Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ready for a Safe Home

It happened again....Our current home hurt Chaz.

This time he was just trying to get out the door to go to the movies with his friend. The door then snatched his wheel. That stopped the wheelchair which then flung him out of his chair straight onto the ramp.

God Bless our friends, this was their first time seeing a "yes we know we need to get a safer house and you just witnessed why and yes we're working on that" event. They didn't really know what to do, but they have learned we just adapt and deal. I dropped what I was doing to get to him and help him back into the chair. He said he was ok, but I know he was in pain. I could just feel it.

I am so ready for a safe home. I am so ready to not have to worry about him constantly in our home. You just shouldn't have to worry about someone safely living in their own home. Our home should be a place where he is safe and sound. He should be able to come and go as he pleases and not have to worry about taking on additional injuries in his own home.

Building this home for him has been so frustrating. We had a groundbreaking on January 29, 2013 and then were forgotten about. Chaz and I had to take everything into our own hands and figure our how to build a house because those who promised to help just left us hanging. It has been such a frustrating and aggravating fight to get this house under construction. I know that they are people who are tired of reading about our housing woes, but I am tired of us living this way.

Our home is only 6-9 months away now. We paid the first invoice Thursday. While that check was painful to write, we are so excited that a safe home for Chaz is finally happening. We have waited so long and worked to hard to make this all happen. We are so thankful for the members of our building team who all have stepped up and are helping us create this safe home. In 6-9 months, there will be a long blog post of people to thank and one day there will be a big party to celebrate our safe, forever home!!

Many have asked how you can help, here's how...Just visit this link  https://secure.west-point.org/9linefoundation/chazallen/ and become a part of our forever home. Thank you!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

17 Years Ago....

Yesterday I had the honor of helping my little brother move into college. He chose my Alma Mater, Kentucky Wesleyan College, so to say I was excited for him is a big understatement.

Jarrett and I are 17 years apart in age. We have different Moms and grew up in different circumstances, but yet we get each other. It must have something to do with being the youngest sibling.

Chaz and I have really enjoyed getting to know my little brother. We are extremely proud of the young man he has become. Over the past two years, Jarrett not only finished high school, played football and held a job, he also became an Eagle Scout. He now has made plans to join the Marines after he plays four years of football and gets a degree from KWC. He has a very bright future in front of him and we are excited to watch him grow.

When he invited me to help him with college decisions a few years ago, I jumped at the chance. I wish I would have had someone to walk me through it all. I was the first one in our family to "run off to college" so I was the one with a few "this is how I did it" lessons for him. A few weeks ago when he invited me to help him move in, I attempted to take the day off (this is really a ha-ha moment, I never get a day off and didn't yesterday either) and got myself to Owensboro to help.

As I walked up to the student life center, I saw a "Welcome Class of 2018" sign. It was then I realized that 17 years ago I was the new student moving in. I instantly remembered how I felt that day. One big difference, I was so stubborn I moved to college alone. I would not let my Mom and Step Dad take off work to move me in, I didn't want them to have to take time off for me. Instead I loaded up my essential items that would get me through until they were off for the weekend, and I drove myself to my dorm on a beautiful day in August 1997. My little brother was shocked, for about a moment, to learn I did it all alone. Although I would do it all over again, I wanted my brother to know he had our support in this new exciting transition he was beginning.

The transition to college is intimidating. I remember it so well. There's this moment when the gravity falls on you and you realize you are 18 now and you have to figure it all out. Jarrett has had that moment more than once just like we all do. And while I know he knows we are here for him, it will never hurt to give him that reassurance.

Yesterday was all about Jarrett, but I couldn't help but reflect and share with him the impact KWC had on my life while I was there. KWC helped to develop me into the adult I am today. I arrived at that campus as an angry, selfish, immature, ignorant, arrogant, self-absorbed 18 year old. (But as I always say find me a teenager that doesn't possess at least a few of those traits as well.) I left as an educated, happy, blessed, well-rounded, mature adult. I am still arrogant, but I blame my DNA on that one and I wonder if that can be fixed, ha!

I grew up in a small town and KWC showed me the world I knew nothing about. I give most of the credit to my Academic Adviser, Dr Conroy, who I was blessed with seeing yesterday. He and I even chatted yesterday about the person I was when I arrived and who I became when I graduated. He dared me to be better. He challenged me to be a better writer, speaker and a better citizen. I will always be so very thankful for how much Conroy invested in my life. He is still there and so are a few other people that impacted my life.

The Dean of Student Life, Dean Kramer, is still there. I am so glad Jarrett will get to know Kramer. He graduated KWC and stayed there to pass on so many lessons to the future students of KWC. Kramer taught me that you have have an education and a life while you are in college. That was an important lesson to apply to college life and to the real world for the rest of your life. He is an absolutely perfect fit for his job and I was thrilled to learn he is still there blessing the KWC students.

On my ride home, I realized so much happened to me in my short 3 1/2 years at KWC. I met my BFF there. I dated my husband and became engaged before my Senior Year at KWC. I graduated and used my maiden name for the last time there. I adopted our 14 year old cat, Callee, there (Sorry Dean Kramer). I learned so many extremely valuable lessons about life there. And perhaps most importantly I made some amazing friends and KD sisters that I will always remember while I was there.

I am so excited that my brother is going to KWC. I know that his journey there will be as great as mine. And the best news is that big sister has spies all around him....Bahaha!! Just kidding....

Friday, August 8, 2014

You Can Be a Part of Our Forever Home!!!

Ecstatic is an understatement to describe our feelings about this fundraiser for our home that starts today!!


Thankful is an understatement to describe our feelings towards our builders who thought this idea that I randomly had while running the other day is "awesome" and immediately said "Let's do it" as soon as I proposed it!!

Grateful is an understatement to describe our feelings towards 9line, the non-profit who is helping us make this idea a reality!!

It's not a secret that we are trying to build a home to suit Chaz's needs. We officially started our project on January 29, 2013. Sadly we have hit too many delays to count and the house was delayed again and again. Last month we finally were able to get things rolling, thanks to our awesome builders who are working so hard to help us make this all a reality.

Here are a few pictures!
 Week #1
Week #2

The average cost of a home to suit the accessibility specifications of the Veteran Affairs Department exceeds $400,000; however the VA only provides our veterans with a grant of $67,555 for them to build a home to suit their needs. We are all dependent on the support of others to get these homes built for our wounded heroes. This is why there are so many home-building non-profits in existence.

Our total home cost is $431,000. This is the base model. Our builders can tell you there are no frills to our home. Our home is what Chaz needs and that's it, he just has to have so many things custom built for him. Costs are quickly driven up when you mention the word "custom." Chaz and I have already secured a construction loan to cover most of our home's cost. Our builders are working hard to work with suppliers to get product donations. We have had done some fundraising to make our costs go down. (You might recall the AMAZING race Demetria put together.) We still need your help.

Chaz and I are not seeking a free home, we feel that is a ridiculous request. We are trying to get our mortgage to $150,000, which actually the mortgage on our current home. This is how we know what kind of mortgage we can have on the new home. ;)

Yes, I work 3 jobs. Yes, we can afford a mortgage. But here's what concerns us and keeps me up at night...how long will I be able to work? What if Chaz's health takes a turn for the worse? It already has a few times. Luckily I have an employer who is very understanding and gives me the time I need when Chaz needs it. But we wonder how many working years I have left and will Chaz ever be able to work? Therefore, we need our mortgage to be paid off in 10-15 years to be on the safe side.

We need your help!! We want your name, business, or organization's name on the framing wood of our home!! We want every person who wants to see us in our forever home that will always be safe for Chaz to live in to have their name in our home! For a $20 donation to 9line, one of the members of our family will write your request on the framing wood of our home next month!!!

Yes, your name will eventually covered, but we will take pictures (lots of pictures) first. But just think your name, business or organization will always be with us!! Forever!!! We just love this!

The thought of our home being built around the names of those who want to help us get there seriously brings me to tears. I adore the thought of our family being surrounded every day with the names of those who care so much for us. Chaz and I will finish raising our children in this house. One day (hopefully at least 12 years or so from now) our grandchildren will get to see the house that was built on hope, love and the support of our friends who are around the world. Can you imagine how amazing it will be for us to share the story of how our home was finished with the guests you come through? It gives you chills, doesn't it?!

Now you can see why we are so excited?! We are so pumped about this idea!! So how can you get your name in out home? Just visit 9line and donate $20 and fill out what you want us to write. That's it!!

Please consider helping us develop carpal tunnel from writing so many names that our hands can't take it anymore! We are hoping for a lot of hand cramps on Writing Day!! We want your name, business or organization in our home. Also if you'd like to put a scripture (the actual chapter and verse number only please) in our home, we welcome that as well. We have a lot of wood to cover, so help us with this mission!!

What else can you do to help us?! SHARE, SHARE, SHARE this blog!!!! Thank you!!!!

And just a little bit about our awesome friends at 9line....100% of all donations are tax deductible! Nine Line is 100% volunteer effort! All admin costs are covered by their President and Vice President!!They are doing some awesome work for us, aren't they?! Here's the donation link one more time! https://secure.west-point.org/9linefoundation/chazallen/ Please share what they are doing for us with your friends! Thank you!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Red Tape Diary Entry #3 (VA OT)

Last Saturday we had a home visit with one of the team members from the VA Caregiver Program. I will happily admit the VA Caregiver Program is the one part of the VA system we have had least amount of difficulties with. They laid everything out for us on policies and procedures. While they might have taken a while to do it, they did everything they said they would do. What I found out later was the delay was caused by lack of staff and too many cases to get through, which a constant story heard throughout the VA system. The great news is that everyone we have dealt with in this part of the VA has been professional and caring.

Saturday our nurse showed up at our home early. We welcomed her in and visited with her and answered all of her questions. The home visits are so easy, they just come in to see how you are doing and see if you need anything. We have had always had a different person do our home visit, but they have all been so nice and caring.

This time the nurse suggested Chaz could use a grabber to help him reach things. We had one at some point, but it was too short so he didn't use it. The nurse informed us that she would just order one for him and it would be mailed to the house. She even said that is "too easy."

She put the order in on Monday morning. Yesterday, yes Thursday, four days later, (which is lightning fast in VA time) Chaz gets a call from VA-OT. The lady asked him if he requested a grabber and he said yes. She then informed him that he has to "come down and prove that he actually needs it before they will authorize it." He says, "Well I am in a wheelchair and have a fused arm and you have that on file in my chart right?" "Right, Mr Allen but we still need to see you to make sure you actually need it." Chaz then says "Well, then I am confused, you have the documented proof of my injuries that I need it, and someone from the VA saw me Saturday, but you still need to see me?" She went on to tell him that if he wanted it he had to come there for it and that she wouldn't authorize it until she sees him. He said, "Well considering the grabber costs like $10 I'll just save my time and gas money and go get one at Walmart or something." He told her to have a good day and hung up.

Then came the rant, turns out this is the lady he has had to deal with a few times. I am sitting here thinking, whoa, how have I not met her? Anywho she has a history of being non-productive with Chaz. Which you of course know that means others have experienced the same.

So where do I start with this overload of ignorance coming at me from the lazy train? First this is a prime example of bureaucracy at it's finest. One VA employee puts eyes on a veteran and requests a $10 piece of equipment, but because it falls under the scope of OT, the OT people have to draw their territorial line and insist they see him too.

Here's a fine example of a VA pissing contest. It's like I can hear this lady's thoughts...well I'll be the judge of if he needs a grabber or not. Some nurse from another department isn't going to tell me what OT needs to do.

My next issue is that the VA Caregiver Program has spent more time with Chaz since January 2013 then VA-OT has. I feel that the Caregiver Program knows Chaz's needs way better than VA-OT in this situation. And for something this simple, OT does not needs eyes on him, if another VA professional has seen him.

Then you must consider that lady who saw us Saturday is a medical professional, but the lady authorizing the equipment is not, she's an administrative professional. Follow this...a medical professional puts in an order and then an admin professional questions it and wants to require the veteran to see another professional.

And my biggest problem is the lady from admin requiring Chaz to come in, just tried to take away an appointment from another veteran who actually needs to see OT for actual OT. This is the part that ticks me off the most. Chaz does not need OT to verify he needs a grabber. A nurse did, this should be the end of the story. But no, let's block out time that another veteran needs in OT so they can see Chaz's disability.....again. And wait for it.....they are all still looking at the same file!!

No matter how you look at it, it's just a big circle of are you freaking kidding me? Here's what made us laugh, in a not-so-happy way. We realized we have to go through hoops for a $10 grabber to help with Chaz's independence, but if we asked for narcotics we'd have them the next day. Roll that one around in your mind for a little bit.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working Backwards....

As a financial counselor, I am asked all the time, "What is your number one piece of advice?" And do you know what that is? Work backwards.

And I bet you now have the standard puzzled look on our face that I get all the time when I say that out loud. What in the world do I mean when I say that? Well let me explain.

What is the only certainty you have in your life? Unfortunately, the only thing we know for sure is that our life will end at some point. It really sucks that the only guarantee we have in life is that it will end, but it is what it is and you must prepare for it. So when you are preparing your financial plan, think death, retirement, debt, children's education. Of course we all know financial planning is not this simple, everyone's situation is fact dependent and so the format sometimes has to be adjusted. This format gives you an idea of how to put your brain in working order to work your financial life backwards.

What's the first question I always ask during the beginning of a financial counseling session....Do you have life insurance for you and your entire family? I feel that this question is the absolute most important question to ask at the beginning. 

Here's what I never will understand....we seriously do not want to think about the end of our life. We, as a culture, think that it's morbid and negative to think about it. I say that is the wrong way to approach it. Life is beautiful, but it must end at some point and it will keep on going without you. You want to celebrate the life of those who leave you, not sit in a funeral home with swollen puffy eyes from crying and nausea as you discuss payments on the services and burial and think how in the world am I going to pay for it?

Death catches us all off guard. It doesn't matter if your loved one goes instantly or fights a long fight. Death still delivers that one huge punch to the gut when he takes your loved one away. Do you know how many people I have seen be devastated that not only because the person they love is gone, but they also left them with debt and no plan? This is no way to care for those you love. You must take the time to think about helping your loved ones heal when you leave them. You will leave a hole in someone's heart, we all will and we must acknowledge at some point. Taking the time to minimize the stress from your absence is a beautiful gift to leave behind..

Here's the secret, square it all away now and get life insurance. Take control of your life today and make the phone call and just take out enough to bury you and pay off your debts if you have any. Don't forget to take out just enough to bury your children, for just in case. And here's the important question to ask your insurer....Are my children automatically covered under my policy? Our girls are both covered under mine at no additional charge. It's a very nice feature many insurance companies add to your policy.

I know many of us just are so busy living now and we do not take the time to think about tomorrow, much less the end. I can tell you that when you finally sit down and take the time to acknowledge all of those necessary details, you will sleep a lot better at night.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Chair Won Again.....


You really cannot see all the lovely red color and the bruising from my foot's fight with the chair last night. One thing is for sure the wheelchair won again.....

One would think that after all this time that I would have scaling the chair down precisely. Well last night I decided to come down for some water and I had my glasses on instead of my contacts (which just messes up everything for me). My foot caught the front wheel and there I went. I hit something hard and scraped the top of my foot in addition to knocking the crap out of it. Lots of pain began instantly and it is still sore today. :(

We have all had these things happen. You know when you are doing something you do every single day, sometimes multiple times a day and then whoops you just did it wrong that time. This was my time to do it wrong.

You are probably sitting there thinking......Why don't you just move the chair? That is simply because when Chaz comes up the stairs, he puts the chair back exactly how he needs it for when he comes down. You might think me moving it isn't a very big deal, but it actually is. He has to jump from the second step to the chair. If I move it, then he could miss his jump and then we will all have a bad day. It is easier on him for us to leave it alone.

So now you are thinking.....What's the solution? That one is a little easier.....Get out of this house!! Construction has started on our new home. (WAHOO!!!!) This means no more stairs for our family. No more scaling the chair for the girls and I. No more second step jumps for Chaz.

I would love to say the new house will elimiate my foot vs. wheelchair battles, but Chaz runs me over all the time. My foot vs. wheelchair battles will never be over, but the new house will lower the count quite a bit. My throbbing foot pain this morning reminded me how badly we need this house for Chaz and that it will be worth every penny!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Yes, He Stays at Home...

I know so many other caregivers have had their role reversed just like I have. I know they too struggle everyday with the sudden changes in our identities. Just a few years ago I was a stay at home mom, with a thriving seasonal small business. I volunteered at the girls' school, with Girl Scouts and helped out at their dance studio. Then that all went boom....

In the early days after Chaz's injury I held on very tightly to anything from my previous life. Before I knew it the only thing that remained were the shreds of my business that I salvaged while going back and forth taking care of everyone. What I realized now was by focusing solely on healing my family the details sorted themselves out.

Fast forward to now and I am full-time work from home mom, with a surviving small business. I am a full-time caregiver and Girl Scout leader. We are still homeschooling our kids. And now my husband is the "stay at home parent."

What?! He stays at home? Yes our roles in our family have reversed. And we are beyond ok with it. I wish others could be.

When we were at Walter Reed they shoved college and internships down Chaz's throat. I loved it when I was blamed for him not accepting things, "I was holding him back" don't you know. Finally one day a meeting was called about Chaz turning things down. He was solely focused on his therapies and our family and a few people were not happy about that. He actually flipped and happily let them know that he was the one blown up and everything he had planned for himself for his career was gone. He told them wasn't ready to change his path to what they felt he should do. Again I was blamed for not pushing him.

Our veterans don't always need a push. Sometimes they need someone to listen, understand and love them through it. I have no problems explaining that my husband wanted to serve 20+ in the Infantry. He loved being a soldier. I did not love him being in harms, but I loved him and wanted to support him in his choices. He was out doing what he loved more than anything when that was all taken away from him.Together we mourned our losses and together we have helped him find his independence level and heal our family. 

What I will never understand is why we feel we must force our opinions on others? I'll happily give you my opinion, but I will not force it. Chaz and I laughed at all the "advice" we have been given on this journey. Our favorite is the "He stays at home?" comments.

Our little family is beyond happy. I am now "Chaz's Sugar Momma" and I am more than ok with it. I do not like that I have to travel and leave my family and make a ton of arrangements just so they are cared for during my short trips, but that comes with my job. My family is very proud of me and the work I do. They are willing to give me up periodically so I can help so many others. We are ok with that and you should be too. I am not a bad Mom because I choose to work and that work involves travel. Chaz is not any less of a man because he wants to be Mr Mom.

In my opinion, our choices have made us better parents and partners. We are now experiencing how the other one's life was over the past 10 years. We truly understand each other better now because we are seeing the other side.

Our family endured over a decade of war and Chaz being gone all the time. The girls never got a chance to know him. Now they get to have both of their parents and we are having a blast homeschooling them and taking them on adventures through their education.

Chaz and I are working together to plant beautiful seeds of hope, love, faith and family in our girls. What we are doing doesn't have a price tag. What we are doing is setting our girls up for success which will be passed on for generations. If you are worried about my hubby going to school or getting a job please know we are fine and we have it all covered.

One day Chaz will figure out what he wants to do. It may be next week or next month or next year. Or you know what, he may just continue doing what he is doing. And that's perfectly fine with me.