summer

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.

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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 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.

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.

Wrong Way to Do It

All right: it’s time for me to weigh in on a growing social media trend here in Edmonton. You may have heard of it – public shaming of bad parking in local places, particularly of the “he’s clearly over the line! *finger point*” variety. I don’t care one way or the other about the agenda – my husband has submitted photos, and there are some really bad parking jobs out there – but last night one of the founders used his new fame to rant about a parking situation he feels is continuously appalling. Namely, the set curfew for parking along Whyte Ave, one of the busiest pub and nightclub streets in town.

Don’t get me wrong. All this is still fine, if a small abuse of social justice warrior power. My beef is how he chose to go about posting it, and his comparisons and wording choices involved. (Read the tweets in each image bottom first, then top.)20140802-082653-30413927

He starts off with a little public shaming of the police force. Sure, that’s tasteless, and he doesn’t use the actual police force twitter account to tag them, but so far we are just venting about a frustrating situation. And I’d like to point out something about the “jaywalkers hit” comment – the reason parking on Whyte Ave is restricted and not allowed after midnight is precisely for this reason: drunken jaywalkers deciding to cross the street erratically from between parked cars, making it extremely difficult to see them. The reason for the curfew is to make the sight lines of drivers using the avenue less cluttered when the likelihood of said drunken jaywalking will occur.

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Now he makes a bit of an intuitive leap. Apparently emergency vehicles parked in the street on a busy Friday night of a long weekend immediately means someone died. Oh, and there’s the police twitter account popping up now. Better late than never. He does also mention in another post his it’s a really busy night for the police as there is a riot at some concert in town. Truly, this is then the night to go all righteous anger social media warrior on their asses.

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I’d like to point out here that NO ONE EVER DIED FROM AN IMPROPERLY PARKED CAR. Sure, lots of people have died as a result of being idiots around parked cars, but never has the parked car itself caused the event. Having been the victim of a near death experience thanks to careless drivers while I was properly using a lighted intersection to cross a street, I can tell you that all it takes is one inattentive person behind the wheel of a moving vehicle to take a life. An inattentive person with a parked vehicle usually just results in getting tickets for or, at worst, towing of said vehicle.

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And here’s the Mayor’s take on all this. I’m sorry, but I’m with him. This is not the way to gain sympathy for your cause. If you want to make a difference in the parking situation around your place of business, particularly where the situation may adversely affect you and your customers, the proper course of action is to for a group of like-minded concerned business owners in the area, create a petition for your customers all to sign, and head directly to City Hall with petition in hand to personally address the council and plead your case. Even better if it’s a petition to create more parking in the Whyte Ave area rather than redefining the parking situation of the avenue itself. This? This is not the way.

As I also follow the Mayor’s twitter account I can assure you that he gets more than enough tweets regarding parking, potholes, snow clearance and neighbourhood nuisances to make any sane person cringe. A situation like this where civic duty could be actioned with the proper steps taken probably gets his goat. It would certainly get mine. A student frustrated at the amount of homework he’s been given wouldn’t tweet to the teacher and call them out in front of all their other students about how unfair it was, and just expect the teacher to tell him it’s suddenly not due. That’s not how social justice works.

Do your due diligence. If you want change, be the change. Make the time to make it important to you. Do not whine about it on a social media site and expect dramatic results. And don’t ever, EVER diminish the pain and suffering of others to elevate your cause. That’s not doing it right at all. That’s just making yourself look like a complete jerk.

Two Kinds of Mommy

It’s Monday, and MiniSir is back at work after a 3-week vacation. There are no video games being played, the baby is demanding to be held, and I’m already missing the extra pair of hands. Grunt is fussy because he’s going through a pretty significant growth spurt – this is the one where he begins to make cognitive connections. It’s neat to be watch him as he realizes he can make his toys sing by pulling the handle, and hilarious to take part in as he begins to mimic my facial expressions. His smiles now light up the room when he sees someone or something he recognizes. But since all these things are new and scary, he is constantly seeking the comfort of our arms. It’s a wonderful but tiring experience.

Still, I’m glad the growth spurt happened when it did and not the weeks previous to that; we kickstarted our vacation by flying to Ontario for two weeks. Every summer we get MiniSir’s four children for two weeks, and since they live in Ottawa, we fly out to have them there. We are really lucky that both our families are in that area so we are not lacking for places to stay and things to do, but going from a three-person family to a seven-person one is a big difference, one that tends to overwhelm us for the first few days each time we have them.

This was also our first time having them as well as the baby, along with the first time Grunt had seen many of his relatives. We were only there 24 hours before I broke down into tears in Old Navy. Everything was incredibly different, as going from being a mommy of one to a mommy of five can be, and there are always challenges to face whenever we take custody of my stepchildren. They themselves are wonderful, and my relationship deepens with them each time we see them. What causes the issues is the level of care and attention they receive in their own home – ie, next to none – versus the love and affection they get from their father, stepmother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins when we have them. It always results in teary breakdowns halfway through their visit when they realize that eventually they will have to go back to their own home.

The crying on my part shortly after we arrived simply had to do with the fact that I wasn’t used to bring pulled in so many directions, and that even though MiniSir was on leave, this was not really a vacation for us. Moreover, the children’s mother sent them with lice, winter clothes, and shoes with holes in them. I would swear this was on purpose if not for the simple fact that she just doesn’t pay enough attention to them for it to be. So we pay to fly there, pay to fully clothe them, and pay for a van to drive them around in, and you’re looking at the same cost as a nice vacation for the three of us instead. Sometimes, it just gets to be too much.

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Which leads me to having to be two different kinds of mommy: the mommy that loves them, that shows them time and affection, that nurtures and encourages them. But I’m also the mommy that will always come second no matter what because I came second into their lives. The sad part is that I’m not even upset by this – what upsets me more is when their own father comes second as well, simply because of the restrictions that have been placed on his ability to see them and the insinuation of their stepfather into everything that MiniSir did with them as he attempts to “win them over”.

Just FYI: parenting is not about who wins and who doesn’t. It’s about being a good parent, which is not and should never be, a contest.

What is reassuring is that MiniSir goes out of his way to assure me I’m being the best mommy I can be for them. And now I have Grunt, my very own sweet baby I get to keep with me and mould into a human, which will help me accept that being someone’s second mommy is still a great mommy to be.