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!

Thyme and time again…

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It is a painfully contradictory reality in my mind, but this is truly my favorite time of the year.  Sure, the leaves are gone and the landscape is a gloomy blend of brown and grey.  It’s depressing.  And sure, the clock has slipped backwards by sixty minutes and it gets dark at 5:00  pm.  That’s disheartening as well.  But I have to look at the bright light that now greets me in the morning when I wake up at 6:00 am and think of all of the good things that happen in my life this time of year.

When the doors of the lodge close for the season and the work clock slows to a turtle pace, my life clock has the freedom to pick up its momentum and I have much more spare time to spend doing things for others.

There is something inherently fulfilling about being able to give my time and my skills to causes that have taken up residence in my heart.  Last winter was the first of hopefully many that groups of locals gathered to make freezer crockpot meals for a family who lost their home to fire while in the hospital delivering twins.  We banded together, gave our Thyme and our time, and filled their freezer with a few months worth of meals.  So many of the group commented on how wonderful they felt being able to help.

And this year will be the fourth year I have organized a Toy Drive for the local children.  To say the response has been incredible would be an egregious understatement.  My heart swells so much when the time comes to pack up the toys for delivery that I am overwhelmed by emotion.

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I had always looked at volunteers in silent awe.  I knew they must feel some reward to give their time, their generosity or even just their smile or a touch of their hand to help someone’s day become a little brighter, but I had no idea how truly euphoric the feeling was until I began giving my time.  And now that I have had a taste of that….I will always want more.  If you have never had the chance to do any volunteer work and the opportunity presents itself to put up your hand to help, in any way, I promise you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

#heartgrew3sizes

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My early Christmas memories consist of an overflowing Christmas tree with presents that never seemed to end.  As as child, I thought that was normal.  I lived with the belief that every voice in the world was hoarse from saying thank you after each gift had been torn open.   I assumed every house was just like mine and every child was lost in a sea of wrapping paper, ribbons and tags after the last gift had been opened.

But that mound of brightly decorated paper blinded me from the reality I would come to know as I got older.  My Christmas was not the normal image of the holiday celebration.  The large roasted turkey and all the accompanying dishes that adorned our table did not magically appear in every other house on Christmas day.  When I learned that fact, my happiness was changed.

I had been oblivious to reality until I was in my last years of public school.  I honestly don’t even remember if there were food and toy drives when I was that age.  I just recall the anticipation of Christmas morning, not even realizing that there were kids I went to school with that may not see anything under their tree on December 25th.

Over the last three years, the Christmas tree that has become most important to me is the one in our hotel lobby.  It has become a temporary home for gifts that we have collected or purchased with the generous donations of our many supporters.   This tree overflows, much like the one I remember from my youth, but it will bring smiles to many more kids than just the two children who stumbled upon our family Christmas tree on that much-anticipated morning every year.

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This tree holds the hope that so many more children will be able to open a gift on Christmas morning.  This tree embodies the true essence of Christmas because the gifts that lay under its branches come from people who will not get the gift of seeing a child’s smile as they open their presents on Christmas day.  This tree truly represents the spirit of giving.

I can only hope that my future Christmas celebrations will embody the generosity I have seen over the last three years.  And my Christmas wish is that everyone takes a moment to remember those less fortunate, especially during the holidays.  The season is about giving to everyone…..not just the ones on your list.

 

 

Every time a bell rings

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With all of the negativity that has been thrown haphazardly around the myriad of social media, the timing of our 3rd Annual Toy Drive at the lodge couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

For anyone who has ever done anything nice for someone, you know what an astounding feeling of satisfaction you get knowing that you made a difference or at least made someone smile.  Random acts of kindness, whether large or small, create a ripple effect that we need to send back into this world.

I’ve written before about “paying it forward”.  It is a concept I truly believe in and one this Earth could really use right now.  You may think that buying someone in the line behind you at the drive-thru a simple cup of coffee may seem like nothing, but that person may turn around and donate $50.00 to a charity that may help a family have a real turkey dinner at Christmas.  For each kind wave sent into this world, the ripple of that kindness swells into bigger rings on the pond of our life.

I took our first few monetary donations into a local shop and bought the first toys for our Toy Drive today.  It made me feel happy and it made me feel hopeful.  That spirit of giving still exists within each one of us.  Whether it is a donation for a charity or merely a kind word to someone who could use a smile, kindness begets kindness.

It is easy to lose sight of the simple niceties with all the fear and anger being broadcast on every news station around the world.  It is understandable that our anxiety and apprehension are clouding our vision and not allowing us to remember the kindness we have been raised to feel and to share.  I am thankful that I have been made aware that tolerance and humanity still exist and I am extremely grateful that I continue to comfortably tread water in the sea of optimism.

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I am reminded of the line from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life” ~ every time a bell rings, an Angel gets its wings.  Perhaps we can bring that thought process down from such an ethereal level and just hope that every time a kind act is performed, a small piece of hatred dies.

 

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!!

I’ve been bitten

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The Christmas spirit bug has ruthlessly stalked me and finally dug its long incisors into my flesh.  I feel like the Grinch after his “A-Ha” moment and my heart has grown three sizes and then some.

As you may have read in an earlier post, we came up with the idea to do the first ever toy drive at Shamrock Lodge this year and the response has been overwhelming, to say the least.  Not just toys have entered our Muskoka lodge, but monetary donations have been flowing in from all over the map.

I had the fun of shopping on Thursday at our local toy store where ALL toys are 50% off – so not only did we get to buy toys for the kids, we got twice the number of toys than originally anticipated!  Win, win.

Today is the day we deliver the first round of toys to the OPP Toy Drive and make what will be the first of two contributions this year.  The money is still coming in and people have until the 20th to drop off toys to the lodge.

I hope this bug bites me every year!

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I feel like I’m in Santa’s Workshop

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Admittedly, our Toy Drive at Shamrock Lodge is receiving more attention that I had originally anticipated!  Toys are now coming from all directions and the office is beginning to look like the toy factory at the North Pole.  As well as toys pouring in from locals or arriving by mail from generous, kind souls we have also received several cash donations by email transfers and cheques to be able to purchase toys locally.  (aka: win/win)  So far we are up to $600.00 and it keeps coming in!!

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I’m excited to be able to hit the toy store soon and make this toy box disappear under a mound of gifts for the kids.  Giving back has really put me into the Christmas spirit this year and increased my level of child-like anticipation for the big day.  Knowing that we have helped to put a smile on a child’s face on Christmas morning is priceless.  I want to feel like an elf every year!!