The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Christmas Wish

Joy to the World!

So, its Christmas Eve Day.  I have shopped, baked, wrapped, and all that to prepare for the big day.  Well, almost prepared.  My house is dirty and we have been counting cookies as a food group for a week or so now.

Our tree is decorated in the usual “eclectic” style.  When I see other people’s’ Christmas trees, or those on television, I marvel at how stylish they are.  How everything seems to match and coordinate and all the decorations are so beautiful and.. what’s the word?  congruent.  Ours is not that way.  That’s the way I like it, actually.  I love that our tree ornaments are fit for the island of misfit toys.  They remind me of where we’ve been, friendships old and new and why this season is so special.  There are ornaments from work gift exchanges, kids’ day care projects and the “baby’s first Christmas” trio.

Mid made this one at school.  Its a Scrooge, I think.

Mid made this one at school. Its a Scrooge, I think.

Jaybird made this ornament at Girl Guides.

Jaybird made this ornament at Girl Guides.

Santa came from a former co-worker.

Santa came from a former co-worker.

One of my favorite Christmas decorations does not match anything.  It was a gift from a friend with the explanation, “May this spider web be a reminder that Jesus was not born in a palace or sterile-clean hospital room.  He was born in a humble dirty stable, with animals, loving parents and the Good Lord surrounding him.  During this season surround yourself with God, people you love and love you, be humble and don’t worry about the imperfections.”

Humble Web

This is my Christmas wish for you.  May your days be merry and bright.  May your ornaments not match your decorations.  May you be surrounded with those that love you and you love right back.

Cheers!

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Monday Morning

Friday was a busy day.  I had been gone from home all day and had not listened to the news.  Upon returning home with the kids after school, I took a moment to check my email and news feeds.  The first Facebook post I saw was that of my friend Jim.

“Don’t read the headlines, don’t watch the news, just hug your kids extra tight tonight. THAT is my advice.”

And I thought, huh, wonder what is going on with them.  I made a mental note to check in with Jim and his family later that evening.  Then another post telling me to hug my children.  And another.  Then more informative posts.  I switched to Twitter.  There I found links to CNN and other news organizations.  I started to read the coverage.  As (I imagine) everyone else did, I started to cry.  Apprentice noticed and walked over.  “Are you OKay, Mom?” he asked.  “Did something bad happen?”  I replied that yes, something very bad had happened.  “Did someone die?”  I replied that yes, some people had died.  “Do we know them?”  No, we don’t know them, but I am still very sad.  He hugged me and walked away.

All weekend my husband and I struggled with how to talk about the horrific actions of one person.  We kept the news off of the television and did not discuss the school shooting in front of the kids.  Then came Monday morning.

I was having breakfast with the kids and it occurred to be that other kids may talk about the tragedy in Newtown, CT, at school.  Or, that a prayer may be said during school about it.  I wanted them to hear the news from me.  I did not want them to ask questions as school.  Not that the teachers, administrators and staff at our school can’t deal with it, they are all awesome, (full disclosure, I work there part time).  I just didn’t want them getting information from other kids.  I did not want them to be afraid at school.

“So, today at school you may here about a terrible thing that happened last Friday in the United States.”  They all looked up at me, puzzled.  Mid asked what had happened.  I froze.  All three of them were looking at me with questioning eyes and I choked.  My eyes filled with tears and I tried to get some meaningful words out.  It seemed as if an hour had passed.  “Someone broke into a school in Connecticut last Friday and had a gun.”  Jaws dropped.  Jaybird asked if the person was a kid or adult and if they had hurt anyone.  “It was an adult and yes, he hurt a lot of people.”  They stared at me.  Jaybird broke the silence by saying that she understood.  The boys nodded their heads in agreement and we went back to breakfast.  I started to cry.

I took them to school at the usual time.  When the got out of the car I told them the usual “buona giornata” (have a good day) and added “I love you” in pretty much any language I could think of.  (“Ti amo”, “Ich liebe dich”, “”Nakupenda”)  They got out of the car and walked into school.  I cried the whole way home, thinking of the mothers in Newtown.  Hopefully, when we discuss this tragedy later, I will be able to reassure them that they are safe and that God watches over them.  That their school is full of wonderful children and adults that will help them.  I hope I never have to reassure them of this because it should be a given.  Children should always feel that adults will act in their best interest.

Prayers to all those in Connecticut and all over the world.  Please follow Jim’s advice, today and every day.

 

If you would like to see Jim’s advice more often, please see his blog <HERE>.  It’s a good one.

Ski School Tale

Sometimes we all need a little push.  For my husband, it was my father informing him that we would begin taking ski vacations as a family and he was fully expected to learn to ski.  For my daughter, she needed to be coaxed a little.  We negotiated some days with Grandma, some days at ski school.  When Mid entered ski school with her, there was another negotiation which involved a few days of ski school in exchange for some snow tubing as a reward at the end of the week.  It was a little tougher to come to agreement with Apprentice.

It was the first day of our annual ski vacation.  The sun was shining, the air was crisp and clear.  There was a little chill in the air you felt all through your lungs with each inhale.  We took the kids to ski school.  Jaybird and Mid were in a different section than Apprentice, due to their ages.  I had the older two, JB had Apprentice.  As I was getting my two situated with the ski instructor, I heard some screaming and general commotion in the other area.  I thought nothing of it and after our conversation was done, I walked over to where JB was checking in Apprentice.  Cue entrance of my mom.  She and JB were trying to reason with Apprentice outside the ski school building.  I asked what was going on.  JB reported that Apprentice had run out of the building, yelling that he had changed his mind about going to ski school that day.  JB was contemplating staying with him to be sure that he was OKay with Grandma.

As noted above, this was the first day of our ski vacation.  It was a picture perfect Steamboat, Colorado, day.  I was going to ski.  Frankly, this delay pissed me off.

I told Apprentice to come with me, asked JB to stay put and marched into ski school. He was fine until we got to the counter.  When he realized that I fully intended to leave him with these highly personal, energetic ski instructors and kids his own age, he.. well, he freaked.  His eyes started to water and he ran, ala OJ Simpson through an airport, out of the building.  Did I mention he was wearing ski boots?  Oh yes, its was a sight to behold.  I chased him out, caught him and carried him back into the building.  He was kicking.  He was screaming.  Grandma had joined me at the counter to check him in.  I paid for him and apologized for the scene he was continuing to create.  The kind woman smiled at me and summoned a 20-something instructor the front.  The young woman took Apprentice from me and carried him back into the “parent free zone” of the ski school.  I blew him a kiss, turned and walked out.  Grandma offered to take him for the day.  We will try again tomorrow, she said, I can’t stand to see him so upset.  I told her that in my experience with him that if we did not force him to do it that first day he would not ski the entire week, and I would not have it.  I thanked her for coming along to check them in and started for the lift.  She stuck around the ski school to be sure that he would calm down.  The grandma-ish woman at the reception desk smiled knowingly at her and reassuringly said, “We have at least 4-5 kids like that every day.  He is going to be fine.”  And, of course, he was.  He just needed a little push.

ski school 2009

Random cuteness of kids after a day of skiing in Steamboat.

The last day of the same ski vacation, we were getting suited up for a day on the slopes when we noticed the front door closing.  Apprentice had completed getting his gear on, grabbed his skis and had headed out for ski school.  He has typical German patience, or lack thereof, and decided that he had enough of waiting for everyone else.  He wanted to get out on the slopes for the last day.  Part of me was so very happy that he loved (and still loves) to ski.  However, the vocal mom in me yelled to my dad to chase him down and make him wait for us.  When I caught up to him, he had the same look I had the first day, when I was delayed in getting on the lift.

This story was the topic of our breakfast conversation this morning as the kids and I discussed upcoming ski plans.  They are becoming good skiers.  So good, actually, that sometimes its hard to tell who is more excited to get to the mountains, them or me.  They went through all their favorite ski hills.  Lake Louise, for overall family time.  Steamboat, for the awesome ski school and “Why Not” run.  Sunshine for the close proximity to Banff.  Copper Mountain because of the moose house, (the condo we rented a couple of times had this monstrous moose pelt hanging on the wall…at least I think it was a moose) and the good times they had napping in the sun with Grandma.

Tis the season!  Let’s get to the slopes!

P1050339

One must see the statue of Billy the Kid when in Steamboat. Also, there’s a bar with yummy local microbrews.

He Called Me Erickson

Summer in the late 1970s always included a visit from Uncle George and family.  One of my mom’s five brothers, he had moved to this mysterious place where Vikings came from called “The Twin Cities” and was the only of her siblings to move out of the area where they grew up.  I loved when he and his family came to visit.  George would give a lot of advice to all of us kids.  Most of the time, when I would repeat this advice to my parents, they would explain that George was “full of BS” and not take what he said too seriously.  Then, they would send me back to him to get the answer for what letters “BS” meant.

Summers were usually hot and humid, made more so by the cigarette smoke that would fill our kitchen.  During George’s visits, the evenings were full of noise and new words, (which I was instructed never to repeat).  My aunts and uncles would gather at Grandma’s or our house (we lived three houses away from my grandparents) and play cards, drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and smoke cigarettes.  The card games among Ray, Jim, George, Barbara, their spouses and my parents seemed to go late into the night.  Though thinking about it, I was a little kid, so it probably wasn’t all that late, really.

I could tell many stories about Uncle George. I could tell about how my grandmother would pound on the kitchen ceiling with her broomstick, (directly under his bedroom), to get him up for chores on the farm, or work in the factory, or to get back to college.  I could tell of how he was really good at winning things at county fair-type games.  He once won a stuffed animal or something for my mom, (he called her “Kid”), and hid it in a bassinnet.  He told her that he had won something for her, but she would have to pull back the blanket to see what it was.  She was terrified and took a week to work up the courage to uncover the teddy bear (or whatever it was).  He told my brother of a little “misunderstanding” that happened at the University of Wisconsin which resulted in his fraternity getting kicked off campus.  He said many times that people were just too sensitive.  He had a great sense of humor.  He had nicknames for all of us.  Popper, Lester, Stoney, Kid, Erickson, Clarkson.. we all answered to whatever he said because he was fun to be around.

Over the last many years he had faced some serious health problems.  Each time, my mom would call me and say that she was worried his condition was grave.  She was thankful his kids were taking such good care of him.  Each time, he came through determined to golf in Arizona for the winter.  Also over the last few years, Barbara, one of my mom’s sisters, was leaving us as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Barbara passed away in the beginning of November.  George came down for her funeral and talked with as many as he could in the family.  He still called my mom “Kid”.

While visiting with my mom over their sister’s funeral, he had shared that he had no regrets and he was thankful for his life experiences over his many years.  George passed away this past Thanksgiving.  Knowing he was content with the life he led brought peace to many in our family.  The funeral, I was told, was a true celebration of his life.  He would have liked the party, my mom said.  There were many toasts to George and all the joy he brought to people.

The uncles that used to gather at my parents house in the summer have all passed on.  My memories of them are filled with summer evenings filled with family, laughter and a healthy dose of BS.  I would like to think that they have reunited at the kitchen table in heaven to play cards.  I imagine St. Peter, St Jude or St. Balthasar shaking their heads, wondering who let these clowns in anyway, as they curse at each other, deal cards, smoke and drink their Pabst Blue Ribbon.

To George! With love, Erickson

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