Do good, feel good

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Over the last few years, I have found myself very driven to spend a great deal of my spare time volunteering.  I have always liked helping people so this step was a natural progression in my desire to offer my time to help those in need.  With a background in hospitality and a passion for cooking, it came as no surprise to me that I have combined all of those things about myself and I have become very active with our local Food Bank.

When you weave your way into the world of volunteering, you see just how many people are right along side of you, driven by the same aspiration to lend a hand where they can.  The faces you see in your daily life suddenly become the hands behind the volunteer work that you didn’t know they were a part of.  They don’t do it for the recognition, they simply do it because they want to help.

I have been very fortunate to become a part of a group of people with a vision that continues to grow to serve our small community.  Sure, there are a few people who need more recognition than others and an occasional public pat on the back, but there are always a few of those people in every crowd.  Thankfully our intentions come from the same place and we put forth the same effort to achieve the desired results.

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If you have ever entertained the idea of volunteering, I highly recommend it.  Just knowing that your efforts make such a difference in people’s lives, regardless of where you volunteer your time, is a truly heart-warming feeling.   And there is no shortage of places that could use an extra pair of hands or two.  The amount of time you commit to volunteering is always up to you but every second you spend helping those who struggle is well worth the time you take to show other people that you care.

 

 

Ready to welcome 2018

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2017 has provided me with many things, not in terms of wealth or possessions but things that mean so much more.  It has urged me to embrace the people who mean the most to me, to ignore the negative energy and to run with my full self towards the things that engage me and avoid the things make me feel trapped.

I don’t make resolutions on New Years’s Eve.  I don’t go out to a party.  I spend a very quiet night at home with my dog.  I make a tasty dinner for myself and enjoy some nice wine and reflect on all of the things I love and the few things that I barely survived.  Writing my book was, by far, the thing I am most proud of.  It was a daunting task that I saw to fruition.  The story was a very worthy adversary but I put forth a solid effort and, in the end, I won the battle.

Although I don’t make resolutions, I do make a vow to be the best version of myself and to give as much of myself as I can to those around me.  It is a simple task and one I find easy to do.   This coming year will also be the year I aggressively pursue a literary agent or publisher in the hopes of seeing my book in print. I am also set to tackle book number two (once football season is over!).

May 2018 bring us all love, health and happiness.  May those special moments and special people still be able to surprise us and remind us that each moment is precious.  And may we give as much of ourselves as we can to those less fortunate.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope this will be the year that we all have the courage to hold on to the things that make us the happiest version of ourselves.

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My letter to Santa this year

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Dear Santa,

I hope this letter finds you well and feeling the joy of the season.

I have spent many hours considering what I would like for Christmas this year.  I do believe you will find my name on the nice list so I thought I would save you some time when it came to my gift.

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I want life experiences for my gift this year.  I want to sit in a room with my family and laugh until we cry because the joke is something only we would understand.  I want my brother and I to share a toast to my parents and take a moment to remember my dad waking us up at 6:00 am by cranking the Beach Boys vinyl album and my mom inevitably leaving a price tag on at least one of our gifts and then finding the last gift sometime in April because she had hidden it so well.

I want to really watch my nephews this year as they tear open their mountain of presents.  It seems like only yesterday they had no real concept of what was happening and now I’m going to blink and they will both be off to University and, soon after that, having Christmases of their own.

I want to embrace the friends I have and let them know how lucky I feel to be able to call them friends.  I want them to know how much they mean to me and how close I hold that friendship to my heart.

I want to take a quiet moment or two during the holidays and reflect on all of the wonderful things that happened to me throughout the course of the year.  And I want the words “I love you” to be a comfortable phrase that gets shared a lot, and not just during the holidays.

I know you are a busy man this time of year so I shall leave it at that.  I will be waving at you on Christmas Eve as we stand at the end of my brother’s driveway and watch you go by on the Fire Truck as I have every year since I was seven years old.

Merry Christmas Santa.

A little glimpse into the past

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I think about my parents a lot.  I think of the life I had when I was lucky enough to have them in my life, but rarely do I think much about the lives they led before they were married and had children.

Lately, I have been helping our local library with a very interesting project that they are creating to help commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.  They are putting together a book with photographs and personal stories of how our senior residents came to live in our little town.  I have had the good fortune of interviewing a great number of these residents so I can write their stories.  Some of the people I have interviewed have spent their whole lives here and, as I have come to know, several of them remember my mother in her much younger days.

My mom’s side of the family have cottaged in our little village for generations.  She spent the best days of her childhood on the same shores of Lake Rosseau that I had the good fortune of growing up on at our family cottage.  During several of my interviews, I have been overjoyed with the words, “I remember your mom……” and the stories go on from there.

A project that began as a chance to tell the stories of our local residents has turned into a project that has allowed me to look into the life of my mother when she was a young girl and a teenager.  I was even told a story of my mother knitting one of our local residents a pair of blue socks with a yellow diamond and she even took the time to stitch an “M” in the diamond.  That story really hit home for me.  My mom was still knitting socks until she died.

What started as just a writing project has turned into a wonderful glimpse into my mother’s past and I am thankful, especially during the holidays, to know that little pieces of her live on in the memories of those around me.

 

 

The magic of Christmas

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Christmas, for me, doesn’t feel as magical as it used to when my parents were still alive.  My dad was the biggest kid of all and he would happily stroll through malls that were bulging at the seams with shoppers trying to find that perfect gift. He would also be on the phone at 6:00 am on Christmas morning, pulling us from our slumber to make sure we were up and ready to come over to open presents.  The Beach Boys Christmas album would be blaring in the background, as it was each Christmas morning, and he would impatiently pace around the overflowing tree until we arrived.

My mother would embrace her inner elf and make their house look like Santa’s workshop had overflowed into every room and the smell of fresh-baked cookies and other goodies always filled the air.  The dining room table, that was once filled with tins of cookies she had made for many of the local businesses, would be set to perfection with all of the festive tablecloths, napkins and candles.

Perhaps some of my Christmas spirit was taken when they left.  Maybe it also has to do with the fact that I don’t have kids of my own and my nephews are now teenagers, so the urge to feel elvish is lower on the register.  But over the last couple of years, I have been finding much more of my Christmas spirit through the annual toy drive I have run every year for the last five years.

With a stuffed Rudolph safely tucked onto my dashboard so his red nose could lead the way, we drove two cars full of toys to the Food Bank today and were able to be there to help some of the families find the perfect gifts to give to their kids on Christmas morning.  To say I am now bursting with Christmas spirit is a gross understatement.  It was so heart-warming being able to stay and see the smiles as parents got to pick out the toys they knew their kids would love.

The spirit of giving is truly what the holiday is about.  And since I have just been injected with an overdose of that spirit, I think it’s time to go home, turn the tree lights on and crank some carols by the Beach Boys.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

History really is about his story

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Remembrance Day has always been a day when I truly do honor the men and women who have served, and continue to serve, for our freedom.  Every year, I watch the ceremony in Ottawa and, every year, I am moved to tears watching the emotion on the faces of the people in the crowd.

My latest interview for the library project I am helping with was nothing short of eye-opening and made the emotions I feel on Remembrance Day seem insignificant.  Charlie was born in 1925.   After graduating high school, his career focus was on the Navy.  It wasn’t until he talked with his teacher that he decided to become a soldier in the army.  After going through basic training, being sent for further training in Nova Scotia and finally turning 19, Charlie found himself being sent to Europe in November of 1944.

Now, at the age of 92, he skillfully walked me through his journey from Canada to England and then to Italy.  He joined the 48th Highlanders and they moved on to Pisa, where he remembered the leaning tower.  From there they were transferred to Marseilles and then took a truck to Belgium.  They crossed the Rhine into Germany into an area that had already been cleared and his troop eventually ended up in Apeldoorn, Holland.

By mid-morning on April 17th, 1945, the Highlanders had secured the north-western section, the Hastings were on the grounds of Het Loo Palace and the Royal Canadian Regiment was in the town square. The West Nova Scotia Regiment of the 3rd Brigade took over the south-western perimeter of the town before noon.  Charlie was on the front lines when Holland was liberated.

It was remarkable watching him become so emotional when he told me how his unit was given the news on September 2nd, 1945 that the war was finally over.   It was 72 years later and, if I could describe the look in his eye, he was right back on that street when he first heard the news, standing in his uniform pants and a t-shirt.

History really is about his story and so many other stories.  And next year on Remembrance Day, I will remember Charlie and the countless others who sacrificed their freedom to defend others.

 

Remembering a post about Remembrance

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This was written two years ago and I could not think of a better post for today, so I am putting this out there for those who read it to read it again and for those who missed it to read it for the first time.

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Undoubtedly, you’ve seen them.  The men and the women of the Royal Canadian Legion Branches have been doing their duty, standing at local businesses with their trays of poppies, collecting donations.  I see them every year.  I donate several times every year and I am proud to don my poppy to show my support.

But Friday morning, November 6th, 2015, will stand out in my memory as the day I was truly humbled and I knew precisely what I would be thinking during my moment of silence on Remembrance Day.

My friend Karen was enveloped by her navy blazer, her hair neatly braided, and a bright red poppy radiated from the lapel on her jacket. But that bright poppy was no match for her vibrant smile as she stood in the rain with her tray of poppies strung proudly around her neck.  When I asked her why she was standing in the rain as opposed to being under the shelter of the covered entrance to the store, she paused briefly, looking into the sky while summoning her response.  When she replied, it stopped me in my tracks and hit me right in the heart.   She said, “I don’t know.  They stood out there for us so the least I can do is stand out here for them.”.

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For a few seconds, I was frozen in my spot.   I smiled at her and continued into the store to buy my morning paper.  I reflected on what she had said to me and, once out of the store, I stopped and chatted with her in the rain some more while I donated the rest of my change.

The thought of what she said still brings a tear to my eye every time I recall her voice saying that brief but overwhelmingly gracious line.  That sentence was profound.  One simple line put Remembrance Day back into perspective for me.

So easily at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, we all take a moment to share silence to remember the fallen, praise the heroes and thank those still serving to protect our basic rights and our freedom.  But how much do we think about what those soldiers really endured to fight for us?  How deeply will we let our brain delve into those dark places to be able to scratch the surface of the atrocities the fighters of those World Wars, and the many conflicts since, have been made to bear?

As the previous generations fall into the past and subsequently we skip quickly ahead to the next epoch of humanity, how many stories of our fallen ancestors will continue to be shared?  My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack long before I was born.  He served and I know so little about his sacrifices for our family and our country.   His stories of bravery seem to be tucked away with his photographs and his absence.

Hearing Karen’s thoughtful reasoning behind standing in the rain with her tray of poppies made me want to research the time my grandfather spent serving his country.  I want to feel that connection on Remembrance Day and I want to share that legacy with my nephews so their generation will understand what it means to show courage in the face of adversity, so they will appreciate what it means to sacrifice yourself for the greater good and how bravery is defined by doing something you believe in, no matter what the outcome.

To all of the men and women who are currently serving, to all of those who have served in the past and to those who are finally enjoying the peace they fought so diligently to preserve, I salute you and I thank you.  And at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I shall bow my head and take a moment to truly appreciate everything I have because all of you made it possible for me to have those things.