Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Great Way to Start Your Day!!

Free From
People Pleasing
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.”
(Proverbs 29:25, NLT)
TODAY’S WORD from Joel and Victoria
In life, there will always be people who try to squeeze you into their mold; people who try to pressure you into being who they want you to be. They may be good people. They may mean well. But the problem is that they aren’t your creator. They didn’t breathe life into you. They didn’t equip you, empower you or anoint you; Almighty God did! If you’re going to be all that God created you to be, you can’t focus on what everybody else thinks. If you change with every criticism, trying to win the favor of others, then you’ll go through life being manipulated and letting people squeeze you into their box. You have to realize that you can’t keep every person happy. You can’t make everyone like you. You’ll never win over all of your critics.
Instead of trying to please people, when you get up in the morning, ask the Lord to search your heart. Ask Him if your ways are pleasing to Him. Stay focused on your goals. If people don’t understand you, that’s okay. If you lose some friends because you wouldn’t let them control you, they weren’t true friends anyway. You don’t need other’s approval; you only need Almighty God’s approval. Keep your heart and mind submitted to Him and be free from people pleasing!
Father God, I come humbly to You today. I invite You to search my heart and mind. Let my ways be pleasing to You. Let my thoughts be Your thoughts. Thank You for setting me free from people pleasing in Jesus’ name. Amen.
— Joel & Victoria Osteen

This was in my inbox this morning. I know I am bad about constantly trying to make people happy. I just had to share this in the hopes of blessing someone else's day like it did mine.

The day you realize you can never make everyone happy, weight will be lifted off of your shoulders and you'll feel so much better. My stubborness still want let me try to stop making everyone happy. I know in my heart God and my family are very proud of me and that love is all I need.

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Marriage

I don't know if you have read this yet, but you should.

A friend posted this on her facebook page and I read it, agreed and understood exactly where this woman is coming from. She immediately made me take stock in my own marriage. As I reflected on our 13 year relationship and 11 year marriage, my heart overflows with joy. Our marriage is not perfect. I always say perfect is unachievable, so be happy with what you are given.

Chaz and I are as opposite as you can possibly be. We come from two very different backgrounds, but everyday God shows me we are meant to be.  I can't explain how we work, but we do. I am OCD and he is totally disorganized. He is fiscally irresponsible and I am the saver and planner. I am the structured and organized one and he is the ah, whatever person. Sure we've had disagreements on things, but we never go to sleep angry and never forget to say those key words, "I love you" every single day. At the end of the day, we know we are just meant to be.

I was informed a while ago that a wounded warrior family here can't stand me. They "love" Chaz because they truly feel sorry for him. They feel sorry for Chaz because he doesn't realize that I am "using his injuries for my personal benefit." When I was told this, I seriously laughed so very hard. First I really want to know where these benefits are?! Because I personally haven't gained anything but ulcers, gray hairs, pulled muscles and stress headaches. My tax business has declined. My education goals have all been put on hold. I left my entire life behind to be here to help my family heal. So please give me a list of these "benefits" you think I personally have received. I am intrigued. 

Now I will happily admit our little family has gained a lot, not financially, but spiritually. We gained a greater appreciation for each other. We have had some amazing experiences and met amazing people that we'll never forget. We have made friends that I know we will always be in touch with no matter the distance between us. We have been blessed, blessed and more blessed. The list of blessings our family has received is so long that I am not going to even try listing it all out.

I think the statement "I have personally benefited" proves to me that that person who thinks this has no real idea what marriage is. Marriage is a partnership between two people who love each other and want to mutually benefit from being together. Chaz and I are a team. We always have been. There's no way we'd still be together if I was in it for "personal benefit." We don't hide anything from each other. I truly love the fact that I can tell him anything or I can mess up and he's always there to accept me. I love the fact that I can sometimes read Chaz's mind. Even if I don't like it at the time, I am grateful that Chaz is not afraid to hurt my feelings, but telling me the truth. The real truth is Chaz needs me way too much for me to be allowed to be selfish and I feel the same way about him. Marriage cannot succeed with selfish individuals. There's definitely no way a military marriage will survive, let me tell you that one from experience.

There's no doubt that healing a wounded warrior will truly push your marriage to it's breaking point, but here's our insider's secret. Chaz and I were at the breaking point years ago thanks to Iraq. We have already survived PTSD and survivor's guilt. We went through a lot in the years following his deployment to Iraq. What I quickly realized was that I was Chaz's person. I was that one person he could fall apart too and I would help him pick it all up again. We healed together after that horrible deployment and that's why we are doing so well with his healing now. We just refer back to Iraq and concentrate on healing the physical.

I know that some people will never "get" us. Refer back to the blog link listed above. That's how Chaz and I live everyday. We live a life of gratitude, not of greed. We are thankful for everyone who enters our lives even those who don't understand us.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Week.....

I have had an exhausting, but awesome week. I few weeks ago I decided that I was not going to wait for someone to start doing things for our littlest warriors, so I started contacting non-profits and asked for help with a few ideas. The Aleethia Foundation, Operation Ward 57 and the Yellow Ribbon Fund were thrilled to help me. So let the fun begin!

Sunday Aleethia treated 9 family members to a spa day. Most were mother/daughter teams, but one was a new caregiver that I asked to be added to the list. It was a huge hit and smiles were every where. 

As you can see we have very happy cuties, moms and employees!! We were provided with a light lunch and were able to have hair, makeup and nails done. It was an amazing day.

On Monday, the Yellow Ribbon Fund treated the littlest warriors to a day exploring the National Building Museum and the Lego exhibit. As you can see from these faces we had a ton of fun!! Their favorite part was the Mini-Golf that was downstairs. But you can tell they enjoyed the Legos too.
Tuesday night Aleethia, Operation Ward 57 and Yellow Ribbon Fund teamed together to help me put on an ice cream social. Families here at 1200 were able to make their favorite ice cream treat. Sorry, I forgot to get a picture here! ;)

Wednesday Operation Ward 57 treated a group of 9 cuties to a day at Color Me Mine and then lunch at Panera Bread. You can see from this one, some serious creativity was going on!

Thursday we had a pool day with Yellow Ribbon Fund. This was followed by a sleepover at our house with the girls' friends. Believe it or not I had an amazingly quiet night. We just love the girls' new friends. When they're here, half the time we don't even know we have any kids here. It works out very well!

Yesterday morning I got caught up on work, then was off to a meeting. I rushed back to the apartment to grab my family to join our fellow wounded warrior families at another great dinner provided by Aleethia. We love Aleethia dinners. They are the such a great place to enjoy a great meal with our fellow wounded warrior families.

Sunday through Friday was so incredibly busy, but all the smiles that were created made it all worth wild. I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to the Aleethia Foundation, Operation Ward 57 and the Yellow Ribbon Fund for helping me make this week possible.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What Took So Long?!

I had a busy day Wednesday. I had two meetings back to back. Thank goodness one meeting included lunch because I would not have been able to have squeezed it in. Then I went to the main hospital to help our LNO help a soldier. While going down on the elevators, I was talking with our LNO about the new 101st family that had just arrived. I told him I recognized the name and was trying to place the faces.

At that moment, the elevator doors opened on the 4th floor and I saw a familiar face. I immediately said, "What are you...." I stopped because I knew immediately that it was my friend's husband who we had been discussing just seconds prior. I was just so preoccupied with so many other thoughts that I didn't put the face with the name until I saw her face. My heart fell to my feet. I grabbed her and hugged her and simply said, "Welcome to the club sweetie."

I wanted to throw up. I was truly devastated. I never thought that someone I knew would ever join me on this path. I simply thought it would always be friends of friends. I have never had a problem reaching out to a family that someone has emailed me about, but naively I thought I would only welcome strangers to the wounded warrior world. 

I visited with her for a while and told her I'd see her hubby later. I remember all too well how those first days are. I was still in shock from seeing her and realizing that a piece of my "old life" was coming together and it was so insane. I wasn't ready to see him. Seeing her was enough shock for my system for the day. Seeing their cuties and knowing our cuties now have all this in common was just heartbreaking and nauseating.

I came back to the apartment and told Chaz that I knew why that name was so familiar and explained to him how we knew them. He just shook his head. Chaz has become accustom to this type of news. I guess I have too when it comes to the guys being injured. However this is the first time one of my friends was affected. It was just a new experience I was not prepared for at all. I had so many old emotions stirring up. I recalled the first time one of Chaz's soldiers were killed and the first one injured. Then the first time I had to attend a memorial for a family I knew. I even rehashed the beginning of our journey. It's funny how you are just never ready for things like this.

I went back to see her and bring her something she said her hubby needed. Trust me, she doesn't have time to go anywhere. She was so thankful and couldn't believe I remembered. I am telling you she is one of the sweetest women out there. I got to see her hubby, who by the way looks great, and say a five second hi. I remember Chaz then so I literally said hi and I'll see you later and told him that he needed rest and we had time to talk later.

My friend asked me several questions about my experience. She said she had kept up with us, remembered the blogs, but never realized how insane all of this is. She said, "This is eye-opening." She and I had discussed better preparing the families when I was back at Campbell one time. She brought that up and I told her just make notes and we'll get to it. You can say we're friends because we process similar thoughts.

Now that the shock has worn off, I can really talk about it. I just can't believe I never thought my worlds would combine. I guess I really should be thinking what took so long?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Floodlight

This road has been so long and exhausting. It's been eighteen months of crazy with a dash of sane. No matter what has come our way, we have always tried to stay focused on that little dim light at the end of the tunnel. Since I feel like I am responsible for everything for our family, Chaz has to remind me again and again to not sweat the small stuff. I worry about the house in TN, the bills, the kids, their education, Chaz's healing, my sanity, and all the above sometimes all at the same time. I pray everyday for the patience to stay on the path God has laid out for us. Sometimes I ask multiple times a day.

I am a big fan of Joel Osteen. He constantly reminds us that God has great things in store for us. I'll never forget the last Joel book I read before Chaz was hurt. I remember the passage that said that what ever you are dreaming is not big enough, dream bigger because that's what God wants for you. Here's the thing though, I am not a dreamer. Nothing has been handed to me. I have worked hard for everything. I don't know any other path besides hard work. So this dreaming path is uncharted territory for me. I have dreams, but I'll confess I don't focus on them. I focus on hard work to achieve goals.

When you face such an exhaustively hard road of healing, it's so easy to forget that God loves you and wants you to succeed. We have walked in faith during this entire journey. It has not been easy at all. I tell people in our situation there is no easy button, there is only faith. You have to have faith that it will all be worth it. All the pain, exhaustion, tears that you endure in the storm will lead you to that rainbow. You just have to keep going.

I can't go into many details, but I am too excited to not share how incredibly blessed we feel right now. We have been focused on the dim light at the end of the tunnel for so very long. We were just cruising along and last week God hit us with a floodlight. This light was exactly what we needed. The floodlight came with some huge blessings. And I mean HUGE. The blessing is so huge that Chaz and I just didn't know how to react. I have cried once and been on the verge of tears many times. That's how awesome this is.

Unfortunately this floodlight also causes us to make some very important decisions. These decisions will greatly affect our four lives. I know we'll figure it all out. We'll figure out what is the best decision for us. We haven't rushed one decision on this journey since it all began and we won't start rushing now. One thing is for sure God is so great!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Our School Plan....

On Facebook this morning I, as well as many of you, got to see all the fabulous pictures of many of our friends' children returning to school. I am so thankful that Facebook exists. I just love being able to watch our friends' kids grow. I miss them all so much, but at least this way we can virtually be a part of their lives. Many people have asked about our homeschooling plan. I am going to share with you what we do.

First this year we moved into a year round calendar. We have school for nine weeks, then off for three, on for nine, off for four, on for nine, off for three, on for nine, off for five. Sound confusing?! Here's how it looks.

I have this on the wall so the girls can keep up. We are required to have a 180 day school calendar. Well 45 times 4 equals 180. Yes we will have school through holidays like Thanksgiving, but we'll just have an easier day then. Or I'll just adjust the days as needed, that's the beauty of homeschool! 

For math, we use Math U See. You can learn more about this program here. This program is what Deryn needed. It is multi-sensory. So our girls touch, see and hear their math. This set comes with manipulatives that allow the girls to see their math as they go along. We have a short video on Monday and then have exercises with that skill all week, then a test on Friday. 

For writing, we use Essentials in Writing. Here's the link for this one.
Like Math U See, this program has short videos to watch on Monday then exercises to follow. There are no weekly tests with this program. 

For spelling, we use All About Spelling. This system teaches your children how to spell phonetically. I am a horrible speller and I am hoping the later lessons will teach me a few things. 

For science, we are using the The Young Scientist Club Kits. Each week we take the next kit and that's the science theme for the week. Each kit comes with a lesson and 3-5 experiments. The girls have their scientific notebooks to log in all our adventures.

Here's the compass the girls made during magnets week. 

Chaz explained to them how a GPS works. Ry then decided Daddy could use his own GPS and here's what she did for him. The girls were quite proud of their application of knowledge! ;)
We are currently doing a lesson on some of the world's greatest artists. We got this one from Confessions of a Homeschooler. She has amazing lesson plans on there. We will finish this lesson with a trip to the National Gallery of Art here in DC.
We are currently reading Aesop's Fables and The Story of Doctor Dolittle. We have many other books on the agenda for the rest of the year. All the books I have chosen have a movie tie in as well. So when we finish reading the book, the movie will be our Family movie night selection.

Now for history....since we are in DC, we go to it. We might talk about it a little first, but then we just go to it and learn as much as possible. You can say we "unschool" history. We use everything in our lives as conversations to move towards learning. We have used the Olympics to discuss geography. Chaz's health has been a huge learning experience. We take the girls to gymnastics lessons, swimming, horseback riding or just to the park for PE.

This blog entry is the abridged version of everything we do. I have had many friends ask me to list what I do out, so here you go ladies! I hope it helps! This works great for us. I hope some of it helps you as well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Driving Decisions....

When will people in the government jobs understand the decisions that they make might carry huge ramifications? This weekend I helped rally the troops to get a "acceptable loss" decision overturned. Someone in an office somewhere decided that a very key program for our wounded warriors should be cut.

Those of you who have followed us for a while are aware of the fabulous CPT Tammy Phipps and her driving program. For those who are new let me explain it a little. CPT Phipps teaches our wounded warriors how to drive their adaptive vehicles. Tammy's driving program consists of her and only her. She is a one woman show. She takes our warriors on a one on one basis and puts them back in the driving seat. She is such an amazing person. She helped Chaz get not only behind her training wheels, but also helped us link up with Help Our Military Heroes and get Chaz his own adaptive van. Tammy has been running this program for years and has blessed so many families like ours. Thanks to her Help Our Military Heroes will award their 20th adaptive van to Derek McConnell next week. That 20 does not count the other heroes who purchased their own vehicles and had them adapted. Tammy is an Army Reservist, but she serves the wounded of all of the branches.

Well MEDCOM decided that Tammy's orders could just expire. She applied for a renewal. The command team at Bethesda applied for renewals and appeals. But a few people at MEDCOM decided Tammy and her program was to be deemed as an "acceptable loss" in regards to their budget cuts. They decided that our warriors got adaptive grants for their vehicles and that was fine. True our warriors received funds to adapt a vehicle for their needs. What MEDCOM didn't realize is that Tammy is the ONLY person in our vicinity who can teach them how to drive and drive safely. The people making the decision did not factor that into their decision. They seriously thought the VA had a driving program available to our warriors.

Tammy, of course, was devastated at the news. She told us to wait until she got the final and official word on Monday. I laughed. I am not going to wait for people in an office who do not comprehend the ramifications of their decision to give the last word. Oh no, instead I started sending emails. Oh yes I provided pictures of the day Chaz was driving his van. I was clear that Tammy's program was a huge boost to Chaz's morale. I was clear that this program was ran by one person and the cost was only for that one person. I also explained that the DOD wastes a lot of money on other things. Tammy and her program are not a waste, nor acceptable loss and it is absolutely ridiculous to think otherwise. I went on to tell them that her schedule is booked with warriors waiting to drive and she had a waiting list behind that one. In addition, Tammy helps our wounded complete the paper work so they are legally on the road. CPT should receive an accommodation for her service, not have her program cut. 

Our friend created a facebook page and word really got out. Tammy found out on Friday about the orders. We were told on Saturday. We all emailed on Saturday and Sunday. Monday morning Tammy was informed that it was an "unfortunate oversight" and her orders were reinstated. I love those words "unfortunate oversight". What I see is oops, we messed up and we're sorry about that, our bad.

I am so proud of the "MATC Mafia." I am proud to be associated with such great, caring people. I was honored to be asked to be involved in helping get Tammy's orders reinstated. I am so blessed to have people in our lives that know if I am asking for help with something it's not about me. I even had someone say, "Well you've got your van. Chaz is legally driving. You could care less, but no, you know how this will help the others. Thank you for helping." When I told Chaz about the issue, he told me to pull out all the contacts I had and get to work. I happily obeyed that order.

It's so awesome to be a small part in winning a fight for something so important. We are blessed and other families should have the same blessing in their lives. I can only hope that those who sit in the office understand now that some "acceptable losses" can be some huge "unfortunate oversights" and that you will look beyond the papers and see the people you effect next time.

Thank you MEDCOM for coming to the right decision. You should know you are helping our warriors get closer to their new normal. Sorry if we ruined your Monday.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

The past few weeks our family has been hit again and again with random acts of kindness. I still can't believe how God's timing is always so perfect. Chaz and I were hit with some less than stellar good news just before all these events happen. I even called my mom who happened to be shopping with my sister to let out a little of my frustration. There's nothing better than a mom/sister call when you got to just let out some steam. But the bottom line is if we were done here in DC/MD/VA God would send us home to TN. I know his timing doesn't always agree with mine, but in the end his timing is always perfect.

Our random acts of kindness stream of awesomeness started with a box of cotton candy. A very nice person who follows the Team Allen page wanted to do something nice for our girls. As you can see our girls were thrilled when she was surprise them with this.
This past Wednesday we took an afternoon trip to the mall. Our girls have been extremely well behaved lately so we wanted to reward them. Ry got her ears pierced that day. Then we went to Build-A-Bear to make our 100th anniversary Girl Scout bears.

While we were there the manager informed me that a very nice lady wanted to pay for the girls' bears. Of course I said thank you, but no thank you. Well the manager at Build-A-Bear took the tags off the girls' bears and told us that he would not be accepting money from our family that day. He thanked Chaz for his service and told the girls how special their Daddy was. He then explained to me that Build-A-Bear was going to help her help us. I had a coupon that I was going to use and I tried to give them that and they refused it and told me to use it another day. We'd like to give big kudos to the crew at the Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD for their exemplary and caring staff. They helped that lady with her random act of kindness, which to me made it all so much better.

I had to fight back the tears because I was so touched. Chaz and I both stared at each other for a minute. We found the lady and hugged and thanked her. She was thrilled to find out that our girls had made Girl Scout bears. She had been a Girl Scout as well. She said Chaz reminded her of a man who had helped her change her tire on the side of the road one day. She tried to pay him and he told her to pay it forward. She then thanked Chaz for his service and talked to the girls and I for a bit. It was one of those moments that everyone needs in their life every once in a while.

We came home to a package for the girls. Remember the cotton candy, well that same awesome person sent the girls a box with hand made headbands. The girls were so excited they immediately put the head bands on and told me to take a pic with their new headbands and bears. Check those smiles out!!

The next day Chaz decided to take a "civilian" day. He decided he wanted to join us for breakfast with my friend. For 14 years, he hasn't been able to go to breakfast during the week. He even said, "Gees, this is weird." We had a great meal at Cassatt's in Arlington. When I went to ask for the check, the manager came over and said, "From one veteran to another, I've got this one." He said a man in the restaurant had told him to say that to Chaz when we asked for the check. The man had gone to the manager without our knowledge and paid the bill for us. Of course I was upset because he paid for it and left, so we couldn't say thank you. What he did was amazing and I wanted to say thank you to him. The manager told me the man was a regular and he would make sure and let him know how much we appreciated his generosity.

Friday I go and check the mail and I had a card. I opened it up to find six $10 iTunes gift cards. The sender asked me to please share them with the other caregivers. The timing was perfect because I was taking my friends to the Idina Menzel concert. So I could immediately pay that one forward.

Saturday I received a card from the same awesome lady who sent the cotton candy and headbands. This time a cute card arrived for me. Inside was a gift card so I could take Chaz out to dinner to Cracker Barrel for his birthday.

So why I am telling you all of this? If you watch the news, you'll just hear how bad the world is. If you are on facebook for longer than 3 minutes you'll see posts telling you how bad their life is. Where we are the world is full of awesome!

I am sharing all of this with you not to be boastful, but to remind you that God's blessings are all around us. Just like lighting, you'll never know when a blessing will strike. I truly believe God has sent us all these little blessings because he knows we are ready to move forward, but we can't because of bureaucracy. He knows I am so worried about when we leave here and what the next chapter holds. He knows I am beyond stressed about building Chaz's house. He knows I really needed all of these blessings to remind me to stay faithful on his path. God's path is not guaranteed to be easy. The journey to the "new normal" is very hard and come with a lot of 1-2 punches. We have learned if you focus on the blessings that God sends you rather than all the negative things that you cannot control his path becomes a lot more tolerable.

Many, many thanks to those who have blessed us during the past few weeks. Your kindness has lifted our spirits. We are so thankful and blessed to have you in our lives. Thank you doesn't seem even close to good enough, but it will just have to do. So THANK YOU!!!!!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

An Evening with Idina Menzel

There are so many awesome non-profits that truly just want to help our families heal. They know that they can't take away all the stress that comes along this road, but they can plant of seeds of hope and joy every once in a while. It never ceases to amaze me that these amazing Americans just want to bring smiles to our families any way they can.

Operation Ward 57 and I had a conversation about tickets to concerts for the families a few weeks ago. I consulted a few other wives and made a list of people who were playing in the DC/MD/VA area. The fabulous Brittney got to work. I told her there were no worries and that we get what we get. Idina Menzel's management team quickly came back with a big yes to tickets and threw in Meet & Greet passes as well. Since the show was sold out we were only able to get five tickets. But you get what you get and don't throw a fit. I filled those seats quickly with one of Operation Ward 57's representatives, myself, a fellow caregiver and her daughter and a wounded warrior. A group of five turned out to be perfect. We all fit in our van and we could easily stick together.

Yesterday we left early with expectations of traffic. Instead we arrived extremely early and decided to treat ourselves to a delicious meal before the concert. We were so early we were seated immediately at the Cheesecake Factory. Many people are very shocked at that last sentence. Yes you read it correctly. We walked in and were seated immediately. We had a great dinner and got to chat and get to know each other a little better. Then we loaded up and went to the concert.

We had great seats and the concert was amazing. Idina not only sang all of my favorite songs of hers, but she also shared many of her personal stories with us. I just love storyteller sessions like we had last night. My favorite part came when she chose two teenage girls from the audience to join her in singing "Take Me or Leave Me" from Rent. She made those girls lives. It was such an amazing experience for them and it was great to see them so happy and excited. My life has been made because I heard Idina sing so many of my favorite songs. You really must go and see her if you get a chance. She is phenomenal. Here's a pic of her on stage.

 The concert ended and we moved on to the meet and greet portion. It was a very small group of people and she got to us very quickly. She was very happy to meet us. However, when I told her who we were she lit up. I swear she would have talked to us all night, but they were literally kicking us out.

Here you can see we were all chatting it up.....

This is me explaining to Idina how Operation Ward 57 contacted her management team and helped us get there. Laura, Op 57's rep even brought her some shirts. She was excited about the shirts. We even had one for her super cute hubby, Taye Diggs.

And lastly this is my favorite picture.....

When we left the meet and greet I was grabbed, hugged and thanked for putting together a great night. The smiles on my friends' faces truly warmed my heart. I know that our road is not easy at all. I know I cannot make it any easier, but with help I can make smiles like these happen!

Many, many thanks to Operation Ward 57 and Idina Menzel's management team for helping me put this incredible girls' night out together. We planted some seeds of joy in hearts last night. I am so thankful that we are all on the same team!!