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What a 2017 it’s been.

My sarcoidosis went into remission, and although it has caused permanent changes (glasses, asthma, arthritis), I am basically still the same person and not too badly worse for wear. Notwithstanding a few smaller issues with my back and knees, this year was the year my health started the slow climb back upwards, and that’s something worth celebrating. I plan on spending some time in 2018 making small changes to keep on feeling better and staying better. My 40’s have definitely been the years to put plans into action, and my health is a big one on that list.

Shawn and I celebrated another anniversary and every year that we get to do that is a blessing. If there is one thing that we’ve clung to since 2014, it’s that life is short. Super short. You should be with the people you want to be with and let go of anyone and anything that isn’t a positive force in life. We know that as the years go on and the kids keep on leaving to pursue their own lives, it will only be ourselves left at the end, and we better still like one another. We’re still planning that trip to Italy and one of these years, we’ll actually do it.

We bid a final goodbye to our beloved dog, Katie. And we miss her every day.

I took my first ever in my life solo trip this year. At the end of June, I flew to Edmonton Alberta, my first time west of Ontario, to see my baby brother get married. For one day short of a week, I stayed with my internet-now-real-life friend Allison in her beautiful home and learned to drive my way around Edmonton. I went to the big mall, had dinner with my internet family/friends, visited with my family (all six of my siblings in the same place for the first time in six years!) and watched my baby brother tie the knot. I missed my own family dearly and it was sad that my husband wasn’t able to come with me. That just made the coming home that much sweeter.

As soon as I got back from Edmonton, I jumped into a jam-packed rehearsal schedule, as, for the first time since moving East, I got involved with a theatre show. I have to admit, I was a little gun-shy to get into a theatre again, my last experience not exactly leaving on a high note, due to (pun intended) drama, but, I’m glad I did. I threw on a habit, and became a singing nun in Sister Act. The run was fantastic, playing to nearly sold out crowds nightly and it was great to be a part of a production again.

We celebrated three years this fall of Shawn’s life since the heart stopping September of 2014. As always, I had a mini-meltdown in the days leading up to the anniversary and as always, we reflected on the fragility of life.

Speaking of getting back into the habit, I put on my writer’s cap again this fall and was a featured author at the Saint John Fog Lit festival. It really felt good to talk about my writing again and to speak at the events. I am, as ever, appreciative of cities that celebrate the arts and their own local artists.

And to cap off a wonderful year, I did my exam for French with the province and received a certificate of Intermediate ability.

2018 is already shaping up to be a busy one. Shawn and I will both be students at the University, working towards continually improving and updating our skills. I will keep working on French while I move to a new department at work. Kathryn, our second youngest, is graduating from high school and Shawn Michael, the baby, will start his Grade 12 senior year in the fall.

Life is a journey. It should be savoured and enjoyed. Live well, love hard, and let the rest go.

Peace, my friends.

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I never thought I would be taking tests and talking back to school in my forties, and yet, here I am. For the past year, I’ve been re-teaching myself french. It’s been an interesting project to say the least. I probably *could* have worked a little harder, but, considering I’m doing this on my own, I’m actually fairly proud of where I’ve gotten. Tomorrow morning, I am taking a french oral exam. The same one government employees of the province take to determine at what level they can communicate in our nations other official language. I’m nervous as hell, but I’m also excited that I’ve come this far on my own.

There’s more.

Back when we lived in Ontario, I was just *starting* to entertain the notion of doing some further education. But then the move and the starting over and the finding work and all those other things happened and it was put on hold. This year, I applied to a program at the local college. I was wait-listed. That was okay. I mean, at the time I was kind of upset about it but, you know, part of being an adult is accepting things you cannot change and learning how, when and where to keep pushing. So, I applied to a different program at a different college. This one wanted me, right away. The only problem? They needed my transcript.
That doesn’t sound like it should be a problem, right? Except that I didn’t graduate traditionally. Instead, like the very scared teenager I was, I dropped out of school with only months to go before my graduation (because I was pregnant and my life got complicated, fast) and continued my studies on my own. Which *would* have been straightforward, BUT, that I was a terrible student in high school. I cut class a lot. I didn’t try. I cared more about my social life then my academic one and it showed. I did not have enough credits, even if I had stayed out that last year, to graduate. A funny thing happened when I became a mom, though. I got this tremendous drive. I did courses through adult education programs. I did night school classes. I did correspondence through the school board. Want to know what happens when you do classes from three different venues, over four years, both before and after a marriage so you have two different last names?? It becomes nearly impossible to track it all down.
I’m still working on gathering all the missing cogs to my educational wheel, so the second program had to wait, because a full transcript is mandatory for that program and I don’t have one at the moment.
So. Left with some mild depression and disappointment, I did something else. I decided instead of all these college programs, I’d apply to university.

And I am in.
Starting February, for the first time in my life, at 42, I will be an official University student. It’s super daunting and exciting and, well, weird a bit, but I am very happy about it.
So there you have it. I certainly didn’t go through the milestones of life in ANY kind of conventional way, but then, I was never much of a conventional gal. I like making my own moves, in my own time, in my own way.
Feel free to start sending donations towards my education, folks.
I’m about to be a student. Again.

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Happiness is music. Whether I’m in my car alone and rocking out at the top of my lungs to Bruno Mars, dancing in my kitchen to Sara Bareilles, painting to Rachmaninov or crying along with Domingo as he sings ‘laugh, clown’, I love music. My life plays out to a vast and varied soundtrack of my own making and it wouldn’t be the same if I wasn’t a part of the song and the song wasn’t part of me.
Happiness is art. Every so often I lose my way around, as most of us do at one point or another in life. I tend to be a wanderer. A meander-er, and I’m easily distracted so sometimes, I get mired down in the minutiae of life and I forget to keep contact with *who I am*. And then I create something. I write, or I paint, or sew or knit. I feed my inner artist. And I remember where my centre is. When I’m hurting or sad or stressed out or depressed, art is what brings me back to remembering that there is such joy to be had, sometimes in the simplest things. I am a person who needs to express themselves in order to be right. Art allows me to do just that.
Happiness is touch. Remember when that book about love languages came out? I do. And one thing resonated SO MUCH with me. Touch. I am a person who thrives on physical contact. Thankfully, I live in a family of people who touch. We’re huggers and snugglers and hand squeezers. My husband frequently puts his hand on my leg when we’re in the car or absently reaches out in bed at night to hold my hand or touch my hair. Often, he does it absentmindedly and will almost startle himself with an “oops, do you mind?”. While I love that he still checks in with me about when I want to be touched, 99 times out of 100 yes, I do want it. I love it. I am forever happy that my adult and teen children will still hug me, not perfunctorily, but actual hugs. Where they hold on and squeeze. And they’ll still sit snuggled up with me on the couch for a movie. I can’t imagine my world without touch. It’s how I say I love you without words.
Happiness is my home. It’s being able to go back every day to the people I love and the haven we created together. It’s looking around and knowing that my walls are packed with memories and that we all feel safe and loved here.

As much as I spend time complaining about things, or worried about them, stressed out or just upset or even angry, what I am more often than all of these is happy.
It’s not a bad old life after all.

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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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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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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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