Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Different Christmas

It's a good thing we don't really celebrate Christmas the way we used to.  Once upon a time, when the kids were little, we did all the traditional things--big Xmas tree, big Xmas dinner, lots of gifts under the tree, and so on.
Then things changed over the years, and eventually we went from fake tree to no tree at all.  No special dinner.  No gifts.  Instead, we moved the feast to Epiphany, January 6th, celebrating the visit of the Magi to the Holy Family.  Gifts were woven into a couple of games, but no one was allowed to give us (my husband and me) anything.  Brunch instead of dinner.
For the past couple of years, some friends of ours have invited us to have turkey dinner at their home.  This year, that happened again.  But there were differences.
First of all, and most important, our son Ken was not here.  Usually he decorated his suite with little houses and trains, making a quaint village, decked with Xmas lights.  Even our Epiphany brunch, which we have yet to have, will be different because Ken is no longer with us.  He always brought gifts for everyone--especially the kids.  We'll miss him terribly this Epiphany.
Another difference: We haven't had a Xmas tree for at least six years.  This year, I went and bought a box purporting to contain a 4' tree.  I got it home and found it was marked "porch" and contained not one but TWO trees!  So one is in the small foyer and the other is in the sitting room.  They have white lights woven in the branches.  Quite pretty, but very simple.  Ken would have loved them, and would have had the foyer tree in his suite.
The third difference: My husband and I haven't exchanged gifts for many years.  This year, he gave me one.  He left it on the table in front of the Advent candles, and about 10 am Xmas day I finally noticed the gaily wrapped parcel.  It looked like a box of chocolates.  It had my name on it, from "The Magi".  I don't eat chocolate, so I thought maybe it was a box of candies.  Or a framed picture of the family.  No, it was exactly what I'd been voicing my desire for--a Kobo Glo. 
Not being very computer savvy, it took me several hours to get it set up, but I still have trouble using it.  I'm sure it's very simple once I get the hang of it.  But tomorrow I'm going to take it to the shop where he bought it and get the clerks there to explain why it isn't doing what I want.  My main problem is that all the instructions on the tablet are in Portuguese!!!  Go figure!
I've bought one book and loaded it on the Kobo, now I'd like to read it. 
The book?  It's called The Giver, by Lois Lowry (I think).  A young adult fantasy novel.

Friday, November 16, 2012

short story submission

Struggling to write, I thought I'd try nanowrimo again.  However, writing 2000 words a day hasn't happened.  No surprise there. 
Yesterday, though, I did finally write a short story I'd been trying to write for a couple of months with no success.  The characters I tried to get going refused to cooperate.  Then a couple of days ago a character popped into my head and the story got going.  I completed it yesterday in time for the monthly critique meeting that meets in my home.  I got some feed-back and before I went to bed last night I had brushed up the story and submitted it to the Children's Writer competition.  It's a Young Adults short story called "Waves", about 1300 words.  The competition required a maximum of 1500 words, and today was the deadline.  So, I was within the word maximum and before the deadline.  Now--I just have to wait until (forget when) to find out if it met the rest of the requirements.  Hope.
Maybe one day soon I'll be able to get back to writing on my novels and my non-ficiton book that's been in the works for a few years.

catching up again

Apologies to all those who have checked this blog in anticipation of finding something new.  As you may have noticed, it has been a hard year. 
After losing Ken, I tried to carry on as normally as possible.  Writing was the most difficult because it requires concentration and imagination and hard work.  It was easier to do simple housework (my least favourite thing to do). 
The first thing I did to try to help heal, was take a brief trip to the Okanagan to visit family members.  It was a brief respite, but too short. 
Then, in October, I travelled to New York to attend the Franciscan Chapter meeting with my husband.  After 5 days with the friars and other Franciscans, I was much more relaxed.  However, we no sooner got home when we learned about "Sandy", the monster storm, hitting New York City and surrounding areas.  I still haven't heard how the storm affected the friary.
Then, because our home was so empty--the cat died, Ken died, Dave left--we really felt we were rattling around here.  The only thing we could do was to get another cat.
So that's what we did.  Our new cat is Mona, age 2 years & 7 months and a couple of weeks.  She was a stray in Prince Rupert, then in the SPCA shelter there, then moved to West Vancouver shelter, then moved to Burnaby shelter.  I saw her on the SPCA  website and fell in love with her.  So, October 20th, we brought her home.  No more cages for her.  She is still a bit strange with us, not ready for sitting on laps, not ready for cuddles, but she loves to be petted and she purrs all the time.
Home is beginning to feel almost like home again. 

Friday, September 28, 2012


As I've said before, I'm finding it very difficult to get back into writing mode. However, there's nothing stopping me from reading.  So, at the moment, I have three books on the go (none of them in the genre I want to write--no kidlit at all).  One is about writing.  While going through possible links to possible publishers for my books, I came across one with the admonition to read a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, (second edition) by Renni Browne & Dave King, published by HarperCollins in 2004 (originally in 1991).  I got it from the library.
The second book is a mystery by one of my favourite authors, Sue Grafton.  This one is O is for Outlaw. I haven't read all the letters A to N, nor have I read them in any special order.  They're good relaxing reading.  I have several of Grafton's books--most recently I bought "N" at a garage sale. 
The third book was given to me by the wife of the author, so it's even autographed.  It is Climbing Jacob's Ladder, by Alan Morinis--about the Mussar tradition in Judaism.  Well-written so that it's hard to put down. 
Today I was reading some of "O" by Grafton, and found this quite amusing.  In the self-editing book, there's considerable criticism of authors who break certain rules.  An example is a quote from The New York Times Book Review, which goes as follows:  "Mr. [Robert] Ludlum has other peculiarities.  For example, he hates the 'he said' locution and avoids it as much as possible.  Characters in The Bourne Ultimatum seldom 'say' anything.  Instead, they cry, interject, interrupt, muse, state, counter, conclude, mumble, whisper (Mr. Ludlum is great on whispers), intone, roar, exclaim, fume, explode, mutter.  There is one especially unforgettable tautology: '"I repeat," repeated Alex.'"  The book may sell in the billions, but it's still junk." --Newgate Callender.
Well, the section I've been reading in Self-Editing has been going on against lengthy descriptions.  It's the chapter on proportion.  It warns against boring the reader to death with extensive passages about the scenery and the weather, etc.  So that brings me back to Grafton's book.  I really had to laugh--three whole pages (pp.99--108) of driving the 101 from Santa Teresa to Los Angeles, taking the offramp...paying for parking...looking for a parking spot...going up the elevator...shops on either side...the receptionist's wrinkled old face...etc., etc., etc.  And yes, she did go on about the temperature, the fire hazard, the winds (the Santa Anas, etc.).  Was I bored?  Not really--I hoped she was building tension, but I don't know yet.  I closed the book.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I'm looking again at Ken's obituary.  My daughter wrote it, and it's quite beautiful.  I can put the link to the memory book, too.  It's four weeks ago today.  It'll take a while before I stop doing this.  Everyone grieves differently, and there is no right way or wrong way.  That's what I'm told, anyway.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ken & Dave & Kate & Steve

My kids as of last February.

Ken is seated with his sister.  Dave is in the back, in the dark.  Steve is standing next to his brothers.


Sometimes I get nostalgic, and this is one of those times.  It's not about a long time ago.  It's about one week ago: at this time last Tuesday Ken's favourite nurse, Angela, and a home support worker, Divina, were busily giving Ken a bath.  He wasn't keen on it at all.  He was feeling weak and somewhat irritable.  It had been a full day since he'd had a cigarette, and he'd had only one then, so far as I know.  And he hadn't had his morning coffee, either, because he usually slept until noon.  So
that was another irritation--being wakened up "early".  Nevertheless, he submitted to the bath in bed because he didn't have the strength to protest effectively.
Just a few minutes before the bath, he'd shouted "MOM!" and I'd come running down the stairs.  When I arrived, he said, "I need help."  This was odd because the home support worker was standing directly in front of him, knee-to-knee while he sat on the edge of the hospital bed.
It turned out he wanted to sit in the doorway where he'd been spending most of his waking hours for the past six months.  But he didn't have the strength to walk to the door.  My daughter and I, with the home support worker's help, put Ken on a chair with wheels and wheeled him to the doorway, covering him with a blanket.  He sat there in silence for about five minutes gazing at the garden view and then asked to be taken back to the bed.  Then my daughter and I left Angela and Divina to the task of bathing him.
The job was done and Angela and Divina left.  My daughter and husband and I took turns just sitting by the bed, watching Ken rest.  Perhaps he'd want to get up.  I should be ready to bring him his meds and a cup of coffee.
Instead, when it was my turn to sit with him, his breathing changed from the rhythmic pattern (with an odd gurgling sound) to gasps.  I held his hand, and he held my arm.  I kept telling him I loved him, and he looked at me and mouthed something that looked like "love".  His gasps were unlike anything I'd heard before, and with each one he seemed to stop breathing so I called his name.  This happened about half a dozen times.  My daughter and husband came into the room to see why I was calling out.  The gasping stopped as they entered the room, and he didn't respond to my calling.  My daughter checked for a pulse.  He didn't breathe again.  My son had died.  The time was about 2:05pm, one week ago today.

Monday, August 6, 2012

reading and writing

My routine for writing fell apart.  My head can't get into writing mode while I'm listening for my son's calls for help.  Being a full-time caregiver doesn't allow for creative juices to start flowing.  However, there are quiet spells when I can read.  So, in the past month or two, I've read several books.  Notably, I read one "adult" book (an Anne Perry mystery), and one juvenile novel written in 1957--that was an eye-opener on how easily a book can be dated without the author even trying.  It was a good read, called Donna Parker, Special Agent, by Marcia Martin, published by Whitman Publishing Company.  The third book was recommended to me by my 15-year-old grandson, and I really didn't have any idea what sort of book he might recommend.  He was very enthusiastic about it, mentioning it on a couple of occasions and finally lending me his copy.  At first, I didn't care for it because there were a lot of flashbacks, and the prologue gave away what I thought was better left to be discovered by the reader.  However, Zack was right.  It was a remarkable book, called Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo, Bantam Books, published in 1989 but first published in 1939.  Not the kind of book you'd expect a kid to read.  Gave me a whole new  insight into "what boys read"--the perennial problem of kid-lit writers.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

the cat

I can't believe I didn't mention this in one of the earlier blogs today:  On July 9th, at about noon, my husband took our dear pet, Acie, to the vet.  She hadn't eaten in a few days, and she'd been just dragging herself around for a couple of days.  We knew there was something seriously wrong with her, so as I put her in her carrying cage for the ride to the vet, I said "Good-bye, and thank you".  I went in the house and cried, while my husband struggled with his own tears and drove away.  It turned out that she had had a stroke, a blood clot had settled in her back, and her temperature was 4 degrees below normal.  Frank had fifteen minutes with her, to say good-bye, and then they took her from him and put her to sleep.  She was 17 years old, and a very dear firend.  We miss her.
Oh--I mustn't neglect to tell you about the giggle she gave everyone during this tough time:  You see, her cage and her litter box were always kept side-by-side in the bathroom.  In the cage, I kept a folded towel and her food and water dishes.  So, for her, the cage was her dining room and a place of comfort and refuge.  At the vet's office, then, she kept trying to get back into the cage every time the vet tried to set her on the table.  Eventually, the vet had to turn the cage to the wall in order to keep Acie on the table.  Apparently, cats don't usually like their cages.  Acie loved hers.

trying to write

The "nanorhythm" writing method lasted a while and then fizzled out.  It's not that I'm especially busy, it's just that I can't tell from one minute to the next when I'm going to be busy.  Ken keeps track of his meds pretty well, but there's one procedure (a Fentanyl patch) that has to be changed every 72 hours.  Seventy-two hour blocks have never been part of my life, so they have been missed a few times.  This is serious because they are pain blockers for my son, and when we (he and I) forget that "today is patch day", then he wakes up in pain.  ----- Now is a good example of what I started to say--about being busy unexpectedly from time to time.  Here I am, sitting at the computer, getting ready to blog, hoping to get the writing juices flowing if only a little, and the phone rings.  It's Ken.  He'd like a yogurt, and the creamsicle that's in his freezer and the orange crush in his fridge.  He's going to make himself a float with the creamsicle and crush.  I'm delighted to jump up and oblige, because it means he's going to eat a few calories.  So, I'm back now, and am about to leave off blogging for a while (you know that could be for quite a while) and maybe get some writing done.  I still haven't visited my novel for several weeks, or is it months.  Can't be helped.

care-giving update

When Ken was diagnosed with "advanced lung cancer" last January, he was given "2 weeks to 2 months" to live.  Praise God for miracles.  No, he isn't cured--nowhere close to it.  He weighs less than 100 lbs (6' tall), and is in pain and suffers nausea.  But his spirits remain pretty good, considering.  He loves company, and gets lots of it.  He doesn't have enough energy to work on his book, and that grieves him.  I certainly understand that grief, and wish there were some way I could help him with that.  But, here it is six months after the devastating news of his illness, and he's still with us.  I celebrate every day that we have this blessing.

new look?

The trouble with computer "geeks" is that they keep fixing things that ain't broke.  Like blogger, for example.  I haven't posted anything on my blog for a while, so I thought I'd pop in and jot a few words of wisdom or foolishness.  And what do I find?  When I just go to read the blog, everything looks the same, but I have to sign in so as to post.  Then what?  I don't know.  I eventually found a little thing to one side, along with a whole lot of other things, that says new post.  So here I am.  I wish things wouldn't get fixed that don't need fixing.  It makes the computer so much more mysterious than it needs to be.  Cyberspace is mystery enough, without the constant tweeking that the geeks do to justify their jobs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

submitted today

For the past few days (except the weekend) I've been at the computer in "writer's mode" every morning.  The goal is to be started by nine o'clock or soon thereafter, and write for 20 minutes, break for ten, write 20, break 10, etc., until noon.  So far, this has produced two short stories.  (I still can't get my head into the novel I'm supposed to be writing.) 
The goal this time was to have a middle grade mystery story (900 words) submitted to the contest at Children's Writer by the April 30th deadline. 
The first story I wrote was okay, but I realized when it was done that it was not a mystery.  It was an adventure.  Okay--the next day, I used the same characters and wrote a mystery called "The Case of the Missing Baby-Sitter".  I polished it a few times, and this morning I submitted it online to the contest.  Fingers crossed!
Writing again, through the mushy brain.  I find the write 20/break 10 routine works for me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easter season

Easter promises of warmth and flowers are slow to appear this year.  A day of sun here, followed by a day or two (or more) of rain and chilly breezes.  A real downpour yesterday. 
I had hoped that by starting my blog again, I might be prompted to do more writing.  The blog got stalled by its heavy message, but I have been trying to write.
I can't get my head into my novel yet, so I've been trying to write a short middle-grade mystery for the Children's Writer competition.  I need to submit a 900 word story by April 30th.  I've been toying with an idea for the story for a couple of weeks, and this morning I actually wrote the story.  Well, A story.  It needs lots of work before it can be submitted.  But I remembered that when I wrote my nanowrimo story, I followed a pattern someone suggested, and it worked today as it did then.  It's simple:  write 20 minutes, take a 10 minute break, write 20 minutes again, take another 10 minute break, and so on until you've written the number of words or the length of time you planned.  I planned to write from 9am until noon, but got interrupted about 11am.  That's okay, because my 900-word story was already at 920 words, and I was busy trimming it down.  Now, whether the story line stays the same throughout other rewrites (assuming I follow the same regime tomorrow), that's the big question. 
At least I'm writing again.  Ken prefers that I don't fuss over him, so this keeps me out of his hair, and within calling distance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Lent is in full swing. Usually I like to work on the psalms in Lent, also my pet Sunday project.  This year things are different.  This year, my brain is mush.
This is the second time that this has happened. 
The first time was May 2005, when my 22-year-old grandson Derek drowned on his sister's 19th birthday.  Stricken with grief, I could not think. I certainly could not write.  The young man's death was bad enough, but what made it even more tragic was that his father, my eldest son Frank, was nearing the end of his ten-year battle with esthesioneuroblastoma, a rare cancer that took his life in November of the same year.  That was six years ago.
This is not the sort of thing that one gets over.  You simply get through it.  Life somehow carries on.
Now, my brain is mush once more.  The nightmare is recurring, believe it or not.  Now my second son, Ken, is afflicted with advanced lung cancer which has spread to his lungs and kidneys. This is a different person, and a different cancer, but my brain is the same mush.
Perhaps returning to blogging with help me move through the mush.  Without my faith in God, I really don't know what on earth I would do.  Please pray!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas past--age 13

We moved from Battersea to a flat above a shop in Brixton.  Now my dad was living with us.  It was great for me, but it was obvious that my parents did not get along.  Christmas came, and Dad brought home a big tree--not as tall as the ones in Winnipeg or Vancouver, but tall enough that I could not reach the top.  Mum and I were out one day and came home to find my dad drunk.  I think it was the second time in my life I had seen him in that condition.  He was a funny drunk, full of jokes and tricks.  He had not only bought and decorated the tree, he had also bought presents, wrapped them, put them under the tree, and blown up enough balloons to fill the whole floor of our sitting room.  Christmas Day, we had a big dinner, now that we had three ration books to buy a reasonable amount of meat, etc.  It wasn't turkey, but whatever it was, it was well appreciated.
Around that time, my mother received a letter from her mother who was still in Vancouver.  Granny had sold her Vancouver house and bought a small farm an hour's drive from the city.  She had written a will, that gave one acre of land to each of my  mother's siblings, but instead of land Mum was being given a trip back to Canada.  I was ecstatic!  I hated England with such a passion--I had always told my classmates that if I could arrange it I would be on the very next boat out of there.  Here was my chance.  Mum began to look into what needed to be done for this trip home.  We'd need vaccinations.  We'd need to find out what transportation we'd be taking.  Granny had somehow arranged with Cunard for us to simply go into the London office and book passage on a ship.  She had also arranged with the Canadian National Railway and the Canadian Pacific Railway for our trans-Canada journey--with another stop-over in Winnipeg. 
At the Cunard office, my mother was driving me crazy and throroughly annoying the desk clerk.  She hummed and hawed about this and that until I finally got up from my chair against the wall and went to the counter to see what was going on.  I listened for a moment, and then I said to the clerk, "When's the next boat out of here?"  He said, "Saturday."  I said, "We'll take it."  My mother started to protest--we could go to Scotland, we could go to Paris....  I said, "We've been here three years.  There was lots of opportunity to do that and we didn't.  Let's just go home."  The clerk was so glad at the prospect of being rid of my mother, that he had everything all set up and ready to sign in no time at all.
Unfortunately, it never occurred to me that my dad would not be coming with us.  Granny had not provided for him.
The Christmas tree was still up in our little flat, when my dad took our bags down to the taxi and accompanied us to the train station. That was the last time I ever saw my father.

Christmas Past--age 12

While still in the house where we had the 18" tree with the green paper angel, I had a wonderful surprise one evening when I was, as usual, alone.  The doorbell rang, and to my amazement, there stood my dad!!
He had lost track of us with all our moves, and had asked the Salvation Army and the Red Cross to track us down. Then, he just took the train across Canada and a ship across the Atlantic and a train to London and a taxi to our house.  Unfortunately, we had only one bedroom with only one double bed, no sofa and no big chair and no sleeping bags.  So I don't know who slept where that night, but my dad did not stay with us.  However, he was back in my life and that was all that mattered to me.  It wasn't Christmas then, but he was my best gift ever.
He moved in with one of his brothers in Birmingham, and often came to London to see us.  Meanwhile, Mum and I moved yet again--this time to two bedrooms above a grocery shop where we shared the back-room/kitchen with the grocer--still in the borough of Battersea.  There was a sort of chaise longue in the kitchen, and when my dad came to London, that's where he slept.
Christmas arrived.  There was no place in the shared kitchen or either of the bedrooms for a tree, so that was once again dispensed with.  However, my uncle invited us to his place (where we had stayed on our arrival in England) to have Christmas dinner.  I don't remember if it was Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but we had a good time and stayed far too late.  When my uncle realized the problems we were going to have, he shooed us out in time to catch the last bus to The Angel Islington, where we would catch another bus to Battersea.  Unfortunately, when we got there, the queue was very long and we could not be squeezed onto the last bus going anywhere from that location.  We walked around, looking for a taxi or a bus or anything that would get us home.  No luck.  Even the tube stations were barred shut.  We ended up at a train station.  It might have been Victoria, but I don't know.  My dad saw to it that Mum and I could find a place to sit in the Ladies' Lavatory--there were benches in there, in a room adjacent to the row of toilets.  Mum lay down on a bench and slept.  I did a jigsaw puzzle on another bench to pass the time.  Early in the morning my dad pounded on the door for us to come.  There was a train due that would take us to Clapham Junction and we could walk home from there (maybe a mile or two).  I remember that walk: passing the horse-drawn milk delivery carts on their rounds.  That was my second Merry Christmas in Merry England.

Christmas past--age 11

Our time in England was not good.  We stayed with my uncle and his family for about a month, then moved to a dingy attic room for a while--then--well, it's easier to remember the places by the schools I attended: Sigdon Road while I was at my uncle's; Drayton Park School when we moved out of the attic into another one-room place; then in with some of my mother's friends when I attended Bounds Green School, and finally we moved to a house in Battersea where I attended a school called Surrey Lane, but later changed its name to William Blake.  In all that time, we had one Christmas--that was in Battersea.  My mother was not around very much--having found that pubs were more entertaining than our less than elegant homes. So, on Christmas Eve, our first in England, I found myself alone and thinking that this was not what I had heard about Merry Christmas in Merry England.  I had sixpence in my pocket which was supposed to be for my lunch the next day.  But, ever the optimist, I set out for the shops in the high street where I was able to buy a Christmas tree, about 18 inches tall.  It cost a penny ha'penny.  Then, I looked around and found a shop that sold some decorations, but all I could afford was a thrupenny paper angel.  They came in green or red.  I made a mistake and bought a green one.  When I got them home, I realized that the green angel on the green tree didn't look very festive.  My aunt in Winnipeg had sent us a food parcel (because food was still rationed in England), and I found that she had included some candies with foil wrappers.  So I unwrapped all the candies and made decorations out of the foil, and trimmed the tree.  No lights, of course.  Even if I'd had them, we had no electricity in that house--only gaslight or candles.  It didn't occur to me to try to put candles on the tree, and that was undoubtedly a very good thing.

Christmas past--age 10

One day I told my parents that I had seen some pictures of England and that I'd like to go there some day.  I was sure they'd say, "That's nice, Dear.  Save your pennies and some day you can go."  But no.  Instead, I came home from school one day only to find the house was for sale and my dad had found a small suite for himself.  My mother bought a set of luggage and we had tickets to sail on the Queen Mary.  My dad was enthusiastic, because I'd get to meet his mother and some members of his family.  He, however, was not coming with us. 

Mum and I crossed Canada by train, leaving Vancouver on November 14th, stopping for a few weeks in Winnipeg to visit my aunt, then we carried on to New York.  It was Christmas Eve when we set sail.  There was a big tree on the main deck, and all the children were invited to go (with parents) to the First Class Ball Room where the captain was playing Santa Claus and we all got armloads of excellent presents.  It was a great beginning for a fantastic adventure.  Too bad I was seasick for the rest of the five-day crossing of the North Atlantic.

When we arrived at my uncle's house in London on December 30th, Christmas was a memory, and my English relatives did not celebrate New Year.  I had always been allowed to stay up for midnight to bring in the new year, but not this year.  I slept right through it, and my mother told me that when the clock struck midnight, she was in the copper bath tub in the kitchen, being scolded by my aunt for having the light on so late at night.

Christmas past--middle grade years

We moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver in the summer before my eighth birthday.  First we stayed with my grandparents, them we moved to a small attic suite, then to a rooming house where my parents had one room with a kitchenette on the main floor, and I had a room in the basement.  My dad installed a two-way telephone so we could communicate without having to run through the whole house.  Then we moved to another house where my mother got a job as a nursemaid for twins, and my dad came to live with us after a while.  We didn't stay in any of those places long enough to celebrate even one Christmas.

Finally, we moved to a house where we stayed for almost a couple of years.  We had only one Christmas there--but the tree was a disappointment.  The decorations were new, because we had not brought our decorations from Winnipeg.  No more revolving lamp shades with camels going backwards.  Nor did my mother put up the two-coloured streamers with the big red bell.

I should explain that I got married at age 17, and when I moved in with my husband, I asked my mother to help me count the places we had lived.  In my 17 years, I had lived in no fewer than 32 places!

Christmas past--early memories

One of my earliest memories was when I was four years old, and the house we were living in burnt down on December 10th.  The Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg kindly put us up for a while, until some friends stepped up and took us in, letting us live in their summer house on their property.  Naturally, Christmas took a back seat to our struggles for resuming a normal life.  We stayed in the cottage for a few months, and then moved to a house in Winnipeg where we stayed for the next two years.  That was the place where I had my happiest childhood memories of Christmas.  I remember my mother taking red and green crepe paper streamers and twising them together, tacking them at the corners of the living room ceiling, so that the red and green alternated with every twist.  She had a big red crepe paper bell that she hung in the centre of the room.  Our tree reached the ceiling, leaving only enough room for the tinsel star on the top.  I remember best of all the little lamp shades that topped some of the tree lights.  As the lights heated up, the shades turned.  They were sort of sepia coloured, with pictures on them--a nativity scene on some, and three wise men following a star on the others.  The most memorable thing about these revolving lamp shades was that unfortunately the wise men were going backwards!  It bothered me a lot, but my dad (who could always fix everything) couldn't fix that.  The wise men were never going to get to Bethlehem.  I was an only child, and because all my toys had been destroyed in the fire, my parent and relatives did their best to make up for my losses.  I was spoilt rotten with the heaps of gifts under the tree, just for me (with one or two for my parents).

New Years Day 2012

Every year I set out to make new year's resolutions and then promptly forget all about them.  I'm sure they're all listed in this blog for the last two or three years.  Not so this year.  I resolve only to live my life to the best of my ability--exercising and eating sensibly, writing regularly, and so on.  This year, I spent some time looking back over my life to see what it is that I have against Christmas.  I do love the music and the lights and sending cards with our newsletter--but really other than Advent prayers and attending the special church services, I hardly notice when December 25 arrives or has passed.  I found that by looking at the Christmasses of my childhood, there were only seven years when we actually had a traditional day--with our own tree and with turkey dinner, etc.  For me, traditional Christmasses began when I got married and made them myself.