HELLO, HOW ARE YOU?

I love getting letters, even though emails and texting seems to be the 21st Century mode of written communication. Of course, the letters I’m referring to are the  slow-as-molasses-snail-mail means of keeping in touch by actually applying pen to paper.

My Mom was a great letter-writer. My Mom’s sister and my maternal grandmother also wrote newsy, folksy letters. Back in those days, long-distance phone calls were considered a luxury. When an out-of-town family member called, it was usually with sad news that someone had died. There was no email back then.

Today we seem to phone whenever we wanted to share any news or to merely keep in touch—no one had to die first. The other alternative is texting or email—quick, fast written words that we can read instantly. Hardly anyone likes to take the time to sit down and write a newsy letter to be savoured again and again.

I like to think written letters can be a piece of history—not only is family news documented but events happening at the time is also recorded, especially if it affects the family in some way. The politics of the times, events that made headlines, the unusual weather, newly implemented government policies and so much more—how can a person not comment and confide how it affected us?

A century and more ago, letters had a long, perilous journey to get to its final destination. It’s probably why the women of those times saved every precious letter they received. When I was doing some research on Victoria’s early start as Fort Victoria, the period I was interested in produced a box of historical treasures. The first movers and shakers, the political leaders, had a vison on building a great city. These men and their wives were also prolific letter writers, recording not only family news but also the political atmosphere, strict social life and local gossip of their times.

No matter how deeply in the past one searches, men and women had the same concerns;  the health of their men-folk/women-folk; education, safety and acceptable behaviour of their children; the high cost of living; the need for more culture in such a wilderness; rough, wild fur-trappers in drunken brawls who set bad examples for impressionable young boys; the lack of decent marriageable partners for their off-springs. Packets of written letters with its beautiful penmanship, revealed so much about the past.  History books can teach about events but old letters tells how people truly coped.

Emails and texting are not permanent records of life today—a written letter, filled with our thoughts and immediate impressions are still the best. The slow-as-molasses-snail-mail is well worth waiting for and fast becoming a lost art.  Oops, gotta go—here comes my mailman. . . . .

LOST AND. . . . .

I enjoy getting behind the wheel of our family car and just driving. It’s nice when there is a definite destination, but the best fun is going somewhere you’ve never been. . . and actually getting there. I don’t have GPS in my older Volvo, so I rely mainly on a good road map and my pocket-size book of street directions. My tiny book of street directions works on streets that existed in 1997; after that, all bets are off and a detailed but current road map works.

Hubby doesn’t like aimless driving. He wants to know where we’re going. He doesn’t want to hear “Oops,” ( when I made a left turn instead of a right), “Damn,” “Phooey”, or “Yikes” (when the paved road became a dirt road with a big hole), while searching for our destination. Sometimes we are provided with street directions supplemented by landmarks. I guess that makes me a visual person who seeks the gas-station on the left or an old derelict building on the right, before I notice that’s the street I should turn onto. Being the wise man that he is and married to me as long as he has, Hubby usually opts out of any destination that we have to search for, unless I can drive directly from Point A to Point B without any detours.  In other words, I’m totally on my own, armed with my old book of street directions and my big, fat up-to-date road map.

Usually, I know what general direction I want to explore and approximately how far I have to drive. When I was writing for the local magazine and had to do interviews in places I was vaguely aware of, I always did test drives the day before. That way, on the actual day of the interview, I would appear on time, relaxed and looking forward to a fascinating hour. I wouldn’t be wearing my frazzled look—that’s the same look I get when I’m deprived of my caffeine and/or dark chocolates.

Victoria has numerous places to drive and eventually you arrive at some destination. I’ve discovered that you can’t really get lost because, even though housing and shopping developments have extended far beyond city limits—eventually, everything circles back. There may be numerous  new roads, streets and avenues, but they all connect to a major street, road or avenue, that in turn, connects to a major highway.

It got me thinking how Life can be a series of destinations too. We’re all driving along, stopping here and there; occasionally detouring onto some tiny road that’s not even on the map, but eventually returning to the main highway. We all hit speed-bumps and we do extricate ourselves from the occasional pot-holes—some much bigger than others. Sometimes, too many pot-holes can be the bane of our existence, but we are all determined to get to wherever we were going. After all, we humans can be tenacious as well as strong-minded. No matter what, Life moves along and so do we.

For me, as long as there is a decent eating place, coffee bar and/or bakery in the maze of unfamiliar streets, there are people. I know where I’m going, I’m doing okay and I’m not lost.

HAPPINESS

Happiness is the smell of roasted coffee beans, freshly ground—and sharing the pure pleasure of that first pot.

Happiness is that spontaneous hug from your spouse, a good friend, the grandkids and tiny toddlers.

Happiness is the fragrance of your favourite flower, carried on a Summer breeze—mine are roses.

Happiness is baking cookies, any kind and sharing them.

Happiness is family, friends and good health.

Happiness is finding that perfect dress, sweater, blouse, shoes, or. . .without any searching.

Happiness is the warmth from a crackling fire, wrapped in the arms of your “special” someone.

Happiness is watching your furry, 4-legged buddy, running joyfully along a quiet stretch of beach, enjoying his “no-leash” freedom.

Happiness is cooking a recipe for the first time, making a few alterations and substitutions, yet still reaping heaps of compliments.

Happiness is sharing that cup of perfect coffee and stuffing  on freshly baked, warmed-from-the-oven banana chocolate chip muffins.  Did I mention that the chocolate chips are still warm and melting?

Happiness is enjoying a long, leisurely walk, in the crisp morning air with the promise of Spring, just around the corner.

Happiness is merging flawlessly onto a 6-lane highway, perfectly capturing the rhythm and flow of the traffic.

Happiness is meeting an old friend and picking up the threads of friendship as if the woven pattern had never been interrupted.

Happiness is a laughing baby, a cuddly teddy bear, a lovable puppy, dark chocolate cherries, warm mini-doughnuts dipped in cinnamon-sugar. . . . . . . . .and much, much more.

 

The Dreaded “D” Word and the Hated “E” Word

Yep—here we are at a brand-new year. The pages are nice and clean and ready for whatever good deeds or questionable deeds to be recorded. With all the wonderful holiday foods and desserts, I am faced with the dreaded “D” word and even the hateful “E” word.  Oops, guess you’re maybe skinny and slender and hate desserts, so you’re not familiar with “Diet” and “Exercise.”

I know there are lots of us out there because the gyms are suddenly filled with guilt-stricken people like me. I will be walking and doing the stairs more now that my wonky knee is better. I think all us newcomers to the gym, lean on each other for support, because we tend to glance over at a chubbier person and think, “Not me, Buster–I’m that lean, skinny thing, wearing the spandex and pedalling away on the bicycle.”  Well, okay—we can dream while we sweat off those extra pounds with the weights and pulleys and ellipticals and treadmills.

I don’t make New Years resolutions, but I will be curtailing the doughnuts, biscottis and dark chocolates for the next month or more. I figure that’s how long this enforced “D&E” will last. All those batches of butter cookies, mince tarts and almond cherry biscottis will be a faint memory–and darn it all, this was the Christmas I excelled at making them.

I always thought that to make this plan work, I would have to have a “gym buddy” to suffer along with me. Lucky me—I have two and we are all early-risers. So, no excuses not to meet at the gym because you always have 2 gym buddies to move you along. I’m hoping we will all last the month or more, at least, until we get into the routine of  gym workouts on our own.

One positive thought is that Chinese New Year will be much later this year—not until February 16th. In my foodie books, that means I have a month and a half before I can celebrate with the tasty pastries and feasts of the “Year of the Dog.”

Happy New Year, Everyone—I’ll be thinking of all of you as I’m rowing away at my rowing machine, strolling along on the treadmill, doing the elliptical thing. . . .  BUT, come February 16th, I will be indulging a little bit again. . . . .

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I like wishing everyone “Merry Christmas.”  When I was growing up, this is what we wished everyone. I grew up in a multi-cultural neighbourhood and yes, there were kids who didn’t celebrate Christmas, but they did celebrate their own festivals that came on different dates. It may not have been Christmas, but my school buddies shared their “treats” with us–just as we shared ours with them. Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Festival of Lights and many others—-these special holidays, coupled with the different foods and treats that came with it, were all that mattered to us kids. We were all in the  “learning mode” of acceptance and there was hardly any discrimination. Special holidays were fun because they embraced the cultural traditions within any family. That’s why, so many of my friends and I, share this same philosophy of acceptance to pass along to our children and grandchildren.

Today, responsible adults try too hard to be sure everything is politically correct but really, little kids don’t care unless their parents make a big issue out of it.

“Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” are safe and inoffensive, but I still like wishing everyone  “Merry Christmas” as I’ve always done. And no one, when I say it, have corrected me, but graciously accepted the greetings–returning it with their customary warmth of friendship. Perhaps times are changing, but for now, I will still send my “Merry Christmas” greetings to all my family and friends.

To all the loyal readers who popped in over the years; to all the new readers who have “discovered” my site–I hope you enjoyed what you read, had a chuckle or two and find yourselves returning to sample whatever topic I decided to blather about that day.

Thank you for all your comments, support, humour and honest opinions. I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, filled with the wonders and joys of the Holiday Season.  May 2018 be wrapped in the love of Family and Friends;  a year jam-packed with Happiness, Good health and hopefully, Peace.

 

 

 

 

Kids Still Say the Funniest Things

Kids still say the funniest things. I often wondered where they heard it or picked it up, right down to the appropriate mannerisms that little munchkins can imitate so well and then pick the right moments to say it.

My neighbour was telling me about the family stroll along the waterfront. They had ended with the walk along the concrete path that ended close to the point where the cruise ships passed as they made their grand entry into the harbour. One ship had just glided by, its passengers waving at the small group excitedly waving back in welcome. Mavis’s older grand-daughter mused aloud, “I wonder where the ship’s going next?” And her 6-year old sister, with a roll of her blue eyes, replied, “Well, duh, obviously out to sea.” and as she strolled away, the smiles broke out on everyone’s faces.

When a South American thrush flew onto Canadian soil a few days ago, all the avid bird-watchers wondered aloud what made the warm-weather bird venture into the cold, rainy, West Coast climate.  Five year old, Henry, brought the speculations to a halt, when he replied in a very adult voice, “Well, he must have bought a crap piece of GPS because a good one would have taken him to the right location.”

My friend’s grand-daughter, Anya, newly turned 8, had been taught at an early age not to answer the doorbell if it rang when no adult was home. Anya had a half-hour window, from the time she came home from school until one of her parents arrived home from work. A few days before, she had a birthday and received a pair of jeans from her Aunt Bee which had to be exchanged for something that wasn’t denim. Days later I met up with Bee and asked, “Hey, what happened with Anya’s birthday prez?”  Laughing, Bee said she had stopped by the house to give Anya her present but realized, after she had pushed the doorbell, that it was that half hour where doorbells were not answered.  However, Bee had caught the quick flash of her niece’s face at the window before quickly ducking out of sight. Bee rang the doorbell again. A voice from behind the door announced, “We are sorry we missed your call. Your visit is very important to us. Please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.” With a straight face, Bee replied, “I’m sorry I missed you too as I have a very important parcel to deliver. I guess it just goes back to the store.” At which point, Bee smiled as she recalled how quickly the door flew open.

Kids, no matter what their ages, are definitely little sponges who soak up all the stuff their parents wouldn’t want them to remember or repeat. And yes, once they learn any forbidden word, it is repeated with great glee and gusto. I still marvel at my then 9-months old god-daughter, Natasha Elena, sharing Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” movies while napping on my lap. Who knew that her actively growing brain was busy absorbing.  “Scumbag” was not exactly a desirable word to add to her early vocabulary, but I still insist she did say “Mama” first.

There’s Something About Christmas

There’s something about Christmas that brings out the grouchiness  in normally reasonable people. Over the years, I’ve figured out a few things.  Grumbling loudly while standing in a postal line-up, doesn’t make the line go faster. If my cards don’t go out on time, my friends know they will maybe get a New Year’s greeting from me–or maybe, not at all. That has happened a few times over the decades and we’re still on good speaking terms.  Baking is a foregone conclusion—bake too early and it gets eaten; bake too late and it gets eaten. I’ve given up on fruitcakes since not a lot of people eat them these days because of calories, diets, allergies and goodness knows what-all. As for presents, I collect small things for stocking stuffers throughout the year–little kids and even big kids have the most fun with this.

I found that most kids are quite brilliant with their high-tech toys, but give them something non-techie and they find it a challenge.  I like puzzles—those metal or wooden things that you have to figure out the “key” to unlocking–usually a metal ring or a bar that looks deceptively easy to slip through or unloop or whatever, but doesn’t. I was watching the mental process of little faces and eventually bigger faces, frown and pout and do their best to solve the puzzle before anyone else. This may be construed as mental cruelty, but it really makes that old brain work. I think it burns off at least 2000 calories so that extra piece of shortbread or butter tart is actually feeding the brain.

Christmas is watching the little kids line-up to see Santa at the Mall. One little girl made me smile. She wasn’t more than 3 years old, wearing her pretty blue velvet dress and shiny party shoes. Her hair had a blue-velvet bow, pinning back some of her dark curls. She stood in front of Santa, a safe distance away and though he beckoned her closer, she shook her curls and said in a very clear voice, “No, thank you,  I don’t want to sit on your lap.” Her mother stood anxiously to one side and said, “Just for a moment, Ellie.  This photo will be for Nanna who’s too far away to come visit.”  The little tot firmly shook her head.  “No, Mommy. I’ll leave Santa some carrots for his reindeers, but I don’t want to sit on Santa’s lap.” Then she turned to walk away, but Santa’s voice stopped her. “Would you like to stand beside Santa so your Nanna would still have a photo of you?” The little girl paused to think about this. The end result was a delightful photo of Ellie, leaning slightly against Santa, with one tiny hand on his  knee and smiling for her Nanna.

I think the “Spirit of Christmas” resides in most little kids. Their natural delight in decorated trees and the many decorated houses gives those around them, a bit of the Holiday feelings. Taking a group of little ones to see the display of gingerbread houses made the adults “see” it through children’s eyes. Little kids have this innocence and pure spontaneity of the simpler things. Perhaps, that’s what we adults should do at this time of the year—think like a kid, relax and enjoy.

The scent of baking at home is a joy, not a chore to be done because it’s Christmas. The gift of giving needn’t be a nightmare pf shopping–a gift of your time is the best gift of all. Love and laughter should be freely given to family and friends and those alone, throughout the year—and shouldn’t be only at this time because it’s that time of  year. The importance of being together at Christmas seems harder to manage due to severe winter conditions in many areas as well as the costs of traveling. We are a nomadic group and it seems, for me at least, many of my friends and distant family travel in the summer, to be together. to share in making new memories.

Despite the worries over dinner or the anxiety over the “right” gift, just remember that all these weeks of sleepless nights lead up to one day which is gone in a blink of a twinkling  eye. Before you know it, it begins all over again with a new year.