2015 in review …. Happy new year!

Another year of blogging has gone by …. WordPress put together a report for me, and I’m sharing it with you. Your time, attention and comments are such a great encouragement to me – you keep me writing. All the best to you and your loved ones in 2016, and I’ll be back with more blabbering when the holidays are over! (That’s either a promise or a threat, depending on what you think of said blabbering. But you keep coming back ….)

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

You can’t buy what I want for Christmas.

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Every November, as soon as Remembrance Day has ended, I start getting ready for Christmas. People tease me about Christmassing too early, but it works out well in the end. By mid-December, with decorations up, cards posted, gifts purchased and baking baked, I can sit on my duff with a cup of peppermint tea and an unbearably smug smirk because I am ready for Christmas and all the people who made fun of me back in November are not. In fact, in recent years, I’ve extended my gloating to a trip to the mall to eat lunch in the food court and watch people lose their marbles in a last-minute dash for presents. I did that just last Saturday, along with my family.

Located next to the food court is Justice (this is probably not random). Everything in Justice is covered in glitter and smells like cotton candy, which means that Fiona and Bridget love the place. The three female members of our crew wandered into the store to check it out, while Ryan wisely stayed at least twenty-five feet away and immersed himself in his phone. There was a Christmas tree at the entrance to the store, and stacks of post-its in six different colours. Customers were encouraged to write their first name and a Christmas wish on the post-it, and stick it on the tree. Most of the post-its were predictable: iPods, puppies, ponies, cool clothes and accessories (presumably from Justice). There were also wishes that couldn’t be granted using money. A happy Christmas. No more cruelty to animals. World peace. One clever little wag had written a wish for “JUSTICE for girls everywhere”. Out of the forest of pastel slips of paper, one caught my eye and squeezed my heart: a girl named Makayla wishing for a friend. A friend. Not a whole lot of them, just one.

Facebook is a fount of …. well, everything everybody is thinking at any given time, whether it’s fit for sharing or not. Some posts are solid, some posts are more like solid waste. One that I’ve seen a couple of times recently, though, resonates with me:

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What do I want for Christmas? I have been grateful for (nearly) every present I’ve ever received. I do remember a pair of mustard-coloured cords and a matching sweater that I might have worn once before “losing” them …. Even when the item hasn’t particularly tickled my fancy, I’ve appreciated the thought. I’ve no doubt what I unwrap this year will also be lovely. But, really, what I want for Christmas isn’t available in stores. (And, no, Canadian Tire, it’s not available online, either. If I hear one more stupid list of all the many varieties of the many things you can order from Canadian Tire I might just hit them up for one of seventeen different lighters and set the radio on fire.)

I want peace – in my mind, in my home, and on earth. I want hope. I want desperate people to look up and believe – and I want something for them to believe in. I want time. Time to sit and ponder. Time to organize my clutter, both literal and figurative. Time to have a conversation without glancing at the clock every few minutes. Breathe in, breathe out – soak in. I want health, both in body and mind. I want gratitude to replace comparisons and anxiety. I want kindness for others, and for myself. I want forgiveness. I want to let things go. Just let them go, and not look back. I want to be a refuge for the people I love. I want no judgement. Only love today, and every day. I want more hugs.

And I want a friend for Makayla. May this be the year ….

The thing is, most of these things start with me. I can’t control what everyone else does (even though sometimes I wish I could because I know what is best for everyone) – but I can fix myself and my reactions and my priorities. Do I want them badly enough to break them down, make a to-do list, and work towards them? As life races forward, spins me around, and slips away from my outstretched hands, I feel less and less tolerant of anything less. Merry Christmas, everyone.

 

A dozen reasons to read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” ….

Again with the reblogging – this is the last one, I promise! I’m sharing this post from last Christmas because I’ve started my annual reading of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, and the beauty of the book is touching my heart again.

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Every year, during the glittery days approaching December 25, I devote several evenings to lying on the couch next to the Christmas tree and reading Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. I have done this since I was a teenager. Back then, when I had very few responsibilities and endless energy, I would read it all in one night – Christmas Eve night, in fact, staying up sometimes til four a.m. to finish it. Can’t really do that now that I’m one of the makers of Christmas for two little girls – but I still take the time to stroll through that lovely old book. It’s part of my Christmas celebration. I’ve always disliked commercials that urge people to “buy a gift for yourself this Christmas” – alot of us spend all year doing that – but I did buy myself a gift two Christmases ago. I bought a beautiful red hard-cover edition, complete…

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Music to Christmas by!

As I said in my last post, writer’s block is a monkey on my back these days …. so I’m sharing some of last year’s Christmas thoughts. This time, it’s music – and these are still my favourites, so it’s still relevant. Ryan reminded me, after I posted this the first time, that I had forgotten a song I love – one that definitely deserves to be on my list of music to Christmas by. I’m sharing that one right now (before I forget again, because I’m Beth and I’d do that): “Bells Are Ringing” by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Another song that makes me cry, and my heart swell with a quiet Christmas joy.

 

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As I’ve already said, I love Christmas music. I love dear old carols and modern favourites. I love it instrumental. I love it a capella. I love it warbled in the shower, hollered by kids,  and belted out by revellers. I love it spoken like poetry. All the same, some Christmas music has lost its lustre. Brenda Lee can stop rockin’ around all trees of any kind, forever. Nobody ever needs to cover “Last Christmas” again; Wham! did it right the first time. We don’t need any more mechanical phone-ins of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” either, complete with icky banter between the two singers at the end (although the old clip I just linked to has its charms). And Bob Geldof really needs to consider some alternative treatment to Band-Aids. The 1984 original is simply unbeatable. That moment when Bono wails “tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you”…

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I wish it would look alot more like Christmas.

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Readers, forgive me, for I have sinned – it’s been nearly three weeks since my last post. It’s Christmas. I love Christmas – love it, love it, love it. So why don’t I do what I always do when I get excited about something – blabber relentlessly about it until people either succumb or go away? As usual, the reasons for my writer’s block are not entirely clear. I’ve been ridiculously busy lately. To the point of bloodshed. I’m usually busy anyway – in fact, I’m not sure there’s been any point over the past ten years (coincidentally, the amount of time for which I’ve been a parent) that I could say I wasn’t busy. Add the whirlwind of decorating, baking, buying, posting, hosting and partying that Christmas brings with it, and I’ve got a great excuse for not writing. However, last year, I wrote pages about Christmas – during Christmas. So having lots going on can’t be the only answer.

I think it’s more likely that many of my reasons for e-silence are all in my head. My mind is even busier than my body. I’ve been feeling dragged down and snowed under by what’s going on. (Thank you, Marvin Gaye, for that smooth groove ….)  Bullying that persists until children feel they have no choice but to put an end to themselves. Horrific cases of abuse surfacing, presented in all the lurid detail the press is so good at applying. Mass shootings. Natural disasters. Russia running roughshod over eastern Ukraine. Terrorism curling its tendrils into every country. Evil people finding each other and forging allegiances. ISIL destroying human lives and ancient cities and everyone’s faith in humanity. The crush of Syrian refugees risking everything for freedom, and meeting rejection instead of open arms – and little Alan Kurdi facedown in the sand on a Turkish beach. Hatred flowing from keyboards onto the internet and screaming at me. Grey-sky days and buckets of rain on the lifeless ground where there’s usually a blanket of white by now. Donald Trump, for the love of orange faux fur. Come to think of it, maybe 4 Non Blondes are a better choice for all this than Marvin Gaye.

I’m usually a fairly optimistic person, and I’ve been preparing for Christmas – and treasuring the preparations – like I do every year. But I feel like every time I try to write there’s s0me fresh hell to contemplate, thanks to our troubled world and the inescapable hisses and shrieks of social media – and a lump in my throat. On the other hand, as I said earlier, I wrote oodles of Christmas content last year. And it’s all still true this year – and maybe worth sharing again. So I’m going to add another sin to my writer’s rap sheet: reusing content. I’m going to re-post what I said last Christmas, and maybe I’ll cheer myself up rereading it.

Here’s the first Christmassy post I created last year, on December 1:

“Have a holly, jolly Christmas! No, really, you can …. here’s how.”