Love & Light to you this Christmas


The Holidays are a magical time of year. Amidst the hectic rush of festive preparations and a busy social calendar there is always more kindness, love and joy in the air.  And by tuning into that – the love of family and friends, sharing time with people you care about, creating fun new memories, and showing how much people mean to you through word and deed… these joys of the season can remain in our hearts so strongly the entire year through.

On that note I hope that you and those you love have a restful and blessed Christmas.  May the light that fills your hearts and home shine brightly after the twinkling tree is taken down… and may you take this opportunity to savour the precious time we have, and seize the opportunities this coming year brings.

As my own family blossoms, I reflect back on this year filled with so many exciting memories, and look forward to what the future holds.  Many of you know the best gift for us will arrive in a couple of months, which has me dreaming about next Christmas and how wonderfully different it will be.  Life is change, and I feel grateful for every step that has led me to this point (even the times I stumbled).

In what is likely our last Christmas in Oxford I feel grateful for the opportunities we’ve had here; the incredible people we’ve met, worked with and become friends with; and how living in another country has opened up our hearts and minds.  It has been challenging to be apart from our family, friends and loved ones for the last two years.  But the power of love is that it stretches miles and often strengthens when tested.  Our lives have led us around the globe, and because of that pieces of our hearts are scattered across the continents.  I hope wherever you are in the world you smile, and feel the hugs and love this message brings – and hopefully life will enable us to cross paths again soon!

May this Christmas bring bliss in the simple wonders and miracles of life.  May your love and passions be renewed, and your faith restored.  And may you find peace (and perhaps some relaxation) during this time.  I hope the coming year finds you hungry, curious, brave and full of love & laughter.

Finally, while we’ve been experiencing some lovely rain and wind in England, many of my friends and family have been challenged by mother nature and a doozy Ice Storm.  In the midst of hardship what has come through most strongly is the kindness and generosity of others.  And so I leave you with this… and a reminder that all we need is love, and we have so much of it to give!

1470379_629178527144822_766947816_nWith much love ~ Erika (Malcolm, Basil and the little “Howard-to-be”)

Presence: the best gift

Basil adds the final touch to our tree!

Basil adds the final touch to our tree!

For the past few years, Christmas has provided me an opportunity to write a note to those close to me, reflecting on the year and sending wishes for the upcoming New Year… However this year, Christmas has come and gone and alas, no message.  While I love cards, I’m horrible at sending/mailing Christmas ones.  I do appreciate the internet for it’s ability to reach across the miles – especially since the last few years have taken me here, there & everywhere.  So as the time to write a note diminished, and my guilt for not doing so increased I had a realization.  Perhaps the lesson of that experience is: to go with the flow.  I am big on setting high expectations (for myself, situations, and often others as well).  Perhaps it was as I was running in the sunshine yesterday, or laughing with my niece on video chat, or even as I lay savouring (also known as attempting to digest) all of the delicious tastes, sights & sounds of the day that this realization dawned on me… perhaps it’s just a simple way for me to feel better… or perhaps it’s the knowledge that we all have a choice.  I can choose to feel angry/sad/upset that I didn’t accomplish what I had set out to do in my mind. Or I could instead, choose to fall asleep sending thoughts and wishes of love and fondness to those whom I wish I had been able to write or speak to…

Yesterday was the second Christmas I’ve spent as “Mrs. Howard”, and the first time that Malcolm and I hosted Christmas.  It just happened to be in Oxford, England – and we were hosting other rowers from the crew (who didn’t go back to North America) as well as some of their friends and family.  This could be perhaps one of the reasons why the note didn’t get sent out… but it is also the reason that Christmas felt so special this year.  First of all because Malcolm and I were together, and secondly because our little flat became a home as we welcomed other friends who were far from their homes.

This year, the role of Santa Claus (for me) was played by the UK Border Agency!  They gave me an early gift of seeing some of my family and friends as I returned briefly to acquire my Visa.  Then just as I was fearing it would take longer than expected and I would be in Canada for the Holidays, my visa was issued and passport returned!  I headed back to my UK home, just in time to prepare our little flat for the Holidays and for Malcolm’s return from their training camp.

Christmas to me this year (and all [adult] years to be honest) is never about the presents, and always about the presence. It is easy to take for granted the people you spend so much time with – your family, close friends, co-workers.  While we love these people so much, we can easily get on one another’s nerves, or take our frustrations out one another… but geography has given me perspective.  I have so many wonderful people who care so deeply for me.  They support me immensely, each in their own way.  They enrich my life with their love-stories-talent-perspectives-generosity-kindness (I could go on and on).  They love me for all of the beautiful-horrible-interesting-boring-lovely-awful things about me… and each time life takes me away from them I realize more and more how very precious each one of those relationships are.  I am so grateful to each of you.

Another Christmas lesson I learned this year is to appreciate the little things.  For example, I was in the kitchen baking and watching a Christmas movie when I heard the sound of music.  I paused the movie, but the sound faded out.  I continued on until I heard it again.  This time I peaked out our front window and saw a group of carolers!  I threw my jacket and shoes on and rushed out just to hear the tail end of a song.  A kind man and his daughter informed me that I had happened across our street’s annual carol sing, and then welcomed me to join in… and so as if in a fairy tale I walked along a sweet English road, surrounded by kind strangers and candle light, singing music celebrating this special time of year.

Caroling combines the joy of music, fellowship, and the spirit of the season!

Caroling combines the joy of music, fellowship, and the spirit of the season!

All of these small lessons and realizations have helped me see and appreciate the wonder of this time of year, and of the people I get to share it with.  Perhaps they will help you too… And so my (after) Christmas wish for you is to treasure those close to you, and reach out to those whom you wish were closer; to find beauty and joy in the simple pleasures of life (a song, a dance, a hug, a word); to recognize that all of the gifts you need you’ve likely already been given; to be open to what the universe might be suggesting (if we can listen closely enough); and finally to stay hopeful.  I think the poem Desiderata said it best:

With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

May you and those you love find peace and happiness this Holiday.  And may the coming year bring you new opportunity, courage, strength, faith, joy, and bliss!  Much love, from our little family to yours!!

xo Erika (and Malcolm & Sir Basil)

Tis the Season

As December quickly approaches, the joy of the season fills the air and Christmas spirit is all around.  I am enjoying the All Christmas Music radio station (in small doses mind you but I am none the less), and have already taken in a few Holiday Movies.  So I thought I would share some “oldies but goodies” to help kick start your Christmas fun!

My brother and I loved this one when we were kids.  It may come under the category of ‘you can’t go back’ rather than classic, but it’s at least slightly amusing! Besides my brother got his classic line “I’ll have one with extra butter” from it! Enjoy a Claymation Christmas!!! (please click on the link. I didn’t find the whole thing on Youtube so I thought I would attach it this way to make it easier to view!)

I also came across The Snowman.  I don’t believe I’ve seen it before, however it is a lovely little fantasy about a young boy’s creation coming to life.  I love how music describes the conversations and drama unfolding throughout their adventure.

What are your Holiday favourites? Songs, movies or specials? I’d love to share in the spirit that makes this season so much fun!