Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bring on 15

Goodbye 2014! You have been one of the most difficult years of my life. You brought me more tears and struggles then I can remember in previous years. However since this is your last day, I would like to part with positive thoughts between us.

Thank you for teaching me so much about my instincts. You have shown me what a true friend is and exactly what a snake in the grass looks like more than once.

Thank you for testing my faith. You truly pushed me to the edge a few times, but I never let go of my faith that it will all turn out just fine. I am not sure if that was the result you wanted, but that's the one that won. With just a quick glance at 2015's calendar shows me the hard work, pain and suffering in 2014 will make 2015 amazing.

Thank you for all the success with my job. It was a very stressful year for me trying to make everything work out between my job and my family. Somehow we made it work and boy did our YRF team bless a lot of people through our work. You also showed me how to balance work and family and I will take that into 2015 and the future years.

Thank you for showing me what exhaustion feels like. This was a very important lesson for me to learn. I need to be exhausted to learn how to take better care of me so I can take better care of my family. Just one note, you could have kept that number of complete exhaustion times to a single digit number, it's all good though.

Thank you for bringing Stitch into our lives. That little furball is a sweetheart and fits perfectly into our family.

Thank you for our construction crew for our forever home. They are all working so hard for our family. Some of them have even become like family. Thank you for bringing the skills and passion to our team and helping us build this house.

Thank you for the random people you placed along our path. From the amazing woman at the San Antonio airport who has blessed us beyond belief to YRF donor who loved one of our ideas so much she brought it to life herself and blessed so many to my super cute Girl Scouts that I have the privilege to lead, you have brought several wonderful people into our lives this year that are wonderful blessings for us.

Thank you for #badass van. Chaz needed that upgrade more than we realized. Thank you for Help Our Military Heroes and this blessing they gave our family. 

Thank you for the people who joined our team to help me fight for our home. I could not have fought alone. They all gave me the courage to stand up and voice my opinion and get this house under construction.

Thank you for every donor who has donated to help us build this home. So many have given money, products and/or their time. We are thankful for each one of them and we cannot wait to celebrate our teamwork together in just a few months.

Thank you for people just wanting to help. We heard so many no's this year from so many non-profits. They had so many reasons to tell us no. It was heartbreaking to be told you "aren't injured enough" or "you aren't insolvent" or "your wife has a job you can afford it" again and again. Just when we gave up hope you brought new friends to our team. Thank you to 9line, America's Fund, Independence Fund and CPT Kyle Comfort Foundation for helping without strings or criteria. You all just wanted to help us get to the new home and we are so thankful for your contributions to our home.

Thank you for the Chase for Chaz. Our friends worked so hard to get that race together for our family. It was wonderful that day to look and see all the people who came together to help bring us home.

Thank you for all of the judgmental people who deemed themselves experts on our situation with such little education. I am thankful for their comments because it has shown me the fight is far from over for our wounded and America needs a serious education.

Thank you for our care team. We love our FRC. We love our team at the Murfreesboro VA. From our AW2 rep to our nurse case manager to Chaz's medical staff to our VA Caregiver Program team we are one of the VA success stories and we are proud to sing their praises. (It may be that they all realize they have to deal with me one way or the other, but hey whatever works right?!)

Thank you for backing me into a corner and make me cry too many times to count. Each tear filled me with more energy to get things done. Each tear made me fight harder. Each tear made me seek the positivity rather than letting the negative take root.

Thank you 2014 for all of these important lessons, plus the ones my lowly caffeinated brain cannot bring forward right now. I hope that we can share these lessons with others and make 2015 our best year ever.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Judgement & Helplessness

This past week we have watched a few friends and even ourselves being judged by the public. I totally understand that when you put yourself out there, you should expect the backlash. Chaz and I learned that lesson a very long time ago. We always say anytime you walk out front be ready for the hits, because they will be coming. We always just pray it's a low number. And we pray for the strength to let the hits roll off our backs easily.

I have to admit I would rather us take the beating any day than to watch our friends go through it again. This week we had to just stand by and watch car loads of crazy come at our friends from a never ending train of stupid. And oh my word, it got ridiculous.

I understand everyone gets a little bit braver behind a keyboard. What I don't understand is why can't we combine the keyboard with the mouse and get a lot more educated?

Can you imagine what could happen if we combined that little bit of bravery with a lot more education? We could really change the world.

But no instead we choose to take what the media or hearsay gives us, which are always just snips and sound bites of things, and we let the partial truths determine our judgements. We can do better.

We have all learned the hard way at some point that the snips and sound bites only give you the cover to the book.We have to read the entire book before truly making our judgement. It amazes me that we have all learned that lesson again and again, but somehow we forget it so quickly and cast our judgement as easily as we breathe.

I have had the honor of meeting hundreds of families that need help healing from war. This help comes in all forms. Some are like us, they need safe homes built for them. Some need financial assistance. Some need mental health. The list of needs is very long. When I am dealing with these families I always remember there are at least three sides to every story and one of those is hopefully the truth. I usually have to take the different stories and analyze them before making my judgement and determine how to help them. And sometimes I cannot help them enough and I have to sit back and somehow find contentment in my helplessness. I have fully accepted that one of my weaknesses is that I cannot help everyone, no matter how much I want to, as my mom says it, "Heal the world."

It's the helplessness that haunts me. It's the helplessness that keeps me up at night. I know I cannot help everyone. I know I cannot solve everyone's problems. I feel I just cannot stand by helpless and watching people we know be judged by others who only know the cover of the story, but this is where I sit for now. I sit in the valley of judgement and helplessness. I sit and I pray that time passes and our friends will find healing from the harsh words of those who choose to not get the full story.

I know that engaging in cyber word warfare will not win any battles. I can't tell you how many times I walk away from the computer to keep myself from a word war. These are such a waste of our time. We are all humans and we are all full of flaws. We all have our minds made up about the things we read or watch.

I believe we can do better. I believe we must all try to educate ourselves on the differences of others. And most importantly we have to remember that all of these people are people. They are reading and hearing all of the nasty comments that are being made about them. We need to all just take a moment and think about their feelings. We also need to take a minute and think about what their families have been through thanks to what our country has asked of them. Our friends have served and sacrificed so much and they deserve our compassion and caring, not our quick judgements on the snips of information we have been presented. This doesn't just apply to our wounded, ill and injured friends, I think we all can identify with being in the valley of helplessness and judgement at some point.

I truly think we all need to take time to remember what Thumper said, "If you can't say nothing nice, don't say nothing at all."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

#GivingTuesday

It's Giving Tuesday!!!

I just wanted to publish another list of great non-profits!! These organizations have either supported our family on our journey or I have worked with them in some capacity through my job at Yellow Ribbon Fund. They are all military based. Unfortunately I do not have a lot of experience with civilian non-profits. ;)

Here's our 2014 Giving Tuesday list!! You can click on the link to easily learn more about each non-profit.

  1. Yellow Ribbon Fund www.yellowribbonfund.org 
  2. Fisher House Foundation www.fisherhouse.org
  3. Elizabeth Dole Foundation http://elizabethdolefoundation.org
  4. America's Fund http://americasfund.org/
  5. Operation Ward 57 http://www.operationward57.org/
  6. Independence Fund http://www.independencefund.org/
  7. Help Our Military Heroes http://www.helpourmilitaryheroes.org/
  8. Nine Line Foundation http://www.ninelinefoundation.org/
  9. The General's Kids http://www.thegeneralskids.org/
  10. Team Overwatch  http://www.veteranoverwatch.org/
  11. Operation Enduring Warrior http://www.enduringwarrior.org/
  12. Quality of Life Foundation http://qolfoundation.org/
  13. CPT Kyle Comfort Foundation http://www.kylecomfortfoundation.org/
  14. Our Military Kids http://www.ourmilitarykids.org/
  15. Operation Second Chance http://www.operationsecondchance.org/
  16. 101st Association http://www.screamingeagle.org/
  17. Semper Fi Fund http://semperfifund.org/
  18. Aleethia Foundation http://www.aleethia.org/
  19. Blue Star Families http://bluestarfam.org/
  20. MOAA http://www.moaa.org/
  21. Luke's Wings http://www.lukeswings.org/
  22. National Military Family Association http://www.militaryfamily.org/
  23. Code of Support http://codeofsupport.org/
  24. AUSA http://www.ausa.org
  25. Operation Homefront http://www.operationhomefront.net/
  26. USO http://www.uso.org/
  27. Cause http://www.cause-usa.org
  28. Veterans Airlift Command http://www.veteransairlift.org/
  29. Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund http://fallenheroesfund.org/
  30. Luke's Wings http://www.lukeswings.org/ 
  31. Freedom Alliance https://freedomalliance.org/
Please note: This list is not a ranking list. This list is simply a list of great non-profits that all popped into my head when I started thinking about who we would love to give donations to during this holiday season if we could give. Since our funds are all tied up in savings for our new home, the very least we can do is provide a list of who we would help if we could!

Please consider giving to this great charities this holiday season! They do put their donated dollars where they count! Thank you!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We're So Close....

We are so close to our goal of having our forever home's mortgage under $200,000!!! We've been working hard with our builders and suppliers to secure product donations. We were so blessed by the success of "writing on the walls" fundraiser we had. We also have been blessed by some great donations coming in from some great non-profits who want to see Chaz in a safe home that will enable his independence. We are so close to that goal that when 9line offered to be the facilitator for another fundraiser for us, we just had to say yes.

We are so thankful for everyone who has helped us so far on this journey. We want everyone to know that every dollar donated truly counts. Here are a few examples of where money is going in our home.
  • $5 buys 10 electrical covers. 
  • $10 buys a towel bar. 
  • $25 buys the faucet for the girls' bathroom. 
  • $50 buys 5 sheets of drywall. 
  • $75 buys a ceiling fan.
  • $100 buys 17 tubes of caulk.

Here's an October picture of our home! We hope to get there soon and get up to date pictures! But at least with this one you can see we have made progress!!

Back to that new fundraiser we are launching today! By going to https://secure.west-point.org/9linefoundation/chazallen/ you can learn more and can participate.

With this fundraiser, we are tossing in a personal Allen Family touch. With every donation of $50 or more, we will mail you one of our super cute, homemade and full of love ornaments for your Christmas tree. Here's a picture of our ornaments in the making.

We love adding ornaments to our tree. We love to give them as gifts. It is our hope that you will not only cherish our ornament this year, but we hope you will put it on your tree for years to come and remember how you helped our family build our forever home!!!

In 2015, our forever home will be finished and you'll finally get to see where every dollar raised has gone! We just cannot wait to share the joyous occasion with everyone!! I don't think we have been so excited to see a New Year arrive!

Please consider helping us reach our goal by contributing to this fundraiser and by sharing this with you networks! Thank you!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Enough....

What is enough? Most of us think of enough when have had enough food or are we warm enough? What about when someone tells you that your spouse "isn't wounded enough" to qualify for assistance? Did you ever think you'd hear that?

I know you are probably thinking that I am kidding, but I am not. Our friends did a story with a Maryland news reporter about "not being wounded enough." You can watch it here.

I wish I could say Franz and Shannon are the only ones who have ever heard these words "wounded enough," but no Chaz and I have heard it many times. And we are just a few who have heard this statement. Families are told this all the time. We were once told if Chaz had lost his arm instead of letting Walter Reed save it, then we could qualify for more things. I truly wish I was making that up, but I am not.

Yes friends, there's a magical scale out there that determines when our wounded have been "wounded enough." Knowing this should make you very uncomfortable. Knowing this should make you angry and it should make you question the non-profits you donate to. Knowing this should make you angry enough to challenge the VA's Special Adaptive Housing Grant.

I have known Franz and Shannon since the early days of their journey. I have given them tons of big sister style advice. Turns out we grew up about twenty miles apart from each other, but it took war to bring us together.

Franz and Shannon have been turned down by several non-profits because, wait for it......he has both of his legs. Many non-profits who build homes rely on the wounded to get their special adaptive housing grant of $67,555 in order to build them a home. (Please note: The VA states the maximum dollar amount allowable for SAH grants in fiscal year 2014 is $70,465 on their website. We were informed by our TN-VA rep that we will receive $67,555 for our home build.) If you click here you can read why they are not fully qualifying Franz for the VA grant. According to the VA representatives they met with, he has to have loss or loss of use of two extremities. They were denied they VA adaptive vehicle grant because of the same reason.

Franz was shot five times by Afghan troops who were supposed to be friendly. They shattered his hip, and it had to be totally replaced. Walter Reed is still trying to save one of his legs. Franz can walk, but with a lot of pain. The walking pain is Franz and Chaz's bond. Neither of them can walk without horrible pain. So just like Chaz, Franz needs to be in his wheelchair the overwhelming majority of his day. This means that like Chaz, Franz needs a fully accessible home built for him.

Chaz and I have spent 2014 learning all about building your own home. So many think a non-profit is building our home. This is NOT true. Chaz and I are building our home! We secured the construction loan and we have secured donations of products and cash to make his home a reality. But a home-building non-profit is NOT helping us build our forever home.

The first home building non-profit we talked to told us Chaz wasn't "injured enough" to qualify for one of their homes. The second wanted complete control over our bank accounts. The third showed up and had a ground breaking and then stopped communicating with us. It was at this point where we took charge and just have done it ourselves.

We have had several non-profits approach since we began our build. They all wanted to fire our builders and refuse the products we had been given and take complete control of our build. My favorite was the one who said we needed to stop our build immediately, apply with them and they would guarantee our home would be build within two years. Or the other one that said for us to stop building and they would build for us within two years in another state. Or the other one that said if we would give them all the money we had raised they would make sure our build was finished and finished correctly.

Franz and Shannon have watched our family go through all of this BS for the past two years. TWO YEARS!!! For two years, we have had people dangle carrots in front of us with their magic promises so we would follow their lead, only to not return emails or phone calls. Or they finally come back and say they can't help us because Chaz "isn't wounded enough" or that we have done "enough for ourselves to where we really don't need assistance."

In the hopes of being good friends, Chaz and I have shared our entire journey with Franz and Shannon. It is our hope that rather than being told they are not enough of something that they know that some people actually care and won't help them with crazy strings or criteria attached. But the one thing we cannot help them with is the VA. We cannot make them "grant accepted." Only the VA can decide if Franz can have that $67,555.


He will need that money to build his home. An accessible home includes wider door ways, lower counter tops, special features in the bathroom and throughout the home. The booklet of tasks you must complete for the VA to give you that $67,555 is huge. The good news for Franz and Shannon is if they can get grant approved, Chaz and I know the VA rep that will be approving their build and we will be able to help them there. 

Our forever home will cost $430,000 by the time it is finished. I have chatted with several families over the cost of their homes. Many that we have chatted with share the price range we are in, we know of several who have homes way above our price range.

You might say that is too much, but the non-profit who held the groundbreaking....the house they proposed to us had an estimated cost of over $600,000. Chaz and I cut out over $170,000 in our home and then we had to actually make it fully accessible. Yes the people who were supposed to build us an "accessible home" did not provide us with accessible plans. We had to sit with the VA and adjust the plans before building. Then we, with the help of our builders, set out to get as many product and cash donations as possible for our home.

As a nation, we are failing our wounded, ill and injured. We are making them continue to fight for benefits they should receive. Franz should not have to fight for his grant. Just like Chaz, Franz has paperwork to show he was deployed to Afghanistan, then medically evacuated out of the battlefield, to Germany and then to Walter Reed. Just like Chaz, Franz will have an enormous medical record substantiating his injuries from the war he fought in. But because Chaz lost two legs and you can visibly see his struggle the VA will give him a grant. Because they can see that Franz still has legs, they ignorantly assume he is "not wounded enough" to warrant the grant for his home. Franz just like Chaz fought, bled and almost died for our country. Our VA system should provide him the same benefit.

Just like Chaz, the VA benefit of $67,555 will not be enough to build Franz and Shannon's forever home. They will need us all to step up and help wherever we can. Chaz and I are helping by sharing information of all sorts with Franz and Shannon. It is our hopes that once we build our home, we can then help them build theirs. A Go Fund Me account has been set up for them to get this home built. Please consider helping them. You can visit their link by clicking here.

If you want to learn more about Franz and Shannon, you can visit their facebook page by clicking here. Please lift them up in your prayers and support them however you can!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Oh No!! We've Been Caught!!

This article caught my eye last night...Veterans Caught Triple-Dipping on Benefits

I thought, what? Veterans Caught?! What's this?!

You know what this is? This is the sensational writings of someone with a little bit of information. Of course I read it and think well Hell we've been caught...That's right my Cat 2 rated, 100% permanently and totally disabled husband triple dips...Then my brain paused and realized he isn't doing one thing wrong.

Thanks to legislation passed years ago, Chaz is able to collect VA disability, CRSC (Combat Related Special Compensation) and Social Security. And I don't feel like he's doing anything to warrant the statement of "being caught."

You know what upsets me the absolute most about this article. This will drive civilians further away from our veterans. We, as a country, need to understand our veterans better and appreciate their service and sacrifice; instead this article promotes resentment from civilians towards our veterans. This article makes it look like they are a big drain on the government because of their disabilities. This article makes it look like we are all rolling in money, let me assure you we are not. 

Here's the truth for this household, we are financially better off today than we were prior to Chaz's injuries. Do you know why? Um because I now have a full-time job! We are now a two income family. It's not a secret that having two incomes makes a big difference in a household. Wait, I guess we've "been caught" on that too now. I guess I should stop confessing.

Most people will read that article and blame Senator Coburn, but I blame him and the author equally for their misreading of the GAO report which you will find here. If you click in the story it won't take you to the report it only takes you back to the article, funny huh?!

Take the time and read the facts in the report. Senator Coburn and this author sure as heck didn't.

One thing they did get correct SSDI is running out of money, but they seemed to have forgotten that the veterans we are speaking of who are drawing that income....wait for it....paid into SSDI by working. SSDI is based on the person's career earnings paid into the Social Security System. Not making this up and yes, I even found it in the GAO's report.

Then I found this lovely fallacy in their article, "But Social Security rules don’t treat military retirement or VA disability payments as regular income..." um...did they check with IRS publication 17? No form of retirement or disability payment is considered regular income. This has been the law for decades and is not exclusive to the military payment system.

The article mentioned a few numbers that they took the liberty of estimating, but they left out a few other facts but you can find in the GAO Report. Here's one example.



Out of 1.9 million DOD nondisability and disability retirees, we identified 59,251 individuals who received concurrent payments in fiscal year 2013 from DOD retirement, VA disability compensation, and SSDI. The payments totaled over $3.5 billion.

Characteristics of 59,251 individuals:

  • A total of 40,179 (or 68 percent) each received between $25,000 and $74,999 in total compensation. 
  •  A total of 2,304 (or 4 percent) each received concurrent payments of $100,000 or more, with the highest beneficiary receiving $208,757 in fiscal year 2013. 
  • The age of the individuals receiving concurrent payments ranged from 19 to 66, with almost half (28,626, or 48 percent) of the individuals age 60 or above as of January 2013. 
  •  The combined benefits for these individuals age 60 or above totaled $1.7 billion. 
  •  A total of 48,127 (or 81 percent) had a VA disability rating equal to or greater than 50 percent. 
  •  A total of 10,289 (or 17 percent) received compensation due to a combat related disability.
I read through that and immediately holy moley these guys went on a negative fishing trip. Did you know the GAO found the average VA pay out for FY2013 was $13,131 and the average SSDI pay out for 2013 was $11,953. So the average disabled veteran pulled in $25,084 from those two sources.And you know what? I am totally ok with my tax dollars going there. I hope that income helps those families.


Here's my bottom line, it appears that this author is jealous some of our disabled veterans have a higher income than he does. I am not sure what the Senator's excuse is, because we all know he makes way more. I think that the Senator wants some attention, well he's got mine that's for sure. I don't really care for people who get attention by telling a tenth of the story. The great state of Oklahoma elected him to serve them and in my option he needs to go find another fight to fight. Here's one....Senator go take care of your state's VA hospital system. From what I hear, it needs a lot of help.

Let me assure the author and the Senator that every caregiver I know including myself would happy hand over every benefit check to the government to have a happy healthy service member back. Absolutely NO amount of money can ever fully heal anyone. I do appreciate the income coming in, because we have a house to build to suit his needs and we sure can't do it on my salary alone.

I really would love for the author and the Senator to visit with my Oklahoma born and bred, disabled veteran hubby and his father, who is also a disable veteran, and tell them they didn't earn their benefits. We'll make the time for that conversation, I can assure you.

It is beyond ignorant to accuse our veterans of being caught doing anything beyond serving our country and sacrificing for our great nation. And if I was registered to vote in OK, I sure as heck wouldn't vote this guy back in. 

It is also beyond ignorant to paint a picture of disabled veterans rolling in the taxpayers' dough. If we are we so financially well off then please tell me why so many are veterans homeless? Why are so many veterans dependent on non-profits to build them homes to suit their disabilities? Why are so many veterans on the verge of bankruptcy? And why oh why are we paying out of pocket for things the VA is supposed to provide?

I read the report and you know what it actually makes me feel better knowing that our disabled veterans have income from various sources to help them and their families. I only wish the GAO had a report on the gap the non-profits have to fill because the government is not doing enough. Something tells me the Senator wouldn't read that one, oh wait he barely read this one.

One last thing for the Senator, if you don't want to pay for our veterans and their disabilities then perhaps you should stop voting to send them to war. Just a thought to toss out there.

Friday, October 3, 2014

1 Bulldog vs. 3 Pit Bulls

I try my best to walk (and sometimes run) a 5k everyday. I love my 3.1 mile course around our neighborhood. My walks are my time to clear my head and think about nothing for a while. Even though that "thinking nothing" seldom happens, I always feel better after those 3.1 miles are behind me. My route is hilly, but smooth and there are few problems if any.

Many days I have friends join me on my route. I love walking with friends. It's a great time for us to catch up. Wednesday my friend and I were less than a quarter of a mile from home when we noticed 3 pit bulls running around a yard across the street. I told my friend to just keep walking because they were across the street and were quite a bit from us. I truly was not worried about the dogs at all.

Then I heard the alpha bark. I turned and I saw him coming for us with the other two following. I pushed my friend out of the way and yelled at her to keep walking home to get help, but just walk away. I then turned from my friend and confronted the Alpha head on. He snapped and snarled and then I barked words at him louder than his bark. I do not even remember what I said, but I totally controlled him. The Alpha and I barked out a few rounds at each other. Then he cowered and made a whimpering sound and went back to the yard we originally saw them playing in.

Once I saw the dogs reach a decent distance from us, I grabbed my friend who had just frozen out of fear from a past experience and told her we must walk slowly home. If we run that will stir them up. I do remember telling her to get 9-1-1 ready on her phone. I was expecting the Alpha to charge me. I even made a comment that he would get my right calf for sure.

We made it home and told Chaz what had happened. We were both visibly shaken. My friend more than me at first because she had been very savagely attacked by a dog a few years ago. Once my adrenalin calmed I started shaking pretty bad. I could not control my hands. I knew this had also upset Chaz which just made my hands shake more. I took several breaths and got my hands to stop shaking for a bit.

Unfortunately I did not have time to really calm down. I had to get out the door for a doctor's appointment (and can you believe my blood pressure was normal). Once I got into my car and was driving down the road it all really hit me. That dog was going to attack me and once he started the other two were going to join him. Oh my word, I stood up to three pit bulls. Not one, but three....Wow!

Once I got down the road for a bit, I started to laugh because I was told once that a 2 star General had called me a bulldog in a meeting with other military personnel. He said I was loyal, but would totally stand up to any challenge and that he wouldn't mess with me. I guess we now have proof I am part bulldog and that he was right. Someone should tell him.

Why am I sharing this story? Well because I realized one thing about myself that I am truly proud of. I always wanted to think that in times like that I would put myself in front of others, but I have not been tested like that before. I have faced other threats, but not one like this. Our situation could have gone so many different ways, most of them with tragic consequences. Somehow my brain kicked in and I protected my friend first and then us both. I threw myself out there to be injured first. I proved to myself that I am a good friend.

This realization means a lot to me. I live such a busy life and many times I feel like such a horrible friend because I can't go here or be there for various things. I sincerely try to help as many as I can, but I do fail....a lot. I have even failed the friend that was with me. Although my dearest friends totally understand my crazy life, I still value our friendships and truly get upset when I cannot be there for them. Wednesday I learned that when the challenge does arise I will put my friends first and that is a very valuable lesson to learn about yourself.

****And just a disclaimer.....this is not an anti-pit bull story and please do not interpret it that way. We discovered there were puppies back in the yard where the dogs had originated. The owner had four pit bulls total and only had one restrained. My friend and I were within the dogs turf zone and they were protecting the puppies. This story is proof of an owner's poor judgement in leaving them unsupervised and what can possibly happen. ****

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My Mums

Fall has always been my favorite season. Every year a farming family drives around our neighbor and sells mums off of their trailer. They are bigger than any you can buy on the market and cost significantly less and last three times longer. They always make me smile.

Before Chaz was injured I bought three every year. Chaz knows that for me mums signify Fall is coming and Fall is my favorite season. In 2011 and 2012 we were still in Walter Reed, so no mums for me. 2013 we were traveling, again no mums for me. I really had forgotten all about my favorite mums until yesterday.

I had a very exhausting week this past week. It was full of great things and also bad news. It was a true roller coaster.

We traveled to Maryland so I could work. While I was working Chaz and the girls visited friends. They had a great trip. My trip was a crazy train.

My week ended with me in tears on Friday. Of course Chaz hates that, but the things that occurred were beyond our control. Everything had just built up over the course of the week and Friday's news was the last straw. That straw broke the dam and the tears poured out.

Last week was one of those weeks that started with bad news, a little good news sprinkled in, then more bad, then a little good and this was all in the midst of me working from no kidding 5am to 11pm for a days in a row. When you are super tired and you add crazy to it, something has to give and this week it was my tears.

To say I need a vaca, is an understatement. I am hoping to find some quiet time very soon. But we have so much going on, it will be interesting to see how many days I can actually take off. I grabbed my calendar first thing this morning to see what days I can take off so I can mark them off now.

Yesterday Demetria and I went for a nice 3 mile walk. I just wanted to get out for a few minutes before Cutie #1's birthday party started. When we came back I found these on the front porch.

I was so excited I could have cried, but all my tears had evacuated 24 hours before. My super cute hubby knew he had done a great thing for me, but played it all cool. He's so stinking cute sometimes.

I have always known I caught a great one, but this week I was reminded once again how great he really is. I know I would not have made it through this week without him by my side. I took a picture of the mums to remind me of all of this when he forgets to put his laundry in the basket or does another husband thing that drives wives crazy. ;)

This morning as I sit at the desk I sat at on January 22, 2011 when I got the call that he might not make it, I can't help but thank The Lord for letting me keep him for a while longer. His super sweet actions yesterday were exactly what I needed to start a new week off right. I am one blessed lady for sure!!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fulfilling Broken Promises

Have you ever made a promise to someone and then felt horrible that you couldn't keep it? Have you ever made a promise to your child to discover that not keeping that promise hurts your heart a gazillion times worse? Well that was what our house is to us....a broken promise made to our children that wasn't fulfilled.

In our opinion, our girls have suffered the most through all of this. They were only 5 and 8 when this all started. January 21, everything was normal. January 22, a whole new life began. They went from having a stay at home Mom to having a mom traveling back and forth to heal their Dad. They went from having a Dad who could run and play with them and had no boundaries to a Dad who lost both legs and an elbow.Their lives were completely turned upside down.

The girls had to leave everything to help their Dad heal. They went from being little social butterflies who had tons of friends to being the only school age children at Walter Reed. We were so thankful when finally other kids in their age range appeared. As Chaz and I say, thank goodness they had each other. We know that helped them a lot.

Then enter the promise breaker. We allowed this person into our lives. We allowed them to set us up for failure. Chaz and I take full responsibility for our actions. At the time, we truly believed that person was going to stand by their word and help us build the home Chaz needed. We believed they truly wanted us to move on with our healing. I think our biggest mistake was letting this person near our children. They made promises to them directly. They glamored them with things we truly believe they never intended on actually doing.That still makes me angry to this day. Every Momma Bear out there probably knows exactly how I am feeling about that.

What we didn't know was that person had made the same exact promises to so many others. And what we didn't know at the time was that this person was totally full of it.

Our girls have been hearing about "the house" since September 2012. For 2 years now we have talked about how things will be easier "when we get the house built for Dad." Our girls have watched almost all of their friends PCS out of the area. They have made new friends only for them to PCS too. They've watched their Dad get hurt in our home again and again and again. They are tired of talking; they are ready for this house to actually happen.

Friday we got to show them the house under construction. It was a really exciting day. There was gravel on the land so they could see what the driveway looked like. Then they got to walk around the actual house. It was so cool!! I have to admit I was right there with them checking it all out like I was a child myself.

Here's a picture of them standing where their bathroom and then bedrooms will be.
I cannot wait to take more pictures of the progress. Especially the ones of the girls and their rooms. Those pictures will be such a fun memory to keep. It is our hope that when their children are their age they will love seeing their Moms in their rooms before they were actual rooms.

Friday was a great day for our family. We have waited for this home for so long. We are working so hard to make it happen. I never wanted to build a home. It was just never on my to do list. But it seems that when you make your own plans, higher intervention seems to take over.

Building a home is absolutely exhausting and frustrating, then add in everything Chaz needs and it takes it to a whole new level of frustration. Seeing the girls' reaction on Friday helped me forget that frustration. Seeing them so happy that this is really happening just warmed our hearts.

The one lesson I hope the girls learn from all of this is that sometimes people will break promises and even lie to you, but you have the strength and power within yourself to make dreams a reality no matter what might try to get in your way. Sometimes making that dream a reality might take a little while and it might be the most frustrating thing you have ever dealt with. Sometimes you have to trust your faith and add a little dash of hope and then The Good Lord will put the right people onto your path and you will make your dream happen.

In just a few weeks we will return to our building site and we will start writing names on our framing wood. The girls are as excited as we are to do this. If you would like to be a part of our forever home and have us write your name in our home visit this link https://secure.west-point.org/9linefoundation/chazallen/ and find out how!!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Ramblings of a Tired Caregiver

Over the past few weeks, I have come to realize what I think is the hardest part of a caregiver's journey. I have surrounded myself with several caregivers who are just like me. We have been through so much and helped so many. I have learned that when we take the time for ourselves it turns out that's not allowed. Somehow we are supposed to do everything on our own and it is almost blasphemous when we ask for help. It even appears to us that since we have done so much for so many others, we are laughed at when we ask for help.

I have come to realize I am not allowed a day off and away from my work. I am not allowed to not answer my phone. I am not allowed to not help every person to the extent I am comfortable, no I have to ensure their happiness before my own. Forget my happiness altogether, I am supposed to be strong 24/7 and put the problems of everyone else in front of our own. I am supposed to be the fixer for every person who decides they want my help.

I am up before the sun and asleep after it rests. I am very seldom detached from my phone. My work laptop goes with me everywhere I travel. I can officially say, I am giving until it hurts and I am tired.

I am up before my family so I can make sure Chaz's day is as convenient as possible in our dreadfully unsafe home. I put in at least 2 hours of work before he comes down. Then I spend my day taking care of everything he needs while juggling work, homeschool, feeding everyone, our side of building our home, Girl Scouts and the needs of a gazillion others.

Am I complaining? Actually no, I truly love my crazy life. I am called to serve others. I happily accept that calling. I love helping people. Like the other over 5 million caregivers in our country, I am proud to give care to the person I love. And I am happy to help others when they need it.

This week has just been a tough one. I have learned that sometimes my help is just not good enough and it hurts when the people you try to help tell you that. I have seen some things go down that question my ethics, but those things seem to be ok with a lot of others. I have been told that the needs of our family are less important than the needs of so many others. I have definitely taken a few hits this week.

It really hurts that I am not allowed to ask for help. It also hurts when I ask for help and am told "This other family needs it more," or "If you'll just take a minute and think about it, you'll figure it out, you always do," or "Well you chose the life you have. I don't feel sorry for you. You married into the Army. You knew this could happen." Yes those things have all been said to me several times. Each one has carried its own personal stinger.

It hurts that I am not allowed to be weak and be upset every once it a while. It hurts that I am just supposed to suck it up and give, give, give and don't dare ask for help, because if I do then I am being selfish. It appears I am not allowed to have a selfish moment where I can ask, "What about our family?"

I have chatted with a few caregivers who all feel the same way. We chose to stay with our husbands and help them heal. We'd all do it again in a heartbeat and we carry no regrets for that choice. Somewhere along the way society has also decided we are supposed to also choose to always be strong and carry the load 24/7 without a break. And we are supposed to put all other families in front of our own simply because we are so strong we can do it all.

Well friends, I am going to stand up and say I have to stop for a bit and get back to my cuties first rule. The needs of so many others has pulled me away from them and I must get back into our family's mission. 

Today sounds like a great place to start. We have hotel vouchers that are going to expire and are non-transferable so we are going away for the weekend. I am not bringing my laptop and I am not touching it until Tuesday morning. I am putting an auto-reply on my email. We are going to get in the van and go away and just be a family for the weekend. Anything that is not resolved by the time we pull out of the driveway today can wait until Tuesday. That funny thing is I will have to keep reminding myself of that.

To my caregiver friends, I encourage you to do the same. Take a break this weekend. The government is off so you can't do anything until Tuesday anyway. Only answer your phone when you know who is on the other line and you know they won't ask you for something that takes you away from your family. Just be a family this weekend. Just focus on your family's needs for this short time. I know, I know I am suggesting something so radical, but let's do it!

And for everyone else, you do it too!! Go be a family this weekend. Take the time to make great memories together!! As Maya Angelou said, "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. People will never forget how you made them feel." Go make your family feel your love.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ready for a Safe Home

It happened again....Our current home hurt Chaz.

This time he was just trying to get out the door to go to the movies with his friend. The door then snatched his wheel. That stopped the wheelchair which then flung him out of his chair straight onto the ramp.

God Bless our friends, this was their first time seeing a "yes we know we need to get a safer house and you just witnessed why and yes we're working on that" event. They didn't really know what to do, but they have learned we just adapt and deal. I dropped what I was doing to get to him and help him back into the chair. He said he was ok, but I know he was in pain. I could just feel it.

I am so ready for a safe home. I am so ready to not have to worry about him constantly in our home. You just shouldn't have to worry about someone safely living in their own home. Our home should be a place where he is safe and sound. He should be able to come and go as he pleases and not have to worry about taking on additional injuries in his own home.

Building this home for him has been so frustrating. We had a groundbreaking on January 29, 2013 and then were forgotten about. Chaz and I had to take everything into our own hands and figure our how to build a house because those who promised to help just left us hanging. It has been such a frustrating and aggravating fight to get this house under construction. I know that they are people who are tired of reading about our housing woes, but I am tired of us living this way.

Our home is only 6-9 months away now. We paid the first invoice Thursday. While that check was painful to write, we are so excited that a safe home for Chaz is finally happening. We have waited so long and worked to hard to make this all happen. We are so thankful for the members of our building team who all have stepped up and are helping us create this safe home. In 6-9 months, there will be a long blog post of people to thank and one day there will be a big party to celebrate our safe, forever home!!

Many have asked how you can help, here's how...Just visit this link  https://secure.west-point.org/9linefoundation/chazallen/ and become a part of our forever home. Thank you!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

17 Years Ago....

Yesterday I had the honor of helping my little brother move into college. He chose my Alma Mater, Kentucky Wesleyan College, so to say I was excited for him is a big understatement.

Jarrett and I are 17 years apart in age. We have different Moms and grew up in different circumstances, but yet we get each other. It must have something to do with being the youngest sibling.

Chaz and I have really enjoyed getting to know my little brother. We are extremely proud of the young man he has become. Over the past two years, Jarrett not only finished high school, played football and held a job, he also became an Eagle Scout. He now has made plans to join the Marines after he plays four years of football and gets a degree from KWC. He has a very bright future in front of him and we are excited to watch him grow.

When he invited me to help him with college decisions a few years ago, I jumped at the chance. I wish I would have had someone to walk me through it all. I was the first one in our family to "run off to college" so I was the one with a few "this is how I did it" lessons for him. A few weeks ago when he invited me to help him move in, I attempted to take the day off (this is really a ha-ha moment, I never get a day off and didn't yesterday either) and got myself to Owensboro to help.

As I walked up to the student life center, I saw a "Welcome Class of 2018" sign. It was then I realized that 17 years ago I was the new student moving in. I instantly remembered how I felt that day. One big difference, I was so stubborn I moved to college alone. I would not let my Mom and Step Dad take off work to move me in, I didn't want them to have to take time off for me. Instead I loaded up my essential items that would get me through until they were off for the weekend, and I drove myself to my dorm on a beautiful day in August 1997. My little brother was shocked, for about a moment, to learn I did it all alone. Although I would do it all over again, I wanted my brother to know he had our support in this new exciting transition he was beginning.

The transition to college is intimidating. I remember it so well. There's this moment when the gravity falls on you and you realize you are 18 now and you have to figure it all out. Jarrett has had that moment more than once just like we all do. And while I know he knows we are here for him, it will never hurt to give him that reassurance.

Yesterday was all about Jarrett, but I couldn't help but reflect and share with him the impact KWC had on my life while I was there. KWC helped to develop me into the adult I am today. I arrived at that campus as an angry, selfish, immature, ignorant, arrogant, self-absorbed 18 year old. (But as I always say find me a teenager that doesn't possess at least a few of those traits as well.) I left as an educated, happy, blessed, well-rounded, mature adult. I am still arrogant, but I blame my DNA on that one and I wonder if that can be fixed, ha!

I grew up in a small town and KWC showed me the world I knew nothing about. I give most of the credit to my Academic Adviser, Dr Conroy, who I was blessed with seeing yesterday. He and I even chatted yesterday about the person I was when I arrived and who I became when I graduated. He dared me to be better. He challenged me to be a better writer, speaker and a better citizen. I will always be so very thankful for how much Conroy invested in my life. He is still there and so are a few other people that impacted my life.

The Dean of Student Life, Dean Kramer, is still there. I am so glad Jarrett will get to know Kramer. He graduated KWC and stayed there to pass on so many lessons to the future students of KWC. Kramer taught me that you have have an education and a life while you are in college. That was an important lesson to apply to college life and to the real world for the rest of your life. He is an absolutely perfect fit for his job and I was thrilled to learn he is still there blessing the KWC students.

On my ride home, I realized so much happened to me in my short 3 1/2 years at KWC. I met my BFF there. I dated my husband and became engaged before my Senior Year at KWC. I graduated and used my maiden name for the last time there. I adopted our 14 year old cat, Callee, there (Sorry Dean Kramer). I learned so many extremely valuable lessons about life there. And perhaps most importantly I made some amazing friends and KD sisters that I will always remember while I was there.

I am so excited that my brother is going to KWC. I know that his journey there will be as great as mine. And the best news is that big sister has spies all around him....Bahaha!! Just kidding....

Friday, August 8, 2014

You Can Be a Part of Our Forever Home!!!

Ecstatic is an understatement to describe our feelings about this fundraiser for our home that starts today!!


Thankful is an understatement to describe our feelings towards our builders who thought this idea that I randomly had while running the other day is "awesome" and immediately said "Let's do it" as soon as I proposed it!!

Grateful is an understatement to describe our feelings towards 9line, the non-profit who is helping us make this idea a reality!!

It's not a secret that we are trying to build a home to suit Chaz's needs. We officially started our project on January 29, 2013. Sadly we have hit too many delays to count and the house was delayed again and again. Last month we finally were able to get things rolling, thanks to our awesome builders who are working so hard to help us make this all a reality.

Here are a few pictures!
 Week #1
Week #2

The average cost of a home to suit the accessibility specifications of the Veteran Affairs Department exceeds $400,000; however the VA only provides our veterans with a grant of $67,555 for them to build a home to suit their needs. We are all dependent on the support of others to get these homes built for our wounded heroes. This is why there are so many home-building non-profits in existence.

Our total home cost is $431,000. This is the base model. Our builders can tell you there are no frills to our home. Our home is what Chaz needs and that's it, he just has to have so many things custom built for him. Costs are quickly driven up when you mention the word "custom." Chaz and I have already secured a construction loan to cover most of our home's cost. Our builders are working hard to work with suppliers to get product donations. We have had done some fundraising to make our costs go down. (You might recall the AMAZING race Demetria put together.) We still need your help.

Chaz and I are not seeking a free home, we feel that is a ridiculous request. We are trying to get our mortgage to $150,000, which actually the mortgage on our current home. This is how we know what kind of mortgage we can have on the new home. ;)

Yes, I work 3 jobs. Yes, we can afford a mortgage. But here's what concerns us and keeps me up at night...how long will I be able to work? What if Chaz's health takes a turn for the worse? It already has a few times. Luckily I have an employer who is very understanding and gives me the time I need when Chaz needs it. But we wonder how many working years I have left and will Chaz ever be able to work? Therefore, we need our mortgage to be paid off in 10-15 years to be on the safe side.

We need your help!! We want your name, business, or organization's name on the framing wood of our home!! We want every person who wants to see us in our forever home that will always be safe for Chaz to live in to have their name in our home! For a $20 donation to 9line, one of the members of our family will write your request on the framing wood of our home next month!!!

Yes, your name will eventually covered, but we will take pictures (lots of pictures) first. But just think your name, business or organization will always be with us!! Forever!!! We just love this!

The thought of our home being built around the names of those who want to help us get there seriously brings me to tears. I adore the thought of our family being surrounded every day with the names of those who care so much for us. Chaz and I will finish raising our children in this house. One day (hopefully at least 12 years or so from now) our grandchildren will get to see the house that was built on hope, love and the support of our friends who are around the world. Can you imagine how amazing it will be for us to share the story of how our home was finished with the guests you come through? It gives you chills, doesn't it?!

Now you can see why we are so excited?! We are so pumped about this idea!! So how can you get your name in out home? Just visit 9line and donate $20 and fill out what you want us to write. That's it!!

Please consider helping us develop carpal tunnel from writing so many names that our hands can't take it anymore! We are hoping for a lot of hand cramps on Writing Day!! We want your name, business or organization in our home. Also if you'd like to put a scripture (the actual chapter and verse number only please) in our home, we welcome that as well. We have a lot of wood to cover, so help us with this mission!!

What else can you do to help us?! SHARE, SHARE, SHARE this blog!!!! Thank you!!!!

And just a little bit about our awesome friends at 9line....100% of all donations are tax deductible! Nine Line is 100% volunteer effort! All admin costs are covered by their President and Vice President!!They are doing some awesome work for us, aren't they?! Here's the donation link one more time! https://secure.west-point.org/9linefoundation/chazallen/ Please share what they are doing for us with your friends! Thank you!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Red Tape Diary Entry #3 (VA OT)

Last Saturday we had a home visit with one of the team members from the VA Caregiver Program. I will happily admit the VA Caregiver Program is the one part of the VA system we have had least amount of difficulties with. They laid everything out for us on policies and procedures. While they might have taken a while to do it, they did everything they said they would do. What I found out later was the delay was caused by lack of staff and too many cases to get through, which a constant story heard throughout the VA system. The great news is that everyone we have dealt with in this part of the VA has been professional and caring.

Saturday our nurse showed up at our home early. We welcomed her in and visited with her and answered all of her questions. The home visits are so easy, they just come in to see how you are doing and see if you need anything. We have had always had a different person do our home visit, but they have all been so nice and caring.

This time the nurse suggested Chaz could use a grabber to help him reach things. We had one at some point, but it was too short so he didn't use it. The nurse informed us that she would just order one for him and it would be mailed to the house. She even said that is "too easy."

She put the order in on Monday morning. Yesterday, yes Thursday, four days later, (which is lightning fast in VA time) Chaz gets a call from VA-OT. The lady asked him if he requested a grabber and he said yes. She then informed him that he has to "come down and prove that he actually needs it before they will authorize it." He says, "Well I am in a wheelchair and have a fused arm and you have that on file in my chart right?" "Right, Mr Allen but we still need to see you to make sure you actually need it." Chaz then says "Well, then I am confused, you have the documented proof of my injuries that I need it, and someone from the VA saw me Saturday, but you still need to see me?" She went on to tell him that if he wanted it he had to come there for it and that she wouldn't authorize it until she sees him. He said, "Well considering the grabber costs like $10 I'll just save my time and gas money and go get one at Walmart or something." He told her to have a good day and hung up.

Then came the rant, turns out this is the lady he has had to deal with a few times. I am sitting here thinking, whoa, how have I not met her? Anywho she has a history of being non-productive with Chaz. Which you of course know that means others have experienced the same.

So where do I start with this overload of ignorance coming at me from the lazy train? First this is a prime example of bureaucracy at it's finest. One VA employee puts eyes on a veteran and requests a $10 piece of equipment, but because it falls under the scope of OT, the OT people have to draw their territorial line and insist they see him too.

Here's a fine example of a VA pissing contest. It's like I can hear this lady's thoughts...well I'll be the judge of if he needs a grabber or not. Some nurse from another department isn't going to tell me what OT needs to do.

My next issue is that the VA Caregiver Program has spent more time with Chaz since January 2013 then VA-OT has. I feel that the Caregiver Program knows Chaz's needs way better than VA-OT in this situation. And for something this simple, OT does not needs eyes on him, if another VA professional has seen him.

Then you must consider that lady who saw us Saturday is a medical professional, but the lady authorizing the equipment is not, she's an administrative professional. Follow this...a medical professional puts in an order and then an admin professional questions it and wants to require the veteran to see another professional.

And my biggest problem is the lady from admin requiring Chaz to come in, just tried to take away an appointment from another veteran who actually needs to see OT for actual OT. This is the part that ticks me off the most. Chaz does not need OT to verify he needs a grabber. A nurse did, this should be the end of the story. But no, let's block out time that another veteran needs in OT so they can see Chaz's disability.....again. And wait for it.....they are all still looking at the same file!!

No matter how you look at it, it's just a big circle of are you freaking kidding me? Here's what made us laugh, in a not-so-happy way. We realized we have to go through hoops for a $10 grabber to help with Chaz's independence, but if we asked for narcotics we'd have them the next day. Roll that one around in your mind for a little bit.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Working Backwards....

As a financial counselor, I am asked all the time, "What is your number one piece of advice?" And do you know what that is? Work backwards.

And I bet you now have the standard puzzled look on our face that I get all the time when I say that out loud. What in the world do I mean when I say that? Well let me explain.

What is the only certainty you have in your life? Unfortunately, the only thing we know for sure is that our life will end at some point. It really sucks that the only guarantee we have in life is that it will end, but it is what it is and you must prepare for it. So when you are preparing your financial plan, think death, retirement, debt, children's education. Of course we all know financial planning is not this simple, everyone's situation is fact dependent and so the format sometimes has to be adjusted. This format gives you an idea of how to put your brain in working order to work your financial life backwards.

What's the first question I always ask during the beginning of a financial counseling session....Do you have life insurance for you and your entire family? I feel that this question is the absolute most important question to ask at the beginning. 

Here's what I never will understand....we seriously do not want to think about the end of our life. We, as a culture, think that it's morbid and negative to think about it. I say that is the wrong way to approach it. Life is beautiful, but it must end at some point and it will keep on going without you. You want to celebrate the life of those who leave you, not sit in a funeral home with swollen puffy eyes from crying and nausea as you discuss payments on the services and burial and think how in the world am I going to pay for it?

Death catches us all off guard. It doesn't matter if your loved one goes instantly or fights a long fight. Death still delivers that one huge punch to the gut when he takes your loved one away. Do you know how many people I have seen be devastated that not only because the person they love is gone, but they also left them with debt and no plan? This is no way to care for those you love. You must take the time to think about helping your loved ones heal when you leave them. You will leave a hole in someone's heart, we all will and we must acknowledge at some point. Taking the time to minimize the stress from your absence is a beautiful gift to leave behind..

Here's the secret, square it all away now and get life insurance. Take control of your life today and make the phone call and just take out enough to bury you and pay off your debts if you have any. Don't forget to take out just enough to bury your children, for just in case. And here's the important question to ask your insurer....Are my children automatically covered under my policy? Our girls are both covered under mine at no additional charge. It's a very nice feature many insurance companies add to your policy.

I know many of us just are so busy living now and we do not take the time to think about tomorrow, much less the end. I can tell you that when you finally sit down and take the time to acknowledge all of those necessary details, you will sleep a lot better at night.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Chair Won Again.....


You really cannot see all the lovely red color and the bruising from my foot's fight with the chair last night. One thing is for sure the wheelchair won again.....

One would think that after all this time that I would have scaling the chair down precisely. Well last night I decided to come down for some water and I had my glasses on instead of my contacts (which just messes up everything for me). My foot caught the front wheel and there I went. I hit something hard and scraped the top of my foot in addition to knocking the crap out of it. Lots of pain began instantly and it is still sore today. :(

We have all had these things happen. You know when you are doing something you do every single day, sometimes multiple times a day and then whoops you just did it wrong that time. This was my time to do it wrong.

You are probably sitting there thinking......Why don't you just move the chair? That is simply because when Chaz comes up the stairs, he puts the chair back exactly how he needs it for when he comes down. You might think me moving it isn't a very big deal, but it actually is. He has to jump from the second step to the chair. If I move it, then he could miss his jump and then we will all have a bad day. It is easier on him for us to leave it alone.

So now you are thinking.....What's the solution? That one is a little easier.....Get out of this house!! Construction has started on our new home. (WAHOO!!!!) This means no more stairs for our family. No more scaling the chair for the girls and I. No more second step jumps for Chaz.

I would love to say the new house will elimiate my foot vs. wheelchair battles, but Chaz runs me over all the time. My foot vs. wheelchair battles will never be over, but the new house will lower the count quite a bit. My throbbing foot pain this morning reminded me how badly we need this house for Chaz and that it will be worth every penny!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Yes, He Stays at Home...

I know so many other caregivers have had their role reversed just like I have. I know they too struggle everyday with the sudden changes in our identities. Just a few years ago I was a stay at home mom, with a thriving seasonal small business. I volunteered at the girls' school, with Girl Scouts and helped out at their dance studio. Then that all went boom....

In the early days after Chaz's injury I held on very tightly to anything from my previous life. Before I knew it the only thing that remained were the shreds of my business that I salvaged while going back and forth taking care of everyone. What I realized now was by focusing solely on healing my family the details sorted themselves out.

Fast forward to now and I am full-time work from home mom, with a surviving small business. I am a full-time caregiver and Girl Scout leader. We are still homeschooling our kids. And now my husband is the "stay at home parent."

What?! He stays at home? Yes our roles in our family have reversed. And we are beyond ok with it. I wish others could be.

When we were at Walter Reed they shoved college and internships down Chaz's throat. I loved it when I was blamed for him not accepting things, "I was holding him back" don't you know. Finally one day a meeting was called about Chaz turning things down. He was solely focused on his therapies and our family and a few people were not happy about that. He actually flipped and happily let them know that he was the one blown up and everything he had planned for himself for his career was gone. He told them wasn't ready to change his path to what they felt he should do. Again I was blamed for not pushing him.

Our veterans don't always need a push. Sometimes they need someone to listen, understand and love them through it. I have no problems explaining that my husband wanted to serve 20+ in the Infantry. He loved being a soldier. I did not love him being in harms, but I loved him and wanted to support him in his choices. He was out doing what he loved more than anything when that was all taken away from him.Together we mourned our losses and together we have helped him find his independence level and heal our family. 

What I will never understand is why we feel we must force our opinions on others? I'll happily give you my opinion, but I will not force it. Chaz and I laughed at all the "advice" we have been given on this journey. Our favorite is the "He stays at home?" comments.

Our little family is beyond happy. I am now "Chaz's Sugar Momma" and I am more than ok with it. I do not like that I have to travel and leave my family and make a ton of arrangements just so they are cared for during my short trips, but that comes with my job. My family is very proud of me and the work I do. They are willing to give me up periodically so I can help so many others. We are ok with that and you should be too. I am not a bad Mom because I choose to work and that work involves travel. Chaz is not any less of a man because he wants to be Mr Mom.

In my opinion, our choices have made us better parents and partners. We are now experiencing how the other one's life was over the past 10 years. We truly understand each other better now because we are seeing the other side.

Our family endured over a decade of war and Chaz being gone all the time. The girls never got a chance to know him. Now they get to have both of their parents and we are having a blast homeschooling them and taking them on adventures through their education.

Chaz and I are working together to plant beautiful seeds of hope, love, faith and family in our girls. What we are doing doesn't have a price tag. What we are doing is setting our girls up for success which will be passed on for generations. If you are worried about my hubby going to school or getting a job please know we are fine and we have it all covered.

One day Chaz will figure out what he wants to do. It may be next week or next month or next year. Or you know what, he may just continue doing what he is doing. And that's perfectly fine with me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sitting Down for Just a Sec....

I have been so busy that I am horribly behind on work, phone calls, emails, you name it. But this week is my catch up week and I am going to get caught up. I would say even if I am working from sun up to sun down, but I am already doing that so, there goes that theory. Regardless I am going to get caught up. 

So what is going on? Here's the short list. Things are great at YRF. We are doing so many awesome things, but to make that the awesomeness happen we have a lot of work to do. I could write a blog just about that. I am trying to close out my tax office for the year, but I cannot find the time to finish the last few returns I need to do. I am closing out De's Girl Scout troop for good because the girls have all become busy with other things. I have to get both girls ready for their week long camp in a few weeks. I am trying to build my hubby a house that suits his needs and do everything that needs to be done to this one (again I could just write a blog on that). I need to sit down and close out the school year for the girls. And this is recital weekend. Again this is the short list. The actual full list might frighten you away. ;)

Shockingly I have Chaz's appointments, equipment, paperwork and etc all squared away. I have medical appointments for the girls and I squared away, yes including Ginger. Yesterday I realized what I really need to do is just sit down for a sec and breathe. So I did. I made a list of what I wanted to do in addition to what I need to do. To my surprise, I did have enough paper.

I don't know where I would be without my lists. Being a caregiver is exhausting. From the time we get up to the time we go to bed we just go-go-go. I personally get up at least one hour before Chaz so I can have time to think. I have to have just some time for me so I can get my head straight before I start my day. I know that my beginning hour of the day may be the only time in the day that I will have for me. Most of my days are like that. And no I am not complaining. This is just how my life is. The past 2 months we have had so many other things added in that I felt that I could not even turn around.

Do you know what I love about my hubby? I love that he supports me and all my craziness. I love the fact that he tries to help me do everything. I love that he supports me helping others. I love that he takes anything he can off of my plate. We really do make an excellent team. Yes we are as opposite as opposite can be, but boy do we compliment each other well.

On date night the other night my super cute hubby let me know that he is so happy that in less than two weeks I have an almost a 90 day straight break from traveling. We have a few things that involve traveling, but nothing like the past few non-stop weeks that we are almost through. He even asked again for a list that he could knock out so he could help me.

This morning I was going through my normal routine and I sat down for just a sec. I realized that I am truly blessed that my hubby is able to help me accomplish so much. Where would I be without such a great partner? I could accomplish those to-dos alone, but having someone who supports you and wants to help you succeed makes things that much better.

This year will be another big year for us. The new house will be finished before December 31. We will get moved and we will move forward like we have needed to for so long. The most important part is that we will move on together into our happily ever after. One day really soon we all will be able to sit down for more than a sec and actually take it all in and enjoy the blessings that we are working so hard to accomplish. But for now I will take the random pauses I can get while I wait for the big one to come.