In what perfectly encapsulates my 2016, this week suddenly and surprisingly has me attending 3 job interviews. That’s 150% more interviews than I’ve had during the rest of the year in a single week. 6 days before we start Christmas leave. 2 weeks before Christmas. Also, the only week where I lost my voice.
MiniSir and I attended a gala last weekend on behalf of the Regiment. It was a very fancy affair – hosted in the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald’s Empire Ballroom, which looks like a set from Marie Antoinette. The supermoon made the river valley look silvered and beautiful, the free champagne was flowing, and the music was rocking. It was an excellent evening.
We sat at a table with other soldiers and their spouses, and as I looked around the table, I noted, despite the plethora or dearth of medals, everyone had one specific one; everyone but my husband. Which I mentioned to him, being completely unaware of what it was.
“That’s the CD (Canadian Forces Decoration).” He muttered with a pained smile. “I don’t have one because I don’t have enough time in yet.”
For those that may not know, you need to have 12 years “in” to receive your CD; something that, if you’re a Major, is so common that the joke is to not trust one without that medal. And yet here he is, being an exception to the rule. Ask any soldier under him, and they will tell you that the joke (at least in this case) is completely inappropriate.
And yet the pained smile when I mentioned it.
MiniSir likes to say he hasn’t done “a lot of stuff” with the Army. He will tell you he hasn’t if you ask. He is wrong when he does.
Nothing makes that more obvious that the photo he received this morning as a gift. This photo was taken this past Remembrance Day at the gravesite of one of the soldiers killed on MiniSir’s tour. In this photo, 5 men stand together to remember their fallen comrade. They are smiling. There is beer on the grave. And Nathan’s spirit is with them.
This photo was taken, enlarged, framed, and gifted to him by one of the wives of the other men there. I cannot express how much having it means to him, and how touched he was in receiving it. But the man who always says he doesn’t do “much” messaged me this morning, told me about the gift, and then expressed a desire to make a collage of photos for his office wall. Because this gift made him realize that, even without his CD, he has still done some amazing, sad, wonderful things, and he has the friends to prove it.
He has so much more than shiny brass – he is surrounded by people who will tell him he’s valued, and help him remember his worth. Which is way better than a silly medal.
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.
I can’t say as I’ve ever had one; a tribe, that is. I’ve had friends, mostly a singular friend, but never a community, a family of non-blood relatives, a place amongst people in this wide crazy world where I nestled into and felt “home”.
I have one now.
Not just that, but my tribe has layers. The outer shell of community, the inner wide fleshy section of friends within that community, and the small pit where the most intimate of the bunch resides at the core. They are the hardiest folk – the human barrier around my most private and vulnerable areas. In what is usually the space reserved for your most treasured friend, I have several crammed in together.
I don’t know what to do with them all. Some days I just want to throw a big ol’ BBQ and invite people over. Then the list grows and grows and grows until I realize I’m trying to fit 40 people into my tiny house and I’m not sure where they’re going to sit. Some days I just want to lock myself in my house and never talk to anyone again, only to realize that by the end of the day I’ve sent messages to a half dozen people, easily. The tribe never goes away, and it never diminishes.
Then there are those, those select few, with whom I know exactly what I would do. And with those few, I would remove all inhibitions, break down all barriers, open my arms and let them take all I have. Those members of my tribe I would give in to, give out for, bare all with. I surround myself with them, pull them in tightly, hold onto them like fireflies in a jar. They bring me light, hope, and joy. I want my tribe to enjoy being with me, and these most of all.
So I give myself, submit to them, feel them wash over me like waves on the beach, holding me close, wrapping me up. I feel safe, secure, wanted; home. And when the world threatens to break me, they put me back together again with their love.
When I left in April, I didn’t realize how much I needed my tribe. Even if I only saw people once a month, even if we hadn’t talked in over a week, my tribe has become the ground I stand on when I think the rest of my life is shaky. And to watch over social media as all these amazing moments pass by without being able to share them with my tribe as brought me actual pain. I need to be back – to be back soon – or I fear that I may begin to lose myself by simply being by myself. I need the fruit of my experiences – my tribe – to remind me that everything I’ve been through and accomplished has not gone unnoticed. I want to feel safe once more in the arms and hearts of the people I now let shape my world.
This is the power of my tribe.
Facebook reminded me that, 6 years ago today, I went to the Earth Body Spirit Expo in my hometown. At that Expo, there was a small booth for the local New Age shop. And in that booth, one of their resident experts was doing a small 3-card Tarot spread for $10. I figured it was kind of like an investment in my future, so down went my money and my name. When it was my turn, I was suddenly afraid. I only really half-believe in this stuff, and yet there I was, shaking with nerves; I still can’t explain why. I shuffled and split the deck as directed, and chose my three cards. The reader, a perfect caricature of a gypsy woman, smiled at me and began.
I don’t remember what the first card was, just what it represented: struggle. Struggle in everything – love, work, finances, health. Everything was a struggle. And it’s true. That summer was one of the toughest of my whole adult life. I was working at a job I had grown to hate (and I don’t use “hate” lightly). I was living with my parents because I was struggling with depression as a result. I had gained a lot of weight because I was eating my feelings and not interested in taking care of myself as a consequence. I was house-sitting for a friend, and so lonely that I would spend my nights watching Stargate SG1 reruns. So when she turned the struggle card over, all I could do was nod in resignation. Yes, life was currently a struggle, and here she was telling me it wasn’t going to let up any time soon.
Her mouth formed a thin line as she said, “the next card is the near future”, already fearing the worst for me. And then she turned the upright Knight of Wands. For those who don’t know, the Knight of Wands is a Casanova. He’s a flirt, representing passion and lust; a real lady killer. Upright means it was in the positive – I was definitely going to meet this man. And the details were even more important: he was a knight, in armour, riding his trusted steed. He was literally coming to my rescue. Her face lit up a bit, as though the good news was not what she expected. But she cautioned me, because the Knight of Wands is such a goer, he has a tendency to leave once he gets bored. So I’d have some excitement around the end of the summer, but it would be fleeting.
And then she turned the last card.
Her smile turned into a wolf of a grin. She had turned an upright The Lovers. I don’t think I need to elaborate on what that card means, other than to say that upright means everything is bathed in a positive, wonderful light. She began to fan herself as she told me what the draw meant, particularly in conjunction with The Knight before it. I would never have to worry about my struggles again, because before the year was out, I would have found my perfect partner. The one that all the books are written about, the soul that completes my own, the yin to my yang. He would ride in, save me from myself, and stick through everything. She suggested I visit the sex toy booth before leaving the Expo, because things were going to get hot.
I took it all with a grain of salt, but I couldn’t help feeling like good things were going to come my way as I stood and left the table. I didn’t stop at the sex shop, but I held tight to that image of my Knight in shining armour riding in to rescue me. And though I still had some struggling ahead of me, there was a bright, beautiful light waiting for me at the end of the tunnel.
6 years ago, two months after this card reading, I got a message from my good friend telling me that she had “met the man of your dreams”. A Captain in the Canadian Army, he was literally my Knight in armoured vehicle. It was painted green, and his trusted steed was a Leopard 2 tank. By the end of the year, he proved to be The One That Stuck. I did become the Knight’s Lover; he swept me off my feet and we have been riding steadily into Happily Ever After together ever since. But it all started with tarot cards on a purple tablecloth, a woman wearing a scarf on her hair, and $10.
So thank you, Marilyn, weird gypsy Tarot woman, for giving me the gift of hope 6 years ago.
Something weird happened to me yesterday. I sat down, slouching into the soft couch, to watch one of Grunt’s favourite shows with him. At one point, he climbed into my lap and I looked down to make sure he was going to get comfortable in a way that wouldn’t hurt me either.
And then I realized: I can see my legs. Not just my legs, but the tops of them. And not just the tops, but I can the rest of my body underneath my tummy. Somewhere along the way of losing weight and getting more active, I actually got thinner than I remember being in a long time.
This is an important milestone for several reasons. Since puberty, I have had this annoying large stomach that protruded over my lower abdomen, the tell-tale mark of someone with PCOS. It has only gotten more prominent since having Grunt, as I carried him very high. And since my accident, I have had a much larger behind, thanks to all that fluid that stuck around the injured areas because of the nerve damage done. So, when I look in the mirror sideways, all I see are these two problem areas; my torso gets lost somewhere in the middle.
In 2015, MiniSir and I decided we were going to get healthy – lose weight, eat better, take care of ourselves a little more. The previous 4 years had been a cluster of serious, terrible, and exciting things; a time in our lives we could not forget even if we wanted to. But 2015 we chose to start fresh, and give Grunt positive role models right at home. We purchased pedometers, started counting calories, watching portion sizes, and intensely meal planning. MiniSir started exercising right away, and his weight melted off. He has since managed to successfully lose over 50 pounds. Exercise has always left a dirty taste in my mouth, so I focused on being active with Grunt and trying to hit my 10000 steps a day. It was easier said than done, but by the end of the year, I had lost nearly 40 pounds.
We found as we got doing it that it felt good. We enjoyed it, and it helped us keep our grocery costs and food waste to a minimum. Helping ourselves and helping the planet? Okay! We decided to purchase home exercise equipment for our joint Christmas gift – we had a friend looking to off-load his and we were given a great price. So now we have a treadmill and a recumbent bike, and since MiniSir is a runner, you can guess which one was for me.
I was reluctant to start seriously exercising – what if I hurt something, what if I made it worse, what if what if. Finally, I made up my mind to try without judgment, and I got on the recumbent bike and pedalled. The next day, I got on it again. And the next. Throw in a little yoga once or twice a week, and suddenly you know how I’ve been spending my time while Grunt naps since the start of the year.
Some days I just can’t even, and I still get on the bike. Today, for example. I’m biking and writing this blog. I have no qualms about multi-tasking, and if this helps me feel better about time I spend on me, then it’s a win-win. I can only bike for about a half hour before my back and pelvis tell me I’ve done enough, but I can work up a sweat in that time which tells me I have indeed done what I came to do.
I’m hungrier, downright starving some days. Last week I ate supper and then an hour later I had a bowl of oatmeal and almond milk. But I feel good when I’m hungry – it means I need the fuel.
So maybe exercise still sounds like a dirty word to me. And maybe I hide my scale in my closet so I don’t obsess over my weight. Maybe I’m taking anti-depressants still to help me sleep.
But you know what else I am doing? I’m kicking that bulletproof, armoured bank truck right in the ass.
You can’t beat me, truck. What didn’t kill me has made me infinitely stronger: physically, mentally, emotionally.
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!