Days Like Today

“I’m tired.”

I think that’s the standard response for any spouse going through a deployment with children when someone asks how you’re doing. There’s just no time to yourself. You sleep when they sleep (once you wrestle them to sleep), you work when they’re awake, and then when you get home, you get to be the sole adult. It’s hard, and it wears you out.

Today was a good example of that. Last night I was invited to something on behalf of the Regiment. I had a great time, and I was home by 8:30pm. I came home to my son still awake, lunches needing packed, dishes to do, and it was garbage night. Grunt didn’t fall asleep until after 10:30pm. And then I discovered my car had punctured a tire. Something had to give.

As you can see from the photo above, it was the tire. I pumped and drove on it to work, and then re-pumped it to drive home because I had to. I found a place close by that would fix it, left work early to drop the car, walked home from the shop to pick up MiniSir’s car, and then drove to get Grunt from daycare.

Things you don’t even think about when you’re the sole adult: no one will be able to come get you from the garage where you drop off your car. Tomorrow, I will have to walk back and pick it up. Sure, walking is good for me. But the entire operation required planning akin to a military move, and, already tired, the ol’ synapses felt a little sluggish while I tried to sort all this out in my head. I got there eventually; thank god we have an extra vehicle.

This week, we accepted a third conditional offer on the house. And I’ll let you in on a secret: they want the house in 4 weeks, and I haven’t even put an offer in on another place yet. Why? Because I’ve been here already, and I’m not devoting that time and energy until I know that it will be time and energy well spent. Sure, it’ll be harried if it all comes together, but life is sometimes. And yes, I’ll be even more tired afterward, but that’s life too.

Just know that, if you’re looking for a meaningful gift for a friend going through a deployment with children, coffee is always appreciated, and tiny baby tranquilizers may or may not also be accepted.


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.

The Medal and The Photo

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.

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.

My Tribe

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.

The Knight’s Lover

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.

I’m Not Gonna Cry, I’m Not…

We are leaving tomorrow. And I am running around like a crazy person trying to figure out what will expire in our fridge and our pantry while we are gone, because tomorrow is also garbage day; two birds, one stone.

It is my choice to go to Ontario for close to 5 months. It really was my choice, even though I keep walking into Grunt’s room and sighing, knowing that tonight is the last night I will be rocking him in my wooden chair, the same wooden chair my mother rocked me to sleep in, for a long while. MiniSir will be gone for close to 3 months on exercises, and then handing over and starting his new position back at the Regiment, and THEN the Regimental obligations with the Calgary Stampede and Spruce Meadows… We would never see him. It was the right choice, both financially and emotionally, to take Grunt to Ontario for an extended visit with family while he does all of this.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss my house, my friends, my familiar shops and even my (sometimes infuriating) neighbours. This morning my cat was sleeping so still and soundly in the sun I thought for sure he had died – he was fine, just in a heavy sleep, but I’m becoming paranoid that something will happen while we are away.

I also constantly feel like I’m going to forget something. Never mind the fact that we are driving across Canada, stopping in all major cities each night and will be near any store I can think of if I do, but still… I just know I’m going to forget something.

And the unspoken feelings between MiniSir and I: this is the longest we will have ever been apart, even including when we were long distance dating between Kingston and Medicine Hat. I’m a lucky military spouse in that sense – his deployment overseas was before my time with him – but any length of time that you are a separated family is difficult; both while you’re apart and when you finally come back together. Whether it is for a week or 5 months or a year, everyone’s routines collide in an epic “can’t you read my mind?!” blow-out.

So when I went grocery shopping yesterday for last-minute items, I may have purchased a lot of comfort food. I made 13 eggs worth of scrambled eggs to freeze yesterday so the eggs didn’t go bad before someone ate them. I have thrown out anything in the pantry that will expire between now and the end of July. And our freezer is jammed full of random leftovers that can be eaten as a single meal sometime down the road. This is how I am coping.

So. If you’re going to be in the Ottawa/Kingston/Toronto corridor over the next little while, let me know. I’m going to have my own vehicle and itching for distractions. Otherwise, I’ll see you all on the other side of the long, long drive.