An Attitude of Gratitude

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Woo hoo! Thanksgiving’s next weekend!

It’s my favourite long weekend because of the magic three: amazing food, mild autumn weather and time to appreciate all that turkey goodness with my wonderful family. This year will be extra special because we’ll all be together. (Last Thanksgiving my Sailor was in Afghanistan and I was a nervous wreck, but he came home safely so we’ll focus on the positive.)

I love the idea of giving thanks for all the blessings in life, but I’m usually too stressed about things beyond my control to be thankful.

Fortunately, the most amazing source of all information (the internet) has tons of stuff about gratitude and thankfulness. Mind Body Green caught my attention with its “scientific proof that being thankful improves your health.” (Does this mean I’m actually harming my health because I’m too worried to be thankful??? I’m going to need some extra wine to get through this gratitude stuff.)

Thankfully (see how I worked that in!) it’s not really so hard to be thankful.

It turns out Oprah was right when she directed us to keep a gratitude journal. Every week, jotting down three to five things you’re grateful for (like season five of The Walking Dead) can lead to increased energy, happiness and hope.

Don’t limit your gratitude practice to journalling. Create art to demonstrate your gratitude. Speak about it. Blog about it. (For example–I’m grateful my Sailor demonstrates his gratitude for our family by cooking me a delicious turkey dinner every year!)

Train yourself to think grateful positive thoughts. This is a hard one for me, but I want some of that joy the grateful people flaunt so I’m going to give it a try.

It’s not like I have much choice. Gratitude combats depression, anxiety and loneliness. With stakes this high, I just hope I can be grateful enough…

What’s in Your Toe?

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“So I asked the doctor if there was something living in it.”

“What???”

We’d been having one of those conversations where my sailor blethers on about all kinds of things (he was probably still talking about those Olympic golds we won in hockey) while my mind wanders to more important issues like if it’s worth flat ironing my hair given current precipitation levels and whether the new issue of Oprah Magazine is on the shelves yet.

I looked up from my iPhone to notice my sailor was folded over, picking at his bare foot.

“What???” I asked again.

“I said that overtime goal was brilliant!”

“Not the hockey, sweetie. The doctor thing.”

“Oh–I noticed this small cut, a scratch really, on my toe just before I left Afghanistan. It seemed to be getting better, but then it crusted over and a thick creamy gel started seeping out.”

I backed away from him on the bed.

“I picked the scab off because that didn’t look right. There was hole underneath. When I went for my physical last week, I asked the doctor if he thought maybe something was living in it.”

Oh. My. God.

“What did the doctor say?”

My sailor reached for his socks. “He said to put Polysporin on it and come back in a couple of weeks if it hasn’t healed.”

“But what if there is something living in it? What if it jumps over to me? I think you need to start wearing socks to bed–thick ones.”

He shrugged. “You worry too much.”

Being me, I immediately went online to research bugs that burrow under human skin.

I found terrible photos of monstrous exploding blisters with baby spiders inside, and a British woman who discovered twelve flesh-eating maggots festering under tiny red bumps all over her body after a trip to Africa.

Forget socks–my sailor needs to start sleeping in gum boots until we get the all clear that there’s nothing living in the hole in his toe.

3 Tips to Dodge Unsolicited Blogging Advice

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“I put something on the back of the truck,” my sailor said. “It was procured with you in mind.”

Remembering the off-colour bumper sticker he’d displayed on his truck in university, I checked my nails to see if they were long enough to pick off a gummy sticker before going outside to inspect the new addition.

I admit I have been known to ask, “Are we there yet?” (repeatedly) on long and even not so long car trips.

“Cute,” I said, secretly relieved it wasn’t much worse.

He grinned at me. “I saw it at Canadian Tire and immediately thought of you.”

“Yeah, you’re really clever.” Was it too early for wine, I wondered.

“You should take a picture of it and put in your blog.”

What?

“It’s kind of funny how you always ask are we there yet and then I got a trailer hitch cover that says that.” He grinned. “You should put it on your blog.”

He doesn’t even read my blog. (I know this because I’ve never had a reader in Afghanistan and he was there for six months.) But he thinks he can engineer “cute” events for blog posts.

This brings me to the point of today’s post–

Three tips to handle unsolicited blogging advice:

1. Remain noncommittal. Did you notice how I never actually said I’d use his idea? I think I was pretty smooth at deflecting his advice.
2. Smile. Mary Poppins told us all that a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down and I’m telling you that a smile helps a negative reaction go down.
3. Accept that most advice is offered from a positive place and respond accordingly. My sailor wasn’t trying to tell me what to do or take over my blog. He was genuinely trying to help me. Whether I agree with his suggestion or not, it’s nice to know he cares enough to get involved.

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

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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.

Remembrance Day

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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.

They Had Bacon

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My sailor was invited to lunch at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul last week.

He looked forward to getting away from the camp for an afternoon. I had mixed feelings. As always, I worry when there’s any alteration to his routine and off-base travel is a change that makes me especially anxious, but I wanted to hear all the details.

I’ve never visited an embassy for lunch or even just to say hi to a diplomat, but I’ve seen enough James Bond movies to have a good idea of what an embassy in a European city is like. The decor is formal, the people are all dressed like they work in a high-end department store and the food is fancy.

But an embassy in Afghanistan? There’s still kind of a war going on there. Surely corners have been cut and normal embassy conventions are not followed as strictly as in more stable areas. (By normal embassy conventions, I mean the ones I imagine.) I couldn’t wait to hear the nitty gritty when we Facebooked.

“They had bacon.”

“They had bacon?” I said. “You had lunch at an embassy, and that’s all you’ve got for me?”

“They haven’t served bacon at the camp since Ramadan, but they had it at the embassy.”

Like that explains it.

“It was good bacon.”

We’re so in tune that we often get a busy signal when we call each other because we’re both phoning at the exact same time.

We have near identical views on politics, financial planning and child-rearing, yet we’re so far apart in our bacon appreciation levels it’s scary.

Special Delivery

DSCF1168My sailor emailed that he’s puting together a parcel of wonderful things from the Friday markets and will be mailing it shortly.

I can’t wait!

The main article is a hand-woven wool rug. Over the months he’s been away, he’s sent photos of various rugs for my input on pattern, size and colour.

Big ticket items like room-size rugs are sold at the men’s market, which is held three Fridays a month. I’m looking forward to recieving the carpet. I adore patterned area rugs like this. We even have a couple of cheaply made polyester ones that are getting a bit threadbare so a vibrant wool rug will fit into our home beautifully.

But it’s the smaller things from the monthly women’s market that really intrigue me–hand crafted articles like a table runner and a collapsible wooden serving bowl. I can’t even picture this in my head and I didn’t ask for pictures because I want to be surprised when it arrives.

Not only am I looking forward to getting something new and beautiful, but I’m happy my sailor was able to support these women in this small way. I can’t begin to imagine what life is like for them, particularly the mothers raising children in such an unstable, dangerous place.

Born in Britain and raised in Canada, I truly won life’s lottery. Unlike many immigrants, we didn’t move because we were fleeing hardship or poverty. My family had a comfortable, middle class life in Wales. My dad just had itchy feet and a desire to experience what was over the horizon. (Hmm–maybe he should have been a sailor instead of a millwright.)

My mom finally put her foot down when he got the wander lust again and proposed a move to Australia. She just wanted a home and place to raise her kids. We were all settled in Canada, and she had no intention of uprooting us again.

I used to regret that missed opportunity until I read about some of the nasty critters down under. Australia has quite an assortment of poisonous snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies. I’ll stick with grizzly bears and cougars–at least they’re cute and cuddly!

This reminds me–I need to tell my sailor to be vigilant when he’s packing up my loot to mail it. I’ve read about the camel spiders in Afghanistan. As big as the palm of your hand, they can run up to thirty miles an hour and they’re REALLY scary looking.

At least you never have to worry about a grizzly sneaking into a package before you mail it.

Acute Viral Nasopharyngitis

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Thumping headache–check
Raw sore throat–check
Mucus everywhere–check
Annoying cough–check

I have self-diagnosed acute viral nasopharyngitis AKA the common cold.

I’m miserable, whiney and, in all honesty, no joy to be around. For the first time since his departure, my sailor is likely relieved to be in Afghanistan.

Last night I tossed and turned so much I woke the dog, not just once but several times. Disgusted, she finally heaved herself up with a grunt and sat at the foot of the bed with her back to me.

How did I react? Like a normal, intelligent adult who realizes the dog has a pretty good life if she’s sleeping in my bed in the first place? (I’ve read that many of her canine cousins live outdoors in unfurnished structures called dog houses.)

I apologized. Sick and wretched in the middle of the night, instead of trying to make myself comfortable, I asked the dog for forgiveness. (I don’t even apologize to my sailor this profusely when my coughing wakes him, but then he never turns his back on me to demonstrate his annoyance.)

Did my apology work?

Not exactly. I had to pat the bed invitingly and give her a tummy rub when she deigned to come back to cuddle with me.

I need to add some cough syrup to my over the counter arsenal because I can’t face this disapproval again tonight.

When WASPS Move into Your Hood

004001I have an irrational fear of bees, wasps and hornets. Truth be told, I don’t like any creature that has the ability to hurt me.

My dysfunctional relationship with stinging insects began the summer I was seven.

My dad found me playing in the backyard and decided his little princess would look cute in a series of outdoor pictures. At some point in the photo shoot, I stepped on a bee. It stung me–ouch!

Screaming and crying, I no longer looked picture perfect hopping around with a red, tear-stained face.

My dad, a former soldier, was one of those gruff men who believed that the best defence against female tears was a strong offence.

“I told you not to walk around the backyard barefoot,” he yelled, waving a finger at me.

“No, Dad, I’m pretty sure you told me to go stand under the cherry tree because it would make a pretty picture!”

Fast forward more years that I’m prepared to admit and I find a papery grey mass hanging outside the front door. Wasps have moved into our hood!

Online research indicates that given the opportunity, these nests can develop to the size of a La-Z-Boy recliner so waiting for my sailor to come home to deal with it isn’t an option. We could end up trapped inside our house by a giant wasp’s nest!

I head out to buy wasp spray. When the guy in the pesticide department at Canadian Tire flatly refuses to follow me home to spray the nest for me, I realize the awful truth: I’m the one who’ll have to do the deed.

This leads to my first how-to post.

How to get rid of a wasp’s nest:

1. Wait until sundown so all the insects are tucked in their little buggy beds for the night. (I know this sounds cruel, but it’s you or them!)

2. Don’t stand directly under the nest when you’re spraying as you don’t want angry, escaping wasps landing on your head. (This never even occurred to me until I read the warning on the can. It’s one more thing to worry about.)

3. Be prepared to run away screaming like a girl as soon as you’ve saturated the nest with the highly toxic mist.

4. Spend the rest of the evening looking at happy family photos, including wedding portraits in an effort to convince yourself you’re lucky to be married to such a wonderful man even if he’s hardly ever around.

Repeat step 4 every time you have to do something gross, scary or with the potential for personal injury because your husband is in Afghanistan.