Our Christmas tradition. For nine years running, MTM and I have spent Christmas in Montreal. Learn all about our secret to a happy marriage.

Our Christmas tradition. For fourteen years running, MTM and I have spent Christmas in Montreal. The same room at Hotel Gault, the same Christmas Eve gastronomy, and the same Christmas Day routine.

For those of you wondering which one of us has family in Canada, neither of us do. Our secret to a happy marriage is our Christmas tradition of not spending family holidays with family.

Christmas Day, we tune in to Radio Classique Montreal. They always broadcast a version of the complete Handel’s Messiah. (To download the best one ever, follow this link to the Dunedin Consort’s Grammy-winning version.) Without Handel, Christmas is incomplete. The whole pomp of it has come to represent the day for me. [A bit different from Hard Candy Christmas. ;)]


We listen to the Christmas speech by Queen Elizabeth II, recorded prior to her decampment to Sandringham House and broadcast on Christmas Day. Always, we order room service, sometimes breakfast and dinner, others breakfast only. Movies are always on the agenda. One Christmas, MTM suffered through the entire BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. I take a bath or two. We nap, and we watch the snow fall. With all my being, I try to beat MTM at cards and Yahtzee.

We never leave the room. Nue de Noel is the only way to celebrate the day. 🙂 If you’re around today, please share your Christmas traditions in the comments.

Merry Christmas, Dear Reader.

May peace, happiness and prosperity follow you throughout the coming year and in life beyond.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?


Acting like a child gets a bad rap, doesn’t it?

When anyone says we’re acting like a child, we adults take it as the supreme insult. The mere mention of childishness conjures tantrums, ruthlessly blunt commentary, and an inability to sit still.

I was watching a baby calf the other day. Lucky for me, I arrived the day after it was born. No bigger than a labrador retriever, it flitted among the bigger cows. I could almost hear it shouting, “WHY DO YOU DO NOTHING BUT EAT GRASS? THE WORLD IS REMARKABLE! COME PLAY WITH ME!”


Poor baby calf. For several days, it frolicked and danced and raced around the pasture. Once in a while, it stopped to watch the other cows, heads down, perpetually chewing grass and ignoring the wide world. It only took a week for baby calf to start acting like its elders, its joy forgotten as it grew into the role the others demonstrated over and over and over again.

I don’t want to end up like that baby calf.

We are born without fear, aren’t we? Whenever I watch children, I marvel at their curiosity, their sense of wonder, and their willingness to throw themselves into their surroundings. They don’t care what’s appropriate. Instead, they embrace the moments they’re given and milk them for everything they can.


My guideson Cooper gave me the opportunity to do just that. We visited a water park. I sat on the sidelines in the blistering heat, watching the children splash and romp in the water. Every adult looked like me: hot and miserable. The kids knew where relief was.

And just like that, I didn’t care that I was fully clothed. I raced into the water and chased Cooper all over the park. We screamed and laughed and splashed each other silly. My face hurt from smiling. I was blissfully cool and happy.

What’s Wrong With Acting Like a Child? from Andra Watkins on Vimeo.

Other children didn’t look at me like I was nuts. They went up to their parents and said, “Look at that lady. Why can’t you come in, too?”

And by the time we left, half the adults had waded into the water. Oh, they weren’t romping around, shrieking like a banshee. But they stopped caring whether they got wet and embraced a few minutes of childlike magic.

When was the last time you acted like a child (in a good way)?

Tell us about it in a comment today!

what happened

This is the story of what happened when I let a six-year-old choose a vacation destination.

Walt Disney World or Universal Studios claim most adults. I can’t conjure a greater hell, especially since I spent my mistake-marriage honeymoon there. When we offered to take our guideson on an epic sixth birthday adventure, here’s what he picked:

what happened

Haven’t heard of Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, Canada’s premiere paleontology destination? You’re not alone. But when a kid loves dinosaurs and you love that kid, you make sacrifices, right? Including redeeming every award point you possess to make a trek to a godforsaken place you never wanted to see.

what happened

I gritted my teeth and prepared to endure hours of staring at long-dead, horrifying creatures in close quarters. My knowledge of dinosaurs comes from the 1970s Saturday morning show “Land of the Lost.” The utter awfulness of that program banished any curiosity I may’ve otherwise had. My upbringing snuffed out what remained. It’s hard to study dinosaurs in a school that teaches the Earth’s only been around for 10,000 years.

what happened

But the most complete armored fossil ever found? Call me transfixed. It represents a species formerly unknown to science. A paleontologist worked for five years to chip it from its prison of rock. I gazed into its eye socket and wondered about the world it saw.

what happened

Why did I expect to be bored? I hoped to plow through my to-read list while he saw the exhibits. The place came at me as broccoli I didn’t want to try. A dinosaur museum held nothing for someone like me.

what happened

What’s the greatest value to approaching life with an open mind?

In this case, I’m glad I tried the broccoli. I was gobsmacked by the Royal Tyrrell Museum. When Cooper was already in the gift shop picking out a stuffed toy, I was staring at the tusks of this woolly mammoth. I couldn’t get enough of the bones, the geology, or the stories of discovery. When I threw myself into it without reservations, I loved a place I expected to hate.

what happened

My challenge to you?

Pick your stand-in for my dinosaur museum. It can be a restaurant you think you won’t enjoy, a movie that’s been panned, or a book in a genre you don’t usually read. Don’t limit yourself. Try something you expect to hate. Embrace the moment, and let me know what happened for you.