Ren's Ramblings & Writings

Contemplations on things tangible and intangible

Monday, November 29, 2010

My revised letter to the airport service about an employee who is an angel

I revised this letter from the original letter sent to the airport service company and public affairs office of that airport, because I recognize that every organization is made up of people, and that we, being the humans that we are, sometimes make small, but far-reaching mistakes, that do not necessarily reflect the nature of the organization. I do, however, want to recognize the angels who help us in seemingly small, but "huge" ways:

XXX Airport Services

cc: Airport Public Affairs
To whom it may concern:

I flew from Denver, Colorado to Marquette, Michigan and back on Tuesday, November 23, 2010, to bring my recovering father from a skilled nursing facility to stay with me at my home. This letter is not meant to describe how I felt the airline ruined my trip, causing distress and making significant mistakes; rather, this letter is to express sincere gratitude and respect to the young lady who truly cares about people, exceeding at what many others, would ever do to assist another. This is, after all, the season for such thing.
The day I purchased the tickets, I immediately requested for wheelchairs to be available at every connecting flight gate for my father. I also verified twice earlier on the day of our trip that the request was ordered and that wheelchairs would be at each arrival gate. Each airline representative assured me that my request was in the system and that a wheelchair would be at the gates to help us.
The airline employee at Marquette issued only my boarding pass for the flight from Marquette to Detroit, and would not issue my boarding passes for connecting flights, even though he gave my father his boarding passes for all his flights, contributing to my distress. He did, however, assure me that a wheelchair would be ready in Detroit.
Needless to say, we arrived in Detroit late, with only fifteen minutes to spare, and there was no wheelchair at the gate to help us. Knowing we could not move quickly and that I lacked a boarding pass for the connecting flight to Minneapolis, I was in tears, and could barely breathe. I was prepared to stay overnight in Marquette due to weather; we have family there; I was not prepared to keep my medically recovering father overnight in Detroit for who knows how long, due to airline employees dropping the ball. I was having a physical anxiety attack.
The airline staff at our Detroit arrival gate did not chatter; they immediately requested a wheelchair and communicated to the connecting flight’s gate staff. Within a few minutes, airport services employee Angela C. arrived with a wheelchair, loaded my father and we began running to the gate, where our flight to Minneapolis was due to leave within minutes. She stated that she had not seen our wheelchair request in the system. Knowing we had little time and that I lacked a boarding pass, Angela was honest; we would likely miss the flight. She did not believe that we would make it across the airport in time. Never-the-less, Angela C. ran at full speed, pushing herself and my father on a wheelchair. When we reached an elevator, having missed an airport shuttle, and noting that I was struggling with the run, she put my overnight carry-on on the lower rack of the wheelchair, and off we ran, with her pushing close to 175 pounds on the wheelchair.
As we ran up to the gate, I identified myself, and the airline representative had both our boarding passes ready and ushered us onto the plane. The door to the plane closed just after we boarded. Thanks to Ms. C., with the assistance, of course, of diligent airline gate representatives, we made it across the enormous airport in impossible time, and I had the boarding pass I needed to get on the plane with my father for the next leg of our trip.
This was not the end of airline mishaps or my anxiety, but Ms. C. impacted our night in a tremendous way, running her hardest, physically pushing an old man, and mentally pushing me, an exhausted, frustrated, and miserable traveler, to a gate she never believed we would reach on time. She pushed herself because, even if we had not made it on time, she would have done her best to help us; that is huge, unforgettable and uncommon. The airline representatives acted silently, but Ms. C., despite being realistic, helped us reach what seemed an impossible goal, and was enthusiastic for the entire run.
I wish to recognize airport employee, Angela C., and others like her. Most of us do not write letters expressing our gratitude, though, I am certain that true caring like hers does not go unappreciated. She is truly an angel, an amazing person, and I wish her the absolute best. Her kindness is uncommon and heart-filled and genuinely caring. Angela C. is a name I will not soon forget; a heart who truly pays-it-forward for the benefit of others. This is the season for gratitude, for sincerely considering others, especially others who serve us; her contribution may seem but a pin-drop in the long course of a life, but serves us in such enormous ways. Perhaps if we write more gratitude letters, we will experience more to be grateful for. At the very least, we can learn to focus on the good rather than the bad or negative.

Friday, November 5, 2010

MilSpouse Friday Fill-in (brought to you from navy_smurfette) via ATroopsGirl

See ATroopsGirl Here.

1.what’s the nicest thing a MILSPOUSE has ever done for you?
A former MilSpouse babysitter kept my young son twice for two weeks while my husband was in Korea so I could attend OCS and another time while I attended another military school in other states.

2.How often do you drive faster than the speed limit?
I agree with ATroopsGirl: Aren't speed limits are really just suggestions?

3.Did you have a nickname in school? If so, what was it?
Must I? I didn't have any say in choosing them (yes, that's plural). One was beaners (good luck figuring that out, I'll never tell) and Jabber Jaws (remember the cartoon shark of the late 70's?)

4.If your life was a book, what would the title be and how would it end?
Coyote Medicine (learn about coyote and you'll understand). Well, in many native stories, the coyote gets the short end of the stick, but, my story will be high energy, with coyote crossing the finish line alongside the roadrunner!

5.Look back (in your planner if you have one) to September 14th… what did you do that day?
I took a dear friend (my 'adopted mom') to a healer for Reiki and Shamanic Soul Retrieval, and then out to lunch. Had an FRG meeting that evening too...

Questions from last week:
1.What’s the nicest thing a stranger has ever done for you?

When I was 18yo, stationed in Germany I went to a concert in Frankfurt with friends. We'd taken the train, 6 of us on two different group tickets based on when we had to return for duty. I was on the ticket going back the same night because we had to be on duty early in the morning. We'd bought our concert tickets separately, and were separate in the concert hall, so we were going to meet at the train station. I could not find the right track, and missed the train. In 1987, there were no German banks (that I knew of) that accepted American ATM cards, I had no extra cash (spent it in the concert), and no credit cards. I sat outside the train station crying, scared to death.

Some homeless people asked what was wrong and I explained, in broken, blubbering German, my dilemma. These wonderful people gathered together all their coins so that I could use a German pay phone to call my unit and get help. Talk about paying it forward!!
2.If you are having a hard time going to sleep, what do you do to help yourself?

I use sublingual melatonin and my IPOD full of meditations!
3.Name something that makes you wish you were a kid again.

Sandra Bullock said in the movie Hope Floats that "Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome." I never look back.

4.What is something you never believed until you experienced it?

Ditto with ATroopsGirl: "I never understood that unimaginable love that you can have for your child. I had wondered how it was possible to love someone immediately, at the first moment of meeting. There is nothing more amazing.
5.What can’t you say “no” to?
--too many things to list... when my niece wants something... chocolate.... a good wine... a good microbrew... rescuing animals....
just to name a few

Missed Wordless Wednesday this week! Here goes!

"I know you're up to something in there."

more thought-provoking from Military SpouseBuzz-What Stresses YOU Out?

Yet again, other military spouses are giving voice to all the demons that haunt me, and this topic vote-what-stresses-you-out.  The choices given include: dying, physical injury, finances, affects on children, loneliness, sexual frustration, fidelity issues, PTSD/TBI, communication, and loneliness.

Here's my original response:

None of those things are "fears" per se, for me. Dying is a possibility we all accept, which includes getting on the highway each day. Dying in combat at least has honor.

Physical injury is also a possibility we accept. Cross that bridge when we get to it.

Finances don't bother me.

I know the deployments and absences affect my boys. It's a frustration, but not a fear, because it's a fact with no resolution.

Loneliness-I have my own life separate from my marriage (involved in lots of activities and social things)

Sexual frustration-don't many of us have that even when they're home?

Fidelity issues-if he hasn't given me reason to not trust him, why would I distrust him just because he's gone?

PTSD/TBI are already a factor, that the Army is not dealing with. But they are, according to our family psychiatrist, treatable injuries-if the Army would actually treat them rather than cover them up with the bandaids of pills and counseling.
No, none of these are my overall problem. My problem is the fact that I run the show, I control the reins and make all decisions and I do independence really well. My problem is figuring out how to have him back in my everyday life once he's back from deployment-and worse than that, trying to figure out how to have him back in everday life when he's still not available daily because he's working long hours, out in the field, at a school, on 24-hr duty, or down range. How do you share the reins with someone who is still only home sporadically?

Other spouses had interesting, and just as thought-provoking responses, including Amy, who stated: "What I really find stressful about deployment is that it starts from the moment of notification, lasts through predeployment training, the deployment, and through reintegration," and Jen, who said "Communication issues, in all of their shapes and forms, are the most stressful... maybe because they are the most tangible," causing me to add another "two-cents:"
Ditto on so many things-commo is a huge factor that I hadn't thought of, I guess because I'm so accustomed to just steering clear of it to avoid further problems. But also the note above:
"about deployment is that it starts from the moment of notification, lasts through predeployment training, the deployment, and through reintegration."
That's incredibly true. I always say that he's got one foot out the door even before the orders get here, once he knows he's going. He got home one year ago from Iraq, and forget about reintegration-he's still got one foot out the door for Afghanistan coming next year, and they don't even have orders (though, I think Brigade did deploy already to set up shop). How do you focus on reintegration at all when he's always got one foot out the door (ranges, 24-hr duty, and long hours are, perhaps, just incidental to preparing for the next deployment).
When you can't focus on being a family, including ALL members, how can you be best friends? It's kind of like talking to that best friend from years gone; when you do talk, it feels comfortable, like yesterday, but, if you and that long-lost friend had to live under the same roof again after so much time apart, knowing one would be leaving again shortly, would you be as close? How do you make the best of the time you have when you don't feel like best friends anymore?

This is not all inclusive, but it's what I can do right now...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

my thoughts on "Coming out of the autistic parent closet" by another MilSpouse

Find ATWM's letter here: Coming out of the Autistic Parent Closet

Here is my original response:

"My son, who is 15 now, was originally diagnosed with ADHD when he was 4, but that diagnoses left too many things unexplained. Aspergers IS NOT a disease, or a syndrome, as society has labeled it, but rather a GIFT! Bill Gates is said to be Aspergers (look also to Doreen Virtue's definition of ADHD-Attention Dialed into a Higher Dimension) and it is believed that Einstein was Aspergers as well.
Jennifer, you are a doll! Life is not without its challenges, especially in a society with such rigid social norms (many of them questionable), and no doubt that moving to the beat of your own drummer is sometimes less than desireable TO OTHERS, but I've finally learned to try to help my son be WHO HE IS, but to be aware of what society (school, for example) demands of him. We all try to be who we are, yet cater and conform to social norms, like not swearing when we're at our kid's school or in a public business office).

We still have to teach him some things outright,(it wasn't until last year that we realized he was NOT hanging up on us when ending a phone call. In his mind, the call was over, so he hung up, and we had to tell him that, SILLY as it seems, OTHER people really need you to bring the call to an end-say 'goodbye' or 'see ya' because that lets them know you're going to hang up!!)

Rent the movie "Temple." It's BRILLIANTLY done, and Temple Grandin is my hero. She's totally autistic, and a PROFESSOR AT CSU FORT COLLINS, CO!! Aspergers IS NOT a disease or hinderance. It's just another way of being. And, it IS NOT good or bad. It just is."

My thoughts do not end there, however. It has taken time, sorry to say, for me to learn to see my son as a WHOLE person-not a broken person. I have learned that it is society that has the problem. Different. Not less.

Here is another blog on the issue, by Wifeunit, who has also learned that her child is on the autistic spectrum:

Here is my original two-cents on that, which I hope better explains my evolving position on the autistic spectrum:

Wifeunit and others, first and foremost, I'm going to INSIST that we CHANGE THE LABEL from SYNDROME to GIFT.
Tell a different story. The world needs autistics (check out my personal hero, who, while still alive, has a movie in her honor: Temple Grandin; also, Bill Gates, Einstein, Mozart, Isaac Newton, Stanley Kubrick, Daryl Hannah, and a wonderful boy named Luke Jackson, an aspy who wrote a book at 13years telling how he experiences the world-"Freeks, Geeks, and Asperger Syndrome").
See your children as whole persons, able to contribute and live full lives. We all struggle with life-not only stresses and problems, but add to that depression, medical problems, and, for many in our crowd, families are struggling with PTSD and TBI. Autistics and Aspys can be as resilient and thrive as much as any one else. I'm finally seeing my son as the gifted whole person he is, after 15 years. The only reason society labeled it as a 'syndrome' is because we decided we had norms and expectations in society. But autistics and apsys move to the beat of THEIR OWN DRUMMER. Isn't that a good thing? We have had many speed bumps and hurdles over the years to get over, but I have realized I only contributed to the 'label' which has a negative connotation. But when you see how gifted these children can be if we just SUPPORT them rather than tell them that they're broken, they can truly do great things.
My point is, rather than just reading all the books and websites and being an 'advocate' for my son, who lacks confidence now as a teen because he knows he's different, and these labels told him all these years that he's somehow broken, I have to BELIEVE in him and SEE HIM AS A WHOLE, UNBROKEN person.
Don't we all change our behaviors some depending on what setting we are in (like not cursing around toddlers or the boss, or making a scene in the grocery store)? Well, these children must learn the same thing-tell your children that even though it seems silly to have to "say goodbye" before hanging up the phone, for example, just explain that "other people" need them to do that. A huge part of difficulties are in the social realm, and WE AS A SOCIETY have determined what is acceptable/expected and what is unacceptable, and we conform, whether we want to or not. Our children can learn to "help others" by conforming to some of these things -then validate them by acknowledging that "sure, it seems strange, but it's what the store manager or restaurant manager needs from us." The problem is ours as a society-not theirs, but we've made it their problem and told them they're to blame because they're different.

Different isn't bad. Different is not less. See them as whole, not broken, and whole, unbroken people have to contend with life, just as well as those of us suffering depression or PTSD (both diagnoses that indicate some level of 'broken').
I would say that I've been grateful for our military life, since structure is good for people on the autistic spectrum, and our household is fairy structured. I will say that my 15yo does struggle now, since mom is not the one he needs so much, and dad is gone a lot (not deployed, but still not at home, and facing yet another deployment). And the entire household deals with Sapper's PTSD. You bet, we all experience it when dad can't handle a slamming door, a barking dog, or the startle of an engine backfire.
Never the less, I do think our family not only has, as a military family, had access to all the resources necessary for success (good school district, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others such as PT/OT) but we've never paid one penny for services. If we don't care for one doctor, we can try another. We paid a copay for one of his medicines that was not available at the Army pharmacy, but that's it.
Sometimes I look at our house, and I feel guilty and wish I could do things better for my kids, but then I look at other families, even those without "labels" and realize, we are good. We are thriving. We are resilient-yes, even my Asperger's son.
I want a group to brainstorm how we can help our kids on the spectrum to be confident, to learn to navigate society confidently, yet still be confident in WHO they are, and to still know they are WHOLE and valuable people. We have to prepare high-functioning kids for the real world, but, since kids are the future, who are we to try to dictate what their norms will be, especially since more and more people are being "labeled" as being on the spectrum. Seems to be more the norm than not, which makes the rest of us the minority! Maybe WE'RE broken if we're NOT on the spectrum.

I want to tell my son,
"yes, our society requires you to make grades and to behave certain ways (like sitting still). BUT, we all know that letter/number grades are only PART of the picture-only one measure of what a student is learning. In school, you must sit at your desk, but if your brain works better on math with your but against a wall and your legs going up the wall, then at home, that's what you do. Because home is sanctuary.

And we will help you succeed, even if your letter grades (which is one way society measures you) are not what society thinks you should have. Aspergers is not a disability, and not a crutch. "
Finding the label can be a relief, as it gives us a 'label' for the issues that have troubled us or our kids. It also opens the door to support, treatment, and community. The problem is not having a label. The problem is that we've given the label a negative connotation, and it's time to CHANGE how the world views the autistic spectrum, and those who move to the beat of their own drummer.
We don't have to do anything at all about Asperger’s or the AS. They are unique, often successful individuals who are simply … themselves!

Excerpts from:

"Diane Kennedy, an author and advocate for Asperger Syndrome, writes, "They are our visionaries, scientists, diplomats, inventors, chefs, artists, writers and musicians. They are the original thinkers and a driving force in our culture.""

"Likewise, Dr. Temple Grandin, an adult with autism who became a successful engineer, academic and speaker, believes that her disorder is an asset. She once famously called NASA a sheltered workshop for people with autism and Asperger Syndrome. She believes that people with autistic spectrum disorders are the great innovators, and "if the world was left to you socialites, nothing would get done and we would still be in caves talking to each other.""

"People with very high IQs often question the status quo, resist direction, have long attention spans, undergo periods of intense work and effort, and like to organize things even as children. Other people often perceive them as "different." All this is the same with those who have Asperger Syndrome."

"Lovecky notes how Aspies often have advanced vocabularies, recognize patterns others do not, and pursue ideas despite evidence to the contrary because they are not easily swayed by others' opinions. Their ability to focus on details and their inability to see the big picture means they can often come up with solutions to problems others overlook. Aspies are often willing to spend long hours in laboratories and in front of computer screens because they do not mind being alone. All this enables them to make tremendous contributions at work and school. Author Patricia Bashe points out that people often admire those who can work independently. She writes, "Our society celebrates the individual who does what he thinks is right and goes his own way.""

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Military Wives as Surrogates: "Controversial"

It's been a process of contemplating, and following the input of others on this issue, and initially, I had the position that I, as a military dependent, am entitled to care regardless of how I become pregnant (Note: I have no desire to be pregnant again). It's been an enlightening discussion, which actually changed my point of view, and I changed my position some from my original post on SpouseBuzz. What is changed is underlined:

I've meandered thru the posts following my previous post, and it is an enlightening discussion. I think I agree with Vic and Art the most, having presented more facets that I had not considered. Being an Army spouse as well as a retired veteran, I try to look at things from different angles, but lack the "business" background so I miss things.

I do agree that "There are many good thoughts on here that do make me think."
I do want to point out that when I brought up the issue of "being raped," which I don't believe is out of perspective simply because I wanted to point out that as a dependent, I am entitled to care regardless of how I become pregnant. I can see, however, how that seems irrelevent, given the "victim status" a rape victim has versus the "business" status that a surrogate has.

I also agree that people come into the military for the benefits, and that this has always been a draw for the military.

The point that makes sense to me though, now that I see it, is that if there is money involved then it appears to be fraudulent. "Becasue not only is it a free service to the dependent, but they are also getting paid for their "services." That makes direct, obvious sense. This is a business venture.

In this light, the "sponsor" of the surrogate, I think, should pay the bill for the services rendered as they would in a civilian hospital with a fee to the surrogate.

Sarah points out that when we dependents are seen in a military hospital, we are asked if we have other insurance, if it is related to workers comp or a car accident, etc., so Tricare can bill the third party, which is usually an insurance plan.

I agree with Steve that it is a for-profit venture; I have decided, however  that re-imbursement is NOT the rule, or that the "buyer" in this case, the couple hiring the surrogate, should pay up front, or be billed directly, for the following reason:  If DOD hospitals were for-profit entities, I would say that the ability to bill third parties to recoup the debt on surrogates would justify accepting surrogate patients, but since DOD hospitals ARE NOT for-profit entities, then, logic tells me this is reason alone why surrogate pregnancies should not be handled in DOD hospitals. Since there are some dependents who do not get their care in DOD hospitals, however, this does not apply. In this case, the non-DOD hospitals, should not even bill Tricare. They should bill only the couple hiring the surrogate, and/or their third-party insurer.

 Perhaps DOD hospitals should have pregnant spouses fill out and sign forms stating that "yes, they are being paid for this child birth" or "no, they are not being paid for this child birth." People are less likely to lie directly, in writing, knowing there can be direct repercussions from lieing.

Art, you are an educated doll (are we allowed to say that to men?). I had a hard time not responding to Rhonda's obvious hostility and lack of education. You are a gem. Were you an Elder in another life? ;-)

Rhonda stated "Military people don't pay taxes because they produce nothing to tax. They are just required to give back some of the money the government gave them."

This is hostile and irrational on many levels, and I think Art addressed it nicely, describing (over and above the ideas of PROTECTING THIS COUNTRY AND RESPONDING TO DISASTERS) many ways the military produces a "product" and gives back to society.  He gave examples such as "the military creates wealth in the example of the US Navy simply by keeping the sea lanes open so energy resources, food commodities and goods in general can flow freely without fear of WW II type disruption," as well as other more business-related contributions to society, such as the Air Force collaboration with NASA years ago, and the fact that the Internet (yes, this invisible cyberworld that many of us now can't live without) was originally created by the military.   I would add also that the military, in one form or another, contributes. We all spend our tax-payer-originated-but-hard-earned-money in the community, living, existing, contributing to the economy. Reserve component members contribute heavily these days, not just deploying with active duty troups, but also responding to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and earthquakes here at home.  Who does the govenor call when he/she needs response to local rioting?  The National Guard.  Enough on that issue.

5kidsmom pointed out the correlation "to any other medical condition that was job-related - also covered by Tricare." I think this is a huge point, but it is also correct that if your condition/injury is work-related (in this case, for-profit contract-related), the third party, being Workers Comp (or in this case, the party hiring the surrogate) should rightfully bear the costs.

5kidsmom also points other other, separate, but ethical issues:
-the targetting of military wives during deployments - no chance of being impregnated by her husband if he's away. Ouch.

-I also don't oppose surrogacy, I also oppose the taking advantage of military spouses for a profit. But I think there's more to it than just that. Milspouses are taking advantage of some things too. That's a personal issue, I think.

-the clogging of OB/GYN clinics-taking up appointments for surrogates, leaving others "floundering for appropriate care" in other clinics." I think we've all experienced this at some time, and in many specialty clinics.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Purported "man of the cloth's" intent to burn the Quran

World Leaders Denounce Plans for Quran Burning at US-Church

Renee's take on this horrible issue, and the gist of the letter I sent to Pastor Terry Jones:

I am very disturbed by this matter. Unexceptable acts on the part of Americans that jeopardize service members and military missions are not about free speach. It's about safety.  My letter follows:

Pastor Terry Jones
Dove Center
5805 Northwest 37th Street
Gainesville, FL 32653
(352) 371-2487

I am retired military, but more than that, I am an Army wife whose husband, who has already been to Iraq 4 times, has to watch him deploy again next year. Don’t do something to cause innocent Islamic citizens, both in the United States and abroad, to either not cooperate with service members, or, at worst, to lash out viciously at my husband and other service members. Our military has enough to worry about.

1. The Quran does not just represent extremists; it also represents peaceful, innocent citizens.

2. The bible does not just represent peaceful, innocent citizens; it also represents extremists, such as the KKK and other groups, who use it to justify their horrible views and deeds, yet no one is burning bibles.

3. It is not productive, and I am ashamed that another American, a man of the cloth who is supposed to set the good example of what kind of a person to be, is resorting to such an ignorant and thoughtless act. Resolving not to burn the Quran is not resorting to passivity. It is simply more productive, and mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthier to be the better person; rather than fostering hate, use this situation to teach love of the world, and that even people who claim to be Christians can be horrible, and do horrible things, but that most of the world, is not horrible in that way.

4. Sell your book. Don’t burn the book that also represents the innocent.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Afghanistan will be here soon; deployment bubbles and other intangibles

We don't have a date yet.  Afghanistan will have to be content with the back burner until we are given a deployment date.  In the mean time, Afghanistan is also on our back burner, always in the back of my mind, catching my eye in the headlines, stealing my attention in military discussions... Sapper has 4 deployments to Iraq under his belt, not including an unaccompanied year at the former Camp Howse near the DMZ in Korea. Never-the-less, it isn't deployment, per se, that befuddles me-I'll cross that bridge, once again, when I get to it. No, these days, in the time between that next deployment and that time when soldiers are, theoretically, supposed to be "recovering" and healing from the last one, supposedly "reintegrating" into regular, American, civilian life, not only are they preparing other units to deploy as well as themselves, (field exercises and long hours at ranges, for example), they're just not really at home. I don't know what others' experiences are, but much of the time, it's like still being a single parent: running the household, managing medicines, appointments, yard work, killing wasps, dealing with freezer repairmen, responding when the school calls, and all other household duties, in addition to trying to manage one's own needs (not very good at that yet) on my own, except this other ghost in a uniform comes home from the field or whatever other duty now and then. 

I've found that I actually do deployment quite well, once the initial hit wears off-once the first few weeks of near-overwhelming tears subside and regular life takes over.  I get into my routine, which I've pretty much maintained the entire time Sapper has been home anyway, and I'm fine.  No, it's this business in between deployments that has me in bubbles, brick silos, or what ever you want to call it. Since Sapper came back from Korea, he hasn't truly been ours. Well, the Army lets us have him from time to time, but, the time between deployments in past years, used to actually belong to the family. Soldiers will always carry their combat wounds (physical and mental) but these days, it seems like even when he's home, there's still one foot out the door.  He says he wants to be with us, do something, whatever, but spends a lot of time in some sort of man-cave. Barking dogs, a running laundry machine, and kids-being-kids-doing-what-kids-do put him on edge these days. Don't invite him to the hockey game-it's more than he can handle.  Do I ask him if he can be at the house when the youngest gets off the bus one day, or if he can cover an appointment so I can handle another obligation?  Do I ask him to stop in at the pharmacy to pick up a refill?

Most days, I just handle all the daily and non-daily household, child, and other tasks, chores, and errands myself. It's what I'm used to doing. It's easier. Or, maybe that's a cop-out.  But most of the time, even if he has a day off, I just go about my business. If one of the boys has an appointment, we just go.  If I need someone here when the youngest gets off the bus, I arrange something with a neighbor. That's what my routine has been for nearly a decade. Sometimes it doesn't even cross my mind to see if Sapper is available that day, or if he wants to go to that appointment. To my defense, though, some days it just doesn't seem like he has anything to give. So don't ask.

So, anyway, according to Abraham-Hicks, these are all upstream thoughts. How does one move from these upstream thoughts to downstream thoughts? I'm sure life would feel better going downstream-paddling upstream is such hard work, and, as I'm told, there's nothing that we want upstream. I get the analogy; I just can't figure out how to apply it to specific situations. Is downstream focussing on solutions? Or is downstream simply letting things go? Not focusing on them? Or is it focusing only on happy things?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Pawtoberfest

Ren's Pawtoberfest Web Page-support fur, feathers, scales and slithering things! 

Go to my Pawtober Fest Page to pledge your support-I'm taking my dog Sienna, and I know she'll make it, but it's going to be a workout!!

Renee's position on Iraq and President Obama's address

I know there is still much turmoil among Americans regarding continued war and service members affected by constant deployments, ongoing training and the non-stop OPTEMPO (operations tempo, which increases with the intensity of and number of operations).  Tensions run high for all of us, and no one is immune, especially those in military families.  What I want to express here, however, is that I believe that we will occupy Iraq for a very LONG time to come, due to the fact that Iraq continues to be on "wobbly legs," and will continue to be susceptible to terrorists inclined to take advantage of those wobbly legs, set up shop, and make Iraq a terrorist haven, yet again. Iraq, as President Obama indicated in his address, Iraq still does not have a government in place. Iraq is a nation in recovery, not so unlike Germany and Korea after World War II.  In addition to the atrocities of Hitler and his regime, Germany had suffered terrible losses: its cities were in ruins from the bombings toward the end of World War II, and agricultural production was only 35% of what it was before the war.  The US occupation of Korea also began after World War II, and anyone who has visited Korea can attest to the fact that some South Korean highways are lined with foxholes and trenches, and many of their bridges and overpasses are ready to be destroyed quickly in the event of a North Korean invasion.

Now that activity has declined in Germany and Korea, bases have been closing over the past 15 years. What this means for Iraq is that combat operations cease, and the United States will operate as an occupying entity, not unlike our occupations of Germany and Korea. Though, like Korea, it is unlikely that the vast majority of tours in Iraq will evolve to include families in the near future. 

So, where do we go from here?

I recently heard Fort Carson Commander, Major General David Perkins talking of resilience. The Army is trying to determine why two individuals who experience the same trauma may be affected by it differently. One may be totally in shock, and may develop post traumatic stress symptoms. The other brushes off his pants and keeps right on going. The Army is training both soldiers and spouses to be resilient, to be the one who wipes off his or her hands and keeps on living, and living well. The Army has even implemented a Master Resilience Trainer Course with the motto "Strong Minds, Strong Bodies."

I want to get on that "band wagon." I want to be the resilient one.  I am a retired soldier, as well as an Army wife, whose Sapper just reached his 20 year milestone. We chose this life, knowing full well there is sacrifice, but more than that, we chose this life BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE. Because this sacrifice gives to our lives something bigger than ourselves. Life meaning, which cannot be belittled by the purpose of "receiving a paycheck," or anything else. I must admit also that the 20 years I spent in uniform does not even begin to compare to the OPTEMPO my Sapper has experienced over the past ten years. I used to think we had it good compared to our grandparents who did not hear from their service members for years at a time during the early wars. After all, they did not have satellite phone, Yahoo Messenger and web cams, and the most extraordinary postal system in the world. Istill think things are better for todays' Army families. But I think this is all relative to the time. Our parents' and grandparents' hardships and benefits were relative to their life experiences and demands. Our hardships and benefits are relative to our life experience. You cannot truly compare them because the variables are not the same. The economy is radically different.  Really, it is like comparing apples and oranges, despite the similarities in how the early wars affected service members. Never-the-less, I have to constantly remind myself that I would have this life with my Sapper (which now includes PTSD, TBI, both our bad habits and a lifetime of emotional baggage) over any other life without him, even if it means facing total sacrifice on his part. I'll be able to hold my head high.

And when I'm feeling negative, angry, or depressed, it is people who critisize, who do not truly know the issues or understand the big picture, and who refuse to see all the good that is accomplished, who get me back on my personal bandwagon, return me to my personal place of spirited determination, and remind me of my higher purposes. Just because the OPTEMPO has changed, that doesn't mean our life purpose has changed, and sometimes, yes, I whine, and I need to be reminded to keep my eye on the ball-that ball that was our life purpose. If you ask my Sapper, he will tell you that he is not ready to leave active duty yet. He truly still enjoys his job, despite the aches of a non-stop OPTEMPO or anything else Army life has to dish out. Warrior spirit still thrives inside him, and I honestly cannot see him doing anything else, not at this point in time, even if I had a job earning six figures. Sapper still loves his job. It still gives him that higher purpose that many of us seek. How many of us only wish to find our life purpose?

And who knows? Maybe some day in my lifetime, Iraq will be safe enough to allow Army families to travel with their service members on tours in the same way they have to Germany and Turkey. I would love to see that part of the world some day, a place with some of the oldest and greatest history of mankind.

Friday, August 27, 2010

my response to Andi's "Please, God. Not That..."

Andi wrote a beautiful synopsis of what goes through the minds of military spouses who know that their service member could be killed or captured while deployed. Find what she shared here Please, God. Not That...

My response:
Such a beautifully written glimpse of just a bit of what goes through the minds of military spouses. Those things in the dark recesses of our minds that no one talks about. It is completely normal to replay scenarios in your mind, imagining what we would do if we received this kind of news. Some of us imagine ourselves being strong, holding our chins high, being a rock for our kids (maybe not even telling them, not yet). Others can see themselves falling to pieces, crying, feeling helpless, powerless, not knowing where to turn. All of us knowing that our world would be upside down upon receipt of such news.

So, where do we go from here? Do we start talking about it openly? Do we keep our fears to ourselves? Do we just say we'll cross that bridge if or when we get to it?

Last night I heard Fort Carson Commander, Major General David Perkins talking of resilience. The Army is trying to determine why two individuals who experience the same trauma may walk away from it differently. One may be totally in shock, and may develop post traumatic stress symptoms. The other brushes off his pants and keeps right on going.

Whatever the difference, I would like to be the resilient one. Knowing that I would have this life with my Sapper over any other life without him, even if it means facing such a sacrifice on his part. I'll be able to hold my head high. I might not be the strong oak that I imagine myself being upon learning of his capture or loss; I may totally fall apart. But in the end, I will know that my Sapper knows, if he's alive, that he has great love waiting for him at home. And if he passes, he will go knowing he gave his all, and that his family will celebrate his life, and honor his passing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rolling Thunder 2010 - A Marine's Vigil

My response to AirforceWife's "The Meaning of Sacrifice"

Her beautiful editorial can be found here: AirforceWife's The Meaning of Sacrifice

I'm not going to bother to read the Sisk article, because I woke up feeling great today, and I don't want to spend the time it would take of me to respond, nor will I permit that indignity to interfere with my day. I do want to compliment you on your response, however. It is beautifully written and I think it portrays at least the essence of what military families feel.
I'm a retired soldier, as well as an Army wife, whose Sapper just made his 20 years. We chose this life, knowing full well there is sacrifice, but more than that, we chose this life BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE. Because this sacrifice gives to our lives something bigger than ourselves. Life meaning, which cannot be belittled by the purpose of "receiving a paycheck," among other things. I must state also that the 20 years I spent in uniform does not even begin to compare to the OPTEMPO my Sapper has been experiencing these past 8 years. I used to think we had it good compared to our grandparents who did not hear from their service mbers for years at a time during the early wars. After all, they didn't have satellite phone, Yahoo Messenger and web cams, and the most extraordinary postal system in the world. But I think this is all relative to the time. Their hardships and benefits were relative to their life experiences and demands. Our hardships and benefits are relative to our life experience. You cannot truly compare them because the variables are not the same. Really, it is like comparing apples and oranges. Never-the-less, people like Sisk are here for a purpose also. I have to constantly remind myself that I would have this life with my Sapper (which now includes PTSD, TBI, both our bad habits and a lifetime of emotional baggage) over any other life without him. And when I'm feeling negative, low, or depressed, it is people like Sisk and you, Airforcewife, who give words to our emotions about what Sisk wrote, who get me back on my personal bandwagon, return me to my personal place of spirited determination, and remind me of my higher purposes. Just because the OPTEMPO has changed, that doesn't mean our lifepurpose has changed, and sometimes, yes, I whine, and I need to be reminded to keep my eye on the ball-that ball that was our life purpose.

Friday, August 20, 2010

We are free-Maximus Remix from Gladiator

Love it love it love it~

My responses to the following online health care system discussion post

The initial student's post:
"Prof. and class...I am sorry to be the harbinger of doom and gloom, however, I do not see good things for the field of healthcare management in the future. Let me say this first...there are going to be some serious challenges to be faced in the near future because the specter of disaster, environmental changes, and terrorism looms close on the horizon. Medical personnel are the "first responders" in any disaster...however, our medical facilities are not equipped to handle mass emergencies as was evidenced with the most recent domestic disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Midwest tornadoes, or earthquakes.
I used to work in downtown Atlanta, about 2 blocks away from one of the largest hospital systems in the city, Grady Hospital. A report was released that said that the hospital would not be able to handle and was not prepared to handle a serious terrorist attack mainly because --- in the event of a disaster probably 50% of the medical personnel would be hurt or killed. I nearly lost my mind, but thankfully I don't work downtown anymore. But, that report stays in the back of my mind.
We already have existing shortages of medical personnel such as nurses. If I were 20 years younger and 30 years wiser I would go back to school for a medical career...if only to get the knowledge of what to do in an emergency and have the ability to actually make a difference in the world. I am quite sure my family would appreciate my knowledge of treating wounds and disease, rather than getting their taxes done, in the case of a terrorist attack."
My Responses:

       It's so easy to look at those situations and see all that is bad or isn't working, the inadequacies. To quote Jim Carrey:
"...It's when we watch the news, when we watch entertainment, it's about peoples' conflicts, tied together in the most exciting, possible way. And you imagine that the world is this explosive, horrifying place. And the news is all this negativity condensed. It really is not representative of what the world is, or what the world was."
Yes, there are seeming shortcomings that you see, but then look at what happens when good people come together. It's a terrific reminder that we really, truly are, ok.

I came across this story which involves doctors, and I'm sure, an innumerable network of medical and non-medical staff.. proving that the world (and the medical systems) are not the horrible thing they sometimes seem to be. Yes, we have uninsured in America and other countries, but look what happens when people pull together!  In this particular case, baby girl was rescued after spending two days in the hospital rubble after the recent earthquake in Haiti.  The baby, Landina, was in the hospital being treated for severe burns when the hospital was destroyed by the earthquake.  After rescue, she was brought to a field hospital run by Doctors without Borders, where a British surgeon had to amputate her right arm, and this same surgeon realized that without surgery for the burn injuries, she would die. Her brain had been so injured by the housefire that her brain was exposed, risking infection.  The doctor set her up with Facing the World, a British charity that brought Landina to Londay, paying for her travel and medical costs, and acting as her guardian.  A journalist then traveled to Haiti to try to find her parents, which was challenging because all hospital records had been destroyed, and they did not even know the baby's name. But, they eventually found Landina's family and she was reunited with her mother, after a DNA test proved that Seignon was Landina's mother. Facing the World even helped Seignon travel to London to her little girl who she'd not seen in at least six months, thinking the whole time that her baby was dead.

We definitely have to have a realistic view of the world, but it serves no positive or constructive purpose to focus on the bad things or what-ifs or negative possibilities. We are not alone-EVER! Even NY wasn't alone during 9-11. All of America, and even other countries responded! When it comes to disasters, we will never be alone, nor will we be expected to overcome it alone. Yes, our system is imperfect. And we can always benefit from average citizens being trained in 1st Aid and CPR. But the health field is making huge strides in all sectors, for-profit, nonprofit, and not-for-profit, always working to improve everyday healthcare access and service. And in this constant strive for improvement, we will also benefit during times of disasters, because, in our country, we are never alone.

Now, our imperfect system is made up of people, who can sometimes cause shortcomings, such as the country's slow response when Katrina hit. That was not a medical system problem, nor was it a shortcoming in the medical system of Louisiana. Nothing could be expected to survive Katrina; rather, the problems at that time were a combination of human-error and miscalculation, misjudgement, lack of coordination of relief efforts, etc (outside of Louisiana).

If something happens in Atlanta, just like NY, medical personnel and others will come to you. Because that's what America does.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My SpouseBuzz response to "Advisory panels say military benefits unsustainable", edited to send to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I am distressed about issues of significance to service members and military families. I have tried to contact congressmen and senators regarding previous issues, to no avail. So I am now writing to you.

I just read Advisory panels say military benefits unsustainable by Tom Philpott.

Military transition to civilian life at 20 years is not guaranteed, nor is it easy. My husband made 20 years this month. As you well know, if a service member retires, he/she can be called back at any time in the future. I know this, as I am a retired soldier as well as an Army wife. The service member who is actually able to retire at 20 (in this economy), and successfully begins their life anew, is fortunate, but still challenged to translate their military experience into civilian terms, and then to market him or herself successfully. Add to that mix any number of the disabilities that service members are taking with them as extra life baggage when they leave the military, and they have to work hard proving to a civilian employers that they’re actually employable. If, in fact, the service member is employable. Did you know that: the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states “Two-thirds[of homeless veterans] served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.” I interpret this as ONLY three years. Let’s talk about what more than three years does to a service member, especially with today’s OPTEMPO. Yep. Three years and you too can suffer the rest of your life from deployment injuries, both tangible and less tangible.

I also can’t fathom the fact that politicians think it’s perfectly acceptable to expect service members to jeopardize their lives so THEY, can sleep at night, and then leave service members stranded as a thank you in return. There is NO COMPARISON between an IT guy or a CEO who works cozily for any other corporation, and the lives of service members and their families. My husband has been deployed 4 times and been to Korea, and is preparing for another deployment, all since 2001! Add to that the fact that just because they’re not deployed, that does not mean they are at home! And I cannot BEGIN to describe what we’re dealing with now-PTSD AND TBI, both of which have effects that last well into years beyond, and which THE FAMILY gets to somehow learn how to cope with. With what I have to contend with for the next 40 years as his wife, I TOO deserve the relief of knowing that, even though we’ve got our work cut out for ourselves in years to come, personally and for our marriage in dealing with PTSD AND TBI, at least my husband will have his retirement benefits, giving us one less thing to worry about.

Service members don’t leave their families and go to Iraq because they’re expecting gifts or an easy life. My husband, a combat engineer, so loves his job, that he would do it even if the world didn’t give military discounts and even if old ladies didn’t stop him in the supermarket to thank him for his service. And he does it despite the long deployments and frequent, sporadic absences from his family. We’ve been in this house since February 2008, but my husband has yet to unpack and “nest.” He does not complain, and neither do we. I love living with a man who not only ADORES his job, but finds purpose and is good at it.

But today’s OPTEMPO demands have multiplied in the past 20 years, and ethics scream louder than ever on behalf of service members who deserve their retirement. And, as the article states, “…only 20 percent stay long enough to earn a retirement." What many fail to realize is what we Americans pay presidents who only serve AT MOST eight years:
“The retirement benefits received by former Presidents include a pension, Secret Service protection, and reimbursements for staff, travel, mail, and office expenses. The Presidential pension is not a fixed amount, rather it matches the current salary of Cabinet members (or Executive Level I personnel), which is $191,300/year as of March, 2008...”

Philpott quotes in this week’s article:

“But rapid expansion of military entitlements has become part of "the nation’s mandatory spending problems, "the task force found. Among "significant unsustainable trends" that the task force listed is paying military retirees and their families "for 60 years after they have served only 20."”
This statement leads to the erroneous conclusion that even though a service member, who has risked his or her life, and possibly has disabilities affecting not only him/herself, but also the family and every other area of his/her life, is somehow not entitled to 60 years of pension, since he or she only jeopardized and endured 20 physical years of service. How do you measure the quality of life that his or her service has so drastically and detrimentally affected for life? Is the service member somehow less deserving of having his/her quality of life maintained than a president?

Never mind that some veterans are so disabled by their duty experiences that some of them physically cannot work. We will just throw them to the curb and let them try to survive off of the already limited and overburdened VA system and social security benefits. My husband, and our family, thanks to PTSD AND TBI, will CONTINUE to contend with his disabilities, when he retires, FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. How do you put a price tag on my husband’s and our family’s quality of life, which the military is responsible for? All this, and the Army’s response is to prescribe more pills, keep deploying them when they’re not recovered, and then take away the one thing that compensates for all the crap: retirement and health benefits.

I cannot believe that it has come to this. Politicians, who do not truly care or take the time to know what military families truly need, want to focus on legislation that allows me, as a spouse, to take leave when my husband is about to deploy, like they think this is actually what I need. And even my own congressman could care less. Yet, politicians, who, to quote Hollywood, “rise and sleep under the blanket of the very freedom" that service members provide, want to take away the one benefit that career service members and their families truly need and look forward to in the years to come after military service has done its damage and taken its toll. Perhaps they should put on a uniform and pick up a rifle and participate in today’s OPTEMPO. Fight waste, fraud and abuse. Don’t harm the very people you rely on.

Monday, August 9, 2010

post test

Responses to Blue Star Family survey in May 2010

Effects of deployment on military children:
My 14yo son is at an age now where he needs his father around to help with everyday "teenage boy" and school issues (that moms can't help with).

Both boys are at stages where they respond better to dad's authority (by mere presence) than to female authority.

Both boys need more direct male interaction now (activities, socialization, etc).

My 14yo now understands better what dad is doing when he's deployed, and it worries him. He doesn't understand why his dad has to help other kids-"why those parents can't protect their own kids?"

How can the military help families deal with deployment:

Deployment is only part of the problem. Even when the soldiers are not deployed, they're still not at home (gone for 3 weeks here, 6weeks there, a school for 4 weeks here, training someone else to deploy for 3 weeks there...all over and above regular and irregular long hours). All these smaller absences add up; the family, as well as the soldier, have to deal with the soldier constantly coming and going, never able to actually reintegrate back into the family and household, since he's always got one foot out the door.

Add to this the effects of 4 deployments: the boys don’t understand why dad doesn’t wrestle anymore, or why he can’t handle loud sudden noises, or even what is normal everyday noise or background noise for us. Many of our extended family and friends actually don’t understand why, when the house gets busy (people/kids over, for example) dad goes to the bedroom to escape the over-stimulating “busyness.”

There are many nontraditional aids, holistic practices, non-western therapies that heal the entire mind-body-soul, that have been used for centuries, and are medically proven, but they’re not available to service members unless the service member can afford to pay out of pocket (acupuncture and other forms of Chinese medicine, hypnosis and meditation, shamanic healing practitioners, for example). Teaching simple meditation and yoga breathing can benefit soldiers immensely, not just at home, but when they’re away from home as well. Make holistic, non-western practices, healing, and therapies available to the military and their families!

How do Changes (deployments, PCS, other service member extended absences) affect the family:

Being a military family is just a way of life, not so different than families whose parents travel and/or work long hours...there are many people who look forward to moving, as change can pick you up out of present situations and new can be refreshing-but even positive change-is still change-and can still be stressful, or even distressing. My oldest is Aspergers, and my youngest is cognitively delayed, so change (especially big change) can be hard for them. This is part of why I retired-with my husband constantly gone now, my kids need someone who they know is always going to be here; their lives are fairly routine, consistent. We tend to avoid “Family Support” or “Family Readiness” anything, since, despite all positive intentions, those associations often are fraught with drama, soap operas, or are just often not the kind of situations I want take my kids into (special needs, or not

Entire families need productive consistency (not to be confused with rigid, unbending structure); enable and promote productive routine and consistency.

Entire families need to cope with everyday life stress, and holistic, non-western practices, especially things like meditation and yoga breathing, can benefit entire families.

What, if any, impact has being a military spouse had on your ability to pursue a career? Please select only one answer that best reflects your experience.

How has being a military spouse affected your career?

Being retired military myself, and a graduate level student, I consider myself autonomous as far as my career, generally. Though being a military spouse has other considerations:

1. I have to leave my job to handle all appointments, stay home with a sick child, or solve problems when the school calls.

2. Because handling everything is routine for me, I sometimes don't even think to ask my husband if he can handle something when he is home, which annoys him.

Military families need mind-body-spirit healing and coping tools, many of which are found in non-western practices. Most of what is available thru military channels is only a temporary fix, or it addresses only part of the wound (drugs/medicines for example), when science knows that much disease and stress, strength and healing is psychosomatic. The military needs to make accessible and promote those therapies and practices that have been around for centuries that do facilitate whole-person health, instead of just writing prescriptions and sending people only to counselors, who often cannot promote internal healing. Alternative, holistic therapies and practices are really practices for a healthy life that I believe can make families and service members strong every day, and these practices are an amazing complement to western medicine.

Holistic, mind-body-spirit health: our service members and families are proud, but sometimes it is easy to forget our service member's greater purpose when you are dealing with the everyday of life, especially life after so many deployments and constant absences. The service member and families also need time to reintegrate with each other without more absences so soon after return from deployment.

What is your suggestion for a program that Blue Star Families or another military support organization could launch that could significantly improve the lives of military families?
Teach, promote and facilitate mind-body-spirit healing and strengthening techniques to make Army families (including the soldiers) Army Strong. There are incredible practices that are available, such as meditation, shamanic journeying, yoga (yoga has many meditative qualities, in addition to being exercise), and hypnotherapy/self-hypnosis that people can PAY to learn, for DVDs/DCs, and to attend in group empowerment sessions, but the military does not help with any of these expenses, and does not promote these practices, many of which can be learned and practiced daily at home, and are enjoyable and empowering to do with a group.

Ren's attempts at setting up a new blog...

...sometimes I really do love the internet. When it works. So far, so good.