Monthly Archives: December 2015

Happy New Year, and Peace Out

Picking up some other dog’s poo is a little like changing the diaper of someone else’s baby. It’s just so much more disgusting than dealing with your own infant’s nappy, the contents of which are somehow less gross and more perfect. But my daughter walks three or four dogs besides our own, so she’s somewhat inured to the filth factor. And when she’s picking up after our pooch, spots a towering turdpile that another dog owner failed to collect, and reaches over to get that one too, I can’t help but admire her fortitude.

I’m trying to tie this into a New Year’s theme. As we slit open the shrink wrap on our new songbird wall calendars (you all have one too, right?), we’re probably reflecting on what a 12 months it has been. Without question, there have been devastating tragedies. They’ve touched total strangers across the ocean, and people we know, close to home.

But these horrific events don’t define us. And they don’t ever, it seems, transpire without a responding surge of human compassion, sustenance and love. I suppose in that way, maybe these tragedies do define us.

I continue to steadfastly believe in what science keeps demonstrating – that we are designed to do good. As much as this year has had its moments of utter dogcrap, there have been countless counterpointing miracles of giving, sharing, kindness and caring.

It’s what we do.

I wish you all joy in your hearts this holiday season. And if, as you go about your day, you happen to spot a little poop – literally or metaphorically – hey, why not clean it up?


As we ring in 2016, let’s all take a little inspiration from Andie MacDowell’s character in Groundhog Day, and raise a glass to world peace. Catch you on the flip side. (Photo courtesy of Theeradech Sanin /


As Joni Mitchell observed, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees…” Well, as of this writing I haven’t yet sourced my balsam fir, but only because I have a to-do list as long as a tree trunk. My gift list seems even longer, which is why any strategy that makes shopping easier will score points with me.

My neighbour has come up with what I think is a brilliant plan to raise funds for a children’s hospital, meet gift-shopping needs and clean out the spare-gift chest in her home.

If you have kids, you are familiar with the spare-gift chest. Only you may call it the spare-gift cupboard, or perhaps the spare-gift nook. In my case, it’s the spare-gift cardboard moving carton. That’s the place where you store the extra games, books, puzzles and craft kits that you bought on impulse or on sale, the ones you collect and stash away. They’re not there for a rainy day, but rather for a day when you discover your eight-year-old has been invited to two different birthday parties, they’re both tomorrow, she forgot to give you the invitations until right now, and there’s no way you can go out to buy presents and finish the report your boss needed yesterday. Oh, spare-gift cardboard moving carton, you have saved us many a trip to the 24-hour drugstore for Mickey Mouse bubble bath.

As our kids get older and their parties involve a lot fewer Lego kits and Little House on the Prairie box sets, you realize you aren’t actually using the spare gifts all that often anymore. That’s where my neighbour is. So she’s purging, and this is where she gets creative. She’s systematically selling off her stash of gifts – in exchange for donations to the children’s hospital.

It’s holiday cheer for everyone. It raises money for an excellent cause, and it frees up some storage space in her home. Plus, it enabled me to find the perfect present for a pint-sized relative.


To avoid the risk of ruining surprises, I won’t post a pic of the toy I bought. But here’s something else that was up for grabs. (Admit it – even you would love the gift of a Darth Vader piggy bank.)

Coming Up Roses

The kid has taste. That’s what I think.

Twelve-year-old William Haley of Bowmanville, Ontario, has a favourite colour magic marker. When we say favourite, we mean he’s so utterly enthralled with these markers that he’s not going anywhere unless one of these bad boys goes with him. The colour is officially Crayola-classified as “primrose,” but that doesn’t tell you much. Primroses, the real ones, come in all kinds of hues –predominantly yellow ones, if Google Image Search is any representation. When primrose is a Crayola marker, however, it’s a striking purply-pink shade that strongly reminds me of one of my most comfortable shirts.

When William, who has autism, identified the primrose marker as the one he absolutely had to have, had to use, and had to carry with him everywhere, his mom Stacey started to panic just a little bit. Markers do wear out. And it’s not like you can go to the art supply store and buy primrose in an economy pack. It’s more like you can spend hundreds of dollars (as Stacey certainly has) on sets of multicoloured markers that might include a single primrose nestled between the cornsilk and the tropical rainforest.

But once Stacey put the word out among friends that she was looking to trade her abundance of specialty-coloured markers for any primrose spares, the story spread quickly. Of course it did. Soon the family received dozens of marker donations from strangers. Even the Crayola company got in touch. (Spoiler alert: William is going to have the best Christmas ever when he discovers what’s wrapped up under the tree, and it’s not tropical rainforest.)

At this point, Stacey says, they’re pretty set. She’s thrilled to have enough primrose markers to last for a very long time, and she encourages well-wishers to support another child with autism instead. “There are always plenty of families in need. Maybe there is some way to help them,” she told The Toronto Star.


Authentic primroses in their natural habitat. (Photo courtesy of artur84 /


Chocolate, Sweetness: Now I See the Connection

Today’s the fourth annual Giving Tuesday. It’s a relatively new tradition of taking stock of your wallet after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and thinking more about charity, less about the sale price you scored on that stainless-steel, one-touch espresso machine.

A recent British survey by Galaxy Hot Chocolate shows we’re not too shabby when it comes to giving. (You already knew this, didn’t you, readers?) The survey found that about 3 in 4 people will pay it forward whenever someone does them a good deed. In fact, they do 1.27 acts of kindness for every one good deed done to them. That’s an average, of course – I don’t think these sweet-lovin’ folk are suggesting people will pick up only a quarter of a piece of garbage, or give a quarter of the directions to a lost stranger.

The same research found that the most frequent good deed – at least in Britain, although I can personally verify that this is not uncommon in Canada – is holding the door open for someone else. (Again, we recommend you go more than a quarter of the way on this one.)

These good deeds don’t take more than a few seconds of your time. And yet, if this survey is accurate, they spawn even more acts of kindness for other people. It’s like a virus, only with fewer sniffles…


I’m looking for the ripple effect, but it’s hard to see under all those mini-marshmallows… (Photo courtesy of OZphotography /