O CANADA! O CANADA!

A new experience, a new country, a new accomplishment. Mike and I got back from our road trip and then started packing for an excursion to Canada. A few months ago we were invited to accompany fellow service members/ veterans and their spouses to the Wounded Warriors Weekend hosted by Wounded Warriors of Canada. We agreed to this once in a lifetime opportunity. I thought of it as a trial run for when we eventually go to Europe: the whole customs, and passports, and whatnot. We headed out Wednesday evening, spent the night in Nashville, met up with the other couples, then hopped on the plane to Canada Thursday morning. 
Thursday:
(Wren on 4-ish hours of sleep means one of two things: extremely cranky and irritated  OR slap-happy and rambunctious.) After a two hour ride to Minneapolis-St Paul, we sat in the airport for a four hour layover. Sooooo boring. Luckily, there is wi-fi in almost all airports now so I was able to watch some Netflix to pass the time. We ate, we talked, we joked around. It was a great time to get to know the other couples. Then we boarded. Everything is smooth until we get to Canada. 
*Us at 5am in the Nashville airport Canada bound*
We land in Canada, fill out our customs paperwork, and head over to the customs counter to be lightly interrogated. Seriously. Customs is not very nice even when you’re telling the truth. They asked us what brought us there (Wounded Warriors Weekend), where were we staying (not sure, no one told us), where are you headed (to WWW duh, somewhere up in Nipawin?), blah blah blah. It’s like they weren’t listening to us, then asking us the same questions over again, to which they got the same answers. Morons. Thank God whatever we said was sufficient enough they let us through. Now two of the couples that came with us, not so much. It’s like they picked out the two veterans with the shortest fuses to piss off. We honestly had NO INFORMATION WHATSOEVER and customs wasn’t listening to the fact that we weren’t privy to all that. These two couples were pulled aside for “further questioning” over nonsense. Eventually we were able to walk down the aisle of extreme embarrassment. 

*Sign welcoming all the warriors into Canada for the weekend*
The aisle of “extreme embarrassment” we got to walk through. It was cool but knowing how veterans are, they don’t like to be the center of attention. Maybe it’s just an American thing, I’m not sure, but most of us were less than thrilled for this part. We get to the end and wait around for the rest of our group so we can load up into the convoy waiting outside. 

*Welcoming committee in the airport, media included*
Finally, we find a van to fit us all, load up, hit the road, and head to the Lt. Governor’s luncheon. They fed us (THANK GOD), we got to meet the head hanchos of this shin-dig, and then we shopped in the gift store. Duh. You can’t take wives to a museum in a foreign country and not let us shop. Most of us got a t-shirt that said “Keep Calm and Mountie On” mainly because it made all of our perverted minds giggle. Then we loaded back up into the convoy for the four hour drive to Nipawin from Regina. (Mind you that Regina is pronounced like va-GINA. Little tidbit for your day there.) 
*At the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Museum*
We made it to Nipawin, a town smaller than… well Small Town, USA. Nipawin is known for it’s fishing at Tobin Lake and the Evergreen Golf Course. Beautiful countryside. We arrived Thursday night, got our hotel key, ate some pizza, and CRASHED. 
Friday:
The guys decided they wanted to go golfing and the wives were chauffeuring them around the course. How we got suckered into that, I have NO idea. They played Texas Scramble since there were four of them and that would have been a LOOOOONG game had it been traditional. (Never heard of Texas Scramble? Essentially, everyone tees off, the longest drive is the ball you take, so on and so forth until you hit the green. Some guys play with a two putt maximum once on the green.) Most entertaining part of the whole golf day? The more drinks they had, the better they became, in all honesty. Even Kevin who had never golfed before did pretty well. One of my favorite quotes from Carlos (a Marine) to Kevin: “You’re getting straighter by the hole!” Yeah we were all in stitches after that comment. A thinly veiled insult behind that compliment. The guys finished -6 for the course and then we headed back to our rooms to freshen up for the evening festivities. Apparently there was a Hoedown or Wing-Ding or something but Mike & I were exhausted at that point and went back to the room to fall asleep around 7pm. Yeah we’re old. Bite me. 
The picture below is one of my favorites from the trip! Nate says “HEY! Let’s get a group selfie together!” Genius idea. He had the longest arms and volunteered himself to do the picture taking. He’s taking the pictures the regular way and moving the phone all around to make sure to try and get us all in. Hopefully one will be good, right? Nope. He finishes and looks through them and they are all of the treeline. The goober had the selfie camera on the whole time! Ok, let’s try this again. YAY! It worked! This was one of the better ones. Yes that is a black lab in the front row with us. 
*Group shot of our Americans*
Saturday:
The organization was holding a mimosas brunch for all the ladies to get together and meet one another. Even the veteran women joined us and it was amazing to gain some perspective on how difficult it is to be a service member and a spouse, a very fine line to tread. Since the gala was later that night, the ladies were also able to get their nails/ toes/ hair done complimentary while we partook in the discussions. There was a lot to absorb during that time. It was kind of somber hearing about all these wives and how they had to readjust their lives because their loved one was a whole new person. I say that simply because I didn’t know “Pre-Army Mike” or “Pre-PTSD Mike”. I only know the Mike that did 8 years in the Army. Same with him. He only knew me for 2 weeks before my bout of Survival. So for us, our marriage is a little easier because we’ve only ever known the PTSD version of each other. THOSE are the people we fell in love with. Hearing people talk about how “different” their spouse is, it’s hard to comprehend it when we just accept each other for our faults no matter what. It was extremely enlightening to hear all of the different stories and various degrees of PTSD that people are afflicted with. We were then treated to a ladies lunch at a local tavern. After that, our group of gals went to the stores looking for a few cosmetic pieces we forgot, and ran into our guys. The guys had been fishing all day and were looking pretty relaxed and worn out at the same time. I met up with Mike, we went to the hotel room, took a nap, then started getting ready for the event. 
Let me clarify something before we get to the rest of this crazy night and all the fun pictures we took. We were told when originally going on this trip that it was a “Black-Tie” affair but that it ranged from jeans to tuxedos. Yes I KNOW what “black-tie” means but we didn’t bring black-tie apparel for these reasons:
  1. With all the recent weight loss/gain over the past few years with Mike, he doesn’t have anything formal that fits. The pants he wore when we eloped are too big for him now. The suit he has from his cruise 7 years ago swallows him in some parts but doesn’t fit his massive broad shoulders since working out again. (Plus that stuff is expensive and we don’t have many opportunities to wear fancy attire so I’m not going to buy all that for ONE event.)
  2. Same reasons above why his Army Class A’s don’t fit. He also got out of the Army right before the whole switch to Dress Blues, so it’s that FUN Army green set. Bleh!
  3. Since he works at a VERY SMALL fire department, he JUST got his Fire Class A’s a few weeks before this but he is still waiting on all his brass to come in. Not to mention none of his patches have been sewn on yet so he couldn’t wear that ensemble even though IT FITS! Damn it would’ve been sexy as hell too but I digress…
  4. Since he had a limited number of options for his attire, I was NOT going to wear one of my fancier dresses while he was dressed-down. How stupid would that look? I chose a classy crocheted lace dress that covered all my goods and was an appropriate length. He LOVES that dress on me and that is the only person whose opinion I was concerned about. How MY HUSBAND saw me. Plus, for Texans, boots are ALWAYS appropriate footwear. I don’t care who you think you are and where you are from. 
So anyone who snubs their noses at our attire in the pictures for this event can kiss my round ass and see your way off my website. Thanks! 
*Mike & I in our Texas formal wear 😉 Jeans & boots are perfectly acceptable*

Back to our regular programming! Below are the guys from our group with Capt. Wayne Johnston who is one of the Wounded Warrior Canada Founders. Great guy! HILARIOUS guy! We got to ride 4+ hours in a fifteen passenger van with him coming from the airport and his stories/ jokes had us in stitches. Would love to meet up with him again one day. Not sure where Mike was during this. If I remember correctly he was rubbing elbows with Fire Chief Bruno, you know networking and whatnot. 

*The guys (L->R) Carlos, Capt Wayne, Nate, & Kevin*
Alright let me give you the back story on these two hooligans. The one on the left is Jerry, the guy from my PTSD post a few weeks ago, that I met on instagram through the #ptsd. The German Shepard he’s holding onto is Holly, his service dog. Holly, the German Shepard, was donated to Jerry (guy on the left) by Kevin (guy on the right). Kevin owns a non-profit organization named Alpha K-9 (Sacramento, CA) that trains PTSD service dogs for veterans. The black Labrador Kevin is holding onto is Vixin, she was brought on the trip as a donation to a Canadian veteran. This is the night that Kevin is presenting her. We all got to love on Vixin until this night and she is the most AMAZING dog! If we didn’t have our two furbabies at home already we totally would have stolen her from Kevin and brought her home. When you get the chance definitely look into Alpha K-9, here’s Alpha K9’s Facebook page, they tend to keep the page updated with pictures and such. They are doing great things there and I can vouch that what Kevin is doing is legit because Holly & Vixin are BADASS service dogs and they excel in their jobs to their humans. Check him out on Facebook and pass the word around to any Veterans you know that be needing/wanting a service dog.
*Jerry with Holly (left) & Kevin with Vixin (on right) to be donated*

Once the evening started they had all the Warriors walk into the dinner together. I had really mixed emotions at this point and am still trying to process it when I think about that part of the night. The warriors were led by a set of bagpipes as all of them found their seats. Here’s where I can’t sort things out. Typically in America bagpipes are a tradition reserved for funerals of firefighters and police officers and is more of a solemn event. As I stand there watching all of these service members and veterans walk through all I wanted to do was scream at them “NO! This is wrong! They are alive and well!! STOP PLAYING THEM!” (See. I’m sitting here crying all over my keyboard because it felt so wrong. Wrong. It just wasn’t right.) There I am in an area of 400+ people trying to hide my tears because that’s not how THEY saw it. I get that it’s probably a cultural thing there but it hurt my heart thinking about all the firefighters we’ve lost this year due to LODDs. (Line of Duty Deaths for those who may be wondering.) It felt like a funeral. It was horrible. I can honestly say that was my least favorite part of the weekend. The guys made their way to our table that we reserved for all of us and we started drinking. I REALLY needed a drink at that point. Once I had Mike sitting next to me I was ok. I saw him alive and well and it was all ok at that point. I pushed all those irrational bullshit emotions away and I was ready to have a good time!

*The wives: (L->R) Sudie, Cissie, Me, & Veronica*
The night progressed per usual military fashion; drinking, eating, joking around, etc. They did the usual stand up, sit down, applaud, toast, sit down, stand up… Good lord I was sooo over it by that point. FINALLY, we got dinner, they presented Vixin to her new family, and we got an intermission to mingle. At some point during all this Cissie was trying to “fix” Jerry’s hair and he turns around at her and says “Stop! You’re messing up my fauxhawk!!” Oh my God so funny considering he has minimal hair on top much less for a “fauxhawk”. Later we got a mini-concert by Gord Bamford, one of Canada’s top country artists. He was pretty good, only thing was he kept playing sentimental songs and was starting to irritate the guys at our table. Pointer for you Gord: Next time play upbeat stuff or you’ll end up with pissed off drunk soliders & marines ready to fight. Another intermission. I got up to stretch my legs. Then came Bobby Henline to do a bit.
Funny story about this part. When we sat at the table, there were programs at each seat saying what all was going on for the night and who would be performing. As I was flipping through it, I noticed the blurb about Bobby Henline and for some reason that name sounded familiar. I kept racking my brain trying to figure it out. I told Mike that I was pretty certain this was the same guy who performed at the comedy club in the basement of my office building and we had missed him perform because we were on the roadtrip. Then I tell Mike that I HAVE to meet him before we leave Canada, and that he should find him for me tonight. Like the amazing husband he is, he tracked him down outside when we went for a breath of fresh air. Mike asks Bobby if he happened to be at that particular comedy club a few weeks before and Bobby looks at Mike like “How the ______ did you know that?” (Mind you our town is a population of only 60,000 people and only people in Texas know about it. To run into someone in CANADA that could pinpoint that event was a little odd.) Mike then tells him that I work in the offices above the club and we had missed his show but I wanted to see him perform really bad. I asked if I could get a picture with him to take back to Texas with me and he willingly obliged. LOVED this guy! He was so down to earth and of course hilarious. He has a fan now! I’ll definitely be coming to all his shows in our area! After the comedy part, the event was pretty much wrapped up and we got to go back to the hotel. I was beyond pooped and ready to crash. 
*We ran into Bobby Henline!!*

Sunday:

The next morning we were a little dead in the water after our late night so we hiked down to Tim Horton’s for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Tim Horton’s is the Canadian equivalent to Dunkin Donuts. Apparently it has made it’s way down through Michigan, Ohio, and the New England area. Did not know that until recently. It was really good. Mike and I are coffee addicts, well he claims he’s more of a connoisseur than an addict, but it was fun to try something new anyways. 
*Canada’s equivalent to Dunkin Donuts*
The guys decided on a late day of golfing again and of course the women carted them around. About the 16th hole the mosquitoes were so bad that we ditched them and met them back at the clubhouse. It was a chill day for everyone. The evening held another late night event like karaoke or something and Mike & I went back to the room to relax. Yeah we’re old souls and don’t frequently stay out past 10 pm so we really didn’t participate in the evening events while we were there. We still had a great time during the day though, don’t get us wrong. 
*Veronica, Sudie, & I entertaining ourselves* 
This is Mel & Joe, the couple who received Vixin as a donation from Kevin (Alpha K-9). Mel was so excited for her husband and the look of shock on Joe’s face when he received Vixin was priceless. Even made me tear up some because I know how helpful furbabies are for those of us with PTSD. I sincerely hope this helps their family on their journey with this awful demon that has plagued our veterans. Much love to you guys from us Americans!! 

*Vixin with her new family*
Monday:
Monday was an easy day. Sorry I didn’t get any pictures, Mike & I went fishing, and then came back to start packing up for the next day. Fishing was fun! We went out with two guys who appeared to be BFFs since birth and they bickered like an old married couple. Very entertaining. I caught about 5-6 fish so I was happy with that. Mike had about the same luck but his were definitely bigger than mine. Not sure how he kept pulling that off. I do enjoy fishing, wish we could go as a couple. This was our first time together. (I’ve been telling him since we started dating in 2007. Hmph.) Enjoyed some laughs with our “guides” and then a storm rolled in and we hightailed it back to the dock. Next was the dreaded packing. Ugh. Packing to go HOME is always such a nuisance. It’s like Tetris trying to fit all your fun stuff into your bag with everything you came with. We were successful, attempted to find dinner that night, then came back to the room and crashed out since we had to be on the curb at 6am to head out the next morning. 
Tuesday:
I tell you what, 6am comes super fast when are dreading being up that early. We needed to be at the airport for our flight that left at 3:05pm. Let’s break this down for you on how long our day was: depart Nipawin at 6am, stop in random little town for breakfast at 8am-ish, back on the road, stop at another little town for lunch about 11:30am-ish, hit the road at noon, attempt to get to airport around 1pm to check in, get through security and get to our gate before boarding starts. To say I was a nervous wreck because I couldn’t control anything is an understatement. I had a minor anxiety attack in the van driving to the airport that ALMOST had me asking if someone had meds I could take. Thank God we made it in time and Delta was extremely accommodating and super sweet to us to make sure we all got checked-in quickly. We got up to the gate and one of the Delta ladies was handing out goodie bags to all the people from the Warriors Weekend, in the bags were $100 vouchers for each person!! We were all wide-eyed and shocked. She told us that they heard what happened at Customs when we landed in Canada and they wanted to make it right with us even though it wasn’t something they had control over. Good job Delta!! Will definitely fly with yall again!
*Waiting to board our plane to Minneapolis-St Paul*

Everyone successfully boarded the plane and we were off to MSP. We got to MSP and right as we boarded the plane, the Captain comes over the intercom, and tells us that we had to sit at the gate for a bit because the runway had been shut down due to lightening. Ugh. We sat there for two hours. We were all SUPER cranky at that point. I had hit my slap-happy point and was bugging the shit out of Mike by being super silly. Once we hit the Nashville airport Mike & I decided to rough it in the airport instead of going to the hotel with everyone else. We got in right before midnight and our plane to San Antonio was at 6am the next morning, which meant we had to be back at the airport by 430am. By the time we got to the hotel, checked in and in our rooms, it would’ve been 130am and then to wake back up at 345am to get our stuff together and head down to catch the shuttle back to the airport? Nope. I could at least get the same amount of sleep or more at the airport. It was an experience to say the least and a first for both of us.

*Sitting on the plane in MSP, waiting out the storm*
Conclusion:
I am in no rush to go back to Canada. It’s expensive. The people are nice though. The accents make me giggle. I checked it off my bucket list that I have been to both neighbors of the United States. The event was amazing. I think we are better off keeping that part of Mike’s life closed and in the past. I like “Post-Army/ Firefighter Mike” MUCH better than “Army Mike”. We survived three weeks with each other and lived to tell about it. We have traveled by car, boat, plane, abroad, and survived all of it. Lastly is train. That could be our next adventure! Definitely strengthened my love for him. He is my soul mate and other half. Not better, I’m the better half. HA! I kid. Well maybe. We made some SPECTACULAR friendships!! So excited to get to know these people better. I learned a lot. I hope I can be an advocate and testimony to more people with PTSD. 
Canadian News Articles
*Disclaimer: I was NOT paid or compensated in any way FOR this review of my trip. I reviewed my trip simply to journal my account with my husband and newly acquired friends. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 
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