Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Am Free to be Me and You are Free to Dislike That.

I Could Give You More - 54-40

Christmas 2011 is a memory as is the frantic shoppers in the malls scrambling for the bargains on Boxing Day. I didn't spend a lot of time in the malls but in all, I really didn't find the insanity usually associated with the high stress season. With one notable exception, a "friend" on facebook complained about being hit with a shopping cart in a grocery store 3 times. When it happened a fourth time he rammed his cart into the lady quipping that he did it because he was in the spirit of giving. So he took his frustration with the other shoppers' actions and perhaps his own stress out on someone who very likely unintentionally bumped him. Seriously, how many of us have been hit in the back of the heel with a cart. Yes, it stings but it is barely life-threatening. Well, I took him to task on his childish behaviour - suggested he go have a stiff drink and calm down before he actually kills someone because they look at him askance. We are no longer "friends". lol! It's a good thing, I dislike it when someone thinks they are better than someone else.

I know that feeling and it hurts. Regardless of the level of your self-esteem, someone who belittles you for who you are invariably takes the wind out of your sails. You don't stand quite as tall and you question if what they see is maybe true and you have it all wrong. Repeatedly over the past years it has happened to me by certain people, I have tried to brush it off but sometimes it is just too hard. Sometimes you are so proud of your accomplishments that when you are put down you want to break down. I am non-confrontational, I will take what you say, even if it hurts and eat it like I deserve it. Call it years of conditioning - learned behaviour. I let it go, not by talking to the offender but by writing. Another learned behaviour - and I have years of journals and diaries to show for that. Well, someone read what I wrote and not understanding where it came from and why, took personal offense to it. It is perhaps unfortunate that the issue did not come to a conclusion when it happened and that is my fault, but being it isn't the first time it happened, I won't take all the blame. Besides a Christmas gathering may not be the best setting for airing concerns. 

But the rest of the holiday celebrations went fabulously. Holding true to my belief that all I wanted for Christmas couldn't be bought in a store, I requested no gift that was worn or dusted. I forced the gift buyers into really thinking about their choices, because they couldn't wander the mall and grab the first decent item they saw. So many gifts are not chosen with the recipient in mind but rather some form of media told them that this was the must have item this season, it has to be bought because everyone else was getting or got one already. I will be going to see Jim Cuddy in concert with a guest of my choosing, I will be attending a comedy performance with my son, and even though it must be dusted - a new Pink Panther clock hangs on the wall above my work station. And I feel the love with each and every item. And each item that I gave, I gave with love and thoughtfulness. 

Christmas doesn't have to be about the money spent. 

I heard a news item in the days before Christmas that the average amount of money that people expected to spend on gifts was $1000, and most had not saved that much. With the demand for the latest and greatest electronics the hot ticket items for wrapping to put under the tree, I can see that number being significantly higher. A smart phone runs say $500, a must have tablet is $700 and the price of a flat screen TV is right up there as well. And that is one person. So it is off to the dollar store to finish off the rest of the! Jimmy Kimmel, a late night talk show host sent out a video challenge for parents to wrap up ordinary items and tell kids that they could open up this one gift early. The resulting footage was comical and sad. 

Jimmy Kimmel Show - Terrible Present Challenge

Some of the kids were a little miffed and the boy who tells his sister to be appreciative for a half eaten sandwich restores my faith in humanity. The boy who had a temper tantrum and physically and verbally lashed out at his parents needs some lessons in humility and graciousness. The bottom line is the kids were for the most part rude and ungrateful. This was a prank. 

Twitter saw a host of tweets from disgruntled gift recipients. Sadly absurd, people complained that they got an iPad instead of an iPhone, or a car. Parents were sworn at and called a host of derogatory names for not fulfilling the outrageously expensive demands of the spoiled offspring. There were threats of death and self-harm. Mostly it was whining and childish. A car for Christmas! Wow, that's not asking for a lot. In my world, you would be sorely disappointed and hate me. And I am more than okay with that! Your opinion doesn't define me. 

I am free to be me and you are free to dislike that. In this day and age it is as easy as clicking the "unfriend" button on facebook. No offense taken, it's probably for the best. Have a fabulous day! SMILE! :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Kellemes Karacsonyi, Joyeux Noël, Sretan you all that I love and care for :) xoxo

Little Drummer Boy - Neil Diamond 

Christmas and just goes together? Or does it? With all the commercialism and trappings of how Christmas is supposed to be, what do we do if we fall short for some reason. Like being alone? I just received an unexpected phone call from a friend who will be spending the holidays alone. Kind of sad, but in a lot of cases, including his own, he is okay with that. Certainly has been doing it for many years at any rate. However if you are alone and don't want to be, pop into the closest hospital or seniors residence, I bet that there are people there who are similarly alone and don't want to be. 

In a cosmopolitan area like the Greater Toronto Area, there is enough diversity that the Christmas holidays are not observed at all. There are malls, movie theaters and grocery stores that are open, and churches too. In fact the other day I noticed that that iconic symbol of Canadian culture - Tim Hortons - will be open on Christmas Day in one of those multi-cultural communities. Kinda makes me sad really, this country was founded on a principal of freedom of religion. People knew then and still know today that they will not be persecuted in Canada regardless of their religious affiliation. Unless you are a true Native American, you are an immigrant to Canada. But most of us call ourselves Canadian and appreciate the life and liberty that we are entitled to because we are Canadian. All the immigrants that landed on the shores of this great country and the vast majority of them embraced the culture and customs of the new land while at the same time sharing some of the food and traditions of their homeland. It was wonderful and exciting. You could visit Little Italy, Chinatown or the Finnish grocery store and be swept into another land without your feet leaving the ground. 

But then things began to change. The turning point in my mind is when in 1990 our federal government permitted our beloved Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Dudley Do-Right, to become decidedly un-Canadian. The uniform that the world and the country associated with the RCMP was gone in the name of Religious freedom. That opened up the flood gates to allow countless changes to the way we as Canadians viewed our selves. We were no longer a collective trying to become a cohesive unit within a diverse nation, but rather a minority trying to change the country into the one they left for a better place. If everything was so great there...go back! For in bending over backwards and changing to preserve your religious freedoms, you are trampling all over mine. Children are not allowed to have Christmas Concerts at school, stores advertise Holiday Sales and people wish Season's Greetings. It's wrong!!!

So I purposefully chose the song by Neil Diamond because he is in fact Jewish and singing and celebrating with the Christian community by offering his interpretation of several Christmas songs. This one happens to be a favourite of my mothers and I think Neil does an excellent version of it. I have absolutely no interest in converting someone from their chosen religion. I don't care if you worship trees or Buddha. To each his/her own, but to that end, I deserve the same respect. leave me alone to believe what I want and how I want. Come to Canada, stay, live and prosper but we were a great country before you came...if you don't like us the way we are....leave. You are now infringing on my rights. 

I don't know who wrote the following letter that I received in an e-mail. But it was not me and I own no part of it. I would give credit where credit was due if I knew. In it's jocularity, there is a spur of truth that really hit home with me and made me a bit sad. Either way, I hope you enjoy.

And from me to you  MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

 Have a..a... 'good one', But ONLY if you want to!

Dear Friend / Family member,

I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting to you, but it is difficult in today's world to know
exactly what to say without offending someone. So I met with my lawyer yesterday and on his/her advice I wish to say the following:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious / secular persuasions and / or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2012, but not without due respect for the calendar of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great (not to imply that Canada is necessarily greater than any other country) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms: 
This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her / him or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. The wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Best Regards (without prejudice)

Name withheld (Privacy Act)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Me and my Milestone

Forever Young - Rod Stewart

Well, those of you in the know are aware of what milestone I hit exactly one month ago today. Those who don't keep guessing...a lady never tells :)

I have now had one month to get used to the idea and decide how I feel about it. I need more time! I think that would have to be the bottom line no matter which way I look at it. And I think my body might just be in agreement with me. No word of a lie, I got a pimple on my chin just the other day. I don't want to get old and wrinkly but seriously, teenage maladies at my age? On the positive side, checking it out in the mirror I don't feel (or look) my age with that blemish. 

I sort of fall into this weird abyss. I have never looked my age and I am told I don't act my age either. We'll get to the act in a moment but for now, that reflection in the mirror. In my early 20's I used to get a real kick out of going to those age guessers at the carnivals because I would always win. They always pegged me for my 30's at least. At that age, who cares! During college I had a practical work experience at a day care, a wee child told me that my hands looked like her grandmothers. Out of the mouth of babes indeed, but I understood then why I was thought to be so old. I wasn't trying to look that way, the scars did it for me. 

But then a strange thing started to happen, I started looking younger than my age and then much to my disbelief people started to say they didn't even notice the scars. Initially, I thought they were just being nice. I mean, I sure could see them; but it kept happening. Not everyone was "that" nice to lie to me. So maybe the scars did fade even more with time, maybe I hid the worst of it with my hairstyle. Either way, I went from looking 10 years older to looking 10 years younger than my chronological age. I can live with that.

Attitude and outlook can have a direct effect on our perceived age. Consider that crotchety old person you know - we all know of at least one. Now compare their physical appearance with someone else of the same age group but with a positive view on life. Who looks older? When I think of my grandmother, I think of someone who was 70 years old always...she was miserable, angry, bitter, suspicious. In reality she was probably in her 50's when she came into my life on a daily basis. My mom at 30 was cool. We could play games with her, laugh with her, joke with her. She liked our kind of music - the music grandparents dismissed as noise compared to their preferred Perry Como and Lawrence Welk. It probably didn't help that we had no idea how old Mom really was for anytime we asked she said "18". No question about it though, she was a parent and we didn't get away with anything. We knew right from wrong and where the line was that you didn't cross.

I was learning how to be an adult, a woman by Mom's example. But then she was gone and as a pre-teen, my example became a miserable old lady. The point is that I missed learning how that mid-life woman behaves. I missed the frame of reference for an entire generation. When I got to my early 30's and had outlived my mother, I made up the rules as I went along to suit me. How is a 40 year old supposed to act? I don't know. What is it like to be a caring, loving and doting grandmother? I don't know that either. But I am sure I will make it up when I get there! 

So back to how do I feel about reaching this milestone? Well I have to honestly say that there were times I didn't think I would make it. Not of my choosing but the fact that my family doesn't exactly have a stellar track record in the longevity department. So, in some ways it was thrilling to achieve it - with a hint of melancholy that I was the lone one of 6 to do it. About a decade ago, I considered the possibility of this event and joked to my children that to memorialize the event they should replace the 2-seater sports car that I had to give up when I got pregnant. A few years later, thinking that a vehicle might be out of their financial realm, I suggested shipping me away - on a cruise. Little did I know at the time that the Mediterranean cruise I had in mind was more expensive than the vehicle. Matters not, one day I will have my 1982 Datsun 280ZX sitting in my driveway. 

One month in and I am still driving practicality and the closest I have been to sea is the bathtub. Priorities change. I may have finally begun to act my age and become practical. Yikes! Ahh, but not completely, nothing puts a smile on my face like a new-found item with a certain cartoon character on it. But the goals I personally set out to achieve did change. I knew that both my children would have finished post-secondary studies and I hoped for success for them. I knew that with them embarking on careers of their own that the financial burden on me would ease and I looked forward to getting a grip on my debt and focusing on my own retirement years. I also made the decision that I wanted to once and for all quit smoking. Having more time to myself I wanted to put more time and effort into finding my special someone or just enjoying the hunt! :) All in all, I saw this time of my life as a positive chapter that was just a natural progression of life. A new and exciting chapter with some Me time. 

Circumstances beyond my control and of no fault of my own have surfaced in the past year or so to completely change my life. I have been beaten down and then kicked until I was no longer able to get up. I am speaking metaphorically, no one laid a hand on me. Regardless, I still struggle every day to heal the scars that were laid upon me and to survive. Much like the children they purport to protect, I was bullied by the school board that I worked for. So, here I sit in more debt than I had when I was raising 2 children alone on one income, because I do not have any income at all. I work at trying to regain my former self. I want to be happy again. 

On the positive side, my children did graduate from their respective post-secondary programs and immediately found themselves in rewarding full-time positions. I am now more than one year being smoke-free and loving it. The rest...I am still working on and it will take more time. All I can ask of myself is to try, and pray that it is enough. 

If I have enough time, I want to believe that I will be vindicated. I want to believe that I will heal and become whole again. I want to believe that I will have control over my life again. I want to believe that I will be the smiling, happy person that I once was. I liked her! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Life in a fish bowl

Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye is not my favourite artist but I do like this song and quite frankly when considering the music for this blog...well there isn't a lot in my playlist about fish swimming in the sea and I quickly by-passed the Spongebob Squarepants theme can thank me later for that one. :)

In my doctors office, they have a very large aquarium with an assortment of fish in it. It is always so clean and the water so clear...I would have figured it would be covered in nose and lip prints from children pushing their faces up against the glass and showing the fish their "fish lips". I've seen my share of parents putting their fingers on the glass to point out a particular fish to a fussy child hoping to delay the onset of a tantrum. But for those of us over 4' tall, it is very meditative to watch fish swimming in a tank. 

And I am no exception I guess, for I got to fish get and beget for the sole purpose of maintaining the family genes like other species? There was one particular orange hued fish that was skimming the bottom of the tank sucking up the gravel and then spitting it back out. It was like he was in his own world unmindful of all the other swimmers around him. Closer to the water line a black lacy fish seemed to be showing off to a glittery silver fish. Black Lacy would swim in front of Glittery Silver seemingly to block the path and forcing Glittery Silver to stop or make an abrupt turn. And the smaller white fish with the red insignia on it's forehead seemed to watch all this activity with interest trying to join in while Black Lacy was lining up for another pass. 

So the question came to mind, would these two very dissimilar fish get together to make fish babies? Wouldn't it be like two different species getting together. Like a cat and a dog? Could it even happen. Or would it be more like an Italian and a Canadian joining forces. Two fish, two humans. Same difference? But fish mating is quite different to our own although some species do require the male to transfer his sperm to the female eggs. At the appropriate time she will have a live birth. Fish have nest builders where the female lays eggs and the male come along and fertilize them and then protect the young 'uns. Very similar to the nest builders is the egg droppers. Females drop eggs on the bottom of the aquarium or on plants and the male later passes by to fertilize. That's all fine and well for a science lesson, but if I am a male Canadian or Angel Fish looking to fertilize eggs as I swim about. How do I know that the pile of eggs I spot is not that of piranha? Is there a sign? Does it matter? Genetics has to have some role in the propagation of the species. 

In this tank, there weren't two black lacy nor two glittery silver. Assuming they can't reproduce because they don't have another one of their kind within they still want to do it? Or do fish go into some kind of self-imposed celibacy when they are captured and housed with no compatible mates. I'm really not in the doctors office to know, but I have never seen any babies swimming about. Maybe they are consumed as infants. Can you imagine if one of these inconsolable toddlers saw that! 

If fish can't reproduce in an aquarium, maybe we should start to consider them cruel and inhumane. Or at least enact legislation whereby fish must be sold in pairs. Employees of pet stores would be mandated to go for training to be able to identify the sex of fish. Apparently it isn't easy. Oh no, to be politically correct we must consider alternative lifestyle. People can be gay and there is talk that penguins have such tendencies. What of fish?

Where is PETA in all this? I wonder what their stand is? Let the fish be free...we can meditate and be reflective with a nice photograph of a waterfall and a fake fountain gurgling in the corner. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Life imitating Song

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

I was initially looking for the Irish Rovers version of this song which I think is far superior to anything else I have heard but alas it was not to be. Maybe the next thing I will have to learn is how to upload and make videos for YouTube. Well, maybe after I learn how to upload a powerpoint presentation for easy viewing on my website. :)

But, I digress...I was out and about earlier and I was sandwiched between two vehicles with antlers protruding from their side windows. The guy behind me had a red ball fastened to the grill of his car, I have no doubt that the guy ahead was similarly festooned. Do they really believe that their vehicles now look anything like a reindeer (in particular Rudolph)? Not even if they were driving an brown coloured Impala! But that would be a comical story if such a decorated vehicle actually hit a Granny on Christmas Eve. Life imitating art! or Song? 

It never ceases to amaze me - the stupidest things that people will spend there money on. Man, you can sell just about anything to anyone with the right marketing. Think Pet Rocks, followed by Pet Sticks. Those "inventors" laughed all the way to the bank to be sure. I wouldn't mind doing that myself!

So, it makes me wonder why someone feels the need to decorate their car. Did they deck out their house inside and out and then their car sitting in the driveway looked out of place? Does seeing a decorated vehicle put you in the Christmas spirit?  In the mall parking lot, I passed a vehicle with a wreath attached to the grill and another with elaborately tied bows covering the grill. The only time I would really appreciate a bow on a vehicle is if that vehicle was a gift sitting in my driveway. But to be sure, I would take the bow off before I went cruising.

The best gifts I ever received where my children. It wasn't Christmas but I had most assuredly asked for them. I tried to put bows on them when we went out in public, but he kept ripping it out of his hair and off his clothes :) She only tolerated it until she was old enough to dress herself. I got to dress them up and play with them and as they got older, they stopped wearing the clothes I bought. But although some of the games we play have changed, we still play and laugh together. I don't want or need another trinket to sit on a shelf gathering dust, I have enough clothes to put on my back. My children are a gift to me everyday...even if they are not decorated as such. 

If you are out shopping and see antlers and other Christmas decorations for a car. Stop, put it down and give the money to a local charity. That is a better way of spreading Christmas and Holiday Cheer!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blue Rodeo - More than Small Miracles!

Try - Blue Rodeo

What kind of fan would I be if I didn't acknowledge the accolade that have been bestowed upon the greatest (in my opinion) bands in Canadian history. BLUE RODEO is to be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 2012 Juno Awards, according to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Spanning their 25+ year career, Blue Rodeo has won 11 Juno Awards over the years and given the adoring public 12 studio albums. Personally I can't get enough. 

Although Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor have been collaborating since their high school days in 1977 as a psuedo-punk band trying to crack the New York City music scene, it wasn't until 1984 that the boys returned to Toronto to form Blue Rodeo. Their first album Outskirts was released in 1987 and spawned the above hit Try. 

Outskirts and Try was my introduction into Blue Rodeo. A crossover band that at times has struggled with the notion that they were a country band, trying to break into the mainstream top 40 radio playlist. I still find some people who think they are a predominately country band. While there are some tracks that do have that country feel, the talent of these boys transcends to many genres. You cannot pigeon hole them. 

Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo

Blue Rodeo is the only band that I would pay money to go see live. What I hear on the mass recording is what I hear on the live albums and in concert. It is a true sound based on music they create, play and sing. There is no need for a lot of electronic enhancement to make them sound better. Sadly, I have only been able to see them live once. I just never had the finances to put towards concert tickets - well I tried but the ankle-biters insisted on eating. :) But the one concert I saw was amazing, a small venue, a county fair. I was beside myself with joy. 

Maybe it was because I sacrificed in order to feed him, but when my son went off to university, he would go to a bar and listen to a band he had come to like. Signal Hill played Sunday evenings at the Lower Deck in Halifax and they did an excellent version of Blue Rodeo's Try. And now and then, I would get this crazy phone call that just sounded like a lot of undecipherable noise. But it was in fact Signal Hill playing the requested song for his mother many miles away. Try...It warms my heart thinking about it.

As a band, Blue Rodeo has sold over 4 million records. Both Jim and Greg have managed to have successful solo careers, always returning to collaborate once again. If you enjoy Blue Rodeo, I encourage you to look into the solo efforts that the boys have put out. Talented in their own right and phenomenal as a team. 

I can't pick any one song that I would lay down and say this is my favourite Blue Rodeo song, because so many of them have meaning for me. A connection to a moment or person in my life. The music moves my soul, and warms my heart the lyrics speak to me. For every emotion there is a song that comforts me. It is the music of my life. I feel sorry for anyone who hasn't had a chance to experience and enjoy the talent which is Blue Rodeo! Do it now!

All The Things That Are Left Behind - Blue Rodeo

So finally Blue Rodeo will get some well deserved recognition for there musical contribution by the CARAS - Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. I'm only disappointed that it took this long, but I offer my heart felt congratulations to Jim Cuddy, Greg Keelor and the rest of the band. It is more than well deserved and well earned! By far the best of Canada and this saying a lot considering the wealth of musical talent here in the north!

If I have peaked your curiousity and you would like to hear or learn more about BLUE RODEO, I invite you to check out their website at
and look up some of their music on YouTube. Each album has its own unique feel and sound. Don't like one, TRY another :)

Love it like I do? Let's get LOST TOGETHER...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

All I really want for Christmas can't be bought in a store!

Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade

And again I find myself re-thinking the whole concept of the Christmas Spirit. For some it is truly alive and well, for others it is another excuse to spend money for the sake of spending money. I figure, if you aren't going to put some real thought into the gift, don't bother. Throwing money at real people doesn't show love. But we all know at least one of those fake people who will wear or consume anything as long as it is affiliated with a celebrity and has a brand name. Those people who wouldn't be caught dead wearing or owning something from a discount retailer let alone physically going into Zellers or Wal-Mart. I feel sorry for them. True happiness is a state of mind not a state of bank account. 

The commercialism of Christmas becomes more and more of an issue with each passing year. It really started to hit me with the Cabbage Patch Doll craze of the 1980's. People went crazy trying to secure one of these dolls to put under the tree. After countless hours spent on the phone looking for the store that was expecting a delivery, there was the line up outside the doors, the stampede in and the physical fights to get one in your hands and keep it. I don't know what started the craze initially but it was nuts. Top story on the news nightly. Sad really, punching someone and knocking them to the ground because they had their hands on the same doll as you did...that's some Christmas! And the kids who got the toys, did they even get that this toy was so "special". Probably not, because it wasn't. But it was great marketing that has been used again and again since to create similar frenzys. Remember Tickle Me Elmo? 

These days we have expanded this insanity not just to a product but a day. What has become known as Black Friday, the day after the United States Thanksgiving holiday is when the consumers have been told that they must go shopping in preparation of the next Holiday. So for a full month, retailers can get people worked into a "spending" mentality. Brilliant! Thanksgiving dinner is wolfed down so that people can begin lining up outside their favourite retailer to lay their money down on crap they are told they must have.This year it was a waffle iron on sale at Wal-Mart for $2.00 that created a stampede, people were crushed, thrown to the ground and trampled on. Seriously how often do you eat waffles that you need an appliance just for that? Do you eat them often enough to shoot your fellow shopper over it? But it was $2.00! If you want one, wait until spring garage sales, I am sure you will be able to pick on up - barely used if at all - for $1.00. 

I don't care if the latest and greatest, technologically superior television is on sale for 80% off if you already have more than you can possibly watch? But people will buy to have new and then throw out perfectly good products to make room. What is sad about a lot of the technology is that the commercials themselves tout them as solitary usage. Consider cell phones and the family. I admit we were guilty of using the text messaging to speak when we were all in the house together but spread out in different areas. Fortunately it wasn't our only form of communication and it did cut down on the screaming. But there are people whose voice I haven't heard in months. But I am an adult: is this what we want for our children with their young impressionable minds. One of the latest gadgets for children is a product that promises to teach your kid to read on their own. I heard this and was immediately saddened, for teaching my kids to read and love the written word was one of my favourite ways to spend time with them. 

But there is good to be found. Consider the 22 year old couple who have decided that since they lived a life of never wanting or lacking the necessities and luxuries of life that they would share some of their fortune with the less fortunate. Why is it so hard to come up with that list of things you want for Christmas? Because in the impatient world that we live in when we want it we go and get it there is no waiting. But if you struggle to survive with the basics, there are things you really do need. So beyond picking up a few special toys for the single mom and her young son, the young couple saw on the list bed sheets and thought how sad that was. They don't want Egyptian cotton with a thread count of 900, they want sheets without holes. And because someone is not selfish, they will get it. And what I want, they have and are willing to share...

All I really want for Christmas can't be bought in a store. 
All I really want is the same thing I always wanted all my life. 
All I really want doesn't come just at Christmas. 
All I really want can be given by anyone reading this. But you have to want to...  

Is it Christmas or Chri$tma$

Tears Are Not Enough - Northern Lights

As a kid, Christmas was a big deal with setting up the tree and getting our picture taken around it. I don't remember the whole house being transformed however. I also don't remember family gatherings and meals. But to be fair, it all ended when I was 12. My grandmother had no interest in the traditions of Christmas. 

What I do remember is one or two meaningful gifts rather than being bombarded by stuff for the sake of show. The winter boots we needed or the coat we loved. Practical stuff mostly with perhaps a toy or two thrown in. I don't know where the money came from - perhaps Mom herself like the idea to buy her a coffee pot, but I remember the feeling of pride in giving it to her. I don't remember the Christmas feast but I remember her letting me help her cook Crostili. One of the staples she made every holiday season. I got to dust them with icing sugar...and sneak a few. 

The only Christmas we got loaded down with toys was the years we got a Christmas "basket"  from a local charitable organization. Thinking back now, I know that is what it was and that Mom was probably on welfare or unemployment while she was trying to go to University to get a degree. I think it was so impressionable because we had never received toys in that kind of abundance. Many of the Barbies were used but they were loved by us, well not my brother. Lol!

Having said that, when my own kids came along. I spoiled them as if they had aunts and uncles and grandparents to do it. But then there came a time when we were on our own and finances were tight and we had to stop and rethink the meaning of Christmas. Gifts became more meaningful and less reliant on the consumerism that had become Christmas.  We saw kids that demanded the latest and greatest toy - so named by the commercials on TV. If commercials weren't enough, Saturday morning cartoons had become little more than 1/2 hour long commercials promoting spin-off toys. I watched Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons for years and never saw the product tie-ins like you do today. In any case the must have toy could be had for a song if you had the patience to wait for the spring when it would end up in the unused toy box at the garage sale. The countless hours, gas and energy put into finding the "must-have" toy now on sale for 90% discount. At least! 

I'm not suggesting a gift-free Christmas, I'm suggesting do your shopping with the love of Christ in your heart not the love of Chri$t. Buying a starter kitchen tool set for a gourmet cook is probably not a well thought out gift and a waste of money. Winter mitts and scarves for your aunt in Florida also not the best choice. And to that end, when you are facing the daunting task of wrapping the mound of presents you see before you, do it with love in your heart and you will be sure to put the right name tag with the right gift, rather than just unloading those impulse buys that the marketing machine thrust upon you.  

Speaking personally, I would rather have nothing than something that I will feel hurt thinking about because you really don't know me and I thought we were so close. I do think re-gifting is a good thing provided thought goes into it. So, that hammer that I got that I can add to my collection of 2 I already have would go to my friend that is interested in volunteering for Habitat for Humanity but is new to the field. I may even add work gloves and safety goggles to go with it. I don't think used gifts should be re-gifted as new but having said that, if I have something in my home that I know you love or would make use of, I would share the joy that the item brought me with you. Better to be re-loved than thrown in the garbage for sure. 

The bottom line is really the end will you remember that mountain of gifts you got in any given year? No, you probably won't. But I guarantee you will remember and be hurt by the thoughtless gifts. And above all, 20 years hence you will remember the people and the feelings of Christmas. Religious or not, you will remember the love! This is my Christmas wish for you. LOVE!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Zero, nothing, naught, nil

Never Say Never - The Fray

I have learned that saying Never is a waste of my breath. I have moved no less than 5 times since I began saying I will never move again, I love this house. I have talked about things I banished from my mind. I have done things I promised myself I never would consider. I have shocked myself and I have grown because the one thing that changed is that I learned you can Never Say Never and mean it.

But like the first line in the song "Some things we don't talk about", and I am breaking that rule once here for those who are curious. I have been asked several times why my ex is never mentioned even casually in anything that I write...simply put, he is a non-person to me. I have no feeling either good or bad, I have no thoughts about him at all. I don't have room in my heart for hate and he doesn't deserve any of my energy or emotions. He is nothing. He did it to himself.

We were married for 8 years. There wasn't a lot of fighting (that I remember) but there were two significant things that come to mind when I think of him. Firstly, he was very hard on my son. He was a rambunctious kid, full of energy that he needed to learn to channel appropriately. It wasn't okay to play baseball in the house, but rather than holler and punish him - take him outside and teach him to throw at a target. Pick up a glove and be a dad! Secondly, involved my daughter. Her and I were sitting on the chesterfield one evening and I was listening to her practicing reading. My mind wandered and as I looked at her beautiful and innocent face I thought "I can't have her marrying someone like dear old dad." That night after the kids went to bed, I asked him to leave. It was Hallowe'en and he didn't leave until January. He said he couldn't find a place, but it was like he wasn't living with us. He wasn't involved with the kids any longer in any way. By his choice I might add. 

Once he moved out it was a bit better. Things were pretty amicable, he would  come and pick up the kids every weekend. Then the kids who were 7 and 8 at the time decided that they wanted every other weekend instead so they could spend some time with their neighbourhood and school friends too. He was okay with that. Then there was a weekend that my son couldn't go because he was at a sleepover birthday party and when he came to pick her up my daughter wouldn't go without her brother. He did not hide his frustration with this unexpected turn of events and suggested that I was unduly influencing the kids to avoid him. But in reality, I encourage them to maintain their relationship with him and his new friend. It was the new friend who according to the kids put me down in front of them and wanted the kids to accept her over me. The kids were uncomfortable. I told him. Since he wasn't providing any financial support, his physical support was all that I was getting. 

Returning to full-time employment proved to be a bigger challenge than I expected, and after struggling with contract and supply jobs, the best I could find for full-time work was evenings. That didn't make much sense, since I would never see the kids with us being on opposite schedules and child care costs would eat up any wages I earned. So I started looking at the possibility of moving - even though the home built with my design specifications and swearing I would never move. I began to apply for jobs in Halifax, Toronto area and Thunder Bay. I told the kids that where ever I got a job is where we would move. My son was hoping for Thunder Bay so he could play hockey and ski/snowboard. Golf and baseball, he figured he could do anywhere. 

The job offer came from Mississauga. We came so I could interview in the early part of the summer and went back to Nova Scotia to pack up. I was to start with the school board in September. I left my cousin with the daunting task of finding some where affordable for us to live. It would have to be a rental since I didn't think I could secure the sale of the house in less than two months. That summer was crazy, between Chris' baseball games we had garage sales to sell furniture that we didn't think we could take with us. Friends came in shifts to help us pack. The house was put up for sale and rent. I hired the real estate agent as my property manager - big mistake, he eventually screwed me, but that's another story. 

Anyways, the plan was the ex would drive the 27' U-Haul truck to Ontario while towing his car so he would have a way back. For his services, I would pay for his meals and he would share a bed with his son in the hotel room. I would be following in my own vehicle. Barely a week before departure, he called me with his new terms and conditions. He was bringing his lady-friend and would require his own hotel room. Additionally, the stuff and children who had the option of being in the cab of the truck was no longer possible because he was also bringing her dog. So I gave him the boot and after some scrambling ended up taking a crash course on driving a 27' standard transmission truck towing a full-sized four-door sedan. That trip came with its own challenges and stories. I'll save it for another day :) In any case, we arrived and settled into our new life. An even longer story is that of how we got divorced and it is one even I wouldn't believe if I hadn't lived through it. 

I used to be a firm believer in karma. I don't have to seek revenge on you because eventually you will screw yourself. As it was with the ex. I never spoke badly about him to the kids, he just never came up in conversation at all. In the beginning he called the kids on a regular basis and loved to talk with him. But they never picked up the phone to call him nor did they when we lived locally. I encouraged him to call the kids and not rely on them. Then I guess paranoia got the best of him or his lady-friends dislike for someone she didn't know fueled his anger, I don't know what happened. But phone calls got more infrequent. Kids birthdays were ignored. His lady wrote a letter to them telling them what a bad mother I was. The kids knew that he didn't pay support (I couldn't lie about that, we were struggling financially). The son still idolized his father but the daughter and I had different talks about him. 
She had written him off when he told her during a telephone conversation that I never wanted her, was upset when I became pregnant and wanted an abortion. Luckily, she knew that this was all a fabrication, but she held it inside for a long time...hurting. I believe that is the last conversation that she had with him, she was about 11 years old. The son never really made his feelings about his father known but I could hear in his words and see in his actions that his father was slowly but surely being knocked off that pedestal that he was on. My biggest fear with him was that he would repair his relationship with his father while he spent four years at University less than 40 minutes way from where his father still lived. In fact, he did not make any effort to connect at all.

So to the three of us now, he is a non-person. With the exception of one of us, we wish him no ill-will, we just don't care either way. The only thing I can guarantee is than he will never hurt you unless you let him. Don't give him that power! I don't know how a person can father children for nearly a decade, day in and day out and then come to a point where you can pretend that they never were. It does take a real man to be a father...he was a sperm donor. We should assign him a number! Zero...nothing...naught...nil

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Do You Remember the Top Ten at 10:00

We Will Still Need A Song - Hawksley Workman

Have you figured it out yet? Music is my life. I can't stand silence, I guess I figure you will get enough of it when we are "6 feet under". I know, I know, technically I am not supposed to be alive to notice the silence...but it is the analogy that always pops in my head when I think of silence. In fact, there have been times when my home and even vehicle have left me thinking of the "eternal box" when it is quiet. To that is always playing. Even now, as I sit downstairs at the computer, if I should wander upstairs the noise of the radio will greet me. My ideal would be the same music piped into every room of the house and outside so at least you are listening to the same song as you wander but...I'm not a millionaire yet lol!

One of my fondest and earliest memories of doing something as a family is sitting on the chesterfield learning the words to the song "Farewell to Nova Scotia". We were an Italian family living in Thunder Bay, Ontario so I often asked myself why that song? I was probably only about 6 or 7 years old when this happened so not cognizant enough to think of asking my mom why she chose to teach us that song. However with years and wisdom, I know have my theories which will never be disproven so I can be right forever. My Mom came to Canada as a young girl and it is likely that she landed by boat at Halifax Harbours' Pier 21. Her first look at her new world must have left a lasting impact. I know that my first visit there certainly left an impact on me. I don't think I have been to a more beautiful place. 

The first present I ever remember receiving from my mother was a 45 called Day After Day by Badfinger. I got it for not chewing my nails, a habit my mother detested. We used to play records - Mom's collection was primarily songs sung in Italian from the old country that she would play when we had company. But, when we were alone, the radio on the console stereo that my father built would belt out the latest Rock and Roll tunes on CKPR's playlist. In the evenings at 10:00 the days countdown of the top 10 songs in the city were played. It was a contest but since we never won, I don't remember the prizes. We would sit by the radio and write down all the songs and artists from number 10 down. On the old rotary telephone we would dial all but the last number of the station for we knew that you only had to identify the number one song within a couple of notes in order to win. And no matter how fast you thought you were that busy signal buzzed in your ear. And we re-dialed over and over again until the end of the song and winner was announced. You didn't give up, the other callers might have gotten it wrong. It was as entertaining as it was frustrating, it was family game time.

All four of us kids played piano, so when the radio wasn't on, there was a good chance someone was sitting at the piano practicing or just fiddling on the keys. Well maybe not me. I did it because I had to, not because I like it. The music was okay but I have never enjoyed lessons - let me learn on my own. Mainstream education and me...that's another story :)

My younger sister Linda and I took listening to music one step further. For us, the appreciation of the song not only came with the music but with the words and the meaning behind the tune. To that end, we spent hours with our ears pressed up against the speaker of that old console stereo listening intently to the words and when they were deciphered, writing them down in a book. In order to ascertain a particularly puzzling piece of lyrics would entail lifting up the needle off the record and moving it back a few grooves, very carefully so as to not scratch the record and dullen the needle quicker. Additionally, we had a few pennies perched precariously on the head of the needle arm for balance so the song wouldn't skip. It was quite fun and challenging. It was nirvana when we bought a record that came with the lyrics! 

Many songs have the ability to transport my back to the time in my life when that song was popular or meaningful. Both good and bad, happy and sad. But if there is a song or more that I associate with you, you have impacted my life in some way. I will listen to anything and any genre, although I have my favourites naturally. There are really only two artists that I will change the station to avoid listening to, Prince and Annie Lennox. Never cared for anything either one of them put out...their voices and style grate on my last nerve.

In most cases, music can soothe this ravaged and aching soul and bring peace where mere words cannot. Turn it up so we can all enjoy the music inside my head....

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Depression and anxiety disorders are not a sign of weakness. They are signs that you've been trying to be strong for too long.

Never Too Late - Three Days Grace

Depression and anxiety disorders are not a sign of weakness. They are signs that you've been trying to be strong for too long.

If I think that one person might be helped by my admission that in the past year I have suffered from anxiety and depression, then it will have been worth it. I believe that it came as a shock to a lot of people because I was known as the happy one, always smiling and laughing. I got angry but never mad, instead I got frustrated and "wrote people off" instead of confronting them. I just figured people who tried to bring me down were not worth my time. Being of the Catholic faith I put a lot of trust in God that justice would be served by a higher power than myself. 

But it seems that it is easier to use my past against me then to look at the real issues and fix the problem or least admit that there is a problem. To be perfectly clear, I am being told that what happened to me at work happened because I couldn't handle it for all the tragedy I suffered as a kid. In other words, I wasn't bullied at work I was treated like everyone else and I couldn't handle it. And to this I only have one thing for you to consider. Personal tragedy most certainly affected my life and outlook therein when I was in my early to mid-20's. Now suddenly 20 years after the fact those circumstances have returned to dominate my life and perception of my place in this world. How was it that I managed to cope for so long? How could I raise two normal children, work, volunteer, maintain relationships with people, forge new relationships etc? How could I be so successful and happy in my life....until I set foot in the door of the Catholic School System to offer my heart, soul and expertise into helping the most vulnerable members of our community. Until those in power saw someone that could be abused.

So let's see if I am understanding this properly. It is okay to take the most vulnerable and weak members of our society and exploit them, for then you will have an excuse to fall back on. Does this seem okay to anyone with two brain cells to rub together? Well, I am here to tell you that it is a rarity for the physically, emotionally, or strong of character person that is singled out as a target for the bully. The bully will ALWAYS pick someone that they perceive to be weaker than they are. A bully is such because they need to feel empowered and they are really too weak and incapable of achieving it on their own. They must stand upon and crush the spirit of another to "show" their power. Often, (but not exclusively) done with an audience, the on-lookers are forced to side with the bully for they fear they may become the next target. So the weak stands alone...much like that old school ground game we used to play "The cheese stands alone". I don't remember the point of that game but I do recall standing in the middle of a circle with my school mates holding hands in a sign of unity forming a circle around me as they tauntingly sang. When I was the cheese...I felt so very alone.

When I was at work with the school board I prayed that someone would hear me, listen to me and stop the madness. But it wasn't to be.

And I have come to learn that a person who bullied me, and perhaps even your children with challenges that you sent to be educated with kindness, compassion and consideration in the sight of God within the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board is at it again. "Heels"...people beware and stay away!