The Aftermath

The Holiday Aftermath

T’was the day after Christmas and you wake up with dread                                                  Those 12 drummers drumming still pound in your head

Tiptoe to the kitchen without making a sound                                                                         And survey the damage while glancing around

Your holiday table once festive and pretty                                                                                Now looks like a war zone all tattered and dirty

There’s ribbon and paper all over the room                                                                                    And sighing reluctantly you reach for the broom

The tree stands majestic, a beautiful sight                                                                                    So you reach for the plug to turn on its’ light

Closing your eyes, thinking back on past days                                                                                You relive the moments your memory plays

The weeks you spent shopping and cleaning and cooking                                                            The nights you spent wrapping when no one was looking

That cold frosty day when you hung outdoor lights                                                                        The friends that you welcomed those holiday nights

You still hear the laughter and carolers singing                                                                        And off in the distance you hear church bells ringing

Chocolate wrappers are strewn everywhere                                                                                    And the smell of roast turkey is still in the air

You pause in your sweeping and put on the tea                                                                  Ignoring the mess that you no longer see

Settling in to your chair, your warm mug in hand                                                                    You give in to the respite your memories demand

The mess of the holidays may today bring you sorrow                                                                But the warmth of the season runs long past tomorrow

Happy New Year

Holiday Hang ups

The Christmas holiday is almost upon us and unlike most years, I am more organized than ever. Gifts are long since purchased and wrapped. The tree is up, the house decorated, baking is done, and my holiday menu is set, needing only last minute preparation. I should be thrilled…so how come I’m not?

Last week I was wandering through a local shop with no particular plan to buy anything, and I bumped in to a good friend, also wandering aimlessly. We engaged in the usual chit-chat then parted ways, wandering again. The encounter replayed in my mind throughout the afternoon, but not because there was anything remarkable about it…..we are good friends and see each other often. What struck me later was that she appeared as ‘low key’ as I did about the upcoming holidays. And like me, she too is prepared, so a relaxed and jovial demeanour should be the mood of the day, every coming day over the season….but it’s not.

The puzzle remained in my subconscious, unresolved, until a conversation with another good friend several days later. We had planned a shopping day and soon after she picked me up she mentioned how happy she was to be getting out, doing something, anything, because she had been feeling blue and wanted to snap out of it. This was the opening I needed.

I mentioned my own feeling of malaise and the sense that my other friend too was less than jubilant, for no apparent reason. We all three have loving families, homes, friends, all the gifts one could possibly want, so what was our problem? And are we alone?

What is it about the holidays that brings with it a feeling of melancholy? It is after all, a celebration of birth, and life, and faith. We gather with friends and loved ones. We eat and drink without abandon. We give and get ‘stuff’, whether we need it or not – what’s not to love?

Maybe it’s our sentimental side that emerges with the season.   We appear to take the time to ‘reflect’ at the holidays and it seems when we have time to reflect, we also have time to regret, and reminisce, and that’s not always a bad thing, but it can be painful.

As it turns out one friend was remembering Christmases past when her husband was alive and she keenly felt the void of his passing, especially over the holidays because they spent much of their holidays celebrating at one event after another, together.

The other friend too was reflecting on past years when Christmas was lively and so busy you didn’t have time to reflect. She ran herself ragged cooking and entertaining, reveling in the joy her labours bestowed on others. So how come she’s not feeling the love now? Nothing has changed. Family and friends are still gathering, happily, and are appreciative of her efforts.

When I took the time to look inside myself I found I too was remembering what was. I remember holidays with my family as a child; a sparkling Christmas tree, laden with gifts and chocolates. I remember my parents and grandparents laughing around the holiday table. I guess through the eyes of a child we see only the wonder and happiness of the holidays. Oh, to be young and naïve again!

As we age we see not only the celebration of the occasion, but also the memories of holidays past, and the reality of the notion that not everyone has had the ‘happiness’ we have enjoyed…..I guess that’s the hard part of growing up, facing reality.

Our holiday table now has new faces filling the seats of those we’ve lost, either by death or distance, and old traditions are replaced with new. The little ones (thank heaven for them!) still run wild with excitement, eating cookies and chocolate, and dreaming of Santa’s arrival, and the elders who once hosted the holidays (and called all the shots), sit quietly at the table, having passed the torch to the next generation. This is, I guess, the cycle of life.

Change isn’t always easy but it is necessary, and it seems it is most apparent at the holidays, and since we can’t avoid it we’d best view it through the eyes of our inner child. Celebrate the moment and all who share it with you, but don’t leave out those fond memories of people and times past because it is they and those that fashion the memories we are making now. Life is good.

Merry Christmas and may God Bless!

Holiday blues


Speak up or shut up

I admire those who speak their mind. It speaks to their confidence and tells me they deem me worthy of engaging in a conversation with them because the conversation will be two-way. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. What I don’t like is those who deliver their opinion with a mission to conversion, and I’m sure we’ve all come up against these individuals!

Every encounter we have, every person we meet presents an opportunity for us to expand our mind. I love spending time with someone who has a different view of things, a twist on the typical opinion, an educated opinion that is, and that education can be from books or life, and both are valuable.

Now I might not necessarily agree with the opinion of another but I respect their right to express it as long as the exchange is reciprocal. I’ll hear you out with an open mind because I’m open to ‘possibilities’ – who knows, maybe you’ll teach me something I hadn’t considered before and change my way of thinking. There’s also the possibility that I’ll walk away shaking my head and thinking you’re nuts. When you speak your mind, you take a chance to enlighten another, possibly effecting change. When you stay silent you take no chance and effect no change, and that is a missed opportunity.

To speak up is to express an opinion freely with confidence and without expectation; you are seeking to educate for the benefit of another and without personal gain. One who is outspoken on the other hand, is candid, forthright and relentless, often considered the know-it-all, and with the goal of convincing another to change their opinion for the benefit of their own ego, i.e. they are on a mission to recruit followers. Personally, I’ve been accused of both and while I acknowledge I may be unwittingly outspoken, I have never been so with the goal of converting another to my way of thinking. It’s too much work and simply doesn’t interest me. (Maybe I’m lazy or lack the confidence?) I do, however, believe there is a very fine line between the two, one that is easy to cross. (give me a topic I’m comfortable with and a pulpit and I could go on for hours!)

There have been times when I’ve had to extricate myself from a conversation because the ‘sales pitch’ was too exhausting. The individual simply wouldn’t let up because they could see I wasn’t ‘sold’ yet and they can’t move on to their next victim until they’ve convinced you to join their cause. These people are easy to spot – by the end of the evening they’re usually alone.

And at some point in our lives we have all been the outspoken one; preaching what we think we are knowledgeable on, and determined to convert our listeners. Neither role is offensive really, just human. We simply want to periodically exert our expertise for the benefit of our self-confidence, or maybe for the benefit of another’s self-confidence, or maybe just to effect change where we think it is needed, and that’s never bad.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. (I’m not) You might lose something good, but you may well gain something even better, so if you want to effect change speak up, otherwise be happy with life as it is…..quiet and boring.


The corporate vortex

We all want a satisfying and rewarding job, and taking pride in our career is only natural. For so many it’s who we are. But have we gone too far in our quest to succeed in the workplace? At what point do we cross the line of balance between work and family and what are we losing in the process?

When traveling in Europe a few years ago I was surprised when businesses, including stores, literally closed for 21/2 hours each day so that families could be together for the midday meal – what a wonderful practice! For that matter I recall it was difficult to find coffee or tea ‘to go’. The expectation was that you sit down and enjoy your beverage instead of gulping it down on the run, so it was served in a glass cup or mug. How civilized is that!

North American society has developed this 24/7 mentality that sees our personal lives being encroached upon more and more by work related duties, and mandates are endless because no sooner do you complete a project than a new one is assigned. The more you give, the more they expect. Lap tops, Ipads, Blackberry’s and cell phones have only added to the burden by keeping us ‘connected’ to the workplace 7 days a week, 365 days per year, so you’d better love your job….. because you can’t escape it.

There are those who revel in their jobs. They live and breathe the corporate culture, and they identify themselves first and foremost by their ‘career persona’. Men tend to fall into this category more than women. Women identify themselves as wives, partners, and mothers first because the home front is typically their domain. The career is second, or even third, but as women gain ground in the workforce priorities are shifting, even for them, and often not by choice. Many prefer the challenge of working outside the home and that’s great if it works in their personal lives, but too often they are having to give more than they want simply to stay employed.

Demands of the job are taking over not only our personal lives but our personal goals. Employers want us to complete a 75 hour mandate in a 40 hour work week and if we dare to complain of overwork, we are quickly reminded that there’s any number of people out there happy to have our job, so we sacrifice home and family to keep the job, because we need the money.

And if that isn’t enough, employers also want us to perform community service, in their name, and on our time. (What happened to charity begins at home?)

Too often I’ve witnessed the career driven individual who gave their life to their career only to find themselves downsized or eliminated when their purpose has been served, and nothing is more devastating to them – their personal purpose is gone, along with their confidence. “But don’t take it personally…it’s a business decision”  the employer tells them. “We’re just moving in a different direction with the business and your skillset is no longer relevant.”  This is the stuff breakdowns are made of and I shake my head at the complete lack of corporate conscience.

Let’s learn from our European neighbours. What if we took time every day to be with our loved ones, without any corporate devices? Enjoy a meal with friends or family, read a good book. If we are motivated to do charitable work then do it for ourselves, not to improve your employers corporate profile.

People are working longer and harder in jobs that are less personally satisfying. A job well done used to be rewarded and appreciated. Now it’s expected in half the time and appreciation is not forthcoming because you’re just doing what you’re paid for. I can remember when employees wanted to play on the company baseball team, and colleagues would go out for a drink after work on a Friday night. They were happy, and it reflected in their performance on the job because happy employees do better work. Now people have been so squeezed of their energy and joy in the workplace they are reluctant to socialize with colleagues at all. Even company Christmas parties have lost their attendance because employees are tired and undervalued so they don’t want to spend any more time in the workplace than they have to.

At the end of the day we all have to do what is necessary to support ourselves and if you’re truly happy in your workplace, lucky you…because you are not the norm. Just look around. Most are overworked, stressed and unhappy. If you can make the changes to balance your work and family life do it, because no one is impressed with an obituary that reads “Here lies John Doe, who dedicated his life to the corporate cause (which, by the way, is also what killed him). He leaves behind a family who barely saw him.”

The obituary will be followed by a job posting for his now vacant role, because business is business.


Keeping the positive attitude as you age….

….is more important than ever… but so hard to do! Ailments and injury are unpredictable, fast, and all too frequent.

Last summer I was chatting with my daughter on the back porch. I happened to lean forward to pick up a nail file,,,a nail file…and that was it. I hurt something in my back that put me out of commission for weeks.

Later, the next fall, I caught a cold (ok, who doesn’t in the fall?)  One day, I happened to cough and in doing so pulled a muscle in my lower back,,,from a simple cough! The strain to my back was substantial, painful enough to warrant physio therapy and major pain killers, the kind that make you sick to your stomach, but I decided the pain was worse than the vomiting so I took the pills. It was almost 11 months before my back was fully healed from this one.

I was putting away a casserole dish 2 days ago, in a lower cupboard. I’ve done this a million times,,,, in fact, I had to access this same awkward cupboard 3 days ago to prepare the casserole, so you’d think I’d be used to it, but no. I knelt to place the dish on the lower shelf at the very back and in doing so wrenched my right knee such that I could barely move for the next several days. My knee joint was stiff and swollen, and I had to lurch about the house like a big clumsy Frankenstein.

What has happened to my body? I can recall my parents sporting injuries, back, knees, shoulders,,,but that was my parents, and they were ancient! Weren’t they?

When I was a young girl I was always very determined to remain physically active, always. In fact, my sister and I both did, largely because our mother, God bless her, was hugely inactive. She maintained that physical activity was masculine and completely unsuitable to females. I’m sure there’s some psychological throw back to her own upbringing but we’ve never quite figured it out. Suffice it to say, we always strived to remain fit, if for no other reason than to remain able to enjoy our ‘golden years’, cause let’s face it, the years leading up to that are just a lot of hard work, so we earn our ‘golden years’. It would be cruel for nature to rob us of this time!

So, I walk, religiously, ridiculously, every single day, and always have. When diagnosed with arthritis a number of years ago, I worked with a physio therapist and Yoga instructor to create a daily routine to keep my joints limber. I do everything I should to maintain flexibility and good health, but it appears genetics, lifestyle and destiny supersede our efforts because as fast as we deal with issues, nature and aging take another angle, throwing a wrench into the spokes. Even when we do have a period of good health, we don’t ‘look’ the same. The sands of time have shifted and what once nicely filled out a sweater now sadly sags like an unwanted pile.

As we age it seems we encounter more negative aspects of life when, shouldn’t we be reaping the benefits of a life well lived? A life hard earned? The physical aspects aside, we struggle with declining agility, memory loss, death of peers,,,,c’mon, thow us a bone already!

But no bone is forthcoming.

Because this is the cycle of life, and life is not meant to be easy. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth the effort.  It takes great fortitude and self- discipline to stay positive in light of ‘aging’, among all the other challenges encountered in our lives. Look for the bright light (not the death light, not yet) the ‘light’ of hope that all is not for naught.

So, I‘ve determined that my efforts to remain flexible aren’t futile, after all. I will continue to do what I have to, to stay fit, and if destiny intervenes, so be it. (don’t mess with me God, cause I still have the ability to bitch and NO ONE can take that away from me, not even you) I shouldn’t be hard to spot. I’ll be the feisty old lady bitching at the side of the road, with a limp!

feisty old lady