Journal Entry # 92 – Become a Child Again!!!

 

 

“We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” ―Laura Ingalls Wilder

*Take a look at our Christmas Village from a few years ago. The video was taken with an early smartphone. At the time, I was just fooling around really, but in retrospect, I’m glad I captured it. Because each and every time I watch it, I can’t help but smile.
Release the inner child people, enjoy!!!

 

The Elf All About Himself! (something for the kids)

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Once upon a time, there was an angry little elf.
who didn’t think of anyone, but only himself.
He was always so mad, and sometimes a bit sad,
that work, work, work, was all he ever had.
His friends called him mean, said stop being selfish.
“Be like us, and act more elfish.”
So, one winters eve, Santa came by to say,
that he thought the elf, was looking at Christmas, the wrong way.
“Just think of the children, and those lineups for miles,
their tiny small faces, with giant big smiles.”
“Yes, they write me the letters, but you build the orders.
Can’t you tell it’s important and that your job’s like no others.”
All of the sudden, the elf began to grin,
his heart filled with love, he could feel it from within.
For the very first time, did the elf finally see,
that the holiday season was not only about me.
It’s the gift of giving and really not what you receive,
this is what makes Christmas so special and allows us to believe.

You’re Estranged Animal

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I received a text from my father a couple of weeks ago, you may be thinking, yeah…so what? Well, the “what” is the fact that I have not spoken to this man in more than twenty two years, we had a falling out a very long time ago. There’s more to that story but I won’t get into that now as it is of a private nature. What I would like to talk about is the fallout that ensues when family or friends choose not continue their relationships with another. No matter what the reason may be and no matter what the dynamic, losing that connection with someone can be hard and this time of year it can be really hard.

You know, I have tried on many occasions to fix things with my father, each effort took a piece of me, especially around the holidays. As I got older and with each passing year, I was able to put things in a better perspective. I had grown up and now I was able to see things differently and quite frankly, I was fed up with being hurt. So about fifteen years ago, at Christmas, I made one last ditch effort and wrote a letter. It was a peace offering, an olive branch as it were, it was do or die for our relationship and I was prepared either way.

Well, a few days into the holidays, unfortunately, my letter was met with the response that I was expecting all along and at that very moment I didn’t feel sad, I actually felt free. Something inside me was lifted off my shoulders, no more did I allow the chains of hurt drag me down any longer. Christmas from then on would never again have an asterisk by it, yes it was indeed another year without a father, but it was also another year surrounded by so many others that were there and have been from the start. That experience really opened my eyes and certainly my heart to all that unconditional love that was already right there in front of me though I was too consumed by what was not.

I guess what I’m trying say, is that at Christmas, we can all get a little sentimental as we take stock of where we are in our lives. Personal inventory of who we love, who we miss, and who we’ve lost along the way. Time is precious and there’s no way to go back and change things like we would want to, therefore, we have to take advantage the time we do have. Turns out that text from my father was just him reaching out for something that he needed and not some “oh my god, it’s my dad” moment, so I completely ignored his request and as I mentioned above I just moved on.

In closing, I hope that after you read this post, you will take the time to reach out to those who you love or miss loving. Maybe someone you’ve lost contact with, an old colleague you keep changing plans with, or more importantly, that special someone, to tell them that their somebody who really matters to you. Mend those old fences, fix it if it’s broken or simply just go ahead and tell those in your life that they are loved. It may be fact that Christmas comes but only once a year, just realize though, your love can go on forever…

Now go hug somebody will ya?

It’s Tradition

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I had a conversation yesterday with a colleague of mine and we were discussing Christmas traditions and the role they play in making the holidays special. As per Google, “Traditions” are the transmission of customs or beliefs passed down from generation to generation. Like me I’m sure, most of you are familiar with these annual festive rituals, and also like me, they most likely started when you were a kid. It’s something each year, that has to absolutely happen in order for you to say it was a Merry Christmas. They become more and more necessary, helping recreate those nostalgic feelings that we’ve all become so attached to. One example of that is being home for Christmas, there’s something about being home for the holidays. The memories of being home with your family and friends are memories that will last for the rest of you life.

My grandparents passed away some time ago and I used to have a hard time with the fact that Christmas would now become different. So different that I felt like the holidays would never have the same feeling anymore, like I would never be as happy. The tradition of going home and spending time with the family at my grandparents’ house, my house, where I was raised would become just a memory. Forced to turn the page on that chapter of my life and say goodbye to something that was so dear to my heart was very hard for me. The house was sold, family slowly drifted apart and we all began to move on. Yeah, for many years following I struggled, holding some resentment that the nucleus of the family were no longer the highlight of such a celebrated time of year. It made me mad, upset for sure, but mostly, it left me with a void that I felt would never be filled again…until.

Until one time, a Christmas or two ago, I was sitting around reminiscing, and dwelling on what was missing. Then something spoke to me, even to this day I say it was my grandmother herself. Like a real life scrooge moment, I heard her gentle voice, her soft whisper fell upon my ears, she told me that it was not like me to be feeling the way that I was. She knew me better than anyone else on this planet and she was upset that I gotten lost in the past, mad that I was being so stubborn. “Enough of that” she said, and just as she had for my entire life she consoled me with her words… “Places don’t make memories Ash, people do”.

After that, I started to look at this time of year differently. It made me understand that thinking that way was only hurting me, and ultimately hurting the people around me. Sometimes we have to leave the people we care for behind, sometimes people we care for have to leave us, but what we have to remember is that our heart is a very big place. It’s big enough to hold as much love as you can imagine, and extra big during the holidays. Christmas is not about what you don’t have, but it’s more of what you do have. Take those traditions of the past and share them with your present, there may be a chair or two empty at the dining room table but no matter what you’ll always have plenty of room in your heart.

 

Round Here!

I was sitting down the other night staring outside my living room window with a drink in my hand and the way it looked outdoors reminded me of what it was like at Christmas time in the small town where I grew up.  It was the second time that day that I started to think about home actually, I walked to the store earlier that evening and had the same reminiscent feeling come over me.  The snow had just fallen and the street lights had this orange tinge to it, the atmosphere was thought provoking and I began to flashback to another time.  As I trudged along I began to think how walking was a huge part of how I celebrated Christmas, one tradition that I really enjoyed was going door to door to have a few drinks and spend time with friends and neighbors.  It didn’t matter either what part of the town you lived in for everywhere was within walking distance and there was no need for a drop off or cabs like you have to accommodate for in the big city, nope it was two legs and a heartbeat that got you to where you needed to be.

I had a lot of good ol’ times at Christmas with my friends but one friend in particular was always by my side and that was Willie, he was my best friend and pretty much anything thing that I did, he was always a part of it.  Every night during the holidays the phone would ring and it would be Willie wondering if I was ready and if he should leave his house to come down to my grandparents where I lived.  I ‘d tell him to get his butt down here and within minutes of hanging up the phone he would come strolling  in all decked out in his Christmas best grinning ear to ear in the best of moods, although he knew I was there he always asked anyway – “Is Ash here?”.  My grandmother would call out to me and give him the ceremonial “sit down Willie my dear; you’re not a stranger now are ya?”  He would then slowly proceed to take a seat at the kitchen table acting like it was his first time he had ever visited; he was always his bashful self when it came to my grandmother.  Once I finished getting ready I too also took a seat at kitchen table, “my spot” as it were and all was in now in place.  My grandmother, god love her, would already have a pre-purchased six pack stored covertly under her bed for such an occasion, she seemed content when we spent time together and she especially enjoyed the fact that we were there, it was like company for her too.  Our nights always started at Nan and Pop’s place and once we felt like moving on my grandmother would make sure we had our hats and mitts (“yes nan we do”) and see us to the door where she would leave us with “stay out of trouble and be careful”.

It took us no time before we were sat at another kitchen table being poured a drink of our choice and being ushered to take off our coats and stay awhile.  All the homes were nestled together on the hillside so once we ventured on from one place there would be someone else bellowing from their patios for us to join them; this would go on all night.  Yarns were spun and good times were had by all, Christmas spirit was in abundance and no doubt our glasses stay filled the night through.  Small town life has a different feel to it; everybody knows who you are and what family you came from and after twenty minute of drilling you with questions regarding your upbringing you could pretty much clue up your family tree in one sitting.  There was no traffic in site, the houses had Christmas lights which illuminated the pathways just enough to show us the way.  We were always met with a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year by all whom passed by and we would often pick up a strangler or two nowhere near done with their night of festivities, the more the merrier we’d say.  There was a sense of belonging no matter where you went, everyone felt like family and would make sure to offer a spare room or the couch if things got a little too fuzzy.

Every year for many years Willie and I would do this and it was a tradition that we kept alive for much of our young adult lives.  When I think back today it makes me feel good that I had to the chance to spend some quality moments with someone who was very near and dear to my heart, someone like Willie.   Looking back in hind sight and especially now that he has passed on I’m very thankful that I had gotten the chance to be friends with such a wonderful guy who I miss every day.

Willie was also good friends with my uncles as well, so whenever we were together there was a good chance that one if not all my uncles were there too (I had five).  Never a dull moment with them around trust me, they would torment us and call us light weights when it came to drinking and every now and again we would get body slammed into a snow bank for no apparent reason at all.  There was no point in retaliation either because it only came back worst then the first time around but it was all in good fun and that was the genuine theme when we were all together was to “have fun”.  They ‘re all a good bunch of guys who have created beautiful families of their own and I miss hanging out with them like that, it seems like it was a lifetime ago but the memories are just as vivid as if it had happened only yesterday.  Stop and think about that someone that you miss spending time with and if they are still reachable and a part of your life then call them up and go spend time with them, it’s the perfect opportunity this time of  year to do it.

As Willie and I got older we migrated from just going door to door to visiting the local watering hole, the “Hook N’ Line”, which at the time was owned by my parents so most nights we’d wind up there.  A huge congregation of familiar faces filled the room as we escaped a cold winter’s night; it was like walking into Cheers on TV where everyone knew your name.  There was always an energized atmosphere about the place with people laughing, carrying on and a game of pool usually took center stage as people young and old alike would try for bragging rights in an impromptu on the spot Christmas tournament.  The pub was all decorated, music was festive, the place was packed to its capacity, a prime opportunity to see some of your old friends and catch up.  There were some good times that we had back then at that quaint little bar, for the most part it seemed like the whole community was there all coming together to celebrate the holidays by sharing stories and drinks until the wee hours in the morning only to do it all over again the very next evening.

So the other night as I looked outside it was no different than most nights but for some reason it struck me differently, I was gifted with memories of Christmases past, it was nice.  I remember those days fondly and in retrospect I’m grateful to have been asked to be a part of so many peoples’ lives in celebrating Christmas in small town Newfoundland.  I was welcomed into their homes to share in their joy which I sometimes miss but we all have to move on which may mean leaving home behind to find a life for ourselves somewhere’s else.  No matter where that journey takes us we can always look back, we may not be able to recreate the past but the past is a big part of who we are today and how we continue to celebrate the holidays.

It’s true, we all have loved ones that are no longer with us, for me they include some that I have mentioned in this post.  It makes me sad yeah, but it also makes me feel good that I have memories that they will always be a part of, that night while I walked to the store or while I looked from my window might have been a gesture from above that they too are missing me.  Just take inventory of what makes you happy and use that to celebrate who you still have in your lives, eat good food and share great stories while keeping their spirits alive and those traditions going.  If you feel lonely during the holidays maybe it’s an indication that you need to get back in touch with someone or somewhere, the solution may be just as simple as picking up the phone or knocking on that that door and I bet there’s a friendly face waiting on the other side maybe thinking the very same thing.  I leave you with a simple thought that whether it’s a kitchen party, a drink with a best friend or a pub full of friendly faces, the only thing that should be on anyone’s mind during Christmas is “who’s got the next round?”

Cheers

 

Because Your Gift, Your Gift is on My List

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and I would imagine that panic has started to set in for some, while for others, maybe not so much.  No matter where you look there are trees beautifully decorated, extravagant displays fill store windows and Santa’s waving his way through street parades.  All constant reminders that we need to start to think about crossing people off that list of ours because time is getting short.  Each day that goes by the bargains start to dwindle and merchandise will be soon become scarce, I urge you to get out there now and start shopping, no seriously go.

One tool in any disciplined shopper’s arsenal to beat the holiday anxiety would be to create a Christmas shopping list.  A Christmas list can reduce a lot of stress this time of year because once complete you can then start a strategic plan of attack, just getting it down on paper would definitely make you feel a little better at least.  These lists help us prioritize the given with the maybe, the easy to shop for with the not so easy to shop for.  Your list will grow and so will the anxiety, those names with blanks spaces by them will probably make you stress out but keep moving forward because each year your gift creativity might be challenged, but it’s Christmas so challenge accepted, right?

I’m sure you have made little notes of subtle hints and clues left by friends and family over the past few weeks and months.  These hints I hope have not fell on deaf ears with you around, the best gift-giver in the world as you rush to the list and scratch down as many ideas as you can hoping to find that perfect something and lock it in.  It’s no easy task playing Santa every holiday season, well, Santa’s helper that is, there’s a lot of thought that goes into creating a Christmas of ooo’s and ah’s.  Finding that perfect gift brings a huge sense of satisfaction, it’s a huge weight off your shoulders especially when it’s a rare find or that item that everybody seems to want this year, you even rush to wrap it right away.  Nothing like leaving the store beaming knowing that all your hard work had paid off, you did it, you found that perfect something and it only took you three hours standing in line and a few elbows to the face to do it.

Christmas lists are ever-changing with people getting added, some not making the cut this year and those who will never leave your list no matter what and is starting to become too difficult to shop for by the way.  BIG gifts, small gifts, joke gifts and the special gifts, they all started with some sort of list, a collective inventory of who gets what and why.  Whether it was a mental note you made or you went elf level and Microsoft Excel’d that sh*t, either way they likely started with a “list”.  When do you make your list?  When do you start to write down names alongside the ideas, some ideas with circles around them, some might have underlines and some may go as far as having a circle with an underline. We constantly jot down and scratch out little notes to ourselves as the holidays draw near,  all of us moving toward the same goal, surviving Christmas.  We scramble to get stuff done with our crumpled paper in hand and after losing two pens already we trudge along thumbing our lists.   So many list categories of which include fundraiser gifts, the boss gift, and of course the “Secret Santa” gift, all with their own micro budgets and all with their own degree of difficulty.  One thing to remember though, is no matter what, the lists are all scared, no peeking or you will ruin the surprise.  There’s a code of silence and an agreed upon mystique about what is asked for and what is given.

It would be sacrilege to make a post about lists and not include children.  Let’s face it, if it weren’t for the children and their handwritten pleas to Santa to reward a year of being good there would be no need for lists.  There is nothing better for the soul then reading a letter from a child caught up in the wonders of the holiday season.  The happiness of seeing your kids opening their gifts on Christmas morning is what captures the essence of gift giving and the smiles on their faces is what makes Christmas all worth it. 

There are a lot of emotions surrounding the holidays and some of those emotions might be of sadness, we may have lost loved ones or moved away to another part of the world.  Christmas can and will bring some of that, but why not use Christmas to help others in need, take a second and maybe add someone new to your list that are struggling or going through a real tough time.  Make them a part of your own holiday tradition, they might need a little joy to turn everything all around.  It’s easy to get all caught up in what we need or want but remember there are those who are less fortunate, those who struggle everyday let alone Christmas.  If you do have the ability to pay it forward then write that on the top of your things to do.

It’s December 7th, 2016 and it’s full on Christmas, people are freaking out and some are thinking about doing some baking this weekend because their done, all their lists are behind them (insert bitterness here).  If you are like me you might be somewhere in the middle, knocked out a few but there is still a way to go.  The count downs have begun but it’s still no need to go full on panic attack that you left everything to the last minute, there’s still time.  I have had the occasion where on one Christmas Eve I passed a man with no more that 20 minutes left to shop say to a friend of his in passing that he had nothing done, crazy…or in my opinion selfish.  Leaving your shopping to the last-minute will only bring on bad appliances, way too expensive jewelry and another bad sweater that dad seems to never wear, a gift should come from the heart and with a lot more thought.

Questions like “how’s your shopping going? or “Are you all done?” are usually the second or third thing that is mentioned when I talk to people these days and with that comes that internal dialog of what’s left on my lists.  No doubt that Christmas has a way of creeping up on us, we sometimes show shades of our inner Grinch and resent the holidays but if you think about it, it only comes once a year so we should embrace it.  Enjoy the time with your family, have that drink with your colleague because we only get one day a year to “Christmas and chill”.  There’s bound to be some obstacles and moments of stress but that’s where we need to help each other make it the best Christmas yet both giving and receiving.  So if you have a list or need to make one then go ahead because your gift, your gift is on my list, of the best things in life.

I know, bad Hall & Oates tie-in with the closing…

😉

 

 

Merely Christmas Everybody

Remembrance Day is here and….if you haven’t already noticed, Christmas is also making its way from our subconscious to the conscious pretty quickly. It was not but the first of November when I started to see little glimpses of the holidays pop up all around me. The TV was full of toy commercials, stores all in a mad frenzy getting their Christmas displays front and center and in plain view.  Just the other day I even saw a neighbor down the street inflating a snowman on his front lawn, OK…the snowman is a bit much in my opinion but no matter what I think the holidays are out in full force.

Like most, I don’t really like to think about Christmas until after Remembrance Day but I know there are many people out there that can’t wait to start preparing their lists for another marathon of gift giving and the chaos that it brings with it.  I think we all should take the time to remember those that have given their lives and continue to give their lives for our freedom instead of allowing the thoughts of Christmas to overshadow their sacrifices.  If it were not for those sacrifices we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today, it would be whole different world that we would be living in and that’s something that we should never forget.  Once the 11th of November gets the attention that it deserves we can all then focus on the upcoming festive season but let’s just ease into it shall we?

Not sure you feel the same but no matter where I turn these days I see Christmas already becoming mainstream with the commercials, the tv specials and my inbox at work slowly filling with invites and save the dates.  Office chatter begins to sound like to-do lists, water cooler talk fills with “started your shopping yet?”and tickets and fundraisers finally give my pocket change a purpose.  There’s no turning back now, if you have a inner Grinch then prepare to release the Kraken.

I have to admit that the holidays do bring a certain feel of anxiety for me, an anxiety that may not be warranted because no matter what, Christmas will show up and like each year before, I get through it.  That said, the thought of lists and budgets still start to dance around my head, and the radio countdown on the morning commute telling me there’s only seven more weeks to shop is very stress inducing, not going to lie.  As in years past, the promise was always to get an early jump, that seemed very practical in theory but here I am once again wishing my time back.  No matter how many times I tell myself that next year will be different, I end up in the exact same state of mind year after year, creature of habit indeed.  How can we really avoid not thinking about it anyway when it’s been thrown in your face earlier and earlier each year.  It’s hard enough to slow down in our crazy lives we don’t need to start thinking about how poor January will be the last week in October.

I don’t mean to convey that Christmas should come at a huge cost but we have to admit it does comes with some costs and we do need to be creative with balancing the books for December.  It must be really difficult for parents who find this time of the year hard to be able to get through a day without feeling the stress of affording to pull off Christmas.  This day in age there are so many things that kids want that come with a huge price tag, parents must really feel the pinch, I really don’t know how they do it.  I’m thankful for being able to provide the things required to make a happy christmas for my family, I can’t imagine what some people must be going through right now facing the same challenge.  It must be hard with all the constant reminders that I wrote about throughout this blog and if I ever have the opportunity to give back to someone in need, I do so as much as I can to hopefully help them achieve their own special holiday.  For the last two years I have helped with a huge community dinner and seeing the looks on those kids faces as they were given a gift directly from Santa with their names on it was all the reward I needed.  It was very humbling and I was happy that I had the chance to give back in a way like providing a hot meal and gifts at Christmas time.  Witnessing the reactions of the kids and seeing the parents with joy on their faces is really what the season is all about.  If you have the chance to give back I encourage you do so, you’ll get to meet some good people and be a part of something full of “feel good”.

The holidays have a different effect on all of us, we all have our own memories and feel a certain way when this time of year rolls around.  It’s a fact that Christmas, unfortunately is driven commercially and that’s why we see it so  much and so early each year.  Big corporations beating each other to the punch and tiptoeing the fine lines of what’s too soon to run their holiday campaigns.  One of the common things that I hear regarding the early jump on Christmas is the response of “not before Remembrance Day” I completely agree we that, some seem to agree as well, some say they don’t care and some say “why not both?”.  So like everything, we all can agree to disagree but individually we can make that choice for ourselves.

Time flies for sure, I just wrote in my post before this one that October was here and gone, I’m posting this today November 11th, 2016 and Christmas is like my car radio says, seven weeks away.  Everybody take a moment and realize why today is a holiday, take a moment and google some of the reasons we have the freedom to blog, post, and instagram.  Our world exist because they fought for what was right, they fought for a free world and they fought for our future and still continue to do so.  Let’s not forget and do so in your own little way, there is plenty time to put elf on the shelf and plenty time to talk gift cards.

When tomorrow comes we can all start to embrace the oncoming season of greetings, so go break out the boxes marked front porch lights and tree stand(new one), determine who makes the Christmas card list this year and who doesn’t.  Go ahead and start that holiday wish list, make sure to dig out some old recipes you keep promising to make each year and don’t, why you’re at it click some of those Christmas party responses you’ve been avoiding for a week now-it’s time.  My friends tomorrow we can all go to our respective corners and come out to take on the holidays as best we can but remember it’s “Merely Christmas Everybody” so play fair and let’s have a good season.