Good Wishes on Little Christmas

Sitting here this morning of “Little Christmas” at the beginning of a new year, thinking about the Christmases of my childhood….before I became a “tween”. Sweet memories came flooding back…and with the memories come the tears. I miss the days of innocence, before cynicism crept into my consciousness. The days before I realized that there was anything wrong with my world…before I realized how little we had.

32280060bb10728f3f6a8083752c8e97A week or so before Christmas, we would set our shoes on the edge of the hot water tank of our big kitchen stove. That stove was so central to our lives, providing heat for our home, a place to cook the food that sustained our growing bodies, the oven, where my Dad, every winters night, heated large flat beach rocks, that he would wrap in towels and place in our beds a bit before bedtime, to warm them so that we weren’t freezing when we climbed in.

The purpose of our shoes on that stove was to have a place where Santa’s Elves could collect our letters to the jolly old man before Christmas Eve.images-1Oh how I struggled with those letters! I thought long and hard about what to write…it was a fine balance…making sure what I asked for was just enough…never enough to tip the scales to excess…I didn’t want Santa to think me greedy. Of course, being the eldest, I also had to make sure that I mentioned my two younger sisters and all of my cousins too. I also generally enquired after Mrs Claus, the Elves and the reindeer.

I did really well in school, and so, I painstakingly ensured that all of my i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, and that each word was carefully reviewed to make sure my spelling was impeccable.

Our parents were clever…they had ways of getting us to be on our best behaviour all during the holidays.

The shoes went back on the stove on New Years Eve….but in the morning of each new year, there magically appeared three of Dad’s heavy wool work socks hung behind the stove where we dried our mittens. christmas-socks-1940s-2They were filled with another lovely big juicy orange, like we’d had in our Christmas stocking, and a few extra treats that Santa had left over from his ’round the world trip on his way back to the north pole!

As young children growing up on a small island, we had no concept of time and distance, so it made perfect sense that Christmas Eve in Australia was a whole week after our Christmas Eve. Of course, now we all know that Australia’s Christmas Eve is basically the day before ours, but back then, for Santa’s trip to take an entire week went without question.

Me and my two younger sisters one Christmas morning circa 1958/59
Me and my two younger sisters one Christmas morning circa 1958/59

Our perfect little “Westport” tree, that Dad had usually drilled holes into and added branches, always stayed up until “Little Christmas”, January the 6th.

As my Catholic raised father had taught me, I always knew that January 6th was the Feast of the Epiphany; the day the Magi visited the Christ child with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and it was revealed to them that the baby was the Son of God. It is also, in the Christian faith, celebrated as Twelfth Night in some denominations.

In my mother’s Irish heritage, Little Christmas was…and still is…known as “Nollaig na mBan” or “Little Women’s Christmas”. It was the one day a year where the women got the day off from the drudgery of housework and the men were in charge of the household chores and the children. The women gathered together at the local public house…or pub…and had a glass (or SEVERAL) of stout and corned beef sandwiches, leaving all their cares at the door.

images-1On this day, we children were usually given a bag of chips…Scotties, which had stars that I collected and sent in to get books like Treasure Island and The Hardy Boys… and a small treat to celebrate. And then we would pack away all the tree ornaments for another year and Dad would haul the tree outside, where, if it still had any needles on it, he would cut the boughs off to bank our house against the harsh winter winds, along with the ones already there.

Looking back on those early years, I realize now how little we had and how difficult it must have been for our parents….but we never knew. It was never discussed in front of difficult it was to buy those oranges; the scrimping and saving to buy us that special gift . We had chores and responsibilities but worry wasn’t among them. That was for the adults, our parents. We were just allowed to be children. We were oblivious….and happy.

Grace, Glory & Love

10670074_10152767021582254_6859924459435006058_nWe shared the same Irish DNA, Dana and I. My grandfather Welch, was her great grandfather…her father, my first cousin. She got the red hair, I got the green eyes.

I remember when she was born…funny that…as I don’t remember many other births of children when I myself was a child…outside of my baby sister’s. I think I remember Dana because of that ginger hair and those curls.

A decade apart in age, by the time she started school, I had left the small island fishing village where both our stories started. Our paths crossed sporadically over the years and then about 8 years ago we reconnected…via Facebook of all things.

I was back living in the North, she in the BC Fraser Valley. We had both started blogging. Dana even landed a contract with the Huffington Post. The blog posts and the woman behind them quickly garnered a large following. I was among them.

980481_344756642315277_3546972887458950953_oI don’t know much about Dana’s life after she left the island, but I know it wasn’t easy…until she met Mike. Her King, she called him. Her, his Queen.

We corresponded back and forth over the years…a few emails, mostly private messages on Facebook….and of course our blogs. Hers was about helping…mine about healing. We laughed about some family things…we cried about others.

I remember when she said she was taking a writing class…I was afraid that she’d lose who she was by ‘conforming’ to someone else’s style…and I told her. She didn’t…it gave her confidence.

Then came the news that she had been diagnosed with cancer….#fuckcancer became her battle cry and those of us on her team circled the wagons and vowed there would be no “you poor thing” emails, messages, or blubbering conversations.

Well right now…I want to burn the fucking wagons, kick the shit of out something…scream into the cold dark night. But I don’t.

Instead I melt into a blubbering mess…sobbing my heart out as I try to find the right words to honour my friend. Dana never considered herself a ‘cancer patient’. Her response was to live each day with “Grace, Glory & Love”.

535447_10151292147247254_1720503241_nShe loved vintage clothes, but not many things got her more excited than a kick ass pair of shoes. I remember her delight when I told her about a pair of bright orange stilettos I had…and what I called them. Now THAT makes me smile.7e14ec3d00463c64d8cf6724c1fc9874

I remember sharing a couple of memories about her mother, Nancy, whom had also died young…and how Dana always planted a new rose bush each year in her memory. I like to imagine the two of them together in a field of roses, or baking bread…hmmmm, another smile.

14448775_10154382213357254_6003122785937245351_nWhen she first shared her diagnosis almost 2 years ago, I told her that while I hadn’t been a major player, I had always been on her team. Nothing would change that.

After I received word of Dana’s passing during the early morning of Christmas Eve…I cried. A lot. Just when I thought I’d cried myself dry of tears….the flood gates would open again. Many of those tears for my own loss, some were for the shortness of Dana’s life….most were for her family; her three children, her three grandchildren…two Princes and a new Princess, and for her King. God, she loved them all fiercely. And I cried for her extended family who have been through so much grief in recent years. My heart felt like it was being torn from my chest…like I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t imagine their pain.

Serendipity. Luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for. Fortunate happenstance.

A few days after her death, I was back on my computer, revisiting Dana’s blog at  and reading the posts shared on her Facebook page. When I couldn’t read through the tears anymore, I started just scrolling through my own Facebook page when a post popped up in my news feed about a piece of art that was for sale in a nearby town.

I immediately called the artist and had the piece purchased within minutes of the post. It’s an eight and a half foot high piece of driftwood, painted to look like the Aurora Borealis…or Northern Lights. I call it ‘Dana’ in her honour.

15782630_1852385068306404_1621807652_nStretching and reaching as high as she can….overcoming all the odds, the awkward little tree became a thing of immense beauty. All it took was the right person to find her and bring out her shine…her sparkle…her limitless potential. To love her unconditionally. My ‘Dana’ will hold a place of honour outside at our home. Beneath the warm sunshine of our long summer days and under the moonlight of our cold, dark nights she will continue to reach high and dance with the stars. Like the Aurora, twirling her vintage skirts of green and pink …with perhaps just a whisper of leopard print beneath the folds…to keep it interesting…and unique. Like the Dana for whom she is named. One of a kind. A gift to all of us blessed enough to enter her sphere.

The circle of life continues to spin. A birth, a death…and in between, life. Dana’s legacy is a reminder to grab that bit between our birth and our death and run with it. To be fearless. To be true to who we each are…to not conform. Adjust that crown…even if it’s a tad tarnished, hold your head high and wear it with pride. Life is short. Buy the damned shoes. And Dana….#fuckcancer. ❤


Photo Credits: Used with permission from Mike O’Dell

Photo of Dana wearing crown of roses by Sarah Sovereign Photography

All other photos of Dana by Mike O’Dell, who ‘saw’ her ❤

Driftwood Art by Natacha Kruger Rewega Paintings

Endings and Beginnings


2016. The year that drug on and on and on. The year I felt confused, disconnected and bewildered. It was unnerving to be truthful. To feel so addled for most of the year. I almost felt….well, lost is the best way I can describe it.

It didn’t start out that way. I had planned to write, paint and quilt and build things….none of that happened. I just couldn’t get myself together. I couldn’t seem to finish anything I started. I was all over the place…lost.


While the year progressed I became more frustrated with the things happening in the world…I got caught in an eddy of negativity …a whirlpool of anger at what I saw as the stupidity of people accepting what was going on around them, and worse…participating in it…the indignation that I felt didn’t seem to be common place and it frightened me.

And then I stepped back, looking in the mirror. What was happening to me, I wondered…often aloud. When did I become so distracted that my own life was becoming a mess?

As the year wore on, and I became more aware of what had been happening, I knew the answer. I had lost my concentration, my centre of gravity so to speak. off-balanced-man

I am a believer in like attracts like, so of course the more disarmed I became, the more of that confusion and frustration I attracted. Even writing this….I find it difficult to get the words to come.

As I began to think about my plans for 2017, I knew I couldn’t start the year in the same frame of mind I had been in for most of 2016. I am generally a very organized, methodical person. I needed help.

I went back to something that my friend Dana had introduced me to a few years ago. Choosing one word to be sort of your north star during the coming year. The guiding light of your life as it were. I had done this for a few years before, but Dana introduced the concept of formalizing it…focusing on choosing that one word.

As I thought about it, it was evident that once again, the word chose me. FOCUS. That is my word for 2017. I had lost my focus in 2016. It shan’t happen again. This year I have help. You see we lost Dana on Christmas Eve, 2016. But we only lost her on this plain. I feel her presence as I end this blog post…and truly, as I type these last lines, I feel more focused than I did writing this whole thing. I know that going forward into this new year, I have regained my FOCUS…