I’ve Got It! I Have Christmas Tree Syndrome!

This Christmas most of my Boomer friends have been more excited about what they did NOT get than what they did. Never mind a bunch of shiny new gadgets or sparkly new sweaters  – they are just glad they did not get COVID!

Thankfully, I did not get COVID either; but I did come down with something else this year: Christmas Tree Syndrome! I didn’t even know that such a thing existed until Richard and I spent a lovely evening with friends Christmas night. Admiring the beautiful balsam tree in their festively decorated home, and taking in the delicious spicy fragrance of balsam, my nose immediately began to snuff up and of course I feared the worst: COVID! But as we drove home from that delightful evening (and it was indeed fun!), my sinuses began to clear and I could breathe easily again. So I immediately grabbed my cell phone and consulted that great source of all wisdom, the great god Google, and guess what I learned?  I learned that I have an allergy to Christmas trees! I just didn’t realise this because, of course, we have had an artificial tree in our home for over 20 years. (Apparently most Boomers buy artificial trees – something else I had not known.) But I will not be smug. Apparently one can get an allergy from artificial Christmas trees too, especially if you store them in a damp basement all year long. Check out this link to learn more and check out this one too. Apparently more than 7% of Canadians suffer from an allergic reaction to coniferous trees.

I am still happy I spent that lovely evening with our friends Christmas night, even if I got the snuffles. And my heart goes out to all those who are suffering from far worse maladies during this holiday season, especially COVID. I pray that they will soon find healing and that you, dear reader, will stay well and safe too. May God bless you during this holy season and grant you hope, peace, health, love and joy in the coming New Year!


The other day in our Advent Study Group we talked about the New Testament characters Simeon and Anna, two elderly people who greet the infant Jesus and his parents when eight-day-old Jesus is dedicated at the Temple. Simeon has waited his whole life for the coming of Jesus. Now that his eyes have beheld the child, he can depart in peace. Anna, a widow and a prophet, has spent much of her adult life at the temple, worshipping God, welcoming visitors and sharing her deep faith with others. We can imagine that both Anna and Simeon have lived their lives mentoring others by passing on the sacred traditions of their people.

Our society aches from the lack of people like Anna and Simeon who are willing to share the wisdom of their faith traditions with the younger generations. Reflecting on the important role played by Simeon and Anna in educating the young about the spirituality of the ages, one woman in our study group lamented the fact that this year, once again, her family Christmas party with extended family has had to have been cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. These family reunions, as she noted, are one of the places where we get to share our stories about parents and grandparents and the traditions they handed down to us. I know what she means. One of my favourite times was sitting around the dinner table, hearing my grandmother and great-aunt talk about the “olden days”. I learned so much by listening to their stories.

But perhaps there are other ways we can share our stories this Christmas. After all, we can still phone our loved ones. Many of us have also learned how to Skype with relatives and friends who cannot gather with us. Then there is the lost art of “letter writing”. Our children have beautiful letters from their paternal grandparents in Scotland who, while never having caught on to the new technology, have nevertheless left them wonderful handwritten epistles that they will treasure always. That has to be far superior to Instagram and Facebook!

So if you can’t get together, try writing your loved ones a letter this Christmas. Share a special story about a childhood Christmas of which you have fond memories. And have a safe, beautiful Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year!

QUORA ASKS: What are the top 5 things you would want to advise someone who is between 50 and 60 years of age and why?

The other day my daughter sent me an interesting post from Quora which raised an excellent question: What are the top 5 thing you wish you would have done between the ages of 50 and 60 and, given what you now know, what would you advise those in that age bracket today?

A cursory glance at the answers revealed that most people wished they had focussed more on saving more money for retirement, committing to an exercise program and taking better care of their health, wishing they had started their own business or that they had ended their marriage sooner. With the odd exception, there was nothing about nurturing one’s spiritual life or intellect, building healthy relationships or spending more time with family and friends, making time to serve one’s church or synagogue or mosque, caring for Mother Earth, practising greater generosity of time, talent and resources to help one’s community, or reaching out to those who are hurting or in need. Yet, the wisdom of the ages is that these are the very things that contribute to greater happiness and meaning in life.

What do YOU think? What are the top 5 things you would want to advise someone who is between 50 and 60 years of age and why?

I would love to hear from you!

Who are you mentoring? and who mentored you?

The other day I was reading one of Flor McCarthy’s books and I came across this story of an extraordinary lamp lighter by the name of Mr. T. According to McCarthy, “Mr. T was utterly reliable and as punctual as a clock. Each evening, at the onset of darkness, the gas lamps unfailingly came on. How he judged the time nobody knew because he had no watch.

The people often watched from their front windows as he went up and down the street, leaving a trail of light in his wake. It was obvious to all that he loved his job. He lived for one thing  only – to light the lamps. His life was not an easy one but it glowed with meaning.

He was loved by everybody, but especially by the children. When darkness threatened to put an end to their street games. Mr. T. would come along, light the lamps, and they would continue to play.

What was it that made Mr. T. so extraordinary? After all, there are many people who love their work and who do it faithfully. Mr. T’s greatness lay in the fact that he was blind. The man who was so faithful in bringing the light to others never saw it himself.

Eventually electricity arrived, and Mr. T, now advanced in years, was made redundant. His life suddenly lost meaning. He felt useless and unwanted. Sadly, the people who once loved him, now forgot about him. The new light was so superior to the old one that no one regretted its passing. He spent his days and nights alone in the darkness of his basement apartment.”

Those of us who find ourselves in the third quarter of life may feel a bit like Mr. T. With the growth of modern technology, it may be that the way we trained for our various jobs or professions has completely changed, often for the better, but our own inability to keep up with the new developments has meant that our skills our woefully outdated. Or worse: perhaps the career we trained for no longer exists.

We can respond to this situation by complaining bitterly that the life and career we knew are now obsolete. Or we can take the time to learn new methods and skills. I know a few people in the third quarter of life who have successfully re-invented themselves and found new meaning and purpose. Or we can make way for someone new to take over by sharing the very real wisdom we do have and then passing the torch on. The latter requires a certain humility and generosity of spirit. It may mean doing some serious coaching of those who are coming up behind us. It may also mean being willing to give up control over how things proceed in the future.

This is what others have done for us too. Perhaps this is a good time to consider not only how we mentor those who follow us, but also how we begin to say thank you to those in the past who prepared the way for us.