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 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.


Reading, deliberately February 13, 2013

Filed under: Books,Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 6:23 am
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Some of you will know about my love of reading and books; those underestimated resources of knowledge, emotion, inspiration and escape. Standing in a second-hand bookstore on Saturday, I realised the amount of books I have at home, unread. I also realised the amount of books I am reading, right now. I have 3, that I was occasionally picking up, more of one, one day, a little of none the next day. I was grazing on words.

I don’t usually have so many books on the go. I take a taste from a few maybe, until one just cries out to me and I must keep reading as if my very happiness depended on this story unfolding. A book I cannot get into today may sing to my soul in 2 weeks. A good book is not just about the story but about where you are, body, heart and mind, when you read it. However, my 3 books right now is a perfect synopsis of my head right now: all over the place. I am flicking from thought to thought, project to project, book to book. The Dalai Lama may classify it as undisciplined. So I am taking his advice, and injecting some discipline into my book-reading. First, I sorted them into spaces. By my bedside now, sits Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, a fantastic story of the search for the secret of eternal life in a conflict between traditional books and ever increasing technology. One night, I got so enthralled by the late night secret scanning that I stayed up to the early hours, which for me, old before my time, is a true wonder. On my Kindle, in my handbag, for waiting situations, is Samantha Power’s A Problem from Hell, a tough read that takes an honest look at our world’s lowest moments and our own responses to them. The third, on my office desk is a reflection from the Dalai Lama on Happiness, for early morning coffees and after dinner tea. It inspires and soothes me.
With the Dalai Lama’s, I have begun taking chapter end notes, just a few words or sentences to summarise my understanding of what I just read. I want to give those great pages the respect they deserve. With the amazing Twenty Four Hour Bookstore, I want to slow down, read deliberately, take it all in. I want to pay attention to Samantha Power, so that I don’t close my eyes to the worst of our world. Regardless of what we do in life, when we pay attention to that which we do, right now, in this moment, it is a moment well spent.

Books give me inspiration, information and escapism, so I want to give them the time and the space to work their magic. Not a bad investment, I think.


My life, today February 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 11:49 am
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I started this blog in a small room I rented as part of my work package, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in the town of Banff, Alberta. I was alone, but with a team in Ireland keeping track of me and an international squad of salespeople, ski instructors, rock specialists, musical stars, party animals, yogis and snowboarders and lawyers-in-waiting, even an ultra-marathoner to get to know, I was kept from falling.

In having little I recognised it is in simplicity, we have abundance. In being  alone, I opened up to having company; that solitude can be too much. I would eventually realise, no woman is an island either.

It was an amazing experience.

I am now building a home with a beautiful man in the Alberta Prairies. Instead of a ring of mountains I have fields as fas as the eye can see. My horizon has never been so far away. Back then, in my small room and small world, I was finding out what I loved and who I was. I stopped looking at the future and lived in the here and now. Now, I am with he whom I will spend the rest of my life with. I becomes we.  This is my home now, my future, my world.

I wash the dishes, knowing how much I love having a clean kitchen to wake up to, but then spend an age inside my head, working out if it was my turn, if it has become my chore, if I am compromising my feminist values or satisfying my inner need for order. If he washes the dishes because I have asked him, does that count? Nobody wants to do dishes, but should he not want to do them so as to please me. Then I wonder why it is about me, when he benefits just as much from washed dishes and clean laundry and a full fridge. When he does wash the dishes, I cringe at the running water, the deep attention to detail and a 5 minute task taking 15. I often leave the kitchen and distract myself. 30 minutes of chores sometimes become a full weekend of a life dilemma, but in the morning the kitchen is clean and that is good.

His laid back attitude gets on my last nerve when we are grocery shopping or late to a party but it is heaven to go camping with or walk by a river or hike a mountain with. His attention to detail kills me as he rinses a knife after washing, but I am delighted that he keeps my car in great working order.

He brings out the best and worst in me, and he loves me, for them or in spite of them I am not sure.

It took me 30 years to work me out and find my voice. Now, one year in, I am coming to terms that I am someone’s other half. I am in a real and proper relationship which involves finances and dishes and underwear on the bathroom floor. I am working out who I am as someone’s “other half”.

I often wonder, how does he put up with me? God love him.



Alex in Starbucks November 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 5:32 pm

I read in a newspaper today the dilemma an English Starbucks regular faces in choosing between the comfort of the familiar and lack of paying taxes on Starbucks part. I always feel a little uncomfortable when talking about taxation and religion: I am deeply opinionated on both, but also am not confident I know all the loopholes and reasoning to comment publicly.  I leave both (for now) to the powers that be and one’s own sense of conscience.

But he made a point that Starbucks ask for the customer’s name for their cup, apparently to induce familiarity and, I suppose, from that, loyalty. I always chalked it up to dealing with a long queue and many tall skinny vanilla lattes. “Is this mine?” “I’m not sure, were you here before me?” And then the boisterous one stands forward, “No, it’s mine”, when really he only ordered 30 seconds ago.

So today, in preparation of my name being asked, I thought I’d be different. You want to know my name? I’ll show you! I am here for the anonymity, to sit and watch the world go by. Unknown stranger. I said I was Alex. I love that name, especially on a girl. She wrote it down without fanfare, no “oh that name suits you!” or “cool name”, but I felt great. I am Alex, if even just for the 60 minutes in Starbucks. I waited for my name to be called, glancing over books and trying to work out the name of the fifth Game of Thrones installment. I was excited; would I remember I am now called Alex? I waited anxiously. Would they see me as different?

” Tall Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate”. I turned. I was the only one waiting and that was my drink. She didn’t even call my name. Familiarity? Disappointment.




Amazing Grace October 2, 2012

Filed under: faith,Inspiration,Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 8:02 pm

I wondered sporadically on Saturday on the long drive to see friends up north if I would find a Catholic Church nearby. In the same thought train, I wondered, will I actually get up?

I did. Late as usual, I followed my super-smart phone as it directed me there. Parking on the kerb, I thought, this place is big. Walking in, I thought, this place is welcoming. Kneeling in my pew, I prayed.

I have been going to Mass since I was, maybe 2, probably 3, in preparation for school and making individual choices, and because there was a hope I would sit relatively still. As the priest walks in, we stand. This Sunday our standing was met with thundering music. Wow. This was different.

I am no music aficionado, more a music avocado, but I know what sounds good. This was pop meets rock, where prayer met joy, and people seemed genuinely happy to be at church. I checked. There were a mixture of ages. Those who attend Catholic Services know this in itself is interesting; we are an aging demographic. Not only that, my Irish friends among you, people were singing along. I didn’t even know the songs.

Pause music. The priest stands. Do you know the scene from Friends, where Joey explains to Monica that with his presiding over her wedding, she gets a minister and an entertainer a “minitainer”. I met my first. I was concerned. I love the Mass, and I go there to pray and celebrate, to hope and love, not for entertainment. Yet I gave him a chance and this is a man who simply uses excellent people skills to inspire his flock. The first exercise was to introduce yourself to the people around you, and this they did with warmth, smiles and handshakes. I wished I could stay in this parish; as an immigrant Catholic, fitting in is not easy.

The media did not overwhelm the message. His question was simple: what can I cut out so that I can do more, give more, be more. “When I quit whining about losing weight, I lost weight” he shared. Wow, a priest who can hit me on many levels. The lay involvement in the Mass was tremendous, beyond the usual collectors, choir and Eucharistic Ministers. There was bake sales and transport people, a couple going to help a community in Mexico, a children’s liturgy, workshops and more. You could tell, more happened than Sunday Mass.

At the end, a Minister of the Eucharist spoke about his personal experience in this vocation. I’d never thought of it as a vocation before, until he talked about praying with the old person to whom he is the only visitor, of praying with the family around a deathbed, of helping a lady to the car and eating homemade cookies. I had never thought before of the role these people play in our communities. I, who shout about the importance of citizenship and community involvement, missed the work her own faith community do everyday. I guess I took for granted my Church, and all those in it. I didn’t love it all; their version of Amazing Grace, to me, altered an original that was already perfect. I guess there is no pleasing everyone.

I left Mass refreshed, as I always do, and also inspired. When I met my friends, 2 atheists and a something, we talked about the priest’s statement, “when you have more than you need and do nothing to help those who don’t, you are robbing them”. We each had opinions and angles.

For the rest of the week, I pondered over what I need to cut out. Tonight I am writing instead of watching TV. A small start but a start. I am reflecting on that Catholic community, the Catholic community in which I was raised and the community I now belong. My faith is based on love, and what I saw on Sunday was the amazing grace of that love in action throughout the community.

By the way, we, the 4 of us agreed with the Priest’s statement.