Monday, December 28, 2009

and that was that

Every year around this time, ever since remembering began, I get all melancholy and feel let down. Like the wonderful brother-in-law of my darling daughter said "The Christmas tree just doesn't look the same with the presents all gone". True, true... and that is exactly what this sense of "now what?" is about.

Living in an apparently civilized country that doesn't have a statutory holiday between New Year's Day and Easter is just wrong. We all need something to look forward to and the long months between Christmas and spring in Canada require reasons to get up in the morning. No wonder so many of us figure out how to get a few short days of intense sunshine in a tropical place as often as possible in the winter!

But I have discovered that this is a perfect summing up time. Especially this year as we pause to remember not only the year but the decade. We have made it 10 years into the the new millenium, folks. And that did not seem certain on December 28, 1999.

This past decade for me has been one of intense change - businesses sold, started, failed and disaster overcome. Work has taken me to Mexico, Hawaii, Tahiti & all over the continental US. I have lived in 5 different places - more than the rest of my entire life. I have moved during almost every one of those ten years. I learned that I could re-invent myself in a multitude of ways, professionally. I have been a failed entrepreneur, a receptionist, a sales & marketing assistant, a business operations coordinator, regional manager and manager, a professional coach and most recently, Director of Tribal Culture. I have worked with people eccentric, brilliant and loving.

Personally, I have learned the freedom of being completely responsible for my life, how to fearlessly express my thoughts, how to accept help and that I will continue to explore learning and knowledge for the rest of my life. I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up - and love that I can coach and listen for many people. I became friends with my mom, found that I have the perfect husband, discovered that I still adore my children and fell totally in love with my grandson. In this last decade my family grew through marriage and friendships - I am now blessed with even more people in my inner circle than ever before.

I have lived in the mountains and the big city and now back to my beloved island. Our abodes have ranged from a 400 square foot studio to a 2500 square foot house overlooking the ocean.

I turn my thoughts into words in several venues. I share philosophy and dreams with people around the world. I have the honour and privilege of actively 'acting for the greater good' each day. I am more certain than ever that we have choice about how our world will look in the future.

I look ahead with anticipation and excitement. I look forward to December 28th, 2019 for another summing up of the decade!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Darkest days and longest nights

Seemed that the night did not want to give up its hold this morning. Light slowly seeped into the grey sky and the day is quiet and still and definitely not bright. It is with great relief that I realize that we are done with the longest night and turn now into the sun. Even two minutes a day will be an improvement.

This winding down of the year is especially poignant and the summing up of the year's events will be momentous and joyful. This year, with Kai's arrival will be remembered as the year of his birth. Those dates are marked even long after we are gone. We are still celebrating Beethoven's birthday!

I am learning to embrace the rhythms of the seasons - not to struggle against the natural cycles and energies. This is a time of hibernation and sleep and my body knows that. At 4:30 when it is already dark, I am ready to close off my day and any efforts made to be active in the evening are challenging. I can barely stir from my warm bed in the morning. This all makes sense and somehow I have been unaware of the ebb and flow or else have insisted that it makes no difference. Nonsense!

And so I am drawn to summing up this week as the hustle and bustle of Christmas is upon us. I will take some time over these short days to consider what I want to celebrate about 2009 and what the first decade of this new millenium has meant to me. 2010 is a perfect opportunity to renew again - the beginning of a new 10 years that will have their own flavour as each new decade does.

I will continue to enjoy the baking and wrapping and preparation for the annual feast and gathering of the clan. I love the anticipation of stockings being unpacked with much laughter and fun and the presents being unwrapped and oohed and ahhed over. There will be much fuss made over our sweet baby and although he won't remember this first Christmas, we will!

Right now, a hummingbird is sipping sugar water from the feeder on my deck. I marvel over this resilient, brave little creature that defies the odds and logic and spends all winter here. Last week, in the snow, it seemed fantastic and amazing that a hummingbird would be flying outside my window yet there he was - symbol of all that is incredible and miraculous in the deep of winter!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

can you stand one more blog about Christmas?

Although I can't promise this will be the last seasonal entry - this seasonal stuff sets off my sentimental and wondering little brain...

This has been a few days of contemplation and pondering about traditions and family and such. I am appreciating the different ways to celebrate. I am giving up that I need to have ALL my family under the same roof on Christmas morning in order to have a successful Christmas Day. I am understanding that giving my mom her wrapped presents early will make her Christmas morning cheery and will give her something to look forward to over the next couple of weeks. She may not get out of the house to get us anything more than a greeting card sent before the 25th. She will likely share her Christmas dinner with friends and family of theirs. Her clear desire to spend her remaining days in her own home means that our visits will be sporadic and rarely for more than a few days, barring emergencies. I cannot control how it all turns out any more than I can manage the weather.

At my daughter's house, the 9 foot real Christmas tree is decorated with 8 strings of lights and she has garnished it with ornaments old and new. The front yard is festive with outdoor lights for their first Christmas in the house they all share. She has the Advent Calendar hung that my mom made for my little ones to count down by putting another decoration on the felt Christmas tree each morning. While little Kai is blissfully unaware of the fuss and preparation, this is really in honour of him and the designation of 'family' that being blessed with him has created in that home.

I am ready to go back to my 'borrowed' house and pull out some more festive stuff and light up the place. I will play my favourite seasonal CD's and light up the miniature Christmas village for the sideboard to glow in the darkness of the next couple of long, long nights. I will anxiously watch the weather forecasts for inclement road conditions that might prevent both shopping trips and travel to gather with the family. I will bake shortbread and goodies to share with friends and I will plan an evening of celebration for one evening to eat and drink and laugh with friends.

This year's memories are not yet set so I can say how it will play out. It is with gladness and anticipation that I look forward to the coming days and the warmth of the love that is more important than anything at this time of year. Thanks for reading - this blog was a little gooey, the sweetness is getting to me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

bored in Calgary ... everything AND the kitchen sink

Sort of like 'Sleepless in Seattle' but not... I realize that my mom is aging - it is something I am coming to terms with on any number of levels, but I remembered tonight how much I hate cooking in the kitchen by myself. Mom is much happier ensconced in her recliner with reruns of reruns that are familiar to her. The cat is sleeping happily on the couch as she is elderly too, and even the remote possibility of food falling on the floor is no longer an enticement to hang out in the kitchen.

Now, I am blessed currently in my borrowed house to have a kitchen which extends into the open living room and it is easy to interact with anyone else who is nearby. This house, my childhood home, is more traditional (pause to pour more Carolans into the glass before the ice cubes melt - this is medicinal you see, to counteract the boredom) with the kitchen completely separate from any other human being in the house. I don't recall this being an issue when I was young, because the kitchen was the centre of all the action - food, kitchen table discussions, drama and tears by the sink and that was where my mom was most likely found. My mother was a working mother, unusual for my era, and once she came home, putting on her apron was probably the first thing she did after shedding her coat and shoes. She faithfully prepared meals during the week for us and on the weekend she would be whipping up cookies and dinners for the week ahead. Some of my favourite memories are in this kitchen.

- we used to have square linoleum that was exactly the right size for me to practice "first position" in ballet - my feet fit just right and the tea towel rack was sort of like the barre

- we always ate our meals at the kitchen table - the dining room table was for, well, stuff to be piled up on and occasionally company

- it was expected that my brother and I would trade off assisting with dishes (we couldn't be trusted to do them together - that was like igniting WWIII) so I would help my dad, mostly

- I learned more about the world doing dishes with my dad - we talked about politics, parenting, the state of the world, made up stories about the families would could see in the playground outside the backyard, visible from the window, told jokes and teased each other - it was pretty magic

- the only telephone in the house was between the kitchen and dining room and in order to talk to my girlfriends about 'private' stuff in earshot of everyone, we had to create codes for the secret stuff - talking to my first boyfriend endlessly from that phone was painful - I couldn't understand why we couldn't get an extension phone but that was beyond my family's means at the time

- even after I left home, whenever I came back, we gathered there around that table, being part of whatever was being cooked up - literally and figuratively

I imagined when I thought about this weekend with my mom - an early Christmas for her since she doesn't want to travel out to be with all of us - that we would be working together in the kitchen like we used to. It just isn't the same being there on my own. Perhaps tomorrow during another snowy day in Calgary, we can create something together - shortbread for Christmas, just like the olden days.

Okay, definitely time for more Carolans - and there might be a rerun that I would like to watch with her coming up next!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

T'is the season...

Every December since I became conscious (wait, was that last year? or the year before?) I have been aware of this anticipation of the Christmas "feeling". I actually spent some time as a teenager (when I wasn't writing angst ridden poetry) contemplating what the feeling was and how to capture it as I matured (again, was that in 2007 or 2008?). I only knew that it was what I anticipated each year and it seemed, upon examination, to be equal parts waiting impatiently for the day to arrive, the preparation which included baking, shopping, wrapping and tree decorating and an ill described sense of goodwill to all men.

That goodwill bit, now described as an accounting term or an organization of assistance to those in the depths of despair, seems antiquated and quaint - Charles Dickens'ish. Yet that is the very embodiment of the Christmas spirit to me and every year since recollection has had me start this season of indulgence and merriment with a desire to share that goodwill with everyone.

I know that I am wrapped in the Currier and Ives vision of Christmas. I admit that I have expectations of how it is supposed to look and sound and smell. Last year, I created the closest recreation of that ever. The fresh pine tree, chopped down by my very own husband after tromping through a forest (okay, it was a Christmas tree plantation, but let me keep some of my illusions, alright?!), decorated carefully and lit up in the window of a house large enough to entertain my entire family. We had a fully laden larder, a fridge full of yummy food, an abundance of beverages and even gently falling snow. Perfect, right? Turned out that the snow slowed and almost completely derailed the family's arrival, with treacherous driving conditions. The abundance of (alcoholic) beverages was challenging to some of the members of the group and everyone woke up the next morning having to dash off before the weather closed in again. I was left at 10 am on Boxing Day with the consummate Christmas done in less than 24 hours, a messy, empty house and a ton of left overs with no one to share them with (except my grateful husband who loves turkey sandwiches).

In the week leading up to that event, I was so excited to be able to provide this amazing Christmas to share with my loved ones and truthfully, I treasured every single minute of it (except some of the beverage-induced silliness) and would do it again, but only if we could all enjoy it longer - people should plan on spending at least 5 or 6 days with me - before and after. Then. I would be happy.

Hmmm, perhaps there are some unrealistic expectations lurking here. What is genuinely there for me is that I almost don't want to begin a season of disappointment, so I am putting off even pulling out the decorations because if last year wasn't precisely ideal, given all the right conditions, how will I ever be able to have the Christmas that I dream of?

Now, my daughter has had her son and has asked to begin the passing down of the traditions, ornaments and celebration. This passing of the torch is appropriate and makes perfect sense that the next generation hosts and holds the family gathering. I am left, like I was in my bedroom as a 15 year old, wondering where the magic went. Time to read "Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus" "...Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world." Thank you, Francis P Church, Editor of the New York Sun.

I will find enchantment and charm this season. I will bake and cook and share lovely times with friends and loved ones. I will find ways to give and be generous and open. I will hang my stocking and eagerly watch for the sparkle and glow in the faces of those around me. I will hold the Spirit of Christmas in my heart!