When someone says “get stuffed”, it’s not always a bad thing

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There’s a lot to be said for the joy the holidays bring – or any celebration, for that matter.  Whether it be a birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas or a reunion – the ease of the conversation, the steady flow of wine, the melodic sound of laughter and the joy of being with a close-knit group of people is unequalled.  There is an undefined comfort level that allows us to become absorbed in the festivities that surround us. The fact that we can gorge ourselves and have an excuse to eat everything in sight with only a few fleeting moments of guilt is sublime.

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The molecules change in the room when family and friends get together for a holiday celebration.  There is something intrinsically sacred about holidays and the memories that are created within those moments. Time has a way of strategically obliterating those precious seconds as it marches on at a frantic pace, but our memories have a way of stopping that clock, if only for a few moments.

Holidays are a portal.  They can freeze time and create a vortex that allows us to travel back and relive certain periods in our lives.  The memories wrap themselves around us like a blanket and soothe us with the warmth of the times that engaged us and truly breathed life into our lives.

Although many holidays have passed and are collecting dust in the books of my hallowed history, watching my brother “float” his dinner in gravy brings back a rush of nostalgia, and that, to me, is what the holidays are truly about.  Personal moments that, to any other person would mean nothing but, to me, define my holiday experience.

Our Canadian Thanksgiving begins today and this evening I will spend time with family and friends enjoying a concert by Victoria Banks.  She is currently living in Nashville but is home for Thanksgiving weekend with her family.  The one glaring item that will be missing this Thanksgiving is my mom.  This weekend will be another “first” after her passing in March.  I know she will be with us in spirit tonight and especially during the making of my brother’s always spectacular turkey dinner.  Undoubtedly, she will be looking over his shoulder, whispering secrets into his ear, so he can make her stuffing just the way she used to.

Embrace your family, enjoy the moments and get stuffed with those memories.

Long weekends are only long when you have to work them

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There is a slight buzz across the Canadian provinces and it has nothing to do with Black Flies.  The Victoria Day Long Weekend is upon us and, for those who are fortunate enough to have Monday off, that means a three-day weekend.  The multi-lane highways that allow travelers to reach our vacation destinations in Muskoka are already becoming congested and the stress levels of those trapped in their cars in slow-moving traffic is escalating exponentially.

They’re coming.  The locals feel the change in atmosphere like a phantom pain in a missing appendage.  We sometimes wake in the early hours of Friday morning in a cold sweat, knowing what is in store but never fully prepared.  Although we survive this phenomenon every year we are never able to control the urge to flee and hibernate until November.

When faced with the promise of a three-day weekend, historically, I would be overjoyed.  Now the long weekends have the reverse effect on me.  I work in hospitality so those three precious days are a thing of the past.  What began as joyous memories of lounging in the sun without a care in the world slowly evolved into feeling like I am in a constantly moving rocking chair – it gives me something to do for three days, but it gets me nowhere.

Long weekends, for those of us on the job, become extremely long.  We awake on Friday morning to the guarantee that our work day has just been multiplied by 1 1/2 times its normal duration and will continue as such until the small reprieve we get with a regular work day on Tuesday.

Long weekends, for those who have clawed their way through traffic to arrive in the sanctity of Muskoka feel the time slipping away as soon as they step out of their cars.  What they had anticipated would be three days of recharging their batteries becomes a blur of time and, before they even realize what happened, they are getting back into that vehicular jungle to fight for their place in the highway hierarchy on the way back to the city.

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(image credit: citynews.ca)

Whichever side you are on this weekend – take some time to enjoy it.  At least it’s not snowing!!

 

 

A Groundhog said what??

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(image credit: ricochet.com)

It’s that time of year again.  Tomorrow is February 2nd – best known as Groundhog Day.  Tomorrow is the day that the nation puts its faith in a furry, rotund, hibernating member of the squirrel family to accurately predict the coming of spring.  (Currently their rate of success is posted at 39%.)  The folklore behind Groundhog Day allegedly originated in the area of Europe that is now known as Germany and became a tradition in the United States when the German settlers landed in Pennsylvania.  The original foreign prognosticator was a badger.  I’m not sure who the enlightened historical figure was that originally thought that this was a judicious way to plan their crop planting schedule but, many decades later, we are ready to celebrate this auspicious occasion again.

Hundreds gather, some donned in period costumes, to anxiously await the report that is passed from whiskered lips to attentive ears.  We must all consider ourselves fortunate to even see this furry forecaster as hibernating groundhogs will generally only leave their burrows for food and sex.  (I know some men who could take over the role as the purveyors of the changing of seasons based on their similar habits!!)

Mother Nature must really enjoy this celebrated day, especially if she sees fit to part the curtain of clouds to let the sun filter through.  The luck of the early spring prediction lays solely at her discretion and no member of the rodent kingdom will change that.  If the sun is shining on that frightened creature, he will inevitably see his shadow and it will be broadcast that we must brave six more weeks of winter.  If dear Mother Nature is moody and the sky is mottled with grey clouds, Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie will see no shadow and be said to have deemed an early spring.  I can only hope that tomorrow will begin under a blanket of condensed water vapor and their shadows will be non-existent.

Although his sweet, fuzzy exterior and chocolate-brown eyes may hold a place in your heart, do not trust a groundhog to foresee the accurate coming of spring!!  I may not be as hairy (thank God) or as cute (up for debate) as Wiarton Willie or Punxsutawney Phil but I, on the day prior to the 2nd of February 2014 will make my prediction.  Spring will arrive on Thursday, March 20th at 7:04 am!  Shadow or not, I’d put money on the fact that I’m pretty close in my estimation.  Sorry Willie and Phil, you might as well stay in bed!

The sun will come out – tomorrow??

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After dealing with the “polar vortex”, the unending snow and a delightful case of Pneumonia, I needed something to cheer me up so I went through the archives and found this pictures to help warm me up!

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This was a sunset in the Caribbean.  I can almost feel the warmth.

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The sun began to settle into the blanket of the clouds.

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The sky just looks so animated and inviting.

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It seemed like the sun’s journey had ended.

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But it poked through the clouds before disappearing into the horizon.

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Not what I thought it was going to be

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The welcoming of 2014 was not the night I had anticipated.  The beef was waiting in the fridge, the wine was holding its place in the wine rack and I was curled up on the couch nursing a glass of water and a nasty chest cold with a temperature of 103F.

I woke up on December 30th after not showing any sign of illness the previous night and a few hours after getting out of bed, I hit a wall.  I spent four short hours at work and was sent home.  Being the diligent employee I am, I attempted to perform my daily duties again the next day and sent myself home.  I have spent the last three days sleeping, coughing, sipping water and not eating a thing.  Today was the first day I attempted some food so I can start getting my energy back.

It seems I have a lot of catching up to do on my blog reading, but I just wanted to wish you all a very Happy new year and all the best for 2014!

Stories of Christmas

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Another Christmas has come and gone leaving us with more great memories for the scrapbooks in our minds.

My sister-in-law kidnapped my mom from her new home and Christmas Eve was spent standing in a sub-zero temperature to watch Santa Claus go by on the fire truck.  This has been a tradition in our family since we moved to our small town in 1976.  This year, however, was the first year that a Command Post vehicle followed behind the fire truck in case Santa became thermally challenged.  I’m sure somewhere in his mind the Ho-Ho-Ho evolved into Ho-Ho-Holy S*&t it’s cold up here.

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Once again we went, as a family, to church but this year there was no fear of having to don a Shepherd costume and stand in front of a crowd.  Roles had been pre-assigned and we were able to sit in our pews and enjoy the performance. The three Wise Men this year were comprised of an older gentleman, a seven-ish year old and a stand up comedian, turning their show into a couple of wise guys and a very confused child!  Hilarity ensued and our hearts were definitely light allowing us to forget the frigid temperature outside and the fact that the heating system inside the church couldn’t fight off the cold.

Christmas morning welcomed us with a beautiful sunrise and a temperature of -30C but nothing could slow the pace of gifts being exchanged and paper flying.  Although we had decided a few years ago not to exchange Christmas gifts, my brother surprised me with a CD of my grandfathers dialect stories that had been converted from a vinyl album.  It was an amazing gift and one that I will treasure.  My nephews ventured off in their own directions, one wearing his new blue tooth headphones and the other jumping into a new book and devouring the words.  My brother headed for the kitchen and, even after five cups of coffee, I still managed to squeeze in an hour and a half nap before enjoying the turkey dinner my brother and family created.

After pushing our chairs back to let the turkey settle, we listened to some of my grandfather’s stories as a family.  My youngest nephew had listened to the recording so many times he could recite bits of the stories and my oldest nephew punctuated the end of a conversation with one of the best endings to one of the stories – “so long, fat ass”.  His timing was impeccable and there may or may not have been some cheesecake remnants sprayed onto the tablecloth.

It was agreed that my mom would have another sleepover and, one by one, we began to assume something reminiscent of a reclining pose.  My 13-year old nephew was a sitting duck on the couch when the tickling began.  The musical sound of his laughter filled the living room and, after exhausting all my efforts, I finally heard the three words that every Aunt longs to hear – “Stop, I’m peeing.”

I hope you all had a Christmas celebration that will leave you with stories of your own to pass down over the years.  May our hearts continue to be light and may we feel this same Christmas spirit throughout 2014.

The traditions of Christmas

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Each year, when my father was still with us, he would phone at 6:00 am to wish me a Merry Christmas and get the day started.  This year, I expect the lines from Heaven will be clear again tomorrow morning and that phone in my head will ring just prior to that dreaded time in the morning.  But this, begrudgingly, is among the favorites of my Christmas memories.

There are many Christmas traditions we still follow and, although they become slightly modified as the years pass, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them.  After we moved to our tiny little town, Christmas Eve was spent bundled in our warmest winter gear standing at the end of our driveway.  The sirens could be heard before the truck was spotted and the lights would crest the hill by our house.   Santa Claus was atop the biggest fire truck and would pass all of the eager children, bundled tight like we were, waiting for a glimpse of the big guy before we were hurried off to nestle in our beds.  There were no visions of sugar plums, only the wonder of how he fit his ever-growing frame down our very thin stove-pipe. I pondered that thought until the weight of my eyelids became too troublesome and drifted into sleep with that unanswered query still nagging my brain.

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As the years passed we began to give back.  We would faithfully wait at the end of our driveway with a case of beer for the jolly man.  I mean, he had to have been frozen up there and what better way to keep him jolly than some beer?  I’ll never forget the eve of one particular Christmas when Santa told us that he didn’t drink beer, but instead enjoyed a Rye and Coke.  I guess everyone has a Christmas wish and the following year we granted his with a tall glass of whiskey and carbonated syrup.  My gifts were fabulous that year!!

We almost missed him last year and I raced to the corner of the next street to catch him on his way back.  I stood in anticipation, forever in the shadow of the child I once was and with the smile of the child I hope to always be, and Santa waved and wished me a Merry Christmas.  My night was complete.

Each Christmas morning, we were allowed to open our stockings and then were forced to stare longingly at the big presents under the tree while we choked down some form of breakfast.  Complete and total torture. That tradition should have been abolished but still remains intact much to my nephews’ chagrin.  (although my brother’s Eggs Benedict makes the wait worthwhile!)  Paper flew, boxes were cast aside and we became buried in a pile of pure love.  Thanks to my mom, inevitably one or more of the presents would still have a price tag on them and that became a much-anticipated tradition as well.  My brother followed up spectacularly last year by not only leaving the price tag on a gift for his wife but the price tag was hanging outside of the gift box and not wrapped up inside.

My mother had become the David Copperfield of making presents disappear.  She mastered her craft so well over the years that we would receive some of our Christmas presents in March when they magically appeared months after the festivities had ended.  There was always a competition between my brother and I to see who would open the last present on Christmas Day.  We would skilfully hide a gift or two and casually pull them out an hour or two after the mayhem had ended.  My mom really upped the ante on that one and it was anyone’s guess as to whose Christmas present was going to appear at Easter!!

As I sit writing this, the presents are piled waiting to be coated in the festive colors of wrapping paper, the ingredients are sitting on my counter for my mom’s Shrimp Dip and my brother is preparing his house for the onslaught of family, food and extreme commotion.  This is the best of Christmas.  It’s not the presents or the tinsel, it’s time spent laughing about the price tags and the long-lost gifts that is the most important to me.  It’s Santa Claus on a fire truck and being tricked by my nephew to play a Shepherd in church almost every Christmas Eve. It’s a glass of wine with the people closest to me, the people who don’t care that I have to unbutton my pants after eating too much turkey.  These are my precious Christmas gifts and the best of my holiday.

To all of you and all of yours – a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays.