Soldiers, Contractors and the Killing of Hope

crossposting from qoftu.com

I typically post this stuff elsewhere but this is something I couldn’t get off my mind since the Op Ed from Erik Prince. Some segments of our society would like you to think that sending mercenaries into Afghanistan equates to privately funded space exploration. They would be wrong. The continued trickle of soldiers and […]

via Soldiers, Contractors and the Killing Of Hope — Queen of the Universe

Advertisements

What A Year

I have sat down a million times to write my thoughts down since the election.  Some how, I still can not find the words.

 

I spent much of the month of November crying and much of the time since has become a blur of lies, stress and concern for the direction of our nation.  My Veteran is increasingly resistant to even leaving the house for fear of an argument with a Nazi that results in him getting arrested.  No matter your political affiliation, if you don’t have serious reservations about the direction of this Administration, then I can’t help you because you are already that lost.

 

Once the symptoms had progressed for my Veteran so much that we were cancelling any public events or interactions for him, I was able to get him into another outpatient program.  Sadly, along with the current Administrations belief that privatization will solve everything, he was placed in a facility that had very few Veterans.  The bulk of the group were people with a variety of addictions that eventually caused a strain on the class and security issues.  He was unable to complete the program.

 

Since then, it has been varying scenarios of the same nature.  He can not watch the news, he doesn’t trust one single person in Congress to do what is right any more and he would rather not live here.  Since we haven’t won the lottery, what are our options?

 

I hope that each of you are finding better ways to cope.  Is there something that helps most?  Have you had to change your life radically?

 

I hope you are finding peace while we are looking for it too.

Happy New Year’s Eve! (Look out for a Veteran)

colorfulfireworks

What a year.  Seriously.  In our house, we are really ready for 2016 to be over.  At this time of year, I am always hyper aware of how difficult this evening can be for Veterans to get through so I thought I would post our top five ways to get through the night.

  1.  Listen to music:  Headphones in the ears with your favorite music can really help ease the noise and the triggers the noise creates.  Whether you opt to jam or meditate, choose a playlist for tonight that will help you feel groovy.  Here is one I made if you have Spotify.
  2. Hug a pillow:  This may seem strange but one of my Veterans biggest triggers is the vibration, particularly from unruly neighbors that shoot them off near our house.  Body pillows are cheap and holding one to your chest can minimize the shaking feeling.
  3. Watch a movie:  We usually opt for an action movie right as the sun begins to go down.  This gives the drunk bozos a good hour and a half to set off their fireworks and depending how into it you are, you will barely notice the noise because of everything going on.  If you have surround sound, this is 100 times better because it then just seems like background noise. (Best thing we have ever purchased)
  4. Eat your feelings:  This is one that I got from an Occupational Therapist.  If you can tolerate crunchy things, make a NYE bowl.  Depending on your preference for salty or sweet, fill it with items that are crunchy when you eat them.  This is a perfect pairing with the movie because you are desensitizing yourself to the noise in your ears at the same time as keeping occupied.  Ours consist of crunchy pickles, carrots, nuts, cheese and some sort of chip or cracker.
  5. Practice patience:  Once the flurry of war fails to be the lead story on the news any longer, people just don’t take it into consideration.  We are less than 3% of the population and on your block, I bet there are many people who don’t even know anything about what we go through on these holidays.  You can put out a sign, you can ask people not to do it or you can call the cops when they do (we have had to do this) but ultimately, the day will pass and life will go on.  If you can try to handle it better each year, there may be a time when you don’t even notice what is happening any more.

We can dream, right?

No one appreciates warriors until the enemy knocks at the gates.

Here is hoping you and yours have a lovely transition to 2017 and we make it the most amazing adventure.  That’s what I am hoping for any way…

Resource Update: A NOTE OF THANKS

WHAT A SUMMER!  Really, what a year 2016 has been.  Does it feel unusually long or is it just me?

We have been crazy busy and that generally doesn’t mesh well with appointments but we managed to pull off a few fun things this year.  I think we all actually were grateful when school started this year so that things would just settle down!
One of reg awesome things we got to do was to take Little Monkey to a concert thanks to an organization called A Note Of Thanks.  This group gets concert tickets for Veterans so they can enjoy a show without having to incur the cost.  Initially we tried to take her to see Kelly Clarkson/Pentatonix but it didn’t work out.  The tickets we ended up getting were for Nick Jonas/Demi Lovato which I would have to say may be ::slightly:: better.  We had so much fun!
demi-lovoto
We had pretty great seats.  No I know you must be thinking “how does a Vet do a concert that big?”  I get it.  The way we approach this as with all things is very carefully.  Fortunately, my husband remembered that he had these awesome earplugs he had been fitted with at the VA.  He took those along:
ear plugs.png
The earplugs are noise canceling after a certain decibel and when the crowd or the band were too loud, they just shut off periodically.  This was a HUGE help for the anxiety and stress that crowds can provide in these situations for my Veteran.   We also paid to upgrade to the VIP parking.  BEST DECISION EVER.  Not only was the lot right next to a private entrance to the venue but when pulling out of the lot, the attendants stop traffic on the main road to let everyone out.  This reduced a great deal of the anxiety my Veteran would normally have with the piling out-of-doors or traffic.
Both Nick and Demi were amazing.  While I wouldn’t have gone on my own, it was a great experience to share that with my daughter.  She had a permanent smile for days and having mom and dad enjoy it as well was icing on the cake.  We were blessed to be in Orlando and the special guest was the amazing Andra Day to sing for a memorial to the people who were killed in the nightclub shooting there.  It was moving and haunting and I was so glad we were there to witness this profound moment.
aundra-day
I can’t say enough about the amazing day or the kindness of A Note Of Thanks.  If there is a show coming near you, check them out.  You could end up with the experience of a lifetime!  You can do it, you just have to make a plan.
I hope your day is fantastic!

The Odyssey and the Agony

sunrise jax

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we applied for a couple’s Project Odyssey through Wounded Warrior Project.  As we have attended other similar events, we did expect some type of group therapy discussions.

We were housed at the beautiful TPA Saltgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach (I highly recommend the Fried Green Tomato Pimento Cheese Sandwich if you are ever in town).  The folks at this Marriott were beyond kind and went out of their way over the couple of days to make sure we had what we needed.  This location caters to corporate meetings and they have a Starbucks located inside.  How genius is that?

The staff from WWP were great.  Their intent was to facilitate all kinds of discussions through thoughtful discussion, art projects and bonding exercises.  As with most groups of military families, this can devolve into herding cats.  A lot has been going on in their corporate offices and they handled it well.

I am not a big fan of team building exercises (in corporate environments I have seen the quickly go awry).  A similar thing happened on this venture but with a lot more emotion.  On our first day we were kind of thrown into tandem kayaks with no instruction and told, go to this point down river.

What a mess.

Our guide was knowledgeable, the area was beautiful and my Veteran had the most epic melt down in the history of melt downs out in the middle of the water.  In retrospect, it was HILARIOUS, but at the time it didn’t feel like it.  We had to work through some things for sure but I could have done without the trial by fire.

The next day was a team exercise where half of us were blindfolded and had to come from a room off the larger area into a place where the other half was to make us sit in chairs but no one could talk.  In preparation, my team half developed more than one plan cheerfully and were ready to go.  My Veterans team half apparently fought the entire time.

What happened next was even worse.

Being unable to see and have people grabbing on you brings up all kinds of issues.  Whether you are a Veteran or not, if you have trust issues or space issues or all of the above from a trauma, this reignited all of that.  To say that there was some emotion and crying is an understatement.beach backpack task

The next day’s beach activities were much more beneficial.  Everyone worked together and felt supported.  It was nice to see.

We have talked often since about whether we would have participated had we known any of this in advance and I am not sure.  They don’t give a schedule so you are forced to roll with it but that resulted in being ill prepared wardrobe wise and very stressed when it came to times for medications.

It could hbeach task2ave been handled better.

The results, however, are hard to argue with.  There were conversations that needed to be had that finally started.  There were plans to be made that finally were.  There was thoughtful consideration of personal goals which had been lacking.  I am glad for the experience of it but not sure I would recommend it for everyone.  If you aren’t in the right head space for that or not in the place in your relationship where you are ready to work on things, you would be miserable.

Fair warning.

 

 

I Lived

Coming back from vacation this week I heard this One Republic song and I became a little overwhelmed. For whatever reason, that day, I felt like it was really speaking to me, to all of you, Warriors and Caregivers. Life can be hard and it can be a struggle sometimes to keep our heads up and our eyes open. My goal for the new year is to laugh more and seek out more experiences that add to the health of my soul and that of my family. It is really about that, right? It’s the experiences, not the stuff, that equals a life.

Here is to hoping you own every second!

Happy New Year!

 

“I Lived”
by One Republic

[Verse 1]
Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wallHope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stayHope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Verse 2]
Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup

I wish that I could witness
All your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes
I’ll say…

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Bridge]
Whoa
Whoa
Whoa
Oh
Oh
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Outro]
Whoa
Whoa
Whoa
Oh
Oh

Have a listen, and a sob, HERE.

HOW TO THEME PARK WITH A WARRIOR

Going to a theme park at Christmas seems like a crazy idea, right?

But think about it…

Many of you have told me stories about how difficult the holidays can be in your households. When you combine family of origin drama, wartime trauma and the stress that comes with the preparation and presentation, MOST holidays can just be too overwhelming for anyone. The fact that Warriors have issue during the holidays is something a caregiver accepts and understands it may always be that way.

IMG_2517

This year around September, we received an unexpected message through Operation Homefront. There was an owner of a condo in Orlando that wanted to donate a week there to a Veteran’s family, were we interested? It took about 30 seconds of conversation to say YES. We had not yet been able to explore any part of Orlando since moving to Florida a year and a half prior to that and our youngest had one mission, and one mission only: The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter. Knowing that the price of three meals a day and a week at a hotel was completely impossible for a disabled Warrior family, this became the first time that we thought we could do something like this for the last monkey still at home.

Then the planning begins!

I knew where we wanted to go and after figuring out the ends and out of how that would work, we settled on two park annual passes through Universal Studios Orlando. Visiting just twice in a year pays for them and they have an extended pay plan where you pay a down payment then small monthly payments to have an annual pass. (We chose Premiere Passes.) This pass is also good across the park for a discount on literally anything you purchase so there was an additional cost saving in doing so. After that, I scoured the internet for insider blogs on how and when to attach the various areas. An indispensable resource for us was the Orlando Informer. Time and time again, the information I needed always seemed return me to links on their site. They have GREAT background information on the two separate areas for the Harry Potter experience and their crowd calendar was fantastic. We planned over the course of the week what we wanted to do most, assigned them days and ranked them. As it happened, you can see displayed in multiple areas of the park wait times for a variety of popular rides so it was easy to adjust the schedule when a window of opportunity popped up.

IMG_2512Oh man the crowds!

Despite all my recon, there was no way to anticipate what days were going to be full on bumping into each other days versus plenty of room to roam. I thought Christmas Day would be the light day, WRONG. It was actually Christmas Eve that afforded us the lightest crowd. I wasn’t sure how my Warrior would take the situation, you can never really predict, but especially because our last theme park visit was a radically different situation. We ended up spending four days at Universal, can you believe that? There were also a great deal of lessons we learned that I would like to pass on!

IMG_2541

 

WHAT I LEARNED ON MY WAY TO THE ROLLER COASTER

 

  1. Plan, plan, plan. Know what park you are going to, look at maps, rides, reviews and know what is your optimum day/time to visit for the easiest visit on the Warrior that has difficulty with crowds.
  2. Keep an eye on the Warrior. They may not be the best judge in stressful situations of when they need a break or need to step to the side/alley/bench and get out of the thick of it for a bit. At Universal, this was generally Butterbeer time.
  3. Stay occupied. Notice the details, talk about them with the Warrior, and carry on conversation. Often what they need is less of an “ARE YOU OKAY?” and more of a “hey check that cool thing out over there.”
  4. An AWESOME idea that we saw of some families waiting in long lines for rides doing was playing games. Most popular was the Heads Up app from Ellen.   This borders on brilliant in terms of being able to keep everyone’s mind off of things.
  5. Know your limits. If you are crabby after a couple of hours of walking, make sure you eat something. Chances are that if your blood sugar is dropping, so is the kiddos and the Warriors. This can spell disaster.
  6. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous. While a plan is great, you can sometimes miss great opportunities by trying to be too rigid. If something looks fun, tasty, interesting, stop and have the experience. It’s about the experience and you should really immerse yourself in it, no matter how long you will be there.
  7. Be flexible. I didn’t buy tickets to anything else because I wasn’t sure what everyone would want to do. One day we were there super early, another we went late in the day and yet another midday. It turned out to us, early was best so we know that for next time. Even though crowds were kind of crazy, we stayed a whopping 6 ½ hours one day!
  8. Look for deals. This is likely the biggest way to reduce the stress for your Warrior. Make a daily budget, stick to it and use coupons, discounts and thrifty shopping. A great idea we had for the kiddo was to put her in charge of her spending money. She had a budget for the trip and we gave it all to her. When it was in cash form, suddenly the idea of giving it up was harder. (Sometimes when parents swipe with plastic all day, they have a hard time visualizing how much things cost.) Instead of coming home with things that would be discarded in a couple of months, she made very thoughtful purchases of items that would recall her favorite memories of the week. It was a fantastic thing to watch.
  9. Consider where you stay. We were lucky to have a week donated to us but without the kitchen option, we would not have been able to afford to do this trip. Look for kitchenettes where you can take your precooked items to your room for dinners in the room. Some chains have free breakfast and great rewards programs that let you accumulate points for free rooms. Think about that when choosing a place and sign up in advance if you haven’t already.  Don’t forget there are great resorts that offer certain packages to Veterans like this and this.
  10. Remember to have FUN! It won’t always be perfect but you have the opportunity to do things out of your comfort zone. Multiple times during the trip my Warrior took the time to utilize techniques from his 12-week workshop that allowed him to talk himself down on his own. It was fantastic progress to witness.

IMG_2559

 

You CAN do this! Don’t stick to old traditions that make everyone unhappy in the end. Sometimes mixing it up a little is exactly what every one needed!  Caregivers get stuck in not changing things at all for fear of what will happen.  Sometimes seeing the look on the face of a kiddo who is beside themselves with joy is exactly what a Warrior needs!

 

IMG_2571