Monday, December 27, 2010

Another Christmas at the castle

Yesterday I caught part of a CBC radio presentation adaptation of "The Christmas Carol".  As much as Ebenezer Scrooge is depicted as a despicable character, I couldn't help but think that any business owner at this time of year must feel a little tainted by the broad brush that Dickens uses to make his many points in this story.  Up until 6 of 7 years ago, Ste. Anne's Spa was open 365 days a year, including Christmas day.  While we were never sold out, there was a certain kind of person who found respite at this time of year in our unique approach to hospitality and the staff absolutely resented having to work on this statutory holiday more than any other.  When I made the decision to close on Christmas Eve and reopen on Boxing Day, allowing our staff to spend this time with their families it certainly was a popular decision, but even more popular was my decision to invite my family to spend these 2 nights at the spa.  You see, back in the early eighties, Ste. Anne's was our home for several years and many good memories of family get togethers were rooted in this place.  The first year we had pretty close to full attendance.  A picture was taken at some point and I think we were all a little overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of humanity that had grown out of the union of just two people - I think there were over thirty of us.  This year, a few couldn't make it for various reasons, but it was still a pretty good turn out with 28 bodies ranging in age from 18 months or so to the matriarch at 82.  We all worked side by side to get meals together, to clean up, and to reminisce about years gone by.  Despite all it's complications, family (for the most part) is a wonderful thing and I feel lucky to be part of such a great one, even if I can be a little Ebenezerish at times.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Life is an incredible gift

This past weekend, we were hit with a combination of rain and snow on Sunday morning, just in time for staff and guests arrival at the spa.  David and I were on our way to the 9:00 mass at St. Michael's in Cobourg when we came across a number of cars, stuck in various positions on Academy Hill Rd.  Right at the very top of the hill a small Mercedes with two "spa gals" was pulled off to the side of the road, just a few feet from the top.  We pulled off to the side of the road just as Rick (a massage therapist at the spa) zipped up the hill and around the corner.  We all jumped out of our respective vehicles and offered the ladies a push.  You could see just a hint of hesitation in her eyes as she decided whether she should trust these strange looking country bumpkins, (and what to be made of the Latino way out here in the boondocks?).  She quickly sized us up and decided that having us push her up the hill was a reasonably low risk engagement.  As we all gave it our best heave-ho, Rick politely suggested to the driver that she put her cell phone down and straighten out her wheels.  He asked a second time, to which he received the response "I'm not stupid, you know", even though the wheels were still practically perpendicular to the road, and she was in the ditch without snow tires.  Once we got the message across that the wheels needed to be straightened she quickly made the last few feet of the hill.  And off she went.  I ignored the little voice in my head that was growing frustrated with her "city" attitude", as I knew that she was minutes away from being destressed through our program of forced relaxation and renewal.  But the little voice really wanted me to cause a scene, make a point, and leave the scene in a huff, but instead, I exercised self contol for a change, and I'm glad that I did.  Didn't someone once say, "Don't sweat the small things?"

Now, here is a story of sweating the big things.  My sister Marijo asked David and I to go skiing with her and her new boyfriend two years ago, just after Christmas.  Both of them wanted to be in love with each other so much, and yet they both had some pretty big walls up as a result of previous relationships.  When we arrived at the ski chalet, Bryan had prepared a wonderful meal for us.  Later that night we skied in freezing rain and we had a wonderful 24 hours together.  Gradually, over the next few years we got to know Bryan a little better in the context of his relationship with my sister.

The video above speaks to how some people deal with even the worst imaginable circumstances.  When I watched it, I teared up and decided that I needed to share it with others.  If you would like to find out more about Bryan and his miraculous journey, you can write to him through my sister Marijo at