Thursday, 24 December 2009

Making New Memories

Remember the Christmas when Grandma had a little too much to drink? Big brother Mike's surprise visit from overseas? The time everyone was stuck in a blizzard?

As we grow older, we mark the passing years with events rather than numbers. Christmas makes a convenient bookmark and helps us break the merging years into compartments. Happy ones, sad ones, lonely ones and often hilarious ones.

My French Canadian family always got together for Christmas Eve. This usually involved an overnight trip to Hamilton, where one of my dad's many siblings hosted the event.

I remember the year my sister invited her boyfriend and his best friend to accompany us to the extended family Christmas in Hamilton. Ken wasn't there five minutes when he knocked a display of knick knacks off the wall and shouted, "It wasn't me!" before the crash on the floor.

Once, my parents hosted in the house I now own. The tree was in the family room, and Dad had a swivel rocker beside the tree. My aunt leaned back a little too far and flipped backwards into the tree, her legs in the air.

There was the year I writhed in pain with a bad bout of the flu. I lay in my cousin's bed, wracked with pain while my dad sat on the edge of the bed stroking my forehead and murmuring, "I hate to see you like this."

There was the year my great uncle Edgar told a story in his heavy French accent about sneaking his buddies from The Legion into the apartment for a party while his wife was away. They burned a hole in the carpet and he tried to cover it up with fibre shavings and glue. When she 'got out the Hoover' and vacuumed up the patch, she was convinced the carpet was defective and had it torn out and returned to the store.

I remember my cousins and I playing ping pong in Uncle Eric's basement (which was perpetually decorated for Christmas - even in July). We talked about our crushes while our parents shouted "Yatzee!" in the dining room upstairs until the wee hours of Christmas morning.

After the cousins grew and nurtured their own families, we still got together a couple of weeks before Christmas. All the aunts and uncles and many cousins smoked like chimneys in Uncle Tony's farmhouse basement while little ones ran around, jumping on the furniture.

In recent years, Christmas has been celebrated in turn at my siblings' and inlaws' homes. We've had our own 'comedies of errors' like the time my brother in law overcooked the Christmas goose while waiting for my husband to arrive with his mother - many hours late. We ate the burned goose and invited Victor from next door to play his accordion. My sister and I ran outside to watch dancing shadows spill from the dining room window, across the sparkling snow.

Today I'll be vacuuming up dog hairs and peeling vegetables in preparation for my siblings to visit this house, the one we grew up in. I hope we create many memories here for ourselves, our grown children and their future families.

We'll be missing some key members of the family - my parents are on either end of the country, celebrating with their friends and loved ones but we'll be in their hearts and they'll be in ours. My husband's family is no longer with us, but we'll remember the great meals Nana made and the silly songs Grandpa sang.

My sister in law's family will be in Cuba, likely starting a tradition of their own.

Happy Holidays to all of you, and may 2010 be a stellar year or everyone.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

...And the Bronze medal goes to:

Yours truly! Today we had our Second Annual Ugly Sweater Day, and the competition was stiff. You may remember last year's entry.

Miranda used a huge felt stocking and cut out the bottom, decorating it with accouterments from the dollar store. The candy canes pinned to her back almost lost the title for her as they caused her to complain of back pain throughout the day.

Suzanne sported a lovely Frosty The Snowman outfit complete with holly-trimmed tophat and a snowman balaclava that could scare the piss out of any child.

Jean-Claude wore your standard black and white psychedelic sweater and he thought a Santa Hat would put him in the running. No dice, JC. You didn't cut the mustard.

Russ thought it would be funny to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater since he considers that to be the ugliest sweater of all. I'll forgive him since he's a Habs fan.

I strutted around with my second-hand store treasure, purchased at Value Village, a second hand store which benefits needy families. I posed like a runway model to pimp more loose change, shaking my jar with the 'Sandy Claus' label.

Our goal was to entice our work colleagues to donate money toward the ugliest sweater, with all proceeds going to our Santa Fund which benefits local needy families.
Through Ugly Sweater Day, our department raised $105 for an elderly lady to enjoy her Christmas. It's enough for a warm coat. We also chipped in with our own money to get additional gifts for her and her cat.

I hope everyone will think of individuals and families who have few resources to celebrate this Holiday Season and that you'll be generous when you see a local charity asking for donations.

During our turkey dinner lunch, I let slip that next year we should try a Christmas Carol Karaoke contest to raise funds. Eep, the publisher was right beside me. I'll bet we'll be doing that next year.

And I'll win, bitches!!!!

Monday, 7 December 2009

A Nice Review for Bad Ice

I awoke this morning to a nice surprise. On the first day with snow that stuck, I received a lovely little review for Bad Ice from Bernita Harris. Bernita had won a copy of my book last year in a contest.

What sets Bernita's review apart from the others is her emphasis on the personality of the psychotic ex-girlfriend, Sheila rather than the romance between Jason and Christina.

Bernita specializes in suspense and paranormal writing. She has been away from us for a while, but she's back and better than ever!

Thank you, Bernita, for a lovely review!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

My Dream Home

Jason Evan's post about a recurring dream reminds me of a house I've visited dozens of times, yet I've never been there.

His place is eerie, but mine is awesome.

It sits at the end of a long dirt driveway, facing south. It's a "post and beam" home with an open concept. Windows line the sides and front, but the back has a solid wall, at least on the ground floor. It has warm barnboard walls and ceilings crisscrossed by thick wooden beams. Further back are guest rooms and a lot of bathrooms. I probably dream up all those bathrooms because I have to pee in the middle of the night. :)

A wooden staircase is in the middle of the house, open on all sides. It climbs three or four stories in a zig zag pattern. Along the way are random doors, some leading to more rooms and one a secret passageway with a shortcut to the basement. I remember a room at the very top, like a copula with windows all around, showing a fantastic view. It has a daybed with plenty of colourful cushions and a thick quilt. I imagine reading or writing up there, with the sunset streaming in.

The basement is a single space, like the ground floor of a barn. Lots of garden tools line the walls. It's dark because the windows are small, but light spills in when I open the large swinging doors that lead to the back. I'm guessing it's an underground garage slash workshop.

On the main floor, the kitchen is on the other side of the staircase. It is open to the living/dining area, like one big Great Room. The kitchen has cupboards with glass windows. I open the cupboard doors to see delicate looking plates on vertical racks. The next cupboard has elegant glassware and some vases or pitchers. All the cupboards have interior lighting, like little halogen pot lights, making the glassware sparkle.

The sink is one of those deep square copper lined deals, but it's full of dirty dishes! My dream house is a slob.

Antiques and collectibles fill every corner of the house, especially the second floor. Some are stored in trunks that serve as tables. From a window on the second floor I can see down the length of the driveway while sitting in a wooden rocking chair. I can see cars approach in plenty of time to head for the front door to greet visitors.

Behind the house, a path leads north through gently rolling terrain to open water. I think it's a large lake rather than the sea. It is often grey - I don't see the sun shining often in this place. Smooth rocks form an inlet, like a sheltered beach. The water here is shallow and clear. I imagine we have bonfires here.

I don't know why I dream about this house. I don't think it exists. But wouldn't it be cool if it did? In the meantime, I think I'll use this house in a future book.