Saturday, November 7, 2015

Get the Stories Out

We currently reside in a county that is probably 99.7% civilian. Most of what they know about military life comes from the media, Lifetime or the movies. Truth be told, they don't want to hear the actual truth about what our families go through. They only want to hear the "cool stories" about the wars and not about the healing that takes place.

I am learning that civilians truly believe that the government takes cares of our family's every single need. They don't understand the amount of red tape that exists for us, because the amount of red tape we cut through does not exist in the civilian world.

Many think that buying a green light bulb will actually help our families. They don't understand that our level of need and assistance goes way beyond a simple purchase.

Lies about our benefits make civilians envious of our "lavish" lifestyles and cause them to not to friend us.

When our children share their life experiences, apparently our children "think they are better" than others and this makes it harder for them to make friends.

When a veteran serves our country, apparently he must be violent and angry so we need to stay away.

When the caregivers of our wounded choose to have a job and/or independence and/or not make their entire existence about the catastrophic injury, then apparently the caregiver is selfish and should be ashamed.  

When our wounded get prosthetic legs, apparently that makes everything all better. 

We have an abundance of ignorance in the civilian world. We need to get our stories out there so more can understand. Most importantly we have to not be angry at people for not understanding. You cannot comprehend something that you know little to nothing about. It is our job to inform and educate not hold it all in and lash out because someone simply doesn't understand.

With Veterans Day approaching, this is a great time to get those stories out there and help combat the ignorance. I challenge all of our military friends to tell one civilian a day about our military life and how the fight for the families of our wounded, ill, injured, killed and missing never ends. I challenge you to let everyone know we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide. The only way to lessen the ignorance is to increase the education.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

It's Just Different

I come across so many active duty caregivers who always ask, "Does it get better?" when referring to this journey. I don't like being a Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy, but I also cannot lie.....

It doesn't get better. It just gets different.

We were so spoiled at Walter Reed. One thing is for sure they get a F- for assimilation and preparation for the next steps of this journey. I feel like they set us all up for failure with their lack of preparation for what's next. I wish we would have had a veteran and his wife come and talk to us about the next steps. They could have warned us about all the dates and timelines we needed to be aware of. I wish someone would have given us real time data on the red tape procedures, who/what you need to look for, and who can truly be your advocate. I wish they would have talked to us about all sorts of things. Instead we just dropped off of the Army assemble line left to walk and figure it all out. I am not saying they should be holding our hands through all of this. What I am saying is Walter Reed sets you up for failure.

While you are there you have a big wide world of assistance at your finger tips. Here on the other side you have to make a gazillion phone calls to find one lead to find assistance. Here are two examples....

Need an adjustment to your prosthetic legs.
Walter Reed: Roll on in to see the guys. They do it right then and there.
VA: Call your NCM to tell your PCM. PCM tells the prosthetic department. When you finally get the prosthetic adviser on the phone, they remind you that they cannot work on your legs (which you already knew, but you have to go through them anyway) because they are too technologically advanced. They then put in a referral for an outside provider. Once that finally goes through, you find someone and begin treatment. Make sure you know the expiration on your permission form to be out in the civilian world. If that expires while you are being treated at the civilian office you then have to wait for another referral to be put in and authorized.

Broken wheelchair.
Walter Reed: Call Pete on his personal cell and he'll meet you asap.
VA: Call NCM to tell them to tell the PCM. They tell another department (I can't remember the name, because it's something other than wheelchair department). Then that department eventually calls you and says that the break sounds almost impossible to have occurred they need proof. You take a picture and send it in. Then they finally acknowledge it and then whoops, they can't fix the chair and it has to be referred out. This time they don't tell you the name of the provider so you just wait in a broken wheelchair for someone to randomly call to help you. They do and then it turns out they have to order parts. So you wait and thank your wife for keeping the previous wheelchair so you have something to use while you wait for the repairs.

These are just two examples, but it gives you an idea of how things go through the VA. With that said, we do love our VA. We are happy with our PCM, NCM and several other personnel there. However Chaz has a banker's box full of things wrong with him and our VA can only see him for audiology, standard colds or allergies and things like that. In regards to every other department, they do not have the experience or expertise to assist him. So he has to be fee based out and that involved referrals and it is freaking exhausting to keep up with all of it and it is on you to keep track. 

At Walter Reed, the professionals there just magically make everything work for you. They do so much work behind the scenes. You realize Walter Reed is simply a magically place, like a medical Disney World, once you are in the suck of civilian life and the VA.

I tell caregivers I don't feel like it gets better on the other side. I feel that your freedom from the Army's painful bureaucracy is short lived when you realize you are faced with a bigger bureaucratic nightmare. I feel that things are as good as they will get for us. I feel that the beginning of this journey at Walter Reed fighting for this or that simply prepares you to keep fighting. The fighting doesn't stop when the war comes home to you. Instead you have different fronts to fight in a never ending war of healing the wounded.

Chaz's health is the best it can be. We acknowledge that and are already preparing for the deterioration that will eventually come. People do not like to hear that word deterioration. They seem to think that we feel depressed about our life, when it is actually the opposite. We are not depressed at all. We have accepted our reality. We are different and we are perfectly fine with that.  The fight for us will never end. We acknowledge and accept it will not get better for us, it will only be different.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Little Update's been two months since I have written anything. Someone had to point that out to me when asking if we are ok. Yes we are perfectly fine, just busier than ever before.

I just said to a friend the other day that I needed to make time for writing. I really have missed it. However life has gotten in our way again and again and again. Let me give a little breakdown......
  • We are still trying to get our home finished. Our builders abandoned us (wish I was making that up) and we still have all sorts of little things that need to be finished. Slowly but surely we are getting them knocked out. We are at about 95% completion. We'll get there. I just need to "you tube" a few things and get the stuff knocked out. It's finding the time....
  • Chaz was rear-ended by a distracted driver. Getting his van fixed involves a lot of extra planning and effort. The guy did say he hurt his ankle to Chaz and was taken away in an ambulance. So yeah, there's that....
  • The girls returned to public school. So far, so good there. Love their school!!
  • Deryn made the cheerleading team at school. 
  • Ryann joined the local community basketball organization. 
  • Our dear friends home burnt down and we moved them in with us.
  • I still work A LOT!!! 
  • We spent a week at Gulf Shores for the girls' Fall Break.
  • We are still unpacking and organizing our home. 
  • Chaz's wheelchair broke and we are trying to get the VA to fix it. 
  • One of his legs broke. Just got those back yesterday.  
That's the short list. Things are crazy around here, but I have a lot of blogs brewing!! Hopefully I will find the time soon to start churning them out!! ;)


Friday, August 21, 2015

What If She Was Yours?

I have always had quiet a bit of feminism in me. Too many women fought for the rights that we have. I do believe that in many, many, many circumstances I am equal and sometimes even superior to my male counterparts. Throughout my short life, I have fought the "you're just a girl" comments and have even used them as fuel to push harder.

I remember my grandfather telling me that since I was a girl and from the South, I would have to fight twice as hard to prove my worth. I would have to be twice as smart. And most importantly get my tears in check.

I was told by a high school guidance counselor that I was "just an average girl" and I shouldn't apply for any colleges other than the local community college. Then when acceptance letters poured in from every college I applied to, she called me into her office and yelled at me for not getting her permission and she let me know I created a lot of extra work for her.

I had a college professor look at me straight in the face and tell me that "the only thing that women have done throughout history is give birth to significant men." He fought me on almost every step of earning my history degree, but I went to my adviser and we figured out a new path so I could achieve the double degree.

I was fired from my job for giving birth to our first child. Since I missed an audit (because I was seriously in labor) it was deemed that I was not responsible enough to continue my job.

Just a few weeks ago I questioned our builders on things they were doing to our home and invoices we were paying. Rather than having an adult conversation, emotions went flying, I felt attacked and insulted and they next thing I knew I was in someone's face. I was told to "Go hob-nob back in DC and see if that gets your house finished." Rather than us discussing the questions I had, I was attacked and written off because I was a woman and my job was downgraded to "hob-nobbing."

Right after we moved here, the editor to the local paper wrote a note that he was upset that women would be featured on money soon. He wanted to know if they would use a picture of women shopping or vacuuming. I was assured he was only kidding, but I really don't think he was. He sure did spend a lot of time on something that was supposed to be taken as a joke and his joke sure did have a degrading manor to it.

In the news now we have Ronda Rousey, two females who qualified for Ranger tabs, a female NFL ref and the US women's soccer team. They are all achieving such incredible levels of awesomeness that this mother of two girls is beyond excited that our girls have new faces to look to for inspiration.

I had two females who were in the public eye when I was growing up who inspired me, Senator Elizabeth Dole and Sally Ride. That's it. The rest of my inspiration came from men. And having the honor to work with one of the women I always looked up to is inspiring beyond words!!

For some reason our society feels the need to squash female achievement any way we can. The comments that have come out about the women who are hitting these new goals are primeval. Seriously, what year is this?!

I will proudly admit I have no desire to participate in a MMA fight, play soccer, complete Ranger course or referee the NFL, but if that is something you want to do I will cheer you on!! I will also proudly share your accomplishments with our daughters.

I am so blessed that my grandfather encouraged me to light my own path. I am so thankful to have a husband that puts up with my loud mouth and opinions. I am thankful for brothers (related and not) who will not tolerate someone putting me or my work down. I am thankful for a job that values me and my opinion.

I will admit the one thing I love about my job is that I am treated as an equal. I have lost track of how many times I have been in a room and had to pull the "yes I am a woman, but I know what I am talking about" card. But with YRF, our board actually asks my opinion and it is lovely to be valued.

Now to all of you keyboard commandos, here is the question I would like to pose to you. What if one of these awesome women were a part of your life? What if they were your wife, girlfriend, sister or daughter? Would you still be so brave behind your keyboard and fire off your disgusting comments? I know that when I have been cyber-attacked it has enraged my husband and those who know me so well. But like I always say, "We don't win internet wars with people who obviously cannot pull their heads out of their own ass."

Why can we not just take the time to think that what they are accomplishing it awesome?! Why do we have to belittle and question how they got there? We don't question the male counterparts to the same degree.

Once words are out there, they cannot be taken back. Sure you can delete your comment, but you already threw it out and someone felt that sting. Been there, felt that. My favorite was the person who said they'd "wish I would die so my family would live happily ever after." Yup, not going to forget that one any time soon.

So keyboard commandos, is you are so brave behind the keyboard, why not channel that bravery and go make your own mark rather than lashing out at women who are making their place in history?! If you took all of your jealousy and hate and channeled it into positive productivity then we would all have a much better world. But wait, you'd have to come out from behind your keyboard.....

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Let's Go for a Run....

I randomly decided I would run a 5k with my friend, Demetria, last night. I have not ran even one mile in the last month, so yeah it sounded totally sane to take off and run 3.1.

I needed it. I needed to burn off all my frustrations. My legs are already sore and I will be best friends with Tylenol and Motrin today, but I needed that run. I needed to sweat away all the things that are driving me crazy. Bonus!! I was the last runner in, so I brought four cop cars in with me last night to the finish line. I am super proud that I helped them get back safely to the finish line. And the craziest part was that I had my best 5k time ever.

As caregivers we put our selves last, as moms we are guilty of that too, therefore I am double guilty. I have really been just giving myself away to the world here in the past month. If I am not working, then I am working on this house. I have found very little time for me. I love to read, but most nights I am barely getting a chapter read.

Our house is not finished. We can live in it, but our builders still have lots of cosmetic things to do. To be honest, I have no idea when it will be finished. I honestly feel like this house is going to be like I-24....always under construction some where.

I feel like we truly cannot unpack and live in our home because we do not know from day to day who is coming or not. People show up at 5am one day then don't show up for days. Then one person randomly shows up. FYI apparently you are supposed to be ok with all of this and you are not supposed to question the randomness, because that offends people. And it is ok for people to smoke on your property where ever they want and you shouldn't say anything about that. Oh and it's totally ok that every deadline has been missed and a list of things still need to be finished, but they have other projects to work on so they'll get back to you when they can. Yeah, that's why I needed a run.

I finished our bathrooms July 4th weekend. With help from friends, I finished our closets the following weekend. I guess I am finishing the rest of the house too, because we sure as heck aren't getting any direct answers or plan of execution. We are just supposed to sit and wait for them to show up and finish I guess.

I am choosing to focus on the fact we can live in the house. I am choosing to focus on the fact that Chaz can get around so freely! The house is absolutely lovely and we love it, but we'd really like to make it a home, not a home in the middle of a construction site. I am choosing optimism and hope, when yesterday I seriously wanted to throat punch someone.

And at the end of the day, we do not regret walking away from the non-profit that promised to build our home. We may have our frustrations, but I would rather deal with this any day then what we would have faced with the non-profit.

In other good news, we have sold our home and will close on it this week. We are really excited that it sold so quickly and we fully credit our realtor for the success of the sale. She has done a wonderful job and we are very happy with her services.

We are looking to August to be a month of greatness for our family. I know that for months now I have said, "If we can just make it to (fill it a time frame) things will be better." Well in August we will only own one home and we will be able to give it all of our attention. Our girls will start school and we will adjust to not having them with us all the time. (By the way, I am already super sad that I will miss out of eight hours of their day five days a week soon.) August is going to be great! Now to get to the finish line of July.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

So We Moved.....

Our Clarksville home is empty and will be put on the market soon. Our belongings are in our new home. And our bodies, pets, personal information and technology.....well that is all at my sister's house.

We currently cannot live in our house. Why?! Because people didn't come to work and volunteers didn't show up as promised. That is the reason.

I will not lie, this has been one of the most stressful and exhausting weeks I have had in memory. Our movers were college kids who seriously did not care about anything but getting off from work. They broke several pieces of our furniture and finally we just told them to leave. (We will be discovering their damage for a long time to come I am sure.)

Since we did not have a fridge ready, we chose to leave our groceries in Clarksville and that I would get them when I picked up the youngest cutie from camp. When I arrived, I discovered CDE decided to turn off the power, when I specifically asked for them to just turn off the phone, cable and internet only. We lost $500 in groceries. I sure did get to pack up the groceries...I packed them right up into the garbage.

I stood in our Clarksville kitchen and cried all of my makeup off on Friday. The stress and frustration won. Sometimes it is just best to cry and let it go. I did feel so much better once I just let it all out.

Just like everything else that has happened to us, we are making the best out of it. We have missed our nephews growing up, so we are enjoying all the time we are getting to actually get to know them. I personally am enjoying getting to actually work on our home. I love power tools and home repairs. The builders kept saying that I shouldn't do it. Well I don't take no very well for an answer so I am working on all of the cosmetic things that don't require licenses and training. If I do the little cosmetic stuff, they can stay focused on the real issues and get us in! We are team players and for sure. Chaz and I do not stand on the side lines when we can jump in and help the team. 

I wanted a fully functioning bathroom so I grabbed my little brother, Demetria and my drill and boom we have a bathroom! No more port-a-potty for our family! ;)

Demetria's hubby Ray has been mowing our grass all this time. Thanks to Nine Line Foundation and Ray, Chaz got to fire up his mower yesterday and he mowed our grass for the first time.

It seriously does look like they are racing. (Thanks to Demetria for these pics.)They actually did get the grass mowed and even took time to show the girls how to mow.

Before anyone goes ballistic on our builders, please don't. They cannot force people to come to work. They cannot force people who say they want to "help" to actually help. They cannot force volunteers to actually show up and follow through. Please know they are seriously working seven days a week to help get us in. It is a VERY frustrating situation for all of us. We are a team and we are all working together to reach the finish line.

I am declaring this week is our week! Our home will be inspected and we will be able to live in it. We will get to go through the boxes (and probably toss out more than we want to thanks to our mover friends). We will unpack our lives and start living our new chapter of our new normal!! And the next blog I write will be from our forever home!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Closing the Chapter

The time has come to close our chapter in Clarksville. I know we will be back for visits, but our residency is ending. Our address has been changed. Our mail is being forwarded. The seventeen years of our relationship and family are sitting in boxes all around us just waiting for people to deliver them to another destination.

We will never forget the 101st and how great they were to our family. We will forever and always be a Screaming Eagle family.

It is bittersweet. We have so many memories here. It is truly hard to put this all into words without crying......again.

As I sit here at my desk for the last time in this house, I cannot help but to think of sitting here on January 22, 2011 when the call that changed our lives came. I cannot stop all the thoughts of things that were said and things that happened since that day.

Even though I have have been blessed with over three decades of life, I feel that a bomb truly taught me to live. It taught me what is really important in life.

My goal in life is to leave things better than I found them. I truly believe we have done that here in Clarksville. 

We will always praise the storm that was created by a bomb. We will always praise the event that was meant to destroy lives, because Chaz's one step that changed our lives has also changed and impacted so many others in such a positive way.

We close our Clarksville chapter in approximately 24 hours. We are so thankful for our time here. And we truly hope that the new residents that occupy this home after us will make as many wonderful memories as we have!