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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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My parents arrive tomorrow for a few days’ visit. I’m actually really happy to have them come. Because they are leaving in a few weeks for a trip back to the motherland. Ireland. And shortly after that, they are moving back to Ontario. Yeah. I have no idea why either. If my own recent trip back to Ontario taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to live there again and I don’t know why anyone else would either after they’ve had a taste of life in, um, I don’t know, ANY OTHER PROVINCE. I take back ANY time I have bitched out here about traffic or construction. We have it easy. We have it super easy.

What I *did* miss was people. Specific people. My daughter. Oh lord Keisha you are SO beautiful you don’t even realize. And seeing you happy, full of energy, settled, you have no idea how much that made me smile. I think the last time I saw you in such a good place, you were about 12. Maybe. I’m so proud and I really wish we could spend time together more, but at the same time I’m happy to let you live your life and just…fly.
Best friends Alex and Greig. I have no words. Three years were like three days. Because we just fell right back into our wonderful ways as if no time had passed at all. God I missed you.
My brother and sister and the new baby. Yes, I have two other sisters in Ontario and I didn’t get to see either of them, but new babies win. Always. And Saoirse is a dream. My eighth niece (I also have three nephews) and I’m sure, knowing our family, that we’re not done yet. I mean, I am done, but I still have two unmarried brothers and Ciaran and Angela are newly weds, I’m sure they’ll have at least one more. I just love the babies. LOVE

One of my favourite visits of the trip was seeing my grandparents. I love how my Grandmother is still so full of joy and laughter. I loved making Grandpa’s eyes light up at new pictures of my kids, their great-grandchildren. I love their cozy home and I just loved spending time with them. I miss that, living so far away. I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to do it.

So I came home, out from the (not even kidding) 40 degree heat, to a brisk 12 degree, cool Saint John day and promptly lost my voice. Total laryngitis. I actually could not make any sounds for three days and even now, I’m still scratchy.

June is not cooling its heels though, and we are careening quickly through a season that has left me emotional. Aislinn, our middle daughter, is graduating high school in a few weeks. I don’t know, I’ve been through this graduation thing before, but, on different scales. Liam finished the way I did, through correspondence. Keisha finished through an alt high school and I definitely remember her graduation ceremony, and how choked up I was sitting in the auditorium with Shawn watching our baby cross that stage to get her diploma. But Ash is the middle baby. I have a mental picture of my kids: the “older two”, Ash, the “middle child” and (much to their eternal chagrin that I STILL use this term) the “little two”. If Ash is graduating, that means that really, for REAL this time, they’re all getting older. I have one kid moved out, another on the cusp and now Aislinn making plans for moving on and my beautiful big family is shrinking.
Believe me, I do know that it will eventually get to the phase where it grows again when they all start making their permanent relationships and having their own families. But right now, I’m in the midst of the emotional roller coaster of watching them grow, and letting them go.

I’m feeling my age. I’m searching for a cure to that.

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We have…an infestation.
No, not like six years ago when we had bedbugs and DEAR GOD may we never endure that perfect storm of EW ever again.

Saturday past. The day before Mother’s Day. We actually had a warm, beautiful day with double digit plus temperatures. It was wonderful! So of course we spent the day out in the back yard doing clean up, pulling out old shrubs and things that we’ve been meaning to pull out since we moved here, raking, you know, all that good hard summer prep work.
We left the back door (to the sun room) open, and, the door from the sun room to the kitchen. Just a bit. Just enough for the dogs to get in and out so they too could enjoy the fine weather.

We forgot to close them.

Saturday night. My daughter and I are in the living room watching a show. My husband is down in the basement playing Assassins Creed. Ash gets up to go to the kitchen for a drink of water and immediately starts yelling for Shawn and I.

Why?

Because we have crickets. Big, giant, black, ugly crickets. All. Over. The. Kitchen.

They were on the floor, on the cupboards, on the wall, ON THE CEILING!!! No, I’m not kidding, two of them were on the goddam ceiling. She was frozen in the doorway freaking out.

Shawn came up and we spent a good fifteen minutes killing, catching and getting rid of them. After we closed the door of course. Our dog Kermit ate one, I’m pretty sure.

That was Saturday.

On Sunday, we found about six more. Three of them in the living room. Yesterday morning the kids killed four more in the morning, more after school and I got two when I came home from work.

So, let this be a lesson to you all. If you’re going to pull up old shrubs and shit trees and basically turn over old earth in dark, pokey corners of your yard, DON’T LEAVE YOUR DAMN DOORS OPEN!

I have to go now. I have a plague in my home and it must be cleansed.

ugh.

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When Shawn got his job out here, we had about two months to pack up our Ontario lives and move to the East coast.  Not a huge amount of time, but you’d be surprised what people who are motivated can accomplish.

Then, when Shawn was jussst starting to come back from his heart attack, an opportunity presented itself for our oldest daughter, Keisha, to move back to Ontario.  She never liked it out here.  It was hard on her, which, is totally understandable.  I mean, she was out of high school and not yet going to college and there was nowhere for her to meet up with any peers in a non-weird way.  So she was lonely.  And work in New Brunswick is hard to come by.  At least sustainable work.  I should know, it took me nearly three years to find my full time, permanent job.  I worked a lot of part time, contract positions.  But, you do what you gotta do.

And now we find ourselves living and breathing the preparations for the next big move.  Ash is going to University in the fall.  And it’s overwhelming all the planning that goes into it.  And the money….jeez louise.

The money notwithstanding, there is just so damn much to know.  And to get ready.  She has lists upon lists.

I have to admit, I’ve been waffling so much between being incredibly proud, completely nervous, stressed out.  Probably all the things I would have felt more thoroughly with Keisha had it not been such a whirlwind and also in the midst of one of the biggest stress points of my life.  Our lives.

Poor Ash.  I’m trying to keep most of my more extreme feelings away from her (she is stressed enough).

I’ve never been good with big changes in my life.  I like things to stay the way they are.  But life doesn’t do that.  It just waits until you get comfortable and then it throws big change at you.

I guess I need to spend more time preparing myself for the changes that are inevitable.

How do you handle big changes??

 

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I have friends who are just now (or within the last few years anyway) starting their families. I, as many of you know, had my own family ridiculously young and although it was super hard then, I’m really grateful for it now. My teenagers value their weekend sleep in time almost as much as I do. I can leave them without supervision, they can do their own laundry and cook for themselves and even for the hubs and I from time to time.

It makes me giggle to myself occasionally when my friends complain of the sleep deprivation and the constant questions and interruptions.

BUT

Although my teens (and my two in their twenties) come with many perks, there are some things that never change.

Sunday night for example. First of all, there was a wicked wind storm that night and so it was very loud outside the bedroom windows, but, I was starting my new job on Monday morning so I needed my sleep. My 22 year old had come home briefly that night around 8 pm to tell us that he was heading out for his work belated Christmas party. Great. It was nice of him to check in in person. We went to bed that night at around 11:30 and I was slightly restless as I had first day of new job jitters.

I had FINALLY fallen asleep and my phone rang just around 12:20 am. Who the EFF is calling me after midnight. I jolted awake (it’s always my phone too, they never call dad, interrupt dad, text dad at work. Always mom) and reached for my phone praying that no one had been in an accident or had (god forbid) died.

It was my 22 year old calling from his party. He wanted to leave his car and cab it home (Yay, smart kid didn’t want to drink and drive) and wanted to know if I would drive him in to get his car in the morning. I probably wasn’t very kind in my reply of “no”. I already had to leave early to drive the teen girls in to school (they both needed to go in early to see teachers) and no way was I going to be late on my first day.

It took me an hour to get back to sleep.

I had my alarm set for 7:30 am as I didn’t have to be at work until 9:30. At 7 am my phone rang. Miffed, I rolled over and answered.

It was my 17 year old daughter. Calling from DOWN THE HALL.

She said that the power had ‘flickered’ overnight and she thought it might have turned off my alarm. My alarm is on my phone, I reminded her. It’s set to go off in half an hour.
Oh, she said. Nevermind then.

So you see, even adult kids and teen kids still mess with your sleep patterns. They still come ask me questions when I’m in the shower. They still wake me up in the middle of the night or early in the morning.

But you know what? (Apart from being slightly perturbed in the moment) I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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If you follow social media with any kind of zeal, you will likely have heard of the hashtag that went viral last week: #standingwithStoya

An adult film actress went public with the fact that her adult film actor boyfriend had, on more than one occasion, forced her. Ironically, shortly after she came forward with this, another ex of his (also an adult actress) said that the same had happened with her.

I hate hearing these kinds of stories. The whole Bill Cosby saga felt like it destroyed a staple from my childhood. Charlie Sheen came out with HIV, not because he was trying to be brave and raise awareness, but because he had been hiding it, even from his partners, and was being blackmailed by some in the know.

What in the hell is wrong with the world???

The thing that made me angriest over the #standingwithStoya issue was the comments from men that “you can’t rape a porn star” or “you can’t rape a prositute”. I fumed.

I was so angry that my three younger kids, (17, 15 and 14) asked me what was wrong and we spent an hour in the kitchen while I prepared dinner discussing it. My 14 year old son, upon hearing the “can’t rape” theory of some said that it made him “physically angry”. As well it should. I’m just thankful that I have raised boys who know that no means no. No matter WHERE you are on the sliding scale from kissing to full sex. A “NO” is to be respected. Whether the girl says it or the guy does.

We talked a lot that night, as the conversation spun us in many directions. Like, why is Bill Cosby being (rightfully, in my opinion) vilified in the media and Charlie Sheen is not? We also talked about statistics of women who experience sexual assault. We discussed their own relationships, as they have happened so far, and we talked about boundaries and why they are important. Why standing up for your own personal beliefs is important and why it is socially responsible to speak out against actions like rape and say that no, it is not okay, and we won’t stand for it anymore.

They’re not easy conversations, but they are needed ones. I believe firmly in keeping a very open dialogue with my kids and so far, all I see is good coming from it. They are strong, independent, free thinking, moral and socially responsible kids/young adults and I am proud of each and every one of them. They are fiercely loyal to their loved ones, both friends and family and they are quick to stand up to injustice.

That’s partly why my heart broke so hard tonight when I heard the news about San Bernardino. A senseless shooting in a place that helps people with disabilities. It’s going to spark a conversation again, and while I never mind having deep and in depth conversations with the kids, I’d really like to have one about something really positive for a change.

That being said, I still believe that any conversation with your children is a worthwhile one. They’re fascinating. And incredibly insightful. And delightfully funny and witty and caring. I will keep on having these necessary, but not necessarily fun, conversations with my kids. And we will discuss how the world can be scary, dangerous and mean.
However, ESPECIALLY leading up to the holidays. I also plan to talk to them about art, music, dancing in our kitchen, silly things and sad things and super amazing things. Because there’s only a few years left when the culmination of all these conversations is what I’m going to send them out into the world armed with.

I’m not ready.

But I think they just might be.

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First year: Well, who doesn’t love a baby?? This is the best stage EVER! It’s all love, love, love all day, every day. You can’t get over how cute everything is, smiling all the time, happy to the point of grossing out your non-married friends. It’s disgustingly sweet.

Toddler years: Yeah, that ‘new baby’ phase is over. The marriage has found legs and words and is using both. Frequently. This time is all about learning. New discoveries. New experiences. Conversations become more involved and deeper. But, occasionally you still walk into walls and fall down for no reason other than your balance being off.

4-9 years: This is a great period of time because you really get to settle in. This is when you start getting real. At this point you’ve been to the circus, you’ve seen the clowns, you’ve eaten and gotten sick on the cotton candy and there is no mystery to what happens with all that animal poop. These years of hyper reality either make or break a marriage, often. It’s when marriage strips off its shiny veneer and shows the true, no makeup, first thing in the morning, breath like you walked all night with an open mouth through a sewer, picking your bellybutton on the couch while you drink a beer, dirty socks in the corner, peeing in the shower, honest to god selves.

10 years: Double digits! The first really big milestone! Likely there will be a party. Definitely there will be cake. People congratulate you, and if they’re one of the people who held bets that it wouldn’t last, you get tempted to spit in their punch. This is the year of inside jokes and a renewed sense of fun. You’ve really matured and even though there are still a LOT of silly fart jokes that make you spit out your milk laughing, you stand a little taller, feel a little older, more grown up. Ten is a good year.

Teen years: This is where stuff gets rough again. Teenagers are notoriously restless and this is also true for teen-year marriages. Hormones run wild, and in many cases, work starts to be the main relationship putting a strain on the marriage one. Teens change their minds A LOT and have notorious wandering eyes. These are the years when you start to wonder if maybe the grass might indeed be greener. However, all those hormones mean that if you don’t get too distracted, then the teenage infatuation, lovey-dovey-ness will likely work in your favour.

21 years: Congratulations! Your marriage has now made it through, past the twenty year mark and is officially an adult. You can drink anywhere you want, you have a vote, you can buy lottery tickets, hell, you can pretty much do whatever you like. It’s a good feeling. Making it to 21 years of marriage means you’ve come through all the extreme highs, the extreme lows and you’re still kicking, ready to take on the world. At 21, most marriages are pretty rock solid. In fact, they almost have that air of snob to them.
“Ohh, look at me, I’m a big grown up and you’re still a baby”
The 21 year old marriage can go for a walk in a mall and see a toddler marriage bickering and can think (with a benevolent head tilt) “rookies”.

Everything after 21 is gravy. Sure, there are still a few bad bits stuck into the folder at this point, but, for the most part the good outweighs the bad. You’ve come through it all together. Beyond 21 years you come to the realization that to try and start all over again as a baby would be exhausting, and, the way priorities often shift, a good night’s sleep next to someone who already knows your nocturnal farting habits is second only to a good hot bath.

My marriage turns 21 in just a few months. Those teen years, ironically much like my own, were a bitch. But, again much like my own, the teens were survived and I believe helped make us stronger.

If my marriage was a person, it’d be much calmer at 21 years than I personally was. But I look back at all that has been thrown at us and I know that, while I would never want to do some of it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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