It’s all fun and games until you run into the Minister

5 Comments

Lately, I’ve been happily ensconced in a world of avoidance.  The less I think about Christmas, the fewer the number of tears that threaten to roll down my cheeks.  I have only managed to put up one Christmas decoration in my house so far.   It didn’t come with shiny lights or reminders of Christmases gone by.  It stands alone,  in a spot that has never adorned a decoration and really looks as sad as I had been feeling.  But it gives me hope that I can find some of the joy the holidays are meant to bring.  If Charlie Brown can do it, so can I.

CB the tree

But recently I’ve felt much more like Peter Pan than a forlorn Charlie Brown.  My mind has been filled with happy thoughts.  Although none of them have been about the holidays, they have been happy nonetheless.  I have been blissfully distracted by work, by the return of my writing muse and by reacquainting with a dear old friend.  The big phantom red X’s on the calendar to indicate the counting down to the big day have gone unnoticed.  Until today.

It was during an innocent trip to the Post Office when I saw him.  Stealthily, he crossed the street like an apparition.  His white hair and white beard made me recognize him immediately.  Had he been wearing red suit, I would have thought he was Santa Claus but the all-black ensemble with a hint of white on the collar to match his beard was a glowing reminder of his true identity.  He was the minister at my mom and dad’s church, a dear friend of my mom and dad’s and a good friend to our family.  I knew as soon as I saw him that I would end up in tears before getting back into my car.

It’s always tough putting on a brave face when the person you are facing knows that you are struggling.  I like to think I walk around in a suit of armor but on the bad days that suit is filled with nothing but a puddle.  Today, seeing the sorrow and understanding in Steven’s eyes converted me from brave face to wet face in mere seconds.  I knew the happy bubble could only float for so long but I certainly have been enjoying the ride.

I know my mom is around.  She is the positive force making the good things pop out of nowhere when the sadness comes calling again.  I can feel her energy and that makes me happy.  And though this Christmas is going to be filled with some sadness and many changes, it will still be filled with a family who loves each other and cherishes the memories of the people they will be missing, especially during the coming holidays.

 

 

And how does that make you feel?

11 Comments

Lately, the internet has been laden with posts and strong feelings about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon.  What seemingly started as an innocent way to get children to behave during the month of December has morphed into an epic competition to see which parent can get more creative with the benign holiday character.

Many blog posts and articles have been written with very strong emotion regarding this cherubic creature.  Parents either love him or their contempt is so strong that they hold ill feelings towards those parents who embrace his presence.  Some argue that he is the Elf on the Shelf simply for that reason.  He may stealthily maneuver his way around the house in the darkness to take refuge on another shelf but that is his only purpose.  Others, holding tightly to their innovative genes, have created a list of 101 ways the Elf can get into mischief during the night.  Spoiler alert – most of those creative ideas require extensive clean-up the following morning although I’m sure the children would be thrilled to see what a mess the Elf made while they slept.

elf

Had my life been different and I had kids of my own, my children undoubtedly would have been in therapy either during or shortly after the Christmas holidays.  I blame my choice of reading material but my sense of entertainment tends to lean towards the macabre.  Picture Dean Koontz or Stephen King finding indecent ways of displaying the Elf and you have entered the world that my Elf would have had to endure.  There would have been crime scenes, possible Elf DNA and an abundant amount of Police tape.  This is the stuff that my dreams are made of, the stuff that helps me write my book.  But this is also the stuff that would have a child sitting in the waiting room of an analyst’s office at least once a week.

elf2

For those of you able to remember to innocently and creatively display your Elf each evening after your children have fallen asleep, I applaud you.  You are creating memories that your child will inevitably pass on to their children.

As for me….perhaps I will get an Elf next year and track his bizarre habits in a journal.  CSI – Elf on the Shelf.  Hmmmm…..I may be on to something……stay tuned.

 

 

Redefining traditions and stocking up on tissues

4 Comments

With Christmas rapidly approaching, my resolve to not spend the entire holiday season in tears is very strong.  It is going to be tough this holiday season without my mom but we have been doing our best to redefine some of the traditions we have known for so long and create some new ones.  I had carefully delineated a plan of not leaving the house, but that seems to be going off the rails so I’ll have to do my best to keep a brave face.  I’m sure a few tears will leak from the corners of my eyes and stain my cheeks but that is to be expected and will certainly be understood by all who see those tears fall.

Holidays are about tradition – whether adhering to old ones or beginning new ones.  This year will be a bit of both.  My mom’s famous Grasshopper Pie will surreptitiously make its way to the table after our feast of turkey and our best attempt at her stuffing.  But because of work schedules, our Christmas food bonanza and subsequent turkey coma will be on the 23rd so that will be the first of the changes for this year.

grasshopper pie

My brother and his family will attend the church service on Christmas Eve (I don’t think I can get through that step this year) and we will meet afterwards to show the newly purchased or creatively engineered ornaments to adorn the Charlie Brown Christmas tree my mom loved so much.  We will tell stories of why the ornament reminds us of her and take turns sharing our memories.  I may even sneak into town and hide in a quiet driveway somewhere to watch Santa Claus go by on the fire truck.  I don’t think I can let that tradition go and I know a few tears will find themselves frozen to my face before the truck has passed.

The most important thing to focus on, especially this year, is that Christmas is about family.  My brother, sister-in-law, my nephews and the family and friends scattered around the globe will always be the presence and the only presents I want during the holidays.  And somewhere during the festivities, I know that my mom and dad’s eyes will be looking at us through those twinkling lights and sharing those moments with us.  That is a tradition that will never end.

 

 

 

The spirits of Christmas

2 Comments

I want to write.

I was waiting for the fog to clear,

for my thoughts to be happier.

But sadness weighs more than I thought.

Joy is hiding under a shroud.

I know it is in there,

capable of being,

willing to sporadically show itself.

But the pain of loss is heavy,

 oppressive.

I try to tease my joy out of hiding,

keeping only happy memories in my head,

and yet, the sadness skulks.

It has an agenda.

But my resolve is stronger.

My happiness hides in memories.

It lurks in my past,

but seeps into my present.

The holidays loom, like a dark cloud

but we will find joy in new traditions.

Memories will be kept alive,

emotions will bubble under the surface.

new-46

She will be there in spirit,

as Angels are during the holidays.

Together again with him,

reunited forever.

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

4 Comments

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.

turkey

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

4 Comments

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.

traffic

(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??

8 Comments

groundhog3

(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!