Let the Games Begin

012
Now that we know my sailor will be home for the holidays, arrangements must be made.

The emails are flying fast and furious and I’ve been online for ages organizing and planning. I can’t remember when dealing with endless details was this satisfying.

We’ll be spending Christmas in our hometown. As numerous family members are coming from out of province and one group has already claimed the only guest bedroom, we’ll stay in a hotel. (Reservations: check!)

Because there will be so many of us, we decided to go out for Christmas dinner rather than attempt to feed such a big crowd in my mother-in-law’s tiny, cottage-like home. (Found: a beautiful heritage inn in our sleepy little town open for Christmas dinner. Reservations: check!)

I don’t want my sailor, tanned and fit from his time in warmer climates, to be the pretty one. I need to get myself a healthy, sun-kissed glow. (One pre-Christmas hair appointment to have my mousey highlights perked up: check!) I’d hate to frighten Santa if I catch him sneaking down the chimney on Christmas Eve so a hair appointment on Christmas Eve morning is also in order. (Second hair appointment: check!)

Best of all–some romantic alone time with my sailor (finally!) My sailor and I have a lovely post-Christmas tradition. We get a room downtown and go out for dinner for an extended date night. I wasn’t sure if he’d want to bother this year because our holidays will be so jam packed with extended family, but he specifically asked me to set up our little stay-cation. (Reservations and a big cheeky grin: check!)

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

007
Santa got my letter and he’s delivering big time!

My sailor will be home for Christmas! The deployment was initially planned to last until Easter, but things are scaling back in Afghanistan more quickly than originally planned.

My sailor knows when he’s leaving, but can’t tell me for security reasons. (I know–it’s like being married to James Bond except he doesn’t drink martinis or have a sexy English accent!)

He has to make a stop in Cyprus for some fun in the sun before coming back to Canada.

Actually, he’ll be working there.

In a hold-over from when our troops were involved in combat missions, returning service people must go through several days of post-deployment counselling sessions in Cyprus before being returned to their loved ones. My sailor has just been sitting behind a desk, but he still needs to attend the sessions.

I had the opportunity to attend “get used to having your husband around again” training in Victoria. I considered it until I watched a video link of one of the sessions. The social worker addressed the concern many wives apparently have that their husband was unfaithful while away. (Maybe I’m naive and overly trusting, but it never crossed my mind until they brought it up.) The official scoop on infidelity is that it’s “probably unlikely” that there was any hanky panky going on in theatre. Well, that’s certainly reassuring!

I decided to skip the training after that. I don’t need anyone, however well-meaning, telling me about all the things I should have been worrying about, but wasn’t.

‘Tis the Season

019
With the holidays approaching, the staff Christmas party rears its ugly head.

We’re a pretty low-key bunch, so it’s just a catered lunch followed by a staff meeting. (Woo Hoo! Who ever said people in special education were boring?) There’s usually a secret Santa gift exchange after lunch.

I’m fairly festive and come from a long line of Christmas celebrants. I happily give thoughtful presents to family and close friends. This organized work gifting, however, has always felt forced and kind of a waste of money.

C. sent a group email suggesting we all donate to the local food bank instead of the gift exchange.

E. responded with a grumpy group email accusing C. of sucking the FUN out of Christmas. She suggests that anyone who doesn’t want FUN and good cheer can just join C. in collecting non-perishable items for the food bank, but everyone who values FUN and spending happy, social time with colleagues can contact her to sign up for the gift exchange which she has volunteered to organize.

The rest of us are feeling like the friends of a divorcing couple, not sure which side to be on.

And it’s not even December yet…

Executive Functioning

006
I recently attended a presentation on self-regulation and executive functioning.

Executive functioning is what it sounds like–those “managerial” things our brains do like organizing, scheduling, planning and impulse control.

If my sailor and I were to compete in a pageant, he’d win Mr. Executive Functioning hands down. He’s organized, articulate, analytical and never misses an appointment or misplaces anything–ever. I’d be crowned Miss Congeniality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m able to live, work and raise a child without supervision. It’s just that organization isn’t my strong suit. I’m better at comic relief.

Lately however, I’ve been doing stupid things–things that are negatively impacting my daily life.

A couple of weeks ago I lost my house key somewhere. I know I had it when I left for work because I locked the door behind me, but that’s where the trail goes cold. Despite retracing my steps and searching the front yard and interior of the car, the key’s location remains a mystery. I had to call a locksmith to get us inside and re-key all the locks.

Last week I locked my keys in the trunk of my car. In all my years as a driver, I’ve never done that. When I realized where my car key was my first thought was expressed in language far too rude to share on this blog. My second thought was–What’s wrong with me? Am I losing my mind?

At my seminar, I learned that anxiety floods the frontal cortex of the brain with chemicals which hamper its performance. You guessed it–the frontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls executive functioning.

In terms of education, anxious children are less likely to be attentive, well-behaved students. This will impact their school performance.

In terms of me, this is very good news. I’m probably not suffering from early onset dementia. I’m just anxious.

It’s also good news for my local locksmith, who’s getting some extra business because I worry so much.

RIP, Nimms

004
As an itinerant teacher I’m often tucked away in odd little spaces to work with my students. In one Maritime high school, I worked in the attic. My students and I trudged up a steep, narrow stair case to find a spot under the sloping ceiling surrounded by shelves laden with dusty text books from the 70’s. It was a bit creepy.

At one of my current schools, I work in a tiny, windowless office that also houses the school rat. I admit I’m no friend to rodents. I recently put out a contract on a mouse in my attic. (He was never harmed. He moved on as mysteriously as he’d arrived.) This animal was different. Large and white, Nimms was a “specially bred pet-quality rat” according to the teacher who owned her.

Despite her long scaly tail, I found myself bonding with Nimms, filling her water bottle and even hand feeding her sunflower seeds and ominous looking “rodent pellets” every time I saw her. Yes, I even talked to Nimms, asking her how she was and what was new.

My students loved Nimms, too, and our sessions always began with some quality rat time.

One morning I arrived to find the cage gone, nothing but a half bag of rat chow on the floor to indicate Nimms had ever been there. I learned she’d suffered a catastrophic stroke earlier in the week and didn’t make it.

When my young student came in, she immediately asked about the rat. Where was she? What had happened to her?

“Nimms is . . . gone,” I said.

“Aw, Nimms is gone.”

“Well, rats don’t live that long.”

“What??? Nimms is dead???”

Sigh–I really need to learn when to stop talking.

But What About the Smart Meter?

007
I talk to my sailor twice a week, and we email daily. We’re as connected as possible given the distance between us–certainly far more connected than any previous soldiers and their families in past generations. Even military personnel in the Gulf War in the early 90’s lacked this technology for daily contact.

Recalling some of our conversations and emails, I wonder if earlier soldiers were lucky that way.

Instead of the occasional lovey dovey letter telling him to keep strong and keep his chin up while I keep the home fires burning, my sailor gets everything that’s happening–in painful detail. Going to war is no longer a respite from dealing with daily life.

When I received a three page letter from BC Hydro informing me they are changing over to a wonderful new device called a Smart Meter including a list of all the great things it will do for our family’s energy consumption, followed by the menu of extra fees we’ll incur if we don’t welcome a Smart Meter onto the side of our house, I immediately knew what to do. I sent it to my sailor. The whole thing. I didn’t edit even one word out. Let him read it and decide. After all, I’m a busy person. I don’t have time to deal with BC Hydro. Thanks to the wonders of email, he can even take care of any further correspondence with them and I don’t have to be part of this conversation.

Part of me feels a little guilty for off loading this stuff on him, but then I think about how connected it keeps him to the family, and I realize I’m actually doing him a favour by giving him crap like this to think about. Unlike Roman Centurians or Confederate Cavalry Officers, he won’t need any time to re-adjust to being at home. He can just slide right into taking care of all the utilities/finances because he never really stopped.

Remembrance Day

005
The school assembly I attended on Friday featured a video about the Highway of Heroes (the stretch of highway on which fallen Canadians travel upon their arrival back in Canada.) When a soldier is being transported the road side and overpasses are packed with people, waving flags and paying their respects. These people, mostly strangers, come out to honour the returning hero and they look genuinely sad at the loss of one of our soldiers.

It made me a bit teary. The images of these mourning crowds are pretty intense, and it all hits a little close to home these days. All I want is for my sailor to come home safely.

Later in the weekend, I obsessively googled Afghanistan Remembrance Day because my sailor told me journalists from a national news station were coming for the last Canadian Remembrance Day ceremony in Kabul. I started looking too early, and only found one photo–three Canadian soldiers reviewing a list of names for an upcoming medal ceremony. I squinted into the grainy screen. Could the one on left be my sailor? It’s hard to tell because they all look so, well, uniform in their matching uniforms.

I emailed him the story with a big fat question mark.

“Is this you???”

“No, I’m slimmer than that guy. My daily workouts in 40C are paying off.”

Clearly he’s been away far too long if I can no longer recognize him (or not him) in pictures.

At 4:18 AM . . .

008

At 4:18 AM . .

I make a mug of Sleepy Time tea–very mellow and soothing, but I doubt it actually helps me sleep.

I empty the dishwasher while the kettle’s boiling. It’s one less thing I’ll have to do in the morning and I’ll likely be slow and groggy when the alarm rings in a few hours.

I check my email–ooh, Banana Republic is offering an additional 40% off to their preferred customers and Bay Days (the best deals of the season!) will start soon. Is it any wonder I shop too much?

I go back to bed even though I’m more alert than I’ve been in weeks and attempt to read.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve had an unshakeable aura of doom and gloom about me. D says it’s because season 4 of The Walking Dead recently started and I’m immersed in the zombie culture. I think it’s more than that.

I’m worried and imagining worst case scenarios. They play over and over in my mind.

I read “The Secret” when it first came out. Basically the secret is that if you expect good things to come your way, the Universe co-operates and sends them. If you can help the Universe by displaying images of desired objects, so much the better. The Universe needs guidance.

You might think this is nonsense, but I have proof it works.

I downloaded a faux cheque from “The Secret” website and made it out to myself for $1,000,000. I put that pretty pink cheque above my desk and looked at it every day, willing the Universe to send one just like it. Sure enough about a week later, the Universe came through. I received a fake $1,000,000 cheque from Reader’s Digest. It was even the same shade of pink as the fake cheque in my office! (Not only does the Universe need guidance, it is apparently unfortunately literal.)

The only downside to “The Secret” was learning that the Universe also responds to negativity. That’s right–if you anticipate bad news you’re likely to draw it your way. The Universe is like that.

For a worrier, this is hardly reassuring. It’s one more thing to think about at 4:18 AM.

It Was a Good Week

015
My sailor and I Skyped Saturday and talked on the phone Sunday. Although we email every day, it’s not as immediate or intimate as our conversations so I treasure our weekend communication.

I’ve noticed a funny thing happening during our weekly conversations. I’m not complaining as much as usual. It’s certainly not because I’m happier than normal so what’s the deal? For years our relationship dynamic has been me analyzing everything and whining about most aspects of my life while my sailor talks me down from the mild levels of anxiety that seem to be my norm.

I’m still complaining–a quick read through previous posts confirms this–just not to my sailor. Instead we’ve been reminiscing about past events (like the two naughty dogs that ate our wedding cake) and planning things we’ll do when he returns. It feels good to be positive and upbeat.

Will this be a permanent change? Probably not. I’ve been a glass half empty kind of girl too long to switch at this point.

Another positive event: I had the opportunity to visit the West Coast of Vancouver Island this week.

I couldn’t take many photos because it was raining and I don’t think my iphone is waterproof. Long Beach isn’t a place that can be captured by a cell phone camera, anyway. It’s too big, too elemental for that.

A visit to this beach is a multi-sensory experience. The surf actually roars–so loud, it’s difficult to have a conversation here during the wild winter months. The air is heavy with humidity and the battleship grey water stretches over the horizon.

It’s a good place to think because stale old thoughts are almost literally blasted away by the stiff breeze.

Maybe I am turning over a new leaf. The old me would have worried about cougars and bears prowling the sand looking for lunch and moaned about my frizzy hair.