Tag Archives: childhood

The 11th Blog of Christmas

12 Blogs of Christmas (2)

When I was asked to participate in 12 Blogs of Christmas, I was thrilled. Not because it was about Christmas–which is awesome, but because I would be motivated to share a story each day. I hope you enjoyed all the posts by other writers and have a wonderful Christmas Season!

Here is my contribution for December 23rd, the 11th Blog of Christmas. And before you ask, there’s nuthin about 11 pipers piping!..

12 Blogs of Christmas (3)

My Christmas Mystery Man

There is a certain magic I experience right at midnight every Christmas Eve. The entire world seems to pause and the air is different somehow. I relax completely, despite the recent whirlwind of activity over the past few days and the maelstrom which is to come Christmas morning and continue until New Year. My spine tingles with anticipation as the hour and minute hands join; I almost want to cheer, “It’s here, it’s here!” I look forward to it every year. I cannot recall ever going to bed earlier than midnight on that auspicious night— especially as a child, as I waited for sounds of bells and scraping hooves on the roof.

When my son and daughter were young, it was the same performance each Christmas Eve; I knew my cues perfectly and waited until I heard regular breathing through my daughter’s bedroom door. She was always last to fall asleep. Her father had been the first.

I collect the presents hidden under my bed, in closets, above bookcases and wedged between storage containers. I tiptoe towards the tree with an armful of brightly papered boxes with colour-coordinated bows (and extra tape) . . . then freeze as the ball of my foot puts pressure on that squeaky floorboard I’d forgotten about in my excitement. I imagine the cracking of wood sending shudders through the hall, and under the beds of my sleeping children, jarring them awake.

“Mama? What are you doing? Did Santa come already?” they would whisper as they rubbed the sleep from their eyes. Christmas ruined! But my racing heart slows and I let out a breath as I chase that image from my head. The children sleep on.

I lay each present just so, hoping the end result looks haphazard and not carefully strategized so the best gifts are near the back of the tree.

I finally ease myself quietly into my chair, sip on a glass of something laced with alcohol and breathe in the air which is almost vibrating with energy; and yet, there is a peace and eternal stillness about this evening that reaches on forever and as far back as I can remember.

There is one particular Christmas Eve which might have sparked the reverence I feel for this special night. I was about five years old and was jarred awake from dreams of being smothered by Christmas crackers and paper hats.

I crept out of my room and down the darkened hallway to use the bathroom. As I began my journey back to bed I heard something in the hall below.

I stood at the top of the stairs waiting for my blinking eyes to adjust to the darkness of the pit before me. There, at the bottom of the stairs, I noticed two glowing lights. They were still one moment, then danced about and made me jump. I was terrified and if I hadn’t already emptied my bladder I think I would have done so then.

A faint jingling sound made me giggle with relief when I realized it was my grandmother’s dog, Wimpy, shaking his head and collar. I could almost make out the outline of the black mutt down there on the rug.

I was contemplating creeping down the stairs to snuggle him when I heard another noise, this time from the kitchen. The house was as quiet and dark as could be, so I knew everyone must be in bed. I shivered in my nightgown and gripped the wooden spindles of the railing.

The door to the kitchen swung open slightly and the figure of a man emerged, lit from behind by a street light shining through the kitchen window. I gasped. The man turned his head slowly to face me and by now my eyes had adjusted well enough to see him give me a wink and a smile. He raised his finger to his lips to silence me. His other hand gripped a bag slung over his shoulder.

As the man moved below me towards the living room, I heard a low growl from Wimpy. We all froze for a moment: child, man, dog. Then the jingling sound again—Wimpy was wagging his tail! So, this midnight intruder was not a danger after all.

I relaxed and sat at the top of the stairs, and observed the man as he entered the living room. He was an older fellow, with a scraggly beard and a shuffle in his walk. He was dressed in a long coat, dark in colour, but not red as I had seen in the images on the front of Christmas cards. He wore a cap, but it did not have a white pom-pom on the end. His shoes were plain—not boots at all. And he definitely had not come down our chimney.

When he was done, he closed the door to the living room and left . . . just as silently as he had arrived.

I felt suddenly cold and I scurried back to bed and huddled under my covers, squeezing my eyes shut and wishing for sleep so I could wake up Christmas morning and see what the man had left for me.

As I drifted off to dreamland I heard the faint sounds of jingling bells . . . and was that the sound of hooves scraping the roof tiles above my head?

I will never forget that night. When we gathered around the tree the following morning, everything was just as it should be. No one believed my story. They all laughed and continued to nibble on chocolate caramels and dates.

This is a real memory to me—as real as any other memory I have of my childhood, so how can it not have happened? My children are almost grown . . . the magic of Christmas has dulled in their eyes, but not for me. Perhaps that is why I look forward to staying up late by myself every Christmas Eve, sitting in silence, waiting.

To read the 12th and Final BLOG OF CHRISTMAS, CLICK HERE

To read the 12 Blogs of Christmas from the beginning, CLICK HERE.

Smells Like Success!

Smells invoke memories…and produce emotions…and affect our bodies, minds and spirits. I’ve always believed this and it took colourful wax and a guy with a penchant for sniffing stuff to help me remember how important our senses are to help us connect! Our senses can create such powerful memories and reactions that using senses in writing will strengthen a story and round out characters, and help you plug back into your creativity. Allowing your senses to guide you in any business venture might produce effective results.

Our sense of smell might be our most powerful, and scents that take us back to childhood are particularly emotionally charged. As children we are influenced by our environment and our reactions are more honest. When something takes us back to those moments when we were more open and vulnerable, it connects us with our real selves–our more creative selves.

When I am writing about a character and describe a scent or how a character reacts to a scent, it helps to create a deeper connection for the reader. It makes the “character” more real.

Try it for yourself: try and connect with the younger, more creative you–you will relax and find answers. And if you are writing about a character, help the character connect with his past and you’ll find that the character will guide you and surprise you with how he reacts to the imaginary world you are building around him.

What smell brings your childhood memories flooding back? How does connecting with your childhood help you create in business and in your writing projects?

To watch the inspirational video that will get you sniffing a box of crayons: https://youtu.be/p5kMHXuO_kg

When Nature Calls

The following tale will be featured in Adventures in Potty Training and Other Bathroom Mishaps, soon to be released. Okay, so the story is about my potty mishap and not my children’s, but I would rather embarrass myself than them — they are bigger than me now!

The highway rose steeply toward the crown of mist as I gripped the steering wheel, willing away the pressure building in my coffee-filled bladder. Sweat beaded my brow and upper lip as my urinary tract threatened to unleash a wave of hot yellow liquid.

I glared accusatorily into the rear view mirror at the slumbering tots, snug and secure in their car seats. They were the reason I was now suffering. This was the moment when my urethra would throw in the towel and say, “Screw it! First you abused me pushing out those two ham-headed kids, and now you expect me to hold back the floods with stretched out muscles and the sheer force of will power? I mean, come on!”

It was true, my poor bladder had been through a lot, and I was asking too much. Not only had my pregnancies done things to my body that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but I had chugged mugs of coffee that morning to keep me awake for our journey home. I had not anticipated the long stretch between rest stops on the highway. I had also not considered how desperate I would be to keep my kids asleep once they’d finally nodded off.

The visit with my parents in Abbotsford had been pleasant until the last night when the sleep that I had hoped for eluded me. I had been kept up most of the night tending to one child who was full of a cold, then my youngest who was restless from sleeping in a plastic playpen on a humid summer night. I almost regretted my decision to take a short trip alone with the kids and fantasized about getting home and napping while daddy spent some quality time with the two of them. So, I packed up the car, grabbed a quick breakfast, downed a pot of coffee, and wrestled my babies into their seats.

The long stretch over the mountainous Coquihalla Highway back to Alberta was only the first leg of the journey, and was proving to be the most difficult. My tired and irritable children had dozed off after fitful bouts of crying and whining and I couldn’t bear to wake them. They looked so angelic with their flushed little cheeks, and tousled curls. I almost resented their uninterrupted slumber, but couldn’t focus on much besides the ache in my groin area. I had to do something—and fast!

My frenzied mind ricocheted from thought to thought, and I tried desperately not to think of raging waterfalls, dripping taps and the satisfying flush of a toilet. One image popped into my head and gave me an inspiration. I almost wept with joy. Let me set the scene: A cool fall evening at the Commonwealth Stadium. The final quarter between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. An intense game that my husband and his friends knew they wouldn’t want to tear themselves away from so they planned ahead. A cooler full of beer, cushions, and adult diapers. Yes, that was not a typo . . . adult diapers. I remember being horrified when they told me that they would rather piss themselves than miss a play. I shuddered at the time to think of grown men voluntarily releasing urine into a diaper so they could enjoy another beer with their buddies and not have to leave the game . . . for any reason.

Now a shudder of relief went through me as I glanced over at the diaper bag on the passenger seat beside me. Could I?  Was it even possible?

If an idea pops into my head, and I think, “Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly!” I usually listen. But the twisted part of my brain that likes to one-up people yelled at me, “Oh, go on . . . you can do it! If those guys did it, why the hell can’t you! Don’t be such a girl!” Well, that did it! Now I had to prove a woman could do anything a man could do. And I had a perfectly valid reason for doing it—I didn’t want to wake my children.

I reached over and pulled out a diaper from the bag, laying it across my lap. Just in case. If I didn’t see another sign for a rest stop in the next few minutes, then I would have no choice. I casually unfolded the diaper while keeping my eyes on the road. Moms can do these kinds of things with one hand, blindfolded, and usually while standing on one foot and picking up dirty laundry with the other.

I deftly shoved the diaper between my legs after hitching up my skirt and scooching my panties down. That part was easy. The hard part was letting go of the social taboo of peeing outside—though the car surrounded me, it was still in public. Even with a bladder ready to burst, I fought the desire to relieve myself. Look, I thought, there is absolutely nowhere to stop and you cannot leave the kids in the car on the almost non-existent shoulder while you try and find a spot behind a bush. This is life or death. You might suffer an aneurysm while driving if you hold it in any longer.

My little pep talk worked and I went . . . and I couldn’t stop . . . even when I realized the tiny receptacle between my thighs would never be sufficient to hold the contents of my bladder. I panicked and grabbed for another diaper, shoving that one on top of the first. By the time I was done I had three heavily soaked diapers and I was crying with relief. I pulled out a plastic bag I had wedged in the door compartment beside me and carefully slipped the diapers into it and placed them on the floor. I somehow had managed to keep the car on the road. I know, looking back, it was ridiculous of me, but tired moms do dumb things sometimes.

I rearranged my clothes and smiled slyly into the rear view mirror. The kids were still asleep and no one would ever know. Until now—when I have apparently lost all sense of self-respect and decided to share this sordid tale with you, dear reader. But you won’t tell anyone, will you? And you especially won’t mention that five minutes after I answered nature’s call, I saw a huge sign for a pull-out with bathrooms and a parking lot full of well-adjusted parents who do not feel the need to outdo a bunch of diaper-wearing, drunk guys at a football game.

Friday the 13th: A Good Day in My Book

November the thirteenth is a special day to me, and though it does not fall on a Friday this year, I thought I would share my musings about this auspicious day and Friday the 13th in general. Someone I care about was born on Friday, November the 13th and because of this, I have never thought the day to be unlucky…though some certainly do!

Friday has been considered a doomed day since Chaucer wrote “The Canterbury Tales” in the 14th century. Friday has long been regarded as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. The number 13 is always thought of as extremely unlucky and almost every religion and culture regards it as an evil, sinister digit. For Christians, this is most likely because of its association with Judas Iscariot, the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. The superstition surrounding Friday 13th could also be linked to Norse mythology. According to legend, 12 gods were at a banquet at Valhalla when Loke, the demi-god of mischief who was not invited, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to 13. He was responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the other gods.

Friday the 13th facts:

  • Just as many people are born on Friday the 13th as any other day, but there are slightly more people who die on Friday the 13th.
  • It’s a good day to travel, as many people avoid this day.
  • Friday 13th in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday 13th in Brazil, especially as agosto (August) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).

People born on Friday the 13th must be born under an unlucky star–You’d think…

But several blessed celebrities cut into cake on this unholy of days: Mario Andretti, Kat Dennnings, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Feist, Margaret Thatcher, Kate Walsh, Darius Rucker, DiDi Conn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Max Weinberg, Christopher Plummer…did I miss anyone?

Oh, yeah…and my gran.I think of her fondly on November 13th; and, in fact, on every Friday the 13th.

She may have had pause to wonder if she was in fact born under an ‘unlucky star’ as she had quite the life of turmoil. Raised in wartime England with memories of diving behind a couch when bombs blasted the street outside, and sharing the affections of her mother with five other siblings, and some who didn’t make it. Her life was filled with death and loss. She later lost her husband at a young age, leaving her to raise two children on her own.

At 4′ 11″, she took up more space in a room than anyone else. Her presence was palpable. You had the feeling she knew what you were thinking at all times, so of course I always felt guilty about something when I was around her. She was a stalwart woman, not given over to emotion and superstition. She would have none of it. Many thought her cold and distant, but I think her hard-nosed attitude evolved over decades of hard work. She was practical, strong, and spoke her mind with a wit like a pistol butt to the back of the head.

She was not a woman of many words–I would never have called her chatty; so when she did speak, her words had weight. I remember her observations, not as criticisms, but just how she saw life. Open and honest, she was, with no time for dressing up her words.

Before my mom, dad, sister, brother and I moved to Canada when I was twelve, we lived in my gran’s house for a while. She was even more brusque and distant than usual, and I could tell it was because her heart was breaking. She was going to miss us, but she couldn’t tell us that. When it came close to the day we were to leave, she grabbed me as I passed her one day and hung onto me for a few gut-wrenching moments, her fingernails digging into my back. She did not know how to hug, but I felt more love from her in that moment than she’d ever shown me before. We did not speak.

Years later, just before she died, she made the long trip from England to Canada to visit me and her first great-grandchild. She was awkward holding my baby, but would watch her like a hawk, perhaps trying to see a resemblance in the tiny doll-like face. Gran softened around the baby and after the first few days she relaxed and started sharing more and more stories about her childhood and life, and eventually began discussing her inevitable death. I think she knew. Only a few weeks after returning to England, she had a stroke. She was found sitting in her armchair, a crossword on her knee and a cup of cold tea at her side. English to the end.

I picked up the phone on November the 13th of that year and dialed her number. The phone rang a few times before I slammed it down into the receiver, suddenly remembering she would not be on the other end to pick up.

I hope she is happy wherever she is, and looking down on us all with pride. She would be delighted to see her little great-grandaughter growing up into a strong woman, and her other descendants she never got to meet, unknowingly carrying around a little part of her within them.

Happy Birthday, Gran.

Friday the 13th falls next in February, 2015 for all you superstitious folk. What are your thoughts on whether or not it is an unlucky day?

Canada, My Home

images (2)       shutterstock_1284665181-e1384353431251 I am proud to be a transplanted Brit and a Canadian citizen. I belong to both England and Canada and am lucky to have lived on both sides of the Atlantic. My experiences in each country helped form who I am today, and my memories of both fill me with happiness. England1 My memories of England are of bare-footed, innocent ramblings through ancient woods past waving fields of golden grain and post-war brick buildings separated by cobblestone streets. I remember sitting in front of a fire at granny’s house — my siblings and I still damp from the bath. The firescreen became a rowboat, tossing on treacherous waves. The clothes maiden, turned on its side and covered with a sheet, became a tent in the darkest depths of Africa. The narrow stairs to bed were mountain slopes, and each step a rocky crag that threatened to break if I didn’t make it to the next one. If I dared to peek at the window after lights out, I might catch a glimpse of the giant in the mustard shirt and blue denim jeans that hid behind the poplars on top of the hill. If he saw me peeking…off with my head! The long walk to school in my crisp white shirt and red tie with my imaginary pets, Mischief, the cat, and my little pony, Blackie, to keep me company. I would wait until the street seemed empty, then climb of Blackie’s back and gallop ’til the wind caught my hair and I had to keep checking to see if Mischief could keep up.

Short cut by a church of stone and graveyard full of dusty bones. Basket of shopping from green grocer and butcher as we walk along eating hot steaming pasties.Fish and chips and mushy peas, steak and kidney pies, Blackpool rock, and sweets for a penny. Chucky eggs and conny-onny, sweet tomatoes from Granny’s greenhouse.

My childish imagination helped create a special world that I will always treasure. Having never been back to England, my memories have remained intact, untainted by reality. I do remember some unsavoury aspects — only one bathroom with no shower for six people (unless you include the outhouse), bedroom windows glazed with ice, and hurrying to dress in the morning. The portable washing tub complete with mangle, and hanging the clothes outside to dry. Squeezing into a red phone box on the corner that smelled of urine and lead paint to make a phone call to people who were never home to answer.

We moved to Canada when I was twelve. My only exposure to Canada had been through a friend who wore a first nations style suede jacket with embroidery down the front. It seemed very exotic to my uncultured eyes and I remember staring at it enviously. When I found out we were moving to British Columbia, I imagined evergreen woods, log cabins and teepees and my mind was filled with magic. As I walked out of the airport I expected to see cowboys and Indians, horses and dirt roads. What greeted me was very different. Concrete roads that stretched from side to side, houses big and bright, beautiful mountains and clear skies, and everything so new and clean, clean, clean! People who looked just the same, but somehow bigger and more open, like the roads. I became so small and shy and quiet.

I did find one log cabin! Thank goodness we didn't have to live in it!
I did find one log cabin! Thank goodness we didn’t have to live in it!

I appreciated — and still do — a bathroom with a shower, and a dryer for clothes. I jumped when the phone in our home rang for the first time and admired the brand new television with more than two channels. I slowly forgot the comfort of the row houses and the coal-fed fire, and fell in love with the warmth of the people, the unique houses and the big, beautiful wide open spaces where I could stretch and let my imagination soar even more. It took a while for me to feel like I fit in — to grow into Canada. I learned to love this country after craving my homeland for so long. Now Canada is home, and I could not imagine living anywhere else. Canada means snow-capped lavender peaks, moisture sodden air and moss-covered everything. Gray ocean depths, mountain streams and icy puddles. A myriad of cultures, races and beliefs, all people free to speak and live and love. Canada, my friendly giant, welcoming the world. And everything so green, green, green.

Stanley Park, BC
Stanley Park, BC

Happy Canada Day!

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