bad luck

2016 & 2017: The Hard Years

Last year was hard. No sense putting a made-up pretty face on it, or calling a spade a diamond: physically, emotionally, and situationally, 2016 was a hard year.
I gained some of the weight I lost in 2015 back – not eating properly, not being motivated, and seeking emotional solace in food all played their own roles. I spent 6 solid months separated from my husband, which meant 6 months being a single mother. I shared a bedroom with a non-sleeping toddler for nearly 5 cumulative months of the year. I made the difficult decision to go back to work after 5 long years of recovery. I took on new volunteer positions without shedding the old ones. I began a part-time direct sales business. And honestly, travelling over the Christmas season is no way to finish an already trying year.
And this year has started in the same way. MiniSir will be deployed this year – yet another long separation for us. I have secured a job and day care for Grunt, and now we are just waiting on my official start date. We bought a new car, anticipating a future that the Army has now changed on us (again). And all those volunteer positions? I can’t seem to shake them.
So while I prepare to be a newly working single mum, dealing with what little spare time I have being eaten up by committees, I have to wonder some days if strength comes from simply doing.
I walk now because I refused to believe I couldn’t walk then. I bore a child because I refused to believe I was infertile. I have been alone, alone and pregnant, alone with a child, and I have been strong enough to do all this because I refused to give up on what needed to be done. So.
This year I will be employed, and Mummy, and alone. And I will be strong. I will do what needs to be done. And I will be here for others in the same place when they think they can’t.
Some days I will need reminded of my own strength, and some days others will be the ones needing reminded. On days when I can give of myself, I will. On days when I need you to give me a little of the strength back, I hope you will.

Let’s Do This More Often

Happy anniversary, Sweetheart. Today is number 4 for us.

Today, I will be sitting on the ground in a park downtown waiting for you. Because you are doing this:

32 km run with 35 lb rucksack
3.2 km portage with 65 lb canoe and 35 lb rucksack
11 km canoe paddle
5.6 km rucksack run

For fun. Well, maybe for pride. Either way, I still can’t really understand it, but I will do my utmost to support it because it’s important to you.

This year hasn’t been easy for us. There were a lot of times when things that should have been said were just swallowed because we didn’t want to “make it worse”. Your position last year made it really hard for us to spend time as a family, and then when we did it was in fear that the BlackBerry would go off one more time. Like the time we tried to see a movie and nearly caused an international incident. Hopefully, this year is more relaxed for us. I can already tell it will be socially busy, but at least it seems like it’s socially busy together. So there’s that.

Maybe this year we will get to have an actual vacation – I hear they are those things where people leave their place of residence, and instead of going to someone else’s place of residence, end up at magical places like amusement parks or historical monuments. We can hope, anyways.

I love you. I will always love you. It doesn’t really matter if we spend our anniversary together or if we go somewhere warm in the winter. It has never mattered that our movies are not always uninterrupted. I wouldn’t choose another life if it meant leaving you behind. And the little boy that worships you is just going to have to keep on doing it. Because I look at this photo of us, 4 years ago today, and I see love. And I see joy. And as long as we are together, those two things will always be there.

This year, let’s do this more often.

Darkness? It’s Me, Krista

I don’t like where my mind goes at night. Those deep, dark hours after midnight when I’m still lying in bed, exhausted but unable to drift off. That’s the time when it always strikes me: the irrational thoughts and anxious fear.

I fight them off, one at a time. Usually it is a terrible fate befalling someone I love – more often than not involving my dear Grunt. Opening my eyes, taking in my surroundings, consciously breathing through it, repeating “Not real, not real” aloud, only really alleviates the current thought spiral. As soon as I close my eyes it’s back down another rabbit hole filled with great and awful things, grabbing at me with their tentacles of persuasion.

The only thing that stops them is getting up, getting out of bed and forcing myself to move and think in the now. My first stop is always Grunt’s room, to place a hand on his back and feel him breathe. He is safe again – he always is. Next I head downstairs to boil the kettle and find some sleepy time tea. It doesn’t really help, but it’s warm and the act of drinking it is calming, so I steep it twice. Wrapping myself in my warmest couch blanket, I hop onto my computer for at least a two-hour Pinterest session. I have to keep my mind of off anything remotely important, and Pinterest certainly has a way of sucking you into a world of DIY you love but will never do, and adorable fan art drawings of your favourite Disney characters. Add some of whatever snack food is in my pantry and there’s my remedy for insomnia.

I can usually get to sleep after this, snuggling in against MiniSir to warm up after being out of bed. But when he’s not home, it’s harder to get past that sleep threshold. Bunnydict Carrotpatch doesn’t talk much, and though his ears are velvety soft, stroking them still doesn’t soothe me the way a shifting-in-his-sleep-to-hold-you husband would.

I remember nearly flipping my sleep schedule when MiniSir was deployed to the Alberta floods a few years ago – up all night, sleeping only when daylight peeked into the bedroom so I could see that there were no fears hiding in the shadows. Now I’m a mummy, and I don’t have that luxury any more; there is a tiny person that needs my help growing into the best big person he can be. So the scant few hours of sleep I manage have to do, at least until nap time when we can both lie down again. For the same reason, I hesitate to take that extra dose of medication my psychiatrist said I could safely take, as it makes me very dopey and thus it is harder to wake up with the baby in the mornings. Alcohol and the pills make it even worse – even with one beer at dinner, I find I have difficulty hearing the baby at all, which isn’t good for me, or for Grunt, who still wakes at least once or twice a night.

And so I drink tea. And eat Jammy Dodgers. And “pin” journal ideas and knitting patterns and artistic inspiration for things I’ll never draw because I don’t think I’m good enough to even try them. And then maybe, just maybe, I may have quieted the demons enough to get some sleep.

Doctor! I Smell BO!

A lot of people may not realize this, but PTSD messes with your brain. I know, I know, but give me a second to elaborate.

It re-wires it. Permanently. Again, I hear you say you knew that already. But I’m not talking about emotions or flashbacks or unexplained anxiety. I am talking about your senses.

That’s right: Sight, Smell, Taste, Hearing, Touch. The five things you rely on every day to help you determine the state of the world around you. In particular, PTSD survivors most often report a complete rewiring in their sense of Smell.

This ‘weird yet true’ fact is something I live with constantly. MiniSir endures me “do you smell that?” questions without comment, and attributes it as more evidence that I am in fact a Wolverine-esque mutant. (And since I completely healed myself without need of surgery or medical intervention after the accident, he has a point.)

But honestly, living like this sucks. Or rather, it stinks. Three days ago I had MiniSir smell the kitchen garbage can because I thought it smelled like cigarette butts. It didn’t, apparently. I swore the blind in the baby’s room smelled like really strong male body odour, and I believed it so strongly that I eventually asked that we moved the baby into the spare room instead. When we make tacos, I am grateful that I enjoy the taste because the house fills with the smell of feet.

I don’t understand why this occurs, but it does, particularly if the trauma causing the PTSD has been severe. And I wish I could at least explain why I smell the noxious odours that I do – repressed memories from the scene would make it much easier to bear. But the truth is that when we survivors smell weird things, it is probably just that: a weird thing with no reason behind it at all.

I am also sensitive to other smells: poop, vomit, etc., but I don’t smell them often like I smell the others and they are always attributable to an actual cause. Don’t know why, but living with the smell of strong body odour, feet, and snuffed out cigarettes in your home when they aren’t truly present is something I have had to get used to.

So if you visit, and the house smells just a little *too* much like vanilla candles, let me know. I will gladly tone it down – it’s just that I can’t tell over the smell of phantom cigarettes.

2016: A Year of Reaping


Happy 2016, everyone! I just know in my heart that this is the Year of Krista, and I am looking forward to making the most of it.

We could call last year “The Road to High Readiness”, in true army fashion. It saw a lot of ups and downs, for me and our little family.

We all started the year off with terrible colds, and I managed to get lice, an eye infection, and a lung infection on top of that over the holidays. Grunt decided he would start furniture walking as soon as I got sick, too, and became much more mobile while I attempted to get better. The constant barrage of demands from the condo board and MiniSir’s trip to Europe in March nearly did me in as I tried to be a mum, a home owner, and run the condo board all by myself.

But… we celebrated Easter in Walt Disney World and had a wonderful underwater-themed first birthday party for Grunt when we arrived back home.

We put the house on the market right as the price of oil collapsed, and nearly sold it twice only to have the buyer unable to get financing. I hired a management company for our condos, and struggled through our piece-meal finances with their accountant to get our books in order.

But… MiniSir got promoted, and we celebrated with the champagne he brought back from France. We had family visiting us in June, July, and August, and in between we had a whirlwind trip to Ontario.

MiniSir went to fight fires in Saskatchewan, but then we visited Banff and Lake Louise for the first time on an epic road trip, and it seemed like maybe we were finally getting ready to relax into fall.

And then my PTSD, depression, and anxiety all made a comeback and I’m back on medication to help me cope.

But… MiniSir completed an amazing “rugged” marathon called Mountain Man, a result of his hard work, training, and the loss of 50 pounds. He also got great career news and now we know we will be here in Edmonton for at least another 4 years.Grunt started walking and talking. The condo board took on new members and it now feels like we are a team instead of a one-woman show. I have lost nearly 40 pounds, with just a couple stubborn ones left to reach my goal weight. And we celebrated Christmas here, together: our little family with matching pjs in our little house.

Honestly, looking back, I can see the ups and see the downs, see the curveballs life has thrown at us and see the gifts. I wish for nothing more in the new year than for 2016 to hold more gifts than disappointments. I sowed many seeds last year, and I’m ready to reap the rewards. If I close my eyes and dream, I can see them all lying out on the path ahead of me. I know this year will be mine, and I’m ready for it.

From our home to yours: Happy New Year, and may your unexpected gifts be numerous!

It’s Times Like These

It’s at times like this one – holding my screaming son while he wails like a banshee because of some unknown cause – that even a hoodie doesn’t help. That moment when you’ve just stepped in the shower and went “ahhhh” underneath the hot spray, and the baby monitor goes insane. It doesn’t help them either. 

It doesn’t help when you’re up to your ears in work for a position you volunteered for, and the work you’ve delegated somehow manages to become yours again. Or the passive aggressive daily emails from people all implying you don’t do anything, even though you run yourself ragged at the edges whenever the baby is sleeping and sometimes even when he’s not. 

It doesn’t help with any of that. 

What it does do is remind me that he’ll be home soon. That this is all impermanent, and soon he’ll be able to give me the hug I desperately need. That he can hold my hand when I need it, or give me a shoulder to lean on if I need one of those too. That he’s been away overseas, but it wasn’t anywhere dangerous, that the biggest concern he has is how much room he has in his suitcase to bring stuff home, and that it wasn’t for long. 

Chronologically, that is. Relatively, it feels like it’s been a year. 

Our son has cut his first two teeth, had his first bout of stomach flu, and had his immunizations while MiniSir’s been gone. I admittedly have pushed myself too hard, staying up until midnight most nights to get things done. I just want to crawl in his hoodie and be left alone for a while so I can sleep for three days. 

But it can’t help me with that either. 

(Are you reading this and wondering, what’s up with this hoodie thing? Check out my past post on MiniSir’s Magic hoodie.)

Science: Being Awesome to Save Your Life

It’s such a hot button topic these days, but it bears repeating. And then I’ll tell you a little story.

IMG_0778Little Grunt just went to get his first vaccinations. I took him to the one of the Public Health offices, where they are administered free of charge to all children; probably all adults if you need your boosters, too. When I arrived, I had to go through a set of large glass doors, and posted on these doors in bright red was the following:

STOP! If you have a persistent cough, and with it a rash, fever, or runny nose, DO NOT COME IN. Please go to the nearest urgent care facility immediately. THERE HAS BEEN A MEASLES OUTBREAK IN THIS AREA.

Yes, really, and yes, I have been tracking it as it has made the news. Just after Grunt was born, there was a case in the Calgary area which saw all unvaccinated children and those susceptible to infection sent home from a public school, including a couple pregnant teachers. People were enraged that someone who did not believe in vaccinations or had chosen not to get them for a certain reason had suddenly disrupted their child’s learning environment.

Then the cases started to appear in Edmonton. MiniSir was in Wainwright tracking them along with me, making sure I wasn’t taking our newborn out to places where the infected had visited in the last 7 days. What became apparent as more cases were reported was that it was one community in particular that was perpetrating all the nonsense. Unvaccinated children between 3 and 6 years of age that attended the same doctor’s offices, the same church, and the same grocery store were spreading it amongst themselves like one of those ridiculous chicken pox parties that used to occur in the 60s and 70s. One of these children even visited a maternity/newborn ward in a local hospital before being quarantined, primarily because I feel the parents just didn’t understand how seriously ill he was and how deadly his illness could be to those that cannot fight against it.

But the final straw was when an infected 30 year old male took the disease with him to West Edmonton Mall the day before Mother’s Day and spent 4 hours there spreading it around. Of all the socially irresponsible things to do, to me this was on a scale similar to that of a spree killing. I was texting with other new moms in the area every time more locations were announced, each of us making sure the others were aware of the details. We all wanted to be as careful as we could. Our husbands in the field were just as concerned. And then this dumb ass just waltzes through the busiest shopping centre in the city on one of the busiest shopping days of the year and spreads all that germy love around like a gift.

Grunt and I were lucky. All of those reported infected lived in the south end of the city, and so all the reported places of business where there could have been contact were far away from our usual haunts. But I still washed my hands religiously. I told strangers not to get too close to my baby. I purposefully avoided getting out of my car if I could, and when I did I wiped everything down with antibacterial wipes. I kept my son safe from the negligence of others because that’s what socially responsible parents and people do. The outbreak has been declared over in Calgary, but not in Edmonton. Not yet. And so, the signs at the Public Health office are still up, because you can’t be too careful.

Which leads me to my story. Last week there were celebrations at MiniSir’s regiment for the “Change of Command”, when a new commanding officer takes over from the old. There was a parade with lots of tanks driving around and firing blanks, so I took the baby out for some fresh air, sunshine, and pomp and circumstance. Afterward, everyone gathered at the regiment for a light lunch and socializing. While I was standing with Grunt waiting to see MiniSir, another officer asked if he and his family could sit beside me. Of course I said yes. I then made small talk and found an excuse to leave quickly. Why? Because said officer’s toddler was with him, and said officer has made it very clear to others that he doesn’t believe in vaccinations, ANY type of vaccinations, and his children have not had any. He put me in a position where I had to choose between social nicety and protecting my child. There wasn’t really a choice. I may have been rude, but I couldn’t consciously make the decision to stay where I was.

Science. Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Chris Hadfield can’t be wrong about it being awesome. Jenny McCarthy and Alicia Silverstone may be celeb “yummy mummies”, but until they can hold up a shred of evidence to suggest vaccinations aren’t safe, I’ll stick with the professionals on this: vaccines save lives, not Dr. Oz.