Month: May 2013

Flat-Out Friday: Like a Fish

I’ve found the “thing”. You know. THE “THING”. The “thing” that everyone has, only some of us don’t know it until, like a fairy’s magical wand, it whams us in the head and leaves us seeing sparkles.

I have a lot of friends whose “thing” is running. A LOT. Running is not my “thing”. I have a friend whose “thing” is pole gymnastics. I can’t help but admire her, but that’s not my “thing” either. I’ve got rock climbing “thing” friends and boot camp/PX 90 “thing” friends and paintball “thing” friends. None of these are my “thing” either.

My “thing” is swimming.

I realize I should have thought of this before, but the fairy and her stupid wand wasn’t around yet. Growing up, my family had a cottage that we would visit every Sunday of the season for… as long as I can remember. I have pictures of me as an infant crawling around in the sand. The lake was shallow, perfect for beginning swimmers, and I can’t remember ever not swimming during a visit. My parents would often have to drag me out to go home. Getting older, the cottage was a place for us to exert our independence, and my cousins and I would often have sleepovers there sans adults. But the water was always the real lure. I took swimming lessons when I was younger. Later, I took my cousins to the beach for picnics. If you looked out my bedroom window in my house growing up, you could see a lake. Water was all around me. My parents moved in my first year of university to a house on waterfront property and it seemed like a perfectly normal transition. Plus, I’ve always been a strong swimmer. That’s something I’m grateful for all the time. I have no fear of water because I know my way through, under, and around it; freakish buoyancy definitely helps.

Aww, look at how cute I was. Let go, cousin, because swimming!.


So today in the pool, when I realized that nothing ached or pulled, and that the clicking of my bones was in no way followed by pain, that’s when the fairy and her magic sparkles whammed me. I love swimming. Swimming is my “thing”. I could swim until I was jelly legged and pruny fingered; I have before, and I will again. I could swim laps, tread water, do some crazy syncro stunts if I felt like it, all without the need to stop because I hurt or was tired from holding myself upright. No! The water does that for me! Like little tiny hands stretching out from the H20 atoms saying, “Hey, we want to help you help yourself”, because they’re super chill like that.

Someone once said the human body wasn’t truly designed for swimming – no one thinks a hairy, gangly ape with ridiculously weird digits is going to be a good swimmer. But I am. I know lots of others that are. I’ll be damned if some dumb biologist is going to tell me that my “thing” wasn’t really something I was meant to do, because I was. I was meant to swim.


A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

A short post today, because tomorrow my family arrives! My mum and grandma are coming in from Ontario to spend 12 days with me so I don’t go super stir-crazy and get eight more cats. Expect lots more photos and tales of our exploits in the coming days.

In the meantime, I would like to share some more of the photos I have taken out and about in our neighbourhood. I love cities where things actually grow and there is real plant life. Let us never speak of the barren wasteland of Medicine Hat again.

This is detailing from a Chinese pagoda by the RAM. I love the colours!

And here’s one that my husband sent me. As you can see, he’s working hard in Wainwright and yet still has time to groom his dashing cavalry moustache.

Isn’t he handsome?

Week in Review: When in Doubt, Duct Tape

When their husbands are away, some people run marathons. Some people spend time with their children and relish the connection they are making. I, apparently, debate pornography with a Padre and duct tape my couch.

Let me elaborate: last week my dear friend The Mad Padre posted on his blog about the sad state of affairs that the current military is engendering in relation to assault on women. He argued that the commonplace attitude of pornography in the field actually did harm to a solider’s views on how to treat women both in combat and as civilians, and cited recent examples of highly-ranked officers behaving badly and making headlines. Now, being a rather progressive woman in that I automatically assume men read and watch porn as a way of life, I suggested that maybe the attitudes about the subject at home could be changed so that the effect is that it also changes in the field. The Padre tossed back a real-life example, and given that I could probably name each of the soldiers in that scenario, my mind went “ick” and I left the debate at that.

However, that got me thinking about what would happen if, somewhere down the road, I had a son and, sometime after that, I caught him with a magazine or a video hidden in his bedroom. I figured I would probably be irrational for a few minutes, but then wondered what my logical, progressive side would do. And here’s what I came up with:

I’d give him homework.

I know, right? First, I would introduce the concept that porn is a way of objectifying women and that, as a man, he had the decision to make on whether or not he agreed with it. I’d have him write ten Pros and Cons for each and then go over them with his father, debating them both objectively. He would have to present his decision to me and back it up using examples as one would during a school debate. After that, I would get him to write a list of all the non-physical things about girls that make him “excited”. Again, he would have to go over the list with his father for review. Lastly, I would get him to make a good copy of the list to post on the back of his bedroom door, and have him throw out/get rid of the old porn himself.

What I’ve now done is teach him the value of women as people rather than objects and made him think about the kinds of things that make a woman beautiful (not just her fake boobs). And all the time he is now in his room with the door closed, I’ll know that the list is shouting the positive aspects of lust at him in my stead.

I think it’s brilliant.

As for the duct tape, I totally did that. I have cats, y’all. At least it matches the whimsical decor.

It’s got penguins on it!

Flat-Out Friday: It’s a Guy Thing

Today I thought I’d do something a little different: I’m not going to talk about me. I’m going to talk about my husband. Why? Because there were more people injured in my accident than just me.

I met my husband in summer 2010 over Facebook, introduced by a mutual friend. He seemed like the sort of guy I would be interested in: he had funny pictures of himself with hats on, there was a full-sized Boba Fett standee in his bedroom as a teen, and he had that physical appearance I’ve always been drawn to – short and ginger. (A university friend once teased me that my children will be transparent. He might not have been wrong.) We started talking via Messenger, and when we felt comfortable enough with one another, he gave me his phone number and we began texting. He was funny, sarcastic, easily embarrassed by compliments, and angry. Our first telephone conversation began with him ranting about how the old ladies at JYSK were useless. I remember one not long afterward about the insanity that is IKEA on any given day. At the time, I just figured he needed something to vent about, and when he told me he was hanging out with the Padre from the base, I figured he was in the right place to be. In those early days, I had my phone with me and a smile on my face at all times.

When he came for a course in Kingston, we met in person and it was love at first sight (for me). We were inseparable. And despite having a messy divorce in progress, in just over a month he got drunk enough to finally admit he loved me too. It was awful when the course was done and he had to leave. Like cutting a limb off. But you know what made it all better? He wasn’t as angry any more, and the people who knew him saw the changes that had come from being with me. I heard it from his mother, from the Padre, from his friends: he became a different, better man after he met me. They were all worried that he had been about to flame out, and now here he was, ready to take on the world again. We only lasted about two months apart before I dropped everything and moved three provinces away to a town I could barely find on a map. But we were happy. Delirious.

Taken at my cousin’s wedding, November 2010

Then the accident. It was only six months after we had moved in together, less than a year since we had met for the first time. We had just moved into our own place two weeks prior after having shared a house with another soldier. I was wearing a promise ring on my left hand. Things were perfect.

And then they weren’t.

Matt tells me that the instant he realized what all the phone calls were about, he left the base without looking back, not even to tell his CO where he was going. When he arrived at the ER, they briefed him on my condition before he came to see me. But he was so calm when he did, I felt like everything would be okay. He drove up to Calgary when they took me by air alone. He stayed with me there as long as he could, and when they moved me from intensive care and began talking about sending me back to the Hat, he left to catch up on what he had missed at work before I arrived. Once I was settled in back home, he came every night after work and stayed until I fell asleep. On the weekends he took Saturday morning to run errands and then spent the rest with me. He would come home from work, my newly-arrived mum would pack him and I a supper, he would change and come to the hospital, eat with me, talk with me, tuck me in, and then go home exhausted. When he got home, my mum would hand him a glass of red wine and they would talk while he killed people with his PS3.

He was there every day for me, even when he was suffering from severe Scotch poisoning and throwing up blue Gatorade in my sink. When I walked for the first time without my casts, I was ecstatic and so was he. He proposed that night, and whether serendipity or a grand design, it was the anniversary of the night that Cpl. Hornburg was killed in Afghanistan. In four short years he had gone through so much, and here he was promising to go through whatever else life brought us with me, forever.

Dressed for Moreuil Wood, March 2013

I was the most physically injured victim of my accident, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t other victims too. Matt was most certainly one. As the Padre pointed out, he fulfilled his duty of “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” long before he took the vows. I could not have done what I have done without him. He was strong enough to sit beside me through all the awful things; as a result, every day I hope to be strong enough to stand beside him. We both look a lot older now than we did when we met. 50 years from now, we will be older still. But I don’t doubt for a second that we will still be together. We are too much part of one another to be otherwise.

Week in Review: Urgh, Do I Have To?

So this thing happened where my alarm woke me up this morning and I rolled over and started crying. Yeah. Not an auspicious start to the day. I had my alarm set so that I could get up and go swimming. And instead all I could think about was that if I stayed in bed I could pretend I wasn’t so lonely. That didn’t work.

After 45 mins of laying there in despair, I got up and put some clothes on, washed the dishes, and ate some breakfast while filling out my “Thoughts and Feelings” worksheet. I like homework revolves around me feeling crappy. Once I was done that, I texted my mother and went back to lay on my bed, hugging my cats while I cried some more. Like I said, this day wasn’t shaping up great. My mum phoned and we talked for an hour and a half, all while I continued lying on the bed and crying intermittent tears. Finally, finally, I got up. And then I washed my face, popped a few Tic Tacs in my mouth, and grabbed my purse and keys. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew I had to get out of the apartment for a while.

I ended up at IKEA. And Michaels. And the dollar store. I didn’t buy much – a bedspread to use instead of the duvet for the summer, a dinosaur light-up key chain for Matt (this is his second keyRawrrrring; the first went for a short but sweet flight into the dumpster with the trash a few months ago), and some new paintbrushes. But it wasn’t the purchases that mattered – it was the destinations.

IKEA is pretty much on the other side of town from us – 16 km according to my odometer. I went there on purpose because I knew I would have to drive a good distance to get there and that I would feel proud of myself when I did. Which happened. I also went there with the intent of walking through the entire store no matter how long it took. Which also happened. And after doing both those things, I knew I would then have to drive carefully and attentively back home again. Which definitely happened. Now I feel more confident than I did this morning. I don’t feel helpless. I don’t feel like doing exercise – any form of exercise – is a chore. Yes, this probably wasn’t as good a workout as going for a swim would have been, but I’m pleasantly tired and for me, that’s a big factor; it means I didn’t overdo it and I didn’t underdo it. Tonight when I go to bed I know I’ll be waking up alone again, but it seems a little easier to bear. And hey, the YMCA isn’t going anywhere. Like my therapist told me at the very start, “If you have a bad day, just make sure you get up and try again tomorrow”.

In other news, I did make good use of the gorgeous weather this weekend, and went for a long walk on Saturday with my camera. We are getting to be great buddies, my camera and I. All the blossoms are just starting to bloom and the honeysuckle is now out and smelling extra sweet. I ended up over at the RAM at a picnic table where I did a little drawing and soaked up the sunshine. I also inadvertently ended up witnessing a wedding ceremony (whoops). It was pretty informal, but still. It was kind of like listening in on somebody having sex; it’s awkward and it brings up memories of when you did it. Anyway, I took quite a few photos while I was out and about, and I have a route planned for my next walk in the area to try and capture some of the amazing architectural variety of the neighbourhood.

I also watched a new (for me) Studio Ghibli movie, From Up On Poppy Hill. I liked it quite a bit, and that made me go digging around the interwebs to try and find some of their other, quirkier titles. It has a more grown-up feel to it which is refreshing coming from a film studio that Pixar/Disney have partnered with, and by the looks of things, I would say that some of the other ones I found have that too. If you are into Miyazaki and his work with Studio Ghibli, be sure to also check out The Ocean Waves and Only Yesterday. Like I said, they’re more adult than the others but still retain the amazing quality of art and cinema that they are known for.

And I guess that’s it for me. Yes, I had to get out of bed and experience today. And yes, I’ll get out of bed and experience tomorrow. That’s fully half the battle won right there.

Flat-Out Friday: Perseverance!

Perseverance (noun)

1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
2. Theology: continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.  
(Latin) persevērāre to persist, derivative of persevērusvery strict
The last few days I’ve been going over and over this word in my head. It’s the regimental motto of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), and one that Matt uses with pride. (He has taken to pronouncing it “per-severance” just for the laughs, however.) It’s something you find in all comic books – indeed, it’s one of the defining features of both a superhero and a supervillian. It’s a synonym of words like tenacity and persistence. But what I really like about it is that it not only suggests a certain stick-to-it-tiveness, but that it also indicates a deep-seated faith that everything will turn out all right.

My OT made this for me while I was in the hospital undergoing rehab – apparently he thought I was a superhero too!
I like this word. I like it because it sounds much better than stubbornness, which is what I routinely suggest has gotten me through most of the aftermath of this accident. As someone rather high-handedly once said to my husband, “Stubbornness is a COA” (that’s a “Course Of Action” for all you civilians out there). It has been for me. And it will continue to be. There are days when I just wake up, look at the ceiling and think, “Again? I have to do this again?” but I always get that voice, that nagging voice, telling me to get my sorry ass out of bed and get a move on. Some days it sounds like my mother. Some days it sounds like every single bully that ever picked on me in school. Most of the time, though, it sounds just like me, with a big Darth Vader-esque sigh attached, telling myself that I can do it, I have done it, and I will continue to do it each time it comes up again.

But “perseverance” is sexy; way sexier than a word associated with mules. It sounds like something all those heroines from the feel-good movies I like so much would say: “It’s called ‘perseverance’, darling. I put some in my tea every morning.” Or as the rough and tumble ones would spit out with their teeth and blood: “Perseverance, girl. It has the word ‘sever’ in it for a reason.” I totally wish I was that cool – like a roller derby girl*.

I have faith everything will turn out all right. Sometimes I just forget it. I know that no matter what, we will get through whatever gets thrown at us. We have made it through a bone-crushingly terrible ordeal, for goodness sake, so I know we can make it through the aftermath. Know why? Because Matt and I have perseverance, and we are not afraid to use it.

*Before the accident I had every intention of joining the local roller derby team. Matt was planning to get me skates for my birthday and everything. I even had my name picked out: Steamy Nix. Yeah, I was totally gonna be badass. I’m still badass, just in a completely different way.

Week in Review: Sacrifices

Today is the day I’ve been dreading. It’s the last day Matt is home before he’s once more sent to Wainwright for a month. I’m lucky in the sense that its just me I have to take care of and that I’ve gotten the last two weeks with him at home, but seriously, could we stop with the exercises already?

But today’s post isn’t about me or my specific situation. Instead, it’s about all of us – military and civilian, kids, no kids, here, there, wherever. It’s about the strength inside ourselves and the choices we make every day that determine what kind of person we are and will end up being.

This past week I’ve met with my doctor, my lawyer, and my psychologist. I’ve driven hundreds of kilometres across Alberta and back. I’ve been somewhere beautiful, somewhere moving, and somewhere I’d rather not be again. And in all of these places, in all of these meetings, I’ve had to make choices. Choices for my future, and choices that will continue to define the kind of woman I want to be. Let me tell you, it’s been challenging. It’s been emotional. It’s been good feelings and bad feelings and hope and despair, frustration after frustration and quiet simmering anger.

And then I saw something that made me pause. While we were visiting The Military Museums in Calgary, we stopped in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) wing and stood for a moment in reverence. Housed in their own display were the two rocks from Masum Ghar, Afghanistan that honoured the soldiers who had fallen while attached to the LdSH(RC) during their tour. Their names were Nate and Mike. They were my husband’s friends. They were both killed while Matt was on tour. Because fallen soldiers are returned to their home to be with their families, there is nothing left in the war zone to memorialize them. Soldiers instead painted rocks to stand as monuments, to symbolize that yes, they had been there, and yes, they have made the ultimate sacrifice to be true to the person they were inside. It allowed others to grieve properly. It allowed them to be reminded of the real dangers of being where they were. They gave the other soliders strength.

Tpr Mike Hayakaze and Cpl Nathan Hornburg’s memorial stones display

And they gave me strength. I stood there, holding my husband’s hand in silence, and watched him as he looked over the display. For a moment or two, my mind was blank. I couldn’t even begin to think of something to say. Then it hit me, and I realized: I don’t have to say anything. Being who I am, having gone through what I have, all I had to do was honour their loss and commend my husband’s strength, and that didn’t need words at all. So I squeezed his hand a little tighter and when he was ready, we moved on.

The meeting with the doctor was positive. The meeting with the lawyer was, in its own way, positive. But the news we wanted to hear didn’t come, and we were left feeling frustrated, scared, and resentful. We have no idea what is going to happen once August rolls around. But after being to the Museum and seeing the display, you know what I do know?

I know I’m strong enough to take whatever comes our way. I know that I have a huge support base that will do everything in its power to help us. I know that I could not have stood and looked at that display if it hadn’t been for the choices I made every single moment after the accident, or the choices I make every single moment of my newly reborn life. I am strong because I choose to be. So is my husband. So were Mike and Nate. So every single one of us can be, if we choose. We all have steel inside us, we just have to choose to bury it deep and lean on it when we need to. We have to choose to make the sacrifices, and because we have, our steel is stronger for it.