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Yesterday Amy over at The Bumble Files wrote a wonderful piece, “How About a Lovely Tree In Your House“, that inspired some memories leading me to share with her an old post from when I first started blogging on a very irregular basis. (No need to point out I am still pretty much irregular). I have been struggling with the Christmasy post I was working on and I’m pretty sure only 3 people read the original post so with Amy’s insistance encouragement here is an updated version of the story.

My most vivid memories of Christmas include my Mom. She always made it a very special time for us. To us she was Christmas. We lost her when I was 12 and each one of us took that part of her and hung on to it in our own way. My sister Pat is the over the top Christmas Queen in our family. For me, two things bring me right back to my childhood Christmases. First, the song Silver Bells brings me to my Mother’s side, and I can hear her singing it or humming. The other, is the Christmas tree…the very real Christmas tree.

We always had a real tree growing up. In my early teens I had to fight for it. My Dad had started to introduce the idea of an artificial tree. When I was 15 I lost that fight. I was devastated and stayed in the basement. Now, at that time I had a group of friends that hung out in my basement all the time. We did everything together and were pretty much inseparable. My friend Jimmy, who I have always called JQ, knew how upset I was. We were close and he just “got” what it meant to me. JQ walked to the closest place he could find a tree. It was in the lot of a local Church. Did I mention we were 15? We didn’t have our drivers licenses yet, so JQ dragged that tree all the way back to my basement. When he showed up with it one half was pretty much worn off, but, it was the most beautiful tree in the world as far as I was concerned. That night all the gang came over. Everyone brought leftover lights from their homes and stuff to make ornaments with. We spent the night making some pretty funny looking ornaments and stringing popcorn for the tree. It was a wonderful tree and I still have some of the ornaments.

JQ is one of those special friends that become a part of you and your life and you always have a connection with. He is like that for many people. It is his nature. In later years when I was ill and on my own, JQ would again show up on my doorstep with a Christmas tree (this time he drove it there so it had all its branches intact) with his two beautiful little girls in tow. It was wonderful. Watching him set it up and the little ones helping him make it come alive. Over the next several years that became almost a tradition. JQ and his daughters would bring me my Christmas tree and decorate it. I have pictures of them with the finished tree every year that shows them growing up. I do hope JQ knows how much it meant to me that he helped keep my Christmas alive.

JQ & His Daughters Making Christmas for Me

JQ & His Daughters Making Christmas for Me

When He-Who and I celebrated our first Christmas he knew the score right from the beginning. He had heard many times how JQ had saved Christmas. A tough act to follow, but, My He-Who stepped up to the plate. He would scour the lots and always bring home the best tree for us each year. Until…

Yes, until, the year he was travelling through Texas and New Mexico with his daughter just before Christmas. He was on the phone every day promising he would be home in time to get me my tree. A funny thing happened that year. For some reason there was a shortage of Christmas trees in the US and Canadian trees were being shipped at a premium stateside. Newspapers and newscasters started talking about how hard it was to find a tree now. I started to worry, and told him he was going to have a hard time finding a tree. “Don’t worry. I always find you the perfect tree, I won’t let you down”. I’m sure he thought I was making it up until he arrived home shortly before Christmas and saw the headlines. He-Who, being He-Who, was sure he could still find me one. He searched and searched and phoned to tell me about his lack of progress. He decided he would have to bite the bullet and buy an artificial tree. He had no idea at the time the run there was on artificial trees because of the lack of real ones and he was starting to sweat. He knew no matter what he did he couldn’t win at this point. I remember it clearly, like it was yesterday. I had been in the edit suite all day finishing up Christmas promos.

He-Who: I’m really sorry, but I can’t find a real Christmas tree.
Me: Did you think I was making it up? I tried to tell you.
He-Who: So I went looking for an artificial tree.
Me: (eyes welling up) I don’t want an artificial tree.
He-Who: Well there weren’t any left anywhere. But, I found this small tree at Canadian Tire. It was the last one. It is really pretty. It’s fiber optic.
Lots of silence…
Me: You bought me a fiber optic Christmas tree? (Crying ensued)
He-Who: But it’s really pretty
Me: (suck it up he feels bad enough) OK, well at least I can put my ornaments on it.
He-Who: (poor bastard) Ummm, no you can’t, you can’t put ornaments on a fiber optic tree.
Me: (more crying) OK, well at least I can put the angel Lorne (my boss) gave me for Christmas on it.
He-Who: (poor, poor bastard) Well, actually you can’t. You can’t put anything on it. It is fiber optic.
Me: (a lot more crying).
He-Who: (poor, poor, poor bastard)

The rest of the day I sniveled through and blubbered my way home, threatening to report him to JQ for anti Christmas activity.

When I arrived home he had set it up quite lovely. He stood beside it meekly, waiting. I cried. “That’s not a tree, that’s a psychedelic bush! That’s Ralph.” Note: I have this habit of naming things. And Ralph was the worse name I could think of. (That was before I had met my brother-in-law Ralph, who I like a lot, so sorry Ralph.)

People came and went over the Holiday season. They would come in and admire Ralph. He-Who would smile triumphantly and I would explain that although it was a pretty thing, it was in no way a Christmas tree.

White Christmas Holidays ended and He-Who went off on business again. Ralph remained in my living room. I put the rest of the decorations away, but this was He-Who’s creature and he was to deal with it. I started reading this book called “White Christmas” by Jody Rosen  , the story of how Irving Berlin penned the now famous & traditional song we all know and love. It tells the tale of the Russian-Jewish immigrant who wrote America’s yuletide ballad that would become the world’s all-time top-selling and most widely recorded song. Somehow, it struck a chord with me that if Irving Berlin could come to mean so much to those of us who loved Christmas, then so could Ralph. By the time My He-Who returned home Ralph had become Irving and we had bonded.

Somehow, out of stubbornness by both of us, Irving stayed up all year long. On principle, I was still not putting him away. The truth is I didn’t want to tell He-Who that Irving had become my confident and I talked to him all the time. The following year, Irving was a welcome member of our celebrations, and he was finally put away after the season. Irving continues to celebrate every Christmas season with us, but

Irving

Irving

… he is still not a real Christmas Tree.

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Merry Christmas Everyone

Christmas Logo Separation Bar

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Back in October 2008 I finally took a trip I had been trying to avoid since I met He-Who. I went to his birthplace. Yes, folks, I went to Winnipeg, aka: The Centre Of The Universe.
As it turned out I had a wonderful time. I met some lovely people who all treated me like royalty and made me feel right at home. Friendships were formed that will always be with me. The strongest bond was with one new friend in particular: Sammy.
Sammy was great fun. A little messy. A little noisy. But quite amusing. I had never met anyone quite like Sammy. It’s quite possible it was because I have always lived in the city and Sammy … well, Sammy was a pig. I don’t mean Sammy was a slob. Sammy was a real honest to goodness pig. Like in the book “The Three Little Pigs”. Except Sammy wasn’t little. She wasn’t one of those miniature potbelly pigs that celebrities make popular. She was a real, full size pig. A pig’s pig so to speak.

I fell in love with Sammy the first time I saw her. She was just that kind of pig. Her family was quite amused at my insisting that I be able to go out to the pen and feed her while I was there.

Truth be told … I hadn’t packed for slopping pigs. My clothes could be washed but my shoes were an issue. By the time I reached Sammy at each feeding my shoes would be caked in stuff I don’t want to think about and often became stuck firmly enough that I walked out of them. It became my mission to find the perfect pig shoes to sport while spending time with Sammy. It took me days to find them but I knew them the instant I saw them. I was so proud the first time I put them on to go feed Sammy and I couldn’t understand why everyone looked shocked. I could hear them laughing all the way to the pig’s digs. I didn’t care. That meant I could spend more time with my swine friend.

There was just something about Sammy that made you want to spend time with her. Personally, I think Sammy was a natural Shaman, a healer. When I met Sammy she was about 2 ½ years old. She had come to live with her human mom, Susie, in early spring of 2006. She was just a few weeks old and weighed only 10 lbs. Susie has a great love of animals, especially pigs. While recuperating from an injury, Susie was pretty much housebound and was becoming quite depressed. One day, her husband, Craig, just after arriving home, asked her to retrieve something he had forgotten in the truck. Susie wasn’t impressed but begrudgingly went out to the truck, opened the door and found a tiny piglet wrapped in a carpet. Susie’s story…

Instantly I was excited but full of wonder as to what I was going to do with her. I then grabbed her and ran into the house, happier than I could have imagined. I had Craig go out and build her a house and a fence. From that moment on you couldn’t keep me in the house. Craig, at this point, thought he would eventually be making bacon and chops! Boy was he wrong. He thought I’d get over the thrill of the pig. After about a week I had picked her name. You see, in high school, I had acquaintances that knew my name, but for some strange reason called me Sam. So Sammy it was. I would buy jarred baby food and cook oatmeal twice a day, mixing fruits and veggies for her. She would get so excited! It was fun to feed her good stuff. People around me commented on how ridiculous I was being for spoiling her, but I didn’t care. I found it funny when I’d get the odd inquiry about her favorite foods. Not long after, Craig began buying cheeseburgers from McDonalds for Sammy and soon it was ice cream. A neighbour would bring black forest cake right from the bakery for Sammy. I had started a spoiling trend. I had naps with her in my lap out in her pen, sat with her through storms and did whatever I could to give back to her what she was giving me. She gave me reason to start my day and look forward to the next one. Over the years Sammy became a special part of many peoples lives. People would pop in just to see her, whether to give her a treat or just to pet her. She was so playful she would run and push toys around. She would roll over for a belly rub anytime! She had this hilarious wiggle when she got super excited. I called it her “dance”. I’m smiling just picturing it! My dogs at the time, Harley and Rocky, would stay by her pen at night and were always pleased to clean her snout after her meals. They loved her. As Craig continued to expand the farm, Sam would check things out with the other animals! She had a few more buddies, too. She and one of the horses would kiss over the fence and walk along beside each other. It was adorable! She was ready to babysit waterfowl and shared her mud bath with them when they were too young to head out to the pond. And I would often see this cat sitting on Sammy’s back. She was just all around a genuine, healing angel!

When it was time to leave my newfound friend, my hosts suggested that I leave my “pig shoes” behind and promised they would be there the next time I visited. When I came home, He-Who heard all about my adventures with Sammy and all about my pig shoes. The following August (2009) we were able to return to Winnipeg together. I couldn’t wait for He-Who to meet Sammy and was pretty excited to see her again. As soon as I got in the door and introductions were made, I asked if I could go out and see Sammy. Surprisingly I was told my pig shoes were right where I had left them. He-Who followed me out to the garage and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw me retrieve my pig shoes and proudly model them for him.

“But … they’re WHITE!” he said, shaking his head. “I thought they would be some kind of boot or something. NOT white sneakers.” I grinned and said, “They work for me” and dragged him out to meet Sammy. It was wonderful to see Sammy again and I know she knew who I was and was appropriately impressed that I came back to see her.

Sammy was about 600 lbs. when she passed away from pneumonia in March of this year. She is dearly missed by Susie and all those whose lives she touched. Suzie tells me the farmyard has not been the same without her. She was truly loved and led an amazing life in the little menagerie.

I still have my pig shoes and think of my friend Sammy every time I look at them.

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When is the last time you laughed?
I don’t mean, “LOL”, “LMFAO”, or even “ROFL”. I mean a real laugh…one of those uncontrollable, side aching, can’t breathe, tears streaming down your face and perhaps your panties for “woman of a certain age” (so I am told).

Laughing is one of my favourite things. I love to laugh. It has always been said that “laughter is the best medicine”.  That is not an old wives’ tale. It is proven scientific fact.  There is no denying that laughter “reduces pain, increases job performance, connects people emotionally and improves the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain”.  According to HELPGUIDE.org laughter is strong medicine for mind and body and have provided this graphic to to show you to what extent.

From HELPGUIDE.org

Ok, but did you know it was contagious?  Of course you did!  As a kid, I loved the 1964 movie “Mary Poppins” with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews.  In those days if you had a favourite movie, you didn’t buy the DVD or video. They didn’t exist. You bought the sound track on a 33 rpm Album. A visual aid has been provided for those who have no idea what I am talking about.

This is a 33rpm album with the cover.

I played that album constantly, with no mercy, until an intervention was performed by my siblings under threat of destruction.  I loved the songs. I new all the words. I sang and danced and acted out all the scenes my little kid brain could remember.  My all time favourite was the “I Love To Laugh” song written by The Sherman Brothers.  I would sing that song at the top of my lungs and roll around on the floor imitating all the laughs. The whole scene is priceless.


You know that once somebody starts to laugh, you start to laugh and before you know it neither one of you even remember what you were laughing at to begin with.  And you can’t stop.  The people I laugh with the most are always the people that are most important to me  and that I love the most.  Someone who will laugh with you at even the worse times can pretty much make anything better.  I have one friend and colleague that can make me laugh harder than anyone. I don’t see her much anymore but that girl was able to make me lose it faster and longer than anyone I know.  She could always make a difficult situation better with some silliness.  There were times we could just look at each other and crack up so hard people thought we were stoned. We weren’t, we just enjoyed our adventures.  We once had a lunch meeting with a gentleman in a Swiss Chalet that started out OK but rapidly got out of control. There was no reason we started laughing, but we did, and we couldn’t stop. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t eat and the gentleman I am sure wrote us off to insanity.  One of my favourite debacles took place at a book convention where we were manning a booth.  It all started when a clown approached us and said, “Hi, I am the Christian Clown”.  I looked at her, she looked at me and before I knew it I was inhaling my puffer to breathe and she had her head stuck in her purse laughing.  Now all we have to do is mention some of our adventures to each other and we start laughing all over again.

Speaking of clowns… There is a classic Mary Tyler Moore episode called, “Chuckles Bites The Dust”.  The premise is that “Chuckles the Clown is dead. He had dressed as the character Peter Peanut, and a rogue elephant tried to “shell” him during a parade. The unusual circumstances of Chuckles’ death provoked a wave of jokes (“You know how hard it is to stop after just one peanut!” and “He could’ve gone as Billy Banana and had a gorilla peel him to death”.) Everyone is consumed with uncontrollable laughter, with the exception of Mary, who is appalled by her co-workers’ apparent lack of respect for the dead.”  And then it is time for the funeral…

Classic!  Yes, laughter can get you through pretty much anything, even death…or unemployment.  There is a viral video of a Dad ripping up a job rejection letter that causes his young baby to laugh hysterically…

Who doesn’t respond to a laughing baby? In fact here is a whole list of laughing babies and if you take the time to watch, the one thing you will find in common is that in every one you can hear the adults laughing at the laughter.

William laughing

Luke laughing

Bumbo Baby laughing

Baby in Pink laughing

Baby Boy laughing

I love to laugh. But, it seems I haven’t been doing enough of it lately. I’m going to work on that. Believe me I’ve been doing a lot more laughing just since I’ve been working on this post. I feel better already!

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By the way here are the words to I Love To Laugh (1964) written By The Sherman Brothers. Just in case you want to sing along. You know you want to. I am!

Uncle Albert:
I love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
I love to laugh
It’s getting worse ev’ry year

The more I laugh
The more I fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more I’m a merrier me
It’s embarrassing!
The more I’m a merrier me!

Mary Poppins:
Some people laugh through their noses
Sounding something like this “Mmm…”
Some people laugh through their teeth goodness sake
Hissing and fizzing like snakes

Bert:
Some laugh too fast
Some only blast – ha!
Others, they twitter like birds
Then there’s the kind
What can’t make up their mind

Uncle Albert:
When things strike me as funny
I can’t hide it inside
And squeak – as the squeakelers do
I’ve got to let go with a ho-ho-ho…
And a ha-ha-ha…too!

All:
We love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
We love to laugh
So ev’rybody can hear
The more you laugh
The more you fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more we’re a merrier we!

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My most vivid memories of Christmas include my Mother. She always made it a very special time for us. To us she was Christmas. When we lost her when I was 12 each one of us took that part of her and hung on to it in our own way. My sister Pat is the over the top Christmas Queen in our family. For me, two things bring me right back to my childhood Christmases. First, the song “Silver Bells” brings me to my Mother’s side, and I can hear her singing it or humming. The other, is the Christmas tree…the very real Christmas tree.

We always had a real tree growing up. In my early teens I had to fight for it. My Dad had started to introduce the idea of an artificial tree. When I was 15 I lost that fight. I was devastated and stayed in the basement. Now, at that time I had a group of friends that hung out in my basement all the time. We did everything together and were pretty much inseparable. My friend Jimmy, who I have always called JQ, knew how upset I was. We were close and he just “got” what it meant to me. JQ walked to the closest place he could find a tree. It was in the lot of a local Church. Did I mention we were 15? We didn’t have our drivers licenses yet, so JQ dragged that tree all the way back to my basement. When he showed up with it one half was pretty much worn off, but, it was the most beautiful tree in the world as far as I was concerned. That night all the gang came over. Everyone brought leftover lights from their homes and stuff to make ornaments with. We spent the night making some pretty funny looking ornaments and stringing popcorn for the tree. It was a wonderful tree and I still have some of the ornaments.

JQ & His Daughters Making Christmas for Me

JQ is one of those special friends that become a part of you and your life and you always have a connection with. He is like that for many people. It is his nature. In later years when I was ill and on my own, JQ would again show up on my doorstep with a Christmas tree (this time he drove it there so it had all its branches in tact) with his two beautiful little girls in tow. It was wonderful. Watching him set it up and the little ones helping him make it come alive. Over the next several years that became almost a tradition. JQ and his daughters would bring me my Christmas tree and decorate it. I have pictures of them with the finished tree every year that shows them growing up. I do hope JQ knows how much it meant to me that he helped keep my Christmas alive.

When Paul and I celebrated our first Christmas he knew the score right from the beginning. He had heard many times how JQ had saved Christmas. A tough act to follow, but, My Paul stepped up to the plate. He would scour the lots and always bring home the best tree for us each year. Until…

Yes, until, the year he was travelling through Texas and New Mexico with his daughter just before Christmas. He was on the phone every day promising he would be home in time to get me my tree. A funny thing happened that year. For some reason there was a shortage of Christmas trees in the US and Canadian trees were being shipped at a premium stateside. Newspapers and newscasters started talking about how hard it was to find a tree now. I started to worry, and told him he was going to have a hard time finding a tree. “Don’t worry. I always find you the perfect tree, I won’t let you down”. I’m sure he thought I was making it up until he arrived home shortly before Christmas and saw the headlines. Paul, being Paul, was sure he could still find me one. He searched and searched and phoned to tell me about his lack of progress. He decided he would have to bite the bullet and buy an artificial tree. He had no idea at the time the run there was on artificial trees because of the lack of real ones and he was starting to sweat. He knew no matter what he did he couldn’t win at this point. I remember it clearly, like it was yesterday. I had been in the edit suite all day finishing up Christmas promos.

Paul: I’m really sorry, but I can’t find a real Christmas tree.
Me: Did you think I was making it up? I tried to tell you.
Paul: So I went looking for an artificial tree.
Me: (eyes welling up) I don’t want an artificial tree.
Paul: Well there weren’t any left anywhere. But, I found this small tree at Canadian Tire. It was the last one. It is really pretty. It’s fiber optic.
Lots of silence…
Me: You bought me a fiber optic Christmas tree? (Crying ensued)
Paul: But it’s really pretty
Me: (suck it up he feels bad enough) OK, well at least I can put my ornaments on it.
Paul: (poor bastard) Ummm, no you can’t, you can’t put ornaments on a fiber optic tree.
Me: (more crying) OK, well at least I can put the angel Lorne (my boss) gave me for Christmas on it.
Paul: (poor, poor bastard) Well, actually you can’t. You can’t put anything on it. It is fiber optic.
Me: (a lot more crying).
Paul: (poor, poor, poor bastard)

The rest of the day I sniveled through and blubbered my way home, threatening to report him to JQ for anti Christmas activity.

When I arrived home he had set it up quite lovely. He stood beside it meekly, waiting. I cried. “That’s not a tree, that’s a psychedelic bush! That’s Ralph.” Note: I have this habit of naming things. And Ralph was the worse name I could think of. (That was before I had met my brother-in-law Ralph, who I like a lot, so sorry Ralph.)

People came and went over the Holiday season. They would come in and admire Ralph. Paul would smile triumphantly and I would explain that although it was a pretty thing, it was in no way a Christmas tree.

The Holidays ended and Paul went off on business again. Ralph remained in my living room. I put the rest of the decorations away, but this was Paul’s creature and he was to deal with it. I started reading this book called “White Christmas” by Jody Rosen  . It was the story of how Irving Berlin penned the now famous & traditional song we all know and love. It tells the tale of the Russian-Jewish immigrant who wrote America’s yuletide ballad that would become the world’s all-time top-selling and most widely recorded song. Somehow, it struck a chord with me that if Irving Berlin could come to mean so much to those of us who loved Christmas, then so could Ralph. By the time My Paul returned home Ralph had become Irving and we had bonded.

Somehow, out of stubbornness by both of us, Irving stayed up all year long. On principle, I was still not putting him away. The truth is I didn’t want to tell Paul that Irving had become my confident and I talked to him all the time. The following year, Irving was a welcome member of our celebrations, and he was finally put away after the season. Irving continues to celebrate every Christmas season with us, but…

Irving

he is still not a real Christmas Tree.

Merry Christmas Everyone,
M

-30-

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Tom Lucas

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