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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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** Warning ** I intend to speak on sexuality. If you don’t wish to read this from me, I suggest you skip this one.

When my oldest daughter was about nine, she came to me and told me that she liked girls. D’uh, I told her, of course you do, all your best friends are girls. No, she said. I LIKE girls. Oh, okay. Well….
I asked her to wait for a few years before deciding whether or not she wanted to talk to people about this and for her to feel more sure of herself (which in hindsight, this kid has never been anything BUT sure of herself, but I was a young mom and didn’t want her to be feeling any societal push-back before she was mature enough to deal with it). She agreed and again at about fourteen or fifteen she told me she was gay. Cool. Keisha has always known her mind, and we raised her in a home that is accepting of people no matter how they identify. I always told my kids that I don’t care who they date as long as the person is a good person who loves them and treats them well and as long as they are happy. Because really, isn’t that all we can ask for our kids? Besides, I have adult friends who were so scared to come out that they married into hetero sexual marriages and even had children before they were able to fully be themselves. I can’t imagine the pain/courage it took for them to face their partners and speak the words “I’m gay” and then have every single thing in their lives change. But, I’m drifting.
I had a gay teenage daughter. And she dated. We met her girlfriends and some of them we liked and some of them we didn’t. We watched her fall down the rabbit hole of teen love where everything becomes about the other person and you feel like you can’t breathe without them in your life and then we watched her heart shatter after a particularly hard breakup, as a teenage heart does when love ends. There was NOTHING unusual about this with her. It’s the same for all teenagers, regardless of whether they are dating same gender or not. It was no less easy to watch her go through it. She has the same struggles now as any single person, trying to meet someone she can share her life with. Being gay has only changed the players, not the game.
What breaks my heart is that in this day and age there are STILL so many people who think she is something less than simply because she is gay. I am, in fact, incredulous about it. She didn’t ask to be gay. She didn’t decide it. She certainly isn’t trying to be “en vogue” because gay is “in” right now. She just is. And she is still just my daughter. A sister. A cousin. A niece. A grand daughter and a great-grand daughter. One day she will be an Auntie. A wife. Hopefully even a mother.

Now.

Last night. My 14 year old son came into my room. It was around ten thirty and we were all winding down for bed. He had his phone in his hand. He asked me if I remembered him mentioning his friend T. I did. He asked me if I would read something and then he handed me his phone. My 14 year old son gave my his text message to read. T is a biological girl. But, feels like a boy. T has two friends, my son, and a young woman in their class. They are the only two who don’t question T for feeling like he does. T’s parents DO NOT accept this. I get it, and I explained to my son that not every parent can deal with discussing such things, let alone accepting them. I explained that if Keisha had come to me to say she was transgendered, while I would absolutely accept her, I would definitely have to mourn the loss of my daughter before accepting my new son. It’s a complicated process, but, he wanted to know, wouldn’t I still love her? Of course I would. My love for my children is unconditional.
My son started to cry. T tried to talk to their parents about it and now they refuse to discuss it and they are forcing T to by hyper feminine. They insist T wears skirts and dresses. My son wanted to know if T could come live with us if it became necessary.
I read the texts. T is in pain. There were a lot of very sensitive and well, scary thoughts, expressed. Depression, cutting, feeling like everything about T’s body is fundamentally wrong. And the agony of not have parents to talk through this time with. My son cried.

I told him we cannot know everything that is going on in that family. Because it’s not our family, and we are only hearing one side of the story. And no, asking T to come live here would likely do more harm than good. But, that he can continue to be T’s friend and that T is welcome here anytime to visit, to hang out, whatever.

My son asked me how a parent couldn’t just….love their kid. Why the need to try to force that kid to be something they are not. Why not at the very least BE THERE to talk and most importantly, to listen.

I had no answer for him. Because I truly don’t understand that. I wish I did. I told him instead that I loved his heart. That I wasn’t worried for him for his future and his future relationships because he is such a strong, loving person. His heart is so open. It’s just what I wanted in my children. Because they are, after all, the legacy I’m leaving on this earth. What better legacy than a child with an open heart who just loves people, regardless of who they are?

I know my generation is different to previous ones when it comes to understanding that gender is a fluid thing. The age of the internet has made it so that this is an actual social conversation now, which is only to the benefit of us all. People are afraid of what they don’t understand and the more we talk about it, the more understanding can be borne.

I gave birth to five children. Two boys and three girls. One of my kids is gay. One of my kids is a science nerd. Of of them is a music junkie. One of them had a brief problem with drugs and has come full circle to sobriety. All of them are my children and I love them all.

No matter what. Or who. They become.

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I have friends who are just now (or within the last few years anyway) starting their families. I, as many of you know, had my own family ridiculously young and although it was super hard then, I’m really grateful for it now. My teenagers value their weekend sleep in time almost as much as I do. I can leave them without supervision, they can do their own laundry and cook for themselves and even for the hubs and I from time to time.

It makes me giggle to myself occasionally when my friends complain of the sleep deprivation and the constant questions and interruptions.

BUT

Although my teens (and my two in their twenties) come with many perks, there are some things that never change.

Sunday night for example. First of all, there was a wicked wind storm that night and so it was very loud outside the bedroom windows, but, I was starting my new job on Monday morning so I needed my sleep. My 22 year old had come home briefly that night around 8 pm to tell us that he was heading out for his work belated Christmas party. Great. It was nice of him to check in in person. We went to bed that night at around 11:30 and I was slightly restless as I had first day of new job jitters.

I had FINALLY fallen asleep and my phone rang just around 12:20 am. Who the EFF is calling me after midnight. I jolted awake (it’s always my phone too, they never call dad, interrupt dad, text dad at work. Always mom) and reached for my phone praying that no one had been in an accident or had (god forbid) died.

It was my 22 year old calling from his party. He wanted to leave his car and cab it home (Yay, smart kid didn’t want to drink and drive) and wanted to know if I would drive him in to get his car in the morning. I probably wasn’t very kind in my reply of “no”. I already had to leave early to drive the teen girls in to school (they both needed to go in early to see teachers) and no way was I going to be late on my first day.

It took me an hour to get back to sleep.

I had my alarm set for 7:30 am as I didn’t have to be at work until 9:30. At 7 am my phone rang. Miffed, I rolled over and answered.

It was my 17 year old daughter. Calling from DOWN THE HALL.

She said that the power had ‘flickered’ overnight and she thought it might have turned off my alarm. My alarm is on my phone, I reminded her. It’s set to go off in half an hour.
Oh, she said. Nevermind then.

So you see, even adult kids and teen kids still mess with your sleep patterns. They still come ask me questions when I’m in the shower. They still wake me up in the middle of the night or early in the morning.

But you know what? (Apart from being slightly perturbed in the moment) I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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If you follow social media with any kind of zeal, you will likely have heard of the hashtag that went viral last week: #standingwithStoya

An adult film actress went public with the fact that her adult film actor boyfriend had, on more than one occasion, forced her. Ironically, shortly after she came forward with this, another ex of his (also an adult actress) said that the same had happened with her.

I hate hearing these kinds of stories. The whole Bill Cosby saga felt like it destroyed a staple from my childhood. Charlie Sheen came out with HIV, not because he was trying to be brave and raise awareness, but because he had been hiding it, even from his partners, and was being blackmailed by some in the know.

What in the hell is wrong with the world???

The thing that made me angriest over the #standingwithStoya issue was the comments from men that “you can’t rape a porn star” or “you can’t rape a prositute”. I fumed.

I was so angry that my three younger kids, (17, 15 and 14) asked me what was wrong and we spent an hour in the kitchen while I prepared dinner discussing it. My 14 year old son, upon hearing the “can’t rape” theory of some said that it made him “physically angry”. As well it should. I’m just thankful that I have raised boys who know that no means no. No matter WHERE you are on the sliding scale from kissing to full sex. A “NO” is to be respected. Whether the girl says it or the guy does.

We talked a lot that night, as the conversation spun us in many directions. Like, why is Bill Cosby being (rightfully, in my opinion) vilified in the media and Charlie Sheen is not? We also talked about statistics of women who experience sexual assault. We discussed their own relationships, as they have happened so far, and we talked about boundaries and why they are important. Why standing up for your own personal beliefs is important and why it is socially responsible to speak out against actions like rape and say that no, it is not okay, and we won’t stand for it anymore.

They’re not easy conversations, but they are needed ones. I believe firmly in keeping a very open dialogue with my kids and so far, all I see is good coming from it. They are strong, independent, free thinking, moral and socially responsible kids/young adults and I am proud of each and every one of them. They are fiercely loyal to their loved ones, both friends and family and they are quick to stand up to injustice.

That’s partly why my heart broke so hard tonight when I heard the news about San Bernardino. A senseless shooting in a place that helps people with disabilities. It’s going to spark a conversation again, and while I never mind having deep and in depth conversations with the kids, I’d really like to have one about something really positive for a change.

That being said, I still believe that any conversation with your children is a worthwhile one. They’re fascinating. And incredibly insightful. And delightfully funny and witty and caring. I will keep on having these necessary, but not necessarily fun, conversations with my kids. And we will discuss how the world can be scary, dangerous and mean.
However, ESPECIALLY leading up to the holidays. I also plan to talk to them about art, music, dancing in our kitchen, silly things and sad things and super amazing things. Because there’s only a few years left when the culmination of all these conversations is what I’m going to send them out into the world armed with.

I’m not ready.

But I think they just might be.

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As November quickly winds down and December shows that it will, as it does every year, fly in and through the days faster than any of us are ready for, we find ourselves in the position of analyzing our Holiday wants and wishes once again.

When the children were young the holidays, as an entity, were relatively easy. Shop for pressies, Christmas socks (of course), some new clothes, toys and maybe a few movies. Small children are fairly simple to buy for. And the delights on the morning of were always something great to see.

But, our kids are so much older now. We are so lucky, if they need something, we can almost always provide it. If they want something, well, we can usually take care of that as well, within reason. So the much discussed Christmas wish list has become more of a lot of hmmm’s and I don’t know’s. Oh sure, they want bigger and better things but they know it’s unreasonable, no matter how well we do, for three teenagers to expect a laptop each for the holidays. It just ain’t happening.

So we talk. What do we all want? Well, we’d like to spend loads of time together, we’d like to be in our kitchen a lot cooking and baking. And, we’d like to see family. And of course, Christmas socks and oranges in the stockings. That’s about it.

We live a pretty good life, all things said and done and the older the family gets, the less the holidays are about ‘things’ and the more they are about each other and making new memories.

So, ahead of the Holidays, I’m not stressing too much about getting my shopping done. Because this year, as in the last few years, it’s much more to do with quality of time than quantity under the tree.

And that’s just fine with me.

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