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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 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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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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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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