Ugh–28 Minutes To Go!

006I started running again a couple of months ago.

Actually, as my sailor clarified when he heard me bragging about it, I’m more of a jogger than a runner. Runners are faster and more athletic than me. Since we’re being honest here, I’ll fess up. I’m really a plodder, not a jogger and certainly not a runner.

I resemble a pale hairless Clydesdale as I plod through the neighbourhood three times a week, sweating like a pig and huffing like an angry bull. I become a mobile petting zoo when I hit the pavement.

I don’t go for speed or distance. My goal is to jog, er, plod for forty minutes straight. This is quite an accomplishment for the clumsy girl who was never chosen for teams in junior high PE and whose brief stint on a university residence soccer team ended abruptly when she scored a goal on her own side early in the first game. (Yes, stereotypical humiliations like that really happen.)

To say I enjoy it would be a blatant lie. I’ve never experienced that runner’s high I’ve heard about. Perhaps because I’m a plodder and I don’t think there’s a plodder’s high.

I make a point of not checking my time until I’m well into my jog, hopefully at least half way through. It’s a mental boost for me to find out I’m on the final stretch.

This morning was hot and sticky. I was tired and stiff. Certain I’d been out for at least twenty minutes, possibly twenty-three or -four, I glanced at my watch.

Ugh–28 minutes to go! I’d only been plodding for twelve minutes, yet I was spent.

Not surprisingly, this knowledge didn’t increase my energy or promote a burst of vigour. It dragged me down because I knew the end was nowhere near.

So why do I torture myself by relentlessly counting the months until my sailor comes home?

We’re barely one month into a nine month deployment. I know that. I’m aware we’re nowhere near the end and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I recognize that he’ll miss birthdays, holidays and family events.

Yet I wistfully flip through the pages of the calendar, counting the months as if time will have magically passed since my last countdown.

I need to jog more and mope less.

Girl Most Likely to Marry a Sailor

015008022006With a high school reunion next month, it’s not too early to begin preparing. I’ve made a pre-reunion salon appointment to have my hair flat ironed so it’s smooth and silky for the big event. I’ve also booked a pre-pre-reunion session to get a few highlights so it looks like I’ve been lounging on the beach all summer instead of driving my boy to his various summer activities.

I’m wearing a Ralph Lauren wrap dress. I love this style so much that I’ve collected a few different colours. It’s flattering, machine washable (yes, really!) and (best of all) never needs to be ironed. Oh, and it’s so comfortable, it’s like wearing a nightgown. Clothing doesn’t get any better than this.

I recommend dresses to everyone who doesn’t wear a uniform to work and shares my inability to co-ordinate. Nothing is less demanding than throwing on a single garment and being ready to go. Until I’m nominated for What Not to Wear, I’ll be dress obsessed.

I’m carrying a faux ostrich-skin Kate Spade purse. (At least I hope it’s faux ostrich. Ostriches and emus are such remarkable birds. They look like they belong in a science fiction movie. I don’t like to think one made the ultimate sacrifice to become my handbag.)

I haven’t decided on shoes. I might wear red, pointy toe pumps. They’ll add a punch of colour to the outfit and channel my inner Joan Holloway.

Or I might wear black wedge sandals. They’re so comfy, I can stand in them all night if I have to.

The only thing missing will be my favourite accessory–my sailor. Although we didn’t graduate together, his reunion is planned for the same weekend at a different venue. It’s also (wait for it!) Blackberry Festival–the biggest weekend of the year back home. If that isn’t proof we’re from a small town, I don’t know what is.

Maybe it’s just as well he’s in Afghanistan. We’d have to arm wrestle to decide whose reunion to attend.

The Duck Stops Here

021“Mom, do we have duck tape?”

With those words I realize my boy is embarking on his epic journey to manhood.

Although a quick online search suggests duck tape can be used for hair removal (ouch!) or as a handcuff alternative (grrr!), in our home, this rubbery grey tape is mainly used for manly endeavours like fixing a leaky tent. I understand it can also do mysterious things with electrical wiring and I believe it’s good for plumbing.

It can do anything regular tape can do and do it better, stronger, tougher. (It’s like the Marines of the adhesive world.)

With our sailor overseas, the boy is technically the man of the house so I feel a tinge of melancholy when he calls from the livingroom for this masculine item. With each stride towards manliness, another vestige of my darling little boy is peeled away.

I rummage in the kitchen junk drawer, an overflowing mess of dead batteries, dog nail clippers and a stretched-out tensor bandage from when I sprained my foot last year. I wonder what he’s going to fix. Whatever it is and however he does it, I resolve to be appreciative and supportive. Taking the initiative to identify and repair something broken is to be encouraged.

“Here it is,” I say, handing him the thick roll.

“Thanks.” He cuts a generous portion and solemnly sticks it over a crack in the mortar at the base of the fireplace.

What the . . . ?

He shrugs. “A spider crawled in there.”

Okay, so maybe I don’t have to worry about my boy growing up too fast. I just have to worry about a big unsightly strip of duck tape on the fireplace until my sailor gets home to deal with the spider.

It’s a Boy!

026For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been compulsively googling Kate Middleton. I’m not obsessed with the Royal Family, but I like babies and I’m really curious. I’m the ultimate Christmas present peaker becuase it drives me crazy not knowing what’s in those pretty packages under the tree. If they’d revealed the infant’s gender prior to the birth, I may not have been so interested.

Because I have a boy myself, today’s announcement reminded me of our own crazy, we’ve-just-had-a-baby time. Remembering that first summer (my boy is a July baby, too) is like recalling a fairy tale filled with wonder and awe. Those tender, vague memories are likely caused by sleep deprivation, but that doesn’t make them any less special.

My sailor and I were living in Nova Scotia, far away from our families in BC so we had no one to help when the boy arrived. Neither of us knew much about babies prior to his birth. I’d seen them on TV and at the grocery store and my sailor could recognize a photo of one in a book. We were equally clueless. I still can’t believe the hospital let us take him home. What were they thinking?

It was tough and we may have made some odd parenting choices (surely we aren’t the only new parents to record every poo, including size and consistency in a special journal for the first year). I realize now our challenges were a blessing. We learned to take care of our precious boy together and in the process grew closer to each other.

Except for the fabulous wealth, Will and Kate seem like normal people who will try to do their best for their bundle of joy.

My wish for them is the gift of time alone to muddle through and get to know their new son before the staff and the grandparents take over.

But Enough About You . . . Let’s Talk About Me Some More

IMG_0206A month into the Afghanistan deployment, we’ve finally co-ordinated our schedules so we can Skype daily. (Woo hoo!)

My sailor is better at technical stuff like this than I am. He tells me we’re separated by eleven and a half time zones. (Yes, apparently time zones come in halves as well as wholes–who knew?) What this means to us is that he has just returned to his tiny room after the working day and I am enjoying my first coffee of the morning when we chat.

I can’t convey how excited I was the first time his ruggedly handsome face appeared on my screen. (I tingle to think how thrilling it will be to see him in the flesh in seven or eight months if a computer image is this rousing!)

A few sessions in and I’m still delighted to talk to him as evidenced by my big goofy grin when the connection is made. However, I might have to disable the small box in the corner of my screen that shows what he sees at his end. I’m not used to watching myself while I hold a conversation and I’m fascinated by my image.

I constantly play with my hair, arranging it and poking at it. This morning I got up extra early so I’d have time to slap on some make-up and slip into a pretty summer dress, but I’m still not happy with my hair. Certainly I need a trim, maybe high lights, possibly a straightening treatment.

“You can’t keep your eyes off yourself,” my sailor comments as I tuck an errant curl back into place. “You’re turning into a narcissist!”

“I don’t know about that.”

I’m not a narcissist, but after weeks of being a selfless, single mom it is nice to talk about me for a change.

Your Three Favourite Meryl Streep Movies

001Like any parent, I’ve seen plenty of movies I had no interest in: the entire Batman series, Tron (twice!), The Hobbit, Star Trek… You get the idea. The boy’s taste in movies is quite different from mine, but I cheerfully go to his choices because it’s a chance for us to spend time together and it gives us something to talk about afterwards. That our movie-initiated discussions often develop into deeper, more personal conversations is the pay off for sitting through Tron (twice!)

Our latest movie experience was The Lone Ranger. Although cowboys and train robberies aren’t really my thing, I admit I kind of wanted to see this one because it had the ultimate great movie guarantee: Johnny Depp. I could watch him groom his dog for two hours and feel I’d gotten my money’s worth, especially if he brushed Fido in 3-D. Sadly, even Depp’s awesome talent couldn’t save this one and the two and a half hour playing time dragged.

What kept this movie from being a total disappointment for me?–Time spent with my boy and the chat we had critiquing the film afterwards.

There’s something selfless about going to a movie you don’t want to see just to please someone else, and it’s another thing I miss about my sailor.

He good-naturedly attends chick flicks with me: Atonement, The Help, Julie and Julia… You get the idea.

Most recently, Hope Springs.

True, he flat out refused to participate in my pre-viewing activity on the way to the theatre. (“Let’s each name our three favourite Meryl Streep movies! You go first!”)

He almost left when I finally told him what the movie was about during the previews. (“Um–a middle-aged couple goes for marriage counselling.” “No really–what’s it about?”)

And when the final scene faded to an artistic blur and I said, “I think it’s over,” he displayed the only spark of enthusiasm I’d seen all evening, exclaiming, “God, I hope so!”

I love going to movies with him so much that I’m compiling a list we can watch together when he gets home. I can’t wait to tell him!

What Kind of Animal Are You?

007My former supervisor was the best boss–intelligent, compassionate and an awesome manager. We were lucky to have him.

His one misstep was an ice-breaker activity designed to energize us at the start of a dreary staff meeting. We were each given a paper with four questions printed on it. We wrote our name at the top and returned them to our amazing director who distributed them randomly. We each answered one question on the sheet we got. They were then collected and redistributed three more times until each question was filled in. At the end, fabulous boss handed our pages back to us so we could read the “fun” anonymous comments written about us by our co-workers.

The only question I remember is: What kind of animal are you?

This question offers great potential for offense as most people (if they’re in to comparing themselves to animals) see themselves as noble creatures like dolphins or stallions and will be annoyed when told not everyone shares this vision. No one compares him/herself to a slug or a vulture in much the same way that people remembering past life experiences are always nobles or minor royalty. Nobody admits to being a petty criminal or a politician in a past life.

I got: a beautiful, sensuous Persian kitten who loves to be stroked. Ewww!

Shortly after this staff meeting, a co-worker with whom I had very little contact invited me to lunch.

She was waiting for me when I arrived at the restaurant.

“Did you call me a sloth?” she demanded before I’d even taken off my coat.

Where the hell did that come from? I giggled because (true confession) now that she mentioned it, I noticed she was somewhat sloth-like.

She huffed. “Someone at the staff meeting said I was a sloth. I said you were a Persian kitten.”

“That was you?” Ewww!

She nodded. “I was positive, but other people were mean and nasty.”

I have my suspicions about who called this woman a sloth, but I’m not telling.

This ice breaker led me to wonder what kind of animals my loved ones are. Naturally the first loved one who comes to mind is my sailor.

I could say he’s an orca whale–beautiful, intelligent, athletic, a gentle ruler of the Pacific Ocean. He’d probably like that. I could also say he’s a grey wolf–sleek, strong, loyal to his pack, a team player. I bet he’d like that, too.

But I’m going with a barnacle even though my sailor might not be thrilled about it. They’re strong and steady and any relationship with a barnacle is permanent. Think about it, they have be literally scraped off the hulls of ships. When they commit, they COMMIT. There’s something reassuring about that steadfastness in our culture of quickie divorces.

I googled barnacles to check for negative connotations. It turns out that barnacles have the longest penis in relation to their body size of any species. Hmmm–my sailor might like this comparison after all.

What kind of animal are you?

The Secret to Happiness is Low Expectations

005I’ve never participated in the military wife culture.

With the exception of England, we’ve always lived off the base. Our neighbours and social circle are overwhelmingly civilian.

My only experience as part of the military family social structure was during our time in the UK. Although I wanted to live in the nearby village, our only option was Married Quarters. Soon after we settled in my sailor departed for five months in another community and I was left with my closest neighbour–a Canadian Army officer’s wife.

She vehemently hated, loathed and detested the Army for all it had “done” to her family. While I was thrilled at the opportunity to live in another country, she seemd angry to leave Canada, even temporarily. She blamed the Canadian Army for everything from her marital spats to the price of a frozen pizza at Tesco. She was the most miserable, wretched person I have ever met and she often spoke of like-minded peers on the base back home.

The funny thing was her husband appeared to accept what the Army offered with good spirits.

I have a similar relationship with the Navy. It’s just my husband’s employer. The Navy is not responsible for my happiness or the state of my marriage.

Sure the Navy has done some pretty crappy things to us (hello, Afghanistan), but my husband knew about the potential for long separations from his loved ones when he joined and I was certainly aware of them when I married him. Neither of us entered our association with the Navy blindly.

In return the Navy has given our family the opportunity to travel, a steady income that allowed me to be a stay at home mom; a secure pension which we’ll need because I was a stay at home mom and of course that dashing uniform.

Perhaps the secret to happiness is low expectations. I didn’t expect hand-holding from the Navy so I wasn’t disapointed when I didn’t get it.

True Confession. . .

004I spent a glorious July weekend holed up inside watching AMC’s The Walking Dead marathon.

It gets worse. . .

The sun was shining on the screen so I closed the blinds. I didn’t want to miss even one gooey walker grin or close-up of Darryl’s manly biceps flexing as he handled his cross bow.

I’m not into horror, really. I only watch for the character development, honest (and Darryl’s bulging muscles, obviously).

After watching all three seasons and conducting extensive online research (yes, this is really what I do in my spare time), I have some tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse.

The earthquake kit I keep meaning to assemble and put in the trunk of my car would be very useful if we had to hit the road, as would a good pair of running shoes. There’s a reason none of the survivors wear flip flops or stilettos. Quiet pets such as cats or goldfish are preferable to yappy Chihuahuas–sorry, Penny!

My number one survival tip in the unlikley event of a zombie apocalypse: stick close to my sailor.

True, my sailor lacks the sexy drawl of a Georgia sheriff’s deputy and he doesn’t have Darryl’s bad-ass appeal (he’s more aging boy scout than bad boy with a heart of gold), but his recent pre-deployment training would probably come in handy.

My sailor is a strong swimmer, a good driver, an experienced camper and can start a fire even without fire starter. I doubt he’d be any good at catching squirrels, but that’s okay because I don’t eat red meat. (Note: I assume squirrels are red meat. I have no experperience either preparing or consuming squirrel meat on which to base this theory.)

Most important, my sailor is steady and dependable and would stick by me even though I’d likely slow the group down.

I just hope he gets home before the zombies arrive.

The Dog Did my Homework

003IMG_0501Which piece of environmental art is mine and which is the dog’s? I’m not telling.

I loved being a student. I would have stayed in school forever if I could have. As it was, I dragged my university years out as long as possible.

So while I’m at home feeling lonely and abandoned, what could be better than taking courses to keep myself busy? Free classes! Yep, that’s right. As well as providing me the opportunity to purchase expensive purses I don’t need, the internet is a vehicle for free non-credit university courses in anything you could imagine (and many things you couldn’t).

Coursera is just giving knowledge away. I worry there must be a catch, but so far I haven’t found it.

I’m taking Introduction to Fine Arts. In addition to weekly readings, video lectures and quizzes (which are surprisingly challenging–this is a unversity-level course, after all), participants have the option to create art in order to complete the course “with distinction.”

I like the idea of doing things with distinction, so I am producing art. I’ve made fantastic art, mail art and personal collection art, but my most ambitious project is the environmental art installation I created. I designed it on paper before constructing it and spent hours (well, about half an hour) writing my artist’s statement to describe both my vision and the story my installation conveys. I submitted photos to Coursera–close-up to highlight details and panoramic so viewers can appreciate how the work suits its location. I look forward to my peer evaluation reports because, hey, I love praise as much as the next person.

Yesterday my dog created her own piece of environmental art. She chose to use materials remarkably similar to the ones I selected. Although she isn’t sharing her artist’s statement, I can see her natural joie de vivre and exuberance reflected in this installation. It reminds the viewer to see beauty and opportunity everywhere. It’s joyful and optimistic with a puppy-like playfulness that engages the observer.

In short, it’s better than mine! Even worse, it’s too late for me to submit Penny’s work as my own. (No, the dog didn’t eat my homework, the dog DID my homework!)

I hope my Courserian peer reviewers are kind when they evaluate my work.