Sunday, November 30, 2008


A recent comment here set me to thinking and clarifying my opinion.
I believe in both destiny and free will. A bit of a dichotomy, I realize, but we do have free will within the landscape we have chosen for a particular lifetime. I believe we choose the circumstances of each birth, depending on what we need to learn, or to contribute to the world. That is the map we are born with. That is destiny. Within this map, we may choose to go anywhere. We may follow the course we ourselves set, or we can change how we react in our world. That is free will.

For instance, I am a Caucasian Canadian living in the world as it is in the 20th and 21st centuries. I may act in any way I wish to events and circumstances in my life. I can try to live a life that helps to make the world a wee bit better place for my having been here, or I can ride rough shod over anyone in my way in order to get whatever I desire. I will also reap the rewards or punishments for the life I choose to live.

However, even if I wished it with all my heart, I can not become an Australian aboriginal, or a native of India, or change the birth circumstances I have chosen. I may well have chosen or will choose a different life map in another lifetime, but not in this one. I have already made those choices.

So, yes I do believe in destiny and I believe in free will. I also believe that "truth" evolves for each person. Our truth is the only true at a given point in our Journey. As we evolve in our spiritual understanding our truth changes with it. Growth requires struggle of a sort. We need to make an effort to rise above the easy path. The free will we have allows us to choose the easy way, the baser instincts, or to take the high road. There is nothing to force us to grow in any given lifetime. The choice is always ours.
As always, we learn from all that makes us think, and you make me think. It is the the comments that challenge our understanding which facilitates our growth. Thank you all for helping me grow.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Alone for the Holidays

My heart aches when family moves on and one is left alone on holidays.
My family has become much smaller over the years. Here in Nova Scotia, there is only my daughter and her partner. In Ontario where I come from, there is only my sister and her husband. Papatoes' parents are both gone, but he has found a sister and her family in New Brunswick. As you know, I have a large family "by choice" which makes the holidays more boisterous and full of love and new life. There is even a new granddaughter on her way early in the new year.
With so many families fracturing and scattering all over the world, it becomes even more important to have such chosen family. We of the older generation become surrogate grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and so on. It allows us to pass on some of what we have learned over the years, as well as providing a semblance of the old extended family for those without.
One of my fondest activities before Christmas is getting together with the little ones and doing baking for the holidays. The girls are so proud of what they have made and I have the opportunity to share.It is my firm conviction that our future rests in the hands of our children and if we do not invest in their upbringing, who will?

The Pity Tree

I was released from Intensive Care in the morning of Christmas Eve, 2005. Since my fate was rather unclear during that time, no real arrangements had been made for Christmas at home.

We always put our tree up and decorated it very close to Christmas since we keep it up until New Year's Day, which is not the same as the local tradition of erecting and decorating the tree around the end of November.
My DH and daughter scrambled to do a month's worth of preparations in one afternoon. They took off to find a tree lot that had any trees left at all. No success, but with hope they visited a distant neighbor who grows trees and usually has them for sale in his front yard as well as his wholesale business. All trees had been sold but he had banked his house with leftover trees and trimmings. He gave them one of them, a short, spindly, sad looking tree ..................... but our "pity tree" was the most beautiful tree ever, and they told me I was the best gift ever.

Each year the tree is the best ever, the food the most delicious ever, and the love in our home always feels like it is the most ever. I pray that each and every one has the opportunity to experience such blessings.

The Magic of Christmas

With the current economic crisis, Christmas this year will be difficult for more families than usual. I wrote this after Christmas 2005, when I returned from hospital on Christmas Eve. I was not able to either orchestrate or participate in the preparations for Christmas.Making Christmas.
Regardless of whether Christmas is a religious festival or a simple gathering and celebration of love and family unity, the important thing is to celebrate it in a way that brings joy to all involved. Almost all religions have a Celebration around this time of year, and even if one is not religious, my partner tells me that there is a winter festival called Festivus, which is the Festival For The Rest Of Us.
After all these years, a set of circumstances and a lot of contemplation brought me to the conclusion that the ability to make Christmas is not built into the genes, it is a learned skill, usually learned in the bosom of a family who makes Christmas as their elders did for generations, with updates on techniques, of course. Those who did not grow up under such circumstances, find it very hard to learn how to make Christmas. They have probably always gone looking for Christmas at friends and more distant relatives homes, or grown up hating Christmas.
For the first time this year, a whole series of stray thoughts fell together to create a picture of how Christmas is made. I have a very dear friend who never experienced really celebrating Christmas growing up, who has a hard time figuring out how to make the Holidays a season of love and joy. He used to get up in the morning and after breakfast, go visiting to find Christmas. Now in his older years, he has found himself in the position of having to struggle with making Christmas.With no memories of warm caring rituals, such as making special foods and meals, car rides to look at the lights, finding and decorating the tree as a family, or the fun and anticipation of having the family all together at this season, or picking and wrapping gifts he hopes will delight the recipient, he is at a loss as how to start making Christmas his own.
I grew up in the country, in a very financially poor family, however we did go all out to celebrate Christmas in the best way we knew how. We cut and dragged in our own tree, set it up in a pail of rocks and added guy wires so it would not fall over. We made popcorn garland, white tissue paper icicles, tinfoil glitter, and wood and pinecone ornaments, with a few treasured glass ones saved from year to year. We made fruit cake, aged it for 3 months in air tight tins and made cookies and special pancake breakfasts and a turkey for Christmas Dinner, the biggest one we could get so there would be leftovers for weeks. I no longer follow that particular tradition.
I don't believe it matters what the traditions are, as long as they are family traditions, filled with loving memories to be recreated each year along with the current year's tree, trimmings and new traditions.When my children were small, we made decorating the house a big deal, with every nook and cranny filled with glittering decorations, saved from year to year. As they grew, the amount of decorating was reduced until now, in my later years, we still do the tree, some table and wall decorations, and a small outside decoration at the door to welcome people in. Even when lights became available for both tree and outdoor use, it did not really appeal to me as growing up there were no lights. We now have lights on the tree, but still do not do the outdoor lights. We do, however always go for a car tour to look at all the outside lights that people put up and when we can, take pictures of the major displays. I always feel like a small child, eyes wide in wonder at all the light and color. I almost have to come home and put Alka-Seltzer in my eyes to calm the optical indigestion of having done so much looking.
In the natural progression of things, the children grow up, move away from home, but come home for the holidays with great anticipation of recreating the magic that was Christmas in their youth. When they marry, they blend the traditions of both families, to begin a new tradition of their own, and often spend Christmas Day with one family and Boxing Day with the other. Then when a new generation of children comes along, the young people begin having their own Christmas Celebration at home with the children, inviting the grandparents to come and participate, seeing the magic and wonder through eyes of children once more. At that point, the older generation has done its work and can sit back, do minimal decorating, minimal cooking then spend extra hours finding just the right thing to tickle the grandchildren on Christmas Morning.
As we age, the other thing that happens is that we lose loved ones from year to year, making Christmas a bitter-sweet time, a time of remembering those who have passed on as well as a time of making new memories for the younger generation. How we handle this will determine how the new generation handles it in future, so even this is an important part of the Christmas Tradition that we make.
Those who have children and do not know how to make Christmas, owe it to the next generation to find out, figure out, look around, whatever has to be done to learn to make Christmas, with new traditions, new rituals, new family processes that can be used to make Christmas for the children. There is a huge buffet of rituals out there to choose from if being totally creative is too difficult. If this is not done, they will not know how to do it when they grow up and the rituals of either hating the whole Holiday season or having to go to their friend's homes to find the Christmas Spirit are perpetuated.
May you all have a wonderful Holiday season and the New Year bring joy, health and success in all you do.

The Christmas Tree

You do know the important stuff .... and I am sure you will make new traditions with the kids as well as continue old ones that bring back happy memories for you. I would be delighted to read about your preparations, traditions and successful activities. We all learn by sharing and to share traditions helps others to find new traditions.

Getting the Christmas tree brings a smile to my face because it was always a big deal with us. Our daughter would go with her dad to choose the perfect tree. Sometimes it would be to a tree lot set up on some corner, sometimes a trip to the woods to choose just the right one, etc. Each tree had a story of it's own. My fondest memory of tree choosing is from the first Christmas we spent in this house, 22 years ago. We have about 30 acres with some cleared and some still forested. The weather that year was not the best, we had snow on the ground and a cold, wet drizzle falling from a leaden sky. Dad and daughter dressed in their warmest clothes with long johns or sweat pants under jeans. They hiked back to the edge of the forested area, saw in hand, and started to search for that year's perfect tree. After about half an hour of tramping through the wet snow with rain on their faces, they found just the right tree, cut it down and dragged it home. Back at the kitchen door, they realized they had hauled a 16 foot tree home, and that they were wet and cold to the skin. With some hot chocolate to warm their insides, they started to change into dry clothing. Our daughter had been wearing a pair of her dad's red sweat pants .... the color ran and she was dyed red from the waist down. With renewed zeal they went out to hack the tree into submission, removing about 6 feet of the bottom. Once set up in the corner of the living room, it was (as it is each year) the best tree ever. While decorating, they talked about where they had found this perfect tree, and we all realized that they had cut it from the neighbor's property. We had a rustled that perfect tree!

Your turn ....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kids and Christmas

As we get peppered with the Christmas merchandise in the stores, we don't need that reminder, but we do need to think about Christmas for the kids.
I know it is difficult right now with all the financial uncertainty. Added to that, it is always a difficult time since it seems to hi-lite any dysfunction in the family unit, and what family unit does not have some dysfunction!

The stores drown us in musak and commercialism and if we are not aware, we can lose sight of what actually makes this Christmas magic. We are in danger of forgetting that we are the ones who have to provide it and what we teach them now will be what they remember and pass on when they are in charge of making Christmas.

I know that you who are parents and grand-parents, it can be a very emotionally and financially draining time. It does not have to be. We just need to remember back to the magic of our childhood Christmases.

Each autumn, I end up writing an article about kids and Christmas. If you would like, I can post them here.

To you who are parenting and dealing with all the difficulties that entails, I pray for a blessed Christmas filled with joy and awe.


The Missing Magic of Christmas (Written in 2006)

I am not hearing kids talking about making garlands for the tree, going to get the tree, making gifts, making decorations, any of those things that made the Christmas Season magical. I am not hearing about families looking forward to missing members being home for Christmas. Even for those who are not practicing Christians, Christmas is a season for celebrating the love of family and gratitude for all we have, of sharing with those less fortunate, remembering those who are far away and can not be with us at this magical season.

It is hard to believe that December is not yet here, but Christmas wish lists are everywhere. I am not sure when and how it became so commercialized, but I really dislike seeing the "Gimme" mentality at every turn. It is another symptom of the magic going out of the lives of children.

The big news items over the weekend are about Sunday Shopping, just in case 6 other days a week are not enough to buy all the stuff little Johnny wants for Christmas. Pressure is put on parents to get the latest and greatest toys, brand name clothing, and any other thing that a person can write on a wish list. If these items are not under the tree on Christmas morning, you are a bad parent, incapable of satisfying the needs of your children. If your children do not go to school with the right manufacturers label all over their clothing and book bags, your parenting skills are again brought into question. The kids who don't have these things are teased and put down by the "have" kids.

It is so prevalent that even charity has to come in extra large. Our local mall has a "Giving Tree" each year, where Social Services writes the first name of a child and his or her Christmas Wish gift on a card. You can take a card, buy the gift and give it to Social Services to wrap and give the needy child for Christmas. After reading through all the cards on the tree, I had to walk away unable to afford any of the gifts even for my own family. All requests came with brand names, all the brand names were at the top of the price field. It seems that if children do not go to school wearing the right clothes, carrying the right accessories, they are shunned by the ones who have it all.

My wish is the same as it is every year. To be surrounded by family, to have everyone home, safe and well. Only twice has this not happened. The worst Christmas ever for me was when my daughter was stuck in Montreal, the second worst, she was working and could not come home. We got up Boxing Day morning, packed up Christmas and took it to her. So it was the Worst Christmas Day but the best Boxing Day.

My daughter also feels that the most important thing is to be together and she looks forward to all the good food, good company and the love. It would not matter to her if there was nothing under the tree...and in the past, there have been years like that. The first Christmas we spent together was one of those, We gave my DH a pair of slippers, one from me and one from my daughter. It was so full of love that when we remember it, it is the love and caring that stand out, not the being financially so badly bent.

My DH is also happy when we can all be together, and looks forward to Christmas Brunch, which he is in total charge of. We always cook from scratch, but over the Holidays, we make an extra effort to make those things that are family favorites, require a lot of prep. and do not get made throughout the year. Extended family by choice also drop in over the holidays.

We have always made it a point of getting the larger necessities for Christmas plus a few small gifts. We always put together a large care package for our daughter, with food staples, personal care luxuries, and new and different foods to try. She says it is the most exciting gift, going through it on Christmas Morning. There is also usually someone who has no where else to go, who shares our Christmas with us.

Anything above and beyond these basics is great if it happens, but not at all necessary, or even missed if it does not.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

It's ALMOST Too Late

With the season come thoughts of children in our culture. I have also thought much about the violence done to our children. The violence is fueled by people's desperation, among other things. There are so many now who are unable to support themselves, let alone a family. It will continue to get worse until some kind of balance is restored in our world.The children are our future at the same time that the magic is disappearing from their lives. If we do not work to bring it back, even the children are doomed to a bleak future. I have to believe that a balance will ultimately be reached, but the world as we knew it ended on 9/11.
If we take a lesson from history, we see that civilizations rise and fall, but the land endures. If it were not so, we would not have archeology. Each puts its stamp on the land, only to deteriorate into ruins or even oblivion. Sometimes a stronger civilization suppresses a weaker one, sometimes it has simply become so large that it has grown beyond its ability to feed its citizens, and sometimes we do not know what catastrophe has caused it's collapse.
We are part of the first global civilization and I believe we are near the collapsing point. A number of powers within our global civilization have already risen and fallen, forced down by others joined together for the purpose.If we are not to follow previous civilizations into oblivion, we need to change the way we see and treat our planet. As I have said so many times., our children are our hope for the future. We need to teach them by example to love and respect all our planet contains, as well as the planet itself. If we do not learn, the next world power will rise from the third world countries and we will be dust.
The reason I say this is that we have become so dependent on technology that can not continue to be supported by the finite resources that we are rapidly exhausting. The third world has not developed this dependence and can survive and grow in a low tech. climate. What are we doing to help insure the continuance of our world!!!
It is ALMOST too late for us.