What I Learned From a Christmas Without Electricity

This year, in the spirit of simplicity, I celebrated the holidays without electricity.  I wanted to return to nature, test my ability to survive without modern conveniences, imagine myself as Thoreau or Ingalls-Wilder, embracing the important things that can’t be bought with money.

OR a freak hurricane-level windstorm hit Nova Scotia on Christmas Day and knocked out the grid for something like 100,000 residences and I was forced to eat cold stuffing in the dark while I grumbled to myself for nine hours about my phone battery level.

Whatever.  The important part is lessons were learned.  Those lessons are thus:

1.   It is not impossible to cook on a woodstove or a fireplace.  It IS impossible to cook on a woodstove when the wind is so strong that it blows across the top of the chimneys so fast that it acts like a damper, not allowing any oxygen down to fuel the flames (or when it does, it sends it down so fast, it extinguishes said flames).

2.  Cold stuffing is actually pretty good.  And let’s face it – some of us only endure the whole exhausting ritual of a holiday meal so that we can eat too much stuffing without being judged anyway, right?  But when you can’t cook, the rules go out the window and it moves to the next level.  How about rounding out the stuffing-based repast with appetizers of chocolates, sides of cookies and pie, with a box of wine for dessert?*

3.  Wine will stay cold in a fridge for up to nine hours without power.

4.  Wine makes you give less of a shit about what you’re missing on Netflix and Facebook.  And it’s Christmassy AF.

5.  The pet snake that you are keeping an eye on for a neighbour will not, in fact, die without his heat lamp for the aforementioned nine hours, despite your desperate attempts to determine this without being able to reach that neighbour or being able to frantically Google “snakes named Joe”.

6.  There is someone living within 300 feet of your house who named their network “Don’t try to steal this, yo”, and they still had power.  You totally could have stolen that, yo, if you hadn’t had so much wine, thereby dulling your password-deducing senses.  (This challenge has now been added to your New Year’s Resolution list.)

7.  The dog cannot, despite her firm belief that she can, scare the wind into submission by barking.

8.  It is not paranoid to have a box full of survival stuff in case of emergencies.  Those candles, oil lamps, and flashlights came in very handy.  It does, however, require some modifications, such as including more chocolate, more wine, and more books about wizards or sexy Scotsmen and maybe not quite so many books about edible forest foliage or igloo-building.

9.  When parking at the gas station to charge your phone in the car and check your voice mail, be wary of drunk holiday revelers who will repeatedly slam their car door open against your car, while shouting, “I KNOW I’m hitting the other car!  Be quiet!” to their mates.  Also, send a note to Santa for credit on next year’s nice list for recognizing that the anger you were feeling was less about the dents and more about being jealous that she was drunk and you weren’t.  Yet.

10.  Accept that you maybe wouldn’t make quite as good a pioneer as you sometimes think you would.  Even though you really like camping, you also really like hot water and computer games.

11.  It is NOT advisable to attempt to pick up dog poop on a cloudy night when the streetlights are out and you forgot to bring the flashlight.  It IS advisable to remember, though, roughly where that dog poop was deposited when you sleepily take the dog out again in the morning.  (Don’t worry – I did remember.  But I feel like it cannot be emphasized enough.)

12.  Despite your firm conviction that the Universe is pissed at you in a way that suggests Charles Dickens might, in fact, be your personal life-story author, there were likely at least a few (hundred thousand) people in Nova Scotia with it worse than you on Christmas Day this year, and perhaps, just maybe, a few (billion) outside of Nova Scotia with it worse than you all the other days of the year.  Possibly.  But regardless, that pie would have been a lot better warmed up, right?

Well, I can’t say this Christmas wasn’t in keeping with the rest of 2017, so there is something to be said for staying on-brand.  But let’s try a little harder in 2018, shall we?

Please note: A much-deserved shoutout to all the Nova Scotia Power employees who put themselves out there to get most of us back on the grid by day’s end.  Your Christmas definitely sucked more than ours.

*I’m not saying I did this.  Salad can also be part of a well-balanced cold meal, or so I’ve heard.

A Message for My Secret Santa

Dearest Sneaky MacSneakerPants :

In all the years that I have known you and worked with you, you have always been the quintessential keeper of secrets – a master spy if ever there was one…a veritable vault.  And now it has been brought to my attention that you might  perhaps, maybe,  just possibly know the identity of my Secret Santa.  Though I know you will be a hard nut to crack, I feel ready for the challenge.

My  source (who is very sneaky indeed, but not quite sneaky enough) has also let slip several hints about the alleged Secret Santa’s purchasing history (I know that someone as super-sneaky as you would never be so reckless with such sensitive information!)  But the hints are as follows:

A)  the gift is wearable;

B) the gift is actually two of something;

C) the gift is neither gloves nor socks.

Although I am known to be a profoundly patient person *ahem*, I cannot help but ponder this great mystery.

I have a feeling that if I should guess correctly and my Secret Santa was made aware, however sneaky and secretive he (or SHE) may be,  he (or SHE) might crack under the pressure and come clean.

So, although I have NO IDEA who that Secret Santa is, you do work in the same office, so I was thinking you might have connections.  Therefore I am sending my list of guesses to you in the hopes that you can do me a solid and pass it on (secretly and sneakily, of course).  My guesses are as follows:

Drea M.’s Top Ten Potential Secret Santa Gifts

  1. False eyelashes [already own some, but can always use an extra pair]
  2. Breast implants [don’t need these, thanks – trust me]
  3. Moon boots [REALLY REALLY like these!]
  4. Knee pads [might need these while using the moon boots]
  5. Wrist casts [might need these after using the moon boots]
  6. Nipple rings [I enjoy a good exotic piercing, but might be kinda weird to show off at the office party]
  7. Shoulder pads [the 80s are coming back]
  8. Ear muffs [can never have too many]
  9. Dentures [….]
  10. Pasties [there is a surprising amount of wearable things that involve boobs – ever notice that?]

Please tell my Secret Santa that I shall have no problem at all in waiting until Christmas, but I would hate for him (or HER) to have to suffer beneath the burden of keeping such important information to him (or HER) self, so he (or SHE) should know that I would be willing to share the load.

I know I can trust you with this message.

Thank you, and Happy (Early) Holidays.

Your friend, co-worker, and confidante,

Drea M.

Christmas At the Mac House

As you’ve undoubtedly come to realize, I am not a traditional kind of chick.  But with Christmas upon us, it dawned on me today that though I myself am not a person of customs, there are still things in my life which remain reassuringly the same, year after year.

One of these is the holiday visit to the ‘rents. 

Though this year I will be attending solo (due to my failure to produce grandchildren, I have been informed that my parents have no interest in meeting any of my future spousal equivalents until there is an actual ring on both of our fingers.  This,  they consider punishment.)  But I know that the basic foundation of the day will be predictable nonetheless. 

Allow me to give you a peek in the window.

I will arrive, burdened with unworthy, useless gifts that will be moved immediately upon my departure to the nether regions of the attic and/or garage and/or sock drawer, never to be seen or heard from again. 

The table for eight in the six-bedroom home will be set for four (Mom, Dad, me and the dog.  Yes, I said ‘dog.’)   With candelabra, crystal, gold-trimmed dishes and silverware, ornate centrepieces, innumerable side plates and spoons whose use only Martha Stewart and my mom really understand,  and extravagant imported Christmas crackers at each setting, which my mom will insist we all crack right away so she can force us to wear the silly hats throughout dinner.    

I will drink wine, and possibly get tipsy.  My mother will sniff mine and get a good buzz on.

Zorro (the dog) will get his dinner first (on the gold-trimmed plate), so that he is free to beg during the actual meal.  This year he will snub us once dessert is served, because he was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year and so will not be able to partake in the sweet courses.

My dad will eat turkey and keep a very close eye so that none of the ‘toad food’ (tofurkey) that my mother and I will be eating gets on his plate.  In fact, he won’t eat any meat from unwrapped packaging in the fridge for a couple of weeks, just in case he accidentally chooses a soy hot dog that I may have somehow left behind during my visit.

There will be 800 types of pies, squares, cakes, cheesecakes, and other assorted sugar-based foods to choose from, of which I’ll eat a bite or two and my mother will look sad.  My dad, however, usually helps pick up the slack.

Then we will gather around the 10-foot tall, 6-feet-in-diameter Christmas tree (because my mother goes big or not at all) to watch Zorro open his presents.  My father will grin like a proud father in the delivery room as he takes 6000 photos that will look exactly like the ‘Zorro opening his gifts’ photos from the past 11 years. 

Then, even though my parents decided to give me my car insurance this year for Christmas because they couldn’t think of what to get me and they promised not to buy any gifts for me, there will be a huge pile of presents for me to tackle because I am a spoiled rotten little brat.  Clothes from Mom, power tools from Dad.

It is then nap time.  Because even though I don’t eat turkey, I am fundamentally profoundly lazy and napping just seems right at times like these.

And there you have it, folks – that’s about the gist of it. 

It’s nice to know that some things never change, though, isn’t it?

Published in: on December 20, 2008 at 3:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On the Importance of Always Remaining Just a Bit Out of Touch With Reality – Part II

A girl sits alone in a small emergency dispatch office.  It is the middle of the night.  The room is dark but for a single light above the desk and the twinkling of the Christmas tree lights.

She sits before the monumental task of preparing the monthly emergency reports with the satisfaction that comes from creating order from chaos.  It  is a good job.  It makes her feel important.

But in the back of her mind, she is dreaming of far-off places and the adventures that they hold.  The smell of the Christmas tree stirs a sense of anticipation; the old year draws to an end and a new one is about to begin.  She inhales deeply and shivers with pleasure at the mysteries that lie ahead.

Suddenly, a radio crackles to life, a radio which ensures constant communication with emergency personnel.  The girl casts aside her musings and leaps into action.  There is important business here, lives to be saved.

She keys the mike and speaks.  “Scotia here.  Go ahead, over.”

The speakers crackle again.  A momentary pause.  Then the firefighter’s voice bursts forth, with only a hint of suppressed laughter.

“What are you wearing?”


Another Friday night in Bridgewater.

The Ghost of Christmas Presents

Okay, if I have learned one thing about myself in my years as me, it is this:  I am completely full of shit.  Totally.  The instant I apply a label to myself, I will immediately turn right around and behave in a contradictory manner, apparently.

Remember a few blog posts back, when I mentioned how much I hatehatehatehate shopping?  Yeah, uh, well…I forgot about TOY SHOPPING!!!

‘Kay, I’m 12.  I know.  Don’t care.

See, I used to be such a Scrooge.  I lived with a guy for 10 years and each year, I would sit on the couch reading a book while he decorated the tree alone.  Well, except for the single obligatory ornament that he would actually place in my hand and insist that I hang – which I did.  Without taking my eyes off my book.

But see, we didn’t have kids.  And none of our friends had kids.  We existed in a toyless world.  (Unless you count the fraternity bong…which, I guess you could…okay, off-topic, nevermind…)

THEN I dated a guy whose package deal included a six-year-old.  Well, forget all the horror stories you hear about stepmoms.  Being a stepmom is AWESOME.  It’s all about the toys, man.  That kid loved me.  I had many, many toy-shopping-free years to make up for.  He was spoiled rotten. 

The first Christmas I had Max in my life, I went totally apeshit.  I mean, do you have any idea how cool it is to have every single Lord of the Rings action figure??  Did you know that Aragorn actually swooshes his sword right out of its sheath when you squeeze his legs?  Did you know that it’s very, very important for parents to ‘test’ the toys while putting them under the tree for, you know, um, quality control?

And then – THEN – all of my friends’ kids started growing up out of the baby stage and into the toy stage.  Oh, be still my heart! 

Today…I found…[wait for it]…a Gwen Stefani doll.  Yes, it’s true.  And a little barn filled with little tiny stuffed farm animals that…[wait for it]…make the appropriate animal sounds when squeezed.  And kiddie art stuff – oh!  the kiddie art stuff!!  *swoon*

And as soon as I’m done playin’ with ’em all, I’ll wrap ’em up.