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What a 2017 it’s been.

My sarcoidosis went into remission, and although it has caused permanent changes (glasses, asthma, arthritis), I am basically still the same person and not too badly worse for wear. Notwithstanding a few smaller issues with my back and knees, this year was the year my health started the slow climb back upwards, and that’s something worth celebrating. I plan on spending some time in 2018 making small changes to keep on feeling better and staying better. My 40’s have definitely been the years to put plans into action, and my health is a big one on that list.

Shawn and I celebrated another anniversary and every year that we get to do that is a blessing. If there is one thing that we’ve clung to since 2014, it’s that life is short. Super short. You should be with the people you want to be with and let go of anyone and anything that isn’t a positive force in life. We know that as the years go on and the kids keep on leaving to pursue their own lives, it will only be ourselves left at the end, and we better still like one another. We’re still planning that trip to Italy and one of these years, we’ll actually do it.

We bid a final goodbye to our beloved dog, Katie. And we miss her every day.

I took my first ever in my life solo trip this year. At the end of June, I flew to Edmonton Alberta, my first time west of Ontario, to see my baby brother get married. For one day short of a week, I stayed with my internet-now-real-life friend Allison in her beautiful home and learned to drive my way around Edmonton. I went to the big mall, had dinner with my internet family/friends, visited with my family (all six of my siblings in the same place for the first time in six years!) and watched my baby brother tie the knot. I missed my own family dearly and it was sad that my husband wasn’t able to come with me. That just made the coming home that much sweeter.

As soon as I got back from Edmonton, I jumped into a jam-packed rehearsal schedule, as, for the first time since moving East, I got involved with a theatre show. I have to admit, I was a little gun-shy to get into a theatre again, my last experience not exactly leaving on a high note, due to (pun intended) drama, but, I’m glad I did. I threw on a habit, and became a singing nun in Sister Act. The run was fantastic, playing to nearly sold out crowds nightly and it was great to be a part of a production again.

We celebrated three years this fall of Shawn’s life since the heart stopping September of 2014. As always, I had a mini-meltdown in the days leading up to the anniversary and as always, we reflected on the fragility of life.

Speaking of getting back into the habit, I put on my writer’s cap again this fall and was a featured author at the Saint John Fog Lit festival. It really felt good to talk about my writing again and to speak at the events. I am, as ever, appreciative of cities that celebrate the arts and their own local artists.

And to cap off a wonderful year, I did my exam for French with the province and received a certificate of Intermediate ability.

2018 is already shaping up to be a busy one. Shawn and I will both be students at the University, working towards continually improving and updating our skills. I will keep working on French while I move to a new department at work. Kathryn, our second youngest, is graduating from high school and Shawn Michael, the baby, will start his Grade 12 senior year in the fall.

Life is a journey. It should be savoured and enjoyed. Live well, love hard, and let the rest go.

Peace, my friends.

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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.

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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.

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I remember the fall of two years ago, standing in our kitchen the day Aislinn found out she was accepted early admission to Dalhousie. What a heady moment. What a proud moment. Now, it didn’t turn out that that was where she went for her first year of University, BUT, since our older two kids both delayed post secondary education, it was the first time we really had that “you’re accepted” thing and it really brought home for us the shift in the family. For years, it was the “older two”, then Ash (poor middle child syndrome, she was lumped in with either the “older two” or the “younger two”) and then the “younger two” or, the “little ones”.
Kathryn and Shawn Michael are close in age. They would have been 20 months apart, which is close by any standards, but, because he was a preemie, they are only 18 months apart. They were often mistaken for twins from about the ages of four/five, on. And they have always been the little ones of the family.
So, my older three kids have moved onward. They have all moved out, are working and living their lives. Which is still such a weird thing for me to say. But, they are all doing well, in the way young people do when they first live on their own, which is to say, they’re still all figuring it out and financially scraping by. That’s fine, they have loads of time.
Both Kathryn and Shawn M have jobs this year, which means they are both gone a lot. The house went from a smaller version of our regularly scheduled chaos to a very quiet one in one short month.

Yesterday, Kathryn texted me. She got early acceptance to Acadia. It may not be where she winds up going, but, that feeling in my stomach started all over again. Those little ones aren’t so little anymore. My baby girl is graduating high school this year and our baby boy, the little preemie who just turned 16 and is now 6’3″ tall, graduates next year.

I honestly don’t know where the time went! It seems like yesterday we were piling all the kids in the living room with their blankets and pizza from Lola’s and putting on a Disney movie for them before tucking them all into bed at 8:30 and now, my little adults are all either already flown the nest or making their plans for when they do.

Life moves quickly, my loves. And the older you get, the faster it goes.

Kathryn, I am so proud of you!! No matter which school you wind up going to, they will be richer for having you.

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This past weekend was a long weekend and well, we just wouldn’t be us if we didn’t cram it full of stuff to do. So that’s exactly what we did. In the true spirit of team, I offered up our house as the location of the end of summer party for my work. In fairness, our property is just made for hosting and I was happy to do it. The weather was not so happy. It was cold, rainy and dismal. We didn’t let it deter us, though. We built a fire in the fire pit to keep folks warm and split our time from fireside to pool shed to back garage. There was plenty of good food, drinks and conversation and we went on until almost midnight.
Saturday morning, we helped our middle daughter Aislinn move out of our house and into her first apartment.
I’m going to pause here to speak on why this was so hard, because, I already have two other children who have moved out and, not to diminish what I felt when they did, there is something about this one that made it….well, harder.
So, I’m the second oldest of seven and I grew up with my older brother (13 months apart) and two younger sisters (four and six years younger). My three younger siblings were “the little ones”, which, fair or not, is what they were. They are 10, 13 and 15 years younger than me. They were born AFTER we moved from Guelph to Elora. Those first years of mine as a kid are filled with typical kid stuff: soccer teams and gymnastics and dance classes and taking us all over the place on family trips and such. Typical family stuff. But then, when I was 13 my dad got very sick and things slowed way down. So it was like, I got this one ‘Dad’ and the “little ones” got another.
We have often joked, much to our own children’s horror, that our family did a similar ‘split’ after we moved out east. We had family #1, when all the kids were little and we did soccer and dance and trips to Algonquin and epic Sunday morning breakfasts and movie nights and pulled them out of school for Harry Potter releases. And then we moved here and Shawn got sick, Liam and Keisha moved out and it was just us and our own “little three”. Only they weren’t so little. So life went on and we took kids to music lessons and we did a prom and a graduation and then not even a full month ago our Aislinn tells us she is seriously looking at places. Within two weeks she found one and voila, Saturday morning she moved out.
We miss her. It’s quiet with only two kids at home.
So how do we deal with only two kids left at home? Renovate, that’s how. We found a great deal on flooring at Home Depot, a new couch (after months literally of searching), and bought paint at Kent. So we spent the rest of our long weekend ripping out old floors, painting the walls, painting the trim around the room, windows and doors and then yesterday, putting the new floor in. Out with the old, on with the new.
In tune with our changing family, Shawn and I opted for the ‘old person’ choice of only one couch and a ‘special’ chair for each of us. For him, a recliner (only a nice one, not that brown monstrosity he used to have – love you babe) and for me, a chaise lounger. Something I can stretch out on, cuddle under a blanket on and oh yeah, knit. Because I’m also old.
I generally dislike change. Shawn and I walked around our house on Sunday night, after a late night snack in the kitchen and we realized, we bought our house for the family we had at the time, and not the one we were on the cusp of having. It’s a lot of house, for a diminishing amount of people.
I guess that just means we’ll have to have more parties.

Happy back to school, all!

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I had a nest with five little birds
Singing a chorus, night and day
Filling the air with their beautiful song
and never was chirping so gay

My five little birds lived in harmony
From fledgling to full soaring flight
Dipping and diving through air all the day
and snuggled in dark peaceful night

The first bird was quiet and pensive
The second was bold and so bright
The third had a strength behind grace
The fourth was a beautiful sight

The fifth bird was tiny, and broken at first
Fighting for each gasp of air
He grew to be bigger than all of them
he grew to be handsome and fair

My five little birds fluttered round me
All with such mischievous eyes
Then one by one, as they grew bigger
disappeared in beckoning skies

Five, four, three, onward into the world
Until only two remained home
For birds cannot nest for forever
and mothers must let their birds roam

I had a nest with five little birds
Please come back and visit some day
fill up our home with your beautiful songs
for never was chirping so gay

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Saint John has a literary festival!! That’s right, our own lovely city has a literary festival every fall and last night was the launch!
This past early spring, I was contacted by a friend, whose sister is on the board of the festival, to see if I would be okay with being put in contact. Of course, I said! So about two weeks later, Andrea and I sat down at the starbucks in Indigo (how appropriate) and discussed the festival, the events and whether or not I would be interested in participating. It had been a long time since I had been a part of an event that wasn’t a book signing, and of course I agreed.
Last night the launch was held in the restaurant at the Delta hotel in uptown Saint John and it was wonderful! What local talent, what support for the arts. I was the last of the night to get up and read and I have to say, I had forgotten how much I enjoy doing that. After the main event we all stayed and mingled and talked and bought each other’s work. I spoke at length with the other artist of the night and had a lovely conversation with another Irish transplant from Co.Meath.
In gearing up for the event, I reached out to a certain well-known Canadian author with whom I’ve had the good fortune to be somewhat friendly with over twitter and I asked him if he would be willing to come out and be a part of the festival, give a reading? He was touched that I asked, and happy to do so, unfortunately the timing did not work out with his already booked events. So, I’ve asked his agent to please put a pin in it for next year. If/when he does come out, the festival has graciously allowed me to be the one to introduce him, which, to be honest, would be an enormous highlight of my writing life.

Earlier that day, I had thrown my back out helping some strangers put a mattress in their car, I had gone with my daughter to look at apartments as she is gearing up to move out, and I had enjoyed a glass of wine with my husband as we talked about life and next steps. It just goes to show that I really need to remind myself on darker days that my life it pretty damn fantastic. And that I’m one of the luckiest people I know.

If you aren’t a native Saint John-er, and haven’t done so, I urge you to head on over to Fog Lit’s webpage and check it out. And, if you’re in another city, find out how YOUR town is supporting its local artist and go out to some events. You never know how it will impact your life.

Happy reading, everyone!

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