Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year's Non-Resolution

I’ve been thinking a lot about New Year’s lately – how can you not? It’s everywhere: every form of media doing “best of the year” stories and “what’s your resolutions” interviews, restaurants trying to entice you in with three-course meals “and champagne at midnight!”. I find myself reflexively assessing the past year for things that aren’t right, that I can fix with a resolution or two, but this year, I’m having a hard time weighing my life and finding it wanting. Which is after all what resolutions are about, isn’t it? You decide that some part of you needs “fixing”, think about the things that are supposed to make you a “better person” - lose weight, get fit, clean your house, quit smoking – but it never really works out, does it? By mid-January, we’re all back on the couch in front of the TV in a messy livingroom, lit cigarette in hand. Sometimes, I think resolutions are made for breaking.

This year, I’m skipping the quick-fix and the surface renovation. I’m going out on a limb and deciding that I’m OK with who I am. And that I don’t need fixing. That’s not to say that there aren’t things I want to let go of or move towards, but I’m approaching it from a different angle.

This year, it’s about gratitude and possibility.

I am going to take a look at my life in that past year, but I’m not looking for what’s missing. Instead, I’m looking for what I am grateful for. I did a test run and it didn’t take me long before I had a list – a long list at that, but there was one thing. One huge thing. The thing that made every other gratitude possible: I got my life back.

When I got my second chance, I also understood that anything is possible. It might take a while to get where you want to be, but it is as simple as believing in yourself and opening up to possibility. And one more thing.

There’s a joke about an old man who keeps pleading with god to let him win the lottery so he can take care of his family, all of whom naturally are in various desperate situations. Finally, after days of getting increasingly irascible with the deity of his choice, he sobs “god, why won’t you help me? Why won’t you let me save my family?”. And then the clouds part, a shaft of silver light beams down from the heavens and a booming voice says “help me out here – buy the ticket”.

So in 2006, that’s what I’m going to do. Believe in possibility and buy the ticket.

Happy New Year. May your dreams come closer to being fulfilled.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hopped Up on Christmas Cheer

Yes, I'm still shirking my posting duties... gettin' by with minimal... revelling in being lazy. And calling it all "sharing". Herewith some images from Christmas Eve.

One of the pair of angels that used to belong to my farmor (father's mother). Only used once a year.

The singing. In Danish. Honestly, it's not as hard as JP and Ken's faces would have you believe. Although Ken has previously been known to hold forth about how Danes swallow half the syllables in every word, he's just... er... right.

Michele likes her present (please note the very seasonal pants).

Ken was nisse and really stoked about it.

Yours truly, wearing knitted goodies (by Stephanie). Yes, that's a pair of socks on my hands and a matchbook. It's now a tradition that I must pose as The Little Matchgirl (although I'm not sure she looked this gleeful).

(that last one probably taken by Michele - it's all a little hazy)

Monday, December 26, 2005

TinkMama Speaks

For those of you who don't obsessively check the comment box (like I might do... sometimes... not all the time... just... er... nevermind), my darling sister left a lovely comment for all of you on Friday. Thought I'd get out of posting today (still enjoying the holidays way too much to really get into blogging), while making sure you got to read it. One more thing before I turn things over to my "guest blogger". I've been instructed by my mother that the recipe for ris a la mande I linked to on Friday will not result in the kind of ris a la mande she makes. But then, nothing comes close to that (hint: think lots of whipped cream, almonds and when you think you've addded enough Madeira, add some more).

Pardon the weird white thingy in the post - apparently moving things from the comment box does weird things to the formatting.

Thought I'd take this opportunity to first of all thank my Big Sis (Lene) for all the wonderful posts about Liam and Morgan. I'd also like to thank all of you who have been following their progress and have sent so many good wishes, prayers, hugs and kisses to all of us. It has been an overwhelming experience and I'm so happy that we could share it with all of you through Lene's blog.

While I'm sad that we can't be there in person tomorrow night at mom's to eat, laugh and be merry, we will definitely be there in spirit. I can't be too sad though, since we just got the best Christmas presents anyone could ever ask for and what could possibly be better than that?

I can't wait till next year when they'll be able to celebrate with us (and be much more interested in the boxes and wrapping than the actual toys inside). We'll be sure to keep you posted on the Tinks and their homecoming.

I hope you all get your Christmas wish and have a wonderful holiday with everyone you love. Glaedelig Jul!!!

(Oops! Forgot credit: photo by TinkPapa)

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fucking with Tradition

My mother makes magic. I don’t know how she does it, but there is one guaranteed perfect evening a year in my life and that’s the 24th of December. I can be stressed out or tired or sick, unable to quite locate the spirit of Christmas and the minute I step into my mother’s home, there it is. Christmas. There are candles everywhere, some in candlesticks that are only used this one evening a year, decorations in red and white, the tree glowing in the livingroom, the floor beneath it carpeted with presents and there is the smell of the flaeskesteg (roast porkloin with crispy crackling). Immediately after that hits your nostrils, everyone greets you with a smile, a kiss and a ‘glaedelig jul!” (merry Christmas) and you know all is good with the world.

When it comes to Christmas, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. Ok, so maybe more of a crazed… er, I mean, firm traditionalist. In my family, once we’ve done something twice, it’s tradition and at no time is fucking with tradition more blasphemous than on this day. The ritual of doing the same thing at the same time every Christmas Eve links us to the past, to our family, to each other. We eat what Ken calls “The Best Meal of the Year”, then have coffee, cookies and sing carols, both Danish and English (often with more enthusiasm than skill - particularly in my case). We tease each other, mercilessly harass each other, hug and kiss each other and laugh until we cry. The love in the room is palpable.

This year, I’ve been a little worried. For the first time in 32 years, Janne won’t be part of Christmas Eve – she and John are too busy with the kidlings. For a while, I was almost sure it was a dealbreaker. Christmas without my sister? How can that be Christmas? Who will make fun of my singing? Who will be Nisse – for decades, she’s found one present at a time, I read the tag and then we all watch/ooh/aah as the recipient opens it (it adds time to the unwrapping, but ramps up the fun). Who will laugh like this?

Things have changed since my Christmases in Denmark – we moved to Canada where things are different, and although we’ve kept many things the same, some have changed, including some of the participants. Each new person has added something new, something wonderful. Each new person joins us in keeping the traditions of our past alive in a new country. When we sing this carol, we all mess up the chorus just like my father always did, we use my grandmother’s recipe for ris a la mande, someone (usually me) wears all the bows in honour of my father, who got to play admiral (bows instead of medals) once a year, we get small presents from Nissen. In Denmark, Christmas is called the feast of the hearts, which isn’t nearly as Aztec blood-ritual as it sounds, but rather about the spirit of Christmas. It is about hygge, intimacy, love and laughter and that never changes. It’s my mother’s magic.

This year, we will all help bring Janne and John into the evening. Someone else will laugh with Ken about a particular Danish word much used in carols, before dinner, someone else will sneak into the kitchen and steal advance crackling for everyone, someone else will say “you fucked up again, mom” (trust me, it's funny), someone else will be Nisse with me.

The first year my father wasn’t there on Christmas Eve, we raised our glasses of sherry for a toast “to absent friends” and at that moment, he was there. We’ve done it every year since, sometimes out loud, sometimes we each offer it silently when it feels right. This year, we will make the toast out loud.

To absent friends, new and old, in other countries, other cities. To absent friends no longer with us. To Janne, John and their children, who will be there next year, creating new traditions to blend with the old.

Glaedelig Jul new friends. May your holiday (or weekend, if you don’t celebrate Christmas) be filled with love, laughter and magic.

Monday, December 19, 2005

December Happies

It’s that time of year. The time dominated by an impending holiday to celebrate peace, love and understanding. The time where preparing for said holiday tends to make us anything but peaceful, as we rush around in the snow and in crowded malls to get ready for the Big Day. Did you just groan? Did you just start twitching with the knowledge of how much still remains to be done? Have you considered calling your boss with claims of being ill with the plague, just so you could have more time?

A month ago, I reminded myself that happiness comes in small packages, by paying attention and not losing yourself in what isn’t there. Today, five days before lift-off – four if you, like the Danes, celebrate on Christmas Eve, that’s getting difficult. I’m fairly on track this year, but am still having a hard time focusing on the good stuff, instead of the list of things still to do. Which made me think that perhaps a List of Happies ought to be a regular feature here, not just because it helps me remember what’s important, but also because I love hearing about what makes other people happy.

So here’s the (holiday-centric) list for today:

A peregrine falcon has adopted the area to the north and east of my building as part of its hunting grounds. Most mornings at about 10:30, I see other birds – sparrows, pigeons and the like – fly frantically for cover. A minute later, the falcon appears, circling for a while. One day, it was so close to my window that I could see the change in colour from chest to wing feathers.

The Tinks are out of their incubator and doing well.

The Christmas tree people are back at their usual corner. Every day, I walk past and inhale deeply right around this place:

Last week, I went to hear Handel’s Messiah at St. James Cathedral. The combination of organ, choir and the Hallelujah chorus gives me shivers.

Before I sit down to dinner, I put carols on the stereo and light my advent candle. It reminds me of Danish December.

I’m listening to Around the World in 80 Days by Michael Palin. It makes me laugh and feel well-travelled.

What makes you happy today?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Playing Hooky


was how last night looked.

I'm taking a snowday, playing hooky, being irresponsible and in general doing nothing today.

Have a fantabulous weekend - I'll see you Monday(ish).

Monday, December 12, 2005

Terrible Beauty

Stephanie’s launch last week was held at the Textile Museum of Canada and they had kindly opened the exhibits for wandering after the Harlot spoke. Sam grabbed me and told me I must see “the bug room”, so off we went to see what turned out to be an installation by Jennifer Angus called Terrible Beauty.

I was told that it is a look inside the mind of a Victorian collector* - of bugs specifically. Rooms flow into each other, each containing a small table with an old, wooden drawer-thingy filled with bugs. But the real collection is on the walls: designs made up of thousands of insects. And it was terrible and beautiful, both.

Terrible because of the bugs and not just the conditioned ick-factor (although some were alarmingly huge). One of the staff told us that they were insects farmed for this particular purchase – either there’s an explosion of bug-related art or she meant collecting in general. It hit the same button in me as fur does – I find it morally reprehensible to raise animals for the sole purposes of getting killed so that we can wear (or look at) something pretty. It wasn’t long, though, before my queasiness was swept away by the art of it.

First was the Flower Room. On light walls – a creamy yellow, perhaps? – bugs had been pinned in a design of flowers surrounding a quote from Alice in Wonderland. Maybe I’m suggestible, but I could almost see the room. I imagined it in a large manor house, flowers everywhere, French doors to the garden open allowing in the drone of bees in roses and the sweet-scented summer breeze. In a corner, a woman in a flowered muslin morning dress is dealing with her correspondence, the nib scratching across the paper.

In the India room, the insects are in the design of a sari pattern, on walls the colour of spices, warm and rich. And all of a sudden, I am no longer in the English countryside, but in a market in India, being bustled about, dizzy from the smells and sights. No more pastels here, everything is bright and intense and hot.

From there we wandered into the Egyptian Room. Here, the walls are a deep blue, bugs like ripples on water. I felt transported to a barge, floating down the Nile to Karnak. The cool breeze comes off the water and in the papyrus reeds along the shore a crocodile dips into the river with a soft ‘plop’.

Then comes the Japanese Room. The bugs are in shapes of stylised cherry blossoms on a delicately light wall. And here we are, in a Japanese garden in the Spring, cherry blossoms drifting like snow in the air. Just ahead is a wooden bridge across a small stream and in the near distance, a gazebo where a woman in a dazzling silk kimono is preparing a tea ceremony.

There were no cars or other modern things in my mind’s eye, not in any of the rooms – all were moments out of time, suffused with light, smells and sounds just beyond hearing. Stepping back from the walls took you back in time, going in close to see the detail on the bugs, unaltered, made you see the art in nature. Each room has different insects, large, small and in—between, fuzzy browns and light greens of the bodies, wings shimmering in the light with golden filigreed veins.


*There is a curatorial essay on the Museum’s site, which I haven’t read yet. I assume it may contain more accurate information than I have. I’m not sure I want to read it – my own interpretation was plenty magical and facts might interfere with that.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lists and Lists and It

I went to the launch of the Harlot’s new book on Wednesday and had a grand time. Who knew a group of knitters could be that much fun? Well, I did, actually, but for the non-knitters among you, trust me: if you want to hang with people who make you laugh like an idiot, go find yourself some knitters. Naturally, I wasn’t with it enough to get a picture of The Star of the Evening (that’d not be you, Stephanie, that’d be the Pierce Brosnan wrap), but I did get one of Steph’s lovely daughters Sam, Amanda and Megan:

Steph read “It” from her book, a damn funny story of a woman who slowly loses her grip on reality in the face of a mountain of Christmas knitting, It being a state of utter deranged denial. Completely fictional, of course. (oh, I could tell you stories…)

It reminded me of my own current predicament. It’s not that I’ve lost my mind – yet. It’s more that I feel things slipping a smidge. I’d been a hermit for a while and when I came back out of the cave, rather a lot of things had piled up. I sat and whimpered for a while and then I decided to make some lists. Lists make me feel better. Lists make me feel in control, even when it looks like an F3 tornado just hit my life. It’s all about the illusion of togetherness – if you can fake that, sometimes, the piles get so stunned, they’ll organize themselves a little before the surprise wears off

Once the Tinks had arrived safely (they're doing fine, by the way), I started looking at the lists. Then I made some more lists of which lists to attack first. And then I started in on them this week, which developed into a full-time job of catching up on my life. I was incredibly productive for three days before I realized that “dealing with my life” was generating more work. You deal with your correspondence, sit back and enjoy having no more flagged items in your inbox and then…. People write you back. You finally make that phone call that’s been on your list every day for 16 days and then… it generates two more calls to address the issues that were the reason you waited for 16 days in the first place.
Etc., etc. ad nauseam. By the time I had plowed through an alarming amount of items and the even more alarming pile that evolved out of the first pile, I was capable merely of sitting still, staring at the wall and drooling. While I realized in my stupor that I’d still not gotten to the Christmas part of the list collection. And it's how many days away?

I’d just like a good 6 hours more in the day and I suspect I’m not the only one. Maybe if we all petitioned the Powers That Be?

Sometimes, I think being a hermit – a real one – would be easier. Then all I’d have to do was fetch water, chop up trees for the fire and chase woodland creatures out of my lettuce patch.

In the face of all of this, I’m taking today off. Does that mean I’m in the throes of It?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

All Tinks, All the Time

Thank you so much for all your comments and congratulations. We’re overwhelmed with the love coming the Tinks’ way from all over the world.

And speaking of love… I knew I fell madly in love with my niece and nephew the first time I saw the raisin-sized shapes on my television. What has taken me utterly by surprise is how much that feeling was magnified once they were out. For a while, I wondered how parents do it. These aren’t my children and I’m reeling, so how do parents function with that overwhelming amount of love always there? I talked to a few people and realized that when it feels like it’s spilling over, it’s actually your heart growing another size. I’ve been verklempt for days and I haven’t even held them yet. I fully anticipate dissolving once I do so.

I’m also trying really hard to accept that I am a mere moster and doing really well, I think, with not insisting that Janne and John move in with me and bring the kidlings. My heart thinks that would be completely reasonable, but my head is talking about “space issues” (I live in a 1-bedroom apartment), but there’s always room for 1 (or 4) more, right?

Here are some other things I’m not doing:

Suggesting a timeshare. I mean, there are two - I could have one while the parentals have the other and then we'll switch.

Booking a cab to take me to them. Aside from the certain pain issues, there’s the small matter of it costing hundreds of dollars.

Moving in with John and Janne.
A one-way trip would be cheaper and give me constant access to Liam and Morgan once they're home.

Dismembering people who get to hold them before I do (not counting their parents and mormor).

Calling Janne and John many (many) times a day, demanding that they tell me every single thing that’s happened since we last spoke.

I’ve come to the realization that the best way to deal with this is to equip the parental units with miner’s helmets.
We’ll install a camera where the lamp goes and pipe the footage straight into my computer. Fair, don’t you think? Now I just need to figure out how to hook up Touch-Vision and Bob’s yer uncle!

TinkMama was sprung from the hospital Saturday and is home, much to the delight of her oldest child, Jag (he’s a cat).
Liam and Morgan are doing well and were moved from a Level 3 NICU to a Level 2 Friday evening. I’m pretty sure all your good wishes had something to do with that.

Here’re my lovies: