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This is the world that Shawn and I built, and there is no place I’d rather live. It’s a long weekend.  For a decent portion of the world, it’s easter weekend, but, since we don’t subscribe to christian or catholic belief systems, for us, it’s just bonus family time.  And it’s been wonderful.  I’ve texted with both of my older children who no longer live at home, I’ve talked to one of my sisters and my sisters in law, but it’s what we’ve shared together that really makes me proud of the family we have built. 

I love that we still do so many things as a family.   Grocery shopping,  clean up the yard, laugh, cook, clean, watch movies in a snuggled heap in the basement.  Even shave the dogs fur, we did in a cluster in the bathroom. A hilarious chore in which Kermit the dog shed his fur and we all began to wear it.  He now, by the way,  resembles a baby goat and is pouncing around the house like a crazed maniac as if the new lightness of weight is literally lifting him off the floor with each step.  

I love that my middle daughter spent time yesterday helping me lay out fabric and cut a pattern for a dress.  She wants me to teach her how to use the sewing machine, and I love that.   

Earlier this week I teased my husband on Facebook that he should buy my ballet shoes (I’ve always wanted them) and today he ordered them.  He gets my desire for things like this and he humours me because he loves me.  

Friday we had a very serious talk with our girls about sex.  They are 17 and nearly 19 and we run a fairly open household where no subject is forbidden.  In this case, it was about how important communication is, how important it is to have a healthy relationship with your own body and not to feel shame as a first response to sexual health.  I grew up in a strict household that taught abstinence before all else, and I spent many years filled with shame about my body.   It’s not what I want for our children.  Thankfully we’ve been blessed with kids who are excellent self-advocators.  Kids who know their worth, and conversations like the one we had Friday make me prouder than ever of what we’ve taught them.  

Fridays talk during the day led to a talk Friday night.  A girl at school with my two youngest was being cyber bullied by some boys.  A couple of those boys, while not doing much of the actual bullying, we’re a part of the group chat and were contributing by way of “yeah” and “lol” comments.  My youngest stood up to them.  He called them out on their behaviour and spoke up.  It’s takes a strong person to stand up to bullies and a stronger one to stand up to his friends, but again, the kinds of people we’ve raised our kids to be, and Shawn and I watched as our boy behaved as a man.  

We’ve had such moments of pride this weekend and almost all of them revolved around our children and the people they’ve become, and are still becoming.  

Yesterday afternoon as Shawn and I sat on our front porch in the sunshine, we shared more than one look across the porch.  We are so lucky, we often tell one another.  So lucky.  It hasn’t always been easy, in fact sometimes it’s been downright painful and difficult,  but all the pain and “hard” is worth it in the long run.  Because this is the land we live in, the world we created, and I love every bit of it.  

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I’m a busy, working mom.  I have a full time job, I have several home projects on the go, I read all the time, I knit, I write and I enjoy cooking and baking from scratch.  I’m also a woman of the modern world so I usually have my phone on me and yes, I’m on it likely far more than is healthy. I get it.  But I do love my phone.

So its not unusual to find me using my phone while doing something else.  I prop it up against my lunch bag in the kitchen in the morning while eating cereal before work so I can watch videos.  I get on video chat with my daughter in Ontario while I’m cooking.  I have been known to occasionally “live tweet” an episode or two of survivor and yes, like many people, I take my phone to the bathroom.

No, I’m not worried about dropping it into the toilet.  I’m over forty and I’ve had five babies   These thighs are no joke.  Phone on the toilet is not so bad, as multitasking goes, right? But what if you add a third element? Because I do.

I brush my teeth on the toilet a lot. And I’ve been known to brush my teeth in the toilet *while also* being on my phone.

Which isn’t so bad…until you read something funny, with a mouthful of toothpaste foam, and accidentally sputter-laugh, which shoots a healthy amount of white Colgate and saliva into your exposed panties/jeans.

I mean, I don’t mind being minty fresh.  I just didn’t ever picture the minty fresh breath smell to come from my vagina.  And of course this happened to me after lunch so I still had a good portion of my day to get through.  Do you know how difficult it is to use public bathroom grade paper towel to scrub foam from your jeans?  It’s not easy, my friends.  The towel couldn’t handle the vigour I needed and started to disintegrate.  So I got more towel and tried blotting.

My panties were soaked from trying to rinse out the paste-spit. They smelled like winter fresh whitening paste, fresh, sharp and slightly chemically. My jeans had a weird wet and pasty white splotch on them with tiny pills of shitty quality paper towel clinging to them.

So I did what any normal woman over forty would do.  I zipped up. And I owned that shit.   I mean, it’s funny.  And if you can’t laugh at yourself and your goo-spotted jeans, well then my friend, you’re taking life too seriously.

I still brush my teeth and pee and stalk Facebook on my phone.  But now, I keep my head turned to the side.  And that, my friends, is a life lesson learned.

 

 

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I realized this is the second post in a row about death but, it seems to be in the forefront of recent thoughts and, it’s my blog so I’ll talk about what I want.  

Tonight my middle daughter and I finally got around to watching last weeks Greys Anatomy and *spoilers ahead* we talked about death. 

Couple of items of note if this is your first time here.  I literally watched my dog Katie pass away a little over a week ago, as I stood by her head and stroked and held her as she died.  And in 2014 I watched my husbands face turn grey and his eyes fix and dilate when his heart stopped. I saw that moment. It’s burned into my mind as almost no other memory I have is.  

So, I don’t like dead eyes in shows or movies.  I turn from the screen and don’t turn back until the scene is over.  

But, like a good little masochist, I’m a Greys fan.  And, if you are too, you know that Maggie’s mother died.  

Shonda loooovessss death. She doesn’t care. Random death, shootings, drownings, fires, plane crashes, wires cut, she swims in it.  Especially emotional death. If it will reduce her devoted swarms of gluttons of heartbreak to sobbing messes, she delights in it.  So she killed a mother. Again. Beautifully. 

Mid episode my daughter Ash and I were cracking jokes about my eventual death/funeral. She promised me pink and navy Swarovski crystals.  Ahhh I said. You know me.  And you’ll make a big dramatic show of wailing whilst covered in a black face veil? I asked her. Don’t worry mom, she came back. I got you. Imma go full on RuPaul drag show up in your funeral.  Wailing AND a death drop. I know what you need.  We laughed. She gets me.  She threatened to play bad 80’s music.  I countered with good 90’s music. Freedom by George Michael.  Of course.  And bloodletting by concrete blonde.  (Because she refused to play Adele).  

While it’s good, even healthy to laugh about death and joke about funerals, the show of course sobered up in a hurry and so did we.  Maggie’s mother died and we literally looked at each other the second we knew it was happening and didn’t laugh anymore. I had to look away from the dead eyes shot and she knew why.  She quietly said that she knew what I wanted (cremation) but not her dad.  I answered her quietly and went back to letting some large, fat tears fall from my face.  

Death is the one great equalizer. We’re literally all going to do it.  I will. She will.  My husband will.  Our other kids will.  You will.  It can’t be escaped.  Shonda sure knows it.  But if death is the ultimate cure for life, love is the symptom that makes it most acute.  It is simultaneously the balm that heals the wound and the blade that creates it.  

Maybe that’s why it’s so important that we laughed before we cried.  Because laughter is the medicine that makes death bearable. At least in some small measures.  

I’m afraid of my husbands heart giving away again.  I can’t shake that fear since September 19th 2014.  But, when one day those eyes do change again, the moments I spent laughing with him will be the ones I’ll cherish the most.  

And one day I will die.  Hopefully a very long time from now.  And while my children will, no doubt, be paralyzed by grief, Aislinn will remember a silly conversation about RuPaul on the couch.  Kathryn will remember my face lighting up at her in her prom dress in the kitchen.  Keisha will remember car trips and singing loudly on (and off) key. Shawn Michael will remember baking bread together in the kitchen. Liam will remember driving me to the theatre while I stood up out of the sunroof.  

And if I go first, I hope Shawn  remembers it all.  

Life isn’t always easy and it sure as hell isnt always fair.  But sometimes it’s unbelievable funny.  And full of crazy love.  

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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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Stories


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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