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While I was away, this funny thing happened which, admittedly, used to happen with greater frequency but has kind of stopped over the last years. I paid attention to myself.
Yes, yes, I pay attention to myself, but, like, in that I have health issues that demand attention. When on holiday, particularly when travelling without one’s family, who else do you have to focus on…but you?
Flash back about five years. I was in peak health. I had joined a gym, befriended the owner and had a personal trainer. I looked great. I felt great….physically. The problem was that I was all about how great I looked. I let a lot of relationships slide, including the one I had with myself. Because outwardly I was looking amazing and yes, I was very much enjoying grabbing something off the rack from the “regular” section of the store and knowing it would fit before I even tried it on, but, I was also in denial about a lot of internal struggle. And I needed to turn my spotlight back on my family.
So I did.
And then we moved east, and I spent a year looking for work and cooking and baking. And eating. And then of course Shawn’s health took a sharp nosedive and then so did mine.
A year of steroids and treatments and mandatory feet/ankle rest and, well, if you read the blog you know the rest. I gained a lot of weight. Yet the irony was, in ALL other aspects of my life, I was the happiest I have been in years. I found a job I love, made friends, became a proactive part of a new community, and basically started enjoying life again. I was heavier, sure, but that wasn’t the main focus of my being anymore. I lived in yoga pants, jeans and hoodies anyway. And all that mattered was that my husband and kids loved me.
Packing for my trip out west, I took along a bunch of clothes I hadn’t worn in a while. Because I knew that I had nights out, and a lunch with coworkers and plans that required me to dress up a bit. And I packed my makeup because, well, I *was* going to a wedding after all. But without kids to organise and a husband to keep me busy I only had me. So I spent time. And, I gotta say, I was really happy with how I looked. I felt like a more polished version of me. It was great. I texted my friend Dana that I looked good out West and sent her outfit pictures.
On my last day of holidays, Allison and I went out to run a couple of errands and, being early for one of them, we stopped at a store for plus sizes. I had never gone into my branch of it at home. I was still clinging to that memory of being an off the rack size. (Here’s the thing, when I put something on, in my head, I see myself wearing it in my old body so sometimes I get upset when I see how it looks on my current body)
Something dawned on me that day though, trying on clothes with Allison. If I let go of the number on the label and just put on something that fit, and fit me well, I looked great. I felt great!
So, I bought a pair of jeans. Then I came home, went to my branch of the same store, and bought another pair of jeans. And a top. And a vest.
Then I went home and looked at my closet. Big, heavy sigh.
I am a clothes hoarder. No, maybe it’s not that bad, but, I hang on to stuff with the idea that ONE DAY, I’ll get back into it again. It’s been five years. And even with the great new clothes that fit me well and with taking that bit of extra time again to ensure that I was putting a little effort in like I did out West, when I saw the things I had once loved that no longer fit me, the sadness crept back in.
Well, I don’t want to feel that anymore. It was time to get rid of the “I have a dream” section of my closet.

Saturday we took the kids into the city for the Buskers on the Bay festival. We spent morning to mid-afternoon watching the acts and then scooted home so our middle daughter could get to work on time. Kids scattered, hubs went to play his new video game and I went upstairs armed with an empty garbage back and a determination, albeit a slightly nervous one.
It was like ripping off a band aid. I started in the closet. There were skirt suits and dresses. A lot of them like new, and beautifully made. I posted those online in a “buy nothing” group so that some other local woman could get the benefit of my previously expensive taste. As I suspected, everything I posted was gone by mid day Sunday. But the closet wasn’t enough. I started in on my dresser. And my shoes. If it didn’t fit, it went. At first I was sentimental and sad, but as the chore went on, it got easier and easier. And then I started to feel really good. Everything left fit, fit well, I liked it and it looked good on me. Why hadn’t I done this YEARS ago? No more would I open my closet and immediately feel fat and regretful. Now I felt empowered and awesome.
My husband thought this was a good idea so we spent a few hours on Sunday doing his closet as well. And cleaning the room. Amazing how much clutter can build up without really being noticed.
I feel lighter today. I woke up and every option I saw was an actual option.
The only downside? Now I am noticing that the linen closet needs a purge. And the living room. And the kitchen. The joys of homeownership.

I took a vacation. I went to an amazing wedding and met with wonderful people and stayed with an absolutely beautiful friend. And I kind of found myself a bit. And I remembered that I like who I am.

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Ahhh the wedding day!!

Sunday dawned beautifully and with one teensy, tiny problem: my jet lag had finally kicked in. Since Wednesday, Allison had told me she was wondering when that would happen. I mean, I was now operating three hours behind my normal internal clock, and to boot, staying in a part of the country where daylight hung around and lingered long after 10:30pm. I had been waking up super early, by Edmonton time, and staying awake super late. And on Sunday it all crashed down on me. I was exhausted. Super exhausted. We had breakfast together and then I went out briefly for a timmies (and a little present for Allison for hosting me) and came back and crashed out on the couch for about two hours, give or take.
Allison was my date for the day and at about 1:30, we started to get ready. By three we were ready to leave. The wedding was only a forty minute drive from us but, knowing that I can’t navigate Edmonton, that there was a music festival closing down part of the street and construction limiting where we could go, not to mention that Allison had work in the morning and would likely leave before me, we took separate cars. That way I could follow her and not get lost. Again. And thank goodness: we had to weave our way around the closed streets, one way streets, under construction streets and finally found the church.
It immediately dawned on me, for real, that my baby brother was getting married. He and I had an unusual relationship as siblings go. Turlough is 15 years younger than I am. By the time he was born, I was already half way through high school. I helped change his diapers, I babysat him all the time and, when he was only three years old and I eighteen, I gave birth to my oldest, Liam. Liam and Turlough were buddies from the start. And being that I was home all the time with my new baby, I often just took care of them both. He wasn’t so much like a sibling to me, than a sort of extension of my own little family in those early years and then, of course, I got married at 19 and moved out and away. Sure, we came back to the homestead a lot over the years for holidays and special occasions, but, I never got to really bond with him in that sibling way. Large age gaps make it difficult to do that, even in a big family such as ours, so, arriving at the church for his wedding was a beautiful moment for me as a big sister, but also as someone who kind of felt like I had a secondary mothering role in his early years. I also realized immediately, that I had forgotten to bring tissues. And you all know I’m a crier. I borrowed one from my sister and sat down to await the ceremony.
Can I just pause here for a sec to say, my family does weddings super cool. One sister had a full-on Scottish contingent, one had a Metallica song as her first dance, there have been swing dances and Irish hard-shoe in a wedding gown, rapping, dry ice topping a wedding cake…I mean, amazing. At Turlough’s wedding my oldest brother played them down the aisle, both in and out, to Beatles music. Super smooth.
It was the first time I had seen my new sister, walking down that aisle. Oh sure, I had seen pictures and had talked to her on the phone once or twice, but this was my first time *seeing* her. And she is beautiful. I know, all brides are beautiful and maybe I am biased (don’t care) since she is now related to me, but truly, truly she was beautiful. I definitely teared up during their vows and as they walked up the aisle at the end, now married.

Since both Turlough and Krystal are swing dancers/instructors, the reception took place at Sugar Swing, their dance hall. A mere few blocks away, it only took twenty minutes of more navigating construction and closed roads, but well worth it, the venue was really lovely. Upper floor was for dining, ground floor for dancing.
Our parents spoke, her parents spoke, and then…my brothers spoke. My older brother, kind of known for his somewhat dry sense of humour and very intellectual outlook on things surprised us all by bringing tears to our eyes with his thoughtfulness and eloquence. Even Turlough’s. My younger brother Ciaran had us laughing, no howling, at stories of their escapades as the two youngest in a house full of kids, and with four older sisters to boot. This story:

is one that will, I have no doubt, have wedding guests talking about for a long time.

Dinner ended and we all went downstairs for the main event. There was a live swing band and the music was beyond describing amazing and the dancing was even better. This was a room of people who knew how to party. Everyone got in on the action, everyone was sweating and laughing and having an amazing time. The band played for over two hours and then a DJ took over, as most of the band members were also dancers and wanted in on the fun. I stayed until just after midnight. I cried as I hugged every sibling, the original, the in laws and my new sister Krystal goodbye, as it was likely the last time I would see most of them for quite a while. It was six years since we were all together at the same time. Who knows how long it will be until that happens again. But that’s the reality of us all growing up, getting married and finding our own lives. The Myers family is no longer the one we all belong to before all others. Now it’s the Reilly’s and the Webster’s and the Derbis’s and the Gole’s and of course, the new Myers’s. And all those new families have to come first now, in the same way Mom and Dad’s did when they created it. Sad? Yes, a bit. But also wonderful as we are all creating our own stories. I arrived back just after 1 in the morning and fell into a happy sleep.
Monday being my last day out west, Allison and I spent the day just chilling. We ran a few errands and we talked and talked and watched trash TV together (a mutual guilty pleasure) and talked some more. One of the best parts of having known someone online for six years, we never ran out of things to talk about. We stayed up until 11 when she drove me to the airport. A final hug goodbye, and I was ready to go home.

Part three to come.

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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.

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Last Saturday the hubs and I drove north to Fredericton for an electrical stimulation demonstration. (TENS machines, etc). It was a great opportunity for us to meet some new people and learn about some new techniques in pain control.  Not for him, though, you don’t use those types of products when you have a serious heart condition.   For me, with recurring back pain and sarcoidosis, it was worth looking into.  

Discussion and demo started at six and ended juuuuust before eight and we had been invited to a friends house for nine.  Perfect, time to go have dinner together. 

We were both hungry.  We had left Saint John just around four and had driven straight to the venue.  I must also add that driving along the river in Fredericton is BEAUTIFUL.  Truly.  I’ll never get tired of how lovely the maritimes are.  And I loved that our hour and forty minute drive between two major cities in New Brunswick is so scenic.  Not like driving between major cities in Ontario at all. (Sorry-not sorry, Ontario) 

Anyway, we don’t actually know Freddy very well so we pulled over and looked in the GPS for nearby restaurants.  

Red Lobster.  Within minutes!  Sure it’s weirdly cliche for maritimers to eat there but, biscuits!  Shrimp!  Off we went.  However, upon reaching the spot where the GPS said it would be, there was nothing.  No restaurants of any kind. Nothing that even looked like it was once a restaurant.  Disappointed, we checked again.   Olive Garden.  Six minutes away!  I’ve never eaten at an Olive Garden but Shawn has. He immediately got excited by lasagna.  I did what I do best while navigating,  started a running commentary on every restaurant we passed, which admittedly, wasn’t riveting.  There was an Asian fusion place called Ko-To, a Thai place, a McDonald’s.  Six minutes later and no Olive Garden.  Same situation as with red lobster.  We drove around in case the GPS had merely put us in the vicinity of Italian food, or by this time, 8:30, any food but no. Gas station, optometrist, law office, pet smart. No restaurant.  No Olive Garden. No lasagna.  

We decided to go back to the Thai place. After all, we were due at our friends by nine.  And we were very hungry.  So, back we went.  We parked in the suspiciously empty parking lot and walked to the door.  Closed at 8 on Saturdays.  Closed at 8??? We were flabbergasted.  What restaurant closes at 8 in a weekend?  I turned to my beloved. Ko-To it is.  We got back in the car and started joking about how the city was conspiring against our hunger.  We pulled into the parking lot and the open sign was still on. Another sign pointed us to park in the back.  We drove around and parked beside the only other car. Looking behind us, I noticed that the restaurant was located on the street directly in front of a mini mall with a McDonald’s.  Ha ha, I thought. No homogenized burgers and fries today. 

There was a long ramp on the side of the building that wrapped around to the front door.  That’s nice, I remember thinking.  Wheelchair friendly.  JUST As we reached the top of the ramp, we heard a loud lick click. We rounded the corner in time to see the open sign get turned off. 

Because they closed at nine. Because Fredericton did not want us to eat.  Laughing softly through our raging hunger pangs, we went back and say in the car.  We watched seconds later as a lady came out the back entrance, got into her car (right beside us) and drove out.   We watched her drive right around and into the McDonald’s  lot behind us. Shrugging, defeated and famished, we followed.  Shawn and I ate our Big Macs and loudly rolled our eyes at one another over the terrible conversations by a nearby table of six teenagers.  Thn we went to our friends house for a great evening with adults. 

That was last Saturday.  And three weeks before that we came home from Ontario to my having to deal with a bad case of laryngitis.  No voice for four days.  

Last Sunday my throat was sore.  Monday it was very sore.  Tuesday myself and all three teens went to the clinic for sore throats and varying degrees of voice loss (and this is prom/grad week for ash).  We were given the once over and prescribed a gargle for our sore throats.  By last night just before I left work, I could not swallow.  So I went to urgent care.  Raging laryngitis.  I was told to stay home and not talk.  Naproxen for pain, and wait.  

So I’m home today.  I can’t talk and I’m frustrated.  Our middle daughter graduates high school tonight.  Im going to go, I’m going to cry, but I won’t be able to say a word.  

And that, my friends, is how I’m kicking off my holiday week.  

Good grief.  

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I haven’t really commented publicly on the Orlando shooting at Pulse, but believe me when I say it has been on my mind and very close to the surface since it happened.  So I’m finally going to talk about it. Or at least, talk about why a mass shooting in a gay nightclub in another country,far away from me; a married woman in her forties with children and dogs and a husband, would matter so much.  

I have five kids.  If you read my blog, you already know this.  If you have read my blog for a while now, you also probably know my oldest daughter is gay.  Coming out wasn’t easy for her.  Not because of my reaction, her dad’s, her siblings, but…other members of our family can’t understand it and don’t accept it.  She got a lot of backlash at high school.  We lived in a very small town and believe me, being out there wasn’t always easy but, one of the things I admire most about my daughter is that she is beautifully herself.  Unapologetically.  Being authentic is a gift. She has it. Anyone who knows her knows how utterly genuine she is.  

My house is one where we talk about everything.  So, when she came out to us, the kids just took it as easily as if she had told them that actually, despite the rainbow of colours that have found their way into her hair, she is actually a natural blonde.  I mean, it’s still her. What was there not to accept? 

Ah but there were things not to accept where others were concerned.  Some of our family was not and is not so accepting.  And that pains me.  

We all know that there has been an extreme uphill battle for the gay community to climb.  And I’m embracing ALL of the community. Gay, lesbian, queer, trans, bi, questioning and anyone else I’m leaving out. There is a lot of ignorance and intolerance out there and that breeds fear and hate.  But I had thought, as most of us likely had, that we as a society have come leaps and bounds. 

And then.  The shooting. 

It’s too much.  

I was texting my gorgeous girl the morning it happened.  She lives in another province and I couldn’t be there to hug her, hold her.  She was looking forward to going to pride this year in Toronto.  She is not going now. Because she was going to go alone and now, well, without someone there with her to help her feel safe, she doesn’t want to risk it.  

Which is the saddest thing. She will be 21 next month. This is the time in her life when she should be going out to gay bars and clubs and meeting people and having fun.  

As I watched the Tony awards last Sunday night, I cried when Lin Manuel gave his speech and said “love is love is love is love is love”. Because that hit the nail right on the head for me.  

To everyone in the world who doesn’t get it. There is no wrong way to love.  There is no wrong gender to love. No evil way, no sacrilidgeous way, no broken way no hateful way, no sinful way. Love. Is. Love. 

Love is love. 

Say it out loud.  Love is love.  

And every single person on this planet is entitled to love in whatever incarnation it makes them feel loved in return.  How could anyone begrudge love?  

I hope the families of this massacre find peace in their days to come.  I hope the gay community finds new strength and continues to stand up and say WE ARE WORTHY.  I hope my daughter finds joy and happiness and love with a wonderful partner some day.  

And I hope the people whose hearts are still closed to a part of humankind find a way to open them.  Have your grinch moment and let your hearts grow.  Because, no one wants to threaten you, or put their relationship “in your face” anymore than you do.  They simple want to dance, without dying. 

They just want to love their lives and one another.  As we all do.  

Love is love.  We learned to love as children.  

So grow up.  

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Where did all the damn traffic come from??? Seriously? And I won’t even talk about the INSANELY aggressive drivers. No wonder we were always smoking and stressed out. Woah.
We landed yesterday morning at about 6:45am Ontario time, got Shawn dropped off in Brampton and then I went to Guelph to pick up our oldest daughter Keisha from her house and we zoomed 25 minutes north to Elora, my hometown. We walked around for about an hour, saw the house where I grew up and where she spent most of her childhood weekends and almost all of her childhood major holidays and decided that it had changed too much. The town, that is. The vibe was completely different. It no longer felt like home to me. So, we headed back to Guelph. As much as to beat the massive storm clouds as to go play around the other city I grew up in and where her Dad and I first met. We had a great time. We saw the high school I went to in Grade nine, both where it used to be and where they rebuilt it, the park where Shawn and I had our first kiss, his old high school, the hospital where my beloved Nana lived out the last years of her life, and a whole bunch of “places of interest”. Read: where all my teenaged shenanigans took place. The Guelph ones, anyway.
But the city has changed SO MUCH. At one point we were headed to a Walmart, which I distinctly remembered the location of, and she kept telling me to turn too soon. I tried to argue with her but, well, she lives here now, so I turned and there it was. Guelph had picked up the whole damn building and moved it. And painted it green! I told Guelph to go home, because it was (and is) clearly drunk.

We didn’t actually wind up taking a lot of pictures, though I thought we would, but, we were so in the moment yesterday. And dudes, she looks fucking amazing. She has worked really hard for the last year and has lost almost 80lbs and she just was so, so, HAPPY. I loved it.

We went out for dinner all three of us last night and finally Shawn and I got some sleep.
Today I get the morning to do just this: writing. First this post and then I’m working on my book again. (SQUEALS OF JOY) and then….
We’re off to Paris Ontario tonight to see our beloved friends and to go to the theatre. You remember my theatre days, right? Lord I miss that. The last show we ever did and by far my favourite was I’ll Be Back Before Midnight. Damn I loved that role. I played Jan. I got to go crazy, shoot a (fake) shotgun, cry onstage, kiss onstage, freak the fuck out on stage, go catatonic onstage and finally, murder my stage husband with an axe. It was awesome.
And Paris Performers are doing the show tonight. So we’re going to see it. YAAYY!!!!

Tomorrow we are going to meet our new niece for the first time, see my brother and sister in law, see my Grandparents and get ready for the early Sunday morning flight home.

I’m already sunburned (I had forgotten about Ontario heat, it’s going to be 40 today with the humidity), I’ve already laughed until my face hurt. I’ve already gotten emotional.

It’s been the best day so far. I’m looking forward to the next two immensely.

Happy Friday, all!!

Now I’m off to exercise my fingers and work out what’s going on in Summer Poppies. I’ve been working on this book for Four Years. It’s time I get serious with it again and wrap it up.

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It’s been three years since we moved from Ontario to New Brunswick. And that last year in Ontario? It was ROUGH. Three years and although Shawn has returned several times (for work) I have yet to go back, even once.

Back when Shawn had his heart attacks, a situation presented itself for our oldest daughter to go back to Ontario to live. She wasn’t doing well out here. It’s hard. She was out of high school, not in college or University yet, had a part time day job where she worked with people my age and there is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING out here for late teen/early twenties people to do. She was drowning. So she left. Smartest thing she ever did. She went to live with one of my sisters first. She was even able to come home for Christmas that year. She tried a break for independence by taking a nanny position, but, in a very scary two weeks we realized that they had totally bait and switched her so our oldest and dearest friend Randy went and got her and took her in. She lived with Randy for nearly a year, moved to Guelph where my amazing cousins took her in for a few weeks and now she has just moved into her first place all of her own. I’m so proud of her it’s practically bursting from me. But all that moving meant that last Christmas she couldn’t come home so I haven’t seen my daughter in a year and a half.
And finally, I’m going to see her.

The SAME EXACT DAY Shawn had his heart attack, my parents sold their house in Ontario. The one they had lived in for over 30 years, the one we all called home and came back to as often as we could for holidays or visits. It’s where we spent our last night in Ontario before the move. I have been told the new owners are wonderful, but of course, they wanted to make the house their own. I’ve been told there have been changes. On my trip back, I plan on driving out to Elora, my hometown, to see them. Take a walk around old haunts.

I also plan on going to Cambridge to see my old house there and hopefully, thank Randy in person for everything he did for our girl.

And then….KITCHENER because my brother and his wife Angela had a baby girl. I am DYING to hold her, see them all, hug them all and most importantly hold that beautiful baby. I’m going to drive by my sister’s old house. Maybe take a drive through my old park. All the memories, the good and the bad, have been spilling through my mind ever since I booked the ticket.

If you’re a long time reader of the blog, you know that I love theatre and used to do quite a bit of it in Ontario. My last show there was undoubtedly my favourite. “I’ll be back before Midnight”. God I loved that show. Creepy and awesome and I got to play a neurotic woman who loses her mind. Well, our best friends in Paris Ontario are doing that show and, of course we’re going to go see it with them. And then, epic awesomeness will ensue as it always does with our friends the Grahams.

In many ways, this trip, only three whole days long, is going to be exhausting. In many ways, it’s going to feel like going home.
Until, I have no doubt, that moment on Sunday when our flight lands once again in New Brunswick and we drive home, past the rocky hills, the lakes and rivers, into the valley where we live in a place that looks like Algonquin Park only prettier. Where I’m still not used to the stunning views and the sight of the sun setting over the KV river making the water look like it’s on fire.

There is no question Ontario will have its moments where it feels like home. Because most of my life was there. And you always feel like “home” when you see family.
But my heart has shifted, ever so slightly, and my real home is here. Ontario, now, is a beautiful memory. One I’m very excited to revisit.

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