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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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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 was 14, he was 15. The very first day we met, he kissed my hand, very Cinderella style. Little did he know he was kissing the hand of a hopeless dreamer. An incurable romantic. A girl who, even at 14, had learned how to exit the world of her reality and dwell in the world of books, movies, plays and music. My fantasy world was the real one in which I dwelt and the reality of school and homework and parents and such were just the nuisance that had to be endured between escapisms.
Our first date. How ironic it was to a movie. Escapism please!
We went to see The Little Mermaid. When it was first released to theatres (am I dating myself, much?). The song “kiss the girl” was the backdrop to our first kiss. He with his towering height and me with my fantasies and already I had us married off with kids and living in a far away land.
Cut to now, and we’re married with kids and moved provinces, so in a way, my 14 year old dream came true.
My number is inverted now. I’m 41. I still use books and movies and plays and music as a way to leave the trappings of the adult world, a world VASTLY more disappointing than I was led to believe as a child. Sure, I can eat what I want and go to bed when I want, but I also pay taxes and clean and raise children and have a job. But I have my dreams. Tucked away where I can call upon them when needed. I still read books and fall in love with the mythical worlds weaved for me. I even write books where I can bend the fantasy to my own will and whimsy. Songs still transport me and movies are where I give over my heart and soul to be drawn into another place and time.
So, it’s no surprise that when the live action Beauty and the Beast was announced that I immediately professed that I would not only see this in theatre, but that we would all go, husband, wife and the three children still remaining at home. No one minded. When your mother is a dreamer, she tends to influence her children.
The day approached and the closer we got, the more excited we became. The kids would frequently play the trailers on the internet and I, the eternal crier, would more often than not, feel my eyes growing hot with anticipation.

On Sunday we crammed our five adult forms into the car and drove to the theatre where Belle awaited. As we sat in a row at the back of the theatre, I leaned over to my husband and whispered “I love that 22 years of marriage later, you’re still taking me to Disney movies. Only now we bring our children.” He tried to pretend like that didn’t make him “catch the feels” too, but I know it did. He has been much more sentimental since his heart attacks.
The show started and transported is exactly what we were. My youngest, the 15 year old, 6’2 man-child sitting beside me, spent the entire show holding my hand, or laying his head on my shoulder, or hugging me. My girls sat at the end silently letting tears fall. The movie was perfection. It should be held up as an example of how to bring a beloved animation to live action. I won`t go into the details of the myriad of ways I loved it, because this post would simply be too long.
It was beautiful visually, artistically, musically and in it`s composition. The casting was perfect and I truly wanted to step through that screen and into Belle`s world.
We left the theatre that evening to go home to the world that we built. It`s warm, inviting and loving. It`s full of laughter, and yes, sometimes tears. Usually mine. It`s teenagers and adult children who still hug their parents. It`s kids who were brought up to love and to treat people with kindness and dignity and inclusion. With all the mistakes and pitfalls I’ve taken in my life, it`s my deepest source of pride to see the family that we built and what we`ve built it into. Even with my love for escaping through books and music and movies and plays, it’s still that Prince Charming of mine that I come back to.

And he still kisses my hand.

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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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Where did all the damn traffic come from??? Seriously? And I won’t even talk about the INSANELY aggressive drivers. No wonder we were always smoking and stressed out. Woah.
We landed yesterday morning at about 6:45am Ontario time, got Shawn dropped off in Brampton and then I went to Guelph to pick up our oldest daughter Keisha from her house and we zoomed 25 minutes north to Elora, my hometown. We walked around for about an hour, saw the house where I grew up and where she spent most of her childhood weekends and almost all of her childhood major holidays and decided that it had changed too much. The town, that is. The vibe was completely different. It no longer felt like home to me. So, we headed back to Guelph. As much as to beat the massive storm clouds as to go play around the other city I grew up in and where her Dad and I first met. We had a great time. We saw the high school I went to in Grade nine, both where it used to be and where they rebuilt it, the park where Shawn and I had our first kiss, his old high school, the hospital where my beloved Nana lived out the last years of her life, and a whole bunch of “places of interest”. Read: where all my teenaged shenanigans took place. The Guelph ones, anyway.
But the city has changed SO MUCH. At one point we were headed to a Walmart, which I distinctly remembered the location of, and she kept telling me to turn too soon. I tried to argue with her but, well, she lives here now, so I turned and there it was. Guelph had picked up the whole damn building and moved it. And painted it green! I told Guelph to go home, because it was (and is) clearly drunk.

We didn’t actually wind up taking a lot of pictures, though I thought we would, but, we were so in the moment yesterday. And dudes, she looks fucking amazing. She has worked really hard for the last year and has lost almost 80lbs and she just was so, so, HAPPY. I loved it.

We went out for dinner all three of us last night and finally Shawn and I got some sleep.
Today I get the morning to do just this: writing. First this post and then I’m working on my book again. (SQUEALS OF JOY) and then….
We’re off to Paris Ontario tonight to see our beloved friends and to go to the theatre. You remember my theatre days, right? Lord I miss that. The last show we ever did and by far my favourite was I’ll Be Back Before Midnight. Damn I loved that role. I played Jan. I got to go crazy, shoot a (fake) shotgun, cry onstage, kiss onstage, freak the fuck out on stage, go catatonic onstage and finally, murder my stage husband with an axe. It was awesome.
And Paris Performers are doing the show tonight. So we’re going to see it. YAAYY!!!!

Tomorrow we are going to meet our new niece for the first time, see my brother and sister in law, see my Grandparents and get ready for the early Sunday morning flight home.

I’m already sunburned (I had forgotten about Ontario heat, it’s going to be 40 today with the humidity), I’ve already laughed until my face hurt. I’ve already gotten emotional.

It’s been the best day so far. I’m looking forward to the next two immensely.

Happy Friday, all!!

Now I’m off to exercise my fingers and work out what’s going on in Summer Poppies. I’ve been working on this book for Four Years. It’s time I get serious with it again and wrap it up.

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It’s been three years since we moved from Ontario to New Brunswick. And that last year in Ontario? It was ROUGH. Three years and although Shawn has returned several times (for work) I have yet to go back, even once.

Back when Shawn had his heart attacks, a situation presented itself for our oldest daughter to go back to Ontario to live. She wasn’t doing well out here. It’s hard. She was out of high school, not in college or University yet, had a part time day job where she worked with people my age and there is NOTHING and I mean NOTHING out here for late teen/early twenties people to do. She was drowning. So she left. Smartest thing she ever did. She went to live with one of my sisters first. She was even able to come home for Christmas that year. She tried a break for independence by taking a nanny position, but, in a very scary two weeks we realized that they had totally bait and switched her so our oldest and dearest friend Randy went and got her and took her in. She lived with Randy for nearly a year, moved to Guelph where my amazing cousins took her in for a few weeks and now she has just moved into her first place all of her own. I’m so proud of her it’s practically bursting from me. But all that moving meant that last Christmas she couldn’t come home so I haven’t seen my daughter in a year and a half.
And finally, I’m going to see her.

The SAME EXACT DAY Shawn had his heart attack, my parents sold their house in Ontario. The one they had lived in for over 30 years, the one we all called home and came back to as often as we could for holidays or visits. It’s where we spent our last night in Ontario before the move. I have been told the new owners are wonderful, but of course, they wanted to make the house their own. I’ve been told there have been changes. On my trip back, I plan on driving out to Elora, my hometown, to see them. Take a walk around old haunts.

I also plan on going to Cambridge to see my old house there and hopefully, thank Randy in person for everything he did for our girl.

And then….KITCHENER because my brother and his wife Angela had a baby girl. I am DYING to hold her, see them all, hug them all and most importantly hold that beautiful baby. I’m going to drive by my sister’s old house. Maybe take a drive through my old park. All the memories, the good and the bad, have been spilling through my mind ever since I booked the ticket.

If you’re a long time reader of the blog, you know that I love theatre and used to do quite a bit of it in Ontario. My last show there was undoubtedly my favourite. “I’ll be back before Midnight”. God I loved that show. Creepy and awesome and I got to play a neurotic woman who loses her mind. Well, our best friends in Paris Ontario are doing that show and, of course we’re going to go see it with them. And then, epic awesomeness will ensue as it always does with our friends the Grahams.

In many ways, this trip, only three whole days long, is going to be exhausting. In many ways, it’s going to feel like going home.
Until, I have no doubt, that moment on Sunday when our flight lands once again in New Brunswick and we drive home, past the rocky hills, the lakes and rivers, into the valley where we live in a place that looks like Algonquin Park only prettier. Where I’m still not used to the stunning views and the sight of the sun setting over the KV river making the water look like it’s on fire.

There is no question Ontario will have its moments where it feels like home. Because most of my life was there. And you always feel like “home” when you see family.
But my heart has shifted, ever so slightly, and my real home is here. Ontario, now, is a beautiful memory. One I’m very excited to revisit.

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