Flat Out


Not gonna lie: this life is hard sometimes. I’ve seen friends done wrong by the government, with absolutely no recourse; I’ve seen parents having to choose between their child’s development and their own; young people getting lost in the politics and policies and red tape just trying to do the right thing.

This life is not easy.

But I’m going to lay out our life straight: my husband has been posted this coming summer, and we cannot afford to go with him. The actual dollars coming in from both our Government of Canada paycheques does not equal the amount that will taken. The services for our disabled child here will not equal the services available for him on the other end. The downsizing, saving, lifestyle changing we did this last year would mean nothing. Nothing. In fact, it sets us back further

Which means we will be separated. Again. For a year this time. The first time we will be able to see him after early August will probably be the following March.

Like I said, not easy.

I’m mad. Frustrated. Sad for my child, who has to be without his father again for so long. Irritated that our lives are being so dictated by things we have no control over. Mostly I have no words for the feelings I feel.

I wish I did. I wish I could have the answers for everything. But I also wish I could explain to my son where his father is going and for how long.

I can’t. Because he doesn’t understand. He’s 4 this spring, and I can’t tell him the most important things because he literally doesn’t understand me, or anyone, without the use of CORE vocabulary or PECs cards. And you can’t put “your father isn’t here – the Army sent him away because they don’t understand families like ours” on a picture card.

Okay, it might be Anger.


Life Doesn’t Care If It’s Fair


I had a pretty terrible weekend: the unrestful, stressful, draining kind that comes along every so often. And yes, I will admit that I’m struggling with a depressive relapse and trying to keep my head above water, so things seem a little worse than they usually do. All things considered, it was still a pretty uncool couple of days.

This morning, I was really hoping for something meaningful to come along, help me put life into perspective, and encourage me to grab those big girl panties out of the drawer. Social media had something else to say about the matter.

“why do I have to be stuck with non-verbal asd??????? not fair!!!!!!”

For context: this is a fully functional adult woman whining about one of her children being on the spectrum on a page dedicated to support parents of children on the spectrum. On a page designed to be a place where we can ask questions, encourage one another, and seek support.

Yet here we are.

The very best thing about this post was the 36 comments it had received in the single hour it had been posted before I saw it, and all of them were “sending thoughts and prayers”, “hugs for you, mama”, etc. Not one person saw it within themselves to tell her that it was comments like that which were the reason she only ever saw ASD as a negative. NOT. ONE.

Here’s not fair: getting run over on a beautiful Friday summer morning and having your life changed forever. Not fair is a heart attack on a Friday evening planned with your fiance. Not fair involves the financial burden your military family would face if you wanted to move across the country together. Life dishes out “not fair” on a pretty regular basis, and it’s non-discriminatory in doing so. It doesn’t particularly care one way or the other if your life already seems unfair to you.

Here’s another shocker: not everything is about you. Welcome to adulthood. This is the part where we practice resilience, perseverance, tolerance, and patience. Yes, all of these get drained once in a while – our cups certainly don’t runneth over when it comes to muddling through in today’s society – but we usually have enough if we work at it. Some of us have more and are willing to share it with those who don’t. Typically, however, that doesn’t happen unless we can tell that the recipient just hasn’t quite got enough themselves. We don’t tend to help those that won’t help themselves; those that, for example, whine about the fairness of a child having ASD.

Know where that kind of behaviour gets us? Nowhere.
And if we keep letting it define us? Stuck in nowhere.
And when we can’t see a way out of being stuck in nowhere? Well, that’s when we start to court mental health issues.

If, like me, you resignedly put the big girl panties on this morning one leg at a time, I applaud you. If, like me, you took yourself out to the kitchen and ate a proper breakfast, I commend you. And if that is all you do today, that is okay. If you did even more, consider yourself a rock star.

Life is hard. It can wear even the most healthy of us down. The key is to look it dead in the eye and say, “You might think you can beat me, but today is not that day”. Then do something kick-ass like text a friend that might just need an extra push.

Go be stars, and shine in the darkness like the brilliant lights you are.

The 12 Months of Christmas


Reflecting back on our year this past weekend, MiniSir and I realized that it has been a full and hugely significant one for our family. There has been so much going on since the year started, neither of us feel like we’ve been able to really catch our breath. It will be wonderful to spend the holidays at home, and I think we are already relaxing a little because the pressure is finally easing.

Let’s look back on the year together now with what I’ll call “The 12 Months of Christmas”…

12 Stressful Months: seriously, there isn’t a month that we can recollect in which there wasn’t some sort of hamster-wheel frantic running about. January through March, it was clearance interviews after daycare interviews after deployment prep, meetings with lawyers and realtors, doctors appointments, pre-sale house prep… the list goes on. Everything we were focussed on was centered around getting ready for the rest of the year. So when April landed, MiniSir deployed, I started my new job, and Grunt started daycare, we thought we were prepared. Things fell apart rapidly after that, and that month was lost scrambling to get our footing back on the ground – thank goodness for Goma. In May, we accepted an offer on the house and realized that the buyers had given us just 30 days to vacate. June was lost to purchasing our new home, packing, moving, bank meetings, and lawyers. In July, I had the most wonderful adventure with my husband in the Mediterranean and then promptly got lungus from the wildfire smoke when I returned. School meetings, more paperwork, and preliminary psychological assessments for Grunt in August. September was just a gong show of school, daycare, and buses adventures, interspersed with more sickness and interviews for Mummy. October blew in with force, and MiniSir finally came home to us; we took a moment to celebrate with a family trip to Walt Disney World (we even brought Goma with us). In November, we struggled to find our flow again as a family. And December has been a whirlwind but, as I mentioned above, is winding down – can’t wait for Christmas Eve in front of the fire with my boys.

11(th) Hour Plane Travel: Goma saved us in April with her 24-hour turnaround, flying from Ontario to Alberta to take care of Grunt when our initial day care plan fell through. MiniSir also struggled with finding flights in and around Europe, with all the unrest that was happening over the summer, which resulted in more than a few tickets being re-routed at the last moment.

10 Happy Helpers: counting all the health care professionals as well as his aide at daycare and his team at school, there are currently 10 people that Grunt regularly relies on to help shape him into the little man he is going to become, and we are grateful for every single one of them.

9 Days in Europe: a much-needed trip to regain my sanity in July; I flew across the Atlantic to meet MiniSir in Barcelona. We embarked from there on a magical Mediterranean cruise that neither of us wanted to end. MiniSir liked that we were one of “those fun people” on our ship, as we went to nearly every party, saw the dancing show twice, and spent a lot of time in the jewelry shop looking at sparklies as well as the art gallery looking at art. We saw historic Naples, a vineyard and farm in Tuscany, fancy Cannes, the beach in beautiful Palma de Mallorca, and of course, walked Las Ramblas and took in Familia Sagrada in Barcelona. It was incredible.

8(00) Square Feet: that’s what we downsized to this year (832 sq ft, to be exact) from our 1100 sq ft townhouse. Why? Because it made sense for us. I’m often going it alone as the adult in our household while MiniSir spends time in exotic locales like rural Alberta and urban Ontario, and now that I’ve jump-started my career again, I’m tired in the evenings. Taking care of all that house, hauling laundry up flights of stairs, chasing Grunt up and down and up and down… it was exhausting me. This change has been so wonderful for all of us; in the evenings now it’s so easy to fold the laundry while Grunt plays in the tub – it’s 15 feet from his bathtub to the living room. And he has his own bath now, which means I have my own bath now, which means more alone time for Mummy if she needs it. I can cook and talk to MiniSir from the kitchen, or enjoy the fire from the dining room table. It’s heavenly. One of our young friends commented on how it feels like home when he visits, and that’s exactly what I wanted. No cold, extra space; just warmth and love all around.

7 Days of Disney Magic: early on in his deployment, MiniSir expressed a desire to take a family trip to Walt Disney World upon his return. Furthermore, he wanted to go for Hallowe’en AND Christmas. There is only one Magical week in which they both exist in WDW, and that’s the stretch of time between the very end of October and the very beginning of November. We invited Goma with us, because she deserved a trip as much as we did after the rough deployment period, so we met her in Toronto to start our adventure. We stayed in the Caribbean Beach Resort in one of the Pirate themed rooms (so much fun), and spent 7 magical days exploring the Resort. We attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Hallowe’en Party on November 1, and when we woke up on November 2, the whole Resort had been transformed into Christmas! I still hold out that elves did it all while we were sleeping.

6 Months Deployed: and it was a very long 6 months too. However, MiniSir got the opportunity to work with the American Thunderbirds out of Oklahoma and really enjoyed their company. He made some fast friends and we have several offers to stay if we ever find ourselves down that way. I swear that when we retire we are just going to spend our lives in a motorhome travelling from town to town so MiniSir can tell war stories with his buddies. I’m actually okay with this plan.

5 Wedded Years: it doesn’t seem that long, but MiniSir and I celebrated this marriage milestone while we were together on the cruise as we knew we were apart for the actual day. Pro tip: if you’re marrying into the military, never ever get married in September.

4 New Jobs: MiniSir has held two new positions this year, one overseas and one at the Regiment. By the end of the year, I will also have held two positions in my new career as a public servant: the one I started in April, and the one I’m starting next week! I’m so excited for the new opportunity – it’s exactly what I was looking for, it’s long term, and it’s actually a shorter commute. We are an ecstatic family now that I will be indeterminate, which means I become a priority hire wherever we go when we are (eventually) posted out from here.

3 Races Run: while overseas, MiniSir was able to run in 3 separate races – two half-marathons and a 10K – which makes him incredibly happy because he loves running. He was worried that, by missing Mountain Man this year in Edmonton, he would fall out of shape for long-distance running. Luckily, this will not be the case at all. I’m still trying to convince him to register for a race in Walt Disney World some day, and so far, I have him convinced.

2 Kia Souls: we bought a brand new Kia Soul in early January, and it became my car. When MiniSir came home, he decided he liked it so much that he traded in his Fiesta for a second one. That one also became my car (it’s got a heated steering wheel!). Now we are a family of Kia Souls: Zuma and Blue. (Yes, one is named after a Paw Patrol character, and one is named for a Voltron Lion; don’t judge.)

1 Happy Family: despite all of the struggles this year, we are a stronger family unit than ever before. Grunt’s diagnosis has made the way forward for us clearer. My career has taken the weight of being financially burdened away for good. Our new home makes our work-life balance much easier. We feel like a unit because we are all moving in the same direction. Sure, there will be separations ahead for us (which have been confirmed), but we feel more prepared for them than we ever did for the deployment. And yes, I’m sure there will be unforeseen struggles ahead, but the lights are on to guide us back to the path if we slide off.

2018 promises to be another year of firsts, but we can make this work. We got through 2017, after all, and that was a very long, very hard path to navigate. Cheers to 2018 and happy holidays, y’all!

There’s No “Hate” in Autism

There are days when, no matter what, that missed 1.5 hours of sleep in the night affects my whole day. It’s not Grunt’s fault – his relationship with sleep has been tenuous since birth. And though I could lie blame at the feet of Autism and be perfectly justified, it seems like a waste. I can’t spend my life blaming something that I can’t control. So when I say I am tired, I am just that: tired.

We have gotten the official diagnosis now, and MiniSir and I have worked through a lot of what that will mean for our family. Blissfully, Grunt is unaware of the shift in our thinking, and if anything, is thriving as we begin to implement strategies from his school in our home.

Yes, he is attending school. He was accepted in the Pre-K program for Speech Language Therapy initially, with everyone involved knowing that the Autism diagnosis would be forthcoming. Now that we have it, he’s been approved for a one-to-one aide at his daycare in the afternoons and additional programming funding for specific family-based learning. We’ve sought out community groups to help us integrate into this strange new world as a family. And we’ve started to ask questions about what all of this means for us financially.

What it means right now is that my workplace is accommodating the demanding schedule of the autism-specific programming through the school. It means that, though my career is important for me and my family, it would actually be easier to be a special needs parent if I wasn’t working. It means some services expect to be accessed Monday through Friday, 8-4, and as a military spouse and Government of Canada employee, that is nearly impossible.

Thankfully, I have compassionate supervisors. Thankfully, there is precedence to getting the time off I need to make this happen for Grunt. Thankfully, I am working in the exact right place at the exact right time. But what if I wasn’t? How many families have to make the difficult decision to have one stay-at-home parent, sacrificing their potential income and their sense of worth to focus on being a special needs parent? It astounds me to think that, in order to do what’s best for their child, they need to do something detrimental to themselves. I realize there are some parents that would rather stay home, would rather explore other employment options or home-schooling or max out their government benefits, but that’s not me. That’s not my family. And it hurts to be punished for trying to do the right thing by my child.

Just like being up between 0230 and 0400 on a weeknight, that alarm clock going off at 0515, and that bowl of oatmeal choked down on a queasy stomach does. All of that hurts because I’m tired.

Being a fighter is hard. No matter how much I hurt, I will never stop striving to provide the best for Grunt and our family. His well-being drives our family. We have had some great successes this year; most recently, we had an amazing family trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. I’ve also learned a lot about my son: his likes (drums), dislikes (revolving doors), and fears (public washrooms). I wouldn’t know these things without spending time with him, even if some of that time is in the wee hours of the day.

So you see, I can’t hate the “A” word. It’s made me a better parent. It’s made our family more cohesive. It’s made Grunt more Grunt. Even though I could use it as a crutch, just like I could use my PTSD, my physical health, or my status as a #milspouse, I can’t see it that way. Using any of these as a crutch would lessen us.

All of these things – ALL OF THEM – make us who we are. It’s why we practice resiliency. It’s why we persevere. It’s why we choose love over hate. Hate gets us nowhere.

Love at least gets us a tired cup of coffee and a second breakfast at McDonalds. Maybe later, it’ll get me some toddler cuddles in front of the fire too. I’ll take those over misplaced anger any day.D342800E-44A7-40D6-9412-97C9E0DF27DB.jpeg

A Memorable Day

Today’s been a tough day, and not just because I’m turning another year older.

It’s hard to be genuinely happy and excited about your birthday while the nation mourns. My social media feeds are full of well wishes, but they are also packed full of #RIPGord and sad face emojis. The Prime Minister wasn’t giving a public address about my natal day this morning. And I love that we are all full of grief together, a nation united in sadness, but I am also a little bummed that my special day will be remembered as The Day The Music Died.

But that isn’t even what has made it the hardest.

This morning, between the day care and the school, the adults responsible for my son somehow lost him.

The first news I got was that he had missed the bus. The next, that the wrong child had gotten on his bus instead of him.

Now that you can imagine where this is going, imagine my panic. My beautiful boy, all of 3 years old, autistic and severely language delayed, suddenly arrives in a strange place with strange people and he can’t tell them anything – his name, his school, my number… he can’t communicate any of it.

I took a little solace in the fact that the school was the one that called me to inform me that they were already attempting to track him down, and a little more when I remembered that his agenda was in his backpack and it has all the details listed above printed in it very clearly. But his tiny face, crying and sad, haunted my morning.

Miracle upon miracle, upon travelling back to the daycare with the student that had shown up on the bus instead of Grunt, the school discovered he was safe and sound, having never gotten on any busses at all. They scooped him up, took him back with him, and then called me to let me know he was safely in class.

I don’t know what I would have done if MiniSir hadn’t been here, ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice to go find our child. I’m not sure I would have been so calmly letting everyone sort out where he was. More than likely, I would have been vomiting in the garbage bin in the file room. As it was, it was (and is still) very hard to concentrate today.


My birthday.
The Day The Music Died.
The Day My Son Was Lost.

Not often do you get to say any of these things, and especially not together. Tonight, I’m going to eat my feelings and hug the heck out of my little boy. For my birthday wish, I want you all to do the same to your loved ones.

Life is just far too short to say “no” to either cake or love.


Did I Ever Tell You About the Hurricane?


I really know how to pick dates. Not only did I not consider how busy the military was in September when I chose our wedding, but I also failed to take into account the weather in Ontario. I just knew where I wanted to get married, and “in the fall” (the vaguest of timeframes), and so I booked the venue when it was available.

In early September. During a field EX and a hurricane.

That year, Kingston caught the tail end of the effects of Hurricane Leslie, raising the water in the St. Lawrence River to unheard-of levels, causing freak microbursts (one which turned into a Category 2 Tornado and destroyed a farm), and basically getting us to question why we ever chose a waterfront venue in the first place. I was still on all my medication from the accident – it being just over a year since it had occurred – and my mother very wisely suggested I take an extra dose of the anxiety medication before handing me a half glass of wine. It helped. A little. But the fact that my hairdresser had used a whole bottle of hairspray on my head not a couple hours before “to make it hurricane proof” was preventing me from taking the nap I probably needed.

So we travelled to the Mess in the pouring rain. I sidestepped puddles in the parking lot, and my dad held my umbrella for me. I thanked my own foresight for deciding to go with an indoor wedding, rain or shine. It was definitely not shining.

In the room I had chosen, the altar was set up against two lovely full length windows, and as the ceremony began, they were dark. And then, somewhere in the middle, they began to brighten. And brighten.

And by the time I was Mrs. Johns, the glorious sun was drying everything. Like a blessing, it streamed through the windows on our backs as we made our way down the aisle together. All our photos? Taken outside on the beautiful (and now dry) limestone steps of the adjacent building. It was like Mother Nature herself had decided we had had enough struggle in our lives up until that point, and she was blessing us with her favour. It was gorgeous. It was everything I could have hoped for. And it was worth all the worry. Our wedding is still talked about as being a simply incredible celebration.

So that is the story of the hurricane at our wedding. Every time I think of that day, I remember how nervous I was; how difficult the lake and river were being; how utterly, hopelessly ruined things might have become. And instead, we got sunshine and beauty, and the full advantage of our amazing setting. And sometimes I get a little shiver to think that the weather might have just been mimicking our lives up until that point.

I love you, Mr. Johns. Happy 5th anniversary.

May the sun keep shining on us for decades more. XO.

6 Years: A Look Back

I’m not going to write some big long empowering speech this year. Truth is, it’s been challenging. I know I can exceed every one of life’s expectation and glide over each hurdle with practiced ease. It just takes a little convincing.

This year, I decided to do a photo essay. Because why not? I like pictures.

This is me, shortly after the accident, taken at Foothills Hospital. The bruises on my arms were the least of my problems. My body was bloated and broken. I don’t know that I smiled for more than a few seconds for each of these photos, and the second one I definitely look like the morphine is working.ED59C042-0352-4356-954B-6B0153138ABF

Weeks later, I’m back in Medicine Hat Hospital and at least I am a shadow of me. I can sit up now (yay!) and have begun the long, long process to walking again. The collection of well wishes I received just kept growing; the cards, love, and the support was unbelievable.  62795A58-2176-4AAD-AC37-109E9AB35DB4

I’m out and about! Trips to Tims in the mornings were somewhat of a routine for Mum and I. However this was also the time they told me that I had gotten the bad touch while in the hospital, and I was yellow-jacketed with an infectious diseases protocol (my second infection of 3 they gave me – huzzah!) Luckily, the OT and PT were super chill, and didn’t mind wearing the yellow coats and gloves 2x a day while I pushed myself to get stronger.9798598A-2A17-4EFB-9828-B2D8CA11326C

The OT made me a sign – he started me calling me “Iron Woman” because of my refusal to give up and my stubborn ability to heal myself. It stuck, and my room was soon graffitied with it.B884D1A2-D12E-49B5-892C-7E2AA83871488D78CA94-B501-4B9F-8B49-19289A17A712And there were some good times – my home support group had a good laugh dressing in their yellow coats (yes, that’s MiniSir in the front). I accepted his proposal of marriage not long after that, while in the exact position I am in the photo. They smuggled me out of the hospital for a day to take me to lunch and shopping for a new chair for home. And MiniSir smuggled in a bottle of wine so we could celebrate our first year together.

19B08D3D-660D-4DB8-91A2-C7C044365965And then the boots came off, and in short order, I was walking by myself! MiniSir thought it was entirely clever to purchase the “Every Day I’m Shuffling” shirt for me, but I didn’t mind; I was shuffling every day, and I liked it! You can also see just how different my skeleton looks now in that last photo – funny what getting run over can do to your body.

6 years down the road, I’ve gained weight, perspective, a husband, a son, a new job, and a whole bucket full of other health issues. But I am who I am because of this whole ordeal:

I am Iron Woman.