Thursday, December 14, 2017

O Christmas Tree

Lionello Delpiccolo | unsplash

"...freshly cut Christmas trees smelling
of stars and snow and pine resin - inhale deeply
and fill your soul with wintry night...”

~ John Geddes, A Familiar Rain 

Do you ever get a little thrill up your back when you happen to hear the date of your birthday mentioned in a conversation or on the radio? For example, I just have to hear the words April 17th and I feel a zip of joy -- for that date is well sprinkled with happy memories which flood into my consciousness with no prior thought.

I tell you this for that is the same kind of happy thrill I feel when I hear the date December 20th mentioned. It's a warm tingly feeling that spills over from childhood  -- it was often the date when Mom gave the okay to bring in the Christmas Tree. I still recall coming home from school just days before December 25th to find a newly cut spruce tree from some woodsy nook propped near the back step. Waiting, like we were, for the big day. And, if we weren't already antsy with excitement, it just made it soar off the charts. We could hardly stand it. Sometimes I thought the top of my head would blow off, and I felt as if I wanted to jump right out of my skin. I could hardly contain the joy.

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.

~ Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

It's true, when you are five or six or seven, every tree seems thirty feet tall, but in truth, looking at some old family photos, our trees weren't those towering specimens at all. All green and prickly, smelling of pungent spruce resin--I didn't like how it made my fingers stick together when it got on my hands. Sometimes it was a little scraggly or sparse on branches, even a little crooked, but in our eyes it was practically perfect.

On that day, Dad would drag the frozen tree into the porch where it would thaw and the snow on its branches could melt. Which meant that probably when we got home from school the following day, it would be sitting in its wooden stand in the corner of the living room where Dad had secured it with clear fishing line to the door jam. Cats and kids were prone to examining tree branches rather closely.

Aaron Burden | unsplash

"You can tell a lot about a person by the way
they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage,
and tangled Christmas tree lights.

~ Maya Angelou

Once it was safely up, we started begging to go find the decoration boxes that were in the upstairs crawl space. First, there came the task of untangling of tree lights -- not a job for the kids, thankfully. And then the careful removal of the box tops with the little cellophane windows. As we got older, we were allowed to put on the delicate glass ornaments, hanging them next to the proud display of the current year's glittering handmade Christmas cards done in school art class. Chains made from coloured construction paper and tinsel garlands were added. Hanging the ornaments was a very studied business as we pondered which branch to hang them on. We were also firmly instructed not to throw bunches of tinsel on the tree, but to take each strand and drape it one by one -- even I had the patience to do that.

At last, the moment came when we would turn out all the overhead lights, put on our Christmas music, and gaze in wonder at our bee-u-ti-ful tree all bedecked and sparkling. With the tree decorated, we were ready for Christmas. Life couldn't feel any more perfect than in that moment. With so much to look forward to and so few cares of the world intruding on our little family, at least for a few days, we felt safe as we nestled against the storms of winter and life. We were happy.

Circa 1964, Little Sis and Me

And that's what we want and hope for you, dear friends.
Here's wishing you a beautiful day!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

And The Winner Is...


Congratulations, Linda! I'm so happy to send you a copy of the Christmas magazine, and I will be in touch to get your mailing address. I'll have it in the mail by Friday and hopefully it arrives in time for Christmas.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the draw -- I appreciate your support and enthusiasm for this little project of mine. If you have an interest to purchase a copy, they are available at Blurb in print or PDF versions. 

Below are a few more sneak previews... 

And, now we're off. Wishing you all a beautiful day.

x x

Monday, December 11, 2017

An Element of Surprise

Photo: Pixabay
When it comes to surprises at Christmas time, there is a very fine line between that deep longing to know what you're getting for Christmas and not really wanting to know ahead of time. My youngest sister as a little girl caught a glimpse of her 'main' present one year when shopping bags were being brought in from the car. She knew it was her gift and remembers, to this day, that was the worst Christmas ever because the surprise was ruined.

We've probably heard those stories of children who have opened up their presents ahead of time and then realized their impulsive, impatient action spoiled the rest of Christmas for them. Maybe you were one of them; as for me, I was not, but it wasn't for yearning to know too. I was a snoopy kid and was known growing up as the child who invariably had her head under the tree, sizing up the presents that began slowly appearing days before Christmas. And, oh yes, my little sister and I remember searching the house over some years for hidden presents. But, there was something different from finding the hiding place to actually opening the parcels and bags to peek in. We would stop just short of finding out.

My aunt from Vancouver used to send parcels for us in December. Of course, when they arrived Mom would not let us see the presents, no matter how we contrived to sneak peeks over her shoulder. Thankfully, she recognized the value of the surprise and they'd be whisked out of sight before you could blink, wink or nod. And, even though we groaned, secretly we knew deep down inside we didn't really want to know. But there was something exquisite about the anticipating as we pondered the thrilling possibilities of what arrived all the way from Vancouver.

Then there was the time when little sis and I were up to no good one day shortly before Christmas. I wonder, did we plan ahead or just take advantage of the situation? With Mom gone into town, probably for last minute grocery shopping, and Dad perhaps outside working in the barn, we had free range in the empty house, and, yes, we took advantage of it.

We decided where we should start first, upstairs in the cold rooms where no one slept, in the stairwell where chocolates and fudge candies were 'secretly' nestled in paper bags. We were always told not to go in there, that was for Christmas, but with no one to know any different, we opened paper bags, sniffed the sweetness that drifted out, and then closed them as carefully as we opened them. We never ate one ahead of time (that just seemed too disobedient for that time of year ... or maybe our memory fudges on us). Remembering what we were scouting for, we'd carry on looking for presents that might be squirreled high up in closets or under beds, behind doors, maybe even down in the basement.

Ah, that year we found the stash in Mom's bedroom closet. Behind the winter coats, and up on the shelf above the rack. Oh rats, we'd need to haul in a chair now. Carefully, carefully, we didn't want to get caught in case Dad came in, we examined the already-wrapped presents hoping for a clue of which one belonged to who. We shook and gently squeezed, longing so much to know the contents but in the end holding back, because deep down we didn't want the surprise ruined. That would have been awful. So we put the packages back where we found them. Closed the closet door. Put the chair back and tried to look all innocent and calm when Mom came home, all the while wishing Christmas could hurry up already.

* * *

What is it about the surprises at Christmas that makes a person remember those trembling moments with joy and delight? I believe the 'thing' that makes Christmas so special is that we are actually wired to like surprises. Yes, according to research of the brain, we now know that our brains are created to enjoy new things to learn, discover, experience. It's good for us.

Someone tells us, Close your eyes, I have a surprise for you, and we obediently close our eyes, smiling, maybe even feeling a little giddy at what it could be. And, when someone unexpectedly sends us flowers or gives us a box of our favourite chocolate, we do love the surprise of it, don't we? It's not the same buying it for ourselves, for the element of surprise makes our brains happy. According to one article on Splinter, a news and opinion site, "being surprised activates the pleasure centers in our brain and gives us a nice shot of dopamine, which makes experiences more enjoyable." In the article, Science explains why surprise brings us pleasure, author Taryn Hillin goes on to say, "Studies have shown that surprise is your brain's way of alerting you to pay attention, which in turn activates curiosity, excitement, and wonder."

We don't have to wonder anymore why people like surprises -- we've been designed that way and Christmas is such a perfect time of year to take advantage of it. There is something wonderful about packages under the Christmas tree. I think most of us love to prepare these surprises, taking great care to hide them away, whispering and whisking packages out of sight. Waiting for the moment when the surprise is opened and eyes light up. We all wait for that moment, both as givers and as receivers. We tend to do all we can to ensure all remains a secret until that last moment when ribbons and tissue fall away and the item is beheld in all its splendour.

Photo: Pixabay

"There is no surprise more magical
than the surprise of being loved:
It is God's finger on man's shoulder."

~ Charles Morgan, 1894 - 1958,
English playwright and novelist

And that, my beautiful friends, is what what every gift we give and receive is about. Every time we receive a gift of any kind it comes with the surprise that we are loved. For, even when we know we are loved, at some level it still ministers to some deep longing or need to hear it again: You I notice, You I cherish.

Here's wishing you surprises in unexpected places this holiday season,


Thursday, December 07, 2017

It Feels Like Christmas: Let's Have A Giveaway!

Photo: Pixabay

This morning I feel like a kid at Christmas. You see, I've been tracking the journey of my Christmas magazine from Blurb to my house (see previous post for background). Today is delivery day. I hopped out of bed, put on my clothes and a dab of lipstick. I'm humming: Ring, doorbell, ring! Canada Post has your parcel and it's coming today.

To celebrate, let's have a Giveaway: one hot-off-the-press old-fashioned paper copy of Christmas: A Collection of Favourite Seasonal Blog Posts. 

 Christmas Magazine
A Collection of Favourite Seasonal Blog Posts
and other nice things to read
Childhood Memories | Recipes | Holiday Musings

"This 88-page collection of seasonal posts originally written for the author's blog. Beautiful photos and thoughtful conversational-style pieces about cherished childhood memories, recipes, special family traditions, and other nice things are woven together in this special keepsake magazine. Perfect for reading by the fireplace as you wait for Christmas."

“I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!”
~ Carolyn Wells


1. Leave a comment.
Maybe something about what makes 
you feel happy or eager for Christmas.

2. Share the giveaway on your blog or Facebook page,
let me know, and your name goes in the draw a second time.

3. Draw will be Wednesday, December 13th at 9:00 am MST
(hopefully this allows enough time to arrive for the holidays)

* * * 

Fingers crossed and here's hoping!



It just arrived!! As soon as I can, I will be making my keepsake magazine available on the Blurb online web store, should anyone wish to purchase a copy. Was waiting for a paper copy in hand to review before I sent it out into the world.

PostScript Two
It's up on the Blurb web bookstore here. You can see a preview of the magazine -- it is available for purchase in print or PDF.  There is still time before Christmas if you don't delay.