Friday, December 30, 2011

I Guess It Was Over Due?!

We had such a great day yesterday. The girls had stayed the night with the neighbors Wednesday night so Chaz and I could just get up and go run our errands. So we did. We took care of some TN business and then he wanted to go to Best Buy. By the way, he was on his legs the entire time (woot-woot). I had a lunch date set with a great friend and Chaz decided he and the girls needed Sonic since I was getting lunch out too. We took care of that and then headed home and then I took off with my friend.

I spent hours with my friend and her daughter and it was just awesome. We talked and talked and it was great. Being home and catching up with friends is exactly what the doctor ordered. Family and friends are the best medicine sometimes. We have enjoyed everyday of being home.

I came back home from lunch and decided that since it was so beautiful outside that meant it was a great day to pack up Christmas and put it all in the attic. Chaz's friend came over to get some computer assistance. Our family friends came over to visit and collect their mail that I had collected for them. As I was cleaning the house, Chaz informed me that he needed new shorts and I decided that I was going to buy a steam mop because our tile in the kitchen was disgusting. I told Deryn this was a great time for her and I to have Mommy and me time. Ryann doesn't like to shop, but Deryn does. So Deryn and I loaded up and went to Target.

As we were driving down the road she asked, "When do we have to go back to Maryland?" I told her the date. She then said, "Why can't we just stay here? Daddy is doing so great here." By the time I got to the parking lot of Target the tears were flowing. You know it is really hard to be 9 years old and go through all of this. You are just old enough to understand some of it, but not all of it. And you just want to be a kid. At our girls' ages, all you want it is to have fun with your friends, but instead they have to go back and forth and back and forth. It is hard on us, so I know it is hard on them too.

Our girls have just been awesome through all of this. What we are going through is a lot to deal with. Our cuties are just incredible and we are so proud of them. Ryann seems to be at the perfect age for all of this. However, it may just be her personality. She just goes with the flow. As long as you throw in some fun stuff every once in a while (which we do) then she is good. She doesn't seem to care where we are. Deryn is a little harder to deal with because she's 9, which I heard is the new 13. God Bless us all. Chaz and I are trying so hard to protect her childhood, but we can see how much she has grown up while dealing with all of this. She tells us it's not fair and then we have to remind her she is not the only one who is going through all of this. You can see it helps her to know that she is not alone.

Once we got to Target, she climbed up in the front seat of our car and we had a really good talk. I told her that when Daddy was first hurt they told us it would take at least 4 years to heal him and that if we were lucky he would be walking next year. I asked her if she remembered when Daddy took his first steps and she said. "Yes, the Monday that we came to see him." I said, "How long had he been hurt?" She said, "Not very long." I said, "It was less than two months. You see that's how much Daddy loves you. When they told us it would be 4 years your Daddy and I cried and cried and we decided 4 years was way too long and you girls deserved better. Daddy said that he was going to get us back home and that we were moving on. March 21, Daddy was only supposed to stand up, but no because you girls were there, he walked. You need to know Daddy is trying his best to put all of this behind us so we can all move on. And you need to know how much you girls help us move forward. We can't do it without you. You girls are Mommy and Daddy's best medicine. You need to know just having you with us makes everything better for us."

Of course that made her feel better. What I realized through our talk is that we need to try to come back to TN more often so she has some of her life back. I don't know how this will all work out, but we'll make it work out. So far we have made everything else work, so I know we can do this too.

We returned from Target and I finished cleaning the house, then I walked upstairs and curled up in my bed. I had had a very productive day, so I rewarded myself and I shut our bedroom door and enjoyed a movie all by myself. I knew the ending because I read the book and I cried. Chaz came in on the ending and said, "Is it that sad?" I waved him off, because it was almost over. Then I confessed yes it was sad, but I just needed a good cry. I then told him about my conversation with Deryn. I told him that he was accustomed to going back and forth because he had done it for 13 years, but the girls and I hadn't and we miss our lives. I miss my friends and our lunch dates and bunco and all the things I had before. I wake up everyday telling myself it's one day closer to the end. I channel my positive energy into helping other people because helping others helps me heal. But every once in a while you just have to sit down and cry. Thanks to a movie, I was having my moment. Of course my hubby just laughs at me. And yes I felt much better once I got it all out. I just hate knowing I am disappointing Deryn. But I know we are doing what is best for the girls.

We have made the best out of all of this. I have made some of the most amazing friends during this journey. I miss my DC/MD/VA friends now, but I know I will see them soon. I do not know when I'll see my TN friends again once we go back. Chaz and I have assimiliated very well into that environment, but it will never be home for us. We belong here. We really like it there, but this is home.

You know it's pretty messed up that while you're pregnant they check on you every month but once the kid is yours and they kick you out of the hospital, you don't have the help desk anymore. I really don't think many people know how to deal with all of this, but it would be nice. I truly believe Chaz and I have made all of the right decisions, but disappointing your children is never easy. As their parents you only want to bring them smiles. We have had way more smiles then tears in this family.I am so glad we have. I reminded Deryn about her gymnastic and horse riding lessons when we get back and that helped a lot. But one thing is for sure, being home and having our lives back shows us how ready we are for all of this back and forth to be over.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Perfect Thing in My Inbox This Morning....

Nothing Can Hold You Back
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE
“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree...”
(Psalm 92:12, NKJ)
TODAY’S WORD from Joel and Victoria
Have you ever seen a palm tree in the midst of a great storm? That tree may be bent so far over that it’s almost touching the ground, but when the wind finally stops, that palm tree bounces right back up. What’s interesting is that while that palm tree is hunched over under the pressure of the storm, it is actually growing stronger?
The reason God said we’d flourish like a palm tree is because He knew there would be difficult times. He knew things would come against us to try to steal our joy and victory. God said, “You’re going to be like a palm tree because when the storms of life blow, you are going to come right back up stronger than before.” Nothing can hold you back! No weapon formed against you will prosper.
As you reflect on the events over the last year, remember, the storms you have encountered have only made you stronger. You are wiser, you are more alive, and you are headed for victory. You’re brightest days are right out in front of you! Always remember that with God on your side, nothing can hold you back!
A PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father in heaven, thank You for making me strong in You. I trust that You are working in my life, even in the midst of the storms. I know You will bring me out stronger, wiser and better off than ever before in Jesus’ name. Amen.
— Joel & Victoria Osteen


This was in my email this morning. I usually start my day with my quick emails from Joel Osteen. I know some people don't like Joel because he is so positive. However that is the exact reason I like him. I am as ridiculously positive as he is! 

Today's email was so absolutely perfect. I am so thankful for God's timing. He knew I needed this today. I am sharing this in case you need to be reminded of this too!

Over the course of the 2011, I have felt like a Palm Tree so many times that I could not begin to count them all. I just didn't realize it until I read this. I have been pushed so far over I still can't believe I didn't break. Sure I have sat down and cried multiple times and I bet there are a few more times to come. Once I even stopped and went into the bathroom in the middle of the hospital and let a few tears out, because the stress of everything had gotten to me. But after every thing that has happened we have always been able to stand up and move on. There are days that I sit and think how do we do this? How are we still sane? The answer is simply God knows. He knows what we can handle we just have to trust in him.

Letting go and bending with the wind is sometimes so impossibly hard. But God has shown me that is what we have to do. Things are not always going to go my way, they will go his way and we have to trust in that. If we bend like the Palm Tree God will see us through and he will help us become taller, stronger more beautiful trees. Now we just need to have a talk about us being trees in some place with a beach and lots of sun every once in a while! ;)

I hope this email I received this morning blesses your day like it did mine!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

12-28-11 Update

I love having so many people who care about us. I have learned if I go 3 days without a post people begin to worry. I think that is so sweet and thoughtful of you all. I truly appreciate how much you all care about our little family. So let me update you.

First we are all four absolutely fabulous. We are just loving being home in our home. Chaz is spending his days playing on his computer and catching up with his friends. Since we pulled into the drive way our girls have had a revolving door of friends come through. So that keeps them really busy. I have been working on catching up with friends and getting my business closed out for 2011 and ready for 2012.

For those who don't know, Chaz loves computers. He is currently taking some certification classes with the Wounded Warrior Project while he is still at Bethesda. So he is applying what he has learned there to his computer here and looking to see what he can do to make it better, faster, etc. He also spends a lot of time helping his other friends online with their computer problems too. As for his health, he is great. His pain is under control and he is walking around just fine.

The girls are on a non-stop train of fun. They have had so many friends over to play and sleep overs I have lost count. We are letting them have as much fun as possible since their friends will be going back to school soon. The girls have friends who are their ages in the homes on both sides of us so they don't have to go very far to have lots of fun.

I have loved that fact that my crew acts like I don't cook in Maryland. They have cracked me up with their food orders. I don't know if it's just because we are home and they are finally thinking about it or what. Regardless I love it! I seriously have a list so long that we won't have repeats while we're here. We have made all of our favorite Christmas treats and as one of our random acts of kindness we took some to our friends who were here in Clarksville for the holidays.

We had a great Christmas day and Santa was very kind to our children. Chaz and I do not exchange gifts. We haven't in years. We let the girls pick something out for us, but we don't buy for each other. Santa did bring our family the game Jenga. Deryn was excited because and I quote, "Ms Stephanie, (Chaz's OT) let us play that together and that it is great exercise for Daddy's hand." I did brake the rule this year and I bought Chaz a 50-cal bottle opener from Bullets2Bandages.org because it was just too freaking cool. Chaz and I totally don't need anything this year (except a new house) so we only focus on the girls at Christmas.

We did get to have a great dinner and evening with another wounded warrior family the other night. The Kurtz family has family ties to Clarksville. So when we found out we would be in the same place at the same time we decided we needed to get together. We had them over for dinner and it was just awesome to have them in our home. We ate and laughed and it was just plain terrific to be in their presence and to be away from the hospital.

I have had a very lovely run in with my allergies. So I have been having fun trying out different meds to make it all at least calm down so I can breathe. I even went to bed at 6 on Christmas night. I woke up feeling much better and then dove in to taxes, taxes, taxes. I love my job and had to contact the IRS to find out what all I need to do to keep it going with my situation. I got those answers and now I just need to close out my books and back up files and finish out 2011.

As you can see we are just moving right along and are enjoying our stay in our home in Tennessee. It will be hard to return to Maryland, but we are not finished there yet. We will go back there and make the best of it. I am just so thankful for all of the wonderful people that we have in both places who make this journey so much easier!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

And So This Is Christmas....

I still can't believe only one year ago many of my friends and I were celebrating another deployed Christmas. After the first deployment, the rest of them just seemed so much easier to me. I remember crying the first Christmas Chaz was gone, but that because Deryn had just been born in September and I wanted him here with us. I guess holidays apart just became easier to handle was because I knew what to expect and how to handle them better. I learned to surround myself with joy and positivity so I didn't go crazy! But it never ceases to amaze me how fast time flies. I realized this morning, we finally tipped the scale! Chaz has been home for more Christmas celebrations then he has been gone. Now that scale is gone, he's ours from now on!

One year ago, my hubby and his guys were eating MREs and dodging bullets. Now he and his guys are back with their families and eating delicious home cooked meals. I am so thankful to have so many of our friends back with us this year. But my heart breaks knowing that there are families who are separated this year. My heart breaks knowing there are families spending Christmas in the hospital this year. My heart breaks knowing there are people spending Christmas alone.

I have had many of my civilian friends say, "I just don't know how you Army wives do it." I would tell them I made my decision a long time ago. I chose to take as many days God would give me with Chaz as opposed to never having him in my life at all. Yes we have given him up again and again, but no matter where he was, he was still in our lives and that's what made it all tolerable. I knew that one day I'd get to stop giving him up again and again, but I seriously thought we had 7 more years of Army fun and deployments. We never saw this all coming, but does anyone?!

I am so happy that last year was the last year Chaz will be separated from us. I wish I could give this gift to all of my military friends. I wish I could wave my magic wand and bring all of our troops home. But I can't, so our family will think about and pray for them all today. We will pray they find some peace and rest and a hot meal.

Tonight we will make our cookies for Santa and the girls will get their Christmas Eve pajamas. We'll all get our hot chocolate and curl up together. We will then tell our girls the real meaning and the story behind Christmas. We will tell them how the birth of one miracle child blessed our world. We will remind them how blessed we are to be together and that we are so blessed to have another Christmas together as a family. We will pause and focus on our blessings and we will make more Christmas memories together.

We hope you have a truly blessed and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

11 months today....

11 months ago today, I did just like I did this morning. I woke up at 6am, took a shower, let the dog out and grabbed a cup of chai. But rather than auditing a clients' tax information I am blogging about how our lives have changed since that day.

It's crazy to me how 11 months ago today started out as just any other day. Two hours into it, I got the phone that changed it all. 11 months ago today, our lives as we knew them were drastically changed forever. January 22, was our Day Zero. It was a day full of tears and fears, that ended in me saying ok what's next?! When do I get to him, how does this all work?!

Over the past 11 months, Chaz and I have proven to our girls that when life throws you a curve ball, you swing your bat as hard as you can to knock that ball straight out of the park. We have shown them how you have to get back up and keep moving on. We have taught them that life is so great no matter what adversities are thrown your way.

Chaz has shown them the miracles of modern medicine and how when God puts the right people on your path you can get up and walk again. We have shown them that you cannot let physical disabilities stop you from leading a happy and full life. We have met the most amazing people on this journey and I know more will follow.

Everyday I am humbled by what all God has given to us. Chaz got to come home to us. We have been able to continue on with our happily ever after that we started many years ago. We have been blessed by the most amazing people who just want to make sure we move forward. We have learned so much about how the Army takes care of its soldiers and their families. We have learned so much about the amazing non-profits who work with the military to help the families wherever they may need it. Everyday to us is a reminder of how great our God is and I am so glad we can tell about his wonderful work in our lives.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When?!

Another hard thing to deal with on this journey is the fact you just never know when the next whatever is going to happen. Which happens in every one's life, I know. But when you have dealt with life threatening issues for an extended period of time it is just nerve racking. I highly believe in distractions. I like to keep myself busy and focused on something positive so I don't sit around and worry all the time. I have a lot of energy and I have to keep it channeled into productive places.

Remember the old saying it's just the calm before the storm. One of my friends pointed out that I told her I had a feeling 2011 was going to be a crazy year. This was just before Chaz was injured. She reminded me of this the other day. We totally did have some clam before the storm and wow what a crazy storm that followed that calm. What a year it has been?! It has been full of whens since January 22. When do I get to talk to my husband? When will he be in the states? When do I get to see him? The questions just go on and on and the majority began with when.

The unknown can be a good or bad thing, depending on which way you look at it. Also it's depends also on what's happening. I have to admit that I fear I could become a hypochondriac when it comes to Chaz. How can you not be afraid of what else might happen to someone you love when you have already watched them go through so much? I stopped counting how many surgeries, units of blood, lab tests, x-rays, etc and etc a long time ago. To me keeping up with all of that was depressing me and it broke my heart to know that Chaz had to endure so much. I hated seeing him in so much pain, but I knew he was in good hands and the Army proved me absolutely correct.

Chaz will tell you I am an over protective, multi-tasking, OCD Mommy. And that I always have my guard up. I am always leery of new people to the ball game. I am also always looking for Plan A,B,C, D and every other letter (there are 26 letter in the alphabet after all) if necessary. I have a hard time trusting people and I am very careful with who gets close to us. I like to control as many things as possible, it's just my personality. I have learned to let go of a lot of control since going through all of this. I have learned that God is in control and he will lead me where I need to go, but I find it is still really hard to trust people. What's that old saying keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Yeah no, I'm good, I'll keep my great friends really close and those who want to hurt us can just go find a hobby.

One thing is for sure, I am so grateful for all the medical professionals that have come in our lives since January 22. If you have a question they are more than happy to answer it. Chaz's doctors that he had from the moment he arrived at WRAMC will still stop both or either of us in the hall and ask us questions about Chaz's healing. I appreciate that they have so much knowledge and they help us look out for problems that could occur. They are like our personalized medical tech support. I really love finding out that other patients are blessed with these doctors as well. It makes me feel great knowing they too have these great people on their team.

When you are thrown onto this roller coaster ride you seriously do not know when the next curve or flip is coming. We know Chaz will have to have another surgery on his elbow. We are still praying that he will still get an elbow. We were told at the beginning he was a perfect candidate for a cadaver replacement. But a different surgeon came along and said he wouldn't do it because he hadn't done it before. So Chaz decided we would just sit and wait. He really doesn't want a permanent fusion and who can blame him. Here's my opinion. The have come so far in the medical technology. I think if we just wait another option for his elbow will come. I think it is soon to throw in the towel and fuse his arm. We have talked to several medical professionals and they all agree. So we wait.

He fell at PT the other day right on that elbow and scared me to death. The X-rays showed it was fine. I am so glad that when he fell he was right there in front of his therapists and they sent him straight to X-ray. If you are going to fall, I think it's best to fall where you therapist can see you.

We know Chaz will have surgery on his legs when we go back to MD, but we don't know when. For those who don't know when you are amputated your bones still keep growing. One of Chaz's is growing like a horn and sometimes causes him pain. He says it's fine and the x-rays confirmed he didn't have to immediately have it cut out. He decided he's had enough surgeries for 2011, so he'll put that one of until 2012. He wanted to be in our home for the holidays and who could blame him.

Someone once said to me "I just don't know how you ladies do it." She said she had met moms, girlfriends, wives, etc and all were just so amazing. She claims she is too selfish to do all that we do. I told her I bet you would be just as amazing as the rest of us. I don't want you in this club with us, but I have no doubt you'd do just fine. She said she has to plan everything and would go nuts letting go of everything and not knowing when anything was going to happen. I told her I was like that. I liked to control as many pieces of my life as possible. But now I have learned that God's timing may not line up with my timing, his he knows what he's doing and I put my trust and faith in him and he hasn't lead me on a wrong path yet. It is hard to give up control of your life. But so far it has worked out way better that I ever imagined. We have a rule in this house, if you cannot put your hands on it to fix it, then it is not you problem to fix. You give it to God and he will sort it all out.

The truth is you never know what you can do until you are pushed to do it. You think you know how you would react, but you don't. You find out who you really are when you are pushed into the corner or forced out onto the edge. Everyone handles everything differently. I am so proud that I have been put through so many fires before January 22, 2011 because I can look back and realize that this is not so bad. Is it stressful, oh my goodness it's ridiculously stressful. Not knowing when is so annoying. We truly can't plan for anything. But as an Army wife you can't really plan things too far out because of the deployments. And we wives know that the Army likes to mess with our plans anyway. So we have different levels of plans and different ways of making everything work. We adapt and develop plans for in case Daddy is here and then make plans in case Daddy is not here. The good news is I don't have to make anymore if Daddy isn't here plans.

I have no idea when we will return to TN for good. I have no idea when the Army will be done with Chaz. I have no idea when his bones will stop growing. We can only plan about one month out at a time and even that is always subject to change at the last minute. I don't sit around dwelling on it. Instead I find things to do to keep me busy so I can distract myself from the frustration of the unknown.

One day this will all be behind us. One day we will be in a house that suits Chaz's needs. He'll have a job working with computers and I'll grow my business again. He and I will be the girls' non-stop taxi service as we drive them to all their activities and sleepovers. I just don't know when?!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Home for Christmas

I really don't believe in advanced packing. I believe that if I pack too far ahead I just end up repacking. I truly wait until right before we leave. So yes Sunday night and Monday morning I was packing, packing and packing. I was able to get everything packed and ready to go and get our apartment cleaned. We loaded up with our neighbor in tow to head off to the airport. Our awesome neighbor took our van to the body shop to be repaired while we are home in Tennessee. Not sure if you all know, but I decided our van needed to meet a concrete pole. Yes that pole just jumped right out in front of me and yes it won. So it will get some MD-TLC while we are getting some TN-TLC.

A little bit of traffic and our hungry bellies got in our way, but we made it to the Manasses VA airport in perfect timing. We met our pilot's son and he helped get us into the tarmac and drive right up to the plane to unload our van and pack up the plane. Once again we took a Veterans Airlift Command flight home. If you know a wounded warrior family please let them know about Veterans Airlift Command. These amazing Americans give up their time, money and resources to help our families get places quicker. Their services are open to all veterans who were wounded while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. You can learn more about them today at http://www.veteransairlift.org/ so take a minute and check them out!

Here's a few pictures from our awesome VAC flight!!



  
VA KY


We got home to our beautiful home that my mom and friend's church had cleaned up. Our friend's church raked all of our leaves, trimmed back our bushes and made our home look picture perfect. Mom added the decorations and made it look like a Christmas card.



We came inside and brought our things in, but our girls' friends who live on each side of us we waiting patiently to play. Our girls were inside our home for about 5 minutes, if that, before running out to play with their friends. I went through our house and just thought how great it feels to be home. Then I went to my desk....

This is what three months of mail looks like, except our friend who watches our home was kind enough to throw away all of the junk mail. So I sat down for a few minutes and went through and was able to throw some more of it away. Of course I had to open the boxes. Here's what I found...
I found new Christmas Stockings that my friend and fellow Kappa Delta sister made for our family to have this year.

Then I discovered a little box with handmade ornaments that my Great Aunt Martha Sue had made for us.


Both of these were great surprises to have on our first day back! Then Deryn and I went to her Girl Scout Christmas Party and got to catch up with our friends. Her fellow Girl Scouts were so excited to see her. She has been skyping in with them for months now. But last night she got to giggle with them in person. De and I returned home from scouts and then with Grannie's help we decorated our tree. I forgot to get Chaz's picture. He was sitting off to the side supervising!



We had a great first night back home. Chaz had to rest up a little after the flight. Traveling wears him out way more then it did before. Then of course he had to spend time catching up with his cyber buddies.

There was one Allen family member who was very, very excited to see us and to be home too and that's our dog, Arf. Our cat, Callee, still lives with my sister and Callee does not travel very well. I am not sure when she will be able to join us. But one thing is for sure having as many pieces of your life back together under the same roof makes everything so much better.

 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wahoo!!! We Are Almost Home! (again)

Today we get to go back to our home in TN. We have been approved to leave and we will be home in time for Deryn's Girl Scout Christmas party this evening!! We are once again taking a flight provided by the awesome Veteran's Airlift Command. Do you know about this awesome organization?! If not, go to veteransairlift.org and learn more about them today. These awesome people give up their time, money and resources to fly wounded warriors and their families in private planes to wherever they need to go.

We will be in TN playing catch up for about 28 days. Our families are so excited that we are going to be home in our house in TN for the holidays. We have so much to celebrate and it will be a month long celebration.

Last Christmas it was just me and the girls, Chaz was just over half way through his tour of Afghanistan. I always followed Chaz's we stay in our house December 24 & 25 rule even when he's deployed. Luckily he got to call on Christmas Eve last year. The absolute coolest thing happened when he called. UPS showed up with a delivery. It was a gift I had ordered for the girls. I said to Chaz, "Hey Daddy your gifts for the girls just arrived." He played along and said, "No way." (We were on speaker phone.) I said yes way. So the girls got to open a present from Daddy while he was on the phone. (Yes I cried and am tearing up recalling that story now.) It is one of my favorite Christmas memories by far. I could not have planned that any better if I tried. It would have only been better if we could have skyped it, but his area he was in didn't have such luxuries!

That was my last Christmas apart from my hubby. He will never deploy again. It feels so great to type those words! The girls and I have given him up so many times over the years. He has missed  holidays, birthdays, ball games and dance recitals and so much. But God gave me the best gift of all this year. He let me keep Chaz. He put his hands on his medic and his guys and the doctors and nurses and together they all saved his life and gave our family countless more holidays, dance recitals, trips to the movies and only God knows what's next!!

We will have to return to Maryland in January. I am actually kind of excited to come back. I have meetings and events already set up upon my return. I plan to make 2012 one of the best years I have had in my short life. God showed me what I could have lost. But we won that battle and I will continue to step in faith because I know great things are in store for our family.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In response.....

 This comment was left on my blog today.... Anonymous wrote: As a fellow wounded warrior wife who has been on this journey quite a bit longer than you it's really upsetting to think you believe your family sets the bar for the wounded. you have an entire brand and charity that you created for your own family and are constantly marketing yourselves for profit. (Which I think is so wrong considering we both now how well the Army takes care of us.) You are so willing to share every single aspect of your journey I don't think it's fair to criticize those who have questions. The boundaries for "Team Allen" are extremely blurry and you can't expect civilians to understand where you draw the line. We do lead an interesting life and without trying to financially profit I want to share my story so civilans can understand this life can be a bitch! I'm proud of the injuries my husband has endured and survived so damn straight I'm more than proud to share with complete strangers the survivor he is! You and your family thrive for the lime light so honestly even as a fellow wounded family it's hard for us to even think there are any boundaries for "Team Allen." My advice to Team Allen is to take a more modest route. If you want to lead a private life then don't have a public blog. Best of luck!

The End of Our Stay in Iraq

For days, I have been digesting the "end of the Iraq war." I have read several articles and seen the opinions of others. Now here's the opinion of a Army Infantry wife with over 10 years as a wife and over 12 years as a loved one to a service member.

Let me be the first to tell you not all of our troops will be home by Christmas. We have friends that are staying there to finish out their year long deployment to Iraq. If you think all of our soldiers are coming out of Iraq all in one swoop then let me wake you up. We did not drop billions of dollars over there to just pack up and move away. Iraq will become like Korea was. All troops will be home for Christmas makes for a great story, but those of us supporting the troops at close range actually know the truth because our friends and loved ones are still there!! It makes for a great story, but it is not entirely true. We have friends sitting in Kuwait right now and that's where they are staying for several more months. And we know we will have more friends who will go there.

When Chaz went to Korea in 2002 it was a Hazardous Duty/Unaccompanied tour. I was not allowed to go with him. Because of that, I got to have Deryn with my mom by my side, instead of my husband. Chaz came home when she was 6 days, left when she was 5 weeks. He was gone for a full year and came home the week of her first birthday and was gone again 4 weeks later and then came home when she was 16 months old. I think you can now understand why I refer to Korea as a deployment, not an assignment. The Army eventually did as well because now in some areas of Korea your family can go with you. Why has this changed? It is because the soldiers in Korea were added to the deployment rotations to Iraq and were being kept away from their families for longer terms. We needed the boots on the ground so they added them into the rotation. Now you go to Korea just like Germany, Italy, Texas, New York, etc and then you will rotate out with your unit. The tours to Korea are now longer. When Chaz and I were first married the tours there were only 1 year, (although Chaz was extended to 18 months due to the Iraq war) now they are 2 to 4 years. Once we passed the 4 year mark in Iraq, I told Chaz mark my word Iraq will become Korea. He commented the other day that he still can't believe I saw that coming. He thought Iraq would be like Desert Storm, in out and done. Yesterday he looked at me and said I cannot believe you called that one so long ago.

Then I read this story http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/15/opinion/sanderlin-iraq-afghanistan/index.html I truly don't believe this wife is saying those who served in Iraq are less worthy of our appreciation. I just believe she never supported the war in Iraq and is glad her hubby served in the war that she supports. There's nothing wrong with that and she has every right to her opinion, as do I. I did not catch her hubby's occupation in the military. But let me tell you my fellow Infantry wives would take Iraq over Afghanistan any day! That is not just because Chaz was injured, but because Iraq had better communication capabilities so we heard from our hubbies a lot more. And statistically they were safer in Iraq. In addition, in Iraq our guys were not shot at every single day multiple times per day. So once again I don't know what her hubby does for the military, but I doubt he is Infantry and if he is I want to know what part of Afghanistan he served in. Because she believes Afghanistan is better (I laugh and shake my head), bless her heart.

My hubby has served in Kosovo, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. I am proud of everything he has done. I am proud that he answered the call to serve. I am proud of all the good he did in Iraq. It is so sad that you don't hear about all the good our soldiers did in that country. They helped establish democracy, built schools, and helped reshape a nation that was ruled by a man that to me was too close to Hilter. All you hear about is the lives lost and injured and the amount we spent. Our soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors are called to serve. They are the perfect example of the true American patriotic spirit. They enlist so they can give back and help protect our nation. I believe all of our troops' work is commendable. We must all remember they are called to serve and follow the orders of our government. Our country took upon ourselves a long time ago to help other nations in times of need. Our service members serve as our on the ground ambassadors to our nations. They have done a great job. They all deserve a huge pat on the back. Do not punish them for the choices of our government, nor degrade all their hard work. Sure we had a few bad eggs who were splashed all over the news and ruined it for all our guys. But don't let their stupidity be the legacy of Iraq. Look and see all the great things our soldiers brought to that nation.

She made this comment "people don't shake their heads and look down when I talk of my husband's deployments. They don't suck in their breaths and say to me, "What a waste."" Well I have never, ever had that happen not one time and Chaz served in Iraq in 05-06. I don't know who her friends are but I would think about the company I keep. Everyone in my circle is very proud of my hubby and I have been thanked so many times that I cannot count them for our service. I have never heard of this happening to our friends either. And if someone did say this to me, I would quickly correct them.

Then there's this comment, "So, though I'm glad to not have that Iraq baggage in my family, I worry now for all my friends who do. It is a horrible thing to have given tremendously to a cause that others do not respect." To be blunt, this lady is tripping on some great drugs. To me she is being overly dramatic about a non-issue. I carry that baggage proudly, very proudly. I am thankful to remind people of the over 30 people we lost in Chaz's one year rotation. I will not let their deaths be forgotten. I also tell them about our friends who were injured and talk about the good Chaz and his guys did over there.

She also says she never thought of them as separate wars. Well that is coming from someone who only served in one of them. They were separate and fought differently. The bullets, IEDs and attacks were quite a bit different. Ask our Infantry soldiers or better yet ask the medical professionals at Walter Reed who are treating our soldiers' injuries.They'll be happy to enlighten you.

The one thing she and I do have in common is I too didn't have a "1/2 of my heart is in Iraq" sticker. Due to security issues, we were asked to not place them on our vehicles. Our command was afraid our families could be targets of terrorism. I think my reason is a little bit better than hers, just saying.

Bottom line is you should not publish opinions that you cannot back up 101%. If your hubby fought in one conflict only then you have a biased opinion and should do a little more research. I for one will tell you I carry all of our baggage just fine and proudly. I truly feel bad for this woman because I know she was attacked with emails and such once this article was published. I also think she is almost totally wrong. I think our nation is very proud of all of our soldiers and that no one shakes their head in shame at our troops.

When I see the words "war in Iraq has ended," it brings me hope. I am in a major military hospital almost everyday and I meet or hear about newly injured warriors almost everyday. So when I see these words "war has ended" I think good now the injured will only come from Afghanistan and not from two places. I am happy to know that the statistics of troops being injured and/or KIA has gotten a little better. I am thinking ok combat ops have ended there so does this mean we can focus on the first war we started and finish it out?! I am tired of meeting new families. I am tired of knowing someone is possibly having a Day Zero today. I am tired of sharing tips of families to help them heal. But I quickly shake off that tiredness and get to work helping these families the best I can.

Most importantly please remember we still have soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world. There are service members who will have Christmas away from their families possibly for the second, third, fourth or higher number of times. So when you see the story on the news all soldiers home by Christmas, please remember this inside scoop, they will not ALL be home. They still need your support and prayers.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Little More Wounded Warrior Etiquette

People ask me all the time if I have had similar conversations about topics that constantly effect our life. Just like other times in our lives there are somethings you just shouldn't discuss with a person you just met or barely know. So here's a little more etiquette for you in regards to the world of our wounded warriors and our families.

First, you should never sit down with or walk up to and immediately begin talking about a soldiers injuries. If you do not know the family, then it is none of your business how extensive these injuries are. It's great that you care, but you asking for a roll call of what's wrong is inappropriate and is only the business of our families and our medical team. Yes we have had people ask, "Well can you still have kids?" This is their way of what they think is the polite way of asking if Chaz had a groin injury. Before you think no way, or this has only happened to Chaz and I, think again. I have talked to several people and they have had similar occurrences. Bottom line our service member was injured and is in the hospital you really don't need to know anymore than that unless you are on our healing team.

Second PTS and TBI are completely off the table for random discussion. I had a man sit down next to me once and say, "I want to talk to you about your husband's PTSD." (First I am helping a friend change that stigma and I will refer to it as PTS, because as she pointed out it is not a disorder.) But I had never met this man in my life. My husband, nor any member of my family had ever met this man before so he totally crossed the line. Do I think he meant well? Yes I do. But you should not jump into someone else's cheerios without being asked first. Of course I asked him, "Are you a medical professional?" He said that no he wasn't but he had seen Dateline (or some show along those lines) and he volunteers and tries to help others. I was intrigued. I said so you watched a show and now you are an expert. He said no, but he had learned a lot from additional research on the internet. (Oh yes, I smiled that evil grinch grin.) I then said well how many soldiers have you helped calm down after fire works have gone off or after loud noises have occurred around them? How many times have you been called out of your warm bed at 2 am because the police need you to draw the layout of your neighbors' house because the husband has flipped out and he thinks he's under attack so he has his wife and children locked up in the bathroom at gun point? Guess what his answer was, that's right, he said no. I then said if you want to help people how about you listen to them rather than sitting down and trying to jump into their personal business. I also told him, that there's a line and you just jumped over it. I also told him reading things on the internet and watching a TV show will not qualify him as a reliable authority. I said you want to help, just smile and talk about the weather or sports or anything else that is outside of our current situation. Distraction is sometimes the best medicine.

Third, if we tell you everything is great or fine, it is. You have no right to push the issue. I have had several people say, "I've seen your pictures" or "I read your blog" then it follows with "you seem like everything is ok, but is it really?" Yes I actually do want to smack these people. First who are you?! Second, why would I instantly divulge my life to you?! Third, what gives you the permission to cross over territory that is beyond personal? Fourth, would you say that to another person? If you saw pictures of another person who wasn't injured would you ask them if everything was ok?! You know the answer is no. And just so you know we are great. I am not making this up, ask the people closest to us. I can provide references if necessary. I know we are weird. I get it. Life threw us a huge curve ball and Chaz and I swung the bat and knocked it back out of the park. I know you think I couldn't do that. Or perhaps you think it is all for show. Well it's not. Come walk around with us for a day and you'll see we are legit. Chaz and I are blazing a trail down the path less taken. We are choosing to be thankful for the lives we still have together instead of focusing on and grieving for the things we have lost. To quote Joe from Family Guy, "We life ruins your legs, you make legonade."

Fourth, please do not patronize us. Please don't try to compare what we are going through to something else, unless you have been where we are. My favorite conversations usually occur when someone says, I know what your husband is going through because my cousin's friend was in a car wreck. Or I had surgery once and so I know exactly what you are talking about. Bottom line is you don't. I would never walk up to a cancer patient and tell them I know what they are dealing with. I have never told Chaz I know what you are dealing with. I have told him I know how drugs effected my body and how hard PT was on me after my knee surgery. I listen to him and the doctors, therapists and nurses and I try to educate myself and learn as much as I can. I have had soldiers and marines ask me all the time did Chaz have this drug? Did Chaz have phantom pains? I answer them as his wife and share what I witnessed, but I do not patronize them. I tell them the meds and tricks Chaz used and answer all their questions to the best of my ability. Now as for the standpoint of the support crew of a wounded warrior I can speak very confidently on that issue.

Fifth, our kids are totally none of your business. I am a very over protective mommy. Random strangers (and some family members and close friends) do not get any say in our kids. Do not tell me that I should take them to counseling. Do not tell me how I should educate or discipline them. To me this rule extends to all parents and children not just those of wounded warrior families. The only people in our lives who get unlimited say in our kids is Chaz and myself. Don't tell me what I should say to them, when I should say it or how I should say it. But for those who want to know our girls have been observed by a few child psychologists, 2 counselors, our 2 social workers and their pediatrician. All of which have signed off saying they feel our girls are great and have told us to keep up the great work. So you can see I've got this one covered.

I truly think people think that if they see you, then they think they can ask whatever they wish to ask. You are so very wrong if you think this. Please help me teach them that such personal business is within the scope of personal friends, family and medical professionals, but does not extend to random strangers. New people to the ball game just can't jump right in. Turn the tables on yourself. Would you want someone asking you those questions? If the answer is no, then you should not ask them. We have enough stress in our lives right now, we really don't need you adding to it. Seriously just thank us for our service and talk about the most recent sports game or gossip in the media. Treat us as normal as you would others. You wouldn't go to the company Christmas party and ask questions about injuries and such, so don't do it when you meet a wounded warrior family.

Dealing with the Wounded Warrior roller coaster is fun enough without your random curves thrown in. If you really want to help, just say, "Hey I am here to help you how ever I can." Please don't try to control us. Ask us. We are all still people, we are not mentally incompetent children. Think to yourself if I was in their shoes what would be a great way to help.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You Have to Let Them Grow Up....

A while ago, I told Chaz that this whole experience is like having a child all over again. When you first get your soldier back, all they do is sleep, eat, pee and poop just like a newborn. As they get a little better you get to talk and giggle (coo & goo) with them. They finally get to eat solids and then they finally begin telling you what they want to eat. You get to help teach them how to walk. If you want to take them anywhere, it's just like when you are packing up an infant. I joke all the time, I traded a stroller for a wheelchair and a diaper bag for a bag full of medicine and medical supplies. Then your soldier gets to learn how to drive. Last you have to let them fly out of the nest. What is so hard to understand is that with a child it happens over a longer period of time, with an amputee it's only months.

Most people know I am an OCD/Control Freak. Chaz says I am not really that bad, but I do like and thrive on organization and planning. You can't throw a wrench into my system and expect me to be automatically happy about it. This experience has been a great lesson in patience and planning. I have had to accept that I am cannot be in control of everything. I have had to let go of a lot. I have handled it all really well. I have had a few temper tantrums, but usually I had very good reason. But Chaz says I have become a lot more laid back, which he says is good. It is amazing to me that now I don't seem to get upset as quickly over things. I tend to handle them all better to. I decided to let our van meet a concrete barrier the other day. I parked, made sure the door still opened and Chaz's ramp system still worked. Once I saw it did, I closed it all up and drove on. My friend who was with was like oh my goodness, how are you not crying?! I said, "It's just a van." It's amazing how this experience has helped me put things in perspective.

Chaz is doing so very well. It has been less than 11 months and his dependency on me has diminished a lot. In January and February, he needed me for everything. Now he only needs me a few hours a day. If his right arm wasn't fused, he would need me a lot less. It is really hard to get used to. I am so thankful that he is such a rock star and is doing so well. But just like a mom letting her children leave the nest, I am so full of so many mixed emotions.

I am so excited for him. He can do so much! He is just a rock star. Chaz and I have had the same goal since day one, we want our lives back to as close as we had them before January 22. I am proud that he is so independent, but at the same time it is so hard to not be needed as much. I also didn't think this would all happen so fast. We were first got here they told us based on others with similar injuries it would take 4 years for Chaz to be healed. We haven't even finished year one and look at how far he has come. I can't help but wonder if I am going through all of this now so I can handle letting the girls grow up and move away a little easier. I am still so afraid for him. I still wonder what if he falls, what if he gets sick, when was his last x-ray, did he eat enough breakfast? It is so hard to just let go of all of that when you are the one they were so dependent on for so long. But you have to let go. You have to acknowledge they are grown ups and perfectly capable of handling everything. You have to trust them and know they are ok. I told Chaz yesterday that I don't think I'll ever stop worrying. It's hard to stop worrying about someone you love when you were so close to losing them. I know he will fall and get scuffed up, but doesn't everyone now and again?

I am so thankful Chaz and I have been together for over 12 years. We know when the other one has something going on. We know when it's time to talk. Chaz and I are beyond husband and wife and beyond best friends. We are at a level that is beyond amazing and I cannot possibly label it. I am so thankful for that. At the same time there's that motherly part of me that still wants to control everything he does. I want to keep him (and the girls) in a little bubble and protect them from everything. But if I do I will foster resentment instead of fostering his resiliency. I guess you can say this roller coaster of crazy ups and downs is not ending anytime soon. I am on a new turn now and I have to figure out how to hold on and navigate it. I have to figure out where I am needed and make sure I am not holding him back. The last thing I ever want to do is hold him or our girls back. I don't think I have held him back yet, if anything I feel that I have encouraged him to push himself a little further. I was just not ready for him to be so independent so quickly, but I married a kick ass Army Infantry soldier, why would I have expected anything less than awesome from him?!

I know several wives are having a hard time flipping the mommy switch off too. It is so good to know you are not alone. This is a hard phase to navigate, the lines are sometimes drawn in sand and the wind seems to blow them away. But I just have to remember my oldest child is 32 years old, even though sometimes he acts like our 6 and 9 year old kids. He is an amazingly brilliant man and never ceases to amaze me with his spirit. He is my Hero. I am so thankful that God brought me such an amazing friend and partner for life. Now I just have to chill out and let him finish growing up. I have to make sure the see-saw is balanced just right. I have to balance the fear, control, encouragement, all of it just right so it all works. But this is the same balance I have to maintain with our girls too. One thing is for sure, I am looking forward to getting off of this roller coaster!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sharing the Christmas Spirit!!!

For those who don't know, I helped create a NMA/Cargiver Resource group for Battle Company at WTB. We started meeting November 1. We meet every Tuesday and share resources with each other. We talk about the problems they may be facing and how to get the help they may need. Right around Thanksgiving the First Sargent asked me if I thought I could toss a Christmas party together. Of course I said yes and I began thinking.

One of the soldiers who work in the WTB helped us find a location. Then I told a few friends what I was doing and they jumped in. I have made some amazing friends here. I still can't believe what all they did and this was without asking.

My friend who works for The Yellow Ribbon got us Red Hot and Blue BBQ. She also got Yellow Ribbon to buy each of the kids a gift.


My friend from Aleethia Foundation provided our door prizes, decorations and things for the kids to do. Then Saturday she told me that Aleethia had received all these toys from a country club who collected them for various families and she asked if she could give one to each of our kids as well.

Our Company Commander's wife brought her delicious cake pops.

Our First Sargent helped Santa and one of his elves find their way to our party. Thanks to Yellow Ribbon and Aleethia, Santa had two gifts to give each child. 




One of the soldiers who works in our WTB brought his Xbox 360 & Kinect system.




Then I got to tell everyone this story! A friend of a friend of mine runs her own consulting firm. Her firm had a very, very good year. Rather than sending their clients a gift basket of cookies or the typical gifts she contacted me. I suggested giving our families a $25 gift card to go out to eat. She and her partners decided that was just not good enough and went above and beyond. When I told the families what she had done I had a few faces with a few tears on them. My new friend wants her name, her firm and gift to remain anonymous and I will respect her wishes. But let me assure there's a special place in Heaven for her and her colleagues. What they did for these families is nothing short of amazing! They defined the spirit of giving. I felt like Oprah! I passed out her gifts and then at the same time told everyone what they were. The room was full of shock and joy! It was one of the best moments of my life. I have never been able to put that many smiles on that many face before!!



 

And it gets better! Her firm is going to tell their clients that they are not sending gifts to them this year. That instead they paid it forward. I sent her some of these pictures so she can say here are some of the families we were able to bless because of you this year. Then in her email she is going give them the information on non-profits who support the military families like Aleethia and Yellow Ribbon and provide them with links so they too can pay it forward.

The Spirit of Christmas is alive and well!!! I am so thankful to know so many amazing Americans. My little party was a huge success thanks to them! I hope that reading this will give you the incredible feeling of joy that I had last night. Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

This Is What Victory Looks Like....

2011 has been the most insane year of our lives. Chaz and I have been through so much. He has had so many surgeries, infections, taken so many pills, and list could go on and on. But today he has had a huge victory!!!

He told me last night he was going to go for it. He said, "I am walking to work tomorrow." Of course I was immediately scared for him. What if he falls? Well we've already dealt with that. What if his leg comes off? Oh wait we've dealt with that too. So what am I afraid of?! I realized I really don't have anything to fear except the unknown. If he goes ahead and goes for it then we will know the unknown and we'll get even further down this road. So let's go for it.

 So this morning he left the chair behind....

Then he stood up....
And off he went......

These pictures say so much!!! They show you what faith, love and hope can do. They show you what hard work and positivity can do. They prove how awesome Walter Reed and all of its team members are. These pictures are proof of how when people join together to make someone's life better it can be done!! It takes Team Work to make the Dream Work!!!!!


We are so thankful for all of you and your prayers and support!! These pictures are possible thanks to all of you. You have all helped us on different levels and we are thankful for everyone of you!! Our journey is not over, but this is a HUGE VICTORY on our road to our new normal!!!

On a side note, I would like to say to the person or persons who planted that IED. We'll never know who you are and I do understand that you were only fighting for what you believe in. You tried to win, you tried to defeat our American spirit. Well today we laugh in your face! Today my hubby proved that your IED was just a little hiccup in our lives and we will move forward and continue to be victorious. Thank you for showing us what we are made of!! Team Allen embodies the best of the American spirit and thank you for showing us that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Travel Concerns WW Style

This year the holidays are even more special to me. First I am so thankful that I have another holiday season with my husband. And I am thankful our girls have another holiday season with us together as a family. Having your family together during the holidays is truly the best gift of them all. Recently I have had a few wives and moms ask me to articulate what is it like to be a wounded family at Christmas. So here comes the soap box and me clearing my throat.

First let me state our soldiers are not your show ponies. Sadly some people do treat them like this. (Let me insert it is a minority that does this). However, we caregivers are the gate keepers. We know who cares and who doesn't. We know which of you are just here so you can take a picture showing you "support our troops." Chaz will tell you I sniff out BS faster than anyone. Politicians and other people out looking for political, monetary or any other type of gain here's my question for you, "What the heck has taken you so long?" We've been here off and on since January and so have you. Why do you only come around at the holidays? Do you only come around at the holidays? If so, to me that is unacceptable. (FYI I get a keep a card from every person that I meet (as long as they have one). I have them separated. Want to know if I met your representative? Just ask, I'll flip through our cards and let you know.)

Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island is in the hospital all the time. He also has an aide whose job it to keep track of all of us. He keeps up with a ton of soldiers, including our family. The kicker is we can't vote for him! Bottom line is he cares and that's the way it should be. President Obama, VP-Biden and their wives have aides assigned to keep up with us too. They all do this to make sure we are taken care of. Before you assume this is for political gain, I will look you straight in the eye and call you out on it and tell you flat out, no it is there job. Making sure military families are taking care of should be a part of every elected officials job. We are their constituents. It is their job to make sure we are being taken care of.  Next time you see your elected officials ask them for a name (better yet names) of a military member who has been wounded. Put them on the spot and see what happens.

We have a saying called "Pet the Vet." This is what our guys call it when someone comes through to see them and they feel they don't have the best of intentions. Our soldiers don't want to be petted. If you are here to say thanks, that is awesome. But don't forget to thank the families. The guys get mad (at least mine and all the ones I know do) when you don't acknowledge the families. I am not saying we deserve the same attention the guys do, but we do deserve a "thanks for being here" or "how are you doing?" It takes you five seconds to acknowledge us. And it shows the guys that you care about their families as well as them. A soldiers' number one concern is for their family, respect that. 

As for pictures, ask politely. If you insist then that tells us you are only there for a photo op. We understand non-profits need pictures to show what they are doing with other people's money, but even they can be disrespectful. Some guys don't want their picture taken and you need to be respectful of them. Do not pressure them or their family. God help you if Chaz or I see you being disrespectful.

Now onto traveling and events. Yes it is the holidays. Yes a lot of people travel. Yes you all want to see us. We got that. But it's not about you and what you want and you need to remember that. If you have a wounded military member in your life, it is not about what you or anyone else wants. It is about what that injured person needs. There's a very, very big difference here so please don't get it confused.

Chaz made a rule in 2004 (after he spent the Christmas of 02 & 03 in Korea and we knew 05 would be in Iraq) that December 24 & 25 would be about our little family. We would not leave our home and nor do we expect anyone to leave their home for us. Chaz has a new rule for this Christmas this year, he is not traveling for more than 30 minutes to do anything. He said that he is flying to TN and has to climb those stairs everyday and that's his traveling. I'm sure we'll go out to eat, but that will be about it. Luckily his favorite restaurants are just around the corner. The man wants to stay home and I don't blame him. I will respect his wishes and so will everyone else.

Our families have been very respectful of our traveling wishes. But our families are just so happy Chaz and his girls will be home in their house for Christmas that they are all about to explode from joy. That's how it should be. You should be thankful for the small victories of a wounded warrior, hell any military family for that fact and you should listen to them and ask them what they want to do for the holidays. You shouldn't put pressure on them to go anywhere or do anything. Shame on you if you are.

We are very thankful for our families and their understanding, but I have talked to several families who are being pressured to go here and there because so and so wants to see their son or daughter. I am sorry, but if you want to see us you can come to us. Chaz is not up for all that long distance traveling. He'll be tired after our plane ride home. It will take days for him to be up to going anywhere. Chaz is not the only injured soldier with this problem. The holidays shouldn't be about you traveling everywhere to say hi and for people to come and say thank you. They should come to you. Let me explain why.

First let me explain some of these guys (like mine) stepped on a freaking IED and were blown up!!!! They have been through so much. They are recovering from amputations, nerve damage, wounds that will not heal and don't forget the invisible wounds. The bottom line is that you should make sure you respect their wishes and not pressure them to travel, but here are some additional reasons.

Their bodies are still getting used to all the changes. Did you know your body controls its temperature through its feet? Now lose both of those feet. You'll find out that your body will have a hard time adjusting to climate changes. Also remember an amputee's circulatory system has been rewired. The nerve endings have been cut off. Most of them have phantom pains. What's a phantom pain? Well those cute little nerves were connected to legs and feet for (in Chaz's case 32) years, now all the sudden the job they did for a long time has been redirected. Sometimes an amputee's nerves will tell their brain that they are having a cramp or even worse and the amputee has to control that pain. Some guys still have open wounds to care for. Chaz had two that took forever to close up and they were painful. Add these things to the list of why traveling may not be an option. By the way, this is the very, very, very short list of medical reasons traveling may not be an option. We discovered on our NYC trip Chaz's cut off is 3 hours and that was pushing it. We don't know when he'll be ready to travel longer. We'll just have to keep going through our trials and errors.

I'm not sure if you realize this, but not every place is handicap accessible, nor friendly. Our home is not handicap friendly and we just deal with it. Our guys needs to be in a place where they are as comfortable as possible. If the place you ask them to come to a place that is not handicap friendly then the guys feel guilty for inconveniencing you and your family. If you don't have every accommodation they will feel like they are a hassle. Of course this is not your intent, but it happens quickly and without warning. No one needs that guilt on them.

Next, please understand this may be their first break away from the hospital. The first trip away is hard. You have been in the safety net of the medical and military community for a while and now poof you are away and on your own and you have to figure it all out. The what ifs are overwhelming. We have so much planning to do before we so out to dinner. Now think about how much planning is involved for long distance traveling. It is overwhelming for the solider and the caregiver.

Remember this could be their first adventure back into the real world. Please know the real world isn't always so friendly. The real world can be scary and intimidating. Some of the guys don't like crowds. Some of them don't mind the crowds but just can't navigate through the crowds just yet. Some of them haven't even experimented with how to get around in the "leg walkers" world (Chaz's words here). They are now the minority and sometimes are not considered in planning. The world they knew before they deployed is not the same world to them anymore. They have to overcome that adversity at their own speed and do not need any pressure to do it.

Also please remember that by pressuring a warrior to go anywhere you are adding stress to that caregiver. We have enough on our plate and seriously don't need anyone to add to it. We are the ones caring for these guys. We are the ones making their travel arrangements. We are the ones making sure they have enough meds and medical supplies to go anywhere. We are the ones coordinating the deliveries of their medical equipment to wherever we are traveling too. This is all in addition to packing what you would normally take on a trip. Some of us have kids to take care of too. We always look for easy buttons, but hardly ever find them. Our journey is hard enough that we don't need people who are oblivious to our world telling us we need to add to our plates.

I listened to several families tell me they didn't know what they were going to do. Everyone wants to see their soldier. They didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I told them that we are going to our home in TN. You want to see us let us know and we'll do our best to work it out. I am so sorry, but I just don't have time to bend over backwards for anyone else right now. I really don't care about hurting your feelings. I care about healing my little family. If you don't understand that then best wishes and Happy Holidays to you. I think it is incredibly ridiculous and selfish for you to guilt any family into coming to see you. Please know I think your intentions are coming from the best place, but unless you have been in our shoes then you have no idea how difficult this all is. So please stop and listen to the families and help make their holidays merry and bright, not miserable and stressful.

To me Christmas is about thinking about others. So if you have a family in your circle of friends that needs a special blessing then think about how you could bless them this year. You can just send them an email or Facebook post telling them how happy you are that they are with their family this year. If you can, send them a card saying the same thing. If you can do more, do more. Christmas is not about you receiving, it is about giving. To me Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus by sharing his message of love, joy and giving. So think about how you can share that message.