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Care


There’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put the mask on yourself before you help someone else. You can’t save someone if you’re dying.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about care lately. Self care, caring for others, and what it’s like to watch someone you love spiral. When to jump in and try to rescue them, and when to put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s not an easy conversation to have, at any stage in life, about anyone you care about.
Some time ago it was myself drowning. Lost in a sea of depression, anxiety, bad choices, manipulations, disorders and juxtaposing addictions to the adrenaline and the guilt. It was a beautiful, chaotic tornado that kept on circling my life and taking down everyone in its path.
So what happened? Things came a head. Some people call it “rock bottom” but I kind of rebel against that term. I, and most people I know, have hit several low points in their lives. Rock bottom is not a singular event, but a way of expressing that things are pretty much at their worst in a given situation. So, there I was, on the “bottom” of whatever was going on in my life. Sitting in the eye of the hurricane. My family alienated, my husband pushed away, my kids, well, sadly, not taken into consideration. I was going through the motions of my life and I was doing it numb. So, I was told to get help, or move on. A crossroads. An ultimatum. However you want to call it. The status quo was not only hurting me, it was hurting everyone around me. Change or leave. Because staying on the ride of that tornado was not going to work anymore.
And so began a very long period of work. Hard, gruelling work. Dr’s, psychiatrists, counsellors. They all had homework for me. Some of the homework was in pill form and some was in conversation and some in journaling and some was solitary work to do when I was alone. But it was all work. Work to get up every day and make little decisions minute by minute that propelled me forward, not in circles and certainly not backward. And I healed. Slowly.
A funny thing happened. The more time I spent doing the work on myself, and taking care of myself, the better my other relationships got. The more I did the work the more I could actually feel the changes happening. My confidence came back. My appreciation for others and for even the simplicity of my surroundings came screaming back.
Now, I’m a few years removed from the hardest of those times and although I still have to do the work, it’s less *work* now. I’m off everyday medication and have been for a while. I feel good in my skin.
I was talking to a friend today who is going through a really rough time. A loved one is spiralling. In that tornado. Chaos and mental illness sometimes are the most common/worst bedfellows. And it gets…easy…to just stop trying. I know that first hand. All I wanted to do was lie in bed. And I felt that because I was clearly not well, people should go out of their way to help me. Bring me things, do things for me. It’s the ultimate check out of life. And, irony, I have someone in my life, more than one someone, who is also going through this. In all the cases, my own people and hers, the person in question does not want to do the work. Refuses to see that it’s necessary, even takes it as an insult that it’s being suggested. I get it. I really do. That tornado is strong. So is the addiction to being ‘the broken one’. It’s hard and it’s painful and the first instinct is flight not fight. In fact, it sucks all the fight out of you.
But.
Fight you must. Because, and this is so hard, the people you love and lean on are getting tired. Burned out. And they are running out of resources to help. I told my friend today that however hard I thought it was coming out of it, it’s harder to watch someone else close to you. It’s harder to start telling them ‘no, actually, I can’t help you today. I can’t listen today’. Because it goes against everything that feels natural. We WANT to help those we love. But we can’t do it from empty tanks. And we can’t be part of the chaos for them. I watched my husband and even my children sit me down and tell me that if I would not help myself, then they were prepared to live a life without me. Because that was the healthiest choice for them and those were some of the worst conversations of my life. But, they also opened my eyes to what I was going to lose if I didn’t find my fight. I told my friend today, I can’t make the choice for her. No one can. But, she can’t save someone if she herself has no oxygen. Put on your mask, I said. Save yourself, and see how the view looks when you can breathe again.

We all have our hard things. Sometimes the hardest thing is to walk away. Sometimes the hardest is to stay.

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Of course our health care system has flaws. What system doesn’t? But, it saved my husband.

Thank you to everyone at the Regional Hospital ER and Cardiac care.

Please, if you’re in a hospital today, or seeing a health professional, thank them. Thank them from the bottom of your heart.

And say a silent thank you that we don’t have to pay every time we see a doctor, visit a clinic, go to emerg or have an operation.

Happy life day, my dearest husband.

Happy life.

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It took me four years, but I’m finally doing it. I’m finally getting back on a stage!
Moving to a new place is always a little bit tricky, but moving to a new state or a new province is positively daunting. Especially when there is no family nearby to lean on and you don’t have any friends. So you dig in and you work (or look for work, as in my case) and you feel isolated and lonely and of course start to doubt all kinds of things, and then, as if by magic, you start meeting people.
Then you start making friends. Then you find your “other family” and it starts to feel like home. That was our experience with moving out east. Peppered, of course, with a bunch of other factors, but it pretty much took nearly three full years for us to feel like this was our home and now four years in I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love it.
Life in New Brunswick is like sticking a city right near Algonquin Park in Ontario. There are forests and wildlife everywhere. In fact, I have often commented that it seems the city’s and towns in New Brunswick were built to accommodate nature, and not the other way around as I so often found in Ontario.
However, with that adjustment period and the “finding” period of the move, (and of course, the necessity of health) we circled the wagons a lot and didn’t do a lot out, besides explore the nature trails of course. Which means I wasn’t doing any theatre, a favourite activity of mine that took up much of our five years in Tillsonburg, some of my twenties, all of my teen years and even some of my childhood. I’ve acted on stage and on camera and, well, I missed it.
I auditioned for a huge musical in the city (1 of over 200 who auditioned) and didn’t get a part, which didn’t really surprise me since the cast was of only 22 and there are some great actors out here, so I auditioned again this past summer for a show out in the valley where I live.
And I’m in.
We’re doing Sister Act (not to be confused with the movie, this is the musical). I wasn’t actually very familiar with the stage production but I gotta say, I’m loving this. The music is beautiful, fun and exciting and, in typical farce based form, there is a chase scene. We’re doing choreography based on the US Broadway tour, so it’s all move, move, move. I can’t remember the last time I danced so much. At the end of the show, we have a number with 6 part harmony. Honestly, this is an experience on stage like no other I’ve had. And it’s a great way to get my toes back onto a stage again.

If you’re local, and you want to see me as a nun, which, is kind of hilarious if you know me personally, Sister Act takes the stage August 9th.

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Here’s something I “thought” was super smart.  I booked a flight that left at 1am thinking that I would sleep On the plane and wake in Montreal fresh and ready to fly home.  Here’s something that didn’t happen. Sleep. 

I had a middle seat for the flight home and the dude on my left was asleep before we even took off.  I suspect he had chemical help.  I mean, he was out, COLD.  I tried, I really did.  But I just couldn’t do it, plus, he had left the window open which meant by half way through the flight, it was nothing but a continual sunrise out the window and it was too pretty not to watch.  Very surreal to realize that you’re not only crossing the country, but also crossing timelines, and essentially the sunrise was following us.  So I landed in Montreal and had just under an hour to connect to my flight home.  Another hour and forty five in the air, another hour forward in time, and I landed in Saint John, happy to exit and see my family.  Happier still for the knowledge I could go nap in my own bed.  

While I had been away, Shawn took the kids for a day of hiking at the Fundy trails park and they were all dying for me to go too so, that weekend, after a short three days back at work, we went. 


I mean, can you even?   

Sometimes Shawn and I will be in the car driving somewhere and we will notice how particularly beautiful it is out that day and he will ask me, “are you bored of it yet?”. Meaning, have we lived here so long now that the views have become mundane.  Ordinary. Unremarkable. 

The answer is always no.  I have never lived in a place so breathtaking. New Brunswick is often referred to as “the drive by” province.  Meaning, people pass through on their way to the more glamorous places like PEI or Nova Scotia, and it’s a real shame.  Because there are such gems here. And we’ve really only scratched the surface so far.  

Besides, nothing makes me happier, whether it’s on a provincial trail, or in our own yard, than to see my teenaged children revert back to the small kids they were, ten, eleven, twelve years ago, when we took the camping in Algonquin Park.  

I loved my trip to Edmonton.  It was everything I had hoped it to be and more. And I hope I go back there again someday.  Or to BC, or Gatineau, or St.Catherines or Orillia, or Guelph or Canning or Kitchener.  I even hope to explore more of my own new home province. 

But I’ll always love coming home the best.  There’s no family like my family.  And home really is where my heart is.  

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Well, well, well. I made it all the way to Edmonton, went to a wedding, and came back to tell the tale, only a little worse for sleep habits.
My baby brother’s wedding.
First of all, the week preceding the wedding was great. I mean completely great. It was exactly the perfect amount of independence I needed in order to go home in full appreciation of what I have and who I have in my life.
You all know I managed to avoid actually buying anything in the designer stores, which was practically *saint-like* patience on my part. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t self-indulge at all.
On Thursday I went out and got a mani-pedi. First time I’ve done that in over five years. I usually don’t want to justify the cost, since I’m a bit of a penny pincher (with the exception of course of the odd pair of ballet shoes). I had forgotten how good your feet feel when you leave the salon after having this done. The lady who did mine even gave me a hot stone massage on the bottoms of my feet. Talk about relaxing!
I decided, since I had time that day, to find the house my parents had rented, so that I would not get lost on Saturday when I went out for the BBQ. It’s a good thing I did, too! I got hopelessly lost. Edmonton is laid out so…uniquely. I needed to find 133 st. HOWEVER, there is more than one 133 st. I also found out that if the house is in the north-west end, you have to find the street number that corresponds with the first three digits of the house, THEN find the 133 that shoots off that. How did I discover this? The very nice lady who lived on the first 133 st who offered to get in her car and have me follow her to the correct address. So kind. It was a total comedy of errors, with me panicking, my GPS telling me the place I wanted did not exist and a kind woman whipping me through a very brand new subdivision. It’s okay though, she needed to go to the grocery store anyway.
I spent a little bit of time visiting and went back to my friend Allison’s house to get ready for that night’s dinner.
Around nine years ago, I started reading blogs and I got hooked on a couple of specific ones, including Brittany Gibbon’s blog, at the time, The Barefoot Foodie. It was smart and funny and everything you want in a quick afternoon’s read. That blog eventually became The Curvy Girl online magazine (which, I wrote for a couple of times) and then eventually, just Curvy Girl Guide (along with her media company which also produces pod casts called Girls’ Girls and is the funniest fricking thing ever). I’ve been a part of CGG since the beginning, as has my friend Allison, although, we had never met in person. A funny thing happens though when women form friendships independent of any male interaction and we bonded quickly, as did many of the women in that group at the onset. We’re the old guard now, as the group has over 6000 members from all over the world. And, as luck would have it, a bunch of them live in Edmonton. So we planned a dinner out.
I can’t remember having such a good time with a bunch of ladies. The restaurant was so much fun. The DJ played a lot of throwback music to our high school years (I won’t say how long ago that was) and amid the raucous laughter and hilarious conversation, there were frequent pauses to sing along and dance in our seats. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.
Friday was another amazing opportunity to sit with women who are an important part of my life. The managers at the Edmonton branch of my work invited me to lunch. I frequently email with these women as we work so the chance to sit down and really build on the working relationships with a face to face was a blessing. Nevermind the fact that they are wonderfully smart and funny ladies!
I had thought to myself, the building they are in is pretty easy to find, and, according to google, the coffee shop my brother works in is pretty close, so why not try to find it since I was going to be right in the heart of the downtown? Well I got lost. Again. Because those streets, man!! Nothing is where it appears to be. You have to find the main street, then the offshoot. It’s confusing. I wound up asking a police officer for directions and I did eventually find it but the “I’m lost” texts were becoming a bit of a source of humour for my husband back home.
I braved the north-west side once again that afternoon for the rental house, which, I found slightly easier than the day before. And reunited with my nieces and nephew. Oh the chaos of children all under the age of ten. Made me almost nostalgic for the days when my own crew of five were little. Almost. Smartest thing I did for myself on that trip was to get a rental car and stay with a friend. I love my family to pieces, but that was a whole lot of nutty in one house. I feel like I did my time already and got out, if not on good behaviour, then at least on time served.
On Saturday I picked up my third sister at the airport, a last minute surprise as she wasn’t sure she’d be able to come. At last, all seven siblings in the same place at the same time. For the first time in six years. Time certainly does fly. We spent Saturday afternoon/night with most of us together having dinner and playing cards. If you asked me why my sister Niamh and I felt that our Irish accents only helped with the game of Euchre, I couldn’t tell you. I only know it was funny as fuck.
Something else I learned about Edmonton. It says light for a long time. I offered to drive my brother and sister in law and their baby to their air BnB for the night, since I had a vehicle and could save them the cost of a cab. This turned out to be brilliant because my one year old niece Saoirse only is cute when no one is looking (says my sister Angela) and was ADORABLE on the ride until we got stopped in traffic (because we forgot it was CANADA DAY) and she was grumpy. So, we sang her the opening of Hamilton. The only baby in the world that I know that is calmed by the sounds of “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore” emanating from adults in perfect tandem. I mean, we were pretty damn great.
Our stellar performance aside, here is what I forgot about Canada Day, especially in a major Canadian city. It’s busy. EVERYONE was out. Some streets were shut down. A drive that should have taken me twenty minutes to get from downtown Edmonton to Devon, took me over an hour. I arrived back at Allison’s that night just after midnight, tired, sore and ready for the wedding of my baby brother.

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I’m 42 years old and I’m on the first solo trip away I’ve ever taken IN MY LIFE.  

Earlier this year I was all set to go to Ohio this summer and meet a big bunch of ladies I’ve known online, some for as long as eight years.  And then my baby brother got engaged and my trip plans changed from Ohio to Edmonton.  So I jumped online, sold my ticket to the first venue, sadly, and booked flights to go west.   Enter my amazing friend Allison who offered me her home as my west-rest.   Allison and I have known one another for six years online.  And now we know each other in “real life” as well.  

I left Saint John on a 5:45am flight Wednesday morning and, after a quick change of planes in Montreal, landed in Edmonton at just before 11am their time.  For me it was already after two.  Another online friend I’ve known for years, Brianne, picked me up and after many squeals and hugs, we hopped in her car and toured the city.  Edmonton is quite lovely.  It’s a much bigger city than I’m used to, as my home base in the Maritimes is actually quite small as cities go, but the architecture here and the views are really gorgeous.  Because I’m a tourist, we of course went to the west Edmonton mall where we had lunch and did a bit of shopping.  

I was able to steel myself to looking only in the designer stores, but it was hard.  Honestly it felt wonderful to just be wandering in and out of them.  Brianne and I walked and talked for a few hours and then she dropped me off to pick up my rental car.  I was given a free upgrade to an SUV, which is what I love to drive anyway and I got myself to Allisons. We talked for four hours last night, catching up on our families, remembering our own personal history and back stories and it was exactly like I knew it would be.  

This week is chock full of wonderful plans.  Dinner tonight with all the local community from my online group, lunch tomorrow with work colleagues, a BBQ and a chance to see siblings and meet my new sister in law and a wedding.  A swing dance wedding.  Who could ask for better?? 

Today I’m doing a walking trail and getting a pedicure.  

I miss my family dearly, because at heart, I’m a family girl.  But my daughter called me this morning and it’s like she was snuggled right up beside me in bed.  

I haven’t taken any pictures yet, but I’m sure they’re coming.  

Kisses, Shawn and kids.   I love you so much.  I’m having a great time.  

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A funny thing has been happening for the last couple of years.  I’ve been happy more often than angry. More often than frustrated. More often than sad. I mean, I’m just happy most of the time.  My kids have noticed.  Shawn has definitely noticed.  

I think a lot of it comes from letting go of the conflicts in my life.  I don’t harbour things, I speak on them. And I don’t keep trying to please everyone else. And I stopped obsessing about needing everyone to like me.  I let go of people who are mean, or rude, or careless with my feelings or the feelings of my loved ones.  It’s beautiful and liberating. 

I’m also living in the moment more.  I’m enjoying my home, which I worked hard for, my children, who continue to amaze me all the time and my marriage, which has never been better.   

Today was actually a perfect day.  I spent the day with my family laughing, cooking, dancing, playing, singing and walking.  I’ve been happy all day.  Shawn and I went out to meet some friends for coffee this evening and although it took us a few years, we’ve really found our community of friends here and they’re wonderful. 

As I get older, I’m getting better at recognizing the value of seizing the moments of joy and bliss in life and living as much in the moment as possible.  And the more I do that, the more I model it for the kids. 

I’m in the best place in my life that I think I’ve ever been and I can’t help but sharing. We never know what tomorrow will throw at us. 

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