For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Monday, November 27, 2006

To Santa, or not to Santa

While going through my online columnists this morning, I found this one, and it got me thinking about the whole Santa deal. It was these passages in particular that got to me...

So there I sat on Christmas morning, crying uncontrollably, trying to figure out what I had done to make Santa angry.

and then...

As an adult, I can't even imagine what it's like for a parent to explain to their children why Santa overlooked them while all their friends received countless presents and enjoyed a huge holiday feast.

I can't even imagine this situation in the first place. As a child, Christmas was a HUGE event - but it was a religious and cultural event. Christmas Eve (Wigilia) was the highlight of the year. Only Easter came close to compare. My parents bought the gifts, and they were wrapped and stored on top of one of the kitchen shelves, in full view, or at the top of one of their bedroom closets. Out of reach, but not really hidden.

I had this vague notion of someone called Santa, but to my childhood mind, it was meaningless. Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Christ, and Wigilia, followed by Midnight Mass, was the core of our celebrations.

With our own children, we've made a point of telling the kids that, while we don't do the Santa thing, some families do, and to be careful not to say things like "there is no Santa," just as we tell them not to say "there is no tooth fairy." I'm not sure when I discovered that some families went to extreme lengths to make their kids believe in a literal Santa, but I do remember thinking it was the strangest, most dishonest thing a parent could do. It's one thing to have fun with it; my in-laws, for example, send gifts to our kids labelled "from Santa." We joke about it the same way we joke about the tooth fairy being a big hairy guy with a beard (Dh) in a pink tutu. It can be harmless fun, but when the myth is perpetuated so strongly that children judge themselves based on whether or not "Santa" got them what they wanted (see the first quote from the column), I see that as a problem.

Then there's the next part. The idea that poor people have to explain to their kids why Santa "overlooked" them. Good God. Are people really doing that?

I grew up in a cash poor family. I can't say that we were actually poor - partly because I believe poverty is a state of mind - but we were definately broke. Thankfully, we lived on a mixed farm, and as such, we never had to worry about where our next meal would come from. We provided most of our own food. We didn't get a lot of presents, but there was always something. I even remember making a gift for one of my brothers - a checker board made out of construction paper. I doubt my brother ever used it (I never saw it again, that I can recall), but I was quite proud about the fact that I made that gift for him. At the time, it never occurred to me that money was needed to provide gifts. Money was something we just didn't have a lot of.

The gifts themselves tended to be more practical. New clothes, for example, with perhaps a few toys. We never had a lot of clothes to choose from, with lots of hand-me-downs, so getting new clothes for Christmas was pretty exciting. Small boxes of chocolates were fairly common. My parents would buy extra and wrap them, just in case we got unexpected guests. At no point did we ever feel deprived because we didn't get as many things as other kids got. I don't even remember caring what other kids got. Christmas was so much a family focused event, I don't remember it ever occurring to me to compare to what other people did. In our community, there weren't a lot of people who celebrated Wigilia, and that alone made our Christmas different and special.

The thing is, we kids knew there wasn't a lot of money. No one had to explain anything to us. There was no myth to perpetuate. Christmas wasn't about presents and "stuff," though we certainly enjoyed and appreciated them. Christmas was about traditions, faith and family. It was about gathering around the table, sharing the oplatyk. It was bundling up against the cold to go to Midnight Mass - church at midnight! - being sure to get there very early, so we'd have seats, and to enjoy the singing of carols beforehand. Sure, I loved going through the Sears catalog and dreaming about the stuff I'd like to get, but it never occurred to me that I actually *would* get what I wanted from there, other than perhaps one or two small items. Maybe.

While I have nothing against contributing to charity to help people in need for Christmas, I can't help but feel that our culture puts too much emphasis on Christmas as this gift giving orgy. I remember a few years back, some friends of ours were going through very hard times, and found themselves needing to use the food bank. I remember being amazed at how much food they got as a family of three. They got more food given to them than I needed to buy for our own family of 4 - and they were just on a top up program! Then Christmas rolled around, and they got even larger amounts of food, including baked treats and party food, a frozen turkey, and more gifts for their one child than we bought for both of ours together (I can't even remember if Dh and I bought gifts for each other that year). The irony of it is that part of the reason our own Christmas was so short was because we kept giving money to help others who were in more need than we were, whether it was for groceires, gas in the tank to get to work, to take a course for certification needed for a new job, or whatever. We've never really given much to charities, but we've given a lot to individual families over the years.

I remember looking, as I sometimes helped pick up, unpack and put away our friend's food bank goods, in awe at the sheer volume of food, thinking there was something wrong with this picture. It's great that these services are available for those in need - I'm thankful for it, and I know it'd be a relief if we ever needed such services - but it blew my mind that people on the food bank program were getting top ups that were more than we could afford buy for ourselves, and to feed fewer people. We certainly weren't going hungry, either.

Back to the Santa concept, though. I think the idea of fooling children with the literal Santa myth not only does them a disservice, but that it's much more far reaching. It's unfortunate that donations to charities seem to need something like Christmas to remind people to donate, but are we doing the right thing by increasing people's expectations like this? Are we doing our children any favours by going to such extremes to convince them that there really is someone called Santa? If a family is in dire straights to the point that they need to rely on charity, this sort of dishonesty can cause an aweful lot of pain and confusion in their children. Why do it? Why not just tell your kids, "money is tight right now, but we can still celebrate Christmas without it." Being broke is nothing to be ashamed of and, unlike some of the charity ads I've been seeing, doesn't mean you won't have Chrismas because of it. I recently picked up a free magazine and found and ad reading "Imagine No Christmas..." Below, it pictures a child sitting on front of an empty plate, in shadow so the face is unseen, but with a starburst glint added to the plate. Ads like that disgust me.

Christmas, after all, isn't about how many presents you get, how much food there is, or about Santa. No matter how much the secularists want to water it down, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It's a celebration of faith. While some have replaced Jesus with Santa, and others go on about the various pagan festivals we christians supposedly took over in choosing Dec. 25th to celebrate, it doesn't change the fact that it's a religous holiday and, above all, a birthday celebration.

For someone else.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

new blogger

Well, I've finally gone and updated my blog to the new blogger beta. It's supposed to be easier, better, etc. It may be. I don't know yet. About the only thing that seems to have changed is that the dashboard is harder on the eyes, and I keep having to re-set my password, because every time I type it in, it tells me the password doesn't match, even though I *know* I'm typing it on correctly.

Hopefully this time it'll keep. :-P

Friday, November 24, 2006

thoughts on a nation...

There's quite an uproar right now about our PM recognizing the Quebecois as a nation. Reading the letters, editorials and blogs about it, there's quite the range of reactions.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it myself. There's one thing I need to specify, though. The PM did *not* recognise Quebec as a nation. Quebec is a province. He recognised the Quebecois people as a nation. While many would assume that it's one and the same (as I would have, in the past), they aren't. The Quebecois are a fracophone group within Quebec - and not the only one. My husband's family is originally from the area and he has extended family spanning most of the east coast. His ancestors have been in Canada for 300 years. While francophone, they hold little love for France, which they feel abandoned the colonists. They hold little love or loyalty for the Queen, since they hold no ties to the UK. But they are not Quebecois. They consider themselves Acadian, a nation that pre-dates Canada.

The Quebecois are a group that is centred mostly around the urban areas of southern Quebec, with the exception of those that consider themselves Acadian. As I understand it, the farther north you go, the less Quebecois Quebec becomes.

One analogy that comes to mind is how Canada recognises First Nations peoples as seperate nations. It's interesting to note that the Metis is recognised as a nation, too - but the Metis do not qualify for any of the "benefits" the first nations get. Most significantly, while our federal government does recognise the Metis, many First Nations do not recognise the Metis as a nation at all. I see similarities here. I certainly doubt the Quebecois seperatists would recognise the Acadians as a seperate nation!

It's a great big mess.

So while I have extreme reservations about the Quebecois being recognised as a "nation within a nation," I also get the impression that Harper may have cut the seperatists off at the knees - but no one's quite sure if he succeeded. They got what they supposedly wanted - recognition - but by recognising the Quebecois people, there's no doubt that Quebec itself is still very much a part of Canada.

Time to see how this plays out.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Tonight I was on my way to a business meeting and had to take a cab. Seeing a cab in front of our building, I went to find out if it was the one I'd called. I open the door and...


... I somehow manage to smack myself right in the eye with the corner of the door! Twisted my glasses all out of shape, and I'm developing quite a shiner right now.


The meeting was great, though! LOL

Sunday, November 19, 2006


So dh's new job looks like it won't need the full 3 months of his contract to finish it. He's accomplishing in days - sometimes hours - what was estimated to take weeks or months. And he's trying not to do it too quickly! Based on what they knew, the estimation of 3 months with possible 2 month extension made sense. Unfortuntely, they didn't know much about the software dh is using, so their estimate was based on someone who kept getting errors in the code and having a hard time fixing them, simply because he wasn't very familiar with the newest version of the software. Dh, on the other hand, is very familiar with it. He readily admits he's no genius at it (though he is cutting himself short a bit - he's quite good at what he does). Even so, simply knowledge of the tools is enough to make the difference.

Of course, that means he's still looking and interviewing. With some breathing space, thanks to this contract, he can look with a more selective eye. There's two possibilities in the works. One is a local position and is our preference.

The other would have us moving back to my home province.

That's where I'm feeling trepidatious.

First off, I don't want to do another interprovincial move. There's a lot of extra headaches involved. I particularily don't want to move back to my home province, as every time we've done that, it's cost us about $5000 at tax time.

Sure, our family is all there - his and mine - but family is part of why we left in the first place. More specifially, my mother. She's one of those toxic people that really ought to be avoided. She's also determined to control my life and ferociously against our homeschooling the kids. I seriously believe she'd go so far as making a false report to social services and have our kids taken from us. Considerring she's already made false reports against us to other authorities, this is no great leap.

Now, I happen to like my home province in many ways, and am familier with the city we'd be going to, since we've lived there several times over the years. There's a lot of good things going for it.

What I've found, however, is that as much as I liked living there, I really love living here. I find it wonderfully, wildly eclectic. It's amazingly friendly here, and there's a large hs'ing community that we've tapped into. I feel at home here.

The kids have developed real friendships. A lot of these kids have competely different views than mine, they like different things, they dress and act differently - and none of that matters. They're friends because they truly enjoy each other's company, and their differences are enjoyed, if not revelled in. *L* This is so completely different from the "friends" they left behind.

Amazingly, I'm finding that *I* have started to develope friendships, too. There are a lot of people who's company I enjoy so much, and I look forward to getting to know them even better. This is a totally new thing for me. I have long been a recluse at heart, and I am content in my own space. I'm not the sort of person who "needs" to be around people, or "needs" constant companionship. Dh is very much like that - he starts to go stir crazy if he hasn't spent some time at least talking to other people on the phone. I've just never been much of a people person. I can happily sit at home with some good books or some crafting materials and I'll be happy for ages. Throw in all the moves, and what I've developed over the years is a whole lot of aquaintances, but few actual friendships. This whole concept of actually connecting with another person like that is a new thing for me. I like it. Sure, I would still be just as content as a hermit, but I value these people and their companionship. I want to continue down that path. Moving out of province makes it so much more difficult to maintain friendships.

So that's where my thoughts are these days. Of course, there's no way of knowing where we'll end up. We just have to keep these things in mind while making our decisions.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


A Day of Remembrance

The Royal Canadian Legion - History of the Poppy.

In Flanders Fields
by: John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Canada, we have our Remembrance Day on the 11th day of the 11th month. On the first of the month, blood red poppies with black centres decorate the lapels, coats and hats of many. The sale of poppies is by donation to the Royal Canadian Legion - only they are allowed to sell the poppies in Canada - and the money goes towards veterans, helping to meet their financial needs. We usually get a few of them, being sure to donate generously in the process. It's the least we can do.

For me, Remembrance Day an emotion filled day, becoming more so as I grow older and try to grasp in incredible sacrifice made by so many. For me, it's a day of solemnity and gratitude. Of sorrow and appreciation. I know I owe my life, as well as my freedom, to those who fought and died so many years ago. Where it not for them, I would never have been born. How many others are there that are alive today that wouldn't be, because so many were willing to put their lives on the line? I couldn't even begin to adequately acknowledge the gift I've been given.

More recently, however, it has started to become a day of anger, as well.

It seems to me, in our modern pampered world, we are breaking faith with those who died for us. Too many are not only forgetting the sacrifice so many have made, but they are twisting it to become something else entirely. I'm hearing people talk about "alternative" ways to celebrate instead of Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day, I'm told, glorifies war and killing, and they want to find a "more peaceful" alternative. Today, I was horrified to read that there are people who are selling and wearing white poppies instead of the red! What a slap in the face to those who sacrificed everything - and by wearing an opium poppy, no less!

Remembrance Day isn't a day to glorify war and violence. It's a day to acknowledge the horrors that people suffered, and be thankful to those who were willing to endure it on our behalf. It openly reminds us that war is a horrible thing. Dispite that horror, there were still people willing to go to the front lines and fight. Why? Because they knew that if they didn't, life as they knew it would be over. The freedoms they enjoyed would end. Can you imagine if the world just sat back and said, "it's wrong to fight and kill, therefore we won't do it," when faced with someone like Hitler, busily killing millions? How would WWII have ended? With Hitler ruling the world? I need only to listen to my parents tell their stories, what little they are willing to discuss, about what it was like as an ordinary citizen - barely more than children - living under such conditions. How much worse would it have been had it been allowed to go on? It's because people we'll never know were willing to fight and die for what's right, that we even have the freedom to wear a white poppy, insulting the very people that gave us that freedom.

You'd think we would've learned our lesson, but obviously not. Otherwise intelligent people mouth platitudes about how evil war is, and if only we'd just give peace a chance. Just how, exactly, do they think we got this peace we've been enjoying for so many decades? By fighting a war, that's how! Because as long as there are madmen like Hitler and far too many others, war, violence and killing will be a fact of life in our world.

How ironic that the only way to truly achieve peace is by being willing to fight for it. Kill for it. Die for it.

That is the torch that's been passed on to us.

If we break faith; if we throw down that torch, we give up everything we value most. Our freedoms. Our families. Our lives.

I, for one, will always wear the red poppy.

I will hold the torch up high.

I will keep the faith.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


After writing my last post, I went back over some old ones and realized that I haven't updated anything on dh's job situation. It wouldn't have mattered if things had stayed the same, but they haven't.

Dh isn't leaving town to take another job for 5 months, after all.

Instead, he's starting a new job - just down the hall from his old one!

Just the day before he was to sign the contract for the out of town job, his contracting company called and asked if he was up for an interview in the morning. So he postponed the contract signing to the afternoon and went to the interview.

By noon, he had the job and a contract was signed. The out of town company wasn't too pleased and tried to lure him back by saying how it was really for 6 months, not five, and that they were thinking extensions, and possibly permanent ... none of which he'd been told before. It's a game Dh doesn't play. He chose the local position, even though it's only for 3 months and for lower pay, because it's the least disruptive to our family, and will have the fewest negative effects on his health due to stress (and believe me - living on his own for 5-6 months is very stressful for him).

Tomorrow morning, he starts the new job. He doesn't come in until 9:30 am, which is 2 1/2 hour later than he's used to. By the end of the day, he'll know what his normal hours will turn out to be.

Meanwhile, my last day at work has come and gone. My managers were hoping I'd be able to stay. If for some reason I find I'm able to come back, I was told all I need to do is talk to one of the managers and I'm back in again. It's rather nice to know they are willing to do that. I don't feel bad, exactly, for leaving - it's what I need to do - but I do empathize with the position it puts them in. There aren't a lot of people in my department that are dependable - a lot are real slackers, to be honest.

Well, we'll see how things turn out over the next 3 months.

Learn a new language

I was at a seminar this past weekend. The main purpose of the seminar was to teach people how to become successful in their lives, personally and financially. One of the things oft repeated is the importance of reading books and listening to audios of a positive, uplifting nature, and to avoid negative influences in your life, such as tv, toxic "friends" and the like.

It's a constantly repeated theme, as it's so vitally important to change our thinking before we can move beyond where we are now, to where we want to be. It's also one of the most difficult things to accomplish, as we are so inundated by negative images and messages around us. A frequent occurance happens when people we considered friends find out that we are doing things like listening to audios or reading books, instead of watching the lastest episode of Survivor or going to the bar to get drunk with them again; these "friends" usually get rather upset and start saying things like "you're getting brainwashed!" One of the more common responses to this that I've heard from numerous speakers has been along the lines of "Yes I am - my brain *needs* to be washed!"

As accurately amusing as the statement is, it's something the average person doesn't understand, or is uncomfortable with, because of the cult-like associations with the term "brain washing." It was during this past seminar, however, that it suddenly became obvious to me.

It's not that we're "washing our brains" by deliberately moving away from these negative influences and replacing them with positive. What we're really doing is learning a new language.

Think about it for a moment. Throughout our lives, we are immersed in the language of negative thinking. At school, we are judged not by what we do well, but what we do poorly. Rather then building on one or two things we are strongest in, we are forced to work on the many things we are weakest in - particularily if those things involve the maths and sciences. If a child shows artistic promise but a "deficit" in math, this is considerred a bad thing. That child is generally made to stop being artsy (unless, of course, they do it in art class in a teacher approved manner) and given extra work on math. That child's artistic promise is not allowed to develope into its full potential, or even to discover what that might possibly be. The end result is a child who is mediocre in both math and art, and who sees his or her self as a failure.

This thinking continues in other areas of our lives. We are constantly bombarded with our failures rather than our successes. We are told to strive - but not too far, because somehow, "too much" success is morally wrong. Add to that the focus on the negatives of the world around us. Magazines that tell us we're too fat and ugly, unless we buy the latest diet pill or make up. Tv shows that focus on the worst of human behaviour and market it as being somehow funny. News that is always bad. The focus of all these things isn't on how we can improve our lives, but on showing us how terrible life is, was or will be. Doom and gloom sells. Even media showing supposedly positive messages somehow manage to twist it into something negative.

Over the years, our "language" becomes one of constant negative self talk and imagery. We focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. We constantly berate ourselves for not meeting some ambiguous ideal of perfection. We constantly relive in our minds our most embaressing moments or most humiliating defeats. We envision futures of failure and mediocrity, because we truly don't know how to get anything else, and have difficulty believing that we are worthy of better.

One of the things we are doing with our kids is using Rosetta Stone to learn French. The concept behind Rosetta Stone is to learn the language as naturally as possible, much the same way we learn our own native tongue - through total immersion. Using the written and spoken word, together with images, we are expected to be able to figure out what is what. If we get it wrong, it just cycles back to give another chance later on. There is only one language used on this software - the language you are trying to learn. Eventaully, the brain makes the connections and - aha!! - you understand what you are seeing and hearing. Immersion is the fastest, most efficient way to learn a new language.

This is exactly what we do when we focus on books, audios and videos that tell us we can achieve our dreams and goals, and how to do it. We are immersing ourselves in a new language. The language of success. The language of positive self talk. The language of possibility thinking.

So the next time someone tries to tell me I'm being brainwashed, my answer will be no, I'm not being brainwashed.

I'm just learning a new language.