Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Yesterday morning I woke up to horrible news that two teens here in Clarksville had been killed in a car crash and two others were in Vandy seeking treatment. Sadly one of these teens was our daughters' Principal's son and the other was our babysitter's best friend. I had a very hard time yesterday morning, I had too many old feelings resurface with some new ones mixed in. It then made me reflect on the bits and pieces that make me who I am.

November 19, 1994, I was woken up by a friend crying in the phone. I could barely understand her and finally she got it out. Six of our friends were in a car accident and three died and one was in very bad shape and the other two were treated and released from the hospital. I did not believe this friend I thought she had lost her mind because I just saw these friends the day before. I turned on the radio and sure enough she was right. At that same time my mom came in the door. She had been rushing home to tell me, but my friend and the radio beat her to it. I found out later my mom was very worried because I lost my childhood friend Lisa to cancer just a few months before this and my great grandmother had died just days after Lisa. To be honest I had just healed from their deaths (as well as one can) before this happened.

I was devastated. All that healing had come undone. I knew two out of the three who had died very well. The one who was critically injured and I had just gone on a mission trip to Reno that summer. They didn't know if she was going to make it. I was sick and numb all at the same time. All I could do was cry.

This was one of the few times that I really questioned God. I just could not wrap my head around why he would let this happen. To this day I don't fully understand why, but I do know my life is better because I had them in it. I was blessed to have them for the little time I did. I can close my eyes and tell you stories about all of our adventures. I truly hate that they are not here to see what all I have done. I hate that they have not met my children, but I know they smile on me all the time. I can still feel their love and hope in my heart.

Ryan (one of the three who died at the scene) was such a great person. He left such a smile in my heart I told Chaz I wanted to name our son Ryan, but we were blessed with girls. It was Chaz's idea to throw the extra N onto our Ryann's name. I am so glad he came up with that idea. I can only hope our Ryann and Deryn will leave as many smiles behind as Lisa, Ryan, Dean and Melissa did.

My friend, Emily, who was critically injured, defines what a miracle is. I remember being told more than once that she was not going to make it. I also remember telling God he had to let us keep her. Emily is this bright light. When she smiles everyone smiles with her. We had a few mission adventures with our church while we were in high school. Of course Reno was the best. Emily made a full recovery and is now living happily ever after. She sent me an email a few months back telling me how I inspired her with my strength and courage. I quickly replied and said, "Who do you think I learned it from?" She was such an inspiration to me back then. She suffered a huge blow, which is a lot like what is going on with Chaz. Yet she fought and got back up. I remember crying and crying because I was so proud of her when I got to see her walk for the first time (once again just like Chaz). Witnessing her miracle all those years ago, gave me the strength and faith to know everything would be fine with Chaz.

I can only imagine what these parents are going through right now. I know what these teens are going through I walked in those shoes. I know what the wives and girlfriends of these soldiers are going through, but I do not know what these parents are going through. My heart hurts for them. I can't imagine the pain of losing a child. I hurt enough when our girls are sick or injured. Please say a prayer for these families today. They need all the prayers they can get. God is listening!

I also wanted to share this writing someone gave to me in 1994.

Bits and Pieces
by Lois A. Cheney
People—people important to you, people unimportant to you—cross your life, touch it with love and carelessness and move on.  There are people who leave you and you breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why you ever came into contact with them.  There are people who leave you and you breathe a sigh of remorse and wonder why they had to go away and leave such a gaping hole.

Children leave parents; friends leave friends; acquaintances move on.  People change homes; people grow apart; enemies hate and move on.  Friends love and move on.
You think on the many who have moved into your hazy memory.  You look on those present and wonder.

I believe in God’s master plan in life.  He moves people in and out of each other’s lives, and each leaves his mark on the other.  You find you are made up of bits and pieces of all who have ever touched your life.  You are more because of it and you would be less if they had not touched you.

Pray to God that you accept the bits and pieces in humility and wonder, and never question and never regret.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 24 What a Great Day!!

So this time yesterday I blogged our update, I had no idea how my day would go. I am pleased to report it was filled with some surprises.

After blogging yesterday I went to the kitchen to make some treats for the Tupperware party, which by the way was for Chaz. He was the one who had the bigger wish list. I heard my cell phone buzzing (I turned the ringer off in January and I have never turned it back on). As I got to it, it stopped and the call went to voicemail. So I listened to the voicemail and it was a reporter from the Army Times as he said, "I am going to try your home phone," the house phone rang. Weird huh?!

The reporter was calling because he wanted to get a few more details about the Train contest and concert. His name is Jon Anderson and he was super nice and we had a great conversation. He wanted to know how did I get Train to change the rules. He said, "You read the rules right? They wanted someone to video conference in and propose, you got to go on stage and renew." I said, "I guess I was thinking out the box. I also knew I had nothing to lose by submitting my email. The worst thing that could happen was they never respond. But instead I had a dream come true. I got to stand on stage with my great family and my favorite band." Jon and I talked for a while about the contest and Train and the Army. Then my guests for the Tupperware party came in and I told them to make themselves at home and I'd be with them in a minute.

When I got off the phone, I apologized to my friends and said sorry that was the Army Times. They looked at me and laughed. My friend Kelly then said that's just so cool. We went on and enjoyed our party and had lots of great laughs and conversations. I had to cut the party short because I received an email Tuesday evening asking me to be at Ft Campbell at 1.

We met Holly and General Petraeus while Chaz was in the hospital. She has visited us a total of three times and we met the General once. Let me tell you they are great Americans. They care about our country and are just flat out great people. Mrs. Petraeus sent me an email congratulating me on the Train concert last week and then we did the back and forth how are you check in email. Then I told her I was happy she was returning to Campbell and that we'd love to see her again. She then asked if I could meet her at the FRC (Family Readiness Center). I immediately replied yes.

I got to the FRC just before 1 and was greeted with a ton of who are you looks. Then a soldier walked up and said, "Are you the Gold Star wife here for Mrs. Petraeus?" I said, "I am not a Gold Star wife, I am a Wounded Warrior's wife." He said, "I bet you are who we're looking for, I'll be right back." He came back and said, "Jessica Allen" and I nodded. He said, "Right this way."

He led me into a room and then Mrs Petraeus walked in. I was greeted with a big hug. She invited me to sit down and I got to chat with her for thirty minutes. She just wanted to chat with me. She wanted to know how we all were doing and if we needed anything. We talked about Train and all of the work she's doing and then poof time was up. Her assistant walked in and said, "Is this the Jessica?" Mrs. Petraeus said, "Yes it is." He then said, "She talks about you all the time." Of course I said, "Nuh-uh?!" Then we talked about Train. It was so cool to see how excited she was for our family. It just made my day. Then she had to go and I got another big hug and she said she would talk to me soon. Oh the looks I got as I walked out of that building. I walked into "Who are you?" looks and walked out with "Who ARE you?" looks. It was pretty cool and I had to laugh on my way out. I just couldn't believe she took thirty minutes out of her day just to make sure we were doing ok, WOW!

I am so excited to see everything she is working on. What she is doing is so important to me. We are overdue for the changes she is working on. She is the right person for the job and she will accomplish great things. Here's a little bit of what she's doing and why she was here at Campbell for. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20110825/BUSINESS/110825002/Holly-Petraeus-returns-Fort-Campbell-mission-protect-soldiers?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE

I am honored that Mrs. Petraeus and the Army Times has an interest in our family and our road to our new normal. Days like yesterday and last Wednesday are just surreal. I am just so thankful that we are blessed so much and so frequently.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24 Update

I am pleased to report that we are just enjoying our vacation at home. The girls are doing their homeschool work and then anxiously await their neighborhood friends to get off the bus. Chaz is playing his games with his online gaming buddies. He and I are catching up on True Blood and movies. I am cooking up a storm in our kitchen and trying to get caught up on work and school.

We are getting our schedule laid out for the home school. The girls are loving it and so are Chaz and I. Through trail and error, we are discovering what works with each of them and what we need. One thing is for sure we are having a ton of fun with it!

Chaz keeps joking around that our vacation home needs to be fixed to suit his needs and that he wants me to get that worked out by the next time we visit. In all honesty I love how he and I can just laugh and joke about all of this. He has his obstacles, but we just attack them differently. He chases our girls around the downstairs with super speed. Wheels really speed you up! You should see him chase them down the ramp outside. Which that ramp has become the source of fun for the whole neighborhood. We have all of the kids riding up and down it multiple times a day. I am very proud that we can make all of this great and that we can be great examples for the girls.

Deryn, our oldest, has a birthday coming up next month. She was very upset to find out she won't be here with her friends. So I am working out a sleepover for her here while we're home. She is very excited to celebrate her birthday in 2 places. Just wait until you see what we are doing for her in DC! It is awesome! Our youngest is just enjoying having her friends and her toys to play with. She is the easier to please.

I spent our first week home running around (with Train and at Fort Campbell) and cleaning our house. Now I am trying to catch up on school and work. I have owned and operated my own tax preparation business for 3 years now. I am also currently a part of the AFCPE Military Spouse Fellowship Program as well. I managed to complete over 120 tax returns this tax season (even with my back and forth to TN and DC) and now I am performing 2 audits and a non-profit organization's return now. I am also trying to get one more class done before we head back. Luckily it's on federal taxation so I'll be good. I want to sit for the IRS competency exam as soon as it becomes available this Fall so I can get it over with. One day I will sit for the Enrolled Agent exam (I was going to do it this year, but my plans were changed) so I can battle with the IRS on more level ground. I truly love my job and what I do.

We are just enjoying our vacation home to TN and loving life. I am loving being in my kitchen and cooking up my crews favorite foods. I now know what I need to take back to Maryland to make it all more like home. I am just so thankful that we have such a resilient family and that we can make all of this work.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I used to love this house!

I remember the day we bought this house. The house was just perfect. It needed some love and repairs, but it was great for us. We loved the neighborhood, loved the schools and the neighbors. Now those are the only things left that we love about this house.

Last night a big storm rolled through and I sprung right up. The girls were at a sleepover and so it was just me and Chaz. I immediately thought oh crap, what do I do if there's a tornado? I can't carry him and he can't run. Then I thought, crap what if there's a fire, I'll have the same problem. We have stairs and our bedroom is at the top of those stairs. Right now Chaz puts on his legs and climbs those stairs at night and stays on that level and then in the morning he puts his legs back on and comes down for the day. But I never considered what to do in an emergency. I have an emergency ladder upstairs in case of fire and we need to go out the window, but what will Chaz do. His right arm is fused and he cannot bare too much weight on it and he can't bend it. It truly bothers me that what used to be our home is now just an obstacle on our road to healing.

The day Chaz was injured I walked around the house and thought about how wide a wheelchair would be and realized that he could get around the bottom level with no problems. Then there's the stairs. Chaz calls stairs, "The cripple's kyrptonite" (his words, not mine). Before we came home the first time we talked about the stairs and quickly realised everyone we knew has stairs, so he was going to have to suck it up and get up those stairs. It's pretty phenomenal that he was just injured in January and he is going up and down the stairs everyday. It's great PT for him. Back in May I told him look we're staying in our home. You have a few choices, sleep on the couch, be carried up or walk. He said he was sleeping in his own bed and that he wasn't being carried. So then I said you better get to stepping! And he did and still is.

We are going to build a new house sometime soon. I do not know when. I know we are building in Clarksville TN. We are very happy here. We have great community support and we have no reason to leave. Plus we want to remain in a military community. As Chaz says, "We want to stay with our kind." We know here we don't have to start over. We know we have the support we need and it will be the easiest on the girls.

I have never wanted an easy button so bad in my life. I want to push that button and make this house transform into everything Chaz needs. I can live anywhere and I can make anything work, that is a lesson the Army has taught us. But Chaz's needs are different now and luckily the VA has all of those listed. They can help us make it easier, but we need to find land, a builder and all of the above. Then those people follow the VA's list to make it all work for Chaz. We know we are going to have to build from scratch, the VA reassured us of that one. They said it would be so much easier to start over, so that's what we'll do.

But for now we suck it up and deal with it. Thank goodness I am an overly positive person. Chaz says I have enough faith and positive energy to share. I can make lemonade out of any lemons. Right now this house is great for three out of four of us. The fourth one will not be defeated, he makes the world bend to him and if he can't I help do it for him. Things could be so much worse. We could have more stairs and the downstairs could be less open than it is and it would make it harder on him. In addition, the 101st made sure and put a ramp in for us so Chaz could get in and out more easily. This is now our temporary home and we will make it work for us until our permanent home is ready.

I have submitted an application with Home for Our Troops and we were nominated for an Extreme Home Makeover. I pray that one of those easy buttons comes through or something else along those lines works our for us. But I know God will take care of us. He will help us figure it all out in time. He has a plan and we will be patient and see how it all works out. Like I said I can make that lemonade, I just have to know how many lemons I am working with.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

We can never trust you again!

Yesterday I was informed by my husband and Demetria that I can never be trusted again. You see I love to surprise people. I really like to make sure they never see it coming! So yes I am evil because I like to thank people in my own special way.

So since Chaz has been hurt, I have surprised him many times. I surprised him with his homecoming, his super computer and then with his awards yesterday. But you know what I couldn't have done any of those surprises without the help of so many people. I am just so thankful to be blessed by so many people who want to see our family succeed. I am so thankful that God just keeps putting such incredible people on our path to healing. We would have never known about some of these awesome organizations and people if Chaz would not have been hurt. And there's no way I would have been able to pull off all of these surprises without everyone's help. It just means so much to me to have so many people ready to step up just to make our family smile. And the best thing is, I have more surprises in the works (hee, hee, hee).

The guys and I planned Chaz's BBQ/Awards thing a while ago. So I've been sitting on it for a minute. Well Thursday we went to Ft Campbell to see Chaz's First Sargent change his responsibilities to the new First Sargent. I had to pass the word along to not ruin the surprise. Since the guys know better than to mess with me, they follow my orders very well, just kidding, not really, they've seen me at work. We came up with the plan that Chaz needed to sign some paperwork, hey it's the Army, it's a totally legit reason to make him come back to Campbell, so that way he knew we had to come back the next day. Then I made sure he didn't get pictures with all of his guys so I had another excuse to bring him back. (I know I'm evil, you don't have to remind me). 

On the ride home Chaz tells me, "Hey did they tell you I have to come back tomorrow?" I said, "Yup they filled me in." Then I told him hey I was talking with Demetria and they're coming up and we'll get them to take some pics with you and your guys. He says, "Oh great, I didn't get any with First Sargent and there's some others I want too." Then he thanked me for getting him to the change over and for pushing him all over the grounds so he could see everyone. The thing I love about my hubby is he knows those guys mean as much to me as they do to him. So I have as much fun as he does. Then he and I put together a surprise for Demetria and Ray.

All excuses were in place and we headed out to Campbell, after we thanked my awesome friend Karyn for stopping by and pulling our weeds (how freaking nice is that). I drove past the main gate and Chaz says, "Where are you going?" I told him, "Well I was told to go to Gate 6." He then says, "I know there's a BBQ someone accidentally told me yesterday." Then he said, "No paperwork huh?" I said, " I think their might be paperwork." Demetria and Ray were in on the surprise so they were smiling. I told Chaz, "The BBQ is your surprise" and I left it at that.

When we got there, Chaz and I were both so excited we got to meet Chuck from DET 3 Foundation. He and his foundation have been so supportive of us during Chaz's recovery. I was so thankful to put a face with a name. I was thankful to shake his hand and say thank you in person. That was one of the highlights of my day. 

We had a great time hanging out with everyone and enjoyed some great food. Then Captain Gold called everyone in. First he called Demetria and Ray over and presented them with a challenge coin. He and I both talked about how they were the ones who helped us communicate during all of this. I told the guys that if it wasn't for them Team Allen would have never started. Everyone needs to know how amazing they are. They support you guys injured or not. They are thankful for you (the soldiers) and they knew how important it was to Chaz and I that you knew what was going on. I got a very nice I can't believe you did this look from Demetria that said it all. I love those moments in life when you know someone so well they can look at you and you know what they are thinking. Chaz and I are so thankful for them. They have done so much for us and I know Team Allen has got to take up a lot of time and effort and they have just never stopped. We are so blessed to have them in our lives.

Then Gold started talking about Chaz and said he was going to finally present him his awards. Chaz never saw it coming. When they said Bronze Star Chaz looked and me and poof came the tears. He was shocked. You see my hubby does not understand he is so amazing. He does not see what we all see, which to me makes him even more amazing. You could tell he was stunned. Walls pinned the Star and Flores pinned Chaz with an ARCOM with Valor. Then Gold awarded Chaz with his Gold Spurs and his Distinguished Member of the 502nd Award. Then ChazChaz's life. I also told them to make sure and appreciate their leaders because they are some of the best leaders Chaz has ever had.

We hung out for a little bit longer and then we went home. Then I was informed by Chaz and Demetria on the ride home that I can't be trusted. I just laughed. I said, "Hey at least it's for good things, right?" Chaz then asked me if I knew about all of the awards and I said yup. Later on that day Chaz said, "I can't believe they gave me the star." I told him, "You're the only one who doesn't think you deserve it."  He said, "But I was just doing my job." I said, "Yes and you were great at what you were doing and they saw that."

You know being on stage with Train was amazing and I'll never forget it. But being able to stand in front of the men who saved my husband's life and who continue to support our family and being able to say thank you is another Rockstar moment I will never forget.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our Amazing Night with Train!!!

First let me just say that we are one blessed family!!! Just when I think God can't make it any better he points and laughs at me again and throws another blessing at us. This time it came in the form of my all time favorite band, the Grammy Award winning Train!!!!

When I talked to the Manager Monday he told me they had to get to the venue to figure this all out. He said call me at 4 and we'll go from there. So we did. He told me to go park and we'd figure it out. We tried to park in this one garage and the sweetest teen said oh you can park inside because of the handicap decal. So I turned the car around and went to that garage. The guy said, I don't have anymore handicap spots available. I then said ok here's the problem. We are going to be on stage, he said oh well let's fix this do you have someone you can call and I said sure so I grabbed the phone and called Train's manager. He then told me to give the phone to the security guy. They talked for a few minutes and then he came back and told me the plan. He said we're sending you underground with the band and here's how you get there. The first time we went around we thought for sure he sent us to the wrong place because we headed into a construction zone. But we circled back around and sure enough that was where we were supposed to be! So down we went!

We met two more great security guards on our journey who just directed along the way. Then we got to the destination. The guy says I am going to put you right here. I said, "I need to unload him first and then I'll park." As I was unloading the chair out of the back he says, "See that orange cone, well that's supposed to be for Martina McBride, but it's yours now. I bet she won't mind." I said well thank you very, very much. So I went and parked in her parking space. We had a delightful chat with the security guard. Then he personally helped us get everything figured out and passed us off to Train's Manager.

We hung out in the hallway while he rounded up our passes, tickets and people who were going to help us. Deryn volunteered to help one of the roadies blow up beach balls and yes we got one! Then we had just enough time to go to the bathroom and then comes Pat.

I have followed Train for so long I just could have popped when I saw Pat walk my way. He came up and introduced himself to us and asked our names. Everyone talked except for Ryann. So Pat then decided he would name her for us and named her Carlos. So that is the new running joke in our home. Pat then thanked me for sharing our story with him. He then said, "You've got quite a story there." I said, "Just a bit, and your song Landmine has new meaning for me." He looked at me and said sorry. I said, "For what, the lyrics are so true you stepped on a landmine and you see you future rise. How beautiful is that?!" He just smiled. He then asked, "Are you ready to share your story with 10,000 plus people. I told him I didn't want to think about the number. Then I said, "We have over 3,000 people watching over us on the Team Allen page on facebook, what's a few more." He laughed and then said, "Yeah Team Allen, that's pretty amazing. I really like your logo, we have one like that." I said, "I remember, you know my sister and I tried to buy that shirt at the Ryman last year, but we were denied because we didn't have any cash." He said, "Some venues want all the money." I said, "Yeah I'll get one one day." Then minutes later one of his assistants came around the corner and gave us two of them and gave De and Ry a "Trainette" shirt. Pat said to me, "You got cash?" I said, "Probably not." He said, "Oh fine then" and winked. Then we talked about the plan of what we were doing. He looked at Chaz and said are you cool with this and Chaz said sure why not. Pat then asked if the girls were coming on stage and I said I'd like them to. He said let's do it then. Then I informed him my mom, sister, friend Demetria and her hubby Ray were coming to Meet and Greet. So I told him to be on the lookout for Team Allen. We then had to part company because he had to go do the rockstar thing. We got a pic and I got a big hug!

We were then shown how everything was going to work backstage and then shown to our seats. Our seat ushers were super cool. I got Chaz settled and went to get snacks. On the way to our seats we bumped into people we know, which was so comforting. It was nice to I had my friends out there, because I had to talk in front of thousands, yikes! I then realized I never asked anyone if Demetria could film it all. I called Train's manager and he said it was too late to get a pass, but his people were recording it and we'd get a copy. I thanked him and told Chaz I'll be right back. I walked down to security and told them what was going on. I told them exactly where my family and friends were sitting and assured them it would only be for that part. They then told me no problem. I even described everyone to them. So later one they too got to have a chat with security. I tell you what Nashville's security is awesome!! They do their job, but the are also helpful and kind. I cannot tell you how many of them pushed Chaz for me, got the elevator, opened the doors all sorts of little stuff. I just love Nashville!! When I went to get snacks I realized my cousin's oldest child was working behind the counter. Pretty cool huh?!I hadn't seen that girl except via facebook for all these years!

We got settled and then I found my mom, sis and friends and told them what was happening. Then I looked over and saw that the guy in charge was the beach ball guy. Deryn had been his assistant just a little while ago. I have done many VIP events. They don't let you give anything to the band for obvious reasons. But we were going to have a little exception to that today. You see my sister had 3 Team Allen shirts to give to them and I was going to make sure they got them. So I walked right up to beach ball guy and we chatted. He said no worries, but tell them to keep it quiet. He then looks at me and says, "Does Pat know?" I said, "Yup." He said, "Then it's good to go." We already had Meet and Greet passes, but I gave my mom my spot when this all went down. I told my sister my favorite band was going to learn about my hubby one way or the other. Originally I planned to walk into meet and greet and just tell them about Team Allen and we got to go bigger and better. I always say go big or go home. So mission accomplished for that one!

Then we chilled out with the lovely seating attendants and were harassed by the beer guy. He really wanted us to have a beer. He was crazy pushy! But when the crowd filled in, he found his business. During the first intermission Demetria and Ray came up and then D took our De down to see my mom and sis. We got to hear their meet and greet adventure. Is was great!!! Then we took our seats and rocked out to PJ Morgan. He did a great job. Then we rocked out to Maroon 5. After that performance I had to take the girls to the bathroom for the hundredth time and when came back I found our friends Heather and Will, who know us from when we were dating, had found my hubby! It was just plain awesome to come around that corner and see them!! We got to catch up for just a few minutes and make plans for later.

Then Train came on with one of my favorites, Parachute!! We rocked out Ry took the camera and took her pics and before I knew it Billy, our guide to the back for our appearance was there telling us it was time to go. the Martina McBride came off stage and said hi. (And no I did not tell her I had her parking spot.) We got into position and Train's Manager reminded us of everything. Then I looked at Billy and said, "And don't throw up, right?" Billy said, "Right!" Then all we heard was Allens. From where we were Pat sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher, but you could hear Allen clearly. Then we walked out on stage to a roaring audience. Then Pat looked to me and said, "Talk." It took me a second to muster it up and then I saw my mom, sister and friends and I was calm. Then I spoke. I kept it brief and to the point. People came to rock not to cry. But Pat and I both teared up. I was fine until I looked at him and when I saw his tears I created my own. Then Pat sang to us and I laid a big kiss on my hubby! My favorite part was when I heard several people yell out, "You're my hero." I thought and he's all mine! As I was standing there all I could think is this is a dream come true. The three people I love the most and I are standing on stage with one of the most kick ass bands ever! WOW!!!! Then we all got hugs and I told Pat, "Thank you and God Bless you." He said something and I only heard thank you. (It was a little loud). We walked off stage and Pat said something else and once again we couldn't understand it. The manager passed us back off to security.

We went back to our seats and we thanked time and time again on the way there, while we were sitting down and then on the way out. Then the show was over and we went to leave. I had my Train pass stuck down low on my shirt. The elevator attendant said after we are going down "Um, ma'am do you have a pass?" I couldn't help myself I said, "Nope he just looked so cute with those little girls I asked if I could join along." Then I held up the pass and he laughed. We went back to the bathrooms and talked to some more security and were thanked by them for Chaz's service. I am telling you they are all just so great! Then we went to leave and I saw Adam Levine, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton in a room talking. I stopped Chaz and said hang on. He asked what are you doing and I said saying hi. Oh yes ya'll I stuck my head in that room and said, "Sorry I just wanted to say hi." Adam, said "Hi, who are you with? (in a very nice but curious tone)" I guarantee not many people do what I did, but then I'd have to care. So I then told him we were there renewing our vows on stage with Train. He eyes got huge and said "Wow and these are you kids?" So we hung out with Adam Levine for a sec. Miranda and Blake didn't seem interested so I went and chatted with Adam. Maybe they didn't think we like country music, or maybe they didn't think we knew who they were. Funny thing is they own property in OK very close to some of Chaz's family. I told Miranda that and she said, "Well that's nice." So back to Adam, he stood there and chatted with us for a while and then we all left. As I was loading Chaz in the we got another good-bye and wave from him. (Laura and Elizabeth I did not accomplish what you wanted me to do, but I did get to touch him a couple of times!)

We loaded up and drove home and the girls passed out and Chaz and I called my mom, sis and friends and got their reaction. Then my cell phone started lighting up with messages and now facebook and then the news articles. I have to say we felt like rockstars last night. Don't worry my sister will happily keep me from getting a swollen head, but it is going to be a while before I come down from this high. I really don't want to come down. My dream has come true. I got to lay a big kiss on my hubby while Pat Monahan sang to us. Our little girls got to stand on stage and see and hear over 10,000 people cheer and support our family. They got to hear people yell out "You're a Hero" to their dad. Seriously, WOW, is just about all I can say about that.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


So a few months ago I was on Train's website looking for information on the upcoming concert and I discovered they were have a contest. They wanted someone to Skype in and propose to their girlfriend during the concert. I read the rules of the contest and came up with a different idea. So I sent this email.

***I have an interesting proposal for you. My hubby Chaz and I met in 1999 and married in 2001. We have 2 beautiful little girls and we are all huge Train fans. Chaz and I say "I'm About to Come Alive" saved our marriage and now has even more meaning. Over the course of our relationship, we noticed that Train's music became the soundtrack to our lives. "I Am," "Landmine," "Homesick," and so many more have helped us through some very hard times. You can find several Train CDs in our cars at any given time.

On January 22, 2011, while on a dismounted patrol Chaz stepped on an IED. He lost both of his legs above the knee and broke his elbow in 7 places. I rushed to be at his side, but chose to leave the girls in TN to finish out the school year. Beginning February 2nd, I started flying back and forth between DC and TN spending a week in each location attempting to divide myself between my family. On Feb 23, Chaz and I spent our 10th wedding anniversary at Walter Reed. We didn't care where we spent it, because we are lucky enough to still have an anniversary. Now the school year is ending and my family can finally be together. Actually my mother's day present to myself is to fly my mom and our daughters to DC so I can have everyone together for that weekend. Chaz is doing amazingly well. He is actually already walking on his prosthetic legs. Everyday we get closer to going home. You can read more about us at www.facebook.com/GoTeamAllen at any time. I attached a picture of our girls and of Chaz and I from back in February. You can see more current ones on the Team Allen site. You have been warned though, my hubby is amazing!!

My proposal is I want to renew my vows to my amazing husband. One of the lines in "Marry Me" says "today and everyday" so why not do a renewal. It would be a dream come true for me to renew my vows with our girls by our side and at a Train concert, oh my. Just be careful, my girls know all of the words to every song! Thank you so much for offering this opportunity to the Armed Services. I hope you will entertain the idea I am proposing.***

I thought what the heck, the worst thing that can happen is that I hear nothing back from them. My sister and I went on and bought ourselves 2nd row seats and Meet and Greet passes because we decided we deserved a little fun. And we planned to just go and then I received this email.

***Hi Jessica,

Thanks so much for sending in such a great, heartfelt submission.  Hope you were able to have a great Mother's Day with your family.  We wanted to contact you to let you know that you're one of our finalists!  If you are selected as the contest winner we wanted to make sure that you would be able to attend a concert in order to do the vow renewal "proposal".  I checked out your Facebook and it seems like Chaz has been able to come back home to Tennessee.  There is a concert on August 17th in Nashville - perhaps you would be able to do it then?   Let us know and we'll keep you updated!


So instead I got the opposite. I was stunned. I thought there was no way this was going to happen! We got this email on June 10 which was when we found out we had to return to WRAMC because of Chaz's staph infection. I confessed to my hubby what I had done and I expected to be in a ton of trouble. Instead he said, well that's pretty cool, I wonder if we'll get it. I told him I doubt it, but we can hope. Then we were rushed back to WRAMC and had a few things to keep us busy. Then my friend Demetria and her hubby Ray brought the girls up to us. We went out to dinner and I got this email.

***Hi Jessica,

Just wanted to let you know that we've chosen you as the winner!  You should be contacted soon, hopefully by next week, by either Train's manager or tour manager with more details.  

Congrats!  Hope your family is doing well and that you all have a great time at the show!***
I just sat in shock. Demetria looked and me and I just gave her my phone so she could read it herself. I began shaking. I was so freaking excited. Chaz just smiled. He is so funny. So we confirmed we'd be back and all was good and we've been waiting for calls and emails with details. I got that email Monday and then called their manager.
So here we are at the big day. We are supposed to show up at 4 in Nashville. I do not know what all the day holds for us, but I know it is going to be another day we'll never forget! I gave my 2nd row seat to my mom so she can be there. Demetria and her hubby Ray will be there and I have many friends who will also be out in the crowd. I don't want to think about how many people will be in that audience. Yikes!! Chaz and I had planned to go to Vegas this summer and get remarried in the Drive-Thru Elvis place. It just sounded like something fun and crazy to do. But this is going to be way better!!!!! Don't worry I'll fill you all in later and I know there will be pictures and videos!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Welcome to Bethesda!!!

This is the picture a fellow wounded warrior wife sent me yesterday. Please read it carefully. It says if you are not an NMA you are not allowed in during therapy. First an NMA is a non-medical attendant. Second you know what really bothers me, there's not a "thank you for your cooperation" or anything like that. It just says here are our hours and if you are not the patient or NMA, stay in the waiting room.

Well I am an NMA and I have been told to now keep my orders on me at all times. I have been informed that at Bethesda things are going to get a lot more uniform and I need to produce my orders upon demand. But our girls do not have orders, therefore they are not allowed to be with their Dad when he is being seen for his therapies. So what do I do?! Well for weeks now I have been sending Chaz off to his appointments and we only come to the ones where he needs me or when the girls want to see him in action. But that now stops.

I know some of you are thinking well why would you want you children there? Well let me tell you why. For some of the soldiers having their children with them drives them further. I know one guy that told me he works past all of the pain and pushes himself because he wants to heal and move on for his kids. He says having them there keeps him focused. Some soldiers have told me they love having the kids around because they like hearing the laughter of the kids working out with their parents. Many of the soldiers incorporate the kids into their therapies. Chaz likes to have the girls at OT because they play games together. But for PT I only bring the girls in for the big things, like new legs or him taking on a new task. Deryn and Ryann both love helping their Daddy and it's a great way to incorporate them into his healing. But now that all stops.

Remember June 13 when we had to rush back to WRAMC because of his staph infection. Well his Physical Therapist has only put her hands in Chaz's care once or twice since then. She has been so busy with this move she has passed him off to several people. Now let me assure you I am not angry with his therapist at all. To be honest I think we have one of the best there. But she has not really been helping us because she is overly tasked out thanks to this move. So who's there to help Chaz work out, me and the girls. Who gets Chaz the equipment he thinks he needs, me and the girls. The assistant she sends Chaz to is also balancing other patients as well. I have spoken with other people and they are having the same problem. They need someone there to help them at PT because the therapists are too busy right now. But now what if the NMA can't be there that day? What if they are sick?! Well the patient will just have to figure it out.

Why are we stopping this? Do we have a problem with children running amuck in the hospital? I haven't seen it! Did someone complain about the kids just being there? What is the reason? Yes I am going to ask because I want to know why you want to cut my kids off from their father if they want to be with him. Our girls have been though a lot. Their dad was seriously injured. Then their mom left them every other week to take care of him. Now they have had to move to a totally new place, leave their friends and everything behind and they just have to deal with it. Now we have to move to a new hospital and they now cannot be included in their father's care. Well that's just BS and someone needs to produce the answers.

Since January 22, I have encouraged our girls to be a part of their father's healing every step of the way. I did not want any walls between them. They knew what was going on was a big deal, but they also knew everything would be ok. The girls have helped their daddy by helping him put on his legs, Deryn flushed his pic line and gave him his meds. But most importantly they treat him like nothing has changed. Chaz needed that acceptance. He needed the support of his girls. Because we have incorporated them they have handled this all extremely well. But I guess the Navy knows more about how to heal then we do.

When you are healing you are not just healing the physical you have to heal the emotional. These soldiers are blown up they are taken away from their brothers and sister in arms. They have numerous new people on their team and they are just supposed to trust them. You get one NMA, just one, but I don't know about you but I like to have a lot more than one cheerleader in my corner when I am going through something. But now that stops! You can cheer from the sidelines, but you can't see them in the game.

When I was asked again and again, Mrs Allen what can we do for you? You know what I said, get Chaz's guys up here. The last time they saw him, he was being medivacced out, they need to see how amazing Chaz is. There were only 6 of them and the man in charge of the MATC told our LNO that he couldn't bring the guys in. I said oh watch me. I looked that guy in the face and said, "You are an idiot. These guys saved my husband's life, how dare you tell them they can't come see him walk. They are coming in and I dare you to stop us. There is no one in the MATC right now. When it begins to get crowded we'll leave. This is a non-issue, don't make it one." And yes the guys came in. That peer visit was great for all eight of us. I needed those guys there as much as Chaz and the guys needed to be there. To me it was the best thank you card ever. But now those peer visits come to a stop, because they are NMAs.

Our families can no longer visit and see their soldiers in PT/OT because they are not NMAs. What a bunch of crap is that? How can you tell our families that they can come see their wounded warrior walk for the first time? You may be thinking surely they'll allow that. Well as of yesterday, that's a big fat NOPE!

We have a real problem here. We have a ton of people talking but only 5% are listening. Can someone please tell me what was the rush for the BRAC? Bethesda is not ready for us. We don't even have push buttons to open the doors for the guys right now. So the amputees can't fully navigate the hospital without and NMA and oops I have the girls, so what am I supposed to do?! WRAMC was very amputee friendly, Bethesda not so much. So do I put our girls in day care, oh wait we chose to homeschool so that's not an option.

Walls, walls, walls, explain to me why we need all these walls to keep popping up. All we want to do is heal and go home and move on with our lives. But no we get a little peace and calm and boom the military puts up another wall for us to climb over. It is time to tear down those walls and open our ears and listen to our wounded and their families. We know what we need and we will tell you if you ask. We are not all a bunch of 18 year old privates who are totally obvious. Some of us are pretty freaking awesome. I have a great list of those awesome people who want to fix this situation and make it better for others. We are not a bunch of raving psychos we are actually a bunch of well educated, caring people. So how about you listen to us rather than treating us like a bunch of uneducated cattle.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13 Update

48 hours from now we will be getting in our van to go get on a plane to go home for 30 days!!!!! So long story short, things are going great and we are going home!!! Woot-woot!!!!!
Veterans airlift command is once again taking us home. If you haven't checked them out yet please visit their website at http://www.veteransairlift.org and learn more about this incredible organization. You can only imagine how awesome it is to have people reach out to you to help you when you're on this crazy road. Well that's what these people are doing. It's so simple. We need to get from point A to point B and flying is the easiest. Flying commercial can be a little tricky so these awesome folks donate their planes, time and resources to get our families where we need to go as quickly and as comfortably as possible. This organization just wants to smooth out our road and we are so blessed to have them out there in our corner.

Our departure has been taking the center stage in our world right now. We had to go visit with all the docs and teams this week and I had to file all of my paperwork to leave too. (Not sure if you are tracking, but I am on official Army orders to be Chaz's NMA.) So we both have to go through all the hoops and paperwork to leave now, yeah me! Seriously I never wanted to be in the Army. I have always been as close as I wanted to be. But hey at least I didn't have to go to Basic training, right?! 

Wednesday we took the girls to Wicked and had an amazing time! If you only see one musical you entire life I would say pick that one. It was so inspiring! When Elphaba sang Defying Gravity I had to fight back the tears! It was perfectly gorgeous. The staff at the Kennedy Center was just wonderful. When we walked in one of the staffers saw us and then made sure we got to our seats without any issues. They even came and checked on us during intermission and after the show. They made sure they were more than accommodating. So other than that adventure we've just been chilling out in our little apartment and enjoying family time.

Chaz's health is doing great! He is having a little bit of trouble with his right leg and his extra bone growth. (When you experience a traumatic amputation for some reason your bones continue to grow. In addition, your bones grow in what ever way they want to. Chaz's x-rays are very interesting.) We are trying a new liner and had his socket adjusted, but everything else is great. We are trying these changes while we're gone and if that doesn't work we'll try another plan when we get back. Once we've exhausted all of those plans then we may have to look to surgery down the road. But the there are no infections, no other drama right now and Lord I pray it stays that way for a little bit. I could use a few drama free days and so could my hair. I am only 32 and the gray hairs just keep popping up. Maybe this is normal, but I don't feel old enough to have so many gray hairs. Then I wonder about that too. Oh well?!

We have started homeschooling the girls. Right now we are just reviewing everything from last year. Five bucks says that's what they'd be doing in school right now. Then we are throwing in field trips, readings and science experiments. We are all having fun with it. Deryn has always struggled with math so I am really going to hit math hard over the course of this year. Ryann is only in first grade so it's reading and writing for her. I never knew homeschooling could be so much fun! I can't wait for us to get back to DC. I have even more planned for our crew!

This week felt like graduation week. We all knew that Friday was the big day. Almost everyone is going to Bethesda on Monday, but the Allens are airborne to TN. We will miss some of the chaos and confusion of the change over, but we're totally fine with that. There are going to be growing pains with this merger but in the end all will be fine. The good news is we'll all be lost together! As long as Chaz's medical care remains as excellent as it has been I can handle the rest. Yesterday we had to say see ya later to our OT. When she goes to Bethesda she will only be caring for the in-patients. So it was a sad day for all of us. We are also losing some great people to Fort Belvoir, VA. So we had to walk around and pass out the see-ya's and best wishes to them. It was so much like graduation. You know your paths will cross again, but when and you want the best for them, but you are totally going to miss them. Everyone had been there and knows what I am talking about. But the optimist in me is always excited about new things. So when we return, we begin a new adventure at Bethesda. The only change to Chaz's teams right now is the new OT. But I know our OT will make sure we fall into great hands.

I am pleased to report our new Squad Leader from WTB is working out very well. All four of us really like him. The best news of all is that he actually listens and he does his job, wahoo!!!! Now let's hope the Army doesn't snatch him away like they did the other two who were actually worth a damn. This guys came up to me and asked if we'd switch to him. I asked why and he said, "I think I can help you. You have a little reputation around here. The people with common sense say you just want someone to do their job and you're not afraid to demand it. The clueless one's call you names." I said "oh really, I can only imagine those names." He said, "Let's give it a try." Chaz and I agreed too. It's only been a few weeks and we can see we made the right choice.

We are moving right on down our road and we're having a lot of fun while we're doing it. Now it's time to stop writing and get to packing, wahoo!!! Tennessee here we come!!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I woke up this morning and looked at my hubby thankful for another day. But this morning was a hard one because once again I woke up looking for his feet. You see for 12 years that's what we did. I like my space, do not get on my side of the bed. I am a "This is my space, this is your space" kind of person. Chaz has always enjoyed messing with me when it comes to this. I am not a touchy-feeling person. I wasn't a hugger until all of this went down. But the one thing I enjoyed doing was rubbing my feet on Chaz's. Weird, I know, but everyone has their thing and this was ours. It was our way of connecting without him truly crossing over into my space.

When I got the report on January 22, I knew these days were over. When they told me he could lose his arm, God and I had a little talk. I told him now look they took his feet, let us keep the damn arms. Obviously I was heard. Sure his right arm is fused in an almost 90 degree angle, but it's at a great angle for snuggling with me and the girls. I am so thankful God heard my pleas for Chaz's arm.

But as I am thankful for what I have then comes the guilt comes right behind it, what about the guys who lost the legs and arms? What about those wives, kids, and others who will only know artificial hands and legs for the rest of their lives? I guess they deal with it like I have. I guess they too are just so thankful that their soldier is still here with them that real or fake doesn't matter anymore. Their soldier is still with them and that's all that matters.

My grieving process for Chaz's physical appearance all ended when I saw him smile at me for the first time on January 26th. I could see in his eyes everything was fine. I can still remember looking at his whole body for the first time. I can remember being there when they pulled the wound vacs off. I remember all the fancy words the doctors used to explain things. I also remember telling him, "I could give two craps (of course, I used the other word) about those legs. You are still here with us and those Lt Dan legs will work just fine. Legs, nor your physical appearance does not define who you are." I remember the peace that came over him. As if, I'd leave him because he lost his legs, they are just legs. But he needed that reassurance, he needed to know I was not going anywhere. (This is of course, excepting the times I had to travel back to TN to take care of the girls.)

I also remember someone saying to me that I was delusional and that I was avoided dealing with the problem. I also remember saying, "Nope I am very well aware his legs are gone and thanks for reminding me. I am tracking that my life has been turned upside down. But here's what you're not tracking. I have two little girls and a husband who are watching my every move. I have to deal with this head on and not let it defeat me. I am not confused, I am blessed. I am sorry you can't see it that way. I am sorry you don't have enough faith to get through this, but I do. I cannot tell you how to heal, I can only tell you dealing with this head on is working for me. You'll have to figure out your path on your own. I will not judge you for yours, so do not judge me for mine." The lesson from this is, never ever doubt an Army wife who the Army has already put through hell.

Everyday the biggest problem I have is knowing there are other families dealing with this exact same thing. Some soldiers are less severe than Chaz and some are way worse off. But my heart breaks knowing that there's another person out there on this insane roller coaster. I wish I could take all this away from them all, but I know God has to put us all through our own battles. I can only pray the other families are half as blessed as Chaz and I are. If every other family only has half of what we have they will make it though this storm just fine. I also pray that if they don't have faith that someone blesses them with more enough to get through. Chaz and I are lucky because our cups are overflowing with support, faith and love that will never end.

So today say a prayer for those families who are on this roller coaster. Pray their cups will overflow. Pray that they will get past the grieving and more on to healing. Pray that this will all end and we won't add any more carts to our really long roller coaster.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Soul Surfer

Last night was family movie night for Team Allen. We let our oldest daughter, Deryn, select a movie. She chose Soul Surfer. It is based on the life of Bethany Hamilton, a young girl who had her arm amputated by a shark attack. Let me tell you I would definitely recommend this movie. This movie resonated with our family in so many ways. 
First this scripture was mentioned in the movie:
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 
I love this verse. I found strength in this verse a long time ago and then again when Chaz was injured. I have always believed in the Lord's plan. This verse simply reenforces that. I was raised in a Baptist home. I come from a long line of faithful people. This long linage is another thing I am so grateful for. If is wasn't for the road of grace and faith that my family laid before me, I don't think I would have survived everything God has put me through. I know he has a plan. I know my family before me listened to that plan. I know everything God put me through before and will put me through will only make the road better for our children and their children in the future. I know God has great things in store for us. He has already shown of some of those and I believe he will continue to reward us for our faithfulness. 

Second, this movie really hit home with our oldest. She just wanted to watch the movie because a teenager was on the cover. She said it looked cool. Oh and she loves sharks. So she was little upset when Bethany was bit by the shark. She quickly said, "Wait Sharks don't normally bite during the day. They attack at night." De was glued to the movie. You could tell she really enjoyed it. I had to promise to buy it for her for her birthday coming up. After we watched the movie, we took a walk to the store and to return the movies to redbox. On the walk, she was talking to me about the movie. She said it was just so cool that Bethany found a way to get back to surfing. Then she said, "I guess she's like Daddy huh?!" I said, "How do you figure that?" She then explained to me how Bethany and her Daddy parallel to each other. She talked about how brave and strong they both were. I had a very proud Mommy moment last night. When we got back I tried to get her to talk to Chaz about it, but she seemed a little embarrassed and it took a while to get it out of her. I don't think she's ready for that and we didn't want to push her. Deryn is very proud of her Daddy and you can see that in her behavior when she's around him. All I got her to tell Chaz was that she saw how similar he was to Bethany. 
Third, thank goodness for a positive role model for young girls. I don't know about you, but I am tired of the Disney and Nick machines attempting to mass produce role models for our kids. I have always said our girls need real role models not mass produced ones. I am a very over protective mommy and I have had many talks about fantasy and real. I am so happy to have a real role model for our girls. This movie came out at such a perfect time for our girls. This movie showed them the before, during and after of a traumatic injury. We are in the during phase and our girls need to see how this all ends. They got to see the happily ever after of a real person. How wonderful?!

Fourth, this movie really demonstrated the power of a strong family unit. Our family parallels in so many ways to the Hamilton family. One of us has suffered a big blow, but we all banded together to get through it. We've been knocked down and gotten back up too. We have more than faith to get through all of this. Deryn is able to see that. As the oldest sister she'll be able to set the pace for Ryann and help us remain a strong family. It is really hard to make this lessons get through to Ry because she is so little, but we are getting in there. With Deryn's help, we'll more than succeed.

My only wish is that Bethany was closer so Deryn could meet her. Deryn has already been inspired by the "green amputee" here at WRAMC. We have a woman here who loves green and lost one of her legs. I love that the girls can see that men and women can survive such adversity and move forward. Deryn said last night that Bethany needs to come to Walter Reed and check out their prosthetics. She said the one in the movie is no where as good as what they get for her Daddy and his friends. 
One thing is for sure, Chaz and I have some amazing girls. There is no telling what they will become when they grow up. They are being blessed by meeting some exceptional people and some awesome experiences. I can only hope Chaz and I are serving them as well. I can only hope the girls will look back at all of this and be impressed with how we've handled it all.

Monday, August 8, 2011

We Are Not Victims

As we get out and explore the world around us. We often notice people looking at us with pity and sometimes even disgust when we are walking around the town. We also have noticed that we are in an uncaring world. People here in DC/MD do not have a lot of courtesy. Which is such a crazy concept when you are from the South and everyone greets you and smiles and even will hold doors for you. Let me tell you it is so much fun trying to hold a crazy heavy door and wheel Chaz in at the same time. This happens a lot because the doors are not wide enough to allow him the elbow room to wheel himself in. A big part of this war of a wounded warrior's wife is convincing people to give a damn. But why should they?! Why should they care about any of these guys?!

That is probably the one thing that drives me crazy. You constantly have to convince people to give a damn about these soldiers. As long as you stay in a military community you are good, leave that comfort zone and you have to sink or swim.

People have their convictions and will stick by it. They oppose the war, so they don't care about the wounded or dead. Or the war doesn't directly effect them, so once again they don't care. But let me tell you once that war hits home, when someone they know or love is hurt all the sudden they are involved. But why do they wait so long to give a crap. I know why, because we are selfish individuals and we focus on what's in front of us and we get caught up in our little world and we don't have time to care about anything else. I have to admit I have been guilty of that myself from time to time. Even right now I am guilty of that. I am so busy right now taking care of my family, I couldn't tell you what is going on in the outside world unless you told me. Right now my world is all about raising children and caring for an amputee. I can't be involved in our PTO or Girl Scouts or Humane Society or anything else right now because I have been called away from those activities to care for my wounded soldier. When I can I do reach out and help other families. Would I change my life, heck no! The only thing I would do is end these darn deployments. I don't want to meet anymore new wounded warriors, there are enough of us already!

Our first months with Chaz being an outpatient. I was at constant war trying to convince the WTB to give a damn. It was a daily battle and it was so frustrating. But now, a few squad leaders later and thanks to a few meetings and threatening words, we are finally getting taken care of. Things are finally falling into place. We have fought and fought this battle and finally we are winning. We won the internal war just so we could begin an external battle. I am thankful that the Army has this transition set up. I am thankful for the soldiers who have gone before us. I am thankful for all their trial and errors that have made this transition easier for those of us going through it now. I truly hope that our battles also can make it easier for someone else in the future. To the WTB, Chaz is just another wounded warrior, but when you go out and about, Chaz is the exact opposite. Many people have never seen an amputee. The life we are living is such a crazy dichotomy.

Our favorite expression from others is the pity smile. You all know what I am talking about, we've given a few, I know I have. My personal favorite is when we walk around with our friends and they get overprotective of Chaz. I have had to calm many of my friends down and convince them not to say anything. My one friend asked me how to you walk around with him and not hit people. I always say you can't fix stupid, you can only pray for it. Another thing I always say is we are victors, not victims. (Thanks Joel Osteen). We are God's children. He may have put us in this war, but we are in it so we can come out victorious and serve as a witness of God's greatness to others. It is really hard for others to see this. They are too busy focusing on the what they see now, they can't see what is coming. I know there are great things in store for us. I just have no idea what those great things are, but we are excited to see what they may be!

People just don't get it. Yes my husband no longer has legs, thanks I'm tracking that. His right arm is fused at an almost 90 degree angle, thanks again, I'm also tracking that. Yes we have a long road ahead, wow Captain Obvious, I never knew that one, gees what are we going to do?! People absolutely amaze me. Yesterday a man got mad at me because he had to go around us because I was holding the door and Deryn was pushing Chaz out. I looked at him and asked if he had a problem. He looked at Chaz and walked away. One thing I dare anyone to do, is pick a fight with a wounded warrior's wife. We have enough anger in our bodies that the results will not be pretty, let me assure you!

I am not asking anyone to stand up and do anything extreme for these guys, but if you can go for it! You know what I want you to do. If you see us or a family similar to us, hold the door and smile. You don't even have to say anything. But I do ask that you pray for all of us and more importantly tell your friends and family about us. Tell your friends and family to pray for us. Don't let these guys become an unimportant cause. I know there are so many important causes out there, but these soldiers need to rank up in your top ten.

Please remember our soldiers followed orders issued by your government, which is ran by the officials you elected. You want to be mad, focus on the elected, they issued the orders. (FYI Obama is not the only person to blame. The President can't do anything without Congress. True fact, look it up.) Want to get upset about something? Get upset that these guys are just following orders and their lives are radically different because of it. Our soldiers believe they are called to serve our country and because they are following that calling they deserve our respect. So when you see a solider thank them. Thank them for running into the fire, rather than running away. Our thanks is the very least they deserve.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy 32nd Birthday to Chaz!!!!

As I am typing this, I am baking his cupcakes. He wanted white cake, the girls said no he needs confetti cake. So confetti cake it is! One thing is standard, he is getting my butter cream icing that is made from scratch. Deryn is frosting hers green and Ryann insists on frosting her blue. So we'll have blue and green cupcakes, with sprinkles of course. For Chaz's birthday he requested to stay home and chill out. We can all handle that, but I had to thrown in some surprises.

First he's getting one of his favorite meals, tater tot casserole. Second we have some friends bringing some surprises. Some of which I don't totally know about. This should be another great day for the Allen family, or Team Allen as how we are now being introduced around the hospital. One surprise I know of, his amazing online gaming community built him this amazing computer and Elloquin will be here at 10 to start putting it all together. For those who saw the packages, several of those had the computer components in them. I'll take another pic once it's all together. I am running to Target after I bake the cupcakes to buy a desk to put it on. I am so excited for Chaz and I know his gaming buddies are so excited to get him online so they can play together. So much happiness and joy will come from this gift. What these folks have done is just amazing. I am so happy that they wanted to do this for Chaz. I thought he was going to kill me when he found out. He told me I should have never allowed them to do it. I told him I don't think I had a choice. These people are like me, when they want to do and give they are going to and that's the end of it. I cannot wait to meet more of them. One of them was at the airport when we landed in TN. (I apologize now that I can't recall your name. I am really bad with names and I am a horrible speller on top of that.) It was so cool to have him there. Then I have been able to talk to some of them online and even had a phone call or two and today I get to meet another one. It's just so awesome to be blessed by so many wonderful people.

When Chaz started reading the boxes yesterday, he said, "Oh my what have you done?" I said, "Well tomorrow is your birthday?!" Chaz has told more than once that he can never trust me again. I keep saying "good." He said, "You are never going to stop with these surprises?" I said, "While I am alive and kicking, I'm not." I don't think he understands how much joy it brings me to do these awesome things for him. For some reason he seems to think it's all about him. ;)

I can't believe one year ago Chaz was in Afghanistan fighting the fight and we didn't even get to tell him Happy Birthday. Now a year has already passed and we are together for his birthday. And we are blessed by these amazing support groups. Chaz just shook his head and smiled last night when I told him Team Allen hit 3,200. He said it's all just crazy. He doesn't understand why everyone cares so much. He doesn't see how kick ass he is. He just thinks he's doing what he has to do. He just doesn't see how phenomenal that is, which to me makes him even more phenomenal. Most people would just be defeated and give up. Not my hubby, he's up walking on new legs and preparing to bike in the Army Ten Miler. One thing is for sure, I have the best husband, I am so proud of him and so proud he picked me over 12 years ago. Thanks to facebook I now know over 3200 other people think he's as amazing the girls and I do.

I just want to say thank you to all of you for your support. Being a wounded warriors' wife is really hard. We never know when the next battle is coming from and we never know which front is will be on. But having the support in place to pick us up when we are down is what makes it all tolerable. Thank you so much for your prayers, cards, emails, posts on facebook, for everything. We are so thankful for each and every one of you. Thank you for making Chaz's 32nd birthday so incredible. I hope you all have as great of a day as we will!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

White House Tour- August 4

Today we had the privilege of touring the White House. Once again WRAMC's Executive Services put together another great event! We boarded the buses and we were at the White House at 11. We were briefed before we left that we could not take cameras in, which made me a very sad mommy. On the way to the buses this morning, Ryann asked if we were having school today? To which I quickly replied, "Yes at the White House." Deryn then told us she thought this homeschooling stuff is pretty cool.

When we exited the buses we were all greeted by tons of staffers and security. All of the sudden I hear, "Jessica" and I turned to see President Obama's Assistant, Darienne. She came up and told me she was so excited to see our family on the list. She then told me that the President had talked about me quite a bit the day I met him. I was shocked. I thought well that's pretty darn cool. She remembered me. Maybe that's her job, but I was excited that she remembered me. She then met Chaz and the girls and we chatted for a few minutes. Then we were introduced to our very own intern for our visit. Ours was named Allison and she was from Yale and was super sweet. She was so excited. She was getting to go and see things that she has never seen before. All of the interns were so excited to be on the tour with us. They kept saying "oh my gosh," "look at this," "look at that," "this is cool."

We had to go through all the security checkpoints. Then we got to begin our tour of the East wing. We got to all over the "social side" of the White House. We got to go into the China room, or the "dish room" seen in the American President. We got to go into the Library, the sitting room and the room where Obama exits to go to his motorcade. There was so much history, is was amazing. We saw so many paintings and personal belongings, I was a very happy History/Poli Sci major today. We got to go upstairs and see where his party was going to be held. All of the sudden here comes a cute dog. Instantly I realize that's the first dog. "Eeekkk" was the first thing I wanted to say. Instead this really cool guys who was escorting the dog says, "Quick take a picture." I told him they said we weren't allowed. He said, "Whatever, I'll be right back. Your girls need a picture with this dog." The lady who originally said no pics walks up and says, "Wait for the room to clear out and you can take a pic with your girls and the dog." Ryann was so excited, she said, "Mom, we have to send that picture to Mrs. Gray (her kindergarten teacher) she read us a book about him." The lady and gentleman who let me take the picture were so excited that Ryann was excited. I am so glad that there are some really awesome people out there who want to help make memories special. I assured her I hadn't and wouldn't take any more pics. She said for such cuties, we can turn our heads and winked at me. Then we went into another room for a group photo.

We are getting all set up and are listening to one of the guards tell us about the room when poof, in walks President Obama. I was so excited. I got to meet him back in June while Chaz was in surgery and I wanted the rest of my family to meet him too. We took our group shots and then Obama said that he wanted to meet everyone for the first time or again. Then we started singing Happy Birthday to him. You could tell he enjoyed that. He then went along and shook everyone's hand and stopped, looked at me and said, "Oh good, you brought the family." Then looked at Chaz and said, "I tried to meet you, but I heard the surgeons overruled me that day. And look the girls." He took his time and talked to each of the girls and ya'll Ryann actually talked back to him. She is very shy, so we were all three shocked that she talked. Then he asked if I got my autographed picture of us from Ward 57. I told him no, not yet. He said, I'll have someone check on that. Then we each took family shots. And then his had to get back to business. He apologized that they didn't have a cake for all of us to share, which would have been really cool!

It was time to go after that. Darienne, Obama's assistant came up to me to tell me who had my picture. I thought gees, you're good. Then she asked if I still had her card and I told her yes. She then asked for me to email her so she had a way to contact me. I told her I would also send her the blog and Team Allen sites so she could check them out. She and our intern Allison walked us out to the buses and I shared some of our story with them. Allison shook our hands and then departed. I got a nice hug from Darienne and promised I would email her today (which I already did, by the way).

Today was another great memory for the Allen family!

The girls with Bo!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You're thanking me for what?!

The first couple of times I was thanked for staying with Chaz, I thought to myself, you're kidding right?! You are thanking me for being with my husband, really?! I had no idea spouses, girlfriends and other family members abandoning these guys was an issue.That would because I was in my happy bubble again!

Sunday I was thanked again for staying by my hubby's side. Again it was a mother of a solider. Again I got to hear another horror story of how the wife couldn't take it. She said her son's wife almost made it four full weeks. She said that the wife would come in drunk and make fun of her son for being hurt and that she wiped out their bank accounts and that they have no idea where she is. She said that he is better off, but it will be a while before he realizes this. It never gets any easier to hear these stories.

This is not the first time (and I fear it will not be the last time) I have heard this story. Actually, I've heard stories like these several times. Once I had a mom come up to me at an event with tears in her eyes. She told me that I am a diamond in the rough. She said she had been watching me with Chaz and the kids and was just amazed at how amazing our family is. She said she couldn't believe how well behaved our girls are. She also said she was amazed at how I became Chaz's nurse once the alarm on his phone went off and I got up to give him his meds. She said thank you so much for staying with him and doing what is best for your family. At first I didn't know what to say. But I thanked her for her kind words and then asked how her son was doing. Then in our conversation I found out her soon-to-be ex-daughter-in-law didn't make it one week. She said her son got over it a lot faster than she ever imagined and she doesn't know how he did it. She said I guess it wasn't true love. But she said the wife just said she couldn't handle it and she just left. The wife didn't ask for anything except the divorce. The mom said that made it so much easier. Then she was telling me some of the other horror stories she has heard from the other moms. She then went onto to say that moms size the wives up quick. She said there was a lot of talk about me. She said everyone admires that I am always smiling and always asking about the other guys. I am so glad that's what they talk about in regards to me.

We went on to talk about how there are moms and then there are wives and there's not a lot of bridging that gap. There's a lot of resentment. I have seen of this, but since I don't care who you are and what you do, so I've been able to bridge that gap. I'm going to be nice to you no matter what. You want to judge me behind my back, go right ahead, I have bigger problems to deal with.

We have become friends with a lot of moms and wives. But the moms tend to do the motherly thing and protect their sons, which is more than understandable. The wives tend to be the fighters, they seem to always be on the edge ready to pounce. Now there are some wives and moms who possess both traits. I think I possess both. I am very overprotective of my crew but I am also not afraid to fight at any time! It is said that some women here can't bridge that gap. Some don't want to talk to the moms because of what their own mom or mother-in-law treated them. And the moms don't want to be friends with the wives and girlfriends because of how their son's wife or girlfriend treated their son.

The bottom line is we ladies who are supporting the wounded warriors are freaking angry. We have to figure out how to put that anger aside and become friends. Instead we find ourselves building walls because we don't know who we can trust. The war on anger is not an easy war to win. I find myself angry all the time, but how can I not be. This journey is a constant battle. I fight with anger, pain, frustration and that's just some of the emotions. This doesn't include some of the other battles that we deal with everyday! But I always focus on the issue that I am angry with and not take it out on something or someone else. I don't see the anger going away anytime soon, but 99% of the time I can control and manage it. I am just so thankful for all these awesome people and organizations who are here to make life better. All of the blessings that have been given to us make everything so much easier.

I am also so thankful for such a kick ass husband. Chaz and I have been through hell and back. But you know what because we have each other we are able to carry on. We may be opposites but I guess you need those differences in order to get through all of this. We didn't realize how much we needed each other until Jan 22. This journey has been incredibly difficult, but I am so thankful that I am on this journey with him. God is great! He may put us in the middle of the storm, but He will always help us find a way out with faith, patience and time. I pray everyday that he too will bless these other families and they will find the blessings we have and that their road will also become a little easier.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Our Night with Rick Allen of Def Leppard

We were invited to the concert and meet and greet several weeks ago. We always say yes to things and then decide at that morning if we're going or not. That's the way we have to do things. We never know when a bad day is coming. So we say yes today and confirm later. Every family we know also has this policy.

Chaz's awesome OT Stephanie volunteered to watch the cuties. When she showed up we were out the door and headed back to Walter Reed to meet the bus at the Malogne House. We had a super comfy bus for our less than an hour ride.

We got to go and park back behind the stage. We unloaded and we were escorted backstage. It was really cool to go back there and see all the truck lined up and organized. The guide explained to us how everything worked. The I walked towards the stage so I could see the rockstar view! I took several pics.

Then we went back to our buses and had some pizza and waited for Rick Allen to arrive. He came and just sat down and just chilled with us. He talked and listened and he told us his story. For those of you who don't know, Rick was in a car accident when he was 21 and his left arm was severed because the seat belt was not properly fastened. He told us how he was laying in the hospital bed and decided he could not let his band mates down. He said they put this thing at the foot of his bed to help him sit up and one day he started tapping his feet on it. Then he realized he could still be a drummer and began to figure out how to adapt his drums. He said it was that simple. He just didn't want to disappoint anyone and that drove him to keep moving forward. Then he told us about how his body just adapted and everything just became easier everyday.

Then he told us about how he got involved in the Wounded Warrior Project. He said he wanted to just show the soldiers that he carried on and that he wanted to just help them. But instead he was inspired by them. He said at that point he decided he would meet as many soldiers as possible. He then went around and met all of us. When I introduced us as Chaz and Jessica Allen, Rick said, "No way, you're an Allen too. That's really your last name?" I told yes it is. It was so funny, he said he'd never met another Allen before. I told him around here, there's a ton of us. We all then went to take pictures.

The whole time we were there, I thought of my big brother, John. He is a huge Def Leppard fan and I mean huge. I know all of their songs because of him. We took our pic first and were off to the side and it dawned on me I bet he'd take a pic for John if I asked. Another lady had a similar thought and called her mom and Rick got on the phone and said hello. I then said hey can I take a pic for my brother. He said here let's call him. I said that's a great idea but unfortunately he won't be able to hear you. I explained to Rick that my big brother lost his hearing due to rocking out to Def Leppard in his car after our Mom told him many times to turn the music down. Rick said, "No way." Chaz said, "Yes way he has a hearing aide for both ears." Rick says, "Then we need to send him a great pic." He asked, "What does your brother do now?" I said, "He runs his own business tinting windows, putting in stereos all of the above." He said, "So he lost his hearing and still rocks out?" I said, "Everyday just like you." We took the pic and then I got a big hug. Chaz and I would have given anything for my big brother to have been there! But we shared his story with Rick and we took lots of pics just for him and even got him a T-shirt. I was texting with John all night too!

Rick of course had to get back to his rockstar duties and we had to go find our seats. Unfortunately the row they gave us did not have a handicapped accessible seat so the event floor manager moved us to even better seats! The staff at the concert was so helpful and they made sure we had everything we needed and even checked on us during the night. We did have fun freaking out the teenagers. You see we only had one ticket and it was for me, because they forgot Chaz's. This is why management had to get involved. So when we left our seats and tried to get back in the teeny-boppers would flip. "But you only have one ticket," one teen said. So I pulled Chaz off to the side and said to the girl ,"See that lady, she's your manager and she knows what's going on, so go send your buddy to go ask her." But luckily the manager saw us and came over to take care of it. She apologized and we told her, hey they are just trying to do a good job. We were all teenagers once.

I made Chaz happy because we found Italian Ice and popcorn. Of course we had to take out a loan and sign Deryn's college fund over to get them, but he was happy. I did notice the concessions were operated by a High School Music program and they got a share of the proceeds so that was pretty cool.

The concert was awesome!!!!! Heart and Def Leppard know how to entertain and rock the house. If they are coming to a town near you, go see them! I know I'd go again, I bet Chaz would too!