‘Twas the night before Christmas….’

… Passed on by a dear friend ;)

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

 
 
‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the land,
Pipelines ran everywhere
Exactly as planned.
 
LNG sat in stockpiles
On the shores of the bay
Just waiting for tankers
To haul them away.
 
Princess Christy was lying
All snug in her bed,
While visions of revenue
Danced in her head.
 
When she heard jolly laughter
Her eyes opened wide
And then she heard jingle bells
From somewhere outside.
 
She threw on her slippers
And leaped out of bed.
Slammed open the window
And stuck out her head.
 
Slowly she scanned
The night sky so clear
And spied a flying red sleigh
Drawing ever so near.
 
And as she looked closer
She couldn’t believe
That driving the sleigh
Was Prime Minister Steve.
 
She stood there surprised
Disbelieving the sight
“Stephen Harper is Santa?
That doesn’t seem right.
 
“He lied to the country
That wasn’t too nice.
He cut Veterans’ Affairs,
Prorogued parliament, twice!
 
“He filled up the senate
With corruption and sleaze,
And an ounce of integrity…?
For somebody…? Please…?”
 
He set down in the yard,
From the sled he jumped clear
And said, “Hello Princess Christy,
Have you been good this year?”
 
“I have been,” said Christy
With all joy and glee,
“I see your great bag,
Is there something for me?”
 
“Of course there is, Christy,
We’re the ruling elite,
That means we get everything
Isn’t that sweet?”
 
Christy thought quickly,
“I want gas wells and mines
But there’s all these tree huggers
With their sad, plaintive whines.”
 
“You go ahead Christy
And mine all you please,
You don’t like tree huggers?
I’ll get rid of the trees.”
 
“Oh thanks, Santa Stevie,”
Said Christy with glee.
“Now there’s more money
For my rich friends and me!”
 
“My work is done here,”
Declared Santa Steve,
“So much to deliver,
You wouldn’t believe.
 
“Duffy wants money,
Brazeau wants slack,
Bieber needs a new shirt,
Rob Ford wants more crack.”
 
“Will I see you again?”
Asked Christy so sad,
“Next year I may need you
If the economy’s bad.”
 
“I won’t be back Christy,”
He said with a sob,
“Come the election next Fall,
I’ll be out of a job.”
 
Then as he jumped in his sleigh
And flew out of sight
He said,
“But my pension’s secure,
So I’ll be alright…”
 
 
 
by Matt Haddrell
Have a Merry Christmas
and all the best in the New Year

“A gift from the heart” – 2013 edition.

DSC_0210It’s no secret to scientists and psychologists that scent can trigger memories as vivid and real as the day they were created. Although my maternal grandfather died more than 12 years ago, pulling his suspenders out of the bag I keep them in engulfs me in a scent of Old Spice and Players cigarettes so strong that it feels like he is there with me… his rough work worn hands, blonde hair and ice blue eyes that never dimmed with age or cancer.

Today, sitting on my bed folding laundry, the window opened a crack for the requisite 15 minutes a day needed to replenish and freshen the air in my home, the scent of Satsuma  from the rarely used bottle on my dresser suddenly wafted under my nose and brought me back to a time I rarely remember at all, anymore…

Except for Christmas.

For newer readers, several years ago I posted my own personal Christmas story here to try and bring people back to the spirit of the season, and give any woman needing hope the strength to carry on. Secretly, I hoped my secret Santa would read my story and know just how much their humble gift meant to me.

Every year since, I have re-posted the story, and this year is no exception. May you find courage, strength, inspiration and hope.

“A gift from the heart”

As an adult, I think I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong – I really love twinkling Christmas lights at night, the joy of seeing my children enjoy the magic, good times with friends and all the cooking…but I’m really bothered by the commercialization, obligation and fake sentiment that for many, seems to go with the entire season.

How did we -as a society – become so shallow and self-absorbed that what is for some, a very sacred time of year, has been reduced to the amount you spend on gifts – or the number of them – to prove your love or affection ? And what kind of gift is one given out of a feeling of forced obligation, rather than the spirit of love and generosity?

For me, gift giving has never been about how much a gift costs, but about what is special to the person receiving it, and the intent of the person giving it. Every year, I share this story that touched my heart forever, in the hopes the person behind it reads it, and knows exactly what it meant to me.

One Christmas,many years ago, I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a gift that came from the heart of someone I’m sure I must have known – but someone whose identity remains a mystery over 10 years later.

It was two years before I left my abusive ex-husband, and money was very tight. At the time he wasn’t working and I was the only income earner, and my credit cards were nearly maxed out trying to keep the family afloat. I didn’t share how bad things were with anyone at work,or my friends, but those who cared and knew me well, obviously could see how hard I was trying to keep it all together.

Even now,looking back at photos taken that year, the stress shows clearly on my face in every single one. As most parents do,or have done, I would always go without to make sure the kids had what they needed, but that year I had to actually glue the soles back onto my winter boots, and double up sweaters instead of buying a winter coat to make sure something from Santa arrived Christmas morning.

Indeed,Christmas did arrive on a crystal cold Saturday morning, and the kids were not disappointed.

Wonderfully appreciative of their humble presents, they were playing with their new toys quietly,my ex was doing whatever he would do off in his little office, and I finally moved slowly around the house to open the curtains to a new day.

As I pulled back the drapes on my dining room window to enjoy the rare sight of Christmas snow on the coast, I saw a basket on the railing of the patio fence outside.

Completely caught off guard by this unexpected sight, I stood there for a moment, simply absorbing this discovery. I shook my head, as if to shake off doubts, grabbed my house coat and ran outside on the deck anyways.

There before me, nestled in the crystalline snow on the railing,was a brightly decorated basket with my name on it.

Catching my breath, stunned, I looked around – left, then right – but could see no one. It hadn’t been there long, because it remained untouched by that sparkling diamond like frost that covered every surface not touched by snow, and I could see fresh foot prints in my garden leading to the fence. In puzzled excitement, I ran back inside the house to see what it was, and who it was from.

I sat down alone at the dining room table, slowly taking in the lovely wrapping and ribbons, but also very worried my ex would come down and wonder where this came from.

With slow motion precision, I pulled back the tissue paper that encased the contents, and suddenly the sweet smell of  satsuma mandarin orange wafted from the basket, hit my nostrils, and overwhelmed my battered soul.

Inside, were three jewel like bars of soap from The Body Shop, in my favorite fragrance, Satsuma.

I held each one in my hands as if they were the most precious gems, with tears trickling silently, oh so silently, down my face, wondering who would do such a nice thing for me. I took every single piece of tissue paper out,looking for a clue, but there was no card; only a gift tag with my name written on it in handwriting I did not recognize.

Completely overwhelmed by the sheer grace and timing of this most cherished gift, I ran quietly outside again and looked around in the snow, thinking another card must have fallen off.

I followed the footprints back to the curb where someone had obviously gotten back into their car, but nothing. No clues, no names, only me – standing there alone Christmas morning on the sidewalk in front of my house, oblivious to the curious stares of passers -by, in my natty old terry cloth house coat and glued up boots, tears streaming down my face … happier in that cold, cold moment than I had been in many, many years…

When I returned to work later that week, I asked everyone if they were my secret Santa, but no one seemed to know anything. From beneath lowered lids, I surreptitiously watched everyone go by my office for a look, a smile, something to show that someone was keeping a secret from me… but nothing.

To this day, I have no idea who was thinking of me in such a thoughtful way that Christmas. That one gift meant so much to me because I would never have spent money on something as frivolous as mandarin scented soaps for myself,ever,during those times, but more-so, it helped me through what was an exceedingly tough time in my life.

Just knowing that there was someone who cared enough to pay attention to something I had perhaps mentioned casually in conversation over coffee, someone who then took the time to actually bring it over on an early Christmas morning… it left me with hope.

It was an incredible act of selflessness and compassion on the part of the secret Santa. But the funny thing was, and still is, was that I couldn’t ever recall ever mentioning this was my favourite scent to anyone…

I didn’t use that soap for a long time, a couple of years actually, but kept it hidden deep in my bedroom drawers.

When I was feeling hopeless, or having a particularly rough time with my ex, I would steal away upstairs – just for a moment – and sit on the edge of my bed to open the drawers where the soap was safely hidden. The scent of satsuma would suddenly rise to envelop me, flooding all my senses …and it would always give me strength and courage to go on.

To the gift giver, it may have been just soap… but to me it was everything.

 Everything.

The scent remains my favorite, symbolizing the will to go on, survival…renewal, hope… and when I come across that scent again,even for the briefest moment, it overwhelms my soul with joy. I still don’t often spend money on things like that, although I suppose I could. I guess old habits die-hard.

And so as we enter the season that has become so commercialized that we forget the true meaning behind the celebrations,I urge you to re-connect with your loved ones,your neighbours, and even complete strangers in the true spirit of  compassion and love.

Everyone knows a person who is going through a rough time for one reason or another. Maybe they lost their job, maybe they are caring for a sick family member, or maybe they are just always struggling to get ahead.

Christmas can be incredibly hard for those who are dealing with life’s troubles. Do something special for them,keep it secret and supply them with the same faith and hope and memories that I have. It doesn’t have to be costly, just from the heart. You  may never know what a simple gesture may mean to someone else.

But I do.

Peace everyone. Merry Christmas.

“Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence.” ~ unknown.

DSC_0035“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.” ~ The  Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg

The bell never did fall silent to my ears – and yes, I do believe in Santa, more now than when I was a child I suspect – thanks to gifts of love and hope that have come when needed most.

Christmas is the keeping place of memories of our innocence, memories that harken back to a time when our only worry was if Santa really could find out if we’d been good or bad.

 Ahhhh, to be a child again… if only it were that simple as adults… faced with expectations of others, guilt and loneliness in the midst of thousands of shoppers in malls decked commercial sentiments… it’s no wonder the holidays become a tipping point for many.

I opted out of a lot of the ‘expectations of others’ many years ago and it’s been far less stressful ever since. The kids have wonderful presents, yes, Santa never forgets, but there is no excess, Santa is not frivolous and neither are their parents. ; ) I refuse to even participate in the emotional blackmail of others commonly seen at this time of the year -life is too short and love is rare.

 This year in particular, everything has been about conveying the need to be thankful and giving to others, to be generous in spirit, time and love, without attaching dollar signs to any. Love is not a condition of blood relation, some of my closest ‘family’ aren’t people I share blood ties with. Embrace those who come into your life for whatever reason, my experience has been there is always a lesson to be learned or given, good or bad.

Personally, I have so much to be grateful for this year, and despite the ups and downs, it has been a wonderful time of my life, full of growth, change, challenges and opportunities.

I learned that the best memories can’t be anticipated or planned, after a truly epic trip with my daughter to see the Tragically Hip in the middle of one of the most epic lightning storms Vancouver Island has ever seen.  She is brave, fierce, beautiful,stunningly intelligent and how I was ever chosen to be her mother, I don’t know. She planned and paid for the trip, her gift to me on my birthday, her gift to both of us and a gift it was to remember…

I learned that you don’t need to have met a true friend in person, to have them drop everything to come and not only save you, but get you to the above mentioned concert in time, after spending 6 hours on ferries from Vancouver to Victoria…. but also that those friends are the ones that come to your life for a greater purpose. ( David, Brad and Diane )

 Even at my age, there are greater life lessons to be learned…  I learned the difference between real friendship and simply being usefully convenient to people. I learned that following the path I knew was right, would inevitably leave others behind on another trail -not by my own choice, but by theirs when the path was not of their choosing.

I also learned truth always has a cost. Always.

When I began to observe and write about the NDP as critically as I have the Liberals -especially in regards to some really hypocritical actions of the party this year – the backlash from many faithful readers from the left was stunning. And yes, it needs to be said.

The silence in the comments below each post…was deafening.

But they, you, continued to read. Some wrote they were torn, not wanting to split a vote.

Some wrote they were angry at my ‘betrayal’ to the NDP, not seeing my loyalty is my own, to this province –  not any political party, and always has been.

Many more thanked me for speaking out, yet still feared repercussions from party brass – in every party, left to right.

 I carried on, knowing for once with all certainty, my path was before me with crystalline clarity. I’m not, can’t be, loyal to the current system that allows political parties to be influenced by donors …and allows political parties to influence and control their MLA’s. What is right for the voters in each specific riding, is of far greater importance than the political agenda of any party as a whole.To hold elected officials to a party goal that doesn’t align with their constituents, is fraud, pure and simple.

 I hate to be cliche, but it really isn’t about left or right, it’s about doing the right thing for the greater good, regardless of political leaning. The land we inhabit has become a rope in a political game of tug of war where we all stand to lose, and that is why we need electoral change, more independents, more accountability across the board.

Think about it.

For me,it’s about being able to look at yourself in the mirror every morning with a clear conscience – and I am happy to say I can do that every day.

 I don’t need to prove my loyalty to this province, the body of work in these pages speaks for itself. BC Rail, run of the rivers, Enbridge – I was blogging about that back in 2009 – the horrific debt from P3’s that greatly contributes to this provinces debt-load, corruption and backroom deals… you’ll find them all here on these pages, and will continue to do so. I wake every morning with the goal of being the best I can be for that day, and doing the best for all of us.

Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed, but at least I bloody well tried.

Being asked to joining the Huffington Post BC as a political blogger has  been a great opportunity and I was very honoured to have been featured in their launch edition. Despite some hesitation on my part initially – I feel very strongly about telling the entire story without editorial or  corporate influence – there has been nothing but encouragement from my editor to share my stories and to continue to do so in 2013. Considering they allowed me to post a who’s who of Patrick Kinsella’s dealings in a recent post, much to the Liberals detriment, I can’t go wrong… nor can the people of BC.

 It’s a win-win deal for all of us who’ve exhausted ourselves writing about the corruption in this province –  and  moving forward into the coming election, for me,this new platform will prove to be essential to getting the political stories out there on a widely read basis.

With the bulk of a recent, time intensive project behind me, you can look forward to more exclusive, compelling stories in the new year along the lines of those I’ve broken in the past with the assistence of protected sources. My commitment to all of you, and to myself, is to be true to this province as a whole.

The greater good must always come before any political agenda, regardless. Your way might not be my way, but if you live it in truth and honesty, you have my respect for that. It is, without fail, the common ground that binds us all.

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes, from a most selfless soul. And I wish you all, each of you, the best of Christmas. I could not have done all that I do, without you.

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and your God, or your conscience.

  It was never between you and ‘them’… anyway.”

―    Mother Teresa

** I’ll check in now and then over my Christmas break, but won’t be posting. If you find yourself looking for something to read, why not check out the wide variety of blog posts from the Huffington Post BC’s, best blogs of 2012, where I come in at #12 with this post . From parenting to politics, environment to money,there is something for everyone.

If you are a newer reader, hop on over the Best Of page to get yourself up to speed on some of the stories behind this Liberal government, check out my past Huffington post Blogs or check out my blog roll on the side to hook yourself up with some of my favourite bloggers!

Merry Christmas!

Santas team caught in the act.

BC Government denies cancelling gifts for kids in care

A joint effort today, proving that when the going gets tough… the bloggers get going!  It started with a really pointed post at The Gazetteer, picked up over with the  indomitable Ian Reids, continued with a new tip and email here on my site and was carried on over at Norm’s….

And the Ministry of Children and Families denies everything, which is a good thing because we wouldn’t want any kids at risk, anywhere, to go without a little something.

Right?

 

My latest post for Huffington Post BC :

B.C. Government Denies Cancelling Christmas Gifts For Kids In Care

Two precious gifts – one of hope… the other of healing.

As I wrote last weekend, in the annual re-post of ” A gift from the heart “ – the story of how an anonymous Christmas gift provided me with something far more precious than soap – the most valuable gifts are always ones given from the heart.

Little did I know, when I posted that story, that it would lead to another precious gift, this one of healing – and not just my own.

I met Priscilla Judd last year after she emailed to ask if I would cover the Lumby prison story. I did – yet another  story of politicians behaving badly – and forged a friendship with this feisty piano-tuner/songwriter/artist/ activist. And talented she is, composing and recording the alternative Canadian anthem that shook many Canadians to the core across the nation this year, when she released the video that was shared by thousands, from sea to shining sea.

When Priscilla messaged me on facebook last weekend, telling me how much the story moved her and asking if she might use it as the theme for a new song, I was quite surprised. Of course, I agreed,noting a certain… feeling in her statement  “…your words are unforgettable.”

I woke early this morning, as I usually do, grabbed my morning cup of coffee and sat down to do my morning rounds on the net. I was checking emails, when I saw an email from Priscilla with the simple subject line:  ‘song lyrics’.

I clicked on it, began to read… and the tears began to flow so unexpectedly, absolutely uncontrollably, that I doubled over, hands over my mouth. Taking a breath and clicking through my tears, I opened the MP3 file of her recording, and the tears began again,hearing her tears as she sang the story of my past… and more.

5:30 am, on 12-12-12,  more than decade and a lifetime since ” the gift” of fragrant soaps carried me through darkness – there I was sobbing at my desk, this time a gift of healing, a gift from one friends heart to another, my story to hers… and soon.. hers to mine.

It was as if her lyrics had unleashed thousands of pounds of baggage and pain, neither of which I was aware I even carried until that moment, this morning.

Over many emails we shared our tears, our gratitude.. and finally, Priscilla shared the reason my story struck her so very hard…

“… the bars all close on Christmas day… So ‘santa’ drops in to sleep… but before that day…

It was a couple of weeks before Christmas – I was attending alanon by then, it was a couple of weeks before my third child was born.

I had no coat that fit – I zipped it from the top down belly outside and I had Dr Scholls sandals cuz my feet were so swollen. I wore bare feet in the sandals even in the snow (I hated wet socks). I was standing in front of the shoe store looking at the boots. A stranger came up to me and asked if I was Priscilla (Roe at that time) I said yes and she handed me an envelope and said that someone wanted me to have this Christmas card.

I was happy – I thanked her – I looked around – I knew no one – she walked off and I started opening the card… $50

Tears came down so hard and my two baby girls just looked at me – they were about 2 and 8 months. Anyway – I bought food for Christmas including oranges for the girls.

I was barefoot when I went to the hospital to have the baby… ‘He’ had a job!

I wore my old shoes after my baby son was born and my feet were smaller.  Oh Laila it’s heartbreaking how women can be so strong.

Sorry I’m crying at the end of the song. Gord says we can record it again if it disturbs you.  There now, I’ve shared my story with you. I sing for you and me and all the women – all of us – I love you so much – thank you for making our world brighter.”

And damn if I’m not crying again as I write this but I can’t help it. It’s just wrong, so damn wrong that this happens, that this happened to Priscilla.

It’s easy to sit and judge and say:  “Well, you could have left, no one made you stay.” – which, by the way, people have said to myself, and other women. But unless you’ve been there, unless you know what it’s like firsthand, you don’t, can’t really know… and here she’s thanking me, when it is I who is so thankful, grateful to have her and others like her in my life, for their strength and courage.. and… well, there aren’t enough words to describe my gratitude.

That’s why this song Priscilla wrote, born of my Christmas story, is about more than her, or I – it’s about all women, she sings, the souls of those we cannot see…. and love,hope and acts of kindness so random yet so vital to our humanity. Sometimes our angels walk among us. They are us, each of us, and we can be something more to another, if only we reach out and forget what everything we’ve been taught about minding our own business.

I considered myself so lucky to get one precious gift in this life from another, it is a miracle to have had another come my way at such a different, happier, point in my life.

Thank you Priscilla. Thank you.

http://www.gordonandpriscillajudd.ca/blog/?page_id=499

Who’s been naughtiest in B.C. Politics?

 

Huffpostheadline

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/laila-yule/santas-naughty-list-bc-liberals_b_2252877.html

“The holiday season is here and children everywhere are writing to Santa, hoping that they haven’t made the naughty list. It turns out that it’s not only children who should be worried this year! I received a tip recently from a source in the North Pole and Santa is more than a little upset with the B.C. Liberals…

In fact, he said and I quote : “Why can’t they seem to get it right when it comes to all the most vulnerable children?”

Shameful truth be told, my source indicates that Santa has received more letters from children living in poverty in B.C. over the last 9 years,than anywhere else in Canada – and he’s not too happy about that.

In fact,my source indicated Santa’s been taking a good hard look at who’s been particularly naughty this year and has already ordered a rail car full of B.C. coal ! He still needed some help to decide who’s been naughtiest of all when it comes to politics in B.C. and I was more than happy to assist!

The Top 5 Naughty List in B.C. Politics

5)  Richard Butler, the lawyer representing the province in the Basi- Virk indemnity case who just filed a new affidavit that details how the earlier affidavit he filed was false.

Despite being a lawyer for many years, and knowing full well the penalty for perjury in the court, he now admits he “mis-stated” his original affidavit, claiming a faulty memory when it came to declaring if our government actually had detailed billing when it came to Basi and Virks lawyers…all very crucial information about the plea deal given to the two men which many believe, was in exchange for their silence.

When a lawyer ‘forgets’ and files false statements on behalf of the government ,whose been stonewalling their own auditor general who just wants the truth , that’s huge. Naughty naughty naughty. Not just coal for his stocking, but some Ginkgo Biloba in 1000mg tablets to help with his memory.

4) Bill Bennett.

To be brutally honest, I seriously thought Wild Bill must have fallen off of his quad, and was suffering a head injury after I heard him accusing NDP MLA Jagrup Brar of being infatuated with Communist Cuba!  Seriously, one of the craziest statements ever made by any politician, but even more so for a ‘top lieutenant’ in Christy Clarks election readiness team. Bill later had a sock stuffed in his mouth and was sent back out to the mountains, where his mouth couldn’t do any more harm.

3) Colin Hanson.

The man instrumental in the mess of lies and deceit behind the HST debacle – for that alone he’ll be getting a truck load of coal – has jumped from the frying pan, into the fire.

After announcing he wouldn’t be running for MLA again, he announced he would however, take on the role of deputy campaign manager for the BC Liberals in the 2013 election. Seriously? Seriously? You want to actually help this bunch of bungling,unethical politicians get re-elected? Oh, Colin, Santa isn’t going to like that, but maybe he’ll bring you a pair of hip-waders for all the crap you’re going to wading through next year…

2) Rich Coleman.

It’s really getting predictable that when the shit hits the fan,you can usually find Rich Coleman getting his raincoat on. Where do I begin? How about with one of his biggest backers, Patrick Kinsella, whose name seems to go hand in hand with backroom deals for the BC Liberals?

Coleman been very naughty this year, recently in the news for some downright unethical deals and donations between a BC brewer and his office, that resulted in some tax policy changes that.. surprise surprise.. would benefit the brewer to the tune of millions.

Story breaks, words get tossed around like special prosecutor and of course.. ” it was all just a misunderstanding” Sure. Just like bullying a potential candidate for his party into signing a letter he didn’t want to sign was too…

1) Christy Clark.

Without a doubt, Clark takes the number one spot on my naughty list, and it sure doesn’t have anything to do with her dubious appearance on the National Posts Vixens in Vancouver list… thanks to Ian Reid for that one. Stay tuned for a new pilot on Fox next year : “Premier on the Prowl “- grrrowwl !

Unfortunately, the still unelected premier has made a mockery of democracy by refusing to call an election early and get a mandate from the voters – something she promised while campaigning for the Liberal leadership.

Follow that with an endless stream of artificial photo ops, bad press and poor decisions, and you have one big reason female voters don’t like her. Whether its claiming  false job creation numbers,or claiming tough times and tightened belts, then spending $15 million on ads ,everything she says is contrived gibberish.

She has government workers on an attack site on the public dime, gone on a spending spree on the public dime, and goes through staff like some people go through tissues.

I think the people of B.C. would agree: Santa, instead of that good old B.C. coal, how about sending her one nicely wrapped reality check?

Happy Holidays, and I’d love to see your  political choices for Santa’s naughty list!

One from the archives,to get into the spirit of Christmas… ” A gift from the heart.”

As an adult, I think I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the festive lights, the excitement of seeing my children enjoy the holidays, get-togethers and all the cooking…but I  really, really hate the commercialization, obligation and fake sentiment that also seems to have come to accompany the entire season. How did we, as a society, become so shallow and self-absorbed that what is for some, a very sacred time of year, has been reduced to how much you spend on gifts to prove your love or affection ? And what kind of gift is one given out of a feeling of forced obligation, rather than the spirit of love and generosity? Not one I want. Save your cash.

For me, gift giving has never been about how much the gift costs, but about what is special to the person receiving it, and the intent of the person giving it.  I would like to share a story with you that will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I hope, yours.

One Christmas in particular, I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a gift that came from the heart of someone I  must have known – but someone whose identity still remains a mystery over 10 years later.

It was  two years before I left my abusive ex- husband, and money was very tight. At the time he wasn’t working and I was the only income earner, and my credit cards were getting maxed out trying to keep the family afloat. I didn’t share how bad things were with anyone at work , or my friends, but those who cared obviously could see how hard I was trying to keep it all together.

 Looking  back at photos taken that year, the stress shows clearly on my face in every one. As most parents do, or have done, I  would always go without to make sure the kids had what they needed, but that year I was actually gluing the soles back onto my winter boots, and doubling up sweaters instead of buying a winter coat  to make sure Santa arrived Christmas morning.

Christmas did arrive on a cold Saturday morning, and the kids were not disappointed. They were playing with their presents when I finally moved around the house to open the curtains to a new day, and as I pulled back the drapes on my dining room window, I saw a basket on the railing of the patio fence outside.

Totally surprised, I grabbed my house coat and ran outside. There before me, nestled in the snow on the railing,was a brightly decorated basket with my name on it. I looked around, but could see no one. It had not been there long, because it remained untouched by the sparkling  diamond frost that covered every surface, and I could see fresh foot prints in my garden leading to the fence. In puzzled excitement, I ran back inside the house to see what it was, and who it was from.

I sat down alone at the dining room table, slowly taking in the lovely wrapping and ribbons. As I pulled back the tissue paper that encased the contents, the sweet smell of  satsuma mandarin orange wafted from the basket, hit my nostrils, and overwhelmed my battered soul.

 Inside, were three, jewel like bars of  soap from The Body Shop, in my favorite fragrance. I held each one in my hands as if they were the most precious gems, with tears trickling down my face, wondering who would do such a nice thing for me.I took every single piece of tissue paper out,looking for a clue, but there was no card; only a gift tag with my name written on it in handwriting I did not recognize.

Suddenly overwhelmed by the sheer grace of this most cherished gift, I ran outside again and looked around in the snow, thinking another card must have fallen off. I followed the footprints back to the curb where someone had obviously gotten back into their car, but nothing. No clues, no names, only me – standing there alone Christmas morning on the sidewalk in front of my house, oblivious to the curious stares of passers-by, in my natty old house coat and glued up boots, tears streaming down my face … happier in that cold moment than I had been in many, many years.

When I returned to work later that week, I asked everyone if they were my secret Santa, but no one  knew anything. From beneath lowered lids, I surreptitiously watched everyone go by my office for a look, a smile, something to indicate someone was keeping a secret from me… but nothing.

 To this day, I have no idea who was thinking of me in such a thoughtful way that Christmas. That one gift meant so much to me because I would never have spent money on something as frivolous as mandarin scented soaps for myself, and it helped me through what was a very tough time in my life. Just knowing that there was someone who cared enough to pay attention to something I had perhaps mentioned casually in conversation over coffee, someone who then took the time to  actually bring it over on an early Christmas morning… it left me with faith. It was an incredible act of selflessness and compassion on the part of the secret Santa.

 I didn’t use that soap for a long time, but kept it in my drawers.

When I was feeling hopeless, or having a particularly rough time with my ex, I would steal away upstairs – just for a moment – and sit on the edge of my bed to open the drawers where the soap was safely hidden. The fragrance of  satsuma mandarin would suddenly rise to envelop me ,flooding all my senses and it would always give me strength and hope to go on.

To them it was just nice soap, but to me it was everything.

 Everything.

The scent remains my favorite, symbolizing the will to go on,survival… and whenever I come across that scent again,even for the briefest moment, it again overwhelms my soul with joy. I still don’t spend money on things like that, although I suppose I could. I guess old habits die-hard.

And so, as we enter the season that has become so commercialized that we forget the true meaning behind the celebrations,I urge you to re-connect with your loved ones,your neighbours, and complete strangers, in the true spirit of  compassion and love. Forget about all the expectations of expensive gifts and costly parties, and show your love in another way.

Host a holiday potluck where everyone brings a dish that has particular significance among their family,and ask them to share that memory with all.

Toast the traditions of  our older generations that perhaps did not have the basic luxuries so many of us do, that we often take for granted.

Play secret Santa and give a gift from the heart – anonymously- to someone whom you know could really use it.

Everyone knows a person who is going through a rough time for one reason or another. Maybe they lost their job, maybe they are caring for a sick family member, or maybe they are just always struggling to get ahead. Christmas can be incredibly hard for those who are dealing with life’s troubles. Do something special for them,keep it secret and supply them with the same faith and hope and memories that I have. It doesn’t have to be costly, just from the heart. You  may never know what a simple gesture may mean to someone else.

But I do.

Peace everyone.

Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)

It’s 6 am, and as I usually do, even when I’m ill, I’m sitting downstairs at my office armoire in front of the computer.  It’s still dark out, of course, and only the glow of the Christmas lights and the small light above my desk are on, giving a glow that warms the room like candle-light. I slept well last night, thanks to some prescription cough syrup that contains codeine that effectively shut off my cough for a good 6 hours, the first 6 hours in a week, at least. 6 down, another 120 to catch up on…

On the desk tops around me are 4 large, old photo albums, the oldest dating back to the seventies. Within them lies one half of my heritage and history, from my mother’s side. When my grandmother began her slow journey to death several years ago, she entrusted all the family photo albums to me to avoid having her two daughters fight over them.  The motive was not one of dedication, but one of preservation, and although I balked at being placed in this position initially, I knew that in my family, it was the only option.

Looking through these weathered old photos fills me with bittersweet emotion at Christmas . As with all families, dynamics change with time.  People change, grow older, some die, some get divorced,  people get married, babies are born, and life happens. The changes are here, documented for all to see, for all time. And because of all those changes that have left my family somewhat disjointed, it has become particularly important to me as I raise my own children, to initiate and preserve whatever sense of tradition there is. We’ve started our own, and yes, even those rituals have changed over the years as our situations and family has changed. This year, it is particularly moving to see my older two really ‘get’ the experience of seeing Christmas through the eyes of small children- the wonder of Christmas lights, the excitement of Santa, the eager joy for goodies that only appear once a year.  I feel blessed to be able to experience all of their collective excitement while I am so young.

But, over the years as an adult, I have also learned that family is what you make it, as life is what you make it. Life, love and family are not gifts to be taken for granted, as so many people do. Sometimes you can’t get it back once it is gone, and often you only get one chance to say what you want.

That’s why I wanted to take a special moment to thank all of you for the gifts you have given me over this last year. You’ve shared your thoughts, your opinions, your knowledge and sometimes your pain, and I appreciate every single moment. There are many of you who help me behind the scenes, with tips and information that has led to some really compelling posts and revelations, and because of that, I consider this blog to be a group effort. Each of you makes this possible. I’ve always strived to be true to myself here on these pages, and true to all of you, in the sharing of knowledge and information, and ask the same from all of you.  I remember  reading somewhere that fact and truth are seperate, and occasionally the facts will obscur the truth. That certainly has proven to be true on many stories.

 It’s an amazing world, isn’t it ? It has been said thay we live in a time where technology has exceeded our humanity,but I disagree.

It is because of technology that – although we are all separated by space , time and circumstance – all of you, and I, are able to gather here to meet beyond those  once difficult barriers. And it is also because of this technology that we are joined  to share our pains, losses and joys and  that we have once again begun to appreciate the humanity in others. In that respect,i t is not unreal to imagine us a global family, all of you and I. We are, and will continue to be the best of what we have to offer others. And I offer you the best of my heart and mind.

I wish each and every one of you the very best Christmas , and I hope you all enjoy the holiday in the best way you can. May you find the true spirit of purpose and faith in your heart, whatever that may be for you. 

In that spirit, here is my gift to all of you:  I found the original video of Baz Lurmann reciting Everybody’s Free ( To wear Sunscreen), on Youtube. I can’t think of a better way to find some perspective on what is truly important at Christmas.

  Enjoy, and Merry Christmas everyone! You make make it all worthwhile…

If you love your teens,watch this with them.

I met Greg Drew back in 2007 when I won the CKNW Talk Show Idol contest on CKNW 980. He was kind enough to join me on the final show to share with listeners his nightmare- one that is many parents worst fear. That call in the night, the policeman at your door.

Never has one persons story affected me so deeply, and with  such lasting impact.  His son Jay died as a result of a motor vehicle accident  in which excessive speed was a factor. I visited Greg at his home that in Langley before the show, and I touched the car Jay was trapped in so completely that to this day his shoes remain wedged under the dash. So imbedded are they, that it is not possible to remove them without cutting the remains of the vehicle apart. Greg now uses the wreck, as well as his story, in a presentation that he would like to bring to all highschools in BC. He can be contacted through his site: www.jammin4jay.com.

 I watched this grown man cry in anguish  during the show and at his home, and his pain was tangible as I hugged him in farewell. It left me chilled.

 As most of you know, my daughter graduates this year, and I have a 15 year old son as well,who will be learning to drive next summer. As we enter the holiday season, and get closer to graduation festivities, I would urge all of you to sit and watch this short video with your teens beside you.

It is powerful and it is exceedingly sad, and it will leave an impact on both of you.