Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where I Find My Christmas

Very few moments of Christmas offer the peaceful quiet and tranquility regaled in that renowned Carol Silent Night. If you have children, especially, there is no such thing. The quietest moment you may experience in fact are those 12 seconds in the mall parking lot, right between turning off the engine and stepping out into the throng. That moment when the radio is silenced and you are entirely alone with your thoughts.
My thoughts generally consist of a desperation prayer… “Lord, protect my husband’s sanity as he manages and entertains our children for the next three hours. Help him to choose age appropriate Christmas programing, to remember that you can never appease a teenager and that high sugar snacks are not sleep inducing. Please guide my shopping adventure, that I may find the correct size, colour and label without migraine causing difficulty, grant me patience for line-ups, tolerance for the rudeness and forgiveness for any profanity that I might consider appropriate.”
A similar prayer lives in many a mother in December.
Those 12 seconds border on reverent, but to be truly honest, there is only one silent, peaceful and introspective moment that takes my breath away completely. Great peace and silence is provided in the glow of our loudest, most obnoxious, mismatched, tacky holiday symbol in our home; The Christmas Tree.
The adornments are a hodgepodge. Arguments and anxiety over tree selection are fierce. Decorating the darned thing demands a strong stomach. Each year I swear that I shall pack a bottle of Advil, a fifth of rye and a couple of shot glasses neatly away with the ornaments; a first aid kit for the following year. The lights do not match. There are white ones and coloured ones and two strings of dancing lights from conflicting manufactures, so they never dance to the same beat. This year the dancing lights bit the dust, (I admit to a little dance myself on the extinguished cords) There is guaranteed tension when tree day is announced and yet it is my favourite day of the holiday preparations.
We choose an evening when everyone is home, plan a bits and bites diner and turn on the Christmas music. Michael prepares mugs of cider then finds a comfy spot on the couch to nurse his patience. I plunk into my favourite chair with a dusty box of ornaments on my lap and prepare them for hanging. I straighten, untangle, repair as needed, and loop them on my fingers for pick up. The kids travel back and forth, transferring from fingers to branches. Each year I realize that they are older but as they work, bicker and delight I can only see them as ‘little kids’ and I remember those years...
The first year Lula decorated the tree; we enjoyed a single clustered patch of ornaments in a sea of green. When KJ came along and joined the decorating crew we enjoyed 2 patches in the same sea. As they grew taller the patches moved up the tree. When E-man was old enough to toddle to the tree the girls had begun developing artistic eyes and they coached him on ornament placement, as best as a 2 year old can be coached. Those were the years that the bottom half of the tree was fully decorated with a heavy presence in one quadrant. Fast forward 17 Christmases, they can all reach well up into the tree and the whole thing gets equal billing.
Little else changes…
They still debate ornament origin, ownership and placement. Michael refrains from refereeing; a wise move on his part. It was his bright idea after all, the first year we were married, to begin with one ornament and add something each year. I listen to the crush of noise and wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to have one of those all matching decorator trees that can be put in a closet from January through November.
The decorating foreperson emerges early in the process, this person’s capability is questioned relatively quickly by the self-appointed Quality Control manager. Guaranteed that one child will abandon the project by the half-way point. Voices get raised, laughter is spilled, we’ve had a year or two complete with tears but eventually the tree gets finished.
The kids go to bed and the time comes for Michael and I to turn in. As I reach to unplug the tree...the calm comes. Right then, right there is the silence. When the house is dark save for the Christmas tree lights. I pause and reflect upon our un-designer conflict inducing Christmas tree. I smile at the Popsicle stick reindeers and the beaded candy canes crafted by my kids though the years. I gaze at pretty pewter and glass ornaments given to our family by friends in Christmases past. I smile at the paper butterfly made by the hospital auxiliary the year Michael was in hospital just days before Christmas. I reach out and turn around a tiny ceramic bell or a one armed nutcracker that came to our tree from my grandmother the year she lost her independence. They came from her grandmother and one day will hang on the trees of my own children and grandchildren. The single ornament that Michael hangs on the tree is the one from our very first Christmas together , a delicate Precious Moments porcelain wedding bell that I imagined has survived our 20 years much the same way our marriage has; with resilience, care and the grace of god. I turn off the 3 individually lit angel ornaments and smile at the three baby soothers that hang near the tree top, one for each of my three babies.
Our tree… it shouts and hollers, it sings and laughs, it cries and it rejoices, that is its’ story. In that story lies the silence, the peace, the magic, the meaning of Christmas; that we are blessed, each of us with our own stories with our own challenges, accomplishments, struggles and successes and that each of us owes our story to the love of a father who gave to us his son.  Celebration is, at Christmas, the sincerest expression of our immeasurable gratitude for that gift.

Spend some moment everyday in reflection of gratitude and happiness. Even if the time found is standing in line for coffee...use is wisely.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 15 Second Makeover

5 steps... 3 seconds a step = 15 seconds to a new you. Try it!

Clench your jaw. Is it already clenched?
Unclench it.

Stiffen your shoulders. Are they already stiff?
Loosen them

Make your hands into fists. Are they fists already?
Shake them loose

Curl your toes. Are they curled up already?
Stretch them out.

Make a smile. Smiling already?
Keep smiling

Monday, December 19, 2011

Where my Blog Design Went?

Who knows? My lovely picture of Raindrops has disappeared from my header and can not be re-installed, maybe after Christmas I'll find time to wrangle the solution - until then we'll just apply a Christmasy Colour theme and pretend that was the intention!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In You To Give - Blood & Gratitude

Warning this post contains references to blood, needles and giving.

Tuesday I adopted the mantra "I can make that happen" I repeated it to myself from the time my feet hit the floor until the minute I plopped my butt into the blood bank donation chair.

The mantra was a lame attempt to psych myself up for the eventuality of giving blood. (background; I hate blood, I hate needles, I hate pain...hate is a serious word for me) Right after the made up Mantra line I secretly added "but why the heck do you want to make this happen?" The answer quite simply put...because you were asked, because your friend needs blood to battle her cancer, because she faces needles and worse everyday, because by comparison 1/2 a litre of blood and a needle is a cake walk, because you have it in you to give, because you said you would.

So I followed through, handling the affair with the scared to death humor that has become my greatest coping mechanism.
  • First they check your iron to make sure you have adequate stores to give some away. I passed.
  • Next you are asked a series of questions about your lifestyle, work and travel. I did okay with this until I got to the question inquiring as to my recent work with monkeys. To the best of my knowledge I do not work with monkeys but I questioned the handling of monkeys in my personal life. Thank you Lorraine for receiving my outward expression of laughter in good stride, how did you know it was the Monkey question?
  • On to screening hurdle #3 (the confessional as Lorraine called it) I was invited into a private room to answer what the nurse referred to as - highly personal questions. They were highly personal, but have simplified the round of 20 questions in store for the next boy who steps over the threshold to date one of my daughters. One Question "Can you pass the Canadian Blood Donor Screen?"
  • Questions aside; my arms where checked, my temperature was checked, my blood pressure was checked. My blood pressure was 144/85 not to bad - cool as a cucumber right? Unless you know that normal for me is 112/69. I asked the nurse if I looked nervous.
  • I got to have my cookies and juice before I got stuck with the needle. Apparently I didn't eat enough before arriving. That's something I don't often hear. Beyond my comfy spot at the juice and cookie table was my turn at the needle. I swear no one can eat a cookie slower than I.
  • Eventually they prodded me along. I confirmed to the 5th person that I was indeed the same person who entered the building. That I had passed the 3 gateways to the inner sanctum of blood donation and was still on board - because I said I would.
  • The actual event of giving blood was lack luster in comparison to the mental image I had worked up in my brain throughout the day. They clean your arm, poke your vein, siphon out 1/2 a litre of blood, clean up, give you a band aid and a juice box and send you on your way back to the cookie table to recover before leaving. They record your time too, like a marathoner crossing the 10km gate. I gave my 1/2 litre in 7 minutes which compared to the pace set by the guy 4 beds over was embarrassing especially when they handed me a sqeezy bag to help coax the blood from my arm.
  • Next time I will consume vast quantities of water in the days prior, this helps they say. Next time I will improve my blood letting pace. Oh, and there will be a next time. That is the second question they ask right after how are you today? Would you like to set up your next appointment while I have you up on the screen? Clever people, they ask before you give, then  you have to come back because you said you would.
Gratitude today for the ability to give. Like spreading smiles and positive energy. The life you change might not be your own. Although I believe mine was the one most changed.

Extreme gratitude as well to the lovely, patient nurses and volunteers who took my nervous humor in stride and to the co-workers unfortunate enough to share my time slot...gratitude for your blind-eye.

Today is Thursday and I always ask "What's your Gratitude?" Today I'm asking what are you grateful for? As well as asking you to consider a blood donation, you really can change a life

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday... Your Turn @ The Table

This morning I got up to let the dog out and like every other morning this week I was greeted by the glow of Christmas Lights. Ours, the ones we neglect to turn off before retiring to bed for the night. Yes, we are THAT house, the only one lit up like a Christmas tree at 3 am. Go figure.

Gratitude today for the LED innovation! The technology that keeps our hydro bill low enough to afford the rest of the celebrations despite our negligence.

Thursday and Your Turn @ The Table...What are you Grateful for today? Share a comment, change your status, send an email, post, tweet, tell a friend, thank the Drive Thru server, Hold a door. Share.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Season of Giving - The Charity Choosing

Social causes – ribbons and charities abound in our world. One can hardly round a corner without being reminded by the side of a bus or the side of a milk carton that poverty exists and that the need for childhood help phones is sadly required. At every turn there are people collecting money, asking for support, spreading awareness and looking for air time in the valuable name of their cause. Every day I receive messages, letters, mail, links through friends, facebook, twitter and email to causes that need recognition and support. There is no doubt that each is worthy, deserving of every penny they acquire, each snippet of publicity they garner and every message requesting support. Social and humanitarian aid is the emotional factor that draws us together, providing commonality of circumstance. It is the thing that says “we are on the same team”
With so much need and so many agencies, programs, research and awareness campaigns vying for attention how do you choose?
Some people choose because they have $5 in their pocket when the canvasser knocks on the door. Others choose by way of group consensus; collections at the office, church or school.  There are folks who make their choice by the opportunity to profit through prize pools, houses, cars and other luxuries.  An increasing portion of the population is choosing based on fashion, causes that are trending among social circles.
I find myself more and more, upon receiving appeals, from friends, family, acquaintances and social suggestion, wondering about the rationale behind the messages. What was the deciding factor, Why this charity, with a slew to choose from…why this one? I wonder if people think the same thing when they receive a request attached to my name or avatar.
Here is my take (and perhaps a little insight as to why I never forwarded your appeal to my entire contacts list, friends list or followers).
I have a way of choosing the charities I support; I want to believe that it is the same method used by the social majority in their personal selection process. I choose with my heart.
I Support the Food Bank because they filled my stomach during some dark days of childhood and have fuelled the tummies of other family members too in the years since.
I support the Heart and Stoke Foundation because their research saves lives including those of my father, grandfather, uncle and friend.
When I spread awareness to end Domestic & Family Violence, I do so in memory of my very good friend who didn’t need for her life to end this way.
If you get a message from me about Suicide Prevention and Depression, know that I do it in honour of a young man who couldn’t hang on and a family member who by the grace of God is learning that there is much to hang on to and out for, and who I pray every day doesn’t ever forget.
The request of support for Sick kids Hospitals is my way of saying thank you to them for saving the lives of 3 tiny relatives (more than once) and easing the fear in our own immediate family.
The Cancer Society receives my support in memory of friends who have lost their battles, grandmothers and brothers who didn’t and friends who are still waiting to see which ending their story will get.
I ask you to dig in your pocket to help out Homeless Teens because my children have asked us to share our home with their friends on the brink of circumstance and I witness adults that I knew in those same circumstances as a teenager. Some have better lives, some do not.
When I send out an appeal for understanding on Mental Health, know that anxiety ruled every aspect of my life for much much longer than it had a right to – that message comes to you in celebration of triumph and in hope for those still suffering.
The Canadian Diabetes Association has the power to aid my Stepfather greater today than it did my Grandmother 30 years ago through ongoing research and support. They have mine.
The Canadian Legion represents my family’s Uncles, Grandfathers and Brothers. The Legion is a comfort and support for my father and was a cause supported with passion by my Grandmother.
I will always forward pieces about Anti-Bullying, because my kids and hundreds like them need to know that there is someone in their corner.
I wish that I could support every charity, share the message of every cause that crossed my inbox or landed in my social feed. Truthfully there are just too many, a reality which by its very existence is saddening.  So I choose, I choose with my heart and I don’t forward or make appeals on behalf of any cause that does not fit my selection criteria. Does that sound harsh? Perhaps, but I believe in granting weight to my words. If you receive a forward, follow, link, or support request attached to my name be assured that it comes from my heart it is born of gratitude; gratitude for Help, for hope for healing.
While you look for places to bestow those year-end charitable giving dollars, when your inbox fills up with awareness appeals, as you select charity gifts for people on your list, choose with your heart. It is easy to throw money at something, quick to like a status, pass along cause awareness or click to share a link. Do it with your heart, with gratitude.
To the thousands of worthy charities not on my list, I pray you never land on it but you can expect the same commitment should it happen.
Spend some moment everyday in reflection of gratitude and happiness. Even if the time found is standing in line for coffee...use is wisely.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Make Your Bed?

A lot of life is about setting yourself up for success. Let's face it there are no guarantees what a day has in store or how successfully you will navigate and surmount the challenges that appear in the space between morning java and bedtime tea.

This is why I make my bed. Everyday.  Even on those days when I am brushing my teeth while applying eyeliner in a lame attempt to make up for time spent smashing my fist against the snooze bar. I stop and make the bed.

For 2 reasons...

Reason # 1
This way I begin each day with an accomplishment, and set a precedent for the balance of the day.

Reason # 2
I finish each day successfully. Even if I fouled up every thing I touched between leaving the house and pyjama time, I go to bed reminded I did at least 1 thing right. Some days that has to be enough.

Gratitude today that success is largely self regulated.

Spend some moment everyday in reflection of gratitude and happiness. Even if the time found is standing in line for coffee...use is wisely.


Friday, December 2, 2011

At it Again

Remember The Journey Begins with a Single Toothbrush? The post about my clever KJ and her gift of words? Well she's at it again!

I've begun using my ensuite mirror a bit like a command centre board for my ideas and thoughts. Weird? Maybe but the truth is that I do alot of thinking in the deadspace of drying hair and brushing teeth. I used to keep a pen and note pad in the drawer for quickly jotting down a 'remember too', inspirational thought or story idea. That worked really well except that once the thought was out of my head and in the notebook in my bathroom drawer, it stayed there. In a couple of days when I opened the drawer again I would be reminded of what I wanted to address or accomplish.

Now I write directly on the mirror with wipe off crayon.

I have a thought, I write it down, I think about it. If I still like the thought before I exit the bathroom I leave it, if not, I erase it. When I get ready for bed my thought is still there staring me in the face. If I like it, still intend to investigate it further...I leave it. If not I erase it.

On Wednesday night preparing for bed I found this taped to my Thought Board

Chinese Food is a very rare treat in our home. KJ's thought-full gifts are becoming a habit. One I will always appreciate.

Gratitude today for the treat of Chinese Food, the gift of words from my KJ and the gentle reinforcement that she has a point to be taken. When I opened my fortune cookie 5 minutes after finding her revealed the same words-o-wisdom.

Just like the message that is still elasticised to my toothbrush (long since retired - that may be the first toothbrush ever, that I kept after it's usefulness) This new message will remain stuck on my Thought Board.

Spend some moment everyday in reflection of gratitude and happiness. Even if the time found is standing in line for coffee...use is wisely.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday...Your Turn @ The Table

"Just because a person smiles all the time, doesn't mean their life is perfect, that smile is a symbol of hope & strength."
I stole that line from a Tweeter. Usually I am against theft but this line really touched me. There is a general suspicion about people who are happy, as though society finds it so impossible that someone can actually BE happy. The automatic assumption is that happy, smiling people are hiding something, that people with a positive approach are less than genuine.  
Ever come across someone in shock? Have you ever had to remind someone to breath? We do this with kids all the time. When they come in the house sobbing so hard that they can't get their words out to tell us what is wrong. We look them straight in the eye and calmly tell them to "breath." They breath, the story comes out and we can work on the solution.
Smiling is a kin to breathing, sometimes you have to be reminded to smile so that you can work on the solution. It's a take on the Chicken and the Egg theory, which came first; the happiness or the smile?
A smile is hope, a smile is strength. A smile gives you a place to start when you feel like its all over. Gratitude today for the power of a smile and to the tweeter who shared such a great message. Especially yesterday, when I found out that yet another friend has been handed the challenge of battling Cancer. I will think about strength and hope when I see her smile.
Thursday...Your turn @ the table.....What are you Grateful for today? Share your gratitude here, with your friends, change your status, tweet it around. The the day you change might not be your own.
:) Michelle