Friday, December 30, 2011

Writing Frenzy

With a little time off I have turned my attention to the stack of documents that I have consolidated into what is to eventually be my Dad's book. For almost twenty years he has been chomping on the bite to put his life's experiences on paper. With several starts and stops, and in between posting daily to his blog, he churned out more than 150 pages of memoirs.

He asked for my help in crafting them into a cohesive story. I was more than flattered - I was honoured. That being said, now that the work is well underway I admit I am daunted, intimidated, and feeling somewhat incapable and unworthy of the task. I want to rise to the challenge and help my dad express all that he wishes and leave his footprints in the snow.

He is an incredible man with an interesting, inspiring story. I am learning more about him than I ever thought possible and I can't wait for it all to be shared with our family. And so we will press on and I will revel in my front row seat to a real showstopper. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blogging and Birthday Milestones

Today is a day of milestones. How fitting that my 800th blog post land on the birthday of my beloved mother-in-law MIH. I always say that she was the bonus when I married my husband. So today, on her birthday I want to celebrate her life in the best way I know how.

You are a firecracker loaded with infinite energy, determination and good intentions. You love your family - especially your kids and mom - as fiercely as a mama bear protects her cubs.
For you the glass is always half full; attitude towards life is yours to choose - even though the circumstances may not be; and answers and solutions must be pursued relentlessly. You never say never and you never give up.
You choose light over darkness and spend much of your waking hours spreading the light to everyone you meet. You work hard at being happy and creating moments of happy for others. You delight in delighting. You are generous in all ways possible - materially, spiritually and emotionally. Your inner child is intact and ever-present and you wear it  like a cloak of youth. You favour over-the-top, wacky, joyful and full technicolor over the mundane. You are most comfortable in towering heels and  you love bling, sparkle and shine. And maybe that is how I can best describe you. Because my dear MIH, you light up my life with your pizzazz, devotion and most importantly, your love and unconditional support. You are someone who deserves to be surprised, delighted and loved.

So today on your special day, I celebrate the woman you are and the blessing you are in my life. In you I have found a soul sister.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Triple Threat - No Regrets!

Fritz and I are chillin on the couch with the nightly news blaring on the TV, marveling over the light dusting of snow we finally received and pondering the Christmas flurry that was, and is past.

The unofficial verdict is that this Christmas was one of the best. Two of my three girls joined my hubby and I for our Christmas Eve with his parents and sister. MIH had the house awash in bright lights and silver sparkle. She worked her magic and created a magical Noel cocoon. Hubby's family is much smaller than mine so the experience is enjoyably different and I was going to say "quieter" but then I remembered that Kidlet was there. MIH spoils everyone rotten and my father-in-law prepares a feast for us -- keeping mainly to the kitchen, appearing now and then to refill our wine glasses or offer a preview of something on the end of a fork. It is always delicious. This evening is our traditional kick off to the Christmas season.

I have vivid memories from my childhood Christmas' and most of them involve having aunts, uncles and cousins around. Our house used to reverberate with the sounds of fun that came with having family together in our home. I've tried to duplicate this experience and tradition with my own kids, and although we don't have any little ones in our family right now, our coming together is still the highlight of the season. My sister and her family made the 5 hour trek and nieces, nephews, sibs, kids and family elders congregated to share Christmas morning ... just as we've done for my whole entire life. I think that equates to more than half a century! The affection is undeniable; there is no obligation here -- we truly love being in one another's company. We like it so much that we come together for a second round at dinner. This is when Hubby says "I love you" with a meticulously prepared feast.

This year was extra-special with my dad, true to this word and plan, not only making it to our Christmas events after only 4 weeks since his spinal surgery, but managing it all without the use of a walker or cane (swinging his cane only as he jauntily walked to and from his car).

For a few brief days the house was packed with daughters, boyfriends, fiancees, and dogs! The table was covered with copious amounts of sugar and starch and the house was alive. It made me feel the same. 

Who are we kidding; Christmas is a season to be carefully created **sexist and gross generalization alert** mostly by the women in the family. Yup Virginia -- there is a Mrs Claus who organizes Santa and probably does the shopping and wrapping for him. Just a hunch.

So tonight marked the season closer with the open house at my MIH's for hubby's larger, extended family. It was supposed to be a three hour deal that turned into a 5 hour event after the family decided they really enjoyed chatting with one another. After the tidy up "pile up" (MIH sent us home with twice as much sugar than we brought) and the drive home in the first snow of the season YAY! it was after 10 pm when we got home.

It's been a long but good day. Christmas has been a blessed holiday with so much to reflect upon and to be grateful for; so very much.





Monday, December 26, 2011

The Gift

Christmas had a special meaning this year. It marked the end of a long wait for my dad's return to health and relief from pain. So although I was thoroughly spoiled by my loved ones and our day was filled with abundance, there was one special gift ... he promised us, and he delivered.
video
Walk on Pops!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bake Off

I took a Betty Crocker moment for myself and decided to squeeze in some last minute Christmas baking. If there was a prize for good intention then I would get the BIG one; but unfortunately the end products wouldn't earn more than a "completed" grade. It was all half baked .... I had to use the last remnants of the cake flour mixed with some whole wheat (didn't find the 5 pound bag of all purpose flour in the storeroom until AFTER I finished baking); the shortening shortfall had to be supplemented with butter; the rock hard sugar had to be pounded back into granules and I only had two thirds of the molasses I needed.

The result of my valiant efforts: 16 cranberry/currant scones, 2 dozen ginger cookies that you could break a tooth on and one big flour dusted, molasses mired, sticky mess to clean up! Hubby has directed me not to toss my cookies as he plans to eat them,

The upside: the house is filled with the heavenly scent of ginger, cloves and cinnamon -- and it almost completely masks the residual skunk odour. Now the happy baker is off to bed.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Divorce

d i v o r c e.  It was something spelled out in an old country tune by Tammy Wynette. It was a subject whispered about in hushed tones between grown ups, and something I only heard about, but didn't know about close up. That is - until I brought divorce to our family.

It was a foreign concept to me. I had been raised by two parents who were passionate about one another. They argued hard, and they loved harder. No matter what was going on in our family or between them, there was never any question that they were a couple; a team. My dad was never one for public displays of affection but in our home they were all hands on deck. They hugged, snuggled, squeezed and my father often watched tv with his head in my mother's lap. Their old double bed sagged in the middle from where they slept in one another's arms. I wanted that unconditional, stand by you, you're the only one for me, you rock my world kind of marriage.

I could go on in great lengths about the turmoil and pain I went through arriving at the decision to finally end my marriage(s). No doubt it was difficult, just as it was in telling my parents and close friends. But I would be deceiving myself if I didn't admit that the greatest pain of all was that which I caused my children. My choices turned their world upside down and disrupted the security and harmony that I had worked so hard to create in our home.

There is no making it up to them. What is done - is done. However I made it my mission to create a new kind of security for them; the comfort and stability that comes from knowing that you come from unconditional, omnipresent love that will never die. I am proud that their fathers and I made a conscious effort to be, and continue to be, solid, unwavering parents to them.

Here is the single most important key to creating a loving, extended tribe:
Our love for our kids is greater than any other abiding emotion we may have. Bigger than our anger, resentment, jealousy, or any other residual toxins that can remain from a broken relationship.
And so be it. I hope I have taught my girls that we are singularly responsible for the life we create for ourselves; but also that our lives intersect with many and they too deserve consideration and empathy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Too Quiet for Comfort

The empty nest is quiet... and empty. The house is quieter than it should be and if I listen very closely, I can hear vibrations from yesteryear coming from the walls. I miss tripping over the pile of shoes, boots and backpacks at the front door; and finding most of the kitchen chairs cloaked in unhung coats and sweaters. I miss running the 24 hour laundromat and folding copious piles of laundry every night in front of the television. I miss reaching for the milk jug only to find it empty and making a sandwich with the last two crusts left in the loaf.

Now the same bag of milk lasts for weeks and the bread doesn't get eaten fast enough to stay fresh. There is no one to blame the clutter on, and no one to yell at except the dog.

Thankfully it is almost Christmas and soon the house will once again reverberate with the giggles, bickerings and singing of my girls. Soon the shoes will be piled high at the door and the foyer will be cluttered with bags and backpacks ... and dogs! Soon I will have something to complain about .... but I won't. Because if I have learned anything, it is that there is nothing like a houseful of loved ones to generate love and lasting memories.

Come on home girls. Mama misses you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wrap 'n Roll

I stayed up last night until all of the merchandise in retail bags had been converted to Christmas presents. It was a long haul but easier with my DIY gift bags and determination not to use any wrap that is not sustainable; it must be reclaimed, reused or hand made from recycled materials around the house. That goes for the tags as well. I have not had to buy any wrapping materials (except tea towels) for five years now and my new approach is not only good for the environment, it is good for my soul. I cast off the chains of "perfection" for made with love.  It is a challenge every year, and now it has become one of the most enjoyable Christmas preps I make. Thought I would share some of my tips ... keeping in mind that I am no Martha Stewart nor am I artistic. But I do have a good imagination!
Tools of the trade
Save everything! Then store for next year.
I have found the the zippered plastic bags that bedding comes in make excellent storage for gift bags, ribbons, bows and flattened cardboard boxes. Keep traces of ribbon, and used wrapping paper.


Wrap it up
Last year I bought big bundles of cheap but colourful tea towels and used them as wrapping paper, with tiny safety pins taking the place of tape. I even threaded the odd button onto the safety pin before securing it. This year I bought three bundles and sewed them into gift bags. I secured the gathered top of the bag with an elastic and wrapped cloth ribbons around it. I also used yarn and shoelaces.

If you don't want to use tea towels, reclaim old t-shirts, flannel PJs and pant legs of old clothes. My daughter pointed out that a pant pocket fits a CD perfectly. Hand sew if necessary.

I noticed that some of the plastic retail bags were richly decorated in shades of red so I cut them open and used them for wrapping paper. I had a calender to wrap (a tradition with our cousin) and noticed it came in a clear plastic sleeve. I took out and wrapped some reclaimed gold tissue paper around it and slid it back into the sleeve. I used a Sharpie to label it directly onto the plastic.

Jars make neat containers as well. Just wrap the contents in fabric and screw on the lid. You can cover the lid with  piece of fabric and then secure it with an elastic and ribbon.

Reuse cardboard boxes (shoe boxes, shipping etc), using colourful duct tape or green painter's tape to cover any labels or print on the boxes. Another trick is to spray pieces of fabric (old sheets, shirts and t-shirts count as fabric!) with adhesive and cover those big box store gift boxes. The fabric extends the life of the cardboard so that the box can be reused for years to come.

Label it.
I cut little shapes out of cardboard, plastic bags and old Christmas cards and decorate with Sharpies. I use pins to secure the labels to the fabric bags and tape to glass jars. I puncture holes in the tags and then thread the ribbon or yarn through to affix the tag.

Decorate it.
Use old beads and buttons to thread or sew onto the cloth bags. Old pins and brooches make attractive adornments on the rustic bags.

Must haves
Safety pins, duct tape (colourful), green painter's tape, a collection of Sharpie markers, raffia, yarn, adhesive tape, scissors, spray fabric glue, and glue stick.

The best part is the fun it is to use your imagination and stuff on hand. ENJOY!

Plastic bag as wrapping paper
Tea Towel bag

Wrapped in tissue and slipped into a plastic sleeve.


Finished product

Painters' tape


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Give a Little to Help Those Affected by HIV/AIDS

Image courtesy of www.orphanbracelet.org
My last few Give a Little donations have been to organizations dedicated to turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa and supporting the victims left in the wake of this horrific pandemic.

Orphan Bracelet Campaign sales help mothers and children in South Africa whose lives have been severely impacted by HIV/AIDS. The bracelet making program provides HIV/AIDS affected women with a living wage and the skills to become self-sustaining pillars of their communities. This is my favourite kind of giving -- to support causes that help people lift themselves up, and live the kind of life they deserve. And it is as simple as buying a $15 bracelet. 


In keeping with the theme of grassroots movements, I donated to another important effort to help fight AIDS. When I read about 54 year old Nola Reynolds'  DARE for the Stephen Lewis Foundation to support grassroots efforts to turn the tide of HIV/AIDS, I had to give a little support.  She is shaking off fear and misgivings and donning her courage suit to bike from Cairo to Capetown over the next four months to raise awareness of and funds for the AIDS pandemic. Stephen Lewis is one of my heroes so naturally anyone throwing their efforts behind his quest to improved the lives of millions of African women and children, deserves my support. I am going to follow Nola's progress on her blog.


I just gave a little, but as Wendy Smith writes in her inspiring book, Give a Little, if many give a little to many, collectively it will make a big difference to many organizations. And by little, I mean every dollar counts. T'is the giving season.


Read about my weekly Give a Little Challenge and other posts

Friday, December 16, 2011

Traditions of Love

The holiday season for me and my family is Christmas - or as my semi Jew-ish daughters like to call it - chrismukkah. The Popsicle stick Star of Davids that adorn the tree - a subtle reminder of our diverse family.

Something that me and my girls share is the love of our traditions that have been lovingly established over the years. We are staunch keepers of the "traditions" and there is little wiggle room for change. Suggest that the rustic garland made of cereal (an art project from yesteryear) not be put on the tree and you risk mutiny and a chorus of jeers and protests. We are however open to starting new traditions ...

And that is what I did. In these times of excess and commercialism, I wanted to give an experiential gift to the women in my life who guide, support and love me. Thus the annual Christmas Tea for the Ladies in My Life was born. Today we celebrated our second such gathering. The rustic high beamed inn was decked out in full seasonal finery, complete with roaring fire in the over-sized fireplace, garlands dripping with ornaments and a tree that was so bedazzling I was hunting for my shades. Not even the hot flash power surges that were plaguing me could compete with the warmth that I felt sitting with these lovely ladies all around me. How lucky am I?

Truth be told, the sandwiches were a little dehydrated, and the whole food part seemed much like an afterthought. However these minor disappointments weren't enough to dampen my spirit - nor the ladies'. For a few hours we came together to catch up, laugh together and share stories. It is my gift to them -- but mostly a gift I give myself. I love these women and I don't think I can express it enough to them.

Our tradition of love has started strongly, and I can only hope that it will be one that we honour for years to come. Counting my blessings this season of peace and love...
The ladies in my life - 40's, 50's, 60's, and 90's

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wonderful Life

That glossy film is my Christmas Spirit. Negativity is deflecting off my crystal shield; nothing but light is getting through. I can't stop singing those corny Christmas tunes -- not even at the office. my poor cubemates  It's a magical time, if we let it be. I live in a cocoon of love and I am trying to make like a butterfly to spread the joy.

After I left my dad's visit I was overcome with gratitude. It's hard to watch him be vulnerable -- and only because this territory he is navigating is foreign to him; and it shows. But to see his unwavering determination is inspiring and reminds me of the great space he occupies in my life. My heart is full and I am grateful to have him with us.

T'is a season of joy and giving ... and I want to sing it from the rooftops ... it's a wonderful life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Retirement and Reunions

Tonight was a reunion of sorts as my former cable TV colleagues came together to celebrate the retirement of one of our own. The building had bloated to four times the size it was when I worked there 18 years ago (kinda like me). It was odd returning to a building in which I spent so many years growing into my professional self, only to feel out of place. Lucky for me, the whole (mostly female) management team from my era were there to help our friend close out a chapter and usher her onto the next. We squealed happily (our male colleague grunting) wrapping our arms around one another, telling each other that we hadn't changed a bit and excitedly catching up on our lives.

I had the unique privilege to work so many years ago on a management team consisting of 5 women and 2 men - unheard of at that time in the male dominated pole climbers cable TV industry. There was a spirit of cooperation and support as we helped one another become successful in meeting our goals. We disagreed and debated but at the end of the day it was a safe environment and we were there for one another, with our relationships rooted in friendship. Even more importantly - we had FUN while getting it done.

Our general manager at the time (who has since passed on) told us to look around and remember -  because the exceptional, magical dream team experience would never be duplicated. And it wasn't.

There were dignitaries, former and current olleagues, family members, friends and event the corporate big wigs who had flown in for the event. The cafeteria had been transformed in to an elegant lounge complete with live entertainment, candles, a bar, a delicious spread and a stage with a ginormous screen shot of our friend. There were slick posters with photo essays of her illustrious, colourful career. And then she sat in a comfy chair on the stage as a parade of her past and present estolled their good wishes upon her. I couldn't help but blurt out that this was exactly like a living eulogy -- a funeral before the death. And it made me happy that she got to hear the wonderful things people think about her and how she impacted them. Most of us never will for we live in a society that hangs onto our great speeches until they will not be heard by the one who would enjoy them the most. Maybe we need to rethink that and create such opportunities to share "in life".
It's been a good night. It was rich in memory excavation, reconnection, reunions and a reminder of the exceptional companions I have had along the way on this incredible journey that is my life. And for that I am truly grateful.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

And Sew It Is

I think my mall crawling days are almost over. ~silent scream of joy~  I am 98% bought and true to my to-do list, I dusted off the sewing machine and converted some colourful tea towels into a tidy pile of gift bags.

Next on my list, I am turning my attention to giving where it will really count. As I whipped out my credit card for gift after gift, it was impossible not to think about those who are just struggling to feed their families and provide the basic necessities of life. Who are we kidding ... our ideas of "basics" are so beyond food and shelter - in fact it probably includes some form of electronic communication. If I can so quickly produce my credit card to purchase my wants, I can surely do the same to help someone with their basic needs. And you know something, that satisfying feeling that goes along with the giving is the gift I give myself.

The abundance and love that I have in my life is partly due to the geography lottery. I won big time. Just how did I get so lucky?

So know the sewing machine will be loving tucked back into its vinyl sleeve for another five years until I get a hankering to flaunt my inner domestic goddess. It's been another good day - and for that I am truly grateful.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Signals

The Christmas cactus doesn't lie! The lush fuchsia blooms signal the arrival of the festive season and my ginormous cactus is loaded with them, that is until Fritz gets snacking.

I mall hopped for the entire day and returned home loaded down with 85% of my shopping complete; a  far more successful attempt than last Saturday's shopping horror. I am officially defunked and swaddled in Christmas spirit  not a Scrooge in sight.

My next task will be to sew those nifty tea towels I bought into green gift bags; there will be no mountain of wasteful paper gift wrap at my place! I haven't bought wrapping paper in four years now and the challenge of finding creative ways to wrap is half the fun; needless to say I have found new uses for safety pins and produce bags.

It is shaping up to be another memorable holiday season with lots of reunions, famjams, dinners, teas, and of course, holiday sweaters.  : )  The pieces are all in place - I have people to love who love me back, my father is on the mend and I live in abundance. Except in the sleep department, which is why I am off to bed ...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Well With My World

Today was all about getting inside stuff done. It was my day off and my car is still in the shop so it was a guilt-free day of puttering. I had lots of online shopping and laundry to do so I got a head start on the weekend. Fritz and I sang Christmas songs with wild abandon; I stayed in my  hubby's t-shirt and sweat pants until 3 pm and nothing could dampen my spirit -- not even the call from the car dealership about the cost of my "leak" repair. My hair was a little wild and my face scrubbed 51 - and I momentarily worried that I would look like h@ll if Distributors Clearinghouse showed up to award me a big prize or something. It was only a fleeting thought.

Life is good. My dad was sprung from the hospital today after two full weeks. When I spoke to him tonight it was evident that home will take some adjustment and he will have to make a conscious effort to rest. A little shaky but happy sounding, his voice was music to my ears.

Tomorrow I tackle the mall yet again and hopefully I will find treasures to buy for my loved ones  (with love in my heart) and put a wrap on the gift end of Christmas. Next step: I will be dusting off my rolling pin and greasing up my cookie cutters. mmmm the best of Christmas is yet to come.

So happy me will sleep soundly tonight -- cause all is well with my world tonight.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sleepless and Surging

My eyes popped open and the fuzzy numbers on my clock radio told me it was 

2:10 AM: I took a groggy trip to the water closet and tried to maintain the sleepiness. It was not to be; visions of my work day danced in my head. I spelled out agendas, and planned my day. I closed my eyes tightly and tried to clear my head. 

2:18 AM: Power surge. Kicked covers off. 

2:35 AM: Freezing. Dog had the covers.

2:55 AM: Dog's snoring and random circling and plopping yet another distraction. I focused on slowing my breathing and ended up replaying the hospital visit I had with my dad. He's ready to come home. 

3:05 AM: Another power surge. Covers off.

3:20 AM: Yikes!

3:29 AM: In search of covers ... cuddled the dog for heat.

4:04 AM: My mind continued to spin. I felt bad for some cranky behaviour and prayed for forgiveness. Then I prayed for sleep ... and switched to positive affirmations ... I accept peace and tranquility and sleep and then reverted to begging ... pleeeze!

4:25 AM: Cr@p. Almost time to get up. Mentally reviewed my closet ... what to wear?

4:35 AM: One more run through of the agenda for my morning meeting.

5:40 AM: Eyes popped open and the fuzzy numbers on my clock radio told me it was time to get up.

Needless to say, it was a very   l o n g   day. Long, but very well planned out!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Memories of Christmas' Past


The moment we start putting up the tree, little snippets of memories from all Christmas' past are triggered. Some are mildly tragic -- most are pretty great. I thought I would share some of my favourites ....

School Christmas Concerts
The Christmas Concert was always a highlight at school as we harboured our high hopes of landing a good role. Personally I wanted to be Joseph ... I was thrilled the year I landed the part of the lead angel but I underestimated how long I was going to have to hold my arms up high. As the minutes ticked slowly by and my arms dropped lower, with intermittent motions from my teacher to lift them, my halo tilted and my wings wilted until finally - in the loudest voice possible, I proudly belted out my very rehearsed lines:
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.   * Bows deeply and big smile while scanning the audience for parents *
Rituals
On Christmas Eve my sibs and I would sleep together in one bed - two at the top and two at the bottom - to feed the festive fever and convince one another that we heard Santa or reindeer on the roof. I was 19 the last time we did this which may be illegal today. Oh, and my 51 year old "holey" Christmas stocking still hangs on the mantle.


Favourite present
One of the best gifts ever was one that I didn't get. Apparently Santa didn't have room on his sleigh that year so Christmas morning I opened a lovely music book and guitar tuner. I was happy enough with that I play a mean tuner so when my mom pointed out the special note with my name on it that explained that a guitar would arrive as soon as Sears restocked in a week or two, I was over the moon. It was well worth the wait.


Near tragedy
As I walked slowly down the church aisle during the Christmas Eve candlelight service with the rest of the choir, my eyes darted back and forth in search of my mom and grandma. I inadvertently lit my sheet music ablaze with my candle. No worries -- we got the fire out with no fatalities -- but it put a damper on things. And yes I was in the choir -- apparently being able to hold a tune wasn't a prerequisite.


Favourite Christmas song: I'll be home for Christmas  cause really, is there anywhere else to be??

Favourite Christmas movie: A Christmas Story nothing like Chinese food at Christmas

Least favourite movie: How the Grinch Stole Christmas not a fan of green villains

Highlight: Best part of Christmas - hands down - was that my grandma and aunt would sleep overnight so they could wake up with us in the morning. We had a "the more the merrier" spirit in our house and our home was packed to the rafters with relatives and friends during the holidays. And not once can I recall hearing the word "stress". Maybe the secret was in the eggnog.  : )

Do you have a favourite ritual or memory?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Power Surge

I didn't want to become someone who whines about growing older and bemoans the horrors of menopause. I've accepted the fact that changes are inevitable and chosen to embrace each and every affliction with grace and dignity. But can I tell you "oh what fun it is" to Christmas shop in an indoor mall with "power surges" spiking randomly? Unzip goes the coat as I frantically tear away every piece of clothing that is legally permissible. I reluctantly stop at my skin but that would do too if I could swing it!

Man alive! It makes excursions tricky. Flaming face, hot body (not the cool hot), and a bunch of other stuff that no one tells you about. But I am counting on this as a temporary state of being, and banking on the "pause" part of menopause. Until then -- I'm going to harness my inner power surges and let them fuel my passion for life. Onward and upwards! 

Merry Men-0h-pause!

Christmas Change Up

Bogged down by the weight of
expectation
to give
what is not needed
nor for which there is
space.
Spending money we
don't have.
Excess is riddling holes
in my Christmas spirit;
noise of consumerism is
drowning out the
peace and magic of
Christmas as I remember
and still desire.

Christmas of old was
family time
singalongs
hard Christmas candy
excitement, and
wonderment.
Gifts were what you wanted to give
No gift cards, cash, gift receipts.
You smiled and said thank you.
Simple and thoughtful
have given way to
expensive
disposable
electronics.
A single gift is not
enough.
It has to look like more.

When did it get so complicated?
I yearn to hear
silent nights
feel peace and joy
see people smiling as they
move around the
Christmas season.
I wish I could
replace
time in the mall with time
baking love into
season's treats
hand writing notes and
sharing time with loved ones.

Bogged down by the fatigue of
too little time
to do it all in
four weeks.
Pressure is riddling holes
in my Christmas spirit.
I've outgrown
this version of
Christmas.
Something has to give.

I vote for
making the gifts
we give be
time together
love exchanged and
expressed.
My version of
Christmas has
time not pressure;
relaxation not fatigue;
peace not stress; and
memory making
wonderment.

A change is going to come.

PS The tree is up and I think I saw Christmas past hiding underneath it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

I Hear a Whirlwind

Holy cow! I blinked and it's December. That means I have to find a phone booth so I can morph into Mrs Claus - the super hero behind all things Christmas. The whirlwind starts tomorrow. It would start immediately but I am procrastinator. I will clean so I can decorate. I will shop so I can wrap. I will wrap so the tree won't look pathetic. All this, the whole while listening to my cheesy collection of Christmas music. I predict Hubby will assign himself to the outdoor lights. But I warned him that he has to hang some ornaments -- it's tradition. Plus I refuse to hang Princess Leia and the rest of his super hero figurines.

So that whirring sound that is getting louder is the whirlwind of Christmas that just rolled into town. Take cover!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rain, Water and Ice

The rainy, dismal of November is coming to an end. The rains have been torrential; the winds have been relentless. Driving has been a treat. Not. To top it off, I have a pond in my car. Yup. I'm not kidding. I opened the back door of my car to throw my suitcase bag in and there it was -- 2 inches of water on the floor. It was a swamp -- no -- a pond.  The only thing missing were the ducks!

I guess I should've guessed something was up; after a rain when I turned a corner sharply, water would pour out of my overhead light. It isn't easy driving with one hand on the wheel and the other with tissues pressed against the light to catch the drip. Some seal must be gone on my car and I am guessing it has something to do with my sun roof (which should really be called a rain roof). Someday soon I'll get it into the dealership for a fix, hopefully before I have a skating rink on my hands.

Welcome December. I am holding you to a higher standard, so you better deliver. : )

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Love Lives On

You were close by today; I could hear your voice telling me to slow down and drive carefully in the rain; and memories of you and your laughter wove in and around moments in my day. It was after all, the anniversary of your birth. I try to conjure a picture of you at 72, but that won't be necessary. You were spared any ravages of aging and your spirit is forever young. I still miss you as much as I did that night when you left us. But my longing for you is a strange brew of comfort; the little space of empty - a reminder of the exceptional mother who used to fill it.

Happy birthday Mom. Your love lives on.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Step Up

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday when I went to visit my Dad pain was like a cling-on pal who couldn't take hint. Pain was his bedfellow and it was evident in his restlessness, in the creases lining his face and most of all his eyes. He put up a good front but he was clearly agitated. I felt a little downhearted when I left him meditating the pain away.

But today it is a whole different story. Mama T tipped me off that he was in a better space with the pain under control and being up and around a little more. I popped in after work to see it for myself and I am glad I did. He was beaming, sitting up in his bed (30 degrees) having just polished off a delicious (yup - his words) chicken dinner. I scanned the tray and it was seriously licked clean! He chatted happily with Mama T by his bedside and boasted about the fact that he had gone 5 hours without pain meds. He actually did some stairs today and had lots of walking in. Mama T and I think he looks taller ... they say this operation can do that to a person (take note all you shorties out there).

Best of all (thankfully) he finally had a shower!

His talk is all about his recovery and his plans to make it as speedy and successful as possible. When I kissed his stubbly cheek (he hasn't shaved) and walked away, I couldn't help but marvel at his progress and fortitude, and what a difference a day can make.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Forever Friends at Fifty

Look how big our smiles are ... I am smiling because my body shaping undergarments are cutting off the circulation to my heart and Jill is smiling because she is younger than me and doesn't need foundation garments!

Today is her 50th birthday - an achievement in which she lagged behind me. There aren't many things I do better than her: I squeaked out one more daughter - and a few more husbands; my bra size is definitely bigger; I have more sibs; and I talk a whole lot faster - and more!

But the thing is, we were destined to be friends. Aside from the shared taste in fashion (we basically mirrored one another's wardrobe, starting with our matching pantsuits and boy's survival jackets), we had the coolest Moms around (who we lost a year apart), we love to write, we have solid social consciouses, and she is a good listener and I am - well you know ...

We are there for one another, rescuing when necessary and at other times, celebrating the joys and milestones of more than 40 years of friendship. Our bond has never been based on activities or defined by time. Instead we have an omnipresent peace and confidence that goes with knowing that we have that one special person who has our history; with whom we've shared the navigation from childhood to womanhood to motherhood - and beyond. We are soul sisters assigned to accompany one another on this fantastical journey that is our life.

When we were little girls we talked about being old together and guess what? We are! 

Happy birthday to my forever friend Jill.

Weekend Wrap Up

Visit with my dad was brief this afternoon. He hasn't slept alot since his procedure and they had him on a tour of the facility today in his modest, open backed hospital issued gown for a plethora of tests: ultrasounds, x-rays, scans, blood work and the list goes on.  He was spent by the time he got back to his room but managed to organize us and his space for optimal comfort. We adjusted the TV, applied cold cloths, tried to slide his onto his side, exercised his leg, and arranged his water, eyeglasses, tissue, earphones within his easy reach. He has this hospital thing down pat. But we could see the weariness in his eyes from physical exertion, pain and little sleep, and kept our visit short.

Give a Little: I discovered a giving circle that awards $5000 grants to nonprofits working to make the world fair for girls. In the give a little spirit, I donated $5 to 5 for Fairness. Love this concept of accumulating and then dispersing critical amounts to organizations that the members of the circle vote on.

We wrapped up a busy day with family time with hubby's parents: roast beef dinner (compliments of Papa Pete) in a silvery, sparkly Christmas wonderland compliments of MIH.

The tree was up, candles flickered and the Christmas cactus showed off tiny pink buds that will burst into  a mighty shade of pink by Christmas. I wrestled Mr Tibbs the Shar Pei to the ground and he retaliated by putting my whole arm in his mouth for a mock chomp. Papa Pete served up his pot roast on platters -- each of us got our own platter -- followed by lemon cake. Comfort food!

Relaxing back on the couch admiring the sparkle, I could feel the stirrings of Christmas excitement. I think this year the best present I could get would be to see my Pops home safe and sound enjoying new found pain relief and possibilities.

So all in all, it's been an eventful weekend and tonight I am signing off with peace and hope in my heart and prayers for Dad and T for the challenges they will face in the coming weeks.

Thankful.

Platter full of comfort

Nosy Mr Tibbs 
MIH and Papa Pete

Friday, November 25, 2011

Walking Tall

When we stepped off the elevator first thing this morning, there he was ... leaning heavily on a very tall walker, tentatively shuffling along in his flimsy hospital gown and running shoes. Vertical 16 hours after surgery. Standing tall, sitting pretty and clutching the button for his morphine pump, his eyes showed the breadth and depth of his pain. But he swears that it is exactly what he expected.

He is a model patient; no complaints; just grit and determination. His roommate is also a retired teacher so there is no lapse in conversation between them, although I could see weariness setting in with the excessive chatter. His first day post op was a busy one with a plethora of medical therapies, mini milestones, visitors, pains and gains. Most importantly, he finally got his hair brushed and spruced up.

It is not easy to watch someone you love suffer. It is painful to witness vulnerability in one who is steadfast,  solid, the rock of the family. But it is absolutely heartwarming to see hope and possibility abound once again and to envision him dancing at my daughter's wedding.

The road in front of him will get easier with each passing day and it won't be long before he is walking tall once again.

So Thankful

It's been a long day of angst, reflection, anticipation and Tim Hortons coffee. The third time's the charm. My dad finally got his spinal surgery after two bouts of medical mishaps and confusion, and  unlike the first time, we made no auto assumption of success. We knew the murky waters he would navigate. And true to his super hero self, after four hours in the operating room and two in recovery, he was smiling and chatting happily as they wheeled him out of post op to his room on the ward. The staff remarked about how awake he was for someone who just came out of surgery. When the surgeon came to fill us in on how the procedure went, we asked him if our dad was awake. He smiled, nodded and said "oh ya ... he's awake -- and talking". A really good sign!

And talking he is. Sure, we know it's the morphine helping him along, but his thinking and recollection are crystal clear. He is not foggy, groggy or soggy. Wait -- I can't vouch for the third thing. They asked him if he wanted his water with or without ice. I asked him if he wanted it shaken or stirred. He smiled and said he would like rye and water.

All I know is that I can barely describe the jubilation I felt when I saw his bed being wheeled out of the recovery room, and got a glimpse of his tired but smiling face. It is fitting that on the American Thanksgiving Day, I would be filled with more gratitude, faith and love than I could ever have imagined. It has been a good day. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Take Three

I go about my day, survive my commute, drop in on my Dad, but there's background noise. In a couple of days he's going in for the second try (third if we count the aborted procedure) at his spinal surgery. After the last bout of nail biting, gut wrenching drama and trauma, he is facing this procedure more prepared than ever. He has had the tests. He's met with the specialists and understands the plan. He's practiced rolling out of bed and his walker is oiled and ready for deployment. Heck, he even has his new Christmas tree up.

I would be lying if I didn't admit there are some nerves bantering about like free radicals. However in another part of me resides steadfast calm and confidence in a positive outcome. I just know he will endure whatever comes his way and come out the other end victorious.

He has been writing his memoirs for a few years now and I gave him some homework last week. I asked him to think back in his life to times when he experienced failure - and to write about how it made him feel and what it taught him.

From my daughter vantage point with my head turned upwards to observe -- I watched him contort every failure or disappointment into a springboard from which he would catapult to new heights of achievement. He managed to get where he wanted to go, be who he wanted to be - eventually. And I can't see why now - facing a medical hurdle - it should be any different.

So Pops, as promised, I will contain my black humour and refrain from meddling in your care, but I will be close by Mama T's side with my sisters when the doctor emerges to tell us that your are busy writing bossy notes.

But let's be real -- you may have to take a pass on the jingle bell rock this Christmas - or not!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Give a Toilet and a Little Empowerment

Photo credit: Gates Foundation
Thanks to a nasty headache that landed me on my assets for most of the day, I am not feeling like the day was particularly productive. The bright spots were the initiatives I found to support for my "give a little" effort.

I have been lax in blogging about my weekly give a little challenge so please bear with me.

In honour of World Toilet Day, and the 2+ billion people who do not have access to a private, clean place to poop oh don't be a prude - we all do it, I donated to World Toilet Org. I can't help it -- the thought of doing my private business in public is unfathomable so anything I can do to support the cause to improve the situation ... The mission of this organization is to improve sanitation conditions for people globally through advocacy, inventive technology, education and building marketplace opportunities locally. Like the Gates Foundation, they are supporting efforts to reinvent the conventional toilet; to find solutions that are not water based. It doesn't get any more basic or revolutionary than that!

Wendy Smith, author of Give a Little inspired me yet again with her suggestion to donate to the Imagine Rural Development Initiative (IRDI). This Zambian non-profit organisation is providing free skills-training in moringa cultivation to 30 previously unemployed local Zambian women. Moringa is an affordable and highly-nourishing superfood that can fight malnutrition, improve health and eradicate poverty. Sound good? Many of the local women taking the training are widows and breadwinners in their families and take care of not only their own children, but also grand-children and orphans who have lost their own parents due to HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. The donations help sustain the families while the women take the 6 month training. Wherever possible sustainability is key for me in my "investing" efforts. Don't we all want the same thing; to be able to take care of ourselves and our family and provide the foundation on which to build dreams?

So although I spent most of the day horizontal with reruns of "Love it or List it" playing in the background (helps me sleep), I feel like somehow I made a small, positive contribution and the day wasn't a total write off. And so another week begins!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sparkles in the Gray

Oh gray November, you held sparkles in your dismal with so many reasons to celebrate.

We came together as a family to celebrate birthdays of my two oldest daughters and my future son-in-law. The feast was bountiful with gluten free, starchy, grainy, meaty dishes and the table was customarily too noisy with cross conversations being exchanged in outdoor voices. The house burst with life - and love. Tears were shed (and not only over my daughter's gluten free cake attempt), and the best gift of all was my dad's emotional reaction to the gift of his family's history, neatly bound, and presented to him by my niece and nephew. These treasures of the past become that more precious and meaningful as we age, and get farther away from our beginning.

Last week I made two separate trips into the city to meet friends for dinner. Ironically each of the three have logged more than 36 years of friendship with me. We knew one another as kids, swapped vinyl records and listened to AM radio in the days of soft faded Levis, wedge haircuts and school band. As I drove the four-lane expressway into the city it occurred to me that to have friends from childhood still such a large part of my life is truly remarkable. One more reason to cut November a little slack, even if she did spill a little snow last Thursday.

And today hubby and I went with my engaged daughter and her beloved to choose the spot amongst the tall pines where they will make their vows next summer.

So many spots of light flickering amongst the gray and cool damp of November. And for that I am truly grateful.




Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tradition of Remembrance


It's become a personal tradition. I get Remembrance Day off at work, so for the past five years I have used the day as it was intended. I, along with so many others in my community, make my way down to our local cenotaph. There is an eerie silence - save the crunching of dead leaves - that hangs in the air as people walk the sidewalks leading to the park. We come in a varieties - white headed, bent elders with hints of elegance and pride in posture shuffling along, young parents with kidlets in tow, service personnel from all branches, multi generational families walking arm in arm, and lots of dogs.

It was a prophetic event. The day was gray and dismal - typical for November in these parts. Bystanders pulled their coats tightly around them and pulled scarves over their faces to shield from the wind. The pastor opened the ceremony with a prayer and introduced the trumpeter who would play The Last Post. As the first melancholy note  sounded, the sun burst through the clouds, shining a spotlight on the band ensemble - so bright, I could barely take a picture. And as he played the final few bars, the sun disappeared as quickly as it came, and tiny, misty tears fell from heaven.

It seemed that the deeds and sacrifices of our service people were being remembered by all, everywhere.


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Thank you.