Tag Archives: Christmas

Suspended in Time, Love and Kissing the Year Goodbye


Sunset_and_Moonset(Photo courtesy of European Southern Observatory (ESO))

The short time between Christmas and New Years is like a plane ride—there’s really no one looking for you, asking you to do much or cares whether you are asleep, reading a book and snacking on salty chips.

It’s a time of in between, when you exhale from over-indulgence and begin to turn your mind, ever so slightly, towards your life and what you’ll make of it the following year.

I am feeling the pull of solitude after so many conversations—the need to think, and let sentences uncoil in my mind and have time to track down where they are taking me. The tug of stories that want to be written is polite but insistent, like children who’ve waited a long time in a lineup but implore you with their eyes that a chocolate bar would do wonders for their mood.

I realize I’ve been damming up my interior self for so long it feels like the sandbags—work, chores, bills, deadlines—have to now give way for some creativity. Of course, what follows after the river runneth is always a scene of me screaming I don’t want to go to work around January 5th, but let’s not talk about that just yet.

Christmas has left me with a new feeling in my heart and this comes from new people in my family. It’s amazing how a culture you’ve never known can suddenly feel so dear to you overnight. My nephew Luke married Jan, a woman he met a few years ago in Thailand and now she is living with him in their smart new place in Kelowna. Jan had her first Christmas in Canada and I was really privileged to be part of it. I noticed how her graciousness and respect for family was paramount and my role as Aunt seemed to have real meaning and significance. Her idea of family is so different from my experience I was deeply touched when she intimated that I should live with my son in their apartment building as well. After all, why wouldn’t we all live right close by one another?

As we struggled over language and culture barriers, the snow came down through the pines, and we ate tins of German cookies and watched the fire, sharing stories and opening gifts and while I’m not yet sure exactly what the new feeling is—hence the need to have some solitude to sort it out into a poem—I do know it feels wonderful to be loved. That’s what my Christmas gave me and isn’t that, I mean really and truly, such a gift?

I think so.

In the meanwhile, I’m going to detach and focus on some poems for the coming year, ponder my recent acceptance into the Creative Writing graduate program at UBC (very exciting), and how I might make the most of this gorgeous suspended time, between what was and what will be.

I hope you find yourself suspended in your own cloud of yearning, looking up into the night sky, kissing 2015 goodbye and falling into the arms of 2016. xo

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Filed under Non-fiction

Annual Christmas Poll Time

In an effort to see if anything has changed for the better since last year’s highly commercial gift-fest, I thought to take a poll on how people are gifting this year.


Filed under Non-fiction

Finally, some time with my city!

After leaving my government job, moving my son and I off Vancouver Island, starting a business, and maniacally working for a solid 10 months, it has been wonderful to loosen up a little lately on the hard-core business schedule to focus on my own art, friends, and getting out and about in my beloved city that I’ve missed so much. Here are a few pictures of my wanderings (I thought to give you some visuals after noticing how long my blog posts have been lately, oops).

I gave a workshop at the Four Seasons for a client and had a fab time there. I love the 60’s vibe that you can find in some of the details in the rooms and hallways. She needs a refresher that darling hotel but I love her anyway. I stopped in at Blo, the hair salon in the Four Seasons just to show my students how to story capture and voila, they did my hair for me. Kind of funny to have your hair done during a workshop but hey, why not? (Note: if you click on the photos it will expand into a full-size gallery you can scroll through.)

I love nothing more then finally, finally having a chance to get downtown and walk around a bit. Here’s just a few shots from my wanderings . If you are ever around the Art Gallery be sure to tuck in on a rainy day and have lunch at the cafe there. When I go there I say to myself: this is why I moved here, the noise, the clamour, the well-dressed ladies, the businessmen lunching in suits that smell…so so good, the artists, all mingling and watching the rain drip down outside.

I went out to Facefest, an annual music cornucopia of bands that has been going on for 17 years in Vancouver. My brother Alan played for the first time without his band and it was really so wonderful to see and be amongst old friends. It may have been well over a decade, but being back and seeing my friends (and family) play again in Vancouver just makes me thankful I get to live here.

Last but not least, after closing a long project for a client and submitting an invoice, I decided to reward myself with a long afternoon in a Parisian cafe. Since I could not go to Paris (mime crying), I opted for Le Parisien on Denman street. I took a good friend and we talked all afternoon, ate nothing that wasn’t a gazillion calories and drank wine. The rain poured outside, everyone left to go back to work, and we dawdled on and on and on. It was lovely and a perfect way to stop work and immerse myself back into life. J’adore Le Parisien!

Lastly, I have an admission to make. With all my focus on work, some things got abandoned over the past few months. I have tried to resuscitate this poor tree but sadly, I think it’s a goner…If anyone has any tips on bringing it back to life do let me know. Please don’t judge me you green thumb types, my cat is still alive, that’s good right? Right?

If you've ever started your own business you will smile at this--this is my tree that has died because of my neglect. Luckily, it's Christmas time so I'll throw it out and just put in a Christmas tree and no one will know my shameful neglect.

If you’ve ever started your own business you will smile at this–this is my tree that has died because of my neglect. Luckily, it’s Christmas time so I’ll throw it out and just put in a Christmas tree and no one will know my shameful neglect.


Filed under Non-fiction

How German Traditions Rescued my Canadian Christmas

When I was growing up, Christmas was a really welcome event as it followed Advent, which, in our Irish Catholic family, was a rough four weeks of a lot of prayers and preparation. I never followed the through line of Advent other than one of my brothers had created the Advent candle holder in his welding class and while it really was so ugly, my mother set it out on the table like it was Swarovski crystal. Being the bottom of 11, there was never a Christmas in my life that wasn’t populated by huge hordes of Doyle’s. I was knee-deep in the second generation, and the sole bridge between the immediate family and their offspring. So, inevitably, as my brothers procreated ad nauseam, my poor mother might have 37 or so people for a sit-down dinner.

There was always some crazy thing that happened at the last-minute as the clock struck 6 pm on the 25th, as in a few cops showing up (my brother was a Vancouver policeman for 12 years) or an unexpected neighbour, or some new immigrants referred by Catholic Charities. No matter. My mother always just shrugged and said, “I’ll put another potato on”.

So, traditions, both spiritual and familial, were strongly observed and cherished around this holiday. One of my favourite traditions was the hanging of pictures of all 11 children sitting on Santa’s knee, which had been glued to a ribbon and cascaded down the foyer door. I never tired of looking up at all the faces, crying and smiling, and finding myself on the bottom of the door, in colour instead of black and white.

Then as time will do, our family grew older and my mother did too. When the house on West 11th sold, an era ended. And with it many of those traditions sadly. I gravitated after my mother passed away (and more traditions vanquished) to my German sister-in-law Moni Schiller, who observes, and heartily practices, strong German traditions blended with her own maniacal Christmas spirit. In her house, I found again the Christmas past, and have come here mostly every Christmas since.

While my waist grows as each Spitzbuebchen cookie is devoured, and late harvest wine poured, I sink into family time, pulling away from work and remembering, oh yeah, this is the important part, to take this moment and think of love, and traditions, some new, some old, of those you treasure and hold so dear.

And nestled there, in our hearts, are the gifts that really matter.

 Ein frohes und besinnliches Weihnachtsfest!


Filed under Memoir, Non-fiction

To tell or not to tell

I recently have heard from family and friends an interesting argument around gifts and Christmas. I was surprised at the vitriolic fervour with which folks responded to my simple question: do you prefer buying gifts for people based on your own feelings about that person or do you prefer, and indeed rely upon, people telling you what they want?

Some of my family uses Giftie Giftie while others would balk and spew at such a thing. So, I thought to put out a poll about it. Fill it in and I’ll post the results!


Filed under Humour

A trip to the dessert aisle

Last weekend I went to DC for a little Christmas visit. It was quite cold but not the dank, wrap around your bones and inhale your marrow kind of way that it is here in Victoria. The city was decked out for Christmas like any good American city would be at this time of year and it made me think back to my years in San Diego when I was simply awestruck at the level to which Americans will go to celebrate Christmas. I find it one of the charming qualities of Americans, this unadulterated exuberance for holidays.

On the Saturday we decided to take our cheap rental car (Mr. W. confirmed it was the same model as an old school cop car) and meander into Virginia. It was sunny and crisp and beautiful and we stopped in at  Great Falls National Park. Now, I am a huge fan of national parks because of the rich storytelling that goes on and this particular park was situated beside the historic Potomac river which falls dramatically over a series of  jutting rocks with an intense velocity.

The Patowmack Canal was a project that George Washington managed with true business acumen; he saw how Virginia and Maryland and Ohio could collectively benefit from trade on the river and the somewhat daunting obstacle of the Falls was overcome by building a canal with a series of locks alongside the river whereby trade and travellers could navigate this part of the turbulent waterway quite safely. It took 17 years to build, and was mostly done on the back of indentured servants and local slaves.

Washington, a true entrepreneur, asserted that “The way is easy and dictated by our clearest interest. It is to open a wide door, and make a smooth way for the produce of that Country to pass to our Markets ….” (Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/grfa/historyculture/canal.htm, Dec 2010) I love the American pioneer spirit! There was a few historic houses we visited as well, which just looked so picturesque with their wreath and simple shutters. I’m really mad for the shutters on the east coast I have to say.

After getting a bit chilled, we headed back onto the highway (where people know how to merge at high speeds by the way), and made our way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (when you give gobs of dough you get to add your crazy name onto whatever you like) near Washington Dulles International Airport. This place just made your jaw drop when you walked in. The hangar is 2 1/2 football fields long and 10 stories high! With planes, rockets, and missiles of all shapes and sizes hanging mid-flight like airborne ballerinas delicately frozen in time.

We spoke with an aviation historian about the infamous Enola Gay aircraft that dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. I love talking to men of this generation, in no small part because my own father was a World War II pilot, but also because there’s something of the old school about them in their manners and way of storytelling I adore. It was an honour to hear him tell us about the history of the aircraft.

The next day we did not rush about on a plane, a train or automobile as is our habit when together it would seem, but rather took it easy and wandered out late in the afternoon to Georgetown. Georgetown predates Washington or the District of Columbia and when you walk through the streets there you are enveloped in history. Situated along the Potomac, it was bustling with Christmas shoppers, choraliers, and Christmas concerts, horses with bells, and all things seasonal. Even the horses had sparkles on their hooves!

We thought to stay home on Sunday night and went shopping at a Safeway to have dinner in. When you live 3,000 miles apart, an ordinary thing like shopping has its strange charms. After my last visit, I asserted that heaven was a room at the Plaza. I would argue (with myself apparently) that heaven can also be found in the frozen dessert aisle, deciding what kind of deliciousness to share.

Going home via a subway, an amtrak, and four airports was something akin to time travel, whereupon one is yanked from a bucolic field of meadows to a squat Milwaukee bar where an amaranthine ticker tape of flight numbers, delays, and passenger names, is being announced into your brain while you must nurse a warm Guinness to please make the shock of this more bearable. But really, a small price to pay for buying a slice of heaven in the dessert aisle.

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Filed under Memoir