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#MyNameIsMirian describes horrors of U.S. border patrol

In a heartbreaking letter from an immigrant mother, Mirian described how her only child was taken from her at the United States border; celebrities have now taken part in reading the letter to raise awareness of the atrocities taking place.

A YouTube video has made its rounds on the internet as celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Chadwick Boseman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Emma Thompson gather together to read the letter of an immigrant mother at the border. So far, over 30 celebrities teamed up to read the letter out loud in an attempt to bring public awareness to Trump’s administration and the separation of immigrant families at the border.

The letter begins with Mirian stating officially that her accounts are true. She stated that she is a resident of Honduras and is the biological mother of her son, born in 2016. She fled Honduras on January 15, 2018, and made her way to America in the hopes of escaping government violence taking place in Mexico. She decided to flee Honduras after the government teargassed her home.

“On February 20, 2018, my son and I crossed the international bridge in Brownsville, Texas and presented ourselves to U.S. immigration officers. We told the officers we needed asylum. After I presented myself at the bridge with [her son], U.S border officers took me and [son] to be interviewed,” the letter said. “The officers took a statement from me regarding the reasons I came to the United States. The U.S immigration officers then told me they were taking my son from me.”

According to Mirian, the immigration officers only informed her that she would be going to one place and her son to another. When she asked why they were being separated, the officers provided no answer.

The officers then made her walk out with her son to a government vehicle before placing him in a car seat. “My son was crying as I put him in the seat. I did not even have a chance to try and comfort my son because the officer slammed the door shut as soon as he was in the car seat. I was crying too. I cry even now when I think about that moment when the border officers took my son away,” she wrote.

She was then moved into Port Isabel Detention Centre, where she stayed for a few days and panicked about her son. She wrote a request asking for information about her son and a detainee told her that her son was at a facility in San Antonio, Texas.

While she was detained she was able to speak with a caseworker who was in charge of her case. The worker informed Mirian that her son was crying for her and asking where she was during the first few days they were separated. She also learned that he was doing a bit better but had since developed an ear infection and a cough.

She added that since her son is only a toddler, he doesn’t speak much yet. He needs to be comforted by her presence and reassured that he is safe and healthy.

“On April 3, 2018, I received a positive, credible fear finding from a San Antonio immigration judge. I understand that I will now be able to present my asylum claim in the immigration court,” she wrote. “I will do everything that I need to do to seek protection in the United States. It would not be safe for me and my son to return to Honduras.”

As the celebrities read out Mirian’s letter, some were reduced to tears as the truth of Trump’s administration was made perfectly clear.

The hashtag “MyNameIsMirian” is currently trending on social media as news of the letter went viral.

Am I missing the bride gene?

 I’m getting married. It feels strange to be engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I love my fiancé and am over the moon that he put a ring on my finger. I just never thought this time would arrive for me. When growing up friends would share excitedly about what kind of wedding they wanted and the style of dress they liked best — but when asked, I would shrug my shoulders and simply say, “Hadn’t really thought about it.”

What I have always known is that one day I would like to marry my best friend and build a life with him. I thought when the time came, it would be like that wedding planning bug that seemingly every one of my friends had, would come out of its dormant state in me.  It’s not the case.  I’m excited for the day I put on my wedding dress, but I’ve always had the mindset that it’s just ONE day and it’s the adventure that follows which I’m most excited about.  I also hate being the centre of attention, so, of course, I am not one who has ever wanted a massive traditional wedding.

From day 1, Cody and I both admitted we wanted a stress-free, fun, destination wedding with our nearest and dearest. I’m an unconventional girl and despite the expectation to plan a massive wedding at a ornate church and a reception at a lavish ballroom, it’s just not my style. I woke up at 5 am for coverage of the Royal Wedding and loved every moment, but fascinators and Cinderella carriage rides, just aren’t me.

I have to admit it’s enjoyable witnessing my mother’s excitement since I told her Cody and I are engaged. She has waited decades for this time to arrive and as soon as I announced the engagement, she began busily planning as if it is her own wedding on the horizon. She set us up with a destination wedding coordinator, took me to find the perfect dress (which I did. it’s straight off the rack, without a need for alterations. Thank goodness. I hate extra spending on alterations.) and spread the word like wildfire to friends and family, all within 48 hours of the ring being on my finger.

Mom clearly has the wedding planning bug. Why is it missing in me? I can’t pretend to feel it when I don’t. I wear my feelings on my sleeve and my opinions on my face, so feigning excitement is not something I can do. Whenever I worry that my interest in wedding planning isn’t what it should be, I realize that my excitement triples when I think about the future Cody and I have planned after the wedding.  I think all too often we put too much emphasis on the immediate. On the one day , the one dress and the first dance. I understand that maybe I’m a bit different in many ways, but I’m not strange or missing the bride gene. I’m just looking with more excitement at the journey and the future.

On not being a mother

“Do you have any kids?” The question was barked at me one summer a few years ago. I was at a busy city intersection when I was trying to rush from one job to another and was blocked by a woman ostensibly handing out fast food coupons. It was a pretty insensitive and a loaded thing to ask a stranger. The streetlight couldn’t change fast enough.

“Well, I feel sorry for you,” she finally literally sneered at me.

Um, what?

From mothers vocalizing regret about having children, to articles scolding women and warning them that their life will be empty and lonely if they don’t embrace parenthood, there is a lot of focus on motherhood and those who opt out.

This past Mother’s Day a meme circulated with a message I found very touching, unexpected, and meaningful. Under cartoon bouquets of flowers there were captions describing different aspects of motherhood, and one bouquet was dedicated to women who have chosen not to be mothers.

I have never wanted children. Like at all. Not ever with absolute certainty. In my 30s I questioned this for the first time. It was the sudden loud and very real biological clock that started ticking when I met my niece Grace that caused the questioning to start.

I watched awed as she examined her tiny little feet and hands. I felt fulfilled and needed in a way I’ve never felt before when I gently patted her little back, helping her to burp.

I was suddenly putting myself through agony trying to get my life ready, trying to figure out if parenthood was something I truly wanted.

I was happy babysitting my niece. I’m happy being an aunt to my other nieces and nephews. Grace was born at a difficult time in my life and being happy about her birth didn’t have to translate into me being a mother.

People are well-meaning. They ask me to picture how sad my life will be in the future without children to visit me when I’m old.  They remind me it’s a life altering experience, and that  I’m missing out on so much, that I can’t even imagine what I’m giving up. They remind me gently that it’s not too late.

There is still time for me, technically, but the window is rapidly closing.

I don’t want to have to second guess a decision that I and my partner finally made together. If we ever change our minds in the future, there’s always adoption, or foster parenting.

Privately or publicly it seems women are expected to justify their decisions for not having children.

Am I doomed to be an incomplete person?  Am I selfish? Am I letting down the human race in some way?

I don’t think so.

Some people just know they want children. Maybe they’ve always known, but can’t explain why, and no one must expect them to. So likewise, no one must expect women who don’t want children to explain themselves either.

 

 

 

 

Reflection: I love you Mom

Four years ago, I wrote the blog post below celebrating my mother, when she was almost taken from me:

It’s unfortunate that we never truly know how much a loved one means to us until we’re faced with the risk of losing them. I of course love my mother beyond words, but it wasn’t until a few days ago while driving home from work and I received a text from my  dad that read “Call me A.S.A.P on my cell or at home” that the reasons I love her flashed through my mind. My blood ran cold. First of all, my father is a hard working man who would not be at home at 4:30 p.m. on a Monday afternoon. He works until 8 on Mondays. Secondly, he rarely texts and never asks to be contacted on his cell. He only ever uses it for outgoing calls. I knew something was wrong.

I parked in my condo’s parking garage, raced to the elevator forgetting half of my belongings in my car trying to get to an area that had full phone service.  I took a deep breath while attempting to push the negative from my mind, then dialed.

“Jess”, he said as soon as he picked up, “You’ve got to book that flight. That one Mom talked to you about last night. The deal ends today and she wanted me to remind you.”

“OK” I replied, feeling a bit relieved that this was all he was calling about, but something in the back of my mind told me there was more. See my mom is an angel who does everything to help others before even giving a thought to herself. If she wanted me to book that flight and was able to call she would have called me herself.

“You have to do it, Jess,” he said again. “Mom’s in intensive care. She’s very sick.” My heart felt like it had been ripped out. I couldn’t understand. I had just talked to her the night before. She was fine aside from what sounded like a chest cold. “The Doctors say they are hopeful they can reverse it. She’s gonna be fine but she needs our prayers.”

Naturally I crumbled.  My dad said, “Don’t do this. She’s going to get through this. You go book that flight.”

“Tell her I love her,” I said through heaving sobs while moments spent hearing her over Skype the night before when she told me how proud she was of me, replayed in my mind. All I wanted was to be next to her. Her, the woman who does for others before she ever gives a second thought about herself. All those reasons that I love her beyond words began flooding my mind and I became completely undone at the thought of a world and a life without her in it.

 Dad said to book the flight for my trip home  to Ottawa at Christmas and say prayers. I did. But the feelings bouncing around my core, like electricity attempting to escape with no outlet, drove me nutty all night. I felt completely helpless, not knowing the true scenario and what sort of chances she had of recovering. I got the feeling that my dad was in a bit of shock and perhaps was doing his best not to divulge full details to avoid me becoming frantic. I later found out both were true.

Had my doting father, also a wonderful and loving husband, not had his late start day that morning, my mother would have died. An extreme and vicious case of pneumonia that went septic, poisoning her blood and threatening her vital organs, almost took her from us. But she’s a fighter. She pulled through.

My mom, is such an incredible woman  in so many ways and is an amazing support to me and my brothers. She steadies me,  knocks sense into me with her wise advice,  encourages me in all that I do, and motivates me to be the best woman I can be while reminding me that there truly are no limits.  My mother is a wonderful and talented person with a beautiful soul and the most giving nature. I only hope that one day I’ll be half the woman she is.

I always reflect on Mother’s Day. I give thanks to my mother for all of the ways she brightens my life. This year, more than any other, when I say “I love you Mom” it will be more than an acknowledgement of her success in fulfilling the role of mother to perfection, it will be a reminder to me that without her in my life, there would be a gaping void in my heart and soul.

She’s getting a bit stronger every day, and I have complete faith that she will be back to her cheerful self in no time. She’s receiving wonderful care while in hospital and the doctors and nurses have been unbelievable to both her and my father throughout this hardship.

****

She pulled through, but this experience and horrendous ordeal reminds me about how lucky I am to have my parents. It’s easy to forget the impact family and loved ones have and to take for granted the place they hold in your heart, when so consumed with the busy day-to-day. I vow to remember and appreciate every day, not just on Mother’s and Father’s Day.

London Calling

Over a decade ago I packed up my things at my childhood home and moved to London, U.K.  It was a sudden decision and one that my family-especially my parents- were surprised by. Up until that point I had always lived in Ottawa and never thought I’d leave. I had a happy childhood and a great group of friends, but after finishing my post-secondary education, relationships changed and I was looking for adventure.

Newly out of teacher’s college, I found opportunities were scarce in Ontario, but the U.K. was looking for new teachers. So I jumped at the opportunity, signed a contract and boarded a plane within three weeks to the city I would call home for 8 months.

Those 8 months were the most challenging and exciting of my life. I was enthralled with British culture up until heading there, mainly because of my mother and her love for British dramas and the royal family. I had fond memories of a childhood visit and at 24, I felt like I was once again a wide-eyed child, but this time could appreciate it fully. The busy city streets and vibrant red double-decker buses, the vintage-style cabs lined up at Charing Cross Station, the cobblestone streets and quirky fashion, and sights like the London Eye and the Thames, all fascinated me on my first journey through the core of the city.

The central portion of London proper had an entirely different vibe than the area that I ended up finding a flat-share in. It did not take long for the novelty and excitement to ware off and for me to get saturated in the day-to-day responsibilities. I lived with two Londoners in Hither Green- at the time, a “dodgy area,” as they say there. I taught in an even dodgier area on an estate in Abbeywood.

The novelty of being in a city I had grown up fascinated by quickly fizzled, and days swiftly passed. I enjoyed a romantic relationship with a homegrown Brit, finally became used to the food and cultural differences, and became comfortable in my role as a nursery teacher.

That’s not to say the transition wasn’t rocky. I experienced severe homesickness and talked to my parents daily for the first month, caught a terrible flu that I just couldn’t shake for well over that same month, was mugged twice-once at gun point – and hated not having my usual drip coffee to sip every morning before work.

The 8 months came and went and I was asked to stay on at the school for another year. I initially said yes, but then retracted. I realized that I had experienced all of London 20 times over and a number of the other British regions– – Cornwall was my favourite.

But with that trip to Cornwall came the starting point to the end of my relationship. My partner at the time was so immersed in his own life and family, and proved to not be very interested in mine. My father offered to fly him to Toronto for my brother’s wedding, and when he said no, I knew that the relationship would not work. The distance from my family made me appreciate them all even more, and if my boyfriend at the time couldn’t, it was time to go home, just as I had planned all along.

Eleven years later, whenever I am asked about the most interesting experience of my life, or the one that made the biggest impact, I always think back to those days in London. I was once a quiet and meek woman, nervous to go shopping at the mall on my own. That experience caused me to cross the pond solo to take on a city that is 10 times the size of Ottawa. Naturally, my next move was to Toronto.

My Nan: Reflection and Appreciation

This past weekend I boarded a Via train to Ottawa looking forward to a bit of relaxation and rejuvenation in my hometown. The Toronto grind makes me feel like I need to getaway quite regularly. I used to be critical  but as I get older I find the city more and more inviting. I remember being bored after a day in Canada’s capital, and my longing to get back to the excitement of Toronto. But now every time I visit, I think about extending my stay and this time around I turned to my boyfriend and asked “Should we just move in here?” He didn’t object, but my parents might have.

Visits home also mean seeing friends and extended family. My top reason to visit is always my nan. Now nearing 89, she is frail and suffers from dementia. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to get to Ottawa, so I haven’t seen her since Christmas.

On the way to visit Nan, my mom prepared me because my grandma’s condition and state of mind has become worse. Mom told me Nan might not remember my name seeing as she had forgotten my oldest brother’s name a number of times. I walked in worried she wouldn’t know me, kind of hovering behind my mother. I peaked out from behind her, like I used to do as a child feeling vulnerable in a strange situation. You can imagine my happiness when Nan immediately exclaimed “Hello Jessica! When did you get to town? Good to see you dear.” I wanted to cry but instead went in quickly for a hug and a kiss, blessed that I had one more day with this remarkable woman.

Moments like that are those that make you hug your loved ones a little tighter and appreciate everything a little more.

Disconnected: What I learned from 24 hours without my smartphone

How often do you find yourself scrolling through your news feeds instead of observing the world around you? It’s a common scenario, you walk into a room and everyone is looking at their phones, so you get yours out as well. There is time to kill so why not take care of a few emails, catch up with family and friends, or simply keep yourself entertained while waiting for whatever it is you are waiting for. Smart phones give us the freedom to take care of business and socialize (digitally at least) wherever we are.

It has the guise of multi-tasking, however I’ve recently realized what it really is: habit. A habit that keeps us attached to our phones, and just might be causing us more stress than it takes away.

The other day my phone stopped working. It didn’t completely black out, but I couldn’t view any news feeds, it wouldn’t let me read my emails, and the screen saver kept flashing on and off. It was no longer useable.

I remember the panic creeping up; this is how I communicate with clients, my kids’ teachers, it is the device I use to do a significant amount of my work. Luckily, my photos, files and contacts are all backed up so that wasn’t an issue. But being disconnected was. There was a fear of being needed, notifications piling up and not being able to respond.

And there it was. The fear of missing out.

Isn’t that why so many of us are guilty of checking our phones as often as we do? It is the reason our phones are kept within reach; so that we are ready to take photos of the kids, respond to work emails, get in on the group chat, and keep on top of appointments, school reminders, and family schedules as they are happening.

While we are busy doing all these things, it is easy to lose track of the world around us.

I was stressed without my phone, particularly with regards to work (there also happened to be a power outage that day so I didn’t have my computer either). I was trying everything I could to get my phone to function just enough to ease my mind. Were there any new emails or missed phone calls? Those were my main priorities.

Later that evening, once the power was restored and I was able to get on the computer, I realized I hadn’t missed anything urgent. There were emails and notifications, but nothing that would cost me work or that couldn’t be dealt with later.

The realization hit hard. I spent the entire day stressing over a situation I had no control over, and honestly didn’t really matter. I could have enjoyed time playing board games, doing puzzles and reading with the kids. Instead, I was frantically trying to fix a phone. That was my focus.

Admittedly, I spend too much time on my phone, I think most of us probably do. But the twenty-four hours I spent without one provided a necessary reminder; that it’s important to disconnect every so often and allow yourself to be one-hundred percent present in the moment.

How to maintain a relationship after children

When my husband and I first started dating, the world felt like ours. Time was just a mere construct too limiting for our love! We had forever ahead of us! And then…we had kids.

Too soon, the once endless expanse of our universe slowly contracted and time suddenly became very real. We turned our skills at researching the best weekend getaways into researching the best pediatricians, instead. Our pillow talk turned into shop talk as we managed pregnancy symptoms and a barrage of obstetrician appointments.

Our perfectly planned pregnancy became a high risk pregnancy when the preterm labor symptoms predicted by a test I took turned into early labor, adding a new slew of challenges, worries, and fears – all competing for our collective time and attention.

If you don’t decide what your priorities are, something else always will. Our new health concerns with this pregnancy consumed us. We tackled each obstacle with the kind of ferocity and naivete that only first-time parents can have. Our relationship became reactive instead of proactive, draining our reserves and leaving us depleted. We had to face the paradox that even though our family was growing, we were growing apart as a couple.

We needed structure, some scaffolding to hold us up. We realized some of the things that had come naturally at the beginning of our relationship, we now needed to deliberately do to keep growing as a couple. Here are a few things we learned that brought us closer together.

Make time for each other. We were busy before we had kids, but there still always seemed to be enough time. But our time slowly became scarce, and we felt stretched thin, handling each new thing that came up – feeling run down rather than replenished. It became easier to put off date night because we were too tired (or busy with our favorite kid activities) until the occasionally missed plan became habitual. We realized that replacing date night for a doctor’s appointment didn’t replace the closeness we felt when we took time for just us. Now, we make it a priority to carve out that time together, because there will always be something vying for our attention if we don’t: work, chores, soccer games, homework, you name it. We find little ways to check in with each other, whether it’s having coffee together before our day starts or cuddling at the end of the day to unwind. There are more minutes in a day than hours, and it’s the small, everyday gestures that make up a relationship more than the big, occasional ones.

Don’t get used to each other. There’s that notorious sliding scale of effort that exists in the first year of a relationship; the dichotomy between wanting to impress each other and becoming more comfortable with each other. Skinny jeans turn into sweatpants. Going out turns into staying in. You both exhale a silent sigh of relief at not having to try so hard anymore. It’s natural that with more intimacy comes less mystery; your pre-date ritual is no longer top secret, and you now know what happens when they eat Indian food – intimately. But getting too comfortable can turn into taking each other for granted. Sometimes all it takes is a little shift in perspective: remember how you felt when you saw your significant other for the first time? Or when you only saw them once a week and wished you could see them every day? Well, now you have what you wanted. But don’t get used to it. Look at them like the rare being they are and see if it doesn’t ignite some of the feelings that sparked your relationship in the beginning.

Connect with each other. I mean really connect. Physically and emotionally. When time becomes scarce, the quality of your time together becomes even more important than the quantity. Don’t stop doing the little things that strengthened your connection at the start of your relationship, whether it’s kissing at red lights or just texting them during the day to tell them you’re thinking of them. And yes, be intimate. Have sex — even if you have to schedule it. Spontaneity sometimes has to die on the altar of adulthood, and if it’s choosing between scheduling time to be alone together vs. waiting for the right moment, sometimes the right moment never arrives.

If my husband and I have learned anything from our challenges, it’s that lasting love is an action. It’s like Newton’s first law of motion: love at rest tends to stay at rest, and love in motion stays in motion. Love with purpose, not passivity, and take back your time together.

 

Making time for you: The value of ‘me time’ and the sanity saver that is girls’ night out

This past weekend my friends and I had a girls’ night. It wasn’t anything wild, just a fancy dinner out on the town, sans kids. Every time we do this (which is never often enough) we promise to make it a regular occurrence – once a month is the goal. Of course, that never comes to fruition.

After each girls’ night, I always feel rejuvenated; and I’m not the only one to notice my improved mood. My husband, kids, and probably even the pup notice as well. My friends say the same thing, and it’s really no surprise why-hanging out with friends, good conversation, a fancy meal that you don’t have to cook or clean up after, and getting to eat while the food is still hot – it’s a dream scenario when you’re a mom.

So, why don’t we make this a priority?

There are a myriad of reasons to not make or keep plans with friends: one of the kid’s is sick, there’s too much to do around the house, the family wants to go on an outing and you don’t know if you’ll be back in time.

Not to mention that it really is hard to get out. One of us may have to stay late at the office, another has a deadline to meet but can’t get it done until the kids are in bed. Some of our husbands do shift work, so coordinating schedules between the group or even just between two or three of us can seem like an insurmountable task.

Then you need to be “in the mood”. I’m exhausted at the end of the week and usually want nothing more than my pajamas, a movie and a glass of wine as my big Friday and Saturday night plans.

There is also the fact that most of us see each other regularly anyway because our kids happen to be friends, we live close by, and are frequently meeting up outside, going for brunch or having play-dates.

The difference is, that kind of socializing isn’t about us – or at least not just about us. In these scenarios we’re wrangling kids, playing referee or constantly being interrupted. It is not relaxing. No conversation is ever completed. And if you’re the one hosting, you can pretty much expect to be cleaning up and re-organizing all the toys for the rest of the week.

We are better people, mothers, wives, workers and friends when we nurture our own needs. This includes taking care of both our physical and mental well-being. Go for that run, get a pedicure, or indulge in a luxurious bubble bath and truly take time for you. Schedule “me time” into your calendar. By making this a priority, will increase your happiness and decrease your stress and give you a needed boost of energy to take on the challenges and demands of motherhood.

Moms – and women in general – have the tendency to put others before themselves. We will arrange play dates, play taxi driver to and from activities, help with homework, cook multiple meals to meet everyone’s tastes, but we won’t stop to carve out time for ourselves. That is a big problem.

This is why girls’ night is different. It is about us. We can talk, confide, commiserate, joke, and brag all we want. We get dressed up, we feel good, and the effects are long-lasting. If you’re a mom who hasn’t made her own friendships a priority, you surely know what I’m talking about.

Let’s try to do better; foster our own friendships, make socializing a part of our routine. As a mom, you need to have a social life outside of your kids’ activities, and one that doesn’t always involve the whole family. I know it clears my head and leaves me feeling refreshed, confident and ready to take on any challenge that lays ahead.

 

St. Patrick’s Day: How personal tradition defines the way we celebrate our holidays

 

By Sinead Mulhern

When St. Patrick’s Day rolled around each year while I was growing up in Alberta, my mom and I would get to work whipping up batches upon batches of clover-shaped cookies. In the middle of March, winter showed no signs of letting up in the Prairies and so it only seemed natural to stay inside, roll out the dough and fill the house with the agonizingly sweet smell of nearly-baked goods. In our prep, we’d throw into the bowl flour as powdery as the snow heaps outside and whirl it together with crystals of white sugar. While they baked, we mixed up the icing – green of course – ready to coat each little clover with a generous layer. Then, I’d proudly bring them to school to share with my classmates. Being  the Irish kid in the class, it was my special treat.

As traditions go, this possibly was simply an idea one year, before carrying on to the next and the next. Eventually, supplying my peers with these shamrock treats became part of my St. Patrick’s Day routine. Once, I even remember when Paddy’s Day eve rolled around and we had both forgotten so we woke up extra early and baked a double batch together in the indigo blue pre-dawn hours.

At school, I’d pass around the green snacks,  press play to an accordion tune and perform one of the jigs which I learned at dance practice in Edmonton’s Irish club. During those years, St. Patrick’s Day was the celebration of the country where both my parents were born and lived in until their mid-twenties. For me, it was green cookies and dancing and, of course, church and Irish brunch.

The latter would be standard for many Irish households living both in the stocking-shaped emerald isle or abroad – like us. The former though, are traditions we created ourselves. When the calendar turns to March 17, many in Canada will celebrate by clinking pints of Guinness or green-dyed beer. Packs of university students in North America will wear obnoxious amounts of green with probably at least one top hat and kiss-me-I’m-Irish sash in every group. In Ireland, some relatives of mine will take in mass and a breakfast of eggs and sausages after. Green sugar cookies will be few and far between, I know.

Though we religiously kept up our tradition for years, it eventually faded. I grew past the age where it would have been appropriate to pass around baked goods in class and we moved across the country,  well away from our Alberta kitchen with the snow piles out the window. While the sugary clover cutouts became a thing of the past, my mother’s and my love for working with food didn’t wane. Out were the cookies, in was the baked soda bread (a classic) or a piping hot pot of Irish stew (even more classic). Together, we busied our hands putting together recipes that were, this time, symbolic of the place where my mom grew up.

When I left home and moved to Toronto, I kept up our tradition of making food on this day even though we no longer lived in the same household. Just as I did when I was seven, I again made a point of sharing it with school friends. For a few years during this chapter in my life, I avoided the tacky party celebrations and instead whipped up a pot of Irish stew and a fresh loaf of bread for my best lady friend. Together, we drank beer well into the evening.

The food that I now make on this day is traditional, yes. But my tradition of working away in the kitchen on (or just before) March 17, and sharing with friends has nothing to do with Paddy’s Day really. That habit stems from the days I spent mixing sugar cookies with my mom. The food has changed over time, the activity has not. This is how I, a daughter of two Irish immigrant parents, choose to spend this day. It’s interesting, how the customs we make for ourselves somehow have the most importance. Our personalized celebrations often trump how holidays are typically celebrated by the masses.

This year, the tradition, for me, has changed yet again. For the first time, I won’t be in Canada for this Irish holiday. I now reside in Colombia – over 6,000 kilometres away from that Alberta home and 4,000 kilometres away from my mom. The traditions I’ve set for myself will continue to evolve as I celebrate this holiday and the ones to come. As we head into Paddy’s Day, my mom and I have already discussed our menus. She’ll make her St. Patrick’s Day stew on the weekend whereas I’ve made mine already. The difference: mine contained a cup not of Guinness, but a local beer: Club Colombia Negra.