Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Morning of Falls and Laughs......

I've already admitted to being lost without the girls around. Well I am also in "what can I get done while they're gone" mode. Our week has been crazy. For some reason our van doors don't open anymore on their own. It's really weird. We took it in yesterday and they're ordering the parts for it. So we'll be waiting 7-10 days on that one. Luckily the seats and driving controls work great so the important things function perfectly. But when the doors don't work, that puts more responsibility back on me, which is of course no big deal. However, when you've been cruising along for so long and have to step back for a bit, it takes you a minute to get back to a previous spot.

Last night Chaz asked me to come with him today and help him and of course I said yes. He has to have my help for so many things. I truly try to back off and let him be as independent as possible. I know I would want to be independent if I was him. But since his wrist and elbow are fused his shoulder is taking a beating and it's starting to bother him. We're trying to protect that shoulder, so that's where I come in. Thank goodness he asked me to come with him because this has been an interesting day.

We parked at the hospital and Chaz got out of the van and went to sit in his wheelchair and it tipped over backwards. His anti-tip bars broke a few days ago. We now know why those are so important. So accident number one was Chaz flipping out of his chair. (Not fun). Of course he laughed and I did not when he flipped out of his chair. Then he basically made me laugh. He has this amazing contagious laugh that just makes you join in. We got him off the ground and we were off to PT.

Then he had a great workout at the MATC. He felt really good and went to the mat to stretch. He came around the mat and pop. His prosthetic broke. It was the craziest thing. It just snapped off. He falls to the floor and our friend Tyler broke the shock and awe in the room with his laughter which was perfect. Once again I wasn't laughing but Chaz made me laugh and Tyler and I took pictures. His therapist took his leg to the prosthetic guys. I laughed and said, "Ah heck I bet we've got some super glue or duct tape." Chaz left his broken leg with the guys and told them he'd pick it up tomorrow. We got him off the floor and finished his workout and then headed back to the apartment.

We parked and I got Chaz's chair for him. Unfortunately the parking lot was wet and the chair slipped back and he fell out of the van. Luckily I was right there this time and helped him get into his chair. Yes there was more laughter.

We came back and had some lunch. Chaz asked me to look at something on his back. It was a bruise from the first fall this morning. After I looked at it and explained what I saw, he went to go back to his computer and leaned back too far and flipped out of his chair again. Yes there was more laughter. But this was more like, "Holy moley are you freaking kidding me" laughter. I joked and said that perhaps we go to bed and try to restart this day. In all seriousness, it has not been a bad day. It's just been a frustrating day. But the good news is, we can laugh it all off and get up and go on.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I'm Lost....

For those who don't know, we left the girls in TN with my mom. Bethesda is not the best environment for our girls. Truth be told, they don't like Bethesda at all. They miss Walter Reed and remind us of this frequently. They like DC and they like our apartment in Silver Spring. They love our friends we have all made here. But when we are at the hospital the girls do not feel welcome at all. They want to get out of there as fast as possible. Because of their feelings, we limit their trips to the hospital. Chaz has to go everyday, but the girls and I don't. Therefore I find other things for the girls and I to do that do not involve the hospital.

Tuesday morning Chaz and I went to the hospital together. I had a meeting so we went in together. I stood in the kitchen and just couldn't shake the thought that I was forgetting something. Well I guess my sweet hubby read my mind because he touched my arm and said, "The girls are in TN." I quickly realized he was absolutely correct. I was back in multi-tasker mode and it was a Tuesday and my brain was checking boxes and those boxes didn't have to be checked. It was so weird and I was lost. Chaz of course thought it was hilarious.

Chaz and I are those weird parents who actually like being with their kids. We enjoy seeing life through their eyes. I know our girls have been a huge part of their healing. Chaz and I have made all of our choices with them in mind. We have been very careful making sure they come first. Leaving them in TN was one of those hard choices. Our girls deserve the chance to enjoy their childhood. Chaz and I are blessed with very supportive families and they want to help our family succeed. My mom has just been a god send with all of this. She not only listens but helps us where ever we need the help.

You know our families miss us ridiculously. My mom works for a school system and has summer's off. The girls wanted to hang with their friends and go to some camps. So it all just worked out perfectly. I'll say it again we are so blessed. 

I have said so many times this might be a "normal PCS" (Permanent Change of Station) for the Army, but there's not one "normal" piece in this PCS for our wounded families. In a normal PCS, we'd be selling our house, packing up and relocating somewhere and more than likely a hospital wouldn't even be involved. Instead Chaz's place of duty is his appointments at the hospital. We still are paying a mortgage for a home that sits vacant most of the time and we refer to it as our "vacation home."

Please don't think I am complaining. I am actually beyond thankful that I have him here with me right now. I am beyond thankful that those wounded have paved a great road for us. Their sacrifices have caused us to go through less stress. It's just some days this PCS gets a little frustrating.

I have given Chaz up again and again and now I have him all to myself. The best part of all of this is that I get my hubby. These days without the girls, I really have him to myself. I don't have to compete with those two girls who are younger and way cuter than I am and they trump me every time. ;)

I carry a lot of guilt right now, because we left the girls in TN. I know the girls are happier there on a daily basis then I could make them here right now. That's really hard to accept. I am the one who is supposed to make them happy. It's my job. I keep telling myself I am doing my job by allowing them to stay behind with their friends. But it's still very hard to admit.

My friend and I were discussing how horrible choosing between your hubby and kids really is. She totally understands my guilt. She too has sent her children to family for their happiness. It is so incredibly hard to do. But I always say the hardest decisions seem to be the right ones in the end.

I have to laugh because in a meeting I said we were leaving the girls in TN with grandma. This lady said, "Summers with Grandma are the best." I said, "In normal life they are, but when you're healing a warrior it is a little different." I then explained to her that we're leaving the girls there because of their feelings of Bethesda. I then explained at Walter Reed we had a feeling of community with in the hospital's grounds. Bethesda is a hospital and perhaps one day will build a sense of community, but it won't happen if the kids don't feel welcome.

Children have no filter and are the windows to the truth. Chaz and I have learned this lesson on this journey. We determine who should be in our life by how the girls react to them. We have learned the girls pick up on way more then we do. So as a team we decide who we spend time with and it works very well.

We skype or facetime with our cuties everyday. It's been really fun listening to their day. I am jealous though. They are having so much fun with Grannie and I wish we were there. I know Grannie is cherishing her time with them. My mom and I talk about how pretty soon we won't be cool anymore so we better enjoy it while we've got it. ;)

So what are Chaz and I doing. Well we are spring cleaning. I am setting up their homeschool curriculum for the next school year. I am taking Advanced Taxation Part 2 and working on several tax returns. I am also trying to educate people on SCAADL so I can hopefully get it fixed so our service members aren't taxed for their injuries. Chaz is saving the world by playing numerous round of Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty. I may be lost without my cuties but we know this is only temporary and we'll be reunited soon. Chaz and I are enjoying our couple time while we can. I always say if you work on the couple every once in a while, the whole family will be even better. Something tells me I am right!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Where Have We Been?

I can answer my title two ways, so here goes....

Here's the quick answer. We've just been chilling out in our "vacation" home in Tennessee. We've been getting a even better glimpse of what our "new normal" will look like. We've talked a little bit more about what we're going to do after the Army lets us come home for good.

Here's the long answer. Our trip to OK was quick but super busy. We needed time to recover from that. I especially did. I haven't had to do that much for Chaz in a long time I forgot how exhausting it was. We have our home in MD and in TN set up for him so I can sit back and let him be independent. Traveling can be very frustrating. Some times it is really hard to get your brain back to the old ways. But traveling makes me appreciate how far our little family has come in our healing.

Before we left DC, we were asked to fly over to Bristol, TN to represent Veterans Airlift Command at an event there. First it was a huge honor to represent VAC. Second I haven't been to Bristol in years so it was nice to see that side of the state. Third it was nice for Chaz and I to do something kind of like a date. We met a lot of great people there and hopefully we encouraged some new pilots, donors, etc to join the VAC team and bless many more families.

After our "date" to Bristol. I had to get back into mom mode and get some things done. I bought the girls a little (totally perfect for them) pool for the back yard. We are leaving the girls here with my mom for a bit and I wanted them to have something to do so Grannie can have some quiet time. We had to finish Deryn's math for the year and we built a volcano. We will make it erupt today.

Then I had to make a trip to my doctor. I have a series of health problems that have to be managed. So I go to my doctor every time we get into TN. Let's put it to you this way, I could file for disability if I wanted to. My doctor laughs at me every time I come in because I won't let my health problems get in my way. I am very proactive when it comes to my health. I plan to be around having a ton of fun for a very long time. Anywho back to the reason I went to the doctor, I want to run the Army Ten Miler with my hubby and friends in DC in October. I knew this was a Dr discussion from the time I had the thought of signing up for the ATM. My Dr immediately said "no running." She highly emphasized the no so we had to have a talk. She told me it would take me 2-3 years with my health to "run" the ATM. But I have really long legs and it turns out I walk at 4mph pace, so she gave me a diet and training plan and I got to it that day. I am pleased to report I walked 6 miles last night in 1 hour and 38 minutes. I have 3 hours to finish the ATM, so you can see I am good to go. And I feel great, I am tired, but that's nothing new.

Then comes my job. I love my job. When my health got really bad a few years ago, I had to quit my job with H&R Block. Chaz and I had a long talk after my long talk with the doctor. Then the IRS and I had a long talk and that's when I decided to begin my own business. See this is proof health problems can produce blessings. I love being my own boss. I love my clients. I love helping them succeed. I love being their easy button. Well the IRS has issued several regulations for tax preparers like myself. I am very happy with these changes. Those of us who are serious about helping people with their taxes and aren't just out to make money will be the only survivors come December 31, 2013. (That's our compliance deadline). I don't like things lurking around so I am getting compliant now. Since June 7, I have completed 36 hours of continuing education courses for the IRS. Now I just have to sit for their exam.

In the middle of my course, we skipped down to McMinnville to surprise Demetria. My sister, brother-in-law, Chaz and I were all in on this one. Demetria is such an amazing, generous and thoughtful person. I wish we could give her more to thank her for everything she has done. Her surprise was just great. We lured her there with my sister telling her it was a surprise for Chaz and I, then bam my sister dropped the surprise on her. Luckily our friend got a picture of the exact moment Demetria realized what we had done. She more than deserves the Humanitarian of the Year award. She started Team Allen to help us and now there is absolutely no telling how many lives she has blessed with her idea. I am so thankful that my sister and brother-in-law conjured this one up.

Then comes bunco. I hosted 11 of my friends for an awesome three rounds of dice rolling fun the other night. Demetria came up and helped me get ready for all of it. But she had to get back home and couldn't hang out with the other "cackling hens." This is my friend's hubby's nick name for us. I was over due with a few hours of great fun with some great friends that I totally do not get to see enough of anymore. Over the past few weeks, I have tossed in ADE's recital and a few breakfasts, lunches and dinners, oh and starbucks with great friends who could not make it to bunco. This past two weeks has been action packed but we have had an amazing time.

And now we have to go back again. I have to admit I have acclimated to both worlds. I think that hardest part is that I know when I get to DC I have to fight again. There's always a battle to be fought there. I had a nice little vacation and now I am ready for whatever round I am on now! ;)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Operation Surprise the Sister: Mission Accomplished!!!

While you all were reading about what was happening, we pulled into a gas station so I could get gas and Chaz called his sister and made sure to sound all sad and sorry he couldn't be there. Then we made our way to Chaz's parents' house. We parked and Chaz decided to walk in. I followed behind him hoping to get as many faces as possible.
 We drove in and parked off to the back side of the house so we could sneak in from the side.
 Since the carport was covered they never saw us coming....
 Chaz's dad and Uncle Richard were the first ones to approach us....
 Richard saw us first....
 Then Chaz's Dad realized what he was seeing....
 Grandbabies first!!
 And now for the son!! I love this shot, you can just see the pride, joy, and excitement of the moment in their faces! Then Nana found us......
 I am still a little disappointed! I got caught up with the chair and then someone stopped to talk to me, because they were excited too. Chaz went on ahead and found his sister so I missed that one! :(

Moments later I got a great picture of the Allen grandbabies! All four together is almost too much cuteness!
Then we were off to the wedding and to surprise a lot more people. The first one to spot us was Grannie Dee. You can see she was a little happy. ;)
 Here's Chaz talking with Grannie Dee and Willie.
 Ry was helping cousin Zara out a little.
 Aunt Z tried to explain the pedals to Zara.....
 Zara knew what she wanted to do with them....
 She really liked the way they smelled....
 Then she had some advice for mom....
 I love this picture I caught of the bride and groom.
Chaz and Aszra's cousin Aaron was the officiant for the service. I caught him reviewing the service he had written.
 Quick pic before the show began....
 Chaz and his Dad looking fancy!
 Cousin Lando, Cousin Aaron and Chaz having a little family reunion. (Really it was more about computers).
 Walking down the aisle....
 They say I do.....
 My cute hubby and his sissy being super silly and I caught it!
 Great little family shot I caught too!
 Cake time!
 The new Mr. & Mrs. cutting the cake.
 Here they are getting ready for that first piece.
Chaz and I are super proud of pulling off our big surprise. Everyone was so excited to see our little family there to help celebrate Kevin and Aszra's big day. It was super hot, but absolutely beautiful. I am so thankful that we were able to overcome all the little hiccups we had last week so we could be there yesterday!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Operation Surprise the Sister

Our family and friends know how much I love my surprises. I love, love, love to put smiles on faces. To Chaz and I, life should be about fun and you should pack it in where ever you can. Chaz says the worst thing about me is he never knows when I'll strike with another one of my surprises. You know that he really does enjoy them. He always gets a kick out of what I can pull off. This time I got to master mind with my hubby and then add our cuties in too.

Chaz's only sibling, his sister, Aszra picked June 2 for her wedding date a few months ago. Unfortunately we wounded warrior families cannot commit to anything beyond a week in advance and even then plans can change very quickly. We knew Chaz had to have his surgery in May. His surgeon scheduled it in late January. We told Chaz's family we just couldn't come because of the surgery, but in the meantime we got busy on some serious planning. All the while we knew one little hiccup could have stopped us from traveling and next I am about to tell you about some of the ones that struck within the past week. But unbeknownst to them, we have been planning with Chaz's medical teams to work it all out. We knew the few risks, but the teams helped us to minimize them all.

To throw his family off our trail, I ordered some favors for his sister to have at her wedding. Then I ordered and had the wedding present sent to them directly. Chaz and I both reminded them again and again about how hard it is to get Chaz over 100 miles away from the hospital. Also we made sure the girls knew not to tell them we were coming. Once they knew they were in on the surprise the girls were so happy to help. We began working on the travel plans before Chaz's surgery. As usual,Veterans Airlift Command made the flight the easiest part of all of this! VAC is always happy to help great things happen. They were thrilled to help us pull this all off.

On May 18th, Chaz had his surgery and it all went well except for the little hospital administration mix up. Chaz was in a lot more pain then we expected. I made him take it super easy so this surprise could happen. This time Chaz really listened so we could make the trip happen.

Our real fun began May 25th. I called Enterprise and the hotel to make sure our reservations were all ok. Yes I had confirmation emails, but I like have names to call back on if necessary. The Enterprise agent asked for me to please call again on Wednesday to remind them to get a van for us, makes sense, no problem. Then I called the hotel to find our there was no record of reservation. We were driving back from the Baltimore Aquarium so I told them I would call back with the reservation number.

I got into my email to see booked us for May 1-4, not June 1-4. Well you can imagine how happy I was. I will bet the poor woman answering the phone had to take a break once she was finished with us. I ended up giving the phone to Chaz because I just didn't have the patience to deal with it. She put all the blame on us, so yes I demanded they pull the recordings. Guess what they found out when they did?! Yup, their agent booked the wrong dates.

He got it all sorted out and they booked us another room. It took many extra phone calls to get the full refund from the first room. Then Monday I had Chaz call the hotel because I just knew we needed to double check's skills. Sure enough they did not book the ADA room as requested. So the lesson learned was do not rely on one agent to understand ADA issues. The lady even asked Chaz, "Sir why can't you just bathe in the tub." Chaz said, "Ma'am, I do not have legs above my knees." She still did not get us an ADA room. Worst of all, we found out the room would have been cheaper if we would have just booked it ourselves. We also found out that the room did not have a shower bench Chaz needed. In the past I remember blogging about being helpful, I do believe I'll have to retract that.

Tuesday we spent our morning chasing down a travel shower bench. The OT department helped us with that one. Then we found out that Chaz's MRI showed that the pocket of fluid in his back is back. His Primary Care Manager freaked out. She tried to tell Chaz she would not authorize him to leave. So we had to sort that out. Luckily the surgeon who removed the pocket of fluid last June is still around so we decided we would consult him on Thursday when we were there for Chaz's recheck from his surgery. He had the ultimate say in us leaving. He reviewed everything and gave us the thumbs up. Of course, he gave me the what-if 101 and we'll have to come see him when we get back to Maryland, but we'll deal with that in two weeks. He really thinks Chaz will be fine, but they'll keep a close on him and his back.

Wednesday we just spent the day getting things done. I was in a horrible funk because of the back drama, so I was not my best person on Wednesday. Thursday I took the girls to the pool to swim out some energy. Thursday evening we had some of our friends over for dinner. Then we started packing. I always wait until the last minute to pack. Thanks to all this traveling I have learned how to pack quick and efficiently. Of course I really packed Friday morning. That's when the fun started. First I woke up to this.
When I was at the pool Thursday I remember being bit by something, but it didn't itch or anything. But I guess my arm did not like what ever it was. Oh well, I had a trip to go on. Then I get a text from our neighbor letting us know the elevators were out. So I went to the office at the apartment complex to find out all three elevators were out in the building, but the one leading from the shopping area to the garage was working. Yes I let them know that it was unacceptable. We have 35 units with wounded warriors in them. One family lives on the 13th floor. The elevators went out at 6 am and it was past 9 am. At least one should have been working. The female office person at least felt a little sympathy, but you could tell the male could have cared less. And no, no one offered to help us and yes, they watched us pass their office several times with all of our luggage, Chaz and the girls.

My neighbor drove our van up from G3 to G1, then she and I began carrying everything up and down the stairs. She and I both have injured husbands and we use the stairs all the time because the stairs are right by our door. Stairs were not a great option for Chaz, but they were the only choice. So he put his legs on and we followed him down with his chair in tow. Bottom line is, we wounded families always can create a plan a, b, c and d on demand. We just adapt.

We loaded up and got to the airport. Once again Veterans Airlift Command helped us get where we needed to go. The flight was super long. There was a lot of sleeping going on. But this cracked me up!

We flew into Owensboro, KY to refuel. My friends in Owensboro, if I had known in advance we would have had a reunion, but we were there for less than a half hour. I'll try to do better next time! But gees it was cold in the boro yesterday! I was so happy I made everyone grab jackets for our trip.

We were in the air for about four hours total. This was one of my favorite shots. Can you say Daddy's girl?!

We landed to find out Enterprise was not there with our van. They were still looking for one for us. I called them from Owensboro to make sure they were ready for us. So of course I was frustrated. But after a phone call, we got it all worked out and I signed and we drove away with a van that worked perfectly. We made a stop at Sonic, because we don't have them near us in Maryland. We checked into our room and it suits Chaz's needs very well and most importantly, it's clean!! (Big pet peeve of mine.)

The girls and I ran to Walgreens to get a few things that we needed. When we returned I found out that we forgot to put Chaz's wheelie bars back on and he flipped out of his chair and did this.

Yes he's fine, but yesterday was a reminder of how great my Girl Scout first aid course really was. I got to put my skills to good use. I had to joke with him that flipping out of the chair was not on the doctor's what-if list. After a long, hiccup filled day, I made Chaz take some more Tylenol. Then I put myself in a benadryl coma because my arm was swelling and itching really bad.

So the big day is here! We have just chilled out this morning. That flight was long and we were all tired from it. Chaz and I wanted to store up some energy for the wedding this evening. Chaz called his grandma and talked about the weather in Maryland to throw her off.

Demetria has even gotten involved in the surprise. She is going to post this at the same time that we will be surprising them. Chaz is going to call them and give them all the best wishes as we are driving there. Then when Chaz gets off the phone we are going to pull in the driveway. Yes we are sneaky, but it's for a great reason. We want his sister to have a great wedding day. We know how much she loves her brother and how much she wants him here, so we have literally we have done everything we can to make that happen. We also wanted to make sure this day was all about her and her new hubby. Since Chaz hasn't been home in five years, we were afraid that it would turn into a welcome Chaz home instead of her wedding. So now you can understand why we made it so top secret. We'll be in OK for Veteran's Day weekend and we can have a welcome home for Chaz then. This weekend is about his sister and her big day. So let Operation Surprise the Sister begin!!! The camera is charged and ready to capture some great memories!