Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy 25th Anniversary!

25 Years

We met on 11 November 1989.
He proposed to me 16 November 1989.
We were married by the JOP on 22 December 1989.
He deployed 15 January 1990 and was only supposed to be gone 45 days.
I planned a church wedding for his return.
He came home 6 days before our church wedding.

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We’ve beaten so many odds, so many situations that could tear us apart.
And we’re still going strong!
Here’s to forever!

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LadyJai

 

Merry Christmas 2014

Dearest family and friends,

I’ve been a caregiver to my husband for the last 15 years. It’s been hard. Extremely hard. I’ve felt so very alone for so very long. And I thought no one would ever understand what all is involved. So I closed myself off and faced the world in silence. As did my husband.

Twenty-two veterans take their lives every day; but the uncounted are those friends and family who care for them. Invisible wounds are brushed away, hidden in our society. Most people don’t understand. Personally, we’ve received comments such as a snotty, “Well, you don’t look disabled,” which cuts my husband deep to the soul but he puts on his mask and says, “Thank you” and carries on. It’s a two-way street, though. Those who don’t understand the problems that our veterans live with day-to-day, hour by hour, and sometimes breath by breath need to have more compassion and education and don’t just brush them off with trivial comments such as “Suck it up. Get over it. You’re stronger than that.” But our veterans must also admit, face, and open up—which is so very hard to do when they’ve been shunned and looked down upon for so long.

And this isn’t just our veterans’ problem. Invisible wounds are non-discriminant. They can attack anyone, of any race, creed, or color. It doesn’t matter. Just look at how shocked the world was when Robin Williams recently took his life. So please, don’t sit in a dark corner and think you are alone with no hope. There’s always hope.

This year has been an exceptional year, considering. While we still battle the chronic migraines and pain, PTSD, and depression, along with the issues that come along with being a caregiver, I’ve deemed this year as the year for my healing. I never once opened up, admitted, or faced my own personal issues. But when I fell into the deep dark hole of my own last year, I needed to work on me. Because I learned that if I am not healthy, I cannot be there for him.

This year had me becoming a pin cushion for the many doctors I had to see throughout the year. Bouncing from specialist to specialist with no real diagnosis. Things were ruled out, old issues resolved, and new issues popped into play. I’ve managed to get a diagnosis for some of the seemingly random symptoms I’ve experienced – Fibromyalgia. And I am currently being seen for a blood “anomaly” that will just have to be watched periodically. The last thing on the list is my emotional health. I need to get that under control and I can focus on learning the new normal. Again.

Throughout this year of healing, I’ve made a point to confront, admit, and own my feelings. I’ve written them out here on my blog. This has helped me tremendously, and I hope to help someone else in their time of need. Because we are NOT ALONE. I was contacted by the publisher of The Veterans Voice and she wanted to publish this article from me. I was overjoyed. It’s not my first published piece, but my first non-fiction. It would be seen by so many people.

I found a veteran spouses/caregiver support group online and have found so many understanding people. I can help when I can, and others can help or listen when I need it. It truly is amazing when you find others who understand what you’re going through.

I’m learning a lot through this. The negative feelings I hold inside are what makes me human. Not a bad person. It’s how I confront each and every situation that makes me good or bad. I’ve learned that I AM strong, regardless of my situation. I’ve always been one to try not to complain because there are so many more families out there that have it worse than me. I’m understanding now, that yes, while this is true, I am living my situation not theirs. And I am also learning that while everyone’s situation is different, the feelings that go along with it all, the veteran’s actions and feelings along with the caregivers, are so very similar. We can learn from one another, we can become the support structure so we don’t crumble.

Even before I started the doctor route, I’ve started trying to change my way of thinking. Because negativity can kill. I learned this a long time ago, when TheHubs went to Kosovo. I was friends with a spouse who was so negative all the time and she was bringing me down. I knew I had to cut her out of my life completely in order to survive that deployment. Once I did, I was so much better for it. 3 years ago, I’ve been on a campaign of positivity. The blog-o-sphere has an annual A to Z Challenge in April. And the last two Aprils have seen me making positive notes to help me think more positively and hopefully inspire others. This year, though, I’ve expanded it throughout the entire year and have been setting out little positive motivational post-it notes in random public places. Hopefully I could make people smile. We need to change the way we think and we will be so much better for it!

Being a disabled veteran family, outings are very hard to come by, let alone vacations. I still hold onto my dream vacations and hope one day to be able to afford them and travel without the fear of the pain debilitating TheHubs so much that he cannot enjoy it, or worse yet, cannot go at all. There have been times he has had to miss outings, family get-togethers, and holidays because of it. But we’re working on it. Still. What I have to do is try to do little things that only last a few hours and hope he can manage the pain long enough to get through it and enjoy some of it. So here are a few things we did this year.

The Clay County Fair in April 2014

 

The Color Vibe 5k in June 2014

Birthday Dinner with my parents.

First there was Painting With A Twist by myself, with the Hearts of Valor organization on September 11th

Then we brought TheBoy and his best friend because he was so sad he couldn’t go with me that night.
Painting with a Twist

We also took TheBoy to his first Midnight release party for a game.

I took TheHubs and TheBoy to their first Air Show on the Tarmac. It was the Blue Angels, but I just HAD to get the Thunderbird in there. 😀

And then the last color run for the year, The Color In Motion 5k with MOM! And TheBoy’s best friend and family.
Color In Motion 5K

It’s the little things that we treasure now. Happy moments to hold on to. And with the camera phone, I can document them all!

May you all find the positives in every situation, no matter how small.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Love The Dements

VA Appeal Update #3

Do you remember the Veterans Affairs scandal that broke on 30 April 2014? The one where a whistle-blower claimed that as many as 40 veterans died waiting for care while the Arizona facility pencil-whipped their schedules to make it look like they were maintaining efficiency and the infamous “secret” wait-lists? That scandal opened up an internal audit of the VA across the nation, including The House of Representatives passing legislation to fund an investigation by the Justice Department.

A scathing interim report released by the VA Inspector General revealed Wednesday that the average wait time for registered patients at the Phoenix facility was 115 days.

It also found that about 1,700 area veterans were not even on the wait-list and “continue to be at risk of being lost or forgotten” and “may never obtain their requested or required care.”

The report determined there is “systemic” misconduct throughout the VA.

The report did not confirm whether the long delays resulted in veterans’ deaths, but promised to investigate the link between wait times and “possible preventable deaths.” (Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/veterans-adminstration-scandal/story?id=23914029)

The media was all abuzz about these investigations and veterans from all over the country sent in their stories. I happened to be watching Fox & Friends one morning where Peter Johnson, Jr. was talking about the many stories veterans had sent to him. At the end of his commentary, he asked that if anyone else had stories to please send them along. I sent Mr. Johnson my husband’s story. If you’re not familiar, you can read it here.

I had already written our Senators and our Representative in hopes to move my husband’s claim along. The only one to take any action was Rep. Ted Yoho. His aide called me and they sent an investigation into his claim. That was earlier in the year. We did get a denial, again, in July. I wrote another update about this here.

In May, I wrote to Fox News. I never really expected anything to come of it, honestly. There are so many others out there worse off than we were, but I had to get his story out there. I still held a tiny sliver of hope for him. And that’s all it takes I guess, because on 1 August, I was contacted by the Assistant Director of the Congressional Liaison Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs. She stated that my letter to Fox News was forwarded to “Chairman Jeff Miller, House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. House of Representatives.   The Chairman has asked the VA Congressional Liaison Service to assist with answering your concerns.  Due to privacy issues,  I need the Veteran to contact me directly with full name and address and specific concerns/issues that he/she is experiencing with the VA.

HOLY WOW!

I immediately got TheHubs to send another letter back to her. We summarized his previous letter and added more detail about his latest C&P as well as the appeal letter his VSO sent up the chain. Some of it is included in the Appeal Update #2 post. He also included this last bit:

I got out of the Army in July 2002. Here I am, 12 years later, still fighting for my benefits. I may not have the visible wounds that others have, but it doesn’t make me less broken. I may not have had boots on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, but that doesn’t make my experiences in Albania/Kosovo any less than anyone else’s. I am sick of people looking at me like I’m faking it, or telling me “You don’t look disabled.” I’m sick of being dismissed because I served in “The Forgotten War” as I call it. But most of all, I’m sick, and tired, of fighting. If it wasn’t for my wife, my caregiver and soulmate, I would have given up on my fight and life a long time ago. That’s what the VA wants–for the veteran to give up so they don’t have to pay out. We cannot let them win!

My hope had been restored again after he sent that email. But, per usual, as time passed, this subject faded to the far reaches of my mind. I forgot about it. Not completely, mind you. I still held onto it by a sliver of a thread of hope.

It’s now 4 December 2014, and a few days ago it decided to come to the forefront of my brain. All because TheHubs got a call–rather, several calls from the St. Petersburg Regional VA Office stating, several times, that they received a “letter from the White House” about his case and they were looking into his concerns.  When looking into his case, one of the people who called him stated that his case was really “messed up.” Ya think? We’ve known that for years. Apparently they were the group of people set up by the VA to investigate messed up claims. They told him not to be surprised he received a dozen or so more calls over the next few days as they all worked his case. Even another person called yesterday, this one shocked us both. It was the guy in charge of the facility where he had his last C&P, the one who said his nightmares were “our brain’s way of processing gobbledygook.” He told TheHubs that if that is indeed what she said, and if he indeed only had a 10 minute meeting, that it was so very wrong. Yeah, why would we make that up?

I sit here, now, still processing what’s transpired over the last few days. At first, I didn’t know what to feel. I was beginning to wonder if it was because I’ve been traumatized all these years dealing with a screwed up VA who would send us mixed signals. Or if it was merely shock, as a friend told me. I did feel a bit sad that our media could make the VA move faster than my Congressman, and faster than the VA ever did. But that’s all I felt these last few days. So, I was leaning more towards the trauma. This morning, though, I woke up and that familiar stir inside. You know the one? The anxious excitement of hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with-already returned to my stomach and chest.

I’m almost at the end of this post and I am still debating with myself whether or not to post. We’ve had plenty of luck over the years, plenty of BAD luck and I don’t want to jinx this. Seems as though a lot of things I get all excited and hopeful about, that moment we acknowledge it out loud is the moment everything takes off full-speed downhill. It’s just so frustrating to see (and know) so many people who’ve gone through their own VA claims process that have had more minor issues than TheHubs and skated through the system in less than a year with more percentage than he has. And they can still work! It’s high time my husband had some good news, I think. So if you have it in you, could you please pray to your God, send positive energy, or whatever you do to give GOOD luck, send it our way for a speedy AND JUST resolution to this incredibly LONG fight.

Thank you so very much.

LadyJai