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Go back about eight years. We were living in ontario with our five kids and two dogs.  Life was, if not perfect, well then pretty good. I came home from work one day talking about the puppy my boss had just gotten.  A puggle. Pug-beagle. I felt like I couldn’t convey how cute this pup was without pictures so of course I made the whole family gather around the computer while I googled photos.  Down the Internet worm hole we went and eventually saw that a local farmer had two female dogs who had recently had litters. The pups were puggle-bull dogs.  All of the caramel coloured with accents of white or chocolate or both.  He had put up individual photos of the eleven total puppies that were up for adoption. I paused on one. The one with the most gold and only a tiny bit of white at her paws.

“Aww. Look at Katie.” I said.  Everyone groaned. Mom had named her.  It was a foregone conclusion. Shawn and I drove to the farm later that day and there she was. While all her brothers and sisters were clamouring for attention at the front of the pen, Katie hung back. We let the farmer hand her to us and she literally put her paws around my neck like a hug. A move she continued to do throughout her life, though usually with Shawn and not me. 

A little over a year ago, Katie was diagnosed with cancer.  We chose, after much discussion, not to amputate her leg and to let her live as long as possible without invasiveness.  

For months now she’s been favouring her foot. For weeks she’s been hopping with it lifted and for about two weeks now she’s been shaking and losing bladder control.  

Today we said goodbye to her.  

She spent her morning snuggling us and resting. She was so calm. She didn’t want to eat or go out. And in the vets office this afternoon, she put her paws around my neck and hugged me. 

Life with Katie was wonderful.  She was a sweet, if a little bit dumb, dog. In the best way of course.  She was silly and delightful and loved exploring new trails with us. She thought she was the boss of the local deer herd and she was kermit’s best friend.  We are going to miss her more than we can possible bear.  

Thank you for choosing us dear Katie.  We have loved being your humans.  

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I’ve been married a long time.  22 years.  Or two years, depending on how you look at it.  (We remarried on our twentieth anniversary). But when you’ve been with someone for a very long length of time, things that may have seemed unthinkable in the beginning become matters of non consequence.  Bathroom with the door open? Then? Perish the thought.  Now, I’m not sure either of us notice.   All the gross yet necessary aspects of grooming, picking zits, clipping toenails, swabbing ears, while once we only performed them behind closed doors, we now barely notice and have been known to do them for one another.  You see, when you’ve shared a life with someone for longer than you’ve lived without them, those little secret titivations that you once kept hidden become inconsequential. I mean, he has literally watched other humans exit my body, what other secrets could we possibly have.  

And yet.  

Sunday is our relax day.  By late Sunday afternoon or early evening, you will usually find us all curled up together in the basement rec room smothered under quilts and watching a movie.  And so we were. Husband and teens all, just this past Sunday. 

I can’t remember precisely what it was we were watching. It might have been bates motel, but, there was a teenage love scene. It was all softly lit and filmed with artful hints of flesh barely visible as the two teen lovers tumbled under a sheet.  Completely under a sheet.   I started to giggle. Then I started laughing.  I mean, it was totally rediculous.  No one has sex completely under a sheet.  Least of all teens.  I remember back when everything on my body still pointed up.  Who the hell hides that? 

Of course they all wanted to know what I was laughing at.  So I told them how unrealistic the whole scene was.  “Plus”, I said. “Think about the Dutch oven factor.” My 18 year old snorted.  “As if you’d let one go when you’re doing it.” 

“Well not on purpose,” I intoned.  But, you know, sometimes you can’t control it.  So….it happens.  And you try to keep it quiet.  Secret sex fart.”  

By now the family was howling and while my other two teens were wondering out loud if that was really a thing, my husband was laughingly aghast that it wasn’t only him.  “YOU do that???”  I winked him. “More than you know.”  

So the secret is out. Like the quietest fluff slipped out into the night.  Because marriage is not only the good, it’s also the messy, the silly and the farty. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

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We are all telling the same story. We are just telling it in our own way, our own voices.  There is no plot line I can invent that has not already been covered by someone else, better, worse, excitingly, indifferently. It’s been done. What makes it unique is my voice, my take on it. 

I once tried writing with someone. It was like trying to make a story out of two separate languages.  Or by one person painting while the other one sings.  Sure, it could be beautiful, but the differences were glaring.  I have utmost respect for writing teams who compliment one another and make their voices blend.  

I think of my story like a great piece of music.  First, I had to find the melody.  My own voice.  This has taken a lot of time. A lot. I’ve tried a few genres over the years, a few different mediums. I had to find one that fit me best.  And over the years I found my main harmonizer.  That person whose own song, own story, best complimented mine. It wasn’t easy. Because sometimes those chords which seem so perfect can turn sharply into something harsh. And we added sub-plots to the story we were weaving, which made it more intricate, complicated and beautiful, of occasionally chaotic.  

And again, it’s the same story.  A person, looking for meaning and connections, finds a person looking for meaning and connections and they  try to find those things together, in one another. It’s a story most of us are working on.  

So when I am writing I try to listen to great pieces of music.  I try to put myself into a state of mind where I can interject myself into the melody of each characters’ journey. I want to imagine how their story would go, if they were sitting down in my kitchen and talking to me.  

Because it’s not a new story, what I write. It’s just told in a different voice.  

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NC ’17

2016 sucked.  Okay, not all of it, there was some really good stuff that happened last year. But on the whole, as a year, suck-o.  Didn’t like it.  

Last spring, just bare months after starting a new job, my feet and legs swelled up and I couldn’t walk without a lot of pain.  No family doctor yet, so when it got really, really bad, I went to the ER.  Tests and a referral and more tests later and I had a firm case of sarcoidosis.  Fine. Steroids and follow ups and more tests and it turned out I was FULL of sarcoidosis. It’s probably the reason I had to get glasses, it was in my organs and it fucked up my legs.  But okay, we dealt and in august, it was *supposed* to be gone. As a precaution, my specialist sent me for one more X-ray. To be sure. 

Bam. There is was. All in my lungs. Hanging around and building little tumor buddies.  I was sent to a new specialist.  He sent me for tons more tests. Loads. I’ve had MRI and CT scans, x rays and lung tests and blood work (just wait, THATS a story) and echo cardiograms galore.  If I lived in America, I’d owe a million dollars in health care.  Maybe. Probably.  I don’t know but yay Canada.  I asked him point blank at one point, because I had “growths” in my lower lungs that were “not presenting as sarcoidosis” if I had lung cancer.  He didn’t know. He couldn’t say. And he couldn’t rule it out.  

I told my husband. And no one else.  We didn’t even tell the kids until weeks later that this was something we had to rule out, that it was possibly hanging out looking for a seat at the table. Having been down the cancer path before, I had absolutely NO desire to revisit.  I was lucky first time around. I did not want a second spin of the roulette wheel.  

Today was the day for results.  And I’m not only not cancerous, I’m much better! Sure, there is some scar tissue in my lungs now, but sarcoidosis will do that to you.  It was to be expected.  My doctor thinks I may have a touch of asthma now, possibly kicked into fruition from all the fuckery in my chest, but that is so manageable. Sarcoidosis may strike again in another organ, or come back to mess with my lungs but today, today I am good.  

So, he said, I should go down to the lab on my way out and have some more blood drawn.  Dentists tell you the secret is in floss. Doctors always see the mysteries of the universe in blood.  Okay, I didn’t mind. I’ve had blood drawn a hundred thousand times. No biggie. 

We sat and waited for my turn.  A tiny, young, quiet, young, very young (did I mention she was YOUNG) girl called my number. I went in, yadda yadda yadda, and she slipped the needle into my skin.  And I jumped.  It hurt. Not in an “ow, you just put a needle in me hurt” but hurt.  A lot. She looked and said “oh”.  I was clenching my fingers which were suddenly numb.  “I think I may have hit a nerve” she said.  She went to get help.  

Now.  I’m a bit of a fainter when I have too much adrenaline. So, when I get a needle in a nerve and my fingers and hand feel numb I freak out. Quietly. Daintily.  Like a goddam lady.  So I started to sweat and shake a bit while new, adult nurse came in and asked me all kinds of questions and offered me juice.  She asked if I wanted to come back another day but I wanted to get it done. So, the other arm got poked and my hand felt better and the first site ached and I left with my husband.  Blood taken, and cancer free.  

No Cancer ’17.  Bring what you will. It’s all cake after that great news.  

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People think I’m too emotional sometimes.  And a lot of the time it gets chalked up the way all emotional women are packaged: that time of the month, you’re such a girl, or, my personal nemesis “calm down”. 

It’s not my time of the month.   I had cervical cancer in my twenties and a hysterectomy at 28.  It hasn’t been my time of the month in 14 years. And yes I’m a girl, but I’m also a human and humans, except for maybe sociopaths,  feel things. 

Don’t tell me to calm down either.  Nothing makes me want to commit murder faster than those two words when I’m in an emotional hurricane. 

Let me tell you about being highly emotional.  I don’t just feel my feelings, I feel them all consumingly.  When I’m sad, I’m devastated.  When I’m scared, I’m probably peeing my pants.  When I’m happy I’m probably also peeing my pants.   When I love, I do so to the depths of my soul.  It can be a curse no question, but, it can also be a phenomenal blessing. Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel things so hard.  It’s difficult to explain why the death of someone I never met can tilt my axis and have me in tears for hours. It’s also not cool when someone tries to cut the tension at a funeral with a light joke and I can’t stop laughing.  But, it’s also the reason why music, or a sunset or a smile from one of my children can bring me to happy tears and consequently search those moments onto my heart in a way I’m not sure they otherwise would be.  

I’m a highly emotional person.  Don’t try to tame me or find ways to tone me down, because, much like my fiery temper and my infectious laughter, I am glorious just as I am. 

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I’m tired.  That’s not surprising. I’ve been working and raising a large family for over twenty years, of course I’m tired.  But I’m also mentally and emotionally tired.  2016 was draining.  I’ve made some choices to help me get into and get through 2017 and keep moving forward positively in the future. 

No toxic friendships.  This will be the easiest one because I’ve already let go of most of the *friendships* I had that were unhealthy.  The trick now will be to not invite in any new ones.  

My relationship with myself comes first, my relationship with my husband is second.  All other relationships come after those two. If I can’t take care of those two, everything else falls apart.  Someone who can’t understand that isn’t someone I need in my life. 

Respect.  This is a big thing for me.   I can disagree with you and still respect you.  You should be able to do the same.  If you can’t RESPECT me, who I am, and what I believe in, again, I go back to number one.  We are all human beings and we deserve to be respected as individuals.  Treating someone poorly, disrespecting who they are as a person simply because it doesn’t fall into line with your personal beliefs is NOT something I want in my life.  And I won’t have it any more.  I can walk away from bigotry, because it’s not a part of how I want my life to be.   

Authenticity. I plan to live as authentically as I can.  I will not temper myself to fit someone else’s comfort.  I will be polite and yes, respectful,  but, I will not be someone I am not to please others.  

Relaxation.  I don’t always make time to relax and that doesn’t help either my physical health or my mental health.  This will likely mean less of an online presence,  and believe me when I say, I have even contemplated ending this blog, but for now I’ve decided that since i have already scaled back in postings, I will simply scale back everywhere else as well.  I need real quiet from time to time.  I plan to take it. 

These are not resolutions.  These are intentions.  Things I need to do in my life to live as fully and as happily as I can.  

Hmm.  A full and happy life.  So crazy it just might work. 

Happy 2017.  

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Every year we tell the kids we’re toning it down.  And most years, we’ve wound up not toning it down at all. However, since we moved out east, Christmas has gotten quieter and quieter for us each year and I’m loving it. 

Back when the kids were little and my siblings and Shawn’s mother and sister all lived within an hours drive of one another, we did the crazy, busy holidays. Too much food, too many gifts, all the noise and the driving and the craziness.  Don’t get me wrong, when you have small children there are few things greater than watching them, giddy with excitement and high on sugar, whipping their way through wrapping and bouncing literally, off their relatives.  But our kids are much older now. And we have finally reached that great plateau in our lives where is little we lack.  We have food, a really nice home, and the kids don’t really lack for anything.  My appreciation of the season has taken a razor sharp focus in the last few years to being pretty much only about my family, and relaxation.  

Our oldest daughter couldn’t be home with us this year. It sucks, but, we were able to face time on and off all day. She even went to visit my grandparents and facetimed us all from their place, much to my delight.  

We let go of the family drama yesterday and just enjoyed being together.  I had a nap mid afternoon, and we capped off the day with a late night trip to the movies.  

We did not have piles under our tree. We did not take pictures of each thing. We did not get cranky and worn out from travelling.  We just hugged a lot and laughed a lot and let go.  I’m looking forward to this whole week of decompression.  

Some day, my kids will have kids of their own and Christmas will once again be full of hustle and bustle and craziness, I have no doubt. And I will love it, I also have no doubt.  But until then, I’m going to enjoy just being home, being quiet and taking the time to make sure that my children know how much they are loved.  

Peace, joy and love to you all.  

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