Monthly Archives: December 2013

A Moment of Silence for the Women of Christmas

This is my tribute to women during the busiest season of their lives. In no way should my male readers take this as a slight or a rejection of all they have to offer. I know that any one of you can pour a drink with the best of them. You probably make excellent egg nog, and are a dab hand at making sure the freezer is stocked with bags of ice. You probably make those last minute runs to the grocery store to pick up the forgotten can of Cranberry sauce, gas up the cars and do those little things that make all the difference to a happy holiday. Putting up the lights outside, often a man’s job, is an integral part of the Christmas season. However.

December is a tough time for women. A time of preparation not unlike that faced by Olympic athletes. Some positive self talk is needed, some team spirit, a friendly reminder that others are also preparing for the game, laying it all out on the line. There may be doubts, but cheerfulness and good spirits will prevail, for the most part.

This salute is for the woman of the house, that workhorse of Christmas past, present and future. I’m going to take this even further and add an extra tribute for mothers. Not only are they the holders of the Christmas flame. They must also do the following:

 Remember what every child has told Santa regarding their Christmas wishes.
Decorate the tree, with help from the kids, which means everything takes a lot longer.
Find the time to give the house an extra cleaning, that lick and polish that says “Extra Special Season!”
Continue cooking regular meals while baking dozens of cookies, squares, meat pies, extra frozen ‘just in case’ dinners and making appetizers for all the parties she will attend as part of the joy of Christmas.
Buy gifts for teachers, coaches, bosses, co-workers and people her husband needs to buy gifts for.
Find that special outfit that looks ‘Christmasy’ but doesn’t break the family budget and is comfortable enough to allow the chasing down of toddlers and the searching under sofas for missing lego pieces.
Have the ability to come home from work, make dinner, prepare something for the babysitter to do with the kids so she can attend the annual party with her husband, all the while wishing she was home in a hot bath with a good book.
Smile instead of screaming “WTF!!” when realizing the cookies that were meant for the neighbor’s Christmas party were stolen from the freezer by little Elves who just happen to have the same names as her husband and kids.

This Christmas Eve, I salute all of you cheer bringers and memory creators. You are the Women of Christmas. You are the keepers of the family flame, the guardians of the heart of every child. God bless you in this joyful season. Over these next few days, take some time to thank those who have gone before you, like your own mother. Give the woman shopping beside you a friendly glance, a show of support that acknowledges all the things she’s doing for others. And finally, you dear woman reader, give yourself a word of thanks, a pat on the back. May your own Christmas wishes come true. Especially the one where other people clean up. God bless.

In Pursuit of Good Enough

Writing a blog reminds me of going to confession. Something about the tiny room in the back of my old Catholic church, the lingering scent of incense, the attentive and gentle presence of the priest. It all seems to work in much the same way. On the page and in the church I spill the beans every time. Are bloggers actually seeking forgiveness, then, or some type of absolution? The blank page has a way of sitting semi-patiently, cursor blinking, like a busy priest with a lot of waiting customers. “Come ooooon,” I can hear the page saying to me. “Just get it over with.” It’s like stripping off one’s clothes and pointing out all the flabby areas for the whole world to see. “Yup,” the writer is saying, “This is actually something I did or said, thought about, loved, or dreamt.”

Nobody compels us to spill our guts in the confessional, except a belief in the presence of God and the peace that comes from sharing one’s fears. Maybe the blank page is as much therapist as priest. “Come on, you know you’ll feel better if you write it all down.” It’s so true. I’m having an aha moment as I write…

I am not a person who strives for excellence. I always wanted my children to play sports, but never to compete in the Olympics. Why have all that pressure? So your child can wash out at the age of thirty-five and be grateful for their job at Canadian Tire? The same goes for music careers. I like to sing, my whole family does. But having a child depend on it for a living, and actually succeed to the point that they have to keep racking up one hit after another leaves me feeling faint. Have fun with your music, kids, but leave the crazy life style to somebody else.

It’s the same with business. I have loved designing and selling the babyTrekker. I believe that it is an excellent product, but at the same time, have resisted taking the business to the next level. I have fun with it, but don’t feel crazed about it. Nor do I desire the label ‘high powered executive.’ It fills me with dread, actually.

Perhaps my hesitation comes from a fear of failure, but somehow, I don’t think so. I believe that I’ve been given the gift of recognition, the ability to find the gold that shines in the very middle of things, in the anonymity and peace of the smaller life.  Andy Warhol once said that everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame. You know you’re like me if you find yourself saying, after receiving said fame, “Thanks very much, universe. And thank God that’s over.”

You are one of the many like minded beings who make up the world, who love well and cherish the complexities of ordinary life. Like a thirsty person facing a  fridge full of beer, the trick is being able at some point to place your hand over the glass and say ‘that’s enough for now.’ That’s good enough. Thank you.

I watch the people who dream big, thirsting to be at the top of whatever mountain they’re trying to conquer. I wish them well, even as I give thanks that its not me there at the front of the line, betting the farm or whatever it is people do when they compete for top honours. I’m the one in the middle of the crowd, cheering them on. Then I go home and resume the life I love.

Please Proceed to the Back of the Plane

Now that I’m older, I’ve decided to give my life the respect it deserves. By savoring each moment, the simple transforms into the extraordinary. Like when I’m listening to CBC radio in the kitchen and feel such a heady rush of joy, I know it’s impossible to feel any happier.  That store of joy is tucked away inside me, ready to be released whenever I remember to access it.

Like what happened to me last night. I was half way home from New York on a stopover in Chicago when I experienced what I like to call a Junior High Moment. Those of you who drifted through the middle school years at the top of the social heap, please stop reading. You probably can’t identify with this story. You may laugh coldly, wishing you could do so while pointing at me in person. For the rest of you who understand the notion of humiliation, please read on.

Our flight was slightly delayed. When the time came to board, I was reading my kindle but got into line and reached the front quickly. The stewardess looked at my boarding pass and said into the PA, “We’re boarding the Gold Members. This is Number One Boarding Only.” Like a bouncer outside a popular club, she gave me a look that said volumes, adding, “Please step back.” I gazed around in my usual state of confusion. People looked away, in particular a man I’d been chatting with. He brushed right past me, eyes averted, as if I’d just peed on the floor. Obviously a Gold Member, a Number One Passenger. I hung around the back of the line, reading my kindle and not feeling too bad about it. After all, I booked through Expedia. What did I expect?

The second time, still engrossed in my book and waving my passport and boarding pass vaguely in the stewardess’s direction, I got almost the same answer, though she didn’t bother addressing me but spoke into the PA system saying, ‘This is a boarding call for Number Two Passengers Only!” I walked away. That was when I started to feel like I was back in junior high. This time I stayed in my chair as she went back to the microphone and called, “Members of the military, please board!” I’m not kidding.
Then, “The Number Three Passengers may board now.” She looked directly at me as she said it. Feeling like I was headed for Steerage on the Titanic, I passed her at a slow trot. She looked away politely, like I really had peed on the carpet. When I got on the plane the stewardess stared at my boarding pass before saying in a bored tone, “Please proceed to the back of the plane.”

Once happily seated, I began to read again. I didn’t bother listening to the safety directions. Hadn’t I heard them a thousand times? This turned out to be a mistake. The stewardess, once finished, came down the aisle and hollered, “Who knows how many exits there are? Who was listening?” We all looked around guiltily. Passengers started throwing out numbers, all of them wrong. I still can’t remember the correct answer.
The inquisition continued, “Who is seated by the exit? And what would you do for other passengers in an emergency?” We all looked around in genuine alarm. The woman across the aisle said fearfully, “I didn’t know we were going to be tested!” In that moment, I experienced a complete moment of joy. I may have been seated last, but no one in the classroom, er, the plane, was watching me scornfully. They weren’t looking at me at all. Instead, we were all watching the stewardess and the exit seat passengers in horrified fascination.

It occurred to me then that no one in junior high ever feels like a Gold Passenger, but more like the occupant of a lonely cell in steerage. At the age of twelve I saw gleeful vindictiveness where there was nothing but plain relief. It was not them being singled out for humiliation. They were not the ones who had tripped in the hallway, or farted audibly in class or forgot for the hundredth time to put their name at the top of a school paper. We were all klutzes and dodo brains, a club of the socially inept intimidated by a bouncer who existed only in our imaginations.

 

We never truly get out of Junior High, at least not until we’re much, much older. To graduate, we have to spend some time at the back of the plane.  Be the last picked for Dodge Ball or the cautionary tale shared by a grateful other. Life has to drop us on our faces quite a few times to make its point. We can give in to humiliation by rolling over and pretending to be dead or jump up like a gymnast who just nailed an Olympic Gold landing. The next time you hear someone fart out loud in public, especially if they’re over fifty, give them a wink and a thumbs up. Chances are they’ll just grin. If they’re over sixty, offer them a high five. Then you know you’ve graduated for sure. And its all downhill, er, smooth sailing, from there.