A Personal Observation: Favourite Holiday Movies

Apart from the decorations and the food, something else I look forward to this time of year are the holiday movies. I love watching the tried-and-true classics like the 1935 scroogemake of Scrooge (with Alistair Sims), and It’s A Wonderful Life, to more modern classics like A Christmas Story and One Magic Christmas. I have to watch them every year. I bought a few, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Santa Clause.

These movies remind us of what the holidays are really about. Something that’s easy to forget among the rampant push of commercialism. They’re about finding our humanity again after life has pushed us so far down, we think we can never recover. About second chances and how we can always put things right, no matter what, but the best thing about all these movies, is that you don’t have to celebrate Christmas to enjoy them. The message they offer is universal and is a tenant of all the religions, another thing we sometimes forget about at this time of year.

Well, except Christmas Vacation. That’s just about getting a pool. 😛 magicchristmas

I tear up as well. I know, I’m a suck, but there’s something gratifying about the characters realizing what we all know deep down inside; that the holidays are about family and coming together with the rest of mankind. I know that sounds a little sappy, but that’s what the holidays are all about, right? It’s a tradition in my family to watch these movies and just about any other holiday special that on as well. Husband still like the old Rudolf and Santa cartoons from the ’60’s. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t mind them, but I prefer the movies.

 

What are your favourite movies or holiday specials? What draws you to watch them every year?

A Personal Opinion: Remembering Remembrance Day

poppyThere is a bill going through the Canadian parliament right now, that would see Remembrance Day as a national holiday. Right now, a few provinces that have it as a holiday, but the push is on to make it a holiday right across the country. Oddly enough, for something as important as remembering those men and women who died protecting our freedom and the freedom of others, there is a controversy looming whether or not to make this bill a law. People are concerned a day off will send people out to the malls or do other things that aren’t connected to the spirit of the day. There’s also the concern small business won’t be able to pay the time and a half if they choose to stay open, or would lose out on money/business by closing for one day.

There is a disconnect within our society. As the years progress and the two great wars become the stuff of history books, it’s looked upon by the younger generation as ‘not about them’. Canada doesn’t celebrate the victory of the War of 1812 (well, around here they do as we were smack-dab in the middle of it), and I haven’t seen or heard any American’s celebrating or commemorating the end of their Civil war. Unless we have a direct connection to the event, it’s out of sight, out of mind, and that’s a sad legacy to hand down to future generations.

Shut down schools and business for one day. One day. I can guarantee you there isn’t one Canadian family who didn’t have a grandparent or a great-grandparent that wasn’t in the war. We lost a lot of people, and I don’t think going to memorials and reflecting on a horrible time in the history of the world is too much to ask.

A Personal View: Oh, those awkward moments. (true story)

Ah, the life of a writer. Nothing is more rewarding then seeing a creative part of your soul in print and being able to say, “Why, yes, I did write that.”, but before you can utter those six little words, you must have something published.

Not an easy task but if you work at it, and take your writing seriously, an opportunity will present itself. Something, perhaps, along the lines of an opening on the local newspaper’s community editorial board.

You see the paper’s call for writers and think joining the board would be a good way to enhance your writing skills. You begin writing out, in longhand, the column that will win the paper over. The idea comes to mind immediately: an amusing story about a minor event in your life. It’s personal, it’s fresh and you feel it’s just what they’re looking for.

You transfer the story to a word program and begin the task of scrutinizing every paragraph, every word, until you feel you’ve achieved perfection. You send it off to your beta reader; the person who loves what you write and is willing to strain his or her personal or professional relationship with you to help you achieve your goals.

As you glance over your finished article, a feeling of pride sets in. This could be the start of something wonderful. You hit the SEND button on your e-mail, whispering a farewell prayer and hoping it reaches its destination safely, only to realize you’ve entered the email address wrong — and the darn thing bounces back to you.

E-mail address corrected, you once again send your work, safe in the knowledge that nothing can stop you now. Yet as you re-read the application form in the paper, you’re horrified to learn you haven’t included who you are and why you would like to be on the board.

There is nothing more humbling than looking unprofessional among professionals, and you breathe a sigh of relief when you learn, after a quick conversation with the editor, that you can send a second email with the omitted information.

A feeling of accomplishment washes over you when, days later, you open your e-mail and learn you have been chosen. The message from the paper acknowledges what you’ve been secretly hoping — that you can write — and now someone else thinks that, too. It gives you a burst of confidence that carries you through the embarrassment of forgetting to leave your telephone number on the editor’s voice mail when you call with a question about the scheduled introductory meeting.

You know that it can only get better from here.

A Personal View: Night of the Outhouse

I am blessed with a vivid imagination. Being an only child, it kept me entertained and at times has gotten the upper hand. There are times when I feel my creativity is a hindrance, but whatever is going on in my life, I can count on my fertile imagination to spice things up.

When I was a teen, my step-family and I would go up north to the cottage. Set back deep in the woods, it was a quaint place. There was no insulation or drywall on the walls in the main area and the three bedrooms (four if you considered we used the unfinished bathroom as a bedroom for my younger step-brother) were covered with 70’s faux-wood paneling with just curtains for doors. We had running water. Well, cold running water, no hot, and since my step-brother was using the bathroom as a bedroom, we had an outhouse.

We kids would go out in pairs to the outhouse at night. Generally, we’d hold it until someone else had to go, but this one night I had to go out on my own. There was a light outside that pointed in the general direction of the small building set back within a large lilac bush, but still, the fifty feet or so walk felt like a thousand when you have to go it alone. I remember looking down at the ground as I walked, making sure I didn’t trip over a stray branch or something, and this is when my imagination went into over-drive. I remember looking down at the dirt, envisioning hands coming up out of the ground and grabbing for my ankles, dragging me down into some kind of pit that I would never escape, or being munched on by creatures. Images of boney, decomposing bodies were all I could think of especially as the shadows look darker than they really were. It’s enough to say that by the time I got to the outhouse my imagination had pretty taken over my better judgement. My heart raced as I reached up and turned the wood latch that kept the door closed, and as it slowly swung open, I saw it. It stared at me with it’s big yellow eyes and I immediately shut the door, turned the wood latch and calmly walked back to the cottage.

I walked inside and didn’t say a word. I sat down on the closest chair and started to cry. I cried, and cried, and cried. I don’t know if it was from fear or the fact that I GOT AWAY, but once it started, I couldn’t stop. Everyone pounded me with questions; am I all right? What happened? Did I hurt myself? All I could say was…

“It’s in the outhouse.”

My step-father grabbed a broom and headed outside, followed by my step-siblings and my mother. I followed, but made sure I was several feet back. In the partial light from the house, we gathered a few yards away from the small building. My step-father reached out and turned the latch before jumping back. The door swung open, and there it was, still sitting on the seat and my step-father carefully poked it with the broom. With my family around me, I looked at it with more courage.

It was a home-made dummy. Of course, once we realized what it was, the whole thing was funny. My step-father asked me why I’d locked the door, and I replied simply, “I didn’t want it to get away.”

Someone had gone to the trouble of putting together this thing and putting it in our outhouse. It took up a good portion of the interior and must have taken some time to put together. The yellow eyes I saw were a sheet of yellow paper with two crude-looking eyes drawn on with a pencil. A quick check over the weekend found the creators of this thing. One of the other cottagers concocted this dummy in retaliation for a prank pulled on them. Their outhouse had been stacked with wood, floor to ceiling and for some odd reason they thought we’d done it.

We had fun with the dummy for the rest of the weekend, and I will always remember that incident as the point in my life where my over-active imagination and real life came together for a few, intense, hysterical moments.

A Personal Opinion: Salt; the spice of life and death.

downloadPretty dramatic title, isn’t it?

Salt has been a key spice for centuries, long before humans were recording our history. Used as an additive and for preserving, salt has been a part of our lives right from the very beginning. With the increase in obesity rate, people are taking a greater notice in what they eat, and it’s no difference in my house.

My husband loves salt. He put it on everything. Even when I prepared food and put salt in, he’d add more. This is probably typical in a lot of homes. As we’re trying to eat more healthy (due in part to Husband’s hypertension), we’ve eliminated all salt, or as much as we can, from our diet, and it isn’t as easy as you think.

I was never one for using salt. The only time I put any on my food was for eggs and corn so half the battle is won with me, but what about cooking food? We watch a lot of cooking shows and they always add a ‘pinch’ of salt – to everything! Why? As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of it, I don’t notice the flavour in foods. As a matter of fact, I don’t cook with it and my meals turn out fine. So why is there such a push to include salt? Does it enhance the taste? Does it do something to the ingredients to made food better? Husband has a curry-spice blend that he puts on popcorn and he loves it more than salt.

I wonder if adding salt to our dishes and when we cook is more of a habit passed through the generations, than to enhance the taste of food.

What do you think?

A Personal Opinion: Getting older.

I’m old.

At least that’s what my son thinks, but I’m not upset. I remember thinking the same thing about my mother when I was his age, which is probably why I don’t get angry at a lot of stuff he does—because I remember. I’ve never looked my age. When Husband and I were first married we went to a wedding and all his friends (some of whom, I was meeting for the first time) kept calling him a cradle robber. They were surprised to learn my real age. I was carded for cigarettes at 25 (you have to be 18), carding for alcohol at 32, and I get looks of shock when I tell people how old I am.

I’m 46, btw.

For years I’ve heard the old mantra ‘You’re only as old as you feel’. I’ve never felt my age, and sometimes it’s hard for me to realize that I am ‘of a certain age’, but every now and then my body lets me know just who is in charge. Like this winter with the onset of hot flashes.

Holy crap! You just have to love those hormones—SAID NO WOMAN EVER!

I remember talking to my doctor about sweating during the night (yeah, we’re not going there), and she said I was too young to be entering menopause, but then I remembered, that was three years ago. Things change and now I have a biological furnace that, I swear, has no thermostat control. This winter was a hard one up here, so we got a heating blanket. Bloody hell, if someone had told me my body would spontaneously ramp up the temperature, I would have pushed to buy everyone new pillows instead. Throw the blanket off and cool down, then pull the blanket back on to warm up, then throw it off again. Last time my temperature was wonky like this, I ended up in the hospital with an appendicitis. My mother’s suggestion of lots of meditation and drink ice water, I found interesting. I should be meditating anyway, but I need those voices in my head to talk to me. I feel sorry for my husband, I really do, because I have no idea what’s next.

50 is the new 30? Bring it on, baby!

A Personal Observation – Is it the Christmas or Commercialism Season?

Over the last few decades, I couldn’t help but notice just how commercial the holidays have become. The ads start in September; reminding you to start early so you can budget wisely and get everything you need, and then around the end of October you start to see the ads for Black Friday. Really makes you wonder what the Christmas season is about. The news is full of retailer expectations, that they plan on doing a whole year’s worth of profit in one day, and there’s so much hype around Black Friday (Cyber Monday), it makes you feel guilty for NOT going out and shopping.

“Oh we have to go out and shop because if we don’t then the big retailers will lose money and they’ll close up stores and people will be out of a job.”

Did you know that up until the 1800’s, Christmas wasn’t celebrated in the grandiose way it is now? It was very simple, and the poorer you were, the simpler it was. Only the rich could afford to dine on huge meals, give presents and sing carols, while the poor were left to try and ward off starvation and the cold temperatures.

I don’t think I could pinpoint when the commercialism of the holidays began. I feel it’s been creeping up on us for some time, possibly fuelled by the economic boom that came after WW2. There was plenty of money and jobs and things to be bought, because let’s face it, the more stuff you have, the happier you are, right?

With the economical downfall of 2008, careers disappeared and people were forced to take low-paying jobs that were once relegated to students and immigrants. People aren’t in the financial standing they were, but I’m still seeing the same old commercialism. Even more so on Black Friday, which leads me to ask the question—is it the Christmas or Commercialism Season?

In the last few years, we’ve changed how we celebrate; opting to do the family dinner thing, and maybe one or two presents each. We have the carols going and we decorate. We try to focus on the good feelings we get from this time of year, instead of the greed. It’s less stress, and easy on the pocketbook, but I can’t help wondering how much longer our society can keep this up.

How do you celebrate the holidays? 

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