Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

Waiting for rain May 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 9:08 pm

The rain has come.

It has been dry, hot and dry. I can remember very little space between the last snowfall, almost a blizzard, and long days of what Ireland would see as amazing weather. Temperatures hit 26 degrees on a couple of occasions. I call it hot, but the locals see it as warm. A fire ban has been enforced in many municipalities in Southern Alberta including ours. Twice last week I arrived back form a run with a scorched throat that it took hours to soothe. The farmers sat waiting for the frost to go, then suddenly it was all go. Spring had arrived they proclaimed, and out they went in their massive sprayers and seeders with tyres so tall a man can stand inside it. Spring they said, but to me those weeks were better than most Irish summers, and just as long.

Kurtis and I went camping last weekend. My mother told us to settle ourselves for a few more weeks, until I explained the temperatures. Although Friday night was cold on my nose, Saturday brought high temperatures. Around us, pockets of snow disappeared during our stay. In the mornings, we watched the sun poke itself above the peaks and begin to rise in the small sky of our mountains. It took time for it to warm us, but it did, and I have the red on my arms still to prove it. The mosquitos were there too. We were cautious; it was bear season, and sure enough we spotted 3, thankfully in our truck, on our way home. They were beautiful and I was buzzed form seeing them, if only for a moment. I am happy for them to stay in their world and me in mine, and never the two shall meet. It is safer that way.

It looked like rain on Tuesday but the loaded clouds passed us by somehow. I waited but it did not come. Today though, as I drove home, there was promise in the air. I smelled it, the deep scent of wet grass, a smell I was probably so accustomed to in Ireland that I rarely knew anything else. I was told it would pass us by again but I hoped. I was told to turn on the sprinklers for our newly seeded garden. I held off, but eventually I relented, disappointed.

Then I heard it. The slow patter in the distance; rain hitting our garage roof. I stepped outside under our porch and the land was wet and the sky was dark. I breathed in the moist, cool air and stepped into the thick droplets for a moment. Back inside, the temperature has now dropped and I close the windows. I keep the door open, just to listen to it falling on the back porch and allow the scent to drift in. The crops and vegetables and new flowers need it, our parched soil needs it, and the Irish in me needs it.  



Thank you bebe April 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 8:25 pm
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It is one year since I moved in with Kurtis.

This one year mark signifies a new status in Canada, at least by Immigration and Revenue; common-law spouse. This one year outshines all others: the first kiss, the first date, the first “I love you”. I have had butterflies and swells of happiness, rising in the pit of my tummy reaching right into my throat and my smile. I once wondered if I would ever fall in love. I lived the perfect single life. I never knew falling in love was easy, and it is.

Over the past year, we had a number of moments of wondering how hard this could possibly be; challenges we faced together like when I was told my Irish license wasn’t valid (it was with an international permit easily purchased from Ireland) and I was not eligible for a Canadian license (I found out a week later I was, and now have it); Heart-wrenching arguments against each other about cutlery drawers and visiting friends, washing machines and wall decorations. Genuinely, the fights that cut deepest in hindsight seem absurd, and yet I would never presume to undermine the depth of feeling they still retain.

We have learned to fight better; we work to listen rather than be right, sometimes. We remind each other, “I love you”. I try and remember that when he forgets to phone or tells me how to do things his way or falls asleep on the couch rather than come to bed. I try not to nag, I try not to be lazy and I try to respect his ways of doing things.  

What means the most, is that he helps me be a better person. He encourages me to run, to write, to rest. He reminds me of my values when I speak in anger. He, an atheist, brought me to Mass, when I didn’t have a license to drive myself.

 I see in his eyes my future. He asks about my family and listens to what is going on at home today. He tells me about his dreams. He put a photo of my favourite on canvas and hung it above our bed.

Tomorrow, I will go back to mock sarcasm and the usual Irish condescension I normally use for our relationship to outsiders, but for today, on our first anniversary, I thank Kurtis for us.


A gift of time March 4, 2013

Filed under: couple — wakingupincanada @ 5:48 pm

I am extremely selfish with my time; it is my most valuable resource. This weekend it was largely dedicated to a boy, a well-behaved cute and cuddly 6 year old who we were minding. He took our attention, all of it, from when we opened our eyes until we closed them. He was a treasure but he was work; spot the child-free couple. His parents picked him up yesterday afternoon, and left as a blizzard settled in. Peace descended as the wind flung the snow around our yard. My boyfriend lowered the flag pole waving the Donegal yellow and green and we curled up on the couch. We could not see past our front porch, let alone the highway. The whiteness crept closer and closer. Twitter told us all roads in Southern Alberta were closed. We were fine. We were happy to be stuck home, alone.

The wind had settled when we awoke, the ground was white, there were no signs of the storm, just strange banks of snow oddly placed by the fierce wind. The snowploughs had the highway cleared. Traffic sped by at usual speed. I itched for me time. I went to work unsettled. I sought my escape with a trip to the city; my favourite cafe, a book, alone with strangers. My boyfriend said he was coming. I fought. He didn’t. He wasn’t letting me drive with conditions threatening to worsen. I missed my single life, my ability to come and go as I pleased, getting lost inside my own home and my own head on a weekend. Free to come, free to go.

I explained my need; he packed his bike. I sit warm and cosy with a blueberry bran muffin and a latte. He is somewhere on his bike. I wonder on his goodness. He is giving his time to give me me-time. How generous he is.


A Mini- British Isle February 23, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 1:13 pm
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He has served me often, but today, asked me, as I ordered my latte, “Are you Irish?” I nodded, smiling. “I’m Welsh. He is English and she is Scottish”. I was among friends! “Where in Ireland are you from?”, the Scottish lady asks, “Donegal”. She laughs; her mother lived there too.

As yet, I have only met one Irish family in the Prairies, who emigrated here 30 years ago. In response to this dearth of Irish-ness, I now embrace the entire British Isles as home, and that sometimes extends to Europe, especially when we discuss the difference in politics.

When I first planned my adventure, I received welcomed advice from an Irish immigrant settled in Vancouver. She warned me, you may now feel that you want to escape Ireland, but when you arrive, choose a place that has an Irish community to support you. I scoffed. Me, old independent me on a fresh journey? Give me new people, new backgrounds, new accents. Arriving in the Rocky Mountains, the melting pot of eclectic internationals, I relished the differences. Anzac day and Australia Day, Remembrance Sunday and Thanksgiving, Christmas across the world, food, drink, pastimes and words, our politics, our values, our clothes.

Now, I understand my predecessor’s advice. It isn’t that I resent or tire from people asking about Robert Burns’ night (Scottish), or their disbelief that the Queen is not my Queen, though I am very happy for the Royal Pregnancy. I don’t really mind explaining the Troubles, how much things have settled, or current tensions. I enjoy the opportunity to explain my culture, my history and heritage. But, oh how nice, for there to be no explanations required. Remember when different meant those from Dublin, or Kerry? Great Britain was a whole other island. Now those accents sound like home.

It seems to me that is by being far away from home, we stop concentrating on that which divides us, and instead look for the familiar. Here, I look for what is the same, sounds the same, tastes the same. The Welsh, English and Scottish don’t just know Eastenders and Coronation Street, they know Brookside and Emmerdale, and are lucky enough to not know about Fair City. They know too what the 80s were like and the effect of the current recession. They know what crisps are, appreciate Cadbury’s and good tea. They too can cope with 7 days straight of rain.

In the end, what warms me, is the connection. Here is the Irish, the Scot, the Welsh and the English. So, it turns out, not far from my Canadian home, there is a little place I can go to that feels, just a little bit, like my home on the other side of the Atlantic.


Don’t love, DO February 15, 2013

Filed under: writing — wakingupincanada @ 8:41 am
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This is my seventh day in a row, writing. It has been a long time since I invested this much time in what I love, and I have loved it. It has not been easy; taking the time to write, usually first thing in the quiet of the dawn; coming up with topics that strike me, and give me enough to go beyond a sentence; long, clumsy sentences that don’t make sense, deleted, re-written, deleted re-structured, not perfect but completed. For me, doing what you love is knowing you are far from perfect and doing it anyway. It took discipline and a little bit of commitment.

I once again return to those wise words that caused me to begin: even those with great talent must practice, and so, for me with little skill and only a wish, I must work doubly hard. I am better than I was a week ago, because a week ago I did not write. If the slowest run is faster than the couch, is the worst paragraph better than a blank page?

Writing has given me more than words. My thoughts, an often crowded, confusing chaos that needs a bit of sorting on a regular basis enjoy quality time to just roam free within the structure of sentence. Thoughts in order often help order elsewhere, like my desk, my kitchen and my laundry. Writing gives me a sense of achievement, I planned, I did, I completed. Every day. It is like ticking of your to-do list, a gold star, or for me at least, red tick in my copybook.

What good is a hobby that you don’t do? I ask sometimes, in conversation for the first time, “what do you enjoy doing?”, and they say reading. What did you last read? Oh, I can’t remember. What a shame. Or I love golfing but I only play when we are in Mexico. How sad, that you have to wait until you go on holiday to enjoy that which you love. It seems a bit of a waste, a waste of fun. There are those whose hobbies ended when they left school, I used to play football, I used to skate, I used to, once upon a time. Then there are the opposite, I quilt and there, you see in a massive handbag a small patchwork peeping out, waiting for an idle moment to finish the line of stitching. I scrapbook, and I am going away next weekend to get my next calendar done. You can hear the passion and feel the love, and these voices are the ones we gather to, the people who love and do. I run, I play football with other Mums. These are the people we follow. They don’t say I love to, they just, do. We all need a little fun and enjoyment. Life is hard. It is full of work and responsibility, paying bills, paying attention, getting the dishes done and remembering birthdays and anniversaries and who is married to whom.

My name is Kellie and I write.


Hungering February 14, 2013

Filed under: faith — wakingupincanada @ 7:10 am
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I have an inkling what it feels like to be viewed as a religious extremist.

I arrived back at work from a lunch-time mass, with ashes on my forehead. 5 of colleagues, each at separate times asked, wondering if I fell into an inkpad or rubbed dirt on my forehead. Each time, in humour and shock, I explained. Having grown up in a Catholic country, there was never a need before to explain the ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. “From dust you came, and to dirt you shall return”. If that is the looks I get, good humoured and curious, to ashes on my forehead once a year, I wonder how others feel with more stringent day to day activities. I had taken for granted being a Catholic in Ireland, where growing up having ashes on your head was not accepted, but expected. It is not that my colleagues are not religious, some are, some are spiritual in other ways, but the Catholic population is low on the ground. I travelled 13 miles to get a Mass that I could attend, and I was the youngest person in the small congregation, and by a pretty good gap.

It was also the first ever Ash Wednesday where I followed the fasting obligation. There are 2 days in the year the Church asks us to fast: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. From my mother, I learned I was supposed to have a slice of dry toast, black tea, and a dinner without meat. Never one to accept just one opinion, I had to research: a fast day constitutes one proper meal; you may have something at the 2 other mealtimes, but those 2 together should not amount to a full meal. There is no snacking. It is a sacrifice to prepare for Lent and connect with those less fortunate than ourselves, a sacrifice as penance, to say sorry for sinning, to increase awareness, to detach from the body and connect with the soul, to imitate Jesus’ fast in the Bible.

There was a reason I hadn’t done it before. I may question its reasoning: how does my hungry belly help starving children; why do I need to pray for people who in my judgement, should already be in heaven (Yes I know, I am neither a judge on earth or above) but the real reason: It is tough. When I was doing 24 hour fasts as a child for different charities, I would start after dinner one day, and finish with a late inner the next day. Not so with Ash Wednesday. It lasts all day, and you go to bed hungry. I even ate extra on Tuesday night to give me a head-start on hunger on Wednesday. I skipped breakfast and by lunch was hungry. Somehow, being that hungry made me more aware of actually being hungry and I didn’t even accidentally slip some fruit or nuts into my mouth like I would on a normal day. When hunger pangs struck, I thought on people I would dedicate my suffering to, to help me through it; people who had passed away, people who needed a little extra help, people I miss in Ireland. I really enjoyed my dry toast at lunch time, which I had sneakily sliced deliberately thick, just in case. I aimed to eat slowly, quietly, really savouring it, to make sure I benefitted  from every crumb. When it was all I was getting I’d make sure it counted.

Due to work, we went out for dinner, ironically to an Irish pub, but I safely chose the soup, potato and cheddar. Colleagues again looked at me through their bites from their steaks, cooked rare, as if I was mad. Wow it was good, and then I wondered if having such a delicious soup was over-indulgence. It was thick and creamy and filling, and feeling full, I wondered if I should stop, 3 spoonfuls from the end. I couldn’t, it was far too delicious to waste. Regardless, I felt wonderful; this fasting thing was no problem. I would also have a tiny piece of brie later at a buffet later, and felt a teensy bit guilty. Arriving home at 10.30, I was famished. My tummy was empty, I was tired and I went straight to bed. Maybe for the first time in my life, I went to bed hungry. Again, I felt successful, I was hungry but I was in bed. I’d fall asleep, awake and eat, mission accomplished.

Sleep didn’t come. I tossed. I turned. I tried to focus on breathing yet it took nearly an hour to fall asleep. I was easily awakened and again would lie, trying to take my mind of my empty stomach. I had an argument with my boyfriend and it was harder to be ational when all I could feel was the emptiness in my stomach. At this stage the hunger felt painful. At 12.30, I had some cereal.

So ended my first fast on a holy day of obligation. I may not have been as successful as I had hoped, but I am proud of my attempts. I feel more connected. I can vaguely understand now how it feels to go to bed hunger. How it would feel to do that regularly, with no fall back is beyond me. I felt tired of hearing about famine and poverty, felt powerless to know how to help, but I have a renewed sense of injustice, of seeing a need I should respond to. Children especially should not go to bed, staring at nothing, overwhelmed by the hunger in their stomachs. I wonder how many people in my own community do not have enough food?

As well, perhaps less lofty as a feeling, I am proud of myself. I set myself a challenge and I worked hard on it. From someone who grazes at food all day long, I did not think I would even manage what I did. I learned that I am stronger than I think.


Ash Wednesday February 13, 2013

Filed under: faith — wakingupincanada @ 8:05 am
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We have tested and tainted too much lover
-through a chink too wide comes in no wonder”
Patrick Kavanagh

This morning brings us Ash Wednesday, and throughout the world for over a billion Catholics, this marks the beginning of Lent. To some it may seem as the biggest diet club around as the junk food is hidden at the back of the cupboard until Easter Sunday, but the next 46 days can go much deeper than that and offers a rare opportunity for all.
For me, growing up, Lent meant no chocolate, sweets, after dinner biscuits or Sunday ice-cream. Even as an adult, if I wasn’t “off” chocolate, I sure didn’t eat it in front of my mother. Oddly, my most successful Lents were when my conscience was standing in the kitchen, and now when I fail at Lent, I always feel I’ve let my Mum down, not because she is strict or would be angry at me, but because I want to live up to her standard, be the person she raised me to be and be able to follow through on something I committed to.

From my Mum, I see Lent for 2 things: Discipline and Simplicity.
There can be scoffing at the idea of abstaining from certain foods, and the connection between Lent and dieting was far from Jesus’ fast in the desert as a sacrifice to bring him closer to God. However, try and abstain from certain foods, and one can see, just how hard it is. It isn’t about losing weight, I believe, it’s about checking in to see where our addictions are, what are our demons, what has a hold on us? Is it tea, chocolate or just mindless eating throughout the day? Is it alcohol or cigarettes, television, computer games, or even a lack of time for or friends, spouse, children, colleagues? Lent affords us a time to see what it is we think we can’t live without, can’t be better at, and disciplining ourselves to realise, we are more than that. We can do better. We are not consumers or reactionaries, we are persons, people; we are children of God.

By paring back on all the clutter, the extra stuff that takes up our day, we can now focus on that which matters. Meals are not about being stuffed, but about savouring a nourishing meal. Spend a week on holiday, eating out all the time and we welcome the home cooked meal when we get back. Luxury can be too much. I forgot until Monday night when I was too tired to cook how wonderful a plain cheese toasted sandwich tastes. I am surprised again and again when I mind my nieces how good a jam sandwich tastes. How special 5 minutes in silence can be instead of an evening in front of the television. Move away from the clatter of everyday, the usual gossip, the worries about money, the stress of the future, the ticking clock on the to- do list, and concentrate on the little things. Live simply. Look at now. What needs to be done now? It is much less than you think. It is not easy to do, live simply. It takes discipline to block out the magazines telling you what you should be wearing or the news telling you what you should be fearing, the DIY shows on how your home should look, how your kids should behave, how you should have kids, have a spouse, have a retirement plan. It takes discipline to give the time to those things you deem important: do you sit and read with your child or get on with the laundry and the dishes and packing tomorrow’s lunches? Do you take time to pray or do you get an extra 5 minutes or 30 minutes sleep? Do you face your fears and join the team, volunteer for the community or stay in the background wondering. Simple, yes. Easy, no.

Lent is a time to pare back the clutter and see that we are stronger than we think. What do we need and what do we want? It takes perseverance and discipline, but it asks us to be compassionate with ourselves. Jesus told us not to go about looking drawn from fasting and loudly giving alms, but to do so quietly. We do not need the world to watch as we fight our inner demons, we don’t need their judgement on whether we are succeeding or failing, it is for ourselves alone. But come the joyous morning on Easter Sunday, we may be a little more relaxed, a little more nourished physically and spiritually and in a better place to appreciate the wonder of our own lives