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New-Year-Sayings

In what felt like a lifetime, but just the blink of an eye,

the calendar year transpired.

 Obligations were met, celebrations were had,

and on most days we felt inspired.

Some sadness ensued, some loved ones were lost,

but we keep their memories close.

Now the new year is nigh, the past slowly fading,

and it’s time to say adios.

The ball will drop, the confetti will fly,

and some kisses will be shared at midnight.

Resolutions will be formed, new promises made

and, indeed, the future looks bright.

To the next stage we go, heads held high,

ready to take on the year.

Trusting ourselves, making decisions,

based on hope and not fear.

We forge our path, we stake our claim,

we ask the universe for light.

 We embrace the good, we learn from the bad,

and we wipe the slate clean at midnight.

 To those in my life, to each one of you,

 may you have what your true heart desires.

 May the hopes you have, may the dreams you dream,

be forever fueled by your fires.

~~

Happy New Year!

Empty chairs

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chair

Vague memories cling to the fabric,

permanent indentations show in the cushions

of the now empty chairs you once sat in.

As time marches forward,

I hold tight to the moments created while sitting in those chairs.

Your laughter is embedded in the cloth.

The fiber of your being is worn into the stitching.

The very essence of you lingers in the shadows,

hiding in the nooks and crannies of those chairs.

You left behind a part of you in something so simple,

and now those empty chairs no longer hold sorrow,

but are cushioned with memories

and framed with love.

The true spirit of giving

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This afternoon I received an email from a stranger.  It read:

“Greetings from Dwight.  We were touched by your wonderful crockpot idea to help your food bank. We have decided to make a donation on your Go Fund Me page instead of buying gifts for a few family members.  Thanks for helping Muskoka families in need.”

Over the last couple of weeks, some friends of mine who are very supportive of Dollars for Dinners have been mischievous little elves and have contacted some local media outlets to share the story of our crockpot meals for our Food Bank.  I can only guess that this lovely woman heard the story on the first radio interview and contacted the station to get my information.

After I wiped the tears from my cheeks, I smiled.  What a wonderful gift from one family that will help create meals for several other families who are struggling.  That is what the spirit of the season is about.

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But when the holiday season is over, when the Salvation Army bells fall silent, when the donation Kettles are gone and the spirit of giving seems to be packed away with the extra wrapping paper and bows, that is the time that we need to remember those families who need our help.

The end of the holidays does not signify the end of the hunger or the need for a helping hand.  We need to keep the true spirit of giving alive and well and keep that glow in our hearts, the glow you can only get from helping others, burning all year long.

 

 

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 Christmas morning and that phone in my head will ring just prior to that dreaded time in the morning.  But this, admittedly, 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.

Santa on a fire truck

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 and the rest of the fire department.  I mean, he had to have been freezing up there and what better way to keep him jolly than with 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 one 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. Santa waved and wished me a Merry Christmas and I walked back home with a smile that went from one ear to the other.

Every Christmas morning we were allowed to open our stockings and then we were forced to stare longingly at the big presents under the tree while we choked down some breakfast.  That tradition should have been abolished but still remains intact. 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 a few years ago by not only leaving the price tag on a gift for my sister-in-law but the price tag was hanging outside of the gift box and not wrapped up inside.

My mother was the David Copperfield of making presents disappear. She loved to start her shopping in June and would hide the packages where we would never find them.  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 changed the face of that contest and it was anyone’s guess as to whose Christmas present was going to appear at Easter!!

As I sit writing this, the gifts are waiting to be coated in the festive colors of wrapping paper.  The Shrimp Dip has been made by my brother, (hopefully there will be some left for the big day) and he is busy preparing his house for the onslaught of family, food and extreme commotion.  This is the best of Christmas.  It’s not the gifts or the decorations, it’s time spent laughing about the price tags, the long-lost gifts and the early morning phone calls. It’s watching my brother “float” his Christmas dinner in gravy.  It’s Santa Claus on a fire truck and being tricked by my nephews to play a Shepherd in church on past Christmas Eves. 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 or that I may just wear track pants this year.   Christmas is about presence and not presents.

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

Stuffing all you can into the holidays

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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.

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 shared 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 have engaged us and truly breathe a bit of life back into our frenzied 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 any other person would find arbitrary but, to me, define my holiday experience.

Our Canadian Thanksgiving has come and almost gone and the only glaring items that were missing, as always, were my mom and dad.   I know they were with us in spirit, especially during the making of my brother’s always-spectacular turkey dinner.  And I know my mom was smiling down on our dinner knowing that my brother nailed her stuffing recipe this year!

Embrace your family, enjoy the moments and get stuffed with the memories your family helps to create.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Are you there, blog? It’s me, Susan.

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Frenetic pace aside, the last few weeks have been draining.  It’s a good problem to have when your resort is so busy that you cannot find the right moment to take a day off.  But it is a bad problem, personally, when you cannot find the right moment to take a day off.

For anyone in the seasonal hospitality business, the start of the school year is a dreaded reality.  The summer staff are solely focused on Frosh Week and moving into residence while I am busily focused on the treads of my new running shoes, hoping that they will carry me through until Thanksgiving.  And while I am intent on putting forth 100% to make everything at work a glowing success, my personal accomplishments become non-existent.

mower

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But the past two and a half days have been, thankfully, concentrated entirely on my needs.   I slowly morphed back into all of the roles I had been ignoring and gained some of my life back.  My lawnmower is fixed and the ridiculously long grass has been cut.  Order has been restored to my life and all of the menial jobs I had been unable to accomplish have been triumphantly completed.  I am currently sitting back with a glass of red wine, happy with the amount of tasks I have been able to complete over the last two days.

Now it is time to get some balance back in my life.  It’s time to allow the words to become more of a focus than the numbers – the number of people at the lodge, the number of meals I serve and the number of steps I complete in a day.  It’s time to get back to the things that feed my soul and not my punch card.

Are you there, blog?  I’m back….and I’ve missed you.

 

“Touricide” and a brief message to the transient population

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It has already begun and the long weekend is still days away.  The simple act of easily turning left onto any of our local roads is a shadowed memory of its former self.  They have descended upon us and the seemingly mundane tasks we used to perform with ease now require an expletive filter and a great deal of patience (or high blood pressure pills) (or both).

Almost three years ago, I wrote this post about the tourist season in our small town.  It was that post that sparked some interesting conversation about these wayward travelers and also got me Freshly Pressed.  To those not ensconced in the WordPress blogging world, being Freshly Pressed was a nice pat on the back.  We were recognized for writing something interesting that would encourage a discussion.  And that it did…..on many levels.

I will preface the words that follow by reminding you that I work in the hospitality and tourism industry.  My job is to serve people and I truly enjoy it.  Our lodge guests have slowly become like friends and family and it is a pleasure to go to work.  But the myriad of other temporary inhabitants of our little village are a like a box of chocolates and, as Forrest Gump so eloquently put it, you never know what you’re gonna get.   I realize that these summer vacationers are the bread to our butter, the wind beneath our small town wings, but, as each year rolls into the next, the level of courtesy and manners shown by a substantial percentage of these visitors leaves much to be desired.

courtroom

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The act of “Touricide” has crossed my mind at many points throughout our busy seasons.  I’m sure if the facts of my potential case were presented to a jury of my peers the charges against me would be dropped and the crime would be ruled as justifiable.

I don’t mind that our population explodes exponentially in the summer months.  I plan accordingly knowing my routine tasks will take much longer because the lines have quadrupled in length.  I leave my house much earlier to deal with the sudden onset of traffic in a town where six cars on the road in the spring is considered gridlock.

What I cannot tolerate is the arrogant attitude of so many of these visitors, thinking we live in this town only to serve them in the summer.  You have entered our home.  We have greeted you with courtesy and respect and all we ask in return is the same level of civility.  We will bend over backwards to meet your needs and we ask so little of you.  Smile.  Say thank you, and mean it.  Take a moment to appreciate that you are on vacation and relax.  Things may not get done at city speed but they will get done and we will make sure they get done properly and that they meet or exceed your expectations.

I wish everyone celebrating the long weekend a safe and happy holiday.  Take the time to smile and say hello to a stranger.  Perhaps all they need is a little small town warmth to melt that cold city shell.