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.


Mother’s Day

This is the first Mother’s Day I’ve spent alone. Sure, there have been some without my husband, but there were other family members to fill the space. This year, it’s just me and Grunt. I’m not sure how this makes me feel.

This last 6 weeks have been a test of my perseverance and my resilience. I started my new job on the same day MiniSir deployed for 6 months. Grunt started day care for the first time that day too. And that’s where it fell apart:

The day home Grunt was in decided he was not a good fit 6 hours after receiving him that morning. Without giving him (or I) time to adjust, I had to pull him out. This resulted in me taking what should have been my 3rd day at my job off so I could interview other care options. I called my Mum in a panic, and bless her heart, she flew out on a few hours notice to help with Grunt’s care until I found a place.

That first weekend, we all got gastro. Then I sold our house. I got a mortgage pre-approval. I chose a new home. Then the day care I had chosen stopped returning my calls – in fact, it’s been 4 weeks and I still haven’t heard back from them. Then we started the process of getting Grunt tested for ASD. Then we hadn’t sold our house after all as the buyer backed out (after it passed the inspection with no issue).

Then I finally found a third day care. Then Charlie got a raging fevered flu. Then we all got colds. Then he started day care again. Finally. Then I had a wonderful night out with friends to celebrate an important Regimental anniversary. Then my Mum left. A friend I thought cared for me just dropped off the face of the earth. And then Charlie got sick again.

This has been my life. I have wished on stars, sat in the moonlight and released my energy, started hitting the gym every day, started a low-carb diet… basically whatever I can think of to try and get out this rut of crazy mindless energy spiralling in the toilet bowl of life. And I figured I was on top of changing my life to more positivity and moving forward…

And then it was Mother’s Day, a concept that a limited-verbal ASD toddler would not understand if I hit him over the head with it. Because I’m a “big girl panties on and deal” kind of woman, I bought myself a nice treat for Sunday’s supper (fresh fish) and I plan on making the most of it after a trip to the liquor store.

It sure would be nice to have someone to share it with other than my food disordered son, but at least we can share a table while he eats his peanut butter toast.

I wouldn’t change being a mother for anything in the world. Sometimes it’s harder than anything I’ve ever done, and I say that, having also recovered from being crushed by an armoured truck. Important days, days like Mother’s Day, tend to highlight the loneliness of being the one left to keep the homefires burning. I hope this Mother’s Day that you all get spoiled (or spoil whomever you call “mom”). We deserve it.


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.

Join the Rebellion Today!

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.

Yes – let’s do this.
In June, MiniSir and I decided it would be good for our family if I started looking for work again. No pressure; I could take my time, but we agreed it would be great if I could get some recent employment experience under my belt, get Grunt some opportunities to see kids his own age more frequently, and bring in a little extra income. Since we don’t know what’s happening after MiniSir is posted out of the Regiment, at least with some fresh job and daycare experience it might be easier to acclimate whenever we end up.
So I started applying. Had my first interview in early September. Then another right before Hallowe’en. I’ve been slow but steady about the entire thing, and I have my checklist: I want a job that I can leave at work at the end of the day so I can still focus on my family; I need something that is set hours so when MiniSir is in the field I don’t have to find additional care for Grunt; I have to make a certain amount to be able to cover Grunt’s regular care costs; and I want to make some sort of difference or give back to my community, whether it’s the military family or my city as a whole.
Not too demanding, actually. There are plenty of jobs out there that fit the bill. But I wasn’t fiercely scouring employment websites and postings, preferring to spend a little time every so often for maximum result. I still have a house to run and a family to look after, and, certainly closer to the holidays, many social events to attend or host. I wasn’t really focused on hunting. I figured maybe something would come along next year. But two weeks ago I got a heads-up about a position opening, and then last week I got an email to set up a phone interview for this Monday, so I was hopeful – maybe I would get a job after all!
On Sunday, I lost my voice after Grunt’s mild cold made a successful germ trench run on me. And since I never do anything the easy way (ever), it hit me with all the force of two proton torpedoes in a Death Star. Monday my voice had returned, at the loss of any lung capacity and self-respect I had left. So I spent the 30min phone interview slugging coffee, water, coughing, and apologizing. I aced it. And while I was on the phone, I got another email to set up an interview – this one on Wednesday. Yesterday I got a phone call: another interview for Friday.
When it rains, it pours.
I’m sleeping sitting up. I’m taking all the drugs. I’m not eating. All I want to do is lie in bed and soak up the warmies. Instead, with the windchill at a balmy -20C, I’m wondering if it’s socially acceptable to meet the RCMP wearing pants. I hope it is; my body is telling me that I’m not leaving the house in a dress because the thought of having to wear that much underwear when I’m this sick is just daunting.
I can do this. I know I can. I’m just probably going to be doing it in pants. But hey! Maybe I’ll be starting 2017 off on a high note!

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.

5 Years, and It’s Time

5 years. A half decade. I can’t believe it. I have learned a lot about myself these last 5 years – about who I am, who I was, and who I will never be again.

I decided at the beginning of this year that it would be the Year of Me, and I’ve taken steps to do things that I’m interested in. I’ve redefined, reimagined, and reinvigorated myself. Along the way I’ve come to several realizations about me and about my struggle.

I have realized that my husband has loved me looking the way I do for 5 years, and only loved the old me for 1 year; he means it when he says that I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t look like this, so maybe it’s time I learn to love me like this too.

I have realized that I am a fighter, I am stronger than I have ever thought possible, and the things I thought would be hardest weren’t difficult at all. Since the event, I have gone a year where MiniSir was away for 5 months of 12, a 4-month “mini deployment” period, and countless nights of eating dinner at 8pm because he’s worked late again. I have gained and then lost 40 pounds, conceived and carried a beautiful baby boy, and am working on becoming more fit so I can be around to annoy Grunt for a long time.

I have realized that PTSD is insidious, never goes away, and can sneak up on you when you least expect it; it struck me, the victim, but it also struck my family, and they managed it with varying degrees of success.

It is for this reason that this year, I wanted to reach out to the city of Medicine Hat – particularly to the first responders, witnesses, and caretakers that were affected by this accident – because I know now that there could be people out there that need this closure to move on. But the Medicine Hat News never returned my letters regarding publishing an editorial or news story, so I’m struggling to get word out.

I’m pleading with all of you – share this with your friends. Let’s see if we can get word to these people: I am alive, I am well, and I am thriving. I don’t know how many are still in Calgary and Medicine Hat, but it’s a good place to start.

I never lost consciousness during the accident, so I know there were at least 6 witnesses to the accident. There were 3 paramedics that responded, one of them off-duty. I know there were police officers involved. I know there were two occupants of the vehicle in question. I know there were nurses and doctors, and later there were physical and occupational therapists that called me “Iron Woman”. If we can find any of these people, I would be grateful.

I want to let them know I’m here, and I’m okay. Better than okay, actually – I’m great. My life is not the same, but I wouldn’t give up what I have now to go back. I have everything I ever wanted and am working on getting more. The world is mine for the taking. Thank you all.