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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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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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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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I was crouched down on the ground
In a corner, trying to make myself small
Hiding my body, the scars, the bruises
Curled around myself as if the physical
Sensation of crumpling inwards, like a
Rose wilting, would protect my heart
Which felt like a thousand stab wounds
All fighting for which would make the
Biggest hole and let everything I am leak out

I was the colour of indigo on a blank canvas
Deep deep deep
I am the painting you want to look at, but
I make your soul ache because when you look
Past the first hues of blue, you see the black that
Lies under it all, see the absence of light

I was water. I was the enduring, pulsing rhythm
Of a force that would not be stopped. Or was
I the tears that just kept pouring out?

That’s what her body said to me, as she sat
On the other side of the room. Deflated.
Shivering with the adrenaline that ravaged
Her when words like arrows pierced
The delicate gossamer she is made of
Oh, she’d like you to think she is a warrior and,
She is, but she is also a butterfly. My butterfly
And I will not watch her be pinned to a board
And cased in glass. I will not.

But, that body shifted. It unfurled. It released.
And she?

She rose. She persisted. She soared.

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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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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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