Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

HAHAHAHAHA…. just kidding. I don’t like this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas time. As in, December 24th and 25th.

What I don’t enjoy is Christmas music in November, spending money on gifts, exam season, the traffic, the crowds at the mall, having to wrap presents because I seriously suck at it… I could go on and on for hours.

I’m stressed as it is anyway with the impending move and school, let alone having to shop. I already know what I’m getting most people, so I’m hoping to emerge from the holidays relatively unscathed, only spending about $400. The worst part is the actual choice involved with shopping- I don’t want to waste money on something that someone doesn’t like.

I’ve already spent $225 and knocked 8 people off the list. I’ve bought for my brother, my sister, my step-dad, my aunt and uncle, their two boys, and my pseudo-nephew. Can I just say right now that all my pregnant friends are having boys and I want to buy girl stuff? It’s like in those Sims games when there’s too many guys in a neighbourhood and the game responds by shooting out girls to even the playing field.

All I have left is my mom, my grandfather, and Jay. Those are the hardest 3. My mom and my grandfather are the kind of people who buy whatever they decide they want or need. My mom I could get a gift card for Chapters and she’d be happy, so I’m good there.

My grandfather is a bit trickier. He’s a coin collector, and he has a contact at the Mint who he orders from exclusively. I knew last year I should get him a coin. Unfortunately, I had no idea what he had or what he had on order. I had to sneak a phone call to his contact and ask her to order something under $100 that he hadn’t bought yet- and even stop him from ordering it if necessary. It worked like a charm, but I’m on a stricter budget this year.  I’m thinking a DVD because he loves movies. Now it’s down to which one.

This year I told Jay we shouldn’t get each other anything so we could save, but I knew from the beginning that he didn’t listen to me (and he admitted to it). Maybe I’ll get him some pants that actually fit, or really nice work boots since he’s still working with boots that are 2 sizes too small. He’s working a LOT now so he hasn’t had time to go get a new pair. The only danger to that is that he could easily go buy some before Christmas. It’s either that or I’ll give up and get him a card for EB Games. I’d buy him an actual game, but he has banned me from picking his video games since the time we were looking together for a specific one and I suggested one with a similar premise because it was $30 cheaper. Apparently, quality reigns over value where that’s concerned. It’s his money, and he’s smart with it otherwise so I stay quiet.

How has your Christmas shopping gone so far? Have you started, or are you a 11th hour consumer?

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Lest We Forget

This time of year, most people are gearing up for the holidays. For me, the beginning of November is a time for reflection and remembrance. I’d like to get off the well-beaten path of personal finance this week, and share with all of you why this is my most important month.

I’ve always known that my family has a military connection. Though my mom’s genealogy research, I know that I have had ancestors in the American Revolution, the Civil War (likely on both sides, though this research is ongoing), and World War II. My great-grandfather was in the Naval Air Force during World War II, initially flying supply planes, and by the end of the war he was one of the youngest base commanders in the Pacific theatre- he was 24 when the war ended in 1945. He died when I was 10, but my mom says he rarely talked about his experiences. Because of this, I’ve always had a more somber attitude to Rememberance Day than most people my age.

When I was 16, I went on a trip with my school to London, Belgium, and France. 3000 students from across Canada were going for the rededication of a WWI memorial. This memorial sits on what is now Canadian soil, and it commemorates the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Vimy Ridge was a battle that took place near the French town of Arras in April of 1917. The German army had taken position on the escarpment, which was a huge military advantage. The French tried to get it, and couldn’t. The British tried to get it, and couldn’t. Eventually, it was decided that the Canadian Corps would all band together for the first time in history to take the ridge. After months of planning on a scale rarely seen before, they began their assault on April 9th, 1917. Obviously, they won. There were 3598 Canadians killed in the assault.

When the news of the victory hit the streets of Paris, it’s said that a French General didn’t believe it and said “C’est impossible!” When he was told who was fighting, he said “Ah, les Canadiens! C’est possible.” In the 1930s, the monument was built and Vimy Ridge was given to the Canadian government as thanks for the sacrifice.

For the 90th anniversary, the students who attended  were given the name of a Canadian soldier who was killed that Easter Monday in April of 1917. We were to represent them during the ceremony, and because of this we were told to research them and find their stories. My soldier was a man named Edward J. McNaughton. He was a Canadian pipe-fitter living in Detroit who came back to Canada to enlist when the war began. He was in his 30s and married to a woman named Ena. This was all the information I found, beyond his death date- April 9th, 1917.

That trip changed me in many ways. You can’t visit these places without being moved by what you have seen.  I’ve walked along the rocky shoreline of Dieppe, where 60% of the predominately Canadian Allied forces were massacred. I’ve walked Hill 52 in Belgium and marvelled at how possession of such a tiny piece of land could cause such bloodshed. I’ve drawn a Canadian flag in the sand at Juno Beach. I’ve walked through the cemeteries at Tyne Cot, Beny-sur-Mer and the Normandy American Memorial, trying to comprehend that each of the gravestones represents a man who lived, who loved, who had a story. And I’ve walked up the hill at Vimy Ridge, surrounded by classmates, remembering Private Edward J. McNaughton and the life he never got to finish. I still wish I knew more of his story.

Every November I remember the sacrifices that were made for my freedom. I remember people who died senselessly because of differences that didn’t warrant bloodshed. I remember innocent people massacred because of their religion. I remember because if we ever forget, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes once again.

So this November, even amongst the distractions of the American election/thanksgiving and getting revved up for Christmas, please take a few moments of silence on the 11th to remember those who died so we could live. Our generation has a duty to the past and the future. We need to remember how the terrible events of the past came to fruition. We need to learn to read the signs and figure out ways to stop war from happening before it comes to pass. And above all, we need to remember those who died for our freedom. If we do not acknowledge their sacrifice, they will have served for nothing. They will have died for nothing.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
May 3rd, 1915