While Visions of Sugarplums danced in their Heads

Grab Those Sugarplums While You Can!



We’re down to the last few kilometers in the Christmas madness marathon!

I made the mistake of going out to Wal-Mart this Saturday afternoon to buy a few last minute stocking stuffers. I know, I know, what was I thinking? Blame it on my poor sick mother who needed me to get groceries for her at the supermarket up on Kelsey drive that just happens to be right next door to Wally World. Hey, she needed a new topper for her Christmas tree, okay?

The lure of “everyday low prices” drew me like a siren song as I swung into the shopping district and studiously avoided looking for a parking space in front of the Sobeys Superstore, and instead spied a prime open spot almost in front of Wal-Mart’s front door. Karma, right?

The greeter smiled at me as I breezed in through the portal, the doors opening wide, welcoming me as if I was shopping royalty. She reached for a shopping cart to help launch me into high gear procurement mode, but there wasn’t a four wheeled plum picker in sight. I could see way down in the back of the parking lot, a scrawny little dude remote-controlling the Polar Express of all blue shopping carts, across the tarmac. I couldn’t watch as mothers towing toddlers and little old ladies in walkers scurried out of the way to avoid being mowed down. Luckily for me, a chivalrous exiting shopper offered me his tender, so off I went on my quest for deep discount prices.

My first stop was the candy department, conveniently located right inside the front door, offering every sort of confection known to man. I hunted through the shelves, grabbing all the family favorites; After Eight Mints, Chocolate covered Cherries, Turtles, Hershey Kisses and those Luscious Belgian Chocolate Lindor Truffles, of which they only had the hazelnut kind left. Oh well.

I don’t know what it is about the week before Christmas that puts you in panic mode, shopping. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of the seemingly endless to-do list of tasks still to be completed, or the fear that you don’t have enough stuff bought to fill the bottomless stockings, but there is this feral frenzy that comes over you to buy. Before I knew it, my cart was full of socks and underwear, a velour track suit for Nanny, a fluffy pink bathrobe, some wrapping paper, and a three foot light up Darth Vader lawn ornament, along with the aforementioned candy and chocolates.

I stopped to admire the trinkets in glass cases at the jewellery department and when I turned around, some middle aged dude was picking through the stuff I had stowed in my cart! When I turned on him with the territorial zeal of a rabid German Sheppard, he backed off apologetically, smarting from the glower that was radiating off my countenance. I must have made an impression on him, because when I queued up behind him in the checkout line, he once again apologized for his mistake. I might have forgiven him if his wife hadn’t picked up the last two packages of milk chocolate Lindor truffles on the rack in the checkout aisle. Crap!

Well, the spirit of Christmas must have shone down upon me as I neared the cashier, forty minutes later as the shopping cart snooper’s wife decided at the last minute to leave the Lindor chocolate behind, and I triumphantly scooped them up and added them to my pile of schwag. Happily, I gloated as the cashier rang up my purchases and even managed to remain standing when she finally read out the total of $429.98! Will that be cash or charge? Arrrrgggghhhh!!!!

sparkly norma

Have You Been out Christmas Shopping Lately?

Christmas Shopping Madness!

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 Have you been out Christmas shopping yet?  Holy Christmas rage Batman!!!

Last Friday was the annual “Save 20% Night” at the Avalon Mall or ”Midnight Madness” as it is affectionately known.  It’s the St. John’s version of “Black Friday” where the fervor of the Christmas shopping rush is stoked by the ingestion of large doses of turkey, compliments of the US Thanksgiving   The week leading up to the event, all you hear on the radio are advertisements for gigantic blowout specials, Bogo deals, and free gift with purchase offers at participating stores.  The kids are whipped into a frenzy with promises of a talking Christmas tree, dancing reindeer*, visits with Santa and a special appearance by Captain America!  It is an event not to be missed!

At quitting time, people in offices all over town are lined up like marathon runners, sneakers on, water bottles in hand, credit cards at the ready,  waiting for the clock to strike five.  All routes leading into the Shopping District resemble Nascar tracks, as rabid drivers jostle for position, trying to gain entrance to the Mall parking lot, horns blaring and rude hand gestures abounding.  Once you finally make it onto the parking lot, the next half hour is spent “hovering”, waiting for a parking spot to open up.  It is a generally accepted rule of courtesy that if one is parked with their indicator flashing when a shopper returns to their car to vacate their parking spot, the waiting driver gets to take it.  However, there is the occasional arrogant asshole who will pull  in ahead of the waiting driver and claim the spot.  This leads to tempers flaring, curses being shouted and threats of nasty retaliation being made.  Some people, of course, will inevitably step outside the bounds of authority and park their cars in no parking zones and places where one would never even think to put a car.

Once you finally gain access to the five hundred thousand square feet of shopping mania, the fun really begins.  The mall is decked out in the season’s finest trimmings.  The ‘muzak’ is blaring and a stroller queue of overtired, overstimulated tots are kicking up didoes in the center court, bawling their eyes out as their mothers plant them on Santa’s lap for pictures.  Terrifying! You finally make it down to the electronics store only to find out the fifty inch smart TVs they were selling for three hundred bucks sold out an hour after opening this morning.  You almost buy the seventy inch with the 3D images of shark week playing, until you realize that you’d have to sell your car, all of your clothes, and possibly your firstborn  to be able to afford it. Your head gets muddled and you try and remember who’s on your Christmas list and who you’ve got left to buy something for, but everything is so distracting, and isn’t that little dress perfect for the company Christmas party!  An hour later, you’ve burned through all your cash and half the remaining credit limit on your cards.  Only five more gifts to buy!  At this point your feet are aching, your head is pounding and you’re dry as the Sahara desert and the line up at Tim Hortons is still a mile long.   Suddenly someone yells, “There’s a fresh delivery of Disney “ Frozen” dolls at Walmart!!” and you plaster yourself against a wall to avoid being stampeded by the hoard of frenzied parents swarming the exit.

Now that you are freshly caffeinated, with a bellyful of Timbits to boot, you get your second wind and attack the rest of the stores with a vengeance.  Jostling bags, boxes, and rolls of Christmas wrap, you squeeze through the Mall exit door at 11:45 pm, your feet ready to fall off, and you realize that you’re parked over in the west parking lot, which means a half hour long hike around the Mall.

And that, my friends, is only the start of the Christmas Madness.  I swear to God, this year I will be ordering my Christmas groceries at the mom and pop store that delivers, and the cookies and Christmas cake will likely be purchased at a bakery.  To hell with Christmas traditions, next year I’m going on a cruise!




*Dancing Reindeer, I kid you not!





Down in the Trenches

Remembering the Trenches, Now and Then

the hole





Down in the Trenches

Last weekend we took an extended long weekend at our country home.  Well deserved, I figure, as not only was it the Remembrance Day holiday, but also my November eleventh birthday!  Awesome, you may assume, a nice relaxing weekend away from work, watching war newsreels and movies on tv, and the laying of wreaths at the local war memorials, with some birthday cake on the side, right? Wrong.  Hubby had other plans.

Paul had been nattering on about having to replace the weeping tile around the foundation of our cabin and he decided that this was going to be the project for the weekend. “Okay,” says I, “Hope you have some male friends lined up to help with the installation.” (Ha! Fair warning, it ain’t gonna be me!)  So out we go over the Trans Canada Highway with a pickup load of construction materials and equipment.  By the time we arrive at the cabin, all of the ground surrounding the foundation had been dug up, leaving a five foot deep trench, right around the perimeter and mounds of dirt everywhere. It looked just like a scene right out of the battle of the Sommes.  The track marks of a large tractor had left scars in the ground, as if a troop of tanks had just rolled through.

Overnight, the turncoat weather decided to side with the enemy.  All night, the rain pounded on the roof.  Lightning lit up the skies like bursting mortar shells and the thunder rolled over us like a squadron of B 52 bombers.  As dawn broke, Paul stared morosely out at the rain streaming down out of the heavens.  “Better wait till it lets up a little,” was all he said.  Plans, instructions, and diagrams littered the kitchen table as he  plotted his strategy like a five star general.

Around about 0-eight hundred the rain started to let up and with no cavalry riding in to lend a hand, I got drafted to “help”.  Just enough water was rolling off the eaves to drip down our necks and the damp cold cut you like a bayonette.  In addition to the weeping tile, Paul had decided to put up Styrofoam insulation AND imitation stone siding, a job that would take most handymen at least a week with a crew of “helpers”.  Unfortunately, I was the only one that showed up for roll call, and I could see my weekend plans for R & R slipping away.

Armed with a hammer drill, an electric screwdriver, and   boxes of screw-in fasteners, we headed down into the trenches prepared to do battle.  The wind was blowing so hard that I feared that If it got behind me while I was carrying a sheet of insulation from the garage to the work site, I would be blown away out over the hills like a wayward paratrooper!  All you could hear was the whining of the drill and the flying artillery of screws being driven into the concrete block wall.  The black goop was still tacky, and every time we got a glob of it on our hands, it inevitably got smeared onto our faces and clothes, like some kind of crazy camouflage.  The only casualty we suffered was the loss of the chuck key for the electric drill, which got lost somewhere down in the dirt and leaves in the bottom of the trench, You can’t beat the camaraderie of brothers at arms, however, and as we paused to admire what we had accomplished at the end of the day, I was  thankful to have survived with all fingers intact and to still be able to hobble up the ladder out of the hole.

Many a time that day, as we endured the uncomfortable weather and the misery of having to be there until the job was finished, it crossed my mind about how hard it must have been for those brave men and women who left their families and homes, dutifully answering a call to arms to go to fight an unknown enemy on foreign soil.

Later that day, we watched the news reports of the Remembrance Day Services, and saw the pride and also the sorrow on the faces of the veterans as they relived the memories of those days of war and the struggle and the loss.  We felt, once again, the pain of the young soldier shot to death as he stood on guard at a war memorial monument in our nation’s capital, and we recognized the enormous debt of gratitude we owe these people, one that we must never forget.

I think next year I will grow some poppies…..



Social Media Schnaffles

Define: Schnaffles


I’m not sure that schnaffles is even a word, but if it describes being hogtied while a tornado whips around you, for me, that’s what being thrust into the vortex of the social media craze is like.

Being in the “over fifty” age group, I have pretty much been playing catch up with technology since the millennium changed, considering we never even owned a computer until 2001. It was only half way through my career with the bank that we went from a manual posting system to a brand spanking new computerized system. Let me tell you, there was as much squealing and groaning and resistance coming out of the old banking matrons as there is out of a seized brake caliper on a car that hasn’t moved in ten years! Funny how we are all resistant to change, even when we know it’s going to make our work easier, faster, and more efficient.

Since I decided to jump into the book writing and publishing arena, my mentor and publishing guru informs me that I need to have a “social media platform” in place so that people will be able to get to know who I am, and can find out more about my work. “Okay” says I, not knowing a tweet from a hoot, and not having a clue how to blog or how to set up a website. My old friend, Facebook was the only familiar vehicle I recognized on the whole SM parking lot. “Not to worry” says my publishing guru, I can set up all of that for you, no problem!

So now I’m out there on the internet radar. I have not one, but two domain names, both .com and .ca, which is kinda funny, being a non-bilingual Canadian, but having a national and international domain name! I have a Twitter account, a Hootsuite account, a personal Facebook account as well as a professional Facebook account. I am LinkedIn, plugged in and friends with people I don’t even know. The learning curve is like that of a giant geodesic dome covering the northern hemisphere! To say I’m out of my element is rather an understatement. I have faith in my mentor and techno-guru, however, that all will be well and in time, I will be comfortable with it all. And so, I’m taking baby steps, sending out a few tweets, blogging a few blogs which will show up on my website, Authornormacook. com/ca. Now that a web designer guru has whipped up this webpage, then I can truly say, “I have arrived”.

So, friends, if you read some of my posts for the first little while, and it doesn’t sound like me, it’s probably not! (But I’m getting there.)


social media



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