Chestnuts Roasting, Jingle Bells Jingling

 

In an effort to expand my ever-narrowing horizons I picked up a music CD by George Strait called “The Best of George Strait-The Christmas Collection.” I have never been much for the country music scene even though its popularity, unlike my horizons, seem to be expanding.

I picked the CD up on the random advice of an older woman who was alongside me looking at a number of Christmas CDs at Walmart. I was really just looking with no real intention of buying but she regaled me with the wonderfulness of this CD. Now she was obviously a country music fan as she also described for me a number of other country star’s music, but she also told me she really liked Bing and others of his elk. I like Bing and his cohorts too, so I thought I would take a chance on George Strait.

Now, I am aware of George Strait so he must be kind of well known, but I really picked up his CD because I did not want to hurt her feelings, as she seemed so positive that I would like it. (I tend to avoid yard sales, going to the market alone, and other smaller venues where things are sold, as I always feel like I should buy something so I do not hurt the vendor’s feelings—I do not have the same feeling in big box stores, groceries stores or stores like Sears). Besides, it was only five dollars—probably due to the fact that it originally came out in 2003.

So, I just put it on and my first thoughts are of Gene Autry, one of my dad’s favourites—and something I was introduced to as a youngster (and have sort of rejected for lo these many decades.) I am getting the feeling that George Strait is of the “old school country” and not the flashy, sequined, new country which is awfully close to rock and roll. So far, he is homey, bringing back Christmas memories of my long-ago youth.

I really like his ballad “Old Time Christmas”—he just sang “the magic never melts away” and being a long-time champion of Christmas I could not agree more. I give credit to my parents, particularly my mom for creating unforgettable Christmases and my eternal fondness for this time of year, though it is a much different celebration for an adult than a child. I find that I am now the creator of Christmas good (and hopefully not too many bad) times and no longer just the recipient of good cheer. A heavy mantle to carry, but I (mostly) enjoy it.

Now he is singing “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”, and his rendition is beautiful. Admittedly this is one of my favorite songs, but he is up to the task. It takes well to “countryfying”. I love snow but in context. In the context that it does not make the roads slippery. I love how it transforms the bleak winter landscape, blanketing everything in white.

“Jingle Bell Rock” is the next song. Not one of my favourite—must bring back unpleasant memories–though I cannot conjure them now. It is just a feeling…. Next up is “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth). I remember the days when I was wishing for my front teeth—losing my baby teeth was an inexplicably traumatic time for me, so no good memories there. Strange that I can still remember that.

The next tune is unfamiliar. Called “Merry Christmas (Wherever You Are)”, it is kind of sad. But I like the subsequent one on the CD. It is called “Noel Leon” and is about a fellow named Leon who leaves his Christmas lights up all year, with a flashing Noel sign, making it “feel like Christmas all year long.” It is a story song—really quite lovely. And my description of it is sorely lacking—it is a must hear.

The eternally festive song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is properly upbeat—a well-worn song that may have been played one too many times. Not like the last song—which is my favourite of all time. Called “The Christmas Song”—I envision chestnuts roasting on an open fire with such fond nostalgia. Which is strange, since I have never experienced first hand chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

So, do I like the CD? Yes. Do I like George Strait? Yes. Am I a country music fan now? Sort of. And I would like to thank the lady who recommended him in the music aisle at Walmart. Five dollars well-spent. George is now joining my Christmas repertoire of James Taylor, Michael Buble, Carole King, Bing Crosby, Sting, and Nat King Cole (who sings my favourite rendition of “The Christmas Song” ever).

What is your favourite Christmas tune, song, CD, or carol?

Published in: on December 6, 2016 at 2:15 pm  Comments (4)  

The Abominable Snow List

I love lists. And I hate lists. I love lists of possibilities. I hate “to do” lists. I love the lists of dreamers. I hate the lists that remind me of reality—of the things undone that I must do. I love to read other people’s lists and find out what is important to them. The very minutiae of the everyday and the bigger thoughts and ideas that take us outside ourselves.

I have a book that is meant to be interactive. In order for it to be a complete book, it must be written in, filled out, and created. In order for it to have any meaning at all, I must put pen to paper, jot down my miscellaneous thoughts, dream a little, imagine a lot, and commit myself in words to action. The book is called “the 52 lists project” and is touted to be “a year of weekly journaling inspiration.” It was created (I would say written but there is not much writing) by Moorea Seal and illustrated by Julia Manchik with photographs by Julia and Yurly Manchik. I mention the last two because often we leave these illustrators and photographers out. They should not be left out as they are part of the experience of this little book. They provide inspiration just as the author does.

The book was published by Sasquatch Books in Seattle. There is really no reason for you to know this other than the fact that I really like the word Sasquatch. The vision of a huge white fur matted monster-like human creature stirs my imagination. Perhaps you thought of Yeti or Bigfoot or the Abominable snowman. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (embedded in the workings of my laptop) defines Sasquatch as “a hairy creature like human…reported to exist in the northwestern U.S. and western Canada and said to be a primate between 6 and 15 feet…” I beg to differ with this definition, having been brought up thinking that the sasquatch or bigfoot is a character from the 1964 movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They called him the Abominable Snow Monster.

But I digress…as I so often do. We were talking about lists. And my new book thus unsullied by my pen. Since we are entering Week 48 of 2016 I guess that is as good a place as any to start. List 48 wants me to “List the things you want to add to your life.” And in case I am stymied there is some further inspiration included that just may help move me along in my list making. The author’s note for the list states: “As we transition into the holiday season, we start dreaming about all of the presents and objects that we want. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming of gifts, but what is it beyond the physical and tactile that you crave most?” So, I take from the prompt that I am supposed to think a little deeper about my list and go beyond my yearning for a red convertible and some fancy dancey new boots. Hmm…must give that some thought….

Okay, next week, Week 49. Much easier: “List your favourite books.” Well, this one is right down my alley—but I have so many favourite books—where to start, where to start? The prompt asks me to “Reread a chapter of a favourite book to remind you why you first fell in love with it.” Now I am wondering: which one, which one? This whole list thing is not as easy as I thought.

Week 50 asks me to list my accomplishments. Well that is pretty straightforward. But accomplishments are in the eye of the beholder—but since I am the beholder I guess I get to choose. You may not think that driving at night is much of an accomplishment, or finding my other blue sock, but hey—this is not your book! You don’t get to judge.

List the things you want to be known for is Week 51’s assignment. Hmm…. again. Well we all know it is not my gourmet cooking or domestic prowess.

Okay, Week 52. The last week of the year. I am supposed to list the most memorable moments of my year. Is this a test? Okay memory—get fired up. On second thought, maybe I will wait until the New Year and start with Week 1. It tells me to list my goals and dreams for the new year. I can do that—and I still have a few weeks to think about.

In the meantime, I will get ready for the holiday season which seems to be upon us. Now where did I put those holiday decorations when the basement flooded last winter?

Published in: on November 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm  Comments (4)  

What Is The Big Deal

 

 

It is time to embrace diversity. Time to “cool our jets” so to speak and be more accepting. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have some prejudices, some misconceptions, some things we do not understand, but very few of us are bigots. A bigot, according to Merriam-Webster is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions….one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”

I have to admit that I am sometimes devoted to my opinion, but I like to think I am open-minded. It may take me awhile to change my mind, but if I find an argument compelling enough I can be swayed. For example, I used to get behind the motto “let’s put Christ back in Christmas” and was a bit anti “Happy Holidays” and pro “Merry Christmas”. But I have seen the error of my ways.

Sometimes we believe that the very fibre of our beings is being threatened, and when we do, we fight to get back what we thought was lost. But in the scheme of things, Christ was not lost and neither was “Merry Christmas”. We over-reacted, and in that over-reaction, diversity suffers. A friend of mine (yes, you Cindy) posted this on Facebook and I could not agree more. Derived from The ManKind Project, it reads:

I don’t understand

what the big deal is…

If you are Jewish, tell me:

“Happy Hanukkah”.

If you are African American (or Canadian), then tell me:

“Joyous Kwanzaa”.

If you are Christian, tell me:

“Merry Christmas.”

If you don’t prefer those, tell me:

“Happy Holidays.”

I will not be offended.

I will be thankful that

You took the time to

Say something nice to me.

That is really all it comes down to: being nice. Taking the time to notice our fellow earthlings and saying something nice. Niceness is way under-rated yet the thing that most of us crave, nay require, is connection to our fellow human.

As the holiday season is upon us, it is time to let our defences down, not totally—but at least at half mast. What our neighbours just went through with the recent election illustrates my point. Vast chasms of difference separate so many. They are going to have to get over it. Change. Not accept what they can’t change, but adjust to it.

The other day, again on Facebook, a friend put out a plea to everyone to “Just stop!” And I responded with one word: “agreed”. She was tired of the bloodletting, the vitriol, the negativity. Me too. And by the way, we are Canadian. There is not a darn thing we can do about the election. I know that the elephant that is the United States affects us, but we are going to have to find a way to come to some peace about it. We can only hope the elephant does not roar. I do not want us to be complacent. We are certainly entitled to our opinions, but if they differ with reality, we are going to have to find a way to face this new reality.

Sometimes life bites. We just have to learn to chew a bit more thoughtfully.

Christmas is a time for thoughtfulness. A time for those who believe in God and Jesus to celebrate the birth of their Saviour. But it is also a time for frivolity—even jolliness. Santa is the distraught parent’s best friend, and though I hate to admit this, I did use him to “teach” my kids to be kinder when they were small. Yes, I did invoke that old chestnut that “Santa is watching to see who is good and who is bad” a few more times than I like to admit. And it worked like a charm.

Sometimes we just do what works. And if “Happy Holidays” works for you–

it works for me!

How do you feel?

Published in: on November 23, 2016 at 2:25 pm  Comments (10)  

One sick puppy . . . and she needs your help

for all you dog and animal lovers…

Robin Coyle

Hello blogging friends! I jump-started my blogging routine a couple of months ago and then, what do you know, it fizzled. The reason? Who knows!? I’m sure you have all experienced the same thing.

However, I am moved to do a blog post today because this precious 4-month-old puppy needs your help. Help from all of us. Let me explain . . .

Our daughter Paige is a crazy dog lover. Not a lover of crazy dogs, but is nutty over dogs. Actually, we all are. But, back to Paige being a dog nut . . . ever since she met an English Cream Golden Retriever several years ago, she has longed to have one of these gorgeous dogs in her life.

That dream came true in September when this little nugget came into her life.

echopuppy

Look at all that puppy-goodness!

Needless to say, I was head-over-heels in love as well.

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Published in: on November 21, 2016 at 4:55 pm  Comments (2)  

Hallelujah Suzanne

 

1968-1969. Grade 10. I was 15 when I was first introduced to the “poet laureate of pessimism”, Leonard Cohen. It was English class. Our teacher was Miss Hunt. She was young and fashionable, more cute than pretty, and she had her finger on the pulse of the late 1960’s. I loved English class, I loved the way she taught—yes we tore literature apart, but she put it back together for us in a way we understood—and we did not resent her for it.

I have the ballad “Suzanne” tattooed on my memory. It was exotic and dark, truth telling and honest. Here are a few of the lines that fed my developing mind at 15, and continue to satisfy almost five decades later:

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by, you can spend the night forever
And you know that she’s half-crazy but that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her that you have no love to give her
Then he gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer that you’ve always been her lover

 

Chorus: And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

 

I loved that she was half-crazy, and that she chose to serve tea and oranges that came “all the way from China”. I know that this is only one of his ballads, but it is the one that introduced him to me, and will live on as my favourite.

I heard snippets of an interview with him on television when he was asked if he was a pessimist, and his reply was wry and funny. He said that a pessimist is “someone who thinks it is going to rain” while he is “soaked to the skin.” He also wondered at receiving a Juno award, and said that only in Canada would a voice like his be rewarded.

An article I read in the Saturday National Post part of the Windsor Star by the Canadian Press (no name was on the article) listed a few of his nicknames, the above-mentioned “poet laureate of pessimism” being only one. He was also dubbed the “godfather of gloom”, the “grocer of despair” and the “prince of bummers.” His songs did not escape his reputation—one of the most memorable descriptions was: “music to slit your wrists by.”

He was aware of his reputation and joked about it, according to the article. At a sold-out concert in 2012 he admitted that, “Sometimes, I stumble out of bed, look at myself in the mirror and say to the mirror, ‘Lighten up Cohen’.”

My second favourite ballad of his is haunting. It is phenomenal in that it makes you feel so deeply it touches bone. Depending on the way the song is used it can be triumphant or chilling. I have heard it used in a couple of death scenes on two different programs—and of course whenever I hear it now I am reminded of those two scenes. On Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon, famous for her portrayal of Hillary Clinton sang Hallelujah dressed as Clinton in tribute to her (and I believe him too). We all have our “feelings” about the way the U.S. Presidential election turned out but perhaps Cohen’s song can lead the healing:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah….

 

It is no surprise that he was a 2003 inductee in the Order of Canada, or a 2008 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When he was asked “the location of the creative well that spawned his offerings” he said “If I knew where the songs came from, I’d go there more often.”

Admittedly, Cohen’s songs were not “toe tappers” but I would like to leave you with the words of Diana Bass. Her husband owned the Montreal deli that Cohen frequented. She called him, “a lovely man…”

 

*info for last two paragraphs derived from Canadian Press article

Published in: on November 14, 2016 at 3:24 pm  Comments (5)  

Soar Among the Stars

 

 

“Good words are worth much, and cost little.” -George Herbert

 

I love words. I love the spoken word, although I am not adept at speaking the spoken word. I love the written word—of which you can be the judge at how adept I am. I am more comfortable with expressing myself through the written word, though I long ago gave up handwriting (except when I have to take notes).  I tend to create my masterpieces (?) on my laptop. I think better when I am tap,tap, tapping. My fingers can keep up with my thoughts. When I try to physically write something with a pen, I quickly lose my train of thought—I cannot write fast enough for my short memory.

All this being said, I read something that I found inspirationally true recently, and I will share it with you in the hope that you too will enjoy it. It is a little riff on words and the way they make you feel.  Written by John Blofeld in an essay called *“What Words Does Your Mind Feed On?”, it made me stop and think. So without further ado I present you with his somewhat fantastical outlook on the world of words:

“A mind fed on words such as heaven, earth, dew, essence, cinnabar, moonlight, stillness, jade, pearl, cedar and winter plum is likely to have a serenity not to be found in minds ringing with the vocabulary of the present age—computer, tractor, jumbo jet, speedball, pop, dollar, liquidation, napalm. Overkill! Who would thrill at the prospect of rocketing to the moon in a billion-dollar spacecraft if he knew how to summon a shimmering gold and scarlet dragon at any time of the day or night and soar among the stars?”

These words were written in 2000, so I am sure he would find a few more today that would set his teeth on edge but I think he quite clearly sets out the perimeters of the magic of words. I think we all have favourite words—a few of mine are home, quaint, charming, magic, family….but enough about me. Other people think that our favourite words mean something—most notably creative expert (I would love to add that description to my resume) and author(okay this one too) Michael Michalko. He believes that our favourite words “reveal certain aspects of our personality.”

He mimicked a survey that was conducted in Japan at Hitotsubashi University to find out the 10 top favourite words of his friends, acquaintances, business associates and participants in his seminars. He asked them to freely list, in order of importance their top 10 words that “in some way represented their life.” Their responses from one to ten were: peace, equality, security, prosperity, love, fun, compensation, acknowledgement, freedom and health. He admits that his survey was neither scientific nor rigorous but said he was surprised at some of the words that were missing such as kindness, honesty, honour and integrity.

He conducted the same survey at a nursing home and the ten responses were quite different—the only word on both lists was health. The respondents at the nursing homes listed God, faith, family, health, friends, thanks, giving, honesty, independence and sharing as their top ten favourite words.  We can come to various conclusions comparing the two lists, but I guess where you are on your journey in life determines what is important to you.

The original survey done in Japan is interesting in that it kind of melds the two unofficial surveys Michalko conducted. Japan’s top ten words were in order of significance to those surveyed: effort, sincerity, freedom, peace, love, thoughtfulness, trust, thanks, health and dreams. Their number one word is not all that surprising considering the country’s national work ethic.

An aside: I found a quote on brainyquote.com that I particularly like, and may add to my list of favourite words. Mario Testino says that: “My favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create possibilities….”

*from Taoism: The Road to Immortality

Published in: on November 1, 2016 at 12:27 pm  Comments (9)  

Please. Please be true.

Published in: on October 31, 2016 at 3:04 pm  Comments (3)  

zoom zoom

zoom

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 3:42 pm  Comments (4)  

Boo – As The Veil Lifts

My column for this week–once again a bit ahead of time:

Here it comes again. Like clockwork.  Every October 31st. The most loved and hated of all holidays: Halloween. I Googled “Halloween in Canada” and this is what I came up with–a simple and straightforward explanation of the holiday if I ever came across one:

“Halloween is celebrated in Canada on or around October 31. It is a day to mark the single night in the year when, according to old Celtic beliefs, spirits and the dead can cross over into the world of the living. Some people hold parties and children may trick-or-treat in their neighbourhood.”

This seeming innocuous explanation was from timeanddate.com. Such a humble and unassuming explanation of the celebration. It makes me want to scream: “What do you mean it is the single night of the year when the dead cross into the world of the living? And we celebrate by throwing parties, dressing up, and giving out candy?” Is no one else rather perplexed at this? Outraged? What about the dead who come back—are they not put off by our merry making and candy gnashing?

Apparently our carved pumpkins are supposed to keep the dead at bay—they are afraid to come to our front door (or part the veil between worlds and enter our fray) because we put holes in a round orange fruit and illuminate it. Personally, if I were a spirit I would not be deterred by a plant, but maybe I am missing something here. Originally the plant that was used was a turnip. I must concede that I would probably be scared away by a turnip, but not the friendly pumpkin. I guess we turned to the pumpkin in North American because large turnips were scarce. I am not sure we made the right choice though. Perhaps a gnarly squash or large zucchini. Pumpkins are just not scary.

When my kids were little, I decorated two pumpkins like Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. I was much more creative back then. I made sure that Bert was fashioned from an elongated pumpkin and Ernie from a round one. I cut their eyes, nose, hair, mouth and ears from construction paper, drew on features, and used black magic markers to colour their hair. I taped their features on the pumpkins (with rounded pieces of tape that could be easily removed) and used my “art” to produce Bert and Ernie year after year on Halloween. Once the kids reached 20 and 25 they told me that it was time to retire the Sesame Street characters. I am only exaggerating a bit here—but I think from this little insight into my life you get the gist that I celebrate the “lighter” rather than the “darker” side of Halloween.

Lately I have been consulting my inner witch for the Halloween season, though I like to think of my alter ego as more Sabrina or Samantha-like than Shakespearean or Wicked Witch of the West. You have to agree that Macbeth’s “Double, double toil and trouble” witches are not as endearing as a nose twitch witch.

Never found Macbeth all that uplifting but as it is the season, there is no better time for an unsettling (somewhat edited) poem from the Bard (you can commence the hand washing now):

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

 

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

 

Hmmm, hell-broth—sounds a little like my cooking. Happy Halloween to all, and to all a spooky night!

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 3:18 pm  Comments (9)  

This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

home, comfort,magic,sugar plums…..

Live & Learn

patty-maher-ceremony-of-waiting

A mind fed on words such as heaven, earth, dew, essence, cinnabar, moonlight, stillness, jade, pearl, cedar, and winter plum is likely to have a serenity not to be found in minds ringing with the vocabulary of the present age–computer, tractor, jumbo jet, speedball, pop, dollar, liquidation, napalm, overkill! Who would thrill at the prospect of rocketing to the moon in a billion-dollar spacecraft if he knew how to summon a shimmering gold and scarlet dragon at any time of the day or night and soar among the stars?

John Blofeld, What Words Does Your Mind Feed on? “Taoism: The Road to Immortality” (Shambhala, August 8, 2000)


Notes:

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Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 11:43 am  Comments (6)