Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye 2006!

I was going to write a post with a whole bunch of "bests" from the year, but if you read my blog regularly then I'd just be repeating myself a whole bunch of times.

Instead, I'll reprise my last post of 2005:

Things I Learned this Year (and can still remember)
  1. Kids grow up REALLY fast.
  2. Writing in a blog is better than I ever thought it would be.
  3. Friends can come into your life in the most unexpected ways.
  4. Being a teacher is HARD.
  5. It's even harder to find a job as a teacher in Canada (apparently there are less teaching jobs there than anywhere else in the world)
  6. All I needed to do to start losing weight was move to London, England and take part in a daily commute from one end of the city to the other. Chasing buses and trains is a great way to wake up first thing in the morning.
  7. People in Europe really love Canadians.
  8. Public drinking is widely accepted in England - even at 8am on the Central Line while everybody else is in business wear and on their way to work.
  9. Having a newspaper while riding in the Underground is a great way to hide from crazy people.
  10. It is possible to live in a place without a TV. (although I do miss it)
  11. Tourists are both annoying and fun to be around, depending on where in the city you are. (I have no patience for the tourists who stand around with their maps, blocking the entire sidewalk, or even worse - stop dead in their tracks right on front of you, so you're forced to dodge out of their way)
  12. British people REALLY like pudding. And custard. (everywhere you go people seem to be eating puddings of some kind - or buying them in grocery stores)
  13. Spotted dick is a kind of British pudding. (no, I haven't tried it and just don't think I can bring myself to try this currant-filled dish)
  14. It is possible to make a traditional Christmas dinner using a toaster oven. (things just take 2 hours longer - so start early or be prepared to eat at 10:30pm)
  15. British pubs are seriously cool.
  16. There are walls and sidewalks in my neighborhood that are older than Canada. There is a pub around the corner that is over 200 years old and used to serve as a meeting / training area for the British troops.
  17. There is a lot more history here than you can ever imagine.
  18. I really like olives (not just on pizza or in salad)
  19. Learning new currency can be very confusing - especially the coins. (England has a 20p coin, and no quarters. Their 10p coins are the size of Canadian quarters, so it gets really confusing. Interestingly, the Brits have a 2 pound coin that looks very similar to our Toonies back home)
  20. Even native Londoners need an A-Z guide to get around their city (it's a very handy little book that has maps of every street in the city)
  21. Global warming DOES exist and when little countries like Britain spend a lot of time, money, and energy lowering their toxic emissions, it makes me really sad to think about how much more North America can be doing. With a little effort we can stop the polar ice caps from melting, and stop pissing off Mother Nature. (we've all seen "The Day After Tomorrow" - far fetched? You just never know...)
  22. There are Canadian geese in England.
  23. The birds in the country all sound different from the ones back home (even crows sound funny) - except the aforementioned Canadian geese and the swans.
  24. In London, beer is cheaper than pop. And some brands of bottled water.
  25. The United Kingdom has more binge-drinkers than anywhere else in Europe.
  26. Uhaul is EVIL - never ever ever ever use them for moving. They will always mess up something with your reservation or will provide you with a broken-down vehicle - or one that isn't what you ordered. Take the time to check prices from other places - even if you have to return the truck it is worth it financially to consider this option.
  27. You can't buy dill pickles in England.
  28. I really miss dill pickles. And Frank's Red Hot Sauce, proper soya sauce, buffalo chicken wings, Wendy's food, Kraft Garlic BBQ sauce, Jalepeno Cheddar Doritos, and Lay's Dill Pickle chips.
  29. Instead of paying a ridiculous amount of money for a Bus Tour! of London - get a daily travel card (or better yet an Oyster card - everything is cheaper with it), grab a few cans of beer and ride around on the top of double decker buses to see the sights. it's surpringly easy to find your way around, and there are no annoying tour guide yammering on and you get to drink beer.
  30. If you're a dedicated hockey fan - you'll find a way to watch games while overseas. (thanks TSN for playing the World Juniors Tournament off of your website!)
  31. There is only one place in England where you can find poutine - and it's a Canadian bar in Covent Garden called the Maple Leaf. I plan on going down there on July 1st for some beer and poutine.
  32. It's okay to not know where I'll be celebrating New Year's next year - or even where in the world I'll be living. Because...
  33. Someday, somehow, everything is going to be just fine.


The Song

During high school and university, our friends would get together for a New Year's Eve party, that was usually held at my house. Some people came and went through the years, but the same main group of people were always there... It was our tradition to choose the "Song of the Year" each New Year's - usually something that spoke to all of us and captured the spirit of the year as we saw it.

Our Millenium party was held at my favourite place in the world - our cottage at Ella Lake. The last night of the 20th century was clear, with bright stars in the sky and soft snow on the ground that reflected the patio lanterns glowing outside (we were still living at the house in the winter so the only outside lights were our summer ones. Which was okay because they added a bit of quirky charm to our night). My dad had gone out earlier in the day to light a fire so the place would be cozy and warm. We ate and drank and laughed at lot that night, and a few people spent the evening arguing over what the "song for the millennium" should be. I remember the two main contenders being "Will 2K" from Will Smith, and "The End of the World As We Know it" from R.E.M.. Steve and Dan were both determined to win the battle, and tried very hard to convince the other that their choice was the right one. Knowing how strong-willed both of these guys are, I opted to leave them to it and have another drink.

After the ball dropped in Times Square, the opening strains of our New Year's Song blasted out of the stereo. "It's the End of the World As we Know It" - a tribute to the Y2K madness and a deeper statement that we all knew our lives were changing and that these changes were inevitable.

Seven years have passed since then. Break-ups and hook-ups and graduations and new jobs and weddings and pregnancies and new babies and Moving Days and promises to keep in touch have coloured our days with both sadness and joy. I don't talk to Dan anymore - there was too much hurt and anger from the breakup to allow us to stay friends. (It's a shame because he was a fantastic friend.) But 'tis life and there are others from our old gang that are not around anymore either. I wonder about their lives now. Are they happy? Married with kids? Working in careers that they enjoy? I hope wherever they are that their lives have brought them to a place where they are happy...

Tonight we'll all be in different places. It's not the first time that we'll be apart, but I still feel really sad that we don't spend New Year's as a group anymore. Maybe one year we will again.

It's really hard to think of a good New Year's Song for 2006. There have been a several that capture what my year was like:

Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
London Bridge - Fergie (yep - hate this song, but the whole London thing is unavoidable)
So Far Away - Nickelback
Leaving on a Jet Plane - assorted artists, but the Chantal Kreviazuk version is my favourite
Only Love Will Get You Through - Sade
SexyBack - Justin Timberlake (this song just seemed to be playing whenever something major was going on in my life. I heard it 11 times the night we moved out of Windsor)

Well that's it! The last post of 2006. I hope I've provided some entertainment the few of you who read this blog. This year has been a roller coaster of good and bad things, but in the end, I can look back on myself a year ago and know that I've come a long way.

Happy New Year Everybody!
Drink, dance, laugh, eat great food, hug & kiss, and be joyful!

See you next year.

Friday, December 29, 2006


What is it about this time of year that makes us all look deep inside ourselves and evaluate things like who were really are and where we are going in life? Why does the end of a year make us look back at all of the things we have done to see what lessons we've learned?

I've been visiting my regular blog haunts (and some new ones too), and have found several well-written, insightful posts discussing personal and spiritual truths. Even the regular posts by others seem to carry more weight for some reason.

The change from one year to the next has always signified new beginnings for me - which is ironic considering that my life has never dramatically changed once the minute hand slid over to the top of the clock on New Year's Eve. Yet something in many of us seem to be wanting just that - the sensation of a shift inside where we really feel like we've come from somewhere, made it through to the other side of our problems, and found a new outlook on our lives.

With that being said, I have learned a lot this year about myself, my friends and family, and the world. Not just because of moving to a different country - although that did play a part in a lot of mistakes and lessons learned.

How do we write an end-of-the-year blog post? Do we make them funny and self-deprecating or deep and insightful? Do we try to explain the changes that 365 days can bring to a person? Can we sit at our computers and think about how much more grownup we are this year? Do we cry about the things we've lost or mistakes we've made? Or write about the people who have come and gone in our lives, some of whom have made an impact and others who have already faded to memories? Do we think about regrets? Or the dumbass things that the celebrities / politicians did this year? Do we make Top 10 lists about lessons learned, favourite movies, great things we've accomplished, goals for 2007?

Dariush Shafa wrote a wonderfully insightful piece that really captures the spirit of this time of year. Speaking of meetings with strangers (and a BlogFriend) and standing outside oneself to really SEE what our lives have become.

For me, New Year's has always been a time to reflect on personal growth and to try and tie up lose ends before the start of the next year. When I was in high school, I selfishly thought that having a conversation with an ex-boyfriend (whom I had hurt badly) would be a nice way to put things to rest between us, believing in my youthful, arrogant way that my glib apology would be enough to "tie things up before the end of the year". To my shock, he told me off (which I did deserve) and said that things couldn't be wrapped up neatly and put away like that - even though I really wanted them to. For the first time, my teenage self was forced to realize that things didn't always end well and that the best thing to do with regards to improving my life at New Year's was to focus on me and leave other people the hell alone. Putting away visions of teary phone calls with those I'd wronged (where I said sorry and they forgave me), I sat down and wrote a diary entry that lasted for "18 pages - front and back" and felt better.

Years later in a small flat in London, England, I sit with fingers flying at my laptop keyboard, trying to find those elusive personal truths that I can babble about on the phone for hours but don't always come out right when I'm trying to write about them. Maybe the point is just that I can look back on this year and see that I'm a stronger person who knows where I want to be in life, and is looking forward to finding ways of achieving my goals in the new year. Someone who knows that value of friends and family and education and living life to not only better yourself but to better the world around you.

I guess I'm hoping that this post will speak to somebody. Maybe someone on my blogroll will read this and be affected the way I was by Dariush's words, or maybe a person blog-surfing (my word for hitting the "next blog" button) will stop here and think "she's on to something here". Without sounding like I need my ego stroked (although who doesn't enjoy a good massage), maybe that's a realization too: that we blog like this because we want to put something of ourselves out into the world and see what we get back.

So what great insights do I have? What about me is special or unique enough that total strangers (or friends for that matter) will read my blog posts and feel like they've gotten something valuable from the time spent reading my words?


Since we're all the sum of our experiences and the parts of the world we've grown up / lived in, each one of us has something different or unique to share. I can tell people without a doubt that little kids are a hell of a lot smarter than we think they are - and that we should really listen to what they have to share. I know that giving a homeless person sitting on the street a sandwich doesn't mean they'll recognize your face three days later when you pass them again. I know that watching fireworks can turn even a stern, disillusioned adult into a little kid. I know that when Canadians travel abroad that they are fiercely patriotic and will talk to anybody who sounds like they're from "back home".

I know that I've chosen a very hard career path in becoming a teacher. It is not an easy job - one full of phone calls from parents who think their child can do no wrong, difficult children, kids with learning or behavioural disabilities, balancing curriculum requirements with daily lesson planning, and being responsible for shaping the learning (and ideas) of extremely impressionable little people who will someday be in charge of our world. Fighting the public perception that teachers get "too much time off" or don't work enough hours because we get long holidays and summers off. Late nights, report cards, standardized testing, and frustrating days will be a familiar part of my working career, but I know I wouldn't change it for anything.

I guess the biggest change in me this year is learning to make the best of things and to stop focusing on what's going wrong. This is pretty ironic - I always used to want to be considered an optimist. Not anymore though. I don't think it's enough.

Now, I'd like to be a realist.

When Big Ben chimes in 2007, I'll stand with 200,000 other people and sing "Auld Lang Syne" as fireworks explode over the river. I'll kiss Jeremy to ring in the new year and feel sad that my friends aren't with us. Time won't stop and the things in my life that haven't been resolved will not suddenly disappear or fix themselves. I'll wake up on New Year's Day still missing loved ones, worrying about money and what's going to happen with his visa.

But I'll also remember how far I've come and feel proud of the person I am. My eyes will widen as I take in a sight that I'll never see again. And I will hope that this New Year will bring peace, joy, and all of the good things that I wish for all of us.

Maybe that's what New Year's is about: the hope that 365 days later we'll sit at our computers and be able to write blog posts titled "The Best Year Ever!!"

If you're not writing that this year, I hope that next New Year's Eve you will be...

Happy New Year

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Looking forward to a fresh start

Sometimes I feel like my life is just a series of short stories. Little events that all add up to my experiences as I muddle through this world as best I can, making mistakes and learning lessons along the way. If you read my blog regularly, you know that a few of these stories have become cliffhangers - and that each new chapter seems to add more drama and suspense. Sharing these stories in this blog has really helped to put things into perspective for me.

As 2006 ends, I look back on a year that I can definitely say was the most eventful of my life thus far. Upon reflection, there are dozens of short stories that have written themselves in the last twelve months...

"The Drama of Having a Bank Acount" (a tale in 15 parts that will probably have many more in 2007)
"The Trials and Tribulations of a Student Teacher"
"Turning 27: God I'm OLD!"
"The Grocery Store Wizards"
"Family Pictures"
"Saying Goodbye to a Dear Friend"
"The Uhaul Fiasco"
"Can I Please Bring my Kitty to London?"
"Pearls of Wisdom from the Campfire Gang"
"The Countdown"
"The Long Goodbye"
"Moving to London"
"Why I'll Never Drive in England"
"Drinking in the Streets"
"If I Close My Eyes and Really Concentrate I can Pretend I'm Sitting on the Dock at My Lake"
"The Commute"
"What's Spotted Dick Anyway?"
"Why I Love My Blog"
"Why I Love the Internet" (A new part of this story is pending the completion of the World Junior Hockey Tournament that I'm actually able to WATCH via VERY happy about this! Alternate title: "They Said They Didn't Give a Fuck About Hockey")
"Waiting, Waiting and more Waiting"
"Why I Don't Love the Government"
"Seeking Nature and Green Space in a City with 7 Million People"
"Christmas at Craven Hill Gardens"
"The Bank of Mom & Dad: a Tale of Generosity and Patience" (again, many many parts to this tale - hopefully I can end with "The Day I Won the Lottery (for real) and Gave My Parents 10 Million Dollars")

Coming soon: "New Year's Eve: with 200,000 people at Trafalgar Square"
This one should be very interesting... I really don't know what to expect - other than that there will be fireworks from the London Eye, and that everybody will be dead silent to hear Big Ben chime the midnight hour's arrival. Will likely involve very sore feet, drinking on street corners with strangers, and perhaps a whole chapter on the Night Bus People (anybody who's visited London will be able to tell you about the dodgy folk who make use of the 24 hour bus routes through the city) who will probably be even more bizarre on New Year's Eve. We were going to try and get to the Comedy Cafe (fabulous place) with Eve but just can't afford the 50 pound tickets plus alcohol. I'm disappointed but there isn't anything we can do - so we're making the most of things by opting to spend very little money and hang out with 200,000 people from all around the world. Should be fun.

There will be many new chapters and stories in 2007. I hope that I can write "The Day Things Finally Went Our Way" very soon...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas

... just like ours.

It's strange not being woken up by family members on Christmas morning, but we managed to get ourselves out of bed around 10am, turned on the music, poured a glass of Buck's Fizz (champagne and orange juice), plugged in our little tree, and opened our presents.

Our first caller from Canada this morning was Jeremy's mom. Since she and I are the chatty types (and perfectly capable of marathon phone conversations), Jeremy had to start grumbling about whether or not he'd be able to talk to his mother "sometime today" before I got the hint and handed him the phone. While describing our incredible experience at St. Paul's last night, she commented on how we wouldn't have had that opportunity if we weren't here. I'm glad for that reminder - we are very lucky to get to experience this, even though I miss them all very much and will not want to be missing any more family Christmases. How often does a person get to celebrate with two different (and wonderful) families every year without any worry or stress? For this year, we'll be thankful that we've got such fantastic people in our lives, and enjoy our non-traditional Christmas.

Speaking of which, it's time for our walk in the park, so I better get the coffee and Bailey's ready!

here are some pics of London at Christmastime (taken in the last few days)

Kensington Gardens in December


Midnight Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral
(I should note that I didn't realize that we weren't supposed to take photographs inside - I thought it was just during the service itself. However this place is so incredibly beautiful that I just had to
share them. And believe me - no picture will do it justice. The cathedral is so huge that it wasn't possible to take a picture of the entire place at one time...)

Christmas morning in Craven Hill Gardens

To "the Marys", Bill, Laurie, Romeo, Jim, Michaela, Nick, Scott, Giovanni, Kim, Pep, and the rest of our friends and family - we love & miss you very much and hope you all have a wonderful day!

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Check this out!!

Watch Santa Claus and his reindeer travel around the globe!!

Apparently NORAD has a special Santa Detection System where they track Santa and his reindeers' progress across the world using several hi-tech methods, such as "radar, satellites, and figher jets".

Click on this link to follow his progress across the globe on

And click on this link to access NORAD's special Santa Tracker page. Be sure to check out the "How We Do This" section!

Christmas Eve

Outside the air is brisk and cold, filled with sounds of people rushing around, getting their last minute preparations taken care of, while music blasts out of the shops that are open today. Long queues stretch out in front of the coffee shops, and the pubs are full of happy people drinking pints with their friends.

A few people are sleeping on the pavement in tattered blankets - not as many homeless people in this part of the city, but still enough to make me feel grateful for having as much as I do.

Pushing through the doors to the grocery store, a blast of heat greets me. Before I could even take notice of the warmth, I realized that the shoppers in this store appear to be trying to buy everything in sight. Yesterday, Jeremy and I got most of our shopping done for the next few days, but needed some ground beef for our spaghetti feast tonight. Since tomorrow we'll be having a traditional roast chicken dinner with all of the fixings (yes I promise there will be pictures of me making this huge dinner in our "kitchen"), we decided to have something that doesn't require much preparation tonight. So spaghetti with Jeremy's special sauce, salads and garlic bread will be our dinner this evening.

Dodging through the crowds, I manage to get myself to the meat aisle, where people are reaching frantically for the few chickens and turkeys left. Thankfully there are lots of packages of ground beef left, so I have to trouble getting what I came for. Quickly picking up a few other things (including a raspberry trifle for dessert tomorrow and some fresh raspberries and blueberries for breakfast), I manage to get myself out of the store after only an hour.

On the way home, I see a flower vendor selling pointsettias for only 1 pound per plant. They weren't looking great, but the vendor assured me that my plant would perk up once it was warm again. This is the first Christmas I've been able to have one of these, because they're highly toxic to cats - so I wouldn't dream of bringing one home when Chase or Jaz were around.

Carrying my purchases down Bayswater road, I notice that there are barely any cars around at all - very unlike the normally busy street I'm used to. My mind starts to wander...

Tonight we'll be going to St. Paul's Cathedral for Midnight Mass. My excitement at this opportunity has been slightly tarnished by the fact that ALL buses and trains stop running at midnight tonight, meaning we're going to have to walk as much of the 4 miles (between the cathedral and our flat) as possible, since cabs are very expensive. So I'll wear my not-so-nice boots because they're easier to walk in, and will make sure to have the number for a mini-cab in my mobile. I can't believe that a city as wealthy as London doesn't accomodate the thousands of people who will be attending Midnight Mass at St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey. When I called to ask the Transport London people about this, I was told that the drivers deserved a holiday too. While I can respect this, I also know that several drivers are not Christian at all, and so they don't care if they're working or not. Also, having the buses run till 1am instead of midnight won't hurt anybody.

I refuse to let this ruin my day, and decide that if Mary and Joseph could walk hundreds of miles all of those years ago that we should be able to handle a few ourselves.

Turning down my street, I check with the owner of the off-license around the corner to see if they really are going to be open tomorrow. He assures me that they'll open in the morning with some fresh bread if we want any. After a smile and a "cheers", I head towards my front door.

Finally the bags have been unpacked and our little fridge is full of goodies, bottles of wine sitting outside the door, waiting to be opened. It's the perfect temperature outside to keep things in the plastic tote without worrying about them getting too warm or freezing. This has come in handy the last couple of days, as we stock up for food for the next couple of days (since many places are closed both on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day).

I'm sitting in this cluttered little flat, smelling the pointsettias and trying to think about where we're going to put everything while I'm cooking tomorrow... should be interesting.

Since most people are now on their way home (or are already there) to visit family, I don't know if anybody is left reading this, but I'll probably post tomorrow anyway, depending on what we decide to do. I know a long walk in the park with a thermos and hot chocolate is part of the plan - and of course The Dinner, but I'm sure I'll find time to jump online for a bit.

Either way - to those of you who are reading this - I hope you are surrounded by people you love tonight.

... and have a very Merry Christmas

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

2 Days Until Christmas!

The Ghost of Christmases to Come

I don’t know what the future is going to bring me or even where I’ll be living by this time next year. London? Somewhere in Canada? Will things have sorted themselves out by then? Will I still be working at the same school I’m with now? Will Jeremy and I have decided to travel to another country instead?

Despite the lack of a crystal ball or stern ghost (the one in the Christmas Carol always freaked me out) to tell me what will happen, I can say that when I think of my future, it’s filled with much of what is a part of my life today. Friends and family getting older together, maybe kids of my own one day (need to get married first), and the always-demanding job of being responsible for the education of excited young children who still believe in the spirit of Christmas.

One of the best things about Christmas is the hopefulness of the season. Hope that we'll get to have the dark meat and extra gravy at dinnertime, hope that we'll get to see our cousins for the first time in a year, hope that our mom will love the special gift we got for her, hope that all of these weeks of anticipation will lead to something even greater than we imagined... I hope that in a year we’ll have seen New Orleans get even closer to becoming whole again, that the war in Iraq will have finally found some resolution – one that means all of those lives lost weren’t in vain, that the world will finally decide to do something to stop polluting our little planet, and that Britney and Paris will learn to keep their knickers on.

I hope that this year and all of the years to come will find us happy and healthy, celebrating holidays with loved ones and enjoying life as much as possible.

I hope next year I'll be home for Christmas...

I'll be home for Christmas
you can count on me.
Please have snow, and mistletoe
and presents on the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me
where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas,
if only in my dreams.

Friday, December 22, 2006

3 Days until Christmas

The Ghost of Christmas Past

On a shelf at my parents' house sit a bunch of dusty old photo albums, filled with pictures of our family back in the early 80s, with my parents looking younger and my brother and I looking a lot smaller. We lived in the same house on the same street for my entire childhood - in a small town in Northern Ontario, where all 3500 people seemed to know each other. My mother was a teacher (retired now), and my dad worked with the railroad (also retired now), and both jobs brought them into contact with most people in our town over the decades.

Going to the grocery store with my mother was like traveling with a celebrity. There always seemed to be little kids shouting "Mom! Mom! Look! It's MRS PETERSON!!!" with wide-eyed looks of astonishment that I always thought should be for somebody famous and not my mom, who was an "ordinary person". (If you read my blog regularly, you'll know how proud I am to be her daughter - and now I can say that her work with hundreds of little ones makes her much more than an ordinary person (not sure what that means anyway)). Every Sunday, we would go to church, and my brother and I would have to stand around for a half hour afterwards while my mom chatted with everybody else.

Advent was an exciting time. Coming into the little church with my mother and brother, and looking up at the flowers and seeing the familiar wreath with its candles, always gave me a little tingle of excitment. The countdown had officially begun...

My brother and I would huddle over the Sears Wishbook (we loved that thing), writing down things we wanted from Santa Claus, and talking about why we hated getting clothes for Christmas. One year, all I wanted was a beachball. I'm not sure why, but I fixated on this for weeks (according to my parents), and refused to say that I wanted anything else. This posed quite a problem for my mom and dad, who wanted to fulfill my request but were going to have a heck of a time trying to find a beachball in the dead of winter in Northern Ontario. There were no shops that sold beach items this time of year, so they started phoning relatives all over Ontario, and then my grandparents down in Florida (they used to spend winters there before my grandfather passed away). That Christmas morning, a delighted little girl opened a brightly coloured package to reveal a beachball. (the things parents do to make their children happy always amazes me)

My father wasn't a religious man (still isn't really), but he would attend Christmas Mass with us because my mom insisted that we all be together there as a family. Even though he wasn't a regular attendant, people were always welcoming, and the priest (whom we knew very well) always had a kind word for him. My dad would drive us around town to look at the lights, while my brother and I sat in the back, bundled up in our coats, staring out the windows to try and catch a glimpse of Rudolph's red nose. There was a little radio tower in town that had a glowing red light at the top that my dad would always drive past, so we could look up and think that the reindeer were just above our town. "Let's go and see if we can find Rudolph!" became the catch-phrase for our drives on the night before Christmas.

Our family liked to sleep in on Christmas morning. I'm sure my parents can tell stories of us trying to wake them up at 6am (most likely my brother), but the time to start the morning was 8am for a long time, then when we were teenagers, we'd sometimes sleep until 10 o'clock in the morning. The stockings were always first, and my brother and I would sit in the family room, ripping open little presents until we got to the orange in the toe. No matter how we were feeling that morning, we'd always eat the orange. Then waiting impatiently for my dad to get out of bed, we'd stare at the huge pile of presents under the tree while the coffee machine gurgled and my mom pulled out her camera.

A flurry of gift-opening would follow, with the customary squeals of delight, and wide-eyed stares of surprise at particuarly good presents. You could always tell when it was a "really good present" because my parents would exchange knowing smiles and the camera would come out. Nervously, we'd open the wrapping paper to reveal something that we either didn't know we were getting or something we really wanted but never expected to recieve. After all of the gifts were opened, my parents took pictures of us in the pile of torn paper (some were very cute pics) - a tradition that continues today.

When I look at the pictures of Christmases I've spent as a child; in our cozy home in Capreol, visiting family in southern Ontario, visiting grandparents in Florida; I don't remember any negative things at all. I don't remember fighting with my brother (which I'm sure happened a lot), or feeling sad because there were gifts I didn't recieve, or road trip troubles while we made our way down highway 400 to visit aunts and uncles and cousins. They all blend together somehow - with some outstanding memories yes, but for the most part, I remember a mix of delicious food, colours, fantastic presents (my parents always spoiled us rotten), visits with loved ones, and that warm feeling that the world was at peace.

Silent night
holy night
all is calm,
all is bright.
Round yon virgin, mother and child
holy infant so tender and mild
sleep in heavenly peace
sleep in heavenly peace

Thursday, December 21, 2006

4 Days until Christmas...

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Jeremy made it home safe and sound - a little tired, but apparently the flight wasn't too bad and nothing got broken, so I think it's safe to call his travels a success. He was spared a lot of the madness that a lot of other people have been going through while trying to get in and out of London for the last two days. We've had this crazy, creepy fog that Jeremy describes as looking like "it was coming out of the ground" when seen from miles up in the air. I'm just happy he's back home again...

After spending most of the day sleeping on and off (apparently dealing with 30 excited little kids makes you as tired as flying across an ocean), I read through my favourite blogs and then started on the news at I love the news items this time of year - all of the "best ___ of the year" stuff has always entertained me. After I found the article about the London Fog, I saw a link to the Top Ten Wacky Holiday Happenings at the Airport. Lots of cute stories about people doing funny things at the airport, ending with this:

10. My favorite holiday sighting happened when I volunteered for the airline’s traditional “fantasy trip,” which stages a Christmas flight to the North Pole for seriously ill children. The kids boarded the airplane, taxied around the airport and arrived at a hangar decorated as Santa’s Village. To see the wonder and excitement in the children’s eyes and to help them forget — however briefly — their daily round of sickness was priceless. I cried silently the entire time.

We take a lot for granted in this life. Try not to. This holiday season, breathe deeply, love freely and laugh as much as you possibly can — simply because you can.

I couldn't have worded that last part any better. The past few months have taught me that the most important things don't cost us any money - and how we should try to always remember the many things we've been blessed with this year.

Even without the snow, that suprisingly, I'm missing, there is magic in the air. I love this time of year: the busy streets, the lights everywhere, the carolers and Christmas music, and the extra bounce in people's steps.

There was an article in the London Metro newspaper this week about a school that decided to abolish the word "Christmas" from the holiday, opting to now call it "Winter Holiday" because some people might be offended by the word Christmas. Since the Canadian schools I was at during Teacher's College had similar policies, I wasn't surprised by this move. No surprise - just total disgust.

I'm very lucky to be at a school where the HeadTeacher is a strong Christian man who believes in keeping Christmas about the birth of Christ. He still talks about Father Christmas and does recognize and accept those in the school who don't celebrate this holiday, but he absolutely refuses to change to "Winter Holidays". He talked to the kids at one assembly about how yes, it is a Christian holiday, but people all around the world will celebrate the birth of a baby - no matter what their faith. I'd never thought about it that way - how this holiday is even more special to me because of two darling little boys who live across the ocean.

December 21st, 2005
The road stretched ahead of me, taunting me with endless views of concrete and yellow lines, with nothing but fields all around me. Luckily, there was no snow on the ground, and the traffic was surpringly light for the stretch of highways between Windsor and London. As Christmas music jingled cheerfully from my car speakers, I thought about the reason I was making this trip...

Kim had given birth less than 3 weeks earlier to a little boy who I had yet to meet - a source of great frustration to me, but finishing teaching placements and writing exams were sort of important to getting my teaching degree. And so I had to read about what happened via emails and blogs, hoping that time would pass quickly so I could see them soon. Finally it was all over, and I immediately planned my trip to meet me second nephew for the first time. Just like when I met Addis the first time, I was nervous and excited all at once. It's not everyday that you get to meet the singlemost important person in your best friends' lives...

As the kilometers rolled past, I started thinking about Mary - as I often do this time of year - and the travels that she had to make while pregnant. There's this song by Amy Grant called "Breath of Heaven" - one of my favourite Christmas songs ever - that talks about traveling on moonless nights in a cold world, afraid of the choices she'd made, wondering about whether or not she was good enough, and finally putting it in God's hands; accepting her fate. I was lucky enough to perform this song during a Christmas Eve mass several years ago, along with people standing behind me holding candles. Singing it that night was an amazing experience and preparing for that solo brought me a lot closer to my faith. I'm one of those Catholics who believes in my religion, but isn't always good at attending Mass every Sunday... I don't often discuss religious beliefs (especially my own) because I feel very strongly that people should be able to believe that they believe and that we should all try to respect and understand that. Regardless, I do have a strong faith that God will help things all work out okay, and Christmas will always be more about a little baby's birth than Santa and his reindeer.

The parallels of making a trip because of a baby hit me, and I got pretty emotional as the enormity of the situation became more clear than ever. There was a REAL BABY at their house! One of my dearest friends was now a mother! And I was finally going to meet her son for the first time. And God willing, I would be part of his life for a long time...

Having shed most of my tears on the drive to London, the excitement and wonder of that little baby took over when I got to their house, and I managed not to baul like a baby (no pun intended) as Kim handed him to me.

Last Christmas was a very special one, and as we get ready to celebrate just the two of us, those memories will probably be a source of great comfort, even when they make me cry a little.

It might not snow here in London by Christmas Day, but I can close my eyes and remember the glow of coloured lights through the snow, the biting cold of getting into the car in your fancy dress clothes for Christmas Eve Mass, driving through the streets after church to look at the lights and see if we could spot Rudolph, the hot chocolate (and Bailey's or Spanish coffees as I got older), then settling down to listen to Christmas music together and open "1 present only" before getting ready for bed. Any every once in awhile, fat snowflakes would tumble from the sky on Christmas Eve - that magic Christmas snow that made my eyes widen and made me want to run outside to catch some on my tongue.

This year we'll either be doing Midnight Mass at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral. Obviously it's a very hard choice to make, so I'd appreciate suggestions or opinions if anybody has any. Christmas Day will be a quiet - music playing from my laptop speakers as we open presents from home and make many phone calls overseas. Then either a roast turkey meal in a pub (if we can find one open that's nearby) or a roast chicken dinner from my toaster oven. I refuse to not have stuffing and gravy and potatoes on Christmas Day. Then we'll cuddle up and watch a movie.

It might not be what we remember, but I think our Christmas will be merry and bright after all.

I have traveled
many moonless nights.
Cold and weary,
with a babe inside.
And I wonder
what I've done.
Holy father, you have come,
and chosen me now,
to carry your son.

I am waiting in a silent prayer,
I am frightened of the load I bear,
In a world as cold as stone,
must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now
Be with me now.

Breath of heaven, hold me together,
be forever near me,
breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven, light in my darkness,
pour over me your holiness,
for you are holy,
breath of heaven.

Do you wonder,
as you watch my face,
if a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am,
for the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong
Help me be
Help me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

a year ago

... i sat in our apartment in Windsor, staring at that startup screen for, wondering if I had any idea what the hell I was doing. Figuring that I'd fake it, I tossed out a lame first entry - more to get it out of the way than for any other reason. It was the week before Christmas and as a student teacher, I was in this midst of a dozen assignments, exams, and volunteering with an adorable grade 1/2 class at King Edward School.

I've come a long way since then... literally. 1600km and several months have brought me to my first professional teaching job in London, and given me several life lessons along the way.

For the last week or so, I've been looking at some of my archives, which led to this list...

Favourite Posts that I've Written this Year
* Editor's Note: please excuse the excessive use of Friends-like titles. I thought it would be fun - plus it makes the titles seem almost as interesting as the stuff their writers came up with...

The One with the Grocery Store
"I think the point of this rambling blog is that I learned something today. No matter where I live after Windsor, I will find some place that will be familar to me, and meet people who remind me of old friends."

The One about Being Thankful
Well this blog's getting super long - to sum up I'll just say that it was a perfect weekend with great weather and time spend with all of the people I love the most. Nothing better really.

The one from the Last Day of Teacher's College

Tomorrow is my last day of school. Again. I can't believe that 8 months has passed by - the busiest time of my life for sure, but also the most rewarding. I thought it might be fun to put up the reflection that I included in my professional portfolio about the year and what I have learned.

The one with the Tribute (thanks Green Day)

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road...

The One with All the Camping
Top 10 Reasons why Pelee Island is Better Than Disneyworld:

10. It doesn't cost hundreds of dollars to get
9. Ferries are way more fun than planes.
8. It doesn't matter if you smell like campfire or burnt hotdogs

7. A traffic jam on the island is made up of 3 cars and several birds crossing the street. (I'm still a little bitter about the 2 hour trip to Disney when we were in Florida the last time)

6. You can buy ice cream for less than $10

5. The people on the island actually feel bad when you spend $30 in their stores - apparently this is a "lot" of money and leads them to give you free stuff

4. No crowds of people everywhere (or lines)
3. You can still have fun there during a thunderstorm

2. free wine samples

1. you can stay there for free!!

The One with All the Top Tens
A long list of top tens things about my life...

The One with the Fish Blanket
It felt like we were little kids playing with a living room fort of couch cushions and blankets. You know it's innocent fun, but it still seems like you might get in trouble.

The One when I Graduated

Graduation means that we are free to congratulate ourselves for a job well done, for recieving a reward for several months or years of hard work, to get more letters behind our names and take a hard look into the future that will be affected by the piece of paper in our hand. Today means that I am officially a "real teacher" and will be looked upon as an educator for the rest of my life.

The One Before "The Move"

I've been trying to write this post for a week. Trying to think of a way to record this step that I'm taking in a way that I can look back at later and be proud of. Unfortunately the closer we've gotten to getting on this plane the more jumbled things have gotten.

The One After My First Day of Teaching

I avoided writing about my first day last night because it was BAD. Very bad. Like losing-my-mind and oh-my-GOD-these-kids-are-terrible-i-need-a-drink kinda of bad.

The One About the Morning

"mmm McDonald's egg McMuffins... hash browns... coffeeeee"
... my waking thoughts.

There were a few more that I really like as well, but these posts give a pretty good overview of the last year and I'll use this opportunity to encourage people who like these posts to read my archives if they want to read more.

It's hard to believe that I've only been blogging for a year. It seriously feels like a lot longer. This might be because of how much has happened in 2006...

* graduating from Teacher's College
* moving to one of the world's largest (and most fascinating) cities
* living alone for over a month in one of the world's largest (and most fascinating cities)
* getting a job as a professional teacher! (and achieving my goal of becoming what I wanted to be when I grow up)
* my adorable nephews each turned one year old
* my cousin got married, leaving me the last unmarried female cousin in the family
* camping trips in the summer
* saying goodbye to my car (that I still miss even though you couldn't pay me enough money to drive in London)
* running out of money (about 10 times so far)
* dozens of road trips around Ontario to visit friends and family
* losing a person I thought was a very dear friend
* making new friends (some from foreign countries)
* 223 blog posts (so far)
* lots of tears and laughter, goodbyes and nice-to-meet-yous, and about a thousand hours spent on the phone

It's been a hard year for me in a lot of ways. I've been forced to realize that I'm not financially independent yet - a goal I'd set for myself a long time ago. The reality is that I'm still very much broke and it will take several years to sort out my finances. This is hard to admit, but I know that with the support of my friends and family, and a little bit of luck, that things will work out.

So that's it. The end of my Blog-birthday post. I can't forget to add that one of the greateest things about my first year as a Blogger (and Person of the Year - heehee) is that it has allowed me to "meet" people I would never have known if I wasn't doing this (check the links - they're all brilliant). That alone has made this worthwhile...

Thanks to those of you who've come along for the ride.

I'll be celebrating the start of my second year of blogging by not posting for a few days - Jeremy will be home on Wednesday afternoon so the next few days will be a flurry of getting ready for his homecoming as well as the last two school days before Christmas. My first Christmas party as a teacher and a long-awaited reunion should definitely make for a fantastic few days.

be back soon, I promise

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Person of the Year

Last week, a colleague at school asked if she could get the link to my blog so she could show her husband. She was impressed by the pictures I'd taken and wanted to read some of my posts. A couple of days later, she asked me how the hell I managed to find the time to do this.

As I approach the 1 year anniversary of my blog (tomorrow actually), I've been looking back at a lot of the things that have been pulled out of my head and put into the Word Wide Web. This post isn't about my growth as a writer (although I am happy to see that some has actually happened this year), nor my favourite posts from my first year as a Blogger (that's for tomorrow), but instead a commentary on the fact that as a Blogger, I am now Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

According to Time Magazine,
... look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Thanks Time Magazine!

While I do not have a MySpace account, and haven't posted videos on YouTube (although I could have done a fantastic parody of the episode of Friends when they go to London - shouting "London baby!" every 5 minutes as I take in the sites of this amazing city. "Hands down best Abbey I've ever seen") I have tried my best to be a part of the blogging world. It's been a fascinating year during which I have been brought to tears by the poignant words of fellow bloggers going through hard times, laughed out loud at the silly things people have written about, nodded in righteous agreement at rants about things that are wrong with this world, felt comforted by the comments made by others about my own hardships, and enjoyed the camaraderie that we feel when a person lists us in their blog links (no greater honour can be bestowed by a fellow blogger than that).

The phrase "I'm so blogging about that later" has become a regular part of my vocabulary. I take pictures of random things like a broken handset on a payphone with the intent of providing a witty commentary about "being on the wrong end of that conversation" - only to later decide it's really not all that funny. If my laptop traveled with me through the day, I'd be constantly recording the things that I see onto it. It's a good thing that's not possible, or we'd have posts about the Wierd Irish Man with all the Beer at 8:30am, Why it's Fun to Ride at the Top of the Double Decker Buses, That Stupid Broken Umbrella, and the Really Nice Crossing Guard Lady (who somehow manages to push the button so that I neither have to wait to cross the road, nor do I have to rush), and all sorts of other mundane things about my life...

The article in Time asked about what kind of people blog? What makes somebody dash off to their computer so they can write about something they want to share with the world?

Why do we write posts about our children, family, pets, cars, homes, jobs, friends, lovers, exes, holidays, travel, cooking, childcare, politics, annoying neighbours, music, new shoes, television, and thousands of other minutae that make up daily human life? Why do I watch the screen flip to "100% published" on a new post and feel satisfied and happy that I've written something that I think people will want to read?

What makes us come back each day to check the blogs we've linked to, just in case that person has updated theirs with a new post? Why do we feel that their successes and trials are so identifiable with our own?

I know - lots of questions here. For me, the answers are clear: blogging connects me to the world and to people I would never get to meet otherwise. I can identify with the people I've linked to because they're just real, ordinary people trying to live the best lives they can. If you take away money, race, religion, and all of the other things that divide us, all that is left are people who are trying to be happy and successful, who want to love and be loved, and possibly make a difference in the world.

Are our blog posts about the state of the world going to change it?

Time Magazine apparently believes this to be true.

I think they might be right...

Thanks fellow bloggers for helping to change mine.

And congratulations on the award - you deserve it!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Week in Review

I've been meaning to post for the last three days about everything that's going on, but my days have been so busy that I just haven't had the energy to write anything decent.

On Wednesday night, I finally went to see my very first musical in London, Dancing in the Streets.

I knew that it would be a good show, but I had no idea just how much I would enjoy it... Having grown up with parents who are in love with music from the 50s and 60s, and insisted on playing mix tapes of their favourite Oldies on every car trip we've ever taken (which drove my brother and I crazy), I pretty much know all of the words to all of those old songs.

Now that I'm older, I have developed an appreciation for this kind of music (no longer calling them Moldy Oldies to bug my parents) and now enjoy listening to the upbeat lyrics and sound.

I had no idea that Dancing in the Street was more of a musical review than anything else, or that the actors were going to impersonate greats like Gladys Knight, the Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. It was like getting to see them as they would have been all of those decades ago. A fantastic show - I really hope my parents will get to see it when they come to visit.

Using, my friend Eve found third row center seats. I'm totally using them again!

For the encore, they performed this Motown version of White Christmas - which made me cry. It's going to be a first not getting any snow at all...

The lack of snow hasn't hurt the excitement of the children in this country though. My students have been bouncing off of the walls all week in anticipation of Father Christmas coming to visit them in "ONLY TEN DAYS!!" Next week is our class Christmas party, so I need to go out and get cards for all of them, as well as a class gift (paid for by the school, but the teachers pick it out) and snacks for Tuesday. It's amazing how many things a teacher needs to do to prepare for this holiday - especially with a third of the class being Muslim. I'm trying to find non-Christmas cards for them so they know that I understand that they don't believe in Christmas and so they still get something special from me.

Last week, some of the children went to visit Father Christmas (who was actually the football coach, a great guy that everybody loves to bits) and came dancing back into the classroom with bags of toys and shouts of excitement. I felt so bad for the students who didn't get toys of their own, and made a promise to make sure that every child in my class has a great time next week and feels like they are getting something special even if they don't celebrate this holiday.

And finally...
Jeremy and I have come to the decision that regardless of what happens with his visa, I'll stay here until July for sure. It just seems like the responsible thing to do, and the school really needs me to make a commitment. I'll let them know about next year once things are sorted out. And so I look forward to a new year in this incredible city with hopes that things will work out, and that somebody soon I'll get to see the lights of Paris.

Now I'm off to get my cards for the kids and find something yummy to make for dinner. Hope you all have a great weekend and those of you braving the shopping malls find exactly what you're looking for.

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Once Upon a Time

There were two 20-somethings who decided to go on an adventure.

They loved their home in Canada very much but decided it was time to see the world. When the girl was offered a job across the ocean in a place called London, England, they talked a lot about the opportunity, and agreed that it was time to explore the world.

For many months the couple dreamed about the wonderful things that they were going to see and do in their new home across the ocean. They were very sad to leave their families and friends, but knew that one day they would all be together again. Finally, after a lot of waiting and preparation, it was time to go. Waving goodbye with one hand (while wiping tears away with the other), they bid goodbye to their loved ones and boarded the plane.

Their new city was even more amazing than expected. There were buildings for as far as the eyes could see, castles, palaces, parks, and thousands of things to see and do. There were even places that have been around for hundreds of years! The couple couldn't wait to start working and exploring.

Then the bad news started happening.

The boy found out he wasn't allowed to work and that before he would be allowed to work in their new home, he would have to travel back home to Canada to ask the People in Charge of Being Allowed to Work if they would let him have a job. The girl and boy were very sad and angry, but realized that there was nothing that could be done.

Because they didn't have enough money, they did not get to travel and explore as much as they wanted to, but they did make the best of things.

They went to the places that didn't cost money to visit. They went on walks in the park all the time, took pictures of the animals and birds that lived there, spent quiet evenings together with friends, and planned for the time when things were going to be "all right again". They played card games and video games and enjoyed each other's company.

When the time came for the boy to return to their home country, they tried very hard to be brave, telling themselves that things would work out after this, and that they would be together soon. Again, they talked about all of the incredible adventures they would have once the boy was allowed to work.

And then more bad news came...

The People in Charge of Being Allowed to Work told the boy that he wasn't allowed to come back to their new home to find a job. They were supposed to call the girl to make sure she would help him while he searched for work, but the didn't. Now the boy is trying to change their minds... which is difficult because they won't talk to him and don't seem to want to help him at all.

One day, the girl was offered the chance to stay at the school where she worked. The Head Teacher was so happy with everything she had done that he wanted her to stay with them until she moved back home again. He wanted her to work for their school only - and to stay there until it was time to move back to Canada again.

Because the boy was still waiting to find out if the People in Charge of Being Allowed to Work would allow him to come back and find a job in their new home, the girl couldn't give the Head Teacher an answer. And so she had to wait. She was very happy that her hard work had made a difference to the children in her class and the rest of the school, but was confused about what choice to make. If she takes the job and the boy has to go back to Canada then she'll be living all alone for many months without friends or family.

To this day, she still waits for the answer, wondering will they finally get their happy ending...

Author's note: All I can say about this little story is that I'm an elementary school teacher and I just couldn't help myself!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas in London, England

I've seen big cities before.

I've visited Toronto enough times for it not to be that exciting anymore (unless you're downtown for a hockey game), and been lucky enough to spend time in Calgary, Montreal, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Halifax, Washington DC, Raleigh, Edmonton, Philadelphia, and New York City.

New York is the only city that even comes close to what London is. I'm not even sure how to explain what I mean - it could be something about the sheer size of these cities that turns the clock back to childhood so full-grown adults are left staring up at landmarks in wonder, only able to utter "whoa" as their wide-eyed companions whisper "ya, I know".

This time of year, there are once again hundreds of tourists everywhere. My neighbourhood is a tourist haven, so there are always at least a dozen people lugging suitcases and looking a little shell-shocked as they weave through the crowds with maps in their hands, toward their hotels. The shops are full of Christmas decorations and people looking for the perfect outfit for their Christmas parties, or that perfect gift for their loved ones.

The schools are full of really really excited children. For the first time in my life, I am responsible for an entire class of students at Christmastime. About half of the children in my class are Muslim, so I try to keep a nice balance with the Christmas stuff so they don't feel like there's something wrong with them for not celebrating this holiday. We're talking about Hindu celebrations in Religion right now, and I'm careful to mention that Eid is coming up for Muslims in January. This school seems to make a pretty big fuss over Christmas - which is great - but I do want all of these kids to be comfortable with who they are and what they believe.

Each class in the school has made Christmas decorations that are now hanging from the ceiling in the hall (where we meet for assemblies, etc). Myself and three other teachers spent an hour throwing balls of string over the rafters so we could haul decorated hula hoops up into the air (and it actually looks really good - i'll take pictures and post them next week). It was fun to work with them and laugh about motion sensors going off in the night as little pieces of tinsel and cotton batton rain down from the ceiling.

Today, I have to find Christmas cards for the students in my class. All of the teachers give cards to their students. The challenge I'm giving myself is to find some card that have generic snowmen and trees for my non-Christian children. That way they get cards too, but not about Jesus being born... I hope that extra effort makes a difference for them.

The little pageant that the kids are putting on next week is so completely adorable that I wish I had a video camera to post it. They sing all sorts of British carols that I've never heard, and the acting parts are incredibly cute. One of the most challenging kids in my class, R, is the innkeeper.

2 weeks ago...

"Miss, am I the innkeeper?"

"Yes, R"


**repeat 5 more times**

"Um, Miss?"

"Yes, R"

"What's an innkeeper?"

I am not exaggerating this at all - it was like something out of a cheesy comedy. He looked up at me with the most sincere expression of confusion that I knew he wasn't being silly. When I explained to him what he would be doing, his face lit up and he is still walking around with his little chest puffed up with pride.

My days are so busy that time is just flying by. In less than 2 weeks Jeremy will be back in London with me, and we'll be enjoying a two-week break together (hopefully things will be sorted out with his visa by then as well).

Since our 5-foot tree is currently living underneath Jeremy's grandparent's place, I have been hunting for a small one for our flat here. Finally the Whitely's (little mall around the corner) Marks & Spencer came to my rescue.

I went in for some Sangria and crab pate (a favourite treat for myself and Eve - and a lot less expensive than you'd think), and stopped at the front entrance in surprise. There were rows of LIVE miniature evergreen trees in green pots, with little bows on the top. The price tag (only 10 pounds) sold me. I wanted some live plants for our place and after the holidays we'll still have our little tree.

Last week, I went up to Eve's flat to watch Love Actually (was on telly) and I was amazed at how perfectly that movie demonstrates British life. People who know each other, all living different lives, but all connected in various ways. The "Christmas #1" actually happens here too - although nobody is as funny as Billy Mac (from the movie). There are carol singers and lights everywhere, and children queuing up to see Father Christmas - just this excitment and anticipation in the air. At the beginning of one of the segments of the movie, there is a close-up of a huge Christmas tree inside a building with white curved walls. The camera moves down the tree to a small door that a pair of people walk out of - right out of the tree.

I shouted "Oh my god!!! That's Whitely's!"

Yep, the place where I bought our little tree. It was so cool to see a place I knew that well (and that close to where we live) in one of my favourite movies...

Back in our little place, with the lights, tree, Christmas cards from home, candles, and little container of cookies from my mother, things are just a bit cozier. After I return home from school, I light my candles and plug in the lights for the tree, and sit with some music (and often a glass of wine) to unwind. It's not the same as meeting with my friends back home, or looking forward to the Christmas traditions with our families, but at least I'll be able to say that I'm getting some joy out of my favourite holiday.

Now all I need is to get through the craziness of being a teacher at Christmas - and wait for Jeremy to come back home.

I don't want a lot for Christmas,
there is just one thing I need.
I don't care about the presents,
underneath the Christmas tree.
I just want you for my own,
more than you could ever know.
Make my wish come true -
All I want for Christmas is you...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

a Belated Birthday greeting

... I had plans to write this yesterday, but various circumstances kept me from my computer last evening. Not a good excuse, but that's what I've got...

In the last post, we flashed back to the mid 1990's, during which I began Grade 9 at Marymount College in Sudbury. I was so excited to start Grade 9 so I could make a bunch of new friends and have the Great High School Experience.

Incredibly, I did. I was lucky enough to make friends with a fantastic group of people, some of whom I'm still friends with today.

The first friend I made at Marymount (or MMC as we called it) was Laura Mac-not-McDonald.

Math Class Laura - "Hey - do you have a pencil?" Me (thinking how in the hell somebody goes to math class without a pencil) - "um ya"

That is all I remember about us becoming friends. Just like with Kim (again, see previous post), it just seemed like we'd always been friends...

During high school, we:

* were as close as sisters (and fought like them too!)
* went on band trips to Toronto, Philadelphia, New York City, Calgary, and Montreal
* tried our best to find alcohol during each of the aforementioned trips
* watched "When Harry Met Sally" at least 100 times (and can probably still recite the words along with the movie)
* shared a love of Harry Connick Junior, the Barenaked Ladies, Swing / Jazz music, Moxy Fruvous, and the Tragically Hip (and performed a live acapella version of "King of Spain" on the streets of Philadelphia - complete with dancing)
* would spend hours "stirring out the lumps" in uncooked brownie batter (in other words - eating uncooked brownie batter)
* went through crushes and heartbreaks and boyfriends - all of that high school drama
* suffered through hours of tutelage under the Worse French Teacher Ever
* spent hours getting read for school dances and Semi-Formals - getting ready with all of our friends for the Semi-formal dances is one of my favourite high school memories. We used to all get together at this one girl's house, whose mother had provided all sorts of great food and drinks. Our parents would all show up for pictures - and a visit after we left for the dance.

* I could go on, but I don't want to shatter the illusion my parents have of their innocent daughter (heehee Mom - just kidding)

As I've said many times - I'm blessed with a wonderful group of friends and family. It's not very often that a person makes a friend for life, and I'm glad to count Laura as somebody I'll be gossiping and laughing with for many years to come.

So join me in wishing her a Happy Belated Birthday - and check out her blog too!