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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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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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There was this movie that came out in 1996 called “The truth about Cats and Dogs” in which Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofalo played friends in a bit of a reverse Cyranno de Bergerac. Uma is the tall model who maybe isn’t so worldly and Janeane is the smart, short, self-conscious one. There is a lot of great banter in this movie and the dialogue is smart and funny without pandering, but the reason I thought of it today is because I had a couple of friends take my picture.
So, there is a scene in the movie where Uma takes Janeane to a mall cosmetics counter and as Janeane is making very funny, if self-depreciating comments about her pores and the ‘free radicals’ in the air, the saleswoman plunks a huge, magnified mirror in front of her face. It’s a very aggressive move, and it perfectly illustrates two things about women: one, that our own inner dialogues to ourselves are worse than anything a person can say to us and two, that when insecure, we will spend money to try to fix it.

Which brings me back to today and my two friends. I work with a bunch of really fabulous people and in preparing for an upcoming newsletter, two of the people I love the most at work took my picture. Not just mine, but, this is my blog and this story is about me so, yeah, they took my picture. First of all, it’s daunting to have your picture taken. I am a total slave to the new age technology that allows me to use filters and take a zillion digital pictures to capture just that right ‘one’. So, having someone else control the lens made me nervous. Plus, I like these ladies. I am “the funny one”. I can always make people laugh. So of course I struck some poses like a fake Hollywood celeb with that hand on the hip front leg cross pose (from which I almost fell over, and I was wearing sneakers, not heels) and one of me literally climbing the wall behind me. But then they just kept on taking face shots. Which, I admit, was the point, but, again, no control=panic.
My inner me was freaking out a bit, having a hard time smiling without instantaneously criticising myself for how I must look. My inner me was instantaneously cataloguing every flaw that I feel the worst about or obsess the most about. My inner me was being a terrible, insecure wise-ass with a giant magnified mirror in my face.
Suffice it to say there were some really nice pictures in the bunch, because of course they’re both great photographers, but, as the emails kept rolling in for me to check them out, I had a really hard time. How do you turn off an inner dialogue that has been a part of your life for as long as you can remember?
You don’t.
I looked at each picture. The ones that were silly, the ones that were awful, the ones with too much neck, the funny one where I tried to pull my neck smooth, the one where I’m trying to look serious and am clearly clenching my teeth. I looked at every one of them. And whenever my inner voice tried to be too harsh, I said, that’s not me. I’ve worked very hard on my inner dialogue over the years trying to correct a lot of toxic thoughts and thought patterns. It’s not easy. But that can’t be me anymore.
So, I picked a nice shot, and also said that I would be fine with the goofy one of me pretending to climb the wall. Because that goof who likes to make people laugh, that’s me.
And I’m pretty okay with her.

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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 am in so many relationships, you guys. Like, a plethora. An abundance. A glut of relationships. I got relationships coming out the wazoo, which is a great thing, because at 42, I can happily say that the majority of those relationships are positive ones. And do you know why that is? Because I cracked the code. I figured out the hierarchy of relationship:happiness.
Me, Him, Them, You
Looks simple, doesn’t it? Almost too simple. And yet, so many people struggle with this. I’m not throwing shade, I myself completely struggled with this for YEARS. I finally got it right though and now I’m going to share it with you.
Me. I have to come first in the relationship list. It took me a really long time to accept this as not only true, but, as the HEALTHIEST choice for me to make. I always thought that putting myself first meant that I was being a total narcissist, but, I had it wrong. It makes me the sanest, most giving and loving me I can possibly be.
You see, I let my “me” relationship sit on the sidelines for a long time. I told her it was more important to focus on the children (which, is highly important, and they are a BIG factor of my life), my husband, my friends and making sure that everybody liked me at the EXPENSE of my own happiness, self worth and health. Tell me, how are you going to make all those other relationships wonderful fulfilling ones when it’s evident you don’t care enough about yourself to be happy? You can’t. Because if those people in your other relationships notice you are constantly unhappy, sacrificing yourself or just being a doormat for their happiness, they will stop trusting you. They will no longer engage in a mutually beneficial way, they will either pity you, or take advantage of you or just plain give up. For years I let my need to be ‘for everyone else’ overshadow my need to be for me.
And then. Major life changes, re-evaluation of life and a lot of really good therapy and I learned that when I look to myself first, I’m a happier person. I am able to give more, do more and be more because I have the reserves to do so. I can say no and not feel immediately worried that I’m letting someone else down because I’M ALLOWED TO SAY NO. My life is no longer lived for everyone else, which has in turn allowed me to be freer with the part of me that I *do* give. Being happy every day, for the most part, is the best way to live my life and believe me when I say, that has a ripple effect on ALL of my other relationships.
Him. So I’m married. I’ve been married forever, plus 22 years. I’m one of those few people in our current society who married her high school sweetheart at 19 years old and we’re still going strong. But we weren’t always. In fact, for a good stretch of years there, we were a mess. A big ol, covered in sticky kid fingers mess. Why? Because I was in the depths of living for my ‘other’ relationships. It was all going to the kids and then to the friends and the community we lived in, for the sake of appearances. And while we “appeared” to be “perfect” on the outside, a farce we were super proficient at performing, we were an unholy mess on the inside. He lived for his job and I lived for the kids. Neither of us lived for each other or more importantly for ourselves.
And then. Those major life changes and all that great therapy. Much like the discovery of self, we learned that we ‘chose’ our relationship with one another and we needed to bring it back to priority. We started to date again. We talked and really listened. We became one another’s best friends again and when there was a problem, instead of going to the friends to bitch, we went to one another and worked on it. The newly found importance of taking care of ourselves trickled into care of one another and our relationship. We found so many new levels of connection and we’re still discovering them. And it’s OKAY for us to put ourselves before our kids. Because when they see us working together every day on making our marriage and ourselves the best they can be, we model for them the kind of love and happiness they in turn will seek out. What a gift to give them!
Them. Those kids. Well, we had a bunch, so what did we expect other than having them take over the world. Five kids in eight years. Like lunatics. Or people who had birth control fail them once or twice. Either way, I love each and every child of mine even when I am super mad at them and they know it.
When they were little, I had the luxury of staying home with them for almost 12 years. I loved being a stay at home mom outwardly, but inwardly I struggled. Children are HARD. And to make matters harder, I also babysat in our home to bring in extra income, so between that and the friends in our neighborhood who came over, it wasn’t unusual for our house to have 7-10 kids in it at a given time. I was all about the kids. I did everything for them. Maybe sometimes too much. It’s hard to know. But, as they got older and I went back to work, in my fear of losing my connection with them from the single digit years, I started blurring the lines between parent, and friend. This did not actually serve either of us well. As the older kids got older, they sometimes became my confidants, and that REALLY didn’t serve us well. So, as I’ve said, excellent therapy and a reclaiming of our roles and their place in the hierarchy and I have excellent, parental parts in my children’s lives. I’m loving watching them all take their turns at moving on and becoming the adults they are becoming and I’m proud to say that they have (or seemed to have) learned that they need to take care of themselves in order to be able to give of themselves to others. I never hear anything but praise of how mature and delightful they are.
You. You get to come last. That doesn’t mean I neglect my friends, it just means, and you all know this, myself, my husband and my kids supersede you. I’m not going to go to you over my husband or hide things for you from him. I don’t do secrets and lies anymore. I don’t do drama. God, I hate the drama. And the best thing is? Since adopting this, the people in my/our life who thrived on the drama and the chaos have simply drifted out. Either than or I’ve let them go. And the people left? They are the ones who understand where I/we are and they get it. They love and respect us for it. Mostly, they are the same way.
It’s a happier life, friends, knowing this. Living this.
Me. Him. Them. You. It made it all so much simpler. And so much better.

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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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