Santa

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

No doubt the jolly big soul with the red suit, white beard and "ho ho ho" will be making guest appearances in many communities this weekend - whether socially distanced or through virtual broadcasts. Certainly, Santa Claus brings much joy, smiles and great memories of Christmas's past to family and friends. Safe travels Mr. Claus and good luck on your final stretch of checking those lists for who has been naughty or nice.

Continuing along my daily blog posts inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", I am actually going to post a personal memory today. It relates to Santa Claus Coming to Town.

I have heard of numerous Santa Claus parades and tree lightings taking place, with Toronto's parade coming to us December 5th - virtually. I know that my hometown of Kenora had their annual tree lighting at Main and Second Street last week. A virtual tree lighting illumination Canada wide is scheduled for the 17th.

Thank you to the volunteers and organizers who are adapting their plans so that communities and their Santa Claus parades can continue as a remarkable tradition. I'm not quite sure how the jolly old man in the red suit can make it back and forth to all of these communities, and keep an eye on his workshop at the North Pole. However, that is all part of the magic of the Christmas season.

I've met Santa in Toronto on several occasions. One of the most memorable was when Santa was attending a Variety Village event. He asked me if we would be attending the parade. I advised that we would be attending and that we would be above the old Shopsey's store at the turn from Yonge Street to Front Street. Santa asked me the names of my children. He advised that if Kathy and I and our children were at the end of the terrace closest to Yonge and Front that he would shout out a greeting to our family. Well...you can just imagine. As the parade was winding down, there was great anticipation for the arrival of the final float. Kath and I quickly gathered up Helena and Clark and took our position nearest Yonge and Front Street. As Santa's float made the turn he was greeting all the mom's and dad's and then said "and a big hello to Helena and Clark...Merry Christmas!". The look on the faces of Helena and Clark with just one of those truly magical moments of Christmas.  They were simply awestruck in the moment.

We have had many awesome moments through all those years of attending the Toronto Santa Claus parade. That year took the prize for an all-time great in the book of awesome. Thanks to the Toronto committee that has kept this fine tradition alive all these years - even through these challenging times.

Santa. Wherever you are this fine Friday eve. Wishing you safe travels and well wishes for a great holiday season. Ho Ho Ho !

@fergdevins


Baby in the mall

Crying Kids in the Mall - Not Yours ! Amen...

OK - I know that Mall visits are limited - but I always got a smile on this story line - Gotta feel for those "new parents" or the parents with "that kid" that starts to holler, whine, complain, moan, scream...just as they are headed towards Santa and Mrs. Claus at the local mall. Not to worry mom and dad, for those of us who have had kids...we've been there done that. Somehow Santa usually, most times, gets that child back under control once they approach the big lad in the red suit. Enjoy the mall and more importantly enjoy those kids - no matter what the mood beholds.

The next post of Holiday Awesome that I am drawing from Neil Pasricha's "Book of (Holiday) Awesome is all about the crying kids in the mall. Of course, the awesomeness that he points to is that the kid is not yours.

Calling on all parents. Don't feel bad about the child crying in the mall. Those of us that are parents can quickly tell you that we've been there and done that. Don't be embarrassed, don't rush off with the child, don't hide in the washroom until soothers are in place. Just let your child wail away until consoled and carry on with your Christmas or Holiday shopping.

The fact is you are probably bringing joy to many of us that have fond memories of our own children at that age. I do recall so many seniors that would have commented: "I remember those years of joy". I know, I know, that moment of wailing in the mall is not a current moment of joy for the current parent. However, the point I'm making is that those around you are likely not as fussed or embarrassed as you being the parent. We all sympathize and have a little smile inside to share with you.

And Santa's lap...always good for a loud wail now and again...smiles.

@FergDevins


snow shoveling

Snow Shoveling Etiquette this winter

That neighbourly moment truly appreciated when you go to shovel the front walk...and it is already done for you! There are lots of folks who struggle with winter, ageing neighbours, sickly folks, bad backs and those who are just too busy getting their day started to worry about the snow that has fallen. A little wintry support can go a long way.

Greetings friends and family across this great nation. By the looks of the Global News weather reports, some of you are facing snow, others still waiting. I thought that in the context of my string of blog posts inspired by Neil Pasricha's "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome" that I would post about shovelling etiquette.

Neil Pasricha refers to the awesome moment being "When the neighbour shovels your little patch of the sidewalk".

It is that wonderful surprise when you turn the corner after shovelling the back driveway and realize that your neighbours have already completed your front walk! How about that neighbourly support. It is truly wonderful and only something experienced through the courtesy shovelling of snow. It's not like they pop over to rake and bag leaves in the fall. Have you ever had a neighbour drop in when you have a branch down after a wind storm? But, that winter magic of snowfall just brings out the goodwill in all of us.

My son and I actually look forward to "the big dump" when we can lend a hand and fire up our snow blower to help out folks along the street. Ok ok, so the boys get to play with their toy. It is gratifying to blow the snow, shovel the walk and see the smile on the faces of neighbours as they awake to find the snow shovelling "done".

Long-range forecasts today are suggesting a much snowier winter in Canada this winter. Tune-up those snow shovels and get out and surprise your neighbours.

@fergdevins


Light Them Up

With December 01 upon us, neighbourhoods are lighting up across the nation. Our tradition for our family is usually to light up the outdoor lights on American Thanksgiving. However, I have noticed that a lot of people were working on their lights over the weekend. With a freshly fallen snow on the ground today in Toronto, the city will be aglow tonight has neighbours Light Them Up.

One of my most favourite tasks of the holiday season is to put the lights up on the trees outside. In recent years the task has become quite enjoyable.  Our extended autumn delivers fairly mild weather for stringing the lights. One custom that I have adopted is to place the lights on the outdoor trees the weekend of the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. I maintained that tradition this year, the day of the parade. Even this year, although the Toronto parade will be aired "virtually" on December 5th, I chose the traditional November weekend to hang and test the lights.

Neil Pasricha's reference to this task is on page 7 of his "Book of (Holiday) Awesome" . He refers to the awesomeness being the fact that you are "plugging in your Christmas lights from last year and having them all work". I must admit that up until two years ago, this was always an issue for me. I was a late convert to the new LED light systems. The original old-style lights were far more fragile and breakable than the new LED versions. The LED versions are also much easier to string and remove for storage as well. They are also getting more brilliant as the years pass by.

I am sure that I will still be faced with the surprise of half strings undone when I go to light up the indoor lights. I still have lights from many years of adding strings to the indoor tree. Hey!  Maybe this year is the year that we should finally make the transition to LED lights for the indoor tree as well. (NOT) Has anyone made this transition and have feedback on that front? Does the tree glisten with the new as well as the old light systems?

I hope friends were able to string lights prior to today. This ice pellets, freezing rain and snow would be a challenge for sure. The rule in our household, as dictated by my dearly beloved sweetheart wife, is that the lights are allowed to be turned on the day that our neighbours to the south celebrate American Thanksgiving. Thus, Thursday, November 26th was the tree lighting at the Devins.

Wishing you all well in your plans for tree lighting this Christmas season. Ho Ho Ho.

Instagram @fergdevins

Twitter @fergdevins

 


Fairmont YVR Christmas Tree

Hotel Lobbies and the Joy of Christmas

Soon after Remembrance Day in Canada each year, hoteliers spark up their lobbies for the Christmas Season. It adds one of those joys of the season for travellers who are away from loved ones as the holidays approach. Thanks to hoteliers around the world for sharing this joy with us.

Keeping consistent with the Neil Pasricha, "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", my post today is reflecting on the joy of Christmas while travelling.

When travelling on business, it was always interesting to see various states of decoration as the month of November progressed. It was particularly gratifying when met with a winter storm in November, to see a Christmas tree or decorations in the hotel lobby upon arrival. The warmth of Christmas decorations helped dismiss the inconvenience of snow, slush, slow roads, heavy traffic and grumpy winter travellers.

Travelling to British Columbia in 2017, I arrived late on Sunday night and bunked in at the Fairmont Hotel at the Airport in Vancouver.

To my absolute delight, there was an "upside-down" Christmas tree hanging in the lobby. There were also several other trees and decorations in the main lobby area. It is just such a wonderfully welcoming feeling to see these lobbies decorated for the season.

I truly think that hoteliers worldwide should take a bow for the work that you and your staff put into decorating your properties for the holiday season. Just know that hard work does bring joy to travellers at this time of year.

Although your visitors at hotels around the world will be severely reduced in this COVID year, your guests will undoubtedly appreciate the spirit of the season that you bring to your public spaces.

Simply - awesome work.

@fergdevins

 


From the Book of (Holiday) Awesome

I am going to "re-blog" this series that ties to the work of Neil Pasricha and the Book of Holiday Awesome. Thanks for the inspiration Neil, and for those who enjoyed these posts. Back due to demand...happy holiday season planning everyone. @fergdevins

The Holiday season and the celebration of Christmas

Firstly, for me as a Christian, it is truly the Christmas season. I have also had many Muslim, Jewish and Hindu friends suggest to me that they also look at this coming time of year as the "Christmas Season", with other celebrations of faith and community included. I sometimes find it humorous when companies or individuals try to neutralize the season to be non-faith based. "Holiday Greetings", "Season's Greetings", are often phrases we might here. As a close Muslim friend of mine stated,  "get over it, it is Christmas!". Whatever your faith, it is a time of year to be grateful for all that we have and to work towards greater peace, harmony, and joy amongst all human beings. During these COVID-19 times, we will be gathering less and distancing more. However, there are so many social channels for us to help replace the face to face with virtual gatherings. Here's wishing everyone a safe and secure Christmas and Holiday season.

A Time With Family and Friends

Regardless of faith or your own beliefs, it is a wonderful time of year where family and friends rejoice. I was truly taken by the work of Neil Pasricha and his "Book of (Holiday) Awesome".  As Neil works on his mission to help people live happy lives, his work in this book is certainly a written legacy of happiness. So...virtually create your own bits of #awesome this holiday season.

Neil Pasricha's Work

I reached out to Neil in November of 2017 and asked for his permission to post and share some of the content from his wonderful work throughout the holiday season. He graciously accepted my request. Thanks, Neil! For true joy and guaranteed smiles, check out Neil's works at Amazon.ca.

Time for Awesomeness

So, over the next number of weeks (commencing November 12th and ending December 31st) I am going to share excerpts from Neil Pasricha's work "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome".

I hope that it may warm your hearts and make you think a bit of how you might spread a little Holiday Awesomeness as we wrap up 2017.

Here we Go

The first thought of awesomeness from page three of Neil's book is related to "Getting a Christmas card from someone you thought you lost touch with". Realistically, we are all probably a little less involved with the physical handwritten Christmas cards as the year's progress. There are so many "online" options to choose from. Many just simply post an electronic message to their "contact list" and email blast away. I'm still a big fan of personalized outreach on special occasions. It is wonderful to share a Christmas message that is personalized so that your networks can relate to you and your family and loved ones at Christmas. However, there truly is nothing like receiving that direct connection from someone you have not heard from in a long time - whether that is a physical greeting card or email.

As Neil points out, "life is short and always wavering", thus friendships are worth sustaining, worth investing in, "worth enjoying and worth savouring".

So here we go - post one of the season is up and running. Follow more posts via The Devins Network on Facebook, Instagram , Twitter and LinkedIn.

Through my networks, I hope to add a little spice of happiness, from the inspiration that Neil Pasricha has provided through his work.

Have an Awesome Holiday Season everyone - May the Christmas Spirit be large in your lives!

@fergdevins


Queen's Band Macy's Parade

Love a Parade

American Thanksgiving, no matter where you are in the world, will always be a morning to watch the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is a spectacular production that has withstood the test of time.

In 1983, I was fortunate enough to have marched in the parade as a member of the Queen's University at Kingston - Queen's Bands. Look at that dapper bass drummer in the middle of the shot. Yep, young Fergus Devins! The photo atop was our pipe band contingent. Oh my gosh, my feet were sore after marching around Manhattan with that bass drum strapped on.

Whether participating in or spectating at, a community parade is just simply one of the events of the holiday season and Christmas festivities that leaves us feeling awesome. Although not one of Neil Pasricha's references in his "The Book of (Holiday) Awesome", I did want to refer to the joy that a parade brings to the community. It is certainly a cultural event - lining up along the street, hand warmers engaged, hot chocolate in hand, lawn chairs in place.

Thanks to the magic of google you can find a lot of Ontario based parades and Christmas events at PARADES LINK 2020. Given the fact that many parades in communities across Canada have altered plans and gone "virtual", you are likely best to google your own community and find out what your local volunteer and organizing committee has planned to welcome Santa Claus to your streets this holiday season.

For those parades come and gone, thanks to the organizers, for those yet to take place outdoors - put on your woollies - virtual or not!

@fergdevins

 


American Thanksgiving

During these pandemic times, it makes for a very special and different way to think of American Thanksgiving.

A day when you might grab a coffee and watch the Macy's Parade from New York City. (modified for your viewing pleasure). I have a special place for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, given that I marched as the bass drummer for the pipe band, Queen's University Marching bands in November of 1983.

Or perhaps American Thanksgiving is a day when you might gather locally in Canada with family and friends from the states. We won't be doing that this year, in our current lockdown here in Toronto.

It would traditionally be one of the busiest travel times of the year in the United States. In fact, some would suggest that the Thanksgiving period in the US has more interstate and "in and out" travel to the United States than any other period during the calendar year.

That might be true in a normal year, but not in a pandemic year.

Hopefully, folks are staying safe, staying close to home, celebrating with limited numbers of family and close friends and taking all the precautions that public health area suggesting. These include but are not limited to social distancing - washing hands frequently - hand sanitizing - wearing masks and limiting travel and mixing and mingling.

We will be thinking of our friends in the United States and hope that they are safe and secure.

Happy American Thanksgiving.

@FergDevins

 


Snowfall

The First Big Snowfall 2020

With the white fluffy stuff all around us in Toronto today and given the look of weather forecasts and winter storm conditions coast to coast to coast, this blog post seems so appropriate this afternoon. With a blanket of snow in several parts of the country, it is hard to believe that the official first day of winter is still weeks away (December 21). Cheers to the first snowfall.

No matter where you are in Canada you might be thinking of that first big snowfall. If you recieved this post as a tweet feed you might be thinking "Where are you Ferg?". The post is actually inspired by the work of Neil Pasricha and his 2011 copyrighted edition of "The Book Of (Holiday) Awesome". Neil's work is very inspiring and in fact, he has created an ongoing #pandemicedition of all things awesome since the start of these challenging times.

In his original work, Neil reveals a series of moments during the holiday season that is just simply awesome.

The moment of awesome that I refer to today is that first big snowfall of the season. Growing up in Kenora, Ontario on the northernmost shore of Lake of the Woods, that first big snowfall was often Halloween. We'd put on our snowsuits and our Halloween garb and head out to the streets for trick and treating. Not as frequest but often too was snowfall on Thanksgiving weekend. We have always been cautious on heading back up to the lake for Thanksgiving to close up camp, given the possibility of these winter conditions that could be upon us.

Often times the first snowfall would catch everyone by surprise. In that regard, you might have had a 50/50 chance of a "snow day". In the north, we didn't see many "snow days". In fact, it was kind of a "buck it up buttercup" approach. We are in the north and it will snow. Southern Ontario, I found, was a little less capable of quickly adapting to the first dump of snow. Ha ha...we all remember the time that Mayor Mel Lastman called in the army to deal with our snow in Toronto.

I remember when I was a young District Manager at Molson in the 90's. If I had my team meeting on Monday and a snowfall was forecasted, I would just plan to get there early. My team would arrive late and complain of the snowfall. I'd quickly ask them if they had heard the forecast for snow and question why they had not planned for the probability of slower traffic. I guess that was just the "northerner" in me...smiles.

When at College and University, it was always a joyous time of year to have the first snow arrive. Sometimes it meant that expectations were lowered on arrival to class. On the way to class, there would be numerous snowball clashes. It was always a bit humorous to see who was prepared with boots or still wearing running shoes or less that appropriate footwear for the conditions.

As a parent with young children, the first snowfall was always magical. The joy of that first snowfall and just getting the chance to get out and romp around in the snow was such a heartwarming sight to see. Even our two Portuguese water dogs over the years loved to see that first snowfall and desired a walk in the white stuff.

In many parts of Canada, the first snowfall is the true mark of a change in season. In many areas that means that the winter has truly started and here to stay. In Toronto, it means that it will be a little inconvenient as the ploughs figure out what streets to plough (if they plough) and that it is going to be sloppy for a few days. However, in Toronto, it likely means that it is truly a passing fancy. Gone are the days where snow arrives and stays for months, let alone weeks. This snowfall today is plentiful, weighing down boughs on trees, adding up on the lawns, staying on rooftops and starting to accumulate as slush in the local streets. But...it will likely be gone within 48 hours.

So as Neil would suggest, that first snowfall puts us in a context for nostalgia and stories of years gone by. The first snowfall is truly #awesome.

Enjoy your first snowfall of 2020, today, perhaps already or soon to come.

PHOTO credit Helena Devins - she is one of those stalwart fans of winter and the great outdoors.

Enjoy.

@fergdevins

 

 


bladder cancer awareness

Fundraising during a Pandemic

Success for #BladderCancer Canada annual walk

It was early in 2020’s awareness of the pending Corona Virus.

At Bladder Cancer Canada, staff and volunteers quickly moved to assess whether physical walks held in September (which had been ongoing for close to ten years) were a reality, or whether we should pivot to a virtual model.

Some of us actually felt that we should wait just two more weeks and re-assess. Others pushed hard to make the call and get on with the appropriate planning. The call was made. Go virtual was the call. Thankfully.

Rather than a specific weekend or alternate weekend, the decision was made to make September a month to “walk where you are”. The 20+ communities that would have held walks, continued with their walk site planning — www.bccwalk.ca . Plans were also made to have a celebration video made to be aired on YouTube October 7th.

I chose to “walk where I am” and did so on Coney Island in Kenora on the September long weekend. I got in a great 5k stroll, joined at a safe distance with members of my family and neighbours on our island.

On a personal goal of $50,000, I raised close to 76% of my goal. In my mind, and with challenges facing friends and family I am delighted with the result.

Nationally we had a target goal of $600,000 — of which we achieved 71%.

Given that we did not have congregate walks, registrations of walkers declined significantly.

However, the passion and commitment of our bladder cancer patient community in Canada walked on and we achieved this important revenue for Bladder Cancer Canada — www.bladdercancercanada.org

With these results there are some key learnings:

  • Be nimble, make a decision, layout the plan — work the plan
  • Ask your former donors to please support you — this was key — and they were so pleased that I was not giving up due to COVID-19
  • My message was clear — I would appreciate the support, but also respect that in these challenging times support for charities may be another more urgent need or these times might prevent giving — Respect for your donors.
  • Reminder emails work — each time sent — each time received support
  • Strive to keep the message strong, in the face of the pandemic noise
  • Work social and traditional channels. We were so fortunate to have our national media partners — Global/Corus supporting us through then network and stations across the country — again — the need to breakthrough

Thanks to those who supported me and others, as we walked to raise awareness and funds in the fight against #bladdercancer. I/we appreciate YOU.

Ferg Devins