The Third Day of Christmas


I don’t exactly remember when I realized that the twelve days of Christmas began on December 26th. I was well into my adulthood, not giving the 12 days much thought. The only thing I noted was that the twelve days before Christmas were highly stressful for me. As much as I loved the Christmas time, I was always aware of what went undone.

Relief arrived, unexpectedly, like a moment of enlightenment the day I realized that I had 12 full days after Christmas. Here I was, able  to do those small, ordinary and special things I had wanted to do but couldn’t manage. After all, we are all still working up until Christmas but many of us have a few extra days afterwards.

No-rush Days

All of a sudden I had time to sit and read the cards, digital or otherwise and I could reply. There was time to read, moodle, call my relatives and talk as long as I wanted. I could start my gentle review of the past year to see what I wanted to continue, stop or change. Day dreaming and trying out a few new things: like the drawing pens or calligraphy set that were given to me. Taking time to watch a u-tube video sent from a reader. Going back and re-reading the sections in Oliver Burkeman’s book on “We Never Really Have Time.” Furthurmore, giving up the absurd notion that a better productivity method will solve the problem. Coming to grips with ultimate reality – we can’t do it all.

So, these days of no rushing, and breathing space are the gift of gifts. Room for spontaneity, playing with ideas on how to renew my Living Well with Illness programs, as an example.

I shut off my alarm clock this week and am fully rested for small projects that I enjoy doing. For the first time, I thought I would pick one thing each of the 12 days to hi-light in my notebook. Nothing planned; rather, a  surprise or something spontaneous.

Hi-lights of the first three days of Christmas

  • Day 1: Reading The Shepherd, by Frederick Forsyth, to my 50 year old daughter. We love the story, and took 90 minutes, curled up on the couch with a coffee, and a big box of tissues. Ninety minutes of emotion about a pilot, in the North Sea, on Christmas Eve. In the midst of dense fog, he loses all radio communications, and we get to hear the story of what happened.
  • Day 2: Through a series of fortunate events we got to meet the author of a beloved children’s book (adults love it too) Hana’s Suitcase. Now translated into 40 different languages, the author, Karen Levine, a prize winning radio producer with CBC, first did the book as a radio documentary. My grandson, was assigned the French translation, before Christmas and he proclaimed to me that it was the best book he had ever read. His one question to her: “why did you write this book?” He told me later, “my teacher will be surprised with the answer. Which simply goes to show how often our assumptions about others are wrong.
  • Day 3: The wonderful scene of my son-in-law running partway down the street to get my garbage on the garbage truck. Here’s the story: I am house sitting across the street from my daughters and part of what is hoped for by our family friend is that I get her garbage out today. This is not a problem, except that in our city the norm is to add a day to the pick up schedule for holidays. So, I made an assumption instead of checking my notifications. When I looked out the window and saw the garbage truck moving on I sped to the garage, grabbed the garbage and my son in law ran relay to the truck. Poor guy was shoveling out his driveway and was therefore available, at that exact moment in time. My lucky moment for which I am grateful.

Don’t worry

Don’t worry, I will not be posting my personal Twelve Days of Christmas, but I did want to illustrate how important it is that each of us find small ways to notice and make meaning of ordinary moments. This is where we live and work. What strikes you will be different from me and that is the point. To make your own way. To find what grabs your attention and celebrate it. Writing things down appears to help us remember and make meaning.

Taking breaks, walks in nature, and finding small things that we love to do. Or taking notice of how we are helped by others, aren’t soft skills worth little. They are vital to our toxic stress reduction, which in turn improves our ability to ward off cognitive decline. (note that I will never use the word prevent) Our natural resources are also fortified to improve the quality of our everyday life on every level. Our mindbody is one, not two.

It is tempting, as the year draws to a close to make resolutions. I propose this year that you look back and note the things you are proud of. Things that mattered to you. No matter how small. There is no checklist of what we should have done and if presented with one, I suggest you ignore it. Each one of us gets to decide, by our own standards, how we measured up. Noone else can possibly know what that is. One of mine is that I flossed more consistently – you get the picture. A yearly review can be a useful thing to do, as long as you decline to use it, as a way to beat yourself up.

I will always and forever stand my ground that all of us are doing the best we can, with what we know, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. And fortunately this does not mean perfectly. Nor does it mean to achieve someone else’s standards. Trust yourself. We all can do what we need to do, and when we need a hand we ask for it. If there is one thing I do know it’s that kindness is the touchstone. Sometimes kindness needs to say no. Oftentimes we miss the mark. However, we have unlimited moments, until our last one,  to try again and that is what counts.


1:) Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine. You can buy this through any online store or borrow it through the library.

2:) A reader of this blog sent an interesting video about leaves. For nature enthusiasts you can watch here. “This is the complete leaf sequence used in the accompanying short film LeafPresser. While collecting leaves, I conceived that the leaf shape of every single plant type I could find would fit somewhere into a continuous animated sequence of leaves if that sequence were expansive enough. If I didn’t have the perfect shape, it meant I just had to collect more leaves.”Music: Slyungda by jm france Images: Brett Foxwell

3:) All photos today taken by Rob Gaudet, while visiting Gabriola Island. Fortunately, on the west coast, even when the snow comes, it doesn’t last. Like a spring day. Thank you Rob.

4:) Ōmisoka  New Year’s Eve, is considered the second-most important day in Japanese tradition as it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year’s Day, the most important day of the year. Families gather on Ōmisoka for one last time in the old year to have a bowl of toshikoshi-
soba or toshikoshi-udon, a tradition based on eating the long noodles to cross over from one year to the next. At midnight, many visit shrines, or temples for Hatsumōde. Shinto shrines prepare amazake, a traditional, sweet fermented Japanese rice drink that dates back to the earliest era of recorded history in Japan. This drink is passed out to crowds and most Buddhist temples have large cast bells that are struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires believed to cause human suffering.(my Japanese readers are free to comment on errors or omissions here. )

5:) I can’t thank you all enough for spending part of your precious time meeting me here on this blog. Even though I haven’t met most of you, I have a sense of you and I like you all. I truly hope for the best, of what can be, for each and everyone of you. And I also wish for you, the courage, flexibility and adaptability for whatever comes your way. We never know what lies ahead, but we do know we can handle it. And most importantly I send you all an armload of joyful and meaningful moments. May you enter each day with a great sense of aliveness. “I woked up,” my granddaughter exclaimed, beaming from ear to ear, when she was two. May this be true for us all. Hugs all around, Trudy


Thinking of You

When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios

One river gives
Its journey to the next


We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

When Giving is All We Have


Note 1:) Thanks to Janice for originally introducing me to this poem. It seems just right for the giving season.

Note 2:) Last Sunday, my small Ottawa family had our 4th annual book exchange. A gentle evening where we exchange books and sit by the fire for a couple of hours and read together. Also, with our favourite chocolates close at hand and a special beverage. It is our adaptation of the Icelandic tradition of jólabókaflóð . We love it.

Note 3:) My favourite tree. This was taken several years ago in Quebec City. The banner photo and the red berries are thanks to Rob.

Note 4:) Everyone is busy now. May you enjoy these days, with good food and loved ones, however you choose to spend them.  May you travel safely. A deep bow to you all and an armload of joy-filled moments.

Note 5:) The final word is for those going through heart-wrenching times. Please take time to care for yourself and reach out for help when you need to do so. Here is a special poem that speaks to me. I hope it is helpful to you.

Adrift by Mark Nepo

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze
makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
of the next stranger. In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.

I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

Thanks to

The Smell of Christmas (please insert your special holiday here)


I am a lover of celebrations and traditions that still work. Just because we always did it is not a reason to keep doing it. Things change. There comes a time to reevaluate what we always did to see if it still means something. We may discover that certain customs, traditions, and ideas need to go or be modified.  Since they no longer reflect our present understanding, we can graciously and lovingly make changes. Furthurmore, we might initiate new ideas that will evolve into traditions.

There are many different celebrations in the month of December and I am curious and interested in them all. Here are a few that I know about. Please correct me in the comments if I have the details wrong.


Also known as the Festival of Lights, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. This year that is the evening of Dec 18th and goes to Eve of Dec 26th. Celebrations revolve around lighting the menorah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown. The ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others. Typically, blessings are recited and traditional Hanukkah foods such as potato pancakes (latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are fried in oil. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with dreidels and exchanging gifts.

Winter solstice

Starting on December 21 and running through January 1, there are many who celebrate Yule, a holiday with over a millennium of history and traditions, much of which formed the basis of what many know today as Christmas traditions. Each year, Yule is set to start on the day of the winter solstice

This day is often recognized by Indigenous people as a day of celebration, ritual, and tradition.

For many Indigenous cultures, winter is a time to connect with the spirits of the past. The December solstice became a time to reflect on and thank their ancestors, share stories, honour their origins, and set intentions for themselves in preparation for the cold months ahead. It’s also a time to recognize everyone’s fundamental interconnectedness—with each other, nature, and the cosmos.

The Winter Solstice occurs on either December 20, 21, 22, or 23 in the Northern Hemisphere, where it is the shortest day of the year. People all over the world participate with festivals and celebrations. Long ago, people celebrated by lighting bonfires and candles to coax back the sun.


is celebrated December 26 through January 1. It is a holiday to commemorate African heritage, during which participants gather with family and friends to exchange gifts and to light a series of black, red, and green candles. These candles symbolize the seven basic values of African American family life: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

First celebrated in 1966, Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday, with each day highlighting one of the Nguzo Saba — or “seven principles of African Heritage.” Celebrants also mark Kwanzaa with a kinara, a special candelabra with seven candles, one for each day.


New Year’s Eve, is considered the second-most important day in Japanese tradition and I am saving this for my end of year post.


My Tradition

My own tradition is Christmas and the centrepiece for me is the tree, highlighted by ornaments, each overflowing with meaning, candlelight, special international Christmas music, special foods, and always family and friends.

A newer tradition (30-year-old)  in my family is baking a variety of Austrian/Swiss cookies, one of which is called Basler Brunsli. This particular cookie has evolved into mythical proportions over the years and the first batch is baked on the day the tree goes up. I would suggest that Basler Brunsli’s baking in the kitchen is now the smell of Christmas, even more than the tree.

The Smell of Christmas

So, this year as I thought about what I could do for my son and daughter-in-law who live in Vancouver, it struck me that I should fly out for a long weekend and give them the smell of Christmas by making and baking the cookies in their kitchen. And that is exactly what happened. I flew to Vancouver last Thursday and returned to Ottawa Monday night. My original plan was to fly with a super cheap airline but their limited schedules didn’t work. And then I remembered the points I hadn’t used in three years.

The reservation was made; the flight was uneventful and the time with my Vancouver family exceeded all my expectations. The freezer was stocked; the smell of Christmas filled the house and we had fun together, even doing a test kitchen trying out two different brands and three different percentages of bittersweet chocolate to see which we liked best. There was no clear winner. We liked them all.

No one in my family, past or present would ever have done such a crazy thing: fly 4500KM to bake cookies, for the smell. (No matter how much you loved the recipients.) So I clearly broke with tradition, and I will always be grateful that I did. It is now one of my favourite things of 2022.


Jolabokaflod –A three-year tradition we adapted from Iceland

I think it is great to keep doing what works. But when it no longer works, do something different or add something new. We started this new tradition, adapted from the Icelandic custom of book giving, called Jolabokaflod. This Sunday night six of us will exchange books,  curl up in comfy chairs in front of the tree and the fire and read for the evening. Oops, I almost forgot that there will also be our favourite cookies, chocolates, a glass of wine or hot chocolate.  In Iceland this takes place on Christmas Eve, but in our family, this happens the Sunday before. I love the idea of intentionally setting aside an evening to exchange books and read together. I can’t think of a nicer tradition than this particular family gathering, with time to sit and read together in front of the tree.

The bottom line is we can let go of the elements of holidays that do not resonate and focus on the ones that do.

Please know that my heart goes out to those of you living with devastating news and grief. We know that life continues with both joys and sorrows with no regard for the season but this season can make those moments even more difficult.  Yet, I still hope for all of you that you will find joyful and loving, and kind moments in these last two weeks of 2022.

westcoast snow on hollyNotes

1:) Affection is the humblest love-it gives itself no airs. It lives with private things: soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor. The glory of affection is that it can unite those who are not “made for each other,” people who, if not put down by fate in the same household or community, would have nothing to do with one another. Affection broadens our minds: of all natural loves, it teaches us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there.’ Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”  C S Lewis

2:) The Basler Brunsli’s are made without flour, or butter. Just nuts, chocolate, sugar, egg whites and spices. However, they sit on the counter for three hours before going in the oven. They look pretty ordinary but the taste and smell are Christmas. Thanks to Rob and Allison for all the dishes they washed as I took over their kitchen and the beautiful dinners and music they orchestrated. Unforgettable.

3:) Finally, I will sign off with much gratitude and a funny but true saying to keep my cold weather complaints in check. Actually, I have nothing to complain about, yet, as this year has been unseasonably mild. Although, there are rumors of a big snowfall on Friday. “If you choose not to find joy in the snow, you will have less joy in life but still the same amount of snow.” (not sure who said this)  All my warmest wishes, Trudy

A Small Steadying Sail of Love by Nancy Gibbs Richards

A Small Steadying Sail of Love: a small book of poetry 

On the back of the cover, poet, Nancy Gibbs Richards writes: “When a sailboat is in dangerously heavy weather,all the sails that move the boat forward are taken down, and a very small storm or steadying sail is raised. The purpose of this small sail is not forward motion, but to keep the boat headed into the wind so that it will not capsize. It is my hope that, for you, who open the pages of this book, these words and images will become a small steadying sail of love in your journey through life.”

 This book came to me one poem at a time,  from a friend, when I was in rough waters,  followed by the actual book a few weeks later. The seven poems I have copied out for you here, are amongst my most favourite and I have photos from my library to accompany them. These small verses truly were my steadying sail for a time and I was grateful to have received them. This season is not joyful for everyone. There are many where the lights and good cheer exacerbate their deeply personal sorrows. I am thinking of you, in particular, as I write this post.

 All except one of the poems is untitled and I pass these gentle words on to you. They are short little poems so it will take you only a few moments to read them. If one speaks to you, copy it out and read it again. For those who need them, may they be a balm for your spirit.







On seas of grief, my boat and I weather storms of terrible sorrow with a small steadying sail of love.  

The comfort of friends











There is evidence 

threaded throughout my life story

 that I have been strengthened and guided at every turning.

 Now is the time to trust

that this will continue to be true.  


I cannot save the world

or heal another’s hurts,

but I can offer

one small act of kindness

 at a time.




In this time of waiting

 and not knowing

how things will unfold,

 may you find a pool of calm,

a place of peace and rest

deep within your soul.


It is a challenge to accept the truth of what no longer is possible  and yet embrace all that still can be.


 This also is true:

it may be possible

to meet in a place of tenderness

with a person

whose troubles trouble you.


Can You Hear Me?

We are separated by the wild river

of all that is unspoken.

With this small rock

I throw the first line across.

Tie it securely.

Let the building of the bridge begin.    




1) Thanks to Shutterfly for the banner image which I love, and to Gottfried’s library for the rest.

2:) Sometimes we just need a word to carry on. I think that is why I find these tiny poems so helpful. Just a few words that I can resonate with and I am forever grateful to my friend for sending them to me. I first wrote about this in 2018. This small book seems to be available in used books. I find Thrifty books (US site) to  be helpful and well-priced for Canadians.

3:) Here is a song of consolation and wonderful humour. Hopefully, it will remind us all to lighten up, relax and take a nap. And at the very least to be kind to ourselves and everyone else. We are doing the best we can, with what we know and within the circumstances that we find ourselves, and that is enough.  Unworthy by Cheryl Wheeler

4:) Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read these words. You, dear readers, make my life better. May all manner of things be well with you. With gratitude, Trudy


48th Week of 2022

Waking Up

Here we are again, closing in on another year.  If Oliver Burkeman is correct and we have on average 4000 weeks then I am in short supply. But the truth is nobody knows their expiry date. My mother lived to be 100. Because of her, there is an assumption that I too will live to be 100. But then there is my father who died at 79, three years older than I am now. Who knows? And since we don’t know, the best thing we can do is treasure our days; get our affairs in order; don’t wait to say “I love you” or do the things that are important to us, and pay attention to the unbelievable miracle that we go to bed at night and we wake up in the morning. Our heart keeps beating while we sleep.

When I say these things it can so easily be taken as a formula or another reason to be disappointed with yourself. Please don’t do that. We all need to lighten up. We will never get it all done or get it done perfectly. Some days we aren’t up to spreading cheer or checking off items on our to-do list. There is no end to the ways we can beat ourselves up in this culture. We have become a nation of faultfinders.  And the standards by which we measure success often get translated into how much of everything we have acquired. Kids are not exempt.

However, every day that we wake up we have an opportunity to do at least one lovely thing for ourselves and for another. Today my friend mentioned Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who died last fall.  He was a scholar and psychologist who devoted his life to studying ways to “wake up” and cultivate aliveness and the state of flow in our daily lives. I learned from him.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,

author, distinguished professor of Psychology and Management, and thought leader, had this to say on “waking up.”

“Wake up in the morning with a specific goal to look forward to. Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed; they are eager to start the day. This is not because they are cheerful, enthusiastic types. Nor do they necessarily have something exciting to do. But they believe that there is something meaningful to accomplish each day, and they can’t wait to get started on it. Most of us don’t feel our actions are that meaningful. Yet everyone can discover at least one thing every day that is worth waking up for. It could be meeting a certain person, shopping for a special item, potting a plant, cleaning the office desk, writing a letter, trying on a new dress.

It is easier if each night before falling asleep, you review the next day and choose a particular task that, compared to the rest of the day, should be relatively interesting and exciting. Then next morning, open your eyes and visualize the chosen event—play it out briefly in your mind, like an inner videotape, until you can hardly wait to get dressed and get going. It does not matter if at first the goals are trivial and not that interesting. The important thing is to take the easy first steps until you master the habit, and then slowly work up to more complex goals. Eventually most of the day should consist of tasks you look forward to, until you feel that getting up in the morning is a privilege, not a chore.”

― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1934-2021)

Be a Beginner

Please carefully note that Mihaly is not talking about the treadmill or just being more efficient and productive. He speaks of something to look forward to.

I have a sense that what we look forward to changes as we live longer. At least it does for me. In fact, it can’t hurt to take stock now and again and ask if how we are spending much of our time are old habits and defaults or if we are doing things that allow us to look forward to our day. This does not imply that we need to look forward to everything that needs doing, but it does suggest that within the circumstances of our lives there will always be something meaningful we can do, every single day should we choose to do it. This may take cultivating a curious and investigative mindset. Being a beginner. Experimenting with new ways of doing things. It is always up to us to work with what we have and at the same time to figure out how to bring a little more light and life to the situation we find ourselves in. It is worth it.


1:) The seminal work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.  I also liked Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life  You pronounce his name like this: (Me-High  Chick-sent-Me-High) Once you know, it’s easy.

2:) Viktor Frankl “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

3:) A delightful nature/art video from PBS, or perhaps I should say, using found acorns and small sticks and having fun. PBS Becorns start at 30 seconds to dive right in. 

4:) A deep bow to all of you dear readers. As we enter December, with all of its lights, festivals, and traditions, let’s remember that this is not everyone’s favourite time. If this is you, please know I think about this, although I personally love the lights and trees and trimmings.  Furthermore, I deeply hope you find your own special ways to bring celebration into your life. This could be curled up in front of the fire with a good book and a little something that you like to eat or drink. You get to decide. What’s great about growing older is that it feels like we have more freedom and flexibility to do things differently.