Saturday, December 20, 2008

Past Deadline: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, 2008

Here's the Christmas column offering - published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Dec. 17. Ho ho ho!

’Twas the Night Before Christmas, 2008

Well, it’s that time of year again – the time when I join legions of other people who take a perfectly good, classic poem and turn it inside out to serve their own selfish purposes. What would Christmas be without that? So here we go again, with apologies to Clement Clark Moore….

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Was chaos! And mayhem! And anarchy! And grouse! (Grousing. It should be grousing – but that doesn’t rhyme with house – or housing, for that matter.)

Groom-Boy and MomMomMom Ineeda were scouring the shelves
Hoping to find batteries – and maybe some elves.
“It’s hopeless!” he cried as he eyed all the papers,
“To assemble these toys will be quite a caper!”
“I know it,” she said, as she collapsed in a heap,
“And there’s not much time left – boy, we’re in deep!”
She recalled last year’s promise to start her preparing,
In advance of the season becoming too wearing. (Is that even possible? I mean, really. When you’re working and have kids….Maybe "despairing" would be a better word.)
When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a tiny old woman with a sack at her rear.
“Hurray!” Mom Ineeda cried. “I was hoping you’d come!
“I’ve done it again and I’m feeling quite glum.
“Despite every one of my very best intentions
“It IS the last minute – which doesn’t need mention.”
“Who’s this?” Groom-boy asked, with concern in his eye,
“She doesn’t look much like that Santa Claus guy!”
“It isn’t!” Mom Ineeda said, all light and airy,
“Fear not, for this is the Stress-Free Holiday Fairy!”
(I’m always saying, “Fear not!” around the house, you know.)
With a wink and a grin the fairy did scold,
“You haven’t improved much from what I’ve been told.
“The baking, the wrapping, the decorating I see,
“Has all been last minute and comes with no glee.”
(Yeah, it’s the glee I miss.)
“Now pass me those toys,” she with a smile
“And I’ll have them ready in less than a while.”
In a flash she assembled a number of things
Like trinkets and baubles and stuff that will collect dust and be forgotten under the couch in very short order.
(Sorry. Again with the no rhyming. It’s hard to get good poets, isn’t it?)
And next she set to the rest of the house,
Removing clutter and dust and the occasional grouse.
She tidied and vacuumed and mopped and did jigs
And she managed to do it without waking the kids. (Er, kigs. You know what I mean.)
She finished so quickly they both were amazed
But the fairy herself was really unfazed.
“’Tis nothing,” she chuckled as the pair looked around.
“It’s spotless!” they cheered, barely touching the ground.
“Now listen,” said Fairy, “don’t make this a habit,
“When you have time to prepare you really must grab it.”
With that she was gone, and left in her wake
A sparkling clean house and a yummy fruitcake.
“Oh, yay. Fruitcake,” groaned Groom-boy.
Licking her lips, Mom Ineeda heard her sweet cry,
“Have a stress-free holiday, dearies!” Fairy called. “Goodbye!”

Oh, wouldn’t that be so, so nice! The fruitcake, I mean. Well, whether a stress-free holiday fairy shows up at your house or not, Groom-Boy, Boychild, Girlchild and I, Mom Ineeda, wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best in the New Year!

Do you suppose the fairy would jump into the Tay for me on New Year’s Day?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Past Deadline: What? Christmas is WHEN This Year?

Hey, look! Me, on the verge of annual panic! Hurray! Here is the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008.

What? Christmas is when this year?

Did they move Christmas up this year? No?


I’m not ready. I won’t even have a chance to start feeling remotely ready until the week before Christmas. Why? Work-life balance. Balance schmalance.

From about the end of October until mid-December is Silly Season for me and, ironically, it has very little to do with Christmas. For whatever reasons – planets aligning, fates a’calling, lords a-leaping (who knows?) – my work-from-home schedule goes psycho bananas. So in an effort to sort out what’s left to do between now and Dec. 25, I thought I would share my list with you.

1. Christmas cards. I haven’t sent mine out yet. The problem is I’m still waiting for my friend (former supervisor) to send me a picture of his family so I can accidentally attach it to a Christmas e-mail and send it out to a whole bunch of friends, family and clients. Just to make sure everyone is paying attention. Like last year.

2. Christmas baking. Several weeks ago Girlchild and I were on a baking spree. Every other day she would ask if we could make cookies together and I would opt for the handy-dandy peanut butter ones on the back of the Kraft jar: quick, easy and superb with some chocolate chips added. I got to thinking, if I’m going to be baking this often I should get the Christmas stuff done. I went shopping for all the ingredients: peel for the fruit cookies and real butter for Grandmom’s shortbread and ginger and icing for the gingerbread men. I told people about my clever plan, which is always a dumb thing to do because then your cleverness will never see the light of day.
Baking? What baking? Who has time for baking? Besides, my assistant has changed hobbies and has taken a fancy to making bead necklaces and paintings, which is what everyone we know will be getting for Christmas (see below).

3. Christmas gifts. For months when I’ve thought of a clever (there’s that naughty word again) gift I would write it down. Despite some feeble efforts to go shopping, mostly the list has stared at me balefully while I’ve been working like a lunatic at my desk. All I can do is stare back, count the necklaces and paintings and think, “Maybe next week.” When it comes to Christmas you can only say “Maybe next week” so many times before it’s too late, not like those diet and exercise resolutions that can be put off indefinitely despite the typical Jan. 1st start date.

4. Speaking of Jan. 1, have I mentioned how utterly freaked out I am about the Polar Bear Plunge? It’s keeping me up at night in breathless anticipation – or something. Have I mentioned I’m in the market for a wetsuit? Deep breath. Okay – back to Christmas.

5. Christmas decorations. Groom-boy, who has a light fetish, has draped sparkly luminaries over everything that isn’t moving, and the tree was set up on the weekend – hurray! Boychild waited patiently (ha!) for the Tall People to string the lights and garland while Girlchild diligently removed Every Single Ornament from its container and piled it on the couch. This got me a bit twitchy because I am Type A – I mean because I feared some of the breakable ornaments would not survive the “help” of a three year old. Fortunately I found the bag of breakables before she did.

Christmas is so relaxing.

As soon as I can remove a layer of dust and a mountain of clutter from the horizontal surfaces in my house I should be able to finish the decorating (just before the people come over). That is assuming I get that balance-schmalance thing under control.

As much as I wish I could have had more accomplished by now, Christmas is a bit like weddings – there’s only so much you can do in advance to prepare. Some of it, like putting out the deli meat at the reception or making the gravy for the turkey dinner, just has to wait.

That said, ideally I would prefer not to have to wait until Dec. 24 to get things finished.

At least I have until Jan. 1 to get the wetsuit.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Past Deadline: Please - Convince Me I Wanna Jump

At last. Real evidence I am nuts. Here is the lastest edition of "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Dec. 3/08.

Please – convince me I wanna jump!

Groom-boy figures it will be the end of me. I hope he is wrong because that would be a shame.

I have the privilege of being the president of a local charity: the Friends of Murphys Point Park. With that privilege comes the inability to say “no” – I mean, the dubious honour – I mean, the exciting prospect of participating (fully!) in the 16th Annual Perth Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 1.


The Friends have a truly awesome archaeology program called “Archaeo Apprentice,” which will be the beneficiary of funds raised from the plunge.

The plunge itself is terrifying – I mean is a fun and exciting way for folks to raise money for different programs in the community. Each year a different charity is chosen to be the beneficiary, and I sincerely thank the plunge committee folks and the Perth Legion for giving groups like ours the opportunity to take part!

When one of our archaeology committee members proposed getting involved with the plunge, I ran screaming from the room. Okay, I didn’t, but I thought about it. Jumping into an icy river in January is not on my bucket list – although it could prove to be the bucket. So vivid is my phobia of jumping into cold, dark water that I haven’t even been to the Polar Bear Plunge before. This does not make me an obvious candidate for jumping into the Tay on Jan. 1.

Alas, [deep breath], apparently I’ll be [gulp] doing it. Aaaaaah!

What is compelling me is not just my inability to say no nor my stubborn sense of duty as president nor the fact I should be committed. I’m doing it because of the excitement I have seen on the faces of students, teachers and parent volunteers who participate in the Archaeo Apprentice program.

Since 2004, more than 500 Grade 5 students from across Lanark County have taken part in this annual archaeology program. They come to the park for a day, learn the history of the McParlan House and Burgess Saw Mill site on Hogg Bay and then get to work excavating with real, professional archaeologists. Over the years students have excavated thousands of artifacts – many of which date back to the mid 1800s. They have found construction materials, evidence of the existence of a blacksmith shop, household dishes, pieces of 100-year-old toys, animal bones and farm implements. It is a way for them to grasp – in a real, tangible way – how the pioneers lived. It helps to bring meaning to the things they learn in school about pioneers.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this program is, and if you see it for yourself you would understand what I mean. After each excavation the archaeologists submit a report to the provincial Ministry of Culture that outlines their findings. These reports are invaluable to the park in terms of interpreting local history. We now know volumes more about the people who settled the park area than we did a few years ago. That local history resounds with the students who visit the site, too.

So, you can see, I am committed. You will not, however, see me in a bikini on New Year’s Day. No one sees that, especially when there are cameras around. I am getting better at telling myself “It’s only cold water” and “It’ll only be for a few seconds,” but I still haven’t ruled out some form of wetsuit (does that make me truly a chicken?).

Rest assured (and this is ironic), this whole thing keeps me up at night.

Raising more than $500 in pledges would make all this terror and angst worthwhile (sort of) for me, so I hope you’ll support my bid to be a nutbar on New Year’s Day.

If you’d like to pledge me, drop into the Courier office and sign my sheet. Or pledge some other crazy – I mean devoted – person you know who is plunging. You can even join me in my quest! Pledge forms and information are available at You can also find forms at the Courier office and at other locations around town.

In the meantime, please think warm thoughts for me. Shiver.