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.

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!

The Way I Remember It

Last week was not a great week. For our family, the last week in September has too many days of note, and they are all bittersweet. Chief among them is 24 September, the anniversary of the first death of a Strathcona during my husband’s deployment in Afghanistan. His name is tattooed on MiniSir’s arm, and though I never got to meet Nathan Hornburg, I’ve seen his handsome face on many memorials. Every year when I wake up on this day, I remember his face from the photos, and thank him for his service and sacrifice. I thank whoever else is listening for guiding my husband home safely so he could be the one waking up beside me. And I think of my best memory of that particular anniversary, which happened just three years ago, and I hope that wherever he is, Nathan approves.

September 24, 2011 was a Thursday. MiniSir was posted at CFB Suffield. I was in Medicine Hat Hospital, recovering from the accident. The Portraits of Honour, a mural depicting Canada’s fallen soldiers from the Afghanistan tour, was in town for a public viewing and gala. Of all days to have the gala, this one was especially poignant. MiniSir had to attend, but he had the afternoon off to get ready. I was napping in the afternoon sun, something I often did after my second Physio workout of the day, when he came into the room, still in his combats, and sat next to the bed.

“I was thinking about today, and how short life is,” he started, “and in case I didn’t get the hint when your accident happened, today really kicked my ass with it.”

Sleepy, bleary-eyed and without my glasses, I vaguely noticed he had something in his pocket.

He went on to say how he couldn’t imagine life without me, and that he felt that it was the right time to do this. After much teasing about what was in his pocket, he pulled it out and nervously opened the box. It was the ring we had picked out together months ago, the one I had loved immediately. He asked me to marry him, and when I nodded, slid the ring on. But he made me say the words, all of them, before he would kiss me in celebration.

The ring had been sized for my pre-accident finger width, so it was far too big to keep wearing. I waved it around and let it sparkle for a while, but when he told me he had to go get ready for the gala, we agreed to put it back in the box for safe keeping. Then, his visit cut short with a promise to try and see me later, he left.

I spent the evening playing card games with my mum and talking about what kind of wedding I wanted, and went to bed still wondering when he would show up. Late, nearly midnight, I woke up to a text message saying he was just outside. The ER guard had apparently taken one look at him and let him in without a fuss.

I was still waking up when I heard the familiar “Ching-Ching-Ching” of his spurs against the hospital floor. And when the nurses started wolf-whistling and cat-calling, I knew exactly what was going on. Still dressed in his mess kit, having come straight from the gala and a whiskey toast to Nathan, he was strolling through the hospital looking like a million bucks, just to kiss me goodnight.

And I fell in love with him all over again.

He came into my room quietly, and when he saw I was awake, he gave me a single red rose he had stolen from the centrepiece. “I love you, Mrs Johns,” he whispered.

The next day was the day I walked for the first time without the casts. The nurses couldn’t stop talking about his appearance the night before, fawned over my ring, and gave me a beautiful martini glass they had all chipped in to buy me as a congratulatory gift. When he came to visit that evening and I showed him I could stand up by myself without the walker, he got the ring out, got down on one knee, and proposed again, just so he had done it right.

If you ask me, he did it right the first time.

And that is why, every September 24, I wake up happy, though I know it’s a somber anniversary. Because I remember that it was Nathan who helped my husband to take what he wanted from life, to say what he felt, and to be strong and proud. This September 24, I looked down at our sleeping son, at how beautiful he was, and marvelled at how so much can change in just three years. And then once again, I thanked Cpl. Hornburg, a man I never met, for everything.


3 Years

Three. I can’t believe it.

Seems like only yesterday at just about this time I was racing through the hallways of Medicine Hat General’s emergency department, nurses and doctors surrounding me, paramedics bringing up the rear with the police. The police that stood outside my room until the CSI team arrived. The police that had to tell dispatch the weight of the vehicle several times before she believed him. The police that agreed I was lucky to be alive.

It didn’t really occur to me until last week that this was approaching. I’ve got something so much more important in my life now that it sort of crept up on me. In fact, I didn’t even think of it until I was calculating my little man’s four-month anniversary and realized it was the day before this one.

This past year has been another lesson in strength and perseverance. I never thought I would be hospitalized again, and yet I accumulated four more weeks “inside”. I never imagined I would get pregnant and successfully deliver, and look how that turned out. I took on and took down my PTSD. I kicked my meds. My husband and I have gone from a downtown, one car, dirty thirties lifestyle to 3 bedrooms, 2 cars, and a mortgage in a neighbourhood where the store across the street isn’t an organic foods place but a Walmart. Change was everywhere, in everything. And I made if through. Stubbornly at times, blindly at others, but I did it.

If there’s anything I can say that having three years in has taught me, it’s that nothing will ever be the same. I didn’t really accept and see that until this year. But I also discovered that I can be the one to change my situation, and I can make it the way I want it to be, can make it better for myself.

I can do extraordinary things. I have done extraordinary things. And I will keep doing them, because I am extraordinary.

A Whole New World

After a hiatus enforced by yet another extended hospital stay (3 weeks this time) and subsequent concerns with my health, I am not only returning to blog another day, but also celebrating my promotion to Mummy! Charles Matthew Fenton Johns was born on April 11, 2014 at 5:20pm, weighing 6 lbs 6 oz. and measuring a whopping 18 inches long.

His measurements are important: there was a point in the pregnancy when I was happy he was over 2 lbs. Both his Daddy and I thought for sure he was going to be with us very early. At 28 weeks and during one of our busiest times of the last two years, I woke up in the night bleeding and having contractions. After rushing to the ER, I was admitted with a “placental abruption” to the antepartum ward and put on strict bed rest. That means my placenta had decided to start pulling away from the uterus much too early, which was in turn making my body think it was time to go into labour. Things had suddenly gone from being worry free to being quite worrisome. The doctor had to give me special, specific permission to be able to get up and use the washroom independently once I arrived on the floor, which cemented for me how serious this whole thing really was. But after we established I would be there for a while, it got really boring really fast. I will also admit to freaking out and having flashbacks to my days spent in the hospital post-accident; though the circumstances weren’t the same, it was most unsettling being stuck in bed all over again.

And because I like to do everything the hard way, the week I went in was the week we were taking possession of our new home and moving. I had appointments booked nearly every day for some reason or another: cleaners, movers, utilities, lawyers, builders… And I had to rely on my poor husband to be able to make them all now. We rescheduled what we could, and he was luckily able to leave work midday to attend a few, and somehow with all that as well as the added stress of me being hospitalized, he managed to finish packing our apartment and get us moved. I’m still not sure if he got any sleep while he did all this.

So while he was run ragged getting our new home ready for a family that was threatening to arrive at any moment, I was trapped in the hospital, watching the women around me experience their own complications and occasionally get whisked away to another ward in a big hurry. I was able to meet a couple other women who were hospitalized for the same reasons as myself – who were also both having boys – and tour the NICU to get a feel for where my baby might end up if he was born early. I was put on the fetal Doppler monitor 3 times a day, and since I could hear my baby’s heart beat strong and steady, I stayed much more calm than I normally would have, which in turn helped him stay put.

3 weeks passed as a handful of roommates came and went. For a while I was lucky enough to have the room to myself. When my weekly ultrasound finally showed the internal bleeding had stopped and begun to heal, the doctors decided that I could come home as long as I continued to follow the strict bed rest rules. I was ecstatic, and finally got to see our new house with all our things in it. We got the baby’s room set up as soon as we could – we were still on high alert to expect him early – and I spent my time resting and sorting tiny baby clothing. MiniSir had to go away for a week so my mum took some time off and came to stay with me, accompanying me to my many, many follow-up doctors appointments and making sure I ate.

Then we waited.

I was told that, if I passed 34 weeks, little Grunt wouldn’t have to go into the NICU. I passed it. Then I was told that if I passed 36 weeks I would be in the clear to have a c-section done safely. I passed that too. And then I spent an entire night in the hospital being observed because, in the words of the resident, “Your baby is doing great, but your uterus is not”, and that was the last straw. We scheduled the birth 18 days before my actual due date and hoped I’d make it until then.

I did. He was delivered under ideal conditions, his mummy and daddy were mentally and physically prepared, and the surgery went without a hitch.  I was extremely lucky to have an OB that was kind and understanding about my limitations, and an OR team that wasn’t phased by a mother with a broken back and pelvis.

As if the lives of several people hadn’t just changed forever, within moments of being born Grunt had found his thumb and was sucking away at it happily. MiniSir watched his every move with tears in his eyes. When they brought him over to me, he nuzzled right in to my neck. And that’s when my whole new world started turning.

Week(s) in Review: Home Sweet Home

Yeah, I know it’s been forever since I posted an “In Review” piece. And to be honest, a LOT has gone on. Let’s recap:

  • – I’m pregnant!
  • – We are having a boy! This photo is how we told everyone; most people got it, but there was some confusion as to whether or not it was twins.
  • – We went to Walt Disney World on our Christmas vacation!
  • – We survived Winter-Ice-Stormaggedeon-Pocalypse 2013 while visiting family in Ontario!

But I think the most recent event merits the winner of today’s subject award: We bought a house!

We knew we would have to move from our apartment to have the baby (it’s an adult only building) and we were looking at continuing to rent. But then MiniSir got word that he’ll be in Edmonton bouncing from position to position for the next 5 years or so, and we figured why rent for so long when we could become responsible homeowners? So we did!

No, it wasn’t as easy as all that, but it did end up very positive for us. We have purchased a new townhouse in the north of the city near the base. It’s got all the bells and whistles, including hardwood flooring and granite countertops. It’s 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bath – the perfect size for us, particularly since I will have to clean it… eventually. The complex itself is only around half finished, so when I say it’s brand new, it’s really super shiny new.

MiniSir and I are very excited. Neither of us have ever owned a home before, and we feel both grown-up and scared stiff at the same time. So many new changes will be coming in the next few months. The good news is that we can be all moved in by the end of February, so there will be some time for us to relax and get settled before the baby arrives to change everything again.

“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

It has been a super experience with this company. I got to pick out my colour package for what I wanted inside, and tomorrow I get to go choose my blinds which they will install for us before we move in! It’s like playing The Sims, but actually being able to live in it afterward.

My only concern left is: will the duct tape on my couch match the flooring in the living room?

Week in Review: Back to… Darn, I’m Old

Hands up if you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck this morning!

I can’t believe it’s back to school time already. More importantly, I can’t believe that I have a niece starting kindergarten today that looked like this when I moved to Alberta:

Growing up should not be allowed. Look at those cheeks!

My stepchildren are starting grade 7 (GRADE 7!), grade 5, grade 2 and grade 1. I have a brother-in-law that’s starting a year-long college degree today, and I can’t even remember the last time I did anything academic. (Was it 2008? Maybe…) In conclusion, I am feeling my age this morning.

I am also feeling it because we have had such a busy week this past week. On Thursday we went to play trivia as we do every Thursday, and we WON! “The Del(ink)quents” are now in the trivia finals! It was a personal point of pride for us because we are the most heavily tattooed group in the bar (by far), and we managed to beat all of the groups that have been coming to trivia since the dawn of time. What a way to kick off the weekend!

MiniSir had Friday off, so he dropped me at my psychiatry appointment and went to run “some errands” (his exact words). I have begun my EMDR therapy now, and Friday was my first session. Basically what the doctor tells me to do is, after they hook me up to the incredibly non-complex machine, pull up in my mind the most vivid scene from the accident and hold it, experiencing it again. From there, I am just supposed to go where my mind takes me. Needless to say, the therapy is very powerful. You end up re-experiencing all the emotions and physical sensations associated with your memories. I told the doctor that next session I was wearing a bib because the front of my shirt was soaked with tears. He told me to never ever wear mascara to a session. Also sound advice. So in case you were wondering what happened to Flat-Out Friday last week, it did happen, at least for me. I got my chance to release anxieties and hurt over the accident – it was just in a private forum.

Friday afternoon MiniSir and I went to paint matching mugs at a pottery studio just off Whyte Ave as part of the celebration of our first anniversary weekend. We decided to do it this past weekend because he had four days off and we could properly celebrate. Our “Time Lord” and “Companion” mugs should be ready for pick up by the end of this week, and I can’t wait to start using them.

Saturday morning we took off for brunch and then it was off to Calgary for the night! We drove down and stayed in a hotel downtown. Our biggest plans were to visit the giant game store and eat at our favourite two restaurants. With a game store visit under our belt on Saturday afternoon, we headed out for supper. Halfway through supper, we connected with a good friend from Medicine Hat who also happened to be in Calgary that weekend, and so, plans for a quiet evening now only a dream, we met up with her. She brought along her old roomie, who we had known from our time in the Hat as well, and her roomie’s new beau. When he showed up wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, I knew we were in for a long night of nerdy conversation. Because if there’s one thing my love does best, it’s nerd out. We stayed out until 1:30am laughing, chatting, and catching up. The next morning’s checkout time came far too early. We had breakfast at our other favourite restaurant, caught some of the Pride Parade (it was Calgary Pride Weekend), and walked around the Eau Claire Market for a bit before hopping in the car and heading home.

I had a nap when we got home, slept all night, had a four-hour nap yesterday, and then last night’s sleep, and I STILL don’t feel like I’ve caught up. Oh, to be young and spry again, and not so very old and broken. Last night we went for supper at the home of another Strathcona officer and his wife. It was fabulous and we had a great time, and yes, stayed a lot longer than we intended because of that. Why does having a social life have to be so tiring?! A long, long time ago I was celebrating my Frosh Week on this day. I was a lot less tired then, and Frosh Week is hard work. But I guess I’ve got a few years and a second lease on life under my belt, so I should just take what I can get.

Now to drag my tired ass to my other psychiatry appointment today, so I can see my other other psychiatrist. Happy Back to School to all the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, kids, teachers, and folk of the periphery I’ve probably forgotten. You’ll have to forgive me: my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. It does that with age.