It’s been almost two years (less a month) to the day since I’ve seen my sister in law Amber and my niece Makayla.  The last time they were here was when Shawn was in a coma following his heart failure and attacks. 

So you can imagine how happy I was a couple of months ago when she called and told us that she and her husband Greg and Miss Mak were going to come down for a holiday/visit this summer.  

I’m tremendously blessed in my in laws.  I have a wonderful bunch of second siblings and parents and Amber and I have always been specifically close.  After all, I’ve known her since she was eight. I watched her grow up and be a teenager and then a young woman. She lived with us for almost a year and I was right there with her when Makayla was born and then when she and Greg were married.  She in turn was here for me that horrific week when we didn’t know if Shawn would live or die. 

All week last week were sending excited texts to one another and yesterday, when they pulled into the driveway, the car was barely turned off before she was out of the car hugging us all amidst squeals of delight. 

Last night we drank too much beer, had The Hip concert on and we talked and laughed and sang for hours.  

It’s going to be an amazing time with them and, I fear, way too short.  But, we’ve learned since September 19th, 2014 and, all of the country remembered last night, time is fleeting at best. 

Grab your loved ones. Sing loudly and live as hard as you can.  

We’re going to holiday the shit out of this week.  Because all too soon, September will be here, and our lives will all slip quietly into yet another chapter.  

And so I sing

I love those hokey, uplifting sayings that always float around the Internet and on signs in kitschy home stores.  

Dance like no one is watching 

Love like you’ve never been hurt

And so on.  You know the ones.  Hallmark philosophy. I think they’re cute, but they also serve as lighthearted reminders that we shouldn’t take ourselves, and life, too seriously.  

I sing. 

My car is my concert hall of choice. I have a weird mix of music in it at any given time. Soundtracks of favourite musicals, Opera, recordings my dad made for me of Irish artists, Chris de Burgh and Adele. Dixie Chicks. Black Eyed Peas. Eminem. Robbie Williams and Blue Rodeo.  I know them all. I know the words, the nuances, the pauses. And I sing them all, everyday.  It relaxes me, fires me up, makes me laugh out loud and sometimes makes me cry.  

My music choice will more often than not, reflect my mood. If you hear Billy Joel blasting from my car, I’m probably in a really good, slightly nostalgic mood.  If it’s opera, I’m lost inside my own head, in my thoughts, memories, or, I’m writing something and plotting pieces of the story.  

We all have difficult moments in our lives.  And they always seem to happen in clusters, don’t they? One or two hard things I can usually handle, but when the hard comes in all at once, I falter.  

So I sing. 

I get out my eclectic collection and find something that is going to speak to me and soothe my mind, ease my tension and bring me out of my head and the swirl of thoughts that threatens to overtake and overwhelm. 

And so I sing. 

Maybe in my car, maybe in my kitchen. Maybe just in my own head.  Because it’s hard work for me to bounce out of the cyclone of negative thoughts that threatens to take over whenever I’m going through something hard.  For someone who has struggled with both depression and anxiety and has been previously medicated for both, it’s been a long journey to get me to a place where I can cope on my own.  But I can’t always do it alone. 

And so I sing.  


I have a love-hate relationship with my birthday.  As a kid, I hated it. Summer birthdays are awful, No one is home, it’s hot and everyone feels kind of lethargic. 

Then I got older and started loving my birthday.  I loved going out with friends, going out with my husband and having the kids bring me lovely handmade gifts and cards.   The day changed into something to be shared as a fun day with the family and that’s when I really started to love it. 

Whenever my birthday falls on a weekend, we tend to make a fuss of it all weekend.  But to be fair, we do this for everyone in the family.  

So Friday.  We decided to get pizza and Shawn and I drove with our daughter Kathryn (16), to pick it up.  I drove, in my slippers, and so they went into the store and I stayed in the car.  While they were in, the Lost Boys song came on the radio. I really like it and I know Kathryn loves it so I turned it up and when they got back in the car, we drove away and Kathryn started to sing along.  

Maybe it’s because I was already feeling nostalgic, since my birthday was two days away.  Maybe it was the sound of her voice or the lyrics.  I suddenly realized that she is no longer a “lost boy”.  That age of innocence and fairies and lands of make believe are almost over for her.  My beautiful baby girl now wears make up and goes on dates and she is no longer full of pig tails and make believe.   I started to tear up. And then I started to cry.  Shawn tried to ask me what was wrong but, I knew if I spoke it would be a loud, ugly sob, so I shook my head.  He gave me a few minutes and when I told him, I could see him reacting as well. 

Now, I should say, of all my kids Kathryn is probably actually the one who has most held on to the magic of childhood and maybe that was also part of why I was so moved.  Anyway, once the emotional vault has been opened with me, it’s hard to close, so I was in or close to tears all night for the opening of the olympics. 

Yesterday we went to the Saint John pride parade and we walked in it this year. With one gay daughter and one daughter who is…questioning, it’s so important for me as a parent to celebrate who they are as individuals and show them the community which is full of more love and acceptance than any other community I’ve had the pleasure to know.  Seeing the smiles on the faces of my family as they walked and all the positive and loving energy in the city was truly remarkable.   

Last night Shawn took me to the movies to see Suicide Squad.  I was never a comic book kid but I’m loving the movies and he is loving bringing me into a world that was a big part of his childhood. Although there were a few obvious plot holes, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  We left the theatre just after nine to a late twilight and a very foggy city.   I asked him to drive home along the KV river. 

As most of you who know us know, Shawn is the romantic.  He has been known to give me flowers “just because it’s Thursday” and to romance me with poems and gifts and sweet surprises.  

But last night, with all the wonderful feelings of the day still swirling, I was the romantic one. 

On the river there is a warf where the boats all launch and a huge pier.  The shore has a lighthouse that doesn’t shine it’s top light much, but is still quite pretty.  I asked him to pull in to the parking lot and we got out and walked down into the pier.  There was still a hazy fog everywhere and the water was calm as glass and there was lights from the boats reflecting. I turned on my phone, put on The Luckiest, and asked him to dance with me. 

So he did. We danced on that pier all alone in the fog and the dark and the dancing lights and I realized, Neverland is always there, if you look for it. It just hides behind all the work and the bills and the struggles of everyday life but, when you need it, it’s just below the surface. Or perhaps, dancing on it.  

My 21 year old daughter Keisha is beautiful. She has always been, in my eyes. When she was a baby and a toddler, we would literally be stopped in the street by strangers who exclaimed over her bright blue eyes and her golden curls.  She grew up and those golden curls went dark, then pink, then blonde again.   She has dark hair now and it suits her.  She lives on her own now and that suits her too.  She has flourished. That bright and inviting smile, the laughter that bubbles up like a mountain stream dancing its way down to the valley, those eyes are still the most inciting blue. 

She has also spent the last year making some huge and healthy changes.  She has lost 80lbs, she has more energy and confidence. 

Keisha works in a mall at a kiosk right now.  She stands there every day and talks to strangers for a living.  She is very good at it, which is not surprising, she is naturally inviting and friendly. But, she has been having a problem. With men. 

Often men come up to her and ask for her number.  Okay, it takes courage to approach someone you find attractive and to take that risk.  She is nice about it. She politely declines.  She thanks them for the compliment. She wishes them a good day.  Usually that’s fine. But, a lot of times they will touch her.  A shoulder, a hand on the forearm, the small of her back, an arm around her.  She hates this. And, if she asks them to please stop, to please not, she is usually met with the same resistance. “Come on, honey. I’m just being friendly.”  But usually, again, they DO stop. 

There is a guy that comes to her kiosk a lot.  And always touches her in some way. She has been polite. She has been blunt.  She has told him she’s gay (and gotten the even more abhorrent “that’s even hotter, can I watch?”). This guy won’t leave her alone and she is getting angry and scared.  

She called me Thursday night after a day when no less than six men had put their hands on her.   

“What do I do?  Why are they doing this?” 

We had a talk I never wanted to have with her. No matter how open I am with my kids about life, love, sex, money.  THIS was the worst talk of all, and, I realized, I’d have to have it with my other kids too.  My daughters and my son.  

“They do it because you’re young, and you’re beautiful and to some men, not all, but to some, they feel like it’s their right. That you should be flattered by the attention and, when you’re not, it’s because something is wrong with you, you’ve offended them. Sadly, because you’re a girl, this is part of your life.”  

I wanted to cry.  Or throw up.  I thought back to my younger years.  I was touched a lot too.  Unwanted arms over shoulders, around waists, on my ass….sometimes even when I had my small children with me.   

“What do I do about this one guy, though?  I can’t ask security to just hang around my kiosk all day until he shows up?” 

I told her to do two things.  I told her, on her next day off to call the police station and talk to a female officer and find out if she has ANY recourse.  

“Then,” I said, “the next time this happens, and we both know there will be a next time, you YELL.   You’ve been nice, you’ve been blunt and he still feels free to touch you and that’s Not OKAY. You need no reason, no explanations other than its your body and you said no. Draw a crowd. Embarrass him.  Hopefully he will get the hint.” 

Yesterday he came back.   And though she physically tried to keep away from him, he assumed she was being playful and tried to hug her.  And she yelled. She yelled at him to stop touching her.  He tried his usual “come on” bit, but she yelled louder “I don’t want you to touch me!”  He got angry, really angry, because people were staring, and he stormed off.  Someone who saw told security who then talked to my girl and went looking for the guy.  

By the time she related this to me, she was shaking with adrenaline, fear and emotions.  

I wish I could have been there to hug her.  

My husband and I told her we are proud of her.  But it isn’t fair that she should have to resort to this after politely saying no weeks ago.  

I wish I had realized, back in my day, that I didn’t have to smile and bear it to save the GUY from a scene, or a rejection.  I wish I had realized back then that it was MY choice who touched me in any way.  All the way from who held my hand, to who hugged me to who I had sex with.  Because it wasn’t always my choice when those things happened. And I’ll be dammed if I watch my daughters go quietly through the same humiliations, because that’s what they are, in the end. A series of small humiliations.  

You might say, wouldn’t it just be easier, for everyone involved, to just let that hug, or that tap, or that hand just on the arm happen, ignore it and get on with your day? 

Maybe.  For the guy.  But for that girl who is just “grinning and bearing” it, it’s a slow chiselling away at her own self worth. Her rights to her own body and her freedom to say to someone yes, I invite you to touch me, because that’s what SHE wants.  

A woman’s body is hers and only hers until she chooses to share it.  In ANY capacity. 


Writers weekend

I’m taking this weekend to work hard on Summer Poppies. It’s high time I gave it the attention it’s due. I’m not in a hotel, locked away as I used to do, I’m simply at home. Shawn has taken the teens out of the house for me and I am working along to the soundtrack of my childhood.

Seems only fitting since so much of this book takes place in Ireland. Writing this end to my series feels like completing a long tale that began the very first night I heard from my own father that his family got on a ship one day and crossed the ocean to come and live in Canada. A story that just a few years ago took me back to Ireland myself to see the home where he lived and the town he grew up in. My body was born and bred in Canada, but, my heart is Irish and always has been.

And now I’m going back to my beloved Siobhan, a character inspired by my own grandmother Lucy, to finish her story and to travel in my thoughts and my heart, back to Ireland again.

I hope to finish soon. Perhaps even before the summer is out.

I hope your own Saturdays are full of life and love and wonderful adventures, be them out in the world or in your own hearts and minds.


It would be remiss of me not to comment on the events of our neighbors to the south. 

I’m so exhausted, and I don’t even live there, but this new social media ruled world has shrunk us and I feel the brutality as if it was happening at my own doorstep.  I have friends in Atlanta.  I have friends in Dallas.  

Making it all worse is the election which, instead of humanizing the candidates, has been further sensationalizing them as they capitalize as best they can with sound bites derived from their staff of writers. 

The more I see, the more I hear, Trump is looking more and more like Richard Dawson’s character from The Running Man.  It’s almost 2017, is that where we are headed? 

I ache.  While we, blessed Canadians, have entered into seemingly a new era of acceptance and inclusion, America has become a powder keg of anger and violence and sorrow on an endless loop.  

I am not a religious woman.  But I am a spiritual person and I pray for something to change.  I pray for understanding where there is hateful ignorance.  I pray for solidarity and love where there is division and hurt.  I pray for all my American friends and for the lives of the families of all the victims. 

This is not the world we want.  This is not the world any of us want.  


Shawn and I have been off all week and a good thing too. Sickness has run through our house like it’s training for a marathon and after last week, we were all tired.  We planned a stay-cation and for those who may think that it’s the frugal option, think again.  I had to replace two tires on my car. On our first sunny, non sick day we turned on the pool filter only to find the motor was full of leaks and, as the repair cost was slightly south of $500, we decided it made better sense to replace it.  Which also means hiring an electrician to come wire it back up again. Everything always happens at once.  

On Canada day we drove to Nova Scotia to pick up a canoe from my parents who are moving back to Ontario.  We stayed for lunch and a four hour visit and then drove home again.  Long day.  

Last night we were happily in our living room just after supper when my phone rang.  I answered and it was the fraud department from our bank. We had been robbed.  Cyber robbed.  Thieves had hacked my card, transferred ALL the money from our savings account into our chequing account and e-transferred the lot out.  Needless to say we were floored, angry and more than a little upset.  I spent an hour on the phone with the bank sorting it all out and then we called the police to file an official report. Thankfully, the bank was able to stop the transfer and we will get our money back in a few days but, our peace of mind has taken a beating.  

I dealt with my frustrations today by literally baking all the flour I had left in the house into Apple rhubarb cake, lemon poppyseed cake and four loaves of bread.  

Tomorrow Shawn and I both head back to work and then to the bank branch later to tie up loose ends.  

On an unrelated note, my oldest daughter Keisha actually is in Toronto right now at pride.  Thanks to generous friends of my brother for putting her up and, despite her earlier reservations, she is having the much deserved time of her life.  

Life is short, my friends and nothing is truly guaranteed, not even the money in your bank account. So get out there, meet Austrailians, hug strangers, bake carb-y goodness and drive through provinces with a canoe on your roof and the shouted laughter of fond memories pouring out. 

Live life.  And love it. 


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