Pope Francis: Christmas festivities ‘a charade’ in a world filled with ‘war and hate’

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20 Nov 2015 at 08:51 ET

Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen “war and hate”, Pope Francis said Thursday.

“Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes … it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path,” he said in a sermon.

“There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” he said after the worst terror attack in French history, the bombing of a Russian airliner, a double suicide bombing in Lebanon, and a series of other deadly strikes.

“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it,” the Argentine pontiff said, adding: “God weeps, Jesus weeps”.

The sermon threw a shadow over the start of the festive season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled.

The 25-metre (82-foot) high pine hails from former pope Benedict XVI’s homeland, the German state of Bavaria.

The tree, which will be decorated in time for the start of the Vatican’s Holy Year on December 8, will be festooned with ornaments made by children from cancer wards in hospitals across Italy.

This year’s nativity scene will be made up of 24 life-size figures, sculpted from wood and hand-painted.

In a nod to Pope Francis’s humble style, alongside the figures from the story of Jesus’s birth will be sculptures of ordinary people, including a man supporting an elderly person in need.

Monday – I know what I’m getting for Christmas

918201370949PM_635_iPhone-5sIt is Monday, and I was up before the sun rose this morning.

Hubby has a monthly Metro pass, that we both use. I had to drop labs this morning for my first lab run of the new drugs (read: Tivicay) I am testing at the moment. Six fifteen came very early this morning. It was still dark when I got to my bus stop to board.

The process was quick this morning, as I was only 15 numbers in when I got there.

Read: take a number and hurry up and wait for the next available agent…

Here in Montreal, public sector workers are on rotating strikes to demand better working conditions and better pay. Teachers across the island are on two days of strikes that began this morning. At the hospital, they were out marching and blowing those god damned vuvuzela horns.

I was like, can I shove that horn up your ass now. We’ve heard you and you are still blowing !!!

**** **** ****

Since we are in Christmas mode, thoughts eventually turn to what we are going to get each other for Christmas. Over dinner last night, I said to hubby that I only wanted one thing for Christmas, and that one thing was a new phone, since my HTC Hero is three years old and it only has two functions, One, to make calls, and Two, to listen to music.

He came back with “dammit, you spoiled my surprise!”

Like he could have kept his mouth shut in consideration of what I had asked for.

He was in the works to buy me a new I Phone 5S for Christmas.

He just blurted out what he was up to, so the gig is up.

We have broken our Anti-Apple crusade. Since we are a Windows house.

I will enter the new digital, phone crazy, doing multiple things all at the same time crowd.

Not that I engage in that kind of behavior now. I’m just not that connected to my phone, as people all over the place are. No matter where you go, people are fixated on their little screens, Face Booking, Texting or Tweeting.

I guess I will find out what the phone will do and learn how to multitask with that little device.

**** **** ****

This Friday, November 20th, is our 11th wedding anniversary.

I re-appropriated my mothers birthday. Since she is out of mind.

We are having dinner at a very fine steak house called FIRE GRILL …

Last year was the first time we dined there. It was a great dining experience. However it is not cheap by any means. But you get what you pay for in the end.

There are three restaurants in town that we dine at that are at the top of the monetary budget, which (read: $100.00 dinners) Rubens Grill and Smoked Meats, Baton Rouge in the Hyatt for Prime Rib and Ribs, and Fire Grill for outstanding steaks.

A few months ago my friend ken visited from California, he is a foody …

That week, I spent over $150,00 on food in just three sittings.

But it was money well spent !

Today there are only 40 shopping days until Christmas …

More to come, stay tuned …

Merry Christmas 2014

tumblr_lw2bl4yyhC1qzcvqpo1_500 rawrdanieltumblr_m87fjdSpOA1ravgvuo1_500 jackandfinnCourtesy: RawrDaniel and JackHarries – Christmas Past

I stayed up late last night watching the Tubes for a while. Our local radio station that usually does overnight radio, is running Christmas music ad nauseum, ugh enough already !!! BAH !!!

Like I have said before, we really don’t get into that shop till you drop mentality. So Christmas is a little subdued. A couple of gifts, things we need, or maybe a surprise or two in the mix. Holidays are really about family and friends, and the table we will sit at later today.

This Christmas was all about Woks, headphones, and Max …

Hubby is Le Chef de Mission here at home. Keeping with tradition, he gets the latest and greatest cooking pans on the market. One of our staple meals is stir fry. And we needed a new Wok, so that was under the tree.

Then it was the Big Box – gifts for both of us in one swing. That was a big hit. New headphones.
Thank you Skull Candy !

Max got an upgrade with a 1 GB memory stick. That was much needed, because my library is pretty full as it is. I also got a shiny new mouse pad. My old mouse pad was really in bad shape.

That’s it for gifts. Nothing too grandiose.

The bird is in the oven, and we are on track for an early afternoon dinner with friends.

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A Christmas Reflection 2014

Today the Queen of England spoke about reconciliation, and the pause in hostilities during the Great War, where British and German troops, in dug out trenches, put down their guns, as the German soldiers sang “Silent Night,” in the night. The British followed suit.

What happened next is the story of legends. The next morning, Christmas Day 100 years ago today, the soldiers came out of their trenches meeting in no mans land for a game of footy, and to exchange presents and greetings.

Imagine, if the world today, took a collective breath, and hostilities were stopped for one day. Imagine, if the world could bring the many, into reconciliation, and END hostilities world wide !

IDEOLOGIES …

I have a friend who eschews holidays, those consumer driven celebrations that pop up every once in a while, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas … Love is an every day feeling. Family is an everyday gathering. Celebrating the lives of others, is a 365 days a year event.

We’ve learned, over the years, what is most important. When the tree goes up, it is a family event. It is a celebration of love, because we created a ritual for the tree. At Christmas our extended family goes well beyond to gift us all with something particularly special. And we return the gesture in kind.

For the past few years, our older members in the fellowship have been alone, they live alone and only go out for meetings, or shopping, or they go without. Us younger members have taken on the work of living in community with our men and women.

We break bread with them regularly. We celebrate holidays together, some share musical talent with them. All so that we do something good on a regular basis, with them, so that they are not alone. My guys are all connected to helping others when they can. Because they are able, and it is the right thing to do.

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus. A blessed birth come to pass in a humble manger in Bethlehem. Yes, the birth of Christ is important. It is the beginning of the story. But if you think about it, the end of the story of Jesus, is the culmination of God becoming man, and having a human experience, to sacrifice himself for the good of mankind.

Christ came to speak words of truth, to heal the sick, to chastise the greedy and wealthy, to give food to the hungry and pardon the sinner. He called twelve men to follow him, they would eventually follow and begin to create simple Christianity, that has blossomed into the Christianity of today.

The end of the story, the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, is Man’s Saving Grace. Sacrifice is God’s greatest gift to mankind. He came so that we could have life, and life abundantly. Christ dying on the cross is the pinnacle of the meaning of Christianity. Coming to save man, by dying on a cross.

Sacrifice … Love … Salvation …

I remember when I was a young boy, going to my first retreat, and hearing the words, and listening to people speak about God, Jesus and Salvation. And at the end of it all, the altar call came, and one by one we stood and turned our lives over to this man we call Jesus.

It was a Mountaintop experience.

But like Moses, we too, had to come down from the mountain, and re-enter the world.

In those days, open carrying a bible in public school, was akin to having leprosy for teens.

It marked you as different. Odd. They called us Jesus Freaks, and we were. For a while at least.

I can’t say that I succeeded in my zeal for Jesus given the home I lived in and the schools I went to.

But that time is not lost on me considering my university education and the work I do every day.

Imagine what it was like to proclaim the life of Jesus as a follower to your fellow man. Imagine what it was like for those apostles and then the people. It was like that for us. I’ve learned a great deal of what it means to follow the man we call Jesus today.

That is a 365 day journey. Not just on Easter Sunday or Christmas Day, or Epiphany.

We should love one another every day. We should honor our mates every day. We should honor our children every day. The holidays have been Frankensteined into conglomerate days of greed, money and consumerism.

If it ain’t black Friday, it doesn’t matter.

Tomorrow, bar none, people will be lining up, getting dirty, and fighting tooth and nail to get that 6 a.m. door buster prize. And I guarantee you that by 6 p.m. there will be numerous reports of holiday cheer going out the window as people beat each other up, or shoot one another for that Big Screen tv, or pair of high end sneakers.

Christmas is a day. I’ve encouraged my friends to go out into their communities and serve the less fortunate. But this too is not just a Christmas job, it is an every day job. I’ve said before that if we took all that money we spend on national and international defense and war spending and putting that money to better use, we could change the lives of millions in short order.

Sadly, the world operates on the conflict of the people, whether we like to admit that or not. It is Big Business. And those who have all the money and power rely on the conflict within the people to make their millions, billions and trillions of dollars.

The Christmas message is lost on them totally.

If you miss the real meaning of Christmas, let me remind you of a few point of order:

  • It’s not about the gifts under the tree, but the people around it
  • It’s not about how much money you spend, but the love that you share
  • It’s about family and who sits at your table for your holiday meal
  • It’s about that checker girl/guy at the grocery store, be kind
  • It’s about the less fortunate and random acts of kindness
  • It’s about the birth and beginning of the life of a man who would change the world
  • In the end it is all about the Sacrifice for the salvation of the world
  • It isn’t about what religion you profess, but the God that gives you life
  • It is the peace you share, and the fact that we are spiritual beings having a human existence

The Holidays are a “WE” event. It is not an “I” event. Dinner later on will be a We event.

And later tonight, WE will gather for a Christmas Night Meeting.

More to come …

Part 2 …

The weather held for the evening. But man is it windy. Where is all that wind coming from, and where did it originate? The wind was buckling the windows all evening while we napped after Christmas dinner.

Dinner was a nice meal, with friends and family.

We set out a bit early due to the fact that the buses are on Sunday Schedule for the holiday. Arriving at the church, a good number of people came out for the meeting. I half expected more to come, but we filled the room nonetheless.

Tonight we heard one of our women. One of the many women who feed my desire to be a better man, a sober man, who has done his work, and gives it away to others who want it as well.

In the beginning the story is the same. We were born, most, into dysfunctional families, feeding us mixed, and sometimes the wrong message about ourselves. And that leads into us becoming who we are in that period of time, and usually, but not in all cases, the messages we are fed, lead us into the world of drugs and alcohol to escape, to enhance, and even to blot out what we are hearing and in the end feeling.

Some, in the beginning, come, they look around, and they leave. We find this the case with our young people. How can I, (read: Being so young) have such problems that would need the intense work that we provide to them? For many young people, youth means that they have at least ten to fifteen years of good partying life ahead of them, and the mere thought of turning it all over and coming in for good is such a Tall Order …

Some come, and they stay, and they make a life out of it. But the stats are not good.

The WOMEN I speak so highly about so often, changed my life. Most of those women, by extension and by lineage, are sponsored, grand sponsored and great grand sponsored by women who live in New York City. The message came from one, to the next, and the next, and then finally to them personally. I was in the right place at the right time to hear this and see this in action.

And I wanted so badly to be part of it. And now I am. They say it is difficult to blunt a raging forest fire. Imagine for a moment, a bunch of crazy women on fire for the book and the solution. I had lunch with one of my ladies yesterday. They all warm my heart.

If you stick around, and you get the right message, that the book gives you, you too can join the fire for the book as well. They say that if you want to hide something from an alcoholic, put it in the Big Book. Because most alcoholics won’t read the book, until it is imperative they do so. You can only sit in your chair for so long, until someone sits with you and offers to take you through the book like we do it.

The Solution … I’ve learned that I can be with myself. Alone, quiet, in the center of the storm where the winds are calm. I’ve learned that I don’t have to save anyone, that all I have to do is take care of me, and with that done, I can help take care of someone else.

No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.

Listening to sponsees, reminds me why I am here. Because I hear what happened to them, and I know that some of the same things happened to me as well. Good Healing Fire spreads quickly. We hear our friends share in discussion meetings, but it is also good to hear them share on the open stage at a speaker meeting. I’ve heard her before, and tonight I got to see and witness personal progress.

We claim spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection.

Every day we get a daily reprieve, contingent on our spiritual condition.

I understand what that means to me. Because I learned how to do it myself. You may not be one for prayer, or meditation. And in the beginning who can sit still for more than five minutes, at that? I had to practice. And that practice took months upon months, With serious time under my belt.

I had to step up my game if I wanted to reap the rewards of spiritual fitness.

Three, Seven and Eleven … daily, on your knees, humble before God. It is an act of humility to get down on ones knees to pray. Because they say, “When life gets too hard to stand, Kneel.”

Everybody has a journey to take, and no two journeys are the same.

THE WORK is the same for all of us, out of the same book, heading in the same direction.

That’s why I read the book with my guys once a week. That’s why I read the book with my sponsor.

Today, I, like many of my friends, live in the solution.

It was a good night.

My other observation for the night was of one particular homeless man, who has been homeless as long as I’ve been sober. And probably longer than that. The homeless in our city have a routine.

Whether they begin in the East and and work their way West, or from West to East, they either ride the rails, or ride the bus. From one side of the city to the other. Most of them go without food on a daily basis, but they have enough money to provide a bus pass to travel.

Where does that money come from, who provides it, when they can’t afford to eat?

Meetings run on similar lines across town, North, South, East and West. You can get to any meeting by rail and by bus. Our homeless population are well known in our circles, because they show up diligently on time for the meeting, for free coffee and cookies, and/or whatever free food is on the table. That is probably the mainstay of their meals on any given day, unless of course they visit a shelter or food station downtown.

Our city and by extension, our country hides a dark secret, out in the open, and we are powerless to affect change. The city can only do so much. Volunteers can only do so much, and the shelters and food stations can only do so much. Winters are brutal for our homeless. Because there are so many, there are spare resources for them on any given night, so they troll the city from one end to another every night.

Some collect bottles and cans. That is certain money in their pockets. Can and Bottle return is a booming business. The grocery store on the corner does really good business every day. I see the same folks come day in and day out, with tons of cans and bottles. One of them, I don’t know where he gets them all, but he probably collects a thousand cans a day add to that boxes of beer bottles as well.

There are entire populations of people who go without. Entire populations that live well, WELL below the poverty level. People at high levels of government have asked the Prime Minister what he will do for the those who need so much, and last week I heard him say on tv, that “well, they are not even on our radar, to be honest!”

How can you run a country that has so much, and gives so much away to foreign nations, that so many of your own people go without, and come off saying that they are not on your radar and that in turn, they are not important for the country, the provinces and the entire nation?

How can you stand yourself knowing that you ignore entire populations of people, because it isn’t expedient or that it is beneath you – or not politically sound to care or even act like you care for votes when the time comes?

That’s a political hot potato.

Human interest stories at the governmental level are ignored.

No government is perfect, anywhere in the world.

In a country that is so rich, a first world nation, we have entire populations of people who live in third world conditions, and that is terribly sad. I have ideas to float for all of these problems. They sound easy to me when I repeat them in my head, they sound good, they look good, but in the end, to make sweeping changes that many of us agree need to be made, that would take money. More money that most governments want to throw on people who do not matter to their bottom line.

VOTERS.

Most of those people do not vote. Most of those people have substandard homes if they have that at all, countless numbers of them are homeless, drug addicted and alcoholic. Many of them have mental and emotional problems that are never addressed because there is no money and not enough resources to help them all. Hell, even in first world populations, in the biggest cities, across the country, many people face these same problems, and they too go without.

We are heading into election territory in 2015.

Getting these issues onto a stage where they are heard and dealt with is wishful thinking.

Another Christmas, and some of our folks went without. again …

It costs money to take a homeless person off the street. Clean them up, first, then try and find them someplace safe and economical to live, but then you need to find the money to allow them to pay rent, utilities, buy food and live a substantive life. Treat their problems accordingly, but with what resources and from where? How do we do that ?

I asked a friend on the way home about the man I am speaking about now, and I said that he has been homeless as long as I’ve been sober, how do we get him off the street ? And his answer was simply, that he doesn’t want to get off the street ! Now is that by choice, by default, or lack of concern for his own welfare?

This is all terribly troubling when we live these lives of having everything that we need. And on the fringe, just below the radar, so many have little to nothing to call their own.

What did you do for the least of these today?

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And with that, my Very Mario Christmas comes to an end.

Thank you for reading, for subbing and for being a part of my life.

Goodnight.

Tuesday – Tomorrow is Christmas Eve – 1 Shopping Day Remains

PCU1582bChristmas Window – Place Ville Marie – Montreal

It is the final push for holiday shoppers. One day left to get that done. I am very glad that I did not partake in shopping madness this year. The whole shop till you drop mentality has worn off over the past few years. It’s not like we need “things” above and beyond what we already have. Breaking the bank on Christmas gifts is something we don’t do. We shop for the nieces and nephews, and simple gifts for the family that we exchange every year.

So that is a thing …

Last week I ordered some new headphones for both hubby and myself. When Target opened I purchased some Skull Candy headphones that did not last very long before they crapped out. I went to their website and found the warranty and filed a claim for a replacement pair. I sent them back and they gave me a credit towards a new purchase, which I redeemed last week.

Sadly, the style that I had was no longer in stock, which meant an upgrade purchase for another pair, which were more expensive, and I bought two of them to boot, in actuality, I got my credit, towards the pair, and then paid the difference. This year I lucked out in that all the places I purchased from this season all took PayPal, so I didn’t need a credit card.

Here in Montreal, ads have been pushing shoppers to use their Interac Cards, rather than a credit card. An Interac Card is our debit card that pulls directly from your bank account.

The packages was mailed last Wednesday, and it took a few days to get here from Surrey B.C. Yesterday I waited all day for the mail, because the office was only open yesterday and today to receive packages, then it would be by slip and pick up afterwards. I made several trips downstairs to check the mail to no avail. By 5 o’clock I resigned myself that the mail wasn’t coming.

Hubby got home and we set down for a nap for a few hours before dinner, and at 7:15 p.m. there was a knock on the door. The mailman actually walked my box upstairs to me instead of leaving me a slip. I was pleasantly surprised. Now there is a Big Box under the tree for Thursday …

All my peeps are where they need to be for the holidays, and a few of them are traveling tomorrow because of work responsibilities.

Environment Canada issued us weather warnings a few days ago because of a massive storm, they predicted would begin pelting us with freezing rain and rain for the next three days. It was damp out all day, but no drizzle nor rain fell. However, I carried to the meeting just in case. And in the end i got a ride back up to the train.

I departed on time and made my transit. Many of our regular folks are out of town, so tonight’s meeting was going to be hit or miss. We sat a usual small group. Minus a few heads. Folks brought all kinds of holiday foods; cookies, crackers and cheese, and the always freshly perked coffee.

The past few weeks, we have been filling time with discussion topics until January, when we will begin a new format, one that I have never seen before in sobriety. We are running the Joe and Charlie tapes for the next few months, beginning in January.

Tonight we read from an old Grapevine, “Having fun in sobriety…”

All of us with time, told similar stories. We range from a few weeks, to a few months, to a number of years, then the jump to 25 and 30 years sober. We had a single newcomer attend tonight, who is in his first weeks. Listening to folks with time talk about how they have “fun” in sobriety is somewhat problematic, because in the beginning, who is having any fun, having come fresh off the street, finding that they are alcoholic and need help, and listen to people talking about having fun!

Many people I have heard speak to this topic, talk about walking down into a church basement, and much to their surprise, expecting bag ladies and bums with trench coats and brown bags, come to find that there are actual, well dressed, happy, smiling and joking people at the bottom of the stairs, and how disconcerting this was for them on their first days in.

I heard lots of good things, like:

  • Getting sober in a city I never drank in, in watching and listening to people who come and go, I learned where not to go, and where to go, what not to do and what To Do.
  • I found a Home Group and got connected
  • I had a sponsor from the very beginning
  • I was never alone for very long
  • I kept busy, meetings, aftercare, service
  • I maintained a stable meeting schedule that has served me well over 13 years
  • I did not do what my friends did
  • But I did do what I was told by the old timers

I spoke about learning what responsibility was, and how that came over time. I first connected to a home group and got active. I’d hear something in a meeting, a topic or a lesson. We’d talk about it over time, I’d learn the lesson, then get time to work it out in reality for another period of time.

That’s how I learned responsibility. It came in stages, over months and years. I met each challenge, soberly and with good advice. When I was sober a year, I took on a second challenge, University. Then a third, was a relationship, (not in your first year, they say) I squeaked in at 11 months.

As long as I used my meetings properly and kept to my schedule, worked with my sponsor and listened accordingly, life tended to work out in my favor. Because I was rooted and In It.

Over the past almost three years I have been IN IT TO WIN IT.

Which is an entirely different beast than when this all started. Sobriety has totally ramped up and my life has never been the same. I imagine, in my minds eye, if a fire this big had been set under my ass in the very beginning, what the possibilities could have been. But I am where I am and life turned out the way it did, by the design God set out for me.

All in its good time I guess.

Yes, you too will learn to laugh, to have fun and live life to its fullest. That’s what the Promises talk about, and also A Vision for You.

We did not get sober to be Miserable.

For we are not a Glum Lot.

Sobriety is our goal, and church basements or bell towers are instrumental for that to happen.

We learn how to live outside those spaces over time. That’s the whole idea, isn’t it ?

I don’t go to sticky places, I don’t shop in liquor stores, I don’t go to bars or clubs. I stay away from city festivals that require one to drink. Listening to my friends, who get stuck in the revolving door, I’ve learned what Not to Do. And that lesson plan paid off in spades.

You Will Get Happy.

One day at a time.

Stick around until the miracle occurs.

Friday … T-Minus 5 days, Heart full of Gratitude

220px-Montreal_StViateur1_tango7174Paroisse Saint Viateur d’Outremont

This is the centuries old parish church in Outremont, where our Friday night meeting meets. It is part of today’s story, I just needed to right image to accompany this post.

There are 5 shopping days until Christmas.

Thanks to online merchandise, PayPal, and a little creativity, I am really good at finding places that will ship to Canada, because not all online shops in other countries will ship world wide. It may be Online, but what you want, may not be available, depending on where you are shopping from. I do my best to buy “in country” when ever possible.

It was another blur of a day. We have been triangulating get togethers with friends who are in town for a short time. Tomorrow they are all scattering across the country for Christmas, so today was an entire day of food, friends, and fellowship.

I had dinner with friends earlier this evening before heading out for the Friday Night Meeting.

Our local hangout “Dundees” on Crescent Street, not far from home, is my go to restaurant. That place has hosted scores of lunches and dinners with influential professors, academic advisers, friends, and family over the last 13 years. The place has changed up its menu and also changed up how they present food on the plate. It was really nice. As always the food is fantastic.

I wrote the remaining cards out for my friends last night.

How do you Card scores of friends you see all the time? It really isn’t possible, that would cost a pretty penny in the end. I picked the Friday meeting crew to card. But there are upwards of 50 people at that meeting on any given Friday.

So my method of carding is this: The first circle starts with folks that are close to me, the ones who I see at set up week in and week out, people I spend the most time with, those folks who I invest a little more umph into. The next circle is friends who I talk to regularly, those who are part of my sobriety, I can’t know everybody, there are just too many people. The third circle is people that are on the fringe, the folks people tend to ignore, the ones who come early, do all the work, and nobody notices them and they leave with not a word from anyone else.

This is called a little random act of kindness move.

After dinner a friend and I set out for the meeting across the Metro. We took another route so that we could stop for bagels at the premier bagel shop, St. Viateur bagels on the plateau. Because if you want bagels, you go to the ultimate source! On the way we were on a bus that turned out, not to be very reliable, it kept stopping and going, beside its regular stops. We were on a tight schedule, and at the end of the ride (when we got off the bus) we sat at a stop light for like 4 rotations.

We were like WTF???

We walked the rest of the way up Parc to the bagle shop, got bagels, then got back on a bus going back in the direction we just came from to get to the church. We squeaked in just under the wire.

The house was packed for the party afterwards. Two of three of my guys were in attendance, it was the last time we would be together in the same space until January. It was a good discussion.

After the meeting we broke bread together, and I did my run around the room.

I am kind to everyone in the room. I listen to people week in and week out, who comes, who doesn’t, who’s on the fringe, and their stories. Stay long enough and you will learn this magical ability.

I just don’t fold a blank card, sign it and toss it into an envelope.

Every card has a specific message, meant for that specific person. Which is why I chose the folks I did this year to card. Friends I want to know better, people who are the most important to me, personally. Everybody is important, but people and personalities sometimes do not allow direct contact.

Investing is an art. To know what to say, and how to say it.

And the payout, the looks on people’s faces, when you hand them a card, totally not expecting a random act of kindness, smiles, tears, hugs,

PRICELESS …

An investment into my friends, to let them know how much I appreciate them and what they mean to me, at a time, when people struggle the most and feel the most alone. And a dash of words, meant specifically for them. Words are power, put in the right order, from the heart, can change a life in ways, one cannot imagine. Kindness on the holiday can also mean someone gets through a holiday, that someone took the time to think of them specifically.

I love that.

It isn’t about me, its all about my friends. Because without them, I am just one man.

I got a great book from a friend for Christmas. I got to meet new friends, I hit a meeting with my guys, and on the train ride home, another one of my guys called from out of town. It was a full night of smiles, tears, kindness and love.

The Best kind of night.

A heart full of gratitude.

T – Minus 6 Days … From Flash and Bang, to Calm and Sober

tumblr_m9goegijlk1qkbo6bo1_500 freshieCourtesy: Freshie

Don’t you love it when your day, when you look back at it, was one BIG BLUR ???

Today, kind of started in the middle of the night last night.

The first day Christmas cards went on sale at the mall, I spent $40.00 on two boxes. I put them on the dining room table, and there they sat for more than a couple of weeks. I had even went so far as to gather all my little slips of paper, addresses, envelopes from last year, and my choice for who would make “The Cut” this year.

Now, if you know that reference, you are really good.

Time has been moving at light speed, as we are six days from Christmas and things have been ramping up for a while now. It seems that every day there is something specific that must be done, People to see, meetings to go to, coffee to be drank, conversations to be had, yadda, yadda …

Tuesday night I still had not written a single card, and to that end, I posted that fact on my timeline, everybody I send card to is on the “Book.” so why bother ??

Wednesday night, in the middle of the night I was sitting here and thought that there were certain people I really wanted to card. So it was 3 a.m. I was sitting right where I always sit, and I wrote out a very select group of people to card. And those cards went out this morning.

Most of those folks are in Canada, and Canada Post is really good at holiday mail, so chances are they they will get to where they need to be before next Thursday.

Sadly, only two Americans made the cut this year. I just wasn’t up to writing all those cards, when the return rate is so low.

I was ready to go early today because I had a beauty appointment at lunchtime, and so I was a bit early, and I’ve never seen the salon in such a frenetic state. Chairs were full, people were waiting, there was hair all over the floor. It looked like a marathon cut was taking place.

Oh, but this … Prior to going to the mall, I sorted my cards and got them in the mail, and went grocery shopping in the space between then and where I was going. Now I know every check person at the grocery store, well!  We are all on first name basis, because we shop there every day.

Ok, so I am standing in the express lane, and a friend is checking out. The express person has to contend with returns, refunds, lottery tickets, flat screen tv’s (yes, they sell flat screen tv’s at the grocery store), bottles, cigarettes, and the one phone connected to the store, the office downstairs, and THEN check out customers. All at the same time, well, you know what I mean.

In one moment, a guy wanted to exchange a flat screen tv, another wanted a lottery ticket, people were standing at the bottle return, AND the phone rang, and there was a customer in front of me.

What do you do first?

I just stood there wand waited for the fall out to happen. And it didn’t take long.

The guy in front of me was buying one item. LUNCH …

My checker lady had her hands and ears full. Imagine just for a moment, that you are that checker lady with everything going on, all at the same time …

She is taking the call, a bag boy is taking care of the tv, the others can wait.

She swipes the lunch box, amid a conversation and pauses for a brief second what happened next shocked both of us, but it is not uncommon …

The guy looks at her and says … “Can’t you fucking speed up?”

I held my breath.

My friend is not one who is short on words, nor colorful expletives.

She hung up the phone and completed the sale.

The guy did not say thank you, have a nice day, Nothing !

He walked out of the store.

I stepped up to the cash and she exploded with a number of colorful expletives.

We both laughed …

I go home, unload groceries and go to the salon, where the story is already in motion …

I walk into the salon, with the scene I set above. In the first chair, well, there was not first chair there at that moment, but a wheel chair. The cutters there are very familiar with random acts of kindness.

And at that moment, a random act of kindness was taking place.

It swelled my heart.

I waited for a bit and watched the frenetic scene until they were ready for me. The books were cooking with appointments, and from what I was told, it had been like this all week, with the run up to the holiday.

Holidays, a little nasty, a little humbug, and in the end you get a random act of kindness.

I did some Christmas shopping. The mezzanine is rather innocuous, so I passed through “The Tire” without even a hiccup. I hit some Micky D’s for lunch and came home. Thank God for online shopping, it has saved my sanity. Packages are winging themselves here as we speak, all I have to do is wrap them when they get here. BOO YAH !!!

Our little neighborhood has been BUZZING with activity for months now. The park is shut down, and they are rebuilding it. The children’s hospital is slated for closure in five months, a building on the main is being demolished to make way for a brand sparkling new condo block, with is going to KILL my view of Westmount Square when it goes up, The Forum approach has been blocked off for forever, traffic was shunted to two lanes instead of three, concrete barricades went down the block, and a makeshift path was created by fencing to get you through the madness.

From my balcony I get to watch everything from above.

Last night, a miracle occurred.

They pulled up the plastic on the newly poured sidewalks. They fenced in the tree boxes (where they will plant trees next spring), The concrete barricades are gone, the fencing is gone, they added light poles and stop lights, it looks clean, bright and ready for traffic.

Now, how many months does it take to strip a city block strip of sidewalk, 25 feet deep from street to building?

Answer: 8 months

On the demolition site the building is tucked in between a stretch of other buildings in the middle of a very long city block. So you can’t maneuver cranes, lifts, or any BIG Tonka truck rigs. There is no room to set them up.

They are using a one man “mini” bulldozer, lifted to the roof, where it is covered in snow. There are five guys to demolish the building using hammers, a mini dozer, and a Blow Torch.

Behind that building stands an apartment building on our block, we are kind of set up between the block behind this scene looking down on it.

The entry way for cars to park in that buildings parking garage is accessed by an alley that runs behind said building being demolished. They are knocking down a building at the same time that a working alley for another building is still useable. They can’t block the approach.

They knocked in the first floor walls (facing the car park entrance) from behind. They knocked down everything on the roof. They had to dig through the snow to get to hatches to the roof.

Now, they need to knock down brick from the second floor from above, because they can’t get to it from the ground. No truck access …

What do they do?

A man rigs a line, connected to one wall on the roof. The line is then tied to the man. The man hangs over the edge of the building, with his hammer, (literally!!!) knocking bricks out, immediately below him, on the same stretch of wall he is hanging over by a rope.

Do you see the logic here ?

No, I didn’t think so.

So that is a thing …

When all my travels were said and done, I had an hour to kill before I had to leave for the far end of Westmount to meet my sponsor at his condo. We sat in a McDonald’s and had our chat. I had another hour to kill from when we finished, until I needed to leave for my second trip into this end of Westmount.

I rode the train home for 45 minutes, and departed with friends for the meeting.

Our speaker was a few years sober, on the 27th he will have four years.

To open: Our chair, a woman I know very well, called this young man at 5 o’clock this evening. He was in his car, he was bringing his kids home. Both of them were fussing and crying, and it was a little insane, when the phone rung and she asked him to speak tonight.

Obviously, you never say no to another member when it comes to service.

We remarked after the meeting that

“when we were using and drinking, we are a tornado wrecking the lives of everyone around us, and we don’t even see it happening.”

When you are standing in the middle of the cone, you don’t necessarily see the winds whipping around you.

Hence, our man was a tornado.

His story was a type four alcoholic. (Meaning: A blackout, not knowing what he had done, said or drank or used the night before). Singleness of purpose be damned.

In the end, his last drunk, he had a wife, whom he thought he loved, a child that was 2 months old, and ended up in jail, after two days of binge drinking (over Christmas that year) inside a hale of drugs.

Obviously, he wasn’t thinking about his wife, nor his child, his only thought was

“Where can I get MORE?”

It was then, looking in a mirror, in JAIL, he had his moment of clarity.

He gave it up. All of it. And made his way in.

He had ruined his son’s first Christmas, not to mention hurting his wife.

In the end, with tears in our eyes he said this:

“This Christmas, my wife and children (he now has two), will know that daddy loves them very much.”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

He has stopped the tornado. He cleaned up his life. He has a job, a life, a wife, two children, a brand new home, he is an upstanding man in our community.

The Twelve Step rep got up there at the end and said that:

“Tonight, would be a really great night to start your journey. A LOT better than starting it next week or the week after.” Any takers … there were two, in fact.

Like myself, many of my friends today, got sober over Christmas, I am early December. So they will be celebrating anniversaries this coming week.

When we got to the meeting, favorite newbie was sitting in the seat I always sit in, well, the seat I started sitting in a few weeks ago. You KNOW we like to sit in the same seat at every different meeting, I KNOW you do !!!

I walked up behind him and said … Hey, You newbie, get out of my seat !!!

We just laughed.

Tonight we even had a serious conversation, I asked him if he has detected “The Force” between the women at the Tuesday night Beginners Meeting, where I used to be a member for for a long time.

He laughed …

Yes, he said, He’s got a few months now. We heard him three weeks ago speak.

At first, the happy peppy women scared him, he wasn’t sure how to react, being so new and raw.

Today, he watches and listens, and he is beginning to “get” the happys…

I have encouraged him to stick and stay at that meeting.

He is doing all the right things. And I am very proud of him.

And that folks, is the end of tonight’s tale of Flash and Bang to Calm and Sober.

More to come, stay tuned …

“The Christmas Card Cut” – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil…

Thursday Thoughts … A Very Productive Day

mario-gotze-bayern-munich-3Courtesy: Bayern Munich – Mario Gotze #19

Just a little hint of what I scored over the past week.

Yes, it is Thursday, and it rained tonight. And now I can say that I’d rather it SNOW than RAIN !!!

Hopefully, that wish will come true over the weekend.

It has been an interesting week so far. Lots going on, and not all of it is good.

Tuesday we sat a full house, and read from the Twelve and Twelve, and Step Nine.

And I have to say that this pass through the book, at this particular meeting, is changing lives for the better.

We’ve been fortunate to keep the same group of people through this series. And we’ve grown quite close in the reading and sharing on each Step. Having just done the Men’s retreat a couple weekends ago, has given me insight into my own program and words that I can use when we discuss the steps together.

I heard a story that really hit me. coming from one of my friends.

Step Nine is the amends step. There are four types of amends …

  • There will be those who ought to be dealt with just as soon as we become reasonably confident that we can maintain our sobriety.
  • There will be those to whom we can make only partial restitution, lest complete disclosures do them or others more harm than good.
  • There will be other cases where action ought to be deferred
  • And still others in which by the very nature of the situation we shall never be able to make direct personal contact at all.

With these four situations, most folks are all over the map. I can identify several situations that I fall into myself.

My friend spoke about an amend he needed to make to an uncle who is long deceased. On his last slip, he missed the final moments of his uncles life, opting for the drink and more cocaine. Only three days later he happened upon him, dead in his bed.

He told the story and I wept a little.

They say that our departed family, or friends, are never far away from us, when they cross over. But his supplication was almost serene prayer, to God, to his uncle, where ever they are.

It was the most courageous thing I’ve ever heard my friend say, in all the years I have known him.

And I did not waste the opportunity to tell him so, and to tell him that I was sure his uncle heard his amend and forgave him, and loved him. In particular, he was buried out of the parish church we sit in – at our meetings. Consider that a double whammy prayer.

I so pray that my friend was encouraged to stick and stay.

If we do our work correctly, and well, and we touch at least one person and help them change their lives and get better, then we have succeeded in our mission.

**** **** ****

My weekly list of things to do, has of late been interrupted by a day of rest. It was a trend that was part of my life for a long time. and I am not sure if it is because my doc added new medication to my regimen, or that I am burning the candle from both ends again … But Wednesday has become my day to do nothing but sleep.

**** **** ****

Discussion has begun within our small group of men at our Thursday Men’s Group about closing the meeting. We have a core handful of people who show up every week, and tonight we heard from them in regards to this issue. But put plainly, we pay $100.00 a month in rent. The founders supply coffee, milk and other supplies from our pocket, as the seventh goes directly to the rent payment every month.

We are not attracting new folks on a regular basis, there are too many other meetings, that have been open for decades that have core attendees. And we haven’t been able to pull folks from their other meetings. In the beginning, we had hoped to pull folks who were not really tied down to a specific meeting, and only a handful of men qualify in that respect.

It is more akin to a social gathering for our small group of men who came together initially to put the group together, but over the last eighteen months, we’ve lost several founders and just recently as last week. So the question remains, if we make kitty for the month we will keep the meeting open. Because it does serve a purpose for our men. But on the wider scale it does not serve a purpose to be of maximum service to God and to men. They just aren’t coming.

We have yet to make that decision, the thought is we will see where the kitty takes us this month and decide later.

But the closure of the meeting is still on the table.

One of our newbies chaired the meeting and we talked about Acceptance from The Daily Reflections. And as usual, when that word comes up, we all turn to page 417 in the Big Book …

  • Acceptance is the KEY to all my problems and
  • Nothing, Absolutely Nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.

**** **** ****

I was up early today because I had a plan. And executing that plan meant getting out of bed earlier than I usually do, because it is a meeting day, so daytime hours were precious.

We have a new super washing machine upstairs that does twice the work, for 75 cents more than a regular washer. Two loads of clothes for the price of one. I did my laundry, showered and got ready to go in between.

I folded the laundry, put it away and headed out for Indigo Books in the core.

I must tell you that having Thanksgiving in October and a quick hop over Halloween, Christmas has come to Montreal.

Alexis Nihon is decorated with Silver stars and purple neon. We saw our first decorated Christmas tree, lit with all the baubles, in Westmount Square on the way home. When I got to Place Montreal Trust this afternoon, the giant Christmas tree is in its beginning stages. The frame is up, the flat screen tv decorations are up as well.

Instead of baubles all over the tree, there are a handful of screens around the tree showing different things. There is also the train that circles the bottom of the tree eventually. They haven’t yet completed the grand mall decorations.

I walked into Indigo and thought to myself, that several of Santa’s Elves shit sparkles and glitter all over the store. Because they are totally into the Christmas sales mode. Over the past several months, they have been restructuring the store, ( i.e moving books from one location they used to be in, to another section, only to move them again to where they all are right now.)

I was headed to Horror to find Christopher Rice’s – The Vines … Which I had to special order because they were out. Then I had to find where they put that class of books, because they weren’t where I had last seen them. I found a grumpy old man who took me to the new section that wasn’t there, the last time I was up there. But when it came to asking him if he could order me a book, he grunted at me and asked someone else ( read: a member) to do it for him.

That was a God moment. A member working in my favorite book store.

So I got my copy of Anne Rice’s, “Prince Lestat.” And ordered a copy of “The Vines.”

When we last saw Lestat, reading all the other Vampire novels, Pandora, Vittorio, and the Vampire Armand, Lestat has been comatose, lying on the floor of an abandoned convent, located in New Orleans, and is said to be haunted by a little girl. Nobody knows when he will wake, or if he will wake again from his self imposed slumber.

Now, Anne Rice has brought Lestat into this age. And with all the bells and whistles that exist at this time, what will he do, how will he react, and what kind of story did Anne weave for him? She has said that before she started writing this book, she wasn’t sure what she was going to write after her werewolf series. But she said that Lestat began talking to her, and she listened and this next book is the result.

I’ve never been disappointed by any Rice novel, from either mother or son. Two completely different writers.

I went back to fiction and found the next book in the Temperance Brennan series written by Kathy Reichs, a book called “206 Bones.” Now I get where she gets her titles. If you read her, by this point in the reading game, you too will have figured that out. And if you don’t, that might get you to read her.

I headed to cash … and once again, there was elf sparkle and glitter shit all over the ground floor.

I was standing in line waiting to pay, and I spied one of our women buying books of her own. We got to talk for a couple of minutes. That was another God moment.

I was craving B.K. and there are two in the mall. One in the food court pit in the basement of the Eaton Centre, and a second one below the main staircase to the Scotia Bank Place Theatres. I opted for the second because it was close to the Peel Metro and I only had a few minutes to scarf my food to get on the train and get back to Alexis Nihon for my scheduled haircut.

Taking a short break to eat dinner .. be back soon !

Chicken Fettuccine is the BEST !!!!

After completing my meal, I had fifteen minutes to make my transit up two stops and to the salon.

I walked through the mall to the Peel Station. As I crossed the turnstile, a train was in the station. I ran down the stairs and across the platform, only to be met with doors shutting in front of me. FUCK !!!!

I hate when that happens.

The next train was five minutes out. I waited.

The train pulled into the station. The doors opened, and remained open. They did not close as they usually do.

That was the first sign, something was wrong …

Then we heard those tell tale “Tones of death …” Meaning that the line was down.

The announcement came over the p.a. system. There was no ETA of re-establishment of service.

We waited …

The clock is ticking still …

The train doors shut, and the train took off. They must have worked fast to turn it around.

I made my appointment.

There is a new haircut sweeping the male persuasion as of late. They come in various styles.

I’ve seen this cut on one of my favorite actors, he wears it well, now I wear it well.

I had the rest of the afternoon to fart around until I had to leave…

And that’s where we are at the moment.

Tomorrow is Friday, more to come, stay tuned …