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.

Last minute shopper’s lament

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I pride myself on being organized, I have lists for my lists, but this year something has gone horribly wrong and I find myself running around shopping for Christmas with four short days until the big celebration.

My Christmas shopping list, compared to previous years, is much smaller because we, as a family, have become financially forward thinkers and have realized that we do not need to spend money on unnecessary items for adults simply to have presents under the tree with our names on them.  Christmas for me is about spending money on my nephews and spending quality time with my family while the two boys sort through the mounds of gifts with their name on them.

I used to bemoan the gift card.  It always seemed so impersonal and last-minute, but the reality of the gift card is that the receiver of the gift card can buy what they truly want.  For the past few years my nephews have been big fans of the gift card – iTunes, trendy clothing shops and Golf Town are among the favorites.

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Each year I strive to think of something that will parallel, nay exceed, the gift card but I come up empty.  As the boy’s interests morph into things that they feel strongly about it is becoming easier to think of gifts that will compliment those interests.  Sometimes the gift card is still the best way to go, especially when I find myself shopping a mere four days before Christmas, but at least I know they will buy something they truly want and I don’t have to keep the receipt for when they want to return that “cool” gift their Aunt bought them for Christmas!!

Are you a last-minute shopper?  Or do you start in June?

Holy Christmas Spirit Batman!!

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I initiated a Toy Drive at the Lodge where I work and this is the first year I have taken on such an enterprise.  Shamrock Lodge agreed to donate an off-season weekend for two as our way of saying thank you for donating to our toy drive.  Family names who have donated to our cause will be entered for a chance to win and a name will be drawn on December 21st.

The first picture is round one of the toy drive which was overwhelming in itself.  We delivered the first round of toys to the OPP Toy Drive last Saturday and made Natalie, the OPP officer, a bit weepy.

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Today I went shopping once again with the generous donations that continue to come in from all areas of our lives.  Friends, family, hotel guests and local residents have gone above and beyond to help us with our toy drive and make sure every child has something under the tree this year.

The next picture is only the beginning of round two.  We are still collecting for another week and I am already excited about donning the Elf hat again and delivering the toys to their rightful destination so they can find their way into the hands and heart of a child.

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I will definitely be making this an annual event!!  Have a great weekend everyone and when you are out shopping, be sure to pick up that one extra toy and donate it to a cause that wants every kid to have a Christmas!!

Let your heart be light

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If there is one thing the holidays should teach us, it’s to let our worries go.  It may only be for a few precious days while we focus on the things that are truly important but if we can embrace that serene feeling while it is in our presence perhaps we can carry that feeling within us for an extended period of time and not have it fizzle out with the digestion of all that turkey!

Every year it seems stress increases exponentially around the Christmas holidays.  The days that we get a reprieve from work are meant to be our “down time” but the pressure and time constraints of creating our own Hallmark  holiday are overwhelming.  The influx of family from all parts of the globe, the search and rescue mission for the perfect Christmas gifts and the attempts to give Martha Stewart a run for her money at the dinner table all compound to make the stress level reach its maximum capacity.

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I had the Christmas Carols gently soothing my mood the other day and I took a moment to really listen and absorb the words.  “Have yourself a Merry little Christmas,  let your heart be light”.   That was an “a-ha” moment as Oprah would say.  That simple string of words had such a profound affect on me and I realized that it doesn’t matter if the presents I wrap look like my dog wrapped them.  Nobody is going to care if I spend Christmas day in my pajamas and my hair looks like I stuck my finger in an  electric outlet.  The holidays are for just being, not for being perfect.

Take a moment to ask yourself what the holidays really mean to you.  Is your definition of Christmas a perfectly wrapped gift?  Or is it the precious moments when you share a laugh or a hug?  Let your heart be light and enjoy what the holiday is really meant to represent.  If you worry too much about the perfection of the celebration you’ll miss the beauty of the holiday.

Twas the night before Christmas – blog edition

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Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the blogs
Edward Hotspur had his bacon, Angie’s Grapevine had her dogs.
The synonyms were used by Honie Briggs with care,
And Homesick and Heartstruck, her feelings she would share.

The Jiggly Bits was nestled all snug amongst her words,
While Sethsnap had artistic visions and took pictures of the birds.
Sage Doyle was getting poetic, authoring memorable quips,
While 40 is the new 13 was creating, snacking on her chips.

Le Clown’s newest blog had created such a clatter,
And 25toFly’s  comments only added to the chatter.
Away to the keyboard The Daily Post flew on its quest,
Tore open the gates of creativity and posted its newest contest.

The reviews from Rick Mallery let us all know,
About the masterful words of Dianne Gray, written from below. (well, Down Under, but it didn’t rhyme)
When, what to Fear No Weebles eyes should appear,
Ned’s Blog, in all its glory, showing no WordPress fear.

With a well-versed writer, so lively and torn,
I knew in a moment it must be Girl of The Corn.
More majestic than eagles the stanzas were put,
And I knew in a heartbeat, El Guapo was afoot.

“Now Janna! now Gibberish! now Notebook and Leash!
On, Bjorn! On, Campari and Sofa! on, Cliche! (not pronounced properly, but go with it)
To the top of the Fresh Press! to the top of the wall!
Now write away! Write away! Write away all!”

As Rarasaur roars before the wild hurricanes fly,
When they meet with a Creative Liar, and mount to the sky.
So up to the Matticus Kingdom they flew,
With Trifecta Writing and a Writer Fellow too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my Realm,
The Ambling and Rambling of TwinDaddy at the helm.
As I closed my keyboard, and was winding it down,
Unawarebutunderlined was making a sound.

Jill Weatherholt spoke with a great deal of fervor,
And words were carefully crafted by The Mercenary Researcher.
A bundle of phrases HastyWords took from her stack,
And Shouts from the Abyss, the words he attacked.

With their keyboards they created with zest and with zeal,
They wrote just as passionately as brunch for every meal!
It was Apoplectic Apostrophes, the words she did reap,
And, in between writing, they read shrinksarentcheap.

They wrote from their hearts, like it was their favorite job,
And inside of them all lurked a Geeky Book Snob.
The Cutter rambled and wrote to make you think,
While a little Fish of Gold readied with paper and ink.

On The Homefront took a few precious moments to reflect,
While somewhere during Red’s Rants and Raves their writing they did perfect!
They spoke not a word, but went straight to their work,
Blending a symphony of phrases, responsibilities they would shirk.

The Writer I could be pounded endlessly on the keys,
While My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog kept up the pace with ease.
 You’ve been Hooked had amused us, FortyOneTeen surely did see,
And we quickly lost H.E. Ellis to the feeling of writer’s glee.

Inspiration sprang to its feet, to its words gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a high powered missile.
But I heard it exclaim, as our brains turned to fog,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good blog!”

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(image credit: lhj.com)