Brilliance

Amidst the lights on the Christmas tree
Are reminders only I can see
the ornaments that are faded with time.
To contradict the memories that shine
Brightly even though the days are long
Since sharing this time has come and gone
The ornaments are still the same
Upon the tree that bears your names
Mice sprinkled here and there
To honour that empty chair
I have memories to treasure
Of family loved beyond measure

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas


When I moved I lost the tree skirt that my grandmother made. I was looking online for one and found this at Superstore so I had my grocery guy pick it up for me. Sometimes when they have an item online it’s not always in the store so I was thankful that he was able to get it. More than I really wanted to spend but it matches the pillow that I got at Winners. My ornaments are red and white. I told him they had a pink one and he said EWW. He thought this one is very Canadian.
Yesterday my brother posted a picture of their tree on Instagram. It’s as tall as the ceiling. It emphasizes the differences between us. My father bought this one on sale at The Bay after Christmas. It’s about 6’ tall. When I emailed my friend I wrote can you imagine what my parents would say when they saw that tree?
Christmas is the time of year when my heart is full of emotions. When I brought the box of ornaments out it makes me smile because there are so many memories attached to them. At the same time it makes me miss my Mom and Janet more because ALL my memories are associated with them. It suddenly hit me yesterday that my brother isn’t in any of the memories. Even though I’m decorating a tree for myself keeping the memories and tradition alive is important to me.

My friends get it. These are 2 ornaments that I received in 2016. The plush one was a gift from my public school friend. The other one was a surprise from a twin friend in the US. Both understand that it’s not just MY tree but my family tree. It’s their way of honouring Janet and it means a lot. Janet loved Christmas and I miss all the things that we used to do together. A mixture of memories that make me smile and make me sad at the same time.

SHOP #2

Since it was raining this morning I decided to go to the mall closest to me to find a couple cards at Carlton cards. I was trying to find funny ones for my Uncle (my Mom’s younger brother). He gives funny ones to everyone and truthfully my Mom isn’t the type to get the humour in it but HE thought they were funny. I was going to make a photo card for my friend but because of the rotating postal strike I didn’t know whether it would take longer or not. I found a perfect card for her and my coffee buddy. They are both people I can talk about anything with and it means a lot.
Although I have a grocery guy there are some things that I need to pick up for myself and cards are one of them. I need to get some Christmas decorations a table runner and or placemats and I’m kind of fussy about what I like. I remember going to Winners with my former neighbour and I found pillows that I liked and then I found another one and I decided what the heck I’m going to get all 3.
Yesterday many people wrote about how commercialized Black Friday is. But we forget the joy of finding that perfect present and the joy on the recipient’s face when they open it. It’s not just a gift. Maybe me make a container of cookies. It’s about showing our love to someone else.

SHOP

What an appropriate word for today as I woke up to about half a dozen emails from stores that I have shopped at announcing Black Friday deals. I purchased a new outfit for Christmas so now I’m on to looking for items for a few people on my list.
Yesterday I went out for coffee with a friend. We got talking about shopping because I mentioned that I was looking for a tree skirt but they were so expensive. It helps to talk to other people because they can often steer you to shops or sites that you wouldn’t normally think of.
We ended up at Metro so I could pick up something for supper and a few things I needed. Amazingly we found a parking spot close to the store. My friend went out of the store with one thing. I was good I only had one add on. This used to be our store that we did our weekly shopping and it still feels weird to go to the express aisle. On the way home we passed the market and she asked if I still go. Although it’s open until Christmas with less vendors it’s really not worth it.
Right now Christmas bazaars are in full swing. There is one at a church around the corner from me tomorrow. There is one at the market the middle of December. I like the idea that it’s hand made stuff. A friend of mine used to make spa products and that’s what I would give as a present for friends. I will admit since I’ve been going to the Farmers Market I try to shop local more. I’m more aware of just how much work not only farmers but bakers and cooks do to bring their wares to market. They stand outside in the cold and rain or 40 degree weather.
Yesterday when I was at the grocery store I added 3.11 to my bill for scan away hunger. When my building has a food drive I add a bag to the box. It’s not much but every little bit helps.

Grateful

As I sit in my apartment after checking the weather network to see the temperature today I’m thankful for heat! Yikes -19 is cold! If you have ever had your furnace break in the winter you will know how important Heat is!
I am also thankful for clean clothes. In suite laundry wasn’t a priority looking for an apartment but I do appreciate the convenience of it!
I’m grateful for my Christmas tree and the memories that it evokes. I’m thankful that this year I’m happy to decorate. I’m grateful for traditions, family and friends.
I’m thankful for the medication that makes me healthy. I’m also thankful for nasal sprays, Vick’s and being finally free of congestion!
I’m thankful for my grocery guy. I don’t have to go out in the cold or lug groceries into the apartment. If I forget something I can phone his cell and he’ll add it. Plus he will make extra stops if I order something from a store.
I’m thankful for food in the fridge, a warm coat and a fabulous place to live. As I watch the news with segments on coats for kids, toy drives and how people can’t afford a decent place to live I never want to take it for granted that I am blessed to have to the things that I do.
This afternoon I’m going out with my coffee buddy for a much needed get together. I’m grateful for this connection that hasn’t changed. The person who allows me to be angry or sad. Someone I can rely on. For that I am thankful

Recommend

Since it’s a little less than 5 weeks until Christmas all the morning shows have segments with gift guides. Yesterday Rachael Ray had Gayle and the guy (I don’t remember his name) to promote Oprah’s favourite things. Let’s be honest 90% of the stuff the average person can’t afford but it’s fun looking! In the morning I had the tv on in the background and came upon a segment on Cityline with these really cool travel coffee mugs. I’m actually searching for a leak proof one. When I went to the website I was shocked that they cost almost $200. If you are going to recommend something at least tell people up front how much it cost!
We have all these items that are the “in” thing to have. I will admit that I bought my brother a Wii fit 10 years ago when they were all the rage. But there is a caveat my Mom and I went together to purchase it. Unfortunately we buy into the hype.
Recently I have been thinking about how my parents taught me the value of money. There was a story online a couple of days ago about a school banning children from wearing name brand clothing to school. I remember being in public school and all the kids had Ralph Lauren shirts, Roots sweatshirts and whatever the “it” shoe was at the time. These were the same kids who got a Cabbage Patch kid for Christmas. We didn’t have a room full of gifts. I understood that we bought what we could afford. In our family it wasn’t about the stuff. We went to church, went around the neighbourhood to look at the lights. The women would play Scrabble while Dad napped in his chair.
The gift that I look forward to isn’t really a gift at all. My friend draws a picture in my Christmas card. It’s the gift of spending time together. Developing a new tradition and keeping the memory of her friend (my BEST FRIEND) alive. Christmas is about connections.

Putting up my tree


I decided to put up my tree today as I kind of feel like I need that connection to my family right now. I’m not going to decorate it yet as I like to take my time with that. It’s actually only half finished but I’m taking a break at the moment. This picture is from the house since it’s a little clearer. Since I have it in front of the patio doors I have to keep the drapes open for ventilation since they tend to fog up in the winter time. At home we used to have a fuller tree so the person sitting on the end of the couch had to lean over to watch the tv. This one is just the right size because it’s skinnier. I remember when we bought this one my Dad liked it because the branches looked more real. Our old one was kind of yellowish green. I may need to buy a new tree skirt because I can’t find the one that I had. My grandma made it. Technically I don’t NEED a tree skirt because there won’t be gifts underneath it but it makes it look more finished.
Because Canada post is still on rotating strikes I may actually have to break down and go to the mall to purchase Christmas presents. GASP. The trouble with that is right now I would just be walking aimlessly because I have no ideas! There is a bazaar being held this Saturday that is just around the corner from me so I might be able to find something. I like to get a personal gift although I will admit I’m giving a friend a gift certificate to a movie theatre so she can take a niece or nephew. I can “broadcast” that here since she doesn’t read my blog.
It’s a little over a month until I’m meeting a friend for dinner. I’m hoping the weather is ok to go for our walk through Victoria Park…our tradition. We got a light dusting of snow last night and sidewalks are slippery and it’s supposed to rain on the weekend. The joys of living in Canada in the wintertime.

MUGS


This is what as known as my coffee cupboard. When I moved I was so happy to have a separate area for my coffee maker and a cupboard I could put all my mugs, coffee and sugar in. I mentioned that in the house we didn’t have a lot of outlets so quite often I would have to unplug something to plug the coffee maker in. And our mugs were on the other side of the kitchen beside the sink. The Starbucks mug was a Christmas gift for Mom. It actually holds 14oz of coffee. I never realized just how large it was until I was using an 8oz Keurig and would wonder where the rest of it was. When you have a 10 cup coffee maker for 2 you just pour up to the top. That used to be a saying of Mom’s. If someone poured her a cup of coffee and it wasn’t as full as she thought she would tell them I want the top half too!
At church we had cups for coffee but they would bring out mugs for guests. The cups were too small for my fingers so if there was a mug left I used it. As you can tell my Mom and I both liked a big cup!
I purchased the red snowflake mug at Homesense. I just thought if I had friends over at Christmas I should have appropriate mugs. The downside is because of the detail it can’t go in the microwave. I’m pretty sure the other mug was a gift from my friend.

I even bought ornaments from Starbucks to put on the tree. It used to be our tradition to go to Starbucks with a friend for hot chocolate in December for our monthly coffee get together.
There used to be a coffee shop in Wortley Village that would give you some off your coffee if you brought your own mug or travel mug. Refills were 50 cents. As I write this I’m reminded of how social the word mug is. Memories of sitting with Janet at our favourite coffee shop. Sitting with Mom at the dining room table. Nowadays I enjoy my coffee outside on the balcony.

Property


I have been thinking about this word recently since a couple people that I know have moved from a house into an apartment. I had an appointment at an apartment in my neighbourhood. The actual property is beautiful with gardens and a gazebo in the front. A community room, gym with a pool and sauna. But the unit itself was small. People told me moving from a house into an apartment I would lose space anyway but I knew that there must be something else out there.
When I moved I wanted central air, a dishwasher, 2 bedrooms so I could use one as an office and it had to be on a bus route. But it was also the little things that I didn’t have at home. Plenty of outlets. In the living room I have 6. I only use half of that. In my bedroom I have 4 and all of them are in use. In my house I had 2 but they were at opposite ends of my bed so I had to reach in behind the headboard to plug something in. I do miss all the windows in my house. I miss looking out the window when I’m cooking. I have phone jacks in EVERY room. We had one phone in the kitchen. No privacy at all! I don’t have to carry laundry up and down two flights of stairs AND I don’t have to vacuum stairs!
The other day the word for the day was squirrel and it made me think of the differences between here and the house. I always saw squirrels running around in the yard. We had morning doves that sat on the railing of the deck. We had a snow goose that was injured. Janet helped a turtle over the fence. How he got into the yard was a mystery. Now I have geese which means trying to avoid goose poop and lots and lots of dogs.
When I moved I took very little from the house. The couch had seen better days. The lazy boy was Dad’s. In a 4 bedroom house I guess it’s kind of weird thinking about how little of it was actually mine.
What was the thing that I absolutely had to take from home? The Christmas tree. It’s like reading the poem I wrote as soon as I put it up I’m transported to my living room decorating with Janet while mom sat in the dining room writing cards. A happy time.

PAST

I have a VHS tape that a long time family friend of my Dad took for their 25th wedding anniversary. My parents were married in 1969 so next year it would be 50 yrs. A cousin took it to get it cleaned up but never returned it. We thought it was lost forever until one day we received it in the mail. Mom and I watched a little bit of it then but it was just too hard to watch the whole thing. So many people lost. There is scene in Marley and Me where the eldest son watches their home movies and cries. It’s a happy moment in time but we cry because we miss the people that we shared it with. My Dad did not like parties and worried about the weather since we were holding it outside. But I think in the end he was pleased with how it went. It was probably the last big event that we had where all the family was there before cousins got married and had kids.
My Dad had a family photo album with his parents formal wedding picture and then each of his siblings except for his eldest sister. Mom told me she thinks they had a formal portrait done but she had never seen it. He told me when their kids got married then I could take over. When the estate was settled I gave the album to my brother so that he could have that link to the past to show to his girls. I didn’t need it because I had the memories. All of my Dad’s siblings are gone now except one that I don’t get along with. It’s hard losing those links.
When I moved I took very little from the house. Buying new furniture and new things meant a fresh start. Although I wanted to stay in my old neighbourhood it turned out for the best that I don’t live there anymore. I get to build a new life elsewhere.
In a few weeks I will be putting up my Christmas tree. For me it’s a way of keeping the traditions alive. It’s a combination of the past and the present. Ornaments that were my grandparents, name ornaments I purchased with Janet, Hallmark ornaments that were Janet’s and ones that I have added since. It’s why I don’t like the fancy trees with matching blue or silver ornaments because I believe a tree should tell a story. It should have a history. It’s also why I like to take my time decorating the tree. When I take each ornament out I can say “oh I remember this”.

This is a poem that I wrote 3 years ago for writing class which sums up Christmas’ past

TRADITIONS
Christmas music fills the air
Seems there’s little time to spare
Mom is baking Christmas treats …
Round the corner to have a peak
Brownies, hermits, macaroons
Where will we find the room?
Christmas cards upon the table
Ready soon to be labeled
A note to share our year
Spreads some Christmas cheer
Our tree is placed into the stand
Dad will lend a helping hand
It’s leaning left, now it’s right
Perfect, that’s just right
Carry boxes down the stairs
Soon tinsel is everywhere
Ornaments with our names
Branches hung with candy canes
Take a walk into the night
To see the houses alit at night