Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rambling and Reflections

The blaze of Christmas glory has blown through the past week, carving indelible memories, leaving a trail of  wonderful in its wake.

What to say? The anticipation, the last minute surge of housecleaning, shopping and preparations were all worth it. The dividends were large and permanent. Each day was crammed with family, food and laughter. And that is to be expected. However it was the little moments of bliss that made my Christmas truly special ...

The girls were home; the beds were no longer empty, the table was full and so was my heart. Watching my dad's eyes well with pride at his grandchildren and the special gifts they made him really moved me. Our living room  burst at the seams with sibs, nieces, nephews, parents and just as many simultaneous conversations.  Sis brought a coffee cake from Mom's recipe that triggered a memory with every biteful. Hubby showed his love with the feast he prepared for us - cause nothing says I love you like dinner!

Life is busy and I have come to treasure these rare moments when we manage to gather the whole gang together - everyone under the same roof at the same time. We snapped a family shot in the morning (missing a couple of Henry's) and the collective smiling faces create an impressive picture. It's hard to comprehend that this large, healthy, close knit family is the product of a young couple who met and married young and built a life from the ground up. We are the living legacy of our parents, and those who passed before us.

So going forward I will regard Christmas as a season of reflection ... each season building on the last.  Christmas' have become about creating these moments of precious to be savoured all year long. And I can't help but feel grateful to have my Dad close by. In all my 50 years I have never missed spending Christmas morning with my Dad. Isn't that a gift in itself?

Today is my MIH's milestone birthday and tomorrow we will celebrate it with her (but it's a secret). I call her my marriage bonus - my kindred spirit. I can't wait to give her a little of what she does for us all year long.

I'm off to bed before I am yet another day later posting ... so much to share and where to start.

I guess I just did ....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Random Encounters With the Spirit of Christmas

He appeared out of nowhere, suddenly there, yanking me out my daydream.

“Hey lady. I’m hungry.” His voice was hoarse and slurry and he struggled to pronounce his r’s. “Do you have some change for my brother and me? We haven’t eaten in two days”.

Caught off guard, my mind whirled into overdrive trying to process …

“No one will give us any money.” He stood in front of me, dressed in his well loved ski jacket and toque, shifting from foot to foot, obviously anxious as well as cold.

“Why do you think that is?” I mumbled and fumbled with my scarf trying to buy myself some time as I decided what I was going to do.

“Cause it’s Christmas lady! No one wants to part with their money.”


“I will give you all the change I have,” I said as I opened my wallet. I can already hear the collective gasps of protest from the side that says this only perpetuates the problem. I had $4.57 in coins which I immediately handed over to him. He counted it out and then looked up at me and smiled. “Thank you Mam. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too.”

Would he buy food or drink the money? Frankly I didn’t care. I don’t want to be blind or pretend I don’t see them on the sidewalk. Them - the homeless, the disenfranchised, the ones who talk to themselves as they push their carts along the road; the ones who wander aimlessly, detached and alone; the ones from which we avert our gazes. I don’t walk to step around or over them. I want to see everyone. And darn it all, if I have a pocketful of change to share, I am going to share it. And I am going to start sharing more than that … I think he may have given me something far greater than the change in my pocket. This  quote from Mother Teresa is my inspiration.

Let us not be satisfied with just giving money.
Money is not enough, money can be got,
but they need your hearts to love them.
So, spread your love everywhere you go.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Remains of the Day

Kitty can't wait!
Things haven't turned out exactly as planned. Somewhere along the line my perfectly concocted activity timeline fell off the rails. So I am kind of in a state of disorganization -- or what I like to call organized chaos. To save myself a thousand words, here are some pictures of my current state of affairs ...

Pre-platter fruit for Christmas morning ... laying in waiting.

Adventures in baking - currant and cranberry scones.
 "Green" adventures in wrapping.Tea towels anyone?

Casualties of baking ... mess!

And more mess ... how many sleeps until Christmas??
So these busy, crazy days leading up to Christmas are to be cherished and enjoyed. So what if the cookies are a little burned crunchy or the house - a little cluttered; that's what closets are for! I am staying the course and avoiding the "stress" word. It's all good. The gift of Christmas is in the doing, not the booing. And this good cheer is a present to myself.

Two more sleeps ...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Four More Sleeps

There is still much to be done ... presents that need disguising (in my signature tea towel wrapping), baking that looks like it just may not get baked, cleaning and delousing (talking about the dog here), last minute grocery shopping and stocking stuffers to be acquired and located (downside of shopping then hiding too early). I had a talk with myself and we agreed to focus on the socializing and family side of Christmas, and not sweat the stocking small stuff.

The best part of the holiday season for me is the visiting and family time - and cookies -- and eggnog --- and turkey. And the party has begun! Last week featured the work party and hubby's big family get together. Next up -- the annual Christmas dinner with Adventure Girl and Tender Heart at AG's magical Christmas house. In between the myriad of activity I have been enjoying heart to hearts with Pops and my step mom garnished with hot tea, chilled wine or like today -- rich, frothy eggnog laced with love.

And in four more sleeps my girls will be home. The empty beds will be filled with their warm little bodies and the house will burst with giggles, laughter, banter and bickering, Ahhh ... the soundtrack of a happy family. So as the washer chugs and beeps to remind me that the sheets are ready, I remind myself that tis the season to be jolly -- and grateful. Four more sleeps ...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tea Party

I'd read about it -- mostly in Jane Austen novels -- seen advertisements for it -- and decided to give it a try. I am talking about high tea. And even better - high tea at the inn where Hubby and I were married. So I extended and invitation to the ladies in my life - MIH, little sister, T and Doris to join me for what I hoped would be the perfect Christmas starter.

It did not disappoint. The inn was decked out in full Christmas finery with a towering tree drooping with gold and cream balls and sparkling ribbon. A fire was blazing in the massive stone fireplace and I was thrilled when the server motioned to the table poised beside it. Christmas card perfect!

We nibbled on dainty little cucumber sandwiches and I resisted the urge to belt out "where's the beef" (remembering that it was "tea" not lunch). There were lots of "mmmm's" and "yuuuummmm's" as we munched on cinnamon scones, fresh strawberries, shiny little cakes and slightly dried out sandwiches, washed down with potfuls of tea (and coffee). The chatter was light and we exchanged pleasantries and asked about one another's kids, husbands and family. We critiqued the latest entertainment news and talked about our jobs, schedules and plans. We sipped lazily, luxuriating in this little snippet of time we carved out for ourselves for no other reason than simply "to be".

From my cushioned place at the round table, I studied the faces of these women I love so very much, each for different reasons. I marvelled at my good fortune to have them in my life, and knowing that life can be unpredictable and unforgiving, I burned the image into my heart and soul ... as a keepsake. For at that moment - on that day, the table was full, and our hearts were happy.

PS -- Far Away Sis - you were missed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Season Cheer and Jeer

I am a certified Christmas fiend. I love everything about the season -- the cheer, the tree, the traditions, family, the gift exchange, the turkey and stuffing. But my favourite part are the childhood memories that cascade with every trigger. Lucky for me, those memories spark joy and rekindle every fibre of happiness that was my world. Sadly, for many, Christmas is a struggle, a painful, lonely season. It may be that they have nothing to rekindle, or that they do not have loved ones to share the season with. Whatever the reason, I can see the sadness in the eyes of my colleague who has no plans for Christmas, and in my friend with the tiny family of elders who tries her best to ride out the holiday with as little drama as possible.

There are people with little or no families; who have suffered loss, who are struggling with illnesses or financial stresses. Mustering holiday cheer requires an effort of monumental proportion, if possible at all. I have seen this first hand in my circle of friends and family.

The magic in Christmas is created when the memories of Christmas' past merge with the present. If either versions are anything short of wonderful, there can be no magic. I realize that I have to be more sensitive to the feelings of others and not assume that everyone's reality matches mine. I can see that a big collective hug is in order to spread the love. How to put sparkle in saddened eyes and inject an inkling of joy to resigned postures of dread?

For me, Christmas cheer. For many, Christmas jeer. And I wonder ... how can I bring the magic to the people I care about?

Monday, December 13, 2010


Tonight the snowbirds fly in, exchanging their chilly Arctic Florida weather for the authentic Canadian winter experience. They are coming home for Christmas and the happy festive factors keep stacking up.

They left me on house duty in their absence; home protector extraordinaire, plant caretaker notsomuch! My dad and T pride themselves on their enormous green thumbs and the lush flora and fauna they grow around themselves. They left their favourite sole survivors of the houseplant variety in my care. The instructions were fairly straight forward - water.

I am not sure what went wrong ... I watered like they said; waited 2 weeks then returned to repeat the deed. The Christmas cactus's were still moist and contented. The leafy green monster was wilted and yellow. What the heck?? I skipped her (she was apparently drowning) and watered the rest of the plants. I returned in 2 weeks to find the cactus STILL happy and moist but I watered it anyway and the leafy green monster had turned from wilted yellow to crispy brown. Cr@p! I peeled off the crunchy bits and ate the evidence - and stressed over whether to mention the health of the plant to Pops. I didn't. I'm an optimist with an unyielding confidence that leafy green would turn a corner and reincarnate.

It didn't happen. I slaughtered that plant. Over the weeks after removing the dead, brittle bits we are left with a Charlie Brown Christmas plant of one lone leaf. Last night when I dropped around with some milk and bread and cranked up the heat in the empty nest, I sat on the floor in front of leafy green. She was alive but barely. Pathetic is an understatement. I apologised silently and then scratched a note out ... I miss my mommy and daddy ... and tucked in the very moist pot. She needs tender loving care that only a parent can give. Little sister never lost a plant on her watch so this failure is hard to face.

What can I say ... I am a plantslaughterer, stemkiller, green thumb orphan. Sorry Pops and T. Want the key back???

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Feeling alot like Christmas

Ahhh ... after spending a full 8 hours in a shopping funnel yesterday, it is a welcomed respite to finally sit back and exhale. I have my feet up in front of the fire with my first eggnog of the season in hand. The homey smell of my tortiere baking is wafting from the kitchen and I am consuming an endless diet of Christmas movies -- some a little cheesy - others a little smaltzy. No worries! This is not the time to develp a palate for the finer things in life. Pass the nutmeg please!

Tonight it feels like Christmas. Peace and calm resonate through me like a happy hum. And I am soaking up every droplet of the festive spirit I can. All is well in my world. and for that, I am truly grateful.

My Christmas wish for you ... I hope that all is well in your world too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Well Hello Winter!

Okay - I heard you the first time. You left a smattering of snow on our lawn to announce your arrival. Apparently you thought I didn't get the memo, so you knocked a little louder. It was darn chilly this morning when I slipped into my car and planted my backside on a frozen slab thank goodness for seat warmers. Minus 13 Celsius.  Fitting for this time of year, no? And with virtually every community outside of the bubble of three that hug our lake, having been buried with the white stuff, we have been spared. Our area remains an insulating oasis of calm and order amidst heaps and banks of snow, school and business closures and icy roads.

While others cosied up in their homes and kids romped with glee over yet another "snow day", my fellow citizens soldiered on to work and school every day, not missing a beat nor lifting a shovel. Hubby is thrilled about that but I not-so-secretly want the white stuff.

So Madame Winter -- just in case you felt slighted upon your first arrival, let me extend a hearty welcome. I'd hug you if I could. Now - if you could manage it - maybe just a glistening coat for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Droplets of Happy

I love sorting through a stack of mail only to find - in the middle of the pack lodged in between the menu from the new Thai restaurant and the Canadian Tire flyer - my first Christmas cards of the season. Thank you Aunt J and MIH! In this age of instantaneous communication and electronic wonders, there is a warm comfort in the tactile experience of oh so carefully ripping opening the envelopes to get to the festive, sparkly Christmas cards with handwritten, warm and loving sentiments.

Can't beat snail mail, and it sure beats the bills.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Couldn't Hurt

These days just a trip to mall involves navigating a labyrinth of pleas for donations, charity tables selling raffle tickets for homemade quilts and Christmas cakes, contributions for toy mountains and of course, the Sally Ann soldiers poised stoically by the kettle putting the "jingle" in bells. Then there are the workplace fundraisers ... clothes and toys for women's and homeless shelters; charitable payroll deductions and canned goods for the food bank.

The need is great and and the "asks" are plenty - pretty much at every turn. So you can imagine my hesitation to add to the mountain of expectation by throwing out another invitation to help you part with your hard earned money. But then I thought - what the heck! There is no pressure; and it doesn't hurt to ask if you want to participate in this opportunity to feel really good ... after all, I wouldn't want to deprive you.

Se'lah over at the Necessary Room is trying to put together some toys for kids from families in great need in her comunity in the States. She asked "if at all possible, won't you please join me in spreading the gift of love to these few children in need? Let's be the Village! Thank you most kindly, from the bottom of my heart. one love." 

If you are interested, all you have to do is click on the wish list at Amazon to order the gifts that will be sent to Se'lah for delivery to the organization - who will distribute to the needy children. Check out her blog for more details.

When I was explaining to Se'lah that I was uncomfortable hitting up my circle again and again, she understood entirely. She offered this response in her email:
It's hard asking the same people to do stuff all the time. We all have wonderful hearts. Imagine if we had unlimited resources...we'd fix the world  ;)
So I guess you may have noticed, that in the spirit of the season of giving, I reconsidered. Really - it doesn't hurt to toss it out there. After all, we are all one big village. And as Se'lah always says, One Love.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ready, Set, Snow!

What a wake up call -- brilliant sunshine reflecting off a blanket (albeit a thin one) of fresh snow. I like to think that maybe yesterday's Christmas decorating was the catalyst to this promising festive season. Hubby and I bundled up and braved the bitter wind to stroll the quaint shops of our main street. The shop keepers had pulled out the stops to create magic in their storefronts. To top it off, horse drawn wagons with a smiling Santa in the back were coaxing the merry out of even the Scroogiest.

The garlands are wrapped around the banister and the across the fireplace mantel and the tree is up and draped in every ornament collected or made over the past 25 years. We argue about who is allowed to hang what, which ornament was made by who, and when this one was added to the collection and how. It's a family tradition!

There is something so very satisfying and comforting in sitting back at the end of the day to admire the lights and soak up the peaceful beauty that is the very essence of our Christmas season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Season Opener

The Christmas season officially kicks off in our home tomorrow - a week later than usual. Kidlet is home for the weekend and in the morning, after a very good night's sleep, the transformation of our home will begin.

I will blow the dust off my Christmas CDs, and as the festive strains fill the air and camouflage the sibling squabbling (can't decorate the tree without the squabbles), the wreath will go up on the door, garlands will hung and the spicy warmth of cloves will seal the deal. I will snap shots of hubby joyfully wrestling with the tree lights and  of the girls posing with their Chrismukkah and Santa hats (we're a multi cultural tribe).

The Christmas cactus is heralding the onset of the festive season with a spectacular eruption of fuchsia blooms.

After the decorating cyclone has passed I will darken the room, flick on the Christmas lights and sit quietly in the corner comfy chair sipping a goblet of eggnog and rum -  and simply absorb the wonder.

The season will start with a pause before the games begin!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Turning the Page

So today is the first day of December. I feel a kind of excitement over new beginnings - not unlike when my odometer rolled over to 50,000 kilometres this week.

A brand new month; a clean slate; a blank canvas on which to create any reality of my choosing.  A new month heralding in a new season. Mother Nature attempted to show her support by choking up a few gratuitous snowflakes -- not enough to be declared the first snow or anything, but nonetheless, a showing.

Everywhere else in the country has had some snow -- the robust flavour that accumulates on the ground. Jealous!  I find it hard to get in the festive season without the white stuff. But listen to me being so rude ... I didn't welcome our guest:
December, come on in! It's wonderful to see you again. You look like you are travelling light but I know you well enough to know that you no doubt have a few surprises in store. And although alot of Canadians like to talk about you behind your back, I can honestly say that I love you. You come bearing gifts and I kinda like that. You are also a big part of what makes us feel Canadian. So hang around ... at least until the end of the year.


Stephen Lewis, my hero,  calls it the AIDS pandemic ... 

"A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance a continent, or even worldwide."
Human rights are often at the epicentre of this pandemic, here at home as well as around the world whether via inequitable access to health care and treatment, personal privacy,  discrimination or education.

His organization The Stephen Lewis Foundation is dedicated to turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa by supporting women who are ill and struggling to survive; orphans and other AIDS-affected children;  heroic grandmothers caring for their orphan grandchildren; and sustaining associations of people living with HIV and AIDS.

AIDS is a threat to humankind; it touches all of us. On this day, maybe take a moment to Google AIDS or HIV and spend even a few minutes educating yourself on the issues. Even if you learn one new way to prevent HIV or about the struggles of people struggling to live with AIDS - it will bring us all one step closer to understanding the issues.

Go to http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/en/World-AIDS-Day to learn more.  Not a sermon - just a friendly suggestion. After all, we're one world.