A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

On the seventh day of Christmas... winter wonderland clip

On the seventh day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... the winter wonderland clip... Santa's elves and toys... the tree of lights... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

In March 2012, after about three months of recovery from my eating disorder, I started doing a daily meditative walk. After the first week I rewarded myself with the "Wildflower Walk" charm, and called those outings my "Wildflower Walks." You can read more about this in my very first blog post entitled  Walk this way... in the moment.

And while I was on these walks, I started taking photos of flowers in the gardens in my neighbourhood. I've always done a lot of photography but usually scenery or travel, and then of course I took LOTS of pictures of my twins. But that was the first time I really took pictures of flowers. Walking went from being something I forced myself to do, to something I began to look forward to - I wanted to see what was in bloom each day as the weeks and months passed. And I posted a photo on Facebook every day. I started to see that taking these photos was good for my soul - trying to "find beauty every day."

You can see my photos in these Facebook albums Wildflower Walks 2012 Wildflower Walks 2013
Of course, as will happen, summer turned to fall. And I kept up with my walk every day that fall. Even when I was teaching four days a week I got up early and went for a walk - quite a feat considering how much I am NOT a morning person! And then fall turned to winter. And I realized that I couldn't really take pictures and put them in an album called "Wildflower Walk" so, on December 21, 2012, the first day of winter, I started a new album titled "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."

My goal for that winter of 2013 was to start walking mid-day, when we have some sun, and take photos over the winter - photos of things that I enjoy about winter, things that make me happy, things that help me "Beat the Winter Blues." One year later Pandora came out with a snowflake clip (in their winter collection of 2013) and they called it, "Winter Wonderland." Coincidence? Or serendipity?

And then there was last winter, the winter of 2014. Quite literally the longest winter in the past twenty years! When the end of February rolled around and I started to despair that winter would never end, I decided I needed a new project. There are two things that are important for my mental health; two things that I was NOT doing consistently last winter; and they are: 1. pursuing my passion for photography and 2. going for my daily meditative walk. So I resurrected "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."

At that time when I was bemoaning the length of our winter, my fellow Ottawa citizen (and Pandora fan) Florina reminded me of my affirmation to "find beauty every day." Because that is part of what makes my morning walk a "mindfulness meditation" - paying attention to, being mindful of, my surroundings - the light, the shadows, the shapes, the textures and the colours.

I decided I needed to accept the fact that winter was not over yet, and the fact in this part of the country we were likely to have fresh snow into April! So my goal was to go "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and "find beauty every day" - and post a photo each day for 30 days.

I thought a Pandora reward might be something to look forward to and motivate me to get back into this routine - and survive another month with old man winter. And what could be more appropriate than the "Winter Wonderland" clip? I found some pretty scenes over the next month, but I was oh so happy to see these crocuses poke through the snow.
Finding beauty every day March 2014

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

On the sixth day of Christmas... Santa's elves

On the sixth day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... Santa's elves and toys... the tree of lights... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

The Santa's elves charm beside the clasp.
I love children's books, especially those with great illustrations! So it's probably not surprising that we have a huge collection of children's Christmas books. I've given my children a new one every year for the last 13 years.

The Jan Brett books are some of the favourites in our collection, but there are also a number of books that share the biblical story, and we even have a few different versions of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. These are always read on Christmas Eve, after the stockings are hung and a treat left out for Santa and his reindeers.

One of the most requested books at bedtime reading was "How Santa Really Works." It's a very silly book showing what goes on behind the scenes in the North Pole. Elves have jobs in departments including communication, research and development (of new toys), reindeer care, distribution, etc. One very important job is surveillance and elves are everywhere, including on your Christmas tree.

Every year I look forward to reading these books to my kids! However, I must admit, I did put my foot down and refuse to read them until the beginning of December. I regret that, and wished I'd read them at any time of year, especially now that my twins are teenagers and their interest has waned. But seeing this "Santa's elves" openwork on my bracelet is sure to make me smile, remembering the joy of cuddling with my children on a cold winter's night and reading the traditional - and not so traditional - Christmas stories. This was a gift from my husband this Christmas and I'm sure it will help me beat the winter blues.

Monday, 29 December 2014

On the fifth day of Christmas... tree of lights

(You have to sing this one like the "five golden rings" in the 12 Days of Christmas song)

On the fifth day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... the tree of lights... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

I love Christmas lights! As a child my parents would drive us to see the most "lit up" houses in the city. And ever since I've lived in Canada's capital city I've enjoyed going for that same kind of drive, because there are lots of places "lit up" - on the government's hydro bill. In fact there are over 300,000 Christmas lights throughout the city! There's Parliament Hill of course but there are also lights in many of the parks and roadways maintained by the National Capital Commission. The program has now expanded to all the provincial capitals and called "Christmas Lights Across Canada."

One year we braved the cold and went to Parliament Hill on the evening when the lights get switched on. It was a disaster! It was chock-a-block full of people and when they switched the lights on we couldn't even see them! The kids were miserable, we were all freezing, and we swore we'd never do it again!

But last year we discovered "Alight at Night" at Upper Canada Village. The village is a historical site and living history museum, depicting life in a community in the 1860's. This time of year they have almost a million Christmas tree lights on buildings, trees and structures. You can take a stroll through the village as well as take a sleigh ride. This year we were surprised to see a Ferris wheel! And it was pretty nippy at the top on an evening when the temperature was at -18 C (around zero for those readers in the US). Next year we will have to go for a train ride.

The tree of lights charm helps me beat the winter blues by reminding me of this magical place and what is now a family tradition. As you can see from my photos, I clearly have a preference for Christ Church lit up at night.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

On the fourth day of Christmas... Santa's stocking

On the fourth day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

Taylor, Christmas morning, age 3
I find November depressing. In the early fall both the weather and the scenery is lovely. And in the fall it's busy with back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and then birthdays at the beginning of November - mine as well as my twins. But then in November the days are so short, the skies are often grey, and if we haven't had much snow everything on the ground seems grey too. But if I start wearing my "Beat the Winter Blues" bracelet it reminds me of one of my favourite things to do - go shopping for Christmas gifts, especially for my kids - and their stockings! Because these are the expressions (in the photo of Taylor hugging her stocking) that fill our hearts with joy on Christmas morning.

In the photo with my bracelet (below) is one of the famous illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith, for the original 'Twas the Night Before Christmas book by Clement Moore. Of course reading that book is a tradition on Christmas Eve, after the kids have hung their stockings and left snacks for Santa and his reindeer.

Reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve
(age 2)

Taylor hanging her stocking on the fake mantle, age 5
Our fireplace is actually in our basement so Santa has to enter there and make his way up to the main floor where the stockings are hung on a fake fireplace mantle in the living room. One year Santa left footprints on the carpet and stairs; he must have gotten soot on his boots from the fireplace. The reindeers have always enjoyed their carrots but one year they must have dropped one because we found one partially eaten in the back yard.
The kids write letters to Santa (his postal code is HO HO HO), and if we do it early enough they even get a personalized letter back from the jolly old elf himself. Traditionally a note is left for Santa with his milk and cookies and he usually sits down long enough to write a reply. We track Santa's journey through NORAD and in the morning look for signs that he has been here. I'm afraid this is probably the last year for some of these traditions since my kids are now 13, but this little stocking charm filled with toys will remind me of those special magical years, as well as help me get in the Christmas spirit - for shopping!
Mitchell and Taylor hanging their stockings on Christmas Eve, ages 2, 3 and 4
in our old apartment with a real fireplace for Santa to come down

Saturday, 27 December 2014

On the third day of Christmas... silver bells

On the third day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

I love Christmas movies and Christmas music. For as long as I can remember, my Christmas gifts from my husband have included a Christmas movie and a CD of a Christmas album. "It's a Wonderful Life" is a classic of course, and a movie I watch every year, even if I don't watch any others. My favourite quote is, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" That's an important message for me, to remember that I too might, just maybe, have had a positive impact on somebody, even if I don't realize it.

Don't you think the charm looks a lot like the movie version?

So the pair of silver bells hanging on my "Beat the Winter Blues" bracelet reminds me to make time for Christmas movies and music in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas. It reminds me of Zuzu, hearing the jingle of a bell on the Christmas tree, and saying, "Look Daddy! Teacher says, 'Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.'"

As soon as December rolls around I start watching those movies and listening to those songs. It's hard to be blue when you're singing Christmas carols!
This is my newest album with Zooey Deschanel, who sang along with Elf
"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."
Just a few of my favourite Christmas movies

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On the second day of Christmas... polar bear

On the fourth day of Christmas...Santa's stocking

Friday, 26 December 2014

On the second day of Christmas... polar bear

On the second day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

The polar bear, on my Christmas cards this year, is the quintessential symbol of Canada. The polar bear dangle reminds me that if I want to beat the winter blues I need to embrace living in The Great White North.

Bob and Doug McKenzie of The Great White North on SCTV
Although the term "The Great White North" is used in reference to Canada, for most Canadians, at least those in my generation, the term brings to mind the characters Bob and Doug McKenzie. When I was in high school there was a TV show called SCTV (Second City Television) - sort of Canada's equivalent to Saturday Night Live. The premise of SCTV was the broadcast day of a fictitious TV station with sketches featuring the likes of John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Catherine O'Hara. One of the sketches was called "The Great White North," and was a parody on Canadian stereotypes, with these characters played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, dim-witted beer-swilling brothers, who wear parkas and tuques, and frequently ended their sentences with "Eh?"

YouTube video of The Great White North with Bob and Doug McKenzie.

But seriously, I have always loved polar bears. One of the things I have always wanted to do was go to Churchill, Manitoba and take photos of polar bears in their natural habitat.

The polar bear charm reminds me that I need to accept the reality of life in Canada - including long, cold and snowy winters - embrace it, and enjoy it as best I can. As for photographing polar bears, I have put that on my "Bucket List." In the meantime I'll enjoy some polar bears that I keep around the house - on a shelf, on the Christmas tree, and on my bracelet.
My brother worked in Northern Canada for a time and brought me back this polar bear sculpture made by a young Inuit boy

I bought this polar bear tree ornament when we were in New York City when my husband ran in the marathon in 1996

Winter 2015
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Thursday, 25 December 2014

The countdown begins... on the first day of Christmas

Christmas Day is almost over. Now the countdown begins! The Twelve Days of Christmas. The countdown to Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or Three Kings Day, depending on your affiliation. My goal is to post every day about a different charm on my winter bracelet, as we countdown to January 6, 2015. So here goes...

On the FIRST day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... a clear cz pavé lights charm.

live in Canada. In fact I live in the capital of Canada, and it is the second coldest capital city in the world, second only to Moscow. We have alot of winter, for a long time, with a lot of snow. And with that comes shorter days, less light, and a tendency for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and depression, at least for me.

I started my Pandora journey in December of 2011. During the winter of 2012, my focus was "earning" Pandora charms in my recovery from an eating disorder. Pandora rewards kept me "symptom-free" (no bingeing, purging, or restricting) and helped me set goals for what they call "behaviour activation" - getting active and making changes in behaviour. I was VERY motivated to get Pandora charms! The sense of self-mastery upon achieving those goals created a momentum of success that made me stronger after each little challenge, whether the goal was simply to walk around the block every day for a week or to make lunch for myself. Pandora became a symbol of that success - a symbol to remind me of the things I had accomplished, a symbol I could carry with me all the time, and often a symbol of an affirmation that would help me. And Pandora gave me something to look forward to.

The Winter 2013 version of my "Beat the Winter Blues" bracelet

Throughout that first winter, I enjoyed taking photos of my charms and sharing on the main Pandora page the meanings for the charms - what became known as my "stories." That winter I was one of the 50 most "engaged" fans on the page and was sent a lovely gift package from Pandora headquarters. There was a number of Pandora promotional items, including an umbrella and a round "play tray," but the most meaningful to me was the new pavé lights charm (next to the clasp). That charm symbolizes that first winter, and how my Pandora charms and my new Pandora friends helped me get through the winter.

The following year, I was determined that the winter of 2013 was going to be different, that I would not just "survive" it. So I started building a bracelet reminding me of all the things I needed to consciously DO to "Beat the Winter Blues" (the photo above is from the winter of 2013). For example, I was going to make my fitness a priority, so I set fitness goals. I tend to isolate when I am depressed, despite the fact that I am an extrovert who is energized by being around people. So I thought it was a good idea to go to a gym where I could socialize while I'm exercising. I decided that I would volunteer at the Y to get a free membership. The added benefit was that I travelled downtown on the bus two mornings a week and got to chat with my husband. So I wore my clear pavé lights to remind me that, just like the previous year, staying "engaged" with my Pandora friends would help me stay "engaged" in my life, and beat the winter blues.

"Blue Skies"

I was blue, just as blue as I could be.
Ev'ry day was a cloudy day for me
Then good luck came a-knocking at my door
Skies were grey but they're not any more

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Blue days all of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

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On the second day of Christmas... polar bear