2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Published in: on December 30, 2015 at 11:43 pm  Comments (4)  

Some thoughts for the new year….

As 2015 comes to a close,
I reflect on the past, (but do not get lost in it)
Live precariously in the moment, (for better or worse, this too will pass)
And have hopes for the future (peace, security, love of my family and friends)

It is too easy yet not easy enough to take the advice to live in the moment—for the moment is fleeting and has its roots in the past and life in the future. My new mantra from this day forward is:

Live in the moment
Remembering it roots are in the past
And the future holds new seeds of hope.

Published in: on December 30, 2015 at 5:31 pm  Comments (7)  

Magic and Wonder

I still get that Christmas Eve feeling—a mixture of excitement and anticipation for the big day. Over the years my role has changed when it comes to Christmas—I am now the purveyor of all that is merry and bright—which is a heavy mantle to carry, and one I wear with trepidation mixed with the hope against hope that I will once again pull this one off.

I remember the days, when as a little girl, I would lie in my bed on Christmas Eve with visions not of sugar plums, but of what would await me the next morning. Santa always had a surprise waiting: one year it was a room full of balloons around the Christmas tree; another year I found a Rocket Crystal Radio in the Christmas tree. Wrapped in Christmas paper bearing my name, it was the best gift ever. And the fact that I could only listen to CKLW (a local station)  was not a problem at all. I raised the little antenna at the tip of the rocket, put the earphones in my ears, and I was off to another plant. Another year (before the rocket radio year) my sister and I found two “walking” dolls, not under the tree but in the dining room. They were three feet tall. Mine had blond hair and my sister Peg’s had auburn hair. You took them by their left hand and some kind of intricate mechanism allowed them to walk with you. We thought we had died and gone to heaven!

I have another vivid Christmas memory that I may have shared with you before. But it is worth repeating. I wrote it up afresh for my Writers’ Group Christmas Party and called it: Magic and Wonder. Here it is, edited a bit to fit in this column:

“I never wanted to stop believing in Santa. And to this day, I still do. But I remember when I believed in more than the spirit. I believed in a living, breathing, jolly old fellow who ate the cookies and milk my sister and I left out. I believed that he really did park his sleigh and his eight tiny reindeer and Rudolph on our roof, and that he found his way into our house even though our chimney led to an oil furnace and not an open fireplace.

I was convinced for years that Santa himself left the gifts under our tree and it is for one very specific reason. One year, my sister and I, ages 8 and 5, were nestled in our beds, and although we were not sure what visions of sugar plums were, we were imagining the magical things that awaited us the next morning. We were trying hard to fall asleep, but to no avail. Then we heard it. Jingle bells. And footsteps on the flat roof of our bedroom. We shared a double bed and huddled together in excitement, trying to douse our giggles, fearful that if Santa heard us, he would go away.

There was a stillness in the house. No one was stirring—not even the mice that made themselves often known in the walls of our bedroom. The television was off which was odd since my parents stayed up late. And my brothers were not saying a word. These things did not make sense but we were not going to question them. It was the magic of Christmas Eve. Santa was here. And he was going to leave our presents.

Getting presents at Christmas was really the only time we got toys in those days. We got clothes and books on other occasions, but toys only came at Christmas. We were not going to peak out our bedroom door because I am sure in our little minds that meant that Santa would vanish if we discovered him.

Finally, we heard footsteps on the roof again, a distant ho, ho, ho, and the sound of jingle bells. We did not move for a while, so caught up in the wonder. We hugged each other, and only in furtive whispers did we check with the other that what we thought had happened really happened.

Before falling asleep I noticed the sound of the television and the din of the rest of the family’s voices and wondered drowsily to myself where they had been. But I did not question it. And the next morning my sister and I had a wonderful tale to tell. Years later we learned that our older brothers, Jim and John, had climbed up on the roof, jingled some bells and pretended to be Santa. I wonder if they knew what a gift they had given their little sisters. The gift of magic and wonder.”

Published in: on December 23, 2015 at 8:43 pm  Comments (27)  

Songs of the Season

 

“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas……………”
It is unusually warm for this time of year. And I for one, am basking in it. Don’t get me wrong—I love the white stuff at Christmas, but it is not necessary to have snow on the ground for me to get into the spirit. I think living in the southernmost part of Canada, we are used to green Christmases. In the last few years we have been experiencing real Canadian winters—winters that we can brag about getting through, but I am just as happy with the tropical winter we are having so far.

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire……”
This is my all-time favourite Christmas tune, but never once in my life have I roasted chestnuts on an open fire. Or, to add to that—have I ever seen chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But little does that matter—it is the essence of the season, and who am I to question its validity. I have roasted chestnuts in my oven, marking them with the requisite X so they do not explode, and enjoyed the meat of the warm nut fresh out of the oven. That is close enough for me…

“Rocking Around The Christmas Tree…..”
I have never, not once, rocked around the Christmas tree—unless of course that means dancing in the vicinity of one, then yes, I have rocked around the Christmas tree. I remember this song from my youth—but even then it had been around for a while in those days when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. This song always brings me back to those innocent Coca-Cola, potato chip with onion dip parties that I was lucky enough to attend. No, I was not one of the cool kids. What was your first hint?

“And So This is Christmas…..”
I so do not want to be hard-hearted, but when this song was taken over with graphics that tore at my heart, it was ruined for me forever. I used to like this Beatles tune, but all I can see now when I hear the song are the sad and hungry faces of lost and sick children. Yes, it makes me want to help them. But it makes me so sad…..

“I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus……”
Am I too delicate a being or is this song slightly nightmarish? First of all, no one wants to see their mom kiss someone other than their dad. And second of all, if dad is Santa, then all belief in Santa is ruined. On so many levels, this song is just wrong. And speaking of wrong………..

“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer….”
Okay, whose brilliant idea was this song? This is not funny. No one wants their grandma run over by a reindeer……. I would have been devastated if either of my grandmas (may they rest in peace) had a run-in with a reindeer.

“Jingle Bells, jingle bells……”
If I never hear the dog barking rendition of this little ditty again, it would be too soon. I know that last sentence makes no sense, but even thinking of the way this childhood favourite has been reduced to dribbling drivel makes me senseless………….

Good King Wenceslas
I love this unlikely Christmas carol just because of the King’s name. Every time I hear it sung Wenceslas is pronounced in a uniquely different fashion. By the way, it was written in 1853 by John Mason Neale and is about the King of Bohemia circa the 10th century. Who knew? (Source: http://www.carol.org.uk).

Silver Bells
This was my mom’s favourite Christmas carol, hence it is mine. Every time I hear it I can hear her sing it when she thought no one was around. She also whistled the tune beautifully (as did my dad.) Whistling seems to be a lost to our parents’ generation.

“All I Want For Christmas is You….”
Love the sentiment of this song and it reminds me of my favourite seasonal movie “Love Actually.” Just read a review of the movie by someone who hated it—they still couldn’t spoil it for me. Plot holes and all…….

Silent Night
The most sacred of all Christmas carols to my mind. So simple. So Christmas.

O Holy Night
The other most sacred of all Christmas carols. Less simple, but still so Christmas.

What is your favourite Christmas song or carol? Least favourite? Most sacred?

Published in: on December 15, 2015 at 4:41 pm  Comments (20)  

Stockings were Hung………

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there…………”~ C.C. Moore

The stockings in Clement C. Moore’s oft quoted poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” may have been hung by the chimney with care, but mine are hung in my dining room on the east facing window’s white shutters. These are not the stockings that are hung on Christmas Eve, but the ones that each member of my family cherishes.

Mine is red cotton, sewn by my Grandma Crawford. She embroidered my name on it and every year I note that there is a hyphen between Lou and Ann. A hyphen I have never used in recent or distant memory. I check out my birth certificate, and there it is, a hyphen between Lou and Ann. I wonder when it was lost. For all these years I have been spelling my name incorrectly. Alas, I will not be adding the hyphen now, but it does give one pause. Anyway, back to the stocking: it has a sweet fat elephant and fluffy bunny embroidered on it, and a little stain near the toe. I am not sure when the stain first showed itself, but it is now there for eternity.

Next to my red stocking is my husband John’s. It is red too, but of sturdier felt and cut with a pair of pinking shears. There is a white snowman with a green candy cane on the heel and an old fashioned candlestick in yellow near the top. The word NOEL is spelled out in green felt fitted diagonally across the stocking. His does not have his name on it, but it is a remnant of his childhood and one that couples with mine every year.

My sons’ first stockings hang on the window next to ours. Each is from their first Christmas. I know this because they each say “Baby’s First Christmas.” My oldest, Adam’s is made of white felt with a red banner on top. It features a cute panda bear festooned with a red ribbon and holding a traditional candy cane. It is cute as a button. Tyler’s is blue quilted and polka dotted cotton, topped with green trim and a bit of lace. There is a wide-eyed little boy opening a present featured in the middle of the stocking. It is cute as a button too.

It is tradition that these four stockings are lined up on the window shutters. They have hung there each year for about twenty some years. And while we live in this house I do not see the tradition being broken. They are reminders of our younger selves. The innocent selves who never had to ask if Santa was real. The selves that left cookies and milk out for Santa.

My Christmas tree is in what has become its traditional corner. I do not remember when we got it, but I think its carbon footprint has been erased. (It takes 22 years for an artificial tree to earn its environmental keep I learned from a radio program I was listening to while I was decorating). Once again, if I do say so myself, it looks wonderful. It is dripping with decorations that have their own history; draped with stars on a string; lit with multi-colour lights that look like gumdrops; and topped with a gold wicker star affixed with a little sign that says: “Memories are made every Christmas.”

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my house. After a few weeks of no seasonal decorations (I put away my pumpkins and other fall décor a couple of weeks ago), my house has come alive again with colours reserved for only this festive time of year. I love red and green and their Christmas cousins, gold and silver. And I must admit, a few other colours have joined the celebration—making my house a welcome hodge podge of colour with no discernible rhyme or reason.

I have dreamed of a Christmas co-ordinated beautifully with some type of theme: winter white; sparkly silver with accents of blue; and even black and gold. But the decorations I have amassed over the years do not keep to a colour scheme or theme—they are the embodiment of choices made at random and put together each year because memories are more important to me than harmonized decor.

Tradition lives on at my house. Sometimes it changes. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Published in: on December 7, 2015 at 2:12 pm  Comments (5)  

Visions of Sugar Plums

“…visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads….”
-Clement Clark Moore

It is the first week of December. Normally that would not be a sentence that would grab your attention. But with the mere mention of December, visions of sugar plums dance in our heads. Even if we are not quite sure what sugar plums are. Being the intrepid investigative reporter I am, I am going to reveal to you just what a sugar plum is, right after I look it up on the internet. Talk amongst yourselves for a minute, I will be back…..

Okay, I got a lot more information than I bargained for, so I will give you the definition of Sugar Plum in a nutshell. It is not a sugared plum. In fact the term has very little to do with the plum other than the fact that the first sugar plums were similar in size and shape to the fruit. I gleaned this information from an article written by Samira Kawash revealingly called “Sugar Plums: They’re Not What You Think They Are”. Kawash says that “the sugar plums of Christmas fantasy are in fact sugar” spun around a central seed of caraway or cardamom. The confections were popular in the 1800’s but have their origin in the 1600’s when the meaning was not sweet at all. If you had a mouthful of sugar plums a few centuries ago, you could be considered deceitful (meaning you spoke sweet words with a false heart).

Kawash likens the sugar plum to today’s jawbreaker, as the process of conjuring up the sweet treat is much the same, though certainly not as inspiring. When Clement Moore wrote “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, he used “sugar plum” to convey “the excitement, the pleasure, the childlike wonder of Christmas, all in the shape of a little sugar plum.” Kawash also explains that Tchaikovsky used the Sugar Plum to rule the Kingdom in the Nutcracker Ballet because it was the “universal signifier of everything sweet and delectable and lovely.”

Some of the other things that dance in my head at this time of year are not sweet and lovely: “to do” lists with unrealistic goals; stress derived from trying to find the perfect gift for everyone; and my eternal struggle with the turkey question: will I or won’t I take on the festive bird one more time.

I am learning, albeit slowly that the trimming of the “to do” list to essentials is vital to what is left of my mental health; that there is no truly perfect gift; and that a ham or prime rib stands in beautifully for my nemesis, the turkey.

Keeping the important traditions, while adding a few new is also what keeps Christmas from getting stale. I am thinking of moving my Charlie Brown Christmas tree from its usual corner to another spot this year—and depending on how loud the hue and outcry from my family is, I may just do that.

The original reason for the season is not lost during the preparations for gatherings of friends and family, but the warm feeling that comes from shared camaraderie is a wonderful and comforting thing during the winter days to come. I am ready to take on another Christmas season with visions of all that is “sweet and delectable and lovely.”

What are your “visions” for Christmas this year?

Published in: on December 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm  Comments (7)