Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Frustration with the World of Medicine

Over the course of our many visits to various doctors we've faced frustration after frustration in our attempt to get answers.  However, before I get too far into this post I feel as though I should first preface the following sentences by stating that I really don't have much faith in the world of medicine.  It's not that I don't think doctors are needed or that I don't think many of them are good people; I see a flawed system that is set up to fail from the outset because it's based on the premise that it's ok to treat symptoms rather than causation.  Personally, I very rarely visit traditional Doctors.  Unless it's an ER visit or something small that I know I simply need medication for (of which most likely I will only take until the symptoms recede), I don't go.  Sure, at some point I'll most likely go in for yearly or bi-yearly physicals and for the dreaded finger test but I'm not there yet and instead have decide to take my health into my own hands.

My preference is holistic medicine and traditional remedies for every day issues.  I've never had a flu shot, I don't have a family Dr., and I have no prescriptions taking up room in the medicine cabinet but as I believe I mentioned before, I do have a chiropractor friend that I can visit when I'm in the area for adjustments or contact otherwise if I'm having an issue I'm having trouble diagnosing or treating.  Some may consider this nuts but considering I spent $1,500 dollars for 3 Dr. visits and an MRI for a problem she diagnosed in 5 minutes during a $40 visit (without an MRI or any other technology), I'll take my chances with this unconventional approach.

Ok, back to the post at hand.  A few weeks ago Marilyn and I made a trip to see a new neurologist for her first meeting.  As I stated above, my biggest issue with today's medical profession is treating for symptoms rather than cause.  I think my second biggest issue is simply relying on the opinion of previous doctors over the information the patient is attempting to tell you.  Unfortunately I feel this is becoming a norm when dealing with her issues.  Now, it could be that the neurologist was simply attempting to get background and nothing more today so that she can develop a course of action leading into the next scheduled appointment but when you've seen this similar pattern previously it gets frustrating...extremely fucking frustrating.

The following appointment I really had the opportunity to see what was up with this woman.  She'd sent Marilyn and I to an appointment at a hospital in Bangor (4 hours away) for an EEG the month before.  Rather than have a complete EEG done where she would stay in the hospital and be monitored, they hooked her up and sent her home for the weekend.  It didn't make sense to me but she's the Doctor not me so I went with it.  When we went in for the following appointment after that EEG she reiterated what the Army docs had told her based on her file and the results from that single test.  She was using that test as a be all, end all for her diagnosis.  When I questioned her on it (EEG's done outside the scalp are only able to detect seizure activity a short distance into the brain.) she continued to throw out the term 'pseudoseizure'.  When I informed her that I'd been doing a serious amount of research about the difference between a pseudo and grand mal seizure, including watching videos for comparison to what I've seen, she became indignant which in turn pissed me off and I think she knew it.  At the end of the visit she didn't even come back in but rather sent her charge nurse to bring us some paper work.  Paper work that included information on PTSD....Like I don't fucking know about PTSD.  To really cap things off though she took Marilyn off her seizure meds...at at once!!  She simply didn't allow the script to be refilled.  What kind of Doctor doesn't ween their patients off meds like that to ensure their safety?  Needless to say after our experience with her as well as learning from our home care nurse we're not the only ones with similar experiences, we're not going back.  At this point we've decided to wait until we move and can get in touch with some REAL neurologists not this fake collecting a paycheck we have up here.

The truth is no one seems to know is going on.  The Army listed her as having pseudo seizures which is basically the minds way of shutting the body down (google it for a more in-depth description) and has some similar symptoms to epileptic seizures.  SOME similarities being key here for while they have things in common the differences are pretty drastic. Being involved and presented with the on a daily basis, I took some time to look them up so I would be aware of what to look for.  Contrary to belief most pseudo seizures aren't controlled by the individual having them but they can be helped with psychological treatment and counseling over time.  Realistically, I'd be ok with the diagnosis if it would help her not only with the seizures but also with her memory issues, neuropothy in her legs, and daily tremors.  At least a course of action would be being taken toward attempting to help her rather than just waiting for the next issue to arise.  However, as I become more educated on neurological disorders, issues, symptoms, and the like, I feel as though many of these people are simply relying on the chart rather than asking questions of both Marilyn and I, and are making limited efforts to answer questions on their own and are instead listening to someone else's opinion.

For those reading this, this is not simply a VA issue though they certainly have their horror stories from around the country.  At our location we're dealing with the VA some but for her specialists we're in a different program because it's more cost efficient than having us make 6 hour trips constantly.  It's both easier on us because it's cuts out travel down significantly as well as more cost effective for the VA because they're not having to pay travel costs for the roughly 450 mile round trip.  So, while we're dealing with the VA, it's on a limited basis.   These experiences have led us to the decision that once we move we're going outside the system and are going to look for a neuro who'll look at her case with fresh eyes.  It's to the point that we're not even going to take or have her history sent to them.  Everything they hear, at least in the beginning, will be from us.  Later, if they want something we'll provide them with it but in the beginning we want someone who's going to have actually take the time to look at things and develop their own opinion.  We've also just met someone with a sever case of Lyme disease and have decided to pursue testing for that as well.

I don't know if it's always been like that, but it seems to me that if there's no money to be made, the medical profession doesn't really give a shit about patient health or care.  It makes sense in a way.  The longer you're sick, the more money that can be made off you.  Sad that I even have that thought but my own experiences combined with the stories floating all around have led me here.  I sincerely hope that we can find someone who's willing to take on her case and really look to solve it.  If that day comes I'll use this blog (though it's rather small at the moment) to promote that person like no body's business!  I want my wife to get well.  I want others suffering from sever conditions to get well.  And most of us, I want our medical professionals to stop treating symptoms and begin treating ailments.   

Resolutions

I'm not normally huge on resolutions but this year feels a little different.  At the end of the past few years I went into the next year hoping things would be better.  As I'm writing this today I feel as though this coming year is going to be exciting and full of possibilities.  Last year wasn't bad, don't get me wrong.  I outlined some of those highlights in my last post so I don't feel the need to regurgitate them here but man, for whatever reason I'm excited.

As I'm pretty straight forward and to the point, I won't prolong this any longer.  However, know this is not my full list of goals and resolutions for the year but only the ones that pertain directly to the family and this blog.  So, without further adieu, my goals for 2014!

1.)  Be more consistent with my blog entries.
     I've been lacking a bit in this department for the past few months and to begin the year I'm hoping to be more on top of it.  Be expecting to see a few posts within the next few days as I post what are now drafts so I can clear my board and begin fresh for the new year.

2.)  Find, purchase, and move into a new home.
     This is high up on both Marilyn and I's list.  Moving further south and into a home better suited for us will allow us to be closer to better Doctors, my family, Jimmy's family, and other services we're anxious to take advantage of.

3.)  Quit chewing tobacco.
     I know many people who have the goals to quit tobacco at the beginning of every year.  This would benefit both myself and the family now and in the long term.  Kind of a now brainer after spending more than 15 years doing it.  (I'm 30 by the way.  Half a life on this shit is enough.)

4.)  Continue and take our change to a healthier lifestyle to the next level.
     We're changing the way we prepare food and our exercise habits.  Marilyn is looking to get back into yoga and for now I'm jumping back on the Rush Fit DVD's until we do get moved and I can join my friends back at the gym.  We planning and preparing meals ahead of time to save time and money because we won't be throwing away as much food.  Eating out is going to become extremely limited as well.

5.)  Finish my first novel.
     I've been working on the damn thing for the past 6 years.  I was hoping to finish the initial draft before the end of this year but I've been so busy I haven't written in the past 6 months.  It's time to open that baby up and get it done.  I know the editing process is going to be time consuming and if I ever want to get started on my new idea for a novel I need to get the first one done.

So there they are.  Not a huge list but things that are certainly within the realm of accomplishing with a little time and effort.  What are your goals or resolutions for 2014?

In closing, please be safe if you're going out tonight.  Call a friend or a cab and don't drink and drive.  Have fun, live it up, and enjoy all the simple things!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Years End

It's coming to the end of the 2013 and what a year it's been.  It's a year that saw me marry my "Love Monkey", become a step-dad, have Jimmy move up to live with us, become a hockey parent...and that's all in the past few months!!  At this point I'm not even sure what happened at the beginning of the year because I've been so busy with all the life changes lately!  HAHA.  It's caused me to run around like a chicken with my head cut off at times, fall behind on my blog entries; laugh, smile, shut down, open up, and at times generally feel like I'm losing my God damn mind....and this was all separate from the day to day goings on with the wife's up and down health issues.  It's fun when it's done but sometimes it's a wonder I have any hair left.

As I'm writing this Christmas, is only a few days a way.  I'm behind on everything.  I need to purchase the rest of my presents tomorrow if the weather cooperates  (And before you judge the fact I'm behind, my credit card info was stolen and I was without access to my checking account for the past two weeks because my bank is four hours away.)  The other things; those can be considered my fault however!  I have things I need to finish building and making, I haven't wrapped one thing I did purchase, I have a house and car in need of cleaning before we leave to have the holiday with my family, and I have paperwork I need to finish and mail out ASAP.  Marilyn's health has been up and down constantly, because of the way the house is set up and because we live in such a cold climate it's necessary for one of us to be to up all night watching the heat sources, and sometimes I feel like I'm on the run constantly for Jimmy's hockey practices and games.  (If you're a hockey parent, you have some notion of this kind of schedule)

However, even with everything going on, IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME!  I love this time of year for a variety of reasons.  For me the season is much more than simply presents under the tree.  It's a time set aside for family where we can all enjoy one another's company and look back at the previous years trials and tribulations.  It's also a time for hope.  Magic can happen during this time of year, at least it seems that way to me.  I like some of the sappy Christmas movies as I think they have a certain inspirational quality.  Sad to say, it's one of the few times during the year when my faith in humanity becomes absolute.  A little strange, I know.

It's also a time of year where we can look forward to hopes that the next year will or may be just a little better than the previous one.  If not necessarily better, than different if it suits you better.  It's hard to imagine a better year for my family but it doesn't change the fact we have some things we're hoping to improve on.  We're looking to purchase a home further down state.  This will enable many things for us depending on the location.  Marilyn can finally have the pottery studio she both wants and needs.  I can hopefully start a Christmas tree farm and go back to work.  We'll be closer to Jimmy's family.  And my friends and family will be within visiting distance.  Together with that I have hope that next year we'll figure out what's going on with Marilyn's health.  This hope is not currently based on anything particular that's happened but it's a hope I'll have at the end of every year until the puzzle is solved.

This was just kind of a quick "here's what's going on since I haven't written in awhile" post.  I'm hoping that once we're back from holiday I'll be back to posting on a regular basis.  First up for 2014 will be a "resolutions" post.  Stay tuned!  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and don't forget during this time of year to remember the simple things.  :)  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dealing with PTSD, Depression, and Suicide as a friend or family member

This post is going to deviate slightly from the basic premise of this blog.  If you've read any of the previous posts you're aware that this blog was started to discuss my day to day life as the now husband and caretaker of a disabled veteran.  While some of the subjects I'll discuss today are relevant to that, the overall theme today is more about what we can do as friends and family to help returning veterans as they make the tough transition to civilian life.  Being that I'm also writing this on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, I'm also going to include our first responders in this as well since many of them also see the kind of hell on a daily basis that over time can bring about issues.

Before I begin, for anyone new to this blog, I myself am not a veteran.  I'm also not a firefighter, EMT, or LEO.  I'm married to a vet, friends with cops, and two of my best friends are vets.  I'm also not one of those people who hangs on in an attempt to distract attention away from their accomplishments and service or garner something for myself.  I met Marilyn on-line knowing nothing of her past, my cop friends are people I've been hanging out with since high school or earlier, and the two vets (who also stood with me at my wedding) ironically became friends through an ex-girlfriend (one is her brother-in-law.)  In actuality, I try to distance myself from all of them if the topic of service, be it military or public, comes up because the idea of stealing someones valor, intentionally or unintentionally makes me sick to my stomach.  I'm just a regular guy who's met some great people along the way in life and like everyone, they have a back story.

So where am I going with today's post?  Being friends with people who've seen and been through so much has given me a unique perspective into dealing with PTSD and depression as a friend and family member.  This does not, by an means, mean that I know everything.  It doesn't even mean I know a little about the subject to be quite honest.  But one thing I do know is that it's real.  I've seen the breakdowns. I've seen the tears. I've heard the stories. I've seen the stares off into space. And I seen the quick subject changes that come when a topic is brought up and is a little too close to home.  Today's post is just a mix of what's worked for me and what may help you as a friend and loved one.  Some, are perhaps things you've heard before but I've also included some you may not have thought of.  I also leave this open to comments from people with far more knowledge than I; including those who are or have dealt PTSD, Depression, and thoughts of Suicide.

1.)  If you weren't there, don't attempt to correlate what they went through to an experience you had or something you went through:
      Your high school sports team is not the same as being in a military unit.  I know this and many others know this.  However, from what I've heard and read from those who've been in the military, apparently many people don't.  You're comparing apples to oranges.  Just because you were part of a team doesn't mean equality unless, while you were on the field playing, you were dodging mortars instead of tacklers, defenders, ect..  Similarly, dealing with death is also different.  While your grandma's passing was a tough time I'm sure, having your friend die in battle right in front of you is going to play much more traumatically in your mind.  Take a second, close your eyes and imagine someone you really love:  a best friend, child, spouse.  Now think about them dying in some gruesome way.  Does it still feel the same as getting a phone call that your great aunt died?  If it does, there's something seriously fucking wrong with you.  If someone feels close enough to open up to you about something terrible, keep your ears open and your mouth shut and let them get it out.  Perhaps ask a few questions if you feel comfortable enough doing so.  But remember, it's their time.  Don't steal those needed moments from them.

2.)  Don't ask stupid questions:
      I think the famous one that idiots ask is, "Did you kill anyone other there."  This can be followed with, "How many people did you kill" and "what's it like to kill someone".  I mean really?  Is our culture really that fucking dense that we still think it's ok to ask these questions?  I've seen children ask these questions and while it's not acceptable obviously, they simply don't understand.  They're most likely associating war, shootings, death, ect with things they've seen on TV.  And I think that's ok to a point.  It's an opportunity to teach them something and most vets I've talked to, while uncomfortable about it obviously, have understanding when it comes to questions children ask.  However, if you're an adult and being that insensitive and ignorant you deserve the fist that you may receive in the mouth.  Sorry, but you're supposed to be a grown up.  There are more than enough reference materials floating around now that you should be well aware of what's acceptable.

3.)  Don't be in a hurry:
      Chances are if someone is comfortable enough to begin talking to you about their experience or experiences it's not all going to come out at once.  As a matter or fact, most people don't reveal everything about too many topics all at once.  It will come out over time and you have to realize that.  It may take months or years to find out everything that happened.  You may never get all the information.  But you need to exercise patience.  Let them talk at their own pace.  What they may not trust revealing now they may over time once they work it out in their own mind.  Perhaps you haven't built up enough trust with them for them to get into too much detail.  That's ok, it really is.  There's no need to poke and prod to try and satisfy your own curiosity and there's no guarantee that the faster they talk about something the faster they'll get over it and move on.  Respect and work with the process.  It'll go much better for the both of you.    

4.)  You're going to be uncomfortable:
      It's just a reality that if you've never experienced something like that, if someone is attempting to open up to you about it, you're going to be somewhat uncomfortable about it.  I know the first few times it happened I sure as hell was.  I think sometimes it's where issue where number one arises.  You're uncomfortable and rather than feel that way you attempt to fill in the blank space.  Do yourself and your loved one a favor:  Don't.  Again, it's their time so let them have it.  There will be times later to discuss other things but now is not it.

5.)  Reach out...and don't stop:
    I believe it's important for these people to know that A.)  You care, B.)  You're available, and C.) That you have their back.  If you've called your buddy and invited him over or out for a beer 5 times and he's declined, make the call a 6th, 7th, 100th time.  Remember, it's not about you and your pride.  Perhaps they'll stop answering your calls for awhile but there's a lot to be said for looking at your missed call list and seeing a friend or families number on there repeatedly when you're going through a tough time.  Stop by and see how they're doing.  Make them dinner and drop it off from time to time.  Offer to take them on a hiking trip or to a ball game or something that interests or interested them previously.  Just make sure they know you're there if they need you.

6.)  Do your own research:
      By doing your own research I'm not talking about clinical research; I'm talking about research that may help you gain an understanding of what it is they went and are going through.  I have pages on facebook that I follow for this simple reasons.  It's from one of them that I actually had the idea for this article.  It's a veteran owned and operated site and this week they've been publishing blog posts about PTSD and suicide among returning vets.  You can learn a lot from people who've been there and are now willing to discuss it.  You can get some insight as to what's going on in their mind and by having that insight it may help you react if the time ever comes when someone close to you is going through it.  Another valuable resource for me has been the works of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of 'On Killing' and 'On Combat'.  These two works are great in my opinion not only for Leo's and soldiers, but also for those who see the indirect results of combat on a consistent basis.

7.)  Talk to them in a way that allows them to talk back:
     If they're someone you care about talk to them.  And don't talk at them, talk to them.  And yes, there's a difference.  Don't attempt to tell someone how they should feel or try to put a time line on when they may begin feeling better or moving past what's bothering them.  It doesn't work like that no matter how much you want it too.  It all goes back to number 2.  Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn't give you the right to be a selfish asshole.  You don't and can't know what's going on in their mind.  Again, what you can do is be there for them.  I've heard a lot of stories that I won't repeat here or anywhere else because it would violate a trust I hold dear but needless to say I've heard some pretty horrible accounts of things.  However, here's where it gets tricky for most people.  I listened rather than talked through most of it.  Let me say that again...I L.I.S.T.E.N.E.D!  I was shown an unimaginable amount of trust and in that moment you have to realize that it's not about you; it's about them.  I tend to ask some questions but that all comes down to the relationship you have with that person and your own insight into who they are.  It also comes down to your own general intelligence and whether or not you think you can ask questions that are appropriate.  Not everyone has that insight into themselves and if you don't think your questions will be helpful, just listen and let them talk until their ready to move on to something else.

8.)  Don't make fun of, bully, or patronize, ect.
      My wife actually led me to this one from a story that happened that I'll share.  We hadn't been together for only a few months when one night while lying on the couch we heard this very loud "bang" that I actually thought was a shotgun going off.  Living as close as we did to my family, it was not unheard of to hear something like that for me as rodents have been dispatched from time to time that way while growing up.  However, Marilyn was shaking and flush colored from being startled so suddenly.  I went outside to search out the source but could find no sign of anyone and was left shaking my head.  Awhile later I went to the fridge and found out that a can of biscuits had built up enough pressure inside to explode open.  It was funny then but what she appreciated was that I laughed (along with her) about it later.  I didn't judge her or make fun; I had enough understanding from talking to her previously to know that loud, unexpected noises were troublesome.  Fireworks are another trigger for her and many, many other veterans as are heavily populated areas.  Not every trigger can be avoided, but using someone else's emotional breaks for your own amusement can be.  Do what you can to bring them back closer to their comfort zone and perhaps later on, when the time is right you can both have a laugh at it.    


9.)  Seek your own help:
      I have no experience in the mental health field.  I have an interest in psychology and human behavior so I  read and study it somewhat as a hobby but a professional I am not.  That being said, it can be helpful to have someone to talk to yourself.  Not only can you get out what's going on in a place that won't judge you or your friend/loved one, but they can potentially give you tools and advice for dealing with it.  I know there can be a stigma for getting mental health help but the reality is that there's nothing wrong with it.  Seeking advice from someone who's made it their life's work to study, analyze, and understand the human mind is no different than going to a mechanic to have work done on your car.  It's what they do and they have a much better understanding than anyone else on the subject. Use the tools and information available to you.  It'll help you and your loved one.  


I'm not going to lie, it's not always easy.  Our vets and public servants are not only dealing with the trauma; they also get to deal with the current stigma associated with PTSD as well as the knowledge that they're not the same person and the strain it can put on those around them.  What we can do as friends and family is let them know that we can handle the strain.  That it's ok for them to let it out if they need too and that we love them and are there for them when and if they need it.  That we're not going to run from them in their time of need like they didn't run when we needed them.  Do things change overnight?  Nope.  It's a long haul thing and there's no guarantee things will go back to the way they were previously.  However, it's rewarding.  It's rewarding like nothing else that can be imagined.  To let someone know that you're going to have their back through thick and thin, through good times and bad; that you're not going to leave their side just because things are hard...that's not a little thing.  That's one of the big ones.






Sunday, September 1, 2013

Whirlwind

Boy, what a crazy few weeks it's been.  First things first:  I'm officially a married man!  The misses and I made it official on August 10th in front of roughly 70 people.  Having planned the whole thing and executed it ourselves (and with the help of some family and friends) I can honestly say I'm glad it's over!  The last week was nothing but pure craziness leading up to the main event.  We had her family visiting, work trying to get done around the house, me running around trying to accomplish tasks while putting out the minor fires (not literal fires FYI) all over the place, Marilyn trying to close out last minute details so I could accomplish some of the tasks.  It was a lot of build up and thankfully all the hard work paid off with some good weather and a wedding day that went off better than we could have hoped.  Even the kids and dogs were well behaved and we had no real major incidents.

One of the interesting things I did learn from the whole deal was who's got my back if I need them.  I'm not talking about the people I can call if I need help.  I'm talking about those that don't wait for me to call.  That can see just from looking at me that my stress level is nearing max capacity and I need a hand getting things done.  Call it pride or whatever, I'm shit at asking for help and don't generally do it unless I'm in way over my head.  I was ever so thankful that I had some people at the wedding that didn't wait to be asked; that noticed issues and fixed them so I didn't even realize there had been a problem until I was informed of it later.  It was huge and I'm incredibly grateful to those people.

We also found out a couple days after the wedding that a house we'd made an offer on fell through.  Thank you Fannie Mae for being dicks.  I could get into the whole story in a seperate post but suffice it to say they don't appear to be inclined to work with potential home buyers if they own the home and would apparently rather let an unused house sit and rot rather than make any negotiations.  It was and still is frustrating because it was the first house we've looked at that Marilyn and I have both really liked and didn't need a boat load of money to fix up.  (We're looking more for a fixer upper than move in ready because it will both give me the ability to make it ours and they also tend to be cheaper so we can get more home for our money).  Now we're back to the drawing board and preparing for another winter at our current location.  Hopefully something will come up before the snow flies but at this point we have no choice but to prepare to be at our present location.

After that things get a bit blurry.  We're holding off on a honeymoon both for financial (see wanting a house above) and because Jimmy began 6th grade last week.  Because of that, last week we made the four hour drive south so Marilyn could have an ambulatory EEG (description: http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/eeg_ambulatory) done over the weekend.  Basically, they hooked up her head with a bunch of electrodes and recorded what her brain did all weekend in the search for why she's having seizures and to potentially give us some clue as to why she's having such big issues with her legs.

Once we returned home, the next day was off to two more appointments with the "local" doctors....60 miles away!  Honestly, between the traveling to the EEG, the local docs, and the extra driving I did over the weekend to accomplish some tasks and see some people I hadn't visited in awhile, I spent more ass time than I could have fathomed.  I was ready to be home for a few days and to get to work on some tasks left unfinished due to the hectic nature of the past few weeks.  Well, I've gotten what I asked for.  Laundry, dishes, house cleaning have all been getting accomplished along with getting Jimmy up and off for school and attempting to get into some sort of routine.

It's been crazy around here and I'm not sure when it's going to slow down.  Winter is coming whether we like it or not and I have a million things to do to prep for it.  White tale archery, duck, and partridge hunting seasons begin in a little over a month as well Jimmy's 6 month hockey season.  Sometimes I feel like my damn head is spinning and I have so many projects I have no idea where to begin.  At the same time, after already experiencing one winter up here I fully realize that at some point things will slow down to a near crawl as the temperature gauge hits 25-30 below zero and everything in nature goes into hibernation.  I guess, all I can say at this point is, I can't wait for short time of year I get to be sitting in a tree stand listening to the sounds of nature and the only human voice is the one in my head.  For those days are the ones where I can truly reflect on the simple things.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Change Is In The Air

It's been awhile since I've been on this thing.  For the past couple months I've had a sever case of writers block that not only extended itself to this, but it's also crept into my ability to write creatively.  Basically, my brain has been fried with what seems like a mountain of changes that have been happening within our family.  So, this post is basically to catch everyone up on what's been going on the past few months with the hope I'll be able to put myself back on track to keep up with this on a more regular basis.

The wedding is only 11 days away as of this writing.  Since we're doing much of the work ourselves and having the wedding at home we've been busy, busy, busy, making last minute preparations. (I would also like to take this time to say a huge thank you to my family as well; especially my mom and grandmother who've been instrumental in getting things together and accomplished.)  There's still quite a bit to do but thankfully next week I have some reinforcements coming in in the persons of Marilyns' dad, sister, and her boyfriend so we can finish up some of the landscaping work and house preparation for the winter.

Jimmy came to live with us about two months ago.  I have to say, as much of a change as its been getting used to having another person in the house to watch after it's very exciting as well.  He's such a great kid and a joy to have around.  Not to mention, I can steal some of my parents old tricks for getting him to give me a hand doing work around the house when needed.  ;)  Seriously though, he's so inquizitive about everything around him and picks up on new tasks and ideas quickly it's fun for me because not only can I show him new and different ways of doing things. He's also at the stage where he's developing his own unique ways of solving problems as well.  For a person who likes to be challenged, he keeps my life interesting to say the least!  HA!

We're currently looking for a new home closer to my family and better medical care for Marilyn.  Yes, I know I haven't written an in-dept post of how we came to live here in the first place but it will be the subject of a future post I promise.  Anyways, what a pain in the ass this is!  Thankfully our list of wants match up fairly well so that's making it easier but the damn process for finding, securing, and closing on a home seems much more complicated than in really needs to be.  Not to mention the time involved to do such things!  Seeing as how we live anywhere from 3 to 4 hours away from all potential locations, it makes going to check places out both time consuming and expensive with the price of fuel constantly going up.

I guess I'll close it out with a few incidentals.  I finished the complete Rushfit Beginner program and have tried to start intermediate 2 but failed after a couple of weeks.  Tonight I try for the third time to start and stick with it.  This was much easier during the winter when I really had nothing else going on!  HA!  I competed in and completed my first adventure race, the Tough Mountain Challenge at Sunday River Ski Resort a couple weeks ago.  So much fun and I'm already planning and preparing to do another race in New Hampshire this fall (Hopefully that is.  Still a few details to work out since it's an 8 hour drive)  Marilyn seems to have found a niche' market for her pottery by making sculptures, many of them Maine themed and some of them being working lamps and even some bird feeders and she's also become quite the avid gardner.

It's been quite a summer thus far and will only get better in a little over a week. Big changes are happening and are going to continue to happen for at least the next few months.  I'm already looking forward to a time when I can settle down in my new home, with friends and family, a cold locally brewed adult beverage, and a camp fire.  For those are the times when everyone can talk and laugh and truly enjoy the simple things.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Arrival of Spring

Off the four seasons I think spring is my favorite though this opinion may change come fall when the nights begin to chill and you can smell the freshness of frost in the air.  However, I can't lie; fall also brings hunting season so my opinion on the subject may be a little skewed.  But alas, I really do love spring.  Walking through the woods the other day I noticed fresh scrapings on a tree indicating that a bear had awoken from it's winter slumber and is on the roam in our back yard.  A couple of days later, Marilyn and I were sitting on the porch drinking our morning coffee and a bald eagle flew overhead and was circling above our field.  The spring birds are out, the grass is turning green, and I have a full slate of landscaping project ahead of me that will supply my body with vitamin D on a daily basis.  It's almost like you can feel renewal of your body as, like the bear, it awakens from it's winter slumber.

For me this time of a year feels like the time when anything is possible.  I know many use January 1 to make resolutions and list the changes they'd like to make in their lives but for me it's spring.  This is the time of year when Marilyn can go outside, whether it be with her crutches or wheel chair depending on the day, and sit in her garden and work just like someone without her limitations.  She can work on her pottery and artwork outside and use the suns warmth to try and heal herself as well as provide a unique aspect to her life's work.  We can work side by side on outside projects rather than being in two separate areas of the house because we're divided by dissimilar interests.  Yes, I love spring.

Our spring has brought about a few major happenings in the past couple of weeks in our little corner of the world.  Marilyn, who started a kickstarter project to raise money for some needed pottery equipment a couple weeks ago, reached her initial goal this week.  She's now well on her way to her secondary goals with a little over a week left.  I want to take a minute before continuing on to thank everyone who contributed to her project.  It's amazing the outpouring of support and outreach she's received.  

This week she also had an article about her project and a synopsis of her story printed in the local newspaper.  The woman who interviewed her and wrote the article did an outstanding job and I was very appreciative of the quality of her work.  I think one of the funniest parts about the whole deal was the fact that the journalist is a friend of one of my groomsman and none of us had any idea until after the fact.  6 degrees of separation indeed.

My spring and summer project list is finally under way.  Up until two weeks ago we still had snow and I was getting concerned whether I'd have enough time to get everything done.  While it's still a concern, it's lessened with a week and a half of 65+ degree days and very fast snow melt.  Summer landscaping in preparation for the wedding started last week with some hardscaping projects.  The mower has been serviced and ready to go for the year, and planting will commence in a couple weeks so we'll have not only some beautiful flowers to look at throughout the summer season, but hopefully quality fresh veggies to enjoy as well.  While I have many other projects, some big and some small, it's great to feel as though the preparation part of spring is nearly complete and from here forward I can simply do the work and start checking them off the list.  

The truth is, spring brings a renewal not just to the earth and animal kingdom, but to all of us as well if we let it.  While it's true that we have the ability to have such thoughts and makeovers all year long, it's as if our bodies are naturally drawn to the season to cleanse ourselves of the previous years toxins.  The air drys and clears, the sun warms us and draws the toxins from our bodies, and the spring rains change the ground and the trees from dull browns and black to a vast array of vibrant colors.  There is a reason to every season and for me, the reason for spring comes down to a few words:  Future, Hope, and Optimism.   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Week of Wow

This is the first opportunity I've had to write in a couple weeks and a lot has happened with our little family since then.  More than that though, a lot has happened in our country.  While we were not directly affected; everyone, especially those with children I think, has had to deal with the reality that our world is changing and perhaps not for the better.  

Nearly two weeks ago we made the trip to the southern part of the state to pick up Jimmy from his step mom as it was the beginning of his spring vacation from school and he was coming to stay with us for the week.  Aside from the 9 hours of driving required to get down there and back, it was a pretty awesome day as we hadn't had the chance to see him for a couple months.  Once we got home that evening, he helped me get all the luggage in, the car cleaned out, and a fire started in the wood stove before we settled in for the evening; me in my chair and him with his mom on the couch (though he did take a few breaks to get on the floor and play with the dog).  It wasn't long before Marilyn needed to go lay down (long trips like that wear her down pretty bad unfortunately) and he and I stayed up for awhile watching some TV and catching up on his hockey season and karate lessons.  You know, man talk.    

Now, I have to tell you that up until that point we still had snow...a lot of it!  We have two driveways, one that's gravel and one that's not.  The gravel one is steep and at the bottom there's really no place to put plowed snow so for the winter we shut it down and use the back driveway because once it freezes over it works great.  However, what we didn't know and didn't think of when we moved up here is what happens in the spring.  We now have a 1/3 mile mud run that we were trying to drive in and out of when we needed to go somewhere.  The night we drove back in from getting Jimmy was the night it also became all but impassible.  This left us with a serious issue and only one way to solve it...with a shovel.  And solve it we did.  Though it wasn't fun by any stretch of the imagination, Jimmy and I spent the better part of two days working and shoveling our asses off (and no it wasn't forced child labor.  LOL) and finally got it so we could get our SUV in and out and keep us from getting trapped.  It was a good lesson for him in doing things you don't want to do because they need to be done but I'll tell you this much; I learned that lesson a long damn time ago and hope by next year I have a tractor in the door yard so I don't have to repeat it!  hahaha.

The rest of the week was pretty great.  Jimmy spent time with his mom doing pottery, writing stories, doing arts and crafts, talking, and playing games.  With me we went four wheeling, snow shoeing, played some catch with a baseball, and he ran the dog damn near into the ground throwing him tennis balls out in the field!  In addition to shoveling he also helped me with firewood, laundry, dishes, and had no problem doing an hour of reading every day.  He fell right into doing his chores and learned a valuable lesson....he can't put as much firewood in the wheelbarrow as I do and still expect to move it.  :)

With all the fun and good that came of last week, there was of course, the bad.  While it had nothing to do with him directly, I'm of course referring to the events that took place in Boston and also what happened in West, Texas.  The explosion and deaths in Texas are much easier to explain to an 11 year old I think.  While they are certainly tragic, as of the time I'm writing this, I haven't heard of any evidence that it was an intentional act.  While it may be found that there were human errors that led to the fire and explosion that took place, I think it the mind of a child that simply correlates to an accident.  When terrible things like that happen, if children have questions you can use the incident to promote valuable lessons if approached properly.  That option is off that table when attacks such as that that took place in Boston occur.

Even now, with him not here, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how to explain to a child what took place in Boston.  It's all the harder when the child only lives a couple of hours away from the location.  At 11 years old I think we know some of what's going on but not all of it.  Perhaps just enough to confuse us and that's what we ran in to.  He understood that someone had set bombs at the marathon and that they were bad people but to answer why they did it it nearly impossible.  Of course, for the first couple of days there weren't even any suspects which made those questions all the harder to answer.  He had a few questions that we answered as best we could and I could see his mind working to try and put the pieces together.  In all honesty I was doing the same thing he was every time I'd hear an update.  By the end I'm still not 100% sure he was understanding it but then again I'm not sure most of us were.  For me, my revelation that the world was going to hell was the 1993 Oklahoma City Bombing and at that point I was 10.  It was hammered home with 9/11.  I wonder, when he's 30, if he'll look back at this even and have the same thought.  Of course, at that point we hadn't had school shootings on the scale we have recently so it's hard to say which will have the most impact.

For the evil we witnessed in Boston there was one caveat on Patriots Day and we made a point to show Jimmy.  That was the good that was displayed by those around the events.  All the people running in to harms way to help the injured.  The first responders and the regular citizens, who not knowing if there were more bombs, rushed to the aid of complete strangers.  All the blood donations the area hospitals received to the point they had to stop accepting any more.  For the evil that was done to the persons killed and those who were injured, the good shown through in the actions of their fellow humans.  If there's one thing a child understands it's hero's and you could see the admiration in Jimmy's eyes when we were explaining why these people were hero's.  

So, what to make of last week.  I think it's becoming an all too common theme that parents need to figure out a ways to explain such events to their children.  All we can do is approach the questions with an open mind and answer them as honestly as we can.  I think most importantly however, is to let them know that we will not let evil shut us down.  Don't let it over take you or them.  Rather than sitting and watching all the news coverage; take them outside to play, watch a ball game, go four wheeling, make some crafts, meet some new friends.  The best way to conquer the evil meant to paralyze us is to look it dead in the eyes, tell it to Fuck Off , help those you can, and live your life with a smile.             

    

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What's normal

I've had a comment made to me time and time again and it's both confusing and frustrating and often leaves me thinking for a time after.  While I was sleeping this morning, Marilyn was on the phone with one of her girlfriends and apparently I came up in discussion.  As happens often apparently, the comment or comments were made that I'm 'special' for my willingness to stand by Marilyn as we face all her health issues.  For me it seems obvious but apparently I'm alone in this as many others find it astounding.  I guess my question is why?

It's a serious question that I have never received a proper answer too.  Am I so different from other men because I'm willing to stand by the woman I love?  I guess I'm just having trouble processing the idea.  My grandparents have been married for 50+ years so for me standing by her is a no brainer.  Is it really that different for other men?  Is it just men in our society that have this issue?  Or is it simply a perception that woman have of men?  Believe me, I'm not trying to be an ass I'm asking a serious question.  I can't imagine my grandfather leaving my grandmother, not after I saw him there through her treatments for breast cancer.  Not when she was pregnant with my mother at a very young age and they struggled mightily as so many people of that generation did.  Or maybe it wasn't witnessing the strength of their marriage; perhaps it was witnessing the struggles my own parents had and the fact that they're still together despite issues that arose during their marriage.

Now I realize that our society has become one of instant gratification and people tend to try and get what they want when they want it.  Nowadays that mentality is often introduced in childhood, continues though the teen years, and sought after by young adults until they realize that it's not possible when other people are no longer paying your bills.  But does that same attitude bleed into our personal lives as well?  Is that the reason people seem to think that I'm somehow a better person than I am?  Believe me, I'm as guilty as anyone of putting the necessary things aside to get things I want immediately.  I've made some big mistakes in my life.  Mistakes that have hurt others and mistakes that didn't uphold that values that I've tried to carry myself with. But, for me at least, those mistakes became learning tools as I think they're supposed to.  With age comes wisdom at least so I've been told.  Is it that people aren't learning from their mistakes?  Are they not listening when people tell them about their own mistakes?

For me, there's nothing remarkable about what I'm doing which is nothing more than standing with the person I love and will soon be vowing to spend the rest of my life with.  Rather than think myself somehow extraordinary or better than others, if it's true that I'm somehow outside the norm doesn't that say something negative about the society we've become rather than something stellar about myself?  Are we no longer developing the kind of men that stand up for what's right?  For love?  For family?  Perhaps it's not I and others who help and care for their loved ones that are outside natures norm but everyone who would be unwilling to make the same sacrifice.  


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stress Test

When one becomes a care taker within the VA program, how to properly deal with stress becomes a focal point.  As I've found, being a caretaker comes with inherent stresses that are quite different than the traditional stresses of every day life.  Along with that, I think if you're a person who's mind is constantly running, like myself, that stress can magnify if you're not careful.  Learning to deal with stressful situations and the side effects is just as important as learning the required duties of being a caretaker.  If you put yourself in a position where you're unable to care for yourself, obviously you're not going to be able to care for your loved one.

One of the major stress relievers that's emphasized for any caretaker is utilizing family and friends to give you a break.  Just a little time away to clear your head, relax, and have the possibility of needing to jump into action at a moments notice removed from your shoulders.  It makes sense right?  In all parts of life that come with stress eventually you have to take a break before it breaks you.  Parents may have a movie night away from the kids, you may take a vacation from your job, ect.  Simply put, it's a time when you don't have to think about your responsibilities.  In our living situation, I don't really have that option.

Before we moved to our current location four hours north, my job was a huge source of relief.  I know some people may be surprised but I had a job I really enjoyed working for people who were great to both Marilyn and I.  They were more than willing to work around the times I needed off to take her to doctors appointments and to deal with other things that arose.  Since it was landscaping, I also had the ability to work outside and physically burn off any stress that was accumulating.  Between the move and our schedule once we relocated I lost that outlet.  Obviously being so far away I couldn't continue to work for them.  Marilyn had appointments constantly for the first month, and her health was in a constant state of flux.  After a trip to Virginia for an appointment and to visit her parents, we came back and it was immediately time to get ready for a long, cold winter.  (Though it was MUCH longer and colder than we anticipated.  It's April 10th and it snowed this morning)

I also had to give up my chiropractor, which for anyone who's had a good one, sucks.  I'm not a real big fan of traditional medicine so for me it was like giving up a a trusted family doctor for yourself and your children.  Not an easy thing.  On top of that, I was making real progress dealing with some past athletic injuries and I knew I could potentially be facing sever discomfort again.  Some people can just pick people out of the yellow pages and be happy with the care they receive but I'm very finicky about who puts their hands on my body so getting another chiro was out of the question.  This holds true even now.  I still don't have a new one because I haven't reached a good comfort level with the idea and laying on a chiro table is not somewhere where you want to be having questions about or a lack of trust in the person treating you.

After a couple months of stress and letting it compound without releasing it, I decided to start weight lifting and working out.  Within two weeks I re-aggravated an old injury, which not only put me on the couch for two days, but happened right in the middle of hunting season, fucking up my favorite time of year.  At that point I was pretty pissed about almost everything but did my damndest not to let Marilyn see it.  I kept up with the daily ins and outs of life and put on a smile but the stress just kept building and building.  I was frustrated, tired, annoyed, and also drinking.

When I say drinking, I don't mean I was consuming mass amounts of alcohol and getting drunk every night.  But by most any standard I was drinking a lot of alcohol throughout the course of the day.  For the most part I drink beer and I do it because I enjoy the taste.  Other than for a little while in college, I've never been a drink strictly to get drunk person.  Come January though, I decided that it was time to amp back because while it wasn't a problem then, I had a fear that it could become a problem if I didn't smarten up.  It was around this time that I was watching TV early one morning and saw an infomercial that changed everything.  It was for TapOut XT, the home workout program.  It looked intriguing so I got online and while doing a comparison of it and P90X, I came across GSP Rushfit.  After only a few minutes I knew I wanted it and though I had to wait until the following month to make the purchase, that was nearly three months ago and I will finish the 80 day beginner program at the end of the week and am excited to begin the intermediate.

I was always involved in sports and working out so for me, the stress relief is in the challenge this program provides.  I like this one specifically but would recommend looking into the others depending on what your needs and desires may be.  I can't give a review on the rest because I've never done them.  But Rushfit has been huge for me.  I drink a few beers between the last night of my workouts for the week and on my one day off, but the rest of the week I drink mostly water because I don't want to cut into my gains needlessly.  The confidence gained in my health also led me to sign up for my first adventure race later this summer which I'm really looking forward too.

Another factor to the decrease in my stress level is good weather.  Cabin fever had set in for both Marilyn and I I think.  We don't really know anyone up here (I suck at meeting new people.) so we have limited exposure to other people. The weather has been shitty for the past 5 months, we don't have snow toys or a tractor to get out side and play with, and when there's four feet of snow on the ground it's a little hard to get out and get anything done in the yard.  However, with the increasing temps, snow melt, and spring birds arriving again I have the opportunity to get out and do things I enjoy.  Cutting firewood and delimbing trees for the time being will quickly turn into landscaping the yard for the wedding, throwing the ball for the dog while cooking dinner on the grill, and heading down to the river with a fishing poll in my hand and a smile on my face.

Learning to deal with the stresses of care taking can be confusing and frustrating from time to time but I think the key is learning what works for you.  I look forward to seeing my family and friends to help when schedules line up but I know for the time being it's not something I can rely on as a constant.  Find other things you can do.  I workout at home in the living room (which also save money on gym fees) and though I take my cell phone anytime I go in the woods, I can still take time to do things I enjoy while maintaining a close distance in case I'm needed.  I can't always get completely away from everything, but by keeping myself strong in mind and body, I can keep it manageable where it belongs.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pride and Prejudice

After Marilyn and I met, we did what every new couple who meets does; we talked about our hopes and dreams, things we'd like to do, things we hope to do, and interests that we have.  One main thing she expressed was the desire to learn how to make pottery.  It was both something she'd been interested in before her illness and something that she thought may be a good therapy.  Upon her moving from her parents home (where we're house sitting now while they're away for awhile) south to come and live with me, she found a pottery studio in fairly close proximity to where we were living, made a phone call and the next week I took her to her first class.  What I didn't know at the time, was how big a part of our lives pottery was about to become!

Her instructor was knowledgeable and educated in what she was doing and really took time with Marilyn to explain not just how to do things correctly, but why they needed to be done that way and what could happen in things were done incorrectly.  It turned out that she's really an outstanding person and someone who's become a good friend to both of us, especially Marilyn.  From that day forward "pottery talk" would become a staple in our household.  I try and keep up, I really do but honestly it's not my thing and Marilyn knows that so she tries to keep it basic.  If I were to use an example: it would be like me talking football all the time.  She listens for so long but eventually the volume goes down and I'm basically talking to myself.  It's the same thing for me with her and pottery.  I try to keep up and pay attention but invariably my attention span dissipates and I'm thinking about a host of other things.  Thankfully, she already knows this so when she reads it I won't get in too much trouble.  ;)

After a few months of taking her back and forth (she lost her license due to the seizures), she began making hand built items at home and that's when things for her went to another level.  Throwing on the wheel (think the scene from 'Ghost' if you're not sure what I'm talking about) is difficult for her due to her leg issues so she's relegated to about 20 minute sessions on days when her legs are good, which as of late hasn't been very often.  Not one to be deterred she began hand building items.  She did her first small sculpture; a dragon, which led her to making a whistle that looked like Jimmy (no, really.  A ceramic whistle that worked and also looked like her son's face), which led to a host of other items.  She let her imagination combine with things she saw weren't being made and ran with her ideas.  Soon after she had a website and not long after that she was putting items on Etsy.

When we moved north to her folks home, she had the opportunity to take things to another level.  While she was sad to be leaving the studio that she learned her craft in, it was an opportunity for her to work fully from home.  She was able to gather much of the equipment that she needed by scouring craigslist and by the time we moved up here, the enclosed porch on the back of the house became a fully fledged pottery studio that she could both access with her crutches and wheelchair.  To say that it made things easier for her would be an understatement.

And that brings us fairly current.  Over the fall she had a great sculpture she did of bloody Army boots in sand with a flag featured at an art event.  Recently she had an item selected as the best item from Maine on Etsy in a local magazine, and the other day the Etsy item on the Facebook ad was one of her creations.  I'm so damn proud of her it's hard to express.  Every day she's faced with issues that could easily derail any of us and send us down a road of depression and low self worth and yet she gets up and pushes forward with vigor and love for life.  Personally, and I may be a little prejudiced here, I think she's the best at what she does.  It's more than talent, which she certainly has.  It's the love and devotion she puts into her work that makes it so special.  I don't mean that to take away from anyone else's work as I've both seen and own some very outstanding pieces since she began her pottery odyssey, but seeing what she goes through on a daily basis and knowing that she won't give up on her dreams, even if she has to alter them a little, is inspiring and for me adds a little something extra to each of her creations.  

Though not every entry on here won't be filled with happiness and joy, it's my belief that the overwhelming majority will be on the positive side.  We work together in nearly everything we do (I even help with the pottery stuff when I can and she's been known to sit around while the games are on).  We have a thorough belief, sometimes naively, that together we can concur anything.  Whether it's her pottery or my dream to someday publish a novel, we work support and stand beside each other even during the rough times.  I'm truly a lucky man that the same talented hands that form incredible works of art out of nothing, are the same hands that I get to hold at night as I fall asleep.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Life Without

Starting this, I made the decision not to include names because while this is about me and my family, it could be about anyone who is or cares for a veteran.  Reading through my first post I realized that I'm probably going to have to add names because otherwise points or stories I'm trying to convey won't flow.  So, here's what I've come up with.  My pen name for a novel I've been working on is Jackson so I'm going to go with that for myself.  I'll refer to my fiancee as Marilyn because she gorgeous and curvy, and the little man will be Jimmy after Jimmy Neutron who's super smart and uses it to both get himself in and out of trouble!  HA!

In the first post I gave a basic run down of how it is I came to begin a blog.  In that I touched on Jimmy and the fact all the adults get along and always try and do what's in his best interest.  What I didn't mention was that he actually lives with his dad and step-mom and not with us.  How did this come to be you may be asking.  As many single parents in the military may elect to do, when Marilyn was to be deployed Jimmy went to live with his dad.  At the time it was supposed to be a temporary situation and Jimmy would return to live with his mom once her deployment was complete and she was back on American soil.  However, when she came home sick everything changed.  She had to make a tough decision and to her credit, though not the easiest one, she decided that it was best for Jimmy to stay with his dad and step mom.

I've had people make comments or give me funny looks when they find out the situation, which I understand to a point.  When I first saw her pictures and read her profile (we actually met on match.com) the red flag went up for me when I saw that she had a son but he didn't live with her. However, it was quickly set aside when she told me what the situation was.  Would we love to have him here?  Absolutely.  Is it possible right now?  No, I don't think so.  He'd have to give up so much.  He loves hockey, lacrosse, and karate and at our current location we have none of those available.  He's in a great school and has friends he'd have to leave and he'd be entering into a situation where his mom gets sick from time to time which really affects him.  She's aware of all this, as am I, but it's hard; it's really, really hard.

What people don't see is how upsetting it is for her.  Not just when he calls and he's unhappy about something but also from time to time it'll really hit her that he's so far away and she can't see him everyday.  I've awoken in the middle of the night to her watching his favorite cartoons and cuddled up with his blanket and one of his stuffed animals.  For me it's hard because there's nothing I can do right now to change the situation.  We're looking for an opportunity to move closer (right now we're over 8 hours away) and we get to have him on vacations during the school year and for the summer but it's not the same as I'm sure anyone in a similar situation, be they male or female, can attest.

As I mentioned in my previous post, his dad and step mom are great people.  The first time I took Marilyn to see Jimmy after we met, his dad had reservations about me meeting Jimmy because Marilyn and I hadn't been together very long.  While she was annoyed, I had no issues with it and understood his feelings completely.  He was protecting his son and if you can't have respect for a man who wants to protect his boy who the hell can you respect?  That weekend I did get a chance to meet the dad for a few minutes and we talked some after and then the next visit I did get a chance to meet Jimmy.  It all worked out like it was supposed to in the end because everyone handled the situation appropriately.  

And that's how things have worked since.  Discussions take place when issues arise, they get resolved, and it's on to the next thing.  Do we all have different parenting philosophies?  I think it some respects yes but as of yet it I haven't seen where it's hampered the care, education, or health of Jimmy.  Everyone brings their own experiences and backgrounds into any parenting situation and as long as everyone can act like an adult issues can remain minimal.  I know it makes Marilyn feel much better about the situation knowing the Jimmy is in excellent hands and is well taken care of.  Would she prefer that he was with us?  Of course she would as would I.  Honestly, what parent wouldn't.  But knowing that he's in a safe, healthy situation and we have the ability to see him on a semi regular basis makes things better, at least a little.  

Navigating life with a child is a difficult task for anyone.  For those in the military, the circumstances are often compounded with issues the general public will likely never have to face.  I think it's the same for a parent with a disability.  Parent's often make decisions that put the child's welfare ahead of their own and when it's a necessary requirement for others to help you with daily living, those decisions are sometimes made much more difficult.  Will she second guess some of her decisions?  Likely.  Will I second guess some of the decisions we've made together?  Likely.  I came into this late and am kind of learning on the fly.  I'm thankful to the 3 of them for their willingness to be open to discussions because the last thing I want are more issues, especially ones that not need be.  

So I know this went a little off with the discussion about co-parenting but it's definitely a huge part of 5 lives in this situation.  While Marilyn's disabilities may have changed the circumstances of Jimmy's living situation, it hasn't changed the content of character of any of the adults involved and that's key.  Yes, it's hard having him so far away, especially on her, but right now it's working as best as it can.  Later I'll get into our living situation a little more and how we came to be here but looking back, for a variety of reasons it may not have been the best choice and moving farther away from Jimmy tops the list of reasons why.  However, for now it's what we have to work with and for the most part we do.  We even received a surprise at Christmas when Jimmy showed up unexpectedly because his dad drove him all the way up here.  It's something I'll forever be thankful for and a kindness I hope to be able repay someday.         


  


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Life

If you read the "About Me" section feel free to skip or scan the next string of words as it's basically going to be a recap of that section, though as I'm writing I'll undoubtedly expand on a few things.  Currently I'm 30 and about to enter into the institution of marriage for the first time.  Though the wedding date is now only months away I have no nervousness or reservations about it.  For me, it's not that hard to make the promise to stand by the person I love; it's what makes life worth living.

My fiancee has an 11 year old son who've I've already come to love as my own.  I have a pretty good relationship with his dad, as does she, as well as with his wife.  For all the BS I've seen with people arguing about the care of their kids once a breakup happens, I couldn't have asked for a better situation to walk into or better people to do this with.  The one thing I have yet to question from any of the parties, including myself, is whether or not the best interest of little man is truly at the center of any issues.  After seeing some of the things I've seen in these types situations, I'm very thankful for that.

Now that the basic introduction is done, I guess I'll get to the meat of the matter...what this blog is really all about.  The current generation of men and women have been at war since 2001 (though officially, we're not since there was no Constitutionally mandated act of war declared and ratified) and we're seeing the destruction it's inflicted on our own soil with the high percentage of soldiers returning with both physical and emotional degeneration and injuries.  For many, it's simply something they see when they turn on the news or read the occasional news story.  They might share something in support they see on Facebook or Twitter but most don't know the actual day to day struggles these men and women go through just to live life after they return home.

Though I may get into some things about PTSD and other emotional and mental discussions, that's not what I'm really going for with this blog.  My aim is to give a view into our life; our struggles and our triumphs in the hope that some may get a better understanding of what it's like to both be an injured veteran and their loved ones as well.  What neither of us is looking for is pity.  There are people who are a hell of a lot worse off than we are and we're thankful for what we have and that includes our wonderful family and friends.  She's been on me for a few months to begin this is the hopes that others may realize they're not alone in their struggles and also to give those who don't know or understand some insight into our day to day happenings.  With that, I'll begin though I apologize if this first entry runs a bit long.

My finance was sent home 7 months into her deployment as an Army Medic from Iraq after she began suffering from Grand Mal Seizures.  Though some of the members of her unit both then and now believed her to be faking to get out of finishing her deployment, how the fuck you fake a Grand Mal seizure and the resulting effects is beyond me.  What has taken place since has been a litany of Dr visits, meds, questions, theories, and increasing symptoms and/or side effects (currently, with no diagnosis it's hard to tell if it's one or the other or both).  As if the seizures didn't suck enough, in the past year she's lost much of the strength and dexterity in her legs and it's relegated to using crutches on her good days and a wheel chair on the bad ones.  On top of that, she's lost a portion of her short term memory.  Again, no one has any idea why.

I met her two years ago October 15th.  At that point she had already been retired by the Army and attempting to figure out what her next move would be.  During our first date she laid the whole thing out for me, basically giving me the option to walk away if I chose.  I didn't.  As a matter of fact I didn't even flinch.  At that time she was walking just fine and seemed no different than anyone else.  A month or so later I witnessed my first seizure and while admittedly scary, we'd talked before hand about what I needed to do when the situation arose and I handled the situation quite well for someone with no medical training I think.  Just like anything, when you're in the situation you don't think about it, you simply react and fall back on what you've learned and your training.  Now a days I've seen enough of them that I just fall into the needed responsibilities (I'll get into them on a later post) without a second thought.  So much so that when her sister was visiting this winter and witnessed it for the first time, I didn't noticed how it affected her and it wasn't until an hour later that I was reminded how scary and uncomfortable it can be for those not accustomed to it. It really is amazing what you can get used to I guess.

Sitting here now, thinking about everything that has happened and will happen in the future, I'm thankful for so much.  Do I wish for better days ahead, good luck, and fortune?  You bet your ass I do.  It's human nature not to want to be static, to want to evolve and improve.  But no matter what happens, I'll always be thankful for the little things...