Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts on Getting Older

Well, today is my birthday and, for once, I'm not totally bummed out.

This is kind of a big deal for me since this birthday is the one that ends a decade and that is usually the birthday that bums me out the most. It's not turning the big whatever-O (I still can't type the number) but it is the lead up to that big number that freaks me out. It's like my mind and body need a year of preparation before they can accept that I am, inevitably, getting older. But I've noticed that with each successive birthday in the last 20 years I'm getting better at dealing with this aging thing. So, for all of us hitting whatever big birthdays or just for those of us who struggle with the thought of getting older lets put some perspective on things. I offer you some of my favourite inspirational quotes on getting older from people much wiser than me. If they said it, I must believe it, yes?

Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. ~Leroy "Satchel" Paige

Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. ~Samuel Ullman

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. ~Chili Davis

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. ~Mark Twain
(Note from Nelsa: I've never actually seen my neck smile so this one's kinda bogus. Sorry, Mark.)

Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative. ~Maurice Chevalier, New York Times, 9 October 1960

Everyone is the age of their heart. ~Guatemalan Proverb

The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible. ~Judith Regan

Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. ~Quoted by Francis Bacon, Apothegm

And with that last quote, I thank all my old (and new) friends for the birthday wishes today and their vital, constant friendship. I reach for a glass of good red wine and a favourite book and sit by an imaginary fireplace toasting my feet and this day. For birthdays are, indeed, to be celebrated not feared. Thank you all for celebrating with me!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Traditions - Love 'em or Hate 'em?

Christmas is my absolute favouritist time of year. Decorating the house, buying presents for friends and loved ones, trimming the tree, snow, carolling, hot chocolate, lights, cookies, food … aww. What's not to love?? But, I must admit, there are some things I don't love too much. School Christmas concerts for one. Christmas travelling for another. Still, this year I realized those last two traditions might be coming to an end and you know what? I might, kinda, miss them. Who knew?

Now I love hearing kids sing at concerts but when it's instruments only? Sigh. It is a bit of a struggle to sit through, I must say. This year was my seventeenth Christmas concert . Yep. You read that right. SEVENTEENTH. I have heard way too many awkward string and band renditions of Good King Wenceslas to ever hear it again without a slight cringe. And yet. When I saw The Boy up there this year doing his best on the trumpet and sounding surprisingly good for a kid that doesn't practice enough (although his band mates might have been working overtime) I actually got a little nostalgic. There is only one more Christmas concert I am to attend at his school. All three of my children have been in the band or strings program there and I do believe music helps with academic and with social skills. I'm proud all of them joined the music program at school. But once those concerts stop, it almost feels like the childhood stops too. Ya' know?

The other thing that changes this year is that we are not travelling home for Christmas. We are staying in Toronto for once. The Boy has a hockey tournament right after Boxing Day. So we would have had to do the four hour drive to my parents , drive back for the 27th then on the 30th drive back again to celebrate my Dad's 80th birthday for New Year's Eve. Way too much driving even for us who are used to it. So we are spending Christmas entre nous. No grandparents or aunts and uncles to distract the kids. We'll either have a lovely, quiet celebration with much walking of the dog and watching old movies or you'll hear something about a family tragedy on the news the next night. I think I might actually miss the long drive home and the squabbling, cramped van with presents piled in the back and the dog breathing on everyone's faces. Hmm. Maybe I won't miss that part too much. But I'll definitely miss the chaos of Christmas morning and seeing my mom cry at least once over some silly little gift one of the kids has given her. Ah, well. Next year we'll host the Christmas gathering at our newly reno'd house and the grandparents and aunts and uncles can travel to us. It will be the start of a new birthday decade for me then and it's only fitting that a new Chrsitmas tradition should start as well.

Still, the only tradition I hope will always continue is that my husband and I are together celebrating the holidays with our kids for as long as possible. That's the only thing that really matters. Not where, but who.

How about you? What are your favourite and least favourite holiday traditions?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Writers Face-to-Face

Last night the amazing Claudia Osmond hosted the 2nd Annual Torkidlit Christmas gathering of writers in her lovely, beautifully renovated home (BTW.I love seeing reno'd homes. Makes me think there is hope for my home!). Anyway, I can't thank Claudia enough for opening her home to quite a few of the Torkidlit writers but, more importantly, I don't know if she realizes what an important thing she started a couple of years ago when she gathered a few Toronto PB, MG and YA writers and illustrators together in a downtown Toronto pub for an evening of talk, drinking and laughter (and sometimes tears). It's become a regular monthly, must-go outing for many of us. And, for writers, once you've experience that community of like-minded individuals talking face-to-face nothing can replace it.

I know the thing now is Facebook and Twitter and writing boards. And, yes, those communities and the chance to connect virtually with writers from thousands of miles away is a wonderous and, in many ways, life-saving opportunity. But face-to-face time with other writers is SO important. There is such value in hearing the voice of the person you might have only connected to via the web. In that voice you hear the subtle nuances of the information they are trying to convey and see the facial expressions that give you so much more context. You can literally give someone a shoulder to cry on or jump up and down with them when they have fabulous news. Putting a real face to the tweets, messages, blogs, etc. then makes your virtual connection even that much stronger.

I'm not saying that Face-to-Face is better than virtual. I'm saying that it gives many writers that added human connection and understanding that we need once in a while in order to be able to slog through the hard times and celebrate the good times. Even if a writer lives in outer Siberia, if there is the faintest chance that they can attend a workshop or travel to a gathering of writers once in a blue moon, I would encourage them to do it. Sometimes, that human connection may be enough to help keep the writing fire alive. Join CANSCAIP. Join SCBWI. Join RWA. JOIN. Meet. Talk. Face to face. It's a life-line.

So, yes, thanks to the Internet, we are more connected now than ever. But also thanks to writers like Claudia Osmond (and Debbie Ohi!) for starting that Face-to-Face time here in Toronto. Thank you, ladies. Very much.