In the home stretch…

Here it is, the last week of the month. Heck, it’s also the last week of the year! Only a few more days and my blogging challenge for December will be done. No worries now, just because I’m in the home stretch to meet the challenge, doesn’t mean I’ll stop blogging anytime soon; in fact, I think I’m going to keep at it because I know I can do it. Sure, I chose an easy month with two theatre shows to write about, and a major holiday, but that doesn’t mean anything, the biggest thing I learned is that when you set your mind to something, you can achieve it.

Being as I’m writing about coming to the finish line, I found a graphic that I looked at once, then twi1ce, then really liked it for the picture and for the great advice it gives: It’s not how you start that’s important; it’s how you finish. When I was in track and field in high school, I remember our coach saying, “start the race strong; don’t worry if you get a little weak in the middle; but make darn for certain sure that you finish the race strong.” That’s kind of how this month has felt. It started strong and I felt good being able to write something everyday; then, the middle of the month hit, work was very busy and I got home feeling weak, but now with all the madness of the holiday behind me, I’m feeling very strong as I look down the road to the end of the week and the finish line.

We can actually use the same strategy for every day of our lives. Start it strong. Set your goal. Let the pressures of the day push you to keep moving, and make sure you finish strong.Every goal we set is achievable if we want it to be. The interesting thing I kept saying to myself when reading the last four words, it’s how you finish, is that how you finish is determined by whether you finish at all. The happiest thing for me this month is that even when I didn’t think I could do it, I drove myself on and kept at it. What ever goal you set for yourself, just know that you can get it, but you can’t give up, and the greatest feeling is being able to see that finish line in front of you.


Boxing day…and no boxing was done!!

The chaos is officially over. At least until next year. No more Bing Crosby White Christmas, no more Elvis Presley Blue Christmas. All the horribly redone Christmas carols are no longer blaring in every store you visit. Heck, they’re even starting to put out the spring stuff; so not only can you get a 7 foot high cashmere Christmas Tree for 50% off, you can already get a head start on what kind of garden gnome or gazebo you’re gonna put in the backyard.

1So, back in my home country of Canada, December 26th was Boxing Day. And I honestly have to say, that after 30 years of living in the frozen tundra of the north, I still have absolutely NO idea what the heck Boxing Day is all about. Wikipedia has defined it as: a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their masters, employers or customers, in the United Kingdom, The Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other former British colonies. Yeah, sure I’ve heard that is the day when people commonly take boxes and stuff back, but then, most retailers will tell you that every day is boxing day since people just don’t return stuff on December 26th. They even tried to turn December 26th into a Boxing Day holiday and have the stores remain closed; that worked for all of like one year since everyone just got bent out of shape and renamed December 27th the day after Boxing Day. It was a vicious cycle, and fortunately, some genius convinced the rest to just let December 26th be the official Boxing Day or before you know it, Boxing Day would have become the day after Canada Day, and returning Christmas stuff in July is well, just plain silly.

Secretly, all us kids were hoping that Boxing Day would be just the picture on the left; a day of Boxing. One year, my friends and I decided that instead of a snowball fight on December 26th, we were going to have a Boxing Day Snowball Fight, which basically consisted of taking a bunch of snowballs and putting them in a box, then you just tossed the whole box instead of just the individual snowballs. Silly, yes, but it was sure fun. It stopped of course when the boxes began to resemble bomber planes.

1But in the end, it was Canada’s national sport that took care of our desire for boxing on Boxing Day. The NHL decided to broadcast at least one hockey game on the Canadian networks, and they timed it well so that the game started right after the Boxing Day dinner feast! Granted, there was some football on that day as well, but nothing beats a good boxing match during a hockey game!

One year on Boxing Day, my dad got both me and him a pair of boxing gloves and figured we could have a boxing day of our own. Well, I always sucked at boxing and when he was whopping the heck out of me,  I begged and said, “how about we just watch the Leaf hockey game instead?” The boxing gloves got hung up once and for all and we just became content to watch the hockey players get mad and box the heck out of each other on national television instead.


Maybe Christmas…perhaps…does in fact mean a little bit more!

1It’s a great line, and short of all those great lines that Charles Dickens wrote for Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, this line from How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the best line for the season. I hope that Dr. Seuss won’t be upset if I change that line just a tad to “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…does in fact mean a little bit more!”

This Christmas was very different.  A change in life had me spending it in a completely different way than ever before. In the beginning, I was sad about it. I didn’t embrace the fun and the spirit of the season quite the same way. But, as the last part of the quote goes, “means a little bit more!”, that right there is the absolute truth. It really doesn’t come from a store, and isn’t all wrapped up in a great big present. Christmas is about the peace and joy that lives in our hearts this time of year, no matter what religion we follow.  While I didn’t get nearly as many physical presents as last year, it hit me as I drove home that I did in fact, get more presents than I thought. See, I spent the day in the company of dear friends who welcomed me into their home and treated me like their own family. Then afterwards, I spent a few hours with my own extended relatives and came home feeling more filled with the spirit than ever before. The few presents I received this year came right from the heart of those who gave them to me, and the warmth of their smiles and hearts showed me that it’s not about how much loot you bring home that’s important, the real loot is what’s in your heart.

The love of Christmas made the Grinch’s heart grow 3 sizes, and even changed an old skinflint like Ebenezer Scrooge into a better man; and that is my wish for everyone, I hope love, peace and happiness fill your heart, just like it did to mine!


The night Santa got busted!

“Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,” Scrooge replied, “in fact, he died seven years ago this very day.” Ebeneezer Scrooge said those words on Christmas Eve to two gentlemen who had come to his office looking for a donation, and asked if he was Scrooge or Marley. I’m referencing it because something happened to me on Christmas Eve many years ago. The story is a true rib-tickler, so please, grab a glass of Christmas cheer and read on…

I’m sure posting this will secure my application to the Scrooge Fan Club and have me successfully booted from 2the Santa Claus Seekers Club. I’m also sure that my name is being stricken from the Nice List and has been forever engraved on the Naughty List. Yeah, sure, it’s good to be on the Nice list, but the folks on the Naughty list do have more fun heckling the folks of the Nice list.

I spent the first few years of my life patiently waiting for Santa Claus at Christmas hoping that by some magical act, if I was good for a whole three hundred and sixty-five days (which was like, literally impossible for me), that I would get every toy and piece of loot I asked for. It happened on this very Christmas Eve night thirty-six years ago when I was eleven years old that Santa got busted. The gig was up. The fairy tale was a fairy tale no more. Reality set in, and it was harsh to a kid who wore those ugly Christmas sweaters thinking it would score me a few extra brownie points with the fat bearded guy in the red suit. It’s funny, everything happened to Scrooge in one night, and everything happened to me in one night. It all began with me taking my stocking to the fireplace to fulfill the line “hung their stockings by the chimney with care”; thing is, we had just moved into a new house and there was no fireplace, or chimney to hang my stocking with care! I remember the conversation like it took place yesterday, with me running up to my dad screaming, “Dad! Dad! Where’s the chimney? How the heck am I gonna hang my stocking up? OH MY GOSH!!!! What if Santa comes down the chimney and falls straight into the furnace and burns up into a pile of festive ashes because we have no fireplace opening?!” This was the year my dad was waiting for, because he just decided to play it cool and calm and replied, “Son, Santa won’t be coming down the chimney this year. He’s just going to knock and come through the front door like a normal person.” Shock and pure panic came over me as I looked around and said, “Where the heck is he going to park the sleigh and the reindeer then?” My dad, loving every second of it by this point got all calm again and said, “Well, we just shoveled the driveway so he’ll have to park out in the street because I’ll punch him right in the head if he gets snow and reindeer hoof markings on my freshly shoveled driveway.” A few minutes later, my dad caught me in the basement looking at the flames burning in the furnace. “How is he gonna get past those flames to bring me my toys?” I whimpered feeling every bit of my hopes slipping away. It was time, so my dad then sat me on his knee and told me the whole story. He even showed me how his writing, and the writing that Santa left on my milk and cookie letters looked alarmingly the same. Santa was officially busted. The story was a fake, and my favorite Christmas cartoon forever changed from Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, to, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. “I just don’t know how I’m gonna get through Christmas now.” I said sulkingly. It was at this point that my dad introduced me to what would become my drink of choice, Crown Royal. He took his ol’ bottle, poured a smidgen shot, and let me have it. As I winced from the burn, he said, “Crown Royal is my drink of choice; and that, my dear son, is how I get through Christmas.”

Growing up, Christmas Eve night was spent at my grandparents house. My dear grandmother spared no shots and put out the most incredible meal ever! We would have dinner, then my grandfather would mystically “disappear” into his workshop and suddenly, we’d hear a bell ring signaling that ol’ Kris Kringle had come and decorated the tree and left some loot. Now usually when we arrived, the partition door from the kitchen to the living room was already drawn so we couldn’t see the living room. Well, that year, with the Christmas world tumbling down faster than an avalanche on a mountainside, that story changed as well. We came in the house, and the partition had not been drawn, so I got a straight on view of the tree. It was already decorated and everything. “Hey Mom!” I bellowed pointing to the living room, “I thought Kris Kringle was supposed to decorate the tree? What’s going on??!!” Now it was my mom’s turn; and she was not going to let this one pass by. “Oh Mike!” she said trying desperately hard not to laugh, “You didn’t honestly believe all that stuff did you?” I looked back and forth for a minute trying to seem like the soon-to-be-well-informed teenager, then stuttered out, “Well…no…no…of course not!” Give her a ton of credit, she saw my despair, bolted over to me and gave me a hug and a sip from her wine glass. “You’ve become a grown up today.” she said with a smile. I’ll give both my mom and dad credit, it took the edge off of every Christmas from then on.

Although Santa and his nonsense got busted that year, a few great things did happen. Crown Royal became my drink of choice as well as my dad’s; my sister told me that if I ever wore another ugly Christmas sweater again that she was going to personally kick me out of a plane down into the middle of the North Pole and leave me there for my own good; and my mom showed me that if you leave unwanted Christmas cookies outside overnight in the freezing Canadian cold, that they will freeze solid and can be used for backup hockey pucks the whole year through!



Pretty lights!

The Big Day is just about here, and you can see it everywhere! The stores are packed; subdivisions are full of cars with out of town license plates; airline flights are getting delayed or canceled, and you’re lucky if you can find an open1 register at the grocery store. The one thing I noticed tonight more so than before is all the pretty lights that are up! Yeah, I know, I probably should get out more since some people already have their lights up since Thanksgiving, but tonight, there were lights on every house I passed. Some houses were simply decorated, while others were decked out from top to bottom. One house I passed, attracts people from all around just to come and see it.

Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see when Christmas lights actually came about. According to Wikipedia, on December 22, 1882, Edward H. Johnson, an associate inventor of Thomas Edison, was the first to display a tree with red, white and blue incandescent light bulbs the size of walnuts at his home in New York City. Since electric lights were so expensive, it wasn’t until 1930 that lights became the major replacement for candles. The first tree lighted by electric lights at the White House was in 1895 when President Grover Cleveland proudly sponsored and displayed one. McAdenville, NC claimed to have the first instance of Christmas lights displayed outside when the McAdenville Men’s Club came up with the idea of decorating a few trees around the McAdenville Community Center; and although the Rockefeller Christmas Tree has had “lights” since 1931, it wasn’t until 1956 when real lights were put on the iconic tree. By the 1960’s, it had become common to outline a house (known as tract houses) with Christmas lights. Last year I even had a customer come into the Christmas section of the store with a layout of their front yard on their iPhone and start planning where everything was going to go and how many lights they would need.

The houses decked out with lights are sure pretty, but there’s one thing I wouldn’t want to see…the power bill for the house when the holidays are over! 🙂


A Christmas story

Just another story I found on my flash drive. I don’t know when I wrote it, or where I submitted it to.

Oh well, it’s still a nice one to share…

Merry Christmas, Alice!” the bus driver said to the lady as she dropped a few coins in the fare box and made sure the tote bags cleared the doors as they closed. “Merry Christmas, Bob! They’ve got you working late tonight?” Alice smiled shuffling into a seat stowing the tote bags safely under her feet. “Yeah, but I get off in an hour. Hey, who was that you were talking to back there?” Bob asked spinning the wheel of the bus as it turned onto 34th Street. “I don’t know Bob; she just pushed this in my bag and was off like a shot” Alice replied inspecting the manila envelope. “Well, all I know is that your peeps are gonna love you for the meal you’ll be making for them!” Bob laughed looking at the tote bags that had now fallen open showing all the cans and packages of food inside. “Well, all of us at the shelter want to do what we can for the ones we love who are less fortunate than us” Alice smiled pinning the Christmas broach on the sweater she wore under her torn up coat. “Where are you going when your shift is over?“ Alice asked starting to open the envelope. “Oh, just home to eat alone. It just hasn’t been the same since I lost my wife last year” Bob said falling into a moment of silence. Tears welled up in her eyes as she opened the envelope wide enough to see a wad of money and a note inside which read, “I’ve seen you come to this stop often and know who you are. See, I was one of the people you sheltered last year, and because of you I’ve been able to get back on my feet. Please use my gift to make someone else’s life better just like you did mine. Merry Christmas!”

The bus reached Alice’s stop. Bob stopped the bus and helped Alice get the bags to the door of the shelter. Alice followed Bob as he got back on the bus, put the envelope in his hands and said “Merry Christmas Bob. Don’t be alone tonight.” Alice hurried off the bus and took the tote bags full of food into the shelter. Happy shouts from the people inside greeted her.

Alice and her volunteers put out a fabulous Christmas feast. “All we’re missing is a turkey” Alice said to a few people who were around her. “I believe I can take care of that” Alice heard from a booming voice behind her. She turned around to see Bob dressed in a Santa suit with a huge fully cooked turkey. “It wouldn’t be right for me to eat alone, especially for the gift you gave me. So here, my gift to you…and all of you!” Bob bellowed out adding the turkey to the table full of food.

With dinner finished, Alice flipped on the TV and chuckled when the movie, A Miracle on 34th Street came on. “What’s so funny?” Bob asked sipping a glass of soda. “Well Bob,” Alice replied with a smile, “A Miracle on 34th Street is about a miracle. The shelter here is on 34th Street, and tonight, because of one person’s gift, we just experienced a miracle too!”


Give ’em a hug!

Yikes! I missed a post. Granted I put one up early Sunday morning when I had a bit of insomnia, but I had originally planned to put one up when I got home Sunday night, BUT, I do have an excuse. When I got home, it was very late and all I wanted to do is go to bed. I have a part time job in retail, and as we know, all stores are open late…very late. While working, I did two things: the first was at 9pm, when I did what the A Christmas Carol cast and crew do every year at the end of the run; I went outside and gazed up at the star filled sky and took in a breath of the cold crispy December air; and the other thing happened at around 10:30pm, when I realized it was only myself and Janice, the manager on duty, who were left in the store. I’ve heard a few of my friends who work in retail, or have spouses who work in retail, bellyache about what a proverbial pain the butt this time of year is since we retail workers spend our lives working in our stores incredibly late while everyone else is out enjoying the holiday merriment. Last night, Janice sprung for pizza around 8:00 and when I asked her why we were getting pizza so late, she simply answered, “we deserve it.”

Something must have been in the air last night, because every customer I served with a smile either wished me the happiest Christmas, shook my hand, or, in the case an older lady, came around the counter and gave me a hug. I was stunned and just had to ask why she did that. “You retail people put up with so much. You get ordered around and yelled at by customers, a hug, just to show what a great job you do is the least a thankful customer can do.” People have tipped me a few dollars for getting heavy furniture into the back of their vehicles, but this sweet old lady made me feel really appreciated for the first time in a long time.

I don’t just say this because I work in retail, but next time you’re in a store, particularly over the next few days leading up to the Big Day, treat the person who serves you (especially the post office workers who have got it toughest of all) with a bit of kindness…heck, give ’em a hug even…well, okay, only if it’s someone you know…hugging a total stranger might have them summoning store security! 🙂 Believe me, they will really appreciate it! For some, retail is their living; it’s how they put food on the table, and it isn’t easy keeping a smile while doing everything to keep customers happy. We try to be kind, and only expect the same in return.

Oh yeah, and be sure to wish them a happy holiday…you can be sure they do their best to make sure your holiday is happy too!