Saturday, July 28, 2012


The funny thing about gravity is its magical way of holding you down. I have always been a grounded person. I have noticed on this journey that sometimes when we really need to rise up gravity of our situation just won't let go. It truly seems that the weight of the reality of this journey keeps you in place.

This week has been a very interesting week. An issue that had been truly plaguing me was resolved in one conversation. I really just needed to talk to someone with sense who was wearing a uniform. That may sound silly, but I was very frustrated with some of the Army's actions here recently. To be honest I still am, but talking to someone in a uniform who has common sense helped a lot. As soon as I felt the relief from that I was quickly pulled back down by reality. I laugh because I took one weight off of my shoulders only for it to be replaced by another. This weight has always been there, it just became heavier. What could that possibly be?! It's the weight of our future.

So many incredibly hard decisions have to be made along this road. Since we are a little further down the healing journey big important life decisions have to be made now. I keep going back to "I had six more years" when I am looking at these decisions. Chaz has only been in the Army for fourteen years. He signed up to serve twenty. I am not ready for all of this. I had six more years to raise the girls and figure out what I was going to do with me and where we were going to retire. Thanks to an IED my six years blew up in a puff of smoke.

I am OCD. I plan out everything. Thanks to all of this, I have learned to let go of having to plan everything so far in advance. I have learned that I think quite well in the spur of the moment. But we are now getting our lives back. We should be out of here within a year. As in Chaz will totally be out of the Army within a year. So now I need to look to those long term plans again.

We planned to build a house when he retired. But once again that was six years from now and he had legs. So the price point for the house I was saving for has gone way up. The good news is we get a VA grant, but we have to do a lot of special modifications to get that grant. The construction of Chaz's house will be the true test of me. I pray a lot for God to send me an easy button for Chaz's house.

We were going to pick a retirement place in three years from now. My WW girlfriends pointed out the other day that the best part is Chaz and I at least know what state we want to live in. Also we have a place of our own once we get out of here. Our house in TN is not perfect for Chaz, but it will work just fine. Many of our friends here are technically homeless once they transition out. We at least have a house that will work until the other one is built. Chaz and I have extra time thanks to that.

Then there's my career. I planned to be in law school right now. I was going to sit for the LSAT last year and then go to law school in Nashville this year. Chaz and I made a deal a long time ago. He was going to work for the first 20 and I raised the kids. Then he would retire and was going to take an easier job and be Mr Dad while I was his sugar Momma. Well I need to be the sugar Momma faster. I already passed the IRS RTRP exam. Now I am trying to finish a course that will get me ready for the EA exam. Also I need to take two tests to have my Accredited Financial Counselor license. So I am doing the work, I just have to pray it all pays off.

Truth be told, I am scared to death about leaving here for good. Change may be great, but it can also be very scary. We don't know where we're building our home. We don't know if we'll continue to home school and if we don't, we don't know where we'll send the girls to school. We don't know where we'll be working or if Chaz will work.

So what do I do when the gravity of all of this weighs me down? Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get mad. But regardless of what my immediate reaction is, my end result is that I just give it to God. Sometimes the gravity of life is just too much. Chaz can tell you about my out loud self pep talks I have every once in a while. I'll remind myself that we've made it this far walking in faith so we have to just keep walking that way. Then I'll remind myself of how far God has brought us. Then I'll look at the amazing journey we have had and the amazing people who have been put on our path. One thing is for sure the gravity can try to weigh me down, but our blessings sure do prevent me from sinking.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Great Moment.....

Today Deryn decided to jump on the couch with full force. All eighty-something pounds of her came crashing down on my foot that happened to be sitting at a sideways angle. Of course it hurt and my foot is now purple and has started to swell.

I screamed because it hurt. Deryn begins crying because she realizes hurt me. Wahoo for pre-teen drama! Lord help us in the teenage years.

Chaz enters to come help with the situation. He had Deryn get the ice pack for my foot. Then he says, "Oh really you have foot pain? It must be nice." Then comes the laughter. He then reminds Deryn that she should be grateful that she didn't jump on his prosthetic foot because she would be the one hurting. 

You know you have come a long way when you can take something so serious and laugh about it with your kids. Crisis avoided!  ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

18 Months

Eighteen months ago today I got that phone call. Now a year and a half later I look back to where we were and I am very proud of our journey. We have fought some amazing battles and come out victorious each time.

We'll always fight the battle of ignorance. But now our skin is thicker and stares don't bother us as much. Heck we hardly notice them anymore. People are going to continue to say some ridiculous stuff. People are continually going to choose to judge instead of accepting and understanding. We will continue to smile and move on and surround our family with those persons who lift us up, not try to pull us down.

We'll always fight the battle of disability. Chaz's disability will always have its own challenges. One by one and day by day we will continue to tackle those. One day Chaz will be the "stair master" and we will continue to compare the obstacles in front of us with the ones we have conquered.

We'll always fight the anger and cope with post traumatic stress. Together we'll figure out what strategies work best and we'll modify them as we need. We will teach our daughters that it is ok to be angry. We will help them deal with their emotions and dry their tears. 

We'll always fight the battle with lack of communication. Everyday it seems we fight another battle with someone not talking to someone else. I don't think I'll ever understand how everyone we have to deal with is on one campus, but yet they can't seem to talk to each other. I always laugh that the patient is the one doing all the communicating and we're all cool with this.

Eighteen months later we are still fighting the fight. Our journey is far from over. Everyday I reflect on all that I am thankful for. God has been so good to our little family. Our journey has been amazing and I can only imagine what God has in store for us in the future.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dear Aurora....

Your entire town has fallen victim to such a incomprehensible tragedy. I cannot fathom how you feel right now. I have no idea what it is like to come under direct fire and run for my life, but my husband and many of our friends do. As an Army wife of over a decade and now the wife of a wounded warrior, I do know too well what it's like to pick up the pieces and begin to heal from a traumatic event that turns your life upside down.

Our service members are trained for combat before they deploy. I can assure you no matter how many times they encounter life threatening situations like you recently experienced, they are never really ready for the next one until it is upon them. You experienced a situation incredibly close to combat. I cannot imagine what that was like for you. I have listened to the stories of what my husband and his men have been through and can only imagine how is must feel to free for your life. I know that you have experience the moment where are you can think of is, am I going to get to go home and see my loved ones. My husband has felt this feeling many times and so have countless other service members.

Everyday we have new families join us on the path to the new normal and unfortunately we now get to welcome you. This journey of healing is a crazy roller coaster. You'll never know when the next hairpin turn will come your way. I am so sorry to tell you that there is no way to prepare for this journey. No, instead you just have to hang on and try to make it to the next stop.

I hate to be the barer of bad news, but there is no expiration date for this journey. You will have to deal with the ramifications randomly appearing for the rest of your lives. You will have no warning. Things you once took for granted can become triggers for a relapse. You'll never see it coming, but you will learn how to cope and deal with the events as they appear.

I must admit I am jealous of you. You know the face of the person who changed your lives forever. I have no doubt our justice system will punish him for his crimes. But I and many other families will never know who was the person who changed our lives forever. We can only create an image of them in our minds.

You see, my husband stepped on an IED and changed our lives forever. We will never have justice. We will only have healing. Like countless other wounded warrior families, we will never know who caused our service members injuries. We do know it was their way of defending their home and their way of life. We will have to just accept that our service member chose to serve our country and that this was a consequence we were willing to chance.

You will know the face of who changed your life. Our law enforcement will find them and they will be prosecuted. You will have some sort of justice. However, you'll probably never really know why. So we each will still have questions that will never be answered.

We will have to band together in order to heal. We can band together through our tragedies. This is the beauty of being an American. Someone can try to tear us down, but we will heal and become stronger because of it.

Families of Aurora, you can learn a lot from our American military families. Our Gold Star, Wounded Warrior and Blue Star families understand healing and hope. We understand loss, injuries, post traumatic stress, survivor's guilt and so much more. We understand all of this because we have over a decade of experience dealing with it. I invite you to reach out to our families and allow us to help you heal. The exact circumstances may differ, but we are all Americans and together we can heal and move forward.


Another Confession....

I am just going to come right out and say it. I am so happy that the nut job who shot up the theater in Colorado has no prior military service. When I heard the story I know I had the same thought that many others had. You might have thought it too. I immediately thought oh no another one of our guys has lost it. I don't watch the news, but I'll bet money someone even said, "I wonder if he served in the military?" I am so glad my initial thought was wrong and I am so glad he did not serve in the military.

Our families have so many stigmas to over come we really didn't need one more hurdle. Many people are already afraid to approach our service members because of what they've seen on the news or saw in a movie or on TV. Many people unfortunately think all of our service members mimic the people they see in a lifetime movie. Do those people exist? Yes they do, but they are the minority.

I personally think post traumatic stress effects all of our service members. Some it just effects more than others. But they are not all going to go flip out and hold up a bank. No instead the majority of them are trying to figure out how to live and cope with post traumatic stress everyday. And so many times our amazing service members run into the fire and help save lives and do so many great deeds and they go unnoticed.

Chaz has post traumatic stress. The girls and I have secondary post traumatic stress. How could we not?! Chaz stepped on an IED. His legs are gone. Our lives are changed forever. We've left our lives behind in order to heal our family. I think our anger over the situation will always be there. Chaz and I choose to deal with our families' emotions head on. I think this choice has made everything a little easier for all of us. Our oldest has had several meltdowns because of our situation. But no matter what we are doing we stop and talk it all out with her. Our youngest sleepwalks and has regressed to infant like behavior many times. Once again we address it immediately. We do not run and hide from their needs.

When Chaz gets angry it's usually connected to his disability. Either he can't get to something because of his chair or he can't reach something because his elbow is fused. Me, well my anger comes from having to do everything. Sometimes I am just so exhausted that I lash out. We are all human and as you see we all react differently, but we are all coping with post traumatic stress together.

And now too many more families will join ours in learning how to cope with post traumatic stress. So many families have now been forced to join us and our fellow wounded warrior families on this difficult journey of how to cope. Unfortunately they too have had their lives turned upside down. They might not ever really know why that nut job did what he did, but they will have to pick up their lives and cope the best they can.

All we can do is pray for their peace and healing. We can also pray that they all get the help they need. We can also pray that God's will be done in regards to every aspect of this unbelievable tragedy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home Schooling

You what's so great about home school? There's so much freedom. You know what stinks about home school? Trying to choose what you want and how to teach your children. The world is so full of amazing things and curriculum plans it is so hard to pick what to teach them and how to teach them is super hard. I am so thankful for great friends and pinterest. Pinterest is a homeschooler's best friend.

We are changing things up a bit for this year. We are going to begin year round school. We have designed a nine week term with big breaks in between. The girls approved our plan. I think the best part is you can immediately begin counting down, 9 weeks left, 8 weeks left and so on. When you put it that way it seems so much more manageable. I think that's how I sold Deryn on it. Also I have developed a new lesson plan for each day. We have less text book time and more hands on time, which I think will also make life easier for us too.

We are sticking with Math U See. It worked wonders for Deryn and we're starting Ryann on it this year. We are introducing Essentials in Writing to them both. I like this program because it's a lot like Math U See. It has short lessons that build on each other. We are also adding All about Spelling. I am excited about this one because I am a horrible speller. I know God invented spell check for people like me. We are going to "un-school" science and social studies again. What does that mean? We're not getting text books for these subjects. Instead we take the girls to it. We do "hands on it" rather than "read about it." So lots of field trips and experiments are in our science and social studies lessons. I am also adding lessons about artists and composers. I am very excited about this year.

We have many friends who are joining us this in the home school world this year. Our friends are tired of the lack luster performance of our schools. I have many friends who are just fed up with Tennessee schools. Once again, our girls had excellent teachers. We are still in touch with them. The girls' teachers have even helped me with their home school curriculum. Our friends have not had the great teachers our girls had. That makes me very sad for their children. Every child deserves to have amazing teachers. I guess that's why we parents just step up into that role.

Through this journey, we learned Deryn needs one on one attention. If she's in a large group she tends to lose interest and focus. Deryn has to be highly engaged and needs someone to help her with some of the concepts. Sometimes you have to come out of left field to help her too. No she's not ADD or ADHD, she just has to be interested in the subject. She needs lots of hands on activities to get the concepts to stick. Ryann doesn't need them, but really enjoys them. So we take everything and make it fun. I wish more people knew that learning can be fun.

Many families here home school their kids because of our warrior's schedules. Our lives are just too crazy to add in the school system's calendar. Heck we can't even add in our own calendars, how can we add in anyone else's?! In addition, we are in an environment that if you put our kids in a school they will stand out because of their fathers' injuries. Our kids just want to blend in. So much focus goes on their dads. They deserve to choose their path. They deserve to be that person's daughter and still be themselves. The only way to do that is to create it yourself during this stage of the healing process. Together we have created a little home school network of support so our kids can have some sense of normal. We are so lucky because another family here has girls our girls' ages. Best of all they get along so well. I think this year will be an even better school year.

For those who are interested, here are the links to the girls' programs that we are using. I was able to get several of these off of ebay and saved quite a bit!
I also get a lot of resources and ideas from this site too!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Back on Track

Yesterday I took the girls to the Yellow Ribbon Fund pool day. They had to say good-bye to Demetria and Ray also. I had to come back for a little bit to the apartment to be interviewed for a family resilience study. When I went back to get them they of course didn't want to leave. I swear those girls are part fish.

As we drove into the parking garage, Deryn had another breakdown. She was asking me about the new house that we're going to have to build during the entire drive to the apartment. I told her that the answers are still I don't know. Well she said she wanted to know and I told her that Daddy and I did too. The truth is I don't know. I don't know where we're going to build our new home. I don't know when. I don't know who. I don't know anything. But I think Deryn is tired of I don't know and so am I, but it's all I've got right now. Well wait, we plan to build in Tennessee. So I guess that's something, huh?!

Now some of it was that she was tired from swimming. And I think some of it was that De and Ray had left. De and Ray are like family to us now. We all enjoyed them being with us. I also think that since her friends here are all on vacation she's not getting her social butterfly needs filled. I also think she had so much fun with my mom and her friends and she misses that. So I think it was a culmination of things plus she's almost 10.

Deryn gets out of the van crying. Group hugs were involved all the way up to the apartment. While walking down the hallway, Ryann chimes in and says, "Sissy, when Daddy's legs go back the Army will finally let us go home." Deryn says, "His legs are not growing back. Mom does this mean we're not going back home?" And we have more tears here. Chaz was waiting for us in the living room and heard pieces of our conversation. Now I am thinking oh gees, what if strangers heard us talking. Well that's interesting. Oh well, moving on.

Enter the family discussion. Somewhere in the past few weeks Ryann actually thought Chaz's legs were growing back and we had to clear that up. Then came my favorite from Ryann, "Daddy, did you have legs when Rex died?" Rex was our fish and he died two years ago. You could see Ry's brain is really trying to figure this all out. God bless her she was only 5 when all this fun began. Now that she's a little older she understands a little more. And now she is trying to develop a Daddy/legs timeline.

Deryn is just ready to be done with all of this back and forth. She made it clear she wants to be in Tennessee for good. I tell you what explaining bureaucracy to a 7 and 9 year olds is not fun at all. It was way easier to explain the medical component of all of this. There's nothing like a 9 year old's summation of government at work. "So we're waiting for a lot of people to print papers that say Daddy can go home?" Well, yes dear, that sums it up in one sentence. Out of the mouths of babes.....

Chaz had a guys' night out with some of his fellow wounded warriors. I had a girls' night in with my cuties. We talked and laughed over a rerun of America's Funniest Videos. Then we made plans. I listened as the girls told me what they want to do while we wait for our next trip home. We also talked more about the birthday party Deryn will have in TN with her friends.

I guess since our company left, so did some of our distraction. We just needed to brainstorm on ways to make all of this better. We needed to get ourselves back on track. So today we'll start moving that train forward. Our train never fell off the track we just weren't making it move along.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lack Of Power

The past week has been a very tough one. I am still extremely tired from it. The crazy all started the last Friday night in June when the power went out. It was an tolerable inconvenience. But that tolerable inconvenience turned into a borderline nightmare.

The storm rolled in Friday night. It roared through and left disaster in it's path. We lost our power that night. Since Chaz keeps our home like a meat locker the first night without power was not a big deal at all. We woke up to no power and discovered that we did not have hope for power in the immediate future.

Chaz and I spent the second powerless night at a friend's parent's house and we had a lot of fun. We grilled out and just enjoyed ourselves. That Saturday evening the Army sent several of our WW families to Aberdeen Proving Ground to stay while the power was out. Chaz and I decided against that move for several reasons. The first was that we didn't have the girls here with us. So we wanted those rooms to go for the families who had kids. We all know how annoyingly whiny our children can get when they don't have air, internet or TV. Can you say disaster?! You'll see the other reasons why we didn't go as I continue writing.

Sunday we decided we would return to the apartment and see how bad it all really was. It wasn't really that bad. It was hot, but our bedroom and master bath had power and one outlet in the kitchen did as well. We had water, it was only cold, but it was water. I have to admit I was not keen on showering in it, because I worried about what was in those pipes. So I washed my face and brushed my teeth with bottled water. When we returned, I talked to the apartment's management about the power situation. We were on emergency power only and it would sustain according to them. I went back to Chaz and we talked about it. We decided that we could get some fans and plug them in and get an extension cord for the fridge and that we'd survive just fine. When we returned from Home Depot, the elevators were out. So I had to walk Chaz, his chair and all of our stuff up three flights of stairs with no AC and it was 100 degrees outside, which carried inside. No needless to say once I completed all those up and down trips, I was plum pooped. Our van doors have shorted out, so currently I have to help Chaz in and out of the van every where we go. So that has added to my exhaustion.

Monday we woke up to still one elevator. But as we went to leave we lost that one. So I got to walk Chaz, his chair and our stuff down those hot stairs. I had asked a friend if we could take showers and do laundry at their apartment at the hospital. While we were there, I got a text that our emergency power had gone out and that we no had elevators and water until future notice. I looked at Chaz and said, "Oh that's it, back out to Poolesville we go." Chaz agreed so we stopped by the apartment building and saw it was totally dark. I ran upstairs to get our bags again and a few other things and off to our friend's parent's we went.

This time I had to take my study supplies with me. I had signed up to take the IRS RTRP exam Tuesday at 3. I couldn't reschedule the exam because the testing station had power. So I had to suck it up and study and pass that test. We got settled in and had some dinner and I studied and studied.

Tuesday we got up and drove to the hospital. This time we had to take a detour because down power lines on one of the roads had caused a fire. So the detour caused us to be late for Chaz's appointments. Thank goodness his therapists were totally understanding. In the meantime, I was exhausted and very worried about my exam.

Of course Tuesday flew by. Chaz went to hang out with our friends and I left to get some Starbucks before my test. Also I wanted to find the testing center. You cannot be late for these things you know. Being early turned out to be a great thing because I got to begin the exam early. I am pleased to report that after 2 hours and 120 questions later I passed the IRS RTRP exam.

After the test I went and picked up Chaz and we went back to our friend's parent's house and I grabbed dinner on the way out. We grilled some celebratory steaks. Great food and friends was the perfect way to end the day.

Wednesday was the 4th. Chaz and I had plans to attend the Capitol 4th. We gathered our things from the place we stayed in the hopes that all of the power was back. We drove in to find out we had one working elevator working and water. Hey it was a start, right?! We went upstairs and got ready for the 4th. We chose to travel with the hospital to the Capitol. That was a smart decision because we had a police escort there and that made travel easy. But it was also a bad decision because we were on a bus with 17 other people and the bus did not have air. So we were hot sticky messes for the event.

What was so funny was that I had no idea that there was a concert. I should have known DC would do it right and I was completely correct. The concert was amazing. We were surprised to have a front row seat. I'm sure some of you saw us on TV. Javiar Colon came off the stage and shook all the hands of the wounded warriors, Chaz was selected to be his first hand shake. It was pretty cool.

The best part was the text I received during the concert. My friend text me to let me know that we had full power in our building and we could turn our AC on after 10. Wahoo!! So by the time we got back the garage was fully lit up and the elevators were all working. We walked into a cooler apartment.

Thursday I woke up so excited to have an oven that I cooked Chaz and I some eggs, biscuits and bacon. Well that turned out to be a mistake. The AC had crashed just hours before and I had heated up the apartment. Not cool, but breakfast was tasty. I wanted to get everything cleaned up because the girls were arriving the next day. Now I had to clean the apartment in the super sticky heat that I created. Thursday was also the hottest day so far and the day of the Sarah McLachlan concert. I kept focusing on the positive, positive, positive, but the lack of AC and abundance of heat was kicking my ass.

I had to leave my poor hubby in the hot apartment. He just parked himself in front of two fans and consumed lots of water. I kept texting him to check on him and he kept telling me he was fine. But of course I worried. The concert was great and I really needed that night away. Chaz text me as we were driving home to let me know they had fixed the AC and it was coming on. I was glad to know relief was finally on its way.

When I arrived, our apartment was still super hot. I found Chaz exactly where I left him. He was sitting on the bed with two fans blowing straight on him. He told me the AC guys had just been through and switched it the AC on. We knew it was going to take a while to cool off so we kept the fans going. We fell asleep and I hope to wake up to full power, hot water and cool AC.

Friday morning, one week later, we finally got our wish. We had full power, hot water and AC. The girls, Demetria and Ray were on their way. Things were looking up. I was so happy to see the girls that I teared up when I saw them. We missed them so much. The good news is they were not around to deal with any of this. I guess seeing them made me feel like life was getting back to the way it was supposed to be. I guess those were tears of relief. Now all is back on track and hopefully soon I'll get caught back up of sleep and work.