Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Around The Kitchen Table

Around my kitchen table last night after the supper was cleared ensued an interesting and quite ambiguous discussion regarding gift giving. My youngest was distraught as a friend had spent more than she on the gifts they had exchanged. We discussed the time and thought which was put into the gifts, and concluded that they were of equal ‘value’. That all being said, she still felt she needed to buy another gift to make up for the monetary discrepancy. This saddened me.

Try as I might to teach my girls that money does not equal value – nor does it necessarily provide for the valuable gifts – the media, society, and our culture dictates loud and clear that money matters. That the dollar value is of import. That bigger is better. That love and respect can be bought. Moreover, that you can make someone happy by spending a certain amount of money on them. The challenge is to keep your values in place.

This time of year certainly tests our values. We find ourselves caught up in pleasing others, pleasing everyone. We get caught up in impressing people; most times the wrong people. We get caught up in the hype. We do this to the point of going into extreme debt both financially and emotionally. Sigh.

Time to watch ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ again. And we did. While watching and attempting not to drift off to sleep as is my habit, I reflected back to my childhood Christmas’. I honestly remember that everyone always got more presents that I – I was a tragic figure. However, I clearly remember just wanting family around the kitchen table having a great dinner and spending time together – that was all I wanted for Christmas.

Give me a quiet Christmas (as quiet as can be expected with a house full of girls), some great food and wine, those silly paper hats and surround me with those I truly love…

This will be a Merry Christmas for me; my best wishes to all of you.

Peace in your heart and peace in mine.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The great Christmas tree debate...

This past weekend the girls and I ventured out on our annual search for ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ tree. On our way to a friends Christmas tree farm, we enjoyed the music of Vince Guaraldi in the aforementioned special. We reminisced about watching Charlie Brown and Linus on their pursuit to find the perfect tree only to find a myriad of aluminum, pre-decorated take-it-home-Christmas-will-be-perfect trees. Alas, lo and behold, there was one lonely, sparse pathetic tree just waiting to be loved; now known as the proverbial ‘Charlie Brown Christmas tree’. We have made the search for it our annual adventure.

Upon arriving at the farm, we walked through the trails, found what looked like the best tree top and cut it down. That is, we cut the top down. I like this particular farm as the policy is to cut the top of a tree thus allowing it to re-grow. I am ever aware of the environment and my contribution to its preservation. That being said, I am ever aware that I want a REAL tree. I suppose admitting that prevents me from qualifying for true tree hugging hippie credibility. I do not aspire to that fastidious status – if I did I would likely have a ‘living tree’, but I am getting off tree topic.

Real tree or not to be? - that is the question. Or in terms of consumerism – does one buy a real tree or an artificial tree?

Personally, I believe these artificial plastic mutants are sucking the spirit out of Christmas; further, the list of chemicals and toxins involved pose significant hazards to consumers. Allow yourself a little research time and you will reconsider even touching the thing (side note – assembly is required) let alone inviting your children to help decorate; and then there is the issue of those hungry tree eating pets…

OK, maybe I am a wee bit over the top here, especially considering the hypocrisy involved – yes, I own one of these spirit suckers myself. That being said, it is in the original box, is like new, in excellent shape and listed on kijiji, craigslist and any other free classifieds I could get at. I can’t sell it. But I can try and give it away.

My advice, “get real”. Should you or someone you know choose to go the artificial route and are in need of a 6.5 foot sable fir, let me know. I might be tempted to lecture the ill informed new owner, but then I run the risk of barking up the wrong tree.

“…and on earth peace, good will toward men. That is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.”


Thursday, December 4, 2008

11:11 It is about time…

My bedside clock read 5:55am this morning; time to rise and shine. “Its gonna be a bright sun shiny day” was coming through CBC Radio 2 as my good morning wake-up call.

Quite often as of late, I have noticed repeating digits during my day, or night, when I look for the time. At first I simply believed it was a coincidence and it was dismissed. Eventually, I started noticing just how often these coincidences were occurring and my curiosity was peaked. I was compelled to look into this phenomenon and, therefore, I did what any logical person in my position would do; I googled it.

To my surprise, this phenomenon was quite common across the google informed world. To my relief, I was not a basket case, but rather someone quite special; a chosen one. According to many of the interesting sites, I was chosen to receive divine signs from God. Deep breath; thank you, God, for making me matter. I am one of a chosen few.

From that point on, whenever I saw 2:22 or 5:55 or 11:11, I was compelled to pause, make note of the momentous moment, and then pass it on to other believers, other faithful ones, other chosen ones. It became a bit of a game within my family; a bit of a joke within my circle of friends; it was never mentioned to co workers for fear of their discernment or good sense.

Finally, thank the Lord, this morning, this day, as I rose at 5:55 am I had a well-timed epiphany. It is all about time. Time is of the utmost import here. Time, the universal measurement used by everyone world wide – it is ticking along, so make the best of it, use it or waste it wisely; but do not take it for granted.

Carpe diem.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Gen Y and HIV\AIDS

December 1, 2008 marks two decades of increased awareness, improved education and a deeper understanding of the HIV\AIDS pandemic world wide. Here we are twenty years since the first celebrated World AIDS Day; a good time to check our progress.

Over time, we have seen society go through polar reactions to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The range goes from irrational pandemonium in the mid 1980’s involving chaotic grocery shopping incidents and an assumed HIV infected sneeze on the produce, to today’s almost apathetic annoyed disposition. Has our reaction to HIV\AIDS become comparable to the general reaction to a car alarm? That is, the warning is there, but no one believes it is their car, so everyone just gets annoyed by the alarm. Everyone except the poor bugger you see running towards the car almost in panic mode abusing his key alarm button in his attempt to quiet the beast.

The real beast is ignorance. Health Canada calls the epidemic here ‘severe and deeply troublesome’. Thousands of Canadians are infected each year and a staggering number of those infected are our youth. Every two hours, someone in this country becomes infected with HIV. Over 27% of infected people don’t even know they have HIV.

The sad truth is, our generation Y is still contracting HIV\AIDS through unprotected sex. The recent trend shows a large increase in the number of young women contracting HIV through heterosexual sex. This, to me, a mother of four wonderful daughters, is daunting.

What can we do? Most importantly, talk about it at home! Of equal import, encourage the kids to talk to one another. One must not become complacent. The Gen Y needs to start asking why.

This is dedicated to Frank and Jim because you helped my girls with their awareness and to The Casey House in Toronto, Canada – kudos to a fantastic place of care and compassion.