Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Greatest Gift I Never Played

Let me start by saying I’ve received some great Christmas gifts over the years. As a kid, I spent countless hours creating hundreds of baked goods by the light of a 10 watt bulb. The year Santa showed up with our very first video game system was a definite hit (Atari’s Space Invaders, anyone??). The Christmas Eve my brother & I discovered our new Walkmans under the tree was a huge score! (NOTE: IF you were born after 1985 just picture a huge iPod!)

But none of them hold a candle to that one gift that resulted in choirs singing, spotlights beaming down and sheer & utter happiness prevailing. The year I stumbled down the stairs with messy hair and crumpled pyjamas with half-opened eyes and saw it. The gift that made all of the waiting and hoping and praying worthwhile. Yes, it was every little girl’s dream.


That’s right – my happiness that year was found at the bottom of a plastic 12” shark. *Sigh*…

I was too young to be able to actually watch the movie that was sweeping the nation, or even know when or if it was actually safe to go back in the water.  But I knew it was a big thing and come hell or high water I wanted to be part of it too! So forget the dollhouse or the Barbie or the colouring books – it was the Jaws game that was destined to make my Christmas complete.

So there it was at the top of every Christmas list, shared with every mall Santa, circled & dog-eared in every toy catalogue & flyer we received. I wanted – no… I NEEDED this Jaws game to be under my tree Christmas morning.

Thankfully, Santa Claus has a reputation of delivering. Of course, as kids we may not be aware of how many miles Santa may have to cover, how many shopping malls he may need to frequent, how many favours he may need to call in to locate the desired item… All that mattered was that come Christmas morning, my Christmas wish had come true. There amongst the Christmas tree tinsel and orange-filled stockings lay the most beautiful hunk of plastic my 6-year old eyes had ever seen.

I immediately ignored the other gifts that Santa had so generously left to keep my Jaws game company, and got down to business. I gently took the beloved shark out of its box and lovingly set up all of the pieces according to the directions. The goal of the game was to carefully pick the various items out of the shark’s mouth with a hook. If you weren’t careful – SNAP! The mouth snapped shut and the game was over. Seems relatively straightforward, doesn’t it?

So the shark was set up in its place of honour; the plastic tires, boots and other random paraphernalia were strategically placed throughout its mouth; I had finished limbering up and had the hook in my hand ready to rescue that first piece of junk from this fierce competitor. I spied the spare tire leaning haphazardly against the anchor and knew it was an easy rescue. I leaned in slowly – taking all angles into consideration – carefully hooked the inside of the tire and ever so slowly began the extraction process. Slowly….. past the anchor… over the rubber glove… around the old shoe… and……


I never played that game again.

(Sorry Santa!)

Do you have a favourite holiday gift that you'll never forget?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Taking My Holiday Season Back

The sugar rush has faded, the pumpkins have found their way to the curb, and the spooky spiderwebs have been stashed until next October. Where does that leave us? That’s right – Holiday Planning Season. The time of year where sleigh bells and mistletoe are not-so-delicately punctuated with countless items from the endless to-do list.
  • Plan the holiday baking.
  • Find the best holiday baking recipes.
  • Learn how to bake.
  • Pull out the holiday decorations.
  • Pull out the repair kit to restore the decorations that didn’t survive the Summer storage.
  • Head to the store to buy all new decorations.
  • Buy Holiday cards.
  • Address, sign & mail all Holiday cards.
  • Cut self some slack when signed & sealed Holiday cards are found in a closet following Holiday season.
  • Make a holiday gift shopping list.
  • Vow to complete all holiday shopping without leaving it to the last minute.
  • Breathe deeply when braving holiday crowds while shopping at the last minute.

Is it any wonder that the first sound of those jingling bells strikes fear in the hearts of so many of us? So much to do, so little time… so much to accomplish, so little money to go ‘round… such high expectations of holiday spirit, such low levels of patience to be endured…

Well, not this year! This year I’m taking my holiday season back – and I’m going to find my holiday cheer if it kills me!

I will not...
  • stress about finding the perfect gift for everyone.
  • glare menacingly at the next person who tells me how many shopping days there are until Christmas.
  • roll my eyes as the 27th rendition of “Silver Bells” blares over the radio airwaves… in November.
  • purposely walk slowly to my parking spot at the mall to irritate the person who has been trailing me with their car since my foot hit the pavement.

I will...
  • enjoy any and all holiday cookies that come my way without giving in to the guilt.
  • revel in the giddy happiness that the red festive cups at Starbucks bring me.
  • take a moment and reflect upon how beautiful the first snowfall really is.
  • remember that my son will only be young enough to enjoy the magic of Christmas for a short time and I should enjoy every minute of it.

So that’s that. I am officially vowing to bump “Find & retain my joy” to the top of my Holiday to-do list. I’m inspired, I’m motivated, I’m… going to run to Starbucks to kickstart my campaign with another holiday-themed cup. After that, I’m figuring out what the heck a ‘bobtail’ is, and letting those bells ring!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tough Guys or Tender Hearts?

Recently I was forced to think (not always a pretty sight!). I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of “MissRepresentation” at Blissdom Canada – a writing & business conference in Toronto – and the experience led to countless conversations that went well into the night.

Basically, the movie shared how the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to increased challenges for women in society, regarding their appearance, career paths, and overall positions of power and influence. Everyone from elementary school children to celebrities to high-level politicians weighed in on the topic – as did all of the incredible women in attendance that evening.

Admittedly, my initial reaction as a parent of a little boy included a small sigh of relief knowing that these issues were not necessarily directly on my radar as a parent (yay, boys!). However, my little “bliss bubble” was duly shattered the longer the thinking process continued (can ignorance really be bliss??). I may not be raising a daughter, but these were still undoubtedly my issues to deal with.

I was reminded of some of the conflicting messaging I deal with on a regular basis while raising my beautiful little boy. On one hand, I would love for him to be the new “Millennium Man” – sensitive, empathetic, caring, not afraid to show emotions. I want him to believe that women and men are completely equal and the world is open and available to everyone equally. I want him to be blind to gender stereotyping and follow his career aspirations, whatever they may be, without pressure or worries. I want him to grow up always able to hug and love as freely and as openly as he does now.

But in encouraging him to move in that direction, am I building him up for success or setting him up for a world of hurt?

Mainstream media is filled with endless examples of women gravitating towards the ‘tough guy’, while the ‘nice guy’ is quietly pushed aside. We’re constantly presented with heartbreaking stories about various children who have suffered tremendous pressure and ridicule through online and/or in-person bullying. As an ideal, typically boys are encouraged to “man up”, excel at sports, be active & driven and not get hung up on feelings, etc. Of course I want my son to grow up and be accepted in society and excel as a man, but at what point does the contradiction become too much?

At a recent taekwondo tournament, my little guy was competing in his first sparring event and lost in the finals. He promptly burst into tears – partially motivated, I’m sure, by the loss but equally as much by the swift kick to the unprotected thigh he received mid-event. My first instinct as a mom was to take him in my arms and comfort him – letting him know I was incredibly proud of him and hoping the promise of hot chocolate from Tim Horton’s afterwards would help alleviate some of the pain. However, a fleeting thought did pass through my mind – Will people think he’s crying because he didn’t win? Do they think he’s a ‘wimp’ or a ‘suck’? Truthfully, I was horrified, saddened and riddled with guilt all at the same time.

As parents, we want the best for our kids. And unfortunately sometimes that involves a number of difficult contradictions. Be strong but sensitive. Be confident but humble. Be successful but charitable. If we can’t figure it out, how the heck are our kids going to be able to?

I have no idea what the future holds for my little guy – I can only cross my fingers & toes and hope that he’s happy, healthy, and successful – whatever that means to him. For now, I will encourage him to laugh until his cheeks hurt, cry until he feels better and allow me to be there for him through it all.
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