my prebasted frozen turkey to the charity waiting outside with a big refrigerated truck. Technically, the store donated a turkey on my behalf. It still felt good.

Tonight we had the first holiday gathering of season at hubby's uncle's place. We crossed the threshold into a wonderland - with decorating that  rivaled Homes and Gardens and planted us staunchly in Christmas. No excuse not to be in the mood now ... I love all of the visiting!

I have no right to ask for anything more, but I admit that I am praying for, affirming and singing for a white Canadian Christmas. Let it snow!

A few more signs of the times ...

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Started

It has started ... the magic of Christmas has started to sprinkle like fairy dust upon me. Today was my day off and I used it to start my Christmas shopping. I got up happily before dawn as I do every morning to get a jump on the day, and I took the freefall into the festive season. Silver bells blaring through the radio, and me singing right along with it set my mood soaring. A day immersed in our picturesque little town, chatting with volunteers and shop keepers who all seemed equally upbeat and joyful -- doesn't get much better.

I returned home, laden with parcels -- to mail -- my very first Christmas card of the season. Thanks Aunt Jeannette. A shiny gold envelope with a joyful card and message inside it bore a seasonal stamp. Now it was official!

And it didn't stop there ... the second I logged onto my laptop I got notified that our Milestones for Africa school campaign had received donations. Thank you to Sis 2, Adventure Girl, Shirlmeister, Carrie and Lola. I am so deeply moved by this show of generosity ... and I feel like I received early Christmas presents.

Day One Recap: Simply wonderful! Full of blessings and good cheer.  I am happy to overflowing. What did I do to deserve this life?

To all of you -- I send you love and gratitude.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Good News -- There Has to Be Some

I watched the news tonight -- a barrage of stories on murder, missing women and children, an arrested teacher, bus explosion, celebrity infidelities, gloom about the war and the anniversary of Bhopol disaster in which more than 8,000 workers perished. The entire 30 minute report didn't contain a single positive story.

What - nothing fantastical happened in the world today? I don't believe that for a moment. Not sure when news had to mean bad news. I think we need a daily dose of the spectacular; we need to hear the stories of the heroes and angels who walk the earth transforming the ugly into beautiful, fixing the broken and healing the sick. We are starving to be inspired and uplifted.

Thankfully social media - just like the blog I am writing - has liberated communications. I can simply turn to my "follow" list and read the insights of my blogger friends, my special community who can share and express their ideas and stories freely. And that, they do. Every day I read something that makes me laugh; that causes me to reflect; and inspires me.

And that is not just good news -- it's great news. Every day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just Joy

So I may as well come clean -- my goal of having all of my Christmas shopping done by the end of November is just that -- a goal -- one that was not met. Not a present has been got! I had what I thought was an excellent plan for peace of mind. It seems that the universe had other ideas.

Instead I will be out and about in the Christmas bustle, rubbing elbows with cranky, overspending parents, and passing by countless Sally Ann donation kettles as I smile apologetically - explaining that I have already given about twenty times already. It also means that I will be thrust into the magically decorated streets, nostalgic Christmas music blaring through outside speakers to wander and browse the sweet little shops on our main street. I will have no choice but to pause at the Coffee Grinder for a cuppa something hot and steamy or support my local economy by picking up some brownie cookies and cinnamon buns from the Blackforest Bakery. And I'll have to personally select international fair trade treasures from Ten Thousand Villages for my little family and friends. What's a girl to do besides keeping a pocketful of loonies for the kettle.

Can you tell I love this season and all of the crazy-busy cooking, shopping, cleaning, creating, decorating, sharing and visiting that comes along with it? Each day will be jam packed but as I decided a few years back, I will savour each and every task, and complete each with love in my heart. I will walk about with a heart full of gratitude for the large, extended,  loving family to share the holidays with, and extend my generosity to those beyond my own in this giving season.

No complaining ...just joy ... my new goal!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS DAY: Hope for Africa

It's overwhelming really. AIDS is a pandemic of colossal proportion. And globally, women and girls are affected disproportionately. For those of us in Canada living a middle class or privileged life, the AIDS crisis can seem like a distant tale, happening in another galaxy - not in ours. That is only partially true.

Last night Kidlet and I watched a documentary, A Song For Africa that told the story of the Watoto Children's Choir of Uganda made up of youngsters orphaned by AIDS. The choir performs all over the world, helping to raise awareness of Africa's AIDS crisis.

Kidlet and I watched in awe as the sparkly eyed orphaned children of the choir swayed and stomped and danced their way through their music, their voices soaring .... such spirit. Such inspiration. Sheer heart and joy. We were witnessing the remnants of the AIDS crisis .... children without parents. They described in vivid detail how they witnessed the demise of their families ... or recounted their personal stories of being abandoned, or left for dead. We marvelled at how they could dig deep and express such joy despite experiencing horrific tragedy.

Today is World AIDS Day and I spent a good part of it reflecting ... Men and women must be educated about AIDS - how it is contracted and how to prevent getting and spreading it. African men have to learn that having sex with a virgin will not cure them. Women have to be equipped and empowered to protect themselves and refuse unprotected sex. Not to simplify - as I know that the issue is much more complex than I have described here. It can start with awareness, understanding and respect.

So today, I will honour those who are battling the disease; the children who have been robbed of parents; and the courageous, generous people who are waging war against this pandemic or caring for those who ill or have been affected. Bless you.

To end on a hopeful note, here is the choir singing I am not forgotten ... Prepare to be inspired.