Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Christmas to Remember - 2nd Edition

Access to my blog post has been renewed. Therefore, there are two posts today ~ yesterday’s planned post and today’s 2nd Edition. Was it the weather, just the server or both? Who knows. After a wander through my blog files I found this sweet little story written just three years ago so, little editing was needed for this 2nd Edition. If I remember correctly the italicized words are from the writing site ( I use to find my first line. 

A Christmas to Remember

“As he flicked through the letters, a small handwritten envelope caught his attention and his heart began to thump. A usual pile of bills and junk mail, few people took the time to write letters anymore. The handwriting was familiar. A long ago familiarity. The envelope, yellowed with age, was postmarked December 18, 1976. A sterling silver letter opener slid easily under the sealed flap. Inside, a simple card showed a deep winter scene, an old log cabin against a backdrop of pines. The words were as simple. ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’.  Joshua smiled. Pushing away from his desk, he stood up and called to his wife. “Martha, remember the Christmas of 1976?”

“Yes dear. What about it? That was quite a while ago, Josh.”

Joshua put the Christmas card down on the counter where his wife was creating their dinner.

“Oh my! Where did you get that?! That looks like my writing.” Martha wiped her hands on her apron and picked up the card.

“It is your writing, sweetie. It was 1976. We had been married just under a year. You had to be away for a two month stint on some journalism assignment. We both hoped so much that we’d be together for our first Christmas.When I didn’t hear from you - no cell phones then, and we couldn’t afford long distance - I was worried sick. Then I was certain you had left me. So there were no Christmas decorations up. I was just sitting sad and feeling sorry for myself. “

“Oh Joshua. Now I do remember everything. You were so surprised when I came bursting in the door with presents. And you looked dreadful!”

“And here we are forty years later. Still in love and you are as beautiful as ever.”

Martha’s Christmas card fluttered to the floor. Outside, snow fell softly. 

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things 
- not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness.”
~ Bob Hope

Weather Challenges at Christmas

This was the post I attempted to do yesterday ~ quite unsuccessfully, I might add. 

'I blame it on the west coast weather systems! I’m unable to get a good signal in on my laptop here in RAINY Vancouver. Christmas in Sask may also be challenged if the snow doesn’t let up on the Coquihalla. So for right now, as I write this I have a grand kitty snuggled by my side, curtains closed against the rain while my son is off at work. All precautions will be taken before we set out for Sask. on whatever day we leave for our first stop. Will be giving those expecting us a heads up whenever we leave . This post I has been done on my iPhone.
Be careful out there!'

Today as I write this, it's still snowing on the Coquihalla but should rain later in the day. Our trip will probably start tomorrow if all goes well. Hesitating before setting out is always wise!

"I'm a big follower and reactor to weather."
~ Jimmy Buffett

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Tiny Story from My Mantle ~ 2019 ‘edition’

Searching through my previous blog posts for a little story I found this tiny one. On days when my muse seems to have flown away, I look around me to find a story in my own home. In 2013, I must have been in that quite uncomfortable space when I saw the beautiful owl. Painted by my sister Kate, it seemed to be flying out of the dark forest just behind my little Christmas tree. Rather than forests, it put me in mind of a great white owl I saw on the prairies several winters ago. The story unfolded from there and granted my muse something to work with. Today, with a bit of editing, my muse has been satisfied.

A Tiny Story from My Mantle ~ 2019 ‘edition’

The big white owl flew silently from dry rustling grasslands barely covered with thin and worn blankets of snow all the way to the edge of a deep forest to the little evergreen tree decorated with lights and with toys. Snow-filled wild wind whistled and danced around hills and rocks, through trees stripped bare of summer leaves. The old owl was always certain that gifts would be under the little tree. Gifts for the old couple that lived over the hill and down the road just past an old town that twinkled with candle light in windows trimmed with snow and icicles.

There is no reality as bright and magical as a starry moonlit night over snow covered fields. The magic of these nights and the little tree that sparkled and shone at the edge of the forest drew field mice and rabbits to discover the little tree. No one ever knew who decorated the tree each year. No one knew who cleared the snow and placed the presents there. Children from the tiny town made forbidden forays to the edge of the Great Evergreen Forest each year just before Christmas when the moon rode high in the starry night sky. Elven shadows danced and elven music drifted in the cold night air. The children told each other marvellous stories of seeing elves and their nights in the snow. The grand snowy owl watched over the children on these nights filled with glitter and excitement. He spread his wings to his nest in grasslands only when the children were all back in their sturdy homes and tucked safely in their beds.

“That’s the thing about magic; you’ve got to know it’s still here, 
all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.”
~ Charles de Lint

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A Christmas Story with Grandpa

This is a much edited repost. The original, written in 2008, was 'Giggles at Christmas'. In 2014 ~ after some (but not enough) editing it was entitled 'A Christmas Foray.' 

Today I've chosen to do another re-write with several additions, subtractions and a new title: 'A Christmas Story with Grandpa'. Here is:

A Christmas Story with Grandpa

Grandpa would always listen to me, so I decided to tell him about what Sam and I did on Christmas Eve. Sam told me not to, but I was excited and Grandpa was in the big rocking chair by the fireplace, so I didn’t listen to Sam. This is what I told Grandpa.

When do you think Santa’s coming?”

My brother, Sam, and I were whispering because we weren’t supposed to be awake. And we definitely weren’t supposed to go downstairs. Santa had not even been here yet! We really had tried to go to sleep, each of us in our own rooms across from each other. As soon as our parents closed our doors and went downstairs, we opened our doors so we could call to each other. Going back to bed, eyes closed tight, we both lay stiff and still. Grandpa, we even pretended to snore so it really sounded like we were asleep. Sometimes even pretend snoring would help us to go to sleep, or at least prove to mom and dad that we were asleep. All it did was make us giggle. Our spirits were too excited to even pretend to sleep but we really did try to be quiet. 

“You kids be quiet! Santa can’t come if there are any giggling kids around.” That's what mom and dad both said.

I grabbed a stuffy and cuddled under my covers. My eyes were shut tight again, but the stifled giggling wouldn’t stop. Sam said he didn't do any of that, but I don't believe him. He always keeps his stuffed dog on his pillow.

Then dad called and said “Your mom and I are just going outside to take Butch for his walk. Then we’ll be in the garage for a few minutes. Now, you kids settle down and go to sleep.” 

Butch was our brown and white English bulldog that we had gotten for Christmas two years before this Christmas Eve. As soon as we heard that we would be alone in the house, Sam came into my bedroom. We tiptoed to the stairs and made each other be quiet. I held my breath til I was blue! And my jingle bells on my red Christmas slippers made too much noise. My brother just thought they were dumb. He always went barefoot. So I took my slippers off and went barefoot too. Just as we got to the top of the stairs, we heard the garage door slam shut so we knew mom and dad were inside of the garage.

Sam said “Come on. It’s safe to go downstairs.”

Our bare feet were cold! But there thick carpet at the top of the stairs, and we listened to make sure there was no one in the house yet.

“Sam, aren’t you glad Butch had to go out?”

“Yeah, he’d be making too much noise. He doesn’t know how to be quiet. He'd be running up and down the stairs like crazy!”

My heart was pounding really fast, but we tiptoed down the stairs anyway. Sam said he wasn’t scared. He said he was never scared of anything.

“Oh, look at the lights!  Aren’t they beautiful?”

“You can’t even see them yet!  What are you talking about?”

‘Brothers!’ I thought and then I said “Of course you can’t see them, silly but look at the glowing blue from the lights.”  

Out loud, Sam said “Well then, why didn’t you say that.”

“Shhh. We have to be quiet”

“Why? There’s no one here.”

“If we talk loud we won’t hear if anyone comes in! So just be quiet...”

This talking carried us down the four stairs to the landing and, on the first step after the landing, there was our beautiful Christmas tree. All the lights sparkled on the silver and gold Christmas balls and sparkly tinsel. Dad always had to hang the tinsel in perfect straight lines. The sparkle and glitter under the cloud of angel hair looked like magic. Our very old Christmas Angel, was on top the magical tree.

My brother raced ahead of me. “Wow! Look at all the presents!”  

There was a ton of presents!! Our old brown stockings, the old brown ones that we had to wear to school every day were still flat. No Santa Claus yet. Then we froze. The back door opened and before mom or dad could see, we raced back upstairs, closed the doors to our rooms really quietly. I jumped into bed and looked like I was asleep. Sam said he did that too so I guess he did. By the time our parents came in to check on us we were safe. They let Butch in my room, then closed our doors softly behind them. I heard them whispering!

“So, Grandpa, when they were both whispering, do you know what they might have been whispering about?” 

“Well, they probably just didn’t want to wake you up. You and Sam really fooled them. Your mom and dad thought you were sound asleep. Now, let’s go find Sam and Butch and go for a walk. You can tell me whether Santa Claus brought you anything.”

“The world is shaped by two things ~ 
stories told and the memories they leave behind.”
~ Vera Nazarian, Dreams of the Compass Rose

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Re-post Are You Ready for Christmas?

This is a re-post from Dec. 23, 2014 when I was still a working girl (not quite so girlish anymore). So this essay brings me fond memories of my time working at Detox here in Victoria. This is my first Christmas of my retirement. I’m absolutely looking forward to being with my sons, grandson and my new great granddaughter. It is her first Christmas too! Both of us learning new things about life and all it has to offer. So:

Are You Ready for Christmas? (I know I am.)

“Are you ready for Christmas yet?” If I heard that question once, I have heard it a thousand times in the last two weeks. We all hear it every year and it always conjures up images of shopping in noisy, busy malls filled with reels and reels of Christmas music and racks and shelves of abundance. Other images of presents to be wrapped and cards to be addressed or e-sent, cluttered living rooms, Christmas trees and grocery shopping fill up the to-do lists. Those days are long gone. Lacking the patter of little feet - whether grandchildren or grand-dogs - shopping has dwindled and cards are practically non-existent. Checking the mail for Christmas cards is no longer a daily event. Admittedly, I have seldom written the traditional, for some, Christmas letter. My traditions, if one can call them that, are limited.

I have been an employee of some health care system for most of my adult life and many Christmas Eve and Day was spent at my place of employment. I am not alone in that part of life. Many employees, not just health care workers, but police, firemen and restauranteurs are some that are away from their families and at their places of employment. Finding spaces to have a bit of the flavour of Christmas, without feeling burned out from working, and shopping, and wrapping and…….well, you get the picture.

So, am I ready for Christmas? Yes, I do believe I am. Sunday I spent the day cooking my turkey, gravy and an array of vegetables. (I didn’t make dessert as desserts and chocolates are in abundance at work). Staff will be having a pot-luck supper at work on Christmas Eve. My contribution? An apple crisp with cranberries, caramels and chocolate chips. (So I guess I did make a dessert!) On Christmas Day, after work I am taking roasted potatoes and carrots with rosemary out to supper at a friend’s house. And the usual consequence of Christmas dinner? Leftovers for so many dishes that I love, including my little ‘frozen dinners’.

There are so many folks out there unable, for a host of reasons, that will not have an enjoyable Christmas. Getting ready for Christmas is the farthest thing from their minds, but a fragment of Christmas spirit may have a tiny corner of their hearts. Those of us that are scheduled to work at Christmas can maybe create a bit of Christmas inside the environment of our work places. And if there is great sadness or tragedy, some support and kindness where there may be none available.

“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, 
like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.”
~ Garrison Keillow

Monday, December 16, 2019

Magic of the Holidays with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra

An afternoon at the Symphony yesterday with a friend enjoying Christmas music, fun and full of laughter, is a gift I give to myself. From Jingle Bells to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, from the Polonaise from Christmas Eve Suite to O Holy Night, from Nutcracker Selections by Tchaikovsky to Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, this Pops Three concert, conducted by Giuseppe Pietraroia, truly was magic. Solos by soprano, Betty Waynne Allison backed by the Vox Humana Choir carried this wonderful music to glorious heights. Vox Humana Chamber Choir sang several other selections brilliantly. Always talented, the Victoria Symphony orchestra played this diverse collection of music and song magnificently. 

Most aren’t going to recognize the emotional value of such an experience. As yesterday afternoon’s Symphony proved once more, there really can be magic at Christmas time ~ in music, in laughter and in trusted companions. Let me explain….

My mom is in my thoughts probably every single day ~ especially in the kitchen, but today is much more poignant to me. Her passing 48 years ago today was sudden and tragic. Some years later, when I became of aware of my own struggles with life, I made a commitment to myself. A commitment to actively participate in my life with fun and enjoyment ~ whether I felt like it or not. Because there have still been tears and sadness. But, would I have believed that commitment would take me to the Symphony? Not likely. It had not been part of my life experience at all. Now I know, that by maintaining my commitment, daily, so many other things, including symphony performances, are regularly a part of my life experience. Not forced, but consciously chosen.

I learned how to reach back to a time when, as a child and growing up, there was fun and magic each Christmas time and at so many other times. There really was a time before. Holding those times in my heart and recreating the joyous times ~ whether by myself or with family or friends ~ I find and create little sparkles of magic once more and am willing to share them with others.

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year 
to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
~ Gladys Taber, (1899 - 1980)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Book Review: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch

In my wander and culling of photographs, this little book fell out from between two not so memorable photographs. I read it in a few minutes and decided that a Book Review was in order. We all have our dragons and this told me how to deal with them. (Christmas used to be kind of ferocious.)

Book Review:  The Paper Bag Princess

A whimsical and very wise story 
of a beautiful princess and 
a fiery dragon that snatched 
her handsome prince away.

When all the finery had been burned, 
a curious story of resilience and courage 
emerged so the princess 
could save her prince.

The end of the story, I’ll not tell. 
This tiny story tells 
that big or small, we can put
all our dragons to rest.

“‘Wait,’ shouted Elizabeth. ‘Is it true that you are 
the smartest and fiercest dragon 
in the whole world?’     ‘Yes said the dragon.’”
Robert N. Munsch, The Paper Bag Princess

Title: The Paper Bag Princess
Author: Robert N. Munsch
Copyright: 1980
Publisher: Annick Press with contributions from the Canada Council
Type: Children's Story
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0-920236-25-1