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Archive for the ‘Irish and proud’ Category


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

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

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

Happy reading, everyone!

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I’m taking this weekend to work hard on Summer Poppies. It’s high time I gave it the attention it’s due. I’m not in a hotel, locked away as I used to do, I’m simply at home. Shawn has taken the teens out of the house for me and I am working along to the soundtrack of my childhood.

Seems only fitting since so much of this book takes place in Ireland. Writing this end to my series feels like completing a long tale that began the very first night I heard from my own father that his family got on a ship one day and crossed the ocean to come and live in Canada. A story that just a few years ago took me back to Ireland myself to see the home where he lived and the town he grew up in. My body was born and bred in Canada, but, my heart is Irish and always has been.

And now I’m going back to my beloved Siobhan, a character inspired by my own grandmother Lucy, to finish her story and to travel in my thoughts and my heart, back to Ireland again.

I hope to finish soon. Perhaps even before the summer is out.

I hope your own Saturdays are full of life and love and wonderful adventures, be them out in the world or in your own hearts and minds.

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I have made no bones about talking on this blog the extents to which I love our hospital. I do. I love it. It (and by it I mean the people who work there) saved my husband’s life. Of course I love it. But on Tuesday night, the shine wore off…hard.

Let me back up a little bit. Sometime back in January, I started to get this niggly little pain in my left foot. Behind my heel. At first I chalked it up to pulling some sort of muscle on the treadmill. I mostly ignored it but every so often it would really bother me and I would comment on it. Shawn kept on forgetting it was a “thing” because even commenting on it I didn’t do often.

Then, about sometime last month, I noticed that it was starting to be accompanied by a sharp-ish pain in the side of my foot. My foot hurt to put weight on some days and I noticed that if I was off my feet for any length of time, it would hurt more to get up on it for the first few minutes. Once I was moving around it was usually okay though. I talked to a few people about it and looked up online (okay – I KNOW you should NEVER google symptoms, but I do it anyway) and concluded that it was plantar fasciitis. It all matched. So, I bought some insoles for my shoes and just…made do. After all, kind of like sciatica, it “can” eventually go away. I steeled myself for another months long battle of discomfort like I had with the sciatica and just, got on with it.

Then. Last weekend.
Getting out of bed at night started to become very painful. And I started to wonder if I had sprained my foot, or maybe even broken it, and was walking around with that injury. I started to look for bruises which is when I noticed the swelling. My left foot was swelling. Not grossly, but enough. I also noticed that my wrists were starting to hurt by morning by I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
I mentioned it on Monday night to Shawn. I might have been very emotional about it as it was a particularly painful night. He rightly said that I needed to get it looked at. Which meant, for me, a visit to the ER.
We still don’t have a family doctor out here. Going on three years on the list this July. The clinic won’t deal with anything that needs testing and results. So, it was the emergency room or nothing.
Tuesdays (and Thursdays) I work until 8pm. So, I told my friend at work, I was just going to go to the ER after work. A Tuesday night probably wasn’t that bad.
Man, was I wrong.

I got there at 8:15 and there were a fair number of people in the waiting room. Maybe twenty five or so. I saw the triage nurse and because I had just spent the whole day moving on it, the pain at that point in time wasn’t so bad, but, I explained to her the long set of problems and took my seat. Within two hours, the swelling had started again and, likely due to sitting and not moving around much, the pain was much worse. So, I told the nurse of the changes. I don’t think she made a note of it, just kind of said okay. I hobbled back to my seat where the guy near me promptly told me that he had been there since 4:55pm. Greaaaat. At that rate I likely wouldn’t be seen until after midnight. I texted Shawn and removed my left shoe, since my foot was now swollen to uncomfortable in it.

I waited. And waited. At two am there were about six patients left in the ER. I was one of them. I went back to the triage nurse, a new nurse who had come on at about 11 or so. I asked her where I was in the lineup. She didn’t really want to say numbers, just that a lot of people had been triaged higher than me. A lot. Well, there weren’t many people left. A few people had actually just walked out due to the waits. I asked her, more than four? And she said yes. So…logic follows that I was last. Fuuuuuuck…

My foot was really painful. Like, really painful. And my legs were starting to get shooting pains in them from not moving. I wanted to get up and walk around to relieve the pain in my legs, but it just made my foot pain worse so I was stuck between a rock and a very hard place. What I did do was pull the only loose chair closer to me, pile my coat on it and put my foot up. And cry. I also cried. Quietly.

Five o’clock. There was myself, and two ladies who had come in at midnight and now there were some new patients starting to trickle in. I watched two of the new patients get called before me and I got very upset. I went back to the triage nurse. I told her I had been there for nine hours and please, please tell me I was next. She said I was.
I went back to my seat and the nurse came over a few minutes later. She said the doctor wanted her to see my swelling. I showed her and she pressed on the swollen parts of my ankle hard. Then she asked me if I wanted any advil. YES PLEASE. JEEZ!

At six thirty, a woman who had been in the ER with me when I first came in came back in. She saw me sitting, rocking in the corner with tears and loudly said, YOU’RE STILL HERE! She came over after checking in. Apparently she had been seen and told to come back in the morning for a CT scan. She was incredulous that no one had seen me yet. A woman near me who had heard the exclamation asked me what time I came in. I told her, and people around us got visibly upset and uncomfortable. No one had come to the emergency room expecting a wait that long.

7am. 11 hours of waiting and my name was called. I got up, gingerly, and started to hobble and then I asked for a chair. The nurse who had come out for me was like, “oh, yeah” it having only just occurred to her that the girl with the limp, the bad ankle and her shoes off might find it difficult to walk into the back and to wherever the room was they were going to put me. She got me a chair and wheeled me to a room where, she gave me a hospital shirt and told me to take off my clothes and get into it.

You know, because you need to be naked to have your ankle inspected.

Whatever, I know that hospitals have good reason to put you in those shirts so I took off everything except my bra and undies and put it on. It was the first time I was somewhat comfortable all night, on that bed, with a blanket and my feet up off that concrete floor. I texted Shawn.

His texts back were priceless and just what I needed to make me smile after that long wait. He said to me “Your face is still on a huge poster in the lobby. You helped them raise a million dollars. You mean they don’t have a special private room just for you?? With a King sized bed and plush linens? And a pet Ocelot?” He was quite concerned though. He had an early meeting with his boss and I asked him to come to me after. I just really needed the support. He said he would text when he was on his way.

Finally my doctor came in. He apologised for the long wait right away. I said, well, I understand it’s busy. He gave a small laugh and said, actually, it wasn’t really a busy night. But, they only have so many beds and once they’re full….
I was incredulous. They weren’t that busy???
And I get it about the beds situation but I watched people come and go all night. Some went in and were out again in under a half hour. Some were even dealt with on the small bed behind the triage stations. And no one could even take a look at me for 11 hours??? But I just said thank you for the apology. Because I’m a Canadian.
In my mind though, I was fuming. I bring this staff a gift and a card every Christmas. And all I get was “sorry” and “it wasn’t that busy, but, you know, beds”? Grrrr..

The doctor took a look and informed me that both my ankles were actually swollen. I looked, and they were! But, I had been so concentrated on the left one, I had assumed the right was from favouring and it was nothing. He then proceeded to tell me the reasons why I might get like this: heart problems, kidney problems, diabetic issues. No, no, doc. Don’t worry about scaring me with HEART and KIDNEY failure. It’s fine. I’m only exhausted, emotional and drained (and in pain). He said that to rule these out, he was ordering me some blood work. Then he said sorry about the wait again and left my room.

Finally, I could rest a bit. I pulled up my blanket, lowered the back of my bed and went to sleep. Within twenty minutes I was awoken by the blood work nurse. She was nice, even if she did come in by flipping on every single light and then say ooops when she realized I was asleep.
She was good too, and I told her so. I’ve had my blood taken enough times to really appreciate when someone is good at it.

Then. The kicker. She told me that they were still short of beds and that I would need to wait for my results, which could take up to an hour, in the waiting room.

Are you fucking kidding me.

So she left, I dressed and, after asking again for a chair, went back to the waiting room.

There were only three other people there.

At a little after nine I was called. Not to go back inside but to that little room with the little bed behind triage. A new doctor and a student doctor were waiting for me. And let me just say, I’m not racist, but that student doctor couldn’t have been more of a cliche if she tried. She was very young, very asian, very tiny and she wore a white coat (my other doctor was wearing scrubs) and had a freaking barrette in her hair. She was clutching a clipboard and didn’t say one word the whole time. She only nodded.

I was asked to pull up my jeans, remove my socks and show my ankles. This doc put his ham hands on them and kind of squeezed while he tole me my results. He said: we’re pretty sure you have rheumatoid arthritis. He kept kind of lifting his hands and then cupping my ankles as he spoke. Which did not feel good. I let out an ouch and he stopped. You need to see a Rheumatologist and take anti inflammatories. And follow up with your family doctor. I said, if I had a family doctor, do you think I would have come here?? Oh. he said.
I gave him my cell number for the referral. Then he left. I thought, is that it? Am I done? All that waiting and I got one doctor who slightly insulted and then scared me and another who couldn’t really be bothered to tell me what they looked at and how he could come to this conclusion? I was mad. I wheeled myself back to the waiting room and stopped at the triage nurse (now another new nurse) desk. I asked her if I needed anything from the doctor for the referral or if he was giving me a prescription for anti inflammatories. She looked slightly annoyed (or maybe it was just me and at this point everyone looked that way) and got up and said, I’ll ask him. She came back a few minutes later and told me no, he had already signed off on my chart and I was good to go.

I texted Shawn not to come to the hospital but to meet me at home. I made myself get up out of the wheelchair, left it there, and walked (hobbled) out as best I could. It was pouring rain.

I made it home and went right to bed.

I got a call with an appointment at the Rheumatologist an hour later. My appointment is this Friday. That in itself kind of freaked me out because specialists have notoriously long wait times in Canada. Getting me in this fast is a sign of seriousness. Or at least has been in my experience.

Shawn had called my work for me that morning but I called back and left a message with my boss. I needed the sleep and I was supposed to stay off my feet and try to get the swelling down.

So. Turns out, I have my Nana’s feet. And most likely, her affliction.

Shawn, ever the voice of reason and logic, tells me not to worry about it until Friday when I have it confirmed. He’s smart. And right. But, I’m me and so I’m already worried. And I’ve already googled RA a billion times. And I keep thinking about my Nana in her wheelchair with her gnarled hands. So I’m also a little scared. And still in pain, of course, but, I can work around pain. At least now I can.

So that was how the shine fell off my hospital. It’s sad too, because experiences like that make you not want to go in at all, ever, which, can be a bad choice if there are serious issues. But, for all that my American friends sometimes lament that we have free (tax paid) healthcare here, it’s not always sunshine and roses.

Anyway.

I go back to work today and I am looking forward to being back among people I really like, doing work that I can control. It’s a great job, and I already miss it after one day.

Take care of yourselves.

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I confused my plethora of American friends this weekend by posting up Thanksgiving wishes and pictures and that’s when I remembered that my facebook account has shifted so much over the years that I now likely have more American friends on there than Canadian ones. So, as fun as it was to see all the similar posts from my Canadian buddies, it was MORE fun to see my American ones get confused.

All the LOLs.

Our thanksgiving was lovely. First, my brother and his wife came home from over two years in the UK and Scotland! It’s funny how you can forget what it’s like to actually *see* family members you haven’t seen in a long while. My kids are older, taller and much cooler. They are coming home to meet three nieces (one for each of my three sisters) who were born while they were away. Many, many hugs were shared.

Also, thanksgiving was at our house and it was beautiful. My parents came and stayed with us, Ciaran, the elusive brother (who sadly and inexplicably did NOT get a trace of accent from living overseas) and Angela, and my sister Niamh with her husband Andy and their four kids. It was a full, loud house and it was magical.

I did all my favourite things. I made a turkey AND a ham, made butternut squash soup, chocolate orange cake, roasted potatoes, veggies and salad and oh my it was wonderful. I even tried my hand at those rolled up apple roses that seem to be all over the internet. Of course I augmented mine with a sprinkle of cinnamon and toasted pecans before sifting icing sugar over them, and they were delicious.

Really, that’s all I need in my world to be happy. A big group of family enjoying food together, drinking great wine together (OH MY GOD we had good wine. 2010 Pinot Noir from Napa Valley. Day-um) laughing together and talking over one another and eating and just having a great time. I wish it could have been like it was back in the days when we all lived in one province and we all came home for the holidays but right now I’ll take what I can get. To have half of the family there was wonderful. And this is a bit of our reality right now. Who’s to say if it will ever change back again?
Okay, probably not, but hey, a girl can wish.

With a brother in Alberta, one in Quebec, two sisters in Ontario, a brother and a sister in Nova Scotia and my parents in Nova Scotia, and us of course in beautiful New Brunswick, getting together with everyone these days seems to be reserved for weddings and funerals. Sadly. And yet that is not unusual for families. Families grow and move on and they are supposed to branch out and evolve.

I hope that all my Canadian friends had just as lovely a weekend as we did. We capped ours off with a walk in our favourite park, to work off the pie and Mum’s amazing dinner rolls. Then we waved goodbye and hugged goodbye and went home to look at our own children and lament the not too far away days when they too will be scattered and coming home for the holidays.

Ah, to feed the world with food and love and wine. All I need to feed my heart is family.

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August the 7th came and went with barely a whimper. I thought I would feel different somehow, or older or wiser maybe? But, as day’s go, it was fairly quiet.
I had a phone call from a very dear friend which made me super happy and brought back a whole host of amazing memories. I was phone-bombed all day long from my best friend Sarah with hilarious birthday memes. I had phone calls from three of my siblings, all of which were awesome in their own way and I spent the day with three of my kids and bought myself (and Shawn) new sheets as a present. That may sound nerdy to you, but I promise, these new sheets were a luxury and they feel ahh-mazing.

Saturday morning we packed up the car and drove further east to Nova Scotia where my parents and sister live and where my middle daughter has been staying for the last two weeks. We made a four and a half hour drive last over seven hours by adding detours. We went to the old Dutchman’s farm for a short tour around and some gouda, swiss and an award winning blue/stilton called Dragon’s Breath which is the best cheese I’ve had in ages bar none. Then we took a drive to Masstown Market where we bought more cheese, some blood pudding for Sunday breakfast and had a fish fry lunch. Our plan was to take a scenic route to my sister’s from there but the GPS took us instead down a rocky, bendy, hilly road that added an extra hour to our drive.

Birthday dinner with all the little cousins running around, my dad’s famous breaded chicken and my mom’s super delicious chocolate cake and all was well with the world. Shawn, our youngest and I, went back to mom and dad’s for the night and the next morning we picked up Ash and had an incredible day in the Annapolis Valley. We did wine touring and farmers markets and we went to a blueberry farm where we were driven out into the HUGE fields to pick our own.
Apart from my accidentally standing on an ant hill at first and having my feet COVERED in ants with a few bites to boot, it was lovely!

Sunday dinner at mom and dad’s and we went for a nice walk along the trails behind their house in the rain where we saw a bald eagle sitting in one of the trees. If you haven’t walked through the woods in the rain before, you don’t know what you’re missing.

It was great to visit with the family. I pulled out some of the old photo albums, as I tend to do, and leafed through them with my baby boy (13) sitting by my side. I got to braid my niece’s hair and I had so many cuddles from the kids. Not to mention the fact that I absolutely love being called “auntie”.

We had a great drive home where we played the most infuriating game in the world invented by my sister and brother in law called “cows” in which you have to count cows….it’s more involved but let’s just say that it can get very loud in the car. It’s great to be home, though.

I took a look around our house yesterday and then sat outside in my extremely beautiful backyard and counted my blessings. We are very blessed, very fortunate and very lucky. Last week I was handling a cyber stalker (read: blocking an asshole from as much of my social media as possible.) and preparing for the worst in terms of leaving my 30’s but, the moment clicked over and with barely a bump. In fact, I kind of think I like the view from here. Suits me.

Back to regular life once again. I have two books to finish writing and lots to catch up on.
Happy August!

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In six weeks and two days I will be forty.

I can’t believe it’s already here. I remember being 16 and thinking that 40 was a bajillion years away. And then when I was 18 and had my son Liam, I did the math of milestones. When I’m 20, he’ll be 2. When I’m 30 he’ll be 12. When I’m 40 he’ll be 22. And here it is. Peeking out from behind the trees, taunting me.

Things I accomplished before 40:

I had five kids
I’ve done loads of theater
Made great friends
Written and published four books
Sang at War Memorial Hall in Guelph
Celebrated 20 years of marriage
Saw Tommy Tiernan live
Visited Ireland
Met the Irish Rovers
Had and beaten cancer
Was a Doula for over a dozen births
Voluntarily eaten NO raisins
Learned golf
Ridden horses
Performed with a band
Been on Television and in two TV movies
Been interviewed on Rogers TV five times
Written for The Cambridge Times and The Toronto Sun
Discovered I’m allergic to pineapple
Questioned my sanity
Visited five provinces
Visited six states
Went to Vegas (won $100!)
Started and then MANY years later quit smoking
Started writing a blog

And this is just the stuff I can think of today, off the top of my head. Of course there is also a huge list of things I didn’t accomplish before the big 4-0 but I think I’ll save some of those for after my birthday.

Some, of course, it’s kind of too late for and I’ll have to find a way to let them go. I’ll never be a broadway star now. I’m sure all of NYC is crushed. It’s okay though, I can get by on the epic performances from my shower. Sure, the ovations are smaller, but, the acoustics are second to none. Besides, no one ever comments if I occasionally flub the lyrics.

I *feel* older now. It’s the first time in a long time where I think I have actually felt my age. Up until now I have always felt younger than the actual number of years I’ve been wheeling ’round the sun, but something about 40 is really proving that gravity + years = more lycra and underwire. Oh, and lots of hair dye, because all of a sudden, I have completely grey roots.

Recently I’ve noticed that I’m getting old hands. Of course when I pointed this out to a certain family member, they told me that it’s been evident for a long time. Thaaaanks.
I’ve also noticed that my inclination is to my flat, practical shoes rather than my beautiful collection of heels. This makes me sad. It also probably makes my shoes sad. They have feelings and they’re feeling left out. But, my back is all messed up and wearing heels for more than two hours makes me stabby and require medication, so I have to judge wisely when a situation is important enough to warrant two weeks of ice packs and ibuprofen.

Yes, 40. I hear you coming. I see you sticking your tongue out at me, which, I have to say, is pretty 20ish behaviour. But don’t fret. I have all the good wine stocked up in the basement and I’m ready for you.
I think.

Probably.

Damn.

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