A Visit from St. Blockbuster


‘Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.

The stockings were hung by the mantle for show

The presents were open; there hadn’t been snow.

The in-laws were chatting and drinking some booze

And looking at smartphones and reading the news.

And TC in his sweater and I in my smock

Were draped on the couch watching holiday schlock.

When on the TV there was shouting and guns–

Time to watch “Argo”–fine holiday fun!

Up to the flat screen I gave my attention

Ready to hold disbelief in suspension

(I’ve seen “Argo” before and I know it has flaws

But that’s kind of what happens when Ben Affleck is boss).

And what did my baby blue eyes now espy

But six Yankees holed up with a Canadian guy,

And a CIA agent with such lame “hero affect”

I knew in a moment it must be Ben Affleck.

More rapid than pigeons the actors they came;

We ate jujubes and heckled and called them by name:

“Now Affleck, now Cranston, now Arkin and Goodman,

Now Garber, now Denham, now Clooney* and Cochrane!

From the top of the Oscars, to the top of the Globes

Congrats to you, all of you Hollywood folks!”

For a story as bold as an InTouch exclusive,

Where the celebs are all named but the source is elusive,

To the power of entertainment did history bow,

Accurate facts are a drag anyhow.

Audiences forgive these exciting transgressions,

When “based on a true story”, truth’s just a suggestion.

And just as the hostages were accused wrongly of spying

A beep told me my laundry was ready for drying.

A quick moment’s pause, then time for proceeding

John Goodman and co. were arranging a reading.

With a bunch of old Hollywood tricks in his pocket,

Alan Arkin played someone who knew how to hock it.

His eyes–how they twinkled! His bald head, so shiny!

How he hit on the actresses, and looked really slimy!

He’d a grumpy demeanor, but much like the Grinch

He came through when he had to, a bonafide mensch.

Back in Tehran things weren’t looking too swell

For the American hostages life was a hell

And for the six who’d escaped and gone into hiding

They had to leave soon–it was time for deciding.

It was sad to be them but I felt a bit blah

America probably shouldn’t have propped up the Shah.

With a glint in his eye and a beard on his head

Affleck told the six hiders they’d nothing to dread;

He gave them fake passports and got straight to work

But that one guy, Joe Stafford, seemed a bit of a jerk.

But due to some hotheaded Hollywood drama,

The mission was go, no thanks to Obama**.

They went to the airport, and with some good luck

The guards believed they were all just film-making Canucks.

And the stewardess said, as to safety they flew–

“We’ve left Iranian airspace; we can now serve you booze!”


* George Clooney did not appear in “Argo” but was a producer.

** Jimmy Carter was actually the U.S. president during the Iranian hostage crisis; obviously it was not Barack Obama.


Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!






It’s Fun to Believe in Santa Claus

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer sleigh flying through night

As I type this it is Christmas Eve and I am in Saskatchewan with my family. A thick blanket of snow surrounds the house and the temperature outside is -4 degrees Celsius (“So warm!” my mom says). The tree is lit up, that cats are confused, and the rest of my family is playing Settlers of Catan. A peaceful Christmas scene.

Beneath this peaceful façade runs a current of excitement that has been known to me since childhood. As per family tradition, most of the presents were opened on Christmas Eve, but even in a household of adult children, we know that tomorrow morning means full stockings. And full stockings mean Santa Claus.

Perhaps the tone with which we “thank Santa” for our presents is a little more laughing now and a little less earnest, but Christmas Day still involves some surprises that weren’t there the night before and it’s still fun.

I know some parents don’t “do” Santa Claus with their children because they don’t wish to lie to them. Which is their right, I guess, especially when “doing” Santa Claus means trying to explain why Santa gives better presents to rich children than to poor ones. Or trying to explain how Santa is going to get into the house if there’s no fireplace. Or trying to explain why your kid’s new toy says “Made in China” on the bottom even though Santa’s Workshop is in the North Pole. Etc.

In spite of this, I believe in the idea of Santa Claus, of infusing the dead of winter with a bit of magic and whimsy. I believe children have this right to Santa’s gifts by virtue of their being children. Being a kid is tough–their lives are so often bound by adult rules and restraints they neither caused nor understand.  Despite the books and stories and interesting play spaces that surrounded me growing up, being a kid meant that my imagination was curtailed by adults all the time. No, sticking a bunch of feathers to your clothes won’t make you fly; please don’t jump off anything. No, no one else in your grade one class wishes to hear you sing during Math; please sit quietly. No, there’s no treasure buried in our yard; please don’t dig holes in the lawn. Obviously the adults in my life had to keep me safe, but it was still kind of a downer.

Happily, when it came to Santa Claus my imagination was given free rein. When I discussed my different theories regarding how Santa was going to get in the house (we had a chimney but it led straight to a hot furnace in the basement, which was not ideal), or how he was going to find us at my Grandpa Fred’s that year, no adult dared to contradict me. They may not have believed themselves, but they believed there was something worth preserving in my belief. And that was good enough.

Complaints about rampant consumerism aside (especially if kids have an unrealistic expectation of receiving “things”), why shouldn’t a magic old elf want to bring joy to children once a year? If I was a magical elf I would.

Unfortunately, I am not a magical elf, but I do hope someday to be a parent. And when TC and I are parents I hope that Santa Claus will visit our home and bring to our children the same spirit of wonder and excitement that Santa brought me when I was small. Santa Claus still symbolizes generosity, and the right of children to believe in something good, if they want to. I guess the difference between my own childhood and now is that I now understand the extent to which my participation as a parent will be required. I don’t mind. It will only be for a few years, and when those years are over perhaps I will be wishing that I could still believe in the magic, and not just the symbol.

In any case, have a very Merry Christmas, however you celebrate. xoxo

Christmas is a Feeling

Saskatchewan, December 2010. Photo credit: Daina Zilans

CHRISTMAS IS COMING, and it’s coming soon. Holy smokes.

Given the utter lack of snow outside and lack of anything resembling a winter solstice (besides the dark) or Canadian wintery-ness in Vancouver, it’s hard to believe the Yuletide season is once again upon us. In these past few years Christmas has just kind of snuck up on me before I was ready. This year it’s been the same story–how can it be Christmas time already? I haven’t made a paper chain yet! I never placed a frantic phone call to one of my sisters to make sure we didn’t get the same things for other family members! I’ve HARDLY “ballet-danced” to the Nutcracker in my apartment! I haven’t been nearly drunk enough! I haven’t watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the animated one narrated by Boris Karloff of course), “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (narrated by Burl Ives of course), or “Mickey’s Christmas Carol“!

My lack of preparation caused me to be afraid, despite the lovely Christmas parties I have attended, and the many cookies I have prepared and eaten, and the fact that I have now read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, that I somehow wouldn’t be able to get into the Christmas spirit in time to really celebrate the big day (which is December 24, Christmas Eve, for my family). This would have been horrible because Christmas is my absolute favourite holiday, combining so many of the things I love: my family, good friends, good food, good spirits (both emotional and liquid), beautiful music, nostalgia, MAGIC, warmth, pretty sparkly things, snow, and the traditions we have established that make Christmas an incredibly special time for my family. To be out of step with my traditional “getting into the spirit of things” preparations because I have a job now, much less time, and no VCR created a fear in my heart that I wouldn’t be able to give this time the specialness it deserves.

My anxiety was unfounded. Christmas isn’t about watching slightly creepy stop-motion reindeer (though I’ll be digging up that VHS as soon as I get to my parents’ place). Christmas isn’t even about snow (though I’m crossing my fingers for some weather magic). Christmas is a feeling. Christmas is when I can’t stop smiling because I am TOO EXCITED. Christmas is a little light being turned on inside me that makes it possible to feel like a kid again. Christmas is always, every year, an overwhelming feeling of love and gratitude.

And my traditions? They’re important to me. They shape my experience of the holidays and provide me with a sense of continuity year to year. Christmas is a time to hold these old traditions very dear, and I do. But Christmas is also a time for new traditions. For example, this year my TC and I welcomed our friends into our home for our very first Christmas party. Both my TC and I will be spending Christmas apart with our own families this year, so on Monday we also had our own pre-Christmas dinner, and exchanged presents with one another under our own little (sadly fake) tree.

Ribriffic. Happy Alcoholidays!

And did Christmas come to us on December 19? Without snow, or a live tree, or even a day off work? As Dr. Suess wrote, the lack of a few things “didn’t stop Christmas from coming. It came. Somehow or other, it came just the same.” Greek ribs had been in the oven since the afternoon. Potatoes were mashed with cheese and garlic. Granville Island Winter Ale was sipped from novelty glasses that had the word “ALCOHOLIDAYS” printed along the rim. Presents were exchanged, the rabbit was given a carrot, and Jim Henson’s “Muppet Family Christmas” was watched on YouTube.

Our evening was merry and bright, cozy and lovely. Christmassy? Very. There’s something to be said for new traditions.

Our tree is the best. December 2010

But there’s nothing like the old ones. Meeting my family at the airport (my mom is an air-travel-booking magician, so all three of us “kids” usually arrive the same day), a chilly three-hour drive from Saskatoon to my childhood home in the Prairies, fantastic food and drinks with neighbours, sleeping (or trying to) in my tiny old twin bed bathed in the glow of the yard light and listening to the dog howl at Something, being scalded by the shower if anyone else in the house turns on a tap to so much as wash a potato, re-reading all of my childhood favourite books, cross-country skiing, family photos in which we pretend to be rappers or monsters or something, and most importantly, having the BEST CHRISTMAS TREE EVER–these traditions are my Christmas.

My family and I don’t always follow ALL of the traditions and little rituals I’ve assembled in my mind every year, and some of them will likely fall by the wayside over time. One day my sisters and I will have families of our own, and our Christmasses will look different from the ones we have now. It is a loss–observing your Christmas traditions through the frosty panes of a Christmas memory instead of living them year to year–but I am comforted by the idea that my favourite things about Christmas will never be lost. Christmas is a feeling. Year after year, there will be traditions (new or old), there will be family (new or old), there will be love, and there will be much to be grateful for.

And now I’m feeling sentimental. It must be Christmas. I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, however you love to celebrate, and I wish you the very best and happiest of Christmas feelings.

Photo credit: Daina Zilans

[Note: I did not coin the phrase “Christmas is a feeling”. I remember it from a song performed in the Turtleford School Christmas Concert when I was in Grade 3. I cannot remember what the song or the play was called. I believed it involved the smallest and most humble evergreen in the Christmas Forest conveying the true meaning of Christmas through the aforementioned song. In fact, now that I think of it, the song was probably called “Christmas is a Feeling”. Classic.]

“Christmas on the Air” – The internet giveth and I giveth back

This year, Christmas came early courtesy of Twitter. On Saturday, Sabrina of Twenty-Something Theatre (@theatre_20) tweeted that she had a +1 for Midnight Theatre Collective’s “Christmas on the Air” at Pacific Theatre she was hoping to make use of. Not having met Sabrina in the flesh yet, I wasn’t sure she’d want to give a ticket up to me but I decided to message her on Twitter anyways and see if she still had the ticket to give away. She did, and even though she’d never met me, she saved it at the box office for me and I got to see some delightful Christmas theatre. (I met her at the show, by the by. She’s very friendly and cool in addition to being generous with her +1’s).

Since the connective power of the internet (coupled with Sabrina’s niceness) got me my free ticket to “Christmas on the Air”, it only seemed right that when Raul from Hummingbird604 (@hummingbird604) tweeted that he wouldn’t mind having someone guest post for him, I offered up the “Christmas on the Air” review I was going to post here for his site. I had the good fortune to meet Raul this spring at the Global Agents Gala through a mutual friend and he has been nothing but kind and supportive during my adventures in this brave new world of Twitter and blogs.

(Incidentally, if you’re considering getting in the holiday spirit by donating to a worthy organization, Global Agents is a very effective Vancouver-based non-profit committed to eradicating global poverty. That’s why they’re in my “Nifty AND Cool” links.)

Before you think I was being altruistic by offering up my review, I should point out that Raul is a Vancouver Blogger Extraordinaire and that my post will get far more exposure through Hummingbird604 than it ever would from Nifty Not Cool. I am  tickled that Raul agreed to post my review. If you want to read about my evening at “Christmas on the Air” on Hummingbird604, click here.