Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kids and Money in the School Years (SMSK Post #5)

Every parent has had that chat about "Well (fill-in-the-blank) has it." I remember having a conversation with both of our girls while they were in Kindergarten about cell phones. There were kids in their classes with cell age 5......still blows my mind today. Our girls just didn't understand why if that kid had it and their parents bought it for them, why wouldn't we buy it. We realized when Cutie #1 got to Kindergarten we had to have a new approach.

Neither one of our girls understood the concept of money in Kindergarten, but they understood saving and earning. The Responsibility Chart had worked very, very well. But our girls needed something else. We had to figure out a new approach for our girls....enter the marble jar.

Kids are visual learners. We needed something that would show what "adding up the good and taking away for bad" would look like. I love to make jellies and canning during the summer months, so I grabbed two pint jars and used some marbles we had. We decided the girls would get 5 marbles a day. If they were great and did everything that was asked then they kept all five marbles. If they were disrespectful we took a marble. If they didn't clean their rooms, we took a marble. If they didn't help around the house, we took a marble. And yes we had days when we dipped into the jar for number 6. Once the girls filled up the jar they earned $5. They also had to have a goal for that $5. So we would do some saving research along the way. It took a while to earn that $5 so don't think we were passing out $5 bills on weekly basis.

It may seem cheap of us to only pass out $5 for a full jar, but seriously think about it. With a school schedule, dance and girl scouts, we were not going shopping on a weekly basis. The jar allowed them to have a target goal and gave me just enough time to encourage hard work with a relatively fast rate of return for the girls. Most of the things they wanted were "two jars full" so it worked out very, very well.

When Chaz was hurt the jar went out the window, the girls were 8 and 5 at the time. I am sure you can imagine a lot of things changed when he was injured. Once our lives got into our "new normal" we knew we had to begin a new plan. Our girls were older now. Unfortunately Chaz's injuries forced us all to grow up a lot, but it did force our girls, especially Cutie #1, into maturity. Chaz and I had to look for a more mature plan that would work for our family now. We decided to set up a real world scenario for the girls that would go right along with their homeschool education.

We wanted the girls to earn, give, spend and save. I hunted around pinterest and google and discovered this chart. We decided it could work very well in our home. We decided we had to go a little farther with the chart so out came the Allen house ground rules.
  1. We will not pay you if you do not complete your responsibilities. We expect you to clean up after yourself and be a team player in this home.
  2. We will decide on tasks that are eligible for commission together as a team. We do encourage you to think outside our chart and look for other payable opportunities. 
  3. There will be fines for bad behavior. Think of us as the police on the highway, you go too fast and we will give you a ticket. (In our home, this is really about disrespectful language and attitude). 
  4. If you are bragged on by a stranger for your behavior or helpfulness that is an immediate $1 bonus. You never know who is watching so you want to always be your best. 
  5. Random acts of kindness will also be rewarded with $1. So think about how you can bless someone else. 
  6. You will put back 10% into savings and 10% will go to giving. You will decide what you give to, but you will give. 
  7. You have to remind the bank to pay you. Sometimes the bankers will forget it is Sunday.
  8. You must keep your ledger up to date. If you don't then you will lose your debit card. 

This is one of our charts. We laminated it so we could use it again and again. When they forget to remind the bank for money then they are allowed to erase the 1 and make a 2, 3 or 4. Eventually they remind the bank on a Sunday that money is due. ;)

Now a few of you caught number 8 are thinking whaaaaat?! Yes our girls each have debit cards. Yes our girls are 8 and 11 and they have had the cards for a while now. Let me tell you they do a pretty darn good job of keeping up with those cards.

Why cards? Why not cash? Well I am busier than a one-armed paper hanger (little bit of the South coming out there.) I do not carry cash and I forget all the time to get cash. So yes our girls have pre-paid debit cards. The best part is they cannot overspend. If they try to buy something and there's not enough money on the card, then they have to put it back. When pay day comes I simply have to log into our accounts and transfer the money to their cards after they have balanced their ledgers. When they get cash for their birthday, they give it to me and I put it on the card. If they lose the card, I report it lost and have another one sent. We've been doing this for two years now and I have never had to replace their cards.

Our girls have addition and subtraction down so why not make them use it. We make them keep a ledger of all of their transactions. We make them balance their books and make them stay in charge of their personal finance. They are mature enough to handle it, so why not let them handle it.

You know what the coolest part has been....we make them save 10% and they both save so much more. Deryn saved enough to buy herself an iPod touch. It was almost $300 and she saved that money in just a few months. And she knows where that iPod is at all times. We did buy her an otterbox as a birthday present to protect her investment, but other than that they now buy all of their wants.

Will our chart and plan work in every household? No, it will not. Every home is different. Like parenting, personal finance is not one size fits all. You have the overall concepts, but really you have to take the small details and personalize them to a plan that works for your home. Maybe cash works better for you? Maybe your kids need to stay with the marble jar longer than our crew. These are all decisions your home will need to make. The most important thing you learn about all of this is you need to start talking to your cuties about money now....not at!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids Post #4 (Kids and money in the early years. introducing the early concepts. )

How in the world do you start talking money with your kids? We feel you first have to introduce delayed gratification and responsibility to them. How do you do that? Well let me tell you what we did.

You are constantly presented with opportunities to introduce delayed gratification and responsibility to your cuties as they grow. The first time I really think you can introduce both concepts is during potty training. I remember having a bag of dum dum pops here. Cutie #1 went #1 on the potty she got a sucker.

Then we introduced the star chart. Every time she went potty she got a star, then when she went 5 times and put her 5 stars on the chart she got a sucker. Then we had the dry all day goal, she stayed dry all day and then she got to go pick out big girl undies. (Yes she still earned her stickers and suckers.) Then when she went a week without using a pull-up she got to go get another pack of big girl undies. See what is going on here. We made a goal and we worked together to get there and she was rewarded, but not instantly. Therefore she learned the concept of delaying gratification.

Both of our cuties were under 2 when we started the potty dance. I think that because we gave them a goal to focus on they were able to potty train very quickly. And no we did not force potty training on them, but we did encourage it and those dum dum pops and star stickers sure did help.

Once we achieved the potty goal, we had to have a new goal, so I bought a Responsibility Chart. We started small with easy things like using your manners and picking up your toys. On Sundays the chart was wiped clean and we would introduce new responsibilities. On Sunday before we cleared the board, we would look and count smiles. If the cutie earned 10 smiles or more during the week, she earned a trip to the Treasure Box. For every multiple of 10 she earned a treat. So if she had 20 smiles she got 2 treats from the box. In other words the more she earned, the more she was rewarded. Get it? The harder she worked, the more she earned.

"Ohhhh the Treasure Box, what's that?" Many of our cuties' friends have been inside the Treasure Box. It is only available to children who are helpful and kind. I always extended the Treasure Box option to friends who were responsible, polite and helpful while visiting our home. It helped me not have to clean up all sorts of messes after cutie play time. (Every Momma knows exactly what I am talking about here.)

What is the Treasure Box? It is an old filing box I had that I dumped suckers, smarties and various little things into (think party favors, oriental trading, or the Target dollar section during 75% off time). We kept it very simple and affordable and fun.

In their book, Dave and Rachel suggest that you can start paying your children commission as young as 3. I agree that is totally accurate for some households, but not accurate for this one. I can tell you in this house our cuties would have rather had the Treasure Box then have cash. Cash would have been lost in the room somewhere or even ripped up during play time. So for this house the cash option wasn't an option during the early years.

I truly think that you have to do what works for your home. Every house operates differently. The important thing to get out of all of this is that you have to start talking about money with your kids yesterday. If they are too little to understand money, then introduce them to the concepts of delayed gratification and responsibility. If you develop those concepts then they will be more prepared for handling money when the time comes.

When does that time come?! I'll share when we did what here on my next post. ;)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids Post #3 WORK

I love the title of Chapter 2--"Work is NOT a Four-Letter Word." It made me laugh. The truth does that sometimes, right?!

We are living in a culture of "work smarter, not harder." Well I say why not do both?! You really can if you try.

I worked for H&R Block for 7 years. The Block office model consisted of greeters, filers, preparers, transmitters and list could keep going. I worked in one of the smallest stores in Nashville for the majority of my years with Block. We only had that list of people during peak week. Even then we really didn't need all of those people in our small office. We were a small team of folks, but we had this amazing work smart and hard bond. We were fair and we all took our turns doing the long list of jobs that were delegated to one person at the bigger stores. I will never miss H&R Block, but I will always miss the team I had at that little store. We were a family of tax preparers. We never delegated who did what, no we all learned all the jobs and we did them without asking. Everyone in that office worked smart and hard and that is what made our office so successful.

I was moved out of the office my last year at Block. My brain thinks like a robot when processing tax returns it is the weirdest thing. Home Office Block loved that I could key in a tax return from start to finish in 3 minutes without an error. However I was actually called into that new office by the manager one day and was told to please take at least 5 minutes to process the returns. I asked why and was told I made those who had been there longer look bad. I was told that the Senior preparers complained that I was doing too many returns. I was even accused of "stealing a client," when really the lady was tired of waiting for that preparer.

I can testify that office did not want to work. The manager didn't even want to work. Everyone stayed in their lane and stuck to their job description, but then complained about things not getting done. I cannot tell you how many times people would be sitting down doing nothing and then whining about something that they could do themselves not getting done. The thing that killed me was if those things were all done correctly then we had a happier office and our productivity would increase. This is what my small office taught me. But in the large office it was not seen that way. Many of the people in that office were just riding the clock to get that hourly wage. But I knew the was called work!

Here's the thing about Block, you have a base salary and then you have the chance to earn commission. Guess what drove me to increase my speed, work harder and work smarter.....that's right that one word.....commission. The more tax education classes you took, the more you were paid. The more tax returns you processed, the more you were paid. You had to work for that commission and boy did I. I always had a nice check at the end of the season and so did my friends at the smaller office. Yes, the employees of the large office only received small checks if anything at all. Why?! Because they didn't want to work. They didn't want to get to the next level, they wanted to sit and collect that hourly wage.

I laughed a few times during this chapter, so many events in my life made me look at that word work and think about others. My years at Block, my years waiting tables and now my years of working in the non-profit community all made me reflect on how others really view work as a four letter word. Well in this house work becomes a five letter!

Like the Ramsey family, we do not offer allowances to our girls. We offer commission. Why?! Because why in the world should I pay you for existing? No one pays me for existing. We have told our girls we allow you to live in this house and eat our food. That is the only allowance you will get from us.

Working for Block was eye opening for me. I had only had hourly paid jobs before. I waited tables and I always had nice tips, but Block was where I really learned about commission. I really learned about working harder and smarter through my 7 years there. Now I run my own tax company and I love it. What do I love the most about it? I love being an in-home example of hard work to our girls.

Our girls are learning first hand what commission really is. They see me working like crazy during tax season balancing a full-time job, caring for them and their father, homeschooling and then preparing taxes and financially counseling other families.Yes our girls have a tax season grumble. And yes they love April 16th as much as I do! And yes we usually celebrate April 16th. ;)

We have sat the girls down a few times and explained that the harder I work the more money comes into our home. The more money we have at our disposal, the more things we can go and do. This idea also extends to them. We pay them for their assistance around our home. Chaz is very limited on where and when he can help. But if they help him, they are all helping our family. If they help me help him we will reward them with money. How in the world do we do that and when did we start?! I will lay all of that out tomorrow. ;)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids (Post #2-Comparing the Ramsey and Allen Household Set Up)

Like Rachel Cruze, I have never personally gone broke. Why? Because I watched devastation happen right in front of my eyes. I don't remember as much about my parents divorce as my older siblings do. I do remember not wanting for anything and then, what seemed so sudden, having to find my own income for everything. I remember living in a house I loved, then being told "we lost the house" and helping move my mother and myself to an apartment that was one-half of one story of our previous home. I remember getting almost everything I asked for and then taking a summer job pulling tobacco in a field of at friend's family farm. Poor pitiful me, right?! WRONG!!

I was blessed to learn about money in my teenage years. I hated dipping that tobacco, but boy I loved that money. I hated going to high school full-time and then working full-time, but I loved being able to go and do things with my friends. Not only did I love buying things for myself, I loved seeing the stress it took off of my mother. She worked so hard to provide for me and I loved being able to help take some of the burden off of her shoulders. What some would see as poor pitiful me, I see as the seeds that made me who I am.

Like Rachel I grew up in a home of money-learning. I learned from the mistakes of my parents. I learned that credit is not your best friend. You cannot depend on him, he will stab you in the gut the first time he gets a chance and then he'll laugh at your failure and charge you insane fees for thinking about laughing at him. I learned that anything you truly want you will earn. I learned that jealously truly is counting other people's blessings rather than counting your own. I learned a lot from those mistakes and I am thankful every day that my parents went through them and I learned from them.

In their book, Rachel talks about families coming and screaming "We're Debt FREE" for the Dave Ramsey show. We have been debt free except for our house for a long time, since we were 23 actually. Now I want to get completely debt free and take our girls there to Dave's studio and scream into that microphone and plant that seed in their heads and hearts. I want to plant a seed that will help not only them, but our generations after them. We have already planted some very valuable seeds in our girls, but we want to plant more. Luckily many ideas that we have instilled into them have simply come from being a military family.

We were married at 22 and we decided then we would always budget on one income only. Why is that? Well it's called PCS and TDY. That's Permanent Change of Station and Temporary Duty. You never know where the military will send you and your spouse has NO guarantees of a transferable job or license. I have a college degree, that was the kiss of death in 2001. When I tried to get jobs around Ft Campbell, I was "overqualified" or "over-educated" for every job. But what that really meant was we don't want to pay you more than we have to since you are an Army wife and you might move. So we budgeted on Chaz's E4 income only. And let me tell you, it wasn't a lot, but it was enough.

I finally got a job working at a Sonic where I would quickly rise up and become the General Manager. We took all of my paycheck and saved it and paid bills with Chaz's. At that time we had rent, utilities, car payment, student loans and credit cards. But we took my check and saved up enough to put a down payment on a home. We saved a bit there because the house was cheaper than our rent. And in the same weekend we closed on the house, we discovered God was blessing us with cutie #1. Then God laughed and I was fired from my job for missing an audit that September. Guess where I was.....yes, in labor with cutie #1.Where was Chaz? Yup, he was in Korea. It was not a happy time for us. It was actually a dark and stressful time, but we look back now and we can show you how God worked it all out for us.

After a lot of tears and frustration I made a plan. What did I do? I had a delightful chat with the Department of Labor. My employer and I settled out of court (Thank you FMLA) for enough to pay off all of our bills except for the house. Then I took at job at H&R Block to earn some fun money for us and we needed it. I remember specifically working for 2 weeks to afford a plane ticket to bring Chaz home for a visit from Korea. Oh yes back in the day the Army did not pay for R&R, even if they were in a hazardous duty zone on an unaccompanied tour. Oh yes, I remember it well!

Even though Chaz was an E4, we still qualified for WIC and Food Stamps. And you'd be shocked to learn not much has changed since 2001. A large amount of our service members still qualify for public assistance because yes, their income is still that low. Here's the WIC link and here's the Army Pay Scale so you can compare. Chaz and I refused to take public assistance. We felt I could and should work and we should leave that assistance to the other families who couldn't work.

Then after 7 years at Block, I decided to work from home and start my own tax preparation company. Cutie #1 had started school and Cutie #2 was big enough for pre-school. Chaz had already deployed once and was gone every time we turned around. We wanted one of us there for everything Cutie #1 and #2 needed.

In 2008, we took $1,500 from our fun money account. (It's known as the S&G fund here, S&G for Sh!ts & Giggles. Please remember we are military, curse words are adjectives to us in our acronyms.) We invested that $1,500 very wisely and do you know I made back our investment in week one of tax season?! I am pleased to report that last year I served 125 clients through my little business that was started on $1,500 cash with no debt years ago.

Over the course of our marriage, after we saved up our emergency fund, we did add a new bill to our lives....our Roth IRAs. We treat our retirement savings like a bill. That bill has to be paid. No one is going to fine us, but we will be fining ourselves by not funding our IRAs every year. Chaz and I are not getting any younger or cuter and we really want to enjoy the later years of our lives together. How do we get there? We plan for the future in the past! We feel the best gift we can give the girls is us taking care of ourselves. We do not want them to have to support us so we have made plans to avoid that.

What are we doing today? I still run my tax prep company, but I was blessed in 2012 to be offered at job at the Yellow Ribbon Fund as the Director of the Family Caregiver Program helping families just like ours. Chaz medically retired in 2013 and now I am the primary wage earner. Our roles have been somewhat reversed, but we are all loving how faith has worked things out for us.

What are we doing as retirees now versus active duty then? Well everything is budgeted on my income only instead of his. Yes we took our military life style philosophy and flipped it to my side. Or as Chaz's refers to it...."The Sugar Momma Plan has been activated."

Over the past few years we have learned the government offers a lot for our veterans, but sometimes those offers come with so much red tape you cannot see the offer. And so many times you have to pay for it and wait for reimbursement, then denial, then more red tape and then silence. And if you notice the benefits of our veterans and their families are always on the chopping block for Congress. So we will remain an one income budget home for the foreseeable future. We feel it just has to be that way. We feel we cannot depend on the government to live up to it promises to take care of our severely wounded. Yes we feel we must take care of ourselves. Our S&G fund has become the "oh crap what now" fund. And yes this fund is separate from the emergency fund.

Our current adventure is trying to build an adaptive house for Chaz. Right now we are on the beans and rice diet-and you aren't getting it unless you need it-savings plan. Like the Ramsey's and their "Sharon's Kitchen has the best food in town," I am blessed the Allen's think Jessica's kitchen is the best.

Do we involve the girls in financial talks about the home? We absolutely do! We have walked them through the needs and wants of this new home. We have a lists for both. The girls are on our team here. Team Allen requires all four families members' participation to be successful. How did we develop this team? Well I'll save that for another post! ;)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids (Post #1)

Several weeks ago I stumbled upon a new book that was to be released. I found a link to a survey that asked, "Would you want to read this book early and review it?" The book was Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze's Smart Money, Smart Kids. So yes, yes I filled out the survey and threw my hat in the ring. And guess what....I was one of the 157 who were chosen. Woot-woot!!

In between my March Madness basketball games, I knocked the book out quick. Like I read the entire thing in just a few hours. I didn't want to put it down. And yes, yes it was that good. I found it to be a quick, easy and fun read. I laughed quite a bit while reading the book.

I have to confess, this was the first Dave book I have read. I love his show and have listened for a long time, but I have never read one book. Chaz and I were debt free before we found Dave. We have used his principles without even knowing it. I have sent dozens of clients down his path. I have even bought them books. However I have yet to read the other books. I will tell you that reading this book makes me want to grab The Legacy Journey and make it my next read.

This book has both Dave and Rachel telling what it was like to be raised as a Ramsey. I loved seeing the Ramsey life from the eyes of both the parents and the child. And I had to laugh at how many things went on their house that have been going on in ours for a long time. I guess great minds really do think alike!

I was asked that once I finish the book that I blog about it. Well I have decided to begin with a general, yes I liked the book post. Yes, you should go pre-order the book here. In my next few blogs, I will provide some overview of the topics and let you know what it's like to be an Allen versus a Ramsey growing up. I think my military friends will really appreciate me taking this a step farther. We all know that being a military family is an anomaly and we sometimes cannot use the civilian way of thinking in our homes. I will take Dave and Rachel's ideas and show you how we have done and will do things in this house. ;) 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chaz's Life in Two Stories

We have had quite a year trying to build a home for Chaz. Tomorrow marks the 13th month since we closed on our land purchase. It's time to move on.....literally!! It is time to get Chaz out of a house that confines him and into a house that will let him live as much of an independent life as possible.

We are working with our builders to get everything together, but we keep getting asked questions. Why does Chaz need the house so bad? What is the rush? (I have to laugh about that question. I don't call 13 months a rush, but ok.) Why can't we just build up it is so much cheaper? Why does he need a one story house? Why can't we just live in the house we have?

Well Chaz and I decided we should show you exactly why. Here are a few videos we recorded.

This one shows how Chaz takes a shower every morning. Notice there's not a lot of room for him once he gets into the shower.

Every morning after he finishes his activities upstairs, he comes down so he can be on the bottom level with us. Keep in mind, he has to go back up the stairs in the evening.

And how does he go to the bathroom? Here's how.....

Yes he has to use one of our dining chairs to get to the toilet. His wheelchair will not fit in the bathroom and other devices wouldn't either. So we are doing the best we can for the situation. And yes, yes in his hop to the chair has slipped. And yes, yes he has fallen and been hurt a few times. :(

Here are some of the pictures of the damage that has been done to the house. These first three pictures are from his wheelchair trying to get in and out of the downstairs bathroom. I cannot tell you how many times his chair has actually gotten stuck in the doorway of the bathroom.

These next three are from his chair trying to get around the kitchen. 

The next two pictures show the most dangerous area in the downstairs for him. This is the place where his chair got stuck and caught on the threshold and flipped him out of his chair on to the floor. He has been stuck in this doorway more times than I can count. He has also pinched his fingers in this area more times than I can remember as well.

I have always called our kitchen a "two butt" kitchen. When Chaz's butt is in there, you can't really fit another butt in it. ;) There isn't enough room to turn around and walk around at the same time. So when he is in the kitchen we just stay out of his way. We leave a coffee cup down for him at all times, but he has to yell for us to help him reach the other cups, plates and bowls. He has to have our help getting food from the pantry and the fridge. He cannot reach the microwave. The kitchen list goes on and on.

Basically he has to have us help him in every part of the house. He cannot reach the towels and wash clothes in the bathroom. He cannot access really anything without help. Of course we do not mind at all, but we want him to be independent.

Unfortunately the average American thinks the VA pays for our severely wounded housing needs. WRONG.....the VA will give veterans with similar disabilities a grant of $67,555 approximately 6-9 months after the house is completed and after they feel the house is up to their standards. In other words it is up to the veteran to figure it all out and then wait for the grant to come. The fair market value of a house to suit a veteran with Chaz's needs is between $300,000-400,000. So what are we doing? We are taking out a loan to cover what the non-profit cannot.

The list of our severely injured customized needs is long and expensive. This would be why so many non-profits have been created to help our veterans with their home building needs. We are using one of them to help us. But they cannot take on the entire bill alone. They need donations and volunteers. Maybe you can't physically help build our home, but you can help in other ways.

You can come race with us on May 31 (or maybe race with us virtually). Here's the link for more information on the race.

Can't make it to the race and want to donate? Here's the link for monetary contributions.

Want to do more? We will need and want your help!! Please contact us and let us know how you can help us get this home built this year for Chaz!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pain Management? (Red Tape Diary Entry #2)

Pain Management is one of the hardest parts of this journey. Some days I can even feel Chaz's pain because it gets that bad. His pain is primarily in his back, but he has occasional phantom pains in his legs.

Walter Reed did an excellent job helping us control his pain while we were there. We had to retire and leave that comfort zone. Since Chaz retired back to Tennessee we have been back through the gauntlet of suggestions of how to control his pain. And everyone wants him on pills. That seems to be everyone's solution....let's just throw a pill at it.

Pills are not an option for us. Chaz doesn't want to be dependent on pills. He does not want to raise our girls in a narcotic based home. He wants to get to the actual causes of his pain like we did at Walter Reed, but we have had a horrible time finding someone to listen to him.

At Walter Reed, pain management was a team based approach. It was Chaz focused, but I was on the team with the doctors and nurses. We all worked together to help Chaz cope without the pills. We discovered a steroid shot in his SI joint provided him the most relief and was the least invasive. He had his last shot just before he retired. 

Immediately after retiring we got him into the VA to get a pain management treatment plan started. Of course rather than listening to him or looking at his paperwork, we had to go through all of the steps we had already done at Walter Reed. He did the X-rays, blood work, TENS system, pain patches, blah, blah, blah. Guess what those didn't work and VA informs us that they will get us into their pain management and we'll go from there.

We finally got Chaz into the VA's Pain Management group only to wait. We finally received a call in August or September letting us know they couldn't see him until February. We were originally ok with this until we found out it was February 2015. Chaz primary care team got on it and got him into the fee base system for treatment.

Chaz finally got in for an appointment right around Christmas. He was so excited. The doctor came highly recommended. Chaz really thought he was going to get relief. Then boom here are some pills. Chaz tells him he doesn't want pills, he wants relief. Then he proceeds to tell Chaz what all he has to do to get another option. (I swear to you, this doctor never read Chaz's file.) So we take Chaz to get the blood work done, only to find out a week later the office ordered the wrong blood work and he has to do it again. Then he has more X-rays done and another MRI. We finally get through all of the hopes and get the procedure set up.

I am going to advise you to take a very deep breathe before reading the next few paragraphs....

We got a phone call yesterday telling us they were cancelling tomorrow's procedure because the VA did not fax back some paperwork that they sent over on 2/27. No, they did not ask if we could call about the paperwork. No, Chaz was not given any other options. The doctor's office just decided to cancel the procedure end of story.

Oh yes, Chaz was upset. Oh yes, I was livid. And oh yes the serial killer voice came out. I called that office right back was greeted with a young woman who told me that was their policy. I told her I had no desire to speak with her and wanted someone who actually could talk policy with me. We'll call the policy lady Sally. Sally will never forget my name, I can assure you of that. (Y'all should pray for Sally right now. Trust me she needed a drink after dealing with me.)

Sally and I chatted, of course we were both on the defensive, so the beginning of the call did not go so well. I am too stubborn to give up when it involves Chaz and the girls. There's this magic dose of "Oh Hell no," that sparks and you do not want to be around me. Sally informed me of their policies. I told her that at this moment her policies are irrelevant to me. I informed her I was pretty sure she was breaking some type of agreement or policy with American Medical Association. I told her I didn't know what it was, but I would find out and I would file a grievance immediately. And I asked when was it ok to have a 12 year old call and do her dirty work. (That is seriously how old the lady sounded. She was the one who told Chaz the procedure was cancelled without any additional answers. She is basically their receptionist.) She told me she understood why I was upset. She knew it was hard watching your loved one in pain. Then she informed me that she had over 30 years experience with the military, I asked about her experience with the VA, turns out she doesn't have much experience with them at all. I believe she said Chaz was their second case. It was a low number like that.

Then I asked her "Isn't pain management about team work?" She of course says yes. I asked, "Well when did we start leaving the patient off the team?" There was silence. I also informed her that not many people have been injured worse than Chaz and survived. And because of this categorization we have leverage at the VA and can help her with paperwork and such, but her team never gave our team a chance. I asked her if she ever thought about calling us and looping us into what they needed so we could help them treat Chaz. Again we had silence.

I told her that I was calling because Chaz was getting that procedure done tomorrow come Hell or high water. I told her I was calling because rather than dropping him like a hassle we were going to work together and get this done. Then I asked her what do you need? I wrote it down. Chaz called his nurse case manager and we put her on the case. Turns out Sally faxed the form to the wrong place. (I think you kind of need to fax it to the right place in order to get a response.) Turns out our AW2 rep and case manager have an "Oh Hell no" side as well. And together we got it all worked out in a matter of hours and Chaz will have the procedure at 12 today.

We will see how today goes and then we will decide if we continue with this group or do we begin the process all over again with another group. Something tells me people will be very nice to Chaz and I. Something tells me my little chat about team work did some good. I can only hope that my little chat not only helps Chaz, but makes Sally and her co-workers stop and think about being team players rather than policy holders. Policies are not laws. The can be adjusted and adapted with ease. I really think Sally and her team will start looking at the human side of policies. I can guarantee you they will when it involves our veterans who are in pain.