My friends made fun of Shawn when we had two girls, and then three. And then we rescued our dog Kira, a girl, and got our dog Katie, another girl. There was no getting around it, the women ran the household. Estrogen trumps testosterone. Girl power reigned supreme.
And we liked it that way. My girls talk about everything and anything in front of the boys. So much so that Shawn Michael, my delightful 16 year old, doesn’t even bat an eye at the mention of periods, cramps, tampons, and being endlessly dragged into bra stores at the mall. Actually, I think he likes that last part. I keep telling him what an amazing partner he will be some day, after being raised in the warm bosom of a bevy of females. It’s true too, he’s one of the most sensitive, plugged in, compassionate and caring PEOPLE I know, let alone young men.

So we moved and kids got older and grew up. Keisha moved out, Liam moved out, Ash moved out. Kira passed away and then Katie. And now we have myself, Shawn, Kathryn, Shawn Michael and Kermit. And Cole.
Who is Cole?
Oh, he’s Kat’s boyfriend. A sweet, lovely, overgrown puppydog of a boy, and he spends a lot of time at our house.
Now it’s three against two!
I wish I could say that I don’t like it and that the boys are being stinky smelly boys and exerting their power over pizza orders and choice of programming but in truth, I like it. He is one of those kids who just….effortlessly fit in to our world and we have claimed him as one of our own. So, I wish I could say I don’t like it, but, it’s nice to have back a small bit of the chaos we had when the house was fuller. Watching the two of them is like getting a glimpse into a not so distant future when the kids will come home, god willing, for holidays bringing with them their partners and one day, their own kids.
It’s going to be a weird holiday for us this year. No extended family is coming, Liam can only come home for a day, maybe two, and Keisha can’t come home at all. And while Shawn and I have time off, the younger kids will all have work schedules.
But I like it.
I don’t mind this shift in the force. After all, life is change. You can either roll with it, or fight against it, but it’s going to happen whether you like it or not. I choose to embrace it.


I never thought I would be taking tests and talking back to school in my forties, and yet, here I am. For the past year, I’ve been re-teaching myself french. It’s been an interesting project to say the least. I probably *could* have worked a little harder, but, considering I’m doing this on my own, I’m actually fairly proud of where I’ve gotten. Tomorrow morning, I am taking a french oral exam. The same one government employees of the province take to determine at what level they can communicate in our nations other official language. I’m nervous as hell, but I’m also excited that I’ve come this far on my own.

There’s more.

Back when we lived in Ontario, I was just *starting* to entertain the notion of doing some further education. But then the move and the starting over and the finding work and all those other things happened and it was put on hold. This year, I applied to a program at the local college. I was wait-listed. That was okay. I mean, at the time I was kind of upset about it but, you know, part of being an adult is accepting things you cannot change and learning how, when and where to keep pushing. So, I applied to a different program at a different college. This one wanted me, right away. The only problem? They needed my transcript.
That doesn’t sound like it should be a problem, right? Except that I didn’t graduate traditionally. Instead, like the very scared teenager I was, I dropped out of school with only months to go before my graduation (because I was pregnant and my life got complicated, fast) and continued my studies on my own. Which *would* have been straightforward, BUT, that I was a terrible student in high school. I cut class a lot. I didn’t try. I cared more about my social life then my academic one and it showed. I did not have enough credits, even if I had stayed out that last year, to graduate. A funny thing happened when I became a mom, though. I got this tremendous drive. I did courses through adult education programs. I did night school classes. I did correspondence through the school board. Want to know what happens when you do classes from three different venues, over four years, both before and after a marriage so you have two different last names?? It becomes nearly impossible to track it all down.
I’m still working on gathering all the missing cogs to my educational wheel, so the second program had to wait, because a full transcript is mandatory for that program and I don’t have one at the moment.
So. Left with some mild depression and disappointment, I did something else. I decided instead of all these college programs, I’d apply to university.

And I am in.
Starting February, for the first time in my life, at 42, I will be an official University student. It’s super daunting and exciting and, well, weird a bit, but I am very happy about it.
So there you have it. I certainly didn’t go through the milestones of life in ANY kind of conventional way, but then, I was never much of a conventional gal. I like making my own moves, in my own time, in my own way.
Feel free to start sending donations towards my education, folks.
I’m about to be a student. Again.

Happiness is

Happiness is music. Whether I’m in my car alone and rocking out at the top of my lungs to Bruno Mars, dancing in my kitchen to Sara Bareilles, painting to Rachmaninov or crying along with Domingo as he sings ‘laugh, clown’, I love music. My life plays out to a vast and varied soundtrack of my own making and it wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t a part of the song and the song wasn’t part of me.
Happiness is art. Every so often I lose my way around, as most of us do at one point or another in life. I tend to be a wanderer. A meander-er, and I’m easily distracted so sometimes, I get mired down in the minutiae of life and I forget to keep contact with *who I am*. And then I create something. I write, or I paint, or sew or knit. I feed my inner artist. And I remember where my centre is. When I’m hurting or sad or stressed out or depressed, art is what brings me back to remembering that there is such joy to be had, sometimes in the simplest things. I am a person who needs to express themselves in order to be right. Art allows me to do just that.
Happiness is touch. Remember when that book about love languages came out? I do. And one thing resonated SO MUCH with me. Touch. I am a person who thrives on physical contact. Thankfully, I live in a family of people who touch. We’re huggers and snugglers and hand squeezers. My husband frequently puts his hand on my leg when we’re in the car or absently reaches out in bed at night to hold my hand or touch my hair. Often, he does it absentmindedly and will almost startle himself with an “oops, do you mind?”. While I love that he still checks in with me about when I want to be touched, 99 times out of 100 yes, I do want it. I love it. I am forever happy that my adult and teen children will still hug me, not perfunctorily, but actual hugs. Where they hold on and squeeze. And they’ll still sit snuggled up with me on the couch for a movie. I can’t imagine my world without touch. It’s how I say I love you without words.
Happiness is my home. It’s being able to go back every day to the people I love and the haven we created together. It’s looking around and knowing that my walls are packed with memories and that we all feel safe and loved here.

As much as I spend time complaining about things, or worried about them, stressed out or just upset or even angry, what I am more often than all of these is happy.
It’s not a bad old life after all.

Imposter Syndrome

I have had a HUGE struggle with identity for most of my adult life. But I hide it (or at least “hid” it) very well for a very long time. Because I had all these great ways to hide it. I was a big sister of a large family. So I was mom 2.0 for a lot of my formative years. I helped cook and changed diapers and hung laundry, not that these things are out of the norm, I am a firm believer that children should be a part of running the house, age appropriately of course. Likewise, my own kids grew up doing the same. God forbid they became adults who didn’t know how to wash their own clothes or sew a button. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I relished that mini-mom role in the house. And then in my teen years, I was the trailblazer. That didn’t *always* serve me well, but hey, I went out there and dig into life, hard. I was never really a jock or a theatre kid or a music kid or an academic or member of student council, but I tried a little of everything. I had friends who were into New Kids and friends who were into Metallica. I was all over the place.

And then I became a mom and a wife and I sank my teeth into that role. Five kids in eight years and I stayed home with them for almost twelve years, being a full time parent. But that wasn’t enough either. I also wrote articles for the paper, ran a cake business, did night school, babysat and auditioned for the local radio morning show. I was all over the place, because I never quite knew what place I belonged in.

And then the kids started getting older and they didn’t need me 24-7 anymore so I started going to work. I’ve done so many different jobs. But had no real career. I started one, but a move meant starting from scratch yet again and without college or university to back me up, I found that finding my niche was extremely difficult.

All this to say that I’ve worn so many hats in my life, that I started to really question who I was. To the outsider looking in, I’m this woman with talents in a myriad of places and calm, wise and driven. Actual words people have used to describe me. Inwardly, I was a dirty imposter who had NO clue who she was, but had honed the art of playing roles to suit the occasion.

I’ve been doing a lot of inward reflecting lately (my therapist is so proud) and trying, not so much to “define” myself but more to find what makes me happy, and stop looking for a reason to justify it. To find what I enjoy, and stop needing to be “the best” at it, but just….enjoy it. So if I wanted to write, then write. And not compare my style, medium, successes or abilities to those of my siblings or mentors. And if I want to sew, then to sew. I don’t need to be Christian Siriano, even though that would be amazing. If I want to paint, I should paint. I don’t have to be as good as my sister or mother. I don’t have to be perfect I just have to enjoy it and be happy. I keep telling my husband that I need a large piece of soapstone because I feel like I want to carve it. Does it matter that I have no idea how? No. Because I’m just looking for what makes me happy.

Feeling like an imposter is actually not all that uncommon, once I started to talk to other people about it. But why, why do we all need to work so hard to be defined??

I’m a mom because I have kids. I’m a wife because I’m married. I’m a sister because I have siblings and a professional because I have a job.

And I’m an artist. Because I want to be. Am I famous or renowned or great? No. But I’m happy. And that feels authentic.

My studio. A big mess of three desks for writing, painting and sewing. plus a painting I recently did from a YouTube tutorial.

Don’t be a vacuum

I have a bad habit, that when there is negativity in my life, I become a vacuum and I let the negative swirl and swirl and suck me into the bottom of a vortex where I lie on the floor wondering where I went wrong. 

I’ve done this for years and it used to be that I couldn’t see that I was stuck.  And then I did therapy and I started to recognize it.  And then I did more therapy and I started to learn how to deal with it.  MORE therapy began teaching me how to recognize it when it was starting and work to head it off and I’m much better now but sometimes, just sometimes, I forget to pay attention to the little warnings and I get swept up.  

Lately, I’ve had a bunch of negative, hard, sad and emotional moments. All clumped together in a short span of time.  That’s the worst. It knocks me off my ass, literally.  I have had days in the last three weeks where I have come home and not been able to get out of bed.  So much suffers. My relationships, my kids, my home and my work.  I walked around in a vacuum of suckage.  

And then I started to pull out of it.  I’ve talked to friends. I’ve talked to my family and gotten the support to remember that I can’t control circumstances and other people but I can control myself. I can control what I do, say and I can allow myself to acknowledge my feelings and then move on.  

So I’ve been trying to do some things for me. Being accountable for ones own happiness is a work in progress and sometimes I forget that I am my own most important relationship and it’s oka to invest time in myself.  

So today I decided to paint.  I’m not a visual artist, by any stretch.  Anyone who knows me knows that I have a “functional” ability at a lot of things but I am clearly master of none.  Yet, something inside me needs an outlet. I keep joking with Shawn that I need him to get me a giant stone so I can sculpt it.  Today my stone was painting.  Tomorrow, it may be something else entirely.  I just know I can’t live in a vacuum.  I need to live out loud in full colour. 

Don’t be a vacuum.  

Be everything else.  

And now that I’ve posted yet another maudlin, privileged, first-world whine (see previous post) I’ve decided that I need to bring back some humour. We all need a good ol’ laugh. This one dates back a few years, but I’m not sure I’ve ever told it. In fact, I only just remembered it last weekend at a birthday party for my husband at our house. We were all hanging out having a few drinks and trading tales when the conversation turned to waxing. I don’t remember how, there was a lot of wine involved.
So this memory came roaring back to me and I shared it, and now I’m going to share it with you.

Many years ago, more than nine now, I think, we used to live in a little town house in Cambridge. I actually really loved that house, it was our first real home. The first home we owned and, like any place you own, we had put a lot of work into making it our own. However, before we did all the work, we had a ton of kids and ourselves piled into three bedrooms and one bathroom. It was…snug. Anyway, we did the kinds of things most parents with full and busy households do and got involved with sports and dance. Sports, for us, meant soccer. We coached and the kids played. We coached a lot. First one team, then two teams and then one summer which shall never be repeated, three teams. Every summer we liked to do something fun for the teams and we would have a skills/fun practice where the kids got to do really neat challenges. We would hang hula hoops from the goal posts and do precision challenges etc. And at the end, we’d let them pie us in the face. One year when it was my turn to get pied, my husband thought it would be a nice treat to buy chocolate whip cream. You can imagine how that looks, melted on a face in +30 degree heat. Not. Pretty.
Anyway, one year we told the team if they won a certain amount of games, Shawn would shave his head. Well, they did, and he did. And he looked good. So good, in fact, that shaving his head became a regular summer thing.
I don’t remember how it happened, but, I *believe* it had to do with a comment on a bald man’s head that looked so smooth and shiny, we thought it had been waxed.
Yes. We went there.
No, we didn’t think to ask anyone first or get advice.
No, cell phones were not so prevalent then and certainly did not have the video capacity they do now.
We went out to shoppers and bought some wax and strips. That night, I buzzed his head with the clippers so that the hair was short, but not so short there would be nothing to grab onto with wax. It was maybe, a half a centimeter long, or half of a half. We decided it would be best to start with the back of his head. Low down, from the nape of his neck straight up, perpendicular to his right ear. I applied the warm wax for him, as he sat bare chested on the side of the tub. I carefully placed the strip over the wax and rubbed it. We chatted, he said the warm wax felt nice. I asked if he was nervous and he said, a little. I asked if he was ready. He said yes.
I yanked upward, in one smooth motion, just like the instructions said. I yanked upward. His scalp yelled NO.
I don’t think it was actually his scalp that yelled, it was probably Shawn himself. But it was so primal. I’ve never seen skin pull away from the body that much. That strip didn’t budge, not one bit, but his skin did. We immediately realized that this was the worst possible decision of all time and the kids were drawn like moths to a flame to the bathroom door, no longer distracted by the Disney movie we had put on for them, they wanted to know if Daddy was dying.
I turned on the shower and bent his head over and tried to soften the wax again to the point of at least being able to take off the strip. But the wax didn’t want to cooperate. The wax thought it was funny. I thought it was a *little* funny. Shawn did not. I got my scissors out and tried to gently hold the strip away from his head enough to cut the tiny hairs but I was so afraid I was going to cut his scalp. We tried using a razor, but it kept getting gummed up in the wax.
It took us over an hour to get the strip off his head and get most of the wax off. Poor Shawn had such a headache and we had to razor the rest of his head to get it somewhat smooth. I mean, we learned some valuable lessons: leg hair and head hair and leg skin and head skin are NOT the same beasts. Waxing your head is a bad idea, and, if you spend long enough with your head tipped down over the tub and a shower head running directly over you with warm water, your ears will be super duper clean.
We have never again experimented with waxing any part of Shawn’s body. And, even though he did keep up the practice for many years afterwards, he no longer shaves his head in the summer. Bummer.
So there you go, a more lighthearted, true story, from the annals of the Reilly family years. And a little laugh for your Friday.

Fear as Mistress

It’s the month of Halloween and it’s full of scary things.  Scary movies get launched, people decorate their homes and work spaces and talk about being scared.  

I’m scared.   Not because I watched a scary movie.  I don’t watch those, I can’t sleep after. I’m a total wuss when it comes to jump scares.  Sometimes it’s because my kids think it’s hilarious to hide and jump out at me.  But that usually only scares me long enough to pee my pants and then I’m just annoyed and kind of peeved.  

I’m scared about way more run of the mill things.  Everyday things.   Like car accidents. Robbery.  Fires (sweet jesus fires are scary). Rape and murder and now, thanks to the Tangerine Palpatine from down below, nuclear war. 

The news lately has been brutal.  I know, the news is always brutal, no one watches stories about adorable puppies and babies ALL day.  No one will watch an hour long report of a pleasant day with mild weather where nothing out of the ordinary happened.   

So I’m scared. Every day.  And I’m worried about what kind of world I’m giving my kids into.  It’s a good thing that there is so much dialogue happening these days and that people are talking about all the issues and god knows the #MeToo was long overdue.  But guys?  I’m tired.  I’m tired of fear being my everyday mistress. 

We need to start looking for the light again. Not forget that conversations still need to be happening, and of course to keep having them but also to look for the good.  The positive.  The beautiful.

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